AlgoMantra, b. 2005

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Sunday, November 26, 2006
In Search Of Lost Time
The performers are reading the machine-code version of Marcel Proust’s novel. During the eight hours of a working day the humans are playing computer. For these purposes the text is first deconstructed into its individual parts - the letter and characters - which in turn are decoded into the Ascii-code - a code underlying digital text processing. Each letter is represented by an individual sequence of signs, consisting of zeros and ones.

[LINK] Download The Performance Manual.
Al- Zaman & Kalachakra: The Physics of Time in Two Major Religions
Time in Islam: The nature of Al-Zaman (time in Islam) is explained by Abu al-Barakat like this: Al-zaman miqdar al-wujud or, “time is the dimension of existence”. Such a definition helps the Muslim absorb life’s events as a continuous experience, and helps him remain sane. In every religious system though, the structure of time is centered around a divine uncertainty – that which cannot and should not be known. The Prophet forbade intercalation, or correction of the thirteenth month to fall in line with the seasons, because it is in the very “irregularity of the phases of the moon, they revere the manifestation of mysterious Will…independent of the solar seasons[1].” It is not permissible in Islam to “foresee” the moon by tables. It must be watched and established by at least two “witnesses of the instant”. At the most, one is allowed to use a calendar with 28 lunar mansions (364 days) that gives an indication as to which najm (stellar constellation) the moon will occupy, not when it will occupy it. Astrology is prohibited too, since in such a universe, where everything happens by the Will of one supreme God, how can stars, planets or the sun exert any influence over the destinies of men?

2. Ghurrat-al-hilal or ‘sighting of the new moon’ marks the beginning of a new era for the Muslims, and opens up a period for legally embarking on a pilgrimage, a period of widowhood, etc. When a new era begins, it is intended as a stopping place for the faithful mind, as a place of regeneration of the tired human spirit. The life sanctioned by God is not linear, moving seamlessly towards a future, but follows an algorithmic recursion from announcement to sanction, on and on till the yawm akhir, or the Ultimate Day. There is a sudden rise in the number of catastrophes leading to the Great Review, the Great Judgment. It represents the rising of eschatological phenomena, the accelerating process of God decomposing an imperfect world, only to start all over again with a blank slate. That Ultimate Day alone is perfect because on that day alone there is no delay between the divine decree and the apocalypse. Islam is “occasionalist”, and postulates atoms of time, or a constellation of epochal instants resembling the twinkling of an eye of God, the eye that confers a hukm (decree) upon nascent human actions. There is assumed to be no continuous duration in Islam, but only an announcing and another ending instant of divine sanction. It is in the waiting for discontinuous moments, that the devout Muslim finds continuity. The delay between these two instants (imhal) implies that all such days that pass in the waiting for Sa’a, the hour of Last Judgement, are imperfect. Those philosophers who divinize duration are regarded by Islam as being dahriyun, the materialists or atheists who do not believe in the Creator. Fakhra Razi wrote that psychological phenomena in human beings (such as pleasure or pain) have no duration, and therefore there is no such thing as eternal bliss. “The instant of anguish is not a fragment of duration; it is beyond doubt a divine touch of theologal hope, which transfigures our memory forever.” According to scholar Kalabadhi, when the sufi mystic Al-Hallaj was asked what an instant is, he replied, “It is a breeze of joy (farja) blown by pain, Wisdom is waves which submerge, rise and fall, so that the instant of the sage is black and obscured.”

3. Time In Hinduism: Here is a story that illustrates the Hindu theory of time, or kalachakra: While traveling through a forest, Narada asks Lord Vishnu about maya, the illusory world. After a while Vishnu feels thirsty and sends Narada to a nearby village to fetch him some water, where Narada falls in love with a farmer’s daughter and sets up a household. He lives happily with his new family for many years, before a terrible flood wipes out the whole village and he finds himself wandering through the forest. Upon hearing his footsteps, Vishnu says, “O Narada, where have you been? I have been waiting for half an hour.” Mircea Eliade contends that this is the Hindu myth, an invocation of sacred time that periodically relieves us from the Now ( hal in Arabic) which is considered material or ‘profane’ time. The Hindu concept of time is illustrated well by the myth cited above, and it also serves as a mnemonic to periodically invoke the original rules of the cosmic game. According to the above theory, maya manifests itself through time, the cyclical Kalachakra, and time dilates from human being to gods. Time occurs in differing durations of cycles, in wheels within wheels where one second for a God may be experienced as millennia for a mortal.

