The Math Professor

Pretty cool installation.  A mash-up of virtual reality, physical reality, and neurology.  I want to try it.

Here are a few thoughts on Conway’s Game of Life which came up in our group today.

  1. I view the Game of Life as simile rather than metaphor for our existence.
  2. The rules exhibit tendencies towards the creation of certain stable structures.
  3. Small changes can radically disrupt stable structures.
  4. Human experience is similar to the Game of Life in that we each respond autonomously to our environments.  The aggregate of our responses causes stable structures like families, governments, slavery, schools, careers etc.
  5. The best we can do as historians is to point out and characterize some of these stable structures.  Unless we are physicists examining the most elementary particles in the universe and the rules that govern their interactions, we are only building approximations of understanding.
  6. No physicist can explain a marriage by studying the collection of quarks that make up the marriage.
  7. We are left only with our approximations.
  8. There is no past, no future, only the churning present.

Here is the final shot in the series finale of Big Love (aired Mar 21, 2011).  Notice how the shot passes seamlessly backwards through the living room window.  This kind of special effect has only recently become possible.  (approx 30 secs)

A mix of stuff to get us thinking about space.  I’m fascinated by the ability of humans to comprehend and intuit spatial abstractions that are so different from the space we evolved in as a species.  Until recently (say the last 300 years), such abstractions did not exist.  Yet we are comfortable with the constant barrage of spatial manipulations presented by new media.  Per Sarah’s request I’ve placed approximate time committment for each item in parentheses at the end of each item.   (more…)

WNYC’s On The Media is a public radio podcast I’ve been listening to since its inception.  Last week’s episode seemed quite similar to what we’re doing in this group.   Here’s the blurb from the site:

February 18, 2011

A special, live broadcast of On the Media. Brooke, Bob, Ethan Zuckerman and other guests on the question: will the internet deliver us or destroy us?

Not a psychotherapy session, just a collection of ideas that we’ll survey with the possibility of revisiting them later.
In no particular order:
  1. “The Supersession of Written Culture”, pg 272 of the New Media Reader.  An extension of this idea is that the proliferation of gadgets is suppressing creativity en masse, simply because the devices are so damn difficult to interact with.  For example, the act of creation is far easier on a desktop computer than on an iPod touch.
  2. Separation Anxiety by Joan O’C. Hamilton.  A starting point to the question of how much technology to allow into the classroom and how our curricula must adapt.
  3. The Four-Color Problem and Its Philosophical Significance by Thomas Tymoczko.  You can just skim this.  It deals with the problem of using computers to prove mathematical results.  It’s included as an attachment to this Forum entry.  The idea here is to discuss how technology affects our professional activity.

I’m pretty sure we can get to the first two points, but the third may be too large and more suited to a session of its own.