QUOTE CLUB: VISCOSITY / by Kulturfolger

There are a number of theories concerning the cause of the earthquakes, but none of them is generally accepted. One connects the cause of earthquakes with the process of mountain building. Mountains are supposed to have their origin in the cooling of the earth and contraction of its crust. This theory is based on the assumption that originally the earth was liquid. The folding of the crust creates mountains and causes earthquakes. Another theory sees the cause of earthquakes in the migration of landmasses, even of entire continents. This theory, too, is based on the concept of a thin crust resting on a viscous substratum. Geological and faunal similarities of South America and West Africa suggested their separation in recent geological times, and their migration in opposite directions. According to this theory, thermal convection is the mechanical cause of this migration, with magma supplying the heat.

Still another theory supposes that there are great mountains and deep valleys on the inner surface of the crust, facing the magma. The sliding of huge rocks along these mountainous slopes under the pull of gravity is presumed to be the cause of earthquakes.


Worlds In Collision

Immanuel Velikovsky


One early fascination was with a chemical engineering course called Properties of Matter. As taught in my department, the course was mostly a survey of statistical mechanics—how thermodynamic variables and physical properties, such as the internal energies, viscosities, and specific heats of systems could be estimated from knowledge about the distributions of their molecular constituents. I marveled at how matters could be horribly messy at lower scales and yet quite well-behaved at higher ones.  The nascent field of thermodynamics presented a major challenge to scientific thinking throughout the middle decades of the nineteenth century. I was particularly intrigued by a suggestion on the part of Ilya Prigogine (1945) that arbitrary ensembles of processes somehow take on a configuration that minimizes the overall rate of production of entropy (commonly assumed to be disorder). I wondered whether the individual processes might be responding to some necessity at a larger scale.

A Third Window: Natural Life beyond Newton and Darwin

Robert E. Ulanowicz



I attempt to specify hyperobjects with greater and greater accuracy. There is a logic to the sequence, beginning with this section, in which I describe hyperobjects as viscous.While hyperobjects are near, they are also very uncanny. (....)The walls of feedback that the Velvet Underground inaugurated in “Heroin” are sound as hyperobject, a sound from which I can’t escape, a viscous sonic latex. It hurts me. A strange masochistic dimension of aesthetic experience opens up underneath the one in which the “art object” and I appear to be held in a perfect Kantian mind meld. Prior to this appearance of the beautiful, there must already be a sticky mesh of viscosity in which I find myself tuned by the object, an aesthetic uterus that subtends even my supposed acts of transcendence. Hyperobjective art makes visible, audible, and legible this intrauterine experience that Sartre loathed, the “sly solidarity” between things: “The slimy is myself.” Viscosity for Sartre is how a hand feels when it plunges into a large jar of honey—it begins to dissolve: “The sugary death of the For-itself (like that of a wasp which sinks into the jam and drowns in it).


Timothy Morton


One last word on the difficulty of comprehending. As we know, this verb signifies "to hold together." A single building holds together its stones, which don't move. What a simple and lazy way to "comprehend'" In order to understand, nothing must move, like an assemblage of stupid, dark stones, which always maintain among themselves the same relation of fixed metrical distance. Lucretius launches us into movement--everything in his work begins with turbulence-it's a very complex figure, which you call difficult. Nonetheless, if you follow his vortices, they bring things together, forming and destroying worlds, bodies, souls, knowledge, etc. Turbulence isn't a system, because its constituents fluctuate, fluid and mobile. Rather, it is a sort of confluence, a form in which fluxes and fluctuation enter, dance, crisscross, making together the sum and the difference, the product and the bifurcation, traversing scales of dimension. It recruits at the very heart of chaos by ceaselessly inventing different relations; it returns to it as well. A viscosity takes over. It comprehends. It creates comprehension. It teaches. But one must concede that everything is not solid and fixed and that the hardest solids are only fluids that are slightly more viscous than others. And that edges and boundaries are fluctuating. Fluctuating fluid. Then intelligence enters into time, into the most rapid, lively, and subtle shifts and fluctuations of turbulence, of the dancing flames. Yes, it is advancement in the very notion of comprehension. Relations spawn objects, beings and acts, not vice versa.

Conversations on Science, Culture and Time

Michel Serres with Bruno Latour