再突入データ収集装置「i-Ball」のミッション(C:JAXA/IA) (by samosa256)

Recording re-entry.

Recipe for a Small Star

  • Take a hollow, spherical plastic capsule about two millimeters in diameter (about the size of a small pea)
  • Fill it with 150 micrograms (less than one-millionth of a pound) of a mixture of deuterium and tritium, the two heavy isotopes of hydrogen.
  • Take a laser that for about 20 billionths of a second can generate 500 trillion watts—the equivalent of five million million 100-watt light bulbs.
  • Focus all that laser power onto the surface of the capsule.
  • Wait ten billionths of a second.
  • Result: one miniature star.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory National Ignition Facility

The world does not suffer from an oversupply of clarity and understanding (to put it mildly). How and whether specific mathematics might lead to improving the world (whatever that means) is usually impossible to tease out, but mathematics collectively is extremely important.

I think of mathematics as having a large component of psychology, because of its strong dependence on human minds. Dehumanized mathematics would be more like computer code, which is very different. Mathematical ideas, even simple ideas, are often hard to transplant from mind to mind. There are many ideas in mathematics that may be hard to get, but are easy once you get them. Because of this, mathematical understanding does not expand in a monotone direction. Our understanding frequently deteriorates as well. There are several obvious mechanisms of decay. The experts in a subject retire and die, or simply move on to other subjects and forget. Mathematics is commonly explained and recorded in symbolic and concrete forms that are easy to communicate, rather than in conceptual forms that are easy to understand once communicated. Translation in the direction conceptual -> concrete and symbolic is much easier than translation in the reverse direction, and symbolic forms often replaces the conceptual forms of understanding. And mathematical conventions and taken-for-granted knowledge change, so older texts may become hard to understand.

In short, mathematics only exists in a living community of mathematicians that spreads understanding and breaths life into ideas both old and new. The real satisfaction from mathematics is in learning from others and sharing with others. All of us have clear understanding of a few things and murky concepts of many more. There is no way to run out of ideas in need of clarification. The question of who is the first person to ever set foot on some square meter of land is really secondary. Revolutionary change does matter, but revolutions are few, and they are not self-sustaining —- they depend very heavily on the community of mathematicians.

austinkleon:

Great physicists and their blackboards.

Fantastic! For a while I was collecting these at The Art of Chalkboards, but now I just keep these tags:

via wnycradiolab > quantumpie > nabokovsnotebook