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Biomedical and Electrical Engineer with interests in information theory, evolution, genetics, abstract mathematics, microbiology, big history, IndieWeb, mnemonics, and the entertainment industry including: finance, distribution, representation






@HowellsMead For those familiar, it may be a useful shorthand, but it simplifies things too far. Webmention uses knowledge of prior history and abuses of Trackback/Pingbacks/Refbacks and improves on them.
Cross reference: and


@aaronpk @MissSteno Since I know you're a fan of linguistics (and the vowel r), I'll note that I've done some research into the history of stenography and found some interesting overlap with linguistics and ancient memory techniques:


@mattmaldre Most replace consonant sounds with forms and remove vowels. Here's something surprising I discovered:


@JenLucPiquant It’s well known that Newton was an avid user of Thomas Shelton’s shorthand writing system as were other men of letters at the time. I highly suspect that his efforts at a new language stemmed from this influence as well as the growing trends in not only classifying things (Linnaeus quickly followed Newton’s time period), but the growing popularity at the time of philology (the Brothers Grimm also immediately followed this time period).

Many of these shorthand systems were built upon the ars memorativa tradition dating back to ancient Greece. Though both shorthand and ars memorativa are out of fashion now, I’ve discovered a direct link between the two which dates directly to Gregg Shorthand in the 1880's and has strong ties dating back to the 1400's, if not earlier. Those interested in the connection between these as a sketch of the stenography of Newton and others are encouraged to read The Mnemonic Major System and Gregg Shorthand Have the Same Underlying Structure [].


A lovely little experiment in visual pedagogy in mathematics! We could certainly use more of these types of simple "explorations" particularly for younger math students who may not always be good at visualizing material. These seem reminiscent to me of Wilson Rugh's <a href="">java applets</a> for digital signal processing years ago.

Some of this pedagogy argument about slides likely fits better into the area of the flipped classroom versus non-flipped. Though slides may be great (particularly if students have copies of them beforehand to take notes on as is often done commercially by many biology textbooks which have 2-4 slides down the left side of the page and note space on the right hand side) for mathematics I much prefer having notes in <a href="">Livescribe</a> .pdf format with embedded audio. This allows a student to not only relisten to the entire lecture, where often a lot of complicated material (especially in higher level abstract courses) is said very quickly and isn't able to be written down even by some of the best transcriptionists with shorthand (and how many students know this anymore?), but they can skip around to parts they need more work on. As an example, download this <a href="">.pdf file from a Lie Groups lecture</a> and open it up in the most recent version of Adobe Reader to be able to see the visual and audio functionality.

The particular value often comes in seeing problems worked out in full detail with discussion, which some students need much more of than others. One of my favorite lecture experiences almost a decade ago was hearing an audible gasp from the classroom of undergraduates when Sol Golomb (USC) stopped in the middle of a complicated lecture on combinatorics and worked out a 4th grade simple long division problem on the board to get a final solution. Half the class had pulled out a calculator to get the answer and he'd finished before most of them had the first number input. The class learned more in that one minute of example than most did the entire lecture. Most of the best math is done in the "exploration" and practice than in a stripped down lecture as is highlighted in Ben Orlin's recent post: <a href="">The Essence of Mathematics</a>. While it's always lovely seeing theoretical mathematics as if it seemingly sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus, many students should see how the proverbial sausage (or laws) are actually made, especially at an earlier age.


Happy New Year to you!

RE: Your blog vs. G+, what if I told you that you might have your cake and eat it too? I too have a WordPress blog, but I've tacked a few bits on to the back end and this allows me to use my blog as the primary hub for my work as you're suggesting you plan on doing. I then use platforms (walled silos) like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook to syndicate my material out to allow for a broader reach by leveraging social networks effects to my benefit. Even better, I've got things set up so that comments on platforms like Google+ feed back to my blog, which allows me to not only live on my own site, but it also allows me to "own" all of the content and commentary that's generated from it. (This way if Google+ is shut down next month, I'd still have all of the generated commentary, which could live indefinitely on my own site.) Thus your followers who prefer to read your material on other platforms (G+, in your case) aren't left without the content you're generating, but their commentary also appears back on the blog to add to the larger conversation.

