Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for "Seems Like Everybody Else Is On S" (A To Z Challenge, Star Wars Blogathon)

There's really nothing else "S" could stand for, right? I'm not missing anything?

As I've noted before, the film Yellow Hill: The Strangers Tale is raising funds to begin shooting.  Starring Bai Ling, this short film will be an intro to the longer Western Yellow Hill, and will introduce Bai's character while setting up an epic Western-style confrontation between a group of Chinese settlers and a mob trying to force them off their land.  It's going to blend spaghetti Westerns with modern-day twists and it's going to be brilliant.

How can I say that? Because I know the director, Ross Bigley, and I've worked with him before.  Ross has more than 60 short films under his belt already and he directed the phenomenal feature Petty Cash, which is currently getting ready for distribution.  I got to be on the set one day for the filming of Petty Cash and watching Ross work with Bai Ling I saw art being made. 

Yellow Hill needs funding, as I said.  They're raising money through IndieGoGo and even $5 helps out -- so go to their site and pledge $5 or more and gain perks.  It's your chance to feel like a real Hollywood producer and to help out a worthy project.

And, if you do that, you'll get your choice of 1,000 points in the Star Wars Blogathon, or, if you're not taking part in the Star Wars Blogathon?  Here's another sweet deal:  Post that link and ask people to go to it and I will give you one e-copy of any of my books, free. (Find my books here.)

Already, Andrew Leon, whose awesome book The House On The Corner is a must-read for anyone who loves fantasy or sci-fi, has posted about it on his blog -- where you can also read his fascinating ongoing series of posts about sci-fi things that have become reality, like fake worlds such as Second Life

If you haven't already read The House On The Corner, I suggest you go buy it and read it.  I tore through the book like nobody's business.  It's great.  If you have read it, go buy one of Andrew's other books; he's got links to them on his blog.

AND, author PT Dilloway also posted about Yellow Hill and contributed $5 (I haven't given my money yet, okay? I'll get to it.)  PT has written a bunch of brilliant books, including the John Irving-esque Where You Belong but the real big news for him is the upcoming publication of his Scarlet Knight superhero book; his blog has been introducing the characters for that book and it sounds like it's going to be seriously great. 

AND NOW, on to the Alien Alphabet and Star Wars Blogathon portion of this post.  In response to my post yesterday suggesting that music might be an alien language we can all speak, PT and Rusty both posited other options: telepathy and math.  (At least, I think that's what Rusty was getting at with his reference to sudoku and bridge.)

I'll get to telepathy later because Rusty says I think deep thoughts and so I want to keep getting credit for being a philosopher-king, and also because I'm not so sure that math will help us communicate with aliens.

In an earlier post I talked about how we sent out a coded message and (possibly?) received a coded message back. In that message back, the aliens had replaced our dual-DNA helix with an additional strand, apparently indicating that they understood our code (we have DNA!) and were responding in kind.

I'm not sure how the aliens would know what the DNA strand was meant to be in that message, and I'm not even sure, as I think about it, that aliens would use any symbols or ideas that we use, either. 

When people talk about alien languages, it's usually presented, as this loosely-connected series of posts began, with a replacement code -- our letter a equals their letter "Xgma" or something.  But the more you think about alien languages and try to come up with a frame of reference for how they might work, the more you realize you're thinking about when we meet other humans -- humans who look a little different but mostly they're just like us and so they have the same references we do and the same basic, fundamental aspects of their life that we do.

For example: when Europeans met North Americans for the first time, they all had some things in common, like having two arms and two legs and one head and being oxygen-breathers.  They all lived in a world where trees were more or less the same kind of thing; while their experiences were different, in part, they had many similarities.  It's not that hard for me to point to a tree and say tree and you to point to it and say l'arbre. After all, we both know what a tree is and we both speak with our mouths by expelling air out of them.

What if aliens have no trees?

What if they have no mouths?

What if the aliens we meet first are superintelligent shades of blue
, as Douglas Adams once posited?

To try to game out what it might be like to meet and interact with aliens, it's no good to imagine kind of human things who think and act like us.  That'll work out fine if evolution has allowed kind of human things who think and act like us to grow on Zarmina's World.  But that may not be entirely likely.

Consider that we are at the top of the intelligence tree (so far as we know) on Earth, but that the second (or at worst third) most intelligent beings on our planet are nothing like us.  They're dolphins.

(No, this isn't that long-awaited Dolphin Alien Alphabet postBut it's related.)

