Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Singularity by Gwyllm Llwydd
To celebrate Winter Solstice 2012, nothing could be finer than a visit to Turfing, one of my favorite websites. Turfing is a consistently strange and beautiful collection of text, image and videos curated by Gwyllm Llwydd, an artist, editor and poet who lives in Portland, Oregon. Gwyllm also publishes a website called Earthrites consisting primarily of images.

In Gwyllm's Singularity post, one finds, consistent with the current End of the World theme, a poster announcing a Conference of Disembodied Masters plus The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, by Jack Kerouac, who gently reminds us that the world will never end because it never began in the first place. Ah, those crazy beatniks! The same post also includes more quotes by and about beatniks as well as two music videos featuring John Coltrane playing Lush Life and Autumn Leaves.

In a second post, called Horizon, Gwyllm presents a few poems by Robinson Jeffers, one of Nick's favorite bards, plus a remarkable article that appeared in the March 15. 1895 issue of the New York Herald--Orgies of the Hemp Eaters: Hashish Dreamers' Festival in Northwestern Syria at the Time of the Full Moon. Perhaps anticipating gonzo-style journalism made famous by Hunter Thompson a century later, the Herald's intrepid reporter partakes of the same intoxicants as his hosts. And witnesses "a Sacred Dance that surpasses the wildest ecstasy of any opium dream." Ah, those crazy Syrians!

The Almeh by Eugene Alexis Girardet

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy YIDD

Nick Herbert wishes you Happy YIDD

The Mayans were right
to predict a dark night
that obliterates all you hold dear.
The prophecies say
It could happen today
And I believe what I hear.

This much is certain:
We can't halt that last curtain:
The end of phenomena, Nature undid.
But while we still here
Let's raise a loud cheer
For Ukrainian feast day of YIDD.

The Soviets slaughtered my people
They famined Twelve Million--they did.
But the rest of us here
Can still lift up a beer
For Ukrainian feast day of YIDD.

My folks worked the mines of Ohio
Black Diamond killed grandpa--it did
But we're out of the covers
And kissing our lovers
On Ukrainian feast day of YIDD.

The flag of Ukraine--gold and blue
She represents the wheat and sky.
Life is fleeting, this is true
But YIDD is here, so lift a brew.
What do we celebrate and why?
Yesterday I Didn't Die.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Courtesan and Crone

This October, Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA celebrated its Fiftieth Birthday with a number of special events among which was a short dance piece by legendary West Coast innovative dancer Anna Halprin who presented The Courtesan and the Crone. In the 60s I met my wife Betsy at Anna Halprin's studio in San Francisco where she studied, taught and performed at Halprin's Dancer's Workshop on Divisidero Street just a few blocks from Haight-Ashbury. How good to see Anna on stage again. Happy Birthday, dear Esalen. And "Bravo!", Anna Halprin. Your spirit continues to shine and inspire.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nick's Dixon

Nick playing his new Tony Dixon whistle

About ten years ago I met an enormously talented woman who was, among her other talents, a cook, an artist and Irish musician, part of the duo/trio known as Dobhran ("Otter" in Gaelic) which played at Celtic festivals, weddings and wineries, and had produced three CDs of their tunes. In order to get closer to this marvelous creature and to move more easier in her circles I decided to learn to play some Irish instrument. Since I have almost no native musical ability, the fiddle was out, and likewise any rhythm instrument. so I settled on either concertina or penny whistle. For economic reasons the whistle won out and I have been trying to master this deceptively simple six-hole Irish noise-maker ever since.

Learning an instrument is like learning a language--it's a consciousness altering act. First of all you have to "court the instrument", caress it, coax it, discover what it (and you) can and cannot do together. Then, as you start memorizing pieces, a part of your unconscious emerges that can play the instrument without any conscious effort on your part. Then your performance becomes a peculiar dialog between the new being inside you that can play the whistle "by heart" and the conscious mind that wants to direct the sound into new paths. Playing music "by heart" is a fascinating conversation between conscious and subconscious entities resembling Buddhist meditations involving breathing which is another physiological function where the border between unconscious and conscious operations can be shifted at will.

The penny whistle (known also as tin whistle or Irish whistle) probably never ever cost as little as a penny. (The name may have arisen from small boys playing it in London streets "for pennies") but they are remarkable inexpensive--usually at prices less than $10.00 US. For that reason we whistle players are prone to WAS (whistle acquisition syndrome) in which new whistles are acquired at the drop of a hat. Sometimes friends unwittingly feed this addiction--three of my fondest whistles are gifts--1. a classic tin Clarke from my next-door neighbor; 2. a Guinness-branded aluminum pipe bought at Blarney Castle by a fellow whistle player and 3. a brass Walton purchased in Dublin by Bruce Damer after receiving his PhD from Trinity College. Wherever I am, I look about for new whistles, hoping to find that unattainable grail--that magic instrument that exactly fits my nature, the perfect whistle that is all "sweet spot"--no sour or squeaky notes--that delirious whistle that plays itself, that effortlessly pours forth seductive melodies that charm the savage beast, court the ladies or stir the tribe into battle.

After playing for years in sessions around Santa Cruz and in a few paid gigs, I decided that I was ready to appreciate a more expensive instrument (good hand-crafted whistles sell for as much as $300) and after shopping around on the web decided to buy a tunable polymer whistle from Tony Dixon who works in Devon, England. The whistle arrived (about $50 from Lark in the Morning in Mendocino) and I have since been coaxing, caressing and discovering both its virtues and its flaws--many of which are located, of course, on my side of the fipple (mouthpiece).

I have been fortunate to find a few good whistle tutors, both live and on the web. Foremost web tutor being the musical priest himself Ryan Duns, SJ. Best source for whistle lore = Chiff and Fipple. And for traditional Irish tunes and commentary see One of our local Celtic music luminaries, Mike Long has put together a collection of more than a 1000 Irish tunes ("more tunes than are good for you") which he privately circulated and has now made available on the web. And for tuning your instrument, calibrating your tuner, or just playing around with sounds, there's the Online Tuning Fork.

One of the most instructive comments on my budding career as a whistle player came a few years back from an experienced fiddle player in one of our sessions: "You're really sounding good, Nick," he said, "For a long time you've been really terrible." To an insecure musician like myself that kind of honest feedback was truly encouraging.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This Land is Mine


Nina Paley is a remarkably productive artist who resided for a time in Santa Cruz, CA where she published a comic strip in a local print weekly and created the Cruzio Cat logo for, the local ISP that happens to host my email. Her best-known work is a full-length animated version of the Indian classic Ramayama tale entitled Sita Sings the Blues.

Paley is currently working on an animated version of the Exodus story--working title Sader-Masochism--of which one part is fully animated and viewable on Vimeo. This Land is Mine is Nina's capsule history of the Middle-East territory known as Canaan, the Levant, and Palestine/Israel--a delightful account, entertaining, I imagine, even to passionate Israel-firster Alan Dershowitz. View it here. For more information about Nina and the numerous actors in her territorial cartoon see her blog.

