In ordinary prose an open parenthesis is, naturally and always, accompanied by a closing one (e.g., in a parenthetical aside). The same need for symmetry holds for mathematical expressions, where "(" and ")" control the order of operations --- (y+1)/(x-3) --- and also serve to show the inputs (arguments) for a function --- sin(z)/cos(z).

But in computer programming the balancing of parentheses is infinitely more crucial. Software with unpaired brackets simply won't compile. Input-stream interpreters hang, indefinitely, while awaiting a matching paren. Parser stacks grow without limit. Systems fail.

And that, in lay terms, explains the ever-increasing slowness and unreliability of the Internet during recent years. Prior to 1982 the amount of imbalance between "(" and ")" was manageable. Then the "smiley" was invented. As its usage spread all ordinary means of restoring network integrity --- error-trapping, stack-popping, rebooting, etc. --- have become overwhelmed. The exponentially-increasing flood of ":-)" and its ilk now threatens to destroy the world-wide web and, in some scenarios, all computers which have ever been attached to it.

What can be done to halt this digital disaster? Automatic generation of opposing parentheses (by multinational supercomputer centers) won't work, according to the best simulations --- there isn't enough bandwidth. Nor will the adoption of right-to-left languages (Arabic, Hebrew, etc.), or the use of zombie denial-of-service spam-attack technology. The asymmetry is too great, and growing too rapidly.

The only answer: beginning immediately, as per orders of the International Internet Infrastructure Cabal (I3C), instead of right-handed ":-)" smileys all whimsical messaging must use left-handed "(-:" symbology. This change will be enforced at the TCP/IP router level, where all packets of the wrong handedness will be destroyed.

When balance has again been achieved --- probably within the next 18 months --- Asian-style symmetric emoticons such as "(^_^)" and "(^.^)" will be mandated. Besides preserving the world's computer systems this change will cure most cases of neck strain, which physiological analysis confirms to have been caused by tipping the head repeatedly toward the same side in order to read unbalanced smiley symbols.

Start practicing now: (-: (-; (-: (-; (-: (-; (-: (-; (-: (-; (-: ...

TopicHumor - TopicScience - 2004-06-28

Comment 29 Jun 2004^ at 23:36Z

You forgot to account for the quirk effect :/ and the submoron exchange ;(\), both of which bollox the normal symmetries.

(correlates: CloseToThePin, DietOfBangs, EmptyShelves, ...)