Feb. 20th, 2017

dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
The Hidden Bias of Science's Universal Language (The Atlantic, August 2015). Talks about some of the problems for scientists worldwide caused by the hegemony of English. I would have liked more specifically about how this affects scientists' thinking - for example, more about why it matters that many languages just transliterate English terms like "quark" and "chromosome" instead of creating their own words: eg Korean 쿼크 kweokeu "quark" but 염색체 yeomsaekche "chromosome" (literally, dye colour body, which is what "chromosome means, of course).

Why There's No 'Right' Way To Speak English (Atlas Obscura, April 2016): "The English language is the ultimate code-switcher, gaining multiple personalities when it travels." Still on Korean (as is my wont), "Konglish" is not the local variety of English, but rather English loan-words. Often these have changed meanings ("I couldn't come because I had a schedule") or are just used with Korean grammar ("I asked one of the staffs.")

The code that took America to the moon (QZ, July 2016) Includes that epic photo of Margaret Hamilton, director of software engineering, standing next to a print-out of the code which is slightly taller than she is. Also many amusing comments by the programmers (and an excellent punchline to the whole piece).

100 Most Essential Words in Anime. (Anime fans, what do you think of this list?)

Why Do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells? (The Atlantic, November 2015). "And why do these two hunter-gatherer groups have so many?" IIRC Korean has an adjective - a verb, really, meaning "to smell like roasting sesame oil".

What's the Plural of Emoji? "There is a correct answer, but no one has agreed on it yet." More accurately, there will eventually be a standard plural. Or standard plurals. More interestingly, though, this discusses how loanwords settle into the grammar of their new language (like that singular Korean "staff").

Dolphins recorded having a conversation 'just like two people' for first time (Telegraph, September 2016) The dolphins took turns creating "sentences" of distinct words or phonemes.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism (The Good Men Project, April 2015). If you're white, like me, this spells out some of the assumptions you've absorbed from the surrounding culture. It's US-based, but much of it applies to Australia. Come to think of it, a lot of it applies to feminism as well, with the important difference that racism is taboo and sexism isn't.

The bacterial flagellar motor: brilliant evolution or intelligent design? (ABC Science, July 2015). "A central tenet of this theory [intelligent design] is the notion of 'irreducible complexity'. This asserts that some biological machines — like the flagellar motor — must be the product of design, because if you were to remove one or two components from the motor it would not function properly, or at all. The logic being, this motor was designed as a whole construction — it didn't evolve through a series of steps, so the individual parts of the motor would serve no purpose on their own. So the creationist argument relies on us finding no evidence of individual parts of the motor having a role outside of bacterial flagella. Luckily, individual components of the bacterial flagellar motor have indeed been found elsewhere. And they work. So the motor is 'reducible', and certainly not 'irreducibly complex'." This is one of my favourite things about evolution - the kludgy use of whatever's in the toolbox at the time. It's why some antidepressants give you tummy trouble; the same receptors are present in the brain and gut, being used for different purposes. (Well, I say "favourite"...)

The Evil Has No Name (The Daemons): Phil Sandifer's review of the story, from five years ago, which I've just enjoyed re-reading and bookmarked because of the observation that Doctor Who is about putting things together which shouldn't go together. That's missing from the SF I'm trying to write at the moment, I think.

Is Nature Unnatural? (Quanta Magazine, April 2013). That is, is there some explanation for the constants in physics, or are they the result of a multiversal roll of the dice?

I'm only two decades late in discovering the Planescapes setting for D&D - somehow I stumbled across this page on the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Salt and it's captured my imagination. Takes me back even further to reading Heinlein's "Number of the Breast" in the eighties.

Rare, lonely 'lefty' snail seeks mate for love—and genetic study (phys.org, October 2016) Not only does the sinistral brown snail have a "left-handed anti-clockwise spiralling shell", but its genitals are on the "wrong" side.

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