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Doing it right, doing it wrong, & it could be your Sunday surprise

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick note about putting the mind through hoops, aka connecting dots ]
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For the record, the mind is not a phalanx but a swarm — IOW it gets creative when the links are leaps, not serried ranks.

So when your evidence board, memory jolt, graphical display looks like this (and it’s not the unavoidable dimness of the screen-grab I’m talking about):

wrong way to stir memories The Killing s3 e8 around 39 mins 2

the mind won’t see as many possibilities as when it’s more like this:

**

Randomize. Create uneven spaces between items. Shift items around. The idea here is to create fresh possibilities, not to look tidy.

I had a friend once who was an artist. His studio and his life were both disasters — and in his studio, in the middle of that life, he created dazzling, gorgeously colored and delicately graduated geometric patterns — as though he was a disorder organizer, and the more disorderly his input, the greater the precision of his output.

Think about that.

Here is what may be a diagrammatic version of what I’m saying, or maybe not, but which stirs my mind in any case, just thinking about it — from Ron Scroggin about a year ago, shared in John Kellden‘s Conversations on G+:

projectmixtape RC

**

Sources:

  • Evidence board, The Killing, series 3 episode 8
  • Al Qaida board, Manhunter
  • Namagiri and Ramanujan

    Sunday, May 1st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — in which we glimpse the (female) divinity hidden behind infinity ]
    .

    Ramanujan and Namagiri

    **

    It is one of the curiosities of mathematics that the great Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan claimed to have received many, if not all, of his equations from the goddess Namagiri in dreams — and that this idea is all too often quietly omitted from discussions of his uncanny brilliance.

    Now that The Man Who Knew Infinity is out in theaters, it might be wise to explore the connection between Namagiri and Ramanujan a little more closely.

    Dream and waking, darshan and mathematics, inspiration and intuition, intuition and proof, quality and quantity — these polarities are all involved..

    To its credit, the film contains the line:

    You want to know how I get my ideas? God speaks to me.

    However, the idea that “God” might be a goddess seems a reach too far for the screenwriters and director.

    Viewing:

  • Matt Brown, The Man Who Knew Infinity
  • Here’s one version of the trailer:

    **

    Stephen Wolfram posted a fine article on his blog last week, Who Was Ramanujan?. He was willing to mention that Ramanujan’s friend and collaborator, GH Hardy, “could be very nerdy — whether about cricket scores, proving the non-existence of God, or writing down rules for his collaboration with Littlewood” — but fails in 31 pages to mention Ramanujan’s own belief that he received his equations from a goddess.

    All of which caused me to pose a question to Wolfram’s own algorithmic genie, Wolfram Alpha:

    Did Namagiri reveal equations to Ramanujan?

    WolframAlpha skipped the words “Did Namagiri reveal” and “to” and concentrated on responding to “equations” and “Ramanujan” — not quite up to par with AlphaGo, I’m afraid, let alone Ramanujan himself, or better, Namagiri.

    Below’s the DoubleQuote I made to by way of comment — note that I’ve only had space for the first line of WolframApha’s extended response:

    Tablet DQ ramanujan namagiri wolfram 1

    **

    Readings:

  • Stephen Wolfram, Who Was Ramanujan?
  • Hinduism Today, Computing the Mathematical Face of God
  • Huffington Post, Ramanujan’s Mock Modular Forms
  • The Hindu, American mathematicians solve Ramanujan’s “deathbed” puzzle
  • Sadhguru, Doorway to the Beyond
  • Paul Chika Emekwulu, Mathematical Encounters: For the inquisitive mind
  • The Hindu, The Man Who Knew Infinity: A misunderstood mind
  • Getting deeper into Koestler

    Friday, March 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — on creativity at the intersection of the fleeting and the eternal ]
    .

    centaur skeleton
    Centaur, displayed in the International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, AZ

    **

    You know Lao Tzu’s “uncarved wood” (pu) — and Spencer Brown’s “Mark” or “first distinction? It is hard to speak of “the one and the many” without language itself favoring the many, the one being “one” and the many “another”. The Greek phrase “Before Abraham was, I am” attributed to Christ may be as close as we get.

    The “uncarved wood” is not some definite -– named and thus defined -– “one” -– it is also “raw silk” (su), the simple -– the natural way or stream, from which things have not yet been separated out by naming.

    There is delight, however, both in one becoming two and thus many, in the making of distinctions and naming of names, and no less in two (or the many) becoming one, in the resolution of paradox, the release of tension, peace after strife. In human terms, there is joy in both solo and collaborative achievement.

    What better, then, than the perfect fit between disparate entities?

    I have written often enough about Arthur Koestler and the place where two disparate spheres of thought link up — the centaur links horse and man in an indissoluble unity — there’s no question here of dismounting after a ride, giving the horse a rub down and some feed, then retiring to the verandah for a whiskey…

    The mythological aha! we get from the centaur displayed in the museum hinges on the fit of horse and human skeletons, the perfection with which disparates are joined.

    **

    Thus far, whenever I’ve discussed Koestler‘s notion of bisociation, I’ve focused on the sense that it liea at the heart of creativity. Koestler himself takes it deeper. Here’s Nicholas Vajifdar, in a review titled Summing Up Arthur Koestler’s Janus: A Summing Up:

    Koestler .. asserts that there are two planes of existence, the trivial and the tragic. The trivial plane is the stage for paying bills, shopping, working. Most of life takes place on the trivial plane. But sometimes we’re swept up into the tragic plane, usually due to some catastrophe, and everything becomes glazed with an awful significance. From the point of view of the tragic plane, the trivial plane is empty and frivolous; from the point of view of the trivial plane, the tragic plane is embarrassing and overwrought. Once we’ve moved from one plane to the other, we forget why we could have felt the way we used to.

    That’s not just any old distinction between two realms, that’s the one Koestler himself prioritizes. And following his basic principle that a creative spark is lit when two disparate “planes of ideas” intersect, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find Vajifdar continuing:

    “The highest form of human creativity,” Koestler writes, “is the endeavor to bridge the gap between the two planes. Both the artist and the scientist are gifted — or cursed — with the faculty of perceiving the trivial events of everyday experience sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity…”

    William Blake made a similar observation in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, writing:

    Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

    Finally, Vajifdar tells us why he finds Koestler’s definition of art maybe the best he’s ever read:

    What I value in this definition of creativity is its emphasis on the subjective being of those who experience the work of art or scientific theory, a surer gauge than cataloguing formal properties or whether it’s “interesting.” Art has always seemed like a kind of sober drunkenness, or drunken sobriety. Most people probably have wondered whether the feelings they felt while drunk were more or less real than their sober feelings. Koestlerian art joins these seemingly irreconcilable feelings together.

    Let’s just go one step further. In Promise and Fulfilment – Palestine 1917-1949, Koestler specifically singles out this intersection as an aspect of the experience of warfare:

    This intense and perverse peace, superimposed on scenes of flesh-tearing and eardrum-splitting violence, is an archetype of war-experience. Grass never smells sweeter than in a dug-out during a bombardment when one’s face is buried in the earth. What soldier has not seen that caterpillar crawling along a crack in the bark of the tree behind which he took cover, and pursuing its climb undisturbed by the spattering of his tommy-gun? This intersecting of the tragic and the trivial planes of existence has always obsessed me in the Spanish Civil War, during the collapse of France, in the London blitz.

    **

    I am grateful to David Foster for his ChicagoBoyz post The Romance of Terrorism and War which triggered this exploration, and that on the glamour of war which will follow it.

    From John Robb to Jean Paul Gaultier

    Thursday, February 4th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — via Christopher Alexander, Arthur Koestler, James Clerk Maxwell, Hermann Hesse, and Wells Cathedral ]
    .

    My topic today is a comment that John Robb just posted on his FaceBook page. As so often, I’ll proceed by indirection. Here’s a wild DoubleQuote illustrating a blogger’s perceived similarity between the “scissors arch” at Wells Cathedral and one of the models in Jean Paul Gaultier‘s 2009 Spring collection:

    Jean-Paul Gaultier 2009 wells cathedral 1

    **

    John Robb posted:

    Some philosophical thinking:

    Human knowledge, at an elemental level, can be described as a “transformation” of data.
    Complex ideas are built using layers of “transformations” with each layer feeding into the next (think pyramid)
    We teach these transformations at home and at school to our children.
    We communicate by sharing transformations.
    Questions We Need to Answer in the Age of Cognitive Machines:
    How many transformations would it take to model all human knowledge?
    How deep (how many layers of transformation is human knowledge) is human knowledge? Both on average or at its deepest point?
    How broad is human knowledge (non-dependent transformations)?
    How fast is the number of transformations increasing and how fast is it propagating across the human network?

