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, January 19, 2013

Retro-futurism 24: 1968 On the Way to 2019

Real smog in Beijing.

This week, Beijing accumulated hazardous, record levels of smog. From Total Dick-Head: "Dear Readers, that's not a still from Blade Runner you're looking at. That's the smog in Beijing, and some crazy building, and, like, a video billboard." See more pictures of the city this week, here. Real life dystopia, real life noir.

Real smog in Beijing. Image Source: Kotaku.

Blade Runner cityscape.

Go inside to escape the smog and complete the Future Noir mood. From @paleofuture aka Matt Novak: "So got me those Blade Runner whiskey glasses for Christmas and I'm basically the luckiest guy I know." One of my friends, M., was so interested, he tracked them down on the Internet. You can buy them here.

Image Source: @paleofuture.

From the glass seller, Firebox:
We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. We’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. But we haven’t seen anything half as cool as the Blade Runner Whiskey Glass.

Yes, Blade Runner fans, now you can relax after a stressful day ‘retiring’ replicants by getting to grips with the very same tumbler used by Rick Deckard in the seminal 1982 sci-fi movie. And when we say the very same we mean it because the moody Blade Runner’s glass wasn’t just a prop, it was a hand-made crystal glass, mouth-blown by artisans at boutique Italian company, Arnolfo di Cambio – and so is this!
Blade Runner still with Harrison Ford playing Deckard (1982) © Warner Bros. Image Source: Live for Films.

You can watch Ridley Scott's legendary film here. The fantastic Vangelis soundtrack is here. All the book covers for different publications of Philip K. Dick's original 1968 story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are here. In the original story, Rachael's dissociative responses are explained by her being raised on a spaceship during a botched colonization attempt of Alpha Centauri. The story opens with the death of a 200 year old turtle.

If you've never seen this film, you are lucky to be able to see it for the first time. Do not be one of the newbies on Youtube who cluelessly misses the point to this dystopic Techno-Creation Story: "Just finished watching it!!!!....possibly the worst movie ever...how did this movie get so much priase...smh."

"Can somebody help me understand why this movie is #1 on sci fi lists? i am a huge Sci fi fan and i just watched this movie due to all the glowing reviews...I was hoping for an amazing film..i must admit i found it incredibly boring with little substance...I could not get into it at all...for me the coolest part of the movie was that pyramid building and the opening scenes of the future skyline lol...yea i get it harrison ford may be a cyborg,,i am shocked that people like this so much...."
Dick's original story, written in 1968, described human alienation from the Freudian Self and from the external environment; the flip side of that alienation was the growing role of technology in propagating the Egotist as Creator. It is almost as though Dick envisioned the 20th century's ultimate dilemma, bloodbaths notwithstanding.

That dilemma was the point at which the Id, the Ego and the Superego would fracture and become separate agents, or whole groups, in society. In light of Blade Runner's continuity from 1968 to 2019, this post continues my series (begun here and here) on the ideas developed by the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers in their youths and explores what became of those ideas.

Moon Calendar

This moon phases calendar is produced by Rendij Studio and is available on etsy (Hat tip: Tara Mohr).

Friday, January 18, 2013

No Single Eternity

Image Source: Favim.com.

Thank you and Happy New Year to one of the blog's readers, -H., who has kindly sent in a musical suggestion by Uruguayan musician Fernando Cabrera (see his Facebook page here), La Casa de al Lado, sung by Liliana Herrero (her site is here). There is a glowing review here of the song and its many facets which describe the passage of time, including grief, nostalgia and memory.  One line that leaps out at me is: "I disagree with those who believe / There is a single eternity." The song reminds me in some respects of Yeats's poem, Ephemera.

