About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Entertainment - the cheap exploited bridge we mistrust

“Yet entertainment – as I define it, pleasure and all – remains the only sure means we have of bridging, or at least of feeling as if we have bridged, the gulf of consciousness that separates each of us from everybody else. The best response to those who would cheapen and exploit it is not to disparage or repudiate but to reclaim entertainment as a job fit for artists and for audiences, a two-way exchange of attention, experience and the universal hunger for connection.”

– Michael Chabon, LAT Bk Review April 27, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Trial Perspective: Chance, Story, Theory, Data, Chance

PERSPECTIVE: As consciousness emerges, it seeks perspective. The Being is never content with itself, but must Do something about it, in the same sense that guilt accompanies the Big Bang of awareness, and the infinite dance of evasion begins to spin outwards. Do Be Do Be Doo....

CHANCE. We see in the cave paintings of 30,000 years ago (Chauvet), the alphabet being made. And there is no Round Table, no Ring-cycle, no Word, no God, no King-cipher, no ideology. There is only the spiraling out of seasons, the enumeration of gravid moons, the chance of salmon, the hunting hopes pinned on the mystery of birth. And behind the observed, there was only the guarantee of surprise, of waiting for an uncertain tomorrow. We were dealing with pure chance.

STORY. In the cave paintings of 20,000 years ago (Lescaux, N. Africa), we see the alphabet telling a story. We see events being recalled, and told in the re-echoing chambers of the caves to the hundreds of children who left their footprints in the hemp-lit darkness. This story gave us a bearing, a mirror, a generational link beyond the mystery of the birth canal, to the tribe.

MYTH. With the rise of agriculture, the control of land became important. The controllers added hierarchic imperatives to the story as a tool for connecting us not only to the tribe, but to the controllers. Not a coincidence that Homer was blind, he was the first story-teller to lead us out of the darkness of the cave, into a rich geography of mythology. We began to depict Gods and their pretenders, the Kings. The story elaborated into a theology based on an Adam-and-Even Mother.

THEORY. Theology always degenerates into a theory of everything, a Summa. Thomas Aquinas only compiled what his generation of believers were forced to reckon with -- a Summa Theologica -- ironically published in the very year Galileo looked through a telescope. A God of Everything in a closed system, a Unified Field, the goal of all theory. To understand this machine, Newton generated calculus, and we use the algorithm method to analyze the mystery of the birth-patterns of Relativity.

DATA. Theories are overthrown by facts. The data are indifferent to the organization we require for our own understanding. The brain itself is data, in a sunset of "consciousness" falling like a subjectivity tree in an forest of inputs from proprioceptive devices with hopelessly mixed metaphors. The arbitrariness of birth is highlighted by the mystery of Google rankings across PetaBytes of information. There is still "content", but the content is entertainment. The search for patterns in an incomprehensible surplus, in effect, a flood of chaos choked with Chance.

CHANCE. The patterns in the data become more meaningful than the content of the information. No distinction is made between the baby and the bath-water, one molecule at a time, spiraling into the Black Holes in the center of every galaxy. We are back in the cave, trying to come to terms with the darker older colder slower. The perspective of a riparian creature observing motions which can be understood only by emerging wet drying onto the kitchen midden beach to gather grapes and mushrooms. We try to think up stories to tell. Submerged, we look for the floating Ark nobody built. Somewhere, there is a golden engagement ring-cycle.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Entropy and Hawking Radiation.

As I get older, I increasingly "get" the fact that I DON'T "get it". Nothing brings this more home to me than the dissipation of energy from Black Holes, or what is known now as Hawking Radiation. Named for the conjecture made in the 1970's by the "theoretical physicist", Stephen Hawking (Cambridge).

What concerns me here is the Black Holes themselves; they appear to be entirely too significant. Virtually every thing we see in space is oriented around these huge sucking places. Black Holes are gobbling everything up. Where they go, there goes the universe, literally, and nothing "theoretical" about this Physics.

How can galaxies--ALL of them--ever, or in the spitting instant of the Big Bang, or in an eternity, ever be "built" around places that gobble up stuff?

It gets worse. This concept of "evaporation", or the escape of heat, from the Black Hole horizon. As an object descends, orbits, into the Black Hole, it clearly reaches a point, the invisible "horizon" from which there is no return. From the descending object, the other stars will appear frozen.

There may be a similar "horizon" of time and light as a result of the accelerating expansion of the universe. The light from the most distant galaxies will be receding at light speed, and will not reach us. The distant objects will appear "frozen".

And worse. A central principle of Physics, and certainly quantum mechanics, is that energy is conserved. The information does not just "evaporate" or radiate off to become lost in some way like steam from a boiling pot of water. Within the collapse of an dense Black Hole, there is heat that is getting shredded and scrambled, but it is not "lost". The information falling into the Hole must exist, perhaps as a coating of the Black Hole's horizon.

What is the peculiar nature of the singularity at the small revenant center of a Black Hole? Is the principle of conservation of energy operating here? Or is Entropy itself destroyed in the infinitely dense. At that point, in the center of the Black Hole, as stuff collapses to a point, the concepts of large and small, heavy or light, macro and quantum, old and new, are all transformed.

