Early days for immersive media

The word “immersive” is gradually entering the lexicon, in reference to new computer mediated forms of experience. Most people don’t think about it yet, just as most people didn’t think about the nascent field of cinema in the late 1890s.

Consequently, this is a very exciting time for research into the field of immersive media. The important aesthetic questions are yet to be answered, or perhaps even asked.

In another decade or two, things will have settled down, and the nature of synthetically produced immersive experience will probably be a well understood area. Which means the next decade or so is going to be a lot of fun.


Every time I look up into the starry night sky, I see the constellation Orion. For reasons that remain mysterious to me, it is always the very first constellation I see. This has been true since I was a little child, and my dad first pointed out to me the constellations, one beautiful summer night in the Catskill mountains.

I realized as I got older that this is something that I can say I have shared with people all over the world for as long as the human race has existed. Every time I look up at Orion now I think of my connection with all of humanity, and I realize how fortunate we are to be able to share such a beautiful universe with one another.

Original earworms

I often find that a favorite song is rolling around in my head. I may be going on a walk, and realize “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is playing on repeat in my mind. It also happens with “The Rainbow Connection”, so my mind must have a thing for rainbows.

But what about those times when a melody is playing on repeat in your head that doesn’t correlate to any song you’ve ever heard. Have you just composed that song?

What is the authorship for original earworms? Can we take credit for having composed something original?

Or does it only count as a “composition” if we manage to transcribe our inner melody to the piano and guitar? Do we need to publish it somehow?

Maybe this should be the rule: Our original earworm becomes “music”, in the traditional sense, the very first time we play it for another human being.

What to do when the clouds part

Very often something in life blocks you. You feel stuck, morose, out of sorts. You may ask why the Universe is conspiring against you.

But then, perhaps due to some action on your part, or maybe just happenstance, you find yourself no longer blocked. The clouds part and sunshine pours through.

When that happens, I find it important not to just take it all for granted, to simply think “What a lucky fellow I am!” In fact, that is the best time — when you are no longer feeling off-balance — to take stock, to think about how you might arrange things better in the future.

Use the good times to make better times. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it really works.

Emotion recollected in tranquility

I really like the following observation by Wordsworth of poetry:

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

I think this is true of all forms of creativity. When I am in an emotionally overwrought state, I find it impossible to create. In effect, all of the circuits are jammed by emotions that are too powerful to channel in any useful way.

But my memories of such moments are pure gold, creatively speaking. I can endlessly mine my recollection of those highly emotional moments, and use them to infuse art.

I wonder whether this is a general state of the human condition. Is the general story behind the soaring melody of an aria, or a painting that renders us speechless with its transcendent beauty?

Data mining for everyone

I can imagine somebody surfing the Web and wondering something like “How old is the oldest person still alive who is mentioned in the Wikipedia as having a birthday today?” It’s easy enough to look that up. In fact, you could do that right now.

But then you might want to ask “How old is the oldest person still alive born on any day of the year?” In fact, you might want to look for trends. Are there months of the year where those people are systematically older? Or perhaps days of the week?

It seems to me that there should be an easy way to ask those kinds of questions about data. I might be able to look it up manually, but that would quickly become tedious. And for many perfectly reasonable questions, it would be impossible.

I could write a computer program to mine the data fields of Wikipedia for the answers, but doing that requires a lot of specialized skills. Most people don’t have those skills, and are probably not all that motivated to attain them.

I wonder whether there would be a way to allow the general public to explore such questions about data, without being required to earn a degree in computer science. Maybe such a tool exists, and I just haven’t heard of it.

If you do know of such a thing, please let me know!

The rule of 1 + 3

Just a few of many…

1844 D’Artagnan

1900 Dorothy
      Tin Man
      Cowardly Lion

1941 Archie

1951 Lucy

1954 Frodo

1955 Ralph

1957 The Beaver

1960 Fred

1961 Dick

1966 Kirk

1987 Picard

1989 Jerry

1997 Carrie

2007 Leonard

2011 Jess

3.14 2021

Today it is Pi Day,
It’s your day, it’s my day.
It is quite resplendent
And rather transcendent
With digits unbounded.
It’s very well rounded
(Though sometimes it’s square).
I’m so glad that it’s there.
It’s your day, it’s my day,
Today it is Pi Day!

Fibonacci day

Today is a Fibonacci day. That is a day in which the month, day of the month, and last two digits of the year are all Fibonacci numbers.

You may never have heard of a Fibonacci day before. That’s because I just made it up.

In the case of today, we are in month 3, day 13, and year 21. These are all found in the sequence of Fibonacci numbers: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,… (The rule is you add the sum of last two numbers in the sequence as the next number. Eg: 5+8=13).

As an exercise, see if you can figure out how many Fibonacci days there are this year.

Here’s an easier one: What is the one date this year that is a successive Fibonacci day? That is a day containing three successive Fibonacci numbers.

And then, when is the next successive Fibonacci day after that? Hint: it’s not this year. That will be an interesting day because it will be the last successive Fibonacci day for a very very long time.

One year

How strange that it is exactly one year since COVID-19 turned life upside down. March 12, 2020 was the first day that I started teaching my classes at NYU over Zoom, and everything has been over Zoom since then.

It has been a very strange and sad year for the world. All we can hope for is that the coming year sees the end of this awful pandemic.

As Joni Mitchell said, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” In addition to the terrible toll in people lost, I think we have all regained a renewed appreciation for the experience of being in the same place with people we love.

Among other things, I will never again take for granted the simple joy of sharing a cup of coffee with friends.