Magic Mushrooms

What if it’s “mistakes” plural? What then, magic mushroom??


hromanMagic Mushrooms

Relationship Status: Platonic Solid

as represented by the nets (unfolded) of the five platonic solids of geometry






ADDENDUM (for those unfamiliar with the Platonic Solids)


hromanRelationship Status: Platonic Solid

Cinemagraph: Cloud Atlas

Okay, three cinemagraphs in a row. I think I’ll put up new cinemagraphs I create over here from now on.

This one’s from the Neo-Seoul chapter of the wonderful “Cloud Atlas”

Cloud Atlas, Sonmi 451 and Hae-Joo, Neo Seoul

Sonmi 451 & Hae-Joo

hromanCinemagraph: Cloud Atlas

Cinemagraph: Melancholia

Second cinemagraph attempt
This time, Kirsten Dunst in Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia”

Kisten Dunst Melancholia

The original 720p file was HUGE so I had to compress it here to 400px wide

hromanCinemagraph: Melancholia

Cinemagraph: The Great Gatsby

This is my first ever attempt at creating a cinemagraph!

Carey Mulligan as Daisy in The Great Gatsby

Carey Mulligan as Daisy from Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”

hromanCinemagraph: The Great Gatsby

I Put My Thing Down Flip It And Reverse It

With ambigrams and magic squares fresh on my mind, I stumbled upon this bit of brilliance at Greg Ross’s Futility Closet:

Reversible magic square from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles. Via Futility Closet

Reversible magic square from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles. Via Futility Closet

It’s both a visual ambigram and a magic square: the rows, columns and diagonals sum to 179 (and maintain this property when flipped upside down).

hromanI Put My Thing Down Flip It And Reverse It

Initially Yours

the letter “r” hidden inside the letter “h”


forming my initials

hromanInitially Yours

Your Finery and Squalid Options

In high school I read a small novel by a (then unknown to me) Scottish author, Iain Banks, called “The Wasp Factory.” It was… deliciously grotesque. I would later learn that Banks, under the name “Iain M. Banks,” also wrote science fiction. His science fiction works were set in the universe of the Culture: “a fictional interstellar anarchist Utopian society.” It sounds awesome because it is awesome. His Culture novel “Use of Weapons” is one of the coolest science fiction books I’ve ever read. I was and still am hooked.

Banks died last year of terminal cancer. I happened to be in Scotland two weeks before he passed away, not knowing how close he was to death. When I got home & heard that he had passed, I immediately reached for my copy of his novel, “The Crow Road.”

In it, one of my favorite passages (one that I often recall): Rory’s mantra.

All your nonsense and truths,
your finery and squalid options,
combine and coalesce, to one noise
including laugh and whimper, scream and sigh,
forever and forever repeating,
in any tongue we care to choose,
whatever lessened, separated message
we want to hear.

It all boils down to nothing,
and where we have the means and will to fix
our reference within that flux;
there we are.

If it has any final signal,
The universe says simply,
but with every possible complication,
and it neither pressures us, nor draws us out,
except as we allow.

Let me be part of that outrageous chaos …
And I am.

Allow me to repeat:

Shortly after his death, asteroid 5099 was renamed IAINBANKS in his honor.

hromanYour Finery and Squalid Options

Matchstick Puzzles

Matchstick puzzles are a set of visual puzzles that require you to re-arrange an arrangement of matchsticks into some new formation. The re-arrangement is bound by certain rules or limits and (usually) requires some lateral thinking to arrive at the solution.

When I was a teenager, my uncle, who was visiting us from France at the time, introduced me to my first matchstick puzzle. Having heard of my love of puzzles, he was keen to keep me (and himself!) entertained. At a family barbecue he pulled out a pack of toothpicks (not enough matches around!) and arranged 15 of them like so:

Matchstick Puzzle

(click the picture for a larger view)

He then asked me to remove three matches & what should remain is three squares. Remove three matches. No more, no less.

It took me roughly 15 minutes of off and on experimentation before I arrived at the solution. Try it yourself!

If you get stuck, click here for the solution.

If you liked that one, try the following three matchstick puzzles. They are among my personal favorites and can all be found in Martin Gardner’s “The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems”

Matchstick Puzzle

Move one match to form a square


Matchstick Puzzle

Move three matches and make the fish face the opposite direction


Matchstick Puzzle

Move one match and make the giraffe face right instead of left


hromanMatchstick Puzzles

The Apocalyptic Magic Square

Clifford A. Pickover’s book, “Wonders of Numbers,” was dedicated not to a person but rather to “an amusing mathematical wonder”

The Apocalyptic Magic Square

The Apocalyptic Magic Square is a 6 x 6 square grid of prime numbers where each row, column, diagonal, and broken diagonal sum to 666

hromanThe Apocalyptic Magic Square

The Fractal Curve

“At the earliest drawings of the fractal curve, few clues to the underlying mathematical structure will be seen”
-Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park Dragon Curve

Jurassic Park Dragon Curve

Fractal Step 1

Fractal Step 2

Fractal Step 3

hromanThe Fractal Curve

Introducing Little Baby Hera

Born on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 6:05 am

hromanIntroducing Little Baby Hera

The Ambigram

My answer to that ubiquitous question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always “a Doctor or Martin Gardner” (with the usual follow up “you know, the famous puzzler, mathematician, essayist, magician, and writer extraordinaire??”)

David Suzuki once did a “Nature of Things” documentary on Martin Gardner entitled “Mathe-magic.” The 1 hour special was fascinating beyond my imagination, with discussions about the mathematics of juggling, John Conway’s “Game of Life,” hexa-flexagons, and myriad other mathematical simulacra. (you can actually watch/download the documentary here.)

In one of the introductory scenes, a puzzle designer named Scott Kim began drawing the the first name “Martin” in a fancy script. When he finished, he rotated the paper over 180 degrees, and it read “Gardner.” In-frieking-credible.

Martin Gardner Ambigram

I would later learn text like that was called an AMBIGRAM1 – a word or phrase that can be read in more than one way or from more than a single vantage point.

Peter Newell’s “invertible illustrations” were sort of the precursor to ambigrams (Mental Floss has a nice collection of some of Newell’s work here). The last page in his first book of illustrations, Topsys & Turvys, reads “the end” but also when inverted reads “puzzle”:

THE END and PUZZLE optical illusion

And, ambigrams have shown up in a lot of pop culture over the years:

Ambigrams in Pop Culture

A 3-D ambigram on the cover of Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter; and, rotational ambigrams on the covers of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and the special anniversary edition DVD of The Princess Bride

The other day, I re-discovered Erich Friedman’s page of wonderful ambigrams, which can be found here.

Remembering that Martin Gardner documentary, I became inspired to try my hand at an ambigram of my own name and doodled on scraps of paper for what seemed like hours… But, I eventually came up with something. So, here’s my name in two images one of which is just the other but rotated 180 degrees:

ambigram ambigram

Before I could develop an addiction (and start drawing everyone’s name I knew in similar fashion), I did some quick google/flickr searches and the results were disheartening – so many talented, imaginative folks out there.

  1. the term “ambigram” looks like it originated with Douglas Hofstadter []
hromanThe Ambigram

The Three Sphinxes Of Bikini, Salvador Dali

THE THREE SPHINXES OF BIKINI, by Salvador Dali (1947)1

The Three Sphinxes of Bikini, Salvador Dali

Between the years of 1946 and 1958 (after World War II), the United States conducted 23 nuclear tests at the Micronesian atoll, Bikini. The tests caused the radioactive contamination of the entire system of islands. The (roughly) two hundred Micronesians who inhabited the islands were relocated by the US before the tests, and eventually brought back in 1968. The US lost a lawsuit to the Micronesians in the amount of $100 million when it was discovered, ten years later in 1978, that the levels of radioactivity were still dangerously high.

These experimental explosions on the atoll of Bikini inspired Dali to paint the Three Sphinxes of Bikini.

Dali was a Surrealist painter. From the point of view of Expressionism, paintings in general are supposed to emphasize the expression of inner experience instead of providing a more-or-less photographic portrayal of reality. The artist is concerned with the subjective emotions and responses that scenes, objects and/or events arouse. In Surrealism, it goes one step further: it’s the unconscious that is emphasized. Paintings express the workings of the mind by using symbolic imagery and interesting juxtaposition of subject matter.

When looking at the painting, the imagery itself is very striking. There are three figures: a human head, a tree, and a third figure in the distance that could be a human head but looks eerily like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. In fact, all three figures share the same uncanny configuration of the mushroom cloud. The juxtaposed similarity suggests a strong and unconscious relationship between humanity, nature, and destruction.

When I look at the painting, I can’t help but imagine that the human head is Robert Oppenheimer, “the father of the atomic bomb,” looking through the tree (nature) and straight into the heart of the explosion.

The joint work of the team of scientists he led in the Manhattan Project culminated in the first man-made nuclear explosion in 1945. While witnessing that explosion, Oppenheimer was both filled with AWE

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one

and simultaneously filled with DREAD

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another

Now I am become Death
The Destroyer of Worlds

  1. I originally wrote this brief thought on Dali’s painting on my old WordPress blog back in December 2006. For posterity, I wanted to republish it here []
hromanThe Three Sphinxes Of Bikini, Salvador Dali

You Must Avenge My Death, Kimba… I Mean Simba

On one of my sporadic trips to the outskirts of the interweb, I learned of the striking similarities between Disney’s 1994 The Lion King and Tezuka’s 1965 anime series Kimba the White Lion. The so-called “controversy” is was chronicled here (kimbawlion) and touched upon here (wikipedia), with the most striking similarity being the whole dead-father-appears-in-clouds-to-console-son scene.

