My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Thu, 28 Oct, 2004

It is another universe now

The apocalypse has concluded. In my vision, I heard the sound of an immense number of Red Sox fans, gathered around the world, there were 108 of them (well, maybe not that many) shouting "honor, glory, blessing, sweep." They shouted aloud, "Victory to our Red Sox, who have prevailed after eighty-six years of suffering. The tears have been wiped away from their eyes." An angel appeared with a golden trophy, shaped like a double row of banners, and this trophy was given unto the Red Sox, who had but glimpsed it in earlier years when it was whisked away by the dark forces. As the ninth inning of the fourth game started, I saw the lightning flash from east to west, over the city of the Saint (Louis). And behold, the moon was blotted out from the sky by a great shadow, and darkness was on the face of the heavens.

For when the Red Sox win the Series, it has been foretold that the world will end. The old world passeth away, and the new world is upon us. And thus when the ball was tossed to first, and the last out recorded (it was the first and the last), the Multiple World Series branched into another universe, a universe where the Red Sox have won through to the shining prize. I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth have disappeared, and there was no sea, or Cardinal joy, in Saint Louis. The One standing on the great Pitcher's Mound, who looked like Bob Gibson, said: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." Come back, Bill Buckner! All is forgiven!

Happy are those who have washed their victory shirts clean! The curse has been lifted. And the Red Sox are now inscribed in the big baseball book of life!

What a relief! And now, on to calculus.

Posted at 2:20 am | link

Wed, 27 Oct, 2004

Surrealistic Boston Logic

All right, you know as well as I do that no math or science is going to get done here till the World Series is over. On the night of October 26, the Red Sox, in their improbable World Series, won their third straight game against the St. Louis Cardinals. It is now Sox 3, Cardinals 0.

Until the Sox-Yankees playoff series just concluded, no team had ever come from an 0-3 deficit to win a 7-game postseason series. The Red Sox are the first team to ever have done that.

Now the initial situation is repeated. The Red Sox are the only team that has proven that they are able to come from 3 games behind to win. Thus in order to lose the Series, they must defeat themselves. THIS COULD VERY WELL HAPPEN. It has happened countless times before in Red Sox history. So I continue to live in fear and trembling in these apocalyptic times.

Posted at 1:34 am | link

Sun, 24 Oct, 2004

A Candle for Calculus

Tonight some friends and I performed a little ritual to honor my impending journey into Calculus. We placed one of my big fat calculus books next to a laptop computer and put a candle, safely contained in glass, on top of the math book. Lighting the candle, we took turns reciting blessings from different religious traditions (Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Neo-Pagan) over the sacred objects. This is not just for superstition or good luck. I would like to continue to bring a spiritual dimension to my math and science studies. I usually hesitate to mention spirituality here at ELECTRON BLUE because I don't want to alienate my Atheist readers. But both art and mathematics have been enriched by spirituality and religion as long as they have existed, which is all of human history. Symbolic actions with light, fire, and fragrance connect the world of abstraction with the world of the senses. This would make sense whether it is in a religious context or not.

If the Red Sox lose the World Series, it will be my fault

And now from thoughtful ritual to gross superstition. Boston is one of the greatest sports towns in the United States, and it is also one of the most superstitious. The Red Sox, with their long history of catastrophe and sudden turns of fate, invite the worst superstitions. Deranged Boston fans, of which I am one, lose complete track of causality during the baseball season, let alone the postseason. They actually believe that their actions in the workplace or in front of the TV, not even present at the ballpark, influence the plays and the outcome of the game. Not only are there special garments to wear, such as my 18-year-old "victory shirt" commemorating the 1986 American League championship, but there are special objects to venerate, such as a Pedro Martinez bobblehead doll or a stained-glass roundel featuring the Boston "B." (This last item is in my collection.)

