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Limits and Limitlessness

Exploring Time in Scientific Practice

Antonia Walford

This article explores some of the ways that time figures in the scientific practices of instrumental micrometeorology and climatic and weather modeling. It draws on ethnographic work done with the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA), an international scientific project that aims to assess the role of the Amazon forest in the global carbon cycle and to provide sustainable techniques for the future management of the region. An examination of the knowledge practices that have emerged from this ethnography (such as calibration and prediction) provides an opportunity to rethink the relation between 'natural time' and 'social time(s)'. This allows for a discussion of the roles that certainty, uncertainty, finiteness, and limitlessness play in both scientific and ethnographic practice.

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Barbara Bodenhorn

This article takes one form of extreme event - namely forest fires - and asks how the ways in which they come to be understood might contribute to core questions about evidence. In particular, I shall suggest that, by considering the moment-ousness of extreme events, we are offered tools for considering the tension between 'rupture' and 'continuity' which emerges throughout the articles of this Special Section, not only at the methodological level but also in terms of understanding these processes themselves. The controversial and often political relationship between evidence, modelling and prediction - that is, taking fragmentary evidence of past events to speculate on future process - is an issue to which we return in the conclusion when the question 'what are scientists for anyway?' comes to the fore. 'Uncertainty' - as a variable, or as a sign of failure - emerges as key in what the article calls a 'clash of modernities'.

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Between Two Truths

Time in Physics and Fiji

Naoki Kasuga

This article provides an ontological reconsideration of time, which anthropological theory has typically presumed as a given. It does so by ‘comparing’ two truth claims: that of native activists in Fiji, who worked to actualize their leader’s prediction and ‘His Time’, and that of physics, the sturdiest of the scientific disciplines. The aim of this thought experiment is to expand our understanding of natives’ claims but also to question our perception of time and how our technological environment preserves its reality. The article argues for an understanding where the levels of qualia and quanta cease to be disconnected, thereby confirming the significance of ontological approaches in anthropology today.

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To Dream, Perchance to Cure

Dreaming and Shamanism in a Brazilian Indigenous Society

Waud H. Kracke

Drawing on his extensive psychoanalytic ethnographic work among the Parintintin Indians of Brazil, the author discusses the place of dreaming in Parintintin shamanism. In this culture, dreams are spiritually significant, and there are traditional modes of interpreting them. While dream interpretation was formerly the province of shamans, even ordinary people are considered to have the capacity to use dreams to predict events and sense feelings directed toward them. The article deals primarily with the dreams of an informant who was not a shaman but had an intense interest in this practice. Because his birth had not been 'dreamed' by a shaman, he was not considered to be one; nevertheless, he experienced in dreams the cosmic journey of a shaman. While the informants' dreams manifest yearnings in what could be considered stereotypical forms, the author finds that they do express personal meanings and reflect intimate, unconscious wishes.

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Gerry Mackie

Cass Sunstein details intrinsic flaws in group discussion, even in ideal deliberation, and draws attention to prediction markets and information-aggregation devices on the internet as supplements to discussion. I respond that the supposed flaws do not affect ideal deliberation, and that the evaluation of group discussion is too pessimistic: there are alternative hypotheses to account for his findings, and there are doubts about their external validity. Also, I contend that his evaluation of prediction markets and internet devices is too optimistic. The markets have failed miserably, and the internet is vulnerable to astroturfing by the powerful and wealthy.

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'Communities and Jewish Identity in Europe'

Transcript of First Plenary of the Third General Assembly of European Jewry, Budapest (20–23 May 2004)

Anthony Lerman, Barry Kosmin, Mikhail Chelnov, Shmuel Trigano and Alberto Senderey

The European Jewish reality today confounds predictions of decline with demographic decline. We can see that predictions of Jewish decline don't mean that the data was wrong, but rather the interpretation of the data on Jewish life was wrong. To look at the inevitably flawed data and not see trends that cannot be altered is just bad futurology. The fact is (and we know it from our daily life, work life as well as leisure life) that today information is power. Without information about who we as Jews in Europe are, we cannot seriously build a future. The kind of information we need about ourselves is not just how many we are and where we are. This kind of information is sometimes impossible to know definitively. We really need to know what kind of Jews we are, what kind of Jewish identities form our being, what makes up Jewish identities today.

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Steve Reyna

This essay is concerned with where the current of global political and economic events runs. It addresses this concern by erecting an argument in three stages. First, a string being theory (SBT) is outlined. Second, this theory is used to formulate an SBT approach to imperialism, one that might be imagined as Lenin by alternative (theoretical) means, emphasizing the role of violent force. The 'seven deadly sirens'—generalizations that predict the exercise of violent force under different conditions in imperial systems—are introduced. Third, certain post-1945 US government uses of violence are analyzed in terms of their fit with the seven sirens' predictions. Oil depletion is considered as contributing to systemic crisis in capital accumulation, and its role in Gulf War II is explored. It is concluded that US government violence is consistent with the sirens' predictions. The essay terminates with speculation about where the current runs.

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Andreas Baranowski and Heiko Hecht

One hundred years ago, in 1916, Hugo Münsterberg was the first psychologist to publish a book on movie psychology, entitled The Photoplay: A Psychological Study. We revisit this visionary text, which was an anticipation of the field of cognitive movie psychology. We use the structure of his book to look into advances that have been made within the field and evaluate whether Münsterberg’s initial claims and predictions have borne out. We comment on the empirical development of film studies regarding perceived depth and movement, attention, memory, emotion, and esthetics of the photoplay. We conclude that the most of Münsterberg’s positions remain surprisingly topical one hundred years later.

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Spirit of the Future

Movement, Kinetic Distribution, and Personhood among Siberian Eveny

Olga Ulturgasheva

This article discusses the concept of djuluchen (a spirit that travels ahead) among Siberian Eveny, which can illuminate the human potential to foreshadow one’s own future. Looking closely at case studies of Eveny adolescents reveals that the act of planning, narrating, or envisioning a future event, heavily charged and empowered by djuluchen, moves the event to its fulfillment. Drawing from the Deleuzian notion of ‘becoming’, the article shows the connection between prediction and fulfillment involved in the Eveny conceptualization of personhood and destiny. The discussion of ‘kinetic distribution’ and illocutionary acts uncovers the principle of detachability and the partibility of personhood in nomadic ontology.

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Eric Lagenbacher

Observers across Europe and the world were shocked when British voters decided in June 2016 to leave the European Union. Since the Brexit decision, British politics have been in disarray and the government’s incoherent negotiation positions have created much economic and political uncertainty. Germans and others have had to formulate policy based on assumptions and predictions. Despite slightly different emphases, all mainstream German parties have endorsed a harder line rejecting British efforts to cherry pick the most desirable aspects of a relationship with the EU. This stance accords with the preferences of European Union actors and the vast majority of member states. Moreover, the likely effects on the German economy will not be catastrophic. Thus, as much as Germans prefer that the UK remain in the EU, there is also little desire to accommodate British demands—and there may even be a sense of relief.