Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Multi-language dictionaries

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The web offers many kinds of specialized dictionaries. Most of these don't have the gravitas of traditional heavyweights such as the Oxford English Dictionary, but that's no reason to ignore them. Within their specific niche, specialized dictionaries can be very useful.

Sometimes you want to know how a certain word translates into other languages. Rather than looking up each translation one by one, you can use a service that—on one page—shows how a word translates into many languages.

A multi-language translator is available at the Logos Multilingual Translation Portal. Suppose you want to know how the word red translates to other languages. Enter the word red and select English as the source language. Leave the target language and the other fields blank, then click Search. You will see dozens of languages—although I was a little disappointed not to find Tok Pisin amongst them.

For each language a translation is shown, together with an audio file in many cases. You can even enter idioms (such as heads or tails) and other short phrases, although as your sentences get longer the number of matches decreases.

Multi-language translation is also provided by Wiktionary, but it's not displayed by default. Open a Wiktionary page (such as the one for the word red). Scroll down to “Translations” and click “show” for the meaning that you want translated. You will then see the word translated to many other languages.

Again, I didn't find a translation to Tok Pisin. But there is one now! Because this is Wiktionary, I was able to edit the table to add the translation myself.

In the reverse direction

You can also go the other way, to see what a word means in other languages. This is Wiktionary's default view, so it's entry for rot shows that this word means red in German, but it means decay in English and Dutch, and it means belch in French and Catalan. So maybe Rot is not the best international trademark for your red product!

You can also use Google's “define” feature. A Google search for define:rot shows links to various dictionary definitions (including for proper nouns and acronyms). At the bottom of the page, click all languages to see what rot means in the other languages for which Google has links.

PS: Thanks to davidsarokin for bringing the Logos portal to my notice.

When in doubt, ask a philosopher

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

In my research work, I tend to gravitate towards the rigorous end, digging for nuggets that can be verified. Sometimes that means I miss the most interesting questions: those to which the answers are found not by experimentation but by thinking and discussion.

I was delighted, therefore, to discover the Ask Philosophers website. Here you can ask a question that’s been bugging you, no matter how cosmic or etherial it may seem.

The site is clean, readable and ad-free. The answers are overwhelmingly lucid, carefully thought-out, jargon-free and well-presented. Dozens of professional philosophers participate.

There’s no guarantee that your question will be accepted, but I get the impression that any coherent question stands a good chance. Most of the accepted questions attract answers. Occasionally, more than one philosopher will contribute an answer.

There is no chance for outsiders to join in the discussion. In a way that’s a disappointment, because I’d love to explore some of these issues interactively. From a practical point of view though, it might be hard to maintain the quality of the site with broader participation.

There are several dozen philosophers answering questions, and over 2000 questions. The categories will give you an idea of the breadth of the site: abortion, animals, art, beauty, biology, business, children, color, consciousness, death, education, emotion, environment, ethics, euthanasia, existence, feminism, freedom, gender, happiness, history, identity, justice, knowledge, language, law, literature, logic, love, mathematics, medicine, mind, music, perception, philosophers, philosophy, physics, probability, profession, punishment, race, rationality, religion, science, sex, space, sport, suicide, time, truth, value and war.

So if you want to know what makes a word profane, or why drug-taking is tolerated for musicians but reviled for athletes, or whether you would be someone else if a different sperm had impregnated the egg from which you grew, then you know where to receive at least an educated guess and while away an hour or two.

Prolific Google Answers Researchers

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Last year we counted how many questions were answered by each Google Answers Researcher during the life of the service (2002 – 2006).

523 researchers answered one or more questions. Of those, a dozen answered over a thousand questions each. But what was the spread between these extremes? Here are a few figures:

  • The top 100 researchers each answered between 100 and 3570 questions
  • The next 100 researchers each answered between 28 and 99 questions
  • The next 100 researchers each answered between 10 and 27 questions
  • The next 108 researchers each answered between 4 and 9 questions
  • A further 115 researchers answered between 1 and 3 questions

Looked at that way, you can see that the most prolific 20% of the researchers were responsible for the vast majority of the answers.