Abstracts for Akadeemia 11/2012

8 January 2013
Only in en

Kadi Liis Saar
Why should we need the Higgs boson?

What is the Higgs boson and why does it matter? The answer is simple – because it makes matter. According to the Standard Model, Higgs boson is the particle that gives mass to all other elementary particles and explains the difference between particles with and without mass. This essay explores in some greater detail how elementary particles gain their mass and discusses what other and even more fundamental reasons justify the search for the elusive Higgs boson. At the same time it explains why finding the Higgs boson is not the whole story and what else there is we do not know yet (e.g. secrets of dark matter and gravity). Finally, finding a particle which no one else has yet seen is something that cannot be done with existing technologies – new technologies need to be developed. It is worth noting that many of the inventions in this area have already found implications in various fields of everyday life, ranging from information technology to medicine or weather modelling and forecasts.

This July scientists working at CERN in Geneva (Switzerland) showed that a particle very closely matching the predicted profile of the Higgs boson indeed exists. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to ascertain how well it fits the current predictions of the Standard Model as well as those of other theories such as supersymmetry. This essay was written in autumn 2011 when the jury about the existence of the Higgs boson was still out and it has intentionally been left unchanged.

Kocku von Stuckrad
Western esotericism: Towards an integrative model of interpretation

The author finds that, in order to study esotericism, a framework of analysis is needed which would accommodate all kinds of research could find their place. If we want to set up an academic field of research, we must extend our understanding of esotericism beyond definitions that are necessarily limited to specific cases. As for the European history of culture, we can gain an adequate picture of the dynamics and dialectics only if we look for intra- and interreligious processes of exchange, for something that the author calls discursive transfer, which is not restricted to religious traditions but also functions in natural philosophy, science, literature and art.

Stuckrad’s matrix of interpretation identifies two dimensions of an esoteric discourse: claims of higher knowledge and ways of accessing this knowledge. To these dimensions, we can add certain worldviews that are typically involved.

The first of them contains a vision of truth as a master key for answering all questions of humankind and is closely linked to a discourse of secrecy, albeit not because esoteric truths are restricted to an ‘inner circle’ of specialists or initiates but because the dialectic of concealment and revelation is a structural element of secretive discourses. Important here is not only the content of these systems but the claim to a wisdom that is superior to other interpretations of cosmos and history. We encounter claims of higher knowledge not only in religion and philosophy but also in science. It is revealing to compare the search for a ‘grand unified theory’ in contemporary physics or the religious language underlying the decipherment of the human genome with the interpretational instrument of ‘esotericism’.

Higher knowledge can be achieved through mediators: gods or goddesses, angels, intermediate beings or other superior entities. In addition to mediation, and sometimes in combination with it, individual experience is an important mode of gaining access to secret or higher knowledge. Although every religion encompasses the dimension of experience, its individual character and the claim linked to it, which often transgresses the boundaries of an institutionalised religion, cause problems for institutionalised religions.

The third possibility is accessing the esoteric field of discourse through beliefs and worldviews. Neoplatonic cosmologies played an especially significant role in supporting esoteric claims from antiquity onwards. Although monistic, pantheistic or animistic lines of thought do not inevitably lead to a claim of higher knowledge, they can be seen as a natural backbone and explanation for esoteric modes of accessing the ‘truth’.

Veronika Valk, Ivar Lubjak, Maria Pukk
Dream > sense > adapt > feed or what to do with Tallinn Linnahall

The paper focuses on the case study of Linnahall, a monumental Soviet-era proto-post-modernist building complex under metamorphic pressure for change but also under heritage protection on DOCOMOMO (International Working Party for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) initiative, in a key location in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The controversies of Linnahall’s historic and ideological legacy are brought forward through conversations with its original planners, engineers and architects (Dmitri Bruns, Raine Karp, Ago-Allan Kuddu, Ülo Sirp among others), invoking a multiplicity of associations for the younger generation. A historic building is a work of art, yet our common ground.

Linnahall was completed in 1980 when the Moscow Olympics yacht races were held in Tallinn; the building later on won the Grand Prix from the Interarch 1983 World Biennale in Sofia and in 1984, the Soviet Union State Award. Linnahall, originally named after Lenin, succeeded to reconnect the city with the sea and to return some of the waterfront – closed-off industrial and military zone – to the public. To preserve such a building in today’s context, is it necessary to transform it (change its form)? Or, is it a question of how to find its new purpose (alter the content)?

Secondly, the paper poses the question of “dignified aging” of the built environment. Being the spine of the society’s physical identity, how can the existing structure simultaneously accommodate all the identities of different generations and cultural backgrounds, nurtured by shifting times, memories and tacit knowledge accumulated and still prove desirably “profitable” in neo-liberal terms? The paper highlights the values of adaptability and flexibility in a building’s functionality.

