Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Total Perspective Vortex: You are here!

The TPV - according to The Hitchhicker's Guide to the galaxy- "shows its victim the entire unimaginable infinity of the universe with a very tiny marker that says "You Are Here" which points to a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot.

This is a great java animation that zooms from the cosmic to the quantum scale- like a future "Google Cosmos"? It's the modern version of Charles & Ray Eames 1968 book "Powers of Ten"

Who would have thought a couple of furniture designers would be so "deep"?

What the Bleep Do We Know? We Know that this Film is a Fucking Waste of Time

"What the Bleep Do We Know?" starts off promisingly enough... it begins with a discussion the basics of quantum mechanics - indeterminacy, superposition etc but then rapidly disintegrates into one of the WORST films i have ever had the misfortune to watch.
One of the problems is a confusion of 'scales'! Sure, a subatomic particle may 'exist' in a spread out wave of probability before detection shrinks it down to a particle.. but these effects are minimal on a macroscopic scale... and do nothing to explain why the pissed-off deaf girl has a "Being John Malkovich" moment at the end of the film. (She also has a few "Sliding Doors" moments- presumably these are meant to represent the "Many Worlds" theory).
Observing a photon, and therfore collapsing it's wave function is a little different from "Creating My Own Day"... no matter what some stupid chiropractor sitting by his open fireplace says. I didn't like the way he was fondling his own left hand during the interview either.
Seen as a comedy, this film is really pretty funny.
My favourite kook whose new age crap is advertised here is the woman who not only looks like she's dressed up in a Star Trek uniform -but also actually seems to have had the SAME facelift as William Shatner (see above).
It turns out that the woman (Mrs JZ Knight) is actually appearing as "Ramtha"... a 35,000 year old being that regularly posesses her.
According to Wikipedia, Ramtha has appeared in several court disputes. One involving the dissemination of material containing the copyrighted Ramtha. Another in Austria, involved a Berlin woman who also claimed to channel Ramtha. The Austrian Supreme court decided that JZ Knight was the only person who could channel the spirit Ramtha.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Spiritual Stuff

As I think about all of these facts and images that attempt to distill the world into an emotionally meaningful experience, the true wonder of it all is that all roads in Nature, when followed downward level after level, seem to lead to the same inescapable realization: Particles and matter are not the ultimate groundwork of Nature. At the most basic level, all known things dissolve into a confluence of reverberating quantum fields, whose interplay in spacetime give us the substance of a stone, the color of a sunset or the fragrance of a rose. Even spacetime may ultimately resolve itself into its own quantum essence as a spider web of interacting particles made up from pure space. There is, perhaps, a germ of truth to the saying that " the universe has more of the character of a thought than a machine". The knots in the fields we call matter are just the tracers of a more fundamental reality, mere flotsam and jetsam on the ocean of the universe. The deep roots that elementary particles have may reach down into the bedrock of spacetime whose geometry ultimately controls their properties and how they are destined to interact with one another. Like an oak or a maple tree, we measure and perceive only their broad canopies. Their roots remain forever hidden.

And so, after all of this, I am left with only one core experience that serves as a beacon for me. On a dark winter's night in January I stood outside and looked at the vast emptinesses between the stars. I saw the dust clouds and nebulae, the faint pinpoints of warmth set against the unimaginable cold of the universe. And in my mind's eye, I saw something else too. I saw a vast landscape of quantum fields busily curving spacetime and steering the motions of matter. I saw beneath this, a plenum of activity just below perceptibility, where ghost-like quanta knit the Void into a dynamic vacuum, and suspend it like a spider's web, above the great abyss of Nothingness. I felt the hardness of my body and the ground beneath my feet dissolve away into the invisible gyrations of spacetime curvature, in a seamless way that reunited my body with the Void itself. My mass was taken up by the energy of massless fields that themselves dissolved into the comings and goings of graviton networks that spun their web works at the foundation of space and time.

What any of these things meant, I had not the slightest clue because the experience was purely non-verbal. But I had the sense that all was well. That no matter what the explanation of what I was witnessing might be, we would come to it in due time if that was our good fortune and destiny. For now, I was content to be living in the most likely of all possible worlds, enchanted by what I knew, but humbled by what I could not.

Sten Odenwald (Astronomer)

Patterns in the Void
Most of what you are is actually just energy trapped in a field. Your mass consists mostly of the mass of protons and neutrons, but these are in turn built up from quarks bound together into proton and neutron 'packages' by the strong nuclear force. The mass of a quark, by itself, only accounts for 3% of your total mass. The rest of your mass comes from the energy of the field which causes the strong nuclear force. You are mostly 'not there'!

