Dark Matter, Does it?

“If the multiverse idea is correct, then the historic mission of physics to explain all the properties of our universe in terms of fundamental principles–to explain why the properties of our universe must necessarily be what they are–is futile, a beautiful philosophical dream that simply isn’t true. Our universe is what it is because we are here. ”
Alan Lightman, “The Accidental Universe”

Astronomy week, when the class and I read two essays, one about the relationships of the sun, moon and Earth–and one human to another, and one about the aim of science to figure out who we are, why we came to be, is an exciting week for me.

I wax on about the mysteries of the universe, the idea of the multiverse, Big Bang, Intelligent Design, Newton and the Theory of Gravity, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, ten or more dimensions of space, quantum theory, quarks, string theory, Inflation theory, dark energy and matter, the complete absence of a theory on how the human brain creates consciousness, and the overall pursuit of a fully coherent cosmos that adds up to us–what scientists had hoped to achieve through speculation, calculation and logic, beginning with observing natural laws, up til recent history when the Hubble deep field experiment revealed the probability of a multiverse.

The project to discover the cause and effect chain to everything had to be abandoned with thrown up arms, seemingly also abandoning the aims of the preceding thousands of years’ work. Alan Lightman writes about this interrupter known as the multiverse in “The Accidental Universe.” And when I ask students, who look at me as if I am on a 70’s psychedelic trip, what this all has to do with them, their reality right now, no one can answer–not even the ones who desperately want to answer something, anything.

Like history, the cosmos is just too far away. They cannot feel it, not even as a dream they may have had and can recall in that hazy sense of remembering a distorted reality deeply imprinted in another realm of consciousness.

“Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.” Lightman

And so students interpret that faith in the unknown not as the spurs to discover what is out there but as the sigh of futility. It has so little to do with their immediate aims–surviving school, work and social media.

But it is human arrogance to require relevance to the human condition. Or that the multiverse is created in our own image, running round ourselves like the orbiting moon to Earth, Earth to the sun.

“The disposition of the universe–that crazy wheelwright–designates that we live on a wheel, with wheels for associates and wheels for luminaries, with days like wheels and years like wheels and shadows that wheel around us night and day; as if by turning and turning, things could come round right.” Amy Leach, “You Be the Moon”

I miss the eloquence, enthusiasm, sincerity and passion of this scientist to make the real imaginable and the imaginable real:

Eostre

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A March morning, I last saw her,
Jade in her eyes,
Mossy fingered stare,
As she tiptoed through my garden.
And her long veil draped her silhouette,
Leaving traces among the kale,
Her lips, the red of their veins,
Her breath, their gathered tears.
I welcomed her home and watched.
From my kitchen window, I saw her,
The flash of steel blinding,
Hitting the sun’s face upon her blade
As she split the day.

Soccer College Showcase in Vegas

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The sun and wind, whistles and screams.
The engine roar of passing planes muted by vast, absorbent sky and grass,
dirt and plastic.
Baby chuckles and exasperated sighs,
“Oh God” and the like,
reactions to the terror of play,
a mother’s fear,
a father’s glory.
And the ice cream jingle floats atop the astro-turf swelter,
a complementary note to children at work.
The song sings of promises and earned rewards:
ice pop, pat on the back, handshake and a wink,
and maybe a letter, informing

“We accept your excellence this day,
this very warm, breezy winter day on the playground of risk and fortune.”

My friend Nietzsche

  
Reading today in The Mindful Word, I am reminded that so many quotations I and others are so fluid in came unsuspectingly from the mind, mouth and pen of this great thinker and philosopher. I enjoyed the reminder, like running into an old friend.

Here are a few of the Friedrich Nietzsche quotes in today’s TMW. Click on the link to read the rest.
 
Without music, life would be a mistake.
 
It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.
 
No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.
 
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
 
There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.
 
You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.
 
In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.
 
Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.
 
To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.
 
There are no facts, only interpretations.
 
The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.
 
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
 
I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.
 
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
 
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
 
Man is the cruelest animal.
 
The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.
 
Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings—always darker, emptier and simpler.
 
Every deep thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood.

