Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
I hate to bitch. Okay, that’s a lie, I love to bitch, sorry. But at least I can spare you my prefacing this newest bitchfest with the qualifier that the book I’m bitching about is great otherwise. We’ve been over that already, it’s scorched earth. There, spared you. Considerate me.
What is going on with the Wallacester and the math? I’m now about halfway through Infinite Jest (what’s half of infinity? Am I done, then?), and as of yet there is nought in terms of indication that his shortcomings in the land of numbers are a jester’s crown worn for some – however obscure – purpose of Jest, finite or otherwise.
The newest item from DFW’s confoundry: Eschaton’s rules are only touched upon tangentially in the main novel’s text, vague hints at complexities of being hit, influenced by weather and all sorts of other variables, which is fine. But then we are taken into lengthy details in an endnote about how the First Mean Value Theorem of Integration allows Lord to get by without calculating complicated integrals for setting up the game. In some rather unspecified way the initial allocation of resources to players for a game’s new round depends on the average value of some equally underspecified ratio, and so Lord needs to calculate the integrals of this variable over previous game time. Except that apparently he doesn’t, because this magical Theorem allows him to use a shortcut right out of the convolved space of higher math into a paradise of simplicity. Which sounds quite nice. And is quite untrue.
The average value of a variable over an interval of time will be it’s integral over said interval divided by the interval’s length. Now, the First Mean Value Theorem indeed guarantees that the integral comes to the same as the intervals length multiplied with the value of the function at a point within the interval, and so that the average itself is identical to the value of the function at this point within the interval. The logic of this is nicely developed in the lengthy endnote’s lively interchange between Incandenza and Pemulis. But nohow does this integral theorem allow you to infer which point within said interval you’d have to choose, and thus for all practical purposes of setting up tennis socks and buckets of bald nuclear balls, this little piece of abstract mathematical wisdom, rather than being the prized insight allowing young kids to cheat the forces of nature Pemulis wants to sell it to us as, is utterly useless. Plus also, in the sloppy plot nicely labeled Halsadick, the supposed average value doesn’t even look like the actual average value, for crying out loudly in complicated semantic structures.
A bit later we read that computer discs squeeze whole high definition movies into 4.8 MB of binary space, which claimed figure must have been ludicrously and unrealistically low in the B.S. 90s already. Such a disc wouldn’t hold two single uncompressed HD images of finely rendered water (assuming 24 bits of liquid color shades). A typo, one hopes. The DVD was introduced in 1995, by the way.
They still are a puzzle, these oddly shaped holes in the otherwise beautiful fabric of this tome, and I’ll keep on logging them. It amuses me.