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Saturday, March 29, 2003

In any dimension we can make a "checkerboard" with alternating red and black hypercubes, and we get a lattice by taking the centers of all the red ones. In n dimensions this is called the Dn lattice. We can pack spheres by centering one at each point of this lattice and making them just big enough so they touch. There will of course be some space left over. But when we get up to dimension 8, there's enough room left over so we can slip another identical array of spheres in the gaps between the ones we've got! This gives the E8 lattice.

I had some problems with that concept and we spent some time talking about questions at the limits of knowledge for both of us, with a lot of "as I understand it" and "I'm not totally sure, but it seems as if" as we tossed around discussions of how simultaneity is viewed within Special Relativity, and whether this model could explain the characteristics of arbitrarily large Bose-Einstein Condensates, as well as whether Heisenberg indeterminacy was actually isomorphic to chaos-theory unpredictability in systems which are highly sensitive to initial conditions. :D

[:: comment! :]

Wednesday, March 26, 2003
fear

Today the fear of possibility has become an instrument of statecraft, now pervasive in the domestic sphere. However likely or not the possibilities are, this instrument does not target reason; it targets the imagination. The pre-emptive logic that has come to dominate the Bush administration's bid for global dominance is a logic of imaginal fear. This is what I mean by magic: the strong rhetorical manipulation of the imagination and the direction and quality of the energy, such as fear or desire, that infuses the psyche. This is one of McLuhan's most crucial insights, perhaps the most important: that the electronic media space that we now inhabit almost as intimately as the atmosphere follows a logic of magical thinking rather than the rational and linear modes intensified during the phase of high European culture that carries at its heart the Enlightenment revolution.

culture

Culture brings us together, usually at a very small scale through mutual belief, trust and common interest. It educes, not compels, behavior. Culture codified is law. It is as inevitable as the day the night that as scale increases, law increases. Law enforced is government. Government does not, in the main, educe behavior, but compels it. Democratic or otherwise, rarely, very rarely, does any concentration of power or wealth desire to see subjects well informed, truly educated, their privacy ensured or their discourse uninhibited. Those are the very things that power and wealth fear most. Old forms of government have every reason to operate in secret, while denying just that privilege to subjects. The people are to be minutely scrutinized while power is to be free of examination.

[:: comment! :]

Sunday, March 23, 2003
inside iraq: pictures by jerome delay (via william fields)

UK troops told: be just and strong (via bradford delong) [:: extra! via rcb :]

the view from lebanon by tim cavanaugh

peace is hell by nick gillespie

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, March 20, 2003
parsing the meaning

To tell your allies that your word as a nation is not good--that agreements won't mean what you said they meant if you find it convenient to pretend otherwise--is extremely dangerous. It changes international relations from a search for mutual benefit into a struggle for power, and may have very bad implications for the long run.

a sobering lesson

Despite Britain's setbacks during its 40-year domination of Iraq, which lasted for a quarter-century after Iraq's independence in 1932, it was arguably more successful than any of the other Western invasions of the region. Some Iraqis still recall the time as a golden age of order, education and development. But the British and their chosen kings could never win over their subjects, and deliberately frustrated the Iraqis' desires for an independent political culture.

[:: comment! :]

Monday, March 17, 2003
from the department of prewar

diplomacy has failed

[:: comment! :]

Friday, March 14, 2003
SUPERFOLKS

One log in the fire, possibly the most significant one, was tossed by Morrison when he wrote an essay in the British magazine Speakeasy that delineated how the novel SUPERFOLKS by American author Robert Mayer presaged Alan Moore's 80s work, with the implication that swiping might have occurred. If you perform a Google search for SUPERFOLKS and Robert Mayer, you should find a sight that summarizes the novel written in 1978 and how it parallels Moore's work on the comic Miracleman.

I've never read the essay but some of the main comparisons that Morrison notes are that SUPERFOLKS and the comic MIRACLEMAN both open with the same quote from Nietzche, both deal with the return of a superhero out of domestic retirement, and both have a villain who is a homage to the hero Captain Marvel, Jr. who is defeated in the same manner. The novel and Moore's SUPERMAN story, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" both have an evil imp from the 5th dimension and end in thematically similiar ways. Also, the novel and the WATCHMEN have an elaborate government conspiracy designed to undermine the hero. Having just finished SUPERFOLKS, like 2 days ago, I can confirm the similiarites.

DSOTM

On the other hand, DSOTM goes well with a lot of things. A number of years ago, my brother in law was an IMAX projectionist at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. He was going on about how fantastic the sound system was there -- racks of amplifiers, an entire wall of speakers behind the screen, and near-perfect acoustics. One of us suggested that we go in after hours and play Dark Side of the Moon on the sound system, because, naturally, DSOTM is the album that you play when you want to show off a sound system.

Next time we were in DC, I made sure to bring my MFSL gold CD, and he made it happen. He projected the IMAX movie Blue Planet, with DSOTM playing at full volume through the 16,000 watt sound system. I've never heard or seen anything quite like that. There's an incredible amount of detail and quiet, hidden voices all through that album, and when you hear it on a nearly perfect audio system, it just comes alive. I never noticed how the guitars bounce back and forth between the channels until that day.

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
a short story by grant barrett

I realized I could understand everybody and everything. Two short Mexican men talking about their jobs. Israeli tourists. Three Hasidic women discussing the shops they were about to visit. Even the slang of the black kids from deep in Flatbush was clear. I got it all.

understand a novelette by ted chiang

I understand the mechanism of my own thinking. I know precisely how I know, and my understanding is recursive. I understand the infinite regress of this self-knowing, not by proceeding step by step endlessly, but by apprehending the limit. The nature of recursive cognition is clear to me.

[:: comment! :]

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