Thursday, August 4, 2016

#217 / I've Looked At Clouds That Way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall 
I really don't know clouds at all

The animated image at the top of this posting is from the online version of an article in The New York Times Magazine, "How an Archive of the Internet Could Change History." 

The "history" being talked about in the title is the stories and explantations of the past that are presented by historians ("history"), not the historical events themselves. The point Jenna Wortham makes in her article is that the permanent preservation of all of the various items of information currently available on the Internet would provide future historians with such an overabundance of information that the historical record would no longer be "a handful of voices, but a cacophony."

Wortham suggests that the "reality" that historians seek to convey, about particular places, times, and events, demands that this cacophony be acknowledged; perhaps even celebrated. History will never be an accurate portrait, she says, if the depiction by the historian presents only "one" perspective, selected to illuminate what the historian presenting it has decided is the tale worth telling. 

Quoting Jordan Cotler, a graduate student in Physics at Stanford University, Wortham advances the idea that “our best description of the past is not a fixed chronology but multiple chronologies that are intertwined with each other. We’ve long known that this is how human history works — an unimaginable number of small stories, compressed into one big one. But maybe now we finally have the ability to record and capture them all."

Cotler, the physics graduate student, has elaborated a theory in quantum mechanics called “entangled histories.” Cotler and his coauthors argue that "the existence of a particle in space is fractured along many alternate timelines, all of which must be considered [if we are truly] to understand the full chronology of its life cycle."

We are "entangled" in history, in other words. That's what Wortham is saying. 

That seems about right!

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