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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Boomer Legacies: Mysteries of Things to Come

Jugend (1916) by Julius Diez (1870-1957). Reblogged from The Pictorial Arts (Hat tip: T. Buchanan).

In yesterday's post, I described the ideas behind Roberto Saviano's accounts of crime and the drug trade. According to Saviano in ZeroZeroZero, cocaine use has overrun western societies:
"The guy sitting next to you on the train uses cocaine, he took it to get himself going this morning; or the driver of the bus you’re taking home, he wants to put in some overtime without feeling the cramps in his neck. The people closest to you use coke. If it’s not your mother or father, if it’s not your brother, then it’s your son. And if your son doesn’t use it, your boss does. Or your boss’s secretary, but only on Saturdays, just for fun. And if your boss doesn’t, his wife does, to let herself go. And if not his wife, then his lover—he gives her cocaine instead of earrings, in place of diamonds. And if they don’t, the truck driver delivering tons of coffee to cafés around town does; he wouldn’t be able to hack those long hours on the road without it. And if he doesn’t, the nurse who’s changing your grandfather’s catheter does. Coke makes everything seem so much easier, even the night shift. And if she doesn’t, the painter redoing your girlfriend’s room does; he was just curious at first but wound up deep in debt. The people who use cocaine are right here, right next to you. The police officer who’s about to pull you over has been snorting for years, and everyone knows it, and they write anonymous letters to his chief hoping he’ll be suspended before he screws up big time. Or the surgeon who’s just waking up and will soon operate on your aunt. Cocaine helps him cut open six people a day. Or your divorce lawyer. Or the judge presiding over your lawsuit; he doesn’t consider it a vice, though, just a little boost, a way to get more out of life. The cashier who hands you the lottery ticket you hope is going to change your life. The carpenter who’s installing the cabinets that cost you a month’s salary. Or the workman who came to put together the IKEA closet you couldn’t figure out how to assemble on your own. If not him, then the manager of your condo building who is just about to buzz you. Or your electrician, the one who’s in your bedroom right now, moving the outlets. The singer you are listening to to unwind, the parish priest you’re going to talk to about finally getting confirmed because your grandson’s getting baptized, and he’s amazed you’ve put it off for so long. The waiters who will work the wedding you’re going to next Saturday; they wouldn’t be able to last on their feet all that time if they didn’t. If not them, then the town councillor who just approved the new pedestrian zones, and who gets his coke free in exchange for favors. The parking lot attendant who’s happy now only when he’s high. The architect who renovated your vacation home, the mailman who just delivered your new ATM card. If not them, then the woman at the call center who asks “How may I help you?” in that shrill, happy voice, the same for every caller, thanks to the white powder. If not her, your professor’s research assistant—coke makes him nervous. Or the physiotherapist who’s trying to get your knee working right. Coke makes him more sociable. The forward who just scored, spoiling the bet you were winning right up until the final minutes of the game. The prostitute you go to on your way home, when you just can’t take it anymore and need to vent. She does it so she won’t have to see whoever is on top or under or behind her anymore. The gigolo you treated yourself to for your fiftieth birthday. You did it together. Coke makes him feel really macho. The sparring partner you train with in the ring, to lose weight. And if he doesn’t, your daughter’s riding instructor does, and so does your wife’s psychologist. Your husband’s best friend uses it, the one who’s been hitting on you for years but whom you’ve never liked. And if he doesn’t, then your school principal does. Along with the janitor. And the real estate agent, who’s late, just when you finally managed to find time to see the apartment. The security guard uses it, the one who still combs his hair over his bald spot, even though guys all shave their heads these days. And if he doesn’t, the notary you hope you never have to go back to, he does it to avoid thinking about the alimony he has to pay his ex-wives. And if he doesn’t, the taxi driver does; he curses the traffic but then goes all happy again. If not him, the engineer you have to invite over for dinner because he might help you get a leg up in your career. The policeman who’s giving you a ticket, sweating profusely even though it’s winter. The squeegee man with hollow eyes, who borrows money to buy it, or that kid stuffing flyers under windshield wipers, five at a time. The politician who promised you a commercial license, the one you and your family voted into office, and who is always nervous. The professor who failed you on your exam. Or the oncologist you’re going to see; everybody says he’s the best, so you’re hoping he can save you. He feels omnipotent when he sniffs cocaine. Or the gynecologist who nearly forgets to throw away his cigarette before going in to examine your wife, who has just gone into labor. Your brother-in-law, who’s never in a good mood, or your daughter’s boyfriend, who always is. If not them, then the fishmonger, who proudly displays a swordfish, or the gas station attendant who spills gas on your car. He sniffs to feel young again but can’t even put the pump away correctly anymore. Or the family doctor you’ve known for years and who lets you cut the line because you always know just the right thing to give him at Christmas. The doorman of your building uses it, and if he doesn’t, then your kids’ tutor does, your nephew’s piano teacher, the costume designer for the play you’re going to see tonight, the vet who takes care of your cat. The mayor who invited you over for dinner recently. The contractor who built your house, the author whose book you’ve been reading before falling asleep, the anchorwoman on the evening news. But if, after you think about it, you’re still convinced none of these people could possibly snort cocaine, you’re either blind or you’re lying. Or the one who uses it is you."
Cocaine is a vice and vanity but it fills other gaps in western culture. Self-medication enables addicts to cope with deeper problems. Drugs are signposts pointing to the subliminal world. Cocaine is popular in western countries because it papers over the cracks for people driven to the breaking point. It enables people to force themselves forward in environments which are already locked in overdrive, no matter what the cost, no matter what their spiritual heartbreak or moral dislocation. Some parts of daily life are identical to what they were thirty years ago, but in the areas touched by connected technology, the cultural and social impact is almost unimaginable. As I suggested, there is a reason for this desperate need to keep up. If you do not change in a hyper-changing society, you die.

