Monday, August 25, 2008
The practice must indeed be very old
Of recounting some sequence of events
And adding structure as the tale is told
To try to captivate an audience.
Some storytellers introduced a formal
Religious rite for how their tales unfurled,
But storytelling’s actually the normal
Way we have to comprehend the world.
Our lives are really torrents of sensation
That we can partly grasp in retrospect
By limiting what stays in our narration
To those things with a cause or an effect.
No more real than the books that line our shelves,
Reality’s a tale we tell ourselves.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Fire is incredibly useful, not only for cooking and heating, but for cleaning, manufacturing, propulsion, and pretty much anything else associated with energy technology. Fire is also, obviously, capable of great destruction.
Fire was one of the classical elements, along with earth, water and air.
Obviously, fire has had tremendous impact on our daily lives and on our imaginations. I could write volumes more about it. However, if I don't get back to work, I'll get fired!
Monday, August 11, 2008
The heat and light that did inspire
Those early folks to capture fire
Could serve a wide range of intents,
Like light and warmth and self-defense.
And by the way, we found that heat
Is great for cooking stuff to eat.
But then we learned some other tricks
Like hardening sharpened points of sticks,
Or making things to use each day
By baking stuff made out of clay.
Some rocks that we could melt and cool
Became the world’s first metal tool.
Were things that fire helped bring to pass.
All of these uses fire can boast,
But give me marshmallows to toast.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Like Isaac Newton, Einstein had an annus mirabilis, a "miracle year." In 1905, Einstein published five papers that changed pretty much our entire conception of reality. If he had done nothing else in his lifetime (though he certainly did), those five papers alone would have established him as one of the greatest and most important thinkers in history. These are described in detail in Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness, by John S. Rigden, but briefly, they are:
- a paper demonstrating that light acts both as waves of pure energy, and as particles. The photo-electric effect, the basis of solar cells, relies on this particle aspect of light.
- an explanation of how to determine the size of molecules.
- a demonstration that Brownian motion, the motion of, for example, yeast floating in water, is caused by collisions with molecules.
- the theory of special relativity, showing that time and space are not fixed absolutes.
- the theory that matter can be converted to energy via the formula E=mc2.
Einstein spent much of his later life trying to find a theory that would unite all the forces in the universe, the so called unified field theory. He was not ultimately successful in this, though many think the current string theory holds the promise of fulfilling Einstein's expectations.
Monday, August 4, 2008
- When I was a lad I needed work
- And took a position as a patent clerk.
- I took great pleasure in this position,
- And I carefully reviewed each promising submission.
- He carefully reviewed each promising submission.
- I read each submission so carefully
- And later I discovered relativity.
- He read each submission so carefully
- And later he discovered relativity.
- Of patent work I soon grew tired
- Though at least I had read enough to be inspired.
- This inspiration lead me to teach
- To see if there were others my ideas could reach.
- To see if there were others his ideas could reach.
- I tried to find a university
- Where I could keep up work on relativity.
- He tried to find a university
- Where he could keep up work on relativity.
- My first nineteen-five article
- Showed light acts both as wave and particle.
- Next month I finally finished school
- By showing how to measure any molecule.
- He showed us how to measure any molecule.
- These papers got me notoriety
- But nothing to my work on relativity.
- These papers got him notoriety
- But nothing to his work on relativity.
- Now time and space won’t be the same
- If we don’t move in one inertial frame.
- But this ignores the speed of light
- I redefined both time and space to make it right.
- He redefined both time and space to make it right.
- This was a big event for me.
- This theory would be known as relativity.
- “This was a big event,” said he,
- This theory that is known as relativity.
- In May I proved a widespread notion
- That atoms are the cause of Brownian motion.
- By late that year I was prepared
- To prove that energy’s equal to mc squared.
- He showed that energy’s equal to mc squared.
- Since then my life has been so dreary
- As I have failed to find a unified field theory.
- Since then his life has been so dreary
- As he has failed to find a unified field theory
- So physicists, wherever you may be
- If you want a thesis for your Ph. D.
- If fame and fortune you prefer
- And not just for your style and wild coiffeur
- You won’t be known just for your style and wild coiffeur.
- Just break new ground, like relativity
- And you can be a physicist celebrity.
- Just break new ground, like relativity
- And you can be a physicist celebrity
Friday, August 1, 2008
Music does this with tone as well as with rhythm, but it's a similar idea. A key or pattern is established, then set aside, and later restored. The relief of returning to the original structure helps create a sense of finality or ending.
At a finer level, this is done many times throughout some poems and musical works. The pattern itself may contain some variations in rhythm. Just think of that Bacardi Mojito ad that's all over TV these days. A simple, steady metronome beat would not be as effective in promoting alcohol consumption. (Well, maybe those models dancing have something to do with it, but if you close your eyes, it's still pretty catchy.)