Links for 4th May 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Fire Down Below: Centralia

    "We climbed a small hill and stood staring down at what was currently ground zero for the fire. Somewhere down there it still smoldered. Or raged. Honestly, I didn’t know a whole lot about underground coal mine fires, so whether they smoldered or raged was unknown to me. I imagined it was a little bit of both, depending on the particular conditions for that day. […] The mine fire burning somewhere below it meant that the grass was yellow and dying, and here and there fissures in the ground billowed with smoke that drifted spectral along the grounds. It was the sort of landscape you’d see on late-night television, usually in black and white movies that involved a hideous Frankenstein monster lumbering across it. Pressure and the occasional upheaval of ground had set several of the tombstones at curious angles, toppled others, and I was doing his best not to think of what might be happening six feet under."

    Tagged with: environmentcoalminefireghosttown

  2. Victor Keegan: If Africa can cut out banks, why can’t we?

    "Maybe it is because we are not used to the idea of technology transfer coming from poorer to richer nations that industrialised nations have been so slow to realise not only that Africa is leading the world in mobile banking, but that it has big lessons for us. I am surprised Vodafone, which is behind M-Pesa, hasn't introduced a similar service to the UK. It is also a dream opportunity for the government to turn the Post Office into a serious competitor to the banks. Your local post office would be the trusted place to put your money into the system. After that, practically every transfer can be made by mobile. And if anyone thinks it is too difficult – not something that happens much in Africa, it seems – then the Post Office will help out." Not so sure about the relying on the PO bit, but the rest is interesting stuff.

    Tagged with: technologyeconomicsbankingmobilefinanceAfricainfrastructure

  3. Culture May Be Encoded in DNA

    "“Look at all the different human cultures,” said Mitra. “They’re different, but they’re all within certain constraints, so those differences aren’t genetic. But now compare with the chimp culture — there are key differences. The possibilities between those cultures are constrained by biology.”

    Mitra admits that the analogies between bird culture and human culture are tenuous. “But there are resemblances. Culture is just learned behaviors. The motivating scenario is, if you isolate human babies from culture, put them on an island and come back after a few generations, what would their culture be like? What sort of language would they have? What sort of politics would evolve?”" I'm not buying this one.

    Tagged with: sciencegeneticsculturebirdsongbehaviourlearningcommunity

  4. Tagmemics

    "A tagmeme is basically a composite of form and meaning, a “unit-in-context.” Where many other linguists only wanted to study the objective form of language (that is, its “etic” aspect), Pike felt that the interesting thing was how language actually functions for users in real life—its “emic” aspect. So the tagmeme, as Pike’s fundamental unit of language, is described in terms of four features (or “cells”)—slot (where the unit can appear), class (what type of unit it is), role (how the unit functions), and cohesion (how the unit relates to other units). Pike found that the very same structures that appeared on lower levels also appeared on higher levels—as sounds formed words, words formed sentences, and sentences formed discourse, Pike used tagmemes to describe these larger and larger units. And he begin to think: if the etic/emic distinction applies to all levels of language, perhaps it was an even more basic, more general principle that could explain a great many other things too."

    Tagged with: languagelinguisticstagmemicswritingpsychologyanthropologyculturehierarchy

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