Friday, July 21, 2006

The extravagant claims of madmen

Umberto Eco on Hollow Earth theories:
On various occasions I have written about "literary madmen," but they are not merely a fixation of mine. I find that reflecting upon outlandish theories that were taken seriously for a long time teaches one to distrust many ideas that are accorded full credence in the media, and even in some scientific circles.


I remember first reading about and being fascinated by the concave hollow Earth theory in Omni magazine. Martin Gardner has discussed it elsewhere. From Wikipedia:
Martin Gardner notes that "most mathematicians believe that an inside-out universe, with properly adjusted physical laws, is empirically irrefutable". However, Gardner rejects the concave hollow Earth theory, not as disproven, but instead entirely on the basis of Occam's Razor.

4 comments:

rachel said...

I once played a mad scientist/villian in an RPG whose grand insane scheme involved "unzipping" the (hollow) earth along the mid-Atlantic rift, and then turning the world inside out so the Subterraneans would get a turn at being the dominant people.

Everyone laughed at me. I'll show THEM. *mutter, mumble*

Sam said...

IN THE EGG

We live in the egg,
We have covered the inide wall
of the shell with dirty drawings
and the Christian names of our enemies.
We are being hatched.

Whoever is hatching us
is hatching our pencils as well.
Set free from the egg one day
at once we shall draw a picture
of whoever is hatching us.

We assume that we're being hatched
We imagine some good-natured fowl
and write school essays
about the colour and breed
of the hen that is hatching us.

When shall we break the shell?
Our prophets inside the egg
for a middling salary argue
ablout the period of incubation.
They posit a day called X.

Out of boredom and genuine need
we have invented incubators.
We are much concerned about our offspring inside the egg.
We should be glad to recommend our patent
to her who looks after us.

But we have a roof over our head.
Senile chicks,
polyglot embryos
chatter all day
and even discuss their dreams.

And what if we're not being hatched?
If this shell will never break?
If our horizzon is only that
of our scribbles, and always will be?
We hope that we're being hatched.

Even if we only talk of hatching
there remains the fear that someone
outside our shell will feel hungry
and crack us into the frying pan with a pinch of salt.--
What shall we do then, my brethren inside the egg?
----Gunter Grass

When I was a teenager I was engrossed for a while by the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. One series of his novels involved a land inside the center of the Earth, called Pellucidar, and about the many primitive inhabitants of this land. In one of the books, even Tarzan went there. I don't think I've ever again been as fascinated by any series of books as I have been by the novels of Burroughs' I read when I was so young and innocent.

Sam said...

ps--I'm not sure what "In the Egg" has to do with hollow earth theories, but something about your post reminded me of this poem by Grass, and I went searching for it. Thoght you might like it.

Isabella said...

Terrific poem, Sam!