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Jul
19th
Thu
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Paul Klee: Taking A Line For A Walk


Paul Klee, Swiss born German painter (1879-1940), Pedagogical Sketchbook1925, cited in S. Manghani, A. Piper, J. Simons, Images: A Reader, SAGE, 2006, p. 221-222. (tnx the-rx)

Mar
7th
Wed
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Is The World An Idea?

                              
                                                  Plato, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Plato was one that made the divide between the world of ideas and the world of the senses explicit. In his famous Allegory of the Cave, he imagined a group of prisoners who had been chained to a cave all their lives; all they could see were shadows projected on a wall, which they conceived as their reality. Unbeknownst to them, a fire behind them illuminated objects and created the shadows they saw, which could be manipulated to deceive them. In contrast, the philosopher could see reality as it truly is, a manifestation of ideas freed from the deception of the senses. In other words, if we want to understand the true nature of reality, we shouldn’t rely on our senses; only ideas are truly pure, freed from the distortions caused by our limited perception of reality.

Plato thus elevated the human mind to a god-like status, given that it can find truth through reason, in particular through the rational construction of ideal “Forms,” which are the essence of all objects we see in reality. For example, all tables share the Form of “tableness,” even if every table is different. The Form is an ideal and, thus, a blueprint of perfection. If I ask you to imagine a circle, the image of a circle you hold in your head is the only perfect circle: any representation of that circle, on paper or on a blackboard, will be imperfect. To Plato, intelligence was the ability to grasp the world of Forms and thus come closer to truth.

Due to its connection with the search for truth, it’s no surprise that Plato’s ideas influenced both scientists and theologians. If the world is made out of Forms, say geometrical forms, reality may be described mathematically, combining the essential forms and their relations to describe the change we see in the world. Thus, by focusing on the essential elements of reality as mathematical objects and their relations we could, perhaps, grasp the ultimate nature of reality and so come closer to timeless truths.

The notion that mathematics is a portal to final truths holds tremendous intellectual appeal and has influenced some of the greatest names in the history of science, from Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein to many present-day physicists searching for a final theory of nature based upon a geometrical scaffolding, such as superstring theories. (…)

Taken in context, we can see where modern scientific ideas that relate the ultimate nature of reality to geometry come from. If it’s not God the Geometer anymore, Man the Geometer persists. That this vision offers a major drive to human creativity is undeniable.

We do imagine the universe in our minds, with our minds, and many scientific successes are a byproduct of this vision. Perhaps we should take Nicholas of Cusa,’s advice to heart and remember that whatever we achieve with our minds will be an expression of our own creativity, having little or nothing to do with ultimate truths.”

Marcelo Gleiser, Brazilian Professor of Natural Philosophy, Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College, USA, Is The World An Idea?, NPR, March 7, 2012.

See also:

Cognition, perception, relativity tag on Lapidarium notes

Jul
16th
Sat
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Keri Smith on ‘How To Be An Explorer of the World’


                                                           (Click image to enlarge)

"Artists and scientists analyze the world in surprisingly similar ways."

Science – “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”

— Oxford American Dictionary, cited in ibidem, p. 199.


p. 1

"[The residual purpose of art is] purposeless play. This play, however, is an affirmation of life - not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and one’s desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord.”

John Cage, cited in ibidem, p. 104


p.116


p. 75

“Sometimes a tree can tell you more than can be read in a book.”

Carl Jung cited in ibidem, p. 138.

Keri Smith, author, illustrator, guerilla artist, How To Be An Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum, Penguin Books, 2008.

May
27th
Fri
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The Creative Power of Thinking Outside Yourself

New research suggests we generate more creative ideas for other people than for ourselves.

                                             

The ‘box’ that the expression refers to is the implicit one formed in your mind by the dots. To get the solution you have to ignore this implicit box: you have to, as it were, think outside it. (If you’re stuck in the box, google the ‘nine dots’ puzzle for the solution.) (…)

66% of people got the answer right when told it was a nameless ‘prisoner’ who was stuck in the tower. But when told to imagine they were stuck in the tower themselves, only 48% got it right. (The answer to the problem is: the rope is divided in half width-ways rath. (…)

When the ideas were analysed, participants who were thinking up ideas for socially distant others were most creative. The other two conditions lagged behind.

The reason this happens is to do with the way the mind represents problems like this. When we think about a ‘nameless other’ or the prisoner in the high tower, our minds tend to think more abstractly. In an abstract frame it becomes easier to make creative leaps because we aren’t stuck thinking about concrete details.

So perhaps the old and tired expression “thinking outside the box” should be replaced with the new, evidence-based expression “thinking outside yourself”.”

The Creative Power of Thinking Outside Yourself, PsyBlog, 23 May 2011.

Apr
28th
Thu
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Science and art come together in the Undivided Mind | Imaginary Foundation


                                                      (Click image to see 3D visualization)

The Undivided Mind installation is a project of The Imaginary Foundation.

"This installation endeavors to fuse the aesthetic beauty of art and science in order to create a synthesis of mind, one which is as much rational as it is fantastic. Think of this undivided mind as a prototype of human possibility-an evolutionary signal of convergence, harmony, and accelerated progress. The rest is up to us."

This is a virtual simulacrum of the installation that materialized in San Francisco in November of 2010.

The Imaginary Foundation is a think tank from Switzerland that does experimental research on new ways of thinking and the power of the imagination. Avoiding direct publicity, the team has sought clothing as an unlikely vehicle for bringing their ideas beyond the academic realm and into popular culture.

A philosophy of research began to form: imagination as fundamental to all learning; artistic making as a model of integrating vision, materials, structure, and imagery.

The Undivided Mind

The Pattern That Connects


                                                         (Click image to enlarge)

(tnx Jason Silva)

Man creates reality


                                                         (Click image to enlarge)

The Imaginary Foundation

Dec
7th
Tue
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How the brain’s architecture makes our view of the world unique

       

The Ebbinghaus illusion. Most people will see the first circle as bigger than the second one Researchers found a strong link between the surface area of the primary visual cortex and the extent to which volunteers perceived the size illusion — the smaller the area, the more pronounced the visual illusion. (Credit: Dr Samuel Schwarzkopf, UCL)

Wellcome Trust scientists have shown for the first time that exactly how we see our environment depends on the size of the visual part of our brain. (…)

The primary visual cortex – the area at the back of the brain responsible for processing what we see in the world around us – is known to differ in size by up to three times from one individual to the next. (…)

Optical illusions mystify and inspire our imagination, but in truth they show us that how we see the world is not necessarily physically accurate, but rather depends a lot on our brains. Illusions such as the ones we used influence how big something looks; that is, they can trick us into believing that two identical objects have different sizes.

We have shown that precisely how big something appears to you depends on the size of a brain area that is necessary for vision. How much your brain tricks you depends on how much ‘real estate’ your brain has put aside for visual processing.”

How the brain’s architecture makes our view of the world unique, PhysOrg.com, Dec 5, 2010

See also: D Samuel Schwarzkopf, Chen Song & Geraint Rees, The surface area of human V1 predicts the subjective experience of object size, Nature Neuroscience, 2010

Sep
12th
Sun
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The secret of creativity: An oblique perspective

“Creative people are complex, meaning that they see the world from multiple perspectives. This is an adaptive response to complex inputs during childhood. We are all constantly trying to make sense of the world we live in and the more complex our experiences, the more challenging this proves to be. This challenge is the key to creativity.

Biographically speaking, creative people have a foot in two camps. In the U.S., for example, immigrants are seven times more likely to excel in creative fields compared to individuals whose families have lived here for generations.

Creative people also tend to have a foot in either gender camp. Many highly creative people are androgynous (masculine women or feminine men). (…)

Being an immigrant, being androgynous, or being gay, are all dimensions of otherness, of not quite fitting in with mainstream social categories. Just as people from different countries perceive social interactions differently, so males see the world from a different perspective than women do and these gender filters are a complex amalgam of biology and social amplification. (…)

Creativity is largely environmental and has only a small genetic component.

