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Apologies for being so inactive. Work really kills a lot of your motivation to do other things.

I’ve only felt like doing short posts of late and as some of you may have noticed, the posts I tend to do here are long. Anyway, I still engage in scientific discussion when the chance arises and typed this one out recently – thought I would share it. I typed this on my phone by the way, so forgive any grammar/syntax/punctuation errors.

Damn this is getting frustrating. Time to drop some knowledge bombs.

Antimatter is NOT dark matter. Dark matter is matter that we have not discovered and have literally no idea about – hence dark. We know it exists because it affects light and other properties in the universe in a way that currently known matter cannot describe (i.e more light curvature than one would expect given how much known matter there is – hence that means there’s more “stuff” out there than we know). Dark energy is used to describe the accelerated expansion of the universe. Remember, what’s dark mean? It meabs we don’t know. So we expect expansion to be slowing down but it’s actually increasing so there must be some energy we don’t know about. Those of you that actually UNDERSTAND Einstein’s equation E=mc^2 will know energy and mass are the interchangeable, so dark energy and dark matter are essentially the same thing.

Now ANTImatter is not dark. What does that mean? We KNOW about it. What is matter made up of? Particles. So antimatter is a broad term for a whole bunch of particles called antiparticles. Every particle theoretically has an antiparticle with the same mass but opposite charge, therefore when they come into contact with each other they annihilate each other and cause decay (into other forms of energy/particles). Carl Anderson discovered the POSITRON. It is the antiparticle of the ELECTRON. Both are known to exist and scientists can create them at will. No, it’s not the end of the world. Positrons ONLY annihilate electrons. All elementary particles have a known antiparticle. 

Further reading for you if you’re interested is CP Violation which explains why there’s more matter than antimatter in the universe.

Boom. Science bitches.

On a side note, I think I will begin every scientific explanation I give with “Time to drop some knowledge bombs” and end it with “Boom. Science bitches.” from now on. Sound good?

Quick fact for you all. This question has always stumped me because I couldn’t taste or see any difference, but it was never important enough to stay in my mind so I never got around to researching it. Well now I have.

Essentially, they are the made in the same way so in that sense they are basically the same thing. The only difference is the size they are made in: Brie is traditionally made as a large flat wheel, and Camembert a small round wheel. The only other difference is their terroir which is something like the region in which it is made (a concept also in wine). The idea is that certain regions produce slightly different tasting products even if they are meant to be essentially the same. However, to someone like me, I really can’t taste the difference. Besides, Brie and Camembert are no longer exclusively made in their original regions any more (Brie in south-east Paris and Camembert to the west near Normandy) so the difference is moot. The stuff you buy at supermarkets is not technically Brie or Camembert any more, just a facsimile that essentially tastes the same, unless the brand makes them different on purpose.

This is one that people often mix up, and for good reason! A parody is a type of satire. Satire is the umbrella term, and involves a wide range of satirical techniques. There’s no such thing as a “parodical” technique. I guess in this sense, you could be excused if you call a parody a satire, because technically that would be true, but specificity is a hallmark of true knowledge. If someone showed you a picture of a flounder and asked you if you knew what it was, and you said “yes, it’s a fish”. Well …

So, the difference? Well, the commonly accepted difference is that a satire is more subtle. How? It’s sort of like the difference between metaphors and symbols. A metaphor is explained and made clear in the very sentence it is introduced. A symbol is never explained and thus open to interpretation. Similarly, a parody is always self-evident. The best examples are parody movies like Scary Movie, Vampires Suck and Meet the Spartans. You know straight away what they’re imitating; it’s blatant and exaggerated, and it’s precisely that hyperbole that creates the humour.

But a satire? A satire is subtle. It’s the gentleman of the mocking genre. Often, the uninformed will not even realise the text is a satire and will just read the surface as if it were a story on its own. The example that comes to mind here is Animal Farm, a classic by George Orwell. It is a criticism of communism and its failings, and identifies the nature of greed and megalomania as inherent personality flaws that will always undermine any attempt at equality. Of course, there’s more to the story than just that, but those are the main overarching themes. However, the uninformed would just presume it was a story about animals on a farm that ended up trying to run the place by themselves and live like humans. A funny little fiction, but not something as deep as political and sociological commentary.

If you’re familiar with any of the texts I’ve mentioned, you should be able to identify a key difference between parodies and satires. While both engage in ridicule, the method by which they do so is different. If we were to classify the humour as a point of reference, parody would be slapstick. It’s in your face; it uses hyperbole to blow things to ridiculous proportions and it’s meant to be lighthearted. Satire on the otherhand is clever, witty, intelligent humour. It uses references, symbols, themes and similarity to create humour, but the humour is more of a dark chuckle when you get it. It’s not lighthearted, it’s usually something heavy and deep, the kind of stuff that makes you question the intelligence of your leaders in politics or the nature of human society or our shortcomings as a species. It’s a sad moment of realisation that causes the laugh. Sometimes, there’s no humour at all; just realisation.

Notice I’ve mentioned similarity and imitation. Here’s another key difference, one that’s far easier to remember for you guys to keep in mind. A parody will mimic something blatantly. The characters and plot will be very similar (if not exactly the same). If you’ve seen the underlying text, there’s no way you’d not realise it’s a parody. Even if you haven’t most of the time things are so overblown that you’d realise it was a parody anyway. Satires don’t mimic things; at least not blatantly. They copy scenarios and concepts but replace everything so that only the underlying skeleton remains. Take Animal Farm for example. You’d never be able to tell a bunch of talking animals who want things on the farm to be more fair to everyone were actually representative of communist society. At least not unless you read very deeply into it.

 

These two are easily confused with each other, and it’s no wonder why! The two are related to each other, blurring the line between. I was guilty of using the two almost interchangeably in my early years of high school, until I read this:

“A metaphor is not language, it is an idea expressed by language, an idea that in its turn functions as a symbol to express something.” – Susanne Langer

Let’s go through a quick definition. A metaphor is a rhetorical device in which the traits of something are attributed to something else, but not in a literal sense. It helps to understand that a simile is a type of metaphor, so let’s take a look at an example:

“But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walk o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare.

The coming of morning is likened to being clad in a “russet mantle” (where russet is a red-orange tinted brown). Now obviously, this is not literal. Morning does not wear any clothing. The russet mantle is a metaphor for the rising sun and the colour of dawn.

Let’s look at symbols now. These are not used in rhetoric or discourse, and is usually a specific thing that represents some other thing or concept. Symbols, unlike metaphors, are not specific or definitive in their interpretation. They carry a wide range of ideas through generations in an almost meme like fashion. Because of this, the symbol’s meaning must be inferred from context. For example, anything long and roughly cylindrical can be considered a phallic symbol; whether or not it was intended that way depends entirely on the context.

Definition aside, this is what really helps me remember the difference. Metaphors are like similes, they liken the principle term to something else (whether it be a thing, idea or process) to endow the principle term with characteristics reminiscent of that which it has been likened to. A symbol is much more succinct; it can be a single thing (usually an object but not limited to one) that is not directly given meaning through comparison (like a simile/metaphor) but whose meaning is created by the context in which that symbol is used. Basically, that means I don’t have to explain a symbol because that’s for the reader to determine for themselves based on what’s been written, whereas a metaphor must be directly explained by the text.

So there seems to be a bit of confusion on this topic but it is essentially quite simple (at least compared to irony versus coincidence, which is a highly subjective topic).

Sarcasm is a subcategory of irony. That’s the first thing you need to know and it makes a lot of sense when you understand this. The similarity comes from the root of the definition of irony – a subversion of expectations. Basically, anything said or done, or an event that occurs, which goes against expectations. Like if I set fire to a haystack and the wind blew the cinders on to my neighbour’s house, setting it on fire instead. I wasn’t expecting that to happen so it’s ironic. I could layer this irony with another level by adding some context – say that we were burning the haystack because it was a fire hazard to our houses. Irony can be verbal, situational or dramatic. The first two are self-explanatory. As for dramatic irony, that’s actual a technique often used by playwrights in which the audience knows a certain fact but the characters don’t. This can be applied to real life though is a stronger tool in literary texts.

Anyway, sarcasm is similar in that you are saying something that goes against expectations. There’s two key differences with sarcasm though; first of all, sarcasm can only be verbal (whereas irony can be situational or dramatic). Secondly, sarcasm is designed as an attack. Irony can be innocent but sarcasm is used with the intent to mock or hurt somebody. The degree to which you are doing this can vary. Friends can be sarcastic with each other because friendship can withstand a bit of good-natured barbing, but again, there is an intent to single out a person or persons and ridicule them when it comes to sarcasm.

As for the whole irony and coincidence debate, I remember the Oatmeal did a good post on it. The gist of it is anything coincidental can arguably be ironic because it is subjective on the observer’s expectations. Since irony is a subversion of expectations, anyone could argue that any coincidence is ironic to them. The only thing I would add to this is that people do use the word “ironic” too frivolously, and there are times where if you consider a coincidence ironic, it really just shows that you’re stupid.

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