Sliders-inspired q.

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Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:16 am UTC

*Fffoip!*

A bluish interdimensional portal opens up down some back-alley, and a bunch of travelers from a parallel earth are thrown from it onto the ground. Their timer is set for seventy-one hours, and when it runs out they will be sucked back to their original world. Their mission is to gather as much information as possible on scientific and military breakthroughs, to take back to their planet for native scientists to use: that is, to download as many journal articles and published experiments as they can to advance their own science (i.e., they may find a world that has recorded and measured the Higgs boson, and such data would be worth billions back home, let alone if they found a world that had discovered the graviton or some shit). They may even have time to download newspapers on how things Would Have Turned Out for all the humanities kids to drool over.

So they whip out some beastie notebook and start scanning the webs for their material, except in this reality there's no Wi-Fi. Well, that's cool, they'll find someone willing to lend the use of their modem (after some convincing with gold or a glock) and connect with their ethernet cable? Nope, different cable standard. Well, they MacGuyver something together, and connect in, but the internet is all weird and is coming through as some random code.

My question is, if a civilization were to develop their own computers and internet independently from ours, how hard would it be to interface with their code and hardware designed to a different standard? How hard would it be to back-engineer a browser that would work to display data from another world? We can assume both worlds have had comparable computer development, with Babbage and WW2-era analogue computers, but how significant are modern computing conventions?
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby JoeKhol » Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:59 am UTC

I would have thought it would be quite easy. If you're assuming similarity at the fundamental level so we're still dealing with blocks of 1s and 0s representing the information in a defined structure, it's not going to be much different to translating between different applications or operating systems.

I could be missing something though.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:48 am UTC

Sew, if IBM and Windows had never happened, and we were looking at an earth with very different computer architecture, could you give them a .jpeg file and they'd be able to view it as a picture with minimal fuss? Like, wouldn't it just look like a weird string of 0's and 1's that could be typed document, or could be a small audio file, or could be a corrupted executable?

To phrase the question another way, if humans thousands of years from now dug up my old Warcraft: Orcs and Humans CD, after DOS and stuff are long-forgotten, would they be able to meaningfully understand its contents?
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby JayDee » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:06 am UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:So they whip out some beastie notebook and start scanning the webs for their material, except in this reality there's no Wi-Fi. Well, that's cool, they'll find someone willing to lend the use of their modem (after some convincing with gold or a glock) and connect with their ethernet cable? Nope, different cable standard. Well, they MacGuyver something together, and connect in, but the internet is all weird and is coming through as some random code.
I'm guessing that this sort of thing wouldn't be a huge deal. Bringing back encoded information is almost as profitable as the information is encoded, eventually. Bring back a heap of computers and spend as long as needed back in our universe getting the information out. If the time in the alternative universe is limited, they should spend the time there on collection rather than wasting time trying to understand or translate what they are collecting*.

William Gibson wrote a short story, Hinterlands (it's in the collection Burning Chrome,) dealing with something like this. There is a portal people fall through. Later they come back. Little control over the process. First person came back with a shell that was obviously not of this world, which created new fields of study overnight. Second person came back with an interesting artifact, the study of which uncovers a cure for cancer, prompting systematic attempts to mine the portal for all it's worth.

*Obviously some level of understanding is desirable, so the information-scavengers have an idea of the value of what they are getting. That could be tricky, so I'd say best err on the side of grabbing everything they can. Humanity will find ways to get information out of it.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby JoeKhol » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:20 am UTC

Like I said, you'd have to know what the strings of 1s and 0s represented. For a simplified example, if you have a file format where 0 represents a white pixel and 1 represents a black pixel in a fixed set of 100 lines of 100 pixels, you could take a file in that format on pretty much any architecture and present the black and white image it represents. A more complicated structure would be more effort to translate but the principal is the same.

