This Is Why Infinity Is Ridiculous

There are two fundamental types of Infinity: quantitative and qualitative infinity. The difference between is simple: one is about the number of something, and the other is about the nature of that something.

Let’s think about this in the form of an analogy. Let’s say we have two rollercoasters: one is infinite in length, and the other is finite in length but is in the form of a loop with some kind of accelerator on it that keeps the cart going (think of the old Hot WheelsTM loop accelerators with D batteries inside).

The first rollercoaster is physically impossible because it would violate the First Law of Thermodynamics, i.e. that neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, only changed. The rollercoaster would consist of material, and thus it would have a lower limit; but since it would extend forever it would have no upper limit. So, having it extend infinitely in length without removing some of the pre-existing material in the process would mean one would have to obtain new material.

Alas, there is only so much wood/metal/etc. in the Universe, and thus it could not be infinite.

The second rollercoaster is a bit different: it is still quantitatively finite because it is in the form of a circle (or oval; or whatever you want…)—in other words, because it has the property of repetition. This latter version is therefore still physically possible.



Image Credit:

Original work released under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International license.

creative, Metrology, Post

Document Structure Language

Basic Notation

There are 5 basic objects in DocSL: the Metadocument, the Document, Items, Lines, and Bullets.

The Metadocument is the DocSL file itself, upon which is written the various Items and Bullets used to describe the structure of the final endproduct.

The Document is the rendered endproduct that the Metadocument is describing.

An Item is the basic element that makes up a Metadocument. It denotes a particular object in the Document.

  • “Hard Items” are items that visibly render on the Document; these are placed inside square brackets [ ].

    The Unicode code points for these objects are

    [ (Hexadecimal) / [ (Decimal)

    ] (Hexadecimal) / ] (Decimal)

    Examples include grids, images, titles, etc.

  • “Soft Items” are items that invisibly render on the Document. These are placed inside angle brackets < >.

    The Unicode code points for these objects are

    &#x3008; (Hexadecimal) / &#12296; (Decimal)

    &#x3009; (Hexadecimal) / &#12297; (Decimal)

    Examples include spaces, formatting marks, etc.

A Line is an intrinsic property of the Metadocument. Whereas many Documents have distinct rows upon which things may be written, in a Metadocument they are defined slightly different.

Unlike in most Western instances of the Document, a Line as rendered on the Metadocument need not be above or below Items on other Lines. A Line is denoted with a Bullet (see next description); thus, while the Document will always be much more organized in terms of the positioning of its rows versus its content, the Metadocument can still display items from different Lines on the same row.

However, although it is not required, placing a Line above or below an object per conventional lines may still be preferred, depending on the aesthetic or structural needs of a particular document; not adhering to this convention may also create unwanted clutter as well. For these reasons, structuring the Metadocument as closely as reasonably possible to the 1-Line-per-row ideal is encouraged, and deviations fromt his standard should be used sparingly and only when necessary.

A Bullet, as defined above, is exactly that: a bullet point. It is used to denote the start of a new Line in the Metadocument.

The Unicode code point for this object is

BULLET U+2022;
&#x2022; (Hexadecimal) / &#8226; (Decimal)


Items Available in DocSL Version 1.0

For the first public version of DocSL, there are 15 Hard Items and 10 Soft Items.

Type Name Written As Description
Hard Items
1 Title TITLE Denotes the title of a work (if applicable)
2 Subtitle SUBTITLE Denotes the subtitle of a work (if applicable)
3 Front Matter FRONTMATTER Denotes any front matter not including the title or subtitle
4 Heading HEADING Denotes a text heading
5 Text TEXT Denotes text
6 Paph PARAGRAPH Denotes a paragraph; can be used in combination with or in lieu of TEXT
7 List LIST Denotes an ordered or unordered list
8 Code CODE Denotes code text, either markup, programming, or cryptographic
9 Equation EQUATION Denotes a mathematical equation
10 Formula FORMULA Denotes a mathematical or other formula
11 Table TABLE Denotes a table, such as this one
12 Grid GRID Denotes a 2- or 3-dimensional grid
13 Graph GRAPH Denotes a mathematical graph
14 Diagram DIAGRAM Denotes a diagram (e.g. flowchart, pyramid chart, etc.)
15 Image IMAGE Denotes an image

