Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Mathematical Inspiration from Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World, Mariana Cook, Princeton University Press, 2009

“In the past, mathematicians always tried to solve problems exactly. Now we realize that most problems will never have an exact solution. Nonetheless, we can hope to understand the general shape of a solution, and topology gives a language for talking about these shapes. Topology gives a new point of view on all kinds of physical phenomena: the collapse of a bridge that vibrates too much, the tangling of strands of DNA, and so on. But I have to admit that my own interest is based on the joy of understanding shapes rather than on any particular applications.”

– Burt Totaro, page 64 (a professor I had in college, FWIW)


“As a grad student I had become interested in the annulus conjecture. Saunders Mac Lane advised me that it was a bit hard for a thesis problem (it was), but I thought about it whenever I had an idea. In 1968, while looking after my four-month-old son, an idea occurred to me, now called the “torus trick.” It only took a few days to realize that I had reduced the annulus conjecture to a problem about PL homotopy tori, and in a different direction had proved the local contractibility of the space of homeomorphisms of n-space.”

– Robion Kirby, page 62


“The imprint of the world in our minds is not photographic; all the brain knows of the outside world is a chaotic sequence of electric impulses and out of these it creates a structural entity: our perception of what we see and hear. Most of the time, an adult’s brain talks to itself and creates more and more refined structures within itself. The word “structure” means a mathematical structure, something which becomes more and more abstract and better and better logically organized in the course of this self-conversation….

We are all fascinated with structural patterns: periodicity of a music tune, a symmetry of an ornament, self-similarity of computer images of fractals. And the structures already prepared within ourselves are the most fascinating of all. Alas, most of them are hidden from ourselves…. Brains are our masters, with only 2 percent of our body weight, they take 20 percent of the oxygen resources of our bodies; you cannot cannot resist their commands. You become a mathematician, a slave of this insatiable hunger of your brain, of everybody’s brain, for making structures of everything that goes into it.”

– Mikhael Leonidovich Gromov, page 34


“I often think of cats. I think of trees. I think of dogs occasionally but I don’t think of them all that much because dogs are agreeable. They do what you want them to do to some extent. Some people believe that mathematics is what we think it is and it’s created by our thoughts. I don’t. I’m a Platonist at heart, although I know there are a very great difficulties with that view.”

– John Horton Conway, page 18


“At the moment, one of the things I’m working on understanding is the total wavelength of a surface like a sphere or something of greater complexity, such as the surface of a bagel or a pretzel. What is the total wavelength? … I first became interested in the total wavelength as a model related to a question which can be roughly stated as, can one hear the shape of the universe?”

– Kate Abedola Okikiolu, page 98


“For example, the “Ode to Joy” would be 334554321123322 for the right hand, and 332112345543344 for the left, with corresponding digits always adding up to 6. Soon music became a passion itself, on a par with my passion for numbers, though on its own terms.”

– Noam K Elkies, page 158


“In mathematics, there are not only theorems. There are, what we call, “philosophies” or “yogas,” which remain vague. Sometimes we can guess the flavor of what should be true but cannot make a precise statement. When I want to understand a problem, I first need to have a panorama of what is around it. A philosophy creates a panorama where you can put the things in place and understand that if you can do something here, you can make progress somewhere else. This is how things begin to fit together.”

– Viscount Pierre Deligne, page 156


” I prefer to close my eyes when I think about mathematics. The best work is done by night, in half sleep. Sometimes I go to bed thinking, “Ah, I have a nice lemma to prove–or disprove.” (Should I explain what a lemma is? A mountain climber needs holds to get from one level to the next one. Lemmas are the the holds of a mathematician.)”

– Jean-Pierre Serre, page 144


“How to define the roughness of rusted iron, of broken stone, metal, or glass? What shape is a mountain, a coastline, a river, or a dividing line between two watersheds? That is, can geometry deliver what the word seems to promise, namely, truthful measurements of untamed Earth? How fast does the wind blow during a storm? what shape is a cloud, a flame, or a welding? What is the density of galaxies in the universe? What is the volatility of the prices quoted on financial markets? How to compare and hopefully even measure different writers’ vocabularies?”

– Benoit Mandlebrot, page 94

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Listen to it over and over…. let it seep deep into your brain.

what is it about this song that’s so sticky?

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“So we cheated and we lied
And we tested
And we never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.

You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about loving you.”

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Does anyone see the irony AND similarity between the Wilson shout-out, “You lie…!” during President Obama’s address September 9th, 2009, on health-care legislation to a joint session of Congress and the Kanye West shout-out that he thought Beyoncé deserved to win the Moonman for Best Female Video.

Wilson, 62, shouted “you lie” at Obama during the  speech which came after Obama said his health-care overhaul wouldn’t benefit undocumented immigrants.

Later that evening FactCheck.org, a Washington-based watchdog group, said Obama was telling the truth.

On Sunday (September 13), Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech speech at the VMAs to express his independent and self-professed ‘invaluable’ opinion.

Can we dare say ‘art imitating life’ or is it that there is a growing lack of contingencies for un-civil behavior?

What is it we value?   Ya, I’m talking to you…   What is it you value?   Right; watching VMAs to see the wardrobe malfunctions and the Dolt meter red line…

Clearly what matters is so different for those entitled from those that aren’t entitled that this will continue to happen until the fear subsides and we come to value solution over exhaust.

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I am so disappointed.

Mysticism returns to prime time TV with this inane crime stopper series “LIE to ME*” heralding the star (Tim Roth) and his team’s ability to read people’s faces to tell when they are lying about what. Crimes are just the medium for the law enforcement to clean up with all that legal mumbo jumbo.

Forget the advance science of real life CSI groups who offer empirical data as evidence supporting suspicion of involvement or not that is shown or implied in other TV dramas. Too many big words and too much emphasis on logic over folklore. That was wayyyyyy to tough to understand.

So, I guess the Vietnam war injury from a concussion grenade will not get mentioned in the villain’s arraignment. We’ll be able to tell if President Obama really is going to address the issues of the day and, most importantly, whether or not he is embarrassed to have a middle name of “Hussain” after all.

Working with this fantasy, think of where it could all lead: you are successful based on not being able to terse your lips or raise an eyebrow due to Botox.  No more need for matters as suspect as a ‘Twinkie defense.’  It was a facial tick that sealed the doom that the Olympian was using banned substances… Or, your movie is given the green light because you looked the producers in the eye and your nose didn’t flare at the same time…

If only we knew what to look for before Columbine and West Virginia events… And all along those media mongrels were leading down the path of science, contingency management and stem cell hope. But no more…

Enter the latest version of phrenology** and voodoo*** for prime consumption.

I am so disappointed.

* Not the absolute blues-grunt-rock of Jonny Lang’s live version of “Lie to Me”

** Phrenology: a defunct and debunked field of study, once considered a science, in which a person’s personality was first implied and then determined by experts “reading” bumps and fissures in the subjects skull.

*** Voodoo: religion based on mix of Roman Catholic teachings and West African beliefs that there are numerous deities subordinate to a greater god spirit (who does not traffic in matters or events of mere humans). Prayers and incantations to lower gods who show their work by symbolism in everything from tea leafs to smoke – only coincidently related to the smoke from a sacred chimney announcing a new Pope.

Various Blog Coverage:

TV Addict

Chicago Trib


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Well, isn’t that nice.

Unconscious plagiarism is valued as wrong by people who only see black and white. ‘Wrong’ in the sense that someone is taking credit for something that was generated or created by another person and the interloper was not giving credit for the source of the new idea or ‘thing.’

Do you know who wrote the “Dick and Jane” book series or what the best way is to grill lobster tail? How about the basics of the scientific method or the definitions of reinforcement or punishment? Right…you don’t remember. Yet you have them and you didn’t create them so you must have got them from someone and you need to give that person credit.

However some versions of plagiarism when we write may be due to inattention rather than to intention. When people who use the words or thoughts that are not their own they call it plagiarism. Those questioned about copying or using another’s words and ideas without giving them credit invariably state that their behavior was ‘unconscious.’ They were unaware of their copying when they used those words or ideas as they used. When unintentional plagiarism happens it is referred to as cryptomnesia.

