Saturday, November 22, 2014

 
 
 

Gamepuzzles: Paradigms of a Rational World

As of 2014, I've been designing and making puzzles and games for 35 years. For so seemingly trivial an activity to become the meaning and purpose of my earthly existence, some intellectual underpinning was required. Like other forms of art, my designs exhibit aesthetics, conceptual integration and, hah, psycho-epistemological relevance. How do they do that?

My designs are based on mathematical phenomena, geometric tilings or, as they say in the ed biz, "tessellations". Now a tessellation is something that fills up space with permutations and combinations of shapes. Here are a few samplings:
 

M. C. Escher’s designs come to mind. And permutations and combinations echo the very structure of the Universe, from the way the simplest building blocks, like protons and electrons and neutrons, combine to form every element that exists. The periodic chart of elements organizes them into groups by the number of each bit in the core and its rings, that mimic the way planets orbit suns, and suns cluster in galaxies, and galaxies orbit in galactic clusters, and whatever makes up the next layers of hierarchy in an infinite Universe.
 

Tall order to replicate that grandeur in what some would consider merely a toy. Let's see an example you can hold in your hand.

"Polyominoes" are made of squares joined on their edges. They start from the singularity and can go on forever, combining and growing. Here are the 21 shapes from 1 to 5 squares in size (Tetris players will recognize the 4’s):
 
 
At level 6 there are 35 unique shapes (hexominoes). At level 7 we find 108 heptominoes. Level 8 gives us 369 octominoes.


That's as far as we go in actually producing working models. After only 8 iterations its volume exceeds human comfort, and in a few more steps the number of variations exceeds the number of atoms in the known Universe. Here is an amazing construction by Karl Wilk, astronomer by training, that took him months to solve. He calls it Cyclops, and it contains all the sizes from 1 through 8 forming concentric rings within a symmetrical ring of the 1285 enneominoes. Even the holes are symmetrically distributed:


Further research by mathematicians and computer programmers turns up 4655 dekominoes, 17,073 "11-ominoes" and 63,600 "12-ominoes". We can find reference to counts up to 28, giving 153,511,100,594,603 distinct shapes. See an extensive list here:
 http://www.kevingong.com/Polyominoes/Enumeration.html.

That's over 153 trillion if you're counting in U.S. sequences, or 153 billion in Europe, where they stick "milliard" after million, and "billiard" after billion. By any name it's a huge number. By comparison, our planet contains a little more than 7 billion humans, each of whom contains trillions of cells.

Now why would people spend so much effort to enumerate oddball shapes made of squares? Or other polygons? Because it is the nature of scientific curiosity and the human need to know what exists and how it works, the epistemological pursuit of an understanding of reality. It is our finest power.

I'm using the polyomino family as an example of the evolution and propagation of entities, both theoretical and actual, that illustrate how the Cosmos works. In effect they are clusters of pixels or "cellular automata". Human knowledge is likewise accumulated one bit, one byte, one meme, one layer at a time, integrated into the previously known structure.

That polyominoes even at the earliest levels have thousands of ways to connect and form coherent constructions, such as rectangles, squares, symmetrical shapes and even 3-D figures, is a model of how elements combine to form molecules, compounds, and all the stuff of the real world around us that we humans need to know about for our survival. And at some point in the continuum, we learn how ideas themselves form and fuse.

What is especially satisfying in working with such puzzle sets and producing different solutions to variously posited goals is that such activity feeds the mind's need to experience efficacy. To tackle a problem and resolve it in intelligent and creative ways is thoroughly satisfying. It serves our self-esteem. It exercises those capacities of mind that a rational consciousness needs for reaching its fullest potential.

As an artist and occasional poet, I see the working of these kinds of puzzles as a microcosm of problem-solving in the larger world. To coordinate, integrate, get disparate parts to work together in constructive ways without depriving any component of its individual attributes parallels the collaboration of individual humans for mutual benefit, not destroying, depriving or mutilating anyone for someone else’s benefit. In a rational world, each individual has the rights and freedom to find his or her best niche.
 
And in life as in puzzles, there is more than one answer. Having many options, not being shackled by totalitarian demands, is one of the hallmarks of individual freedom. And individual freedom is the fountainhead of creation. Celebrate uniqueness. Do no harm. Make glorious combinations…….
 

Visit http://www.gamepuzzles.com for more of my playable art. They are unique in all the world, and the pleasure lasts. If you decide to order, please add a note that you are a member of Galt's Gulch and you'll receive an extra gift.
 
Please feel free to comment on these ideas. I am working on a book about human consciousness, and your thoughts, civilly expressed, are most welcome. -- Kate




Thursday, October 17, 2013

 

A note about the Ayn Rand Webcomic

A 66-page, typo-riddled webcomic by Darryl Cunningham purports to tell the life story of Ayn Rand, controversial author of The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and the philosophy of Objectivism. The book most unnerving and most misunderstood by most readers is The Virtue of Selfishness, which has put a huge barrier between her thinking and the popular ethos. Although Rand died in 1982, her books have continued to have increasing sales; and the social dynamics she described and warned of in her novels are prophetically coming to pass. She has attracted millions of admirers among thinkers, and even more millions of detractors and haters whose oxen she gored.

Darryl's little cartoon serial ranks among the latter. Reading it inspired me to write up this response, posted to his page on October 17, 2013 (though purged soon after):

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ayn Rand's favorite poem was Rudyard Kipling's "If", read at her funeral. One couplet in particular applies to Darryl Cunningham's comic opus and most of the derogatory critiques of her work:

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools...

So, Darryl, your soap opera treatment of the messenger's personality and relationships is yet another way to overshadow and discredit the validity of the message, whether that was your intention or not. At least you are provoking interest and conversation on this controversial lady and her insights.

Ayn Rand's fundamental principle was, in fact, the paramount value of the individual. And that is simply a restatement of the founding principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution: "that all men are ... endowed with ... certain unalienable rights ... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Why is Rand's advocacy of these values so repugnant to you and to other Rand bashers? It always comes down to who has what and how groups gang up to raid the resources of the earth and what other individuals have produced. I hope one day humanity can rise above the predator/prey paradigm.

Rand was ferociously opposed to the notion and practice of exploiting some individuals for the sake of others; i.e., "redistribution of wealth" is just another name for armed robbery. It is tantamount to three lions and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.

Undiluted and unpolluted capitalism is the form of social contract where individuals get to choose what to do with their time and property. Rational self-interest will then lead to individuals interacting with each other for mutual benefit, through division of labor, voluntary exchange, and intelligent investment. That freedom encourages innovation and progress--individuals "taking first steps down new roads" that ultimately are of benefit to all.

Those ideas are also the underpinnings of the Libertarian movement, which is a backlash to galloping socialist ideas that have bankrupted the U.S. and every country in which socialism gets the upper hand. For the record, though, Rand had disavowed the Libertarians when Peter Schwartz wrote an article she published condemning their alleged lack of philosophical principles. Ironically, Libertarians today are the most faithful to both the Constitution and to individualist ethics.

The so-called capitalism we see practiced in the U.S. today is as remote from the "ideal" Rand defined as you can get. It has a corrupt government making favorable laws, regulations and bail-outs for their cronies in industry and the military-industrial complex; it has government promoting wars to enrich their arms manufacturers and gain access to other countries' resources; it has government building up a horrendous security apparatus that peels away the citizens' rights to privacy, property, free speech, association, assembly, and life and liberty; it justifies attacking other countries and murdering their populations on spurious pretexts.

That is not capitalism. That is the most pernicious form of gang warfare, and we the people are made to support it and the endless atrocities done in our name. Our substance is wasted, and we are bled through taxes and debt, reduced work opportunities, and increased deaths and mutilations of our soldiers in senseless wars. We are forced into grand socialist schemes like mandatory insurance and welfare entitlements that deprive generations of our people of their independence and their dignity.

Ayn Rand foresaw these developments 60 years ago. The truth she spoke is immutable, no matter whom she slept with. Think about the message, not the messenger. Your life, liberty and happiness depend on it.


Monday, September 30, 2013

 

International Blasphemy Day, Sept. 30

What people deem a vile blaspheme
Is just a spore that gores their meme.

Perceptions strain what's in their brain
Not for me? You're against my grain.

A major peeve, what makes them grieve,
Is proof why others don't believe.

Annoyed enough, those memes play rough;
They'll even kill to push their stuff.

All things alive have memes that drive
The host to hate, just to survive.

Can we insist, to coexist,
That we don't need an exorcist?

No sticks and stones, no broken bones,
No missiles, bombs or bullets and drones.

The right of each to freedom of speech
Is the meme that we should preach.

So have your say on Blasphemy Day
Till bad ideas go away.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

 

Women in Combat

Walter E. Williams wrote a thought-provoking essay on this subject.

It provoked these thoughts:

There is one consideration no one as yet has seen fit to mention: Several days each month a woman is hors de combat from menstruation, with or without the accompanying PMS. Can’t you just see the women on a march, carrying the requisite 83-pound load, having to stop to change their tampon or pad?

Or shall we require all women in combat to have hysterectomies to bypass this physical inconvenience? Or accept only post-menopause females, whose physical prowess is even more reduced compared to males in their most robust years?

Maybe the thinking is that the only physical combat the women will be asked to do is sit at a desk and operate drones. Or maybe the women can be given steroids and testosterone supplements to turn them into Amazon warrior princesses.

It can't be just to pander to women's clamoring for equal rights and benefits, equal opportunities for careers in the military. The Pentagon must be running short of bodies to send to the near-1000 military bases and dozens of military action zones the U.S. is engaged in worldwide. The military has become a ravenous machine, devouring the people's money and the people themselves.

Do women really want a license to kill? Do they really want to kill people who are only defending their homelands which we have invaded, even though those countries have never attacked us?

Do we really want to ratchet up the degree of brutality in the world? Men by nature are programmed to protect women and children. That is the ostensible reason for wars in the first place: to provide a safe and sustainable environment (land, resources) for their populations. Now when a soldier faces a female enemy, that natural impulse must be suppressed. Just shoot.

If our government can justify shooting and bombing women and children, and teenagers because they might be militants, we have already gone over the edge of civilization. We are only one short step away from justifying and carrying out genocide. Do women really want to be in the forefront of that? Is that the only way to be the life-givers and nurturers they are created to be? Does exercising equal brutality constitute the only way to prove equality as human beings?

Women and men are not the same, aside from the physical differences. Women's brains work at a higher, more complex level. Women should be in the forefront of diplomacy, negotiation, and peace making. By trying to be more like men, women are actually diminishing themselves. By rushing to subordinate themselves to military discipline, obedience to orders and hierarchy of command, they are reducing their self-assertive sovereignty.

Women, you've been sold a bill of noxious goods. Think about it before swallowing that hook. The future of civilization hangs on your decision.


Saturday, February 09, 2013

 

Love wins! Musings on Valentine's Day

It used to be called St. Valentine’s Day, rooted in Christian history. Nowadays it has morphed into a commercial event for showing affection in general, not just for romantic wooing. We give flowers, cards, chocolates, hearts and cupids, a whole tossed salad of memes that say, “I like you. You’re special in my life.” Now we can say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to everyone we care about.

“Love makes the world go around.” What a picturesque way to recognize love as energy, the positive energy that holds not just personal relationships together but the very Universe itself. “You are my sunshine” is another poetic image of that same truth.

In some cultures, Valentine’s Day is banned altogether. They see it as a symbol of the West’s loose morals and preoccupation with sex. “Make love, not war” is viewed as hedonistic, not as the larger principle of benevolence over belligerence.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in addition to lip service on one official day, we would channel loving energy into every thought, every word, every act, every day of the year? How much healing and mending of conflicts, repairing of ruptures and restoring of peace could we bring about?

Love is the foremost example of a fusion of mind and heart. America will not win hearts and minds in countries it bombs. War is an illogical and self-defeating policy. Instead of an endless cycle of escalating enmities, what if we took the initiative to give love a chance. What if we set aside hawkish hype and declared non-violence as strength, not weakness? It takes real courage to resist the facile resort to force.

The greatest strength is love.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

 

"What are you thankful for?"

In November 2010, I received an email from Bill Miller of the Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, asking that question. On November 25, I posted the reply below. Unsurprisingly, they did not publish it. To see the posts they did see fit to include, visit Friends of the Chamber and type THANKSGIVING into the search box.


I'm thankful that I can still feel outrage at how our politicians have betrayed our trust, our principles and our future. Our incessant preemptive wars are a disease, and non-stop destruction of lives and resources is fatal to the economic health of our country and the world. We need commerce--free trade--among nations, not coercion, control and connivance. We need individual freedom to work and to choose how we spend our earnings, not to be forced to subsidize causes we don't approve of.

