# Are there more stars than all the words ever spoken by humans?

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A while ago I saw Neil deGrasse Tyson comparing the number of stars in the universe with the number of words spoken by all of humankind, ever since.

I realize both of these numbers are not strictly defined, but still, we can use our best observations together with our best guesses to find out which number is larger, and by how many magnitudes. It's a good example of making you realize the size of astronomical numbers in the true sense of the word.

### Number of stars in the observable universe

There are about 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Galaxies range in size from a few billion to hundreds of trillions stars. Using 100 billion galaxies and 1 trillion stars in a galaxy yields 1023 stars in the observable universe as a rough order of magnitude estimate. (After getting this result, I found multiple sources that give answers ranging from 1021 to 1024 stars in the universe.)

### Number of words ever spoken

We're talkative, but we also sleep and eat and listen. Assuming we talk for the equivalent of 3 hours per day and we speak at about 150 words per minute, or about 10 million words per year. I recall 100 billion as being a rough estimate of the number of modern humans who have ever lived. Many of those people died during or shortly after childbirth. Assuming an average life expectancy at birth of 25 years (generous), that means humans have spoken 2.5×1019 words since we first gained the gift of gab.

That might be off by a factor of ten, but it's not off by a factor of ten thousand. There are a lot more stars in the observable universe than the number of words ever spoken by humans.

10^19 words have been spoken in all of human history. This accounts for 109 billion people who have ever lived and each speaking 309 billion words in their life time. The amount of stars in the universe in a very rough estimate is somewhere around 10^24. For every word spoken in human existence there are over 100,000 stars in the universe. In conclusion, there are more stars in the universe than for every word ever spoken by humankind as well as every grain of sand on all the beaches on earth and many many more.

## Will humans ever learn to speak whale?

Sperm whales are among the loudest living animals on the planet, producing creaking, knocking and staccato clicking sounds to communicate with other whales that are a few feet to even a few hundred miles away.

This symphony of patterned clicks, known as codas, might be sophisticated enough to qualify as a full-fledged language. But will humans ever understand what these cetaceans are saying?

The answer is maybe, but first researchers have to collect and analyze an unprecedented number of sperm whale communications, researchers told Live Science.

With brains six times larger than ours, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) have intricate social structures and spend much of their time socializing and exchanging codas. These messages can be as brief as 10 seconds, or last over half an hour. In fact, "The complexity and duration of whale vocalizations suggest that they are at least in principle capable of exhibiting a more complex grammar" than other nonhuman animals, according to an April 2021 paper about sperm whales posted to the preprint server arXiv.org.

This paper, by a cross-disciplinary project known as CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative), outlines a plan to decode sperm whale vocalizations, first by collecting recordings of sperm whales, and then by using machine learning to try to decode the sequences of clicks these fellow mammals use to communicate. CETI chose to study sperm whales over other whales because their clicks have an almost Morse code-like structure, which artificial intelligence (AI) might have an easier time analyzing.

## Contents

As a rule, a universal translator is instantaneous, but if that language has never been recorded, there is sometimes a time delay until the translator can properly work out a translation, as is true of Star Trek. The operation of these translators is often explained as using some form of telepathy by reading the brain patterns of the speaker(s) to determine what they are saying some writers seek greater plausibility by instead having computer translation that requires collecting a database of the new language, often by listening to radio transmissions.

The existence of a universal translator tends to raise questions from a logical perspective, such as:

• The continued functioning of the translator even when no device is evident
• Multiple speakers hear speech in one and only one language (so for example, for a Spanish speaker and a German speaker listening to an Italian speaker the Spanish speaker would only hear Spanish and neither the original Italian nor the translated German, while the German speaker would not hear any Spanish nor Italian but only German)
• Characters' mouths move in sync with the translated words and not the original language
• The ability for the translator to function in real-time even for languages with different word order (such as a phrase the horse standing in front of the barn would end up in Japanese as 納屋の前に立っている馬, lit. barn-in-front-at-standing-horse, however there is no delay for the Japanese listener even when the English speaker has yet to mention the barn).

Nonetheless, it removes the need for cumbersome and potentially extensive subtitles, and it eliminates the rather unlikely supposition that every other race in the galaxy has gone to the trouble of learning English.

### Doctor Who Edit

Using a telepathic field, the TARDIS automatically translates most comprehensible languages (written and spoken) into a language understood by its pilot and each of the crew members. The field also translates what they say into a language appropriate for that time and location (e.g., speaking the appropriate dialect of Latin when in ancient Rome). This system has frequently been featured as a main part of the show. The TARDIS, and by extension a number of its major systems, including the translator, are telepathically linked to its pilot, the Doctor. None of these systems appear able to function reliably when the Doctor is incapacitated. In "The Fires of Pompeii", when companion Donna Noble attempts to speak the local language directly, her words are humorously rendered into what sounds to a local like Welsh. One flaw of this translation process is that if the language that a word is being translated into does not have a concept for it, e.g, the Romans don't have a word or a general understanding of "volcano" as Mt. Vesuvius has not erupted yet.