I just cannot "get it". The foundations of our Physics are apparently at stake, right? Everything getting older, colder, darker, slower, and collapsing into Black Holes -- now that makes perfect sense, but then this What? These things "radiate"? We need more than Susskind's 10-dimensional strings projected in holographic horizons to cobble our universe together.

Scots mythology; family lore (on the white side)

This is the Great Story of my kin, on the Scots portion of the white side, which Aunt Winifred swore by. She told it to myself as her audience while standing in her trophy room, decanting a fresh myth to give it some air....

The Keys, a sept of the Mackay clan, were pressed to the most remote rock of the land's end North, and only 12 warriors left after centuries of feud and thuggery. As the MacLeods circled in for the kill, the final extinction, the Keys resolved to dispatch the remaining apostolic number South to appeal to the English for salvation. In passing through the MacLeod lines, four warriors sacrificed themselves so that eight remaining got through.

To the English, their appeal went something like this: "You are boatmen, and we are but poor shepherds on a cold and desolate rock at Land's End north. As an act of charity, send us but one of your ships and transport us to some other desolate rock where we can raise sheep. In return, while we have no treasure in exchange for our lives, we can offer you the loyalty of a Scots clan to the English people who trade in wool we can provide."

The warriors sought to return to their highland homeland. As they crept through the lines guarded by the MacLeods, again they were given no choice, but that another four had again to sacrifice themselves against the broadswords of their enemies to enable the last four warriors to get through. And then they gathered the women, the children and the sheep and hid among the stones of the beach and waited.

The sight of an English bottom raised them from their final desolate hour. Of course, having no boats themselves, the hideout was without a landing wharf. Undeterred, the Keys flung themselves into the beating tide and swam the freezing sea to the ships.

The women of the clan tied their children to their necks, and used the galls and bladders of slaughtered sheep for floats. The men tied their remaining and un-shorn sheep to their necks. They praised their Presbyterian God the sheep were buoyant with lanolin-oil wool. In this manner all pressed out to the waiting ship, and the English, who turned out to be fishermen, netted them like flotsam from the sea.

With the entire remaining Scottish Keys, the British bottom simply headed South West, away from the feuding Highlands. It stopped at the first desolate landfall it found. This happened to be Northern Ireland. It was cold, wet, storm-run and rocky. But sheep be raised, it was not inhabited.

Far to the South, it was known that there were a farming people. The Irish were another Celtic group, but they had no use for sheep, and could never farm the rocks. They traded nothing with the English who had their own farms. The Scots in Northern Ireland multiplied their sheep and rapidly offered the wool in trade. Thus began the English mariner's tradition -- first started by importing wool from Northern Ireland. The first great diversification of the Bristol fishing fleet.

And Scots continued to board British bottoms, even colonizing as they were brought to successive landfalls stowed by British merchant mariners. Centuries passed and instead of extinction, the Keys went on the colonize other islands and continents across the globe. In America, the Keys burst upon the New World to the dismay of the Powhattan and the Iroquois Confederacies, the Cherokee nation, and the leagues of many other tribes engaged with the Spaniards and French who really never sought to unload surplus populations on them. Within a few generations, the Scots asserted the favors of the trading English over the Spanish sword and closed even the great delta of the Mississippi to France.

In the South, the indentured Scots served their English "masters" as slave-drivers, foremen, living closely with the workers on the plantations. This exposure, and the extremities of plantation life, resulted in children whose mothers were African. The half-Scot/Negro generation of Keys led the charge of runaway slaves into the wilderness to further mix with the Creek, Seminole, Sauk, and other tribes. The black Keys were already in Texas before Austin arrived with his patent from Mexico.

In the War of 1812, Francis Scot Key served as a diplomat for the "United States", and American entity the English King did not recognize. It was his loyalty to the English, although not to the Crown, which enabled him to diplomatize the shooting. There is no better explanation for how the War of 1812 ended; the Scots could fight, and they preferred fighting FOR the boon of trade rather than against the British whose mariners they had long been accustomed to welcome.

In sum, history is largely untold. Is there some truth to the story that the last revenant Keys were delivered to Northern Ireland by the English as an act of pure charity? Is it written upon the hearts of the Keys? All the fighting and breeding members of their grateful descendants -- my great Aunt makes a point of this -- are remarkably loyal to those who show mercy generally, and to the English merchandisers specifically.

Now today, of course, back in Ireland a thousand years after that soi-disant landfall, and we reflect that there were "the troubles" that came upon Ireland. For reasons few can understand, counting among the mystified those participants in the conflict themselves, the Irish of the South and the Scots-Irish of the North took up centuries of feuding. People have their reasons. Perhaps the lore of one minor sept of a clan which was on the edge of extinction, helps explain the loyalty of the Northern rock inhabitants to the British.

Of course, the English often failed to be merciful, their trade was not always redemptive, and foreign transport is not a solution to every petition by a people facing extinction.