Rao et al. and the Indus symbol system

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Sun Apr 26 19:07:30 UTC 2009

An influential computational linguist -- Mark Liberman at the  
University of Pennsylvania -- weighs in on the Rao et al. paper in  
his widely read blog, which is read world-wide. Liberman uses words  
as strong as ours (which he quotes) in judging the statistical  
nonsense in the paper.


Note that he promises more to follow.

We expect that we will have a formal response in Science in the  
coming weeks as well as at upcoming Indus conferences (e.g., in Kyoto  
in May). Other linguists we've talked to about the paper plan on  
submitting their own letters.

Everyone is baffled at how this got by the peer reviewers at Science,  
unless they knew no statistics or just wanted to "stir the pot", as  
if more of that is needed.

Note what Liberman (whom none of us knows personally) says at the end  
about the amusingly credulous "Wired" article that was posted on this  
List yesterday:

> For now, I'll only register a small complaint about the lede in the  
> story "Artificial Intelligence Cracks 4,000-Year-Old Mystery",  
> Wired, 4/23/2009:
>> An ancient script that's defied generations of archaeologists has  
>> yielded some of its secrets to artificially intelligent computers
> To call a program that counts bigrams and calculates conditional  
> entropy an "artificially intelligent computer" is … Well, you'll see.
On Rao's statistical fudging, etc., see Liberman's article and our  
"Refutation of the Claimed Refutation," to which Liberman provides a  
link. More on that in print when all of us are free.

Steve Farmer

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