6 November 2012

Time in Comics - Lucca Comics 2012


I just returned from a Week End in Lucca where I attended the 2012 edition of Lucca Comics. I am fascinated by the sheer amount of comics you can find but mostly it’s the beautiful setting of the city itself filled with real people dressed as fantasy characters (Cosplay). This year the new comics that grabbed my attention were END by Barbara Canepa and Anna Merli and ABC by Ausonia. Though the stories are different they both contain the possibility of communicating between the world of the living and that of the dead, and since the main character in both is a young girl I immediately thought of Jostein Gaarder’s Through a glass, Darkly. In all these stories there is an attempt to explain the separation of the material and spiritual worlds and a inquiry into death and religion. These stories are very different to the ones dealing with time travel I read as a teenager such as Nathan Never, and Watchmen in which Dr. Manhattan has incredible powers including precognition (explained by Tachyons) but they are all very thought provoking and beautiful.

17 October 2012

Time Travel and Warp Drives by Everett and Roman

Scientists are very interested in time and the possibilities of time travel but are very cautious with how they approach the matter. A recent example was the news in 2011 that Neutrinos could travel faster than light. The Opera group at the Gran Sasso shocked the world with their announcement that contradicted Einstein’s light-speed limit. In March of 2012 when two flaws were found in their calculations, the leader of the science team Antonio Ereditato was made to resign.

The internet and the media are full of pseudo science and sensationalists news, videos discussing machines and alien technologies making it hard to discern between what is scientific and what are imaginative personal theories.

In this book the authors explain that they only interested in measures of time that do not depend on the variations and vagaries of human perceptions. The emphasis is on what modern astronomy and especially modern physics have learned about the subject of time.

The vastness of space is bewildering, the nearest star Proxima Centauri, is about 4 light-years away. With our present technology it would take over 10,000 years to send a probe there. On an even larger scale , the distance across our milky way is 100,000 light-years and our nearby neighbour galaxy, Andromeda, is about 2,000,000 light-years away.  It is no wonder that we should seek “shortcuts” between the stars involving travel faster than the speed of light.

And what about time? Why is the past different from the future? Why can we remember the past and not the future? Is it possible that past and future are “places” that can be visited.

This book examines the possibility of time travel and of space travel exceeding the speed of light from the purely scientific point of view.

Science fiction often mentions warp drives but there is one problem, superluminal travel seems to involve a violation of the known laws of physics, in this case the “light barrier” in Einstein’s special theory of relativity.  Science fiction writers describe “what” technological developments might occur in the future and scientists describe “how” they might actually work. When Carl Sagan was writing “Contact”, later made into a movie with Jodie Foster, he wanted a believable way for his characters to travel across the galaxy through space-time shortcuts. His discussions with his physicist friend Kip Thorne got the latter to develop theories that today allow us to understand “how” a traversable Wormhole might work.

The curiosity and enthusiasm of scientists is why we built particle accelerators at CERN in search of the “god particle”, experiment with entangled particles and explore how we could build a quantum computer. The Nobel prize for physics this year was in fact assigned to two scientists, Haroche and Wineland, who’s work will lead to incredibly accurate optical clocks and are a first step towards the quantum computers (super fast computers that will work with each bit having 3 states as opposed to today’s binary, 1s and 0s computers).

This book is great in telling us what scientists have achieved as far as 2012. I found it to be a very interesting read though the conclusion is a little disappointing, as of today scientists believe no object can travel faster than the speed of light. In fact even the experiments on entangled particles which show that when the spin of one particle is observed the other distant one will be observed to always have the opposite spin, doesn’t  prove superluminal travel. The measurement of one doesn’t cause what happens to the other. When the observers get together and compare notes after the experiment they will find a correlation every time. So no time machines or warp drives yet!

10 October 2012

Time in Painting

I believe artists have their very own way of perceiving time and of representing it through their works of art. The image above is a detail from the magnificent early baroque fresco by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) found in Palazzo Barberini in Rome.  Chronos (the personification of time) is shown devouring his children.