In this post, I commented that ever since the 1960s, death is not an option. The Baby Boomer revolutionary creed was anti-militaristic and pro-youth-forever. The Boomers adored eastern faiths, but a Buddhist might find they diverged from any eastern path. With their marketing, lifestyles and values, the Boomers taught us to abhor death, because death entails the destruction of the ego and the continued survival of the soul. This is unimaginable in a materialist society ruled by egotists. In their true hearts, the last thing the members of the Me Generation wanted was to preside over a mechanistic order of crushing egotism, but that is the outcome of their collective efforts.

One may ask why. Why did the Baby Boomers develop such a confused message of holistic social healing, in societies now dominated by hostile materialist egotism? Initially, the Boomers promoted youth, pacifism and liberalism. This is a mantra against death. Their avoidance of death ended up promoting the ego, thereby sponsoring the social ills and totalitarian self-promotion which plague western societies now in mass media, politics, entertainment, workplaces and the economy. Western cultures are on the run from death; which is why westerners (and many non-westerners) now worship fast-paced change. We must change more and more; we must go faster and faster; we must work ourselves to death, but we must not die. A rest or pause would entail contemplation of that which pursues us - and that is very difficult to do.

It is difficult because most people alive today arrived during or after the worst blood-letting of the 20th century occurred. Imagine the last century's hemoclysm as a grotesque journey into humanity's dark night of the soul, in which some 180 million people died in armed conflicts. Historian Eric Hobsbawm put the number at 187 million people who were "killed or allowed to die by human decision" in the "short century" between 1914 and 1991. And scholar Milton Leitenberg, citing Hobsbawm, places the number higher, at 231 million people who died in wars and conflicts in the entire century. That makes the 20th century the bloodiest in history. It would be accurate to see the ideological solutions of the Boomers and succeeding generations not as solutions, but as masks to hide the collective shock after the bloodbath, and a desperate, reflexive need to contain further bloodshed at all costs - even, ironically, through the propagation of small wars to let off steam, but not have the whole system blow. Liberal democracy hides the west's survivors' mentality. In that aftermath, add a layer of glittering technology to spread blind hope in peace and connectivity, and you have the current state of affairs.

Since the turn of the new Millennium, no shiny technology, and certainly no drug, can conceal or suppress the enduring darkness in the human soul. To shake off utopian denial and face death in western cultures squarely and honestly, as author Roberto Saviano struggles to do, takes courage and a different set of values than those promoted forty-five years ago. And contrary to what conservative pundits would say, we do not know what those new values are. For Saviano, it starts with the courage to recognize the ugliness in human nature, not with ideological formulas, but with honesty about 'real' reality.

It calls for a frank acknowledgement of the survivors' mentality, because we will exist between apocalypses, and not just after them, if we do not. In the movie, Silent Fall (1994), Liv Tyler's character remarks that in their grief, survivors no longer want to know or show themselves as they truly are. They inhabit a purgatorial state of quasi morto, or near death:
"I figured out something about death. It's contagious. I know that sounds crazy, but it's like when people you love die, you feel like you should have died too. And you don't want anybody to know that you survived. No one."
Survivors deny the reality of their own existences because they feel guilty that they are still alive, when others have died in their stead. To live on a mountain of skulls is to want to disappear. It is easier to dream of peace than it is to be fully conscious after one's whole civilization has undergone near-total obliteration. Virtual reality well suits the sleepwalker's state of denial and the authoritarian mechanisms do and will quietly follow. If we are all survivors who have denied our true natures, who are we really? As the old year dies, the question of how to find the time to become fully conscious of 'real' reality has never been more important.

The Sleepwalker (1907) by Julius Diez. Reblogged from The Pictorial Arts.

ADDENDUM (29 May 2016): On 28 May 2016, BBC interviewed author Roberto Saviano on his work which confirms that the City of London is a centre for money laundering of Mexican drug money and the Italian mafia. Thus, the wealth and lifestyles of the City rest on violence and crime discussed in the following posts:

BBC interview with Roberto Saviano (28 May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Quasi Morto

"The arrest of older Camorra bosses has 'created a power vacuum,' allowing younger, less disciplined men to recruit Kalashnikov-wielding youngsters who 'follow absolutely no rules.'" Image Source: The Independent.

On 28 December 2015, BBC's programme Hard Talk broadcast an interview between Stephen Sackur and writer Roberto Saviano. In 2006, Saviano became famous for his non-fictional account of the mafia of Naples, the Camorra, entitled Gomorrah; he was an average Neapolitan citizen who exposed the crime syndicate which plagues his city. In the BBC interview, he claimed that average citizens must not ignore, or pretend to ignore, crime and brutality. He observed that the Russian mafia has eaten up Greece, and in this, as in its spread elsewhere, "We are complicit."

