Sunday, 15 May 2022

orbital mechanics

Enunciated for the first time the following year after some concerted fact-checking and re-taking measurements since the outcome seemed to elegant to be true, Johannes Kepler discovered the last of his three laws of planetary motion on this day in 1618, capturing the relationship between the distance of a astronomical body from its host star and the time it takes to complete a trip around it: that is, the value of the cube of the semi-major axis divided by the square of a planet’s orbital period is a constant—for our solar system. The publication was also delayed due to rather laborious attempts to reconcile his formula with the theory of the music of the spheres (see here and also above), thus making this third discovery known as the harmonic law.

Friday, 13 May 2022

unvollstรคndigkeitssatz

Futility Closet relates an anecdote from the live of mathematician Kurt Gรถdel in residence at Princeton University Institute for Advanced Studies and his friendship with fellow resident scholars physicists Albert Einstein (previously) John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern, whom felt obliged to make sure their younger charge’s tendency for over-thinking remained an asset and not his undoing and monitored Gรถdel’s preparation for the US citizenship exam in 1947, Einstein himself naturalised seven years earlier. The prodigal and influential logistician widely settled the impossibility of formulating a self-consistent and complete set of rules governing all of mathematics at the tender age of twenty-five, Gรถdel assayed the project of his examination with signature tenacity and revealed to his wardens that in his research, he had uncovered a fatal-flaw in the American constitution that could led to dictatorship, the corruption and consequence of totalitarian democracy. Einstein and company implored him not to share this discovery and the test was actually a much simpler affair, though basic civics and recent history might have suggested otherwise. The proctor for the citizenship test inquired of Gรถdel his state of origin and its form of government—to which Gรถdel replied Austria and a republic, but owed that “the constitution was such that it soon become a dictatorship.” Despite the examiner’s insistence that the same could not happen in the USA and Gรถdel’s refutation with the offer of proof, the panel stuck to the business at hand and conducted the test. No mention was made in their collective memoirs what that finding might have been and we suppose won’t know it until it’s happened.

Monday, 9 May 2022

orbital resonance

Though the Octave of Easter refers to a specific eight-day celebration in connect to the Paschaltide, our

word week itself (via the German Woche) derives from the same root as octave and that one out-of-cycle unit of time—that is, seemingly the sequence repeated for countless generations not determined by the motion of the Heavens or our perception of them but nonetheless in most Western and Eastern traditions named for the astronomical objects visible to the unaided eye. The ordering does not accord with the classical model of the Cosmos—the “Chaldean order” that describes the apparent overtaking and retrograde motion relative to the Earth—nor hierarchy of the pantheon, however, but rather the seven strings of the Mesopotamian lyre with which the celestial spheres were thought to harmonise: (4) Sunday ☉, (1) Monday ☽, (5) Tuesday ♂ (Mardi in French), (2) Wednesday ☿ (Mercoledรฌ), (6) Thursday ♃ (Donnerstag), (3) Friday ♀ (Venres) and (7) Saturday ♄. Vexed somewhat by the onerous and complicated Roman subdivision of the days and the planetary officer appointed to each hours, the order of the weekdays seemingly recapitulates musical theory and progression through the major scale. More at the links above and in this video adaptation below from Sara de Rose.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

gรฉodรฉsie

Celebrated astronomer and geologist Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre on this day in 1792 undertook his commission to precisely define the metre, a universal measure defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator, organising an expedition to measure the length of the meridian arc (distance—the two cities being on the same line of longitude) between Dunkirk and Rodez, by Toulouse in the south of France, mathematically extrapolating from that value, and then from Rodez to Barcelona’s Fortress of Montjuรฏc. The survey mission took six years beset by technical set-backs, bouts of yellow fever and the French Revolution, including several unfortunate incarcerations by Royalist elements. Precise measurements were taken with a device called a repeating circle ( cercle rรฉpรฉtiteur ), invented by machinist Etienne Lenoir originally for Jean-Charles de Borda and improved for Delambre and team. Finally in 1799, the metre was formally defined as 0.514074 Parisien toise (from the Latin tender—that is the span of the outstretched arms, six feet) or three feet and eleven lignes—a historical unit that was approximately one twelfth of an inch and still used by watchmakers to size casings and in button-manufacturing.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Via Boing Boing, we are directed towards a mysterious, little used symbol on the Miscellaneous Technical block of Unicode known variously as Right Angle Downward Zig-Zag Arrow or by the name of an apocryphal (not on our demonic calendar but nonetheless can be summoned with an & into HTML) infernal earl called Angzarr, and going down this rabbit hole to find out more about the character (see previously) reveals a lot about the origins of typesetting, coding and what artefacts and skeuomorphs get preserved. No definitive answer is yielded up yet the value is all in the journey and of course one can—like with a suite of emoji—assign it a meaning. To me the sigil looks like a representation of three-dimensional axes and an easy way to convey depth. What do you think?

Sunday, 10 April 2022

7x7

improper fraction arena: Via friend of the blog Nag on the Lake’s superb Sunday Links and the depths of Wikipedia comes a list of articles submitted and ultimately rejected by dint of insanity  

possible to express in words: a useful term with a surprisingly sparse corpora 

reprise: another look at Davie Bowie’s 1973 The 1980 Floor Show through some raw footage—see previously 

a moveable feast: a look at the mode, median and mean dates for Easter and the method of computus  

a kitty bobo show: Kevin Kaliher’s pilot that went ungreen-lit in favour of Kids Next Door  

micromachines: researchers developing tiny molecular motors that could be deployed en masse to suck carbon from the air, supplement our own organs—via Slashdot  

did you know: from the depths to the Main Page

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

stanze della segnatura

Born on this day (or possibly 28 March) in 1483 (†1520—on the same day), the artist mononymously known as Raphael—Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino—would go on to become one of the trinity of Italian High Renaissance art alongside Leonardo and Michelangelo, prolific despite his relatively early death, working in Umbria, Florence and finally in Rome under the patronage of two popes, the majority of his creations on display in the Vatican. Reflecting his Neoplatonic ideals, arguably his best known, commercially duplicated work is The School of Athens (Sculoa di Atene, complemented by The Parnassus and the Disputa on opposite walls), a suite of frescos commissioned between 1509 and 1511 to decorate the rooms of the papal palace with a celebration and revival of the arts and sciences and cameos of philosophers portrayed by contemporaries.

Friday, 1 April 2022

cosmic call

First spotted by Damn Interesting’s Curated Links, Scientific American reports that as the fiftieth anniversary of the Arecibo Message approaches researchers at the FAST radio telescope and affiliates at SETI and METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence because no one wants to answer their phone apparently) have devised a new bit-mapped series of missives to put out to the Cosmos. The sample image illustrates prime numbers and binary and decimal notation and is one of several (whilst debate continues if it is wise to advertise our presence and level of technologic competence) to be bundled along with the components of DNA, particle physics and human physiology, like this iconic message in a bottle.

Friday, 18 March 2022

howdy neighbour

Albeit from a distance of a million kilometres and assuming quite different orbital paths, the team of astronomers directing the Gaia stellar charting mission (see previously) to map the galaxy by plotting the paths of a billion stars was able to greet a fellow spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope once it arrived at the second Lagrangian Point, where Gaia has been stationed since 2014. The yellow curves representing Gaia’s periodic path through space is called a Lissajous figure, describing a rather complex, three-dimensional harmonic knot—the kind of shape found on an oscilloscope, whereas the JWST takes a halo orbit.

Monday, 14 March 2022

7x7

be kind, rewind: the miniature dioramas of Marina Totino—via Waxy  

doobly doo: recreating a Hallstatt period hair-style  

wck: more on Josรฉ Andrรฉs’ World Central Kitchen (previously) and its work in Ukraine  

it is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it: solace from the Stoics and other timeless words of wisdom—via Messy Nessy Chic  

blogoversary: Kottke turns twenty-four  

the wife of ฯ€: a Pi Day (previously) round-up—plus this one  

family pictures: artist Martha Naranjo Sandoval reanimates antique stereoscopic photos

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

6x6


serenade
: French illustrator Gaspard portrays musicians harmonising with feathered friends in lush settings  

bon temps roulez, mes amis: New Orleans celebrates its first full-scale Marti Gras in two years  

donzig: a rather clever mashup of Donna Summers and Danzig’s cover of The Doors’ Mother  

complications: a clock face engineered to make telling the time a challenge—see also  

displaced persons: a historical pamphlet on the situation in Ukraine following World War II 

 aux in: a superlative collection of boom-boxes from Japan

Sunday, 27 February 2022

8x8

glass menagerie: more microbiological models from Luke Jerram—see previously 

instant city: a 1971, tented utopian experiment on the northern coast of Ibiza  

dearc sgiathanach: superlative winged pterosaur found on the Island of Skye 

kye marn: incredible papier mรขchรฉ Carnival masks from Jacmel, Haiti 

the wags, jubilee plus christmas gambols: nautical song composer Charles Dibdin, forgotten eighteenth century superstar—via Strange Company 

a strange game—the only winning move is not to play: the rise of gamification in all systems and how to avoid getting caught up in it unawares  

ัะฝะต, ะฑะตะฝะต, ั€ะตั: a Russian counting rhyme, like yan, tan, tethera  

angiogenic properties: materials scientists development bioactive glass (also used to repair broken bones) that repels virtually all germs

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

6x6

putting the fun in fungible: NFTs appraised on Antiques Roadshow, via Messy Nessy Chic  

anagrams everywhere: the intrusive, obsessive thoughts of a Scrabble enthusiast—via Kottke’s Quick Linkssee also  

maths hysteria: a celebration of vintage calculator manuals  

dishes for luck and prosperity: traditional Lunar New Year cuisine laden with word-play and symbolism  

old brown ears is back: a cover album from under-appreciated Muppet character, Rowlf the Dog  

nasm: Smithsonian Air & Space museum accepts donation from a tech billionaire—notably absent a “morals clause” which would allow the institution to disassociate itself with their benefactor should their values become misaligned

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

tempus fugit

From our faithful chronicler we are introduced to the Weber-Fechner law, a pair of complementary psychophysical hypotheses that account for the common experience of the accelerated passage of time as we grow older. Named for Ernst Heinrich Weber (Gustav Theodore Fechner described it mathematically), the phenomenon suggests that we perceive ratios and given a sufficiently larger sample size—smaller contrast, we begin to gauge change in logarithmically rather than linearly. More at the link above, including a video presentation by Dr Hanna Fry of The Curious Cases podcast with co-host Dr Adam Rutherford.

Monday, 17 January 2022

from inca to excel

Via ร†on, we quite enjoyed this introduction to the system of knotted fibres called khipu (see also) as an accounting and record-keeping tool of the Wari peoples and spread across the Andean region some fourteen-hundred years ago. Decoded by specially-trained khipukamayuqs, these mobile ledgers were periodically recalled to court authorities to lodge tax-compliance, census numbers, commerce, genealogy and inheritance—and with only a small proportion of museum-holdings deciphered, some holdout the possibility that these data-points were a means to encode the fulness of language.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

eeny, meeny, miney milliters

Via our peripatetic friend, Messy Nessy Chic, we are enjoying this 1978 Schoolhouse Rock! style campaign (from the same creative team) to bring the metric system to United States of America (see also) whose success and legacy presently is dubious at best.

Friday, 7 January 2022

10^

Courtesy of the always engrossing Kottke, we are directed to an updated version of the Ames’ classic Powers of Ten from the BBC science desk, Open University and presenter and particle physicist Brian Cox that updates the scale to bring in up to par with our current observational powers—about a thousand fold more of the Cosmos than were capable of some forty-five years ago when the original short film was made.

Saturday, 11 December 2021

6x6

level 5—the scent represents a fully personal experience with some unrelated property. the experience itself has no aroma or shared understanding: Yankee Candle’s Stages of Abstraction—via Waxy  

pine-eleven: conservative pundits suggest arson attack on network’s Christmas tree a ‘hate crime’ and an assault on religious freedoms  

by-line: Bloomberg’s annual jealousy list of articles they wish they’d written—via Kottke  

a new system of arithmetic and metrology: Johan Nystrรถm’s hexadecimal tonal and temporal notation (1863)  

alpine exports: Little Switzerlands abroad—see also here and here  

you buy—i die: Indian handicraft as indictment against thoughtless consumption

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

6x6

recursive: Ghislaine Maxwell sketches the courtroom artist sketching her 

temporal distortion: an xkcd comic that references every ambiguous birthday scenario 

check out those gams: a pair of pageants with a narrower focus on beauty—via Nag on the Lake 

menty-b: Macquarie Dictionary’s short-list for Word of the Year  

qed: an overview of maths in film and television 

hungry eyes: the canon of Western art as viewed through the lens of food

Friday, 3 December 2021

r*

In the moments before beginning his informal gathering of searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence in late November 1961, host astronomer Frank Drake, who had convened the conference to promote his programme Project Ozma that monitored a pair of nearby, sun-like stars for radio signals, dashed off his probabilistic conjecture, the eponymous equation proposed to estimate the number of communicative civilisations in the galaxy.  While subject to criticism for the speculative and unknowable nature of many of the factors, it is nonetheless a useful heuristic from the individual whom would go on to champion the conversion of the Arecibo site to a radio telescope and entrench SETI in the popular imagination: Whereas N is the number of alien civilisations within our current light cone derived from the rate of stellar formation multipled by the fraction hosting exoplanets, by the average in the Goldie Locks Zone, times the fraction that develop and sustain life long enough to develop a technology detectable by other distant civilisations and finally the length of time such civilisations stick around.  Through research and observation, the incidence of some factors can be arrived at, but other parameters are very much androcentric and do not account for colonization and the rise and fall of successive dominant life forms