A few years ago an anonymous genius at Rice University composed a fund-raising brochure. It featured four enigmatic tiles from the lobby of the Physics Laboratory, a building designed in 1914 by architect Ralph Adams Cram. In Architecture magazine Ned Cramer described Cram as "... a Boston Brahmin and fervent medievalist..." who came up with a "Byzantinoid" or perhaps "Neo-Byzantine" style for the core of the original campus.

But whatever their origin, thirty years after I first saw them the mystical symbolism of those four tiles is still engraved in my mind. They decorate a foyer in which one can whisper and hear, focused by the curved dome above, one's own voice or the voice of another person at a conjugate focal point. An entranceway into the universe of physics.

The tiles depict a quartet of anonymous savants who stand with eyes downcast, bodies clad in red-trimmed yellow robes, heads topped with blue berets. Each holds an open scroll. On each scroll appears a single word:

The bearers of Mind and Matter appear to be youths, virtually identical, of ambiguous gender. Motion is displayed by a middle-aged male with a black moustache. Method is held by a gray-bearded elder.

What might these iconic images imply? I have no idea --- but they do suggest a parlor game: What words are missing?

Magic? ... Mass? ... Metaphor? ... Moment? ... Mathematics? ... Meaning? ...

Or just Maybe ....

TopicPhilosophy - 2002-05-25

Music, Motherhood, Macrocosm...
-- JonathanSturm

Mind applied to Matter with Method results in Motion. Since we're programmed to find patterns in chaos, it's easy to sound profound.
-- Bo Leuf

(correlates: MoralToPhysical, EyeCandy, Underappreciated Ideas, ...)