"Roberto Saviano claims the war against drugs is 'unwinnable.'" Image Source: The Telegraph.

Saviano and his family paid a price for his exposé. He goes everywhere surrounded by armed guards and his family lives in hiding. Writer Salman Rushdie, who hid and moved constantly for years after a fatwa was issued against him, counseled Saviano; the latter described Rushdie's advice on Facebook:
«Devi riprenderti la tua libertà. Ricordati che la libertà è nella tua testa. Ti diranno che siccome sei vivo e non ti hanno ucciso allora sei una bufala. Diranno i più stolti che se ti vogliono morto sei morto e quindi sono i tuoi nemici a volerti vivo. Idiozie. Ti costringeranno a vivere come un quasi morto. Non farlo: la tua vita è la prova della tua vittoria. Divertiti, vivi, scrivi.» Salman Rushdie aveva passato più di dieci anni a nascondersi dal regime di Khomeini prima di trasferirsi a New York. Mi disse queste e altre parole d'incoraggiamento. Ancora oggi non so dirvi quanto profondamente abbiano segnato la mia esistenza.
"You must take back your freedom. Remember that freedom is all in your head," Rushdie told him. To live in fear is to live as one who is quasi morto - a 'near dead.' With that term, these writers summarized what is evident but less understood. That crime, addiction, violence, and brutality exist because of the broader population's allergies to truth and courage. The former problems are an index of the latter. When Saviano talks about the mafia, he is not talking about the mafia. He uses them to hold a mirror up to the mentalities of law-abiding citizens.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Neptune the Mystic

Neptune's moon Triton is a dwarf planet, a captured body from the Kuiper Belt. The moon was photographed by Voyager 2 in 1989. Image Source: JPL/NASA.

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to visit Neptune and reached its closest point on 24 August 1989. The eighth planet was discovered on 23 September 1846 and was named for the Roman god of the sea. This gas giant has fourteen moons, all named after water nymphs and lesser sea deities. It has six rings, some of the fastest winds in the solar system, and a dark storm spot on its surface large enough to swallow the entire Earth. For the sound the planet makes from space, see my earlier post here.

Even today, astrologers maintain ancient religious values in their notions that Neptune dominates sleep and dreams, the imagination, ecstatic visions, mass entertainment, news as political theatre, and the 'eternal everything.' The planet can positively inspire the arts or negatively spin dark, mad fantasies. In his First World War Planets suite, composer Gustav Holst dedicated his musical poem to the planet as Neptune, The Mystic.

Image Source: Ruby Slipper.

Image Source: Illume Astrology.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Quantum Christmas

Jim Al-Khalili explains in a TED talk: robins may fly south in winter due to a process called 'quantum entanglement.' Image Source: Digital Photographer / Michael Williams.

Destiny and faith should be foreign concepts in the realm of science. But perhaps quantum physics will devise a formula for them. This possibility started in the 1930s, with Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962) arguing whether or how objective reality could be measured, because observing something changes its nature into what we would call a subjective reality. Of course, the distinction between objective reality - which religious people sometimes associate with God - and subjective awareness - the world limited by our individual perceptions - is a very old problem. The 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." The central question of religion asks: how are we flawed and animal humans connected to the larger order of the universe? Science asks the same question.

Image Source: Archillect.

To determine if it was possible to measure objective reality, Einstein and Bohr proposed a thought experiment to measure one particle of light, or photon, without affecting it. To do this, they proposed to measure a second particle that was related to the first one, and infer the nature of the related, but unmeasured, first particle. Then they encountered a curious problem. Their measurement of the second particle affected the nature of the first one, but they could not determine how the impact of their actions had been transferred to the first particle, especially because that information traveled instantaneously, that is, faster than the speed of light, which violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The distance between the photons did not matter either. They could be close together or on opposite sides of the universe. Einstein did not like this. Wiki:
[I]f a pair of particles is generated in such a way that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a certain axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, will be found to be counterclockwise; because of the nature of quantum measurement. However, this behavior gives rise to paradoxical effects: any measurement of a property of a particle can be seen as acting on that particle (e.g. by collapsing a number of superposed states); and in the case of entangled particles, such action must be on the entangled system as a whole. It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair "knows" what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances. ...

The counterintuitive predictions of quantum mechanics about strongly correlated systems were first discussed by Albert Einstein in 1935, in a joint paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. ... They wrote: "We are thus forced to conclude that the quantum-mechanical description of physical reality given by wave functions is not complete." ... 
Following the EPR paper, Erwin Schrödinger wrote a letter (in German) to Einstein in which he used the word Verschränkung (translated by himself as entanglement) "to describe the correlations between two particles that interact and then separate, as in the EPR experiment." He shortly thereafter published a seminal paper defining and discussing the notion, and terming it "entanglement." In the paper he recognized the importance of the concept, and stated: "I would not call [entanglement] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought."

Like Einstein, Schrödinger was dissatisfied with the concept of entanglement, because it seemed to violate the speed limit on the transmission of information implicit in the theory of relativity. Einstein later famously derided entanglement as "spukhafte Fernwirkung" or "spooky action at a distance."
In 2013, Chinese physicists clocked the speed of 'spooky action at a distance.' They proved the speed of information as it moves through quantum entangled states is more than four times the speed of light, or three trillion metres per second. Their research paper was published in Physical Review Letters, vol. 110, listed here.

Quantum entanglement. Image Source: Glitch.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Watchers

Garuda (G-Box) Fixed Wing Geo-Location (Manned):"The G-Box is used as a GSM airborne geo-location system to replicate a GSM network Base Station. They operate by attracting and registering handsets operating on the local commercial network. Each handset's IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) or IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) is compared against the 's target watch list. When a targeted handset is identified and registered to the box, a geo-location solution is calculated. G-Box was specifically designed and built for geo-location missions in fixed wing aircraft (manned/ unmanned). Garuda received a software upgrade that modified the algorithm software, which allows the system to take 1000 entries." The vendor is reported as Maryland's KeyW. Image Source: The Intercept.

The Intercept claims to have obtained a secret catalogue of government surveillance hardware, developed for the military, now used increasingly by law enforcement in the United States and presumably anyone else to whom the manufacturers will sell their products. The report was published on 17 December 2015 (here). Their commentary on this leak opens as follows:
The Intercept has obtained a secret, internal U.S. government catalogue of dozens of cellphone surveillance devices used by the military and by intelligence agencies. The document, thick with previously undisclosed information, also offers rare insight into the spying capabilities of federal law enforcement and local police inside the United States.

The catalogue includes details on the Stingray, a well-known brand of surveillance gear, as well as Boeing “dirt boxes” and dozens of more obscure devices that can be mounted on vehicles, drones, and piloted aircraft. Some are designed to be used at static locations, while others can be discreetly carried by an individual. They have names like Cyberhawk, Yellowstone, Blackfin, Maximus, Cyclone, and Spartacus. Within the catalogue, the NSA is listed as the vendor of one device, while another was developed for use by the CIA, and another was developed for a special forces requirement. Nearly a third of the entries focus on equipment that seems to have never been described in public before.

The Intercept obtained the catalogue from a source within the intelligence community concerned about the militarization of domestic law enforcement. ...

A few of the devices can house a “target list” of as many as 10,000 unique phone identifiers. Most can be used to geolocate people, but the documents indicate that some have more advanced capabilities, like eavesdropping on calls and spying on SMS messages. Two systems, apparently designed for use on captured phones, are touted as having the ability to extract media files, address books, and notes, and one can retrieve deleted text messages.

Above all, the catalogue represents a trove of details on surveillance devices developed for military and intelligence purposes but increasingly used by law enforcement agencies to spy on people and convict them of crimes.
Graphics from the catalogue are here, which lists the device vendors. I have not attempted to cross-reference the report.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Google Changes Policy for Blog Followers

This blog is run by Blogger, which is run by Google. Over the weekend, Google changed its system which enables people to follow its blogs, so that anyone without a Google account can no longer follow a Blogger blog. I lost seven followers in this transition; other bloggers are complaining to Google about lost followers. If you followed this blog but are no longer following because you do not have a Google account, you will need to sign up for one to continue to follow it automatically. The notice is here. Otherwise, you can subscribe to a newsfeed of posts and comments, or get email notifications on new posts from this blog by signing up in the right hand sidebar.

So Passed the Queen of the Black Coast

3 December 2015: "A professor at Texas A&M University posted these photos to Facebook. 'There has been a dead cockroach in the Anthropology building's stairwell for at least two weeks. Some enterprising person has now made her a little shrine.'" Images and Text Sources: Facebook via imgur.

In November, a cockroach died in the Anthropology stairwell at Texas A&M University. Then Facebook took over after the Anthropology Department went all Princess Diana-Burning Man to bid the cockroach goodbye in December.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 3: The Hermetics

The hermetic principle of silence. Image Source: Lilipilyspirit.

Dark days behind us: today is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere (04:49 UTC). The December solstice refers to birth or rebirth of the weakened sun in northern countries, often described in allegorical terms, as one New Age writer puts it: "The sun is dawning after the increasing darkness of winter. The Winter Solstice is nature’s physical equivalent of a spiritual awakening and enlightenment." From Theosophy Northwest:
At the winter solstice the universal currents of life help human consciousness to enter divine spheres. At the same time spiritual energy can descend from higher worlds into the human arena: the gods "descend into hell" to garner experience in their underworld -- our own world -- thereby bringing inspiration and enlightenment to humanity. At this time each of us also may undergo a new birth. Nature has opened the door, and it is up to us to recognize this and take a step further.
For denizens of the New Age Internet, this solstice is the culmination of 2015's online spiritual awakening, perhaps a Fifth Great Awakening in the United States, occasioned by a proclaimed end to the war between the sexes. When combined with hermeticism, discussed in today's post, the gnostic truce between the sexes attacks all polarized categorizations of identity. Online gurus argue that only hardened egoists prosper in an environment where inflexible categorizations of identity are the norm. Spiritual commentators prefer to cultivate a continuum of identities and they expect that spectrum to expand social compassion.

The winter solstice at Stonehenge. Image Source: Stonehenge Trips.

