Odious and Peculiar

Philology and esoterica: scribblings, ravings and mutterings.

O&P's Current Pick:

Forging the Sampo

Odious' Links:

The Little Bookroom
The Pumpkin King
Larissa Archer
Inverted Iambs
Eve Tushnet
Pamela Dean
Kambodia Hotel
Pen and Paper

Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary
Deep-Sea News
NASA's Mars Website
Classics Online
Perseus Digital Library

Nine Scorpions
The Blithe Kitchen
Letter from Hardscrabble Creek
Arts & Letters Daily
About Last Night



Chas Clifton's Nature Blog
Rock Art Photo Blog
Girl on a Whaleship
Nature Lyrics Languagehat
Jabal al-Lughat
Laputan Logic
Strange Maps
Vladimir Dinets: Polymath Russian Adventurer
Virtual Tour of Almaty, Kazakhstan
Aerial Landscape Photography
USGS Earth As Art
Panoramic Aerial Maps of the American West

The Internet Bird Collection
Bird Families of the World
Ancient Scripts
The Aberdeen Bestiary Project
The Cephalopod Page
The Ultimate Ungulate
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire
USGS Streamflow Data

Worthy Miscellany
Finno-Ugrian Music
Boojum Expeditions
American River Touring Association

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Friday, December 16, 2005
I'm poaching on Odious' preserves here, but he and everyone really ought to try this artificial intelligence program. It plays twenty questions with you, and it's pretty darn smart. It seems particularly sharp on animals: it got platypus and python quite efficiently, and came up with dachshund by a set of questions whose utility in guessing said object was not at all apparent to me. It has more trouble, unsurprisingly, with abstract or semi-abstract things, e.g. haiku and opera; these usually require more than twenty queries. But it's learning as people play (a little creepy, at least to me, but pretty cool too). Players should probably try to instil some decent values in it: it often asks "Does it bring joy to people?" A platypus damn well does bring joy to people, and the program had better get clear on that. (Also, a dachshund most certainly is a predator.) It gives a really interesting list of things which it suspects, but doubts about an object once the game's done. Some of its suspicions are surreal: it wonders if an opera mightn't be a purebred dog. Again, it's pretty smart: I was pleasantly surprised when, for Question #20, it correctly guessed ice axe! From the questions it was asking, I really didn't expect it to get that one.


Update: Objects it finds similar to a kiss: an ice cream sandwich, oatmeal, fudge, chili, spaghetti, alcohol.

Update: Oh, my! The A.I. doesn't have wife in its database (sad comment on our society, what? It did eventually start guessing girlfriend, boyfriend and, touchingly, soulmate), but the questions it asked as it tried to guess were hilarious in context. Gentle readers, upon my honour, the following transcript is in truth a real dialogue which took place between myself and the 20Q, in its true, original order*. Again, the scandalous answer is wife:

A.I.: Does it have paws?

Me: No.

Can you lift it?


Is it something you can purchase?


Would you be lost without it?

Well, yes.

Can you control it?

[snort] No!

Can you sit on it?

Ahhhhh, no.

Does it squirm?


Is it something you bring along?

Oh, yes.

Can it help you find your way?


Would you use it in the dark?

Ooooh... yes!

Does it get really hot?

Oh, I say!

Do you put things in it?

'Pon my word, sirrah, you go too far!

I guessed that it was a chick?


Would you like to be one?

How am I supposed to answer that?

Is it used in a sport?


Can you use it 24 hours a day?


Do you clean it regularly?


Is it fragile?


Do you use it in public?

I wouldn't appear in public without her.

*Certain exchanges are omitted (including the afore-mentioned extra-marital guesses); however, the most shocking passages transpired, I swear, as written, without intermission.