First, consider using the "Jetpack" module (free software built by the same company that makes WordPress) and its publicize functionality to connect your G+ account and auto-post (syndicate) your Azimuth content automatically to G+. (This also frees up a good bit of time to not have to do it manually.) If nothing else, this will help to keep some of your audience engaged.

Second, to port the comments from the syndicated G+ post back to your original post on Azimuth (comments from G+ will show up as comments in WordPress that you can approve/delete just like other WP comments; this also prevents you from spending so much time in G+ after you turn off comment notifications) you can follow the details at the IndieWebCamp site ( to add/configure a few simple plugins as well as to connect to allow social networks to communicate with your blog.

If you need help/assistance to make the technical hurdles a bit lower, I'm happy to help walk you through the details or even do it for you (gratis) if you'd like. All of the modules I've mentioned are free and open source and under very active development.

For a simple example see the comments on this post which originated from G+

For a brief overview, you might appreciate the opening few paragraphs of


While researching the links between mnemonics and shorthand, I just came across "A complete guide to the improvement of the memory or the science of memory simplified: with practical applications to languages, history, geography, music, prose, poetry, shorthand, etc." written by James Henry Bacon and published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, London. (Third Edition, 1890). The major system appears on page 59, though it has a few transposed letters/numbers compared to more modern versions of the system.

Isaac Pitman, who published the book, was also the inventor of Pitman shorthand which was introduced in 1837 and is structurally similar to the Major System.

The book seems to be based on Bacon's prior work "The Science of Memory Simplified and Explained: Or, A Rational System for Improving the Memory, Etc" written in 1861.

Josh, if you feel it appropriate, you can also add the book above to


Oh the irony in "Some diseases of the rectum and anus" being written in 'shorthand'


There is a reasonable possibility that John Robert Gregg structured his shorthand on the Mnemonic major system based on the previous work of Pierre Hérigone and others following the publication of "The Anti-Absurd or Phrenotypic English Pronouncing and Orthographical Dictionary" by Major Beniowski in 1845.


I'm always kind of surprised that in situations like these that people aren't using some of the newer technological advances that take simultaneous advantage of research like that mentioned in the article, but also newer as well as older technology. In particular, I always recommend some of the technology by Livescribe who make the Pulse and Echo smart pens ( These technologies use traditional pens which have embedded optical scanners and microphones so that both the written words and the spoken parts of lectures are recorded - and more importantly they're directly connected within the technology. This can allow students (disabled or not) to capture all of the spoken lecture and even allow them to go back later and supplement their notes. Bookmarking technology built in also allows one to easily come back to important points to to easily skip around within the lecture to quickly find the portions they'd like to relisten to or add additional notes to. For those who caught most of the lecture the first time, they can use signal processing technology built in to listen to the lecture at 1.5 and 2x speed for quick reviews. Because the electronic files for these pens are sharable, if a student misses class, they can literally get the notes from someone else and not have missed anything (except for perhaps visual aids, but these can be easily photographed with any cell phone). I'll also mention that one's notes can be pushed through additional optical scanning software and be converted from handwriting to type if necessary.

Additionally, one commenter spoke about learning touch-typing, but I don't think anyone mentioned shorthand, which isn't taught very frequently anymore, but it can be highly useful in educational settings. As an excellent example meshing both Livescribe and shorthand I recommend Dennis Hollier's article (The Atlantic, June 2014) "How to Write 225 Words Per MinuteWith a Pen" ( Another related tool which seems to have gone out of vogue in the late 19th century is memory training for improving studying/recall. I've written in the past how the Major memory system is identical to the method behind Gregg Shorthand thereby making both easier to remember and use (