7 Quick Takes (10/4/13)

— 1 —

This week’s link theme is art, so I’d like to start by highlighting a fundraising drive being run by the branch of the Dominicans I knew in DC.  They’re publishing a hymnal of the Gregorian chant they use when they pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  You can order one yourself or sponsor one (or more) for a friar.

I’ve ordered one for myself, so now I’ll need to bother the brothers next time I visit to explain to me how to read Gregorian chant notation.  Below, you can hear one of the pieces that will be in the hymnal:

YouTube Preview Image

— 2 —

The next is also a form of art that involves the audience.  It’s… well… Lucha Libro:

It’s a twist on Lucha Libre, Mexico’s version of pro wrestling, where competitors put on masks and pseudonyms to duke it out in a ring.

Peru’s Lucha Libro is kind of like that, without the violence. It’s literary “wrestling.” New writers don masks, and head onto a stage where they’re given three random words, a laptop hooked up to a gigantic screen, and five minutes to write a short story.

At the end of a match, the losing writer has to take off his or her mask. The winner goes on to the next round, a week later. And the grand prize? It’s a book contract…

Found via TYWKIWDBI.

— 3 —

I’ve also been enjoying the ongoing biography of Ayn Rand presented as a graphic novel online.  It is better than the biopic with Helen Mirren.

— 4 —

The Atlantic had an interesting feature interview with two MIT researchers about the way science fiction interacts (or should interact) with just plain science.  One of them said:

Fiction, specifically science fiction, is a way to see, as Cervantes would say, “life as it ought to be,” not just life as it is. Storytelling is how the human brain understands reality, by comparing the input it is currently sensing and comparing it to stories it’s experienced or heard before.

Fiction allows you to live more lives in the space-time of one lifetime than you would normally be able to.”
On the deepest levels, your consciousness doesn’t make a distinction between experiences you’ve had and the experiences of characters in stories you’ve heard. This is why fiction is so powerful and why human beings seem to need to tell, collect, and understand stories. Fiction allows you to live more lives in the space-time of one lifetime than you would normally be able to. It allows you to benefit from the outcome of simulations without being exposed to the dangers or time constraints that you would be forced to undergo if you had to live every experience that informs your reality by yourself. In a post-industrial society of tool using primates, like ours, technology is one of the defining factors, and so science fiction, with its tendency to emphasize technology, is a way of running exponentially iterative design processes to conceive and create new technologies.

And, as the Ayn Rand biography makes clear, it also helps you go surveying across political and cultural ideaspace, not just technological.  And there there be dragons.

— 5 —

Forrest Fenn has also used creative writing to spark exploration.  A latter day Captain Flint, he has allegedly hid over $3 million in the American Southwest, and has published a cryptic poem, and then a book, to guide future treasure hunters.

I liked best the way that the treasure hunters studied Flynn, as much as his poem, to try to divine his reasoning:

Dal Neitzel is just one of hundreds of people who have contacted Fenn to let him know they’ve been searching for his haul. Before he set out, after poring through historical books and scouring maps, Neitzel, a 65-year-old former TV cameraman, convinced himself the treasure was in the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico, close to the border with Colorado. Remarkably, he’d managed to locate a large house on the edge of a steep drop that overlooked a gushing river. Outside that house was a sign that read: ‘Brown’. He read Fenn’s poem aloud again: “Put in below the home of Brown.” That had to be it.

But after days spent scouring the river bed and banks, he knew it wasn’t. “Today I’d walk right past that spot because one of the things we know is that when Forrest hid the treasure he intended for it to potentially stay hidden for 1,000 years,” he says. “If nobody finds it right away it’s OK with him. And so he couldn’t possibly be referring to a living person by the name of Brown because they – and their house – won’t be there in a thousand years.
“It must refer to something historical,” Neitzel says. “Something written in history. Something geological, perhaps. Something that someone could continue to find forever.”

— 6 —

As I near the end of the quick takes, the links between links get a little more tenuous, but this next is also about communication that requires someone else to complete your work.  From the annals of Improbable Research, Jeff Van Bueren and confederates set out to see what the limits were on what the Post Office would mail.  For example:

Wrapped brick. Wrapped in brown paper; posted in street corner box with same amount of postage as was strapped to unwrapped brick. Extreme weight for size made package seem suspicious. Notice of attempted delivery received, 16 days. Upon pickup at station, our mailing specialist received a plastic bag containing broken and pulverized remnants of brick. Inside was a small piece of paper with a number code on it. Our research indicates that this was some type of US Drug Enforcement Agency release slip. The clerk made our mailing specialist sign a form for receipt.

But what I liked best were the notes from the conclusion of the research:

Finally, our investigation team felt remorse for some of its experimental efforts, most particularly the category “Disgusting,” after the good faith of the USPS in its delivery efforts. We sought out as many of the USPS employees who had (involuntarily) been involved in the experiment as we could identify, and gave them each a small box of chocolate.

— 7 —

And finally, since I promised you art (and therefore you might reasonable be expecting beauty), let me leave you with a lovely visualization of Simpson’s paradox.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7QT: Terrifying Fish, Lightning-Quick Archers (and some cussin’)
7QT: Faces back from the dead, Anxieties outside your head
7QT: Math Puns, Set Tricks, and Artificial Worlds
7QT: Stoicism Man, Semi-Imaginary Money, and Second Moons
About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Tom

    So all the matches are Luchas de Apuestas…such high stakes.

  • pesomerville

    You sold me on the Hymnarium (not that I needed much convincing).

    Gregorian chant notation is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re familiar with modern notation, the one-minute hymn on YouTube should be sufficient to get you up to speed. I learned Gregorian notation from attending the 10 am Novus Ordo Mass at St. Matthew’s and following along in the green booklets.

    • Guest

      The Dominicans sound wonderful!
      Here is an excellent resource for learning gregorian chant. http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/_product/solesmes-method-gajard-book.html
      From what I understand the newer notation for gregorian chant omits what

    • emd04

      I agree…one you know the basics, you’re good. Does your parish use any sort of chant? I picked it up mighty fast when our parish put the cards in the pews and we started using it. My one iffy thing is how to “sight read” it when I’m alone, because I want to use the Hymnarium for it’s LOH applications as well. I mean, I can tell what “key” it’s in, but what does that translate to, note wise…

  • grok87

    #7- I loved the Simpson’s paradox link- in it another link discusses the more general phenomenon of confounding. Confounding is where the true relationship (or lack therof) between two variables is distorted by a third variable. Here is another example-see slides 36-39 http://www.teachepi.org/documents/courses/fundamentals/Pai_Lecture8_Confounding_Part2.pdf

    Spurious protective effective of Vitamin E for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

    1) An association between Vitamin E usage and lower odds of CHD was observed in a sample of data. The odds of CHD were 41% lower for Vitamin E takers (OR = 0.59)
    2) But the effect is actually spurious. If the patients are stratified by smoking/non-smoking the odds-ratios for the 2 groups are not statistically significantly different than 1. Said another way for the group “smokers” vitamin E did not have a protective effect, nor did it have a protective effect for the “non-smoker” group.

    3) So why does the spurious association in 1) occur? Because smokers are more likely to have CHD and also smokers are less likely to take vitamin E (less health conscious, less likely to be vitamin takers, etc.)

  • Christian LeBlanc

    Fiction, specifically science fiction, is also a way to see, as I
    would say, “life as it ought never be,” not just life as it is.

  • guest

    I feel sorry for Ayd Rynd.

  • emd04

    Yeah the Hymnarium! Can’t wait to get mine.

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