Monday, February 01, 2010

Schoolish Business

I think the community is pretty OK with the Synergetics on Wikipedia page. Defining it as "empirical" (bold, not my sentence) is with reference to its essentially hands-on nature.

The discipline is immersive, the opposite of aloof. Synergetics is not a spectator sport. More like First Person Physics.

Fuller eschewed math notations for the most part in that work, and for a reason: he was wanting to contribute difficult prose, not difficult not-prose.

If the C.P. Snow chasm were to be bridged, it could just as well be from the humanities side. Lionel sent some great research on this, a distillation of Cosmic Fishing by E.J. Applewhite.

When average reading comprehension levels go up by just a couple ticks around the world, you end up with that many less scams, bogus beliefs. Outward wars, like other mob actions, are sometimes triggered by deliberate subterfuge.

Increasing the level of media and computer literacy keeps the fatalistic and apocalyptic from banding together too tightly. When communications run every which way, it's easier to put out fires, quell falsehoods. War profiteers should be encouraged to make an honest living for a change.

Our situation is dire enough without making it worse through self-fulfilling prophecies.

David Koski and I had a rather voluminous exchange recently, as I once again attempted to fathom his way of manufacturing zonohedra from hexahedra.

When he says a shape is 600-sided, he's seeing all these flattened hexahedra not visible to tourists, fair warning. They tile the surface of those not-rhombic polygons -- creating more rhombs for the initiated.

These flat hexahedra are as a result of construction, using various central angle sets corresponding to the great circle networks of such as the 6 + 10 + 15 = 31 and 6 + 7 + 12 = 25 of the icosahedron and cuboctahedron respectively. Yes, I'm describing cartoons, mathcasts.

In Bizmo Diaries, I give an example a Geometry Storyboard showcasing David's method with respect to the six vertex axes of the cuboctahedron. He did all the graphics in vZome, for explaining by email.

Q: What's a bizmo?

A: a business mobile...

...possibly going from the Bend area towards Forest Grove. Dave Ulmer had an interesting example parked at the Linus Pauling Campus some years back. In the full blown vision, we'd have dispatcher control rooms keeping the show on the road.

By "Linus Pauling Campus" I refer to a three-building complex plus parking lot, right off the Silicon Forest's original memory lane: our Hawthorne Boulevard. That's right. Both Tektronix and Electro-Scientific Instruments got started right here in 97214.

I phoned SNEC today and exulted about the Bucky play, the big difference it made in Portland in 2008. SNEC is helping to organize some events around the play when it opens in Washington DC later this year. Trevor and I both got to give talks, a real privilege in that venue (Portland Center Stage).

They're watching a lot of science TV on Youtubes over there or "back east" as some put it. Excellent production values out of India these days, lots of well-explained college level material, for free on the web. MIT isn't the only source of free / open course-ware.

Welcome to the Global U.

I stumbled upon this "bridge to nowhere article" from the Ellensburg Daily Record, December 7, 1987, when Alaskans were contemplating their global grid hookup.

That's but a distant memory most people don't have. What likely amazed some politicians in the 2008 election cycle is how dutifully contemporary journalists avoided sharing any of this history, even just for context.

Likewise regarding Iraq or Iran: Neo-Victorians chatter about oil pipes and not electrical grids, try to sound worldly-rich in some upper deck Titanic namespace. Google up some recent history to learn more about this electric world you're inheriting.

One might claim Synergetics has no engineering significance, but then just look at the track record.

True, both the geodesic dome and octet-truss were dawning lights in other geniuses (Bauresfeld and Bell respectively). That's what we'd expect. Great minds really do think alike, partially overlap on principle.

That any four events define a tetrahedron might be considered a foretaste of hyperlinks. Schools of thought "constellate" and "precess" one another in Cyberia. The invisible colleges all observe one another.

Likewise Synergetics is a hall of mirrors with respect to what people were studying in the 1900s.

Fuller was in sync with his times, and/or somewhat anticipatory.

Yes, the work may seem rather deliberately obfuscatory in never mentioning phi (nothing "golden" in the index), even while seeming to dis pi (it's more humans taking themselves too literally that he's fighting, as if literal pi were ever used in nature).

In working to stay true to himself, Fuller reinvented a lot of wheels. He didn't have time to find all the short cuts. Not saying we do either. Just some of them.

I've been trying to correct any misapprehensions regarding this math-through-programming campaign we've been waging. This is not about boosting honors or AP caliber classes necessarily.

This is about reaching out across the digital divide to anyone struggling, and providing some soothing focus time. Sometimes students relax by concentrating, if permitted the breathing room needed for study. If you've got time for a command line, then you must know where your next meal is coming from, if not the one after that.

Getting some kind of handle on the equipment just feels like a step up, especially if the stuff actually works.

I've been helping this guy in Indonesia via a shared canvas, PDF, attached Python scripts. This is stuff with colored balls in VPython.

In trying to help Bruce with his wrapper class for the Standard Library turtle, I gave some unhelpful advice. Vern stepped in.

* * *

My dear Uncle John passed away on January 20. He was an avid science fiction buff, lent me Isaac Asimov's two volume journal. He grew up in the wilds of Alaska. He radiated peace, warmth and good humor all the days that I knew him.

I look forward to seeing Uncle Bill again soon. John was his brother in law. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill's sister Evelyn.