Having Mercury in Aquarius opposite Uranus within half a degree, I bristle when I see a closed orthodoxy. The liberal, progressive end of things is just as capable of producing these orthodoxies as the conservative, reactionary end. Man-made global warming long ago became one of those orthodoxies, to which any ‘responsible, right-thinking’ person subscribes. Now it may well be that we have caused global warming. But that’s not the point. The point is that anyone who disagrees tends not to be taken seriously by these responsible, right-thinking people who have woken up to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth (capital T). To disagree, or even question, certainly won’t do your career prospects any good if you are a scientist or a politician.
Pluto in Sagittarius has been good at producing rigid ideologies, as one might expect, and global warming is just one of a series. The free-market ideology that brought down the world financial system is another. It was the rigidity that did it, rather than the ideas themselves, because it means it’s hard to adapt and respond until it’s too late.
Signs always need to learn from their opposites, and in this case we did not do a very good job collectively of learning from Gemini while Pluto was in Sagittarius. Gemini realises that ideas are… just ideas! Gemini flows like quicksilver from one idea to another, and sees how any idea flows into its opposite. This too can be an extreme, and Gemini needs to learn that while ideas are just ideas, they also matter, they can reflect deeper truths.
Pluto transits are deep, so time and perspective are needed. It may be some years before we understand the Age of Ideology that we are just leaving.
Anyway, having Mercury in Aquarius opposite Uranus (within 1/2 a degree), I am always pleased when I see an idea that niggles at one of our orthodoxies. Here’s one from New Scientist:
‘The planet’s climate was on the brink of entering a permanent ice age before humans intervened. The ice caps at Earth’s poles formed only in the past 30 million years, as levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fell. Then around 2.5 million years ago, as the overall cooling trend continued, something strange happened: the climate began see-sawing ever more wildly between conditions like today and ice ages every 20,000 to 50,000 years. According to a simple climate model developed by Thomas Crowley at Edinburgh University, these oscillations were a sign that the climate was set to flip to a new stable state: a permanent ice age lasting tens of millions of years or more. This flip could have occurred in about 10,000 years from now, or possibly earlier. “It’s not proven, but it’s more than just an interesting idea,” he says.
However, by pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere we have delayed this transition indefinitely. “We are probably very comfortably away from it happening now,” says Crowley.”
This piece doesn’t question the man-made nature of global warming. But it does introduce the idea of there being something fundamentally good about the warming we have created.
While I’m about it, a few other QI ideas from the recent New Scientist.
In July this year in Las Vegas, a computer programme called Polaris became the first to beat a team of world-class poker players, each of whom had previously won over $1 million. This may prove to be a pivotal moment in the development of artificial intelligence.
It is some time since computers were able to beat the best chess and draughts players. These games favour players with the mathematical ability, or processing power, to calculate the consequences of choices many moves down the line.
But Poker is different. It is a game of cunning, bluff and deception – not attributes we traditionally associate with computers. Polaris excels at a simple version of Poker, ‘ heads-up limit Texas hold’em’. Its developers believe it is only a matter of time before computers get the upper hand at more complex forms of the game.
The next version of Polaris has been trained to ‘learn’ optimal game strategies by examining a database derived from simulations of 800 million two-player hands. These strategies are embodied in series of software bots with names such as Mr Blonde, Mr Pink and Agent Orange, each one tailored to counter particular styles of play.
AI is an Aquarius issue. With Neptune in Aquarius, the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence are starting to blur. But it is still early days. In 15 years time Pluto will enter Aquarius, and that’s when it could start to get really interesting.
Before Copernicus, the earth was considered to be at the centre of the universe. Since then, it has been an accepted truth that the earth’s place in the universe is in no way ‘special’: we are one planet among many in one solar system among many. However, this has not been proved! This means that we might live in part of the universe that is not typical. And that means our perception of the universe as expanding at an accelerating rate might be a relatively local phenomenon. This would mean we can do away with the notion of ‘dark energy’ or ‘dark matter’, which no one has seen, but which is needed to explain the expansion of the universe. I like this idea. I’ve always thought of ‘dark energy’ as like the ether which was postulated before Einstein came along, but which no-one could detect. They couldn’t detect it because it wasn’t there, and I suspect the same is true for dark energy.
Finally, it may be that the Holy Grail of physics, the Unified Field Theory, which reduces the four basic physical forces to one force, may not be testable. These forces are gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The theory itself hasn’t been properly worked out yet, with gravity being the tricky one to incorporate, though String Theory seems to be getting somewhere.
The problem is this: that were you to conduct an experiment at the energy levels required to see full convergence of the electromagnetic and weak and strong nuclear forces (at around 10 to the power 16 gigaelectronvolts), you would at this level run into problems with the ‘Planck scale’, at which quantum fluctuations in space-time become strong. This can create enough uncertainty to make it impossible to tell if unification does occur at higher energies.
Experiments in the 1970s were powerful enough to hint that the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces were beginning to converge at the energies then created during particle collisions. It may be that the quantum fluctuation effect is not strong enough to invalidate a test for full convergence. But if it is, it may mean that we never have our theory of everything! I think I can live with that.
Barack Obama is the first major western leader from the Pluto in Virgo generation, and as a number of people pointed out, his election acceptance speech was very Virgoan. A meaning of Virgo that didn’t come out there is technology, but this is something that Obama has emphasised: that we can invent our way out of many of our problems.
Pluto is where we look to for survival. For the Cancer generation, many of whom either lived through or fought in World War II, survival lay in protecting the homeland. For the Pluto in Leo generation, individuality was the key to survival. The protests and rebellions of the 60s were not just about bored youth with nothing better to do: these were Pluto in Leos for whom conforming to their parents values felt like psychological death. Because they were Leo, we saw their influence while they were young. The Pluto in Virgo generation will be looking to technology as a means of survival. Not just because they are Virgos, but because the world increasingly demands it if we are to survive in our present numbers.