Author Topic: Episode 156 Mars n Stars  (Read 3352 times)

Offline bobmath

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Episode 156 Mars n Stars
« on: November 13, 2012, 09:32:13 AM »
Ben, are you familiar with the Feynman Lectures on Computation? Apparently, you can avoid the entropy problem by doing all your computations in a reversible manner.

Offline chutson99

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Re: Episode 156 Mars n Stars
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2013, 06:56:07 PM »
OK, I'm kind of behind on the podcasts, I just listened to Mars N' Stars yesterday, and the bit about the simulation being turned off reminded me of a story from A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem, (sort of a spoiler) in which scientists have created a society of artificial intelligences within a computer simulation and listen to them interact, argue about theology, etc, and they have to deal with the issue of committing genocide on a universe when their funding gets cut off. I'm hazy on specifics because I haven't read it for a while and I lent my copy of the book to my brother, but it was apropos to to the universe-as-simulation idea. Lem is one of my favorites, and A Perfect Vacuum is sort of a neat book, because it's sort of a novel in the form of short stories (actually a series of fictional book reviews) which all kind of have a common thread as a whole. who else digs Lem?

Offline stephako

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Re: Episode 156 Mars n Stars
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 02:55:12 AM »
who else digs Lem?

I'm not really sure about him. I have read the star diaries with sort of a love hate. The ideas in his stories are great and give you a great deal to think about, but his style of writing (or at least the German translation) bugs me for some reason. I can't really put my finger on what specifically it is that makes me feel that way but in Solaris it was so bad that I had to stop reading...
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Offline chutson99

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Re: Episode 156 Mars n Stars
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 07:35:53 PM »
I have that issue reading things in translation as well - I'm never sure how much of what I like or don't like of somehing is attributable to the author, and how much is attributable to the translator. My whole knowledge of the Polish language ends with naming food and beer, so I've read Lem only through Michael Kandel's English translations, and in that case, I like both the writing and the ideas.
I think Lem really has two bodies of work - the humorous material, like the Ijon Tichy stuff , the Cyberiad, etc. , and the more serious material.
While Solaris is certainly his most widely read and influential work, it's not my personal favorite, and the only one I've read that I really disliked is Fiasco.
A Perfect Vacuum is probably my favorite, maybe because it bridges the gap between his humorous and serious work.

Another writer who, for me, fits your description of Lem of having fascinating ideas but an irritating style is J.L. Borges - His style is a bit florid and overwrought for my tastes but, again, I'm not sure how much of this is the translation. My Spanish is kind of not great, so I've read him mostly in translation.

The challenges of translation are not just in the specifics of the writing, but I think that different languages actually have different characters, and a style can fit better in one language than another. One of the reasons I bring up Borges is that even though I have to work hard to read fiction in Spanish, I can understand and read enough of it that I've noticed that I think it lends itself better to ornate, poetic language that can sound kind of overstuffed when translated into English.

Anyway, this is a total tangent off the episode, but there it is.

Offline stephako

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Re: Episode 156 Mars n Stars
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2013, 01:01:23 AM »
Maybe I should take a look at the English version of the serious works of Lem. I'll probably pick up Perfect Vacuum when I'm done with my current stack of books.

I totally agree with you that some languages are better suited for certain styles. I only know German and English well enough to read more than childrens books, so I can only compare those, but there it really is the case.
Null results, open questions and a bit of my writing: JUnQ