Emulating the root [by way] of bringing to rest the stem and branches

by Chimezie Ogbuji

Wang Bi (226 – 249 AD) attempted to provide a one sentence summary of the 81 chapters of the Laozi ( The Classic/Canon of the Way/Path and the Power/Virtue ), written in the 6th century BC:

Emulating the root [by way] of bringing to rest the stem and branches

This is a bold thing to attempt for any piece of literature, much less one of the most translated of all. However, I think it is a very thoughtful analogy. He elaborates on this sentence in his commentary on the following line from chapter 16.416.5 of the Laozi. The original text and his commentary (immediately following) are below:

Generally speaking, while [all things] are of unending diversity, each one of them returns to its [common] root. [Their] reverting to [their] roots means stillness.

The ‘root’ is the beginning. [That is], each one of them relates back to that which began it. Once they revert to [their] roots, then they [reach] stillness.

This reading brings to mind this picture I took from the roots of a big tree, looking up at its branches.

It also brings to mind the general thrust of modern quantum physics and the ongoing search [ Large Hadron Collider purpose (Wikipedia) ]:

concerning the basic laws governing the interactions and forces among the elementary objects, the deep structure of space and time, and in particular the intersection of quantum mechanics and general relativity

ALICE magnet with the doors open

Many of the experiments being run in the Large Hadron Collider seek to answer these questions by investigating (and attempting to replicate) conditions as they existed shortly after the Big Bang (the mother of all roots). Two and a half millennia later, we still seek to emulating the root.

So Sad: LHC Scientists are Unable to Create (Mini) Black Holes on Earth

At least not yet

CMS Black Hole The Compact Muon Solenoid seen under construction in late 2008. Wikimedia Commons

Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider report that after a series of tests, they have not seen any mini black holes, to the chagrin of string theorists and the relief of disaster theorists.

[Ars Technica]

It seems a bit cynical to label people (such as myself) who are concerned about the consequences of theoretical physicists trying to mess with powerful forces they don't understand as 'disaster theorists'. It is one of the hallmarks of western science to seek to confuse the line between productive scientific discovery and hubris (in the Greek tragedy sense). I often wonder what the difference between religion and theoretical physics is (no offense to either) given how much each relies on faith and very minimal experiential evidence to so vehemently demonstrate the answer to the Jeopardy question 42.

But seriously, this LHC business reminds me of the words of the character Victor Frankenstein:

You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.

NASA and DARPA Plan ‘Hundred-Year Starship' (Contemporary Mayflower)

By Rebecca Boyle Posted 10.20.2010 at 3:47 pm 35 Comments

This Mars miner will probably never go home again. NASA

If NASA ever gets a clear directive for interplanetary exploration, a new Hundred-Year Starship could be their version of the Mayflower. And like the first pilgrims, Martian explorers might set sail with the knowledge they would never return home.

NASA and DARPA have joined forces to build something called a Hundred-Year Starship, according to the director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. Simon “Pete” Worden said NASA contributed $100,000 to the project and DARPA kicked in $1 million.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” Worden said, according to a Singularity University blog that covered the event. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.” (Worden added that he was fired by President George W. Bush.)

Beyond that, there are no details. But the prospect of a DARPA-NASA spaceship collaboration for Star Trek-esque exploration sounds thrilling — even if by definition, a 100-year ship means leaving Earth and never coming back.

Incidentally, that’s exactly the proposal in a new paper in press in the Journal of Cosmology, a relatively new, peer-reviewed open access journal. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies suggest sending astronauts to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers for a permanent Mars colony.

[Kurzweil AI, ScienceDaily]

Reminds me of the movie Sunshine.

Telescopes out: Earth making its closest approach to Jupiter since 1963




Jupiter as seen through an amateur telescopeBackyard astronomers, take note: Jupiter and Earth are approaching their near-yearly rendezvous, and this time the two planets will be closer together than they have been since 1963. The giant planet's proximity should make for good viewing, weather permitting—Jupiter will appear especially bright in the sky for several nights around its closest approach on September 20.

The planet should be highly visible to the naked eye; with Jupiter's apparent magnitude of –2.94, only the moon will be brighter after Venus sets relatively early in the evening. Apparent magnitude is a measure of an object's luminosity as viewed from Earth; faint objects have large positive magnitudes, whereas bright objects have large negative magnitudes. When Jupiter and Earth draw near, the nearly full moon will shine with an apparent magnitude of –11.87.

Jupiter will be visible in the direction of the constellation Pisces, appearing to the east and low in the sky at sunset, before moving toward the south as the night progresses. With a decent set of binoculars, stargazers may be able to identify Jupiter's four largest satellites, the Galilean moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Sky & Telescope has a handy Web application that shows where to find the moons in relation to Jupiter at any given time.

Jupiter takes nearly 12 times as long to complete one orbit around the sun as our planet does, so Earth laps its much larger planetary counterpart every 399 days. Because both Earth and Jupiter follow slightly elongated elliptical orbits, the distance between the two planets varies with each rendezvous.

Jupiter is currently drawing closer to the inner solar system, including Earth, as it nears perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, in March 2011. On September 20 of this year, Jupiter and Earth will be separated by a mere 591,499,329 kilometers, about 11 million kilometers closer than in 2009, according to orbital data from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's HORIZONS system. The last time that Jupiter was so close to Earth was October 1963, and it will not exceed the close proximity of this year's passage until September 2022.

Photo of Jupiter, with Europa visible at upper left: Joshua Bury/Flickr

Read More About: amateur astronomy, Jupiter, astronomy

I have access to a telescope.

NOAA's arcs: the auroral oval

Auroral Activity extrapolated from the NOAA POES satellite

The only times I can remember seeing the Aurora Borealis (I've never been south of the equator, so no chance of having seen the Aurora Australis were once near Ashland, Wisconsin, and, surprisingly (to me), once here in Colorado. Lori and I were driving along and thought there was a strange shimmer in the sky. We then saw many other cars pulled over to get a better look. We followed suit and watched the show. On the NOAA page I can wistfully look from time to time to see whether there is any chance of catching the show again without having to venture pole-wards of either 45th parallel in Winter.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia