papercraft polyhedra

Geodesic Origami

Isocehedral Degree 5 Type I Geodesic Origami - On DisplayHere’s a geodesic sphere made from paper – the largest origami construction I’ve made so far. It’s made using a dirt-simple folding technique called ‘snapology‘, based on strips of paper rather than squares. To be precise, these images are of an isocehedral degree 5 type I geodesic. The first challenge in putting one of these together is getting the lengths of all the edges (the chord factors) correct. I used the GPL’d DOME package to calculate lengths, and then used a few Python scripts to generate printable SVG cut-and-fold designs for the strips. The second challenge is the insane amount of cutting and folding.

Isocehedral Degree 5 Type I Geodesic Origami - In HandUnfortunately, the Applied Synergetics site (home of the DOME software) appears to have gone offline and is now being occupied by a squatter. Various repositories keep the package alive, as a bit of digging with Google will reveal. C. J. Fearnley has more about geodesic spheres in his excellent Buckminster Fuller FAQ.

Higher-quality images will follow at a later date; these were taken using a camera phone of inferior resolution.

conspiracy freemasonry illuminati

Illuminati Montage Videos

I admit to being a sucker for paranoid-obsessive Illuminati theorists. So many modern conspiracies (such as Chemtrails) seem to be wandering around sadly, looking for something to fret over. (Poorly-targeted bio-warefare tests? Global warming reversal? Drought inducement?) A good conspiracy shouldn’t have to work so hard to frighten – it needs to burrow right into the hindbrain and say, but couldn’t it be so?

Illuminati-NWO VideoThe Nightfall Project mobilizes the classic tropes of Freemasonic and possibly-Illuminated symbols into proofs of a conspiracy digested for a modern, neglectful society: to wit, as Internet videos set to thumping electronic beats. Illuminati-NWO is one of their more successful efforts, demonstrating the eye for parallels necessary for any competent conspiracy theorist.

Illuminati Secret Society VideoOn the other hand, The Illuminati Secret Society strays from the earnest “proof by musical PowerPoint” style into some quite unfortunately amateur theatrics. See more at the Nightfall Project’s MySpace page.


Red Magic, Molestation, and Bishop Wanjiru

I had to read this article from the Standard (Nairobi, Kenya) twice to get the full effect: “Chaos in Church as Bishop’s Guards Attack Journalist“. It seems that Margaret Wanjiru, formerly of the Redeemed Gospel Church and presently Bishop of Jesus Is Alive Ministries International, is embroiled in a rather peculiar sex scandal.

Other than a sudden unexplained power blackout at her church — during which she sneaked out of it — her minders molested a photojournalist sparking off mayhem at a press conference she had called to apologise to Kenyans.

The bishop — who is caught in the horns of a love triangle and at the swirling centre of a debate about her dark past practicing witchcraft — is said to have watched the entire attack on Standard photojournalist Ms Rebecca Nduku without twitching a muscle. One of her bodyguards is in custody at Kamukunji Police Station while the other two are said to have melted into thin air. Four journalists recorded statements at the same station.

The tales of witchcraft from her past (which she herself recounts) are quite attention-catching:

She brags how she once bewitched a woman who had attempted to mess up her business: “One woman tried to play poker with my business enterprise, the same woman who had introduced me to Black Magic. I bewitched her and she went bonkers.”

In a lengthy interview, Wanjiru said the woman started roaming the streets in rags, and picking up dirt while eating food remains from dustbins.


She said the woman had attempted to use Black Magic on her unaware she had graduated into White and Red witchcraft.

Lovely stuff! While searching for a bit more information about Red Magic, I happened across this gem of an article from the September 1, 1952 edition of Time Magazine. It begins:

Black & Red Magic

In the British Crown Colony of Kenya, while 3,000 coal-black tribesmen, huddled in a kraal, watched in awe, a goat was slowly beaten to death and buried alongside a virgin ewe. After that ancient rite, supposedly strong magic against evil, an official representative of the Great White Queen Across the Waters pronounced a solemn curse against the Mau-Mau. The Mau-Mau (rhymes with yoyo) is a native secret society which has lately been worrying the British.