If you don't know the what the 1s and 0s represent you obviously can't translate the file but then that's true within our single reality anyway.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Patashu » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:44 am UTC

Barring something really intelligent, it'd take too long to figure out on the fly how their version of the internet works on every level (consider our version of networks: each type of cable has its own bit patterns/MAC addresses/encodings, then there's IP to identify computers, then there's TCP or UDP to handle sessions, then there's the protocols for specific programs and services like HTTP and FTP and so on) and then to manipulate hardware/write code to work with what you've learnt. At the same time, you have to figure out what bit patterns they use to represent symbols, control characters and so on images/marked up text files/compressed files will be useless until you read about how THEY'RE implement it and rewrite the implementation yourself, etc. (Formats like BMP would be pretty obvious, but then there's stuff like MP3s and PNGs that are utterly unreadable and give you no indication you're on the right track should you try to reverse engineer them.)

Wouldn't it be so much easier to jack a native computer, use it to get all the implementation knowledge/files you're after (possibly forcing the native to teach you how to use the thing if it's not obvious enough), and then take that with you? Grab now, analyze much later.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Yakk » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:13 pm UTC

Let's imagine you find something similar to ethernet.

Now, you have problems. There will be wires. These wires will carry electical potential (ie, current if you hook them up). What are the boundaries of what is a legal signal, and what isn't? What do the signals mean? What are the backoff algorithms? Is there a physical-layer handshake to get the other side to know you are there?

Defeating that could easily take even the smartest, most prepared people more than a day of work, depending on how alien it is.

After the physical layer, you then need to work out what local networking protocol is being used. We'll presume sanity, where there is a local networking protocol to communicate with other systems physically wired together in close proximity. You'd have to reverse engineer the packet structure (assuming they use packets) and the error detection (without which, your packets will be noise). You need to work out how to "address" a packet, what kinds of packets there are, and the like.

In most networks, there are multiple such protocols (or sub-protocols of the main one) going on. Our ethernet protocol mixes with DHCP and the like which eventually leads to something like IP.

At this point, all you know how to do is really basic stuff, and most of the data you are getting has no meaning to you. You haven't even started working out what the character set is, let alone images!

Alot of what makes computers really fast is that they are speaking a very narrow and special dialect to each other. What we could do pretty easily is avoid this problem and interact with computers at the human-interface level -- in particular, keyboards/mice and display screens.

And, as noted, stealing a computer is useful. You'd only have to reverse engineer the power requirements (which is relatively simple electrical engineering) in order to be able to use it "back home", and you could even bring "test" power supply kits with you to make sure you got it right before leaving and never returning. That gives you all the time in the world to work out how the computer works.

Now, it may turn out that the computer is a cloud type computer (doesn't work without a remote server giving it keys to work), so you'd want many of them (so you can attempt to do physical level cracking) and/or you'd want to browse the network and take photographs of the visual data.

Another interesting idea would be to look for public data repositories, such as libraries. Then duplicate as much as possible... once again, using optical interface techniques.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby RabbitWho » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:21 pm UTC

It could be one of the universes where only one proton is placed differently for a split second and everything else is the exact same. I wonder does probability effect how many of a certain type of universe exist, like are there more like ours than there are where Elvis is still alive, since with his personality and life it seems inevitable that he'd die.. but I guess when you're talking infinite numbers "more" and "less" don't matter at all.


