Catastrophic terminology

Disaster, calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm are comparable when they denote an event or situation that is regarded as a terrible misfortune. A disaster is an unforeseen mischance or misadventure (as a shipwreck, a serious railroad accident, or the failure of a great enterprise) which happens either through culpable lack of foresight or through adverse external agency and brings with it destruction (as of life and property) or ruin (as of projects, careers, or great hopes). [example omitted] Calamity is a grievous misfortune, particularly one which involves a great or far-reaching personal or public loss or which produces profound, often widespread distress; thus the rout at Bull Run was a disaster for the North but the assassination of Lincoln was a calamity; the wreck of the Don Juan was a disaster and, as involving the loss of Shelley, it was a calamity [further examples omitted] Catastrophe is used of a disastrous conclusion; it often emphasizes the idea of finality [examples omitted]

Word usage discussion on Stack Exchange

Word usage discussion on Stack Exchange

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Subjective Waveology

Harvesting energy of waves /associative clip/

This is a follow up on Gustav’s presentation and my comment, that a non-wave, (let’s say, a straight line) is something that in a certain context could be opposed to “reality”.

I had a hypothesis in my late teens, that we evaluate our happiness in relation to our disaster, and vice-a-versa. One man’s peak might be externally similar to other’s  tragedy. These states are always fluctuating, always judged in relation to previous knowledge of one’s rises and falls.

There is something that you treat as constant normality, but even if you can perceive it as numb and flat, normality cannot be the bottom or the top of your emotional diagram, because in that case you’d cease to call it normal.

There’s never only a line, because it would be unnoticeable in a larger scale, imperceptible and meaningless, because it would provide no deviation, no distance for observation. 

This is what makes stories easily representable as waves.

Coincidentally, very recently I’ve been thinking about sound waves in audio recordings.

Technically speaking, waves, both of sound and light on the perception side are single-dimensional. At any point of time, there is only one point of the wave. It takes an interpreting mind, for it to become a word, or a colour. In other words, to have (or to conceive) a wave, you need only one parameter, and it needs to shift in duration of time. So everything that changes, in theory can be described as wave. So fundamentally wave is time of change diagram – or something very similar to Kairos time, which you might remember from our Istambul seminars.

Discovery of Higgs boson was a relief: not everything is waves after all. We found the container (possibly not the source) of mass*. It means that matter is real, so, we’re not just an illusion after all. Probably. But I would argue, that waves and illusions is what really matters.

Happiness is clearly subjective. Meaning, just like value, I’m sure is the same. Nothing is meaningful or valuable, unless there is someone to consider it. Hypothetical rocks on Mars surely exist, but only as such, as hypothetical rocks on Mars, – very differently from a particular insignificant rocks on Mars, which can be seen in photos.

So what I’m arguing here (without proper references or knowledge), that even if you can prove existence of totally static, imperceptible and insignificant things, they would exist to no one, not even themselves, unless there is a mind takes them into account.

This somewhat phenomenological perspective is not some radical belief I’ve got, but just a possible point of view, which, besides being a conversational point, also seems to be conveniently humane. Our reality is constituted exclusively of things, which we’re capable to care of, to take into account at least a little, at least on the perception level. And that may hardly be static.

* Correction: discovery of Higgs Boson did not actually reveal where most of mass comes from. It was a much narrower question: where does a mass in electrons appear from. Of course, most of mass in universe is in protons. But apparently it is also dynamic. It is not introduced by some “massive” fundamental particle, but rather by energy, generated by interaction of quarks with gluon fields (whatever these magic words mean really mean). Because E=mc² can also be rearranged to m=E/c², meaning that mass is only dependant on energy (I could have stayed with that, really). See short video explainer  if you’re curious.

Vonnegut’s Ice-Nine for Europa

Water vapor spews from jagged cracks near the south pole of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. From, December 2013

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle introduced the world to so-called “Ice Nine,” a fictional form of water that freezes at room temperature. If it so much as touches a drop of regular water, that will freeze, too, and so on, spreading so rapidly that it freezes everything that comes into contact with it.

Fortunately for Earth, Ice-Nine doesn’t exist. But there is an exotic form of ice dubbed “ice VII” that physicists can create in the laboratory. It’s harmless in terrestrial conditions. But on an ocean world like Jupiter’s moon, Europa, it could behave just like Ice-Nine under the right conditions, freezing an entire world within hours—with some key implications for the possibility of finding life on distant exoplanets.

From Ars Technica “Weird water phase “ice-VII” can grow as fast as 1,000 miles per hour“, September 2018

Rocket science

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by hance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a fina and clinching proof of the nonexistence of God.
The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’
‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’
‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Melancholia and some limited sadness

After finally watching “Melancholia”, I can only confirm all recommendations. It is a worth seeing movie, at least by my standard, by which it passes the bar if it stays in memory at least for a few days (for whatever reason). Emotionally and visually crafted, the film hit me by how disagreeable its plot was to me. Not in a sense of technical or social accuracy, but because in the wake of inevitable disaster, all the characters are so desperate and broken.

An adage popped up in my memory, so I looked it up:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

– It is a prayer byReinhold Niebuhr, a little known theologian, not a citation of Thomas Aquinas, or Cicero, or Aurelius.

Just imagine, you have life and you won’t have it in a few hours. You didn’t have it, say, a hundred years ago, and won’t have it again. So you decide to spend those hours trembling and crying in despair, instead of getting the best of it. Isn’t that foolish? If I remember correctly, “Dancer in the dark” took a brighter route, but this time Trier decided to make it even more tragic.

To speculate about emotions which would take over, is very slippery, of course, but also personal. So naturally, I relate this observation to that dream I wrote about. I wonder how fictional it is – not in a sense of a real end, but according to science of psychology.

Another type of sadness comes from films irrelevance to the climate change. If it is stoppable, reversible, or at least prolongable, the movie has no link to it. It does not claim to have, it seems, but that also makes it quite apolitical.

So the movie plays in the realm of dreams, not issues, providing fictions and abstractions, which you can metaphorically use for your own situations. And by the way, I actually did – for example, yesterday while washing dishes, I remembered it, and felt how happy I actually am.

Thank you Von Trier.

Chicxulub asteroid

For a wider-ranging example, consider the case of the Chicxulub asteroid, which, 66 million years ago, crashed into what is today Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Eventually, its impact wiped out the dinosaurs, clearing a path for the rise of mammals. Should we see the Chicxulub impact as evidence that our planet’s fine-tuning wasn’t working very well so the Earth needed a collision with a massive and catastrophic asteroid to prepare it for human life? Was the dinosaurs’ destruction collateral damage en route to the ultimate goal of creating Homo sapiens roughly 65 million years later?

– by David P. Barash in “Anthropic arrogance“,

Anticipating hurricane Florence

I was suspicious about Klein’s “Shock doctrine” after watching the movie, due to intense persuasion and some far-fetched rhetoric. But it remains clear, that dictators in trouble are naturally seeking massive distractions. The obvious choice is war, but it is expensive and often unpopular. Disasters are much more convenient: they are nobody’s fault, and they happen anyway. So why not make use of it?

Florence is a rare case, when a disaster is predicted more than a week in advance. So when Trump is saying “we’re totally prepared”, it is natural to think that decision makers and media departments really are.

Reboot by aurora

It was a solar storm that, today, would disrupt nearly every society in the world. In 1859, all did was to make for some very strange telegraph conversations.

– Esther Inglis-Arkell writes on Gizmodo

It’s impossible to know when a major storm will hit next: The most we’ll get is a three-day warning when something happens on the surface of the sun.

The Conversation

Electricity, shown in the upper right, is integrated into every aspect of modern life. Federal Communications Commission

The sun probably poses a greater risk of a sustained outage than hackers or saboteurs.

