I am in love.

Let me clarify.  Sir Oliver Lodge and John Tyndall are men I continue to return to, continue to be fascinated with.  Thanks to a delay at work, I have had several hours to return to a book (haphazardly and luckily thrown in my bag this morning) about the life of Lodge. 

Reading biographies always makes me re-evaluate my own life.  I’d never heard of Lodge before I began this strange pursuit of ether science.   Now I find myself reading about his life and feeling like I stumble into old friends.  

Because I have the time, here is my history with Lodge:

I stumbled on Sir Walter Rayleigh’s scattering principle while looking for a way to structure my thesis.  He charted observations of the blue sky, and the resulting image looked like the graceful arc of iris petals.  I wanted to understand why, and so I began to look into refraction and reflection, which led me to John Tyndall.  Within his transcriptions from his light lectures Tyndall talked about the humours of the eye (poem inspired is available upon request) and the ether of the sky.  As anyone who has accidently asked me what I’ve been working on can attest, I haven’t been the same since.  I know more about ether than anyone ought to–and I’m beginning to move into dark matter.  But that’s another topic.

In reading (and reading and reading) about ether, I continue to run into the same names.  This isn’t strange, but what does strike me is how often I run into the same names in different contexts.  A few weeks ago my cousin gave us tickets to Bone Portraits, a play about Edison and X-Rays.  Roentgen was one of the characters, and in reading about Lodge today, there was Roentgen.  Lodge worked with telegraphy at the same time as Marconi, but I would hazard a guess that more people would recognize the Italian.  He corresponded with J. J. Thompson (later Lord Kelvin) and had dinners with H. G. Wells.  Men whose names I remember from science class years ago inhabit these pages, but I can’t remember hearing about Lodge before two years ago.  He seems to be relegated to the “and others” part of most descriptions. 

Who will be the names remembered from the communities (scientists, artists, musicians) now, and who will become “and others”? It is an exercise in futility to project into the future who will be remembered from the past.  Creating is always an attempt at immortality, and some will succeed.  I want to say that Lodge failed, but even that isn’t really true.  I know about him now, and so do you.  Ask me about his theories and his life, and I will tell you more.  This is what I do for love.


Icy World

Normally I keep my posts here in the realm of literature, but I will stray a bit here.  Though it ties back to a book.  

There are many things a bit wonky about the Museum of Flight.  Each typo I see hurts a bit, and I hear that signage throughout the museum can tend towards inaccurate.  One of the top issues I take, however, is about a cold little planet.  Ex-planet.  Planet according to us: the video in the theater Pluto is still #9.  Today in the NY Times this opinion piece caught my eye.

Science can shift quickly, and I do think it’s the responsibility of museums and schools to stay up to date with what we tell children.  At the Museum of Flight, we promise education and then inform patrons with something that’s been inaccurate since 2001, even if it only had consensus a year and a half ago.  We should at least be telling of the Pluto debate, and providing information similar to the Pluto plaque.  I see so many kids come through the MoF, and I know that most of them are running from plane to plane with only the bright colors and possibility of guns in mind.  But there have to be some that are hungry for information, and there we are, telling them something inaccurate.  

Maybe that’s why I’m still hooked on ether.  The science is wrong, but it has been acknowledged to be wrong.  It has the veil of history over it, and no one is trying to convince a ten year old that the lumniferous ether transmits light through the void of space.  Or passively providing information and letting someone walk away without mentioning the historical context of what was provided.  

The more time I spend outside of education, the more I want to stand in front of a classroom again.  I can feel myself launching into teacher-mode when I’m at work; rambling off the littlie information I know about planes simply to be sharing something with another person.  Most often the words bubble around and fall a bit flat- no one is interested in listening so much as climbing into the flight simulator and making it do loops.  

I’m not going to take over control of MoF, and I wouldn’t really want to.  I’m sure there are plenty of other museums that also say Pluto is planet #9, and I just happen to be at one of them.  Perhaps it’s like a dictionary: the standard for languages but the last place that active words end up.  It’s only lag time, and I happen to be in the same between Pluto as planet and non-planet.  Silly strange place to be in.

of language

Brambles at the mailbox

The mailbox sky minus the crows

At the end of an errands run, as I walked back to my aunt’s house, I saw quite the murder of crows above me.  More and more flew above, streaking the sky black and headed to a cardinal direction I ought to know but don’t. [I find myself easily lost, headed west when I should go north, finding the ocean at my back when I meant to dip into it. ]  At the tangle of brambles and berries on the triangle of land by the mailboxes a woman and a little boy peered both up and forward.  She was more captivated by the birds, he by the bushes.  I’m not sure if they were picking berries,  but that’s what it seemed like.  As I picked up the mail the woman said “They’ve been flying above for the past ten minutes, I don’t know where they’re going.”  Though she was probably talking to the little boy, I answered yes, they had been and that I’d been watching them for a while as I walked.  She smiled at me, but I felt like I’d interrupted.  As I walked away I heard the boy saying “Crow. Want me to tell you the Latin root?”

I find it frustrating that I don’t know more languages.  I have a smattering of French, a bit of Itallian, and I can fake my way through Spanish text, but I’m at a loss at truly understanding a language besides English.  Though I’ve felt the loss of language, it was most poignant when I read an article that my mother gave me for my birthday: The Vital Heat, The Inborn Pneuma and the Aether.  The article is bound with blue paper and has been cut out of whatever journal it came from, so the only citation I can give is that it is written by Friedrich Solmsen, from Cornell University, sometime after 1948.  In it, Solmsen quotes direct sources without translating.  “Πασης μεν ουν ψυχης…” and so forth.  Though of course even this is a mis-translation, ignoring accent marks that I’m sure change the entire meaning of words.  He uses phrases such as “clearly,” and “as shown by” without making much clear or shown.  The fault is not his, but my own.  

I want to know texts, and know them in their original form.  Translations can be beautiful, but something is lost.  Of course, one can argue that someting is gained as well, that the text becomes a collage instead of an ink drawing.  There are layers of translated text, translator, original author; text that is made of the cracks, crevices, platueas and mountains that occur when two languages are asked to combine and convey the same thing.  

In this way, the journal projects I work on are like translations of text.  Growing out of multiple locations, the texts ideally begin to weave together and create something that, alone, would be impossible.



I can’t leave ether/aether behind.  With my three library cards in hand, I’ve checked out several books again.  A History of the theories of Aether and Electricity, Vol 1 and 2, Sir Edmund Whittaker (1951), Nineteenth-Century Aether Theories,  Kenneth F. Schaffner (1972), and Modern Aether Science, Harold Aspden (1972).  And I keep looking for more and more.  As much as I can find on an archaic topic with little relevance to modern life.  

But it isn’t true, the irrelevance.  

The science may be outdated, but desire is never outdated.  I think I am intrigued by ether because of its hope. There are spaces that are filled with something, everything connected by minute bits.  I get lonely easily, and the idea of something filling the emptiness of space is alluring.  I like the idea that I can touch air and through that touch more than air; touch the connected force that ebbs and flows, that pulses and vibrates, that is against your skin too.

I want more than is possible, and I can pour this excess into ether, into my search through old books, reading words of men who are long dead.  How appalled they might be with what I am doing, but that’s text for you; a medium easily mimeographed and transformed.