Sunday, March 31, 2019

Musical Interlude: Kevin Kern, “Another Realm”

Kevin Kern, “Another Realm”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“NGC 7841 is known as the Smoke Nebula, found in the modern constellation of Frustriaus, the frustrated astrophotographer. Only a few light-nanoseconds from planet Earth, The Smoke Nebula is not an expanding supernova remnant along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, though it does look a lot like one. Instead it was created by flash photography of rising smoke. 
 Click image for larger size.
The apparently rich starfield is actually composed of water droplets sprayed from a plant mister by an astrophotographer grown restless during a recent stretch of cloudy weather in Sweden. A single exposure and three external flashes were triggered to capture the not-quite-cosmic snapshot.”

"The Cruelest Joke Of All...'

"The smallest decisions made had such profound repercussions. One ten-minute wait could save a life… or end it. One wrong turn down the right street or one seemingly unimportant conversation, and everything was changed. It wasn't right that each lifetime was defined, ruined, ended, and made by such seemingly innocuous details. A major life-threatening event should come with a flashing warning sign that either said ABANDON ALL HOPE or SAFETY AHEAD. It was the cruelest joke of all that no one could see the most vicious curves until they were over the edge, falling into the abyss below."
- Sherrilyn Kenyon

"The More I See Of Man..."

"The more I see of Man, the more I like dogs."
 - Madame de Stael

"3 Simple Questions That Will Change Your Life"

"3 Simple Questions That Will Change Your Life"
by Jonathan

"I love simple solutions to seemingly complex issues, don’t you? So often we seem to complicate the daylights out of things by over-analyzing, dissecting and brainstorming. I gravitate toward simple solutions whenever possible. Asking yourself the right question is one of the simplest ways to direct your thoughts in a positive direction without jumping through a bunch of mental or emotional hoops. What are the right questions? In particular, those that stimulate your mind to consider new possibilities or interrupt old established response patterns. Basically, any question stimulates actions or thoughts that can change your life for the better.

Why do questions work so well? As soon as we ask ourselves a question, our mind immediately begins searching for an answer. Our mind thrives on questions because they provide it with incentive, direction and focus. So the right questions give us a simple way to steer our thought processes in a more empowering direction. In this way questions can be used as simple tools to change your life and broadening your perception of the world around you. I regularly use the following three questions with my coaching clients to lead their thinking away from limiting thought patterns and toward thoughts of new possibilities.

1. What else could this mean? We all assign different meaning to everything in life. The meaning is different for each of us because our beliefs about almost everything are based on our personal interpretation of, and our response to, our unique life experience. These beliefs serve as filters through which we view our world and the people in it. Because we all have a vested emotional interest in our personal belief system, we are constantly looking for evidence that our beliefs are true and accurate. This emotional investment can cause us to cling to a belief even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. How can we override this emotional security system and open our belief system to new possibilities? The  simple solutions here is to ask ourselves What else could this mean? Asking this question will switch off the emotional defenses and allow new possibilities to be considered and explored.

2. Who can help me with this? Human nature seems to be such that we always want to figure everything out ourselves. With most people there is a certain amount of resistance to asking for help or assistance. Apparently this is hardwired into us because even very young children will say “I can do it myself.” Don’t get me wrong, I have a great appreciation for self-sufficiency. But insisting that we must do everything ourselves can also stifle our progress in numerous ways. Let’s face it, we only have so much time and resources, and no one is good at everything. Whatever it is that we want to do, someone else already knows how to do it and has created a simple solutions that we could benefit from. How much time and frustration could we save by getting them to either teach us how to do it, or do it for us?

For example, in the world of entrepreneurs, trying to do everything yourself can create huge delays. The quickest path to success is to stick to doing the things you are good at and have others help you with the rest. In fact, realizing the wisdom of this approach is one of the main reasons why so many people now enlist the services of a life or business coach. Want to achieve your goals quicker and easier and change your life in positive ways? Start by asking yourself “Who else can help me with this?"

3. What am I grateful for right now? There is probably no other question that will change your attitude as quickly or dramatically. It doesn’t matter what situation or circumstances you find yourself in, you always have something to be grateful for. Being aware of, and focusing on, your blessings regularly will profoundly alter your perception of reality. The more you focus on gratitude the more reasons you will find to appreciate your life. As a result, the happier and more content you will be. It’s been said that the happiest people are not the ones who have the best of everything; rather they are the ones who are grateful for everything they have. How many other simple solutions do you know that can make such a claim? This one is so simple and powerful that you can’t afford not to incorporate into your life daily. Why not stop reading for a moment and prove it by simply asking yourself, “What am I grateful for right now?”
Are you ready to amaze yourself? As you can plainly see, asking the right questions can produce amazing results. The challenge is that most of the time we fail to take conscious control of the questions we ask ourselves. I encourage you to reverse that trend starting right now. In this increasingly complex and confusing world, these three simple questions truly can change your life."

"Quite Insane..."

"Those who danced were thought to be quite insane
 by those who could not hear the music."
~ Angela Monet

"Total Contempt..."

“You know, I've been around the ruling class all my life, and I've been
 quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country.”
- Gore Vidal

And how are YOU doing, Good Citizen?

"Torches and Pitchforks"

"Torches and Pitchforks"
by Tim Knight

"The front page of our local paper struck a chord:

The subject of wealth inequality has been on my mind ever since I started writing Slope fourteen years ago. I've written countless posts on it, and even dedicated a SocialTrade page to it, but a quick summary of my disposition could be boiled down to a few personal points:

Although I didn't know it at the time, my childhood was in an era of relative wealth equality in the United States, pretty much the most even playing field in its history; average folks like my Dad made $35,000 per year; the "rich" people in town made $50,000; the houses of the average and the rich were pretty much the same, although the rich had Buicks instead of Fords and could afford maids who came to clean the house each day; but that was about it.

My own adulthood, of course, is like a different universe. Normal people live in $7 million houses. Rich people live in $25 million houses and have other residences scattered around the planet. The difference between rich and poor in my youth was a short hop; in my current life, it's a chasm.

My view is that the increasing disparity between rich and poor has, for decades, largely been non-disruptive to society as a whole, principally because the lower classes have been placated enough, by way of the proverbial bread and circuses, not to cause any waves. Sure, there have been little movements here and there, such as Occupy Wall Street, but they have attracted fringe groups and fizzled out in weeks, if not days.

The aforementioned SocialTrade page is packed with charts like the one below, which shows just how hosed the lower classes are, but again, the rich are pretty much getting away with it with no consequence.
There are rumblings going on, however, which suggest to me that the next time something like 2008 comes along, the outcome is going to be very different. And if there's one word I want to be emphatic about with this thought, it is this one: context.

What I mean by that is we are living in an era of (ostensibly) great prosperity and extremely low unemployment. These days, whenever I see an able-bodied man on the side of the road with a cardboard sign, I'm not exactly flooded with sympathy, because virtually every retail store and food outlet I go to has signs BEGGING for people to apply for jobs. I have honestly never seen so many companies desperate for human labor. (You don't get around much other than Palo Alto, do you Tim? - CP)

And so when you see someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get so much attention (including, recently, her face on the cover of Time magazine) in the context of an environment when there should be so little "want" in the United States, you have to figure something is going on below the surface.

Think about the political atmosphere right now which is railing against the rich. Such things as:

• Elizabeth Warren's widely-received proposal to have an annual tax on wealth (not income, mind you, but family assets);
• The national rage-fest against the rich and powerful caught up in the college admissions scandal;
• The strong interest in such socialist programs as Universal Basic Income and the Green New Deal.

Now imagine... just imagine... a world in financial turmoil again. Try to think about the public mindset - already clearly primed to "soak the rich" even in the context of our current prosperity - in which:

• Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being cut; (True unemployment rate 21.5% according to ShadowStats... - CP)
• The press runs more and more stories about how many hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes the rich have saved from the 2017 tax cut; (They did... - CP)
• Public interest in exposing "privilege" and "access" (a supersized version of the admissions scandal) increases;
• The whisper-thin financial cushion of the lower 40% swiftly pushes people to welfare, handouts, and EBT cards. (They'll be reaching for more than welfare, handouts and EBT cards, believe that... - CP)

Can you imagine the backlash against the rich THEN? I suspect it would be absolutely enormous.

