Thursday, March 17, 2016

It could've been interesting to create a language learning program that would determine one's active vocabulary (e.g. based on one's contributions to the social networks and/or public chat transcripts - suppose for simplicity that privacy issues could be solved here somehow), compile more or less close analog in the target language and craft the study path based on that. Of course, such approach might have missed the point of expanding one's horizons with learning a new language. But it might also encourage the learners to use the new language sooner and more efficiently if they could do so without deviating too much from their original identity.

On the other hand, getting the proper feel for the language without living in the country where that language is spoken might be too challenging for a human being. How many languages would it be even possible to learn properly and what is the price for that? I don't know about any strictly scientific studies in this area.

Personally, I often feel that my English is either dry as winter leaves or rough like a cartoon drawing (or both), and my Dutch dwells on the pre-teen level, which results in a personality switch every time I switch the language.

I wonder how many other seasoned ESL speakers have similar experiences? It might only be the thing for those who, like me, started actively using another language relatively late.

It is great that the modern tools (like online translation) help to reduce language barriers, but could these barriers one day disappear completely? So many misunderstandings, from personal to country level, might go away then. (One hopes...) Would it be possible for a human both preserve their own identity and easily "map" it into any other language / culture?

Of course, there is more to the game than just language (Le Ton Beau de Marot by Hofstadter is explaining that much better than I ever could), but one has to start somewhere.

Friday, July 03, 2015

#heatwave

No, Eurydice did not turn away.
She followed Orpheus, and the path
Was quivering with light, and flickering
With the motifs that crave to take the wing
When time looks back, as if it wants to stay.

But Cerberus, the stubborn Hades' guard,
Three ugly heads, each darker than the night,
He met that gaze and grinned, and trode behind.

The singer rose into the blazing day,
Where sun was painting the horizon blue.
(They say, that word was not invented yet,
And thus, all days were either white or grey.)
He glanced once more into the gaping cave,
To see her coming near, if all was true.

Like an obsidian trident could've fled,
The hound darted in between instead.
The song was over. Neither his cittern
Nor hazy form of Eurydice could
Have time to move, so quickly all was set 
When Cerberus retreated, dragging back
The quivering, but now voiceless rag -
The payment was complete, he was content.

She cried, but who was there to take that call?
The wailing cry of madness sans relief,
Of happiness, pulled from behind the feet,
Of everything, that makes the soul bleed.
And till this day, we think that was a slave
Of Dionysus, scared by the deed,
And blame the wine and lust that take their toll
Of bards and poets from this dusty ball.

She lives till now, a Muse of suicide.
The finest poets would not see her glide,
The door appears, the dog with triple smile,
It's over quickly, barely in time
To throw the latest gaze and leave behind 
A name, another stone to sing and shine

For nonchalant mankind.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reading about crypto made me think that we might store the reality in our memory using one-way hashing, which is why it's easy to recognise the usual surroundings, but difficult to remember them in details.

A side thought: if someone or something doesn't fit the patterns we already have for the similar objects, and didn't happen to grab our attention specifically, then there is a big chance that this person or object won't get registered in the memory at all, simply because it would be too expensive to apply the hashing to the new object. This might explain why people don't notice the little changes around them, too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Not sure about the hardware, but for the modern software (be it an application or a website) that has been around for more than five years or so, it feels absolutely true:
"As well as any human beings could, they knew what lay behind the cold, clicking, flashing face — miles and miles of face — of that giant computer. They had at least a vague notion of the general plan of relays and circuits that had long since grown past the point where any single human could possibly have a firm grasp of the whole."
(C) Isaac Asimov, The Last Question.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Песню последней встречи
Сонно бормочет тень.
Глядясь в уходящий день,
Отлетает вечер.

На небе Млечный
Путь еще не зажгли.
В комнате ожиданий
Спят отбывающие с Земли
На чемоданах воспоминаний.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I have to confess that I rather dislike the modern attitude of adding "girl" to the words describing activities in supposedly "male" domain, that girl programmer, girl scientist or girl whatever. Why emphasize gender? One of the best Russian poets of the XX century, Marina Tsvetaeva, has never called herself "a poetess" and was fiercely opposing those who tried calling her that, preferring the generic term: a poet. And what was good enough for a poet, should be good enough for an engineer, a scientist or a jet pilot. Isn't it?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cosmic savages?

Imagine a prehistoric tribe of savages, who only recently became brave enough to get for themselves a fire that falls from heavens, bring it into their cave and domesticate. When it's cold and dark outside, they all huddle together around their helpful but dangerous protector, humming their proto-songs, fixing their proto-clothes and probably munching their proto-processed food until most of the tribe falls asleep and only the guards would spend their shift watching over the fire, lest it died or tried to spread too far around.

Now imagine that this tribe begins to be interested in establishing contacts with another tribes. May be they hope to kick the other tribe out of their territory and take their women and stocked mammoths, may be they are afraid that the other tribe would do the same thing to themselves, or may be they are just curious to meet new friends - who knows? In any case, how are they going to look for the new tribe? What would they be looking for?
I can only guess how the savages might think, but I guess that they would probably be looking for an inhabited cave (may be larger and cleaner than their own) with a fire in it (may be larger and mightier than their own). So any time they pick up some fire in the distance, they might send some scouts to find out, if there is any tribe gathered around this only possible source of energy.

Next question, what if somewhere nearby there is a little village where much more advanced civilization lives? (Let's not think how come that the more advanced civilization would not try to bring the savage one to their own level, if only for their own security, by tricking them into selling their savage freedom in exchange for cheap drugs and filling up the lowest possible niche in that other society, being simultaneously a recognized sore spot and a symbol of spiritual simplicity, etc). 

This other civilisation, in any case, doesn't need to live near an open fire. They have their fires far away, called electrostations (nuclear or otherwise) and although some people have still work in shifts to watch over the big fire, lest it died or spread out, the majority of these more advanced people gets the energy via almost invisible wires and uses it to power their TV sets, microwave ovens, refrigerators and other devices without which no true civilisation is ever thinkable of.

Imagine a savage scout entering such village at night, when all lamps are out. He (or she, may be it's a matriarchal society) would see strange forms which are impossible to place, occasionally here and there some tiny fires which seem to be too little to warm up anybody, no half-eaten carcasses lying around, no caves with entrances covered by bear- or tiger-skins, no people gathered around a shaman humming some story about afterlife, nothing at all. Only darkness and those spooky lights.

I can suggest that such scout would later tell, "I have come to some dark places. It looks like they take the majority of the territory around us. It's nothing there we could recognize. We might be utterly alone all the way to the end of the world." - end of the world being how far they can go and return before running out of food.

The funny question: what if we are the savages and whatever we now call the dark matter is the infrastructure of some super-civilisation which we can't ever comprehend?

So far, we tried to find the tribes dwelling near the fires of big stars, just like us. But what if there are only the super-civilisations around, and they no longer have to dwell near stars, just as we no longer have to dwell near the open fire, because it would be too risky?

In that case, naturally, taking into account how more advanced that other civilisation must be compared to us, we'll probably spend aeons before ever finding out, all this time possibly being watched ourselves without ever noticing it.

This is completely speculative idea, but so is dark matter at the moment :)

So much for dark matter, as seen from science fiction prospective!