Thursday, April 10, 2008

suddenness may well happen - dragons, even...

a stone frog on a pebbleFalmouth, Wednesday 9th April 2008: (you may wish to skip this one) I was thinking about my childhood struggle to find the precise moment of 'halted state' that lay between being awake and being asleep (previous blog) . Then there was a moment this afternoon when I could hear blackbirds, hedge sparrows, chiffchaffs, wrens, goldcrests, robins, linnets and goldfinches all singing at the same time, yet as soon as I focused to one individual, the others were blurred into a general chorus. OK, this was the expected consequence of focusing. But when I focused on them as a group, I could hear them all as identifiable individuals singing at the same time. The group simultaneously realised and comprised the individuals.

This got me round to thinking about an awake/asleep duality – in the sense that there is actually no single point in the transit from being awake to being asleep. Rather one moves from being awake, to being awake-and-asleep, to being asleep-and-awake, to being asleep. Like crossing a horizon – a shifting visual phenomenon straddling the terrain between two points in a landscape. Or just as aunt Hilda had explained – the crepuscular period between daytime and night time, which starts by being more daytime and ends by being more night time. Or the gradual shift from green to yellow, or orange to red. It is not a gateway from one space or state to another as I had originally thought (I’d even had an idea of what the gate may look like - the old creosoted gate to the allotments near my childhood house in Leicester). These are subjective, not binary states.

“There is a threshold in the structure of the physical world the crossing of which destroys the experimenter civilization before its presence may be recognized by other intelligent life in the universe.” This is a very liberal reworking of Fermi’s paradox which relates to the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations. The quotation came from a discussion group on an article in the International Herald Tribune about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The article related to a law suit raised in Hawaii aimed at stopping CERN from “switching on” the LHC, citing that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a "strangelet" that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called "strange matter." Even more emotive was, “the LHC might make dragons that eat us up.” The doomsday predictions seem to be closed fantasies, while the original Fermi paradox was an open question. The binary and the non-binary.

And from this sublime to the a ridiculous - the original article printed in the European edition of the IHT (31st March 2008) featured a rather wonderful typo that I am sure appeared in a similar article by the same author in the same newspaper in 2007...

In Mayan cultures, frogs were seen as linking heaven and earth through their appearances in rain (which came from heaven). They provided a point of contact between two continua. This one came from Bogotá and now lives with other collected stones and shells in my living room.

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