The danger, I believe, is that the political soil will be fertile and loamy for the already-planted seeds of socialism to thrive. That's exactly what the Russian Revolution and Chinese Revolution were about. The wealth of the upper classes was utterly confiscated by the state, and rich people weren't just subjected to unkind stories in the press - they were imprisoned, tortured, or killed. Simply stated, the underclasses took decades of rage and resentment and went batshit crazy with it. (And what do you imagine will happen here? On a grand scale...- CP)

So here, and now, in the gentle suburb of Palo Alto, if there can be a headline story about how rich people are already afraid of having the handcuffs slapped on their wrists, just think of what they'll be worried about when it feels the entire nation has turned against them. (Handcuffs will be the least of their worries... - CP) It seems to me the pieces are going to be in place for something very ugly to emerge, coupled with a tremendous political swing to the left. For all of us, it won't have been worth it."
As for the so-called "Elite", the 1% trash-with-money monsters who've savagely raped this country and its people, I have no pity about what's coming for them, they deserve nothing more than the same compassion they've given the rest of us - absolutely none. In fact, my personal opinion is more a question: Where is Madame Defarge when we need her? She's going to be quite busy..

"The Duty To Act..."

Musical Interlude: Ludovico Einaudi, “Oltremare”

Ludovico Einaudi, “Oltremare”

The Daily "Near You?"

Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"Your Time, Your Mind, Your World..."

"Who owns your time owns your mind.
Change your time and you change your mind.
Change your mind and you change your world."
- Jose Arguelles

“Hannah Arendt on Time, Space, and Where Our Thinking Ego Resides”

“Hannah Arendt on Time, Space, 
and Where Our Thinking Ego Resides”
“The everywhere of thought is indeed a region of nowhere.”
by Maria Popova

"In Lewis Carroll’s 'Through the Looking Glass,' the White Queen remembers the future instead of the past. This seemingly nonsensical proposition, like so many elements of the beloved book, is a stroke of philosophical genius and prescience on behalf of Lewis Carroll, made half a century before Einstein and Gödel challenged our linear conception of time.

But no thinker has addressed how the disorienting nature of time shapes the human experience with more captivating lucidity than Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975), who in 1973 became the first woman to speak at the prestigious Gifford Lectures. Her talk was eventually adapted into two long essays, published as 'The Life of the Mind' (public library) - the same ceaselessly rewarding volume that gave us Arendt on the crucial difference between truth and meaning.

In one of the most stimulating portions of the book, Arendt argues that thinking is our rebellion against the tyranny of time and a hedge against the terror of our finitude. Noting that cognition always removes us from the present and makes absences its raw material, she considers where the thinking ego is located if not in what is present and close at hand:

"Looked at from the perspective of the everyday world of appearances, the everywhere of the thinking ego - summoning into its presence whatever it pleases from any distance in time or space, which thought traverses with a velocity greater than light’s - is a nowhere. And since this nowhere is by no means identical with the twofold nowhere from which we suddenly appear at birth and into which almost as suddenly we disappear in death, it might be conceived only as the Void. And the absolute void can be a limiting boundary concept; though not inconceivable, it is unthinkable. Obviously, if there is absolutely nothing, there can be nothing to think about. That we are in possession of these limiting boundary concepts enclosing our thought within (insurmountable) walls - and the notion of an absolute beginning or an absolute end is among them - does not tell us more than that we are indeed finite beings."

Echoing Thomas Mann’s assertion that “the perishableness of life… imparts value, dignity, interest to life,” Arendt adds: "Man’s finitude, irrevocably given by virtue of his own short time span set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities: it manifests itself as the only reality of which thinking qua thinking is aware, when the thinking ego has withdrawn from the world of appearances and lost the sense of realness inherent in the sensus communis by which we orient ourselves in this world… The everywhere of thought is indeed a region of nowhere."

T.S. Eliot captured this nowhereness in his exquisite phrase “the still point of the turning world.” But the spatial dimension of thought, Arendt argues, is intersected by a temporal one - thinking invariably forces us to recollect and anticipate, voyaging into the past and the future, thus creating the mental spacetime continuum through which our thought-trains travel. From this arises our sense of the sequential nature of time and its essential ongoingness. Arendt writes:

"The inner time sensation arises when we are not entirely absorbed by the absent non-visibles we are thinking about but begin to direct our attention onto the activity itself. In this situation past and future are equally present precisely because they are equally absent from our sense; thus the no-longer of the past is transformed by virtue of the spatial metaphor into something lying behind us and the not-yet of the future into something that approaches us from ahead."
In other words, the time continuum, everlasting change, is broken up into the tenses past, present, future, whereby past and future are antagonistic to each other as the no-longer and the not-yet only because of the presence of man, who himself has an “origin,” his birth, and an end, his death, and therefore stands at any given moment between them; this in-between is called the present. It is the insertion of man with his limited life span that transforms the continuously flowing stream of sheer change - which we can conceive of cyclically as well as in the form of rectilinear motion without ever being able to conceive of an absolute beginning or an absolute end - into time as we know it."

