Archive for April 23rd, 2012

April 23, 2012

The Force

star wars day

The Force is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy created by George Lucas. Mentioned in the first film in the series, it is integral to all subsequent incarnations of Star Wars, including the expanded universe of comic books, novels, and video games. Within the franchise, it is the object of the Jedi and Sith monastic orders. Lucas has attributed the origins of ‘The Force’ to a 1963 abstract film by Arthur Lipsett, called ’21-87,’ which sampled from many sources. One of the audio sources Lipsett sampled was a conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren S. McCulloch and Roman Kroitor, a cinematographer who went on to develop IMAX.

In the face of McCulloch’s arguments that living beings are nothing but highly complex machines, Kroitor insists that there is something more: ‘Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God.’ When asked if this was the source of ‘the Force,’ Lucas confirms that his use of the term in ‘Star Wars’ was ‘an echo of that phrase in ’21-87.’ The idea behind it, however, was universal: ‘Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the ‘life force,” he says.

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April 23, 2012

Qi

qi

In traditional Chinese culture, [chee] is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation is ‘breath,’ ‘air,’ or ‘gas.’ Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, Prana in Vedantic philosophy, mana in Hawaiian culture, Lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, and Vital energy in Western philosophy.

Some elements of qi can be understood in the term ‘energy’ when used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine. Elements of the qi concept can also be found in popular culture, for example ‘The Force’ in ‘Star Wars’ Notions in the west of energeia, élan vital, or vitalism are purported to be similar.

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April 23, 2012

Élan Vital

Élan vital [ey-lahn vee-tal] was coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1907 book ‘Creative Evolution,’ in which he addresses the question of self-organization and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Elan vital was translated in the English edition as ‘vital impetus,’ but is usually translated by his detractors as ‘vital force.’ It is a hypothetical explanation for evolution and development of organisms, which Bergson linked closely with consciousness.

It was believed by others that this essence (élan vital) could be harvested and embedded into an inanimate substance and activated with electricity, perhaps taking literally another of Bergson’s metaphorical descriptions, the ‘current of life.’ British biologist Julian Huxley remarked that Bergson’s élan vital is no better an explanation of life than is explaining the operation of a railway engine by its ‘élan locomotif’ (‘locomotive driving force’). The same epistemological fallacy is parodied in Molière’s ‘Le Malade imaginaire,’ where a quack ‘answers’ the question of ‘Why does opium cause sleep?’ with ‘Because of its soporific [sleep-inducing] power.’

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April 23, 2012

The Sprawl

William Gibson

In William Gibson’s fiction, the Sprawl is a colloquial name for the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (BAMA), an urban sprawl environment on a massive scale, and a fictional extension of the real Northeast Megalopolis. The novels ‘Neuromancer’ (1984), ‘Count Zero’ (1986), and ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’ (1988) (collectively known as the Sprawl trilogy) take place in this environment, as do the short stories ‘Johnny Mnemonic,’ ‘New Rose Hotel,’ ‘Burning Chrome,’ and ‘Fragments of a Hologram Rose.’

The Sprawl is a visualization of a future where virtually the entire East Coast of the United States, from Boston to Atlanta, has melded into a single mass of urban sprawl. It has been enclosed in several geodesic domes and merged into one megacity. The city has become a separate world with its own climate, no real night/day cycle, and an artificial sky that is always grey. It is said of the Sprawl that ‘the actors change but the play remains the same.’

April 23, 2012

BosWash

northeast-megalopolis

BosWash is a name coined by futurist Herman Kahn in a 1967 essay describing a theoretical United States megalopolis extending from the metropolitan area of Boston to that of Washington, D.C. The publication also coined ‘SanSan’ for the areas on the Pacific coast of California. The general concept for the area described by BosWash was first identified in French geographer Jean Gottmann’s 1961 book ‘Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States.’ Kahn’s essay was the product of a study commissioned in 1965 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Kahn discussing urbanization, began by writing: ‘The United States in the year 2000 will probably see at least three gargantuan megalopolises. We have labeled these—only half frivolously—’Boswash,’ ‘Chipitts,’ and ‘SanSan.”

Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute outlined an area it labeled the ‘Northeast’ megapolitan area, which it views as extending beyond Boston and Washington – past Portland, Maine and Richmond, Virginia – and described it as one of ten such areas in the United States. In the 2005 study, titled ‘Beyond Megalopolis,’ researchers analyzed Google search results to determine plausible names for the regions, rejecting terms such as BosWash, stating: ‘We decided that combined place names seemed contrived and offered little chance for eventual adoption. Therefore, labels such as ‘BosWash’ to refer to the Northeast or ‘SanSac’ in reference to the combined San Francisco and Sacramento metropolitan areas were not considered.’

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April 23, 2012

Blue Banana

blue banana

The Blue Banana (also known as the Hot Banana, European Megalopolis or European Backbone) is a discontinuous corridor of urbanization in Western Europe, with a population of around 110 million. It stretches approximately from North West England to Milan.

The curvature of this corridor (hence the ‘banana’ in the name) takes in cities such as Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Eindhoven, the Ruhr, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Stuttgart, Munich, Zürich, Turin, Milan, Venice, and Genoa and covers one of the world’s highest concentrations of people, money and industry.

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April 23, 2012

Ecumenopolis

trantor

Ecumenopolis [ek-yoo-meh-nop-oh-lys] (Greek: ‘world city’) is a word invented in 1967 by the Greek city planner Constantinos Doxiadis to represent the idea that in the future urban areas and megalopolises would eventually fuse and there would be a single continuous worldwide city as a progression from the current urbanization and population growth trends.

Before the word was coined, the American religious leader Thomas Lake Harris (1823–1906) mentioned city-planets in his verses, and science fiction author Isaac Asimov uses the city-planet Trantor as the setting of some of his novels.

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April 23, 2012

Futurewise

futurwise

Futurewise is a book on global trends written by the futurist Patrick Dixon in 1998, with new editions in 2001, 2003, and 2007. ‘Futurewise’ contains over 500 expectations about what future life will be like, and divides future trends into six dimensions, which spell the word FUTURE: Fast (combinations of events bring new opportunities for agile leaders—and risks); Urban (demographics and lifestyle issues including megacities); Tribal (the most powerful force in the world today is tribalism—basis of culture, belonging, teams, brands); Universal (globalization at cost of local identity, risking international tensions, and the impact of the digital age); Radical (the rise of single issue activism and the death of left-right politics); and Ethical (the passions people have and personal values, including spirituality– the glue holding our future together)

A key thesis of ‘Futurewise’ is that the future is about emotion, and that emotional reactions to events are usually more important than the events themselves. Therefore a deep understanding is needed of how people are likely to feel in the future. The book also focuses on managing uncertainty. Risk management is a major challenge for all large corporations, including responding to wild cards – low probability but potentially high impact events.

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April 23, 2012

Chess Boxing

chess boxing by Iker Ayestarán

Chessboxing is a hybrid sport that combines chess with boxing in alternating rounds. The sport was invented by Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, who was inspired by a French comic book ‘Le Froid Equateur’ by artist and filmmaker Enki Bilal. A match consists of up to eleven alternating rounds of boxing and chess. The match begins with a four-minute chess round. This is followed by three minutes of boxing, with rounds of chess and boxing alternating until the end. There is a one minute break between rounds.

Competitors may win by a knockout, achieving a checkmate, by the judges’ decision, or if their opponent’s twelve minutes of chess time is exceeded. If a competitor fails to make a move during the chess round, he is issued a warning and he must move within the next 10 seconds. Repeated warnings may result in a disqualification. The players put on headphones during the chess portion so that they do not hear any shouted assistance from the audience or the live chess commentary. If the chess game reaches a stalemate, the scores from the boxing rounds are used to determine the winner. If the boxing score is also a tie, the player with the black pieces wins.