Auto-Translation of Norwegian

Google’s translation algorithms are kind of amazing, but it seems to have some trouble with Norwegian in this video. Here’s a sample from the first minute:

“Ministering from releasing also finished warnings from his dick saw why not and schloss good and what’s going on s on went who would be because the fun name didn’t know hood systemic was looking at Skynyrd immune from for their successful and move he said and ripples beings man comment what at some point hadn’t been on that phenomena height I wilson’s clear that the the docs ready to their allude to that of her ordered posts it comes to the house yes that is me…”

Turn on “closed captioning” for the entire translation.

Tabulating The 1890 Census

1890_Census_Hollerith_Electrical_Counting_Machines_Sci_Amer

A report of the tabulation of the 1890 US Census from the Chicago Tribune, which, for the first time, used Hollerith punch cards for automated counting. Below is an excerpt of a particularly stark depiction of the role statistics played, and the narratives they told:

“The main Census Office is on G street, near the Pension Building. The edifice is of brick and six stories high. It is here that the returns are tabulated by special classes. Lists of the blind, the deaf, the dumb, paupers, and criminal classes are made, with special information about each. In compiling these lists machines invented by a former employee of the bureau are used. The system is very ingenious. A young lady sits at a little table upon which there is a metal plate containing 240 holes. These holes are marked by letters. “B.” means black; “M.,” male; “En.,” speaks English; “O. K. ” free from disease; “Bu.,” guilty of burglary; “Wd.,” widow or widower, according to sex, and so on. With the enumerator’s special returns before her the young lady places a blank card beneath the metal plate. She looks at the special return. The person is a negro. She shoves a punch through the hole marked B. The person is a male. She punches the hole marked M. He speaks English. She sends the punch through the hole marked En. He is free from disease. The punch goes through the hole marked O. K. He is guilty of burglary. The Bu hole is punched.

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Triangulation Maps and Trig Points

TriangulationMapOfStatenIsland_1851

Triangulation maps, computing distances between known points, were used for ship navigation. Above is a triangulation map of Staten Island, below of the south-east quadrilateral of India (super-high res version here).

PrincipalTriangulationOfSEQuadrilateralOfGTSOfIndia_1878-web

Known positions with carefully measured latitude/longitude and altitude are called “trig points”, and are often marked, sometimes with a metal plate or, in the case of this marker in New Zealand, an amazing sculptural tower.

MountJohnNZ_TrigPoint-web

Algorithmic Text in “Gulliver’s Travels”

TextGeneratingMachineInGulliversTravels_Part3Chapter5

From “Gulliver’s Travels”, part 3, chapter 5:

“The first professor I saw, was in a very large room, with forty pupils about him.  After salutation, observing me to look earnestly upon a frame, which took up the greatest part of both the length and breadth of the room, he said, “Perhaps I might wonder to see him employed in a project for improving speculative knowledge, by practical and mechanical operations.  But the world would soon be sensible of its usefulness; and he flattered himself, that a more noble, exalted thought never sprang in any other man’s head.  Every one knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.”  He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks.  It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room.  The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others.  They were all linked together by slender wires.  These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order.  The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.”  The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed.  He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes.  This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down.

Six hours a day the young students were employed in this labour; and the professor showed me several volumes in large folio, already collected, of broken sentences, which he intended to piece together, and out of those rich materials, to give the world a complete body of all arts and sciences; which, however, might be still improved, and much expedited, if the public would raise a fund for making and employing five hundred such frames in Lagado, and oblige the managers to contribute in common their several collections.

He assured me “that this invention had employed all his thoughts from his youth; that he had emptied the whole vocabulary into his frame, and made the strictest computation of the general proportion there is in books between the numbers of particles, nouns, and verbs, and other parts of speech.””

Above: an illustration of the text-generating machine, from the text.