Friday, 28 July 2017

Example Computer Plots (1980)



From Byte Magazine 1980 (HERE).

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Spontaneous fine-tuning to environment in many-species chemical reaction networks (2017)

HERE is a computer simulation study of how a dilute solution of different `chemical' species can spontaneously begin to capture energy and create non-random structures (cf life).

Abstract

A chemical mixture that continually absorbs work from its environment may exhibit steady-state chemical concentrations that deviate from their equilibrium values. Such behavior is particularly interesting in a scenario where the environmental work sources are relatively difficult to access, so that only the proper orchestration of many distinct catalytic actors can power the dissipative flux required to maintain a stable, far-from-equilibrium steady state. In this article, we study the dynamics of an in silico chemical network with random connectivity in an environment that makes strong thermodynamic forcing available only to rare combinations of chemical concentrations. We find that the long-time dynamics of such systems are biased toward states that exhibit a fine-tuned extremization of environmental forcing.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Voyage d'Urien (1928)


Two images from Voyage d'Urien by André Gide, with engravings by Alfred Latour, set in Lutetia by Jan van Krimpen. Published in 1928 by the Halcyon Press, Maastricht, by A.A.M. Stols. Images from HERE.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Open Letter to an Editor on Wood Engraving (1940)


'Each time one looks at the beautiful highly polished surface of a new piece of boxwood one should set out with the thought that one has the whole of one's life in which to make one perfect engraving, so there is no need to hurry. And in actual fact it is not easy to do so. What with the natural limitations of the wood, the fact that one is working in reverse and with white on black, instead of the normal black on white, there are sufficient difficulties to overcome without imperilling any chance of success by working to time.' 

John Buckland Wright,  Open Letter to an Editor on Wood Engraving (1940). 

Image above, the ex libris that John Buckland Wright created in 1932 for the Dutch collector M.B.B. Nijkerk. Image from HERE.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Joy and Pain (1980)



One of my all time favourite songs: Joy and Pain by Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly. A great piece on their 40 year career HERE. A live version of the track HERE.

Pi is Wrong (2001)


HERE is the seminal paper from 2001 by Bob Palais on why the mathematical constant pi is wrong. Recent adherents of this paper have created a manifesto dedicated to building support for the alternative to pi - tau.
 

Decoding the Enigma with Recurrent Neural Networks (2017)



A fantastic page HERE by Physics under graduate Sam Greydanus on how he has used Neural nets to decode the Enigma machine. 

Image copyright S. Greydanus 2017

Research Debt (2017)


A great article by Chris Olah & Shan Carter on the Distill platform, on the concept of research debt

Achieving a research-level understanding of most topics is like climbing a mountain. Aspiring researchers must struggle to understand vast bodies of work that came before them, to learn techniques, and to gain intuition. Upon reaching the top, the new researcher begins doing novel work, throwing new stones onto the top of the mountain and making it a little taller for whoever comes next. 

Mathematics is a striking example of this. For centuries, countless minds have climbed the mountain range of mathematics and laid new boulders at the top. Over time, different peaks formed, built on top of particularly beautiful results. Now the peaks of mathematics are so numerous and steep that no person can climb them all. Even with a lifetime of dedicated effort, a mathematician may only enjoy some of their vistas. 

People expect the climb to be hard. It reflects the tremendous progress and cumulative effort that’s gone into mathematics. The climb is seen as an intellectual pilgrimage, the labor a rite of passage. But the climb could be massively easier. It’s entirely possible to build paths and staircases into these mountains. The climb isn’t something to be proud of. 

The climb isn’t progress: the climb is a mountain of debt. 

Image and quoted text from Olah & Carter, "Research Debt", Distill, 2017. 
http://doi.org/10.23915/distill.00005.



Thursday, 13 July 2017

Good Morning America (1928)


Frontispiece art by W.A. Dwiggins for Carl Sandburg’s Good Morning America (Crosby Gaige, 1928). From the Dwiggins Twitter feed. 

The Story of Books (2017)




HERE is the website of a new working museum of books, with a physical base in Hay on Wye. The founder Emma Balch says: "My vision was for a working museum with a college-like space, where experts could pass on their skills, working cross-generationally."

   

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pentagon Tiling Proof (2017)



A great piece HERE in Quanta magazine on how the French mathematician Michaël Rao has used a computer aided approach to complete the classification of convex polygons that tile the plane by solving the problem for pentagons. 


Le Conte Pear (1901)



A watercolour image of a specimen of the Le Conte variety of pears (Pyrus communis). Painted by Bertha Heiges in 1901. For more beautiful images like this see the vast collection at the USDA Pomological Watercolors collection HERE.


IMAGE: U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Old House at Home (1940)


The American journalist Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996) was one of the outstanding non-fiction prose writers of the USA. Between 1938 and 1964 he worked at the New Yorker creating brilliantly observed profiles of people he met in New York. Between 1964 and 1996 he continued to work at the New Yorker but never wrote another piece again.

One of his most famous pieces is The Old House at Home, first published in the New Yorker in 1940 (HERE). It is a long, brilliantly detailed, and affectionate profile of McSorley's Old Ale House, which opened at 15 East 7th Street, New York city in 1854.

HERE is a recently published, unfinished piece by Mitchell. 

In 2015, a biography of Mitchell called Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of  The New Yorker written by Thomas Kunkel was published. A review of the book in the NYRB is HERE.

Image: McSorley's Bar (1912) by John French Sloan.

 

Clockwright (2017)


Rick Hale is a clockmaking artist who lives in Kalamazoo Michigan. He makes fantastic large clocks from wood. His site is HERE.

Artist's Statement
I've learned most of what I know through reading old books on mechanical engineering, clockmaking, physics, & art.

Each of my timepieces is crafted from Michigan hardwoods, brass, & stone over the course of about 400 hours. I make a special effort to pay homage to the best work of the best clockmakers of the 18th century—Especially that of my favorite clockmaker, the legendary John Harrison.

In combining two ancient traditions—clockmaking & woodwrighting—I'm trying to change the way feel & process the flow of time. Time is hard on living things as it passes, surging endlessly out of the future & into the past. We've all felt it. Gentle, silent, ceaseless destruction, the slow, entropic loss of information & physical form. It's why many of us create. It's why we learn, teach, cultivate, persist. It's why we work through the night, rage quietly, methodically, against oblivion. It's why this wood sways again in the light of day, speaks again in the soft, creaking language of trees—alive, despite the wreckage.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Nothing Lasts Forever (1997)



HERE is a great piece in the Guardian on ten of the best songs by Echo and the Bunnymen (aka The Greatest Rock Band of All Time). I first saw Echo & the Bunnymen in 1979, supporting The Teardrop Explodes at Chester Arts Centre. They had just released their first single The Pictures on my Wall. The band had yet to recruit a drummer and were still using a rudimentary drum machine for backing (legend has it that this was Echo).

The list includes Nothing Lasts Forever, my own favourite Bunnymen track (released in 1997 when they got back together after a split, which they called the greatest comeback ever).

I want it now
I want it now
Not the promises of what tomorrow brings
I need to live in dreams today
I'm tired of the song that sorrow sings
And I want more than I can get
Just trying to, trying to, trying to forget
I'd walk to you through rings of fire
And never let you know the way I feel
Under skin is where I hide
The love that always gets me on my knees
And I want more than I can get
Just trying to, trying to, trying to forget
Nothing ever lasts forever
Nothing ever lasts forever
Nothing ever lasts forever
Nothing ever lasts forever

Will Sergeant/ Les Pattinson / Ian McCulloch
Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.
 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Pulchritude (2008)

 
Pulchritude

A paradoxical noun because it means beauty but is itself one of the ugliest words in the language. Same goes for the adjectival form pulchritudinous. They’re part of a tiny elite cadre of words that possess the very opposite of the qualities they denote. Diminutive, big, foreign, fancy (adjective), colloquialism, and monosyllabic are some others; there are at least a dozen more. Inviting your school-age kids to list as many paradoxical words as they can is a neat way to deepen their relationship to English and help them see that words are both symbols for things and very real things themselves.

By David Foster Wallace.
The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus  2nd Edition

Image from The Book of Spice by Wallace Irwin (1875- 1959) published in 1906 (HERE).

On Revision (2012)


The American writer and literary critic Michael Dirda (b 1948), writes for the Washington Post amongst others. In 1993 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his book reviews. HERE is Browsings, his collection of short pieces for the American Scholar that have subsequently been collected into a volume. There is also a very entertaining piece about his book collecting habits HERE

Below is a small exerpt from a Browsings piece called Books on Books:

These days, The Paris Review has repackaged its long-running series of conversations with authors, and even made them available online. I’m glad for this, and yet the original Writers at Work volumes, especially the first three, possessed a magic all their own. As a teenager, I virtually memorized my paperback editions, greedy for insider tips about the literary life. Pound, Eliot, Hemingway, Faulkner, Colette, Waugh—they were all there. What has stuck with me the most over the years is their almost universal insistence on the importance of revision, of revising and revising again.  

Image of Thomas Burke from The Glory That Was Grub Street (HERE)

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