20th Century Monoliths

The great pyramid at Giza was built from 2,300,000 stone blocks, each weighing many several tons. Two smaller pyramids brings the total over 5 million blocks. They were carved flat and square with great precision and transported over river and land from quarries a few miles to several hundred miles away.

The standard account from archaeologists is that this was accomplished by people who had not yet invented the wheel, or smelted iron tools. Doesn’t it stretch common sense to imagine this could be true?  Can you imagine 10% of the population, perhaps 200,000 people spending their entire lifetimes cutting, measuring, and polishing huge pieces of stone with other, smaller stones?

I think they knew something we don’t know. I don’t imagine backhoes and hydraulic cranes, but some kind of technology that is both alaien to us, even unimaginable, and also quite powerful and reliable.

A slight and unassuming 20th Century Latvian immigrant to Florida claimed to have re-discovered their secret.  He spent 28 years building his own stone sculptures cutting, moving and 10-ton pieces cut from coral/limestone with no power tools. How did he do it? He was fond of saying “it’s not hard once you know how.”

Coral Castle Museum, Leisure City, Florida - The Coral Castle is fascinating. Take the tour to hear the story about a lonely little man with a reported penchant for levitation who built a castle from giant coral rocks for the woman he loved. She never came to him but you can see from the grounds that he had big plans for a wife and several children. He carved bathtubs, cradles, armchairs and lots more out of the stone.

Our Galaxy Blew its Stack the Day Before Yesterday

A black hole at the center of the Milky Way exploded 3.5 million years ago —and may explode again very soon.

Back when I went to school, some time in the middle of the last century, galaxies were thought to be just collections of stars that were attracted to each other and fell into mutual orbits as they coalesced.

It was the need to come up with an explanation for quasars that changed that. Quasars are very, very far away, and yet they manage to be quite bright. That implies enormous amounts of energy. Eventually, we figured out that there was matter falling into giant black holes, each one as massive as a hundred million suns.

Gradually, astronomers came to realize that many if not most galaxies have black holes at the center. The center of our own Milky Way is obscured because to see it we have to look through the thicket of gas and dust that has collected in our galactic disk. But we can see through to the galactic center using x-ray telescopes or radio telescopes, and eventually a consensus formed that our own galaxy hosts a black hole.

Most objects in the sky are flattened by spinning.  Stuff gets into and out of them most easily in a direction perpendicular to the spinning disk. In 1987, I wrote my dissertation about streams of hot gas that spew out from disant galaxies, and we see these as bright plumes. Paradoxically, the plumes from our own galaxy, so close to home, are harder to see. But now they’ve been spotted and interpreted.

Live Science article

Image result for active galactic nucleus

Ballooning out of both poles of the galactic center, two gargantuan orbs of gas stretch into space for 25,000 light-years apiece (big enough that they would be spread across the night sky, if we could only see ), though it’s visible only in ultra powerful X-ray and gamma-ray light. Scientists call these cosmic gas orbs the Fermi bubbles and know that they’re a few million years old. … According to a study to be published Oct. 8 in the preprint journal arXiv.org, the Fermi bubbles were created by an epic flare of hot, nuclear energy that shot out of the galaxy’s poles roughly 3.5 million years ago, beaming into space for hundreds of thousands of light-years. 

If cave men really did see this event, it would have stretched across half the night sky.  The research paper estimates the total output at 1056 ergs over 300,000 years. That works out to a plume as bright as the Milky Way, but extending in a perpendicular direction across the sky.

What is algorithmic art?

No photo description available.

“By inputting latitude and longitude, time/date stamps and colours from my original photographs taken on location to create a base fractal, my aim is to interact with the pattern created until I can see a direct correlation with its natural source. What evolves is a fusion of two distinctly differing fields – the absolute rules of the fractal algorithm and the imagination of the artist acting on sensory and actual recollection. What I aim to portray is the memory of place as it appeared in a snapshot of time, almost like a retinal imprint that remains when the eyes are closed”.No photo description available.

