Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Appetite of Wonder

 It starts in the womb...when our senses first perceive...and it ends as we exhale that last breath,even if we are a hundred...that sense of wonder, that yearning for learning.
For me, there is nothing as sweet as a new doesnt have to be a world-first or unique, but when the clouds of confusion lifts for you as an individual, its no less grand than Columbus discovering the New World!

So it must be for history's scientific and mathematical geniuses...yet, to the masses, their work remains largely inaccessible and ignored because no-one can take the complex and decode it into simple everyday terms!

I am one of those masses, but ever so often, my universe inexplicably collides with another, and invariably, it opens a delicious new frontier and indescribable pleasure.

In keeping with an earlier analogy of seismology, I had a tectonic shift in my appreciation of the magic of maths this week. Its the most amazing discovery when one finally sees the pattern in be exact, the maths. Its everywhere!

It all started with a picture that fascinated me...the picture was used as a logo for Seed Magazine (a favourite of mine), and designed by Jonathan Harris as an expression of the crossover between science and culture. That is the image posted here, with science represented by the ordered and precise image on the left, and culture by the image on the right that appears random, and the phylotaxis the central image.

Being the curious pussycat that I am, I simply had to find out more. So, phylotaxis led me to the Fibonacci Sequence, the Golden section, Newton's Laws of Determinism, and chaos theory.

But, what are the odds, that in two consecutive days, I would in completely random fashion (or is there in fact a chaotic pattern in the universe leading us to one another for some mysterious and unknown purpose?) meet firstly a Romanian Maths boffin ex CSIRO who is a fractals freak and so passionate about this subject that he would whizz around the beach pointing out the manifestation of this wondrous concept right there under our noses in the shape of shells and the branches of trees through to the replication of individual long-buried maths lessons from high school to dance like some wild gypsey music, lifting a veil into a new paradigm of understanding- as arousing and exciting as Armstrong's first step on the moon!

...and secondly, whilst attending a Masterclass of Regional Wine appreciation at the Mudgee Wine and Food Fair today, find myself sharing a table with two Americans on holidays Downunder, the one a Professor of Maths at UCLA and co-developer of a an alternative curriculum for high school Maths to teach children Maths by observing fractals through studying the fern that grows on the school wall or the broccoli they dont want to eat on their plate, or the algorithms used by Google to search the internet, or the deciphering of the human gnome sequence, or plotting the way the world feels today through systematically analysing 35 million blog postings on the internet every few minutes at

...and so, a whole new world is discovered...I feel such a thrill! A lifetime of joy and new when I first read Richard Dawkins and "The Selfish Gene"...and the start of my interest in evolutionary biology, and what has become a bit of a passion ever since!

Dawkins, another good thing to come out of Africa (born Nairobi, Kenya 1941) is my equivalent of the male fantasy of some sex siren like Schiffer or Shakira.
(Laugh...yes, I have a bit of a thing for an enormous....errr ....pair of frontal lobes!It lasts a lot longer than a few minutes!)

Yes, this sexy man is inter alia, the Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, where he has studied and taught for more than a quarter century.
Dawkins has been liberated from routine academic duties to fight full time for science, enlightenment, and plain common sense in a world where the forces of superstition and deliberate obscurantism prevail. Plainly, his job is to make science accessible to ordinary men and women, boys and girls, and I say there should be MUCH MORE OF IT!

The point is not to understand it all...but to be curious. Science runs the gamut from the tantalisingly surprising to the deeply strange, and ideas don't come any stranger than Quantum Mechanics. More than one physicist has said something like: "If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't understand quantum theory."

Needless to say, wine-tasting and quantum mechanics at the beach turned into a random lunch, and lunch turned into a looooo oooooooong afternoon with all ending up here at my chaotic castle for coffee and spirited discussions of self-replicating mathematical patterns in the greatest pieces of art our world has ever known...with the geniuses that produced them, Mozart, Bach, Da Vinci, Stradivarius and even Shakespeare...all applying these mathematical principles intuitively!"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ... I get most joy in life out of music."-Albert Einstein

I know I am a sick puppy...but notwithstanding my Epicurean passions, there simply is nothing as exquisite as multiple mental orgasms!

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