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Using Networks to Understand How Language is Processed

Harvard Magazine has an article, On the Tip of Your Tongue, about some of my research on how to use phonological networks (networks where words are connected if they sound similar) in order to understand how people process language.

The article is a sidebar in a larger article called Networked, which discusses the network science research being done at Harvard, and is worth a read.

Kevin Kelly and the Long Tail of Life

Kevin Kelly has a great post on his blog The Technium about the Long Tail of Life. Discussing a marine census of species that seems to find new kinds of life wherever it looks, Kelly writes the following:

This suggests there is a long tail of life in bacteria, with a few species super-abundant, but many many species with very thin populations. At the far end of the tail there may be a billion species with only a few individuals.

Iceland Volcano and ‘Recent’ History

Apparently, events over 1,000 years ago are now being considered recent history. According to a Wall Street Journal article from today (unfortunately, behind a pay wall):

Eyjafjallajokull has erupted three times in recent history: in 920, 1612 and 1821-1823.

This expanding awareness of long periods of time is exactly the kind of thing that the Long Now Foundation would be proud of.

Is ‘mesofact’ becoming a word?

Mesofact, the word I used to describe slowly changing knowledge, is apparently becoming a word, at least according to Fox News, in its list of 25 New Tech Words You Need to Know:

A mesofact is a fact that is slowly evolving over time. For example, the term “national healthcare” might have one meaning at first, but slowly evolves to become more concrete, as the actual laws emerge. Original use: on Wikipedia, users often add more detail to an entry as the original meaning and facts evolve.

And perhaps the article’s highest praise is that I am not mentioned anywhere in the piece and it’s just treated as a regular new word, so maybe it’s entering our lexicon. It’s even in Wordnik, the massive online dictionary created by Erin McKean.

Last week, Colin McEnroe, asked me on his radio show if I am using copyright or trademark to protect the use of ‘mesofact’ and I told him I would much rather have it enter our vocabulary. And perhaps it is. But if you’re worried about these kinds of words in our lexicon, read Erin McKean’s article about this quandary, and why you shouldn’t be all that concerned. So please feel free to use mesofact!

Mesofacts: slowly changing information

I have a new article in the Boston Globe Ideas section this weekend entitled Warning: Your reality is out of date. It’s about mesofacts, a term I coined to refer to facts that change on the order of a human lifetime, and which we are not well-designed to recognize as changing.

To help further awareness of this slowly changing knowledge, I have also created a companion website about mesofacts at

Superbowl Coke Ad is eerily similar to an Israeli Milk Ad

The Superbowl Coke ad where a guy sleepwalks outdoors to get a bottle of Coca-Cola is surprisingly similar to an ad from 2002 for Yotvata, an Israeli dairy brand. Of course, this seems like a mere coincidence, but the real clincher is that they both use the same music: Ravel’s ‘Bolero’.

Here’s a Youtube video showing some similarities:

More can be read here at AdAge (thanks to Debra Miller).