…all of life, rich in accidental beauty…

“…/ Mariella can set aside all her travails and dissolve in moments like this, new life burgeoning within her, the hot humid air heavy with the sharp smell of freshly cut grass and the drowsy scent of jasmine, trees spreading their branches above as if in benediction, leaves greedily drinking sunlight, light into life, light spangling the green shade of these fountains of solidified sunshine and dancing over the daylilies which line the drive, and birds singing their hearts out in a ceaseless struggle to define their territories, songs shaped by ruthless contest between the male drive to spread genes and the imponderabilities of female mate selection, and yet even so /…/, like all of life, rich in accidental beauty.”

The last sentence of Paul McAuley‘s ‘The Secret of Life‘.  As many have observed, science does not diminish or crush our awe of nature,on the contrary, it magnifies and enhances it. (If you are religious, simply substitute “‘s work” for “nature”.) Pretty much sums it up for me: about 6 months ago I had the fairly rare privelege of watching starlings flocking at dusk around the car park in the centre of Isaac Newton’s home town. Endlessly fascinating to play with the imposition of Langton’s 3 boid’s rules on my perception of their boiling glittering churning flight: do they obey the rules? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that Langton’s insight captures the core, the essence of flocking; no, because  the rules are broken all the time. But that’s the point, the rules are like 3 bungee cords attached to each bird – it’s impossible to obey all 3 AT ONCE, you get pulled by all 3, all 3 apply, and change their application according to the others around you; it must be a ‘hard n-factorial problem’ or somesuch – a problem that can’t actually be solved. Like life.



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