Showing posts from 2019

A sub-mystery

I pointed out in another post that, in my humble opinion, the two main mysteries of life and the universe are: Why is there something and not nothing? How come we are conscious? And one of the sub-mysteries is how well mathematics works in the real world. This was pointed out in a book I was reading early one morning... ... but it struck me again as I was listening to this on the evening of the same day... There is of course much art and skill in the music, and the music is based on mathematical relationships which create the chords which touch us. And where does all this mathematics come from? (The book by the way is very readable even if you have no ability in mathematics. And the music is wonderful, even if you don't understand Latin. In fact it is probably better not to understand Latin, so you can concentrate on the music. And don't use it as background music, it is music to listen too.)

Art and Science will always fail to collaborate

Ever since I was old enough to notice these things I've seen scientists/engineers and artists trying to bridge the gap between themselves. And it has hardly ever worked. Year after year after year there are articles about the collaboration between art and technology. But it is never a collaboration, not really.  I think the reason is that you need great passion/interest/enthusiasm to become a great engineer/scientist/artist. And that means each person must concentrate on one area.  There are exceptions, Leonardo da Vinci is the best known example, and no others come to my mind. And scientists are happy to investigate and discover and maybe find fame like that. Engineers are just happy creating what they create. They hardly ever become famous, because that is not where their joy comes from. They enjoy the process and the final product. And artists (especially modern artists) need validation from the critics and the richer public (because there is no objective way to measure

I have no choice but to be agnostic

I was reviewing some calculus (at 60 years old? why? a long story) and it suddenly struck me that the derivative of  y = x-cubed and all the calculus like it is amazing: The 3 comes down in front of the x and the same three is replaced by a power one less powerful. How come it is so simple, clean and elegant? And some people think that maths is a human invention, but the fact that derivatives are useful and complete and accurate in the real physical world proves (to me) that maths is not a human invention. The world follows their laws. And if humans had not invented calculus the physical world would carry on echoing the laws of calculus. For some reason this led me to think about theism and atheism, and that often they use the same arguments, really, in the end, when push comes to shove: Theist: God did it (whatever it is). Atheist: The universe exists because it does. Neither phrase, assertion, is satisfactory to me. So I have no choice but to be agnostic. Currently.

August Light

It's August and the temperature here in Northern Italy has fallen a bit, now it rarely goes over 33°C during the day, but the heavy sticky sweaty humidity remains.  But early in the morning, from 05:30 to maybe 6:30 there is a slight chill in the air, and in those hours there is the strange spirit to the August light. The atmosphere is strange and interesting. I sit on the balcony drinking tea with the cat nearby. Who knows where he has been during the night? Another mystery.

The Medici Wedding and Bonnie Raitt

By chance, on my desk, in a corner, these two CDs were next to each other, and it struck me as an interesting final image. I love both CDs.

Cooks should not be allowed anywhere near strawberries

Cooks should not be allowed anywhere near strawberries, because cooks cook . And cooking destroys everything wonderful about strawberries. Strawberries do not need sugar. Or lemon juice. Or liquor. Or ice cream. Or cream.  Strawberries just need to be washed and tasted.  Each strawberry should be tasted on its own, in isolation, to get the full loveliness and mystery of the taste.

AlphaGo and what was not understood, I think.

I saw the Netflix documentary on AlphaGo, an AI/Neural Network program to play Go. I can highly recommend it, even though the events tool place in 2016. It is a very human story.  The long and the short of it is that, as usual, experts in a certain domain believe that a computer will never be able to do what they do. And then AlphaGo beat the world champion of Go, Lee Sedol , 4 games to 1.  Lee Sedol seems to me to be a nice bloke who fought an heroic fight against the machine.  But what struck me was what he said at the end. That AlphaGo had made him rethink his way of playing, he would learn from the machine. But I think that is impossible, AlphaGo's "reasoning" is nothing like ours. Which is why AI / Neural Networks can uncover hidden patterns and strategies. Because they do not think like humans. Our experience sometimes limits us. Well designed neural networks have no such limits. One of the Go commentators said during the documentary that move 37 by Alpha

Whatever happened to Intentional Software of Simonyi?

I've been reading "Dreaming In Code" by Scott Rosenberg.  It is a bit dated (published in 2007) but that doesn't matter because the human programmer's nature has not changed in the last 50 years. So almost every mistake comically documented there...I've made too. One of the things that struck me was Charles Simonyi 's idea for improving programming practice. A sort of interpreter of a human expert's intentions into computer code. I did not believe it would work. From the book:    " Simonyi's company Intentional Software is, in a way, an attempt to apply the WYSIWYG principle to the act of programming itself. But Simonyi's enthusiastic descriptions of the brave new software world his invention will shape leave a central question unanswered: Will Intentional Software give the subject matter experts a flexible way to express their needs directly to the machine (i.e. the computer) - or will it demand that nonprogrammer experts submit

A processing failure

A strange thing happened when I switched on the TV to watch some sport recently. For a minute I just saw this, a flat defintely 2d shape, with no relation to reality: It was not a problem with the TV, it was a problem with the visual processing in my brain. For a few seconds it had failed to recreate the image at the bottom of this article. I was reminded of the bloke referred to in the title of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" by Oliver Sacks. The patient had no apparent optical/physical problems. He just could no longer interpret the signals coming into his brain from his eyes. When he got up to leave he grabbed his wife's head, thinking it was his hat. The shapes no longer made any sense. There was a signal processing failure. And that is what must have happened to me, very briefly, because what I was looking at resolved itself into this, in the end (scroll down): (Snooker and rugby, the only two sports I watch.)

Learning to limp

The handle of our teapot had an accident. I delayed ordering a new one, though I do love the design and feel of it. So, in the meantime, I got used to making the tea with the broken teapot, cupping the scorching body with my hands. Eventually I did order a replacement and for days I forgot that the new teapot had a handle and held it awkwardly, as if it didn't. In Italian there is a saying: "chi va con lo zoppo impara a zoppicare" A rough translation is "he who hangs around with people who limp, will learn to limp himself." But I had learned to limp all on my own . And I wonder in what other areas I've learned to limp when I'm perfectly able bodied/minded? (The teapot, by the way, is a Ulster Weavers 6-Cup Susie Bone China Teapot.)