Type Name Written As Description
Soft Items
1 Multiple Space MULTIPLESPACE Denotes a group of spaces (SPACE U+0020)
2 Fraction Space FRACTIONSPACE Denotes a fraction of a space (SPACE U+0020)
3 Zero-Width Space ZEROWIDTHSPACE Denotes a zero-width space
4 Paragraph Mark PARAGRAPHMARK Denotes a paragraph mark (PILCROW SIGN U+00B6)
5 Direction Mark DIRECTIONMARK Denotes either a Left-to-Right Mark (U+200E) or a Right-to-Left Mark (U+200F)
6 Line Break LINEBREAK Denotes a line break
7 Page Break PAGEBREAK Denotes a page break
8 Field FIELD Denotes placeholders for variable content
9 Header HEADER Denotes a header
10 Footer FOOTER Denotes a footer



Image Credit:

Original work released under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International license.

Text in image uses “EB Garamond” & “Inconsolata”, a serif and monospace typeface released by Georg Duffner and Raph Levien, respectively.

Both typefaces are licensed under the SIL Open Font License version 1.1.


CIC Cataloguing System—A Method of Classifying Calendrical Systems

I’ve always been fascinated by calendrical systems, as it has always been basically the only way we as a civilization know how to track time. Just some of the forms that have come about over the ages:

  • Clocks
  • Wristwatches
  • Chronometers
  • Weekly, monthly, and yearly calendars
  • The different phases of the Moon, the Sun, and the four seasons
  • The changes in the paths of the stars in the sky

As you might have noticed, there is a variety of different systems. However, as far as I know, there is no system that can specifically classify these systems.

So, I thought I’d give it a go, which is what you’ll find below: the CIC Cataloguing System, or CICCS.


[A]-[B]-[C1]:[C2]:[C3] … [C𝑛]

A  = Calendar Type Identifier
B  = Calendar Subtype Identifier
C1 = 1st-Level Number Base
C2 = 2nd-Level Number Base
C3 = 3rd-Level Number Base
C𝑛 = 𝑛th Number Base

Element Descriptions

Calendar Subtype Identifier: A 4-letter abbreviation for a particular calendar type.


Calendar Subtype Identifier: A 3–10-character abbreviation for a particular variation of a calendar type. Fewer characters are better, but sometimes brevity must be sacrified for conciseness, as one will see in the first of the examples below.

(This element is optional, since not all subtypes are always known or no subtypes exist.)


1st-Level Base: The numerical base of all units directly subsequent to, and multiples of, the base unit.
2nd-Level Base: The numerical base of all next-larger units that are multiples of the 1st-Level unit(s).
3rd-Level Base: The numerical base of all next-larger units that are multiples of the 2nd-Level unit(s).
𝑛th-Level Base: Just another way of saying, “… and so on until calendar is sufficiently classified.”

Step-by-Step: ISO 8601

In the ISO 8601 form of the Gregorian Calendar, the 1st level consists of the Gregorian minute and the Gregorian hour, both of which are directly subsequent to the SI second in terms of magnitude. Thus, this latter unit is the base unit, the former units being 60× its value.

The 2nd level is the solar day, which is base-24 due to being a multiple of the 1st-level unit, the Gregorian hour.

The 3rd level is the solar year—its base is 365, due to it being a multiple of the 2nd-level unit, the solar day.

(Note: You could place the Gregorian month as the 3rd-level unit and the solar year as the 4th-level unit, but you would have to place a variation operator, i.e. plus-or-minus ( ± ), since a Gregorian month’s length is not constant. Defining the year’s base in days makes it more organized and is just as much, if not more, frequently used in day-to-day life.)

