Mad Max

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Wait for the punch-line

Here’s the joke:
One man and ten women are ship wrecked on an island. The only infertile woman looks at him and thinks, “Let’s colonize.”
What’s the punchline? Well, it’s that this may actually be possible.

Recently many people (including an organization called Project Hyperion comprised of scientist dedicated to space travel) have been looking at the mechanics interstellar travel. One facet of this science-fiction is the on-going argument of colonization or more specifically colony starting numbers. A large number that has been thrown around in recent years is 40,000; this number allows multiple potential mating partners and room for mistakes such as disease and disaster. Though this number is viable for the most successful colonization, it is far from the minimum success number. Even the article cited above suggests that the same could be done with 10,000 (though there is smaller margin of error). Another article suggests that a number as low as 80 could effectively colonize if social-engineering were implemented and no accidents happened.

Since these results were released many in the general population have played with the figures and gotten them even lower as seen in this blog post on a world building discussion page.

“Suppose we need to reach a population with 80 unique genetic sets to go past the tipping point. Lets do a quick calculation on how this can be achieved if fertile women are able to give birth to 4 children on average and have taken a bunch of frozen sperm samples with them:

  • Generation 0: 10 (fertile) women and 10 frozen samples
  • Generation 1: 20 women and 20 men and 80 frozen samples
  • Generation 2: 40 women and 40 men

From this point on the women of generation 2 could continue to expand the population with the men of generation 1 and 2. It is true that a little bit of bad luck could already mess up the system, but being on the safe side it seems like:

A spaceship with 20 women and a freezer full of sperm is likely enough to start a growing population.”

So how does this pertain to our joke? In all of these situations the studies are searching for genetically diverse colony. This means that they will avoid incest to maintain the best genes. On our lovely island of Santa Rosalia this is not a problem. Though incest holds many problems medically (not to mention morally) it is only considered such if within the close family. Children borne of even first cousin relations are much healthier than parent-child or sibling sired children. These parings aren’t ideal, but they are not as genetically taboo as one might think. Reports have found that children of cousins are only slightly more likely than those of unrelated couples to have cystic fibrosis, mental retardations, and birth defects. How would this continue over a million years? I am unsure, but any unhealthy offspring will be eaten by killer whales so they won’t pass those genes down.

A Moment For the Time Being

“A moment is a very small particle of time. It is so small that one day is made of 6,400,099,980 moments.” Jiko Yasutani pg. 484

Within the Zen tradition a moment is a very small unit of time especially when compared to the Medieval moment which is just 90 seconds. There is also a moment in classical mechanical physics that is a bit outside my understanding, but seems to be the scientific mirroring to explain Zen moments. (To be honest the correlation would probably make a very interesting blogpost if I could only comprehend it. Here’s the wikipedia page: )

When I first starting reading this book I was very confused by the phrase “for the time being.” Rather than seeing “time being” as a noun about “being in time” I saw it as a series of moments in time. The sentence “I’m doing homework for the time being” is an example of the phrase’s colloquial usage. These series of moments correlate to section of time during which the participant is involved in an action. Instead of the segment in time however the term “time being” is used to identify an object that segment. Nao is the time being in her now. I know this concept was clearly explained within the text, but I find the term used to be fascinating because it can refer to not only a string of moments but also the moment dweller who drives the segments actions. As old Jiko said on page 484  ” (a) snap equals sixty-five moments.” Your action of a snap embodies all of your personal time being that is your now, your 65 moment now.



Orr-the existential ecologist

I am not completely sure what to make of Orr. He seems to be a semi-omnipotent (excuse the oxymoron) moderate who unknowingly ties all the potential space-time continuums together. He is in fact the lathe of heaven (lathe /ˈleɪð/ is a machine tool that rotates the workpiece on its axis to perform various operations). And though he has the potential to create Haber’s “perfect world” with a single dream his power is capped, likely by a limitation he subconsciously set on his own mind. He is very connected to the Earth’s social and ecological ecosystems and amazingly aware of it. This is his take on his standing in the world: “That is, I’m a part of it. Not separate from it. I walk on the ground and the ground’s walked on by me, I breathe the air and change it, I am entirely interconnected with the world”(134 in PDF/ch 10). You can’t get much more aware than that. He is a jellyfish (metaphorically speaking this world’s only one) he is aware of his surroundings and completely in equilibrium “hangs and sways” entrusting its being, its going, and its will to the powerful ocean (2, ch 1). He seeks to often leave the world be if at all possible so it might retain equilibrium and better the lives of all its inhabitants. Until that balance is returned he treads in “the ice of Antarctica, falling softly on the heads of the children of those responsible for melting it” (138, ch 10) with only the Aliens aware of who he is.

