Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Chart

From the Synergeo list (# 59600):

XYZ provides a "treatment" whereby all polyhedra will be smaller than their corresponding IVM values, per constant. Here's a chart, which includes [the] 2.8284... cube (XYZ treatment of Syn Cube of 3).

shapexyz volume in cubic units (cube diagonal is two units)ivm volume in tetrahedral units (tetrahedron edge is one unit)

Cubo. = cuboctahedron; Rt. = rhombic triacontahedron; Pd. = pentagonal dodecahedron; Rd. = rhombic dodecahedron; Ico. = icosahedron; Oct. = octahedron; Tet. = tetrahedron; Mite = minimum tetrahedron

In collaboration with Alan Michelson


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Train Reading

Train Reading
I used much of the time to/from on the train (Amtrak Cascades) to study The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler. The author uses the well-worn calculus of nation-states, unabashedly saying "we" for the Americans he considers his compatriots.

He expects a steady increase of entropy in human affairs, as oil reserves are depleted. It's the end of the world as we know it. Our chauffeur to the train used the word "anomie" for such identity-disrupting changes, a word I later found in the book.

Although Kunstler mentions "Spaceship Earth" in passing, he's not seeing desovereignization via Grunch as a potentially hopeful sign. He intends his "we" to remain rather exclusively North American, projecting the potential for "political psychosis" on Chinese, even while admitting North America's sprawling commuter-based suburban lifestyles are kooky and squanderous. Europeans are relatively sane by his yardstick, their commitment to agriculture and urban growth boundaries still well defined.

Kunstler is pessimisstic about the global grid getting any nuclear juice from Persia, given high levels of paranoia all around. WWIII will not begin with an attack on these power plants in his estimation, but only because it is already well under way. In this sense, his lingo somewhat dovetails with that of the world gamers, who see WWIII beginning with the so-called Cold War (cite Critical Path).

Also on tap: The Corporation, a DVD borrowed from Laughing Horse for Tara's benefit, and screened in a rural setting on an HDTV (at a private party).

At this same venue, I launched into my little rap on the Mite and the T-module, using Mag-Blocks and Ball of Whacks. This mirrored my posts to Math Forum, where I question the censorious attitude of comtemporaries. My audience included one math savvy computer science person, steeped in Java, Ruby and Visual Basic (not Python). She works in trucking, a sector I'm also starting to tune in, a primary consumer of fossil fuels.

We didn't screen the whole of The Corporation as the arguments against corporate personhood are already well known in this neck of the woods.

We took Amtrak's Cascades to/from. The conductors over the PA were entertaining.

Going north, we had a Russian guy, thanking us for supporting this one international train in the region. He suggested we keep our seating area clean and tidy, lest we be judged rude and crude by our fellow North Americans across the border.

Going south, our conductor suggested we refrain from smoking lest we be offloaded and transported to a secret prison in Eastern Europe, "extraordinary rendition" in action (he used those words). So the CIA does operate domestically after all (surprise surprise).

Also on my reading list: Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman, a series of reveries encouraging self reflection.

The notion that communities might experiment with different lifestyles, versus kowtowing to one centrally dictated standard, is important to the idea of religious freedom.

Islamic forms need campus facilities, places to test themselves in relative security, just as do other religious forms, including Mormons in Texas.

This notion that lifestyles must be exterminated by force versus allowed to pursue a diverse set of options, goes against the idea of experimental prototype communities of tomorrow (some of which may be Taliban).

World Game's focus on artifacts aims to lower barriers to entry for those wishing to create viable small (or large) scale communities. Perhaps a blend of traditional ways and aerospace tech will assist in the terraforming.

On the other hand, easy access to armaments and deliberately fostered feuding, an old divide-and-conquer technique, prevent a live-and-let-live ecosystem from occurring.

Scholarly forms of Islam have fostered such peaceful relations in the past, as have other religious lineages. Secular brands not religiously anti-religious likewise have a track record of fostering non-violent lifestyles.

