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Thinking with my lungs: mnemonics takes a deep breath

I subscribe to MIT’s Technology Review and have enjoyed many articles and reviews thus far. But today’s issue brought a couple of howlers in two utterly unrelated articles, which, when read together, fit perfectly. First, Finding Podcasts Faster is a review of three new products that help users find specific audio material online. The reviewer points to a couple of flaws, however, whereby the search engines transcribe the spoken material in whacky ways:

To be sure, none of these sites has mastered audio recognition, a notoriously tricky beast. Computers still cannot consistently understand all the innumerable accents, mispronunciations and other nonstandard diction that colors human speech.


Blinkx made a geopolitical gaffe by transcribing the following snippet from a Fox News broadcast about a political murder in Lebanon:

“… pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, citing a cell phone call Lahoud received minutes before the murder.”


“… pro-Syrian President Emile of food citing a cell phone colic who received minutes before the murder.”


By itself that was already pretty funny (at least if you’re easily amused), but taken with the other article in today’s Technology Review, it’s a gem. The second article is called Exercising the Brain; Innovative training software could turn back the clock on aging brains, which reviews a company that has been designing brain exercise software. (Yeah, “ugh!” — that’s what I thought, too!) The reviewer also must have been swallowing hard, because, describing the program’s shortcomings in how it focusses on “tricks,” he wrote:

Today, a typical training program focuses on memory tricks, such as pneumonics. [More…]

Ahhhh-hee-hee-heee! That made my day!


  1. That’s a good one … as I ponder ways to laugh with my spleen.

    We, too, get the Technology Review (my husband went there for his unergrad years) and, according to my husband, the quality of the articles has been going down for quite a while.

    Comment by maria — November 21, 2005 #

  2. God, what a dull person you must be in real life. Why bother with this dreadful attempt at a blog?

    Comment by Anonymous — November 28, 2005 #

  3. I do it only for you, Kim, because fascinating and interesting people like you are who I really want to suck up to. You are like swill to pigs… Now go and stick your nose somewhere else.

    Comment by Yule Heibel — November 28, 2005 #

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