Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year: Around the World, Around the Clock

2011 arrives in Auckland, New Zealand. Image Source: Daily Mail.

This blog post will update through the day as the clock strikes midnight through the world's time zones.  The first major city to celebrate New Year's of 2011 in the world is Auckland, New Zealand (see video below the jump).

Millennial Twelve Days of Christmas Day 7: New Year's Eve

Individual Champagne Mini Fridge. Image Source: Trendhunter.

Out with the old, in with the new.  I don't know whatever happened to sticking a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice, but Veuve Cliquot now sells miniature 'luxury cooling devices' for individual bottles of champagne, to keep your wine cold while you're traveling around.

Time lapse fireworks, Auld Lang Syne and resolutions below the jump.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Millennial Twelve Days of Christmas Day 6: Cars of the Future

Romanian design: Buldur Liviu Race Car. Image Source: Trendhunter.

Trendhunter reports: "No, the Buldur Liviu Race Car is not a Christmas ornament; it is the concept for a one-day-to-be real roadster. Looking more like a blown-glass art project, this hot rod is meant to redefine the dynamics of racing by not just using alternative fuel, but also going sans rims. Though it is a bit of a mystery to how this car will perform, Mr. Liviu has designed the body to break all kinds of speed records. As with many concepts, the Buldur Liviu Race Car still needs a lot of the details and inner workings to be flushed out, but you can be sure when this car debuts on the track, it is going to revolutionize the sport."

Image Source: Trendhunter.

See more futuristic car designs below the jump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Millennial Twelve Days of Christmas Day 5: Christmas Sweaters

Ugly Xmas Sweater Smiling Reindeer (Lights) in Ladies Medium. Image Source: My Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Millennial irony: Christmas sweaters are hot.  The uglier and tackier, the better. The Atlantic Wire reported (here) that Bloomingdale's and H&M can barely keep up with demand and thrift shops are selling out.  The blog, Stuff White People Like, commented on the trend in 2008 (here) and linked it to the secularization of Christmas as well as world trends that see Christmas becoming an embattled holiday.  Christmas sweaters make fun of the merchandizing of Christmas and all its associated traditional symbols, while indulging in them at the same time. There are retailers loudly proclaiming they have the ugliest and cheesiest sweaters for sale here and here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Memoriam: Dennis Dutton (1944-2010)

Mnemosyne (Lamp of Memory) (1881) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The L.A. Times is reporting (here) that Dennis Dutton, New Zealand-based professor of philosophy who founded one of the most important and accessible academic sites on the Web, Arts and Letters Daily, has died. His site, hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, is a compendium of all the current cultural chatter in, out of, and around the Ivory Tower and the arts world.  Believing that intelligent criticism and debate could flourish on the Web, his most recent book was about the appreciation of beauty in relation to our development as a species: The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution (2009). From the obituary report:
Dutton was at times considered a contrarian; in our opinion pages in 2004, he wrote, "[Peter] Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' represents the victory of special effects over dramatic art. ... I have never looked at my watch as often during a movie as I did in "The Return of the King." Toward the end, I found myself desperately cheering on the giant spider in hope of getting home early. Eat Frodo! Eat him!"

In February 2010, he gave a TED talk on the philosophy of art. "I try to figure out -- intellectually, philosophically, psychologically -- what the experience of beauty is," he began. Though most TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) talks feature the author speaking on stage, Dutton's video includes a collaboration with animator Andrew Park, illustrating his ideas of the hallmarks of beauty.

Dutton's work, contrary or inspiring, encouraged a multiplicity of ideas. "It's a grave mistake in publishing, whether you're talking about Internet or print publication, to try to play to a limited repertoire of established reader interests," he said in a 2000 interview with Salon.com. "A few years ago, Bill Gates was boasting that we'll soon have sensors which will turn on the music that we like or show on the walls the paintings we like when we walk into a room. How boring! The hell with our preexisting likes; let's expand ourselves intellectually.

He told the interviewer, "We'd love Arts & Letters Daily to be the meeting place for critical thinkers from all over the map."

Millennial Twelve Days of Christmas Day 4: Christmas Flash Mobs

Children participate in a Christmas flash mob dance event in the Grotemarkt of Antwerp, Belgium on Thursday, December 23. Image © Virginia Mayo/The Associated Press. Image Source: Guelph Mercury.

Nothing says 'Millennium' like a flash mob and nothing says 'Millennial Christmas' like a Christmas flash mob. Since flash mobs first started appearing in 2003, a result of people's interconnectivity via computers, cell phones and other hand held electronic devices, they became a weird, quasi-spontaneous phenomenon. They've never been seen before in human history. Seven years on, they're now orchestrated public happenings.  They prove that there's still space in our jaded, globalized sensibilities for surprise. Below the jump, here are some of the best recent videos of Christmas flash mobs circulating on the Web.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Millennial Twelve Days of Christmas Day 3: Heathrow Airport

Image Source: ABC Australia.

Dear Heathrow Airport: Thank you for making Christmas 2010 so memorable for so many people.  Apparently normal services will resume by December 30.  On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Deicing fluid.  Below are some pictures of Canadian, American, Finnish and Swedish airplanes and airports operating normally in average wintry conditions. No bouquets for Paris, either: Charles de Gaulle Airport only started operating again after Germany and the USA provided it with tonnes of deicing fluid. Yes, blizzards should ground planes.  But this was no blizzard.  No excuses.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas

Nativity Scene by Charles Poerson (1667). Image Source: Wiki.

Once upon a time, Christmas didn't end on December 26, it was only just getting started.  It would run for twelve days into January, ending on January 5 and followed by Epiphany on January 6. This is also the eve of Little Christmas or Orthodox Christmas, when the Nativity of Christ is celebrated under the Julian Calendar on January 7.

Anniversaries: Lest We Forget the Indian Ocean Tsunami

Science Channel ranks the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 as the second worst natural disaster in the history of humankind: "It all started with an earthquake - a very big earthquake. The 9.1 magnitude Sumatra quake, centered off the coast of that Indonesian island, was the third largest recorded quake in history. It was also the longest. The earth shook for over eight minutes when the fault slipped at the Andaman-Sumatra subduction zone, where the Indian Plate is slowly sliding underneath the Burma Plate. The quake was so severe that the entire planet vibrated as much as 1 centimeter. However, the quake was just the start of Mother Nature's reign of terror. The tsunami that it unleashed was the most destructive in recorded history. Spreading over 14 countries, it killed nearly 230,000 people and displaced some 1.7 million more. Water levels rose worldwide and waves up to 100 feet high inundated smaller islands, eventually providing the impetus for a new Indian Ocean tsunami warning system."

Image Source: Science Channel.

See my previous blog post about the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Queen's Christmas Message

King James Bible. First Edition (1611). Image Source: Houston Baptist University.

The Queen's Christmas message, which is annually broadcast throughout the Commonwealth, has just been aired here in Canada and is now posted on Youtube.  Her message usually focuses on a single unifying theme to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.  She also discussed the history of the King James translation of the Bible, which will be 400 years old in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A History of Elves

Image Source: Timeidol.com.

In 2004, Alaric Hall finished a PhD dissertation on elves at the University of Glasgow (why, why, why didn't I do my dissertation on elves, I ask myself).  He's now based at the University of Leeds.  The dissertation is formally titled, "The Meanings of Elf and Elves in Medieval England."  Somehow, I suspect that this superficially cheery little subject gets much less cheery the more one digs into it.  There's a link to the abstract here (hat tip: @medievalbook):

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last of their Kind: Desert Ghosts

The Saharan Cheetah. Image Source: BBC.

Caption for the above image: After a year of searching, scientists have taken one of the first photographs of the elusive Saharan cheetah living in Termit, Niger. Fewer than 10 of the cats remain, and little is known about their behaviour.

BBC is reporting that photographs have been taken of one of the rarest creatures on earth: the Saharan Cheetah.

Neuro Reality Check

More notes from the Ivory Tower today, this time in Germany.  Researchers at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin are organizing a meeting to be held this time next year, where they plan to discuss the explosion of neuroscientific terminology in arts, humanities and social scientific fields. The Call for Papers (quoted below) describes the rise of 'neuromania' in the arts, that is, the non-scientific use of scientific terms to refer to trends in our culture.  It's a fair question: why are we equating developments in our society with biological processes that occur in our minds?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Big New Finding Regarding Human Evolution

Dig in the Denisova Cave (Денисова пещера) in Southern Siberia. Image Source: BBC.

BBC is reporting (here), along with several other major news outlets worldwide, that a new Prehistoric humanoid species, called 'Denisovans,' has been discovered.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Night's Lunar Eclipse

Image © NASA/Bill Ingalls. Image Source: Flickr.

NASA's just posted a picture of the lunar eclipse from last night that would make Stanley Kubrick proud. This is the moon passing the Washington Monument.

Imagining the Supernatural North

Snegurochka (Snow Maiden, 1899). By Victor Vasnetsov. Image Source: Wiki.

Picking up on the Winter Solstice post from yesterday afternoon, the theme of the 'supernatural north' seems fitting as the Solstice actually occurs today. Imagining the Supernatural North is the name of a conference being held next year in Iceland.  The announcement caught my eye on H-Net:
"Imagining the Supernatural North" intends contribute to the ongoing discussion on "perceptions of Northernness" in the humanities and social sciences. In the course of the oft-quoted "spatial turn", the increased awareness of spatiality and its implications, scholars have devoted considerable attention to the cultural meaning of northernness. Which stereotypes, symbolisms and ideological connotations have been ascribed to the North in different historical periods, by different actors and in different discourse genres? How have the North and its inhabitants been imagined, constructed and described?

As a contribution to this debate, the panel will explore the notion of the North as a realm of the supernatural. From antiquity to the present, the North has been associated with sorcerous inhabitants, mythical tribes, metaphysical forces of good and evil and all kinds of supernatural qualities and occurrences. Such an approach, however, needs to bear in mind that the border between the natural and the supernatural has been viewed differently in different discursive traditions, and that a sharp delineation is often impossible.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- The myth of the Hyperboreans in Ancient Greece
- The motif of "evil descending from the North" in the Old Testament
- Glæsisvellir and the mythical realms of the North in medieval Scandinavian cosmology
- Mount Hekla and other alleged gateways to hell
- "Northern witchcraft" in early modern demonology and juridical practice
- "Ex oriente lux" versus "Ex septentrione lux" - rivalling interpretations of the East and the North as origins of human culture
- The "pure Aryan North" in (Neo-)Nazi mysticism
- The spirituality of the North in modern esotericism and neo-paganism
- Northern shamanism as a topic of scholarship, indigenous self-perception and popular discourses
- Mysteries of the North in literature (e.g. H. C. Andersen's "Snow Queen", C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series etc.)
- Gendering the supernatural north (contrasting images of female witches and male sorcerers, sexual stereotypes of the "icy seductress", "frigid beauty")
- Supernatural interpretations of natural phenomena (polar night and midnight sun, Northern lights etc.)

There is additional information at the Website of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (here). Considering he just rewrote the whole history for the DC comics character, Ice, maybe Judd Winick should attend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Welcome the Winter Solstice - Lunar Eclipse and the Ursids Meteors

Image Source: Redbubble.com.

Winter. The solstice marks the shortest day and longest night in the calendar. Winter begins in the northern hemisphere on December 21 at 6:38 p.m. EST (2338 UT) and summer begins in the southern hemisphere. It is marked in several cultures. In Greek mythology, it was the one night when Hades, god of the Underworld, was permitted to enter Mount Olympus and walk with the other gods. Christmas, on the 25th, was the original Roman celebration of Brumalia, heralding the winter solstice under the Julian calendar. The festival honoured the god Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine, and typically involved role inversions, that is, reversals between master and servant, or man and woman. In Germanic cultures, the solstice was closely followed by Yule, the beginning of the heathen year.

Image Source: Big5.china.com.

