Strange & Wonderful Things: LINKS 03/04/18


How awe sharpens our brains:

Does awe promote a state of mind where we suck up information from our environment like a sponge, with little conscious effort? Does awe disable the filters, created by our expectations, through which we usually perceive the world? Why are some people very awe-prone, and others not so much? How does awe affect our interactions with other people? Does awe tend to make us open-minded, or can the uncertainty inherent in awe sometimes make us defensive and inflexible? We are just beginning to address these questions. What we know so far suggests, however, that natural wonders, grand firework displays, jaw-dropping human abilities and great works of the arts appeal to something fine in human nature—our need to know.


Artificial Photosynthesis Is Solar Energy’s Forgotten Cousin—and It’s Making a Comeback:

In an article in Science published in 1912, Professor Giacomo Ciamician noted that “Coal… offers solar energy to humanity in its most concentrated form… but coal is not inexhaustible. Is fossil solar energy the only one that may be used in modern life and civilization?” Later in the article, entitled grandly “The photochemistry of the future,” he remarks:

“Glass buildings will rise everywhere; inside of these will take place the photochemical processes that hitherto have been the guarded secret of the plants, but that will have been mastered by human industry which will know how to make them bear even more abundant fruit than nature, for nature is not in a hurry and mankind is… life and civilization will continue as long as the sun shines!”

More than a century after Ciamician first envisaged artificial photosynthesis as a means of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, the quest to make it a reality continues, and with a renewed urgency.


Twin Peaks as Islamic process metaphysics:

The show’s piloting consciousness steers bright dark religious-type negotiations into hell. Formerly embraced and humanized archaic forces plus energies of indistinct feeling converse in simple, profound terms. They are struggling with elemental, chaotic images that are continually becoming more primitive. It has become a place of demons. All we register is a prophetic absence, the emptiness, loneliness, vastness, meaningless of signals. ‘If we do manage to catch a glimpse of our inner selves by some contraption of mirrors we recognise it with horror – it is an animal crawling and decomposing in hell…In the last decade or two the imprisonment of the camera lens has begun to crack. The demonized state of our inner world has made itself felt in a million ways.’


Xenobuddhism begins with xeno:

Xenobuddhism strips Buddhism not of its weirdness or its horror but its spiritual redundancies: what use is the doctrine of reincarnation on the threshold of human physical cloning or informational copying for mind-uploading? What happens to meditation when wireheading becomes sophisticated? What happens to our dreams of immortality when our copies reveal our identity is a shame? How should we understand the Mahayana Bodhisattva path when the number of sentient beings apt for salvation explodes? How do we even understand Nirvana in these conditions? A better rebirth becomes augmentation…enhancement…replacement…Nirvana understood as species Extinction, Enlightenment as posthuman descent. Xenobuddhism has its preferences only because it hasn’t totally eliminated them yet.

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