Chapters 18, 20, and 21 of One Book, The Whole Universe: Plato's Timaeus Today, by Jon Solomon, Ann Bergren, and Sean Carroll respectively, refer to supplementary content available here on this companion site. The material includes excerpts from the chapters, additional text, related links, a sample of film clips and animations.
Jon Solomon’s illustrated essay “Timaeus in Tinseltown: Atlantis in Film” tracks the reception of Plato’s Atlantis myth from the utopian literature of the Renaissance through Jules Verne to Blockbuster Video and your child’s GameCube. The myth’s uncanny juxtapositions of vivid detail and open texture make Plato’s Atlantis story a DNA that can express itself in a dithering, even contradictory, array of representations. The Atlanteans were good guys in the Renaissance, only to turn sinister again in the industrial era. They pop up again as good guys in the 1985 movie Cocoon before settling into moral ambiguity in Disney’s 2001 Atlantis, the Lost Empire. The myth’s open texture invites ‘scientific’ infills to underwrite its ‘authenticity’, even as its strange, detailed geography and pageantry invite fantasy. The myth’s cinephilic climax—the sinking of Atlantis paired with the cosmic destruction of Athens—has served as a booster rocket in the launch of the science-fiction genre. More specifically, the myth’s linking of displaced nature and displaced life helped give birth to the monster and the space alien: Undersea Kingdom (1936); Siren of Atlantis; Five Maidens from Outer Space; Journey to the Center of the Earth; Atlantis, the Lost Continent; Journey Beneath the Desert; Conqueror of Atlantis; Beyond Atlantis; Warlords of Atlantis; Raiders of Atlantis; Cocoon; Alien from L.A.; Atlantis, the Lost Empire; Atlantis, Milo’s Return (Disney, direct to video, 2003); and the first SpongeBob SquarePants made-for-television movie, Atlantis SquarePantis (2007) with DVD and Nintendo follow-ups.
And there’s no end in sight for the frenzy of popular interest in the story. While this book is in press, Hollywood releases a remake of Journey to the Center of the Earth—in 3-D. In the West Village, upscale Hudson Furniture snags a “Shopping With” feature in the New York Times for its Atlantis Chandelier, great swags and cascades of nickel chain starting at $12,900. Meanwhile, on a man-made island in the Arabian Gulf, there opens a marine-themed luxury resort, Atlantis Dubai: “Imagine exploring the mysterious ruins of Atlantis, lost for thousands of years deep beneath the sea. Now picture looking up to see 65,000 marine animals swimming in placid waters around you. Visitors can live out their own Atlantean adventure in The Lost Chambers, the maze of underwater halls and tunnels under the Ambassador Lagoon.”
Following is a sample of filmclips referred to in Solomon's'Timaeus in Tinseltown: Atlantis in Film', pp 302-326
Atlantis, the Lost Continent, USA, 1961
Plato's Timaeus Today, p 304-308 Figures 12-14
Production: George Pal Productions | Distribution: MGM Home Entertainment
Stargate Atlantis, USA, 2004
Plato's Timaeus Today, p 325-326 Figure 19
Production: Sony Pictures Television | Distribution: Sci-Fi Channel
Following are links referred to in Solomon's 'Timaeus in Tinseltown: Atlantis in Film', pp 287-326
A compilation of links to "source material" about Atlantis: Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 287 Note 3
Link to Gutenberg edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne: Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 291 Note 11
Review of the silent film Atlantis (1913): Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 294 Note 20
IMDb entry on Sharad of Atlantis (1966): Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 300 Note 33
IMDb entry on production company Atlantis Pictures: Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 301 Note 35
Fresco from the House of the Baker in Pompeii:Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 303 Note 42
IMDb entry on Il gigante di Metropolis (1961): Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 309 Note 52
IMDb entry on L'Atlantide (1961): Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 310 Note 54
Discussion of J. R. R. Tolkien's use of the Atlantis mythology: Click here Plato's Timaeus Today, p 324 Note 81
Plato’s Timaeus and the Aesthetics of
by Ann Bergren Chapter 20
Ann Bergren’s illustrated essay on Plato and architecture “Plato’s Timaeus and the Aesthetics of ‘Animate Form’” finds resonances of the dialogue in the branch of contemporary architectural design called “animate form,” particularly in the work of two chief practitioners, Greg Lynn and Elena Manferdini. But this Timaean ‘influence’ running into the architectural present does not have the unevolving architectonic structurings, the simple geometric orderings, wrought by the Demiurge, as its model and does not aspire to make aesthetic judgments by reference to standards, templates, perfect cases, or Forms. It rejects the triumph of structure over mere part. Rather it looks to the Timaeus’ pre-orderly world, the world before the Demiurge’s interventions, and to the suggestive, mobile traces of the elements found there as spurs to and generative materials for design. Such design will share “with the pre-cosmic chôra [space] the attributes of variegation, perpetual shape shifting, simultaneity of opposites” and transformative imitation. The loveliness of design so conceived will not lie in unity, measure, and proportion—the marks of Platonic beauty traditionally conceived (maybe even by Plato himself in the Philebus)—but will be found in an earlier Homeric concept of beauty, the marks of which instead are daidalos “elaborately crafted and detailed,” poikilos “variegated, differentiated, and mutiplicitious,” and aiolos “glittering, mobile, and animated.”
