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, September 22, 2012

Welcome the Fall Equinox

Image Source: Crystalinks.

Today is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and the vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. It occurs at 14:49 Universal Time. The September equinox marks a point of perfect balance. Earthsky: "The name ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night)." North and South are balanced, as the Earth is tilting neither toward nor away from the Sun. Today, the length of day and night are equal, hailing the arrival of a new season.

No matter where you are, the equinox also balances East and West (the sun will rise precisely in the East and set in the exact West). Symbolically, it is a day for finding direction. In Chinese culture, this equinox is associated with looking westward toward dreams and visions, and with white tigers and the colour white in general. In the Northern Hemisphere, this day traditionally was and is observed with bringing in the year's bounty at  harvest festivals. Myths and astrology alike draw from this astronomical symbolism. There is an element of reckoning in the start of the Libran period: it is a time of realistically assessing what has been harvested in the present, and, with the past in this manner put to rest, dreaming of the future.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sensory Overdrive and Sensory Deprivation

Michael Monroe, Sensory Overdrive album cover (2011) © Spinefarm Records. Image Source: MetalSucks.

In the 1970s, extrasensory perception was all the rage. In the 1980s, we had new sensations; in the 1990s, greater sensitivity.  The 2000s put us in sensory overdrive.

Now, people pay good money for sensory deprivation in isolated flotation tanks holding salt water. Abuse of the practice is associated with torture and weird experiments, which lead to losing track of time, followed by mental debilitation and hallucinations. Wiki: "In January 2008, the BBC aired a Horizon special entitled 'Total Isolation.' The premise of the show centered around 6 individuals agreeing to be shut in a cell inside a nuclear bunker, alone and in complete darkness for 48 hours."

Limited practice, however, is associated with emotional and psychological therapy, an antidote to a daily overdose of stimuli. Below the jump, a review of the London clinic Floatworks, where visitors pay for short sessions which block everything out and are akin to meditation; and below that, the first part of the BBC Horizon program which investigated extended effects of the sensory deprivation.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fountain of Youth 15: The Magic Word is Telomere

Telomeres - the tips at the end of chromosomes. Image Source: Nature.

A report from late 2010 confirmed progress made toward unlocking, halting and reversing the ageing process (via Top News):
London, Nov 29 [2010]: Scientists have found a way to reverse aging, unlocking the secret of eternal youth and paving the way for a drug to keep one "forever young".

Lives could be longer and healthier, free from illnesses such as Alzheimer's and heart disease, with skin and hair retaining their youthful lustre. Increasing the number of years of healthy life would greatly ease health service costs and reduce the burden on families of caring for frail relatives, the Daily Mail reported, citing the journal Nature. The research, carried out by oncologist Ronald DePinho of Harvard University, reversed the effects of ageing in animals for the first time in experiments on mice.

Before treatment, the mice's skin, brains, guts and other organs resembled those of an 80-year-old person. But within just two months of being given a drug that switches on a key enzyme, the creatures had grown so many new cells that they had almost completely rejuvenated. Remarkably, the male mice went from being infertile to fathering large litters.

The breakthrough centres on structures called telomeres - tiny biological clocks that cap the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from damage.
Telomeres are a hot topic among Baby Boomers (and likely will soon reach the attention of Gen Xers). Here are some of the hundreds of reports on this topic:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Warp Speed's First Stop: Mars

Image Source: last.fm.

From the Shatner Files: below the jump is today's report that travel ten times the speed of light is almost past the point of pure hypothesis, prompting newscasters to clumsily share their lack of knowledge about Star Trek (Hat tip: Spaceports). Michio Kaku popped up to explain how NASA scientists' experiments to achieve warp speed will not break the laws of physics. Mars is only the first stop they have in mind:
Former astronaut and NASA head Charles Bolden says the agency wants to one day design a vehicle that goes faster than the speed of light. "One of these days, we want to get to warp speed," he told a group at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Bolden was discussing the future of American space exploration. "We want to go faster than the speed of light, and we don't want to stop at Mars."