Therefore, ISO 8601’s profile would be as follows:

Calendar Type: Gregorian Calendar (GREG)
Calendar Subtype: ISO 8601 (ISO8601)
1st-Level Base: 60
2nd-Level Base: 24
3rd-Level Base: 365

Calendar Identification Code: GREG-ISO8601-60:24:365.


1 For more information on the Mayan Calendar, see this article by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
2 Courtesy of Dr. Markus Kuhn, a University Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, released under a CC BY 4.0 International license.
3 For more information on the Daisho-Reki subtype, see this article by the National Diet Library of Japan.
4 Courtesy of Utrecht University.


Image Credit:

“Calendar*”, by Dafne Cholet.
Released under a CC BY 2.0 Generic license.
Image has not been changed.
This use does not imply endorsement of the above content.

poetry, Post

An Introvert’s Revolution

The people are here
and they want to chant
for what they hold dear
and will not recant.

We are many & great,
with strength in numbers,
a force that will not abate
until corruption slumbers.

The revolution is here.
Your reign shall fall.
The skies will soon clear,
true freedom to all.

I agree with these views,
so I have nothing to fear,
except large crowds in small venues.
I’m getting the f**k out of here.


Image Credit:

“Ubu’s Dreams – Shadow Puppet Test”, by Fabrice Florin.
Released under a CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic license.
Image has not been changed.
This use does not imply endorsement of the above content.


Centigrade & Celsius: A Degree of Confusion

In the annals of the Metric System, aside from the kelvin (K), there two units of temperature that are most commonly used throughout the world: the degree Celsius (°C) and the degree Centigrade. (The degree Centigrade, as far as I know, doesn’t really have its own unit symbol, so I propose °Ce for this role.)

Most people tend to think these are the same thing, and for most practical purposes they are; but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, heavily detailed world of thermometry, one begins to realize that these two scales, though similar, are not the same at all. They are, as it were, more like twins than clones, having originated from a single source yet still fundamentally different.

The difference between them is that whilst 0 degrees Centigrade and 0 degrees Celsius are both equal to the Ice Point of water (273.15 K, in absolute terms), a value of 100 degrees Centigrade is not the same as that of 100 degrees Celsius. As it stands, 100 degrees Centigrade is equal to the Steam Point of water, approximately 373.13 K, while 100 degrees Celsius is ever-so-slightly higher at 373.15 K.

The value of the Steam Point has a rich and variable history, largely because what it is exactly depends entirely on how sensitive the equipment used to measure it is. Throughout the years, this equipment and their sensitivity have improved, and thus so has the value measured.

Here is a brief timeline showing how the two scales have changed and related to each other over the years, expressed in degrees Celsius:

Year Ice Point of Water Lower Bound (°Ce) Lower Bound (°C) Steam Point of Water Upper Bound (°Ce) Upper Bound (°C)
1973 0 °C 0 °C 0 °C 99.970 °C 99.970 °C 100 °C
1990 0 °C 0 °C 0 °C 99.975 °C 99.975 °C 100 °C
2014 0 °C 0 °C 0 °C 99.974 °C 99.974 °C 100 °C
2016 0 °C 0 °C 0 °C 99.984 °C 99.984 °C 100 °C

Here’s the same information, but expressed in kelvins:

Year Ice Point of Water Lower Bound (°Ce) Lower Bound (°C) Steam Point of Water Upper Bound (°Ce) Upper Bound (°C)
1973 273.150 K 273.150 K 273.150 K 373.120 K 373.120 K 373.150 K
1990 273.150 K 273.150 K 273.150 K 373.125 K 373.125 K 373.150 K
2014 273.150 K 273.150 K 273.150 K 373.124 K 373.124 K 373.150 K
2016 273.150 K 273.150 K 273.150 K 373.134 K 373.134 K 373.150 K

So, there you have it, folks! For all the world to see, it should be clear now that the Centigrade scale is not at all the same one as the Celsius scale, despite what we’ve always been told. For most everyday purposes, of course, it makes no difference whether you treat the two as equal, but just know that this does not mean that they are truly the same at a fundamental level. They are only ever the same until you get down to the level of thousandths.


