Reader poll results on favourite Romance language

Monday, February 28, 2011

One week after the most recent poll on favourite Romance language(s), the results are surprisingly close to the demographics of the languages themselves. Take a look:

53 (33%)

40 (25%)

54 (34%)

20 (12%)

38 (24%)

Catalan / Occitan
18 (11%)

Most population estimates for Spanish, French and Portuguese are around 400 million, 220 million and 250 million, and in the poll they are also at the top. Next up in the poll, and also in real population, comes Italian. Italian is a bit higher than one would expect for population alone so it was probably selected as a fun second choice for most. After that come Romanian and Catalan/Occitan, which is also in line with real population.

My choices were Romanian and (European) Portuguese. Romanian is by far my favourite Romance language. For some reason never pronouncing a written h in other Romance languages tends to get under my skin a bit. I don't mind a silent h every once in a while, nor a silent p in Greek loanwords in English (pneumonia), but never ever pronouncing h...not a huge deal, but I do like a real h. As Eddie Izzard says near the end of this video:

One other nice thing about Romanian is the lack of regional varieties / dialects. Italy is one country in particular where the common language is a bit of an L2 for many:

and as a lover of languages one would prefer to be able to know Sardinian when in Sardinia, Sicilian when in Sicily, instead of using the common language that everyone knows and sees on TV, but doesn't use as much in daily life when talking with people on the street. So Romanian is nice in that it's simply the language spoken in Romania, and Moldova (besides Hungarian in the former and Russian plus Gagauz in the latter).

On top of that the Slavic vocabulary is fun, and being nearly completely phonetic is nice. As a Canadian it was nice to have grown up with French around (on cereal boxes, sometimes in school, on TV...) because I certainly don't envy learning to write even simple phrases like qu'est-ce que c'est, qu'est-ce qu'il y a, and au jour d'aujourd'hui that take but a moment to speak but a longer time to write. Keskilya? No, it's written qu'est-ce qu'il y a. French always feels like another variety of English to me - a mess, but a kind of gloriously fun mess.

The other language I chose is (European) Portuguese. Portuguese to me feels a bit like Spanish spoken by a human. (That's a bit of a backhanded compliment to Spanish, by the way - it's almost inhumanly efficient) Take Spanish, add about ten more vowels, pronounce v and d like a 'real' v and d, then remove the silly diphthongs (siempre - sempre, ciudad - cidade, fuego - fogo), and replace h with f in a lot of places (hijo - filho), and pronounce final s as sh most of the time. When sung it sounds fantastic:

Two other nice things about Portuguese: as with Romanian, there isn't all that much variation within Portugal. There are different types of Portuguese within the country, but it's not nearly as fragmented as Spain with Catalan, Aranese, Aragonese, Asturian, and many others. Portuguese also feels a lot like English in the sense that there is 1) a relatively small country within Europe where the language originally comes from, 2) a much larger country across the Atlantic that has now become the cultural centre of the language, and 3) some other ex-colonies that speak the language but adhere somewhat more to the European standard than the American one.


How often do Spanish speakers in the United States end up forgetting Spanish?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

An article here in Spanish today on the future of Spanish in the United States goes over some ground that we've seen before: in 2050 the US will have the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, knowledge of Spanish will go from about 5.7% worldwide to about 10% by then. There is one number in the article that is new to me though:

Respecto de Estados Unidos, el académico explicó que si bien “el 23% de los inmigrados y exiliados ha perdido su lengua materna”, en la mayoría de los casos, “la lealtad lingüística es un hecho” y “encontramos situaciones bilingües perfectamente equilibradas”.
= "In the United States, though 23% of immigrants and exiles have lost their mother tongue, the majority of the time people are "loyal" to their language and perfect bilingualism is often encountered.

I assume this 23% is over a generation, but there is no source given and a quick search on Google doesn't turn one up. Then again, the article is a bit sloppy. It ends with:
...por ejemplo, si bien el 25% del mundo es hispanohablante, apenas el 5% de las páginas web están en español.
= "while 25% of the world speaks Spanish, just 5% of web sites are in Spanish." So let's hope that the percentage of people in the world that understand Spanish will increase to 10%, but 25% of the world understands Spanish.


Either that or it means "even if" 25% of the world speaks Spanish...but in that case it would make the 5% number meaningless as there is no way to predict how many pages on the internet would be in Spanish in such a hypothetical situation. Or perhaps I'm missing something.


Why do anti-government protests not spread to Central Asia?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

That's what this article from Zeit asks today. The article is quite off the mark in a number of places (quoting someone as saying that Nazarbayev turned down the opportunity to rule until 2020 without elections because of Egypt when he made that decision well before any anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia) but it's an interesting subject.

Some answers to the question are easy: one is language. Central Asia doesn't speak Arabic or English. Al-Jazeera broadcasts in Arabic and English thus aren't immediately comprehensible, and even if they were there is no shared cultural background with the Middle East besides a (mostly) common religion.

Length of time is another one: Ben Ali was in power for 23 years, Mubarak for about 30, Gaddafi for 42 so far. In contrast to this no country in Central Asia has even been officially independent for more than 20 years.

Another one is the economy: Egypt's GDP per capita has hardly budged at all over the past few decades while Kazakhstan's has grown every year except 2009 when GDP dropped in pretty much every country throughout the world:

Also, let's not forget that Kyrgyzstan actually did do away with its president last year, so it's not like Central Asia is naturally averse to protesting against presidents that abuse their power.


Daegu in South Korea to increase number of English teachers by 236%

Some local news here from the city of Daegu in South Korea, the third-largest city in the country.

Daegu's Office of Education said on the 25th that starting in 2012, in order to prepare for the national English proficiency test, it would add 252 native English assistant teachers to all its elementary, middle and high schools.

Through the increase of native English speakers elementary schools with at least 24 classrooms of grades 3 to 6 would each have two teachers. The ability to learn from a native teacher, limited to a few grades before, would now extend to all grades.

With this, Daegu's Office of Education will have a total of 572 teachers. In March 2010 there were a total of 242, making this an increase of 236%.

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Turkey's CHP party website now available in Arabic

Friday, February 25, 2011

Here's something I noticed in the Turkish media today - Turkey's CHP (originally the leading party, in opposition for quite some time now but finally rid of Deniz Baykal as leader) now has an Arabic version of its website. It looks like this:

This is the first language to be added after English.

Next up? According to the article in the first link, they are preparing a Russian version as the next language.


Earth's gravity turned asteroid 2011 CQ1 from an Apollo to an Aten-class asteroid

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Remember the tiny asteroid that passed by Earth at a record close distance earlier this month? It turns out that the close approach to Earth altered its orbit by a full 60 degrees, changing it from an Apollo-class asteroid (orbit usually between Earth and Mars) into an Aten-class asteroid, with an orbit now mostly within ours. NASA still hasn't updated the orbit here, but you can see on what happened to it:

It's just like what happens when you run this orbital simulator and put a tiny body next to a large one. Warning: do not run that orbital simulator if you value your free time, as it will take up your entire afternoon if you're not careful.


One of my favourite language learning blogs

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 this one, at There are a lot of language learning blogs out there and I don't spend much time reading most of them, which tend to be either far too technical, far too basic ("my tip is to just get out there and speak!"), or noisy and personality-based. I like this one for its middle-of-the-road approach in using terminology, lack of flash, and the author's willingness to experiment on himself to determine the best methods in learning a language. For a while he tried experimenting with polyphasic sleep to give himself more time to study during the day. I unwillingly became a polyphasic sleeper myself last summer when Goma was still a kitten that needed feeding every few hours, plus whenever Windy felt like waking us up. Doing it willingly would probably feel at least a bit better than that.

Back to the blog: one of his preferred techniques in learning a language seems to be tons and tons and tons of reading, along with some other areas that he constantly logs the progress of in a spreadsheet. Originally from Vancouver, now lives in Berlin, and for more info you can see the blog yourself. Low-key but interesting blogs like his deserve a mention.


