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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Math will Set You Free

Math will Set You Free
Math will Set You Free - Mounted
In this latest installation piece, Euler's equation is the centerpiece in raised gold letters on a textured charcoal background, with metal wings to give flight.

Euler's equation, once you understand its domain, is immediately as obvious as 1+1=2 is to most people. (in fact it is literally -1+1=0, but that's not as iconic)

e^i*pi represents a half rotation on the unit circle in the complex plane from +1, giving us a purely real (as opposed to imaginary or complex) -1.

I'm a fan of Euler's equation because it brings together five (5) important numbers in mathematics, e, pi, i, 1 and 0. Of course, those aren't all the "important" numbers, but the equation is tight and elegant in its simpicity. e is the base of natural growth, pi is all about circles, i is the "1" of imaginary numbers (i is defined as the square root of -1), 1 is a magic number in mathematics with all sorts of unique properties, and of course, so is 0. If somebody were to make a mathematic rat pack movie, it would star these actors/numbers.

The piece is mounted about eight feet up, in a heavily pedestrianed area. It is small but noticeable from an intersection where cars must stop for a red light.

It is inspired by an observation I have encountered almost unilaterally with others in mathematically related professions. The observation is that, in general, people don't understand mathematics. No matter how much we've come to expect it, it still surprises us.

Mathematics is a language that allows you not only to communicate exacting, fascinating, and useful ideas from one mind to another, but it also works as a tool to allow you to understand more of the language itself! Mathematics is a symbol table that, once you know the basic codec, is self-decrypting! How many other languages can boast that feature?! None! None more languages!

Math will Set You Free!

Burton MacKenZie

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boo Box

At the beginning of the summer, I finished another installation art piece I call "Boo Box". Boo is a little glow-in-the-dark rubbery finger puppet. He's mounted inside a black wooden box with a hanging flap door that opens up so he can peek at people as they pass by his abode.

Boo's box is fully equipped with a solar panel on the roof, storage batteries inside, and a glowing light foisted comfortably up Boo's behind (doctor's orders), giving him an inner glow at night until the batteries run down about five hours past dusk.

The photo at the right (click on it for a larger photo) is Boo installed in his permanent location up a pole (as far as permanence goes in a universe that will die a heat death, which will also be preceded by our Sol going nova, consuming the Earth as it goes). His home resides in an area heavily trafficked with typical pedestrians by day, caffeinated pedestrians by evening, and staggering pedestrians by night. Most walk by without glancing up, never noticing him peeking out from his home on the wooden pole, a foot or two above their heads.

I'm really happy that he lasted the whole summer. I checked up on him from time to time and found him in good spirits (i.e. intact), with signs of activity in his home. Unfortunately this week he either went for a walkabout, somebody wanted a piece of art history, or some ne'er-do-well couldn't stand the mental anguish caused by the existence of objects s/he can't understand and untimely tore Boo from his home.

Boo is gone, but I will always remember him and his ineffable touch on so many lives. He amused the young and old, weathered many rains, and escorted the moon through many phases while always keeping a watchful eye on his neighborhood. His inexplicable arrival on the scene allowed us to once again ask the most important question, "Why?"

All that is left now is his home, still aperched up the pole, possibly waiting for an arrant nomad, maybe a small overwintering bird or perhaps a cricket. I think Boo would have wanted it that way. I hope they don't mind the bum light.

Goodbye, Boo!

Burton MacKenZie

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We're all accustomed to the visceral feeling of rapidly increasing attractive force between two objects (due to electro/magnetism). As nice it is to have a directly senseable physical example of the inverse square law literally in hand, I thought the sheer force of magnets really close together was overwhelming my physical sense of a weak attractive force. The problem is that most people get a sense of the inverse square law by using "raw" magnets - that is, magnetic material with nothing covering it. A thick shroud of some sort could attenuate the attractive force you feel when they're immediately beside each other because by adding nonmagnetic material on top of the magnetic, you force a minimum distance between the two objects with high magnetic surface flux densities. By forcing a minimum distance, you attenuate 1/r^2 from a tight distance measured in micrometres, to one of, say, 5mm. That's a few orders of magnitude subjected to an inverse square law.

By embedding rare earth supermagnets I bought off of ebay into simple small clay balls (rock marbles, made from clay I dug up in the road, filtered, and mixed with secret aggregate), I attenuated the force a lot, but compensated slightly by making the magnets stronger to start with. At the distances used, the MacKenZie Balls (tm) are just barely attractive, which renders the immediate sensation of force somewhat xenographicly bizarre. We are accustomed to things entwined tightly via an attractive force, or so far apart theres not enough attraction to set them to motion. When you softly fondle the MacKenZie Balls (tm) in your hand, they mostly seem about as attractive as glass marbles, but the weak attraction between them throws off the sensing of it a bit, giving an undertone of "something's not quite right, here".

Burton MacKenZie's Balls (tm)
He keeps them in a cup.

A definite must for any hedonist. Sense the niches of your world! I should be selling these back on eBay!

Burton MacKenZie


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