Just like when you were a kid and you were digging on the beach, imagine if there was a tunnel directly through Earth. If you jumped in, how long would it take to reach the other side?
Life Noggin has created this 3-minute animation showing all the mathematics and physics you need to answer this question that has probably bothered you since you were four.
To make it a bit easier, lets assume the same density all throughout, the world is perfectly spherical, and the hole has no air in it. Even then, theres that annoying little fundamental force known as gravity. When we start our fall, the mass of Earth pulls us towards its center, but what happens when we reach the center and go beyond it?
Approximately 525 years ago, an Italian polymath named Leonardo da Vinci completed a pen and ink drawing called “The Vitruvian Man.” The piece depicts a nude man in two superimposed positions, inscribed in a circle and a square. Inspired by the work of an architect named Vitruvius, Leonardo created the piece as a manifestation of the ideal human body, the principal archetype of proportionality.
Fast forward to 2016, when Leonardo’s iconic contribution to the fields of art, science, mathematics and the place where the three intersect will be honored in the most dream-like of ways. In the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock City, approximately 70,000 people will join together to burn the Man to the ground.
That’s right, this year’s Burning Man theme is Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop, paying homage to the artist and his crew who transformed 15th- and 16th-century Florence through ingenuity, creativity and crazy skill.
Over 300 artists have registered to bring their most surreal, hallucinatory and utopian Leondardo-inspired visions to life on the large-scale stage that is the playa. There are giant butterfly sculptures. There are floating LED dancing women. There are most certainly breathing robot alligator puppets.
We’ve rounded up 12 of the projects most likely to make Leonardo say, “Whoa, what?” Each artist or artist collective contributed a brief description of their project, along with a quote describing how the piece taps into the overall spirit of Burning Man. Take a look below.
by Anna-Gaelle Lucy Marshall and Dusty Visions (Portland, Oregon)
Project description: “’FLOCONS’ is a dynamic and evolving series of large-scale, ornament-like sculptures, imagined and built by a collective of artists to be displayed in a garden-like manner. [It] is a shared creative experience in participatory art that displays the beauty of human collaboration and communal effort. As participants approach the series, they will find a collection of large free-floating sculptures, each as unique as the artists who created them.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “We believe in the positive impact of community-driven participatory art projects and seek to support the creation of pieces that can involve a wide variety of individuals and groups from concept to completion. ‘FLOCONS’ was designed as a dynamic and evolving series; the metal hangers providing a blank canvas for endless creative expression in a unique format that is transportation-friendly, allowing for multiple displays year-round.”
Project description: “A vast, overhead canopy of LEDs displays celestial, playful, psychedelic, majestic images while classical music emotionally supports an enveloping, comforting, communal environment below.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “’Firmament’ captures an aspect of Burning Man that is increasingly hard to find. It is an oasis of calm in a sea of thumping art cars, a place of beauty rather than spectacle. Thousands of people lie under it every night, enjoying the flowing visuals and peaceful music as long as they like, before returning to the cacophony that is Burning Man at night.”
Project description: “’Mechan 9’ is a giant fallen robot that is half-buried in the ground. How he got there, and why he fell in the desert, and most importantly, who built him, can all be revealed if you decode the strange text that is on his body using a special decoder. (A decoder sticker found in a hatch on his head.) The clues will take you on a treasure hunt all over the city where you will learn the history of ‘Mechan 9’ along the way. The robot is over 30 feet long and can be climbed upon. In fact, you HAVE to climb on him to see the secret of his heart chamber!”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Burning Man is about discovery. Discovery of one’s self, discovery of new people, and discovery of amazing art. ‘Mechan 9’ captures that spirit by inviting people to decode a strange text and discover the mystery of the giant robot. Who knows what else you will discover on your adventure to unravel the secrets of ‘Mechan 9’!”
4. Electric Renaissance (A Tribute to Cadillac Ranch)
by Heliotropics (Santa Cruz, California, and Aachen, Germany)
Project description: “’Electric Renaissance’ celebrates the advent of the zero-emissions, all-electric vehicles of the future with a salute to Cadillac Ranch, Ant Farm’s iconic installation, the tombstone of the gas-guzzling, gross, polluting dinosaurs of the industrial past. [It was] conceived of by the ‘Electric Renaissance’ team of Jason Guy, Bodo Jülicher, Paulina Kuper, Keith Muscutt, Bob Oberg, Steve Ornellas, Sean Pace, Richard Peifer, Pawel Pietkun, Joslyn Schott, Jacob Stelzriede, Jakub Sztur and Andrzej Sztur.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “’Electric Renaissance’ envisions that the Cadillacs, after a harrowing and transformative journey through the bowels of the earth, are being resurrected as zero-emissions vehicles at the dry lake bed ‘playa’ at Burning Man. In keeping with the Leonardo da Vinci theme of the Burning Man Festival this year, ‘Electric Renaissance’ also celebrates human ingenuity in developing technological solutions to societal and environmental challenges. While the original concept of the installation was to use actual electric-vehicle bodies, buried trunk down in the playa, that proved both financially and technically very difficult to negotiate (due in part to the fragility of the playa). So, like most art at Burning Man, ‘Electric Renaissance’ will be made of flammable materials and destined to end in a blaze of glory (unless someone spares it that fate).”
by David Cole and Michael Brown (Oakland, California)
Project description: “The ‘Dust City Diner’ is a magical 1940s-style diner, complete with a quilted stainless steel backsplash, red leather stools, a gurgling coffee maker, the Ink Spots and the Andrews Sisters on the radio, and of course blue plate specials. Created for Burning Man 2008’s theme “The American Dream,” the ‘Dust City Diner’ serves hot coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches from dusk till dawn at an unannounced location in the deep playa. Our goal is to provide a special respite for those who want to sit, read the paper and enjoy the company of other weary travelers.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “We love the idea of a gift economy, and what would be more appreciated than a classic grilled cheese sandwich and a piping cup of strong coffee in the middle of the night? The idea began as we reflected upon the strange experience of being surrounded by people and activity at Burning Man, but still feeling somewhat isolated and not connecting with those around us. The project was to create an intimate oasis for an evolving cast of strangers who, for as long as they occupy a chair, are the ‘regulars’ who give character to all diners across the expanse of America. The special appeal of building something that one just stumbles upon and perhaps never finds again is one of the things that is most particular to Burning Man.”
by HYBYCOZO (Yelena Filipchuk & Serge Beaulieu) (San Francisco, California)
Project description: “A series of geometric sculptures based on Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings that play with your sense of perspective and warp your perception of the inner and outer dimensions of the self.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Our work seeks to capture the spirit of wonder, larger-than-life installation, and the curiosity of geometric, out-of-the-box thinking. Building and creativity are the lifeblood of the Burning Man community and we hope to make honest artwork that invites people to think about construction and design.”
Project description: “At first look ‘Horizon Lines’ appears to be a cluster or ‘forest’ of 25 wooden posts rising out of the playa. The top portion of the posts are painted black, with a golden line between the black and raw wood sections, and the sides of each post painted to a different level. When participants come to the properly marked location looking directly north, south, east or west at the sculpture, the painted portions visually align with the horizon or mountain range behind it. The golden stripe creates a gilded horizon line. The moment the paint on each post and the natural backdrop line up, you will see the optical illusion of the merging of the foreground and background to make one whole image.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Burning Man thrives on individual perspective and experiences. Each person chooses to be present and fully immersed in this bizarre and wonderful culture. The sculpture reflects this essential part of the burning man experience by interacting with the viewer. Making each person a necessary element of the sculpture and allowing them to experience the morphing of their surroundings based on their own movement. Radical self-reliance is one of the key principles of Burning Man and, as a part of that idea, the sculpture itself relies on each individual’s involvement and interaction.”
8. Dreams of Flight
by Michael Gard (San Francisco, California)
Project description: “My project is wire figures created in aluminum with internal LED lights. These will be flown around the playa at night under large black helium balloons.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “One of the finest of many spirits Burning Man represents to me is wonder. This project is pretty mysterious from even 50 feet. The night sky really hides the balloons, giving the impression of mysterious floating, dancing forms. Coming closer, people figure it out, but then dig the ingenuity. It’s fun to interact with people after being approached with that level of novelty.”
Project description: “MechaGator” is a 12-foot-tall fire-breathing robot alligator puppet controlled with levers and foot pedals that you operate by mounting her little pink pony saddle on her tail. She has disco balls, little pink wings and a unicorn horn. And she has a serious appetite for propane.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “’MechaGator’ captures the spirit of Burning Man in her flaming interactive whimsy. She brings joy to everyone who encounters her.”
by Kirsten Berg (Berkeley, California)
Project description: “Blue-mirror-steel butterflies hover 17 feet over the desert, wings lifted as if just alighted, yet ready for takeoff. Stepping beneath the delicately-perforated, arching wingspan, vivid blue light scatters, encircling us in a vaulted, luminous space of geometric patterns/reflections. ‘Imago’ holds a space, in structure and feeling, that is light and uplifting, like an intimate temple or futuristic shrine. [The] design was specifically inspired by the arching, peaked roof shapes of Buddhist temples and ‘spirit houses’ found in Thailand, where I live part of the year, and the blue iridescence of Morpho butterflies. With ‘Imago,’ I wanted to bring the static, geometric forms of the temples together with the organic living form of the butterfly, all to create a space to immerse and reflect in light.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “The elevated butterflies are easily resonant metaphors for the transformative experiences that compel so many migrations to Burning Man: immersion into a place of imagination, to be renewed, transformed. Butterfly metamorphosis mirrors our playa experiences: intense preparations, followed by the suspension of mundane life, to immerse into a dreamlike space that is safe yet undefined, full of potential. When the time of cocooning is over, we emerge, high on imagination. Just as the mature butterfly, known as an imago, returns to the wider world, ripe for creation and pollination.”
Project description: “This year the Iron Monkeys will pay homage to our craft by building a functional, participatory blacksmith shop on the playa. Encircling the shop will be a public gathering space, encouraging the community to observe, discuss and contribute to what is happening in the shop. Inspired by the theme, the Iron Monkeys decided that this is the year to share our craft at Burning Man. 2016 also marks the 10th anniversary of the Iron Monkeys, and in celebration, we want to encourage an important element of our philosophy: anyone can blacksmith. The theme for the event this year is a great opportunity to share our craft and give participants a chance to experience blacksmithing.”
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Our piece captures the spirit of Burning Man by imbuing participants with the belief that ‘I too can do.’ We believe anyone can blacksmith, and will spend all week teaching this old-world craft to those who enter the shop. This is interactive art at its dirty, sweaty core.”
By Pink Intruder (Miguel Arraiz and David Moreno; Valencia, Spain)
Project description: “’Renaixement (Renaissance); will be an art installation at Burning Man 2016 that brings, for the first time, the aesthetic of Las Fallas to Black Rock City. Funded in part by an Honorarium Grant from Burning Man, this “falla on the playa” will use a contemporary language in its external appearance but also express the essence of Valencian culture and the Fallas tradition. With this year’s Burning Man theme and [Leonardo’s] connection with the Borgia family and Valencia’s Silk Exchange Market building, a contemporary architectonic cardboard pavilion will be built on the playa. A cardboard tube structure of over 50,000 pieces, the mosaic ground floor mixed with traditional Fallas Festival cardboard sculptures [will show] the traditional way of working in our city, Valencia, Spain.
