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Saturday, June 30, 2007
the universe looks like a fix (via LMG!)

The impression of design is illusory: our universe has simply hit the jackpot in a gigantic cosmic lottery. The multiverse theory certainly cuts the ground from beneath intelligent design, but it falls short of a complete explanation of existence. For a start, there has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and allocate bylaws to them. This process demands its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from?

the corruption of scooby doo (via sdj :)

In movies and TV series about the paranormal, the sterotypical "skeptic" figure always seems to convert into a believer by the end. And why does this occur? Well, because in fiction, the author can control the laws of nature, and in these fictional narratives (which show an abundant lack of creativity), the supernatural always turns out to be real.

Saturday, May 19, 2007
voices from the street

In the past, the most learned men had ideas which today we recognize as fantastic. To these men, the ideas seemed natural and sound. They believed the world was flat, that it occupied most of the universe, that the sun moved, that hairs left in water became worms, that lead could become gold, that a man could be healed if certain words were said over his injury. One of the wrong things which men believed had to do with time. They were wrong about the size of the world, its shape, its origin, what made it up, and they were wrong about its age. They had no understanding of the immensity of the universe in any direction. These were men of religion and men of rational persuasion. It was part of their way of thinking to believe that there were only a few years behind them and only a few miles around them.

This failure to understand the vastness of the universe, both spatially and mensurally, caused confusion. They knew the earth would end but they thought it would end in months or years. They knew only two thousand years behind them and they could not conceive that much ahead. To have told them the earth would last another two thousand years would have been to tell them that it would last forever. To them, two thousand years was the largest unity they understood. It was virtually infinity.
highcastle
Of the two powers, the two categories that take possession of us when we enter the world (from where?), space is by far the less mysterious. It, too, undergoes transformations, but the nature is simple: all space does is shrink with the passage of years. That is why the dimensions of our apartment slowly dwindled, as did the Jesuit Garden and the stadium of the Karol Szajnocha II State Gymnasium, where I went for eight years. True, it was easy for me to overlook these changes, becuse at the same time I was growing more active and independent , venturing into Lvov more and more boldly. The coming together of places familiar to me was hidden by a series of adventures of ever-increasing range. That is why one becomes aware of the reduction only later.

Space is, after all, solid, monolithic; it contains no traps or pitfalls. Time, on the other hand, is a hostile element, truly treacherous, I would even say against human nature. First, I had great difficulty, for years, with such concepts as "tomorrow" and "yesterday." I confess—and I never told this to anyone before—that for a very long time I situated both of them in space. I thought that tomorrow was above the ceiling, as if on the next floor, and that at night, when everyone was sleeping, it came down. I knew of course that on the third floor there was not tomorrow but only a couple who had a grown daughter and a shiny gold box filled with greenish candy that stuck to your fingers. I didn't really like that candy, which filled my mouth with the chill of eucalyptus, but I enjoyed receiving it, because it was kept in a rolltop desk that roared like a waterfall when it was opened. So I understood that by going upstairs I would not catch tomorrow red-handed, and that yesterday was not below us, because the landlord and his family lived there. Even so, I was somehow convinced that tomorrow was above us and yesterday below—a yesterday that did not dissolve into nonexistence but continued, abandoned, somewhere under my feet.

But these are introductory, and elementary, remarks. I remember the gate, stairs, doors, hallways, and rooms of the house on Brajerska Street where I was born, and many people, such as the neighbors mentioned, but without faces, because those faces changed, and my memory, ignorant of the inevitability of such change, was helpless, as a photographic plate is helpless with a moving object. Yes, I can visualize my father, but I can see his figure and clothes more clearly than his features, because images from many years are superimposed and I do not know how I want to see him, the man turned completely gray or the still vigorous fifty-year-old. And it is the same with everyone I knew for a long enough time. When the photographs and portraits are lost, our complete defenselessness against time becomes apparent. You may learn of its action early in life, but that is theoretical knowledge and not useful. When I was five, I knew what old and young meant, because there was old butter and a young radish, and I knew a bit about the days of the week and even about years (the twenties were light in color and then grew dark toward 1929), and yet basically I believed in the immutability of the world. Of people especially. Adults had always been adults, and when they used diminutives with each other, I was slightly shocked—it was inappropriate; diminutives were for children. How absurd that one old man should say to another "Stasiek."

So time was for me a motionless, paralyzed, passive expanse. A great deal took place in it, as in the sea, but time itself remained stationary. Every hour of school was an Atlantic Ocean one had to cross with manful determination; from hell to bell whole eternities passed, fraught with peril, and the summer vacation between June and September was an eon. I describe this unbelievable duration of hours and days as if I had only heard it from someone else and not experienced it myself, because I can now neither picture it nor conceive it. Later, imperceptibly, everything speeded up, and let no one tell me that impressions lie, because physical time has nothing in common with biological time. Physics aside, how does the time of electrons and cogs concern us? It always seemed to me there was some hidden trickery in the comparison, a vile deceit masked by the computational methods that equated all kinds of change. We come into this world trusting that things are as we see them, that what our senses witness is happening, but later it turns out, somehow, that children grow up and grown-ups start to die.

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