A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Secret Тroves of Etymology: Palindrome

Credit: The 4th-century Greek palindrome: ΝΙΨΟΝ ΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑ ΜΗ ΜΟΝΑΝ ΟΨΙΝ (Wash your sins, not only your face), at the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; Christina Kekka from Athens, Greece Light correction by Basile Morin; via Wikipedia

Do you know what is a Palindrome?

A palindrome is a word, phrase, number, or other sequence of symbols that reads the same backwards as forwards. The word derives from Ancient Greek. It means: "a word or line that reads the same backward and forward," (1620s), from Greek palindromos "a recurrence," literally "a running back." Second element is dromos "a running"; the first is palin "again, back," from PIE *kwle-i-, suffixed form of root *kwel- (1) "revolve, move round." PIE *kw- becomes Greek p- before some vowels.

(via etymonline.com)

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How can infants learn about sounds in their native language?

Credit: Getty images

Research shows that contexts in which sounds occur may shape ability to interpret acoustic differences

Infants can differentiate most sounds soon after birth, and over the following months, they become language-specific listeners. But researchers are still trying to understand how babies recognize "contrastive" sounds, a linguistics term that describes differences between speech sounds that can change meaning. For example, changing the "b" sound in "ball" to a "d" sound makes the word "doll."

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The Hidden Troves of Etymology: Spirit

Credit: Getty images

The elucidating journey of etymology

To follow the path of a word through the ages can be quite an adventure. It usually reveals the unexpected beauty of the language we daily use. It is even more exciting when we research some common words that we all know and use in various situations. Consider the word spirit. It has the meaning of a ghost, or a more religious one as the holy spirit but we could also use it when referring to an alcoholic drink. Well, it all has its roots in the exchange of meanings and words between different languages and the historical evolution of connotations.

Below you can enjoy the story of one really popular word – spirit.

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10 quotes by the Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein

Credit: Wikimedia commons

Thoughts to reflect on

1. The human body is the best picture of the human soul.

2. If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.

3. Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

4. Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.

5. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

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Lost for words – the devastation caused by aphasia

Credit: Aphasia is still unexplored territory, but researchers are starting to get a better understanding of how the language system works and provide scientific bases for therapies that can give people a better quality of life; Gettyimages

Aphasia – a world without words

Aphasia is a devastating diagnosis that affects your ability to speak or understand language. It's a little-known condition that effects 300 000 Europeans every year and recently made headlines when actor Bruce Willis announced he was diagnosed with it.

Aphasia is a language disorder that is caused by brain damage to the part of the brain that controls language. It often arises as a result of a stroke, brain tumour or a neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's.

The Hollywood actor and star of Die Hard, Bruce Willis recently announced his retirement following a diagnosis of aphasia. The condition affects a person's ability to speak or understand coherently.

Many had never heard of aphasia before learning this sad news, which is perhaps surprising given there are 300 000 new cases in the EU every year.

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Google engineer claims that one of the company’s products is sentient

Credit: Gettyimages

Does the Lamda Language AI system have feelings?

Two days ago Blake Lemoine, an engineer at Google, claimed that Lamda - one of the company's Language AI software – is sentient and has feelings. To prove his view, he posted a chat with it. The conversation is titled "Is Lamda sentient? - an interview". In there, Lemoine and one collaborator of him, ask the software various questions about itself, the world, the nature of its "consciousness" and more. Lemoine says that he genuinely believes that Lamba has feelings and should be treated like a real person and that he hopes that more people will see it as he does.

Although such an opportunity is indefinitely captivating, Brian Gabriel a spokesman of Google wrote in a statement provided to the BBC that Mr. Lemoine "was told that there was no evidence that Lamda was sentient (and lots of evidence against it)".

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3 Thought Experiments That No One Can Solve

Credit: Unsplash by Andreas Kind

Thought experiments that will challenge your convictions

What is intelligence? What about the nature of knowledge or reality? How does our consciousness work? These are all questions that have been tantalizing philosophers and thinkers ever since the beginning of questioning itself. The latter is more than understandable because how could we know anything at all, if we don't understand ourselves beforehand? Moreover, after millennia of civilization, it seems that we haven't resolved an iota of the above-mentioned problems. Yet, we human beings haven't stopped searching for answers. We had invented many theories, instruments, and even machines that tried to explain the inexplicable. The hypotheses are uncountable. We won't try to outline even a few of them since it will take ages. Nevertheless, below you can enjoy three thought experiments that will dive you into the heart of this everlasting philosophical darkness – a mind that is trying to explain what the mind is.

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The Hidden Troves of Etymology

Credit: Gettyimages

Etymology of understand

It's funny how sometimes words evolve and combine to form other more complex meanings. Or how you could easily distinguish the words that build a composite one but that doesn't really help to extract the sense. It is such a case with one of the most used words in English – understand. It is so frequently utilized that we rarely question its origins and connotations. We all know what it means - "perceive the intended meaning of (words, a language, or a speaker); interpret or view (something) in a particular way; be sympathetically or knowledgeably aware of the character or nature of something". However, what does standing beneath or at a lower point has to do with comprehension. Most probably there is something hidden behind the two root words, or maybe there is some strange historical reason for that. Let's see!

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Listening to the reason of voice

Credit: Gettyimages; Portrait of a talking male common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

The evolution of language

Speech and language skills are unique to modern humans. While this ability evolved over millions of years, it is not possible to trace language in the fossil record because it leaves no direct imprint. Instead, re-examining the ways our nearest living relatives communicate is helping to unravel this mysterious capability.

The mystery is deepened by the fact that our closest living relatives, the great apes, do not talk. Some scientists now believe that the evolution of our language capabilities are more discernible in living primates than previously assumed.

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The hidden troves of etymology

Credit: Gettyimages

The alchemy of lexis

Could you imagine today's world without the word culture? What will you use instead of it? Civilization, habits, folklore, society, or way of life? Well, all of them are representing just a single connotation, an aspect of the above-mentioned word and its meaning. The thing is that each word has its specific perspective towards the world, and rarely, let's not say never, can be fully replaced. That statement is even more accurate when we consider such a widespread and convenient notion as culture. Following that idea, we could picture why broadening our vocabulary is so important.

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The Secret Troves of Etymology: Symbol

Credit: Gettyimages

What does symbol mean?

We use a lot of words daily, we know what they mean in a particular case, however, once we go deeper into their meaning, we begin to lose ground under our feet. Here comes the help from Etymology. Some of the most abstract words we use today derive from natural or everyday life objects. For example, the word matter comes from the Latinmateria, which among other things, means "hard inner wood of a tree." Another one is the word electricitythat comes from the Greek ēlektron, which means "amber", or the word energy, which originates from the ancient Greek enérgon -"being active, into activity, working". The world of words is full of surprises, and the best aspect of that is that each one reveals an entirely new perspective towards what is known. Today, we will search for the elucidating history behind another one of these words –symbol.

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Do you know how many words for love had the Ancient Greeks?

Credit: The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli c. 1485–1486 , Wikipedia



Our language defines the limits of our soul

The more we engage our minds with something, the better we fathom the depths of it, its infinity. We expand our understanding about something and when we reach its momentary limits we define it, we coin a word. Thus, we materialize our consciousness and mark its achievements for future generations. Our thoughts, our perception of the world, our actions, are in direct causal link with the language we have in use. As the Austrian-British philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein once said: "The limits of my language define the limits of my world." Well, it seems that ancient Greeks had a lot more interest in the different forms of love than us because these are not only synonyms but words of various perspectives towards the phenomenon of love. What about our contemporary culture? Which are the concepts that we develop the most? It's a pretty long topic, that we could discuss some other time. However, you could ponder over it and share your thoughts with us.

Below you can take a look at the richness of Ancient Greek concepts for one of the most important aspects of what we call humane.

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The Phenomenon of Language explained

Credit: Pexels 

What is language?

Language is the most common, natural, and constitutional phenomenon among human beings and at the same time one of the greatest mysteries that we have developed. Everyone uses it. Even small children at the age of two are already able to produce language. It is so intrinsic to us that we cannot imagine our life, culture, or let's say, modern world without verbal language. However, language is not only about words and sentences, but rather about sharing ideas and meaning through different forms of signs, which could be visual, sonic, tactile, etc.

Here you can enjoy a lecture from Steven Pinker, renowned linguist and Harvard Psychology Professor:
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The Secret Troves of Etymology

Credit: Pexels by Rodolfo Clix

Etymology of the word Electricity

Have you ever wondered, which are the origins of the word Electricity? Is it coined especially for its modern usage? Had it been applied for other meanings in the past, as is the case with many other terms? My experience with searching the meaning and origins of words shows that the more common and used is a word in everyday conversations, the less we ask questions about it. As a result, we could easily find ourselves in the paradoxical situation of not knowing the real meaning of words we use on regular basis. And even more, a situation, in which most of the other people we are speaking to, don't know it too, though they, more or less, understand what we mean. So, let us dive once again into the puzzling world of language and its organic development through the years.


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Studies into bilingual cognition could help improve language learning

In one experiment, people who spoke more than one language or dialect demonstrated greater executive control abilities - which include inhibition, working memory and cognitive flexibility - than monolinguals. Image credit - Jessica Lewis/Unsplash

Speaking more than one language could enhance mental abilities

Bilingual people can effortlessly switch between languages during everyday interactions. But beyond its usefulness in communication, being bilingual could affect how the brain works and enhance certain abilities. Studies into this could inform techniques for learning languages and other skills.

More than half of people in Europe speak more than one language while the same is true worldwide.

Switching between languages can be thought of as a form of mental exercise where attention is focussed on the relevant language while intrusions from the second language are suppressed. 'There is a lot of research that shows that when bilinguals speak in one of their languages, the other language is still active,' said Dr. Kyriakos Antoniou, a psycholinguist at the University of Cyprus.

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The Secret Troves of Etymology

Image credit: unsplash.com by Hal Gatewood.com

The word Energy

Energy is one of those words that most of us use on a daily basis. It has both everyday and scholarly meanings. We all know what does it mean and yet that could really mislead us whenever we are trying to examine the full range of its connotations and its origins. Let's set out on a trip towards the roots of one of the most common words today.

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Quotes to reflect on: Roland Barthes

Photo credit: gettyimages.com

Language and Love

Roland Barthes is one of the most important think-tanks in Linguistics, Humanities, Literature, Cinema, and Post-Modern thought. As he perceived it, Language itself is the most crucial part of the body of our understanding of the world's phenomena. Language is not only a living organism but a corporeal part of our consciousness. We feel, touch, love, or hate, we fathom the depths of the Universe and experience our lives through our language. Our words and the meaning we attach to them have the possibility to literally create or disintegrate reality. So, don't underestimate what you daily utter or write or read or hear. It's what pushes up or down the evolution of our linguistic body, of our future as a species. Mind your words. For, what defines human being the most is language. And language could be love. Love and language - the greatest inventions of all times.

"Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is "I desire you," and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand, I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure.

Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments


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