Friday, September 16, 2011

Leadbelly vs. Robots

I guess the John Henry meme was inevitable. Otherwise, having a robot run the Ironman Triathlon is a pure publicity stunt. And if there are ever dance contests for robots, this version would probably work better, too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

IS Group met in New Haven on Sep. 3, 2011

The IS Group met on Saturday, September 3, 2011, in New Haven. The readings including James Gleick, The Information; Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard's Walk; Nigel Stepp and Michael T. Turvey, On strong anticipation; and China Miéville, The City & The City. It was a good meeting with an excellent turnout, spirited discussion of the readings, and the addition of some new participants, followed by Hobo With a Shotgun for the hardcore among us (thanks to Simon D. Levy for the suggestion?!).

NEXT MEETING -- TOPIC: Fiction in mind
The readings for the next meeting (date to be determined), include:

Brian Boyd, On the origin of stories: Evolution, cognition, and fiction.
(Thanks to Christina Spiesel for the suggestion!)

Lisa Zunshine, Why we read fiction: Theory of mind and the novel.

Additional reading:

Suzanne Keen, Empathy and the Novel.
(Thanks to Simon D. Levy for the suggestion.)

Future readings may include:

Brian Greene, The hidden reality: Parallel universes and the deep laws of the cosmos.
(Thanks to Gary Kopf for the suggestion!)

Olaf Sporns, Networks of the brain.

Date and location:

To be determined (see below).

Please note that I am having shoulder surgery on Friday, September 9, and may be out of work from between 1 to 6 weeks.

Be sure to check the IS Group webpage for up-to-date news on the IS Group. Also, please contribute to the IS Group Blog if you run across items of interest to the group, including, stories, books, films, games, comics, articles, etc. Click here for information on the entire IS Group Social Media Empire. Thanks!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Take your stinking clause off me ...

The inimitable Geoff Pullum has just posted this Language Log piece on language-evolution themes in the latest, and apparently quite good, installation in the endless Planet of the Apes franchise. (Monkeys may be the primates with tails, but the Planet of the Apes meme has the longest long-tail temporal distribution Hollywood could hope for.) Though the film may have some amazing special effects (and apparently includes scenes, like the one shown here, filmed in the aftermath of a Yankees / Red Sox game), nothing can ever top the breathtaking final scene and hammy macho posturing of the 1968 original.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Robots you can wear: Fashion cybernetics

Stephen Ebert posted an article on August 3, 2011 in HUMANS iNVENT that discusses the new age of cybernetic fashion. One example is the HAL-5 robot suit developed by Cyberdyne, a Tokyo-based company. Of particular interest is a discussion of how such suits could potentially be of assistance to the disabled and the elderly. Thanks to Howard Iger and Carol Pollard for letting us know about this.

Person Pinball, A Stop-Motion Pinball Game Using Pedestrians

Person Pinball - 2011 Animation Block Party 'Outro' video, posted by Mark Frauenfelder on boingboing, Aug 2, 2011. Video link via laughing squid. This short stop-motion animation by Aaron Hughes was the outro video for the 8th Annual Animation Block Party in New York City. Thanks and a hat tip to Robert Remez for sharing this with us.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wall Art

A small selection of my photographs is on display, for the month of August, at Cafe George by Paula, 300 George Street, New Haven, during normal business hours (M-F, until 3 PM). This group of photos is part of the "Wall Art" book project that is still in development and focuses on photographs of painted buildings. The photo shown here is a detail of a piece called Demolition and Sport by Peter Busa (1914-1985). The piece was painted on the exterior of the old Minnesota Varnishes building on the east side of downtown Minneapolis in 1974 and updated in 1982. This is one of the first monumental outdoor murals in the state of Minnesota. The buildings on this location are currently part of the Valspar Coporation, the sixth largest painting and coatings company in the world. The photo was taken by Philip Rubin on October 19, 2005.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Facial Recognition System Causes Problems for Mass. Drivers

Facial recognition systems are starting to appear everywhere. All of the tech giants are staking out turf, including Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft (click on each for a different recent news item). ieee spectrum has a recent (July 25, 2011) story by Robert Charette, called "Here's Looking at You, and You, and You ..." about some of the problems resulting from one of the first examples of use of such systems on a large scale. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is one of approximately 35 states using automated anti-terrorism facial recognition systems. One of the big problems is the false positives, and the individual's "burden" to clear his or her name when mistakes are made. Read the story to learn more.

High-stakes forensic linguistics

The wonderful Language Log blog has had some excellent recent discussion of the use of forensic linguistic to determine authorship, stylistics, etc. The original entry, "High-stakes forensic linguistics," July 25, 2011, by Mark Liberman, framed the discussion around the legal battle over ownership of Facebook (also discussed by Ben Zimmer, NY Times Sunday Review, July 23, 2011, "Decoding Your E-Mail Personality"). As Mark pointed out, it was nice to see comments on the Language Log story by Ron Butters, Larry Solan, and Carole Chaski. A follow-up entry on July 27, 2011, "Authors vs. Speakers: A Tale of Two Subfields," provides some historical context related to forensic speaker identification.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why brains get creeped out by androids

And speaking of the brain, WIRED SCIENCE has a small story by Mark Brown that reports on a study thats attempt to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to help understand the "uncanny valley" effect. This is a term coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori related to reports that as androids become more human in appearance there is a purported drop in "likeability" on the part of human observers. The study, led by Ayse Pinar Saygin of the University of California, San Diego, was an attempt to explore the underlying brain bases of this phenomenon. Check out the WIRED SCIENCE article to learn more. As usual, results like these appear to be much too preliminary to be more than speculation or amusement for the tech media and those that follow them, such as the IS Group blog and me.

Kurzweil still doesn't understand the brain

PZ Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, writing in his blog Pharyngula (Aug. 21, 2010) criticizes Ray Kurzweil and other futurists for their speculations on our ability to understand how the brain works. Kurzweil had responded to an earlier blog entry by Myers (Aug. 17, 2010) called "Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain." (Thanks to RSC for reminding of this debate, which is related to other IS Group blog entries on the singularity, neuroscience and related matters.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Space Shuttle: the end of an era

After 30 years, the US Space Shuttle program has ended. Here are some articles on the program:

CBS News: Never forget the miracle and promise of space
Neil deGrasse Tyson reflects on the space shuttle program, 1981-2011
The end of an era: what the space shuttle means to Engadget
NASA STST-135 Launch and Landing
LA Times video: Final landing of NASA's space shuttle program

Image above: With space shuttle Atlantis in the background, the STS-135 astronauts are welcomed home from the final space shuttle mission. They are, from left, Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley and Commander Chris Ferguson. Image credit: NASA.

Robot Babies: Cute or Creepy?

IEEE Spectrum online (July 20, 2011) has a slideshow called "Robot Babies: Cute or Creepy?" Check out the recent proliferation of robot children. Let us know which you like best. If you find any others, please add them to the list.

The image at the left shows Telenoid R1, created at Osaka University, a telepresence robot that reproduces the voice and movements of a remote operator. Spectrum says, "It looks like an overgrown fetus or Casper the Friendly Ghost, depending on whom you ask."

(Photo: Osaka University and ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communications Laboratories)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Will We Be Transhuman?

DISCOVER has an article called "When Will We Be Transhuman? Seven Conditions for Attaining Transhumanism" by Kyle Munkittrick (July 12, 2011). He lists the conditions that he feels are necessary but not sufficient for transhumanism to have been attained. These include:
* The arrival of prosthetics and implants for organs and limbs that are as good as or better than the original.
* Better brains: cognition is improved significantly using cognitive enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, or neuro-implants / prosthetic cyberbrains.
* Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) are integrated into personal, everyday behaviors.
* The average life span exceeds 120 years.
* When global births stabilize at replacement rates, assisted reproductive technologies are the preferred method of conception, and responsible child rearing is more highly valued than biological parenthood, we will be procreating as transhumans.

Check out the rest of the list here and leave comments or your thoughts on this topic.

John Ohno's zzstructure emulator

John Ohno's zzstructure operating system (iX) was featured in the Hack A Day blog on July 12, 2011. John is a student member of Yale's Technology & Ethics group and is a friend. According to Hack A Day, a zzstructure is both a hypertext and operating system unlike anything we have today -- Ted Nelson has a version called ZigZag. John has posted a YouTube demo of his project and put all the code online.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Analog Underground

Ashlea Halpern has a long feature in New York magazine (Jul 11, 2011) called "The Analog Underground" that describes a new generation's growing interest in "celluloid, vinyl, ink, paper, and the click-clack-ding-slide of a typewriter." The online version (July 3, 2011) highlights the scenes and sellers related to the analog renaissance, focusing on typewriters, vinyl and turntables, and celluloid movies. Also covered are "analog imposters," retro versions of phonographs, game controllers, turntables, microphones, etc. Finally, there is a slideshow of "old souls," seven analog obsessive who "explain their allegiance to outdated technology."

(Photo: Danny Kim/New York Times Magazine; Tetra Images/Corbis)

Hydrothermal Worm Viewed Under An Electron Microscope

Huffpost Green, 7/18/11, has a short feature by Dean Praetorius showing a wonderful image of a hydrothermal worm taken using an electron microscope. The small version at the left does not do justice to the original. They say: "Taken using an FEI Quanta SEM, this image is amazingly zoomed in 525 times. The real width of the field in the image is 568μm, or 568/1000 of a millimeter. It's far larger than an atom, but still among the smallest living things. The worm, as scary as it looks, is something most people will never actually get to see (or have to worry about, for that matter). Hydrothermal worms are deep sea creatures, almost as small as bacterium, and are largely found near hydrothermal vents in the ocean.

This shot was captured by Philippe Crassous and submitted to FEI's gallery. Other amazing shots taken using FEI's microscopes can be seen here."

(The full image is by FEI and Phillippe Crassous.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

123 Year Old Talking Head

John Stevens writing in The Daily Mail Online, 15 July 2011, has a story called "Voice of Thomas Edison's talking doll is heard again after 123 years as scientists crack the code of mysterious metal ring." He says: For decades it lay in the bottom of a secretary's desk drawer, its purpose unknown. But now, 123 year after it was made, the secret of this bent metal ring,which was found in Thomas Edison's laboratory, has finally been uncovered. Scientists have found that the microscopic grooves on the ring make up the tune of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' and mark the world's first attempt at a talking doll and the dawn of America's recording industry. ... But the metal ring - about 2.5 inches around and half an inch wide - was so bent and damaged that scientists couldn't play it. More than four decades later, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, used image analysis to create a digital model of the record's surface. That model was then used to reproduce the recording as a digital file, not unlike the modern technology behind the voice that emerges from today's talking dolls."

Commenting on the story, IS regular, Gordon Ramsay, says: "There is a description of this doll in Scientific American around 1880. Interestingly enough, the first talking doll was patented by Maelzel in the 1820s, but unlike Edison's, it used a bellows and reeds, etc., to mimic the voice - so the same shift from mechanical synthesis to copy synthesis played out in dolls as well as humans (evolution repeating itself ;-) )."

Thanks and a hat tip to Robert Remez for pointing this story out to us.

Monkbot, a 16th century automaton

Boingboing has re-discovered a 16th century automaton described earlier by Elizabeth King in an article called "Clockwork Prayer: A Sixteenth-Century Mechanical Monk") in Blackbird, an online journal of literature and the arts, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 2002. Here is the reprinted description from the Blackbird journal:

"Driven by a key-wound spring, the monk walks in a square, striking his chest with his right arm, raising and lowering a small wooden cross and rosary in his left hand, turning and nodding his head, rolling his eyes, and mouthing silent obsequies. From time to time, he brings the cross to his lips and kisses it. After over 400 years, he remains in good working order. Tradition attributes his manufacture to one Juanelo Turriano, mechanician to Emperor Charles V. The story is told that the emperor's son King Philip II, praying at the bedside of a dying son of his own, promised a miracle for a miracle, if his child be spared. And when the child did indeed recover, Philip kept his bargain by having Turriano construct a miniature penitent homunculus."

Thanks and a hat tip to Sherwin Borsuk for bringing this to our attention.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stux redux

Just when I thought I'd read everything there was to read about the Stuxnet worm, Wired delivers a blockbuster piece with masterful writing and juicy technical detail. The hidden message feature is only one small tidbit in an incredibly complicated story.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Singularity is Far: A Neuroscientist's View

