Artificial Language Lab

“Welcome! The Artificial Language Lab is a place where we study invented languages (also known as constructed languages, etc) and discuss language design issues. I hope this laboratory can furnish some of the specimens, tools and materials that you will need for your own experiments.” Languages examined include: Damin,



Lingua Ignota,

‘Plan B’,






Universala Lingva Kodo,


Volapük Revised,

Vorlin, and

Zengo. [via caterina, who likes Glaugnea]


Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology

A review of this book by psychologists Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, and Jeffrey Lohr, which attempts to alert potential consumers to the distinctions to be found among mental health treatments with respect to their scientific validation. This is an important issue, since nonvalidated therapeutic techniques can be not only useless but dangerous or lethal — e.g. the death of a Colorado girl in 2000 at the hands of “rebirthing” therapists. I am not sure if this is the fault of the book, which I have not read, or of this review in the Skeptical Inquirer, but this approach risks confusion and invalidation of potentially useful approaches by lumping three sorts of controversial therapeutic techniques together — those whose claims are based on scientifically valid reasoning but whose empirical validation is less than robust; those which have empirically proven efficacy which we do not understand in scientific terms (yet?); and those which are most like absurd quackery, preying on the credulity of the desperate and untutored. From among the therapies they touch on, for example, I would place critical incident stress debriefing (for which the lack of efficacy in some careful research studies has hit the media and the profession like a bombshell in the last few years since Sept. 11) in the first category; EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) in the second category; and Thought Field Therapy in the third. Although it is not likely such a book, which is densely written and technically argued, will reach those at the mercy of the third sort of therapies in order to inform and protect them, that is its supposed raison d’etre.

As evidence accumulates that one should not scoff at the placebo effect, which may represent a considerable part of the healing power (or, shall we say, the mobilization of the patient’s intrinsic healing power?) of techniques scientifically understood or not, I am surprised that “unscientific” is essentially used as an epithet and a sole criterion in evaluating these therapies. Psychoanalysis itself is an artful belief system, scientifically unverifiable, which exerts its power by the skill with which the practitioner enlists the patient into sharing the belief system. One might describe psychopharmacological healing in the same way, and not just if one is trying to be a wag. Perhaps what the authors ought to be driving at is a distinction between techniques which appeal to and utilize our intelligence (by which I mean our intuitive and ’emotional intelligence’ as well as our reasoning faculties) rather than insulting it…


Military sonar may give whales the bends

“Whales blasted by military sonar appear to die of the bends. The finding suggests the use of sound waves to detect submarines under the sea might need to be restricted.

Scientists from Spain and Britain have uncovered the first evidence that cetaceans suffer from the formation of nitrogen bubbles in their vital organs. This is a classic symptom of the decompression sickness suffered by divers who surface too quickly, and can be fatal.” —New Scientist The association between large-scale naval exercises and large-scale whale beachings has been noted before; this may explain why. Deep-diving whales startled by sonar may surface precipitously, causing the decompression disease which can be fatal; or the sonar’s sound waves may actually hasten nitrogen bubble formation. I had assumed that the sonar was disrupting the whales’ inner ear mechanisms, which actually may not be incompatible with the present explanation.


Tantalising evidence hints Universe is finite

“Perplexing observations beamed back by a NASA spacecraft are fuelling debates about a mystery of biblical proportions – is our Universe infinite? Scientists have announced tantalising hints that the Universe is actually relatively small, with a hall-of-mirrors illusion tricking us into thinking that space stretches on forever.

However, work by a second team seems to contradict this, and scientists are now busy trying to resolve the conundrum.” —New Scientist The new work is based on analysis of the size of fluctuations or ‘ripples’ in the cosmic microwave background radiation that is an artifact of the conditions of the universe soon after it came into existence. A finite universe would place constraints on the size of the ripples, as scientists think they are now seeing. But if the illusion that space is infinite is a ‘hall of mirrors’ effect, other scientists, remonstrate, there would be some symmetry in the background radiation pattern observed in different directions, which is not seen. ‘Round and ’round we go…


White House Seeks to Minimize Iraq Differences With Rumsfeld

In an interview iwth the Financial Times, Rumsfeld showed how annoyed he was by not being informed in advance of the formation of the Iraq Stabilization Group, a vehicle for national security advisor Condoleeza Rice to oversee the ‘postwar’ occupation and ‘reconstruction’ as well as give more of a say to the Dept of State. Both the military occupation, of course, and the civilian ‘reconstruction’ under Paul Bremer have been under Defense Dept oversight. White House spokesman Scott McClellan scrambled to cover dysadministration embarrassment that Rumsfeld had been left in the dark, and Condoleeza Rice did her usual dissembling, claiming that she had conferred in advance with the Defense Secretary, which he disputes. —NY Times


Deleted Political Cartoons From al Jazeera

“The Qatar-based al Jazeera network–often called the CNN of the Arab world–is known for broadcasting images and reports that the Western powers would rather you not see. The news outlet has a reputation for not backing down, but that seems to be changing. With its star reporter under arrest (he’s been accused of being a part of al Qaeda) and the station at least temporarily silenced in Iraq, al Jazeera has apparently caved to US pressure.

According to Arab News, the station yanked two political cartoons from its Arabic and English-language Website when a US official from the State Department complained that they were ‘inflammatory’ [read more].

…(W)e now present both expunged cartoons.” —The Memory Hole


The Iraq Sanctions Worked

And other revelations from David Kay’s report. : Fred Kaplan in Slate dissects the President’s insupportable propaganda about the Kay Report proving that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Furthermore, the report supports the conclusion that the UN inspection process was what kept any weapons development in Saddam’s Iraq at bay. “Saddam wanted and, in some cases, tried to resurrect the weapons programs that he had built in the 1980s, but that the United Nations sanctions and inspections prevented him from doing so.” In answer to skeptics who wonder why, if he had no weapons, he would not cooperate more fully with the inspection process, it has already been pointed out that he most likely felt he needed to keep up the pretext that he had something to hide in order to keep his neighbors afraid of him and maintain his strength in the regional balance of power, as well as to guard his national pride.


President Schwarzenegger??

“Back when he was among the Republican leaders hot on the scent of Bill Clinton’s adultery, Orrin Hatch, the Utah Senator and writer of gospel music, said Clinton’s only way out was a public confession. The President should apologize and ask forgiveness — from Congress, and from the American people. Only by coming clean in detail could he be fit to stay in office, Hatch said.

Fast-forward a few years, and what do we have? Senator Hatch goes before the National Press Club and, as paraphrased by The Salt Lake Tribune, says ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger should not be judged on past improper advances towards women but as the devoted husband he is today.’ (Gee, why didn’t Clinton think of this brilliant ‘devoted husband I am today’ defense?) Moreover, Hatch already feels strongly enough that Schwarzenegger is of United States presidential caliber that he cites him as an argument for amending the Constitution, so that foreign-born American citizens can run for the Oval Office.” —Matt Bivens, The Nation