Quote #17

‘”These signs are real. They are also symptoms of a process. The process follows the same form, the same structure. To apprehend it you will follow the signs. All talk of cause and effect is secular history, and secular history is a diversionary tactic. Useful to you, gentlemen, but no longer so to us here. If you want the truth — I know I presume — you must look into the technology of these matters. Even into the hearts of certain molecules — it is they after all which dictate temperatures, pressures, rates of flow, costs, profits, the shapes of towers…”

“You must ask two questions. First, what is the real nature of synthesis? And then: what is the real nature of control?”

gravitys-rainbow“You think you know, you cling to your beliefs. But sooner or later you will have to let them go…”‘

– The séance-channeled spirit of Walther Rathenau in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Rathenau also alludes to the mysteries of coal-tar chemistry, specifically Perkin’s synthesis of mauveine, used as mauve dye (“…the first new color on Earth, leaping to Earth’s light from its grave miles and aeons below.”) All in all it’s one of my all-time favorite scenes in a novel — a creepy, prophetic little slice of liminal horror that I’ve cracked open to read a hundred times since I first read it twenty-five years ago.

Quote #16 – Super Bowl Edition

end-zone“You know what to do,” he said, and his voice grew louder. “You know what this means. You know where we are. You know who to get.”

We were all making the private sounds. We were getting ready. We were getting high. The noise increased in volume.

“Footbawl,” George Owen shouted. “This is footbawl. You thow it, you ketch it, you kick it. Footbawl. Footbawl. Footbawl.”

– Don DeLillo, End Zone. Good luck Seahawks!

Quote #15

dr.moreau“For that reason I live on the broad free downland…I have withdrawn myself from the confusion of cities and multitudes, and spend my days surrounded by wise books, bright windows, in this life of ours lit by the shining souls of men. I see few strangers, and have but a small household. My days I devote to reading and to experiments in chemistry, and I spend many of the clear nights in the study of astronomy. There is, though I do not know how there is or why there is, a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope. I hope, or I could not live. And so, in hope and solitude, my story ends.”

– Edward Prendick describing pretty much the perfect existence at the end of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau

Quote #14

nova-swing“This used to be her profession. A sun-diver like the Saucy Sal was more mathematics than substance. It didn’t really know what to be, and without an active pilot interface would revert instantly to a slurry of nanotech and smart carbon components, a few collapsing magnetic fields. It was in the class of emergent artefacts, a neurosis with an engine. You don’t so much fly your hyperdip as nurse it through a programme of dynamic self-reinvention.”

– M. John Harrison, Nova Swing

Quote #13

“‘The French mathematician, Jacques Hadamard…He was the one who proved the Prime Number theorem that has you in such ecstasies…he says there are four stages to mathematical discovery. Not very different from the experience of the artist or poet, if you think about it. The first is to study and be familiar with what is known. The next is to let these ideas turn in your mind, as the earth regenerates by lying fallow between plantings. Then — with luck — there is the flash of insight, the illuminating moment when you discover something new and feel in your bones that it must be true. The final stage is to verify — to subject that epiphany to the rigors of mathematical proof…’

Abdul Karim feels that if he can simply go through Hadamard’s first two stages, perhaps Allah will reward him with a flash of insight. And perhaps not. If he had hopes of being another Ramanujan, those hopes are gone now. But no true Lover has ever turned from the threshold of the Beloved’s house, even knowing he will not be admitted through the doors.”

– Vandana Singh, “Infinities”

Quote #12

“I thought you just told me they used radio.”

“They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”

“Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much.”

– Terry Bisson, “They’re Made Out of Meat” — go read the whole thing, it’s a great, super-short story.

Quote #11

“The introduction of open-minded, multiple-level, continuously developing, on-line, operational, dynamic, economical, expanding, structural-functional, field-jumping, field-ignoring theory is needed.”

– John C. Lilly, Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer (used as the epigraph for Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noösphere by Richard M. Doyle)

Quote #10

eri“Planets are the abusive parents of evolution. Their very surfaces promote warfare, concentrate resources into dense defensible patches that can be fought over. Gravity forces you to squander energy on vascular systems and skeletal support, stand endless watch against an endless sadistic campaign to squash you flat. Take one wrong step, off a perch too high, and all your pricey architecture shatters in an instant. And even if you beat those odds, cobble together some lumbering armored chassis to withstand the slow crawl onto land— how long before the world draws in some asteroid or comet to crash down from the heavens and reset your clock to zero? Is it any wonder we grew up believing life was a struggle, that zero-sum was God’s own law and the future belonged to those who crushed the competition?

The rules are so different out here. Most of space is tranquil: no diel or seasonal cycles, no ice ages or global tropics, no wild pendulum swings between hot and cold, calm and tempestuous. Life’s precursors abound: on comets, clinging to asteroids, suffusing nebulae a hundred lightyears across. Molecular clouds glow with organic chemistry and life-giving radiation. Their vast dusty wings grow warm with infrared, filter out the hard stuff, give rise to stellar nurseries that only some stunted refugee from the bottom of a gravity well could ever call lethal.”

– Peter Watts, “The Island