Thursday, July 22, 2010

Narrated Algebraic Chess Notation Chessboard

More on the IRSA/ICAO Spelling Alphabet from Wikipedia:

The ICAO spelling alphabet assigns code words to the letters of the English alphabet acrophonically so that critical combinations of letters can be pronounced and understood by those who transmit and receive voice messages by radio or telephone regardless of their native language. The paramount reason is to ensure intelligibility of voice signals over radio links.
After the (IRSA) alphabet was developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) [and implemented by ICAO March 1956] it was adopted by many other international and national organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Narrated Chess can be Hazardous to the Listener


Speaking as a fan and occasional player of the fascinating International Worldwide Game of Chess, I have a few observations to share.

First, let me say, for us chess fans, computers and the net have revolutionized our experience. My favorite is YouTube which carries wonderful videos made by good chess players who are also good communicators. The video reports of chess matches, classic games, and personal or locational sidelights are entertaining interesting and educational. A wonderful use of the YouTube medium.

As a frequent listener to chess videos, I have noticed an interesting problem. Hence this article.

So, here goes….

When we chess folk communicate about chess, we use chess notation to record and describe the move-by-move progress of a given chess game. Chess notation has a long, varied, and interesting history. In the modern era, since the 1980’s or so, algebraic notation has become standard. Having nothing to do with mathematical algebra, algebraic notation makes use of a coded alphanumeric coordinate system for locating squares on the chessboard. The eight ranks (rows) are labeled 1 through 8 and the eight files (columns) lettered “a” through “h.”

Chessboards often have these coordinate numbers and letters printed along the edges. Thrown into the mix are the code letters for the chess pieces R,B,N,K,Q, except for pawns. Pawns are anonymous in algebraic notation, as befits their low status. If White advances the pawn in front of his king by two squares, algebraic notation for the move is e2-e4 or simply e4.

Algebraic notation is the current favorite for written chess, along with its fun variant, figurine algebraic notation. Figurine algebraic on the printed page mixes tiny color-coded icon images of chess pieces, the figurines, with algebraic chess board coordinates making for pleasingly mysterious hieroglyphics. Computer chess applications code chess data in files using specialized formats such as the pgn format. Chess fans know this stuff inside out.

However, when it comes to speaking and listening, we chess folk have a problem, a failure to communicate. The spoken language of chess is much less developed than the written one, and chess language in its present form has flaws. That’s the problem I want to examine in this article.

When talking about chess moves we use spoken algebraic notation, what we might call narrated algebraic. In narrated algebraic, we pronounce the English names of English letters along with the English names of the numbers 1 through 8. The trouble is, spoken letter and number combinations often sound awkward, and very often result in ambiguous sounds. Especially so, for network audio streams having limited bandwidth and background noise.

Come to think of it, all audio streams have both above properties, but anyhow, I think you get my drift. Listening to narrated algebraic chess speech is tough going. The letters b, c, d, e, and g sound alike and are easily confused when spoken casually. And it’s worse over a noisy audio channel. Another problem is “h.” “h” is awkward to pronounce. Not to mention “f” and “a,” neither of which are pieces of cake.

Narrated algebraic requires pronounced letters to be combined with pronounced numbers with silent pauses in between. This creates additional hazards for the listener. “f6” and “h8” especially so, among many others. Are you with me? Ok then.

Compounding the problem is the scarcity of context clues in chess speak. In normal conversation, spoken words have a natural grammatical syntax which provides a stream of context for each audible sound. The listener gets an unconscious version of what computer guys call error correction. The, “Oh! That’s what he meant by that…” moment, where it takes a half second to figure out what was intended by the speaker. This along with a continuous flow of percollating sub-awarenesses all contribute to our perception of continuous speech comprehension.

Narrated algebraic as it presently exists, is simply not a very good way of transmitting chess moves through speech. The spoken letters are hard to distinguish and there’s no error correction. And it’s even worse in audio streaming. All this makes listening to narrated chess games difficult: perhaps needlessly difficult.

So is there no hope? Will we chess fans continue to suffer forever with geeethreee ceeethree aaichaate?

I say, “Maybe not.”

The problem of communication over noisy audio channels is important to others. In the military and in aviation, noisy radio channels are used in critical, and even life-death situations where errors could be fatal, or worse.

What did they do about it?

Interestingly, they developed a phonetic coded alphabet. It’s called the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet (IRSA). It’s what air traffic controllers use to talk to the captain of your flight from Chicago to Boston. Most people have heard this lingo on TV or movies, or listening to the ATC channel on a flight.

So we have the IRSA phonetic system, a tried-and-true effective and reliable means of spoken communication over noisy channels. And it sounds cool! Hmmm, so if we took the IRSA system ...... and combined it with ……ummmm well….

So here you go…

Chess board files labeled: a b c d e f g h in algebraic, become alpha bravo charlie delta echo foxtrot golf hotel in IRSA algebraic. Cool!

Speaking casually about last night’s club game, Alex says, “Yeah, he played echo 4 and I played charlie 5. Then he played Knight foxtrot 3 and the game continued Knight charlie 6, bravo 3, … “

Hmmm… better than eee4 ceee5? For speech communication?

Yes, it is for sure more intelligible over audio channels. Maybe we have a possible solution to an outstanding problem in Chess communication. Perhaps not an optimal solution, but I believe it or some variant could be of great value to chess players and chess fans everywhere.

Ok. Now there are fun things you can do with this concept. How about other options?

Would "Knight Alekhine 3 to Capablanca 4," "Knight to Fischer 3," or "pawn to Euwe 4" work? No, too geeky. Hmmm, for chessplayers geeky maybe a positive connotation. So maybe.
Or there’s Pawn to King Four, Knight to King Bishop three, … No?

Well, ‘Splain me your ideas, comments and suggestions.
Over and Out.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Discussion & Comments from YouTube Video

Great NASA Video on YouTube:
Ten Cool Things Seen in the First Year of LRO.

LRO stands for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, an orbital satellite that is mapping the Lunar Surface.

The Moon is approximated as a two dimensional surface, a 2-Sphere, with an altitude recorded as a function of the lunar latitude (THETA) and longitude (PHI). THETA and PHI are periodic polar coordinates. In time, LRO will cover the entire lunar surface by following its trajectory, a one dimensional curve in space.

This raises an interesting problem in differential geometry. The distance along the curve is a scalar function of time, S(t), obtainable from the metric. At each instant the LRO is located at a particular point on the 2-Sphere, [THETA(S(t)), PHI(S(t))].

So here’s the tricky question: How can the two dimensional surface of the moon, a 2-Sphere, be completely covered by a one dimensional curve (the LRO orbit)?

Comments and discussion welcome. Answer to follow in this space.
Mathview's Channel on YouTube:

Hints: “differential” "Ergodic Curves"
Another Hint: Consider an ergodic orbit.
Take a spool of thread and tack the end to the north pole of the moon. Then start wrapping on great circles through both poles. Pick any point on the lunar surface, as you keep winding you can always come arbitrarily close to that chosen point, IF the winding law gives an ergodic covering of the 2D surface. So a one dimensional string of infinite length covers a 2D surface.
Each point on the surface has a "string length coordinate" given by the distance along the string. The "coordinate of the point" is the distance along the string between the origin at the north pole (say) and the point on the string that is "sufficiently close" to the point on the surface.
The reason this is not a "good" coordinate system is that it is non-local. An adjacent point in the neighborhood of a point may have a wildly different string length coordinate. So the string length coordinate system cannot be used for calculus on the 2D surface.
Anyhow, I think these strings are quite interesting. Poincare used a shrinking loop of string to determine the connectedness of manifolds. Also, it would be interesting to know the geometric flow PDEquation for a string embedded on a higher dimensional manifold. And is the geometric flow equivalent to a classical string theory? Specifically, is there a Lagrangian formulation leading to the geometric flow equations? And so on... Of course, experts know the answer to this one, I suppose.
But I digress...

Watch this video first:

A few observations. The surface is covered with fine dust. I guess it must be micro-meteoric and ejecta from macro-meteor impacts. Micrometeors don't reach us here on Earth, they burn up. It seems to me that excavations on the moon would tell us alot about the history of the solar system. Events such as epochs of cometary bombardment would leave a stratigraphic record unlike anything we can get on Earth. In short send drill core crew to the Moon. Also, looks to me like there was an ocean on the back side.

@Mathview From memory... That ocean looking thing on the far side is actually the remnants of a molten ocean after a collision or impact from a comet or meteor. Same as on the near side. And the core drill would have to be VERY long to get anything useful as most of the surface is dust... Very fine dust. And that is rather deep in places.

TY Useful stuff on the Maria. As to Dust, Dust is a good thing to study. It seems likely that lunar stratigraphy would be a great way of getting a ~10^9 year record of dust flux and composition in our solar system. Further, there will be a record of ejecta of earth origin, e.g. big volcanic and big impact. The lack of wind and water erosion on the moon suggests an undisturbed stratigraphy and geochronology of dust deposits. A real treasure trove.

Makes sense... I would suppose that you would get a chalky limestone (in texture only of course) stratification once you went down a meter or so... Yes, it would be a huge bonus to the understanding of how the solar system formed. The fact that there is no geological movement gives us an unprecedented ability to study impacts also. Makes you cry at the whole "never been back" thing.

Oh yes, now I'm Sad. But policy can change, President and Congress will change. So it's likely we will go back after all. LRO and LCROSS Amazing! Rocket from earth to the moon, creating an orbiting robotic laboratory, water impact experiments, precision maps of the the lunar surface of unprecedented quality, so smooth it is almost routine to go to the Moon. TY for the discussion.

I wonder how the coldest place in the solar system is on the moon? You would think one of those ice moons or even something closer to the edge of the solar system would be colder....