Paco de Lucía

Sad news for guitar fans: the brilliant Spanish musician Paco de Lucía just passed away yesterday. While I’m not a major flamenco fan myself, I am a jazz fan — and like many others, I fell in love with Friday Night in San Francisco, an astonishing collaboration between de Lucía and fellow guitar masters Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin. Here are the three gents showing the rest of the world how its done.

After composing this post, I just noticed I used the same tune above for the very first post in this newly-constituted blog.

Vi Hart on Twelve-Tone Music

Chances are good that you’ve already seen, or at least seen a link to, Vi Hart’s astonishing video about twelve-tone music. It has almost a million views, which represents a pretty tiny fraction of the total number of people on Earth, but I suspect the correlation with readers of this blog is high.

But I’m posting it anyway, because there might still be some readers who haven’t watched it yet, and that would be a shame. It’s that good. Now, it is a #longwatch, as they say in Twitter-land — half an hour long! Let’s just say it’s more rewarding than catching the latest episode of Two Broke Girls.

Crazy shapes.

The Universe on a Stratocaster

There are those who believe that music brings meaning to an uncaring universe. It’s only natural, then, to try to capture the essence of reality on a musical instrument.

Sadly, the true essence of reality remains unknown. But we are able to sum up the physics underlying the world of everyday experience in a single equation. So mathematician Nicholas Hoell did the obvious thing — or at least, what should be obvious — and painted that equation on his Stratocaster. (Click to embiggen.)


Note the depiction of a few complex arrangements of the underlying reductionistic constituents, providing a nod to the importance of emergent phenomena in encompassing a complete view of the world.

I’m pretty sure that the perfect solo, played on this guitar, would reveal how to quantize gravity.

Higgs Boson Blues

Almost enough to make me believe in a benevolent force guiding the universe: Nick Cave, on his new album Push the Sky Away, has a song called “Higgs Boson Blues.” (Hat tip to Ian Sample.)

Okay, don’t expect to hear a lot about spontaneous gauge symmetry breaking or giving mass to chiral fermions. But still:

Have you ever heard about the Higgs Boson blues
I’m goin’ down to Geneva baby, gonna teach it to you

Apparently Cave’s lyrics throughout the album came about from “Googling curiosities, being entranced by exotic Wikipedia entries ‘whether they’re true or not’.”


Welcome to the latest incarnation of my blog-related programming activities. As our friend Lucretius says, “All that we see about us consists of transient arrangements of atoms. Some awaken to life. None holds forever.”

I’ve bid an extremely fond farewell to Cosmic Variance, with great memories and enormous respect for my co-bloggers there who are keeping the torch lit. But I wanted to shift to a less formal, more personal and carefree mode of blogging, one where nobody else but me was responsible in any way. I’ll still be doing my best to understand and explain cool ideas in physics, but the only common thread holding the content together will be “things that popped into my head.” It may be intermittent and even inchoate, but hopefully it will be fun.

To set the tone, here’s a little ditty from Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola, and John McLaughlin. A mixture of heavy thinking and joyful exuberance. Something to shoot for.