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, December 17, 2011

Eduardo Barreto: Titanic Farewells

Raven: post-resurrection emotions of a character. NTT Vol. 2, #39 (Jan. 1988). 

This has been a strange holiday season.  Every week, I have heard about 3-4 deaths, either acquaintances, or public figures. Today, more sad news. Farewell to a fine illustrator from Uruguay, Eduardo Barreto, who died on December 15.  He graced the pages of DC's Titans title from 1985 to 1988.  He followed on this series in the wake of huge fan favourites George Pérez and José Luis García-López.  At the time, the New Teen Titans was still one of the hottest American comic books in the world, pencilled by two of the industry's most famous talents.  Barreto filled the shoes of his predecessors and more.  He made the characters his own.

Barreto had the tough task of making a resurrected, post-apocalyptic Raven have emotions when she had never had them before.  The cover above from 1988 was Raven's first real smile since her introduction in 1980.  After Pérez tore her apart, it took Barreto to show how a character, reborn after death, shot through with evil, would manifest emotions for the first time and bizarrely - yet haltingly and believably - come back to life to experience some joy.
New and old gods. NTT Vol. 2, #9 (June 1985).

Below the jump, some examples of Baretto's work from that period.

Vintage Ads from 1950s' Japan

Here's a collection of great ads from 1950s' Japan. (Hat tip: Maria Popova.) Marketing has sure come a long way; these were the days before Hello Kitty brought in over $1 billion annually. For a rundown of the wildest Hello Kitty merchandise, from guns, to whips to contact lenses, go here. Also: Hello Kitty maternity hospitals and Hello Kitty chainsaws. To go back to simpler days, with more Fifties' vintage ads, click here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1930s Déjà Vu

Image Source: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images via Guardian.

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde yesterday in Washington raised the spectre of a return of Great Depression conditions in all countries if the world does not help Europe resolve its financial crisis. (Reports: here, here, and here.) One site, looking back on the 1930s, quotes William Shakespeare: "What's past is prologue." Below, a video counting down the world's ten richest countries, based on 2011 IMF data; the non-European entries in that list are presumably Lagarde's top choices to help a beleaguered Europe. Also below, a refresher on just what Lagarde is promising as the alternative.

Image sources below, where not indicated, are from: Millionaire Acts; factoidz; Survival Spot; Everyday Life During the Great Depression; BBC; and Market Nightshift.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Photo of the Day

This is: Webb City, Missouri, December 13. (Hat tip: Phantoms and Monsters.)

The World is a Game of Chance and the Odds are Stacked Against Us?

Image Source: Jazzed Banana.

In the PBS Nov 16 episode of NOVA, The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap, Physicist Brian Greene explained that at a quantum level, the entire universe operates like a giant casino, and the odds are stacked against us.  This idea contradicts Einstein, who believed that the universe operated according to principles of certainty.  Einstein said, "God does not throw dice."  What Einstein said exactly was: "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one.' I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice." Einstein had challenged Newtonian physics, the physics of the observable world.  But he had trouble accepting the theories that radically extended that challenge.

Despite this lip service paid toward chaos and blind chance, our whole social, political and economic order rests on the authority of those who claim they can predict the future.  In another post, I suggested that the credibility of economists and financial personnel rose according to their ability to gamble against the probability of stocks rising or falling. That credibility is waning, and they may be supplanted by scientists.  Ironically, quantum mechanics also rests on prediction, on the anticipation of a range of outcomes at the subatomic level.

Greene claims that quantum physicists believe the nature of reality is inherently fuzzy, and is weirdly affected by our perception of it.  Also, at the quantum level, sub-atomic particles can be in more than one place at the same time.  The quantum laws are the bases for scientific predictions on how particles will behave, and these laws are the bases of our entire Tech Revolution, the foundation of our current computing boom. Even with these marvellous innovations based on quantum theories, physicists are having trouble explaining why the unseen quantum universe behaves differently from the visible, tangible universe.  After all, in our daily lives, we are not in ten places and ten times at once in a fundamentally uncertain reality governed by chance.  I hope.  For this show from the November series, see Youtube here.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Third Industrial Revolution

Image Source: Salon.com.

