Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Symbols And AI Yield Answers To 4K Old Mystery

In 1877, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham hypothesized that the Indus script was a forerunner of modern-day Brahmic scripts, used from Central to Southeast Asia. Other researchers disagreed. Fueled by scores of competing and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to decipher the script, that contentious state of affairs has persisted to the present. Image Credit: WIRED

Symbols And AI Yield Answers To 4K Old Mystery

Archaeologists, and other scientific minds since the beginning of the discovery and study of ancient societies, and the methods of their evidence of communication, have struggled with the structure, meaning, and definition of script symbols.

One script found in the ruins of the Indus Valley (eastern Pakistan/northwest India) is believed to be the graphic root and link of other languages that include Chinese Lolo, Sumerian, Egyptian, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, and Old Slavic. Indus script , however has never been deciphered and defined, that is until now.

What is being hailed as a breakthrough in the beginning of an understanding of the structure of the symbols uncovered from this 4,000 year old society, a program that draws from many sources and aided by computerized artifical intelligence discovered that the structure of the Indus Script followed the rules of a spoken language.

Examples of the Indus script. Three elongated seals that have no iconography, as well as three miniature tablets (one twisted). The tablets measure about 1.25 inches long by 0.5 inches wide. Image Credit: University of Washington

This excerpted and edited from WIRED -

Artificial Intelligence Cracks 4,000-Year-Old Mystery
By Brandon Keim WIRED - April 23, 2009

An ancient script that’s defied generations of archaeologists has yielded some of its secrets to artificially intelligent computers.

Computational analysis of symbols used 4,000 years ago by a long-lost Indus Valley civilization suggests they represent a spoken language. Some frustrated linguists thought the symbols were merely pretty pictures.

"The underlying grammatical structure seems similar to what’s found in many languages," said University of Washington computer scientist Rajesh Rao.

Comparison of symbols found in Indus Valley and, of all places, Easter Island. Image Credit: SodaHead/SweetLoveGifts (posted with comment)

The Indus script, used between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. belonged to a civilization as sophisticated as its Mesopotamian and Egyptian contemporaries. However, it left fewer linguistic remains. Archaeologists have uncovered about 1,500 unique inscriptions from fragments of pottery, tablets and seals. The longest inscription is just 27 signs long.

In 1877, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham hypothesized that the Indus script was a forerunner of modern-day Brahmic scripts, used from Central to Southeast Asia.
In 2004, linguist Steve Farmer published a paper asserting that the Indus script was nothing more than political and religious symbols. It was a controversial notion, but not an unpopular one.

Rao, a machine learning specialist who read about the Indus script in high school and decided to apply his expertise to the script while on sabbatical in Inda, may have solved the language-versus-symbol question, if not the script itself.
Rao’s team used pattern-analyzing software running what’s known as a Markov model, a computational tool used to map system dynamics.

They fed the program sequences of four spoken languages: ancient Sumerian, Sanskrit and Old Tamil, as well as modern English. Then they gave it samples of four non-spoken communication systems: human DNA, Fortran, bacterial protein sequences and an artificial language.

The program calculated the level of order present in each language. Non-spoken languages were either highly ordered, with symbols and structures following each other in unvarying ways, or utterly chaotic. Spoken languages fell in the middle.

When they seeded the program with fragments of Indus script, it returned with grammatical rules based on patterns of symbol arrangement. These proved to be moderately ordered, just like spoken languages.

As for the meaning of the script, the program remained silent.
Parpola said the primary obstacle confronting decipherers of fragmentary Indus scripts — the difficulty of testing their hypotheses — remains unchanged.

But according to Rao, this early analysis provides a foundation for a more comprehensive understanding of Indus script grammar, and ultimately its meaning.

"The next step is to create a grammar from the data that we have," he said. "Then we can ask, is this grammar similar to those of the Sanskrit or Indo-European or Dravidian languages? This will give us a language to compare it to."
"One of the main questions in machine learning is how to generalize rules from a limited amount of data," said Rao. "Even though we can’t read it, we can look at the patterns and get the underlying grammatical structure."
"It’s only recently that archaeologists have started to apply computational approaches in a rigid manner," said Rao. "The time is ripe."
Reference Here>>

It strikes us here at Symblogogy, that if we humans can create something as complicated as a 3D camera readable automatic identification code (a 2D QR code with color), we should be able to reverse engineer 4,000 year old languages like Indus Script.

This artificial intelligence approach gets us one step closer to understanding and decode the meaning of what was communicated.

Monday, April 27, 2009

IndyCar Series Sponsorship Nets Big Gains For Verizon

The Verizon Wireless sponsored Dallara leading the race at the 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Andy Sallee (2009)

IndyCar Series Sponsorship Nets Big Gains For Verizon

Winning cars, and winning markets!

Believe it or not, soon after Verizon Wireless placed its logo on an IndyCar, the car goes on to win the pole and place second in the race at the 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Now news has come in that Verizon Wireless surpasses AT&T for the lead in subscribership in its marketplace, is there any cause and effect relationship? Well, AT&T doesn't sponsor any cars that race in the IndyCar Series so who can say ... it can not help.

Will Power, a driver for the famed Penske Racing Team of the Indy Racing League, stepped into the brand new, never driven black Dallara, sponsored with the Verizon logo ... that (description from the Verizon corporate website) graphically portray's speed, while also echoing the genesis of the company name: veritas, the Latin word connoting certainty and reliability ... and horizon, signifying forward-looking and visionary.

Does this sponsorship and logo have any effect on the fortunes of the Australian driver who merged into the IRL when the ChampCar World Series agreed to have open wheel racing in North America be managed by one supervising body?

The Verizon Wireless sponsored Dallara leaves the pits looking to rejoin and win the race. Image Credit: Andy Sallee (2009)

This excerpted and edited from ComputerWorld -

Verizon leapfrogs AT&T for wireless subscriber lead
By Brad Reed - April 27, 2009 (Network World)

Verizon now has more wireless subscribers than any carrier in the U.S., as its merger with Alltel has helped the company jump ahead of rival AT&T Inc..

Verizon said in its earnings report today that its total number of wireless customers surged to 86.5 million in the first quarter of 2009, when the carrier added a net 14.5 million wireless customers. Roughly 13.2 million of those customers came over to Verizon as a result of its Alltel acquisition.
The big increase in wireless customers now gives Verizon an edge of about 8.3 million wireless subscribers over AT&T, which reported last week that it has 78.2 million wireless customers.

In addition to its large customer gains, Verizon reported a solid net income of $3.2 billion in the first quarter, a 5.3% increase over the $3 billion net income it reported in the first quarter of 2008.
Its total number of broadband connections grew by 7.8% to 8.9 million, while the total number of subscribers to its FiOS Internet (2.8 million) and television (2.2 million) grew at impressive rates of 55.5% and 83.8%, respectively.

The symbolic power of the logo can not be denied, sponsorship generally brings good rewards and recognition to the sponsor ... but, maybe this kind of success is a little more than Verizon Wireless hoped for ... then, again.