Is this depression or enlightenment?

“For a long time now I haven’t existed. I’m utterly calm. No one distinguishes me from who I am. I just felt myself breathe as if I’d done something new, or done it late. I’m beginning to be conscious of being conscious. Perhaps tomorrow I will wake up to myself and resume the course of my existence. I don’t know if that will make more happy or less. I don’t know anything.”
— Fernando Pessoa, born this day in 1888, wrote in many different styles, different moods, different substances, and seemed to have a different nom de plume for each.


His name means “person”.


.”nosrep” snaem eman siH

“A pseudonymic work is, except for the name with which it is signed, the work of an author writing as himself; a heteronymic work is by an author writing outside his own personality: it is the work of a complete individuality made up by him, just as the utterances of some character in a drama of his would be.”

You will never get to the bottom of Fernando Pessoa. There are too many of him.– Carmela Ciuraru

#50: The Cauldron

I Ching #50 = Ding

el caldero

This time of year, the forest teems with life
And Nature’s bounty seems to know no bound.
I’m grateful for my family’s fortune crowned
With peace, abundance and freedom from strife.
’Tis Ding, the Cauldron, bearing luck supreme—
A cornucopia, more than I deserve
Above what missions I’ve been fortunate to serve
Float thanks and gifts beyond my fondest dream.
What work I’ve done has been to me as play
A curious exploration of my place
It feels to be not justice, rather grace,
And whence comes blessing, mortals dare not say.
May I never feel complacence for good chance
That grants me such a partner for life’s dance.


What if the future is fixed and we can’t change it?

I’m transmitting this warning to you from just over a year in your future: it’s the first lengthy message received when circuits with negative delays in the megasecond range are used to build communication devices. Other messages will follow, addressing other issues. My message to you is this: pretend that you have free will. It’s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know that they don’t. The reality isn’t important: what’s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma. Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.
Read a short sci-fi story from Ted Chiang

Cosmic Rays and Gamma Rays

There’s a lot that astronomers have figured out about the universe—an amazing amount, considering that all we have to work with is what the sky hands us. You can’t do experiments in astrophysics.  But we have figured out the basic structures of the universe in stars and galaxies and various clusters at different scales, and we have figured out the energy sources in stars and black holes and supernovae, and have a good idea how the different chemical elements came to be and where they came from.

But we don’t understand cosmic rays.  There are competing, partial theories.  But especially for the most energetic cosmic rays, we have no good theories about where they come from and also no good ideas how they last as long as they do without giving up their energy to the very tenuous gas that fills interstellar space.

When it comes to the sun, we thought we understood all the basics about how it works.  The core is a hydrogen bomb, millions of degrees.  At the surface, the part of the sun we see has a temperature ‘only’ thousands of degrees.

But the sun’s corona (atmosphere) is another story.  It is millions of degrees.  We have models for how it gets to be so hot based on magnetic heating, but I’m not sure we would have predicted such high temperatures if we hadn’t discovered the hot corona first, by looking at it.

Now there’s a new mystery.  There are gamma rays coming from the sun, and some of them have really high energies.  With energies like that, you could make cosmic rays out of them without too much trouble—just add a proton, and there are plenty of those around.  But no one expected the sun to be producing gamma rays (or cosmic rays) of its own, especially at the high energy end.  These gamma rays are so energetic that if we translate to a temperature, it would be trillions of degrees!  That’s far too hot to be plausible.  There must be some kind of magnetic engine that is shooting these particles out with such impressive energy.

There’s a mystery here and also an opportunity.  If we can figure out how the sun generates such high energy photons, maybe other stars are doing the same thing…

Article by Natalie Wolchover at Quanta Magazine

2017 eclipse photo of Sun’s Corona by Moulzdid <>