# space and games

## February 8, 2012

### Large-Middle-Small: A Kanji Word Block

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 9:02 am

I’m investigating the Japanese language.

A Kanji word block is a 3 x 3 block of Kanji characters in which each row and each column forms a word, and no character appears more than once. Thus the word block contains six words in all. Using Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC as my reference, I found that there are 12 possible word blocks. Here is one:

 ダイ / おお 大 Large チュウ 中 Middle ショウ / こ 小 Small だいちゅうしょう L/M/S; Clothing Sizes ニン 人 Person ケン / カン 間 Space がた 型 Model にんげんがた Humanoid スウ 数 Number チ 値 Value カ 化 Change すうちか Numeric Conversion おおにんずう Large Numberof People ちゅうかんち Median こがたか Miniaturization

So a person-space-model is a humanoid, a number-value-change is a numeric conversion, and so on.

## February 3, 2012

### The Item and the Thing

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 2:56 am

We show Sam the item.
“I don’t know,” says Sam.
We say, “It is the item.”
Again, we ask Sam, “what is this?”
“The item,” Sam repeats.
Sam has received his first lesson.

We show Sam the item.
“I’m not sure,” says Sam, “but I think it is the item.”
“Of course it is the item! Why are you not sure?”

The thing is very similar to the item.
We show Sam the thing.
“It is the item!” Sam shouts confidently.
“It is not the item! It is the thing!”
Was Sam’s earlier hesitation justified?

We show Lisa the item.
“I don’t know,” says Lisa.
We say, “It is the item.”
Again, we ask Lisa, “what is this?”
“The item,” Lisa repeats.
We show Lisa the thing.
“I don’t know,” says Lisa.
We say, “It is the thing.”
Again, we ask Lisa, “what is this?”
“The thing,” Lisa repeats.

## December 20, 2011

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 11:53 pm

Google has some very cool n-gram data sets available for download. Alas, the files are quite large. For example, the 3-grams are split into 200 zip files, each weighing in at 440 MB. That’s about 88 GB total.

The 1-grams are much lighter, totaling 2 GB. I was able to reduce this to about 35 MB by throwing away the time information (the original files indicate the year each data point came from). That’s smaller than the original files by a factor of 57.

The 2-grams, 3-grams, and so on could also be similarly compressed by anyone who can get the files. I’d be happy to help if anyone wants to do this.

## November 19, 2011

### Kanji with Combinatorial Power

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 10:38 am

The Japanese writing system includes hiragana, katakana, and kanji. While hiragana and katakana represent sounds, kanji represent meanings. There are a lot of good places to start with learning Kanji. The JLPT N5 kanji list is a set of kanji that appear in the first of 5 standardized tests. Here is a list of the 100 most commonly-used Kanji on the internet.

Kanji may represent words by themselves, or they may be combined into larger units of meaning called compounds. I was interested in finding a set of kanji with a lot of combinatorial power — the ability to represent many distinct compounds without using any kanji not in the set.

For this project I used Jim Breen, jisho.org, Python, and a greedy heuristic. This solution is unlikely to be optimal. I’d like to share a truly optimal solution (with proof) later, but I don’t know how long that will take. Here’s what I’ve got now:

 1. 日 counter for daysdayJapansun 2. 直 fixfranknesshonestyrepairstraightaway 3. 生 birthgenuinelife 4. 中 centerininsidemeanmiddle 5. 人 person 6. 後 backbehindlater 7. 前 beforein front 8. 一 one 9. 年 counter for yearsyear 10. 月 monthmoon 11. 半 halfmiddleodd numberpart-semi- 12. 夜 eveningnight 13. 長 leaderlong 14. 間 intervalspace 15. 数 fatefigureslawnumberstrength 16. 時 hourtime 17. 分 1%chancesdegreedutyknowminute of timeone’s lotpartratesegmentshaku/100shareunderstand 18. 何 what 19. 々 symbol for kanji repetition 20. 本 bookcounter for long cylindrical thingsmainoriginpresentrealtrue 21. 御 governhonorablemanipulate 22. 手 hand 23. 大 biglarge 24. 家 expertfamilyhomehouseperformerprofessional 25. 山 mountain 26. 小 littlesmall 27. 国 country 28. 三 three 29. 下 belowdescenddowngiveinferiorlow 30. 上 aboveup 31. 身 one’s station in lifepersonsomebody 32. 足 be sufficientcounter for pairs of footwearfootleg 33. 代 agechangeconvertcounter for decades of ages, eras, etc.feegenerationperiodratereplacesubstitute 34. 名 distinguishednamenotedreputation 35. 物 matterobjectthing 36. の used to indicate possession(actually a hiragana) 37. 子 11PM-1AMchildfirst sign of Chinese zodiacsign of the rat 38. 女 femalewoman 39. 学 learningsciencestudy 40. 部 bureauclasscopycounter for copies of a newspaper or magazinedeptpartportionsection 41. 文 artdecorationfiguresliteratureplansentencestyle 42. 天 heavensimperialsky 43. 体 bodycounter for imagesobjectrealitysubstance 44. 気 airatmospheremindmoodspirit 45. 方 alternativedirectionperson 46. 地 earthground 47. 心 heartmindspirit 48. 目 careclassexperienceeyefavorinsightlook 49. 二 two 50. 十 ten 51. 色 color 52. 道 coursedistrictjourneymoralroad-waystreetteachings 53. 水 water 54. 神 godsmindsoul 55. 主 chieflordmain thingmasterprincipal 56. 面 facefeaturesmasksurface 57. 正 1040correctjusticerighteous 58. 字 characterlettersection of a villageword 59. 金 gold 60. 和 harmonyJapanJapanese stylepeacesoften 61. 元 beginningformer timeorigin

Here are the compounds (1309 items):

## October 10, 2011

### Directions for this Blog

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 8:36 am

It’s been nearly a year since my last post here. I’d like to get back into blogging, so I’ll start by listing various things I might blog. Here’s your chance to affect what I write about.

The list:

1. My new organization, It Builds Itself.
2. Books, articles, and papers I’m reading.
3. Programs, programming, and programming languages.
4. Go, programs that play Go, math about Go, and statistics about Go.
5. Details, possibly excessive, about my personal life.
6. The singularity and the future of humanity and of the universe (topics about which I know very little).
7. Mathematics that is already widely understood, but which may be new to some folks.
8. Imaginary places, people, and things.

Since this ended up being a pretty short list, I’ll be accepting further suggestions as well.

## October 19, 2010

### Space and Games is on Twitter

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 4:20 pm

I haven’t been posting on this blog much lately, but I have been tweeting. If you want to read more of my stuff, follow @spaceandgames.

## March 14, 2010

### The War Club vs. the Ant-Men, part 1

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 11:19 pm

Paron had been at the academy for far too long. He had switched from geometry to biology, and finally to game theory. When at last he finished his thesis, it was a cause for celebration. The party was far from grand; more than twenty people were packed into Paron’s meager, candle-lit apartment. Like organisms, conversations competed with their kin for limited attention and limited air while sleep-deprived gamers competed to dominate virtual markets. I was in my element.

“The strange thing about Ant War,” I mused, “is the player. We’re willing to anthropomorphize ants to the point of substituting our own decisions for theirs in the game, but ant behavior is completely inhuman.”

“It’s not like normal human behavior,” said my opponent, Nik, “but unusual situations can produce unusual behaviors. We’re fighting a virtual war; humans could also fight a real one.”

This comment drew Paron’s attention. “More unusual than you might think. A war requires extreme cooperation. The ants in a colony are all sisters, and they share 3/4 of their genes because their father is basically a glorified sperm cell. To get humans to cooperate like ants, they’d have to be born of incest.”

“You don’t need common end goals to cooperate,” countered Nik, “only common proximate goals. Not to mention the fact that evolution formed our goal systems imperfectly; we may agree on values aside from inclusive fitness.”

“But a war requires two coalitions,” said Paron. “You’d need everyone in your coalition to share proximate goals – and everyone in the opposing coalition to share an opposing proximate goal. And if both coalitions are composed of humans? — what could ever cause that, apart from inclusive fitness?”

I moved my ants, then re-entered the conversation. “What about competing protocols? Maybe one coalition follows one set of rules, and the other coalition follows different rules. Economic productivity would be boosted if everyone followed the same rules, but whichever coalition is forced to convert has to pay a cost.”

“But then you’d just bid on it,” said Paron.

“Why don’t ants bid on land?” asked Nik.

Paron said, “Ants don’t engage in inter-colony trade. They’re not smart enough to trade, so they war instead.”

“Let’s go back to end goals,” said Nik. “I think there are goals that all humans share; we all value love, life, and laughter, and not just for ourselves and our kin. One coalition could be human. The opposing coalition could be inhuman.”

“Like what? Giant ants?” I asked.

Nik said, “Or the broad-shouldered people across the sea.”

## January 19, 2010

### RPS Equilibrium Conundrum

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 10:05 pm

Clearly, it’s absurd that paper beats rock, but if rock beat paper then the game would become pointless.

Suppose we changed the rules such that paper only scores 1/2 point against rock. A full victory (rock against scissors or scissors against paper) scores 1 point, and a loss scores -1 point. Draws score 0 points. What mixed strategy is best in this game?

I found this equilibrium: p(rock) = p(paper) = 2/5, and p(scissors) = 1/5. If the opponent plays this strategy, then anything we do has an expected utility of 0. If both players use this strategy, then neither player has an incentive to change, so it’s an equilibrium.

This result seems strange to me. The rule change makes paper worse, and yet in the resulting equilibrium, we increase the probability of throwing paper. Who wants to explain this?

## December 28, 2009

### Germs, Selection, and Disease

Filed under: General — Peter de Blanc @ 10:35 am

The germ that infects you was selected for its ability to spread across hosts, but the germ population in your body is being selected for its ability to spread within your body. The latter is more destructive than the former, so the germ population in your body becomes more destructive over time. Thus for any infectious disease, we should expect the period of maximal transmissibility to precede the period of maximal suffering.

## November 4, 2009

### Go proverbs: “A rich man should not pick quarrels.”

Filed under: General, Go — Peter de Blanc @ 1:19 pm

Go players have hundreds of proverbs — pithy sentences that convey important heuristics. It is not enough to simply read proverbs; you must study them at length to unfold them into procedural knowledge.

Most proverbs are particular to Go (e.g. six die but eight live), but some generalize to other adversarial situations, and a few proverbs contain important lessons about rationality.

One of my favorite proverbs states that a rich man should not pick quarrels. Go, in its most common formulations, is a game of satisficing. The player with more points wins the game, and winning is enough; there is no extra reward for winning by a large margin. The proverb says that if you are currently winning (i.e. you are a rich man), then you should not do things (such as picking quarrels) that make the outcome more random. By decreasing the variance in the probability distribution for your final score, you increase the probability that you will hold onto enough points to win. Anything that makes the game simpler and more predictable is good for you.

We can see this in Chess (the winning player should seek to trade pieces) and in epee fencing (the winning player should seek double-touches).

If, on the other hand, you are a poor man, then you should pick quarrels. There’s a good example of this in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In one scene, Indy is in the middle of a rope bridge, and swordsmen are approaching from either side, so Indy cuts the bridge.

If you are winning, simplify. If you are losing, complexify.

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