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Play: a study in contrasts

Friday, April 15th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — tree-climbing, and what to do in the utter absence of trees ]
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Both these papers — which together make an amazing study in contrasts in terms both of play and risk, adult and child — come from the American Journal of Play, Volume 8, Number 2:

Tablet DQ play contrasts

Take care you don’t fall off that space station and scrape your knee..

Surprise, surprise, surprise

Monday, November 9th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — astronaut in a cathedral, nuclear reactor in Gabon ]
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I enjoy scoping and snoping out strange claims, and had to check out possible anachronicities not once but twice today — first, to verify the presence of an astronaut in Salamanca’s seventeenth-century (1513-1733 to be more precise) “New Cathedral”:

SPEC DQ cathedral astronaut african reactor

and then, of a nuclear reactor from two billion years ago in Gabon, West Africa.

**

Neither one turned out to be von Däniken fool’s gold, but both certainly glisten enough to be worth a mention.

The Salamanca cathedral astronaut is there, carved in stone, all right — but as part of a 1992 renovation. And what’s most interesting to me is that it’s entirely in conformity with tradition for an artist working today on such a restoration to “sign” his work with a contemporary flourish of this sort. It is thus faithful to what Benedict XVI would call the hermeneutic of continuity.

And 2 billion year old nuclear reactor?

It’s not as old as the sun, of course, by about 3.6 billion years, nor as close to us, nor as vast — but it’s there, it’s there.

Hat tips:

  • for the astronaut, Jeff DeMarco
  • for the reactor, Cheryl Rofer
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three

    Monday, August 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Sembl ]
    Following up on two previous posts on graph-based design: Preliminaries and Two dazzlers

    **

    Here are two old HipBone boards that have the curious property of looking very different while being, in fact, topologically identical. Moves played on either board will feature the same set of links — although, given the visual impac ts of proximity and distance, they may “feel” very different to the players themselves:

    Petersen graph boards

    I call them the Pentagram and Mercedes boards, for what I trust are obvious reasons. They are both based on versions of the Petersen graph, and I’m grateful to Walter Logeman and Miles Thompson for introducing me to them.

    **

    One of the vivid differences between my childhood memories and present experience has to do woth the time when the table, the place where food or whatever was, was above my head.

    Of course, the table was flat — but it was flat above my head, and I had to reach up into that unknown flatland to grab what I could. Unless of course there was a tablecloth trailing over the edge of the flat, down towards eye-level, in which case.. voila!

    Hence my ongoing notion that something tasty might be literally above my head, and my associated excitement. Hence, too, my excitement at the prospect that tasty ideas might also be above my head, and that I might reach up into unknown intellectual flatlands — or pull them down to my own level with a tug of the intellectual tablecloth.

    **

    That may sound foolish, but it’s entirely in line with Eric Drexler’s advice — and Drexler published the first scientific paper on molecular nanotechnology [.pdf] in 1981.

    Here’s what Drexler has to say about reading scientific journals:

    Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.

    Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you – instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.

    **

    Okay, I’m in over my head as they say.

    Here’s an artist’s rendering of something called, I guess, an amplituhedron, a (relatively) newly discovered mathematical object that has the world of physics all excited:

    amplutihedron_span

    Here’s another, titled for some reason “droplet”:

    droplet

    Neither of those is anything I could conceivably use to come up with a HipBone or Sembl board, is it?

    But get this:

    nima-permutation-grassmannian-final-picture

    This is another way of looking at the same corner of mathematical physics — one of over a hundred diagrams in the same paper— and here are the two “lesser” diagrams that caught my attention and made me think back to the Petersen graph boards earlier on today:

    twistor-diagrams- scientists discover a jewel

    Now my itch is to figure out what use the “filled” and “open” nodes in these two graphs might serve in game-playing terms, and how on earth to interpret in game terms the complex weavings of the colored lines in the larger image / board.

    **

    And hey, while we’re at it, Here are the Wolfram variants on the Petersen graph — striking, aren’t they?

    PetersenGraphEmbeddings wolfram

    Food for thought is food for play.

    **

    Sources:

  • N. Arkani-Hameda et al, Scattering Amplitudes and the Positive Grassmannian
  • Nima Arkani-Hameda and Jaroslav Trnkab, The Amplituhedron
  • Check out the stunning physics — deeper than time and space? — if you don’t already know it, and explain it if you do!

