(I get goosebumps when Kristin's guitar part starts. The way their parts weave together is so evocative.)
I am loving James Gleick's The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. It's about the history of information technology and communication, revolutionary mathematical theories of communication, and ways that our kind has mapped information onto other formats, from the dawn of written culture, via African drums, cryptanalysis, early dictionaries, different forms of telegraphy and signaling, and the spontaneous synergy of mathematics, engineering, anthropology, neuroscience, and other disciplines, at the middle of the last century. And, well, that's how far I am in the book - halfway. Gleick approaches the topic in such a novel way that I wonder what compelled him to write it in the first place. A biographer, Gleick provides such rich details about the lives and communications between the figures who created our science of information technology, that I feel occasionally like I've traveled in time, forgotten to take for granted the pervasiveness and ease of modern communication. (Imagine living in France during the Revolution, sending messages over several miles by using a system of relay semaphores, encoding the short messages since they were communicated from prominently visible stations, and hoping that fog doesn't obscure vital pieces of intelligence... then glancing at your hotel nightstand and noticing the Cisco IP phone and a list of country codes. Startling!)
This made me laugh. It's an anecdote from an eclectic sciences conference in 1950:
Ralph Gerard, the neuroscientist, was reminded of a story. A stranger is at a party of people who know one another well. One says, "72," and everyone laughs. Another says, "29," and the party roars. The stranger asks what is going on.
His neighbor said, "We have many jokes and we have told them so often that now we just use a number." The guest thought he'd try it, and after a few words, said, "63." The response was feeble. "What's the matter, isn't this a joke?"
"Oh, yes, that is one of our very best jokes, but you did not tell it well."