Metaxy (Greek: μεταξύ) or metaxu is defined in Plato's Symposium via the character of the priestess Diotima as the "in-between" or "middle ground". Diotima, tutoring Socrates, uses the term to show how oral tradition can be perceived by different people in different ways. In the poem by Socrates she depicts Eros as not an extreme or purity; rather, as a daimon Eros is in-between the divine Gods and mankind. Diotima thus exposes the flaws of oral tradition; it uses strong contrasts to express truth, thus revealing vulnerability to sophistry. This portion of the dialogue points to the idea that reality is perceptible only through one's character (which includes one's desires and prejudices and one's limited understanding of logic). Man moves through the world of Becoming, the ever changing world of sensory perception, into the world of Being—the world of forms, absolutes and transcendence. Man transcends his place in Becoming by eros, where man reaches the Highest Good, an intuitive and mystical state of consciousness. Neoplatonists like Plotinus later used the concept to express an ontological placement of Man between the Gods and animals. Much like Diotima did in expressing that Eros as daemon was in-between the Gods and mankind. Love (Ἔρως Eros) as the thing in between or child of Poverty (Πενία Penia) and Possession (Πόρος Poros).
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Monday, November 28, 2016
There has been a lot of digital ink spilled over the recent paper on the reactionless thrust device known as the EMDrive. While it’s clear that a working EM Drive would violate well established scientific theories, what isn’t clear is how such a violation might be resolved. Some have argued that the thrust could be an effect of Unruh radiation, but the authors of the new paper argue instead for a variation on quantum theory known as the pilot wave model.
One of the central features of quantum theory is its counter-intuitive behavior often called particle-wave duality. Depending on the situation, quantum objects can have characteristics of a wave or characteristics of a particle. This is due to the inherent limitations on what we can know about quanta. In the usual Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory, an object is defined by its wavefunction. The wavefunction describes the probability of finding a particle in a particular location. The object is in an indefinite, probabilistic state described by the wavefunction until it is observed. When it is observed, the wavefunction collapses, and the object becomes a definite particle with a definite location.
While the Copenhagen interpretation is not the best way to visualize quantum objects it captures the basic idea that quanta are local, but can be in an indefinite state. This differs from the classical objects (such as Newtonian theory) where things are both local and definite. We can know, for example, where a baseball is and what it is doing at any given time.
The pilot wave model handles quantum indeterminacy a different way. Rather than a single wavefunction, quanta consist of a particle that is guided by a corresponding wave (the pilot wave). Since the position of the particle is determined by the pilot wave, it can exhibit the wavelike behavior we see experimentally. In pilot wave theory, objects are definite, but nonlocal. Since the pilot wave model gives the same predictions as the Copenhagen approach, you might think it’s just a matter of personal preference. Either maintain locality at the cost of definiteness, or keep things definite by allowing nonlocality. But there’s a catch.
Although the two approaches seem the same, they have very different assumptions about the nature of reality. Traditional quantum mechanics argues that the limits of quantum theory are physical limits. That is, quantum theory tells us everything that can be known about a quantum system. Pilot wave theory argues that quantum theory doesn’t tell us everything. Thus, there are “hidden variables” within the system that quantum experiments can’t reveal. In the early days of quantum theory this was a matter of some debate, however both theoretical arguments and experiments such as the EPR experiment seemed to show that hidden variables couldn’t exist. So, except for a few proponents like David Bohm, the pilot wave model faded from popularity. But in recent years it’s been demonstrated that the arguments against hidden variables aren’t as strong as we once thought. This, combined with research showing that small droplets of silicone oil can exhibit pilot wave behavior, has brought pilot waves back into play.
How does this connect to the latest EM Drive research? In a desperate attempt to demonstrate that the EM Drive doesn’t violate physics after all, the authors spend a considerable amount of time arguing that the effect could be explained by pilot waves. Basically they argue that not only is pilot wave theory valid for quantum theory, but that pilot waves are the result of background quantum fluctuations known as zero point energy. Through pilot waves the drive can tap into the vacuum energy of the Universe, thus saving physics! To my mind it’s a rather convoluted at weak argument. The pilot wave model of quantum theory is interesting and worth exploring, but using it as a way to get around basic physics is weak tea. Trying to cobble a theoretical way in which it could work has no value without the experimental data to back it up.
At the very core of the EM Drive debate is whether it works or not, so the researchers would be best served by demonstrating clearly that the effect is real. While they have made some interesting first steps, they still have a long way to go.
Freaky, huh! ;)
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
"Close to Zero" is the tale of a Russian publisher operating in a murky political system featuring paid-off media, corrupt officials, dubious politicians and law enforcement agencies on the take.
The short novel was published last month and passed unnoticed until Thursday, when a newspaper reported that its author was none other than the Kremlin's chief political strategist Vladislav Surkov, writing under a pseudonym.
Surkov, a shadowy figure who rarely speaks in public, wields immense influence. His role as deputy head of the Kremlin administration for the past 10 years under both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev puts him at the center of political power.
In the novel, which advertised itself as "gangsta fiction," the main character Yegor Samokhodov orders a poet to write verse in the name of the regional governor to make the official look clever and win an award.
Samokhodov, a publisher who does a sideline in political public relations, then tries to bribe a female journalist at an opposition newspaper to "correct" stories about damage to children's health from a toxic chemical factory owned by the governor's relative.
Fact or fiction ?
The events portrayed are everyday fare in Russia, where local media sometimes take money in return for favorable coverage and those in power believe they can bribe or bully their way to victory in almost any situation.
A source at the Russky Pioner magazine which published the novella confirmed to Reuters that the story was Surkov's work.
"Yes, it was him," the source said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The Kremlin denied that Surkov had authored the novel. "He definitely didn't write it," said a spokesman.
But media reports pointed out that the pseudonym used -- Natan Dubovitsky -- is almost identical to the name of Surkov's second wife, Natalya Dubovitskaya.
The author of Russia's doctrine of "sovereign democracy" which touts a strong, organized state at the center of the political machine guarding against chaos and foreign meddling, Surkov often rails against Western "lies" in portraying Russia.
"Our partners ... tell us about democracy while thinking about our hydrocarbons," he told foreign journalists in his last news conference with them in 2006.
Andrey Kolesnikov, the editor-in-chief of Russky Pioner and also Russia's best-known political correspondent, told Reuters he had decided to publish the work because of its artistic quality, despite not knowing who wrote it.
"I received the text by email with a request from the author that he was interested in my opinion," Kolesnikov said.
"I really liked the novel. I am convinced it is a work of quality ... for the author, it was an act of self-discovery."
Kolesnikov said the author had told him he had previously contributed to the magazine. Surkov has authored an column in Russky Pioner.
In one revealing part of the story, the opposition journalist Nikita Mariyevna tells Samokhodov she hates those in power -- a "greasy crowd" of governors, deputies, ministers, security service officials and police.
But the book's hero replies: "It's not those in power that you hate, but life." He goes on to explain that unfairness, the use of force and stagnation are just part of life and urges her to live with this rather than try to destroy it.
Analysts speculated that Surkov might have written the book as a signal to the main pro-Kremlin party United Russia that times could be changing and they might face greater political competition in future.
Surkov worked as a public relations and advertising consultant in the 1990s before joining the Kremlin. Among his patrons were the Alfa Group owned by key oligarch Mikhail Fridman and the now disgraced oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Monday, November 14, 2016
Sunday, November 13, 2016
- Amy Lowell, "In Darkness"
Must all of worth be travailled for, and those
Life's brightest stars rise from a troubled sea?
Must years go by in sad uncertainty
Leaving us doubting whose the conquering blows,
Are we or Fate the victors? Time which shows
All inner meanings will reveal, but we
Shall never know the upshot.
Ours to be Wasted with longing, shattered in the throes,
The agonies of splendid dreams, which day
Dims from our vision, but each night brings back;
We strive to hold their grandeur, and essay
To be the thing we dream.
Sudden we lack
The flash of insight, life grows drear and gray,
And hour follows hour, nerveless, slack.