In the aftermath of the supposed collapse of egocentric western dualism, hermeticists pick up the pieces, to recover cultural memory and allow their amnesiac followers to 'remember' earlier ways of identifying with the physical, rational, emotional and spiritual aspects of existence. The hermetic part of this phenomenon makes the now-gender-neutral collective unconscious 'conscious' in practical senses, as with the establishment of new political movements. Of course, the shift in values is not widespread or universal. Nor are gnostic-hermetic solutions necessarily good ones, whatever their devotees may expect.

One must step back from the arcane language and beliefs to observe the actual trend behind them. Online debates on these subjects in mid-late 2015 indicate a tipping point, wherein interaction in virtual reality has begun to change behaviour and awareness on deeper levels. The Internet is breaking down and synthesizing demarcated experiences, whether between mind and body, between the genders, between the individual and the collective, or between the local and global. Perhaps hermeticism and gnosticism are the most durable ideas available in western culture to describe flexible identification, as individuals find themselves simultaneously immersed in virtual reality and 'real' reality.

China's One Belt, One Road Initiative (2015). Image Source: Roman Wilhelm/MERICS/The Diplomat.

One may ask how spiritual issues pertain to hard reality. Why does the New Age Internet matter, when China is building naval bases in the South China Sea, the Red Sea, and on the west coast of Africa? These online trends matter because societies rise and fall according to their adaptability when confronted with jumps in technology, social changes, and ensuing geopolitical conflicts. World War III, when (or if) it arrives, and everything that leads up to it, will depend on global connectivity. How our brains respond to connectivity and the ideas we discover or rediscover through that response may be essential to cultural resourcefulness and survival.

To ask these questions about western values now is akin to asking how the introduction of the printing press in Germany (1439-1440) led to the Protestant Reformation (1517-1617) and the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). The spiritual and moral outlook of a society is indexed to its level of technology and prosperity. When the latter two factors change, so does the former. Anomie and aporia, experienced then as now, will lead to experiments to develop values better suited to new ways of living. But that process emerges through trial and error. Societies sometimes depend on war to determine a new dominant narrative.

My treatment of these topics comes with a caveat. While I may comment on unusual online material here, I do not personally identify with evidence I uncover. Hermetic traditions and politics can be weird, occult, radical, fringe or extremist. My comments in this series of blog posts do not constitute my endorsement of these beliefs. They are presented here as part of an examination of the cultural historical impact of the Internet on western values, under increasingly universalized, yet decentralized and chaotic conditions. I also do not personally agree with conspiracy theories mentioned here, but rather regard them as signs of contemporary mentalities.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Badlands of Pluto

This close-up view of Pluto's badlands shows the edge of the planet's incredible heart-shaped plain aka the Tombaugh Regio. Image Source: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI.

On 10 December 2015, NASA released high resolution photographs of the Plutonian landscape from the New Horizons July flyby. Above:
The images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide, trending (top to bottom) from the edge of “badlands” northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, onto the shoreline of Pluto’s “heart” feature, and just into its icy plains. They combine pictures from the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) taken approximately 15 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, with – from a range of only 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) ... .
Below, a photograph of cratered terrain, released on 16 September 2015:
This 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide view of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain; bright, smooth geologically young terrain; assembled masses of mountains; and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges that resemble dunes; its origin is under debate. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
Cratered terrain, photographed on 14 July 2015 and released 16 September 2015. Image Source: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

And finally, from 24 September 2015, a view of the Tartarus Dorsa Mountains:
In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).
The Tartarus Dorsa Mountains. Image Source: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Photo of the Day: How Dolphins See Us

Gizmodo reports on how dolphins see a diver using echolocation (Hat tip: Graham Hancock). Above is a computer enhanced image. The press release on this image from SpeakDolphin.com, a research project from Florida, USA and the UK which aims to decipher dolphin language and improve dolphin-human communication, is here (7 December 2015). For my similar post on how cats see us - as creepy, big catlike creatures - go here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 2: The Gnostics

The gnostic twin flame subculture (September 2015). Image Source: The Spirit Science.

In any society, there is no more powerful source of values than the relationship between the sexes. It precedes all other assumptions, so central is it to existence. In a previous post in this series, I observed a trend in the second half of 2015, in which online New Age communities declared an end to the war between the sexes. That redefinition has entered the western media through debates on gender dualism, gender neutrality, gender fluidity and transgenderism. As the trend reaches the mainstream, it marks a huge shift in western values.

The origins of this trend are at least as old as Christianity, if not older, and developed alongside it. For centuries, westerners have been toying with the feminine-oriented Christian heresy of gnosticism, which drew from neo-Platonism - and the masculine-dominated cult of hermeticism, derived from eastern mystery religions. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana must have whole collections devoted to these heresies' periodic resurgences, although they will not always confirm that. In the 2010s, Christian and post-Christian westerners began to combine these heresies. That is not difficult, since both belief systems involve a spiritual journey which culminates in a final merger of the sexes. Cross-pollination within western esotericism is not novel, and merely constitutes a third, enduring strand in the western tradition, opposite Judeo-Christian religion and Enlightenment rationalism.

What is new is how the dynamics of global connectivity create fertile beds for heretical cult behaviour around gender neutrality, expressed through technology and inside technological spaces. I will not summarize gnostic ideas here, because I have in other posts, particularly this one. Upcoming posts in this series address the hermetic 'practical' application of the gnostic vision and explain the possible real world impacts of this shift in values. But I will start here, inside the blind spot of 2015's technological gnostic worship. A caveat: This post reports on these trends as historical cultural phenomena and not as an indication of my personal opinions on these matters, which are private.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Abandoned Châteaux

Here is a sample of urbex videos of ruined châteaux, mainly in France, Germany, but also from elsewhere in Europe. The makers of the videos often add music, which you may want to mute.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Dunes of Mars

Image Source: NASA via The Planetary Society.