Sources for Table Data:

Image Credit:

[Untitled], by Pēteris Caune.
Released under a CC BY-NC 2.0 Generic license.
Image has not been modified.
This use does not imply endorsement of the above content.

Note: I’d like to apologize to any mobile users viewing this post. I know the 2nd table below goes off the screen, but try as I might I couldn’t figure out how to get the table small enough without reducing the values’ magnitudes to two digits, which would have made some of the differing values ambiguous.

Berry Religiosity Index (BRI)—A Method of Quantifying Religious Disposition


There are six dimensions to this scale: Relativism, Religiousness, Integration, Theism, Externality–Internality, and Externality Size. Each dimension has 6 possible values on a scale of 0–5, from least to most intensity.

  1. Relativism is a measure of how relative one sees the world around them.

    (5) Strong Relativist
    4) General Relativist
    3) Relative Binarist1
    (2) General Binarist
    (1) Strong Binarist
    (0) Unarist2

  2. Religiousness is a measure of how strongly one experiences religion in their daily life.

    (5) High Intensity, Frequent
    4) High Intensity, Infrequent
    3) Medium Intensity, Neither Frequent nor Infrequent
    (2) Low Intensity, Frequent
    (1) Low Intensity, Infrequent
    (0) Nonexistent

  3. Integration is a measure of how much one integrates religious experience into one’s daily life.

    (5) Always
    (4) Most of the time
    (3) Half of the Time
    (2) Sometimes
    (1) Occasionally
    (0) Not Applicable

  1. Theism is a measure of how strongly one believes in a deity.

    (5) Very Strongly
    4) Strongly
    3) Somewhat
    (2) A Little3
    (1) Very Little4
    (0) Not at All5 / Not Applicable6

  2. Externality–Internality is a measure of how strongly one prefers experiencing religion through external sources (i.e. with other people/organisms/etc.) vs internal sources (i.e. introspection, solitary activities).

    (5) Very Highly External
    (4) Highly External
    (3) Equally External & Internal
    (2) Highly Internal
    (1) Very Highly Internal
    (0) Not Applicable

  3. Externality Size is a measure of how many external sources (i.e. other people/organisms/etc.) one is typically involved with during religious externalities.

    (5) Very Large Group
    4) Large Group
    3) Moderately Sized Group
    (2) Small Group
    (1) Very Small Group
    (0) Not Applicable


Graphing the Data

After surveying someone with these questions, one can then plot the results on a radar chart. This chart is shown below:

Berry Religiosity Index (BRI) + Border

Here’s an example using my own religious data:

Dimensions Score
Relativism 5
Religiousness 1
Integration 1
Theism 1
Externality–Internality 1
Externality Size 0

BRI (Sarah Lasair Berry) + Border


1 Someone who is binarist in some situations but relativist in others.

2 Someone who believes either that everything is totally good or everything is totally bad.

3 E.g. “Strong” Agnostic (“I am unsure if a deity exists, and it is not possible to know.”)

4 E.g. “Weak” Agnostic (“I am unsure if a deity exists, but it may become possible to know in the future.”)

5 E.g. Atheism

6 E.g. Nontheism


Image Credit[Untitled], by Graham Hellewell
Released under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Image has not been modified.
This use does not imply endorsement of the above content.


The Battery Life of Books

So, I was reading today, and sometime later (probably around an hour ago), I got to thinking of the wonderful expression, “Books have an infinite battery life.” And the following thought came to me whilst I was drifting a bit off to sleep: What exactly is the “battery life” of a book?

If you’re anything like me, this sort of open-ended, xkcd-ish question is the kind that gets my brain fired up & my blood pumping.

