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The machines of other worlds and times (Computing in science fiction, Part II)

In part one, we looked at the nature of computers, quantum computing, and the definition of what it means for something be computable. This is all well and good for someone writing a present day or equivalent setting, but what about alien computers? How might they differ theoretically? What can be used to make them? Onward!

Romanesco broccoli, a naturally-occurring fractal.
Syngenesis comment   read more (8108 bytes) · 8452.934 tgc / 2013.573 ce


Because of horizontal gene transfer, it's wrong to talk about bacteria in the same way we regard other kingdoms of life. I propose that all bacterial species that participate in HGT be rebranded as 'eigenspecies' or 'eigengenomes'—as if their genetic material were a vector being applied to a matrix (the environment) to yield a constant result (for humourous reasons, the eigenvalue should be 2, to indicate binary fission.) Of course, no genome is completely static, so they'd be near-eigengenomes. Very rapidly changing species are of course not steady-state at all; they are just some vector getting screwed up by the matrix.

This perhaps can be used to talk about any species, since a stable environment generally means a stable survival rate and negative evolutionary pressure, but I think the transitory nature of the designation is particularly suitable to our little transitory friends.
Samantics comment   8452.914 tgc / 2013.535 ce

The measure of a machine (Computing in science fiction, Part I)

In a scant century, computers utterly reshaped human civilization. They rode with us as we catapulted from the vestiges of a deeply insecure, ceremonial society, where but a few people in a few countries had the means to attain lives of intellectual fulfilment, into one that has—increasingly—become quite the opposite. Along the way, our calculating engines have inspired us to change the way we think, and the absolutism of that new wave of conceptual organization has both depressed us in its omniscience and taught us to forgive in its impartiality. Computers have given us the power to behold nature, at every level, and through that we have been humbled.

It's not surprising, then, that unique or advanced inventions—specifically computers—are prominent in so many science fiction stories.

In this three-part series, we'll look at how computers work, how alien computers might work, and how to write for convincing artificial intelligence.

Most of them look like this.
Syngenesis comment   read more (5071 bytes) · 8452.908 tgc / 2013.524 ce

Regsabta Tshúkotía, Slokdtaba


Early on Geglok'hogrekño morning, vessels of the Righteous King Zetemptobo confirmed that the last of the cowardly serpents had been driven from the fair domain of Yorlamë, home to millions of loyal colonists and twenty lesser species. General Hrídlatzlo Korakto of the Ninth Fleet at Arms declared the victory a significant blow to the Hogedep Empire, if not a particularly challenging test of his armada's abilities. Today is a great day for the Ksreskézai. — REGSABTA TSHÚKOTÍA, TÉVOPÍO SCABBARD.

"What in the world is this?" […]
Samantics comment   read more (5519 bytes) · 8452.874 tgc / 2013.459 ce

The CEASE Manifesto

[Note: This is a joke. Or, at least, it was going to be when I started writing it.]

Every year, tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of newly-minted undergraduates around the globe join a student activist organisation. Such organisations span the political spectrum and all issues imaginable, but are predominantly progressive in their principles and address either social issues on a national or international level, or focus on some disease. The majority of such groups emphasize awareness campaigns, although most also collect donations that in some way benefit their cause.

For several reasons, this is a terrible idea. […]
Samantics comment   read more (3190 bytes) · 8452.844 tgc / 2013.401 ce

A crash course in evolution (Part III)

For all our years of toil in machine learning research, we still only have one really usable model of intelligence—the mammalian brain. At first glance, it makes sense that a really complicated multicellular organism would want a control centre that can function faster than turning on and off genes or transmitting hormones, and we have examples of nervous systems (such as the one in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans) that do nothing other than steer the creature semi-randomly towards possible food sources. So how the heck did we end up with the wheel, wars, New York, and so on?

In the last part of this series, we looked at what it takes to create reproductive life, and a key real-world example of borderline living phenomena, the transposon. If you haven't read that part, now's a great time, since this part builds on it.

The brain is probably more complicated than our current models permit.
Syngenesis comment   read more (7554 bytes) · 8452.78 tgc / 2013.28 ce

Holy word count!

Lilitika now has 2000 roots! The two thousandth root is strezyé, "to bless."
Thet comment   8452.713 tgc / 2013.152 ce

Roxanne Beckman–Coulter

You don't have to turn on the red light;
Those days are over,
The tubes are now balanced and all is right.

Samantics comment   read more (1192 bytes) · 8452.703 tgc / 2013.135 ce

Regarding tense

(This article was originally written about a week ago. A mindless Baidu crawler deleted it, much to my horror. Hopefully that won't happen again.)

Lilitika intentionally takes strongly after ancient Greek in several respects, most obviously in the personality of its consonants and some of its endings. A week or two ago I was investigating classical sources in search of new mechanisms through which it might be possible to give the language a greater expressive power, and I stumbled upon the aorist. […]
Thet comment   read more (7371 bytes) · 8452.667 tgc / 2013.065 ce

Immature Dictionary Size Contest

Measuring number of roots as an index of a language's maturity... what could possibly go wrong?  […]
Samantics comment   read more (296 bytes) · 8452.661 tgc / 2013.053 ce

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