February 20, 2012, 8:42 pm
Vancouver, British Columbia—A new technology lets people control a speech synthesizer with gestures, allowing them to speak or sing with their hands. Along with opening new realms of musical expression, research with the speech-generating system may deepen understanding of how the brain drives spoken language and song.
Sidney Fels, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of British Columbia, led the team of researchers that created the device. He talked about it in a session here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The new technology is mimicking a complicated physiological process. Speech uses 200 muscles between the abdomen and the nose, with the lungs driving air movement and the larynx generating sound.
The speech-generating system (a video demonstration is available for download here) uses two…
February 19, 2012, 6:08 pm
Vancouver, British Columbia—Peer reviewers are the dragons guarding the cave where the academic treasures of individual promotion and institutional rankings lie. But the dragons are getting weary as armies of researchers from all over the planet try to get by them.
In a popular session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science here, one audience member complained he was “bombarded by requests to do reviews.” The task had begun to seem irrelevant to him, he said, because even when he criticized manuscripts, they still got published. “There is so much mediocre work in the journals, I just don’t know what to do,” he said.
Panelists at the session—a university dean, a journal editor, and a director of publishing for a scientific society—offered some insights on peer review and suggested ways to give it fresh strength.
February 18, 2012, 9:01 am
Vancouver, British Columbia — Technology is sometimes portrayed as an evil force of globalization, flattening local cultures as it sweeps around the world. But now some researchers are trying to reverse that story, using digital tools to save languages that exist only in tiny cultural pockets.
About half of the world’s 7,000 languages are considered endangered, with just elderly speakers left. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Vancouver, researchers described using online dictionaries, social media, and mobile-phone applications to document and revitalize some of those languages.
The session’s tone was sorrowful at times, with some researchers describing having to watch languages, and the culture stored in them, fade out. Margaret Noori, a lecturer in Native American studies at the University of Michigan, said that she could no …
December 7, 2011, 3:12 pm
Washington — There’s a new bully on the intellectual block, shoving scholars around. Lots of them are caving into the threats. The bully’s name is “scientism,” the belief that science has a monopoly on all real knowledge. All other knowledge, scientism asserts, is simply opinion, irrationality, or utter nonsense.
That was the perspective Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered at an event titled “Can Science Explain Everything?” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week. Lisa Randall, a professor of physics at Harvard University, had a different take. The high-minded discussion that filled an auditorium and some overflow seating on a rainy night in the nation’s capitol might surprise the electorate, which often views intellectual affairs here as limited to bickering …