Everyone's a Critic

By Sean Carroll | January 30, 2008 3:31 pm

I got this letter in the mail the other day:

I Don’t know if you Exist But I Do! I bo not Agree with your Articl and I Do not Beleave that “MOMBO-JOMBO” if you do … Well! it’s Disturbing thought But I know How to Deal with it! I will Not let the Wolb Disiper under My Nose But if you Do I cant say I’m sorry!

Sincerely

a ten year old who knows a little more than some Pepeol!

George Wing

ps. some peopl Have a little to Much time.

In response, of course, to the NYT story about Boltzmann’s Brain. George’s father Michael, a high-school science teacher, was moved to send it along (and gave me permission to post it), suggesting that “maybe it is really a Boltzmann brain speaking.”

To which I can only respond: awesome. A fourth-grader reads an article in the Science Times, and is so moved by outrage that he pens a stern missive to the scientists quoted? It’s not very often that you have a chance to inspire a young mind like that, even if you do inspire him to berate you.

Of course, George did fall into a slight trap with respect to the logic underlying the article. But that’s okay — he’s only ten years old, and there are plenty of grownups with Ph.D.’s in physics who fell into the same trap! The trap is to imagine, despite explicit disclaimers to the contrary, that the Boltzmann’s Brain argument goes something like this:

Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a random fluctuation, rather than through orderly evolution.

Isn’t that cool????

That’s really not the argument that anyone is trying to make. Rather, it goes like this:

Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a random fluctuation, rather than through orderly evolution.

Our brains aren’t like that.

Therefore, those scenarios are not correct.

It’s kind of an old-fashioned argument. Take a theory, use it to make a prediction, the prediction isn’t correct, and therefore the theory has been falsified! Rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but it works for me.

Other critics are uncharitable for different reasons. For example Don Walton, founder and president of Time For Truth Ministeries:

I believe the accusation leveled against the Apostle Paul by Festus in Acts 26:24 — “much learning is making you mad” — is most apropos for today’s cosmologists.

Hey, question my existence and suggest that I have too much time on my hands, fine — I can deal with that. But comparing me to Saint Paul? That is a low blow, sir. And somewhat unprecedented.

When you’re ten years old, you don’t have to be right — you should be curious and passionate, and George definitely is on the right track. I look forward to recruiting him to grad school some day. For the grownups I have less hope.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and the Media, Time
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    That letter is just adorable.

  • No Spam

    You wrote:

    that the Boltzmann’s Brain argument goes something like this:

    * Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a random fluctuation, rather than through orderly evolution.
    * Isn’t that cool????

    That’s really not the argument that anyone is trying to make. Rather, it goes like this:

    * Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a random fluctuation, rather than through orderly evolution.
    * Our brains aren’t like that.
    * Therefore, those scenarios are not correct.

    Question – does the Boltzmann’s Brain hypothesis have any limitation on the epoch of the scenario, that is, does an argument of this sort fall within the scope of the BB hypothesis?

    * Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a result of a random fluctuation in which brains evolve in ways that are either identical to or remarkably similar to the way we believe our brains evolve, and we cannot at this time determine whether the evolutionary path is the one we believe or an alternate path.

    *We know what our brains are like with a precision far, far greater than we know our brains’ evolutionary path.

    *Therefore we have no way of using this hypothesis to determine much of anything relevant to branes.

  • lylebot

    * Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a random fluctuation, rather than through orderly evolution.
    * Our brains aren’t like that.
    * Therefore, those scenarios are not correct.

    It’s kind of an old-fashioned argument. Take a theory, use it to make a prediction, the prediction isn’t correct, and therefore the theory has been falsified!

    Isn’t there a hidden assumption here that we are a random sample from the space of observers? But since we aren’t a random sample, the conclusion doesn’t follow. It strikes me as being like someone with a 210 IQ saying “if IQ is distributed normally, then I am incredibly unlikely to exist. But I do, therefore IQ is not normally distributed.”

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress Peter Woit

    Sean,

    I haven’t heard of any grown-up Ph.D. physicists who read the NYT article and didn’t understand that the goal of the active field of Boltzmann Brain studies is to explain why we don’t see them. On the other hand, from what I hear, a very large number of physics Ph.D.s wish the NYT Science Times was not covering the spectacle of some of their colleagues arguing over issues such as whether consciousness is relevant for counting observers in the multiverse. Many would agree with the recent characterization of this by one well-known science journalist: high IQ pathology.

  • MedallionOfFerret

    You passed over ME, and now you want to recruit a dyslexic 5th-grader who has yet to learn the basic rules of capitalization, spelling, and syntax? Talk about disembodied brains!

    Or, “Brians”. You misread Don Walton, founder and president of Time For Truth Ministeries, who wrote:

    “These entities are called ‘Boltzmann Brians’ and the supposed soundness of Boltzmann’s argument is referred to by today’s cosmologists as the ‘Boltzmann Brian Problem.’”

    For those without a proper understanding of the historical context, Boltzmann’s Brian was Brian Scheutz, a cheeky graduate student who supplied Dr. Boltzmann with many of his best ideas. Boltzmann’s argument was that if he had recruited dyslexic 5th graders who had yet to learn the basic rules of capitalization, spelling, and syntax then he would still have to put up with the cheekiness but wouldn’t have had the ideas. Brian Scheutz obtained his post-graduate degree and died in 1925, a 30-year veteran taxi driver honored for his pioneering the use of horseless carriages in the taxi business.

  • Noam

    * Certain cosmological scenarios predict that it’s more likely for a brain like yours or mine to arise as a random fluctuation, rather than through orderly evolution.
    * Our brains aren’t like that.
    * Therefore, those scenarios are not correct.

    I have an issue with the second point, namely: how do we know? I understand (I think) the argument of Boltzmann’s Brain. If Boltzmann’s universe was true and the universe spends most of its time in a high entropy state and only randomly fluctuates now and then, small fluctuations will be immensely more probable than large ones. These small fluctuations would therefore be much more likely to give rise to brains than to full universes with big bangs, and therefore assuming our universe is a huge entropic dip is a problematic assumption. The problem here is that the question then becomes like the old philosophical question of the brain in a vat. How do we know the universe exists outside of ourselves? We have Decartes’s Cogito Ergo Sum but after that we have no actual knowledge. Is there any way to refute the claim that the universe doe not exist, merely my “brain” (which need not resemble what this mini universe of my consciousness thinks a brain looks like) and it really is just a small fluctuation away from the large entropy state? Without that the second statement is invalid and only useful because we want it to be true.

  • The Almighty Bob

    Well done to George – opinionated, critical, and self-confident. What, however, has happened to the state of English teaching that a ten-year-old writes so abominably?

    I mean, this:

    Dear Editor,
    The sweat was dripping down my face and into my lap, making my clothes very wet and sticky. I sat there, walking, watching. I was trembling violently as I sat, looking at the small slot, waiting—ever waiting. My nails dug into my flesh as I clenched my hands. I passed my arm over my hot, wet face, down which sweat was pouring. The suspense was unbearable. I bit my lip in an attempt to stop trembling with the terrible burden of anxiety. Suddenly, the slot opened and in dropped the mail. I grabbed at my Eagle and ripped off the wrapping paper.

    My ordeal was over for another week!

    was written by a twelve year old!
    Admittedly, that twelve year old was Douglas Adams, but even he had to be taught how to spell.

    (his first published work, a letter to Eagle magazine – and the only example of a twelve year old’s writing I knew would be on the web.)

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    lylebot, in principle (in the multiverse scenario where you have many copies, some possibly in the form of Boltzmann’s brains) you should define for any given person the class of observers that are identical copies of that person (identical means the person feels subjectively the same). We are then random samples within that class of observers.

    If you do some experiment that has different outcomes distributed according to some probability distribution, then the entire class of identical observer splits up according to that distribution and you’ll find yourself having measured a particular outcome with the correct probability, only because you are randomly distributed among all your copies.

    A theory that makes wrong prediction for probabilities can thus be ruled out. Any theory that predicts that most of your copies are Boltzmann brains can be ruled out because, apart from generating your consciousness, the Bolzmann’s brain will contain random information. You can prove that you are not a Bolzmann brain by checking that different sources of information (not related in any essential way to who you are) are consistent. E.g. if you as a Boltzmann brain check that a bill you payed has been written off correctly from your bank account, then you should find with almost 100% probability that it doesn’t add up.

    So, the simple fact that everything is consistent rules out any theory that leads to almost all of your copies existing in the form of Bolzmann’s brains.

  • Moshe

    Yeah, straw-men are bad, unless accompanied by really cute writing style. So, in this spirit one can mention that currently nobody has any idea what the expression :it’s more likely: really means in this context, or if it is well-defined even in principle. Sufficiently smart people are working on this, so maybe this will become one day an old-fashioned style of argumentation, right now it is not.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Whether or not the above argument is correct is certainly a sensible topic for discussion. Comparing probabilities in multiverse scenarios is, to put it mildly, somewhat problematic.

  • Moshe

    Whether the argument above is correct or not, it is certainly not a good old fashioned style of argument, tried and true for centuries. So, It rubs some people the wrong way for more serious reasons than the ones quoted above. It would be useful for me to see this style of argument applied successfully in any context whatsoever, for example from all the possible planets how likely are we to live on earth? does that likelihood depend strongly on your model of planet formation? or is it much more dependent on what exactly you mean by “likely”?

  • Not Required

    What the B Brain argument shows is that *no* account of the earliest universe is satisfactory if it relies on fluctuations to produce fantastically low-entropy conditions such as those we currently observe [and which are responsible for our existence]. The whole project of trying to argue that the early universe was in some sort of “generic” state — from which the currently observed, highly non-generic universe emerged — is clearly doomed. The moral of the story is that the universe began, on the contrary, in an extremely specific state. People should be trying to identify that state and explain it.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    Douglas Adams had Zephod Beeblebok on the Infinite Improbability Drive (IID). This takes you to the most improbable events in the universe. Ironically the laws of the universe are in a way similar to the IID. This is I think related to the initial entropy of the universe, which is (was) inordinately low and that the structure of fields and matter is such that the there is a maximal diversity of possible states or configurations. Maybe Leibnitz got it right with this being the best of all possible worlds.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • Not Required

    PW said: I haven’t heard of any grown-up Ph.D. physicists who read the NYT article and didn’t understand that the goal of the active field of Boltzmann Brain studies is to explain why we don’t see them.

    What about Lu….oh. OK. Grown-up. Right.

    On the other hand, from what I hear, a very large number of physics Ph.D.s wish the NYT Science Times was not covering the spectacle of some of their colleagues arguing over issues such as whether consciousness is relevant for counting observers in the multiverse.

    So you agree that the question of counting observers is interesting and important, you just don’t care whether they are conscious? Or are you in fact opposed to all speculative research in fields other than the one in which you are immediately interested? Or is it possible that you just want to use this question as another excuse to ride your hobby-horse?

    Many would agree with the recent characterization of this by one well-known science journalist: high IQ pathology.

    With a heroic effort I resist the temptation to make the obvious rejoinder.

  • Boltzmann’s Frontal Lobes

    What’s a Wolb Disiper?

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress Peter Woit

    Not Required (but really, is there a good reason for you to hide who you are?),

    No, I don’t agree that the question of counting observers in the multiverse is important or interesting, based upon reading the papers of people working on the question and seeing what this work has led to.

    As for legitimate speculative scientific research, I’m all in favor of it. On the other hand, I’m not in favor of pseudo-science, or its heavy promotion in the media, which is discrediting theoretical physics research in general.

    Yes, this is my hobby-horse. I think the people involved in this need to pay attention to the fact that most scientists react to these anthropic arguments with visceral disgust, for very good reasons. Responding to this with postings making fun of 10-year olds and claiming ones colleagues are just too stupid to understand the significance of these arguments doesn’t help.

