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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Word Space

Belbo in Umberto Eco’s Foucalt’s Pendulum to Casaubon says, “Every point of the universe is a fixed point: all you have to do is hang the Pendulum from it.” The following star is making a single word of the Foucault’s Pendulum – here: “connections” – the center point, with all occurrences of this word in the book circling around it:

For example, one line in the star reads, “wanting connections, we found connections – always, everywhere, and between everything,” with connections in the middle. You can think of it as a different mapping of the book, each word being a fixed position in word space. (This visualization could also be a search result, connections being the “Foucault’s word” the user entered... already, when you enter a word in Google, the result page immediately makes this word the center of its universe.)

Follow a sentence in a straight line, and you read the original as it appeared in the book, but you can also provoke “dimensional breaks” by not following a sentence in a straight line. Then, instead of “Gentlemen, we don’t have to invent connections. They exist,” you get, “Gentlemen, we don’t have to invent connections between Joan of Arc and the Sibylline Books.”

Casaubon says the Foucault’s Pendulum told him that “as everything moved – earth, solar system, nebulae and black holes, all the children of the great cosmic expansion – one single point stood still: a pivot, bolt, or hook around which the universe could move.”


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