In the Afternoon

central park

The way we make heads spin, yours and mine,

gyro-scopic, demonically bone-mind entwined,

two dizzy dabblers in the kind and physical arts,

like the moon-lit chase one night in central park,

sleeved knife steel shiver your pace emboldening,

as I dodged trees and cats, tree’d cat spit-hissing

like mongrel mad dogs, mad-dashing as we were

half naked, stumbling drunk, gamboling jig curs;

where that night ended and this afternoon began,

I cannot unwind the tale, follow the threads’ end,

twist-tied in silent slept breath now we’ve become,

once more, one more lie, one last undoing, un-done.

 

 

 

 

National Kick Butts Day

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Oddly enough, I smelled cigarette smoke today, and for the first time in many, many moons, it smelled good to me. I used to smoke cigarettes–an on again off again affair. I started in elementary school, forcing myself to trade un-labored breathing and clean smelling clothes for cool. I stayed with the habit throughout junior high and high school, developing a full-blown half a pack to full pack a day habit back in the late 70’s. Cigarette packs cost less than 50 cents then.

When I moved from New York to California, the cool changed and so did my habit. Californians did not smoke like New Yorkers did. And I met a non-smoker who encouraged me to quit to avoid the kissing an ashtray repulsion he wished to avoid. So I did, many times in as many years, sometimes for months and other times for years at a time. I had not smoked for 5 years when I enrolled in a summer school graduate school program back in 1989. The first day of the semester brought on a half a pack a day habit instantly. But the last day likewise signaled the last cigarette. The longest non-smoking stretch spanned ten years or so, the child-rearing years.

All in all, I tally the smoking years against the non-smoking years and the latter wins out handily by a 4 to 1 ratio (yes, I include infancy in that calculation). Mollifying my conscience about healthy aspirations is one reason for the calculation. The other is the sneaking suspicion turned confirmed of late.

My father’s smoking ratio is about 1:2 smoking to non-smoking. He quit tobacco 31 years ago after visiting an old friend dying of emphysema, leaving behind a wife and kids. Watching this formerly cool, tough Italian macho tote an oxygen machine like a child’s security blanket was not so much what did it as the look on his wife’s face, knowing she would be left to take care of it all. My father quit after that Florida visit and never smoked again, despite a three-pack a day habit. My first cigarette was one I snuck from his maroon soft Pall Mall (he pronounced pell mell) pack and lit on the school playground–during recess!

He was my inspiration to both quit and not-quit. If he could quit a 30 plus year habit cold turkey, I could quit a smaller habit. But the thought was always: any day I could just up and quit like my dad did. He just decided to do it, and then quit. And so did I. But I didn’t stay quit.

I haven’t smoked in a long while, not sure how long. I don’t like to count. I don’t like to think about it at all, though I often have a twinge of angst about the damage done. I have heard and seen those pictures of dirty and clean lungs of cigarette smokers. I have read that the deleterious effects immediately begin to dissipate as soon as you stop. But it seems to me there would be some residual damage, some frayed edges somewhere for the abuse. The subject has never brought me even close to researching. I probably don’t want to know or trust what I read.

Yesterday I sat in the doctor’s office with my 81 year old father and questioned the doctor about the tumor discovered inside his bladder. I asked why he needed surgery rather than a biopsy if the tumor was just discovered. The internal medicine specialist matter-of-factly turned to me as if I were on fire with ignorance and replied, “because with his smoking history and the location of the tumor, these tumors are almost always malignant.” Malignant and tumor in the same sentence made my jaw slack and eyes widen.

Funny thing about looking up the National Day (a habit of mine)–National Kick Butts Day–I did not automatically think of cigarettes. My immediate understanding was kicking butt as in overcoming or winning or beating. The notion made me smile. I like kicking the butt of obstacles, like just today submitting an article due at 7:22 right on the dot at 7:21 after my day got away from me and I toyed with extending the deadline. I also re-negotiated a couple of contracts to more favorable terms, turned a few students on to poetry and astronomy (two current passions of mine) this morning in class, and whittled down a stack of essays needing grading. I’d say it was National Kick Butt Day today for me if not for the nation.

