Having Trouble With Electricity and Magnetism? MIT Can Help

You’re probably not the only one; as I’ve recently picked up this book.

MIT is offering OpenCourseWare lectures free online.  The link is just one example.

You can gain access to some of MIT’s collective knowledge; a place which draws some of the best and most curious minds from around the world.

Pretty remarkable.

Addition:  The NY Times has a piece about Professor Lewin.  Forget the knowledge, focus on the spectacle! 

Add to Technorati Favorites

Goya’s Colossus

A dark vision.

Later in his life, Goya’s black paintings come from a man in a dark time, having lived through the peninsular wars, Spain’s continued decline, and illness and deafness.  He was still a man, though, who used his talent to the end.

There’s something transcendant about that figure, at first I thought it was just a man, standing honorably against our condition, ready to confront the unknown….. with fists clenched…

But then I saw the blank eyes, more like a man abstracted into a godlike force, into which human fear and ignorance can be projected.

Here is a link to a good Goya page.

Addition:  More here on the painting…and here on the dispute as to whether or not it’s his.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Dear Mahmoud

As an American citizen, I’m flattered that both Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have invited me for a visit.  I simply don’t know who to choose.  Here’s some of my correspondence: 

Dear Mahmoud,

It’s been a while!   Thanks for your thoughts.  I should say that Hugo has invited me for a visit to Caracas.  Don’t be mad (though I do think he’s handling the oil thing a little better than you). 

   Listen, I know leadership is hard, you know, and people can go a little too far.  It happens.  They’re like animals sometimes!  You turn around and some poor, ignorant religious zealot has done something crazy!  I get that you can’t ask a leader to be too far ahead of his people.

This is also why I support your bid to become a nuclear power.  You’ve got the pole position in that part of the world, and you should just go with it.   You probably know more than you should, and being in charge is never like you thought it’d be.

Don’t have much time so let me just add the I’m-a-humble-man-of-the-people routine might not fly with the Columbia students…you might want to think about a tie.

The only reason I’m telling you this is because I think you’ve got a few converts there….

P.S.  Just wanted to let you know that Sean Penn did visit Caracas.  So, it’s official.  Gotta run.

Yours truly,

An American Citizen.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Joan Miro: Woman


          I was lucky enough to see this sculpture a few times at the Fundacio Miro in Barcelona.  At the time, I remember thinking “oh, it’s a comment on women in Spain”:  All legs and sensuality and yet these malformed, pitiful, faces rising (or barely perched) on top.  

“I know women like that…I remember thinking.  It’s better to be an object of male lust than nothing, kind of like prostitutes.   Spanish machismo and insularity, the triumph of cultural values no matter how arbitrary or foolish, and the native ignorance and poverty of the human lot can clearly produce women like this. Despite my idealism, this is what shall remain long after I’m dead.”  And then,  rather self-satisfied, I strolled away.

Now, as I look again, I realize I have no idea what this sculpture means.   Are those two faces?  Strange little breasts?  Is that a spigot on top?  A man’s head and woman’s head?  Aren’t they kind of gender neutral?  What was I thinking, anyways?

Something about Miro makes me think he has thought long, judged deeply, and yet the colors are joyful, and there’s just this playfulness and achieved simplicity in his work that invites you right in and never really puts you out.

Addition:  Now that I”m a little older, and prostitution hovers between a comedy and a tragedy, I’m pretty sure the men who solicit prostitutes are just as responsible.  As for Miro, I still enjoy his work very much.

Add to Technorati Favorites

An Awesome Visual Exercise: Maybe Sublime?

From Christopher Want’s Introducing Kant:

“In the case of the pyramids:

‘the eye needs some time to complete the apprehension from the base to the peak, but during that time some of the earlier parts are invariably extinguished in the Imagination before it has apprehended the later ones, and hence the comprehension is never complete..’  ”

Here’s a video of a surfer on Maui’s north shore:

Add to Technorati Favorites

A Trip Through The Universe

Here is a neat video (with some incorrect English).  If we travelled at the speed of light (so far theoretically impossible) what could we find, and how far could we go?