Once again, it is our finitude that mediates our experience of time: "Seen from the viewpoint of a continuously flowing everlasting stream, the insertion of man, fighting in both directions, produces a rupture which, by being defended in both directions, is extended to a gap, the present seen as the fighter’s battleground… Seen from the viewpoint of man, at each single moment inserted and caught in the middle between his past and his future, both aimed at the one who is creating his present, the battleground is an in-between, an extended Now on which he spends his life. The present, in ordinary life the most futile and slippery of the tenses - when I say “now” and point to it, it is already gone - is no more than the clash of a past, which is no more, with a future, which is approaching and not yet there. Man lives in this in-between, and what he calls the present is a life-long fight against the dead weight of the past, driving him forward with hope, and the fear of a future (whose only certainty is death), driving him backward toward “the quiet of the past” with nostalgia for and remembrance of the only reality he can be sure of."

This fluid conception of time, Arendt points out, is quite different from its representation in ordinary life, where the calendar tells us that the present is contained in today, the past starts at yesterday, and the future at tomorrow. In a sentiment that calls to mind Patti Smith’s magnificent meditation on time and transformation, Arendt writes: That we can shape the everlasting stream of sheer change into a time continuum we owe not to time itself but to the continuity of our business and our activities in the world, in which we continue what we started yesterday and hope to finish tomorrow. In other words, the time continuum depends on the continuity of our everyday life, and the business of everyday life, in contrast to the activity of the thinking ego - always independent of the spatial circumstances surrounding it - is always spatially determined and conditioned. It is due to this thoroughgoing spatiality of our ordinary life that we can speak plausibly of time in spatial categories, that the past can appear to us as something lying “behind” us and the future as lying “ahead.”
The gap between past and future opens only in reflection, whose subject matter is what is absent - either what has already disappeared or what has not yet appeared. Reflection draws these absent “regions” into the mind’s presence; from that perspective the activity of thinking can be understood as a fight against time itself."

This elusive gap, Arendt argues, is where the thinking ego resides - and it is only by mentally inserting ourselves between the past and the future that they come to exist at all: Without [the thinker], there would be no difference between past and future, but only everlasting change. Or else these forces would clash head on and annihilate each other. But thanks to the insertion of a fighting presence, they meet at an angle, and the correct image would then have to be what the physicists call a parallelogram of forces.

These two forces, which have an indefinite origin and a definite end point in the present, converge into a third - a diagonal pull that, contrary to the past and the present, has a definite origin in the present and emanates out toward infinity. That diagonal force, Arendt observes, is the perfect metaphor for the activity of thought. She writes:

"This diagonal, though pointing to some infinity, is limited, enclosed, as it were, by the forces of past and future, and thus protected against the void; it remains bound to and is rooted in the present - an entirely human present though it is fully actualized only in the thinking process and lasts no longer than this process lasts. It is the quiet of the Now in the time-pressed, time-tossed existence of man; it is somehow, to change the metaphor, the quiet in the center of a storm which, though totally unlike the storm, still belongs to it. In this gap between past and future, we find our place in time when we think, that is, when we are sufficiently removed from past and future to be relied on to find out their meaning, to assume the position of “umpire,” of arbiter and judge over the manifold, never-ending affairs of human existence in the world, never arriving at a final solution to their riddles but ready with ever-new answers to the question of what it may be all about."

"The Life of the Mind" is one of the most stimulating packets of thought ever published. Complement this particular portion with Virginia Woolf on the elasticity of time, Dan Falk on how our capacity for mental time travel made us human, and T.S. Eliot’s poetic ode to the nature of time."

Hans Zimmer, "Time"

"Life Is Eternal..."

"When you walk through a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by man, you will see not only abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step. Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life. Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves. Microorganisms are at work. Molecules are rearranging themselves. So death isn't to be found anywhere. There is only the metamorphosis of life forms. What can you learn from this? Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal."
- Eckhart Tolle, "Stillness Speaks"

The Poet: James Kavanaugh, "Searchers"


"Some people do not have to search- 
they find their niche early in life and rest there,
seemingly contented and resigned. 
They do not seem to ask much of life, 
sometimes they do not seem to take it seriously. 
At times I envy them, 
but usually I do not understand them- 
seldom do they understand me. 

I am one of the searchers. 
There are, I believe, millions of us. 
We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. 
We continue to explore life, 
hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. 
We continue to explore ourselves, 
hoping to understand. 