Sten Odenwald

What is the Universe Made of?
Most of the universe is apparently made of 'dark energy', a small percentage is 'dark matter'.. and the tiny remainder is made of 'particles' (mostly matter with a tiny bit of anti-matter). A small proportion of particles go to making atoms- of which the most abundant is the simplest- hydrogen. Anything more complicated has to be created inside supernova star explosions before it can coalesce into planets from which living humans can evolve, gaze out into the universe and invent vengeful gods to explain it all away.
This is a great website that goes through the "standard model" of particle physics.

Things i have trouble understanding:
1) what is 'spin'?
2) why there are 3 generations of matter? (reminiscent of a medieval 'hierarchy of angels'?)
3) what causes a particle to have a certain mass? and what the hell is a Higgs Boson?
As a separate issue- hese particles keep popping in and out of existence at random- creating particle/anti-particle foam out of so-called "empty" space.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Couldn't they just be blue? The Evolution of Transparency.

Why are there so many transparent deep sea creatures?
Is transparency better for camouflage when there's so little light at those depths anyway?
How much better is being transparent than being black?... (particularly when you're not hiding in front of anything in particular).
How do cells and tissues avoid making pigmented proteins? (e.g. Haemoglobin)
Why are there no transparent land animals?
All these questions and more are answered here...
Interestingly, it appears some predators have evolved UV vision (under which transparent prey becomes visible!).

Personalise your Google Homepage

You can now personalise your Google for and add whatever feeds you want e.g. local weather, local news, magazines, newspapers etc. It's fantastic!

Nuclear Proliferation? Don't Panic

Interesting article by Jacques Hymans in Foreign Policy- organ of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace... but after reading it i'm still worried!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

More on Sufjan Stevens

What a dude to have not bothered putting on a non-ripped t-shirt for the shoot.
Interview here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Most Amazing Song Ever
Casimir Pulaski was a Polish Count who ended up fighting in the American Revolutionary War.. what this has to do with Sufjan Steven's song about the death of his girlfriend remains a mystery to me... but nonetheless this song makes the hairs stick up on the back of my neck!

Golden rod and the 4-H stone
The things I brought you
When I found out you had cancer of the bone
Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car to the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry
In the morning through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading
Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth
Tuesday night at the bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens
I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse
In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared
Oh the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you
Sunday night when I cleaned the house I find the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother
On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom
In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window
In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing
Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window
Oh the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes

Computer Camp Love

My god this is such a GREAT song.. bloody funny! The video is even funnier- esp those confused looking Norwegian school students and the guy with the monobrow.... i wonder if that's Ketil

I was so impressed- i emailed the band:

Hi DataRock....

You Guys Rock!

I've emailed a link to computer camp love to all my cool friends .
Keep up the good work! Maybe you'll be famous. Do the "Grease" people know you nicked their lyrics? You could be in BIG trouble.



no i don't think the grease people know. let's hope they never will...
anyway, thanks for your interest and support. hopefully we'll come to australia in january next year.

best ,

Isn't the internet amazing? You can hear a song, visit the band's website, watch the video and email the bass player and get a reply all within 6hours.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gilgamesh 2/3 God, 1/3 Human

The Ancient Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh" was writen 4500 years ago on clay tablets. It predates the Old Testament, and prefigures Noah's flood. (The Old Testament may therefore be the 1st episode plagarism on record). Some of the tablets are on display at the British Museum (room 55)... including the one about the flood.
The discoverer of the "flood tablet" was a Mr George Smith, an assistant in The British Museum. On reading the text (in 1872) he :"... jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself!"
Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk is 2/3 God and 1/3 Human...(go figure on the science behind this) and seems to have difficulty accepting his mortality. He is given some seriously good advice about baths, babes and booze. (To which i would add: 'Books'.. i.e. "A Hot Bath, A Good Book, and a Dirty Woman"- or any other noun/adjective combination)

"Oh Mighty King, remember now that only gods are immortal- watching Humans come and go- for that is the way fate decreed on the Tablets of Destiny.

So someday you will depart, but till that distant day sing, and dance, eat your fill of warm cooked food and cool jugs of beer.

Cherish the children your love gave life.

Bathe away life's dirt in warm drawn waters.

Pass the time in joy with your chosen wife

On the Tablets of Destiny it is decreed For you to enjoy short pleasures for your short days.