Chinese tradition similarly picks up on the idea of the solstice representing a turning point as an extreme of feminine power is reached (mentioned briefly here): "In the Chinese idea of Yin and Yang, Yin symbolizes feminine, negative and dark qualities of the universe, and yang masculine, positive and fiery qualities, and when something goes to one extreme it then goes to the opposite. Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the shortest day and longest night. After it, days become longer, which ancient Chinese thought meant yang qualities would become stronger, so should be celebrated." In East Asia, the Dōngzhì Festival (冬至) is celebrated, where people eat coloured rice dumplings that symbolize the coming together and reunions of families.  In Taiwan, they also make glutinous nine-layer cakes made in the shape of auspicious animals.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Jump in Quantum Computing

Image Source: BBC.

Ray Kurzweil is reporting (here) that University of Utah researchers published findings on Friday December 17 that indicate a huge jump in quantum computing:
University of Utah physicists stored information for 112 seconds in what may become the world’s tiniest computer memory: magnetic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of atoms. Then the physicists retrieved and read the data electronically – a big step toward using the new kind of memory for both faster conventional and superfast “quantum” computers.
The only catch is that the temperature has to be slightly above absolute zero to store and retrieve computer memories at the atomic level.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Computer Virus used as Ersatz Military Strike

Bushehr Nuclear Facility, Iran (2002). Image Source: Keep It Trill.

Ars Technica is reporting (here) via the Jerusalem Post (here) that Iranian nuclear development has been set back by at least two years by a targeted virus attack.
Damage from the Stuxnet virus has apparently set back the Iranian nuclear program by as much as two years, according to a German security expert talking to the Jerusalem Post. This makes the virus as effective as a military strike—but without loss of life or risk of full-blown war.

This comes amid claims that the virus is continuing to infect Iranian systems and disrupt the Iranian nuclear effort, and the news from IAEA last month that Iran had suspended work at its nuclear production facilities, likely as a result of the virus.

Speaking to the Post, an expert identifed only as "Langer" (we believe the Post likely means Stuxnet expert Ralph Langner, but have not had confirmation at the time of writing) said that due to poor Iranian IT security expertise, the only effective way the country would be able to rid itself of the virus would be through discarding all infected machines. He said that, further, centrifuges would need to be replaced at Iran's Natanz facility, as might a turbine at Bushehr. Centrifuges operating at between 807Hz and 1210Hz were believed to be a specific target of the virus.
Ars Technica later confirmed that the source was Langner. For Ralph Langner's blog, go here. There is another report on Stuxnet malware here.

The Cultural Genome

Google Books Ngram Viewer: prevalence of the word 'apocalypse' from 1500 to 2000.

More weird Google Books news has come to light.  The Chronicle for Higher Education and the Harvard Gazette are reporting that Google Books and Harvard researchers are using computer algorithms to assess the rise and fall of certain words and ideas in our culture by crunching through all the words in 5.2 million digitized books, originally published between 1500 and 2008.  This sample represents roughly 4 per cent of all the books ever published.  The research leaders describe the prevalence of words over time as a cultural "fossil record."  Their comments are littered with weird neologisms lifted from economics and the sciences.  They say they are searching for the "cultural genome" using "culturnomics." You can test their work by typing in different words into a Google Books Ngram Viewer engine here - it will show you the frequency with which these words were used over time; but it doesn't indicate whether the meaning of the word changed. I typed in the word 'apocalypse' to check its use from 1500 to 2000. You can see the results in the image above.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Only People in the World Who Look Forward to the Past and Leave the Future Behind Them

Image Source: Face the Climate.

Phys.org.com is reporting that "[n]ew analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- so that the past is ahead of them and the future behind."  (Hat tip: @swadeshine).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Embryos with Bar Codes

Image Source: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona via news.com.au.

Scientists are considering barcoding embryos in order to avoid IVF mix-ups.  A report from Fox News carried by news.com.au (here) describes this approach being tested on mouse embryos at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain.  There are original UAB sites on the subject here, here and here.

Image Source: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona via news.com.au.

Reference article: "A Novel Embryo Identification System by Direct Tagging Using Silicon-Based Barcodes." Novo, S., Barrios, L., Santaló, J., Gómez-Martínez, R., Duch, M., Esteve, J., Plaza, J.A., Nogués, C., Ibáñez, E. Human Reproduction. doi:10.1093/humrep/deq309.

Nuclear Disneyland: Ukraine Lifting Tourism Restrictions to Chernobyl in 2011

Image Source: Kidofspeed Ghost Town Chernobyl Pictures. [Addendum (2016): Kidofspeed Website was later accused of faking photos of Chernobyl.]

CNN is reporting that Ukraine is lifting general tourism restrictions to Chernobyl in 2011.  Full report here: "But most radioactive material has sunk into the soil, and visitors receive a dose comparable to the exposure they would receive on a trans-Atlantic flight."  So much for the haunting images immortalized by the blogger Kidofspeed, one of the few people previously to regularly explore the restricted area and who posted her photos of the degraded, abandoned site on the Web.  Her famous Chernobyl blog is here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Electronic Village

Karen Woo, working in Afghanistan. Image Source: BBC.

Headline, August 7, 2010: “10 people, including 2 Americans, attacked and murdered in Badakhshan province, Afghanistan. Believed to be Christian medical team.” Almost every day, we confront a tidal wave of information, peppered with details like this. One of the ills of post-Postmodern society is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to greet this data with any personal depth or emotion. There is no connection to the 10 anonymous people. The Global Village has arrived. And yet the sensibilities that govern it are anonymous, divorced from our daily realities. There are of course, many courageous people who cross the bridge between ‘here’ and ‘there.’ One of the ways they do this is by blogging about their experiences so that their daily reality in the hot spots in the world becomes our daily reality.

What 10 Million Facebook Friend Connections Look Like

Image Source: Forbes.

Earlier yesterday Forbes reported that a Facebook intern posted a "visualization of friendship connections between 10 million users."

Addendum: There's a link to the original Facebook site here.  The intern who generated the image, Paul Butler, described the process:
Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle… When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.
The Guardian is reporting on how the image was created here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freud would have a Field Day

Gray and Gold (1942). Oil on canvas. By John Rogers Cox.

Thank you very much to J. for sending me a link to extensive work by John Suler of the Department of Psychology at Rider University about individual and group behaviour onlineHis work is called The Psychology of Cyberspace (read it here).  It examines how the mentality of people is changing as they interact on the internet, which he calls cyberpsychology; he investigates how cyberpsychology is altering our whole society, starting with the way computers have split the already-fractured self. He covers topics such as anonymity, disinhibition, the psychology of avatars, cyberspace as dream worlds, addiction to computers, online gender-switching, apocalyptic thinking, integrating online and offline living, in-person versus cyberspace relationships, virtual communities, and the ethics of cyberspace research.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Debts to the Past, Debts to the Future

"When you go home - Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow We gave our today."  Stained Glass Window, St. Michael at the North Gate Church, Oxford, UK.  Photo Credit: 2009 © Sheepdog Rex. Image Reproduced with kind permission.

I recently had a look at Oxford's Saxon tower and church of St. Michael at the North Gate.  This is the oldest building in the city, constructed around 1000-1050.  A couple of stained glass windows in the church struck me because of their messages about the debt we owe to the past.  These were national and religious devotional windows, dedicated to the dead from the First and Second World Wars.  But in the act of remembering those who died to secure our present, they remind us that we too, must sometimes live as the predecessors of those who will follow, and do things to help those we cannot see, will never know, and cannot anticipate.  We owe a debt to those who live in the future.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Tired of the Sisyphean cycle?  Check out this beautiful poem, Reprocess, about time, the soul and the daily grind, by ErisianPen (homepage here).  The poem was recently featured on deviantART.  It is reproduced with ErisianPen's kind permission.


I am born again, when the alarm clock goes off,
I am born again and the day is a hostile womb,
made up of chrome and scrap metal.
I come forth from fire
into the icy arms of an undetermined future,
the incandescent blade of a scalpel, cutting through
the frozen limbs of every day until I'm smothered,
I'm born again each wet and cold morrow.

I ride a caterpillar to work, a stretch of wheels
and orphaned prayers,
fused into a single body of chrome and scrap metal,
the day is rust on the creases of everything perceivable;
I ride a caterpillar to work leaving trails of rust, chrome
and piles of scrap metal at the sides of the highway.