Nina has also produced a short ecology video entitled Stork which without a single word surpasses anything that the Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood has ever come up with.

Quantum Tantra hats off to Nina Paley--an artistic genius!

Nina Paley--animator extraordinaire!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Amber Waves of Grain

Veterans Day 2012

O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain.
         --America the Beautiful (Kathanne Lee Bates)

I have never been in the military but my younger brother, Duke, served as a Marine, and we two Ohio boys were raised to believe in the importance of patriotism and the essential role our soldiers play in defending our country. On Veteran's Day 2012 we rightly honor those soldiers who served our country not merely by paying taxes but by risking their physical bodies for the sake of America and its values.

Most American soldiers believe they are serving their country by fighting its wars but some soldiers have a different opinion, for instance, my friend Reno DeCaro, a veteran of the US Marine's elite Force Recon Division, who writes:

Reno: The sad news is that there is not a veteran alive who has served this country, regardless if this was his intention—look up patriot Pat Tillman---or if he was aware of it or not. What our guys in the military have served, and are still serving, is special interest groups and their bought representatives, i.e., elected officials. The agenda of those elected leaders only serves the welfare of the American people if, by chance, America's welfare happens to overlap with the welfare of some special interest group that brought our leaders into power.

Yes, I’m a veteran, a veteran of close to five years of service with the US Marine Corps and have five more years working for the US Army in a civilian capacity. I feel I have more right to speak about veterans than the draft dodgers and others who never dreamed of joining the military, but call themselves “commander in chief” or "advisers" to the commander in chief.

In addition to courage and love of country, I was given a brain and life experience to see through the “racket” that is sold to the American people in the form of patriotism. Major General Smedley Butler, one of the Marine Corps great war heroes, wrote a book called War is a Racket after more than 30 years of service with the Marines. 

General Butler: “War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket. “

Reno: This country has been involved in more wars all over the world--some euphemistically called "military actions"--than any other country during the last hundred years. Every four years we elect someone who is willing to continue the racket of his predecessor. Sometimes he even receives a Nobel Peace Prize while waging war, approving institutionalized torture of people 10,000 miles away who are no threat to us, while limiting the personal freedom of Americans.

Unless you believe third-world cavemen with AK 47’s, RPG’s and IED’s are a threat to America, there is no reason for us to fight in Afghanistan killing tens of thousands of innocents while ruining the lives of tens of thousands of the best of our own people. The war in Iraq was something we were lied into, killed hundreds of thousands of people and did not benefit a single American not heavily invested in defense corporations.

Bringing our troops home to protect our borders from criminals crossing illegally en masse from a country with the highest crime rate in the world, while millions of illegals immigrating are putting stress on our social-service network is what would be in the interest of the American people. Which candidate capable of getting elected or which mass media outlet even raised that issue during any elections? None!

Every election is about “Hope and Change”. Nothing that is hoped for ever happens and the change is always for the worse as it affects the majority of Americans. This is not about Republicans or Democrats but about America's massively corrupt system of governance.
Nick: While I do not possess ex-Marine DeCaro's experience in the military, I do share his belief that patriotism--love of country and the willingness to fight to defend that country--is a most admirable human virtue. So how should we judge those who would exploit this most noble of virtues for ignoble ends?

Are not those men, hiding safely behind their desks while talking of "defending our freedoms" by putting American soldiers in harm's way for the sake of doubling some executive's million-dollar bonuses, the very opposite of patriots? Aren't they, rather, abusers of true patriotism for ends which only benefit a few and do not benefit our country as a whole?

This exploitation of a noble virtue for ignoble ends is a foul crime and deserves a new name, for which I suggest, in analogy to a similarly vile violation of human innocence, the term "patriot molestation".

When the next "military action" is proposed, or for that matter many of our present conflicts, every thoughtful American should ask (especially those who actually have to risk their lives): "Is this action truly in the service of my country, or is this just another case of patriot molestation?"

Reno: Don’t buy into the same lies we were told during Vietnam. “If we don’t fight them there we will have to fight them here.” Once we left the Vietnamese alone and went home they had no interest, nor the ability to fight us. The hundreds of billions a year of our tax dollars wasted to bomb people living in caves back to the Stone Age, and to bribe their leaders to pretend to like what we are doing there, could certainly be spent more wisely by funding jobs to rebuild America.

The same applies to the Iraqi wars and every conflict we have been involved in. The Kaiser posed no threat to the US in WW1, Hitler did not have the means to invade England, never mind America during WW2---Japan was economically and politically forced into a first strike that was known to Roosevelt days in advance. There was no domino effect of communism after we withdrew from Vietnam; Cuba has not harmed us after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the list goes on.  All lies to motivate the good people of the country to risk their lives to enrich a few.

After two Iraqi wars and an eleven-year war against Afghanistan, America the beautiful is nearly bankrupt but the number of its billionaires has doubled.

Who could argue against those historical facts without lying? And if these facts are correct, why should any patriot--someone who has the true interest of the American people at heart--allow his noble feeling of wanting to protect his country to be abused? Abused by those who profit without fighting. Abused by some patriot molester sitting safely behind a desk.

No one has better expressed the evil of exploiting the noble virtue of patriotism for ignoble ends than Rudyard Kipling who wrote, concerning the real motives behind World War 1, these famous lines:

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Big Swirl

Superposition of +10 OAM plus -10 OAM

Quantum mechanics is usually perceived as the (somewhat bizarre) physics of the very small, while large objects obey the logic of common sense. One of the most exciting trends in modern physics is the attempt to create larger and larger objects that obey quantum rules and hence to quietly smuggle the weirdness of quantum reality into the realm of everyday life.

Recently Robert Fickler and his colleagues at the University Of Vienna have devised a clever experiment that expands the realm of quantum entanglement into the region of high quantum numbers by devising a scheme that entangles two photons with arbitrarily high values of "orbital angular momentum (OAM)"-- a quantity I will call "swirl".

Every photon has an intrinsic spin equal to one Planck unit. Most experiments in quantum entanglement operate by using special non-linear crystals to produce a pair of photons in which this spin degree of freedom is divided between the two photons in such a way that each photon is in an uncertain spin state but the spin of the larger two-photon state is quantum-determined. This leads to the unusual situation (characteristic of quantum entanglement) that no matter how distant the two photons are separated, they in some sense still form a single entity so that an action on one photon seems to instantly influence the properties of the other. One might imagine that this instant influence could be used to send faster-than-light signals and hence break the well-known Einstein speed limit but quantum theory possesses a subtle structure that allows Nature access to this superluminal channel while denying it to human beings.

