Sunday, October 23, 2011

Feynman, a graphic novel by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick

A review story.

Recently, my dad handed me a graphic novel called Feynman, about Feynman. This 250 page comic-biographical work, here, was not read by someone who knew Feynman personally, or was even alive when he was. While, beforehand, I have to say I can't personally vouch for how representative this is, it definitely meshed with my vague impressions of how Feynman was supposed to be in life. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! is apparently a collection everyone, myself and readership included, should read if they want to get a deeper feeling for this hilarious legend of physical research.

It is alluded to that the writers were going for something that felt like Feynman. Events are not presented in precise order, although the eras of his life do basically come one after the other. It backbone is an artistic reconstruction of pieces of Feynman's life and activities, from his romances to his work in the Manhattan Project. Attention is given to a number of dimensions of his character, of course prominently featuring his eccentricity, but also the deep humanity that was supposed to characterize at least a moment, here and there, of the man's reflection and thought. The science and math he was working on features prominently as a thing that appears often and sometimes explained in more detailed, lay terms, but as is usual the book doesn't contain anything that's absolutely incomprehensible without a grasp of quantum mechanics.

The perspective is a strange kind of long term first person narrative from Feynman, almost all the way through to his death; when the story is still in his childhood, narrating Richard is definitely an adult, but then in his middle age and later it is perhaps not meant to be entirely clear if the perspective is from a Feynman of the near future (relative to where the story is), or if it's basically Feynman as he would have told his story very shortly before his death.

For those of you that happen on this review, commissioned by one who shall remain anonymous, I highly recommend this work. There's no light read quite like the short and elegant construction of a character such as this to put in your head and feature for a day's entertainment.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Writing a Novel in Guess How Many Characters at a Time

So I got a Twitter account of a school project a few months ago. The project was, and still is, to write a novel on Twitter, or at least the start of one, up to the end of the year. The idea was one post a day, I believe. I'm @LordSazz for all those with the kind of necessarily morbid curiosity to pursue it.

So my English teacher is a madwoman. Will prose be broken forever? Will I forever be doomed to write in sentences usually no longer than 100 characters long (shoving two in there is usually desirable)? Is it going to be clean, nicely thought out and well written? I doubt any of these questions are to be answered in the affirmative, for one certainly because I have no hope of breaking all prose forever. Other assignments, Facebook, and very occasionally this holy place allow me to indulge my appetite for hilariously long sentences and their completely unnecessary words, but on the third point... I've written this beginning 140 characters at a time and a couple of times deleted a recent post and rewritten for errors. If it ends up a fine work of literature then that's just crazy.

But our teacher was inspired by this idea, so maybe some of us will make bajillions or something.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Political Ramble I Had at the End of the Original Mashup

Politically I have no idea who to vote for besides Lib, because the Cons don't sound too appealing. Honestly I should do some looking to find out why I should have faith in the Liberals to do anything... nice, as opposed to not as bad as some current Conservative behaviour. The plan I really need to get behind? Electoral reform. More rep by pop, but in some kind of complicated mess of a mixed system. I guess it would be thrown around for a few years before coming to some watered down but existing state. At least it wouldn't be a system in which some fools can win a landslide victory with around 40% of the vote. A certain unevenness would still be fine with me though; if the Maritimes need to be able to outvote me by something like a 2 or even 3:1 ratio so that our completely ridiculous population advantage in larger urban centers doesn't, in essence, eliminate their voices in a balanced-ish confederation, so be it. Not having to cross international borders to keep trade going has its advantages, but perhaps splitting wouldn't be so bad. I really don't know; as long as everyone still kept on intimate terms and traded freely, I could imagine it being ok. But then we might as well be one big happy family and confederate. My political theory is shot, don't listen to me.

May your resolutions not be entirely forgotten this year, happy New Year, and you just lost the game. Goodnight to all those going to bed and stuff, but when I wrote about going to bed January the 19th, it was like 12:30 in the morning. It's a little earlier now, so I guess good evening.


The Belated Epilogue to Scio'11

So where does that leave #scio11? That leaves Science Online 2011 in an awesome place. We went, those among us (the vast majority) of age drank here and there (I was and still am not of age), and then there was unconferencing about meta science.

The focus this year, as many are probably well aware, was books and their authors. This left us with books to take home, and that was so awesome. It also led to a dinner with Scott fucking Rosenberg, who's apparently a pretty decent author. My dad wanted to sit with him, and I look forward to reading his stuff. Food in North Carolina is wonderful, if you know where to go. It's probably just wonderful everywhere. THE FOOD WAS SO GOOD

I, personally, was somehow jetlagged almost the entire time from a short flight inside of our timezone. It was admittedly kind of a haze until maybe later Sunday, when I actually started talking here and there. People, as always, were incredibly nice. I cannot imagine another conference full of... people abounding with so much niceness. People sit around and talk, and there were a couple hundred of us. There was discussion, insight, and I didn't even see one outburst (which kinda sort of happened once last year or the year before; it was still fairly civil).

There was a comedian who was so goddamn funny. His name was Brian Malow, and he was funny (TIME PARTS!?) There were also other wonderful speakers (who unfortunately were not professional comedians, and hence harder for my wonderful attention span to include in name), the organizers Bora and Anton at their best, and segments about blogging. I admit I didn't attend any until the last with Bora because I felt slightly bored with the subject, but still expected something new and interesting from the God-King of the Science Blogosphere. The prodigal children of the prodigal teacher were there too, and they were also fascinating individuals! The main message I received was that it's a brave new world of blogging out there, and the current mess of transformation truly is a significant upheaval; although in the modern age of around now, a time of stability seems to me completely unimaginable (on the scale of, say, five years or so). And I'm friggin under 20 (although almost 18! can almost vote! and drink in Quebec, w00t).

The Belated Prelude to Scio'11

So I guess Bora Zivcovic has linked to this site and has said that I blog here in the present tense. Well, he gave willing and maximally... interactive and representative contact information about people, and so here we are. There has not been a post on my site in about a year, and I didn't even mention anything about Science Online 2010. Science Online 2010 was amazing. I don't think I got as involved as I did in the conference before it, but I suppose we all have our slumps. When the sauce leaks onto the foil wrap from food packaged as such it probably carries enough metal with it to kill an elephant, but there are certainly worse things that could befall a visit to SciO. We might have had to fight across a hurricane of sharks every time a visit to the washroom was necessary or something. The conference was a great place to think more deeply about science online in a relaxed and intellectually stimulating atmosphere, so I guess things went as planned.

So I'm going to Science Online 2011! That's something. I've also half-written another thing, this one about the role of faith in science. My response is in essence yes, if you take a sort of watered down... faith of practice, for application to a few things: the reliability of critical thinking, the (strongly related) integrity of scientific method, and logic itself. I'd additionally only talk about this 'faith' if empirical (in this case historical) evidence for success, as well as the support of logic, were not enough evidence to inspire a non-faithful confidence. I ran into a wall here because the whole logic thing was significantly more complicated than I thought it would be. Basically I hit paraconsistent logic and then intuitionist logic and then some combination of lazy/fear of reality took over and I proceeded to leave that stuff alone.

So now I finished the last part of that sentence and it's a few days later, and I hear that SciO this year is centred very strongly on the literary. I guess we should pack lightly.

Written December 24th or so.