Japan: day book?

playing around with the Babelfish, I see that Japan is 日本. However, the translation for æ—¥ alone is “Day”, and for 本 alone is “Book”. The translation for 本日 is “This day”.

No clues to why this might be so at the Wikipedia entry or casual googling. Of course, the Fish might just be on crack today. I need to ask an expert or two

2ch

2ch is the largest internet forum in the world – over 10 million registered users. I first heard of it a few years ago, but the wikipedia article is probably the single best source of information.

A distinguishing feature of 2ch is the pervasive anonymity. From an interview with the founder, quoted in the wikipedia article:

Q: Why did you decide to use perfect anonymity, not even requiring a user name?

A: Because delivering news without taking any risk is very important to us. There is a lot of information disclosure or secret news gathered on Channel 2. Few people would post that kind of information by taking a risk. Moreover, people can only truly discuss something when they don’t know each other.

If there is a user ID attached to a user, a discussion tends to become a criticizing game. On the other hand, under the anonymous system, even though your opinion/information is criticized, you don’t know with whom to be upset. Also with a user ID, those who participate in the site for a long time tend to have authority, and it becomes difficult for a user to disagree with them. Under a perfectly anonymous system, you can say, “it’s boring,” if it is actually boring. All information is treated equally; only an accurate argument will work.

That said, some celebrities do sign their names with a tripcode, a cryptographic has created from the password field. Like any large community, 2ch has evolved its own culture, slang, mythology, and iconography. Examples are Soy Sauce Warrior Kikkoman, the Neomugicha incident, Shift_JIS artwork, and the astonishing love story of Densha Otoko, the patron saint of otaku aspirations if there ever was one.

Strangely, I found a referral to haibane.info from this site which has my blog listed as an English 2ch-type forum. Given that I run a pretty standard WordPress/K2 install, I’m somewhat bemused.

It would be interesting to launch a 2ch type forum focused on a single topic, probably politics. The community model might well be a significant improvement over Scoop-based sites like Daily Kos and RedState. Especially if you presented the forum content in blog format via RSS feeds. As a model for community-building, 2ch s perhaps teh most successful example ever, and given that many other 2ch-inspired English sites have sprung up but none have ever achieved anywhere near the original’s mass popularity, I wonder if 2ch is somehow more uniquely suited to the Japanese cultural mileu.

Yahoo Babel Fish

Yahoo is now the host of the classic Babel Fish translation service, formerly hosted by Altavista. It now also supports Japanese!

For example, try: 七国山病院 (the CatBus sign from Totoro, courtesy of Steven). The Babelfish gives us “Seven national mountain illness institutes”. I noticed from Steven’s link that 国山 can be interpreted as “realm” and Steven also mentioned that 病院 (“illness institutes”) is actually hospital, so the sign translates as Seven Realm Hospital. The Babelfish isn’t capable of translating these compound statements and is more of an atomic processor on the individual characters.

Naturally, it also works in reverse: try “Seven Realm Hospital” and you get the output 7 つの王国の病院 which when I feed back into the Babelfish, turns out to be “Hospital of seven kingdoms”. Realm and Kingdom both get translated as 王国. What my point is, I have no idea, other than to probe the assumptions in the Babelfish engine. As a toy for gaikojin otaku like myself, it’s neat 🙂

Plus we must all bow to the universality of Douglas Adams. Just like 42, the Babel Fish has entered the mass lexicon. Have I mentioned that the Guide entry on the Babelfish, as related in the BBC Radio Scripts, is the most hilarious version by far? You just can’t beat the dry delivery of Peter Jones as the Book. It’s like comparing black and white to color television.

The ultimate answer

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have built up an entire mythology about the number 42, despite Douglas Adams’ (DNA) insistence that the whole thing was just a big joke. Maybe a joke in base-13, but still a joke. The number has in some ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it pops up everywhere so often that one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just fan energy driving it.

Well, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have built up an entire mythology about the number 42, despite Douglas Adams’ (DNA) insistence that the whole thing was just a big joke. Maybe a joke in base-13, but still a joke. The number has in some ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it pops up everywhere so often that one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just fan energy driving it.

Well, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. From Seed Magazine, an article that makes a link between the prime numbers, 42, and the moments of the Riemann zeta function. In other words, the number 42 holds the key to possibly unlocking the secret of the prime numbers themselves, and thus answering an ultimate question of the basic structure of our universe (made physically manifest in the physics of atomic energy levels of heavy elements like Erbium).

So, in a very real sense, the number 42 is the answer to an ultimate question. Whether that is the ultimate question or not is left to the working thinkers [1]. But here’s something else to think about: the zeta function is closely related to the Zipf distribution – which governs the fundamental statistics of the World Wide Web. So perhaps blogging about 42 has deeper meaning than we suspect…

Continue reading “The ultimate answer”