Fri 4 Mar, 2011
Tags: bogons, Folklore, friday, Fun, hacker folklore
ESR’s seminal work on the jargon and culture of the common hacker, The Jargon File, defines a significant chunk of hacker folklore. Quantum Bogodynamics (a play off of the existing field of quantum chromodynamics, which describes quark interactions) is a folk theory deriving from the inconsistent behavior of hardware and software in the presence of those not sufficiently inculcated into the mysteries of How Things Work. Usually these would be suits–that is, upper management of dubious technical ability–but often enough those who work on the front lines of the IT world will notice a significant bogon flux around certain users.
The bogon is a notional particle that is a charge carrier for entropy, essentially. Where there are significant bogon levels, machines break down in various ways–they refuse to boot properly; software may throw various errors; printers will jam. There are enough anecdotal cases of a simple desk move solving problems with nearby hardware–moving the user away from the machine’s proximity stopped the machine from throwing fits–that variations on this hypothesis are widely believed by significant numbers of technical personnel.
This may be part of the notional reason behind the aura of competence effect; technical personnel are heavy emitters of antibogons (c.f. ‘cluons’ in the original jargon) and as such can purge a recalcitrant system in short order by being nearby. This also explains why certain formerly technically competent personnel, when promoted to nontechnical managerial positions, lose the ability to perform these feats; being in meetings with various suits surpresses their antibogon production. By analogy with a breeder reactor, these meetings may cause a formerly clueful person to begin to emit bogons much like the other suits involved.
Bogon production may be related to emotional intensity, as well; the more upset or angered the bogon producer is at the situation, the more likely it is that some critical component will start to fail. This explains the prevalence of errors in product demonstrations.
As of yet, there has been no literature regarding bogon shielding, but a 6′ air gap between the bogon producer and any component of the machine under diagnosis or treatment usually appears to do the trick. The effectiveness of sheet lead has not yet been evaluated.