The Download: Penn on the web

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Keeping up with every mention of Penn on the internet is a monumental task, but the Current makes it a little easier by providing a snapshot of what’s happening in Penn’s corner of the web.

Explore linguistic idiosyncrasies and outrageous Pennsylvania laws. Follow Penn Medicine into the streets of disaster-stricken Haiti, and tag along with five students as they experience life in Senegal. Discover one professor’s superhero alter ego, and how the brain keeps time.

Mark Liberman, director of the Linguistic Data Consortium, takes “reading between the lines” to a whole new level in his blog, “The Language Log.” Liberman and his co-authors have made it their duty to dissect journalistic snafus and language memes in popular media, even correcting bigwig publications like The New York Times. Don’t get tongue-tied the next time misnegations and voiceless bilabial plosives come up at the dinner table. Visit the “Language Log” at languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu.

Where can you get five years in the slammer for selling a bootleg CD? If you guessed the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you’d be right. A recent column in the Philadelphia Inquirer spotlights Paul Robinson of the Law School and his students, who dug up a slate of eccentric legal consequences for a class project. They discovered, for example, that owning a slave in the City of Brotherly Love is a mere misdemeanor. Robinson’s students presented their findings to the state Senate and House Judiciary Committees in December, suggesting it might be time for a review of the state criminal code. To read about other outrageously archaic Pa. laws, go to www.philly.com and search for the keywords “Daniel Rubin: Pa. punishments.”

On Jan. 25, Penn Medicine’s “Team One” left for Port-au-Prince to help those affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti. In the blog, “Penn Medicine in Haiti,” the team is reporting on the difficult situation on the ground and chronicling the treatment they are providing. The blog also includes slideshows and videos illustrating the dire situation in the quake-ravaged city. Go to Penn Medicine’s web site, www.uphs.upenn.edu, and enter the keyword “Haiti” for frequent updates.

If you were a superhero, who would you be? Anthroman, of course. John Jackson, a PIK Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Arts and Sciences, investigates current events, both political and cultural, through an anthropological lens in his aptly titled blog. Jackson tackles everything from racial diversity in academia to film critique, analyzing socially complex films like the Oscar-nominated, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” Fly on over to the “Anthroman” blog at http://anthromania.blogspot.com.

Instead of freezing through another Philadelphia winter, five Penn students have traveled to Senegal to spend the spring semester living with host families and experiencing first-hand the region’s cultural traditions. In their blog, “Penn in Senegal 2010,” the students share their experiences. In one entry, junior Anne Sherman chronicles her participation in a traditional Muslim wedding, and in another, the group reminisces about learning the Senegalese dance called Mbalax. To follow the troupe’s adventures, head to www.penninsenegal2010.blogspot.com.

Still waiting for the invention of a time machine? Look no further than your own brain. While researching neurological time perception, Gal Zauberman of the Wharton School found that our internal clock is directly influenced by our collective memory. Zauberman used significant public events, ranging from political appointments to pop culture milestones, to exercise the brain’s processing of time-markers. “People have a hard time understanding the passage of time, and in order to understand it, latch onto something we do understand—the unfolding of events.” So before you forget, go check out the article about his work at the Mother Nature Network or www.mnn.com, and search for “Gal Zauberman.”

Originally published on February 18, 2010