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, June 23, 2012

Voyager 1 Goes Interstellar

Image Source: NASA.
NASA reported on 15 June 2012 that Voyager 1 is moving into the borders of interstellar space, beyond the outer rim of the Heliosphere. The spacecraft is about 18 billion kilometres from earth. This is the furthest distance our reach has ever extended, outside the range of our sun's influence, a great milestone in human history. Amid all the doom and gloom of 2012's headlines, this one report should show that 2012 marks the beginning of humanity's adolescence, the start of a new era. See NASA's video below the jump (Hat tip: Spaceports).

It has taken the spacecraft 35 years to reach this point. The Voyager missions grew out of a Planetary Grand Tour proposed by JPL's Gary Flandro in the 1960s, who intended to use the fortunate and rare alignment of outer planets to enable their serial exploration and gravity assists for the spacecraft involved. NASA's other interstellar mission saw the Pioneer probes launched in 1972 and 1973. Communication was lost with Pioneer 10 in 2003 and with Pioneer 11 in 1995.

Where are they going? Wiki: "Whereas Pioneer 10 is moving away from the center of the galaxy, Pioneer 11 is moving towards it."  Pioneer 10 is traveling toward the constellation of Taurus the Bull, and will take over 2 million years to arrive. Pioneer 11 is aimed at the constellation of Aquila the Eagle, and will take 4 million years to arrive. NASA: "Voyager 1 will leave the solar system aiming toward the constellation Ophiuchus. In the year 40,272 AD, Voyager 1 will come within 1.7 light years of an obscure star in the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Bear or Little Dipper) called AC+79 3888. ... In about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will come within about 1.7 light years of a star called Ross 248, a small star in the constellation of Andromeda." For a map of the four spacecrafts' trajectories, go here. Both Voyager spacecraft are still sending back transmissions to earth, and will do so until they run out of power in 2025. Their RCA CD 4000 computer chips are made of silicon embedded on wafers made out of sapphire. For my earlier post on messages on the Voyager crafts to alien civilizations, go here. You can hear contents of the Voyager crafts' golden records, with the sights and sounds of our planet, on Youtube starting here. One Youtuber says: "Long after the sun exhausts its energy and swallows up the Earth, this record will still be out there."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Snowflakes on Mars

Image Source: Wired.

Wired reports that scientists have calculated the size of snowflakes on Mars. They are in fact dry ice particles the size of red blood cells (Hat tip: Steve Umstead):
A team of exometeorologists at MIT have calculated the size of the snowflakes that fall onto the polar regions of Mars in its winter, and it turns out that they’re pretty tiny.

Mars’ weak atmosphere is comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide, and during the chilly -87C winters on the red planet, it gets cold enough for particles of snow to form. Except that it’s not snow as we know it, which is made of water crystals. Instead, it’s dry ice — frozen crystals of carbon dioxide.

Using data from orbiting spacecraft, MIT researchers found that the crystals are about the size of a red blood cell — eight to 22 micrometers across — in the northern hemisphere and a smaller four to 13 micrometers across in the southern hemisphere. “These are very fine particles, not big flakes,” said Kerri Cahoy, who worked on the project, in a press release, adding that if you were standing in a Martian blizzard, “you would probably see it as a fog, because they’re so small.”

To work out how big the particles are, the team first estimated the mass of snow deposited at both poles by measuring tiny changes in the planet’s gravitational field over the seasons. Using this mass, and physical characteristics of carbon dioxide crystals, the team was able to determine the number of snow particles in a given volume of snow cover, and from there the dimensions of the particles.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recession, Apocalypse and Hipster Futures

"The photo was taken December 7, 1978 in Albuquerque, New Mexico before the company moved its offices to Washington. The people in the photo are (from left to right, starting at the top) Steve Wood, Bob Wallace, Jim Lane, Bob O' Rear, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, Gordon Letwin, Bill Gates, Andrea Lewis, Marla Wood, and Paul Allen." Image/Text Source: Museum of Hoaxes.

Remember the poster of the original members of Microsoft Corp. in 1978, which challenges investors' ability to recognize future trends? Museum of Hoaxes comments on the Baby Boomer board's future worth:
If you had chosen to invest your money with this bunch of scruffy looking characters back in 1978, you'd be quite rich now. But how rich did the people in the photo become? Here's their estimated wealth, listed in descending order:

Bill Gates: Still with Microsoft as it's chairman and chief software architect. His fortune is somewhere in the range of $50 billion.

Paul Allen: Left Microsoft in 1983 but remains a senior strategy advisor to the company. Worth around $25 billion.

Bob O'Rear: Left Microsoft in 1983. Is now a cattle rancher and is worth around $100 million.

Bob Greenberg: Left Microsoft in 1981 and then helped launch those Cabbage Patch Dolls that were so popular in the 1980s. Last time anyone checked, he was worth around $20 million.

Jim Lane: Left Microsoft in 1985. Now has his own software company and is worth around $20 million.

Gordon Letwin: Left Microsoft in 1993 and now devotes himself to environmental causes. Is worth around $20 million.

Steve and Marla Wood: They both left Microsoft in 1980 and Marla then sued the company for sex discrimination. They're worth around $15 million.

Bob Wallace: Left Microsoft in 1983. Worth around $5 million.

Andrea Lewis: Was Microsoft's first technical writer. Left the company in 1983. Worth around $2 million.

Marc McDonald: Was Microsoft's first employee. Left the company in 1984, but recently rejoined the company when Microsoft bought Design Intelligence, the company he was working for. Has the honor of getting to wear badge number 00001. Probably worth at least $1 million.
Nothing has changed since 1978. It is equally difficult to recognize today's counterparts of Microsoft Corp.'s scruffy characters.

2012: Would you invest in this man? Image Source: Bike Co.

This post is about two things: the tanking economy and the Internet-based underclass who will be architects of a future society in the post-recession wreckage, if they are lucky.

First, the tanking economy. Yesterday, the market plunged in another general global loss of confidence. The Wall Street Journal summarized the rat-a-tat-tat of headlines: Moody's downgraded the ratings of fifteen financial firms with global capital markets operations; Asian markets sank over fears of a "deepening global economic slowdown"; US stocks suffered the second worst day of 2012; for the EU, the advice was to dump Greece, and save Italy and Spain; and tech stocks slumped in a broad sector retreat. Following yesterday's Wall Street nosedive, Aussie stocks opened down today. Business Spectator: "The Australian stock market extended its losses at noon on the back of disappointing economic data from China and Europe and a move from the US Federal Reserve's to slash its growth forecast for the United States." The psychological atmosphere in the financial sector yesterday was one of anxiety, worry, frustration and thwarted premature optimism.

In other words, the recent economic recovery was only a middle part of a double-dip recession; the economy passed through the calm eye of a storm and is now hitting the wall on the other side. This argument demolishes the fiction that the recession ended in 2009, when it is in fact still ongoing. Today's drop was predicted by Charles Nenner, a former Goldmanite who remarked in March 2012 that the stock market rally in the first quarter of this year - the best since 1998 - would peak in April. He promised (here) that the rally would be followed by a plunge, which is now occurring.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Welcome Midsummer's Unconscious

Image Source: Only an Almond Bean.

Today is the summer solstice (23:09 UTC), also known as Midsummer, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. In North America, the longest day of the year has been marked with the year's first grueling heatwave, followed by storm warnings (see my earlier post on heatwaves, here).

Only an Almond Bean comments that pagans called the solstice New Moon the 'Honey Moon' and invested the day with occult meaning: "Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear."

It is also a day of omens, dreams, ghosts and fairy-folk. The day's unconscious reputation and ancient light rituals inspired William Shakespeare (read A Midsummer Night's Dream, here) and Felix Mendelssohn, who wrote famous music for Shakespeare's play (listen to the overture here and the scherzo, which introduces the fairy world, here).

In keeping with the themes of the solstice, this post explores the Millennial unconscious. Below the jump, see 10 of the scariest Internet urban legends now circulating on the Web. Many have to do with our technology going horribly wrong. The themes are modern, but these stories-as-rumours, and how they are spread, are as ancient as human speech.

Shopping for Other People's Dreams

Crania Anatomica Filigre: the third-most funded arts project ever supported on the site, Kickstarter. Image and sculpture (2011) © by Joshua Harker.

On Kickstarter the crowd-funding site, if you can dream just about anything up and successfully pitch it, you will likely get enough financial support to do it. Despite worries about fragmented societies becoming more violent and corrupt, the Internet fosters new connections. Kickstarter donors display remarkable generosity when it comes to helping other people achieve their personal dreams. The notion that anyone can be a celebrity or can take a stab at greatness is partly a lifestyles trope developed by post World War II mass media and marketing minds. Nonetheless, the enormous appeal of this self-serving forumla ironically ensures the rebirth of collective well-being in online communities. Shopping for and supporting other people's dreams with small donations is its own reward (although Kickstarter project managers typically offer project-based rewards at each donation level) because it perpetuates the post-war mantra that you can be anything you want to be.

Video Source: Kickstarter.

This democratization of the Self via marketed universal egotism is as problematic as it is revolutionary. Contrary to all appearances, it was a delayed revolution. Although the Baby Boomers, popularly known in the media as the 'Me Generation,' would appear to embody the credo of self-discovery through capitalism, they in fact profited from establishment structures which pre-existed them, and had not fully collapsed until the late 2000s. In short, they were still rebellious children of an earlier economic system and era.

As we climb through financial wreckage, we are only now starting to see how economies will evolve. It's rough, but not all gloomy. As traditional charities struggle through the recession just when they are most needed, enterprising individuals are readily raising cash for their personal projects. The great strain of the recession inspires new kinds of generosity, a reappraisal of values, a return to the drawing board. Priorities once implemented via capitalistic vanities are being expressed through different types of donation and consumption. Novel modes of survival create innovative trades with altered rules.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Internet's Drug of Choice

Image Source: Spin.

Just as the Internet can exponentially create new markets and networks overnight, it can create shadow economies with equal speed. This week, Spin pubished a report on bath salts, the synthetic drugs which recently caught the attention of the MSM, when Rudy Eugene fell on a homeless man, Ronald Poppo, in a cannibalistic attack in Miami on 26 May 2012. The Miami Herald bizarrely released security cam footage of the crime, taking place in the distance under an overpass, here. The crime happened next to a busy thoroughfare, as Eugene tore off his own and the other man's clothes and began eating Poppo's face in full view of several passersby and cars.

This public display is reminiscent of the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City, except that there does not seem to be too much soul-searching in the Miami aftermath. Eugene was shot and killed by police who arrived 18 minutes into the attack. The victim, Ronald Poppo, is alive, and will likely be permanently blinded by the attack, since Eugene had eaten away half of Poppo's face, including his left eye. There is a report on Poppo's care and recovery here. The Miami hospital treating him has launched a fund-raising drive to cover the homeless man's medical bills, here.

Image Source: MSN.

Suddenly, bath salts have become the MSM bogeyman of the moment. And not without cause: another bath salts-related biting attack took place in Missouri this past week. Also last week, a woman in New York attacked her three year old son and strangled her dog while on bath salts, ran naked down the street, growled at police and tried to bite one officer, whereupon she was tasered and died. In Illinois last week, a naked man jumped onto the hood of a moving car and clung to it for four miles while on bath salts. He thought he was running away from people who were trying to eat him.

Bath salts are Millennial drugs, manufactured through ever-changing chemical recipes spread on the Web and sold over the Internet. Like the horrific Russian synth drug, krokodil, or another synthetic drug, spice aka K2, bath salts are the kind of drugs which make dystopian futures come true. And it isn't just because of what they do to the people who take them. They are one of several interrelated Millennial mass media phenomena.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nuclear Culture 12: Social Media on the Japanese Nuclear Restart

Ōi Nuclear Power Plant. Image Source: KEPCO/EPA via The Guardian.

After the Japanese government made a superficial gesture to shut down all of its nuclear power plants, officials are now restarting them, starting with the Ōi Nuclear Power Plant, southwest of Tokyo. This plant is run by KEPCO, the Kansai Electric Power Company, whose failed safety checks led to workers' injuries and deaths in 2004 and 2006. The Ōi plant is one of the world's largest nuclear plants. The move to restart Ōi distressed citizens, who are still worried about Fukushima, and about the original problems which caused that disaster and which still promise trouble at other plants. For example, building them on earthquake faults and in tropical storm corridors does not help: a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit near Fukushima on 17 June 2012; and a strong typhoon (Guchol) is about to hit the area.

The Websites Ene News and Fukushima Voice are circulating video footage taken at a protest against this restart, held 15 June 2012 in front of the office of the Japanese Prime Minister. The Yomiuri Shimbun has reported (via the Stars and Stripes) that 500 people attended the protest. But the protestors claim that 11,000 people attended; they filmed the rally and posted the film on the Internet:
Despite the greatest-ever turnout of 11,000 protesters, the demonstration was not broadcast on TV, shielding the rest of the country from learning what was going on.

What is so moving about this short video is that you can hear the person who took the video crying. You feel like you are in the crowd with her, sharing the emotion of people who gathered there, desperately wanting to change the future of Japan, not only for the sake of their children, grandchildren and future generation[s], but also for the sake of the planet Earth.

You hear the crowd shouting in unison, “Saikado hantai! (再稼動反対!) meaning “We oppose the restart!”

Beyond Googolplex Years, the End of Time

According to physicist Stephen Hawking, even Black Holes die. Image Source: Message to Eagle.

Space.com has posted a set of five short videos which discuss the meaning of time from the perspective of humans, our planet and the cosmos. The videos emphasize that time is no abstract. It is above all a natural process, which embodies the nexus between our minds and the environment. This is something I have discussed in a previous post, here. Beyond that, time is the measure of all life interacting with the environment; and finally, it is the very rhythm of the universe.

Time is an interconnected metric, whose elements of non-life and life are indistinguishable. Everything dies, the video promises, including things in the universe that are not alive. You cannot have life without death. But can you have death without life? Yes, you can. We live in the stellar era, a time defined by the power of stars. But all stars die. According to Stephen Hawking, even Black Holes die, radiating energy until they disappear. And what will happen when they do? Finally, the universe will die - unless there are dimensions beyond the ones with which we are familiar, a world beyond perception and beyond death:
Based on Hawking's theory, the last Black Holes will disappear when the cosmic clock strikes 10 to the 100th years from now. That's a number known as a Googol. That's the end of our universe, and yet it's still far short of forever. What will happen, say, in 10 to the Googol? A Googolplex years? Well, if you wrote all those numbers out, in tiny one point font, it would stretch beyond the diameter of the observable universe. Will the great Arrow of Time ever come to rest? Or, does that Arrow fly a curved path, destined to cycle back again and again, as whole new universes come into being in a way similar to our own. The numbers that describe the time horizons of our universe are incomprehensible. Yet they may well be relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 
See the video one on human time (here); video two on Earth time (here); video three on cosmic time (here); video four (here); and see the fifth video in the series below the jump.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nobel Prize Time Pocket

"Aung San Suu Kyi receives a standing ovation after her Nobel peace prize acceptance speech." Image Source: Markus Schreiber/AP via The Guardian.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Millennial time traveler. To be a time traveler is to weave in and out of different continuous realities, to survive in a house of paradoxes.