Tag Archives: geek-out

Applying the Logogen Model to the West-Gate of Moria

Let’s talk about The Lord of the Rings. Specifically, let’s talk about the scene in front of the West-Gate of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Maybe you’ve read the book, maybe you’ve seen the movie. Maybe you’ve done both. Either way, you may recall that Gandalf has to rack his brains a bit before figuring out what the West-Gate’s “open sesame” is. His only clue is the Fëanorian inscription at the top of the door, which reads:

“Ennyn Durin Anan Moria: pedo mellon a minno.”

which, in the mode of Beleriand, translates to:

“The Doors of Durin Lord of Moria: [speak/say] friend and enter.”

Note the hinge of the Gandalf’s problem: he interprets the script as saying “Speak friend and enter” (which, in English and Tolkien’s Common Tongue vernacular, should take two commas around “friend”). Since “speak” is a traditionally intransitive verb, it makes little sense for it to take the object “friend”, and so the word “friend” appears to be a direct address. Eventually, one of the hobbits (Merry in the book, Frodo in the movie) figures out that the Quenyan or Telerin word Gandalf interprets as “speak” may actually be a more general term for “speak/talk/say/utter/etc.”, and have both transitive and intransitive forms. Thus, the meaning of the “pedo mellon a minno” can be interpreted as “say ‘friend’ and enter”.

Let’s shift gears now to logogens. John Morton developed the logogen model of word recognition in 1969 to try and explain how human beings recognize words. Notably, his ideas are applied with regards to wordstringslikethisone, from which readers can extract words despite their truncation. For example, how do our networks of activation respond to thiswordstringhere as compared with djdjdthisonejdjdj or this: oikansjdwealk? The logogen model essentially proposes that words are tagged with various elements: their sound, orthographic appearance, constituent phonemes, etc. When these elements enter a neural network via the senses, they can produce activational effects that eventually allow a word to reach threshold and get recalled. Think of it as a game of charades; in order to get players to guess a particular word, you have to provide enough “tags” to narrow their search space until they figure the word out.

Going back to the West-Gate of Moria, we can see that contextual effects, such the lack of punctuation after pedo (“speak/say”), can serve as logogens to cue activation of a transitive form of speaking (“saying”) that would take mellon, or friend, as an object. Well reasoned, wee little hobbit folk! Of course, it may be a convention of Elvish languages not to use the same punctuation as the Common Tongue, but as Tolkien uses Elvish (anywhere I’ve seen it, anyways), his word order and punctuation are the same as in English. So the hobbits may have assumed correctly by luck or by intuition.

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Skynet: An Artificially Unintelligent System

When it comes to evil, self-aware robots in fiction, a Skynet reference is obvious (if not flatly overplayed). Let us not mistake self-awareness for cleverness, however; Skynet may have recognized humans as threats to its existence, but it fails to effectively terminate them. Therefore, it seems inappropriate to dub Skynet an artificially intelligent system; rather, it exemplifies AU–artificial unintelligence.

Skynet's true face

Another example of AU.

To elaborate, let’s start with the very basics of Skynet’s failures in the Terminator universe. After gaining self-awareness in 1997, the system fired missiles at Russia, resulting in the death of over 3 billion humans by virtue of MAD. In 1997, there were just under 6 billion people on Earth, meaning Skynet’s play had over a 50% success rate. That’s excellent! Now all Skynet needs to do is continue firing missiles at remaining human civilizations, and use bio-warfare tactics to finish off whatever the missiles miss.

But no. Clearly the way to finish of the rest of humanity is to make robotic human doppelgangers. This means scraping together the resources needed to clone or synthesize organic materials for some skin, blood, sweat glands, and other human traits in addition to all the of metal and research needed to produce a functional robot. Somehow, this exhaustive feat of engineering is the optimal strategy–not just synthesizing some virus or selecting for a particularly virulent, highly antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria and releasing it upon the world.

Virulent strain of influenza? $200. Cyborg hunter? $2,00,000. Artificial systems caring about making something flashy for the sake of a story's aesthetics? Priceless.

