re: Hippy physicist Nick Herbert

Horgan: You were in the right place at the right time. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from psychedelics?

Herbert: How many radically different kinds of consciousness can a person experience (including ego loss) without actually dying? That consciousness is a more fundamental mystery than physics, if one were only smart enough to ask the right questions.

Via Scientific American

re: the concept of animal aesthetics

I learned that all of Prum’s peers are well aware of his work and that many already accept some of the core tenets of his argument: namely that natural and sexual selection are distinct processes and that, in at least some cases, beauty reveals nothing about an individual’s health or vigor…Like the glistening scales on the surfperch and swordtails that Cummings studied, the túngara’s costly mating call did not evolve to convey any pragmatic information about health or fitness. But that doesn’t mean that these traits were arbitrary. They were the result of specific, discernible aspects of the animals’ environments, anatomy and evolutionary legacy…Beauty reveals that evolution is neither an iterative chiseling of living organisms by a domineering landscape nor a frenzied collision of chance events. Rather, evolution is an intricate clockwork of physics, biology and perception in which every moving part influences another in both subtle and profound ways.

Ferris Jabr here via NYT (Sunday) Magazine

re: Donna Haraway

The cyborg point of view is shaped in part by social movements around labor, race, gender, sexuality and indigenous rights. The cyborg point of view is shaped in part by the sciences, by struggles to produce objective knowledge of the world, complete with substitutions transposed into it from the dominant forms of organization.

The cyborg point of view has at least one other component: the point of view of the apparatus itself, of the electrons in our circuits, the pharmaecuticals in our bloodstreams, the machines that mesh with our flesh.

via McKenzie Wark at Public Seminar

the Committee to Abolish Outer Space

Once the cosmos was thought to be painted on the veil of the firmament, or to be some kind of divine metaphor, a flatness inscribed with thousands of meaningful stories. Since then it’s become outer space, a grotesque emptiness. Space is a site of desecration, an emptiness in which one moves, and moving into space means closing down any chances for Earth. C.A.O.S. is not interested in setting up limits. We want to create a future, not one of tin cans dodging rocks in a void, but a future for human life. To do this we must abolish outer space with all its death and idiocy, and return the cosmos to its proper domain, which is mythology, so that when we look up it will be in fear and wonder, and the knowledge that we live in a world that is not possible.

From back in 2015 via The New Inquiry

re: Archaea, HGT, endosymbiosis, Ford Doolittle et al.,

Margulis argued that the cells constituting every creature in the more complex divisions of life—every human, every animal, every plant, every fungus—are chimerical things, assembled with captured bacteria inside nonbacterial receptacles. Those particular bacteria, over vast stretches of time, have become transmogrified into cellular organs. Imagine an oyster, transplanted into a cow, that becomes a functional bovine kidney. This seemed crazy when Margulis proposed it in 1967. But she was right about the matter, mostly.

An excerpt from David Quammen’s latest book, via Lit Hub

R.I.P. Ursula K. Le Guin



The form of the book is a mosaic of primary sources, an interstellar ethnographer’s notebook, ranging from matter-of-fact journal entries to fragments of alien myth. Writers as diverse as Zadie Smith and Algis Budrys have cited The Left Hand of Darkness as an influence, and Harold Bloom included it in The Western Canon

via a John Wray, Paris Review interview

Back in 2015 Motherboard published “one of Le Guin’s political essays.” An excerpt/version of her Foreword for a new (at the time) collection of Murray Bookchin essays, The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy which provide “the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it.

For the New Yorker, biographer Julie Phillips explains

Le Guin never stopped insisting on the beauty and subversive power of the imagination. Fantasy and speculation weren’t only about invention; they were about challenging the established order.