View Full Version : On the nature of nothingness

09-03-2014, 10:48 AM
"A highly unpleasant idea, but one that has been accepted by scientists over the last couple of centuries, is that we human beings, and all living beings, are completely material."

My Own Personal Nothingness - Issue 16: Nothingness - Nautilus (http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/my-own-personal-nothingness)

09-03-2014, 12:39 PM
I just realized chemistry is the pervasive shadow that causes things to be what they would not be, and physics is the all-moving darkness that makes things do what they would not do :eek:

09-03-2014, 02:02 PM
The Michelson-Morley experiment back in the 1880's seemed to prove the ether didn't exist. Lovecraft had a decent knowledge of science and knew that; but one suspects the poetic quality of the ether was too great to discard. In "The Whisperer in Darkness" we read that the Mi-Go navigate the spaces between the stars by riding the ether with their great membranous wings. Fritz Leiber brilliantly updated this in the 60's by hypothesizing the Mi-go rode the solar winds.
But it gets a bit more complicated.
Wilhelm Reich believed the Michelson-Morley experiment only disproved a static ether. Reich believed "the cosmic ocean" wasn't stationary and that the experiment was doomed to fail. Reich managed to pull Einstein into this by showing him the temperature differences in an orgone accumulator which collected the ether (the orgone) according to Reich. The differences were minuscule but undeniable and Einstein was stumped. At some point one of Einstein's assistant's suggested thermal conductivity caused this unexplainable phenomena. Reich wasn't buying it and in fairness there were problems with that theory. The correspondence between Reich and Einstein has been published and is quite interesting.

Dr. Locrian
09-03-2014, 02:12 PM
Coincidentally, just yesterday I was reading Arthur Conan Doyle's novella, "The Poison Belt" (available here in its entirety (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/126/126-h/126-h.htm)).

It concerns the earth moving through a bad patch of ether, and the consequences of that celestial catastrophe through the eyes of the cast of Doyle's "The Lost World."

"The Poison Belt" has its cheesy and insipid qualities, but it's got some great bits too... And it's an epic, apocalyptic, mass human/animal extinction story... written in 1913.

"You will conceive a bunch of grapes," said he, "which are covered by some infinitesimal but noxious bacillus. The gardener passes it through a disinfecting medium. It may be that he desires his grapes to be cleaner. It may be that he needs space to breed some fresh bacillus less noxious than the last. He dips it into the poison and they are gone. Our Gardener is, in my opinion, about to dip the solar system, and the human bacillus, the little mortal vibrio which twisted and wriggled upon the outer rind of the earth, will in an instant be sterilized out of existence."

"...man may have been a mere accident, a by-product evolved in the process. It is as if the scum upon the surface of the ocean imagined that the ocean was created in order to produce and sustain it, or a mouse in a cathedral thought that the building was its own proper ordained residence."

09-03-2014, 02:22 PM
Doyle certainly seems to have had a Cosmic viewpoint in "The Poison Belt"! I suspect it may have been somewhat influenced by Shiel's Purple Cloud?
It's interesting that Doyle, like Lovecraft, continued to use the ether years after science and Einstein had discarded it.

btw, I wonder what Reich would make of Dark Matter?

09-03-2014, 07:07 PM
Blow me down. I was about to impetuously post that I thought the Michelson-Morley experiment was much later than the 1880s, but upon checking my (erroneous) hunch I see the Tyger is quite right (as usual!).

Dark Matter's an interesting thing. My understanding is that it's wholly theoretical and is posited, at present, solely as a means of bolstering up the current scientifically accepted cosmological model. Which means, of course, it could disappear at any moment.

Much like the ether did.

Or as did the last scientifically accepted cosmological model prior to this one.

I wonder what Lovecraft would have made of the Big Bang had he been around long enough to see that theory finally gain acceptance? I'm sure had he come across Georges Lemaitre's ideas in the 30s he'd have denounced him as a deluded Catholic fruitcake.

Mark S.

09-03-2014, 07:53 PM
Thanks for your generosity, Mark.

Actually as far as dates go, you were probably thinking of Einstein dealing a "death blow" to the ether with his Special Theory of Relativity around the middle of the first decade of the Twentieth Century.

Regarding your comment on how Dark Matter (which I find fascinating) is a hypothesis dictated by expediency--exactly. If Einstein hadn't fudged his equation it would have predicted an expanding universe. Ouch. In later years that must have hurt, but at the time an expanding universe was an embarrassment and he happened to have a way to remove it. Perhaps Dark Matter will suffer the same fate.

09-03-2014, 08:33 PM
Was there a later experiment that definitely confirmed the M-M theory? An occultation, or something like that, that HPL mentioned? Perhaps I was thinking of him referring to it in that connection.

There was something, too, related to Dark Matter, called Dark Flux that was all the vogue fairly recently. But I think that may have been discarded by now. Not 100% sure though.

Mark S.

09-03-2014, 08:46 PM
Was there a later experiment that definitely confirmed the M-M theory? An occultation, or something like that, that HPL mentioned? Perhaps I was thinking of him referring to it in that connection.\\Mark S.

I wouldn't be surprised but for now I'm drawing a blank. There's a wealth of information in Lovecraft's letters that's for sure. I think the Michelson-Morley experiment was done twice--I think--but I believed it was all in the 1880's. Maybe not.

09-03-2014, 09:01 PM
I've got it all mixed-up. I'm thinking of HPL citing the experiment vis a vis the solar eclipse in 1922 that confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Mark S.

09-03-2014, 09:04 PM
Einsteins Theory of Relativity Proven in Australia, 1922 | Inside the collection - Powerhouse Museum (http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/insidethecollection/2012/08/einsteins-theory-of-relativity-proven-in-australia-1922/)

Mark S.

09-03-2014, 09:11 PM
When HPL writes of the star winds he's referring, of course, to the ether wind. That's what the M-M experiment was trying to detect. The ether (it was believed) was stationary but matter passing through it --the earth or a beam of light--could disturb it and create an ether wind. Lorentz had a theory of the aether that was very close to Special Relativity.

I always thought the "star winds" was a great evocative phrase.

09-03-2014, 09:23 PM
"Madness rides the star-wind ... claws and teeth sharpened on centuries of corpses ... dripping death astride a bacchanale of bats from night-black ruins of buried temples of Belial ..." The Hound, HPL

The star-winds are certainly sweeping through both our attuned neuron-waves on this night of nights amidst desolate cosmic eternities!

Mark S.

09-03-2014, 09:33 PM
The Hound seems to have evolved into the Mi-go (riding on their great wings through interstellar space!)...and the Mi-go were among Lovecraft's greatest creations. I first read the Whisperer in a little farm house not greatly unlike Akeley's homestead) in the woods of NE Pa. I was about 15. My Dad owned the little place and I still have it today. Great setting for that tale. I also read In the Vault and The Picture in the House there. No wonder my sanity is shaken.