Fickler and his friends start with the usual pair of photons entangled in spin-one space and by clever use of a Spatial Light Modulator (SLM) -- a liquid-crystal device not too different from the gadget that is producing this image on your flat screen -- they can add to each photon a lot of "swirl" beginning with 10 spin units (shown above) and working their way up to successfully entangling two photons each possessing 300 units of swirl. The amount of swirl they can add to the photons is limited not by the laws of physics but by the pixel density of their Spatial Light Modulator so with better technology much larger values of "swirl" than 300 can be entangled.

Using their current setup, Fickler and company conveniently produce not just a photon with a big swirl of 300 but a photon that exists in a superposition of 300 units of clockwise swirl plus 300 units of counterclockwise swirl -- a situation I have elsewhere called "Schrödinger's Carousel".  And this (300/-300) swirled photon is quantum-entangled with a similar high-swirl photon which can be located many meters away.

However clever this achievement, a swirl of only 300 units is still much too small to be perceived by human senses. But there is an analogous phenomenon created by lots of tiny aligned spins (much more than 300) called magnetism which might someday be coaxed to produce bizarre quantum phenomena perceivable by humans.

For me one of the most elegant experiments that connects the micro-world with the macro-world is the Einstein-de Haas Effect. If you suspend a magnet on a string and demagnetize it by heating, the magnet magically begins to rotate without the application of any force. This mysterious rotation is explained by the fact that magnetism is the result of an immense number of electrons whose spins (one unit each of AM) are all aligned in the same direction. When the magnet is heated, the direction of these spins is randomized. The overall rotation is still conserved however, and is transferred from the electrons to the crystal lattice and hence the whole magnet begins to spin.

Learning how to entangle big swirls is starting in Austria with pairs of photons but perhaps, using quantum entanglement, magnets, which are already remarkable things, may someday be transformed into macroscopic quantum objects that will behave in ways that seem truly miraculous.

On another note, I've just discovered how to add a "favicon" to the URL line of my blog, and after experimenting with many complex images, have decided to use this simple "white portal" on a purple background to symbolize my quantum tantric quest to discover radically new "doorways into Nature"

New doorway into Nature?

ADDENDUM: My younger brother Duke, an ex-Marine now living in Montana, suggested THIS as a candidate image for "doorway into Nature."

Brother Duke's old doorway into Nature

Monday, October 29, 2012


Blarney in action

For many years I've been learning to play the Irish whistle at various sessions around Santa Cruz including some that are open to the public such as Britannia Arms in Aptos. Happening upon one of our public sessions, Lynnette, entertainment director of Driftwood, a retirement community near the beach in Live Oak, asked if we could play for a birthday party. A few of us agreed, called our group Blarney and did the Irish bit for the party. Last week, Lynnette invited us back. In this incarnation, Blarney consists of Nick Herbert on Irish whistle, August O'Connor on bodhran (frame drum) and Peter Koeneman on fiddle. A good time was had by all.

The word "Blarney" means eloquent (often nonsensical) speech -- the "gift of gab" -- and is associated with the Lord of Blarney Castle in county Cork who exasperated Queen Elizabeth I by his ability to talk endlessly without ever acceding to her demands.

On the week of the Blarney concert I was invited to one of the most prestigious venues in Santa Cruz -- Kate Bowland's legendary Halloween party. Kate Bowland is one of the most powerful "witches" in Santa Cruz, a world-famous midwife who has delivered more than 2000 babies in her long career, a mistress of ceremonies in the many female dance and drumming circles around town. Kate is a woman with a lot of mojo. The tradition at Kate's masquerades is to interact "in character" with the other party-goers for the first hour and later have the option to be yourself or continue in character. At a previous Bowland Halloween that I was privileged to attend, two woman came, one dressed as Marilyn Monroe and the other as Jackie Kennedy. After seriously ignoring one another for most of the hour they suddenly came together in a public cat fight that was the hit of the evening.

Following the enthusiastic reception of the Blarney event, August and I were so full of ourselves that we decided that I should go to Kate's party as "God" and she would come as "God's Bodyguard" -- a rehabilitated fallen angel armed with a ray gun for smiting those who might dare to piss off the Supreme Being who made all things and keeps them in existence.

So we drive to the party, turning heads at Trader Joe's, as God and his sidekick shopped for supplies. As expected, the people at Kate's party were superb. Kate herself was dressed as a red, white and blue suffragette complete with political banners loudly arguing for woman's equality and right to vote.

As I was going into the kitchen for a beer (God likes Guinness) I bumped into a scantily-dressed woman with laurel in her hair, an apple at her bosom and a snake around her neck. On her back was a small sign: "I left him in the flying saucer." I introduced myself: "Eve, I presume. I'm that guy that put you in the Garden."

We spent a lot of time talking with Eve, whose real story was as fascinating as her legend. God and his sidekick found Earth's first sinner, Earth's first scientist, to be a lot of fun.

But for me the best riff occurred at the beginning. I had just gotten inside the door when two more guests arrived, dressed as a pair of magnificent hippies, big wigs, fake moustache, splendid attire.

I asked: "Who are you two?"

"I'm Sonny Bono. And this is Cher." The disguise was perfect--Sonny and Cher really looked the part.

"And who are you?" Sonny asked.

"Why I'm God," (pause) "Good acid, eh?"

Eve conversing with God and Bodyguard

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Feghoot's Proof

Ferdinand Feghoot QED, Doctor of Quantum Geometry

By the year 2202, interstellar travel had been achieved and thousands of planets were colonized, due to the invention of a simple FTL teleportation device--called the "Nick Machine", a technological spinoff from the research boom in quantum tantra. The major barrier in 2202 to travel between the stars was no longer technical but psychological as various human-based cultures created their own "no-fly lists" at every teleport node in order to prevent the spread of what each of them considered "evil" into the galaxy.

This network of no-fly zones divided the galaxy into virtual ideological gulags (VIGs) inside which certain citizens were confined against their wills, isolated forever from the advantages of interplanetary travel. And the surest way to find yourself on a no-fly list was to criticize this system or even to mention the existence of VIGs.

Ferdinand Feghoot had recently concluded a mutually beneficial love affair with one of the top quantum tantrikas on planet Literati and, after a lunar cycle of intimate farewells with the tantrika and her friends, he arrived at the Literati Airport to "fly" (instantaneously) to the Red Zone in Aldebaran a hundred light years away.

To his dismay he discovered that his name was flagged on the Literati "no-fly" list as a notorious interplanetary punster. The Literatis were firm believers in the sacredness of language and regarded all puns as sins against the purity of the spoken word.

"Feghoot, You shall not pass," said the gate-keeper at the Nick Machine. "You are well known, FF, as a multiple offender against the sanctity of language." See here, here and here. And he stamped Feghoot's boarding pass with a big red X.

"Wait, wait, there's been some mistake," said our hero. "Praise the Word. I am not that heretical lout. I am Ferdinand Feghoot QED, Professor of Quantum Geometry, on my way to an important science convention on Aldebaran III where I will be giving the keynote speech. If I am delayed even 10 minutes your whole planet will be disgraced by this incident. And you, sir, will probably be sent to the language mines."