    **

    My interest is in John’s pyramid, considered as a pyramid of arches.

    My starting point (with Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game ever in background) is Arthur Koestler‘s observation in The Act of Creation that the creative spark occurs at the intersection of two planes of thought —

    koestler

    — or to put that another way, that the creative leap is an associative leap between two concepts, disciplines or aspects of knowledge — thus, an arch:

    Maxwell

    Likewise:

    synthesis

    — which in my own DoubleQuotes notation gives us:

    Karman Gogh mini

    — thus, many arches build to a pyramid:

    pyramid of arches

    **

    Of course, with arches one has to be very circumspect, buecause in rich contexts, they’re not simple creatures:

    rib vaulting flying buttresses

    Among the greatest such arches I know are Taniyama‘s 1955 “surmise” as Barry Mazur puts it, that “every elliptic equation is associated with a modular form” — arching way above my pay grade — an insight that was to bear rich fruit forty years later, in Andrew Wiles‘ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem; and Erwin Panofsky‘s great book similarly linking the structures of medieval cathedrals and scholastic thought:

    panofsky gothic architecture scholasticism

    **

    White we’re on the topic of gothic iconography, another form of arch we might consider is the vesica piscis:

    vesica-piscis

    — frequently found in medieval art and architecture:

    320px-CLUNY-Coffret_Christ_1

    **

    I’m not suggesting, John, that your inquiry and mine are identical — far from it — but that they have a sufficiently rich overlap that an appreciation of one is likely to spark insight in terms of the other.

    And with Hesse’s Game, with which I recall from our earlieest conversations you are familiar..

    I mentioned Hesse and Christopher Alexander in my bracketed note at the top of this post. It’s my impression that both were striving for a similar encyclopedic architecture to the pyramid John proposes. Hesse on the Glass Bead Game:

    All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

    And Hesse is clear that individual moves within the games take the form of parallelisms, resemblances, analogical leaps — writing, for instance:

    Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game’s symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature.

    Speaking of the playing of his great Game, Hesse said:

    I see wise men and poets and scholars and artists harmoniously building the hundred-gated cathedral of the mind.

    And Alexander? His book A Pattern Language is pretty clearly his own variant on a Glass Bead Game, following on from what he terms his Bead Game Conjecture (1968 – p. 75 at link):

    That it is possible to invent a unifying concept of structure within which all the various concepts of structure now current in different fields of art and science, can be seen from a single point of view. This conjecture is not new. In one form or another people have been wondering about it, as long as they have been wondering about structure itself; but in our world, confused and fragmented by specialisation, the conjecture takes on special significance. If our grasp of the world is to remain coherent, we need a bead game; and it is therefore vital for us to ask ourselves whether or not a bead game can be invented.

    **

    Gentle readers:

    For your consideration, delight, temptation, confusion or disagreement, here are three more of Gaultier’s arches, as perceived by Kayan’s Design World:

    Jean-Paul Gaultier 2009 1

    Jean-Paul Gaultier 2009 7

    Jean-Paul Gaultier 2009 10

    The process of associative memory

    Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — it seems — to me at least — that associative memory is at the root of creativity, and that the process, preconscious pattern-recognition, is basically aesthetic in nature ]
    .

    **

    There’s the present moment — in this case, today’s tweet from the RNLI above.

    And there’s the memory it elicits — in this case, Hokusai‘s Great Wave at Kanagawa, with its three little boats, tiny Mt Fuji, and towering, breaking wave, from A Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji:

    **

    That’s the same process, from perception to memory, that I was thinking of when I wrote DoubleQuoting the French Revolution, and quoted Robert Frost:

    The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

    **

    Come to which, and moving by the same process from what’s in front of me to what I remember, here’s a DQ of Hokusai (~1760-1849) — before me now as I write this — and an image deriving from the work of Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010) on fractals” — which looking at the Hokusai quickly reminds me of:

    SPEC DQ Hokusai fractal

    **

    And as I look at that DoubleQuote, here at the time of writing this post, it reminds me strongly of my earlier DoubleQuote of Van Gogh and Von Kármán:

    In each of these two cases, art precedes science.

    **

    In each case, too, the associative process is the same, with some item perceived in the present calling up a past memory that is related to it — in a manner that can generally be articulated and annotated.

    Such is the mechanism of a typical “move” in a DoubleQuote or HipBone game.


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