The Visualization of the Orb

I see the illustration of the Orb found on page 640 as being a series of IOIOIO repeating rather than 101010. To clarify, I mean that I recognize the characters as both the Greek letters I (iota) and O (omicron) and and their corresponding relatives in the modern alphabet.

Here are some thoughts about this interpretation (with information pulled directly from Wikipedia):

  • I/O as input/output – “the communication between an information processing system (such as a computer) and the outside world, possibly a human or another information processing system.”
  • The letter iota represents:
    • “the index generator function in APL (in the form ⍳)”
      • APL “is a programming language developed in the 1960s by Kenneth E. Iverson. Its central datatype is the multidimensional array. It uses a large range of special graphic symbols to represent most operators, giving very concise code. It has been an important influence on the development of concept modeling, spreadsheets, functional programming, and computer math packages.”
    • “the orbital inclination with respect to the line of sight, used when describing gravitational wave sources.”
  • The letter omicron is not used in math/science/engineering because it too closely resembles the letter O.
  • “In mathematics, big O notation describes the limiting behavior of a function when the argument tends towards a particular value or infinity, usually in terms of simpler functions.”
  • You could also look at Io one of Zeus’ lovers, Zeus as the nephew of Oceanus, Oceanus as the father of Xanthe, and make up some crazy theory about Xanther being “related” to the orb, but I don’t see that going very far.

We know that the Orb is a man-made computer(-like device), so I think all of this information could be helpful in interpreting the Orb (at least as much as is possible at this point).

Personally, I think it’s helpful to view the orb as an input/output device, as it allows the user (Catherine, in the narrative) to communicate with the world/universe in a unique way. Similarly, I like the potential correlation with APL, as it uses special characters to represent things, as the author does throughout the text.

Because the pages of the book are not very high quality, I include below an enhanced version of illustration alongside a more artistic interpretation in which I overlaid the image of the Orb over the moon Io. (I don’t think it has anything to do with the moon besides the name, but it looks nice.)




One response to “The Visualization of the Orb”

  1. tinuvielf says :

    It does indeed seem that this works well as an i/o stream, especially since the references to orbs throughout the text have been so fluid–raindrops, puddles, time’s passage, etc. Good point. I think it’s interesting that he chooses to reference the idea of binary language using an alphabetic one. It plays on the idea of there being 1’s and 0’s all the way down. Perhaps commenting that it’s somewhat arbitrary… or maybe it’s just an encouragement to indeed take a closer look at whatever image we come across. Things… are made of other things … are made of text. And numbers are text.

    I actually like that reference to Io. Wasn’t she chased around the world (an orb) by a gadfly?

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