NASA's Curiosity rover is now crossing the Bagnold Dunes on the northwestern edge of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons), an 18,000 foot high mountain (a bit smaller than Mount Kilimanjaro, about the same size as Mount McKinley). Wiki on Curiosity's current status:
As of November 30, 2015, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 1179 sols (1211 days) since landing on August 6, 2012.
The mountain sits at the centre of the planet's Gale Crater and is named for geomorphologist Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004), an expert on the geological surfaces of Earth and Mars. Mount Sharp "is the 15000th named feature" in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, a list of all topographical features named in the solar system with the approval of the International Astronomical Union. Yes, the mountain's dune belt made me think of this opening film sequence.

NASA/JPL: "The dark band in the lower portion of this Martian scene is part of the 'Bagnold Dunes' dune field lining the northwestern edge of Mount Sharp, inside Gale Crater. The view combines multiple images taken with the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Sept. 25, 2015, during the 1,115th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. ... The view is toward south-southeast. Curiosity will visit examples of the Bagnold Dunes on the rover's route to higher layers of Mount Sharp. The informal name for the dune field is a tribute to British military engineer Ralph Bagnold (1896-1990), a pioneer in the study of how winds move sand particles of dunes on Earth." Images Source: NASA/JPL.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Nuclear Culture 17: Geminoid F Returns

Still from Sayonara (2015). Image Source: Telegraph.

Geminoid F, a fembot built by Hiroshi Ishiguro at the University of Osaka's Intelligent Robotics Laboratory in 2010, has made headlines again as she stars in the first film to feature an android in a main role. Sayonara premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival on 24 October 2015. To reinforce her marketed product placement in that film, Geminoid F also reappeared at the World Robot Exhibition in Beijing, China on 24 November 2015, and took the convention by storm. Her appearances in October and November convey a double message about technology, one dystopic, the other utopian.

Video Source: Daily Mail.

On 24 October 2015, chief international film critic for Variety, Peter Debruge, heaped scorn on the film and any threat the android might pose to human actors:
Relying too heavily on the hook that it co-stars an actual android, this dreary study of human-robot relations offers little to engage apart from its pretty scenery.

Don’t say “Sayonara” to human actors just yet. A provocative experiment in whether androids could share the stage with people — for which Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata partnered with Osaka U. robotics guru Hiroshi Ishiguro, inventing a two-hander to be performed between a flesh-and-blood thesp and a stunningly lifelike machine — loses much of its interest on the bigscreen, where actors have been co-starring opposite robots of one form or another for decades. Whereas the stageplay attracted those curious to witness firsthand what android acting entails, on film, the effect dissipates moments after audiences set eyes on Ishiguro’s uncannily realistic Geminoid F, revealing instead the myriad dramatic shortcomings that will limit “Sayonara’s” welcome abroad, following its local-pride premiere at the Tokyo Film Festival.

The trouble with translating Hirata’s Android Theater Project to the screen stems from the fact that the short-form play wasn’t an especially compelling piece of material to begin with. While not exactly post-apocalyptic, the glacially sensitive chamber drama takes place after a nuclear meltdown, centering on the bond between a terminally ill woman afflicted with radiation poisoning and the slightly outdated companion droid who shares her home. The action, such as it is, consists of this longtime duo reciting poetry back and forth between themselves, staring at one other from across a dimly lit living room and going for “strolls” through the nearby wheat and bamboo patches.

With its lovely golden-hued lensing and minimal score (impactful when the string-and-piano quintet does appear), the film encourages meditation, but doesn’t provide much basis from which to work. Long’s character, Tanya, passes long hours lounging on her couch. Other characters, including a boyfriend (Hirofumi Arai) with whom she robotically makes love and a woman mourning the loss of her child, occasionally venture out to visit. Each is assigned a lottery number and awaits his or her turn to leave the country, though Tanya expresses no real urgency, feeling more comfortable passing the days — then months, then however long it takes a human body to decompose — with her robot Leona. The process demands equal patience from the audience, who may also feel as if they’re spending the film slowly waiting for their own lives to expire, comforted (or not) by poems by the likes of Shuntaro Tanikawa, Arthur Rimbaud and Carl Busse, each presented in its native language. ...

Simultaneously retro and modern, organic and technical, abstract and tangible, “Sayonara” ultimately amounts to a intriguing series of contradictions that may actually prove of greater interest to androids of the futures than it does to contempo human audiences.
Debruge misunderstood the point behind the first movie with a starring android. He insisted that the machine's friendship with helpless mortals underwhelmed him; and he puzzled over why the beautiful, nostalgically-lit, poisoned environment around the characters overwhelmed him. Other critics of this film have similarly focused on how robotic technology is crossing the Uncanny Valley in cinema, more often through CGI, but made no comment on the film's anti-nuclear message.

Critics' fixation on the android's role in the film neglects the film's message about nuclear radiation's ruination of Japan and her society. The reason the environment dominates the film is because it is the true main actor. This secret, hidden in plain sight, portrays a potential reality so horrible and so destabilizing that the international community refuses to acknowledge it. That is, it is possible that since the Fukushima disaster of 2011, large parts of Japan should be considered uninhabitable. The country may have become a real wasteland, not a poetic one. Pro-nuclear commentators deny that Fukushima has anything to do with Pacific contaminationfish die-offs, Florida fruit with Fukushima cesium in it, or plutonium fallout research. Plutonium is portrayed by the nuclear industry and anti-carbon lobby as a green alternative, "a sort of thermodynamic elixir." Yet the possibility that Japan's wasteland is real is evident in this year's headlines, with examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The information on Fukushima's impact on the local and global environment is complicated for citizens to understand, difficult to gauge, and inconsistently measured. The disaster betrays a real gap between what we think we can do, technologically speaking, and what we actually can do: in 2015, The Times reported that 200 years will pass before we have technology capable of cleaning up Fukushima's mess. In the meantime, one is left to trust one's preferred media sources on whether there is no risk, low risk, or high risk. But in placing that trust, it is worth remembering if the risk was and is indeed high, then - unlike the scenario in the post-apocalyptic film - large scale evacuation of Japan was never an option in international relations. The unsettling, wooden, listless passivity of Sayonara's characters portrays a real untruth about nuclear high technology, with another high tech messenger, an android, perched at its centre.

Still from Sayonara (2015). Image Source: Daily Mail.

See all my posts on Nuclear topics.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Providence #6 (released 25 November 2015), art by Jacen Burrows. The cover depicts Alumni Hall at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, USA. Image Source: Avatar Press. (Hat tip: Facts in the Case.)

The sixth issue of Alan Moore's Providence, which revives the visceral horror of H. P. Lovecraft, hits shops today. I am still recovering after reading the first five issues. It is a harrowing series, in which a post-World War I journalist is lured into a meta-historical New England underworld that is terrifying, disturbing, taboo and disgusting.

Moore often addresses questions long before they enter common consideration. Ironically, this is because of his deeply historical perspective of human nature. In 2006, the Guy Fawkes mask worn by Moore's anarchist terrorist character in his 1980s' comic series V for Vendetta became the face of global hacktivism and later, of the Occupy movement. Moore hails from Northampton and his outlook is partly shaped by that city's fateful support of Parliament against King Charles I during the English Civil War. The Gunpowder Plot in which Fawkes figured in November 1605 prefaced the Civil War (1642-1651). Late last year, Moore finished his magnum opus about Northampton. It is entitled Jerusalemhis final manuscript was sent off to his publisher with a final word count of over one million words. The editors will want him to cut it, but as he put it, "that's not going to happen." He stated the novel is, "longer than the Bible ... and with a better afterlife scenario." Moore confirmed that Jerusalem is a giant meditation on how the arcane world combines a resistance to fate and government; he deals with mathematics, the English Civil War, predestination and Cromwell; and "I realized [it] would [also] be about the development of economic policy, since Isaac Newton was put in charge of the mint." This year, in Providence, Moore has turned from politics to themes relevant in today's struggle against terrorist violence: what we fear and how we deal with it.

Saint Anselm College, Alumni Hall. Image Source: flickr.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 1: The Gnostic-Hermetic Synthesis of 2015

Image Source: Spiritual Unite.

Western culture is undergoing a shift. New Age circles have been buzzing about it for the past few years, especially since the recession and 2012. Their chatter is now reaching a dull roar. For skeptics who want the TL;DR version, here is the

Executive Summary.
Several online movements are currently combining hermeticism and gnosticism to realign western values.

What this means.
Hermeticism combines monotheistic arcane traditions to inspire blind leaps in how we understand the world. Its early triad of alchemy, astrology and theurgy were termed as the 'three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe.' These translate in our terms into three aspects: first, science and rationalism of the mind; second, politics and emotions in the physical, the choices made to change the "life of matter and material existence"; and third, spirituality, our grasp of the relationship between the soul and what we define as divine. Sometimes associated with old Arab mysticism and the Kabbalah, sometimes with the occult, the Tarot and astrology, sometimes with Freemasonry, hermeticism is prevalent in popular culture today. This syncretic practice is being applied to gnostic philosophical unions of masculine and feminine principles to enable a shift in western perspectives. Much of this combination is due to the aftermath and reappraisal of 1960s' social revolutions, playing out during the Technological and Communications revolutions of the 2000s and 2010s. The philosophical synthesis also shows the next level of western engagement with virtual reality. Surging in the latter half of 2015, the trend may constitute a Fifth Great Awakening in America, but it is also evident in other western countries.

From September 2015. Image Source: Power of Consciousness.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lovecraft's Crusaders and Saracens

Austrian illustrator and fantasy cartographer Robert Altbauer circulated these cartoons of Lovecraftian monsters tangling with Crusaders and Saracens on 20 November 2015 at ArtStation:
This is a series of illustrations that imitates the style of old medieval paintings and adds a macabre flavour by incorporating some of H.P. Lovecraft's famous monsters. The text is mostly medieval Middle High German.
See more illustrations here (Thanks to -J.).

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Look Skyward: The Leonids

Image Source: Gizmodo.

The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and falling stars from comet Tempel-Tuttle will still be visible for the next few days. From midnight to dawn, look between the Big Dipper and the constellation Leo, which is the radiant source of the shower, which will be visible in the eastern sky and overhead, in both hemispheres. For a global viewing guide, go here. Be sure to make a wish.

Image Source: Gizmodo.

A sample view of the Leonids' radiant, Ottawa, Canada, 2:13 a.m., 18 November 2015. Image Source: Stellarium.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fountain of Youth 20: Alzheimer's Drug Reverses Ageing

Researchers Antonio Currais and David Schubert. Image Source: Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Gizmag is reporting that a scientific journal article published on 12 November 2015 demonstrates that a new Alzheimer's drug reverses ageing. The authors of the article hypothesized that since Alzheimer's was caused by ageing symptoms, then reversing those symptoms would prevent or treat Alzheimer's. Gizmag:
The Salk research is looking to tackle the disease from a new angle. It expands upon a previous study conducted back in 2013, working with a potent memory-enhancing and neurotrophic drug called J147. Unlike most medicines designed to combat the disease, J147 was synthesized after looking at age-associated brain toxicities, and looks to tackle the major risk factor for the disease – old age itself.

The older research looked at the effect of J147 on mice with an inherited form of Alzheimer's, finding that it was able to prevent and even reverse memory loss in subjects. While that was promising, inherited Alzheimer's is far less common than cases of the disease triggered by old age.

The new study looked to discover whether the experimental drug is as effective at fighting Alzheimer's caused by old age, which is responsible for 99 percent of cases. Once the results were in, things were looking very positive, with the researchers surprised by how effective it had proved.

"We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect," says lead author Antonio Currais. "But J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."
Salk Institute for Biological Studies: Press Release, 12 November 2015.

Research report: "A comprehensive multiomics approach toward understanding the relationship between aging and dementia" in Aging, vol. 7/11 (November 2015), pp. 1-19.

Abstract: Because age is the greatest risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD), phenotypic screens based upon old age‐associated brain toxicities were used to develop the potent neurotrophic drug J147. Since certain aspects of aging may be primary cause of AD, we hypothesized that J147 would be effective against AD‐associated pathology in rapidly aging SAMP8 mice and could be used to identify some of the molecular contributions of aging to AD. An inclusive and integrative multiomics approach was used to investigate protein and gene expression, metabolite levels, and cognition in old and young SAMP8 mice. J147 reduced cognitive deficits in old SAMP8 mice, while restoring multiple molecular markers associated with human AD, vascular pathology, impaired synaptic function, and inflammation to those approaching the young phenotype. The extensive assays used in this study identified a subset of molecular changes associated with aging that may be necessary for the development of AD.  

See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.
See posts related to Alzheimer's, Memory and Anti-Ageing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Photo of the Day: Technological Enslavement

Street photo taken by friend and reader, -C., in San Francisco, California, USA (October 2015).

- A note about the blog: as of today, lengthy posts are going up fortnightly, due to other work commitments.

This street poster promotes a book by Swiss writer James Heim. His site, VoluntaryEnslavement.com, warns that we are interacting with technology like drug addicts and enthralled cultists:
Our use of technology gives us a broad range of intriguing advantages, which in turn strengthen our belief in technology as a universal remedy. It seems increasingly self-evident, that we should focus ever more of our time, energy, and attention on technology’s efficiency and functionality to reach our goals and satisfy our needs.

Enjoying some ice-cream or a glass of beer or wine can great. Being agreeable has many advantages, as does exercising regularly. We know, however, that habitually enjoying too many sweets or too much alcohol, never being able to say “no,” and constantly overstraining one’s body are likely to have negative effects. These insights are common knowledge. We accentuate the important idea of balance through sayings such as “everything in moderation.”

Yet regarding technological development – the most crucial area of human endeavor in our times – there is an alarming absence of moderation. What are the consequences of this lack of restraint?

Aldous Huxley once remarked that “… in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost.” Has our culture of technology become a religion? Are we – on a societal level – still able to question how quickly and thoroughly we are infusing technology into our human circumstances? Or has it become “sinful” to doubt our culture’s central paradigm, which simplistically equates technological development with being beneficial?

The book 'Voluntary Enslavement', by James Heim, fundamentally questions our technology culture. The questioning is rooted in the assumption that the variety of our human essence – for instance, that we are social and cultural beings – as well as human choice and freedom are valuable aspects of the human experience. It is explained why an uncritical submission to the inherent logic of technology's evolution inevitably dilutes human diversity and undermines choice and freedom. The book also examines the fueling of technological progression through the systematic over-empowerment of some of our primal motivations, such as curiosity. The basic pillars of an improved culture of technology (i.e., one that sustains a broad and free human experience) are discussed, as are the ways we can contribute to such a transition.

Changing our views on technology and our handling of technological development has become humanity’s biggest evolutionary challenge. Rising to the challenge would be humankind’s greatest accomplishment.
In 2010, I wrote that it would take time for anti-tech movements to get off the ground. When it comes to combating voluntary enslavement, the solution may be simpler than building a neo-Luddite counter-movement. Time recently reported that nanotechnology had lost its lustre; perhaps technological addiction will simply go out of fashion, like sun-tanning.

See other earlier posts on the Anti-Tech Backlash here, here, here, here, here and here.