Content from PoetrySoup.com. Read more at: http://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poem/in_darkness_6006
Copyright © PoetrySoup and Respective Poets.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
José Saramago’s Seeing tells the story of the strange events in the unnamed capital city of an unidentified democratic country. When the election day morning is marred by torrential rains, voter turnout is disturbingly low, but the weather breaks by mid-afternoon and the population heads en masse to their voting stations. The government's relief is short-lived, however, when vote counting reveals that over 70 percent of the ballots cast in the capital have been left blank. Baffled by this apparent civic lapse, the government gives the citizenry a chance to make amends just one week later with another election day. The results are worse: Now 83 percent of the ballots are blank.
Is this an organized conspiracy to overthrow not just the ruling government but the entire democratic system? If so, who is behind it, and how did they manage to organize hundreds of thousands of people into such subversion without being noticed? The city continues to function near-normally throughout, the people parrying each of the government's thrusts in inexplicable unison and with a truly Gandhian level of nonviolent resistance. The lesson of this thought-experiment is clear: the danger today is not passivity but pseudo-activity, the urge to “be active,” to “participate,” in order to mask the vacuity of what goes on. People intervene all the time. People “do something.” Academics participate in meaningless debates, and so on. The truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw. Those in power often prefer even a “critical” participation, a dialogue, to silence, because just to engage us in dialogue, is to make sure our ominous passivity is broken. The voters’ abstention is thus a true political act: it forcefully confronts us with the vacuity of today’s democracies.
This, exactly, is how citizens should act when faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. When Stalin was asked in the late 1920s which deviation is worse, the Rightist one or the Leftist one, he snapped back: They are both worse! Is it not the same with the choice American voters are confronting in the 2016 presidential elections? Trump is obviously “worse.” He enacts a decay of public morality. He promises a Rightist turn. But he at least promises a change. Hillary is “worse” since she makes changing nothing look desirable.
With such a choice, one should not lose ones nerve and chose the “worst,” which means change—even if is a dangerous change—because it opens up the space for a different more authentic change.
The point is thus not to vote for Trump—not only should one not vote for such a scum, one should not even participate in such elections. The point is to approach coldly the question: Whose victory is better for the fate of the radical emancipatory project, Clinton’s or Trump’s?
Trump wants to make America great again, to which Obama responded that America already is great. But is it? Can a country in which a person like Trump has a chance of becoming president be really considered great? The dangers of a Trump presidency are obvious: he not only promises to nominate conservative judges to the Supreme Court; he mobilized the darkest white-supremacist circles and openly flirts with anti-immigrant racism; he flouts basic rules of decency and symbolizes the disintegration of basic ethical standards; while advocating concern for the misery of ordinary people, he effectively promotes a brutal neoliberal agenda that includes tax breaks for the rich, further deregulation, etc., etc.
Trump is a vulgar opportunist, yet he is still a vulgar specimen of humanity (in contrast to entities like Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum whom I suspect of being aliens).
What Trump is definitely not is a successful productive and innovative capitalist—he excels at getting into bankruptcy and then making the taxpayers cover up his debts.
Liberals panicked by Trump dismiss the idea that Trump’s eventual victory can start a process out of which an authentic Left would emerge. Their favorite counterargument is a reference to Hitler. Many German Communists welcomed the Nazi takeover in 1933 as a chance for the radical Left as the only force which can defeat them. As we know, their appreciation of Hitler’s rise was a catastrophic mistake. The question is: Are things the same with Trump? Is Trump a danger that should bring together a broad front in the same way that Hitler did, a front where “decent” conservatives and libertarians fight together with mainstream liberal progressives and (whatever remains of) the radical Left? Fredric Jameson was right in a November 4 interview to warn against the hasty designation of the Trump movement as new fascism: “People are now saying—this is a new fascism and my answer would be—not yet. If Trump comes to power, that would be a different thing.”
(Incidentally, the term “fascism” is today often used as an empty word when something obviously dangerous appears on the political scene but we lack a proper understanding of it. No, today's rightwing populists are NOT simply Fascists!) Why not yet?
