Tuesday, July 24, 2007

IS group meeting: July 23, 2007

The IS group meeting took place on July 23, 2007. Because of the rain, we were forced to abandon our dreams of BBQ at the rustic home of Mark Tiede. Instead, we had to "settle" for some pretty excellent pizza from Bar in New Haven and met in the main conference room at Haskins Laboratories. In attendance were Richard Crane, Caitlin Dillon, Vin Gulisano, Bonnie Kaplan, Simon Levy, Gordon Ramsay, Philip Rubin, Elliot Saltzman, Mark Tiede, and Steve Witham. Simon Levy had just returned from Erice, Sicily where he attended an atelier directed by Luc Steels on "Modeling Language Evolution with Computational Construction Grammar". (The picture at the top left was taken, using the camera built into Simon's laptop, from the top of the cliff at the conference venue.) Simon reported on the meeting and also on the "Recursion in Human Languages Conference" at Illinois State University, hosted by Daniel Everett. Simon gave a presentation called "Being Recursive" at the conference.

The theme of the IS group meeting was "The Pirahã Controversy." Philip Rubin provided an overview of the controversy for those unfamiliar with it and Simon presented some unique background information. A spirited discussion ensued (as usual) that touched on a number of related topics, including cultural anthropology, linguistic fieldwork, syntax, recursion, the Hauser, Fitch and Chomsky papers (Science 2002, Science 2004), responses by Steven Pinker and Ray Jackendoff (Cognition 2005), etc. Supplemental fiction reading was The Embedding by Ian Watson. The topic of the book and certain events and descriptions in it dovetailed very nicely with the meeting's subject matter. Although the book does have its flaws, it is refreshing to see linguistics considered as subject matter in science fiction. This is a topic that will be returned to in a later post.

Candidates for the main book to be read at our next meeting were discussed. Included were:
* Uri Alon. (2007). An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits.
* Charles Seife. (2006). Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything In The Cosmos, From Our Brains To Black Holes.
* Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb. (2006). Evolution in Four Dimensions: genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic variation in the history of life.
* Martin A. Nowak. (2006). Evolutionary dynamics: exploring the equations of life.
* Alva Noë. (2004). Action in Perception.
Let Philip Rubin know what you think about these and if you have a preference for the next meeting.

Unfortunately, the discussion portion of the meeting needed to be cut short to get to the video viewing portion of our activities. As always, Elliot Saltzman was armed with a set of DVDs guaranteed to shock and offend. It was a difficult choice, but we ended up selecting Imprint (2006), a one-hour show directed by Takashi Miike originally developed for the Masters of Horror TV series. This particular episode was banned from the series. It was also effective in driving most of the participants from the room, helping us to end our meeting on time.

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