Monday, February 28, 2011

Thought Factory - A friend's new blog

A friend of mine, Camaren, has started a blog, Thought Factory, that those interested in
"Thoughts on the new millenium; people, politics,economics, environment and technology. What kind of world do we live in and where is it leading to?"
should check out. The posts a well thought out and offer more analysis than the usual blogger fair of just splurging out whatever you have seen on the news. The latest posts have followed the middle east obviously and offer a good review of whats been happening as well as contextualizing some of the events more broadly.

Post-Oedipul remembrance

Today I was reminded by the Daily Maverick how swift we are to re-imagine our past to appease our consciences. Talking about Libya in this case they point that its about as hard to find a person that supported the Gaddafi regime as it is to find a person that voted for the National Party government during apartheid. The great re-visioning of personal histories that acts as the precursor to greater rewriting of the past has begun in earnest all through the middle east. We've seen this many times before, an obvious example being the claims of ignorance of the Nazi population with regard to the holocaust. Soon it will true that everyone was secretly working against Gaddafi, and those that supported him were only doing so out of fear. Perhaps this reinvention of the past is a requirement to move on, a type of survivalist double-think that we need to live with what many people should feel as overwhelming guilt. This sort of thinking is no stranger to South Africa.

I have no desire to see anger fester, and I hope that their will be a swift reconciliation of the middle east with out to many Salem style witch hunts. But still the inevitable and willful destruction of the truth bothers me. I am reminded of a great line from The unbearable lightness of being (actually i stole this line form the movie, but i am sure its the same). It is not exactly relevant but touches on somethign I am feeling. It is the protagonist Tomas talking about the former Czech leaders:
"I've been thinking about Oedipus. Good King Oedipus. When Oedipus realized that he had killed his father- unknowingly, unknowingly killed his father - and was sleeping with his mother and that because of his crime plagues were ravaging his city, he couldn't bear the sight of what he'd done.He plucked out his own eyes and left.He did not feel innocent.He felt he had to punish himself.
But our leaders, unlike Oedipus, they felt they were innocent. And when the atrocities of the Stalinist period became known,they cried,"We didn't know! We weren't aware of what was going on. Our conscience is clear". 
But the important difference is they stayed in power. And they should have plucked their eyes out. All I'm saying is that morality has changed since Oedipus." 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Barnsley fern

So I am getting into my masters again. Which means I have lots of time to distract myself with pointless side projects. Hence we are delving again into the wonderful world of fractals. This time the fractals is called the Barnsley Fern. It's also a very famous fractal (as far as fractals can be famous. I don't think its famous like Tom Cruise. But how could a lowly mathematical object compete with the crown prince of Scientology).

The fractal, unsurprisingly, looks like a fern plant, or rather a leaf of a fern. Like many fractals it is made up of smaller versions of itself that have been scaled and rotated. It is also an infinitely complex object. If you had the computational power then in theory you could zoom into any part of it and find infinitely many copies of itself.

So here it is. It is set to keep drawing in more detail. To start it from scratch again click the redraw button.

This fractal was discovered by Michael Barnsley who was really into fractals. It is an example of a Iterated Function System(IFS). The interesting thing about it (which you can see in the animation) is that it is drawn one point at a time, and that how this point moves around is randomly chosen. But never the less it always draws the same picture. The Wikipedia article has a reasonably detailed explanation of how it is constructed (which really is simple). Check it out if you are interested.