New paper in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience: Understanding the role of linguistic distributional knowledge in cognition

A paper on which I am joint-first author, which I previously posted here as a preprint, has just (after a long time!) been published in the journal Language, Cognition and Neuroscience.

Take a look!

It should be open-access, but if for some reason you can't see it properly there, I can give you a copy.

Sharpest smoke kitchen knife in the world

Youtube channel Kiwami Japan has made a pure artform out of creating the same video again and again. In each, the silent protagonist creates a kitchen knife, from scratch, from an unconventional material. Here's one made of smoke.

If you watch more than one, while the basic premiss is the same every time, they kind of subtly join together part ASMR, part unfolding surrealist world-building.

How to fix the "1.5l issue" on a Morphy Richards 131004 hot water dispenser

In this very long post, I describe my process of repairing a kitchen appliance.

I explain in excessive narrative detail (a) to provide an amateur how-to guide for someone else who might have the exact same issue with this exact same model and (b) to generally encourage people: try and fix your broken stuff! It can sometimes actually be done, and you really don't need to be an expert or even particularly skilled! To be real for a second: if in a few decades we want to be living in a world where we can have things like kitchen hot water dispensers ordered from the internet, we're going to have to get comfortable fixing them now because as I've said previously, extractive growth capitalism in 2022's current form is simply incompatible with that future. But we can probably still have nice things if we make them to last, make them repairable (ideally user-repairable), and make them sustainably.

I'm not an expert, so probably did this repair in an unnecessarily difficult and painful way. But the important thing is, that doesn't matter! My intended audience for this is someone who maybe has never attempted to repair anything electrical before, beyond perhaps changing a fuse.

Music Video Telephone

Telephone is a game in which participants whisper a phrase person-to-person, and see how it evolves as people guess at words they mishear.

The following music video for True Thrush takes this a step further, giving participants one shot to view and memorise a short video, before asking them to recreate it.

Telephone is entertaining because people's natural automatic error correction (tendency to recognise and reproduce actual words) fights with the noisy communication channel of a quiet whisper. The True Thrush video is more about the unreliability of memory and creativity, and what details seem salient.

New paper in Cognitive Science: "Linguistic Distributional Knowledge and Sensorimotor Grounding both Contribute to Semantic Category Production"

A paper on which I am joint-first author, a preprint of which I mentioned here previously, has just been published in Cognitive Science.

Check it out!

If you don’t have access to Cognitive Science, you can get the paper from me.

Newton's Fractal

Grant Sanderson aka 3blue1brown has a wonderful channel on Youtube where he creates accessible yet deep educational maths videos. The are literally all very good, but the last two are a really great introduction to a topic in fractal geometry, and a demystification of the Mandelbrot set, presented with supreme clarity and fantastic visualisations. Probably requires high-school or first-year undergrad maths to really understand the technical content, but if you have interest in the topic I think you would get a lot out of this even if you have no formal education.

Why Is NFT Art So Ugly?

I came across this entertaining essay about NFTs (digital certificates of authenticity traded in a speculative asset bubble, aka "non-fungible tokens"), not from a financial, technological or environmental perspective, but instead from an art-criticism perspective.

As soon as you actually try to talk about this art as art the whole thing sort of falls apart, it just absolutely cannot stand up to the scrutiny. Doing so is about as cringy for the writer and the reader as it is for the viewer of the art itself, which I have to think is why the entire art world seems committed to talking only about the technology, the transmission mechanism, the great great value, all the swirling bullshit AROUND NFTs rather than, god forbid, the amateurish nonsense itself.

Plenty of social and environmental issues with NFTs too, of course, but those have been discussed to death by people more knowledgeable than me.

Edit: the follow-up essay "Why is NFT art so lazy?" is also good, focussing more on procgen in and out of NFTs.

My Universe

I turned on Radio 1 today for the first time in years. While I know essentially nothing about the current pop music scene, the unique combination of my decades-old pop music knowledge and a tiny slice of contemporary pop music knowledge (courtesy of my far-more worldly sister) allowed me to identify this song as a Coldplay/BTS colab purely from the singers’ voices.

Unfortunately I don’t really like it :/

New preprint: "Sensorimotor distance: A fully grounded measure of semantic similarity for 800 million concept pairs"

Together with my colleague and lab PILouise Connell, I have developed a new measure of semantic distance between concepts. It is based on the senses and body parts involved in experiencing those concepts — in other words it is fully grounded in sensorimotor experience. This sets it aside from other measures of semantic distance, such as those based on distributions of words in language, on encyclopaedic databases, or on lists of properties or features. It also is fairly comprehensive (thanks to the expansive norms collected by colleagues), with distances available for nearly 800,000,000 pairs of concepts.

Two panels. Both show arrangement of dots labelled with concepts. Left panel: select nouns for tools, emotions, fruit and celestial objects. Right panel: select verbs for leg, hand, mouth and cognitive actions
Left panel: select nouns for tools, emotions, fruit and celestial objects. Right panel: select verbs for leg, hand, mouth and cognitive actions. Within each panel, positions are based on sensorimotor distances between concepts, transformed into two dimensions using Sammon mapping.

The measure is described in a new preprint, and you can search, visualise and play around with the distances (e.g. the above image) using an online app I also developed.

Let us know if you do anything cool with it!