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Thursday, November 11, 2010

CultureLab: Particle physics 'pornographer' gets God excited

From Evernote:

CultureLab: Particle physics 'pornographer' gets God excited

Clipped from: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/11/particle-physics-pornographer-gets-god-excited.html

Particle physics 'pornographer' gets God excited

14:30 10 November 2010

Amanda Gefter, CultureLab editor

(Image: CERN)

Conceptual artist and writer Jonathon Keats, who previously founded the First Bank of Antimatter and sent intrepid potatoes to Mars, has now appointed himself God's pornographer. Opening this week in a Brooklyn art gallery, Keats will be showing images of high energy particle collisions from CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), collisions that recreate conditions that occurred nearly 14 billion years ago, just after the moment of "divine coitus". I decided to talk with the particle porn king himself.

What inspired you to become God's pornographer?

I have always felt sorry for God. If you're a deity, the price of monotheism is eternal celibacy, and that can't be much fun. More recently, it occurred to me that God's abstinence isn't good for anyone. The universe is not ageing very gracefully, given the preponderance of dark energy. So I started to think that it would be a good thing if God got busy again, procreatively speaking. After all, it's been nearly 14 billion years since the big bang. Since God doesn't acknowledge the existence of other divinities, let alone recognize their potential sex appeal, I figured my best option would be to make some celestial porn.

How exactly does it work?

If you're going to turn on God, you need material that will be arousing from God's perspective. In other words, your goal is to fake a divine orgasm - that is, to emulate the big bang at a small scale. We can't quite do that yet, but we can now come pretty close with the Large Hadron Collider. Of course the LHC wasn't exactly built for that purpose, so I've needed to adapt it. Most important is the interface. I've chosen to go with a votive altar. People have used votive altars to communicate with God for millennia, so I reasoned that it would be the optimal platform for delivering divine porn, and accordingly I've built one at the center of my porn palace for God in Brooklyn. The smut is delivered onto the surface of the altar via direct web feed. There also are votive candles burning and plenty of incense to help put God in the mood. Incidentally, anyone can make a porn palace for God since the LHC web feed is public, and I'd encourage it.

What's sexier: the quark-gluon plasma or the Higgs boson?

If you're talking to a physics conference, the Higgs might turn more heads. But for God, I suspect that the quark-gluon plasma might be more of a turn-on, since it truly is the afterglow of creation.

Many physicists believe we live in an infinite multiverse, with new bubble universes being born all the time. Surely God is getting busy?

The dividing multiverse bears more resemblance to asexual reproduction, which isn't terribly erotic.

Some folks tried to shut down the LHC for fear that it would destroy the Earth. Has anyone threatened any legal injunctions against you yet?

In the US, restrictions on exhibiting sexually explicit material are subject to the Miller Test, which requires that the adjudicating judge determine: "(a) whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." Given the community standards and statutory laws of New York - not to mention the self-evident scientific value of making new universes - I think my porn palace for God is pretty unlikely to get shut down.

In addition to exciting God, might this project also get some non-deities (and non-scientists) excited about physics? Is that an ulterior motive?

I think that my pornography has the potential to get God excited about physics, and that may result in the creation of universes a bit more thought out than our own, with its zoo of subatomic particles and a cosmological constant that threatens to obliterate everything interesting from galaxies to atoms. That said, the allure of sex is pretty much universal, so humans too may be drawn into the complexities of creating and sustaining a cosmos, fascinating problems that open up many of the most interesting (and titillating) questions in science.

If God gets too excited, could that create some sort of catastrophic situation?

Taking the Bible literally, you'd have to surmise that God doesn't need to get frisky on porn in order to act catastrophically, though I should note that on Biblical matters I'm strictly agnostic. I have no idea even whether God exists. But that's ok, because I often don't know much about my audience in the beginning. For instance, when I screened pornography for plants - footage of honeybees pollinating flowers projected onto naked foliage - I did so without formal training in botany. My pornography was a way of approaching the plants in the interest of mutual understanding. If there happens to be a God, perhaps this will accomplish the same. Regardless, I hope that a project such as this can foster mutual understanding between science and religion. Momentarily setting God's sexual needs aside, for me this is a thought experiment. Pornography is really just a branch of philosophy.

How will we know if the porn does the trick?

Most likely we won't. If God gets busy and starts procreating, those new universes will have futures of their own, independent of ours. And it's probably a good thing, if you consider how we've treated our universe, or at least the part of it within our reach. Nevertheless, we can take comfort in not knowing what exists beyond our horizon of experience. Amongst the limitless possibilities are countless positive eventualities. There's a certain wisdom to be attained just in contemplating what those may be - a sharpening of our ideals - that can inform how we shape our own limited world.

Pornography for God and plants on exhibit at the Louis V E.S.P. gallery 140 Jackson Street in Brooklyn, New York from 12 November through 23 November

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