Reality looks distended through raindrops
on the windshield, red lights from cars in front,
green traffic signals, wet and wide like floodlights.
Wipers collect galaxies that settle on my windshield,
bearing an internal swirl, I am looking at the universe
forming on my windshield and my eyes,
my eyes become the colour of rain.

My eyes are rain, they follow kamikaze messengers
of heaven to where the elder clouds conspire.
Converging over cities to observe larval thoughts, words,
the short lifespan of dreams, the rise and fall of vanity,
clouds are clusters of history, thunder is the groan of
primordial myths meeting head-on over cities as

the rain falls; clouds are
history receptacles and raindrops are
stories lost or whispered too softly,
myths expressed in the tears of
could-be skyrivers.

It's raining years on our heads;
we are born into the day to best our fathers,
every day,
to climb a little higher, to go a little further,
to feel a little more and dare to realize that
it's raining years on our heads,
every day.

The day is a hostile womb,
brooding over an undetermined future and we,
we are born again each morning,
brought forth in rain
to labor under nuclei of recycled history.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do Animals Sense Death?

Münster Zoo: The grieving gorilla Gana carried her dead baby on her back for several days. 2008 reports here and here.  Gana died in January of 2010.

In yesterday's post, I touched on the commonly-held assumption that one of the things long considered to separate humans from animals is our awareness of death.  This goes right back to the Book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; they gain insight that makes them see things in the way God does.  Yet they lack God's wisdom and judgment, possibly due to the fact that they did not also eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, the other tree in the Garden of Eden.  As a result, animals come to fear humans, whereas at the beginning of Genesis, Adam names the animals, which suggests his initial ability to communicate with them (to read the text, go here).  In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick symbolically repeated that moment from a non-religious point of view when he showed apes making a jump in consciousness and killing tapirs with which they had previously lived peacefully.  This was shortly followed by the now-conscious apes murdering each other while wielding tools to do so, with the tool-making the key sign of awareness of causality.  Kubrick used an extra-terrestrial monolithic symbol as a catalyst for that jump in self-awareness.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cause and Effect: Time and Western Civilization?

Time as a chessboard, not an arrow. Ballet on Time Chessboard by Lawrence Alfred Powell.  Image Source: Redbubble.

In my post from November 25th, I discussed Stephen Hawking's assumption that time travel backwards is impossible. From MSNBC's report: "'Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times. The tunnels, unfortunately, are far too small for people to pass through — just a billion-trillion-trillionths of a centimeter -- but physicists believe it may be possible to catch a wormhole and make it big enough for people, or spaceships, to enter,' Hawking writes. 'Theoretically, a time tunnel or wormhole could do even more than take us to other planets. If both ends were in the same place, and separated by time instead of distance, a ship could fly in and come out still near Earth, but in the distant past. Maybe dinosaurs would witness the ship coming in for a landing. ... Ultimately, scientists may find that only travel into the future is possible, as the laws of nature may make travel to the past impossible so the relationship between cause and effect is maintained.'"

I noted Hawking's reservations in my earlier post, "that time, the entire Fourth Dimension, must follow the rules of cause and effect.  Incidentally, the principle of causality underpins the entire conception of western civilization, so it's interesting that Hawking has run headlong up against that brick wall and steadfastly backed away from it."  Two things struck me here: first, that Hawking's assessment is so dependent upon the notion of this causality that he had to invent a wall of radiation or similar force to prevent the universe from acting in a way that he considers to be illogical.  It looks like there is room for a blind spot here.  Second, the principle of causality underpins practically every area of human inquiry, especially in the Western tradition, in everything from theology to the scientific method.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time Lapses

Shanghai Time-lapse.  Image Source: Chinatravel.net.  Image © Joe Nafis/Chinatimelapse.com.

Look below the break for time-lapse videos that just caught my eye. These are accelerated scenes that give you a peek at the hidden objective lives of a country, a city, or a person, beneath our subjective experiences.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Anniversaries: Knut's Birthday

Thanks to my friend M. for reminding me that today is the fourth birthday of Berlin Zoo's famous polar bear, Knut. There's a report on his birthday special on German television on RBB here.  I've always been a fan of Knut and was especially rooting for him when he stopped being cute, gained weight from eating too many croissants, and became unpopular.  He went from superstar to underdog in a matter of months.  Reports circulated that Knut had become 'a psychopath who will never mate' because he was addicted to human company.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Walking Shadows

Image Source: MySpace.

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28), By William Shakespeare.

One thing the rapid rise of technology has made me intensely aware of is the time bleed.  If Shakespeare could immortalize this problem four hundred years ago when he wrote Macbeth, what would he have made of 'walking shadows' and 'brief candles' now?  The Technological Revolution, which supposedly is bringing us ever closer to anti-ageing and extended lives, constantly reminds us that we are but shadows and dust.  It feels like we are living in some Monty Python cartoon by Terry Gilliam, where we're all on a commuter train speeding us straight into our graves.  Multi-tasking whittles away our humanity.  And being forced to choose to do certain things and not others in the limited time we have radically alters our lives, sometimes irrevocably.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Swan Opens Today

The American Fox/Searchlight film, Black Swan, opens today.  Synopsis: "BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter’s professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her."  You can see the trailer here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Away from Blog

I'm travelling for work right now.  Normal blogging will resume in a week and a half.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New: The Brain Scan Job Interview

Image: Wellcome Images via MRI-scam.com.

Coming soon to a job interview near you: the brain scan job interview. This is just what the doctor ordered to get us out of the recession! I09 is reporting via BBC that UK employers have discovered a new way to assess prospective employees: "A study in the UK aims to figure out what the brains of business leaders look like, at least inside an fMRI machine. The brain images could be used in future as models for "ideal brains" in a business setting." Once corporations start with this level of bio-psychometric testing, the schools and service and entertainment industries won't be far behind.

Friday, November 26, 2010

NASA Funds Spaceplane to Mars

Reagan-era plan revived: X-30 NASP, or National Aero-Space Plane. Image: Dvice.com via Gizmag.

Caption: NASA wants to skip the rockets and develop a hypersonic space plane that can take off from a runway here on Earth and fly straight to Mars.

Who will land on Mars first?  More news on this worldwide space race in a report from Dvice.com: "Rockets, on the whole, are pretty inefficient: they waste most of their power just lifting their own fuel. Plus, riding on top of a barely controlled explosion isn't the safest or most reliable way to travel. As far as NASA is concerned, rockets are on the way out, and they're ponying up $15 million over the next three years to develop a hypersonic fixed wing hybrid air/space craft capable of taking off and flying straight into space at Mach 20. Getting into Earth orbit is just phase one... NASA also wants this same vehicle to be able to land on Mars. The landing bit is going to be just as tricky to figure out as the takeoff, since the vehicle will have to withstand extreme temperatures and stresses as it descends through a planetary atmosphere."  The Dvice.com report has further details plus a link to the original NASA proposal.  Another report hereMeanwhile, an i09 report (here) suggests that while survivable manned missions to Mars are at least 25 years way, the space race might be won much sooner by a country that is willing to send its astronauts on a one-way, historic suicide mission.

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday in the United States, the day when the Christmas shopping season begins.  There are normally a lot of sales and bargains on this day to kick things off, which results in crowds and lots of pressure at stores.  There are also a lot of online Web bargains.  Boing Boing posted this satirical coupon to commemorate the day (Hat Tip: @KateSherrod).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hawking's Party for Time Travellers

Is time travel possible? Image Source: Just 5 Minutes.

In his Discovery Channel series, Into the Universe, Stephen Hawking recently hypothesized that if time travel to the past is possible, then he could throw a party to welcome chrononauts from the future.  He would publicize the invitation, and wait.  Daily Galaxy provides a transcript of his comments on the result: "Let's imagine I'm throwing a party, a welcome reception for future time travellers. But there's a twist. I'm not letting anyone know about it until after the party has happened. I've drawn up an invitation giving the exact coordinates in time and space. I am hoping copies of it, in one form or another, will be around for many thousands of years."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Russians Plan to Build a Domed City in Siberia

Eco-city 2020. Image: Dvice.com.

