Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Azathoth, Real-Life Science, and Lovecraftian Speculation

A technical article (see below) gave me an idea of how we have misperceived “blind” and “idiot” when describing the characteristics of Azathoth.

(The first recorded mention of Azathoth was in a note Lovecraft wrote to himself in 1919 that read simply, "AZATHOTH—hideous name. Another note Lovecraft made to himself later in 1919 refers to an idea for a story: "A terrible pilgrimage to seek the nighted throne of the far daemon-sultan Azathoth. Azathoth is currently thought of as the blind, idiot god who sits on a black throne at the center of Chaos.)

… the eyeless fish … of the cave … The Beast in the Cave, H P Lovecraft

…Outside the ordered universe that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

… the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose center sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws … - The Dreams in the Witch House.


I have seen. I know. God help me, I know! They think that I am mad, but I am as sane as any scientist – more so, because I now know the truth.

Through happenstance of research, I came across long forgotten and hand-copied notes from Sir Isaac Newton’s lost Book of Alchemy which mentioned one “Azoth”, which I knew instantly was Azathoth. The words were curt and cryptic, but telling. “We men of hubris believe that all revolves around us, but we are but mites on a dust speck. Eyes? Ears? There are senses that exceed these by a million-fold, and we dare cast doubt that the senses of other beings are less than ours? We call a fish an idiot because it is blind and deaf in the dark waters of a cave. We look at the stars and believe them to be patterns of chaos, but in fact they are but the impression of works beyond our current ken. One day we shall find that what we don’t see is more important and urgent than what we do see, once we have perfected the telescope’s full import.”

I kept this information close until I read the arcane works of Brown University’s Alphaeus Spring Packard, Jr.’s notes from his exploration of many 19th century cave systems. His hand drawing of his examinations of the microscopic cilia of cave fish made me suddenly realize: The Elder Gods do not see like we do, and they do not hear like we do, and most of all they do not feel as we do.

Creatures cobbled together from dark energies and dark matter, they are eternal and live from universe to universe in the vast multiverse. As one universe and era collapses into a dark entropy-ridden morass, they flee through thin boundaries to a new big bang explosions so that they might live another 30 billion years or so. Quintillions of years ancient, they live for one purpose to learn the secrets of eternity.

What are we to such constantly morphing things? They exist in the turbulence of chaos, and we no more comprehend their machinations that the ant understands a trip to Mars.

Now that I know, how can I live. In a moment I shall explode my brain apart with my revolver, but before I do, I warn you, I warn all: Do not attempt to go where I have been. Think not of the jellied sensory organs of Azathoth. Ignore the krakenish and tentacular dreams of Cthulhu. Most of all destroy the telescopes. We have already seen the hand of Nyarlathotep – what worse things shall we discover as we peer into the unfathomable, and unknowable realms of our early universe?

-Chris Perridas

From Lauren K. Wolf, Newscripts, Chemical and Engineering News, April 20,2009:

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Materials Science & Engineering have recently done some translating of their own—in their case from the natural to the synthetic. The team, led by professor Vladimir Tsukruk, succeeded in mimicking the sensitive, motion-detecting hairs of a BLIND CAVEFISH in their design of a flow sensor that may eventually have applications in underwater surveillance and port security.

Blind design Hair sensor coated with cupula on cantilever.Inspired by the ability of the fish species Astyanax fasciatus mexicanus to navigate its lightless environment with gel-covered hairs, the researchers used photolithography and polymer chemistry to engineer hair mimics on piezoelectric cantilevers. Collaborator Chang Liu of Northwestern University employed microfabrication techniques to generate the epoxy-based hairs from negative photoresists.

But the hairs were not sensitive enough on their own. Georgia Tech graduate student Michael McConney proposed surrounding the hairs with a hydrogel capsule, or cupula, to overcome this flaw. The "tall flaglike shape" of the cupula "increased the bending forces tremendously, and sensitivity went up almost two orders of magnitude," Tsukruk says.

The cupula, fabricated by adding droplets of poly(ethylene glycol) tetraacrylate to the synthetic hairs and cross-linking the structures with ultraviolet light, enables the best flow measurements when it starts halfway up the hair and extends beyond the tip, the researchers found.

So far, the research team has used its device to detect an oscillating source of pressure waves underwater at distances of a few body lengths, Tsukruk tells C&EN. Liu was able to do this work by attaching only four hair sensors to each side of a dummy fish.

The new sensor could eventually give one of today's most sensitive underwater detector systems—active sonar—a run for its money. To do that, Tsukruk says, the bioinspired devices need to be scaled up to "hundreds of hair sensors in a linear array" and tested in real marine settings.

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