It’s ON!

The honorarium grant for Burning Man 2017 has been approved! If you want to take a closer look at the project, the info is here… Your own, personal Jesus. Design work is in progress and parts are on order. I’ll be posting progress as I actually make progress. Five months and counting.


Wealthy patron to support artist/scientist/writer. Said patron will provide for all of my (few) worldly and (not so few) intellectual needs. In return I will undertake bizarre projects designed to delight, enlighten, and sometimes confuse. I can also add “color” to formal gatherings and tutor your kids in (mad) science. Please include a photo of my new living quarters and workshop space.

You wanna do what?!

So I have this fun idea. It’s something that can be done for about $10K or so, but I’m having a hard time with one particular aspect of it. Allow me to explain…

Imagine that you have two velocipedes (yes, they have to be velocipedes for… reasons) and you mount them side-by-side and about three feet apart with tubing. In between, you hang a lightweight, but comfortable chair. Perhaps something like a lawn chair. Using the same tubing, you mount four electric motors around the outside in a quadrocopter arrangement, complete with propellers. Electric motors are becoming quite efficient, and you can find some on the order of one HP per pound at reasonable prices.

So far, you have a person-sized, velocipede, steampunk quadrocopter. Which is great, but would be way too heavy to actually lift off. Which is why you need a 30′ helium balloon. This would be attached to the rest via the same tubing and a kevlar fiber net over the top. Internal to the balloon is an electric compressor such that the balloon can be dynamically deflated and inflated. So it can provide just enough lift that the quad motors can lift it the rest of the way. But since they’ll be relying in part on ground-effect, the system is tuned such that you can only get about 10′ high.

I have it all laid out in my head, and trust me, it’s awesome! But now for the hard part. How much trouble would I get in to for this? Technically, it’s a “manned, un-tethered, gas balloon” according to their regulations. But since the balloon is not providing the lift (just weight-offset), it’s also technically an ultralight. But since it relies on ground-effect, it’s also a hovercraft and outside of the FAA’s purview.

So my guess is that the FAA won’t be able to decide between laughing at me and having me shot. Any thoughts?

Science v. Art — the final word

I’ve had pretty much enough of two aspects of the science v. art arguments. The first argument is that they have been, are now, and forever shall be, at odds with each other. Bullshit. Those who make such arguments tend to have no knowledge of either science or art. I am a scientist who dabbles in a variety of artistic endeavors. My girlfriend and my best friend are both artists who are very scientifically-minded. There are no differences in our philosophical outlooks. More on this in a moment.

The next common aspect of the argument is that science and art need each other: science to improve the quality of art, and art to enable visualization of science. Well, yeah, maybe. But that misses the point. At least those who put forth that argument are not perpetuating some mythical war between the two.

Here’s how it really is, folks: They are the very same thing!

We are puny humans with very small minds and a very limited capacity to describe and define the universe. Reality around us is so much grander than we can ever know, let alone describe. To paraphrase Oliver Sacks, not only do we not live in reality, we’ve never even visited the place. And so, in an attempt to capture its beauty, we create metaphor.

Science does so by using a variety of descriptive languages (various mathematical systems, and words as precisely defined as the language allows). But science goes in knowing full well that all of these constructs are nothing more than metaphor for something that may never be fully understood, except in limited context.

Art does so by using a variety of descriptive languages (visual symbols, forms, musical notes, and words as the language allows). But art goes in knowing full well that all of these constructs are nothing more than metaphor for something that may never fully captured, except in limited aspect.

Both rely on the same tools and insights and reasoning; indeed, the very same parts of the soul. Because in all cases, the sciartist is attempting to express an aspect of the universe that they see, in order to better understand it, and maybe even present it to a wider audience.

So enough of the arguments. Science is art. Art is science. Both are nothing but metaphor for the vast, the sublime, the beautiful, and the unknowable. End of rant.

What I am up to (part 3 of N)…

And now for art projects.  Again, I cannot say much.  Not because of any particular non-disclosure agreement this time, but because I am loathe to discuss half-formed notions.  So in vaguebooking tradition, here’s some of the things that I’m researching.  You can draw your own conclusions from them (and no, they do not necessarily reflect a single project):

  • Low-temperature enameling
  • Working stone with a CNC milling machine
  • Electrochromic and thermochromic chemicals
  • Photoresist etching of various materials
  • Laser-induced surface plasmons (yes, for arts’ sake)
  • Cellular automata (also for arts’ sake)
  • Quasicrystals (yeah, my art has a lot of science to it)

At some point, I’ll post pictures. But not yet. I have a few more pressing projects to work on.