Passage #158: 25 July 2012

On the Discretization of Continuous Features

Time, of course, is not discrete, but since we are determined to mark its passing, we must somehow divide it up and number the pieces. The ways in which we have solved this problem are many and varied -- by counting revolutions, rotations and atomic vibrations; with drips of water and grains of sand; using electrical pulses and ratcheting of gears; and also with cakes.

Birthday cakes, it's true, are not the most convenient means of marking the time. They are a solution that itself becomes a new problem to be solved. For one thing, they must be cut up to be shared (and a birthday cake that is not being shared is a sad cake indeed). But they are also not the easiest things to get around on a bicycle, which is a task of great concern to us -- in the general sense, certainly, but also in the specific case of this week, in which we have a birthday to celebrate.

But of course, we are clever apes with opposable thumbs, and we are able to solve the problems that we create for ourselves. How on earth will we ever manage this, you ask? Well, you'll just have to come out and see.

Yes. There will be cake. There will also be a bike ride. And bowling.

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