Leopold Lambert on the Explosion

What is an explosion at the pure physics level? A bomb is an apparatus that contains folded within itself the potential liberation of an important volume of energy in the form of an exothermic reaction. Such a volume of energy and the speed with which it gets released provoke a sudden disaggregation of the material bodies (animate or inanimate) that surrounds its center. Insisting on the suddenness or the violence of the explosion would be another anthropocentric way to consider it as it would necessarily associate the scale of time in which it occurs to the scale of time of human perception. In other words, the Big Bang could be considered as a sudden explosion at a certain scale of time even though, 14 billions years later, the universe is still affected by its original release of energy. In a materialist interpretation, the speed to which an explosion is effectuated is therefore irrelevant and such an “event” can be compared to any other modification of matter like erosion or entropy. If we define destruction by the operation in which physical bodies are being “broken down” into smaller material assemblages, we can however define an explosion as a destructive transformation of matter without being anthropocentric.

Now that we read explosion at a materialist level, we can go back to what our bodies make us, humans, and maybe for some of us even, designers. What does such a materialist knowledge (only very briefly sketched here) mean in terms of design. The bomb, as we know it, is an artifact and a very precisely designed one. In his Entretien sur la mécanologie (Interview about Mechanology, 1968) about which I will write much more some other day, Gilbert Simondon explains that a machine, in order to exist, needs to be stable i.e. that it does not have any self-destructive characteristics – he refers to the very first engines that often tended to explode. The design of a bomb, a grenade, or any other explosive apparatuses does not apply this definition as it needs to control the precise moment of its self-destruction. The latter is likely to trigger the destruction of the other material bodies around it and therefore accomplish the goal that its creator has imagined for it.

Leopold Lambert, “Designing Volumes of Energy

Go read this entire post, it is really great.

This entry was posted in Quote Time, Theory and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.