Saturday, August 22, 2015

Getting Lectured

Fall semester is starting, so I have a second semester Biblical Greek class to do and separately a Machine Learning series of lectures on the agenda.  The Biblical Greek is on syntax and presumes mastery of basic grammar, which certainly is not where I am at.  To explain syntax, I will use an example from Aristotle: "I saw him being beaten with my eyes".  The challenge here is whether "with my eyes" is a modifier to "saw" or to "beaten".  Grammar doesn't tell us this, and instead we must look to syntax for guidance on the possibilities and probabilities.  The Machine Learning lecture series is from Caltech and follows some of my technical interests.  Eventually grammar and syntax will converge as I still need to follow up on earlier forays into compiler theory and implementation.  It is amazing to me how the scientific, technical and language worlds eventually interrelate.


Rummuser said...

Could you please elaborate so that someone like me from a liberal arts background will understand the convergence? Thanks.

Looney said...

My job is about writing software that does engineering analysis, of which car crash modeling was one that I worked in for some time. The challenge is that I need to design an interface between the human (an engineer) and the computer, which allows him to express the nature of the problem. The language must be rich enough to express all the possible things the engineer might do, yet the language must also be unambiguous. On the other hand, the user can't tolerate a language which is too precise in terms of rules. The language is ideally easy to learn, yet not prone to communication errors. Thus, for my next generation engineering simulation software, I am designing a language that looks like a programming language, but this language has a vocabulary, grammar and syntax just like an ordinary language.

A key part of computer science that has been taught for a generation is how to do grammar for computer languages. One friend of mine started here and ended up doing his doctoral work in linguistics. With machine language recognition attempts the two fields get pushed back together more. So this should roughly give a sense how it is that worrying about the thermodynamics of an airbag inflator or the micro-mechanics of a seatbelt cloth eventually leads to the question of "what language should the user use to explain his design?", and this leads to questions of vocabulary, grammar and syntax.

Rummuser said...

Thank you.

May I share this information with some friends in the IT field, one of them a systems architect and the two others run their own back end service companies in the logistics area.

Looney said...

If your friends have computer science degrees, they may know much of this better than I do. Feel free to share my babblings with them!

Rummuser said...


Ursula said...

Yes, Looney, if looks could kill there'd be carnage.

Apparently my eyes are so expressive that, no doubt and unintentionally, people have been "beaten with my eyes", in good ways and not so good ways. Eyes being the gateway to the soul and all that.

Luckily I have rarely seen anyone (with my eyes) being beaten. Though hearing someone being beaten to a pulp is no picnic either.

Your replies to Ramana in the above exchange confirm what I have suspected for a while: I am not of this world.

Good luck with it all, Looney.


Looney said...

U, yes, eyes can be quite dangerous. Although it is usually the directed energy glares that I am afraid of.

I think U are much more of this world than I am. Outside of Silicon Valley, it is hard to find a place where your social circle consists of geeks working for Google, Amazon, Facebook and the various other more exotic places.