Scrupuli

blunt essays with sharp points

How To Blow Up the World

by Scrvpvlvs
Nov 19, 1999 8:11 PM–
[Our Universe] may simply be a fluctuation of a vacuum, the vacuum of some larger space in which our universe is imbedded. In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.
Edward Tryon¹

The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident.
Nathaniel Borenstein

If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done.
Peter Ustinov

SCRVPVLVS has an idea for a science fiction story. Sometime in the future, high energy physicists tore a hole in our universe. In the earth beneath Long Island, a huge tunnel was dug, the birthsite of a machine called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. This machine was designed to send particles of pure gold moving towards one another at such high speeds (99.995% of the speed of light) that they would effectively pass through one another when they collide, melting the particles as well as the empty space around them. When this occurred, a “fluctuation of a vacuum” was created: a region of pure energy. Within this space, matter was nearly massless and the temperature was a million times hotter than the center of the sun. The physicists claimed to be recreating the conditions which prevailed only a few billionths of a second after the birth of the universe.

Nobody was sure what would happen next. On earth, the fluctuation was a new state of matter. Most theorists expected it to explode, condensing back into particles just as droplets form in cooling steam, possibly revealing novel particles not found in our universe. Some speculated that the decay of the fluctuation might produce an “excited vacuum” having different properties than the normal vacuum of space.

Nobody realized that meant a Big Bang.

Expanding rapidly, a newborn Universe “simply happened” as the excited vacuum destroyed its Creators – along with Long Island, the state of New York, and everything else.

The End.

* * *

An idea for a science fiction story, except that sometime in the futureis actually coming this November. Paid for by the United States Government, the RHIC has already been built and will be used to create this region of pure energy, called a quark-gluon plasma.² ³ ⁴ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ ⁸ ⁹ ¹⁰

The only thing uncertain about this story is the actual outcome. Listen to what researchers told Newsday

Everyone is sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting for the first beam to see what in the world is going to come out there.
Miklos Gyullassy

As an experimentalist, it’s very exciting. We hope to see things no one predicted.
Sam Aronson

The theoretical speculation is that there are other forms of nuclear particles that nature could have made as part of our universe but didn’t.
Thomas Ludlam

It’s exploring new turf. It’s like the Star Trek thing where you are going where no other ship has gone before. You are dealing with incredibly small distance scales, incredibly high temperatures and densities of particles. It’s a whole new regime.
David Hertzog

Large pumps already roar in the main tunnel, maintaining a vacuum within the huge magnets that form the tunnel walls. Newsday says that the tightness of the vacuum in the magnet cores must be assured, and that technicians are repairing some discovered leaks. Soon … soon their work will be tested.

This reminds me of the story told about Enrico Fermi, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist: that he offered bets at the time of the first atom bomb test in New Mexico that the test would destroy the world (or at least New Mexico).¹¹ ¹² (Fermi is also said to have taken the other side of the bet, figuring that if he lost he wouldn’t have to pay up.)¹³

This idea is also attributed to Edward Teller, who suggested the possibility that fusion bombs, essentially mighty fireballs, might ignite the atmosphere or the oceans and burn up the world.¹⁴

SCRVPVLVS would like to make a personal appeal to the RHIC high energy physicists: don’t blow me up.


Endnotes

1. Theodore Schick Jr., “The ‘Big Bang’ Argument for the Existence of God”.

2. Earl Lane, “Where Atoms And Cosmos Meet”, Newsday.

3. The Phobos Collaboration, “PHOBOS: The Physics Background for non-scientists (go Wayback)” or “PHOBOS: The Physics Background for non-scientists (go Wayback)”.

4. Frank Close, “Ions in the fire”, The Guardian.

5. Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein, “Physics News Update”, The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News.

6. Sorensen, Soren Pontoppidan, “OARS Faculty Information System (FIS) record”.

7. Johann Rafelski, “Quark-Gluon Plasma and Nuclear Collisions”.

8. David Charlton, “Particle Physics at Birmingham”.

9. Elizabeth Rangel, “Quarks Come Ungluoned”.

10. Gary Crawley, et al., “Nuclear Physics in the 1990’s”, from Nuclear Physics: Basic Research Serving Society.

11. Miguel A. Bracchini, “The History and Ethics Behind The Manhattan Project: Atomic Bomb Design”, from Undergraduate Engineering Review, Mechanical Engineering Department, The University of Texas at Austin.