We like to walk along the beach- 
we are drawn by the ocean, 
taken by its power, its unceasing motion,
its mystery and unspeakable beauty. 
We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers,
and the lonely cities as well. 

Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. 
To share our sadness with the one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know- 
unless it is to share our laughter. 

We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, 
for everything beautiful it can provide. 
Most of all we want to love and be loved. 
We want to live in a relationship that will not impede 
our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls. 

We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love. 
We are wanderers, dreamers and lovers, 
lonely souls who dare ask of life everything good and beautiful."

- James Kavanaugh

"The Jazz of Physics: Cosmologist and Saxophonist Stephon Alexander on Decoding the Song of the Universe"

"The Jazz of Physics: Cosmologist and Saxophonist 
Stephon Alexander on Decoding the Song of the Universe"
by Maria Popova

“All truth is comprised in music and mathematics,” Margaret Fuller wrote as she was spearheading the Transcendentalist movement and laying the groundwork for what would later be called feminism.

A century and a half after Fuller, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and jazz saxophonist Stephon Alexander examines this dual seedbed of truth in "The Jazz of Physics" (public library) - part memoir of his improbable path to science and music, part captivating primer on modern physics, part manifesto for the power of cross-disciplinary thinking and improvisation in unlocking new chambers of possibility for the human mind’s intercourse with the universe and the nature of reality.

Drawing on the legacy of Kepler, who composed the world’s first work of science fiction - a clever allegory advancing the then-controversial Copernican model of the universe through a conceptually ingenious analogy - Alexander writes: "Contrary to the logical structure innate in physical law, in our attempts to reveal new vistas in our understanding, we often must embrace an irrational, illogical process, sometimes fraught with mistakes and improvisational thinking. Although it is important for both jazz musicians and physicists to strive for technical and theoretical mastery in their respective disciplines, innovation demands that they go beyond the skill sets they have mastered. Key to innovation in theoretical physics is the power of analogical reasoning."

But while Alexander does draw heavily on analogies throughout the book, the parallels and equivalences between music and physics are often far more literal. “It is less about music being scientific and more about the universe being musical,” he writes, reminding us that stars, galaxies, and planets arose from sound waves in the plasma of the infant universe as spacetime vibrated like an instrument to produce the waves that leavened these essential cosmic structures.

Born in Trinidad, Alexander fell in love with science shortly after his family moved to the United States. Visiting the American Museum of Natural History with his third-grade class, he was mesmerized by a set of papers behind a thick pane of glass, inscribed with symbols that seemed otherworldly to his eight-year-old consciousness. Next to them was a portrait of their author - a wild-haired, mischievous-eyed oddball. This was his first encounter with Einstein, who would go on to be a lifelong hero as Alexander devoted himself to decoding the secrets of the universe.
Click image for larger size.
Page proof corrections of Einstein’s paper Propagation of Sound in 
Partly Dissociated Gases, in Einstein’s hand. (Einstein papers, Instituut-Lorentz)

A few years later, as a teenager in the Bronx, he had a parallel experience of encountering a new, almost mystical language and recognizing it as an encoding of elemental truth. Through the gateway of hip hop and its wide-ranging influences spanning Caribbean and Latin music, Alexander discovered the saxophone and became besotted with the free jazz of Ornette Coleman. His parents eventually bought him a vintage alto saxophone at a garage sale, and so began his second great love affair with the universe. At the intersection of these two loves, Alexander found his calling. Within a decade, he was working on some of the most complex problems in modern physics by day, performing with some of the most legendary jazz musicians by night, and cross-pollinating the legacies of his great heroes: Einstein, Pythagoras, John Coltrane. He recounts a defining moment:

"About a decade ago, I sat alone in a dim café on the main drag of Amherst, Massachusetts, preparing for a physics faculty job presentation when an urge hit me. I found a pay phone with a local phone book and mustered up the courage to call Yusef Lateef, a legendary jazz musician, who had recently retired from the music department of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I had something I had to tell him.

Like an addict after a fix, my fingers raced through the pages anxiously seeking the number. I found it. The brisk wind of a New England autumn hit my face as I called him. At the risk of rudely imposing, I let the phone ring for quite a while.

“Hello?” a male voice finally answered.

“Hi, is Professor Lateef available?” I asked.

“Professor Lateef is not here,” said the voice, flatly.

“Could I leave him a message about the diagram that John Coltrane gave him as a birthday gift in ’61? I think I figured out what it means.”

There was a long pause. “Professor Lateef is here.”

We spoke for nearly two hours about the diagram that appeared in his acclaimed book "Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns," which is a compilation of a myriad of scales from Europe, Asia, Africa, and all over the world. I expressed how I thought the diagram was related to another and seemingly unrelated field of study - quantum gravity - a grand theory intended to unify quantum mechanics with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. What I had realized, I told Lateef, was that the same geometric principle that motivated Einstein’s theory was reflected in Coltrane’s diagram."

Part of Einstein’s genius, Alexander points out, was his willingness to leap beyond the limits of his particular mathematical problem and into a field of possibilities, which he explored through improvisational experimentation - gedankenexperiments, or thought experiments. Einstein himself, who believed his best ideas came to him during his violin breaks, called his ideation process “combinatory play” - a wilderness of associations reaching across boundaries of various theories and fields of thought, not as deliberate problem-solving but as unforced mental meanderings.

Alexander, too, had a pivotal breakthrough in his scientific work during one such unexpected cross-pollination of ideas across disciplines, which steered the direction of his research in a way he could not have necessarily thought his way to directly and deliberately. During his time at as a postdoctoral student at London’s Imperial College, he met - at a “quantum gravity cocktail hour,” as one does - a serious-looking man with a gold tooth, dressed in black, who engaged in intense conversations about spacetime and relativity and the mathematics of waves. Alexander took him for a Russian physicist. He turned out to be the pioneering musician Brian Eno. The two soon became friends and Alexander came to see Eno as a singular species of “sound cosmologist.” He recounts the moment that catalyzed his breakthrough:

"One of the most memorable and influential moments in my physics research occurred one morning when I walked into Brian’s studio. Normally, Brian was working on the details of a new tune - getting his bass sorted out just right for a track, getting a line just slightly behind the beat. He was a pioneer of ambient music and a prolific installation artist.

Eno described his work in the liner notes for his record, "Ambient 1: Music for Airports": “Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” What he sought was a music of tone and atmosphere, rather than music that demanded active listening. But creating an easy listening track is anything but easy, so he often had his head immersed in meticulous sound analysis.

That particular morning, Brian was manipulating waveforms on his computer with an intimacy that made it feel as if he were speaking Wavalian, some native tongue of sound waves. What struck me was that Brian was playing with, arguably, the most fundamental concept in the universe - the physics of vibration. To quantum physicists, particles are described by the physics of vibration. And to quantum cosmologists, vibrations of fundamental entities such as strings could possibly be the key to the physics of the entire universe. The quantum scales those strings play are, unfortunately, terribly intangible, both mentally and physically, but there it was in front of me - sound - a tangible manifestation of vibration.

This unexpected contact with sound made tangible shone a sidewise gleam on a question Alexander had been puzzling over ever since graduate school, when he had asked his mentor - the famed cosmologist Robert Brandenberger - what the most important question in cosmology was. Rather than an expected answer, like what may have caused the Big Bang, Brandenberger surprised the young man with his response: “How did the large-scale structure in the universe emerge and evolve?” Suddenly, in watching Eno manipulate waveforms, Alexander had a revelation. He explains:

"Sound is a vibration that pushes a medium, such as air or something solid, to create traveling waves of pressure. Different sounds create different vibrations, which in turn create different pressure waves. We can draw pictures of these waves, called waveforms. A key point in the physics of vibrations is that every wave has a measurable wavelength and height. With respect to sound, the wavelength dictates the pitch, high or low, and the height, or amplitude, describes the volume.

If something is measurable, such as the length and height of waves, then you can give it a number. If you can put a number to something, then you can add more than one of them together, just by adding numbers together. And that’s what Brian was doing - adding up waveforms to get new ones. He was mixing simpler waveforms to make intricate sounds.

To physicists, this notion of adding up waves is known as the Fourier transform. It’s an intuitive idea, clearly demonstrated by dropping stones in a pond. If you drop a stone in a pond, a circular wave of a definite frequency radiates from the point of contact. If you drop another stone nearby, a second circular wave radiates outward, and the waves from the two stones start to interfere with each other, creating a more complicated wave pattern. What is incredible about the Fourier idea is that any waveform can be constructed by adding waves of the simplest form together. These simple “pure waves” are ones that regularly repeat themselves.

