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, October 9, 2010

The History of the Universe

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild STScI.

Michael Shull of the University of Colorado and a team of researchers have examined evidence from Hubble Space Telescope and determined that early on in its history, the universe was super hot, then started to cool down in what they call the Quasar Era. Via Lee Hamilton's blog and Physorg: "This diagram traces the evolution of the universe from the big bang to the present. Two watershed epochs are shown. Not long after the big bang, light from the first stars burned off a fog of cold hydrogen in a process called reionization. At a later epoch quasars, the black-hole-powered cores of active galaxies, pumped out enough ultraviolet light to reionize the primordial helium." The team's results will be published in the October 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal (homepage here).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Millennial Liberty: Ridley Scott and The Man in the High Castle

The Guardian is reporting that Ridley Scott is going to direct a BBC adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle, the famous what-if future history of America if Nazi Germany had been victorious during World War II. This adaptation of alternate history picks up on current debates about the preservation of liberty when privacy is being eroded.  Because of the Tech boom, politics have less impact on this debate than one would think. Some have focussed on the war on terrorism and the increasingly sophisticated use of surveillance by public authorities.  But in fact the internet is already five steps ahead of the camera in the street.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Snow Leopards

Here is an incredibly rare video of young Snow Leopards.  From Panthera on Facebook: "A camera trap set up by Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust at our Tost Mountain study area in South Gobi, Mongolia recently captured 61 close-up images of three snow leopards. Like a flip book, taken together these photos produce this amazing video. We think that these three snow leopards are siblings that have recently left their mother, but are still traveling together. In this region we have eight snow leopards that are currently fitted with GPS collars, and we are monitoring their movements to better understand their needs and threats, which will ultimately help us to protect these 'mountain ghosts.' Read more about our snow leopard conservation efforts in Mongolia where Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust are collaborating on the first ever long-term study of snow leopards. See USA Today's article featuring this video here."

See all my posts on endangered species, genetic research and threats of extinction.

Centres for Future Times

Ode to M. C. Escher (2010). © By Tabasco-Raremaster. Reproduced with kind permission.

Universities are starting to establish special institutes dedicated to studying concepts of time and popular consciousness of the turn of the Millennium.  There are also think tanks and consultancies popping up that are dedicated to understanding the Zeitgeist, for a price! Here's a list of a few (out of many) places where people are devoted to thinking about the future and our place in it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fountain of Youth 8: The Immortal Game

Alien vs. Predator: Chess (2009-2010). © By Xidon. Reproduced with kind permission.

Everyone who has seen Ridley Scott's classic 1982 film Blade Runner knows the lines: "Queen to Bishop 6. Knight takes Queen. Bishop to King 7. Checkmate, I think."  BRMovie.com analyzes the film's chess game between the AI designer Tyrell and the android Roy Batty: "On a simple level, the game can be seen as just the fight of replicants against humans. However, The Immortal Game is also a clear reflection of the struggle for longer life that Roy and his fellow replicants seek. They want to escape from their status as pawns and find immortality (as a pawn becoming a queen on the eighth rank). Yet another layer can be seen at the individual level with Roy chasing King Tyrell. In the game, Roy checkmates Tyrell. In life, Roy sets up Tyrell - Tyrell gets some false confidence just before the end, but just as in the game, the King eventually dies." I would add to that intepretation that Blade Runner depicts humans playing God by creating sentient machinesThe machines occupy the position where humans are now: questioning their Creator and demanding immortality from Him. But while doing this, we create a deep philosophical problem because we are also looking to our tech tools to prolong our own lives. This connundrum suggests that we are trying to prolong and exalt our humanity by losing our humanity.  And we will end up in a battle to the death with the very tools we are using to do it.  In the end, we could become Posthuman monsters, playing a giant chess game with androids that are also monsters.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Historical First: Atom Photographed, Quantum Computers Steps Away

A picture of a single Rubidium 85 Atom (2010). Image: M. Andersen/ T. Grünzweig/A. Hilliard/M. McGovern/U. of Otago.

There is a story out at Physorg (here; hat tip: Lee Hamilton's blog) about scientists at the University of Otago who have managed to hold a Rubidium 85 atom in a laser beam and photograph it through a microscope.  Scientists, led by Mikkel Andersen of the Department of Physics, laboured for three years to take this photo.  Andersen has given an interview to NPR which you can listen to here.

By proving they can trap individual atoms, the Otago team is steps away from creating quantum computing circuits of communicating atoms, which can perform complex calculations simultaneously at the atomic level.  Andersen: "What we have done moves the frontier of what scientists can do and gives us deterministic control of the smallest building blocks in our world."  Earlier developments in this field had already prompted physicist Michio Kaku to say that the Silicon Valley will become a rustbelt within the next twenty years (in a 2008 interview here).  Kaku uses Moore's Law to predict how quickly computing will evolve in the next generation. By about 2030, he assumes we could build machines that could run at the speed of human thought, that is, 500 trillion bytes per second.  But right now our most advanced computers have the intelligence of a "retarded cockroach."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interlude: A Moment or Two in Lost Arcadia

After a slew of big posts, I want to change tack and look at things that are more contemplative, restful, and get at currents under the surface.  From about 1995 to 2005, I noticed that the European fin-de-siècle was back in fashion.  Fascination with the era from 1870 to 1920 persists: the Steampunk movement, Proust, H. G. Wells or Lovecraft fans come to mind. This period is our lost Arcadia.  (Arcadia, a region of modern and ancient Greece, became synonymous in the late nineteenth century with idealized nationalist utopias.)  People greeted the new century with confidence, certain that the twentieth century would bring great changes - equality and reforms.  They used the term 'Arcadia' to describe a late Romantic reverie that laid the groundwork for things to come, whether fantastic or terrifying.  For a beautiful tribute site to the styles of this period see the blog, The Pictorial Arts, especially this recent post and this post.  There is a great site devoted to the era of picturesque postage stamps here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hallowe'en Countdown

Braver souls than I are devoting the entire month of blogging to counting down to Hallowe'en
.  Dr. K's 100-Page Super Spectacular has a countdown of horror movies running here.  He's also mentioned that the site Countdown to Halloween is coordinating all blogs participating in this marathon (they're listed on the right hand margin of that site).  I didn't get a chance to check them all, but some of the Hallowe'en marathon blogs listed there that look pretty interesting are: the Edge of Forever; Cinema Suicide (this blogger is telling one ghost story every day this month, and every story has some basis in truth); Gothtober (this person has one of the most original blogs I've ever seen); and Distinctly Jamaican Sounds (ultra cool horror reggae - check this out!). For those of you in North America, Turner Classic Movies is playing old Hammer films every Friday this month; TCM is also running a horror movies blog here.

I'll do about a fortnight's worth of spookily-themed posts through late October and early November.  In the meantime, here are some of my earlier postings on horror herehere, here and here Further image credits: Veduta di Roma: Ruins of a Gallery with Statues at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli. Etching. Inv. 11.120-1963. Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany).  For more images from Piranesi's series of Hadrian's Villa, go here.