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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Millennial Extremes 1: Mysteries of the Oort Cloud

Image Source: NASA/JPL via Wiki.

The Daily Mail recently carried a report on growing speculation that our solar system may have a new planet on the edge of our solar system, Tyche, which could be a gas giant four times the size of Jupiter.  Tyche, named for the petty deity that protected the fortunes and destinies of ancient Greek cities, is the pet project of astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  They believe that irregularities in comet paths could prove the existence of Tyche within two years: "[Whitmire] told the Independent: 'If it does, [... Matese] and I will be doing cartwheels. And that's not easy at our age.'"  They have been searching for Tyche since Matese proposed its existence in 1999.

Matese and Whitmire specialize in the study of the Oort Cloud, an enormous sphere of objects, mainly billions of comets, which surrounds our Sun well beyond our known solar system.  The Cloud includes the Kuiper Belt.  The Belt contains a number of confirmed dwarf planets - such as Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.  It was our growing awareness of this vast region, combined with the 2005 discovery of another dwarf planet, Eris and her moon Dysnomia, which led to Pluto being downgraded from full planetary status in 2006 (Eris is actually larger than Pluto - see my blog post on Eris here).

Size comparison between the Sun, a low-mass star, a Brown Dwarf, and Jupiter. Image Source: NASA/JPL/Caltech via Wiki.

Whitmire refers to Tyche as a "Jovian mass companion in the Oort Cloud." Matese speaks of a "substellar solar companion in the Oort Cloud," that is, not another planet, but a low-mass star - a Brown Dwarf.  This is especially intriguing, as it may align with theories that the Sun is part of a binary stellar system - or possibly even trinary stellar system (see my blog post on the Sun's possible binary status here).  The Brown Dwarf theory takes us to a grey area, where it becomes difficult to distinguish between low-mass stars and high-mass gas giant planets: Brown Dwarfs are generally the same radius as Jupiter.

It's a compelling idea, as epic as anything we can imagine. The notion that the Sun might have a dwarf twin chimes with our imaginary and psychological sense of the 'Shadow Self' - that every good form must have an evil nemesis.  That archetype goes back at least as far as Lucifer, cast as the Morning Star to God's Sun, and possibly further. In the Book of Isaiah 14:12, Lucifer is called "Day Star, son of Dawn."  While other interpretations set Christ or Mary as the Light-Bringer, Milton explored the symbolism around Lucifer as a 'fallen star' in Paradise Lost. He made it clear that our understanding of astronomy and cosmology is seminally interwoven with our grasp of the spiritual world.  Book V of Paradise Lost presents Satan's Argument in these combined celestial and moral terms - the angels are depicted as heavenly bodies, the "Progeny of Light":

Innumerable before the Almighty's throne
Forthwith from all the ends of Heaven appeared
Under their hierarchs in orders bright.
Ten thousand thousand ensigns high advanced,
Standards and gonfalons, 'twixt van and rear
Stream in the air, and for distinction serve
If hierarchies, of orders, and degrees;
If in their glittering tissues bear emblazed
By memorials, acts of zeal and love
Recorded eminent. Thus when in orbs
Of circuit inexpressible they stood,
Orb within orb, the Father Infinite,
By whom in bliss embosomed sat the Son,
Amidst, as from a flaming mount, whose top
Brightness had made invisible, thus spake -

"'Hear, all ye Angels, Progeny of Light,
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers,
Hear my decree, which unrevoked shall stand!
This day I have begot whom I declare
My only Son, and on this holy hill
Him have anointed, whom ye now behold
At my right hand. Your head I him appoint,
And by myself have sworn to him shall bow
All knees in Heaven, and shall confess him Lord.
Under his great viceregent reign abide,
United as one individual soul,
For ever happy. Him who disobeys
Me disobeys, breaks union, and, that day,
Cast out from God and blessed vision, falls
Into utter darkness, deep engulfed, his place
Ordained without redemption, without end.'

So spake the Omnipotent, and with his words
All seemed well pleased; all seemed, but were not all.
That day, as other solemn days, they spend
In song and dance about the sacred hill--
Mystical dance, which yonder starry sphere
Of planets and of fixed in all her wheels
Resembles nearest; mazes intricate,
Eccentric, intervolved, yet regular
When most irregular they seem;
And in their motions harmony divine
So smooths her charming tones that God's own ear
Listens delighted. Evening now approached
(For we have also our evening and our morn--
We ours for change delectable, not need),
Forthwith from dance to sweet repast they turn
Desirous all in circles as they stood,
Tables are set, and on a sudden piled
With Angels' food; and rubied nectar flows
In pearl, in diamond, and massy gold,
Fruit of delicious vines, the growth of Heaven.
On flowers reposed, and with fresh flowerets crowned,
They eat, they drink, and in communion sweet
Quaff immortality and joy, secur :
Of surfeit where full measure only bounds
Excess, before the all-bounteous King, who showered
With copious hand, rejoicing in their joy;
Now when ambrosial Night, with clouds exhaled
From that high mount of God whence light and shade
Spring both, the face of brightest Heaven had changed
To grateful twilight (for Night comes not there
In darker veil), and roseate dews disposed
All but the unsleeping eyes of God to rest,
Wide over all the plain, and wider far
Than all this globous Earth in plain outspread
(Such are the courts of God), the Angelic throng,
Dispersed in bands and files, their camps extend
By living streams among the trees of life--
Pavilions numberless and sudden reared,
Celestial tabernacles, where they slept,
Fanned with cool winds; save those who, in their course,
Melodious hymns about the sovran throne
Alternate all night long. But not so waked
Satan--so call him now; his former name
Is heard no more in Heaven
. He, of the first,

If not the first Archangel great in power,
In favour, and pre-eminence, yet fraught
With envy against the Son of God, that day
Honoured by his great Father, and proclaimed
Messiah, King Anointed, could not bear,
Through pride, that sight, and thought himself impaired.
Deep malice thence conceiving and disdain,
Soon as midnight brought on the dusky hour
Friendliest to sleep and silence, he resolved
With all his legions to dislodge, and leave
Unworshiped, unobeyed, the Throne supreme,
Contemptuous, and, his next subordinate
Awakening, thus to him in secret spake:

"'Sleep'st thou companion dear? what sleep can close
Thy eyelids? and rememberest what decree,
Of yesterday, so late hath passed the lips
Of Heaven's Almighty? Thou to me thy thoughts
Wast wont, I mine to thee was wont, to impart;
Both waking we were one; how, then, can now
Thy sleep dissent? New laws thou seest imposed;
New laws from him who reigns new minds may raise
In us who serve--new counsels, to debate
What doubtful may ensue. More in this place
To utter is not safe. Assemble thou
Of all those myriads which we lead the chief;
Tell them that, by command, ere yet dim Night
Her shadowy cloud withdraws, I am to haste,
And all who under me their banners wave,
Homeward with flying march where we possess
The quarters of the North, there to prepare
Fit entertainment to receive our King,
The great Messiah, and his new commands,
Who speedily through all the Hierarchies
Intends to pass triumphant, and give laws.'

"So spake the false Archangel, and infused
Bad influence into the unwary breast
Of his associate. He together calls,
Or several one by one, the regent Powers,
Under him regent; tells, as he was taught,
That, the Most High commanding, now ere Night,
Now ere dim Night had disencumbered Heaven,
The great hierarchal standard was to move;
Tells the suggested cause, and casts between
Ambiguous words and jealousies, to sound
Or taint integrity. But all obeyed
The wonted signal, and superior voice
Of their great Potentate; for great indeed
His name, and high was his degree in Heaven.
His countenance, as the morning-star that guides
The starry flock, assured them, and with lies
Drew after him the third part of Heaven's host.

Meanwhile, the Eternal Eye, whose sight discerns
Abstrusest thoughts, from forth his holy mount,
And from within the golden lamps that burn
Nightly before him, saw without their light
Rebellion rising--saw in whom, how spread
Among the Sons of Morn, what multitudes
Were banded to oppose his high decree ...

Satan with his Powers
Far was advanced on winged speed, an host
Innumerable as the stars of night,
Or stars of morning, dew-drops which the sun
Impearls on every leaf and every flower.
Regions they passed, the mighty regencies
Of Seraphim and Potentates and Thrones
In their triple degrees--regions to which
All thy dominion, Adam, is no more
Than what this garden is to all the earth
And all the sea, from one entire globose
Stretched into longitude; which having passed,
At length into the limits of the North
They came, and Satan to his royal seat
High on a hill, farblazing, as a mount
Raised on a mount, with pyramids and towers
From diamond quarries hewn and rocks of gold--
The palace of great Lucifer (so call
That structure, in the dialect of men
Interpreted) which, not long after, he,
Affecting all equality with God...

From the ill omen in March that two Suns set in China prior to the Japanese earthquake - to Lovecraft's stories of Pluto (which he called Yuggoth) - binary stellar systems continue to symbolize our internal moral struggles and corresponding spiritual awareness. Lovecraft envisioned Pluto thusly in The Whisperer in Darkness:
Yuggoth... is a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system... There are mighty cities on Yuggoth—great tiers of terraced towers built of black stone... The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need no light. They have other subtler senses, and put no windows in their great houses and temples... The black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges—things built by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the beings came to Yuggoth from the ultimate voids—ought to be enough to make any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane long enough to tell what he has seen...
In 1977, Richard A. Lupoff expanded on Lovecraft's vision in a frightening and strange story called Discovery of the Ghooric Zone. The story opens with three cyborgs having sex on a ship that has been sent to investigate Yuggoth.  In this case, Yuggoth is not Pluto but something between a Brown Dwarf and a gas giant, a red pulsating Planet X, so hot and fast that it is almost a small star. The cyborgs' discovery of a whole other solar system surrounding this mysterious, substellar entity distracts them:
They were having sex when the warning gong sounded, Gomati and Njord and Shoten. The shimmering, fading Sound indicated first long-range contact with the remote object, the long-suspected but never-before-visited tenth planet that circled far beyond the eccentric orbit of Pluto, rolling about its distant primary with irrational speed, its huge mass bathed in eternal darkness and incredible cold some sixteen billion kilometers from the remote, almost invisible sun. ...

"Not yet," Shoten Binayakya's voice clattered.

"Soon," Gomati countered. She hooked into Khons's radar sensor, letting cyborged biots convert incoming pulses into pseudo-visuals. "Look!" she exclaimed, "It's a whole system!"

Njord Freyr stirred, determined to pull his attention away from frustration, direct it toward a topic that would involve. "There, there," he heard Gomati's voice, not sure whether it was organic or synthesized, "Shift your input to ultra-v!"

Njord, hooking into Khons's external sensors, complied.


"Yet so."

"Not unprecedented. On the contrary," Shoten Binayakya interjected. "All the giants have complex systems of moons. Jupiter. Saturn. Uranus. Search your memory banks if you don't recall."

Surlily, Njord sped unnecessary inquiry to an implanted cyberbiot. "Mmh," he grunted. "So. Almost thirty significant satellites among them. Plus the trash. So." He nodded.
"And this new giant -- ?" ...
A great, dark body swam through the blackness, reflecting almost no light from the distant sun but glowing darkly, menacingly, pulsating in slow, heartbeat-like waves, with a low crimson radiance that pained Njord subliminally even through the ship's mechanisms and the processing of the cyberbiots. Fascinated yet repelled, Njord stared at the glowing, pulsing globe.

About its obscene oblateness whirled a family of smaller bodies, themselves apparently dim and lifeless, yet illuminated by the raking sinister tone of their parent. 
"Yuggoth," Sri Gomati's low whisper jolted Njord from his reverie. "Yuggoth," and again, "Yuggoth!"

Njord snapped, "What's that?"

"Yuggoth," repeated Sri Gomati.

The male hissed in annoyance, watched the great pulsating bulk loom larger in Khons's external sensors, watched its family of moons, themselves behaving like toy planets in orbit around the glowing body's miniature sun.
Our notions of what lies in the Oort Cloud, whether scientific, mythical, religious or fictional, demonstrate the limits of our technology.  This is the cutting edge of our knowledge - one of many Millennial extremes, the boundaries of which we are now breaching.

Theories about the Oort Cloud are reflected in fictional sci-fi scenarios, like The Verse in the Firefly series. Image Source: FireflyShipworks.

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  1. A superhero fanfic author also made use of the Oort cloud for a TT story, at least as a source for a hostile intelligence.

    The question now is; can we get past this cloud at all?

  2. It's funny that in an information-driven age, our ignorance comes to us in the form of little surprises; for example, the demotion of Pluto was a weird sign of our growing awareness of the vastness of the solar system and the Oort cloud. It's difficult to grasp how much we don't know. But with these smatterings in the Kuiper Belt, it is slowly becoming obvious.