I’ll end these posts about the configuration space metaphor where I began: in a big cube. I started the series in the Neapolitan room, a three-dimensional space where we could indicate our feelings about vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream with a single marker. From there we visited the Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors space (which is tasty but beyond our ability to visualize).
Then I focused on spaces with only two-dimensions (which are easy to visualize). These are probably the best use of the metaphor; they turn a tug-of-war into a sensible place to stand. They also strongly differentiate “don’t care” from “care about both.”
Now let’s see what we can do with three dimensions…
My blog has such low engagement that it’s hard to tell, but I get the sense the last three posts about configuration space were only slightly more interesting than my baseball posts (which, apparently, are one of the least interesting things I do here (tough; I love baseball; gotta talk about it sometimes)).
So I’m thinking: fair enough; rather than go on about it at length, wrap it up. It’ll be enough to use as a reference when I mention configuration space in the future. (There have been blog posts where I couldn’t use the metaphor due to not having a decent reference for it. Now the idea is out there for use.)
And, at the least, I should record where the whole idea started.
It’s Science Fiction Saturday, so today I want to consider a fairly common question a fan might encounter: “Science Fiction or Fantasy?” The implication is that one tends to exclude the other. In these polarized times, it can amount to a declaration of your tribe.
One problem is there’s a spectrum from hard SF to pure fantasy with everything in between. But let’s take them as two legitimate poles and consider the question in terms of configuration space. (See posts #1 and #2 if you need to catch up.)
I think you’ll see that using a space give us a new take on the question.
Last time we considered a cube-shaped room where we could indicate our opinion about Neapolitan ice cream with a single marker. That worked well because we were dealing with three flavors and the room has three dimensions: east-west, north-south, up-down.
Later I’ll explore other examples of a 3D “room” but while we’re talking ice cream, I want to give you an idea where this goes, I want to jump ahead for a moment and consider good old Baskin-Robbins, who famously featured “31 flavors!”
So now the question is, can we set a marker for all 31 flavors?
Have you ever had (or at least seen) Neapolitan ice cream? It’s the kind with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, usually as separate layers in one package. As a kid, I didn’t care for the strawberry. I loved the chocolate, and was fine with the vanilla (wouldn’t usually choose it, but don’t disdain it).
That’s just my take on it: one flavor liked, one not liked, and one that’s just okay. Someone else might have the same pattern with different flavors. Or love them all equally, or want just the strawberry. Some might not like ice cream at all — any combination is possible.
What if we wanted to describe our feeling about Neapolitan as a whole?
It’s that time for a reflective reviewing the previous year. On a personal level, it’s been an interesting year, a year of some changes with more ahead. I may (or may not) talk about that more down the road. I’ve already shared some of the more mundane ones. I’m still chewing on some of the more personal ones.
As a blog post, it makes sense to do a blog review, as self-indulgent as they are. This is more a milepost for me; a sort of year-end report to the board — see if it’s worth funding another year. (Technically, the Blog Year starts on July 4, with year zero being 2011. The blog is now seven-and-a-half; 741 posts tall. Plus it just grew one more.)
Stick around if you want, but it’s gonna be long, dry, and narcissistic…
A while back I realized I had an Engineer’s Mind. I’ve always had a sense of that. What I realized was the significance of the Engineer’s Mind category. And of other categories of Mind — for example an Artist’s Mind (which I didn’t discover I also had until high school; see My Life 2.0).
Having a given Mind doesn’t mean one is necessarily good at something (skill takes practice), but it does suggest a predisposition or talent for it. Our minds seem to come pre-wired in two ways: core wiring that makes us human; and “flavor” wiring that gives us (some of our) basic traits. For instance, some people have — or strongly do not to have — a Math Mind.
I’ve found Mind a useful metaphor as well as a game to play.
When I was a high school kid, my dad and I sometimes played a game where one of us would make up a secret code, write a message in that code, and the other would try to decipher the message. We generally used simple substitution ciphers, so it was an exercise in letter frequency analysis and word guessing.
There’s a cute secret code I found in a book back then that really stuck with me because of the neat way it looks. It also stuck with me because it’s so simple that once you learn it, you really can’t forget it.
So for some Saturday fun, I thought I’d share it with you.
One of those annoying-to-those-who-know-better shortcuts that movies and TV shows sometimes take is the visual trope of throwing a piece of wood (or a rock) at an “electrified fence” and producing an exciting shower of sparks. Typically, one character is just about to touch the fence, only to be pulled back just in time by another character who throws something at the fence to show the first character how they almost bought it.
It looks good — everyone loves a good sparking. In fact, you may have noticed how many action scenes take place in factories that seem mainly to manufacture sparks and steam. You may have noticed how often welders seem to be creating showers of sparks in the background of every action movie.
But this isn’t about our love of sparks.