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.
Together with my colleague and lab PI, Louise 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.
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.
I’ve been looking for suggestions of individual actions one can take to reduce CO2 emissions. In particular, ones which actually make a big difference (unlike, e.g., switching to LED lightbulbs). Everywhere I look, all I see is "have one fewer child" dwarfing all other actions by effectiveness. It's all anyone talks about.
The Web is full of figures like this one. It shows the one-fewer-child recommendation being equivalent to about 60 t/y, where the next-best options like “sell your cars”, “stop flying” or "be vegan" are mostly in the 1–2 t/y range. So high, they had to clip and compress the range on the graph so you could even see anything else. That looks pretty stark. That figure is so high, it seems as if nobody could ever hope live sustainably if they had even one child. They might as well be taking a long-haul flight every 10 days for the rest of their life! Now, we definitely shouldn't discount conclusions just because they are surprising or uncomfortable, but we should scrutinise them. That feeling of "…really?" is the first hint something might not be right.
Today I'm at the 2021 conference of the Cognitive Science Society, presenting a poster about a new, grounded measure of semantic similarity between concepts. Alongside the poster, here is a web tool I made for computing distances between 800 million concept pairs.
Every now and then when I find something online which I want to remember or show to somebody — usually an image or a video — I save it in a text file; one per person. Literally kilobytes of the stuff. And even more occasionally, I look back through those text files, and post something I find there on this site. (At this rate it'll be the year 3888 before I get through it all.)
I was sad to hear of the death of Ed Brayton a few days ago. He was a humanist and secular community leader, blogger, journalist and board member for the Center for Inquiry, Michigan. Following a long battle with illness, he checked himself into hospice care, and died comfortably a few days later.
I think I first heard Ed Brayton in 2008 when he appeared as a guest on an episode of Reginald Finley's The Infidel Guy Show, which I listened to regularly while at university.
For the 12 years since then I've read Ed's blog and listened to his radio shows and podcasts. I was delighted a couple of years ago when he returned to the airwaves with a new podcast, for which he had plans, though the most recent episodes are marked by his deteriorating health. Unfortunately, the podcast has already lapsed from the web, so I will add what I have of it to the archive of Ed's other shows I have hosted. Throughout the time I followed him, Ed's staunch commitment to his humanist values, and rejection of tribalism, were an inspiration. And when online atheism took an ugly turn in the last few years, Ed continued to find and highlight the good.
While I didn't know Ed personally, I always appreciated his words, and am sad that he is gone.
Check out this amazing video of Bob Hoskins clowning around on a blue-screen stage to do the Toon Town scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Early blue-screen cinema, I guess, so he doesn't even really have props or sight guides to play off against.
I can't remember where I saw this, possibly Important If True, back when that was a thing.