Friday, July 21, 2017

Kabul















Female students at the Polytechnical University in Kabul, Afghanistan, mid-1970s.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Edward Drinker Cope



















On December 29, 1906, a meeting was held in the American Museum of Natural History to present an installation of ten marble busts commemorating “Pioneers of American Science”. The personal character, the contributions and the significance of each scientist was the subject of an address given by a presenter, of which there were ten.  Here is the text of the address commemorating Edward Drinker Cope delivered by Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, Curator, Department of Vertebrate Palæontology:
In the marble portrait of Edward Drinker Cope, you see the man of large brain, of keen eye and of strong resolve, the ideal combination for a life of science, the man who scorns obstacles, who while battling with the present looks above and beyond. The portrait stands in its niche as a tribute to a great leader and founder of American Palæontology, as an inspiration to young Americans. In unison with the other portraits its forcible words are: “Go thou and do likewise.
Cope, a Philadelphian, born July 28, 1840, passed away at the early age of fifty-seven. Favored by heredity, through distinguished ancestry of Pennsylvania Quakers, who bequeathed intellectual keenness and a constructive spirit. As a boy of eight entering a life of travel and observation, and with rare precocity giving promise of the finest qualities of his manhood. Of incessant activity of mind and body, tireless as an explorer, early discovering for himself that the greatest pleasure and stimulus of life is to penetrate the unknown in Nature. In personal character fearless, independent, venturesome, militant, far less of a Quaker in disposition than his Teutonic fellow citizen Leidy. Of enormous productiveness, as an editor conducting the American Naturalist for nineteen years, as a writer leaving a shelf-full of twenty octavo and three great quarto volumes of original research.  A man of fortitude, bearing material reverses with good cheer, because he lived in the world of ideas and to the very last moment of his life drew constant refreshment from the mysterious regions of the unexplored.
In every one of the five great lines of research into which he ventured, he reached the mountain peaks where exploration and discovery guided by imagination and happy inspiration gave his work a leadership. His studies among fishes alone would give him a chief rank among zoölogists, on amphibians and reptiles there never has been a naturalist who has published so many papers, while from 1868 until 1897, the year of his death, he was a tireless student and explorer of the mammals. Among animals of all these classes his generalizations marked new epochs. While far from infallible, his ideas acted as fertilizers on the minds of other men. As a palæontologist, enjoying with Leidy and Marsh the Arcadian period when all the wonders of our great West were new, from his elevation of knowledge which enabled him to survey the whole field with keen eye he swooped down like an eagle upon the most important point.
In breadth, depth and range we see in Cope the very antithesis of the modern specialist, the last exponent of the race of the Buffon, Cuvier, Owen and Huxley type. Of ability, memory and courage sufficient to grasp the whole field of natural history, as comparative anatomist he ranks with Cuvier and Owen; as palæontologist with Owen, Marsh and Leidy—the other two founders of American palæontology; as natural philosopher less logical but more constructive than Huxley. America will produce men of as great, perhaps greater genius, but Cope represents a type which is now extinct and never will be seen again.
















Source:  The American Museum Journal, Vol. VII, No. 2, February, 1907, p. 25-26.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Medium is the Message















Today many people are active on the internet and communicating globally. If our technology was still limited to shortwave communications, I doubt so many would feel the need to broadcast themselves around the world.  Perhaps the key factor here is the preference for written over verbal communications?  Compare the preference people have to "text" rather than speak over their telephones.

For a quick glance at the contemporary world of shortwave radio communications, please click HERE.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Q.E.D.






















The Amazon description is similarly convincing.  Please click HERE.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pendant






















Venus and Cupid astride a fanciful fish.  Gold, enamel, rubies and pearls.  Italian or German, ca. 1580?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Meanwhile, 249 miles above the Earth's surface...

International Space Station











The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky. Click HERE to track the station as it passes overhead.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

Professor Hodges on the July 2 Talk

My International Authors colleague Horace Jeffery Hodges has blogged on the paper I read Sunday, July 2 at the WAH Center.  The title of his brief essay is "Carter Kaplan on Truth and Free Speech."

In the introduction to my paper, I equivocate (in a good way) about the presence of politics (and, significantly, the absence of politics) in the editorial process. Of course, that "absence" of politics itself has antecedents worth looking at, hence the attention I give, again at the beginning of the paper, to Milton's Areopagitica. To view Professor Hodges' reflections, please click HERE.


















To learn about Professor Hodges' new collection of poetry, Radiant Snow, please click HERE.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Illustrating the Visions: Alloys of Art, Poetry, Politics, and Philosophy

Terrance Lindall has published an on-line ebook with with the full text of my paper and photographs from the July 2 talk. To view the free book, please click HERE.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Aesthetics over science, or a deliberately inaccurate image of the Earth?

I don't have to explain to the Highbrow Commonwealth the thoughtfulness Stanley Kubrick put into his films, where each image, each movement, each word of dialogue, each character's expression, each subtle turn of plot... is is some way nuanced to exact an aesthetic response, or is designed to produce meaning, or is suggestive of complex themes--some of which take decades to surface in one critical discussion or another.

Today I would like share an image from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  What has captured my attention is the vague appearance of the surface of the Earth. The film was released in 1968, and for years astronauts in orbit had been taking photographs of our planet.  Now, look at a sample of those photographs, and then compare them to the image of the Earth's surface from the film.  Why in this particular detail--and Kubrick was nothing if not a stickler for details--I say, why doesn't the Earth in the film resemble the photographs that had been taken of the Earth's surface by Mercury or Gemini astronauts?

Earth as photographed from Gemini 11






















Southern tip of the Indian subcontinent from an altitude of 760 kilometers (Gemini 11).




















Now look at this still from 2001.  It's beautiful, but it's also--what? Let's say, "scientifically vague". Was this the director's deliberate intention? I want to emphasize that Kubrick was meticulous in such matters--the technological artifacts and astronomical subjects exhibited in the film were each carefully-guided representational exercises based upon the latest scientific information. Naturally, apropos to the image of the Earth, Kubrick had the resources to create a more authentic image in these orbital scenes.  But instead we get this exuberant aquamarine fantasy, moreover juxtaposed alongside a spectacularly detailed technological marvel.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 1776














IN Congress, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Please click HERE to read the rest of the document.

Please click HERE to read about the origins of these ideas..

Saturday, July 1, 2017

河鍋 暁斎




Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831–1889), Skeleton Shamisen Player in Top Hat With Dancing Monster, 1881-1889

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"...in a free and open encounter..."

And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

                              --John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644 
David Martin, "Paul at Areopagus",  1639-1721

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Statement: Christopher Arabadjis

Two pieces from artist Christoper Arabadjis appear in Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5; and then a great many more appear in Emanations: I Am Not a Number, which presents a number of his designs with an "hexagonal" theme (incidentally reflecting the number of the volume). His work combines science and fine art intelligently and suggestively, and so fits very well with our purposes. Here is a statement of his aesthetic idea:
I draw nearly every day using ballpoint pen. I have done so for over six years. I start every drawing the same way with a mark (or shape) and a rule for how to repeat it. A rule usually consists of specifying how different the second mark can be from the first. For example, Untitled (2016-12-001) [below] started with a red square somewhere in the middle of the paper. The rule for repetition was that the next mark had to be red, four sided, and touch the corners of the first, but its internal angles could change turning it into, say, a parallelogram. The pattern resulted in a wavy checkerboard.

As I make marks I try to rigorously adhere to the rules. Once this process is set in motion, I let go and see where it takes me. Of course each mark is a small yet conscious decision, but I work quickly enough that it does not feel that way. In fact I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I am like two people when I draw. The other is an observer who watches a creator who looks like he knows what he is doing and where he is going.

If a drawing seems to stall under the weight of too much homogeneity I will re-calibrate the rule, loosening it to allow for greater diversity. If there is not enough tension, a second system will be introduced consisting of a new mark and rule combination. In the aforementioned drawing I introduced a second mark that was a blue four sided shape that had to fully touch all of the red marks around it, e.g. it filled in the white areas of the red checkerboard wherever it extended to. However, when they reached the edge where the red marks ended, they could extend beyond the boundary in the same way the red marks had colonized a region. 

Sometimes the second system is one of opposition and sometimes one of compatibility, but the goal is for the systems to complement each other for the greater good of the whole. There is no limit to the number of systems that I would introduce, but the more systems, the more difficult it is to resolve a piece. 

I currently use red and blue ink to explore the way color interacts, but only two colors in order to limit the outcomes and isolate the connection between cause and effect. I work like a scientist because I was trained to think logically from a young age, and because I studied physics for fifteen years. I think of these works as mini physics calculations or simulations. Like building my own universe from scratch, or as we say in physics from first principles. The development of each drawing mimics the process of growth with a built-in mechanism for mutation – the inability of my hand or my mind not to make a mistake. In fact I’ve come to see mistakes as acts of creation.






















Christopher Arabadjis's work will be on view during my talk this Sunday at the WAH Center. To learn more about the event, please click HERE.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Through Optic Glass

…his ponderous shield
Ethereal temper, massy, large and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the Moon, whose Orb
Through Optic Glass the Tuscan Artist views
At Ev'ning from the top of Fesole,

Or in Valdarno, to descry new Lands, 
Rivers or Mountains in her spotty Globe.

-- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I
Milton visiting Galileo, colored engraving after a painting by Annibale Gatti

















Galileo's drawings of the moon, 1610