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    How does the brain interpret computer languages? / ArsTechnica · Monday, 15 March, 2021 - 17:58

Image of a pillar covered in lit ones and zeroes.

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In the US, a 2016 Gallup poll found that the majority of schools want to start teaching code, with 66% of K-12 school principals thinking that computer science learning should be incorporated into other subjects. Most countries in Europe have added coding classes and computer science to their school curricula, with France and Spain introducing theirs in 2015. This new generation of coders is expected to boost the worldwide developer population from 23.9 million in 2019 to 28.7 million in 2024.

Despite all this effort, there’s still some confusion on how to teach coding. Is it more like a language, or more like math? Some new research may have settled this question by watching the brain’s activity while subjects read Python code.

Two schools on schooling

Right now, there are two schools of thought. The prevailing one is that coding is a type of language, with its own grammar rules and syntax that must be followed. After all, they’re called coding languages for a reason, right? This idea even has its own snazzy acronym: Coding as Another Language, or CAL.

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    John Conway, inventor of the Game of Life, has died of COVID-19 / ArsTechnica · Monday, 13 April, 2020 - 23:06

Photograph of a bearded man next to a window.

Enlarge / John Conway. (credit: Thane Plambeck )

COVID-19 has claimed the life of Princeton mathematician John Conway, his colleague Sam Wang confirmed on Twitter on Saturday. He was 82 years old.

The British-born Conway spent the early part of his career at Cambridge before moving to Princeton University in the 1980s. He made contributions in various areas of mathematics but is best known for his invention of Conway's Game of Life, a cellular automata in which simple rules give rise to surprisingly complex behaviors. It was made famous by a 1970 Scientific American article and has had a lively community around it ever since then. (Don't confuse it with Milton Bradley's board game of the same name.)

Conway's Game of Life is played on a two-dimensional plane with square cells. Each square can be either black ("alive") or white ("dead"). Simple deterministic rules dictate how the state of the board in one step leads to the next step. If a live square has two or three live neighbors (counting diagonals), it stays alive. If a dead cell has three live neighbors, it switches to black and becomes alive. Otherwise, the cell becomes—or stays—dead.

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