Such was the advertising blurb for The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which – if my virtual life is anything to go by – means that most of us who frequent SL on a regular basis should probably be making our table reservations already.
Much of what goes on routinely in SL would be pretty much impossible in the real world. Even the most simple of everyday activities have something of the magical about them – changing socks, for example, is a quick double-click and poof! we’re wearing them. Teleporting, flying, dancing all night without any need to sit down or go to the loo: All pretty much impossible in RL, yet we don’t think twice about them when we’re inworld. Then there’s our virtual surroundings, much of which is patently impossible and defies the laws of nature, physics and sanity much of the time.
But hey, this isn’t the real world – this is SL, no more real in certain important aspects than a painting. It can be whatever we want, and little concerns like something being impossible in RL can be sneered at and paid no heed.
So let’s bring this a little closer to reality – because SL is more than capable of teasing things out of us that, in any other circumstances, we would consider impossible, or at the very least, highly improbable. Let me give you a personal example…
Let’s travel back through the mists of time to my school days. I wasn’t a huge fan of school – actually, I spent most of my time gazing out of windows, getting beaten up, and coming up with new and devious ways to get out of double games on a Friday afternoon. It didn’t really matter that much to me – as far as I was concerned, learning was boring, pointless and a bit of a waste of time. In fact, when exam time came I never bothered with revision or studying, it seemed a bit of a pointless exercise, a view I still hold today, since I sailed through every one of my exams with decent results, despite not bothering to prepare for them at all.
All apart from one subject – maths: My nemesis. Just as Doctor Who had the daleks, Superman had Lex Luthor and Coke had Pepsi; my arch enemy was mathematics. It could reduce me to a quivering mass of jelly with a simple equation, and to this day it can still send me running to the hills. Trigonometry rendered me insensible, quadratic equations messed with my head, geometry baffled me and algebra may as well have been witchcraft as far as I was concerned; even long division utterly defeated me. Unfortunately, it’s not a subject I could get away with failing and with me facing the ignominy of being forced to resit when I inevitable was bound to happen when I would completely balls up the exam, my parents resorted to extreme measures… after school additional tutoring for six months. It worked – I scraped through on my next attempt, but I can’t say I actually learned anything, other than I would never be any good at maths.
In many ways, I feel I’ve had the last laugh – not once in the real world have I ever had cause to employ a Venn diagram or solve a simultaneous equation, (not that I’d have any idea how to!), in the whole of my adult life. At least, that was the case until I was ensnared by SL.
The trouble with SL is that there are some things you just have to deal with if you intend pursuing your goals. If you’re going to attempt to build anything more complex than plywood boxes, for example, you’re going to have to accept that a modicum of mathematical knowledge is very much a pre-requisite – once you start messing with circles, angles, spirals and all that other interesting primmage that are necessities for the jobbing virtual builder, you can’t escape the fact that maths – the complicated kind – is going to terrorise, challenge and otherwise torment you, if you’re really serious about getting anything done. Then there’s the horrors of scripting… axes, rotations, vectors, radians, velocities, llTargetOmega, and good old Boolean, binary and unary operators.
To a mathematical numpty like me, SL is hell!
Even just looking at what I’ve just written brings me out in a cold sweat, because all of those bizarre and terrifying rules and concepts are – as far as I’m concerned – completely and utterly entrenched in the realm of the impossible.
However, somehow SL has done what years of schooling, after-school tutoring, blood, sweat, tears and desperation could never achieve: It’s made me face up to those nasty and terrifying mathematical monsters and slowly, ever so slowly, I’m taming them. Even more remarkable, I’m sort of enjoying the challenge; I find it interesting, fascinating even, how those figures and letters and degrees interact and make things happen – that’s more than impossible, it’s a complete and unequivocal miracle!
So, yes, it may not be earth-shattering, but in my mind I’ve done at least six impossible things this morning, and there’s plenty more to come… I’ve earned my bacon and eggs at Milliways today!
I was just guessing at numbers and figures
Pulling your puzzles apart
Questions of science; science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
Coldplay – The Scientist