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November 19, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

What would you do with eternity and a bunch of rocks?

Now you're done, why not go for a stroll to the land of transfinite ordinals, then doze off at the the Babel library.
posted by Tobu (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Carpet makers by Andreas Eschbach is something I would have liked to include in this post; it connects the human to the very big in a gentle chain of nested stories. However, this is a novel you need to appreciate in book form.
posted by Tobu at 5:41 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by LSK at 5:47 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Has anyone seen my pushing and popping potions? I think I need to go see a lizard about a lamp.
posted by loquacious at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

I didn't know he was a Borgesentarian.
posted by OrangeDrink at 5:49 PM on November 19, 2008

Did you know that brains can be used to make soft leather? There's some combination of compounds in them that make them perfect for the task, and by odd coincidence, the brain of an "average" animals is just big enough to tan that same animal.

So, if you have a rock you can carefully crack open an animals skull, pulp the brain, and use it to make, e.g., buckskin.
posted by boo_radley at 6:04 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, no recursing.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:06 PM on November 19, 2008

Like a Reimann sphere, this post is complex, all over the place yet ultimately finite. I suspect, but cannot prove, that this post is homeomorphic with a good post.
posted by GuyZero at 6:07 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Just got back yesterday from a five-day trip. Thought about getting a motel room in Charleston, WV on my way back, but I wasn't too tired yet at 1:00 a.m., so I figured I should keep pushing until I got to Beckley, at least. Didn't realize how bad the weather was going to get. The cold front that pushed down from Canada was causing a lot of ice and snow. Something bad must've happened up ahead of me on I-64, because I wound up in a dead stop over a bridge way before Beckley, and I stayed there for about three hours--all alone, dead of night, snow falling hard and getting tired. By the time we started moving again, it was too late to think about a room. Decided to just push on through to Carolina. Made it home, exhausted, at half-past noon.

My two-year old won't stop hugging me. "Daddy! Daddy! I love you!" I try to break away after a while. She gets emphatic. "Stay here? More hugs please!" I stay. Hugs continue. This is, I think, the best thing in my life so far. Maybe the best thing ever. That would make for a decent eternity. No rocks needed.

Also: I'm not completely sure I get this post.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:07 PM on November 19, 2008 [7 favorites]

If I had eternity and a bunch of rocks I would make a single link FFP on MetaFilter to a XKCD comic that everyone read two days ago. While smoking a Cohiba lancero.
posted by fixedgear at 6:15 PM on November 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

Why's everyone calling it a single link? I can count at least three links in the post.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:18 PM on November 19, 2008

More importantly, why is no one answering the question in the FPP?

Fine, I'll go first. With eternity and a bunch of rocks, I'd build a fort. No, wait, I'd build the BEST fort.
posted by piratebowling at 6:26 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bang them together.
posted by pompomtom at 6:29 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd get really, really good at bocce.

Like, championship good.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:40 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd go floridly insane. My insanity would be so all-encompassing and robust that my delusions would feel utterly convincing. In the midst of my insanity, I'd imagine myself as a nondescript twentysomething with mild depressive tendencies, who invests significant portions of his time surfing the internet for minutiae in an effort to stave of an awareness of his own mortality. Occasionally, some hived-off enclave of my psyche would introduce a cheekily recursive nod to the truth of my existence, such as summarising it in a hit-and-miss minimalist webcomic. And I'd be momentarily troubled... then the feeling would pass, and I'd go back to eating ice cream, playing Mario Kart, and inventing poor puns for my friends.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:53 PM on November 19, 2008 [11 favorites]

I didn't know he was a Borgesentarian.

Are you sure he's not a Wachowskian?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:53 PM on November 19, 2008

I would stone myself to death.

No, wait. First I would stone you to death. Then I would stone myself.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2008

Instead of the simplest possible Turing Machine in cellular automata form, I'd bang rocks together to create mechanical parts that would

a) compute more efficiently
b) harvest energy from the sun/sand/gravity/whatever so I wouldn't have to "crank" it

Also, I'd build a female robot companion.
posted by DU at 6:56 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stoning rocks!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2008

I'd use it to kill an infinite amount of monkeys trying to submit FPPs write Shakespeare.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:21 PM on November 19, 2008

I'd break them into littler rocks, but then I'd be in hell, and this would be my punishment.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:50 PM on November 19, 2008

I vaguely remember a 2000 AD story about the smartest man in the galaxy being condemned to eternity alone on a planetoid until he can solve a Rubik Cube. Easy, he thinks, until he's shown the Cube: it's vast so he has to mine ore, smelt it, make tools, etc, until he can build equally colossal machinery to manipulate the Cube. I forget the outcome.
posted by raygirvan at 9:03 PM on November 19, 2008

I'd do this.
posted by zap rowsdower at 9:06 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Everything, eventually.
posted by straight at 9:11 PM on November 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'd make them into a sphere ten times the size of Jupiter. Then once every thousand years I would swipe at it with a feather. Once I'd worn it down to the size of a pea, I would look back and realize that the amount of time required to do all that would only be half a blink in terms of eternity. So I guess I'd spend the rest of the time listening to Built to Spill albums.
posted by penduluum at 9:52 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

All those rocks and no EMP or SEM.

posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:41 PM on November 19, 2008

George Lucas would track down every copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special and smash them.

Or not.
posted by mazola at 10:51 PM on November 19, 2008

Just in case - and not because I think I'm Mr. Smarty Pants, because I'm not - to explain my comment above:

Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

Which - fortunately or unfortunately - only briefly touches on the cellular automata and related constructs as contained in this post, but wallows more than a bit in both fugues and constructed realities, and is a great place to explore some of these recursive concepts.

By the way, marbled cone snails have a shell texture that looks look like a couple of well known types of cellular automata.
posted by loquacious at 4:52 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is XKCD shitty today?
posted by graventy at 10:08 AM on November 20, 2008

Greg Egan has done a lot with this kind of story. "Wang's Carpets" (a short story that became part of Diaspora) features a naturally-occurring version of the stone computer in the comic. And Permutation City deals with universe simulations of this sort, pointing out that, if it's possible to simulate a universe on a computer this way, then you don't actually need the computer, since the patterns represented by the computer already exist (from some perspective) in any random collection of sand grains or dust motes
posted by straight at 10:28 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Digg and other sites do a great job of posting every new xkcd cartoon. I like xkcd, but not this post.
posted by theora55 at 10:54 AM on November 20, 2008

> Yeah, computation by Turing-complete sets of Wang tiles (can be implemented with DNA) does stretch the idea of running "life" even further. I'm starting to like the Zen-like idea of consciousness being a dream that piggy-backs on the consciousness of the universe. For example, life and consciousness inside the rock verse are those of rock guy, but diluted in homeopathic quantities due to the huge, but still finite, differential in running speed.

The big number angle is interesting, though the time scales involved are much smaller than what you would get with busy beavers; they are just (resolution×size)^(number of dimensions), something like (10^25×10^35)^10, exponentiated once or twice to allow for the performance hit of cellular automata and putting everything on a row. But the xkcd strip puts these numbers in perspective.

The Aktual world, just like the Genie hierarchy of GEB, is a really different beast for involving transfinite numbers.
posted by Tobu at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2008

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