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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James Webb Telescope

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

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Oumuamua

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine

What is left of time passing? Ruins of castles, scrambled places in my head, old photos of stairways I climbed to the top of a mountain cutting through the thick haze. Seated on a rock overlooking streams and rivers, I wish to see things more clearly. The appearance of a sculpture changes every second like ideas and physical bodies do until they all turn to dust. A mass of stone gradually forms and then vanishes. “The world is not so much made of stones,” Carlo Rovelli writes, “as of fleeting sounds, or of waves moving through the sea”*. 

 

A wave is an imprint of all universal things traveling through spacetime. The study of the wave function involves probability graphs, their state, and their evolution. Such a mathematical description mirrors in my head the mental experience of intuition that is said to be like the sight of generic signals going up and down on graphs. On the inside, the geometric mind arranges an array of concepts and assembles a bundle of images. It reacts to the noise uttered by the flowing river of ideas, forming geometric objects with its wandering thoughts, dancing circles under one roof out of which spiraling Universals flow. On the outside, geometry points to the relevance of gravitation force. 

 

On the one hand, nothingness is a timeless presence; on the other, anything that could happen exists**, has existed, or will exist. Our fragmented Universe grows out of spacetime through the quantum realm in which probabilities exist. The geometric mind recreates intuitively the geometry of its surroundings. It assigns the number zero to nothingness and one to the wholeness of the quantum Universe. Zero and one set off the geometry of numbers unraveling basic mathematic riddles. With their two faces, numbers convey a representational theory, continuous fields of infinitely many degrees of freedom. 

 

In nothingness, there isn’t any word for distance and length. Their mere mention is absent. Silence is the rule. I wish to trace its contour. Entanglement, I feel, remains silent until the noise and the quantum system act on each other at the edge of the collapse. Emerging from the quantum realm which witnesses the birth of sounds, a sound is elicited by any motion of an individual object — of any length — even that of an intuitive spark in one’s head. 

 

Resonance inside mirrors sounds outside. Sounds cowrite a discreet symphony in the background. I wish to devise a poetic code for the theoretical house of everything, a geometric theory that would convey the essence of information spread through an infinite number of dimensions setting energy free. As I draw circles here and there, I try to extract myself from the mesmerizing pull of abstract thinking.

 

If any attribute, whatever it is, is vain and false***, then searching for answers is pointless. I touch the bottom of the rabbit hole and reach the trough of the wave. Sucked into the black hole of nothingness, I walk on eggshells. I am surrounded with darkness and silence but still hear voices telling me that interdisciplinary communication is epistemically perilous. The opportunistic approach to a theory of everything that such a dialogue entails is nevertheless the way forward.

 

We wonder about the geometry of past whereabouts and conjecture how an early encounter of a star might explain Neptune’s eccentricity or how the Sun lost his binary friend. Could an equal-mass binary companion to the Sun in the solar birth cluster explain the formation of the observed population of outer Oort cloud objects and the putative existence of Planet Nine? Every discovery is a guide to something more. Nonetheless, I remain more receptive to the story of  Oumuamua than that of Neptune, the Sun, and the comet Leonard passing by.

 

A new yet silent sound has emerged rushing through space from light years away as if it were sent for the only purpose of being received. Oumuamua did not come out of nothingness but an existing area in space unlikely to be devoid of all matter and all fields. There too, the structure of spacetime involves the same process of accretion during which preexisting matter has come into being as offspring of individuals forming its past. Space is shaped by a geometry of ontologically prior entities. It does not equate to emptiness but a set of spatiotemporal relations that do not appear to be random after the fact.

 

Points emerge and draw the spacetime manifold where the gravitational field expands and contracts like a beating heart. It is a sounding field and the field of consciousness is filled with its ringings. Whether Oumuamua is an alien craft spotted far away, unlike those Unidentified Aerial Phenomena that are reported much closer to home, invites more questions than answers: where would it come from anyway and how would it get here? If it is, it would prove that we are not alone, that a civilization was able to overcome its differences and acquire the technological know-how to launch in space a craft like a message in the bottle that some have thrown before in the ocean. Did it leave on its path echoes of its passing?

 

Astrophysical and Alien Craft explanations for 'Oumuamua and similar objects (Martin Elvis)

Astrophysical and Alien Craft explanations for 'Oumuamua and similar objects (Martin Elvis)

Free-floating objects may travel trillion miles in their lifetime. Oumuamua could have passed through a considerable subset of the Carina and Columba moving groups when those groups were forming. An individual object that happens to be Oumuamua extracted itself or was ejected from its flowing community. Moving groups are flows within flows, overdensities in the space motion. They are streams crossing the region around the Sun. Movement creates time. Those moving flows are, in a sense, time flows. Carina and Columba may be the most plausible source region if Oumuamua was ejected during planet formation or via intra-cluster interactions.

 

Carina and Columba (Johannes Hevelius)

Carina and Columba (Johannes Hevelius)

Carina represents the section at the bottom of a ship, part of what our ancestors saw in the sky as a sailing ship while Columba designates a dove. Is Oumuamua a dove feather or a piece of wood from the keel? Today, our modern interpretation suggests that if it’s not an alien spacecraft, it may be a young asteroid from Orion arm or a 30-million-year-old product of a molecular cloud drifting into the boundaries of our solar system, throwing crumbles on its path inviting us to follow her back to a region of the sky that only our ancestors could have dreamt of. As it recently joined the discreet sound of astronomical objects, radio telescopes wish to detect Oumuamua’s imperceptible swish through space. 

Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine


What is it with poets and birds? Do poets envy their view from above and their ability to spot at a great distance a tiny speck down below? Baudelaire’s albatrosses, the native garden’s sparrows, Cleveland’s eagles, and Portland’s seagulls all crowd my head. Bird live an ordinary life, sifting through trash, ripping flesh off fish on the edge of the pier. They too quiet down at the end of the day watching the sunset. It may be that Oumuamua is a metal eagle spying on us from a distance. Wary to be caught by human telescopes, it flew back out of the Solar system. 

Seafood Market (D.C.)

Seafood Market (D.C.)

*Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time

**Robert Lanza, Beyond Biocentrism

***凡所有相,皆是虚妄 (Diamond Sutra)


 

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