progression of knowledge is the removal of explanations based on essences
As a species, we have an arrogance that makes us believe our intuitive, everyday conceptions of things must be right, that they are not to be questioned, and that they are only to be reliquished when we are forced to do so*.
The Scotsman reports:
Monster waves that can sink a supertanker and were once dismissed as a myth abound in the Earth’s oceans, scientists have learned.
Satellite images identified more than 10 individual freak waves more than 82 feet high in just three weeks.
Until such evidence became available, most scientists were sceptical about freak waves. Statistics showed that such extraordinary sea conditions should only occur once every 10,000 years.
I'm sitting there eating this piece of meat, doing what we all do at this time, and wondering exactly what cow (or pig, or chicken, etc) did this come from? What did it look like, where did it live, and what did it think about George W Bush? I know that this piece of meat once came from a living animal, but somehow my brain just can't concretely grasp that. That brown shape there is just too abstracted from the notion of a particular living creature. If it'd been the olden days and I'd killed the animal and chopped it up myself, or seen this done, it might be more real. But by and large, pieces of meat are, to my brain, reddy or pinky coloured blobs that come in little styrofoam trays from the supermarket.
Not just what animal did it come from, but exactly where in said animal was this piece of meat located? I mean, I know that rump steak, for example, means meat from cows arse (and I'd like to see more people facing this reality when ordering meals and telling the waiter they'd like "the cows bottom in a delicate wine sauce infused with aromatic herbs"), but where exactly in the 3D object that was cow was this piece of meat located, and relative to the rest of the cow, which way was it oriented? I can imagine this cow grazing around in a paddock, going about its business, and the image is normal except that the cow is slightly translucent and I can see this red blob there inside it, that blob being the thing which in the cow's future is destined for my stomach.
Actually, I can't imagine that. I can imagine being able to imagine it, but I can't actually bring such a picture into my mind. So, I'm thinking, what if we could? It strikes me that you could use this idea as the basis for some simple little pictures or animations. Like a cartoony picture that juxtaposes a scene of a family at home eating their steaks, next to a scene of cows in a paddock, where you can see positions of all those steaks within each of their owner-cows. Oh -- and here's a real visual possibility -- you know what they say about meat pies? Oh, it's crude, but they say it's true: all lips and assholes. What about a picture of a meat pie next to pictures of the 30 or so (just how many cows is the average meat pie sourced from? I'd like to know) cows that contributed to it, highighting those parts doing the contributing?
Intimacies is, in the words of its developers, a -- for a good mouthy workout -- digital epistolary novel, or DEN, for an equally ugly but briefer name. Though you might not be familiar with the term, you're probably aware of the epistolary novel form: they're novels consisting of, most commonly, a correspondence of letters between characters, though which we see the story's narrative unfold. They can also consist of such things as diary entries and newpaper clippings -- see Wikipedia if you want more details.
Intimacies presents a story though a series of e-mails, web pages, and instant messages that the reader can view though a program that is meant to simulate the interfaces of our e-mail, web and instant messaging clients.
The Brights are looking for an icon, and here's my suggestion. Unfortunately I didn't find out about the call for submissions until recently, and they've already shortlisted six candidate designs. I know a lot of effort must have gone into those candidates, but I'm afraid that to me they all feel very unsatisfactory, which is why I had a go at one of my own. The following is the rationale behind the icon:
To me, bright means freedom. It means existence and thought unrestricted and unconstrained by conformance to the supernatural, existence and thought free to develop and grow. Thus, the arrows represent freedom to grow in all directions. The arrows also represent the three spatial dimensions of the universe we live in, conveying a sense of the naturalistic nature of our reality.
Some notes on the graphic design. That image is just meant to convey the basic idea of the design. Here are some ideas for variations. The common line thicknesses and lengths could be varied. Perhaps shading could be used to made to look more three-dimensional, though perhaps that would ruin the simplicity. While the design essentially reflects a three-dimensional coordinate system, I wanted to make it somehow unique and recognisable as a symbol in its own right, and that was the reason why I angled the lines as they are. Perhaps there are other more effective ways of achieving this end.
I actually don't want to give it a name, but it looks like all the submissions have names, so if I must, perhaps "All Directions" might be suitable. (and I just hope this design isn't already used for a company logo or some such)
Posted by James at 9:38 pm
Posted by James at 1:42 pm
Learning a language is, at least for an adult, hard. The best thing, they say, is to immerse yourself in the langauge, ideally by hearing it and speaking it everyday amongst native speakers. But if this option isn't available, the closer you can get to it, the better. The New York Times reports (reg req'd) that the University of Southern California is developing a virtual approximation of such immersive environments.
The software has been designed to teach arabic to soldiers, and its basic details are as follows. The game takes place in a realistic environment, modeled on an actual Lebanese village. The player can move their character around the village, and interact with computer controlled villagers by speaking through a microphone. The computing system uses AI to interpret the player's vocal input and determine the villager's reaction. The player also has to control their character's body langauge, such as using an appropriate gesture when ending a conversation. The player is put in situations such as "establishing a rapport with the people you meet and finding out where the headman lives".
The article doesn't go into exactly how these details are executed, nor does it give any clear screenshots, but the concept is promising. Apparently versions of the system for other languages are planned (the next likely candidates are Dari, a major language in Afghanistan, and some Indonesian language), and the researchers behind it also see the potential for using similar immersive environments to teach other types of tasks - it should be interesting to see what comes from this.
I unfortunately don't have time to write this up more than briefly, so I'll get straight to the point: when we call some property, such as the level of mercury on a thermometer, analog, what we are really expressing is that it's level can change in increments smaller than we can perceive. As far as I know, the level of mercury in a thermometer must ultimately only be able to express the current temperature descretely, since below a certain gradation-size accuracy would be lost out to the random nature of the jostling which is causing the mercury to rise in the first place. That is, below a certain gradiation-size the fluctuations in the level of the mercury would be due to the random directions of the movements in the jostling of the atoms rather than changes in the degree of excitement in the jostling. The thermometer seems to be analog because it seems to change in a smooth fashion, with no visible gradiation. Similarly, many things that seem analog are in fact fundamentally descrete -- record groves, film etc.