Sunday, October 31, 2010

Week 2 : Let's impress with Synesthesia (Part 1)

What is synesthesia ?

Etimology : "syn" is the Anciant Greek for "together" and "aisthesis" for "sensation" 

This means that one sensory or the perception of words and numbers is automaticly and involuntary linked to another sensory. People under this condition are called synesthetes.

Synesthesia is a very infrequent condition, it has been estimated that synesthetes represent only a part between 1/20 and 1/2 000 of individuals, this lack of precision comes from the fact that it is difficult to diagnose it for many reasons. One is that most of the time people are not conscious that what they experience is unusal or even have a name. 

There is different kind of synesthesia, the most common is Grapheme ---> Color synesthesia wich is a perception of color or numbers with an inherent color. 

For exemple when a synesthete reads a newspaper he will be conscious that the numbers and the letters are written in black but he will automaticly see colors added to the real colors. For each letter or each number there is a specific and precise color and it never changes over time but it changes from a synesthete to another. In rare cases graphemes can also have different texture and size.

Then you have almost every sensory combinations such as Sound ---> Color,  Smell ---> Taste,  Pain ---> Color, ect... 

Another form of synesthesia is number-form synesthesia wich is when a synesthete associates a location to numbers, like the example below.

The last form identified is personification synesthesia, this is when numbers, letters, days or month and any ordered sequences possesses a personality and gender. For example one synesthete reports that :

 "February is an introverted female, while F is a dodgy geezer male . Similarly, May is soft-spoken and girly while M is an old lady who natters a lot, and while August is a boy among girls, A is a mother type female."


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week 1 : Let’s impress people with Fractals 

Koch snowflake

Fractal geometry is a new branch in mathematics. Usually, mathematicians try to resolve problems such as calculation of volumes, surfaces of mountains, forests, lung surface, blood vessels with Euclid geometry. This was before Benoit Mandelbrot, a Franco-American mathematician tried to find a way to make geometry resemble what is found in nature and more precisely what geometry deals with : the shapes. As he said "Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line." In other words his will was to find a way to better a mathematic approach of natural diversity. The reason that made him think mathematics could help was the fact he noticed  that the concept of self similarity was applied. One of the most stunning example to understand this concept would be the look of a broccoli.

Each part of this Romanesco broccoli looks like the broccoli itself, and the subdivisions of these parts also look like the parts and so on.

During the first world war, a French mathematician called Julia tried to find out what would happen if a function is applied over a number, then to the result of this function and so on. The reason why he never found out was the lack of a computing tool in order to calculate the infinity of  numbers of this mathematical set.
Based on this research, Mandelbrot, who worked then in IBM performed this calculation on a computer and from this process the “Mandelbrot set” was born !

Mandelbrot set:
Emblem of fractal geometry

This is a famous picture and many people know what it is called but rarely know what it corresponds to.
This picture represents today the great finding of Mandelbrot . Fractal geometry has nowadays its application in many fields, many different technologies and also in art. It allows a more accurate way of perceiving natural shapes and phenomenon with mathematics and is a major step towards a science approaching as much as possible the nature of things as they really are.

If you are interested in fractal geometry and if you want more information here is a very interesting video describing how it has been a precious tool for cell phone technology, special effects, cardiology, imaging thechniques, art and others :

Bibliography/Webography :
Documentary movie "Hunting the hidden dimension" by Michael Schwarz and Bill Jersey