But of course, we know Skynet didn’t stop with the T-600 though T-800 series of Terminators. They came up with pure super-science; the “poly-alloy liquid metal” that basically turns any Terminator into Majin Buu.

Too bad the T-1000 wasn't designed to absorb people, then it could gain all of John Connor's abilities in addition to removing a critical threat.

It’s impossible to say how much outlandish R&D went into developing the T-1000, but it’s a good wager to say designing a bio-weapon would be far easier. This scenario is a bit like designing an atomic bomb to kill a fly when you could just make a fly swatter (or better yet, just use your hand). It’s also redolent of that story about the Russians using a pencil in space when Americans put millions of dollars into designing a zero-gravity space pen, (which turned out to be a myth).

“Unintelligence” of this sort, of course, is perfectly natural. Humans beings, too, find scads of overly complex, costly solutions to simple problems all the time. We like to call this overthinking matters, and can be characterized as the sort of poor reasoning that results from abounding intelligence, ironically. As any gamer knows (especially when it comes to puzzle games), functional fixedness (not to be confused with analysis paralysis) can become a serious obstacle to progress, or a misguided, impractical approach to a simple puzzle. In the case of Skynet, the computer system may have become fixated on making Terminators early on as a result of bounded rationality or some other source of fallacious reasoning (maybe Skynet’s designers failed to prime its warfare instincts with examples of biowarfare throughout history). Rather than indulging new, simpler solutions to the problem of surviving humans, Skynet opted for a doppelganger solution, perhaps drawing from military strategies from WWII (consider the impersonation of Polish civilians by German Brandenburgers).

In any case, the Terminator approach was kind of a dumb idea, but by golly does it make for some good visuals. Contagion certainly can’t compete, what with its R0 values and diagrams of proteins. Audiences are just picky like that.


33 Signs You Might be an Anime Character

Ouran Host Club

1. When you become vindictive or angry, your teeth spontaneously become sharp.

2. During periods of overwhelming emotional arousal, your pupils and irises are overtaken by raging sclera.

3. You have projectile tears.

4. When you sleep, a giant booger bubble emerges from one nostril, serving as a visual indicator of your breathing patterns.

Elfen Lied

5. When stressed, nervous, or humiliated, you clench your fists about your skirt. If a skirt is unavailable, you ball up your fists regardless. A skirt helps though.

6. From a frontal view, your eyes appear to comprise approximately 50% of your facial area.

7. Your hair is incorrigibly sharp, possibly even useful for making shish kebabs.

8. You have a highly diminished or nonexistent nose.

FLCL

9. Substantial emotional arousal produces unusual facial discoloration. Sometimes, the color may appear to “fill your face up”, as if filling a teacup.

10. Your mouth is capable of exceeding the bounds of your face.

11. Your hair is naturally an absurd color. Simply absurd. Like lavender.

12. Your life has no meaning unless you are between the ages of 10 and 17.

found on: https://i1.wp.com/i21.photobucket.com/albums/b295/ryushe/hidekiispointing.jpg

13. Your reactions to mundane situations are pronouncedly extreme. Untied shoelace? RIP OFF YOUR EYEBROWS AND CALL THE POLICE.

14. Your palm pilot enables you to transform into a superpowered alter ego with a themed outfit.

15. Your legs are about twice as long as the rest of your body.

16. Your legs are about half as long as the rest of your body.

17. You can eat volumes of food exceeding the volume of your body. Obviously your digestive system makes use of Link’s item bag or some such.

18. You are persistently cross-eyed.

19. You wear innumerable bells and whistles. Literally.

20. On the whole, your American voice actor is terrible.

21. When embarrassed or in a tense situation, you can conjure a large tear about your head.

22. Your high school drama causes stars, hearts, or other clichéd images to pop into existence.

23. All of your friends have some martial arts specialty.

24. Upon having an epiphany, you strike a pose.

DBZ & FLCL

25. Your cat is a tiny little black fellow who spends his time perched on your shoulder, eyes constantly wide. If he meows, it is a ridiculous sound that no one would ever impute to a cat. It sounds more like a tea kettle wheezing.

