Exactly One Pterodactyl, For Clarity’s Sake

Posted on February 12, 2005 by Jenna

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“Grod suffers a great disturbance,” says Grod.


“Grod has three stone axes here,” Grod says. He indicates one wall.

“Ungh,” agrees Og.

“Grod has two stone axes there,” Grod says. He indicates another wall.


“Grod counts the axes in both places. Grod receives a number: five.”

“Grod amazing grasp mathematics,” sarcasms Og.

“Now Grod piles all the axes in one place.” Grod does so. “Grod counts. Five axes.”


“But there were five axes before Grod counted,” Grod says. “When Grod piled up the axes, there were five already. The world took no time to count them. It simply knew.”

“Maybe it took a short time. One, two seconds.”

Grod looks distressed. “Grod practiced counting faster and faster but never beat the world.”

“When Og was young,” Og says, “we had no luxury for slow Grodlike counting. We’d kill one dinosaur. Then we’d kill another. We’d count the corpses very quickly. There’d only be one! Then the world would catch up. There’d be two.”

Grod snorts. “Dinosaurs were extinct millions of years before Og.”

Og grabs Broderick. Broderick is a parrot. “Explain Broderick, then!”

Broderick squawks.

“Parrot,” offers Grod.

“Evolved dinosaur.”


Og throws Broderick very fast. “Velociraptor.”

“Grod still skeptical,” concludes Grod.

Broderick squawks further.

“Also cave painting,” says Og.

Og points at a vivid cave painting. It depicts Og killing hundreds of dinosaurs and laughing maniacally. Next to his head is the primitive ideograph for “Bwahaha! I am invincible!”

“Og has a vivid imagination,” concludes Grod. “Perhaps Jod should apply lightning treatment to let the excess imagination out.”

“Grod’s philosophy insufficient to explain Og’s life experience,” handwaves Og.

“It makes no sense,” complains Grod. He scratches under his tiger skin. “Computation requires time. It is parallel to physical labor. So how can the world do it instantly?”

Og takes pity on Grod.

“‘Five’ is not part of the physical world,” Og says. “‘Five’ is structured information. The axes are data. Changing data is always a minimal computation. But they are not ‘five’ until Grod sees axes and creates the information of their number.”

“Oh,” says Grod. “If Grod cannot see one axe, then Grod’s informational universe only has ‘four’ axes even if the underlying data indicates five. The world isn’t counting at all!”

“Ungh,” agrees Og.

In the distance, a pterodactyl screams.