Life lessons from board games: Hanabi

Just as we can analyze fiction for its meaning and implication on our lives, we can also analyze board games. In some cases, the analogy is direct, if the board game is heavy on narrative and flavor (“You are investigating strange occurrences in Arkham, closing portals to other realms while the Ancient Ones stir in their slumber”). However, a lot of meaningful content could be extracted from the underlying mechanics and rules. Hanabi is a card game with virtually no narrative at all (it’s about making a fireworks show), and yet it says something deep about the nature of communication.

A Hanabi box stands in front of some tokens, and cards with colored numbers on them. The box says 'Race the clock... Build the fireworks... Launch your rockets!'

Hanabi is a cooperative card game, where players, as a team, seek to play cards in the right order. The problem is that players hold their cards backwards, and thus each player can only see other players’ cards, not their own cards. You can’t just tell other players what they are holding, you have to provide them with a limited number of clues, each clue obeying certain constraints. The game is thus all about efficient communication.

Hanabi is easy to carry around and teach to new players, so I’ve played a lot of games with beginners. I will discuss a common beginner’s mistake, and what it says about communication.
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Regarding consent in nightclubs

Content note: abstract discussion of sexual assault, and by implication rape and CSA.

One of my perpetual complaints about gay nightclubs is that people think it’s okay to grope strangers without getting any permission. However, many people are unwilling to acknowledge this as sexual assault, because they argue that they themselves would enjoy being groped. I think this is besides the point.  Inspired by a recent post by coyote, I’m trying out a new approach (and this is really a way of explaining a model of consent by way of application).

Under conventional models, consent is an expression of permission. A person asks if they can touch me, and if I say “yes” then I’ve consented, and if I say “no” then I haven’t consented. However, sometimes I might only says “yes” because I felt pressured. Or sometimes I might say nothing at all. And so we have multiple fixes to this model, such as “affirmative consent” or “enthusiastic consent”.

Most of these consent models fail to allow for the situation where nobody asked for my consent, but I’m still okay with it. This situation often occurs in nightclubs–people don’t ask for permission to grope, and yet sometimes the people being groped are okay with it.

So here’s a different model of consent: consent is an internal state. If someone is okay with being groped, they are consenting, and if they are not okay with being groped they are not consenting.  Someone may also feel violated after the fact, and this also qualifies as non-consent.
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A need for atheism 101?

I often find myself arguing with people about what I see as basic points about atheists and the atheist movement. And a big problem is that I find these points to be extremely obvious, and can only discuss them with scorn or snark. I often want to tell people that it’s not my job to educate them, and they can educate themselves.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any good place to refer people. Despite the vast online presence held by atheists, decent atheist 101 resources are lacking.

I can speculate why: most introductory atheist materials address the adversarial relationship between atheism and religion. “Atheism 101” seems to consist of going over basic arguments for theism, and explaining why they’re wrong. And then there are a few extras, like why atheism doesn’t imply a lack of morality, and a lot of hairsplitting over agnosticism vs atheism.

Maybe the issue isn’t a lack of resources, but that the available resources simply aren’t to my satisfaction. When I want 101 resources, I often want them to explain “Yes, there is an atheist movement, no it is not a religion, why is this so fucking hard?” or “No, not every context is appropriate to argue about religion, but you’re effectively telling atheists to shut up,” or “Yeah some atheists are angry, and why shouldn’t they be?” Only, say it nicer than I would.
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Paper: First observation of gravitational waves

This is a repost from February, when LIGO reported its first observation of gravitational waves.  This is relevant because last month LIGO reported its second observation, also resulting from inspiraling black holes.

Today, the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) reported the first observation of gravitational waves. You can read about it in The New York Times (warning: autoplay), on Sean Carroll’s blog, or in comic form. I went straight to Physical Review Letters.

As an undergrad, I did some work on LIGO. Specifically, I was a data analyst looking for exactly the kinds of gravitational waves here observed. Anyway, I’m happy to play the role of your local expert, providing some context and answering any questions.

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Linkspam: July 11th, 2016

First, some blogging network news, FtB has added a handful of new bloggers.  You can follow FtB News to keep up to date on that sort of thing.

Also, last month Richard Carrier resigned from FtB last month amidst allegations of sexual harrassment, and here’s FtB’s official statement on the matter.  In case anyone is wondering about FtB’s governance structure, at the moment it’s an anarchy, but we’re aspiring towards more concrete policies.

Without further ado, here are a few links from the past month:

Erasing LGBTQ Muslims & Islamic Homophobia – Heina addresses the Orlando Nightclub shooting from a queer ex-Muslim perspective.

Sometimes, I think about this issue by making an analogy from Muslim/queer to atheist/woman. The sexism in atheist communities doesn’t justify anti-atheist hate, nor does it mean that “atheist woman” is a contradiction. At the same time, the topic of atheist sexism is one that needs addressing.

BTW if you haven’t figured it out by now, I almost never blog about current events. I don’t enjoy it.

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Non-binary people who aren’t trans

As it says on the sidebar, one of my most important activist projects has been analysis of ace community demographics. More specifically, I volunteer expertise for the AVEN Community Census. As far as activism goes, it isn’t as glamorous as blogging, but IMHO the glamour of survey analysis is way underrated.

Anyway, let’s talk about the results on gender from 2014:

gender history

This figure was originally published here, but I made a slight revision. The width of each line is proportional to the percentage of the ace community. The color of each line indicates how many people in that subgroup identify as trans or unsure. “Other” refers to people who indicated that they were neither men nor women, but throughout this post I will refer to this group as non-binary.*

Within this figure is a cross-section trans politics. The biggest surprise to me was how few non-binary people identify as trans. But I should first offer brief comments about other features of the data.
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Illustrating the Higgs mechanism, Part 2

Part 1 is a prerequisite to this post.

Global gauge symmetry

Previously, I talked about the “direction” of the Higgs field, but what does that even mean? It doesn’t refer to a direction in space. There’s hardly any meaning to the direction at all. In fact, I could go ahead and change all the directions and it wouldn’t matter at all.

Two rows of circles. In the top row, labeled A, the Higgs field is pointing to the upper right. In the bottom row, labeled B, the Higgs field is pointing down.Figure 6.
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