Why it captures the spirit of Burning Man: “Through all the year, thousands of people work to make possible the Fallas festival. At this point, the project meets the spirit of the Burning Man: the community. The base of the ‘Renaissance’ pavilion the ground floor, with thousands of mosaic pieces has been assembled by kids and social [organizations in Spain].”
Youll probably remember from your math lessons at school that you cant divide a number by zero, even if you didnt understand why exactly. If you try to divide a number by zero on a electronicpocket calculator, itll pop upwith a message saying Error. If you try this on a mechanical calculator, it looks like youve ripped an irreversible hole in the fabric ofspace-time.
This video by MultiGlizda shows the chaos that unfolds when you try to divide by zero on a Facit ESA-01 mechanical calculator with its casing off. Not only does it give an interesting insight into how these old calculators work, it also reveals the slippery nature of the number zero and its division.
As YouTube channel Numberphile explains, division is based on subtraction. If you want to divide a number by a second number, you simply subtract the second number from the first over and over again. For example, 20 divided by 5 would be: 20 – 5 = 15, 15 – 5 = 10, 10 – 5 = 5, 5 – 5 = 0. Since that took 4 subtractions, the answer is 4.
However, divide 20 by 0 and youll end up subtracting 0 from 20 an infinite amount of times. While that doesnt mean that 0 equals infinity, it appears that the mechanical calculator is attempting to complete the infinite number of operations it believes it needs to complete the division. You can check out this Numberphile video if you want to know more about dividing by zero and why it doesnt equal infinity.
Meanwhile, some say the Facit ESA-01 is still flicking through numbers to this day.
Ordering a pizza comes with the potential to cause family rifts and trauma to friendships. But while this trick might not resolve the choice of topping, it maysettle the debate on which size you should get.
As the video by AsapSCIENCE explains, it has all to do with the area of the circle and the pizza’s pricing. Your gut feeling might initially tell you that an 8-inch pizza contains half the amount of cheesy goodness than a 16-inch pizza. However, apply the old r2 equation to that pizza size and youll find youre woefully wrong. With this new knowledge, youll then be able to work out which pizza size is the best bang for your buck.
For example, the GamerGate controversy, which began in 2014 and involved a harassment campaign against prominent female gamers, journalists and designers, reflected a longstanding undercurrent of misogyny and sexism in the community. In some cases, those who challenged the sexism found themselves threatened with rape or death.
Theres also the long-held stereotype that men are simply better gamers than women. Women gamers are often perceived as incompetent players who arent genuinely interested in the games but rather sign up to get attention. If a female gamer does play well, shes often derided as a hacker someone who cheats to gain an advantage because there is no way a girl can be that good.
In a recent study, we set out to examine whether men really make better gamers than women and, if so, what drove the gender performance gap. Specifically, we wanted to compare how quickly men and women leveled up in Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, which are online worlds where thousands of players develop characters, make friends, join groups, complete quests and slay dragons together.
If men are actually better gamers than women, they should advance to higher levels within the same amount of play time. But if they dont progress any faster, this finding would help refute one of the most pervasive stereotypes that continue to exist in the gaming community.
Getting to the next level
Our research used anonymous server data from over 10,000 men and women in two MMOs, EverQuest II in the United States and Chevaliers’ Romance III in China. We knew each players actual gender through their account registration information.
When players finish quests and kill monsters in MMOs, they earn experience points. When experience points reach a threshold, the player ascends to the next level, which unlocks new abilities, skills and access to new content. As in most video games, levels indicate a players progress.
Naturally, players spending a lot of time in the game are likely to reach high levels. That is why the speed of leveling up, rather than the level itself, measures performance in our study.
Before getting to our findings, we want to point out a couple of things we took into consideration. First, players who had reached the top level in the games were excluded in our analyses. Because top-level players couldnt advance any further, their rate of leveling up was essentially zero. We removed these players to avoid confounding our analyses, but this also meant that we were not able to measure gender differences between the most advanced players.
