Thursday, October 28, 2010

Living Zeno's Paradox

Bike racing is a fitting sport for a digital age. Like colors and sounds, we're analogue things captured by digital bytes; we're natural numbers herded into whole numbers, the products of rounding. I am a Category X. If x=dropped, then f; if x=pack, then m; if x=win, then y.

I don't just mean that we're one of five categories. I mean, also, that bike racing forces selection, as this illustration shows:

This makes it easy to find a word to describe what happened: dropped, pack, won. It's the same thing digital cameras do with light, and the same thing mp3s do with sound: assign ranges to spectrums and simplify a flow of unbroken continuity into a series of discrete categories.

Look at how Chuck Close does this with portraits. He paints in pixels--discrete and evenly sized squares. Up close, these are abstract blobs of color.

Seen from a distance, they form a picture.

This is art imitating TV imitating life.

But maybe what we think of as life is, at its core, composed of such pixels, and the what we think is infinite is, at some point, just pixels? We used to call these atoms, but then we started smashing them. Leibnitz called them monads. Now, they'd have to be some kind of subatomic particle that could never be smashed. Thus far, we haven't encountered such a digital thing.

And what about time? Is there any unit of time such that it cannot be further divided?

In some ways, it doesn't figure that we couldn't divide matter and time infinitely, since we can divide numbers infinitely (1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8...).

But on the other hand, we intuit, there has to be a building block of the universe.

To race, even if we are Achilles and a tortoise, is to believe in both an analog and digital universe even if we don't understand it. To race is to affirm that both everything and nothing can be measured.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

bravo could not have said it better myself awesome stuff