The Shining of Lucero
From my journal note, "Shining Forth":
The Spanish for "Bright Star" is "Lucero."
The Eye of the Beholder:
When you stand in the dark and look at a star a hundred light years away, not only have the retarded light waves from the star been travelling for a hundred years toward your eyes, but also advanced waves from your eyes have reached a hundred years into the past to encourage the star to shine in your direction.
-- John Cramer, "The Quantum Handshake"
From Broken Symmetries, by Paul Preuss, 1983:
He'd toyed with "psi" himself.... The reason he and so many other theoretical physicists were suckers for the stuff was easy to understand -- for two-thirds of a century an enigma had rested at the heart of theoretical physics, a contradiction, a hard kernel of paradox....
Peter [Slater] had never thirsted after "hidden variables" to explain what could not be pictured. Mathematical relationships were enough to satisfy him, mere formal relationships which existed at all times, everywhere, at once. It was a thin nectar, but he was convinced it was the nectar of the gods.
Those so-called crazy psychics were too sane, that was their problem -- they were too stubborn to admit that the universe was already more bizarre than anything they could imagine in their wildest dreams of wizardry. (Ch. 16)
From Secret Passages, by Paul Preuss, 1997:
Minakis caught up and walked beside him in silence, moving with easy strides over the bare ground, listening as Peter [Slater] spoke. "Delos One was ten years ago -- quantum theory seemed as natural as water to me then; I could play in it without a care. If I'd had any sense of history, I would have recognized that I'd swallowed the Copenhagen interpretation whole."
"Back then, you insisted that the quantum world is not a world at all," Minakis prompted him. "No microworld, only mathematical descriptions."
"Yes, I was adamant. Those who protested were naive -- one has to be willing to tolerate ambiguity, even to be crazy."
"The party line. Of course Bohr did say, 'It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.' Meaning that when we start to talk what sounds like philosophy, our colleagues should rip us to pieces." Peter smiled. "They smell my blood already."..................
Peter glanced at Minakis. "Let's say there are indications -- I have personal indications -- not convincing, perhaps, but suggestive, that the quantum world penetrates the classical world deeply." He was silent for a moment, then waved his hand at the ruins. "The world of classical physics, I mean. I suppose I've come to realize that the world is more than a laboratory."
"We are standing where Apollo was born," Minakis said. "Leto squatted just there, holding fast to a palm tree, and after nine days of labor gave birth to the god of light and music...."
To Lucero, in memory of
1962 in Cuernavaca
From On Beauty, by Elaine Scarry,
Princeton University Press, 1999 --
"Homer sings of the beauty of particular things. Odysseus, washed up on shore, covered with brine, having nearly drowned, comes upon a human community and one person in particular, Nausicaa, whose beauty simply astonishes him. He has never anywhere seen a face so lovely; he has never anywhere seen any thing so lovely....
I have never laid eyes on anyone like you,
neither man nor woman...
I look at you and a sense of wonder takes me.
Wait, once I saw the like --
in Delos, beside Apollo's altar --
the young slip of a palm-tree
springing into the light."
From Secret Passages, by Paul Preuss, 1997:
"When we try to look inside atoms," Peter said, "not only can we not see what's going on, we cannot even construct a coherent picture of what's going on."
"If you will forgive me, Peter," Minakis said, turning to the others. "He means that we can construct several pictures -- that light and matter are waves, for example, or that light and matter are particles -- but that all these pictures are inadequate. What's left to us is the bare mathematics of quantum theory."
.... "Whatever the really real world is like, my friend, it is not what you might imagine."
Talking physics, Peter tended to bluntness. "Tell me more about this real world you imagine but can't describe."
Minakis turned away from the view of the sunset. "Are you familiar with John Cramer's transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics?"
"No I'm not."
"Read Cramer. I'll give you his papers. Then we can talk."
From John Cramer, "The Quantum Handshake":
Advanced waves could perhaps, under the right circumstances, lead to "ansible-type" FTL communication favored by Le Guin and Card....
For more on Le Guin and Card, see my journal notes below.
For more on the meaning of "lucero," see the Wallace Stevens poem "Martial Cadenza."
"When shall we four meet again?"
This phrase was suggested by a recent weblog entry recounting how the author hesitated to meet for lunch with three of her friends because, while acquainted in pairs, the four had never met before as a group. It was not clear how the previous relationships would play out in this larger context. The author suggested that her readers see the introduction to Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead for details. I did, and found the following:
"The idea of community.... This was not easy. Most novels get by with showing the relationships between two or, at the most three characters. This is because the difficulty of creating a character increases with each new major character that is added to the tale. Characters, as most writers understand, are truly developed through their relationships with others. If there are only two significant characters, then there is only one relationship to be explored. If there are three characters, however, there are four relationships: Between A and B, between B and C, between C and A, and finally the relationship when all three are together."
