Computer Love

Has anyone else seen this? R2 and 3PO on Sesame Street:

"Firemen come along, attach their hoses to it, turn it on, and water comes out!" That's what she said! (Sorry sorry sorry)

Graham Greene — The Quiet American

The lieutenant said, 'Have you seen enough?' speaking savagely, almost as though I had been responsible for these deaths. Perhaps to the soldier the civilian is the man who employs him to kill, who includes the guilt of murder in the pay-envelope and escapes responsibility.
Should I invite my saviour to dinner, I sometimes wondered, or should I suggest a meeting for a drink in the bar of the Continental. It was an unusual social problem, perhaps depending on the value one attributed to one's life. A meal and a bottle of wine or a double whiskey?
'Sooner or later,' Heng said, and I was reminded of Captain Trouin speaking in the opium house, 'one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.'

Bowie and Tesla

Another example of the universe intersecting in fantastic ways, I just saw Christopher Nolan's movie The Prestige that stars David Bowie as Nikola Tesla! A little backstory, Wolverine is playing a London-based magician visiting Tesla during Tesla's sojourn in Colorado to place an order for a magic trick that will amaze his audiences. Spoiler alert: the cat in this video is not harmed:

Meanwhile I continue to be on the hunt for a decent Tesla biography although his own autobiography looks interesting. Having recently learned of Edison's dick treatment of Tesla (defaulting on his promise to pay him $50,000 for solving a problem only to later tell him he was only joking, then denying his request for a $7 raise), I'm now vowing to write anti-Edison pro-Tesla messages on all my checks to ConEd. Take that!

Here's one of my favorite anecdotes about him (via Wikipediea):
Tesla established his Houston Street laboratory in New York at 46 E. Houston Street. There, at one point while conducting mechanical resonance experiments with electro-mechanical oscillators, he generated a resonance in several surrounding buildings but, because of the frequencies involved, not his own building, causing complaints to the police. As the speed grew, he hit the resonant frequency of his own building and, belatedly realizing the danger, was forced to apply a sledgehammer to terminate the experiment, just as the police arrived.
Here is Tesla describing it in his own words:
"I was experimenting with vibrations. I had one of my machines going and I wanted to see if I could get it tune with the vibration of the building. I put it up notch after notch. Suddenly, all the heavy machinery in the place was flying around. I grabbed a hammer and broke the machine. Outside in the street there was pandemonium. The police and ambulance arrived. We told the police it must have been an earthquake. I told my assistants to say nothing."

Sunday at the Met

Rushed to the Met to catch the last day of their Victorian Photocollage exhibit, snip:
Sixty years before the embrace of collage techniques by avant-garde artists of the early twentieth century, aristocratic Victorian women were already experimenting with photocollage. The compositions they made with photographs and watercolors are whimsical and fantastical, combining human heads and animal bodies, placing people into imaginary landscapes, and morphing faces into common household objects. Such images, often made for albums, reveal the educated minds as well as the accomplished hands of their makers. With sharp wit and dramatic shifts of scale akin to those Alice experienced in Wonderland, these images stand the rather serious conventions of early photography on their heads.
Also loved this instrument in the Oceanic wing:

Also got their impressive new free map of the museum for children (click to enlarge):

I thought this map was particularly interesting because in a way I think it represents how a lot of people map the world in their own minds, a vague sense of where something should be rather than an exact location.

Mind Hacks and the 4th Dimension

I just finished reading H. P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House about a brilliant mathematics student who stumbles upon (by way of the occult) a means of bending and traveling through time and space. In the story the student, Walter Gilman, develops this ability unwittingly, coming up with the idea "in theory" while simultaneously denying that his nightly journeys through an infinite abyss populated by monsters to alien worlds as nightmares rather than the hyperspace journeys they are. When he finally accepts that he has stumbled upon this ability and that the horrible creatures he has encountered are real he is brought to the brink of sanity. It reminded me of a documentary much like this one where Buddhist monks are able to shrug off the effects of potentially lethal cold by raising their body temperatures to counteract the effects:

Lovecraft's story reminded me of this because, like the protagonist of his story, I feared stumbling upon an ability I too could not control. That if by sheer chance I managed to raise my body temperature I wouldn't be able to get it back down again and would effectively kill myself with my own mind. That is why when the day after finishing this story I was so affected by seeing this Tim and Eric sketch:

And finally this on SNL:

All this manipulating of time and space was messing me up and then I read this piece by Stephen Hawking. You should read the whole thing but here's my abridged snippet:
Hello. My name is Stephen Hawking . . . Time travel was once considered scientific heresy. I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labelled a crank. But these days I'm not so cautious . . . Physicists . . . wonder if portals to the past or the future could ever be possible within the laws of nature. As it turns out, we think they are. What's more, we've even given them a name: wormholes. The truth is that wormholes are all around us, only they're too small to see. Wormholes are very tiny. They occur in nooks and crannies in space and time. You might find it a tough concept, but stay with me. Nothing is flat or solid. If you look closely enough at anything you'll find holes and wrinkles in it. It's a basic physical principle, and it even applies to time. Even something as smooth as a pool ball has tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids. Now it's easy to show that this is true in the first three dimensions. But trust me, it's also true of the fourth dimension. There are tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids in time. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times. Unfortunately, these real-life time tunnels are just a billion-trillion-trillionths of a centimetre across. Way too small for a human to pass through - but here's where the notion of wormhole time machines is leading. Some scientists think it may be possible to capture a wormhole and enlarge it many trillions of times to make it big enough for a human or even a spaceship to enter. Given enough power and advanced technology, perhaps a giant wormhole could even be constructed in space. I'm not saying it can be done, but if it could be, it would be a truly remarkable device. One end could be here near Earth, and the other far, far away, near some distant planet . . . In the end, I think a wormhole like this one [into the past] can't exist. And the reason for that is feedback. If you've ever been to a rock gig, you'll probably recognise this screeching noise. It's feedback. What causes it is simple. Sound enters the microphone. It's transmitted along the wires, made louder by the amplifier, and comes out at the speakers. But if too much of the sound from the speakers goes back into the mic it goes around and around in a loop getting louder each time. If no one stops it, feedback can destroy the sound system. The same thing will happen with a wormhole, only with radiation instead of sound. As soon as the wormhole expands, natural radiation will enter it, and end up in a loop. The feedback will become so strong it destroys the wormhole. So although tiny wormholes do exist, and it may be possible to inflate one some day, it won't last long enough to be of use as a time machine . . . Any kind of time travel to the past through wormholes or any other method is probably impossible, otherwise paradoxes would occur. So sadly, it looks like time travel to the past is never going to happen . . . This doesn't make all time travel impossible. I do believe in time travel. Time travel to the future. Time flows like a river and it seems as if each of us is carried relentlessly along by time's current. But time is like a river in another way. It flows at diff erent speeds in diff erent places and that is the key to travelling into the future. This idea was first proposed by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago. He realised that there should be places where time slows down, and others where time speeds up. He was absolutely right. And the proof is right above our heads. Up in space. This is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. A network of satellites is in orbit around Earth. The satellites make satellite navigation possible. But they also reveal that time runs faster in space than it does down on Earth. Inside each spacecraft is a very precise clock. But despite being so accurate, they all gain around a third of a billionth of a second every day. The system has to correct for the drift, otherwise that tiny di fference would upset the whole system, causing every GPS device on Earth to go out by about six miles a day. You can just imagine the mayhem that that would cause. The problem doesn't lie with the clocks. They run fast because time itself runs faster in space than it does down below. And the reason for this extraordinary e ffect is the mass of the Earth. Einstein realised that matter drags on time and slows it down like the slow part of a river. The heavier the object, the more it drags on time. And this startling reality is what opens the door to the possibility of time travel to the future . . .

H. P. Lovecraft — The Dreams in the Witch House

I just finished the third and final volume of Penguin's collection of Lovecraft and loved all of it. So much of Lovecraft's writing is about creating a mounting atmosphere of dread, horror, wonder or despair that it's not easy to pick just one passage to give a good sense of his writing. That being said, this one does a suitable job of describing his opinion of humanity and its place in the cosmos:
He had read much of things as they are, and talked with too many people. Well-meaning philosophers had taught him to look into the logical relations of things, and analyse the processes which shaped his thoughts and fancies. Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value one above the other. Custom had dinned into his ears a superstitious reverence for that which tangibly and physically exists, and had made him secretly ashamed to dwell in visions. Wise men told him his simple fancies were inane and childish, and even more absurd because their actors persist in fancying them full of meaning and purpose as the blind cosmos grinds aimlessly on from nothing to something and from something back to nothing again, neither heeding nor knowing the wishes or existence of the minds that flicker for a second now and then in the darkness.

From The Silver Key

And this:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

From The Call of Cthulhu

From the Creation to A.D. 1828

I love these maps from Edward Quin's Historical Atlas Containing Maps of the World at Twenty-One Different Periods (1830). It's a more artful version of Leonard Outhwaite's Unrolling the Map: The Story of Exploration (1935) that I previously mentioned here.

Via BibliOdyssey.

Essex Street

Way to step it up from all the trite [C]anal Street gags!

WTF Bonnie Tyler?

What the fuck is going on in your video Bonnie Tyler? It looks like a still from some non-existent 80s movie directed by Mike Mignola (which, if it existed, would probably be my favorite movie).

Extra! Extra! Star Trek Scoops NASA!

Check out this image from Astronomy Picture of the Day and tell me it doesn't look like this scene from the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonais?

Post-Apocalyptica Screen Grabs #8
Right At Your Door
Cause: Supervirus-laced dirty bombs

Keep in mind this was an indie post-apocalyptic movie. You can stream it on Netflix if you're so inclined...