  • NoJoy

    BFL – “Disiper” is obviously “disappear”. My best guess for “Wolb” is “world”. I get a lot of practice at this with four kids, two of whom are currently kindergarteners.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    What does anyone think of modal realism, to ask again? That is so relevant to what it means to say “I exist” or anything for that matter. Can you defeat the arguments of people like Tipler (however eccentric) or Max Tegmark that all “mathematical structures” exist in the same way, and that there is no special status for “material worlds” as subsets of “model worlds” etc? Can you define “exist” in non-logic/math terms w/o begging the question? Note that if all such systems exist, so would all the equivalents of the “brain in a vat” just feeding false experiences to the brain! How could you tell the difference?

    Ironically, a similar issue is brought against those (like me) who appreciate that “consciousness” is special and can be distinguished from “mere data processing” (altho I am a “property dualist” who thinks both are relative aspects of the same thing, rather than a literal dualist who thinks the mind can be pulled out of the body like spirit ectoplasm. (However, that doesn’t prevent that your mind couldn’t “run” on some other system in a multiverse, note that computer programs can run on other computers etc. I still don’t think it would be simple data but something more subtle.)

  • http://www.geocities.com/aletawcox/ Sam Cox

    Organic Evolution is absolutely profound. We can understand where we (and our brains) came from- and understand our relationship (and that of all life) with the planet and the events which have ocurred since the origin of the Earth.

    However, as satisfactory as the Evolution model is, we still know for good reasons rooted in Physical principles, that what has happened in the development of conscious complexity has to be undertstood from a more cosmological perspective than the “organic evolution” of our 4D frame of reference.

    Invariant frames of reference and the general specs of a SR/GR/QM universe within a conventional (and congruent) marginally closed geometry demand just a little more profound explanation for the existence of information, complexity and consciousness in the universe than what happened as we observe and measure from our 4D frame of reference.

    This is where things get a little “wierd” and we can look (and feel) like idiots.
    We know there is something beyond what we see and the evolutionary processes we observe at our frame, but we don’t yet understand all the “whys and wherefores” as to how this link between intelligent consciousness and existence really works…we just know that this link is real- it exists and it needs an adequate explanation.

    My hat is off to those who study the multi-verse concept but with all due respect, I think (for a number of what I believe are pretty solid scientific reasons) they are on a wild goose chase. In my own opinion, a single, multi-dimensional universe of vast but finite mass, existing within a limited spatial extent but in eternal time, and with certain inherent structural constraints could at least begin to explain the current universe we observe.

    However, it is obvious that factors other than the chance of organic evolution alone have been and presently are at work in the universe. I’m reminded of the comment of Fred Hoyle when he found that the exact conditions necessary to produce carbon in correct amounts to result in life existed in the hearts of stars, and commented that “life monkeys’ around”.

  • Boltzmann’s Frontal Lobes

    NoJoy – thanks. You can tell I have no kids.

    A Wolb Disiper sounded to me like some kind of undead creature from Transylvania – definitely not the sort of thing I would allow under my nose!

  • Boltzmann’s Frontal Lobes

    Errm. That would be, of course, if I had a nose. Which I don’t, being a disembodied brain.

    Olfactory nerves, yes, but not connected to anything.

  • Koray

    The kid was obviously wrong about some people having too much time.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Hi Sean:

    Allow me a really stupid question, and I apologize in advance if a) the answer is obvious, but my aging frontal lobes are somewhat tired or b) you have already answered this question in previous posts (which I read, but might not have read too attentively as I find the whole topic quite bizarre). Let me leave aside for a moment the brain question, let me generalize that to the question of phase-space trajectories that actually lead to one of these alleged fluctuations. Consider a specific fluctuation (desk, brain, liver, other organs), and forget about QM for a moment. The universe is not a randomly evolving system, it has an evolution law. How do we know there are de facto initial conditions that, under application of the evolution law, do indeed result in such a fluctuation (up to some uncertainty). I mean, the notion of ‘fluctuation’ isn’t just an initial condition on a slice that could be put in one-to-one correspondence with any other slice, instead it seems to me to indicate a rather specific time evolution of the kind ‘wasn’t there’ – ‘is there’ – ‘won’t be there’ – how do we know this is an allowed solution? To come back to the brain how do we know one can ‘assemble’ a brain without necessarily going through all the evolutionary steps that brought us there?

    Best,

    B.

  • http://www.website.com Yahoo

    Re Moshe’s comment: “So, in this spirit one can mention that currently nobody has any idea what the expression :it’s more likely: really means in this context, or if it is well-defined even in principle.”

    I think you have to distinguish between “not having a precise mathematical definition of something” and “doubting that something exists or is true”. Sean’s claim was that certain theories indicate that BBs are more likely than Ordinary Brains. It is true that a precise definition of “more likely” eludes us at present, but surely it is clear that it is *in some sense* true that low-entropy fluctuations are “more likely” than ultra-low-entropy fluctuations? Surely the onus is on *you* to come up with a scenario in which this reasonable expectation turns out, amazingly, to be false? To put it another way: do you really think that pointing out this problem contributes in any way to solving this mystery? Are we supposed to say, “Oh, right, we aren’t clear about the meaning of likelihood in this situation, so now I understand where the arrow of time came from!” One is reminded of the people who always like to object that “gravitational entropy” is not yet well-defined, as if making this statement removed all need to explain cosmological boundary conditions.

  • http://www.website.com Yahoo

    I’m sure that Sean can answer B much better than I can, but just to make a simple point: we are talking about theories in which a fluctuation prepared conditions suitable for an *entire universe* to evolve. Surely your observation applies to those theories even more forcefully? In other words, the answer to the question: “what makes you think you can assemble a brain by a fluctuation?” is “what makes Boltzmann think that he can assemble [the necessary initial conditions for] an *entire universe* by a fluctuation?”

