Blog

25.02.2019

Never forgotten

I first visited the United States in 2004, destination Silicon Valley. With three suitcases filled with equipment, I and my colleagues were roadshowing a 3D camera and a face recognition system to the Sandhill Road venture capitalists. Bottom line: it didn't work that time -- we were trying to boil the ocean; it was a mistake to educate the market; we had no "socket" -- in short, if you cannot resist the masochistic desire to be humiliated with style, come to Sandhill Road! Eight years later the ocean must have been boiling already, the market educated enough, and the socket wired and online -- at least, that's what Intel thought when it bought our company. But this is a totally different story. My schedule then was quite packed, but I left a free day for sightseeing, rented a car, and went to San Francisco. One of the first things I visited was the old Presidio which, among other things, hosts a collection of Great Depression murals. Apparently, the main goal of commissioning these frescos was to create jobs rather than undying masterpieces — consequently, they have little artistic value. However, I was looking for a specific image titled Peacetime Activities of the Army depicting the old Presidio Army command building with the star-spangled banner proudly flying on the mast at the center. I paid little attention to this historical nonsense, as my attention was drawn to the figures of Maria de la Concepción Marcela Argüello y Morago, the daughter of the Presidio Commander Don José Argüello, and Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, a Chamberlain at the court of the Russian Tsar Alexander I, her promised husband.

... continue reading

One starry ferragosto night I stayed to sleep aboard my yacht. The boat was moored in the marina right in the heart of the little harbor town of Sant’Antioco that in August bursts with life once the sun sets and the evening breeze cools the hot streets. The piazza of the marina often hosts concerts and guest performers — some are awesome, some others… well, also full of awe. I was in an all-male company: my five-year-old son, alias Captain Daniel Bronstein Pitzanti, immediately took possession of the commander’s cabin determined to put to use all the seaworthy objects he could sight — from fire extinguishers to binoculars, but the incessant gentle rolling and rocking, and the sound of the waves tapping on the hull instantly cradled him to sleep. Whoever tried to nap on a boat knows well the potent somniferous effect of the sea. I stayed a little bit more outside on the deck to watch the show (without buying a ticket, I had a better view than in the front row), but I also succumbed to Morpheus without listening through the end.

That night on the stage was the Tazenda band, whose repertoire is a fusion of folk Sardinian music with contemporary rock and Italian pop. The name should ring the bell to Isaac Asimov’s aficionados — Tazenda, the world where the stars end, a planet in the Foundation series where Hardy Seldon’s arcane Second Foundation was supposed to be (wrong guess! in reality, it resided on Trantor, just under the nose of the prepotent First Foundation.) I’m not an expert in Tazenda's music and not a big fan of theirs either, with the exception of one song that, undoubtedly, made them famous and is, until now, one of their signature pieces. This song is Non potho reposare.

... continue reading
17.02.2019

A secret chord

 

During one of my visits to the Research Institute for Mathematics (MFO) in Oberwolfach I stumbled upon a Steinway grand piano hidden in a remote room in the basement. I couldn't resist the urge to hammer on this masterpiece of musical hardware (those who know the itch in the fingertips and the magical attraction of the ebonies and the ivories will certainly understand me.) I played a lot that day, forsaking perhaps some of the talks. One of the pieces happened to be Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (unfortunately, the quality of the sound in the video is even worse than the quality of my playing.) This song was written in 1984 and (surprisingly!) had little initial success; with the years it has become hugely popular with some 300 interpretations (with different lyrics) existing today.

... continue reading

When I was a first-year college student, I spent long hours in the library randomly looking up information about a new term, a notion, a theorem that I would accidentally hear before in a lecture. This gave me the unforgettable feeling of what I called the joy of the first discovery. It didn’t matter that what I discovered was already known to the ancient Greek — for me it was for the first time. Alas! this feeling gradually faded away — with the years I became burdened with more knowledge, nothing is completely novel anymore, and I relate more and more new things to what I already know. In an attempt to revive this awe of the novel, I'm going to dedicate this blog to the joy of the first discovery. I will share here my random reflections and little discoveries, particularly in fields in which I'm not an expert. I will be posting here thoughts and remarks that are not worth being published or will never be accepted for publication.

The rules of the game are very simple: I will freely steal ideas from other people without bothering to check who said what, where and why. That's the whole point of this game, actually. I will neither give the deserved credit to those who I steal from, occasionally or on purpose. My castle, my rules. If you are (justly) offended or appalled by this, I would kindly invite you to switch back to your facebook. Otherwise... follow me, reader!