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Cognizm » 2009 » July
Browsing the blog archives for July, 2009.

Transparent Aluminum!


Transparent aluminium is ‘new state of matter’. Did anyone notice Scotty?

Of course, it’s only transparent for 40 femtoseconds, and I thought properly crystallized aluminum was already transparent to ultraviolet, but fun none-the-less.

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Summer in the northern hemisphere


This is one of those lazy days of summer, something which, in this area, we went for weeks before experiencing this year. It’s funny that we still think this way, even though we are very shielded from the weather, compared to our not-so-distant ancestors. We aren’t quite as shielded as those parts of the  South where people even air condition their garages, of course.

On days like this, time seems to stretch forever. Remember how it was in grade school days? The whole summer seemed to last forever (at least until it abruptly ended). Now that we’re grown we don’t have quite that level of obliviousness, but the late sunsets still contribute to the mood. We also feel the contrast to our other seasons.

We’ve had more than one business client who said they liked working with us more than people from Silicon Valley because of our weather differences. It seemed to them that we were more productive because of winter. People who live in perpetual summer may not feel the urgency that seems to inhabit those in the Northeast. “Got to get the work done before the weather sets in.” Nothing better to do than stay inside and work. Not that easy to remember this on days like today.

A few summer days have a slightly different bent, because of my personal experience. I notice them when I’m out on a sunny day, the soil is well-watered (not dusty), and there is plenty of humidity around. The foliage is lush and the soil has been heated and become fragrant. The reptile brain immediately takes me back to my grandparents’ house.

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On Writing


English seems but an imperfect tool. “He waked me up” has always seemed so cumbersome; if the thought needs to be expressed, another way needs to be found to say it.  It’s not the idea of there being appropriate tools for every purpose; it’s as if nails in a certain orientation must be driven by a screwdriver, not a hammer. Or maybe this is only true for me.

As a tool for communication, written language has an interesting property:  the skill of the writer is paramount and the skill of the reader doesn’t matter. Do we ever say that a particular work requires a reader of a certain skill level?  Maybe we do, when we talk about the age of the reader.  And, even that seems to emphasize the innocence of the reader which should not be spoiled by adult themes or language, rather than whethera young reader would get anything out of it.

The effectiveness of expression and the truthfulness of writing are clearly orthogonal, but we often jumble them up: we tend to believe better writing. Of course, the effectiveness of writing is a complex. Tone, straightforwardness, and a whole panoply of properties can be evaluated. Even if we ignore the effects of the physical embodiment of the writing (font, texture if on paper, color, etc.), vocabulary, line length, conversational nature, and a myriad of other elements contribute to the experience of reading.  At the end, all we are really doing is poking and prodding at the model of the message forming in the mind of the reader.  

For such a linear form of interaction, the real process is remarkably non-linear.  It’s actually like the progressive nature of some computer graphics representations: while the bits that define the image arrive one at a time, the image is first roughed out by the earliest arrivals, and refined over time. Sometimes we receive only as many bits as we have time for, before the next image must start.

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