Spirals: plus ça change

[ by Charles Cameron — a striking image from the Cassini probe, a “spiral” staircase ]

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Spirals, which are close to concentric circles and close to ellipses, can also be “squared” or “oblonged” — pattern recognition is not always neat in its observation of definitions, and this can as easily be a cognitive feature as a bug:

Besides, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose could almost be the motto for pattern recognition, emphasizing the naturally cross-disciplinary, cross-silo nature of analogical cognitive strategies.

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The top panel image is of the North Pole of Saturn, as recently captured by NASA’s Cassini mission. As blog-friend Bryan Alexander notes at Infocult, NASA says of this image, which it calls The Maelstrom:

The vortex at Saturn’s north pole — seen here in the infrared — takes on the menacing look of something from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe.

5 comments on this post.
  1. Charles Cameron:

    Just after writing this post, I decided to watch one of the videos my younger son David (15) gave me for Christmas — a boxed set of 24 documentaries on my topic of special interest, titled End of the World – 2012 Apocalyptic Prophecies and Inexplicable Phenomena, featuring 33 hours of Mayans, space-craft, indigo children and the rest.  
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    I was barely five minutes into my exploration when I came across this “spiral” reference, taken from John Jay Harper, Tranceformers: Shamans of the 21st Century

    My whole body was caugbt up in a swiftly vibrating mind-field of conscious information that had a strong magnetic feel to it. It was as if I was within the swirling mind-fields of a Mind at Large, a superstorm of soft velvety particles, a mist of consciousness twirling around and through me at the speed of light. Just as I formed a question in my mind on any topic whatsoever, religious or scientific, the answer camke to me at once. As far as ‘thinking’ was concerned, I didn’t have to do that anymore. Thoughts were thinking me: I was switched to ‘auto-pilot.’ our sixth sense of instant knowing.

    I could say a whole lot about the psychology inherent in that paragraph… and the relationship of revelation, inspiration and the individual.
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    Okay. Do you suppose the world ends not with a bang nor a whimper — but with a spiral?
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    Ahem: this kind of synchronicity could get (JL Borges’ favorite word >) vertiginous

  2. J.ScottShipman:

    Hi Charles, 
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    Happy New Year! Thanks for sharing these visuals. What strikes me about the Saturn photo is the pin point at the bottom—or is it at the top, or perhaps infinity(?)…not sure, but I’ve long thought Boyd’s OODA learning framework was more spiral than linear—though I’ve not the skills to prove the hypothesis. 

  3. Charles Cameron:

    Hi Scott:
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    the pin point at the bottom—or is it at the top, or perhaps infinity… 
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    Yup. A fascinating (open) question… 
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    It would seem to me that OODA would be a spiral through time, no? — represented as a circle for simplicity, but implicitly spiral in practice?  

  4. Bryan Alexander:

    I have one word for you, Charles: Uzumaki.

  5. Charles Cameron:


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    Thanks, Bryan — I must investigate.