Second, our analysis recognized that the rate of leveling up slows down as players progress. For example, it would take a lot more time and effort for a level 60 player to level up than a level 30 player. Therefore, our analysis compared apples to apples by evaluating players’ performance only against others who were at the same level.
Contrary to the stereotype, we found that player gender itself does not cause performance differences. Instead, the perception of women as poor gamers is fueled by other factors. For example, we found that women spent less time playing overall than men and chose more assistive character classes, such as Priests, who fare better healing group members than fighting on their own. When we took such factors into account by statistically controlling them in the analyses, the gender performance gap disappeared; women advanced at least as fast as men did in both games.
We also realized that different players are interested in different aspects of MMOs, and a few of those differences may correlate with gender. Theres some empirical evidence that men tend to focus more on achievement in video games leveling up rapidly, gaining in-game status and competing against others while women are drawn to social interactions, whether its helping other players or forming long-term relationships.
This suggests that men should advance faster than women. However, we found the opposite: Women advanced at least as fast as men did. So taking into account different play motivations (which we were unable to do in this studys analysis) likely only strengthens our conclusions.
Beyond video games
The stereotype that women are inferior gamers is not only false, but could also make women more easily discouraged and less likely to play in the first place. Of course, this gender performance stereotype exists in a number of other contexts. In the software development community GitHub, for example, women are perceived as worse coders than men.
One approach to dealing with this issue is to promote stereotype-free gaming experiences for women and girls through female-supportive gaming communities, such as the PMS Clan, one of the oldest and most renowned female-oriented gaming communities in the world. Scholars such as Gabriela Richard at Pennsylvania State University have found that members of these communities are more confident and perceive themselves as better gamers.
Game designers can also help. They have the ability to construct the games to make them less hostile and more welcoming to female players. For example, Riot Games established the Tribunal, a system that allows the player community to review reported bad behaviors from fellow players, and then vote on whether to punish the offender. Banned players also get a reform card with the details of the offense, as well as judgments from the Tribunal. So far, the Tribunal has significantly reduced online harassment.
While programs like Tribunal are a starting point in the larger battle to end gender stereotypes, our findings will hopefully allow female gamers to realize that, when it comes to inherent skill, theyre on a level playing field.
Zero is a strange beast. It took until the 7th century for itto be explicitly recognized as a number in its own right, when the ancient Indians developed a numericalsystem that expressed zero with its own symbol. Since the development of thisnumber system, which we still use today, zero has been instrumental inour exploration of mathematics.
The human use of numbers sprang from the practical need to count things, but at thetime zero was only used to denote an absence of value. In this light, could it even be considered a number? As human thought progressed, however, and mathematics became more of an abstract process to unravel reality, zero started to prove itself as a very useful tool.
This animated video from The Royal Institution, narrated by mathematician Hannah Fry, tells the story of this winding history, from its role inancient civilizations to our current world of computer technology, and explains how zero became a mathematical hero.
Canadian Prime Minister and part-time viral video star, Justin Trudeau surprised a room full of scientists and journalists at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics by nailing a shortexplanation of quantum computing.
At a press conference at the renowned theoretical physics institution on Friday, a reporter jokingly said, I was going to ask you to explain quantum computers, but and went on to ask about Canadas foreign policy on the so-called Islamic State.
Not thrown off by the ever-so-slightly sarcastic remark, Trudeau rose to the occasion and went on to give a simple yet clear explanation of quantum computing, to which the room erupted withapplause.
Trudeau concluded his mini-lecture by saying,Dont get me going on this or well be here all day. Trust me.
No doubt Trudeau has an ensemble of PR-types ready to help him prepare for such questions, especially if youre going to an institution known for its work on quantum mechanics and computing (although having both beena math teacher and studied engineering before becoming PM probably helped). But many have praised the clarity, confidence, and genuine interest shown in answering the question. And hey, as off-the-cuff explanations go, its a pretty good one.
So, if the idea of quantum computers still gives you a headache, here you go: