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{Wednesday, February 25, 2004}

I am a knot not a bullet

fUSION Anomaly. Monolith
This is a pre-recorded briefing, made prior to your departure. For security reasons of the highest importance, it has been known on-board during the mission only by your computer.

Monolithic Form [vide Endless Discovery]
Definitions: A monolith is, strictly speaking, a form consisting of a single stone (mono = one, lith = stone). A multilith is a form made from a number of parts. These two form types might simply refer to the way a thing is constructed; is it carved from one mass or is it an assemblage of many?

Jed1 + Jed7 = The Raising of the Djed
"The Djed Pillar derived originally from the image of the tree with lopped-off branches. But what is especially interesting is that this original tree-image was fused with an image of Osiris' sacrum, the lowest joint of the backbone. This part of the dismembered Osiris was believed to be the immortal seat of the god's virility. Its position at the base of the spine corresponds significantly to the 'root-chakra' of Indian yoga, where Kundalini, the vital energy, resides."
Roger Cook - The Tree of Life : Image for the Cosmos
(Thames and Hudson, 1988, page 14)

Powerdigms of the Multimedium
"An A-life creature named Aleph is found consuming cycles from the CyberSpaceShip's central computer following a tumultuous ride into an uncharted region of Cyberspace, known only by legend as the Multimedium. Aleph offers navigational assistance. In exchange, he asks the crew (read audience) to help him locate his creator, a renaissance woman in search of absolute truth. As Aleph and crew explore the Multimedium, questions arise concerning Aleph's creator: What does it really mean to be a scientist? To be an artist? What does being human mean?
The quest for answers leads the crew to the discovery and experience of their first Powerdigm: science and art are flip sides of the same coin - both rely on mental models to span the chasm between abstract ideas and concrete experiences - science primarily moves one way across this chasm and art the other - and to be human is to move freely in both directions. The crew becomes empowered - each member directly experiences their own mind performing as a scientist and as an artist. They can understand. They can create. They have the wherewithal to venture forth with Aleph into still deeper questions of reality, meaning, and truth - in search of new Powerdigms."

The rough with the smooth
"It is not the things that are difficult to make, but to put ourselves in a condition to make them."
Constantin Brancusi

Alchemical Kubrick : 2001 A Space Odyssey
"Kubrick had originally planned for the planet in the film to be Saturn but the special effects department could not make the rings look realistic enough. Kubrick then abandoned Saturn for the easier-to-create Jupiter."
Jay Weidner

Backup Data on the Moon? [via Nocents Network]
A private company plans to send servers to the moon for data backup by 2004, linked to the Earth by broadband laser communications. The plan addresses the threat of a natural disaster, such as a small asteroid hitting the planet.

Wired 8.08: Street Cred
Mark Dery: In our age of runaway acceleration, dreams of deceleration sit side by side with counterstrategies for becoming one with the blur. For every digital refusenik like David Shenk bemoaning "life at hyper-speed," there's a speed freak like US Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger, the Icarus in a partial-pressure suit who became, in 1960, the only human to break the sound barrier with nothing but his body. He leaped from a balloon at the very edge of Earth's atmosphere and proclaimed, "I am a bullet."

I Am a Bullet : Scenes from an Accelerating Culture
Lesley Reed: In 1960, Captain Joseph Kittinger jumped from a helium balloon almost 20 miles up, with 99 percent of the earth's atmosphere beneath him. He plummeted at 614 mph, but strangely, felt nothing. Until his senses reoriented themselves, he thought he was floating.

Killing Time by Mark Dery
Life lived at Net speed means sitting at a computer, our thoughts racing, our bodies unmoving. I call it "terminal inertia": the sensation, experienced daily by millions in our wired society, of overflying infinite landscapes of information while sitting still. In a sense, we've arrived in the future foretold by J.G. Ballard in his short story, "Memories of the Space Age." The protagonist's sense of time becomes increasingly attenuated until he ends up embalmed in a "small installment of forever," having accelerated into "a world beyond time": the utopia of the frozen moment. It's Blake's mystical vision of "eternity in an hour," updated for the age of "Doc" Edgerton's strobe flash. Ballard imagined the moment --- our moment --- when the headlong hurtle of the modern age finally reached terminal velocity. The image of speed --- "blistering speed" --- in the first year of the 21st century, is a human being in a chair, staring at a screen, going nowhere at a billion bits an hour.

