Monday, July 23, 2012

Samuel Morse's Lost Code, Part V

Predicting the Future
            Predicting the future has long since been a fun topic of conversation at dinner parties.       

            Late sixteenth century European urban myths rumored of magical sympathetic needles that allowed people to send messages across great distances. Although nobody had actually seen one of these devices, they all knew someone who knew someone who knew someone whose cousin, twice removed, had seen it with his or her own eyes, and was therefore, a credible witness of its existence.

            It was further rumored that Cardinal Richelieu had a set because he was so remarkably well informed about the comings and goings of everyone who mattered in Europe.

                        In 1617, Italian Famianus Strada published Prolusiones Academicae, in which he publicized a story, dating back to the middle ages, about two needles magnetized by the same loadestone, which would swing together in unison, providing two-way communication over any distance.

            Was it a myth or a prediction? In 1746, Jean-Antoine Nollet, Physics Teacher to the Royal Children, proved that it really was possible to harness electricity and thus build a signaling device capable of sending messages over great distances.

            Before Louis XV, king of France, Nollet suckered 180 Royal Guards into arranging themselves in a long chain. Each held one end of a twenty-five-foot iron wire in each hand, connecting him to another unsuspecting guard on either side.


(More on royals some other time... in another lifetime, perchance? LOL) 

            Nollet gave them, without warning, a powerful electric shock. The simultaneous screeches and facial contortions revealed that electricity could travel long distances – instantly.

            <So can thought but we’ll get back to that later>.

            While long-distance communication was not a reality at the time the myth was created, lodestones, naturally occurring minerals, were used to magnetize needles and other metallic objects. If two magnets were placed on pivots in close proximity, moving one would cause the other to move in response, a result of the interaction of their magnetic fields.            

            Pioneering communications entrepreneurs tried to sell Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer and physicist, a set of needles, but Galileo, an early believer in experimental evidence and direct observation, demanded a demonstration first.

            Result: No sale.

            During this time, and for thousands of years before this, messages traveled at about the same speed. It took Charlemagne the same amount of time to get news from the Holy Land as it took George Washington to get news during the American Revolutionary War.

            In March 1791, the brothers Chappe made the first public demonstration of their “pendulum [telegraph] system” otherwise known as a Synchronized System. Claude and his brother René, transmitted numbers via two perfectly synchronized clocks, numbers that they translated into letters, words, and phrases, thus sending simple messages.

            Si vous réussissez, vous serez bien-tôt couvert de gloire” (if you succeed, you will soon bask in glory).

            This was the phrase a local doctor asked them to transmit in the presence of local officials, it took them only four minutes to send the message from Brûon to Parcé, ten miles away.

            Chappe wanted to call his invention the tachygraphe (Greek for “fast writer”), but his friend, Miot de Mélito, a government official and classical scholar, convinced him to change it to télégraphe (“far writer”) instead.

            In 1793, the first construction of a line of three telegraph stations were built in Belleville, Écouen, and Saint-Martin-du-Tertre, a distance of about twenty miles. The three telegraph towers took eleven minutes to send a message – Voilá! Success.

            By May 1794, the Paris-Lille line, the first arm of the French State Telegraph, started operation. It was used to report the recapture of a town from the Austrians and Prussians within an hour of the battle’s end. As the French army advanced north into Holland, further victories were reported via the telegraph. By 1798, a second line had been built to the east of Paris as far as Strasbourg, and the Lille line was extended all the way to Dunkirk.

            Napoleon Bonaparte ordered further extension of the network, including the construction of a line to Boulogne in preparation for an invasion of England. He ordered a design capable of signaling across the English Channel, but abandoned plans when the invasion failed to materialize. Instead, he ordered the construction of a line from Paris to Milan, via Dijon, Lyons, and Turin. The British followed in 1795. Before you knew it, telegraph towers were springing up all over Europe.

            The Encyclopaedia Britannia was the equivalent of Eighteenth century Facebook. One entry in 1797 optimistically said of the telegraph: “The capitals of distant nations might be united by chains of posts, and the settling of those disputes which at present take up months or years might then be accomplished in as many hours.”

            This early mechanical Internet of whirling arms and blinking shutters, passed news, lottery numbers, and military operations. As the network grew, “an expeditious method of conveying intelligence” did, too. –C.M.

            And convey intelligence it did.

            So, what is this thing they call the Internet? We’ve all heard the story. It’s a network, a collection of hardware components and computers interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources and information. The main process in each device is to be able to send/receive data to/from a remote device of the same processing ability. This connection is a network.