David J. Linden, a neuroscientist, has an article in boingboing (July 14, 2011) that expresses his skepticism about the view of some, such as Ray Kurzweil, that the singularity is imminent. Linden says "Kurzweil ... argues that our understanding of biology—and of neurobiology in particular—is ... on an exponential trajectory, driven by enabling technologies. The unstated but crucial foundation of Kurzweil's scenario requires that at some point in the 2020s, a miracle will occur: If we keep accumulating data about the brain at an exponential rate (its connection maps, its activity patterns, etc.), then the long-standing mysteries of development, consciousness, perception, decision, and action will necessarily be revealed. Our understanding of brain function and our ability to measure the relevant parameters of individual brains (aided by technologies like brain nanobots) will consequently increase in an exponential manner to allow for brain-uploading to computers in the year 2039. That's where I get off the bus. I contend that our understanding of biological processes remains on a stubbornly linear trajectory. In my view the central problem here is that Kurzweil is conflating biological data collection with biological insight." Thanks to Christina Spiesel, IS Group regular, for letting us know about this article.

Steampunk articulatory synthesis

An article by Rebecca Boyle in, called "Moaning Mouth-Bot Learns to Croon, Is Even Creepier Than Ever," features the "enhanced" version of a talking mouth created by Hideyuki Sawada of Kagawa University in Japan. Check out its scary vocal skills. Thanks and a hat tip to Robert Remez for pointing out this article to us.

The Art of Failure 2011

ieee spectrum online, July 13, 2011, has a slideshow, by Ritchie S. King, of the surprising stuff you find when chips fail.

The figure at the left shows the melted ends of gold wires from a semiconductor that look like a bonsai tree sitting atop a platform.

Image: Stefan Waginger

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


The July 7, 2011 issue of The Economist has a long article on the next generation of animal-like robots that are about to emerge from the laboratory. In addition to the numerous dog-robots that we have seen over the past few years, they describe "shrews complete with whiskers, swimming lampreys, grasping octopuses, climbing lizards, and burrowing clams." Other examples include the Lampetra (pictured at the left), which is a robotic version of a lamprey. To read about other robotic wonders, check out this story.

Controlling a Quadrotor Using Kinect

Markus Waibel, in a blog entry in ieee spectrum online, shows a new video of the Flying Machines Arena (FMA) at the ETH Zurich. This new system uses a Microsoft Kinect XBOX game controller system to provide for "more natural and intuitive interaction" when controlling their quadrocopters.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Best. Samurai. Movie. Ever.

Having known about director Takashi Miike from stomach-churners like Audition (had to look away several times) and Ichi the Killer (too squeamish to even try watching it), I hesitated before renting his more recent 13 Assassins. Though the comparisons to Seven Samurai and other Kurosawa epics can't be avoided, 13 Assassins stands on its own as a thrilling, emotionally overpowering masterpiece of cinema. With a villain who makes Hannibal Lecter look like Mr. Rogers, and some delightful comic dialogue ("You Samurai are useless -- especially in large numbers!"), this film is, as the director says in the bonus-features interview, as much a drama as an action/adventure spectacle.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

TWIE 68: Amphibious Ice Cream Truck

Check out the TWIE 68 video at's This Week in Engineering (TWIE). Stories include: shark-repelling fish hooks; touch-screen steering wheel; amphibious ice cream truck; paraplegic college grad lands a job as a bionic leg tester; Chinese satellite leaves lunar orbit; and nightshirt that monitors your sleep.

23 Creepiest Robots You've Ever Seen

HuffPost Comedy has posted a collection of videos of "creepy" robots and talking heads.

Topological insulators make "spintronics" possible

"Quantum magic can make strange but useful semiconductors that are insulators on the inside and conductors on the surface."

Joel E. Moore, in ieee spectrum online, July 2011, describes how mathematical theory may make "spintronics" possible. "By 2006, three separate groups of mathematicians had discovered that it was possible, in theory, to produce materials that are insulators on the inside but conductors on the outside. The theorists concluded that these materials—called topological insulators because changes in their shape have no effect on their conductivity or quantum mechanical behavior—will make it simple to manipulate the quantum mechanical spin of an electron. That level of subatomic control would make it possible to use spin as the underpinning for computer logic that would outclass today’s microprocessors in both speed and fuel efficiency—or as the mechanism by which hard disks are written, read, or rewritten."

(Image: Aharon Kapitulnik and Zhanybek Alpichshev/Stanford University)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Light Painting Art Done Using Swarms of Robot Vacuum Cleaners

An article in PetaPixel by Michael Zhang features light painting photographs created by students in Germany using a swarm of seven Roomba automated vacuum cleaners. Zhang says, "Each one had a different colored LED light attached to the top, making the resulting photo look like some kind of robotic Jackson Pollock painting. There’s actually an entire Flickr group dedicated to using Roombas for light painting — check it out of you have one of these robot minions serving you in your home."

Every Ray Harryhausen stop-motion monster ever, in one video

boingboing has a link to a video by matbergman of every stop-motion creature created by the master, Ray Harryhausen. Check it out. Thanks to Xeni Jardin and Aaron-Stewart Ahn.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Acoustic cloak from metamaterials

Devin Powell, in an article in ScienceNews, describes an "acoustic cloak" that can bend sound. The cloak is made of a metamaterial, developed by researchers at Duke University as reported in the June 24 Physical Review Letters. Using metamaterials to make a cloak that can guide sound waves was first proposed by Duke team member Steven Cummer, an electrical engineer, and a colleague in 2007 in the New Journal of Physics. Powell writes:

"To manipulate sound waves in air, Cummer's team designed and built a cloak that sits atop an object like a piece of draped carpet. By layering simple metamaterial building blocks — ordinary strips of perforated plastic — the researchers hid a triangular wooden block a couple of inches high and more than a foot long at its base. Sound waves over a range of high but audible frequencies slowed and changed direction cleanly after striking the holey plastic. Most reemerged appearing to have traveled all the way down to the flat surface beneath the block. The prototype is two-dimensional — both the speaker generating the sound and the microphone recording it must be in the same plane above the object. But Cummer believes he could make a 3-D version that would cover an entire bump on a log, not just a slice."

PossessedHand turns your hand into a remote controlled cyborg

David Brin, in an article called "Milestones Leading up to the Good Singularity" in his Contrary Brin blog, mentions this "Creepy… but probably helpful… new teaching tool." Brin says, "Do you want to play the violin, but can't be bothered to learn how? Then strap on this electric finger stimulator called PossessedHand that makes your fingers move with no input from your own brain. Developed by scientists at Tokyo University in conjunction with Sony, the hand consists of a pair of wrist bands that deliver mild electrical stimuli directly to the muscles that control your fingers, something normally done by your own brain." Michael Trei, in DVICE, provides additional photos and discussion of the device.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sloman, Fahlman, et al. on Metacognition

I was privileged to be asked to participate in this discussion of metacognition, as part of the 2011 Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures conference. It was a pleasure to converse with people like Scott Fahlman, Aaron Sloman, Michael Anderson, and Ashok Goel, whom I'd only known through their work (going back to Fahlman's classic 1988 study of back-propagation).

Monday, June 13, 2011

On the Origin of Stories

Christina Spiesel recommends On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, by Brian Boyd. This looks like a good possibility for a future IS Group meeting.

Q&A re D-Wave's Quantum Computer

Alex Knapp interviewed Professor Scott Aaronson of MIT on May 24, 2011, in Forbes on-line, regarding the recent article in Nature on the announcement of a commercial quantum computer by D-Wave. Scott provides some very useful background information and an explanation of what D-Wave actually did. Thanks and a hat tip to RSC for passing this on.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quantum encryption

AAAS Member Central
An article describing a real world example of encrypted communication using quantum keys.

Science 10 June 2011:
Vol. 332 no. 6035 p. 1243
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6035.1243-c

Quantum Conferencing

For certain critical transactions and communications, you want to be secure in the knowledge that your message cannot be stolen or compromised by a malicious hacker. Encrypting messages with keys distributed beforehand to all interested parties is the usual method to ensure security. For ultimate or unconditional security, however, one key per message or transaction is allowed, after which the key is discarded. This “one time pad” requirement can place a hefty overhead on distributing the keys and would not be particularly practical for everyday use. In quantum key distribution (QKD), the encryption keys are made up of a series of quantum bits, single photons of light, for instance, with the orthogonal polarization states encoding a logical 1 or 0. Because the bits are quantum mechanical in nature, any attempt by an eaves-dropper to measure them would compromise that effort by a telltale sign. Sasaki et al. have now demonstrated the feasibility of quantum key distribution over an optical network in and around the metropolitan Tokyo area. Meshing together six separate QKD systems, they achieve secure video conferencing, encrypted with quantum keys, over a distance of 45 km. Stable operation and interfacing to the mobile telephone network widens the possible applications of quantum security.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Followup to April's meeting

Here's an article describing a project to catalog all the functional parts of the human genome.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Based on a rave review by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, I bought the first volume of the graphic novel DMZ and enjoyed it so much that I plan to purchase the entire series. DMZ comes from the amazing DC Vertigo imprint, which brought us the incomparable Sandman series and most of Transmetropolitan. Like our current fiction reading, DMZ takes place in a not-too-distant future dystopia -- a civil-war-ravaged Manhattan that has been abandoned by all but a half-million residents. Like Transmetropolitan, DMZ features a hard-bitten gonzo journalist who meets all sorts of interesting characters in his attempt to survive and get at the truth in a hostile, conspiracy-filled nightmare world. Perhaps we would like to read some of DMZ for our next IS meeting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Visual object tracking with a $300 drone

Haskins may be good at tracking eyes, but we're following balls (green ones, to be precise). Dramatic reduction in the cost of drone aircraft and digital video cameras, combined with the availability of powerful software platforms like OpenCV (the same technology that won the DARPA Grand Challenge race in 2005), are making this kind of research available to anyone with a few hundred dollars, a decent laptop, and the ability to program in a general-purpose language like Python.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Errol Morris: Borges, Kripke, Kuhn, ...

Wittgenstein whacks you with a poker, but Kuhn throws an ashtray.

Meanwhile Error Morris just keeps kicking ass.

Batter up!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tobii eye tracker laptop prototype

Salon Science features an article called "New tracking technology knows when, where your eyes look" by Peter Svensson of the Associated Press that describes a laptop prototype by Tobii Technology Inc. Tobii eyetrackers are commonly used in academic research in areas such as psychology, vision, and marketing. For example, at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut, eyetracking is a frequently used methodology in cognitive science research related to reading, attention, and perception. The laptop prototype uses a combination of cameras and infrared light sources to help track gaze and determine where you are looking on the screen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RoboEarth: A World Wide Web for Robots

Markus Waibel describes a European project called RoboEarth. This story appeared in IEEE Spectrum on Feb. 25, 2011. The RoboEarth website describes the project as "... a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other about their behavior and their environment." The project is part of the Cognitive Systems and Robotics Initiative from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme. Waibel indicates that the project is "... building an Internet for robots: a worldwide, open-source platform that allows any robot with a network connection to generate, share, and reuse data" He continues, "... my colleagues and I believe that if robots are to move out of the factories and work alongside humans, they will need to systematically share data and build on each other's experience."

Extreme Audiophiles Take Microphones to Next Level

The anechoic chamber at the Josephson Engineering facility in Santa Cruz, California, is featured in a Feb. 8, 2011 article by Matthew Schechmeister in WIRED Raw File. If you are in the New Haven, Connecticut area, and want to see an anechoic chamber in person, make arrangements to visit Haskins Laboratories and perhaps they will be able to show you their facility. Thanks and a hat tip to RSC for drawing our attention to this story. (Photo: Jim Merithew/

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Tools and Methods for Very-Large-Scale Phonetics Research

The University of Pennsylvania is hosting a workshop (Jan. 28-31, 2011) on new tools and methods for Very-Large-Scale phonetics research, as part of a newly awarded NSF grant. According to their website, "The themes of the workshop include: integration of speech technology in phonetics studies (including 
software to facilitate teaching and research); variation and invariance in large speech corpora; and revisiting classic phonetic and phonological problems from the perspective of corpus phonetics. A tutorial on forced alignment and the Penn Phonetics Lab Forced Aligner will also be provided prior to the workshop. Selected papers from the workshop will be published in a special issue of The Journal of Experimental Linguistics." Participants include IS regulars Elliot Saltzman, Mark Tiede and Louis Goldstein.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Pirahã Controversy, three years later

In two earlier meetings, we read material on the controversy surrounding the Pirahã language, which Dan Everett claimed had no recursion -- thereby undermining a key claim made in a(n in)famous article by Chomsky, Hauser, and Fitch.

Now (well, last summer actually) Hauser has been found guilty and put on leave by Harvard for scientific misconduct (though as usual in today's corporate-coverup university culture, nothing is really clear about the status of his case), and Everett has moved from being the Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois state to being the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University, just a few miles from our beloved Brandeis.

It makes me wonder what all the fuss was about.