Euranet has news with matching audio for 15 languages

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I came across another news site the other day that is also highly recommended for language learners -, with a total of 15 languages. Euronews is another recommended site for the languages it provides service for, but Euranet complements this with a few languages that the former doesn't provide. Some of these languages are Swedish, Danish, Romanian, and...I wish I could say Slovenian, but there doesn't seem to be much text at all there. Pity as Slovenian is a really hard language to find such content for. As with Euronews, Euranet is a mixed bag with some articles that match word for word, many that vary by a bit, and a few that hardly match up at all.


Romanian vocabulary - how much from Latin, Romance, Slavic, other languages?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking at the Bulgarian Wikipedia today on Romanian, the following on Romanian vocabulary can be seen:

Според друго изследване, румънската лексика съдържа 71,66% латински елементи (от които само 30,33% са собствени, а останалото е адаптация предимно на френски, латински и италиански думи), 14,17% славянски (български или руски) елементи, 3,91% собствени румънски словосъчетания, 2,71% думи с неясен произход, 2,47% немски думи, 1,7% новогръцки адаптации, 1,43% унгарски адаптации, 0,73% турски думи, а останалото е от дакийския език.
Translation: According to another study the Romanian lexicon contains 71.66% Latin elements (of which 30.33% are from Latin, while the rest is composed primarily of French, Latin and Italian words), 14.7% is of Slavic (Bulgarian and Russian) elements, 3.91% independent Romanian phrases, 2.71% words of uncertain origin, 2.47% German words, 1.7% modern adaptations, 1.43% Hungarian adaptations, 0.73% Turkish words, and the rest is from the Dacian language.

One then wonders how much of the Slavic portion comes from Bulgarian, how much from Russian, and also Old Slavonic. A quick search for Romanian vocabulary 71.66 turns up this page, with the following:

Making a quick assumption that the average fluent speaker would understand about 10,000 -- 20,000 words in a language, (this number also depends on how you define a word), that means learning Romanian to fluency would give one a knowledge of some 1500 - 2500 Slavic words. In English a knowledge of 1000 words gives 72% written text coverage, 2000 words brings it to 79.7%, and by 3000 you're up to 84% comprehension. In short, learning Romanian with particular attention to words of Slavic origin will go a long way towards any Slavic language you intend to pick up later. What Romanian won't bring you, of course, is familiarity with the Cyrillic alphabet. The two Slavic languages with the strongest influence on Romanian don't use the Latin language, and the closest one to them that does use the Latin alphabet is probably Serbo-Croatian when written in the Latin alphabet, being a South Slavic language with vocabulary (but not grammar) similar to Bulgarian.

For more on this in Romanian, see here. A number of other studies have been conducted that produced about the same results.


Page F30 reader poll: which Romance language do you like the most?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'm still a bit jetlagged after yesterday's flight with the two cats, and so today's post is a quick poll on Romance languages. The question is a simple one: which Romance language, or languages, do you like the best? This is about personal preference, so choose the language or languages that you simply enjoy speaking, reading, listening to. I didn't include any of the smaller Romance languages except for Catalan / Occitan, since the population is fairly large and Catalan is the official language of Andorra too.

I'll give my answer after the poll is over. Readers are free to guess before then though. I'll give a hint: there are two Romance languages I like in particular.


Six out of ten in Quebec see multiculturalism as a threat to the French language

Saturday, February 19, 2011

An article here a few days ago on Cyberpresse has a survey on the French language in Quebec. Some information from the survey:

In the eyes of six out of ten Quebeckers, multiculturalism is what threatens the French language. That result came from a La Presse-Angus Reid survey carried out between the 9th and 10th of February on the language, bilingualism and Bill 101.

In total, 57% of francophone Quebeckers see themselves threatened by a strong American culture, and 51% by Canadian English culture, while 66% feared multiculturalism.

Bill 101 is seen as a necessity: 79% of Quebecois and 90% of francophone Quebeckers see the bill as a necessity for Quebec. This doesn't mean that they consider knowing English to be unimportant. On the contrary, 84% see knowing both official languages as important. In contrast to this, in Manitoba and Saskatchewan only 8% consider knowing French to be important, and 10% in Alberta. Interestingly, while they don't consider it important to know the language, 62% of them feel that they live in a bilingual country.


18 February 2011: Dawn is now just 5 million km away from Vesta

Friday, February 18, 2011

This will probably be the last of my posts tracking the distance from the probe Dawn to its first destination Vesta, as now that it is within 5 million km it really isn't that hard to picture the distance. The distance from the Earth to the Moon for example is 384,000 km so that's only 13 times farther away. So instead of comparing the distance with the asteroid 21 Lutetia at 900,000 km as first photographed by the Rosetta probe, we'll just go with an image showing the distance compared to that between us and the Moon. The only thing that isn't to scale on this image is the size of Vesta, as it is quite tiny compared to the Earth and the Moon and trying to do that to scale as well wouldn't be that helpful.


Twitter users now able to translate Twitter into their own language

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Twitter announced in a post a few days ago that users will now be able to help to localize Twitter in their own language, something that has been long overdue. Twitter probably has the smallest number of interface languages out of any site compared with its size, and it shouldn't take long to translate it into at least a few dozen major languages.

The translation interface looks like this. It'll be interesting to see the first five or ten or so languages added.

Read more... videos for IAL phrasebooks

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quick post today for IAL advocates, especially newer ones such as Sambahsa, Lingwa de Planeta and Lingua Franca Nova that still lack phrasebooks in a large number of languages. Thanks to user-made translations of videos at it's easily possible to translate a single video there in order to end up with equivalent phrases in twenty or more languages. Right now the only IAL on is Esperanto, but you don't need to have your language officially approved in order to take advantage of this. Since there are a few Esperanto translations though we'll use it as an example. We'll go with this talk by James Cameron.

The first paragraph is as follows:

Mi pasigis la junaĝon kun dietado de sciencfikcio. Al la mezlernejo mi busis unuhore tien, unuhore reen, ĉiutage. Mi estis ĉiam absorbita en libro, sciencfikcia libro, kiu portis mian menson al aliaj mondoj, kaj rakontoforme kontentigis mian nesatigeblan senton de scivolo.
Great, now we have a few sentences in Esperanto. Now let's find equivalents in a few other languages. There are about 30 translations for this video so translating any paragraph of it will also give you the equivalent in each other language.

First of course is English:
I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction. In high school I took a bus to school an hour each way every day. And I was always absorbed in a book, science fiction book, which took my mind to other worlds, and satisfied, in a narrative form, this insatiable sense of curiosity that I had.
then French:
J'ai grandi en me nourrissant de science-fiction. Au lycée, je prenais le bus pour aller à l'école, chaque jour, une heure de trajet dans chaque sens. Et j'étais toujours plongé dans un bouquin, un bouquin de science-fiction, qui emmenait mon esprit vers d'autres mondes, et satisfaisait, dans sa forme narrative, mon insatiable curiosité d'alors.
now off to Finnish:
Kasvoin tieteiskirjallisuuden parissa. Yläkoulun aikana matkustin bussilla kouluun tunnin joka päivä. Olin aina kirjan imussa, tieteiskirjan, joka vei mieleni toisiin maailmoihin, ja tyydytti, kerronnallaan, kyltymättömän uteliaisuuteni.
and let's make Romanian the final example.
Am crescut cu o dietă constantă de Science Fiction. La liceu mergeam cu autobuzul la școală câte o oră dus și una întors în fiecare zi. Și eram întotdeauna absorbit de o carte, o carte științifico-fantastică, ce îmi purta mintea către alte lumi și îmi satisfăcea, într-o formă narativă, simțul acesta insațiabil de curiozitate pe care îl aveam.
So that's all there is to it. The good thing about this method is that you don't have to translate an entire talk, just the sentences you feel particularly applicable to a phrasebook. The only challenge in this would be identifying the corresponding sentence in another language, so it helps to at least know how to read them. In a pinch you could also make use of Google Translate.

The only disadvantage to this is that the translation will not always be a literal one: the first sentence in English ("I grew up on a steady diet...") in Esperanto technically says ("I spent the youth with...").


Neil deGrasse Tyson on the "science should be used to improve life" argument

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

If you have an hour on your hands you may want to check out this recent interview on the Science Network with Neil deGrasse Tyson on a ton of issues related to communicating science, and if you only have a few minutes this part 35 minutes and 40 seconds in is particularly good. It's a particularly good answer to the argument that science should be used (entirely) for the elimination of suffering, from which comes the lazy argument that the (pitifully small amount of) money spent on space should be spent at home in order to bring human suffering to some unspecified level before we colonize the Moon or spent a billion here or there on gigantic telescopes. NASA does a fairly good job of justifying its funding by promoting spinoffs as a result of NASA's research, but in a sense this is giving in to the argument that they should be producing something with quick real-world applications in order to be useful. A more long-term view is better, and that's what that part of the video is about. I've typed out that part (about four minutes long) so here it is:

Let me clarify this notion that science is the path to solving your problems. I think that misrepresents what drives scientists. Do you think when you speak with Brian Greene he's going to say "I am trying to come up with a coherent understanding of the nature of reality so that I can solve people's problems"? Do you think that's what's driving him? Do you think I'm being driven when I look at the early universe or study the rotation of galaxies or the consumption of matter by black holes, do you think I'm being driven by the lessening of the suffering of the people on Earth? Most research on the frontier of science is not driven by that goal. Period.

Now, that being said, most of the greatest applications of science that do improve the human condition comes from just that kind of research. Therein is the intellectual link that needs to be established in an elective democracy where tax-based monies pay for the research on the frontier.

Because people are saying "why are you researching that when you should be finding a cure for my disease?". Okay, and I don't have a problem with that. But did you know that we diagnosed your disease using an MRI? And what is the physical principle behind the magnetic resonance imager? It came from a physicist who's an expert in atomic nuclei wondering how you would detect interstellar space! Do you think that physicist, when he came up with this understanding of -- it's called nuclear magnetic resonance -- do you think he was saying to himself "one day we'll have machines that will diagnose the condition of the human body without cutting it open in advance"? Do you think this is what was going on in his head? Of course not! It came out of this curiosity-driven research. Do you think Einstein, when he wrote down his equations for stimulated emission of atoms, (that) he's saying to himself, "hey, one day this will be the foundation of a laser and we'll have bar coding"? Do you think this is on his -- "one day we'll have LASIK surgery"! No! No!

So, to say that "the purpose of science is to improve life" -- the purpose of science is to understand the natural world. And the natural world has, interestingly enough, built within it, forces and phenomena and materials that a whole other round of clever people -- engineers, in the case of the magnetic resonance imager, these are biomedical engineers basing their patents, their machine principles on physics, discovered by a physicist, an astrophysicist at that. So I take issue with the assumption that science is simply to make life better. Science is to understand the world. And use that -- now you've got a utility belt of understanding. Now you access your tools out of that, and use those, an ever-increasing assortment of power over nature, to use that power in the greater good of our species. You need it all.


Stardust to pass by comet Tempel-1 today

Monday, February 14, 2011

Get ready for some more close up pictures of comet Tempel-1 as NASA's Stardust probe passes by it today. The Deep Impact mission, arguably NASA's most dickish mission to date (imagine splashing someone with a puddle using your car in order to observe the result), flew by there in 2005 as it dropped an impactor onto the comet and observed the results.

Stardust just happened to be on a trajectory that made a flyby possible this year (imagine you have a friend driving around the neighborhood with a camera that will then make a slight detour to take pictures of the drenched pedestrian as he or she walks home -- in the name of science), and thus we now are going to be able to see the comet a few years after impact, a rare opportunity indeed. This will be the first time we've been able to see a body this size twice from close up, and what has happened to it during the past 5+ years will tell us a great deal more about comets and their makeup...and the more we know about comets (and the more of them we discover), the easier it becomes to predict what is lying out in the farthest reaches of the Solar System, possibly even a Jupiter-sized planet or larger.


Language news from mid-February 2011 - Galician magazine uses Portuguese orthographic accord, Chinese in Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Busy busy! We'll be on a plane in just a few days. Here are a few articles on languages from the past few days.

An article from here in Portuguese on a Galician journal that now uses the Portuguese orthographic accord, signed in 1990 and finally ratified by Portuguese-speaking countries including Portugal itself.

One here in Spanish on demand for Chinese at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha surpassing expectations.

Jojo sucht das Glück, the telenovela for German language students, is done as of this week with all 32 episodes online. Don't tell me how it ends as I've only seen up to episode 13.

Portuguese article on Georgia's decision to learn English instead of Russian.


Buy This Satellite has raised a third of the $150,000 to be used to bid for a satellite providing free internet access

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Here's a project to keep an eye on in the next while - a drive to raise enough money to bid for a satellite owned by a telecommunications company that has gone bankrupt, which if successful would then be used to provide free internet access to an as yet unspecified country. One satellite alone won't provide free internet access to everyone who needs it but they hope it will be the first of many, and the beginning of a movement. The connection would not be phenomenal so ISPs would not be negatively affected; it would simply be to help out people like this.

The video is subtitled in German. Here is the text in case you can't see the video now for whatever reason (at work and YouTube is blocked, using a free service bought for $150,000, etc.).

  • has changed what it means to be... -- hat verändert, was es heißt, ...
  • human. -- Mensch zu sein.
  • is an incredible tool -- ist ein unglaubliches Werkzeug.
  • Access to information has redefined how we... -- Zugang zu Informationen hat neu definiert, wie wir...
  • Participate in Democracy -- Demokratisch mitbestimmen
  • Receive Healthcare -- Gesundheitsversorgung erhalten
  • Manage and predict disasters -- Katastrophen bewältigen und vorhersagen
  • Communicate with one another -- Miteinander kommunizieren
  • The Internet has redefined what it means to learn. -- Das Internet hat "lernen" neu definiert.
  • Google answers 88 million search queries per month. -- Google beantwortet 88 Millionen Suchanfragen im Monat.
  • 100 Million Man hours have been devoted to the creation of Wikipedia. -- 100 Millionen Personenstunden wurden zur Erstellung der Wikipedia verwendet.
  • 81% of American students will be learning online by the year 2014. -- 81% der amerikanischen Studenten werden im Jahr 2014 online lernen.
  • The Internet puts information at our fingertips. -- Dank des Internets sind Informationen immer zur Hand.
  • If you're watching this video you know how important the Internet is to your everyday life. -- Wenn du dir dieses Video ansiehst, weißt du, wie wichtig das Internet in deinem Altag ist.
  • You're one of the lucky few with Internet access. -- Du bist einer der Glücklichen mit einem Internetzugang.
  • But we have an idea... -- Aber wir haben eine Idee...
  • The company that owns the most capable communications satellite put into space just filed for bankruptcy. -- Das Unternehmen mit dem leistungsfähigsten Kommunikationssatelliten im All hat gerade Konkurs angemeldet.
  • We'd like to make them an offer they can't refuse... -- Wir möchten ihnen ein Angebot machen, das sie nicht ablehnen können...
  • To purchase their satellite, -- Ihren Satelliten zu kaufen,
  • And move it to where it could serve millions. -- Und ihn dahin zu verlagern, wo er Millionen Menschen dienen könnte.
  • We want to do this because the Internet is a tool that helps people to help themselves. -- Wir wollen das tun, weil das Internet eine Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe ist.
  • We believe that equal, universal, uninhibited Internet access is... -- Wir glauben, dass allgemeiner, uneingeschränkter Internetzugang...
  • Join us in continuing to improve what it means to be... -- Hilf uns, weiterhin zu verbessern, was es heißt, ...
  • Mensch zu sein. -- human.


Cosmoglotta 1922 - 1950 all done!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Success! I have now uploaded all the issues of Cosmoglotta up to the end of 1950. I originally went at a rate of one issue per day but we're getting on a plane in the next few days with cats and I wanted to finish everything up before leaving, so I did about one year per day over the past few days and quickly went from the late 1930s to 1950.

