Monday, November 22, 2004

Recently a New Zealand scientist said that he thinks humanity might be extinct by the end of this century due to global warming issues. I think it's pretty obvious that there's no way we could know such a thing. But what if we did know, for certain, that our whole species would be wiped out, totally rubbed-out, in the not-too-distant future? What would we do? As a group, as individuals? What would you do that's different from what you do now? I think the question naturally leads to another meditation: What are humans for (if anything)? Interesting question that presumes some kind of artificer or creator or creative intelligence.

here's a synopsis of the Popol Vuh, the Mayan creation story, because in it the answer to the question is presumed: we are made by the gods to worship the gods. The problem has been, that through 3 or 4 successive tries by the gods at making us humans, none of us has figured out how to worship the gods correctly. So, they (we) are rubbed out, and another, hopefully more sophisticated effort is made. The last such cleansing operation was done with a flood. Ha! Now the question before the Mayans who wrote the Popol Vuh as we see it today, was: Are we worshipping our creators in the correct manner? No idle question.

You have any ideas what we're here for? Or are we just quantum foam with an attitude?

here's more on the Popol Vuh. An entire museum here.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

One of my favorite physics books is The End of Time by Julian Barbour. In it, he makes the claim that time does not exist, and that motion and the appearance of change are illusions... I found an interview with him at Science and Spirit:

"But if I am right - that everything is static - then I think the powerful impression we have of motion is evidence for the creativity of nature. Nature is so selective in the experiences that it presents us with, so creative in the process, that we put the wrong interpretation on phenomena which are correctly apprehended. The Copernican revolution is always at hand to show that this is not mad: nothing could be more obvious than that the world doesn’t move, yet Copernicus persuaded us otherwise."

and this:

"I once asked Richard Dawkins about this: where do our sexual urges, or the taste of fruit, or a sense of beauty come from? Of course, you can give mechanical explanations and say they are correlations with hormones and so on. But the whole edifice of Dawkins’s world - of atoms rushing around in space - would work perfectly well without me being aware of beauty or the taste of an apple. So why is there this redundancy, why this extraordinary extravagance on the part of nature, if the secondary qualia don’t play any part? So my pipe dream for the future is to develop a theory where these things would count."

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Set

Interview with originator of the fractals. the Mandelbrot Set. Link Below.

Here's some great fractals.

this from boingboing

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Nothing seems to be able to explain to me the over-ripening of all kinds of fundamentalisms as neatly as Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. Link. I mean, a few folks have noticed how interesting it is that the fundamentalisms of the world seem to be fighting it out with each other in Iraq, Afghanistan, places in Africa and Southeast Asia. "Our" fundamentalists seem to agree with "theirs" to such a degree - is it coincidence? If not, then Why? Why now? Shlain sez that it's because we're nearing the end of the age of patriarchy, and that patriarchy co-exists with, if it isn't a causative factor in, literacy, slavery, misogynism, homophobia, militarism; what we now call fundamentalist trends in religion and society. So, as I understand it, what we may be going through right now is a last paroxysm of patriarchy as it fades from the human scene, at least as a controlling factor. Shlain also posits that a matriarchal worlk predated the patriarchal, and that we may now be in the beginning stages of a reconciliation of the two. Wouldn't that be nice!

Isn't it bizarre, really, that gay is the hottest of hot buttons for fundamentalists, of any the Bookish People variations? One can see how it might be on the list of unmentionables for some people, but when it causes such fury I wonder what's really behind it... Shlain says that to the left (patriarchal, verbal) hemisphere of the brain, the right (feminine, graphic, wholistic) is a dark and scary unknown, and must be controlled. "The husband is the head of the household!" Homosexuality poses a threat to the patriarchalists because it represents a mixing, or blending, of the two opposites. Fear of the unknown: I'm reminded of a case in Texas where businesses wanted to forbid their workers from speaking Spanish at the workplace. What might they be saying that is so threatening?

Some shamen of the underworld - some of whom are known as Scientists - have taken us on a tour of the underworld, with all of the marvelous inventions one can find there now at our hands. Now, we find that they cannot take us out - and indeed have forgotten that this is where we are. Hell? How do we get out? Do we have to go crazy?

William S. Burroughs tells the story of a couple of tribes in the Amazon that were always fightin, carrying on, kidnapping each others' women, and so forth. The authorities in Sao Paolo or wherever were concerned and sent some anthropologists in there to study the situation and see what could be done about it. They came back with this opinion: the tribes should be left alone to their ways, because, "they have nothing better to do."

Pictures of fighting today in Fallujah reminded me of this poignant story; it's an addition to the long list of humanity's great triumphs.

I'm sure everyone fighting is convinced of the rectitude and glory of the mission, and many others are watching from the sidelines with great horror, joy, or somehow most applicable to all of us, fascination. We are fascinated with the horror - it's just the way we're built. The galactic anthropologists, looking down from their UFO, sigh and take notes.

We could so easily make the world work for everyone. But we keep on fighting.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Claude Shannon (link below) said that information = unpredictability. and yet, in another context, we say that noise is the opposite of signal. what's that about? I think one of the problems is that information is usually given an independence from context - it just is, in some kind of measurable quantity, apart from context. this may not be so - at least regarding something like a painting, which is, after all, communication. there's a signal there, right? but transactional nature of communication is what I find fascinating. the pitch (as in softball, not sales, but maybe so, eh) in the form of a painting - colored pigments on cloth. this gets hung on a wall. there it sits. Is that information? IMO, not until someone hears that tree fall over. takes the pitch and returns. when the viewer sees that painting, they are seeing no more than pigments on cloth - then they put in an amazing amount of work, of reconstructing a message out of what could be noise to anyone else. Apparent detail is what clued me to this: step away from the painting, see mountains, hills, see the details on the side of the house. step closer, and it's just random brush strokes! Where did the detail, ie information, come from? I didn't put it there - I just put pigment on cloth! The viewer put it there. Looks like I might have to lower my prices, cut some kind of deal with previous buyers of my now-acknowledged-to-be unfinished works!

And we're not even getting the question of meaning, which relies even more heavily on the creative contruction power of the individual's perception.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I was listening to a review of The Incredibles - a new Pixar movie - and after a few moments of dialog, I thought, all you need is the premise for a movie like this, and it writes itself. It's so predictable. And then I remembered the movie I saw a few days ago- I Heart Huckabees - which was the opposite - completely unpredictable. And Stephen Wofram's idea of computational irreducibility came to mind - that's the idea that some scientific models can be reduced to a simple formula, and the outcome is certain. There is another way to get at modeling, and that is simulation. Well, it turns out that there are a lot of simulations that are unpredictable - the only way to get an answer is to run them, and there's no knowing, in at least some cases, whether when the thing is finished, or if indeed it can ever finish. This is really a piss-poor run down of this idea. Go read Wolfram - or visit the link. anyway, I think the point is that some works of art (there I go again using that word) are unpredictable, lead you on a journey that you don't know the end of. Some, like Tolkien, and other tales, you enjoy even though you know where you're going. Others are unpredictable, like Being John Malkovich, but without content. There's something in there I'll try to get at more clearly, but gotta go now.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

working on a big sale - postcard coming out soon. keep watching this space!
Dollar Hegemony

some people say we invaded Iraq for a secret reason: that Saddam Hussein was going to start selling oil denominated in Euros and not dollars. Hmm. Why would that be such a big concern?

check these out: