A perfect exposition of science fiction, Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics is a tender and dreamlike weaving of stories that touch upon the sheer wonder both the universe and consciousness itself. Calvino begins each story with an established scientific conjecture, thereafter placing an anthropomorphic and wildly fictitious annotation of the universe at various stages or for lack of a better word, times. Narrating from entities personified through equations and representations, predominantly through the central character Qfwfq, Calvino wistfully describes the universe through fleeting instances of love, attraction, loss, creation and change.
The stories range from the concrete to the fluid, including a time when reaching the moon is as simple as climbing a ladder, the astronomical paranoia induced from simple messages sent from distant observers and millennia, where a dinosaur ponders the significance, perhaps even the power of its own extinction, to the familial colloid particles, uncertain of their new inertia, being torn apart in the creation of matter and planets. Though all have a human feel, it is a joyous exposition of the unfathomable, alien events we cannot ponder enough.
The sentience that Calvino gives to the entities persisting and changing throughout Cosmicomics is an appreciation not only of the scientific beauty of the universe, but of the beauty of his fiction.
The University of Nottingham is definitely on to something. What with their wildly popular and scientastic Periodic Table of Videos, it looks as if they’ve unveiled a new venture that’s rampaging through the Interweaves. It’s called Sixty Symbols, “a channel devoted to those funny letters and squiggles used by physicists and astronomers.”
As evidenced by the rejuvenated popularity of Star Trek, I think people’s minds are melding to the idea that the 21st century is more about learning than it is about greed. Huzzah.
It’s an easy speculation to say that without humans, the earth will restore, recleanse, rectify itself. Indeed, in his book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman repeatedly hints to the reader that the world doesn’t need us as much as we need it. But Weisman goes beyond the obvious implication and details just how incredibly short-sighted we humans have been in just a brief time on this planet.
Weisman thoroughly stresses home the point that despite our tendencies toward toxicity, life will indeed find a way, whether it be millennia or billennia. There are a whole lot of ideas to take away from this thought experiment, for example the futility of our marvelous infrastructure once we are no longer around to monitor it; what will happen when wonders like the Chunnel, the Panama Canal, our volatile oil refineries and nuclear reactors/repositories as well as our subways have no one to flip the off switch or close the valve? How will the unmeasurable amount of polymers (plastic) dumped in our oceans annually begin to degrade, and what are the hopes of a hungry microbe that evolves the ability to feed on them?
Of the many thought provoking speculations and projections Weisman so meticulously researches and thoughtfully relates, he proposes the irony that the realization of our collective death may just perhaps contribute to the saving of ourselves. Interviewing the organizer of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, and yes it it’s a real organization, he postulates that if humans were really serious about curbing overpopulation, thereby eliminating juvenile delinquency among other issues, we might just have an epiphany:
…spiritual awakening would replace panic, because a dawning realization that as human life drew to a close, it was improving. There would be more than enough to eat, and resources would again be plentiful, including water. The seas would replenish. Because new housing wouldn’t be necessary, so would forests and wetlands.
…Like retired business executives who suddenly find serenity by tending a garden, Knight envisions us spending our remaining time helping rid an increasingly natural world of unsightly and now useless clutter, in pursuit of which we’d once swapped something alive and lovely.
As improbable it may be that people would go to such extremes or even somehow suddenly become extinct, Weisman’s book is an ambitious and enlightening experiment that brings us closer to acknowledging our impact upon and responsibility to the world, while we’re still with it.