[Edu-sig] my Pycon nametag (ISEPP) -- isepp.org

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Tue Mar 3 21:12:46 CET 2009

FYI, here's something fun I posted to my local think tank.  Terry is
our president and I'm representing his ISEPP (Institute for Science,
Engineering and Public Policy) at Pycon this time (2009, Chicago).
Time to make that airplane reservation.

Re this myth that "kids hate syntax" and need training wheels on
training wheels to insulate them from "the evil lexical" (aka left
brain), that's not my experience with older kids.  They love eye
candy, sure (who doesn't), but having consistent syntax to play with
is really a big part of the fun, drag and drop GUI programming, like
with Mindstorms, considered very unconstructive at this age level.  I
think part of the problem is Piaget dropped out early, in terms of
tracking what growing minds need, had no clue about the age ranges I
work with.  This is just fine, as we wean them from the XO pretty
early (keyboard quite tiny, Fischer-Price look only cute for so long),
move to something more suitable.  But that experience with Pippy was
no waste of time (never mind about Squeak, we have E-toys galore in
the education arcade, new physics engines coming out of Japan and
places **).

That being said, I'm all for Sims 2 (3,4..) and TurtleArt, anything
avatar (2nd Life...), consider Valve's HalfLife2 probably one of the
greatest artworks of all time (judging aesthetically) though yes, it's
dark, gothic, kinda Lovecraft meets Laffoley meets... Les (CIO).  I
even think Alice is pretty cool (Arthur had lots of problems with
Alice, I think because he wanted to champion left brain sports in
older teens, right brain should be in the real out doors, using your
*real* avatar, i.e. your own body -- and I'm extremely sympathetic to
this, need to get to the gym myself, right after posting this, and
making my plane reservation).

Anyway, check math-thinking-l if you want to see more on this CTL
business.  I've got both threads going:  both the FOSS and the "new
kind of geometry" (pun on Wolfram's title) per the "Minister of FOSS"
post below (yes it's dense and slow going, I admit it -- maybe shelve
it for later then).  Actually, I just thought of a couple more things
to do before gym...  like finding my iPod (for listening to Britney, a
gnu math teacher for older kids, per my Kraftwerk post...).

>From FOSS capital,


PS:  Dr. Chuck coming from Boston or somewhere, not for tutorials, so
I'll plan to meet up with him later (he's the Google App Engine guy at
U Mich, did tech review with him for O'Reilly, per recent archivals).
Feel free to jump in on math-thinking-l if you want to do CTL more.  I
feel I've said the same thing enough times on edu-sig that I should
mostly post elsewhere, where readers are still unfamiliar with "Coyote
Academy" (charter) and/or TECC in Matsu District (AK).

** from my most recent to math-thinking-l, re FOSS in Japan (atop a
proprietary physics engine, of interest to constructivists):


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: kirby urner <kirby.urner at gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 10:41 AM
Subject: ISEPP nametag (biz cards not needed)
To: Wanderers <wwwanderers at yahoogroups.com>

So Terry, don't think I need biz cards as geek culture is "go Google"
and there's only one "Kirby Urner" so all 10K+ hits are mine -- easy
to get info.  But I do have ISEPP printed on the nametag and plan to
talk incessantly (if queried) about how PDX is lightyears ahead of any
other USA city, except maybe Matsu District AK, when it comes to FOSS
in education, promoting the XO, making dreams come true for those
wishing good lifestyles in our Silicon Forest (which extends from
Arcata through Bellingham when I'm feeling expansive).

For those who couldn't make the Livio meeting at Pauling House, maybe
didn't see the write-up on Coffee Shops Network, I had the privilege
of running some Akbar font slides, telling some stories, going through
SQL, RSA very quickly (in more detail per ISEPP archive), stopping at
4D vs. 4D vs. 4D, a slide about geometry and where Fuller (as in
Bucky) fits into the grand scheme of things.

The deal here is our minimum spacefiller, or MITE, depicted on pg. 71
of Coxeter's 'Regular Polytopes' Fig 4.7a, is considered to have
volume 1/8 per prefrequency concentric hierarchy, a design science
gizmo or sculpture they get in Japan (Yasushi Kajikawa et al), won't
teach in the Lower 48 (for no reason, just inertia and laziness,
people slobs in this area).  Amy Edmondson (Harvard) wrote the
obligatory 'secondary literature' under tutelage of Dr. Loeb (MIT,
crystallographer, friend of M.C. Escher and son), got it published
through Birkhauser, 1987, respected academic press, so that should've
been it, as far as leaping over hurdles ('Synergetics' in two volumes
already out by this time, Scribner/Macmillan, 1975, 1979).  Now it was
the turn of the professoriate, to pick up the ball, which mostly
didn't happen, given the Ivory Tower is controlled by uber-cowards of
no self respect.  Enter the private sector at this point, aka Silicon
Forest, Valley and others, with better eye candy, ray tracers, FOSS...
we pick up the ball and run with it, Fuller's so-called design science
revolution, much anticipated.  We leave most universities in the dust,
but we don't care, as this is Global U City, with city-as-campus (per
Google Streets), not feeling like knocking on doors when we're already
so entrenched.

So the deal with Livio, for me, was to link this MITE thread to his
phi-base of knowledge, to Koski's stuff on PolyList, which I didn't
have time to explain, to Karl Menger's famous article (Eve's dad),
which Livio said he'd studied, so on the same wave-length.  Karl's
"geometry of lumps" suggests we do "non-Euclidean" in a different way
than just fiddling with 5th postulate (been there done that):  let's
define all primitives to be "lumps" (as "of clay") and not talk so
obsessively about how they differ in "dimension" and blah blah.  Yes,
this undermines the whole "fractional dimensions" superstructure,
build on the XYZ way of thinking (a lot of French philosophy about rez
extensa), but doesn't invalidate any of the algorithms or resulting
T-shirts, which really are to-die-for, i.e. Mandelbrot lives on as a
"focal point" in our curriculum, along with Pascal's Triangle (or
Chinese equivalent), concentric hierarchy (like in Korea), and "NCLB
Polynomial" (probably unknown to most here, given this is Lower 48, an
idiocracy, albiet Portland is light years ahead...).

So if we're *not* distinguishing points, lines and planes as to their
"dimension" in this geometry (self consistent, non-Euclidean), then
what do we call them for backward compatibility?  We come up with 4D
(as in 4D Solutions), meaning every "lump" is an "arrow-head" or
"tetrahedron", this shape being the topologically most primitive cage,
or "that with an inside and outside (convex/concave)" per Euler and
other topologists.  The greek "tetra" means "four" and we enshrine
this minimalhood with our "4D" moniker.  In contrast, the literature
already has two entrenched uses of '4D' inheriting from early 1900s,
where we experienced an initial shakeout (Claude Bragdon, P.D.
Ouspensky also players, but not much cited these days except in art
books like Linda D. Henderson's).  These two 4Ds maybe be anchored to
Einstein and Coxeter respectively although this is just shorthand.  In
Einstein type writings, the "fourth dimension" is more "imaginary" (as
in "imaginary time") whereas in Coxeter type writings there's nothing
time-like about any of the dimensions, they're all spatial, and you
can have as many as you like (J.H. Conway really into the "n-D sphere
packing matrix" or "lattice" maybe he calls it).

In Python, other FOSS languages, we have this concept of "namespace"
with prefix "dot notation", so when teaching other geeks about all of
the above, I go einstein.4d, coxeter.4d, fuller.4d and they get it.

Anyway, Livio completely understood everything I was saying and had
lots of good comments, which I've taken to heart, will use to modify a
couple of my Chicago slides.  I'm supposed to deliver a preview at
Wanderers on March 17 for those interested.  In the mean time, I
should be making that airplane reservation.  Math teachers in Chicago
will be fascinated to hear all this Saturday Academy stuff, direct
from the horses mouth as it were.  We beat the pants off other cities,
especially in the Lower 48 (not so sure about Cape Town).

Kirby Urner
Minister of FOSS

PS:  only room for ISEPP on nametag, plus in Python Nation I'm more
properly known as Minister of Education, Google's Guido our BDFL
(benevolent dictator for life).  Per postings to other lists, we get
together and make jokes about "math teachers" who don't know about
MITEs.  Just kidding (as Naomi might say, an old 2D friend from
Princeton (2D was the house I lived in, same as John Baez but at a
different time)).

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