Many thanks to Tristan Morris for creating a beautiful illustrated hardcover print edition of the site

extremely geeky  extremely geeky

Case 132


(Sorry, this page has not been translated by the translator you selected.)

Being snowed in together through the winter months will strain even the closest of friendships; Yíwen and Hwídah were no exception to this rule.

Hwídah was irritated enough when her lanky roommate began dancing silently around their quarters, swinging her arms and legs within inches of Hwídah’s nose. But Hwídah’s patience came to an end one day when Yíwen set up an electric guzheng* in the center of the room and began playing it—or rather, began plucking its strings inexpertly to produce a series of dissonant, tuneless, tempoless sounds. The interlude lasted a minute, after which Yíwen sat down and scribbled on some papers. But then she rose and repeated the performance.

After the tenth iteration, Hwídah hurled a sandal right into Yíwen’s backside, causing the girl to yelp and turn around.

“What,” growled Hwídah, “are you doing?”

Some of Yíwen’s papers fluttered to the floor. Hwídah snatched them up. They were printouts of quicksort implemented in different languages: C, Lisp, Perl, even Prolog. Each was covered with musical notations in red ink.

“A thousand pardons for my rudeness,” said Yíwen. “I have been attempting to encode certain algorithms as movements through space, or notes in the air. If the result is not pleasing I change my encoding and try again.”

“Why?” asked Hwídah.

“To see what I will discover by doing it,” answered Yíwen. “We speak often of the beauty or elegance of code. Perhaps, without knowing it, we have been composing choreographies for information to dance to, and we find certain ones pleasing because they appeal to some deeper aesthetic sense common to other forms of human art. If so, then these arts would be connected. I seek that connection.”

Hwídah considered this.

“Thus far, the music of quicksort eludes me,” continued Yíwen with a sigh. “Perhaps my experiment is as foolish as translating songs into code and attempting to compile it. Perhaps the music of quicksort is best played by machines for their own appreciation, and not ours. Shall I quit this endeavor, and spare your nerves?”

In answer, Hwídah produced two bits of cotton from her nightstand and put them in her ears. Yíwen bowed and returned to her instrument. Thus was peace restored.

* I imagine they sound something like this.