Friday, May 1, 2009

Kipling On Tigers, At Saturn's Rings

So much for the small about the big ones? I read a book not long ago, The Life Of Pi a story about a boy who was on an ocean voyage with his family and the zoo that was their business. When the ship goes down he survives by finding a lifeboat and unfortunately there is a zebra, an orangutan...and a tiger. He learns what he needs to and survives the tiger. Then the story takes a turn. Read it if you don't know it. It is quite fun and very strange.

Kipling On Tigers

Kipling spoke to me,
Showed me the tiger's new lair
And where his tracks went.

He told me Bengals swim, drink
Brackish water when they must.

Never, he said, no,
Do not ever look him square
In his golden eyes.

December 30, 2008 2:59 PM


As a child I was into science fiction so deeply it has never left me. I was definitely one who rooted then for big changes in that way, loved the actual space program, would still prefer that someone would figure a way around the light barrier somehow. So now I am rooting for both cosmology and quantum physics to get the TOE, the Theory Of Everything in a useful way.

We already have big pieces of it but in the form it currently is, there is no way we are going to leave the local neighborhood. Bummer. That means the strange lands of Frank Herbert, Ursula leGuin and all those other really really good writers are unlikely to manifest.

But in truth, if we ever manage to harness sunshine using truly large space platforms and also harness the transmission challenge, we will become so energy rich that civilization will change again, based on a truly sufficient for the long term supply of energy. Whatever.

We will have to survive the ever increasing multiple crises in the near term to ever get to such a place. There is not the belief, the will, the available resources, or the time at present. I am more than half convinced that there is something pretty difficult brewing, but I confess that I have felt that way most of my life...

We have hung that anxiety lately on the 2012 winter solstice. Maybe. Probably not.

I heard another prediction, that time is literally speeding up, in such a way that since everyone and everything is undergoing it, it only manifests as how we all feel time is speeding up, but no one can prove it. I heard that sometime around 2011-13 the nexus will be reached, time will be compressed to its maximum, and then it will begin to slow down. It started speeding up near the end of the 1800s. Time is supposed to do this on some cycle. I like that one as much as the alignment with the center of the galaxy, better even because it is independent of man's measurement systems.

I have trouble building cosmic significance out of alignments that are largely revealed through our mapping devices and simple math related to navigation. Mapping conventions are not scientific discoveries, are not realities somehow out there, but are man centered conveniences. The sources of the maps that tell time in the 2012 way are in man's psychology. We would have a whole different set of them perhaps not on the moon, but certainly if we were long established on Mars or a moon of Jupiter or Saturn. You see, it really depends on perspective.

That brings me to my next poem.

At Saturn's Rings

I look back at you
In this far cold empty place,
Can see only dust.

I know you're there still, at home
Perhaps, or in the city.

From here all is one.
All of you are found in one
Tiny pale blue dot.

December 30, 2008 5:10 PM

I was recalling a History Channel show, where they literally did this, kept going out further and showing what earth had to look like. Tiny pale blue dot - that's a phrase from the show. And then long ago, certain astronauts found it a compelling and even spiritual experience to see Earth from the orbit of the moon.


  1. I still love science fiction and fantasy....some of the best reads ever I say!

    I am not mathematically or scientifically minded at all but I can FEEL it :)


  2. I LOVE "At Saturn's Rings"! Something about it pulls me in. I've been a lifelong sci-fi fan, too, so maybe that's why.

    A little aside: December 21, 2012 - my 60th birthday. According to the Mayans, the end of the calendar!

  3. Michelle, yes. One of the beautiful things about SF is you don't have to be science trained or as you say, minded, to enjoy. It even helps in certain science fiction to not have too much science :) Juat as with other kinds of literature, so much of the story is actually how life forms and BEMs get along. Just as Star Trek liked to put stories in the past from time to time, so the basic plots of science fiction stories are often timeless.

  4. Karen, It is a very good background, SF, to appreciate standing at the vision port or screen of some vessal, and seeing earth from so far away that you can barely make out the dot that is the planet. Saturn's rings are very much further from earth than earth is from the sun.

    It is also true that there is not much disk to the bright, bright sun at that distance. That's pretty simple to project from known rules of optics and distance.

    Yet it's more than that. Point of view on the physics is just the start. The viewpoint also collapses the lives of 6 and more billions of people to a barely visible dot. It was precisely this change of perspective that was so compelling to some of the astronauts, not science fiction at all, but rather a perspective on man's works and relationships.

    First, that I should be here, one of very few, and how everyone contributes, graphically presented in a disc that shows so completely that no one at that scale matters more than anyone else and none very much. In that way what happens on the planet is at the same time important but too small to see in the scheme of things. That I, of all people, should be placed to SEE this.

    Second, that Earth itself becomes this small, dwarfed by distances and relativity. How fragile Earth is when seen this way, a place whose sustenance and protection are based completely on privileged position. Yes, probably a chosen and presumably in some way a protected position, but also as paleo investigations have begun to show, also completely vulnerable to both quantum and cosmic forces.

    Oh by the way, Karen, me at 63, halfway to 64, I call you just a youngster. As you may already know, when we were adolescent, things were changing for us quickly, each year made so much of a difference but lasted quite long. Now each year makes the same kind of difference but is really quite short.

    Hmmm. I never had a bout of respiratory illness last five weeks until recently, at least not since I was an asthmatic kid.

  5. The second one reminds me a bit of something I wrote after the Columbia shuttle blew up. Hmm, maybe I should dig that oldie up. I still love SF and fantasy, too.

  6. Oddly, I stopped reading F&SF for the most part quite some time ago, I have no idea how long, shifted to other things, mainly a lot less reading. But in the last year or two I got back to reading, started haunting the book table at Costco and buying two or three a week off the special paperback book table. I have read a great number and have a whole stack, all of it sort of mainstream or non fiction.

    However, I was raised on it and continued with it from time to time well into my middle years. I didn't like where the genre went though, a lot of it, and the fantasy that is written now has never compelled me.

    My choice of sf was in the beginning, just everything. Later it became totally intuitive. Something about the book or the author had to grab me before I started it. Then the intuition stopped. So I stopped.

  7. One of the reasons I like SF so much is that it deals with ethical questions and makes us think about the essentials of life, living, love, worth, sentience, protection of the planet (whichever it may be), etc. Sherri S. Tepper and Connie Willis are a couple of my new favorites. Early Dan Simmons, too. Good stuff, old man! ;-)

  8. I haven't read The life of Pi. I have been meaning to. It does sound really good.

    Your second poem reminds me of a Kate Bush song "Hello Earth" Too bad you have dial up;) Or I would link it. (I really love Kate Bush)

    "Hello, earth.
    Hello, earth.
    With just one hand held up high
    I can blot you out,
    Out of sight."

    the rest of the lyrics are here:
    Hello EarthI think if I were to look at earth from so far away, I would not be able to breath. I find myself quite attached to the ground:)

  9. {{{Faith}}}

    There is something in me that holds to the fantasy of being out there. The realities of airlessness, weightlessness, and radiation suggest that as the astronauts know, there is a little matter of the protected environment and as well certain amenities are handled more clinically than we are used to on the planet. Eating and eliminating (including exhaling) are more complex in hermetically sealed environments.



The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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