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The Dynamics of an Asteroid

The Dynamics Of An Asteroid/Resetting The Universe

Fig 1. Apophis 99942[1]

For a first year project I called The Dynamics of an Asteroid[2] I devised a series of actions to be performed with one person as the audience where I would go through a dozen stages from the person’s death, on through every unavoidable extinction event[3] until the Earth’s debris is consumed by the sun[4] and on until the end of the universe. It took place outside the first year studio by the suspended form of one the most horrendous objects I have ever found. I don’t know where it came from or what it was but when I found it I could have vomited, though it didn’t have such an effect on anyone else. It represented the apocalyptic asteroid Apophis 99942 that may or may not end all human life in 2036[5].

When we were later given the chance to propose any artwork we could imagine and how we would go about it I remembered recently reading about how a leading theoretical physicist raised the concern that repeated attempts to observe the inception of the universe would either skew the odds on the quantum scale of the universe never coming into existence at all or cause a hard reset of existence[6]. As it is held that observing an event is to participate in it and the odds against the universe existing are apparently so slim. I took this idea and decided to see whether I could destroy and restart the universe.

In the presentation that I gave my conclusion was that even if it wasn’t possible to reset existence it was important to at least try. I told no one then that it had been my intention to see whether I could in fact restart things to alter a particular event in my life, that seeming to be the only thing big enough to shift it. Several weeks after the presentation fate realigned itself and the intent of my actions was fulfilled, though it will remain a secret what they were. I had been successful and the preceding 14 billion years had been a short wait.

The Dynamics of an Asteroid continued with the idea of immanence and estrangement within the catastrophic post-industrial landscapes of north Glasgow[7]. The work I made was intended to be light and non-interventionist and consisted of several things that were only really skewed everyday occurrences and objects that took place around the area of Port Dundas. Inspired by the anime Howl’s Moving Castle[8] I induced a classmate to swallow a shooting star, an actual fragment of the Nantan meteorite[9]. I also placed a plaque that gave directions to a nuclear bunker beside my childhood home[10].

The idea of reality being so affected by perception and thought seems to belong only to a system based on emotional and spiritual values, not a system based on facts. That dichotomy caused the rift between art and science where once the Greeks only needed one word for both, techne[11]. But new models of physics, quantum mechanics and neurophysiology seem to describe a universe better described by philosophy than relativistic fact, seeming miracles of science occur apace and blur the line between reality and imagination[12]. ‘Young’s experiment’ aka the double-slit experiment[13] is a repeatable way to observe wave-particle duality, a paradoxical fundamental puzzle of the universe where matter imitates energy and energy imitates matter, their behaviour seemingly dependent on a person’s attention or perhaps failures in perception inherent to our organism.

For our purposes what is more important about this shifting paradigm is the legitimacy of perceiving prosaic reality rather than the concrete one, the ability to adopt and discard not just beliefs but fundamental laws. We can create a new system equal parts confusion and comprehension where if an object is impossible a new environment can be created for it where it becomes possible. As will become apparent later, this idea is very important to me. I think that we might be in a golden age of potentiality where things can be created with technology undreamt of before but that can function in ways that will be impossible in a future where the laws are fixed and immutable again.

Fig 2. Bronze Plaque for Port Dundas Canal Lock 2012 Brendan McGuire

A4 laser cut acrylic sheet, acrylic paint and floor stain.

[1] Photo taken at Schiaparelli Observatory – Italy

[2] Named for Professor Moriarty’s book of mathematical abstraction. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes Long Stories. Murray, London. p. 409.

[3] John Leslie. The end of the world: the science and ethics of human extinction. London: Routledge, 1996

[4] KR Rybiki "On The Final Destiny Of The Earth And The Solar System." Icarus 151.1 (2001): 130-137.

[5] Predicting Apophis' Earth Encounters in 2029 and 2036, paper published in Icarus 193, 2008

[6] Prof Lawrence Krauss in an interview with the Telegraph in 2007

[7] Port Dundas, Hamilton Hill and Westercommon.

[8] Howl's Moving Castle. Dir. Hayao Miyazaki. Perf. Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura. Toho, 2004. Film.

[9] Seen to fall to Earth in 1516.

[10] Fig 2

[11] Greek τέχνη, Collins English Greek dictionary. Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1997

[12] Ross G. Graham, Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences Vol. 359, No. 1779. 2001

[13] CGP Books . AS-Level Physics AQA. Newcastle upon Tyne: Elanders Ltd, 2008, p82

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