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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Sat, 25 Jun, 2005

Cultural war, a follow-up

I am rather surprised that I have received more than one positive response to the rant which I posted in my last entry here. At this point I need to clarify just where I stand in relation to the content of the rant. The attitude, ideas, and lamentations which I expressed in "Losing the Cultural War" come from my own cultural and family heritage. This is what I grew up with. But I don't agree with all of it, only some of it. Most people don't agree with everything they grew up with.

My personal ideas about art and culture are more modest, simpler, and less lofty. I quote here from one of my correspondents, a Friendly Composer. (Just as I have Friendly Scientists and Mathematicians, I also have Friendly Composers, Writers, and Artists.) He said the following after reading my "culture war" essay:

"… I find myself all the time worrying less and less about huge cultural questions, and just focusing in more on my doing my craft and work as best I can.… I'm most interested in simply getting down to it and writing pieces, promoting them, publishing and performing, etc."

I feel the same way about my art. I would rather be considered a simple-minded craftsman who makes art to order for a client and gets paid for it, than have myself stuck in the stance of the intellectual who does less art (out of despair) and spends more time denouncing the cultural scene.

Now I hope I can get back to physics, which is as important to me as art.


Chapter 4, in the Barron's book, has a lot of material in it. It's got Newton's laws, impulse, momentum, conservation of momentum, angular momentum, Kepler's laws, Newton's law of universal gravity, the inverse-square law of gravity, and more. All of these essentials are expressed in mathematical formulas. Once they are derived, they are just there and you can plug in what numbers you have to solve for the quantity you don't have.

Sixteenth and seventeenth-century scientists toiled over data gathered with primitive (by our standards) observation equipment to find these laws. Only historians of science bother with the whole story of how the laws were formulated. For the rest of us physics students, you just use the formulas. An entire era of human history stands behind Newton's f = ma, but I'm using it to solve high-school-level problems.

When I was in academic humanities, the word "formula" or "formulaic" had only BAD significance. It was what you were never supposed to do when you were writing or creating art. Formula was mundane, repetitive, uncreative, and unoriginal, guaranteed to cause banal and lousy art. If a critic said that some piece of art followed a formula, that was a bad review. I have already said in a previous post how "generalization" was also regarded as bad. You were supposed to approach everything as if it were the first time each time, without any preconceptions.

But in science, it's the opposite. The goal (as one of my Friendly Scientists enthusiastically said to me) is to reduce a phenomenon to as simple an example as possible, and find a general formula which explains it. The complexity can come later.

As a border-crossing humanist (ex-humanist? transhumanist?) I feel somewhat guilty that I am learning and using so many formulas without creating them anew each time. "Learning science is more than just memorizing formulas," the modern teacher might say. But I think that in my case this is a mis-application of my old humanist ways to my new scientific endeavor. The formulas are what make the starry wheels of the universe turn, and I am glad that I don't have to re-invent those wheels each time I move them.

Posted at 3:17 am | link

Why the Title?
About the Author
What this blog is about: the first post
Pyracantha Main Page

RSS Version


November 2014 (4)
October 2014 (16)
September 2008 (5)
August 2008 (5)
July 2008 (7)
June 2008 (4)
May 2008 (6)
April 2008 (5)
March 2008 (8)
February 2008 (9)
January 2008 (8)
December 2007 (9)
November 2007 (9)
October 2007 (1)
September 2007 (7)
August 2007 (6)
July 2007 (10)
June 2007 (7)
May 2007 (10)
April 2007 (7)
March 2007 (11)
February 2007 (10)
January 2007 (6)
December 2006 (9)
November 2006 (9)
October 2006 (8)
September 2006 (8)
August 2006 (10)
July 2006 (9)
June 2006 (10)
May 2006 (10)
April 2006 (8)
March 2006 (12)
February 2006 (10)
January 2006 (11)
December 2005 (11)
November 2005 (9)
October 2005 (10)
September 2005 (10)
August 2005 (12)
July 2005 (9)
June 2005 (10)
May 2005 (8)
April 2005 (7)
March 2005 (8)
February 2005 (9)
January 2005 (7)
December 2004 (7)
November 2004 (7)
October 2004 (8)
September 2004 (5)
August 2004 (9)
July 2004 (9)
June 2004 (8)
May 2004 (6)
April 2004 (13)
March 2004 (12)
February 2004 (13)


Cosmic Variance
Life as a Physicist
Cocktail Party Physics
Bad Astronomy
Jennifer Saylor
Thus Spake Zuska

Listed on Blogwise