I was enthralled by the idea of decoding what I saw as the Rosetta stone of vibration - there was the known language of how waves create sound and music, which Eno was clearly skilled with, and then there was the unclear vibrational message of the quantum behavior in the early universe and how it has created large-scale structures. Waves and vibration make up the common thread, but the challenge was to link them in order to draw a clearer picture of how structure is formed and, ultimately, us."

In the remainder of "The Jazz of Physics", Alexander explores how these questions reverberate through the consciousness of our species, from Pythagoras to string theory and beyond, into the future of probing the unfathomed depths of reality. Couple it with Nick Cave on music, transcendence, and artificial intelligence, then revisit the fascinating story of the century-long quest to hear the sound of spacetime."
Brian Eno, "Ambient 1: Music for Airports" [Full Album]

"How It Really Is"

"Changing Batteries'

"Changing Batteries"

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Wait For Me”

2002, “Wait For Me”

"In The Face of Adversity, Are You a Guernsey or a Brahman?"

"In The Face of Adversity,
 Are You a Guernsey or a Brahman?"
by Farnam Street

"If the mother of a Guernsey and a Brahma calf dies, one of the calves will survive and one will not. One thing makes the difference. And is it the very factor that keeps us from reaching what we want most. Persistence in the face of defeat often makes the difference in outcome.

Ask any farmer, and they will tell you that orphaned Guernsey calves die. It’s not the fact that they die, so much as how it happens, that stays in the mind. An orphaned calf soon gets so hungry she picks a new mother from the herd. The cow promptly kicks the strange calf away. After all, she didn’t give birth to the calf—why should she feed it? The Guernsey calf gives up, lies down, and slowly starves to death.

The orphaned Brahman calf gets a different result. The same scenario plays out, with the calf being kicked out by the reluctant mother. However, in this case, the naturally persistent calf keeps coming, until the potential new mother acquiesces out of exhaustion. As a result of this persistence, the calf survives.

Persistence is hard. It’s hard to get kicked in the face and to keep going. It hits at your self-esteem. You begin to wonder if you have value. You begin to think you might be crazy. So often we’re told that having a positive attitude is the important thing. You can get through the setbacks if you find the silver linings and believe in what you are doing. But it’s important to remember that persistence and a positive attitude aren’t the same thing. They differ in some pretty fundamental ways.

Positivity is fragile. If you’re positively certain that you’ll be successful, you’ll start to worry the minute things deviate from your plan. Once this worry seeps into your mind, it’s impossible to get out. You’re done. When the going gets tough, positive attitudes often vanish.

Persistence, on the other hand, anticipates roadblocks and challenges. It gears up for the fact that things never go as planned and expects goals to be hard to attain. If you run into failure, persistence continues, and positivity disappears. Persistence is anti-fragile, and benefits from setbacks, while positivity, like that Guernsey calf, crumbles when it runs into hard times.

When met with setbacks, are you a Guernsey or a Brahman?"


"Curious how often you Humans manage to obtain that which you do not want." 
- Mr. Spock

"Here’s What Pops the 'Everything Bubble'”

"Here’s What Pops the 'Everything Bubble'”
By Nick Giambruno 

"Editor’s Note: As Bill showed you all week, the Fed’s policies haven’t done much for the real economy… it simply juiced stock and bond prices. And as Casey Research’s Nick Giambruno shows below, all of this “stimulation” has set the stage for something even worse… an “everything bubble.” And when it pops, it could send the economy into a recession. Today, Nick reveals what could topple today’s bull market, and what investors need to do right now."

"As regular readers of the Diary already know, the Fed responded to the 2008 financial crisis with unprecedented amounts of easy money. It claimed it would “stimulate the economy.” But as Bill has been showing you all week (catch up here, here, and here), all that “stimulation” did absolutely nothing for the real economy. All it did was push up the price of financial assets, specifically stocks and bonds.

The $3.7 trillion created by the Fed for its “quantitative easing” (QE) ended up creating not just a housing bubble, or a tech bubble, but an “everything bubble.” And within the everything bubble, the bond market is the most warped part. It’s where the biggest distortions are. And I believe it’s in danger of toppling…

U.S. Corporate Debt at a Record High: Let’s start with the basics. Corporate bonds are debt issued by companies to raise money. They include regular interest payments and a principal payment when the bond matures. Remember, the Fed responded to the 2008 financial crisis by printing over $3.7 trillion to buy bonds. This manipulated interest rates to historic lows. Corporations took advantage of these historically low borrowing costs by issuing mountains of debt. This, in short, inflated an unprecedented corporate bond bubble.

