by Yvette Granata
AKA, THE BIT TORRENT OF EARTH
This text is a non-script that accompanies the film Superficie des Continents. While the film explores archival footage of the surface of the earth, this text traces the archive of the surface of the earth in another way. It is a textual montage or network of different surface areas. It is meant to be read as a separate fragment.
11. ANOTHER EARTH
13. THE END
This is the Area of the Continents.
This is not a map!
Only nature can repeat itself. Nature never apologizes
– Vladimir Dmitrov Ecology of Immortality (2007)
Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, and lightning does not travel in a straight line. The complexity of nature's shapes differs in kind, not merely degree, from that of the shapes of ordinary geometry, the geometry of fractal shapes.
– Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1983) 1
For smooth surfaces, there is a unique natural notion of surface area.
If a surface is very irregular or rough, however, it may be impossible to assign an area to it at all. A typical example is given by a surface with spikes spread throughout in a dense fashion.
The mathematical definition of surface area in the presence of curved surfaces is considerably involved. The surface area is not the sum of an object’s faces. The surface area of a solid object is the total area of the object's faces and its curved surfaces.3
There are crevices and turns and parts of curves and other things to be measured. It is difficult to measure the surface of curves. They contain their own special face, and there are folds within the special faces.
Therefore: we cannot ever be sure how many faces an object has.
Many surfaces of this complicated type occur in the study of fractals. A fractal is a mathematical set that typically displays self-similar patterns, which means the patterns are the same from near as from far.
The surface of the earth is a good example of an irregular surface that exhibits fractal patterns.
Sometimes you must look from a far distance and other times from a very close one. In order to do this, you must change in size.
If you cannot see the sameness of things, it may be because it is not something you can see at all.
The Earth’s surface may seemed fixed, but underneath our feet there is a constant motion that we cannot notice until there is an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. There is molten rock.
Sometimes it becomes lava.
Beneath the surface of the Earth, the molten rock moves.
Heraclitis, the pre-socratic philosopher, lived between 535 - 475 BCE in Greece. He is known for coining the phrase “Panta Rhei” or “Everything must flow.”
He also said that you cannot step in the same river twice.
And also that you cannot step in the same volcano twice.
Panta Rei is an Italian Restaurant in North Beach, San Francisco. Here are some reviews:
“It is worth the walk.”
“Whenever my husband and I visit San Fran, we always make it a point to have either lunch or dinner at Panta Rei. It is by far the best Italian place in San Fran to eat and the atmosphere is very welcoming and fun. We have always ordered something different with every visit and have always had an excellent meal every time. Good Italian food is hard to find here in Phoenix, so I make my own which we like best; however, I say give Panta Rei a try.”
“I think I ordered the wrong thing. Squid ink pasta. I wouldn't recommend this. The noodles were dry and the seafood was tough. In hindsight I should have sent it back. I also felt sick later that night.”
Microorganisms can cause people to become sick after eating at restaurants that have served food that contain certain microorganisms. Normally, this is an accident.
Perhaps that is what Voltaire meant when he said, “the definition of monsters is more difficult than is generally imagined.”
The surface area of the micro-world is also more difficult to describe than is generally imagined.
The inner membrane of a mitochondrion has a large surface area due to infoldings, allowing higher rates of cellular respiration.
The surface area to volume ratio of a cell imposes upper limits on size, as the volume increases much faster than does the surface area, thus limiting the rate at which substances diffuse from the interior across the cell membrane to interstitial spaces or to other cells.
Indeed, representing a cell as an idealized sphere of radius r, the volume and surface area are, respectively, V = 4/3 π r3; SA = 4 π r2. The resulting surface area to volume ratio is therefore 3/r. Thus, if a cell has a radius of 1 µm, the SA:V ratio is 3; whereas if the radius of the cell is instead 10 µm, then the SA:V ratio becomes 0.3. With a cell radius of 100, SA:V ratio is 0.03.
Thus, the surface area of a cell falls off steeply with increasing volume.
In other words, the more a cell contains, the less surface it has
The poet said, “Silent is the life of flowers.”
At the University of Western Australia, plant physiologist Monica Gagliano says, "We have identified that plants respond to sound and they make their own sounds," and added that, "The obvious purpose of sound might be for communicating with others."6
The Earth is not a sphere. It is an oblate spheroid. 7
That means that all of the globes I have ever seen are wrong.
Even though the tallest mountain above sea level on Earth is Mount Everest, the feature that is furthest from the center of the Earth is actually Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador. It is also the point on earth that is closest to the Moon.8
If the Earth were a sphere, the top of Mount Everest would be the farthest point from the center of the Earth.
But it’s an oblate spheroid, not a sphere, and so it’s Chimborazo, not Everest.
Not knowing that Chimborazo is the point on Earth that reaches farthest into space is also what is meant when the poet said, ‘Silent is the life of flowers.
The surface area of an organism is important in several considerations, such as regulation of body temperature and digestion.
Animals use their teeth to grind food down into smaller particles, increasing the surface area available for digestion.
The epithelial tissue lining the digestive tract contains microvilli, greatly increasing the area available for absorption.
Elephants have large ears, allowing them to regulate their own body temperature.
In other instances, animals need to minimize surface area; for example, people will fold their arms over their chest when they are cold to minimize heat loss.
Someone once said to the writer that the truth can be found in a concrete tank.
The factory workers searched and dug holes and made machines that could dig more holes. They made the dirt into concrete and poured the concrete to build a room, the concrete tank.
Some people started to say that half of the universe was the result of a giant reflection of itself in a cosmic mirror.
The workers found a broken shaving mirror underneath the dirt, where someone had forgotten it. “How did it get there in the first place?” They wondered as they sat in the tank, “Could this be the other half of the universe?”
Earth is the densest planet in the Solar System.
When microscopic plants in the ocean die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean. Over long periods of time, the remnants of this life, rich in carbon, are carried back into the interior of the Earth and recycled.
This pulls carbon out of the atmosphere, which makes sure we don’t get a runaway greenhouse effect. That’s what happened to Venus.
So far, ours is the only planet that we have confirmed to have life.
After Enrico Fermi won the Nobel Prize in physics, he asked the famous question, “Our galaxy should be teeming with civilizations, but where is everybody?”
If we are the only planet with life, then Earth is a
If we are a single point of data, then the Earth is a very heavy-hearted island. Or a floating washing machine.
In Italy, Umberto Eco wrote a novel in 1988, called Foucault’s Pendulum. In the novel, there is a secret society called ‘Panta Rhei.’
The novel is about an invented conspiracy. The pendulum is not of or related to Michel Foucault.
Foucault’s pendulum demonstrates the rotation of the Earth. It also allows you to see the surface of the Earth move underneath a pendulum.
I saw this demonstrated once with a pendulum and a series of empty coca cola bottles.
11. ANOTHER EARTH
Earth is lonely. It is surrounded by other planets without life. It wants to find others like it.
People on earth have started to look for life on other planets and other worlds. People question whether or not they are alone on Earth, if Earth is alone in the universe.
They say when there is one cockroach, there are a hundred more.
What if another civilization of cockroaches had telescopes?
In December 1990, when the Galileo spacecraft flew by Earth in its circuitous journey to Jupiter, scientists pointed some of the instruments at Earth to see how the planet looked from space. Since we knew life could be found on Earth, this exercise helped create some criteria that if found elsewhere, would point to the existence of life there as well.
One of the most telling of the criteria for finding life that was discovered by the Galileo flyby was what is called the vegetation red edge: a sharp increase in the reflectance of light at a wavelength of around 700 nanometers. This is the result of chlorophyll of plants absorbing visible light but reflecting near infrared light strongly.9
If aliens look to Earth right now, they would see a red tinge covering the people looking back out to the skies for them.
To aliens, the surface of the human face looks red.
In The Life and Death of Planet Earth by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, the authors chronicle how the Sun’s energy output is slowly increasing.
They say in as soon as 500 million years, temperatures on Earth will rise to the point that will make most of the world turn into a desert.
And then this will happen:
1. The largest creatures won’t be able to survive anywhere but on the relatively cooler poles.
2. Because of this, over the course of the next few billion years, evolution will seem to go in reverse.
3. The largest organisms and least heat tolerant animals will die out, leaving insects and bacteria.
4. Finally, it’ll be so hot on the surface of the Earth that the oceans will boil away.
5. There’ll be no place to hide from the terrible temperatures.
6. Only the organisms that live deep underground will survive, as they have already for billions of years.
13. THE END
1 Mandelbrot, Benoît B. (1983). The fractal geometry of nature. Macmillan.
2 Gouyet, Jean-François (1996). Physics and fractal structures. Paris/New York: Masson Springer.
3 See definition of surface area: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_area
5 For a description of microorganisms and surface area see: Microbial Ecology: Organisms, Habitats, Activities by Heinz Stolp, 1988, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
6 For more info on how plants talk, see: http://www.livescience.com/27802-plants-treestalk-with-sound.html
8 For a description of Mount Chimborazo, see http://www.mountainprofessor.com/highest-mountains.html
This text was created as part of the joint artistic research project, Fragmentation and Feedback Loops, with the University of Amsterdam & Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU). Fragmentation and Feedback Loops was exhibited at the Eye Film Museum in Amsterdam in January 2014.
Phd media study/theory/practice SUNY Buffalo.
Non-philosophy, media art, tech, ultra-terrestrials
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