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”
“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”
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”
We’ve all had scarring (non)conversations with people who hold very ‘contrary’ views on climate change. Also, unchallenging ones with our own tribe. Flame wars vs echo chamber? Perhaps there’s a Map of Temperaments as to which type we each enjoy most in different company; but, more importantly, I like this handy guide from Karin Kirk at Yale Climate Connections, on a ‘spectrum of persuadability’ of those pushing back on climate change.Continue reading “msb ~083 Between the flame wars and the echo chamber”
A conversation today reminded me of a workshop I joined last year, where we created audio art from climate data. Climate Symphony Lab tapped into public interest in, but confusion with, science to make new ways to internalise what environmental change ‘looks’ (or sounds) like. Climate data: climate art. Actually being in on debates on what to include and exclude, which available technologies to use (instruments, laptops, voices, feet, breath, tearing paper?) was unusual, enlivening and unsettling. It brought a direct, participative responsibility to what can be seen as quite distant, individualist artistic practices — and even more distant, communal practices of science.Continue reading “msb ~076 Climate data: climate art”
An unexpected pleasure to encounter my favourite philosopher on BBC’s Museum of Curiosity! Sadly, Donald Rumsfeld wasn’t a donation to the museum but Lord Butler, author of the (in)famous Butler Inquiry into Britain’s dodgy intelligence case for the Iraq War was a contributor, so Rumsfeld’s famous 2002 ducking of the absence of Iraq’s WMD or terrorist links got an airing. “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know … It is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”Continue reading “msb ~065 On unknown knowns”
I’ve mentioned the book Anticipatory history and how I keep returning to it. The term also describes a loose collection of approaches that extend beyond the book’s collection of texts, each a means to open up conversations about change in places we feel deep attachment to, now facing uncertain futures.
To help us bring in new perspectives when we try to make sense of change, ‘anticipatory history’ approaches might include:
Looking imaginatively at past changes and at the contingencies which underlined (and could have undermined) the events and actions that shaped what it is now. Examples are reverse chronologies, timelines, oral histories and artistic representations.
Taking a fresh look at the language we use to talk about the natural and cultural processes at play. The book itself provides one way into this, as a form of glossary arising from a dialogue between specialisms.
Imagining and naming unfamiliar or new ways of living with change that might be adopted in this place.
Where do you feel safe? Interesting to learn about the changing meaning of ‘safe space’ on BBC Radio’s Keywords for Our Time. This phrase moved from its original 1940s business context — permission for employees to give feedback without fear of retribution — to feeling secure when revealing your innermost feelings to a counsellor, to a conference’s quiet space as refuge from overpowering social noise, into an agenda for personal protection from harmful speech and, by extension, ideas. A case of ‘freedom to’ shifting into ‘freedom from’?Continue reading “msb ~060 Safe space”