At last weekend’s Hidden Dimensions event, Brian Greene had a graphic of a Calabi-Yau object (it wasn’t this one, but it’s the same idea). He put this up several times, but never actually explained what the hell it was supposed to show. It just looked kind of cool.
Last week’s Through the Wormhole program segment on Garrett Lisi kept showing an animation of some sort of graphical representation of the E8 group, shifting between some collection of circles and that giant mandala-looking thing they use to illustrate every story about the guy. Again, there was no explanation of what the hell this was supposed to represent, it was just kind of there.
The lesson of this is clear: if I want to become a rock-star scientist who gets tv interviews and profiles, I need a pointless but cool graphic I can show. Something that looks, you know, all science-y and impressive. Cute dog pictures aren’t going to get it done (though I’ll throw one in here for fun)– it needs to look cool but inexplicable.
Suggestions of potential pointless-but-cool graphics are welcome in the comments.
(I can’t let a mention of pointless graphics go by without a tip of the hat to Lawrence Krauss, who did a nice job of deflating the graphics at the Hidden Dimensions panel with his one visual aid, as described in Discover’s report:
[H]e took a soft approach, presenting the audience with a picture of an anthropological find, a 33,000-year-old wood carving of a half-man, half-lion creature. “Who knows what the artist was thinking when he–or she–created this?” he mused. Perhaps the artist had seen a lion before, and had also seen people, and had imagined the existence of a combination-type-creature.
“Maybe that’s what string theory will look like in another 33,000 years,” Krauss suggested.
(Obligatory name-dropping anecdote: Krauss was scheduled to sign books shortly after me at the Festival, so I stuck around to say hi to him, and tell him I appreciated his contribution to the event. “I know,” he said, “I read it on your blog.”
(He’s not a regular reader, but had seen it on a Google News alert he has set up so he can see what’s said about him and his appearances.)