Several times when I was a kid I would be reading a new book, possibly for school, or because my mother gave me another book from the shelf to entertain me on cold winter days. If I wasn’t outside I should be reading. I’m not saying I had one of those anti-television moms who was tyrannical about my TV viewing schedules. I watched a lot of TV as a kid, but my mother was very sensitive to the idea of convincing to something else. Instead of telling me I wasn’t allowed to watch TV she supplied me with tons of things to do that were really fun and didn’t take place in front of the TV set.
You know, erector sets, legos, chemistry set, puzzles, board games, and books for in doors. The only thing she was demanding about was being out doors. It was just a normal rule, boys are to be in the sun when the sun is shining. Boys can drink from the hose. Boys can pee in a bush standing. So stay the FUCK outdoors, this is me time!
I’m deviating, so back to the point.
When I was a kid I spent a lot of my time reading books. I like geography, rocks/geology, dinosaurs and math, and these books were full of big words that I had no idea what they meant.
“Maaa, what’s a fractal? What’s does poly mean? MAAAAA I can’t read this word… ig… ignep… igneee…”
“You know where the dictionary is!” would be her response. 7 times out of 10 it was probably because she didn’t know the meaning herself, and she has admitted this. I was reading math and geology books, my mother was into Hemingway and Shakespeare, not little boy stuff. Just as big and complex of words, but never any of the words I was reading. So I was forced to look the damn word up myself.
I wanted to know how to spell something it was a 10 minute discussion about sounding the word out, breaking the syllables apart, and comparing them to known syllables in my lexicon. Over time I was trained to recognize the meaning of a word due to its similarity to another word.
The definition of telepathy: the transfer of thoughts with out perceptual sensory
I learned to infer the meaning from tele in telephone which to me meant remote or transfer. And pathy from words like sympathy, and antipathy means feeling. From context then I could make the educated guess that the word meant transferring feelings remotely.
Reference materials are things like textbooks and periodicals. We all know them, when you write a research paper you consult several reference material for facts on the matter you are researching. Back in the olden days before us lucky folk had this great reference material known as ‘teh interwebs’, we had to consult this hulking books of madness like encyclopedias.
Sometimes I wonder how many kids today witness an encyclopedia. I mean it has been only a decade since the internet has entered all our homes and already it seems like we’ve lost interest in a lot of these reference materials. Encyclopedias exist for free in digital form now and don’t take up the 3 shelves on the family book shelf they used to!
Why I bring this up is today we kind of take for granted the tools we’ve been given for finding our way around these massive databases of information. When you go to Wikipedia for information you don’t read the entire contents of Wikipedia, that would take you your entire life! You search it for the topic you require using its search engine.
Encyclopedias and textbooks had much more archaic forms of this as well. You had to consult the glossary, appendix, table of contents, etc if you wanted to locate something in the book. If it was a series of books, like an encyclopedia, it was broken into letters. Or in more robust scenarios we devised sorting tools like the dieing dewey decimal system.
We know these exist, I’m not saying you the reader are an ignorant fool betrothed to damnation due to a lack of ‘culture and tradition’ because you’ve embraced technology. BAH! I’m not saying this at all. Come on, I’ve engaged myself in bleeding edge technology since I was shittin’ yella!
No what I’m trying to make a point of is that these archaic search tools required a lot more work from you the searchee because they weren’t nearly as helpful as GOOGLE. Paper & ink costs money and there is only so much space to fill with words pointing to the pages of a text to go to for a certain topic before it becomes convoluted and just as difficult to search through as it would to just read the fuckin’ text itself.
Instead you had to generalize the topic you were searching for. If I wanted to read about black soldiers who fought in the civil war for the confederate army, I couldn’t just type that into a search box and find all relevant material pertaining to the subject. I first searched the libraries dewey decimal system for books on Civil War material, then I narrowed my search to stories from the confederate army, and further more to black soldiers. Of course a few books directly about this topic are going to pop up, but I’m missing out on a lot of books that have a couple chapters about it as well. So by broadening my search this way and consulting the different indexes of the books I could collect up a large reference pool for myself. It also took an hour to just find the books!
But along the whole path I honed a very important skill. The ability to break apart and compare systems to each other by generalized descriptions. There is a reason us humans like to sort things and cast labels to things, it makes it far easier to locate the stuff we need when we need it!
This skill has evolved though with the onset of ‘teh interwebs’. The process of sorting this material and information has a new middle man, no longer is it the appendix and dewey decimal system which is very tangible, it is now search engines and databases. A less tangible and very complex pool of algorithms and information that most of us don’t fully understand yet. But the principals are still there, these algorithms for sorting the data were devised by the same human intuition of categorizing and utilizes the same basic concepts of breaking apart systems into generalized groups. We just need to utilize these tools to hunt for our information.
I meet people a lot who wonder how it is I find the information I find via google. Or I meet others who say “I google’d it and came up with nothing on the subject”. Come on now, google isn’t a human, it can’t figure out what you are asking, you have to ask it the right question. Very similar to how you had to ask the index the right question. The great part is your choices of different things to ask it is far greater then that of archaic text books. There is limitless amounts of storage space for it and with the right principals it can be stored in a less convoluted manner masked from you the ‘searchee’.
There shouldn’t be this error of an inability to find an answer via google. You just are looking for something way to specific. Which brings me to a more annoying subject that I am upset about!
Do you really want information!?
If you’ve made it this far into this blog entry, you must not have a problem reading. We are already 1300 hundred words into this article and you’re still here! So why is it you are afraid to read through your search results? Google and Yahoo aren’t going to just hand you the specific website and direct you to the correct paragraph with the answer you want. It might if you are searching for a specific item, but that’s not research, that’s just bullshit consumer shopping (2007 hottest google search word was ‘iphone’). Yeah that might spit the answers you are looking for fairly quickly because it’s the freakin’ iphone! There is a reason why trademarks exist, the name is recognizable and unique, thus finding information about ‘iphone’ will always result in iPhones!
But searching for something more arbitrary like ‘vector’ isn’t going to be so helpful. Just because you google’d something more vague and it didn’t give you the exact answer you needed, don’t give up there. Don’t go running to mommy (or forums and newsgroups) to ask a human the answer, you’ve completely given up on the entire purpose of the internet!
Never mind the fact you’ve given up on the entire practice of learning. Consuming processed information is not learning, it’s memorizing processed information. It’s like this, knowing 12 * 12 = 144 because your teacher pounded your times tables into your head in 3rd grade doesn’t mean you learned to multiply. You merely memorized that 12 * 12 is 144. Where is the concept of multiplication in that?
So when you are searching a topic that you don’t know a lot about and you don’t know enough information about the topic to infer relative search words, then read what results you get. Do you know what a geometric cartesian ‘vector’ is? No you probably don’t, and you probably didn’t know that the geometric cartesian part was part of what it is called. But I guarantee anyone who has spent any time in an art program or tinkered around with programming has at least heard someone say what it is. Hasn’t that alone tickled your brain into wondering what on God’s green Earth the freakin’ thing is!?
You are building a small flash animation in which you move vector art around the screen from position to position. You want them to follow some path, but the path is dynamic and changing depending on the user input. You do a search about animations and you see people talking about animations, but nothing specific to the exact animation you want to create. But you notice a repeating themes, people are talking about vectors and cartesian coordinates. Vector, you remember that word when you were in flash, it was used to describe the kind of graphics it displays. A recurring theme!?
Well I bet though if you searched the word ‘vector’ you’d get billions of results and only 1% of them would actually talk about the mathematical ‘vector’. Your results will probably turn up things like:
- Vector art/graphics
- Vector type Array
- Biological creatures that transmit diseases
- topic about aeronautics and aerospace
- amongst much more…
By reading this you will probably quickly learn there are tons of different applications of what a vector is, and that this application is very broad spanning across multiple topics. Along the whole line though you will probably notice a repeating theme… it has to do with direction, magnitude, values… sooner or later you probably should get that this stuff is applied to math.
Now you continue your search for mathematical vectors and you probably find the geometric cartesian vector. An ordered set of values that represent magnitude and direction. You’ve now found the guts of the topic. Extending further you probably will then search for arithmetic process of vectors and learn about dot product and the sort.
But you remember back to the initial search you made of ‘vector’ and maybe remember that result where there is a category of creatures called vectors when they are a host to some parasite that is used for transmitting the disease. Such as a mosquito that carries the ‘West Nile Virus’. And how in aeronautics it was used to describe controlling the direction of airplanes. You then can infer that this name was used because the action resembles that of a vector. The virus travels in a direction through the insect to its victim.
The amount of reading you partook maybe took an hour or two. Comparable to the time it would have taken to just search your local library for books, let alone read them. And you’ve left with a very robust understanding of what a ‘vector’ is. Now you return back to these discussions you found about animations that weren’t quite like yours, but now that you understand the technique that is being used you get the principal of the process.
Now you can create your animation with out copying someone else, but by utilizing there techniques. Was it really that hard? I hope not. Did you learn something new? Oh I bet you learned more in that 2 hours of research then in an entire month of Algebra class in high school. Furthermore I guarantee you’re going to remember this information far more easily then any of that pounded memorized shit you learned like your times tables.
In school they made you do research papers for a reason. It wasn’t to learn about the topic you did the paper on, that’s why they let you pick whatever topic you damn well pleased. It was to teach you how to search for the information. You were given a choice of topic to make sure you were interested enough to actually do the work… kids just aren’t interested enough most of the time.
I personally think schools should endorse the use of the internet as sources for a research paper, because the internet is becoming the largest reference material known to man right now. But the search tools given to us are vastly more complex then what we are used to. I understand an educators discomfort in this because there is so much misinformation on the web, but students need practice so that way they can learn to sort out the garbage from the good.
For instance I had college professors that didn’t allow wikipedia.org as a reference, so people just avoided it. But I still used it, and pointed out to everyone in class that why not just go there for information and locate THEIR references. They are located at the bottom of the page for you, as proof that this information was legite. You want to avoid misinformation, look for the source. Don’t take the writers word because he says so, get his source and make sure it’s reputable and that he actually matched the sources argument. There’s a reason we trust Webster for definitions of words, the publisher is held responsible to produce accurate information. So go through the not so reputable sources to locate the reputable sources held accountable!
We need to practice using it so we can adequately get information out of it.
Instead of using it to search for porn and iphones.