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Alibaba.com Leaves HK Stock Exchange


At the end of February, Alibaba Group, China’s biggest Internet firm, announced it wants to delist the shares of Alibaba.com, its e-commerce company, that are traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

They decided to delist, among other reasons, to feel freer from market expectations and also because the slumping share price had a negative impact on the company. Alibaba Group is offering a premium of HK$13.50 ($1.74) per share, so the deal looks likely to succeed. They need to rethink their strategy and want to enhance the quality and services of their website.

Meanwhile, talks for Alibaba Group to buy back *Yahoo*’s 43 per cent stake in the company, which Yahoo bought for $1 billion in 2005, have reached an impasse. Yahoo has been making constant endeavours to upgrade its struggling position in Asia, including restructuring its current investments by selling the unprofitable units. Alibaba.com’s chief finance officer, Maggie Wu, declared that the privatisation of Alibaba.com and the talks with Yahoo concerning their stake in Alibaba Group are not related.

By | March 2nd, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Talking Dictionaries of Rare Languages


The Economist has recently published an article about K. David Harrison, of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Dr Harrison thinks that IT, which is usually considered an arch enemy of rare languages, may actually save them from extinction.

He has been managing four different projects, in India, Oregon, Papua New Guinea and Siberia. First, he created a talking dictionary that could be put onto the web. A talking dictionary of Tuvan, a language spoken in southern Siberia, has existed since 2006.

The two villages involved in this project in Papua New Guinea speak Matukar Panau. In 2011, as soon as they were linked to the country’s electricity grid, they almost immediately started using the Internet and the talking dictionary.

In Oregon, meanwhile, many now send texts in Siletz Dee-ni, a language that had only one fluent speaker at the beginning of the project. With his help and that of a few others who had partial knowledge of the language, Dr Harrison and his team have created a talking dictionary of 14,000 words.

Dr Harrison hopes also that the project for the dictionary of Koro-Aka, a language spoken in north-eastern India, will take off. Here, people have been using mobile phones for a long time, so it’s likely that texting in Koro-Aka will become glamorous.

If you are interested in rare languages, you can also read The Rosetta Project and the rescue of endangered languages and ELA (Ay-la).

By | March 1st, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Google’s PageRank and Hydrogen Bonds

Aurora Clark, an associate professor of chemistry at Washington State University, has adapted Google’s PageRank software to determine the way molecules are shaped and organised.

Hydrogen bonds between different water molecules are in fact similar to the hyperlinks between different websites: in the same way that some hyperlinks are worth more than others, some molecular links are stronger than others.

Google’s PageRank algorithm was developed at Stanford University by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It essentially decides how important a website is, taking the number and importance of website links to it into account. Clark adapted Page and Brin’s idea to build “moleculaRnetworks”, which substitutes websites and hyperlinks for molecular shapes and chemical reactions. Water molecules are ranked on the basis of how many hydrogen bonds they make and how many of these bonds nearby molecules have. This system can then quickly characterise the interactions of millions of molecules, which is very useful in predicting how various chemicals will react with one another, saving the expense, logistics and danger of lab experiments. Predicting chemical reactivity will help in drug design, to understand better how different proteins lead to different diseases, in the analysis of radioactive pollutants and much more.

By | February 28th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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