The Slow Burn

I remember watching that great classic of science fiction, The Time Machine (1960),1 where The Time Traveller reacts in a state of shock whilst picking up a book from the communal “library” & seeing it crumble from a mere closing of its cover. If our book here doesn’t succumb to some other event of damage or destruction first, and assuming it’s stored in ideal conditions, this is (roughly) what will happen eventually.

Over time, its glucose molecules will be less & less capable of keeping themselves together, and it will naturally degrade, bit by bit, on its own. Dubbed “slow fires” by Terry Sanders in his 1987 documentary, Slow Fires: On the Preservation of the Human Record,1 the “Brittle Book Problem”,2 as it’s often called, is a huge issue affecting most paper in the world today, and it mainly affects paper that is neither acid-free nor alkaline in its pH content.

According to the US Library of Congress’s Preservation Directorate, this can be an issue even for professional archival efforts:

Research by the Library of Congress has demonstrated that cellulose itself generates acids as it ages, including formic, acetic, lactic, and ocalic acids. Measurable quantities of these acids were observed to form under ambient conditions within weeks of the paper’s manufacture. Moreover, paper does not readily release these acids due to strong intermolecular bonding. This explains why pH neutral papers become increasingly acidic as they age.

Because we’re talking about a material object, the exact lifespan of any given book is impossible to determine here given the sheer number of things upon which it would depend. You’d have to know a lot of details specific to that item, such as:

  • How much paper is it comprised of? What are its dimensions?
  • What type of paper was used: Papyrus? Parchment? Cotton rag? Wood pulp?
  • What chemical treatment did it go through during manufacture?
  • What was its pH level post-manufacture: basic or alkaline (pH > 7), acidic (pH < 7), or neutral (pH ≈ 7, commonly termed “acid-free”)?
  • Was it given an alkaline reserve, such as calcium carbonate (CaCO) or magnesium carbonate (MgCO) to act as a buffering agent against migrating acids from adjacent materials?

I think you get the picture: an approximation will have to suffice.

A Shortage of Information

Unfortunately, there’s not much reliable data on book quantities worldwide: this is due to most major publishers’ great secrecy with in-house sales data, and the few sources that do provide comprehensive metrics are often very costly, subscription-based programmes.

However, a ballpark estimate of at least the US population can still be made here:

According to the Pew Research Center, about 69% of Americans read at least one print book in 2013. Since this included all books read, not just books purchased, I think it’s safe to say that about 69% of all books published in 2013 can be considered the maximum number of books read in 2013. However, Statista data places unit sales for that year at around 2.5–2.7 billion books,3 much higher than the number of books likely read by those Americans represented in the Pew survey.

Therefore, I would think a reasonably fair presumption would be that most Americans who read read mainly books produced in the last 26 years (since 1990).

And, according to this 1989 article by The New York Times, about 25% of all paper produced then was acid-free; this was projected to double within the following year. It’s 2016 now, so if this projection has held true, then a large majority of books produced nowadays are likely acid-free or at least alkaline.

Estimated life expectancies for papers of various pH grades are about 50–100 years for acidic paper and 300–1000 years for alkaline & acid-free paper (see page 4), depending on quality.


  • Pre-1990(-ish) Books: Anywhere from months to 100 years, depending on age, quality, chemical treatment, storage conditions, composition, binding, size & quantity, and so on.
  • Post-1990(-ish) Books: 300–1000 years, depending on quality, chemical treatment, storage conditions, composition, binding, size & quantity, and so on.


1 Courtesy of IMDb.

2 Courtesy of the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).

3 Because Statista imposes a paywall for much more than just a snippet of data, I had to do a bit of interpolation: the lede in this source states that unit sales in 2010 was 2.53 billion books, whilst this source reports unit sales in 2015 as 2.71 billion books. So I estimated the 2013 quantity to be around those two numbers. It was a rough estimate, but it got the job done, I feel.


Image Credit: “book”, by Noah Dibley.
Released under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Image has not been modified.
This use does not imply endorsement of the above content by the image’s owner.