A program of student exchange will provide the necessary diplomatic glue. Those fearing a campus is secretly training militants in bomb making and torture techniques ala School of the Americas etc. will have ample opportunity to interview the exchange students. We all spy on each other, by design and prearrangement.

The monitoring of nuclear facilities develops along similar lines: a global cast moves among them, both reporting and lending its expertise. Civilians monitor themselves. The weaponization of nuclear materials is judged a crime against humanity, wherever and whenever, the hallmark of a corrupt Dr. Evil who must be stopped (like in the comic books).

A new media campaign: Terraform Earth! This perhaps sounds ridiculous, as Earth is already terraformed. However, in the Martian literature, "to terraform Mars" is "to render Mars habitable". We need to use our best engineering and understanding of anthropology to keep Earth habitable over the long haul. Terraforming is our ongoing responsibility, and if we're unable to do it here, then it's unlikely we'll ever be able to do it elsewhere.

This work may mean taking a somewhat alien point of view, not identifying with this or that nation too much.

Cyber-nations (aka "virtual nations") might help serve as an antidote to rampant nationalism, a mindset which keeps way too many humans trapped in some "us against them" mode of scenario planning.

Our only Promised Land is Spaceship Earth. Responsibility for the whole entails responsibility for the parts, but not vice versa.

Will world religions inspire us with positive and attainable visions of community, sacred spaces, or is religion inevitably invested in Apocalypse, with an afterlife situated in other worlds besides this one?

Those colonizing the so-called New World for religious reasons were looking for opportunities to practice unhampered, and to create relative utopias in so doing. The motives behind the founding of Pennsylvania were not that different from those behind the founding of Israel or South Africa, with maltreatment of indigenous peoples a source of on-going karma.

Nation-states are not synonymous with communities however. We might have campus facilities in a Global U, with students free to move among them, independently of the claptrap of vast land tracts claiming sovereignty under God, lands often grabbed at gun point.

If we want our students to be intelligent, equal to the challenges at hand, then the jigsaw puzzle of nations need not appear on every map that they study. Those learning to see Earth from Space need to see her as she really is: a single ecosystem / economy.

Refugees without established citizenship might be among the first to enroll, gaining new identity within these schools.

Corporations already incorporate many of the relevant memes, in being global without requiring vast contiguous land tracts in many cases.

Allegiance to all humanity is a curriculum goal, not as a matter of empty idealism, but of necessity. We need at least some future thinkers, world leaders, to escape "the calculus of nations" as their only frame of reference.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Secret Garden

Bound Bamboo



Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Screenings

Topic: Niger Delta. Venue: PSU. Lots of groups are studying the oil companies these days. They've been getting away with murder (literally).

Happy Birthday to PB. Mine tomorrow.

We celebrated outside, amidst stacks of books. Lots of peak oil talk, not all of it bleak.

LW shared of her adventures in Tokyo.

I borrowed a bicycle to visit with Quakers, still haven't replaced TinkerBell. Delivered program materials.

High schoolers came by to work on protest posters (an assigned PPS project). I served on clean-up crew.

JB 'n me on Synergeo:
Commercial potential of a product depends on how nifty people think it is, and on how much they all want one. So, what in the pantheon of Synergetic nifty objects has the potential of the HHoop, the Frisbee, or the Superball?

Aerospace sector dwelling machines (housing).

The fact that Lockheed-Martin hasn't unveiled anything cool in the last couple decades is discouraging. As an engineering culture, that sector is floundering, made fat and stupid by a cash cow Pentagon (after WW2 especially).
More computer science on edu-sig...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More on Public Education

Reports are filtering back from the NCTM annual conference. I'm looking at Maria's recap of Ihor's talk in particular. Nothing too surprising.

The "kite campaign" was barely a blip on the radar, but then that was more for retrospective use. When drawing attention to "what's missing" (e.g. Mites), one needs a frame with cross-hairs, a camera lens to look through.

That sense of math education being under attack, with continued dismantling of tools, a rollback of advances, is felt around Portland as well. Benson, our polytechnic, was ordered to dumb itself down by the school board awhile back, as its math-science standards were considered discriminatory. The new proposal is to simply bus students there, i.e. to kill it as a school with a self-contained identity.

Obviously I've been hearing from some seriously distraught math teachers.

One could see where the economic incentive would be to prevent the local population from regaining its abilities to organize and staff industries. Now that the Silicon Forest is well established, why not keep it a preserve for imported workers? More generally, North America is being stripped of its human resources and dumbed down. High school no longer teaches much of anything about machine world or how things work.

Turning this situation around with free and open source software has been a theme in this doodle pad (not a diary really, usually). Another theme: a place-based education that really gives a sense of local timelines. Faculty have a responsibility to custom tailor curriculum imports. There's no "one size fits all" approach that's going to work.

Cultivating regional identity, versus some tendency towards mono-culture, enforced from some imperial center: this an old pattern, one that doesn't just apply in "the developing world" (as people used to say). In Biblical terms, one steers around Rome (take the Annulare?). Nor do we all get our news from the New York Times (at least not exclusively).

Xenophobia is not the way to go though. We're lucky to have a diverse and cosmopolitan population. Competence with tools and technologies should be encouraged everywhere, not just around Portland, Oregon (duh). This Global U infrastructure to promote more student exchange will make it easier to keep schools like Benson in business. Getting more households on stream and certified for visiting scholars is a part of the longer term plan.

In the meantime, our Radical Math and the Portland free school business are helping propagate mentors. Teachers are experimenting with new techniques, including more pair teaching. I've not been attending all of these classes (some in Spanish), but I do appreciate the efforts. Language and math do go together (and I'm not just talking about computer languages). We've been recommending Who Is Fourier? by the LEX Institute for some years on edu-sig (Jason Cunliffe and I especially). The teaching techniques are prototypical of O'Reilly's in the Head First series.

However, I'm not claiming these efforts to keep math on life support will be sufficient in and of themselves. As I was posting to Synergeo yesterday, I don't have too exaggerated a sense of my own importance in these efforts. The various networks have their own agendas and the synergetic result is more than the sum of its parts. The Pythonic Math curriculum we've been developing is just one effort among many. Functional programmers have their own ideas. OS Bridge is shaping up to have more talks on Haskell than Python this year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wanderers 2010.5.11

Rudi Nussbaum

This event was given considerable air time at the recent Raph Nader event, so we're expecting some extra guests (two more just walked in).

Rudi Nussbaum is here, with his wife Laureen, to talk about the Hanford down-winders, people adversely affected by the Manhatten Project's HQS in Washington State.

Purifying plutonium for atomic bombs has endangered the Columbia Gorge for the foreseeable future and attempts at cleanup is costing many times more than the Manhattan Project itself.

Daniel Ellsberg referred to this cleanup as Manhattan Project 2. Although people aren't much using that nomenclature, the reality is: it's happening.

Lloyd Marbet has joined us, long time activist, opponent of Trojan (since destroyed).

Rudi sincerely admired Linus Pauling, had the opportunity to speak with him at some length at Portland State that time. He's feeling honored to join as at Linus Pauling's boyhood home, with his picture with Ava (a Quaker) over the mantelpiece.

John Gofman, an early whistle blower, helped expose the lies being promulgated by the Atomic Energy Commission regarding the safety and acceptability of using military personnel as guinea pigs around atmospheric testing. His career and character were trashed in retaliation, though he didn't disappear.

Alice Stewart was another of Rudi's mentors and personal friends. Stewart was one of the first to alert the medical community to the deleterious effects of X-rays, on pregnant mothers etc. Many were not ready for this finding, as X-rays were all the rage at the time. Her career was definitely hurt by her professional integrity.

Rudi didn't originally plan on investigating the medical effects of nuclear fallout, fissionable materials in the environment. He sought refuge from "dirty politics," was not looking for a fight. For many years, he got away with mostly doing basic research.

Once he opened the can of worms that was the "science" around the health effects of radioactive material, he was blown away by the level of corruption he encountered. Money buys scientists by the boatload. Three Mile Island provided another example of corruption, with the government blue panel commission finding "no health effects" essentially by edict. Tritium alone is a leading cause of leukemia in children.

"Inconclusive results" is what PR firms are looking for, when fending off public resistance to whatever technology is paying their bills.

Official state-sponsored investigations of Hanford's health effects were often high handed, with members of the public advised they might be suffering from "radiophobia" -- an irrational fear of radiation. Independent scientists got together to see whether they could produce some definitive findings.

Dr. Charles Grossman, another Linus Pauling fan, whom Jon Bunce and Rudi both know, was originally skeptical that "down winders" were victims of radiation poisoning. After conducting some interviews, he had to change his mind. Given releases of materials were initially into the atmosphere, the term "down winders" is meant fairly literally.

Sam Lanahan is here, and is eager to hear the scientific results of this counter-study. What were these "definitive findings" he wants to know. LaJean grew up in Walla Walla and would like to know some more details.

A finding of excess hypothyroidism associated with spontaneous abortions, excess cancers of thyroid, nervous system and reproductive system, by a factor of some 10x vis-a-vis background rates for Washington State, seems close to irrefutable.

Wind-borne iodine 131 and iodine 129 are the implicated isotopes.

The Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (CDC, National Cancer Institute, University of Washington), in contrast, found no ill effects.

Their technique was not to compare local incidence rates with background rates, but to look for a monotonic relationship between purported dose amounts and the number of cases reported, i.e. incidence rates in concentric circles around the release site needed to increase in a simple manner in the direction of Hanford, or there could be no evidence of correlation, regardless of absolute numbers.

Simple correlation of dose with distance is too simplistic in any case, given variations in topography, wind patterns and so forth.

Now that more data about Chernobyl is being released, the ability to cross-check the numbers is becoming easier. A recent German study (plus an older one) applied some fairly rigorous protocols and showed children living within 10 km of nuclear plants are adversely affected.

Rudi asked not to be quoted in this article if he couldn't see a pre-publication draft, but Adrian Burton broke their agreement. Oh well.

Although the down-winders have been awarded some millions by some court, the government has unlimited resources to appeal and the current plan is to simply wait for these folks to die off.

Wanderers indulged their penchant for red wine during Rudi's talk and tended to embarrass themselves per usual. Good thing we didn't have a lot of guests. We need this semi-private venue to indulge our vices. I hope those few visitors who did attend will forgive us our lack of social graces. "You oughta keep alcohol out of this event" said Lloyd Marbet. I tend to agree.

I had no idea that Phil's bookstore had burned down, a loss of some 100K rare volumes on the Pacific Northwest, a shocking loss.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Civil Service

My daughters joined me for lunch at The Bagdad today, a rare enough event. I remembered when this had been a video rental store, pre McMenamins buying the building.

We celebrated Carol's successful endeavors at the UN in NYC, welcomed the bright day, despite an abiding awareness of unfolding tragedies. She found some atmospherics to be up beat about. The Russians and the Americans seem to indeed have rebooted their relationship. Now if they could only act maturely around Iran... (that speech was pretty tame, nothing Canada couldn't have said).

Tara took the neg position regarding a two year quasi-universal draft, whereas almost 100% of her peers are taking the aff (aff and neg: shorthand from the Lincoln-Douglas debating subculture, Tara the district champion).

A culture espousing freedom should not mandate mandatory service, was Tara's position. Alexia saw relief from the pressure of student loans as a motivator. I circled overseas service as a possibility for volunteers, but that's not how the proposal had been written (a domestic service only).

Tara enterprisingly asked around and netted a cast-off PCIe card from a friend that solved her computer video needs. This took me almost an entire day to install, between other projects. Getting the dust blown out of her computer was definitely in need of doing. This was no super high end vid card, but beats what came on the motherboard (there's a BIOS setting to switch it over).

Don't apply the same dust blowing techniques to a piano though, I learned in my visit to the warehouse, as you'll just blow off the delicate felt padding (not that I'd done this, was learning from another's long ago mistakes). I was working for food, got to drive a truck and trailer (still haven't tried the forklift though).

My student friend in Indonesia has moved on to XML, is studying elementree.

I need to show Wanderer Bill Sheppard the Console module by Fredrik Lundh. I just tested it on Win7 and it seems to run just fine. Bill is always ribbing me about Python not being able to control a simple terminal window, sort of a basic test of basic smarts in his book (he writes in assembler).

In addition to upgrading the video card, I upgraded the Starling-1 netbook from Jaunty Jackalope to Karmic Koala, the next higher version of Ubuntu. System76 technical support by email was most necessary in getting me through this. I'd lost wireless, needed to upgrade grub, the boot loader.

I'm not some super Linux guru, believe you me, am in awe of some of those I encounter.

Tara has been using the Starling-1 more than I have recently. I mostly use it in meetings, to share pictures or quick takes from the Internet. I find it difficult to use for production work and appear not to have hypertoons installed, so it's hardly CSN-ready.

I wrote about PyCuda on edu-sig when thinking about this new graphics card... not that I've ever used it. PyCuda and its successor give Python coders a way to talk to the GPUs on nVidia cards.

I don't know what the Security+ people have to say about rogue employees milking more cycles out of on-board hardware -- presumably, like skateboarding, that shouldn't be a crime.

Speaking of which, the warehouse I was working in had an entire indoor skateboarding facility, which no one was using at the time. I was reminded of Vilnius.

The Wittgenstein list now has a record of some recent plowing and tilling in the Radical Math domain. I'm collecting recent links to my Math Forum posts in MyBizmo.

This may all seem more like idle banter than high stakes poker, I realize. I live in my own "private Idaho" to some degree.

Nick (GU exchange) reminded me to check out the revamped BFI website. Lets see if I'm can find some old pages... this one (NCTM heart Synergetics), but not this one (my London Knowledge Lab lecture). OK, cool -- the latter was out of date by now anyway.

LinZ is a the UU church downtown at the Ralph Nader lecture, running a table for Laughing Horse.

Alexia: what about those disappearing bees, why don't we hear more news about that? The only environmental cue we're getting is the steadily rising cost of honey.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wanderers 2010.5.5

The room was packed this morning. I arrived a little late, having circled the company car via Cleveland/PPS, later to Jiffy Lube for a free tire top off. Front right was down to 5 pounds i.e. technically flat. Gotta keep a sharp eye on that one.

What happened amounted to a series of lightning talks or fire crackers, a kind of Ignite Portland. Indeed, some of the same topics came up: tensegrity, flextegrity... and a lot of other stuff.

My original plan had been to say something about my experience with STScI. As it turned out, my large format glossy posters, provided by the STScI outreach office, were much appreciated.

Other than that, I expressed my sincere appreciation to Holden Web for providing me with this short notice opportunity. I've continued to study numpy, although I realize the mainstream still considers Matlab the fish of the day.

After the official meeting, I used the white board to diagram some of our Radical Math concepts. This is a marketing moniker or brand promulgated by Oregon Curriculum Network. Here's the logo I'm using (click through for Photostream):


I also published Geodesic News to Synergeo, synthesizing some recent findings.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Empirical Studies

Patrick threw himself into oil spill studies with a vengeance.

Between well capping and surface skimming is the mile of intervening ocean where oil plumes.

With only 10% of water's density, it forms a vertical flow that might be partially dammed by large, neutrally buoyant, inverted funnels. He calls them "jellyfish".

Patrick's quick survey of the existing literature, including various patents and proposals, showed that designs for under-sea collection infrastructure had never been implemented.

Relatively few had thought in terms of fielding ad hoc under-ocean oil snarfing devices. Their pumps would actuate in short bursts, in response a concentration of oil detected in their upper reaches. Oil might go into bags for pulling to shore, if not directly into ship tanks.

Patrick did some quick hydrological experiments. Then, as one of the few people who knows about Flextegrity, he wondered if Sam's way of tethering compressive members together could provide a quick skeleton for holding some membrane or skin in a collective position.

The Flextegrity web site shows breakwater and sea-bottom artificial reef applications, but neutral buoyancy applications have not been a feature. Patrick found a way to submit his idea on-line.

Like any good engineer, he's casting about for solutions, leveraging whatever knowledge base is available. BP no doubt has a vast army of such engineers studying the problem from all angles.

Patrick's proposal seems pretty radical, but radical thinking, even radical mathematics, is what we need more of these days.

Patrick joined us for morning coffee, just before my Python class in the piano room.

From my email to Sam later that same afternoon (fixing one typo):
I think a "prose sketch" of the rig, an inverted half octahedron, maybe 5-6 frequency with pretty gigantic icosahedra (ala coral reef), would be close to my interpretation of Patrick's concept: a giant inverted funnel designed to keep some sort of canvas or skin serving as a passive catcher's mitt. When an actuator measuring oil density gets triggered, because of collected oil in the top reaches of the cup, the pump sends it up the hose, as a burst, then shuts off, waits to be triggered again. He referred to them as "jelly fish".
Sam, Patrick, Glenn and I met at a neighborhood meeting place to further discuss the proposal. In kicking these ideas around, they morphed somewhat. The shape isn't that important, so long as it's a concave capturing device. We talked a lot about buoyancy control.

Sam would be happy to hit the accelerator on all this. We'd need to work with his engineers to move quickly.

Glenn's design wouldn't require Flexegrity at all. Stiffened dacron sails and PVC might provide the concave jellyfish. Sam actually thought this design made a lot of sense, given his knowledge of sailing and matters maritime. Sam: "Cheap, simple, locally available, ready to go... See, I'm prepared to subvert my own belief structure."

We have yet to see even the beginning of the end of this scenario. The ecological impact of our legacy radioactive materials is likewise measured in geological time.

We came up with the following abstract. Patrick got a call back from Senator Wyden's office while we worked on our draft. Patrick wrote most of this:
We propose to deploy an array of sub-surface oil concentration/collection devices to interdict the oil plume between its source and the surface. The elements of our system include individual, submerged, inverted funnels that will consolidate the oil and deliver it, on demand, to surface-based tender vessels. These elements work independently but can be deployed as a coordinated, but redundent, network. Each element consists of a concave membrane for oil collection, a pump, and a demand-based activation mechanism. Each element is deployable using small watercraft such as shrimp boats, and each can be independently weighted/buoyed as requred to ensure collection occurs at an optimal depth. Elements can be procured and assembled using locally-available or off-the-shelf materials.
Follow-up: more polish applied later, plus we presented it in assembly at the Pauling Campus the following Wednesday morning. The name "Medusa Array" was proposed informally.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Oil Spill

The eco-disaster unfolding in the ocean is eclipsing our conversations. The irony was not lost on Tara or Autumn, if we were to all die by our chief civilizational juice after water. Talk about peak oil.

Our standards of living, future prospects, have been changed overnight.

Last night I attended another benefit concert for Portland Womens Crisis Line. The event was held at In Other Words on the corner of Williams and Killingsworth.

Both bands, Lindsey Walker and Mannequin Head, were enthusiastically received by a mostly youthful female audience.

During a scouting expedition afterwards, seeking a bus stop for a girl and her guide dog, I got a callback from mom in New York. She'd had another long day with the airlines, had arrived at her destination. Nuclear disarmament remains a WILPF priority, since Ava Helen Pauling days and before. Linda Richards has also been in our conversations recently, amongst the Pauling House drifters (Wanderers).

I drank quite a bit of French press coffee during showtime, courtesy of a newly ensconced barista. Laughing Horse is aware of this wrinkle in the business model, is looking at hosting classes for example, in addition to concerts (has already done some of both). No one said that radicals couldn't be enterprising.

Radical thinking is what we'll need more of to counter environmental degradation, public enemy number one.