1. When did you first want to get into the kind of work you do?
If you mean computer science in general... My father got a TRS-80 Model II from work when I was six. From the first time I sat down at the keyboard and started playing with it, my fate was sealed.
If you mean graphics... that's more recent. I first got interested in graphics when I saw pictures of the Mandelbrot set. At summer camp in seventh or eighth grade I put together a (fairly primitive) program to generate images of the set. A couple years later, while I was in Tennessee for a week to visit my friend Tony, I saw the first Mind's Eye tape and was totally hooked. It grabbed me and didn't let go. At first it was just "wow, that's so cool, I want to make pictures like that". Then, when I started studying, it was "The stuff under the hood of all of these algorithms is totally fascinating." It took off from there. Like I said, I was pretty well hooked.
2. We discussed fractals earlier, and I'm wondering, which do you like better: Sierpinski Triangle or Koch Snowflake? Why?
Oh, definitely the Sierpinski triangle. There's a beautiful little algorithm to generate one. Mark three points on a piece of paper. Now put the point of your pencil down anywhere. Anywhere at all: it doesn't even have to be inside those three points. Now, ad infinitum, do the following:
- Choose a random number N between 1 and 3.
- Find the line segment between the tip of your pencil and vertex N.
- Move the pencil to the midpoint of that segment.
- Mark that point.
No matter where you started, you will quickly wind up inside the triangle. Once you're inside the triangle, the points you plot will draw out a Sierpinski gasket. The Koch snowflake, while cool, seems not to have such a clean and elegant generator.
3. You're offered the job of your choice, paying a very nice (in absolute terms). The good news is you really do get to pick the job; the bad news is you actually do need to produce something, physical or otherwise. That is, you can't sit around all day playing video games for money, but you could, say, fold paper into interesting shapes. What do you do?
I'm torn between two possibilities. The first is almost exactly the job I have now: visualization/graphics research that lets me play with cool ideas that make pretty pictures and turn out to be useful to people doing "real" science. The only thing I'd change would be to cut out most of the politics... and increase the money, of course.
The second possibility... I would love to go back to making pictures again. I haven't done one in several years now and I miss it.
I probably wouldn't choose origami. That particular hobby, at least as I practice it, requires long periods of intense concentration. I can do that easily when it's for fun, but if it were all day every day I don't think I would be quite so happy about it. Besides, Chris Palmer is already trying hard to make a living from the things I fold and I don't know that there's enough business out there for two people.
4. Which parts of the country would you never willingly live in, and why? You don't need a good reason for any of your choices, as long as you can come up with something.
- New York City - It's too big and crowded for me. I can't even get my head around the whole thing, which is something that's important to me. Also, the cost of housing is totally outrageous.
- Los Angeles - See New York. Also, if I lived there I would be caught up in making FX for movies. I'm not interested in a work schedule that would so totally burn me out no matter what it paid.
- Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi - I want to live someplace with tolerable summers and recognizable winters. The hurricanes and tornadoes are something of a drawback, too.
Nearly everywhere else is negotiable.
5. Orpheus Promotions Inc calls you up, and tells you that they're putting on a big concert in your town, and you get to pick which three bands of the 20th century perform. Genre isn't important, but at least one member of the band has to be dead, and at least one has to be alive; they'll happily take care of the paperwork to get a work visa for the land of the living for the dead rock stars, but a clause of their operating licence with Pluton requires at least one living member. Which three bands do you choose?
- The Beach Boys
- The Vince Guaraldi Quartet