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The knowledge universe may be experienced as static (unchanging, discussed above) or dynamic (changing, even evolving), or as a mixture of both. From any particular perspective, change may be perceived to occur within the knowledge universe, especially after a more or less extended period of observation. Certain changes may typically only be detectable if the period of observation is a significant proportion of the period over which they occur.
Solar orbits: With respect to a source of excitement, giving rise to heat and light, in my immediate knowledge space, the following orbits may be distinguished:
Stellar evolution: As noted by Tim Thompson: "A star is not a static thing, it changes with time. The process of aging in stars is called stellar evolution. As a star ages, it goes through changes reminiscent of the life cycles of living things, the details of which depend on the star's overall mass. Massive stars live short but exciting lives, whereas small stars live long, quiescent lives." [more] The H-R diagram is considered to be a useful way to follow the changes that take place as a star evolves [more]. Its regularity is an indication that definite laws govern stellar structure and stellar evolution. Building mathematical models of stars, based on straight forward physics, and allowing those models to evolve naturally in time as a star ages, recreates the H-R diagram as it is observed -- with a surprising degree of fidelity of agreement between theory and observation that is of great interest in astrophysics. The ability of the theory of stellar evolution to explain the H-R diagram in its finest details, singles out stellar evolution as one of the most successful and productive of scientific theories. Most stars lie on the main sequence, burning hydrogen to helium through nuclear reactions. As they live out their lives, changes in the structure of the star are reflected in changes in stars' temperatures, sizes and luminosities -- causing them to move in tracks across the diagram.
Is there a case for recognizing that the life of community is determined by the rate at which its initial unifying and energizing inspiration (with a propensity to enter successfully into explanatory bonds) is converted into a polarized and essentially neutral or sterile perspective? Are such possibilities suggested by explorations such as that of Ilanit Tof (Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, 1996)?
Theories / H-R diag:
The critical element in stellar evolution (as charted by the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram) is the increasing gravitational pressure on the core, perhaps to be paralleled by the increasing "weight" of knowledge on the individual or collective psyche. Two stellar cases suggest distinct psychosocial outcomes:
Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram: A good point of departure is the famed Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, pioneered independently by Elnar Hertzsprung (1911) and Henry Norris Russell (1913). It is recognized as one of the greatest observational syntheses in astronomy and astrophysics. The diagram plots the luminosity of stars as a function of their temperature. The luminosity, or absolute magnitude, increases upwards on the vertical axis; the temperature (or some temperature-dependent characteristic such as spectral class or color) decreases to the right on the horizontal axis. From this it is readily apparent that stars preferentially fall into certain regions of the diagram along a curving diagonal line called the "main sequence", although there are other regions where other types of stars (red giants, supergiants, white dwarfs, super novae, pulsars, flare stars) also fall [more].
The suggestion is that conceptually gated communities (and various kinds of social group) emerge and live out their lives in a way that could be represented on an analogous diagram. In public relations terms, there is already a familiarity with the visibility of a group (its "luminosity") and a sense of whether it is "hot" or "cool". The analogue to temperature may be more meaningfully understood as degree of communication interactivity amongst members of the community -- especially since temperature is associated with interactivity between atoms. Following from work of B W Tuckman (Developmental Sequence in Small Groups, 1963) the stages of Forming / Storming / Norming / Performing (see also R B Lacoursiere. The Life Cycle of Groups: Group Developmental Stage Theory, 1980; Stan Davis, The Life Cycle of Organizations, 1990). A sense of the knowledge exchange processes is usefully explored by Martha G. Russell and Kaisa Still (Engines Driving Knowledge-based Technology Transfer in Business Incubators and Their Companies, 1999).
In the case of religious groups, the life cycle has for example been characterized
by David Moberg (The Church as Social Institution, 1984) in phases:
Seemingly analogous to the H-R diagram, Lawrence Cada et al. (Shaping the
Coming Age of Religious Life, 1979), identified a "vitality curve"
in the light of a historical study of the life cycle of religious institutions.
As discussed by Mary V. Maher (Between
Imagination and Doubt: Religious Life in Postmodern Culture, 2003), Cada
distinguishes five separate stages of a religious movement's history:
**** The metaphor is explored in italicized text in what follows.
Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life cycle of a single star; rather, by observing numerous stars, each at a different point in its life cycle, and running computer models that simulate stellar structure. Following the Wikipedia description of such evolution, phases to be distinguished are:
Red dwarfs: A star with less than about half a solar mass will never be able to fuse helium, even after the core ceases hydrogen fusion. There simply isn't a stellar envelope massive enough to bear down enough pressure on the core. These red dwarf stars which live for hundreds of billions of years. When nuclear reactions eventually ceases in their cores, they will continue to glow weakly in the infrared and microwave part of the spectrum for many billions of years. The lowest mass stars are classified as red dwarf stars, but even red dwarfs are massive enough to trigger hydrogen fusion in their cores to sustain their feeble starlight.
