5E-opedia: In-depth topic


Leeloo learns about the facts of the human race which she is destined to save through an online encyclopedia available to her in many places: in Cornelius’’ home, the spaceship to Fhloston Paradise, and aboard Zorg’’s ship. Three modes are seen for it. Today we discuss the second mode, which is to select an in-depth topic.

In-Depth Topic

Leeloo can understand each item in the topic lists as they fly past. If she sees a topic that interests her in particular, she can press a button to find out more about that topic in more detail. (We don’t see the button, we just hear it.) Given that she’s looking at a screen of at most 66 and at least 4 options, and we don’t see a selection indicator, it’s anyone’s guess as to how she does this. Later we’ll see that she has a QWERTY keyboard to search for a particular word, and we don’t see that same search interface here, so it’s something other than that.

Once she indicates that she’s interested in martial arts, the entry fills the screen. The screen is a mix of a paragraph of text, images zooming around, and subtopics writ in large red majuscule letters scrolling past: KRAV CONTACT, SUMO, WRESTLING, SAVATE, KUNG FU, JU JITSU, NINJITSU, WRANG DO, FULL CONTACT… A still image of Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon appears. This style of still-image and animated-text continues to play in a watch-and-learn way until it’s done, and then returns to the topic list.


Here, as before, I am examining things unmeant for examination. Still, I have a job to do. In the diegesis of the film, the text flies by too quick for anyone but a perfect Mondoshawan to read. But here in the real world, I hit pause. There I learned that the paragraph of text in the background has nothing to do with martial arts. We only see snippets, but they read as follows. (Please post your short sci-fi stories that can make sense of these lines in exactly this same order.)

: a hindu thus
talks to hi[s] troops about taking
d takes on a persona of its own.
monster, if it wants to live, have
loved. We then get a news flash
cult (think Waco siege coverage)

This little bit of text reads much more like a script than an encyclopedia entry. Like it was a bit of text just lying around on someone’s computer. In any case it would not help Leeloo learn Jeet Kun Do in the slightest.

On the right side of the screen (see above) we also see a vertical green rectangle. At the top is the number 5, bookended with arrows. Below that is a graph, a set of thumbnail images (whose captions are too small to read) are linked by right-angle connecting lines, like what you might see in a tech-tree for a real-time strategy video game.


When the display shifts to showing the subtopics, this green area changes. The 5 changes to a dot, and a grid of circular icons appears, each with a green rectangle to its right. The left column of icons is hard to decipher, but the right column of icons looks like control buttons one might expect: More detail, next in sequence, prior in sequence, zoom out, zoom all the way out, fast forward. Missing are common controls for video such as pause and play. A the bottom is a button labeled “EDIT”. This control panel is not seen in use.

It’s still about the learning, stupid

That stuff on the left is pointless. Of course that bit from a script is goofy. The animated stuff might be interesting for getting someone kind of excited about the topic, or maybe to remember how awesome martial arts (that they already knew about) are, but for learning any of it from a computer screen, she would have been better off spending time on youtube. Even the subtopics make no sense. Sure, they’re all martial arts, but what’s the order? Not alphabetical. Not age. Savate (18th century) is between wrestling and Sumo, both far more ancient. It’s not even a list of the same scope of thing. Aren’t Krav and Full Contact different translations for the same thing? Anyway, learning the vocabulary of a domain is only a rudimentary first step to actually learning it, much less performing it. Good thing she’s “perfect.”

The first green area on the right does actually seem useful for learning. It’s an abstract representation of how some things fit together. There’s a relationship implied between parts. It may also provide a map to a bigger picture in which this particular topic fits. That’s actually pretty useful and even Wikipedia adopts it for entries that fit into larger domains of knowledge. So, OK, we’ll cut it some slack there.

The second green area, even though I’m doing a lot of inference there from icons, also seems like it might be pretty useful. It’s too bad we don’t get to see it in action.

Better for Leeloo’s purposes of learning a topic—even if you did it blazingly fast—would be to provide her a definition, a bit about the history, and then some blazingly fast how-tos of modern practice augmented with the principles at work in each of the examples.

4 thoughts on “5E-opedia: In-depth topic

  1. Challenge accepted! Awkward line breaks and all . . .
    Five-Star General Singh: a hindu thus encumbered
    by rank and flattery now talks to hi[s] troops about taking part in war games. His speech is stilted, haltingly odd, and takes on a persona of its own. In this scenario the enemy is a dragon.
    This frightsome monster, if it wants to live, have offspring, and thrive, must
    flourish where it is not loved. We then get a news flash that cuts short the army’s
    adventures—wild tales of a cult (think Waco siege coverage) have stoked people’s fears, and panic grips the surrounding area. The general’s dragon will not be slain today.

  2. Okay, here’s mine:
    The alien commander Iskkitikk’s fleet has found us at our Centauri outpost. We know not what has become of Earth or our fleet. We are trapped at Brahmaputra, a near-derelict space station. Desperate, I cast about for any source of hope and remember the hero of ancient Earth legend, Gandhi : a hindu thus emboldened may still stand his ground against his oppressors—even alien ones. I plan to resist, with every ounce of my being.
    I seek solace in meditation, and I recall an old fragment of parchment I read long ago in my youth while visiting the Moonbase Museum. Encased in graphiplast, it read: “While a general talks to hi[s] troops about taking the next hill, the hill behind is recaptured by the enemy.”
    I have hope that Iskkitikk’s forces will spread themselves too thin, for greed takes on a persona of its own. Iskkitikk’s forces rampage like a monster. Such a monster, if it wants to live, have power to defeat its enemies and overwhelm them, ultimately consumes its own. It cannot be sustained.
    As we wait for the inevitable attack, long-delayed messages from Earth come through the com-station. The cradle of humanity has been devastated—a scorching pile of rubble that was once a paradise beloved. We then get a news flash from the fleet. They have found Iskkitikk’s homeworld, undefended! And as any devout community seeks to destroy an unwholesome cult (think Waco siege coverage), our forces surround and infiltrate the enemy. They do not kill them but hold them hostage until we are released, for we are no monster—yet.

  3. Do you realize that they foreshadowed an encyclopaedia with an “edit” button? This is 1997, three years before the start of wikipedia (according to wikipedia).

    I’ll be right back, i’ll have to notify Jimmy Wales!

    • You know I didn’t actually realize that. But yes, it totally implies that anyone (I presume it’s not just for Leeloo) can edit this global repository of information. Nice catch Claudius!

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