Thursday, May 7, 2009

Plasma Politics

Mel Acheson: Plasma Politics. (Hat tip: Stephen Smith)

The flood of new data during the space age has also inundated astronomers with surprises.

New instruments have acquired images and measurements that traditional theories about gravity and gas didn’t expect. The data hasn’t “made sense” until exceptions or additions or revisions have been made to the theories.

But insights into the behavior of plasma have made sense of the data—without modifications. A new field of study has arisen: Plasma Cosmology is a part of the world’s largest professional organization, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)

In a similar manner, the data of ancient art, artifacts, and narratives (myths and legends) haven’t made sense in any comprehensive way. The familiar ideas of common natural events, social structures, or shamanic hallucinations have provided scant intellectual satisfaction in explaining individual myths and designs.

But the obvious similarities of themes around the world in different and independent societies have gone begging to be accounted for. Again, the data hasn’t made sense, insights into the behavior of plasma have made sense of the data. “Making sense” is not “proving” the hypothesis. Hard and ongoing work of testing—against further data and alternative hypotheses—is still required.

One researcher, Rens van der Sluijs, has proposed that this application of plasma principles to ancient historical data be called Plasma Mythology. As happened with plasma cosmology, plasma mythology turns accepted explanations on their heads:

"Durkheim's and Dumézil’s assertion that many myths reflect aspects of human society are on target, although they were not inspired by those aspects, but acted as models for them. Jung’s archetypes and Lévi-Strauss’ binary structure exist and operate in the mind as suggested, but were the imprint rather than the origin of the myths."

The implications of this new awareness of plasma touch almost every traditional field of study with the promise (or threat, depending on one’s appetite for adventure) of revolution. For example, imagine a new field of Plasma Politics.
Read the whole thing.

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