The summer has been slow to come. Yes, we've had a
few warm days
now and then, but the big summer explosion hasn't happened as
yet in Central Europe, or did I miss something?
Anyway, I suggest we'd better look for some explosive summer experiences
ourselves, rather than waiting for the meteorologists to deliver. No,
I do not mean the FIFA
World Cup that currently, as I am preparing this page, takes place in South Africa.
the matches have been that explosive so far – we have been
talking more about referees' errors than about the matches themselves
– and in any case it's winter now in
South Africa. Instead, I have decided to dedicate this year's (hopefully)
Summer Bimonthly to two kinds of summer events that I find appealing; the first, because
it is top secret and truly explosive, and the second, because
it stands for one of the nicest ways to enjoy beautiful summer nights and moreover
is photographically rewarding.
The Top Secret Drum Corps You
may have heard about the Royal
Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which annually
unites some of the world's most outstanding military bands in a
festival of massed pipes and drums. It's the other big festival
that is now celebrated annually in the medieval setting of Edinburgh Castle
as part of the Edinburgh
addition to the better known Edinburgh
International Festival of performing arts, particularly classical music, opera, and ballet.
Taking place since 1950, the Edinburgh Tattoo is the oldest
and biggest event of its kind, with regularly over 200'000 visitors
and a total of some 12 million people having attended it in the
60 years since its inception.
to this tradition, the massed pipes and drums are often thought
of as a Scottish specialty, but in fact they are played in many
other countries, too. Thus it comes that one of the most enthusiastically
received bands that has ever performed at the Edinburgh Tattoo (in
2003, 2006, and 2009) is a Swiss band. For the larger public, though
not for the Military Tattoo aficionados, this band is still sort
of an insiders' tip, and perhaps that is why it chose to name itself
the Top Secret Drum Corps of Basle, Switzerland. Equally little
known, Basle has its own annual tattoo, the Basle
Tattoo, which is meanwhile the second largest annual event of
its kind. And of course, Top Secret is a regular
participant of the Basle event. Here they are, performing their
celebrated appearance on stage at the Edinburgh Tattoo of 2006:
For a hyperlinked overview of all issues
of "Ulrich's Bimonthly" and the previous "Picture of the
see the site map
I was editing these pictures, I found it fascinating to observe
the diverse structures that can evolve in the sky during the brief life
of each piece of firework. For instance, the first two pictures
somehow seem to capture the movement and energy of the Top Secret
Drum Corps in full swing. The third picture looks like a muted
drum roll preparing us for the next piece of firework, which
subsequently, in picture 4, explodes with a big bang.
This in turn brings up the new, evolutionary theme of the following pictures. In "Explosion 2
and 3" (pictures 5 and 6), the fireball's universe is starting to expand
into more complex structures. It's easy to imagine that in "Evolution 1"
(picture 7), particles, elements and basic molecules are forming. In "Evolution 2"
plant life is appearing. In "Evolution 3" (picture 9) the brain
of vertebrate animals and humans is beginning to evolve. In the
grand finale (picture 10), everything is fully developed and whole before collapsing
making room for the next evolutionary explosion.
imagery of explosion: big
bangs, big crunches, and big questions The photographs that I have
reproduced above made me see the aesthetics
of fireworks in a new way, as
an image of evolutionary processes in general. Firework
is like a metaphor of the "explosive" nature of the world
we live in. Images, as the word suggests, leave
room for imagination. Imagination in turn is an essential force that
can motivate creative thought and action. Good research can
hardly do without it, certainly not research into the origin and
evolution of the universe.
One of the deep mysteries in the
evolution of the universe,
as far as we can tell today, is that it all began with a hot explosion,
the so-called big bang, followed
by expansion and cooling down. This on-going process of expansion
may reverse in some distant future and turn into a subsequent
contraction and heating up (the big crunch); we can't
currently tell for sure, as the observed current expansion speed
of the universe is rather close to the critical speed required
for avoiding an eventual collapse due to gravity. Likewise,
if it should turn out that the universe will indeed collapse
one day, we can't really tell for sure whether this will be
the end of it all or rather, as it appears, the big crunch will
just complete an episode in an unending series of big bangs
and big crunches, with intermediate processes of cosmological
and (local, relatively rare) biological evolution.
