Cross Talk: Physics (again!)

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

Yes, yes…I’ve missed many of these, and yes, yes, I did Physics earlier, I know. But big things are afoot in the weird world of physics:

~Watch as Stanford physicist Andrei Linde learns about the discovery of supporting evidence for his Cosmic Inflation Theory. I still can’t say that that I remember a time that science made me cry, but my allergies sure did start acting up while I watched (and if you want to know a little more about what was said, some explanation is here):

~Two more explanations of the findings: one in Slate for Humanities majors and one in Wired for those not terrified of sciencey words.The upshot is that they managed to “detect a signal from the beginning of time.”

~Good chance they found “Dark Matter”, too.

~A great piece explaining a famous quantum physics experiment and the very weird findings (a.k.a., Bell’s Theorem).

~This one is probably my favorite out of these. It is a reminder that often Physics is fantastic (as in “fantasy”): “This move beyond the visible has become a fundamental part of science’s narrative. But it’s a more complicated shift than we often appreciate. Making sense of what is unseen—of what lies “beyond the light”—has a much longer history in human experience. Before science had the means to explore that realm, we had to make do with stories that became enshrined in myth and folklore. Those stories aren’t banished as science advances; they are simply reinvented. Scientists working at the forefront of the invisible will always be confronted with gaps in knowledge, understanding, and experimental capability. In the face of those limits, they draw unconsciously on the imagery of the old stories. This is a necessary part of science, and these stories can sometimes suggest genuinely productive scientific ideas. But the danger is that we will start to believe them at face value, mistaking them for theories.”

~Care for an example? How about this: “Life is a Braid in Spacetime.

~On particle smashing (for regular people).

~Probably the universe is just a simulation. Likely a hologram. Maybe some computer from the future trying to figure out how it came to be and running a Monte Carlo experiment. That would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?

~Science is always moving on from ideas and theories, too, as shown by this list of “science ideas ready for retirement,” as chosen by prominent scientists.

~Feynman is still the best, though. Watch this guy talk about Physics for six minutes and try to stay uninterested.There’s a whole series of them. This one was particularly fun to watch.

~And if that freaks you out, there’s always the physics of the curve ball to consider. Oh, and take heart–there aren’t any black holes after all.

Cross Talk: Film Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

Lots of good stuff related to film out there. Here’s a small sliver of it:

~The oral history of Hoop Dreams (as published on Dissolve–a great Web site for writing about film);

~Henry Louis Gates talks about 12 Years a Slave and America; David Simon wrote some interesting things about it, too. And this was good, as well;

~Last year’s Jefferson Lectures honored Martin Scorsese;

~Also from last year, I collected a bunch of stuff about Django Unchained (here, here, here,  and Zero Dark Thirty (here, here ) and other Oscar nominees (here, ) and other stuff like portrayals of Lincoln, or unconventional story telling trends, or a documentary on representations of women in film,

~Check out a brief treatment (with examples) of the role of music in film and the ways that our perceptions of images are affected by what we hear;

~Enemy of the State is a great, great movie;

~From film class project to hit music video;

Cross Talk: Music Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

UPDATE: Now with Pete Seeger. R.I.P.

~Take this awesome quiz to find out “how musical you are” as measured across four dimensions. It doesn’t take that long and it’s really interesting (h/t to Erica McCormack for the pointer–and I’ll never tell a thing about what she scored…oops!) Also, check out this tool for making your own music; (before you send out your demo, make sure it’s a hit!)

~Check out the secrets of learning an instrument and efficient practice (short version; full version); and one on why every ambitious person should study some music;

~Maybe it’s time to learn about hip-hop;

~On the meaning of Hick-Hop (by Tressie MC);

~Harmonicas are fascinating, and this piece is too;

~Learn about the new economics of music making;

~Get Bach!

~Meet the woman who signs for rappers (as in does sign language for musical performances) and learn a lot about both;

~Because music can save your life;

~A history of Rock and Roll winners: it starts with Led Zeppelin, working its way through seven installments to The Black Keys;

~Oral histories are big, too: here is the oral history of “Baby Got Back;” and this one on Tom Dooley is really long but awesome.

~Music education is changing–On rock bands in elementary ed;

~This is a great article on Kanye–whether you love or hate him, it’s hard to deny his pop-cultural importance. Also, this bio piece on Dylan and his very public privacy is great, if only for all the unverified stories about the man and his artful maintenance of and cultivation of interest in his private life as is this one on the campaign to get Yes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame;

~There are a mess of great interviews out there to check out. This one of Tom Waits, reads like a work of literature. A sample chunk:

When I was a kid I hung out with a gang of Mexican kids in a town called San Vicente. And in the summer, we used to go out into the desert and bury ourselves up to our necks in sand and wait for the vultures. The vultures weigh about seven pounds ’cause they don’t eat right. They’re all feathers. You wait for the buzzards to start circling over you, and it takes them about a half-hour to hit the ground. You stay as still as a corpse under the sand with just your head showing, and you wait for the vulture to land and walk over to you, the first thing they do is try to peek your eyes out. And when they make that jab, you reach out from under the sand, grab them around the neck, and snap their head off..

I’ll tell you, the best thing I ever saw was a kid who had a tattoo gun made out of a cassette motor and a guitar string. The whole thing was wrapped in torn pieces of T-shirt, and it fit in your hands just like a bird. It was one of the most thrilling things I’d ever seen, that kind of primitive innovation. I mean, that’s how words develop, through mutant usage of them. People give new meaning, stronger meaning, or they cut the meaning of the word by overusing if, or they use it for something else.I just love that stuff.

FT: When did you first get the impulse to write words and music of your own?

TW: Real young I heard Marty Robbins “El Paso” and the fact that it was a love story and that crime was involved really attracted me. [laughs] But it’s not like once you’ve developed the ability to write songs, it’s something that will never leave you. You’re constantly worried that it may not come when you want it to. It still comes down to this: you may like music, but you want to make sure music likes you as well. You sometimes frighten it away. You have to sit in a big chair and be real quiet and catch the big ones. Then try to get something you consider to be innovative, within your own experience. It takes a long time. I’m just starting to feel that I can take some chances now; I wrote in a very traditional way for a long time. Sat at a piano with a cigarette and a drink and did it in kind of a Brill Building style. I was always fascinated with how these guys could go into a room, close the door and come out with ten songs. You may think you’re doing good, but then you hear Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Reed, Keith Richards, or Mississippi John Hurt, and you realize that these guys are all blessed in some way, and when are you going to wake up with the golden fleece?

Or this:

TW: Yeah. And you know what makes you safe and you don’t want to be unsafe. Kathleen has helped me to feel safe in my uncertainty. And that’s where the wonder and the discovery are. After a while you realize that music – the writing and enjoying of it – is not off the coast of anything. It’s not sovereign, it’s well woven, a fabric of everything else: sunglasses. a great martini, Turkish figs, grand pianos. It’s all part of the same thing. And you realize that a Cadillac and the race track, Chinese food, and Irish whisky all have musical qualities.

FT: I heard that Duke Ellington sometimes used to give his musicians a description of something or somebody, rather than technical musical directions, to get them to play the way he wanted.

TW: Yeah, that happened in Chicago when we recorded the Frank’s Wild Years album. On “I’ll Take New York” they approached the whole recording like a Strasberg kind of thing [laughs] I said. “let’s go with Jerry Lewis on the deck of the Titanic, going down, trying to sing ‘Swanee'” I sang the song right into a Harmon trumpet mute and just explained that I wanted the whole thing to gradually melt in the end.

FT: You did that with quite a lot of songs on Frank’s Wild Years. I think you gave some of those songs a nervous breakdown. They were fairly conventional, written for the stage, and when you went to make the album, they got transformed.

TW: It’s a matter of pulling the play into the song; once I separated the music from the story. I felt compelled to put some optical illusions in the songs. Some were more susceptible than others, but I was trying to make them more visual.

I worked with great people. It has to do with the chemistry of the people that you work with. Mark Ribot was a big part of the thing ’cause he has that kind of barbed-wire industrial guitar, Greg Cohen is solid; he plays both upright and electric bass. Ralph Carney plays three saxophones simultaneously. Bill Schimmel doesn’t play the accordion, he is an accordion. They enjoy challenges. Michael Blair will play everything. He plays every instrument in the room and then goes looking for things to play that aren’t instruments. They all are like that, and it’s like a dismantling process-nothing carries its own physical properties by itself.

You can talk to them like actors, and they’ll go with the drug, and that’s what I like. You have to really know your instrument; you have to understand the power of suggestion to be able to do that. I can literally talk colors. I can say, “We want kind of an almond aperitif here” or “industrial hygiene with kind of a refrigeration process on this” and they say, “Yeah. I’m there. I’ll go there.” And that’s exciting. Like Mark Ribot – we were playing after hours in a club in Copenhagen(11) I think it was, and he knocked over a bottle of some foreign liquor; it was spilling all over the floor and he’s splashing around in the liquor, jumping up and down playing the guitar, yelling. “Play like a pygmy, play like a pygmy.” And everybody knew exactly what he meant. When you find who you communicate with on that level, it’s very exciting, because they’ll go anywhere with you.

And the whole thing is like that. Be sure to check out the footnotes, too. Other interviews you might dig include this one with Lorde that is funny and delightful adolescent; or this (short) one on Nikki Minaj; or this classic Lou Reed interview; or this one with Britney Spears; or this one on Johnny Cash (and Rick Rubin); or this one on Lyle Lovett; or this tribute to Earl Scruggs who died in 2012;

~

Cross Talk: World Language Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

~You, too, could learn a language. Apparently it only takes 22 hours or so, though it should be noted that they guy who said that is a memorization expert, so mileage may vary, but still, it’s possible–especially if you learn his memory tricks and then use nifty tools like this. Who knows? You might start “Dreaming in Chinese,” which would be cool.

~A really good writer and thinker writes about the experience of learning a foreign (to him) language.

~Another one explains why he’s studying Sanskrit.

~Want to say it in a way that is “Better Than English”? Go here.

~Weirdness of languages, ranked.

~Unspeakableness is a project investigating words for emotions that are (possibly) untranslateable (more about it here).

~Naughty words mean things can be interesting, too.

~And if you don’t believe it, you should check out the history of swearing.

~Coded talk is fascinating, too. And useful.

Cross Talk: Child Development Edition

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

In tribute to our department’s ongoing accreditation visit, this one is all about young minds.

~Kids need more play;

~Thirty Million Words;

~On birds, babies and talking.

~On the development (and schooling (warping?)) of non-conformist kids;

~And this one made me laugh.

Cross Talk: Math Addition*

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

~The Monty Hall Problem: A clear explanation of the math behind a classic of game theory.

~A Most Profound Math Problem: Solved?

~Life in the City is Essentially One Giant Math Problem: Formulas and everything.

~Tonight’s Powerball is $425 Million, Should I Play?: The math of Powerball.

~The Man Who Invented Modern Probability: A profile of Andrei Kolmogorov

*Yes. On purpose.

Cross Talk: Social Science Edition

Political Science/International Relations emphasis!

~9 Questions about Syria: Prepare for intervention talk; with a handy, fascinating chart about the Middle East; also, here is a look at two sides of the American debate.

~Gender Bias in Political Science: the political turns out to be personal after all!

~The New Power Map: In January I read a book my Dad gave me called, The Revenge of Geography; been fascinated by the geographical influence on geopolitics ever since.

~Geopolitical Insecurities and Territorial Grievances in East Asia: Not convinced geography matters? Check this one out.