This implies that when four people meet, there are 11 relationships going on: six from pairs, four from triplets, and one from the quartet.
It gets worse...
"Even this does not begin to explain the complexity -- for in real life, at least, most people change, at least subtly, when they are with different people. The changes can be pretty major....
So when a storyteller has to create three characters, each different relationship requires that each character in it must be transformed, however subtly, depending on how the relationship is shaping his or her present identity. Thus, in a three-character story, a storyteller who wishes to convince us of the reality of these characters really has to come up with a dozen different personas, four for each of them."
Therefore when four people meet, there are actually 44 personas to account for. This makes the stateroom scene from "A Night at the Opera" look underpopulated.
See also my journal note "Metaphysics for Tina."
Force Field of Dreams
Metaphysics and chess in today's New York Times Magazine:
Putting these quotations together, one is tempted to imagine God having a little game of chess with Whedon, along the lines suggested by C. S. Lewis:
As Lewis tells it the time had come for his "Adversary [as he was wont to speak of the God he had so earnestly sought to avoid] to make His final moves." (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1955, p. 216) Lewis called them "moves" because his life seemed like a chess match in which his pieces were spread all over the board in the most disadvantageous positions. The board was set for a checkmate....
For those who would like to imagine such a game (God vs. Whedon), the following may be helpful.
George Steiner has observed that
The common bond between chess, music, and mathematics may, finally, be the absence of language.
This quotation is apparently from
Fields of Force:
Fischer and Spassky at Reykjavik. by George Steiner, Viking hardcover, June 1974.
George Steiner as quoted in a review of his book Grammars of Creation:
"I put forward the intuition, provisional and qualified, that the 'language-animal' we have been since ancient Greece so designated us, is undergoing mutation."
The phrase "language-animal" is telling. A Google search reveals that it is by no means a common phrase, and that Steiner may have taken it from Heidegger. From another review, by Roger Kimball:
In ''Grammars of Creation,'' for example, he tells us that ''the classical and Judaic ideal of man as 'language animal,' as uniquely defined by the dignity of speech . . . came to an end in the antilanguage of the death camps.''
This use of the Holocaust not only gives the appearance of establishing one's credentials as a person of great moral gravity; it also stymies criticism. Who wants to risk the charge of insensitivity by objecting that the Holocaust had nothing to do with the ''ideal of man as 'language animal' ''?
Steiner has about as clear an idea of the difference between "classical" and "Judaic" ideals of man as did Michael Dukakis. (See my notes of September 9, 2002.)
Clearly what music, mathematics, and chess have in common is that they are activities based on pure form, not on language. Steiner is correct to that extent. The Greeks had, of course, an extremely strong sense of form, and, indeed, the foremost philosopher of the West, Plato, based his teachings on the notion of Forms. Jews, on the other hand, have based their culture mainly on stories... that is, on language rather than on form. The phrase "language-animal" sounds much more Jewish than Greek. Steiner is himself rather adept at the manipulation of language (and of people by means of language), but, while admiring form-based disciplines, is not particularly adept at them.
I would argue that developing a strong sense of form -- of the sort required to, as Lewis would have it, play chess with God -- does not require any "mutation," but merely learning two very powerful non-Jewish approaches to thought and life: the Forms of Plato and the "archetypes" of Jung as exemplified by the 64 hexagrams of the 3,000-year-old Chinese classic, the I Ching.
For a picture of how these 64 Forms, or Hexagrams, might function as a chessboard,
Other relevant links:
"As you read, watch for patterns. Pay special attention to imagery that is geometric..."
from Shakhmatnaia goriachka
Music for Patricias
On this date in 1892, actress/author Patricia Collinge was born in Dublin, Ireland. She is not to be confused with the Patricia Collinge of
In honor of both Patricias, the backgound music of this site is no longer "Baby, Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me." It is, instead,
a tune that fans of James Joyce may recognize.
and the Lost Boys
Author William Golding was born on this date in 1911.
'The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan'
at House Theatre in Chicago
By Chris Jones
"J. M. Barrie's famous 1904 tale of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys is fertile ground for post-modern exploration."
See also the Stephen King novel
Hearts in Atlantis.
(Forget the movie, which does not even mention William Golding.)
For a somewhat more cheerful variation on the Lost Boys theme, see the new
Kingdom Hearts game.
Of course, mature audiences might react to this Disney production by recalling the classic question, "Why did Mickey Mouse divorce Minnie Mouse?"
See also the
Lord of the Flies game
at the Nobel Prize Foundation site.