on prophets

One thing Arthur C. Clarke did that was amazing, quite apart from writing the very most astounding sci-fi ever, was he predicted / invented the geo-stationary orbit for satellites. This is where the orbit speed of the satellite matches the rotation of the Earth, so the satellite ‘stays still’ above the same piece of land, allowing its use for communications etc. Clarke described it (ahead of the technology) so accurately, that no single government or company could patent the idea and it became an open globally used piece of innovation that affects every one of us, every day.

This morning I’m utterly gutted (selfishly) that I won’t get to meet him, he’s the last one, my final true childhood hero to pass on.

Interesting how few media outlets have mentioned one of the key issues in the Tibetan uprising: the Chinese government’s kidnap and ‘disappearing’ (read: continued holding) of the young boy, who Tibetans believe to be the Panchen Llama. Even when some of the protestors have placards about him, no news shows seem to be bothered to explain. Oh, it turns out, neither can I.

Read about the Panchen Llama.

We’ve been watching Michael Wood and Jeremy Jeffs’ BBC series The Story Of India, which Rifa got on DVD from her Dad. It’s outrageously good. As beautifully shot and human as Palin, as strong socio-politically as Andrew Marr and better at drawing together threads of ‘big’ history than any other series I’ve seen. Tara Arts’ moments of performance are a bit declamatory for my taste (though it’s probably stylistically appropriate) and the occasional badly-filtered CGI is piss-poor but neither of these go any way towards spoiling the enormous whole.

It starts with this jawdropping revelation: south Indian mystics have handed the same complex chants down for thousands of years. They’d never been recorded or analysed before but just recently were taped and assessed – and they’ve been proved to be older than human language – they have no connection with any known linguistic heritage or ancient music form. In fact, they’re most closely connected to the language patterns of animals, such as birdsong. It’s a direct, living cultural connection to the absolute beginnings of ‘human’ existence. Even better, the villagers in this area themselves have direct genetic links to the first known migration of people, out of Africa and into southern India.

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