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Archive for July, 2010

Apologetics and Anti-Apologetics Apps

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The New York Times discusses the latest iPhone trend: apps that provide talking points for the existence of God, pro and con.

In a dozen new phone applications, whether faith-based or faith-bashing, the prospective debater is given a primer on the basic rules of engagement — how to parry the circular argument, the false dichotomy, the ad hominem attack, the straw man — and then coached on all the likely flashpoints of contention….

Users can scroll from topic to topic to prepare themselves or, in the heat of a dispute, search for the point at hand — and the perfect retort.

I expect that, eventually, we’ll just let our phones argue the basic questions of existence among themselves, and then they’ll let us know what they’ve decided.

A screenshot from the LifeWay Fast Facts app

Automatically Deciphering Ugaritic

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Let’s say you have text in front of you written in a language you don’t read–worse, no one has understood the language for thousands of years. How can you begin to understand it? MIT researchers have created a way to for a computer to decipher Ugaritic in a few hours without knowing anything about the language besides its general similarity to Hebrew.

One of the researchers says:

The decipherment of Ugaritic [in the mid-twentieth century] took years and relied on some happy coincidences — such as the discovery of an axe that had the word “axe” written on it in Ugaritic. “The output of our system would have made the process orders of magnitude shorter.”

I love that someone felt the need to write “axe” on an axe. Maybe it was the original brand name.

I’m most curious whether the program can help crack the Minoan language on Linear A.

Incidentally, the article What’s Ugaritic Got to Do with Anything? explains why Ugaritic is important to understanding the Hebrew of the Old Testament.