Report on Dvice.com via i09: "A Russian company has unveiled plans to build a gigantic domed city in an abandoned diamond mine in Siberia. The city, named Eco-city 2020, would be constructed inside the Mir diamond mine, the second largest excavated hole on the planet. It's a quarter-mile wide at the top and over 1,700 feet deep, which is so big that air flowing into the hole can actually suck helicopters out of the sky. If the project gets going, the mine would be completely covered over with a glass dome to protect the city from the weather in Siberia (which is apparently lousy almost all the time), and solar cells embedded in the dome would provide power for the entire structure. Eco-city would be constructed of multiple levels, with a huge central core. The main floor would hold parks and recreation areas, with residential areas terracing up around the walls of the mine. Underneath would be space for vertical farms and forests, subsiding on light piped down the central core. An estimated 100,000 people would be able to live in Eco-city, and architects are hoping that it would help to attract tourists to Eastern Siberia."  For other schematics and reports, go here and here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Space as Palimpsest: The Wow! Signal 6EQUJ5

Image Source: Bigear.org.

It's been just over 33 years since we received the only message from space that ever seemed to constitute an intelligent transmission: 6EQUJ5.  This message was picked up by the Big Ear radio telescope at about 11:16 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time on August 15, 1977 at Ohio State University Radio Observatory.  There is a history of the transmission hereDr. Jerry R. Ehman, who was part of the SETI project working at the Observatory, noted the transmission and made the famous margin note: "Wow!"  There is an explanation of the values 6EQUJ5 here (different numbers and letters measured intensities of power in the transmission).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Look Skyward: Blue Moon

Tonight the full moon rose here in spectacular fashion; it looked like something auditioning for Resident Evil.  This is a blue moon, and Space.com is running an interesting article explaining why.  It also gives a little history of blue moons.  The original rule of thumb was that when a season has four full moons instead of the usual three, then the third moon in that season is blue.  This is the third full moon this autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.  Because blue moons are rare, they are surrounded by superstitions.  The thirteenth full moon of the year - brought about by a blue moon - is considered unlucky because it messed up the calculation of church calendars.

Computers as Palimpsests

Codex Guelferbytanus A, a palipmsest, the lower, older text in Greek is from the 6th century, the newer, upper text in Latin is from the 10th or 11th century. Image Source: Wiki.

The turnover of computer tech is so rapid right now that programming languages which were cutting edge within the last couple of decades are now ancient history.  This rate of change is possibly unprecedented in human experience.  I can recall bringing in a 1996 IBM Thinkpad to a computer repair in 2002 as a backup for my main laptop, which had a virus. The fact that the Thinkpad was still running and in good shape inspired all the tech staff to crowd around it, gasping at this rare museum piece. One of them knocked at the case and said, "Look at how sturdy that is. They sure knew how to make them back in the old days." I still have that Thinkpad, and it is the only laptop I've owned that still functions, long after it has become obsolete.

Thanks to my friend C., who told me about an interesting 1998 article at the Salon.com (here), that adds another dimension to this issue.  The article's author, Ellen Ullman, describes her wave of nostalgia when she discovered some vestiges of BASIC programming language on a wiped computer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Millennial Mysteries: Beached Dolphins often Deaf, Study Finds

Image © REUTERS/Andres Stapff.  Image Source: Time.

Picture Caption from Time: Richard Tesore, head of the NGO Rescate Fauna Marina, holds a baby La Plata river dolphin in Piriapolis, Uruguay. The dolphin, which was found on the beach in the city four days ago, is recovering at the reserve from injuries believed to have been caused by a fishing net.

Many mysteries that appear to characterize the apocalyptic subtext of our times are often cryptic clues to how the world is changing as a result of technological innovation. Why are whole colonies of honeybees dying amid reports of colony collapse disorderCell phones.  Why are dolphins and whales beaching themselves in record numbers?  A new report out states that the animals who weirdly swim into fishing nets, or swim ashore, usually to their deaths, are often deaf or partly deaf.