Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Physicist Lawrence Krauss: Cosmic Connections

One of the best public speakers on science of our time is physicist Lawrence Krauss. This was a recent talk he gave in London entitled "Cosmic Connections".

Krauss is a brilliant, charismatic, and cultured man. I love his digressive and humorous mode of lecturing. He is energetic and passionate and his love of science and culture shine through. He is an exemplum of intellectual claritas.

[I am not entirely happy with the definition of claritas I linked to. It means transparency, a quality of crystalline purity through which light passes unchanged, clearness of thought, purity of spirit. To the Medieval mind, it was the purest beauty. Claritas was the medium through which light passed, which was the thought of God. Claritas was a word of importance to the High Modernists--Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce. To them it represented clarity of thought or intellection, purity of intention, perfection of form. Crystalline thought and structure in art, clarity of thought. Einstein and Maxwell represent the highest level of claritas, as do James Joyce, Bach, etc. Think of Debussy's Clair de Lune--clarity, purity, ineffable form, expressiveness, sublime intellection, clarity of emotional content; and think of the clarity of the night expressed in the music, and the perfect beauty of the moonlight. And note that the French word "clair" that Debussy used and the word "clarity" itself are both derived from the word "claritas". Medieval philosophers and theologians felt that the stars, the transparency of space, the ideal movement of the planets and stars--in toto, what they called the "music of the spheres"--represent the perfect thought of God made material, and in conjunction with Light and their concept of Soul...which was claritas. The English poet, John Milton, in his masterpiece, Samson Agonistes, uses the phrase "Light, the prime work of God" (line 70); prime here means "first" but also "best". He means claritas in the Medieval sense to which I refer, perfection of thought and form--both Light and Creation, through which light travels, and the clear perfection of God's being/thought, ideal and realized; and Word...God as poet and creator. Another example of claritas would be a Mozart concerto, sonata, or string quartet (or anything else Mozart composed). Bach's Art of Fugue (an agony of claritas), Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Maxwell's Equations.]

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