"I may have been born in Sarfattistan, Feghoot, but I'm no gullible dupe," the crossing guard replied. "If you're such an important professor, show me something impressive to prove it."

"Praise the Word. I'm glad you asked, kind sir. I am just on my way to the Red Zone to present my latest result in Quantum Geometry which I would be happy to share with you. What most people don't know about reality is that ordinary plane geometry is subject to a fundamental quantum uncertainty--measured in "Plank units", named after an old American word for a flat piece of lumber. And I, Ferdinand Feghoot QED, Praise the Word, have devised the simplest proof in the entire galaxy of Fundamental Geometric Uncertainty. Feghoot's Proof is so simple I can even demonstrate it to you, sir".

"America?," the guard asked. "Isn't that the empire that was ruthlessly plundered by the ---?"

"Yes, yes, but that's ancient history. Do you or do you not want to see this proof? No one else has ever seen it. It's brand new. You'll be the first. I'll show it to you only if you print me up a fresh boarding pass."

"OK, person who's calling himself Doctor Feghoot. But I'm keeping this new pass in my hand till I see that proof."

"Fair enough," said Feghoot. "Now hand me that old pass."

Upon receiving the old pass, Feghoot pulled a pair of scissors from his backpack and cut the pass into four pieces which he arranged into a right triangle. The triangle was 5 Glips in height and 13 Glips long. "What is the area of this triangle?" asked Feghoot.

"Every child knows that, Feghoot. I'm not impressed. Area of any triangle is 1/2 Base times Height. Base is 13 Glips; Height is 5 Glips. Area is 32 and a 1/2 square Glips."

"That's correct, sir. Now watch closely," said Feghoot as he re-arranged the four pieces of the cut-up boarding pass. "What is the area of this new triangle?"

"Why, the base and the height of this new triangle are the same, so the area is the same also. The answer is 32 and a 1/2 square Glips."

"But observe, sir. This new triangle has a hole in it exactly one square Glip in size. Where did that hole come from? From Quantum Geometry, I say. That hole represents precisely the one quantum of uncertainty that dwells invisibly in all triangles. Dwells invisibly until now. Dwells invisibly until revealed by Feghoot's Proof. Now hand me my boarding pass. I'm off to show this to my colleagues"

Feghoot steps into the Nick Machine, inserts his new boarding pass, and is instantly present in a distant Nick Machine on Aldebaran III.

Meanwhile the crossing guard (and you and I) are left with the paradox of the hole in the triangle.

Hole in the Triangle paradox

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quantum Teleportation

Alice and Bob make measurement choices concerning entangled photons A and B
One reason why medieval philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas never developed a sophisticated description of the material world might have been that the priorities of thinkers in the Middle Ages were different than our own. The aim of Thomas Aquinas and his colleagues was to discover the nature of God. Hence they treated the world not as a physical object with its own intrinsic laws but as the personal creation of a divine being. The facts of this world, unimportant in themselves, could tell us about the nature of God in much the same way as a painting or sculpture might inform us about the nature of the artist that created it. A bit of this same theological spirit surfaces in Einstein's famous statement: "I want to know the mind of God; all else is details."

Anyone seeking to know the nature of God by studying the physical universe will certainly be fascinated by quantum theory, our deepest and most successful theory of matter. Quantum theory is deeply paradoxical and seems to obey a distinctly non-human logic. One of the most peculiar feature of this theory is the way it seems to effortlessly embody seemingly contradictory aspects in the same phenomena. One of the most elegant examples of quantum theory's union of opposites is the recently discovered fact of quantum teleportation which unites in one system both a faster-than-light transmission of information plus a clear prohibition against humans using this undeniable FTL connection for sending FTL messages.

Quantum theory also embodies the unusual feature that the world we see depends on the questions that we pose. Hence the more sophisticated we become in asking questions of Nature, the more sophisticated will be Her replies.

Quantum teleportation is a special feature of quantum entanglement in which two photons emitted from a special source give up their individual identities and enter a collective state. The collective two-photon state has definite properties but the individual photons do not, until they are actually observed. For example, in the entangled state W(A,B,+), photons A and B will always be observed to have the same polarization; in the state X(A,B, -), photons A and B are always observed to have opposite polarization. These two entangled states W and X are part of a complete set of entangled two-photon states W, X, Y and Z, called the "Bell states" (after Irish physicist John Stewart Bell). Any two-photon state, whether entangled or not, can be expressed as a sum of the 4 Bell states. This fact is essential to the process of teleportation.

Alice obtains unknown photon "?" she wants to send to Bob

Alice acquires a photon "?" with an unknown polarization which she wants to teleport to Bob. This photon IS NOT ENTANGLED with Alice's photon A but Alice employs a clever trick--only possible in quantum theory. Alice expresses the quantum state of photon "?" and photon A as the sum of the four entangled Bell states W, X, Y and Z. She does this sum in such a way that all the entanglements cancel and the total quantum state of "?" and "A" is unentangled.

Alice's move reminds me of a string trick I learned as a kid in which you wrap a loop of string around your fingers in a complicated way so that it looks as though the fingers are entangled in the string. But upon pulling the string the fingers are freed--every loop of string was cancelled by an anti-loop. It's the same with the two photons--every seeming entanglement is cancelled somewhere by an anti-entanglement.

However because Bob's B photon is entangled with Alice's A photon, a kind of quantum magic occur in which the polarization "?" of Alice's unknown photon is transferred to Bob's photon B, although in a somewhat hidden form. To every term W, X, Y, Z in Alice's expression for her two states, there corresponds on Bob's side of things a quantum state that is either identical to "?" or differs from "?" only by a rotation R and/or a phase shift S. (R and S are fixed by the nature of the original AB entanglement and do not depend on "?".)

Given this setup, here's how quantum teleportation works.

Alice asks the question: which Bell state is my system in? This question can have one of four answers W, X, Y or Z. If the answer is W, then Bob's photon has the polarization "?". Teleportation is accomplished.

If the answer is X, Y or Z, the polarization of Bob's photon differs from "?" only by a rotation R, a phase shift S or a combination of both. So for 100% efficient teleportation all Bob has to know is what Alice's result was--W, X, Y or Z--a piece of knowledge that consists of only 2 bits of information. Without these two bits all that Bob sees is a random hash. With these two bits an infinite amount of information can be teleported. (The polarization of a photon can point anywhere on a sphere. The teleported information corresponds then to sending an unknown latitude and longitude on the surface of the Earth to a distant location faster than light. However this information cannot be decoded without the 2-bit key which must be sent by Alice to Bob at light speed or slower.) Thus a large quantity of quantum information can be teleported faster-than-light but this information is unrecognizable in the absence of a 2-bit code which can only be transferred over conventional channels.

