A quixote of quirk

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                                                 hammer ucla edu daumier


A quixote of quirk 


coined 4ya, panlobo:


a quixote of quirk: the unit of obsidian droll + whimsy required to sustain a comic life.


This fell lightningwise from The Blue when I read about the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Hellas, “the amount of information needed to convey a civilization … about a billion bits.”


“I can only wish a quixote of quirk to befall you, my erstwhile putative pal.” –Fleet 



p.133, Scientist in the City, James Trefil

“So the old saying is true. A picture is worth a thousand words – in fact, if a word is worth 36 bits, a picture is worth 222, 222 words. / “Once you understand that every message can be analyzed in terms of its information content, you can apply the idea to all sorts of unexpected things. Human DNA, fro example is the genetic “message” that parents pass on to their children. The genetic code is contained in a sequence of molecules along the double helix of the DNA molecule. Each position can display one of four molecules so each position represents two bits of information. there are 3 billion positions, so the total information content of human DNA is about 6 billion bits—three sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

   “People involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have thought about the number of bits it would take to convey the content of a civilization. Although we haven’t had much experience carrying out this sort of project between the stars, we have had a good deal of experience communication through time. You could argue, for example, that what we know of ancient Greek civilization is contained in the information in a few hundred books and pictures. SETI people define a unit called the Hellas—the amount of information needed to convey a civilization—to be about a billion bits.” 


7-8-06 11:36:42 pm


Physicist Philip Morrison estimated that what we know about the civilization of ancient Greece amounts to somewhat under 10 billion bits of information – a quantity he therefore suggested be called a “Hellas“. The communication of cultural information between stars, he proposed, can be conveniently discussed in terms of this unit. For example, the amount of information we would need to convey to an extraterrestrial race in order to give a comprehensive picture of our own culture would be on the order of 100 Hellades.

Although no one can deny the excitement that would accompany a physical visit to another inhabited world, most of the real benefit from such a visit would result from communication alone. Morrison has estimated that all we know about ancient
Greece is less than 1010 bits of information; a quantity he suggests be named the “Hellas.” Our problem therefore is to send to, and to receive from, other cultures not tons of metal but something on the order of 100 Hellades of information. This is a vastly less expensive undertaking.


Note: Hellas is also the Greek name for Greece.



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4 Deer . Manik . West . tzol 145  07.13.06 thur 

923 days/2y6m09d left/1372  




the education-obsessed world begins today with you ..

.. let’s spend the $820,000 per minute Military Budget on education instead


3 thoughts on “A quixote of quirk

  1. Both the quixote and the hellas renew the big picture of a time past this present atrocious hell. They give me a glimpse of a time when we both quirk and delight in the stars once more.

  2. Does having more hellas's of information about your society mean that you are more civilized or just more complicated?

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