12. National Atomic Museum, “Trinity Site: The First Atomic Test”, U.S. Department of Energy.

13. Michael A. Burstein, “Broken Symmetry, an original story”.

14. “Archimedes Plutonium”, “Fusion Electricity Barrier Law”.

Additional articles

http://rhic.physics.wayne.edu/research/rhic.htm

http://www-library.lbl.gov/docs/LBNL/397/64/Overviews/RNC.html

http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1994/split/pnu197-1.htm

http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1996/split/pnu289-2.htm

http://www.fi.uib.no/~csernai/themes/Nucl1990s.html

http://www.aps.org/BAPSAPR98/vpr/layc12.html

http://www.aps.org/apsnews/0798/079805.html

http://www.eagle.co.uk/news/qgp.html

http://www.cpuniv.edu/HU421.htm

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Being John Malkovich: A Review

by Scrvpvlvs
Nov 15, 1999 8:57 PM–I just had fun acting like an asshole.
—John Malkovich1

SCRVPVLVS left the catacombs for an evening’s outing to see Being John Malkovich. A critic by nature, S. cannot bear to spare you, Gentle Reader, the fallout.

Dark Tantrik Allegory

Ask yourself: have you ever wanted to control and prolong your sexual pleasure indefinitely? Have you ever desired someone, wanted to manipulate and finally dominate that person? Yes? Want to be really good at this? Think about becoming a Dark Tantrik. Dark Tantra is a time-tested Eastern magical practice which teaches these skills to people who are willing to trade love for pleasure and friendships for power.

What does this have to do with Being John Malkovich, you ask? Why, everything. The film is Tantric allegory, symbolic of the unfettered desire, ultimate rape, perfect manipulation, complete domination, and unbounded gratification possible through Dark Tantra.

Consider what “being” someone amounts to. Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener) hints at it when she remarks that the Malkovich (John Malkovich) portal is his vagina, his feminine side. The film depicts possession of a host body by inserting one’s own body into a dark, slimy portal leading to the host. An untrained novice can’t stay in for more than 15 minutes. However, with practice one can extend the time indefinitely and also learn to take full control of the host body. Possession of Malkovich is symbolic of the Dark Tantrik’s abilities to prolong sexual pleasure and dominate others. It depicts, in fact, the ultimate rape.

Consider the character of Dr. Lester (Orson Bean). Obsessed with sex, he dominates one host body after another to prolong his life indefinitely. Lester depicts a gifted and accomplished Dark Tantric master.

Consider the character of Maxine. Manipulating others to meet the needs of her unbounded sensuality and desire for domination, she also depicts a Dark Tantric master. Recognizing the other characters’ potentials to meet her needs, she seduces and dominates them. She controls Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) through his insecurities, and awakens his power for her own reasons by consummating the relationship only at times when he is “being” Malkovich. Lotte Schwartz’s (Cameron Diaz) “being” experiences lead her to become infatuated with Maxine, radically revise her own sexual identity (predictable from the film’s premise but very well executed), and willingly use Malkovich as a tool to express this identity, even fathering a child by Maxine. Maxine in turn is manipulated by Dr. Lester, who co-opts the unholy child to create the next host body.

There are more hints in the character names chosen by the screenwriter.

  • Lester means “From Leicester,” and the name of this life-prolonging magician refers to the sacred springs in that locale, veritable fountains of youth which cured wasting disease and other illness, where the ancient Celt tribe of the Corieltauvi worshipped the water goddess Arnemetia.
  • Maxine is Latin for “great woman.”
  • Schwartz means “The Dark One” or “Child of the Black Man.” Craig is Celtic for “crag dweller.” In Western terms, the Black Man is the devil, and crags are the abode of witches, worshipers of the Black Man. Dark Tantra is a well known influence upon modern Satanism. In Tantric terms, the crag refers to Vulture Peak, the bird-shaped crag where the Buddha preached the sacred Lotus Sutra, intimately connected to the spirits of the dead.2
  • Remember Floris (Mary Kay Place), Dr. Lester’s assistant?3 Her name means “flower,” alluding to the Lotus Sutra. Remember all the sexually charged confusion which blooms around her.
  • Lotte (a nickname for Charlotte) means “little and womanly,” a suitable label for the sweet, ineffectual animal lover.4

You say the film is not intended as allegory? All this is sheer cooincidence? Right, and do you know that Herman Melville insisted all his life that Moby Dick was just a book about a whale?

Annoying bits

I was instantly annoyed by the unexplained notion, suddenly introduced late in the story, that each host is replaced exactly at age 44 and anyone possessing the new host at an early age will be trapped forever in its unconscious. This screamed “plot device,” telegraphing the end of the film to the audience. The screenwriter should have used a less artificial device: suggest some definite connection between the corruption of the host personality and the ability to possess it (for example, suggest it is made possible by manipulation of layers of anxiety and denial which build up in people over the years), but say nothing about the innocence of children. If this device had been used, the end would not have been anticipated; we would have discovered Craig’s mistake right along with him. The pool scene would have become much more terrifying as we became aware of the disintegration of Craig’s sanity in response to his helpless condition.

Every character but Charlie Sheen (Charlie Sheen) was unbelievably credulous. Everyone believed in the portal when first told about it. Kids, be honest. Is this how you reacted the first time someone told you something so bizarre, such as how babies were made?

Favorite bits

The puppetry. The 7½ floor of the Mertin-Fiemmer building. The New Jersey Turnpike. Lost in Malkovich’s unconscious. The pool scene.

Especially the pool scene.

Random thoughts

The bird has the best lines. Leslie Nielsen was not cast as Dr. Lester … maybe there is a God. And where do the bodies go?

Additional credits

Charlie Kaufman (screenplay); Lance Acord (cinematography); Phil Huber (puppets); Carter Burwell (music); K. K. Barrett (sets); Eric Zumbrunnen (editing); Brad Pitt and Sean Penn (cameos); Michael Stipe, Sandy Stern (production).

Summary

S. gives this movie a big three “thumbs” up.

Responses

submitted by () on Thursday, November 11, 1999 at 22:44:28

It WAS a whale …

It is a book.

it was just a fucking whale

Heard you the first time, you bar steward. Specifically it is a book about a fucking Sperm Whale. Think it’s cooincidence that the whale’s Christian name, Moby, is now slang for “immense” or “impressive” and its surname, Dick, is now slang for “penis?” S. advises that anyone who is not following this discussion quit bashing the bishop and look up the hard words in a dictionary. You might even discover creative expletives such as bally, blinking, and bloody. Bobs your uncle!

Endnotes

1. Malkovich quoted in Entertainment Weekly - Fall Movie Preview - Being John Malkovich - 8/13/99, (go Wayback). S. admits to envying the actor John Malkovich. Nobody pays S. to write like an asshole. (S.’s proof that bullshit is right, good and true: Six Billion Assholes Can’t Be Wrong.)

2. Additionally, Bob Schwartz, Tantra authority and author of The One Hour Orgasm (see Bibliography: S) or Craig Schwartz, Tantra Kriya Yoga teacher (see Turning The Feather Home (go Wayback) or Turning The Feather Home (go Wayback)) may have been known to the screenwriter.

3. SCRVPVLVS read a few critic’s reviews to prepare for this piece, the stupidest being the Cinephiles review by Yazmin Ghonaim (see Being John Malkovich: Cinephiles Movie Review). Besides missing the essential evil of the film (while babbling about “the literal invasion of one identity over another as a fictional phenomenon” and “existentialist metacomment about human existence as a unique experience preceded by and terminating in nothingness”), Ghonaim claims that “the secretary has a speech impediment and does not know it”. In truth, this hilarious running gag has the secretary failing to recognize her own hearing impediment, instead attributing the problem to speech impediments in everyone around her. S. wonders if Ghonaim based this review upon navel contemplation and remarks overheard in passing.

4. Let’s not leave out the name of the director, Spike Jonze—a contrived name alluding to Lindley “Spike” Jones (leader of the “City Slickers”, a novelty band in the mid-20th century). The director was born Adam Spiegel (“man mirror”). Or was he? Stare long at that name and you find only … yourself. Who really directed this film?

11/15/99 (revised 7/28/00, 5/10/02)

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Millennimania

by Scrvpvlvs

Our Christian calendar was invented by Romans, and SCRVPVLVS was therefore expected to know something about it.

S. was lately asked about those cracked pots who insist the new millennium begins, not 01/01/00, but a year later, 01/01/01. As you might expect, S. is one of those cracked pots. The 2000th Year, 200th Decade, 20th Century, and 2nd Millennium A.D. all end at the same moment the night of December 24, 2000 or December 31, 2000 depending on whether you are in church or not.1 In other words, Arthur C. Clarke got it right.2

so what?

Amen. And yet, understanding your calendar is a sign of an educated citizen. If you would be embarrassed by a spelling or math error, being caught in this mistake should embarrass you too.

how our calendar measures time

When the Christianized Romans invented our calendar, they did so to honor Jesus, and so they dated everything from the moment they believed Jesus was born. Thus December 25th In the First Year of Our Master (Anno Domini Primus, or commonly 1 A.D.) became the First Day of the Christian calendar,3 and each December 25th thereafter is the Christian New Years Day. Outside the church, each new year begins a few days later, on January 1. This variation is known as the common calendar, and is the calendar most of us know today.4

To measure longer time-spans than one year, the Romans grouped years together by tens. A decade is ten years long; a century is ten decades long; a millennium is ten centuries long. We still use the Latin words for these time-spans, and we number them from 1 just as we do days, months and years. Each Century of Our Master lasts a hundred years, and each Millennium of Our Master lasts a thousand years, so our Centuries and Millennia convert to Years this way:

Century Years
1st 1-100 A.D.
2nd 101-200 A.D.
3rd 201-300 A.D.
Millennium Years
1st 1-1000 A.D.
2nd 1001-2000 A.D.
3rd 2001-3000 A.D.

Our way of counting from 1 is the reason why the 20th Century spans 1901-2000 A.D. A hundred years ago we knew this; newspapers heralded the 20th Century in headlines on January 1, 1901 A.D. The Pope knows it; he declared the last year of the Second Millennium a “year of jubilee” and scheduled it to begin December 25, 1999 (the Christian New Year).

why we are a year early

This time, odometers and digital clocks are everywhere. People pay attention when their odometers roll over, and when their “digital chronometers” read 11/11 11:11:11. 12/31/1999 is like that. We want to watch the digits all roll over on the Big Odometer Of Life.

Threats of computer glitches add apprehension to the moment. When a badly written computer program is confronted by a date like 01/01/00, it will take it to mean 01/01/1900. If that was to be a credit card expiration date, or the day to replace a nuclear reactor coolant valve, you might find it inconvenient. On 01/01/2000, a lot of these little glitches are expected to happen wherever they have not already been fixed by teams of frantic programmers. S. fully expects a few tragedies to occur in some third-world countries.

And what’s to stop some aggressor from taking advantage by attacking that day when the target may hesitate a little more than usual to rule out false alarms? A new friend observes that stories of impending doom are expected to inspire unusual levels of violence in partiers the night of December 31, 2000 A.D. S. remembers that Detroit rioted and burned cars for no more reason than winning the World Series of baseball. The end of 1999 may be a great spectator sport.

Modern media and marketing have moved early to foment millennimania and capitalize before we lose interest. What savvy Mad Avenue agency or ratings-hungry “educational” cable channel will not invoke Millennium 3 now while it’s trendy? Countdown to 2000 clocks are popular toys these days, and have “millennium” written all over them. Business ridicules the controversy over dates. Naturally! It has an image to protect. Scholarship must have no power over ads and hype, lest the Emperor’s Butt be exposed.

bottom line

No pun intended. If the utilities, banks and Internet still work on January 1, 2000 A.D., S. thinks there’s cause to celebrate—just not the Turn of the Century, or the Millennium, quite yet. A few latecomer ad campaigns will push “real millennium” products for 01/01/01, but otherwise the 20th Century and 2nd Millennium will end largely unnoticed by any but priests and scholars. And SCRVPVLVS, if spared from the coming cataclysm.

Endnotes

1. See the CMS Frequently Answered Questions list (go Wayback) published by the Center for Millennial Studies.

2. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey.

3. The Christian calendar was proposed around 525 A.D. by Dionysus Exiguus.

4. In the Christian calendar, dates in the year before the birth of Jesus are In the First Year Before Christ (1 B.C.); the year before it, 2 B.C., and so on. In the Common calendar, the year of the birth of Jesus is the First Year of the Common Era (1 C.E.); the year before Jesus’ birth is the First Year Before the Common Era (1 B.C.E.); the year before it, 2 B.C.E., and so on.

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