I consumed Philip Dick’s novels by the handful as a teenager: just part of my science fiction diet. Many of his stories sit well with that other fare, but the shock of A Scanner Darkly, VALIS and The Divine Invasion comes into sharper relief away from the glare of rayguns, hyperdrives and aliens. Dick wrote his experience, not ‘fiction’. In BBC Radio’s Great Lives, actor Michael Sheen discusses Dick’s influence on him: “the moment where the central character begins to discover that maybe the reality he’s taking for granted is not what’s going on, maybe there’s something else going on behind it. That is a very frightening moment.”Continue reading “msb ~038 “Let’s hear it for the vague blur!””
What instruments does imagination offer? Microscopes and telescopes selectively bring the small and distant into human focus. But selecting some things means excluding others, helping to simplify the complex. What if an instrument could bring complexity itself within our scope?Continue reading “msb ~036 Macroscopes of the mind”
Wonderful to see Jocelyn Bell Burnell rewarded now; her ground-breaking discovery should have brought her 1974’s Nobel Prize. Her male collaborators received that, though she did the hard work on pulsars: supercondensed end-of-life stars that emit intense radio beams. Radically expanding our understanding of the cosmos, such breakthroughs also helped fuel my own interest; ten years later, I embarked on my astrophysics degree). Now she’s been awarded the Breakthrough Prize for her landmark work.Continue reading “msb ~027 Breakthroughs from left field”
An article for Uneven Earth provides timely illustration of yesterday’s reflection on imagination (rather than make-believe) being “a means of breaking out of the ‘dull round’ of the ‘ratio’ of abstract reason”. In Pulling the magic lever, Rut Elliot Blomqvist critiques techno-utopianism. “Ideas about the importance of the imagination in an age of political and ecological crisis are popping up everywhere: in the arts, in activism and other forms of politics, and in a wide range of academic disciplines and fields,” she writes. But without a critical view of these imaginaries, “we risk being trapped in the same old stories even as we see ourselves as thinking outside the old story box.”Continue reading “msb ~025 Magical thinking”
What knowledge does land possess? Should we fear what unknown lands might discover of us? Of all the places I’ll never go, never know, Antarctica stands out. Coldest, highest, driest, windiest, least inhabited, most alien. One vast desert boasting half of Earth’s fresh water. A whole continent 98% under ice up to 3km thick. Untouchable? Far from unreachable by the global, heating and polluting human footprint.
Eating breakfast today, I was looking at this month’s image in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year calendar: Robin Stuart‘s Highly Commended ‘A Wise Son Makes a Glad Father’. Stuart shot this at Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. ‘The Maasai people are semi-nomadic, using the stars to navigate across the East African plains. My goal was to capture the moment when a father passes his knowledge of the stars down to his son, and how to use the Milky Way and their hut as compositional elements … It was a novel experience, but as the image shows, a fruitful one!’ Continue reading “msb ~008 In search of dark skies”