Archive for May, 2010


Physics by request

As was recently reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, scientists working at Fermilab claim to have new evidence of a natural preference for matter over anti-matter. The paper can be found here.

The history of the argument goes like this: Every time physicists come up with a new equation, they try to see what happens when you change the sign, + to – or – to +,  of some of its components. For distance, velocity, position and angle there is a physical interpretation to the switch, but for things like charge and mass and time it’s a little murkier. There are obvious examples of positive and negative charge (protons and electrons,) and anti-matter is a reasonably well understood  interpretation of “negative mass,” but negative time (or a negative direction of time) is almost impossible to deal with practically, although Richard Feynman and others proposed theories as to what it means.

These instances of possible inversion are called symmetries, and there are three of note: Electric charge, Parity (often described as left- or right-handedness), and Time. Many physicists believe that the universe should behave identically if you invert all electric charges, parity, and the direction of time. This is called CPT symmetry. We can’t, as far as we know, reverse the direction of time, but we can examine cases of alternate charge and parity (just CP symmetry now) and look for differences.

This is important to physics because it might posit an explanation for why there is any matter in the universe. Ordinarily, when you create particles (E=mc²) you have to do so in equal amounts of matter and anti-matter due to conservation laws. This would either forbid any stable collection of material or require there are anti-planets and anti-stars out there in the universe, which we would almost certainly know about through the tremendous amounts of radiation released by matter/anti-matter collisions in interceding space. So far as we can tell, the universe is just about all matter.

There have been experiments done showing CP symmetry violation, but the events involved are not capable of producing enough matter to account for what we see. This recent experiment might not be either, but it dramatically strengthens the argument that this universe prefers our stuff to its inverse.


Scottological Humor


botswana guitar music

There’s something about this strummy, plaintive guitar music from South and Eastern Africa that I can’t get enough of.  You could probably say that the melodicism is attractive to Western ears because of a sort of troublesome level of forced colonial-era cultural exchange, but I prefer to think of it as a masterful adaption and synthesis with recognizable elements of both traditional African music and Western folk music.  The technique in the first video is pretty amazing.  It looks like he removes the 5th string to emphasize the bass line and enable that really warm twang with forceful downstrokes on the higher strings.  Anyway…no point in really talking about it too much, it’s better just to listen.

addendum: Johuat, please explain this matter/antimatter CP violation thing to us.  thx.


Promotion: SciFiPo

Science Fiction Pornography, my new chapbook, is available now from Publishing Genius.

It’s available as a free download or for $5.00 from the publisher.

Also, if you email me I will send take a copy, draw pictures on the blank pages, and ship it to you in return for either book/art/music trade or payment of whatever you feel is fair.

Please check it out at:


Absurd Conspiracy Theory # 1


– For election day, the School District of Philadelphia schools do not open until 10:00 am tomorrow.

– Teachers at many of the schools are expected to come to in at 8:00 am, despite the fact that the students will not be there. This limits the ability of teachers to vote.

– Parents of students who are staying home an extra two hours have an incentive to stay home in the morning, and are thus limited in their ability to vote by this unusual situation.


Here’s the conspiracy theory: Someone (Specter?) is trying to suppress the liberal Philadelphia vote.

Here’s what probably actually happened: The School District of Philadelphia is probably just horribly horribly incompetent.


A Book About Books That Are Not

Please check out the new website for The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature

You see, Erinrose and I are making a book! The above website says all of this, but I am also posting the announcement for it here. We’re really excited for this and hope you are too. Please tell your friends, consider submitting, and let us know if you can think of anyone you’d like us to solicit a contribution from.

OK, announcement time:


Announcement and Call for Submissions: The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature

Dear Internet,

We are very excited to announce the coming existence of The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature. The Catalog is to consist of a series of blurbs/short descriptions of books that do not exist. In order to compile that Catalog, we have asked many of the writers, theorists, and text-makers we most admire to imagine that they’ve just read the most amazing book they’veever encountered and then write a brief blurb about the imagined text.

As many of you know, The phrase ‘potential literature’ is highly associated with the Oulipo group. We choose to use the phrase here because, as the Oulipo says, their project, properly, is to conceptualize forms and potential works: not necessarily to bring them into being. Literature is potential literature when it is that shimmering non-work of total possibility. Though Official only by way of titular hyperbole (itself, like the blurbs contained within, a kind of unfulfilled and unfulfillable promise), the Catalog will evoke a library of wonderful—maybe even impossible—books; books that, in spite or even because of their non-existence, excite and fascinate. Each paragraph will be the promise of the unopened book in the moment before reading.

We have been incredibly fortunate to be able to work with many fantastic people on this project. Willows Wept Press has agreed to release the Catalog in a limited print edition, and about 50 of our very favorite writers in the world have agreed to contribute blurbs. We already have excellent work on hand from writers including Vanessa Place, Diane Williams, and Warren Motte.

That said, we are opening the project to public submissions because, while we’re excited about the writers and theorists with whom we are currently corresponding, we are still looking for more talented minds whose texts should also fill the pages of our book. We have full confidence in you, readers, and would love to see your blurbs among the other terrific blurbs we’re collecting.

We have decided that the best way to go about exploring public contributions is to blindly review your texts, should you be interested in submitting a blurb for consideration. In this way, we will be able to consider the work you submit in an objective and relatively professional manner.

Also, know that we are discussing the possibility of an extended, online edition of this book—to be released after the book’s initial printing. We might find it wholly appropriate to save some of your blurbs for this edition, as we need strong contributions for both versions. All submissions will be considered for both print and online publication. Please note if you do not wish for your work to be considered for publication online.

So, to the meat of things! Submission Process:
If you are interested in submitting a blurb for consideration, please email potentialbooksbookgmailcom. Your subject heading should read: [Name], Open Blurb Submission. While it’s okay to have your name and maybe a cute message in the body of the email, your actual blurb should not appear in the body of the email. Instead, please send your blurb as an attachment. The attachment should NOT include your name. A third party will have access to the potentialbooksbook account and s/he will collect, number, and print each of your attached submissions for our consideration. Only after we have thoroughly read your submissions will we then pair them with their respective emails.

The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2010.

If you have any questions (not submissions) about the project or the submission process, please email either benbensegalgmailcom or erinrose.magergmailcom. We’re happy to try and answer your queries and will be totally excited to learn of your initial interest!

Finally, if you have any suggestions of other writers we ought to contact (whether they’re your friends who are doing cool stuff or more prominent writers, thinkers, and text makers from whom you’d love to see a blurb), please send your ideas to either of the above personal email addresses. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading this far and thank you, preemptively, for your mind blowing submissions.

Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager



Watch Me Maybe Castigate Myself For Maybe Wanting You To See Me

Dear Ghost Islanders,

Ambivalence has become the major [mood? stimmung? attitude? emotional cloud?] under which I operate.

I am not simply neutral, not even struck by the undecidable. I am moved in multiple different ways by the same things, am ambi-valent.

Take desire, which I am of course driven to and terrified of speaking about.

Take also fame, or ‘fame’, or being-in-public, which in my own small way I am attempting to have/be/do a lot more of over the next few months. I’m involved in a number of projects which I will be promoting and attempting to promote and attempting to get you all to also promote.

I am ambivalent about promotion.

Part of me is sorry that I am doing this. I am sorry.

I apologize, and not only is this a kind of rhetorical strategy. It is, but it is also real. But part of me is also very much wanting to be read and spoken of because (here again: fract(ur/ion)ing of emotions/desire) of belief in the projects I will be hyping. Of course, this is also a desire fueled by simple self-interest (careerism, narcissism). The desire for recognition is itself marked by the cohabitation of pride and disgust for such desire, as the ends that produce said desire call for such divergent attitudes.

I am desirous of success, ambivalent about success, ambivalent about the desire for success. I am defining success somewhat idiosyncratically, but don’t have the language at hand to explain the exact pitch of my usage.

One of the big projects inspiring this line of thought– this heightened awareness of the ambivalence that attends my ambitions– deals very directly with the problematic of name/fame/quality/desire/possibility. Imagine all of those words mean themselves in all possible connotations. Now re-order them. I think there’s a there there.

There will be more soon: Announcements and Pleas(es). In advance, I am sorry and/or look at me.


(This image comes up for the search stimmung. It seemed appropriate.)

May 2010
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