Where reality lies

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

I woke up from a deep slumber to Thoreau’s words to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. If reality is the process of time and evolution, why did my journey to Zambia and the African savanna feel more real to me? We’re told that it is all a matter of perspective, that even the sight of a rainbow is an individually experienced optical phenomenon. There is no single designated lookout point from where to watch reality unfold.

 

Where reality lies


A 300-mile drive from Lusaka, the transboundary Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls (Victoria Falls) more than a mile-long slide down the vertical walls of basalt rock in a free fall. Like a curtain of falling water, the Zambezi River drops abruptly under the force of gravity from a towering height. The resounding waters rush down as if, the legend says, it were the spirit of Nyami Nyami, still angry at how the population was resettled and its stream was forcibly regulated by the construction upstream in 1950 of the Kariba Dam. The planned binational hydroelectric project (BHES) downstream — led by Power Construction Corporation of China and General Electric — may repeat history with its foreseeable impact on the environment and the livelihoods of the local population in the face of climate change.

Where reality lies


From an image taken on board the International Space Station showing the deep fissures on the surface of the Earth, the Zambezi River plunges straight down within the spatiotemporal boundary of a fault line from which the misty vapor spills over like white scum. Is a fraction zone the same as a fault line? Do the turbulences the plane experienced over the Charlie Gibbs fracture resemble the tremors I felt on the opposite side of the Falls?

The tightly packed water molecules fight their way down the stream. Thereafter,  the riverbed divides into a stretch of steep-sided gorges zigzagging. The column of vapor rising and the roaring Falls contrast with the seemingly smooth and tranquil river which swells before the Falls into a plateau of islands from where hippos bellow when — I could just imagine — a crocodile swims by. Along the bank extends upstream a National Park much smaller than the one in South Luangwa. It manages however to keep out of harm’s way ten white rhinoceros.


 

Where reality lies
Where reality lies


Across from the Falls, a pedestrian overpass dominates a riverine strip which one crosses to reach the very last piece of land on the Zambian side. I felt dizzy when I walked across the bridge 350 feet above the ground. As far as my eyes could see, the horizon was blocked by the misty cloud. I could not distinguish the other end of the fault line three-quarter mile away.

Where reality lies


Where reality lies is the Place of the Rainbow, an ancient name cited by David Livingstone for the Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls. The Sun came down on my left while I faced the end of the rainbow. The multicolored arc circled at my feet while the other end stretched away from the Sun on the Zambian side. At one point, there was a double rainbow, barely perceptible. Do rainbows arise and circle on both edges of the curtain? Hoping to find order in what we observe, I wonder whether our perspective is the same or whether it freely varies. 

Where reality lies

 

Could I have seen a rainbow touching the Earth at my feet had I crossed the border with Zimbabwe and reached the right bank of the vanishing river? And if observers stand every 20 inches from each other on the opposite side of the Falls, with their back turned to the Sun, will they all see light striking water droplets and the refraction of three-dimensional air bubbles repeatedly breaking and forming in the same way I did? I wonder whether, through complex processes, exquisitely orchestrated dancing waters unfold or whether we can assume their randomness.

Where reality lies


Depending on how the sculpted ground shifts and the light falls, you may suddenly spot some form or detail half a mile away, which may or may not look like a destination.

Michael Kimmelman

The configuration of the fault line encloses a system of event occurrences causally dependent on each other. Within those topological boundary conditions — bathed in the evening light and battled by macroscopic quantities of water — rainbows are a window to the microscopic collision of droplets. They illustrate how a many-body system works. The smoke-sounding, rainbow-making waterfalls appear in local equilibrium, doing what they are supposed to do, what is expected from them on that ordinary evening of the dry season. 

There’s a fabulous story
Full of splendor and glory,
That Arabian legends transcends;
Of the wealth without measure,
The coffers of treasure,
At the place where the rainbow ends.

Oh, many have sought it,
And all would have bought it,
With the blood we so recklessly spend;
But none has uncovered,
The gold, nor discovered
The spot at the rainbow’s end.

They have sought it in battle,
And e’en where the rattle
Of dice with man’s blasphemy blends;
But howe’er persuasive,
It still proves evasive,
This place where the rainbow ends.

I own for my pleasure,
I yearn not for treasure,
Though gold has a power it lends;
And I have a notion,
To find without motion,
The place where the rainbow ends...

The Place Where The Rainbow Ends, Paul Laurence Dunbar

Where reality lies

The fluctuations of the waterfalls reflect the translation and rotation of masses of water continuously occurring. It may be the immeasurable number of water molecules moving all at once, locally and globally, which convey an image of symmetries in motion. Their distribution in staggered superpositions abides by the geometry of steep walls and narrow channels. Versatile droplets burst, spray, roll. They go in and out of existence, from a state of nothingness to a state of being. What is their degree of freedom?

As they fall off the elevated ground with gravity, are they following a non-deterministic path? The linear fault line,  as if it were a spatiotemporal chasm, acts as a control line for the flow of water, each droplet on a short-lived time path falling prey to gravity. As time went by, a choreography of water-made wormholes, vortex, and spirals rising and wriggling popped into my head.

 

When you set out for Afrika
you did not know you were going.
Because
you did not know you were Afrika.
You did not know the Black continent
that had to be reached
was you.

I could not have told you then that some sun
would come,
somewhere over the road,
would come evoking the diamonds
of you, the Black continent--
somewhere over the road.
You would not have believed my mouth.

When I told you, meeting you somewhere close
to the heat and youth of the road,
liking my loyalty, liking belief,
you smiled and you thanked me but very little believed me.

Here is some sun. Some.
Now off into the places rough to reach.
Though dry, though drowsy, all unwillingly a-wobble,
into the dissonant and dangerous crescendo.
Your work, that was done, to be done to be done to be done.

To The Diaspora, Gwendolyn Brooks

Shortly after my return to Lusaka, I went on a quest through malls and markets for Nyami Nyami, hidden away at the bottom of a basket or the back of a display. It brought me to the Aylmer May Cemetery — an old graveyard from colonial times — next to which stand today the offices of two of the major foreign-owned mining companies. 

 

Truth be told, I see the human world through the prism of history. Along the roads, the centenary trees wailed, chained to the ground. The next day, in a matter of seconds, the wind blew, and the clouds gathered without a drop of rain. 


 

“The thing that I think Western people need to genuinely try to absorb and realize is that colonialism is history in the West,” said Sipho Hlongwane, a writer based in Johannesburg. “It is a thing of the past, in the West. But in our countries, colonialism is now.”

Rael Ombuor, Rachel Chason and Meena Venkataramanan


While the hope is to discover a true mirror of nature that exhibits the essence of reality, I have lost my footing through the mirroring surface of the Earth. After a two-leg flight and a 19-hour layover, I went home the same way I came. There are so many ways to describe where reality lies that they all contradict each other. If reality is what we think we know, it is also what we think we observe. There is undoubtedly a part of unknown in reality. Reality is singular. Reality is discrete.

 

I’ve lost my sense of continuity between the places I’ve been. Amid fragmented realities, my living essence seeps increasingly through the temporal, physical, and conceptual gaps which pull apart the reality that constitutes our human existence. Each place is an element of reality I can’t quite reassemble within my mind and body. 

 

Reality is anchored in our consciousness only through the increase of the length of time. Without physical and mental entanglement, we may be less aware of the reality of our surroundings. I feel as though I have unknowingly stumbled across the essence of reality: it is the misty cloud at the Falls that turns into fog over the Fall line on the trail to Rosslyn. It is the setting sun at the Falls that rises through the fog this morning. It is the wet drops of the Falls that become rain lightly falling on my skin. It is the rainbow I saw through the prism of history.

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Symmetries

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Symmetries

if I think too much about it, I can start to doubt myself. What if I’m having some kind of hallucination? What if there’s no café there, but it’s really some kind of mirage? What if actually, I’m not looking out the window at all, but am really just in a dream? The more I reflect on these increasingly extravagant scenarios, the less knowledge I really seem to have.

Henry Taylor

The observer of the human soul passes on the three rings of intuition, sensibility, and self-awareness. It may be that my words wish to relay to others the relentless flow of things, the moving set of situations and circumstances that engulf life and matter, myself including. Every once in a while we all need a change of scenery and forget for a brief moment that something deeply rooted inside us never really goes away regardless of the latitude of the place we live in. 

 

Thousands of miles away from home, we are held by the puppet strings of our emotional responses and homegrown biases. Like little probes swung by turbulence drifting 12 billion miles away from Earth hooked by a timeless connection with other space missions and observatories as if they coud listen to each other faint whispers, we swing back and forth in the web of social relationships between standing up for what we believe and the influence of others, hoping to strike the right balance. Interstellar objects under the gravitational pull from the Sun, Jupiter, and on jump into the interstellar medium, beyond the solar wind, where they will be slowly pulled away by the magnetic field from another neighboring star (1).


 

Glenstone and Contour by Richard Serra
Glenstone and Contour by Richard Serra

Glenstone and Contour by Richard Serra

I departed from my beloved surroundings— the luxuriant native garden and the straight architectural lines and steel sculptures rising out of Glenstone landscape — to dive into the unknown. After a two-leg-flight and 21 hours later, I crossed the Gulf of Aden to reach Africa. From above I could already discern smoke rising from burning land and wildlife gathering in the water as the plane descended. I traded a murder of crows and a pair of vultures feasting on neighborhood trash for black and white pied crows — evocative of the smaller London magpies. One was perched on a wall along Leopards Hill Road; others were flying above Latitude 15, and a pair hopped on the front lawn of the Cathedral.


 

Symmetries
Symmetries


On the plane over the clouds at sunset, I was convinced that free will dominates the Universe. But when I reached the Mambwe District in Zambia’s Eastern Province, I felt the resurgence of a long-forgotten bond with my ancestral lineage the way I imagine space probes keep forever in their structural design the memory of those who engineered them, carrying the imprint of their souls and that of humanity. The great force of history, James Baldwin wrote, comes from the fact that each one of us carries it inside us and is unconsciously controlled by it. I still struggle with that idea, but felt on this journey into rural Zambia the weight of history, through intense dreams and emotional turmoil.

 

Mambwe's solitary baobab along the road leading to the South Luangwa National Park

Mambwe's solitary baobab along the road leading to the South Luangwa National Park

What stayed with me, though, is the unsolvable mystery of event symmetry, the mirror reflection of universal events. It is less about whether the throw of the dice could ever abolish chance than its occurrence while the ship sinks during a storm — the odd synchronicity in sceneries and landscapes, individual and collective actions. I jumped in the unknown, my hardwired brain resembling a gravity-assist interstellar probe on the edge of the heliosphere touching the far-flung corners of the galaxy, torn between the urge to resist and falling prey to the raging cosmic rays.

 

At Glenstone, a quotation by the late William Weiner tells the story of matter so shaken to its core that it leads to a change in inherent form to the extent of bringing about a change in the destiny of the material.  Bits of matter form and grow, fragment, and reform the way I see physical bodies and human,  if not cosmic, consciousness do. I have stalled where the intervals have disappeared, my living essence dripping into the shadows of Nothingness. Neutrinos, I feel, stand at its gateway. Once produced, they annihilate each other, leaving none behind.

 

The quantum state of the Universe like a topology of breaking and reconstruction of boundaries in interparticle interactions brings images to my mind of spatiotemporal chasms, crests and troughs of wave-particles the same way I see unfold social interactions when we clash and embrace each other time after time. Gap closing occurs with the popping up of surface states (2), leading to surface quantum criticality. If global and local symmetries emerge in the process, do they apply as well to spatial divisions and disappearing time intervals? Do they rule over phase transitions? The changing topology across the quantum critical state may be the sign that change itself is information encoded in the quantum field.

 

The observable manifestation of a particle is the result of an excited state of the quantum field. The question then I raise pertains to the behavior of particles. In their quantum walk as they propagate — going down multiple paths at once — do they ignore each other, stick to one another and try to get as far away as possible from each other all in the same breath? The Universe tingles at every point of contact and sinks back in disappearing intervals. 

 

If particles were words, the excited state would amount to the tingle we feel with the sense of closeness before the inspiration sinks back again. The Universe in its evolutive form bears a resemblance with a present thought, although not ignorant of the time-gap, which still regards itself as continuous with certain chosen portions of the past. Particles, likened to specks of metaphysical dust acting as a proto-will, trigger the awareness of information. 

 

While global symmetries may refer to the symmetry of charge conservation and time-reversal, supersymmetry if supported by evidence may involve the emergent symmetry of fermions — particles that form matter — and bosons — which mediate the interactions between them. In Nature, fermions transmute into bosons and vice versa while gravity may be obtained when supersymmetry is local in space and time (3). 

 

impalas next to rain trees (also named apple-leaf trees)

impalas next to rain trees (also named apple-leaf trees)

Zebras, impalas, monkeys and a waterbuck
Zebras, impalas, monkeys and a waterbuck
Zebras, impalas, monkeys and a waterbuck

Zebras, impalas, monkeys and a waterbuck

In the South Luangwa National Park strewn with ebony, apple-leaf, tamarind, and sausage trees, zebras, impalas, giraffes, waterbucks, monkeys, and others appear to live in peace side by side — except for the predatory lions, leopards, and wild dogs. We crossed the dry and sandy Luangwa riverbed in search of the iconic African baobab beyond the pristine mopane forest far from the reach of elephants. We dwelt upon the hidden life of trees and wondered if baobabs are falling prey to the changing climate the way white oaks back home seem to be. Symmetries in my head refer to those parallel events across spatiotemporal boundaries.


 

Luangwa riverbed

Luangwa riverbed

Baobabs beyond the pristine mopane forest
Baobabs beyond the pristine mopane forest

Baobabs beyond the pristine mopane forest

Badly hurt mopane trunk

Badly hurt mopane trunk

Symmetries


As if they perceived the presence of a threat, I watched animals within a 500-meter perimeter stand still, their head turned in the direction of a nearby field of tall grass, in a posture that incidentally reminded me of museum-goers gazing with perplexity at Serra’s latest installation. On other occasions, there appears to be, in a herd or a smaller group, the most curious one, the explorer ceaselessly staring while others carry on. 


 

Four rounds by Richard Serra (Glenstone)
Four rounds by Richard Serra (Glenstone)

Four rounds by Richard Serra (Glenstone)

Symmetries

The observing giraffe keeps an inquisitive eye on me. She feels the bond that ties her to the whole Universe. She has no doubt that any life form would know the coldness of the breeze, the brightness of the full moon over the Luangwa River and the thickness of the dust haze the way she experiences it. She has no doubt that the one whom she observes knows, too well, how it feels to walk, run and fall. 


 

Symmetries
Symmetries

Living beings feel the touch of gravity, the mounting tingling during intervals before collapse, the heart murmur of the Universe. The jointing and separateness among parts of the stream of consciousness may reflect a time-gap. Such a gap is intensely active, bringing every point of contact and every surface state toward a specific direction. A game of hide-and-seek plays out in the vast expansiveness of the Universe. The other end of the Janus point hides in gaps, spatiotemporal chasms, and disappearing intervals, which sculptors hopelessly want to transpose in their work as the negative space. 

 

William James spoke of the resting places of the 'substantive parts,' and the places of flight of the 'transitive parts'.  Do a pair of pigeons or pied crows signal to each other when it is time to fly? Upon their landing on the ground, I observed their resting places — the cement fences around houses and compounds, the squeaky sound of the left-hand drive cars, the pool players, the young students walking and the flowering trees along Leopards Hill Road. 


 

Buffalos

Buffalos

(1) Scientific American, July 2022, p.40

(2) Topological Quantum Critical Points in Strong Coupling limits: Global Symmetries and Strongly Interacting Majorana Fermions

(3) Absence of emergent supersymmetry at superconducting quantum critical points in Dirac and Weyl semimetals

Symmetries
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A Grain of Sand catching a Breeze

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

On July 12th, what we will see is not just an image. It’s a new world view of nature giving away secrets that have been there for many decades, centuries and millennia. Let us prepare for @NASAWebb to change our view and #UnfoldtheUniverse.

Thomas Zurbuchen

Words like beads on a necklace create a series of images. They are the voices in my head. When one speaks of Nature, it is the Earth-bound nature I see, not the Universe as a whole. I imagine that one encompasses the other, that the Universe is a reservoir of Nature, and that Nature is a separative stage of the Universe, a kind of outgrowth. We, humans, are neither at the center of the Universe nor even at the center of Nature.

 

A Grain of Sand catching a Breeze

The difference between the two words may be that one was more commonly used in the past. Words carry memories. Pascal urged us to contemplate the whole of Nature in Her full and grand majesty. The whole visible world, he added, is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of Nature (1). One meaning however has endured: Nature and the Universe both provide a sense of unity. They imply the existence of one single entity across time and scale. What was a theory of Nature has become a theory of everything. And to scientists, such a theory poses a mathematical riddle rather than an epistemological one. Rules that have been tested and verified most stringently are elevated to the status of Laws of Nature (2). Those Laws of Nature support each other like building blocks in a game of reciprocal causality. They come together, Matthew Bothwell writes, to produce a Universe filled with these ridiculously vast –- and incomparably beautiful –- structures. 

 

Nature though isn’t a passive player, a mere landscape. “Being” I recall, “came out of something, nature came out of Being”.  Nature is the genesis of growing things. It is a process of creation and refers to the life of the Universe. Indeed, the most surprising in cosmology is that the nature of the Universe requires continuous creation—the perpetual bringing into being of new background material (3). 

 

Star Forming Region: NGC 3324 In Carina Nebula (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Star Forming Region: NGC 3324 In Carina Nebula (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Somehow by the power of creation, Nature does something that seems impossible, making more energy available. Nature shapes the Universe. Its overpowering effects bring the Universe out of Nothingness, moving it forward. Not only Nature does not allow anything to perish, Lucretius wrote, till it has encountered a force that shatters it with a blow or creeps into chinks and unknits it, but Nature also repairs one thing from another and allows nothing to be born without the aid of another’s death (4). It is as if we could follow the tracks of Nature within the Universe.

By fate, not option, frugal Nature gave
One scent to hyson and to wall-flower,
One sound to pine-groves and to waterfalls,
One aspect to the desert and the lake.
It was her stern necessity: all things
Are of one pattern made; bird, beast and flower,
Song, picture, form, space, thought and character
Deceive us, seeming to be many things,
And are but one. Beheld far off, they part
As God and devil; bring them to the mind,
They dull its edge with their monotony.
To know one element, explore another,
And in the second reappears the first.
The specious panorama of a year
But multiplies the image of a day,–
A belt of mirrors round a taper’s flame;
And universal Nature, through her vast
And crowded whole, an infinite paroquet,
Repeats one note.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Xenophanes

In Nature we see fractals, and patterns, constantly and regularly occurring along a set of well-defined categories. Are Laws of Nature ineluctable and their number finite? And why is it that Nature often seems to make sense on the assumption that it has a purpose? (5) Nature becomes a fateful thing to which the Universe obeys, that which subdues the Universe. I wonder why it all comes down to the existence of governing laws from which the Universe can’t escape and where the urge to make sense and find order in all things comes from.

 

Stellar Death: Planetary Nebula NGC 3132 ( NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Stellar Death: Planetary Nebula NGC 3132 ( NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Nature versus Nurture is preceded by the ontological debate over steadiness versus evolution. Within the boundaries of physics, we look at Nature processes. As the nurturing conditions provide for evolution, the indecipherable process has complicated our understanding of the conservation of ontology. Nurturing conditions affect the geometry of the whole system. The evolved stage of Nature under the direction set by entropy bears waves of feeling and emotion across spacetime. Today what conservation of ontology means, in the most practical terms, is the conservation of Nature

Deep Field: SMACS 0723 (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Deep Field: SMACS 0723 (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)


Let’s say that the Janus point stands at the narrow neck of a sandglass. If the Universe were an expanding glass bulb and each grain of sand the size of Webb’s view of the Universe, what would constitute the steadiness of sand? To Fred Hoyle, no matter how far in time and space we, observers, view the cosmos, we will still be able to see about the same number of galaxies as we do now. At first sight, he explained, it might be thought that this could not go on indefinitely because the material forming the background would ultimately become exhausted. Following in the footsteps of Lucretius, he added that “the reason why this is not so is that new material appears to compensate for the background material that is constantly being condensed into galaxies”. Today, the advancement of new technology which allows us to peer deeper into the far reaches of the Universe seems to comfort us into such impression.

 

Interacting Galaxies: Stephan's Quintet (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

Interacting Galaxies: Stephan's Quintet (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)


In the end, where the realm of Nature begins remains an open question. Should the natural boundaries of the physical Universe extend beyond? It seems far-reaching to start Nature at the quantum level since Nature appears less probabilistic on the surface than seemingly mechanical. For Bohr, I recall, neither particles nor waves are attributes of Nature. They are no more than ideas in our minds that we impose on the natural world. But some have argued that Nature clues in a fundamental truth — quantum mechanics is unique in enabling the assignment of a non-redundant, complete final boundary condition to every system. The ambition of quantum mechanics is to predict the behavior of Nature. And the more we introduce global symmetries into the quantum world, the more Nature claims its design.

   

Aristotle observed that Nature may also represent an immanent thing from which a growing thing begins to grow. So what constitutes the steadiness of sand? If the Universe is conceptual in nature, that which is preserved, carried across time and space may be its conceptual origination, an immutable and undifferentiated essence within the evolutive appearance of reality. The immanent thing which perdures, despite or owing to variation processes, is the quantum nature defined by Freedom, Essence, and Existence. The Universe goes through stages — the agency of physical and dynamic properties and the sum of all its features weaves a network of intricate connexions within the ever-changing architecture. 

Modified table II

Modified table II

“To a man laboring under calamity,” Emerson wrote,  “the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population” (6). Nature only wears the colors of the spirit. To me, the Universe from its initial state is free to explore what it means to be.

 

A deer in the park, 

Lilies in the pound, 

The reflecting Sun, 

Stars, rings, and galaxies.

 

Rabbit crossing

Music in my ears

Highway sounds piercing

People running and biking.

 

Sun burning

Light in my eyes 

The beat of the drum

Clouds gathering and time passing.

 

Woodpecker pecking 

Stand by watching

Dog walking 

A grain of sand catching a breeze.

Bee on bergamot

Bee on bergamot

(1)Blaise Pascal, Pensées

(2) James Trefil, Cassell’s laws of Nature 

(3) Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the universe

(4) Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe

(5) Peter Dear, The intelligibility of Nature

(6) Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature


 

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The Conservation of Ontology

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Cosmic Dawn by Harley Katz/University of Oxford

Cosmic Dawn by Harley Katz/University of Oxford

Our planet is still ploughing through the debris of ancient supernovae, and I can’t help but wonder whether a muon shower might have enhanced our ability to see violet midway through the 19th century on Earth.

Allen Tager

The tiny blue planet on which we live, crisscrossed with shades of gray, lies far away from the spatiotemporal boundary of yellow-intensified violet indicative of explosive energy release. At the boundary, time flows to the surface like a river carrying particles from phantom to dust. Waves rise and fall. They are metaphysical specks acting as proto-will. As we experience the world through the blue oceans and the green foliage, our minds connect to the white light of the Sun. The approach of the Unveiled announcing the first lights breaking free from the Shadows and the grip of Nothingness relates to the all-pervading tone caught by Turner in his paintings. It is less about details than the color of light itself.

 

How and where is tonality staged as an entropic process? Where, and with what force, is the organizing power of tonality breaking down?

Kenneth M Smith, The Enigma of Entropy in Extended Tonality

George Frederic Watts, The All-Pervading (Tate Britain website)

George Frederic Watts, The All-Pervading (Tate Britain website)

I haven’t moved much from the edge of the boundary. While Cosmic Dawn stands as the final frontier of what is out there to observe, I have stalled where the interval has disappeared, neither on one side nor the other of the Janus point, but where darkness precedes and no direction has yet been distinguished. The absence created by the departure of the white-throated sparrows was filled by the mating calls of frogs. The falling catalpa flowers and the tadpoles in the pond signaled the late spring and replaced the pink and purple ground coat of cherry blossoms and redbud flowers. My ethereal essence is seeping through disappearing intervals. 