TEXT / ANIMATIONS
Definition of "Bleb"
(Courtesy of Greg Lynn FORM) Plato's Timaeus Today, p 351 Note 18
"Blebs are pockets of space formed when a surface intersects itself making a captured space. Most computer software has automatic loop cutting functions that eliminate these elements from surfaces. Blebs were first discovered in the office because the loop cutting invariably compromised the rigor of the surface geometry and the rhythmic pattern of panels and control vertices. By turning off the loop cutting function we discovered miniature volumes rippling across the surfaces we were designing. The first blebs were the pockets in the gardens of the Embryological House. These imperfections are in fact a class of curves beginning with the Folium of Descartes and including the Limaçon of Pascal, MacLaurin’s Trisectrix, Tschirnhaus’ S Cubic curves, Freeth’s Nephroid, strophoids, petal and plateau curves. These self intersecting curves are used to create volumetric pockets within continuous surfaces."
Bloom House 'Lantern'
Plato's Timaeus Today, p 352-353, Figure 5
"As pre-cosmic chôra is animated by a “loop” of dynamic forces, so by the application of the “blend shape” tool, forms transform, one into another. Lynn uses this operation to design a large, interior lantern for the Bloom House, 2008. First, a surface is formed by lofting curves that will form the ribs where the panels of the lantern are connected. Then the “blend shape” tool undulates that surface into the form that maximizes the opportunities of the room’s spatial parameters. (Plato's Timaeus Today, pp. 352-353)
"The six houses that make up Greg Lynn’s Embryological House, for example, are proleptic “traces” of literal embryos. Having emerged from vectoral forces applied to primitive spheres, they begin life as a group of what Lynn calls “gastrulated rooms,” a non-Platonic abstraction of the process by which an embryo folds on itself to form a gastêr, the Greek word for “stomach.” From this initial host of gastrulated forms, Lynn chooses six that display wide variation and invents a structural system for them. The selected volumes are then developed through interaction of their forces with the forces of a ground plane: in another instance of the simultaneity of active and passive forces in pre-cosmic chôra, here the ground deforms the volume, as the volume deforms the ground, thus nesting the house in a folded plinth. Further mutual deformation between volume and ground creates interstitial zones for transitional elements, such as the pod-shaped gardens or the patio, which is rendered in glass, so that the house appears to be floating above the ground. The composite is shown in a plan view of the six houses together with an exploded axonometric compilation of their components: the roof, the house volume, the structure, the glass transition, and the ground."
Courtesy of Greg Lynn FORM
Page dedicated to the Embryological House on Greg Lynn's website: www.embryological.com
Greg Lynn: The Embryological House 'Embryo2-Long' and Bloom House 'Lantern' animations, and the “Learn, Bleb” definition reproduced with permission of Greg Lynn FORM | www.glform.com/ Reproduction without permission is prohibited.
“Homeric beauty” in the “animate form” of Elena Manferdini
Plato's Timaeus Today, p 364-370 Figures 7-10
"In addition to works by Greg Lynn himself, a variety of projects by architectengineer, Elena Manferdini, display the features of “Homeric beauty” in “animate form.” Manferdini uses animation software to make constructions in fabric that can also be realized in full-scale building. In order to work with fabric, she starts with surfaces that are “developable,” always able to return to flat without stretching or tearing. In comparison with surfaces of complex curvature, developable surfaces admit of a wider range of fabrication methods. This technological economy facilitates the hallmark of Manferdini’s designs, an immense series of intricate apertures, both repeating and gradually differing, an aesthetic of serial progression and differentiation evocative of minimalist music. Once gravity and air currents work upon these openings, what started as two-dimensional fabric becomes a three-dimensional architecture with its planes in perpetual motion. And once fabric turns into building, we find fullscale analogues of “gold doves feeding.”
Manferdini’s method is applied to fabric in Clad Cuts, 2005. An animation using the “blend shape” tool generates a series of curves:
From this series, a curve is chosen to create the contours of openings that will be laser cut in the fabric and sealed. The goal is maximum curvature within the material tolerances of the fabrication process: if the configuration is too complex, the fabric will not hold together. But even with a single curve, variation in the openings emerges from five gradations of the area excised:
Applying the algorithm to the laser cutter makes possible thousands of cuts, more than could be drawn or cut by hand, producing a virtually endless anômalia “unevenness” of undulating opacity and aperture.
