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treble, songworm

Brain index?

Sometimes I wonder how my mind is organized, so that some surprising things come instantly and others take forever. This morning, packing up to leave Baycon, was typical in the number of things I realized I could have said in a wittier or kinder way, as if the smart part of me was running some inefficient search that took all night. Maybe that's why I like songwriting, where I get to take as long as I like to come up with the right thing to say. And yet, at a songwriting workshop yesterday, when we agreed to set ourselves the task of writing a parody of some Beatles song and then arbitrarily chose "allergies" as our topic when someone happened
to sneeze, it took about five seconds for me and at least one of the other parodists on the panel to simultaneously identify which Beatles song would work best for that. (It was based just on the title having three syllables with the right stresses, but still! Also, it has a tone of ruefulness that most Beatles songs don't.)

When you type a word into Google, it finds a match in a split second. You know it's not looking through zillions of documents cover to cover everytime someone searches, right? Their data centers are powerful, but not that powerful. They're using some kind of precomputed index, so if you type in a word like "zeugma" it remembers all the documents that contain that word, which narrows down searches for combinations with other words like "Flanders". It doesn't search cover to cover twice and compare the two lists, which would take a zillion squared operations, or "Order N squared".

So does my frequent esprit d'escalier mean I'm running an overnight batch job with an O(N2) algorithm? And do the brains of inveterate parodists contain an index or songs by metric pattern or what?


Did you know that a study showed that taxi drivers actually grew brain tissue as a result of memorizing the street map of London?
Nope! But I'm not surprised. It's been proven by studies (including that one, presumably) that the Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes theory of mental clutter is exactly backwards--that far from filling the brain with extra stuff and not leaving room for the things you want, that instead all learning improves the ability of the brain to learn and recall stuff; presumably growing new brain matter is part of the mechanism for that.