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April 2005

Return of the Mathematical Kathryn

Some of you have probably been wondering what has become of me, since I haven't posted much lately.

After more than 15 years, I seem to be heading back in the direction of mathematics.  This is partly Rudy Rucker's fault. If anything really comes of this I'll explain in more detail later, so he can take full credit. But the short version is that hearing him talk at the ICFA in March got me thinking in that direction.

I've got a new project that involves the program Mathematica, and am busily reading. The books I've been reading in the past few days are The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics by Stanislas Dehaene and Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being by George Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez.  (I also dug out all the math books I boxed and put into storage two months before Peter was born.)

So who knows: this might evolve into a math blog; I might fall silent (at least on my blog); or I might return to blogging as usual.  I've also been writing fiction. We'll see where it goes.

Eaton Conference

David and I will both be appearing at the Eaton Conference at the end of next week, which is being held at the Science Fiction Museum at Seattle Center:

UC Riverside Libraries and The Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame Team Up for Conference on Science Fiction

Conference to be Held May 5, 6 and 7 in Seattle in Connection with Science Fiction Hall of Fame Induction The University of California, Riverside Libraries, which house The J. Lloyd Eaton Collection, the world’s most extensive science fiction and fantasy collection, joins The Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame in Seattle to present "Inventing the 21st Century: Many Worlds, Many Histories" on May 5, 6 and 7 in Seattle. The conference will be held at the same time as the museum’s first ever Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday, May 6, which will honor film director Steven Spielberg, author Philip K. Dick, artist Chesley Bonestell and animator Ray Harryhausen. Eaton Conference attendees will have the opportunity to register before the general public. Speakers this year include Gregory Benford, Howard Hendrix, Joseph Miller, Eric Rabkin, George Slusser, Stanley Schmidt, Greg Bear, Eileen Gunn and Alan Shapiro, with David Hartwell delivering the Frank McConnell Memorial Lecture.

For full release, click here:

If you follow the link, there is a schedule of events. There are two versions of the schedule circulating, one in which David gives his keynote speech at the beginning of the conference; one in which he gives it at the end. I'm supposed to serve on a panel at some point, but so far panel descriptions are limited to the word "panel."

I've been to an Eaton conference or two before, and the material is much meatier than what you tend to get on panels at your average SF convention, so if you live in the Seattle area, be sure to attend.

Catching Up

I've started a new blog style journal of notes for my own use, so that has siphoned off some of my energy for blogging. (I'm trying to make use of the good habits developed over two years of blogging, but without the problem for having an audience. How, for example, would Bruce Sterling have written Heavy Weather if he told you about the ideas he'd been kicking around every day? (Conspiracies to make giant killer tornadoes? Get the man a tin foil hat!)

Also, we all caught the flu (and everyone next door, too).

Some of my regular correspondents may have noticed that I was not responding much to email. I've spent the past few mornings plowing out my in box.

Here are a few things kicking around in my email that I had planned to mention in this space:

For those who were following the fireworks over Michelle Dawson's stand on the treatment of autism, she has some new material up on her site:

Also, my dad was in the April 1st edition of the Wall Street Journal in an article entitled "New Theory Suggests Bid to Produce 'Mother Of All Matter' Worked." He says:

It looks like our recent calculations made the April Fool's Day edition of the Wall Street Journal.  I wonder if that's significant.

I no longer have an online subscription to the WSJ and he didn't have the link.  The article begins:

H .L. MENCKEN isn't known for his prowess in physics, but he was eerily prescient about the angst experienced by today's intrepid voyagers into the heart of matter. "Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable," Mencken wrote. "But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops."

For almost five years, just such an "it" has been tormenting about 1,000 physicists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC, pronounced "rick"), a powerful particle accelerator at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on New York's Long Island. Scientists, following Mencken's script, had penetrated secrets such as the fundamental building blocks of matter and how they burst into being with the universe some 13.7 billion years ago. And although physicists didn't think there was nothing "unknowable" left, they were confident enough to embark on an experiment of Promethean hubris: They would create the kind of matter that last existed moments after the big bang.

Now the years-long debate over whether they succeeded in creating the mother of all matter, called a quark-gluon plasma, may be on the verge of resolution.

"A lot of evidence had indicated that RHIC had created a quark-gluon plasma, but one observation was out of line," says theoretical physicist Gerald Miller of the University of Washington, Seattle. A twist he and colleague John Cramer discovered "makes it much more likely that RHIC produced the quark-gluon plasma."

(The vintage of this article indicates how far behind I'd gotten.)

Meanwhile, David and I note with amusement that, judging from the Thursday Style section of the New York Times, David's manner of dressing has once again come into fashion.


Flu Season

We've had something, probably a strain of the flu, circulating in the house this week and Peter has just missed the whole week of school. He was sent home with a fever Monday morning. Also, he seems to have strep on top of whatever virus he's got. He's got an infected finger as well, which may be a strep infection. Elizabeth went to preschool on Monday, but has been home the rest of the week. I was sick in bed Tuesday or Wednesday with the viral thing.

How 'bout that cover? I knew there was a book in here somewhere!

Ybkathryncramer_92x140Yesterday, I fell down the stairs not just once but twice at Elizabeth's playdate: My Smartwool socks must have had some special electrical property that repelled the fiber of the stair carpet. The second fall immediately succeeded the first: it was my very next step. Then I took my socks off and was able to use that staircase safely thereafter. So today, I've been taking it easy as the aches reverberate up and down my spine.

David has called me away from my rest and recuperation to see the April Fool's edition of LOCUS, in which this blog and I are featured. Enjoy:

Paradise Lost: A "Next Wave" of Year's Best Anthologies Planned