1
$\begingroup$

We have a magician apprentice (let's call him Steven) and his master (Destionell the Great). Steven is serving for a long time to his master and he truly hates it.

Every day all his job is just cleaning Destionells house, cooking him meals and washing his robes. And all of that without the magic of course (because you're not ready yet, the master always say to Steven).

The apprentice actually never learnt a single spell and never saw a single book of them (the books are even enchanted so no one could open them without magicians knowledge), but Steven desires a hopes to be a great wizard, so he's not leaving his master despite all of this. Steven never saw his master casting any spell, but he believes him strongly, as he is well-known magician.

One day Steven came up with a plan. Because he was often delivering masters mail to the nearest village, he has access to some (unimportant) handwritings of his master. Also, he is sometimes cleaning the room when Destionell is writing some spells (with a regular pen on a regular paper like the magicians always do).

So Steven decides to learn how all the pen strokes and the gasps between words his master does sound. He will always listen very carefully and after a certain time, as he hopes, he will be able to find out more about some of the spells his master is writing, just by hearing.

TL;DR: Is it possible to learn to recognise what someone is writing just by hearing it (if you are practising with the same person)?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In that case, no. Listen to someone typing on a keyboard. Can you tell what they're typing? Maybe the spaces and enters, but not the regular key strokes. Same with writing. There's no reasonable way for you to tell what is being written purely by listening. Steve needs to get sneaky and find a way to look over his master's shoulder for that one. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jan 5 '17 at 17:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM That's not entirely accurate. Each key stroke does have a different sound, but they're effectively indistinguishable to the human ear. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 5 '17 at 17:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @TGar listening to writing on paper would never work. Do you realise how often people stop writing in the middle of a word because they're thinking? I know that I do that very often, or even in the middle of sentences while typing. Your apprentice would be very very confused by the pauses. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jan 5 '17 at 17:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TGar for example, consider English vs Chinese. The complexity of Chinese characters would probably make it much harder to pick up from hearing it written. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Jan 5 '17 at 17:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sorry I don't have an answer to your question. My comment was on behalf of other WBers. The world is on a 24 hour cycle. It's just that it's always possible for better answers (from others) might turn up. Why answer a question when an acceptance has been lodged? Patience can be a virtue. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 6 '17 at 9:21
4
$\begingroup$

Absolutely not

If the master is writing for himself, he's probably using very casual handwriting, the sort that would be used when writing letters to friends. This handwriting is going to be in cursive - and cursive is written in a continuous stroke. If Steven had a supercomputer, a massive archive of perfectly reliable data, and the ability to write machine learning software, he could maybe analyze the sounds of individual words, but he will never get letter accuracy.

And then you get to the other problems inherent in writing on paper. The magician crossed something out or underlined something. Where? You have no idea. The magician paused in the middle of a word. Is it a new word when he starts writing again? You can't know. The magician scribed a diagram? Good luck reproducing it.

The master wrote something in bigger size? The sound just changed. The master is writing on different paper, or with a freshly sharpened quill? The sound just changed.

Add to that the fact that Steven can't sit there writing it down as he hears it. He needs to have 100% perfect memory, and even then he's guaranteed to screw up and accidentally open a portal to the Far Realms or something.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Fortunately for Steven, he has access to the greatest pattern recognition supercomputer known to humanity: his own brain. $\endgroup$ – Borsunho Jan 5 '17 at 17:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Because we all know how reliable the brain is when it comes to memorizing sensory impressions. Or wait, it's the opposite of that. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Jan 5 '17 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ You don't need reliable memory to recognize language, because it's full of redundancy. $\endgroup$ – Borsunho Jan 5 '17 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Even deciding that the master using a specific single language relies on a huge swath of assumptions that Steven can't afford to make. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Jan 5 '17 at 18:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Steven can also assume that the master is writing the word "butts" over and over, in which case the answer to the question is "yes, easily." $\endgroup$ – SPavel Jan 5 '17 at 18:20
1
$\begingroup$

It should be possible, even though extremely hard.

It is a somewhat-common party trick to recognize what other person is writing with wet finger on a glass table without looking at it, but the sound produced is quite loud, and the other person is purposefully writing slowly.

Recognizing pen writing should be possible using the same principle, although much harder, as sounds are more quiet, and magician is probably typing faster, which would make it harder. Than again, paper grain should make vertical strokes easier to tell from horizontal ones, if your ear is keen enough to hear them at all.

Some magical hearing-enhancement drug should make it a breeze, but it is not "impossible" even without it.

Limit here is that apprentice would need to know language magician is using - letter recognition would not be perfect, and he would often need to rely on context to tell whole words, which makes magical incantation in ancient languages impossible to decipher with 100% accuracy (plot device detected).

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.