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I wouldn’t trouble you, but.. redux

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — following on from this earlier double ouroboros, posted Sunday ]
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This is such a superb technological ouroboros, delivered by Amazon to our friend, Bryan Alexander, and tweeted by him for our delectation:

With any luck, I’ll get to review Bryan’s book for Zenpundit.

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.

**

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 —

**

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!

    Limina, thresholds, more on spaces-between & their importance

    Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from one thing to another — and it’s the gaps — the in-betweens — the leaps — the links — the bonds between them that truly matter ]
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    Blog-friend Bryan Alexander concludes his blog post Casualties of the future: college closures and queen sacrifices with a clip from Babylon 5. What exactly does that have to do with Admiral McRaven?

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    A difference between bricks and bricks

    That’s from near the top of Bryan‘s post.

    **

    Bryan, lately of Vermont and now at Georgetown, is our keenest observer of the higher educational future. He coined the term peak higher education in 2013 — like peak oil, but for education, right? — and has been tracking it since then. At some point, he added the notion of queen sacrifice — “A queen sacrifice is when a college or university cuts faculty, especially full-time professors, usually as part of shrinking or ending certain academic programs” — and has made at least sixty posts in which queens are sacrificed, and one on a knight or rook sacrifice? (sports). Bryan‘s latest post is Casualties of the future. In it, he writes:

    That academic phase hasn’t been clearly replaced yet. The new phase’s nature isn’t fully evident. Perhaps its outlines will become apparent after several years of change. I’ve speculated on what that next higher education phase might look like here and elsewhere. But for now, let’s consider the present as a moment in between those two phases. That’s our time, right in the midst of a switching period, a liminal space, marked by uncertainty and instability. We’re in a boundary zone.

    Okay: a gentleman scholar as wise as he is bearded — and that’s a considerable double-barreled compliment — sees fit to emphasize the liminal in his latest broadside on higher education and its current obsession with cutting arts and humanities programs and various faculty members — ahem, bringing new and far broader meaning, in fact, to the concept of cutting classes. And why?

    Why provide a graphic of brick wall(s) unless, somehow, the idea of breaks, gaps, thresholds, borders, leaps, in short the liminal, is of intrinsic importance?

    **

    Picking up on What does it mean to be a Canadian citizen? where we left off in Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders, with the questions:

    Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?

    We can consider the cases of women from the US, UK and elsewhere who volunteered for ISIS and now wish to return home.

    **

    Here’s a paragraph to transition us smoothly:

    How easy should it be to give up your citizenship? In the era of Oswald, it could be difficult—like joining an especially selective monastic order that turns away aspirants until they kneel in the snow for a few days outside the monastery or consulate’s doors. Now a U.S. citizen can stop being American with a single visit to a consulate. (Most renounce not for ideological reasons but to avoid the complications of living as an American expatriate, subject to dual taxation and bureaucratic requirements far more onerous than for expatriates of almost any other country.)

    That’s from Graeme Wood, Don’t Strip ISIS Fighters of Citizenship

    See also:

  • Amarnath Amarasingam, Revoking Citizenship of ISIS Members is Not the Answer
  • Dan Byman, The wrong decision on Hoda Muthana
  • That’s a liminal issue, questions of citizenship and borders are liminal. And Bryan is talking liminality when he talks education.

    **

    Here’s a quick liminal zing from Abigail Tracy, in the title and subtitle of here Atlantic piece:

    I’d have been happy to include this in my chyrons and headers collection, but between the lines is too nicely liminal to miss.

    **

    A limen is a <threshold: it ‘s neither one thing nor the other, it’s in-between. And in-between is a time or state of transition, often tricky — think of the interregnum between the election of a President and his or her Inauguration — and often deeply human — we’re stuck with human nature, every one of us, which as Solzhenitsyn noted has a fault line in it more significant perhaps than even the fissure that separates our left and right cerebral hemispheres. Stunning us, he wrote:

    If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

    There’s liminality for you.

    **

    Here’s how Bryan ends his post:

    Babylon-5:

    Listen:

    There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

    The war we fight is not against powers and principalities — see my earlier post today on spiritual warfare. And The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation — the horror, the blessing of liminality.

    And Admiral McRaven:

    He too deals with the fight against chaos:

    SEAL training is the great equalizer: If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart — and that deep sense of being equalized by sand. tide, and fatigue, brings with it fine-grained humility and profound bonding with ones’ fellows.

    **

    Victor Turner was the anthropologist who made liminality the corner-stone of his great work, The Ritual Process — see how closely his ideas correspond with McRaven‘s SEAL training. Back in my early post on the topic here on ZP, I wrote:

    Basing his own work on van Gennep‘s account of rites of passage, Turner sees such rites as involving three phases: before, liminal, and after.

