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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Starship and the Museum: The Shape of Things

The working title of the personal writing project I've decided to pursue is going to be The Starship and the Museum;
short for the underlying question, "Why do the Guggenheim Museum and the starship Enterprise look like each other?"

Meeting with Joanna today was helpful--and fun.
I was doodling the shape of the starship and the museum--both top-heavy circular objects, and musing what else looks like that.
Joanna said my tornado-like doodle reminded her of starlings in flight.

I'd never heard of this phenomenon before--its called "murmuration." Here's an amazing video of a starlings over Gretna, Scotland.
(The music is Jan Garbarek, from the album Officium.)


And here's an [easy] article from the Telegraph (UK) on the subject:
"The Mathematics of Murmurating Starlings"

A possible subtitle for The Starship and the Museum is
Or, Why Things Look Like Other Things.

I suspect that things may look alike--at least sometimes--because they are responding to the same forces.
The forces of physics, like gravity, say, or emotional forces, like fear; or biological forces, like reproduction.
I really don't know.

But I do know the starlings, the starship, and the museum all are engaged in or suggest the idea of flight.

Joanna told me that when she was writing her dissertation, she kept "idea files,"
into which she tossed anything that related to her research.

I thought I'd use this blog for that-- a place to gather cool stuff I run into
that may or may not directly answer my questions.
Like I did when I was working on Finland and posted all sorts of delightful tidbits I found, almost none of which made it into the end book (no room).

A magpie nest.

8 comments:

femminismo said...

Murmuration. What a nice word for those masses of birds. I liked the music very much.

The Crow said...

We see much smaller flocks of starlings - and crows, too - behaving this way, but nothing so grand as the large roosts in Europe. I watched a few of the other videos of starlings while at YouTube - such splendor!

Thank you, Fresca, for thepointer.

Fresca said...

Aren't they cool?
Glad you both like them... and the word too.

Candace said...

Oh my god, my heart is so full. You have no idea. My mother and I used to sit outside every evening and watch the dusk gather starlings to their nests... when she died, I was bereft. Nobody knew how important this had been to me except her. A piece of history, personal history, had gone.

And now this.
And my thanks also for the music. I'll find it -- and playing it, I will know that I am really not alone in my strange love of murmurations.
My REAL thanks to femminismo, through whom I found you and this great little film.
Candace in Athens

Fresca said...

CANDACE: Your comment brought tears to my eyes--the loss of someone who knows our hearts is a powerful loss.
That's what I had with my mother too, so I am pleased that these murmurations touched your heart.

Sometimes youTube gives me that kind of comfort--amongst all the junk there are lots of little reminders that many people share our tender loves.
It makes me love my species more.

momo said...

how gorgeous!

bink said...

Every time the camera pulled back from the starlings, so that we could see the edges of the group, it looked to me like a giant sky whale. The flock moved with the rhythm of a sea creature, occasionally swishing a tail or a fin. I was also impressed with how rounded the form always was--never a sharp angle or V pattern like we see our geese fly in.

I've seen starlings in Scotland, but nothing like this!

The closest thing I've ever seen is hundreds of crows here in the hometown.

iloveyoumauralynch said...

Absolutely stunning! I was struck by how some of the images that emerged were of other natural forms, much water-related, such as whales like Lucinda said, or I saw a sea-horse. Even human-rising/unfurling from itself. Wonderful. Thanks for finding and sharing:)