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grammar, style notes observationsEdit

Feel free to make your points here. I am attempting to compile a list of common mistakes, focussing on ones which obscure meaning. The end-result would be a manual that might help budding writers, and have applications far outside Wikipedia. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I see these kinds of linguistic problems everywhere. They are engendered, ironically, by a typical author's familiarity with their material. This familiarity leads to a word-blindness as to how a naive reader might interpret their words. One of the main villains is the ambiguity inherent in the little word "or". I found an excellent example of this just now in the Discussion page for Elephant. Here it is:

"or" can mean 1. "also known as"; 2. "as well", "in addition to" ambiguityEdit

"One decade later, only around 600,000 remain. This decline is attributed primarily to poaching, or illegal hunting, and habitat loss."

This passage in the entry for "Elephant" has now gone, but it worth noting that the culprit here is the ambiguity of the word “or”, which can have two meanings. The first is “also known as”, and the second is “in addition to”. The author intends “or” to mean “also known as”, but a naïve reader could plausibly think it meant that there was another and distinct danger to elephants other than from poaching, and this was from “illegal hunting".

Ideas for prosthetic communication devices for 'locked in' syndromeEdit

(My post to WP Science Desk, with some comments from others)

I recently saw the 'true story' movie "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" about Frenchman Jo-Dominique Bauby, who suffers a devastating stroke which leaves him with the use only of one eye. This is ‘locked-in’ syndrome, as he cannot move, eat or talk, but can feel and think as before. The film concerns itself largely with his and his speech therapists’ efforts to provide him with the means to communicate once again with the outside world. This involves the speech therapist reciting the alphabet (arranged in order of most-frequently used letters), with Jean-Do blinking when the desired letter is reached, and then repeating the procedure ad infinitum. At an excruciatingly snail-like pace, Jean-Do spells out words, then sentences. As last he writes the eponymous book of his ordeal, and then dies-of pneumonia. Surprisingly, the film is often humorous, although the end-credits blooper reel was nowhere to be seen.

Now perhaps I’ve got that new-fangled Asparagus Syndrome, or my nasty male left brain is working overtime, but while the rest of the theatre were blubbing, I was thinking ‘Is reading the alphabet REALLY the best and only way they could get poor old Jo to talk? And this is in France, a world leader in medicine and medical technology. True, the events of the film are from 1995, but this laborious method of communication could just as readily have been utilized in 1700 rather than 1995!

Stephen Hawking is similarly afflicted, now having even less bodily control than Jean-Do did, and he can just about sing ‘I did it my way!’ I was thinking of fairly low-tech prosthetic to the problem, and I came up with this.

The film shows him as having perfect control over his right eyeball, yet there is no attempt to utilize this fine motor control for communication. How about fitting a contact lens for this eye in which might be embedded a small reflective disk? Now shine a soft light on this eye, and it should reflect a beam. Jean-Do could aim that beam at a display board on which are arranged letters and common words. When that beam had clearly settled on a letter, the system would beep, and that would be Jean-Do’s cue to blink, thus entering the letter to a string being built up. For more feedback, speech production software could read aloud the words as Jean-Do is creating them and provide anticipatory options, to be selected by choosing ‘Yes’ from the board.

I could hardly credit that the rest of this poor man’s life was spent listening to nurses sprouting the alphabet again and again and again. Sure, it was an excuse to perv down their cleavage, and they were hot, but this is ridiculous.

Anyone can throw a ray of light on this? After all, Jean-Do could be any of us—he is, ironically, our everyman, John Doe. Myles325a (talk) 00:23, 23 February 2008 (UTC)

There's been a lot of work towards creating a brain-computer interface to help people in this situation. See the work by Michael Black from Brown University... especially his work on neuromotor prothesis development. Sancho 01:25, 23 February 2008 (UTC) Sorry, I can't remember any details, but at a computer/medical show about 15 years ago, I saw just such a contraption. The person would be wearing a sort of cap with a device that shined a IR beam at the eye and "looked" at the reflection. This information was sent to a computer, and the monitor has the representation of a keyboard on it, with a blinking cross showing where the person was looking. So s/he would just move the cross to the letter and then blink. The blink would "enter" the letter. There were also some editing functions available. Bunthorne (talk) 19:14, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

Take a look at the dasher program. It would be perfect for such a person who can only move their eyes. Ariel. (talk) 12:58, 25 February 2008 (UTC)Myles325a (talk) 04:20, 27 February 2008 (UTC)


I'm not going to edit war with you, but it might be more appropriate, and helpful, to research who made the decision, or link to some external source where similar concerns are raised - rather than add an opinionated rant from one Wikipedia editor. The reason Wikipedia works, and has grown, is that it attempts, and largely succeeds, at rising above the urge-to-silliness. Snori (talk) 05:03, 31 May 2012 (UTC)