Month: June 2014

The Strange, Brilliant Mind of Kurt Godel

Perhaps no one better personifies the old adage that there’s a fine line between genius and insanity than 20th century Austrian-American mathematician and logician Kurt Godel.

Kurt Godel (right) and Albert Einstein at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study

Kurt Godel (right) and Albert Einstein at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study

Godel (1906-78) is commonly ranked as one of history’s intellectual giants, on the order of Aristotle, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein (the latter who was his colleague and friend).  Prominent Stanford University Mathematics and Philosophy Professor Solomon Feferman said Godel is “Beyond comparison … the most important logician of our times,” and Time magazine included Godel in their ‘100 Greatest Minds of the 20th Century.’

Composed when he was 25, his incompleteness theorems  were considered earth shattering and today are ranked as landmarks in the history of mathematics and philosophy. These novel mathematical theorems showed that no closed mathematical system can prove everything and cannot be used to even prove its own accuracy. The later is similar to the philosophical idea that “A human cannot prove the accuracy of his own mind, because he uses this same mind to judge the accuracy.”  He invented his own mathematical language to illustrate his theorems.

While vocationally accomplished and acknowledge as brilliant in his lifetime, Godel was almost as well known for his extreme eccentricities and periods of mental instability.  The following are a few examples of his curious ideas and ways:

* While a Professor of Mathematics at Princeton New Jerseys’s world famous Institute for Advanced Studies, he would wear a heavy full length fur coat outside on the hottest days of summer and leave open the windows and doors of his home on the coldest, snowiest days of winter.

* He stated he didn’t trust common sense and didn’t follow it.

* Near the end of his life he was working to mathematically prove the existence of God.

* While studying for the test to become an American citizen (he was born in Austria and immigrated to the US as an adult), he became convinced that the US Constitution legally allowed for  the United States to become a fascist dictatorship.   Einstein advised him to keep this theory to himself, for fear voicing it would hinder his chances of becoming a citizen.  Unable to contain himself, Godel told his theory to the judge administering the exam.  Lucky for Godel, the judge thought he making a joke and idly dismissed it.  Godel passed the exam and became an American citizen.

*  He became irrationally paranoid of germs and being poisoned to the point that only ate food prepared by his wife. When his wife fell ill and was in the hospital unable to cook for him, he starved to death. He didn’t even trust food he himself made.






A Simple Explanation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

You have probably heard how time is slower for someone on a spaceship traveling super fast, and if someone leaves from earth on a light speed spaceship and comes back in 20 earth years, everyone on earth will be twenty older but he will have barely aged. The following is a simple explanation of  Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and how time for that man on  the spaceship really is slower than for the person standing on earth.

The first thing to know is the speed of light is constant.

Also, remember that when you are sitting on an airplane, within the enclosed atmosphere of the insides of the airplane, it feels as if you are sitting still. Even though the aiplane is flying at 350 miles per hour, you don’t feel a 350 mile per wind on your face. If you did, you’d blow away. If you get up from your seat, stretch, read a magazine and walk around, it seems the same as if you are stretching, reading a magazine and walking around just as if you are the ground on earth.  You can throw  a ball up and catch it, even though it is moving laterally at 350 miles per hour.

It is the same for the guy inside the spaceship flying at, let’s say, half the speed of light.

Let’s say the guy inside the spaceship going half the speed of light has a flash light and is standing directly underneath a mirror facing directly down from the ceiling. If he shines a beem of light from the flashlight directly up to the mirror, the light will go up and be reflected back down in the same line.  Or, at least, that’s the way it appears to him. To the man, and anyone else on the spaceship, the light will go up and back down in a straight line.  Just as with when you toss up and catch that ball on the airplane.

The man shining the light light on the spaceship.  To him and anyone on the ship, the beam appears to go straight up and back along the same line.

The man shining the light beam on the spaceship. To him and anyone on the ship, the beam appears to go straight up and back along the same line.

However, to a person (with really, really good eyesight) standing on earth, the same beam of light on that spaceship speeding will appear to take a different, longer path. From his vantage point and with the spaceship moving super fast left to right as the light beam shines, the light will appear to move upwards at a rightwards angle (hitting the mirror) and be reflected back down at a rightwards angle. This means, to the person on earth, the beam of light will appear to move further or take a longer distance path. And with the speed of light being constant that means, to the person on earth, it will take longer in time for the light to travel to up to the mirror and back down. In other words, more time passes for the person on earth for the same light beam to travel up and down than passes for the man on the space ship.

To the person on earth, the same beam of light will appear to move upwards and to the left, taking a path longer in distance and time.

To the person on earth watching the spaceship zoom left to right, the same beam of light in the first picture will appear to move upwards and downwards at right angles, taking a path longer in distance and time.  If he was watching you toss a ball on an airplane, the ball would appear to him to be moving 350 miles per hour to the right.

This is similar to how the doppler effect works, where a car’s constant horn (how annoying) seems to sound higher in pitch as it appoaches you and lower after it passes you and moves further away. The car’s horn sounds constant in pitch when the vehicle is stationary and to the driver or rider in the vehicle while the vehicle is moving. However, to the person standing still with the car approaching, the moving car shortens the sound’s wavelength (and raises the pitch) and the car moving away lengthens the wavelength (and lowers the pitch).  The car’s speed adds or subtracts to the speed of the wavelengths, but only to the persons standing still.





The majority of art and collectibles forgers aren’t trying to fool experts

real or reprint?

real or reprint?

The majority of art and collectibles forgers aren’t trying to fool museum curators and auction house experts. They’re trying to find buyers ignorant and gullible enough to fall for their scams and fakes that that museum curators, auction house objects and seasoned collectors would identify in two seconds.

And most people who buy what are obvious fakes to experts think they are getting a steal from the seller. They think the ignorance-pretending scammers are the rubes who don’t realize what the have on their hands and are offering for so much under market value. Forgery sales regularly involve greed and deceit from both parties.

‘Art Perception’ free downloadable textbook


Art Perception by David Cycleback is available in paperback for sale and free download.  Below is the description:

“A complex and fascinating question is why do humans have such strong emotional reactions and human connections to art? Why do viewers become scared, even haunted for days, by a movie monster they know doesn’t exist? Why do humans become enthralled by distorted figures and scenes that aren’t realistic? Why do viewers have emotional attachments to comic book characters? The answer lies in that, while humans know art is human made artifice, they view and decipher art using the same often nonconscious methods that they use to view and decipher reality. Looking at how we perceive reality shows us how we perceive art, and looking at how we perceive art helps show us how we perceive reality. Written by the prominent art historian and philosopher Cycleback, this book is a concise introduction to understanding art perception, covering key psychological, cognitive science, physiological and philosophical concepts.”

It can be purchased online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

It can also be downloaded and read for free in pdf format.


1 Introduction

in general cognition and perception

2 Conceits

3 Useful conceits

4 Human achievement

art perception

5 Art Conceits and the limits of communication

6 Art perception involves the irrational and psychological

7 Symbols

8 Each art medium is limited it what it can show literally

9 Humans know and feel there is more than what they see and can comprehend, more than what they experience in their day to day


10 Humans mentally adapt to and accept new and artificial worlds

11 Speculation, play acting, day and night dreams

12 The cognitive science of perception: introduction

13: Shape, patterns and form biases

14: Comparisons

15: Imagination

16: The ambiguity and imagination of language

17: Presenting works of art authentically

18: Focusing and Ignoring

19: Basic qualities and areas that evoke aesthetic and psychological


20: Night and day vision

21: Instant perception and uncorrectable illusions

22: Perception of movement

23: Narrative and the perception of still information

24: Values, culture and aesthetics in visual perception

25: What we see is different than what we look at: The Physiology of seeing

26: The Illusion of depth in two dimensional art

27: The Subjective experience

28: Defining art

Examples of Aesthetics and Psychology in Non-Art Areas

29: Fiction in Science

30: Mirages

31: Numeral Systems and Psychology

32: Art Perception and the Limits of Human Knowledge


It can be purchased online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

It can also be downloaded and read for free in pdf format.



10 Interesting Facts about Famous Artists

1) Migues de Cervantes (Don Quixote) was captured during battle and made a slave for several years.  He  also had a permanently crippled arm from battle.

2) During his life, JS Bach was better known as a church organist than a composer.  His compositions were considered old fashioned.

3) Telegraph and Morse code inventor Samuel Morse was a portrait and landscape painter by vocation and was New York University’s first professor of fine arts.

4) Novelist Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita) was a noted expert on butterflies and wrote a book on the subject.

5) Marquis de Sade’s novel 120 Days of Sodom was written while Sade was a prisoner in the Bastille.  He lost the manuscript in the storming of the Bastille and it was discovered after his death in a wall of the prison during renovation.  Upon its loss, Sade wrote that he cried ‘tears of blood.’

6) 20th century classical composer Charles Ives quit music to become an insurance executive.

7) Leonardo da Vinci wrote his notebooks in mirror image.  It is believed this was part because he was left handed, making writing that way easier, and to obscure his personal notes from onlookers.

8) Jean Genet wrote his famed novel Our Lady of the Flowers while serving a life sentence in single-person cell in French prison.  He was however later released from prison after petition.  He secretly wrote the novel on stolen construction paper he hid in his bed.

9) American novelist Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream) used / instead of ‘.  As in “It/s mine.”  The / key was closer on his typewriter and Selby believed in writing fast.  Though a celebrated and influential novelist, he was a high school dropout and broke other punctuation and grammar rules, including often not using periods, commas and paragraph indentations, and writing entire chapters in capitals.

10) English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a lifelong opium addict.  Opium was prescribed to him as a pain reliever in the days and, as is often the case, he became addicted.



Art Criticism as Reflection of the Critic

Most art critiquing is trying to force a work into the critic’s pet form and shape. The corners of a square peg rhetorically lopped off to make it fit the critic’s preferred round hole.

One of my favorite stories is about Avalon, Barry Levinson’s well regarded 1990 movie about a Polish-Jewish immigrant family’s experiences in their new home of America. Responding to a critic who downgraded the movie because it didn’t detail their previous lives back in Europe, Levinson said “But that’s not that the movie is about.”

Racial Depictions of Jesus Christ in Art

blue-eyed-Jesus   chinese-jesusfaces_black_jesus3





Excerpted from the book ‘Art Perception’ by David Cycleback:

“Beyond the West’s blue-eyed pale-skinned version, it has long been common for Jesus Christ to be depicted in art as looking like the local people. The old Ethiopian painting on the upper right shows him as black.  The 19th century Chinese watercolor in the middle shows him as Asian in Asian dress.  Of course, the real Jesus probably looked like none of these three depictions.”