Zu etwas (ein-)laden

I am a bit surprised that I have not found a lot of discussion regarding the difference of the German expressions "jemanden zu einer Veranstaltung einladen" vs. "jemanden zu einer Veranstaltung laden" (both: inviting someone to an event). Recently, I was asked by a non-native speaker if there is an "ein" missing in a sentence and I said "No, you can also say 'wir laden zu der Eröffnung'" but while explaining the difference I began to struggle. In general, it is sufficient to google something like "selbst selber" in order to find a bunch of blogs and forums discussing the appropriate use and understanding of such similar but not equivalent words (whether from language learners or from a ordo-linguistical view). But in this case: Nothing. Just a small article in the German standard ortography dictionary Duden, stating that "laden" is exalted. This is certainly the case, but is this anything to say about this pair of words, especially if you are learning German?

Who is Lara Croft

Two words: Lara Croft. OK, stop there. What did you see? An image will undoubtedly have flashed into your mind. She is, after all, one of gaming's most widely-recognised characters, so you almost certainly have an idea of who 'Lara Croft' is. Yet her appearance and personality have changed so dramatically over the past 19 years, there is arguably no single Lara Croft.

Gamesradar+ Think you know Lara Croft? Don't be so sure...

Oh thank you, dear Justin Towell - this is such an interesting topic. 

So, who is my personal Lara Croft? It is certainly not the innocent girl in the reboot - who needs to be nearly raped in order to become a mass murderer. Don't get me wrong: I think the "reboot" called Tomb Raider is a fabulous and fun game with an intense Tomb Raider-feeling - but it has little to do with "Lara Croft".

For ME, the most defining Lara Croft was the one from Tomb Raider comics I read in the early 2000s. Here, Lara is a mix between the women in Tomb Raider 1 to 3: Highly educated, rich, privileged - i.e. she does what she does but not for money nor fame - she is not corruptable, but so dawn curious and ambitious that she travels the world, risking everything for an object or story that just is interesting for her. Saving the world - if necessary .
Sometimes she has a bit of James Bond - but in general she is just an adventurer with the heart on the right spot.
And: sometimes she is more ruthless when it comes to enforcing the victory than the other famous adventurer and archeologist, Indiana Jones (who was not so innocent at all).
I think that was the heroine who was able to become worlds most known female computer game character, as she was different than any other. Beautiful and sometimes oversexed, yes, but there are a lot of beautiful and sexy women in gaming. It needs more to become Lara Croft.

Modern Times Corpus

Charlie Chaplin.jpgIn 2012 and 2013 at the Hamburg Center for Language Corpora (HZSK) I compiled the Hamburg Modern Times Corpus (HaMoTiC). It consists of transcribed audio recordings of learners of German at different proficiency levels who renarrate a few scenes from the silent film “Modern Times” (USA 1936, Charles Chaplin). The main objective was to create a linguistic resource that is both based on and comparative to previous Modern Times corpora (esp. Perdue 1993), and makes use of the tools and methods for transcription, annotation and analysis of spoken language corpora that were implemented at the HZSK, in order to demonstrate their functionality (EXMARaLDA). In terms of their content, the Hamburg Map Task Corpus (HAMATAC) and HaMoTiC complement each other in reference to their authenticity and controllability of learner language. See more details on HaMoTiC at the Virtual Language Observatory by CLARIN.

Image: „Charlie Chaplin“ by P.D Jankens - Fred Chess. Wikimedia Commons.

Top 5 Critical Voices against Artificial Intelligence

Danger - Artificial Intelligence Ahead

I really love movies such as "Her", "Transcendence" or "Ex Machina" and am fascinated by the mysterious qualities of (human?) conscience and cognition. But there are some really serious concerns one has to have in regard of development of artificial intelligence (AI). Some of them are topics of the named movies, others may still be unforseen or they slumber in the way too less read stories by Philip K. Dick, Stanisław Lem or Isaac Asimov ... Those risks may vary from the application of weak AI techniques as machine translation and face recognition in non liberal societes up to the development of strong AIs (whatever this may be and however one should know) and the questions raised by artificial beings. No wonder, that Elon Musk wrote the following on Twitter:

Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 3. August 2014

Some weeks ago, the who-is-who of computer scientists and tech pioneers signed an Open Letter with the title "Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence".

In addition to this letter I present to you the top 5 of the alerters of the dangers of artificial intelligence with the link to a relevant article by or about them:

1. Joseph Weizenbaum (computer science philosopher): Computerized Gods and the Age of Information

But, as I said, this leads to the crossing of a very subtle line, and after running over that line during programming, the first impression many people get is that the person is inferior to the computer — that the programmer is in some way a defective imitation. And in certain ways the computer is better than human beings.

2. Raul Rojas (ai computer scientist): We should try to move slower

Computers will be smarter than humans (as in Space Odyssey) when they learn to cheat and lie. That is the highest form of intelligence because it requires a “theory of mind”. I have to put myself in the shoes of the other people in order to lie effectively. Monkeys do not have a theory of mind, as has been proved with experiments. They are terrible liars. When computers could lie to us as effectively as HAL, those computers would pass the Turing Test and would be intelligent.

3. Elon Musk (tesla motors, xspace): Elon Musk Compares Building Artificial Intelligence To “Summoning The Demon”

With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he’s like — Yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.

4. Bill Gates (richest man on earth, microsoft founder, bill and melinda gates foundation) Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned'

First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern.

5. Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist): Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind

Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded.

There are other perspectives aswell: Take a look at The Myth of AI by computer scientist Jaron Lanier. He argues, that AI is a fraud and should not be hyped as a quasi religious topic (and here is a replica by io9: The Myth of AI Is More Harmful Than AI Itself)

How to distinguish normal food from super food

Blueberries on branch.jpg
Do you want to know, if there is scientific evidence for the health benefits of this new superfood? Take a look at this fantastic interactive visualization at Information is beautiful.

Snake Oil Superfoods?


Image Credits: "Blueberries, a so-called 'superfood' that actually does not have unusually dense nutrient content." ("Blueberries on branch" by Jim Clark) - [1]. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

10 thoughts for a secure password of the year

Yoda Speech

As regular, in late April my To Do List reminded me of changing my password for the year to come. With every year I learn more lessons on this topic so here are some of them to share with you.

10. A password should fulfill two very contrary conditions: It has to be safe but easy to keep in mind. (As always insightful and interesting: Chaos Radio by Chaos Computer Club. This episode is on passwords, but only in German)

9. There is a common strategy to get a reasonable compromise. In short: Do not use a word from a dictionary (house). Use characters from all subsets of characters, i.e. digits, lower case and upper case letters and special characters.  (For details see here).

8. You should not use a word from a dictionary. You should also not use a word from a dictionary with obvious substitutions from leet speech or whatever (h0u?e). A small improvement is it to take the first letters of a sentence or a part of a sentence and make some substitutions. If the sentence is often quoted ("to be or not to be"), the improvement may be too small as well.

7. If you take a phrase from a song remember not to sing or hum it every time when you start entering your password... (I hope no one noticed...)

7. As research suggests you can also add some safety to your password by changing the grammar of your password sentence, e.g. in the style of Jedi master Yoda.

6. Add two or more characters at the beginning, the end or whereever you can remember for each new purpose you use the password for (e.g. add oo at the end of your standard password for a google log in).

5. I recommend you to use a tool as KeePass to store your passwords and user names. You can also use cloud based solutions but I am old fashioned with this.

4. Change your password regulary (e.g. every year) - and remember yourself to do so!

3. Keep track of your old standard passwords (in KeePass) as you will probably find encrypted files or whatever years after you have changed your standard password (as I did yesterday).

2. Don't be fooled by the sole factor of search space, i.e. the number of characters an offender had to consider - the most important factor is and will be password length!

1. And, as password length is so important, there is a (still not so common but even better) way of getting really secure passwords: Combine at least four random dictionary words, as suggested by this Comic by XKCD


Quantum Power Handwriting Recognition

DWave 128chip.jpg

We expect quantum computers to outperform binary computers by an order of magnitude. But today, they are still quite experimental and only work on small scales. So, this article (dating back to October) is amazing news: Physicist Zhaokai Li and his team from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei realized a Handwriting OCR on a quantum computer which means they created the first demonstration of Artificial Intelligence (in the meaning of machine learning) for a quantum computer:

That’s an interesting result for artificial intelligence and more broadly for quantum computing. It demonstrates the potential for quantum computation, not just for character recognition, but for other kinds of big data challenges. “This work paves the way to a bright future where the Big Data is processed efficiently in a parallel way provided by quantum mechanics,” say the team.

Physics arXiv Blog: First Demonstration Of Artificial Intelligence On A Quantum Computer


Image: "DWave 128chip" by D-Wave Systems, Inc. - D-Wave Systems, Inc.. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

What's it like to be a female game character, Lara Croft?

Diana Maria.jpgLast weekend I bought a collection of 11 Tomb Raider games via humble bundle and am quite happy as I missed some of them like old friends - especially the first level of TR 2 which I played hundreds of times as a demo on my first iMac back in 1999. As a matter of fact, I still know every detail of the first minutes with a degree that is only compareable to Super Mario Bros 1-1 and the first level of Mirror's Edge. Well, saying this, I stumbled upon this really interesting interview with game character writer Rhianna Pratchett, known for Faith from Mirror's Edge and, of course, Lara Croft in the first part of the reboot. It deals with a wide range of topics like the differences between male and female characters, guys with boobs, LGBT character designs and cultural baggage:

I didn’t want to just make Lara a male character with boobs. It’s always kind of a…it is a human story at heart. But there things—the language she uses, or the way that she interacts—that could be said to be more feminine. I’m very much not talking about her sense of vulnerability or being scared. That again has been rolled out as: male characters aren’t shown as being scared or vulnerable, why should female characters? Well, just because it hasn’t been done with male characters doesn’t make it wrong! It’s probably more of a problem of the way we depict male characters.

Kill Screen: Tomb Raider writer Rhianna Pratchett on why every kill can't be the first and why she hoped to make Lara Croft gay

Image: „Diana Maria“ von Lara Croft Double Diana Maria Dorow - Diana Maria Dorow. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 de über Wikimedia Commons.


The Internet is for Dating and Finance



Nice view on the acceleration and complication of two very different markets due to the Internet...

Your parents dated the way Warren Buffett picks a stock: a close review of the prospectus over dinner, careful analysis of long-term growth potential, detailed real asset evaluation.

Slate: The Boardroom and the Bedroom - How both dating and finance have been screwed by the Internet.

Rest in Peace Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy, 2011, ST Con-2


The great american actor and film director Leonard Nimoy passed away today at the age of 83.

Dear Leonard, wherever you may be: You changed the perception of so many people in so many ways. The alien is not so alien anymore, and logic will always keep a friendly note. You will be remembered for being Spock as well as for not being Spock and for many things more. Thank you so much.