Monday, April 30, 2007

Three Altars

:: altar R ::

:: altar G ::

:: altar B ::

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Class Notes (session two)

:: borg qyoob ::

:: the matrix ::

I started today's session by projecting excerpts from Revolution OS, which chronicles the rise of the free and open source movement. The motivations were both philosophical and economic. Engineers needed more freedom.

Given Portland is an open source capital, students need some background as to what that means.

When the source code isn't secret, then global networking is a lot easier, as the teams won't degenerate into publicly expressing their recriminations and/or mutual suspicions over who "leaked it" (the source code).

Like, the code is on Sourceforge or Freshmeat or wherever, in CVS, Subversion, other version control infrastructure, and so "spilling the beans" just isn't an issue.

In exchange for this degree of liberalism around what might have been secret, you get the benefits of the bazaar type economy, whereby many eyeballs kill many bugs in a hurry -- often a recipe for robust products and thriving communities (like Python's).

Then, walking my talk, I whipped out my Corsair memory stick and made my source code available: viztoyz + stickworks. Students spent the rest of the class modifying my testing framework, learning by trial and error how VPython does shapes and colors, gradually absorbing the look and feel of this particular language, a stepping stone to many others as well as an end in itself.

A core concept in this course is how rendering the action frame by frame for a movie is different from computing geometries on the fly for an interactive game.

VPython is our engine for demonstrating this latter kind of computing, POV-Ray for the former, with Python itself the primary driver language in both cases.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Class Notes (session one)

:: computer lab ::
Today marked the start of a new Pythonic Math course for middle and high schoolers, offered through Saturday Academy and using the facilities of Portland State University. Pythonic Math is a subclass of Gnu Math, meaning we use free and open source software as our core math notation (MN).

We started in IDLE, using it as a calculator but immediately showing off some of the advantages (e.g. 2**10000). Later we imported the math module to show where to get the complement of scientific functions, plus previewed VPython to assure ourselves of Python's graphical (including graphing) capabilities.

POV-Ray is also on deck, our ray tracer for stills vs. VPython's real time OpenGL type environment.

A core teaching: cartoons like Shrek or Over the Hedge involve slowly ray tracing each frame using a render farm, whereas interactive games, perhaps even multi-user over the Internet, have to compute all those actions and textures on the fly, while sustaining a reasonably high frame rate: two very different challenges.

We practiced downloading modules over the Internet into site-packages, importing, editing, reloading.

dir(anymodule) helps us explore contents by dumping a list, as does dir(anyobject) where said object might be a wanderers.Dog, a visual.sphere, or some natively supplied type such as a list, integer, string or dictionary. Like dir(1) tells the integer 1 to "spill its guts" about it can do; "oooo, lots of __ribs__."

Students enjoyed feeding their wanderers.Dog instances various foods via the eat method. Before long we had dogs eating other dogs, as well as pairing to create new dogs (the __add__ method begets a new dog with a hyphenated name).

(click for larger view)
After such an intense lexical (left brained) workout, I decided to give 'em a break and projected one of my favorite cartoons: Warriors of the Net, about tcp/ip, routers, firewalls, corporate intranets versus the Internet and so on.

Towards the end of our 2.5 hours, and looking forward to our experiences with VPython and POV-Ray, I went over the basics with polyhedra, per the RBF concentric hierarchy.

I explained how I considered this more 2nd or 3rd grade level material, apologized for getting remedial on 'em, but that's just how it is. The pre-computer, calculator-vested K-12 math-teaching ethnicity still clings to its tired/pre-wired ways, leaving students somewhat ill-prepared for 21st century careers in the design sciences.

:: whiteboard ::

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Phi Guy

original painting by Lynne Taylor
Dr. Mario Livio takes his history seriously, which means he doesn't just cut and paste what others have written, not even if they're "authorities" on a given subject. He does his own homework.

This approach is especially refreshing when numbers like Phi are involved (coined as such by Mark Barr in the 20th century), as it breaths life into "just the facts mam" skepticism.

So if the ancient Egyptians didn't actually write about the golden ratio, as best as we're able to decode, let's not just assume the Great Pyramid's face height to half-base length ratio of 1.62ish is really Phi in disguise. Likewise with the face of the Mona Lisa, even though Leonardo was of course well versed in the Phi literature.

Look for author intent, don't just work backwards from the outward artifact. Even a lowly overhead projector will have close-to-phi in it somewhere, regardless of its designer's mindset. And remember, HDTVs are 16:9 and neither is a Fibonacci number.