The primordial deities Chronos along  with Ananke (personification of destiny, necessity, and fate) marked the beginning of the cosmos and brought about the creation of the ordered universe.  It seems that Ananke represented a universal principle of natural order, which controlled all fate and circumstance of mortals, and was far beyond the reach of the younger gods whose fates she was sometimes said to control.  Simonides (556-468 BCE) once wrote: "Even the gods don’t fight against ananke"
Tyche on the other hand was the goddess of luck venerated at Itanos in crete and later by Romans as Fortuna. In medieval art she was also depicted as the wheel of fortune or standing on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate.
Norbert Wiener in his book “cybernetics” presents Ananke as the personification of scientific determinism, contrasted with Tyche as the personification of quantum indeterminacy;  "The chance of the quantum theoretician is not the ethical freedom of the Augustinian, and Tyche is as relentless a mistress as Ananke."
Paintings do not need to represent Chonos or time to relate to the subject of time, in fact some paintings can through the use of symbols or “simply” through a sense of aesthetics communicate to us or enlighten us on truths that might be very difficult to express by other means.
Since the 1970’s it is a well accepted fact that artists use the right hemisphere of their brain more while creating their art. Artists are able to switch to a nonverbal, non-temporal, special, intuitive holistic mode. This subject was explored in depth by Betty Edwards in the late 70’s. I have experienced this briefly myself when I’m immersed in my drawings.
In twentieth century art Salvador Dali (1904-1989) comes to my mind. The surrealists were well aware of how Freud used the psychoanalytic device of free association to trace the symbolic meaning of dream imagery to its source in the unconscious, Dali applied the same method to his pictorial imagery.
The above painting “The Persistence of Memory” is a good example of how psychology and spirituality come together aesthetically to represent  Transcendental Time.

From a paper by art critic Martin Reis:
The Church thought of time as eternity, citing Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae where he compares completeness, perfection, and infinity, to God. The deep perspective in Persistence suggests time past, with the viewer deserted and lost in infinity. Interestingly, Salvador ("Saviour") Dali's anti-clerical bias is reflected in his use of Christian and Freudian images in the painting; and as if to emphasize the reality of his hallucinations, his surreal iconography is placed in the landscape of the bay at Port Lligat on the Costa Brava, his home and studio. Although he describes the origin of the soft watches as derived from dreaming of Camembert cheese, Marcel Jean, in his History of Surrealist Painting, says they symbolize impotence: montre not only means "watch" in French, but is also the imperative form of the verb montrer, "to show". A sick child must show his tongue to the doctor, montrer la molle, which sounds the same as la montre molle "soft watch". Usually we think of these bent watches as referring to Einstein's theory in which our world is becoming a spatio-temporal continuum; the world's concept of time and space was certainly changing. The three open and vulnerable watches (past, present, future?) are within orthogonals which point to the top center of the painting (heaven?). According to Freud, menstrual periodicity transforms the concept of time into a feminine symbol, and the fourth watch, closed, hard and impregnable, has been diagnosed as a feminine symbol. Certainly this watch in the foreground is a vital red, while the middle ground watch is softened to orange and the background timepiece is a lifeless gray.
Ants usually suggest putrefaction and decay; the rigid watch is attacked by scavenger ants, indicating the inorganic is becoming organic and vulnerable. However, since the watch is closed and red with life, time is unattainable and the ants attack without success, implying triumph over death and decay via procreation or immortality. In Christian doctrine, ants signify provident man, the one who chooses the true doctrine and rejects heresy. The fly, on the other hand, has long been considered a bearer of pestilence and evil (Lord of the Flies, or Beelzebub, is from Ba al-z' bub, lord + fly, a god of the ancient Philistines, averter of insects). In Christian symbology, the fly symbolizes evil.
The amoeba or fetal image suggests the primordial beginnings of life, and like a lost soul in infinity, is stranded on a barren beach with its life-giving water (holy water?) in the far distance. This fetal image, usually interpreted as a self-portrait, appears in several other paintings, including The Great Masturbator. The soft tongue, similar to the limp watches, is a well known Freudian symbol for the penis; Dali, in his Secret Life of Salvador Dali, makes public his anxieties about sexual dysfunction. Trees, tall and erect, are male, according to Freud; but this tree is scrawny and lifeless. The extending phallic branch, with its post-coital watch, points to rock formations which in actuality are the granite outcroppings above the Bay of Cullero near Dali's home. "Geology has an oppressive melancholy," stated the artist, "this melancholy has its course in the idea that time is working against it." Again, the rock is a symbol of Christian steadfastness, and suggests the antithesis of the biological objects which are subject to the laws of change and disintegration. According to medieval Christian legend, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil withered when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Thus the dead tree in Giotto's Lamentation, della Francesca's Resurrection, and Michelangelo's Fall and Expulsion, all refer to original sin, otherwise known as Freud's Oedipus Complex. The cubes on the left may possibly have some reference to Cubism, although again, they are symbols of stability in Christian iconology. Ants, the fly, yielding watches, fetus, open horizon, all suggest the transitoriness and impersistence of time.”  - Martin Reis, 1991.
On the Time Triangle I would place artists on the Transcendental Time axis on the opposite side of SCIENCE, not because they cannot express scientific knowledge (on the contrary) but because their approach is so radically different. (see the next article for a decription of the triangle).

