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David Yonge-Mallo
I teach computers how to reason. If the robot apocalypse happens, it'll probably be my fault.
I teach computers how to reason. If the robot apocalypse happens, it'll probably be my fault.

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"He's so much more handsome in person. Those eyes!"
"But, Old Man, isn't that your father-in-law?"


Does anyone else use an Amazon Kindle to read math/science papers and/or books? Is it just me or are equations just randomly screwed up and/or displayed too small to read?

Considering the demographic this affects, why hasn't this been solved?

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Okay, British English, for once I'm agreeing with American English here.

I haven't seen Wonder Woman yet. Nobody spoil the ending, okay?

I don't know how "the Great War" ends. I'm hoping that the villainous "Germans" learn to never again repeat the mistake of engaging in a worldwide war, though knowing comic book writers, there will probably be a "Great War Part II" where the "Germans" reprise their role as villains.

p.s. Is it too soon to make World War II jokes, or should I have waited until World War III starts, probably in a couple of weeks?

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Just watched "Arrival". Everyone told me I would like this movie. Nope. (Warning: spoilers.)

Okay, I'll grant it's better than most space alien first contact flicks. The best in that genre, in my opinion, is still the adaptation of Carl Sagan's "Contact". But the prototype in that genre is "Independence Day", so it's hardly a contest.

I'm supposed to like this movie because the protogonists are a linguist and a physicist. But their portrayal is in this uncanny valley between the usual socially awkward nerd stereotype and what actual scientists are like. Also, any illusion of scientific accuracy vanished to me when they showed that the linguistics college professor lived in a beachfront house with enough adjacent space to land a helicopter.

The movie made the usual confusion between a linguist, a translator, and a polyglot, except over and over. It's true that there's often an overlap between these three sets of people in real life, but they are not interchangeable, and people who are experts or in charge of hiring experts should really know better.

The audience is shown that Prof. Banks is a linguistics genius by having her translate "Farsi" offscreen, best another linguist's knowledge of Sanskrit, and provide a live translation and interpretation of a recorded message in Mandarin Chinese. The problem is not that one person can't do all of these things. The problem is that each one is a specialised skill and that expertise in one doesn't indicate expertise in the others, but all the characters take it for granted that they do.

(There's no reason why MI6 can't train one person to be the world's best stunt driver, stunt person, hand-to-hand combatant, card player, pilot, and lothario, but James Bond is overpowered and feels too much like a fantasy. Louise Banks feels like a non-linguist's idea of a super-linguist in just the same way.)

Prof. Banks wins Col. Weber's trust when she requests that he ask her competitor, another linguist, for the Sanskrit word for "war" and its literal meaning. This plot point hinges on the fact that her competitor comes back with the expected word but the "wrong" definition. But this is extremely contrived, because any competent linguist would've come back with a list of possible translations, their possible definitions, and a request for more context. (The word which is picked is also not the most common one, so it feels especially forced.)

When Col. Weber intercepts a phone call in Chinese, he asks Prof. Banks to listen to it, and she provides an on-the-spot translation, including references to mahjong tiles. It would've made much more sense if he had handed her a report produced by an expert or team of experts in Chinese language and culture. Earlier, she had translated recordings of "Farsi-speaking insurgents" for him on a tight schedule, a plot device to get her top-secret security clearance. It strains credulity to believe that one person can be expert enough to do that level of work in two languages, either of which would've taken years of schooling.

(I'll set aside my pet peeves about referring to the Persian language as "Farsi", or the Hollywood fiction about "Farsi-speaking insurgents", neither of which is specific to this movie.)

And finally, for a movie about language, the fact that the onscreen Arabic is disjointed (see photo) is unforgivable. How did this movie make it all the way to the Oscars without anybody noticing? Does no one in Hollywood read Arabic or know what it's supposed to look like?

Amy Adams' acting was also very wooden throughout, as if her character's only emotion was sadness. (It must be because she's thinking about the fact that she's soon obligated to go back to playing Lois Lane in another terrible movie.)

p.s. I don't have any problems with the physics in the movie, because it's all magic anyway.

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<[I]f the thing you might be wrong about is a belief that’s deeply tied to your identity or worldview—the guru you’ve dedicated your life to is accused of some terrible things, the cigarettes you’re addicted to can kill you—well, then people become logical Simone Bileses, doing all the mental gymnastics it takes to remain convinced that they’re right.>
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