Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Laplacian Skygods versus the penicillin groundlings

Pierre-Simon LaPlace won eternal fame - or is that infernal infamy ?- for his claim that if one could but climb up high enough to survey all the atoms in the Universe, then one could perfectly predict all the future as well as perfectly explain all of the past.

Keep that thought in mind as one reads how Adnan Morshed, in surveying the leading edge of the optimistic Thirties in his book "Impossible Heights : Skyscrapers, Flight and the Master Builder", sees everywhere the conjunction of the sleek  and oh so eugenically ideal airplane & skyscraper.

They are both symbols and enablers of Man's new ability to survey - and hence control and change - all of the world he sees below him : Man as the Master Builder of "The World of Tomorrow".

Even Carl Norden could be fitted into this system -- for his Norden bombsight operated from 5 miles up could also re-build the world below : first breaking many eggs before making some new omelettes.

Hum, didn't the 1930s also have some guys in tights and capes flying about high above us, also re-working the morals of the world for the better ?

So Morshed also throws into the epic brew the figure of the Super Hero as a sort of Super Builder.

One can well imagine that Pierre-Simon himself is back, among the undead - inhabiting all these dreams.

The Master building plan ultimately consisted of replacing the drag of having to co-exist with and beg off of imperfect Nature with the freedom of 100% perfect synthetic autarky.

And what better place than to perform this new alchemy than from the top floors of these sleek shining metal, glass and concrete skyscrapers?

Bit hard ,though, to fit that other wonder of that age into this schema - because penicillin was first scraped off the slimy below-ground basement walls of some big buildings in central London.

Far from Olympian Heights indeed - in fact nearer Hades than Heaven.

More groundlings than Skygods .

Janus is normal thought of looking both to the right and to the left.

But maybe it is better in the case of wartime Manhattan to think of Janus as looking both skywards and away with the atomic bomb's 'go it alone ' synthetic autarky and also downwards, to the soil, with penicillin's open commensality with Nature...

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