"Some have claimed that we're adrift, that we have no clear human space missions. That could not be further from the truth," he said. "Those who perpetuate that myth are hurting the space program. We have a series of deep space missions planned."

Most imminently, NASA is designing the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, which will be tested in 2014, with its first manned mission planned for 2021. That vehicle, he said, "will take us to asteroids, Mars, and probably back to the moon."
Hmm. The speed of light is 670 616 629 miles per hour. According to this chart which calculates time of travel at different speeds to the moon, Mars and Proxima Centauri, a speed ten times the speed of light would reduce the trip duration to the Red Planet to a few minutes. Incidentally, The Space Review has a good article this week which reviews some of the best sci-fi books depicting the terraforming of Mars.

Image Source: NASA via The Space Review.


From i09: This is Grounded, director's Kevin Margo trippy seven-minute film about the final moments of extrasolar astronauts ...:
One astronaut's journey through space and life ends on a hostile exosolar planet. Grounded is a metaphorical account of the experience, inviting unique interpretation and reflection by the viewer. Themes of aging, inheritance, paternal approval, cyclic trajectories, and behaviors passed on through generations are explored against an ethereal backdrop.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nuclear Leaks 21: Fukushima and Asia's Security Landscape

"The islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, are located in the East China Sea. Japan has controlled the chain for more than 100 years, and this week officially purchased the islands – which it had been renting – from private owners." Image Source: Kyodo/AP via CBC.

Despite the endless percolating trouble that plagues the Middle East, there are reminders that oil's domination of the world stage is always closely followed by nuclear concerns. One reminder comes with the fact that - despite 2012's 9/11 Islamic furor - American military attentions are moving toward the Asia-Pacific region:
The Obama administration is forging closer defense ties to countries near China, including India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore; repositioning troops, planes and ships; and stepping up aid in the South Pacific to offset attention from Beijing.
Recently, I saw Fareed Zakaria interview the well-known historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis. Lewis remarked languidly:
It was pointed out not long ago by an Arab committee that the total exports of the entire Arab world other than oil and gas amount to less than those of Finland. One small European country. Now that's a staggering statistic. It means, though, the economies depend entirely on oil. And this is true even in the countries which don't have oil because they depend on the others. And sooner or later, oil and gas will either be exhausted or superseded as the world -- the modern world turns to other sources of energy. And when that occurs, they will have nothing left. Now, one possibility is that they may develop alternative forms of economic activity. Another, more likely, is that the region will relapse into insignificance. ... I think the latter is more likely at the moment. ... America is clearly losing interest. Europe has some interest, but is unable to do much about it. And Russia was obviously unable to do much about it. I mean, the -- the superpowers of the second half of the 21st century would be India and China. They will be -- they will be the superpowers of the world contesting for world domination.
Zakaria responded: "[I]t's a good thing you studied the Middle East while you did, when it was the cockpit of history."

What drives this shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific? Perhaps it is Fukushima.

Responsible Parenting

Bufo marinus. Image Source: NT News.

Someone should call the editors at the OED. There is a new definition of 'responsible parenting.' In another of those stories in which scientists gain ever greater abilities to do amazing things, but seem not to register any implications of said things, The Telegraph reports on an Oxford professor's comment that, "genetically engineering 'ethical' babies is a moral obligation. ... Genetically screening our offspring to make them better people is just 'responsible parenting.'"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Panorama: Paul Klee

Paul Klee in 1911. Image Source: Wiki.

A super new Website, still in beta, WikiPaintings, is a Visual Arts encyclopedia that displays great paintings online. A nice example: all of Paul Klee's works - which spanned expressionism, cubism, and surrealism in the first half of the 20th century - are shown in a WikiPaintings gallery in chronological order. You can scroll through Klee's beautiful gallery here.

Paul Klee, Die Zwitscher-Maschine (The Twittering Machine) (1922). Image Source: Wiki.