Monday, December 28, 2009

Borrowed Books

I'm borrowing a couple technical tomes from the Flextegrity company archives. Extended Icosahedral Structures, edited by Marko V. Jaric and Denis Gratias (Academic Press, 1989), and Rene Motro's Tensegrity, Structural Systems for the Future (Kogan Page Science, 2003).

Last night we coasted along at the high school level, sharing elementary geometry. My write-up argues that our literature base provides a more secure grounding for tackling such science readings, however the proof is in the pudding. What do I myself, for example, comprehend from these readings? In a way I have an unfair advantage though, as I've chosen from a neighboring domain.

Linus Pauling's contribution in the first tome is on the skeptical side, advances the hypothesis, backed up with experimental evidence, that "icosahedral twinning of cubic crystals" explains a lot of what we were seeing in the raw intelligence.

Background: X-ray diffraction and electron micrographs are disclosing more information about crystalline structures and the readouts provide startling evidence of 5-fold symmetry (icosahedra, rhombic triacontahedra etc.) for some of the metallic alloys (aluminum with magnesium is especially implicated but we've seen it before elsewhere for sure). Given icosahedra don't pack to fill space, there'd never been a strong expectation that crystals, which do extend omni-directionally, would have such a symmetry. Scientific instruments were proving otherwise and the heat was on to come up with explanations. The papers were flying thick and fast (1980s).

Pauling takes the conservative line that individual components might (obviously do) have icosahedral symmetry, but if you zoom back far enough, you'll discover these mega-groupings that obey known rules of the non-5-fold kind. Buckminsterfullerenes packed in an fcc, or flextegrity itself would be good examples, but Pauling's groupings are more complex. Mg32(An, Al)49, for example, is analyzed in Figure 1 as being a bcc, but inside you have these nested 5-fold clusters (icosahedron, dodecahedron, truncated icosahedron). Figure 4 shows the icosahedron's relationship with a cube (like Sam's tensegrity). The 82o-atom primitive cubic crystal, consisting of clusters of 104 (Figure 3), provides a great climax for this paper. There's lots about "unit cubes" which a knee-jerk buckaneer might worry about. Think of a 2F cube and stop worrying. Then watch the chemistry channel around 30 angstroms (on your frequency spectrum dial).

This article is a great compendium of already-found structures, going back to the 1920s. It's heartening to see all this knowledge in one place, makes me wanna look at the VRML worlds and toons, cines, claymations (Portland Knowledge Lab stuff).

On the other hand, in a higher dimension you can have an icosahedron of 20 regular tetrahedra, other magic tricks impermissible in ordinary dimensions. Sadoc and Mosseri do a great job on this, starting on page 163. Check out Figure 1 from Pearce (I've just been citing him), and the impossibility of having 20 regular tetrahedra make a regular icosahedron on page 169 (Figure 2).

Go from R3 to S3 and problem solved (!), with the caveat (page 173) that "the template itself lives in an unphysical space (S3)." We see Coxeter's name a lot, plus this number sequence 1, 13, 45, 117, .... (not finding that in OEIS though).

Riffing off the above... Another explanation for the readouts has been the aperiodic one: whereas "a five-fold-symmetric lattice" is something of an oxymoron, aperiodicity is compatible with quasi-uniform density and plenty of structural conformity. "Distributed individuality", as manifest by the Penrose tiles, analogous spatial modules, results in multiple unique 3D tessellations of the same space. There's much more one could say (and Pauling does). The number of Barlow packings (CCP, HCP both subtypes) is likewise huge (if finite) and those all have density 0.74 -- so let that be a reminder of the geometry, if not the chemistry. There's an essay on glass I still need to look at (Figure 2 is revealing).

Regarding the second title, I'm another player with a personal angle on the Fuller-Snelson rift, which R. Motro spends some time on, the consummate diplomat. All I'm gonna add at the moment is I think the patent system is somewhat cruelly exclusive, although I can't blame those who rush into it, but there's a Zeitgeist phenomenon we should credit as well. These ideas are in the wind and not everyone is within shouting distance of a patent attorney, might be too busy starving in India someplace. For a few minutes, imagine a patent office with Holy Ghost on every single filing. No need for a patent office then. My point exactly. Back to reality: I celebrate human genius in all its forms and am happy to count my friends as true blessings.

OK, some source code from Patrick to look at (buzzbot). Gotta boogey.

Followup: Dave Koski, upon reading this blog post, sent me the following update: "Not sure if the Pauling institute has a gun to your head or if the flextegrity dynamic is getting to you. Pauling was long ago dismissed with his assertion that quasi-crystalline structures was a trompe l'oiel of being icosahedral in nature."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Disaster Relief

The science here is that healing is critical to life, and the call to practice healing arts is one many seek to follow. Providing opportunities to serve, in roles for which one is trained, has competence, is one side of the equation. Other objectives: field testing of new practices & procedures, product placement, brand loyalty.

Cast in these terms, "answering the call" may sound idealistic and therefore perhaps too unrealistic. Some disaster relief goes on of course, but as Katrina-Rita well demonstrates, political systems may be reluctant to see disaster relief as as a primary leadership responsibility, even domestically (not that all agencies are equally dysfunctional).