The Economist


Antarctica just got properly mapped to better observe ice melting – NY Times report. And yes, it is full of volcanoes.

“And the activity of this range could have worrying consequences, they have warned. “If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets,” said glacier expert Robert Bingham, one of the paper’s authors. “Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.”

– The Guardian wrote in 2017

Inside the diorama

A trip to Biological Museum, which from the outside looks like this:

“Through that which is seen”

– this is literal meaning of the word “Diorama”. Though static teatrical scenery is most common use, I’ve come upon two dynamic options, both from 19th century.

Daguerre Diorama

A double-sided image, which changes according to light due to translucency.

Diorama building

Ground-plan of the Diorama Building, London 1823. Two double-sided translucent sceneries were used. In addition, whole auditorium would be physically rotated from one picture to another.

After the first talk

I’ll just document some remarks, following the presentations by Dougald Hine and Jennifer Rainsford. I’m sure I’ll be often oversimpifying here, and that the talk must have been much more nuanced for those more familiar with political art.

I can easily relate to Dougald’s notion, that climate change for most people, even when realized fully, still remains a lukewarm knowledge, a theory which has little impact on one’s emotions, and I would add, everyday life.

Dougald seems to call for internalizing knowledge about climate change, by using artistic practice, or for making art. As I understand, this can also be seen as a call to instrumentalise art for the global goal. This is somewhat counterintuitive, or even paradoxical in a sense, that one of most popular definitions of art require it to raise questions instead of providing answers or taking positions. To be free from being utilized.

This was not the case in the offspring of art, and it makes no more sense for the political art. Strictly speaking, no art may escape of accusation being functional, because anything that is purposefully fulfilling a need, can be seen as performing a function, be it a decoration, leisure, or a feeling of sheer transcendence.

I loved Jennifer’s idea, expressed after the talk, that this generation (obviously, including artists) has a mission to cultivate its descendants for the real fight for the planet. Because, probably she is right, we are not ready. It makes a lot of sense, because when the technologies will be available, a global agreement, will and readiness will be needed. So to say, cultural preparedness.

 It is nothing but natural, that an effort to plant certain ideas into somebody’s minds will evoke a massive opposite effect. Let’s enjoy some speculation. Lets say, it is extreme left: resignation of human species as deserving no supremacy to survive. Other lifeforms deserve it as much as we do, maybe even more. Heat and radioactivity loving life forms also have rights, and must have their time to enjoy existence. Who are we to forbid it all to them?

The epilogue by clouds

I woke up in my room, lit with golden morning light. Feeling fresh, ready to get up – but there was no urge to. Through the large window in front of my bed I could see the sky above distant trees, filled with beautifully lit, dense cumulus clouds. Too bright to be stormy, yet strangely intense, as if boiling. Vivid colors of dawn were mixing in fluffy undulating cloth, crawling from behind the the horizon. I got up and stood in front of the window in awe. The edge of the clouds was slowly rolling like an avalanche, growing and creeping to fill the sky, but still far away. Unusually fast, I was thinking, too fast for the clouds. It is not the wind pushing them. And then I calmly acknowledged, that only one force could have caused it, and here I stand, witnessing the nuclear end.
I quickly walked out of the room and stopped in front of my parents bedroom door, in doubt. What should I yell? To get my sister up and run to the basement? Minutes, if not seconds are left, and It won’t help much. Even if we managed to survive, probably not for long and definitely in a terrible world. By waking them up I would open an era of screams, fear and mischief. Maybe they are living their happy dreams right now. And the sky, it is so beautiful. Really, really spectacular.
I silently returned to my room, stood in front of the window with peace of mind, and watched the clouds coming closer, feeling thankful for the beauty of the world.

This was my dream from student days in Vilnius, which I recalled in relation to the R-Lab course “Marvels and Catastrophes”. As the course obliges me to upkeep a blog, I suppose this could serve as introductory post

The real window from my former bedroom at my parent’s house. The trees now seem much taller and closer.