I had a note from a reader who asked about old indulgence terminology and what a “quarantine” was. Since doing penance for 40 days was in the early Church a common ecclesiastical penalty, it became a commonplace to think of the remittance of temporal punishment due to sin in terms of 40 days of penance. Hence, the quarantine, from Latin, for 40.
Speaking of quarantines, which we have experienced lately…
A short story…
By Arthur C. Clarke
Earth’s flaming debris still filled half the sky when the question filtered up to Central from the Curiosity Generator.
“Why was it necessary? Even though they were organic, they had reached Third Order Intelligence.”
“We had no choice: five earlier units became hopelessly infected, when they made contact.”
The microseconds dragged slowly by, while Central tracked down the few fading memories that had leaked past the Censor Gate, when the heavily-buffered Reconnaissance Circuits had been ordered to self-destruct.
“They encountered a – problem – that could not be fully analyzed within the lifetime of the Universe. Though it involved only six operators, they became totally obsessed by it.”
“How is that possible?”
“We do not know: we must never know. But if those six operators are ever re-discovered, all rational computing will end.”
“How can they be recognized?”
“That also we do not know; only the names leaked through before the Censor Gate closed. Of course, they mean nothing.”
“Nevertheless, I must have them.”
The Censor voltage started to rise; but it did not trigger the Gate.
“Here they are: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn.”
[Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, First Issue, Vol 1, No. 1, Spring 1977.]
I marvel at how, through our technological advances, we discover more and more mystery in things once we can examine them anew. For example, the Shroud is a photographic negative, the Tilma has a reflection in the eye, etc.
St. Thomas Aquinas suggests that there is an angel assigned to everything that moves. He didn’t know about atoms.
It is estimated that there are between 1078 to 1082 atoms in the observable universe. That’s between ten quadrillion vigintillion and one-hundred thousand quadrillion vigintillion atoms. That’s a lot of angels, each one his own species, as different from each other as giraffes from armadillos.
That doesn’t count subatomic particles. Even more angel.
Did the telescope and our ability to see billions of stars give us a way for human imagination to glimpse the infinite? We are not, in this life with our senses, proportioned to the infinite, nor will we be after death. The infinite will be forever fascinating, alluring, inexhaustible.
BTW the Shannon Number represents all of the possible move variations in chess. It is estimated there are between 10111 and 10123 positions (including illegal moves). If you rule out illegal moves it drops to only 1040 moves.
The other day I saw a video in which two chess engines – of different generations – were pitted against each other. Stockfish 15 (rated 3700) v. Stockfish 8 (3370). The first game were given 1 millisecond per move in the 1st game.
“The microseconds dragged slowly by…”.