The military on the other hand, does have call answering responsibilities, with war a kind of man-made disaster. The competencies may be different, in having a goal to inflict pain on some enemy. When it comes to providing opportunities for service in disastrous circumstances, we have that in this case. National guard recruiting commercials make that clear.

In our global university context (another metaphor for Spaceship Earth), the pain of war is self-inflicted. Reorienting to "save our ship" is equivalent to seeking a more sustainable security.

Military personnel are expected to test armaments, wave the flag, thereby providing ammo to arms bazaar merchants when hoping to impress the VCs (or procurement officers as the case may be). If you're marketing a new weapons system, you need to show off what it can do, persuade that it's deadly. It's called "the theater" for a reason. Witness Panama.

Back to the doctors and their mission, you also want opportunities to test new technologies and techniques, not because you seek to inflict pain, but because you wish to ameliorate it. You have your theater as well. You're a health care professional with duties and responsibilities, skills. Big pharma, other vendors, ply you with free samples, pump advertising to the LCDs, creating expectations and demand. These are similar to the pressures in the defense industry.

The hunger to serve is ingrained, as is the recognition that one needs to match jobs with skills. If a job becomes impossible for some reason, the institution itself needs to adapt, by inventing new roles. No one needs to wear the title of Superman (or Iron Man) in Afghanistan. Clark Kent gets the day job, not his alter ego.

In the aftermath of Katrina
, we saw a lot of military logistics capability standing by on the sidelines, frustrated. North Americans don't trust an armed force of a federal nature in their states, except on bases (in forts), have their national guards at state level.

I recall Lara Logan from CBS interviewing some commander on the ground, in New Orleans after Katrina, asking what was taking so long in the face of all this suffering. Was this commander with the Army Corps of Engineers? I don't remember the details, except that he shared her frustration. Defending one's homeland needs to mean something real.

In the aftermath of the tsunami in South Asia (five years ago today), you had militarily trained personnel doing full time disaster relief, and loving it in many cases. Helicopters were relevant. Storytellers in the media communicated the higher troop satisfaction levels. The body politic back home was on board with this also. This is way better than hitting the kids with bombs, don't you think? We had some consensus.

What's sorely lacking from these disaster relief scenarios are quick deployment solutions, crack teams of disaster relief workers, backed by the full faith and credit of our housing and food service industries.

Geodesic domes would not be out of place here, or maybe we're just deploying shipping containers, especially designed for this work. Prototypes abound. Getting these things off the drawing board and into the field takes skills and hard work. Here's an expense we might justify.

These are life skills, our progeny learning them. Work/study is both training and serving. The tools at hand needn't be Neolithic, assuming we keep our skill sets intact. The opportunity to use higher tech is tremendous, but will require overt focus and design.

Compassionate engineering is not an oxymoron, nor is it anti-profitable (anti-wealth creation). On the contrary, if your company isn't helping with healing, then aren't you risking your brand? Ditto flag, religious icon. Being on the right side of history counts in the market place of ideas. Ben & Jerry's has done some good work... Newman's Own. Let's take stock.

I was just perusing Grunch of Giants again, Fuller at his best, really pithy. As caretaker of the domain name, I should do that every so often.

Fuller was saying back in 1983 how there'd be a postponement of national insolvency for long enough to rearm, even though Grunch had sufficient funds to just buy the gear outright. By now, some decades later, we find ourselves with a lot of the wrong tools, vast parking lots full of unused armor, the work of a million man hours that might have applied otherwise (opportunity cost concept).

We're saddled with nerve gases in need of incineration, inventories of terrible weapons requiring destruction, with growing obesity and a dependency on trucked processed foods cutting into life expectancy in so many zip code areas.

If the patient (humanity) wants to survive, we'll see more evidence of that fact soon. Where's the move to stop wreaking havoc and to start using the available tools for healing purposes, adding new ones per the feedback cycle just described?

This impulse will be coming from the military as well, as we're talking about primal security matters.

The situation is bleak, dire, yet worth looking at. Having human beings give their conscious attention to this matter of healing the Earth, availing of opportunities to serve, is definitely an appropriate response here. The sense of urgency is widespread. The global climate change debate is but one manifestation of that sense.

The victory here would be for the patient, the student body. It's not a matter of figuring out which ideology has lost. People have their various mythologies about what's going on, their internalized global models. Diversity in this realm is to our advantage. Yes, I'm preaching "live and let live".

Neither the "warring religions" theme, nor the "science versus religion" theme needs to so preoccupy our attention that we forget to sew seeds for tomorrow's harvest. Religions great and small teach forward thinking, planning, aligning to calendars, adhering to values more likely to pay off.

Yes, they're also sometimes conveyor belts for misinformation, as have been so many of the pseudo-sciences (with more of those in the pipeline). In hindsight, we see ourselves deceived in our beliefs, again and again. Skepticism and a determination to do one's own thinking: these are virtues in both the spiritual and engineering worlds (as if there were two).

Given we need all the help we can get, we welcome whatever constructive teachings the various religions and sciences might offer. Apocalyptic mindsets abound and may not be the most responsible ones out there. Be choosy, exercise discrimination (not a bad word, when applied to ideas).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Punishment Park (movie review)

Punishment Park is a 1971 fictional drama.

A civilian tribunal treats US citizens as enemy combatants and either locks them away or gives them a choice to be hunted down, providing practice for police and guard units. The prisoners are trying to reach an American flag in some dry desert landscape in order win their freedom, but the rules of the game make this a hopeless proposition.

According to the director's comments, this film was too disturbing to gain much traction, certainly on TV and even in most film schools, despite his groundbreaking techniques. His cast is mostly unrehearsed, improvises, role plays.

Peter Watkins knows the documentary genre cold, is a master of fast cuts, juxtapositions, the use of a hand held camera. The film makers play the role of a British TV crew, invited to witness America's domestic policies. The result is effective.

This film was made in the wake of Kent State during a time of intense opposition to government policies, long before Guantanamo and indefinite detentions without charges, under provisions of the Patriot Act, of both US citizens and foreign nationals.

The message for Americans today is they need to stay open to the teachings of the 1960s and 1970s. The boomers lived through their own hell and want us to learn from their experience. I speak as a boomer myself, concerned with the future of my university (Planet Earth).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dire Straits

As a latecomer to the ISEPP board (not a paid position), I feel its within my job description to explain our situation. We've lost the ability to retain Glenn Stockton as our Pauling Campus maintainer, with Terry himself looking at collecting unemployment. I don't yet know how this will impact the lecture series.

Liberty Hall is throwing a party, nominally Project Omega. The politically minded groups who paid rent for this establishment are no longer able to do so. This is a good bye party. Lindsey is playing the role of music coordinator (a volunteer job).

There's this sense of shutting down all over, as we run low on ideas. Has the "invisible hand" of free market forces come disconnected from its brain? Is capitalism self-strangling?

As we roll into the New Year and start taking stock of our first 21st century decade, we have little choice but to look down the road a piece. We'll be staring at that Times Square buckyball again (by Phillips), perhaps uncomprehending of the heritage it represents.

:: Times Square New Years ball ::

I hearken back to my meeting in London with Alan Kay and those other high minded people, yakking about a brighter tomorrow, for South Africa mainly, where I have ties through Quakers and family history.

I hadn't seen Idiocracy yet, but in retrospect see that movie as reflective of Alan's concerns (mine too). This isn't about genetics (that was in spoof), but memetics (transmitted ideas). One either successfully passes the torch to coming generations or one drops it.

The Renaissance I'm seeking to spark, in a conspiracy with other buckaneers, really depends on having a cerebral press, other intelligent media, willing to actually look at some mathematics and science for a change.

:: flatworms by M.C. Escher ::
(geometry of nature)

Newspapers frequently do this, with some stories more challenging than others to wrap one's thinking around. This story is really not that difficult to relay though, at least in its basic elements. I hope this blog post is proving my point.

A high civilization might share it through buzz in the coffee shops, along with whatever retro French existentialism. This stuff works well on LCDs, which are omnipresent in gyms as well. How about on the backs of cereal boxes?

"relative volumes"
(Python + POV-Ray)

The simple whole number volume relationships I've long sought to popularize and share through the schools have by now enjoyed a half century in publication. Dr. Arthur Loeb wrote up something for The Math Teacher way back in 1965 (Remarks on Some Elementary Volume Relationships Between Familiar Solids, Vol 58:15).

Robert Williams, citing the above work, along with Fuller's Synergetics itself (still in manuscript in some St. Louis archive, dated 1960), gives the gist of our "concentric hierarchy" in his 1972 Geometrical Foundations of Natural Structure: A Source Book of Design (Dover).

True, he messes with Fuller's meaning for A&B particles (modules), changing it slightly, but he does so consciously (page 136, footnote 20).

Posting to Synergeo, quoting from my private correspondence:
What amazes me so much is these simple whole number volume relationships, so central in Fuller and based on a unit volume tetrahedron, have now been in the literature for like half a century!

These seem like such elementary and basic discoveries, and yet the culture doesn't pick them up or propagate them, does not share them with children, plus bleeps over the lore (stories) behind them. The history just isn't shared.

Figuring out why this history isn't shared, and whether there's any chance of changing this status quo, is a central interest of mine.

Is it that we have to resurrect Polyhedra as a worthy topic?
The journalistic account is brought more up to date by Siobhan Roberts in King of Infinite Space, which details the sometimes strained, sometimes friendly relationship between Bucky Fuller and Donald Coxeter.

Beyond personalities however, she investigates what in Fuller's thinking might have merited the attention of such a pure-minded geometer (not an architect, not a defense contractor like Bucky was, back in those radome days).

Without specifying the formula (S = 10 * f * f + 2), she cites Coxeter's admiration for this basic discovery, simple enough to prove:
Coxeter told Fuller how impressed he was with his formula -- on the cubic close-packing of balls. And he later took pleasure in proving it, noting in his diary one day in September 1970: "I saw how to prove Bucky Fuller's formula," and publishing it in a paper, "Polyhedral Numbers." Of course more than anything, Coxeter fell in love with Fuller's geodesic domes.
What Siobahn does not go into, however, is Fuller's dissection of the space-filling trirectangular tetrahedron (called a MITE in Synergetics) into his own A and B modules (distinct from those in Williams). In my view, this is the more critical link, twixt the work of these two individuals.

A&B modules, by Richard Hawkins

is dedicated to Coxeter, yes, but where does it actually cite his work directly?

Answer: in the caption to Figure 950.12, which is all about the MITE and the shapes you might build with them. He cites page 71 of Coxeter's Regular Polytopes directly. Why? Because in Fuller's own thinking, this is one of his major breakthroughs.

Furthermore, since he's the only one using these modules and since it is he who has named them, the attention to his ideas he so longed for would now be a done deal.

Page 71
:: MITEs Cube with
pg. 71 of Regular Polytopes ::

His ideas would accrue all the academic respectability owed to them and Synergetics would not simply be shelved and forgotten as "a lot of nonsense" (Coxeter's initial reaction, on confronting this philosophical work). His other works would remain influential by extension and we'd be off and running towards a better tomorrow, a brighter future for our Spaceship Earth (or Global University).

Autonomous living unit, 1949
Buckminster Fuller
© Buckminster Fuller Institute

All worries about megalomania aside, one can see where Fuller would have gotten his hopes up around these A & B modules. He harps on them again in Cosmography, a posthumous work that Kiyoshi Kuromiya and E.J. Applewhite worked hard to get out there.

Any journalistic account might pick up the story here, but you see how it's somewhat difficult and cerebral. Pictures make it easier though, and the literature is sprawling and readily on tap, with much of it on-line.

I would think that some technical writer wanting to make a name for himself or herself would have no trouble getting this past an editor. But you'd need an educated readership.

Returning to King of Infinite Space, I notice Walter Whiteley, director of applied mathematics at York University in Toronto, may have views similar to Alan Kay's, regarding our descent into idiocracy. Quoting from Roberts again:
For Whitely, it all comes down to underlining how visual perception builds into reasoning in the brain... "Failure to do and teach mathematics visually is excluding numerous people and making mathematics harder," Whitely concluded. And he conjectured that the dearth of the visual, the decline in classical geometry over the last hundred years, has had a regressive effect, resulting in "the geometry gap." This is much like "the ingenuity gap," a concept raised in the book of the same name -- by Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the University of Toronto's Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies -- chronicling examples of people and societies facing a crisis of ingenuity or know-how, which leaves them unable to solve problems of their own creation. Whitely's thesis holds that in the realm of science, the sedentary, mathematical areas of our brains, and the consequent lack of ingenuity -- the inability to solve problems and make discoveries -- results from an ignorance of visual and geometrical tools.
That sounds a lot like a passage from Jared Diamond's book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

It's all about what stories one tells, or does not tell, when passing on a culture. We face time pressure, deadlines. Journalists know what I'm talking about.

:: Mite (minimum tetrahedron): (A+, A-, B-) or (B+, A+, A-) ::
Copyright © 1997 Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seeking Work

I missed Wanderers yesterday, was grateful to sit in with the physical therapist, in the aftermath of Tara's encounter with a reckless driver.

My heart goes out to families who came to this juncture and lost a dear member, or suffered severe injuries. I lost my dad in a car accident, almost lost my mom.

Glenn reports Sheldon Renan was just back from Brussels, all hot to trot, optimistic about Portland's future.

That "capital of open source" moniker has not lost its luster after all these years. The world expects great things from our city, or at least that's the buzz in some circles.

I supplied BFI's web site with two new community postings earlier today, one about Flextegrity, which I'm hoping to use as a classroom supply in measured quantities, another about Martian Math, which repackages a lot of the Bucky stuff.

My analysis for Glenn this morning, after flipping through some art books in his collection, is that insecurity on the part of conservatives accounts for much of the hold up.

I found Haim's analysis rather telling. He's worried we're trying to turn back the clock and make sacred geometry and divination our whole kit and kaboodle, a surrender to superstition and hard won advances in science.
At any rate, whether he realizes it or not, whether he intends it or not, and certainly with no malice aforethought, Kirby is trying to repeal the Renaissance and to erase two thousand years of intellectual development in the mathematical sciences. Other than that, it's a great program.
Arthur Loeb maybe expresses some similar sentiments in his introduction to Synergetics:
Platonic and Archimedean solids and such plane figures as the Pentagram were powerful tools of Applied Magic. The Age of Reason banished such configurations to the realm of superstition: their power was denied. Orthogonality prevailed, being rational and very earthbound. Interest in geometrics declined. Buckminster Fuller's search for a natural and truly rational coordinate system eventually led to the tensegrity concept and the construction of geodesic domes. Polyhedra and pentagrams, being proven useful after all, have been rescued from the limbo of superstition. Now the danger exists that geometrics will become respectable once more, and it behooves us to take a good look at the very unorthodox peregrinations of Fuller's mind before stepping into the inviting straitjacket.
My view is we don't turn our backs on history and we accept the connections between art, mathematics, and psychology as part of our shared heritage.

Our emphasis, however, is on promising careers. This isn't about churning out a vast army of astrologers and soothsayers, unless by that you simply mean wise investors with long term, not just short term horizons, readers of tea leaves. People like that always sound at least a little bit cosmic.

Rather than resist all attempts to paint Synergetics as "occult" I go along with these comic book motifs as good marketing and point to Portland's techno-occult as a source of many positive memes.

Bucky always considered the art world a source of key allies. Paul Laffoley, our special guest at Esozone, is a representative of that bridge twixt esoterica and American Transcendentalism ala Fuller.

