Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Test of your Ingenuity.

Here’s an interesting test for you.
You are the “space traffic controller” for a space port on the third planet of Mu Pegasi.  There is an incoming space craft ready to land, but there is a problem.
All the flight crew and human passengers were killed or rendered unconscious by a leak of cyanogen gas.  But that just happens to be what the alien trade and scientific delegation that the ship is bringing to Mu Pegasi breathe on their planet, so they are all fully conscious.  The ship is heading straight at the space port out of control and will slam into port, killing perhaps thousands of people and aliens.  The ship can be put into automatic landing mode with the simple push of a button, the large red one on the LEFT side of the control panel.  But the large red one on the RIGHT side of the panel will lock the ship on its current trajectory.
The problem, is that the aliens have a very minimal grasp of our language and we have an even less grasp of theirs.  We have to tell them to push the left button, but they have no idea what the terms left and right, clockwise and counterclockwise or up and down mean.  How do you explain to them which button to push?
Unfortunately, these aliens are bilaterally symmetric, like us humans, meaning they have near mirror image left and right hand sides so we can tell them to turn toward the side with five appendages or away from the side with three tentacles.  We know nothing of their internal biological structure so we can’t tell them to turn towards the side their heart is on (that would work for us humans).  We can’t send any photos or anything like that as they have no idea how to use our computers. 
We can only use words.  And simple ones at that.  How do you save your life and that of thousands of others?
The alien contingent contains the scientists and their understanding of the world is comparable to our own.  And prior to our face to face contact, we have established some simple common dialogue of a scientific nature.  We can exchange scientific language at a roughly sixth grade level.
How do you differentiate left and right for a being who has no understanding of those concepts?
How do you direct the alien to the correct button?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tree Climbing and Neatest Falls

I am not big on nostalgia.  I rarely look back at the “good old days” and wish the “out-of-control modern times” were more like past times.  But I do occasionally reminisce about things I did, games I played, as a kid.

My brother Randy and I built a lot of forts, usually shabbily-built wooden structures.  I remember one fort condominium we built in our back yard; he built a big one with random angles between the walls (looked like a Tim Burton nightmare!) and mine was a very orthogonal long, rectangular structure.  Much cleaner design than his.  But my 12-year-old mind didn’t really comprehend that long walls with no side supports weren’t very structurally strong – I couldn’t build up.  But his, which looked as if a strong wind, or a determined wolf, could blow it over, was strong enough to support a second story.  And not only that, he dug out the floor so he had a big “basement”.  Now I could lay down comfortably in mine and he couldn’t, but I was always a bit jealous of his upstairs.

Like many kids of the day, we played war games, pretending to be army men fighting the bad guys.  I was NOT the kind to continue that into my adult life and I can proudly say I never have, and never will, play World of Warcraft® or any of the clone pretend-to-be-a-soldier games.  But we played them a lot as kids.  With toy guns, not controllers, in our hands.

Ours eventually morphed into a different game we called “Neatest Falls” (“neat” in the parlance of the day was synonymous with “cool”).   The point of the game is that when you are shot, you make the most dramatic, melodramatic, funny or athletic collapse possible.  The rest of the kids would rate your death fall and the best was declared the Neatest Fall.

We also played a lot of games in trees.  We made several elaborate tree houses.  Once we tied a long, strong rope about 25 feet up in a big, old cottonwood tree we had in the front yard.  While one of us stood on a stool and grabbed the rope as high up as possible, the rest of our neighborhood gang would grab the end of the rope and run, stretching the rope taught, with the rider shooting up some 10-12 feet off the ground.  The faster they ran, the better the ride.

The younger brother of one of our gang whined on and on about riding so we finally let him.  But he was the lightest rider we had and with all the big kids running and pulling, he didn’t just go up; he flipped up over the rope, couldn’t hang on and flew about fifteen feet away.  The landing broke his arm.  We were never allowed to try that activity again!

And speaking of trees, we often had competitions to see who could climb the highest.  I am the reining and undefeated tree-climbing champion of my neighborhood.  But I retired, so all you young, up and coming (and very limber and light-weight) challengers, forget it.  You’ll need to create your own club to be champion of.

Next time, I’ll write about some the games we played that are no longer available today.  Like Jarts!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ghosts and Bad Drivers

My investigation team, INsight Paranormal (www.insightparanormal.org) investigated the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) two weeks ago.  We were in the liberal Arts building and captured some intriguing audio clips from some of the classrooms.  I one night, we couldn’t cover every classroom and we hope to go back to this building and investigate other buildings on the campus.

So my question to any of you who read this is: did you (or anyone you know) attend this university and do you (or the person you know who went here) know of any odd occurrences anywhere on the campus.  Odd as in paranormal.

Universities, and schools in general, are often good places to hunt for ghostly activity, if for no other reason because the time students spend in school is often quite stressful.  Not only do they have to worry about grades, it is also the time in everyone’s life where they grow from a child to an adult and going through puberty is perhaps the most hormonally, psychologically and emotionally stressful time in almost anyone’s life.  If, as many ghost hunters believe, such strong emotional and psychological stress creates the energy necessary to have a haunting, then this should be one of prime locations to haunt for ghosts.

So if you know of a place where weird things happen, or if weird stuff happens I your house, visit INsight’s web page or leave me a comment here.  We can arrange an investigation of the location.

Now a quick rant.  The manners of most drivers these days drive me crazy!  I can’t remember how many times this has happened to me: I have been driving along the highway and I want to change lanes for an upcoming.  So I flip on my turn signal and a car right behind me suddenly changes into the lane I want to go to cutting my own lane change off.  That doesn’t bug so much as they may want to get off at the same exit as me.  But then they pass me and get right back into the lane they left. 

Or they come to a yield sign and run right through it, entering the lane I am in so I have to slow down to avoid hitting them.  Then they get mad at me when I honk my horn, as if I was supposed to yield to them! 

These are just a few of the idiotic driving behaviors I have experienced in just the last few days that really tick me off.  Fortunately I don't believe in violence solving anything or I might just get a bad case of road rage.  I DO often imagine that I have missile launchers on my car and feel the satisfaction of removing them from the gene pool, in my mind.  Not that I'd ever do that for real...

Maybe one day I'll get to investigate a location where someone died due to road rage.  That'd be an odd sort of justice.