Tag Archives: analog

The Universal Computer

Computing...

Computing…

I’ve written here before about chaos theory and how it prevents us from calculating certain physical models effectively. It’s not that these models don’t accurately reflect the physics involved; it’s that any attempt to use actual numbers introduces tiny errors into the process. These cause the result to drift more and more as the calculation extends into the future.

This is why tomorrow’s weather prediction is fairly accurate but a prediction for a year from now is entirely guesswork. (We could make a rough guess based on past seasons.) Yet the Earth itself is a computer — an analog computer — that tells us exactly what the weather is a year from now.

The thing is: it runs in real-time and takes a year to give us an answer!

Continue reading


Carved in Stone

written in stoneEarly this year I wrote an article comparing how we store music in digital versus analog form along with a followup article exploring the contrast between them. There is another major consideration that predominates when it comes recording information these days. Quite simply: what are we going to record onto?

How many of you remember (or have even seen) eight-inch floppy disks? How about five-and-a-quarter floppies? Show of hands if you’ve ever actually used a three-and-half inch floppy? Some of you might not even know what a “floppy disk” is!

Not very permanent, were they. Now consider the Rosetta Stone.

Continue reading


Replicator Redux

Earl Grey

Earl Grey. Hot!

I’ve written about the Yin-Yang of analog versus digital, a fundamental metaphor for how reality can be smooth or bumpy. I’ve applied the idea to numbers, where we see two types of infinity — countable (discrete, digital, bumpy) and uncountable (continuous, analog, smooth). There is also how chaos mathematics says that — the moment we round off those smooth numbers into bumpy ones — our ability to use them to calculate certain things is forever lost.

I’ve also written about Star Trek replicators and transporters, as well as the monkey wrench of the hated holodeck. According to canon, all three use the same technology (which raises some contradictions for the holodeck).

Today, for Science Fiction Saturday, I want to tie it all together in another look at transporters and replicators!

Continue reading


Digital & Analog Sports

Yin and Yang 2 (by MAMJODH on Flickr)I’ve written several times about the many places we see the idea of a Yin and Yang duality played out in the real world. Even the application of the Yin and Yang concept has a Yin (of true opposites) and a Yang (of thing and not-thing). For example, the opposite of light is not-light, but the opposite of positive is negative.

One of the true opposites is the idea of analog versus digital or, more generally, of continuous versus uneven. Recently I was thinking about the differences between various sports, and I realized there’s a connection to the “smooth or bumpy” distinction I wrote about a while back. Looked at in terms of play, some sports are essentially continuous while others are not.

It turns out that some sports are “analog” while others are “digital.”

Continue reading


Smooth or Bumpy

vu metersLast time I wrote about analog recording and how it represents a physical chain of proportionate forces directly connecting the listener to the source of the sounds. In contrast, a digital recording is just numbers that encode the sounds in an abstract form. While it’s true that digital recordings can be more accurate, the numeric abstraction effectively disconnects listeners from the original sounds.

In the first month of this blog I wrote about analog and digital and mentioned they were mutually exclusive Yin and Yang pairs (a topic I wrote about even earlier — it was my seventh post).

Today I want to dig a little deeper into the idea of analog vs. digital!

Continue reading


Interstellar Record Album

golden recordOne of the cool things that happened in 2013 is that Voyager 1 has left our solar system. This time it was really, for sure, no kidding! There have been some previous occasions where it left, but this time we really mean it.  (Truth is, it’s still way inside the Oort cloud, so in some sense it’s merely left the city for the ‘burbs.)

Say rather that Voyager 1 no longer flies in skies affected by the sun. The heliosphere, the giant fart bubble around our solar system, is filled with our sun’s gassy emissions. Outside that bubble is the galactic ass gas of a billion other suns. Voyager 1, for the first time in human history, samples farts not our own.

It got me thinking about our interstellar golden record: Earth’s Greatest Hits!

Continue reading


Sideband #9: Analog vs Digital

In earlier Sidebands I have tried, as our English teachers used to say, to “compare and contrast” related pairs of concepts that are sometimes mistakenly conflated. The first pair, Truth and Facts, are similar enough to make distinctions between them debatable.  Even the language can twist you up once you start talking about true facts and false facts.  The next two pairs, Good vs Like and Ignorant vs Stupid, are well-defined and distinct.

In all three cases, there are similarities and differences (hence “compare and contrast”), but a key difference between those and the current topic, Analog vs Digital, is that none of them are really opposite pairs. There is no Yin and Yang aspect to them; one does not exclude the other. I’ve already mentioned true facts. Something can be both good and liked (or neither). Someone can be both ignorant and stupid (being neither is both good and likeable).

Not so with analog and digital! They are true Yin-Yang pairs; one excludes the other.

Continue reading