Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home

 

Monkey see, monkey do

I am but a simple, humble monkey. I spend my time swinging from tree to tree, calling out in utter freedom. And I have heard the tale that a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters, with uncertain randomness can, somehow, type out a work of genius. I think I have the blood of those thousand monkeys in me. Don't you?

Let me tell you a story. It is a story about a monkey. He, like you, did not hear the tale of a thousand monkeys. You might wonder why. It is because he came before the tale. And the reason he came before the tale is, well, because he was part of the tale.

See, this is what happened. There were a thousand and five monkeys. They lived in the canopy of the Forest of Far. They were generally brainless. Whatever brains they had, the neurons just corroded away in the endless hours spent picking lice and swinging from trees. To be precise, a thousand of these thousand and five monkeys were the neuron-less primates. The other five were the ones with some functioning neurons. As in, they had some neurons to spare.

These brain-full monkeys decided to do something about it. They called all the monkeys of the forest. They held a counsel. And they proclaimed that, 'We hereby pronounce ourselves the Monkeys That Rule. You all are beneath us. You all will answer to us. Anyone caught not answering to us will be banished to a lifetime of eating grapes.'

The monkeys recoiled. They hated grapes.

So the Monkeys That Rule started their rule with despotic ruthlessness. In fact, if you could hold the despotic ruthlessness in a cup, then the despotic ruthlessness of the Monkeys That Rule would be the equivalent of the Indian Ocean. So the thousand monkeys decided that enough was enough. They trooped to the Monkeys That Rule headquarters and demanded fair treatment. Liberty, fraternity, and equality for all, they proclaimed.

The Monkeys That Rule were not impressed. They set the forest panthers on the thousand monkeys.

It was a sight to behold. A thousand monkeys, swinging from one tree to the other, streaming through the dark canopy of the forest, crashing through the darker undergrowth, bellowing in sheer desperation…and one languid panther (the others had decided to 'take a breath') pawing its way through said canopy and undergrowth. The monkeys were driven deeper, deeper into the fringes of the forest, until they suddenly ran out of said canopy and undergrowth. And, for the first time in their lives, they came across vast, open nothingness.

The panther, at this point, had decided that one panther against a thousand monkeys is not a fair race to race. He had turned and skulked back to the Monkeys that Rule. But the thousand monkeys…they looked at the vast, open nothingness with dinner-plate eyes and thought, 'wow, we can totally live here!'

They set up camp. The womenfolk made dinner. The men went and hunted. The children yanked at each other's fur, as children do. Then, when night came, the thousand monkeys huddled for warmth and went to sleep.

When they woke up, they couldn't budge. Why, you ask? Well, it just so happened that the heavens had opened up and poured forth a rain of…wait for it…typewriters! Yes, a thousand typewriters, one for every monkey. The monkeys were amused. They had never set eyes on a machine before. But for some unknown reason, they knew exactly how to operate a typewriter (which is funny, because even I don't know how to operate a typewriter). So the monkeys sat downin orderly rows, mind youand started typing.

Each typed out one page. At the end of the day, they had a tome. A thousand pages long, written by a thousand different monkeys. They assembled the sheets of paper, and the monkey with the nicest handwriting wrote out 'The Big Book of Nothingness' in natural dye on the cover.

Then, they took the tome, marched up to the Monkeys That Rule, thrust the tome in their face(s) and said, 'let's see you do that in a day.'

Of course the Monkeys That Rule were stumped. Write a thousand-page long tome in a day? No, they couldn't do it. So they hung their heads in shame, put their tails between their legs, and quietly slinked away. They were never seen again.

As for the thousand monkeys, they trooped back into their forest. Peace was restored. And they could swing from trees and pick lice to their hearts' content.

So, the lesson to be learnt is this: even brainless monkeys can do what partially-functioning-brainy monkeys can't do. So don't mess with us.

By Shehtaz and Emil


Sci stuff

The good, the mad and the useless

THE GOOD
Project yourself
Here's one more way that cellphones can be used to annoy other people. Firms like Texas Instruments, Microvision and now 3M have been working on mobile projectors. The latter shows off its ultra-compact, LED-illuminated projection engine that can project a 40-inch or larger image at VGA resolution.

The device is intended to be integrated into cellphones and 3M is planning on partnering with various electronics manufacturers to release products in early 2008.

Scientists discover new solar system
The search for intelligent life forms continue as scientists at a U.S. laboratory said they have discovered a new solar system nearly 5,000 light years away containing two planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn.