### Farscape Edit

On the TV show Farscape, John Crichton is injected with bacteria called translator microbes which function as a sort of universal translator. The microbes colonize the host's brainstem and translate anything spoken to the host, passing along the translated information to the host's brain. This does not enable the injected person to speak other languages they continue to speak their own language and are only understood by others as long as the listeners possess the microbes. The microbes sometimes fail to properly translate slang, translating it literally. Also, the translator microbes cannot translate the natural language of the alien Pilots or Diagnosans because every word in their language can contain thousands of meanings, far too many for the microbes to translate thus Pilots must learn to speak in "simple sentences", while Diagnosans require interpreters. The implanted can learn to speak new languages if they want or to make communicating with non-injected individuals possible. The crew of Moya learned English from Crichton, thereby being able to communicate with the non-implanted populace when the crew visited Earth. Some species, such as the Kalish, cannot use translator microbes because their body rejects them, so they must learn a new language through their own efforts.

### The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Edit

In the universe of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, universal translation is made possible by a small fish called a "babel fish". The fish is inserted into the auditory canal where it feeds off the mental frequencies of those speaking to its host. In turn it excretes a translation into the brain of its host.

The book remarks that, by allowing everyone to understand each other, the babel fish has caused more wars than anything else in the universe.

The book also explains that the babel fish could not possibly have developed naturally and therefore proves the existence of God as its creator, which in turn proves the non-existence of God. Since God needs faith to exist, and this proof dispels the need for faith, this therefore causes God to vanish "in a puff of logic".

### Men in Black Edit

The Men in Black franchise possess a universal translator, which, as Agent K explains in the first film, Men in Black, they are not allowed to have because "human thought is so primitive, it's looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies." remarking “That kinda makes you proud, doesn’t it?”

### Neuromancer Edit

In William Gibson's novel Neuromancer, along with the other novels in his Sprawl trilogy, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, devices known as "microsofts" are small chips plugged into "wetware" sockets installed behind the user's ear, giving them certain knowledge and/or skills as long as they are plugged in, such as the ability to speak another language. (The name is a combination of the words "micro" and "soft", and is not named after the software firm Microsoft.)

### Star Control Edit

In the Star Control computer game series, almost all races are implied to have universal translators however, discrepancies between the ways aliens choose to translate themselves sometimes crop up and complicate communications. The VUX, for instance, are cited as having uniquely advanced skills in linguistics and can translate human language long before humans are capable of doing the same to the VUX. This created a problem during the first contact between Vux and humans, in a starship commanded by Captain Rand. According to Star Control: Great Battles of the Ur-Quan Conflict, Captain Rand is referred to as saying "That is one ugly sucker" when the image of a VUX first came onto his viewscreen. However, in Star Control II, Captain Rand is referred to as saying "That is the ugliest freak-face I've ever seen" to his first officer, along with joking that the VUX name stands for Very Ugly Xenoform. It is debatable which source is canon. Whichever the remark, it is implied that the VUX's advanced Universal Translator technologies conveyed the exact meaning of Captain Rand's words. The effete VUX used the insult as an excuse for hostility toward humans.

Also, a new race called the Orz was introduced in Star Control II. They presumably come from another dimension, and at first contact, the ship's computer says that there are many vocal anomalies in their language resulting from their referring to concepts or phenomena for which there are no equivalents in human language. The result is dialogue that is a patchwork of ordinary words and phrases marked with *asterisk pairs* indicating that they are loose translations of unique Orz concepts into human language, a full translation of which would probably require paragraph-long definitions. (For instance, the Orz refer to the human dimension as *heavy space* and their own as *Pretty Space*, to various categories of races as *happy campers* or *silly cows*, and so on.)

In the other direction, the Supox are a race portrayed as attempting to mimic as many aspects of other races' language and culture as possible when speaking to them, to the point of referring to their own planet as “Earth,” also leading to confusion.

In Star Control III, the K’tang are portrayed as an intellectually inferior species using advanced technology they do not fully understand to intimidate people, perhaps explaining why their translators’ output is littered with misspellings and nonstandard usages of words, like threatening to “crushify” the player. Along the same lines, the Daktaklakpak dialogue is highly stilted and contains many numbers and mathematical expressions, implying that, as a mechanical race, their thought processes are inherently too different from humans’ to be directly translated into human language.

### Stargate Edit

In the television shows Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, there are no personal translation devices used, and most alien and Human cultures on other planets speak English. The makers of the show have themselves admitted this on the main SG-1 site, stating that this is to save spending ten minutes an episode on characters learning a new language (early episodes of SG-1 revealed the difficulties of attempting to write such processes into the plot). In the season 8 finale of SG-1, “Moebius (Part II),” the characters go back in time to 3000 B.C. and one of them teaches English to the people there.

A notable exception to this rule are the Goa’uld, who occasionally speak their own language amongst themselves or when giving orders to their Jaffa. This is never subtitled, but occasionally a translation is given by a third character (usually Teal’c or Daniel Jackson), ostensibly for the benefit of the human characters nearby who do not speak Goa’uld. The Asgard are also shown having their own language (apparently related to the Norse languages), although it is English played backwards. (See Hermiod).

In contrast a major plot element of the original Stargate film was that Daniel Jackson had to learn the language of the people of Abydos in the common way, which turned out to be derived from ancient Egyptian. The language had been extinct on Earth for many millennia, but Jackson eventually realized that it was merely errors in pronunciation that prevented effective communication.

### Star Trek Edit

In Star Trek, the universal translator was used by Ensign Hoshi Sato, the communications officer on the Enterprise in Star Trek: Enterprise, to invent the linguacode matrix. It was supposedly first used in the late 22nd century on Earth for the instant translation of well-known Earth languages. Gradually, with the removal of language barriers, Earth's disparate cultures came to terms of universal peace. Translations of previously unknown languages, such as those of aliens, required more difficulties to be overcome.

Like most other common forms of Star Trek technology (warp drive, transporters, etc.), the universal translator was probably developed independently on several worlds as an inevitable requirement of space travel certainly the Vulcans had no difficulty communicating with humans upon making "first contact" (although the Vulcans could have learned Standard English from monitoring Earth radio transmissions). The Vulcan ship that landed during First Contact was a survey vessel. The Vulcans had been surveying the humans for over a hundred years, when first contact actually occurred to T'Pol's great-grandmother, T'mir, in the episode "Carbon Creek" however, in Star Trek First Contact it is implied that they learned English by surveying the planets in the Solar System. Deanna Troi mentions the Vulcans have no interest in Earth as it is "too primitive", but the Prime Directive states not to interfere with pre-Warp species. The Vulcans only noticed the warp trail and came to investigate.

Improbably, the universal translator has been successfully used to interpret non-biological lifeform communication (in the Original Series episode "Metamorphosis"). In the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) episode "The Ensigns of Command", the translator proved ineffective with the language of the Sheliaks, so the Federation had to depend on the aliens' interpretation of Earth languages. It is speculated that the Sheliak communicate amongst themselves in extremely complex legalese. The TNG episode "Darmok" also illustrates another instance where the universal translator proves ineffective and unintelligible, because the Tamarian language is too deeply rooted in local metaphor.

Unlike virtually every other form of Federation technology, universal translators almost never break down. A notable exception is in the Star Trek: Discovery episode "An Obol for Charon", where alien interference causes the translator to malfunction and translate crew speech and computer text into multiple languages at random, requiring Commander Saru's fluency in nearly one hundred languages to repair the problem. Although universal translators were clearly in widespread use during this era and Captain Kirk's time (inasmuch as the crew regularly communicated with species who could not conceivably have knowledge of Standard English), it is unclear where they were carried on personnel of that era.

The episode "Metamorphosis" was the only time in which the device was actually seen. In the episode "Arena" the Metrons supply Captain Kirk and the Gorn commander with a Translator-Communicator, allowing conversation between them to be possible. During Kirk's era, they were also apparently less perfect in their translations into Klingon. In the sixth Star Trek film, the characters are seen relying on print books in order to communicate with a Klingon military ship, since Chekov said that the Klingons would recognize the use of a Translator. Actress Nichelle Nichols reportedly protested this scene, as she felt that Uhura, as communications officer during what was effectively a cold war, would be trained in fluent Klingon to aid in such situations. In that same movie during the trial scene of Kirk and McCoy before a Klingon judiciary, the Captain and the Doctor are holding communication devices while a Klingon (played by Todd Bryant) translates for them. The novelization of that movie provided a different reason for the use of books: sabotage by somebody working on the Starfleet side of the conspiracy uncovered by the crew in the story, but the novelization is not part of the Star Trek canon.

By the 24th century, universal translators are built into the communicator pins worn by Starfleet personnel, although there were instances when crew members (such as Riker in the Next Generation episode "First Contact") spoke to newly encountered aliens even when deprived of their communicators. In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The 37's" the device apparently works among intra-species languages as well after the Voyager crew discovers and revives eight humans abducted in 1937 (including Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan) and held in stasis since then, a Japanese Army officer expresses surprise that an Ohio farmer is apparently speaking Japanese, while the farmer is equally surprised to hear the soldier speaking English (the audience hears them all speaking English only, however). Certain Starfleet programs, such as the Emergency Medical Hologram, have universal translators encoded into the programming.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual says that the universal translator is an "extremely sophisticated computer program" which functions by "analyzing the patterns" of an unknown foreign language, starting from a speech sample of two or more speakers in conversation. The more extensive the conversational sample, the more accurate and reliable is the "translation matrix", enabling instantaneous conversion of verbal utterances or written text between the alien language and American English / Federation Standard. [3]

In some episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we see a Cardassian universal translator at work. It takes some time to process an alien language, whose speakers are initially not understandable but as they continue speaking, the computer gradually learns their language and renders it into Standard English (also known as Federation Standard).

Ferengi customarily wear their universal translators as an implant in their ears. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) episode "Little Green Men", in which the show's regular Ferengi accidentally become the three aliens in Roswell, the humans without translators are unable to understand the Ferengi (who likewise can not understand the English spoken by the human observers) until the Ferengi get their own translators working. Similarly, throughout all Trek series, a universal translator possessed by only one party can audibly broadcast the results within a limited range, enabling communication between two or more parties, all speaking different languages. The devices appear to be standard equipment on starships and space stations, where a communicator pin would therefore presumably not be strictly necessary.

Since the Universal Translator presumably does not physically affect the process by which the user's vocal cords (or alien equivalent) forms audible speech (i.e. the user is nonetheless speaking in his/her/its own language regardless of the listener's language), the listener apparently hears only the speaker's translated words and not the alien language that the speaker is actually, physically articulating the unfamiliar oratory is therefore not only translated but somehow replaced. The universal translator is often used in cases of contact with pre-warp societies such as in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches the Watchers", and its detection could conceivably lead to a violation of the Prime Directive. Therefore, logically there must be some mechanism by which the lips of the speaker are perceived to be in sync with the words spoken. No explanation of the mechanics of this function appears to have been provided the viewer is required to suspend disbelief enough to overcome the apparent limitation.

Microsoft is developing its own translation technology, for incorporation into many of their software products and services. Most notably this includes real-time translation of video calls with Skype Translator. As of July 2019, Microsoft Translator supports over 65 languages and can translate video calls between English, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, and Spanish.

In 2010, Google announced that it was developing a translator. Using a voice recognition system and a database, a robotic voice will recite the translation in the desired language. [4] Google's stated aim is to translate the entire world's information. Roya Soleimani, a spokesperson for Google, said during a 2013 interview demonstrating the translation app on a smartphone, "You can have access to the world's languages right in your pocket. The goal is to become that ultimate Star Trek computer." [5]

The United States Army has also developed a two-way translator for use in Iraq. TRANSTAC (Spoken Language Communication and Translation System for Tactical Use), though, only focuses on Arabic-English translation. [6] The United States Army has scrapped the TRANSTAC Program and is developing in conjunction with DARPA, the BOLT (Broad Operational Language Translation) in its place.

In February 2010, a communications software called VoxOx launched a two-way translator service for instant messaging, SMS, email and social media titled the VoxOx Universal Translator. [7] It enables two people to communicate instantly with each other while both typing in their native languages. [8]

## 150+ I Love You More Than Quotes and Sayings – Funny & Romantic

Love is a beautiful feeling. When someone falls in love, everything feels perfect for him. A relationship brings so much happiness to a person, he mostly spends time with the person he is in love with. But, is spending time with your partner the only way to express your love for him? Absolutely not. Love demands expressiveness. A girl or a boy loves when their partner confesses his love for him or her.

But wouldn’t it be boring to always say I love you or sending some flowers as usual or going out for a date or a candlelight dinner? Why not make it a little more interesting with I love you more than quotes and have some fun with your loved one? Here we have an exciting idea for you guys to express and confess your love for your partner in a funny way through I love you more than quotes. Being usual is too mainstream, let’s be a unique person to say I love you. Imagine, saying I love you more than quotes. Sounds cool, right? It would be super fun to say these quotes to your husband or someone you love. Don’t worry if you have no idea about what to say. We have got you covered. Check out these I love you more than quotes and have a fun time confessing your love to your partner:

### Romantic & Funny I Love You More Than Quotes

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I love you more than you say you love me times a million more, and just so you know I love you MORE square root that by infinity.

I love you more than an angel loves the heavens.

I love you more than all the rain drops that fall in a summer thunder storm.

I love you more than there are words in books.

I love you more than there are stars in the sky.

I love you more than I love food.

I love you more than French Fries.

I love you more than the sun loves the moon.

I love you more than anything.

I love you more than I love to tweet.

I love you more than women love diamonds.

I love you more than any word can say.

I love you more than the distance between us.

I love you more than the Lemon Meringue Pie which my mother bakes, that reminds me of the sweet memory of my childhood.

I love you more than every action I take.

I love you more than Romeo loves Juliet.

I love you more than Mickey loves Minnie.

I love you more than my iPhone, and I wish I can hold you in my hands, every minute of the day.

I love you more than that excellent cup of coffee from café on the 10th Street.

I love you more than iphone and ipad combined, which I cannot live without.

I love you more than the sun, the ocean and the mountains.

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I love you more than distance everybody loves raymond

I love you more than “Harry Potter,” and that should have been impossible.

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I love you more than the Godiva chocolate, my favourite.

I love you more than you’ll ever know.

I love you more than everything.

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I love you more today than I did yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow and many days to come.

I love you more than I love beer.

I love you more than I love penguins, my favourite animal since the third grade.

I love you more than my dog, and that should have said enough.

I love you more than guys love football.

I love you more than when I get a seat on the crowded train so that I can play game on my smartphone with both hands.

I love you more than Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Brad Pitt combined.

I love you more than you know.

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I love you more than my cat, and no one has replaced her so far.

I love you more than cheesecake, carrot cake and chocolate cake.

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I love you more than burritos, tacos, and nachos.

