Category Archives: General

Volume Rendering and Large Data Sets

Volume rendering, a new feature in Mathematica 9, provides an efficient way to visualize very large data sets. I first learned of this feature from reading Jeffery Bryant’s post on the Wolfram blog. Bryant’s post dealt with simulating galatical collisions. Galaxies have hundreds of billions of stars, so visualizing them as dynamically interacting clouds of points is computationally difficult. Volume rendering provides a solution.

In today’s post, we will use volume rendering for a more prosaic example: color analysis of a photo of puppies.

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Comparing stolen paintings: Picasso and Matisse

Art Heist

Last week, burglars stole seven paintings from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam. The paintings included works by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, and Matisse. The loot is likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but the loss of these great pieces surpasses anything that can be calculated as a monetary figure. Art is unquantifiable, right? Yes, but it is still fun to do data analysis on paintings. In today’s post, we will explore how Mathematica’s image processing capabilities can be used to compare two of the paintings stolen from the Kunsthal.

Let’s consider Matisse’s “Reading Girl in White and Yellow” (1919) and Picasso’s “Harlequin Head” (1971).

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Call it the decline and fall of popular music… maybe?

You’ve probably already experienced the agony that accompanies an infection of Carly Rae Jepsen’s inane earworm “Call Me Maybe”. You’ve probably also been subjected to the current number one song in America, Flo Rida’s “Whistle”, a ditty whose only creative merit is its ability to evade censorship despite its explicit subject material. These two songs are representative of a dismaying trend in popular music: songs are becoming symphonically simpler and more predictable.

Were Mr. Rida to read my pretentious lament over the state of popular music, he would undoubtedly counter that I lack data to support my claim. Do I have metrics to quantify a song’s banality? No. Fortunately, a group of researchers lead by Joan Serra of the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in Spain does. In a recent Nature paper, “Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music”, Serra’s team concludes that popular music is headed “towards less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” So yes, Mr. Rida, there is science behind my assertion that popular music is becoming increasingly stupid.

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