Palabras que no se pueden traducir

This post originally appeared over on the Maptia Blog. The team at Maptia are creating a beautiful platform for telling stories about places (launching soon!) and you can check out their ‘See The World’ manifesto here.

The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it, taking it apart letter by letter, and trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify.

The idea that words cannot always say everything has been written about extensively — as Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.”

No doubt the best book we’ve read that covers the subject is Through The Language Glassby Guy Deutscher, which goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes — the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures.

Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated 11 of these wonderful, untranslatable, if slightly elusive, words. We will definitely be trying to incorporate a few of them into our everyday conversations, and hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.

1 | German: Waldeinsamkeit

A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connectedness to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.




2 | Italian: Culaccino

The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic?




3 | Inuit: Iktsuarpok

The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.





4 | Japanese: Komorebi

This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees — the interplay between the light and the leaves.




5 | Russian: Pochemuchka

Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.




6 | Spanish: Sobremesa

Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.




7 | Indonesian: Jayus

Their slang for someone who tells a joke so badly, that is so unfunny you cannot help but laugh out loud.




8 | Hawaiian: Pana Poʻo

You know when you forget where you’ve put the keys, and you scratch your head because it somehow seems to help your remember? This is the word for it.




9 | French: Dépaysement

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country — of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.




10 | Urdu: Goya

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, but is also an official language in 5 of the Indian states. This particular Urdu word conveys a contemplative ‘as-if’ that nonetheless feels like reality, and describes the suspension of disbelief that can occur, often through good storytelling.




11 | Swedish: Mångata

The word for the glimmering, roadlike reflection that the moon creates on water.
untranslatable words mångata.






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Los “Gamers” resuelven décadas de investigación en HIV

Gamers solve decade old HIV puzzle in ten days

Published on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 by 

Post filled in: AnatomyBiologyHealth & MedicineStudies

Scientists from University of Washington have been struggling for the past decade to decipher the complex structure of an enzyme that exhibits  behavior similar to that of an enzyme key in the development of AIDS from an HIV infection, and which might hold a critical role in building a cure for the disease. Gamers playing spatial game Foldit have managed to collectively determine the enzyme’s structure in ten days.

Puzzled by the intricate structure of the M-PMV retroviral protein, an enzyme that plays a key role in the development of a virus similar to HIV, scientists have striven to find its chemical key for ten years now. Each enzyme has millions of possible combination in which it can fold its atom bonds, and determining its precise structure is a very laborious enterprise even for high-end computers with large processing power.

Ingame screenshot of the Foldit interface.

Ingame screenshot of the Foldit interface.

As a long-shot University of Washington biologists sent the virtual 3D model of the M-PMV to the online game Foldit, where gamers folded and turned it into a myriad of combinations. Eventually, and remarkably enough, the gamers obtained the optimum one – the state that needed the lowest energy to maintain.  Now unlocked, scientists have a concrete means of understanding how the enzyme works, and consequently how to attack it.

“This was really kind of a last-ditch effort. Can the Foldit players really solve it?” Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington and the lead author on the recently published research paper told MSNBC. “They actually did it in less than 10 days.”

Foldit is a very simple game, which tackles biology’s biggest issue – folding proteins. To play the game you don’t need any biology background, just your native spatial reasoning skills. Motivation comes in the form of competition, and from this stand point, the game has been more than suitably designed. Basically you get scored for three factors: how well you pack the protein, how efficiently you hide the hydrophobics and how you clear the clashes.  Trust me, it’s a lot simpler than it sounds.

“Foldit attempts to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of humans’ puzzle-solving intuitions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins,” states the game’s website.

“Since proteins are part of so many diseases, they can also be part of the cure.

Protein folding had proved to be one of the more popular uses for distributed computing
“Players can design brand new proteins that could help prevent or treat important diseases.”

The game allows players to chat with each other and collaborate, thus various gamers built up each others work and  collectively managed to crack the code for the most energy efficient enzyme structure – the most important structure to study.

The reason why computers haven’t been able to do this, despite their evidently superior processing capabilities, is that they’re still far from being capable of having human-like spatial reasoning. Interestingly enough, Foldit records the players’ actions and processes them in an algorithm which will eventually help the AI behind the game to someday be able to compile successful structures on its own.

Seth Cooper, a University of Washington computer scientist and lead designer and developer of Foldit, is hoping that more scientists send them problems that fit within the Foldit format.

“The critical role of Foldit players in the solution of the M-PMV [retroviral protease] structure shows the power of online games to channel human intuition and three-dimensional pattern-matching skills to solve challenging scientific problems,” said the study, which was published by Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. “Although much attention has recently been given to the potential of crowdsourcing and game playing, this is the first instance that we are aware of in which online gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem.”

Still, the breakthrough is amazing by all means. Next time somebody tells you you’re wasting time playing a video game, you can always show them this article and tell them you’re helping save the world.

Article revised 10/16/2013: 1. In the original draft, “Washington University” was mistakenly written instead of “University of Washington”

 2. Grammar fix

3. Initial paragraph was modified, better reflecting reality. 



Visualizando estereotipos de genero.

A personal research of Valentina D’Efilippo, into gender stereotypes focusing on how children become aware of these and how they receive stereotyped messages through visual communication.

The first outcome is an infographic book which explores male and female identity as seen through the eyes of children, while the second outcome is an illustrated book for young kids that strives to communicate genders equality.

The experimental format of SAM breaks the two separate worlds: male and female. The two characters, Samuel and Samantha communicate a positive message on gender equality through diversity. As a result of the infographic research, this illustrated book provides a response to children’s ideas of gender and offers them an image of genders without stereotypes.

Un fotógrafo encuentra orden en el Caos de los objetos olvidados

A Photographer Finds Order And Chaos In Disassembled Gadgets


It’s kind of insane, when you stop and think, that it’s now completely commonplace for many of us to replace our cellphones every year. Whether you’re a serious early adopter, or you fall prey to a drop and a shattered screen, it’s not at all strange to put down $200 (at least) on a new phone almost before you’ve gotten used to the old one. We don’t repair our phones when they’re broken; we immediately replace them.

Todd McLellan questions that practive, training his camera on our disposable tech culture through his photographs of torn-apart design classics. He’s especially drawn to older pieces of technology, whose simple constructions makes them easier to fix when broken. “It fascinates me that older objects were so well-built, and were most likely put together by hand,” he writes in the introduction to his new book, Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living. “These items were repaired when broken, not discarded like our devices of today.”

The contrast is especially stark when comparing, say, a deconstructed rotary phone from the 1980s (an orderly array of familiar parts) with a disassembled digital video camera circa 2005 (a dizzying collection of hardware and circuit boards). Rather than ending up at the bottom of a landfill or the back of a closet, those objects have been methodically taken apart by McLellan, who then artfully arranges the pieces in the order in which they were revealed in the process. “The thrilling part about disassembling an object myself, even before the photography, is the opportunity to understand the manufacturer’s challenge,” he writes. “I gain a basic understanding of how the item works and, in turn, a greater respect for it.” The smallest objects, he says, can require a space of three square meters for all their parts, which are then photographed on a neutral background “almost like a family portrait.”

That’s one of McLellan’s two preferred methods. The other involves letting the pieces fall from an elevated platform and freezing them mid-frame. The end result is rarely captured in a single shot; instead, McLellan drops the parts in batches and then layers the images in post-production. (Examples of both styles are included in the slideshow above.)

So the next time you’re faced with recycling an outmoded gadget, perhaps you’ll be tempted to take it apart yourself first. You may even discover what’s wrong with the thing.

The book isn’t available until the end of the month, but can be pre-ordered here for $19.

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