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Whole Thing's Brighton Beach You Fool. . .

Thursday 13th September, bright and clear again. Spiders rule in the garden, over weary leaves, dusty earth. It's autumn already, hard and dry; despite a splash of a downpour yesterday. Late at night, in the landing window, brilliant stars: Orion has returned to look in on us, and high in the sky straight above a very bright, golden planet, must be Jupiter I guess? We have a house guest, provided by Milo, who sneaked upstairs yesterday with a woodpigeon in his jaws. Peter to the rescue, tho' possibly more concerned about the bloody and grotesquely struggling remains we might have detected under our bed later in the evening. He called me to help him despatch the wounded (sorry, but we weren't planning to rush her to the vets: there are a real lot of them nowadays, due to all the year round farming): but though her beak was bloodied her eye was bright, head up, wings and body seeming sound. . . Mallet attack canceled, she's now, adult female, no discernable injuries, bill no longer bleeding, roosting in a dark amazon box, with a bowl of strong honey water. She's been eating berries recently, I can tell you that. She's remarkably calm. Recovering? Maybe. . . She may yet keel over and die from septacemia, infected by cat-saliva (that's what cat-attack birds die of, according to the wildlife rescue gurus available via a well-known search engine)

During my extended summer break I couldn't help noticing a few significant science and technology news items: and was struck by the gentle resemblance between the most beautiful of Curiosity's first colour pics:

and the abstract-dunescape screensaver that still adorns (mostly, I'm afraid) the cuts-induced advertising slot frontage of the Phoenix Gallery on the Steine: Things we believe we've purely imagined are strangely congruent with realities we are convinced we have detected: of course they are. Our dreams are constructed from our realities; the realities having been constructed, directly or indirectly, by the same neurons, the same cascade of refining filters as the dreams. How can we be sure that's really Mars, and not a digital camera's artistic impression? How can we be sure that's really what a T cell looks like? See Donna Harraway, Situated Knowledges).

We can be sceptical about technoscience. We can't escape from the circularity of all our image-gathering, all our information gathering. We can only keep on constructing, asking, is this right?, knowing the only answer we'll ever get is the elliptical, unreliable it's working. I thought of this predicament of consciousness when the Higgs Boson finally popped out of the experiments (a timely celebrity appearence, the audience was beginning to get restive). I've had the Higgs on my mind, on and off, since I first read about it circa 1986, and began to think about the mind/matter barrier. Electrons are not things, as Niels Bohr seems to have said, or maybe Dirac. The *** particle isn't a thing, either, nor is the Higgs Field material. Yet both can be pursued and interrogated; forced to answer that question, it seems, by the most outragously massive (pun intended) machinery. If the barrier between mind and matter actually becomes porous, at these fantastic energies, doesn't that mean that at some level it's porous all the time, and isn't that a truly game-changing idea? Or thing. Fiction ensued.

Best piece I read on the Higgs affair was an interview with Peter Higgs, published in New Scientist (21st July), where I came upon his "snappy one-liner" to explain the Higgs Mechanism. "Somewhat like the refraction of light through a medium": an image of great beauty, beautifully intuitive and beautifully congruent. You'll have noticed that the keynote image isn't strictly a tree. It's the Hadron Kaleidoscope, of course (I've traced that story back to the Sydney National Times, 12th July. Anyone spotted it earlier?). I have fallen in love with the Hadron Kaleidoscope. Is there a petition to insist that CERN changes the name of the great torus? Where do I sign?

Oh, and junk DNA isn't junk. Okay. But isn't that revelation as old as the Higgs word itself?


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