Archive for: February, 2007

Another Revolution in Physics Crackpottery: Electromagnetic Gravity

Feb 20 2007 Published by under Bad Physics

It's that time again - yes, we have yet another wacko reinvention of physics that pretends to have math on its side. This time, it's "The Electro-Magnetic Radiation Pressure Gravity Theory", by "Engineer Xavier Borg". (Yes, he signs all of his papers that way - it's always with the title "Engineer".) This one is as wacky as Neal Adams and his PMPs, except that the author seems to be less clueless.

At first I wondered if this were a hoax - I mean, "Engineer Borg"? It seems like a deliberately goofy name for someone with a crackpot theory of physics... But on reading through his web-pages, the quantity and depth of his writing has me leaning towards believing that this stuff is legit.

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The Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique

Feb 20 2007 Published by under Meta

Many of my fellow ScienceBloggers have recently declared their membership in
Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique. I've been busy, so I haven't been able to get around to signing up until now. That's a shame, since some of the badges appear to have been designed specifically for me!

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Carnival of Mathematics is coming soon!

Feb 19 2007 Published by under Meta

Just a quick reminder: the second Carnival of Mathematics is coming up this friday, to be hosted here at GM/BM. If you've written any math related articles, get me a link by thursday at the latest. You can either send it to me here at markcc at gmail.com, or via the carnival submission form.

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Building Towards Homology: Vector Spaces and Modules

Feb 19 2007 Published by under topology

One of the more advanced topics in topology that I'd like to get to is homology. Homology is a major topic that goes beyond just algebraic topology, and it's really very interesting. But to understand it, it's useful to have some understandings of some basics that I've never written about. In particular, homology
uses chains of modules. Modules, in turn, are a generalization of the idea of a vector space. I've said a little bit about vector spaces when I
was writing about the gluing axiom, but I wasn't complete or formal in my description of them. (Not to mention the amount of confusion that I caused by sloppy writing
in those posts!) So I think it's a good idea to cover the idea in a fresh setting here.

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Basics: Optimization

Feb 17 2007 Published by under Basics

Yet another term that we frequently hear, but which is often not properly understood, is the concept of optimization. What is optimization? And how does it work?

The idea of optimization is quite simple. You have some complex situation, where
some variable of interest (called the target) is based on a complex
relationship with some other variables. Optimization is the process of trying to find
an assignment of values to the other variables (called parameters) that produces a maximum or minimum value of the target variable, called
the optimum or optimal value

The practice of optimization is quite a bit harder. It depends greatly
on the relationships between the other variables. The general process of finding
an optimum is called programming - not like programming a computer; the term predates the invention of computers.

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Friday Random Ten, Feb 16

Feb 16 2007 Published by under Music

  1. Frameshift, "Walking through Genetic Space": a track from an album inspired by the writings of Steven Jay Gould about genetics and evolution. The leader of the project is the lead singer of Dream Theater; the end result has a very DT like feeling to it. The album overall is quite good; bit this track is a slow ballad, and a ballad about genetics just doesn't really work.
  2. Robert Fripp and David Sylvian, "Jean the Birdman": Fun, interesting piece of work, from a project that David Sylvian and Robert Fripp did a few years back. Sylvian's usual crooning voice, over his and Fripp's guitar work. Very cool.
  3. King Crimson, "Starless and Bible Black". A track from one of my all-time favorite albums - free improv from King Crimson in the "Red" days.
  4. Gordian Knot, "Muttersprach": instrumental neo-prog rock from Sean Malone and whoever he can get to work with him. This track features a solo by Steve Hackett, the guitarist from the early days of Genesis.
  5. Jonathon Coulton, "Mandelbrot Set": One of the greatest math geek songs of all time. What math geek could not love a rock song that literally includes the procedure for computing the mandelbrot set as part of the lyrics: "Take a point called Z in the complex plane/
    Let Z1 be Z squared plus C/
    And Z2 is Z1 squared plus C/
    And Z3 is Z2 squared plus C and so on/
    If the series of Z's should always stay/
    Close to Z and never trend away/
    That point is in the Mandelbrot Set"
  6. Väsen, "Slunken" Traditional Swedish music, prominently featuring the Nickelharpa - aka keyed violin. Väsen is absolutely amazin if you get a chance to hear them live.
  7. Tony Trischka, "Doggy Salt": a track off of Tony's latest, which is mostly duets played with other banjo players, including Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, and Steve Martin. Pure fun - exuberant music played by amazing musicians having the time of their lives.
  8. Tan Dun, "Water Passion after St. Matthew, 1st Movement". A new operatic passion by the Chinese composer Tan Dun. Tan Dun is one of the finest composers working today, with a great range in his composing style. If you've seen the movie "Hero", the soundtrack is also his work. The Water Passion is an extremely ambitious work, and damned if it isn't completely successful. He manages to merge bits of traditional Chinese opera, modern semitone composition, and Bach-style fugues into a coherent and beatiful piece of music.
  9. Mogwai, "Moses? I Amn't": You didn't think you were going to get through one of my friday random tens without any post-rock, now did you?
  10. Igor Stravinsky, "Concertino": chamber music from Stravinsky, one of the musical geniuses of the 20th century. It's very interesting listening to this shortly after Tan Dun; you can hear the influence that Stravinsky had.

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Crazy Stack Games: Programming in Kipple

Feb 16 2007 Published by under pathological programming

Insane Stacking

Todays pathology is playing with stacks. Lots of lots of stacks. Stacks for data. Stacks for control. Stacks out the wazoo. It's called Kipple for no particularly good reason that I know of.

Kipple happens to be one of the pathological languages that I highly recommend trying to write some programs in. It's crazy enough to be a challenge, but there is a basic logic to how you program to it - which makes figuring out how to write programs rewarding rather than just frustrating.

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Not quite Basics: The Logician's Idea of Calculus

Feb 15 2007 Published by under Basics

In yesterdays basics post, I alluded to the second kind of calculus - the thing that computer scientists like me call a calculus. Multiple people have asked me to explain what our kind of calculus is.

In the worlds of computer science and logic, calculus isn't a particular thing:
it's a kind of thing. A calculus is a sort of a logician's automaton: a purely
symbolic system where there is a set of rules about how to perform transformations of
any value string of symbols. The classic example is lambda calculus,
which I've written about before, but there are numerous other calculi.

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Basics: Calculus

Feb 14 2007 Published by under Basics

Calculus is one of the things that's considered terrifying by most people. In fact, I'm sure a lot of people will consider me insane for trying to write a "basics" post about something like calculus. But I'm not going to try to teach you calculus - I'm just going to try to explain very roughly what it means and what it's for.

There are actually two different things that we call calculus - but most people are only aware of one of them. There's the standard pairing of differential and integral calculus; and then there's what we computer science geeks call a calculus. In this post, I'm only going to talk about the standard one; the computer science kind of calculus I'll write about some other time.

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Basics: Limits

Feb 14 2007 Published by under Basics

One of the fundamental branches of modern math - differential and integral calculus - is based on the concept of limits. In some ways, limits are a very intuitive concept - but the formalism of limits can be extremely confusing to many people.

Limits are basically a tool that allows us to get a handle on certain kinds
of equations or series that involve some kind of infinity, or some kind of value that is almost defined. The informal idea is very simple; the formalism is also pretty simple, but it's often obscured by so much jargon that it's hard to relate it to the intuition.

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