Alice sends a 4-bit signal allowing Bob to decode an infinite-bit message

Quantum teleportation was discovered by a six-man team in 1993 and experimentally demonstrated a few years later. Teleportation is a particularly elegant example of quantum theory's subtle union of opposites--in this case the coexistence of a large FTL data transmission with the impossibility of sending signals faster-than-light.

Let's face it. We are only at the beginning of experiencing and appreciating the inhumanly beautiful mysteries of the quantum world.


Shall I look at Her
Or shall I not?

Hard, small, separated
If I look;
Soft, spread-out, connected
If I don't.

Hard particle and soft wave: both?
Utterly random and perfectly predictable: both?
Small right-here and spread-out everywhere: both?
Deep connected yet lonely separate?

Some day You gotta show me
How You do that.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Applesauce For Eve

Marge Piercy


Those old daddies cursed you and us in you,
damned for your curiosity: for your sin
was wanting knowledge. To try, to taste,
to take into the body, into the brain
and turn each thing, each sign, each factoid
round and round as new facets glint and white
fractures into colors and the image breaks
into crystal fragments that pierce the nerves
while the brain casts the chips into patterns.

Each experiment sticks a finger deep in the pie,
dares existence, blows a horn in the ear
of belief, lets the nasty and difficult brats
of real questions into the still air
of the desiccated parlor of stasis.
What we all know to be true, constant,
melts like frost landscapes on a window
in a jet of steam. How many last words
in how many dead languages would translate into,
But what happens if I, and Whoops!

We see Adam wagging his tail, good dog, good
dog, while you and the snake shimmy up the tree,
lab partners in a dance of will and hunger,
that thirst not of the flesh but of the brain.
Men always think women are wanting sex,
cock, snake, when it is the world she's after.
Then birth trauma for the first conceived kid
of the ego, I think therefore I am, I
kick the tree, who am I, why am I,
going, going to die, die, die.

You are indeed the mother of invention,
the first scientist. Your name means
life: finite, dynamic, swimming against
the current of time, tasting, testing,
eating knowledge like any other nutrient.
We are all the children of your bright hunger.
We are all products of that first experiment,
for if death was the worm in that apple,
the seeds were freedom 

and the flowering of choice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quantum Realism and Quantum Surrealism

Quantum theory--now almost a century old--is the most powerful predictive tool that humans have ever possessed. Tested in thousands of subtle experiments by hundreds of Nobel-hungry physicists, quantum theory has always been right--its most recent success: the prediction of the existence and properties of the newly-discovered Higgs boson. However this predictive success comes at a high price--the lack of a good conceptual model of how the world actually works. Quantum theory is so strange that it resists any picture we might try to make about "what's really happening" in the world. Use this tool--give up models of reality.

I have described some of the history of the search for pictures of "the way the world really works" in my book Quantum Reality. Recently Marcus Araujo Santos working at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil has published a long review of recent attempts to construct "reasonable ontological models" that reproduce the quantum facts. His work Quantum Realism and Quantum Surrealism is highly technical but interspersed with witty and thoughtful discussions that systematically motivate the various definitions and proofs.

For any physicist seriously interested in quantum foundations, QRQS is a treasure trove--beginning with concise summaries of von Neumann's, Gleason's and Busch's theorems, nested strategies for proving the Kochen-Spechen theorem and then on to the meat of the essay, which provides fresh ways of excluding "non-contextual models of reality" through new restrictions called "Boolean Inequalities" after Irishman George Boole who formalized the laws of classical logic in the 19th century.

The central question Santos asks is "What is the core reason that quantum theory seems so weird? Exactly where lies the 'magic' that separates the quantum world from our classical way of thinking?"

Santos's chosen path to "quantum magic" is to clarify what we mean by "classical reality" by refining the definition of a property called "contextuality". Classical reality is non-contextual. By holding contextuality up to a strong light, and by deriving new means to test its presence in quantum reality, Santos and his colleagues hope to better illuminate the essential strangeness of the most powerful theory of the world we possess.

Few readers of this blog will be able to appreciate the high quality of exposition of Santos's work, but those with eyes to see will find QRQS a tremendously valuable resource that might well inspire their own quests for a fresh glimpse of the "extraordinary quantum magic" that underlies the ordinary world.

On a lighter note, Allan Lundell from the Chakralicious Camp at Burning Man 2012 sent me this short clip of Lisa Woffington reading Does She Do Vulcan Mind Meld on the First Date? from Harlot Nature.

Lisa Woffington at Burning Man 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Fourteen Other Star Systems


Finally here:
Nick's long-awaited
deep opening into Nature.

But Cosmic Contact's
not a bed of roses:
Among the hundred Quantum Joys of Union
lie a thousand ways to give profound offense.

In fourteen other star systems
Nick could make a choice
that would brand him in the larger Universe
as child molester, criminal against Nature,
practitioner of the Unspeakable Abomination
and friend of the Ultimate Evil Under the Skin.

Nick could make a bad decision here
Say fourteen other star systems
But in fifty different other stellar realms
Nick's already committed the Ultimate Sin.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Dark Pool of Light

Beaver (Invisible) Swimming Through Reflection of Moon, Manset, Maine

One afternoon in the late 60s, I walked into Ron Thelin's Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street--planet Earth's very first head shop. The bulletin board was filled with personal messages, ads for goods, services and rooms. Off to one side I spotted a sparse message that concisely expressed the spirit of the 60s. "I am looking for marvels," it said. Plus a phone number.

All my life, I have been looking for marvels too, not satisfied with the surface of things. I compulsively read science fiction and haunt used book stores, constantly searching for fresh ideas. During my graduate studies at Stanford I worked part-time at the EastWest Bookshop in Menlo Park (now in Mountain View) which at that time was the largest occult book store on the West coast. So I tempered my reading of the occult works of Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac with large doses of Manly P. Hall, Arthur Avalon and Aleister Crowley. Somewhere in this potent mix of Eastern and Western wisdom texts I came across a journal called Io, edited by Richard Grossinger. Grossinger was looking for marvels too and was publishing in Io various essays by himself and others on such high-weirdness topics as "Alchemy", "The Doctrine of Signatures", and "Oneirology". I recently learned from Wikipedia that almost 50 different volumes of Io were produced.

Richard Grossinger has written dozens of books--all composed in the same marvel-seeking style reflected in the pages of Io. His numerous books include Planet Medicine, Bardo of Waking Life and the autobiographical New Moon. From New Moon I learned that Richard is a member of the clan that started Grossinger's resort in the Catskills, linchpin of the legendary Borsch Belt where famous performers such as Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers and Henny Youngman made their debuts. In 1977 Grossinger and his wife, poet Lindy Hough, founded North Atlantic Books to promote their own works and the works of like-minded friends.

Now Richard has turned his marvel-obsessed mind to the most profound unsolved mystery of modern times--the problem of consciousness.

