# Tag Archives: digital

## Tiny Measurements

When possible, I try to find a theme for the Wednesday Wow posts. Last time, for instance, the theme was aviation and fireworks (two things you wouldn’t normally think went together, but in one case they delightfully did).

The problem is that I’m jaded and have seen a lot, so I can be hard to impress. Not lots of things raise to my highest rating, Wow! Fortunately, I’m not so far gone I can’t still see a world filled with wonder, some of which drops my jaw.

The theme, such as it is, concerns measurements, especially tiny and precise ones. Like, for instance, Planck Length tiny.

## Where’s the Algorithm?

There’s a discussion that’s long lurked in a dusty corner of my thinking about computationalism. It involves the definition and role of algorithms. The definition isn’t particularly tricky, but the question of what fits that definition can be. Their role in our modern life is undeniably huge — algorithms control vast swaths of human experience.

Yet some might say even the ancient lowly thermostat implements an algorithm. In a real sense, any recipe is an algorithm, and any process has some algorithm that describes that process.

But the ultimate question involves algorithms and the human mind.

## Magnitudes vs Numbers

One of my earliest posts was Analog vs Digital. A few years later, I wrote about it in more detail (twice). Since then I’ve touched on it here and there. In all cases, I wrote from the perspective that of course they’re a Yin-Yang pair.

Recently I’ve encountered arguments challenging that “night and day” distinction (usually in the context of computationalism), so here I’d like to approach the topic with the intent of justifying the difference.

I do agree the grooves on a record, and the pits on a CD, are both just physical representations of information, but the nature of that information is what is night and day different.

## Sideband #59: Running Hot

As a diversion for the weekend: Have you ever wondered why computers run so hot? No? Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s actually kind of a hoot. (We’ll get back to the more serious topic of algorithms and AI, and wrap up that series, next week.)

You kind of have to wonder. Humankind has gone from oil and gas lamps, to incandescent copper filaments, to fluorescent lights, and now to LEDs. The trend here seems towards cooler more efficient light sources. But computers seem to need bigger and bigger fans!

The short answer: It’s all those short circuits!

## The Universal Computer

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!

## Carved in Stone

Early 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.

## Replicator Redux

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!

## Digital & Analog Sports

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.”

## Smooth or Bumpy

Last 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!

## Interstellar Record Album

One 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!