I'm thankful that I can see these truths and continue to protest against government incursions into our freedoms, and against government expropriation of our property. The bureaucracy has become a vampire on the lives and energies of the people. And the collusion between government and certain businesses is a recipe for continuing disaster, a continuing draining of the people and a distortion of their values. Where does the Chamber of Commerce stand on this issue?

I am grateful for my clear and free thinking, and for my ability to pity all those religious folk whose minds and emotions are held captive by myths, superstitions and fanaticisms of all stripes. Their religious infighting leads to horrible deaths, ceaseless enmity, and abandonment of the principle of love they claim as their prime directive. Their abandonment of Reason makes them create all the harm in the world.

I am thankful for the intelligence of the human race that has developed science, technology, tools, and a growing understanding of the laws of physics that help us find true answers to the problems of survival and attaining a healthy, peaceful, productive society.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

 

The $5 panhandler

I just received a "personal" email from President Obama. Here's what it said:

Kate --

If it were easy to do the big, meaningful things we believe will make our country better -- if it were quick -- someone would have done those things long before any of us showed up.

We've chosen to do something hard.

You know that our victories so far have been hard won: taking the difficult steps necessary to put our economy back on track, reforming Wall Street excess despite an army of lobbyists against us, and making health care more affordable and accessible despite well-organized opposition by those who profit from the status quo.

You also know we have not yet done everything we set out to do -- not nearly.

But that's a reason to work harder, not to let up. That's why we're building this campaign now. And you have to take ownership of it.

So I will be direct: Can you step up and make a donation of $5 to get us started?

...

As I've spoken with supporters who are helping get this campaign started, I've met folks who are frustrated by the pace of change.

I understand that. But we knew this wouldn't be easy. The kind of change we're working for never comes easily.

Now is the time to begin again, and build the campaign that will shape our country's future.

Thank you,

Barack

............................................

Such a masterful piece of motivational tripe I could not swallow. This was my response:

............................................

Barack (and "campaign helpers"),

To make the country better, a handbook of easy ways to do it was given to us by the Founders--the Constitution--well before "we" showed up to ruin it.

You and your predecessors have, like a slippery slope, drifted from that wisdom and brought our nation to disgrace and disaster. It will get harder and harder to restore it. And you have chosen to do, not something hard, but something evil.

You have been led astray from the decent values you professed to believe in during your first campaign. You have gone farther to the dark side even than George W. Bush, whose crimes against humanity will one day be punished.

You lack the courage to admit how wrong we have become, and to take the first brave step towards making restitution to the world. America cannot be the bully to the world, to sow hatred, anger and resistance in one nation after another, and expect to survive. Our moral principles have become terminally diseased if we pursue a course of force and fraud under phony sanctimonious slogans of "humanitarian" goals.

You cannot help other countries by destroying them. If you want America to rule the world, that is a formula for global genocide. The only way to eliminate opposition is for you to kill off all those who resist. And since others want to live, too, they will continue to resist. And they have every right to do so.

Labeling people who oppose your tyrannical predations as "terrorists" only seeks to cover the fact that America has become the biggest terrorist of them all. And I won't take ownership of that.

Even if you change and repent right now, it will take generations for America to gain forgiveness and to win back the esteem and admiration we once had as the land of freedom, honor, decency, and respect for individual human rights.

You want $5 to help your new campaign? Your administration has wasted trillions of dollars of Americans' substance and future. There is no $5 available to throw into your pot to allow you to continue on this devastating course. No matter how clever the emotional manipulation and marketing of your slogans, we're not buying it anymore.

If, with one nod of your head, you can send off a killer team to execute bin Laden, you could change course with one command. It is not a big and difficult task to say, "Enough, this is not the way to go, this is not what America is about." No more violence, no more preemptive wars, no more taking sides in foreign civil wars, no matter what lobbyists scream and wave money, no matter what special interests get cut off from the trough. You cannot recover a nation's economy with only the arms manufacturers thriving. You cannot recover a nation's morale and self-respect by pumping them up emotionally with kill statistics. Enough!

Make a real change. You can do it with one nod of your head, one short declaration. Let me see actual results: apologize for our war crimes, get our troops out of every foreign country, close Guantanamo, pull back the growing police state on U.S. soil, restoring our civil liberties, and then I'll consider sending you some money.

-- Kate Jones

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