Sentences with split words

April 13th, 2019

Now that we’ve come up with some examples of splitting up words — with some excellent contributions from Andy! — let’s use them in a sentence. The rule is that you need to make a sentence that is grammatical and makes sense whether or not the word has been split up.

Here are some examples:

We alter natively fish in our pond.

She likes to be wilder.

The glass dome was built to cap a city.

They showed a flag rant disregard for my anarchist diatribe.

In the spa I sit all sweaty and hum idly.

When I fold my money it doubles, and afterward I find it still in creases.

The voluble Nobel laureate loved his lab oratory.

And drawing from Andy’s clever examples:

Some jokester has filled my bathtub with sham poo.

When I stay too long cooped up without sunshine, I am apt to go off on a tan gent.

Splitting up words

April 12th, 2019

When you split a word into constituent parts (like therapist → the rapist), sometimes the resulting phrase subtlely shifts the meaning, and sometimes it ends up evoking something entirely different. Here are just a few examples out of many, from the first half of the alphabet. Maybe you can think of some others:

alternatively → alter natively
bewilder → be wilder
capacity → cap a city
decoration → deco ration
ecological → eco logical
flagrant → flag rant
gratefully → grate fully
humidly → hum idly
increases → in creases
jarring → jar ring
knowledge → know ledge
laboratory → lab oratory
mustache → must ache

Event horizon

April 11th, 2019

Half a millennium ago, Leonardo Da Vinci had a crazy and inspired idea. Suppose two people on two different mountaintops measured the direction of the Sun at the same exact moment.

The data from those two measurements could then be combined to compute the distance of the Sun to the Earth. Nearly two centuries later, Giovanni Cassini carried out that very measurement.

Now a far more sophisticated descendent of that approach to astronomy has been completed. This one involved eight radio telescopes scattered across the globe, the use of atomic clocks to precisely synchronize the measurements, and massive amounts of computer time to interpret the data.

In a way, the wondrous image of the Messier 87 black hole that has been seen around the world this week is a tribute to a data-driven approach to astronomy that was begun around 500 years ago. I think Leonardo would have been proud.

Seeing five years into the future

April 10th, 2019

The blog post I wrote for our Future Reality Lab this week describes a kind of milestone in our lab’s journey — and my own personal journey as well — to explore the possibilities of future reality.

So today I am just going to post a link to that post.


Haiku haiku

April 9th, 2019

Haiku: An immense
Karmic upper. Hey also,
It’s kinda useful.

It hasn’t stopped me yet

April 8th, 2019

Suppose we posit, for the sake of argument, that our reality (like the fictional universes we have visited in recent posts) is simply a metaphysical roll of the dice. Suppose there were multiple equally valid realities?

We all have the subjective feeling that this particular plane of existence is real. But what if we knew this “reality” to be an illusion? Would that knowledge change our understanding, our philosophy of life, our goals for the future?

To what extent can an expanded metaphysical knowledge of reality influence our day to day life? Perhaps the answer is not at all.

After all, we all know that we will eventually die. That doesn’t seem to stop anybody from living their life.

I don’t know about you, but it hasn’t stopped me yet. :-)

Five centuries dinner party

April 7th, 2019

I was watching a series of lectures today related to Leonardo DaVinci. This year is the 500th anniversary of the great man’s death, so there are a lot of DaVinci related events going on these days.

DaVinci’s life spanned the turn of the year 1500AD, and that got me thinking about other influential thinkers who were born in one century and died in the next. 1600AD gives us William Shakespeare for one. For 1700AD we have Bach and Newton, among others.

1800AD was particularly rich, yielding Goethe, Gauss and Austen to name just a few. When I think of 1900AD I mainly think of Albert Einstein, but that’s just me.

Imagine a dinner party with Leonardo DaVinci, William Shakespeare, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jane Austen and Albert Einstein. We would definitely want to throw in a universal translator, and presumably some excellent bottles of wine.

I would love to be a fly on the wall for that gathering!

The world revealed as an illusion, part 3

April 6th, 2019

Imagine you are a child of eleven. You are reading a wondrous book, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Following the adventures of Schmendrick the magician, you are at the climactic scene. He and his companions, one of whom is a woman named Molly Grue, are faced off against evil King Haggard, who has harnessed the evil power of a giant red bull (which is perhaps a demon) to kill the last unicorn on earth.

It seems that all is lost, that the very last unicorn will tragically disappear from the world. And then something miraculous happens.

Out of the ocean, thousands of unicorns stream ashore to join the battle against the evil king, like a vast wave of mystical salvation. Your eleven year old self is caught up in the wonder, the sheer majesty of this moment.

And then, for one paragraph only, the book takes a strange little detour, before continuing on to its conclusion. This paragraph, your very first taste of metafiction, stays with you forever:

“For Molly Grue, the world hung motionless in that glass moment. As though she were standing on a higher tower than King Haggard’s, she looked down on a pale paring of land where a toy man and woman stared with their knitted eyes at a clay bull and a tiny ivory unicorn. Abandoned playthings – there was another doll, too, half-buried; and a sandcastle with a stick king propped up in one tilted turret. The tide would take it all in a moment, and nothing would be left but the flaccid birds of the beach, hopping in circles.”

The world revealed as an illusion, part 2

April 5th, 2019

For me, a canonical example in literature of the world revealed as an illusion comes in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, when Prospero cuts short a play within the play by declaring:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

What is so lovely about this speech is that he is not merely referring to the performers in the play he is watching. He also refers to “the great globe”, which is not only his own fictional world, but the name of the actual theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed.

With these words, the speech jumps not only out of the play within the play, but out of the fictional world of The Tempest itself, and into our own reality outside the play.

Which makes the closing lines far more powerful: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

Those final words end up serving as a reminder that life itself is a kind of waking dream, which will one day end, and that the audience members themselves are ephemeral creatures. It just doesn’t get any more meta than that.

The world revealed as an illusion, part 1

April 4th, 2019

There is a certain literary trope which I love (when it’s done well). It is the moment in certain works of fiction when the author slyly reveals to the reader/viewer that everything they have been reading or watching is actually an illusion.

This is a very “meta” rhetorical device, because of course it is all an illusion. We know quite well that we are watching a play or a movie, or reading a book.

So this device should not work. Yet it does work, but only when it is done well, by a skilled creator. Tomorrow I will describe some of my favorite examples.