msb ~093 Quantum worldviews

Quantum worldviews

Schrödinger's cat - quantum worldviews
Schrödinger’s cat

One aspect of ‘reality’ where the mind’s eye leads us astray is quantum worldviews. Quantum physics describes subatomic particles, but it’s contentious whether it goes much larger: microbes, cats, quantum physicists? People often look for analogies that seem to encompass consciousness, ecology and non-Western worldviews. I’ve found these attractive ever since reading Gary Zukav’s Dancing Wu Li Masters, though my physics degree then cautioned me to think inside the box. Part of the appeal? The quantum language — ‘duality’, ‘entanglement’, ‘many-worlds’, ‘non-locality’ — and the science’s radical forms of uncertainty appeal to the abstract mind and visual imagination: the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat-in-the-box, alive-and-dead-at-the-same-time (‘superposition’, not superstition), until the instant the curious observer opens its box and the cat becomes one-or-the-other. But visual imagination cannot go there, and the words don’t mean what they do in everyday talk. Continue reading “msb ~093 Quantum worldviews”

msb ~092 Imagination: not just the mind’s eye

Imagination: not just the mind’s eye  

A Mile in My Shoes, Katie Hodgkins on the mind's eye
A Mile in My Shoes: the mind’s eye?

I’ve been listening to the Empathy Museum’s A Mile in My Shoes podcasts. It’s refreshing to get these short empathy bursts: insights into others’ lives, in their own words. Katie Hodgkins’s podcast introduced an experience that maybe seems unimaginable. Katie herself couldn’t imagine it if she weren’t experiencing it. As she says, “I have something called aphantasia. It means I’ve got no imagination, and there’s no pictures in my mind … So I struggle with putting myself in other people’s positions, and I don’t have a very good memory because of it … I need to see something to remember.” As she says, “It’s really amazing that people have full-on images in their heads!”

Continue reading “msb ~092 Imagination: not just the mind’s eye”

msb ~091 Shaped by stone

Shaped by stone   

Shaped by stone - Tegg's scalping, Image by Tom Baskeyfield
Tegg’s scalping, Tom Baskeyfield

Tom Baskeyfield asks questions about stone that “focus on relationship to place and the stuff of place” and contemplation of “the slow and the local.” In Dark Mountain’s TERRA, he considers both the stones in his hometown, Macclesfield – “a cobble protruding through tarmac .. drystone walls hidden between newer brick buildings .. weathered surfaces of paving slabs underfoot” – and the town’s Welsh slate roofs. The local stone also migrated, in this case from a hillside quarry. Hillside and town were familiar to each other; “like a trickling stream, it is not hard to imagine the flow of stone from this hill shaping the footpaths and roads on its meandering descent, and pooling in the medieval streets in the valley below.” Continue reading “msb ~091 Shaped by stone”

msb ~090 Realigning managed retreat

Realigning managed retreat 

The process of managed retreat in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island. Nathan Kensinger
The process of managed retreat in Oakwood Beach, Staten Island

Burning Worlds’ Amy Brady interviewed filmmaker Nathan Kensinger about Managed Retreat, his documentary looking at “at the uneasy relationship between humans and nature in New York City” through neighbourhoods that are pulling back from the waterfront. Following Hurricane Sandy, residents “asked the government to buy their houses, so they could move to somewhere safer. Their homes are now being demolished and turned back into wetlands.”

Kensinger says that few New Yorkers know “their neighbors are tearing down their own homes, to escape from sea level rise. I’m hoping the film will give audiences a better picture of what may be in store…” Continue reading “msb ~090 Realigning managed retreat”

msb ~089 Wasteland to wild land

Wasteland to wild land

wild land, self-willed land, waste land
rewilding at work

As the pre-plastics past becomes more remote, is it harder to imagine post-plastics futures? That’s the thought that struck me while catching up on some rewilding reading. The appropriately named Isabella Tree calls out our modern distaste for ‘wasteland’ in her concise critique of ‘managed reforestation’ plans for England’s new Northern Forest. In particular, our “demonisation of thorny scrub” means that we can only imagine forest regeneration as a task for humans armed with spades and plastic tree defenders. Continue reading “msb ~089 Wasteland to wild land”

msb ~088 Remembering Chris West

Remembering Chris West 

Chris West, 1951 - 2018
Chris West, 1951 – 2018

Along with everything else, there’s that deep sadness when you realise you’re never going to have a conversation with someone ever again. I learned the other day that Chris West, my old boss at UKCIP, died recently and I immediately thought of his humour, patience and enthusiasm. And of a short passage in Nancy Campbell’s The Library of Ice, which I’d read last month and where I’d rediscovered Chris in this perfect anecdote:

“At a climate conference in London a few weeks ago I paired up, during the one-minute speed-meeting session, with an amiable, bearded scientist, who told me that he’d held a piece of the Vostok ice core in the palm of his hand. Chris used up his whole minute describing the experience. ‘The thing is, it fizzed,’ he said. ‘It was melting with the warmth of my palm, and the air was under such pressure that it exploded out of its ice pockets. It fizzed,’ he repeated, ‘then it melted, and I just wiped it on my shirt.’ He passes his hand across the checked cotton covering his chest, an expression of mild bewilderment on his face as he relives his Keplerian encounter with a 20,000-year-old piece of ice.” Continue reading “msb ~088 Remembering Chris West”

msb ~087 Our entangled future

Our entangled future  

AdaptationCONNECTS: Our entangled future
AdaptationCONNECTS: Our entangled future

“To access and activate our most radical potentials as a storytelling species,” the AdaptationCONNECTS project has issued an innovative call for short stories of ‘our entangled future’: stories to engage our imaginations with ‘quantum social change’ in the face of our accelerating climate crisis. “We need stories that confront the limitations of a dualistic, deterministic, and inanimate worldview and instead offer insights into a reality that is connected, entangled, uncertain, and ripe with possibility – a world of complementarity, non-locality, and potentiality.” Their call places an important emphasis on “the power of language, meaning, and metaphors to create a new reality.” Continue reading “msb ~087 Our entangled future”

msb ~086 Rooted, again

Rooted, again  

Rooted, Juhi Saklani
Rooted, Juhi Saklani

Another rich vein of discovery in Dark Mountain’s new collection, TERRA: Rooted is Juhi Saklani’s short essay on the heritage and fate of India’s trees. In response to displacement and distress at relocating deep into Delhi’s congestion after years living in its leafier areas, “I started photographing trees. It was the most meditative and ‘at home’ I felt in my unsettled life.” Her images accompany the text, revealing the deeply textured interplay of living tree and decaying stonework, of (as this small blog keeps returning to) nature-and-culture. Continue reading “msb ~086 Rooted, again”

msb ~085 On edge and in-between

On edge and in-between 

Melancholia, by Lars von Trier: in-between states
Melancholia, by Lars von Trier: in-between states

Titling your Physics World post ‘This article is based on fictional events’ does make it stand out. And David Boyt describes an event I’d wish I’d been to; as part of London Mathematical Laboratory’s Science on Screen series, statistical physicist Valerio Lucarini discussed how Lars von Trier’s 2011 Melancholia “inspired in him a new way of thinking and provided the missing piece of the puzzle for his research.” Continue reading “msb ~085 On edge and in-between”

msb ~084 Hurricane bells

Hurricane bells  

Hurricane Bells, by Peter Shenai
Hurricane Bells, by Peter Shenai

I just posted this moving radio programme to ClimateCultures’ Views from Elsewhere, but there’s more to explore in artist Peter Shenai’s hurricane bells and stories of Hurricane Katrina. Cast in shapes reflecting Katrina’s evolving wind speed, they bring dissonant and consonant voices that turn data into art: nature, recast by human climate disruption, in turn, reshapes human artefacts: nature-cultures powerfully entwined. Continue reading “msb ~084 Hurricane bells”