When such fabric is worn by a moving body, its planes become literally animated, in constant chôra-like movement. In the dress entitled, Cherry Blossom, Manferdini exploits the mimetic potential of this mobility, crafting an intricate spray, never static, of abstract “cherry blossoms.” First worn in a fashion show to open the Beijing Biennale of 2007, the dress pre-figures the outdoor pavilion Manferdini built for the same event.
(Figure 8a and 8b)
Once rendered in a full-scale architectural structure, the design remains fluid, as the wind sways the strips of twirling plastic.
Ceaseless motion and architectural allegory likewise mark Manferdini’s design of the dress and installation entitled MerlettiinterLace: suspended canopy of 2008. This project is an abstraction of the Italian term, merleÅLtto, which designates both the lace made by women in Venice during the Renaissance and the crenellation of perimeter walls.
This conceptual “mixing” of fabric and building is composed of twenty-six catenary cables suspended across an approximately 50' x 25' gallery. Strung along each cable are panels, their cut-outs forming multiple, hanging filigrees.
(Figure 9b) (Courtesy of Atelier Manferdini)
As if inhaling and exhaling, the number of panels across a cable gradually increases and decreases three times—from 10 to 13 to 10, from 11 to 15 to 10, and from 9 to 13 to 9. Also subtlety varying along the expanse are the patterns of the panels themselves, four in all, with increasing degrees of opening, through which a model wearing the dress-version of the project can wander.
And finally, in the 100-meter high Fabric Tower for Guiyang-Huaxi, China, Manferdini has designed a gigantic robot of “Homeric beauty.”
Like MerlettiinterLace, the tower is an abstraction of a female’s fabrication—here, the headdresses worn by the Miao women native to that area of China.
(Figure 10a) Photographs by Weizhong (Frank) Chen, reproduced by permission of the Visual Art Center: www.cwz9.com
Turned from the scale of a headdress, to the scale of a tower, the filigree becomes—like “golden doves feeding”—a “steel and glass gown flowing.” In grand sweeps of colossal draping, pleats cascade from the crown, swelling and swerving, as if blown by winds from mountains nearby.
And like the bottom of a curtain longer than its window, the folds curve at the base to lie in a lattice upon the grass, turning into landscape.
An animation traces this design process:
(Figure 10d) Large file, may take awhile to load.
Images and animations, except where indicated otherwise, are courtesy of Atelier Manferdini and reproduced by permission of
Elena Manferdini: www.ateliermanferdini.com. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.
Time and Change in an Eternal Universe
by Sean M. Carroll
Sean Carroll’s informal summary of his wonder-inspiring essay, “Time and Change in an Eternal Universe” leads us from our familiar patch of the universe to the outer limits of what is currently known about dark matter and dark energy, and then, in light of that knowledge, conjectures about how the rest of the story of the universe will unfurl. Local, intense, but widely scattered condensations of dark energy will cause other universes to hive off from ours spiraling both endlessly into the future and, like films running in reverse, beginninglessly into the past. What is is eternal without the benefit or need of gods. Grandeur does not require glory. Nor symmetry a protractor.
Beyond the Big Bang
Plato's Timaeus Today, p 378-380 Figures 3 and 4
"Consider the far future of our universe, where matter has dissipated away, leaving nothing but empty space. But that empty space still has vacuum energy. As a consequence, there is a nonzero temperature to empty space, just as Hawking showed that there is a temperature around black holes. Empty space isn’t completely empty, but is filled with incredibly cold thermal radiation (with a temperature of about 10–30 Kelvin).
Because of this temperature, there are thermal fluctuations—particles that appear out of empty space and occasionally (very rarely) collect into random configurations. Indeed, if we wait long enough, even incredibly rare configurations will appear—and we are imagining that we have infinitely long to wait. Among those rare configurations, we can imagine that spacetime itself fluctuates enough to create a baby universe.
(Figure 3) Creation of a baby universe. Animation by Derryl Rice / Parmenides Publishing
This is a tiny patch of space with a very high energy density, and just the right conditions to pinch off from its parent spacetime and go its own way. To an observer inside that baby universe, it would appear to start in a very dense low-entropy state, and expand and cool over the course of billions of years. It would, in other words, resemble our very own observable universe.
So the scenario might be as follows: there is an eternal background universe that never started in a Big Bang, but simply remained as empty space (with a small vacuum energy) for all time. Over the course of eternity, this universe gave birth to occasional baby universes, which expanded and cooled according to the traditional Big Bang story. One of those baby universes is our own. The overall picture is eternal; it has no beginning or end. And it is symmetric in time; baby universes can be created toward the very distant past, as well as the distant future. In this picture, the entropy of the larger multiverse has no maximum value; it appears to be increasing in our local neighborhood because we are a byproduct of the tendency of entropy to always increase overall."
(Figure 4) A sketch of a multiverse that is time-symmetric on large scales. (Courtesy of Jason Torchinsky)