Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Friday, July 20, 2007

A common thread

Have been catching up on years of not-so-easy access to my fav genre, Sci Fi. Funnily, two stories sort of stood out because, at some level, they were so so similar to the Whale Rider film (from this earlier post). The underlying idea is that a tradition becomes just a set of rituals when the original purpose for each of the actions is lost. And once this stage is reached, there is an inertia to change anything, since the purpose of each action of the ritual is lost. So, you don't know what the consequence of every action is; in particular, which ones are essential and which ones are frippery. In the interesting Sci Fi collection - Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois is included Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga, from his Kirinyaga cycle of stories. In this story, the Kikuyu tribe lives in a sort of artificial preserve, Kirinyaga, under observation from an extraplanetary system. The wise man of the Kikuyu tribe, Koriba, acts as the only liason between the Kikuya and technicians from the outside. Koriba is convinced that the fall of the Kikuyu will come from not following the customs and practises of the tribe, and is determined that nothing should change them. When asked about it, he balances a stick on his finger, pointing out that putting a finger at any point along the stick will cause it to fall off. To Koriba, the Kikuyu and their place in Kirinyaga is one single complex whole; far too finely balanced, with way too many variables that any single change can only cause disruption. (Sidetrack - Presumably this is why most mutations that have an observable effect, have deleterious effects). In a completely unrelated short story, Target Generation by Clifford Simak, the inhabitants of the Ship have just encountered something never seen before in several generations of a tranquil life. Saying more would ruin the suspense of an excellent short story, but here's what one of the protagonists has to say:
"I'm trying to tell you that we must follow each law blindly until we know the reason for it. And when we know, if we ever know, the reason and the purpose, we must then be able to judge whether the reason or the purpose is a worthy one. We must have the courage to say that it is bad, if it is bad. For if the reason is bad, then the law itself is bad, for a law is no more than a rule designed for a certain reason or to carry out a purpose."
While in Target Generation the purpose of the laws is eventually revealed, in Whale Rider a variant is discovered through the determination of Paikea. Such is the thrill of discovery - of finding a common pattern that links such diverse things as Whale Rider, Kirinyaga, Target Generation, and, at a slight stretch, the episode of Friends, where the girls do a cleansing ritual to get rid of bad men vibes :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ultimate Harry Potter hypothesis

As is well known, a large part of being a scientist is hypothesizing. So, with practically no ado, here is a theory about Harry Potter, book 7 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): The whole story: Harry's parents figure out the whole horcrux story. They already possess one of the horcruxes. Albus Dumbledore, in reality a close friend of Voldemort, concocts up the story of a "prophecy" so that V would have a reason to go get rid of Harry's parent. However, things get botched up and the horcrux gets transferred to Harry, and V's Avada Kedavra goes all wrong, only scarring HP. Voldemort doesn't know what's happened to his horcrux, but suspects that Harry is the key. Dumbledore promises V to keep a close eye and protect HP, and find out what's happened to the horcrux. Snape has been always opposed to Dumbledore, since he knows the truth about Dumbledore's alliance with V, and is suspicious of why Dumbledore is so protective of HP. In order to win into the friendship of V, Snape, pretending no knowledge of Dumbledore and Voldemort's friendship, offers to kill Dumbledore to show his loyalty to Voldemort. Voldemort agrees, since he knows that Dumbledore himself has a horcrux, and is a real badass.