New Experiments

For a while I’ve been wondering about watercolour pencils. It seems like a great way of carrying around some strong colour that can be applied in a simple way and not too messily while out and about.

You’ve seen me quickly splash colour onto a line sketch digitally, by scanning (on on the road, photographing) the result and pulling it into the iPad and using Brushes, (see e.g., here, and here) but that’s… something else.

Also, even at home/work, if I want to do a quick colour study before doing a whole page for The Project, it is nice to be able to play with colours I can apply in a more tactile way, and step back from the result and see how it looks. So, I got a set of watercolour pencils (made by Derwent) and a portable water-fillable brush (made by pentel) and grabbed a ball point pen and looked around for something to experiment with. I settled on an issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine (I get it for the craaaaazy weird poses of the models… well, really I get it for my sister) and did a quick series. Line drawings of a model, then apply pencils (mixing experimentally to get something that resembles skin tones from a set of pencils that don’t come close), then brush with water in various ways to get some rough colour, and highlights.

The results were fun! I made some mistakes at the start since I did not know just how […] Click to continue reading this post


[caption id="attachment_12548" align="aligncenter" width="499"] Space Shuttle Endeavour and escort, flying over the California Science Center, its new home where it will soon be on display.[/caption]
Wow, that was amazing. So a group of us (Aimee, Amy, Tameem, and myself) decided to go down to the Rose Garden, across the street from the USC campus and in the grounds of the Califorina Science Center where the Shuttle will be housed. Of all the places in LA where there will be a flyover, surely we ought to get a good view from there. Also, the Rose Garden gives access to a large piece of sky, so even if it does not come super-close, we ought to get a good chance… That was the thinking. (A major landmark here was that this is the most USC people I’ve ever seen in the lovely Rose Garden – not counting people on their way to a game at the Coliseum…)

[caption id="attachment_12549" align="alignleft" width="300"] Shuttle Endeavour and escort, with the Natural History Museum just in view below. It is approaching the California Science Center.[/caption]Well, it worked far better than we imagined. The shuttle eventually appeared from the West, and people began to cheer and wave, and snap pictures and so forth… We all felt very lucky that they did that pass…. you could see the fighter plane (?) escort, and there it was appropriately (sort of) over the buildings where it will live out its days… We’d talked about what it meant to see the very last transport flight of a shuttle, the end of the shuttle program, the future of manned spaceflight, and so forth. We, and the […] Click to continue reading this post

Lotta Bottle

In collaboration with a friend of mine, I’ve been bottling things. This time, lemon products. Her lemon tree is prone to produce far too many lemons to know what to do with, so you have to be creative. I make marmalade, as you know from previous posts, and she likes to make limoncello, both of which call for a good number of lemons (the latter also calls for several days involving various stages). Here are results of bottling both sets of products… The marmalade is remarkably dark […] Click to continue reading this post

Endeavour to Look Up!

The Space Shuttle Endeavour will fly (or will be flown by its carrier plane) over Los Angeles this morning, paying special attention to various LA landmarks. Don’t forget to look up! I’ve heard it will be around 10:30am, but double check since I might have heard that time incorrectly. I plan to start looking out by 10:00am, down on the USC campus, since the California Science Center (across the street) where the Shuttle will be housed, is one of the places it will specially fly over… More here.


-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Edible Fractals, and the Snowflake

In celebration and anticipation of the unveiling of the Mosely Snowflake Sponge fractal on the USC campus later today, I’m reposting an old post about an edible fractal that I did back in February 2008. They say they will be serving fractal-themed food in the reception, and so I wonder if this is one of the foods that might feature? Don’t forget to come to the event! Recall that I (jokingly) speculated that when this fractal is completed the universe will end, as its purpose will have been served? Well, it seems that this has not come to pass, so… whew.

For other fractal-related posts, click here. You might also enjoy the lovely fractal-related film, Yaddda Yadda Yada, that won a prize in the competition last year.



romanesque cauliflower

A small Romanesque Cauliflower. (Click for larger view.)

