Thursday, February 22, 2007

All Different Places

He opened the geography to study the lesson...they were all different places, that had those different names. They were all in different countries...and the countries were in continents, and the continents were in the world, and the world was in the universe.
He turned to the flyleaf of the geography and read what he had written there: himself, his name and where he was.
Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
County Kildare
The Universe
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (pg. 15) ---James Joyce

Here was a young man having this sort of thought for the first time, his place in the universe. When learning about atoms and galaxies, a child spontaneously zooms out of the solar system and beyond to imagine that our whole universe is just some substance in a test tube on a bench in the next higher dimension.

We have a sense of scale for places large and small -- dreaming of a new room or traveling to a foreign country. My model of the world has 12 levels of scale between a person and the planet. (Consider an animal or a business to be on the same level as a person -- more on that later.)

Dedalus's model had County Kildare in it. My model has no counties or states in the USA or elsewhere. We'll see that they are problematic in many places, not so much in others. You'll see that we can replace them with more appropriate structures. In the Portland Oregon area we have (at least) three counties coming together within the urban area, and we blow a lot of time and money duplicating effort (and worse). Now consider that Clark County is only across the Columbia and we might wonder what good a state boundary is, going down the middle of a river. There is no proof here, just zooming out a bit.