December 2012

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celamity: (text)
Thursday, April 21st, 2011 06:48 am
I don't believe in universal grammar. I find there's something very unsatisfying in the whole idea that our grammar features should be something imprinted in our brains the same way the blueprint for our eyes or skin are; I prefer the notion that we acquire language from our peers and parents, and that the reason we struggle to learn new languages past our formative years is due to the lessened plasticity of the brain (blindfold a child from birth until seven or eight, and its eyes will never learn to see). Why should humans have genetic grammar constructs if apes and birds do not?

I read an article in the Economist today about a recently published paper (link to summary) that concludes that it is nuture and ancestry that dictates how we speak, not nature. We do not genetically inherit our 'universal grammar' elements, but learn them from family and peers.

I always enjoy it when a scientific theory I support gets a good solid boost :)
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celamity: (sunset)
Friday, February 19th, 2010 06:10 pm
Today, I learned why the national newspapers and some major weather websites have a tendency to consistently predict temperatures well below what we actually get here in their forecasts for the week ahead.

It's because they get their data from England, which is based on temperatures in a 25 km grid of points.

The closest point to this town is about 20 km inland, in an area known to be a cold sink :)

(On monday, the forecast suggested around -20C here this weekend, 2C below the historical record of -18C. Instead, we're hovering around -10C.)
celamity: (river)
Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 05:48 pm
Apparently, I did not see aurora this morning.

Apparently, if I had peeked out the window five minutes earlier, I wouldn't have seen just a bluish green glow, but also a rapidly moving and expanding pinwheel of light.

As demonstrated here

The prevailing theory seems to be a Russian rocket of some sort, but they deny any such thing, and its current status is that of an UFO (literally speaking, that is :) )
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celamity: (sunset)
Friday, October 2nd, 2009 08:42 am
The media that reported that the aurora would vanish from here within 50 years (oh noes!) have now been pointed towards more reputable sources, which amongst other things, explained that the pole on the surface is not the exact pole itself, and that the diameter of the aurora oval around the pole changes size and shape according to other factors as well.

Thus, the media have retracted their original story. (Apparently, the tourist industry up here is now allowed to breathe a sigh of relief.)

I, for one, feel vindicated in my original belief that there was something fishy and oversimplistic about the story as first presented :)
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celamity: (lizzie)
Thursday, September 17th, 2009 08:45 pm
Today, one of the web newspapers ran a story about how it was just discovered that Northern Norway will supposedly lose its aurora borealis over the next 20-50 years, and that it will instead move south, due to magnetic North Pole moving north and then into Siberia.

Having an unclear notion of how one thing moving north could cause a thing that trails it to move south, I googled, and found this page, from 2008, which shows the magnetic pole moving in the direction of the part of Siberia that is near Norway (and not, say, the region near Vladivostok). Thus, in moving north from its current location, the magnetic pole is moving towards Norway, which will eventually cause what the article claimed. Fair enough. But hey, looks like this is something that was a well established fact a year ago, doesn't it?

I also found this story from 2005, which is apparently when this great movement towards Siberia was actually discovered.

So much for breaking news.

(And unlike the newspaper article today, I am not puzzled as to why tourist agencies are not in a panic over this brand new information.)
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