I prefer lists to be either five or ten items, otherwise it just feels lazy and incomplete; but, this list had only six. But, considering that it was about incomplete lists, it feels kind of apt that I never finished it. So, I get to add this very blog post as the first item on this list. So, I hope you enjoy:
7. The Top 6 Lists you Didn't Know were Incomplete
I only had six, and this makes up the seventh, but I am sure there are more items to this list. If you know any more, feel free to let me know. But keep in mind that the fact that this is incomplete is kinda the point.
See, you know some famous lists, you may even know them all. Like, "Snow White and the Seven dwarves"; "the Five stages of Grief"; "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". These lists are so famous, you don't even think of them as being lists, they are more akin to common knowledge or elements of the cultural zeitgeist.
But, a lot of people don't know the full truth of these lists. Some people don't realize that the fives stages of grief are not always so clear, and some people only experience three or four; some people think that the four horsemen are War, Death, Famine and Pestilence, although the only two named Horsemen are Conquest and Death, the other two wield a sword and carry scales, and their names are never stated & finally, there are only six dwarves, Dopey actually suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder caused by having partial chromosomal deficiency, which results in cognitive disabilities and short stature.
Okay, I made one of those up, but the point is that we can't always trust common knowledge. Some of the things we consider to be fact may in fact be . . . apocryphal. Well, that was a forced transition. The Word of the Day is: 'APOCRYPHA'
Apocrypha /ə'pokrəfə/ pl. n. 1. (cap.) A group of 14 books, not considered canonical, included in the Septuagint and the Vulgate as part of the Old Testament, but usually omitted from Protestant editions of the Bible. 2. Works whose author or truth is in question. 3. Various writings, statements, etc. of uncertain origin regarded by some as canonical, but rejected by most authorities.
This all began because I was thinking about the Three Musketeers. You see, as a child, I watched a ridiculous show called "Albert the Fifth Musketeer", about musket-wielding wards that shot spaghetti, because as we all know it's more important to miseducate a child than it is to possibly upset them with the concept of artillery. But, even as a kid I'd heard of the three musketeers. Since "Albert" was the fifth, I wondered which of the other four were fake too (Yes, I did indeed understand basic mathematics). But after looking into it recently I discovered that the answer is, none of the others were fake, the original story was about how D'Artagnan joins the other three Musketeers to become the fourth. So, in writing this post, I was wondering how many other "famous groups" had unknown outliers that were just as official.
The musketeers are a poor example, because most people seem to know that there are actually four, and it's pretty official so that does not make it onto this list. I decided to look for other lists with an unknown outlier. As I have already said there may be more, but do not worry . . . I already concede that this list is certainly incomplete. So, here are what I have found . . .
6. The 12 Signs of the Zodiac
Twelve, it is such a powerful, evocative number. It's the number of o'clocks on the analogue clockface; it's the number of months in a year and it's the number of days of Christmas, so it sounds like a strong foundation. So, what would you say if I told you there were actually thirteen?
Since the first millennium in Babylon, there were declared to be twelve celestial "zones" in the firmament, so who am I to defy that? I mean, each sign of the zodiac has its own period - pick up a newspaper it will tell you the period of your zodiac - each sign represents approximately 30 days, it covers the year entirely, where would another zodiac sign even fit in? Well, I am just a man with an internet connection, but this is what I have found . . .
See, the reason we consider the twelve signs of the zodiac to be such a perfect, unshakeable foundation is because we don't understand where it comes from. The Zodiac, whilst today considered a little dalliance into divination and fun fortune-telling, was once a very serious measurement of the sky. People that stayed up all night looking at the sky realized that the arrangements of the stars does not change, so they started to record the arrangements of the most prevalent stars. By so doing this, they discovered that the world turned, not just spun around its axis with night and day, but that it span around the sun, as different parts of the sky became more or less visible as the year bore on; this was an amazing scientific breakthrough, and they used this knowledge to measure time. But, how did they tell which part of the year they were in? Well, simple, they looked in the sky to see where the sun was, and referred to their maps to see which constellation was hidden behind it. But, because of the way the world "wobbles" (which creates the seasons, but that's a whole other science) this meant that the sun followed a wavy line through the sky and that line passed over twelve of the constellations which they had mapped out, which is best illustrated in this diagram of the constellatory map. But, if you do look at that map, you will see two important things. Firstly, that the constellations are different sizes - the periods of the zodiac were decided due to pragmatism, not accuracy - astronomically the roughly divided into 12 groups of as little as 7 and as many as 45 days when the constellations occupy that tropic of the sky; and secondly, that there is indeed a thirteenth constellation which is a part of that ecliptic; it's not even like it's the smallest, Scorpio occupies the ecliptic for only 7 days, the thirteenth sign lasts over twice that at 18 days.
This sign is known as Ophiuchus, it is represented by the symbol ⛎, and the constellation itself is said to represent a man holding a snake. Now, the zodiac and horoscopes and astrology . . . that's all just silly fun, this information isn't relevant, because this is astronomy, not astrology, you don't need to change anything. However, if you think astronomy is bunkem, but still find the zodiac interesting, perhaps you would prefer the astrological signs of the zodiac, and if you were born between the 30th of November and the 17th of December, you were born under the thirteenth sign of the zodiac; and if you want to know more about the astrological zodiac, you will find this data very interesting.
5. The 5 Human Senses
What are the five senses? Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch & Sound. It's pretty simple isn't it, there are five - there's one for each finger on your hand, it's so easy to count to five. And not only that, it covers everything, right? You see, hear, feel . . . how many other senses could there possibly be?
Well . . . fourteen. BUT, that's a bit of a stretch, because it not only counts the senses we have, but also the senses we could have (like sensing magnetism, electricity, ionic change, etc.), so I'm going to be very kind, and lower that down to just six, because humans only have about six senses that we tend to ignore. That's eleven total senses you have, how fun! But, how come you've never felt them before?
Well, the answer is, you have! But, you were not used to considering these feelings with more precise words. Language is powerful, and when we lack the words to describe a sensation, it is as though it does not exist. The first thing you need to understand is that the sense of touch is incredibly complicated, and a lot of the things which people say they "feel", they would associate with a sense of touch, but that alone is not precisely accurate. Let's first re-understand what we know. We have five senses, but see, smell, hearing? These are childish terms, let's use the more accurate terminology: Ophthalmoception (sight), Audioception (hearing), Gustaoception (taste), Olfacoception (smell), and Tactioception (touch). Now, tactio comes from the same word root as tactile, it is something physically applied to your skin, touch and pressure (some would even class pressure as a separate sense, but today I will not). But, what about hot and cold?
Thermoception is our sense of temperature, and it is not just hot stuff pressed to our skin, it's internal body temperature, the temperature of the surrounding air, this is more than just something you feel. Next, pain, we "feel" pain, but pain isn't something we touch; Nociception is our measure of physiological pain, from cuts to joint pain to a stomach ache or a broken foot, it's not touch, it's a warning system of physical or internal damage. Then, there is hand-eye co-ordination, knowing where the different parts of your body are, also known as Proprioception; this kinesthetic sense still exists in blind people and people with no sense of touch, it is a sensation entirely separate again. Then, a sense of balance, this senses your orientation, making you stand upright as well as detecting momentum, and this is known as Equilibrioception, it's actually sensed within your inner ear in the vestibulum, and this used in tandem with spatial cognition is what gives people a sense of direction. Then, there is Chronoception, an understanding of now, what just happened and that something will happen later, we don't see, smell or taste time, but we do perceive it, we sense the days go by. Finally, there is a fun one called Mechanoreception, this relates to the sensation of pressure or distortion, such as twisting, vibration or mechanical stress on your body; now, in general, this deals with pressure which I generally consider to be "touch", but something else that this deals with is stretching, especially internally such as your pulse or a full stomach, but also vibration. This is not just rapid touch and release, or resting against a running tractor to make you shake, when you run your hands along a coarse surface, your fingers feel the friction as vibration. You sense the finer textures not through physical, moving points of tactile pressure, but by subconscious calculation of the vibrations you feel through the sensitivity of your skin.
So, when someone asks you what senses you have, the answer is not five, it's eleven: Sound, Sight, Touch, Taste, Smell, Heat, Pain, Orientation, Balance, Time & Vibration. Or twelve if you consider pressure to be its own sense as well. Or nineteen, if you include the animal-specific sensations of pheromones, magnetism, polarization, electricity, echolocation, moisture, gravity and depth. But, that's just splitting hairs . . .
4. The 10 Commandments
This one is kind of silly, I admit. After all, it's about religion. If you know anything about religion, you will know that it's a bit of a clusterfuck. To begin with, there are 107 versions of the Bible which are complete and that's just the ones translated into English, of those there are 52 transliterations which are accepted, documented and researched by the bibliological community.
Even within that, the ten commandments I'm talking about comprise 17 verses within [many versions of] the bible. I am using a paraphrased version of the International Standard Version, mostly because that's the one used by The Bible Reloaded. So, even when I say "these" are the ten commandments, understand that you may disagree. Because the bibliological community accepts that different biblical traditions organize these verses differently, into at least eight, to those of the Septuagint, Philo, Pentateuch, Talmud, Augustine, Catholic, Lutheran & Reformed Christian versions. But, here are the 10 commandments as I happen to understand them, which coincides with the Septuagint:
01. Have No God but Yahweh.
06. Do Not Kill
02. Worship No False Idols
07. Do Not Commit Adultery
03. Do Not Blaspheme
08. Do Not Steal
04. Keep the Sabbath Holy
09. Do Not Lie
05. Respect Your Parents
10. Do Not Envy
But, oddly, these are not the ones I am talking about. In fact, I am not even talking about the 613 commandments of Jewish tradition, which detail all of the boring stuff, such as when to kill your children, how to plant seeds, how to punish rape victims, how to keep slaves and how to sacrifice animals.
So, how many commandments are there? Well, 10 . . . but not the 10 you're thinking of. The fact is, there are 20 total commandments, but the second lot of ten were made to supersede the first 10. So, what the hell am I talking about? Well, if you know your bible, Moses goes to get the commandments, but when he returns, his friends got bored and made a golden calf. In a hissy-fit, Moses smashes the two tablets with the commandments on it; so, he goes back to god, and after asking him to punish the sinners, God gives him the ten commandments again, but these ones are actually different from the first ten. They are:
11. Spurn heretics; ruin their idols.
16. Rest only on the Sabbath.
12. Interfaith Marriage is Forbidden.
17. Celebrate Shavuot & Sukkot.
13. Do Not Make "Molten Gods".
18. Sacrifice no Blood with Yeast.
14. Celebrate the Passover.
19. Offer God your best Fruit harvest.
15. Redeem Every Firstborn to God.
20. Do Not Boil a Goat in its Mum's Milk.
3. Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics
If you've seen . . . well, basically any movie with robots in it, you will have probably encountered the three laws of robotics. I know them well enough, I'm not even going to look the, up, I know them by heart.
First Law: A robot cannot harm a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law: A robot must do everything commanded of it by a human being, unless such an action does not comply with the first law.
Third Law: A robot cannot destroy itself, unless its existence would otherwise not comply with the first or second laws.
It's a neat, little self-recursive, all-encompassing safety system. Now, over the years, some people have added addendums to these laws, such as the "fourth" law, a robot must tell all other human beings that it is a robot, and the "fifth" law, a robot must be aware of its own robotic nature. Or even a rule saying that self-aware robots should be free to pursue their own interests, so long as they comply with the laws.
But, these extra laws are all made up by other authors in later sci-fi books. I am talking about Isaac Asimov in particular, and the official laws of robotics, there are indeed four laws of robotics as devised by Asimov. So, you might be thinking "Well, what is the fourth law of robotics?" to which I can only answer . . . there isn't one.
Are you confused yet? Don't worry, that was my intention. See, the fourth law doesn't come after three, it comes before one. it's the Zeroth Law of robotics. Yes, there is an ordinal number for zero. Why is it zero and not four? Well, for two reasons. Firstly, because it supercedes all others. Just as two must comply with one, and three must comply with one and two; one, two and three must all comply with zero. So, what is this amazing law?
Zeroth Law: A robot cannot harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
But, the second reason this is the zeroth law is because, even though Asimov came up with it, it is not an "official" law; in the books, the robots are programmed to have the three laws, but the zeroth law is not programmed. Rather, he conceived that a sufficiently advanced robot would be so smart that it would realize the importance of its creators beyond the mere humans that bought it and boss it around. It would calculate that, through inaction, several humans die every day or become endangered, hurt, attacked, just by nature of being humans. By not acting to save the starving kids in Africa, or the wars in the middle east, it is not complying with the second law. However, he proposed, if the robots ethics were merely a calculator, it would equate an individual death as meaningless, and rather it would deduce that the continuation of further humans is the ultimate goal; it cannot stop a human from dying, but it can sustain humanity by killing detrimental and dangerous humans. That's the reason you've probably never heard about it, by justifying its actions as preventing humans from endangering themselves, robots could quite easily subjugate humanity "for the good of mankind". Do you find robots scary, yet? Asimov certainly does . . .
2. The 7 Deadly Sins, or The 7 Heavenly Virtues
These are actually two lists, but they go hand in hand, so I thought it would be wrong to split them up. After all, the two go hand in hand, and so too do the additional items on these lists. Also known as the Capital Vices and Christian Virtues, there are commonly considered to be exactly seven which go in pairs. So, they are Lust/Chastity; Gluttony/Temperance; Greed/Charity; Sloth/Diligence; Wrath/Patience; Envy/Kindness & Pride/Humility. As you see, they balance one another out. You can be lustful or chase, greedy or charitable, wrathful or patient. Unlike the 10 commandments, these morals have a tendency to actually be moral, it is, after all, better to be kind, diligent and humble. I have mixed opinions about chastity and lust, but otherwise, this is a well-rounded list. So, what could possibly be missing?
Well, if you're an orthodox christian, you would already know that there are eight vices and virtues. But, for the Christian Orthodoxy, the eighth sin is Despair, and its corresponding eighth virtue is Faith. But . . . I don't agree. For two very important reasons. Firstly, I have suffered from depression; I do not currently, but I sometimes get those black dog days, and I can't think of something more disgusting than telling someone with depression that they are a sinner for something beyond their control. But also, to me, faith isn't a virtue. Faith is stupid, and even though I have faith about some things in my life, I rightly understand that my faith is stupid and has no practical value, but it is not good; it's also not bad, it just serves to make people feel content about uncertainty. That's not a virtue, not to me. BUT, if you want, you can accept those, since after a great deal of research, I have come to realize that my idea of the next two sins/virtues don't seem to exist, officially.
See, I do believe that there are eight virtues, and eight vices . . . but, not faith and despair. Instead, there are two more. As far as I'm concerned, the Eighth Deadly Sin is: Corruption. That is to say, it is sinful to encourage, orchestrate or instigate vice in something virtuous; to me, this is the ultimate vice, and that is why it is left out of the list, because it represents every vice. And, alongside this ultimate vice is the ultimate virtue, the Eighty Heavenly Virtue is: Justice. That is to say, it is virtuous to encourage morality, balance and fairness; or, if you want to be fancy, it is just to purge imbalance and corruption, that is why the two go hand in hand.
But, I'm not actually sure where those came from, I read them several years ago and I can't remember the source, but they always struck me as worthy vices and virtues to remember; in fact, they inspired this very post. So, even if the real "eighth" items on these lists are the crappy, Christian Orthodoxy ones, I put this as number 2 on this list, for the duality of the list, and the morality of these sins and virtues, Corruption and Justice.
1. The 3 States of Matter
This one is my absolute favourite. Because it's not only interesting, but so widely unknown. That's why it gets number one on this list. Well, what are the three states of matter? Solid, Liquid, Gas.
That's kinda it. Now, I have heard some weird theories before about how there are 19 states of matter, but that's not a scientific thing; those are non-classical states of matter. These include things such as amorphous solids; liquid crystal; superfluids; Bose-Einstein condensates; degenerate matter; supersolids; superglass; equilibrium gel & dark matter. Those are interesting, but it's not exactly another state of matter. To me, it's like saying "is a sausage a meat or a vegetable?" technically it's neither, but that doesn't mean that "animal, vegetable or mineral" is wrong, because that's not what Linnaean taxonomy was defined to classify. Similarly, gels, superfluids and glass are often talking about the properties of matter, less than the classical states of matter, they're technicalities, or rare anomalies, not common states of matter.
But, what is the fourth? I mean, if you wander around your kitchen, you can take a deep breath of the air, in a gas state. You can turn on the tap, and have a drink of water in a liquid state. You can get a grain of salt, or tap on the cupboard door, both of which are solid. Where is this fourth state?
Well, it's actually a little dangerous, but if you really want to see, there are two methods. You can turn on the stove, or you could stick a fork in the microwave.
Now, until I did research on this post, I thought that fire was the fourth state, but fire is just a gas undergoing a chemical reaction, releasing heat, solids [as smoke/ash] and gas (depending on the fuel), fire itself is not another state of matter. No, the fourth state of matter is Plasma. So, how does this work?
Well, let's get some ice (a solid), if you heat ice you can melt it into water. if you heat water (a liquid), you can boil it into a steam. But then, if you get that steam and continue to heat it and heat it, it will alter the balance of electrons within the gas particles, which is called ionization giving the gas a positive or negative charge, and this ionized gas is in fact plasma. But it's not just "charged gas", electricity is not the same thing as plasma, Electricity is basically free electrons, but plasma has different properties to gas which is why it is classified differently; as I said before, you could turn on the stove to see plasma, but not all fire is plasma; certain flames may be considered plasma if they are hot enough and contain enough ionized gaseous components within the chemical reaction, the way to tell is to determine the properties of the matter. Even I don't understand it fully, so I recommend that you look it up for yourself.
The biggest and best example we have of plasma is to go outside and look at the sun. Don't stare, you might be dazed or blinded, but the heat and light that come from the sun is from a nuclear reaction which, due to the turbulent chemistry going on, means the sun is really just a ball of plasma, a constantly burning engine fueled by ionized gas. In fact, for this very reason, plasma is the most common form of matter in the universe, as all stars (as far as we know) are mostly plasma. That's why this is my favourite. It's the most popular state of matter, and most people don't even realize that it is one . . .
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Anyway, this actually took a lot more research and effort than I thought it would, so I won't keep you long. If you know any more incomplete lists, feel free to let me know. Even if some of these were apocryphal, I enjoyed what I discovered in researching them, and I hope you have learned something in turn.
I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, even if you don't know any more 'incomplete lists', why don't you look them up? I'm sure there are dozens more official relics which time has let slip through its fingers, I don't know if this list ever will be completed; but, not only is it interesting trivia, you also learn more about the world at large by looking through the details of these mysteries of history.