Favorite Audio Logs From The Witness, Part 3

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Hello, fellow sandcastle makers!  Hope you’ve been enjoying the week so far.  It’s time to reveal another one of my favorite audio logs from The Witness.  There are a few more audio logs that I enjoyed from the game that I wanted to share today.  Many of them are very long quotes, hence why I’ve been breaking this topic up for a few posts (A few quotes are over SEVEN minutes long!).

So let’s get right down to it…ANOTHER audio log from Jonathan Blow’s The Witness!
Audio Log #1: Generation of Waves

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One day I happened to be occupied with the subject of “Generation of Waves by Wind.”  I took down the standard treatise on hydrodynamics, and under that heading I read —If the external forces p’ yy, p’ xy be given multiples of e ** (ikx + at), where k and a are prescribed, the equations in question determine A and C, and thence, by (9) the value of eta….And so on for two pages. At the end, it is made clear that a wind of less than half a mile an hour will leave the surface unruffled.  At a mile an hour the surface is covered with minute corrugations due to capillary waves which decay immediately if the disturbing cause ceases.  At two miles an hour the gravity waves appear.  As the author modestly concludes, “Our theoretical investigations give considerable insight into the incipient stages of wave-formation.”  On another occasion the same subject of “Generation of Waves by Wind” was in my mind; but this time another book was more appropriate, and I read —There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter and lit by the rich skies, all day. And after, Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance and wandering loveliness. He leaves a white unbroken glory, a gathered radiance, a width, a shining peace, under the night.  The magic words bring back the scene.  Again we feel Nature drawing close to us, uniting with us, til we are filled with the gladness of the waves dancing in the sunshine, with the awe of the moonlight on the frozen lake.  These were not moments when we fell below ourselves.  We do not look back on them and say, “It was disgraceful for a man with six sober senses and a scientific understanding to let himself be deluded in that way.  “I will take Lamb’s Hydrodynamics with me next time.”  It is good that there should be such moments for us.  Life would be stunted and narrow if we could feel no significance in the world around us beyond that which can be weighed and measured with the tools of the physicist or described by the metrical symbols of the mathematician.  Of course, it was an illusion.  We can easily expose the rather clumsy trick that was played on us.  Aethereal vibrations of various wavelengths, reflected at different angles from the disturbed interface between air and water, reached our eyes, and by photoelectric action caused appropriate stimuli to travel along the optic nerves to a brain-centre.  Here the mind set to work to weave an impression out of the stimuli.  The incoming material was somewhat meagre, but the mind is a great storehouse of associations that could be used to clothe the skeleton.  Having woven an impression, the mind surveyed all that it had made and decided that it was very good.  The critical faculty was lulled.  We ceased to analyze and were conscious only of the impression as a whole.  The warmth of the air, the scent of the grass, the gentle stir of the breeze, combined with the visual scene in one transcendent impression, around us and within us.  Associations emerging from their storehouse grew bolder.  Perhaps we recalled the phrase “rippling laughter.”  Waves—ripples—laughter—gladness—the ideas jostled one another.  Quite illogically, we were glad, though what there can possibly be to be glad about in a set of aethereal vibrations no sensible person can explain.  A mood of quiet joy suffused the whole impression.  The gladness in ourselves was in Nature, in the waves, everywhere.  That’s how it was.  It was an illusion. Then why toy with it longer?  These airy fancies which the mind, when we do not keep it severely in order, projects into the external world should be of no concern to the earnest seeker after truth.  Get back to the solid substance of things, to the material of the water moving under the pressure of the wind and the force of gravitation in obedience to the laws of hydrodynamics.  But the solid substance of things is another illusion.  It too is a fancy projected by the mind into the external world.  We have chased the solid substance from the continuous liquid to the atom, from the atom to the electron, and there we have lost it.  But at least, it will be said, we have reached something real at the end of the chase — the protons and electrons.  Or, if the new quantum theory condemns these images as too concrete and leaves us with no coherent images at all, at least we have symbolic coordinates and momenta and Hamiltonian functions devoting themselves with single-minded purpose to ensuring that qp-pq shall be equal to ih/2π.  I have tried to show that by following this course we reach a cyclic scheme which, from its very nature, can only be a partial expression of our environment.  It is not reality but the skeleton of reality.  “Actuality” has been lost in the exigencies of the chase.  Having first rejected the mind as a worker of illusion we have in the end to return to the mind and say, “Here are worlds well and truly built on a basis more secure than your fanciful illusions.  But there is nothing to make any one of them an actual world.  “Please choose one and weave your fanciful images into it.  That alone can make it actual.”  We have torn away the mental fancies to get at the reality beneath, only to find that the reality of that which is beneath is bound up with its potentiality of awakening these fancies.  It is because the mind, the weaver of illusion, is also the only guarantor of reality that reality is always to be sought at the base of illusion.  Illusion is to reality as the smoke to the fire.  I will not urge that hoary untruth “There is no smoke without fire”.  But it is reasonable to inquire whether, in the mystical illusions of man, there is not a reflection of an underlying reality.

Arthur Eddington, 1927


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