Software Musings

Parsing Overload

Posted on: 13/08/2006

I spend a lot of time browsing Slashdot, the self-proclaimed source of “stuff that matters”. One of the headlines last week left me in a parsing dilemma. It said, baldly,

Studios OK Burning Movie Downloads

My first attempt at parsing brought out something like “It’s OK for studios to burn their (presumably out-of-date) movies” but then the “download” word didn’t fully fit in. Then, being of a suspicious nature when it comes to Slashdot grammar, I wondered whether there was an apostrophe missing from “Studios” and this was an announcement of a studio (whoever that is) with an OK (Optical Killer?) which is burning movie downloads. Finally, after a number of other false starts, I realised that

  1. “OK” is a verb in this context, “studios” being the subject
  2. “burning” has nothing to do with burning but with writing to a disc

Many years ago I toyed briefly with computer translation. It was sentences like this, that many normal human beings have trouble parsing, that made me realise it was impossible. Anyway, I thought I’d see what BabelFish would make of it. In translating into German, it came closer than any of my early attempts with:

Studios heissen brennende Film-Downloads gut

For non-German speakers, this basically means that the studios say that combusting film downloads are good. It got the OK as a verb but missed the double-entendre on “burning”.

I spend a lot of my working (and waking) hours on the fringes of artificial intelligence (not “insemination” with which it is sometimes confused)—particularly with programs that learn from observing human behaviour. David Corfield spends a significant part of Towards a Philosophy of Real Mathematics dealing with automated theorem provers (and generators). There appears to be an intellectual drive which can only be satisfied by proving that our thought processes can be replicated by a machine. Which could then have that thought and save us the work. A bit like the program I saw once which played patience (the card game) with itself.


1 Response to "Parsing Overload"

I looked at this sentence using the western Scottish vernacular. I think an apostrophy is needed in the sense that the studio is OK “Studio’s OK”. OK is usually added as an afirmation that you understand the first ford so is ususally obsolete, OK? So it would read Studio (OK?) is Burning Movie Downloads (OK?). This would probably capture the real or reel intent of the Movie industry. One could take this futher apart by parsing in this way (also valid in Scotland): Studio is Burning Movie…Downloads OK. In other words “It is permissible to download because the studio is burning” I have found several other interpretations without straying too far from Scottish (English).

Studio is OK Burning, Movie Downloads.

Studios OK, Burning Movie Downloads.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

August 2006
« Jul   Sep »


The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
%d bloggers like this: