The Nine Billion Names of God

Posted 8 Dec 2015 at 21:01 UTC by ringbark Share This

In 1953, Arthur C Clarke wrote a short story in which monks were proposing to automate the listing of the names of God, believed by them to be around nine billion. How would we get on doing this?

Listing the names of God is not so straightforward as might at first appear. The names appear to be of arbitrary length up to nine characters, but no character may appear more than 3 times in succession. So ABACUS is fine, ABACUUUUS is not. Nor is LONGABACUS.
Possible snags: Clarke doesn't tell us how many different characters the monks have in their alphabet. He also doesn't tell us whether by nine billion he means 9*10^9 or 9*10^12. I'm not sure how prevalent the so-called American billion was in 1953 as compared to the so-called European billion.
Now, I haven't printed them all out - that would be too much paper - but I have calculated how many names there would be for alphabets of different sizes. Unfortunately, no alphabet seems to produce anything close to what might informally be called "nine billion". So, did Clarke and the monks make a mistake, or did I? (Or, indeed, both parties here...)
If anyone fancies a little challenge, please post some thoughts or solutions in the comments. I will do so in about a week or when I remember, whichever is later.

I like these quotations, posted 10 Dec 2015 at 18:21 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.

It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God but to create him.

more there.

But once our forefathers created Almighty or his one and only son of God, all is not in vain again? not again?

9 billion reasons to write and a good one, posted 11 Jan 2016 at 17:26 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

My freshmeat translation in response to Bruce Humes recent report probing censorship atmosphere in China and beyond.

Afterwards: What motivates me to write erotic novel

Once a lady friend asked me: " I don't find it surprising that you can
write erotic tall tales, but why you need to ? To rid of your own sexual drives, perhaps ? Why? Tell me ?

Another female writer remarks, point blank ,' Your target readers are
between 35 to 55 years of middle-aged women. They are raising children,
taking care of their husband, struggling with their lost years and
despair, they need compassionate love. They need everyday romance and
sexual fantacy, not erotic novel from long dead place and time. You got it all wrong. You are digging your own grave.


What actually happens, from the very beginning of my messing with words
some twenty year ago, I write, not to expect writing will make me powerful
and famous and rich ; I write, not to bring others peace and justice. I
write, not to educate and illuminate masses. I write, for a simple enough
reason, that I need to find an outlet for myself , like being
pressed by a destiny: I am haunted by ghosty creatures, my pen charmed by dragon
and serpent's cunning ways. It is like to patch up some tiny cracks,
increasingly expanding, momentarily appearing and disappearing boundless
causes. For some split of seconds, I may have envied some other writers
accumulate mountainenous silver coins, so famous that they must wear
sunglasses for the sidewalks, at events of signing their books, thousands and
ten thousands hands dancing before their eyes, showered with stinky eggs,
soda bottles or flowers. But that is only for split of seconds. Most of
time, I remind myself, first, never forget that writing brings me pure,
granulate sugary joy to knock-off the earth just half an inch.

My brain is a burning refinery full of alchemist's catch, not a toast oven of one-sure-winner.

To Summerize what motivates me to write my erotic saga:


First, after《肉蒲团》, for two hundred years, there isn't any good erotic novel written in Chinese. Even in this noticable rendition, there is too much meandering, totalling 20 chapters, the first three chapter is all about proving that the book isn't an erotic tale but a beginner's guide to Buddism.

Secondly, it is not easy to write erotic relationship with words. To narrate base of human passion without overplay of pornography, with simple delight and ordinary pleasure of eating, drinking, bathing in the sun, taking a nap, is even more difficult. What I have in my hand, the novel 《不二》, is an experiment with such criterion.

Thirdly, when I was young, I watched a lot of cultural films as a way to ease the burden of growing up, I was struck by degree of deviations on people's mind, I've seen plenty of N-rated films, couldn't shake off their notion that masterbation is deemed un-natural. I've alway wondered why the storm can't be more intense? Why culturally pure and simple can't be mixed up with pronographic eroticism ? Thus, we'd give ourselves a better wholesome view of life to live? When it comes down to execute concrete arrangements, I discovered, this is quite a challenge, the path from spiritual to sensual as diverse, perverse and reverse is no less than crossing life unto death.

In the forth place, I am almost 40 years of age, if I don't write it now, in a few more years, even if my heart dares, my body shall be frail. This world may not get to see my hundred thousands monumental work. Modern medicine examines clearly that man also has menopause. "Old stalion knows it hasn't much time left, it kicks and gallops, needing no crop'.

第五,我们下一代这么美好,如果都靠看非我族类的日本AV和非我教义的基督教派的《查泰莱夫人的情人》和 《巴黎屋顶上》启蒙,作为中文作家,我内疚。
In the Fifth column, our next generation youths are beautiful. If they read only non-Chinese Japanese AV and non-oriental literature work from Christianity, e.g. 'Lady Charlotte's lover' and 'Rooftop of Paris', before experiencing life on their own, being a Chinese writer, I am guilty.

Last but not least, writing is a therapeutic process deployed to cure my middle-aged self from damages done by the early onset of anxiety attacks and depression.

As far as the stylish design of my writing 《不二》,I've undergone a lot of trial and error.

Foremost, after finishing 《北京,北京》, I decided I will not write any more fictions based on personal experience. The essential points have been sketched out. On the subject of the growing GreatWall, this triology of Beijing is out there, enough for people like myself to crawl out of, for the next two hundred years.

I shall write things that fascinated me most, outside of all existing biographical narratives. Incomprehensible force and demons conjuring up historical farce and reality, deflecting time and space, let me put them into this new triology. First Volume, 《不二》,focus on chaos and super-natual, sex and religion. Background set in the middle and late Tang dynasty. Second volume, 《天下卵》, focus on 'Force', assasination and sex, background set in 辽金. Volume Three, 《安阳》, focus on "Strangeness", concocted via medical science, metaphysical alchemist and ancient relics, background set in 夏商.

In the beginning was this arrangement, 《不二》divided into Part A and Part B. Part A is 禅宗 during the heydays till the late Tang dynasty, in capital city Xi'an, Part B is the other 禅宗 during the same period, residing in 敦煌. Part A, pure sensual, Part B pure spiritual. Sensuality in Part A would be as wild as late Tang era that I can't imagine it would be permitted to air out on the internet. Spirituality in Part B could be so dry and monotoneous that only those crazy nuts locked inside the Sixth branch of Beijing Hospital ( aka the crazy Sixth ) might possess certain steel attention to follow its beat from the beginning to the end. During the course of writing, more and more, this former arrangement makes me feel too imitable, too "sharp-cutting". So I decided to have droplets mixed into one steam, as it is now written, downpour of sensual and spiritual whenever it springs, to the end as it meant to be.

In the course of creative writing, I find plots are much easier to come up, the hard part is the actual filling of a glass with spirit, restorative and soothing substance, leaves rich, warm, mystical and foamy taste, or not.

This is the afterwards.

it's hard to define reason as 'good' or 'bad', posted 11 Jan 2016 at 18:20 UTC by badvogato » (Master)

good reason and bad reason are both unscientific , if not illegal. when we attempt to discuss any poetic vs. religious viewpoints voiced by soprano from each side.

what to do next, when all the reasons are present and sound ? That's a hard question. Multi-tasking is anti-humanity.

I am half-done translating this poem 'A Ritual to read to each other' by William Stafford into Chinese

I put a lot of consideration in the title. If it were 'A Ritual to Read to one another' instead of 'A Ritual to read to each other', the entire plot in Chinese rendition could be different could based on a theme borrowing heavily on fixed-terms exemplified by a match among two go masters? How different is the English phrase 'One Another' as oppose to 'Each Other' ? Are they the same? not quite the same? Depends on one's scope of inquiry and time limit?

I am sorely disappointed at this year's announcement of Chinese -> English translation posted on Last year's material was Okay, but this year? I dare not consider that style of reporting is within good wording, encouraging consideration from all sides. It almost drove me half dazed to consider submitting a troll to win an ignoble prize from the Leeds Univ.

a major diff, posted 11 Jan 2016 at 18:48 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

So I decided to have droplets mixed into one stream, as it is now written, downpour of sensual and spiritual spring whenever it bubbles up, whatever it meant to be, the end.

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