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I’ve written a paper for the ICGG2014 conference to go with my talk. It mostly talks about the theoretical side of things, whereas the talk is going to focus on the pragmatic. In case they won’t accept it I’ll post it here soon, but if they do then it will be available online sometime after the conference.

Over the past few years I’ve grown increasingly tired of slick computer generated graphics. They all too often fail to draw attention to salient details and convey meaning. It’s rare these days that I get to make large illustrations, most of my graphic work is for icons, so I do try and savour it when I get the chance. I’ve put the 10 images I drew for this publication below the fold (with LaTeX overlays and captions).

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This is going to be a difficult post to write on several levels. I’m about to lay heavy blame on a number of people and organisations who are part of my loyal customer base. I am also going to incriminate the industry I work for, which includes my direct employer and —of course— myself.

At the same time I have to marshal my arguments very carefully so as not to belittle a specific individual whose work I am about to dissect and critique in a harsh tone. I firmly believe —although he probably doesn’t agree with me— he is the victim of the twin evils of underinformed educators and overeager, heedless software companies. I wish neither to patronise nor scapegoat him and I know that cushioning language is not my strong suit. Please remember this while reading the text below. This is not about ridicule, but rather about a pervasive and alarming world-wide trend in academic architecture.

I’d like to thank ███████████ for sending me his work and having the courage to allow me to publicly critique it, knowing I’d focus only on the bad and not the good.

Also my sincere thanks goes out to K. who —unlike me— did receive proper academic training during her time at University (Turku University, Department of English) and was able to comment comprehensively on the scholarly and academic aspects of this critique.

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Once upon a time I was an Architecture and Urbanism student at TUDelft. By the second year it was obvious I was never going to be a great architect so instead I started developing a parallel skill-set that at the time was rather new and exciting; programming. My third year was a disaster as all the time and effort that was supposed to be spend on reading books about globalization and monument and restoration law was instead spend on learning how to write RhinoScript. Nobody was teaching programming in 2003 at the Bouwkunde faculty, at least not in any meaningful fashion.

When it was time to pick a graduation topic I decided to try and combine programming with Urbanism, which was a bit of a tall order since both my programming and Urbanism skills were pretty much crap. Still, I found a teacher who was happy to supervise and spend the better part of two years locked in my room typing away on a thesis text + software. Eventually it all went sour when the faculty demanded I do a load of preliminary work as I had deviated from the standard track while I was almost ready with the thesis as a whole. Not having the stomach for this sort of bureaucratic arm-wrestling I decided to leave TUDelft and start working for Robert McNeel & Associates (initially in Andy leBihan’s Finland based office) instead. Thus began my career in software development and thus ended my career in Architecture.

Yesterday while trawling through an old backup folder I found the semi-finished thesis. It has managed to survive two laptop hard disc crashes and just in case it won’t survive the third, here it is.

ThesisDecal

NVAL2 discovered

January 5, 2013

Gene for poor science journalism discovered.

Now the hunt is on for NOVO2, the gene that causes certain men to drop their voice tonality to unnaturally low bass levels while uncontrollably spewing exaggerated and sensationalist clichés like “killed everything in its wake” and “destruction on a scale never before seen by scientists”.

There is going to be a special publication of Architectural Design Magazine with guest editors Xavier De Kestelier and Brady Peters. It will be called Computation Works; The Building of Algorithmic Thought and it will have contributions from all kinds of interesting people, yours truly included. I’m not entirely sure when it will be published but the author deadlines have since come and gone and my responsibility has ended. Obviously I won’t be posting the text here as that would be both silly and probably violate the copyright agreement (buy the magazine when it comes out!). I can however show you a few of the images I made as the copyright for those remains with me, AD magazine is merely allowed to use them as they see fit.

My article is about the theory behind generic solvers, but without a specific focus on Galapagos. It was unfortunately a bit short but they ended up accepting 1300 words, which was almost double my initial allowance.

I’ve been slowly rediscovering the joys of hand drawn graphics (as shown in one of my recent posts) and I definitely want to try and improve my line drawing techniques in the near future (especially the dotted shading is difficult to get right).

Also, here are some midnight cookies, the pattern reminds me of Smale’s Horseshoe.

Berry’s paradox

August 29, 2012

At the moment I’m reading ‘The Information‘ by James Gleick. I’m only halfway through and it’s a pretty good read so far, though a lot more verbose than Chaos (his first book). It’s sort of ironic that a book about information would have a lower information density than a book about chaos.

When Gleick talks about Russell and famous Set Theory paradoxes, he briefly touches upon the Berry paradox [page 179-180].

It has to do with counting the syllables needed to specify each integer. Generally, of course, the larger the number the more syllables are required. In English, the smallest integer requiring two syllables is se·ven. The smallest requiring three syllables is e·le·ven. The number 121 seems to require six syllables (“one·hun·dred·twen·ty·one”), but actually four will do the job, with some cleverness: “e·le·ven·squared”. Still, even with cleverness, there are only a finite number of possible syllables and therefore a finite number of names, and, as Russell put it, “Hence the names of some integers must consist of at least nineteen syllables, and among these there must be a least. Hence the least integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables must denote a definite integer.”[…] Now comes the paradox. This phrase, the least integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables, contains only eighteen syllables. So the least integer not nameable in fewer than nineteen syllables has just been named in fewer than nineteen syllables. [syllable notation mine]

It took me a while to figure out what was meant by this being a paradox rather than just a linguistic trick. In fact my girlfriend —who is a linguist— still thinks it is a trick, so maybe I’m confused about this still. My understanding is that it is a paradox because of the word “not”. If there would be an integer that cannot be described in less than 19 syllables, then seemingly it can be described in merely 18 after all. Therefore there cannot be a smallest integer which cannot be described in fewer than 19 syllables, which in turn means that all the integers between zero and infinity can be described using the permutations of a finite number of syllables in a limited length sequence, which is clearly bunk. Thus; paradox.

The Wikipedia page claims the resolution is due to ambiguous language, which is pretty much what girlfriend has been trying to tell me as well. I’m clearly missing something yet as I don’t understand how that solves anything.