First, the fear that a Trump victory would turn the United State into a fascist state is a ridiculous exaggeration. The United States has such a rich texture of divergent civic and political institutions that their Gleichschaltung (the standardization of political, economic, cultural and social institutions as carried out in authoritarian states) cannot be enacted. Where, then, does this fear come from? Its function is clearly to unify us all against Trump and thus to obfuscate the true political divisions that run between the Left, as resuscitated by Bernie Sanders, and Clinton who is the establishment’s candidate supported by a rainbow coalition that includes neocon Iraq War advocates like President George W. Bush’s Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and interventionists like Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Richard Armitage.
Second, the fact remains that Trump draws support from the same rage out of which Bernie Sanders mobilized his partisans. The majority of his supporters view him as the anti-establishment candidate. And one should never forget that popular rage is by definition free-floating and can be re-directed. Liberals who fear the Trump victory are not really afraid of a radical Rightist turn. What they are really afraid of is actual radical social change. To repeat Robespierre, they admit (and are sincerely worried about) the injustices of our social life, but they want to cure them with a “revolution without revolution” (in exact parallel to today's consumerism which offers coffee without caffeine, chocolate without sugar, beer without alcohol, multiculturalism without conflict, etc.): a vision of social change with no actual change, a change where no one gets really hurt, where well-meaning liberals remain cocooned in their safe enclaves. Back in 1937, George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier wrote:We all rail against class-distinctions, but very few people seriously want to abolish them. Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed.Orwell’s point is that radicals invoke the need for revolutionary change as a kind of superstitious token that should achieve the opposite, i.e., prevent the only change that really matters, the change in those who rule us, from occurring. Who really rules in the United States? Can we not already hear the murmur of secret meetings where members of the financial and other “elites” are negotiating about the distribution of the key posts in the Clinton administration? To get an idea how this negotiations in the shadows work, it suffices to read the John Podesta emails or Hillary Clinton: The Goldman Sachs Speeches (to appear soon by OR Books with an introduction by Julian Assange).
Hillary’s victory would be the victory of a status quo overshadowed by the prospect of a new world war (and Hillary definitely is a typical Democratic cold warrior), a status quo of a situation in which we gradually but inevitably slide towards ecological, economic, humanitarian and other catastrophes. That’s why I consider Ian Steinman’s “Leftist” critique of my position extremely cynical. He writes:Yet while we can do little to predict how the pieces will fall, we know that to intervene in a crisis the left must be organized, prepared and with support among the working class and oppressed. We can not in any way endorse the vile racism and sexism which divides us and weakens our struggle. We must always stand on the side of the oppressed, and we must be independent, fighting for a real left exit to the crisis. Even if Trump causes a catastrophe for the ruling class, it will also be a catastrophe for us if we have not laid the foundations for our own intervention.True, the left “must be organized, prepared and with support among the working class and oppressed”—but in this case, the question should be: Which candidate's victory would contribute more to the organization of the Left and its expansion? Isn’t it clear that Trump's victory would have “laid the foundations for our own intervention” much more than Hillary’s?
Yes, there is a great danger in Trump's victory, but the Left will be mobilized only through such a threat of catastrophe. If we continue the inertia of the existing status quo, there will for sure be no Leftist mobilization. To quote the poet Hoelderlin:“Only where there is danger the saving force is also rising.”In the choice between Clinton and Trump, neither “stands on the side of the oppressed,” so the real choice is: abstain from voting or choose the one who, worthless as s/he is, opens up a greater chance of unleashing a new political dynamics which can lead to massive Leftist radicalization. Think about Trump’s anti-establishment supporters who would be unavoidably upset with Trump’s presidency. Some of them would have to turn towards Sanders in order to find an outlet for their rage. Think about the disappointed mainstream Democrats who would have seen how Clinton’s centrist strategy failed to win even against an extreme figure like Trump. The lesson they would learn would be that sometimes, to win, the strategy of “we are all together” doesn’t work and we should instead introduce a radical division.
Many poor voters claim Trump speaks for them. How can they recognize themselves in the voice of a billionaire whose speculations and failures are one of the causes of their misery? Like the paths of god, the paths of ideology are mysterious. When Trump supporters are denounced as “white trash,” it is easy to discern in this designation the fear of the lower classes so characteristic of the liberal elite.
The title and subtitle of a Guardian report of a recent Trump electoral meeting puts it this way: “Inside a Donald Trump rally: good people in a feedback loop of paranoia and hate. Trump’s crowd is full of honest and decent people—but the Republican’s invective has a chilling effect on fans of his one-man show.” But how did Trump become the voice of so many “honest and decent” people? Trump single-handedly ruined the Republican Party, antagonizing both the old party establishment and the Christian fundamentalists—what remains as the core of his support are the bearers of the populist rage versus the establishment, and this core is dismissed by liberals as the “white trash”—but are they not precisely those that should be won over to the radical Leftist cause (this is what Bernie Sanders was able to do).
One should rid oneself of the false panic, fearing the Trump victory as the ultimate horror which makes us support Clinton in spite of all her obvious shortcomings. Although the battle seems lost for Trump, his victory would have created a totally new political situation with chances for a more radical Left—or, to quote Mao: “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.”
Sunday, November 6, 2016
- Rudyard Kipling, "The Bees and the Flies"
A Farmer of the Augustan Age
Perused in Virgil's golden page
The story of the secret won
From Proteus by Cyrene's son--
How the dank sea-god showed the swain
Means to restore his hives again.
More briefly, how a slaughtered bull
Breeds honey by the bellyful.
The egregious rustic put to death
A bull by stopping of its breath,
Disposed the carcass in a shed
With fragrant herbs and branches spread,
And, having well performed the charm,
Sat down to wait the promised swarm.
Nor waited long.
The God of Day
Impartial, quickening with his ray
Evil and good alike, beheld
The carcass--and the carcass swelled.
Big with new birth the belly heaves
Beneath its screen of scented leaves.
Past any doubt, the bull conceives!
The farmer bids men bring more hives
To house the profit that arrives;
Prepares on pan and key and.
Sweet music that shall make 'em settle;
But when to crown the work he goes,
Gods! What a stink salutes his nose!
Where are the honest toilers.
gravid mistress of their care?
A busy scene, indeed, he sees,
But not a sign or sound of bees.
Worms of the riper grave unhid
By any kindly coffin-lid,
Obscene and shameless to the light,
Seethe in insatiate appetite,
Through putrid offal, while--above
The hissing blow-fly seeks his love,
Whose offspring, supping where they supt,
Consume corruption twice corrupt.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
- T.S. Eliot, "Gus: The Theatre Cat"
Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door.
His name, as I ought to have told you before,
Is really Asparagus.
That's such a fuss
To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake,
And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats--
But no longer a terror to mice and to rats.
For he isn't the Cat that he was in his prime;
Though his name was quite famous, he says, in its time.
And whenever he joins his friends at their club
(Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
For he once was a Star of the highest degree--
He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree.
And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.
"I have played," so he says, "every possible part,
And I used to know seventy speeches by heart.
I'd extemporize back-chat, I knew how to gag,
And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag.
I knew how to act with my back and my tail;
With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail.
I'd a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts,
Whether I took the lead, or in character parts.
I have sat by the bedside of poor Little Nell;
When the Curfew was rung, then I swung on the bell.
In the Pantomime season I never fell flat,
And I once understudied Dick Whittington's Cat.
But my grandest creation, as history will tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."
Then, if someone will give him a toothful of gin,
He will tell how he once played a part in East Lynne.
At a Shakespeare performance he once walked on pat,
When some actor suggested the need for a cat.
He once played a Tiger--could do it again--
Which an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain.
And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
To rescue a child when a house was on fire.
And he says: "Now then kittens, they do not get trained
As we did in the days when Victoria reigned.
They never get drilled in a regular troupe,
And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop."
And he'll say, as he scratches himself with his claws,
"Well, the Theatre's certainly not what it was.
These modern productions are all very well,
But there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
That moment of mystery
When I made history
As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."