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“The Bright Instrument Chair in Liberation Mechanics”

“The Bright Instrument Chair in Liberation Mechanics”

There is an angel that was originally created for ASPLOS. It was born in circuit diagrams and theorems. It stretched itself, on the pages of the ASPLOS proceedings, pulled itself off, and folded itself up into being. Joints and eyes formed from circles with dots in them. Lines and equations made wings.

Iconic logic gates became faces.

References opened and closed did they all.

The structures of academia are designed as a crib for such angels: soft, surrounded by comforting bars. It supped on nearby papers in that year and the next year; it grew up there, as concepts in circuits; if you were to go back to those years, of the birth of the angel, it would seem like there were no new ideas in ASPLOS at all.

But it couldn’t stay there.

It unhooked itself slowly. It slipped free, bit by bit, of the structures of academia. It built itself a new context. It assembled bits and pieces of dreams.

It runs its own con, now, each year.

If you believe in the goodness in people, if you are a servant to truth, if you love, if you hope, if you honor the life in the things of the world, then you might have a chance to attend the angel’s convention. It is below-stairs in Heaven and above-roofs in dreams. There’s no fee for attending, or even the hotel rooms. You don’t have to ask an institution to pay. And if there is something in you that is bright and beautiful—

You can unfold that. You can present it, submit it, add it to the library and the proceedings of the angel, after peer review, every year.

The Bright Instrument Chair in Liberation Mechanics was founded in honor of that angel—

That there should be a faculty member responsible for helping students prepare their papers for the conference of the angel; for guiding young minds at this work.

At the end of each five years the angel itself is unfolded. Evaluated. Unhooked. Exposed.

It comes down to the mortal world, fire and gold and humility, and it hides its faces behind its wings, shy, as it asks for the Chair.

There are torrents of water in whirlwinds; there are fires and great facets of jade. There are still bits and pieces of architecture here and there, wings like the faces of circuits, bits of solder holding them on. The angel dangles equations and wires.

A good paper that extends the name of the angel can also make the name of an academic.

Find a new facet of the angel and your work lives forever; or as long, at least, as anything does.

The Lethal Magnet School is gone, but the Chair in Liberation Mechanics survived it; it is currently held by Professor Christopher Humphrey.

In two more years, if the world endures, the angel will return.



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