We know that language changes. You and I don’t speak the way people did in Shakespeare’s era, or in Chaucer’s. As valuable as The Elements of Style is (and it’s tremendously valuable), it’s got a lot of cockamamie advice, dated by the fact that its authors were born more than a hundred years ago. For example, they sternly warn, “Never use ‘contact’ as a verb. Don’t say ‘I’m going to contact him.’ It’s pretentious jargon, pompous and self-important. Indicate that you intend to ‘telephone’ someone or ‘write them’ or ‘knock on their door.’” To a writer in the 21st century, this advice is bizarre. Not only is “to contact” thoroughly entrenched and unpretentious, but it’s indispensable. Often it’s extremely useful to be able to talk about getting in touch with someone when you don’t care by what medium you’re going to do it, and in those cases, “to contact” is the perfect verb. It may have been a neologism in Strunk and White’s day, but all words start out as neologisms in their day. If you read The Elements of Style today, you have no way of appreciating that what grated on the ears of someone born in 1869 might be completely unexceptionable today.
The other problem is that The Elements of Style was composed before there existed a science of language and cognition. A lot of Strunk and White’s advice depended completely on their gut reactions from a lifetime of practice as an English professor and critic, respectively. Today we can offer deeper advice, such as the syntactic and discourse functions of the passive voice—a construction which, by the way, Strunk & White couldn’t even consistently identify, not having being trained in grammar.
Another advantage of modern linguistics and psycholinguistics is that it provides a way to think your way through a pseudo-controversy that was ginned up about 50 years ago between so-called prescriptivists and descriptivists. According to this fairy tale there are prescriptivists who prescribe how language ought to be used and there are descriptivists, mainly academic linguists, who describe how language in fact is used. In this story there is a war between them, with prescriptivist dictionaries competing with descriptivist dictionaries.
Scientists solve solar energy’s burning question: how to make it cheaper than fossil fuels
In a fight between solar and fossil fuels, the latter has always had a killer question up its sleeve: “What about supercritical steam?" That’s the method by which the most advanced power stations generate electricity, superheating water until it instantly becomes steam, a feat that’s only possible (and affordable) by burning coal or gas. Or, at least it was. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has managed to use solar energy to the same effect, boiling liquid to temperatures of 570 degrees Celsius in a test chamber.
EyeQuant is a startup which isn’t too unusual in the fact that it deals with machine learning and artificial intelligence and has big-name clients like Google and Spotify. But the company’s current fascination—using machine learning to train their AI to recognize bad aesthetics and poor website design—takes it into uncharted waters. “We use machine learning and computational neuroscience to build predictive models of how humans look at web ites,” founder Fabian Stelzer told Co.Labs. “We focused on attention before but we are now branching out to more general things like why people prefer one image instead of another or what are the factors that drive trustworthiness of image.” And he’s betting that machines can be trained to detect web pages that most of us think are ugly.
Cities are planning for climate change, research shows, but are still searching for links to economic growth. The report underscores the extent to which city leaders recognize climate change as a major challenge — even as they are trying to figure out how their responses can create jobs, growth, and cost savings in areas ranging from cities’ transportation networks to their distribution of businesses.
Congratulations to Class of 2014, Most Indebted Ever
The average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000, according to an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at Edvisors, a group of web sites about planning and paying for college. Even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago.
Shamsia Hassani is Afghanistan’s first female street artist, emerges as a spokesperson for women’s rights in Kabul. Born in Iran to Afghan parents, Shamsia Hassani is a street and digital artist working in the country’s complex and conflicted capital, where she returned in 2005 to pursue her education in Fine Art at Kabul University. Shamsia is doing Kabul Street Art and Digital Graffiti due to security issues. Her real (in photo) and digital graffities have been exhibited in many different countries like India, Iran, Germany, Italy and nearly all foreign embassies in Kabul.
Shamsia: “Usually I am painting women with burqas in modernism shape on walls, I want to talk about their life, to find some way to remove them from darkness, to open their mind, to bring some positive changes, trying to remove all bad memories of war from everybody’s mind with covering sad city’s walls with happy colors.” xx
Although employment has now returned to levels seen prior to the Great Recession in the nation and in much of the region, the types of jobs created during the recovery are not the same as those that were lost during the recession. It turns out that during the recession, the vast majority of jobs that were lost in the nation and across the region were middle-skill jobs, such as construction workers, teachers, machine operators, and administrative support workers. These jobs have not come back during the recovery. In fact, upstate New York and Puerto Rico have continued to lose middle-skill jobs during the recovery, while there were essentially no changes in these jobs in New York City or northern New Jersey. What have grown are higher-skilled jobs—such as engineers, computer programmers, doctors, and financial analysts—and lower-skilled jobs—such as food service workers, retail clerks, health care aides, and child care workers.