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Posts Tagged ‘Beagle

“Oh how wrong we were to think immortality meant never dying”*…

Mourir C’est Renaitre (Death and Immortality), Copy after William Blake

The John Templeton Foundation has undertaken a undertaken a deep investigation into the biology, philosophy, and theology of immortality research. Lorraine Boissoneault offers the first in a series of reports on their work…

Around 100,000 years ago, humans living in the region that would come to be called “Israel” did something remarkable. When members of the community died, those left behind buried the dead in a cave, placing some of the bodies with great care and arranging them near colorful pigments and shells. Although burial is so common today as to be almost unremarkable, for ancient humans to exhibit such behavior suggested a major development in cultural practices. The Qafzeh Cave is one of the oldest examples that humans understand death differently than many other creatures. We seem to have an innate desire to mark it with ritual.

It is an unavoidable fact of biology that all organisms die, whether by disease, disaster, or simply old age. Yet our species, Homo sapiens, seems to be the only creature blessed—or cursed—with the cognitive ability to understand our mortality. And thanks to our powerful intelligence, we’re also the only beings to imagine and seek out death’s opposite: immortality. 

In religious traditions, spiritual afterlives and reincarnation offer continuation of the self beyond death. In myth and legend, sources of everlasting life abound, from the Fountain of Youth to elixirs of life. Some people seek symbolic immortality through procreation. Others aim for contributions to society, whether artistic, academic or scientific. And still others have pushed the bounds of technology in search of dramatic life extension or a digital self. 

Where does this impulse come from?…

Find out: “Pre-life, Afterlife, and the Drive for Immortality,” from @boissolm @templeton_fdn.

Gerard Way

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As we internalize eternity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1826 that the HMS Beagle set sail from Plymouth on its first voyage, an expedition to conduct a hydrographic survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in support of the larger ship HMS Adventure.

The Beagle‘s second voyage (1831-1836) is rather better remembered, as it was on that expedition that the ship’s naturalist, a young Charles Darwin (whose published journal of the journey, quoted above, earned him early fame as a writer) made the observations that led him to even greater fame for his theory of evolution.

300px-PSM_V57_D097_Hms_beagle_in_the_straits_of_magellan

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“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”*…

 

A diagram from Poe’s Eureka

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.”

Read more about Poe’s Eureka in the Paris Review; visit the show at the Pace Gallery.

* Niels Bohr

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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.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

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