This is my personal thoughts, opinions and musings place. I will also rant about things, especially politically-correct things that irritate me. And sci-fi. Did I mention sci-fi? There'll be lots of sci-fi stuff here. And movies, too. Mmmmm... Movies

Monday, June 20, 2005

Reality and the world of 3D - Part 13

- Continued 3

If you have never read the previous parts of my “Reality and the world of 3D” essay, please take a moment and read them before continuing. All the links can be found in the sidebar on the right. Thank you very much.

The is infinitely diverse, and it is a diversity that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a computer to represent. Why? Because the Universe can be thought of as being analog, but computers are digital. This means that computers, while capable of coming close, cannot achieve the level of diversity that's easily achieved by the simplest objects in nature. Let's take a look at why.

For an example of the difference between and , let's look at something that's probably available in every home, a radio. Most people have had radios with analog tuners before, and may still have them to this day, and certainly many people now have digital tuners on their radios. Look at your analog radio. When you move the tuning dial, your radio is tuned to the exact frequency you choose, regardless of how fast or how slowly you turn the dial. You can tune to any frequency on the dial, including all of the in-between frequencies, limited by the fine-tuning dial and by your own ability. By contrast, digital tuners can only tune in to very specific frequencies. Most digital tuners tune to odd numbers such 103.1 or 107.1. They can also tune into 103.3 or 106.9. Some can tune to both even and odd numbers, but certainly nothing in between. But: when digital tuners tune to an exact frequency, it is that frequency and no other; with analog tuners, it's always questionable.

Let's now look at multi-meters. These devices measure voltage, resistance and current, and come in both analog and digital models. Just like the analog radios, analog multi-meters show exact values that exist on their scales, though sometimes they make reading the exact value a bit difficult. Digital multi-meters let you easily read the value, but it may not as accurate as a well-designed analog multi-meter. This is not to imply that analog is better than digital, only that it displays its values differently and often more precisely, though whether such exactness is required is a different question.

So, basically, what we're saying is that analog shows exact numbers of almost any complexity, while digital only shows discrete numbers within a certain precision. Put another way, analog can be represented by fractions(ie., one third, or 1/3), while digital represents only discrete values(ie., 0.3333333~). In many cases, where digital can represent whole numbers of sufficient size, it is far superior to analog. This is especially true in cases where information has to be transmitted.

One thing you must remember. Computers are incapable of representing fractional numbers as fractions. While it can be programmed to perform the formula “x=1/3 + 2/3” and come up with the answer of “1”, this is not a natural action for a computer. A computer wants to work with decimal numbers such 0.33333 and 0.66667 and it wants to round things to approximate the results when dealing with fractional numbers. This why, in many cases, financial calculations are performed with whole numbers rather than fractionals. So, instead of saying 1.05 for one dollar and five cents, the computer stores 105 for one hundred and five cents. In many instances, this is very advantageous, including 3D.

You may be asking yourself why we're spending so much time on differences between analog and digital. Computers are digital, so why worry about analog. Well, the reason I spend so much time dwelling on this subject is that I want you to understand how the reality of 3D computer graphics differs from the reality of the real world. Please stay tuned for more.

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