Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Queen's Christmas Message

King James Bible. First Edition (1611). Image Source: Houston Baptist University.

The Queen's Christmas message, which is annually broadcast throughout the Commonwealth, has just been aired here in Canada and is now posted on Youtube.  Her message usually focuses on a single unifying theme to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.  She also discussed the history of the King James translation of the Bible, which will be 400 years old in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A History of Elves

Image Source: Timeidol.com.

In 2004, Alaric Hall finished a PhD dissertation on elves at the University of Glasgow (why, why, why didn't I do my dissertation on elves, I ask myself).  He's now based at the University of Leeds.  The dissertation is formally titled, "The Meanings of Elf and Elves in Medieval England."  Somehow, I suspect that this superficially cheery little subject gets much less cheery the more one digs into it.  There's a link to the abstract here (hat tip: @medievalbook):

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last of their Kind: Desert Ghosts

The Saharan Cheetah. Image Source: BBC.

Caption for the above image: After a year of searching, scientists have taken one of the first photographs of the elusive Saharan cheetah living in Termit, Niger. Fewer than 10 of the cats remain, and little is known about their behaviour.

BBC is reporting that photographs have been taken of one of the rarest creatures on earth: the Saharan Cheetah.

Neuro Reality Check

More notes from the Ivory Tower today, this time in Germany.  Researchers at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin are organizing a meeting to be held this time next year, where they plan to discuss the explosion of neuroscientific terminology in arts, humanities and social scientific fields. The Call for Papers (quoted below) describes the rise of 'neuromania' in the arts, that is, the non-scientific use of scientific terms to refer to trends in our culture.  It's a fair question: why are we equating developments in our society with biological processes that occur in our minds?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Big New Finding Regarding Human Evolution

Dig in the Denisova Cave (Денисова пещера) in Southern Siberia. Image Source: BBC.

BBC is reporting (here), along with several other major news outlets worldwide, that a new Prehistoric humanoid species, called 'Denisovans,' has been discovered.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Night's Lunar Eclipse

Image © NASA/Bill Ingalls. Image Source: Flickr.

NASA's just posted a picture of the lunar eclipse from last night that would make Stanley Kubrick proud. This is the moon passing the Washington Monument.

Imagining the Supernatural North

Snegurochka (Snow Maiden, 1899). By Victor Vasnetsov. Image Source: Wiki.

Picking up on the Winter Solstice post from yesterday afternoon, the theme of the 'supernatural north' seems fitting as the Solstice actually occurs today. Imagining the Supernatural North is the name of a conference being held next year in Iceland.  The announcement caught my eye on H-Net:
"Imagining the Supernatural North" intends contribute to the ongoing discussion on "perceptions of Northernness" in the humanities and social sciences. In the course of the oft-quoted "spatial turn", the increased awareness of spatiality and its implications, scholars have devoted considerable attention to the cultural meaning of northernness. Which stereotypes, symbolisms and ideological connotations have been ascribed to the North in different historical periods, by different actors and in different discourse genres? How have the North and its inhabitants been imagined, constructed and described?

As a contribution to this debate, the panel will explore the notion of the North as a realm of the supernatural. From antiquity to the present, the North has been associated with sorcerous inhabitants, mythical tribes, metaphysical forces of good and evil and all kinds of supernatural qualities and occurrences. Such an approach, however, needs to bear in mind that the border between the natural and the supernatural has been viewed differently in different discursive traditions, and that a sharp delineation is often impossible.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- The myth of the Hyperboreans in Ancient Greece
- The motif of "evil descending from the North" in the Old Testament
- Glæsisvellir and the mythical realms of the North in medieval Scandinavian cosmology
- Mount Hekla and other alleged gateways to hell
- "Northern witchcraft" in early modern demonology and juridical practice
- "Ex oriente lux" versus "Ex septentrione lux" - rivalling interpretations of the East and the North as origins of human culture
- The "pure Aryan North" in (Neo-)Nazi mysticism
- The spirituality of the North in modern esotericism and neo-paganism
- Northern shamanism as a topic of scholarship, indigenous self-perception and popular discourses
- Mysteries of the North in literature (e.g. H. C. Andersen's "Snow Queen", C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series etc.)
- Gendering the supernatural north (contrasting images of female witches and male sorcerers, sexual stereotypes of the "icy seductress", "frigid beauty")
- Supernatural interpretations of natural phenomena (polar night and midnight sun, Northern lights etc.)

There is additional information at the Website of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (here). Considering he just rewrote the whole history for the DC comics character, Ice, maybe Judd Winick should attend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Welcome the Winter Solstice - Lunar Eclipse and the Ursids Meteors

Image Source: Redbubble.com.

Winter. The solstice marks the shortest day and longest night in the calendar. Winter begins in the northern hemisphere on December 21 at 6:38 p.m. EST (2338 UT) and summer begins in the southern hemisphere. It is marked in several cultures. In Greek mythology, it was the one night when Hades, god of the Underworld, was permitted to enter Mount Olympus and walk with the other gods. Christmas, on the 25th, was the original Roman celebration of Brumalia, heralding the winter solstice under the Julian calendar. The festival honoured the god Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine, and typically involved role inversions, that is, reversals between master and servant, or man and woman. In Germanic cultures, the solstice was closely followed by Yule, the beginning of the heathen year.

Image Source: Big5.china.com.

Chinese tradition similarly picks up on the idea of the solstice representing a turning point as an extreme of feminine power is reached (mentioned briefly here): "In the Chinese idea of Yin and Yang, Yin symbolizes feminine, negative and dark qualities of the universe, and yang masculine, positive and fiery qualities, and when something goes to one extreme it then goes to the opposite. Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the shortest day and longest night. After it, days become longer, which ancient Chinese thought meant yang qualities would become stronger, so should be celebrated." In East Asia, the Dōngzhì Festival (冬至) is celebrated, where people eat coloured rice dumplings that symbolize the coming together and reunions of families.  In Taiwan, they also make glutinous nine-layer cakes made in the shape of auspicious animals.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Jump in Quantum Computing

Image Source: BBC.

Ray Kurzweil is reporting (here) that University of Utah researchers published findings on Friday December 17 that indicate a huge jump in quantum computing:
University of Utah physicists stored information for 112 seconds in what may become the world’s tiniest computer memory: magnetic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of atoms. Then the physicists retrieved and read the data electronically – a big step toward using the new kind of memory for both faster conventional and superfast “quantum” computers.
The only catch is that the temperature has to be slightly above absolute zero to store and retrieve computer memories at the atomic level.