But also for my dad. The doctor did add that this type of malignancy–located in the bladder–is one that commonly spreads. The surgeon removes it and done, out patient even. At least that is my hopeful understanding. Though I have no desire to research this one either, I am going to take this news as equally kick-butt as enlightened 18 year olds to poetry and astronomy, hard to believe but absolutely, positively plausibly true.

Happy National Kick Butts and Kick Butt Day!

 

credit: scoutingmagazine.org

Dooms Day

  
La Mort de César (ca. 1859–1867) by Jean-Léon Gérôme

 
Caesar:

Who is it in the press that calls on me?

I hear a tongue shriller than all the music

Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.
 
Soothsayer:

Beware the ides of March.
 
Caesar:

What man is that?
 
Brutus:

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
 
Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19
 
Today is bad omen day, or “I told you so” day. Julius Caesare apparently was warned of the treachery that awaited him at the Senate–many times and ways–yet he remained in denial, denying even his own gut feeling that the nasty-liver-missing-heartless entrails of a dozen or more sacrificed beasts did not bode well.
 
According to UK’s The Telegraph, The Ides of March: The assassination of Julius Caesar and how it changed the world, Caesar was warned by an entrails reader that ill fortune awaited him. According to this account, Caesar actually died with an unopened scroll in his hands, given to him by a messenger warning him of the treachery. But nooooo, he had to go to show good appearances, at the beckoning of his so-called friends and countrymen.
 
For drama’s sake, Shakespeare spiced up Caesar’s departure with parting words, “Et tu, Brute?” and anyone who knows anything popularly about Caesar’s death, probably knows it through Shakespeare’s play, required reading in many high schools and undergraduate college courses.
 
In the English-speaking world, we know a slightly different story, thanks to Shakespeare. He lifted Caesar’s dramatic dying words, “Et tu, Brute?” from an earlier play by Richard Edes, and made them a part of the assassination mythology. In reality, most Roman writers state that Caesar said nothing, but merely pulled his toga up over his face. They do note, however, that some people were spreading the story that Caesar had gasped, “καὶ σὺ, τέκνον?/You too, my child?” to Brutus. (Many Romans of all classes were bilingual, with the more educated frequently preferring to speak Greek.)
 
Most famously, however, Shakespeare does away with Spurinna, the venerable entrails-gazer, and instead invents a soothsayer in a crowd, who shouts the famous prophetic warning to Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March!” It is, perhaps, one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines and, as a direct result, “the Ides” has come to mean a date of doom.
 
Doomsday. I hope not. My father has a doctor’s appointment today in preparation for surgery. The innards of my breakfast cereal looked okay this morning, however. I think it’ll be all right.

Bhavana: How we grow as knowledge cultivators

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Bhavana, meaning to cultivate or develop but commonly used in Buddhism as a word for meditation, once again flashes before my mind’s eye. Despite researching the term, the exact sense of the word often escapes me. Does it simply mean to grow understanding? Are meditation and bhavana the same? I have not yet reached that place where my life experience and the word’s essence combine to flesh out the bones of meaning—not in its spiritual sense.

Cultivating takes time: crops grow over…See more

Give me back my hour!!

To die, to sleep.

To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub

 
 
credit: thephilfactor.com
 

I feel tired, resentfully tired. Like I’ve been robbed. It’s not just an hour. It’s my life!

What Difference Could an Hour Make?

By Michael J. Breus, PhD

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

The daylight-saving time change will force most of us to spring forward and advance our clocks one hour. This effectively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, giving us those long summer nights. But waking up Monday morning may not be so easy, having lost an hour of precious sleep and perhaps driving to work in the dark with an extra jolt of java. How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.
 
Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue — light — for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt to this depends on several things.
 
In general, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time. An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.
 
How long will it take you to adapt to time changes? Though a bit simplistic, a rule of thumb is that it takes about one day to adjust for each hour of time change. There is significant individual variation, however.
 
