04.18: Gravity’s Rainbow
In which, despite efforts by Them to stop us, we continue our work on Gravity’s Rainbow with a look at Book Three, episode five – the Tchitcherine episode.
Here’s an example of Kyrgyz script. When writing was first developed, a Latin alphabet was used. So “A screaming comes across the sky” would have looked like this:
Bir jini asmanda bolot
Around 1920, the Arabic alphabet was adopted. The words themselves didn’t change, but how they were written changed dramatically. Most notably, the Latin alphabet is written from right-to-left, whereas the Arabic alphabet is written from left-to-right. So the same sentence would look like this:
بىر جىنى اسمانادا بولوت
Finally, in the early 1930s, Russia began to impose a Cyrillic alphabet onto the Kyrgyz people. Pynchon has Tchitcherine working on this project. Once again, the words didn’t change but how they were written did:
Бир жини асманда болот
On chess outcomes and the number of atoms in the universe:
Claude Shannon – a mathematician and cryptographer called “the father of information theory” – put the lower boundary for the possible outcomes of a game of chess to be 10120. (This is called the Shannon number.) Victor Allis, a Dutch computer scientist working in the field of artificial intelligence, put the upper bound at 5×1050. He also estimated the game-tree complexity to be at least 10123, assuming a branching factor of 35 and an average game of 80 moves.
The estimate of atoms in the known universe is often put between 4×1079 and 4×1081.