Florence Nightingale Effect

“The Florence Nightingale effect is a situation where a caregiver develops romantic and/or sexual feelings for his/her patient, even if very little communication or contact takes place outside of basic care.[1] Feelings may fade once the patient is no longer in need of care, either by recovery or death.”
Freud’s transference theory can work the opposite way, allowing the patient to subconsciously fall in love with their care giver.
cw: sexual assault mentioned briefly

The Florence Nightingale effect seems to be a large component in the story of Ann and Loomis. Though she was first petrified by the newcomer, Ann quickly stepped in to become of nurse. She started first with just retrieving him water, hand feeding him, and cleaning his linens. But once he was strong enough to move to the house she began other unnecessary tasks such as keeping him from boredom.(76) Once she began this she seemed to go out of her way to met all his unnecessary “needs.” On top of making him food she would also play the piano for him and bring him technical books. In return he tells her about his experience before the war and how to get gas for the tractor. Soon enough Ann is planning their wedding and children as she gathers greens for a salad and cherry blossoms to decorate his room. (89) As seen in most stories of the Florence Nightingale effect, Ann loses interest in this once Loomis is better (though that also has to do with his character development).

Whether Loomis controlling tendencies branched from his inherent sexism (as first seen on 77), the situation, or transference is unknown but in short time he has come to believe the valley is as much his (if not more) as hers. The Florence Nightingale effect dies out as transference becomes more and more and after the assault attempt it dies completely. Transference of his love (or infatuation or whatever you might deem it) to his caregiver Ann becomes the driving plot of the story that replaces the Nightingale effect.

Chernobyl Comparison

“Disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.”

Writing the Disaster, Maurice Blanchot (3)

La Jetée is staged in a world decimated by the ecological disasters of World War III. Like most the world, Paris has been destroyed and all living inhabitant are either the subterranean “winners” or prisoners of war. The disaster has destroyed the city but many humans still live. I can’t help but wonder if it would be like the Chernobyl aftermath; radioactivity killing thousands over time, people fleeing, and eventually nature overcoming their homes. Though all of the villages around Chernobyl evacuated non-human nature was left to the radiation’s devices and managed to pull through. Even though the disaster ruined human’s way of life, vegetation continued intact and even animals including horses and boars roamed the area safely. Would the same be for Paris in the war’s wake?

Existential Ecology

“Wilderness is not elsewhere, but pervades everything.” (Bryant, 299) This quote from Levi R. Bryant’s “Black” seems to strongly echo Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s belief that nature does not stop at a human’s doorstep in his essay “Grey,” (Cohen, 271) rather “nature” is a collective idea in which we all exist. Culture is established when humans and nonhumans alike use technology (i.e. washing potatoes in the ocean, using sticks to capture ants, and build homes from trees (Bryant, 299) (Cohen, 271)) to create something outside of its original essence. Humans are not alone in their use of other (i.e. nonhumans and plant based) societies for survival. Culture exists because human and nonhumans use each other and the plant world for their own survival; this overlapping of worlds is what create nature. This effect of individual agency is exemplified in the scenario about farmable land and worms. (Bryant, 298) This shows worms’ accidental contribution to man’s society by turning the soil and giving them food. The overlapping of worlds seen here creates the entire structure upon which our idea of nature stands, societal ecosystems depending on natural ecosystems that are a conglomerate of societal ecosystems.

The Winder Wasn’t Turning

When the boy had a nightmare about a windup toy waddling around their old house his father comforted before suggesting he go back to sleep. The boy quieted for a moment then mumbled, “The winder wasn’t turning.” (I apologize, I’m reading out of an ebook with no page numbers). On the trip the man repeatedly states that they are traveling to warmer weather, but both he and the boy appear to be going through the motions. Could the toy moving without the winder turning be the writer’s metaphor for them living with little to no motivation? The man seems to repeatedly set short-term goals such as this one to keep them busy rather than to save them. McCarthy presents this world as one that can no longer be saved; his characters have readily accepted this fact. The man fights for survival to protect the boy rather than to reach some salvation.
This view of post-apocalyptic persons as those without any hope of salvation opposes Byron’s post-apocalyptic perspective greatly. In Byron’s poem “Darkness” he wrote:

“The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,”

His people would band together to set fire to cities and forests; they work together to send a beacon to God. Whereas in The Road people only gather to feast on one another. They have given up on any sort of divine intervention; rather they fight to live another day alone or in small groups, relying on only themselves for survival. Unlike Byron’s people who rise each day hoping its the start of the promised millennium, the man and his son rise daily only to fullfill their shallow since of temporary self purpose; that is to keep moving to prevent death a little longer.