Older Than Dirt

A very dear friend of mine turned forty-six yesterday and was a bit dismayed at finding himself no longer equidistant to forty and fifty but decidedly closer to fifty. I considered making the old joke list of things older than he: fire, the wheel and dirt. However, it might have ruined the warm chocolate cake and mocha marscarpone parfait we were enjoying.

Luckily, yesterday news also broke about the oldest galaxy in the known universe which is dated to 600 million years after the big bang and seen so far back in time that it’s light took 13 billion light years to reach us. So, here is something much older than fire, the wheel, dirt AND my friend.

It’s called UDFy-38135539. The UDF is for Hubble’s “Ultra Deep Field.” And they expect that discoveries of even older galaxies will occur so no matter how old my friend gets, he will always be relatively young.

Au Revoir, Benoit

The novel on which I am currently working has elements that are inspired by fractal geometry and the work of Benoit Mandelbroit so I was sorry to hear that he passed away last week. I will not be able to eventually meet him now. While most people do not know the Mandelbrot name, they do know the image of the famous Mandelbrot set.

What I may like best about Dr. Mandelbrot is this as reported in the New York Times:

When asked to look back on his career, Dr. Mandelbrot compared his own trajectory to the rough outlines of clouds and coastlines that drew him into the study of fractals in the 1950s.

“If you take the beginning and the end, I have had a conventional career,” he said, referring to his prestigious appointments in Paris and at Yale. “But it was not a straight line between the beginning and the end. It was a very crooked line.”

It sounds as if he understood that his life was as poetic as his math.

The Underworld

Usually, I think of the underworld as a metaphorical place or psychological experience. It’s the trip through Dante’s Inferno or the descent of Persephone into Hades. It’s the dark night we all go through from time to time in the course of a life. Yet, every rare once in a while we witness something that completely embodies the experience such as the slow return from the underworld of the miners in Chile.

As the miner nicknamed Super Mario put it, “I met God. I met the Devil. God won.”