Hear the recording below the jump. The song also notably appeared on the soundtrack of the 1994 Uruguayan film, El dirigible (The Airship), which received poor reviews. However, an IMDB commenter loved how the film captured the mood of Montevideo:
"This film is a beautiful piece of cinematographic art that makes very little sense in terms of the story, but that carried me away with its images of Montevideo. I happened to watch it for the first time while living in Montevideo, so I recognized many of the locations. I also fell absolutely in love with one of the tracks, i think near the end of the film, swearing to find it and keep it forever. It ended up being La Casa de al Lado by Fernando Cabrera. One of the most beautiful and enchanting songs I have ever heard to date."
La Casa de al Lado

No hay tiempo, no hay hora, no hay reloj
No hay antes ni luego ni tal vez
No hay lejos, ni viejos, ni jamás
En esa olvidada invalidez

Si todos se ponen a pensar
La vida es mas larga cada vez
Te apuesto mi vida una vez mas
Aquí no hay durante ni después

Deja no me lo repitas mas
Nosotros y ellos vos y yo
Que nadie se ponga en mi lugar
Que nadie me mida el corazón

La calle se empieza a incomodar
El baile del año terminó
Los carros se encargan de cargar
los restos del roto corazón

Acá en esta cuadra viven mil
Clavamos en tiempo en un cartel
Somos como brujos del reloj
Ninguno parece envejecer

Mi abuelo me dijo la otra vez
Me dijo mi abuelo que tal vez
Su abuelo le sepa responder
si el tempo es mas largo cada vez

Discrepo con aquellos que creen
que hay una sola eternidad
Descrean de toda soledad
Se engaña quien cree la verdad

Acá no hay tango
no hay tongo ni engaño
Aquí no hay daño
que dure cien años
Por fin buen tiempo
Aunque no hay un mango
Estoy llorando
tou me acostumbrando

Se pasa el año se pasa volando
Ya no hay mas nadie que pueda alcanzarnos
Y yo mirando sentado en el campo
Como se pasa el año volando

No pasa el tiempo no pasan los años
Inventa cosas con cosas de antaño
A nadie espera la casa de al lado
Se va acordando, se acuerda soñando Se va acordando

Por eso te pido una vez mas
tomátelo con tranquilidad
Puede ser ayer, nunca o después
Pero tu amor dame alguna vez.

(Lyrics via Musica.com) .

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wire Hanger Moments

Joan Crawford (1905-1977). Image Source: George Hurrell via Photographers Gallery.

In this post, I mentioned a friend’s encounter with a Millennial who did not recognize Joan Rivers on television and had never heard of Alfred Hitchcock. Because pop culture and marketing so relentlessly target the youth market, maybe its not surprising that some members of that demographic don't see the world beyond themselves. Recently, a Gen Y commenter on Twitter claimed that one of the most discussed topics today in the world is his generation, the Millennials.

Really. There’s nothing else out there? The economy. The Web-turned-surveillance-society. The Arab Spring. Asia’s markets. The environment. The energy crisis. Space exploration. The tech revolution. Politics. Terrorism. Impending nuclear war.
Mass media create false realities; and it takes awhile to see past the bubble that has been tailor-made to cater to, and shape, one’s own demographic, nationality, subculture and class.
The path to understanding the falsity of generational labels begins when some extra-generational pop cultural reference leaves the uninitiated in the dark. Never knowing who a known figure is or was, is part of a natural process of forgetting in public memory. On the other hand, that memory is sometimes renewed through remakes, biopics, homages, quotes and similar references to earlier pieces of pop culture. In those cases, members of the younger demographic become aware that what they are looking at, or listening to, is a cultural artifact that is an echo of an echo of an echo.

I think back on my own Gen X ‘Joan Rivers ignorance’ moments. One of them came from the American sitcom, A Different World, the late 80s’ Cosby Show spinoff. In one episode (29 October 1992; see it here), main characters Whitley (spoiled rich girl) and her husband Dwayne (hard-working, bright Cosby scion) get robbed. All that’s left in Whitley’s designer clothes closet is wire hangers. “I hate wire hangers!” she shrieks.


