Monday, August 04, 2008

This and That

  • Charlie Brooker explains that Scientists are killjoys. That's right folks. If I look back onto my life it seems to consist of a long and increasingly longer list of ideas I've killed, most of which are my own. That's the purpose of my being - telling you and myself why things don't work.

    For the intellectual value of this blog, let me add a quotation from Goethe's Faust, entry Mephistopheles

    Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
    Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
    Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht;
    Drum besser wär's, daß nichts entstünde.
    So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,
    Zerstörung, kurz, das Böse nennt,
    Mein eigentliches Element.
    I am the Spirit that denies!
    And rightly too; for all that doth begin
    Should rightly to destruction run;
    'Twere better then that nothing were begun.
    Thus everything that you call Sin,
    Destruction - in a word, as Evil represent-
    That is my own, real element.

    And if you want to know how that's pronounced, download wav-file (4MB) here or mp3 here (400 KB). Sorry for the bad recording, can't find my microphone.

  • The world isn't all evil, we still have the 7-year old kids. Here's the most heartwarming story of the week: 7-year old draws € 500 from his grandma's bank account, buys some sweets and since he doesn't know what to do with the rest, gives it away. Being tracked down by police officers, he explained that “he wanted to get money out of the machine and go shopping just like his grandmother,” because when his grandmother handed money to other people “they were always so happy.”

  • Discover Magazine has a reasonable, clear and well-written note on Black Holes at the LHC: The Extremely Long Odds Against the Destruction of Earth that is highly appreciated by the authors of this blog. See also our posts: Is there life after CERN?, Black Holes at the LHC - what can happen, Black Holes at the LHC - again, and Black Holes at the LHC - the CERN safety report.

  • Terra Mineralia is an exhibition in Freiberg, Germany, that will open in October. It is announced as the 'world's largest exhibition of unique minerals' that will 'enchant visitors of all generations through their splendid colors and stunning diversity' (my translation of their website). Spiegel Online has some beautiful photos here. If you're in the area, sounds like it's worth a visit.


  1. Scientism is Officially anti-Catholic (thank god). Talking points,

    1) Christ died for your sins.
    2) If you do not sin, Christ died in vain.
    3) Get on with it.

    LHC is a primordial black hole death beam defending Earth against space aliens from the Star Nebula. Simple, believable; pictures at 11.

  2. These minerals really look bizarre. I wonder how big these crystals actually are?

    Cheers, Stefan

  3. Dear Bee and Stefan,

    If you ever find yourselves with time on your hands in Washington D.C., I bet you'd enjoy the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's gem and mineral collection. How about this fire opal?


  4. Bee, since you mentioned Goethe and poetry:

    "I am not the spirit that denies as Goethe says but the spirit that opposes"

    And somewhere else when they ask him (the devil) how he feels:

    "Tired, mainly tired; by the stars and the laws. I want to stay out of the Cosmos."

    This is from the "Time of the devil" (A Horo do diabo) by Fernando Pessoa (and poor translation in English by me from the Greek translation) one of the greatest poets ever lived. Same class with Rimbaud and T.S Eliot. I recommend it and not only this but all his work especially the "Book of disquiet".


  5. A little correction for people who perhaps want to see this remarkable collection of minerals themselves: Schloss Freudenstein is in Freiberg in Saxonia, not in Freiburg, which would be in Baden-Württemberg near the Black Forrest.
    Cheers, Robert.

  6. Ooops, thanks Robert! I have fixed that.

  7. Hi Giotis,

    That is interesting. I wonder how much gets lost in translation ;-) To 'deny' is a bad translation of the originally German verb 'verneinen' to begin with. Literally, it means 'to say no' which as far as I am concerned goes more into the direction of opposing than denying. The German-English dictionary offers as translation of 'verneinen' also not 'to deny' but 'to answer in the negative' or 'to abnegate' (the latter is a verb though I've never heard somebody using). In the context that I meant it, opposing would also be a better fit. Similarly, to come back to Goethe's verse: good is the opposite of evil, sin the opposite of virtue, destruction the opposite of creation - not a denial of. Best,


  8. I should probably have added: the English translation is by George Madison Priest, see this website.

  9. Hi Bee,

    Aha! So: Pessoa's verse in Portuguese----Greek translation----English Translation by me = Goethe's verse original meaning in German.

    Interesting equation but kind of confusing. I think i am truly lost in translation:-).


  10. Hi Bee,

    Indeed interesting, as I as with Glotis have always wondered what gets lost in translation, particularly with verse. Just as an experiment I ran it though Google translator to be presented with this:

    I am the spirit that always denies!
    And with the law; everything arises
    Is worth, that it is based;
    Drum's all better that nothing emerged.
    That is because everything you sin,
    Destruction, in short, evil is called,
    My real element.

    I guess these computers translators then have a little ways to go, or perhaps unable, since languages are often distinct within meaning as it relates to concept.

    As a side comment it is interesting that what Goethe suggests as being an aspect of evil we now call entropy and yet evolution at times increases order within small regions rather then decreases it. Should it then not also be of interest to discover why this in turn is associated only with the concept of consciousness by which and through Goethe communicates.



  11. Hi Phil,

    There is a famous quote by Robert Frost
    regarding this: "Poetry is what gets lost in translation".


  12. Dear Bee,

    Personal question. Are you the type who is always full of ideas and not enough time to pursue all of them? Or do your ideas come in bursts? If so, what do you do to shorten the dry spells?

    Am in a dry spell myself. Anyone?


  13. Dear Arun,

    Sorry to hear, do you need some inspiration? Yes, I'm afraid I am the type who is always full of ideas. Except when I'm sick possibly. I keep notes in case I'll encounter a dry spell, but so far it seems I just have more and more notes. I guess I could easily occupy a dozen of people. Best,


  14. Here's a similar quotation ...

    "Twas thus, by the glare of false Science betray'd,
    That leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind;
    My thoughts wont to roam, from shade onward to shade,
    Destruction before me, and sorrow behind."

    - From "The Hermit" by James Beattie, circa 1700's

  15. Hi William,

    That's a very nice verse, I really like that. Thanks! Best,


  16. "unique minerals that will enchant ..."

    wtf? ... Where have I seen them before? lol


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