4. These cycles are normally broken down into four key ages (or yugas) which bear a correspondence with geometric figures and their harmony. Krta Yuga is the age in which human society accomplishes things of greatness, the perfect age (corresponding with the perfection of the square, the number 4), when the ideal of dharma is totally aligned with human existence. In the Treta Yuga, things go downhill and men see only 3/4th of dharma, ½ in Dwapara Yuga and so on to Kali Yuga where man’s moral integrity is at its lowest before the advent of darkness, or destruction. It is useful to note that these periods are of descending duration, in a perfect mathematical series, with Krta being the longest, or 4000 divine years of Brahma. These larger cosmological cycles are also complemented by the routines cycles of everyday life, and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth until complete realization of the cosmic harmony relieves one from the eternal washing machine that is existence, leading to moksha. The Hindu idea of creation and destruction came most likely from watching the growth and decay of the moon, but they chose a quasi-solar calendar that needed correction every once in a while.

5. While the traditional Muslim sees Time as the twinkling of God’s eye, the Vedic Hindus measured time by the blinking of his own eyes (paramanu, approximately 4 seconds in Vedic metric system). Both Hindus and Muslims invoke sacred time by the use of mantra and azaan, which represent a verbal program for a release from the immediacy of human existence, to a place beyond time and closer to God. They are both followers of a code of conduct based on daily, seasonal or lunar routine, while these may differ greatly in practice. The Muslims worship no idols, and the Hindus have no evidence of any Prophet who started the religion (so they endlessly keep inventing new images to deify). Both religions believe that the universe is in a state of becoming, and imperfection pervades through it all, justifying the temporary presence of evil, towards a final reconciliation. In the case of the Muslim, the reconciliation is a perfect moment, and in the case of the Hindu, it is the self-assembly of God’s body (the original universe). If everything happens with the decree and sanction of Allah for a Muslim, it also happens for Hindus because only one God is the player of the cosmic game in Hinduism[2] - Lord Krishna: I am Mârgasirsha among the months, the spring among the seasons, of cheats, I am the game of dice, I am the greatness of the great, I am victory, I am industry, I am the goodness of the good. And yet, in spite of an all-powerful God, both Islam and Hinduism allow a human being some free will in changing his destiny. A Hindu can keep earning good karma from his actions and ascend the levels in the game of life, whereas a Muslim can indulge himself in innovations (tajaddudat) and thereby receive a positive feedback in God’s will leading him closer to Oneness with Him. In Hinduism, human existence forms a part of the body of God, and in Islam it exists as a symbiotic feedback relationship[3].

[1] Louis Massignon, Time In Islamic Thought.

[2] Quote from Bhagawad Gita

[3] A popular film song called Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai (Gangster) has an interesting line that echoes this sentiment : “Tu waqt mere liye, main hoon tera lamha..” (trans. “You are my Time, and I am your Moment.”

Friday, November 17, 2006
Once again via Social Fiction:

Xiangqi appeares to be an old inbetween state of the ur-game that branched into current day go and chess. The board is go-based, the rules chess based (checkmate etc). Comparative boardology will one day reveal its exact position in the tree of games.

The wikipedia entry has some intersting details that could reveal the way local changes in the rules and boards might evolve a game into a new, if you like, specie.

Thursday, November 09, 2006
Snip: The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age was very good, but I left it incomplete and should pick it up again, if the following paragraph from Wikipedia on a hive-mind technology described in the novel is anything to go by:

Hackworth's life in the meantime also has become more complicated. Upon his arrival in North America, he had been led to an underwater system of tunnels, the abode of the "Drummers," a society whose life consists of drugged trances accompanied by drumbeats. The nano-particles that induce the ecstatic trances actually carry bits of information among the individual Drummer's brains to form an immense network of human thinking capacity that—if used to such purpose—would exceed the capabilities of any existing computer system. The nano-particles pass from body to body through sexual intercourse performed in an orgiastic ritual in which a large number of men pass their semen into a single woman. As a result of the excessive heat-producing nano-activity, the woman's body bursts into flame and is in turn ingested as part of a drink passed around the remaining Drummers to keep the information flowing. After ten years with the Drummers, exactly the duration of his sentence, Hackworth emerges from the underworld of the Drummers and returns to Atlantis/Shanghai. His wife has divorced him, but he is able to re-establish his relationship to his now grown daughter, as he is still looking for the Alchemist. Eventually he discovers that he himself is the mysterious Alchemist, and that he had been sent to the Drummers to utilize their collective mind and to develop the Seed. However, he had stopped shortly before finishing the discovery, and the book leaves the question of the Seed open in the end.
The Sonic Fiction of Kodwo Eshun
An interview with the author of More Brilliant Than The Sun, British writer and afrofuturist Kodwo Eshun:

I always thought that Springsteen's power was his strenuous voice. It has muscles in it. The grain of his voice indicates labour and struggle. So his tracks become these epics, these odes to the dignity of labour, a narrative of heavy industry. There is this idea that Americans mistrust the law of least effort, something which Simon Reynolds (author of Energy Flash, a Journey through Rave Music and Dance Culture Eds.) and I talk about a lot. Americans mistrust too much digitisation, too much loss of distinction between effort and output. Think of the sampler that allows the click of a button to produce a massive noise. So they like Springsteen because he restores this equivalence of effort. His voice is struggling, straining and is carrying the burden of everybody's hopes for the duration of his song and his narrative.

[LINK] »Everything was to be done. All the adventures are still there« another interview with Kodwo Eshun
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Hamlet's Mill
Wahoo! I found the entire text of a book I needed, online. I was looking for a book that could summarily connect the processes involved in the construction of mythology, and the processes involved in computation. Via astronomy, this connection is established by Hamlet's Mill:An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and Its Transmission Through Myth (anonymous commentary follows from Fusion Anomaly):

The implications of Hamlet's Mill appeared to me nothing short of revolutionary:

* Embedded within myths were astronomical observations at least as accurate as carbon dates, thus enabling investigators to compare the content of myths so dated with the archaeological record.

* Was it not possible that myth represented the "software" that would show us how to run the "hardware" of ancient astronomical monuments?

* Was it not possible that the term prehistory was a misnomer if oral tradition possessed the means to transmit not only the seminal philosophical ideas of the human race, but the precise skies (i.e., internal linktime) that inspired these thoughts?

* And, as a consequence, did not a completely unsuspected history of the human race--in the form of the recorded myths of ancient and contemporary "prehistoric" (nonliterate) peoples--lie gathering dust in internal linklibraries around the world?

Picture: Hamlet's Mill by Ken O'Neil
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Geoff Manaugh: The BldgBlog Guy
Hm, I link to this gentleman often. And now I find him interviewed on another favorite blog of mine - Ballardian. I saw an excellent excerpt on Boing Boing, from The Politics Of Enthusiasm:

You once wrote, “just about everything in the fucking universe has something to do with architecture”…

What I really mean is that, in any discussion of architecture, there are these inevitable holes through which you might glimpse something else, something supposedly outside the bounds of architecture entirely: gravity, say, because you’re calculating stress-loads, or plate tectonics as you design a building in an earthquake zone – Tokyo, Los Angeles, Istanbul. For that matter, you have to decide where to put the windows, and so the movement of the sun comes into play – and, thus, you’re talking about astronomy, and terrestrial rotation, solstices, the equinox, constellations. Soon you’ve got the climate, and topography, and even forestry and botany and global trade and labour law – etc. etc. Global economics. The list expands and expands until ‘everything in the fucking universe has something to do with architecture’. Good moods, bad moods; enclosure, frustration, claustrophobia, imprisonment. Freedom. The price of steel. Natural history. Military bases, oil derricks, mining camps. It’s all architectural.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Give & Take: Electroplating Roses
In another of Coupe's works, Give and Take, roses are placed in tanks of copper solution. A current passing through the tank means the flowers are slowly electroplated. This principle – electroplating – is common in the creation of cutlery and coinage. In Give and Take copper pipes are placed in the solution with a positive charge while the roses are placed in with a negative charge. As the copper solution begins to settle on the roses they are slowly entombed in a growing accumulation of copper

Among other works by the same artist, I really like the elegant simplicity of Cosmic - the galaxy in a paperbag.
Nada Brahma: The Humming Earth
An old paper I found says some interesting things about the sounds of our planet:

The vibrations triggered by cataclysmic events fade away to nothing, but the Hum continues, regardless.

[LINK] fusion Anomaly's The World Is Sound

If the world is sound, what does The Doppler Effect mean?
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Pundit Nain Singh: AlgoMantrics In History
Nain Singh walked twelve hundred miles in the employ of the British Secret Service. Dressed as a pilgrim, he was dispatched to survey the road to Lhasa. Singh was specially trained to walk every pace at exactly 33 inches. His pilgrim's rosary, on which he counted several million of those paces, was used to click off the distances. The rosary had only one hundred beads on it, instead of the sacred 108, and if any of the numerous guards, police, and customs officials had bothered to count he would have been instantly killed.
Singh's pilgrim outfit had a few other special modifications. His tea bowl was used to hold mercury to find the horizon. His walking stick held a thermometer, which he would dip into the tea water just as it came to a boil and thus determine the altitude.

The biggest sacrilege, though, was Nain Singh's prayer wheel. A prayer wheel is a holy object containing the Tibetan mantra "Om! Mane Padme Hum!" ("Hail! Jewel in the Lotus!") written many times on a scroll of paper. The scroll is put inside the wheel, and when it is spun the prayers are sent upwards. In Lhasa, and later in Dharamsala, huge prayer wheels will contain a million prayers, all sent with a spin of the mighty discs.

Inside Singh's prayer wheel was his route survey, careful notes that showed the altitudes, the landmarks, and the distances that he walked. The route survey was brought back to Dehra Dun where Captain T. G. Montgomerie, the man who hired Nain Singh, was building a map.

[LINK] Wikipedia
[LINK] Image of Nain Singh's Compass