Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sensual Objects are Nonlocal and Nontemporal

Possible footprint of a bubble collision (of another Universe) in the Cosmic Microwave Background

And there's a footprint of a child, maybe eight-year-old, this very mysterious. We couldn't film it. We were not allowed, because it was deep in a recess of the cave.

The mysterious thing is that next to this footprint, probably a boy, probably around eight years old, parallel to it runs the footprint of a wolf. And I was very, very puzzled: Did the wolf stalk the boy? Or did they walk together as friends? Or did the wolf leave its footprints 5,000 years later? It's stunning. The lapse of time is completely and utterly stunning.

Isn't that incredible? That's Werner Herzog talking about some footprints in the Chauvet cave, which has art dating to about 30 000 BC.

It's the sense of the freshness of the print of a bear that's also striking:

When they discovered the cave, they did everything right to preserve it. They immediately understood the importance of the cave. They would only very carefully move along the floor by spreading out sheets of plastic and step on it, because you could immediately see that there were fairly fresh tracks of cave bears.

The cave bear actually went extinct 20,000-or-so years ago, but there are still fresh tracks of them. And, of course, later, when scientists moved in, they did it with utmost caution, never touching anything. A metal walkway was built, and you never leave this walkway.

Fresh tracks. Think about it. Here's a sneak preview of my Sydney talk on hyperobjects and art (you may have heard something similar if you saw me at Georgia Tech):

Now every event in reality is a kind of inscription in which one object leaves its footprint in another one. Interobjective reality is just the sum total of all these footprints, crisscrossing everywhere. It's nonlocal by definition and temporally molten. The print of a dinosaur's foot in the mud is seen as a foot shaped hole in a rock by humans 65 million years later. There is some sensuous connection, then, between the dinosaur, the rock and the human, despite their vastly differing timescales.

Now when we return to in our mind's eye to the time of the dinosaur herself, we discover something very strange. All we find there is another region of interobjective space in which impressions of the dinosaur are transmitted—tooth marks in a some hapless prey, the frozen stare of the dinosaur as she looks at her next victim, the smooth scaly feel of her skin. More dinosaur prints, even when the dinosaur is alive. Even the dinosaur doesn't know herself entirely, only in a rough translation that samples and edits her being. A mosquito or an asteroid has their own unique sample of dinosar-ness, and these samples are not dinosaurs. Why?

Because there is a real dinosaur, withdrawn from access even from herself. Black holes are right here, in magazines and on the web, as jpegs and gee-whiz pop science essays and sci fi movies. Yet they are not here, evidently. But even if you could somehow climb into one with a video camera, you couldn't know the whole story about black holes. Why? Because your video of a black hole is not a black hole. Because black holes are real.

Phenomena such as gravity waves (from the “beginning of time” or “the edge of the Universe” however you look at it) and entanglement (Schrödinger: the defining phenomenon of quantum theory), let alone older discoveries such as electromagnetic fields, point in the direction of nonlocal causal distribution. Why is entanglement such a deep phenomenon? Because causality is aesthetic. In OOO-ese, causality happens in the sensual ether.

Of course I’m not arguing that sensuality means that everything is necessarily available to everything, everywhere. But the nonlocality and nontemporality must be impeded only by other sensual objects such as light cones (relativity), interference (wave forms) and the breath of modern humans, not allowed into the Chauvet cave for fear that their breath would spread mold on the walls. If there is suitable attunement, sensual objects should be capable of being sensed across any distance or any time. But this coherence of time and space could easily be degraded, giving rise to the fragmentary records we see everywhere. The very success of evolution causes gaps in the fossil record, as many Darwinists have argued, for instance.

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