Grossinger's newest book Dark Pool of Light approaches the phenomenon of human consciousness from a dozen different directions, biological, psychological, mystical, prophetic and indeterminate. Dark Pool of Light is a physico-poetic symphony of words informed not only by Richard's reading in science but by his experiences at the Berkeley Psychic Institute and his participation in several other maverick mind-science ventures from Maine to California. Dark Pool of Light is obsessive, excessive, poetic, confessional, exhausting, touching, boring and brilliant--all at the same time. A truly remarkable literary performance.

Then just when you think he's done, he's not. Richard can't seem to get off the stage. The last dozen pages he calls "Deleted Scenes" consisting of snippets that were cut from the main text but considered too good to throw out. I read these gems first. I'm glad they were included.

There's something in this book (which runs to 3 volumes) for everyone--something to complain about and something to adore. Dark Pool of Light is like an astonishing high-wire performance at Grossinger's Catskills resort--you really want to keep watching this crazy-risky guy just to be there when he falls on his face. Well worth the price of admission.

But I'm not entirely unbiased concerning Richard's audacious intellectual high-wire act. The forwards to this book--the opening acts for Spielmeister Richard Grossinger--are short riffs by Nick Herbert and Jeffrey Kripal. Grossinger's Borsch Belt--it is alive and well!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Minding Your Body: Baby Steps Towards Quantum Tantra

Nick's 2012 Chakras: a partial list
For my birthday this year my Muses gave me the best gift in the world--inspiration for a new work, which I've tentative called Minding Your Body: Baby Steps Towards Quantum Tantra.

Quantum Tantra is my long term project to discover a more intimate physics-based way of connecting with nature. I envision it as direct mind-to-mind linkage between my mind and the various currently invisible minds that dwell inside matter. One of the finest speculations about what quantum tantra might feel like is Rudy Rucker's amusing short fiction piece Panpsychism Proved where the necessary mind-mind link is achieved via quantum-entangled carbon atoms. Rudy also coined the term "teeping" for the kind of generalized telepathy that quantum tantrikas might enjoy.

I have supposed that alien races--and perhaps even some mind-forms here on Earth--already practice quantum tantra and use it to teep atoms and molecules, use it to teep plants and animals and to telepathically communicate between themselves and with minds too simple or too complex for humans to imagine.

Our ordinary awareness is a form of quantum tantra--a direct unmediated connection with the insides of the classical machinery of the brain. Most of our mental acts and all of our physical acts are strictly classical but our core experience of pure awareness is a basic quantum process--a direct experience of matter's insides.

One of the most unusual properties of the quantum world is quantum entanglement but this is not the feature of quantum mechanics that has inspired my quest for a more intimate way of connecting with nature. My inspiration for quantum tantra is the so-called "quantum measurement problem". It is a curious fact that altho this world is certainly fully "quantum", our only window into the quantum world is thru classical measuring devices. Despite radical advances in quantum theory--from Schrödinger's wave equation, thru Dirac's relativistic equations to quantum field theory--every quantum experiment is, without exception, still completely classical--as old-fashioned and Victorian as brass tubes, spark gaps and hoop skirts. Quantum tantra seeks to modernize quantum physics by discovering an intrinsically quantum way to court nature, a way that will almost certainly involve physics-based modifications of consciousness.

I want to woo Her not view Her
Pet Reality until She purrs
Yearning to merge with Dame Nature bodily
Longing to mingle my substance with Hers.
And them content with merely observing
are nothing but Nature's voyeurs.

One of the possible uses of quantum tantra might be a new kind of "internal medicine" in which you directly connect with the "minds" of organs of your body, teep "how they are feeling" and thank/criticize them for their work/play. Also one can envision ameliorating certain diseases by direct negotiation with the disease rather than via warfare. Since my mind is already classically connected to my body parts, "quantum internal medicine", rather than mind-to-mind telepathy, might be the site of the first quantum tantric breakthroughs. We each have a mind; we each have a body. What we lack is the means to quantum-connect the two. Or more precisely, we lack a mind-matter tool that extends our natural quantum mind-matter access to other parts of the body besides (some of) the brain. I jokingly call this future quantum mind-matter tool the "octoscope"-- a machine you can only operate stoned.

While waiting for the octoscope to be discovered, there is plenty we can do to prepare the ground for the upcoming era of quantum internal medicine.

An important feature of classical tantra is the system of chakras, a Hindu way of thinking about the body introduced to the West by Sir John Woodroffe and other Orientalists. The traditional chakras serve many functions--psychophysical, mystical and even theological but I will construe these bodily centers as merely a way "to get the mind out of the brain" and into the rest of the body.

One of the prime powers of the mind is the ability to MOVE--the power to "pay attention" to whatever it chooses. My use of the chakras is primarily as a system of symbols to aid the mind to move to (and inhabit) a particular body part. Like a map of places to visit in your imagination before actually going there in person (via the octoscope).

I began with the classical seven chakras and expanded them to eight, imposing a light/dark symmetry. Now there are 4 light and 4 dark classical chakras. All of the others (of Nick's 48 2012 chakras) possess this same symmetry. Every light chakra possesses a dark partner--portrayed by the same symbol with white replaced with black. In place of the elaborate classical tantric symbology, I sought simpler geometric forms constructed of lines, circles and triangles plus a certain intangible aesthetics.

The seven classical chakras are Root, Sex, Belly, Heart, Throat, Brow and Crown. The Crown chakra, for instance, traditionally represents human contact with the Divine--with the Universe's higher powers. I represent this Crown chakra with a simple open white circle. For symmetry's sake I add a corresponding "dark chakra" to the classic seven--the "moon chakra" represented by a simple black disk, that represents human contact with the Universe's lower powers.

I have worked for many years developing this new chakra system and finally (in 2012) have reached a point where I am satisfied with the symbology. Nick's 2012 48-chakra system is now complete.

My next project (thank you, Muses) is to write this up in a book or long essay. I have already been using my new chakras as a kind of "body rosary" for focusing my attention on various body parts especially while falling asleep. The classical Catholic rosary has 50 beads; my 2012 tantric rosary has 48. This book, Minding Your Body, will employ the new chakras as a kind of guided meditation for exploring the body with the mind--in a simple classical fashion preparatory to the octoscope giving us more intimate quantum connection. This project will also be an opportunity to develop my quantum tantric speculations in more detail.

