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On the liquidity of mountains, and cats

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — you might not have thought of cats as liquid, though they flow quite nicely on a decent carpet; and as for mountains — would they flow to Mohammed, or would he have to flow to them? ]
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Somewhere I’d heard that Muhammad said that mountains moved like waves. I’d wondered which direction the Rocky Mountains might be moving in, whether they were aiming for the Pacific or the Atlantic coast, and what would happen to real estate prices and military bases in either case. I used to live in Denver..

And today I discovered the concept of the Deborah Number, defined thus:

The Deborah number (De) is a dimensionless number, often used in rheology to characterize the fluidity of materials under specific flow conditions. It quantifies the observation that given enough time even a solid-like material might flow, or a fluid-like material can act solid when it is deformed rapidly enough.

Reiner, whose paper originated the term, notes:

Deborah knew two things. First, that the mountains flow, as everything flows. But, secondly, that they flowed before the Lord, and not before man, for the simple reason that man in his short lifetime cannot see them flowing, while the time of observation of God is infinite. We may therefore well define a non-dimensional number the Deborah number..

The equation by which the Deborah Number, De, is defined as:

De = λ / T, where T is a characteristic time for the deformation process and λ is still the relaxation time.

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The Deborah reference here is to the book of Judges chapter 5, verse 5, which Reiner reads as saying “The mountains flowed before the lord” — whereas the KJV has “The mountains melted from before the LORD” and the NIV, “he mountains quaked before the Lord”. Melting at least has a transition from solid to liquid state implied, whereas quaking doesn’t really shift mountains from their solidity, though they shake — like Quakers, perhaps?

It seems there may have been some conflation here, for Isaiah finally provides us with a text that gives mountains complete liquidity — Isaiah 64:3 in the KJV gives us “the mountains flowed down at thy presence..”

But see also the SKV renderings in the Addendum below..

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And what of Muhammad? Shakir translates Qur’an 31.32:

And when a wave like mountains covers them they call upon Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, but when He brings them safe to the land, some of them follow the middle course; and none denies Our signs but every perfidious, ungrateful one.

That has the waves moving, and their size resembling that of mountains, as I read it. Mohsin Khan‘s version often adds the translator’s explanations in brackets, as here:

And when a wave covers them like shades (i.e. like clouds or the mountains of sea­-water), they invoke Allah, making their invocations for Him only. But when He brings them safe to land, there are among them those that stop in the middle, between (Belief and disbelief). But none denies Our Signs except every perfidious ungrateful.

Here, “mountains of sea-water” are compared with “clouds” inside the brackets, but the text itself doesn’t mention either one..

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Maybe the mountains won’t budge. That was the opinion of John Owen, who wrote in 1643:

If the mountaine will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will goe to the mountaine.

Bakker, Egbert J. 2005. Pointing at the Past: From Formula to Performance in Homeric Poetics. Hellenic Studies Series 12. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies devotes chapter 9 to the topic of Mohammed and the Mountain, referencing Karl Bühler’s Sprachtheorie: Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache (1934):

As Bühler puts it himself in reference to the well-known anecdote: either the mountain comes to Mohammed or Mohammed goes to the mountain … he adds that in real life the mountain is a lot more willing to move than in the legend, since the ease with which any given speech arena can be transformed into an imagined new reality is remarkable, and lies at the basis of any mimetic, theatrical illusion. .

Here, the mountain’s movement depends on imagination, even though Bühler seems to refer to it as moving “in real life” as well as in “any mimetic, theatrical illusion”.

Of course, the very idea concealed within the name Rheology is that of universal flow, espoused by Heraclitus:

παντα ρει : Everything Flows

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And if everything, then cats. It was a tweet by blog-friend Adam Elkus that put me in mind of liquidity in the first place this morning:

Cat physics!

It’s an an obvious field of study once you understand the centrality of cats to the universe, and It’s appropriate enough that a cat physicist, Marc-Antoine Fardin, should have won the Ig Nobel Prize. His definition of liquid is a simple one:

A liquid is traditionally defined as a material that adapts its shape to fit a container.

He proceeds to show two examples which may fit this definition, which I’ve cropped to show you full size. First, a cat demonstrating oval form:

And here’s the rounded rectangle form, adopted by the cat from Adam‘s tweet —

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Suggested Thinking:

  • >Wolfram MathWorld tells us a sausage-form filled rounded rectangle is termed a stadium. Cat stadium, or a stadium cat? Now there’s food for a football (or baseball, or rock music) thought..
  • _____

    Addendum:

    Tweets from Splymoth A. Klavrock supplied us with the SKV translation of Isaiah 64:1-3:

    Oh if you would only tear the Heavens apart and descend. In your presence the mountains would melt down like when fire crackles through kindling. The fire makes oceans seethe, so your name is made known to your adversaries, and nations quake in your presence.

    You did fearsome things, things we never hoped for, and in the doing of them you descended. The mountains melted down in your presence.

    From all eternity no ear has heard, and no eye has seen any god but you, and the things you do for the ones who wait for you.

    Klavrock had another suggestion, linking the “motion” verb to something internal, close to an “emotion”:

    I think “melted” is the same verb as when the Israelites’ hearts “melt” in fear facing a strong enemy. Which is interesting.

    Many thanks, SK!

    Joshu and the poets

    Monday, November 18th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — From Joshu, Japanese zen master who recommends having a hot coal caught in your throat, metaphorically speaking, to Isaiah, Hebrew prophet, to whose lips it is said an angel pressed a burning coal ]
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    Said Joshu, proffering the word “Mu” in answer to the question “Does a dog have buddha nature? in one of the great koans of the Zen text, The Gateless Gate”:

    If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel as though you have a hot iron ball in your throat that you can neither swallow nor spit up. Then your previous conceptualizing disappears. Like a fruit ripening in season, subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one.

    You have a hot iron ball in your throat that you can neither swallow nor spit up. That’s how you must feel, so that by means of this koan, “your previous conceptualizing disappears” and “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one.”

    There are few barriers in our contemporary western world so difficult to pass — “the first responders running towards the burning Twin Towers as everyone else was running away” would surely qualify.

    **

    And yet and yet.

    And yet, the thing is, “buddha nature”, or”original face” as another koan names it, the condition in which “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one” is prior to the condition in which they are experienced separately as “subjectivity” and “objectivity” — it’s “original”.

    So if yo find yourself suffering from “subjectivity” and “objectivity, you’ll need that “hot iron ball in your throat” to get back to origins. But if you’re there, where “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one” — no problem.

    In fact, after you’ve “solved” — “resolved” might be better — a koan, your zen master is liable to suggest you look through a book of “capping verses” such as this one, Zen Sand, kindly published by the University of Hawaii Press, to find one verse that caps or sums up your experience.

    The thing being that some poet wrote that verse, after experiencing something very close to what you experienced.

    **

    Which suggests that either:

    literally hundreds of poets arrived at “subjectivity and objectivity are experienced as one” without going through the “hot iron ball in your throat” stage by being poets, in other words, they simply kept to the “original” state beyond dualism — in which case poetry sounds like a fine route by which to avoid all that throat-blistering terror or..

    the poets routinely go through the “iron ball” barrier on their way to poetic clarity — a possibility which would oleave traces, surely, in their poems..

    Such as:

    Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?
    and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
    I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
    For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
    and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    Every angel is terrifying.
    And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing.

    That, as you may know, is Rilke, in the first of huis Duino Elegies.

    Or this:

    No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
    More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. ..
    My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
    Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing…

    World sorrow — can there be any greater?

    But those words are the words of a Catholic priest, a Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins — and I left out the two most remarkable lines in that poem, lines in which he despairs of the Holy Spirit or Comforter, and the Virgin Mary, Mother of the world in Catholic theology:

    Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
    Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

    Coming from a Catholic pruiest, those are noteworthy, certainly surprising lines.

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    Or this, from Rilke again, triggered by Hopkins’ speaking of “world-sorrow” — here Orpheus speaks of Eurydice:

    A woman so loved that from one lyre there came
    more lament than from all lamenting women;
    that a whole world of lament arose, in which
    all nature reappeared: forest and valley,
    road and village, field and stream and animal;
    and that around this lament-world, even as
    around the other earth, a sun revolved
    and a silent star-filled heaven, a lament-
    heaven, with its own, disfigured stars —:
    So greatly was she loved.

    It may be the poets ahve swallowed more grief than that “hot coal” could muster — but then consider the story told in Isaiah 6. 5-7,. Isaiah speaks:

    Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

    Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

    One may always wish, trembling, for an angelic visitation.

    Rabbi Yisrael Ariel ‘s vision of Jewish world dominion, plus respect

    Monday, March 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — in Judaism, J’lem, Sanhedrin, Temple, Noahide Commandments — in Christianity C Peter Wagner, Dominion eschatology — in Islam, Maududi — hatred springs from love far too narrowly constrained? ]
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    As someone who has noted the visions of world domination of Islamist extremists and those of their Christian counterparts, it seems only fair for me to note that some scripture-listeralist extremists within Judaism also foresee world domination for their faith — taking the form of Israel converting all nations to the seven Noahide commandments, if not to Judaism itself, by the sword if need be.

    Thus Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute and head of the reconstituted Sanhedrin, said:

    This is what the Torah commanded us: ‘When thou drawest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it’ [Deuteronomy 20:10].

    What is meant by ‘peace’? Maimonides says that they must agree to follow the seven Noahide laws … Meaning, you ask them, ‘Do you follow the seven laws? If so, we will allow you to live.’ If not, you kill all of their males, by sword. You only leave the women.

    How do you leave them? They must all agree to follow the seven laws. And that is how you impose the Seven Laws on that city. We will conquer Iraq, Turkey. We will get to Iran, too. We will impose the seven Noahide laws on all of these places.

    You say, ‘I call upon you in peace.’ If they raise the flag [of surrender] and say, ‘From now on there is no more Christianity, no more Islam,’ the mosques and the Christian spires and their crosses come down, ‘from now on we follow the seven Noahide laws.’

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    I recently posted a piece titled Laughing at, and respecting, Sebastian Gorka in which I, yes, laughed at Seb Gorka, whose views on many topics I strongly disagree with, and whose speech at CPAC last week seemed frankly over the top, but also expressed respect for the narrative of his boyhood which was part of that speech — and which struck me as explaining something of the intensity of his feelings — at the age of seven or eight, he saw something that changed his life for ever: he saw deep white lines on his father’s wrists, and when he asked what had caused them, his father told him — without emotion —

    Son, that’s where the secret police bound my wrists together with wire behind my back so they could hang me from their ceiling of the torture chamber.

    Coming to the present day, and with that memory seared into him, he told the CPAC audience:

    Russia, we have to remember, is run by a former KGB colonel. That’s the sort of person who would be torturing freedom-fighters like my father in the basement of the Headquarters of the KGB. That’s the reality.

    That I respect.

    And in that spirit, too, I respect Rabbi Ariel‘s memories of the Six Day War and the retaking of the Temple Mount — sacred to both Islam and Judaism —

    We saw fire and smoke from all directions. Gunfire was heard. Suddenly the bad news began ton arrive: friends.. this one was killed, that one was killed.. I saw with my ownb eyes, to my great sorrow, some of the artillery struck fellow soldiers. I had to gather up legs, arms, to bring them to a proper burial. Then the shelling began on the Old City. Planes were streaking overhead, lots of fire and smoke.

    and then, this:

    From the place where I was standing, I could see the entire Temple Mount. After 2000 years this is happening before my very eyes. Within minutes I saw suddenly atop the Dome of the Rock the flag of Israel waving — truly the messianic age..

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    I said above that I had noted “the visions of world domination of Islamist extremists and those of their Christian counterparts”. I’d like to quickly document those two claims to world dominion:

    C Peter Wagner, convener of the New Apostolic Reformation declared:

    My favorite term is “dominion eschatology.” Why? Because Jesus did not give His Great Commission in vain.

    The battle will be ferocious, and we will suffer some casualties along the way.However, we will continue to push Satan back and disciple whole nations.

    We are aggressively retaking dominion, and the rate at which this is happening will soon become exponential. The day will come when “‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever’” (Rev. 11:15, NKJV)!

    while Syed Abul A’la Maududi wrote:

    Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam.Islam is not a normal religion like the other religions in the world, and Muslim nations are not like normal nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world. Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about land or who owns the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power in this world that tries to get in the way of that goal Islam will fight and destroy. In order for Islam to fulfil that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is jihad.

    Okay?

    **

    And it was the prophet Isaiah, I think, who offered a more peaceable version or vision of the same global imagery:

    for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.


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