17 September 2012

Explaining The Triangle

Humans must have concerned themselves with time ever since they have become aware. A time to hunt and a time to sleep, and dream. A time to fear and fight and a time to love. Ancient burial sites and temples tell us we were deeply concerned with death and the afterlife.  Ancient shamans tried to interpret symbols and dreams. I believe religion came about as a way to explain Fear vs. Dreams or Eternity vs. Death. A superior being that transcended time which I have labelled “GOD” at the top of my triangle. Then came early physicists and mathematicians or astronomers who tried to rationalize the world but with their limited knowledge would still rely heavily on mythology. With the first philosophers myth was questioned and room was made for argumentation.  This brought on a whole field of philosophy and later psychology that is concerned with what I labelled “MIND”. This left scientist the freedom to explain the physical world or “SPACE” without the constraints of religion or personal perceptions. These 3 distinct approaches give us a very pure and abstract concept of time.  From these three come three secondary understanding of time. A quest for “Universal” time,  “Transcendental” time or “Empirical” time.  My hope is that we can converge from these into a new and better understanding of what time really is.

15 May 2012

Time in poetry - Haiku

I have been fascinated with haiku for many years. This form of Japanese poetry appeals to my senses. The structure is quite strict; each poem is made of 17 syllables or onji (5-7-5) and tries to depict an impression or an emotion.

In the fields of snow             aoshi aoshi
greenest is the green             wakana wa aoshi
of the new grass                    Yuki no hara               - Konishi Raizan (1653-1716)

Sometimes the emotions they communicate is a sad one like in the two examples below. Both are by Matsu Basho, the first one he wrote just as he left his village for his long tour of Japan; “wondering, sad, if I’d ever return to this cherished village of my childhood. My heart was tight, even if the transitional world is but a dream, my anguish brought me tears.”

The spring is leaving:             yuku haru wa
Birds are crying and tears      tori naki uo no
fill the eyes of the fish           me wa namida            - Matsu Basho (1644-1694)

The second poem he wrote many years later, the subject is a lock of hair from his deceased mother.

If I were to hold it                 te ni toraba
It would melt in my tears       kien namida zo atsuki
Like autumn frost.                 Aki no shimo                - Matsu Basho (1644-1694)

Ah, but do they talk about time ?

Not directly, they are more about a Zen perception of nature, but we can definitely perceive two recurring themes; first a seasonal or cyclical time as opposed to a linear time. In some cases we feel an absence of time a sort of enlightened Zen moment encompassing all time. Second, a spiritual or dream dimension dealing with issues of death and eternity.