Brown dwarfs: Slightly less massive objects, known as brown dwarfs, can shine only briefly as their central temperatures are too low to utilize hydrogen as nuclear fuel. In the case of a brown dwarf, as contraction continues, the speed of the atomic nuclei eventually becomes great enough to overcome the electrical repulsion keeping them apart and nuclear fusion occurs [more]. Eventually, its collapse will be halted by electron degeneracy.
Black dwarfs: Because it has no additional sources of energy, the brown dwarf will continue to radiate its internal heat until it fades out of view to become a black dwarf. A black dwarf is the remains of a Sun-sized star which has evolved to a white dwarf and subsequently cooled down such that it no longer gives out radiation. White dwarfs are so dim because they are small and not because they are cool. A more appropriate name for white dwarfs is degenerate dwarf. None exist in the universe, as the time taken for a white dwarf to cool to such a degree is longer than the lifespan of the universe to date.
Red giant: Once a medium-size star (0.4 to 3.4 times the mass of our Sun) has reached the red giant phase, its outer layers continue to expand, the core contracts inward, and core-dwelling helium atoms fuse into carbon. The fusion releases energy, granting the star a temporary reprieve. In a Sun-sized star, this process will take approximately one billion years. The atomic structure of carbon is too strong to be further compressed by the mass of the surrounding material. No more fusion can happen. The core is stabilized and the end is near. The star now begins to shed its outer layers as a diffuse cloud called a planetary nebula.
White dwarf: Eventually, only about 20% of the star's initial mass remains and it spends the rest of its days cooling and shrinking until it is only a few thousand miles in diameter. The star has become a white dwarf. White dwarfs are stable because the inward pull of gravity is balanced by the degeneracy pressure of the star's electrons. (This should not be confused with the electrical repulsion of electrons, but is a consequence of the Pauli exclusion principle.). No white dwarf more massive than 1.4 solar masses can exist; electron degeneracy pressure isn't strong enough. Consider what we know about novae: Matter is accreted around and onto a white dwarf until it gets hot enough to fuse, and fuses explosively. If the white dwarf's mass is tipped over the Chandrasekhar limit (1.4 solar masses; named for the physicist who discovered it) then electron degeneracy pressure fails and the star collapses. This causes the white dwarf to be blasted clean apart in a supernova event known as a type-I supernova. These supernovae may be many times more powerful than the death of a massive star (a type-II supernova).
Black dwarfs: With no fuel left to burn, the white dwarf radiates its remaining heat into icy space for many millions of years. In the end, there is just a cold dark mass sometimes called a black dwarf. The universe is not old enough for any black dwarf stars to exist.
Red supergiants: Fate has something very different -- and very dramatic -- in store for stars more than 5 times as massive as our Sun. After the outer layers of the star have swollen into a red supergiant (a very big red giant), the core begins to yield to gravity and starts to shrink. As it shrinks, it grows hotter and denser, and a new series of nuclear reactions begins to occur, creating and expending progressively heavier elements, temporarily halting the collapse of the core. Eventually, several more stops down the periodic table, silicon fuses to iron-56. Until now, the star has been maintained by these energy-liberating fusion reactions, but iron cannot fuse.
Supernova: There is suddenly no energy outflow to counteract the enormous force of gravity, and the star collapses. What happens next is not clearly understood. But whatever it is can cause a supernova explosion in less than a fraction of a second, one of the most spectacular displays of power in the Universe. The accompanying surge of neutrinos starts a shock wave, while the continuing jets of neutrinos blast much of the star's accumulated material -- the so-called seed elements, lighter than and including iron -- into space. As some of the escaping mass is bombarded by the neutrinos, its atoms capture them, creating a spectrum of heavier-than-iron material including the radioactive elements up to uranium. Without supernovae, no elements heavier than iron would exist. The shock wave and jets of neutrinos continue to propel the material away from the dying star, off into interstellar space. Then, streaming through space, the material from the supernova may collide with other cosmic debris, perhaps to form new stars, or planets and moons, or to serve as raw materials for a vast variety of living things. So what, if anything, remains of the core of the original star? Because we do not have a good understanding of the actual explosion mechanism, it's not entirely clear.
