- Imagine Alice traveled back over 50,000 years
- to find her distant ancestor, Bob.
- Now, up until this time, human culture
- was relatively unsophisticated –
- utilizing the same primitive stone tools
- which went unchanged for thousands of years.
- But somewhere around 50,000 years ago,
- something interesting happened.
- And nobody knows, for sure, why.
- There was a sudden explosion of diverse cultural artifacts,
- including instruments for making music, new tools,
- and other forms of creative expression.
- Humans developed the ability
- to externalize their inner thoughts.
- They began to communicate using language.
- So, Alice begins her search by looking for water.
- She knows that human and animal populations
- tend to migrate towards and along rivers,
- which are the life blood of ecosystems.
- Eventually, she comes across an interesting marking –
- Bob's handprint.
- This marking contains very little information.
- Simply that he was here, and could possibly return.
- Alice knows Bob is equally intelligent.
- He can communicate orally –
- although his culture has not yet developed
- the ability to read or write in [its] native language.
- At the time, the universal written language was art.
- So she finds natural materials around her,
- to paint him a picture, in case he returns.
- She renders an animal she is tracking,
- hoping this will offer a clue
- about the direction she is traveling in the future.
- Our ancestors used natural materials
- to create pictorial representations of their reality.
- Here is an actual cave painting –
- from around 30,000 years ago –
- found preserved deep inside Chauvet cave, in France.
- Similar renderings are found in the caves of Spain as well.
- A common theme among these ancient paintings
- [is] animal forms, as well as the human hand –
- perhaps as a signature, a story, or a ritual calling.
- When Bob returns to the waterfall, he finds her painting,
- and proceeds towards the river,
- where he thinks she might be.
- When he arrives, he does not find her –
- though he finds a sign that she was here before.
- He decides to paint her a picture,
- explaining where he is going next,
- which is half-way up the river, towards the setting sun.
- He has little time to paint the picture, as night is approaching.
- Therefore, he needs a fast way to visualise his message.
- He thinks about it for a moment,
- and realizes his message only contains
- three distinct mental objects:
- 'middle' -- 'river' -- 'west'
- So he decides to use simplified pictures to represent them.
- For 'river,' he draws a symbol
- which resembles [a river's] natural form –
- known as a 'pictogram' – which is a drawing
- that resembles the physical object it represents.
- Pictograms are an important step in the evolution of writing.
- Here is a ceremonial slate palette, found in Egypt,
- dated before 3,000 BC.
- The surrounding scene shows a struggle
- between civilized humans
- and the wild and ferocious animals.
- However, it's difficult to draw pictures
- of abstract concepts – such as 'calm,' 'old,' 'dangerous' –
- or, in Bob's case, 'middle.'
- For this, he draws a line with a box over the middle.
- It represents 'half way.'
- This is known as an 'ideogram' –
- or a conceptual picture of an abstract idea.
- Here is an example of the same symbol
- on an ancient Chinese bronze inscription.
- For the idea of 'west,'
- he decides on a picture of the setting sun.
- Now he does something interesting.
- He combines these individual symbols –
- in terms of their meaning – to create a message.
- Meaning plus meaning equals new meaning.
- He leaves this in hope of Alice finding it.
- Some of the earliest artifacts of this symbolic merging
- are found in ancient Mesopotamia – now modern Iraq –
- home of the Sumerians.
- This is the birthplace
- of many of the world's earliest civilizations.
- Here we find clay accounting tablets, which are some of
- the oldest written documents ever found –
- some dating before 3,000 BC.
- The rectangular tablets record the payments in cattle,
- shipments of cattle to shepherds for fattening,
- and gifts of cattle as an offering.
- Notice that, instead of drawing a picture of ten sheep,
- they draw a symbol representing '10' –
- using small notches –
- and another symbol representing 'sheep' or 'donkey,'
- meaning, simply, '10 sheep.'
- We call this 'proto-writing.'
- Finally, Alice returns to the base of the river,
- and finds Bob's message.
- She interprets the meaning correctly:
- 'half-way, west, down the river.'
- So, she marches down river, towards the setting sun,
- and eventually they finally meet.
- Over time, Bob learns to speak Alice's language,
- allowing them to use the same oral language
- to communicate shared concepts and ideas.
- This gives them an idea –
- the root of a more powerful written language.
- It starts with something very simple – writing her name.
- She disassociates the sound from the picture,
- for her name, Alice.
- (Alice ... Al – ice)
- She combines the mathematical symbol for 'all'
- and the picture of 'ice.'
- 'All ice.'
- Notice her name has nothing to do
- with the individual symbols.
- Sound plus sound equals new meaning.
- This is known as the 'Rebus principle.'
- A great example of this was found in Egypt,
- along the Nile river.
- Dated to aroung 3100 BC, it contains some of the
- earliest hieroglyphic insciptions ever found.
- 'The Narmer Pallette' depicts
- the Egyptian pharaoh, 'Narmer.'
- On the back, we see him to the left of a kneeling prisoner,
- who is about to be struck down by Narmer –
- who we see standing tall, wearing a crown.
- What we are looking for is on the other side.
- Between the two bovine heads at the top,
- we see an inscription of his name.
- It's written as a fish and a chisel –
- which translates to 'Nar Mer' –
- Two sounds – separated from the pictures –
- together, giving new meaning –
- a key development in the history of written language.
- But before they could advance
- towards what we know of as an 'alphabet,'
- something had to happen.
- They needed to save time.
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At 5:31, how is the moon large enough to block the sun? Isn't the sun way larger?
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When naming a variable, it is okay to use most letters, but some are reserved, like 'e', which represents the value 2.7831...
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This is great, I finally understand quadratic functions!
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At 2:33, Sal said "single bonds" but meant "covalent bonds."
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