So by this reasoning, you might think nature isn't using Phi or any abstract mathematical irrationals. She doesn't intend does she? Well, yes and no. Our models of the problems nature needs to solve do lead to Phi in the context of a continuum, or to Fibonacci numbers in the more discrete cases.

Do these models exist in Nature (per some brands of natural philosophy) or just "in our own heads"?

That's a false dichotomy at least per Bucky's American Transcendentalist spin on U = MP. Where is "in your head" if not in Universe? Dreams do matter, including with regard to our Pentagon Math.

Apparently Livio takes the same myth busters approach to his biography of Galois. I look forward to reading it.

Another highlight: a first George and Eve Menger-Hammond award for a high school science teacher at Benson Polytechnic.

During the Heathman Dinner I sat opposite Becky Ohlsen and friends. She writes movie reviews for Willamette Week sometimes. I was so glad Judy could join me for this ISEPP lecture. I do enjoy sharing Portland's high culture with my high desert relatives.

:: phi guy (610 x 377 pixels) ::

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More Modular Dissections

:: viewing a Q (actually a U) module ::
(note: no sound track)

Lots of different namespaces use a lettering scheme to identify various geometrical "building blocks." Tell Anderson came up with this "U module" nomenclature, which Koski has adopted as a part of his own geometric explorations, which may be started with this dissection of the Golden Cuboid with edges phi, 1/phi and 1. What Bucky and Koski call T modules are angularly identical, but may fit into different regimes in terms of starting volumes. Conversion constants may apply.

What's important to Koski is the T module decomposes into a phi-scaled version of itself, plus these other modules emerge at every level: the unresolved, the remainder, and this U, with each containing recursive ever-smaller versions of the others -- a kind of fractal or fractionation of a whole into self-similar parts.

The above Google Video was made using Camtasia Studio to view a .wrl file in the Cortona VRML client by Parallel Graphics. This .wrl (world) file was in turn generated by Scott Vorthmann's vZome, or "virtual zome" tool, written in Java, the edges and nodes having been put together by David on his Mac.

Future Shock

So I thought I'd swing by Multnomah Friends this morning, attending the Marsons' adult education circle once again, for old time's sake. Ron and I just had lunch recently, had some follow-up email contact, so why not?

Last I knew, the Quakers had passed on their opportunity to acquire the neighboring Masonic Lodge and its solid gold (in terms of value to Friends on a First Day) parking lot. The dreary truth was the place was more likely to go for condos, each with its own car, or two. The feeling of infill would be oppressive. Maybe the Mason's could be persuaded to stay in business?

So today I get there and the Lodge says Mazama Mountaineering Center on it, in bright blue. And the parking lot has been drastically upgraded, resurfaced, landscaped. And the house next to the Meeting House on Stark, where we've met all these years: gone, just a mud hole in the ground.

I shook my head in semi-disbelief and came home to heal the scars of future shock. OK, done.

:: ron & kirby ::

Thursday, April 12, 2007

About Earthala TV

Over dinner at Dave 'n Jane's last night I was discussing Project Earthala, a designed community with lots of Quaker heritage (especially in business meetings), perhaps even with a foot print at Ghost Ranch, NM -- but with some facilities so remote you'd need a helicopter to get to 'em (unless you enjoy backpacking for several days).

Our remote campus satellite dish receivers pick up lots of global TV however (we tune 'em ourselves), plus we open source a lot of our own shows. Multi-track editing is one of the skills our students get good at, thanks to their public schooling. We generate lots of interesting programming, and don't mind if you share it peer to peer or remix it using Intel's Viiv (we do that too).

On this touchy subject of TV programming, I admit to this censorious reflex that'd lead me to ban all sitcoms with fake laugh tracks. Like Woody Allen, I consider laugh machines unethical and damaging to viewer reflexes, as viewers get exposed to hours of phony/inauthentic emoting making up for what're often lame/lazy scripts -- a form of brain damage if you ask me.

Then I remembered I'm not a dictator plus I might like to use those laugh machines for my own purposes. Better, and thinking more as a teacher, I could wire it up so you could watch those stupid sitcoms, but your grade in my courses might suffer as a result, i.e. there'd be such a thing as "academic debits" as well as credits, and your prized A might become a mere B if you self-indulged in too much phony laugh track television.

That's still kinda "V chip" thinking though -- a tad too big brothery. Oh well, I'll keep thinking about it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Volume Ratios

:: part 1 of 2 ::

:: part 2 of 2 ::


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ecovillage Update (Synergeo #33452)

So Project Earthala continues in its early phases. We have a Rose Queen already, one ACF or AFC, AimeƩ, hospice nurse and survivor of a plane wreck, like in Lost, but landing right here in Portland, I kid you not. My late wife Dawn helped organize the reunion, including one of the pilots as I recall -- just as traumatic for him.

Tim, if Nick's still around tell him I keep getting the Sprint bill for some frontloaded plan he dabbled with. I just shred 'em -- not my business. The physical equivalent of > dev/null (that's bash shell talk and means "send to trash irretrievably").

Where are the writings? Project Renaissance (pr.html) has been world readable from for a long time now, so it's pretty easy to see what the trajectory has been over more than a decade. Extrapolation becomes easier and more secure, as we see the data points lining up in the rear view mirror (which is no excuse for a bumper sticker on the windshield -- still gotta supervise the road ahead, duh).

And at the Math Forum more recently. If you're gonna live in a JavaDome, best if you know some Java. But when will you find the time? In grade school if lucky, in adult rehab (prison?) if less so.

Either way, it pays to know how to subclass a House (aka dwelling machine) and know how to tweak it to better fit your needs and your tastes. Just staring at the factory-delivered and going "duh....." with no knowledge of how to access it, is like trying to use a cell phone minus any features but dial-send. Speaking of which, I push university think tank types to think about public schools as distro points for more than just free software (per kiosk system in South Africa) but for essentially free hardware as well, like those one laptops per, and those GPS enabled cell phones helping to track lost children.

The buzzword in Portland is XRL: eXtreme Remote Livingry, or simply Extremely Remote Living. That's venturing into the true boonies with only lightweight hardware with an eye to temporary staging followed by removal with no long term environmental impact, except maybe some geocached time capsules (could be tiny). There's no reason to trash the environment simply because we want to immerse ourselves in it and experience it safely (a two way street -- what humans tend to forget in their hubris, thinking it's always about them and them alone (not at Earthala it isn't, Wanderers either)).

So you could envision REI being involved, as we're really talking about camping, our biggest outdoor sport once you include hiking and hunting as subclasses thereof, next maybe to the downhill kinetic sports, which only require day trips and/or hotel stays (e.g. hotel in Hood River and environs, look for B&Bs option, maybe share a Bonneville powered electric ski bus to/from Hood Meadows or Government Camp ski bowl, other destinations).

The missing component, as always, is aerospace, with the cultural divide between hippies and their ecovillages, and hard core engineers, taking over a generation to bridge. The open source movement has been critical in synergizing those two. In retrospect, we're able to see how Bucky's predicted design science decade was catalyzed to occur, with accomplished Fuller Schoolers like Kiyoshi and Jay Baldwin (many others, this isn't hall of fame time) moving in to bridge the C.P. Snow chasm.

I helped rally the philosophy department, in part by putting a Wittgensteinian spin on Synergetics, helping to explain precession thereby, in terms of Fuller's deliberately remote synergetics vocabulary (e.g. fuller.4d vs. coxeter.4d and/or einstein.4d).

Python's implementation of the namespaces idea gives notational form ("dot notation") to this LW notion of "language games" out to "forms of life" (grammars, namespaces).

I also use Python to code (classic Gibbsian vectors, now including Chakovian option) and, a set of Polyhedron subtypes all with hard-coded dimension and volume information per Fuller's concentric hierarchy. This is from whence my implementations of Hypertoons derive, many samples on YouTube and linked from the BFI.

So that's the scene in a nutshell: Portland leverages local sports with traditionally high tourist quotient, to galvanize XRL gear industry, which is also high tech and moving us beyond "mere tents" to something more protective of expensive flatscreens. The dwelling machines are slated for NGO-funded experimental prototype communities of tomorrow, designed by tree hugging engineers. More in the Math Forum and other Project Renaissance literature. And no, I'm not forgetting about the bizmos, GO and NGO recruiting vans, evangelizing in the schools (lots of dog and pony shows, including mine [1]).


[1] doesn't have to mean literally dog and pony, even though I may have easy access to both -- more likely a screencast or mathcast of some kind (like check out my Google Videos).

Further Reading:
Project Renaissance
Brainstorming on Bucky Works

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Family Album

:: bridge to Cheri near Thimphu ::

:: a picture Dawn liked ::