Bang theory, which was first proposed by G. Lemaître
(1927 and 1931) on the basis of A. Einstein's (1915) general
relativity theory of gravity along with basic mathematical work
by A. Friedmann (1924), is now some 80 years old. Despite
many refinements, it remains the most widely recognized account
of the origin of the universe. It predicts that at some points in the current
expansion of the universe, regional conditions lead to the formation of galaxies,
stars and solar systems. It also allows for the development
of heavy chemical elements and complex molecules throughout
space and, at least on Earth, the development of organic compounds
and life – the beginning of biological, as distinguished
from cosmological, evolution. Biological evolution
bursts the theoretical framework of big-bang cosmology; interestingly
though, it equally appears to go through
"hotter" (explosive) and "cooler" (slow)
periods, in that at
some stages it may accelerate in an exponential, inflationary manner as
it did in the so-called
explosion of biological evolution on Earth (see, e.g., Franks et al., 2007;
Weis, 2007). We are also beginning to understand that both cosmological and biological evolution may over time
their own evolutionary conditions; "creation is continuously
creating itself." (Jantsch, 1975, p. xviii; cf. Jantsch,
all the insight we have gained into the processes of cosmological
and biological evolution,
the question remains of how we are to understand the beginning
of it all. How come there is such a thing as an evolving cosmos,
and why? I suspect we ultimately cannot explain the evolution of evolution
except by having recourse to some other, non-evolutionary concept.
That makes it understandable why evolutionary theory (somewhat
paradoxically) tends to end up with a counter concept such
as the big bang, as a sort of stop-gap
idea that is to explain the simultaneous coming into being of
matter and energy, space and time, and with them the possibility of evolution
in what physicists call spacetime, that is, a (minimally) four-dimensional
space-time continuum curved by the presence of matter/energy
(see, e.g., Hawkin and Penrose, 1996).
the big bang is conceived as a singular first explosion out of nothing
with which space and time, matter and energy first came to
or rather as an
infinite diversity of permanent local processes scattered throughout an
ever-existing cosmos, or perhaps as an endless accordion-like process of contraction
and expansion of the universe we know (and of other universes that
may exist but which we do not know), or in terms of some other kind of imagery
– the difficulty remains the same: we need some kind of "big bang" to explain
the origin of evolution, yet by referring to a big bang we also
establish a boundary beyond which empirical science cannot advance,
as nothing that may have happened before the big bang leaves
any trace that we might observe and analyze.
Still, common sense wonders how we are to explain the big bang
itself, if not by some previous
conditions and developments that, although by definition
we cannot know them, we may at least try to imagine?
trouble with the hot big bang model is the trouble with all
cosmology that has no theory of initial conditions: it
has no predictive power. Because general relativity would break
down at a singularity [i.e., in the state that initiates a big
bang], anything could come out of the big bang. So why is the
universe so homogeneous and isotropic [i.e., characterized
by the same 3ºK background radiation temperature throughout] on a large
scale, yet has local irregularities such as galaxies and stars?
And why is the universe so close to the dividing line between
collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? (Hawkin and Penrose,
1996, p. 89, explanations in brackets added).
it comes to this sort of issue, big-bang cosmology is a bit
like a snake biting its own tail. It raises big questions about the origin of evolution
that it cannot answer with its own means, the means of science.
As already Kant (1787, B454-488) demonstrated by means of his
famous antinomies of pure
reason, human reason (or as we have said above, the imagination
that motivates creative thought and inquiry)
has no way of telling us whether the world has a beginning and
end in space and time or, on the contrary, is infinite as regards
both time and space – there are reasonable arguments for either
possibility. Regardless of what the answer is, imagination supported
by what science and common sense tell us suggests to me that
"big bangs," whether they are first singularities
or returning states, universal or local, interact with evolutionary
processes in some mysterious and inextricable
ways to form the kind of universe that we, its own creatures,
are now exploring with the means of systematic thought and inquiry,
although its complete history is for ever beyond
our knowledge (for a thorough-going discussion, see Hawkin, 1988,
esp. chapters 3 and 8).
if to complicate things more, evolution (at least on
Earth) has brought forth human intelligence or what we take
for it, with its potential
for intervening (however marginally)
into the course of evolution. Whether we like it or not,
we are faced today with the responsibility of co-designing the
future course of evolution, at least as far as the small corner
of the universe that we call "the World" is concerned.
We must learn to understand the evolution of the planet and to
steer and regulate our human
affairs as its inhabitants in terms of the new ideal of design for evolution (Jantsch,
1975). In addition to the on-going cosmological and biological
evolution, we must advance our own socio-cultural evolution,
as a condition for preserving this world of ours. One of the big questions becomes, Can we learn to cultivate
the design way of handling human affairs, with a view
to creating a better world of ours (Nelson
and Stolterman, 2003)?
Bimonthly's picture: the cradle of evolution I
have come to see in fireworks a poetic image of the ways of
evolution: in some mysterious ways, the cradle of evolution lies in explosion,
yet it unfolds in beauty and is partly open to human design. The firework
captured in this Bimonthly's main picture below stands
for all these aspects: it is designed by humans; it begins
with an explosion; and its evolution is like an image of the
beauty and mystery of the creation of our universe. I could
not resist the temptation of naming my picture the cradle of evolution.
your summer evolve beautifully!
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Headline of a Reuters message of 9 Jan 2007, based on
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