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 31, 2011

2011: Adieu

To mark the end of the year, here are a few of the most interesting images I've come across on the Web as the year closed. No copyright infringements are intended.

Farewell to a strange year.  Whatever tragedies, struggles and rewards it brought, it became a year en route to something larger.  They say the journey is more important than the final goal, and perhaps we will look back on 2011 and miss it for precisely that reason. It was a year with some answers, but not all of them, a year when we still did not know what would happen; we were like people clustered in the cafés of 1910.  It was a year of hanging threads, cliffhangers, a year that needed a sequel.  In retrospect, maybe we will remember that it carried promise and hope, a potential for something beautiful and amazing that will change everything. The year began with catastrophe, was filled with upheavals, violent endings and still, the unseen promise of things - whether they will be good, or bad, or terrible - to come. It was a year of suspended animation, as we waited for the recession to end and more of the world's sleeping secrets to awake. Now, this year's dance is done.

Possibly in anticipation of trials to come, some of us did not make it (see here; here; here; here; here; and here).  Whatever it will bring, tomorrow is a new dawn, one step deeper into the second Millennial decade.  But until that countdown to January 1, Fin.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The World's Most Dangerous Ideas

Image Source: Columbia Pictures via Popular Mechanics.

Wiki's list of the world's most dangerous ideas tries to predict eight future dystopias.  Wiki drew from a 2004 list compiled by the periodical Foreign Policy, co-founded by the late Samuel P. Huntington.  The most dangerous ideas are:
Transhumanism is the one concern that moves past the standard political and foreign policy discourse; Ronald Bailey comments on Fukuyama's article:
In his Foreign Policy article, Fukuyama identifies transhumanism as "a strange liberation movement" that wants "nothing less than to liberate the human race from its biological constraints." Sounds ominous, no? But wait a minute, isn't human history (and prehistory) all about liberating more and more people from their biological constraints? ...

Fukuyama would undoubtedly respond that ... [w]hat transhumanists seek is very different. They want to go beyond current innate human capacities. They want to change human bodies and brains. ... Can one be so transformed by technology as to be no longer human?
Fukuyama predicts that genetically altered transhumans would regard themselves as superiors to normal humans, in a Gattaca-type world where the latter's civil rights would be removed. Bailey, meanwhile, criticizes Fukuyama's fears as a barrier to improvement and progress. In fact, the end results of transhumanism might be much more ambiguous than either Fukuyama or Bailey expect.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Chronal Economy

Second Life's virtual banking crisis (2008). Image Source: Second Life via Digital Alchemy.

We are making a transition from the New Economy to a newer kind of economy. The origins of that newer type of economy lie in the Knowledge Economy.  The names for the rising system vary: the Digital Economy, the Information Economy, the Global Economy, the Internet Economy, the Network Economy, the Virtual Economy, the Learning Economy, and one of my favourites: the Cognitive-Cultural Economy.

I would argue that these new economies are all types of a 'Chronal Economy.' Digital, knowledge-based and virtual economies depend on a changing experience with time brought about by our interaction with technology.  Perhaps the growing relationship between the virtual and the real, understood via new ways we experience time, will reveal what is happening to the global economy. It is that transformed relationship with time, so poorly understood now, that lies at the heart of constant financial concerns.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Time Landscape

Google streetview of Time Landscape (2011). Image Source: Google via Cryptoforestry.

In the run-up to the holidays, I was reading a back issue of the now-defunct and sadly-missed Gourmet magazine. The December 1990 issue covered the Time Landscape, an art installation built in Greenwich Village, NYC, in the 1970s by Baby Boomer artist, Alan Sonfist.

Time Landscape (1978) was conceived as one of the first environmental art pieces.  It constituted an effort to recapture a lost, pre-colonial landscape at the corner of West Houston Street and LaGuardia Place. Sonfist hired historians, botanists and various scientific researchers to replant indigenous plant species, including trees and wildflowers like violets and Black-Eyed Susans, on a small area of land in Manhattan.  This effort saw, he claimed, the return of bird species to the area, such as hummingbirds, not seen there since the days of New Amsterdam.

Image Source: peeepl.

The origins of Time Landscape did not lie in 60s' enviro-ideology but in an attempt to recapture a personal memory from the late 1940s.  A native New Yorker, Sonfist grew up at a time when one of New York City's last patches of wild forest still survived in the South Bronx:
As he described it, the concept for the project originated in the mid-sixties and grew out of his memories of a forest he had known during his early childhood in the South Bronx.  "It was a ravine next to the Bronx river," he recalled, "and it was one of the last true forests anywhere in the city until it was paved over with concrete. (Gourmet magazine, December 1990, p. 85)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Lifestyle You Ordered is Currently Out of Stock

The economic quote of the week goes to Banksy, who left a new artwork on Canary Wharf almost a week ago. Report at HuffPo. 

Particle Collider Real Estate

Image Source: Ghost Hunting Theories.

Here is a loss the US government is not discussing as the Great Recession drags on, amid tedious political finger-pointing about how to invest properly in the economy. At Ghost Hunting Theories, Autumnforest recently reported on an unused Particle Collider that is up for sale for $6.5 million in Waxahachie, Texas. She writes: "Do you want 135 acres of Texas real estate complete with a 20-year-old facility built with the future hope of being a particle accelerator but never got completed? There are 8 buildings and 14 miles of underground tunnels. How much did your government spend on this debacle? A cool $2 billion." Before the recession, the facility was appraised as having a saleable value of $20 million, but the real estate market has hit it hard. (More reports: here, here and here.)

Here's the Real Estate announcement from Newmark Knight Frank, Global Real Estate Advisors:
SUPERCONDUCTING SUPER COLLIDER Located about 30 miles south of Dallas, Texas, the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) is a scientific complex that was once a profoundly expensive dream of the U.S. Department of Energy in the late 1980's to house the world's largest and highest energy particle accelerator and its supporting facilities. Plans for the SSC included a proposed 54 miles of underground tunnels that would extend and eventually encircle the town of Waxahachie, Texas and also comprise approximately 213,000 square feet in supporting facilities, buildings and infrastructure improvements. Its approximate 135 acre site located west of Waxahachie was to be totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Construction of the multi-billion project began in 1991, but was subsequently halted in October 1993 due to spiraling estimated costs to complete (more than doubling to over $8 billion) and U.S. budget concerns. At the time of the project's cancellation, approximately $800 million had been spent to improve the site, complete the supporting facilities, and finish approximately 14 miles of the proposed tunnels. SSC is now for sale on an "as-is, where-is" basis. Hunt Ventures, advisor for the ownership entity, will be responsive to all credible offers. Offers without any or only minimal contingencies will receive strong consideration.
Wired  reported on this facility in 2009.  In the 1980s, the Texas site was conceived to house the biggest particle accelerator in the world. Congress yanked the funding in 1993, ensuring that the world's biggest particle collider - and the future of scientific research in this field, with its vast potential for cheap energy sources as well as an array of commercial and defense applications - would end up in Europe at CERN. If there is one area of science that could change everything in our future, and is the basis of the whole Tech Revolution through which we are currently living, it is particle physics. There is a short history of particle accelerators, once called 'atom smashers,' here at Wiki.

This is a classic example of politicians viewing scientific matters through ideological lenses, and mucking up long term projects that they don't understand. Wired has another related report here, entitled the 'Last Days of Big American Physics.'  In February 2011, the American government denied funding to the Fermilab accelerator near Chicago, which, despite the existence of smaller US colliders that do different things, undermines US competitiveness in this field; Fermilab closed its Tevatron collider permanently in September 2011.  As with NASA's ending the Space Shuttle program due to government cuts, there has been a serious crisis in American confidence with regard to the government's footing the huge bills for global-level scientific advances. 

But the alternative - Big Business going it alone - is not so great, either. The problem remains that private companies cannot fund this level of research by themselves because it is so expensive.  And if private companies grow enough to be able to do so, we will face corporate conglomerates of the kind that were featured in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy: business entities that are as powerful, or much, much more powerful, than nation-states or even groups of nation-states. It's worth contemplating that this alternative of unfettered corporations would likely spell the end of modern civic freedoms and governmental democracy in technologically advanced societies; as anyone who has read an employer's regulations manual knows, the internal legal principles that determine corporate governance and day-to-day management have few pretensions about being democratic.

