three dots …

On airplanes

I was thinking about what is place and what is placeless, because I was in a class this summer on the History of the Marine Sciences, and in one lecture the professor told us about a theory of the modern scientific laboratory as a ‘placeless place’. I forget precisely what was the justification of this claim. I think the idea was that modern laboratories are designed to facilitate the same experiments and produce the same results no matter where the its environment and no matter its place-context. A laboratory might be on the tenth floor of a building in the city of Ottawa, it might be on a ship of the coast of Labrador – for the science, it's not supposed to matter. Moreover laboratories these days do not I think have internal characteristics that make being in one like being in a different place compared to being in another.

This idea of placelessness made me think of airplanes, and, to a lesser degree, automobiles. I thought of how travelling by airplane feels like a kind of teleportation, because you go from one place to another without traversing any of the intervening places. One does traverse some kind of intervening space (namely, some part of the atmosphere), but this is not humanly habitable space – not space that has the capacity to contain places.