My thanks to Suzanne Bader of Mosaic Consulting for swinging by Lyrik to check in. I was happy to report on Gordon's improving health.

Next, a meeting with Amy, the insurance adjustor.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pep Talk to Advertisers

This is actually more from my pep talk to a math teacher, but I come back to my theme of eye candy on television, in print media, used for advertising purposes.

Multiple paths is good. Not having any concentric hierarchy, even as an option, is what's keeping the USAers dull and docile, hopeless about the future. That seems like a tremendous leap, assumes a lot, could be dismissed as a kooky hypothesis. On the other hand, having more Fuller geometry on TV, even in advertising, would suggest a Renaissance culture might be emerging.

In the old days, a grid of squares or some XYZ-looking grid might signify "high tech" in some advertisement. I think today, in the age of biological sciences, the old aesthetics don't work as well, have been displaced by something more organic and 60-degree based. Yes, I sound like a "Mad Man" (a Madison Avenue guy, an advertiser). To advertise knowing your Fuller, is to advertise having done some homework and having a positive futurism to share about. Companies that do that have the opportunity to brand as pro humanity and philanthropic, thereby earning good will.

So why aren't more companies doing this? My answer is in terms of the dictatorship of the conditioned reflexes. We don't seem to have the right motor responses here, are clinging to past glories. The right motor response would be to adapt, but the over-specialization problem is also an adaptation problem. We're not finding many early adapters coming forward, which is a real concern at the species level. "No manifest ability to learn from hard won experience" might be the negative teacher comment here.

I hope you'll keep pushing and reach a point in your rhetoric where it's clear that polyhedra matter a great deal. They simply represent what's out there, spatially speaking. It's a universe of containers, things with insides and outsides.

Fuller embeds these concrete objects in a time dimension, complete with energy, is accepting of the actual artifacts as specimens to be analyzed, in terms of their angles and frequencies (shapes and sizes).

flextegrity pod with dachshund chihuahua
(two polyhedra)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Putney Swope (movie review)

This comical spoof came out in 1969 at the same time as Easy Rider and marks a time of overturning cultural conventions.

Many of the clichés in the film involve reversing or tweaking well-known formulas.

A white ad agency with a token black guy becomes a black ad agency with token whites.

Only the commercials show up in color.

The sometimes Castro-like Putney refuses to advertise booze, cigs, and war toys, though he's under pressure to cave, burns through his credibility at a high rate, giving it his best shot.

The white director (Robert Downy) provides the raspy voice for our black star (Arnold Johnson) again adding to the "wilderness of mirrors" aspect.

The film was something of a hot potato, yet managed to become semi-popular thanks to Cinema 5 in New York and thanks to the prevailing culture of the times. There's some nudity, but by today's standards it's tamely innocuous, not that far from actual commercials (we live their dream).

Compare with Mad Men, Austin Powers, The Spook Who Sat By the Door.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Work / Study

While watching The Edukators post E-Room.

JYTHONPATH=/usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages (path to already installed)

Upon running the following command (line 2 below -- the first line is all prompt) I was able to get the server going. They say for production I want to put this inside a Java servlet container like Tomcat i.e. this is just for testing. I've not tried this, haven't used Tomcat.

Anyway, looks like a stable configuration here, just using Jython instead of Python against the very same Django code base (version 1.1). The Jython version takes a lot longer to boot up I'm thinking...


Booting server, checking a few demo links in the browser....

~/jython2.5.1/jython runserver
Validating models...
0 errors found

Django version 1.1, using settings 'examples.settings'
Development server is running at
Quit the server with CONTROL-C.
[10/Dec/2009 01:59:38] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 399
[10/Dec/2009 01:59:45] "GET /hello/html/ HTTP/1.1" 200 22
[10/Dec/2009 01:59:49] "GET /hello/text/ HTTP/1.1" 200 13
[10/Dec/2009 01:59:54] "GET /hello/write/ HTTP/1.1" 200 58
[10/Dec/2009 01:59:59] "GET /hello/metadata/ HTTP/1.1" 200 5671

I also helped out diagnosing a Zimbra problem, traced it to firewall issues. And I don't even know Zimbra.

Seven billion plus people needing food, water, shelter: that's an engineering problem as much as it's a political problem. Technical shop talkers need their place in the sun. I don't care if you're a Capitalist, Socialist, Anarchist or none of the above, you'll still need your engineering, your ability to work with tools. That's your heritage as humans, not as ideologists.

Geek TV ideas
seem close to Pentagon Math ideas because of the necessity of securing a future, preferably a livable one. Workers of the world need to focus on that global grid, and where the energy comes from, will come from, like on the National Geographic channel.

How many watts does a human body burn? No matter how much money you have in the piggy bank, you're still limited in what your body might burn through, in terms of joules, even when running a marathon, which is a good thing. We admire bodies and their ability to heal, regrow muscle and bone. Learning to care for one's body is a big part of health care.

Engineering and medicine are naturally allies, especially when they're both committed to philanthropic goals.

Note that to focus on the relevance of engineering, to insist it get air time, is not to muscle aside the priests, ethicists, philosophers, or theologians.

Religious structures have always been among humanity's greatest engineering feats and there's no saying this won't continue to be the case.

Angle & Frequency

Here's a good example of where our ET Math might seem obfuscatory, whereas the design actually holds a lot of water: what's all this ruckus about "angle vs. frequency"?

When you think "frequency", you may immediately think of a radio dial, maybe a car radio console with buttons. You may think of a microwave oven, or of cell phone towers. If you're science-minded, you know the whole visible spectrum constitutes a thin band of frequencies detected by the naked eye, with 99+% of transmissions going on outside that range.

Integral to the above concept are both time and size. Frequency has to do with periodicity, intervals, the tick tick of a clock, a beating heart. Frequency also has to do with vast time range orbitings, such as of moons around planets, planets around suns (some say Jupiter was an "almost sun"). Time and size go together, and frequency partitions same into smaller and smaller units, starting with Universe as a whole ("Universe" is a proper place name here, more like "Narnia").

When you think of "angle", you should think of something's shape, irrespective of how it shrinks or grows relative to the surroundings. Alice in Wonderland takes the red pill and gets smaller, but all the central and surface angles stay the same, such that she remains ever similar to herself. In many a state standard, it's a requirement to explain how Alice's volume is changing as a third power of her linear rate of fluctuation, whereas her surface area (skin surface) is fluctuating as a second power rate. Her shape, on the other hand, is held constant, thereby dramatizing the difference between... Angle and Frequency (shape and size).

So why didn't we just go with Shape & Size in the first place? We could, and we will, but Angle & Frequency are well chosen candidates for this distinction, precisely because of the daydreaming each might inspire. Saying "size" wouldn't get most people outside of "shoe size" and into some awareness of the electromagnetic spectrum and its photochemical interactions with luminous surfaces, excited atoms, radiating eye-tunable frequencies. Saying "shape" might keep one fixated on someone "shapely", not a bad thing in itself, but we need that "compass look", the simple V shape, and, very important, triangles (named for their three angles). Saying "omni-triangulated" so often (part of our shop talk) means harping on "angles" a lot.

In sum, there's a good case to be made that we're dealing with a consciously well-designed namespace, conducive to inventive yet realistic thinking of a scientific nature. And we're not just talking "pretty prose" in that we have these hooks into "frequency to a power" i.e. exponential rates of change relating linear, areal and volumetric rates of change.

These tie to "concrete activities" such as scripting a few lines in Python or other logic with runtime to generate a numerical growth pattern. Veteran gnu math teachers will recall how we often start with the CCP's 1, 12, 42, 92.... (cubic closest packing, check On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences).

The cumulative number of spheres will increase as a 3rd power, whereas successive layers describe a 2nd power rate of growth. Or think of other exhibits (after all, you're their teacher, so that's your job).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Slings and Arrows

State of Oregon is hunting me down on a parking (?) ticket, but the computer couldn't tell me more than my license plate on the totaled Razz (this was back in April, so yes, they had a date, but the court system was down so they didn't have details). She agreed to wait for the system to come back up so she could hack in and see what was on the record, as I have no recollection of this ticket. Indeed I was paranoid about transacting anything over the phone, so got a call back number to pursue this tomorrow (because she'd asked for more time).

Barry and Koski are both upgrading to hi-def, following Jon Bunce's lead. My refurbished Dell is shot out, but then we don't even buy new eyeglasses around here, given the shabby state of our education system. FLOSS may be free, but you still need a lot of focus to use it and that takes practice and experience. High school could be one of those times to develop these skills. We're looking at Martian Math through Reed College (as a part of a summer math camp), maybe Neolithic Math too if enough kids sign up, but one gig does not a Flying Circus make. CSN LCDs were another option, a pipeline to self schoolers, and indeed when Koski phoned he had some of our esoterica on his new big one.

I need to tell Mike D. about this offer I have to hack on an APL for the XO. People using the Red Hat internals are gonna have some of those skills. APL is a truly nifty language, had 'em star struck at IBM, and with good reason. J is a successor language in the same lineage and I often recommend it to students, as a part of my "minimum two" computer languages recommendation (if you bother to learn one, learn two). I kinda suck at J by the way, or call me a "tin man" (kinda rusted). But just having worked out in that gym gave me muscles I still use, if that makes any sense.

NCLB Polynomial
and NCLB Polyhedron: those were tied together by Phi. You basically can't say you "work for the Pentagon" if you know zero Pentagon Math. Getting up to speed on that is a lot of what NCLB is about. That sounds kinda right wing, but then Phi is truly fascinating (some call her Tau). This is math you should be getting, by one route or another. It's the kind we use in Rivendale for example.

Mythological thinking
: the fascist Apollonians sorta trashed the original Delphi, displacing the Athena School. Some say Apollo whipped the Python's ass (the one under the mountain), but others say that Python simply moved to Nashville. Then I compare Portland to Nashville in the sense that laptops are a kind of musical instrument, with a keyboard and everything.

I do plan to pay the ticket, even if I want to contest it in some way. The police citation probably has a check box that will jog my memory as to the infraction we're talking about. I'd just like to know what I'm charged with some days, call me Kafkaesque (I'm sure I'm not the only one).

Study Group

Study Group
:: paper on mechanics ::

I've formed a new triangle twixt Phil Earnhardt, the Wanderers and myself (4D guy), for purposes of discussing "chaos mathematics" (in some ways an anagram for Casino Math).

Thanks to Phil's cue, we've been looking at The recently recognized failure of predictability in Newtonian dynamics by Sir James Lighthill F.R.S. of University College London (1986, The Royal Society).

Chaos occurs with a phase change aspect, corresponding in some ways to the Synergetics distinction between Newtonian and non-Newtonian inter-relations between bodies, the latter termed "precessional" in his signature blend (vs. "gravitational" as a perfectly inverse square rule governed co-orbital affair).

These unpredicted and sometimes synergetic behaviors, such as strange attractors, are not forbidden or in violation of the laws of Newtonian Mechanics, is what this paper is about (with an apology on behalf of anyone clueless who says otherwise).

Terry chimed in from the coast, where he's working on a book, reciting much of his operating thesis. He's a lot like Wittgenstein in the way he grinds through various presentation formats, same as me come to think of it.

I'm alluding to a recent thread twixt Sean and SWM regarding LW's Blue and Brown Books and the role they played, not as drafts of something for publication, but as field manuals for his elite "troops" (first generation Wittgensteinians).

The story of Chaos Mathematics is fascinating and has been developing since at least the 1960s. It suggests that our seagoing crews may get a 10-15 day horizon for reliable weather prediction, with no way to effectively grow that bubble.

One needn't reach into quantum mechanics or talk of some Copenhagen interpretation to get all the uncertainty one needs -- in a mathematical sense with real world consequences. These are macroscopic realities involving suns and planets, not just subatomic particles, albeit the former come with longer predictability horizons w/r to their strangely attractive trajectories. We have those lunar and solar eclipses mapped out for quite a long time into the future, although with increasing delta T).

Using Gmail
:: using gmail ::

Monday, December 07, 2009

Illiberal Liberals

The oxymoronic character of my title is a consequence of reading through Liberalism - a knol by Paul.

A "knol" is Google's invention for "a unit of knowledge" -- not quite the same as a "meme" because potentially more complex.

Paul's portrayal of the VVD, FDP and PVV parties, the first and last being Dutch, the middle German, suggests Liberalism is anti-diversity, anti-utopian and anti-Islamic.

Regarding the policies of the PVV party he writes:
Immigration from non-western countries would be banned, as would double nationality. Any foreigner convicted of a crime would be deported. If naturalised, they would be stripped of their Dutch nationality, and then deported. If ethnic-minority children repeatedly commit crimes, then their parents would be stripped of their Dutch nationality and deported. Moroccan 'street terrorists' would be deported on a second conviction regardless of nationality. Speaking any language except Dutch in a government building would be prohibited.
The semantic tension in the title may stem from seeing business class entrepreneurs as innovative, and yet not socio-politically, not at the level of institution building.

This class of innovator considers the "free market process" the only legitimate driver of social change. In this model, the entrepreneur responds "freely" to market forces, but is not charged with designing new institutions outside of that market (a job no one should have, too much like central planning, a cardinal sin).

By this analysis, the attack by some elements on the notion of "corporate personhood" is considered anti-liberal. Returning to an "artificial persons" model, potentially software-defined, subservient to real (authentic) humans, undermines the dominant ethnic fiction.

Paul points out how the American usage of "liberal" in contrast with "conservative" is somewhat counter-intuitive to a European.
In most of the world, the term 'liberalism' refers to the general ideology described here, and to that type of political movement. That is how it is generally used in political science. In common US usage, however, it is an antonym of 'conservative', or a synonym for 'left'. This is confusing, especially seen from Europe, where liberalism is generally classified with 'the right'. From the perspective of history and political science, however, the United States is clearly a liberal society, and its two main political parties are liberal in terms of ideology. In fact the United States is the primary agent of the global expansion of liberal democracy, since 1918.
In the US context, neocons and libertarians are not that far different, are basically subtypes of liberal by Paul's analysis.

My inclination is to invoke the notion of "namespaces" (akin to "language games" in Wittgenstein's philo) in order to distinguish among contexts.

My brand of liberalism, stemming from the liberal arts tradition (Vienna an influence) and a Quaker concept of "Liberal Friend" is primarily a counter to mono-culture, is a commitment to diversity in a live and let live context (a root meaning of "catholic").

The consequent commitment to secularism is not anti-religion so much as protective of multiple religions (many as yet uninvented) by assuring them shared access to public infrastructure and the levers of power. A religion may well be non-theistic.

By my lights, Paul's liberals are actually illiberal or anti-liberal.

That being said, many secularist liberal arts majors do end up as Paul describes, both nationalistic and triumphantly expansionist in their outlook. In the US, this is largely a consequence of their being indoctrinated into a military-industrial mindset with its hallmark "last / only superpower" meme.

World Views
:: new, improved: nation free! ::

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How Radical?

In my District Standard? post I visually summarized a module I think is long overdue for insertion somewhere in K-12. Like most math topics, if they're important at all, it'd crop up here and there, not just once for all time.

I've taken the time to invent, in overview form, an entire Digital Math course in which I'm keen to include said "concentric hierarchy" (above) as a part of what I call Martian Math (because it's futuristic, also somewhat unfamiliar i.e. alien).