  • Natalie Wolchover, A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics
  • And for Wolfram on the Petersen Graph:

  • Eric W. Weisstein, Petersen Graph
  • Considering various of the universes within this one

    Sunday, May 31st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — 4th & last in a bizarre series [1, 2, 3] — I must confess I prefer the NASA stars to the game world, but Wm. Blake’s world to all the rest ]
    .

    My curiosity today leads me to compare two “represented” universes, each of them pretty much guaranteed — not that I place great credence in guarantees these days — to blow my mind or at least my socks off, and / or to quake my universe!

    SPEC DQ photo & game 02

    Here, to assist you in making your own comparison, are two text descriptions of the space photo (upper panel) and the game designs (lower):

    SPEC DQ photo & game 01

    My own feeling is that both are less awesome than their respective write-ups suggest: the NASA photo because it’s “awesomeness claim” is purely quantitative, whereas the universe is qualitative first and quantitative second; and the game images because they’re pale pastel imitations of our own world — fantastic, yes, but far from imaginative, to use the terminology Coleridge proposed.

    Sources:

  • Joe Martino, NASA Has Released The Largest Picture Ever Taken. It Will Rock Your Universe
  • Raffi Khatchadourian, World Without End: Creating a full-scale digital cosmos
  • **

    To give us a sense of proportion — one that includes both qualitative and quantitative elements — here are some other images which, along with the ones from NASA and the game, give you a somewhat wider “range of universes” to consider — all of them in fact contained in the one we blog and read in:

    SPEC DQ Blake Lange

    The first pair shows two humanly-generated images, one by the visionary artist and poet William Blake, the other by the documentary photographer Dorothea Lange. Realism, meet mythic imagination.

    The second pair — aha! — shows two desert sports: one almost archaic in its brutality, the other something akin to post-modern. In the upper panel we glimpse the Afghan national sport of Bukashi, in which the headless carcass of a goat is captured and carried to the goal by terrifying horsemen; in the lower, one of the robot jockeys who have replaced child-jockeys in the camel-racing of Dubai.

    SPEC DQ buzkashi robot camel jockey

    Sources:

  • William Blake, Jacob’s Ladder
  • Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother

  • L Lukasz, “BUZKASHI” in Mazar-e Sharif
  • Avax News, Robots replace Child Jockeys
  • **

    But let’s be fair to the two first screenshots at the top of the page. Here are the respective videos of the NASA Andromeda megapicture and the Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky for you to consider on their merits —

    — remember: there’s no accounting for tastes.. not even mine own.

    In good, really good company

    Friday, January 10th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameronmildly NSFW if your office can’t handle Leonardo, which IMNSHO we should be able to manage now in this 21st century CE — and besides, it’s the weekend ]
    .

    Well, we here at Zenpundit have a particular interest in creative thinking, and this last evening I unexpectedly found myself in excellent creative company…

    …in a months-old blog-post by an old friend, an astrophysicist by profession who goes by the name Cygnus on the web — presumably after the constellation that harbors Deneb, and also Kepler-22b, the “first known transiting planet to orbit within the habitable zone of a Sun-like star” (WikiP, since I know no better). Cygnus means “swan” in Greek, and Zeus became a swan for his own imperious purposes when he saw LedaHelen of Troy being one of their offspring (see eggs in Da Vinci‘s image below), with the Trojan War ensuing.


    .

    Here’s then, is the A-Z of creative folk, as Cygnus pulled it together last April as part of an “A-Z- Challenge” — I’m honored and awed to be named in the company of such as Andre Breton, Donald Knuth, George Carlin, Octavia Butler, Samuel R Delany, Dame Frances Yates and the rest:

    **

    For April 2013, my theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge was “An A to Z of Masters of the Imagination that You Oughtta Know About.”  In other words, on each day I profiled a person whose brains were just overflowing with weirdness and creativity.  Here’s a list of the posts:

    **

    So that’s Cygnus’ list — quite a dinner party! You’ll recognise some members of your own constellation of creatives here, perhaps — feast on some of those you’re not yet familar with! Cygnus blogs about games and such at Servitor Ludi.

    As for me, I’ll simply offer you William Bulter Yeats‘ great poem Leda and the Swan, to celebrate the company I just found myself in, and close out a memorable evening:

    Leda and the Swan

    A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
    Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
    By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
    He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

    How can those terrified vague fingers push
    The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
    And how can body, laid in that white rush,
    But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

    A shudder in the loins engenders there
    The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
    And Agamemnon dead.
                                     Being so caught up,
    So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
    Did she put on his knowledge with his power
    Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?


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