Poetics Alert

Fer crissake, get your grandmother out of that damn poem. No one enjoys seeing her like that, and she's none too happy about it either.

This has been a BABEL Poetics Alert.


Maybe Eclectic

...means you just can't make up your mind?


Ethics & the Social Emotions

A new study demonstrates that the area of the brain governing social emotions is a critical component of ethical decisions.
"Social emotions were really the scaffolding for what we came to construct as ethics," Damasio says. How those social emotions are taken into account in the process of decision-making seems to be very biological. "When things get complicated, we engage an emotional system—it's not reason alone."


John W. Backus

Has died at the age of 82. Backus was the force behind the first high-level computer programming language, FORTRAN.

It was the first programming language I learned. And like the first of anything, it had some very peculiar bits—elements of a statement had to appear in specific columns. FORTRAN did not require blanks between parts of a statement: DO 10 I=1,10 was identical to DO10I=1,10.

Just as important, perhaps, for later developments in programming languages, John Backus worked with the Danish computer scientist Peter Naur to develop BNF, Backus Naur Form. BNF is still the standard way of writing programming language grammars. ALGOL was the first language fully represented by a BNF grammar. BNF grammars are now standard and are used to automatically generate parts of programming language translators.

RIP, John Backus. You changed my life forever.


Buffy Wisdom Monday!

GILES: Still, best to be, uh, on the alert. If Drusilla is alive, it could be a fairly... cataclysmic state of affairs.

XANDER: Again, so many words! Couldn't you just say, 'we'd be in trouble'?

GILES: Go to class, Xander.

XANDER: Gone. Notice the economy of phrasing: 'gone.' Simple. Direct.


The Death of Satire