June 22, 2016

Bakuon!! -- Lime sempai

Let's get something clear from the get-go: I don't think the mangaka is trying to hide a serious story here. It's an ecchi comedy and that isn't going to change. But I do think there's a lot of story background here he's only revealing slowly. It's the skeleton onto which he's hanging a lot of good jokes and it's going to stay that way.

Nonetheless, I think it's there. And in particular I think there's something pretty interesting about Lime sempai. She's always been strange and mysterious, and I don't think that's random or haphazard. The mangaka knows the truth about her, and all the things that happen relating to her are consistent and driven by his unrevealed back story about her.

This is a monstrous spoiler about the whole series so it all goes below the fold.


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May 20, 2016

Why are we watching?

(Yes, this post is about anime, so stick with me.)

May I introduce B.F. Skinner? He did critical work in understanding conditioning. Everyone has heard of Pavlov's Dogs, but that had to do with low level neural circuits and its practical application is extremely limited.

Not so Skinner's work. He was studying processes which happen at the highest levels of the brain. It's known as "operant conditioning" and it's extremely powerful. It has to do with reinforcement: the person who is training you is trying to achieve certain results, and he uses rewards to make you comply.

It's more complex than that, however. How does the operator get across what he wants the subject to do? You start by rewarding behavior which is close to what you want, and get more and more specific as time goes on.

You want the pigeon to peck the keyboard of a toy piano. So the first thing you do is to starve the pigeon so it's voraciously hungry. The pigeon wanders close to the piano, and you dump some food in a hopper which the pigeon immediately eats. But it wants more, so it wanders back to the piano and when it gets a lot closer, you reward it with more food. It goes like that; eventually you reward it when it puts its head near the keyboard, and you reward it for pecking the keyboard, and so on.

Quite complex behaviors can be induced this way. And they can be reinforced really very strongly. He also studied "schedules of reinforcement" and came up with some surprising results. "Continuous reinforcement" is what you use when first teaching the desired behavior but it isn't very effective at maintaining it.

The most effective schedule of reinforcement is to reward randomly, with varying amounts of reward. Small rewards more commonly, and bigger rewards more rarely. If the reward schedule is consistent, the subject knows each time whether there will be a reward. But if the schedule is random, then he thinks, "Well, maybe this time it'll hit."

Skinner's work was anticipated by tinkerers a hundred years before him, when they invented the slot machine. It turns out to be a nearly perfect device for teaching people to stick coins in the machine.

So what has this got to do with anime? Wonderduck asks, "Why are we watching?" when really excellent shows come around so rarely and unexpectedly?

The answer is that we've been conditioned. Smaller rewards more often (shows which are good but not great) and an occasional masterpiece without warning -- isn't that exactly like a slot machine?

Which makes us think, "Well, one more try; maybe this one will turn out to hit the jackpot!"

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May 07, 2016

Cheesecake: Kevlar and Cyanoacrylate

Today's search term is "Impossible shirt" and it touches a sore spot I've been brooding about for years. JGreely has a link on his side bar to a blog called "Boobs don't work that way" and this, in turn, is "cloth doesn't work that way."

There are two major issues here. We can call the first one the "Sternum problem". It's about the way that shirts on girls are drawn so that the cloth follows the skin all the way into the middle of the cleavage:


That's not cloth; that's paint. (Or heat-shrink plastic, ouch!) No way anything woven would do that. Even worse is when they do this with plate mail, such as Cecily Cambell in "The Sacred Blacksmith":


The purpose of a chestplate like that is to distribute the force of a blow. But with that shape, if she gets hit all the force is going to be transferred to her sternum, and it will probably be crushed -- leading to all kinds of physical problems such as bleeding in her lungs.

Fairy Tail gets this right. Erza Scarlet wears a chestplate a lot of the time, but hers is not only plausible for manufacture, it's also plausible defense:


It doesn't try to form fit her breasts; it tries to spread the force of blows. Exactly right.

The other problem with a lot of this art we can call the "Hourglass problem", dealing with extreme ranges in the "three numbers".


How can there be such a difference in diameter between the level of the breasts and the level of the waist? If it is like most T-shirts it's going to be a constant cylinder and if it's wide enough to hold that chest, it's going to hang like a sack at the waist.

Fairy Tail usually gets this one right, too. Nearly all the women in Fairy Tail have huge boobs and narrow waists, but they usually wear halter-tops or, as in this case, clothing which is obviously custom tailored. There are plausible seams in this to expand the top part without being loose around the waist.


So these two girls have both problems:



This is a particularly egregious example. The cloth not only follows the cleavage exactly, it goes under the boobs as well. There's no way that's cloth; it's another paint job.


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April 08, 2016

Just a strange thought

Isn't it interesting that we have common words for the two parts of our legs (thigh, shin) but don't have for the two sections of our arms? We have to refer to them as upper arm and lower arm.

We could use humerus for the upper arm, but there are two bones in the lower arm so we can't really use either radius or ulna.

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January 15, 2016

GATE -- Noriko

This is a huge spoiler so it's below the fold.


(Lelei is still my favorite character, but Kuribayashi is a close second.)


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December 17, 2015

Star Wars 7

Are the first three movies (i.e. chap 1, chap 2, chap 3) now officially non-canon?

One of the new characters in the new movie (chap 7) is a former storm trooper who decided to change sides. He's black.