I find it really hard to believe there's another universe where it's 2010 and USBs don't exist. It seems like everything happened the only way it could possibly happen, I mean if I see a thread on a message board once, reply, forget about it, come back a month later, reply again without noticing my other reply... I make an almost identical comment.
When I was in art college I would often have an idea and then go to an art gallery a few months later and find someone else had the exact same idea just a few years or months previously and it was up there on the wall. Not something like "Why don't I put a shoe in a still life of fruit?" More things that seem pretty specific to my imagination and circumstance like "Why don't I take a Mondrian painting and represent it in 3D" or "Why don't I draw perspective lines on the corner of a building so that it looks like it's a corridor". And there they are! In the Cork and Madrid respectively! One of my teachers told me in third year "The only reason I should create is that I want to create, if I don't make it, some other guy in Norway or Portugal is going to do it." And I absolutely believe that. Yes Hawking is a genius, but if he hadn't figured these things out someone else would come along (maybe it would take 100 years or more!) and figure it out. But of course he did it first, because that's how things were arranged.. and they're arranged that way because that's the way the forces of the universe put them.. and I just don't understand how they could be arranged else-wise somewhere else
You have inventions like the light-bulb, that happened all over the place at almost the same time... it just seemed like they were bound to be invented (though their size and shape may have been different if someone else had got their first... but how could they have! They were late! How could that be different because in another big bang a few rocks went in different directions? How could they have gone in different directions!? Surely they went the way they went because it was the only way they could go, like a magnet isn't going to suddenly repel when it should attract. How could it!? Why would it? Rules are rules!

I really can't get my head around this, I'm sure that's obvious!

What I am saying is, I believe they would have USB keys, and nothing new to show us, and that our doubles would be equally disappointed when they visited our Earth at the same moment with the same exact thoughts and expectations.

But I know I must be wrong about this because I disagree with too many clever people for me to be right.

And, as noted, stealing a computer is useful.

Steal!? Why steal! you'll be representing our entire universe and you want to steal!? That will make them hate us. They'll be putting signs around the place in English and Roman characters saying "People from the Universe please don't steal!"
We should trade for something they find valuable and don't have, examples from our art, music, literature or pornography.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:09 am UTC

Yakk wrote:[v. informative post]

Thank you, that post was doubleplusgood - exactly what I was looking for.

RabbitWho wrote:I find it really hard to believe there's another universe where it's 2010 and USBs don't exist. It seems like everything happened the only way it could possibly happen, I mean if I see a thread on a message board once, reply, forget about it, come back a month later, reply again without noticing my other reply... I make an almost identical comment.
When I was in art college I would often have an idea and then go to an art gallery a few months later and find someone else had the exact same idea just a few years or months previously and it was up there on the wall. Not something like "Why don't I put a shoe in a still life of fruit?" More things that seem pretty specific to my imagination and circumstance like "Why don't I take a Mondrian painting and represent it in 3D" or "Why don't I draw perspective lines on the corner of a building so that it looks like it's a corridor". And there they are! In the Cork and Madrid respectively! One of my teachers told me in third year "The only reason I should create is that I want to create, if I don't make it, some other guy in Norway or Portugal is going to do it." And I absolutely believe that. Yes Hawking is a genius, but if he hadn't figured these things out someone else would come along (maybe it would take 100 years or more!) and figure it out. But of course he did it first, because that's how things were arranged.. and they're arranged that way because that's the way the forces of the universe put them.. and I just don't understand how they could be arranged else-wise somewhere else

You can't imagine a universe where Firewire became the popular standard instead of USB, or a universe where USB plugs were sized and shaped slightly differently? You make the point that light bulbs could only have been produced in so many different ways, but there are millions of potential ways you could design a USB-like interface, and USB isn't even the best or most intuitive design.

It is sometimes said Einstein's General Theory of Relativity would have emerged if it wasn't for the theorist, because it wasn't a great leap away from contemporary physics (unlike the Special Theory, which is meant to be far more revolutionary). But there are some technical choices that are just arbitrary, like PAL and NTSC, or which wavelengths you use to broadcast your TV signals, or the voltage and amps running into your wall sockets. It wouldn't have taken much of a change in the past for these to be all over the place, and we know that because different countries have made radically different choices for those standards.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby RabbitWho » Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:45 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:
Yakk wrote:[v. informative post]

Thank you, that post was doubleplusgood - exactly what I was looking for.

RabbitWho wrote:I find it really hard to believe there's another universe where it's 2010 and USBs don't exist. It seems like everything happened the only way it could possibly happen, I mean if I see a thread on a message board once, reply, forget about it, come back a month later, reply again without noticing my other reply... I make an almost identical comment.
When I was in art college I would often have an idea and then go to an art gallery a few months later and find someone else had the exact same idea just a few years or months previously and it was up there on the wall. Not something like "Why don't I put a shoe in a still life of fruit?" More things that seem pretty specific to my imagination and circumstance like "Why don't I take a Mondrian painting and represent it in 3D" or "Why don't I draw perspective lines on the corner of a building so that it looks like it's a corridor". And there they are! In the Cork and Madrid respectively! One of my teachers told me in third year "The only reason I should create is that I want to create, if I don't make it, some other guy in Norway or Portugal is going to do it." And I absolutely believe that. Yes Hawking is a genius, but if he hadn't figured these things out someone else would come along (maybe it would take 100 years or more!) and figure it out. But of course he did it first, because that's how things were arranged.. and they're arranged that way because that's the way the forces of the universe put them.. and I just don't understand how they could be arranged else-wise somewhere else

You can't imagine a universe where Firewire became the popular standard instead of USB, or a universe where USB plugs were sized and shaped slightly differently? You make the point that light bulbs could only have been produced in so many different ways, but there are millions of potential ways you could design a USB-like interface, and USB isn't even the best or most intuitive design

It is sometimes said Einstein's General Theory of Relativity would have emerged if it wasn't for the theorist, because it wasn't a great leap away from contemporary physics (unlike the Special Theory, which is meant to be far more revolutionary). But there are some technical choices that are just arbitrary, like PAL and NTSC, or which wavelengths you use to broadcast your TV signals, or the voltage and amps running into your wall sockets. It wouldn't have taken much of a change in the past for these to be all over the place, and we know that because different countries have made radically different choices for those standards.


It's kind of a free will vs. determinism type question, I wasn't saying that USBs are the only thing that would work or that they can only work one way, I just don't see how people could possibly make different choices to the ones that they made, even if the choices seem arbitrary or no more or less logical than each other.
I don't understand how atoms could be any where else other than where they are. That just seems impossible to me. I think all the other universes must be identical since they were (apparently) set in motion in identical circumstances.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Yakk » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:37 pm UTC

Oh, then you don't understand even the basics of quantum mechanics and chaos theory.

QM states that the universe we experience isn't merely billiard balls. There is either randomness, or universe forking, (or even weirder stuff like super-determinism where what happens in 1 billion years determines what happens now).

Chaos theory states that in non linear systems, small changes in initial conditions can change the macroscopic state (among other things that are more interesting).

So a photon being emitted earlier/later in 1900 could easily "result" in a world where the USB style standard is utterly different. A small change in initial conditions leads to chaotic changes in the output (this ignores the fact that at each step, there are a myriad of things that are going to be different at the same scale, all of which are generating similarly chaotic changes in the macroscopic state). Some large-scale things might be common between the many variant universes, but small scale things will tend to differ massively (and some large-scale things might tend to differ massively as well, and some small-scale things will tend to be strangely similar).

Many of the choices that led to our current information architecture are intensely arbitrary. Like massively arbitrary. Like somebody pulled a number out of a hat, and they went with it. That number wasn't inherently better than alternative numbers, it was just better for everyone to use the same number.

As a little glimpse of it, big/little/middle endian number encoding. All 3 are used at industrial levels in the modern era (ok, middle endian is rarer), and which you use is arbitrary -- the only problem occurs when you try to speak the wrong endian to the other party. Then you are screwed up.

It might feel that USB is somehow "obvious", but the technical details of USB are massively arbitrary and complex. Things get picked not because they are clearly optimal, but because they are seemingly not sub-optimal, and the space of seemingly not sub-optimal choices is huge.

Regardless, once we are talking about multi-universe sliders, the universes have to differ if this is going to be all that interesting (ie, if the people in question have any hope to find the Higgs boson evidence).
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby userxp » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:53 pm UTC

RabbitWho wrote:I don't understand how atoms could be any where else other than where they are. That just seems impossible to me. I think all the other universes must be identical since they were (apparently) set in motion in identical circumstances.