My Minding Your Body project owes a lot to Bernie Gunther, the author of What to Do Till the Messiah Comes. Bernie was my first instructor, in the 60s at Esalen, in sensory awareness exercises. Thanks, Bernie. Borrowing from my old teacher, my new book project might also be entitled What to Do Till the Octoscope Arrives.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Backstage Pass: Remembering Betsy

Betsy and Norma Leistiko on Ann Halprin's dance deck in Marin
Saturday Aug 18 is the 10th anniversary of my wife Betsy Rose Rasumny's death. My companion for almost 40 years, mother of my son Khola, Betsy was involved in home birth, in home schooling and, for her last act, in home dying. Her central passion was dance and she appreciated every kind of live performance whether on stage or off. She studied and taught dance in New York, Vermont and at Ann Halprin's Dancer's Workshop in San Francisco where I met her in the '60s while studying at Stanford. Ann's studio was located at the East edge of the Haight-Ashbury and Betsy's Stanyan Street home on the West edge. Consequently our courtship took place amidst the Haight's colorful background of hippies, musicians, sects, drugs and rock and roll.

As a dancer, Betsy was into participation and she had lots of friends. So whatever spectacle we watched or listened to in San Francisco, Betsy usually know some of the performers (and often was one). So afterwards we would go backstage and mix with the people who put on the show. For both of us, access to the backstage was a special treat, a deeper connection to the magic than merely being part of the audience. Altho I was never much of a performer in my youth, I was an altar boy for many years at our Catholic church in Ohio and participated both backstage and on the altar in the magic of manifesting God Himself in the guise of bread and wine.

When we made the decision to share our lives, I drove from Boulder Creek to El Rito, New Mexico where Betsy was living in a meadow with a hippie band called Daddy Longlegs. With her gift for making friends she had connected with many cultures including Pueblo Indians, anthropologists, hippie communes, Hispanic-Americans and peyote church people. Consequently she took me into many backstages that I had only read about in books. To repay her in kind, I made a connection with a physics colleague at Los Alamos National Laboratory and his name got Betsy and I past the guard house of the place where the first atomic bomb was made. I was wearing a tie, Betsy put on her finest hippie garb and we spent an afternoon backstage in a lab that was investigating "linear-pinch fusion".

In Boulder Creek, our first friends were music and theater people, so we spent much time backstage. Betsy was always joining or founding dance groups. At the time of her death she was participating in two groups she had helped start, and barely a year before she left this planet, she performed a major role in a full-length dance performance at a jazz club in Santa Cruz.

Betsy died at home from complications surrounding breast cancer. Her neighbors, her home-school friends, her dance and theater friends, her friends who were esoteric healers, her marijuana friends all came backstage to visit, to witness and to be actors in Betsy's last performance. One of Betsy's great talents was the ability to be fully present and to share that gift of enhanced presence with whomever she was with.

I prefer to sleep late but Betsy was an early bird. She liked to get up early, make coffee and sit by the kitchen window with a cat on her lap while putting her thoughts in a notebook. From the notebook of Betsy Rose Rasumny Herbert:


The chambers of my heart:
Kitchen, parlor, boudoir, attic, den
Hallway, basement, study, bathroom.

The chambers of my heart:
Rooms for receiving guests.

Betsy at home on Stanyan St, San Francisco, in the '60s

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Entangling Photons Using Quantum Darwinism

Quantum reality is certainly bizarre, theoretically permitting an animal to be both dead and alive (Schrödinger's Cat), particles that can be in two places at once (double-slit experiment) and distant causations that seem to travel faster-than-light (Bell's theorem). Since quantum reality underlies the world we live in, why does none of this quantum weirdness ever seem to surface into everyday life? 

One persuasive solution to the everyday absence of quantum weirdness is "quantum Darwinism"--a concept pioneered by Polish-American physicist Wojciech Zurek, now working at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Quantum Darwinism is the notion that quantum systems are never isolated but are always interacting with an external "environment". It is the nature of normal environments that they randomize the phases of certain observables (decoherence) thus destroying monstrosities like Schrödinger's Cat while leaving other special observables intact (einselection). Thus quantum weirdness, absolutely normal in the wild, is effectively suppressed when quantum systems are moved "to civilization", that is, to a complex environment governed by lots of ordinary interactions.

But suppose we could construct "special environments" (jungles), designed to "einselect" non-ordinary realities? Could we then elevate some of the queer features of quantum reality into ordinary perception.

Recently Zu and his colleagues at the Center for Quantum Information in Beijing, China did just that.

Zu and his pals took a pair of independent photons A and B and sent them thru a special environment that "killed non-entangled photons".

Since the A and B photons are unentangled, an entanglement-hostile environment should kill them all. But Zu and company have prepared a very special environment. Using the rules of quantum theory, an unentangled pair of photons can be expressed as a sum of 1. an entangled pair plus 2. an anti-entangled pair. And the environment in the Shanghai lab is constructed so that it kills only anti-entangled photon pairs. Thus by selectively removing one kind of entanglement, this experiment can create entanglement where none had before existed. 

(1 - 1 = 0. Take away the -1 and you seemingly create "1" out of nothing. Such is the logic of quantum reality.) 

A similar logic is at work in Edwin Land's invention of the sheet polarizing filter that plays an essential role in every flat-screen LCD display. Ordinary light is unpolarized--an equal mixture of every polarization. Quantum-mechanically we can represent this situation as a random mixture of completely Horizontally-polarized photons |H> and completely Vertically-polarized photons |V>. Land invented a plastic sheet (special environment) that would preferentially absorb |V> photons. Pass random light thru a Land sheet and Horizontally-polarized photons emerge. Pass a random pair of photons thru a Zu et al environment and entangled pairs emerge (from the jungle).

To quote from Zu et al abstract: "We report an experiment that uses the environmental selection, a key concept in the recent theory of quantum Darwinism, as a mechanism to realize the entanglement filter, a useful quantum information device that filters out certain entangled states. In the experiment the environment of two qubits is controlled to favor an entangled state and to kill all competing components in the input state. The initial state has vanishing entanglement, but the state surviving after interaction is close to a maximally entangled state with an entanglement fidelity of 94.7 ± 1.9 % measured through the quantum state tomography. We experimentally demonstrate that the generated entanglement is robust under change of the initial state configurations and the environmental parameters."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pericles on Planet Mongo

Shakespeare in space: Princess Thaisa and Prince Pericles
This Sunday the celebrated Santa Cruz KSCO radio hosts Doctor and Mrs Future and I attended the wedding of the daughter of our Boulder Creek friend, J. J. Webb--Silicon Valley space engineer, poet, impresario and father of the bride. The wedding was held in Sanborn Park, a few miles west of the city of Saratoga. Sanborn Park, as we subsequently learned, has been for 13 years the location of Shady Shakespeare, a remarkably innovative theater company. As it happened, the wedding was situated next to the Shakespeare site so, after the ceremony, Dr and Mrs Future and I wandered down to check out the Bardic activities.

The site is marvelous--a tiny wooded glen reached by a short wooden bridge lined with banners. Traversing that little bridge was like going thru a time machine, instantly transporting us to another reality. After a short discussion we decided to dwell in that reality and bought tickets to Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a Shakespeare play that none of us had ever heard of.

