Have you ever thought of an old friend who you hadn’t seen in years, and then met them minutes later?
As I was writing this post, I was in conversation with my brother while walking down the road in Dublin, talking about this type of coincidence. As luck would have it, we were midway through this conversation when an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years appeared directly in front of us. Coincidence? Read on.
On April 26, 1986, in northern Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, a fire started in Reactor 4 of a large nuclear power station near the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat. The Chernobyl power station, which had begun operations nine years earlier, went into crisis as the fire spread and soon a small explosion occurred in the reactor. An evacuation was ordered, and fire services entered to attempt to reduce the damage and the spread of radioactive material into the air. However, it was already too late. Irradiated gas leaked into the local area, and within hours people began to feel nauseous and light-headed. Soon both towns were evacuated, and have never been repopulated to the same extent (although some people live there, in a fascinating story uncovered by Holly Morris).
In weeks to come the devastation of the Chernobyl disaster became widespread. Continue reading “Wormwood and The End of The World – Perception and coincidence”
Since reading Orwell’s 1984 I’ve often thought about the climax in Room 101 and the idea of somebody using my worst fear against me. The idea is fascinating, because a fear can manifest itself in so many forms, but can be so particular to the individual. In the novel the malevolently regulated Ministry of Love have stockpiled information on citizens of Orwell’s dystopic world and use this information to discover a person’s deepest fear. They then use that fear against the individual to finally make them submit.
This vision of unleashing a person’s deepest fear to take away their humanity reminds me a lot of hell. The idea of hell has been something of a fascination of mine for some time. It all started when watching Nick Cave live, where I swore that the ground was opening up beneath me (anyone who has seen Nick’s recent tour will probably understand). Hell and fire, eternal torture, and the underworld are all connected. But where did this notion of “underworld” come from, what form does it take, and why does it go down into the earth? Continue reading “To Hell With It – How we imagine the evil afterlife”
One of the first rules of writing is to open with a catchy line, and never with a technical topic. So I’m going to blow that one right out of the water and start by writing about entropy.
Entropy is a theory in thermodynamics (yes, I’m doing it!) that has also crossed over into the fields of astrophysics and philosophy. It is used to describe a sudden change that causes erratic and chaotic events, often leading to the creation of entirely new objects. Entropy always moves forward with time, and creates events that cannot be undone. A good example is the collapse of a star, folding in on itself and becoming (perhaps) a black hole. Stephen Hawking describes the idea of entropy nicely in A Brief History of Time when he refers to how an “intact cup on the table is a state of high order, but a broken cup on the floor is a disordered state.” (p 161) Continue reading “Exquisite Explosions – The fine art of destruction”
Fadó, fadó in a world not unlike our own, a group of people embarked on an amazing journey through the stars.
Our journey, as Homo Sapiens, started approximately 400,000 years ago. Like all stories, there is of course a long history to our arrival at the start of this journey, but this story is about our collective selves and how we have travelled. Before the castles and the aqueducts, before we farmed animals or spliced atoms, our collective protagonist (we) was about to embark upon one of the most astounding journeys ever taken through the stars.
At a running start our adventurers have swept around the sun 400,000 times, and the vast Milky Way (that the sun is a small part of) has travelled around 16% of the way around the centre of the universe Continue reading “Fadó, Fadó – An adventure through space and time”
No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
– John Donne, Meditations XVII
In Georges Perec’s novel “Life: A User’s Manual“, the author describes a sect that one of the book’s characters is involved in. This fictional group, named “The Three Free Men” and formed in 1960, began with three members. In the following three years from the group’s formation, each of the three members recruited three more members, making twelve by 1963. The nine new members initiated a further three members each (twenty-seven members) in the following three years, and so on until 1975, when there were seven hundred and twenty-nine members. Continue reading “The One, The Few, The Many – Social network bridges”
“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” – William Blake
Every living person finds something to believe in. The unique, individual way in which we believe is crucial to our individualism, and to our culture in general. Two Catholics may have two very differing opinions on the meaning of a passage from the New Testament. In the same way, two scientists may conceive two completely separate ideas from a single scientific theory.
After watching the Adam Curtis documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace Continue reading “Believing With Blinkers On – How seemingly open minds can be closed”
We can all define time. We all understand what it is and how it works, right? The challenge: to define time in ten words or less.
The Oxford English Dictionary summarise time pretty well:
Pronunciation: /tʌɪm/ noun 1 [mass noun] the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole
That’s exactly what I would have said.
The concept is straightforward for anyone Continue reading “To define “Time” in ten words or less”