            The earliest network communication channel was made Claude Chappe “clanging” on a casserole dish – a sound that could be heard a quarter a mile away – in conjunction with two specially modified clocks. The clocks had no hour or minute hands, just a second hand that went twice as fast as usual, completing two revolutions per minute, and a clock face with ten instead of the usual twelve numbers around its edge.

            To send a message, Claude Chappe banged on a casserole dish – clang – as the second hand on his clock reached a certain position, so that René, his brother, could synchronize his clock accordingly. Using a numbered dictionary as a codebook, the Chappe brothers translated these positions or numbers into letters, words, and phrases, thus sending simple messages. In terms of processing speed, it is estimated that the brothers probably transmitted digits in twos or threes and then looked up the resulting two- or three-digit number in the codebook.

            This system had its drawbacks, namely you had to be in earshot of the device. The casserole dish was replaced with a five-foot tall pivoting wooden panel, painted black on one side and white on the other. With this device, Chappe could transmit a number over longer distances – particularly if a telescope was used to observe the panel from far away. As far away as ten miles went the sent message between Brûlon and Parcé. The processing speed was four minutes to transmit the phrase “If you succeed, you will soon bask in glory).

            The synchronized clocks were replaced with two small rotating arms on the end of a longer rotating bar. This bar, called the regulator, could be aligned horizontally or vertically, and each of the small arms, called indicators, could be rotated into one of seven positions in forty-five-degree increments. This design offered 98 different combinations, 6 of which were reserved for “special use” (probably something like “Run! Another mob is after us, they think we’re trying to communicate with royalist prisoners at the Temple Prison again.”), leaving 92 codes to represent numbers, letters, and common syllables. A special codebook with 92 numbered pages, each of which listed 92 numbered meanings, meant that an additional 92 times 92, or 8,464 words and phrases could be represented by transmitting two codes in succession. The first indicated the page number in the codebook; the second indicated the intended word or phrase on that page.

            Abraham-Louis Bréguet, a noted but in the end, crooked, clock maker, built a new control mechanism for Chappe’s design. A system of pulleys and a scaled-down model of the rotating arms was now used to control the positions of a bigger set of arms that were mounted to the roof of a tower and controlled from the inside by an operator.

            With a security detail provided by the mayors of each of the three towns – Belleville, Écouen, and Saint-Martin-du-Tertre – a message was sent through three towers over a distance of twenty miles, this time taking eleven minutes. The processing speed: 11 minutes to send a message, 9 minutes to send a reply. Presumably, the reply message was shorter than the initial message, accounting for the variance in speed transmission.

            At any rate, this earliest network gave rise to a 15-station, 130-mile network between Paris and Lille.

            The Internet, today, is a more complex interconnected communication network of devices that can send/receive data to/from remote devices. Basically, the Internet can be classified as a medium (devices) used to transport data, communications protocol (codebook) used, scale (size of the tower/device), topology (layout pattern, where the towers are located), and organizational scope (distribution of devices).

            Mirroring energie, the network grew from a few to billions of connections within two hundred years. What is the primary substance that allows for growth, change and replication? 

            Energie. In its natural state, energie resembles instantaneous communication between multiple locations across an infinite amount of distance.

            For life to begin in a natural setting such as a planetary surface, there must be mechanisms that concentrate and maintain interacting molecular species in a microenvironment. From this perspective, life must have begun as a bounded system of infoparticles, none of which has the full property of life outside that system. A bounded system of replicating, catalytic infoparticles is by definition a cell, and at some point, life became cellular, either from its inception or soon thereafter.

            Besides separating the contents of a cell from the environment, membranes have the capacity to develop substantial ion gradients that represent a central energie source for virtually all life today.

            The electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by the electrically charged objects this intelligence or what I like to call “energie” creates. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature of which we are aware, the others are gravitation, the weak interaction, and the strong interaction.

            Once an electromagnetic field is produced from a given charge distribution, other charged objects in this field will experience a force in a similar way that planets experience a force in the gravitational field of a Sun. If these other charges and currents are comparable in size to the sources producing the electromagnetic field, then a new net electromagnetic field will be produced. Thus, the electromagnetic field may be viewed as a dynamic entity that causes other changes and currents to move, and which is also affected by them. Assuming that the geometry of space and time is not fixed, but rather a dynamical entity whose evolution must be determined in convert with the evolution of matter, we might presume it is alive. 

          Or not, your choice. 

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