As you can see in the next chart, total U.S. corporate debt is up 83% since the 2008 financial crisis (which, itself, was caused by too much debt).

As a result of this borrowing binge, U.S. corporate debt is at a record high, at over 45% of gross domestic product (GDP). It’s worse than it was at the peak of the tech bubble, the housing bubble – and at every other credit cycle peak, as the next chart shows.

Historically, when companies are this saturated in debt, things don’t end well. This time won’t be any different, except companies are even more leveraged, so the bust will be even more severe.

And there’s more… The true situation is actually worse.

GDP is a misleading statistic. Mainstream economists count all government spending – including welfare payments and other government waste – as a positive when they calculate it. A more honest measure would count government spending as a big negative. In the U.S., government spending accounts for a whopping 36% of the entire economy. Strip that out of the equation, and the debt to productive GDP ratio shoots to over 70% – an all-time high.

Now, that all might not be a problem if American corporations were on sound financial footing. They could pay their debts if things got rough and move on. But that’s not the case for many American companies…

Zombie Companies: The Bank of International Settlements has calculated that about 16% of U.S. firms are “zombies” – meaning they can’t cover the interest payments with their current profits. They have to borrow more just to pay the interest on their debts. In other words, without access to cheap credit they wouldn’t be zombies… they’d be dead. For comparison, only 2% of U.S. firms were in this state in the early 1990s.

You can think of these zombie companies as the freakish offspring of the Fed’s money-printing programs (QE). They’re just one result of the malinvestment made possible by the trillions of dollars in post-2008 easy money.

Then, there is the sorry state of corporate bond ratings… Credit ratings agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) review and rate bonds. They issue different ratings depending on the creditworthiness of the issuers. S&P issues ratings from AAA – the best rating – to D – the worst. Anything rated from AAA to BBB- is considered “investment grade.” Anything rated BB+ and below is considered “junk” or “high-yield.”

With that in mind, look at the chart below. It shows the size of the market for different investment-grade debt over the past 20 years.

Note that the overall investment-grade market has more than doubled in size since the influx of post-2008 easy money. This growth came disproportionately from BBB-level debt… just one notch above junk. Today, BBB makes up more than 50% of the overall so-called “investment grade” market, an all-time historical high. It’s also now larger than the entire corporate bond market was in 2008.

Why does that matter? Many big-money investors, including pensions, insurance companies, and other entities, must pay attention to their ratings. That’s because these entities can’t legally own anything below “investment grade.” So when S&P downgrades a bond issuer from investment grade (the BBB level) to high-yield or junk (BB), these big-money investors must offload them on the market. That means downgrades from BBB to junk, perhaps caused by a looming recession, could easily flood the high-yield market with new supply and crash it.

In past credit cycles, around 34% of the BBB market was downgraded to junk during a recession, on average. Today, that would mean dumping around $1 trillion in supply onto the $1.2 trillion high-yield market. In other words, it would blow up the high-yield market. And remember, when a company’s bonds get downgraded to “junk” the borrowing cost of the company goes up. That makes it more expensive for corporations to borrow and refinance when their bonds mature. That increases the risk of default.

And as history has shown us, rising defaults lead to a tighter credit market. Stocks fall. A recession hits. Everyday investors get wiped out.

Wealth Insurance: So… what do you do? I’ve been telling my readers the same thing Bill has been telling you. Make sure you own gold. Gold is unique. It is hard, honest money, par excellence. Central bankers and mainstream economists have ridiculed gold for, going on, 50 years now. But gold is like kryptonite to central bankers.

Central banks can’t create wealth or anything of value. The only thing they can do is manipulate the money supply. And, as I showed you above, that always has destructive effects. When the everything bubble “pops,” likely as a result of a crash in corporate debt, you’ll want to make sure all of your wealth isn’t trapped in stocks and bonds. Gold has protected wealth during financial crises for thousands of years. It will do so again during the next calamity."
"Banks/Homes Will Lose 50+%Value- $200 Trillion Implosion-
 Everything Bubble Tipping Point"
"Banks Will Lose +50% Value, Housing Drop +50%. China's 100 Trillion Debt Implosion. Everything Bubble-Banks Will Be Wiped Out. Low Unemployment Doesn't Mean Anything. Bear Market Rally's Meaningless. China, Canada, Australia Are Huge Housing Bubbles. Banking System Is Now An Outright PONZI Scheme. Not Raising Interest Rates Is Acknowledgement That There Is A Real Problem. Problems Are Worse Than 1929."