A person in the mainstream thinks more simply, and more convergently, i.e., using straightforward logic. They have trouble associating dissimilar images and the associations they do make are predictable, circumscribed, and conventional. That is why people raised in comfortable homes tend to be intelligent successful and happy but to lack creative drive. In Terman’s classic study of intellectually gifted children many from affluent homes, for example, not one achieved prominence in any creative field.

(…) experience that allows them to perceive the world differently from the mainstream.” “
Jun
30th
Wed
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The Neuroscience of Distance and Desire

The way we see the world can be distorted by the way we feel and think about it. (…) objects that we want or like appear closer to us than they actually are (…) the authors argue that these types of distortions are an important part of social life. They help motivate us to pursue those goals that are particularly desirable, and encourage us to not pursue those goals that might be particularly difficult to attain. The logic here is simply that energy is a limited resource, and over evolutionary time the individuals who have been most successful have been those who directed their energy towards goals that would either benefit them the most or that would not come at too high a risk.

The closer an object appears, the more obtainable it seems. The more obtainable it seems, the more likely we are to go for it. Likewise, the more challenging a goal appears (a mile run when you’re out of shape) the more distant it will seem. (…)

There would have been goals that were impossible or, at least, very difficult or unlikely for an individual to achieve, and having the perceptual system guide us in the right direction (e.g. by making the chasm look wider than it actually is, and the bear perhaps a bit larger and meaner) would have been extremely important.

In sum, the things that we want will be perceived as relatively closer and more obtainable and energize action geared towards their acquisition. (…)

Piercarlo Valdesolo, The Neuroscience of Distance and Desire, Scientific American, June 15, 2010

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Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind

Mind wandering, as psychologists define it, is a subcategory of daydreaming, which is the broad term for all stray thoughts and fantasies, including those moments you deliberately set aside to imagine yourself winning the lottery or accepting the Nobel. But when you’re trying to accomplish one thing and lapse into “task-unrelated thoughts,” that’s mind wandering. (…)

A wandering mind can protect you from immediate perils and keep you on course toward long-term goals. Sometimes daydreaming is counterproductive, but sometimes it fosters creativity and helps you solve problems. (…)

There’s an evolutionary advantage to the brain’s system of mind wandering, says Eric Klinger, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota and one of the pioneers of the field.

“While a person is occupied with one task, this system keeps the individual’s larger agenda fresher in mind,” Dr. Klinger writes in the “Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation. “It thus serves as a kind of reminder mechanism, thereby increasing the likelihood that the other goal pursuits will remain intact and not get lost in the shuffle of pursuing many goals. (…)”

See also: The Restless Mind by J. Smallwood, J.W. Schooler, University of British Columbia (pdf)

— John Tierney, Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind, NYTimes, June 28, 2010 

May
27th
Thu
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Etching by Eric Desmazieres for The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges (source: boiteaoutils)

"Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before its death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face." — Jorge Luis Borges

"The Library of Babel. This story is a conscientious description of the library as “a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible,” that host the totality of books composed with all letter combinations possible. The Library is thus questioning the notion of the infinite and its paradoxical spatial application. I intentionally write “paradoxical” because the infinite seems to me as illustrating a conflict between mathematics and physics. The latter can only suggest the infinite without actually describing it whereas, mathematics is a language based on the idea of the infinite. Returning to our field of study, architecture originally belongs to the universe of physics; computation tends to insert mathematics into it and therefore the notion of the infinite.The only limit to an architecture generated by mathematics is the finite characteristics of its generator: the computer. However, simply the idea of relating architecture to one or several equations is to allow itself to acquire an infinite dimension. Such an idea obviously tackles the issue of its physicality and therefore allows architecture to exist through other means than within the finite amount of the physical world’s particles.In the same way Borges succeeded to create an infinite world thanks to words and to the reader’s imagination, computation allows the creation of an infinite architecture thanks to its relation to mathematics.”

"The universe (which other calls the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal book case. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances. (…)
And yet those who picture the world as unlimited forget that the number of possible books is not. I will be bold enough to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited but periodic. If an eternal traveler should journey in any direction, he would find after untold centuries that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder—which, repeated, becomes order: the Order. My solitude is cheered by that elegant hope.”
— Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel,  Boston: David R. Godine, 200, Ficcionnes (1949), Rayo 2008.

— Posted by Léopold Lambert in Computational labyrinth or Towards a Borgesian Architecture

Etching by Eric Desmazieres for The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges (source: boiteaoutils)

"Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before its death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face." — Jorge Luis Borges

"The Library of Babel. This story is a conscientious description of the library as “a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible,” that host the totality of books composed with all letter combinations possible. The Library is thus questioning the notion of the infinite and its paradoxical spatial application. I intentionally write “paradoxical” because the infinite seems to me as illustrating a conflict between mathematics and physics. The latter can only suggest the infinite without actually describing it whereas, mathematics is a language based on the idea of the infinite. Returning to our field of study, architecture originally belongs to the universe of physics; computation tends to insert mathematics into it and therefore the notion of the infinite.
The only limit to an architecture generated by mathematics is the finite characteristics of its generator: the computer. However, simply the idea of relating architecture to one or several equations is to allow itself to acquire an infinite dimension. Such an idea obviously tackles the issue of its physicality and therefore allows architecture to exist through other means than within the finite amount of the physical world’s particles.
In the same way Borges succeeded to create an infinite world thanks to words and to the reader’s imagination, computation allows the creation of an infinite architecture thanks to its relation to mathematics.”

"The universe (which other calls the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal book case. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances. (…)

And yet those who picture the world as unlimited forget that the number of possible books is not. I will be bold enough to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited but periodic. If an eternal traveler should journey in any direction, he would find after untold centuries that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder—which, repeated, becomes order: the Order. My solitude is cheered by that elegant hope.

Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel, Boston: David R. Godine, 200, Ficcionnes (1949), Rayo 2008.

— Posted by Léopold Lambert in Computational labyrinth or Towards a Borgesian Architecture

May
10th
Mon
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Experience The Walker Library of Human Imagination

"The Walker Library has been described on the cover of Wired magazine as “The most amazing library in the world.” It is certainly a private library unlike any other. Set on three maze-like levels, it showcases a collection of thousands of rare books, artworks, maps and manuscripts as well as museum-quality artifacts both modern and ancient.  Both the Library and the collection are dedicated to an overarching theme:  The History of Human Imagination — humanity’s intellectual and emotional adventure of discovery, learning, and creativity.

The genesis of the Library occurred in the mid-1990s based on Jay S. Walker's passion for history, technology and the scope of human invention. After six years of planning and computer modeling, the Library was constructed in 2002. 

The Library is itself a considerable work of imagination, beginning with its unique layout and lighting.  Multilevel tiers, “floating” platforms, connecting stairways, and glass-paneled bridges were all inspired by the mind-bending art of M. C. Escher, whose architectural drawings seem to defy the laws of space and gravity.” (…) — Source & More facts about Walker Library

Browse the Artifacts of Geek History in Jay Walker’s Library:

Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker’s library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects—on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor—the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) That edition of Chaucer … is it a Kelmscott? (Natch.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you—a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy. (…)

Wearing a huge can-you-believe-it grin is the collection’s impresario, the 52-year-old Internet entrepreneur and founder of Walker Digital — a think tank churning out ideas and patents, it’s best-known for its lucrative Priceline.com. “I started an R&D lab and have been an entrepreneur. So I have a big affinity for the human imagination,” he says. “About a dozen years ago, my collection got so big that I said, ‘It’s time to build a room, a library, that would be about human imagination. (…)”

☞ See also: Jay Walker talk about his library at TED

Mar
13th
Sat
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New City - Surreal Virtual World - What if you could design another world? How would it look? What would you call it? | L STUDIO

Greg Lynn explains the concept behind New City, a new virtual world.