More! More! More!.... Gadgets

Endless gadgets... fantastic flying cars!
More! More! More! Consume! Consume! Consume! I had no idea i wanted a fold-up stroller that converts into a backpack.. but now i know my life will be incomplete without it... although i know it's all wrong i just can't help myself! (see tirade below)... mmmm i really feel like a burger now... and maybe a heineken would go down nicely too. I don't really think this "adbusting" is working. comments?
Manufacturing Desire: By Harry Flood

Welcome to the factory floor. The product? Things that are not essential, but hard to live without. What's being supplied here is demand. Want. Craving. All you could desire. All you can imagine. Maybe more than you can handle.
"Why is this child smiling?" asks a recent print ad of a cute tot blissfully snoozing. "Because he has lived his whole life in the biggest bull market in history." Cue the smug nods, the flush of pride. For here, swaddled in Baby Gap and lying in a Morigeau crib, is the immaculate American kid, born in the best damn place and time there has ever been. A child wanting for nothing. He will soon learn, of course, to want everything. Americans are beyond apologizing for their lifestyle of scorched-earth consumerism. To the strange little cabal of moralists -- Robert Frank, Jedediah Purdy et al. -- who have recently questioned the official program, the response has mostly been to crank up the volume and drown the doubt out. Global consumer culture? Supersize it, baby. Pile on the wattage, horsepower, silicone, cholesterol and RAM until the lights flicker, the smoke-alarms shriek and the cardiac paddles lurch to life. Give us marbled steaks and sport-utes, please, and put it all on our tab -- we're good for it. Because we are working dogs. And we have worked out the formula for millennial prosperity: keep your head down and your wallet open, and watch the economy roll. Enjoy the rollicking good times while building "the America we deserve." Time was, decadence on this scale was something to fear. If one group of people was gobbling up resources out of all proportion to its needs, consuming at thirty times the rate of other groups of people, at everyone's expense, well . . . that was bad karma, to say the least. Their society was surely soft, cancerous and doomed. But somehow, the First World has managed to give it all a happy spin. We have decided not to avoid decadence but to embrace it. Crave it. Buy it. Sell it. What's decadent? Ice cream with the density of plutonium, a bubblebath with a barley-flour chaser, that great new Gucci scent called "Envy." Decadence is just the celebration of universal human appetites, fully expressed -- and any premium wiener who'd object to that idea must already be half-dead. There's no mistaking contemporary America for Versailles-era France or Rome in the time of the Caesars. Decadence has grown up, grown cool, grown systematic in its excess. It's an indoor trout stream in the tasteful lakeside mansion of a software magnate. It's leasing, rather than owning, a fine German automobile so you can exchange it for a new one in ten months. You don't see the new deci- billionnaires of Silicon Valley splashing their wealth around wantonly, like the '80s Wall Street crowd. What you see is specific, laser-guided generosity -- like cutting friends and relatives into the IPO, or buying a tax-deductible painting by your boss' kid. Keeping the money in the family. The woman most recently canonized by the American media was a personal shopper, by trade. (It was said Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, whose job was to purchase things for other people too wealthy or time-pressed to purchase things for themselves, personified elegance, refinement and understatement.) The new design aesthetic, as seen in Wallpaper magazine, is sexily minimalist, with high design and hyperattention to every detail. Labor-intensive and expensive as hell, but worth it. See how much we've grown up? Can you understand now why the rest of the world has its nose to the glass, wanting a piece of this? Perhaps decadence isn't a thing but a behavior -- some gesture just arrogant and shameless enough to be Bad (read, good). An American golf fan, swept up by jingoism, spits on a rival golfer's wife at a prestigious international tournament. A real-estate mogul erects a great middle-finger of an apartment building shadowing the United Nations. The most powerful man in the world proves he is pathologically unable to apologize. Or maybe decadence goes deeper than a behavior, as deep as the emotion that hatched it. The Motion Picture Association of America fixes an R rating on films that include profanity, nudity, sex, violence or "decadent situations." So understanding decadence may simply involve renting a few saucy blockbuster action pictures and monitoring the responses they provoke. As the beloved stars appear on the screen, predictable thoughts materialize in the primitive hindbrain of the viewer: I want your hair. I want your money. I want to see you naked on the Internet. Not every American lives a decadent life, of course. But decadence, as the marketers say, has great penetration. Those who aren't themselves trashing hotel rooms or being photographed in their swimming pools for InStyle magazine, end up thinking a lot about those who are -- because the culture of celebrity (or the culture of "ornament," as Susan Faludi calls it) is the water we're all swimming in. Refracted through the glass of the tank, the contours of the world outside tend to distort. A Canadian newspaper recently quoted a Toronto woman who had taken a leave from her law practice to stay home with the baby. She was grumbling that the family was now forced to get by on her husband's $37,000 salary. "I love to live in poverty," she said, sardonically. "It's my favorite thing in life." The story was supposed to be about the social trend of professional women making domestic choices. But it was really about a different social trend altogether: the hyper- inflation of the concept of "enough." To borrow journalist Robert Kaplan's metaphor, the First World is driving a Cadillac through Harlem. The passengers are hermetically protected. The air- conditioner is on, Wynton Marsalis is issuing from the stereo, beers chill in the minibar. It's hard to make much out through the tinted windows, but no matter. Nothing that's happening outside has any bearing on what's happening inside. At least, that's our willful illusion. It's an illus ion that seems indefinitely sustainable, though it isn't. Decadence is self-delusion on a massive scale. Like the motto of the new gadget-packed magalog Sony Style -- "things that are not essential, yet hard to live without" -- it's about convincing ourselves of the value of thi s lifestyle, because to question it would force choices we're not prepared to make. 'How much do I deserve?' we all ask ourselves, if only implicitly. 'Not just money, but adventure, sex, fizzy water, educational opportunities, time on the beach, peace of mind -- the package. How much do I deserve?' A thoughtful answer might be, 'I don't deserve anything. The notion that some people are just naturally more entitled than others is for Calvinists, Monarchists and Donald Trump. It simply doesn't feel right to claim more than a modest reasonable allotment. If I've happened to stake a claim on a rich crook of the river, that's my good luck. The guy upstream has worked just as hard as I have. So I share.' But that view now seems downright un-American. 'How much do I deserve? All I can cram in my mouth, brain, glove-box and daytimer,' says the hard-charging capitalist. 'I've earned it. And you haven't earned the right to te ll me differently.' That's why, when the Australian ethicist Peter Singer wonders, "What is our charitable burden?" it strikes so many Americans as unusual, controversial, bizarre. For a lot of folks, the calculation of a n acceptable level of personal sacrifice is easy: It's zero. No other answer computes. I think that partly explains the extreme responses Singer evokes. He touches people in a place they don't like to be touched. Are Americans today intrinsically more base and self-centered than other folks, past and present? Hard to make that argument fly. It's just that never before in history have so few barriers been placed in front of the exp ression of a National id. No opponents challenge us. No authority figures monitor us. No threat of consequence or reprisal encourages civility, modesty, fairness or grace. The "life of struggle" that Schopenhauer identifi ed as essential to man isn't obvious in the contemporary US. The struggle against want has been won; all foes have been conquered but one. That one is boredom, the opposite of suffering. Not long ago, the actor Charlie Sheen, an Angels baseball fan, bought up all the tickets in a left-field section of Anaheim stadium and sat out there by himself, pounding his mitt, hoping to catch a fly ball. (None came h is way.) Why did he do that? Because he could. America is decadent because nothing prevents it from being so. "Because I can" is the ironic successor to the more earnest, Kantian, "Because I should." When there's no other rationale for a behavior, and none seems to be required, that's decadence -- no less so for the smirky tagline. Decadence is what happens when the energy of a whole society gets channeled into the trivial or the mercenary. In the age of the supercharged Dow, everything reduces to an "opportunity," at an incalculable (though unackno wledged) cost. As hurricane Floyd blew through Florida, day-traders jumped into the commodities markets looking to cash in on tragedy. Orange juice and cotton futures shot up. Lumber futures rose because homes smashed to flinders would presumably need to be rebuilt. Then the hurricane moved northward, and traders eased off, waiting to see if there would be, as one trader put it, "any real damage." "I don't think morality has anything to do with the way markets work, that's what this is telling you," a labor economist reached for comment summarized. What does it tell you when the most powerful engine of the country, a chief driver of its culture, functions independent of human morality? I pondered that question recently while sitting on the throne in the bathroom of the office where I work. Often there are magazines to read in there, but on the last few occasions there haven't been -- only catalogues. An other sign of the times. In the most private of the day's moments, where we used to relax and be told a story, now we gaze at pictures of a car or a computer or a coffeemaker. Consumer lust loosens the sphincter and in an almost orgasmic spasm, we let go. (Of maybe the last thing we're willing to let go.) It's tempting to think of decadence as a personal act with personal consequences (namely, to the soul.). If that were true, it would all come down to a matter of taste, and we could agree to live and let live with our own strange preoccupations. But decadence is really a political act. Americans aren't living large in a vacuum; they're living large at the expense of things and people: the growing underclass, the stability of the economy, the texture of mental environment, the planet itself. Every mile we log alone in the car, every sweat-shop-made sneaker we buy, every porn site we visit, every tobacco stock we day-trade in, is a brick in wall of the new world we're creating. Not everyone got a vote in this process; yet everyone pays the price. Eventually, everyone pays an incredible price. "In a new way, America's decadence has made it vulnerable," a friend offers. Today, all is well, so keep your eye on today. Ten years ago the average personal savings rate in North America was about ten percent. Now it's zero. "If the Dow tumbles, people literally will not be able to tolerate a diminishment in their lifestyle. You'll see consumer rage, deeper and deeper debt problems as consumption patterns hold constant but income falls." Because, the thing is, the desire doesn't go away. The manufacture of desire won't slow down, even if the manufacture of everything else does.

The Extinction of the Expletive

Swearing : A Study of Swearing in Modern English
With the passing of generations, 'swear words' become only mildly offensive... the last remaining swear word is C_nt. Almost certainly our children will be using this term as often as we say "fuck". After that- there will be no more swearing... what will happen when our grand-children get angry? Will they explode through lack of expletive?