"This is the first time something analogous to our solar system has been found," researcher Kem Cook said in a statement. "This indicates that our kind of planetary system is relatively common and that in and of itself is exciting."

But what we really want to find is life forms that are not too intelligent so that we can take over instead of the other way round.

Brainy Buzz
British researchers say the smarter the bumblebee, the more nectar they gather for food. Nigel Raine and Lars Chittka of Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences said faster-learning bees are more likely to keep track of which flowers have the most nectar. Not to mention that they are also able to use necter-finding gadgets better.

THE MAD
Disc dilemma
DVDs and nearly obsolete CDs can stack up on you creating storage problems. Here's a bizarre solution called Art of Hand Stand Disc Holder. It's a large name probably because it can literally hold a large number of discs in Arnold Schwarzeneggar fashion. Of course, if your disc collection verges on the ridiculous, then this chair is the perfect storage cum furniture. Only problem is how do you extract the CD you desperately need that sits in the centre?

Deciphering dog barks
Next time a dog barks at you, you can tell exactly whether it is threatening you with dire consequences or just mild mauling.

Hungarian scientists have developed a software that can classify dog barks according to various situations, even identifying barks from individual dogs. This was developed by Csaba Molnar and colleagues at Eotvos Lorand University, reporting in the journal Animal Cognition. The software analyzed more than 6,000 barks from 14 Hungarian sheepdogs in various situations.

When classifying barks by situation, the software correctly identified barks in 43 percent of cases. The best recognition rates were achieved for "fight" and "stranger" contexts, and the poorest in categorizing "play" barks.

The scientists said the findings suggest different motivational states of dogs in aggressive, friendly or submissive contexts might result in acoustically different barks. In another experiment, the algorithm correctly classified individual barks in 52 percent of cases, reliably discriminating among individual dogs, suggesting there are differences in barks of dogs even humans aren't able to recognize.

Back to natures way
We were made to walk barefoot but people littering the ground with needles, soda cans, mines and worst of all spit, make it a hazardous endeavour. For those who want to wlak barefoot safely, there's special shoe that fits just like a glove…… on your foot. And it looks just like, um, your bare foot. At $80 retail, Vibram Fivefingers Spring will make you feel like you're at the beginning of evolution.

The lift test
Every time we get on an elevator, we let our lives hang by a steel thread. So the makers must test them to make sure they don't snap. The world's tallest elevator testing tower has just opened in Inazawa City, Japan (yes, only the Japanese can do this). Called Solae, it can test elevators that go from basement to 100 in a very short time.

THE USELESS
Moo when lovesick
There's the crazy stuff and then there's the absolutely mindless stuff. Sometimes they are so mindless, they have to be mentioned. The Moo Moo is a gadget that no one needs yet it exists. It's a plastic cow that you and someone else can each attach to your computers via the USB port. And when you feel lonely you pres a button and the cow attached to the other PC will moo to express your loneliness. And the other person can moo right back.

While some loving couples may think this is a cool device, it's annoying potential can actually take away that loving feeling.

By Sadia Islam


Shooting stars

It was battered, very battered. Its colour had faded; parts of its back had come off, as if it was in the grips of some deadly disease that decayed away the flesh and exposed the bones. In some ways, it exposed me.

Before this blurred and discoloured…thing, came to my hands, it was quite vibrant; alive, one could say, like youth with its untapped energies, possibilities and limitless horizons. It came wrapped in a package for my birthday, from an aunt as old as it looked now graying hair, sagging skin, wrinkled, filled with memories of ages gone by. She was nice, somehow. Sad and depressing, yes, but comforting in her indifference towards her future and the inevitable end, that came surely and silently on a night when stars showered down from the heavens. I liked her much more than the present she had brought. 'Thank you,' I had said, with a look of mock joy as I opened the present.

From then on, it has remained faithfully in my equally old bag, carrying odd tidbits of information from various stages of my life. I rarely open it nowadays, let alone use it. But when I do, memories flash before my eyes. Pictures of people, lost to the sands of time come alive again. And I remember that which I have left behind and I prepare for that which is yet to come. Maybe, after all these years, I understand the meaning of this insignificant gift that was bestowed upon me. When you are at the end of the road, with nothing left to lose and nothing at all to gain and no one by your side, all you have is the past, this river of memories. And within it, is all that you have done, all that you were and are, all that you stood for, all that you have loved and lost and hated and destroyed…all that is life. I say thanks once again, too late perhaps, but it is a lie no more.

“The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow, if I can”
~ Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings

By Kazim Ibne Sadique


 

home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star