Perspective

@ K. 2006 05 20

Anyone, especially anyone since the Renaissance, will have some perspective on the concept of perspective. For more than a decade now references to the concept, uses of the concept, developments of the concept … have been accumulating around pk’s personal domains: especially at Macroinformation.

Today, wanting to add a few more points, it comes to me as a surprise that I don’t already have a perspective section at K.: at least not under that specific name. The points I am about to sketch may well however wander all over, enter into different areas. Hell, Shakespeare made any number of points, references … in any number of plays: but the play wasn’t called Revenge or Love … it was called Hamlet … or Macbeth, or Othello … or Romeo and Juliet, or Antony and Cleopatra … I organize somewhat — more than somewhat; you organize it the rest of your way, for your purposes.
(Naturally, the results may then get moved, further developed, revised … in a different setting: perspective again!)

Medievals painted things in a flexible time/space. Things were composed, organized hierarchically, according to an orthodoxy of organization. The Nativity, the Passion, the Resurection … and St. Somebody might all be organized into one picture. The Renaissance painted things as they appear to a given viewer. The viewer is out of the picture, in front of the picture. Something important was in or near the center of the picture. Other things receded toward a horizon. Neither Einstein, nor Plank, nor Godel … were in the picture.

Last evening I watched an interview with Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry concerning the making of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. One sequence showed how Gondry had avoided special effects, computer graphics … done everything he could just with the camera, and with altered sets. Thus Carrey’s Joel, getting his memory of Winslet’s Clementine erased, tries escaping to areas of his memory not pre-mapped for Clementine: to hide some vestige of her after all. Thus we see him as a child, sitting on the kitchen floor, under the table, as his mother walks about. The shot shows the mother normal, adult size. Now: how do we show Carrey, a tallish guy, child-size? Build a reverse-perspective set.

Carrey and Gondry demonstrate. Carrey stands at the camera end of the table: familiar size. He walks away from the camera along the table’s side: and walks and walks, getting smaller and smaller in our minds’ eye as he does so. At the far end of the table, crouching to the floor, he is child size: but still dressed as day-to-day adult Jim Carrey. On the flat screen we see a “table.” Everything looks “normal”: so we assume the table is an ordinary breakfast table, maybe three and a half, four feet long. Not so. The set is huge, the table is very long: specially built, the set specially painting to mislead us.

Gregory Bateson reports being introduced to the same phenomenon by its modern developer. Pictures of the trick can be found in elementary to advanced psychology books. The set was rigged, the mind sees it as normal: and therefore distorts normal things disrupted by the setting.

Now: here: look at the night sky, away from city lights, with as little pollution as possible. Lots of stars, right? There are the familiar constellations. On a clear night sit on the beach at Bahia Honda. Look up. You see a sky not that dissimilar from what our ancestors who painting the caves at Lascaux saw. We don’t know what constellations they saw, how they named them, what stories they told about them. But for my purposes now, let’s just use the stories and names inherited in the west. There’s Orion, there’s Cassiopeia, there’s the Big Bear … The majority of contemporaries in such a circumstance will see the night sky very much the way the medievals saw it, the way Ptolemy saw it: far away, all a fixed distance away.

We see that some stars are bigger than others, some brighter than others. How many of us, sitting on the beach, also think that what we’re seeing is vast distances away? no two objects likely to be the same distance away?

How many of us will also realize that the stars we’re seeing are all relatively close to us: or we wouldn’t be able to see them? All those points of light … look infinite in number. Actually, they’ve been counted: at least estimated. The human eye can see about two thousand stars. What about the billions and billions that Dr. Carl reverently evokes? and they’re just in this galaxy! home base for us on earth.

Now: take just Orion. Take just the main few stars along his supposed belt. How far away are they? Number them left to right, 1, 2, 3. Sure they have names, but we don’t need to know them for this point. How far away is star #1? Is star #2 closer? or further? How much closer? how much further? star #3? …

Now: imagine yourself in the Andromeda galaxy, looking toward the Milky Way. Could it be meaningful to talk about looking toward Orion? Would Orion have a belt? Would those three stars, if you could see them at all from Andromeda, seem to line up?

(In the same context, consider my often iterated, Bucky-Fuller-type point: most contemporaries still see and feel and “think” of the sun as rising, or setting; not themselves as grounded by gravity on a spinning planet orbiting around a sun making its own movements among its galactic neighbors, the whole galaxy doing who knows what in relation to other galaxies, all in who knows what kind of a universe.)


People have long seen, or tried to see, or imagined they saw, or gotten irate at people who see … God’s hand in the universe: God’s hand on the flower, God’s hand on the pretty girl, God’s hand on the eyeball … Dr. Carl refused to. Dr. Carl wanted the universe, if intelligently designed, to spell out the number π, or e … in the stars. (Guys like me think, You idiot, π and e are spelled out: in everything!)
(In a story by James Blish earth-civilized man gets a signal from another galaxy that seems to be intelligible. It gets deciphered as what seems to be a set of blue prints for building a better listening device. Humans build it, turn it to the source. An ear-slitting Beep is emitted by the machine: and nothing else. A long time passes before anyone figures out that the beep was full of information. Indeed, it contained what seemed the sending civilization’s entire library of know how.) (pk adds that even as we sequence the last human chromosome, however much we learn, we still have no idea of what we’re missing.)
Indeed it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that answers to any question are coded into any bacterium. All possible wisdom could be hidden in zero. Absolute black might map the cosmos.

Now: how can we get a perspective on the cosmos? on our place in it? (Is “perspective” an appropriate metaphor?)

Not the first, but the best, thing to try is science. Try to make your knowledge responsible to experience, to facts (what are facts? qv, [Link to be restored] to reasoned skepticism …) You can try mysticism too. (Good luck.) (Or mysticism will try you.)

