austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

But you can't argue with the image

So one of the mathematics department talks today was on optical devices used by Johannes Vermeer. That sounded interesting. It was; but it wasn't a professional giving a talk, it was a student giving her semester research project presentation. She had a naturally interesting topic and discussed it well -- there's evidence Vermeer used a camera obscura-like setup to trace poses, so he could paint with greater perspective and vitality. She even had a neat tabletop demonstration offering the chance to sketch a piggy or a kiwi plush toy.

But! The person I guess was her advisor battered her with questions. The term ``camera obscura'' came under fire as Vermeer seems to have used a window, not a pinhole. Would images end up reversed or inverted? This turned into a classic speaker's death-spiral, far nastier than anything I've seen at thesis defenses. I wanted to give her a hug. Fortunately another faculty member was able to push the inquisition away and she recovered with good poise.

And, as I say, it's an inherently neat subject. We technological types tend to forget that people in the 17th century were at least as clever as we are now, and ingenuity is exciting wherever you find it.

In other news, glancing over Google's new look (I think it's lost pages), I found the new ``Froogle'' shopping pages claimed among recently found items: ``space pen,'' ``soldering gun,'' ``cheesecake,'' ``bagless vacuum,'' and ``peter pan costume.'' There's a joke about a good weekend on FurryMuck in there somewhere.

Trivia: Asteroid number 3568, discovered by M. Laugier at Nice 17 October 1936, is named ASCII, after the famous computer character code. Source: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Lutz D. Schmadel.

Currently Reading: Indiscretions of Archie, P.G.Wodehouse.

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