A little exercise

Although part of the training for the writing of instruction books it's also handy for learning how to write any type of book.

 

 

Write instructions an alien can read on how to brew and make a cup of tea. 

 

Another one is write down how you would show an alien how to brew and make a cup of tea.

 

(In your own language of course, not that of the alien!)

 

The two may sound the same but they are not.

Comments

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    Challenge Accepted...

     

    Right, so you'll need the teapot. No, that's a saucepan. No, that's ... Well nevermind what that is.

     

    Look, let's start over. Put everything down.

     

    You see that thing there on the counter? The porcelain thing with the long spout? Right, right, that's it. Not take the lid off, and put in... Ah, wait, see the tin there, the one with the picture on the side? Yes, that's it. Two spoons of that into the teapot. The thing on the counter, that's the teapot.

     

    In the drawer, those are spoons. No, not the sharp ones. And not the pointy ones. The round ones.

     

    It'll work better if you use the other side of the spoon.

     

    There you go. Now another, that's the ticket. Now we're cooking with gas.

     

    No, we're not cooking with gas yet. Don't put the teapot on the burner. The teapot stays on the counter.

     

    Fill the kettle with water. The kettle. Ket-tle. The other thing. That one. Water. Um, it's a chemical made of hydrogen bound to... Well, never mind that, just turn on the taps. That shiny thing. Twist it. The other way. that's it.

     

    Now stick the kettle under the taps. It'll work better if you flip the plastic thing up. That's it, that's it.

     

    Don't look at me like that. I'm not the one who flew 17 lightyears to get a cup of tea, am I?

     

    Now the kettle goes on the burner. Now ligh the burner. Twist the knob till the burner makes a ticking noise. Wait for it to make fire. That chemical reaction that puts oxygen into a hydrocarbon gas. Yes, we're all about oxygen. You should try it.

     

    Now turn the burner more so the ticking stops. Wait for it to whistle.

     

    Whistle. It's a noise, very high pitched. No, that's more of a beep. That's a screech.... Like this.

     

    Okay, when it makes that noise, pour the water into the kettle.

     

    A minute or two, usually. Well, don't stare at it. A watched pot never boils.

     

    I don't know why not. Something to do with quantum mechanics.

     

    There. It's whistling. Yes, that is an annoying noise. It'll stop if you turn off the burner. Now pour the water into the teapot.

     

    Wait! Stop! Not all the water! When the teapot is full, you stop!

     

    Don't worry. I'll clean it up later.

     

    Okay, get the teacups. The rounded concave... never mind. I'll get them.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

     

    You know what a crankshaft looks like, right? If not, you can google a picture of one...

     

    Now describe it without using the word "Crankshaft."


  • Skoob_Ym wrote:

    Challenge Accepted...

     

    Right, so you'll need the teapot. No, that's a saucepan. No, that's ... Well nevermind what that is.

     

    Look, let's start over. Put everything down.

     

    You see that thing there on the counter? The porcelain thing with the long spout? Right, right, that's it. Not take the lid off, and put in... Ah, wait, see the tin there, the one with the picture on the side? Yes, that's it. Two spoons of that into the teapot. The thing on the counter, that's the teapot.

     

    In the drawer, those are spoons. No, not the sharp ones. And not the pointy ones. The round ones.

     

    It'll work better if you use the other side of the spoon.

     

    There you go. Now another, that's the ticket. Now we're cooking with gas.

     

    No, we're not cooking with gas yet. Don't put the teapot on the burner. The teapot stays on the counter.

     

    Fill the kettle with water. The kettle. Ket-tle. The other thing. That one. Water. Um, it's a chemical made of hydrogen bound to... Well, never mind that, just turn on the taps. That shiny thing. Twist it. The other way. that's it.

     

    Now stick the kettle under the taps. It'll work better if you flip the plastic thing up. That's it, that's it.

     

    Don't look at me like that. I'm not the one who flew 17 lightyears to get a cup of tea, am I?

