VISTALITE, just like its creator, is a lot of things. Electronic. Punk. High Fashion. Trash. Dance. Garage. Trance. Honest. Jesse Hoy puts every part of himself into each of Vistalite’s compositions and performances. Son of a Dutch supermodel. Grandson of a cole-miner. Husband. Father. Drummer, and much, much more
Jesse Hoy, formerly of The Deadly Syndrome, was born in Templeton, CA. When The Deadly Syndrome wrapped up, Jesse needed to keep performing and so he decided to reach back into what he loved doing growing up, drumming and dancing tap, ballet, jazz and hip-hop.
As Vistalite, Jesse is currently creating 26 EPs, one for each letter of the alphabet.
"Knowing it's a massive undertaking I don't anticipate finishing it anytime soon, but I believe that will allow for the entire body of work to act as some sort of autobiography. Hopefully my kids and their kids will find some value in that"
"We all can do more with our lives. Nothing has meaning until you assign some kind of meaning to it." Jesse Hoy
GMAIL CONVERSATION BETWEEN JESSE HOY OF VISTALITE AND PHYSICIST DANIELE PINNA
Daniele Pinna is a Paris-based Italian physicist who is currently working on a way to revolutionized data storage.
11/2/15 Aurelien Levitan:
Jesse meet physicist Daniele Pinna Sending you both an intro email so that you can connect and start your conversation for our DAMAGED exclusive feature. I will let you both take it from here and start exchanging words and creative ideas. Thank you both for your time. I am excited and looking forward to an exciting and original conversation. Please keep me CC'd in your email exchanges and let me know if I can be of further assistance. All my very best, Aurelien
11/2/15 Jesse Hoy:
Hi Daniele! Very pleased to meet you. I believe the best way for us to do this is to have an email conversation, so that all of our answers and questions are transcribed already. Do you mind sending me some info on the work you're doing? I'd love to dive in so I can be a bit more educated on what I ask you. I hope you're well. Here's where you can find my music and my bio: xvistalite.com And here's what it looks like live: https://vimeo.com/129998631 pw: vistalite Talk to you soon, Jesse
11/4/15 Daniele Pinna:
Hey Jesse! Nice to meet you. I'm a physicist currently working in the field of nanomagnetism. In particular, I work in a group that studies bioinspired computing. Here is a link to my supervisor's laboratory page: http://julie.grollier.free.fr/why.htm It has a lot of information on the general field of study that I partake in. I completed my PhD last year at NYU studying applications of a physical phenomena known as "spin-torque". Basically, I explored how the fact that electrons behave as super tiny magnets can be leveraged to use them as a tool to alter the magnetization of actual magnetic objects. Let me put this in perspective for you.
You probably know what a hard disk drive is (the old spinning kind not the new solid state drives), and have certainly heard that information is coded in "zeroes and ones". Hard drives are made up millions of tiny little magnets, each of which has its own north/south pole. You should have intuitive understanding of north/south poles by playing at placing toy magnets close to each other. If you move them close in one orientation they stick, while in another they repel.
The way information,"zeroes and ones", is stored in computers is by flipping all these little tiny magnets according to a very simple conventional rule: if the magnets north pole points up, we call that a one "1", if it points down we call it a zero. Whenever we save a file, the hard drive is selecting a block of previously unused magnets and flipping them up/down depending on what needs to be stored. Analogously, when you open a saved file, your hard drive finds that block of magnets and reads the orientation of each of their magnetizations in order to reconstruct the file of interest.
All this, as fascinating as it may be, is nothing terribly new. This system of writing information has been in vogue since the 80s. The problems arise when, similarly to the evolution of all other aspects of technology, you wish to make your memory smaller and more compact. To make larger and larger hard drives, one needs to make that individual magnetic "bits" tinier and tinier. As they are made smaller and smaller, a whole host of new physical effects come into play which previously could have been neglectable. One of these are effects due to temperature for example. "Temperature" is effectively the net motion of the molecules making up a substance or object. When we say that the air in a room is hot/cold, we are effectively judging the speed at which air molecules are, on average, moving around you. This in turn is allowed by a sense of perception of heat on our skin which in turn translates to how intensely the molecules making up the surface of our body are vibrating. Similarly, when a magnet is heated, all its atoms and molecules composing it begin to vibrate more and more. Since each atom making up the magnet, is a magnetic unit itself (the magnetic properties of the object being the sum of the effects of its individual atoms), it may happen that these vibrations randomly flip the magnetic orientation of single atoms. Now, as long as a magnet is large enough, this is unlikely to significantly affect the large scale properties of a big magnet. However, if the magnet is made small enough, these effects become perceptible to the point where if you write a magnetic bit in an "up" orientation, it may randomly flip "down" making its storage properties useless. One part of my job throughout my PhD was to characterize exactly the role that temperature plays in disordering these tiny magnets.
Small sizes do not necessarily spell doom though. Some benefits also arise! The major one is the phenomenon of spin-torque. Magnets are often made of metals. As such, they can conduct electricity. Electricity, as you may know, is in turn made of subatomic particles called electrons which, on top of having a negative charge, also have a property called "spin" which for all intents and purposes is analogous to a microscopic amount of magnetization. If you attempt to conduct an electric current through metal magnet, what happens is that every single one of the electrons in the current will orient its magnetic north/south pole (its "spin") and align it with that of the magnet it's traversing. The net result of this is that once the electrons leave the magnet, all their spins are aligned in the same direction. This is known as the "spin-polarization" effect and the current is said to be spin-polarized. Now, you may know Newton's famous 3rd law of dynamics which states "for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction". If the action here is that the presence of the magnet reorients all the spins of the electrons to align with its magnetic axis, the reaction will be that the electrons will in turn attempt to torque the magnet's north/south pole along their own axis also. For large magnets this is imperceptible since the magnet is so much larger than the electrons. It would be analogous to hundreds of people all pushing with all their might against a large cement wall: the wall isn't going anywhere whereas the people all effectively just push themselves away from the wall. The negligence of the effect of the electrons on the magnet is further compounded by the fact that the electrons flowing into the magnet initially have scrambled, randomized, spin orientations so their net torque on the magnet is zero. In the people/wall analogy, it would be as if those hundreds of people all push on the wall from random directions (even if the wall could move, it wouldn't go anywhere).
But what if we now repeat the experiment with a much smaller magnet? And what if instead of driving any old current through it, we drive a current that has previously been conducted through a larger magnet (a spin-polarized current)?
The situation will be a lot different. For one, instead of facing a "cement wall" the electrons are facing one made of balsa wood. Furthermore, since all their spins are aligned in the same direction, they will all affect the smaller magnet's magnetization in the same way! I drew up a little diagram for you (see below). Let the large orange arrow represent the direction of current flow and the little white circles be single electrons. Lets denote in green two successive magnets: a large "pinned" one and a tiny one that we expect to be "free" to move. The initially spin-scrambled electrons first move through the large magnet inheriting its magnetization direction, becoming polarized. They next flow though the smaller magnet where, yes, they will align with its magnetization also, but also alter the small magnet's magnetization int he process. The net effect of this chain of events is that by flowing a current through this magnetic sandwich we eventually orient the small magnet's magnetization to be exactly aligned with that of the larger magnet. The cool thing is that if you reverse the direction of the current flow, you can achieve the exact opposite result, namely orienting the small magnet's magnetization to become ANTI-aligned with that of the larger magnet. The basis of this effect has given birth to the field known as "spintronics" where both the charge AND magnetization of the electrons are leveraged to construct novel electronic circuits and technological devices.
The takeaway from all of this is that we can make a small magnet do whatever the hell we want with electric currents. Currently, the writing (and reading) of magnetic bits was achieved by using energetically expensive magnetic fields which had to be generated in such a focused fashion to affect a single magnetic bit and avoid altering the rest of the information already written. Nowadays, a proper application of spin-torque will allow us to achieve much higher read/write speeds at a tiny fraction of the energetic cost. Not only will this give solid-state drives a run for their money, but it has the potential to revolutionize a lot of computer components in general.
SO lets move to what I do now. In March of this year I joined a bio-inspired computing group here at a Parisian national laboratory. What the group is interested in is to employ these incredibly energy efficient devices to construct circuits and networks capable of mimicking properties of the animal brain. You may have heard about Artificial Neural Networks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_neural_network as the paradigm which powers much of the pattern recognition and fast data analysis which happens on the internet these days. The most immediate application which you may be aware of happens when you post a picture with friends of yours on facebook and immediately you a suggestion for which friends to tag is offered. Behind this technology lies the very hot field of neural network studies. The major paradigm at the basis of the field is that, given the very simple behavior of a single neuron in our brain, the elevated properties of an animal's intellect (from simply remembering to breathe, to processing sounds and sensorial inputs, to abstract philosophical thought) are an emergent property of the vast network of interceonnected neurons making up the brain. In fact, as simple as a neuron may seem, the concerted behavior of large clusters of them are capable of EXTREMELY non trivial behavior. Not only do they respond to input, but sub-groups of a nouron cluster will immediately adapt the strength of their connections towards each other in an effort to specialize in recognizing certain patterns in the inputs being received. Imitation of rudimentary versions of these network structures, via computer simulations, has allowed us to construct software capable of recognizing objects in images with error rates smaller than those of an actual human performing the same task (http://www.electronics-eetimes.com/en/microsoft-google-beat-humans-at-image-recognition.html?cmp_id=7&news_id=222923907).
However, one huge limit still exists. Training these artificial networks of neurons at performing specific tasks, requires a gargantuan amount of resources. Our brain, on the other hand, is capable of performing much more complex and task-specific activities whilst consuming no more than 20 Watts (i.e. crappy household lightbulb). Artificial neural networks simulating only a small fraction of the neurons in our brain require much more energy (many orders of magnitude larger). That's where our research group comes in!
We want to get to a point where, instead of simulating clusters of neurons on a computer, we can build analog devices made out of our nanoscopic magnetic elements capable of behaving exactly like the neurons in the simulations. This would give us means to create much more scalable and energy efficient neural networks all the while feeding towards the great objective of modern technological pursuit: the attainment of artificial intelligence.(Bonus link... it turns out androids dream of electric sheep after-all: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/18/google-image-recognition-neural-network-androids-dream-electric-sheep)
I hope this serves as a decent introduction to what my expertise is and what I study. I would love to go into the details of how exactly I tackle these problems if you are interested. I'm also attaching my CV for your reading (taken from my most recent grant application). As you can see I also have an immense passion for teaching, which I unfortunately had to sacrifice right now to pursue my research ventures. It's not as fun as a website, such as yours, but it's what goes for a Bio in my field. I do plan on making a website for myself soon though
Thank you for the links to your work, I very much enjoyed the Vimeo post along with the music available on your vistalite website. I gather your drive for composing a work which strives to be both enjoyable and highly conceptual. What aspect of your art means most to you? Is there a particular message you want your listener to appreciate or do you prefer for a more organic contextualization of your work?
Hope to hear from you soon,
Daniele Pinna, Ph.D
I'll have to admit, what you're working on is pretty mind bending. It's something that most of us take for granted. Our computers used to barely have 256mb of memory 15 years ago, and now I complain that my GoPro is unstable when I use a 64gb SD card with it, because 32gb isn't enough.
What got you into this world of physics? I believe with arts and sciences the underlying attractions are problem solving and adding more information where we feel it's lacking, ie: an author writes a book because he/she feels like that perspective/idea is missing from our collective consciousness, and a scientist finds an answer to something, or creates something that they feel is missing or lacking in our world. I have always loved the sciences and they influence how I tackle the ideas that I feel are worth tackling. What forms of art influence and inspire you in your current field of study?
"Study" is another word that crosses over in both the arts and sciences. I know that I continually work on a song, or type of song till I find something interesting enough to share with other people or bring to completion. But there are those few that I have demos of that I hold on to and visit on a regular basis, constantly trying to "solve" it or bring it to a place that could be finished. Are there any failed experiments or studies that you have worked on that still haunt you? Do you feel that they inform your work, or how you approach it?
Not to get too Sci-Fi, but it's hard to resist... Is what you're working on a big part of our move to singularity? I base most of my singularity knowledge on a wired article I read a couple years back, that I can't find the link to. I would imagine it is, not only because it's technological leaps and bounds, but as a layman, I get obsessed with the way the neuron system's layout resembles the ways our cities and towns get laid out (most obvious when flying at night) and the similar shapes that you can see on a macro scale when observing the universe. So when I see all that, and I read about Harvard and the work you're doing, I feel less like I'm making up those connections and feel like I'm observing designs that are cosmically apparent. I've been trying to write a song that reflects these observations for years now, but can never quite find the words.
Thanks for taking the time.
Hey Jesse, Thanks for getting back to me!
I guess I got into physics because I hate not having answers. My mother always reminds me that as a child I would drive her nuts by asking her the "Why?" of things all the time. Nowadays, what keeps me going is the math behind it all. It's mind boggling when you think that we infinitesimal humans invented a "language" that has been able to not only describe everything we see in the universe in quantitative terms, but also make predictions about events and phenomena we haven't seen yet! It's almost as if we're the universe's conscience, reflecting on itself.
The art that has most inspired me with regards to the sciences is classical art. Back then people attempted to paint/sculpt/compose art which attempted to capture the idyllic essence of its subject. Schemes of "just" proportions were proposed in an attempt to achieve an aesthetic product which tried to be as objective as possible. In a sense science does the same thing. There will always be imperfections in real world phenomena which can't be accounts fur with absolute precision. However, the laws governing the fundamental processes in nature are accessible to us in objective form if you query reality in the right way and construct appropriate experiments. Once you have this down, we can then proceed to "sculpt" nature to our use. We play it. We interpret ourselves through it. I think these are very general considerations which manifest themselves both in art AND in science.
You ask about failed experiments in my fiend and in my work. There are certainly plenty. However, i find it unfair to call them "failed". The way science is logically structured, a "failed" experiment or hypothesis inevitably feed information to our understanding also. Proving that something is wrong is extremely valuable in the sciences. I wonder what its artistic correspondent is. Could it maybe be that by producing a "failed" demo you also realize what compositional elements work well with each other and what don't? Having said this, I must admit that when you work for months on testing something that you felt confident was right, only to disprove yourself, is very disappointing. It feels like you've wasted so much energy on nothing. It's important to keep the bigger picture in mind and understand that you are but a piece contributing to the whole: the "collective consciousness" as you so aptly called it.
In a sense, yes, the work I do is pushing us close to the singularity for memory devices as well as the milestone of artificial intelligence. The word "singularity" gets thrown around very generously nowadays. I wouldn't be surprised if it means something very different to me than it does to you. The way I understand it is in the context of "Moore's Law", an empirical law which states that technological devices double their performance roughly every two years. The term "performance" itself should be taken liberally. Moore's law has been used to justify how our devices get progressively lighter, faster, more energy efficient, smaller etc.. exponentially over time. Eventually though, we inevitably run into physical limits to scaling like this. When this happens, and performance can't be increased any further (without drastically altering some paradigm and doing things radically differently) one says that "Moore's singularity" had been reached.
Take computer processors as an example. Back in the 90s you would buy a computer and its processor would be obsolete within 6-12 months. You would buy a computer with a 40 MHz processor and within a year 100+ MHz processors came on the market. By the early 2000s we broke the GHz barrier and then.... We stopped. To this day your laptop/desktop cpu isn't faster than 3-4 GHz or so. We got to the point where we fabricated transistors of sizes comparable to that of single molecules and we just can't scale below that since we need complete molecular structures to engineer electronic gates. What happened is that the market then focused on making CPUs more and more energy efficient. As a result we can now pack comparably powerful processors both on a desktop AND a cellphone (without demolishing your battery life).
This is my sense of the "singularity". With memory devices, for example, we're nowhere close. A group in Germany a couple years ago showed that you can feasibly hope to fabricate magnetic bits out of single iron atoms which can then be packed closer than a nanometer (~10 millionth of an inch) from each other. In terms of memory density, this would translate into being able to store hundreds of TERAbytes into a tiny square-inch thumb drive!
How do you interpret the concept of "singularity"? You say you've been trying to write a song... Got a demo?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,
Of course, it's my pleasure.
I remember taking physics in high school and the teacher putting it exactly the way you did. Physics is merely the answers to why everything is doing what it's doing. I remember that realization opening a door up for me. And like you said math acts as that language, that can help explain and at times predict. It makes me think a lot about the myth of astronauts as a kid. I had the naive impression that being an astronaut was just a next level firefighter. But once I saw Apollo 13 and was then old enough to comprehend (or at least begin to comprehend the generalities of) space travel, of course you need astrophysicists up there, who else would know how to deal with the types of situations that you'd run into up there.
But I guess I (and probably most people) think more about physics in relation to trajectories and how major bodies affect those paths. But still it's all about finding answers.
And relating math back to music, it's interesting to me that music is simply just equations that harmonize well with each other. The fact that each note finds beauty with other notes because of the math behind their frequencies. These things are not accidental mistakes. The equations exist and are just waiting to be arranged and re-arranged by artists. And finding familiarity and then reinterpreting that is really where I think music shines. But it's all there waiting to be "used" and not necessarily created.
"Failure" yeah, I don't really believe in this word either. We're all on journeys and paths to nowhere. And we'll only continue to discover and enrich our lives if we continue to "succeed" and "fail" along the path. And yes what is success? If failure doesn't truly exist than neither does success. In the same way that you would ask "why?" until your mother would force you to stop talking, there will always be more to strive for after every success and every failure. I wrote a line I'm particularly proud of and it's in my song "Carry on, Carrion." "Winning means you never learn." Without failures or losses, you simply aren't enriched and you aren't challenged to survive or do better, "failure" is often more important than "success." Unless of course you cure aging/cancer/disease/hunger...but then again I'm sure we as humans will figure out a way to make those failures as well, which is another conversation entirely.
Singularity, I'm not entirely sure what my definition is. The SCI-FI one is obviously the most romantic and I guess that's the one I think of the most. The idea that we'll all be connected similar to the way Samantha communicates with the other AI's in her, except it will be us interconnected with everyone else and all information. It fascinates and terrifies me.
Once I write that song, you'll be the first to hear it.
Thanks again for chatting with me. It's very intimidating talking to someone who actually knows what they're talking about.
Dear Jesse, the pleasure is all mine. It's so refreshing to talk about certain topics with someone with such an antipodal viewpoint from your own. I'll be in LA in mid-January. Do you have any shows lined up? I'd love to come hear you play live!
Daniele Pinna, Ph.D
Hi Daniele, I don't know if I'll have any shows in mid January, working on one for mid-February right now, but would love to meet up for a drink.