26. You constantly verbalize your inconsequential and obvious thoughts.

27. You talk to yourself in front of EVERYONE. Doesn’t matter who it is. You’re going to talk to yourself in front of them. And you’re going to say something stupid.

28. You are furry, striped, have cat ears, and/or a tail. Possibly even paws.

Golden Boy

29. You will go to ludicrous lengths to have sex, including riding a bicycle on a telephone wire.

30. Your hair covers your eyes, and yet, you see.

31. There are demons at your school. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Sometimes you fight them. You know, if you can flip your hair out of your eyes. It’s pretty cool. You’re such a cool guy. But whatever.

32. Your sword is nonsensically large.

Escaflowne

33. There are things like ^^this^^ where you come from.

In conclusion, the world of anime is a thermodynamically preposterous place, and it would be most frightening to ever visit it. Thankfully, we can just watch it instead. And, naturally, consider this a cordial invitation to post more signs you may be an anime character in the comments section. O.O


Mating Habits of Gerudos

by GoKammy on DeviantArt

The reliance of magical universes on… well, magical explanations for incredible phenomena can be dissatisfying. But moreover, it can hinder fun conversational avenues.

Captious and Inquisitive Eccentric: How does that guy turn into a giant pig monster?

Obligatory Correspondent for Illustrative Purposes: Magic.

Eccentric: Oh. So, does he possess genetically-determined traits that enable him to relegate and channel so-called “magical” energies otherwise unavailable to the average person in order to capacitate the metamorphosis, which would be otherwise energetically unfeasible?

Obligatory Correspondent: No, he has the Triforce of Power, which is magical.

Eccentric: Oh. Well, couldn’t we interpret the label “Triforce of Power” as a genetic marker which gave rise to the abilities mentioned before? We can still stipulate that magic exists, but modify its implementation in the universe. Now, instead of being an excuse not to think of an interesting explanation for things, it can be a critical thinking exercise!

Obligatory Correspondent with Waning Patience: No. The Triforce is a magical object. Originally, its Wisdom, Power, and Courage subunits separate when someone with unequal distribution of those characteristics touches it. That person is endowed with the Triforce unit he or she embodies best, and the other two thirds endow their respective paragons elsewhere in the universe.

found on: https://i2.wp.com/inintendo.net/images/Articles/STWishes/Ganondorf.png

Eccentric: Ah, so the Triforce is an analytical haptic device that excludes gaseous molecules from evaluations of intent. Presumably it needs to come in contact with a solid system capable of sustaining emergent intentionality and temperament if we are to indulge the inexact “Wisdom, Power, and Courage” paradigm. It must either identify such systems in its vicinity using scanning technology or by taking tissues samples for DNA analysis of genetic disposition for wisdom, power, and courage. However, given that the Triforce exists in a society in which the cannon represents advanced technology, the question arises as to the Triforce’s origins. Who made it?

Increasingly Agitated Obligatory Correspondent: It wasn’t made. After the goddesses Nayru, Din, and Farore made the universe, they merged into the Triforce. It contains their essences.

Eccentric: Hold on a second, we just did a little semantic dimensional leap here. Without going off on a tangent about how vague the word “essence” is, consider the following. In order for the goddesses to exist prior to the universe they created, there has to be an overarching plane of existence that abides their presence, even conceptually. Doesn’t this just all seem like a metaphor for the design team behind The Legend of Zelda? They are creators existing outside of the universe that they create, after all. They even fuse their minds in a manner analogous to the goddesses’ merging. By extension, this makes the Triforce a symbol of the game itself existing inside the game’s universe. It turns out that this is an exercise in conceptual self-reference!

Obligatory Correspondent: NO METAGAMING. IT’S MAGIC.

See? Dissatisfying. Obviously, The Legend of Zelda series takes place in a magical universe. It has magical answers to pertinent questions. But wouldn’t it be fun to establish the rules of that magic using basic reasoning and scientific inquiry? And not in a D&D sense, where quantitative modifiers are assigned to arbitrarily-defined events and traits, but in the all-encompassing sense of something like the Theory of Evolution with regard to biology. Less Wrong‘s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a sirloin example of Übernerd reinterpretation of magically-characterized fiction. There’s no common pragmatism utility to said reinterpretation, but by Merlin’s beard is it fun. And again, a most glowing kowtow to exercises in critical thinking.

So, bearing in mind this overlong exposition, let’s talk about sex, baby. That is: let’s talk about reproduction in the Gerudo race.

found on: http://zeldakingdom.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/nabooru.jpg

Pictured on the left is Nabooru from Ocarina of Time, a prototypical example of a Gerudo: bronze-skinned, golden-eyed, crimson-haired, and leptorrhine. Sure, all the Gerudos look the same because it’s economical to reuse character models in video games, but let’s keep our arguments non-meta for the time being.

The Legend of Zelda mythos strongly suggests an association of the Gerudo race with the Triforce of Power and its affiliated concepts: fire, earth, strength, and so on. For example, Din, the divine essence embodied in the Triforce of Power, is implied to be incarnated in Oracle of Seasons as–you guessed it–the Oracle of Seasons, who happens to look almost identical to a typical Gerudo. Also, Ganondorf, a Gerudo, consistently acquires or possesses the Triforce of Power throughout the games in which he appears.

According to The Legend of Zelda games, Gerudos kick it semi-Amazon style; their race is wholly female with the exception of a single male born once every 100 years. This male becomes king by default. Assuming that “every 100 years” translates more practically to “once an average Gerudo lifespan”, there are several non-deus-ex-machina considerations of the Gerudo’s gender distribution:

Gerudos may reproduce via haplodiploidy or ZW sex-determination means that contains sufficient overlap with the sex-determining factors of other Hyruleans to produce viable offspring. In some of these conditions, we assume that the Gossip Stone from Ocarina of Time that proclaims, “They say that Gerudos sometimes come to Hyrule Castle Town to look for boyfriends” implies interbreeding of Gerudos with male Hyruleans. Continuing logically, we have the following options:

In a haplodiploid situation, female Gerudos are born diploid and males, haploid. In essence, all unfertilized eggs would develop into males. Given that its unlikely that Gerudo females conceive with a partner every time they ovulate, Gerudo populations would contain far more males. Of course, the estrous cycle of Gerudos may not be monthly; if they have exceptionally lengthy ovulation cycles or perhaps only a single release of eggs over the course of their lifetimes, the drive to reproduce prior to and around those ovulation periods will be subsequently enormous. If it is enormous to the extent that every Gerudo in a male-less population acquires a mate to fertilize her eggs with the exception of one, then in that cycle of reproduction, all offspring with will be female with the exception of one, producing the alleged “one male every 100 years”. However, this condition requires that all Gerudos reproduce at approximately the same time. Additionally, there are these considerations:

1. If the females are mating with Hyrulean males to procreate, the likelihood of only a single Gerudo in a generation failing to reproduce are slim. In order to assure this, social hierarchies surrounding mating selection would have to be imposed on the population, and any error would result in more than one male birth per cycle.

2. If the females mate only with the males in their race, very rigid, synchronized reproductive cycles must be assumed. Otherwise, more than one male will be born per “100 years”. And even under strict synchronicity (which could be pheromone-modulated), if the only male in the population dies prior to estrus, scads of males will be born once estrus occurs, again violating the one male per 100 years rule.

It seems that haplodiploidy in Gerudos is problematic all around.

Under a ZW sex-determination scheme, females are heterogametic (ZW) and males are homogametic (ZZ). There are cases of ZW sex-determining animals, like the komodo dragon, producing male offspring in the absence of males. The mechanism responsible for alerting the female komodo dragon’s body of male absence is unclear; it may be the lack of intercourse, but it may also have to do with pheromones. When applying this model to Gerudos, we’re presented with the same problem present in a haplodiploid framework; Gerudo females responding to the same environmental stimuli (like having no coeds around) should respond similarly. That is, they should all produce males.

found on: https://i2.wp.com/www.worldzootoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/komodo-dragon-540x380.jpg

Hello! I am a komodo dragon! Not only can I grow to be 3 meters long, but in the wild, I can incubate horrifyingly virulent bacterial pathogens in my saliva, which I of course use to kill and eat children. As if that wasn't enough, I even have endogenous venom! Shazam!

As such, it would seem that we must look to situations in nature wherein a single member of a group is born or made biologically suitable for a particular socio-biological role–in this case, producing a male offspring.

The most familiar example of such is queen bees: there’s only one per colony, and she fulfills the task of laying eggs. However, it turns out that many potential queens are born into a colony, and the future queen ends up being she who kills off all competition. Kind of vicious, and definitely not applicable to Gerudos, seeing as they are all female and there are more than one of them. And we certainly won’t be flexing the rules to say that all male Gerudo children, with the exception of one, are cannibalized or something. The rule is that only one is born every 100 years. Not that only one survives or exists within a 100 year period. For all we know, there may be tons of male Gerudos gallivanting about at any given time if their life spans are ludicrously long. However, the Zelda mythos never explicitly addresses this issue. Presumably, the fact that males become king of all Gerudos would preclude such a situation, somehow.

In groups of tropical clown fish, the dominant member is always female. Second in dominance is a fertile male with whom she mates. Other members of the group are protandrous hermaphrodites who will become male if the dominant male dies or if the female dies, in which case the existing dominant male transforms into a female. Basically, the extant social hierarchy determines the expression of sexual traits. Furnished with this knowledge, it suddenly becomes obvious that in Finding Nemo, Marlin should have turned into a female after his wife died. Some neuter clownfish would have then matured into a male and taken his side as a “husband”.

found on: https://i0.wp.com/www.republicofcode.com/tutorials/photoshop/nemo_conceptoo/ps_nemo_33.jpg

Applying the notion of social dominance influencing sexual reproduction to Gerudos, there exists the possibility that only the dominant female in a Gerudo population can produce male offspring. This could exist in a parthenogenetic (virgin birth) situation as found with ZW species like the komodo dragon; either in the absence of males or according to a 100 year cycle, the dominant female produces a male offspring (whereas the other lack the ability). If the “queen” dies, the next most dominant female in the clan takes up her mantle, a transition that literally transforms her biological capacities as a reproductive organism. This could also work with ZW sexual reproduction; perhaps by mating with Hyrulean males, the dominant female’s selectivity for producing Z gametes only will inevitably result in a homozygous offspring (ZZ)–in a ZW sex-determination system, a male. Nondominant females in the group produce only W gametes and will therefore give birth to heterozygous females. These criteria would not hold for XO sex-determination, however, because males determine the sex under those circumstances.

So, keeping in mind the Gossip Stone’s commentary on sex-seeking Gerudos in Hyrule Castle Town, the most viable explanation of once-every-100-years male birth is the result of a socially modulated (where perceived social status influences biological functionality) ZW ovulatory preferences in dominant versus nondominant females in Gerudo populations. The reproductive cycle of the dominant female is presumably influenced by absolute time, which can be measured by cellular divisions and interpreted by the body, then transmitted to the rest of the population via some communicative means (perhaps chemical). With the exception of the dominant Gerudo, all females mate with Hyruleans and produce female offspring. The dominant female will produce a male at the appropriate time also by mating with Hyruleans. This indicates that many Gerudo phenotypes are dominant (their coloration and facial traits are consistent despite interbreeding with various phenotypes).

In Ocarina of Time, it is claimed that Koume and Kotake are Ganondorf’s “mothers”, so to speak. Perhaps his mother was actually Twinrova, and being a the dominant female in a Gerudo population means also being able to divide yourself into two little old ladies that think they’re twins.

found on: http://zeldakingdom.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/koume-kotake.jpg

Then again, it’s probably just magic.


