The Daily Mash has summed up the bail-out far better than I ever could.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  


A while ago I attended a conference on “Esoteric Runology”. I signed up for the conference ages ago, when a group of my friends all decided to attend together. As it happened, the others all changed their minds before the conference itself but I decided to go along anyway.

The content of the conference varied between the genuinely interesting (such as a talk on the character of the hero in Germanic literature) and the rather inane (such as a talk on numerological correspondences within Wulfila’s Gothic translation of the Bible) with plenty of New Age occult nonsense thrown in for bad measure. All in all, I came away entertained rather than enlightened, and the highlight was certainly my conversation in the pub afterwards. I have discovered elberry‘s kryptonite and feel safer for it.

One thing that struck me about many of the more dubiously New Age lecturers was their fascination with numerical order and patterns. One man seemed positively delighted when he revealed that multiplying two sets of numbers by the same number maintains the ratio between the original sets. He was fascinated by the numerical correspondence he found between the orbit of the moon around the Earth and the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. (He seemed particularly excited by the fact that both could be represented as circles divided into equal arcs, which rather bemused me.) I kept thinking of Monty Python’s Sir Bedevere.

Nevertheless, although his theories were meaningless and he wouldn’t know the scientific method if it bit him, there was no doubting his enthusiasm. He did seem to get genuine delight from discovering patterns and relationships. The title of his talk was “Germanic Esoteric Astronomy” and I couldn’t help wondering why, if basic astronomy and primary school arithmetic fascinate him so much, he didn’t just study real astronomy. If he gets so much pleasure from adding and multiplying a few numbers, he ought to dissolve in an ecstatic fit if he ever encounters the Lorentz tranformations. Or maybe just this.

What is it that drives people to waste their time with Gematria and numerology when they could be studying real mathematics and physics? Why does one seem real and important to them while the other seems stale and dry? Although the former has no practical use and the latter has proved to be of immense use, both for pragmatic engineering and for exploring the mysteries of the universe, people still devote their time and energy to the former and disdain the latter.

Is it just the allure of esoterica? Theoretical physics can be pretty esoteric but I admit that a scientific conference does not have the same atmosphere as a secret conclave of mystics and magicians. The lack of melodrama in science probably does have something to do with it, although I bet academics have just as many petty rivalries and over-inflated egos as esotericists do, but there is something else as well.

Modern science seems to lack spirit. People dislike it because they feel it reduces the world to a dull machine. They feel it reduces people to dull machines. I suppose this is just Newton versus Blake again but I can’t help thinking that this is a false dichotomy.

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 1:43 pm  Comments (8)  


It’s so easy to accidentally become someone else. I strongly suspect this realisation will seem less profound in the morning.

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment