20
Jul 04

Do you

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Do you flick or swat?

16
Jul 04

Growing a Language

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Growing a Language

A comment from a colleague reminded me of this classic paper on programming language design. If you are not interested in programming just take a look at the first 4 or 5 pages and the last page.

Is there a word for making a point through the fabric of the text as well as its meaning?

15
Jul 04

Ancient Grannies…

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Ancient Grannies…

There was an interesting article in New Scientist last week (print version only). Researchers have analysed the age at which ancient humans died, and plotted a graph of life expectancy over the last few million years. It shows a correlation between a dramatic rise in the number of people living to twice the age of sexual maturity (ie when they could become grandparents) and the rise of “artistic, inventive modern humans” between 17,000 and 30,000 years ago. This is taken to support the “grandmother hypothesis” – which suggests that grannies lead to civilised communities by helping to raise more children and passing on their knowledge.

Whenever I see scientists jumping from correlation to cause and effect without any evidence, I can’t help wondering whether cause and effect can be reversed. Could it be that the presence of more children to pass knowledge to inspired the older generation to stick it out for a few extra years. Or perhaps it was the arrival of art that gave them reason to live (maybe something some of the Brown Wedge contributors could empathise with).

Also makes me wonder if an absence of surviving grandparents is what makes me so uncivilised…

Well, that’s my first posting on FT out of the way. More to follow soon (pending inspiration).