Saturday, September 16, 2017

Work shapes the mind...

The public school system I attended as a wee lad was ranked as the 2nd best in the state of Ohio.

This NYT article on wealth goes against what I was taught was good manners; don't talk about how much you spend on things. The author believes, on the other hand, that not talking about your wealth distracts all of us from considering the moral implications of wealth inequity. Even worse, the author believes that judging wealthy people by their individual behaviors (work ethic, charitable effort, etc.) is just another veil that hides the moral dilemma of income inequity. (In other words, you can be a good person but vilified simply for success.) I'm unable to describe how disturbed I was by this article.

NASA has made available for free the ebook The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini. Highly recommend.
The state of craft beer in Texas.

How about a time lapse video of Sol Lewitt's Wall Drawing #797 being drawn?

If you are an art fan, and Disney art in particular, I highly recommend the PBS American Masters episode on Tyrus Wong, the artist responsible for the design of the film Bambi.

I've mentioned here before the Disney film Four Artists Paint One Tree. Andreas Deja's blog post Four Old Men & One Young Lady introduced me to a Disney TV episode called The Tricks of Our Trade in which animation techniques are demonstrated by animators. There's a Leonard Maltin intro to that film on YouTube.

Josef Albers, Tenayuca, 1943. In an article on IdeelArt.com, the case is made this Albers' work is more personal than it seems and he is quote as saying "Everyone senses his place through his neighbor."
Here's a little insight into "ugly painting" or what I think people also call post-painterly abstraction. Granted, I don't necessarily get all these works either but the inclusion of de Kooning drew me in. "It serves as a reminder that art isn’t a branch of mortuary science, providing faithful replication of lost beauties. It’s a mind-altering drug: It exists to cause trouble, knock things head over heels and show that there are other ways to see."

The new band Gizmodrome (featuring the Police's Stewart Copeland and King Crimson's Adrian Belew) is streaming and commenting on their debut album.

In which we read how Steven Wilson's new album To the Bone is an attempt to emphasize songwriting over concepts.

Alma Woodsey Thomas, Orion, 1973. From an exhibition dedicated to American abstract artists who were also women of color.
Here's a slightly interactive infographic of every U.S. nuclear weapon.

Do not read this before you've had your coffee. I think it says that mathematicians have proved that the infinities of countable and uncountable numbers are the same.

...leisure colors it. ~Rev. James Dolbear

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Simplicity does not precede complexity...

I just discovered piano prodigy Joey Alexander - this kid plays classic jazz piano as though he grew up on the piano bench next to Oscar Peterson.

Other music up for consideration:
  • Lighthouse by Wingfield Reuter Sirkis. Neither jazz nor rock nor improv. If anything deserves the label progressive fusion, this might be it.
  • Loss by Marcus Fischer. Embraces both loss and life, loneliness and companionship.
earth :: an animated, interactive, global map of wind and weather

The periodic table done with haiku. Genius.

It's that time again when we crown the best burger in Fort Worth. Don't read this article unless you plan to eat soon cuz it'll make your mouth water.

OK, so we've had a map and something about food. How about a map about food? Specifically, the food each state hates most. Steak cooked "well done"? Absolutely. 
Here are maps of the U.S. colored as Disney princesses.

When was the first f-bomb dropped? Probably earlier than you think. Like 1310.

Computer issues have cut into today's writing.

...but follows it. ~Alan Perlis

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Innes, Iceberg

The dictionary definition of abstract is "existing in thought but not having a physical existence." It's no wonder then that many people can't find a connection between abstraction and their own experience of reality. "What is it supposed to be?" is often asked.

While not all abstract painting need represent a tangible object (and it doesn't), sometimes you see something that immediately reminds you of an abstract painting. Such was the case when I saw David Burdeny's photograph, Mercators Projection, on Bored Panda.

David Burdeny, Mercators Projection.
Immediately I thought of one of my favorite painters, Callum Innes. And it didn't take long for me to find a Callum Innes painting that looked like a David Burdeny photograph.

Callum Innes, Exposed Painting Blue Lake, 2013.

I'm not suggesting that Innes was painting an iceberg. But next time you are standing in front of an abstraction, try taking it for granted that the scene has a physical counterpart and spend the time thinking about the artist's expression of reality and your perception of it. Rather than a puzzle to be solved, think about the communication of ideas. You might be surprised at what is revealed.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Line into Color, Mesh into CFD

Painter Helen Frankenthaler's work has been on my mind since seeing the exhibition Fluid Expression: The Prints of Helen Frankenthaler at Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum of American Art earlier this week. While there I also purchased and then read John Elderfield's book on her painting, Line Into Color, Color Into Line. Both left me with a much stronger appreciation for her work.

