Posts Tagged ‘quantum mechanics’

Shapeshifting and the New Crossley ID Guide to Raptors

March 12, 2013

“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane. No, it’s Superman!”


Well, no. Actually it is a bird.

In fact, it’s the fastest animal on earth. While the cheetah plods along at 70 mph this bird can zoom through the sky up to 240 mph. Plummeting from the heavens and enduring G forces that would kill a person, this paragon of flight and vision, with eyes that see shapes and patterns humans can’t, entered mythology long before Richard Crossley wrote his marvelous new Princeton Crossley ID Guide to Raptors. Another Englishman, J.A. Baker wrote, “Evanescent as flame peregrines sear across the cold sky and are gone, leaving no sign in the blue haze above.” They are, these peregrines, the little brothers and little sisters of Eagle.

“What do they see?” wondered Anaximander of Miletus about these birds two thousand five hundred years ago. About the same time, the Native Americans of North America knew what they saw. Shapeshifting was easier then and many people, not just the shamans, could do it. Later, ordinary people lost the power of flight and only shamans could do it. Soon human flight became metaphorical flight and the idea of the soul as a bird was born. Then flight and intelligence joined. In the Hindu Rig Veda we read, “Among all things that fly, the mind is the swiftest.” Another ancient text proclaims, “Those who know have wings.” Calling someone a “bird brain” is a high compliment indeed.

crossleyraptorsA fine new book is on the way about peregrines and all the other raptors of the world. Princeton’s Crossley ID Guide to Raptors will soon be available and promises to be every bit as useful and as beautiful as the other guides in the series. You can pre-order from our store, The Fat Finch.

Long before people and animals lost the ability to shapeshift, the Apache Black Hactcin held out his hand and a drop of rain fell into his palm. He mixed it with earth and fashioned the first bird from the resulting mud. The bird flew and the Hactcin saw that that the bird needed companions so he grabbed the mud-bird and whirled it around his head, faster and faster. The mud-bird grew very dizzy and began to see many images as it whirled around. He saw hawks and eagles, other raptors, and song birds too. Then the Hactcin stopped whirling the mud-bird and those images became real birds. To this day the raptors created in that Apache’s whirl live in the air and seldom land on the ground because the rain that helped create them fell from the sky.

DIGITAL CAMERAHigh on the mountain in New Mexico known as Shiprock lived the bird-monsters that were eating all the people on the earth. This was before modern raptors. It is said that one of the Navajo Hero Twins, Monster Slayer climbed the huge rock and killed both of the bird monsters. Two fledglings in the nest were terrified, but Monster Slayer decided not to kill them. To the eldest he said, “You will give us plumes for our rites and bones we will use to make whistles.” Whirling the fledgling around his head four times he flung it high in the air and it became First Eagle. To the younger monster bird he said, “You will be an oracle to my people and foretell the future. Sometimes you will tell the truth and other times you will lie.” He whirled that bird around his head four times and, as he did so, the bird’s head became large and round and its eyes grew larger and larger until the bird became First Owl.

Once a water monster made war on the people and flooded the earth. Only one person survived, a young woman. As she was about to drown a great eagle — perhaps the one made by the Apache or maybe the Navajo one — flew over the young woman, allowing her to grab his talons. He flew with her to the top of a spire in the Black Hills where he lived in his aerie. It was the only dry place on earth. There they lived as man and wife and they had two children, a boy and a girl. When the waters finally receded these two children of an eagle and a human returned to the earth and founded the Lakota Nation.

From the Crossley Guide, used with permission

From the Crossley Guide, used with permission

Some scoff at these creation stories from other and older cultures, but doubters may remember that physicists have just found the Higgs Boson, the last remaining particle necessary to confirm the family of elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model of physics. That means one single electron can be in two places at the same time. In fact, it can be everywhere at the same time. It’s sister electron can be at the far end of the universe but it can communicate with her instantaneously, never mind the speed of light. Superposition is real. Nothing is certain. Matter is nothing but highly concentrated energy that shapeshifted into the mass that blurs in the sky above you as Eagle’s little brother, the peregrine, hunts.

The universe is a strange place and we all should remember Niels Bohr’s injunction to no less a person than Albert Einstein. “Albert”, he said, “perhaps your idea of reality is too limited.”


This post is part of Princeton’s Blog Tour and we’re supposed to send you on to the next stop at The Flying Mullet. As they say in Spanish, que le vaya bien. (Travel well.) Thanks to Jessica Pellien of Princeton for organizing the tour. She has done good work.

Hummingbird Smiles

May 5, 2009

hummingbirds-at-4ur-2Some biologists are at work on a hypothesis known as “field theory.”  The science is, at best, elusive and perhaps wrong; but the effort brings up something we speculated about recently, the probability that much of reality is unknown to us because of our limited sensory abilities.

This biological field theory is distantly analogous to the quantum mechanics idea of “action at a distance.”  In the dancing world of subatomic particles, physicists have proven that electrons have “spin”. Separate two electrons with the same spin and place them so far apart that nothing traveling at the Universe’s speed limit of 186,000 miles every second (the speed of light) could possibly cover the distance between the two; then, change the spin on one of the electrons and the other instantaneously changes its spin. One electron, placed at the outer edge of the universe — billions of light years away — would instantaneously change its spin when the spin of its mate on earth changes.  Nobody knows how that is possible.

In the more mundane macro world, the one we live in, biologists have studied African Grey parrots which seem to be able to tell the researcher what playing card the parrot’s owner selects even though the owner is in a different room.  At least one Border Collie in Germany is able to go into a room and select the dog toy the owner, who is out of sight, is silently thinking about.

These biologists have looked at the relatively common phenomenon of pets which seem to react when their owners, who are away, form the intent to go home.  And these studies are not simply based on the pets’ knowledge of the routine of the humans.  Pets often know the schedule of their humans and wait at the door when the normal schedule of returning home from work is followed.  In some studies the humans were called at random times by the scientists and told to come home.  Some pets, even though the timing was completely wrong, went to the door and waited.  Biological fields may also explain the sense that some people get when someone else is staring at the back of their head.

One explanation for this phenomenon is a kind of field theory.  If it is real, and it is too early to say one way or the other, it joins the spinning electrons in the pantheon of things nobody can explain. But it may be that living beings emit some kind of force field that is detectable at a distance by other sentient beings.

That might explain the direct, visceral connection that hummingbirds have with that portion of the human brain that makes us smile.


Rupert Sheldrake is one of the leading proponents of the theory which he calls morphic fields.  He believes morphic fields operate and resonate at the cellular level and may be inheritable.  For a brief introduction, here is Dr. Sheldrake.  He also has a web site which seems to be up-to-date.

%d bloggers like this: