Sunday, January 27, 2008

talk binary to me

so there are rumors swirling about radiohead's "Tenspirasy", and the link between OK Computer, an album released 10 years ago, and their most recent album, In Rainbows which was released this last October 10th, on 10 servers, each album having 10 songs, 10 letters in the title etc. etc.

The theory gets stranger and here is a very inelegant link that talks about it here:

the band aren't really trying to deny that they are trying to send a message here.

as Rufus may have mentioned a while back, I am a massive fan. This is primarily directed to Greg, who I hear is pretty much a genius at mathy things. Do you know much about binary? Or Holly? (binary is related to computer stuff?) Anyone? Forgive me, both of you if I'm offending your sensibilities by assuming you know things that are totally not even close to what you study.
In the meantime, I'm going to play around with my iPod and see what's what with the new playlist. more from rufus in a second.



Holly said...


I offer you these items, in reply to your question:

1. Year Zero is (was?) an "alternate reality game"/viral marketing activity surrounding Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails. I suspect Radiohead may be engaging in this sort of thing, based on what you've written here.

2. This t-shirt explains most of what I understand about binary counting.

3. I have a BFA, which means I actually got a special dispensation from the government not to do math. ;)

4. Good luck! If they're actually doing an ARG, it's likely to be devilishly hard to figure out what's going on.

gregvw said...

You know, as soon as I saw you linked to a picture of a T-shirt, I was already certain that it would be a 10 kinds of person joke.

Yes, I have had coursework in computer logic back in the days of coal-burning mainframes. Did you wish to know something in particular? Boolean algebra is, despite its formidable-sounding name, one of less brow-furrowing flavors of mathematics.

clairev said...

Holly: If they are doing an ARG, or something down those lines, them being Radiohead, it will not only be difficult to figure it out, but it will be SO brilliant once someone does. This is why I adore the band.

Plus, ten years in the making waiting for us to figure it out? Wow.

Greg: At one point I took a CS class and learned about 0's and 1's and how a 1 represented a something switched on and a 0 something not (this is fuzzy, forgive me) I remember learning/surmising (perhaps incorrectly) that some people could read sequences of 0's and 1's and understand it as a language related to computers.

The main themes of Radiohead's work are alienation, paranoia, dystopic suburban lifestyles related to the modern way of living, leftist political commentary and of course, sweet killer jams. they don't really talk about what they write about directly though. ever. it is left to us to interpret.

i wonder if they're telling us something more, something direct, through code. it's something i could conceive them doing.

my long winded question to you is, is it possible to communicate in binary? how does it translate from letters to numbers (or does it?)

um. i hope my rambles made some modicum of sense.


gregvw said...

is it possible to communicate in binary

It sure is. If it weren't we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Digital communication, while suggestion base 10 as we have 10 digits, actually refers to transmission of information which has been discritized as binary information.

Your Radiohead CDs and MP3s are also binary data. Binary, however, is not the representation of information that the brain likes. The brain likes frequency-based sensory input such as colors, which are different frequencies of light and it interprets music based on frequency.

Here is how digital (binary) representation of music works:

You sing into a microphone and the membrane vibrates as it is hit by the compressed waves of air. A transducer turns this into an analog electrical signal. Excluding noise and loss this signal can be directly turned back into sound with a speaker (and possibly an amplifier). Digital storage requires a device which converts analog to digital signals. The way an Analog-to-digital converter works is a represent the voltage (amplitude) of the signal by a discrete number at discrete sampling intervals. All of these numbers are saved as a series of binary bits in you MP3 player or CD
to be reconverted into intelligible information by a digital-to-analog converter.

As far as translating binary to text, here is the standard:

clairev said...

your post will take about 50 more readings and word look-ups for me to understand, but for now I get the jist. This makes me most confident that sneaky Thom & co. have had something up their sleeve for a while. I thank you for your time and expertise. Rufus said that he and you will start a lab somewhere in the alps one day. He didn't elaborate, but I wouldn't put it past either of you.


gregvw said...

An interesting proposition. I'm game.