For good reason.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre is an ancient world travelogue, crammed with obscure Gods and Goddess mumbo-jumbo, jumping from Tyre to Tarsus to Pentapolis in eccentric itinerary probably as confusing to Shakespeare's audience as it is today to residents of San Jose. To repurpose this antique walkabout for a modern audience, director Doll Picotto (her real name) decided to mount Pericles as a campy science-fiction drama, employing every science-fiction cliche of the last 50 years to frame the emotional turmoils of Tyre's noble prince. From Flash Gordon to Firefly, from Star Wars, Close Encounters to Doctor Who, Ms Picotto leaves no sci-fi stone unturned.

It works.

Part of the fun of this play is seeing how many sci-fi references you can recognize in Picotto's imaginative futuristic rendition of a creaky Elizabethan pot-boiler. Even informed by the media-savvy resources of Dr and Mrs Future, I'm sure there were more than a few sci-fi cliches that I missed.

Given the wacky premise, this play could have degenerated into mere caricature and slapstick. And while there is plenty of laugh-provoking action, such is the dignity of the language and the skill of the actors that credible renditions of love, loyalty, and grief emerge in the midst of the comedic activities of the supporting cast. Indeed in this production the force is strong. Amongst all the fun, Shakespeare's words still shine bright.

My favorite scene takes place in a sleazy brothel, where Pericles's lost daughter Marina has just been sold into slavery by pirates, who have rescued her from an assassin's blade by kidnapping her instead. Since the plot of Pericles ranks high in preposterousness, Shakepeare's use of this Pirates ex machina device to save Marina's life does not seem so out of place and the company carries out their last-minute rescue/kidnap in classic Monty Python "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" style. But once having purchased their prize from the pirates, the brothel owners discover to their frustration that beautiful Marina possesses considerable ability to defend her virginity, a power the equally exasperated pirates had neglected to mention. To find out how Marina (on a leash in the brothel) successfully preserves her maidenhead from the randy advances of virile Lysimachus (a credible Han Solo from Star Wars) read the play. Or better still, come see this marvelous production for yourselves. It runs from August 3 till September 4.

And for admirers of all things Wookie, Chewbacka appears in a small non-speaking role.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Oral Copulation With Nature

Beautiful Vespula close up
Often when I breakfast on my deck I am joined be a few yellow jackets looking for meat. Science calls the California version Vespula sulphurea (Sulphur wasp)--("vespa" = "wasp" in Italian). What Vespulae call us is unknown, no doubt expressed in some deep non-symbolic insect code. If there are just a few of them I happily let them share my meal--they are especially fond of meat--and I usually leave a few scraps for them to take home. They are beautiful little animals--it is impossible to imagine what sorts of consciousness they possess, but like me, they like to eat. Usually in the early morning, only one comes to visit. More than three I consider bothersome and move my meal inside.

Today I was having sausage and eggs with one of the Vespula clan, when a comrade showed up and then a third. I watched them tearing away at the sausages and bearing pieces away. (They live underground in big hives.) I was eating the sausages too, cutting them into pieces and pushing them into my mouth when suddenly my tongue burned like a piercing. Then the rest of my mouth filled with pain. I spit the sausage onto the plate along with the little wasp I had almost swallowed. Surrounded by meat and teeth he had bit me three times--on the tongue, on my inner gum and on my inner lip. The wasp seemed to be unharmed by this adventure and went creeping off along the tablecloth soon returning to the plate. I was careful afterwards to inspect each morsel before putting it in my mouth.

Within a few minutes the pain subsided but half of my tongue quickly swelled up making it difficult to eat, and the right side of my lower lip looked like I had been hit by a boxer. (Besides the brief pain, there were no noticeable alterations of consciousness.) For some few people, wasp venom is toxic and can cause death, but for most us the symptoms quickly disappear. Within an hour or two, the size of my tongue and lip was back to normal. This oral connection with Vespula taught me to pay more attention to how I eat when wasps are around.

I was especially glad that I had not swallowed.

"I coulda been a contendah."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kiss my Bare Art

Nick Herbert invoking his Muse
(responding to Gary Snyder)

We drink our Muse; we smoke our Muse
We duct Her thru our gaping pores
Invent new sins to fan Her whims
We're lovely Muse's lowly whores.

We follow Muse beyond the stars
To bomb labs, muscle gyms and porno bars
Where Life beckons, there we go
Seek deeper meat than Jacques Cousteau.

We crave that rush, that punch, that flood
We love that dark orgasmic drain
Then pick ourselves up off the rug
And open up another vein.

For just one glance we drop our pants
Her prostitutes and renegades
Yet every kiss burns like the first
We're virginal as new-born babes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What You Should Know

Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg in the Sierra
What You Should Know to Become a Poet

all you can know about animals as persons.
the names of trees and flowers and weeds.
the names of stars and the movements of planets
and the moon.

your own six senses, 
with a watchful elegant mind.
at least one kind of traditional magic:
divination, astrology, the book of changes, 
the tarot;

the illusory demons and the illusory shining gods.
kiss the ass of the devil and eat shit;
fuck his horny barbed cock,
fuck the hag,
and all the celestial angels
and maidens perfum’d and golden--

& then love the human: 
wives, husbands and friends
children’s games, comic books, bubble-gum,
the weirdness of television and advertising.

work long, dry hours of dull work 
swallowed and accepted
and lived with and finally loved. exhaustion,
hunger, rest.

the wild freedom of the dance, ecstasy
silent solitary illumination, entasy

real danger. gambles and the edge of death.

--Gary Snyder
Reblogged from Turfing

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quantum Tantra Scrutinized

Scott Jones videoing Nick Herbert at home
For almost half a century, research at my quantum tantric ashram/laboratory in Boulder Creek, CA into new physics-based ways of connecting with nature has been carried out in relative anonymity. A few books of poetry (which no one takes seriously these days)  as well as private conversations and sporadic essays on this blog have revealed some of quantum tantra's aims and methods. But for the most part the quantum-tantric enterprise has been ignored by main-stream media.

Today all that changed.

This morning producer Jeffrey Kripal and videographer Scott Hulan Jones visited my home and photographed most everything--what I eat for breakfast (sausage and beer), my taste in art (prints of Hanuman, personal friends and psychedelic goddesses) as well as my secret sanctum high in the trees from which I like to observe life in the redwood forest after dark.

This Nick-intimate video will be part of a feature-length film on the history of Esalen Institute in which I played a small part in many different contexts--present at the creation, workshop attendee and presenter, guest and friend of many of the staff and long-time leader of seminars on quantum physics and the nature of reality.

Jeffrey hopes to finish the film Supernature in time for a celebration of Esalen's 50th anniversary which will be held in October 2012. I have received much benefit and inspiration from my association with Esalen so I consider opening my home to a video crew a small price to pay for all that Esalen has given me.

Happy fiftieth anniversary, bold, inventive, sexy Esalen Institute! May your second fifty years be even more exciting, sensual and innovative than the first.