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  • feedwordpress 09:01:54 on 2017/12/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , dimensionality, Edwin Abbott, Flatland, , , time,   

    “Above all else show the data”*… 


    With the hope that your celebrations will be warm and peaceful, and with thanks for your kind attention over the last twelve months, (Roughly) Daily is going on it’s annual Holiday hiatus…  So here, to tide us over, The Economist Graphics Unit’s wonderful “2017 Daily chart advent calendar” (the first installment of which, above)– a collection of 25 of the years best infographics, each with a short accompanying essay.

    See you in the New Year!

    * Edward Tufte


    As we revel in new ways of seeing, we might send terrifyingly (and at the same time, amusingly) insightful birthday greetings to Edwin Abbott; he was born on this date in 1838.  A schoolmaster and theologian, Abbott is best remembered as the author of the remarkable novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884). Writing pseudonymously as “A Square,” Abbott used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointedly-satirical observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. But the work has survived– and inspired legions of mathematicians and science fiction writers– by virtue of its fresh and accessible examination of dimensionality.  Indeed, Flatland was largely ignored on its original publication; but it was re-discovered after Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity– which posits a fourth dimension– was introduced; in a 1920 letter to Nature, Abbott is called a prophet for his intuition of the importance of time to explain certain phenomena.



  • feedwordpress 09:01:07 on 2017/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Homo Ludens, Huizinga, , , , time,   

    “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment”*… 


    We’ve all heard it before: There’s no time like the present. Broadly speaking, of course, it means to “seize the opportunity right now,” or maybe in my case, to avoid procrastinating. From a psychological perspective, this makes a lot of sense. As humans we experience time “passing,” and there is a special quality to the present moment. Hypnosis and dreams aside, there is no way to directly experience either the past or the future in the same way we experience the present. But is the aphorism true? Does modern physics actually tell us that there’s no time like the present?

    Our best current physical theory of space and time is general relativity. Prior to Einstein’s revolution over a century ago, physics considered time to be an “external parameter”—an independent, fundamental feature of reality not influenced by any other factor in the universe. Whether or not the passage of time is real or illusory (this is an age-old philosophical debate that predates Einstein and is indeed not settled by his theory), we now know that time intervals are not external or universally determined. Time is an internal component of a physical system, a dimension intertwined with three spatial dimensions. Taken together, this is “spacetime,” and is influenced by varying factors and is influenced by varying factors, including speed (relative to other observers or systems) and gravitational forces. Because the theory of relativity posits the constancy of the speed of light for all observers (even if they are moving relative to each other), spacetime itself must dilate and the concept of a time interval becomes elastic.

    As a result, there is no universal notion of the present that applies equally to all observers. What looks present to me could just as easily be in someone else’s future, and in a third person’s past. Simultaneity is relative…

    Think there’s no time like the present? As Mark Shumelda suggests, modern physics begs to differ: “Actually, There Is a Time Like the Present.”

    * Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


    As we cogitate on carpe diem, we might send playful birthday greetings to Johan Huizinga; he was born on this date in 1872.  A Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history, he is probably best remembered for his 1938 book Homo Ludens, in which he argues for the importance of the play element of culture and society, suggesting that play is primary to and a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of the generation of culture.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2017/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: Asia, chronology, , , GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, , , Royal Observatory, time,   

    “You are not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.”*… 


    We’ve used 2016 information on population. There are now at least 3.8 billion people living inside the highlighted circle, and that’s not even including the tally from countries that are partially in the circle like Pakistan or Russia.

    The circle holds 22 of the world’s 37 megacities – massive cities that hold at least 10 million inhabitants. It also includes the five most populous cities on the planet: Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Karachi, and Shanghai, which alone combine to hold 144.5 million people.

    This geographical region also holds many of the emerging markets of the future, countries that the World Economic Forum expects will lead global growth in years to come. Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh are in the area highlighted, and Pakistan is partially there as well.

    As a website called BrilliantMaps explains, there are some other subtleties to the circle that are worth detailing. The circle contains a lot of people, but it also has:

    The highest mountain (Everest)

    The deepest ocean trench (Mariana)

    More Muslims than outside of it.

    More Hindus than outside of it.

    More Buddhists than outside of it.

    More communists than outside of it.

    The least sparsely populated country on earth (Mongolia)…

    See the infographic in tits entirety at “The Majority of the World’s Population Lives in This Circle.”

    * TomTom SATNAV Advertisement


    As we contemplate concentration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)– the mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London–  was officially adopted by Parliament.  Originally set-up to aid naval navigation (in the calculation of longitude), Greenwich had been the national (and imperial) center for time since 1675.  In 1847, GMT became the standard for British Railroads, and quickly became the de facto standard for all other purposes.  The 1880 Act simply made de jure what had become de facto.

    GMT became the international civil time standard, but was superseded in that function (in 1960) by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).



