Cryptography for space aliens

“Anticryptography” is a loose term to designate a type of cryptographic message that is legible to someone who has no knowledge of the plain text language from which the message derives. Nor do they have access to the method of encryption, or anything like an encryption or decryption key. Nor is the message meant to…More

Recursion again

In mathematics and computer programming, a recursive definition is one that defines a process in terms of itself: a branch of a tree is a branch that ends in smaller branches. That’s recursive as the definition of a branch in this case refers to a definition of a branch. A program that draws a branching…More

Trash talk

Like most urban commuters I have learned to tune out other people’s mobile phone conversations. But when I’m forced to attend to one-sided overloud jibber-jabber the interlocutor may as well be speaking in code. “She said that? … He did it then. … Ask him to give it to me when I’m there.” Deixis Deictic…More

Everything is code

“He doesn’t give you questions. He doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in a code. I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade” said convicted ex-lawyer Michael Cohen about his ex-boss (Trump) before the US House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. As any student of semiotics knows, speaking in code is what…More

Translate me

It is well known that Google Translate uses a statistical machine translation method, based on the occurrence of words in a corpus of training documents gathered from the United Nations and the European Parliament. These source documents exist in various languages and are professionally translated, making it possible to generate a table of likely correspondences…More

Automatic writing

Automatic translation is now mainstream. It’s simple enough to have text on a web site or in a text field translated between languages. The Google translate app on a smartphone combines (AR) “augmented reality” and translation algorithms to create a screen image that substitutes what’s in front of the camera with something like the same text in your…More

Why cartoons have animals 2

Watching pet owners coach their pets to talk provides one of the more amusing diversions on YouTube. Apparently you can train a dog to say “hello” as a kind of vocalised yawn, or to growl out something like “sausages.” In a post in May 2012 I outlined 9 reasons why cartoons feature animals. Here’s a 10th reason: getting animals to talk. It’s obvious: animals (non-human)…More

Morphic fields

The kids at Hogwarts learn to move objects about at will without having to touch or grab them. According to philosopher David Ray Griffin, the mechanistic philosophy of Rene Descartes helped counteract the belief that minds can control objects over distances. This insight eventually reduced the persecution of people labelled as witches. For good or evil the…More

Derrida for stand-ups

It’s easy to get carried away with words, either written or spoken, especially if you’re good at stringing them together. I was reminded of this propensity at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with its programme category “Spoken Word,” indicating entertainments in which amusing writers like David Sedaris stand up and talk, and others sit and listen…More

Meditation on a blunt instrument

Digital networks presumably influence people’s encounters with social reality: “real life is life online.” But there’s also the argument that reality in general is mediated through the instruments we use, in our social life and in our understanding of the material universe. The physicist Neils Bohr noted that for observations and calculations about sub-atomic particles no sharp…More