As often happens to me, certain concepts, ideas, or statements about art trigger analogies to my work in computational fluid dynamics and mesh generation. Such was the case when Frankenthaler was quoted in the book as saying
I felt more and more that the drawing should come from what the shapes of the colors are; rather than, "I am arranging this with lines or confinements or patterns." And I do very much believe in drawing, especially when it doesn't show as drawing... When I talk about drawing, I mean "how are you getting your space," not where the pencil is going.
To put that quote in context, the book's theme was how Frankenthaler exercised three types of lines (drawn lines, the perimeter of regions of color, and the edge of the canvas) to great effect in her paintings that are more typically known for their ethereal washes of color - poured, stained, painted or otherwise.
Helen Frankenthaler, Sesame, 1970. source
But first a bit of background. Within the world of computational fluid dynamics, the mesh is the digitalized version of the object around which you wish to solve the equations of fluid motion - digitalized so the computer can understand it. Think of it as the scaffolding on which the fluid will be simulated. In the illustration below (image source), the mesh lines around a ship's hull define where the computations will be performed.


When the equations of fluid motion are solved on the mesh, the results are often presented as graphical contours of a some property of the fluid like pressure as shown below on the ship's hull (image source). In this picture, red represents high pressure and blue represents low pressure.


The analogy I'm making between Frankenthaler's paintings and computational fluid dynamics is lines are meshes and color is the CFD results. When she says "drawing should come from what the shapes of the colors are" I hear the case for mesh adaptation (closely coupling the mesh to the actual flow of fluid instead of just the geometry). When she says she believes in drawing "especially when it doesn't show as drawing" I hear the case for "invisible" mesh generation (because meshing is not and end unto itself, only a means to an end). Regardless of whether we're talking about lines in terms of mesh or lines in terms of boundaries of the regions of color, it's true that the mesh is how you're getting your space, the space within which the simulation will be performed.

Other than the fluidity with which she applies pigment to canvas, there's little that visually ties her paintings to CFD (the images above make this clear). The drawn lines in Sesame don't look anything like lines in a mesh and the regions of color don't look much like fluid flow. But it's Frankenthaler's process and approach and her way of thinking about the interplay of line and color, mesh and CFD, creating and defining space, that brings art and science, a bit closer, at least in my mind.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Mathematics is the art of giving...

Let's start with something that might be hard to get past once you start thinking about it. Is space-time an emergent (i.e. primary) property of the universe or secondary (i.e. evolved from the primary)? If time itself is secondary, might that explain why it's asymmetric (can only run forward)? And if questioning where did time come from isn't enough for this universe, in a multiverse would time in all universes be synchronized?

Helen Frankenthaler, Sure Violet, 1979. Currently part of an exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum, but only for a few days more.
Not enough for you? Scientists have observed something in nothing - quantum fluctuations in a pure vacuum.

Where are the Voyager spacecraft? And where are the last remaining people on earth who still control their mission?

How about 570 scans from da Vinci's The Codex Arundel?
This article on how famous artists overcame creative blocks ends with a quote from Chuck Close: "Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work."

The USS Indianapolis has been found at a depth of 18,000 feet in the Pacific Ocean. This wreck is historically significant. The ship was returning to the U.S. after delivering the atomic bomb to Tinian Island. After it was sunk, the surviving crew was butchered by sharks. (The story told in Jaws is real.)

Just one of many vintage advertisements that hasn't aged well.
"It was a dark and stormy night" is the inspiration for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest which seeks the opening line to the worst novel. The 2017 winner is a gem about elves and flowers. If I could summon the motivation, I might enter. Someday.

The oldest known photo of a U.S. president from 1843. Do you know who it is?
The BBC compiled a list of the 100 greatest comedies. I've only seen 21 of them.

Literally the first U.S. coin ever minted. Worth an estimated $10 million. 
An artist on Pandora would need 1.2 million plays to earn minimum wage. A lot of people are getting paid on these streaming platforms, but what they pay content creators is a appalling.

According to this video explainer, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham's drumming excellence was due to the fact that he played more along with the lead guitar than the bass.