Matterclock: "Quantum mechanically, mass can be used to measure time and vice versa." Image Source: University of California at Berkeley.

A newly-developed atomic clock-scale links time to an atom's mass. Science News:
It’s part clock, part scale: A newly developed atomic clock measures time based on the mass of a single atom. The research, published online January 10 [2013] in Science, is controversial but could provide scientists with more precise methods of measuring both time and mass.

This is the first clock based on a single particle,” says Holger Müller, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Its ticking rate is determined only by the particle’s mass.”

The idea for the clock stemmed from the quantum principle that particles also behave as waves, and vice versa. In particular, Müller and his colleagues wanted to determine how frequently the wave form of a single atom oscillates, a quantity that in quantum mechanics is inherently linked to the atom’s mass. Then the researchers could use those oscillations like swings of a pendulum to create a clock.
See more on this at Physics and Physicists and from Berkeley. Müller commented in the Berkeley press release:
“When I was very young and reading science books, I always wondered why there was so little explanation of what time is,” said Müller, who is also a guest scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Since then, I’ve often asked myself, ‘What is the simplest thing that can measure time, the simplest system that feels the passage of time?’ Now we have an upper limit: one single massive particle is enough.” ...
The idea that matter can be viewed as a wave was the subject of the 1924 Ph.D. thesis by Louis de Broglie, who took Albert Einstein’s idea that mass and energy are equivalent (E=mc2) and combined it with Ernst Planck’s idea that every energy is associated with a frequency. De Broglie’s idea that matter can act as a wave was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929.
Using matter as a clock, however, seemed far-fetched because the frequency of the wave, called the Compton, or de Broglie, frequency, might be unobservable. And even if it could be seen, the oscillations would be too fast to measure.

S.-Y. Lan et al. A Clock Directly Linking Time to a Particle’s Mass. Science. Published online January 10, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1230767. Abstract available: [Go to]

C. Petit. The Ultimate Clock. Science News. Vol. 180, October 22, 2011, p. 22. Available online: [Go to]
M. Cevallos. Holy moley. Science News. Vol. 178, November 20, 2010, p. 12. Available online: [Go to]
A. Witze. 2012 physics Nobel recognizes experiments probing quantum world. Science News. Vol. 182, November 3, 2012, p. 13. Available online: [Go to]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Night Photographs: London in the 1930s

St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

Night photographs speak of secret worlds that exist while the world is sleeping, or when the world is wide awake when and where it should not be. Memories made real, waking dreams, instincts walking freely - it was upon these things that Francisco Goya famously speculated when he produced a series of night sketches - the world that exists when the world is not looking. These night sketches were part of a larger series exploring the dark side of human nature. Art Attacks:
the series, entitled “Caprichos,” depicts “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual.” When the series was first released as an album in 1799, it produced adverse reviews and was later removed from circulation.
The Telegraph has posted a series of photos of London at night in the 1930s; see the full series here and some more pictures below the jump:
This picture gallery features atmospheric images of London streets in the 1930s, before the Blitz, before the clean air act, before sodium lighting. It was a city of gloomy back streets lit by dim lamps, with forbidding alleys and the occasional welcoming light. The photographs are from a book called London Night, by John Morrison and Harold Burdekin, which was published in 1934. They were recently posted on The Library Time Machine, a fascinating blog run by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Library Service.
The flip side to Goya's coin is that night life also reflects advancements in technology. One glance shows a 20th century society, before the technological revolution hit full force.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Fallout Calculator

Image Source: EX-SKF.

In this post, I talked about how we are all already living after the nuclear apocalypse. The United States, and other countries, were bathed in fallout following nuclear tests after the Second World War. One commenter says of the map above: "Have you noticed that the radiation miraculously stops right at the border to Canada.... yes I know, it's only the map that ends there, but it's not hard to guess how many dark red areas would be there ... ." The blog EX-SKF has just posted a link for Americans to test their exposure in the wake of nuclear tests in Nevada:
For readers in the US who were born before 1971, there is an online calculator available from the National Cancer Institute to assess your radioactive iodine (I-131) exposure (thyroid dose equivalent) from nuclear tests in Nevada:

I-131 Thyroid Dose/Risk Calculator for Nevada Test Site (NTS) Fallout

You input gender, date of birth (month, year), state, county, and primary type of milk you drank. The number may surprise.

NCI has reports on I-131, here.

State and county level exposures in an interactive map (which wasn't working when I checked), here. The maximum exposure was 16 rad (thyroid dose equivalent), which is 160 milligray which is 160 millisieverts. That is rather high. ...
In nuclear testing in Nevada by the US government, soldiers were made to watch without any shielding.  ... The US Department of Defense has a website to assist ex-soldiers file a claim if they think they were exposed to ionizing radiation.
You can see soldiers being exposed to a Cold-War-era nuclear detonation in Nevada, and effectively being turned into human subjects, below the jump.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Passport to the Universe

Sci-fi Star Trek Vulcan starship with warp drive. Image Source: CBS / Star Trek via i09.

Next Stop: Alpha Centauri. In November 2012, i09 reported on a new research breakthrough from physicist Harold White that resolves our inability to travel faster than the speed of light. It builds on a finding from the mid-1990s and works around a problem discovered with warp drives at that time. It has NASA very interested. This method could see us travel to nearby star systems in a matter of weeks, making science fiction start travel a reality. I09 reports:
A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein's law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work. ...

The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, "The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity," Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be "warped" both in front of and behind a spacecraft.

Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre's notion a "passport to the universe." It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations. Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction — passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration.

White speculates that such a drive could result in "speeds" that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.

In terms of the engine's mechanics, a spheroid object would be placed between two regions of space-time (one expanding and one contracting). A "warp bubble" would then be generated that moves space-time around the object, effectively repositioning it — the end result being faster-than-light travel without the spheroid (or spacecraft) having to move with respect to its local frame of reference.

"Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed," White told io9. "However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy."

And indeed, early assessments published in the ensuing scientific literature suggested horrific amounts of energy — basically equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter (what is 1.9 × 1027 kilograms or 317 Earth masses). As a result, the idea was brushed aside as being far too impractical. Even though nature allowed for a warp drive, it looked like we would never be able to build one ourselves.

"However," said White, "based on the analysis I did the last 18 months, there may be hope." The key, says White, may be in altering the geometry of the warp drive itself.

... "My early results suggested I had discovered something that was in the math all along," he recalled. "I suddenly realized that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger — like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape — and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required — perhaps making the idea plausible." White had adjusted the shape of Alcubierre's ring which surrounded the spheroid from something that was a flat halo to something that was thicker and curvier.

He presented the results of his Alcubierre Drive rethink a year later at the 100 Year Starship conference in Atlanta where he highlighted his new optimization approaches — a new design that could significantly reduce the amount of exotic matter required. And in fact, White says that the warp drive could be powered by a mass that's even less than that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

That's a significant change in calculations to say the least. The reduction in mass from a Jupiter-sized planet to an object that weighs a mere 1,600 pounds has completely reset White's sense of plausibility — and NASA's.
Other reports: here, here, here, here and here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Next Tetris: Gorogoa

Image © J. Roberts / Gorogoa.

In its time, the world's most compelling and addictive video game was the Russian-designed tile-matching puzzle, Tetris (1984).  This year, a beautifully illustrated multi-dimensional tile game, Gorogoa, is due to be released. It is being designed in San Francisco by Jason Roberts (see his game development blog here). You can go to his Website and download a trial play of the game, or see trial game play here or in the video below. The illustrations remind me of the retro-futuristic elegantly conceived Web comic, Tozo (see my post on Tozo here). Even though it has not yet been released, Gorogoa has already won the Indie Cadie 2012 award for visual design. The preview of the game is also below.

 Image © J. Roberts / Gorogoa.