Ah, reportage.


Go to sleep instantly

It’s been a few years, so I dug a couple of Travis McGee novels out of my stash to read over the holidays. This time through the The Dreadful Lemon Sky, the following passage caught my attention:

I lay wakeful in the big bed, resentful of Meyer nearby in the guest stateroom, placidly asleep. When he had been involved in a government study in India, he had learned how to take his mind out of gear and go immediately to sleep. I had known how, without thinking about it, when I had been in the army, but in time I had lost the knack.

Meyer had explained very carefully how he did it. “You imagine a black circle about two inches behind your eyes, and big enough to fill your skull from ear to ear; from crown to jaw hinges. You know that each intrusion of thought is going to make a pattern on that perfect blackness. So you merely concentrate on keeping the blackness perfect, unmarked, and mathematically round. As you do that, you breathe slowly and steadily, and with each exhalation, you feel yourself sinking a tiny bit further into the mattress. And in moments you are asleep.

He was, but I wasn’t.

When I was in college, I became quite interested in the Golden Dawn and suchlike. Every night, as I lay in bed, I would mentally go through the motions of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

After a while, I realized that the ritual was indeed having an effect…I had conditioned myself to link that pattern of mental peregrinations with falling asleep. For years I would fall asleep almost immediately after starting the ritual, but as the habit fell away, so did my ability to sink instantly into slumber.

This CNN article glosses an Oxford sleep study from 2002, suggesting that actively suppressing anxiety-provoking thoughts as they arise may be counter-productive, and that counting sheep is largely ineffective. (it would appear to be this study; as of this writing, a version of a later study by the same author can be dredged out of Google’s cache.) Generalizing from a single study can be quite dangerous; generalizing from a media gloss on a single study is worse. Still, I found this interesting:

One group imagined a relaxing, tranquil scene like a waterfall or a beach. The second tried counting sheep while a third were left to their own devices.

Those who conjured up the relaxing scene fell asleep more than 20 minutes earlier than if they did nothing. Those who counted sheep and the controls took slightly longer than normal to drop off.

“Picturing an engaging scene takes up more brain space than the same dirty old sheep,” Allison Harvey, who conducted the study with Suzanna Payne, told New Scientist magazine in which details of the research were published on Thursday. “Plus it’s easier to stay with it because it’s more interesting.”

Both Meyer’s black circle and the ritual visualization fit into this pattern of occupying “brain space”. In my opinion, it’s hardly surprising that simply counting sheep didn’t work for the study participants. I’d be quite curious to see the effects, though, if they counted sheep as they went to sleep every night for three months.

It’s not exactly a controlled scientific study, but I plan to experiment with the black circle over the next few weeks, and I’ll post my results to this forum.

mathematics papercraft polyhedra


I’ve been rereading R. Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetics thanks to a Christmas gift. Thus primed, I was amused to come across two tetrahedron-related posts on BoingBoing:

Bucky was, of course, fascinated by tetrahedra:

113.00 When we take two triangles and add one to the other to make the tetrahedron, we find that one plus one equals four. This is not just a geometrical trick; it is really the same principle that chemistry is using inasmuch as the tetrahedra represent the way that atoms cohere. Thus we discover synergy to be operative in a very important way in chemistry and in all the composition of the Universe. Universe as a whole is behaving in a way that is completely unpredicted by the behavior of any of its parts. Synergy reveals a grand strategy of dealing with the whole instead of the tactics of our conventional educational system, which starts with parts and elements, adding them together locally without really understanding the whole.

(From the online text of Synergetics.)

For more tetrahedral goodness, check out these instructions for making a model of five interlocking tetrahedra from Thomas Hull. I’ve made several of these, and they’re great fun (on the most recent, the tolerances were a bit off, so it ended up being four interlocking tetrahedra). Here’s a nice image of a completed model.

If you’re not up to modular origami, you can also try this printable PDF papercraft version of five tetrahedra as a compound solid.

mad science medicine

Head Transplants

Here’s a lovely tale of cold war mad science, (briefly) two-headed dogs and monkeys, and a well-honed lack of medical ethics.

