Science Writing

Harlan Brothers in Cantor’s Paradise

Audioactive sequences and the playful genius of John Conway

You don’t educate people by telling them useful things; you educate people by telling them interesting things” — John Horton Conway (1937–2020)

I was first exposed to the genius of John Conway through my work at the NSF-funded Yale Fractal Geometry Workshops...

Mathematics 8 min read

Harlan Brothers in Cantor’s Paradise

This mesmerizing spectacle of nature has been considered both a good omen and a harbinger of danger. The underlying physics help explain why.

It was a beautiful sight, that electric fire playing around the mastheads and yardarms, and illuminating the whole ship with its pale light. It was like a fairy scene..."

Science 6 min read

Harlan Brothers in Cantor’s Paradise

Researchers Discover a Fractal Protein

Amazingly, cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus spontaneously forms Sierpinski triangles

It was nearly half-century ago that Benoit Mandelbrot first coined the term fractal to describe the broad family of self-similar shapes that repeat their pattern in either exactly or roughly the same fashion over a wide range of scales....

Science 7 min read

Harlan Brothers in Cantor’s Paradise

Psychoacoustics, Shepard tones, and the logarithmic perception of pitch

 “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” — Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 — 1972) 

I recall having a blacklight poster of M.C. Escher’s “Other World” as a teenager. At the time, things couldn’t get too much cooler than the combination of blacklights AND Escher. If you’re unfamiliar with the piece, here’s the original woodcut print:

Science 10 min read

Harlan Brothers in Cantor’s Paradise

This elegant eighteenth century theorem gives a necessary and sufficient condition for proving primality


John Wilson was an English mathematician and judge who is best known for his formula for identifying prime numbers...

Prime Numbers  5 min read

Harlan Brothers in Cantor’s Paradise

Bach Meets Mandelbrot

I think we should send all of Bach; but of course we would be bragging, but it is surely excusable to put the best possible face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance.” ―Lewis Thomas (1913–1993)

More than two centuries separate The Art of Fugue, written by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the primitive computer printout of the first graphical representation of what is arguably the most famous fractal...

Bach 6 min read