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Modeling Vladimir Putin

Here are some options: 1. Putin is a crazy hothead who is not even procedurally rational.  Merkel received that impression from one of her phone calls with him. 2. Putin is rational, in the Mises-Robbins sense of instrumental means-ends rationality, namely that he has some reason for what he does.  He simply wills evil ends, […]

Cellar Door.

I’m pretty sure I intended to post on this Grant Barrett “On Language” column about “the claim that cellar door is beautiful to the ear” (which has always intrigued me) when it came out a few years ago, but it seems to have slipped through the cracks in my brain. At any rate, it’s been […]

So long, and thanks for all the fish

by Massimo Pigliucci Or, as the title of the last Star Trek: The Next Generation episode wistfully announced: “ All good things… ” This is the last Rationally Speaking post, folks! It has been a long and fascinating ride. It began back...Show More Summary

The Evolution of Aww

4 weeks agoAcademics : Percolator

Zooey Deschanel (Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images) We live in the golden age of cute. As one scholar recently put it, cuteness has become a “dominant aesthetic category in digital culture.” Hard to argue with that. Even if you steer...Show More Summary

Down with the Nasty Asiatic Vowel!

This is a very silly story, but how can I resist a story that involves Russian vowels? According to this Atlantic story by Farangis Najbullah, the ever-controversial Vladimir Zhirinovsky “has now targeted a letter in the Russian alphabet”: The letter in question is the vowel “?”—a difficult-to-pronounce sound for non-native Russian speakers that is usually […]

On Pullum's 'Undivided...'

Several people have asked for my reactions to Geoffrey Pullum's piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog in which he claims the US and UK are 'Undivided by a Common Language'. So apologies to the person to whom...Show More Summary

Ghardaia: etymology, spelling, and politics

How is it possible that, in Algeria – a state normally obsessed with the need to combat divisive ideas – openly sectarian slogans like "Malikism, Malikism, national power" or "The Ibadi is the enemy of God" can be shouted by riotersShow More Summary

Frozen nightmares

The Devil in the Room is a fantastic short film about the experience of hallucinatory sleep paralysis – a common experience that has been widely mythologised around the world. Sleep paralysis is the experience of being unable to move during the process of waking – when you have regained consciousness but you’re brain has not […]

Ambassador Entwistle and Lolo 1 on Wazobia

"Exclusive Interview at Wazobia FM 95.1FM With Lolo 1 and the United States Ambassador to Nigeria", 1/30/2014: NPR's Weekend Edition covered this interview a couple of days ago: "U.S. Ambassador Speaks Pidgin English; Nigerians Love It", 3/15/2014. Wazobia FM is the first Nigerian media outlet to broadcast in Pidgin English, also (according to Ethnologue) known […]

Herbal Medicines, an Interview

Last night a short news segment on herbal medicines ran on Channel 9 which I not only appeared on, but actually referenced my research. You can see the interview here: I have done a lot of radio, but I'm pretty much a newbie at television. Show More Summary

The Green Fields of America

Walter Olson The Chieftains - The Green Fields of America “With no taxes or tithes there to devour up your wages/When you’re on the green fields of America.” A classic emigration song for St. Patrick’s Day, sung here by Kevin Conneff of the Chieftains, and from the repertoire of the great Paddy Tunney.  

Cosmos Reboot, Episode 2

This week’s Cosmos was all about the evolution of life, and was viewed by millions of people outside of Oklahoma, where they presumably got an hour-long local news promo, or analysis of the Oklahoma State’s chances in the NCAA Tournament. As such, it was a bit outside my area of expertise, but that never stopped…

Around the Web Digest: Week of March 9

There have been very many language/linguistics-related items this week, so the first several links will be related. Also, this week I’ve decided that I’m going to start drawing your attention to one particular article in the Digest. This is to say, if you read just one article here, I highly recommend “this one.” As always, […]

Encircling Empire: Report #24—Regime Change

In this report, our first for 2014, the reader will find links and article extracts for a selection of some of the very best resources to have been published online, focusing on the topic of regime change, along with an extended essay on Imperialism and Democracy. Here we address the current cases of Venezuela and Ukraine, and […]

"Slide down my cellar door"

In a 2010 NYT “On Language” column, Grant Barrett traced the claim that “cellar door” is the most beautiful phrase in English back as far as 1905. I posted on the phrase a few years ago ("The Romantic Side of Familiar Words"), suggesting that there was a reason why folklore fixed invariably on that particular […]

Harnessing everyday motion to power mobile devices (video)

DALLAS, March 16, 2014 — Imagine powering your cell phone by simply walking around your office or rubbing it with the palm of your hand. Rather than plugging it into the wall, you become the power source. Researchers at the 247th National...Show More Summary

Brains on Film: In the Scanner (featuring Sophie Scott and the Dead Salmon)

Everyone knows the hazards of bringing metal objects into the MRI scanner room (right?). Now we have a lovely musical reminder of why this is such a bad idea...In the Scanner is an entry in the Brains on Film contest, a Brain Awareness Week event sponsored by the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. Show More Summary

Regime Change: 10 Things You Need to Know about Ukraine

1. The U.S. government, through Victoria Nuland, was caught interfering directly in Ukraine’s politics. Her “fuck the EU” phone call demonstrates the high level of U.S. State Department involvement. Our media focused largely on the negative PR caused by the “fuck the EU” comment, but skirted around the content of the phone call. The widely-leaked conversation featured […]

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