Friday, March 05, 2021

Atmospheric Lights

"Terraforming Mars is a primary goal for the twenty-second century. But scientists are looking beyond Mars as well. The most exciting prospects may be the moons of the gas giants, including Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and Titan, a moon of Saturn. The moons of gas giants were once thought to be barren hunks of rock that were all alike, but they are now seen as unique wonderlands, each with its own array of geysers, oceans, canyons, and atmospheric lights. These moons are now being eyed as future habitats for human life."

- Michio Kaku (1947 - )
The Future of Humanity

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Islands of Life

"He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying through an abyss of death. He felt almost the opposite--that life was waiting outside the little iron egg-shell in which they rode, ready at any moment to break in, and that, if it killed them, it would kill them by excess of its vitality. He hoped passionately that if they were to perish they would perish by the "unbodying" of the space-ship and not by suffocation within it. To be let out, to be free, to dissolve into the ocean of eternal noon, seemed to him at certain moments a consummation even more desirable than their return to Earth. And if he had felt some such lift of the heart when first he passed through heaven on their outward journey, he felt it now tenfold, for now he was convinced that the abyss was full of life in the most literal sense, full of living creatures."

- C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)
Out of the Silent Planet

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Abstract Moons

"I distinguish two parts of it, which I call respectively the brighter and the darker. The brighter seems to surround and pervade the whole hemisphere; but the darker part, like a sort of cloud, discolors the Moon’s surface and makes it appear covered with spots. Now these spots, as they are somewhat dark and of considerable size, are plain to everyone and every age has seen them, wherefore I will call them great or ancient spots, to distinguish them from other spots, smaller in size, but so thickly scattered that they sprinkle the whole surface of the Moon, but especially the brighter portion of it. These spots have never been observed by anyone before me; and from my observations of them, often repeated, I have been led to the opinion which I have expressed, namely, that I feel sure that the surface of the Moon is not perfectly smooth, free from inequalities and exactly spherical… but that, on the contrary, it is full of inequalities, uneven, full of hollows and protuberances, just like the surface of the Earth itself, which is varied everywhere by lofty mountains and deep valleys."

- Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)
The Starry Messenger

Postscript. I could just as well have called this entry "Homage to White," as in paying homage to Minor White's well-known dictum to always strive to photograph what else a "thing" is. Always on alert for things and light to photograph, I was entranced this morning by the ravioli mold sitting quietly, Zen-like, beside our sink. Though it was "clean" (my wife has recently taken to making pasta and pasta dishes from scratch, including a delicious spaghetti meal she made last night), the play of light revealed distinctive palimpsest-esque patterns of residue. A quick jaunt upstairs to grab my camera and tripod was all it took to transform a simple, ordinary hunk of aluminum into a cauldron of wondrous cosmic delights!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Complex Networks

"Thanks to the rapid advances in network theory it appears that we are not far from the next major step: constructing a general theory of complexity. The pressure is enormous. In the twenty-first century, complexity is not a vague science buzzword any longer, but an equally pressing challenge for everything from the economy to cell biology. Yet, most earlier attempts to construct a theory of complexity have overlooked the deep link between it and networks. In most systems, complexity starts where networks turn nontrivial. No matter how puzzled we are by the behavior of an electron or an atom, we rarely call it complex, as quantum mechanics offers us the tools to describe them with remarkable accuracy. The demystification of crystals-highly regular networks of atoms and molecules-is one of the major success stories of twentieth-century physics, resulting in the development of the transistor and the discovery of superconductivity. Yet, we continue to struggle with systems for which the interaction map between the components is less ordered and rigid, hoping to give self-organization a chance."

- Albert-László Barabási (1967 - )
Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Distorted Reality

"Other big questions tackled by ancient cultures are at least as radical. What is real? Is there more to reality than meets the eye? Yes! was Plato's answer over two millennia ago. In his famous cave analogy, he likened us to people who'd lived their entire lives shacked in a a cave, facing a blank wall, watching the shadows cast by things passing behind them, and eventually coming to mistakenly believe that these shadows were the full reality. Plato argued that what we humans call our everyday reality is similarly just a limited and distorted representation of the true reality, and that we must free ourselves from our mental shackles to comprehending it."

Max Tegmark (1967 - )

Monday, February 22, 2021

Dreaming and Seeing

"The diagram in the ashes had two epicenters; one he called “reason,” the other, “will.” “Reason” was interconnected directly with a point he called “talking.” Through “talking,” “reason” was indirectly connected to three other points, “feeling,” “dreaming,” and “seeing.” The other epicenter, “will,” was directly connected to “feeling,” “dreaming,” and “seeing”; but only indirectly to “reason” and “talking.” I remarked that the diagram was different from the one I had recorded years before. “The outer form is of no importance,” he said. “These points represent a human being and can be drawn in any way you want.” “Do they represent the body of a human being?” I asked. “Don’t call it the body” he said. “These are eight points on the fibers of a luminous being. A sorcerer says, as you can see in the diagram, that a human being is, first of all, will, because will is directly connected to three points, feeling, dreaming, and seeing; then next, a human being is reason. This is properly a center that is smaller than will; it is connected only with talking.” “What are the other two points, don Juan?” He looked at me and smiled."

- Carlos Castaneda (1925 - 1998)
Tales of Power

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Abstract Forms

“And what is it that experiences our self? Only our self! There is only one substance in experience and it is pervaded by and made out of knowing or awareness. In the classical language of non-duality this is sometimes expressed in phrases such as, ‘Awareness only knows itself’, but this may seem abstract. It is simply an attempt to describe the seamless intimacy of experience in which there is no room for a self, object, other or world; no room to step back from experience and find it happy or unhappy, right or wrong, good or bad; no time in which to step out of the now into an imaginary past or into a future in which we may become, evolve or progress; no possibility of stepping out of the intimacy of love into relationship with an other; no possibility of knowing anything other than knowing, of being anything other than being, of loving anything other than loving; no possibility of a thought arising which would attempt to frame the intimacy of experience in the abstract forms of the mind; no possibility for our self to become a self, a fragment, a part; no possibility for the world to jump outside and for the self to contract inside; no possibility for time, distance or space to appear."

Rupert Spira (1960 - )
Presence: The Art of Peace and Happiness