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Spirals: plus ça change

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — a striking image from the Cassini probe, a “spiral” staircase ]
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Spirals, which are close to concentric circles and close to ellipses, can also be “squared” or “oblonged” — pattern recognition is not always neat in its observation of definitions, and this can as easily be a cognitive feature as a bug:

Besides, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose could almost be the motto for pattern recognition, emphasizing the naturally cross-disciplinary, cross-silo nature of analogical cognitive strategies.

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The top panel image is of the North Pole of Saturn, as recently captured by NASA’s Cassini mission. As blog-friend Bryan Alexander notes at Infocult, NASA says of this image, which it calls The Maelstrom:

The vortex at Saturn’s north pole — seen here in the infrared — takes on the menacing look of something from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe.

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Gaming the Connections: from Sherlock H to Nada B

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — the game of Connect the Dots in play and practice ]
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CIA's (now ret'd) Nada Bakos examines the Al Qaida board in the HBO docu, Manhunt

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Manhunt, the HBO documentary, does what (not having been there and seen that at the time) appears to be a decent job of recreating some of the cognitive stratregies employed by CIA officers in the OBL hunt. The one I’m interested in here is the building of a “link chart” or cognitive map — law enforcement “evidence board” — the idea being (a) to note known connections visibly, and (b) to encourage the mind to make intuitive leaps that reveal previously unknown connections between nodes… or “dots”.

Sophisticated software does this sort of thing algorithmically with regard to (eg) network connections via phone-calls, but the human mind is still better than AI at some forms of pattern recognition, and that’s the aspect that interests me here.

Aside:

For more on the cognitive significance of the link chart in Manhunt, see my post Jeff Jonas, Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Puzzles.

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Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Sherlock lays out the way it works —

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Okay, so one way to visualize connections is to make a fairly random collage of relevant photos, names, dates and places, and tie it together with links of string or ribbon. That’s the equivalent of what in HipBone games terms we’d call a “free-form” game, and it works well for the “divergent”, initial brainstorming phase of thought. But it does little to bottle its own energy, to focus down, to force the mind — in the no less powerful “convergent” phase — into perceiving even more links than occur spontaneously in building the link chart in question.

HipBone‘s preformatted boards take the cognitive process to that second stage. They work on one of the most powerful ingredients in creativity: constraint. Business writer Dave Gray of Communication Nation puts it like this:

Creativity is driven by constraints. When we have limited resources — even when the limits are artificial — creative thinking is enhanced. That’s because the fewer resources you have, the more you are forced to rely on your ingenuity.

But that premise doesn’t just hold true for business problem-solving — it’s at the heart of creative thinking at the Nobel level, too, in both arts and sciences. Consider mathematician Stanley Ulam, writing in his Adventures of a Mathematician:

When I was a boy I felt that the role of rhyme in poetry was to compel one to find the unobvious because of the necessity of finding a word which rhymes. This forces novel associations and almost guarantees deviations from routine chains or trains of thought. It becomes paradoxically a sort of automatic mechanism of originality…

Here’s how the poet TS Eliot puts it:

When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost – and will produce its richest ideas.

A Hipbone Gameboard such as the Waterbird, Dartboard, or Said Symphony board is chosen precisely to challenge the mind with third, fourth and fifth rounds of “creative leaps” — thus adding both divergent and convergent cognitive styles to this form of graphical analysis.

That’s my point here — and a plug for HipBone-Sembl style thinking.

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I can’t resist adding a couple of instances in which the meme of “connecting the dots” via a link chart or evidence board has crept from TV series that I enjoyed into the world of games — this first one based on the terrific French detective series, Engrenages, retitled Spirals for British consumption:

— and this one for fans of the US TV series, Breaking Bad:

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Matrioshka forensics

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — it still takes a live human to see what the human eye cannot see but the machine can ]
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This would appear to be (one version of) the state of the art in facial recognition:

Image within image within image — the gentleman on the right is more or less recognizable as a reflection in the eye of the gentleman on the left — thus giving new potential meaning to the phrase “you are the apple of my eye” (cf Zechariah 2:8, also Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream III.ii.102 ff., and Stevie Wonder, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life).

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Or — to switch disciplines while remaining with the matrioshka form, because such patterns are of interest to the inquiring mind — as Gary Snyder puts it in his marvelous poem, One Should Not Speak to a Skilled Hunter:

The secret.
and the secret hidden deep in that.

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For another version of the state of the art in facial recognition, see: Where’s Ms. Waldo?. Aloha!

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Theory and Practice:

Friday, November 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — how theory works out in practice, and vice versa ]
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Here’s the first of a pair of “patterns” of interest…

Theory contradicts practice:

— with thanks to my friend Peter van der Werff!

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And here’s the second, a delicious serpent-bites-tail tweet re Egypt:

Practice contradicts theory:

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Okay, there are two more items for the “pattern recognition” / “pattern language” archives…

And here’s wishing you all a Happy Black Friday — if that’s even concedivable!

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Serpent logics: a ramble

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing my exploration of a pattern language of thoughts, both verbal and imagistic ]
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One of my favorite patterns derives from the nesting of Russian dolls inside Russian dolls, so it’s only appropriate to start with an example of what I can only call.. Matrioshka shipping!

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It’s my habit, as you may have seen, to collect certain “ways of thinking” in the miniature format provided by my Twitterstream. Whether you think of them as logical forms, patterns in a pattern language, or amuse-bouches for the mind, they are here to delight and instruct — and when you pile a whole lot of them up together, they can make you just a touch dizzy.

Today I’ll be bringing my collection up to date with two posts, Serpent logics: a ramble, and Serpent logics: the marathon. If you want a quick look at some of the neat patterns I’ve seen since I last posted on these topics, this post — Serpent logics: a ramble — is the one for you. If, after reading it, you want a gruelling, hilarious, insightful, insane, devious, extended course in this kind of pattern recognition — try Serpent logics: the marathon.

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Here’s one from today, tweeted as I was prepping this post — in a category I’ll simply call…

Counter-intuitive?

Admit it, that’s just a trifle mind-blowing, no? C’mon!

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Serpent Bites Tail:

Here’s a light-and-dark-hearted example of the ourobouros or serpent-bites-tail recursive patterm, with a hat tip to Allan Stairs:

Follow Kim Kierkegaardashian (@KimKierkegaard) on Twitter if you like mashups between the deepest of theologians and the shallowest of celebrities…

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I have no idea what category this one belongs in, so I’ll slip it in here. It’s from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, protecting our digital private parts:

Oh my! A Clash of Classifications!

The EFF even has it’s own playful-serious version of the NSA logo —

— as the DoubleQuote above — juxtaposing how the Agency views itself with how the EFF sees it — illustrates…

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DoubleQuotes in the Wild

DoubleQuotes in the Wild is my on-going collection of paired juxtapositions that say more together than they do apart. It’s a beginning training in what F Scott Fitzgerald claimed was the “test of a first-rate intelligence” — “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”.

The example above comes from Parecidos Razonables, a blog that takes off from the Separated at Birth concept and specializes in double-takes of this sort, often satirical. One of their more celebrated examples:

I’d have juxtaposed Vladimir Putin with Daniel Craig as James Bond myself, but that idea has already been taken — a Bond fan apparently photoshopped Putin’s face onto a poster of Bond in Casino Royale, and then “plastered” Moscow with his handiwork.

Apparently the Apparat, like Queen Victoria, was not amused. I’d have been flattered…

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While we’re on the subject of President Putin, here’s another category to consider…

Mixed games:

The op eds by Presidents Putin and Rouhani to which Soufan refers are Putin’s A Plea for Caution From Russia and Rouhani’s Why Iran seeks constructive engagement.

Ali Soufan, the author of Black Banners, is always worth paying attention to — and his tweet, above, clearly belongs with that Alasdair MacIntyre quote I’m so fond of [1, 2]:

Not one game is being played, but several, and, if the game metaphor may be stretched further, the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net

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Let’s close with some examples from the arts, the first with just a touch of Tibetan Buddhist flavor…

One of mine:


For further details, see Death and hallucination color new work by Chinese artist Zhang Huan after life-altering Tibet trip.

And the second, a pair of images — each in itself a sort of DoubleQuote in the Wild comparing the forms of birds and mechanical objects in a single photo — posted together today by Wm. Benzon under the title Conjunctions:

Birds and cranes, New Jersey and Lower Manhattan.

IMGP3517rd - Five ducks and freedom tower

Birds and cranes, Brooklyn and Governors Island.

birds of a feather.jpg

Magnificent — what a generous eye he has — many thanks, good Sir!

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Patterns? You might think of them as Jungian archetypes, Platonic ideas, Hofstadterian analogies — or Ayat, the same word used to describe the verses of the Qur’an, signs in the calligraphy of God:

Qur’an 41 (Fussilat), 53

We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves

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And now, consider your options. Have you had enough of these damn patterns of mine — or would you like to try out for the marathon version?

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