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unsupported transit

So I wonder if Eadweard Muybridge knew what he was unleashing in 1872 when he was trying to prove that a horse trotted and galloped with all four feet off the ground at the same time [but not two forwards and two back as most thought in the late 19th Century – think George Stubbs horse paintings for instance] by photographing the Kentucky-bred mare Sallie Gardner whilst running.

Because as we all know, as first proposed by  pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea (490 BC – ca. 430 BC), motion is impossible [unless we resort to the direct evidence of our senses].

Zeno argued as follows:

suppose we wish to move from A to B. To achieve this we must traverse half the distance from A to B. To get from the midpoint of AB to B we must first traverse half this distance, and so on. So however many times we perform one of these traversals there is another one left to do before we arrive at B.

Thus it follows, according to Zeno, that motion (travelling a non-zero distance in finite time) is impossible.

The mantra of Mentat [humans with minds developed to the level of computers] Piter De Vriesis in Frank Herbert’s fictional Dune universe [at least as ‘quoted’ in David Lynch’s film version: it does not appear in the books]

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

clearly acknowledges this impasse: unless one subscribes to cinema history and theory, and the Persistence of Vision phenomenon of the eye, by which an afterimage is thought to persist for approximately one twenty-fifth of a second on the retina [and hence why anything less than 24 frames a second causes flicker]. But this ‘poetic’ theory was disproved as long ago as 1912!

If one wants poetry one should consult Case 29 from the collection of Zen koans,  The Gateless Gate, compiled in the early 13th century.

Not The Wind, Not The Flag
Two monks were watching a flag flapping in the wind. One said to the other, “The flag is moving.” The other replied, “The wind is moving.” Huineng overheard this. He said, “Not the flag, not the wind; mind is moving.”

Here is a fantastical, dark animation regarding the poetry of motion.


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One thought on “unsupported transit

  1. Democritus Junior. on said:

    I wonder if Zeno would have revised his opinion of the impossibility of motion had he known of the philosophical concept of a Supertask?

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