“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”*…
I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical—of the Material and Spiritual Universe:—of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny. I shall be so rash, moreover, as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in effect, to question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and most justly reverenced of men.” —Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, 1848
Eureka was the last major work Edgar Allan Poe published before his premature death in 1849.
In Eureka, Poe claimed to have intuited, among other discoveries, that the universe is finite, that it came about by the “radiation” of atoms out from a single “primordial Particle,” that what Newton called gravity is nothing but the attraction of every atom to the other atoms with which it once shared an identity, that countervailing forces of repulsion keep matter as we know it “in that state of diffusion demanded for the fulfillment of its purposes,” and that, eventually, the universe will collapse back into its original, unitary state.
Poe’s verdicts, as Marilynne Robinson and many others have pointed out, sometimes eerily predicted developments in twentieth-century astrophysics. For Poe, however, all the imaginings contained in Eureka—the prescient as well as the flighty or far-fetched—had the weight of indisputable truths…
Now Poe’s prose poem is the organizing principal of a show mounted through August 28 at the pace gallery in New York. From Alexander Calder and Edgard Varèse to Sun Ra (replete with Arkestra) and James Turrell, the group exhibition features artists “who observe and map the cosmological, metaphysical and scientific through painting, sculpture and music.”
* Niels Bohr
As we contemplate the cosmos, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Robert FitzRoy; he was born on this date in 1805. A scientist (hydrographer, meteorologist) and career officer in the Royal Navy who devised a storm warning system that was the prototype of the daily weather forecast, invented a barometer, and published The Weather Book (1863), he rose to the rank of Vice Admiral.
But he is surely best remembered as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s famous voyage (FitzRoy’s second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone)… though he might rightly also be remembered for his tenure as Governor of New Zealand: during which he tried to protect the Maori from illegal land sales claimed by British settlers.