Brad Grimes: TeraGrid supercomputer goes live
"The National Science Foundation has launched the first phase of its TeraGrid project, making 4.5 teraflops of distributed computing power available to scientists across the country. The TeraGrid project is part of a long-term effort to build and deploy a supercomputing grid infrastructure that will be used for open research. The systems in production are the first of two deployments. Under the current plan, the completed TeraGrid will provide more than 20 teraflops of computing power."

Aseem Deshpande: The Role of Linux in Grid Computing
"Today, applications are developed to be geared toward a specific platform or hosting environment, for example Linux, Windows 2000, various UNIX flavors, mainframes, J2EE, Microsoft .NET and so on. Such computing tends to operate within a monolithic framework in which applications contend for resources as and when they're made available for that single platform. For a platform with limited resources, the resource availability starts decreasing as the demand for service grows. At such a time, if resources from other systems could be used or, in turn, the requirements could be serviced by resources from other systems, the strain on the native system would reduce considerably and the quality of service being offered would improve. It is this objective that grid computing wants to meet. The objective of grid-based computing is to virtualize, manage and allocate distributed physical resources (processing power, memory, storage, networking) to applications and users on an as-needed (on-demand) basis -- regardless of the resources' location. Grid networks transcend physical components, organizational units, enterprise infrastructure and geographic boundaries. Naturally, software plays a vital ..."

Cyber Sailor & Shiva

Artaud: "Enough language games, enough syntactical tricks, enough word-juggling and phrase-making! We must now seek the great Law of the heart, that Law which is not a Law, not a prison, but a guide for the Mind lost in its own labyrinth."

Labyrinth, Maze. Labyrinth, originally; the name of an edifice or excavation, carries the idea of design, and construction in a permanent form, while maze is used of anything confused or confusing, whether fixed or shifting. Maze is less restricted in its figurative uses than labyrinth. We speak of the labyrinth of the ear, or of the mind, and of a labyrinth of difficulties; but of the mazes of the dance, the mazes of political intrigue, or of the mind being in a maze.
Origin: L. Labyrinthus, Gr. Labyrinthos: cf. F. Labyrinthe.
Source: Websters Dictionary

Node by Node : The Web We Weave

"Me, what's that after all? An arbitrary limitation of being bounded by the people before and after and on either side. Where they leave off, I begin, and vice versa."
Russell Hoban: Turtle Diary

Francis Bacon's Instauratio : Bacon and Baconian Science

"After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?"
Russell Hoban: The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz

Michael Tomasello - Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition
Harvard University Press, 2003

"Drawing together a vast body of empirical research in cognitive science, linguistics, and developmental psychology, [Michael] Tomasello demonstrates that we don't need a self-contained "language instinct" to explain how children learn language. Their linguistic ability is interwoven with other cognitive abilities.
Tomasello argues that the essence of language is its symbolic dimension, which rests on the uniquely human ability to comprehend intention. Grammar emerges as the speakers of a language create linguistic constructions out of recurring sequences of symbols; children pick up these patterns in the buzz of words they hear around them.
All theories of language acquisition assume these fundamental skills of intention-reading and pattern-finding. Some formal linguistic theories posit a second set of acquisition processes to connect somehow with an innate universal grammar. But these extra processes, Tomasello argues, are completely unnecessary -- important to save a theory but not to explain the phenomenon.
For all its empirical weaknesses, Chomskian generative grammar has ruled the linguistic world for fourty years. Constructing a Language offers a compellingly argued, psychologically sound new vision for the study of language acquisition."

Religions of Lusitania. Loquuntur saxa by José Cardim Ribeiro
"The religious phenomenon, in its historical aspect, has been the object of many interpretative approaches. We have only to recall Frazer and the comparative comprehensiveness, Lévi–Strauss and the structural archetypes, Dumézil and the functionalist schemes, Eliade and the universality of the symbolic. Still, there is nothing more brilliant than the brief metaphor engendered by the Englishman Murray, and immediately taken up and developed by Dodds in his irreverent study on Greek culture and the irrational: the religious phenomenon reveals itself, in all epochs and regions, to be like an "inherited conglomerate". And Dodds comments: "The geological metaphor is a happy one because religious growth is [...] agglomeration more than replacement". That is why, when we nowadays study the religions of the past, we do not seek only to know our distant cultural roots better, but rather deal with something which is still present - although partially and sometimes subjectively so - in our present existence as Homo religiosus, which, (whether we like it or not) we all are."