During his trip, White learned of new Soviet experiments, in which a severed dog’s head had been kept ‘alive’, not by stitching it onto another dog’s body, but using special life-support machinery. Most remarkable of all, the isolated head had continued to show signs of consciousness – its eyes blinking in response to light, and ears pricking at the tap of a hammer on the cases it was in.

It’s always nice to realize that one’s science fiction has historical grounding.


language zenoli

On the other hand….

According to Wikipedia, zenoli is also the Friulian word for ‘knee’. The same article informs us that Friulian (also called ‘Eastern Ladin’) is spoken by at least 600,000 people–about twice the number that speak Icelandic. When I first discovered that the language existed, I had to blink several times and realize that I’ve never spent that much time digging into linguistics beyond the big categories. Even so, I’d never noticed that there’s a Friulian version of Firefox.

Last night I was browsing through the language shelf at the bookstore, and was struck by the number of lesser-known languages represented, including many Indian and African dialects. It reminded me how easy it is to fall into mental ruts; after a certain point, our models of the world tend to ossify, and areas of lesser familiarity (such as, in my case, non-big-name-brand languages), tend to be chucked into very general mental buckets. (“Let’s see, they speak Hindi in India, right?”) lists hundreds of living Indian languages, some with millions of speakers, others with as few as 150…enough diversity to satiate lifetimes of linguistic scholarship.

I’m always happy to be reminded of the complexity of the world, but for the sake of any speakers of Friulian it’s worth noting that this site has very little to do with knees.

science fiction zenoli

Why 'zenoli'?

Because zenoli warriors kick Mentat butt.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels are standard fodder for top-10 lists of SF. Old Isaac posits a science of psychohistory that allows the prediction of the behavior of humans en masse over the course of millenia. Set against the sweeping fall of a galactic empire and the prospect of tens of thousands of years of chaotic, violent interregnum, one man sees a possible course that can shorten the time until the rise of a new empire. It’s a grand conception, marred a bit by mathematical handwaving and wooden characterization. It always felt a bit hollow to me, and psychohistory never really meshed into my ideational umwelt.

Until I found Psychohistorical Crisis, by Donald Kingsbury. Crisis is an unauthorized riff off of Asimov’s themes, played firmly in Kingsbury’s own key. Mathematics, which for the original novels was typecast into the role of an axiomatic MacGuffin, is elevated to a center stage. The nature of psychohistory itself is key to the plot, and while the math may still be window dressing, it is at least extremely well-considered and thought-provoking window-dressing. I was able to believe that psychohistory was true, or at least suspension-of-disbelief-possible.

Crisis‘s other main departure from Foundation‘s universe is the fam. From ‘familiar’, the fams in Crisis are symbiotic computers, given to their an owner of age three or so. They act as an extended brain, growing and learning with their owner, augmenting cognition and mnemonic ability. At some point in Galactic history, zenoli was developed, a martial art that exploits the capabilities of the brain-fam link. “At the moment of combat, the zenoli soldier is poised, inertialess, ready to act in any direction–like a marble at the top of a smooth, multidimensional hill.”

At we will consider our meat-brains, our silicon symbiotes, and our own small corner of the galaxy.


Horseman, pass by – Robert Anton Wilson, Requiem in Risu

I just heard the news: Robert Anton Wilson died yesterday. He was an eclectic, synthetic, creative mind, and I miss him already. I never met him, but his books made a stong impact on both my adolescent psyche and my mature aesthetics. Simon’s Rock, the end of the eighties: Victoria loaned me her copy of Illuminatus!, driving more cracks into an already-crumbling shell of Lutheranism. Not long thereafter I found Prometheus Rising, Schroedinger’s Cat, and others.

After leaving the Rock, I realized that I was episkopos of my own Discordian splinter, the Order of the A.’.A.’. (the Aboriginal Aubergine, for the truth is that Eris rolled a golden eggplant into the feast on the Mount, not some tatty apple). Since then, Bob’s books have helped me keep my world a bit broader, a bit funnier, and a bit stranger than it might otherwise have been.

Thanks, Bob, and Goddess speed.