Imagine my delight when I spotted this lovely piece of edible mathematics in the Hollywood Farmer’s Market this morning. The stall has several of them of many sizes (this was a very little one) and of several colours. Wonderful. If you don’t know what I mean when I talk about the mathematics, or use the term fractal, look it up. There are several things of note, among which are the wonderful spiral structures that you can see (Fibonacci spirals) all over, and which in various ways, encode the infinite sequence of numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233…. (you get the next one by adding the previous two) called the Fibonacci sequence. Ratios of successive members of the sequence, (e.g., 5/8, 8/13, 144/233, etc) approximate what I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post is definitely my favourite number (if I […] Click to continue reading this post

While Appearing

Well, yesterday evening turned out to be very interesting. I went to two things, my main mission being to get the chance to stand up in front of the groups of students and tell them about the USC Science Film Competition. The first was at the Academy for Polymathic Study (what better set of students to interest in this than the ones signed up to do things in the spirit of polymathy?), during the late afternoon “Polymathic Pizza” series. (I’ve presented in that very series myself, talking about the idea of “Play” in science and how important it is for creativity and discovery.) Happily, my friend and colleague Tara McPherson from the School of Cinematic Arts was presenting, and so after I told the students about the competition, I sat and listened to her presentation, since I had some time before the next thing. It was marvellous, and the students were very engaged. Tara took them through the arc of her academic interests over the years of her career, showing how she morphed from (mostly) traditional humanist to someone who researches and explores the role of all kinds of media in popular culture, helping to explore and create new forms of journal, new ways of presenting data, and studying the impact of media. I recommend looking at the journal Vectors for an example of a journal that is designed to present works that would not work as well in traditional print (e.g., being able to have a scholarly discussion of a piece of video media is helped a lot by being able to show it alongside your argument – not so easy in a print journal), and then head over to Scalar, created by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (which Tara directs) which is collaborating with a number of University presses on various approaches to new platforms for new media in academia. She also mentioned various examples in the scientific side of things with regards using distributed media for things like crowdsourcing important data.

I had to leave before she finished, so did not get to ask her the question on many of your minds: what is the origin of the (playful?) choice of names Vectors and Scalar?

Then I went over the School of Cinematic Arts to meet another friend and Colleague, […] Click to continue reading this post

Along the Way

It has been a busy semester so far, but not a bad one at all. There are some exciting things I ought to update you on, but now is not the time as I need a different frame of mind to pull my thoughts together on those topics. We’ve got through Green functions in the graduate electromagnetism class, which meant that we’ve been playing with the retarded potentials and doing one or two fun things with them by way of examples. The group of students I have in class is really fun to work with, and they seem to like the class worksheets that I bring them to try out from time to time. They allow me to get the students into the habit of working on a specific example where they can see how to set up a coordinate system, interpret the general expressions we’ve derived in the context of a specific example, and solve it through to the end, interpreting their results, etc. It eats up a chunk of the (1 hour 50 minute) class time, but it is well worth it, since I think that they potentially learn a great deal […] Click to continue reading this post

Look Before You Leap

As you know from reading here, I think that careful thought is important. I like it in conversation, among other places, so I like it when people take the time to stop and think about something before talking.

I prefer conversations with such space over those interactions where everyone is trying to somehow “win” it by filling all available space with chatter, contentful or not. (In fact, over the years, I think I’ve gone out of my way to avoid the latter as much as possible, including the people who tend to need to engage that way…) So not surprisingly, when writing conversations, for example for The Project, you’ll find that I have places where time […] Click to continue reading this post


Little cherry sized tomatoes always seem to be the ones that survive the extremes most readily. At least in my experience. The many varieties (see a previous post) that are out there in the garden have been suffering a lot in the extended heat wave of late, and although more or less healthy, don’t flower, and hence there’s no fruit. Not so for these red cherries. They just keep on giving. (I took this photo near the end of August, when I […] Click to continue reading this post

USC Science Film Competition – A New Year!

…And here we are again! I’m launching the second year of the USC Science Film Competition as of, well, a few seconds ago. Please go to the website to learn more. You’ll find a collection of links at the very end of the main page, along with a slide show, talking a bit about last year’s successful inaugural competition. I’m hoping for a competition at least as exciting and interesting (er, in all the good ways!) as last year.

If at USC, spread the word, please! I especially need faculty to help encourage […] Click to continue reading this post