Count Jeremy Rifkin among one of many Baby Boomer theorists who are optimistic about the future of tech and the economy. Rifkin has developed a new theory about how a huge transformation will unfold. He calls it the Third Industrial Revolution, and he bases it on the convergence of energy, communications and the economy. Forbes has a report on this vision of economic cycles of time and progress:
When we change energy regimes, it makes possible much more complex economic relations. When energy revolutions occur, however, they require communication revolutions that are agile enough to manage them. If you look at the 19th century, print technology became very cheap when we introduced steam power into printing. That decreased the cost and increased the speed, efficiency and availability of print material. At the same time we established public schools in Europe and America. We created a print literate workforce with the communication skills to organize a First Industrial Revolution driven by coal and steam power.

Then we did it again in the 20th century with the convergence of communication and energy: Centralized electricity—especially the telephone and then later radio and television—became the communication vehicles to manage a more dispersed Second Industrial Revolution, organized around the oil-powered internal combustion engine, suburban construction and the creation of a mass consumer society....

[The Third Industrial Revolution is] based on a new convergence of communication and energy. The Internet has been a very powerful communication tool in the last 20 years. What’s so interesting about it is the way it scales. I grew up in the 20th century on centralized electricity communication that scales vertically. The Internet, by contrast, is a distributed and collaborative communication medium and scales laterally.

We are in the early stages of a convergence of Internet communication technology with a new form of energy that is by nature distributed and has to be managed collaboratively and scales laterally. We’re making a great transition to distributed renewable energy sources. And we distinguish those from the elite energies—coal, oil, gas, tar sands—that are only found in a few places and require significant military and geopolitical investments and massive finance capital, and that have to scale top down because they are so expensive. Those energies are clearly sunsetting as we enter the long endgame of the Second Industrial Revolution.

Distributed energies, by contrast, are found in some frequency or proportion in every inch of the world: the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground, biomass—garbage, agricultural and forest waste—small hydro, ocean tides and waves.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Mother Ship Has Not Landed

Um, what is that planet-sized object right next to Mercury (top right)? Image Source: Space.com.

On December 1, NASA's STEREO spacecraft photographed Mercury being enveloped by a Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun. It also caught a curious, planet-sized object right next to Mercury. Conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts, as well as Planet X Nibiru doom-seeking doomsdayers expecting Earth's 2012 collision with a Doppelgänger or Shadow Planet, are all abuzz.  They are convinced that the giant invisible body hiding next to Mercury is a huge alien Mothership, which is cloaked so that we can't (normally) see it. You can see a video with Mothership commentary, here. Space.com asked "scientists in the solar physics branch at the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) — the group that analyzes data from the Heliospheric Imager-1 (HI-1), the telescopic camera that shot the new footage" what that thing is. They concluded that it is a data-processing artifact, the ghost of where Mercury was the day before, which appears as result of the way they process the information to produce the photograph.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Time Lapses: A Meteoric Winter Night in a Viking Church

Image © by P-M. Hedén. Image Source: National Geographic via TWAN.

Tonight, tomorrow night, and the night after are the peak times to see the Geminid meteor shower, the only meteor storm which is caused by an asteroid and not a comet. There is a fantastic time lapse video at The World at Night (here), which shows the 2010 Geminids falling over a thousand year old Viking church in Vallentuna, Sweden. The image and video link are reproduced with kind permission from P-M. Hedén and TWAN.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Configurations of a Third: The Multiverse

From the Internet emerging from binary code, to the extratemporal dimension between the virtual and the real, to Dark Matter generated between the Matter and Antimatter of the Big Bang, to a bizarre cosmic consciousness arising out of gravity's mesh with space-time - the Millennial idea that our dualist Cartesian reality, split between mind and matter, can form a third, post-Cartesian reality is everywhere. See below the jump for Brian Greene's recent discussion on Nova's The Fabric of the Cosmos: Universe or Multiverse.  While the Multiverse is not yet generally accepted among physicists, since 2010, the idea that there were and are many Big Bangs, generating many universes, has been gaining ground among quantum physicists, string theorists, and theoretical physicists studying cosmic inflation. Their critics argue vehemently that accepting an unprovable theory like this could undermine the very foundations of science.  What is perhaps more important than the challenging theory is the overall pattern - a fundamental sea-change in outlook - these Millennial Configurations of a Third, everywhere we look (see my earlier post on tripartite aspects of Millennial thought, here and here).

In the American TV show, Fringe, there are prime and parallel universes. The parallel universe Manhattan is spelt with one 't.' Image Source: Fox via Wiki.

If the Multiverse is our reality and we don't know it, what would it be like to live there if we did know it? According to Signs of the Times: "The trouble is that in an infinite multiverse, everything that can happen will happen - an infinite number of times. In such a set-up, probability loses all meaning. 'How do you compare infinities?' asks Andrei Linde of Stanford University in California." Multiverses have been consistently popular fictional narrative devices that address Linde's question. Multiverses are constants in fantasy and sci-fi works, most recently in the American FOX television show, Fringe, and of course, Scenes from a Multiverse.  But the only place where the cultural and social implications of a real Multiverse have been systematically and continually explored is in comic books.  Since the early 1960s, Marvel has produced stories about a bunch of alternate realities, pocket universes and multiple dimensions. Marvel tends to have a single narrative represent a single reality: their main narrative continuity is Earth-616. Their Ultimate imprint has presented popular alternate universe stories since the year 2000. TVTropes sees Marvel's Multiverse affected by a hierarchy of positive and negative realities: English writer "Warren Ellis' run on X-Man utilized another conception of the multiverse, where in addition to Parallel Universes, there's a 'spiral of realities' stretching above and below, with the universes 'downspiral' being significantly more chaotic and difficult for li[f]e to develop/survive in than the the relatively advanced and idyllic universes located 'upspiral.'" Marvel also has an omniverse, a collection of all possible universes and realities, inhabited by characters from other fictions and pulp houses, including its rival, DC.

Infinite Crisis #5 (April 2006).

DC Comics' assessment is even more complex, with frayed narratives and equally divided fictional realities; its Multiverses collide and break apart, causing total chaos, infinite crises, and a constant reevaluation of its characters and degrees of heroism. Since Wonder Woman #59 (1953), writers at DC have symbolically considered what living in a real, tangible Multiverse would do to our mentalities, lives and consciousness.  Since 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, when DC attempted to crunch the whole Multiverse into one single fictional universe, America's oldest comics publisher has allowed events on the Multiversal level to dominate its main narrative storyline with increasing frequency and intensity. DC soon uncrunched their single universe and brought the Multiverse back. DC's writers have reevaluated our understanding of death, of time, of narrative sequence and continuity, and of morality (see also: here); and all of this arises when the unseeable and unmeasurable beyond our perception collides theoretically with tangible reality and coughs up a third synthetic unknown.

nU Alec Holland meets nU Abby Arcane. DCnU Swamp Thing #3 (January 2012).

In short, alternate realities and parallel dimensions have of course appeared in many modern works of literature and drama, some great, some popular; but only DC has been consistently speculating on what a collective Multiversal reality would be like, month in, month out, over almost sixty years. DC's Multiverse has evolved over that time, with its most radical stories ever published this fall.  The editors and writers at DC are saying the fabric of time and space could tear, turn itself inside out, and we could all find ourselves, the same but different, living in new realities, haunted by memories of our other existences.

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