You're mixing things with quantum physics. I don't know exactly what the many-worlds interpretation says about parallel universes, but it's not what the thread is (or was) about.

I believe there are many things that should have been invented but haven't. If an interdimensional traveler comes to our universe and says "I can't believe you don't have flexperpetiners! How can you live without flexperpetiners?", what would you think a flexperpetiner could be?

And I don't see any reason to not cooperate with other dimensions. As long as they are all humans with a society and technology similar to ours, we could make a "United Universes Organisation" and benefit from all the different technologies.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby RabbitWho » Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:15 pm UTC

Oh, then you don't understand even the basics of quantum mechanics and chaos theory.

QM states that the universe we experience isn't merely billiard balls. There is either randomness, or universe forking, (or even weirder stuff like super-determinism where what happens in 1 billion years determines what happens now).

Chaos theory states that in non linear systems, small changes in initial conditions can change the macroscopic state (among other things that are more interesting).

So a photon being emitted earlier/later in 1900 could easily "result" in a world where the USB style standard is utterly different. A small change in initial conditions leads to chaotic changes in the output (this ignores the fact that at each step, there are a myriad of things that are going to be different at the same scale, all of which are generating similarly chaotic changes in the macroscopic state). Some large-scale things might be common between the many variant universes, but small scale things will tend to differ massively (and some large-scale things might tend to differ massively as well, and some small-scale things will tend to be strangely similar).


Many of the choices that led to our current information architecture are intensely arbitrary. Like massively arbitrary. Like somebody pulled a number out of a hat, and they went with it. That number wasn't inherently better than alternative numbers, it was just better for everyone to use the same number. *snip*
[/quote]
I understand all that, but what I didn't understand was how any other number could possibly have come out of the hat than the number that did come out of the hat.

I feel like I just flipped a coin and it landed heads up and now someone is telling me with a straight face that there's no reason/ no cause as to why it landed heads up and it could just as easily have landed heads down.. it just seems that crazy to me.

userxp wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:I don't understand how atoms could be any where else other than where they are. That just seems impossible to me. I think all the other universes must be identical since they were (apparently) set in motion in identical circumstances.


You're mixing things with quantum physics. I don't know exactly what the many-worlds interpretation says about parallel universes, but it's not what the thread is (or was) about.

Well that's what the Sliders ideas are based on.

I believe there are many things that should have been invented but haven't. If an interdimensional traveler comes to our universe and says "I can't believe you don't have flexperpetiners! How can you live without flexperpetiners?", what would you think a flexperpetiner could be?

Badly named! :p
If this does happen I hope it's some kind of sandwich.
And I don't see any reason to not cooperate with other dimensions. As long as they are all humans with a society and technology similar to ours, we could make a "United Universes Organisation" and benefit from all the different technologies.


Well if you think they're different to us, I'm sure their microbes will wipe us out and vice versa the second we step through.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Yakk » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:02 pm UTC

RabbitWho wrote:I understand all that, but what I didn't understand was how any other number could possibly have come out of the hat than the number that did come out of the hat.

I feel like I just flipped a coin and it landed heads up and now someone is telling me with a straight face that there's no reason/ no cause as to why it landed heads up and it could just as easily have landed heads down.. it just seems that crazy to me.

Then how does the multiple universes the sliders slide into differ?

More essentially, serious models of QM have the coin landing both heads and tails. The you who sees the heads and the you who sees the tails cannot communicate with each other, because of how orthogonal/far apart you are, but the coin lands on both sides.

Other models of quantum mechanics have the coin being truly random. God plays dice with the universe, and which side the coin landed on was not determined until shortly before it landed. (note: scale issues may apply. The "coin" might have to be smaller, or the flip-process longer, for the state of the post-flip coin to be practically non-determined based off of the history of the point where you flipped it into the air.)

