Victory in a fishbowl

January 19, 2009

In praise of small things . . .

HMS Victory, fishbowl, reflections, reflexivity, micro, miniature,

From GlassBowlCalgary

McHugh Bluff Stairs for Fitness. Tory Calgary, AB MLA Dave Rodney is the first to propose legislation through the vehicle of a bill (2008-05-11) offering a maximum of $1500 tax relief to those who purchase a limited number of eligible fitness-related services. Would a tax credit only push a few people to step away from their screens and go outdoors, the can-but-will-not?

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Purchasing a club, team or gym membership does not make the buyer physically fit. The same degree of fitness can be achieved on Calgary’s biking, walking and hiking paths and trails. People get fit by choosing to use stairs indoors or outdoors like those at McHugh Bluff. Others keep in shape through paid or unpaid work related activities. How do we monetize their contributions towards relieving Alberta’s ailing medical system? Do we have statistics on the demographics of health-care users specifically as related to income and fitness? Do we have evidence-based research that lack of physical fitness on the part of individual’s is a key component in weakening Alberta’s medical system? Who is driving this bill? Are community members concerned with individual well-being who are not linked to the sports industry (organizations and businesses who monetize fitness) actively engaged in promoting this bill? How will this bill facilitate fitness improvement as part of quality of life issues for city’s most vulnerable populations? Is there any evidence-based research that the the most vulnerable groups, the biggest consumers of public medical system resources, would benefit in any way from a tax-incentive? What percentage of the municipal population who have access to a disposable income required to access pay-per-use fitness activities would find themselves in the tax bracket where this would benefit them? What is the real saving? What are the real costs of this proposed tax-incentive, spread across the broad spectrum of the municipal community, to encourage those few people who have the buying power but not the will, to puchase fitness-related services? Once they have purchased them is their any monitoring device that they would use them? Is there evidence-based research to ensure that those best served by tax deductible fitness-related purchases (those who have disposable income) really require a tax-incentive? If the largest demographic group using health services is a specific income or age group, why not examine ways of reaching that group first by improving universal access to fitness-related courses or memberships by financially assisting those who would-but-cannot because of a price hurdle, then focus on the vague possibility that a tax-incentive might get some people away from their screens and outdoors, the can-but-will-not?

Adina Lebo, Executive Director of ShowCanada in “Rollin’ in the Rockies” about the 22nd Film Industry Annual Convention, Banff, AB claimed that the cinema of the future will be based in digital projection technology. In 2008 5000 Canadian theatres switched to pricey large digital screens. In 2009 that will increase by 150%.

HTML test: [digg=http://digg.com/url_to/story_on_digg]

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See also http://snurl.com/26ixa [oceanflynn_wordpress_com] , http://snurl.com/26i1s [www_filmjournal_com] , http://snurl.com/26iw9 [www_marxists_org]

Joshua Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists. His instrument of choice is a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. If he played it for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington, would anyone notice?

Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment? (Weingarten 2007)

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Webliography

Weingarten, Gene. 2007. “Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour?” Washington Post. April 8. Page W10.

Pure mathematics is not so pure anymore. Power, politics and control . . . that’s just the way it is in the Faulty Ivory Towers. But a new Internet approach might alter the topology of hard and soft science. The deep Internet is that part of the Net where only insiders can access. The Public Library of Science PLoS is challenged peer-review system.

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Poincare, Perelman, Hamilton, Yau

“It’s just the way it is,” isn’t anymore. As I read the Nasar and Grubermanifold New Yorker article (2006) I was deeply moved by the life story of Gregory Perelman who can live on a $100 a month and who managed to wipe out an entire branch of pure mathematics in a few years by working alone, even isolated in the slow world. He is described as an idealist, an ascetic, a Russian Jew who lives with his mother in a gray neighbourhood of gray apartment buildings. But in this article he shines brilliantly. He may be part of the answer to my own puzzle, the ethical dilemma of being an academic in the 21st century.

Henri Poincaré created a True Knowledge Gap in mathematics, giving rise to an entire branch in his discipline when he slipped in an offhand question that became the legendary problem of the 20th century (Nasar and Grubermanifold 2006).

By the nineteen-sixties, topology had become one of the most productive areas of mathematics, and young topologists were launching regular attacks on the Poincaré. To the astonishment of most mathematicians, it turned out that manifolds of the fourth, fifth, and higher dimensions were more tractable than those of the third dimension. By 1982, Poincaré’s conjecture had been proved in all dimensions except the third. In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute, a private foundation that promotes mathematical research, named the Poincaré one of the seven most important outstanding problems in mathematics and offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove it.

In 1992 when Gregory Perelman (b. 1968) posted his solution to the problem on the Internet on a site used by mathematicians working with advanced concepts, he supplied enough information for the handful of minds capable of understanding to know that he had cracked it.

It took me a few days to feel I had understood enough of their article to appreciate it. I used my new Firefox add-on Gnosis.[1]

Why then did this story continue to unfold on some very messy battle Fields? Politics, power and control. To understand more fully, I worked out some of the ideas at Tim’s and in an easy chair playing with pictures. I also had to map out a brief timeline and the biographies of the main characters: Perelman, Hamilton, Yau, Tian, Zhu, Cao, Ball and Thurston. I played with the concepts of Knowledge Collisions in the Battle Fields of Mathematics but this was not about knowledge collisions on a level playing field.

Poincaré’s bagel, coffee mug handle, soccer ball and noose knot were great for starters. The table itself was easily transformed into a topology of Battle Fields. Cigars and necks protruded on the topological landscape like stalagmites. I laid a silk cloth over it all so it could drape over the edge of the table. I left a space on the table edge for a dented fender. The True Gap gaped like a crevice in an otherwise relatively level playing field. The coffee mug with its insignia of Stephen Hawkings casts a long shadow and the handle represented the branch of mathematics called topology. Since we are looking at a cross section of topological field the branch that has disappeared over the edge represents a small sorrow [2]

I didn’t know where to put Gregory Perelman my new hero, so I put a spoon in the coffee mug which he of course had stirred up. Then I balanced a swing at the top of it giving him a higher vantage point from which he can quietly survey the field. He swings slowly back and forth without those below noticing. All they can see is the spoon and the bottom of his swing. I turned him into a pearl and remembered a quote, “Not every sea has pearls . . .”

My early experiences in academia were entirely positive. It was only when I was in my fifth year of graduate studies, my second in my PhD that I began to realize the hidden power and politics behind the scenes in the ivory towers as one professor after another sought to gain control over academic and/or grant capital at any cost. I caught myself transforming campus towers into Freudian phallic symbols as I watched with dismay my PhD slipping away from me. I was disgusted mainly with my own naïvity, my lack of campus street-smarts but by then it was too late. It seems my university students in their twenties had figured it out long before I did. No wonder we all make fun of Ph.D.s!

So here I am typing away in my living room office with my old PC perched on this great glass-topped Business Depot computer desk, reflecting Mount Tzuhalem with the fire crackling off to my left and our family sound asleep. I’m emptying my PC into a dozen or more free Web 2.0 sites.

I’m not a Perelman but he is my hero. If you can only learn to live on $100 a month, keep access to the Internet, connect one’s PC’s memory to the free Web 2.0 you can sit back in the slow world and quietly watch a lifetime of experience upload to this strange virtual space we call the Internet.

Perelman’s copyright took the risk of losing his intellectual capital. For some Yau and his students really did deserve the Fields Award he received from Ball.

But for me I would rather face the perils of a Perelman Risk, tie my intellectual capital to my Creative Commons stake and at least let people share some of the amazing experiences I was privileged to have before the Fawlty Towers crumbled around me.

Footnotes


[1] See the article on ClearForest. I had to select a chunk of the article at a time for Gnosis to do its magic but undeniable it makes digesting lengthy, complex articles less cumbersome. At the most elemental level it is similar to the Google generated highlighted key words in .pdf files found in response to a user’s Google search inquiry. Gnosis uses a number of colour codes to highlight a number of themes which I am just trying to work out now.

[2] Its a bit like the death of a meteorite in a fiery explosion would be to the person who had named and followed the passage of the meteorite for decades.
[I have even heard on academic hearsay which is as reliable as Frank I suppose, so I should not repeat this but . . . this is not a journal it is a blog . . . an archaeologist explained to his First Nations guide (who later whispered this to me) that he would not reveal their findings in the field since it would be so hotly contested by his colleagues in his branch it would consume his entire career to defend it. Academic hearsay. Fireworks, not a meteor. Take away 5 credibility, legitimacy points from this author immediately!]

for its disciples.

Selected webliography

Swaminathan, Nikhil. 2006. peer_review_is_sooooo_old_school
Scientific American Blog. December 22, 2006.

Nasar, Sylvia , Grubermanifold, David. 2006.”Manifest Destiny.” The New Yorker: Fact. Annals of Mathematics. A legendary problem and the battle over who solved it. Issue of 2006-08-28; Posted 2006-08-21; accessed December 22, 2006.

Aquarium Gaze

November 4, 2006

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This layered Adobe Photoshop image was inspired by a paragraph in Michael Ignatieff’s book entitled Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. This was the book preferred by the adult students in the Human Rights course I taught at Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit, NU in 2002-3. Aquarium Gaze

“Here was a scientist, trained in the traditions of European rational inquiry, turning a meeting between two human beings into an encounter between different species. Progress may be a contested concept, but we make progress to the degree that we act upon the moral intuition that Dr. Pannwitz was wrong: our species is one, and each of the individuals who compose it is entitled to equal moral consideration. Human rights is the language that systematically embodies this intuition, and to the degree that this intuition gains influence over the conduct of individuals and states, we can say that are making moral progress.[…] Human rights was a response to Dr. Pannwitz, to the discovery of the abomination that could occur when the Westphalian state was accorded unlimited sovereignity, when citizens of that state lacked normative grounds to disobey legal but immoral orders. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented a return by the European tradition to its natural law heritage, a return intended to restore agency, to give individuals the civic courage to stand up when the state ordered them to do wrong.”(Ignatieff 2001)

My emerging folksonomy:

This linear page entitled Memory Work will be a site of collecting and sharing focused research on the urgently needed on the concept of memory work. This concept was developed by Ricoeur, Derrida, Cixous, Nora. It is urgently need in a postnational, post-WW II, post-apartheid, post-RCAP world where citizens move closer to reconciliation, towards forgiveness or apologies, while revisiting distorted histories with an attitude of mutual respect for Self and the Other-I.

“I have spent the morning reading this useful article and I am working on a summary of the section entitled “The Semiotic Triangle.”

“Smith (Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, Buffalo NY/USA), Kusnierczyk, M.D. (Department of Computer Computer and Information Science)and Schober (European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Hinxton, Cambridge) co-authored this interdisciplinary research paper to be presented at the KR-MED 2006 conference in which they present clear, concise arguments for the disambiguation of terms used with some confusion across disciplines such as computer science, philosophy, data and software engineering, logic, linguistics, and terminology domains. Since ontology is a burgeoning field ontology-related terms are used differently from one discipline to another. They draw primarily on biomedical informatics, partly because biomedical ontology related terminology has been the most thoroughly developed (Smith, Kusnierczyk, and Schober 2006).

References:

Ogden, C. K and I. A Richards. 1930. The Meaning of Meaning. New York.
Smith, Barry, PhD, Waclaw Kusnierczyk MD, and Daniel Schober, PhD. 2006. “Towards a Reference Terminology for Ontology Research and Development in the Biomedical Domain.” in KR-MED http://ontology.buffalo.edu/bfo/Terminology_for_Ontologies.pdf

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