The Globe reviews “A Disappearing Number,” Central Square Theater’s new play about mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan: “This is a tone poem, a nonlinear collage of images, sounds, ideas, motivic conceits, and mere shards of narrative. Under the drum-tight direction of Elaine Vaan Hogue, it’s absolutely gorgeous, a compelling procession of rich stage pictures that make marvelous use of three-dimensional space.” I agree with the review overall. I’d rate the WQ (Wikipedia Quotient, or how likely you are to look up the nonfiction stuff when you get home from the show) higher than average, though lower than Huntington’s “Ether Dome,” which has local interest on its side.
Central Square Theater is the only local company I know that regularly does non-linear plays about science–”Ether Dome,” for example, is essentially a staged documentary, and Bridge Rep’s “The Forgetting Curve” used the story of neurological patient and research subject H.M. as the background for a drama about one of the (fictionalized) scientists who studied him. CST does science plays like that–e.g., “Distracted,” a very of-the-moment comedy of manners about coping with a child’s ADHD–but they also offer more experimental fare, where the staging itself refracts, in some way, the episodic awareness of H.M.’s amnesia or the fantastic looping beauty of Ramanujan’s equations.
Blog readers can get 15% off adult tickets, or $20 student tickets, to “A Disappearing Number” with the promotion code ROBIN.
The NY Times reports on social-science research taking place at the Tinder offices. Judging people by their looks, it seems, isn’t quite so superficial after all:
“Research shows when people are evaluating photos of others, they are trying to access compatibility on not just a physical level, but a social level,” said Jessica Carbino, Tinder’s in-house dating and relationship expert. “They are trying to understand, ‘Do I have things in common with this person?’ ”
“There is this idea that attraction stems from a very superficial outlook on people, which is false,” Mr. Rad said. “Everyone is able to pick up thousands of signals in these photos. A photo of a guy at a bar with friends around him sends a very different message than a photo of a guy with a dog on the beach.”
Choice of background, facial expression, dress and grooming choices can convey useful information, but the article also reports on what social scientists have begun to call “face-ism”:
In one survey, women were asked to swipe through a series of photos of handsome male models. In almost every instance, the women swiped to the left, dismissing the men with chiseled faces. When asked why, the women said that the men looked too full of themselves or unkind. “Men with softer jaw lines indicate that they have more compassion,” Ms. Carbino said.
This is face-ism: the unconscious and almost universal attribution of personality traits based on facial features. In reality, men with soft jaws are not necessarily more compassionate than others. The Atlantic has a good recent piece on face-ism here. Think about the implications for casting decisions!
Speaking of the Atlantic, they also have a good piece on the affinity of millenials for science and its pop-culture manifestations:
Because of the generation’s global reach, Millennials have a greater need for things that transcend old boundaries and ideologies. Science has become a universal language, a form of information that is available almost instantly and can be shared among people who have nothing else in common. The rise of social media has also blurred the line between high-brow and low-brow, professional pursuits and personal interests. When Millennials get excited about science, they post it on Facebook—and when they see a gorgeous photo of deep space on Twitter, it can open a new avenue of scientific exploration.
Maybe millenials love science because its presentation has gotten completely awesome lately. From Wired, on the increasing importance of discovery in education and entertainment:
Discovery, as intriguing process, has become a powerful theme in contemporary culture and entertainment. In art and design galleries, and many museums, artists and designers, like Olafur Eliasson, Mark Dion, Martin Wattenberg, Neri Oxman and Mathieu Lehanneur, invite the public to explore contemporary complexities, as in artist Mark Dion’s recent collaborative work with the Alaskan SeaLife Center and Anchorage Museum on plastic fragments in the Pacific Ocean. Often they make visitors discovery participants, as in Martin Wattenberg’sApartment, where people enter words that turn into architectural forms, or sorts of memory palaces. In a more popular way, television discovery and reality programs, from Yukon Men to America’s Got Talent, present protagonists who face challenges, encounter failure, and succeed, iteratively and often partially, while online the offer is even more pervasive, with games of discovery and adventure immersing young people in the process of competing against natural and internal constraints.
And this thoughtful blog post asks how museums can “break the unwritten rules of 20th century science communication and informal science education, and collectively they’re reshaping the landscape in which adults encounter science.”
I can’t even excerpt this because the whole long, personal story is too moving. Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu writes about his depression, how games and Felicity Day helped to save him, and how Gamergate is breaking his heart. Can someone please give this man a book deal, like, yesterday?
And some Halloween fun …
Netflix online recently added “The Taking of Deborah Logan,” which I watched last night. It’s a found-footage possession story with some solid acting, but what makes it stand out is that the victim of the possession is an elderly woman succumbing rapidly to dementia. Holy crap does that make it upsetting and scary, people! The difference between what a healthy nine-year-old will say and do and what a demon-possessed one will say and do is quite stark. This is where the horror of “The Exorcist” comes from. The horror of “Deborah Logan” comes from the fact that the difference between what a demented 75-year-old will say and do and what a demon-possessed one will is … not very clear at all.
If you prefer laughs to chills, check out the Onion’s “Your Ignorance of Classic Horror Leaves You Woefully Unqualified to Run This Haunted House.” It’s alarmingly me-like.
Evidence for that assertion: I tried briefly to get this going on Twitter, but it only took off on my personal Facebook page: #changealetterspoilthescare:
The Donkey’s Paw: Terrifying tale of a mutant donkey … with paws.
Brine of Frankenstein–What? He’s a nice pickle vendor down on Delancey Street. And it’s pronounced FRAHNK-un-shteen.
Pellraiser: The harrowing saga of a guidance counselor who opens a portal to the demonic realm to get grant money for your child’s college education.
My friend Molly had even better ones:
Children of the Morn: It’s 6AM, go back to sleep until Mommy has her coffee!
Bram Stoner’s Dracula: Duuude…have you ever looked at your fangs? I mean, like…REALLY looked at your fangs?
… come on parents, tell me this doesn’t chill your bones:
The Whining: Novel about a family trapped for the winter in an abandoned hotel with nothing to doooooo, Mooooooom!