Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, February 11, 2016

LIGO Subtlety

I simply can't get over the beautiful simplicity of the experiment that discovered gravity waves. The shift in the length of the beams was miniscule. Look (New York Times):

This difference is so small that even the minuscule motion in the position of each mirror at the end of each tunnel because of quantum mechanical vibrations of the atoms in the mirror could have overwhelmed the signal. But scientists were able to resort to the most modern techniques in quantum optics to overcome this.

Chronoplasm

I invented a nice word about two months ago for the spacetime liquid, assuming there are gravity waves:

CHRONOPLASM

As in, gravity waves are made of chronoplasm. QSO LENS (the Vilnius show) was all about this you know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Is LIGO?

It's a place or places in the USA where they've invented a really beautiful simple experiment for gravity wave detection. It's so easy to understand yet so so deep.

Very roughly there are two parallel mirrors and two laser beams measuring the distance between them. When you eliminate all the "noise" eg seismic activity from data about their movements, and they're still not exactly aligned, there are gravity waves.

The point being that they're rippling through everything right now, if they're real. Because the Big Bang released one heck of a gravitational ripple.

Intuitively there must be gravity waves because we already see how spacetime can be warped to become a lens, for example. If it's that floppy then you can wave it like a sheet.

Have you ever been under a parachute where people rippled it? They used to do it at this club called Whirlygig in London. In like 1989. The dj was called Monkey Pilot :)

Like Gravity Waves? Thursday will be very important for you

...tune to what's happening in DC, where LIGO scientists are expected to make an announcement...

I'm beyond excited actually.

Don't Do It

Thanks to my daughter I've learned about a fantastically oppressive pedagogical technique that's become popular in our ever-more-ratcheted-up workaholic control society. Hilariously, it's called the DO-NOW. 

The first step in a great lesson is a “Do Now”– a short activity that you have written on the board or that is waiting for students as they enter.  It often starts working before you do.  While you are greeting students at the door, or finding that stack of copies, or erasing the mark-ups you made to your overhead from the last lesson, students should already be busy, via the Do Now with scholarly work that prepares them to succeed. In fact, students entering your room should never have to ask themselves, “What am I supposed to be doing?” That much should go without saying. The habits of a good classroom should answer, “You should be doing the Do Now, because we always start with the Do Now.”


Hey I have an even better idea. Start the kids working while they're eating their cereal with me! Tweet them a puzzle that their cereal bowls yell at them in the voice of their favorite Disney character from out the tiny speakers in their IOT china.

Because now can be defined arbitrarily. And hesitation and “what am I doing?” have nothing to do with teaching. Or learning. You should always know what you're doing. Otherwise you're a loser. Gotta keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Morton Talks to Artists, Gets Smarter

My buddy Paul Johnson wanted a word that would do for phenomenological "sincerity" or "ingenuousness," so I made one up for him, and I liked it so much I'm gonna use it myself:

SATURATION

It's that quality of always being shrinkwrapped in one's style (not just the clothes obviously!). Like for instance, the attempt to not anthropomorphize is a classic human response to thinking about other lifeforms.

Larry David and John Cleese have built entire careers showing how the escalating attempt to transcend oneself and thereby double down on oneself is intrinsically funny, like someone trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Everything you do is saturated with you-ness in the expanded sense. My idea of who I am is a tiny inaccurate sliver. The phenomenological insight that you know me better than I do has now been taken up in neuroscience.

Paul's work is about exploring this saturation too--he calls it supersubjectivity. In a way it's actually hyposubjectivity in my terms: there are more style-parts of you than you.

Style subscends my ego, saturating Tim Morton phenomena.

The artists last night were so good too. One of them convinced me that temporal parts also subscend wholes too. Humankind is a comin!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stuck in Glue? Try This





Nasturtiums

Why do I love them? They are just so so beautiful. They were everywhere in Cali and it's even easier to grow them down here on the Texas coast.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Term "Anthropocene"

You can download it here. There's a whole lot more on this in Dark Ecology too.

Jittery

It's almost like this:

"Anything but grasping the conch. Any moment other than the obvious one at which humans started burning loads of fossil fuels!"

There's some kind of weird Oedipal logic to this. Like no one wants to say the big bad obvious thing.

Like we quite happily say "capitalism" and we quite happily say when it started. Despite the very accurate Braudelian shading of that concept and that start date. Like we admit there's loads of capitalisms, then there's big bad official capitalism, "since 1784" as they say below certain store names. (Marx says the steam engine, etc. Word.)

And there are terms for saying it started earlier or never started. Such as Whiggish history.

Just for a mo I thought we were all about to get seriously into working with science and scientists. But somehow the old school managed to get its correlationist paws on stuff and it's back to endlessly fuzzing and namechecking concepts and people (and not lifeforms) before we say anything at all, which we'd rather not. Heaven forbid we do our job. Better to talk amongst ourselves. Safer. My mistake...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Not 1784?

Why are some humanists so very concerned not to date the Anthropocene when the atmospheric and geology people proposed dating it?

For instance, one suggested date is the beginnings of a certain phase of European colonialism, which some put at about 1610. (Which I don't particularly understand in any case, but that's another conversation.)

But this isn't about what's the most big bad nasty thing that humans did to other humans (and there are plenty of other candidates). And of course, those actions did something to nonhumans--creating monocultures, moving nonhumans around Earth either deliberately or accidentally (breadfruit, squirrels).

I'm going to say something now, and some of you are going to think this means I don't care about postcolonial theory or worse.

That's not enough. That doesn't significantly change Earth's crust. Stratigraphy is the science of defining layers in Earth's crust.

And certainly this is not about when some humans started planning or imagining bad things. Francis Bacon's violent language about mining, or something like that. Again, if you want to look for the first “bad ecological thing planned” you might need to go a way further back than that. What about medieval fantasies about the spice islands, which in the end generated the East India Company? Roman, or Greek, or Babylonian colonial propaganda? What about Platonic nihilism? Or reductionism of any kind? Or domestication of animals?

If we go on like that, we are only going to end up with the Fall version 2.0.

So we'd still be on a mission from agricultural-age religion, which might be a problem in itself. This has to do with “Something went wrong in our being, something exactly there and then, and this something is a twist in the fabric of things, a twist often called evil.” We're talking about hyperobjects. We're talking about massively distributed physical stuff here, which can't be pinned down. Evil corporations? We summon them into being and buy their stuff. Americans? Everyone wants air conditioning. Colonial expansion? Agricultural logistics are all about that and those logistics didn't just emerge in Mesopotamia, suspiciously the very region where the Garden of Eden is located.

The trouble, in part, is that for ever we humanists have been treating imagining and planning as on a par with doing and acting. (Oh dear, now you think I have an “unquestioned binary” between imagining and doing or whatever. I've read Of Grammatology and I consider myself a Derridean, very much so. We're in a different sort of domain here, where I'm simply saying that imagining that what I'm doing right now is sucking a lollipop doesn't account for the fact that I'm typing a sentence. I'm pretty sure my old office mate Jacques would in fact agree. He's not a nominalist. And even a nominalist would probably agree.)

It's because of the default correlationist mode we've all accepted for two hundred years, which often ends up in a gravity well where we are quibbling about labels. It's very very hard for us to see this, but Anthropocene isn't a label exactly like that. It's not in the domain of “We [the human subject, human history, human economic relations, human will, human Dasein...] get to decide what counts as real, and these decisions are of course political, so we should first and foremost decide what counts as real according to our particular politics.”

Can you see how this might be said in a mode that's part of the problem? And that it will end up with arguing about exactly the most politically progressive record store label, for the millionth time? Rather than, say, mentioning polar bears?

And thus that there's a politics of trying to fantasize about jumping to a level where you can see and analyze everyone else's politics? It's called cynical reason and it's designed to exclude polar bears.

In the bigger picture, the scientific date isn't about finding fault with (a particular group of) humans for human-on-human violence (which is real and part of the picture) and human-on-nonhuman violent ideas or plans (which is of course also part of the picture).

This is about depositing layers of carbon compounds in Earth's crust. To do that in such a way as to create a powerful stratigraphic signal, you need to be mining coal with steam engines.

Could we just listen to that, for a moment? Could we just reflect as to why we are surprised/shocked/outraged, and whether that might be a little bit our problem or maybe even a lot our problem?

It's as bad as global warming denial I'm so sorry to say. It has the same discursive format. Something doesn't fit our world so we deem it unreal or evil, badly intended, part of a conspiracy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Paris Talk on Monday

It's for this, Façonner l'Avenir. At the École des Arts Déco.

Am I Being Seduced by a Not Necessarily Human Sexuality Vortex

...or am I just trying to interpret this song?

This song is about interpreting songs. Sounds so innocent when you put it that way, no?

I just love how this is a narrative, a special kind called noir, where the narrator is paranoid that she or he is half creating (at least) what is happening. Narratives can't say everything all at once, which tells you about how you can't access all of a thing all at once.

The full ambiguity of the aesthetic experience on display here. Which is how OOO objects appear in general, so you have been warned :)