Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Names and titles

Some of you may wonder: "What's up with your name? Why is it signed Human D6HAH6QY? Where's that coming from?" Or perhaps you wonder what the blog title means.

The title is easier, let's start from there. "Hoc etiam transibit" is Latin for "This too shall pass". If you've never heard it, there's a really old story with various attributions and told in many ways. A powerful king of ancient times told one of his highest ministers that he had heard of a ring that would comfort those in deepest despair, and restore wisdom and sobriety to those who felt favored by Fortune. The minister offers to find it, or is charged with it, and fails for the longest time, until at last he finds it from an unlikely source (usually a miserable man) and brings it to his king in the nick of time (of course). The king examines the ring and his mood immediately changes as predicted. The ring had the words "This too shall pass" engraved. Abraham Lincoln seems to have described them as words suitable to any occasion. So they will be a big bold sign for me when I write.

My name as author of this blog is more complicated. I was searching for something that would be unique but not special. I also did not want to borrow the name of any historical or fictional character, since it would imply an association with someone whose traits I would probably never match anyways. All I really want to say about myself is that I'm human and I'm here.

Then I thought, if I was cataloging human beings, how would I label them easily? With a string of letters and numbers, of course. Well, then a random string of letters and numbers is easy, but how many do I need? I remembered reading that about 100 billion people are estimated to have lived in the past 50,000 years (check here), a guesstimate reported by prof. Elwell as better than others. With 36 symbols (letters and numbers), 8 digits are needed to pass 100 billions, and it's good for almost 3,000 billion people. (I don't expect my blog to be still around when we run out of such labels). So I had a random number generator do it in Excel, and there it is. Unique, but otherwise unremarkable. It also has great advantages when picking a user name that no one else has already chosen. It sounds melodious in some languages and horrible in others, so be it.

Of course, you may wish to look for patterns in it and claim it's not random. You're welcome to do so. Humans have an amazing capacity for seeing patterns where none exists

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