 

Disappearing intervals are time-like feelings devoid of quantified mass and without spatial shape. Time washes them away. We believe that if — as in the conception of Minkowski — space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into such mere Shadows, then only the union of the two may preserve an independent reality. But feelings, too, have an independent existence that allows for their rise and fall of their own free will.  At every point of contact, feelings come and go. It is as if a film unrolls a series of scenes by way of which time is mapping out endlessly the spatial coordinates of History. But History is an illusion that the train of time will stop and that every station is capped under the lid of a four-dimensional hypersurface

 

Modified Table

Modified Table

The scope of reality may be independent but limited. The thing about information is that it is contextual, depending on the circumstances that form the setting of an event. For every transfer of information — a sound, light, or energy — a medium is required. No message is received faster than the speed of light, even though there is evidence of faster than light signaling in a quantum superposition,  motion in GW170817 jet, and ejection from the black hole MAXI J1820+070. 

 

Information was already lost when primordial magnetic fields transferred a significant fraction of their energy to heat the colder intergalactic medium at Cosmic Dawn. The union of time and space was at first crafted with encoded information to the level of at least 10,000 to 100,000 times more than it is currently known to us. The loss of information not only was involved in energy dissipation and the decay of primordial magnetic fields, but it was also as irreversible as time itself.

 

A four-dimensional reality lies within a higher-dimensional geometry. Shrinking extra dimensions encrypted with information waiting to be released could transfer entropy into the four-dimensional Universe, providing a new way to solve the horizon and flatness problems. Entropy isn’t just a probability of change in agency, it refers to the concept of concrescence and implies a linkage of entropy with becoming

 

Is there then such a thing as a true, ontological state? Gerard t’Hooft argues that the Universe started to be in such a state and its “evolution law is such that, at all times in the future, it will still be in an ontological state”. Regardless of the initial state we started from and what was lost in the past, “the state in the future will be an ontological one”. What we have here, he asserts, is a conservation law, the conservation of ontology.

 

In geometry, I see the simplicity of forms and the essence of beauty. While a conservation law determines the conservation of the ontological state, suppose, Eddington wrote, that “we were asked to arrange the following in two categories ⎯ Distance, mass, electric force, entropy, beauty and melody,  entropy would be placed alongside beauty and melody and not with the first three”, as if entropy could be perceived intuitively. I would then understand that, in the conservation of ontology within the Universe’s contours of information fluctuation, there is entropy, beauty, and melody

Entropy is only found when the parts are viewed in association, and it is by viewing or hearing the parts in association that beauty and melody are discerned. All three are features of arrangement.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The nature of the physical world

While entropy measures the randomness of the choices but does not care what those choices are, beauty and melody are the qualitative properties necessary for the Universe to feel and be felt. Sounds may have a transcendental nature, outside the boundary of our three-dimensional physical reality. Emerging from the quantum realm, a sound is elicited by any motion of any length even that of an intuitive spark in one’s head. Resonance inside mirrors sounds outside. There exists a sounding field and the field of consciousness is filled with its ringings. The Universe, as I imagined, is a symphony of lights and sounds played on the keyboard of time. 


How could a higher-dimensional Universe be revealed out of a flat surface of reality? The union between time and space appears out of balance, with extra dimensions mostly referred to as length-like potentials of a spatial nature. But if at the dawn of everything, a kind of union of time and space was formed, resulting in the two intertwined entities having independent significance, why then would space be the only compact manifold as if extra dimensions shrink as spatial ones expand, creating a “dynamical” or “cosmological” dimensional reduction?

George Frederic Watts, The Dweller in the innermost

George Frederic Watts, The Dweller in the innermost

It isn’t that higher dimensions are non-existent. They may be empty, rather lacking the physical properties we are familiar with. To catch a glimpse at extra dimensions, there’s a need to zoom in and out and in the process, all things come in and out of consciousness. Our interest in what is not there and how to interpret such absence comes from the understanding that 95%  of the Universe is unseen, made chiefly of hidden dark energy and concealed dark matter. The lack of proximity does not enable us to see the wells from which particles crawl out. 

 

Our Universe is caught in the illusion of a three-dimensional house whose back door is time. Beyond its three macroscopic spatial dimensions, it is as if it holds a series of big and small geometrical structures, each adding to the multifold reality. Entities and their properties reveal themselves during the inputs and outputs of physical processes. Time, I feel, is the universal constant. 

 

It is a paradox that something so elusive and intangible as the ontological state of the Universe across time and space is the subject of a conservation law, with the caveat that the ontological states needed to describe the micro world, are likely to differ in many ways from the classical laws we are used to, Gerard t’Hooft concedes. A conservation law selects which quantum superpositions can be allowed and which notSo if a strong correlation between the ontological variables, as a result of their shared past, contributes to the conversation of ontology in the future, could an internal compass or external attractor pulling forward the essence of reality be in the form of a melody?

Such elusiveness is reflected in human endeavors. From Mallarmé’s Throw of the Dice to Skryabin’s Enigma, we feel embedded in the crisscross hatchings of the universal landscape, unable to escape. To borrow Skryabin’s words, the ontological state of the Universe may be “terribly slippery and evasive, and in this slippery evasiveness,” there is beauty and great coquetry. And there’s no way you’ll ever catch it…So we are bound to the dark side, the Shadows. Even what we have learned to know as the baryonic matter is mainly spread through the diffuse plasma and gas of the intergalactic medium. And then there is us on this tiny blue planet lost in the midst of only ten percent of the star-made baryonic matter, confronted with what we observe and gifted with the ability to dream and reflect. 

 

George Frederic Watts, Hope 1886

George Frederic Watts, Hope 1886

We carry dreams that will be further shaped by those who follow. Dreams will seed, grow and become fruits reaped by a community of minds.

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Freedom, Essence, Existence

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Freedom, Essence, Existence

It may be that a throw of dice will never abolish chance, but as soon as the infinite game is on, each time the dice are tossed, it gives a nudge, a direction, builds things to a higher specification. It sets the course like, in the case of the Universe, when constraints are placed upon cosmological parameters. As silence ceases, noise becomes more definite, more in a hurry. After hesitation shown in the first moments, a kind of increased rustling replaces the interval that had disappeared (1). 

 

The Universe starts by preparing and stirring pairs of particles and antiparticles like poets mix ideas in their heads.  And then it throws the dice. Within the initial chaos and the intrinsic degrees of freedom, there are potentially the unique Numbers that cannot be others (2) — the necessary fine-tuning of cosmological parameters allowing for the existence of one poet writing the tale of a roll of dice in the midst of a shipwreck. 

Dutch boats in a gale, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dutch boats in a gale, Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Universe resembles a free spirit testing the waters until it finds its way and so, setting the course of its uncharted destiny. Randomly through particles’ interactions, mergers of celestial objects, multiplicity of events, the path upon which it finds itself opens beneath its feet. What sort of a thing the Universe is in its ultimate and simplest nature? Freedom is the essence of its existence. We must recognize, Sartre wrote, that the indispensable and fundamental condition of all action is the freedom (3) of the acting Being. It is the freedom of a diffuse sense of being that spreads through all things.

If, when we speak of being, the hope is to see such a state numerically alone, the multitude of beings, that our common sense leads us to differentiate, become all of a sudden ghosts. Those pretended beings assembled by tribes unite with being and merge within, each of which follows the banner of a particular line of existence.

Etienne Souriau

A Wreck, with fishing boats, Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Wreck, with fishing boats, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Against all appearances, it isn’t Mallarmé who brought me to London. It is Longfellow’s soul, whose presence I felt near the Lighthouse of Portland, which guided me to the circle of poets in Westminster Abbey. I passed by where lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking in the scientists’ corner as I dwelled upon his words about the rolling of dice. Einstein often used that very same expression to convey his idea, that surely, God did not play dice. To him, the Universe is absolutely determined and could not be inherently probabilistic. But as Stephen Hawking pointed out: Not only does God definitely play dice, He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen. The other way to look at it would be to say that our lack of proximity does not allow us to make a proper assessment — possibly because what we can’t see stays below the surface, not in contact with the outside world. 

The Shipwreck exhibited 1805, Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Shipwreck exhibited 1805, Joseph Mallord William Turner

From the surface of a page to the surface of a painting, what is it with shipwrecks in stormy seas that captures the minds of poets and painters alike? Somehow Einstein’s words brought me to Mallarmé’s poem which unfolds like a music composition, a visual representation, a dance choreography. Words scattered on blank pages, like stars in the sky, are debris of a shipwreck swept away, floating on the swinging and rocking waves.  Each word and group of words are events spread in timelessness, matter build-up adding texture to the fabric of spacetime. 

