Μπορείς να με καταλάβεις;

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As two people speak, their brains begin to work simultaneously, synchronizing and establishing a unique bond. This is what in neuroscience is called brain synchronization.

New research by the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) in San Sebastián and published in Cortex magazine confirms that this phenomenon depends on the language we use to communicate.

“When a conversation takes place in one’s native language, both interlocutors pay attention to it in a more global way, focusing on the sentences and the global content of the message,” stresses Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, co-author of the study. However, when done in a foreign language, attention resources focus primarily on other, more complex linguistic levels for non-native speakers, such as sounds and words.

“In the latter communicative context we need to reconfigure our attention strategies so that we can understand each other, and this may be directly related to the difference in the areas synchronised during the conversation,” suggests Duñabeitia. (1)

Language.

Portrayed as a facilitator of communication.

But it is actually a barrier we must overcome.

Only when this barrier is lifted can we actually speak to each other.

Because communication and understanding never stem from logos.

But Logos is the result of the understanding we already have.

Speak to me.

And I will understand you…

Only if I already do…

Note: “Μπορείς να με καταλάβεις;” = “Can you understand me?” in Greek…

Creating with style…

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In search of inspiration for improving computer-based text translators, researchers at Dartmouth College turned to the Bible for guidance. The result is an algorithm trained on various versions of the sacred texts that can convert written works into different styles for different audiences.

Internet tools to translate text between languages like English and Spanish are widely available. Creating style translators – tools that keep text in the same language but transform the style – have been much slower to emerge. The Dartmouth-led team saw in the Bible “a large, previously untapped dataset of aligned parallel text.” Beyond providing infinite inspiration, each version of the Bible contains more than 31,000 verses that the researchers used to produce over 1.5 million unique pairings of source and target verses for machine-learning training sets.

“The English-language Bible comes in many different written styles, making it the perfect source text to work with for style translation,” said Keith Carlson, a PhD student at Dartmouth and lead author of the research paper about the study.

As an added benefit for the research team, the Bible is already thoroughly indexed by the consistent use of book, chapter and verse numbers. The predictable organization of the text across versions eliminates the risk of alignment errors that could be caused by automatic methods of matching different versions of the same text.

“The Bible is a ‘divine’ data set to work with to study this task,” said Daniel Rockmore, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth and contributing author on the study. “Humans have been performing the task of organizing Bible texts for centuries, so we didn’t have to put our faith into less reliable alignment algorithms.” (1)

In the beginning there was Logos.

And we tried to express God with words.

We were bad at it in the beginning.

But gradually we learned.

To use words better.

To express ourselves.

To make art with lifeless marking on white paper.

And people read and wept.

And people believed and followed.

And people forgot.

And people became indifferent.

At the end, the markings on the paper were dead.

Being nothing more than sad reminders.

That we once upon a time were alive.

That we used to be part of God.

In the beginning there was Logos.

And we tried to express God with words.

We were so good at it in the beginning…

PS. Dartmouth College has a long history of innovation in computer science. The term “artificial intelligence” was coined at Dartmouth during a 1956 conference that created the AI research discipline. Other advancements include the design of BASIC – the first general-purpose and accessible programing language – and the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System that contributed to the modern-day operating system.

Stay still. Move. Logos. Silence.

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Quantum mechanics is truly weird. Objects can behave like both particles and waves, and can be both here and there at the same time, defying our common sense. Such counterintuitive behaviour is typically confined to the microscopic realm and the question “why don’t we see such behaviour in everyday objects?” challenges many scientists today.

A team of researchers developed a new technique to generate this type of quantum behaviour in the motion of a tiny drum just visible to the naked eye. The details of their research were published in New Journal of Physics. In the quantum world, a drum can vibrate and stand still at the same time. However, generating such quantum motion is very challenging. Lead author of the project Dr Martin Ringbauer, said: “You need a special kind of drumstick to make such a quantum vibration with our tiny drum”. To that end, scientists used laser light as a type of drumstick. (1)

Moving and yet standing still. Vibrating and non-vibrating at the same time. Talking while staying silent. The meaning of the cosmos is revealed in the irrational.

Yes, in the beginning there was Logos.

But who said it consisted of logic?

The meaning of life is manifested in the meaningless.

As I listen to you, I start to remember now.

That I know that voice. I’ve heard it before.

In the songs of the birds.

In the rustling of leaves in the morning breeze.

But most of all, I hear my voice in the forest.

In the deafening morning silence…

Insects. Man. Road-map to life… Through silence.

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Whether a worm, a human or a blue whale, all multicellular life begins as a single-celled egg. From this solitary cell emerges the galaxy of others needed to build an organism, with each new cell developing in the right place at the right time to carry out a precise function in coordination with its neighbors.

This feat is one of the most remarkable in the natural world, and despite decades of study, a complete understanding of the process has eluded biologists.

Now, in three landmark studies published online April 26 in Science, Harvard Medical School and Harvard University researchers report how they have systematically profiled every cell in developing zebrafish and frog embryos to establish a roadmap revealing how one cell builds an entire organism. (1)

How was the cosmos created?

How did the stars come to be?

How did life become… alive?

Irrelevant questions. Boring quests.

Searching for the how. In a world made out of Whys.

Looking for death. In a cosmos made out of life…

Imagine a cosmos without causes. A world without laws. A universe governed by will. A fascinating universe. See that little blind man. Brought into the universe unwillingly. Caring about nothing. Just wanting to find out how everything happened. An insect in a universe governed by titans. A shadow of nothingness, in a cosmos made out of everything.

The world will soon get rid of that insect.

The cosmos will be silenced again.

Logos will utter its last words.

And just out of nothing.

A man will be re-born…

Language. Civilization. Silence. Re-death.

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Sixty years ago, renowned Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner published one of the most important books ever written about language. Verbal Behavior offered a comprehensive account of our unique capacity for symbolic communication, arguing forcefully over nearly 500 pages that it was learned rather than innate. The culmination of years of work, it was certainly influential – although not in the way Skinner anticipated. Rather than propelling his ideas into the limelight, it sparked a counter-revolution that catapulted a rival theory to worldwide acclaim.

Now, though, that rival theory is in decline and some of Skinner’s ideas are making an unexpected comeback. In recent years, psychologists have discovered that language really is learned, emerging from some general skills that are taught to children in the first few years of life. Surprisingly, these are not grand intellectual feats. Rather they can appear almost trivial – as simple as grasping the relationships between things, such as a large ball and a small one. (1)

We tend to see people who talk nicely as cultivated.

We admire logos. Seeing it as the culmination of our civilization.

But the cosmos was born in silence.

A quiet universe bred us into existence.

Calm trees covered us from the sun while we were growing.

The silent Earth carried us in her bosom.

And in that world…

We came into existence crying loud.

Being torn apart from our mother.

Being separated from the cosmos into being.

The only way to return home is not via speaking.

But by staying silent.

Just listen to the rustling of the leaves.

There is a cave underneath.

Go inside.

There is nothing there.

Only the things you bring with you…