saturn hexagon

It turns out Saturn has a hexagon at its north pole.

A hexagon. On a gas giant. Space is so weird.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with the solar system and the history of space travel lately. I’ve been into it for a couple weeks now, so I give it another week or so to run its course. That’s about how long my obsessions generally last.

Past obsessions have included: flags of the world, A.I., statistics, Morse Code, calligraphy, drawing, Celtic knots, origami, juggling, zen, the history of Africa, geography, Vincent van Gogh, Linux, the board game Go, animation, the website Omegle, Super Mario 64, the art of baiting e-mail scammers, creating a webcomic, the Voynich Manuscript, and Iceland, to name a small percentage.

Some obsessions (A.I., zen, Go) become longer-lived pursuits. Others – most of them – run their course and then fizzle. Hotter flames burn out faster. I really have no idea what makes some stick around and some disappear.

But for now, it’s space, and I’m riding high on my little wave.

Did you know, for instance, that the first hominid in space – a chimpanzee named Ham – was born in Cameroon, and survived his flight none the worse for wear? Or that the first woman in space – Valentina Tereshkova – is still alive, a Russian hero to this day? Or that the Apollo astronauts played practical jokes on each other, slipping Playboy centerfolds into mission documents to be discovered once in orbit? Or that Enceladus – a place most people have never even heard of – is one of the most likely spots in our solar system to harbor life?

Okay, Brian. That’s nice. Take a breath.

What are your obsessions like? How long do they last?

9 responses to “Obsessions

  1. How interesting. Would love to I assume you’ve been watching the new episodes of Cosmos. If not, you should! Would love to read a post about Enceladus.

  2. Celtic knots! I am working for a company at the moment (HobbiesOnTheWeb.co.uk) and I was updating stock when I came accross a book on Celtic Knots, pretty cool stuff – I had to Google it. I swear working here has given me 5 new hobbies a day! haha

    Assuming your interests in AI and Go have crossed paths, what’s your overall take on Computer Go? Do you think in, say, a quantum computer a brute-force technique might be applicable? What type of AI did you like?

    • I tried some fairly naive and primitive stuff with Go and neural nets in college, but it never went anywhere. Computer Go is advancing by leaps and bounds, though. Brute forcing a Go game tree does sound like exactly the kind of thing a quantum computer would be good at.

      My own AI (outside of the Go arena, and much more recently) was based on the interactions of lots of little critters called agents, working together to detect and produce patterns. Lots of fun. πŸ™‚ If you hit the AI tag on the blog, you can see more details about my approach.

  3. My obsessions tend to be books, movies, and music.

    Some are short: When I first saw Moonrise Kingdom (after not being a Wes Anderson fan at all), I watched it every night for two weeks. I still like it a lot, but I watch it less often now.

    Some are longer: I saw Les Miserables on Broadway in 2003 (right before the original run ended). I enjoyed it but that was that. But then, when I saw the movie in January 2013, it took over my brain. Not the movie per se, which is far from perfect, but the score. I listened to various versions (10th anniversary concert version, 25th anniversary concert version, movie soundtrack, etc.) for the next six months — at least 75% of my music-listening time. By now, over a year later, it’s down to around 25% of my music time.

  4. When I have an obsession with something random, I tend to call it a mini-project. I have some that consistently pop up every year around the same time (I always have a mini-project on Logic theorems that I do sometime within the first 3 months of school or the last month of summer). When I have such an obsession, I tend to spend 2-5 weeks learning everything I can about said subject, usually ‘studying’ said subject for 1 or 2 hours a week. If they become longer-lived, they tend to become part of daily life for me. Obsessions have included such things as: World War 1 and 2, Logic Theorems, Different writing styles (I try out writing in a totally new way for a couple months and then take what I learn that worked well and integrate it into my ‘normal’ writing style), Programming in Javascript, Crimea, The Byzantine Empire, Feudal Japan, The roots of World power, various psychology tidbits, the science of love, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. They are always interesting, though!

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