However, even minus this new way of possibly satisfying Oregon's three year math requirement (for a high school diploma), isn't this just standard fare we should expect through our Math Learning Center or any professional body of math teachers (e.g. NCTM, MAA)?

The question is somewhat rhetorical, as the answer is no, this is not heritage our math teachers currently see fit to share.

That's a bone of contention of course i.e. we're not all on the same page in accepting this verdict. I'm teaching math, and my Oregon Curriculum Network has been a consistent champion of this material.

My credentials are enough in order to make this not dismissible as the work of a kook, plus this isn't really just a matter of relying on my own credentials as I come to these ideas through inheritance, am not their primary source.

I'm not seeing myself as some kind of fringe or marginal figure in suggesting this hole in the curriculum be filled. I'm seeing myself as being rather conservative and in cahoots with other thoughtful curriculum designers responding to needs in industry and commerce, wanting to have a robust education system, a goal I assume we all share. At no point have I suggested shoving other important content aside. Yet we need to make room, need to upgrade pronto.

I actually think we're paying a really high price for dilly dallying any longer. This stuff isn't that hard to talk and write about, coherently. I challenge us to at least some intelligent debate. Too much to ask?

Curious to read more?

Maybe you're a newcomer to these blogs. Here are some more links for ya:
IQ Test
Focal Points

Friday, December 04, 2009

Some Storytelling

[ fair use, source ]

In retrospect, I'm finding out on Wikipedia about this science fiction novel featuring a brand of geek called an "est person". These foreshadowed the world dominating types who came to fame later (Stallman, Torvalds et al), while also inspiring the young Werner Erhard to develop his est, a training I've written about in these blogs before, having followed Walter Kaufmann in doing it, then tracking over to Bucky (e.g. at Madison Square Garden, read about it in a magazine), a shared point of fascination for both me 'n Erhard.

An "est person" wasn't necessarily rich I don't think (I admit to not reading the book yet) but had a code of ethics one might characterize as philanthropic, loyal to humans. That was a theme in est: going from disloyalty to loyalty towards being human was a feasible outcome and was discussed explicitly (philosophically). Misanthropists might reform, which doesn't mean transform into secular humanists necessarily, like I stayed a Quaker throughout the process, while others stayed with other stuff. This wasn't a swap meet, where you got to trade stuff a lot (mostly the trainer got the floor, though it mostly wasn't a monologue -- except when it was).

Who gets the luxury to study these stories anyway? I wish my journalism was better compensated (sigh), if that's what we call this. Quakers keep journals by tradition and in this day and age, that means keeping a journal on-line if you dare (many do).

So by that thinking, I really shouldn't be peddling my blogs as a source of income (it's a religious practice). Hire me to train your teachers, is what I suggest, or let 'em test out (not saying I'm a gatekeeper so much as an efficient communicator of some basics worth sharing with others). That's what I was doing in Chicago this year, delivering a workshop at a Pycon. I don't know if I'll make it to the one in Singapore but given cyberspace and our new way of doing posters (thanks to Vern Ceder, Steve Holden et al), I think that's a matter of secondary importance.

What happened to the old IS in Makati then? Did they tear it down? (Yakking about Manila again).

Thursday, December 03, 2009

4D Studios on Myspace

If when you go to, all you see is this...

lite view

and not this...

full view

... then look for a Full versus Lite View control on the upper right. If you don't find that, try a different browser like Chrome to see if there's a difference, and/or dump a Myspace cookie that's keeping your view Lite.

Here are the video clips currently embedded in my profile:

CSN Esoterica by 4D Studios:

An early pilot developed for Coffee Shops Network, for sharing some geometrical information of special interest to our self schooling clientèle.

Darwin at Home by Gerald de Jong:

This is a video of animations of Darwin at Home creatures which result from survival of the fittest and random mutation. Narrative by Gerald de Jong the author of the software behind the project.

Lindsey Walker at Angelo's:

Candid outtakes from one of several diverse venues frequented by a rising star from 97214, keeping Portland weird (strong, edgy). Check Friends list for link.

A mathcast by Russell Towle:

Russell Towle (1949 - 2008) was a mathcaster of high caliber, adding magnificently to our shared metaphysical treasure chest.

Electronic Behavior Control System by EBN:

A video from EBN's 1995 album Telecommunication Breakdown.

Kirby Addresses Wanderers:

I delivered this talk about design science, Buckminster Fuller etc. sometime soon after the movie Die Another Day was released first run in local Portland malls, years before this posting to Google Archive in 2005 (November).

Mathematics by The Nobility (formerly JetPack):

Mathematics music video. From the EP The Art of Building a Moat.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


RFC is Internetese for "request for comments".

I figured I'd start a new debating process on math-teach so math teachers could more fully express their reservations regarding the digital math track (DM) I've been laying out for inspection on Wikieducator and places.

So far, we've had a lively thread. I've been in conversation with these people for a long time (Lou, Haim, Wayne... Michael, Hansen more recently).

Most high schools today are teaching what I'd call analog math (AM). There's an ancient tension twixt analog and digital, continuous and discrete, perpetuated in our talk about the high energy particle that is also a wave.

Thanks to the advent of digital computers starting around the mid-1900s and their subsequent personalization and semi-ubiquity, DM is making more inroads, changing the character of what's on tap.

Sunny day in Portland, lots of chauffeuring to do.