Haiku on cyclical time:

In this autumn                        kono aki wa
Why am I so old ?                  nan de toshi yoru
In the clouds, a bird               kumo no tori               - Matsu Basho (1644-1694)

Moonlight:                             shiraume no
The white plum returns          kereki ni modoru
a winter tree                           tsukiyo kana                - Yosa Buson (1715-1783)

returning to see them             kitemireba
in the evening the blossoms   yube no sakura
have become fruits                 mi to narinu                - Yosa Buson (1715-1783)

Haiku on perception and dreams:

Spring rain                             harusame
reflected in bovine eyes         furu to mo shirazu
that do not see it                    ushi no me ni              - Konishi Raizan (1653-1716)

Unseen lark                            furusato no
of my distant home village    mienaku narite
I know you’re singing            naku hibari                 - Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

The butterfly is a recurring theme in haiku and often is an allusion to Chuang Tzu’s dream:

You are the butterfly             Kimi ya cho
and I the dreaming heart       ware ya Sooji ga
of [Chuang Tzu]                    yumegokoro                 - Matsu Basho (1644-1694)

“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly I awaked, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.” Chuang Tzu (4th Century BCE)

Chuang Tzu also wrote the following around the 4th Century BCE:

By and by comes the great awakening, and then we may find out that this life is really an extended dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams—I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a wise man may come forward to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be until ten thousand generations have gone by.

28 April 2012

What do I mean by "Time and Religion".

a man decribes his search for "time" on youtube

What is Time ?, How do we perceive time ?, is our perception of time changing, evolving ?
As Dan Falk put it "Time surrounds us. It defines our experience of the world, it echoes through our every working hour. Time is the very foundation of our conscious experience. Yet as familiar as it is, time is also deeply mysterious. We cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch it. Yet we do feel it - or at least we think we feel it. No wonder poets, writers, philosophers, and scientists have grappled with time for centuries.

Every early religion around the world developed in order to grasp the concept of time. From the early days of Shamanism and burial rituals during the Natufian culture that flourished between 15,000 and 11,600 BCE through Neolithic burials, 'homo-religious' as Karen Armstrong calls our ancestors, has tried to deal with the meaning of time, life after death, and eternity.
Our ancestors must have had a need to track time and seasons. Night must have been quite scary back in the days and harsh winter or summers must have had a determining role in our survival. In fact I believe FEAR and DREAMS were the two factors that led mankind to a spiritual awakening. On the one side fear of night, harsh nature and death, and on the other, dreams of fair weather and food in abundance or dreams of a deceased parent that might have been so vivid as to make us truly believe they still lived in another dimension or that we could somehow communicate with them. Most early tombs functioned as some sort of giant clock/calendar. A great example is the "passage tomb" of Newgrange in Ireland dating back to 3,100 BCE, making it five centuries older that the great pyramids of Giza. The tomb is richly decorated with triple spirals and other geometric shapes. The tomb spans 25 meters in length ending in 3 small perfectly preserved and dry alcoves giving it an elongated cruciform design. One of the most intriguing feature though is that once a year, on the morning of the winter solstice, sunlight reaches into the passage into the deepest burial chamber.

Many of the symbols of ancient religions are inspired on the sun, the moon, the seasons and the cycles of the stars. It is the sense of sacred that our ancestors had to try to explain time, death and eternity and that evolved around the world in various forms. If we want to fully understand time we need to have a deep understanding of religion and its evolution throughout time.

The above video resumes the concept quite well. It is unfortunate that the man speaking has beliefs that diverge hugely from mine; he speaks of ill credited scientists, believes in conspiracy theories and in other interviews talks of machines that don’t really exist. But in the pursuit of truth I will not be censoring anyone's ideas especially on a subject like "time".

22 April 2012

Perceivers and Receivers

I just spent the last 2 weeks reading 1Q84 (Books 1 and 2) only to discover there is a third concluding book. I found the book disturbing and very Japanese (if you'll allow me the generalization, which usually comprises glorification of western actors and films, a fascination with suicide and an overall complicated plot based on traditional Japanese myths that make it difficult for most westerners to comprehend).

Does the book talk about Time ?

Only indirectly, but it does explore the concept of two separate universes in which though one is not free to travel to and fro, one definitely affects the other. (SPOILER) Aomame, has an encounter with Tengo at  the age of 10  then at the age of 30 travels to the second universe, saves Tengo’s life,  commits suicide and is reborn in Tengo’s dying father’s bed as a 10 year old Aomame. All of this through a series of significant coincidences or prophecies that only a few elected people can interpret (Perceivers and Receivers). There is a mention to the fact that, in the past, Receivers were kings and rulers and that Perceivers were priests and the so called Little People were called with different names (spirits or gods?) And that to keep the balance of power, any excess of power on either side, would always create a counterbalancing force within society.