Cosmoglotta is a good example of what to do right and what to do wrong when promoting an IAL. Producing a magazine every month or two written entirely in the IAL is a good idea, as is creating literature in Occidental and writing about news at the time. Writing news in an IAL may seem to be an exercise in futility since it ends up just being a translation of something already available in another language, but after a few years or decades it actually becomes quite interesting and sheds a lot of light at the world at the time. On the other hand, writing about other auxiliary languages really comes across as a waste of time. Sometimes it seems that half of Cosmoglotta is about other IALs and why they aren't as good, and pretty much every year you can find an article or two about how Idists are all moving over to Occidental and Ido is pretty much done...and now in 2011 Ido is still one of the big three while Occidental is way, way below.

Occidental is still quite large compared to other IALs, mind you. It's kind of on 'tier three'. Tier one is Esperanto, two is Interlingua and Ido, and on tier three one finds some previously large languages (Occidental, maybe Novial) and some interesting new projects (Lingwa de Planeta, Lingua Franca Nova, maybe Sambahsa in two years at the rate Olivier is going).


Linguistic complications in Korea: 1950

Old editions of Cosmoglotta are being uploaded at a good pace, and I should be done the final years (1949 and 1950) in just a few days. Today I was looking at the final year and came across a short blurb about interpretation between American and Korean soldiers during the Korean War. Back then it was no difficult matter to find a Korean fluent in Japanese, and because American soldiers involved in the region had devoted most of their efforts to learning Japanese, two interpreters were often required.

Linguistic complication in Korea

According to Robert Bennyhoff in "Le Monde" (Paris, 1950.09.14), one of the many difficulties in the relations between American and South Korean officers is the diversity of languages. Few Koreans speak English correctly and no Americans speak the Korean language. Most frequently one has to resort to using two interpreters, the first translating English to Japanese and the second retranslating Japanese to Korean, or vice versa. It is easy to imagine, says Bennyhoff, the errors in interpretation and the endless confusion that results from that, and, he adds, sometimes miscomprehension brings a dear price.


It's time to allow custom button remapping in all games

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Edit: now with Estonian subtitles!

Today on /r/gaming on Reddit this video has been getting massively upvoted, and for good reason: it's a video made by askacapper, a quadriplegic gamer, who is gathering signatures for a petition to make custom button remapping the norm. Sometimes button configurations can be changed, other times only a few layouts are offered, and not every layout meshes well with everyone. Individual gamers may also prefer to change button layouts for whatever reason. He wants the video to be reuploaded as much as possible but instead of just doing that I also added captions, and rephrased it a bit in order to make it easy for both Google and people to translate. Here it is with the slightly modified captions, and don't forget that the cc button needs to be red to display them:

If you feel like translating it into your language, just copy and paste the following, translate the English parts, send it to me, and I'll do the rest.

00:00:00,001 -- 00:00:04,000
Hello, internets. My name's Chuck, I'm also known as askacapper, and I'm a quadriplegic gamer.

00:00:04,001 -- 00:00:06,500
And I need your help.

00:00:06,501 -- 00:00:09,000
I've been doing the custom button remapping petition,

00:00:09,001 -- 00:00:13,000
and for that I'm asking gaming developers, instead of just shipping their games,

00:00:13,001 -- 00:00:19,000
which nowadays have four, five presets to choose from in the button configurations,

00:00:19,001 -- 00:00:22,000
to allow custom button remapping.

00:00:22,001 -- 00:00:27,000
Which is the ability to change the button layout to your preference.

00:00:028,001 -- 00:00:31,000
This is important because, as a disabled gamer,

00:00:31,001 -- 00:00:36,000
some button layouts for games that I buy can't be changed,

00:00:36,001 -- 00:00:38,500
thus I can't use the layouts, and I can't play the game.

00:00:38,501 -- 00:00:40,000
And it's just not enjoyable.

00:00:40,001 -- 00:00:45,000
So it really would help every disabled gamer if this is a standard feature in all games.

00:00:45,001 -- 00:00:50,000
And it would really just help any gamer in general who just doesn't like the standard buttons.

00:00:51,001 -- 00:00:59,000
Here's a little clip of me playing. This is just an example of horrible aim.

00:01:02,001 -- 00:01:10,500
People call me "only use me face" because that's how I roll (that's my method).

00:01:15,001 -- 00:01:19,000
I faceroll in real life.

00:01:21,001 -- 00:01:26,000
Here's what I will do: I will go to Pax East, the Penny Arcade Expo, in 30 days.

00:01:28,001 -- 00:01:32,000
I will go there, talk to all the developers in the place, explain the petition,

00:01:32,001 -- 00:01:36,000
I will bring the petition to them, show it to them, show them your comments,

00:01:36,001 -- 00:01:40,000
and I will explain the benefits to disabled gamers, and every gamer.

00:01:40,001 -- 00:01:45,000
because most gamers at one point or another want to change the buttons.

00:01:45,001 -- 00:01:52,000
So I have 24,000 - 25,000 signatures at the moment. Can we reach 30,000? Can we reach 40,000?

00:01:52,001 -- 00:01:56,000
Well, that depends on you guys, if you'd like to help.

00:01:56,001 -- 00:01:59,000
This also affects computer gamers. Garrett, a gamer in the UK,

00:01:59,001 -- 00:02:06,000
recently couldn't play Dead Space 2 because he couldn't remap the buttons.

00:02:06,001 -- 00:02:09,000
Even on a PC.

00:02:09,001 -- 00:02:12,000
And I will be talking to PC developers also.

00:02:12,001 -- 00:02:19,000
So to help you can download the video link below and upload it to your YouTube account,

00:02:19,001 -- 00:02:23,000
you can post it on Facebook, show the links to the petition to people,

00:02:23,001 -- 00:02:25,000
you can read the FAQ on my website to learn more,

00:02:25,001 -- 00:02:27,000
and we'll see how many signatures we can get.

00:02:27,001 -- 00:02:29,000
And remember, this will help every gamer.

00:02:29,001 -- 00:02:32,000
New gamers who are learning a game can pick up a control,

00:02:32,001 -- 00:02:35,000
and instead of you just telling them which button is jump and which button is shoot,

00:02:35,001 -- 00:02:38,000
you can ask them: what button do you prefer for jump, and for shoot?

00:02:38,001 -- 00:02:41,000
So that's why button remapping is simply a good idea for the video game industry,

00:02:41,001 -- 00:02:44,000
and for accessibility for disabled gamers.

00:02:44,001 -- 00:02:47,000
So thanks for your help, guys, I really appreciate it.

00:02:47,001 -- 00:02:50,000
It will really help everybody, and I thank you so much.

00:02:50,001 -- 00:02:55,000
So game on, gamers. Rock it.So game on, gamers. Rock it.


The increasing popularity of Chinese in Argentina, and Spanish in China

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

An article here in Spanish has some recent numbers on the increased interest in the Chinese language in Argentina, and Spanish in China. Most of the article is filler ("Chinese is a booming language of business", "understanding culture is good for business", etc.) but the following is worth noting:

- The number of students in China studying Spanish has grown by 160% over the past five years
- The University of Buenos Aires began offering Chinese in 2009, and now has 1,000 students studying the language
- In 2010, exports from Argentina to China were valued at $6.5 billion, while imports from China to Argentina were $8.3 billion.

The article doesn't state how much of an increase this is over previous years, but this page on Wikipedia has the information: in 2007 exports to China were $5.3 billion, and imports $5.1 billion, and even then China was Argentina's second-largest trading partner after Brazil. Per capita though Chile is still very high: with a population of just 17 million it was their fourth-largest trading partner in 2007 after Brazil, China, and the US.

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The unofficial executive summary of the proposed EJSM / Laplace mission to Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Europa

After yesterday's quick mention of the proposed EJSM / Laplace mission to Ganymede and Europa, I had a read through the 128-page pdf and there's a lot of information there that should be summarized in a still informative but much smaller format - an executive summary, if you will. This mission has still not been given the go-ahead as it is competing with two others: a 20-metre telescope that would be able to see the edge of black holes, and a trio of satellites that would be able to see ripples in space-time left by the moment of creation itself. BBC's article on the three is the best one to read for an introduction to all three, including radio interviews with some of the scientists involved.