 

Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard, Stéphane Mallarmé

Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard, Stéphane Mallarmé


I pause to meditate upon the uppermost layer of things and how it reflects reality. Gerard ’t Hooft argues that there simply are not more degrees of freedom to talk about than those discrete degrees projected on the surface called boundary. Still, on the oil painting surface, J. M. W. Turner made the Sun rise through vapor. He painted the blurred boundary of skies and waters, the ocean foam, the reflection of clouds in the waves. Art opens to the Infinite. My eyes see the bubbling gathering of the Unveiled whose approach I feel. 

Sun Rising Through Vapour, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sun Rising Through Vapour, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Beyond the daily conversation we engage with others, what if our souls could communicate with one another? What if museums were a place for those ghostly encounters? Whatever the artists’ intent is, their artworks trigger something more and bring to the surface what is deep within. The profound meaning isn’t the fragmentary nature of events whose projection on the surface is what we can see. It is that, in the background, events are interlocked, implicated in one another timelessly. Events fit into each other, blending as if they were one and the same. They relate in my mind to the prismatic art of creation. There exists a simultaneity of events: the tossing of dice in a shipwreck. 

Life-Boat and Manby Apparatus Going Off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal (Blue Lights) of Distress, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Life-Boat and Manby Apparatus Going Off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal (Blue Lights) of Distress, Joseph Mallord William Turner


On the surface, we wonder whether there is such a thing as a sheer coincidence,  a supreme conjunction with probability (4). The Universe began its waking day with a Big Bang and will end at the stroke of midnight. One event mirrors the other. A formless existence of an accidental nature — like a brewing storm on a still surface — reveals the hidden process through which what is merely potential frees itself from the fateful suspension of time as if in a landscape painted by Turner. 

 

There are those who believe that there is only one objective reality. It isn’t that the hidden sector is unthinkable, due to information loss. It is that it doesn’t exist, denying therefore the probabilistic properties of the underlying degrees of freedom. Chance, they say, is born out of pretense. And there are those, whom Smolin calls magical realists, who imagine what lies beyond the phantom divide. Chance and fate on a universal scale are so intertwined that we are unable to separate one from the other. We can’t tell which side the Universe is on.

Seascape with Buoy, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Seascape with Buoy, Joseph Mallord William Turner

To the magical realists, chance has three properties. It is real, concrete, and eternal (4). How then can chance and variation rise up to the surface? How can it come out from an absence of meaning to get to a state of intended meaning? In short, in an act where chance fulfills its own idea by affirming or denying itself, Mallarmé wrote, in the face of its existence, negation and affirmation fail. It contains the Absurd -- implies it but in a latent state and prevents it from existing: which allows the Infinite to be (4). Chance, whose tangibility manifests itself in the tossing of the dice, is all at once Freedom, Essence, and Existence.

 

Concepts caught in a circle dance have switched places: Time, Gravity, Space. Freedom, Essence, Existence. If I were to imagine the underpainting of the universal canvas, I would describe how dark energy is diffuse throughout the Universe and would raise the possibility of hidden interactions, through gravity, between the inflationary quintessence and the ordinary matter. Adding another layer to our story, there exists a relation of a particular event — the rolling of dice — to the three Universals of Time, the Quantum Universe, and Nothingness. 


 

Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’), Joseph Mallord William Turner

Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for ‘Rockets and Blue Lights’), Joseph Mallord William Turner

It may be that existence — whether that be of a particle, a wave, or dice — precedes essence. But Nothingness is the origin of their essence. How did the Universe come into being? Infinite interweaves with disorder at the threshold of Nothingness. Sartre, endowed with a sculptor’s mind, visualized the negative space. If negation is the original structure of transcendence, he wrote, what must be the original structure of ‘human reality’ in order for it to be able to transcend (3) the Universe? 

 

Sir Arthur Eddington wrote that the practical measure of the random element which can increase in the Universe but never decrease is called entropy. He added that measuring by entropy is the same as measuring by chance. If God doesn’t play dice, I suppose He knows what entropy means. In any event, I leave Turner behind. My traveling soul is drawn to Cleveland.

Breakers on a Flat Beach, Joseph Mallord William Turner

Breakers on a Flat Beach, Joseph Mallord William Turner

  1. Stéphane Mallarmé, Igitur
  2. Stéphane Mallarmé, Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard 
  3. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
  4. Quentin Maillassoux, Le Nombre et la sirène
  5. R. Howard Bloch, One Toss of the dice
L'immensité, Gustave Courbet

L'immensité, Gustave Courbet

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There is no Consciousness without Gravity

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Donaldson Run

Donaldson Run

As I review earlier posts, I hope to mend holes in the original goal I had chosen for myself to imagine what cosmic consciousness is. It is not that there are different levels of consciousness but that there are various degrees of receptivity and sensibility. Questions still linger: Since there exists an interconnectedness of all beings and matter — past, present, and future — why is it that, even in contact with the outside world,  human consciousness remains unaware of such connection?   If a suprahuman form of consciousness possesses a depth of meaning and a clearness of vision beyond our comprehension, shouldn’t stars which have been around for billions of years, have developed by now a conscious memory?

 

The ethereal body of my living soul hangs on a string from the Moon. At a human level, consciousness is chatter between body, heart, mind, and soul. By soul, I mean that there is a part of eternity in humans, an ethereal essence. I once thought of time as a four-wheeled carriage on an endless road. I even thought that it is all at once the invisible carriage, the wheels with repetitive patterns of emergence, and the horse that leads us, with our heads in the clouds, through the expanding space. We are transported where we can’t see, endowed with an intuitive mind besieged by fears. Regardless of whether we find the missing time logs in the story of the Universe, the past even riddled with holes is unchangeable. What is, then, the meaning of our personal lives?

 

Are we built to pledge our lives to a group, even to the risk of death, or the opposite, built to place ourselves and our families above all else?

E.O. Wilson, The meaning of Human Existence


Great minds will be known for generations to come by the quotes they leave behind.  Although they are often used out of context, most quotes are quite inspirational. E. O. Wilson defined the meaning of human existence as “the epic of the species”(1). We are, I feel, the ants that he studied all his life. We live and die to advance the welfare of the community not for our profit, may that community be made of humans or stars. And the future is “what we will choose to become”. Where then do we go from here: Chaos or community? (2) It depends. 

 

Wilson also observed that we “would rather believe than know”(3). A belief is a refuge where the mind goes when nothing seems to make sense. We believe in beauty, higher purpose, and the power of good against evil for we need the courage to carry on. Wilson later wrote that we are drowning in information while starving for wisdom. “The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information, think critically about it, and make important choices” (4). To those synthesizers who wish to be void of purpose, intuition is their pilgrim’s rod and doubts pave the path on which they often trip. 

 

The holographic principle states that information concerning the interior (of a volume element) “dissipates away due to information loss, while only the information located on the surface survives, possibly because it stays in contact with the outside world”(5). Beyond the surface area of a black hole’s horizon, should such a principle apply to our surroundings, the people we know, the Earth, the Moon, and the entire Universe? Do we live in a holographic world where all that we see and know is only the surface, a small part of it? How then can we be able to gather the right information, think critically about it, and make important choices?

 

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Phytoplankton blooms can be seen on a satellite image, but research is still needed to evaluate the cascading effects of the increasing rate at which it occurs in the Arctic and elsewhere on zooplankton and the oceans’ food web. On our planet where coastal lands erode under villagers’ feet and extinct birds are inert sculptures haunting the last sites where they were seen, the thing about knowledge is that we think we know what we know, but by the time we know, it all has already past. 

 

A belief is a refuge where the mind takes comfort in the face of death and destruction. Where have the white-throated sparrows been these past few months? Did they fly further south to escape the unusually cold winter? Did they neglect the native garden after a few white oaks were taken down in the neighborhood? Today, though, I hear them loud and clear. They are passing by until the time will come to leave. Do they know how it felt like to be a great awk or a heath hen?

 

What stays in contact with the outside world, what is derived from interactions with the physical environment defines the relational property of consciousness. There exists an ‘in-between’— an interface, a point of contact — where a human, a star, a planet and even a black hole make contact with something of a different order, feeding one’s own sense of being. Such an inner resonance — that is individual consciousness — triggers and is triggered by time-specific interactions with the Universe.    

 

 

Space

Time

Gravity

Freedom

Existence

Essence

Entropy

Information

Energy

Agency

Sentience

Consciousness

From the surface of things, I uttered a feeling that there is no Consciousness without gravity, that there are gravity waves of consciousness — billions of them — running through a multilayered spacetime. I circle back to the question of gravity as if  I were a planet making its very first revolution. I ended the previous post with the same fundamental question I started with: does dark matter even exist? If it does, it may be a gravitationally polarized fluid — although an invisible one. Dark matter could be what a gravitational field clothes itself in. If it does not, any calculation or indirect observation related to its mass and behavior may be the result of an illusion caused by the gravitational polarization of the quantum vacuum. 

 

Long Bridge Park across Reagan Airport

Long Bridge Park across Reagan Airport

Ideas are subject to gravity, too. They fall up and down, drip by drip. They need time to enter the space of knowing. Without gravity, will fall leaves know which direction to fall? Will trees know how to position their roots? Are the curves in the spacetime continuum meant for stars and galaxies to move along them? Gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime. It may be the presence of a gravitational field, Penrose writes, that takes the description of a physical system out of the realm of pure quantum physics. The gravitational field becomes the ground for absorption and emission of discrete bundles of quanta. Does the process involve the gravitization of quanta or the quantization of gravity?

 

Spacetime is discrete and so is consciousness. Cosmic consciousness stands for the gathering of clouds of shared resonance and ripples of information, in which all spatiotemporally localized points of contact are built upon quantum entanglement. Stellar consciousness emerges out of the gravitational energy of stars and extends its reach beyond their gravitational field. Hindered by an army of armors, shells, and layers, caught in the fabric of spacetime, consciousness communicates in an incoherent language and slips by unnoticed. Here is a belief that the time flow which precedes that of things is the breath of consciousness. Within the time flow, there exists the essence of a wave. When silence ceases and noise grows, waves of consciousness spread under the pull of a multidimensional gravity.

 

Cherry blossom along the Tidal Basin

Cherry blossom along the Tidal Basin

(1) E.O. Wilson, The meaning of human existence

(2) Martin Luther King Jr., Where then do we go from here: Chaos or community?

(3) E.O. Wilson, Man: From Sociobiology to Sociology

(4) E.O. Wilson, Consilience

(5) Approaches to Quantum Gravity, Daniele Oriti (Editor)

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Dark Holes

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

The hidden dark side of NGC 24 (NASA, GSFC)

The hidden dark side of NGC 24 (NASA, GSFC)

Staring at what is missing from this view of the galaxy NGC 24 in the Sculptor Constellation: that’s what dark matter is about. It is finding the invisible. By now tens of thousands of papers have been written on the subject of dark matter. Wrapping our heads around them is unfeasible. Swamped by an array of questions, the birdlike mind watches from above. The possibility that a gravitational force, largely due to the mass of the Milky Way halo could play a role in the trajectory of celestial objects such as Oumuamua and the putative Planet Nine brings me back to a review of what I have gathered so far on dark matter.

 

If some are convinced of the existence of dark matter, others show skepticism. Theories intend to explain discrepancies in the distribution of dark matter between small and larger galaxies. It is suggested that the motion in retrograde manner of dark matter has important effects on the morphology and evolution of barred disc galaxies. If we can’t confront dark matter, dynamic mechanisms involved in the interaction between dark matter particles and baryons appear to be even more elusive. Sifting through data accumulated by the ATLAS experiment, it is concluded that no more than 13% of Higgs bosons produced in the Large Hadron Collider could be transformed into particles invisible to the detector. 


We travel through time building models and developing scenarios on how it began and what features were those of the early Universe that led to the current setting. A singularity out of sight lies beyond spacetime, at the beginning of the Universe. Hydrogen atoms gas fed the formation of the first entities: stars and black holes. The 21-cm spectral line produced by hydrogen atoms is an essential finding. The cooling effect or momentum transfer may have occurred between minicharged dark particles and baryons. On the edge of the infinitely small, it is suggested that only a fraction of those milli-charged dark matter particles interacted with ordinary matter.

 

A singularity out of sight lies beyond spacetime, at the beginning of the Universe.

A singularity out of sight lies beyond spacetime, at the beginning of the Universe.

Theorists looking for lost time at the birth of the Universe grapple with the ontological nature of reality.  We’re told that it all started with equal numbers of matter and antimatter but that we observe today a nonzero mass difference. At later times matter eventually will decay, with the baryon number reverting to zero. At CERN,  researchers are attempting to find any evidence of interaction between antimatter and dark matter. One of the Antiproton Decelerator experiments at CERN, the ALPHA collaboration, reported its first measurements of certain quantum effects in the energy structure of antihydrogen, the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen.

Shedding Bent Light on Dark Matter (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, University of Basque Country/JHU)

Shedding Bent Light on Dark Matter (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, University of Basque Country/JHU)

The line between the invisible and the visible, although swinging slightly bringing light into darkness, has not been crossed. While we do not know what dark particles are, we succeed at narrowing down the object of our search, placing constraints on their properties. Could dark matter be present right under our nose, gravitationally bound to celestial objects such as the Moon or Jupiter

 

Dark matter could be so many things that I would not know where to start. It may be a cold, fuzzy, collisionless fluid. It may be composed of a type of not yet discovered particles: right-handed neutrinos, baryons of mirror matter, or even fifth-dimensional dark fermions, to list a few. The cogenesis of dark matter and a process called leptogenesis — that produced the matter-antimatter asymmetry — may have occurred in the presence of primordial black holes. Those cosmic objects from the firsts moments of the Universe were in a microstate. Some became, in the course of their evolution, centers of galaxies while others still wander around without populations of stars orbiting them.

 

Romulus simulations can predict which supermassive black holes, following a galaxy merger, will make it to the center of their new host galaxy and how long that process takes. Many binaries are said to be formed after several billions of years of orbital evolution, while some never made it to the center. Milky Way-mass galaxies are found to host an average of 12 supermassive black holes, which typically lie throughout the dark matter halos.

 

Supermassive black holes are invisible and extremely heavy objects. Do the same invisibleness and heaviness apply to dark matter? Could dark matter accumulate near black holes, forming spike distribution on a black hole event horizon? Could it fall through the true horizon to a cosmic hidden sector? The introduction of extra dimensions, a fifth-dimension force or a mirror universe would make a serious dent in the concept of nothingness, diminishing its scope further. If there is no such thing as nothingness that precedes the generation of space from 'zero time’, then there may be no end to the shrinking entities of the Universe. Nothingness may stand as a threshold of a hidden dimension of spacetime. It would, though, require us to believe in something to exist beyond.

 

Space, like the sea with its currents, hosts tidal shocking and stripping causing gas clouds of baryonic matter and dark matter to jostle into each other,  pulling each other in and out. Tracks or wakes as if in the sea implicitly hint at density perturbations within spacetime and the existence of something in the makeup of the Universe instead of nothing. Satellite galaxies such as the Large Magellanic Cloud in its first infall may leave, through the Milky Way, dark matter debris no longer gravitationally bound to it. 

 

How to study dark matter footprints and stellar stream distortions is key to disentangling processes involving stellar streams and dark matter halos. Scenes of their encounters, impacting each other’s shape and velocity, are set in spacetime, etched in the memory of galaxies. Some see the Universe as if clusters of baryonic matter were embedded into halos of dark matter. Space acts as a screen on which scenes of universal life are projected. Scientists tackle both ends of the Universe: the extremely small and the infinitely large. As they try to identify the microscopic nature of dark matter, they attempt to describe at the same time the role of dark matter in the macroscopic Universe on the edges of galaxies. Spacetime becomes a scaffolding upon which large mergers alter the morphology of galaxies and dark matter halos.  Could a single field be responsible for both inflation and dark matter? Dark matter and dark energy may be two faces of the same coin.

