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4 things tagged “articles”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Megan Garber for The Atlantic

This week, as the allegations against Tyson were gaining attention in the American media, Bloomberg published a report about the men of Wall Street and how they have decided to address the revealed abuses of #MeToo. “No more dinners with female colleagues” is one solution they have come to. “Don’t sit next to them on flights” is another. And “book hotel rooms on different floors.” And “avoid one-on-one meetings.” Having had more than a year to listen and learn and adjust to the new information, most of the men Bloomberg spoke with have looked around, searched their souls, and come to a tidy conclusion: “Avoid women at all cost.” 1

The consequences of this conclusion, for the women on the other end of it, are obvious: The women will miss opportunities for mentorship and fellowship and advancement. Their very presence will be interpreted as its own potential danger: to men’s reputations, to men’s prospects, to men’s careers. The women will, in this ingenious new strain of American Puritanism, be softly shunned: as seductive, as vindictive—as professional threats.

Emphasis mine. And

Lin Farley 2 wrote in The New York Times last year, and in its absence the term sexual harassment has become too unwieldy, too imprecise, too commercialized. As the writer Rebecca Traister put it, “We must regularly remind everyone paying attention that sexual harassment is a crime not simply on the grounds that it is a sexual violation, but because it is a form of discrimination.”

and

They accuse; he denies; sexual misconduct and its defense; point and counterpoint; the scientific method. But what gets lost in the easy binaries? What of the lives and careers and ambitions of the people doing the accusing—people who, in coming forward with their allegations, will have their names permanently entangled with the man they say did them harm? The stories of those who have lived in Tyson’s orbit have served as reminders that, here on Earth, we remain biased toward the stars.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Careers That Weren’t

  1. Because that’s the solution 🤦‍♂️ ↩︎

  2. Who coined the term sexual harassment in 1975 ↩︎

Efficient Languages

Ross Pomeroy for RealClearScience, “What’s the Most Efficient Language?

[. . .] travel the world and record at least a dozen speakers of every language reading those passages aloud at their normal cadence. Count the overall number of syllables used for each passage and measure the time it took subjects to read their passage. Divide the syllable count by time to get the number of syllables spoken per second. Next, come up with some value for how much meaning is packed into each syllable, which will give you an average information density per syllable. Finally, use those values to derive an “information rate.”

and

English came out on top, but not by much. Most of languages grouped pretty closely together, however, Japanese lagged behind the rest. Interestingly, the languages that conveyed the least amount of information per syllable, like Spanish, Japanese, and French, tended to be spoken at a faster rate. This allowed these languages (apart from Japanese) to deliver a similar amount of information compared to more meaning-dense languages like Mandarin and English.

Jonathan McWhorter for The Atlantic, “The World’s Most Efficient Languages

When a language seems especially telegraphic, usually another factor has come into play: Enough adults learned it at a certain stage in its history that, given the difficulty of learning a new language after childhood, it became a kind of stripped-down “schoolroom” version of itself.

In contrast, one cannot help suspecting that not too many adults have been tackling the likes of sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś. Kabardian has been left to its own devices, and my, has it hoarded a lot of them. This is, as languages go, normal, even if Kabardian is rather extreme. By contrast, only a few languages have been taken up as vehicles of empire and imposed on millions of unsuspecting and underqualified adults. Long-dominant Mandarin, then, is less “busy” than Cantonese and Taiwanese, which have been imposed on fewer people. English came out the way it did because Vikings, who in the first millennium forged something of an empire of their own in northern and western Europe, imposed themselves on the Old English of the people they invaded and, as it were, mowed it. German, meanwhile, stayed “normal.”

In Ithkuil, “Tram-mļöi hhâsmařpţuktôx” translates to “On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point.” 😐

I think we all know John McWhorter is not to be relied upon when he ventures away from his bailiwick of creole languages, which he is frequently called on to do since he has become the go-to linguistics popularizer, but he does have a pleasant prose style and it’s always fun to argue about his overgeneralizations and sometimes wacky obiter dicta (like the one about the Awful Russian Language).

– Steve Dodson, Language Hat, Efficient Languages

Happy Popper

I slipped in a final question: Why in his autobiography did Popper say that he is the happiest philosopher he knows? “Most philosophers are really deeply depressed,” he replied, “because they can’t produce anything worthwhile.” Looking pleased with himself, Popper glanced over at Mrs. Mew, who wore an expression of horror. Popper’s smile faded. “It would be better not to write that,” he said to me. “I have enough enemies, and I better not answer them in this way.” He stewed a moment and added, “But it is so.”

– John Horgan, The Paradox of Karl Popper

“Calcium-Carbonate Concretions”

Michael LaPointe writing for The Atlantic on The Pearl of Lao Tzu

But elsewhere in the Miner letter, the curator terms the specimen a “pearlaceous growth,” and stresses that it ought not to be classified as a precious pearl. The gems we commonly know as pearls are formed within the organic tissue of saltwater oysters, whose inner shells possess nacre, or mother-of-pearl, which generates a pearl’s signature luminescent sheen. Compared with these gems, Tridacna-clam pearls are more like porcelain. Indeed, the Pearl of Lao Tzu cuts an ugly figure. Some might liken it to a lump of white clay; others might think it’s an alien egg.

Under U.S. trade law, it’s perfectly legal to call such objects pearls; any shelled mollusk—even a snail—can make a pearl. But gemologists traffic in precious pearls, and discard the rest with a pejorative classification: calcium-carbonate concretions.

I think it looks like a big ‘concretion’ of hardened, polished, chewing gum. Like a misshapen mozzarella ball.