Things seen from an unusual and enlightening point of view. Things that deepen understanding and perception.

The title is reputedly what the intellectual swashbuckler and psychological pioneer William James found he had written down during a drug-induced revelation of ultimate truth: “Overall there is a smell of fried onions”.

In his essay “Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide” he wrote:

“only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at a cadaverous-looking snow peak from which sunset glow has just fled, or at a black cinder left by an extinguished brand.”


We descend from ecstasy to the ordinary world as if “Whatever goes up, must come down” applied equally to airplanes and inspiration. Emotionally and psychologically it is as if Newtonian physics rules our inner lives. If there is a version of gravity in there I think it’s the inevitable return to the linguistic/rational level of human reality where we conduct all our business with each other. The human mind surfaces here when submerged and re-lands here after being elevated. This is the homeostatic balance of our kind, the default neurological coordinates of return from highs and lows. Notice that highs and lows aren’t being critically evaluated, merely suppressed as not conducive to social intercourse. The default settings for humanity are designed to function as the center of a common Venn chart, an area where we all overlap despite other differences.

This realm of normal life is completely dominated by words and concepts as if they were the fundamental atomic forces and structure here. Concepts and words (within a general logic framework) are everything here from the solid ground to a breathable atmosphere. The human community is contained within this verbal\conceptual structure but only a few even recognize its existence: Water isn’t perceived by the fish. Within this domain, we don’t usually feel limited or cramped but only realities that can be sealed inside words or concepts can exist here. These can be considered, shared and exchanged, but only, like a nerd’s action figures, if still sealed in the original container. Flatland is a reality composed of things with no objective reality, it is equally Plato’s Cave and Keanu’s Matrix.

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Flyby of Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko:
The ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft launched in 2004 and chased the comet across millions of miles of space. It arrived in 2014. The “snow” is dust and ice, the white streaks are cosmic rays hitting the camera’s sensor. The cliff in the background is thousands of feet tall. Rosetta studied the comet for 2 more years before being crashed on purpose. The comet orbits the sun every 6.5 years between the orbits of Earth and Jupiter.


Long-playing record with the needle.

Popcorn Popping at 30,000 FPS.

View of the Sarychev Volcano erupting in Russia, seen from the International Space Station.




Euler’s disk, (pronounced ‘Oiler’) which can spin for an absurdly long time, and seemingly defy gravity by increasing its axial precession as it decreases its azimuthal rotation. It appears to break physical laws (it doesn’t) but it truly shatters expectations.



The Signal to Noise Ratio

  1. Formal: the ratio of the strength of an electrical or other signal carrying information, to that of interference, generally expressed in decibels.
  2. Informal: a measure of how much useful information there is in a system, such as the Internet, as a proportion of the entire contents.

Signal is meaning detected against a background of meaninglessness, or Noise. This is something you and I never stop doing. You are doing it to read this on the screen and doing it again more subtly to decide whether I’m full of crap, then more subtly still, to decide if you care one way or the other. Our need to discern is endless. An animal using stealth or mimicry to catch prey or to escape becoming prey is imitating noise. Detecting signal can easily be a matter of life and death. Continue reading