“Can a computer "read" an online blog and understand it? Several Concordia computer scientists are helping to get closer to that goal. Leila Kosseim, associate professor in Concordia's Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, and a recently-graduated doctoral student, Shamima Mithun, have developed a system called BlogSum that has potentially vast applications. It allows an organization to pose a question and then find out how a large number of people talking online would respond. The system is capable of gauging things like consumer preferences and voter intentions by sorting through websites, examining real-life self-expression and conversation, and producing summaries that focus exclusively on the original question. Analyzing informally-written language poses unique challenges compared to analyzing, for example, a news article. Blogs, forums and the like contain opinions, emotions and speculations, not to mention spelling errors and poor grammar. A summarization tool must address two particular problems, question irrelevance (sentences that are not relevant to the main question), and discourse incoherence, (sentences in which the intent of the writer is unclear). BlogSum met these challenges with demonstrable efficiency. The researchers developed and tested their tool by examining a set of blogs and review sites. BlogSum used "discourse relations" to crunch the data -- ways of filtering and ordering sentences into coherent summaries. BlogSum was measured against prior computational rankings and achieved mostly superior results. In addition, it was evaluated by actual human subjects, who also found it to be superior. Summaries produced by BlogSum reduced question irrelevance and discourse incoherence, successfully distilling large amounts of text into highly readable summaries.”—Mining the blogosphere: Researchers develop tools that make sense of social media
Medical Dictionary for OS X
Do you love the built-in dictionary feature included OS X — but hate the fact that it doesn’t have a medical dictionary?
Well, I’ve got news for you! I have a free medical dictionary plug-in for you to use with the dictionary application on OS X.
Relating animal behaviors to human behaviors? Exercise caution.
Birds Hold Funerals For Their Dead, trying to draw the link between birds and humans at Discovery News:
The “funerals” therefore serve, at least in part, as a lesson. Since the birds don’t necessarily know what bumped off their feathered friend, they seem to focus more on the area, associating it temporarily with danger.
The researchers noted that the living birds tended to avoid foraging in the place where they found the deceased bird for a period of at least 24 hours.
Prior research suggests giraffes and elephants might also hold ceremonies for their dead. If so, perhaps there are shared factors with humans and birds. Solidifying group togetherness and social bonding appear to be key benefits, along with learning how to avoid (if possible) whatever did in the deceased.
See that bolded part? It’s not incorrect to say that both humans and birds are dependent on social bonding, but funerals serve the same purpose as birds gathered around their dead? Scratching my chin there. Then there’s this …
“Do Birds Hold Funerals?”, discussing whether the word is appropriate at NPR:
For instance, they presented the birds with a novel object made of wood, approximating the form of a dead scrub-jay, and some days later presented them instead with the actual skins (plus feathers) of dead jays. The birds never called or formed cacophonous aggregations in response to the wood object, but they always called at the skins, and almost always these callings escalated into noisy gatherings.
In other words, the birds tell each other about a dead companion, and so individually and collectively the scrub-jays may learn something about predation risks. By calling in others (the cacophonous aggregations), they may be more likely to drive a predator away or to warn relatives and mates of danger.
Where is the funeral promised in the title?
I know some people may think this is splitting hairs, but the way that a story like this is delivered, down to the words chosen to explain it, are crucial to what lesson gets taught. So birds gathering around the remains of their dead is important, biologically. In fact, it’s an awesome story on its own. It shows that evolution has provided them a way to learn from what killed their relatives, strengthening their social structure and improving their odds for survival. But does it have anything to do with the emotional, elaborately ceremonial funeral customs practiced by myriad human societies?
That idea’s dead on arrival.