Friday, September 24, 2010

Batman, How Could You?!

I was in a FRY's earlier today, and something caught my eye. A Batman... thing that's specifically designed to be placed on computer monitors. An official Batman product that's designed to stay near where you work at the computer and stare at you with a judgmental look on his face.


Batman, you jerk! I... I thought we had something special! You would sit on my desk, remind me to do all that stuff I'm supposed to do, and now I find out about... about... THIS?!

I'm sorry, Batman, but this is just too much for me. I'm replacing you with my Princess Peach figure. Yeah, she only reminds me to rescue her and play video games, but at least I can trust her! Even if she does disappear for days at a time and comes back smelling strangely of Italian food and turtles...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Strangely Epic Music Video

Yeah, yeah, I'll get back to that quantum physics mumbo-jumbo later. For now, however...

I don't watch a lot of YouTube videos, but there are plenty of gems to be found there. I was recently directed to some Weebl's Stuff on YouTube, and discovered this video for a band named Savlonic while browsing the channel.

She only looks far away.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I clicked on the link for "Tiny Japanese Girl", but what I got was fun, epic music with a fun, epic video. Needless to say, the song is now part of my iTunes collection.

Anything more I could say would just detract from it, so I'll just recommend checking it out when you get a chance. I also recommend checking out other videos of Weebl's. I haven't viewed them all yet, but of what I've seen, Cat Face is awesome. I particularly like the 13th one.

I guess it's worth noting that there's some bad language in some of those videos, but from what I've seen (heard?), nothing too major or frequent. Relative to the much of the internet, it's squeaky clean.

Actually, given that it's on YouTube, I should probably say it's squeaky clean relative to its own comments section.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

True Randomness

"You don't see THAT everyday..."
In my last blog post, I proved once and for all why we couldn't possibly exist in other universes short of a higher power intervening and no one could think of a single argument as to why that could be wrong.


Okay, so maybe there were a lot of comments with counter-arguments. I have a counterpoint that touches on the basis for several arguments for the very existence of other universes and what would cause them to exist at all, however, and I'm curious how it will be countered, so here we go:

Nothing is random.

Before I clarify that statement, here's why I bring it up: there is a hypothesis that every possible outcome of any given moment results in parallel universes. On the surface, this suggests an infinity of universes beyond even the most smarty-pants nerd's comprehension, with universes splitting for no more reason than a person having two different cereal options for their morning breakfast.

The problem with this is that nothing is truly random. There are tons of things that, for all human intents and purposes, are random, but that doesn't actually mean they're truly random. It just means they are beyond our ability to predict.

Three examples: the shuffling of a deck, the rolling of a die, and randomized damage dealt in an RPG video game.

Shuffling: The order of the cards is determined by what order they started in, how they were shuffled, whether they were cut, etc. While we cannot predict the final order they will wind up in, making it random for all human intents and purposes, it's not truly random at all as far as the universe is concerned. There is a clear sequence of events with every effect having a cause. A being of high enough intelligence, observational senses, and knowledge of the starting order could know the order of the cards after being shuffled without looking.

Die roll: Same as the shuffling. How the die is thrown, where it lands, etc, gives us a result that is, for all intents and purposes, random, but it landed on the number it did due to various measurable factors. There are too many factors for us to reasonably keep track of and know the ultimate outcome, but the universe is smarter than us. If it were a being capable of following all the variables, it would know the result of every die throw in advance.

Randomized computer number: One of the major issues in computer programming is generating a truly random number, and the reason for this is that it has to be based on something. In short, it's not truly random at all. Any randomization of the damage being dealt in the RPG is most likely the result of an algorithm that "randomizes" the number based on the internal system clock. If one were an android with lightning fast reflexes and could precisely follow that clock, one could time their menu selections in order to get the best possible results every time.

The end point is that the idea of multiple universes resulting from something like a coin flip doesn't make sense to me. When the coin is flipped, the outcome isn't actually random, meaning that there is only actually one possible outcome in spite of there being two sides. We don't know what this outcome is, but humanity's inability to predict something is not the same as it being random from the perspective of the universe as a whole.

