Thursday, December 28, 2006

Language Acquisition - Part 2: The Influence Of Physiological Formation

How closely related are the physiological and biological formation of a being with the language being used? Does instinct directly or indirectly influence the language that being formulates? This is a question worth investigation, but my personal conviction is YES, physiology and instinct do influence the language. I will try to investigate my position in this part as well as part 3.

Assume that you raise some pet at home. Say, a cat. Isn't it curious that a home-raised cat meows?! How does a cat grown at home know that it is supposed to meow?! What is even more interesting is that a home grown cat can make mating calls that other cats can respond to. To explain this phenomenon, I guess that the physiology of the cat's throat is adapted to the simplest forms of "cat language". I am not sure if cats can develop more advanced forms of "cat language", but even at that simple level it is interesting.

An interesting hypothesis that I have once read about is the "Critical Period Hypothesis" (read more). This hypothesis suggests the existence of biological constraints on the language acquisition in humans. The hypothesis states that language acquisition would be at its best before the age of 12. It is suggested that language acquisition is a function of the left-hemisphere of the brain whose functions decline after the age of 12.

In the study of the critical period hypothesis, feral babies (babies raised in the wild) are taken as examples. Unlike what Hollywood would like us to believe in films like Tarzan, it is believed that feral babies have NOT developed any kind of "animal language" [anyone who has knowledge of a contradicting story, please inform us]. This is an interesting finding, as it gives a direct hint that humans are NOT adapt to develop non-human lingual abilities, even when they have lived among animals a large period of their life.

As an additional note, the feral babies that have been found before the age of 12 have been able to develop human language, while those found beyond the age of 12 had failed to properly acquire human language (which is in accordance to the critical period hypothesis).

In this series:
Language Acquisition - Part 1: General Discussion
Language Acquisition - Part 2: The Influence Of Physiological Formation
Language Acquisition - Part 3: Deep Structure Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 4: Ambiguities
Language Acquisition - Part 5: The Problem Of Representation
Language Acquisition - Part 6: Linguistic Determinism Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 7: Possible Applications For The Investigation

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Anonymous Posting

I think turning off the anonymous comments option should not be a choice taken lightly. The position I am trying to support is that: The information contained in a post or comment is what matters, WHO made that comment should NOT be prioritized consideration.

As a blogger, I surely would prefer to know who made a certain comment, YET I wouldn't mind if all the commenting readers decided to post anonymously as I think "what is said" is more important than "who said that".

Some might raise the point that anonymous posters cannot be held accountable for their own comments and therefore are likely to make malicious posts. As much as that might seem reasonable, it has to be noted that -at times- there are legitimate concerns for privacy that a blog owner has to keep in mind.

Finally, from a practical perspective, if someone who does not own a blogger profile (or whatever service being used) has landed on a blog, the blog might miss a valuable comment due to the overhead required to post that comment. In this view, it becomes clear why blog owners should try to make it as easy as possible to post comments.

It has be noted that, whatever has been said above doesnt necessarily apply to all bloggers or types of blogs.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Individualism In Its True Light

Individualism is the position that holds that individuals (rather than society) responsible for their own good. The basic claim is that Reason is an individualistic property. No person can think for another; thought is an attribute of the individual. Since cognitive rationality implies that every cognitive unit seeks its own good, and since the individual is a cognitive unit, then the individuals seek their own good.

The opposite view of individualism is collectivism. Collectivism views the society as a responsible unit for its own good. Collectivism does not hold individuals accountable for the choices they make. Failing to save for retirement, having children one can't afford, making bad investments, becoming addicted to drugs or smoking --- These actions are called "social problems" that "society" has to deal with. On the other hand, individualism holds the individual responsible for their actions, and hence entitled for the consequences of those choices; The individual has the right to enjoy good outcomes, and the responsibility to suffer bad outcomes.

In this view, it is evident why individualists are not so keen to implement compulsory "safety-net", where individuals are required to provide help to those who made bad choices in their lives. Nonetheless, opt-in safety-nets might still be viable.

