Twelve Footnotes For Ian Monroe by Tom Morton
In 1936, the physicist Arthur Eddington calculated that the precise number of protons in the Universe is exactly:15, 747, 724, 136, 275, 002, 577, 605, 653, 181, 555, 468, 044, 717, 914, 527, 116, 709, 366, 231, 425, 076, 085, 631, 031, 296 (there are the same number of electrons).
In 1944, Eddington revised his calculation. The precise number of protons in the Universe is in fact: 11, 810, 793, 102, 206, 251, 933, 204, 240, 470, 886, 166, 601, 033, 470, 886, 166, 601, 033, 538, 435, 895, 337, 532, 024, 673, 568, 807, 139, 223, 273, 472 (it follows that in Eddington’s new calculation, there is an identical increase in the number of electrons).
Each of these two numbers is an image of the Universe. Subtract the first figure from the second, and what we get is the sum of elementary particles that remained invisible to Eddington for 8 long years. These digits, though, this matter, this image, was always there – hiding in plain sight.
‘It’s not good’, said Candy. ‘We I guess more or less don’t have a number anymore. Is that right?’
‘Well, you got line trouble,’ said Peter.
‘Right, which apparently means we don’t have a number any more, or rather we do, but so does like the whole rest of Cleveland, in that we now all of a sudden share a single number with all these other places. All these places that share our line tunnel. You know all these numbers we were just one off of, and we’d just get the wrong numbers all the time – Steve’s Sub, Cleveland Towing, Big B.M. Café, Fuss ‘n’ Feathers Pets, Dial-a-Darling? Well now they’re all like the same number. You dial their number, and the F and V number rings. Plus a whole lot of new ones: a cheese shop, some Goodyear service office, that Bambi’s Den of Discipline, which by the way gets a disturbing number of calls. We’ve all got the same number now. It’s nuts. Is that right what I said?’ she asked Peter Abbott. She got her stuff and got ready to leave, looking at her watch.
‘Yeah, line trouble,’ Peter Abbott said.’
- David Foster Wallace. The Broom of the System (1987).
‘The five principles of modern architecture laid down by Le Corbusier in 1920 can in fact be understood as means for attaining dematerialization. One example, the idea of eliminating the base, comes down to eliminating the gravity of the building that rests on the ground. All that is left is small piles that cause the volume to float, as it were. El Lissitzky also talked about the architecture of the future as something that needed to be freed from foundations. He conceived of pure geometric volumes in space, irrelevant to the climatic and terrestrial factors that usually condition architecture. When we consider Le Corbusier’s five principles, we realize that they originated in the economic and technical transformation of society, but also in an aesthetic transformation of a world in search of a kind of pure, and paradoxically very Hegelian, mind composed of perfect, abstract, geometrical forms. In a sense we are talking about objects detached from any context.’
- Philippe Rahm (in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist). Décosterd & Rahm: Architecture Physiologique (2002).
‘Laminate flooring is the hottest new product in floor covering in the United States. Europeans have been using it for over 20 years. It is installed over the top of the existing substrate and simply lies there. This has made it a natural for Europe and its older buildings. Plywood, concrete slab, sheet vinyl flooring, hardwood flooring, or virtually any other basically flat hard surface is suitable for a "floating" laminate installation. Indeed, this is a major reason why installation of laminated floors is so Do It Yourself friendly. (The word ‘floating’ or ‘float-in’ is a flooring term that means the new floor is not attached to the floor underneath).’
- Douglas Montague, www.selfbuild.co.uk (2005).
In the concourse of the railway station serving Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, an oblong, arrow-shaped sign hangs down from the ceiling, bearing the words ‘Meeting Point’. Beneath it is an empty patch of space. Some thoughts occur.
- Are there, elsewhere in the airport or the railway station, signs that point the way to this meeting point? If so, it is conceivable that one might arrange to meet somebody at one of these signs, rather than at the ‘Meeting Point’ sign itself.
- If such theoretical signs exist, it is probable that they, too, are arrow-shaped, or at least incorporate some sort directorial indicator into their overall design. If this is the case they might (with a minimum amount of spatial re-orientation, as little as 45 degrees) be employed as a temporary substitute for the existing ‘Meeting Point’ sign in the station concourse, were it be damaged, stolen etc. This would necessitate either moving the location of the meeting point, or moving one of these theoretical signs. In either scenario, it is certain that at least one new sign would need to be introduced into the system to ensure its functionality.
- If such theoretical signs (which are tautological, or at least infinitely exchangeable both for each other and for the sign to which they point) do not exist, the whole enterprise of the meeting point risks failure. Consider the following conversation:
‘Where should I meet you?’
‘Meet me at the meeting point’
‘Where is the meeting point?’
‘The meeting point is next to the café’
‘Where is the café?’
‘Oh, that’s easy. Just follow the signs’
The concourse’s café, of course, is distinct from any number of signs that read ‘café’. It also has seats.
‘Clinic Availability Information:
- Availability information is not available.
- Other information is not available.’
- www.nhs.com (2005)
‘For me space is where I can feel all four horizons’
- Barnett Newman (1962)
A tesseract, or hypercube, is a regular convex polychron with eight cubical cells. It can be thought of as a 4-dimesional analogue of the cube. Roughly speaking, the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to a square. In our 3-D world, we cannot perceive a tesseract, although we can represent its net (i.e. the unfolding of its cells into three dimensional space) in the form of a column composed of four cubes, with four additional cubes attached to the latitudinal facets of the cube second from the column’s top – in other words, as a shape not unlike a cross.
In Robert Heinlein’s short story And He Built a Crooked House (1940), an architect named Quintus Teal builds a house in Los Angeles based on the tesseract’s net. (A nearby billboard describes it as ‘later than television, newer than next week’). Following an earthquake, Teal’s creation is reduced to single Modernist cube, although its grounds are suspiciously free of rubble. Passing inside, the architect and his clients soon discover that the tremors have transformed the building into a genuine tesseract, and that they are now subject to its alien geometries, which lead them to glimpse New York through its windows, and their doppelgangers through its connecting doors. Stepping outside, they fetch up far way in the Joshua Tree National Forest. After a long trudge back to L.A., they discover that the building has vanished. Teal is sanguine, however, and remarks, ‘It must be on that last shock it simply fell through into another section of space. I can see now that I should have anchored it at the foundations’. One assumes that he will not install ‘float-in’ flooring in the next house that he designs.
‘But other questions come upon us. What is a man’s eye but a machine for the little creature that sits behind in his brain to look through? A dead eye is nearly as good as a living one for some time after the man is dead. It is not the eye that cannot see, but the restless one that cannot see through it. Is it a man’s eyes, or is it the big seeing-engine which has revealed to us the existence of worlds beyond worlds into infinity? What has man made familiar with the scenery of the moon, the spots of the sun, or the geography of the planets? He is at the mercy of the seeing-engine for these things, and is powerless unless he tack it on his own identity, and make it part and parcel of himself. Or, again, is it the eye, or the little see-engine, which has shown us the existence of infinitely minute organisms which swarm unsuspected around us?’
- Samuel Butler, Erewhon (1872)
- Weak Anthropic Principle: ‘Our location in the Universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers’ (Bob Dicke, 1961).
- Strong Anthropic Principle: ‘The Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must be as such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage’ (Brandon Carter, 1974).
- Participatory Anthropic Principle: ‘Observers are necessary to bring the Universe into being’ (John Wheeler, 1975).
- Final Anthropic Principle: ‘Intelligent information-processing must come into existence in the Universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will never die out’ (John Barrow and Frank Tipler, 1986).
‘For those who, like ourselves, are convinced that architecture is one of the few ways to realize cosmic order on earth, to put things to order and above all confirm humanity’s capacity for acting according to reason, it is a ‘moderate utopia’ to imagine a near future in which all architecture will be created with a single act, from a single design capable of clarifying once and for all the motives which have induced man to build dolmens, menhirs, pyramids, and lastly to trace (ultima ratio) a white line in the desert.’
- SUPERSTUDIO, The Continuous Monument: An Architectural Model for Total Urbanization (1969)
Can we put the concept of Utopia to bed?