Metaphorical | idea http://www.metaphorical.net/feed/theme/idea Various notes on the theme Idea Copyright %2014 Al Dente http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/al_dente http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/al_dente While well-cooked pasta is good for teeth, well-designed pasta is food for thought. When I was living in a small Italian town, I cooked pasta and contemplated upon their forms in idle evenings.

What a fantastic medium to capture tomato sauce indeed!

Spaghetti often isn’t sauce enough, and Rigatoni sometimes has too much. Variations of Fusilli (spiral-shape), Farfalle (butterfly-shaped), and Casarecce (has a nice twist) are lovely, practical, well-engineered solutions.

But my favourite is Canalini: it is like Linguini but with a “canal” in the middle, into which the perfect amount of sauce flows. It is an intellectual pasta.

Because of these witty, elegant, and high-carb inventions, life is good.

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2009-11-11 10:02:49
Alarm Bed http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/alarm_bed http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/alarm_bed First, there was the rooster. Then, mechanical clock, electronic clock, snoozable clock, runaway clock. Yet they are insufficient.

Because dreams — dry or wet, scary or sweet — are far more alluring than the routines that await modern men and women in the morning. Let's hit that snooze button one more time...

But what is that creaking noise? What is that feeling of gravity? It is the bed rotating, 10 degrees per second.

The best alarm clock is ambition. The second best is this most ingenious invention of mine.

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
— The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1

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2009-05-05 00:57:26
Amicable Numbers http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/amicable_numbers http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/amicable_numbers The two numbers 220 and 284 are called amicable number. The sum of the divisors of 220 (1,2,4,5…110) is 284, and vice versa.

Flipping through the book Fermat’s Last Theorem the other day, I found this interesting story:

An Arab numerologist documents the practice of carving 220 on one fruit and 284 on another, then eating the first one and offering the second one to a lover as a form of mathematical aphrodisiac.

Wonder if any of our modern-day geeks would like to pick up this fantastic ritual again — perhaps as laser-engravings onto mobile phones?

Also try a geekier pair: 9363584 and 9437056, discovered by Descartes in the Age of Reason.

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2007-06-08 23:09:41
A Grain of Sand http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/a_grain_of_sand http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/a_grain_of_sand William Blake said: To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower. Is he prophesying the coming of Zip? Is it possible to see the world in exactly one grain of sand?

Find a grain of sand that weighs a very specific value, say 0.4374284729... gram. Then with a very accurate machine we shall measure its weight very very accurately.

Then, we shall read that specific value, position by position, and convert the value in each position to binary numbers. For example, from the value of 0.4374.. we will get, 0, 100, 11, 111, 100, etc. Appending the values one after the other, we will get a very long string of 1 and 0.

Now feed the string into a Turing Machine (computer), and generate the digital sound and fury, that probably signify nothing, hidden in a grain of sand.

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2005-11-13 00:03:04
Hairy Ball http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/hairy_ball http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/hairy_ball Now that Oedipus had defeated Sphinx, a new monster — or rather, a big lump of protein — appears on the road to Thebes. It is covered in hairs, it pants, and it asks all passersby in a shrieking voice:

"Dude, comb my hairs so that no parting can be found -- or death!"

This is a topology problem about vector fields on a sphere. The best one can do is to comb the hairs to make everywhere smooth except one point on the ball. Remarkably, the meteorologist then deduces from the hairy ball that there must be always a cyclone somewhere on earth.

Thus we are always doomed, one way or the other.

P.S. Concepts of Modern Mathematics has a lively discussion on the hairy ball.

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2005-11-12 23:57:54
Horned Baguette http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/horned_baguette http://www.metaphorical.net/note/on/horned_baguette My challenge to you, master bakers and molecular gastronomists!

  1. Pull out two horns from each end of dough
  2. Pull out two more horns from each of the (two) horns and weave them.
  3. Pull out two more, from each of the (four) horns and weave them.
  4. Pull out two more yet, from each of the (2^N) horns and weave them.

An Alexander Horned Baguette is like a baguette, except that the outer complement of the dough is not simply connected, and its fundamental group is not finitely generated. Make sense?

Who could resist the fresh smell of something so pathologically twisted? Make it a sandwich with Monkfish and Romanesco cauliflower.

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2005-11-01 09:59:36