One of the common misconceptions about individualism is the concept of a loner. Social isolation is by no means synonymous with individualism. Individualism is a philosophy of how one person perceives their relations with other peers, and their role in their social group. An individual perceives each person based on their own merit rather than the collective value of the social group, and sees their relationship with their society as give-and-take compromise, rather than an altruistic duty.

Finally, it is important to note the high resemblance between Capitalism as an economic philosophy and Individualism, as Capitalism views the person responsible for their financial and social status.

PS: Based on this article [recommended-read]

Monday, December 18, 2006

Language Acquisition - Part 1: General Discussion

Language, what is language?! Language can be roughly defined as a set of conventional signals that are used to suggest or convey information (or just data). Those signals can be in any form: Phonetic signals as in spoken language; Hand motion as in sign language; Electrical pulses as in computer communications; Numerous other forms exist. But the keyword in the definition of language is "conventional". Without conventions there are no languages. Consider how internet protocols are created: Certain dedicated committee of professionals meet in order to come up with a "standard", these standards are then published in either electronic or printed forms; From that point on, developers are expected to follow the conventional standard.

But what about human spoken language? Two highly interrelated questions arise: The first one is, how was first human language made? The second one is, if a person (say, a baby) has no knowledge whatsoever of the conventions used in a certain language, how would he develop an understanding of it? As an answer to this second question we can say that the combination of our pattern recognition abilities and continuous observation enables us to acquire language. Still the question is worth further analysis.

One of the main influences of creation of language and consequently understanding of language are the environment and experiences. In one discussion about language acquisition (here), I argued about the inherent difficulty for humans to analyze extraterrestrial languages. My position can be summarized that: Language experts have long been in the analysis of prehistoric languages (say, ancient Egyptian languages), their job is relatively easy because they are analyzing human languages - made by humans just like us. The real challenge would be to analyze and understand languages of beings that share neither our environment nor experiences.

Many philosophers have recognized this limitation, one such recognition is Wittgenstein's quote:
"If a lion could talk, we could not understand him." (source)
Other instances -say, the title "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus."- seem to suggest that even humans may be incapable of understanding eachother due to different physiological and psychological needs. All those instances seem to suggest that understanding of language is highly dependent on our familiarity of the concept being suggested.

A consequence to the "pattern recognition" method for acquiring language is ambiguity. Take two example nouns: "Knife" and "Love". The word "knife" can be easily recognized through observation, the concept is mainly unambiguous and not open for interpretations. On the other hand, the term "love" is highly ambiguous -each person has their own interpretations- since diverse patterns are attributed the same word "love".

An extreme view of the above two paragraphs, considering individualism and since every person has different experiences in life, then the meaning of words each individual perceives is different! We might say that no human really understands another, and we are merely deluded to think otherwise.

In this series:
Language Acquisition - Part 1: General Discussion
Language Acquisition - Part 2: The Influence Of Physiological Formation
Language Acquisition - Part 3: Deep Structure Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 4: Ambiguities
Language Acquisition - Part 5: The Problem Of Representation
Language Acquisition - Part 6: Linguistic Determinism Hypothesis
Language Acquisition - Part 7: Possible Applications For The Investigation

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Figure Of Satan Before Torah

Satan is a symbolic figure that existed even before Torah was made. At that time, Satan was a figure for curiosity and thirst for knowledge. It was a very positive figure connotated with people of science, including among others: Mathematicians and Physicists.

In the Jewish (and later on Christian) mythology, when The Lord of Moses (God) created The Garden of Eden (Heaven), he created many trees. One of those trees was the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Some clergies refer to the tree as an "apple tree", which strips it from its symbolic meaning).

The Lord of Moses has forbidden Man to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan (which represents thirst for knowledge) has raised curiosity of Man to know what that tree tastes like, and thus Man has defied the will of The Lord and eaten from the tree.