Then there is the state-industrial mix. Is the current model of government-industrial cooperation, which ensures these endeavours, all that great?  Not really.  There is a sticky, predictably nasty politicized debate around Big Government and Big Science, with typical discussions here and hereThe more science and tech advances we see in this century, the more the power, money and authority required to drive them will likely reflect a hybrid public-private model for Public Administration and Management. In time, that new model will potentially provide a whole new legal foundation of government. This is why it is worth keeping an eye on changing currents in Public Admin theory, you know, just in case we end up electing armies of public-corporate management consultants, government contractors and business administrators instead of actual representatives and legislators. The book excerpt below concerns one of these burgeoning Millennial grey areas. It is taken from S. P. Osbourne, The New Public Governance?: Emerging Perspectives on the Theory and Practice of Public Governance (Routledge 2010). This excerpt concerns a template of public-private hybridization over big research and investment projects; that template involves public contracts with private companies in the US Military and in the famous example of the Challenger disaster.

Source: Googlebooks.

For now, as far as giant colliders are concerned, the US is playing catch-up.  There are reports from late December 2011 that a new particle accelerator is being built in Batavia, Illinois, with US government funding (see here, here and here). It is due to be completed in 2013 or 2014.

Construction of new accelerator, Illinois, 16 December 2011. Image Source: Jeff Cagle/Sun-Times Media via Napierville Sun-Times.

As for the Texas facility, there are reports that its collider tunnels have been filled with water. See more images of the Texas accelerator facility from Wired below the jump (all photos below are by Jim Merithew/Wired.com). There are pictures of the site when it still had its equipment, here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Laugh of the Day: One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor

Many thanks to Tony Morrill for tweeting the Google Maps walking directions from the Shire to Mordor and the Two Towers (complete with auto-warning). This was an internet gag that was circulating about a week ago. Sean Bean's line has also become a LOLcat type meme.

Image Source: Troll Meme Generator. Also available as an avatar!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Woodstock, Vermont Christmas Parade. Image Source: Discover New England.

Happy Christmas! For the day, here are a couple of New England Christmassy photos. Below the jump, a light post with twelve 'top ten' videos - one for each of the twelve days of Christmas - and each one relevant to the blog's themes.

The Polar Express train at Edaville, Massachusetts. Image Source: Discover New England.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Getting Closer to the God Particle

Image Source: AllVoices.

Over the past week and a half, there have been reports that scientists at CERN have gotten even closer to finding the so-called 'God particle.' They have just found a new subatomic particle, which they have named Chib(3P). The Higgs boson particle is important because it is not expected to be made up of smaller particles; it is also the last missing piece of the Standard Model in Physics. Newsweek: "the Higgs mechanism is critical to today’s theory of the basic elements of matter. Higgs and his colleagues theorized that space itself contains a sort of charge. Elementary particles acquire mass through their interaction with the charge (you might think of this charge as a traffic camera that slows down traffic even without any actual policemen to stop the cars). Space isn’t filled with Higgs-boson particles—you need a collider such as the LHC to make those—but the Higgs boson is the telltale sign that there really is such a 'charge' in space." Mark Buchanan generally refers to the Higgs boson as a particle that could explain how the universe gets 'something' out of 'nothing.' Very roughly, it would let us confirm the transition of states in matter, from 'non-being' to 'being.' Proving this notion may in turn explain the origins of the universe. While acknowledging that this transitional concept appeals to our love of mythical and religious metaphors, Buchanan insists that the idea is soundly grounded in scientific study and hypotheses.

Image Source: AllVoices.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Banknote Nostalgia: Spanish Village Brings back Peseta Currency

Image Source: AFP/File, Miguel Riopa.

AFP is carrying a story that the Spanish village of Salvaterra de Miño has brought back the old peseta currency this fall. Initially, the experiment was only supposed to last one month, but it was so popular that town leaders are allowing it to run to December 31. Nostalgia for the currency, which has been obsolete since 2002, is very high amid the euro's woes and the old coins and banknotes are being welcomed like long absent friends.

The 'blonde,' the much-loved 100 peseta coin. Image Source: Business Insider.

It's an interesting phenomenon, demonstrating how economies really work; perhaps it is a reminder of the days when economists thought economically, before they began applying abstract mathematical formulas and dynamic physics concepts to human trading realities. Sometimes, the realities defy theories, abstractions, and differential equations:
In Salvaterra, nostalgia is high for the old gold-coloured coin affectionately known as "the blonde", and the old peseta notes.

"Every time an old note turned up I would touch it, since I was really glad to see it again and touch it again," says Fina Rodriguez, owner of an electrics shop.

The euro is less well-loved. In a recent survey, 70 percent of Spaniards said they had gained no benefit from the single currency.

"When we changed the currency, everything got dearer," says Montse Ledo, owner of the Fenteiros bar, one of 58 businesses taking part in the project.

The peseta scheme had been due to last just a month from the start of October, but locals dug out so much of the old currency that in the run-up to Christmas Salvaterra is still a peseta zone.

The town now plans to wrap up the experiment on December 31 and change the accumulated pesetas for euros, since no time limit has been set on cashing in the old coin since the single currency took over in 2002.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prometheus Trailer

There's lots of buzz on the Internet today regarding a teaser trailer (see it below) for Ridley Scott's 2012 semi-prequel of the Alien franchise, entitled Prometheus. Everyone is happy to hear that H. R. Giger has been working on the project, and Scott promises to get to the bottom of the alien origins of human life on our planet (a very popular Millennial eschatological conspiracy theory). He will also explain who and what the Space Jockey was in his first Alien movie. Scott suggested in a recent interview that the Space Jockey's ship was a weapons transport, and that the Xenomorph, which appeared in all the Alien movies so far, was not the original alien, but a some kind of derivative species of the real alien species. The trailer and the image shown here are from Apple iTunes and Trailer Addict and are © 20th Century Fox.

Curios: The Santa Claus Banknotes

Santa: Bottom right (click to see larger image). Image Source: Heritage Auctions.

Curios is my blog series on weird artifacts that come up on the block at auction houses. In January 2012, in Orlando, Florida, Heritage Auctions will be selling off the Durand collection of banknotes which had special issues with images of Santa Claus printed on them. You know, this was back in the days before people were disgusted by Christmas being emblematic of rampant capitalism. The collection includes counterfeit bills. From the Heritage Auctions announcement:
Heritage Currency is pleased to present The Roger H. Durand Santa Claus Notes Collection as part of our FUN Signature Currency Auction being held in Orlando from January 5 thru 8. Given the fact that most of the notes with Santa Claus vignettes are scarce to extremely rare, this is indeed a fabulous and noteworthy collection. Roger's initial purchase that began this collection took place in 1960 at a cost of $17 — several multiples of what most Obsoletes cost at that time. At that time, there was only one reference on the subject — a five page monograph by John A. Muscalus, Ph.D. published in 1959. That work was followed in 1973 by a publication from Larry L. Ruehlen that ignited the interest of collectors.

There were far fewer notes than there was demand for and the notes are generally prized and closely held, so building a collection was quite the challenge. Although that is still the case, the sale of the American Bank Note Company archives in 1990 did add more material to the marketplace along with Part VI of the Ford sale in October 2004, although the Ford sale consisted primarily of material he purchased at the 1990 sale. The continued interest in the Santa Claus vignettes is evidenced by the fact they took the number 23 spot on the list of The 100 Greatest American Currency Notes list, and the recent auction sale of a circulated Santa Claus note for over $40,000, an amazing price indeed for any obsolete banknote.

May your eyes twinkle and your dimples be merry this holiday season.
Santa: Bottom right (click to see larger image). Image Source: Heritage Auctions.
Santa: Centre (click to see larger image). Image Source: Heritage Auctions.
Santa: Centre (click to see larger image). Image Source: Heritage Auctions.
Image Source: Heritage Auctions.

Hail the Winter Solstice: Deus Sol Invictus

Winter Solstice: Dawn at Stonehenge. Image Source: Stellarium.

Today, at 5:30 a.m. UTC or Greenwich Mean Time, the Winter Solstice occurs.  Thank Heavens. It's been getting pretty dark out there. In Antarctica, it is Midsummer and the Sun is shining nearly continuously. See the three videos in the bottom of my post here, which explain the Winter Solstice and the origins of Christmas in earlier Sun god worship.

The Solstice is the core of many religions and mythologies in the Northern Hemisphere.  In fact, since the dawn of human civilization in the Stone Age, the Winter Solstice and the days that follow it have been celebrated to hail the victory of the Sun, or the powers of light, life and good - in short, basic survival! - over the powers of dark, death and evil.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Man Who Told the Internet He Came from the Future

Image Source: Xetobyte on Deviant Art via I09.

Even at the dawn of the Internet Age, the time-bending and time-altering potentials of Cyberspace were very evident to some.  I09 has just posted a very interesting piece about a message board contributor in the 1990s, one 'John Titor,' who told people he had been sent back from the future to retrieve a 70s'-era IBM computer in order to fix computer glitches that would later cause a lot of trouble in the 2030s. He made several dire predictions about world affairs in the early Millennium, some of which have come true. In a twist that sounds like it came straight from DC Comics' time-gutting continuity manuals (DC had already had one big chronally-driven crossover event in the 1990s that touched on Titor's premise; it is entitled Zero Hour), Titor also said he came from a slightly different timeline, thus safely granting his futuristic predictions a margin of doubt. As anyone familiar with the Terminator film franchise knows, the time traveller sent back to the present to stop a future calamity became a highly-compelling, widely-used pop culture trope from the mid-1980s onward.

Yet Titor seemed to be a 'real' version of this pop cultural trope, which was why his curious claims attracted so much attention. This was an early case of manipulation of the Internet to create false verisimilitude based on virtual reality mimicking the authoritative reference points of actual reality - even if the reference points from actual reality were fictional! It was very clever. Titor's story has been debunked by I09 as a virtuoso first in viral online marketing.  Nevertheless, it still makes fascinating reading.  For it is, in fact, the Internet that has become our real time machine, as anyone who has spent the last fifteen years staring at a computer screen during most of their waking hours can attest. From the report:
What if someone from the future popped up in our timeline and started answering questions from people on internet message boards? That's exactly what John Titor did in the late 1990s. Claiming he was sent from the future on a mission to retrieve an antique computer, he talked with thousands of people online and told stories of futuristic life in 2036. Many of his tales warned of imminent disaster for the world, but he said he couldn't help.

As abruptly as he appeared, Titor vanished in 2001. Did he finish his mission? Who - or what - is behind the legend of John Titor? ...

Posted by John Titor on 01-27-2001 12:45 PM. Greetings. I am a time traveler from the year 2036. I am on my way home after getting an IBM 5100 computer system from the year 1975. My "time" machine is a stationary mass, temporal displacement unit manufactured by General Electric. The unit is powered by two, top-spin, dual-positive singularities that produce a standard, off-set Tipler sinusoid. I will be happy to post pictures of the unit. ...

Life in 2036

Titor talks about his life as well, including living in Florida as a child, his service in the second American Civil War as a member of the Fighting Diamondbacks in 2013, and the communal/agricultural nature of life in 2036.

Titor admits he lives in a parallel timeline, one that varies 1-2% from ours. Enough to be slightly different, but not diverge from the major societal events. Titor is on a mission to obtain an IBM 5100 in order to debug computers in 2036 due predicted problems with Unix in 2038. The IBM 5100 emulates APL and BASIC programming languages, an interesting feature. John also posts pictures of his time travel machine along with schematics and the logo used by his military unit.

Titor's story eventually falls apart, with answers inconsistent and terse, and the user quits posting in April of 2001. The Titor story contines to grow as the conversations are re-posted onto other sites and through e-mail lists, with Titor fever reaching a peak in 2003, culminating with the release of a book about Titor, John Titor: A Time Traveler's Tale in late 2003 by the John Titor Foundation, Inc.

Hobbit Movie Trailer

Bleeding Cool is carrying the first Hobbit movie trailer, An Unexpected Journey, due out a year from now. See the trailer at the bottom of this post. The studio blog on the production is here. Richard Armitage looks particularly impressive as the deposed Dwarven prince, Thorin, but they all look great.

The Dwarven cast. Image Source: The Hobbit Blog.