Language's Source: A Particularly Human Confluence of Hard Wiring and Soft
"By answering the evolutionary question of how to take advantage of a new foraging trick, our ancestors unwittingly turned the tables of natural selection so that social evolution could reshape the brain in its own image. We reflect on this from the other end of an extensive co-evolutionary process, where the indispensable uses of symbolic communication as a social organizing tool were long ago relegated to being only one among a multitude of selection pressures mutually converging on making this communication more and more efficient. Two and a half million years of sustained selection in an unprecedented socioecological niche, maintained by unprecedented communicational and cognitive tricks have taken us far from these beginnings in both the physical changes in the brain that resulted and in the mental and cultural world that coevolved with them."
Terrence W. Deacon - The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain

Poetry should be made by all!
From hypertext utopias to cooperative net-projects

Hyper-Writing-Machine : Rhizome - Network
"Through nomadic wandering in telematic networks, centralized systems (like the branching model of trees and roots) are converted into de-centralized systems, "in which communication is established between neighbours, in which streams and channels have no previous existence (...)" (Deleuze/Guattari 92, 30). Writing in the network has nothing to do with literature in the classical sense -- as in the system author-work-meaning-market -- but rather with surveying virgin land in the telematic domain, establishing landscapes of text, even to understand writing and reading as a nomadic act of wandering through text-networks! The additional dimensions of the hyper-textual tailoring of random text particles that circulate among various mailboxes through permanent up and downloading, liberate the mental effort of producing texts as a social network.
These text particles can be interrupted, ripped apart, altered (and sent again) in any position - while being simultaneously held together in a variable network while constantly referring to each other. We are thereby attempting to try out a paradigm of net-work-utopias (perhaps difficult to implement socially) on a model of interconnected text production/reception: To establish relationships (between texts/authors/readers), that don't go from point to point, from word to word (linear reference: signifier/signified), but rather allow crossings, superimpositions, layerings: many different lines of writing, to form a central meaning -- the written nets of various text-tours pile up layer after layer on top of one another and are connected "at each moment with the collective, time and nerve Rhizome" (of the other network-participants) -- the Art of writing everywhere ..."

The Eye [PDF]
"The word retina means net in Latin; visually, the retina has the appearance of a cobweb with thin filaments. The retina is the soft, semitransparent, purplish light-gathering membrane of the eye. This is the innermost layer of the eye. It is composed of 10 distinct layers that detect and process light. The most important layer is known as Jacob's membrane, which contains the rods and the cones."

How the Retina Works by Helga Kolb
Much of the construction of an image takes place in the retina itself through the use of specialized neural circuits.

Lifting the Veils of Autism, One by One by One
Erica Goode reports for The New York Times - 24 February 2004
"[...] In a series of experiments to find out why it is so difficult for someone with autism to function in the world, the Yale team, including Warren Jones, a research associate, developed a device for tracking eye movements that could be mounted on the brim of a baseball cap. Then they had subjects, who either had autism or did not, watch a video clip from the 1967 film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and monitored their gaze. The normal subjects closely tracked the social interactions among the actors in the films, focusing especially on the actors' eyes. In contrast, people with autism focused on objects in the room, on various parts of the actors' bodies and on the actors' mouths. In one scene, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor kiss. The subjects without autism looked at the actors' embrace; the autistic subjects' eyes went elsewhere: one man stared at a doorknob in the background.
Such research suggests that from birth, the brains of autistic children are wired differently, shaping their perception of the world and other people. "In normal development," [Dr. Ami Klin] said, "being looked at, being in the presence of another, seeking another -- most of what people consider important emerges from this mutually reinforcing choreography between child and adult." If this duet cannot take place, Dr. Klin said, "development is going to be derailed."
Studies using brain scanning techniques like fast M.R.I. lend weight to the idea that for people with autism, perception molds behavior. "There is a deep relationship between what we see and what we know," said Dr. Robert Schultz ..."

Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual
"Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a strange and exciting new world came into focus -- a world of microorganisms in myriad shapes and colors, prehistoric fossils, bizarre undersea creatures, spectrums of light and sound, molecules of water, and atomic particles. Exploring the Invisible reveals that the world beyond the naked eye -- made visible by advances in science -- has been a major inspiration for artists ever since, influencing the subjects they choose as well as their techniques and modes of representation."

GIANTmicrobes Exotics : Owls have 'surround sound'
New Brazilian Owl Named for Intel Founder

Microbe-processors (The Boston Globe - 1 July 2003)
Jascha Hoffman writes: "Life has been in the information-processing business for billions of years, and has its own ways of storing and passing vital information. Even the simplest single-celled life relies on a vast range of chemical reactions strung together in a host of precisely-calibrated networks. Biologists have been studying these complex ''chemical circuits'' for a long time, but only recently have they tried to actually hack into cells and program them. ''Trying to program [cells] is a first step in trying to learn to 'speak their language,'" said Michael Elowitz of Rockefeller University."

The Great Invisibles
Man is perhaps not the center, the focus of the universe. One may go so far as to believe that there exists above him, on the animal level, beings whose behavior is as alien to him as his own must be to the mayfly or the whale. There is nothing that would necessarily prevent such beings from completely escaping his sensory frame of reference, since these beings might avail themselves of a type of camouflage which, no matter how one imagines it, becomes plausible when one considers the theory of form and what has been discovered about mimetic animals. This idea surely affords a wide field of speculation, though it tends to reduce man, as an interpreter of the universe, to a condition as modest as the child conceives the ants to be in when he has overturned the anthill with his foot. Considering perturbations like the cyclone, in the face of which man is powerless to be anything but victim or witness, or like war (on the subject of which notoriously inadequate views have been advanced), it would not be impossible, in the course of a vast work, which would be constantly presided over by the boldest kind of induction, to succeed in making plausible the complexion and structure of such hypothetical beings which obscurely manifest themselves to us in fear and the feeling of chance. I should like to point out that I do not here perceptively depart from the statement of Novalis: "In reality, we live inside an animal on which we are parasites. The constitution of this animal determines our own and vice versa." I am merely asking with William James: "who knows whether, in nature, we do not hold as small a place besides beings whose existence we do not suspect, as our cats and dogs living in our houses at our sides?"
André Breton: Surrealism (1942)

Soul searching by A S Byatt (The Guardian - 14 February 2004)
"[...] Balzac wrote his Human Comedy as a modern form of Dante's Divine Comedy. In his foreword to it, he compares its organisation to the organisation of animal forms and functions studied by the physiologists, Georges Cuvier and Étienne Geoffroy St-Hilaire. He uses Geoffroy's phrase for anatomical patterns - "unity of composition" - for his own work, and declares that "there is only one animal. The creator used the same pattern to make all organised creatures." It is true that Balzac still needs and uses the idea of a creator - but the world of his novels is a world of animal body-minds, and his characters feel their emotions along their spines and in their veins, their visions and decisions are the result of electrical storms in their brains. Paris is a jungle of animals, including the humans.
[...] Marshall McLuhan said we live in a social world of prostheses, things added on to the body - telephone, television, cameras - which drastically change our human relations and perceptions of each other, and ourselves.
[...] In novels in general - and also on the television - we do live in a world where bodies is what we are."

The Winchester Festival of Art and the Mind
5-7 March 2004, The Theatre Royal, Winchester

"In 1932, the year that Lacan published his doctoral thesis, the US government funded a study of mimicry, the propensity of animals to take on the colourings of their habitat or the appearance of other species. Opening up the stomachs of some eighty thousand Nearctic birds, the principal researcher McAttee found that the insects that could disguise as landscape fared no better than those that couldn't.
Mimicry failed to increase one's chances of survival in a cruel world. A zebra might feel safe in Bridget Riley's garden, but its chances were actually no better than anyone else's. So if it didn't help you to look like a rock or a twig or Op Art, why bother?
Today, evolutionary explanations of mimicry are dominant, but in the 1930s there was some excitement about what seemed to be an anomaly. One of the more fanciful theories appealed to a general law of imitation: we become like our habitat, and this becoming is a law of nature. Humans and animals are similar according to this view. We ... blend in, we identify."
Darian Leader - Stealing the Mona Lisa: What art stops us from seeing
(Faber, 2002, pages 22-23)

Net-religion, a War in Heaven (1995)
Peter Lamborn Wilson: "All technology is a religious phenomenon: Why? Because unless you belong to the human condition, you cannot have technology. What is the human condition? What makes a human being different from an animal? I would say consciousness or self-consciousness, perhaps. Not awareness though, we know that animals are aware, but what we don't know is whether they are conscious. And we certainly don't know whether they are self-conscious. One of the symptoms of consciousness, or self-consciousness, is technology and it is impossible, structurally or historically, to separate technology from consciousness when we try to imagine what it is to be human. As soon as we see in the archeological record evidence of a simian or a similar creature that we could identify as human, then the only reason why we do so is because there are some broken stones next to the bones, that look like they may have been intended to be tools. What separates animals from humans is technology. From one point of view, that is religion.
Because you cannot have technology unless you can extricate consciousness outside the body. If you cannot understand that consciousness is something which projects outward into the world, you cannot create the prosthesis, the extension of the body, which is technology, be it a broken stone or a computer.
Because there is this intimate relationship between technology and consciousness, technology itself is always threatening to take the place of religion. Technology is always becoming confused with religion. The Marxists used to call this reification."

A Cyberspace Odyssey : Arthur C. Clarke
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Technological Singularity
Vernor Vinge: The Singularity
Vernor Vinge on the Singularity
Staring into the Singularity 1.2.5
Technological singularity - Wikipedia
The Coming Technological Singularity
Singularity Watch (Understanding Accelerating Change)

"Whatever the situation may have been in the past, today the supernatural as a meaningful reality is absent or remote from the horizons of everyday life of large numbers, very probably of the majority, of people in modern societies, who seem to manage to get along without it quite well. This means that those to whom the supernatural is still, or again, a meaningful reality find themselves in the status of a minority, more precisely, a cognitive minority -- a very important consequence with very far-reaching implications.
By a cognitive minority I mean a group of people whose view of the world differs significantly from the one generally taken for granted in their society. Put differently, a cognitive minority is a group formed around a body of deviant 'knowledge'. The quotation marks should be stressed here. The term 'knowledge' used within the frame of reference of the sociologist of knowledge always refers to what is taken to be or believed as 'knowledge'. In other words, the use of the terms is strictly neutral on the question of whether or not the socially held 'knowledge' is finally true or false. All human societies are based on 'knowledge' in this sense. The sociology of knowledge seeks to understand the different forms of this. The same quotation marks apply to my use of the adjective 'cognitive', of course. Instead of saying that societies have bodies of knowledge, we can say that they have cognitive structures. Once more, this in no way implies a judgement of the final validity of these 'cognitions'. This should be kept in mind whenever the adjective is used in the following argument. Put simply, the sociologist qua sociologist always stays in the role of reporter. He reports that people believe they 'know' such and such, and that this belief has such and such consequences. As soon as he ventures an opinion on whether the belief is finally justified, he is jumping out of the role of sociologist. There is nothing wrong with this role change, and I intend to perform it myself in a little while. But one should be clear about what one is doing when.
For better or for worse, men are social beings."
Peter Berger - A Rumour of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural
(Pelican, 1973, pages 18-19)

William Germano: 49 Words for Snow
"There's a terra incognita linguistica -- a set of words we don't yet have -- to name the activities that we call reading. The Oxford English Dictionary has plenty of words, but not even a professor, a madman, and thousands of researchers have captured all the meanings we need. The job might better suit Dr. Seuss who, you will remember, unveiled the letters after number 26 in On Beyond Zebra. The good doctor was on to something. Maybe there aren't 49 words for snow, but there are at least 49 words for reading, even if we only know a couple dozen so far."

Raoul Vaneigem: A Cavalier History of Surrealism

posted by Andrew 2/25/2004 04:36:00 PM