Some thoughts on Immanuel Kant’s thoughts, as the video gets a little mystic at the end:

1.  There may be a God, there may not be.  The arguments for God, however, are no longer valid.  God falls into the category of a transcendant object (that which transcends the senses and all known experience).  Kant offered good arguments for why these arguments for the existence of God are not good, nor deep, enough.

2.  As scientists know, they can tell you precise things about how energy behaves, how it can be measured, what will happen according to known laws, but they can’t tell you what energy is.  That is a different question. 

3.  Science itself (while yielding genuine knowledge) also makes errors that he attempted to clarify with his antinomies.  Kant sincerely wished to encompass all knowledge.  While he may not have achieved that lofty goal, he did think some of the deepest thoughts there have been, and may still be pointing us in the right direction.

Addition:  Kant sincerely wished to ecompass the limits of reason, and while there are obvious problems with the antinomies, his concept of freedom, and the ethics derived from such ideas, he is one of the most important philosophers…..likely ever.

I’m not sure anyone has drawn new limits yet, at least not of this kind.

Addition:  According to friesian.com, “Kant’s antinomies are intended to show that contradictory metaphysical absolutes can be argued and justified with equal force, meaning that neither can actually be proven. It can be argued however, that Einstein answered Kant by proposing a non-Euclidean (Riemannian) universe that is finite but unbounded (i.e. without an edge).”

Add to Technorati Favorites

Bernoulli’s Equation

Here is a link to the Princeton University’s page on Daniel Bernoulli’s equation:


  • points 1 and 2 lie on a streamline,
  • the fluid has constant density,
  • the flow is steady, and
  • there is no friction.
  • If you’re like me, and you didn’t study physics, then I picture myself standing barefoot in a fast moving, inch-or-so-deep stream.  The ram pressure is highest right on some point on my ankle.  I can feel it pelting my skin and watch it shooting off in all directions.  

    But as I stand there, I also feel that, slow, deeper drag, the way the rest of the water pulls on me.

    Now I imagine down river a bit, the slow moving, deep, massive river now tumbles big stones along the bottom.   The pressure on levees and barges on the surface is immense.

    The faster water (or any fluid, including air, which is how planes fly) moves, the less pressure it has.  It trades in pressure for velocity.   If water moves more slowly, and there is more water, the higher the pressure.

    That’s my over-simplification. 

    Add to Technorati Favorites

    Thursday Poem: Ezra Pound, Alba

    Alba (Dawn Song)

    As cool as the pale wet leaves
    of lily-of-the-valley
    She lay beside me in the dawn

    Ezra Pound

    Brief Bio-He really wanted to get out of America.  To London first, as the father of modernist poetry, and eventually Italy where he made pro-Axis rants on Italian radio during World War II.   When American troops finally got him, they put him in a box for 25 days.    He was never quite the same after that, though not exactly stable to begin with.  Stable in his art, perhaps.

    The New King (of Pop) County

    Those of you not from Seattle may not have heard about this.  They’ve renamed and “rebranded” King County.  Click here for the new image. 

    Originally, King County was named after William R. King, who was elected as Vice President, but did not serve due to ill-health (tuberculosis).  He also owned a plantation.

    The original reasons for naming the new territory after William King were somewhat self-interested (as wikipedia reports, to curry favor), but it’s a little unsettling to alter the historical record in such a way.

    All else aside, and continuing with this line of thought, I hereby propose a new King of King County:  The King of Pop:


    In a few decades we’ll realize the true depth of his contributions.  He has touched millions of people through his music and throughout his life. 

    (Thanks to the Taoist Secret for the pic)

    Addition:  R.I.P.   I really hope no one in King County takes my suggestion seriously now.  Andrew Sullivan has found a Mike Kinsley article from 1984, discussing Jackson’s talent and the fantasy bubble he inhabited that many, through their greed, supported.

    Add to Technorati Favorites