3 April 2010

If TLA is a recursive acronym, it must also be allowed that T-shirt is a self-describing word. And just look at this T-shirt:

T-shirt with droste-effect picture of the wearer in a T-shirt...

photo credit: paulandstorm


15 February 2010

An analemma is the curious figure-of-eight pattern (or lemniscate) made in the sky if you trace the sun’s position at mid-day (or any other time) over its annual cycle.  The difference in the sun’s position is caused by the tilt of planet Earth’s axis and its variation in speed as it moves around its orbit.  In any analemma, the solstices are represented by the lowest and highest points on the curve (with the lowest or southernmost being the winter solstice); and the equinoxes (days of equal night and day) by the place in the middle where the sun’s path crosses itself.

This photographic analemma taken over the course of a year in Side, Turkey, includes one special solar image: the corona from the total solar eclipse on 29 March 2006.  The planet Venus was also visible during totality in the lower right of the picture.

Notice also how the infinity curves of the helter-skelter on the ground echo the helter-skelter infinity of the night sky.

picture of Analemma taken in Side, Turkey in 2005-06

I use my mobile phone to text my wife saying,

about 5ish.

I wonder if this could be a case of recursion. The “ish” after the 5 is really a reiteration of the “about”, as if I had said “about, about 5”, an approximation of an approximation.

But this really will not do. Surely recursion must involve a repeated expression not just two or more expressions with the same meaning or function. Or must it? Is it necessarily necessary that recursion must have to require repetition of the same term? Can recursion be instanced by a repetition of a different term with the same semantic value?

But wait a minute, isn’t the example I’ve given “about 5-ish” just a case of redundancy or tautology? Like “yellow” in yellow jaundice, might the qualifier “about” simply be superfluous?

Well, that rather depends. I could say that writing “about 5”, would give the impression that I would leave some time around five o’clock, but not on the dot. But by adding, “-ish”, I intended to make it clear (or less clear) that I could leave anytime after four and and before six. So if that was how I intended to use “-ish”, then there was something like a recurring function, vaguification x2. I could have made it x3 by saying “some time around about 5-ish” but I suspect that at this point the law of diminishing returns would kick in.

The problem is partly that we have singularly failed to give a definition of recursion, even for for the purposes of this blog. Something we’ll have to do something about. Soonish.