The Great 78 Project is digitizing music from vintage 78 rpm records. I'm not going to even try to explain that to young-uns. There's a 1951 recording of Yosemite Sam singing (i.e. Mel Blanc).

Screen grab of Divisional Articulations, an animation by Max Hattler. You know me and black and white animation.
Anyone who's had to deal with used needles (i.e. diabetics) can appreciate a needle grinder that produces non-toxic waste that can be sent to the landfill in your regular trash.

Total sperm count in Western men decreased 59% between 1973 and 2011 and continues to do so, likely due to chemical exposure, stress, obesity, smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

A map showing the literal origin of U.S. state names. Texas = Friend.

I had no idea there was a Microsoft Office World Championship.

The Ta-Ta Towel (a cross between a terry cloth towel, a scarf, and a bra) is apparently a thing. And enough of a thing that it's sold out. "Keep them high, keep them dry." 
Lest a woman's other body parts feel unaccesorized, a Japanese company has introduced crotch charms, jewelry that dangles from the crotch region of a swimming suit.

Aside from sharp blades near your junk, shaving your pubes is riskier than you think - it leads to a significant increase in the risk for a sexually transmitted infection.

Double-Stuff Oreos only have 1.86 times the cream filling of a regular Oreo. And Mega-Stuff has 2.68 times the cream. Science has spoken.

Eighteen (18?) foods that make you poop. #3 Almonds. #10 Coffee (duh).

And this guy collects poo. At least after its been fossilized.

...the same name to different things. ~Henry Poincare

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford

What if the U.S. developed the atomic bomb a year earlier, in 1944?

This is the teaser for Gregory Benford's The Berlin Project, a thriller that ticked three of my boxes: nuclear weapons, espionage/military thriller, and alternate history.

Rather than a flight of fancy, Benford crafted this tale around his father-in-law's actual experiences back in the 1930s and 1940s working with and around Leslie Groves, Albert Einstein, Oppenhiemer, Bohr, and the entire cast of real-life Manhattan Project characters.

But back to the premise. Assume that science (and the politics of science) had turned out a bit differently back in the day such that the bomb was ready in '44 instead of '45. How might the Allies have put it to use, if at all? The difference in the science may seem small (and entirely plausible), but the results in wartime - maybe not so much.

The characters (perhaps because they are real) are so vivid and Benford's story is so believable (due to his research and work pulling it all together) that the resulting book is totally enjoyable. And while I could put it down, I couldn't wait to pick it up and finish it.

I highly recommend Gregory Benford's The Berlin Project.

You can read more about Benford at his publisher's website.

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it's bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

I received no compenstation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In ethics, there is a humility...

Read this. Pause. Read again. Think. Chinese scientists have teleported a photon from earth to an orbiting satellite.

Fans of ambient music, rejoice! It's 12k's 40% off summer sale.

Or download (free) this great ambient mix of Glacial Movements' catalog.

Or how about the 2017 remastering of the Blade Runner soundtrack?

More? vMashup does a side-by-side synch of two videos. Be mesmerized by JumpReich: kids jumping rope vs. Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Carribean Sea, Jamaica, 1980. He claimed Rothko's late, dark paintings were more realistic than his photographs.
Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black on Gray), 1969.
Film from 1935 of daily life in Hiroshima.

Live webcam from the St. Louis Arch.

Relief! A hospital has set up an intensive care unit exclusively for the treatment of male patients suffering from coughs, colds, or even both.

Craft pr0n: making a wooden wheel.

Water permeable concrete. What kind of magic is this?
Considered one of the greatest animations of all time, here's a video about the making of What's Opera, Doc?

You really need to check out the videos from Oats Studios, a Neal Blomkamp project.

This is what happens when you send Rothko's Black on Gray (above) to Simplify.ThatSh.it
Here's what you get when you send a Clyfford Still to Simplify.ThatSh.it. The results are interesting yet uncompelling.
Gizmodrome is the new band featuring Adrien Belew, Stewart Copeland, Mark King and Vittorio Cosma. This 4 minute teaser video gives me a Zappa vibe.

Equation numbering in Word.

How well can you draw all 50 states? Not very.

This might be a good question for sparking conversations at work (or during an interview as proposed in the article): What's something that happens here but wouldn't happen anywhere else?

You've probably already seen this but - a photo suggests Amelia Earhart might have survived her plane crash.

The Seabin seems like a good idea for removing trash from waterways and harbors but the animated graphic at the top of their website makes it real hard to want to read more.

...moralists are usually righteous. ~John Berger