Objets de Birthday.

I meant to post this sooner — my birthday was a month ago — but I just got busy. Anyway, these two wonderful objects came in the mail right on my birthday…

The first was a gift from Jim Blandy:

Lichtenberg Figure

It’s a Lichtenberg Figure, that is to say, lightning captured in a solid medium. Whoa. They use a linear accelerator to bombard a block of acrylic (Polymethyl Methacrylate, which I can only assume is as cool as it sounds) with a beam of electrons. Eventually the negative charge builds up to a high enough level that the trapped charge surges out along branched pathways, I guess because the first bits of the surge create pathways that the next bits are more likely to follow, leading to the same kind of pattern — and for the same reason — as diffusion-limited aggregation. It is even more beautiful in real-life than it is in the photograph. Read more about it here here.

The other arrival was a gift from the choir I used to sing in in Chicago (and still miss every day): Golosá, the Russian Choir of the University of Chicago. Their second CD, Until Bright Day is out, and it’s absolutely beautiful — I can’t stop listening to it:

Golosa: Until Bright Day

Listen to some tracks — you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll probably want to order the CD afterwards. If you live in Chicago, consider joining their mailing list (it’s low-traffic) to learn about upcoming concerts. They released the CD under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, by the way — so please spread that music around, especially if you live near Chicago.

Thank you, Tammy, for sending the CD! Thank you, Jim, for sending the lightning! (Now there’s a sentence you don’t see every day.)

3 Responses to “Objets de Birthday.”

  1. John Bachir Says:

    A very appropriate gift from Jim — that form has a trunk, forks (no branches… they never rejoin), and maybe even little parts that could be considered tags.

  2. Karl Fogel Says:

    Hah! Nice :-).

    Although… do they never rejoin? I think that might just be coincidence. Sort of like the “guarantee” that no two people ever have the same fingerprints: sometimes they do, it’s just rare. The branches in the tree pattern could rejoin, it would just be a coincidence if they did. (I haven’t inspected carefully to see.)

  3. John Bachir Says:

    Well, clearly there is no identifiable trunk into which some/most/any of the branches merge back into, so in that sense the SCM metaphor isn’t there 🙂

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