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Deconstructing the Cmabirgde Uinervtisy Rschereach Sramlcbe

5 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Dec 30, 2003 3:04 PM by Matt Gerrans

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John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Deconstructing the Cmabirgde Uinervtisy Rschereach Sramlcbe (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Dec 24, 2003 11:12 AM
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Summary
Deconstructing a seductive language meme.
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Matt Davis of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, has deconstructed this wild meme that has been floating about lately:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

He's also collected a number of versions of the paragraph written in a wide variety of languages. [In this respect, a fun extension of this "experiment" is to immerse oneself in a situation where everyone around you is speaking a language that you don't know.]

This is a great example of how our "natural" intuition about complex subjects, such as languages, leads us to insidiously simplistic (mis)understanding.


Chris Dailey

Posts: 56
Nickname: mouse
Registered: Dec, 2002

Whoa, speed racer! Posted: Dec 24, 2003 1:32 PM
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This is a great example of how our "natural" intuition about complex subjects, such as languages, leads us to insidiously simplistic (mis)understanding.

I'm not exactly sure what you're saying here. Do you mean that the Cambridge assertion that the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place is incorrect? Or that the assertion that the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole is incorrect? Or that previous thoughts about language are possibly wrong?

What do you think it implies for software engineering?

John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: Whoa, speed racer! Posted: Dec 24, 2003 5:00 PM
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As you will have noted by reading Matt's article, there was no official "Cambridge" assertion. This meme, as depicted, evolved from (mis)intepretations and what not.

The direct point I intended to make in blogging about this is that Matt's deconstruction of the various arguments made in the meme, that people around the world have picked up and swallowed whole, shows how easily swayed we are by such simplisticity when they happen to feed our "natural" intuition.

In terms of software engineering, one thing that I think it means is that one self-check that we should employ is to question anything that we find ourselves agreeing with too easily.

Matt Gerrans

Posts: 1152
Nickname: matt
Registered: Feb, 2002

Deconstructionism Deconstructed Posted: Dec 27, 2003 2:46 PM
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Daiiiinoqsstul raaceiiopttun of iceimopprsuus saglmmooopttyy maefinsts ielstf in the uaceinoquvl ccilnoosun taht the paaeenrrttul eaeinottuvn is an aaahimnnrte paeiilnottty, eaceillpsy wehn the eacgilmootyl aaciilorttun is ebeehillmsd in the eeemrtx.

Jim Cushing

Posts: 2
Nickname: jimothy
Registered: Oct, 2003

Spam Posted: Dec 30, 2003 2:10 PM
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It's only a matter of time before spammers add this to their arsenal to defeat Baysenian filters. It's probably already happening.

Matt Gerrans

Posts: 1152
Nickname: matt
Registered: Feb, 2002

Re: Spam Posted: Dec 30, 2003 3:04 PM
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It already is happening and doesn't work at all against Bayesian filters because all the popular misspellings quickly get categorized with high spam probabilities, plus there are usually some other things which can't be misspelled (eg. if they have a link to a URL for you to click on). It falls in the "misspellings" category that Paul Graham discusses here: http://www.paulgraham.com/sofar.html

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