Wood and Stone

Even more than the near Shades State Park, Turkey Run State Park offers a maze of narrow canyons filled with remnants from the retreating glaciers of some 20,000 years ago.

DSC 2794

A common theme is the presence of wood and stone. Most of us are surrounded by their shaped presence more or less permanently, but here we can watch them grow and decay in their raw and untamed state.

DSC 7008

This place has something special at any season. In early spring, the abundant vegetation is still dormant, and the damage done by the melting ice and snow has not been cleaned up yet.

DSC 7065

This will just look like devastation to most, reminding us that building with wood or rock is, in the long run, nothing but building on sand.

DSC 7061

Occasionally, there is a view that seems to contradict the chaos. While such views are nothing but rare byproducts of the greater erosive randomness, they still remind us that there is purpose, as long as we pursue it.

DSC 3984


Simple Beginnings (Spheres V)

The simplest way to arrange spheres in space is to use the cubical lattice. This is the obvious generalization of the checkerboard, and it lends itself naturally to a coloring with two colors such that neighboring spheres are differently colored. While this is not the densest sphere packing, it will be pretty dark inside.


Leaving out the spheres of one color, painting the rest with most of RGB color space creates the following arrangement of spheres, and makes enough room for light to get through.


Now imagine yourself inside of it, and all spheres being reflective in addition to being colored. The formerly simplistic object becomes a dazzling fractal-like maze.

Cube small

The original bicolored sphere packing is related to a packing of space by octahedra (one for each orange sphere).
Two octahedra share then at most an edge, and the gaps can be filled with regular tetrahedra of the same edge length.


Minkowski discovered that octahedra can be packed much more densely. The gaps can still be filled with regular tetrahedra, but their edge length is only one third of the edge length of the octahedra.


First Flush

Today, I took possession of a medium sized box from India.

DSC 6980

It contained lots of little nicely labeled bags full with tea leaves.

DSC 6981

One of my yearly delights that few understand is the arrival of the new harvest Darjeeling, the main ones being the First Flush (March) and the Second Flush (June). Here we are looking at teas from a dozen or so tea gardens. This is to the tea drinker what vineyards are to the wine drinker. And similar to wine, teas vary in quality and quantity from year to year.

DSC 6984

Even though the British are responsible for stealing seeds of tea plants from China and planting them in India, most of my friends from England have a hard time recognizing the dried leaves as tea. Most of them are used to the dust that is now cheaply produced in Africa. Already smelling the dry leaves is wonderful.

DSC 6987

Then, of course, there is the science of steeping tea properly. Temperature is important; for good Darjeeling the water should be boiling or near boiling. More difficult is the choice of the right water. The tap water in most places I have lived completely ruins the tea. Filtering often helps somewhat, but bottled water is better, and finding the right one is not easy. Luckily, the local tap water in Bloomington is excellent for tea (except when a summer draught causes it to taste muddy). For reasons I haven’t been able to find out, tea doesn’t get bitter here.
This is limestone country, and the tap water is surface water from artificial reservoirs.

DSC 6995

Finally, it is essential to give the leaves some space to expand. After all these preparations, I am rewarded with several delightful cups. Strange that most people are clueless about all this.

DSC 6991