 

In the end, dark matter may be heterogeneous, behaving differently depending on scale and location, whether it be in halos around galaxies and galaxy clusters or around galactic centers. Its heterogeneity would allow the possibility for collision and interaction between dark matter particles. Some would even imagine the self-interacting dark matter to be in many ways like what we observe with the baryonic matter. Could dark matter be at times warm or hot, linked to the thermalization history of the Universe? Could there be dark photons? Dark matter may not only be comprised of self-interacting dark matter but also made up of primordial black holes.

 

Radio surveys by EDGES, LOFAR, and HERA — which provided its first set of data — as well as in the future SKA, among others, are the first results available to us in our investigation into the topology of the early Universe. In a bouncing Universe, Penrose imagines dark matter particles as gravitational entities called erebons which decay completely at the end of each eon to then be created afresh at the beginning. Perhaps, he adds, we will need detectors of a different kind to see erebon decays in our eon. Adding to the detection of gravitational waves by observatories such as LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA, we expect the James Webb telescope to match images to some of the early radio emissions and provide answers to lingering questions about black holes at the dawn of time. Furthermore, if dark matter particles could annihilate into gamma-ray radiation, it is suggested that the intensity of such events near a black hole could provide a good opportunity to detect the dark matter annihilation signal. 

 

The principle called Occam’s razor states that plurality should not be posited without necessity. Which of the above-mentioned hypotheses provides the simplest explanation? Instead of new particles that we have not discovered yet, could we do away with dark matter? A new Relativistic Theory for Modified Newtonian Dynamics is said to be best at reproducing key cosmological observables. But if its mass can be calculated and its increase and decrease recorded, with the advent of cosmological events such as the infall of the Large Magellanic Cloud, how can the concept of dark matter be dismissed by the introduction of a modified force of gravity? Could both represent fragments of reality?

It seems impossible
they seemed immortal.
Where are they going
if not to their next poems?
Poems that, like lives, make do
and make that doing do more—
holding a jolt like a newborn,
a volta turning toward a god-load
of grief dumped from some heaven
where words rain down
and the poet is soaked. Cold
to the bone, we’ve become. Thick-
headed, death-bedded, heartsick.
Poets. Flowers picked, candles wicked,
forgiving everyone they tricked.

The Poets are dying, Brenda Shaughnessy

Dancing around the center of the galaxy, we are lost in a land where a never-ending stream of questions flows. I still ponder why the length of time light travels from the galactic center to the Earth is within the same order as the time it takes for the Earth to go through one complete precession cycle.

Poets, I feel,  are not dying. They have fallen into a deep slumber, carried on a time ship hoping to return to where it all began.

But unfortunately it can only travel into the future
at a rate of one second per second,
 which seems slow to the physicists and to the grant
committees and even to me.
 But I manage to get there, time after time, to the next
moment and to the next.
 Thing is, I can't turn it off. I keep zipping ahead—
well not zipping—And if I try
 to get out of this time machine, open the latch,
I'll fall into space, unconscious,
 then desiccated! And I'm pretty sure I'm afraid of that.
So I stay inside.
 There's a window, though. It shows the past.
It's like a television or fish tank.
 But it's never live; it's always over. The fish swim
in backward circles.
 Sometimes it's like a rearview mirror, another chance
to see what I'm leaving behind,
 and sometimes like blackout, all that time
wasted sleeping.

I Have a Time Machine, Brenda Shaughnessy

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Artistic Research

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Let’s be clear: creative artistic thinking is neither a creative technique nor about painting pictures or making sculptures. This is a preconception we must get rid of. Creativity is not a prisoner of art. Rather, artistic thinking can take place anywhere, in any mind, in any discipline, and any area of life. It’s an attitude of turning towards an open, fluid matrix of possibilities.

Ursula Bertram

Detail from Lacaille's 1756 Planisphere

Detail from Lacaille's 1756 Planisphere

We occupy the surface of a tiny speck in the Virgo Supercluster, an appendage of the Laniakea Supercluster, where birds’ whistles cover the faint hum of gravitational waves and the ground tremors of volcanoes, all increasing our sense of connection with the Universe.  From this vantage point, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille saw in the Southern Sky what he named the Sculptor’s studio that he drew on his planisphere like a carved head on a tripod table, and a mallet and two chisels on the side. Within the constellation lies the Sculptor Galaxy — NGC 253 — discovered by the German-British astronomer Caroline Herschel in 1783. In the same part of the celestial sky, there’s the Sculptor Void next to the South Pole Wall. 

 

The sculptor void is filled with the artist’s doubts. Research takes multiple forms: art, science, philosophy, language. Arts, including poetry which is an art form, started as terrain of research, but creativity has spilled over the arts’ domain. Each discovery pushes away our self-imposed constraints. Scientists, artists, and philosophers alike are searchers, “best at asking questions than at answering them”,  poised to pause and reflect in the face of the unknown as if their simmering brain could slowly soften the toughest puzzles that the Universe has to give. 

 

Research requires an insatiable urge of knowing. It implies the need to keep going and proceed from one item to the next. One theme ceases and another begins, all parts of the same assemblage, and so creating a body of work. Such a “territorial assemblage” requires the dismantling of frontiers, the deterritorializing of space that engulfs a series of items, thoughts, ideas, concepts all meant to support and articulate the unspoken narrative inside the researcher’s head. The method that is being used is what I would call (for lack of a better word) the presentification of an anteriority while the goal, for the artist-researcher in particular, isn’t appropriation but the peripatetic assemblage of a space of feelings.

The artist as researcher will have to find an equilibrium between context and discourse, between theory and practice, between personal expression and the rigorous nature of research, and between operating on the margins of artistic practice and appropriating the tools and criteria that already exist in science.

Kathleen Coessens, Darla Crispin, Dr. Anne Douglas, The Artistic Turn: A Manifesto

While artists feel the presence of the indicible, science only considers that which can be expressed. Through arts we feel the connections outside and inside of us. Intuition is what helps us navigate within those terrestrial and cosmic influences. To create requires “some intimation of what it is that will be created; this intimation springs in part from collective, prior experience but also requires some personal, intuitive spark to prime the act of stepping beyond that prior knowledge.” (1). It isn’t just something within ourselves seeking outward manifestation, it is a two-way mirror, a flow inward and outward. 

 

Research starts small, then expands its reach. It provides a resonance box to one’s inner voice. It calls for mingling with ideas, concepts and putting them together, and seeing how they fit. Artistic research is, even more, an experimental process. The contours and content may be termed as rhizomatic as the artist-researcher goes down the rabbit trail, making endless connections because the act of creation is intrinsically an act of “testing out the intimations and speculations”. In the process, some preliminary thoughts will run their course naturally while others will enter a dormant stage.

 

In the end, the lines between the state of not yet knowing and knowing are blurred as if our senses are closed off, brushing off the indicible feeling. As much as we wish to gain more knowledge, we remain clueless about how much is left for us to learn, the extent of our ignorance. Research becomes a cave in which the mind crawls on its knees and digs deeper with its bare hands. We feel time pressure, but time only whispers in our ears: “You are not alone. I keep you company.”

 

An artist-researcher is not different from a child in the dark who “orients himself with his little song as best he can” in the heart of what may be considered a disorganized system of thoughts, an improvisation. Such an improvisation, however, could lead to the “threshold of a territorial assemblage”. Research guides us in narrowing down “the right questions to ask and the right order to ask them in” (2). It allows the researcher to know what is known and what is unknown and figure out what can be known or what is still needed to be known.

 

Sometimes such a disorganized system of thoughts may revolve around “an immense black hole in which one endeavors to fix a fragile point as a center. Sometimes one organizes around that point a calm and stable pace (rather than a form): the black hole has become a home. Sometimes one grafts onto that pace a breakaway from the black hole” (3). But for an artist-researcher, it is not only being at home in a black hole. It is trying to find out how it feels like to be a black hole, to be nothingness

 

Behind what drives an artist-researcher is the inescapable urge to experience, to identify oneself with the subject at hand and see how it feels. The routes to that which is not there bring me to the tale of the true horizon and the illusory horizon of a black hole. The illusory horizon is said to be the holographic screen of the black hole for both outsiders and insiders, encoding for each observer the states hidden behind their illusory horizon.

Artistic Research

When an observer free-falls through the horizon of the black hole, they fall through the true horizon, not the illusory horizon. The true horizon becomes visible to the observer only after the observer has passed through it. The illusory horizon continues to appear ahead of the observer even after they have passed through the true horizon.

