No, really, I want to know what the reason is. Most times you hear these Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) stories (or Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon stories, as we’re supposed to say these days, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevtich), it’s a flying saucer that’s been apparently seen. Why this shape? Where did it come from? Did it predate ficition writings, or come as a result of them? It is an idea that they ought to be symmetrical somehow? Then why not a flying sphere (which would be awfully cool)? Or a flying cylinder? Given that aerodynamics are not really at issue (it seems) with the astonishing technology these things are usually reported to have, why on earth not a flying teacup, for that matter?
Does anyone know or have a good theory about the origins of the flying saucer in our collective imagination? Do people report other shapes more commonly in other cultures?
Yes, there’s always the explanation that you hear about flying saucers more than other shapes because that’s the preferred choice of vehicle of the Visitors, but I’d like to Continue reading ‘What is it with Saucers?’
I love crochet. I spent a huge number of hours doing it when I was young, and only in later years did I realize that the same things that attracted it to me then are the same things that drive and motivate a lot of my research interests. (I many have mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again).
It’s the love of patterns, plain and simple. If your child -of whetever gender- gets Continue reading ‘Hooking Up Manifolds’
The other day, in a nice cafe on the boardwalk at Venice beach, I was working with Veselin Filev, a student of mine, on a paper that he would later submit to the arXiv. The end of the year was approaching and I wandered off into some irrelevant anecdote or other (as I am wont to do), explaining to him a bit about little traditions concerning the arXiv, from the “old days”. I mentioned in passing that one last tradition will come to an end because the numbering system for papers will all change sometime this year (apparently the mathematicians are close to producing too many papers in each month – more than the 1000 the system can handle1.)
I explained that in days of yore, some people would try to get the very first paper of the year, so that they would have a rather special number, of the form hep-th/XX01001, where XX denotes the year. By far the coolest of these was Continue reading ‘Last of the First’