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Humanist Archives: March 27, 2019, 6:21 a.m. Humanist 32.575 - board-game metaphors

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 575.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2019-03-26 06:52:34+00:00
        From: Sean Yeager 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.565: board-game metaphors?

Hello all,

My academic background is in particle physics and cosmology (and I've also
sunk more hours into games than I care to admit). I sent Willard a few
ideas, which he recommended I share with the group:

- The most relevant thing which comes to mind is comparing the number of
atoms in the visible universe to the number of possible games of chess
(i.e. the Shannon number ).
There are also more ways to shuffle a deck of cards
than atoms on earth.

- Billiards is the standard go-to for explaining elastic collisions in
classical mechanics. It's not exactly a board game (though it may qualify
as a tabletop game?) and not exactly cosmology either, but collisions play
a big role in the early universe and it seems within the general flavor.

- And hinted with the Einstein and Hawking references, physicists love
gambling as a metaphor for quantum and statistical mechanics. "Monte Carlo
technique" has become something of a buzzword for any paper which runs
randomized simulated trials. Can also be tied to backgammon via dice rolls.

- Feynman diagrams are also often compared to Lego pieces and spacetime is
often imagined as a trampoline's or a balloon's surface, though these
aren't really games....

- Though deterministic models of the universe aren't applicable on a
fundamental level, they have some value on a macro level, and are
reminiscent of variations of checkers/draughts where one player can compel
another to make a certain move (e.g. jumping a piece).

- Cosmological recombination might also be understood in terms of Red Rover
(sorry for the non-board game again). Before recombination, photons would
continuously collide with an impassable "wall" of free electrons, but the
photons' path became clear after the universe cooled enough for electrons
to become bound to protons.

- Another almost-hit, but the formation of stars is roughly analogous to
gathering friends for a board game: you need a certain number of players
(i.e. mass) for the game to start (i.e. the star to ignite), but it becomes
self-sustaining once some critical amount is reached.

- There are many references to games and physics in Gödel, Escher, Bach, and
folks might also be able to find more metaphors in "Big Bang, Black Holes,
No Math (http://bigbang.physics.tamu.edu/)," by David Toback. Stephanie
Boluk and Patrick LeMieux have also done some really cool work in
Metagaming, such as mapping
sections of *The Legend of Zelda* onto a torus, which is quite useful for
introducing topology.

- I don't know all too much about board game references among AI
researchers, Google and OpenAI have been making big strides in creating
mechanical players of both board games (Go
and video games (DotA
(https://openai.com/blog/the-international-2018-results/) and Starcraft
I feel like these are probably already on most people's radar, but I've
tacked them on just in case.


Sean Yeager, M.Sc.
Assistant Professor of Physics and Mathematics
M.A. Candidate in Critical Studies
Pacific Northwest College of Art

On Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 12:26 AM Humanist  wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 565.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                    Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         Date: 2019-03-20 06:35:06+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty 
>         Subject: board-game metaphors?
> Again some help, if you would. I am looking for metaphorical references
> to board games by physical scientists used in order to communicate
> cosmological ideas. Perhaps the best example is Richard Feynman's, in
> the second of his elementary lectures at Caltech on physics, in which he
> referred to a game of chess played by the gods (in another version,
> Martians), only partially visible to science. Then, as you may know,
> there's Albert Einstein's statement that God does not play dice with the
> universe, countered by Stephen Hawking, who more than once declared the
> God is an inveterate gambler. I am also keenly interested in references
> to board games by computer scientists, esp those in AI.
> The cosmological nature of some ancient board games is well known. It's
> the reverse that I'm particularly interested in. All suggestions and
> pointers will be very welcome!
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
> Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London;
> Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary
> Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist
> (www.dhhumanist.org)

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