Friday, April 21, 2006

Apocalyptic Magic Square

Meet the Apocalyptic Magic Square [Word DOC]. This beastie is a magic square where everything adds up to 666, and every single number in the square is prime.

[I don't know why, but both IE and Firefox are rendering this table really badly, inserting a vast expanse of vertical space above it, entirely against my wishes. I certainly didn't put it there. You can view source on this page if you don't believe me. Until I figure this one out, you'll just need to scroll down a bit to get to the rest of the post. Feh.]


You might have noticed that my nym includes a certain "number of the beast". There's a story here. The "Atul" part honors the godawful worst programmer of all time, as I once explained here. When I was setting up my longtime Yahoo account some years back, around 1999 or 2000, I quickly realized that "Atul" is actually a very popular first name in India, and apparently every last person by that name already had a Y! account. So I kept trying different combinations until I finally found a name that wasn't taken already. It wasn't my first choice, or my second, but I eventually came to realize that the name itself drives fundies batty. Ok, even battier. Not only does it contain the hated number 666, but it also sounds suspiciously foreign.

This is not the first nym I've used. Way, way back in the old BBS days of yore, I often used the nym "Elvis Khan", which I thought was really funny and clever at the time. I assumed that everything I'd done online back in those pre-Internet days had passed over the event horizon, but Google dredged up an old archive page that somehow survived all this time. It surprises me that this is what survived, of all the stuff I wrote back then, since I think I only visited this BBS once or twice. Mostly I played around on WWIV boards, but all of that stuff seems to be gone with the wind. So here's the sole surviving fragment (that I'm aware of) from my days with a 2400 baud modem:

32 004=Usr:348 Elvis Khan 11/03/90 02:12 Msg:5603 Call:31844 Lines:9
33 Neat Middle-East articles, where do they come from? Jus' wonderin'. I *think*
34 this is where I should be putting this, I'm not sure. I'm new here, and the
35 message style isn't like anything I've ever seen, so bear with me, ok?
37 -*Elvis Khan*-
38 Well, I see it's working. That's good.
40 Well, I guess this isn't where I should have posted my message. So sue me.
41 -*Elvis Khan*- 005=Usr:322

Well! That was awfully scintillating. You may notice I mentioned articles about the Middle East. You may remember that in November 1990 we were ramping up towards Gulf War #1. I was against that one too. Oh, hey, here's an ancient Portland BBS list from back in 1993. Ahh, the memories. Thinking back, it occurs to me that I really, really had no life whatsoever, even more so than now.

While I'm busy reminiscing about the good old days, I was digging through some old papers yesterday and came across an ancient yellowed dot-matrix printout of one of the first things that really bowled me over about the internet. This was back in the Gopher days, before WWW really got going. The thing that amazed me more than anything else was that you could interact with a computer on the other side of the world, just like it was right next door. The really cool thing was that this internet thingy even extended to ex-Eastern Bloc countries. Recall that this wasn't all that long after the Soviets had been chased out, so breaching the Iron Curtain still felt really novel and exciting, even if you were just doing it electronically.

So I came across a Gopher site in newly-independent Slovakia, and one section of the site included a number of traditional Slovak recipes. I picked a recipe for something called "bryndzove halusky" and printed it out, partly because I was amazed at how I'd gotten it, but mostly because it sounded really tasty and I planned to try it sooner or later. The original gopher presumably no longer exists, but the link I provided points at one of several copies floating around the net. I swear I'm going to try it sooner or later. It's got bacon and potatoes and feta cheese, so it's bound to be delicious.

There was a time when I thought gopher was the wave of the future. I played around a bit with that other thing called "WWW", but I thought it was pretty clunky. Lynx was the most advanced browser out there at the time (unless maybe you were on a fancy-pants NeXT machine with OmniWeb) and tabbing through a page full of links just seemed a lot clumsier than the nice, clean gopher interface where you could do everything with arrow keys. This was at the Portland Community College library, which (IIRC) had a couple of PC's acting as dumb terminals, talking to a VAX, if I'm not mistaken, and it in turn talked to the outside world. There was another lab that was an all-IBM shop, with a bunch of PS/2s talking to a single RS/6000 in the back room. There was also an AS/400, I think, and a mainframe that students weren't allowed to use. No direct internet access there, but I think they did have a BITNET feed, for whatever that's worth.

Straying back to the topic of this post, such as it is, here are some, ah, resources about the infamous number 666:

I could add quite a few similar sites, but you get the idea.

Updated 7/09: We have linkage, in a post titled "The Devil's Staircase" at Eunoia, the aforementioned Devil's Staircase being a rather peculiar, irregularly stepped mathematical function. Go check it out.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

before the table, in the source code, there are a lot of <br>