     

    Now the kettle goes on the burner. Now ligh the burner. Twist the knob till the burner makes a ticking noise. Wait for it to make fire. That chemical reaction that puts oxygen into a hydrocarbon gas. Yes, we're all about oxygen. You should try it.

     

    Now turn the burner more so the ticking stops. Wait for it to whistle.

     

    Whistle. It's a noise, very high pitched. No, that's more of a beep. That's a screech.... Like this.

     

    Okay, when it makes that noise, pour the water into the kettle.

     

    A minute or two, usually. Well, don't stare at it. A watched pot never boils.

     

    I don't know why not. Something to do with quantum mechanics.

     

    There. It's whistling. Yes, that is an annoying noise. It'll stop if you turn off the burner. Now pour the water into the teapot.

     

    Wait! Stop! Not all the water! When the teapot is full, you stop!

     

    Don't worry. I'll clean it up later.

     

    Okay, get the teacups. The rounded concave... never mind. I'll get them.


    That all assumes that the alien knows the name of all the things you mention.   You hit the nail on the head trying to describe water.


  • Skoob_Ym wrote:

     

    You know what a crankshaft looks like, right? If not, you can google a picture of one...

     

    Now describe it without using the word "Crankshaft."


    Well if not a single word you can use this >>   item that engine pistons attached to?

     

    Even >> engine parts

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    Well, I did have to assume a certain amount of mutual vocabulary, or else the alien wouldn't be able to understand me at all. So, yes, I cheated with respect to what things are. Tried to make it funny, but it's pretty much a one-shot joke...

     

    Now, on the crankshaft, you have to assume that the speaker doesn't know what to call it or what it does. It's sitting squarely in the middle of the parlor carpet, standing upright from its flywheel: clean, shiny, and inscrutable.

     

    He walked into the room, noticing for the first time the odd object in the center of the floor. It was made of metal, looked quite heavy, and stood on end, reaching just above his waist. He bent to examine it more closely... 

     

    And go from there.

     

    This is based on something that a physicist once said about how the mind works: You convey ideas to yourself partly in words -- the internal monolog -- and partly in pictures. And partly in non-pictures. His proof was to ask you to describe the shape of a crankshaft without using the word, "Crankshaft."

     

    I've given this a lot of thought over the years, and my best effort at it is to be absolutely technical and geometric... Speaking of offset journals and non-concentric segments and things like that. It can be done... But can it be done simply and elegantly?

     

    That's the challenge. Give it a go.

  • The main point of the exercise, both of them really, is to see how long it takes before the students work out it's impossible Smiley Very Happy

     

    As to the crankshaft, if they do not know what one is called they should leave it alone.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    They're not actually impossible... Well, the alien challenge is, if you restrict the common vocabulary and allow no leeway...

     

    For example:

    The base was a large round gear, perhaps a foot and a half in diameter. The gear was thick, and the teeth were cut at an angle. From the center of this gear rose a metal bar, about an inch and a half wide, twisted and deformed like some primitive fetish. Slab of steel, raw and rough-edged, like so many steaks, stood out from the center of the bar, but where the shaft passed through them, the next segment was offset by a few inches.

     

    Between the slabs, and a various other places along the pole, the metal had been worn shiny, to a mirror finish. Each such ring was perhaps an inch wide, and each offset segment had two such rings. The top end, concentric with the bottom of the bar and the huge gear at the base, was demarked by a two-inch ring of splines, parallel with the bar proper.

     

    He was certain that it had a purpose, because it was neither odd enough nor commonplace enough to be a work of art. He scratched his head. Something mechanical, maybe.

     

    But the real question was what it was doing in his parlor, in the middle of the carpet.

  • Very odd. I suppose you mean an alien who has a smattering of English, say a French boy at the end of his first grammar-school year. Well he will know terms such as cup, spoon, sugar, tea, water , perhaps even boil. I am not sure he'll know kettle.

     

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    I think he meant a spaceman, but I could be wrong.


  • Skoob_Ym wrote:

    They're not actually impossible... Well, the alien challenge is, if you restrict the common vocabulary and allow no leeway...

     

    I meant the ones I set. The crankshaft search one is else because it's an English word and even if most people do not know what one is it's not hard to find out.

    They don't fall in to the same problem category.


  • potetjp wrote:

    Very odd. I suppose you mean an alien who has a smattering of English, say a French boy at the end of his first grammar-school year. Well he will know terms such as cup, spoon, sugar, tea, water , perhaps even boil. I am not sure he'll know kettle.

     


    No knowledge of Earth words at all.


  • Skoob_Ym wrote:

    I think he meant a spaceman, but I could be wrong.


    No, a spaceman could be an earthling. Many have been spacemen nowadays.


  • Skoob_Ym a écrit :

    I think he meant a spaceman, but I could be wrong.


    Oh! Really? In that case the exercice is absurd because he didn't define what sort of being from outer space he meant in terms of body and mind.


  • kevinlomas a écrit :

    No knowledge of Earth words at all.


    Oh! In that case no human language can be used. Therefore writing instructions is out of the question. You say nothing, and just show your alien how to proceed either live or by playing a video - supposing your alien has got eyes.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    potetjp wrote:

    kevinlomas a écrit :

    No knowledge of Earth words at all.


    Oh! In that case no human language can be used. Therefore writing instructions is out of the question. You say nothing, and just show your alien how to proceed either live or by playing a video - supposing your alien has got eyes.


    Ah, but then the objection will be that the purpose and use of tea may not be clear to a non-human space creature, and certainly not the implied trappings that accompany the use of tea.

     

    Tea and sympathy? Afternoon Tea? Tea with the queen? A daughter's make-believe tea-party? And so forth...


  • potetjp wrote:

    kevinlomas a écrit :

    No knowledge of Earth words at all.


    Oh! In that case no human language can be used. Therefore writing instructions is out of the question. You say nothing, and just show your alien how to proceed either live or by playing a video - supposing your alien has got eyes.


    Well I am glad you are at least seeing the problems involved. And I did say write.


  • Skoob_Ym a écrit :

    Ah, but then the objection will be that the purpose and use of tea may not be clear to a non-human space creature, and certainly not the implied trappings that accompany the use of tea.

     

    Tea and sympathy? Afternoon Tea? Tea with the queen? A daughter's make-believe tea-party? And so forth...


    How could one convey any of these to an imaginary being observing us from a faraway planet? If he is intelligent enough, he will realize many things, but will probably never catch the deep significance of some of these actibities.

    The first time I attended a Noh (Nôgaku) performance, I didn't understand much of what was going on. Now I am aware of all I have missed.


  • kevinlomas a écrit :

    potetjp wrote:

    kevinlomas a écrit :

    No knowledge of Earth words at all.


    Oh! In that case no human language can be used. Therefore writing instructions is out of the question. You say nothing, and just show your alien how to proceed either live or by playing a video - supposing your alien has got eyes.


    Well I am glad you are at least seeing the problems involved. And I did say write.


    Indeed, you started with "write instructions that an alien can read ...", hence my logical interpretation of the term "alien".

    Now, taking into account all that you have posited,  you have to know the written language of the creature from outerspace to communicate with them, while implying that you don't know it.  I hope you see the contradiction.

    Well, if I, an earthman, have a hard time following your meanderings in your own language, how could you embark into such a paradoxical project, and expect your alien to have an inkling of what you mean?

    By the way, the written symbols on space probes are meant to be read by intelligent humanoids with eyes.

    Egyptian inscriptions merely showed lions, birds, feathers, hands, legs, etc., until Champollion deciphered them.


  • How could one convey any of these to an imaginary being observing us from a faraway planet? If he is intelligent enough, he will realize many things, but will probably never catch the deep significance of some of these actibities.

    The first time I attended a Noh (Nôgaku) performance, I didn't understand much of what was going on. Now I am aware of all I have missed.


    At last ...  Smiley Happy


  • Indeed, you started with "write instructions that an alien can read ...", hence my logical interpretation of the term "alien".

     

    I get the idea you thought I meant a human not local to a country? How often are they called aliens?

     

    Now, taking into account all that you have posited,  you have to know the written language of the creature from outerspace to communicate with them, while implying that you don't know it.  I hope you see the contradiction.

     

    No, I don't see it at all. I do keep saying what the test is actually testing.

     

    Well, if I, an earthman, have a hard time following your meanderings in your own language, how could you embark into such a paradoxical project, and expect your alien to have an inkling of what you mean?

     

    Don't always blame the writer for not being able to understand them. And my OP was very very simple. But it was not me attempting to do the test, so what meanderings?

     

    By the way, the written symbols on space probes are meant to be read by intelligent humanoids with eyes.

     

    Well, indeed, because they do not expect them to be seen by aliens. The writing on them are usually which country they belong to. Possibly a patent or two. Apart from Voyager where maths has been used on a plate on it because it's headed off in to deep space. What point are you trying to make?

     

    Egyptian inscriptions merely showed lions, birds, feathers, hands, legs, etc., until Champollion deciphered them.

     

    Yes? All Earth creatures. And?


     

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭
  • Kevin, when I was in the UK, I had an alien ID card.  Before landing, I had been sent an official letter on foolscap stating that, as an alien, and according to the Alien Registration Act, I had to register with the police where I was to stay,  etc.

    I know "alien" means "creature from outer-space" in the language of Science-Fiction novels and films. I wonder who started that silly usage, and why it caught so quickly.

     

    As regards the contradiction between writing instructions for, say, a Martian, who doesn't understand  English and whose language  you have absolutely no idea,  if you don't see the absurdity of what you have posited, then I am sorry, but your whole little test is an exercice in futility.


  • potetjp wrote:

    Kevin, when I was in the UK, I had an alien ID card.  Before landing, I had been sent an official letter on foolscap stating that, as an alien, and according to the Alien Registration Act, I had to register with the police where I was to stay,  etc.

     

    How old are you? That was a law passed in the UK in 1914,  But it also applied to anyone foreign already living in the UK in case they were a threat to national security during a time of war.. Now they are called immigrants. It does take our civil service a long time to update papers though. Thankfully I was born here from English parents.

     

    I know "alien" means "creature from outer-space" in the language of Science-Fiction novels and films. I wonder who started that silly usage, and why it caught so quickly.

     

    Because they are totally alien to the Earth, and that's why the word alien is rarely used in common conversation against an Earthling to avoid confusion. One definition of the word is very uncomplimentary, but we humans are far more PC now.

     

    As regards the contradiction between writing instructions for, say, a Martian, who doesn't understand  English and whose language  you have absolutely no idea,  if you don't see the absurdity of what you have posited, then I am sorry, but your whole little test is an exercice in futility.

     

    Do you mean the test I set? It's a test used in universities and is not absurd. As I keep having to point out. It's a test to see how long it takes for students to work out it's not possible. That is its only function. I was not asking a question, did you not note the word 'Test'? When I took the test, which is really just a lecture room exercise, not a true task, it took the class around 10 secs to declare it as impossible. It did not even take long for the students to say why. No where near as long as this thread has mysteriously gone on for. I expect it tests intelligence ...


     

  • Kevin, you are not fair because you put things in a very ambiguous way.

    Indeed if "alien = being from outerspace",  no verbal communication is possible; the exercice is therefore absurd, hence my conclusion that you meant  "alien = foreigner", and solving the problem of communication by visual aid.

    Now, the big question is: how come Skoob_Yim, who is a native speaker of English,  launched into the challenge starting from the interpretation "alien = being from outerspace"?

     

Sign In or Register to comment.