Stephen Wolfram teched the tech for Arrival


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/23/stephen-wolfram-teched-the-tec.html


#2

I’m surprised he found the time to do this as well as single-handedly revolutionising all of human science on his own.


#3

Minimizing and maximizing!


#4

Well, sure. Why would you when there are windows and grease pencils?


#5

… and he did a great job (as far as I can tell). But I suspect he also melodram’d the melodrama.


#6

The effort that goes into the gobbledegook equations always interests me, because when you think about non-existent future tech, the science you create probably can’t work (I say probably because you could just get lucky by chance). I wonder why you can’t just throw in some partial differential equations, a couple of non-linear operators and use random-ass greek letters and as long as you don’t reproduce well-known equations, you can plausibly pretend that it means something, if only you knew what the variables and functions actually represented. Any scientist, not knowing what the writing represents, wouldn’t be able to say anything about it, as long as the derivations and operations were self- consistent.

Something a lot of laypeople take for granted is that scientists and mathematicians only know what equations mean by convention, familiarity, and/or some context, otherwise all they know is that what they’re looking at is some kind of derivation or solution, but not specifically what phenomena is being studied. I suppose if you’re being artful, you might play with the gravitational constant and special relativity, but there’s a part in the movie where they talk about how long it takes to pump air into a room and equalize pressure, and that’s exactly the kind of thing scrawled on the back of an envelope or whiteboard in these situations, rather than esoteric high level physics when you literally cannot detect anything about the vessels except their presence and appearance (this is explicitly stated in the film.)


#7

Hah. But seriously, scientists really do use whiteboards (and sometimes even chalkboards) even in 2017.


#8

Yeah, but miles?


#9

My old lab still had one chalkboard [1] in it; no-one had touched it for decades. As well as some half-erased calculations, it also had “Calm Blue Ocean” written on it three times.

We decided that it was probably written by a freaked-out grad student some time in the late 20th century, and it became something of a lab motto. When the freezer breaks down or the rats get loose or you knock over the bottle of $20,000,000/litre custom antibodies…

Calm blue ocean; breathe, clean up the mess and get on with it.

[1] It also still had signs warning against the danger of pipetting by mouth. We didn’t redecorate very often…


#10

Happily, Arrival received 8 Oscar nominations this morning, but none of them were for “Best Sciencing”.


#11

Me back in high school when told not to do this: "Hahaha-- who would do that? That’s stupid."
Teacher, matter-o-factly: "Everyone until about 1990."
Me: "Oh…"
Teacher: “Yeah…”


#12

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