(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Soviet

“Energy is liberated matter, matter is energy waiting to happen”*…

 

We’ve certainly come a long way since the ancient Greek atomists speculated about the nature of material substance, 2,500 years ago. But for much of this time we’ve held to the conviction that matter is a fundamental part of our physical universe. We’ve been convinced that it is matter that has energy. And, although matter may be reducible to microscopic constituents, for a long time we believed that these would still be recognizable as matter—they would still possess the primary quality of mass.

Modern physics teaches us something rather different, and deeply counter-intuitive. As we worked our way ever inward—matter into atoms, atoms into sub-atomic particles, sub-atomic particles into quantum fields and forces—we lost sight of matter completely. Matter lost its tangibility. It lost its primacy as mass became a secondary quality, the result of interactions between intangible quantum fields. What we recognize as mass is a behavior of these quantum fields; it is not a property that belongs or is necessarily intrinsic to them.

Despite the fact that our physical world is filled with hard and heavy things, it is instead the energy of quantum fields that reigns supreme. Mass becomes simply a physical manifestation of that energy, rather than the other way around…

Modern physics has taught us that mass is not an intrinsic property: “Physics Has Demoted Mass.”

* Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

###

As we watch all that is solid melt into air, we might spare a jaundiced thought for Trofim Denisovich Lysenko; he died on this date in 1976.  A Soviet biologist and agronomist, he believed the Mendelian theory of heredity to be wrong, and developed his own, allowing for “soft inheritance”– the heretability of learned behavior. (He believed that in one generation of a hybridized crop, the desired individual could be selected and mated again and continue to produce the same desired product, without worrying about separation/segregation in future breeds.–he assumed that after a lifetime of developing (acquiring) the best set of traits to survive, those must be passed down to the next generation.)

In many way Lysenko’s theories recall Lamarck’s “organic evolution” and its concept of “soft evolution” (the passage of learned traits), though Lysenko denied any connection. He followed I. V. Michurin’s fanciful idea that plants could be forced to adapt to any environmental conditions, for example converting summer wheat to winter wheat by storing the seeds in ice.  With Stalin’s support for two decades, he actively obstructed the course of Soviet biology and caused the imprisonment and death of many of the country’s eminent biologists who disagreed with him.

Interestingly, some current research suggests that heritable learning– or a semblance of it– may in fact be happening, by virtue of epigenetics… though nothing vaguely resembling Lysenko’s theory.

 source

 

Written by LW

November 20, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Communism is like one big phone company”*…

 

The Beatles were big enough that even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to deal with it, somehow. In 1976 Soviet-controlled TV—the only available televised media in the entire country—played a peculiar Russian version of Paul McCartney’s deathless song “Let It Be” as an oddly baroque and defiantly un-glitzy bit of variety TV. Odd to say about television in the worker’s paradise, but the trappings of the proceedings seem to me somewhat … bourgeois?…

The totalitarian tale in toto: “Bizarre video of the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ from Soviet TV of the 1970s.”

* Lenny Bruce

###

As we wonder if imitation is, in fact, the sincerest form of flattery, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Beatles, fresh back from Hamburg, played their first date at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The band swiftly became a regular fixture at the Cavern, attracting a loyal audience to over 290 performances until their final appearance on August 3, 1963. For this first show, lasting from 1-2pm, they earned a £5 fee to share among them.

The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) at the Cavern Club

source

 

Written by LW

February 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Bus stop, bus goes”*…

 

The Soviet Union was a nation of bus stops. Cars were hard to come by, so a vast public transport network took up the slack. Buses not only bore workers to their labors, but also breathed life into the ‘union’ itself by taking travelers from town to taiga to desert to seaside. In remoter parts of the country, bus shelters mattered even more than buses, providing convenient places for people to gather, drink and socialize. They were caravanserai for the motor age, and while the empire they served no longer exists, most of them stand right where it left them…

If they are in various stages of ruin now, they are all the more attractive for it. ‘Bus pavilions’, as they were known, were the experimental territory, and ultimately the legacy, of architects who might otherwise have been thwarted by central planning. Many reflect local cultures, and make memorable landmarks. Christopher Herwig [bio here], a Canadian photographer, started documenting them when he cycled through the Baltic states in 2002, and kept going after he moved to Almaty a year later. He has since shot varying numbers of them in all the former Soviet republics except (to judge by this book) Russia and Azerbaijan, a labour of 12 years and more than 18,000 miles.

Read more at “The caravanserai of the motor age,” and see more (and larger) photos from the series at Herwig’s site.

* The Hollies, “Bus Stop”

###

As we quietly queue, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that Orville Wright demonstrated the Wright Flyer for the US Army Signal Corps division at Fort Myer, Virginia.  Wright circled the base at 150 feet; on his fourth circuit, his propeller broke.  The plane crashed.  Orville suffered a broken left thigh, several broken ribs, and a damaged hip, and was hospitalized for seven weeks. His passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, suffered a fractured skull, and died– the first person to die in a crash of a powered airplane.

Fatal crash of Wright Flyer at Fort Myer, Virginia

source

 

Written by LW

September 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Childhood is the sleep of reason”*…

 

Scene of a “crèche”– an industrial day care center– with a productive factory in the background.

The images above and below, originally printed in 1930, reflect the government’s promotion of early-childhood health and well-being in the early years of the Soviet Union. The London School of Economics Library has collected a group of these posters—half brightly-colored, half sepia-toned—in a Flickr set.

In her book about childhood in Russia during the early Soviet period, historian Lisa Kirschenbaum writes that children and childhood were ideologically important to those involved in the Bolshevik Revolution. Children had the potential to grow into ideal communists, and communal early childhood education was seen as a good way of getting all members of the rising generation to hold consistent views. (In the United States, the conservative opposition to attempts to institute government support for day care in the early 1970s often referred, obliquely or explicitly, to the communalism of Soviet child care.)

By 1930, when these images were produced, the government-supported day care (or “crèche”) was doubly politically important, since young mothers were encouraged to work. In these posters, babies that look to be about 6 months old cry “I’m bored at home!” and beg to be taken to the crèche.

L: “I’m bored at home!” R: “I’m happy in the crèche!”

More– from “how to hold a baby” to “preparation of juice from raw fruits”– at the ever-illuminating Rebecca Onion’s “Government Child Care Advice From Early Soviet Propaganda Posters.”

* Jean-Jacques Rousseau

###

As we crib up on cribs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that an estimated 3,000 spectators boarded special trains for a secret location, which turned out to be Richburg, a town just south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to attend the Heavyweight Boxing Championship match between defender John L. Sullivan and challenger Jake Kilrain.  The fight began at 10:30 p.m.; early on, it appeared that Sullivan would lose (especially after he vomited during the 44th round). But the champion got his second wind after that, and Kilrain’s manager finally threw in the towel after the 75th round.  The match was the last world title bout fought under the London Prize Ring Rules— and thus, the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout.  And it was one of the first American sporting events to receive national press coverage.

John L. Sullivan (L) and Jake Kilrain

 

 

Written by LW

July 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: