Monthly Archives: September 2012


Leyendo rápidamente las inquietudes y alegrías de la gente en facebook esta mañana, leo en el muro de una amiga: “Dia mundial contra el cancer de mama”

Y yo pienso, “joder, vaya madre más importante la suya, que tiene su propio día mundial; pensaré en ella yo también, espero que se recupere”.

Como leer los muros del día es algo que se hace con sólo relativo interés y vaga atención, me lleva unos tres segundos darme cuenta de lo que acabo de hacer.

Gente hispanoparlante, ¡acentuad vuestras palabras!

retards in the train

in the 3rd position, shame award: people who bring their house keys hanging from their neck in a red collar

in the 2nd position, idiocy award: people who talk to their dog (with the same voice tone you use with babies) and actually believe to be having a conversation with them

in the 1st position, disrespect award: people in the platform who get into the train car before letting the packed crowd inside get off

every once in a while, like today in the train, i temporarily loose faith on human intelligence

we are amazing

we are amazing.

look, i just asked google to find information on “peeing in fresh fallen snow”. i know, bear with me.

i was speaking about that a couple of posts ago, so that’s why i came up with such a sentence to look for. thing is, i hoped it would be a rare enough of a concept as to give google search a hard time giving me back any sensible information. i have no clue about the internal mechanics of the search engine, but i was naively expecting that this being an infrequent query, the answer would not be cached anywhere and that a long search process would be run, possibly giving me some random links not related to the semantics of my query at all but to pages speaking of pee alone, or snow. so yeah, i just asked google to find information on “peeing in fresh fallen snow”; and in a blink, the search engine gave me a link to a page at the urban dictionary website which has the following definition:

Urinart: Drawing a picture in freshly-fallen snow using urine

and this, my friends, blows my mind in so, so many ways.

first of all, the fact that the word urinarting has already been created is pretty awesome. secondly, that somebody invested the time to put this information online is also pretty amazing. third, that google was able to handle my weird query by crossing information with all sort of unstructured sources of information out there and that it found this definition is seriously astonishing. fourth, that it did it in no more than 0.26 seconds is ridiculously impressive. sixth, that humans have reached this state of mastery in information manipulation and management, that we do have tools to store, classify and index information in such a cheap manner that not even the most daring science fiction author would possibly have dreamed of just 20 years ago, this is freaking mind blowing.

i don’t know. when i was a kid before internet became popular at around ’95, i would often have to cycle to the public library to physically scan shelves in order to search for an outdated version of the information i was looking for. my great-grandmother, who was born in a tiny village in the mountains by the same time the light bulb was created, knew nothing about the world but what a guy in a black dress would tell her every Sunday morning in form of canticles and rituals.

so look at it with a bit of perspective. we are a ridiculously plastic species.

high technology, low creativity

you know those crazy high tech cameras able to record thousands of frames per second, that cost $250,000 ?

i wonder if they are any useful beyond recording random objects being blown up in slow motion like, say, water balloons in peoples faces. seriously.

it got so boooooooring

lucky me

being a man has some advantages, and some disadvantages.

among the former, there is that of, when in the mountains during winter, being able to write your name by peeing in a bunch of new fallen snow (american’s do have it easier since they have it really short. their name, i mean – just one syllable most of the times).

the joy of this realization is immense

make up in the train

in every early morning bart car heading to the city there’s a few young woman with a mirror in one hand, an eyeliner in the other. time is precious, and this is a great way to buy some extra 15 minutes of sleep back home. they change the eyeliner for a mascara applier and proceed with the eyelashes, there in the middle of a crowd with whom they have nothing to do. only the people that they can reach through the social network in their smart phone’s really matters to them. like the work colleagues they are about to meet in the office or the new clients they will talk to today. it’s time to go for some lipstick. some astonishingly precise moves, and they’re ready to go.

in every late night bart car heading to the city there’s a few young woman with a mirror in one hand, an eyeliner in the other. time is precious, and this is a great way to buy some extra 15 minutes of rest back home. they change the eyeliner for a mascara applier and proceed with the eyelashes, there in the middle of a crowd with whom they have nothing to do. only the people that they can reach through the social network in their smart phone’s really matters to them. like the best friends they are about to meet in the pub or the new strangers they will talk to today. it’s time to go for some lipstick. some astonishingly precise moves, and they’re ready to go.

wrong again – still thinking the universe turns around us

today i saw this image below in a blog dedicated to science, and i got immediately sad, cause it reminds me that even people doing science themselves don’t always really get it – they seem to not fully understand what science is about.

the statement above is basically saying that a perfect world doesn’t have discontinuities – that things change slowly without abrupt alterations, that things that are a lot don’t become a little suddenly without ramping down gradually, that if things are here now and they will be there later it’s only because they are going to be “in between” before. basically the image is claiming that in a perfect world things are not broken but smooth.

that’s not true though, reality, the world, the things around us, everything is mostly broken and discontinuous. whoever wrote that blog post above noted it by implying that this world is indeed not perfect or ideal.

see, this is my problem – there’s nothing wrong with the world. the world it’s ideal, it’s not the imperfect thing Plato thought it was (with terrible consequences for the western culture as we know). the world is doing just fine, believe me. let me repeat it: the world is doing just fine. humans aren’t.

indeed, it is our mathematics that are not ideal. or at least, they are not up to the task of describing efficiently everything around us, discontinuities included. but surely enough, the universe is full of discontinuities at all scales (it can really get pretty fractallie sometimes), it’s not made of boring spheres and planes as Galileo wrongly claimed, nor it’s made out of derivatives, ordinary differential equation and any other human abstractions. an ideal world does not follow lim {x->c} f(x) = f(c). and this, is not a problem. it’s a gift. on the contrary, in an ideal world humans enjoy less primitive mathematics than our current, some mathematics that allow us to describe and model and manipulate discontinuities and all other beautiful features of all the things that we see around us.

basically, we humans have a problem, the universe doesn’t. thinking that an ideal world is one where the universe follows our thinking process (and not the other way around) is simply a too much of a human egocentric position. which ironically the scientific community has always proudly claimed to refrain from. thing is that science too fails to do so sometimes, for humans have this tendency of making the universe orbitate around them. even some scientist. still today. i know. sight.

words with one syllable…

…there are quite a lot.

and in spite of the fact that they are short, you can still say quite a lot with them.

but since it can still get quite hard to say any long phrase too, and just for the sake of fun, i thought we might play this game where we only talk with them. what do you think, shall we give it a try?

well, read this text back – it’s your turn now!

signature to a surreal painting

it’s a pretty regular fall day, not cold, not warm, a bit cloudy, but not overcast. just a pretty regular fall day, and just that.

while in the last few meters of pedaling till my home i think i should probably go grocery shopping before they close the stores. so i climb the stairs, leave the iñicleta (my bicycle’s name), and head downstairs again. as i open the door to quit the building i notice something weird. i see some orange colors everywhere, like if there was some nearby building in fire or something. alarmed look around and i notice the it’s not any building nor car, but the sky which is orange and purple, tinting everything in deep saturated orange.

it’s pretty gorgeous in fact. amazingly beautiful. extraordinary, such vivid colors, it’s completely surreal, i’ve certainly never seen anything like this in my life.

i see lots of people looking up the sky too. there’s a rainbow. no, two rainbows! but i don’t mind, at this moment is not the sky colors nor the double rainbows, but the fact that the streets are full of people looking to the sky. people have left the shops, restaurants and cars and stop whatever they were doing in order to loop up in the sky. it’s an amazing phenomena. not only the sky, rainboes and the crazy colors of the city in orange and purple fire, but also seeing how everybody is amazed to the spectacle and we are all looking up the sky. to this fantastic surreal painting that we are part of, the double rainbow is nothing but just the perfect signature.

closing circles, coincidences and flashbacks

i love when random fact/events connect together. the connection often happens in the form of a flashback.

event #1:

i just woke up in a pretty fancy hotel in downtown LA. first thing to do in this sunny morning is to perform some exploration and try to identify a place for breakfast. so i start walking, and pass by a huge library that has this huge metallic plate with some equations on physics (or for the matter, on that gray area where physics meets chemistry).

of course i pause my walk and have a closer look to it. i cannot tell exactly what they are, i only recognize what looks to me like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (but i’m a bit unsure, as this is not an area of science where i am exactly comfortable). but it is clear to me that this is about quantum physics, that’s all i can tell. intuitively E seems to be some sort of force or potential to me, given how it gets substracted from itself in the last equation and how it acts as a driving/forced excitation in the third. but who knows. yet, i cannot stop looking at the third equation – it really catches my attention, as its shape feels sort of familiar. i look at it more closely, and i realize it’s a Helmholtz equation plus an external force indeed, an equation that in isolation expresses the change of the change of something as being proportional to the thing in itself (yes two changes, this is, the laplacian).

these sort of equations/behaviors are common in electrical engineering, and result in all sort of wave equations. but of course i don’t recognize the quantities in this particular wave equation at all, so i have no idea what the subject of the equation is. only that it must have be describing something in quantum physics and that since after taking changes (derivatives) of it twice still remains propotional to itself, it must be some sort of harmonic function, something that oscillates. indeed harmonics functions (which are eigenfunctions of the laplacian) result in stuff that oscillates like a pendulum, or like a wave (therefore the name of these equations). oscillation means cosinus functions (in 1D), complex exponential (in 2D) or spherical harmonics (in radial 3D). so whatever this equation is describing it is something what undulates like wave. of course at this point i cannot go further, and since i’m still hungry and the reason for this walk was to fulfill my stomach needs, i take a picture of the equations, which is my ever first picture in LA, and i continue walking. i’ll probably never see these equations again in my life.

picture taken in the entrance to a library in LA

event #2:

i’m chatting with my friend to whom i didn’t talk in the last few weeks. today she has been preparing some notes for a course for undergraduate students of chemistry, and she expresses her concern about how to best introduce the Schrodinger’s equation first as an introduction without alienating them with an abstract understanding of what it means. of course, i have no idea myself what the heck she’s talking about, but a science lover as i am, my first reaction is of course to go to Wikipedia and look for “Schrödinger equation”.

as soon as start i reading i realize how rotten my memories in physics are. i soon lose any hope to understand anything in this article, unless i would spend a couple of days diving in the subject, which i of course have no time to do. but at least i now know what she’s talking about. sort of. very superficially.

i’m about to close the page, but i poke one more page-down in the article, and there suddenly i see something that produces an instantaneous flashback. there is an equation there that i have seen before. not that i’ve been trained in equation matching and detection or anything, but this one equation, yes, i have seen it before. i quickly go to my phone, and search for the picture i took in LA a few weeks before. and…. match!!! yay, that Helmholtz equation i saw in LA was this famous Schrodinger’s equation thingy, and from the little bit i understand of this article it seems it has something to do with physics/chemistry and the study of atom. so that’s that it was that thing in LA, cool! of course at this point i cannot go further, and since we are talking about other topics already anyway, i close the Wikipedia. i’ll probably never see these equations again in my life.

event #3

weeks later my friend asks me for advice/help in realtime visualization of atomic structures, cause she believes that may probably help her fellow students understand what’s going on in three dimensional space. i receive the notes she is preparing for the students so i can see the context in which the visualization is needed.

i’m reading the notes in my morning commuting in the b.a.r.t., and my eyes bump into one of diagrams she had. “eh, wait a minute!”. i have seen these diagrams before when working with the essentials of lighting in computer graphics. or are they just some similar diagrams? they look exactly the same to me, hm. i read the preceding paragraphs, and i see two dimensional coefficients called m and l related to these diagrams, m running from -l to l. pretty much like indices to Legendre polynomials. oki, this cannot be an accident, these are spherical harmonics. like in computer graphics. like in electrical engineering.

i get an instantaneous flashback again. Legendre, Harmonics, Helmholtz, Schrödinger!! electromagnetic wave propagation, visibility encoding for computer graphics, atoms!!

i read the full notes, and indeed, it feels like a present given to me after all these years since i last studied about the s, p, d and f atom orbitals at school. now, 17 years later, i finally learn what they actually are, or more correctly, why they are the way they are! where they come from, how to solve them, how to describe them! how exciting! but of course at this point i cannot go further, and since i’m heading to work and finally made it to my station, and i’m running late, i stop reading the notes here. but this time i won’t say that i’ll probably never see these equations again in my life.

i love the tickles it produced in my spirit to close this circle today. relating things i know today to things i learnt no less than 17 years ago, as if they had been waiting for the connection to happen. learning is fascinating. and when it happens this way, even more. and all thanks to that metallic panel in doors to that library in Los Angles that one morning.

poor hurricane reporter

there aren’t many things more humiliating than being the hurricane reporter. your dignity gets miserably ruined forever, in front of the whole world, while you wear that ridiculous slicker and wellingtons, you fight the wind while trying to speak to the mic and your face gets slapped over and over again by your hoodie. i mean, was it really necessary to send anybody there to report the news? i can imagine the conversation that same morning in the officre:

– hey, have you met the new guy yet?
– the intern?
– yep, Mr Look At Me I’m A Professional Journalist. i think we should teach him how things really are over here.
– you know what, they told me there’s a hurricane coming tonight in Texas…

looking back

looking to the contacts in my phone seems like looking back in the past.

it brings old memories of good times through names that i had almost forgotten, names that like a thread that i can pull from, allow me to recover amazingly vivid moments, situations, experiences, places, people, moods, expectations, smells, adventures, ideas, interests, sounds and songs that would otherwise have sunk and get lost forever in an ocean of past times.

a few of these names belong to people i met 15 years ago and that i’m still in touch with, and many other names belong to people i only met for 15 minutes. sometimes even less. but regardless of that, as i scroll the contact list i take a moment to think about how i met every single one of these people, in which context. and regardless of that too, sometimes it all comes automatically in a fraction of a second, sharp and vivid, while other times i have to do an effort, like if for some reason the memory had decided to slip away, perhaps with complicity of the person the memory is about or with my own. but in the end all memories come back, one by one; and as i scroll this list down, for every of these names, i recover a bit of that myself i was once.

looking to this contacts list in the phone really seems like looking back in the past.