Neutron stars: But it is known that in some supernovae, the intense gravity inside the supergiant forces the electrons into the atomic nuclei, where they combine with the protons to form neutrons. The electromagnetic forces keeping separate nuclei apart are gone (proportionally, if nuclei were the size of dust motes, atoms would be as large as football stadiums), and the entire core of the star becomes nothing but a dense ball of contiguous neutrons, a single atomic nucleus the size of Manhattan. This is a neutron star. It is still an open question whether or not all supernovae do form neutron stars, however. It is believed that if the stellar mass is high enough, the neutrons themselves will be crushed and the star will collapse until its radius is smaller than the Schwarzschild radius and it becomes a black hole. However, our understanding of stellar collapse is not good enough to tell us whether it is possible to collapse directly to a black hole without a supernova, if there are supernovae which then form black holes, or what the exact relationship is between the initial mass of the star and the final object that remains.
The challenge is to explore ways of mapping various organiational types (see below) onto the different stages of stellar evolution and the varieties of stellar objects that can be formed. Of paticular interest is the ways that different groups use the energy resources at their disposal to become "massive", highly "visible", "attractors" (of greater or less attractivity), and "active" (as opposed to being characterized as static).
Club of Rome
Order of Druids
The Black Hole metaphor and the American Way of Life (AWOL)
(America as Eve-ill Empire: Evocation of Authenticity Elsewhere, 2003): ********
Characteristics of black holes relevant to their significance as a societal metaphor include (see: Matt McIrvin, FAQs on Black Holes; Ted Bunn, Black Holes FAQ; Cole Miller, Black Holes and Neutron Stars ) are noted in the table below. The metaphor was explored by Peter Russell (The White Hole in Time, 1992) to reconcile understandings of future human evolution and the "meaning of now" -- although significantly his focus was on the contrasting metaphor of "white" holes. The black hole metaphor is presented here as being more consistent with the dynamics of the USA within the world system -- namely as a semantic black hole.
As explicitly affirmed by George Bush Sr (Earth Summit, 1992): "The American Way of Life is not negotiable". This way of life must therefore be sustained by resources continually drawn from the surrounding system -- irrespective of whether this is thereby endangered. The notion within such dynamics of any endangerment elsewhere is in fact then meaningless. The principal resource acknowledged as vital to sustaining this way of life is oil. However other primary commodities are similarly drawn in from "developing countries". The "black hole" also serves as a prime attractor for individuals -- as associated with the "brain drain" process from other countries.
|Some similarities between material and societal black-hole dynamics (tentative)|
Astrophysical black hole
Societal black hole (AWOL)
|Simplest objects in the universe having only 3 characteristics: mass; spin rate (angular momentum), and electric charge||Simplest form of social organization having only 3 characteristics: "material resources"; "spin" (capacity to "play the angles"); "binary" orientation|
|a region of space that has so much mass concentrated in it that there is no way for a nearby object to escape its gravitational pull||the pattern of resource concentration in the monopolar system supporting the AWOL and its function as an attractor|
|dependence on mass concentration pulled in from neighbouring regions of space||dependence on resource concentration as in the monopolar system supporting the AWOL|
|gravitational attractor||societal attractor|
|accumulation of matter||accumulation of resources|
|concentration of mass such that there is no way for a nearby object to acquire the escape velocity to escape its gravitational pull||concentration of society making it impossible for people to escape its attractive power|
severe distortion of space and time; strange properties because the the usual rules of geometry no longer apply
|severe distortion of conceptual frameworks and normal rules of society (legality, morality, ethics, boundaries) notably regarding property and the role of time|
|event horizon, namely a spherical boundary that can be crossed to enter but cannot be crossed to exit; known as the Schwarzschild radius; it is the radius below which gravitational attraction between the particles of a body must cause it to undergo irreversible gravitational collapse.||event horizon that makes it impossible to commit to any alternative attractor, once the line has been crossed|
|invisibility due to the fact that no light can exit across the event horizon||a form of invisibility in that it is impossible to communicate its nature to people before they are already captured by it; information cannot be communicated out of it because things change so rapidly within it; the invisibility may be described in terms of processes of denial (as with the institutionalized inability within the USA to recognize its support of state terroism in Nicaragua)|
|movement within the black hole inexorably closer to the singularity at its centre which cannot be avoided -- due to reversal of the roles of time and radius||accelerating movement to accumulate, consume and emulate that draws people into a tunnel logic|
|singularity at the centre having unknown properties||ultimate singular transformation as a process of rapture|
|stripping inorganic atomic and sub-atomic bonds||stripping organic and psychosocial bonds|
usually formed in the final stage of the evolution of an extremely massive star collapsing (via a high density neutron star) in a supernova; density of a neutron star is one hundred trillion times the density of water.