Andrew J. S. Hamilton

If I were a scow or a barge
At the end of a creaking rope,
Beautiful slow river,
I would go down to your provinces.

If I were a quiet drowned,
I would go between two waters,
Looking for some island
Where to fall asleep in the reeds.

Carolina poplar,
I would spread with a gentle gesture
My thin shadow
On the flat and smooth waves.

Moonbeam or dead leaf,
I would like, light and dancing,
That you take me away
See other countries in passing.

But what am I, if not a poet
(Suffice to say a heart full of boredom),
my cigarette
Lighting me alone in the night?

Jean de La Ville de Mirmont, L'horizon chimérique


The loss of objectivity threatens us all and the lure of an illusory horizon poses a risk to the researcher’s endeavors. As the reference points of a theory of everything appear to move and displace themselves over time, how will I know that I pass through the true horizon? “Is there a compass from which” I could deduce the ‘True North’ of my quest? Am I chasing the illusory horizon? 

 

Research resembles a free fall, a plunge into deep waters, an act of direct carving not of stone but of a bundle of ideas and concepts. ’The breath of the Void’ describes the trajectory of the creative act during stone carving when the space occupied by the stone merges past, present, and future: what it was, what it is, and what it will be. Researchers are like carvers who struggle to see forms breaking out of the mass of knowledge. Tomorrow highlights yesterday’s steps. Another mile marker on the itinerary map… 

In those days, though, I never analysed
Myself even. All analysis comes late.
You catch a sight of Nature, earliest,
In full front sun-face, and your eyelids wink
And drop before the wonder of ‘t; you miss
The form, through seeing the light. I lived, those days,
And wrote because I lived–unlicensed else:
My heart beat in my brain. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, First Book

(1) Kathleen CoessensDarla CrispinDr. Anne Douglas, The Artistic Turn: A Manifesto

(2) Daniel C. Dennett, Breaking the Spell

(3) Gilles DeleuzeFélix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

 

The Fragility Within (Inner fragility is specific to stone. It is also a common trait of people and nations.)

The Fragility Within (Inner fragility is specific to stone. It is also a common trait of people and nations.)

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Round and Round it goes

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Looking at the totality of life, the POET asks, Who are Gaia’s children?
The ECOLOGIST responds, They are the species. We must know the role each one plays in the whole in order to manage Earth wisely.
The SYSTEMATIST adds, Then let’s get started. How many species exist? Where are they in the world? Who are their genetic kin?

The future of life, Edward O. Wilson

As if a universal principle unfolds in the spacetime continuum, muons spin, electrons travel in an orbit and molecular cloud rings and disks show a preferential orientation in their rotation. Round and round it goes from the infinitesimally small to the exponentially large.The poet wonders, Which direction do they all move around?

 

I try to pull myself out of the puzzling state of nothingness. Somehow I still feel its shadow between the lines written by Gilles Deleuze. He mentions the “emptiness of pure time” and adds that time, as we experience it, isn’t defined by “an empty formal order but by a whole and a series.” Time implies a temporal order of spatial situations. It invites motion. Together with space and gravity, it draws flows and loops in the fabric of the Universe, stirring units of change. Without motion, time returns to nothingness. 

 

Time is an empty shell filling itself with loops of temporalities hanging onto what is perceived to be a central, linear thread of time. Some loops appear similar; others, different, all molded into the combining framework of spacetime. Planets, comets, and stars on a different time frame ride a billion-year journey. It’s in the repetitive deployment of events that our shared memory loses its sense of collectiveness. 

 

E. O. Wilson wrote about the gravity-shaped “membrane of organisms wrapped around Earth” to which we, the human species, belong. It is “so thin,” he commented, that “it cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet so internally complex.” I would go so far as to say that if everything is repetition in the series of time in relation to the fundamental principle of biological geography, then those repetitive tableaux, may they be a transient film on grains of sand — boiling hot or supercooled — are random features of past, present, and future in the Universe. Even if nothing alive has so far been visible to past and present observers outside of our planetary surface, single cells of microorganisms grow and reproduce, or at least are “dormant and awaiting” somewhere in the Universe.

Beyond carbon-based life, there’s something alive in the kinematics and dynamical processes of gravitationally-bound groups of stars moving and dissolving with similar space velocities. Movement creates difference and repetition. On the blank canvass of nothingness, there exists a chameleon-like field, the scene of an exchange between dark matter and ordinary matter brought about by a long-range fifth force among bodies. The resonance between loops, webs of lines and circles crossing each other and cutting through define space as it consists, essentially from Leibniz to Barbour, in the relations among bodies, and not as an entity existing in its own right. 


 

My head spins as I visualize a muon spin rotation, Penrose’s concept of spin networks, and the Earth spinning on itself.  All of the above seem non-axisymmetric with axes zigzagging through space. Penrose’s spin networks are the first sets of temporal and spatial series in a process of actualization. He wrote that it is the geometry of “spin-axes” of the large units which is the real geometry

 

Spin precession of a charged particle, virtual and constrained in the hidden sectors, reminds us of similar phenomena observed with macroscopic systems. Precession connects microscopic physics to macroscopic planetary science. It changes our astronomical vantage point by displacing what we call the North Star from Polaris to Vega. It defines the wobbling of an object around an axis like the Earth in a 26,000-year cycle and the anomalous movement of muon whose measurement was corroborated by the findings of the Fermilab’s Muon g-2 experiment. 

 

We hope to learn with an experiment at Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex expected to start in 2025 to what extent the muon’s anomalous magnetic moment is anomalous. On a quantum level, a muon’s precession is a clue to understanding the time it takes to traverse a barrier between nothingness and being. In the presence of the magnetic field, a muon sits within a cloud of particles popping in and out of existence as it emits and absorbs photons, changing, although slightly, its magnetic moment.

Original and precession axes create an entangled Universe and point to objects at farther distances. As we picture mentally virtual particles twinkling spontaneously in the muon’s cloud, imaginary lines running through individual objects, we wonder how far and deep our consciousness can expand, the spatiotemporal limits of its reach.  Woven into the fabric of time, there is the thread of an open communication through the many and various series of a universal, yet indescribable, phenomenon of resonance filtering through the tips of fingers, the edges of galaxies: a certain je ne sais quoi that I internally feel.

 

It would seem so easy to see repetition in past, present, and future, in the way things unfold and feel alike. But such an eternal return, in the spatialization process of time, “brings back neither the condition nor the agent: on the contrary, it expels them,” Deleuze writes, out of space to that which I can’t yet see. It ensures autonomy and independence of resulting individuals and allows nothing “to subsist of the default or the becoming the same.” Time affirms individuality. Between nothingness and oneness, structures scatter while others form; objects become fuzzier as if they were camouflaged in the chameleon-like field of time while new ones take shape.

 

We may never know whether Oumuamua’s non-gravitational acceleration is the result of an undetectable release of gases. Its entry, however, into our ever-growing field of view makes us wonder what its hyperbolic trajectory, once completed, might look like. As it wobbles, would its path take it back to the proximity of its once alleged place of origin, the Carina and Columba moving groups? We may dream of the journey of other interstellar objects — asteroids, comets, and unidentified objects— sailing through star clusters and molecular clouds. Out of nothingness, into space, imaginary axes and angles of precession precede, I feel, those objects’ timely intrusion into our line of vision.

 NGC 3318 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, ESO, R. J. Foley; CC BY 4.0 Acknowledgement: R. Colombari)

NGC 3318 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, ESO, R. J. Foley; CC BY 4.0 Acknowledgement: R. Colombari)

E.O. Wilson, The future of Life

Gilles Deleuze, Différence et répétition

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Edward Osborne Wilson

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Edward O. Wilson has passed away. He was for many years my only and true inspiration, the reason behind my own quest. I am saddened by his passing.

Alike for those who for Today prepare,
And those that after some Tomorrow stare,
A Muezzín from the Tower of Darkness cries,
"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There"

...

Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
Tomorrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

...

There was the Door to which I found no Key;
There was the Veil through which I could not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was---and then no more of Thee and Me.

Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn;
Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs revealed
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.

...

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain---This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us passed the door of Darkness through
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.

The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burned,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep
They told their fellows, and to Sleep returned.

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