Sunday, May 29, 2011

Null Conversation (a speculative dialog)

I wrote this in 2005.  It's a parable of magic and gardening.  It illustrates part of my point of view regarding magic.

The following conversation probably never took place:

Captain Greedle: All of this sorcery talk is bunkum.
Tentacle Boi: Why do you think that?
G: What do you mean? Just look at it. It's pure hokum. The universe is deterministic, and there's no way that you can convince me that you can change it just by saying "Mumbo Jumbo" and thinking really hard about the way you want the universe to change. It doesn't work that way.
T: Wow. You're a paragon of rationalism. Most people don't hold such strong opinions about cosmology.
G: No, I just know new age crap when I see it.
T: Well, what if I told you that I was a sorcerer, and that I've had pretty good results with this stuff.
G: You're a what? Oh come on. I guess that I would probably say that you're crazy.
T: I'm crazy because I believe in causality?
G: Causality?
T: Yes, Causality. Cause and effect. Certain actions result in certain outcomes.
G: That sounds like more clap-trap to me.
T: Hmmm. Have you ever planted a seed?
G: Well, yes, I used to garden a bit. I love rhubarb.
T: Please, tell me about the process.
G: It's very simple really. You dig a little hole, and put the seed in. You cover the hole back up with soil, add some fertilizer, make sure that the seed gets enough water, and wait for the plant to grow.
T: That all sounds interesting, but I'm not sure that I believe it.
G: What? What do you mean? It's part of nature.
T: Well, how does a whole rhubarb plant come from such a tiny little seed?
G: It just does. I don't know how it all works, but I've done it. I'm sure that a biologist could tell you how it all works.
T: Maybe it's just a coincidence.
G: I beg your pardon?
T: Maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe there's really no relation between your planting a seed and a rhubarb plant appearing.
G: Of course it's not a coincidence. Like I said, it's just part of nature. Plants have to come from somewhere!
T: Does it always work? Do you always get a plant when you plant a seed?
G: Well, no, not always. Some seeds don't grow into full plants.
T: Why not?
G: Well, the soil could be the wrong type, or the seed might not get enough moisture. I don't know exactly why.
T: So it doesn't work all of the time, but in general, if you plant a seed, and take care of it, it will grow?
G: Yes, exactly.
T: Same thing with sorcery.
G: What? How can you make that comparison? That's crazy talk.
T: Well, if formulate my desire into a directed statement, that's like a seed.
G: Please.
T: No, really. When I launch my statement as a spell, that's like planting the seed.
G: You really should see someone about these delusions.
T: Sometimes the spell works, sometimes it doesn't. But more often than not, something happens.
G: Well when you think it's working, I'd say that's just a coincidence.
T: I'm fine with that way of looking at it, as long as I can get that coincidence to happen when I want it to.
G: Do you really mean to tell me that you believe that you can get these things to happen when you want them to?
T: Not all of the time, but yes.
G: Now I've heard everything. How deluded and egotisitical must you be to believe such hog wash? So do these spells of yours come from the devil?
T: No, the devil is only an archetype. He's a manifestation of the collective negative aspects of mankind.
G: But the bible says that he's real.
T: The bible is an amalgamated collection of parables and Semitic mythology compiled to justify the edifice of the Christian church.
G: What? Oh, now you are surely going to Hell. I'll pray for you to see the error in your ways.
T: What do you think happens when you pray?
G: I ask God to bestow his grace and forgiveness.
T: So God is like an operator, standing by, just waiting for your call?
G: He's everywhere and everything. He knows all and sees all.
T: So he's the whole universe?
G: Yes, and much more.
T: So when you pray, you're basically formulating a desire, and entreating an all-powerful universal being to fulfill it for you?
G: Well, yes, I suppose so.
T: Hmmm, that sounds vaguely familiar. Does it always work?
G: Well, no, not always. No one may know the mind of God, for he moves in mysterious ways.
T: Don't you think that it's a little egotistical to expect God to alter his plans of how things are supposed to be for you? If you're asking for a change, isn't that implying that God has done something wrong?
G: Uh... I've never thought of it like that.
T: I guess that a lot of people probably haven't.

Quantum Sorcery: Music from Supernovae

Feh.  Didn't mean to do that...

Music from Supernovae

University of Victoria graduate student Alex Parker and University of California, Santa Barbara, postdoctoral researcher Melissa Graham have assigned musical notes to a sequence of supernova to generate the Supernova Sonata.

Scientific American article

Friday, May 27, 2011

Brian Greene goodness

I've just started reading The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene.  I enjoyed reading his book The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory about five years ago.  I like the accessibility of his writing.  I also highly recommend the NOVA episodes based on Elegant Universe: Part 1

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What is the shape of an electron?

Electron Is Surprisingly Spherical, Say Scientists Following 10-Year Study 
ScienceDaily (May 25, 2011)

How does one come to believe that magic is real?

How can a supposedly rational human being, who believes in the efficacy of the scientific method hold the belief that magic is real?

This is a question that I have pondered the answer to for many years with regard to myself.  I grew up loving science.  In high school, I took every physical science class that I could cram into my schedule.  I waited until the literal last possible minute at a scholarship recipient dinner to decide whether I was going to major in physics or geography at college.  I seemed destined for a life of rationality, as many would define it.

But the problem with this apparent course, is that throughout my life, I’ve had first hand experiences that seem to defy the very rational world that pure science posits that I live in.  I have personally been involved with a number of situations throughout my life which transcend logic and reason. One of these incidents directly led to my not dying in a plane crash as an infant.  My intent is not to list all of these bizarre occurrences that have accumulated throughout my life, but suffice it to say, there have been enough that I could not explain through the laws of any of the sciences that I have studied.

This put me in a difficult place.  My education and inclination told me that these things could not have happened, and yet they did.  So I assumed the position that there must be some sort of hidden mechanism or medium through which these phenomenon occurred.  So I began researching the occult.  As a science library student assistant, I had many long hours sitting at a check-in terminal, so I used my down time to scour the main library collection on the occult.  I even discovered that the rare books department had been bequeathed limited edition volumes written by someone named Frater ACHAD, whose identity and affiliations I immediately pursued and learned.

So even as I was studying physical geography, GIS technology, and computer science, I was spending all of my available time reading books by Crowley, Hall, Blavatsky, Cavendish, ACHAD, and Mathers.  There was so much material that I eventually reached the conclusion that at some point, someone with a serious interest in the occult must have worked in acquisitions.

In the course of this research, I learned that the boundary between science and magic was not as firmly defined as I had thought, and that the difference between the two was often merely a matter of elapsed time and perspective.  As science advanced, it encompassed many concepts that had been labeled as magic scant generations before.  I learned that what I had considered to be a rational world view was too narrow.  I had put on blinders in the name of science that science itself would never have tried to impose upon me.

I decided that I could only learn so much in the books that I had at my disposal, so I began to actually practice ritual magic when I was 18.  Over the years, my interest has waxed and waned, and I have experimented with various forms of ritual and religious practice, never finding one that resonated with me for long.  They all had too many rules. As I continued my search for a system that fit, I discovered chaos magic.  It was in this non-system that I found my system.