My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Mon, 02 Jan, 2006

Old Dominion, New Year

Virginia is a beautiful state, and I'm glad I live in it. I finally got away from the city just for New Year's. I drove into the rural heart of the Old Dominion to stay with friends who have a country home. It is an old farmhouse, with a lot of outbuildings, a pond and pastures, and plenty of forest land around it. When they bought it, it was in very poor shape and they have been fixing it up ever since; while I was there, they were refinishing an entire room that had been gutted and re-walled.

They have four head of Black Angus cattle which were grazing in the field next to the house, and there were domestic white ducks on their pond. In their neighborhood, hunting for food is an ordinary part of life, and I ate a casserole made with venison from a deer shot by my hosts. They heat their house with wood stoves. There is neither TV nor a computer in the house, though there is phone service (including cell phone) and electricity. They get around their property on a four-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle and a farm-enabled golf cart. There is plenty of mud.

Sitting by the wood stove, I felt as though I were welcoming in 1906 rather than 2006. The Washington Post had an article about that, describing American culture at the end of 1905 and comparing it to our current era. I am glad that people cannot really see the future. If they had known what was awaiting them in the rest of the twentieth century, would they have wanted to celebrate at all? After our own year of disasters, apocalypses and foreboding, I didn't feel like celebrating either.

Out in the country darkness, the stars shine brighter than I have seen them for decades. They blaze like permanent fireworks in the night sky. I have forgotten that sight, living in the hazy, light-polluted city for so long. Sounds carry for miles across the fields and forests: dogs barking, train whistles, owl hoots, all stretched out over the open land. But the noise level is nothing like that in the city. Quietness and space: the ultimate luxuries.

At one point, some years ago, I considered moving to the country. I almost did it, but I never found a place that really suited me. Now I wouldn't do it, because my job is in the city, a convenient half-mile from my residence. And I must have my broadband cable Internet access, which is not usually available in rural areas. I can paint pictures of the country, but I don't really want to live there.

I have no resolutions for 2006, other than just surviving (a sentiment shared by many around me). I will continue my physics, math, art, and writing. I am considering changing the scope of this Weblog somewhat, to include discussions about religion and science. But I am wary that this will alienate some of my scientist atheist readers, for whom any form of religion is delusion and nonsense. This would also mean that I would speak about my own religious beliefs, which I haven't discussed during the two years I have been writing this. If I were openly religious, would any scientist trust me? I haven't decided yet. I don't have the kind of certainty that the scientists have. But I find it increasingly hard to keep silent about spiritual and religious matters, and their relationship to science and knowledge.

I will have to be careful as I write, and include explanations and disclaimers. Some of my readers were disturbed by my previous entry, which I admit was unusually loopy for this journal. They thought perhaps I had actually gone schizophrenic. I must assure them that none of the texts I quoted were actually written by me. They were mostly taken from spams (unsolicited bulk e-mails) which were caught in my filtering software. Spammers use computerized word-salad generators in the hopes of fooling the filters and getting their messages to your e-mail inbox. Sometimes the word salad resembles avant-garde poetry and prose, such as the bizarre "cut-ups" composed by American author William Burroughs (1914-1997). I will have to remember that such excesses are not to everyone's taste, and that not everyone who reads this Electron knows the background culture of the "internet world."

I will still be working on classical mechanics in 2006. Classical physics, like classical music, is defined by canons of restraint, clear structure, rationality, logic, balance, and a striving for perfect form. It looks backwards, to the greats of the past such as Galileo and Newton, Mozart and Beethoven. In 1906, no one yet knew that quantum uncertainty would challenge those classical ideals in ways that are even now, still unfathomable.

Posted at 4:03 am | link

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