We have no idea how to talk to dolphins.  Not really.  This site says that humans have been able, with the help of assistive devices, to understand 8 words of dolphin language, and has a realistic-sounding version of how dolphins communicate with a pictorial/sonic language.  Certain aspects of the site make me doubt the science, a bit -- it seems less than science-y to me, in part because of the emphasis on extraterrestrials in certain portions -- but the ideas they're talking about seem to make sense, those ideas being that dolphins don't use words or symbolic thought to communicate, they use pictures.

(This other site, which I do not doubt the science of because it's aimed at kids, says that one researcher studying dolphins for 17 years has no idea what they're saying.)

The idea being this: Dolphins live in a world that we cannot really, truly, imagine.  They live in three dimensions, for one thing -- we really only live in two, because moving in a third dimension for us is short-lived (we jump up and come back down) or assisted.  When you get on a plane, you're traveling in three dimensions but it doesn't feel that way, and you cannot without assistance suddenly change your position vertically.

Dolphins also live in an uncomfortable world, or so it seems to me.  They have to come to our part of the world for air but have to do everything else underwater, where they cannot survive for long.  Imagine if, say, 80% of your life was required to be spent underwater.  Even with adaptations for that, it would be a very different lifestyle.  I imagine that dolphins do not feel the discomfort we feel after only a few seconds underwater holding our breaths, for example, but it still would be a very different existence to have to hunt, sleep, eat, and play in a world that will kill you if you relax.

And that's true for them: dolphins, like many other animals, never sleep: they have bifurcated brains and only half their brain sleeps at a time, which makes them very different from us.  They have to do that because if their brain shuts down entirely like ours does, they drown.

And on to the math part: Dolphins have no hands and so don't have 10 fingers and so may not use Base-10 math the way we do.  Math, as we imagine it, is a construct that we have made that (mostly) follows rules that can be proven.  2+2=4 combines some universal truths (this many plus this many always equals thismanythismany) but also some cultural constructs -- the word two, for example.  So sudoku makes sense to us because of the way we have learned to count and the words we have applied to the rules for the math system we use.

All of which is to say: we have known about dolphins for as long as we have known about the ocean, and we can't communicate with them yet.  That means either they're incapable of communicating, which seems impossible, or that we have far, far more of a distance to cross to talk to an alien intelligence than simply playing some musical notes or pointing to a diagram of a human being.

That, or we'd better hope that all those other planets out there are populated with virtually-human "aliens" like Han Solo.

On to QUESTION NUMBER 56 in the Great Star Wars Blogathon, worth 23 points, with commenter number 7 and the last commenter each getting 10 bonus points:

What card game was Han playing when he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando?

REMINDER: Today is the WHAMMY! WAGER day.  If you want to take part in the WHAMMY! question tomorrow, you have to leave your points wager in a comment today.  You can wager at least 100 points, even if you have less, and you can wager up to the total points you have. 

More on the WHAMMY! question here to help you understand it

Have you written your blogfest entry? The Triweekly Blogfest Challenge -- prize is $10 -- is to post something on the theme of "Han shot first, but Time-Traveling Elvis shot second" by April 29.  Leave a link in the comments to your post.

Here are the Star Wars Blogathon standings; check your point total here.

Oh, and "S is also for Star Wars' Dad can beat up Star Trek's Dad."

And, yeah, I know I didn't tie Yellow Hill into dolphins, etc., but give me a break, will you?


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Sabacc. And I contributed $25 so I can get thanked in the credits now!

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I've had terrible luck with the Whammy question but I guess I'll go almost all in with 3500 points.

Andrew Leon said...

Your Star Wars Dad link isn't working.

I'm gonna throw everything into the whammy today. Why not, you know? Gotta try to catch Rusty somehow.

Personally, I'm not convinced that dolphins (and possibly whales) aren't smarter than us. Often, the reasoning for them not being smarter than us has to do with the fact that they haven't built anything or solved any of the problems of the universe. But we don't really know about the whole universe thing, do we? Some groups of whales spontaneously change their whole language structure every few years. All of them at once. The closest thing we could have to that would be if everyone in the same city got up some morning and decided to speak Spanish instead of English. Except, as far as we can tell, they switch to something they've never spoken before. That's pretty amazing to me.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I am wagering all of my points and emailing you pronto with the answer.

I love Patrick's new cover. said...

Hope Yellow Hill does well

so nice to meet delightful folks from A to Z challenge Moondustwriter's Blog

Rusty Webb said...

I suppose I'll wager the max points available. That's Patrick's total, right? So, dammit. I looked up his total and now I forgot what it was... Looked it up again, I'll wager 3830 points on the whammy.

And I'll be pretty sure that if dolphins ever build a TECHNOLOGICAL civilization we'll have math in common. It's hard to build radio transmitters and spaceships without having a concept for math. I won't go so far as to say its impossible, but it's gotta be damn hard.