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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Linking Tool Use and Language | Main | The Topic is Topics »



The presentation-idea really is a nice touch. But the audio quality may need a little improvement, IMO.
I am a bit sceptical, however, of Vieira's evaluation of the dangers of speech anatomy, because in some aspects it directly clashes with W. Tecumseh Fitch's comprehensive review of the issues, e.g. in Fitch (2009) and in his new book.
For example, Vieira's argument that speech would require "much more food energy to support the brain" is contradicted by Fitch's observation that "speech is so cheap energetically, that its cost is very difficult to measure with normal metabolic techniques (Moon and Lindblom 2003)" (Fitch 2010: 195)

In addition, as Fitch argues, it is far from obvious that the larynx descended as an adaptation for speech, given that 1) in other species with a descended larynx it is mainly used for size exaggeration, and 2) the animal larynx is extremely flexible and plastic during vocalisation, so that complex human-like vocalisation would probably be possible without the descended human larynx

Moon, S. J. and Lindblom, B. (2003) Two Experiments on Oxygen Consumption During Speech Production: Vocal Effort and Speaking Tempo. The 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, pp. 3129-3132.
BLOGGER: Although it is true that any statement you care to make is essentially free, the overhead on the machinery needed to produce a sentence is very high. It's like taking a digital picture with a Nikon SLR. The picture is free, but the camera cost can ruin you. We do much with our brain beside talk, but I doubt that we would do any of it if we could not talk.

As for the larynx, I agree with the objection, which is why I raised it in the presentation.


I think I'd have preferred something to read as usual. Interesting topic but the presentation was sloooooooooooooooow since I am deaf & could not make use of the sound, & there were no captions. (Bullet points are fine to show main ideas but if there's nothing else for me to see I might as well just use the time to read the text outline from the powerpoint and read the paper myself.)
BLOGGER: This is a very useful comment and if I continue trying this approach I will have to find a solution.

Alan Coady

I liked this mix of speech and bullet points - perhaps because, at heart, I'm a "radio head."

This is probably not very useful feedback but I was surprised by the sound of your voice. I can't really say what sort of voice I imagined from your written word, but it was perhaps a little less rough-and-ready/informal. Perhaps this is due to the mistaken perception people have of this area as a recherché topic :-) It may also related to what we Brits perceive as American "directness." I see it (hear it) as a great strength in the enthusiastic communication of ideas.

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