The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

Many people are familiar with Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory. It is one of the iconic images of the twentieth century.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931
The Persistence of Memory (1931), by Salvador Dalí

However, his follow-up work, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, is less widely known.

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1954), by Salvador Dalí

It is a vision of the same place—but this time, the land has been filled by water, and the objects, which are now able to freely float, are breaking up into their atomic parts. Even the tree has begun to disintegrate.

The more you look at this painting, the more mind-blowing it becomes.

The Daily Stumble #2: Mint Graffiti

Today’s 5th stumble is Mint Graffiti from the site MintLife.

This page many humorous examples drawings on dollar bills. The best one is Bender’s applause sign above, seen briefly above, and shown more clearly here:

But a close second is:

This was just hilarious. It isn’t the first time I’ve stumbled upon so-called “mint graffiti.” In fact, there are many pages of people doing creative things with money, drawing silly stuff or even folding bills origami-style into bizarre shapes.

The previous Daily Stumble was “Slow Time.”

1.8 Million?!

I have not checked in a while, but apparently that “Planning vs. the Internet” diagram now has 1.8 million views. That’s more five times the total number of views this blog has. Damn. Way to go, StumbleUpon community!

Of course, with the Chrome stumble bar, the diagram is obsolete. But the point still stands. 😀

Also, Edward Munch’s The Scream, which is featured in the diagram, set a record just two weeks ago for the highest auction price paid for a painting, at $120 million. Nice!

A Musical Project

This article is about the CS 1610 project that I alluded to in the last post. The idea was to do something creative with what we had learned in class + outside research. Given that it was a very multi-disciplinary class, and that it was Cornell, that meant just about anything.

My group members were Andy W, Drew W, and Joseph V, also first-year students at Cornell. Our idea was originally to convert images to sounds and vice versa. While we did end up doing this, we ended up focusing on music: a more important part of the project was two-fold: original instrumental synthesizers and a piano-roll reader.

Here’s one example of the piano-roll reader:

This one’s a bit longer:

Being a bit more artistic:

Here’s my favorite one so far:

Anyways, the YouTube channel we made is called ScrollingMusic. If you’re interested, you should go to the channel and subscribe; we’re still adding new stuff even though it has been long after the project presentation. If you want to suggest some new pieces to add, go ahead and do so on the channel. Enjoy!

Is Black or White a Color?

Today’s topic of whether black or white is a color was chosen by Rebecca T at UT Austin. Samie L at University of King’s College, Halifax, NS suggested the topic of color as well. So today’s post will be a colorful one.

I initially approached Rebecca’s question in the scientific way. Namely, the first thing to ask is: What is color?

[via xkcd]

Color is just a visuallyperceived difference between electromagnetic waves of different frequencies. White is the sum of all of the visible wavelengths. When a prism turns white light into a spectrum, it is merely separating the different frequencies of light. That’s how rainbows work, only they replace prisms with raindrops.

But is white actually a color? White is not defined by any particular frequency of light, so if every color must correspond to a frequency, then it is not one. Neither is black. Black is the absence of light. And the absence of light can’t have a frequency.

So according to physics, it seems the answer is no.

The question itself, however, seems useless if we are just looking at the physics of light. It is more appropriate to look at color from another viewpoint. In computer science, colors are usually defined as the sum of red, green, and blue values. Anyone who has tried to code a website is probably familiar with the hexadecimal color system, in which red is #ff0000, green is #00ff00, and blue is #0000ff. In this system, white and black are also colors, given by the codes #ffffff and #000000 respectively. So it seems to depend on our use of color. I’m not a physicist; I’m a student and a blogger. For all practical purposes, I consider black and white to be colors. What are your thoughts?

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey

Rating: 10/10

“What the HECK did I just see?” was my first reaction to this film. Its bizarre visual effects, classical music, philosophical design, and surreal scenes make it one of the best movies I’ve ever watched, and certainly the most mind-boggling.

I had just viewed (not for the first time) the Star Wars saga—all six episodes—less than a week before watching this film, so, needless to say, it vastly changed my expectations of a great science fiction film. Even though Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) was released nine years after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), both are very compelling.

The main shock is the focus on art rather than action. The first half hour is a very slow, creative one: something that a viewer would either love or hate. There’s no dialogue or any speech until the second section of four. Director Stanley Kubrick truly understood the meaning of “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A slowly moving picture with music is worth even more.

The film becomes more conventional when we encounter HAL, the supercomputer and main antagonist (though it is revealed in 2010: Odyssey Two that HAL’s malfunctions in the first episode were caused by its faithful following of contradictory human orders). Here is a nice philosophical, future-predicting moment—even with today’s technology, HAL is science fiction and not a real machine.


That. I had definitely seen it before, but hadn’t the slightest idea what it was until I watched 2001.

At the end, i.e., from the Star Gate scene onwards, the film becomes extremely mind-boggling. The best to which I can compare it would be this Magritte painting:


That’s a pretty accurate representation of the ending without giving away anything.

The Persistence of Memory

This is a very unusual type of post for me as I’m normally the math/science person, not the artistic one. But without further ado, here is Dalí’s famous time painting.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931
The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dalí

The image you see above is one of the iconic symbols of the 20th century. When I first saw it, in an art class back in elementary school, I thought it was stupid and just like all other paintings. But within the last couple years I’ve experienced a shift, not necessarily away from the sciences, but towards a real fascination with the humanities and arts. Philosophy is extremely important to me, and I see a lot of it in this work. (On the other hand, I’m not even going to try to run a real artistic analysis of the painting; I think that would be missing the big picture.)

What is so special about this work? My opinion: This painting epitomizes the human struggle with time. Not necessarily against time—rather, of time. Dalí realized that we had lived too long in a world in which time was an absolute definer, a Newtonian clockwork that controlled us with two rigid, always-moving hands. In this painting, time, represented by the deformed clocks, is no longer a straight issue: it bends, curves, and is hung in meaningless places. There is a contrast between things of human design, i.e. the clocks and rectangular objects on the left, and things of natural design, i.e. the tree stump, the mountains, the sky. The objects of the first group are futile in the picture; the objects in the latter group are hopeful (for a lack of a better word, which I cannot think of).

Also interesting is why the title is “The Persistence of Memory” when it seems to deal with time. The obvious explanation is of course that memory becomes confused, uncertain, nonsensical over time. But moreover, I see the painting as a play on time itself, the philosophical entity behind time, rather than its outer appearance. Thus, the content and form of the painting work together and build on each other, much like the electric and magnetic fields in an electromagnetic wave. Okay, bad analogy for liberal arts majors, but physicists, you should understand.

Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion
Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion, 1954, Salvador Dalí

This one is dazzling.