  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2016/10/24 Permalink
    Tags: Frank Wilczek, , Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, , , , time, time crystals,   

    “Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less”… 


    Time crystals– crystals that break both spacial and temporal symmetry– were first predicted by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek in 2012… and were widely deemed amusing, but impossible (e.g., here).  Now researchers have created time crystals for the first time and say they could one day be used as quantum memories… and might help reconcile Quantum Mechanics with the Theory of Relativity.

    Bend your mind at “Physicists Create World’s First Time Crystal,” also here and here (source of the photo above).

    * Charles Lamb


    As we ponder Einstein’s insistence that time is an illusion, we might send well-structured birthday greetings to Pierre-Gilles de Gennes; he was born on this date in 1932.  A French physicist, he was awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize for Physics for “discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers.”  He described mathematically how, for example, magnetic dipoles, long molecules or molecule chains can under certain conditions form ordered states, and what happens when they pass from an ordered to a disordered state.  Such changes of order occur when, for example, a heated magnet changes from a state in which all the small atomic magnets are lined up in parallel to a disordered state in which the magnets are randomly oriented.  Later, he was concerned with the physical chemistry of adhesion.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:51 on 2016/07/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , time,   

    “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”*… 


    Science has a habit of asking stupid questions. Stupid, that is, by the standards of common sense. But time and time again we have found that common sense is a poor guide to what really goes on in the world.

    So if your response to the question “Why does time always go forwards, not backwards?” is that this is a daft thing to ask, just be patient…

    In our experience the past is the past and the future is the future, but sometimes the two can cross over; and while the past seems set in stone, some scientists believe that the future can change it:  “The quantum origin of time.”

    * William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun


    As we head down the rabbit hole, we might spare a thought for Jules Henri Poincaré; he died on this date in 1912.  A mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science, Poincaré is considered the “last Universalist” in math– the last mathematician to excel in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

    Poincaré was a co-discoverer (with Einstein and Lorentz) of the special theory of relativity; he laid the foundations for the fields of topology and chaos theory; and he had a huge impact on cosmogony.  His famous “Conjecture” held that if any loop in a given three-dimensional space can be shrunk to a point, the space is equivalent to a sphere; it remained unsolved until Grigori Perelman completed a proof in 2003.


  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2016/05/26 Permalink
    Tags: Bede, , Lagrangian Schema, Newtonian, , , time, ,   

    “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”*… 



    Just as the boundaries of a guitar string (how it is pinned at both ends) determine how it vibrates, the distant past and far future of the universe may govern what happens today.

    … imposing old Newtonian Schema thinking on new quantum-scale phenomena has landed us in situations with no good explanations whatsoever. If these phenomena seem inexplicable, we may just be thinking about them in the wrong way. Much better explanations become available if we are willing to take the future into account as well as the past. But Newtonian-style thinking is inherently incapable of such time-neutral explanations. Computer programs run in only one direction, and trying to combine two programs running in opposite directions leads to the paradoxical morass of poorly plotted time-travel movies. In order to treat the future as seriously as we treat the past, we clearly need an alternative to the Newtonian Schema.

    And we have one. Most physicists are well aware of a different framework, an alternative where space and time are analyzed in an even-handed manner. This so-called Lagrangian Schema also has old roots and has become an essential tool in every field of fundamental physics. But even physicists who regularly use this approach have resisted the last obvious step: thinking of the Lagrangian Schema not just as a mathematical trick, but as a way to explain the world. Perhaps we haven’t been taking our own theories seriously enough.

    The Lagrangian Schema doesn’t just allow future-based explanations. It demands them. By treating the future and the past on the same footing, this framework avoids paradoxes and makes new explanatory opportunities available. And it just might be the viewpoint that physics needs for the next major breakthrough…

    More at “To Understand Your Past, Look to Your Future.”

    Anthony Oettinger (though often mis-attributed to Groucho Marx)


    As we disentangle entanglement, we might spare a thought for Bede (or as he is more frequently remembered, Venerable Bede); he died on this date in 735.  An English monk, Bede studied and wrote widely on scientific, historical, and theological topics, ranging from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries.  He was an accomplished translator (Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace, and other classical writers in both Greek and Hebrew).  And his  Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) has earned him the title “The Father of English History.”  Indeed, it was in this work that Bede established as common practice the use of “BC” and “AD” with dates.

    Bede as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493


  • feedwordpress 09:01:22 on 2015/11/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , time, , use of time   

    “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want”*… 


    How do you spend your days?  Since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Time Use Survey have asked thousands of people this question.  See the answers– and use interactive charts to see where you fit– at “Counting the Hours.”

    * Calvin (Bill Watterson)


    As we consider a nap, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam; he was born on this date in 1632.

    As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.

    Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670



  • feedwordpress 08:01:40 on 2015/10/07 Permalink
    Tags: 1000 year, , As Long As Possible, Bohr, GIF, , , Särkelä, time, , van Ingen   

    “In eternity there is no time, only an instant long enough for a joke”*… 


    Finnish artists Juha van Ingen and Janne Särkelä have developed a monumental GIF called AS Long As Possible, which loops once every 1,000 years. The 12 gigabyte animated image is made of 48,140,288 numbered frames, that change about every 10 minutes [the first and last frames are above].  van Ingen and Särkelä explain:

    In the early days of World Wide Web GIF was the most popular tool for artists working on on-line projects. But in mid 90’s the technically more versatile Flash took over as the number one creative tool for presenting art works on-line. Recently with the huge success of photo-sharing services such as Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr GIF has had its second coming and has regained its popularity also as an artistic medium.

    The name of ASLAP is homage to John Cage composition “ORGAN2/ASLSP” (1987) which is played with Halberstad organs for the next 625 years. The abbreviation of Cages composition included and instruction to the performer of the piece: As SLow aS Possible. However, if the piece was to be played as slow as possible the first note should be played for ever.

    As humans capability to comprehend eternity is limited, it is easier understand the dimensions of a composition lasting hundreds of years than something playing for ever…

    They plan to start the loop in 2017, when GIF turns 30 years old (and Finland celebrates its Centennial of independence). “If nurturing a GIF loop even for 100 — let alone 3,000 years — seems an unbelievable task, how much remains of our present digital culture after that time?”, van Ingen said. The artists plan to store a mother file somewhere and create many iterations of the loop in various locations — and if one fails, it may be easily synchronized with, and replaced by, another.


    * Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


    As we take it slowly, we might send itty-bitty birthday greetings to Niels Henrik David Bohr; he was born on this date in 1885.  A Danish physicist and philosopher, Bohr was the first to apply quantum theory,to the problem of atomic and molecular structure, creating the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete, and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another– a model the underlying principles of which remain valid.  And he developed the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analyzed in terms of contradictory properties, e.g., particles behaving as a wave or a stream.  His foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory,won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.


  • feedwordpress 08:01:53 on 2015/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Spillane, time, time-lapse,   

    “Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt”*… 


    The word “photography” might bring to mind the stark granite of an Ansel Adams photograph, or perhaps the memory of a childhood vacation. But the camera is also a scientific tool, whose progress can, in one sense, be measured by its ability to freeze ever-smaller fragments of time for our observation. In 1826, Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce needed at least eight hours to create an imprint of the view from the upstairs window of his Burgundy chateau onto a pewter plate coated with bitumen. Today, we can capture photos with an exposure time of a trillionth of a second, and are at the brink of attosecond photography—that is, snapshots taken 10 billion trillion times faster than those first grainy images in the east of France…

    Click through a collection of photographic images that, at the time they were taken, were breakthroughs in speed at “Photographing Time.

    * Susan Sontag


    As we stop the clock, we might send hard-boiled birthday greetings to Frank Morrison “Mickey” Spillane; he was born on this date in 1918.  A writer who cut his teeth on comic books, Spillane moved to crime novels, many featuring his signature detective character, Mike Hammer.  Early reaction to Spillane’s work was generally hostile: Malcolm Cowley dismissed the Mike Hammer character as “a homicidal paranoiac”, John G. Cawelti called Spillane’s writing “atrocious”, and Julian Symons called Spillane’s work “nauseating.”  (By contrast, Ayn Rand publicly praised Spillane’s work, though she later publicly repudiated what she regarded as the amorality of Spillane’s Tiger Mann stories.)   But the public was altogether enthusiastic: more than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally; and in a 1980 survey, Spillane was responsible for seven of the top 15 all-time best-selling fiction titles in the U.S.  Still, by the late 90s his novels had gone out of print– Spillane had begun supporting himself by appearing in Miller Lite commercials– and remained unavailable until the the New American Library began reissuing them in 2001.

    “Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar…”

    Mickey Spillane, as a guest star on Columbo.



  • feedwordpress 09:01:57 on 2015/03/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , landmarks, , Michelangelo, , , Richard Silver, time,   

    “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind”*… 


    A lot of photographers aim to capture one, perfect moment in time. Richard Silver might argue that’s aiming low. His surreal productions are multilayered temporal sandwiches, showing how world landmarks morph in appearance from dawn to sunset.

    The Manhattan-based photographer has deployed his “time-slice” technique during extensive travels around the globe (he has reportedly visited “more than 200 cities in his life, traveling to 13 countries last year alone”). Silver must have a superhuman tolerance to jet lag, because his process requires torturous amounts of labor and alertness…

    See more of Silver’s time-conflated photos, and read more of his method, at “Behold, Famous Landmarks Shot in the Fourth Dimension of Time.”

    * Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun


    As we watch the clock, we might send beautiful birthday greetings to Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni; he was born on this date in 1475.  A sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer in the High Renaissance, Michelangelo was considered one of the greatest artists of his time.  And given his profound influence on the development of Western art, he has subsequently been considered one of the greatest artists of all time.  Indeed, he is widely held to be (with Leonardo da Vinci) the archetypal Renaissance man.

    Daniele da Volterra’s portrait of Michelangelo



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