Darths & Droids Episode IV: A New Joke

 By Shamus Jan 8, 2012 110 comments

It is a time of landmarks for webcomics. There are heroes on both sides. Enemies are everywhere.

Last Friday, XKCD hit 1,000 comics! In the alt-text, the comic said something to the effect of, “There are only 24 more comics until we hit a big round number”. I think like this all the time. It is rather telling that after a lifetime spent on base ten number systems, I find greater elegance, order, and symmetry in base two. (Or base sixteen.)

Heather and I enjoy collecting curious little pamphlets, cookbooks, and other bits of printed materials from the turn of the twentieth century. One artifact we’ve found is a pamphlet from a society lobbying to change our entire number system away from base ten… to base twelve. The reasoning was that twelve is divisible by both two and three, making it more useful for situations where you’re using a lot of threes. Still, base twelve sounds really screwy to my computer-coding mind.

The number two just overshadows everything else in my mind, because so many computer graphics problems involve dividing things into two. Heck, most FPS games in the 90′s used BSP technology, which stands for “binary space partitioning”, which is literally “dividing space in two”. From 3D graphics to database searches, everything seems to revolve around the number of two, so basing your number system on a power of two probably looks very appealing to a lot of programmers.

Where was I? Oh, right. Webcomics!

Today, Darths & Droids has begun covering Star Wars: Episode IV. The series is almost 700 strips long at this point. Amazing. The original three movies are very different from the prequel trillogy, and I’m anxious to see how that impacts the tone of the comic and the nature of the humor. The prequels have a lot of elements in play: Trade federation, General Grievous, Lord Sideous / Palpatine, the republic senate, the Jedi Order, Count Dukula, the clone army, Kamino, the Gungans, and the Naboo people. It became messy keeping track of what everyone’s goals were and how they related to each other. What did Doku think of the plan to pretend to kidnap Palpatine and confront the Jedi? What was general Grievous after, since he was apparently not in the loop on the whole Palpatine / Sideous thing? Were the cloners on Kamino still pumping out clones, and if so, who was paying for them? Who cares! Lightsabers! Vrrroooowmm!

We can argue about motivations or plot holes or patch things with our own guesses about what was going on. But the point remains that this was a very complex tale with a lot of moving parts, which naturally led to a similar level of convolution in the Darths & Droids parody. But the original movies (and A New Hope in particular) are much simpler, more focused tales. We have four or five well-defined characters as opposed to a dozen broad archetypes. We’ve got a very clear black & white conflict that tells a clear tale of redemption. Star Wars: A New Hope is about as complex and subtle as a fable. Darths & Droids is jumping from the most cluttered movie in the series to the most elementary. I will be very interested to see how this changes their meta-tale.

Circling back to the topic of webcomics, I decided to look it up and discovered that today is also the five-year anniversary of that one time Gimli failed at diplomacy. Yikes. Five years?

The Hobbit was announced recently and already people are asking me if I plan to webcomic it the way I did with the Lord of the Rings movies. Well, it’s a year from theater release, and probably another year from video release. So, I think that’s pretty far over my planning horizon. I’m not against the idea. It all depends on how much fun the idea sounds when the time comes.

A Hundred!10110 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!

  1. Zagzag says:

    I for one would be happy to see you webcomic the Hobbit, and by the time it is available it might be a much more realistic prospect that now, since hopefully in two years you’ll have free time…

  2. Cezar says:

    I’d love to see pictures of the curious looking pamphlets.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well if you dont do it,maybe darths and droids will make an alternate universe out of hobbit.Maybe even before it gets theatrically released.

    And a small bit of good news,not tied to the topic,but a pleasant sight for everyone who likes civilization series,or dreads the upcoming xcom shooter abomination.Yup,firaxis is remaking xcom as well,but in the proper way.

    • Sumanai says:

      I’ve heard that the browser based Jagged Alliance game is promising.

      Then there’s Paradox making a game that is somewhat similar to the original Syndicate named Cartel (if memory serves). They’re promising two ways of solving problems: diplomacy, on the strategy screen, and violence/subterfuge, on the tactical screen.

      Also they’re making a fantasy game that is like Elemental, except with hexes and should be closer to Civilization. Which I’ve also heard is promising.

      Talking of Elemental, the working version (I don’t know if it’s officially a new game or an add-on, but it’s called Fallen Enchantress) is slowly trucking on without a release date and I’ve heard it will be free for all who bought the original in 2010.

      And talking of working versions, it would seem that Sword of the Stars 2 is slowly approaching playability (I have a friend who said it was so already, but I crashed the game by attempting to use diplomacy).

      I’d say that even in video games there’s quite a bit going on right now. I’m rather worried that all of the above will happen so close to each other that I’ll have to prioritize.

      In addition, there’s Crusader Kings 2 coming out next month, and I’ve heard that it was far more stable in October/November than any other Paradox game has been on release. Which isn’t saying much.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        // Initiating Paradox fanboying

        Crusader Kings 2: And it’s going to be STABBY AWESOME!!

      • Sumanai says:

        Of note: apparently the Jagged Alliance game is a remake, is played in real-time (with pausing) and at least right now doesn’t have fog of war for some reason. Otherwise the expression I got was that it wasn’t all that far away from JA2. Which is worrying, since I thought they were making a whole new JA game.

      • Sumanai says:

        And Raspberry PI is being manufactured and the first batch will be model B, which is exactly the one I want. It just might get sold out the second it goes on sale. If only the SOPA would fall on its arse and I’d call the future promising not-quite-as-bad-as-I-feared.

        • Sumanai says:

          Now I realized I’m way too excited about new stuff going on, so I’m woefully under equipped to handle the disappointment. Maybe mapping them out in advance will help.

          JA – don’t have real interest, so doesn’t matter. I am however disappointed to find out it’s just a real-time remake of something that I can get from Gog.com

          Cartel – will be a general disappointment and too buggy to play. By the time they fix it, if that happens, I’ll have lost interest so I can’t get into it anymore. I’ll also fail to get a grasp of the diplomacy and the covert missions are too demanding for my reflexes to handle.

          Warlock – (The sort-of Civ) Same thing as Cartel, except I can’t get into it because it’s a bit too close to Civ5. Which I can’t play because I’m never in the mood for it.

          Elemental: FE – I’ll end up getting my ass handed over by the easiest AI (that doesn’t feel like it’s handing over the victory on a platter) until I feel permanently defeated. I’m not kidding. My failures would be legendary, were they worth telling. Based on my experience with GalCiv2.

          SotS2 – As I own it, I’ll end up burning out on it before they fix it. Assuming they fix it.

          Crusader Kings 2 – I’ll play for the first week, during which I’ll suffer from some obscure bug or AI glitch that makes it annoying. Ultimately I’ll fail to get into the game properly, just like with EU3 and EU:Rome.
          That, or against all sense it’s as buggy as Sengoku on launch (used the same engine) and just that little bit too complex to handle both the bugs and the difficulty hike.

          Raspberry PI – They’ll run out. They’ll run out for several batches for long enough that I’ll forget it exists. When I remember to finally look back on it, either the whole project is cancelled due to a lawsuit (because they broke some ridiculous patent) or the latest versions are hella buggy and you can’t get the old ones.
          Or the old ones are buggy for so many versions that I lose hope. Occam’s Razor and all that.

          SOPA – Will pass (obviously) and because they won’t shut down webpages all willynilly, some people will claim smugly that there were never nothing (yes, with a double negative) to worry about. Despite some pages being shut down that weren’t doing anything wrong. Making me disappointed in humanity.
          Also some supporting companies will blame it for some problem or another in an effort to make people believe that they were, or are, against it, honest. It will work.
          Or somehow it won’t pass, so some will claim permanent victory and refuse to act when it pops up in a new form couple of years later. And the new version will be worded just right to not get any proper resistance from large companies.

          There. Anyone else feeling depressed? Or have anything else they want Sum’ed up?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Which I can’t play because I’m never in the mood for it.”

            4 is still better.

            Nowe wheres alpha centauri 2 damn it?!

            • Sumanai says:

              I’m never in the mood for Civ4 either. Also I like hex grids.

            • Sumanai says:

              Oh yeah: I’m also interested in Alpha Centauri 2. Haven’t gotten around getting the Gog.com version yet, so I’m not that desperate for a sequel. Also I worry it’ll come out like the Colonization “remake” that felt worse for me than FreeCol. They simplified just the wrong things for me to be able to give it a proper chance.

    • Frank says:

      Instead of waiting for firaxis you guys should get in on xenonauts,(add .com for the website), by preordering you can get in on the alpha, and it feels a lot like a modern x-com.

  4. Wandring says:

    Neat. Personally I am often going on about how I would prefer a base six number system…

    It’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only one who does this. Anyone else out there feel the same? What system would you prefer and why? :)

  5. Michael says:

    I’d love to see The Hobbit get the DM of the Rings treatment, Shamus. If you can fit it in around your career as an international best-selling author when the time comes, of course.

  6. littlefinger says:

    Interestingly, I recently rewatched ‘a new hope’ with friends, and maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think we get female heroes like we did back in the 70′s/80′s. Leia, Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley, even Charly Baltimore/Samantha Caine (‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’) ,… these are action movie heroes that are very different from today’s action heroes. Compare them to Elisabeth Swann, Trinity (The Matrix), Firefly’s River and Inara (Zoe not so much), …

    These are all characters that have been portrayed as being good to great in a fight, but when it comes to their attitude towards other characters, they are far less assertive vs the male lead, whereas the 80′s characters are a lot more ‘assertive’.

    Am I just not seeing the right movies, were these movies exceptions even during the 70s/80s, or has there been a tonal shift away from strong female action heroes?

    (I hesitate to include Kill Bill in here, because it’s a special kind of action movie. Still, it is an example of a modern-day version of that particular kind of hero)

    • Bubble181 says:

      I agree there’s a shift in tone, but….I find your groupings strange. Princess Leia isn’t exactly a strong heroine. She’s the friggin’ princess who gets captured by the Big Bad and the hero has to go and save her. That’s Super Mario, storywise. She talks a bit big, but actually does very little; certainly in the first movie. I’d class her closer to Swann than to Ripley, really.

      • littlefinger says:

        I was thinking more about how the protagonists interact and talk to each other.

        Which doesn’t change the fact that you’re right re: Leia.

        • Shamus says:

          She was certainly a step in the right direction. Bold, smart, and a leader. When they broke her out of prison she grabbed a rifle and devised an escape. “Strong” is certainly a matter of degrees, and the movie certainly made Luke and Han the two big heroes, but Leia was a step in the right direction.

          My problem with female characters lately isn’t lack of “strength”, but that supposedly strong female characters are simply really macho girls. I’m interested in *capable*, not *aggressive*.

          • Mari says:

            I know what you mean. Like somehow female protagonists can be EITHER feminine OR strong but the two are somehow mutually exclusive. There are a very few authors out there making the world strong and feminine for girls but they’re too few and they’re painfully overlooked by Hollywood (or – I dunno, maybe Hollywood HAS shopped them for scripts and these authors refuse to release the rights because they want creative control so they can KEEP their characters strong?). In the interests of not attracting the eternal internet flame-wars this direction I’ll steer clear of naming actual examples or counter-examples.

            • Shamus says:

              I’m really curious how Alice will be accepted. I know you’ve read the book. I actually tried to practice what I preach with her. We’ll see what people say when the book actually comes out.

              ARG WHY IS IT NOT OUT YET?!?!?

              • X2Eliah says:

                I sense a hint on Shamus’sss book, no? (don’t make me roll for Force Perception)

                • Mari says:

                  Yes, it’s a reference to “The Witch Watch.” One of the protagonists, Alice, is a super-awesome strong chick without turning her into Chuck Norris with breasts.

              • Mari says:

                You definitely practice what you preach, Shamus. Alice was one of the most interesting female protagonists I’ve read in a long time. She’s strong but vulnerable in believable ways and there will be no question of her femininity. I’m actually desperate for the book to be out so my teen daughters can read it. I love to share these kinds of characters with them and I suspect your girlies will enjoy it too.

                One of my daughters spent years in a school environment where “girly” was synonymous with a word that rhymes with “witchy.” There were the tomboys in her class that rejected all things feminine and then there were the girly girls. The girly girls almost seemed to be playing out the stereotypes of movies like “Mean Girls” before that was even a movie. I’m talking from kindergarten age. In typical kid fashion, she rejected the outward trappings of being “girly” because she rejected the core values and personalities of the people she associated with those things. It’s been a HUGE struggle around her to show her that she can be feminine without being manipulative, mean, selfish, snobby, vain, shallow, catty, and all those other negative traits she associates with girls in dresses with fingernail polish, well maintained hair, makeup, etc.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Salt from the recent movie having that name was mostly an ok character.Though I wonder if that was because it was originally written to be a guy,but got switched because tom cruise(I think)couldnt play in it because he had another action flick to do.

          • Yep.

            “strong female character” shouldn’t mean “man with tits”.

            The problem is generally male writers – if you’re going to write a strong character as a man, it’s probably going to end up pretty mannish

            • Sumanai says:

              I hold the view that bad writing doesn’t occur because writers are male, but because writers are bad. (90 percent of etc. )

              I suspect that this is one of those cases where many writers have difficulty writing well because they haven’t run into good examples of it being done right. So most writers screw it up, and then there are few good examples. A vicious cycle basically.

              • Sumanai says:

                Also I believe that too many cooks ruin the soup (or however it goes). You get a bunch of people who have no experience or knack for story telling in an influential position and you’ll end up with far more cliches than should be.

  7. Ragnar says:

    Not looking into Darths and Droids. Already following XKCD and Order of the Stick and recently I have begun reading Girl Genius too. That should be enough for a while.

  8. DerBarchen says:

    Fun Fact: I started following Shamus because of Darths and Droids =D

    • Dragomok says:

      Even funnier fact: I started following Shamus because of DM of the Rings, which I followed because of TV Tropes, which I followed because of (a really terrible comic) TwoKinds, which I followed because of TopWebcomicsDotCom, which I saw because of Magic Knight*, which I followed because of TibiaNews, which I followed because of Tibia, which I played because I saw 10 sprites from it on some random, mediocre fan site run by one man.

      Can anyone get a longer list?

      * By Magic Knight I mean the put-on-indefinite-hiatus-after-a-dozen-pages online reboot of a dead-tree-format-only comic under the same title that was cancelled because of copyright issues and personal conflict between its authors, not any other Magic Knight you actually heard about.

      • epopisces says:

        TwoKinds is still going :)
        I’ll toss The Adventures of Dr. McNinja into the ring of regular updaters too.

        I googled webcomics to find Shamus’ DM of the Rings–it really is the gateway drug for your blog, as you are well aware Shamus. I follow over a dozen webcomics, but only one blog (two now that you pointed me to sea-of-memes).

  9. Zeta Kai says:

    “Well, it’s a year from theater release, and probably another year from video release.”

    What year is this? 1998? Video releases are coming out nowadays within six months of a theatrical debut, & that’s on the outside. The movie industry has been creeping up the turnaround on video for years, & nowadays it can be measured in weeks. There’s even talk of a time in the near future when the releases in theaters & on video will be simultaneous. Needless to say, theater owners are not pleased with this development, but it seems to be almost inevitable.

    • SteveDJ says:

      Sure, the *theatrical* release is 6 months. But it will be 11 months from movie release until the Extended Versions are released on DVD. (Wasn’t it November when the EE’s of LotR were always released?)

  10. Mari says:

    Excellent. My younger daughter just started reading DMotR last night. The elder has already read all the way through. Twice. Because that’s how she rolls.

    On the subject of webcomic milestones you have to include Randy Milholland wrapping up 10 years of Something Positive this week with a boneless cat eating a penguin with wings made of bacon.

  11. Josh R says:

    The alt-text on XKCD actually says “thank you for making me feel less alone” which is the first loneliness related comment or picture that the comic has done in a long while. This partiularly bugs me as even though I’m in a better place now – those little snippets about love and loneliness and the semi-abstract sketches were what got me into the comic in the first place.
    The computer coder jokes are lost on me and the political satire is done better elsewhere, I really wish it would return to it’s roots like http://xkcd.com/104/ , http://xkcd.com/17/ , http://xkcd.com/40/ or http://xkcd.com/170/

    Oh well, at least I still have A Softer World.

    • Destrustor says:

      I’d like to see the rest of the “red spiders” saga thing.

    • Zagzag says:

      I’m possibly alone here, but I actually like how a lot of the coding jokes are completely lost on me. I can still appreciate their potential humour, and sometimes I end up looking them up and learning something new. Having xkcd make computers strange and mysterious again is a really enjoyable experience for me.

  12. Doctor Satan says:

    But then you would have to stop for the video release of the hobbit part 2. So i guess u’ll have to wait 3 instead of 2 years… or have a big break in the middle…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Wait,they are breaking it into two films?Why?

      • Raygereio says:

        Yeah, that is certainly odd. It’s been a while since I’ve read The Hobbit; but I don’t recall enough material for it fill two feature length movies.
        Not without serving the audience a lot of padding, that is.

        • LadyTL says:

          Well, when you actually extrapolate Tolkien’s combat scenes, you can get alot more content. The book does kinda end with a dragon fight and a war.

          • avpix says:

            Or they could condense a lot of the back-story to Lotr that they skipped in the movies and put that in. They’ve even confirmed that Orlando Bloom will be in the movie, despite the fact that Legolas isn’t in The Hobbit.

            • Aldowyn says:

              I’m not actually sure that Tolkien had invented Legolas when he wrote the hobbit. He’s the most likely of the not-in-the-Hobbit characters to actually be in the hobbit, considering they go to mirkwood and meet his (never named) dad.

              Oh, and don’t forget the council cleaning out Dol Goldur, which was mentioned in the book but not actually shown. (Also why Galadriel is in the movie/s)

              But yeah, they’re adding stuff.

              (ninja’ed below…)

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                You know whats baffling me the most:When they started lord of the rings,I thought that they shouldve started with hobbit,because its a book that can easily fit just one movie,while containing lotr in just 3 movies would mean cutting a bunch of stuff out(which they did).And now,they are splitting this into 2 movies?Thats just…I dont even…bwuuh?

      • swenson says:

        They’re not just doing The Hobbit, they’re also doing all the stuff with the White Council and Gandalf going to Dol Guldur and whatnot. I’m concerned about those bits, mainly because Tolkien never actually wrote about them in detail, but we’ll see how it goes.

      • They’re doing all the songs.

  13. Lazlo says:

    it’s interesting that, even in hex, there’s still some clinging to base 10. Why is 0×400 all that round? probably because it’s 2^10, and 10 is “round”. (though probably more because it’s close to 10^3)

    To me it’s important because it’s the first number I can’t count to on my fingers, but that’s kind of because it’s 2^10.

    Though my gut feeling is that base 12 would make hours/minutes/seconds a little easier. And of course a 0d10-inch foot would be like implementing the metric system in reverse. (I’m decreeing “0d” as a prefix to denote duodecimal numbers in the theme of 0x for hex. To me this has the feature of *looking* like it’d be confusing for gaming dice notation, while actually neatly avoiding that notational collision.)

    Why is it that no one claims that english units make more sense, because a pound being 0×10 ounces makes so much more sense than a kilogram weighing in at 0x3E8 grams?

    • littlefinger says:

      I’m not sure what you did there but I don’t like it. Keep your imperial criticism out of my Metric system!

      • Lazlo says:

        It’s so tantalizing that a stone is *almost* right, at 0xE lbs. Maybe we should lobby for a heximetric english unit system where a stone is defined as 0×10 lbs, or 0×100 oz. Then a hundredweight would be, somewhat confusingly (or maybe not…), 0×100 lbs or 0×10 stone.

        The big question would be, is it better to approximately double the weight of a ton to 0×1000 lbs, or leave it just 3 stone from the current ton at 0×800 lbs?

        And then do we redefine a foot as 0×10 inches, or would that measure be more akin to a cubit? And here’s something else really intriguing… 0×10000 inches is 1.034 miles, just a short 0×88 heximetric cubits from right on the money.

        I like it. I like it a lot. Let’s do this.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Lets not do that.I dont want the speed of light to be 11de784a m/s.Even rounded,its not elegant,its 11e1a300m/s.300000 km/s is much better.

          • Lazlo says:

            First of all, why is 0x11DE784A m/s any worse than 299792458 m/s? If you’re going to round to 3 significant digits, I’d say to call it 0x2C0,000,000 inches per second (or 0x2C * 0×10^7). It’s not only just as accurate, but is also kind of cool in a weird “c=2C” way.

            So here’s my proposal for heximetric weights and measures:

            0×10 inches to the new cubit (off by 2 inches)
            0×20 inches to the new yard (off by 4 inches)
            0×100 inches to the new rod (off by 58 inches)
            (call 0×1000 inches a half-furlong)
            0×2000 inches in the new furlong (off by 272 inches)
            0×10000 inches in the new mile (off by 2176 inches)

            0×10 oz in a lb (exact)
            0×10 lb in a new stone (off by 2 lbs)
            0×80 lb in a new hundredweight (off by 16 lbs
            0×100 lb in 2 new hundredweight
            0×800 lb in a new ton (off by 152 lbs)
            0×1000 in 2 new tons

            It’s a good idea I tell you! Implement it immediately! I decree it to be so! :)

            • Wtrmute says:

              Dude, a single name for a single dimension; the multiples should have an affix attached. Possibly a more rational affix than the arbitrary SI prefixes: Maybe “first order, second order, third order…” for the multiples and “first degree, second degree, third degree…” for the submultiples.

              As for 1024, I think 1099 is prettier. And Dr. Knuth agrees with me! it’s 10 000 000 in balanced ternary…

    • Bryan says:

      Heh. 0x3E8. That’s the I/O address of the third serial port.

      [/random fact from the early days of the IBM PC]


      • Sumanai says:

        Fun fact: I have a friend who used a serial port mouse until I gave him a USB-PS/2 -connector last week, because his USB ports don’t work correctly and he couldn’t find a PS/2 mouse.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      My thoughts. a base-twelve system would finally be useful for retroactively making the imperial system … a bit less horrible to compute stuff with?
      Works for inches, feet and yards (I think) but doesn’t work for miles anymore.
      Then, again, the English should have done that a lot earlier, before they converted their currency to decimal system.

      Apart from all of that, the decimal system is because of having ten fingers on our hands, the duodecimal is from antique European tribes (12 months in a year, 24 hours in a day, the whole thing) and is also the reason you have the words “eleven” and “twelve” and not … “firsteen” and “seconteen”? Or rather “oneteen” and “twoteen”? Weird.
      Funny enough, proper French still uses twenty as a base sometimes, because apparently that’s what the Gauls used. So although the French introduced the ten-based metric system, They still call the number 80 “four-twenty”), 72 “sixty-and-twelve”. That’s just in France though, not in the former colonies, and only when writing the name of the number.
      Anyways, I’m happy we have got some sort of standard with ten-base and SI units(which the French introduced, too, despite their affinity to the number twenty), even if it does not go too well with 360 degrees in a circle and the time measure. But everything else is even worse.

      Binary would probably be the only one that could claim being “natural”. Sadly, it’s pretty impractical for writing down numbers.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I just found this:

        Get over it, guys, it’s the standard, _and_ it makes sense.

        • Lazlo says:

          And while we’re at it, let’s make sure that everyone speaks English and no other language. If anyone wants to stick to their own language, tell ‘em to get over it and stick to the standard.

          (that sounds snarky, and I apologize for that, but it’s one of my pet peeves that insisting on only learning one spoken language makes one a stereotypical Stupid American, while learning multiple systems of weights and measures *also* makes one a stereotypical Stupid American, and no one seems to see hypocrisy in this.)

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Except that languages are used mostly in informal communication,which is why when talking formally,sciences opt for latin,or something similar.Having a unifying system for formal interactions is crucial.

            • Shamus says:

              While I’m not normally particular about weights and measures systems (imperial is dumb, but who cares when you’re buying milk and cheese?) I’d agree that using imperial for science is ludicrous. When one of the Mars probes went down due to imperial / metric conversion problems, I was shocked. Not shocked that they made that blunder, but shocked that anyone at NASA is even allowed to TALK about units in terms of imperial. They’re a lot more nitpicky about much less important items.

              The mind reels.

              • Lazlo says:

                Just to be the devil’s advocate here, but was that a failure because imperial units leaked into the building, or was that a failure because they were so steeped in a single system of measurement (assumedly metric) that checking their units wasn’t an ingrained reflex?

                I also think that part of the problem is that, while it’s possible to enforce a metric-only zone, as hard as it is to get people to list their measurements in metric it’s far harder to get anyone other than an engineer to really understand and care about significant digits. So I get a widget that’s 100 inches long. Before I let it in the building, I’m going to convert that to cm. I know there’s one significant digit there. Maybe two or three. So do I list it as 300 cm? 250? 254? /shrug? Most people will be greedy and assume at least as many significant digits as there are actual digits, some will be so greedy that they’ll assume all the significant digits they have available in their conversion factor. These mistakes are bad and wrong, but woefully common.

                That being said, I have to say that I’m a little hypocritical here… in my youth, I quit my chemical engineering degree in some small part because of being forced on one occasion to use an ideal gas constant in units of ft * lbf  / R * lb-mol. I may talk a good talk about multi-numeracy, but I have my limits.

                • Sumanai says:

                  From what I’ve understood, very few have an ingrained reflex to check units, so it would be far smarter for NASA to use metric only, and get their parts from companies that provide in metric. Which I understand exist in the US.

                  • Lazlo says:

                    You know, I’ve never actually looked up and read about what happened to the MCO, just the history of “metric conversion fail = crash”. So I looked it up, and it’s a lot more understandable now.

                    NASA *is* all metric. And they *do* demand metric from their suppliers. One of their suppliers is Lockheed Martin. One of the many things that LM supplied to them was a piece of ground-based thrust calculation software. The specifications for that software stated that its output would be in newton-seconds. LM failed to accurately adhere to the software spec, and instead output pound-seconds.

                    So on the one hand, LM failed to follow a software spec, and on the other hand, NASA failed to put the software they received through adequate testing. A single run of that software with known inputs to verify correct outputs would have indicated a problem. It’s more of a generic software quality-control issue than a units-of-measure issue. If the software had used the right units but had just the wrong sort of syntax or logic error, the result would have been the same (and was quite similar in the case of Mariner-1). It’s also understandable that LM uses multiple units in-house. I’m certain that some of their customers demand Imperial, while others demand metric, while others don’t care, so long as it’s documented. Though, of course that makes it less understandable that LM didn’t check their spec to make sure they knew what they were supposed to output.

                    • Sumanai says:

                      Yeah, not really a metric vs imperial situation. NASA really should’ve bothered to check the software.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Binary would probably be the only one that could claim being “natural”. Sadly, it’s pretty impractical for writing down numbers.”

        8 could also be natural,if we go by electrons in an atom.So can 6,if we go by quarks.

        But how about we all go for the base 0?

    • Simon Buchan says:

      2^10 is too “decimal” for you? I guess we have to restrict the powers to round binary values. Obviously 2 is round, so the next round number would be 2^2 = 4, then 2^2^2 = 2^4 = 16 = 0×10, very nice so far, next is 2^2^2^2 = 2^0×10 = 65536 = 0×10000: Oh hey! I always liked that number! I guess the next round number is 2^2^2^2^2 = 2^0×10000 = 0×100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000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      But even 2^2^2^2^2 is just 2↑↑5 – shouldn’t the height of the powers be binary as well?

      2↑↑1 = 2
      2↑↑2 = 2^2 = 4
      2↑↑4 = 2^2^2^2 = 0×10000
      2↑↑0×10000 =

      Well, we’ll leave that one as an exercise for the reader. But I think we got rid of those pesky non-round numbers!

      2↑↑4 = 2↑↑2↑↑2 = 2↑↑↑3

      Crap. Well, lets just follow this down to it’s logical end shall we? (Using the recursive variant of rule 4)

      2→2 = 2^2 = 4
      2→2→2 = 2→(2→1→2)→1 = 2→2 = 2^2 = 4
      2→2→2→2 = 2→2→(2→2→1→2)→1 = 2→2→4 = 2→(2→1→4)→3 = 2→(2→1→3)→2 = 2→(2→1→2)→1 = 2→2 = 2^2 = 4

      Well. That’s not very exciting at all now is it.

      • Rosseloh says:

        I don’t know what the hell you are trying to pull with that fancy mathematical notation but you broke [a small part of] the internet.

        I start thinking about numbers for anything other than network addressing and my brain hurts. And I can only do network addressing because I was trained to do that fairly recently.

    • SteveDJ says:

      But… but… what about the calendar? Yea, let’s try base 7! :-P

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I was always for rounding the time measurment to decimals as well.We need to speed the earth a bit so we could just lose those xtra 5,25 days.Or,we could use those extra days as a sort of not-month associated extended new years.

  14. SteveDJ says:

    I would just like to add that I would very much prefer Shamus doing The Hobbit comic (and not the D&D folks). They did over 200 strips per movie so far, and many times it felt like the pace was way too slow, like they felt they couldn’t miss a single piece of the movies, including some rather dull stretches of the strip.

    However, Shamus’ DMotR only took 150 strips for all three movies (Extended at that) – and the pace felt perfect! I know it is two years away (maybe three if you wait for Hobbit 2 EE DVDs before starting) but remember the old saying… “Good things come to those who wait”!

  15. Destrustor says:

    There’s a typo in this post’s title: “driods”.

  16. bubba0077 says:

    I’m amused by the fact that after the DMotR you point to, the discussion talked about wanting a shirt that says “Help, the dice are trying to kill me!”. And now there is one.

    Also started following due to DMotR, but it’s been so long and I enjoy the other content so much I actually forgot that is how I got hooked. I actually think about the campaign write-up more often than DMotR (I would love to get another one of those).

    Now excuse me, it’s time to go waste an afternoon reading through the archives.

  17. There’s also that fact that the movie is split in twain. Even if you DID decide to do a webcomic, you’d have to stop halfway through and wait for the second movie to start the whole process over again.

  18. arthurbu says:

    Along with many other people it seems, I came for the comic and stuck around for everything else.

    Looking forward to Witch Watch although I can’t remember your planned release date. Best of luck!

  19. Eärlindor says:

    Hahaha, y’know? A Hobbit comic NEVER crossed my mind. Bah, whatever.

    Also, I have never bothered to read the Darths & Droids comic either. I should do that one of these days.

    PS: Hobbit! :D

  20. Atle says:

    I run into serious problems when trying to use anything other than base 10 when using decimal numbers.

  21. rayen says:

    didn’t someone make a shirt saying “help, my dice are trying to kill me”?
    i feel like i saw that somewhere…

  22. swenson says:

    Oh, Darths & Droids! I began reading, oh, maybe a year or so ago and have been following faithfully ever since… and I have been waiting the entire time for them to get to the original series, as I’ve never actually watched the prequels. Better yet, I just rewatched A New Hope a couple of nights ago! This will be fun.

  23. Pickly says:

    I’m definitely excited about the new Darths and Droids comic. I do prefer it to DM of the Rings (Yes, that’s right, I think DMotR SUCKS! It sucks so much, I read it multiple times, laughed at it at a number of points, and continued to follow this blog, just to prove to myself just how awful it is.)* Like a lot of people, I am curious about who plays who, how they’ll handle future events, etc.

    Interestingly, the boundaries between the episodes in Darths and Droids seem to line up with somewhat important events or major changes in mood. (They are somewhat important life events, although hard to describe here without giving away lots of information.)

    * To avoid any possible hard feelings and/or flamewars from the above internet sarcasm, I did in fact like both comics a lot, and would highly recommend them both to anyone who hasn’t read them, though Darths and Droids does get somewhat of a preference.

  24. Lame Duck says:

    Well I celebrated by reading through the entire archive of Stolen Pixels. That was fun.

  25. Adam P says:

    So, I think the reason that binary is fast for computers is because of the processors built for the data storage. Every bit is just on or off. If there were some third value allowed in RAM and HDDs. It would store everything as 0 1 2 instead of 0 or 1. This would make the processors be built similarly and any input could render three responses. Maybe a pass or fail comparing two numbers would instead be made 0 = less than, 1 = equal to, 2 = greater than.

    DNA for example is base 4. There is some pretty cool work in this field: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_computing

    But yeah there was some old western european 12 base number systems.
    Mayans used 20 base for their calendar (mostly).
    We use 12 24 and 60 base for time we just represent those numbers within the decimal system.
    Honestly for hex I like the current use, but if we were to introduce something like this into common place using letters as numbers it would be confusing.

    a^2 + b^2 = c^2. a = b and b = ff solve for c.

    If we were to use binary in common place I think instead of the arabic numerals it would be more practical to use a roman numeral system. It would avoid situations like where this webpage scrolls to the right for like 100,000 pixels. Though this would be complicated for fractions. Overall I like the decimal system, it’s divisible by two primes that have a decent distance between them. Really the only way you get better is if you introduce more or different primes. With the first three you are looking at 2x3x5 = 30 that’s a lot to memorize. The smaller primes help with less decimals and the larger primes help make larger numbers more manageable. So maybe 2×7 but in the end I think it’s fairly trivial. I like 10 base and it works. And People have a lot of trouble learning new systems.

    My cousin told me a joke, “There are 101 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.” I’m pretty sure I know what type he is.

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