This “concealed recollection,” is the name for a theoretical phenomenon involving suppressed or ‘forgotten’ memories. It refers to cases where (apparently) a person believes that he or she is creating or inventing something new, such as a story, poem, artwork, or joke, but is actually recalling a similar or identical work which he or she has previously encountered. The term was addressed extensively by Federal Judge Richard A. Posner in his book, ‘The Little Book of Plagiarism’.

Could there be any clearer case for learning?

As humans we learn at an intense rate not even closely appreciated by most academicians or those who spew content on the different media channels. We do it for all of our lives. And all the learning we do is not equal. In the thunderstorm of what is learned from before we are born and throughout intense learning periods and even during less intense periods there are millions of discriminative stimuli [SDs] that get linked with the environment surrounding the paradigms of antecedents and consequences. These morph and are reshaped repeatedly. We mix them together regularly as in a “mixed metaphor” such as “It is pitch quiet in here!”

The SDs that come to control the different elements of what is leaned become diluted differentially over time due to conflicting cues [SDs] as well as disuse of the information.

In the case of cryptomnesia the person is supposed to bookmark or otherwise categorize and account for the reading in Dr. Suez that led to thinking that there was a button maker that used the same color combinations. Or, was the person watching TV’s American Idol supposed to categorize statements [time, date, person, context] made by the stars on the show so that when a viewer’s book was written 3 years later, “Skill follows Will” credit could be given for the title of the book written about athletics?

I hope you consider the quagmire that this level of accounting requires. It may generate a set of people that refuse to write, compose, paint or speak if the logic is carried comes any more pervasive than it is.

Blogs appear to be somewhat beside themselves when it comes to references and original content. Yet the American Psychological Association has made a science out of referencing and citing what one close friend has called, “old dead men” to the point where we reinforce citing less ideas for what of having to explain where we got our more profound ideas.

Sounds like learning is the same as cryptomnesia in that it represents the case of integrating what is consumed in books, lectures, friends, movies, neighbors, parishioners, colleagues, TV or anything else. It can be ascribed to someone other than its original creator (another interesting myth) or another condition and be treated as intuitive or common sense…

Consider the following:

In a conversation with colleagues [over beer, martini’s, scotch, margarita’s or spring water] at [the office, racquet club, saloon, grocery store, etc.] you outline an idea that is not in the mainstream of the company. You go over the usual dichotomy of good vs. risks and why or what is the net of the idea.

It is considered and absorbed by the others and when appropriate, it is tied up and put into a package in some way that allows it to be identified. Comments like

“…well it is something to think about…”

“…I think it was tried in 2004 and never got a sponsor…”

“…there is good reason that it won’t work… don’t bring it up again.”


“…let me have a synopsis of it and I’ll bring up at the manager’s meeting in June.”

When providing an idea or approach, strategy or process to others they often absorb it and subsequently either

  • deny its validity
  • provide its validity but question its significance
  • after time has past bring it up as if they just thought of it.

Who should get credit for the idea?

is the originator in the loop in the above example?

Do we really want to live like this when data and information grows faster than our global national debt?  Isn’t there a better way?

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if you’re paying attention to apple’s event you just heard about iTunes 8 and the genius feature.  Basically it makes smart playlists based on the iTunes user base and your preferences.

Pandora, Last.fm, iLike and many others already do this.  Big Deal.  We were doing this at Launch music 8 years ago.  It doesn’t really add much value to the music sales ecology.  Very little.


It can’t find you music you haven’t heard that you will like.  None of them can.  A group/artist has to be popular and a classified entity before it will get mixed in.  These automatic collaborative filters can’t solve that problem for people, probably ever.

Also, is this a feature that we all really need?  is auto playlisting really a big concern we have?  half the fun of having a huge library is the ACT of making play lists.  Seriously.  It’s like channel surfing… imagine if I had automated channel surfing.  the fun is in the surfing.

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NIN is doing it. Radiohead did it. Prince tried something like it.

Music pricing based on how much you value it, no minimums.

Software is pretty much there.

Telephony is there.

TV, due to writers strike, is heading there.

Newspapers and magazines were there awhile ago.

Is this approach going to be limited only to media or IP? or will we see it with hard goods, our jobs, our transportation, our schooling?

And isn’t this getting us back to a basic barter system?

Why did it take musicians so long?

Yeah, I know… I’m full of questions short on data. Argh!


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