I love you more than fish need water!

I love you more than my next breath

I love you more than anything you could ever say or imagine and every breath I take is for you

I love you more than words can describe, numbers can count and the forever growing universe can discover.

I love you more than cookies, and believe me I love cookies!

I love you more than I did yesterday, but i not as much as tomorrow but always forever.

I love you more than a sea of flowers. than a garden of of smiles and a world of hugs.

I love you more than every i love you ever spoken wispered or thought

I love you more than a little girl dreams of love.

I love you more than a fat kid loves cake

I love you more then I love Netflix! And that’s a lot.

I love you more than my Xbox.

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I love you more than there are grans of sand in every beach, of every planet, of every galaxy in the universe.

I love you more then all the answers on the Internet!

I love you more than everythIng in this entire world. With every step and every breath I take, every rush of blood, every whisper of thought, and every beat of my heart, comes the reminder that I love you, and I live for you. Because you are my whole world, my everything, and my life.

I love you more than a fat kid loves cake.

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I love you more than Peter Pan loves Neverland.

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I love you more than Charlie loves Wonka bars.

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I love you more than the Raven loves the word nevermore.

I love you more than a redneck loves his truck.

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I love you more than Freud loves his mother.

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I love you more than Russel Crowe loves throwing phones at people.

I love you more than a child loves Christmas.

I love you more than a child loves candy.

Love isn’t something to be kept hidden, show your love and impress your loved one with new and innovative ideas, because life is too short to be boring!

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## The Original Human Language Like Yoda Sounded

Many linguists believe all human languages derived from a single tongue spoken in East Africa around 50,000 years ago. They've found clues scattered throughout the vocabularies and grammars of the world as to how that original "proto-human language" might have sounded. New research suggests that it sounded somewhat like the speech of Yoda, the tiny green Jedi from "Star Wars."

There are various word orders used in the languages of the world. Some, like English, use subject-verb-object (SVO) ordering, as in the sentence "I like you." Others, such as Latin, use subject-object-verb (SOV) ordering, as in "I you like." In rare cases, OSV, OVS, VOS and VSO are used. In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Merritt Ruhlen and Murray Gell-Mann, co-directors of the Santa Fe Institute Program on the Evolution of Human Languages, argue that the original language used SOV ordering ("I you like").

"This language would have been spoken by a small East African population who seemingly invented fully modern language and then spread around the world, replacing everyone else," Ruhlen told Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

The researchers came to their conclusion after creating a language family tree, which shows the historical relationships between all the languages of the world. For example, all the Romance languages (Italian, Rumanian, French, Spanish) derive from Latin, which was spoken in Rome 2,000 years ago that Latin family is itself a branch of an even larger tree, whose other branches include Germanic, Slavic, Greek, Indic and others. Together, all those languages make up the Indo-European language family, which fits like a puzzle piece with all the other language families in the world. [What's the Hardest Language to Learn?]

"These families &mdash all families &mdash are identified by finding words in a set of languages that are similar to each other but not found elsewhere," Ruhlen explained in an email.

In the language family tree, Ruhlen and Gell-Mann discovered a distinct pattern in how word orders change as languages branch off from their mother tongues. "What we found was that the distribution of the six possible word orders did not vary randomly. … Rather, the distribution of these six types was highly structured, and the paths of linguistic change in word order were clear," Ruhlen said.

Out of the 2,000 modern languages that fit in the family tree, the researchers found that more than half are SOV languages. The ones that are SVO, OVS and OSV all derive directly from SOV languages &mdash never the other way around. For example, French, which is SVO, derives from Latin, which is SOV.

Furthermore, languages that are VSO and VOS always derive from SVO languages. Thus, all languages descend from an original SOV word order &ndash "which leads to the conclusion that the word order in the language from which all modern languages derive must have been SOV," Ruhlen wrote.

Was it just an accident that the mother of all mother tongues was probably SOV, rather than one of the other five possibilities? The researchers think not. Predating Ruhlen's and Gell-Mann's work, Tom Givon, a linguist at the University of Oregon, argued that SOV had to have been the first word order, based on how children learn language. He found that the SOV word ordering seems to come most naturally to humans. [Why Are 'Mama' and 'Dada' a Baby's First Words?]

And if that's the case, it seems strange that languages switch word orders as they evolve. Indeed, no one really knows why word orders would switch. "We have found that word changes in very precise ways," Ruhlen said. "But the fact remains that half of the world's languages still have SOV word order because, in Murray's and my opinion, they have not changed word order at all. [Our data] shows how word order changes … but it is unpredictable if word order will change, and I really don't know why."

## Stephen Hawking: Intelligent Aliens Could Destroy Humanity, But Let's Search Anyway

This week, famed physicist Stephen Hawking helped launch a major new effort to search for signs of intelligent alien life in the cosmos, even though he thinks it's likely that such creatures would try to destroy humanity.

Since at least 2010, Hawking has spoken publicly about his fears that an advanced alien civilization would have no problem wiping out the human race the way a human might wipe out a colony of ants. At the media event announcing the new project, he noted that human beings have a terrible history of mistreating, and even massacring, other human cultures that are less technologically advanced &mdash why would an alien civilization be any different?