Kimba the Lion

Admittedly, much of the evidence is at times anecdotal. Still, there is enough material there to form a strong conspiracy theory. From what I can tell, quite a bit of imagery from the Lion King looks borrowed from Kimba, although not much of the plot is. In fact, the Lion King is really more a re-hash of Shakespeare’s Hamlet than anything else – which is itself a retelling of ancient precursor legends

(i.e. nothing is original).

But none of that really matters to me. What I love about this controversy is that I finally get the joke in the Simpsons episode “Round Springfield” where Mufasa’s ghost appears alongside the ghosts of Bleeding Gums Murphy, Darth Vader, and James Earl Jones and says:

“You Must Avenge My Death, Kimba… I Mean, Simba.”

Round Springfield

Proof once again that the writers for the Simpsons were second to none

hromanYou Must Avenge My Death, Kimba… I Mean Simba

Antisocial Personality Disorder


Antisocial Personality Disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Antisocial Personality Disorder (AKA being a sociopath) is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others. This may be characterized by:

(a) Failure To Conform To Social Norms

Emma, Cat

(b) Repeatedly Performing Acts That Are Grounds For Immorality

Emma, Cat

(c) Impulsiveness And A Failure To Plan Ahead, Financially

Emma, Cat

(d) Irritability And Aggressiveness

Emma, Cat

(e) Repeated Physical Fights And Assaults

Emma, Cat

(f) A Reckless Disregard For Safety

Emma, Cat

(g) Consistent Irresponsibility And Laziness

Emma, Cat

(h) Failure To Sustain Steady Work, Bad Habits

Emma, Cat

(i) Evil-Looking Eyes

Emma, Cat

Conclusion: My Cat Is A Sociopath

hromanAntisocial Personality Disorder

The Paradox Of The Chocolate Laxative

Last night I finally got around to watching Ben Wright’s documentary, “Slavoj Zizek: The Reality of the Virtual.” (Though I wouldn’t call it a documentary; it was more a 90 minute unscripted and tangential Zizek lecture.) Who is Slavoj, you ask? Why, he’s only the preeminent Slovenian orthodox Lacanian Stalinist, of course!

It’s not that I’m actively furthering my characterization as dork incarnate; usually I keep these sorts of things to myself. We all have our vices and it seems that I can’t resist the tangled web of an esoteric documentary. But two words in last night’s movie caught my attention and elicited this exposing:


It is a great paradox. Chocolate, a natural cause of constipation, is now being marketed as its own remedy. What better way to cure constipation than by indulging in it! Zizek reveals this fact, then launches into a ten-minute reflection that examines the chocolate/laxative structure through a landscape of capitalism, politics, and ethics.

George Soros and Bill Gates are, according to Zizek, chocolate laxatives personified. Soros stands for ruthless financial exploitation but at the same time is one of the world’s well-known humanitarians. He spends half his day speculating on how to make money through financial exploits, and the other half of his day giving a portion of it back in the form of charity. The morning is chocolate, the afternoon is laxative.

On Bill Gates:

“The two faces of Bill Gates are exactly like the two faces of Soros: on the one hand, a cruel businessman, destroying or buying out competitors, aiming at a virtual monopoly; on the other, the great philanthropist who makes a point of saying: “What does it serve to have computers if people do not have enough to eat?” – (Slavoj Zizek, “Nobody Has To Be Vile,” 2006)”

Zizek also asks that we think about this in the context of today’s wars, those that are declared as wars for peace. The United States’ war in Iraq was not advertised as an establishing of a hegemonic presence in an unstable part of the world, but was rather about the helping of an Iraqi people devoid of the joys and pleasures of democracy. What better image of a chocolate laxative is there than the dropping of parachutes of food and medicine to a war-ravaged people after their destruction through an operation of war?

(Other chocolate laxatives in the world? Decaf coffee and Marijuana, which Zizek describes as “Opium without Opium”.)

We used to live in a world where ethics told us to repress, to control oneself, to do things in moderation. Think unsexy thoughts, think unsexy thoughts. We used to feel guilty when we indulged in pleasure. Now, the ethical injunction is to go to the end of the pleasure scale. We feel guilty when we can’t enjoy a pleasure. Please yourself like there’s no tomorrow!

And all because of chocolate laxatives

hromanThe Paradox Of The Chocolate Laxative