During the 1940s, Harvard University's psycho-acoustic laboratory--installed in the boiler room under Memorial Hall--was a center of secret, government-directed wartime research into the effects of sound on the human ear and mind. One obscure product of this work became known as the Harvard Sentences, a set of "phonetically balanced" sentences containing a mix of phonemes typical to conversational English. These sentences are still used today by Verizon's baseline engineers, among others. Gizmodo's Sarah Zhang has more on the history of the Harvard Sentences. Meanwhile, over at Tedium, Ernie Smith offers a T-Mobile test number (858-651-5050) where you can listen to a recording of several Harvard Sentences, calling it "pretty much the most poetic, automated thing I’ve ever heard." A full list of the Harvard Sentences can be viewed here. [more inside]
Dictionary Stories--Very short stories composed entirely of example sentences from the New Oxford American Dictionary. A project by Jez Burrows. [more inside]
The American Scholar recently shared their pick of
10 11 best sentences, plucked from novels. And if you fancy such lists, The Atlantic collected some authors' favorite first lines books, and Sabotage Times has a list of 20 best opening lines from books, while the Shmoop blog has 25 best opening lines, plus (snarky) speculations on the thought processes behind those lines. And then American Book Review goes all out with a list of the 100 best opening lines (3rd party commentary) and 100 best last lines from novels. [more inside]
The US Sentencing Commission has recommended that Federal sentencing guidelines be reduced for crimes involving crack cocaine -- and is now deliberating making the new guidelines retroactive for prisoners already incarcerated. [WaPo] If taken into effect, about 3,800 inmates could be released by this time next year. [more inside]
Should punishments be "creative"? Judge Michael Cicconett has sentenced a kid with a loud radio to sit quietly in the woods, a man to hang out with a pig, at least one guy to run a race to diminish his jail sentence. Now Judge Michael Cicconetti is back in the news for sentencing a couple to print apologies in the local newspaper for their tryst on a public beach. These are rather inconsequential sentences for very minor crimes, but one might still ask: Does creative sentencing seems intuitively more fair and/or effective, or does it seem to leave justice up to the capriciousness of the judge?