chapter three - glory in life

this amulet is a simple token which proves my love's truth

The SHA-256 hash function is used everywhere in cryptography. Give it some data and it will produce a mix of letters and numbers which is a unique "fingerprint" that identifies the data you gave it and only that data. Robin Sloan made an amazing site that lets you find "amulets" with strings of words as the data being passed into this hash function. An amulet is any string that produces at least four 8's in a row, because 8 is a lucky number for many. He writes:

"The hash provides an immutable link between unique cryptographic object and free-floating digital media.

The amulet asks: what if we took that link seriously?

In a sense, the definition of the SHA-256 hash function created, at a stroke, all amulets of all rarities. Common to mythic, trashy to lovely, they have been hiding in the manifold combinations of language; we just didn’t know we ought to be looking for them. Until now!"

"The manifold combinations of language" is exactly what The Library of Babel is about too, only in a slightly different and more hexagonal imaginative space. Bringing these two infinitely combinatorial spaces together is enormously fun. Moreover, the first guardian of this chapter ran a script on The Blue Book, found all the amulet strings in there, and told me about them. However, his script had an issue handling commas and so many of the amulets he found were incomplete. I now return two of these to him, completed, at a very particular moment in his life.

The simple fact of these two amulets existing together with an ultrasound is so unlikely that it beggars belief. And that is exactly the point. To quote a potter I love, "it is the not the world that veils reality. The world is shining with its reality, as its reality. It is belief that veils reality, or seems to."

chapter four