But none of this is a sliders question, really, is it?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby samk » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:11 pm UTC

You'd have one team downloading copies to an alternausb stick and another team buying off locals to write alternaperl to translate to simple file formats across something like a serial port interface...

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby RabbitWho » Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:02 am UTC

Yakk wrote:
RabbitWho wrote:I understand all that, but what I didn't understand was how any other number could possibly have come out of the hat than the number that did come out of the hat.

I feel like I just flipped a coin and it landed heads up and now someone is telling me with a straight face that there's no reason/ no cause as to why it landed heads up and it could just as easily have landed heads down.. it just seems that crazy to me.

Then how does the multiple universes the sliders slide into differ?


It's fiction and.. I think it's impossible. sorry.
More essentially, serious models of QM have the coin landing both heads and tails.

It depends on how you flick it, what you had for breakfast, and the engraving on the coin and impurities in the metal effect the weight. Etc. Etc. etc. It's not random if it's caused by something. Everything is caused by something. I don't understand how it could happen any other way. It's like saying right now if I go outside and jump up in the air there will be a split universe where I don't come down again. But how could there be a split universe where there is no gravity on earth in 2 minutes time when I go outside and jump? That's as impossible as it is for the coin to land heads on a throw where it lands tails.

Other models of quantum mechanics have the coin being truly random. God plays dice with the universe, and which side the coin landed on was not determined until shortly before it landed.

God? What? God? If we have to use his involvement to explain this then isn't something wrong? The result of the coin toss is the result of actions that were set in motion 13.5 billion years ago. It couldn't fall any other way.
(note: scale issues may apply. The "coin" might have to be smaller, or the flip-process longer, for the state of the post-flip coin to be practically non-determined based off of the history of the point where you flipped it into the air.)

How could it not be? How?

But none of this is a sliders question, really, is it?

probably not anymore.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby letterX » Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:24 am UTC

Ok, so a coin flip is perhaps not the best example, because a coin is a classically-sized object and to a very good approximation, basically behaves according to classical physics. So if we knew enough about the initial state (i.e., the exact velocity and rotation of the coin, the material properties of whatever surface its landing on, the exact wind currents in the room it was being flipped, etc.) we should be able to predict exactly how it will land. You will note, however, that the information required is actually quite massive. So massive, in fact, that almost everybody would say that a coin flip is impossible to predict, and certainly beyond the computational ability of any computer humanity is likely to build.

Still, perhaps it is theoretically possible?

However, let us ignore the coin, and focus on a much simpler object: a single atom of some radioactive element. Let's say that this particular species of atom has a half-life of 1 hour. That is, in any given hour, this atom has an equal probability of decaying or not decaying. Now, if I go away and come back in an hour, I can look at this atom, see if it has decayed or not, and that is as good as a coin flip.

However: quantum mechanics tells us that in fact there is absolutely no way to predict whether this atom will have decayed by the time I come back. No matter how much I know about this atom, no matter how much I know about the entire universe even, there is absolutely nothing I can do to get better than 50% odds predicting whether or not this particular atom will decay. There are two equally likely universes: one in which there is still an atom of whatever I started with there, and one in which this atom is now something else. Furthermore, there is no way to trace this difference to any cause. Such an event is actually a manifestation of true randomness.

Now, you may say: but that is just a difference of a single atom, not the difference of a coin flip or... what were we talking about? USBs? (wow... this has gone awfully far afield). However, QM says that essentially all interactions on the microscopic scale have this character. And large scale effects are built up of microscopic interactions.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby PM 2Ring » Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:54 am UTC

RabbitWho wrote:
(note: scale issues may apply. The "coin" might have to be smaller, or the flip-process longer, for the state of the post-flip coin to be practically non-determined based off of the history of the point where you flipped it into the air.)

How could it not be? How?

Due to the inherent indeterminacy of quantum systems.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_indeterminacy wrote:Quantum indeterminacy is the apparent necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system, that has become one of the characteristics of the standard description of quantum physics. Prior to quantum physics, it was thought that (a) a physical system had a determinate state which uniquely determined all the values of its measurable properties, and conversely (b) the values of its measurable properties uniquely determined the state. Albert Einstein may have been the first person to carefully point out the radical effect the new quantum physics would have on our notion of physical state.[1]

Quantum indeterminacy can be quantitatively characterized by a probability distribution on the set of outcomes of measurements of an observable. The distribution is uniquely determined by the system state, and moreover quantum mechanics provides a recipe for calculating this probability distribution.

Indeterminacy in measurement was not an innovation of quantum mechanics, since it had been established early on by experimentalists that errors in measurement may lead to indeterminate outcomes. However, by the later half of the eighteenth century, measurement errors were well understood and it was known that they could either be reduced by better equipment or accounted for by statistical error models. In quantum mechanics, however, indeterminacy is of a much more fundamental nature, having nothing to do with errors or disturbance.

But this is a topic more suited to the Science forum, where there are already several threads discussing it.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby meatyochre » Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:37 am UTC

So apparently I'm the only one who saw thread title and thought about
Spoiler:
white castle
?

sorry I'm tired and bordering on delirium. hugs for science and computers!
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Sat Jul 24, 2010 5:24 am UTC

RabbitWho wrote:I feel like I just flipped a coin and it landed heads up and now someone is telling me with a straight face that there's no reason/ no cause as to why it landed heads up and it could just as easily have landed heads down.. it just seems that crazy to me.

The problem here is that you're entirely assured that the universe is deterministic -- to the extent you can't even comprehend how it couldn't be -- and yet this thread is about a hypothetical situation where the first premise is that the universe isn't deterministic. If there was a logic puzzle thread about using a 3 gallon jug and a 5 gallon jug to get four gallons of water, it would be incredibly fatheaded of you to tell us you're not really sure about this water stuff. You can't imagine a non-deterministic universe? Fine, I'm happy for you, but that's completely fucking incidental to what we're discussing.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby danreil » Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:31 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:It is sometimes said Einstein's General Theory of Relativity would have emerged if it wasn't for the theorist, because it wasn't a great leap away from contemporary physics (unlike the Special Theory, which is meant to be far more revolutionary).


Its actually the other way around. Lorentz, Poincare and some other were on the way to discovering the special theory and contributed much to its formulation, but the general theory came out nowhere (Although Hilbert was actively searching for a theory of gravitation also.)

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby RabbitWho » Sun Aug 01, 2010 8:56 pm UTC

This was just on Top Gear! Kind of... The annoying man asked Jeff Goldbloom how he had the right lead to connect to the aliens computers in independence Day.... Isn't that great?

So many British culture jokes and car jokes went over his head... and mine.. and he drove around the track in third gear.. brilliant.


Things are making more sense nows anyway, thanks people.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Cave Wizard » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:11 am UTC

Just think of how much effort it is to port a piece of software from the playstation 3 to the x-box 360 or vice-versa, then imagine you're doing so by hex editing RAM dumps you obtained by reverse engineering the RAM chips and shunting the data out of them while they're on... I agree with the general tone of the thread that there's no way these guys would be able to come up with a decent interface in a reasonable amount of time unless both sides had a lot of smart people prepare beforehand with a universal-seeming electronic communication standard

Their best bet (assuming cooperation on both sides) would probably be to download a 5 jiggabyte zip file of Wikipedia, then figure out how to decode ZIP, ASCII, and HTML at their leisure on the other side. My guess is it would take weeks even with highly motivated, extremely well funded researchers to go interface with completely bizarre, foreign electronics

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby bitsplit » Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:42 pm UTC

It would probably be easier for said extra-planar aliens to go in to BestBuy, shoplift a laptop or similar apparatus, or go to a cybercafe, or a library. There, get printouts of all the necessary technical specs, some wikipedia articles, RFCs, etc. The others could just go to Youtube and watch videos of rabbits getting hump revenge on cats, tutorials on makeup, and of course the LHC videos on the Higgs Boson.

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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby tendays » Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:28 pm UTC

Are we assuming they have the same eyes as we do and see colours with three components R-G-B? If not their image formats may be rather different. Lossy audio/video/image encodings try to remove information that is not perceptible to humans, so what is preserved and what is dropped may differ significantly if we deal with non-humans. We can distinguish single frequency sounds (sine waves) from mixed sounds (chords), but can't distinguish yellow from a careful mix of red and green. Is the former physically easier than the latter would be, or is it conceivable that aliens only distinguish a couple of audio frequencies, but have spectroscopes in their eyes? Again, those would radically affect file formats to the point they become completely unrecognisable to humans.
Assuming we're dealing with humans, or creatures who are close enough, are we also assuming they speak English and use the same A-Z alphabet as we do, ordered in the same way?

In all cases, I'd aim for technical documents describing encodings and protocols. Without those it may be too difficult getting anything (e.g. if you manage to smuggle back a compressed encyclopedia it would be extremely difficult to figure out the compression algorithm, because the point of compression is precisely to remove the redundancy that is critical when trying to decipher something). Also, let's hope they aren't using encryption and DRM schemes all over the place!

It should be reasonably easy to manage decoding uncompressed plain text data. Some frequency analysis should permit finding out how many bits encode one character (but are we even sure they'll use bits and not ternary digits or something? Like DNA is a four-lettered information encoding), and it's reasonable to assume the ith letter encoded like the first letter plus (i-1). Then the next thing to do would be to go look for documentation that describes file formats (assuming you somehow manage to find an electronic encyclopedia there's a good chance you'll get those as well). That way you should be able to decode images, sounds and videos, as well as compressed data.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Wed Aug 18, 2010 1:27 am UTC

bitsplit wrote:It would probably be easier for said extra-planar aliens to go in to BestBuy, shoplift a laptop or similar apparatus, or go to a cybercafe, or a library. There, get printouts of all the necessary technical specs, some wikipedia articles, RFCs, etc. The others could just go to Youtube and watch videos of rabbits getting hump revenge on cats, tutorials on makeup, and of course the LHC videos on the Higgs Boson.

A++, would read again.

tendays wrote:Are we assuming they have the same eyes as we do and see colours with three components R-G-B?

We didn't start to diverge until sometime after WW2-era computers were developed, so it's not likely, but these things certainly would have presented a challenge for the Stargate Atlantis team trying to interface with Wraith tech.

tendays wrote:In all cases, I'd aim for technical documents describing encodings and protocols. Without those it may be too difficult getting anything (e.g. if you manage to smuggle back a compressed encyclopedia it would be extremely difficult to figure out the compression algorithm, because the point of compression is precisely to remove the redundancy that is critical when trying to decipher something). Also, let's hope they aren't using encryption and DRM schemes all over the place!

More this stuff, along the lines of how arbitrary are the conventions we chose that are the computing standards? Nice catch on the problems with DRM.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby tuseroni » Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

my recomendation:
take a computer. use THAT computer to get stuff off the net. take both back with you.

no matter how different the net looks at the digital level, it will still look the same at the analogue level, that is, the level humans work at.

---edit--
oops, missed this guy:
bitsplit wrote:It would probably be easier for said extra-planar aliens to go in to BestBuy, shoplift a laptop or similar apparatus, or go to a cybercafe, or a library. There, get printouts of all the necessary technical specs, some wikipedia articles, RFCs, etc. The others could just go to Youtube and watch videos of rabbits getting hump revenge on cats, tutorials on makeup, and of course the LHC videos on the Higgs Boson.
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Re: Sliders-inspired q.

Postby quintopia » Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

My opinion: 71 hours is not enough. Even if you could get an entire government working to convert their knowledge into a form you can understand (while they keep you in a cell and pump you for information upon the quality of which hinges your reception of their information), I just can't see the people involved being motivated enough.


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