A collection of notes on nature and order

I found these notes I’d copy-pasted from somewhere from about five years ago. I decided to track down their sources, as best I could.

From “QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” By Richard P. Feynman

My physics students don’t understand it either. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does …. The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you can accept Nature as she is—absurd. In short, there is no way to visualize what is going on. The theory of quantum mechanics explains it perfectly, to unbelievable mathematical accuracy. And that is all you need to know.

From “The Nature of Order” by Christopher Alexander

According to this view, the evolving system of the genetic material ITSELF causes evolution to follow certain pathways, not only because of selective pressure from outside, but also by virtue of its own internal dynamical ordering tendencies. The results of evolution are then to be understood [as being] mainly formed not by Darwinian selective pressure acting from outside, but by pressures created by the geometry and dynamics of the evolving genetic system itself

From “An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe” by Christopher Alexander

There are…two worlds in our minds. One is the scientific world which has been pictured through a highly complex system of mechanisms. The other is the world we actually experience. These two worlds, so far, have not been connected in a meaningful fashion. Alfred North Whitehead, writing about 1920, was one of the first philosophers to draw attention to this modern problem, which he called the bifurcation of nature. Whitehead believed that we will not have a proper grasp of the universe and our place in it, until the self, which we experience in ourselves, and the machinelike character of matter we see outside ourselves can be united in a single picture.

When I am part of the making of a building and examine my process, what is happening in me when I do it, myself, in my effort, is that I find that I am always reaching for the same thing. In some form, it is the personal nature of existence, revealed in the building, that I am searching for. It is “I,” the I-myself, lying within all things. It is that shining something which draws me on, which I feel in the bones of the world, which comes out of the earth and makes our existence luminous.

What must I do to put this self-like quality into the house, the room, the roof, the path, the tile? Often I can feel the possibility of this in a thing before I start to think, or design, or plan, or build, or before I start to paint. It is the sublime interior, the right thing. I first feel existence shimmering in reality, and I then feel it deep enough in the thing I am looking at and trying to ake, to know that it is worth capturing in concrete and wood and tile and paint. I can feel it, nearly always, almost before I start. Or, rather, I do not let myself start until I can feel this thing.

This thing, this something, is not God, it is not nature, it is not feeling. It is some ultimate, beyond experience. When I reach for it, I try to find—I can partly feel—the illumination of existence, a glimpse of that ultimate. It is always the same thing at root. Yet, of course, it takes an infinite variety of different forms

From “The Luminous Ground” by Christopher Alexander

I believe it is in the nature of matter, that it is soaked through with self or “I.” The essence of the argument … is that the thing we call “the self,” which lies at the core of our experience, is a real thing, existing in all matter, beyond ourselves, and that in the end we must understand it, in order to make living structure in buildings. But it is also my argument that this is the nature of matter. It is not only necessary to understand it when we wish to make living structure in buildings. It is also necessary if we wish to grasp our place in the universe, our relationship to nature.

From “Life and Mind in the Universe” by George Wald

It takes no great imagination to conceive of other possible universes, each stable and workable in itself, yet lifeless. How is it that, with so many other apparent options, we are in a universe that possesses just that peculiar nexus of properties that breeds life? It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff.

From “The Luminous Ground” by Christopher Alexander

Why is unity the same as tears? … Unity ties everything together—including joy, happiness, and laughter, but also including loss, death, and betrayal. A thing which truly has unity partakes of everything. And through that everything, there must be sadness. The making of this sadness, then, must come through a process where land, details, rooms, form an individual whole. Always trying to tie it together, to unify it, to make it disappear.

Addendum: I was curious where I got this from, and then … found it! An amazing composition of words and pictures and more, by Dick Gabriel (for some of you, yes, of worse is better …)

Generally interesting links- May 2020

An old control room, somewhere.
  • A possible compact fusion reacxtor ?
  • I can’t get enough of good articles on Fungi
  • A game to play if you second-guess the Fed
  • On Neil Postman, America, Trump; looking back at Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Investigating the physical location of memories … in worms.
  • As the title puts it, on the vintage beauty of soviet control rooms (an example above)
  • Leviathan in lockdown

    To assume that the frontispiece to Leviathan presents a normal or idealised scene is not especially comforting. The total absence of citizens combined with the presence of protective officials gives the city an air of being under a permanent state of siege. It could almost be a depiction of David Hume’s remark, a century later, that military camps ‘are the true mothers of cities’. Attentive to the disruptive power of such shocks as war, revolution and plague, Hobbes undervalues the more insidious but still threatening proposition of a locked-down population forced to adopt a siege mentality. Fear and disillusionment do their work here, too. We may underestimate, perhaps half on purpose, the camp-like quality of our cities even in ‘normal’ times, and accept that it is sometimes necessary for cities temporarily to become camps. But bare life is not enough. We don’t just want to be preserved, we want also to live.

  • A virtual tour of Pharaoh Ramesses VI’s tomb
  • On burn out
  • Every once in a while, someone wonders about history being like a science
  • Every once in a while, someone wonders if we should go back to RSS for consuming web content
  • A look at the ”mediaevalfuture of management

Interesting Links: April 2020

Connections between concepts, of sorts.
Connections between concepts, of sorts.

Interesting links: March 2020

Now abandoned Buran shuttle, on an Energia booster
Now abandoned Buran shuttle, on an Energia booster

Interesting links: February 2020

Twitter graphs of different disinfo campaigns
Twitter graphs of different disinfo campaigns

Interesting links: January 2020

Proposed telescope for Project Diana, that never got built.
Proposed telescope for Project Diana, that never got built.

Interesting links: December 2019

A giant prehistoric turtle
A giant prehistoric turtle

Interesting links: November 2019

An example of a Tinderbox view

In addition, the structure would likely have been topped with a pyramidion, a capstone made of solid granite and covered in a precious metal like gold. The sheer size of the pyramid must have been enough to blow ancient minds, but seeing it all shiny and topped in gold… well, no wonder they thought their rulers were gods.

  • As I’m in the stage of “looking around at schools”, found this piece on NYC schools relevant.
  • For those who care, something about Yggdrasil
  • Recently re-discovered The Cyborg Manifesto, from which this quote:

Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.

Substack

(or, “Dispatches from ebbs and flows in a mind-web”)

I’ve been toying with the idea of an email subscription option, with no success:

  • I considered TinyLetter earlier on but never got round to setting it up.
  • I considered Medium once, but the aesthetic constraints never appealed to me.
  • WordPress has subscriptions too, but I do NOT want every single post to be an email update, I “mix in” a microblog within my blog, and don’t want to have the overhead of keeping that separate.

But it does make sense to have my monthly curations (the programming-specific one and the general one) be email-subscription-friendly …

… and then I discovered Substack, which seems to be a soft spot here — easy to use, easy to set up, hopefully not a hassle for you to consume from either — which inspired me to start a pilot project of sorts to use Substack to optionally serve these out.

For now, then, these posts will be duplicated there, available both on WordPress and as emails from Substack, so … pick whatever works. I myself have found it easier to subscribe to a small list of people that way, and once I saw folks like Matt Taibbi using it, it seemed “a credible enough platform” to use.

So, if you want to receive just the curation posts, by email, [Here’s the link] to sign up for updates on Substack.

(and here’s the link to (what will be) my Substack Archive)