This extends to human psychology and decision making. Going back to the two cereals to choose from example, there are various factors impacting the decision, more than we can even begin to comprehend if we really start to think about it, but none of those factors are themselves random. The decision will ultimately be the result of countless non-random factors that won't arbitrarily change. Regardless of how many types of cereal there are in the cabinet, as far as the universe is concerned, there is only one possible outcome.

...Wait, did I just prove the existence of fate? o_O

Okay, that was an exaggeration for my own amusement, but it's an interesting thing to consider. It's also worth noting that based on this argument, even if there is such a thing as fate, there may as well not be from our perspective. Our tiny human brains are incapable of accounting for the effectively infinite amount of x-factors, so there's no point in assuming we know what our fates are. I think we should be humble, accept the limitations of our own minds, and do our best to make our own destinies without arrogantly assuming we know what our fates are. We don't. That's what makes life both fun and tolerable.

This is the part where someone will comment about random quantum components or electrons out of sync or something like that. If one can genuinely prove quantum randomization resulting in other universes, I'm willing to consider it, but I would need some sort of real, solid proof to revise my opinion of randomness. At the moment, it sounds more to me like humans concluding that things they are incapable of measuring or predicting are truly random as opposed to just being beyond our ability to predict.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Other Universes And Why We Probably Aren't In Them

Family Guy is owned by FOX. Also, the
episode this is from was pretty good.
Parallel universes are a fun science fiction trope. Imagine a world similar to our own where things are very similar but different. Universes where someone else won that one big war, or dragons roam the Earth, or the Star Wars prequels kicked ass. And in these universes, there are various versions of yourself, identical, yet different.

Except that last part is illogical.

Before I continue, I want to make a few things clear. This hypothesis is based on cause and effect, probability, and biology. For all I know, fate is a real thing, and if some all powerful being wants The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to be a constant in the multiverse, then yes, Jon Stewart will exist in all continuities regardless of anything I'm about to say.

Given that we can neither prove nor disprove things such as fate and destiny, however, that is not being considered here and is a different debate altogether.

For the purpose of this argument, the definition of a dimensional alternate is "someone born with identical DNA". It doesn't matter if they mutate later or whatever; so long as they're born with DNA identical to someone in another universe, they're someone's alternate. This ignore's any spiritual or other technical ways one could arguably be an alternate.

Odds of Someone's Parents Meeting

There are so many factors involved here that I honestly don't know how to calculate it. I don't think anyone could. The odds of two specific people getting together in one universe are low enough, but in more than one universe with different histories?

Consider one of my examples where something is crazily different, and the Star Wars prequels KICKED ASS! But what if two people met and fell in love over the internet as a result of their mutual hatred for the prequels? In a universe where there was nothing to complain about, would they still get together, let alone know that the other person even exists?

It's a silly example, but consider any "how did you meet" story, and you can find points where you could have prevented them from meeting by changing just one little thing. Now consider a universe where America lost the Revolutionary war. Imagine how many "little things" that would change.

Again, this argument doesn't factor in fate, the force, cupid, etc, so don't comment with "true wuv" or, well.... I guess I'd just sit at the computer and look annoyed. Not much else I could do, really.

Odds of a Specific Person Being Born

Let's say that in spite of President Lincoln being a space dingo democrat in this other universe, one's parents still meet and have children. The odds of one's dimensional alternate being born remains low all the same.

Remember, for the sake of this discussion, one is not a dimensional alternate unless they have identicial DNA. I don't want to get too graphic here, but if you think about it, it's much more likely that the equivalent of a fraternal twin or a sibling would be born than a dimensional alternate with identical DNA. Whether the first X chromosome is identical would depend on when the baby was conceived, and the second X or Y chromosome would have a low probability of being identical regardless of when conception took place.

This is a problem with time travel as well. I know the universe was pretty easy going in Back To The Future, but I still think Marty should've shapeshifted some as he messed with continuity. Heck, he could've even wound up changing genders!


To the fan art machine!

Exponentially Complicated

When you consider the various reasons two people might not meet and the odds against a specific person being born, the odds of one person existing in multiple universes is pretty low. Thing is, that's just one generation. This applies to every single previous generation.

As such, not only are the odds of one specific person being born astronomically low, but the odds of their parents, grandparents, etc. were low, too. The odds of the family tree being multiversally constant becomes exponentially lower with each successive generation.

Actually, I shouldn't say every previous generation. It's really just up to the point where the universes were last identical. For another universe to be recognizable at all as parallel, it seems like it would have to identical up to a point in history.

Let's say Marty's reckless time travel resulted in the universe diverging into two separate universes, meaning the universes are identical up to sometime in the 1950's. Eventually, the ripple effect of the changes to Hill Valley would be far-reaching, but initially, that town would be the only place with significant changes. By the 1980s, the odds of the latest generation of Hill Valleyans being identical in both universes would be pretty low.


My conclusion is thus: Short of some outside force manipulating who is and isn't born in each universe, the odds of a single person existing in multiple universes where events were different prior to their birth are low to the point of essentially being non-existent.

As such, in a hypothetical universe where things are left to chance and, for example, America lost the revolutionary war, none of us would logically exist.

In spite of all this, the concept is fun enough that I am willing to ignore it, work around it, whatever I've gotta do to be able to write and enjoy parallel universe stories. Yes, there are logical flaws, but science doesn't run the show when it comes to fiction.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Satisfying the Niche Audiences

Oh, wow. I have a BLOG? A place where I can write and say things that are on my mind and share it with the world? EXTRAVAGANT!

My comic, El Goonish Shive, is arguably very strange. In this age of the internet, what does and does not qualify as strange is a bit iffy, but I would still argue that my comic qualifies. It includes a lot of unusual elements and combinations of said elements that attract multiple niche audiences who read it less for the whole and more for specific aspects of it. After over eight years of EGS and time spent online, I have learned something about niche audiences:

Niche audiences can be very difficult to please, and not pleasing them can result in hostility.

I'm not saying this is true of everyone who read EGS because it fits a niche. In fact, I believe (hope?) that the vast majority are pretty easy going and friendly. As is the case with a loud man talking in a room full of a hundred quiet people, however, the demanding portion of the audience stand out significantly even if they are not the majority.

By very difficult to please, I mean there's a portion of the audience who are looking for very specific things, and my comic comes close to what they specifically want without actually doing so. This leads to frustration on their end, and sometimes to my receiving some pretty nasty and continuously negative feedback.

This leads to my own frustration, as the people I refer to are likely to continue reading my comic due to it almost being specifically what they want, them continuing to act with hostility because it's not specifically what they want, and me getting annoyed because it will never be specifically what they want due to what they want being so specific that I'd basically have to make a different comic altogether.

This doesn't just happen with my comic (boy, wouldn't that be weird?). There are people with very specific tastes in regard to many things, and that on its own isn't a problem. One can have very specific tastes without being pushy about it. I myself have some very specific tastes. The X-Files was a show I kept watching because it was almost what I wanted, and it was frustrating because it wasn't what I specifically wanted, and it never became what I wanted.

Heck, it only got worse. Remember when Mulder left and they kept going? I mean, what the hell, right? Scully was cool and all in a "oh my GOD you've been slapped by the paranormal HOW many times and you still won't accept it's real" sort of way, but Mulder was the heart of the show. Without Mulder, it freakin' wasn't the same show. What the hell were they-- Wait, where was I?

Anyway, for the X-Files to become what I wanted, it would have to alienate (PUN!) the majority of its audience. It would need a lighter tone, more humor, confirm the existence of aliens in season one, etc. I would have loved that. The show would've been canceled a few weeks later, but I would've been momentarily placated. The happy ending is that Warehouse 13 now exists, and it's pretty damn close to the tone I wanted. I think Pete is overly goofy to the point of being somewhat difficult to believe at times, but it's close enough, darn it!

Anyway, I don't know if I actually have a moral to this blog post. I mostly wanted to vent a bit about some of the continuous feedback I get from people who will never be satisfied with my work short of drastically altering it to the point that it would no longer be something I'd want to make. It also lead to me thinking about how I've been in that position, as I didn't sit down to write this with any intent of bringing up the X-Files, but there it is.

I guess if there was an ultimate point to it, it would be that if a creator is making apples, feedback on how to make better apples can be helpful and encouraging. Feedback to the same creator in regard to making better oranges and continually hoping said apples will become oranges, however, is ultimately frustrating and demotivational for all concerned.

...Wait, my web browser's dictionary doesn't consider "demotivational" a word? BAH! The interwebs has MADE it a word! Websters, get on that crap. Like, for reals. This toad won't fly.