Cast above: (L-r) JED BROPHY as Nori, DEAN O’GORMAN as Fili, MARK HADLOW as Dori, JAMES NESBITT as Bofur, PETER HAMBLETON as Gloin, GRAHAM McTAVISH as Dwalin, RICHARD ARMITAGE as Thorin Oakenshield (center), KEN STOTT as Balin, JOHN CALLEN as Oin, STEPHEN HUNTER as Bombur, WILLIAM KIRCHER as Bifur, ADAM BROWN as Ori and AIDAN TURNER as Kili in New Line Cinema’s and MGM’s fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by James Fisher.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Farewell: Václav Havel

Havel to the Castle. Image Source: WSJ.

It was with great sadness that I heard of the death of Václav Havel.  Today, black flags hang by Prague Castle.  One of the leaders who saw an end to the Eastern Bloc in the 1989 to 1991 period, his death marks another end to that era. He represented something of the best in the Czechs, a man whose pure and ethical convictions shone in his face and life - and he did not waver. He had a rare grasp of the moral obligations shouldered by free men and women.

His Website is here and BBC and Guardian obits here and here, respectively. The Prague Post will do a large retrospective of him on December 21. The Lidové Noviny coverage is here.

Image Source: Bloomberg.

The NYT, which is remembering his plays, quoted Natalia Koliada, a co-founder of the Belarus Free Theater, who tweeted: "There is less morality in politics with his death." Lists of his dramatic and literary published works are here and here. The world is a poorer place without him. From his 1994 acceptance speech for the Philadelphia Liberty Medal:
"The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world."

Frozen Moments

A teenage photographer from Tokyo, Natsumi Hayashi, has made a big name for herself since September 2010, when she started posting photos of herself on her blog while 'levitating.' Acutally, she jumps hundreds of times in one spot until she gets a perfect photo while midair, which makes it look like she is flying. (Image sources: Hayashi's site, Oddity Central, Photography Blog and The Daily Mail; all photos are © N. Hayashi.)

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: Over Size Load

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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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Look Skyward: Lunar Eclipse

June, 2011 eclipse. Image Source: CNN.

A total Full Moon lunar eclipse at dawn and early morning will turn the Moon dark red. The Moon will also be larger than usual, and the effects of the Earth passing between the Sun and the Moon will be all the more dramatic. The event will be visible early in the morning of December 10 (North American time). Space.com: "The eclipse will start at around 7:45 a.m. EST (4:45 a.m. PST, 12:45 GMT), when the shadow of the moon inches across the lunar disk. The celestial show will be visible from parts of North America, with those in the western portions of Canada and the United States particularly well placed for the event. People in Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and central and eastern Asia should also be able to catch sight of the reddened moon. 'For people in the western United States, the eclipse is deepest just before local dawn," NASA scientists said in a statement. "Face west to see the red moon sinking into the horizon as the sun rises behind your back. It's a rare way to begin your day.'" CNN states the first signs of the eclipse will be visible earlier, at 6:33 EST: "The eclipse will last from 6:33 a.m. Eastern (3:33 a.m. Pacific) till 12:30 p.m. Eastern (9:33 a.m. Pacific)"; but the main part of the eclipse will last 51 minutes. The LA Times reports that you can also watch the eclipse live on your computer: "Slooh, the online Space Camera, plans to broadcast a free, real-time feed of the eclipse from telescopes in Australia, Asia and Hawaii. You can access the feed via Slooh's homepage." This will be the last total lunar eclipse until 2014.

Fox News comments that this will be an opportunity to see the impossible - the Sun and the eclipsed Moon in the sky at the same time.  This should not be possible, because when a total lunar eclipse takes place, the Sun and Moon are on a 180 degree line, with the Earth between them. We will see both in the sky because of atmospheric refraction called selenelion.

Not surprisingly, astrologers think this Full Moon lunar eclipse, with the eclipsed, out-of-sight Moon refracted back up into our line of vision, is significant. The eclipse occurs in the constellation of Gemini. For them, it symbolizes a heightening of emotions this weekend, hidden secrets revealed, the penny will finally drop - they think it is also a time of dreams and visions.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chess for Three

Image Source: Slashgear.

Ack! Thanks to Lee Hamilton for a Slashgear link to this new Chess game for three people. These is more than a geekfest. Millennial shades of gray are literally becoming manifest. For my posts on Chess at the turn of the Millennium, go here, here, here and here. And for my posts on configurations of a third, tripartite agents, and triplets as one of the critical signs of times, go here and here.