The list is a day late this week, but better late than never. An eclectic collection of news and views from the past week on faith, language, and literature, as well as other topics of interest.

There’s some new language revitalization work going on in Canada. Thanks to a new program by the Office of Gaelic Affairs (Government of Nova Scotia), Nova Scotians are being offered the opportunity to take part in Gaelic Immersion activities. The program, entitled Bun is Bàrr (tr. Root and Branch), matches Gaelic elders with interested students for 360 hours of immersion over a twelve month period.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article on the value of writing groups. The focus is primarily on academic writing, but the ideas are no doubt applicable to other styles of writing as well.

Mollie Ziegler Hemmingway has an interesting reflection “In Praise of Confidence” over at Christianity Today. She suggests that doubt is part of the cross we bear as Christians – something to be endured, not celebrated, as some have taken to advocating.

Bryan Christian recounts his experiences at the 2009 Loebner Prize competition, an annual event where judges try to determine which of their chat correspondents are human and which are computer programs. For Christian, one of the human correspondents, the event raised a curious question: how do you prove that you are human? The article appears in The Atlantic and is entitled “Mind vs. Machine.”

Episcopalian priest Rev. Steve Lawler caused quite a stir this week as news circulated that he was taking up Muslim religious practices for Lent. Reading the Qu’ran, praying to Allah while facing Mecca, and observing Islamic dietary restrictions were all part of Rev. Lawler’s plans – until, that is, his bishop threatened to defrock him. Read about it at Christianity Today.

And finally this week, The Daily Mail features the story of Jacob Barnett, a twelve-year old set to begin PhD research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He had already left highschool for the university at the age of eight. Now, just a few years later, Barnett is working on his own expanded theory of relativity. And the work’s credible. Speaking on Barnett’s ideas so far, renowned astrophysics professor Scott Tremaine noted that “The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics. Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize.” By contrast, the fictional Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory fame only began doctoral studies at the age of fourteen. Fact beats fiction yet again.