Daily Archives: 04/10/2005

Autumn in Japan

While I am still monkeying around with this WordPress thing, here’s a photo from Halloween in Japan last year. I went driving up into the mountains west of Tokyo with David, taking in the fall colors and the occassional shower.

Forest Path in Japan

Golly, it sure was pretty up in those mountains that misty afternoon.

Godless Calculus

It’s funny, but frighteningly true: Ridiculopathy.com: Calculus, Quadratic Equations Split Pennsylvania Town

Two weeks ago parent volunteer Holly R. Thanthow took a break from passing out Jack Chick tracts in the school’s courtyard to visit her son’s fourth period class taught by newcomer John Scopes. What she saw there shocked her to the core.

“He asked them to find the area under a curve- without using cubits at all. I raised religious objections since the lesson completely goes against Genesis 7:20, but he said my son had to do the work anyway. When I asked Mr. Scopes to refrain from teaching from his so-called ‘math textbook’ he flat out refused. I know, I couldn’t believe it myself.”

Art – Mathematics

Melencolia I by Albrecht DürerWhile looking around the New Yorker for the lytico-bodig article, I came across another story about the Chudnovsky brothers, an eccentric duo of mathematicians featured in a long New Yorker story from 1992, The Mountains of Pi, by Richard Preston. It was a fascinating article about their quest to find patterns in the irrational number pi and how they constructed a supercomputer in their living room to aid in their search. I read Mountains of Pi several years ago and enjoyed it thoroughly.

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Richard Preston revisits the Chudnovsky brothers ensconced in their new digs in Brooklyn. This time around, the mathematicians are working on a new project, assembling high-resolution digital photos of the Unicorn Tapestries into a single, enormous image of each tapestry.

The Unicorn Tapestries are a priceless example of medieval art, depicting the hunt and capture of a unicorn. I saw the tapestries several years ago at the Cloisters, a medieval art museum run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a humbling experience. They are humongous wall hangings, over 500 years old and incredibly rich in detail and skill. It boggles the mind thinking about how difficult it must have been to weave them.

In 1998, the Cloisters took the tapestries down for renovation and during the process a complete series of digital photos was taken of both the front and the back of each tapestry. But combing the images together into a cohesive single image of each tapestry was beyond the skill of the people at the Met. A chance conversation brought the Chudnovskys into the picture, along with their custom designed supercomputer at New York’s Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. It took them awhile, but they were able to stitch together the images from The Capture of the Unicorn into one large image. The story is a fascinating combination of art and mathematics.

Two Good Movies

I was nursing an Olympic sized hangover yesterday, the result of a hazy night of beers and shots with a couple rummy friends. I honestly don’t know how they do it all the time. I was barely functional yesterday, I only left the house once all day, and that was to the cornershop for Coke and bag of chips.

I spent most of yesterday napping and watching a couple movies on DVD. I went to Blockbuster Friday at lunch and signed up for their 30 day, revolving rental thing. It’s been a long while since I watched any DVD’s and they had a passle I wanted to watch. So I’ll give it a whirl for a month and watch all the movies I need to see.

I picked up three movies, and watched two of them yesterday. They were both really good, but then I heard good things about both of them.

  • The Incredibles: Honestly, I think most of the really good movies coming out of Hollywood these days are the digital animation features. The Incredibles continues the trend with an enjoyable romp through a superhero world. I really enjoyed the super villain bit, including his James Bond style secret island lair. Definitely check out the short cartoon on the second DVD, “Jack-Jack Attack,” I couldn’t stop laughing at that one.
  • Donnie Darko: I don’t know how I missed this movie for so long. I watched it once, then watched it again with the director’s commentary on. He spent a great deal of time discussing Joseph Campbell, and that’s a good thing. Can’t really go wrong referencing Campbell, after all he wrote the book on mythical quests and heroes. Sublimely weird, full of strange stuff, a few frights, melancholy and bizarre constructions, Donnie Darko reminded me of another supremely bizarre movie I enjoyed, Jacob’s Ladder. And Jacob’s Ladder featured Elizabeth Peña, who voiced a character in the Incredibles! Things that make you go hmmm… A hat tip to the every tasteful Jimbo for nudging me towards this cult classic.

I got one more movie to go, and it is the sketchiest of the three. Girl with a Pearl Earring sounded interesting, and I do have that art degree, so maybe I will enjoy it. And Scarlett Johansson ain’t exactly tough to watch either, another plus in the movie’s favor.

Lytico-Bodig In The New Yorker

I’ve been getting a lot of hits the past few days on lytico-bodig, probably because of the New Yorker story, the Tangle by Jonathan Weiner. Sorry, this isn’t the place. I haven’t read it either, because it is not online and current issues of any magazine take about a month to get to Guam. It look interesting though, I’ll certainly read it when I get a chance. I’ve heard this theory before, and how the toxins build up in fruit bats. My only problem is that cycads are not really something a fruit bat would eat. Papaya, mango, star apple certainly are part of a fruit bat’s diet, but a hard little nut, deep in the center of prickly cycad? Maybe a desperate fanihi