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.

Showing posts with label Richard Branson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard Branson. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, An Immortal Farewell

This is a post I wish I did not have to write, on the passing of the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking. He died today, aged 76.

Image Source: Reuters via Voa News.

This time last year, it was reported that Richard Branson offered Hawking transportation on Virgin Galactic to the International Space Station. In 2007, the famous physicist became the first quadriplegic to experience simulated zero gravity on a modified Boeing 727-200 and looked incredibly happy when he became weightless.

Click here to read my references to his work. If you have not read his books, you can listen to some audiobooks and films on his work, below the jump.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Memespace Hyperventilation

Palaces in the sky: Dark Roasted Blend recently celebrated the incredible visions of French science fiction comics from the 1970s, which American and British directors mimicked in comics and cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. Image Source: Jean-Claude Mézières via Dark Roasted Blend (Hat tip: Me and You and a Blog Named Boo).

On 27 February 2015, Richard Branson encouraged entrepreneurs to come forward to share and expand new ideas. That's great, although some of the big biz riffing around the future celebrates the new idea of the new idea. One never actually gets to a new idea. The out-of-control lingo-about-lingo about the newness-of-newness reminds me of the explosion of Postmodern Expert Speak in the 1990s, which constructed new foundations of intellectual cultural authority.

The Valérian and Laureline "series focuses on the adventures of the dark-haired Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent, and his redheaded female companion, Laureline, as they travel the universe through space and time." Above, "Baroque spaceships (complete with ghost-ridden halls and gargoyles sticking out into the void of space)." Image Source: Dark Roasted Blend.

Mr. Branson quoted commenter Jason Silva, a photogenic Gen Y guru, who is a one-man meme generator and Singularity freestyle philosophical poet. He is compelling and makes good points, but there is something weird about the way he takes the Tech Revolution so literally and with such breathless utopian fervour. His clever rants reach height after height against IMAX effects. His videos are fantastic, if you like the Singularity Themepark Channel. His Youtube commentaries are part of the TestTube Network, which shares an unreflective undergraduate confidence that its contributors can fix the world, or at least understand it, if they edit it and add a soundtrack to it.

Silva's enthusiasm reminds me of the glassy-eyed idealism around the founding of America, or the Revolution in France. He joyously accepts the demolition of temporal boundaries and celebrates breaches of physical and cognitive limitations. He lacks a sense of Techno-Irony about the separate virtual lives enjoyed by his Online Language and Online Ego. To illustrate how Silva can be pithy yet simultaneously hollow, compare his Existential Bummer (the last video below) about death and a life beyond with another writer on similar topics. See Kate Sherrod's Story Sonnets: Infected (24 February 2015) and Who's the Real Crook Here? (23 February 2015).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The World of Two Moons and Ur-Memory

How do we remember the times that are so far in the distant past that they are not only beyond history, but beyond memory? The ocean of time that earlier humanoid species and humans crossed before they even reached the outer boundaries of history is enormous: the Stone Age lasted 2.5 million years.  Archaeological and geological research is almost our only means of telling what transpired in that period.  Occasionally, these disciplines draw from astronomical findings, as with the report just out that the Earth may once have had two moons.

Myths and epics of deities and kings are the other remnants of that vast period of lost human experience, particularly of the last 20,000 years of the Stone Age (see my post on that period here).  How interesting it must be, then, for the creators and fans of Elfquest to hear news that this fantasy possibly overlaps with ancient prehistory.  Nature reported on the researchers' twin moon theory:
A new hypothesis claims the Earth may once have had two moons, which eventually crashed together forming our current celestial partner. This new idea, reported in the journal Nature, could explain a long standing puzzle about the differences between the near and far sides of the lunar surface. The near side is relatively low and flat with many large dark basalt mare, while the far side is high and mountainous, with thicker crust. The work, based on computer simulations undertaken by planetary scientists Erik Asphaug and Martin Jutzi from the University of California, Santa Cruz, claims the lunar far side highlands, are the solid remains of a collision with a smaller companion moon. 
While legends, ancient religious writings and folklore cannot be taken literally, they may contain weird, displaced grains of truth. For example, it is strange how old wives' tales preserve centuries' worth of domestic wisdom and tried-and-true practices: superstitions about cats bringing ill omens around nurseries turned out to have some credibility, as research into cat-borne diseases later showed.  In this case, the imaginary world of Elfquest features a fictional world with two moons.  Do myths, old or new, preserve bits of the distant past beyond memory? Can fragments of these tales catch a glimpse of lost reality?  No.  It would be foolish to assume that the Pinis, who created Elfquest in the late 1970s, somehow accurately imagined our planet's real prehistory.

But the 'two moons' here are a curious coincidence, which raises some questions.  What fundamental elements of human existence persist in oral tradition across aeons?  What is the basic common denominator of Ur-memory - what cultural material survives?  And how are these surviving fragments dressed up in ways that make them comprehensible now, for each new generation?  Pioneering work was done in this field by the Brothers Grimm in tracing fairy tales in Central Europe, even as they tracked the philological evolution of the German language.  Other attempts to categorize and thereby follow the spread of fairy tales and folktales include the Aarne Thompson classification system and Krohn's historic-geographic method.  But these systems deal with the core elements of stories across centuries or even millennia at most (through references to Greek texts).  They don't cover many thousands, or even millions, of years.

If myths mirror any literal truths that scientists later confirm, it's equally worth considering that researchers' interpretations of scientific results are sometimes coloured by contemporary expectations. Fantasy and science are on opposite sides of the looking-glass. In this case, Millennial dualism likely reflects in the latest theory that Earth once had two moons.  It's not that the science doesn't stand on its own: it can and often does.  But the flavour or tone of scientific interpretation - its metascientific subtext - is influenced by the Zeitgeist.

Dualism is fashionable right now but it's as old as the hills: dualistic legends focus on metaphors for the human struggle away from savagery. Fantasy's classic parables involve the struggle between good and evil in the human heart. In Elfquest, a Stone Age Earth with two moons is visited by aliens - the Elves - who get stranded on our planet. Using their highly evolved abilities, they interact with the earthly environment, and the result is a lot of strange, hybrid beings who are feared and worshipped by Stone Age humans as evil spirits and nature gods (see my posts on Elfquest here and here).  Primitive and advanced, familiar and alien, Elfquest's two moons may symbolize duality of consciousness.  Duality is a persistent motif in human stories across millennia. Modern legends, from popular fantasy novels to pulp fiction comic books, merely perpetuate the material once transmitted by oral tradition.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Space Colonization and its Historical Precedents 2

Martian Sunset. Captured by the Rover Spirit on May 19, 2005.  NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell.

Count James C. McLane III among the enthusiasts who want to colonize Mars - and do it quickly!  Over at The Space Review, the former NASA engineer has just written an article in which he strongly advocates one-way manned missions to Mars, just to ensure that the United States achieves the milestone of sending humans to the Red Planet first.  But to start, this will be a colony of one.  One cosmonaut, one-way.  Hmmm.  It is a debate that relies heavily on realities and clichés from colonial history.