BEN GED LOW - director / producer
Ben Ged Low has credits on hundreds of films, working at one time or another as producer, director, writer, cinematographer, composer, stills photographer, music producer, editor, and sound design\mixer.
A FILMMAKER'S OBSERVATIONS
I am not a scientist, nor a science buff. So why am I making this film?
Two key reasons, among many: I mistrust ideas that stay stuck on paper, but I love the process that drags those ideas off the paper and into the real world. And tests them. I’m fascinated by how a slight adjustment in thought can generate a paradigm shift that changes how we think.
The SAFIRE project takes an idea on paper, drags it into the material world, and sets out to falsify it or, by default and evidence, make it real. Does the SAFIRE project also represent a potential paradigm shift? I think it might.
As a non-scientist outsider, it seems to me that when a new theory challenges an old there is a battle. Some defend the old theory. Some proselytize the new. This battle can go on for decades, even generations. Ideas compete for relevance.
“Survival of the fittest.”
“Only the strongest survive.”
Underlying the concept of competition is the assumption of force, comparative force, and ultimately superior force. As a child I was taught that the universe is a consequence of massive forces at play: the force creating the Big Bang; the force of gravity spinning space dust into such a crushing density that a sustained nuclear reaction is initiated and a star forms.
I ponder the idea of massive forces being ‘creative’. I think about powerful kings with conquering armies assembling empires held together by force. But what happens to all empires? It seems to me that force, especially massive force, is inherently unstable.
Monty Childs’ first talk at an Electric Universe conference was about looking at the heavens from a statistical point of view, and seeing a ‘very stable system’. He made an interesting observation: “In industry, if you have something as statistically stable as the stars appear to be – this suggests a relatively simple process. And we have a tool for studying process.” (I noticed that the word force wasn’t mentioned in his talk.)
So how is the SAFIRE project about process? And this process about paradigm shifts?
Though the domain of the sciences seems extremely competitive – contending ideas trying to force each other off the stage – I think the deeper reality is something entirely different: In nature evolution is an incredibly subtle and complex symbiosis, inclusive, mysteriously stable and, like an evolving fractal, something suggesting harmonic (if not intelligent) design. Nature is about the whole surviving and evolving. I think the core workings of truly creative empirical science are in a way similar – collaborative, symbiotic, even inclusive.
For me, SAFIRE is not a new theory competing to push an old theory off the stage. Rather, SAFIRE is a subtle adjustment in thought that suddenly allows us to see a new value and deeper relevance to ideas that have been imbedded in and accepted by the scientific community for decades, in some cases for centuries. And this subtle adjustment in thought pops open a door to a whole new landscape of scientific possibility. Like plasma – which is scalable, and which does the exact same thing in a lab test tube as it does spread across a galaxy – so I think this particular paradigm shift will reveal itself in ways, micro and macro, that we cannot yet imagine.
Micro. The way the SAFIRE project is being run, the processes employed, suggest that the real progress in science itself has always been more a collaborative evolution over great stretches of time rather than a string of spontaneus individual discoveries. Our peculiar attraction to kings and heroes, fed by distractions like the Nobel Prize, only confuses us as to the true nature of scientific advance.
And if, as I sense working on the SAFIRE project, there is actually a universal growing awareness of the essential collaborative nature of scientific enquiry, then there might also be a growing awareness that the competitive model, the binary model, is no longer serving us that well, and may not even be necessary.
Macro. Which brings me to an idea that may represent a much more dramatic paradigm shift. I am not a scientist. This is pure conjecture. But I believe we, as humans, become intuitively aware of a paradigm shift long before we can cite evidence of its existence concrete enough for a court of review. This intuition came one day in the lab.
We were hovered around the bell jar, Monty, Yano and I. Monty and Yano were adjusting a number of parameters – the chamber pressure, voltage, current, and type of gas. The chamber was dark. The anode was just a chunk of iron. Nothing was happening.
Suddenly, in an instant, the whole thing came alive and we were staring at this marvelous pulsing ball of light. In a few moments it was stable and continuous. Monty’s eyes were dancing between the anode and the readouts from the different measuring devices – the electromagnetic and radio frequencies of the plasma. He suddenly exclaimed in surprise, and with a hint of awe in his voice: “There’s a rhythm. It’s like a heartbeat!”
Later we talked about it, and Monty pondered if resonance wasn’t playing an important part in what was happening. Resonance is something very familiar to him; in the manufacturing industry it is a crucial factor always to be carefully considered.
Monty ponders like a scientist. Cautiously. He observes, records, and resists interpretation.
But the non-scientist filmmaker, me, wonders if there isn’t something potentially quite dramatic happening here. Maybe what we’ve always assumed was massive-forces-in-play – the birth and functioning of stars and galaxies – is actually something more in line with resonance, and harmonics: when a number of factors come into play in a very specific way inanimate objects come alive, power is generated, and with it ‘force’; force not as a generator, but as a consequence of certain-factors-coming-together.
The film SAFIRE may ultimately stick with the actual factual, empirical, step-by-step of the story and the experiment. It may not be appropriate to bring in the possibility of paradigm shifts. And then again, the results of the ongoing experiments may just reveal this to be what is happening, paradigm shifting, regardless of whether or not we comment on it.
PARADIGM SHIFTS & RESONANCE
I spent decades of my life in recording studios, producing music. Before the advent of synthesized sounds there was a trick we used to do: we would put a brick on the sustain pedal of a grand piano, open the top of the piano, and then with a flute play a single note across the open strings. The strings would start to resonante in sympathy, harmonics would appear ... and we would get chord-like washes of sound. Unexpected, upredictable, absolutely beautiful. And, interestingly, we could soon reproduce these sounds predictably, over and over again.
When Monty first became aware of the peculiar heartbeat-like rhythm appearing in the recorders he looked at Jano and me and said almost in a whisper, “There’s a rhythm. It’s like a heartbeat!”
But then a few moments later he added, half-seriously and with a grin: "It's like the universe is singing."