Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Faaip De Oiad (?)

Saturn's polar hexagon was first glimpsed by Voyagers 1 and 2 over 20 years ago, but the Cassini probe has sent back this beautiful, brand new, thermal image photograph. NASA's statement:

“This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides,” said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We’ve never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn’s thick atmosphere where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you’d expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is.”

The hexagon is similar to Earth’s polar vortex, which has winds blowing in a circular pattern around the polar region. On Saturn, the vortex has a hexagonal rather than circular shape. The hexagon is nearly 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it.

The new images taken in thermal-infrared light show the hexagon extends much deeper down into the atmosphere than previously expected, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) below the cloud tops. A system of clouds lies within the hexagon. The clouds appear to be whipping around the hexagon like cars on a racetrack.

“It’s amazing to see such striking differences on opposite ends of Saturn’s poles,” said Bob Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, University of Arizona, Tucson. “At the south pole we have what appears to be a hurricane with a giant eye, and at the north pole of Saturn we have this geometric feature, which is completely different."

Baines was also quoted by the Discovery Channel, "it's ubelievable...perplexing...a bizarre pattern".
Why should NASA be stunned? Should there be no organizing principles in the universe? We already have those though. Should our lifeless mathematical formulae be just that, equations that are utterly meaningless? As if these equations "arose from nothing, in a single instant, for NO reason". For scientists like Baines, it is simply some cosmic accident, a simple but bizarre "pattern", which will hopefully be explained away. There is no room for the mystery. But accidental causation does not preclude its significance, as I have argued elsewhere. Again, refer to the symbolic history of humankind, the vast universe of pattern and reference.
Notions of meaning, "the sacred", or intelligence of any kind, and immediately the wolves come out. For me, this hexagonal structure makes perfect sense. There is a reason temples are built with geometric or stellar orientations, one that is completely divorced from airy notions about "G-d". This is why the dark matter problem seems to ridiculous to me. There is no real split, just tenuous points of contact between the rational and the inconceivable that are continuously worked out of our cosmic myth. Hence, NASA's confusion.

Link to MSNBC story


Anonymous dejan said...

j I'm not sure I know a lot about chaos theory, but doesn't chaos theory postulate patterns existing under obvious paradox and total fragmentation, the implication being that every chaos is perfectly ordered - structurally?

1:39 AM  
Blogger J. said...

are you suggesting that chaos theory could possibly explain away the pattern?

I know some about chaos...not enough to say anything definitive. from what I understand, the entire cosmos is patterned in that theory. paradox and fragmentation coincide with order and structure, and in fact give rise to the latter. fractal geometry is a perfect example...self similar images across scales. but the patterned iterations of chaotic systems are dependent on an attractor of some kind, in my view, the singularity.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous dejan said...

No I was just responding to this:

Should our lifeless mathematical formulae be just that, equations that are utterly meaningless? As if these equations "arose from nothing, in a single instant, for NO reason

by saying that fractal model to my knowledge reveals that nothing is really chaotic, even as it may appear that way

6:18 AM  
Blogger J. said...

i would agree with that interpretation. the systems chaos theory describes are apparently chaotic indeed, but from that arises some kind of form recognizable to human consciousness.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous dejan said...

i think you're in the right spirit now to see INLAND EMPIRE, where the fractal structure (borrowed from the Tibetan Book of the Dead) is especially interesting

6:35 AM  

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