More images and stories at the web site of Vienna Forrester

Prayers of Kierkegaard

I
We speak this way with you, o God,
there is a language difference between us,
and yet we strive to understand you,
to make ourselves intelligible to you,
and you are not ashamed to be called our God

II
Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us first,
you who until the last loved those
whom you had loved from the beginning,
you who until the end of time continue
to love everyone who wants to belong to you,
your faithfulness cannot deny itself!

III
Great are you, o God, great are you, o God!
Although we know you only as an obscure saying,
and as in a mirror,
yet in wonder we worship your greatness,
how much more shall we praise it at some time,
we shall praise it when we come
to know it more fully!
When under the arch of heaven,
I stand surrounded by the wonders of creation,
I rapturously and adoringly praise your greatness,
you who lightly hold the stars in the infinite
and concern yourself fatherly with the sparrow.

IV
Father in heaven! Open the fountains of our eyes,
let a torrent of tears like a flood obliterate all of the past life
which did not find favour in your eyes;
but also give us a sign as of old,
when you set the rainbow as a gateway of grace in the heavens,
that you will no more wipe us out with a flood;
let sin never again get such power over us
that you again have to tear us out with the body of sin.

V
Father in heaven. In springtime everything in nature comes back again
with new freshness and beauty.
The bird and the lily have lost nothing since last year.
Would that we, too, might come back unaltered
to the instruction the teachers!
But if, alas, our health has been damaged in time past,
would that we might recover it by learning again
from the lilies in the field and from the birds of the air!

VI
Father in heaven! You loved us first!
Help us never to forget that you are love,
so that this conviction might be victorious
in our hearts over the world’s allurement,
the mind’s unrest, the anxieties over the future,
the horrors of the past, the needs of the moment.
O, grant also that this conviction might form
our minds, so that our hearts become constant and
true in love to them whom you bid us to love as ourselves.

Knut Nystedt was born this day in 1915.

So thin a veil

So thin a veil divides
Us from such joy, past words,
Walking in daily life—the business of the hour, each detail seen to;
Yet carried, rapt away, on what sweet floods of other Being:
Swift streams of music flowing, light far back through all Creation shining,
Loved faces looking—
Ah! from the true, the mortal self
So thin a veil divides!

Edward Carpenter, born 125 years ago today, was known not as a transcendental philosopher but a social reformer who started with a high opinion of Man, the individual, and proceeded to an exalted vision of men collectively might become.

Image result for edward carpenter

Before it was accepted or even safe, Carpenter was open about his relationship to George Merrill, a gay man with two right arms.

 

 

Evolution Evolving

The idea was that all life on earth, and we within it, came from a random and meaningless process of struggling to make more copies of DNA snippets.  It wrought its damage on us, convincing us that all pretense to value or meaning was an unscientific illusion. Fellowship was reduced to calculation of the gain to be had in a bargain, and love became a strategy for increasing reproductive success.

A century of loneliness and depression followed Darwin’s theory.  All dissent from the canon was mocked with caricature of Grandfather with a white beard calling down from heaven to create the world in seven days.

Only after powerful computers allowed us to actually try out the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy in simulation did skepticism become scientifically respectable. Darwin’s greatest fear about his theory was that all diversity would collapse in short order, and natural selection would grind to a halt once there was no variety from which to select. This proved to be prescient. Mendelian inheritance can’t prevent the collapse of diversity in a brute contest for maximizing reproduction.  Nor could the standard model explain community, or the vast scale of cooperation or the complex web of interconnectivity characteristic of ecosystems.

Most difficult of all has been the question of the origin of life. The gap between the most complex system that might arise by chance alone and the simplest system capable of reproducing itself in the oceans of a proto-Earth only gets wider the more ingeniously we try to bridge it.

And the very process of evolution didn’t come for free.  Most genotype-phenotype maps are not capable of evolving at a decent rate.  How did evolution evolve?

Questioning the plausibility of the simplest neo-Darwiniian models became scientifically respectable, and now it is almost mainstream.  Evolution’s capacity for creating diversity and complexity is far more efficient than we can yet explain.  Evolution creates a powerful illusion of foresight and planning. The Great Chain of Being holds its mystique.

Article by Richard Watson
Response by Marion Blute

Image result for durkheim great chain of being