While the other two would be nice to have, I definitely prefer the EJSM / Laplace mission to Jupiter and its two most interesting moons, as understanding the gas giant planets and moons in our own backyard is critical as a model to more accurately understand extrasolar gas giants that we are now discovering in the hundreds per year, and the simple fact that Europa and Ganymede are close by, Callisto could be inhabited by humans, and life could be present there. A summary of the mission would be the best way to show what an exciting prospect it is, and if you want a more comprehensive view then feel free to read the pdf yourself.

First, the basics:

EJSM - Laplace would be a joint NASA-ESA mission involving two probes launched in 2020, which would then arrive at the Jupiter system in 2026 after a Venus-Earth-Earth gravity assist, the same route and time as Galileo. Galileo's route can be seen here, and the immediate question upon viewing it is whether these two probes would be able to fly by any asteroids on the way, but no mention of asteroids is made in the pdf. NASA's probe would go to Europa and be powered by nuclear energy, Europe's probe would go to Ganymede and be powered by solar energy, meaning not as many instruments could be turned on at the same time. The first radio interview in the BBC article has more on that. Laplace would also spend a lot of time near Callisto (about a year) before finally orbiting Ganymede.

The primary goal of the mission would be understanding the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants. Both Ganymede and Europa have oceans underneath their surfaces, but the best observations we have of them have been gleaned from Galileo flybys, which by their very nature only give random sections of the moons, making long-term observation of interesting portions impossible. In addition to the possibility of life there, a greater understanding of the nature of gas giant planets themselves will aid us in knowing more about gas giants in other solar systems, many of which are located in the habitability zones of their stars, and thus any moons orbiting them would also be candidates for life (think Pandora in Avatar).

Instruments and timeline are best shown through the graph:

Thus, Ganymede and Europa are the primary targets, while Callisto is given a good amount of attention in the beginning before settling in around Ganymede, and Io a few flybys as well. Callisto is also important in that it is the only Galilean moon that humans can settle, due to the low radiation. It also happens to be massive in its own right, with a surface area over seven times greater than the entire United States:

and only the fact that it is located next to both the largest moon in the Solar System (Ganymede) and one of the most likely destinations for life (Europa) keeps it from receiving more attention.

After a tour of the Jovian system and entering orbit around their respective targets, the probes would orbit them for 9 months, move closer and closer over time and eventually impact the surface. No Huygens-style landers will be possible due to the (near) lack of an atmosphere.

After launch and a six-year trajectory using a Venus-Earth-Earth gravity assist, both probes will arrive at the Jupiter system. While approaching it they will begin long-term monitoring of the atmosphere and magnetospheric processes. The two spacecraft will arrive in a staggered fashion. After arrival and before entering orbit around Ganymede and Europa the spacecraft will each begin with a multi-year tour of Jupiter's system, with flybys of all four Galilean moons. The JEO (Europa) orbiter will perform flybys of Io and a few of Callisto, while the JGO (Ganymede) orbiter will conduct a detailed study of Callisto - in other words, JEO will focus on the inner two and JGO the outer two.

The exact timeline of the JGO orbiter would be:

  • March 2020: launch, flyby of Venus, Earth, Earth
  • February 2026: end cruise sequence, enter Jupiter orbit
  • February 2026 ~ February 2027: Jupiter orbiter
  • February 2027 ~ March 2028: Callisto pseudo-orbiter
  • March 2028 ~ September 2028: Transfer to Ganymede
  • September 2028 ~ January 2029: Elliptical / high altitude (5000 km) circular orbit around Ganymede
  • January 2029 ~ May 2029: Middle altitude (500 km) circular orbit around Ganymede
  • May 2029 ~ July 2029: Low altitude (200 km) circular orbit around Ganymede

After this 200 km orbit there are two options: one is to probe lower altitudes during orbital decay, and the other is to remain at 200 km for an extended mission. At this altitude eclipses will limit electricity that can be gathered, but will not significantly affect the mission. What will limit spacecraft lifetime though will be radiation.

The overall timeline can be seen in this one graph:

NASA's Europa orbiter (JEO) is in blue, ESA's Ganymede orbiter (JGO) is in red. Io will only be flown by with the Europa orbiter near the beginning, Callisto will get more attention from the European orbiter but a few flybys with the other orbiter as well, and though both Europa and Ganymede will receive flybys now and then, the main part of the mission will actually take place near the end when all other goals have been achieved, which makes sense as there is no way to get back out of a close orbit without using a lot of fuel.

A quick summary of most of the science objectives are as follows:

  • Ocean - characterize extent, and relation to the deeper interior.
  • Ice - characterize the ice shell. For Europa, also characterize subsurface water, and surface-ice-ocean exchange.
  • Composition - determine global composition, distribution and evolution of surface materials, with special focus on habitability for Europa.
  • Geology - understand formation of surface features, find sites of past and present activity, with special focus on future in situ exploration for Europa.
  • Local environment - characterize local environment, interaction with Jupiter's magnetosphere.
  • Jupiter's atmosphere - dynamics of the weather layer, auroral structure, moist convection, etc.
  • Jupiter's magnetosphere - particle acceleration process, interaction between Jupiter's magnetosphere and the Galilean moons (plus other smaller moons), etc.
  • Io's active dynamic processes - investigate tidal dissipation, active volcanism, interior, dynamical rotation state, etc.
  • Callisto as witness of the early jovian system - investigate interior, icy shell, tidally varying potential and shape, ionosphere and exosphere, surface organics and inorganic chemistry (outgassing, etc.), global and regional surface ages, etc.
  • Rings and small satellites - conduct comprehensive survey of the entire ring-moon system, identify processes defining origin and dynamics of ring dust and small moons, etc.

The essential ingredients for life as we understand it are: liquid water, a stable environment, essential elements, and chemical energy. The pdf has the following diagram showing why Europa and Ganymede are such important destinations to investigate in greater detail:

Here yellow means likely but not demonstrated, red means not possible, red is demonstrated or very likely.

What makes Europa's ocean particularly interesting is that it is in contact with the rock layer below, while the oceans on Ganymede and Callisto are more likely to be frozen both on top and at the very bottom, giving little to no interaction with the rock layer below. More interaction with the sea floor results in a greater chance of life being present, because differentiation of the rock would likely allow salts and other essential elements to be present.

This exchange could be possible on Ganymede and Callisto as well, but not quite as straightforward.

Materials from below likely rise to the surface through fractures and cryomagnetism, making it possible to observe them from afar, which is why an orbital mission could be sufficient in making a judgment on whether life is likely to exist below.

Predicted impact of the mission on our understanding of extrasolar gas giants

As of today there are 515 confirmed extrasolar planets, some 1200 (!) probable exoplanets detected by Kepler waiting to be confirmed, and many more on the way. Techniques to discover extrasolar planets improve by the day, and even tiny Qatar discovered one last year.

The next mission to Jupiter, Juno, will arrive in 2016 and further our understanding of Jupiter and thus other gas giants in general, but it will not have the focus on planetary moons and their habitability that EJSM / Laplace will have. Juno will be in a near-polar orbit (being solar-powered is one reason for this as eclipses are best avoided) with closest approach to Jupiter just 5000 km over the cloud tops, and will not focus on the low-altitude regions of the system where regular satellites are located, nor the Galilean moons. By the time EJSM / Laplace arrives at Jupiter (2026) we will already have a large catalogue of extrasolar moons orbiting gas giant planets that we will know a little about through direct direct analysis, but will need to know more about in general terms through a greater understanding of the gas giants and their moons in our own solar system. At the time of the mission we will have a good statistical knowledge about gas giants, and thus every improvement in our knowledge of our own will resonate among each and every one we have discovered elsewhere.

The three steps in the mission's observation strategy are as follows:

1) In-depth comparative study on the two pairs of Galilean moons. Io and Europa are primarily silicate/metal bodies, while Europa and Callisto are primarily icy.
2) Studying Jupiter itself and its giant, rotating magnetosphere.
3) Studying coupling processes inside the system: gravitational coupling between Jupiter and its moons, and electrodynamic interactions coupling Jupiter and its moons to its atmosphere, magnetosphere and magnetodisc.

For reference, the orbits of the four moons are:

Io: 420,000 km, orbital period 1.7 days
Europa: 670,000 km, orbital period 3.5 days
Ganymede: 1 million km, orbital period 7.2 days
Callisto: 1.9 million km, orbital period 16.7 days

These graphs showing current (Galileo) surface coverage of the two moons compared to expected surface coverage are quite interesting. Galileo coverage is represented in black, and upcoming EJSM / Laplace coverage in red.

Thus, hardly any of the moons (0.01%) has been imaged to a resolution of 10 metres per pixel, while we have coverage of the entire surface for about 5 ~ 8 km per pixel. This is the type of resolution one ends up with when coverage is based on a few flybys plus observations from afar:

Alternate launch dates: if March 2020 cannot be done, May 2022 is the second-best date. Launching in 2022, however, would require a larger launch mass (more propellant) and the trip to Jupiter would take 7.1 years instead of 5.9 years.

And with that concludes the summary. The mission truly could not be better for one conducted by two probes: in addition to orbiting the two most interesting moons, Ganymede and Europa, it is great to see that Callisto will be given a great deal of coverage, as a base to settle the jovian system is best constructed on a moon where radiation is low, and surface gravity is high enough to (hopefully) avoid muscle entropy over the long term. Whether Callisto's surface gravity (12.6% that of Earth) is enough is impossible to say at the moment; in fact, without any practical experience in anything besides Earth gravity and zero-g we don't even know if Mars (37.6% that of Earth) has enough. But we can safely assume that some is better than none at all.


Zeit article on using heliostats to make the cold, dark winter a little more bearable

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Here is a particularly interesting article from the German press today, on the use of heliostats for both personal and public use. Villages in hilly and mountainous areas tend to be particularly depressing during the winter. Because villages in these areas are naturally located near the base where transport is easier and rivers tend to be, they also tend to be located in the darkest parts while higher up where nobody lives there is still a good amount of sunlight. The solution? Building a mirror to reflect the sunlight below. The mirror needs to be large, and its heading also needs to be controlled in order to continually reflect the sunlight onto the house or village below.

The article has two images: this shows the size of a personal heliostat compared to a person, while this shows the result - an otherwise dark and cold room in a house receiving full sunlight even in the winter.

The most striking example given in the article though is the Italian village of Viganella, which made headlines in 2006 after spending 100,000 euros to install a mirror to reflect sunlight onto the village below. Before doing so the village spent a full 83 days each year without any sunlight at all, due to the mountain next to the village over which the Sun never rose during the darkest period of the year:

Before the installation of the mirror the poor village was like Siberia in the winter, according to residents.

According to an Austrian company referenced in the Zeit article that makes about fifteen heliostats a year, a personal heliostat like the one in the first two pictures (a mirror of 2.5 metres or 8 feet on a mast about twice that height with a computer tracking system that keeps it focused on one area) costs about 10,000 euros.

The company that makes these heliostats is a fairly well-established company (80 years) that makes most of its money from different yet related ventures (air conditioning, ventilation, fireproofing, etc.) and says that heliostat technology has not yet reached the level of mass production, which is part of why it is still so expensive. The position of the Sun still has to be directly fed into the device instead of recognizing the Sun's position automatically. The pictures also don't show any protection against potential vandalism besides being located on a mast 4 metres up.

The next example given in the article is a heliostat in a hotel in the village of Ischgl in Austria, which is 1377 metres above sea level and looks like this:

A businessman named Gunther Aloys there has installed a mirror on top of one of the luxury hotels, which apparently looks kind of silly in the summer but when winter comes around and the clock strikes three, the entire village is plunged into shadow except for the ice bar there, where everybody gathers to enjoy the only spot in the village that still has sunlight. You can see a picture of the hotel here with the mirror. Total cost for that mirror is somewhere around 100,000 to 150,000 euros.

One town that did not end up acquiring the funding for a heliostat was the Austrian town of Rattenburg. One of the darkest parts of the country in the winter, it made headlines a few years back with its plans to build a mirror to bring more sunlight in during the coldest months. Unfortunately the expected cost (four million euros) was just too much for a village of just 434 people, and plans have been shelved for now. The opportunity to build another major project of this type would have been a good opportunity to refine the technology a bit more, so its cancellation was particularly regrettable for companies that hope to eventually perfect and mass-market heliostats.

A few years after the installation of the mirror in Viganella the village still has all the regular problems one would expect with a village of its size (young people leaving for opportunities in the city, essential utilities still missing) and though the odd tourist comes in every once in a while to view the mirror, tourism has not exactly boomed. But the mirror does continue to work, and the 83 long days of shadow during the winter are now a thing of the past. This video shows the installation and the first usage of the mirror back in 2006 - skip ahead to about 5:15 to see the reaction to the mirror after it is set up and begins reflecting sunlight below.


One billion euros for EJSM / Laplace, please

BBC has a great page here on three proposed ways to spend about a billion euros on upcoming space missions, and the article asks the reader which of the three would be best. The answer to me is quite obvious. The three are:

1) a 20-metre telescope that will be able to see the edge of black holes
2) a trio of satellites that will be able to see ripples in space-time left by the moment of creation itself
3) two satellites (one built by NASA) that would go to Ganymede and Europa

#3 is the obvious choice. Numbers 1 and 2 would be great to have if the budget were three times the size, but neither of them appeal to people that are not already intensely interested in space. Nor do they tell us anything about the locations closest to us in our own solar system. The Ganymede/Europa mission also has a particular importance in understanding planetary moons around gas giants, which we desperately need to know more about as by the time the mission is launched it is very likely that we will know about moons orbiting gas giants in the habitable zones of other stars and the more we know about our own the more we can guess at the conditions there.

Europa and Ganymede have been seen close up before:

but in order to truly understand them we need to view them over long periods of time and in a predictable manner. Flybys are by nature quite random events - the distance from the moon can be controlled to a certain extent but the timing of the flyby cannot, and there's no guarantee that a portion of a moon photographed last time will be visible the next time around. In order to understand the oceans underneath them we need to be able to view the entire surface over and over again.

The pdf explaining the join mission can be seen here. Unfortunately the European side of the mission would be using solar power instead of nuclear, but besides that it is ideal.

Edit: reading the pdf, getting to Jupiter via a Venus (and Earth twice) flyby is another plus. Galileo went to Jupiter in the same way, and also took six years (1989 to 1995). At the time of launch it felt like Galileo would never get there.

Edit 2: even better news, the orbiter will also spend some time (a bit over a year) in between orbiting Jupiter and transferring to Ganymede in a pseudo-orbit around Callisto. Io will be given some attention too but Callisto is especially important in that it is the only Galilean moon that humans could inhabit. The others are far too irradiated for humans to survive.


Are Romance languages (except for Romanian) useless for an aspiring polyglot?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

One of the best places to find polyglots and aspiring polyglots online is the How to Learn Any Language forums. Aspiring polyglots do not all learn languages for the same reasons, but in general when one finds someone that speaks, let's say, six or more languages, the reasons for that may be:

1) Grew up in a multilingual environment / moved from country to country as a child / some other environmental reason. These people are not so common on the forums since they simply become multilingual without necessarily having an interest in languages.

2) Wants to learn a lot of languages in order to talk with a lot of people, travel in as many countries as possible, etc. This type of aspiring polyglot may love languages in and of themselves, but tends to focus on 'practical' languages.

3) Wants to learn a lot of languages in order to learn as much about the languages themselves as possible. This type of aspiring polyglot is not really interested in the practical value of a language in terms of speakers or number of countries or GDP, but rather the languages themselves.

AP#3 is what this post is about. This type of language learner will tend to look at languages in a broader way, as a member of a family rather than isolated entities. For AP#3 it might be more worthwhile to learn Occitan than either Spanish or French, since both grammatically and lexically Occitan tends to resemble each of the two more than Spanish or French resemble each other. AP#3 might also prefer to learn Kazakh over Turkish, since Kazakh would provide just as much insight into Turkic languages as Turkish itself but also teach him the Cyrillic alphabet. AP#3 is more interested in techniques to understand as much as possible as quickly as possible, more interested in the effect a language has on his or her mind than any practical economic value.

So let's say you're AP#3, learning languages is like candy to you, and you want to spend the next few years learning as many languages as possible. At the same time, you would also love to learn languages that give you a partial proficiency in other languages that are related to them. Also, you will not be traveling to any one country in the meantime - you're going to stay in your home country in the meantime and learn through language exchanges, textbooks and whatever you can find online. The question is:

is it even worth learning a Romance language?

Consider: thanks to Latin and French, pretty much every non-Romance language in Europe, and even many outside of Europe, will give you some insight into one Romance language or another. Since you're starting with English you have an advantage, because:

English itself is a bit of a bridge language, with a Germanic base but a ton of Latin and French influence.

Let's say your first language is going to be a Germanic language. If you go with German you'll be learning a language with much less French influence, but you'll still end up learning a few hundred words that aren't present in English. Portier (doorman), Abonnement (subscription), Garderobe (wardrobe), and even some words like Chance which mean the same thing but are pronounced in the same way as French ('shahns'). Luxembourgish has an even greater French influence. See this page for some examples of French vocabulary in German.

Even Turkish has a few thousand words from Romance languages, most of them French:

Persian has a lot of French/Latin words too, so does Bulgarian, and so on. Even when moving on to Semetic languages, AP#3 could go with Maltese, where approximately half of the vocabulary is from Italian/Sicilian. Unless you are concentrating on languages well outside of Europe, there really doesn't seem to be a way to escape picking up thousands and thousands of Romance vocabulary, largely thanks to Latin and later French political influence. So would AP#3 not be wasting time in the beginning by spending a year or two or three on major Romance languages that will become familiar over time through other languages anyway?

Romanian is the one exception here, as it is the one Romance language that doesn't really fit in with the rest. Having the definite article on the end and keeping a case system makes Romanian tough to follow, so it's the only one that really requires a good amount of active study to understand. In fact, Romanian feels like the Romance language that took Classical Latin the most seriously. The others diverged with time, discarded the case system, went from three genders to two, ending up as languages that still look fairly Latin but really don't feel the same at all. Romanian, on the other hand, looks fairly different and has a large Slavic/Hungarian influence, but still feels a lot like Classical Latin in the way it is used. And because it is a Romance language, it fits in very nicely with our AP#3 here - this aspiring polyglot will have to actively study Romanian in order to understand it, but at the same time this will provide yet another indirect window into the other Romance languages.

At the end of all of this our AP#3 will end up with a messy yet glorious set of thousands of Romance words in his head, and if he gets the chance to live in a country like France or Italy or Spain or Portugal, properly learning the language there will not be a matter of starting over, it will simply be a matter of combing through the vocabulary he already has, and adapting it to the language people speak on the street. It's probably about the same feeling a person who speaks MSA (standard Arabic) and one dialect feels when moving to another Arabic-speaking country, in fact.

So, is there even any reason to spend time learning French, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian in the beginning for an aspiring polyglot that is only concerned with familiarizing himself with as many languages as possible?


Tobacco sales plunge by 35% in January in Spain after tax increases and new prohibitions on smoking in bars and restaurants

An article here in El Economista tells of a sharp decline in tobacco sales in Spain in January. Info from the article:

Never before has a slump in sales in tobacco happened as that which happened in January, with a plunge of 35 percent. A tax increase in Spain took place in December, and the entry into force of a law that prohibits smoking in all bars and restaurants have resulted in sales of just 3.85 billion cigarettes, about 2 billion fewer than last January.

According to industry data, the largest decline was for Japan Tobacco (owner of Camel and Winston), at 43%. After that were Imperial Tobacco (36.3%), Philp Moris (29.4%), and British American Tobacco (27.2%).

This means a fall in overall revenue of 21%, to 715 million euros. At this rate it will result in a loss of 160 million euros for the country.

Although sales are falling, consumption itself is not falling at the same rate due to an increase in smuggling especially in Andalcía and the coast. There is also an increase in the numbe of people that go to Gibraltar to buy tobacco at half the price.

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As for the effects of decreased consumption on health, see this article from 2010. According to that article, out of the 100 billion euros in health expenses, 15% is from health problems related to tobacco. Heart disease is the largest at 3.6 billion euros, then chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (3 billion), cerebrovascular disorders (710 million), asthma (267 million), and lung cancer (163 million). Those are the top five, but there are a total of 29 which all together make up the total 15% (15.336 billion euros in 2009). Health costs from second-hand smoking also make up an extra 530 million euros on top of that. In total, Eurostat estimates that costs from tobacco (health and social spending) make up about 1.7% of GDP.

And finally, at the end of the article is a comparison of revenues raised from smoking vs. health and social costs: taxes raised from tobacco during 2009 reached 7.718 billion euros, meaning that for every euro raised in tobacco taxes two euros were spent on health and social costs resulting from smoking it.


Asteroid 2011 CQ1 to pass by the Earth at a distance of 0.0001 AU today

That's right, 0.0001 AU with three zeros in front of the one. In terms of distance from the Earth to the Moon it's just 3% of the way. This asteroid has just been spotted and thus it's too bad that it will be missing the Earth, as its tiny size (1 ~ 2.3 m) means it would pose no danger whatsoever, and would instead give us a fine opportunity to learn more about how asteroids of this size break up in the atmosphere.

For comparison, the asteroid 2008 TC3 that broke up before it hit the ground that year was some 2 ~ 5 metres in diameter.

Due to the very close approach we should end up with a few videos showing it as a tiny streak as it passes by. Relative velocity is pretty normal at almost 10 km per second.


Edit: turns out the asteroid was 1.3 metres in diameter (a bit on the small side of the estimates) and passed by even closer than predicted, at just 5471 km. Not only is that just over 1% of the distance from Earth to the Moon, it's not even a sixth of the altitude of a geostationary satellite.

Here's a plot of the asteroid over South America.


The last edition of Cosmoglotta before World War II

I just finished uploading the latest edition of Cosmoglotta, the last one to be published in 1939 and thus the edition released just before Germany invaded Poland and WWII took precedence to everything else in Europe for the next six years. The edition has nothing about the war until the very end, where it finishes up with this short statement of intent for 1940, with plans for a drastically decreased printing and hopes for a quick resolution to the war. Such hopes were unfounded though, and Cosmoglotta did not begin printing again until 1946.


The infernal war reached us in the beginning of September, just when various circumstances would have permitted us to carry out large projects that would have let us bring our movement forward with larger steps.

The current edition of Cosmoglotta, which should have appeared during the first half of September, contains completed reports on those projects (International reunion in Lausanne in 1940, SCOED, Edition with RALIN courses, Edition with Complete Grammar and Occidental Lexicon, etc.). Regrettably, all those projects have to be delayed momentarily, 1) because of the near impossibility for a large number of our co-idealists to make payments abroad; 2) due to the difficulties caused by military censorship on correspondence between many countries; 3) due to the great reduction of free time among the majority of our co-idealists, whether caused by military mobilization, or increase in personal work.

To maintain relations between all co-idealists, our intention is to continue editing Cosmoglotta during 1940 if we can receive a sufficient number of subscriptions from our co-idealists. Understandably, due to the impossibility of subscribing to our magazine in certain countries, we expect a large decrease in subscriptions. Thus we will reduce it to one 4-page magazine which will appear every trimester. If we receive sufficient money, we will publish it every two months, or eventually with 8 pages.