I thought all the storm troopers were clones of Jango Fett. Has that changed?

Or... we never actually saw the faces of Jango Fett or Boba Fett, not to mention any storm trooper. Are they all black? (Yikes! The SJW's will spike if so! Black slaves fighting and dying for the white emperor!)

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November 08, 2015

Meaningless Noise

A long time ago someone asked a philosopher a question, and his response was "That question is a meaningless noise." The point being it was a string of words which didn't make any sense.

A lot of science fiction double-talk is meaningless noise. I've run into a few lately. One was "temperatures below absolute zero". Temperature is a measure of the amount of randomized kinetic energy possessed by the atoms in a mass. If it's a gas, that resuts in pressure on the container. At Absolute Zero, there is no energy at all; the atoms stop moving and the pressure is zero. How can there be anything less than that? It would require negative energy which is another meaningless noise.

Another was "anti-graviton". Three of the four forces have now been united, the triumph of modern physics. The Electric Force, the Strong Force, and the Weak Force are all mediated by particles, respectively the photon, the gluon, and the weak vector bosun.

Physicists would really really like to make gravity fit into the same model, with a hypothesized "graviton" being the mediating particle. But in the only theory of gravity we have, General Relativity, gravity isn't actually a force. It's a side effect of non-Euclidian distortion of space time caused by the presence of mass.

In other words, there is no such thing as a graviton. Anyway, the mediating particles for the three forces don't have anti-particles, so even if there is such a thing as a graviton, why would it have one?

I myself made up one a long time ago: polarized sound. See, thing is, sound is a longitudinal wave, and you can't polarize longitudinal waves. (Light, by contrast, is a transverse wave and those polarize nicely.)

It ain't a term, but ice power (e.g. Gray in Fairy Tail) has always bothered me. Cold isn't a thing, it's the absence of a thing. To warm something up (Natsu) you add energy to it. All well and good. Making heat is not only completely acceptable, it's impossible to avoid at least some of that happening. (See the Second Law of Thermodynamics.) But freezing something means draining energy out of it. Where is that energy going?


The usual handwave is, "Well, it isn't our universe so our physical laws don't apply." Yeah, right. Or if not that, then "Shut up and look at the boobs, you nerd."

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October 15, 2015

Nanoha Vivid -- anachronism

The anime runs up through about chapter 30 in the manga, but the manga goes a lot further than that, especially in raw. Chapter 69 has this image:


And it bothers me a lot. Explaining the situation would involve lots of huge spoilers, so I'll skip it. For the moment, leave it that the blonde chick with the sword is a brat living at a dojo for the "Fist of the Spring Sunlight" style of martial arts, which has been taught by Rio's family for generations. (It's also the main fighting style Rio has been trained in.) That sword belongs to Micayah, and it's a katana. Worse, it's also her magical device. The brat took the sword from Micayah's luggage without permission and has been playing with it while eating greasy food, and getting greasy fingerprints all over it. Micayah (in the foreground with her back to us) is not happy about this, and has challenged the brat.

What bothers me about the image is the brat's stance. That's French; it's a fencing stance. Fist of the Spring Sunlight is clearly intended to be taken by us to be an advanced form of Kung Fu, so where the hell did the brat learn French fighting style?

She didn't learn it well. When she does her lunge, her left hand should have dropped down almost to her leg.

Midchild is a real strange place; it's too much like Earth, or rather it's too much like Japan and China. The Wesley dojo is like something out of China, and the city Vivio lives in is like a clone of Tokyo, except with magic and high tech. It doesn't look alien enough. But except for the fact that all the magic devices speak English or German, it doesn't borrow hardly anything from Europe or the United States; it's all Far East. So what in hell is French fencing doing there?

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April 11, 2015

Nanoha Vivid -- Engineer's disease

Just a small problem here. This is Vivio:



And that was the person in ancient Belka from whom Vivio was cloned, recognizably so because they both have exactly the same Heterochromia.

And that's the problem: heterochromia isn't heritable. It isn't caused by a gene. The most common cause of heterochromia is chimericism, which happens when two fertilized eggs merge and result in a single individual.

If you take a single cell from someone with heterochromia and clone it, the resulting baby's eyes will be the same color, one of the two the parent had. (Which one depends on where the cell came from.)

Not that it matters, except that it's a plot point in Nanoha Vivid -- or it will be. Einhart is going to recognize Vivio by her eyes.

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March 11, 2015


I'm a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories. Just about the only mystery series (after Sherlock Holmes) I've ever really read much of.

For a long time I didn't have access to them, but when I got my Kindle it turned out that the entire canon was available for it, so I've bought and downloaded most of it, at least three quarters.

Recently I noticed something that's been bothering me -- more than it really should. In several of the stories, someone dies by being stabbed, and dies without making any sound.

That's not really possible. A stab wound can kill you fairy rapidly if it hits the heart, but you'll still scream. The classic knife-kill they teach soldiers is to get the victim from behind, to grab his head with one hand over the mouth, and to shove the knife in to hit the heart.

But that's not what happens in these stories. In at least one case the person was stabbed from the front, and she should have thrashed like a fish from the pain -- but didn't. In another case it's described as a woman walking by a man from his rear to his front, and sticking a knife in him in passing. Other people were nearby and would have heard if he'd made any kind of sound, including even falling on the floor, and they didn't.

Knifes don't act like that! Grumble...

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