26 June 2014

Realms of gold

Roughly one hundred thousand trillion* solar photons arrive every second on every square centimeter of the Earth in sunlight.

* that is, one hundred quintillion, or 10^17 (via Caleb Scharf). The number of solar photons striking the planet every second is estimated be on the order of 10^45 (via Ethan Siegel)

Image: Twisted Oak on Broom Hill in the New Forest by Jim Champion

20 June 2014

"The sky's chest seemed so close"

In my dreams, the spirits tied my hammock's ropes high up in the sky. They looked like radio antennas extended at my side. They became paths that led the xapiri and their songs to me, just like the white people's telephone's talking path. I was lying calmly but I could feel my hammock getting bigger and bigger. Then I had the impression I was growing bigger with it. I was still only a small child, but I felt myself getting huge. I would look around and see nothing but a large void. It made me dizzy. The sky's chest seemed so close, within reach. A sound rose up from it, like the one from the groups of dancers yelling loudly when they arrive at a reahu feast: "Ao, Ao, Ao!" This was the clamor of the xapiri dancing as they came towards me, but I couldn't see them very well. Then after a while everything stopped. As I struggled to wake up I still felt huge. But realizing I was normal size, I worried and asked myself: "I'm still so small! But how could have I become so enormous?" and wound up falling back asleep.
-- from The Falling Sky by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert (2010, 2013)

Photo: SabastiĆ£o Salgado

16 June 2014

"Partners in creation"

The kind of attention we pay actually alters the world: we are, literally, partners in creation. This means we have a grave responsibility, a word that captures of the reciprocal nature of the dialogue we have with whatever it is that exists apart from ourselves.
Iain McGilchrist (2012)

Image: Manuel Werner

12 June 2014

"A tiny sparkling fragment of reality"

Rational thinking is not necessarily our greatest property, and although we prize it, it [can] be a handicap. We have to recognize that in addition to conscious rational thinking our minds are capable of other, more powerful mental processes that lead us by intuition to grasp a tiny sparkling fragment of reality.
-- from A Rough Ride to the Future by James Lovelock (2014)

Image: Ben Conrad wearing his pinhole suit and helmet with 135 pinhole cameras, 1994.

11 June 2014

"A wonderful threshold of knowledge"

Rereading Bronowski (1973):
...Man is unique not because he does science, and he is unique not because he does art, but because science and art equally are expressions of his marvelous plasticity of mind...

Civilisations fail when they limit the freedom of imagination of the young...

It is not the business of science to inherit the earth, but to inherit the moral imagination; because without that man and beliefs and science will perish altogether...

We must not perish by the distance between people and government, between people and power...
We are on a wonderful threshold of knowledge. The ascent of many is always teetering in the balance. There is always a sense of uncertainty, whether when man lifts his foot for the next step it is really going to come down pointing ahead. 
And what is ahead for us?  At last the bringing together of all that we have learned, in physics and in biology, towards an understanding of where we have come: what man is...

Knowledge is not a loose-leaf notebook of facts. Above all, it is a responsibility for the integrity of what we are, primarily of what we are as ethical creatures...

We are nature's unique experiment to make the rational intelligence prove itself sounder than reflex. Knowledge is our destiny. Self-knowledge, at last bringing together the experience of art and the explanations of science, waits ahead of us...

We are all afraid – for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the imagination...