They won the first game of the World Series. One down, six to go. Did they win because I did NOT watch the game on TV? If I watch the game on TV the next night, will they lose? If I talk about the game at work, will that jinx it? One cannot talk about winning, that is definitely bad juju. So if I ignore the game entirely until it is over and I see it on the news, will that be good luck? What if I follow it by Internet updates but no live action? What will disturb fate the least? The question is, what will disturb ME the least. There's no solution for that.

Posted at 2:30 am | link

Thu, 21 Oct, 2004

Apocalypse Now

I'm too excited to do much math. The improbability odds have collapsed, and the Red Sox have made baseball history by not only coming back from three games behind in the championship series, but winning the seventh game against the dread army of Gog and Magog (the New York Yankees) and winning the American League pennant. This is the first resurrection. The rest of the dead will not come to life until the last trumpet sounds. Another conflict awaits the faithful followers: yet another sevenfold tribulation which may yet end in the Abyss. For our souls have not won through to the golden crown since 1918 years after the mythical birthdate of the Lord, and it is said that we are accursed in the apostolic city of Boston. Yet behold, we see a crowd of men in white garments trimmed in red and blue, and they stand on a green field, and their hair is long and woolly. The seven golden lampstands of Fenway Park will be lit and there will be the sound of an immense number of the faithful. They must endure a ten-day ordeal, starting this weekend. There are those who say that there are many worlds, and thus it is possible to have a Multiple World Series. Let me calculate on the golden abacus the progression of this Series. Even if our effort has to die, I keep the faith, and may we receive the crown of life for our prize. If anyone has ears to hear, let him (or her) listen: for those who prove victorious there is nothing to be afraid of in the second death.

(Freely adapted from the New Testament's "Book of Revelation.")

Posted at 2:25 am | link

Wed, 20 Oct, 2004

Distraction and Progression

I continue to be distracted by a number of things. These are: exploring new graphics software (Jasc Paint Shop Pro), work at my day job updating hundreds of decorative, hand-calligraphed Trader Joe's price tags in the most current formulation (size is about 5 inches long by 2 height), new paintings still in the planning stage, and a small convention with an art show display that was conveniently located only two miles from my home. Surprisingly, I made some money at that art show despite the fact that the convention had less than a hundred people. It was designed to be a pleasant little get-together for socializing, not a high-powered business-type convention. But many of my "collectors" were there, and they bought some of my work, so I am very pleased at how it came out.

I am also distracted by the mind-twisting, crazy-making, apocalyptic American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were behind three games to none in the series and have, unbelievably, battled back to win the last three games so that the whole thing will be decided today, October 20, in a last, cataclysmic, seventh game. Seven games, seven angels, it's kind of like the Book of Revelation. Being a Red Sox fan is a form of insanity. Don't worry, fellow Red Sox fans, we can still lose before the world comes to an end.

But I am a trooper and I am still doing math. I am reviewing arithmetic progressions and their sums. The last time I did this, back in 2002, it was new material to me, confusing and scary. Now I am more comfortable with it, even the Big Sigma summation notation. As long as I keep in mind the underlying original, inescapable progression of integers, I am fine. The last time I did progressions, it was from the 1958 book and each element of the progression had its own letter. That way I could make up mnemonics from each combination of letters. But the White Book I am now using just uses subscripts, for instance a1 for first term of a progression, and an for any other term. Subscripts are cool and look "professional" when I write them, but they are not as easy to make mnemonics out of.

I also had a moment of recognition when I realized that the "common difference" in an arithmetic progression is the slope of a linear equation. This may sound simple, but I didn't realize it until I saw the graphs in the textbook. The swooping curves of geometric sequences will be the next term in my own progression.

Posted at 2:17 am | link

Wed, 13 Oct, 2004

Mathematical Art in Blue and Orange

Since I have been doing work with Logarithms recently, I decided to do some art with a logarithmic spiral in it. The all-providing Web gave me excellent information on it at WolframResearch's Mathworld which is an online encyclopedia of everything mathematical. I used the spiral depicted on the Wolfram page as my model. I admit that I am not entirely clear on exactly how the spiral is generated, but it has to do with natural logarithms and the exponentiation of the famous e.

Some non-artistic types wonder at how art is created, and they think that "creativity" and "artistic" activity is something inspired and mystical and special. I think that way about science. Aren't scientists, especially physicists, in touch with the Secrets of the Universe revealed through experiments and mathematics? Art is really much more mundane. Here's how I created my logarithmic spiral painting. Y'see, I had two little jars of really old paint, so old that there wasn't much left in them, and what was left was just about to dry up. So it was either use it in a painting or throw it out. One of my jars contained a tablespoonful or so of brilliant orange, the other had a metallic blue similar to the now-famous "Electron Blue" of my car and the R.E.M. song.

I like the combination of blue and orange. This has nothing to do with any school colors nor with the city of New York, whose heraldic colors are blue and orange. These two colors are complementary colors, which means that they are across from each other on the color wheel. Putting them in combination, as the aforementioned website suggests, makes each look brighter and more intense, and also sets up a kind of vibration in your eyes when you look at it. I know that all of this could have been done much more quickly digitally, and in fact I did the preliminary sketch for it on the computer, using CorelDraw. But I still believe in good old hand-done paintings, irregular and imperfect as they are. What doesn't show up on the Web-based image here is that I used some silver glitter paint to add sparkle to the line of the logarithmic spiral.

So I succeeded in using up as much of these leftover colors as I could, in the simplest design that would convey what I wanted. (What? No wild proliferation of fantastic deee-tails? Am I lazy or in a hurry?) I took the Cartesian coordinate cross, an exponential curve, and the logarithmic spiral, along with one more supporting line, and came up with the picture you see. Math purists will note that the exponential curve goes through the origin rather than (0,1) which is wrong, but I'm claiming artistic license here. Also, the logarithmic spiral isn't quite "regular," since I squished it a little to fit into the rectangular shape.

So much for inspiration and creativity. Now I can in good conscience discard the congealed remains of those jars of paint, and get back to reviewing arithmetic and geometric progressions.

Posted at 1:59 am | link

Sat, 09 Oct, 2004

Running with R.E.M.

It has been brought to my attention by a British reader that a song by the rock band R.E.M., on their new album AROUND THE SUN, is titled "Electron Blue." I am mildly astonished. I am not an R.E.M. fan, I don't even listen to their music, and I had absolutely no knowledge that they were using this title for a song. And it is inconceivable that the songwriters of this band have ever encountered this Weblog. I quickly referred to one of the pop-up and spyware-laden song lyrics sites to read the lyrics for the R.E.M. song, and they seem to have something to do with a hopeless relationship with a woman who is addicted to speed and adventure. Well that certainly isn't me. I can only speculate where the writer got the idea. "Electron Blue" (as I mentioned in my "Why the Title" section here) is the color of a car, which has been used not only for my modestly powered Honda CRV but for other, faster, more powerful sports vehicles. It is also, as a Google search has just shown me, the name of a fancy professional graphics computer monitor, and a pre-designed template for PowerPoint presentations. Gosh, who knew this was so popular? I'm not changing the weblog title here, though.

Now I have these embarrassing visions of being accused by R.E.M. fans of appropriating one of their song titles. Honestly, guys and gals, I didn't know. But in honor of this piece of synchronicity, I went to an R.E.M. fan site, where the new album will play for you in "streaming audio." I heard my namesake song, sung by the forever wistful Michael Stipe:

Adventure has laid its claim on you
It's all you want to do….
You know where to run
You run Electron Blue.

The Big Sig

Meanwhile, all five of you readers out there may be wondering why I haven't put up any new entries for a week. Well, first of all, I've been distracted by a heavy workload at my day job, by studio artwork I had to get done because I had put it off for far too long, and also by enticing new equipment in my studio that I want to play with. Not only that, I am much involved with some fantasy writing, which has taken up the time I usually use to write this Weblog. So am I slacking off with the math and physics?

Well, let me explain. I am a math wuss. I should already be well into Calculus, but I am afraid of it. Why? Because almost every person I talk to about learning mathematics says something like, "I was real good at algebra and geometry, but when it came time for me to do Calculus, I tried it and I just HIT A WALL. I failed in the first semester and never tried again." I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this! I cannot evade the thought that there must be something so intimidating, so difficult and incomprehensible about Calculus, that it will defeat even the best students, let alone me.

So I am biding my time by re-visiting sequences, progressions, their sums, and factorials. This latter is something I had not been formally introduced to before, but I've seen the notation. A number with an exclamation point, such as 5! which signifies 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5, or 120. To my innocent eye, seeing that notation with the exclamation point adds an emotional intensity to the number, as if it were saying, Wow! Pay attention! This is exciting….FIVE! 5!

But why that notation for factorial numbers? Maybe they just used the exclamation point because all the other punctuation marks had already been used. Or perhaps there really is something exciting about a factorial number, especially how they mount up precipitously into absurd gazillions by the time they get to 100!

Factorial numbers are one of those things which will be significant later on, when I get the courage to proceed into calculus. But actually, I think that these sequences and progressions and sums do lead into calculus, because from a previous go-round I learned how to take the limit of a progression which is just at the threshold of calculus.

I am also reviewing sigma notation, the code mathematics uses for the sum of a sequence or progression. It involves a big Sigma, around which little cryptic numbers and letters orbit. Even though I'm a Greek scholar, this big Greek letter is scary. It is the first Greek letter in math that I have encountered since friendly old Pi. I think it's the size that is scary. It looks like a Kabbalistic diagram, where a big dark master letter is surrounded by its lighter disciple letters. So the one at the top is the upper limit of the progression, the one at the bottom is the lower limit or beginning of the progression, and the notation at the right side of the Big Sig is the formula for how the progression proceeds. And then the Sigma means that you add it all up.

As I remember from my first attempt at learning this, there is always that underlying structure of advancing by integers, from 0 to 1 to 2, etc. No matter how elaborate the formula for creating the progression, there are still 1,2,3,4….steps in the progression. You can't get away from plain old one, two, three, many.

Posted at 2:49 pm | link

Sat, 02 Oct, 2004

Miller Time

The struggle between the painting that resisted getting done and myself is over, and I have won (finally). So here it is. It took me long enough, especially for something that is only fourteen and a half inches by nine inches. I hope Dr. Client is not too frustrated. His quote, which is attributed to Henry Miller, is inscribed in the banner that goes across the top. It reads, "One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things." I have not been able to find the exact source in Miller's writing for the quote. The client wanted it lettered in a border around the image, but I found that to be unreadable so I compromised on this. In the lower corner is a short white pillar with figures on it of a dentist working on a person's teeth. This honors the client, who is a dentist. All right…. done. It's Miller Time!

I don't think it came out too bad, despite all the trouble it gave me. The astrolabe on the left side is kind of cool. The concept is borrowed shamelessly from Francois Schuiten, the Belgian artist I mentioned a couple of entries ago, who often puts astrolabes in his paintings. The surrealist part of this painting is that all the windows or doors open up into different worlds and times of day. That's how I tried to convey the sense of finding new places which were really states of mind. I just don't agree much with the quote, though. When I go to Missouri, I am not there for the subjective experience of having my thinking renewed. I am there because I want to see Missouri, the "Show-Me State."

Recently the matter has come up for me about what an artist's way of thinking could bring to scientific studies. (Oooo, isn't that pink nebula so pretty!) I am an artist trying to think like a scientist, which causes me to do spiral staircases because of their interesting geometry. I admit, this picture isn't SEXY. There are no scantily clad beautiful women in it. Not like Henry Miller's work at all. I'm sorry about that. If I could draw babes, I would, but I'm only good at buildings and the occasional spaceship. Can an artist learn to think like a scientist without giving up artistic quality? Judging from this, maybe not. Oh well, it's done now. Could I please get back to my math and science studies? I need to work on series and progressions.

Posted at 2:55 am | link

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