I hope that the third book will enlighten me a little more on Murakami’s vision and give some insights and ideas on Time. I will post something after reading it.

18 April 2012

Time in music

The subject of time often comes up in songs either in the lyrics or in a clever use instruments that suggest the passage of time, or often in both. Below I’ve listed 3 examples from around Europe that are vivid in my mind.

What interests me particularly in certain songs is their ability to change our perception of time. We often hear our music as a background sound while we are doing something else but I often listen to music on my stereo or on large headphone, close my eyes and do nothing else. If I like the song I can immerse myself fully in the music and time can slow down or even stop. This sensation could be due to a switch from left hemisphere to right hemisphere and/or dopamine and adrenaline levels being altered and changing my perception of time.

Taking it one step further I would like to speculate that certain sounds or harmonies can actually stimulate our pineal gland to produce Melatonin and possibly DMT.

Last night, after I practiced singing overtones for an hour, I went to sleep and dreamt I was levitating. The feeling I had was much more vivid than a dream about flying. I was very conscious in this dream. In fact I was very happy to see that I could really fluctuate above ground like I had dreamt so many times in the past. When I woke up it took me a few minutes to realize it was all a dream.
I will write a post on the pineal gland and it’s possible link to astral travelling in the coming month.

Time by Pink Floyd

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Tempo – Jovanotti (I’m only listing a part of the song’s lyrics)

Comunque vadano le cose lui passa
E se ne frega se qualcuno è in ritardo
Puoi chiamarlo bastardo ma intanto è già andato
E fino adesso niente lo ho mai fermato
E tuttalpiù forse lo hai misurato
Con i tuoi orologi di ogni marca e modello
Ma tanto il tempo resta sempre lui quello
L'unica cosa che ci è data di fare
É avere il tempo da poter organizzare

Centonove battute al minuto
Quando finisce forse ti sarà piaciuto
La chiave per capire questo genere di suono
Che a molte orecchie può sembrare frastuono
E liberare la tua parte migliore
Chiudere gli occhi e aprire bene il cuore

Quando stai bene lui va via come un lampo
Quando t'annoi un attimo sembra eterno
E il paradiso può diventare inferno
Tempo ti frego e con il ritmo ti catturo
E ti chiudo in una ritmica di aspetto molto duro
E t'organizzo in battute in quattro quarti
Allora non avrai tempo di liberarti
E con le gambe muovo anche il cervello
E allora il tempo sarà mio fratello
E come lui mi darà sempre una mano

La dernière minute – Carla Bruni (the song actually lasts one minute)

Quand j'aurai tout compris, tout vécu d'ici-bas,
Quand je serai si vieille, que je ne voudrai plus de moi,
Quand la peau de ma vie sera creusée de routes,
Et de traces et de peines, et de rires et de doutes,
Alors je demanderai juste encore une minute...

Quand il n'y aura plus rien qui chavire et qui blesse,
Et quand même les chagrins auront l'air d'une caresse,
Quand je verrai ma mort juste au pied de mon lit,
Que je la verrai sourire de ma si petite vie,
Je lui dirai "écoute ! Laisse-moi juste une minute..."

Juste encore minute, juste encore minute,
Pour me faire une beauté ou pour une cigarette,
Juste encore minute, juste encore minute,
Pour un dernier frisson, ou pour un dernier geste,
Juste encore minute, juste encore minute,
Pour ranger les souvenirs avant le grand hiver,
Juste encore une minute... sans motif et sans but.

Puisque ma vie n'est rien, alors je la veux toute.
Tout entière, tout à fait et dans toutes ses déroutes,
Puisque ma vie n'est rien, alors j'en redemande,
Je veux qu'on m'en rajoute,
Soixante petites secondes pour ma dernière minute.

Tic tac tic tac tic tac