Thus according to Torah and the Christian mythology, Man's curiosity for knowledge caused him to be expelled from The Garden of Eden, and thats why Satan according to Torah is a negative figure. And Man is now being punished for his curiosity.

Satanism (and Satanists in general) carry the old tradition of thirst for knowledge, and Satan still represents that thirst for knowledge, and the Satanists admire the knowledge being gained.

Some people might wonder why The Lord of Moses has forbidden Man to eat from that tree. It is simple, knowledge (in general - as well as that of good and evil) is considered a Godly attribute (Don't all Abrahamic religions state that God is all-knowing?). The Lord of Moses (and almost all Gods known to mankind) didnt want Man to attain such Godly attribute.

Biblical References:
Old Testament: (PDF)
Genesis 2:16-17 [God forbids Adam to eat from the tree]
Genesis 3:1-5 [Satan convinces Eve to eat from the tree]
Genesis 3:7-11 [What happened when Man has eaten from the tree]

Monday, December 11, 2006

Public Openness And Personal Honesty - Part 3: Public Nudity

As I explained in Part 1, people are usually more honest about issues relating to physical attributes rather than emotional attributes. Exposing one's physical or emotional attributes makes them feel vulnerable. This feeling is completely understandable and justifiable. Nonetheless, we need to understand that dealing with our fears and points of vulnerability makes us more mature and stronger in general personality. As humans, we need to learn to accept ourselves whether in terms of physical form, or emotional build.

The more important issue, that we should recognize such acceptance and exposure as a point of strength, and something for the good of the individuals and the society as a whole. It might not be the choice of everyone, but it should still be recognized. Since it is tough for people to open up emotionally, many societies recognized their capacity to open up and accept their physical attributes. Such step can be recognized as an intermediate step to open up both physically and emotionally. What I am talking about here is the nude societies.

Public nudity is deemed unacceptable in many societies, and down right offensive in others. It is pathetic that such societies find themselves helpless next to the idea of exposing their physical attributes. What is even more dangerous, that such societies impose on others to follow their policy of denial. It can be understood that some people might feel uncomfortable exposing their physical attributes and feeling vulnerable at the possibility of that happening. But they cannot setback those who feel strong enough to accept their physical forms. It is no wonder why such societies are so emotionally locked up, as they are unable to unleash whats even more basic form of honesty.

I believe this deep rooted dishonesty, which is even enforced and strengthened by the social norms, is part of the reason we fail in building up straight and honest relationships. Please don't confuse the reason with the effect. People are dishonest by their nature, and that's why social norms are the way they are now. People created the social norms for their own convenience (and the inconvenience of others).

In this series:
Public Openness And Personal Honesty - Part 1: The Premises
Public Openness And Personal Honesty - Part 2: Elaboration
Public Openness And Personal Honesty - Part 3: Public Nudity

Friday, December 08, 2006

University And Education

"A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education." (source)

George Bernard Shaw

Could that get any more forward?!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Time-Space Energy-Mass Equivalence

Nowadays, it is a generally known that mass is a form of energy. Einstein has pioneered this view with his time-space modeling. Within Einstein's view time and space are equivalent quantities, and time is only a fourth dimension where existence resides.

Following with that view came the inevitable conclusion: If time and space are equivalent then energy and mass are equivalent.** Below is the reasoning for that:

E = Energy equivalent to the mass (J)
m = mass (kg)
c = speed of light in vacuum (m/s)

E = m . c2
E / m = c2

If energy and mass are equivalent then the value of [ E / m ] is a unitless constant. This concludes that c2 is a unitless constant as well.

Now, say
K = positive unitless constant

Since energy and mass are equivalent, then a Joule equals a kilogram within a constant.

J =
N.m =
kg.m/s2.m = [divide both sides by kg]
=> m2/s2=K =>m2=K*s2 =>m=K.s

** A more descriptive claim would be: Time and space are equivalent if and only if energy and mass are equivalent

Fix: Removed references to unitless constants

PS: The scientific validity of claims is NOT asserted

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Perception Of TV-Shows

People's reception and perception of TV-shows varies greatly. In this entry I will be focusing about my own view of some TV-shows as well as opposing views of two of my friends.

