understanding fractals from 3Blue1Brown
I really like the idea of defining humankind in terms of our tendency to produce artifacts with integer dimension rather than a fractal dimension.
I've learned about fractals a number of times, including in college math classes and my own curiosity. And I've seen labels of fractional dimensionality but never given the requisite attention needed to understand what they meant. This video did that for me.
And I can't get over the influence these easy-to-follow explanations of powerful ideas of thinking about the world might have on the next generation.
Stephen Hawking died today. He was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21, and given 2-3 years to live, but he died today at age 76. I thought I remembered hearing all sorts of weird coincidences about birthdays, including that Stephen Hawking was born on (I thought) Newton's date of death. Turns out it was Galileo's date of death. But I thought there was more to it, like that Newton was born on Galileo's date of death, but that isn't true. But Hawking did manage to die on Einstein's birthday, kind of a closed time-like loop, ha. It's also pi day, since 3.14 = March 13th. I watched a Attenborough documentary earlier tonight, about a supercolony of ants that have conquered much of a mountain somewhere. I've heard about supercolonies elsewhere, I think maybe it's two species of Argentinian ants that seem to be taking over the world? Anyway, these ants had a lot of interesting feats. Like they harvest a sweet nectar substance from aphids, which they farm. And their larger scale cooperation and many queens (even within a single nest, of the hundreds or thousands of nests). Attenborough asked (maybe rhetorically?) if we are witnessing a step in evolution where ants evolve wide-scale cooperation, which he then points out humans discovered some time ago. (Ha! For years I've kept a list on wikipedia of interesting science facts (it could use a lot of cleanup), including:
A number of ant species farm fungus, thought to have discovered agriculture 50-65 million years ago, long before humans. The most advanced ant farmers (leaf cutter species) farm a fungus that exists no where on Earth besides their farms, an example of mutualism. There are also species of ants who "milk" aphids, and protect the aphids while they feed.
(Reading that now I feel like “ant farmers” is probably normally misinterpreted to mean “humans who have ant farms” when I meant it to read “ants that are farmers”. I guess I should fix that.) It's entertaining to think of larger-scale cooperation as something that we might have beaten the ants to! Though even with our head start, they still might beat us to the punch. We haven't quite yet achieved complete cooperation with one another the world over, but we seem to be progressing in that direction, mostly (certainly far more than at any other time in history). But I bring all that up to say I have a far greater emotional attachment to David Attenborough than I did to Stephen Hawking, despite the fact that my education is in physics and I've always considered my interest in biology to be more armchair curiosity than formal study. Granted, I always did well in biology classes and I never actually studied anything Hawking worked on, and much of it is over my head because I have no formal education in general relativity anyway. So it shouldn't really be that surprising.
Update: After posting this that Attenborough documentary on ants was taken down via a copyright claim from the Australian Broadcasting Network! So disappointing!