We have examined the possibility of continuing the edition of Cosmoglotta B, but the total lack of time impedes us in doing this work. We have thought about reducing it also to 8 or 4 pages, but that would make almost as much work as 16 pages and because of that we have abandoned that idea.

The edition of 4 printed pages offers a large advantage: it can be used as propaganda material in countries where there is still no war or where the circumstances permit.

To ensure the editing of our magazine, we will keep the price at Fr. 4 - Swiss. Each subscriber, who wishes it for propaganda, will receive 12 copies of each number if it appears 4 times in 1940 or 8 copies if it appears 6 times.

As Cosmoglotta has appeared only 9 times instead of 12 during 1939, each subscriber can ask the Institute Occidental to send the sum of Fr. 1 as compensation. Also in 1940, if circumstances impede us from printing 4 issues, we will compensate with literature the missing issues.

We remind our readers that in this difficult time, the buying of literature is a strong aid to our movement. We hope that all co-idealists who can pay those expenses will help up through that medium.

During 1940, the Occidental Union will continue its activity wherever possible and we warmly thank all members in advance who will pay their contribution.

The reelection of the Senate, which was not able to be organized during 1939, will be adjourned until after the war. In the meantime sr. A. Matejka has been selected as interim president of the Central Office.

We continue to recieve news of our main co-idealists and particularly of our dear and venerable sr. E. de Wahl, who is in good health (20 dec. 1939). He gives his best wishes to all co-idealists for 1940, which he regretfully deems a "dangerous year".

Dear co-idealists, we hope that it will be possible to maintain good relations with you during 1940 and that that year will bring us peace and tranquility which will permit us to take up again with strength the diffusion of our beautiful language.

Chapelle, 28 d.c 1939.

Fred LAGNEL, Director of the Occidental Union.


French scientific reader (1894): VIII - IX: Tops, gyroscopes.

Friday, February 04, 2011


TOUT le monde connaît la toupie, elle a charmé les loisirs de notre enfance à tous, et que de fois nous nous sommes complus à la voir dormir, sans chercher à découvrir les causes de son mouvement! On sait que ce jouet consiste en un morceau de bois tourné en forme de poire, qu'on enveloppe d'une corde roulée en spirale. Lorsque, lançant la toupie vers le sol, l'extrémité la plus déliée en bas, on la détache en même temps de la corde, elle se met à tourner, en sens opposé à celui de l'enroulement, sur la pointe dont elle est armée en ce bout.

Ce mouvement est le résultat des deux forces, savoir: celle qui a mis la toupie en mouvement et la pesanteur. Il s'explique, en sachant que les vitesses de rotation se composent, comme les vitesses de translation, par la règle du parallélogramme. Lorsque la toupie est lancée sur un plan horizontal, son axe ne tarde par à se placer perpendiculairement à ce plan, et elle reste en équilibre dans cette position. Cela doit être, car en cherchant la résultante de la pesanteur qui tend à la faire tomber et de la force centrifuge qui agit tangentiellement à sa surface, on voit que cette dernière force triomphe de la pesanteur. Dans cette situation, la toupie semble ne plus bouger, elle dort, mais son mouvement doit forcément s'arrêter, car: 1 - la pointe de fer subit un certain frottement sur le sol; 2 - l'air appose, au mouvement du mobile, une résistance dont on peut se rendre compte, en sachant qu'on a vu une toupie, lancée dans le vide, n'abandonner son mouvement qu'au bout de deux heures.

La vitesse de rotation venant à diminuer, la force centrifuge contre-balance, de moins en moins, l'influence de la pesanteur; l'axe se déplace de plus en plus et décrit un cône autour de la verticale jusqu'au moment où le jouet se penche tout à fait et roule sur le sol.

Un fait important se dégage de cette expérience, c'est que l'axe de la toupie est resté parallèle à lui-même tout le temps que le mouvement de rotation a été sufissament prononcé, et c'est à la rotation qu'il faut attribuer cette direction constante de l'axe, puisque la toupie se renverse immédiatement dès que ce mouvement cesse. Ce fait est désigné, en mécanique, sous le nom de: conservation du parallélisme des couples ou du parallélisme des axes de rotation. C'est grâce à cette persistance que le cerceau tourne sous le coupe de baguette de l'enfant. Personne n'ignore qu'il est impossible de faire tenir ce jouet dans un plan vertical, s'il est immobile; mais vient-on à le lancer, à lui communiquer un vif mouvement de progression, il roule sur sa circonférence sans tomber. Si l'impulsion s'affaiblit, si la force centrifuge qui agissait tangentiellement au cercle vient à diminuer, le cerceau exécute encore quelquel évolutions, puis s'incline et tombe.

Cette persistance des axes de rotation, qui semble soustraire les corps tournants à l'action de la pesanteur, se produit dans certaines circonstances remarquables, tels sont les cas de ces objets, en équilibre sur l'extrémité d'une baguette, que les équilibristes font tourner, avec vitesse, à la grande admiration des spectateurs; tels sont les cas de la toupie gyroscopique et du vélocipède.


C'EST un disque métallique très lourd, monté sur un axe et formant une sorte de toupie, qu'on fait reposer, par une de ses extrémités sur le socle S, tandis que l'autre extrémité est tenue à la main. A l'aide d'une ficelle, on donne au

disque un mouvement très rapide de rotation, absolument comme à une toupie ordinaire, puis on l'abandonne à lui-même, en retirant le doigt qui supportait une des extrémités. Or, si dans cette position la masse T était immobile, elle ne manquerait pas de tomber; loin de là, on voit la toupie continuer son mouvement de rotation sur elle-même, en tournant autour du point d'appui; son axe reste incliné en décrivant lentement, autour de la verticale, une surface conique régulière, jusqu'à ce que, le premier mouvement venant à se ralentir et la pesanteur prenant le dessus, il s'incline progressivement et finisse par tomber.

On peut suspendre la toupie d'une autre façon; ainsi l'axe étant placé dans l'anse d'une corde, la toupie reste suspendue dans l'espace (Fig. 7) comme si elle était soustraite à la pesanteur.


Final hand update

Thursday, February 03, 2011

You may already have noticed from the increased posting frequency, but as of three days ago my hands have been bandage free and have more or less healed up:

In case you missed it, the failure of Operation Help Cat was what caused the hands to be bandaged in the first place, plus a tetanus shot and a lot of antibiotics in both pill and IV needle form. The hands were bandaged for a total of six days, not too bad. And yesterday while at Seoul Tower I managed to sneak a stray cat a meal of dry food so everything is back to normal on the feline front.

By the way, Cosmoglotta is now up to 1939, and including the break during WWII that means there isn't much left to go. The latest issue is about the history of the alphabet, an article translated from French.


One out of three cancer diagnoses is avoidable

An article from Welt today gives a few numbers on the lives that could be saved in Germany from cancer with better health and more active prevention. According to the article total of 180,000 fewer cases could be reduced each year, or 70,000 lives. Some info from the article:


With exercise, a healthy diet and no smoking, Germany would end up with 180,000 fewer (out of 450,000) cancer diagnoses per year. The leading causes of cancer are tobacco consumption, too much alcohol, overexposure to the sun, and obesity.
The article has a few charts that are easy enough to understand even if you don't know German, but the basic information from them is as follows:

Chart 1: 36% of men smoked in 1995, in 2009 this was 33.2%. For women it was 21.6% in 1995, 22.3% in 2009. A slight increase overall but nothing to celebrate. The chart shows smoking rates by state as well.

Chart 2: cases of teenagers going to the hospital for alcohol consumption continue to rise. 159 in 2004, then 199, 203, 244, 274, and finally 290 cases in 2009. No improvement whatsoever.

Chart 3: shows the number of fitness clubs in Germany and members. In 1992 there were 2 million fitness club members, now it is 7.07 million. Number of fitness clubs has also increased from 421 in 1992 to 1191 now.

Chart 4: obesity by state. The east is more obese on average, least obese parts of the country are Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen.

Chart 5: Uninteressant.

Chart 6: payment for health care as a percent of the budget by country. Germany is at 10.5%. The US tops the list at 16%, France is next at 11.2%.


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