possibly formed by the process of collapse of an extremely massive social system such as a superpower, notably through the collapse of its logical framework and value system
|any amount of mass can in principle be made to form a black hole if it can be compressed to a high enough density, as with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)||types of "black hole" have been described in relation to extreme negativity; it is also possible that one could be created as a result of the collision of heavy egos -- "Relativistic Heavy Ego Collider"|
|initial weightlessness in falling in||initial experience of freedom on entering the AWOL|
|subsequent tidal forces (caused by the difference in gravitational force between two points) pulling differentially to tear any mass apart. This difference may be greatly enhanced over smaller and smaller distances causing the famed spaghettification effect on an object closing in on the black holes event horizon, such that an object approaching a black hole is stretched lengthwise and compressed widthwise.||subsequent psychosocial forces pulling differentially to break any psychosocial bonds|
|increasing speed of fall|
Ironically one of the prime features of the dynamics associated with a singularity, like a black hole, is the manner in which "mass" is subjected to enormous forces and is effectively distorted and "destroyed" -- through action of compressive forces. The matter that forms a black hole is crushed out of existence; a black hole represents matter that leaves only its gravity behind. A monopole could then indeed be described as a "weapon of mass destruction" -- being dependent on such destruction for its survival.
In general systems terms, there is a case for exploring the isomorphism between the evolution of stars -- as portrayed by the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in terms of a star's luminosity vs. its temperature [more; more; more] -- and the evolution of civilizations. Ironically the HR diagram has been extensively used as a basis for predicting extraterrestrial life [more; more], but not apparently for exploring how hegemonic civilizations collapse and engender "black holes".
The monopole metaphor also draws attention to the socio-political dynamics of monopoly -- notably of economic form. The monopolar system reinforces the engendering of economic monopolies through the progressive consolidation of independent undertakings. Indeed it might be argued that it is the pressures of the "black hole" dynamics which inexorably "crush" social entities forcing them into consolidated form in a manner echoed by the "crushing" of matter as it enters a black hole.
A major characteristic of a black hole is the degree to which its dynamics distort the movement of light effectively causing the black hole to be invisible except by contrast with its surroundings. Much has been made of the existence of an event horizon that constrains vision from within the dynamics of the black hole. Any event inside the event horizon can never be communicated to the universe. This phenomenon might prove to be a useful way of exploring the degree of denial within the AWOL, distorting facts known elsewhere (notably with respect to state-supported terrorism) so as to blame the victim or opponent. From within the AWOL it will never be possible to accept any proof regarding the numbers slaughtered by AWOL initiatives -- notably in the light of the levels of proof required of Iraq in relation to weapons of mass destruction. But, conversely, the AWOL will never be able to prove that it has not covered-up the slaughter of thousands or planted evidence to legitimate its logic.
Another major characteristic of a black hole is the speed of movement associated with its dynamics -- with which the rapid pace of the American Way of Life is consistent. Typically change is perceived as increasingly mechanical or inorganic -- in contrast with the kinds of change characteristic of organic systems, ecosystems and human learning systems which "take time" to grow. In addition to the speed is the acceleration within a black hole. Again the acceleration of the American Way of Life has been the subject of extensive comment (James Gleick, Faster: the acceleration of just about everything, 1999; Jeremy Rifkin, Time Wars: The Primary Conflict in Human History, 1989).
There is also a recognition, notably tracked by the Singularity Watch of the Institute for Accelerating Change, that the ever-increasing rate of technological change in our local environment will undergo a "singularity," becoming effectively instantaneous from the perspective of current biological humanity. It has been postulated that events after this point must also be "future-incomprehensible" to existing humanity.
Peter Russell (The Whitehole in Time, revised as Waking Up in Time: Finding Inner Peace in Times of Accelerating Change ) has explored the doubling effect of such acceleration in social systems in terms of black hole dynamics and has commented on Terence McKenna's computation of such a point of total collapse at 21 December 2012 [more].
Of special interest is the singularity that is the centre of black hole dynamics. In the psycho-social terms relevant to the Armageddon Lobby mentioned earlier as "trying to hurry up God", notably the Christian right associated with the PNAC initiative, this singularity may be best understood in terms of Armageddon and the biblically prophesied "rapture" on which there are many web resources [more; more; more]. As with a black hole singularity, the evangelical perspective holds that the world is being driven inexorably towards the moment of rapture. The term "rapture" does not appear in the scriptures. There are however references to the manner in which people will be caught up and raised up -- expressions that could well be associated with an analogue to the strange physics at the centre of a black hole -- the enraptured become enwrapped and entrapped. Access to this process is restricted in biblical prophecy to a limited group of people -- namely the evangelical Christians with which George Bush is explicitly associated and by which he is notably supported [more; more].
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