And yet, it seems Hawking's desire to know if there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe trumps his fears. Today (July 20), he was part of a public announcement for a new initiative called Breakthrough Listen, which organizers said will be the most powerful search ever initiated for signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Alien Life]

The new Breakthrough Listen initiative would only search for signs of intelligent life, not broadcast signals from Earth, and scientists other than Hawking have expressed concerns about hailing the attention of alien civilizations. However, a second initiative, Breakthrough Message, will host a competition open to anyone in the world, to make suggestions for the content of messages to be sent from humans to other intelligent beings.

Scientists currently have no idea what alien life-forms might look like, or how they might respond to contact from human civilization.

"Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach," Hawking said in 2010 on an episode of "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," a TV show that aired on the Discovery Channel. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"

Hawking voiced his fears at the Breakthrough event, saying, "We don't know much about aliens, but we know about humans. If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced. A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us. If so, they will be vastly more powerful, and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria."

Astrophysicist Martin Rees countered Hawking's fears, noting that an advanced civilization "may know we're here already."

Ann Druyan, co-founder and CEO of Cosmos Studios, who was part of the announcement panel and will work on the Breakthrough Message initiative, seemed much more hopeful about the nature of an advanced alien civilization and the future of humanity.

"We may get to a period in our future where we outgrow our evolutionary baggage and evolve to become less violent and shortsighted," Druyan said at the media event. "My hope is that extraterrestrial civilizations are not only more technologically proficient than we are but more aware of the rarity and preciousness of life in the cosmos."

Jill Tarter, former director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) also has expressed opinions about alien civilizations that are in stark contrast to Hawking's.

"While Sir Stephen Hawking warned that alien life might try to conquer or colonize Earth, I respectfully disagree," Tarter said in a statement in 2012. "If aliens were to come here, it would be simply to explore. Considering the age of the universe, we probably wouldn't be their first extraterrestrial encounter, either.

"If aliens were able to visit Earth, that would mean they would have technological capabilities sophisticated enough not to need slaves, food or other planets," she added.

The new Breakthrough Listen initiative is scheduled to operate for 10 years and will search for signs of non-naturally occurring communications in both radio frequencies and laser transmissions. The initiative will scan the 1 million stars closest to Earth in the Milky Way, as well as the 100 closest galaxies.

## Can any animals talk and use language like humans?

Animals as diverse as elephants and parrots can mimic the sounds of human speech. But can any of them understand what they are saying?

In April 2010, Adriano Lameira set up his video camera in front of an enclosure at Cologne Zoo in Germany. Inside was an orangutan called Tilda.

There was a rumour that Tilda could whistle like a human, and Lameira, of Amsterdam University in the Netherlands, was keen to capture it on camera. But as the camera kept rolling, Tilda did much more than just whistle. She clapped her hands, smacked her lips, and let out a series of deep-throated human-like garbled sounds: almost like someone who had inhaled sulphur hexafluoride, a gas that makes your voice deeper.

Lameira was baffled. "These were not only very different from whatever we have heard from wild orangutans so far, but we could also see some similarities with human speech," he says.

Tilda wasn't the first animal that seemed to be able to mimic human speech. A handful of other species also make noises that sound like talking, including elephants and beluga whales &ndash to say nothing of parrots.

These animals seem capable of bridging the language barrier that separates us. And their attempts at speaking like us make them quite irresistible. But can they really "talk" as we do? It's not just a matter of being able to make the sounds. To really count as talking, the animals would have to understand what they mean.

Tilda was born around 1965, captured from the island of Borneo and raised in captivity. She is among the first of our closest cousins known to have successfully imitated human-like sounds.

Lameira's team found that her calls were strikingly similar to human speech. Their rapid rhythm precisely matched that of humans speaking. Moreover, she seemed to be stringing together vowel and consonant-like sounds. That is a precursor to how we build syllables, words and sentences, Lameira says.

Nevertheless, her calls are far from being a perfect imitation of our speech. But she is not the only mimic out there. Famously, parrots are good at, well, parroting.

The undisputed champion of speech mimicry was an African grey parrot called Alex. He was trained by cognitive scientist Irene Pepperberg of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alex could quickly learn and imitate new English words. He could even say "I love you", and wished Pepperberg good night after a hard day's training. When Alex passed away in 2007 at the age of 31, fans from all over the world mourned.

Other mimics use completely different mechanisms

So what makes parrots like Alex such proficient impressionists?

Part of the answer lies in their vocal tract, says Pepperberg. "Their vocal tract's complex musculature, and their thick, yet flexible, tongue may help them produce human speech sounds more easily," she says.

However, other mimics use completely different mechanisms to make the sounds. Take Noc, a beluga whale at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, whose speaking abilities were described in 2012. Captured young by Inuit hunters and raised in captivity till his death in 1999, Noc would over-inflate his nasal cavities to produce human-like sounds.

One elephant can also mimic human speech, using yet another method. Described in 2012, Koshik produces several words of Korean by placing the tip of his trunk into his mouth to modulate his vocal tract.

By doing so, he accurately matches both the pitch and timbre patterns of his trainers' voices, says Angela Stöger-Horwath of the University of Vienna in Austria. This is remarkable, she says, considering that elephants' vocal tracts are anatomically different from ours: they are longer, and they have a trunk instead of lips.

Despite their different styles of imitations, these animals do have something in common. They are all "vocal learners". That is, they hear sounds, learn to imitate them, and then produce them.

Many animals only produce the calls that they are born with

Humans, the best vocal learners, can learn and produce countless different sounds. Beluga whales and dolphins also naturally learn hundreds of new vocalizations throughout their lives. Some parrots and songbirds are prolific learners as well, sometimes even picking up sounds from other species and objects around them. Famously, lyrebirds have learned to mimic the sounds of human machines like camera shutters and chainsaws.

Other vocal learners are much less skilled. While Grey parrots can learn and produce thousands of calls, zebra finches learn only a few songs as fledglings, which they stick to during their entire lifetime. What's more, many vocal learners can only imitate sounds from their own species.

Most animals are not vocal learners. They only produce the calls that they are born with: for example, cows moo, dogs bark, and pigeons coo. These animals are unable to imitate new sounds.

So what is it about some animals' brains that allows them to imitate speech?

The key region is in the forebrain, says Erich Jarvis of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. There are particular brain circuits that control the muscles for vocalizations, and only some animals have them.

In a 2004 paper, Jarvis described a region of the forebrain that makes direct connections with the voice muscles in both humans and parrots. These brain circuits help them learn new sounds, and then control their vocal tract muscles to produce the learned sounds. Animals that are not vocal learners lack these forebrain pathways. They only have circuits in the brainstem, the most primitive part of the brain, that may control their innate calls.

This is reflected in the animals' genes. In 2014, Jarvis and his colleagues studied how genes are turned on and off in the brains of different animals. A set of over 50 genes showed a similar pattern of activity in the speech-control centres of several vocal learners, including humans, parrots, songbirds and hummingbirds. This means humans use the same genes to speak as songbirds use to sing. Animals that can't learn new sounds, like chickens and macaques, don't activate these genes in the same way, Jarvis says.

Strangely, great apes are not great mimics, even though they are our closest relatives and their brains are similar to ours. Apart from Tilda, most non-human primates show no sign of the advanced mimicry that humans and parrots can do.

Their voice box can produce many of the different sounds that we can

For a long time, researchers believed that their vocal organs were the issue. Their vocal tract is similar to ours, but studies in the 20th century had suggested that their voice boxes do not descend as far as ours do.

But that's not true, says Jarvis. In 2003, researchers found that the voice boxes of baby chimpanzees descend soon after birth, just like those of humans.

"Theoretically their voice box can produce many of the different sounds that we can," says Jarvis. "But they just don't." Either apes don't have the forebrain pathways involved in vocal learning, he says, or the pathways are non-functional for some reason.

In fact, when we list the species that can learn to produce new sounds, they are quite far apart on the evolutionary tree. Five groups of mammals can do it: humans, bats, elephants and seals, plus cetaceans like dolphins and whales. There are also three groups of birds that can do vocal learning: parrots, songbirds, and hummingbirds.

So vocal learning looks like a case of convergent evolution: it probably evolved independently in the different groups of animals, rather than just once in their common ancestor. So why did they bother?

Most "talking" animals belong to highly social species, says Diana Reiss of Hunter College in New York. But in captivity, they are separated from their own kind with only humans to interact with.

So humans become their models for imitation, says Lameira. "Copying human sounds is like doing what your peers are doing."

Imitating human sounds may also be a way to bond with people, says Stöger-Horwath. She thinks that is why Koshik the elephant does it.

The same may be true of a beluga whale called Nack, according to his trainer Tsukasa Murayama of Tokai University in Kanagawa, Japan. Nack can imitate rudimentary Japanese words and sounds, including a weak rendition of "Tsukasa". Murayama thinks this is a way of playing with us, as Nack does not get any explicit rewards for doing it.

In the wild, too, vocal learners use their many calls to bond with other members of their species. The ability to learn new sounds also allows them to change their vocalizations, for instance if they need to join new flocks, says Pepperberg.

Their vocal skills could make them more attractive to the opposite sex, by demonstrating their intelligence, says Jarvis. "I think something like that exists in humans, where you have guys or girls who are trying to show off how smart and how intelligent they are with all the information they have. I think that's what mimicry is about."

Where all these animals fall down, it seems, is the way they use the words they have learned. They don't know what they mean, and are simply parroting them without understanding.

You can teach your dog to understand the words "sit" or "fetch the newspaper"

Koshik's behaviour illustrates this clearly. He has been trained by his carers to obey commands, so he has learned that when a carer says "nuo", the Korean word for "lie down", he should lie down. Koshik can also say the word "nuo", having learned to imitate it. But he cannot use the word meaningfully. "He does not expect the keepers to lie down when he produces the imitation 'nuo'," Stöger-Horwath says.

In this respect, Koshik is quite a normal animal. You can teach your dog to understand the words "sit" or "fetch the newspaper", says Jarvis. But the dog cannot imitate these words, let alone use them to tell you what to do.

There is one glaring exception to this rule: Alex the parrot. Not only could he say dozens of English words clearly, he used them to identify objects, colours, shapes, and numbers.

They learn words and then use them to ask for toys or treats they want

Following Alex's death, his trainer Pepperberg has begun working with two new African grey parrots: 20-year-old Griffin and 2-year-old Athena. The idea, Pepperberg says, is to ask questions of the birds, just as we can ask questions of small children. She hopes to find out "the extent to which they understand concepts such as 'bigger or smaller', and 'same or different', how much they understand about numbers, optical illusions, probability."

Mimicking human sounds may have an extra benefit for these parrots, above and beyond simple bonding, says Pepperberg. It gives them control over their lives. They learn words and then use them to ask for toys or treats they want, or to go to specific places.

Clearly, African grey parrots operate on a far high level than any other animal mimic. Nobody yet knows how or why this one species of parrot can do what other animals cannot.

What is clear, however, is that vocal mimicry is the basis of human language. Our imitative skills allow us to learn and reproduce a huge range of sounds. It is this vast repertoire that allows human languages to have such immense vocabularies, all the way from "at" to "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis".

We don't yet know when our speech and language evolved. Could our ape-like ancestors, such as Australopithecus, talk? What about more recent species like the Neanderthals?

Some animals can mimic the sounds of human speech

Tilda could help resolve this question. Clearly, the sounds she imitated are not massively difficult for orangutans, says Lameira. That suggests that the ability to produce them evolved before the orangutan lineage split from the lineage that gave rise to humans. "This can give us a sort of timeline of speech evolution," says Lameira.

Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised that the ability to mimic sounds is ancient. Many of the mechanisms involved, such as the ability to control the noises you make, are basic and many animals have them.

The truth seems to be that some animals can mimic the sounds of human speech, but only a tiny minority can talk meaningfully as humans do. These less capable animals are just as fascinating as the truly skilled, because they could reveal how our own language skills evolved.

## To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

Now let’s get back to the main question of this message. Why did God created this particular work with its sin and its great history of redemption? I am suggesting that the answer is: this world exists for the glory of God’s grace revealed in the saving work of Jesus. This means that Christians are not only to be a God-centered people, but a Christ-exalting, gospel-driven, grace-sustained people.

For us there is an unbreakable connection between the glory of God, the glory of grace, the glory of Christ, the glory of the cross.

Now let me show you this from God’s word. We can do it in five steps.

##### 1. The apex of God’s display of his own glory is the display of his grace.

God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace. (Ephesians 1:5–6)

In other words, the praise of God’s grace is the final goal in the revelation of God’s glory. The aim of predestination is that we live to the praise of the glory of this grace forever.

Everything else, even God’s wrath, serves the glory of God’s grace. So Paul says in Romans 9:22–23,

Desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, God has endured with much patience vessels of wrath . . . in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.”

Wrath is not ultimate. The glory of grace on the vessels of mercy is ultimate. So that is step 1: The ultimate goal of the revelation of God’s glory is the praise of the glory of God’s grace.

##### 2. God planned this — the praise of the glory of his grace — before creation.

God chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace. (Ephesians 1:4, 6)

Grace was not an afterthought in response to the fall of man. It was the plan because grace is the summit of the mountain of his glory. And he created the world for his glory.

##### 3. God’s plan was that the praise of the glory of his grace would come about through the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace (Ephesians 1:5–6).

In the eternal fellowship of the Trinity, the Father and the Son planned that God’s grace would be supremely revealed through the saving work of the Son. Again, Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:9,

God called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

So, before the ages of time began, the plan was for the revelation of the glory of the grace of God specifically through Christ Jesus.

##### 4. From eternity, God’s plan was that the glory of God’s grace would reach its high point in the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

We see this in the name that was already on the book of the redeemed before the creation of the world. Before there was any human sin to die for, God planned that his Son be slain for sinners. We know this because of the name given to the book of life before creation.

Everyone [will worship the beast] whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 13:8)

The name of the book before creation was “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” The plan was glory. The plan was grace. The plan was Christ. And the plan was death. And that death for sinners like us is the heart of the gospel.

##### 5. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of creating and guiding and sustaining this world is the praise of the glory of the grace of God in the crucifixion of his Son for sinners.

This is why Revelation 5:9 shows that for all eternity we will sing “the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3). We will say with white hot admiration and praise,

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

We will praise ten thousand things about our Savior. But we will not say anything more glorious than: You were slain — and ransomed millions.

## Earth Quotes

&ldquoLook again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.&rdquo
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

## The sacred in Harry Potter

Divinity School alumni and student develop popular podcast that interprets the books through a spiritual lens

So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working at the African research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to speak against their governments. Visitors to our offices included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had left behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.
Thank-you very much.