Words in Boxes

Nouns, verbs, and occasionally adjectives.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

From the Sunday Times

An Elephant Crackup?

This article is great. While it may appear at first to be egregious anthropomorphizing, it's impossible to ignore the evidence and reasoning:

All across Africa, India and parts of Southeast Asia, from within and around whatever patches and corridors of their natural habitat remain, elephants have been striking out, destroying villages and crops, attacking and killing human beings. In fact, these attacks have become so commonplace that a new statistical category, known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant researchers in the mid-1990’s to monitor the problem. ...

Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is causing alarm but also the singular perversity — for want of a less anthropocentric term — of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990’s, for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the journal Pachyderm, has been reported in ‘‘a number of reserves’’ in the region. ...

Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.

The Long Zoom

Spore is the only game I've wanted to buy for a long time. It's going to be a hit. The "society's defining view" bit is pretty silly, though:

The solution Wright and his team hit upon revolves around something called “procedural animation,” a way for the game designer to model certain key behaviors — walk, run, grab, fight — without necessarily knowing anything about the basic body type of the creature itself. If you design a creature with five legs asymmetrically scattered around its body, the Spore animation engine will figure out how such a creature would walk. To demonstrate the adaptability of the system, Hecker pulled up a collection of a dozen Spore creatures on his monitor, each with a strikingly distinct body architecture. The initial image was comical enough: it looked as if the bizarre Cambrian-era fossils that Stephen Jay Gould wrote about in “Wonderful Life” had been reassembled for a police lineup. Some looked like slugs, some like spiders, some like extras from “Where the Wild Things Are.”

And then Hecker hit a key, and they all, miraculously, did a back flip, each in its own decidedly idiosyncratic way.

I'm James Sulak, a software developer in Houston, Texas.

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