What's said in this frame:
What's said in this frame: "This Christmas, I'm giving my heart to someone special. svetikd/gettyimages.com

The idea of placing reference frames on reality must not be confined to the theories of time and shape in physics. It is useful to see our near and distant biological/cultural interactions in frames that show not the differences in time or shape but sharp, semantic distinctions.


In the case of the the recent video of a conversation shot with a military-grade camera, we are immediately presented with two frames that hold two very different meanings. One is just the conversation, the vocal exchange of culturally expressed concerns, pleasantries, gossip, and whatever is in the minds of the interlocutors. The second obvious frame is that raw biological exchange of the humid environments of human mouths and lungs. This frame has no semantic connection whatsoever with the first one (that of the conversation itself), and is mostly invisible to the naked eye. As a result, the meaning of the second frame is not easy to appreciate unless it is visualized. And this is exactly what the Washington Post did with a "military-grade infrared camera capable of detecting exhaled breath."

Washington Post:

The technology is more typically used in military and industrial settings, such as detecting methane gas leaks in pipelines. In 2013, it was deployed by law enforcement during the 20-hour manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

But fitted with a filter that specifically targets the infrared signature of carbon dioxide, the camera can be used to map in real time the partial path of the nearly invisible particles we exhale.

The beauty of the video is it silences the frame of the conversation, an exchange of verbally encoded and decoded signs.

What are these two people saying to each other? Are they attending a Christmas party (another frame on the structure of this reality)? Who knows and, in the context of the second frame, who cares. In the second frame, the words are merely solar-flare-like eruptions of vapor, spittle, arching hot air that travels the short space between two animals—in this case humans, the language animal.

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Let's say that this is a party and the conversation just got heated. Interlocutor one says: "Look, I'm going to say it again. I want my freedom. I have to move on." Interlocutor two responds: "For 15 years, I sacrificed. I should have left your ass a long time ago." We are on the verge of a screaming match. In the second frame, however, this is nothing more than a sharp increase in the interstitial cloud of mouth and lung particles. And if one of the interlocutors is infected with a virus, a third significant frame must be placed on the structure this experience.

What the virus most wants is a considerably large "exhalation plume." (And before you argue that a virus cannot "want," you must know that I'm of the opinion that living microorganisms think or make decisions—life is nothing but something that can decide.) If the broken heart makes that kind of plume possible, the virus is happy, but it has no idea of the cause of its joy because the bug is in a frame (the viral meaning) that has totally nothing to do, semantically, with love on the rocks.

My point? The video shot with a military-grade camera is telling us one thing: stay home for Christmas and write off a big chunk of 2021.