This futurospective aspect, as well as the retrospective responsibility presented in the paper are targeted at the broader reflection on possible links between the socio-economic paradigm of “deregulation”, and the emergence of the post-capitalist condition in our cities. Rejuvenating “best-of” flashbacks from the story of Linnahall, the interviews presented in the paper become instrumental devices, inviting the reader to follow the aspirations of the upcoming generation whereby the nonconformist architectural icons require a re-evolution of the term “use value”.

Linnahall workshop structure dream > sense > adapt > feed addressed the visual, spatial and tactile senses of the participants, concentrating on “here and now” as well as “here and tomorrow”, bearing in mind that adaptation is the primary process in bioevolution. Every individual, and in the metaphorical sense a building as well, may adapt to its environment within the constraints of its hereditary traits. The workshop participants regarded Linnahall like a hibernating “smart building” where the processes of healing and growth take place during sleep. Other scenarios saw it as a catalyst for both events as well as eventlessness, or even as a giant canvas.

One of the projects suggested it as jaws that “sensentice” creative people from all over the world, while another proposed a pipework net connection to Tallinn urban spaces as if a memo which prevents Linnahall’s existence from being forgotten. One of the most intriguing proposals suggested Linnahall as a zoo and/or columbarium and/or refugee camp. Or, could Linnahall become Guggenheim, with a(n Estonian) twist? Or a power station – a conduit for currents? Linnahall’s future genetic code depends directly on today’s memes. Ultimately, the paper asks how to protect Linnahall from its own ideological baggage.

Guillaume Apollinaire
True stories 1912: A selection of anecdotes

On 1 April 1911 Mercure de France, then a literary journal, published a new column – La Vie anecdotique – in its Review of Two Weeks (Revue de Quinzaine). It was signed by someone unknown – Montade. The publication of the column was interrupted for a few months, but when it resumed, the author had replaced the pen-name Montade with
Apollinaire, which was not his real name either. When World War I broke out, the publication of Mercure de France was interrupted but continued soon as a monthly publication. The
voluntary artillerist, later infantryman Wilhelm Albert Wlodzimierz Apolinary de Waz-Kostrowicki alias Guillaume Apollinaire also continued his work on the column.
La Vie anecdotique came out irregularly, the obstacle being the author’s service in the army and getting wounded. On 17 March 1916 Appollinaire was hit by shrapnel just at the moment
when he was reading Mercure de France in a trench.

Appollinaire collected the best of Vie anecdotique into the booklet Flâneur des deux rives (Roamer on Both Riverbanks). Appollinaire also used the anecdotal chronicle material elsewhere in his literary creation, for example in his unfinished novel La femme assise (The Sitting Woman). His last anecdotique was published on 1 November 1918. The column was filled by a medley of everything and everyone.

Marianne Paimre
The rise and fall of drug problems in the Estonian press from 1993-2009

This article examines how the coverage of drug-related issues by the Estonian press has changed in the last two decades. “Issue-attention cycle” by A. Downs provides the theoretical basis for the discussion of the changes in the media coverage of drug problems. Results of formalized content analysis of 1523 press articles allow to claim that media reporting on drugs has changed dramatically and undergone a gradual development resembling that of the “issue-attention cycle”. In the “pre-problem” stage (until summer 1995), drugs had not yet fully caught the mainstream media’s attention, whereas it was not uncommon for the yellow press to cover the topic of drugs within a hedonist framework. In 1995 drugs made headlines due to two events, and the issue started to be associated more with crime and negative sanctions. At the turn of the millennium, the media developed a heightened interest in drug-related issues, further intensified by the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users which introduced a more humane aspect to the drug discourse. By 2005 the press had picked up on the public resentment of the idea of providing assistance to drug addicts. By then people had already realized that tackling drug problems was taking a heavy toll on them. In the 2000s the overall interest in the publicised drug matters declined significantly. This testifies to the fact that the public as well as the press had grown weary of the whole drug discourse.

“All kinds of rumours are going around…”: Reports about the situation in Estonia in 1943-1945. Part XVIII
We publish information summaries about the situation in Estonia in the last years of the German occupation, the beginning of the second Soviet occupation, and about the fate of Estonian refugees. The reports meant for Estonian diplomatic representatives in Finland and Sweden (in 1943-1944 also for the Finnish General Staff) were mainly compiled by journalist Voldemar Kures (1893-1987). He interviewed refugees, monitored letters from Estonia, newspapers, radio programmes, etc.

Published 8 January 2013

Original in Estonian
First published in

Contributed by Akadeemia
© Akadeemia Eurozine

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