Archive for July, 2008

God Bless America

Posted in music, USA with tags on July 31, 2008 by Philonous

‘Cause it ain’t the only place on Earth, but it’s the only place that I prefer.

Magnetic Movie

Posted in art, culture, film, physics, science with tags , , , on July 28, 2008 by Philonous

This video is a project from NASA’s artists in residence, Semiconductor. As you may imagine (although it took me a little while to realise) all of the magnetic fields drawn in the picture are computer generated rather than physical streams of particles. Having something of an interest in science myself, I wonder what the aim of this artwork is supposed to be, if indeed it has one. There can be no doubt that these magnetic phenomena are incredibly beautiful in many ways, as is most of physics, but is producing such a movie slightly underselling the real science behind these pretty images? Perhaps not. I must admit being a cynic of the first water, but in my mind, this reminded me very much of videos I’d been shown at school in physics lessons or perhaps on BBC2 as part of Open University programmes. There’s no doubt that this film is diverting, but in this light, it seems slightly odd for Semiconductor to have been elevated to the status of ‘artist’. But then I’m a cynic.

The Poles and Catholicism

Posted in culture, religion with tags on July 25, 2008 by Philonous

One of the most unbelievable sights to greet me in Warsaw was that of the devout Catholics at all times of the day and night. The churches are so full of the faithful that despite their cavernous interiors, that a significant proportion of those attending services spill outside onto the street, often hearing (and saying) mass after dark bathed in the sodium yellow of street lamps. Christmas and Easter services often fill British churches to capacity with casual believers and those craving tradition, but never have I seen anything quite like this. The congregation peer in through the open door, straining to see over those on the steps and kneel on the cobbles at the appropriate moments. The priest’s singing is piped outside through loudspeakers.
Poland seems to have acquired something of a reputation as a religious country. Certainly from what I’ve seen over the last couple of days this is certainly true. Wandering along some street or other, I noticed a cyclist who crossed himself as he passed a church. People in restaurants regularly say grace. If this wasn’t enough, at around midnight in Warsaw airport, the departure lounge was filled by what looked like a school party. Having moved the furniture to suit their purposes, I supposed that they would either catch a flight or bed down for the night. In fact their unrolling of sleeping mats was to construct a makeshift altar.I was eyed with a certain degree of suspicion so decided to take a photo somewhat incognito (and therefore badly framed) – check out the massive golden cross on the left. I must say, I was slightly taken aback by the whole thing. I’d never seen so much devotion in a public place before and I was impressed.

Roots (disambiguation)

Posted in culture, film, Food, history, literature, maths, music, science with tags , , , , , on July 23, 2008 by Philonous

In Euclidean Space:

Let V be a finite-dimensional Euclidean space, with the standard Euclidean inner product denoted by . A root system in V is a finite set Φ of non-zero vectors (called roots) that satisfy the following properties:

  1. The roots span V.
  2. The only scalar multiples of a root α ∈ Φ that belong to Φ are α itself and −α.
  3. For every root α ∈ Φ, the set Φ is closed under reflection through the hyperplane perpendicular to α. That is, for any two roots α and β, the set Φ contains the reflection of β in the plane perpendicular to α.
  4. (Integrality condition) If α and β are roots in Φ, then the projection of β onto the line through α is a half-integral multiple of α.

In view of property 3, the integrality condition is equivalent to stating that β and its reflection σα(β) differ by an integer multiple of α.

The rank of a root system is the dimension of the Euclidean space V in which it resides. Here are examples of rank 2 systems.


In the Plant Kingdom:

In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant body that typically lies below the surface of the soil. But, this is not always the case, since a root can also be aerial (that is, growing above the ground) or aerating (that is, growing up above the ground or especially above water). On the other hand, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). So, it is better to define root as a part of a plant body that bears no leaves, and therefore also lacks nodes. There are also important internal structural differences between stems and roots. The two major functions of roots are 1.) absorption of water and inorganic nutrients and 2.) anchoring the plant body to the ground. Roots also function in cytokinin synthesis, which supplies some of the shoot’s needs. They often function in storage of food. The roots of most vascular plant species enter into symbiosis with certain fungi to form mycorrhizas, and a large range of other organisms including bacteria also closely associate with roots.

On TV:

Roots is a 1977 American television miniseries based on Alex Haley‘s work Roots: The Saga of an American Family, his critically acclaimed but factually disputed genealogical novel.

Roots was made into a hugely popular television miniseries that aired over eight consecutive nights in January 1977. Many people partially attribute the success of the miniseries to the original score by Quincy Jones. ABC network television executives chose to “dump” the series into a string of airings rather than space out the broadcasts, because they were uncertain how the public would respond to the controversial, racially-charged themes of the show. However, the series garnered enormous ratings and became an overnight sensation. Approximately 130 million Americans tuned in at some time during the eight broadcasts. The concluding episode was rated as the third most watched telecast of all time by the Nielsen corporation.
The cast of the miniseries included LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, Leslie Uggams as Kizzy and Ben Vereen as Chicken George. A 14-hour sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, aired in 1979, featuring the leading African-American actors of the day. In 1988, a two-hour made-for-TV movie, Roots: The Gift, aired. Based on characters from the book, it starred LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, Avery Brooks as Cletus Moyer and Kate Mulgrew as Hattie, the female leader of a group of slave catchers.

In the Charts:

Roots is the sixth studio album by Brazilian thrash metal band Sepultura, released in 1996 through Roadrunner Records. It was the band’s last album to feature Max Cavalera. The majority of the themes presented on Roots are centered on Brazilian politics and culture.

The inspiration for Sepultura’s new musical directon was two-fold. One was the desire to further experiment with the music of Brazil, especially the percussive type played by Salvador, Bahia samba reggae group Olodum. A slight influence of Northeastern Brazil‘s native music is also present in the guitar riffs, especially baião and capoeira music. Another innovation Roots brought was the inspiration taken from the (then) cutting-edge nu metal sound of the Deftones and KoЯn – especially the latter’s debut, with it’s heavily down-tuned guitars.

Roots was released in February 1996 and received with unprecedented enthusiasm. Even the popular press, that usually doesn’t pay a lot of attention to metal records, halted the presses to appreciate the unusual rhythms mixture of Sepultura. American newspapers like The New Times, the Daily News[disambiguation needed] and the Los Angeles Times reserved some space for the Brazilian band: “The mixture of the dense metal of Sepultura and the Brazilian music has a intoxicating effect”, wrote a Los Angeles Times’ reviewer. The Daily News went even further: “Sepultura reinvented the wheel. By mixing metal with native instruments, the band resuscitates the tired genre, reminding of Led Zeppelin times. But while Zeppelin mixed English metal with African beats, it’s still more moving to hear a band that uses elements of its own country. By extracting the sounds of the past, Sepultura determines the future direction of metal”.

Acknowledgements: This post would not have been possible without the untiring effort of all of those kind folk at Wikipedia who are up at all hours of the day and night writing entries.

I’d also like to thank they keys Ctrl, C and V

Joke

Posted in humour on July 21, 2008 by Philonous

“I woke up one day and everything in the apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I said to my roommate, ‘Can you believe this? Everything in the apartment has been stolen and replaced with an exact replica.’ He said, ‘Do I know you?’ ” (Steven Wright)

Warsaw: From the Stare Miasto to the Pałac Kultury i Nauki

Posted in culture, history, travel, warsaw with tags , on July 20, 2008 by Philonous

The lover of mind has landed in Warsaw. This city is extraordinarily beautiful, green and without blemish. From the old town which was rebuilt after having been destroyed during the second world war, to the grandiose 43 storey stamp of the Pałac Kultury i Nauki, one can’t help but be impressed by it all. I’m staying in a very lovely hotel just south of the city centre next to a grand park and all of the various embassies. From there i was advised (by folk in the know) to go to the old town (Stare Miasto) to have a look at all of the lovely old (new) Polish buildings. During the second world war, Warsaw was essentially gutted. Most of the historic buildings were completely destroyed and the old town centre was rebuilt from scratch.

Wandering around European cities, one becomes accustomed to the sight of buildings which if not exactly crumbling, show all of their three hundred or so years. Here everything comes across a little bit Disney. The entire old town is so incredibly pristine that rather than being 300 years old, most buildings look as if they have travelled through time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole Stare Miasto was injection moulded in one piece from fadeproof plastic in a Detroit factory and shipped over as part of some covert Marshall plan. It’s a great shame that so much of this great city was destroyed in the carnage of 1939-45.

Still imposing upon the skyline is Stalin’s great stamp of authority, the Pałac Kultury i Nauki-a full blown propaganda factory mass producing and distributing Soviet pronouncements in the form of films, books, plays and exhibitions. Now though, the huge tower is somewhat eclipsed by the skyscraping testaments to Poland’s new legacy. Viewed from one side, the Stalinist face of hard nosed totalitarianism is still there to be seen. Viewed from the others, the huge Carlsberg parasols, the brightly coloured advertisments and the various other skyscrapers peer over Stalin’s long-dead message. Perhaps even more ironically, underneath one face is a massive skate park full of teenagers humming Green Day and periodically rescuing their trousers from the ever present clutches of gravity. If you look carefully at the right hand photo, you might just be able to see on the left the massive cuboid of the Intercontinental along with various other skyscrapers belonging to foreign banks. The man of steel would turn is his grave.

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog

Posted in culture, film, internet with tags , , on July 19, 2008 by Philonous

It seems that the internet has spawned a great number of heroes of the 15½” screen. Here are a few examples of folk whose fame is in no small part due to the internet:

Eventually, ornery folks like me decided to get in on the act and start blogs detailing the minutiae of their humdrum existences from their fury at milk having gone sour to diatribes on the meaning of Pokemon. Various actors and artists have quickly siezed upon sites such as YouTube as conduits for expression and more recently, actual famous people have started using the internet and its inherently viral mechanism (and small world properties) to further promote themselves. Here are video blogs from (in order) Chris Crocker, lonelygirl15, P.Diddy and Imogen Heap.

This seems to me to typify the transition from the internet as a means of distribution of traditional media to a medium in its own right, with the production of film solely for internet transmission. Joss Whedon (of Buffy fame) along with various less well known collaborators is the latest fairly big name to have dipped his toe in the water with the low-budget, three act musical video blog Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog. This foray into internet television is a direct result of this year’s writers strike which left Whedon twiddling his thumbs for a few weeks. It is designed primarimy as an experiment on the financial viability of online media. The show itself is divided into three parts, with a staggered release throughout this week. The last of these will be released on Saturday at which point all three may be watched back to back and for free. After Sunday, they become available as a DVD and at a premium. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out (though I suspect Whedon has nothing to worry about since it is already topping the iTunes chart). Check out the trailer below.

If you do see the full production, have patience – it takes a while to get going…