How will you feel during this transition? If you are getting seven to eight hours of sound sleep and go to bed a little early the night before, you may wake up feeling refreshed. If you are sleep-deprived already, getting by on six hours, you’re probably in a bit of trouble, especially if you consume alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime. In this situation, you may well experience the decrements of performance, concentration, and memory common to sleep-deprived individuals, as well as fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

 GIVE ME BACK MY HOUR!

Six Bee Poems

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Six Bee Poems

I Tell The Bees

He left for good in the early hours with just
one book, held tight in his left hand:
The Cyclopedia of Everything
Pertaining
to the Care Of the Honey-Bee; Bees, Hives,
Honey, Implements, Honey-Plants, Etc.
And I begrudged him every single et cetera,
every honey-strainer and cucumber blossom,
every bee-wing and flown year and dead eye.
I went outside when the sun rose, whistling
to call out them as I walked towards the hive.
I pressed my cheek against the wood, opened
my synapses to bee hum, I could smell bee hum.
‘It’s over, honies,’ I whispered, ‘and now you’re mine.’

 

The Threshold

I waited all day for tears and wanted them, but
there weren’t tears. I touched my lashes and
the eyewater was not water but wing and fur
and I was weeping bees. Bees on my face,
in my hair. Bees walking in and out of my
ears. Workers landed on my tongue
and danced their bee dance as their sisters
crowded round for the knowledge. I learned
the language too, those zig-zags, runs and circles,
the whole damned waggle dance catalogue.
So nuanced it is, the geography of nectar,
the astronomy of pollen. Believe me,
through my mouth dusted yellow
with their pollen, I spoke bees, I breathed bees.

 

The Hive

The colony grew in my body all that summer.
The gaps between my bones filled
with honeycomb and my chest
vibrated and hummed. I knew
the brood was healthy, because
the pheromones sang through the hive
and the queen laid a good
two thousand eggs a day.
I smelled of bee bread and royal jelly,
my nails shone with propolis.
I spent my days freeing bees from my hair,
and planting clover and bee sage and
woundwort and teasel and borage.
I was a queendom unto myself.

 

Going About With The Bees

I walked to the city carrying the hive inside me.
The bees resonated my ribs: by now
my mouth was wax, my mouth was honey.
Passers-by with briefcases and laptops
stared as bees flew out of my eyes and ears.
As I stepped into the bank the hum
increased in my chest and I could tell the bees
meant business. The workers flew out
into the cool hall, rested on marble counters,
waved their antennae over paper and leather.
‘Lord direct us.’ I murmured, then felt
the queen turn somewhere near my heart,
and we all watched, two eyes and five eyes,
we all watched the money dissolve like wax.

 

CCD

My body broke when the bees left,
became a thing of bones
and spaces and stretched skin.
I’d barely noticed
the time of wing twitch
and pheromone mismatch
and brood sealed in with wax.
The honeycomb they
left behind dissolved
into blood and water.
Now I smell of sweat and breath
and I think my body cells
may have turned hexagonal,
though the bees are long gone.

 

The Sting

When the wild queen leads the swarm
into the room, don’t shut the door on them,
don’t leave them crawling the walls, furniture
and books, a decor of moving fuzz. Don’t go off
to the city, alone, to work, to travel underground.
The sting is no more apis mellifera, is a life
without honey bees, without an earful of buzz
an eyeful of yellow. The sting is no twin
waving antennae breaking through
the cap of a hatching bee’s cell. The sting
is no more feral hive humming in the stone
wall of the house, no smell of honey
as you brush by. No bees will follow, not one,
and there lies the sting. The sting is no sting.

About this poem

First published in 2011.

Jo Shapcott

Jo Shapcott won the National Poetry Competition in 1985 and 1991. Her collections include: Electroplating the Baby(1988), which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, Phrase Book (1992), and My Life Asleep (1998), which won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection). Her Book: Poems 1988-1998 (2000), consists of a selection of poetry from her three earlier collections. Her latest book of poems, Of Mutability, (Faber, 2010) was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize and won the Costa Prize for Book of the Year. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2011 forOf Mutability. She is also co-editor (with Linda Anderson) of a collection of essays about Elizabeth Bishop and co-editor with Matthew Sweeney of an anthology of contemporary poetry, Emergency Kit. She teaches on the MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.