  • Before, you’re a civilian, after, you’re a Marine — but during, there’s an extraordinary moment when you’ve lost your civilian privileges, not yet earned your Marine status, and are less than nothing — as the drill sergeant constantly reminds you — and yet feel an intense solidarity with your fellows.
  • Before, you’re a novice, not yet “professed”, after, you’re a monk — but during, you lie prostrate on the paving stones of the abbey nave as you transition into lifelong vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
  • There are two things to note here. One is that liminality is a *humility* device, the other is that is creates a strong sense of bonding which Turner calls *communitas*: in one case, the Marine’s esprit de corps, in the other quite literally a monastic community. Part of what is so fascinating here is the (otherwise not necessarily obvious) insight that humility and community are closely related.

    **

    earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Liminality II: the serious part
  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
  • But go back to that first post, Liminality II: the serious part, and read the whole thing. The story of the USS Topeka, SSN-754 alone is worth the effort..

    Of Note: Tim Furnish, & Trump’s National CT Strategy

    Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — and a few ppl whose views on trump’s strategy document I’d also like to read ]
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  • Tim Furnish, Trump’s New Counter-terrorism Strategy: The One-Eyed Man is Still King
  • Trump, 2018, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Obama, 2011, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Tim Furnish, Sectsploitation: How to Win Hearts and Minds in the Islamic World
  • **

    I wanted to draw your attention to our blog-friend and sometime contributor Tim Furnish‘s post, which offers a lucid introduction to the Trump administration’s National CT Strategy paper, situating it in contrast to the Obama admin’s version, and linking it to a very helpful breakdown of what we might call (remembering William James, but in mostly lower case) the varieties of Islamic experience.

    Let me just say that from my POV:

    1) Tim Furnish has a way superior understanding of the said varieties than John Bolton ever will have — plus he has a taste for pop culture asides!

    2) that the key issue to be further explored could be expressed in terms of the overlaps, Venn diagram-wise, between “literalist”, “mainstream” and “authentic” Islams.

    That’s a project I’ve been circling for more than a decade, and the closer I get, the more subtleties arise to be considered. Still circling in..

    Thomas Hegghammer, JM Berger, Leah Farrall, Adam Elkus, Will McCants and John Horgan are others whose varied voices and opinions regaarding the new CT Strategy text I’ll be watching for.

    **

    Tim’s essay and associated matters: Warmly recommended.

    Zen — pray chime in.

    My scope, first draft

    Monday, July 2nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — footprints on earth and moon — introducing callum flack — mapping the mississippi ]
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    Here’s a neat illustration of the extent of my interests, at least along one of my continua —

    The upper footprint above is that of Buddha. I have tweaked the image a bit, rotating, flipping it and resizing it to fit my DoubleQuotes format, and you can take thgat as analogous to the way we tweak the Buddha’s teachings to fit our expectations — and the lower footprint, a bootprint actually, is man’s mark on the moon, courtesy of NASA, whose comment is:

    These footprints on the moon will last forever, but the nature of who can be an astronaut is changing

    So, the oppositions:

  • ancient and modern
  • spiritual and technical
  • earth and moon
  • barefoot and booted
  • eternal and eternal
  • What have I missed?

    **

    So: why do I title this post My scope, first draft?

    Scope, to honor Callum Flack, friend of Cath Styles and Sembl, whose blog-post today, THE BRIEF, THE SCOPE AND THE DANCE I read, as I now read anytbing Callum writes.

    Callum and I have strongly overlapping interests, and The Brief, the Scope and the Dance is, amongst other things, a paean to flexibility in the context of planning a business website — flexibility and mutuality in planning. And in pursuit of that flexibility in both brief and scope, Callum uses one of my own favorite illustrations

    :

    — along with these comments:

    Objectives defined in the brief are quantifiable. But constraints, which are defined in the scope, are not. Constraints change, and opportunities are created when that happens.

    and:

    We logically understand that the least surprising thing about scope is that what is documented as The Scope is not what will actually happen. Like a map, scope is a proxy for reality. The scope is like a river, and as the map of the Mississippi above shows, rivers change.. Anytime a project doesn’t expect the scope to change, it is unrealistic.

    And first draft, to honor that flexibikity in the riverine nature of things.

    **

    My idea and use of scope naturally differs from Callum’s, if for no other reason then because he’s thinking of the scope of a projected commercially effective web-page, while I’m taking the same word (Witty Wittgenstein, I’m saving this space for your chuckle here) to refer to the height, depth, breadth and other parameters of my life as it is currently taking its shape..

    No matter, Callum’s post prodded me, and I wanted to give Zenpundit readers a brief into to Callum’s work anyway — and his blog-post today as both an excellent introduction to and example of that work.

    And when Callum writes,”Objectives defined in the brief are quantifiable. But constraints, which are defined in the scope, are not” he’s showing his own scope (in my sense of the term) to reach across that (to me) all-important divide between quantity and quality, a divide that has at its heart a koan — the imponderable way in which a world can contain both qualit and quant, leaving us to ponder (!!) how to “value” one (quality) in terms of the other, and how to maximize that more elusive of the pair in a world seemingly dedicated to the more obvious and blatant (quantity) of the two.

    **

    Sources

  • Wikipedia, Buddha footprint
  • Washington Post, The unsung astronauts
  • **

    That Mississippi map, also, is a footprint.


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