According to Merriam-Webster, a harbinger is “something that foreshadows a future event, something that gives an anticipatory sign of what is to come.”
So, now what’s the first phrase that comes to mind if I say “harbinger of _____” ?
Based on a casual poll, it seems that a majority of people answer with something like “harbinger of doom!”, a dark portent to be sure. But, on the other hand, there’s also a substantial minority of people who seem reply with “harbinger of spring!”, a far more cheerful spirit.
This got me thinking. What other harbingers of X are there out there, and are they more positive (like spring) or negative (like doom)? Well, Google autocomplete to the rescue! I went to Google twenty six times, and each time typed in “harbinger of” followed by a letter of the alphabet, and I let Google autocomplete whatever it wanted to, like this:
Here’s the table. In some cases, Google autocomplete didn’t give one clear answer, and so I left that line blank with a [?] note.
|B||Blood soaked rainbows||1|
|G||Good things to come||1|
|H||Hope (#2: haggis)||1|
|J||Justice (#2: joy)||1|
|P||Peace (#2: pestilence)||1|
|T||Things to come||1|
A side note: that whole “harbinger of blood-soaked rainbows” business? That comes from this bit of awesomeness: https://shop.theoatmeal.com/products/the-mantis-shrimp-is-the-harbinger-of-blood-soaked-rainbows-signed-print
So there you have it. If you take Google autocomplete as an accurate representation of totality of human spirit, intention, and our vision for the future, then there is currently an epic, but balanced, struggle between good and evil in our vision of what is yet to come.
That may be true right now, but that doesn’t mean we’re powerless to change it. If you personally choose to use “harbinger of spring” more often than “harbinger of doom”, you’re tipping the scales of the future toward the light, and that seems like a harbinger of peace.
This is a 100% recycled yak fur story.
Molly asked me a thoughtful question while I was in the middle of something else and I said “Just a second, I need to rotate my brain.” A moment later, I said OK and she asked me if my brain was all rotated now. I replied, “Well, 82° out of 90°, close enough.” Molly quipped “And since when did you ever do things square?”
But then I nerdsniped myself. I started to wonder about 82° angles. If a polygon with 90° angles is a square, what sort of polygon do you get if you turn 82° at each corner? It’s not one of your basic shapes, because:
- 120° angles make a triangle (3 sides, since 360° ÷ 120° = exactly 3)
- 90º angles make a square (4 sides; 360° ÷ 90° = exactly 4)
- 82° angles make a ??? (?? sides; 360° ÷ 82° = 4.3902439024???)
- 72° angles make a pentagon (5 sides; 360° ÷ 72° = exactly 5)
It must be some kind of … star shape, 82 doesn’t go evenly into 360, which means that you’d have to spirograph-around the circle more than once to come back to where you started.
But what kind of star? How many points would there be on a star with 82° angles at each point? I decided that I had to know, and that I wanted to see what the star looked like, not just find out the numeric answer. The numeric answer is the GCD of 82 and 360, and I could figure that out, but then where’s my picture of the star? I decided to write a quick program to draw stars with angles of ‘N’ degrees at each corner, and to print out how many points there were on the star.
So ten minutes later, I had refreshed my Logo skills. Luckily, Logo is secretly sort of a dialect of LISP, and I’m very comfortable with LISP-like languages. Here’s the code I finally came up with:
to anglestar :angle clearscreen penup forward 150 pendown make "count 1 setheading :angle while (heading > 0) [ forward 200 right :angle setheading round modulo heading 360 make "count sum :count 1 ] forward 200 show :count end anglestar 82
And it printed “180”, meaning that this is a 180-point star. Or, as Molly pointed out, more of a bike wheel than a star really. An imaginary bike wheel.
I decided to try other angles since I now had this great program. With N=80°, you get a nine-pointed star, because 80° x 9 = 720°, which is twice around the 360° circle:
And with N=81° you get a 40-pointed star:
Although as Molly pointed out, this one isn’t really a ‘star’, either. This one is more of an imaginary bicycle gear, a lot like this real 40-toothed bicycle gear:
Oh, and after all this, Molly very patiently re-asked me her original question again, and I answered her without yak-further delay.