Lets first consider the comedies: My personal favorite comedies are Becker and Seinfeld. One of my friends argues about Seinfeld: "Seinfeld is merely a series of unfortunate events, thats not comedy, thats annoyance." Apparently, my favorite kind of humor is defined as a series of unfortunate events!! I love Seinfeld because it has a strong connection with reality. The show is about the life of Jerry Seinfeld and his friends. Each one of his friends has a unique and interesting character. The show doesnt introduce unnecessary spice, everything is plain. I also love Becker because Becker's character is a realist with negative attitude. So just like Seinfeld, Becker has a strong connection with reality. Its negative attitude only adds to the irony and sarcastic perspective of the show.

Other comedies that I love include Ally McBeal. This show includes way too much irony that appeases my taste. Numerous references to the LGBT culture, and the unisex bathroom adds spice to the show, and shows that the makers of the film are more open-minded than the average.

Another controversial comedy show is the standup comedy of Russel Peters. If anything, that show is practically one racist remark after the other. Its too fucking hilarious!!

Now lets consider horror movies: I think horror movies are a disappointment. I think that a horror movie should instill horror in the hearts of those watching it. It fails to deliver that feeling to me, and thus it is generally a disappointing experience. A friend of mine disagrees. He argues: "Think of the director as your mentor. Horror movies are supposed to entice your imagination, to help you create your own little scary world. With the help of visual aids, and ideas that the directors suggests to you through the produced movie, that would become an easier task." I really miss that here. I think of the director as my enemy, a person who is trying to instill fear in me. I think of the movie itself as a challenge not a hint. My friend elaborates: "Don't just watch. Learn. Don't just watch. Use your imagination. I once watched a film where in one scene, there was a little baby about to cry. Once he cried a Meow sound came out of him. If you were just watching, that event would be meaningless. The point is, people are afraid of what they dont understand, what they are unfamiliar with. We are used to babies crying with human sounds, not those of a cat. From this point use your imagination to instill fear in yourself. Its not the director's responsibility to instill fear in you. Its your responsibility. The director is only giving you hints how to do it."

Finally, lets consider teenage romantic comedy movies: Arguably my favorite genre of movies. It deviates from the boring classical genre of romance, although has its own set of cliches. It includes many comical references. My favorite ones also include references to use of drugs, alcohol, sex, and vice in general. All of these factors add together to make a whole movie. Examples include: 40 days 40 nights, Euro trip, Dorm Daze, Not another teen movie.

Other TV-shows that I like are teenage cartoons like: Futurama, South Park, Drawn Together. South Park for example introduces ideologies in a sarcastic manner, and conveys those ideologies through elementary school kids. The concept is similar to stories that use animals (or otherwise) as tools to convey ideas. This kind of use makes it easier for the viewer to digest those ideas since animals\kids are usually denoted of as neutral agents.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Funniest Geeky Tale

Sometime ago, one of my university colleagues come to me for advice about his slow going computer acting funny at discrete times, so I suggested to him that his PC might be infected with a virus and suggested that I would send him a really good antivirus - Mcafee Enterprise 8.0i - over msn and advised him to install it.

Now keep in mind that this guy is a third year computer engineering student, who supposedly should have minimum computer skills. The thing is, few days later he came to my friend Ghaith telling him that Zaid (ie. me) is such a jerk! Although I am a self-proclaimed jerk, yet Ghaith found the declaration quite shocking, so he asked him about the reason he made that assertion. The guy tells Ghaith that I sent him a virus over msn. Ghaith knowing that I'm not really a virus kiddie was suspicious of the accuracy of the claim and asked him to elaborate. So he explains that after I sent him Mcafee over msn, he installed it and the computer gave him a message saying "Virus Found".... What an unfortunate event!!! I really must have been such a jerk!