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Two alchemical substance-scapes

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the material world meets the immaterial in our humanity — cognition & language ]

I came across two views of what you might call “alchemical substances” today — one mixed and one unmixed — and in each case the wording of the description fascinated me.

SPEC scapes

The upper panel is taken from the late Oliver Sacks‘ description of the elements as he found them in his childhood, displayed in London’s Science Museum. There’s alchemy in that description, in the fusion Sacks achieves between scientific observation and poetic insight.

In the lower panel, we have an overtly alchemical fusion, this time achieved by the interweaving of words from the language of the material (tobacco, leather, oak) and the immaterial (mystery, wisdom, knowledge) — both under the rubric “materials” — the work of Marcus McCoy.



  • Oliver Sacks, Mendeleev’s Garden
  • House of Orpheus, Cunning Man sample vial
  • **

    Any self-respecting legal desk will contain both pigeon-holes and loop-holes.

    Of a non-comparative use of the DoubleQuotes method

    Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — further thoughts on the advantages of seeing double ]

    I’ve said before that when I was at The Arlington Institute, my boss used to ask me to watch out for “early indicators”, and joked that in my book, two is the first number — I don’t see an “indicator” until I see a pattern emerging.

    Putting it bluntly, one point is pointless — things could go anywhere from there. Two points suggest a line, a link, a connection — a possible, maybe even plausible, trend.

    And so it is with the two photos above. Here the point is not to compare and contrast the two images of surveillance cameras wearing party hats, but to see that they represent a class — the presence of two concrete instances strongly implies the higher level abstraction: hah! they’re watching us!

    It’s that sense I have of two being the beginning of thought that makes me so fond of the DoubleQuotes format — and of Arthur Koestler‘s insight, which I’m always quoting, about creation occurring at the intersection of two spheres..


    If I’m a fundamentalist about anything, it’s the notion that it takes two to tango!

    Further to AI: Emlyn saw the ostrich

    Monday, August 10th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — following on from A difficulty with DoubleQuotes — in which Emlyn and his mother exhibit different forms of recognition ]

    For the record, my son Emlyn looked at the middle frame in this image:

    negative2 cropped

    and “saw” the ostrich.


    He immediately pointed me to one of a series of double imgages comparing the facial expressions of an ostrich and the BBC’s latest Mycroft Holmes:

    ostrich mycroft

    Hm, yet another use of DoubleQuotes!


    Here’s the “ghost ostrich” — the middle image in the set of three above, juxtaposed with the ostrich as Emlyn recalled it from his encyclopedic interest in the great detective:

    ghost ostrich

    Can you see the resemblance? Frankly, I can’t.


    In any case, Emlyn’s mother had it right, I think. She saw the original dog image (left, below)

    nichon frisee
    Bichon Frisé image, right, via Dog Breed Information and Pictures

    and suggested it was a Bichon pup. If so, it’s a feisty one. I wouldn’t know..

    Pandora’s box, bottled by Klein

    Sunday, June 7th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a graphical analog to the inside outside koan ]

    Thinking one’s way inside that demmed box…

    8-cell tesseract

    What’s even “inside”?

    Eppur si muove! Or not?

    I suppose this can be today’s Sunday Surprise.



  • Wikipedia, Tesseract
  • Easier to take off the t-shirt than lose the tattoo IMO

    Sunday, May 31st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — cognitive dissonance at the Draw-a-Prophet demo ]

    Here’s a DoubleQuote in the Wild which takes the form of a single image — I’ve “separated” the two halves to illustrate its nature as a DQ:

    DQ in flags

    As the tweep from whom I took the image (whole, not separated) puts it:

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