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Posts tagged with imagination

The spirit of mathematics is not captured by spending 3 hours solving 20 look-alike homework problems. Mathematics is thinking, comparing, analyzing, inventing, and understanding.

The main point is not quantity or speed—the main point is quality of thought.
Geometry and the Imagination with Bill Thurston, John Conway, Peter Doyle, and Jane Gilman

(Source: geom.uiuc.edu)




A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry




But there were also more profound features, which took me a long time even to notice, because they are so at odds with modern experience that neither New Guineans nor I could even articulate them. Each of us took some aspects of our lifestyle for granted and couldn’t conceive of an alternative.

Those other New Guinea features included the non-existence of “friendship” (associating with someone just because you like them), a much greater awareness of rare hazards, war as an omnipresent reality, morality in a world without judicial recourse, and a vital role of very old people. …

Many of my experiences in New Guinea have been intense—a sudden encounter at night with a wild man, the prolonged agony of a nearly-fatal boat accident, one broken little stick in the forest warning us that nomads might be about to catch us as trespassers …

Jared Diamond, The World Before Yesterday

via University of David




Count.

Count.




jkottke:

This video is 13 minutes of traffic accidents in Russia and totally amazing.

  1. Show this to your teenagers before they take the wheel. If it doesn’t scare the p*ss out of them—or even worse, if it excites them—no more Grand Theft Auto and hide the car keys.
  2. Next time you complain about public services, boring orderliness and “safety first”, the desireability of risk, Panglossian everything-optimal economics, or forget how relatively safe you are on your German freeways, …. watch this.

    As someone else remarked (can’t remember the source), the difference between Somalia and the USA is the stuff everybody in the US completely forgets is even possible.
  3. Notice how many of the accidents are caused by people trying to zoom ahead of everyone else—off the side of the road, cutting down a tree without noticing it will land on somebody else, trying to pass on the left or on the right or across the lane. Is your time really that important relative to everyone else’s, people?
  4. Assumptions. You think you can make assumptions, like that someone won’t fell a tree on your head, or a military jet won’t fly over your head, that someone won’t spill military equipment near you, or that people from the other lane (or off the road) won’t drive completely orthogonal and attack your car. Sometimes those assumptions are wrong.
  5. How many of these people do you think actually accepted the blame on themselves for their reckless actions?

via @Alea_, @felixsalmon




The most obvious image of a laughable hipster should be a half-time art-school student whose parents are going to provide him/her with a cushy job and/or money so s/he doesn’t really have to work but can just learn some stuff, party/hang out, make some art, and do a little-of-this little-of-that. Maybe have his/her own record label or vanity company or charity or eat instagrammable food or wear cool clothes or whatever, and be beautiful.

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Hey, that actually sounds like a nice life I would like to have for myself.

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Since art and learning and performing and consuming of those kinds of things are ends in themselves, it’s like this stereotypical character already has what the rest of us would use up our potential leisure time working to be able to afford. In that case the hipster hatred can be just a form of envy.




New paper bird sculptures by Diana Beltran Herrera.

I’m bored. What should I do? I know. I’ll make some awesome sculptures as an homage to nature.

via mydarkenedeyes, ravelet










I remember as a child, walking in New York City. Of course I had no idea where we were going or why we were doing anything, I just knew I had to walk somewhere. I was tossing my stuffed animal in the air as we walked, for fun. It was a stuffed stegosaurus my mum had sewed for me. He was awesome. We crossed a street. I threw Steggy the stegosaurus up in the air. He went straight up instead of up-and-in-front-of-me. My mum was holding my hand, making me cross straight to the other kerb. We went forward and he went straight up and straight down onto the pavement behind me. I tried to turn around and pick him up. I saw a car coming and wanted to run back and pick Steggy up from the ground. I was afraid he would be run over.




I had nothing but ideas.

O.K., they weren’t strictly mine, in the sense that these ideas were acquired, arranged, styled, photographed, published and distributed by entities bearing no relation to me whatsoever.




People think mathematicians are brilliant because they talk about things like C* algebras or B-splines or A-modules or D-branes or … really any combination of unexplained letter with abstract noun. (Extra points if the letter is Greek!)

But when I think of really genius ideas, I think of things like:

  • stairs. If stairs don’t exist, who is going to think “I need to invent stairs”?
  • alcoholic beverages. We trivialise that somebody must have just drank some rancid stuff and thought it was good.

    But no, people had invented sophisticated methods of getting particular tastes long before modern chemistry. When natural philosophers were still talking about phlogiston, Bordeaux already had fine wine down to a science.
  • rope
  • buckets, bowls, pots
  • handles on mugs
  • screws, bolts, nuts
  • ball bearings!
  • sponges with a scratchy pad … and how do they make those scratchy pads anyway?
  • mitred joins, moulding, wainscoting
  • sewing. I guess you notice pretty quickly when you sew stuff that many small stitches are super powerful, even with a thin thread. But who’s going to never have thought of the concept of a needle and thread before and suddenly think of it?
  • weaving. Warp, weft … have you seen these old tapestry machines? They’re the predecessor of the modern computer.
  • the invention of a chair. Again, suppose no chairs exist. Who is going to think of one and how?
  • toilets.

Let me go a little deeper into several of the brilliant things about modern toilets.

  1. First of all there are the two hinged things, which are stacked in the right order. First one being — not only so your butt doesn’t touch the bowl (because they could just make a bowl with a flat ring on top of it, not make it detachable)—but so anyone who pees from a height doesn’t have to splash onto where everyone sits.

    Second hinge controls the cover—which is a great idea because not only will stuff not fall into the toilet, but residual smells will be kept in. Let’s say your toilet is clogged, for instance. Then keeping the cover down is the best thing you can do for your comfort. By the way: without looking at your toilet, try to draw a diagram for how a series of hinges could control two separate toilet covers, and be bolted into the bowl.
  2. But the true genius is putting water in a bowl. Not only does it give you a way to evacuate the crap, but it reduces the smell.
    http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs45/f/2009/132/b/a/Smelly_Poop_by_gybbi94.jpg
    Smells, of course, are volatile particulate matter that are flung off into the air from your poop, and reach your nose. (Which means that every time you smell poop, poop is getting on your towel, toothbrush, …. I don’t understand why people put showers, toothbrushes, and baths in the same room as where they poop — I mean it’s convenient for plumbing, but I would rather have my poop be as far away from my toothbrush as possible. Well, until I can design and live in my dream house, I have one of those cheapo toothbrush covers.)
    http://titusdentistry.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/toothbrush2.jpg
    So how can we cover up an entire piece of poop — it could have lots of shapes, we don’t want to have to touch it, we want to cover all of it with no errors, and we want to compress the poop particles so that they don’t fly off the turd. WATER. Yes. Next time you go in a pit toilet or port-o-let at a concert or camping, hyperventilate before you go in, cover your nose, and wish that they had poured gallons of water into the bank before everyone pooped in it.

That’s leaving aside the efficient manufacture of commodes and the sewage system, which I’m sure are both marvels of their own. You think about something like New York City, it’s a human habitation of 6 million people, each taking maybe 5-10 dumps per week (well, in good times). That’s 30–60 million pieces of crap every week that nobody wants to see or smell ever again.

Dwelling Portably 1980-1989

Imagine you just dug a hole in the side of a hill, Hobbit-style, in a natural clearing. Suppose, too, that you’re close enough to a lake or stream that you can get water to your house easily. (Or it rains enough and you bought some huge rainbarrels.) Then what the crap are you planning to do with all of the crap you generate?! That’s a conundrum for ya.