oh man I love Sean Carroll’s explanation here

Maybe 12 minutes into this interview Joe Rogan did with Sean Carroll, Carroll started explaining how to make the conceptual switch from particles to fields. I guess I've never had any education in quantum field theory, and this is sort of the first time I've heard a visual-styled description of it.

The latter half has a lot of interesting stuff too.

fireworks for Independence Day

Derry fireworks have gotten really good, last year were great too. Here are some photos where I was trying to use a pull focus technique to make make fireworks look kinda “flowery”. Mixed results, but this handful of photos were pleasing. The horrible cropping is because we were really close to the show—I had considered bringing the 14mm, but second guessed myself.

one of the better “flowery” results

pulling out of focus instead of into focus is neat too, but this is the only one

the 50mm field of view is a bit too narrow

a bit washed out—not sure why I didn't crop this one to center

sparkling fireworks leave dotted lines!

something dreamy about this one

some good colors on this one—also filled up the frame nicely

nice colors—you can see that I pulled it into focus and then back out again

this might be my least favorite


I also tried the Lytro Illum, which I bought last week. I was pretty sure it wouldn't work very well & it turned out I was right. It doesn't handle low light very well (and I'm completely spoiled with the α7sii & an F/1.4 primary), but worse, it doesn't capture any depth at such a large distance. So I have a few of those photos but I won't bother sharing them.

Instead these last two photos have tilted focal planes, rather than a pull-focused-exposure.

instead of the “flowery” effect this has a simple tilted focal plane

another tilted (rather than focusing) shot—tiny fireworks?

After feeling a bit disappointed that the flowery effect wasn't working well I decided to just record video, so these are the last 14 minutes of the show (which was about half an hour long total). It's kind of a lot to watch, so I recommend skipping to ~4 minutes 50 seconds where I play with the focus.

With the longer exposures I had to close the aperture quite a bit, so the “flowery” effect is pretty limited. (I figure I'll cut some polarizing filters to cut the light down so I can open it back up.) The video demonstrates just how big the bokeh can really be. (I had the same problem recently trying to photograph planes at Logan Airport. That'll be another use for the polarizing filters.)

Before the show I wandered around town a bit looking for interesting things to photograph. The one thing that really caught my attention was how this vine was climbing this guy wire.

For some reason power lines & telephone polls, and electrical equipment, have always been favorite photographic subjects for me.

vine climbing a telephone guy wire

At first I thought the vine only went so far up, & then the wire unwound beyond that, but now I think it's all just the vine

Earlier in the day my brothers', their wives, and my nephew, came to my mom's house. Here's my nephew Max (and his mom Nicole is next to him in the background).

understanding fractals from 3Blue1Brown

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!

concentric circle origami

I recently finished the second cycle of the clinical trial I'm participating in. I'll have a bone marrow biopsy on Tuesday and about a week later the results will be the first indication of how well I'm responding to the treatment, which will probably guide future treatment. I've mostly tolerated it well—at times feeling crappy, and I seem to have some very slight neuropathy issues recently in my finger tips and toes, but mostly feeling pretty well. (Though lots of blood transfusions recently too.)

Besides that I've been working on more curved crease origami, along with trying to model it in 3D.

In mathematics, a developable surface is a surface that can be flattened out into a plane. Since origami starts with a flat sheet of paper, and paper doesn't squash or stretch, the results of origami must too be a developable surface. Ruled surfaces are surfaces that can be constructed with straight lines. The hyperbolic paraboloid (also called a hypar) is a ruled surface, but not developable. The cylinder (without end caps) is both developable and ruled.

Folding concentric circles into a piece of paper seems to be both a developable surface (or at least a close approximation of one), and an approximation of a hypar. It makes me wonder if there is some kind of limit or something we could move towards, maybe as the distance between the concentric circular creases goes towards zero.

This is the second piece I've made with vinyl, it is very similar to the first but with the width of each concentric strip about 30% smaller. In the first one I put a sheet of aluminum foil between the two self adhesive vinyl layers, this time I tried a sheet of plastic. I've also been considering trying fabric and cheesecloth. I have three more sets of scored vinyl waiting to be assembled (stuck together probably with a layer of something between them) and folded. Two are variations of nested circles (not completely concentric), and one is two spirals—one forming all peaks and the other forming all troughs.

I suspect that the creases should each lie on the intersection of a hypar and a sphere. I've been working on making 3D models of it recently, and can tell it isn't quite right yet, but believe it is getting close.

My next attempt will be entirely programmatically I think, inside blender with python.

the Orionid Meteor Shower

I set up my camera to try and capture meteors on October 21st, pointed it in the direction of Orion, and took video for 5-20 minutes at a time (mostly going back in the house to avoid the cold).

In total I think I had around an hour and a half of footage. But who wants to star at a screen for an hour, looking for meteors? So instead I stacked the frames, in groups of 500, and looked for indicative streaks—and I spotted 6 of them! Since it was originally 4K, I cropped each of them to 1920x1080, and about 10 seconds, and put them together into this video:

Before these 6 meteors I had only caught one other, back in the Summer, the night before I was due to return the rented lens. I was trying to spot the Andromeda Galaxy (because what else are you going to do with such a telephoto lens?) and I happened to catch a meteor streaking near the Pleiades star cluster (I think?).

The Geminids are due to peak this Wednesday/Thursday (13th/14th) night (best around 1 am), and I was working on modifying a styrofoam cooler to keep my camera warm, but I'm skeptical it'll be done in time.

The American Meteor Society has a list of all the meteor showers and where to look for them.