My Games We Play[Link to be restored] piece asks, “How does one know what (meta) game(s) one is in? I answer:

One Don’t!

Any two points can be connected by a line. (Think of all of those words in quotes, think of all words in quotes.) Any line between two points can be extended to a third point, and a fourth …

In the past we wanted lines to be “straight.” (Ha, ha.) (Bucky said that a straight line is the shortest distance between any two points, the shortest distance is that followed by a lightning bolt: therefore, the straightest real line is zigzag.)

the quickest, but not necessarily the shortest, route

(But, we’re all still in the stone age. Our minds see the sun rise, our minds want to see lines as “straight.”)

Picture a line from your eye (imagining your eye as a point (ha, ha)) to star #1, at your “left,” in Orion’s belt. Now: extend that line to Andromeda (all the time thinking of star #1 as a point, of Andromeda as a point: millions of billions of stars as a point. Ha, ha). Next draw a line from your eye to star #2 in Orion’s belt, continue that line to Andromeda. Do the same for star #3.

Learn the relative positions of those three stars in the Milky Way Galaxy: from earth, from Andromeda. Compare the wacky angles they have to make relative to the line: part 1.

NOW: imagine lights, bright strontium say (to distinguish them from the “white” stars), at the Andromeda points of those three lines. Try to picture those three strontium points as seen from the third universe parallel to this universe’s “left” in the M theory cosmic “bread loaf.”
Don’t be stupid, pk: No information travels sideways between parallel universes. (Hell: no information reaches the whole of THIS universe! All is shaded into cones of information, of light …)
Oh, hell. Try to imagine it anyway. (You’ll be little worse off than scholastics, cosmologists, theologians … from any previous age.)

NOW
Does the shape remind you, us, of anything? Could it be spelling π?

Draw such lines from each of the stars in Orion. Could the points be making a new constellation? Could the points be “spelling” eloi? In Greek? in Arabic? Could be points be spelling baraka? or agapé? some theorem?

Could we force them to? like Tolstoy’s Pierre forcing “Napoleon” to code the number of the Beast of Revelations?


Who knows what cosmic screen saver pattern we’re making: from the right distance?

What if lines extended from Orion to Andromeda, seen from some parallel universe, spelled Fuck You?
If lines from Orion don’t maybe lines from Virgo do.
If lines from Virgo, seen in Andromeda from the third universe to the left, don’t, maybe lines from Virgo do, seen from the fourth universe to the right.
Or maybe we need to see them projected into some other galaxy.

Imagine that we actually find some “message,” by this or other means: did “God” do that? Or, with Hamlet, are we seeing camels in clouds?


I was six or seven when WW II wound down. In the later 1940s missionaries spoke at my church about efforts to help the beleaguered people of a battered and disrupted Europe. In particular stories of goods-drops into the Netherlands struck me. In the seventh grade, 1950,1951ish, I wrote a story about it..

The planes dropped flour sacks. People on the ground saw them coming, were hungry for them. People on the ground saw them as floating toward them, like feathers. In the first drops some people on the ground tried to catch the flour sacks. Splat.

If you dropped a flour sack and a scale, and mid-air the scale somehow got under the flour sack, both falling together, the flour sack would weigh nothing, would register nothing on the falling scale: light as a feather. Ah, but the flour sack still had the same mass as it had in the plane, as it had back at the airport, as it would have once it landed: twenty pounds, ten pounds, twenty-five pounds … That mass would retain the momentum for that mass. Splat.

Is this a question of perspective? Sure. Why not?

How about these considerations:

Boiling water registers one hundred degrees Centigrade of thermal energy: by definition, 212 Fahrenheit. But heating water, when it reaches 100 degrees, does not necessarily start to boil. Water may reach 100 degrees, 101, 102 … or 100 and some fraction, before it actually commences boiling. Extra energy is needed for it to transform state. Once that state is reached, the water reduces to 100 degrees, and maintains that thermal energy while boiling: under normal atmospheric pressures.

The vaporization of the water, present at all temperatures, quickens, rapidly, with boiling. Water escapes from the water as steam. What’s the thermal energy of steam? 100 degrees? (212?) No, no. Don’t touch. Much more energy is present in the steam than in the boiling water.

The same with ice. When the temperature of water falls to zero (or to 32 degrees Fahrenheit) it may begin to get ready to freeze into ice: but, once again, extra energy must be removed for it to happen: and again, normal atmospheric pressures are assumed.

A TV science doc just showed how lakes may form under a glacier. Under the pressure from the glacier the oppressed water has a hard time freezing. Energy with no way to go anywhere, to do anything, is stored under the ice. Kaboom. The glacier can explode!

PS. The doc was about some geological anomaly somewhere out west. Geologists couldn’t explain the anomalies. Some guy hypothesized that the features came from water running rapidly. The geologists of the time were committed to their slow and gradual paradigms. Pooh-pooh. They dismissed their colleague’s hypothesis.
One geologist whispered to his neighbor: “I know where Yo-Yo’s water came from.” (An exploding glacier.)
Why didn’t he say it out loud? So Yo-Yo could hear him?
No. Academics are content with the status quo. Galileo’s experience was no anomaly.


If academics are slow to learn, resisting —
reluctant to leave the paradigms
that formed their Linus security blanket as students —
how much more slow, reluctant, and resisting
will be the public? the priests? the governors?


If pk, Al-Queida … David Copperfield, god, or the devil wants to hit us with something we’ll never see coming, something easy for the knowing to find, ubiquitous, all around, energy with no place to go would be a good source.

Perspective? Sure it’s perspective.


the skin-heads? the fascists?
those who didn’t and don’t support FLEX?
[Link to be restored]

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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