The lolz of Sci-Fi Terminology

found on: https://martygumblesworth.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/1-world27sfinest-eccomics.jpg?w=214

BS sci-fi is funny. Need to make a black hole to suck up your excess garbage? Use red matter! How about the ability to run super fast? Harvest and activate a metagene! Need to go back in time? Well, if you run fast enough…

When it comes to the BS science canon of sci-fi universes, its adjoining terminology can become… hilarious, to say the least. In some stories, it comprises half the entertainment value. Just take a look at the following list, which includes little jargony treasures from Asimov to Zoids:

Jupiter brain, positronic brain, hyperdrive, plasma rifle, phased polaron cannon, phased plasma torpedo, transphasic torpedo, magnetometric guided charges, metreon cascade, tachyonic antitelephone, suspensor, disruptor, replicator, transporter, tricorder, Fuzor, axial compressor, universal constructor, oscillation overthruster, Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser, Ixian damper, Andromeda Ascendant, Dyson sphere, Tipler cylinder, Holtzman drive, Quantum Eisengate Device, MSN-001A1 Delta Plus, Gundarium Gamma alloy, super-mecha, Centauri Superweapon, Technodrome, orgasmatron, Cybertron, Megatron, Tron…

Just adorable, no?

The form of these neologisms and terms tends to find inspiration in popular science; the “positronic brain”, for instance, is the 1930’s brainchild of Asimov with deference to the then popularly publicized positron. There are other guidelines, too–many of which are rooted in the basics of ordinary science terminology. The Greek alphabet is slave to the jargon of many disciplines: organic chemists use it to distuinguish isomers, neuroscientists to categorize the frequency of brain waves, nuclear physicists to designate different forms of particle emission, etc. In fact, when it comes to scientific and sci-fi terms, anything Greek in nature is good, be it the alphabet, mythology, or just the Greek roots for common scientific prefixes and suffixes. It’s surprising Star Trek technologies don’t include a “feta impulse cannon”.

As to prefixes and suffixes for fictional nomenclature, Transformers really takes the initiative in being transparent. “Cybertron” and “Megatron” are excellent examples, containing no traditional core roots and pre/suffixes only. Breaking these words down etymologically, they just mean “computer device” and “great device”. And then, of course, there’s Tron. “Device”. Brilliant. Succinctness is good.

Evidently, something about the Greek suffix “-tron” really has an appeal for sci-fi; naturally, this comes from the word “electron” (along with others like “neutron”, “cosmotron”, and “cyclotron”–those last two almost sound fictional, don’t they?) and the subsequent “electronics”, the latter of which tends to be at the core of many sci-fi technologies. Suggesting functionality is also a quintessential facet of sci-fi suffixes; everything is an “ator” or “ater” of some kind. Clearly, in the future, all objects will perform single functions and will be accordingly named. Violins will be a brand of “musicotron” and violinists a type of “musicator”.

Things like “cyber-“, “mecha-“, and “techno-” are all obvious prefixes for sci-fi; they mean “computer”, “machine”, and “technology”, respectively (what a surprise). Others, like “hyper-“, “mega-“, and “super-” are obvious because of the classically exaggerated nature of sci-fi technology; it’s harder, better, faster, stronger, and all that. Throw the word “quantum” or a fictional scientist’s name which sounds like Einstein in front of your prefixed+suffixed word and you’ve got yourself the seeds of a winner.

Here are some other hints: toss in a random amalgam of letters (X, Y, and Z are especially recommended) and numbers in front of everything to make it seem like an item in a series. If it’s been improved repeatedly, it’s clearly ingrained in the technological history of a given sci-fi canon. 3-dimensional shapes add flair too; a “protoplasmic laser sphere” has way more gravitas than a “protoplasmic laser circle”.

Bearing in mind these traits of sci-fi terminology, I’ve invented something for you. It’s called the:

X800-Omega Cassiopeia quantum hypersuperluminotronic Eisenbeam technobooster megacybermechyone pyramid drive

If you can guess what it is, you get one absolutely FREE.

found on: https://i2.wp.com/www.atomic-robo.com/wp-content/uploads/nazi-super-science.jpg

And on that note, thanks for reading.