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Semblance as translation

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — an MIT physica professor works in language games on biology ]
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two solar machines
Both a tree and a solar panel absorb and transform solar energy, and dump heat into their environment. How would a physicist explain why only the tree is alive?

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I’m posting this because of one sentence:

When you refuse to let go of two things that are divergent in the way they cause you to talk,” he says, “it forces you in the direction of translation.

I found it in an intriguing article, How Do You Say “Life” in Physics?

After a brief intro to MIT physicist Jeremy England, the article touches on interdisciplinary translation — which, when you think about it, is a very Koestlerian sort of bisociative process:

Different fields of science, too, are languages unto themselves, and scientific explanations are sometimes just translations. “Red,” for instance, is a translation of the phrase “620-750 nanometer wavelength.” “Temperature” is a translation of “the average speed of a group of particles.” The more complex a translation, the more meaning it imparts. “Gravity” means “the geometry of spacetime.”

Then we get theological, with a twist:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …” Here, the Hebrew word for “create” is bara, the word for “heavens” is shamayim, and the word for “earth” is aretz; but their true meanings, England says, only come into view through their context in the following verses. For instance, it becomes clear that bara, creation, entails a process of giving names to things; the creation of the world is the creation of a language game. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God created light by speaking its name. “We have heard this phrase so many times that by the time we are old enough to ponder it, we easily miss its simplest point,” England says. “The light by which we see the world comes from the way we talk about it.” That might be important, thought England, if you’re trying to use the language of physics to describe biology.

Finally, we get the basic bisociation laid out in plain words:

As a young faculty member at MIT, he neither wanted to stop doing biology, nor thinking about theoretical physics. “When you refuse to let go of two things that are divergent in the way they cause you to talk,” he says, “it forces you in the direction of translation.”

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I hadn’t thought much about translation as a form of semblance until now, but it opens vistas..

An interesting article.

The tree and the solar panel — there’s much food there for analogical thought.

Carambolages, huzzah!

Monday, March 14th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a brilliant new exhibition breaks the usual museum rules to provoke prodigious & repeated leaps of imagination ]
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Carambolages Dominos

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Cath Styles, whose Sembl games are closely related to my own HipBone variants on Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game, recently pointed me to an exhibition called Carambolages that opened recently at the Grand Palais, Galleries Nationales, 3, avenue du General Eisenhower, Paris.

Strolling their website, I was struck by this double image, which in HipBone terms would be called a DoubleQuote, or a Sembl in Cath’s Sembl game:

Carambolages
(left) Sword, Kiribati, Micronesia Islands, Oceania, sd, Paris, Musée du Quai Branly
(right) Bertrand Lavier, Black & Decker, 1998 collection Giuliana and Tommaso Setari

It appears, indeed, that the exhibit in question features a Domino game of Sembls or DoubleQuotes —

Fascinating — and definitely a notable step in the expanding history of bead game variants — which I view, among other things, as an art movement that has yet to be written up as such.

Congratulations, Jean-Hubert Martin! The catalogue will no doubt be as close as I can get physically, but I’m all the way with you in spirit…

Bonne idée, bon chance!

Graph-types 1: sample graphs and boards

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — background reading for the post which follows ]
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This is a quick look at node and edge graphs and some of the boards used in HipBone, DoubleQuote, and Sembl Games — a refresher for those who already know, and a quick intro for those who may not…

graphs

Above, you’ll see two graphs — one very simple and one far more complex. What they have in common is points (known as nodes) and lines connecting them (known as edges). Graphs of this kind are instances of the basic pattern on which much of contemporary understanding of the world rests, as it mostly rested on linear thinking in previous centuries. They are everywhere.

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In the next image, however, we see some medieval and renaissance instances of graphs in which concepts and their relations have been assigned to the nodes and their edges — these are also commonly found today, but the early versions here have a beauty all their own..

3-ancient-bds2

Left to right: the Sephirotic Tree of classical Jewish Kabbalah; Oronce Fine‘s diagram of the four elements; and a medieval respresentation of the Christian Trinity. It was the Reformation & Counter-Reformation that really put a stop to this kind of graphical thinking, as Ioan Couliano teaches us.

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Finally, my HipBone Games and the Museum Game that Cath Styles designed for the National Museum of Australia use graphs as their boards, and the players assign concepts to the various nodes, establishing conceptual links between them:

Game boards

Upper left, th4 standard WaterBird board for HipBone play; upper right, one of Cath’s boards for the Museum Game; lower left, the DoubleQuotes board, and lower right, a beautiful graph on which I hoped gto play a symphonic Bead Game.

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That’s the essential background you need to proceed to the next post, Graph-types 2: towards a universal graphical mapping language, where I lay out my hopeful, hopeless scheme for a Grand Unified Map. Onwards.

Two ways a resemblance can be unwelcome

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — NSFW, I repeat, NSFW , maybe ]
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You can be photoshopped from Canada to France, Sikh to Muslim, &c —

The fake (on the left), photoshopped from the authentic selfie (on the right), was apparently created and posted because of the guy’s support of women in the games industry, cf Gamergate.

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Alternatively, your name might sound suspiciously NSFW to non-Vietnamese=speaking ears:

Details at the link Cath at Sembl provides.

The process of associative memory

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — it seems — to me at least — that associative memory is at the root of creativity, and that the process, preconscious pattern-recognition, is basically aesthetic in nature ]
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There’s the present moment — in this case, today’s tweet from the RNLI above.

And there’s the memory it elicits — in this case, Hokusai‘s Great Wave at Kanagawa, with its three little boats, tiny Mt Fuji, and towering, breaking wave, from A Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji:

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That’s the same process, from perception to memory, that I was thinking of when I wrote DoubleQuoting the French Revolution, and quoted Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

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Come to which, and moving by the same process from what’s in front of me to what I remember, here’s a DQ of Hokusai (~1760-1849) — before me now as I write this — and an image deriving from the work of Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010) on fractals” — which looking at the Hokusai quickly reminds me of:

SPEC DQ Hokusai fractal

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And as I look at that DoubleQuote, here at the time of writing this post, it reminds me strongly of my earlier DoubleQuote of Van Gogh and Von Kármán:

In each of these two cases, art precedes science.

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In each case, too, the associative process is the same, with some item perceived in the present calling up a past memory that is related to it — in a manner that can generally be articulated and annotated.

Such is the mechanism of a typical “move” in a DoubleQuote or HipBone game.


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