“Inevitably, underlying instabilities begin to appear.”
When I started writing this post, I had a difficult time pinpointing ways that Jurassic Park had been affecting my everyday life. After seven months of watching it weekly, I’m not humming John Williams’s score constantly. I’m not looking over my shoulders for raptors. Hell, I’m not even subconsciously ordering Chilean sea bass when I’m at seafood restaurants. So where does that leave me? Well, as I looked back over the month of July, I realized that Jurassic Park and related materials have been very much influencing the way I look at the world around me, but not in the ways I had been looking for. It’s around the edges that the underlying effects are starting to creep in.
I live in Maine, so from time to time I have the opportunity to get down to the ocean. This Fourth of July, I was down on some rocks near the sea with a couple of friends. I spent a long time just staring at the water. No, I hadn’t finally lost it from watching too many Rex attacks, I was thinking about the chaotic complexity of movement in fluids. See, earlier this year I read Chaos: Making a New Science because of Jurassic Park, and it’s really had quite an effect at how I look at some pretty everyday phenomenon.
Ugh. This picture looks sickeningly like an inspirational calender.
Ignore the sunset, focus on the cool ripples and waves.
Looking out over the bay, it’s striking that the ripples, whorls, and eddies in the water, though so graceful in appearance, are completely beyond our abilities to calculate. Fluid dynamics depend on details so numerous and so small that it is impossible for scientists to predict the movement of a tiny stream in a laboratory, much less a bay. Even less an ocean. There’s a little poem prefacing one of the chapters in Chaos that keeps coming back to me:
Big whorls have little whorls
Which feed on their velocity,
And little whorls have lesser whorls,
And so on to viscosity.
-Lewis F. Richardson
Next time you pour cream into your morning coffee, look at the how the spirals spin off into smaller and smaller spirals. It’s intensely different every time, and we so often just go on with our day without noticing it. Fuck yeah, fluid dynamics!
Honestly, I really recommend picking the book up. It’s only available as an eBook right now, but it was a best seller back in 1987, so chances are your local used book store has a copy.
During the month of July I continued to read (but did not finish) The Origin of Species. To my credit, it is quite long, and fairly dense.
Pro tip: wearing awesome shades is an evolutionary advantage.
In much the way that Chaos has given me a new appreciation for fluid dynamics, reading Origin of Species gave me a new-found sense of wonder at the ecosystems surrounding me. The minute details, each of which has taken thousands upon thousands of years to develop, are just stunning. So, when I walk through an Audubon wildlife sanctuary or the woods of Maine’s western mountains and look at the shape of a leaf on a tree, I don’t just see a leaf. I see eons worth of gradual, slow changes each brought about by small beneficial mutations edging out their predecessors in the struggle for life. That’s heavy stuff. Heavy, but immensely beautiful. Sure beats just walking by and not noticing anything.
HIGH FIDELITY (BRIEFLY) RETURNS:
I’ve been very happy to report that High Fidelity, last year’s oft-watched film, has not been on my mind much at all this year. Occasionally, I’ll hear a song from it and pause, but for the most part it is out of my head. Near the end of July, though, I found myself having a conversation with someone who loves it. While over the course of my year watching it, I had come to despise the film; thinking about it again, albeit briefly, was not very unpleasant. Thoughts about the film suddenly came flooding back. I even came up with something I wouldn’t mind writing about it. Of course, five minutes later, all memory of what that was was strangled from my mind by my overwhelming desire not to think about High Fidelity anymore.
It’s on my all-time top five list of films that I don’t think about… wait. Shit!
My conclusion? I could probably write something about High Fidelity, if I wanted to, without being miserable while doing so. But I have no desire to see the movie ever again as long as I live.
The major theme of this month would be the continuing shift in how I view nature: more scientifically, and accordingly with a greater sense of wonder. Is Jurassic Park the direct cause of this? No, it has been caused by a combination of external factors in my life, and my choice of reading material this year. The reading material, however, has been directly influenced by Jurassic Park. Chaos and Origin of Species are excellent, perception-altering books, and I would have read neither of them were it not for this project. Furthermore, a weekly appointment to watch a film which touches, albeit lightly, upon the issues brought up in those books could certainly have helped keep my mind on their subjects. To what degree, I cannot say.
The effects of this experiment do seem to be showing up. Not all at once, but slowly, beneath the surface, creeping into view around the edges. Not from the front, but from the side, from the factors you didn’t even know were there.