    An additional comment: you find the subject bizarre. I agree, it is bizarre. But it is *even more bizarre* to imagine that the initial conditions for an entire universe could have been the result of a fluctuation! It’s the old story: familiarity breeds contempt. You are so familiar with the incredibly unlikely [ = bizarre] initial conditions of our universe that you don’t stop and think: wow, do you guys seriously expect me to believe such a story? Yet when [extremely serious and respectable] people like Alex Vilenkin et al start talking about [far *less* bizarre] things like BBs, you feel incredulous. In short: when we talk about cosmological initial conditions we are willy-nilly dealing with fantastically improbable things. Emotions like “are these guys serious?” are not helpful at all, particularly when they lead to excessive hobby-horse-riding, an exercise likely to lead to further abrasive injuries to delicate body parts.

  • Moshe

    Yahoo, I have no idea how to communicate with anonymi, I don’t know your level of expertise or background, so we are likely to talk past each other. In any event, I don’t think I said anything controversial in that comment, comparing probabilities in the multiverse is very ill-understood subject at present, which makes it an interesting topic for research. As I understand the state of the art is trying to understand precisely what :more likely: means, nobody is going around falsifying theories as of yet. The only thing in the original piece that struck a false note was the characterization of statistical arguments as business as usual. I am over it by now.

    As for your more technical point, using the entropy as measure of likelihood as you suggest, even if you define that concept precisely, is exactly the original argument which produces the Boltzmann brain paradox, I think…so you would have to use another measure. I am not sure how nature, as opposed to us, is supposed to pick that measure.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Hi B–

    Just run the movie backwards; the evolution law is pretty much time-reversal invariant. Take whatever macrocondition you want to fluctuate to — our current universe, a brain surrounded by chaos, whatever. Then evolve backward in time, you’ll find some initial conditions that would create it. Of course, because it’s a “macrocondition,” it corresponds to many specific states, each of which will have a distinct trajectory. By the same reasoning that we teach undergraduates about stat mech, the vast majority of such trajectories will have come from a higher-entropy boundary condition.

    Talking about multiverses blah blah blah is a bit of a red herring here. The reasoning that says that — in the absence of some low-entropy past boundary condition — our current state is likely to have come from a higher-entropy past is exactly the same reasoning that we use to conclude that ice cubes generally melt. Namely, the overwhelming majority (in the canonical Liouville measure on phase space) of microstates compatible with the current macrostate have that property.

  • Not Required

    “Talking about multiverses blah blah blah is a bit of a red herring here.”

    Absolutely. And the fact, mentioned by Moshe, that there are problems with measures on multiverses seems to have absolutely nothing to do with Sean’s refutation of Boltzmann!

  • Moshe

    Let me see if I am missing something. The original argument of Boltzmann is that we are a large fluctuation away from equilibrium state, whose likelihood is therefore weighted by the entropy. This idea was safely falsified long before any of us was born, because of the Boltzmann brain paradox- those are much more likely in this scenario than ordinary evolution leading to the current situation. The recent interest in the subject is in the context of the multiverse blah, blah, blah, where the conjecture is that our universe is selected as the most probable one (compatible with life) according to some unknown measure. The Boltzmann brains are then used to constraint that measure. Is that about right?

    What I am confused about is where this measure is supposed to come from. The choice of entropy as measure is not arbitrary, it corresponds to preparing the system according to a known recipe, called thermal equilibrium, and one can argue that if the universe had long evolution before the random fluctuation it was at equilibrium. I fail to see such rationale for any measure in multiverse scenario, and that is not to say there is none.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    That’s a good question, and I don’t know what the measure is supposed to be, and that’s why I am not especially convinced by the argument in the multiverse context. But some people, including Hartle and Srednicki, are questioning the argument in the original context — whether or not our universe can be fruitfully explained as a thermal fluctuation in an equilibrium background. Which is why, in my post about the NYT article, I wrote “it’s important to recognize that there is a much stronger argument against the idea that Boltzmann’s Brains were originally invented to counter — that our universe is just a statistical fluctuation around an equilibrium background.”

  • Moshe

    Thanks Sean, that makes sense, I missed that context.

  • John Merryman

    Is it “fluctuation,” or “fluctuations?” It seems the brain/thinking is a function of interactions, so it would seem the initial condition might be a background against which a range of fluctuations might occur, as opposed to the possibility that a singular fluctuation away from equilibrium created the undoubtfully complex reality in which we exist, in its fall back to equilibrium.

    Infinite micro fluctuations would create expanding space, just as one macro fluctuation would cause an expanding universe.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for your reply. You say

    “Just run the movie backwards; the evolution law is pretty much time-reversal invariant. Take whatever macrocondition you want to fluctuate to — our current universe, a brain surrounded by chaos, whatever. Then evolve backward in time, you’ll find some initial conditions that would create it.”

    That I understand. But it seems to me if one does that, specifying the condition (e.g. all the atoms of my brain in the appropriate places with their momenta), then one is not free to further specify anything about the evolution that brought the atoms there, precisely because you say you can evolve backwards in time. So how do I know there is an allowed solution in which the condition ‘all the atoms of my brain in the appropriate places with their momenta’ appear and dissolve like a ‘fluctuation’ as you previously wrote:

    Out of the background thermal equilibrium, a fluctuation randomly appears that collects some degrees of freedom into the form of a conscious brain, with just enough sensory apparatus to look around and say “Hey! I exist!”, before dissolving back into the equilibrated ooze.

    Maybe my problem is just that I understand in this scenario ‘everything that can happen, does happen’ (if you wait long enough) but not how helpful this is without knowing what ‘can happen’ to begin with (since ‘can’ stretches out over time as in ‘appearing’ and ‘dissolving’ or as I wrote above ‘wasn’t there’ – ‘is there’ – ‘won’t be there’)? Not sure though if that explanation of my confusion makes it better or worse.

    @ Yahoo #25, you write addressed to me

    Emotions like “are these guys serious?” are not helpful at all, particularly when they lead to excessive hobby-horse-riding, an exercise likely to lead to further abrasive injuries to delicate body parts.

    Are you sure you are replying to my comment? I neither said anything about Vilenkin, nor did I ask who is or isn’t serious with what. What I find bizarre and what not is my brain’s business.

    Best,

    B.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Two things. First, the relevant feature of your brain is its macrocondition, not its exact quantum state. You don’t know, or need to have specified, the precise position and momentum of every atom in your brain — more than a few momenta could be changed and you would never know. So there are many microstates that correspond to the relevant macrostate of your brain, not just the small number that came from a low-entropy past.

    Second, even if we specify precisely the microstate of your brain, that says exactly nothing about the rest of the universe. I could start with an arbitrary state of your brain plus a chaotic outside world, and wind it backward to find a high-entropy condition that would evolve into your brain.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Hi Sean:

    Yes. In my first comment I wrote let’s forget QM for a moment as I don’t see how it is relevant to my question. Again, I do not question you can always ‘wind an arbitrary state backward’ to get an initial condition that would seen the other way round appropriately evolve into that state. My question is how do you know this ‘evolution’ does indeed ‘evolve’ my brain according to the picture you suggest which I quote in #33. If you ‘wind the state backward’ you can’t also specify the way it evolves, I mean, that’s what the evolution law is good for. So how do we know the picture of spontaneous assembly out of chaos and subsequent disappearance with the intermediate state you wish to have (my brain, your brain, Boltzmann’s brain) is actually a scenario that ‘can’ happen? Best,

    B.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Okay, now my turn to be confused. Nothing that I said was dependent on QM, you can speak classically just as well. The Hamiltonian equations of motion are first-order differential equations in phase space, with a solution that is uniquely defined once you give a single boundary condition. So, take that boundary condition to be any one of the many many microstates that could possibly correspond to “your brain”. Almost all of them will evolve to the past to a state which (after suitable coarse-graining) is very high entropy. The proof is just the conventional proof of the H-theorem, just run backward in time.

    I’m not sure this will help, as I think I’m just repeating.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Okay thanks, will think about it. Best – B.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    BTW, if anyone is trying to explain our current universe (or it’s properties at least) in terms of a ‘”fluctuation”, remember that the mass-energy in the space in which the fluctuation occurs is subject to gravitational compression (REM why a stable universe can’t exist: even if there’s a lambda that happens to cancel out gravity in a given configuration, the slightest change will likely tip the whole thing to collapse or eternal expansion (or a mix of lumpy contractions with overall expansion.) That’s because lambda is a property of space, but lumping of matter changes the local gravity.

    So, “fluctuation” in what? It can’t be like an ordinary space filled with matter. How could something our universe came out of, avoid either having to be big-banged in turn, or not have already expanded into rarefaction?

  • John Merryman

    Neil,

    What if there is some sort of convective cycle at work here, so that if gravitaational compression were to increase, it would simply speed the rest of the cycle up. Whether it’s normal radiation from gravitational wells, or that fluctuation across space is in some way sourced to what falls into black holes. Physics has no poroblem proposing any number of extra dimensions, alternate universes, entangled properties, etc. This way, there is some relationship between expanding space and collapsing space, That they should be two distinct phenomena seems the more far fetched proposal.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    One must be careful with the term fluctuation. Quantum wave equations are completely deterministic. There are really no stochastic processes in quantum mechanics. This sounds odd, for we are so inculcated with the idea that QM is a statistical theory. It is true that the amplitudes in QM corresponding to certain eigenvalues determine probabilities under a modulus squared, but how these probabilities obtain is because we observe quantum systems under incomplete circumstances. Our measurement apparatus is made of many quantum states which we have not characterized. Remember a quantum experiment involves the preparation of a quantum state. Yet we don’t do the same for the apparatus states, which couple to the quantum system to measure an observable. This is by some definition a fluctuation, or how a quantum system can appear to pop into some configuration spontaneously. Yet this is because we are working with knowledge of some aspect of the system, say some sub-matrix of the density operator, and we have summed over a whole lot of states we have not characterized or perpared.

    In statistical mechanics a similar situation applies, though over a real valued sample space of states. The atoms or molecules in a gas or thermal system obey individually Newtonian mechanics, or QM where that applies, and their collisions with other molecules are determined as such. Of course characterizing this is impossible. Indeed we can’t solve a three body problem exactly since the polynomials over the first integrals of motion are not Galois factorizable, as found by Poincare and for which he won the Sweden prize. So we use statistical methods for a large number of molecules. What is a fluctuation is then something which occurs because we are necessarily ignorant of a fine grained description of the system. So the phase space is partitioned off into macrostates, we apply the H-theorem to define these macrostates with an energy surface and we work forwards. What we call fluctuations are then deviations, the first of which are standard deviations. IN Poisson statistics [itex]1/sqrt{n}[/itex] define fluctuations for n trials or a system with n particles. Shot noise in electronics originates from this.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • Qubit
  • http://www.geocities.com/aletawcox/ Sam Cox

    LC said,

    “One must be careful with the term fluctuation. Quantum wave equations are completely deterministic. There are really no stochastic processes in quantum mechanics. This sounds odd, for we are so inculcated with the idea that QM is a statistical theory.”

    “What is a fluctuation is then something which occurs because we are necessarily ignorant of a fine grained description of the system.”

    VERY appropriate comments…profound too. This principle conceptually, is at the heart of entanglement, and implies how and why information and complexity develop and can be conserved within an appropriate space-time geometry (lattice) in a quantum universe.

    Another very powerful and impressive thread which started with a perceptive (but not completely informed) kids’ “the king is naked” comment.

  • John Merryman

    Sam,

    I still find it intriguing that this lattice should be both collapsing down into points of infinite density and expanding across the unimaginable distances in between, with no theoretical connection. Even if I don’t have sufficient resources to tie what is falling in to what is spreading out, the other side would seem to be out in the open. What is spreading out is presumably the same space that is falling in, or is there some barrier preventing expanding space from falling into gravity wells? I realize that with gravity, it’s collapsing material defining space and with expansion, it’s increasing space dissipating material, if space is defined by the material defining it, as is the case with gravity, then wouldn’t the addition of material, such as radiation, or dark energy cause it to expand? And wouldn’t this matter also be susceptible to falling into gravitational wells?

    Lawrence,

    I’m as willing to be careful with the term “fluctuation” as anybody, but how do you explain “dark energy?”

  • http://www.geocities.com/aletawcox/ Sam Cox

    Hi John,

    Conceptually I think it is well to remember that the SR/GR/QM universe is always everywhere…there is nothing outside it at all- at any “time”. This is true in spite of the fact that as we observe the universe from our 4D frame, we measure the universe as having a finite mass and being spatially unbounded…marginally closed space. We observe time to proceed in as “flat” a manner as we observe the shape of space. From our frame, we look outward astronomically to a “bang” and inward microscopically to gravitational collapse. From our frame also, this astronomical “bang” occurred 13.7 BY ago and the overall collapse of the universe seems billions of years in the future.

    The reason why we observe this way relates to our space time coordinates. At the origin of of the universe (the “bang”) , the other side of the universe was still the other side of the universe…it was “here” because neither space nor time existed. Yet each event which happens in the universe has its own invariant frame of reference and what really “happens” reflects NOT the 4D processes of inorganic and organic evolution as we so logically observe them, but rather, information and complexity develop (as is the topic of this thread) from ” a kind of quantum “fluctuation” at each of an almost infinite set of energy density, invariant frames…which are all tied together and related by entanglement.

    In fact, the geometry of the system…invariance and entanglement, plus energy density relationships form a set of basic cosmological contraints within which infomation and complexity can form, develop, relate and be conserved…not immediately lost.

    Those on this thread who understand energy density and scale relationships know that at small scales (as observed from our frame), tiny energy densities are more than enough to take the characteristics of the singular. As tiny energy densities enter this region, tiny event horizon surfaces…particles form. Because of the constriants of the geometry, the “particles” which form, form groups which have distinct characterisitics…”classical sets of particles”.

    Atomic particles and structures are stable because of the way we observe them- in extreme, remotely observed, gravitational time dilation. From our frame, space and time appear…a vast universe filled with a great variety of stable energy density configurations. Actually, indications are that at the quark level, the entire baryonic universe everywhere and simultaneously collapses and
    “bangs” as much as 2.8 trillion times per Earth second- obviously eternally preserving information and complexity.

    “Dark Energy” is the stuff of which the entire universe is made…the substance of reality itself. Since the Planck Realm is everywhere singular from our frame, most of the mass of the universe is found within the Planck Realm. From our frame, areas of greater energy density than the Planck Realm are observed as “particles”, “atoms”, “stars”, “planets”, and of course, “black holes”, where the Planck Realm, rather than existing at 10 to the minus 33rd CM, has NO depth at all.

    If the standard model is correct, and I believe it is, singularity is the common denominator of the universe. Time and space result from our observing energy density in certain ways. The “Big Bang” (Schwarzschild white hole) and the “big crunch” are happening eternally under our feet as we discuss this matter. There is a “place” in the universe where the Earth is “banging”…it is nothing but a singular object with an event horizon surface the size of a golfball…and exists simultaneously with everything else in the universe (at its own invariant frame) as a low entropy singular object- it literally contains and is physically linked with all of the information regarding its own history and the causes and effects of everything else in the universe.

    We measure the universe we see using a very “cool” set of mathematical relationships which describe the proportions in which matter and energy relate, and the manifold or lattice which results when baryonic information and complexity observes reality in a certain way…SR/GR/QM.

    LC’s comments on QM are very important and he has a PROFOUND understanding of the nature of these mathematical relationships. I feel like I am in his classroom, in fact. To study this stuff and begin- just begin, mind you- to understand how structured (deterministic) the univsese really is; to understand HOW information need not be actually stored in a black hole in a QM/GR/SR universe is very exciting. As I once again read LC’s comments it made the hair stand up on the back of my head. The universe is truly awesome!

  • mathandphysics1

    I think that what everyone is forgetting is that QM is a deterministic MODEL. Radioactive decay is our best example of the underlying random nature of the universe.

    That things become correlated is interesting, but can be explained with our knowledge that bound states have less energy than unbound ones. Quantum entaglement is a phenomenon that occurs when interaction leaves two particles in a bound state. This causes a correlation between the two particles. There is nothing particularly mysterious about it.

    There is no need to resort to faster than light travel or other hocus pocus.

  • John Merryman

    Sam,

    singularity is the common denominator of the universe. Time and space result from our observing energy density in certain ways. The “Big Bang” (Schwarzschild white hole) and the “big crunch” are happening eternally under our feet as we discuss this matter. There is a “place” in the universe where the Earth is “banging”…it is nothing but a singular object with an event horizon surface the size of a golfball…and exists simultaneously with everything else in the universe (at its own invariant frame) as a low entropy singular object- it literally contains and is physically linked with all of the information regarding its own history and the causes and effects of everything else in the universe.

    I can understand reality as a singularity, in that there is a oneness to everything, but I just don’t translate it into the singular. Oneness isn’t one. Unity isn’t a unit. Monotheism makes the same mistake; The absolute isn’t one, it’s zero.
    So trying to formulate the universe as a singular entity, with a narrative structure of time, results in a mashup of deep insights and prejudicial assumptions.
    I do see it as a singular process that is both “crunching”/gravitationally collapsing and “banging”/energetically expanding simultaneously. Not only that, but that time is going both directions as well, as events/order falls away into the past, as energy proceeds into the future. “Energy is that which is conserved.” To me, these two examples of collapsing order and expanding energy are aspects of the same essential reality.

  • http://www.geocities.com/aletawcox/ Sam Cox

    M-Physics said,

    “I think that what everyone is forgetting is that QM is a deterministic MODEL.”

    I would hope that no one is forgetting that QM is a model!…or that SR/GR are models of reality as well. If these models failed to precisely describe the behavior of the universe, neither we nor anyone else would be discussing them here. However, since these models work, and since we know that any future concept will have to be inclusive of their general parameters, I’m not sure that making the point that QM is a model is of much significance as an argument that just maybe QM may not be correct. The field work says QM IS an accurate description of the universe. My opinion is my opinion, but SR/GR/QM are the best we have. I know they work. I have seen them work. I know how accurate they are in describing reality…so accurate, in fact, that technologies can be formulated around them. The rest, as Einstein said about SR/GR are “the details”.

    JM,

    Your comments are interesting and I can see from your last comment that you get the idea of a permanent, everything and everywhere universe which, when observed from different frames and in different ways, is measured to be expanding and contracting at the same time. I think that is the substance of your original question to me and the reason why I answered it as I did. As baryonic infomational complexity, we electromagnetically “cross-read” the progression of events in the expansion and gravitational collapse of the universe remotely.

    To use a simplified but obvious illustration of the permanence of embedded information in the universal manifold, people on Earth, now dead, could be observed, with proper equpment as living their lives at their own “place” in space and time anywhere in the universe. Every event since the big bang, and presumably into the future as well is permanently embedded in the energy density matrix and preserved at invariant frames. One would need only to tamper slightly with the past, to change everything…and possibly even destroy all life on Earth- and everywhere else.

    A great thread! I’ll continue to read along!

  • John Merryman

    Sam,

    Actually I am arguing with the description of time as a form of metadimension, where all events exist, much as different points in space can co-exist. Given that it’s the energy that’s conserved, it is the same energy that manifests as successive points in time, so it requires the dissolution of past events for future events to take their place.

    The story is that it was Edgar Allen Poe who first proposed that space and “duration” are the same. E. A. Poe was a master of narrative and that’s what time as a dimension is. That selective linear description of cause and effect that describes our thought processes. Time as dimension is the intuitive understanding of time, not necessarily the logical description. The point I keep making is that time is a consequence of motion, not its basis.

    If time is a fundamental dimension, then physical reality proceeds along it, from past events to future ones. On the other hand, if time is a consequence of motion, then physical reality is simply energy in space and as the events are formed, they go from being in the future to being in the past. Time as consequence of motion means it has more in common with temperature, then space, since they are both descriptions of and methods for measuring motion, rather then dimensional basis for it. This relationship between the matter/energy moving forward in time, as the events created move back in time applies to all scales, whether the earth rotating and creating days, or a cesium atom going through transitions, or strings and their vibrations.

    Consider a thermal medium, say a pot of hot water, with lots of water molecules moving about. To construct a time keeping device we would take the motion of one of these points of reference and measure it against the medium it is moving through. The point is the hand and the medium is the face of the clock. Obviously all the other points are hands of their own clocks, but are medium/face for all other clocks. The motion of any point/hand is balanced by the reaction of the medium/face of the clock. To the hand of the clock, the face goes counterclockwise. At any one moment, the positions of all these points constitute an event, so while any and all of them go from past events to future ones, the medium against which any point is being judged is the overall context, which once created, is displaced by the next, as all these individual points move around, so the events go from future potential to past circumstance. The illusion of direction is created because the physical reality of the points moves one way through the series of circumstances, though these events go the other way. There are innumerable points of reference describing their own narrative and all this activity exists in an equilibrium, so every potential clock constitutes its own measure of time.

    This isn’t presentism, since time isn’t fundamental, either as point or line. The only absolute time would be like absolute temperature, the complete absence of it. Zero. No singular point of reference, because that would imply some way to measure it and that would require motion.

  • Hag

    J.M. , I think your view is better represented by Julian Barbour’s ideas. Look him up.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    A quantum entanglement does not involve any force between particles. It means that the wave amplitudes of two particles exist in a product form in a density matrix. An entanglement can in principle exist across any distance. For instance light from a distant galaxy that is Einstein lensed around an intervening galaxy can define EPR entanglement pairs. In fact it is in principle possible to do a Wheeler Delayed Choice experiment with these photons to determine which of the arms the photon traveled. A photon amplitudes for going around the intervening galaxy to the left or right can be made nonlocally to choose a path here on Earth.

    Entanglements define a certain relationship structure which is different from the standard coordinate or space-spacetime understanding of things. They also do not involve gauge forces or the binding of two particles by an energy potential.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • http://physicsmuse.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    While reading about unparticle stuff recently (either in New Scientist or at physicsorg.com, the point was made that since photons don’t have mass they are scale invariant. Thinking about the potential fractal nature of said photons, I wondered if both the cosmological state of everything accelerating away, as well as the quantum state of entanglement were just appearances based on scaling issues.
    Reading JM’s comments about simultaneous contraction and expansion of the universe brought this same fractal image to mind.

  • John Merryman

    Hag,

    I didn’t read his books, but from the interviews I did read, it seemed that his description of time is dimensional, in the sense that all points in time co-exist and any particular point in time is simply a subjective reference point, as with spatial perspectives. My point is that the only physical reality is the existing energy and whatever form it currently manifests. That different points in space require some measure of time to communicate doesn’t necessarily make time a fundamental dimension. Rather it is a measure of the motion in that space, just as temperature is another form of measurement.

    Lawrence,

    I realize quantum entanglement isn’t evidence of a transfer of force. That’s the whole mystery of it, that there is no time for this transfer. What makes sense to me is that these two measurements of separate particles are actually measurements of different points of some deeper wave phenomena, such as two radios equidistant from the transmitter will play the same sounds at the same time. The question then, what deeper levels of wave transmission are we missing that might provide some relation between collapsing and expanding space.

    Sandy,

    That was an intriguing article and it makes one wonder what the LHC will find.

  • mathandphysics1

    It seems to me that since we don’t know the state of an entangled pair until we do a measurement, we really aren’t getting any secret knowledge about the other half of an entangled pair when we do perform the measurement.

    The entangled pair just represent a new object that we know nothing about until we perform the measurement

  • http://physicsmuse.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    LC wrote: “Quantum wave equations are completely deterministic. There are really no stochastic processes in quantum mechanics…….but how these probabilities obtain is because we observe quantum systems under incomplete circumstances. ”

    Are we back to believing that we live in a completely deterministic universe? My existence isn’t a happy accident? I really don’t want to give that one up! Of course, the amount of information we would need to correctly characterize the complexity of all the minute forces at work would BE all the information in the universe. So, you could never have a model smaller than the actual thing.

  • mathandphysics1

    Sandy

    Lawrence is correct, but you are correct too. QM is a deterministic model that accurately describes nature. Nature itself is not deterministic.

    In principle you could create a stochastic model of nature; and in fact, many simulations of natural processes are stochastically modelled with computers; but they have their own complexities, and the fact that there is a deterministic model that describes nature so well is interesting

  • John Merryman

    Sandy,

    As Stephen Wolfram put it, “You need a computer the size of the universe to compute the universe.”

    If on the other hand, the universe is infinite and what we percieve to be the edge of time is simply a horizon line of how far light travels before it gets too redshifted, so that we are bombarded by information from a 14 billion lightyear radius, that would be fairly indeterministic. It might make us slaves to the universe, but then we affect what affects us, so it’s a symbiotic relationship.

  • http://www.geocities.com/aletawcox/ Sam Cox

    LC,

    Appreciated your remarks on entanglement. As spooky as it seems, the principle follows logically- and technologically from the SR/GR/QM models- the experimentally validated fact of entanglement is evidence of a very important conceptual link between the models, and the veracity of the concepts.

    JM,

    “Actually I am arguing with the description of time as a form of metadimension, where all events exist, much as different points in space can co-exist. Given that it’s the energy that’s conserved, it is the same energy that manifests as successive points in time, so it requires the dissolution of past events for future events to take their place.

    The story is that it was Edgar Allen Poe who first proposed that space and “duration” are the same.”

    It is interesting- and I believe, significant- that time is usually treated as “space-like” in GR…with good success and no reduction in the accuracy of measurement. This relates to Poes’ interesting assertion that space and duration are the same…though I’m not sure he was the first to have the idea.

    Just the fact that the speed of light separates events the way it does suggests that time is, in some way which is difficult for us 4D observers to understand, “spacelike”..that “time” relates to the overall geometry of the universe- and cosmic structure (patterns of energy density concentration existing at invariant frames and within a manifold of some kind).

    Its a hard pill to swallow, I know, but as we observe planets around stars two thousand light years distant, we observe both star and planet as they existed two thousand years ago. I cannot see that we have a choice in this matter…information and complexity in the universe are conserved, and with appropriate technology and/or within an appropriate geometry exist eternally intact…and could be retrieved.

    Best, Sam Cox

  • Qubit

    Something is wrong, none of this is right! We have been hit by something, somekind of cosmic anomily, time travel has occurred we have been knocked into an imaginary state.
    Are you all sure that there is no object that is heading for us, it will be tiny about the size of a car but has the mass of our star and fast enough cut through our atmosphere in about a 2 seconds. Whatever it is, it is massive in mass and momentum. It has a pathway to follow, but it could drag me with it; I dont want to go back, I can’t go back. What do I DO? I have asked this question because you lot seem to have all the answers!

    I am not god, I am not the one! I am me, a man; a real man, but something about the last 7 years is definatly not real and its flowing from the future.

  • John Merryman

    Sam,

    Temperature can also be a very precise measure of motion and it can be relativistic with regards to volume of space. If a certain level of energy is contained in a specific volume of space and this space was increased, the drop in temperature and density of the energy can be predicted, but that doesn’t make temperature equivalent to volume. Time is the same. As duration it is a measure of motion, not the basis for it. If it wasn’t an effective and accurate form of measurement, it wouldn’t be very useful.

    Qubit,

    Get your brain thinking about something else. When you’ve finally focused on that, try thinking of some other thing. Just keep doing that until you get a lattice of thought patterns and use that as your control to measure what it is that is bothering you.

  • http://physicsmuse.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    We can see a pattern of planets and stars the way they existed two thousand years ago written in photons. That much of the energy and information is conserved. It is far less than the actual energy that made up the planets and stars. We can’t retrieve the actual planets and stars. I think JM has it right. Time is the result of motion. And conservation of energy is a novel argument against a persistent now.

    It seems a much simpler description of the universe to say there is likely a finite amount of matter/energy with an infinite number of possible states and interactions; rather than that there is energy persisting in a possibly infinite and persistent present.

  • John Merryman

    Sandy,

    I think one of the reasons people focus on the concept of now as a point in time is that motion is primarily at the speed of light and our brains don’t totally process it in real time, as the information/energy would just be a blur. So the mind is a process of conceptual flashes, like frames of film. As we get older and more focused, we process these flashes faster and time seems to speed up. A good analogy is that our shutter speed gets faster. An interesting example of this may be a study I read of some years ago, about chain crashes in fog that was done in England. What they found was that as fog settled onto traffic, people would inexplicably speed up. My theory is that as their information intake was reduced, they subconsciously sought to increase it by increasing their speed. Just a theory.

    As a measure of motion, it would be meaningless to think of time as a point. Just as with temperature, the only absolute is zero, which is the complete absence of any motion in both cases.

    I do think an infinite universe is the simpler description. Every point in space would be receiving energy from all directions and radiating it in all directions, thus creating a cycle of perpetual conservation of energy. With a finite universe, it would be subject to entropy and radiating this energy away, as the open Big Bang model proposes. This then requires an explanation for how the original source came to be. A closed BB model might say it does eventually collapse back together, but this argues for endless loops of time, ie. eternity. What if this process lost a little energy each time? Other dimensions, whatever. It would still be subject to entropy and eventually fade away. The only way to get around entropy is not to have a closed/finite universe in the first place.

  • Qubit

    Yeh, your right John, but I just can’t help myself. Reality is shit! I live in two worlds one that’s in my head and its story that been running for what seems like two universes, and then there is my life. My life does not seem like my life at all, I don’t remember ever having ability to think in anything other than pictures so the pictures I turned into a story, that story is amazing! Its always evolving and at certain times the two turn into one, pulling them apart is easy, I just prefer not to.

    It just looks like your trying to understand my story. The problem is that language is a real problem for me, so I am never going to be able to tell or prove to you, that you are just looking at me!
    If I were you, I would also spend an eternity trying to figure out, what it is i am, because “I” am amazing!

  • mathandphysics1

    Qubit

    Party on dude

  • John Merryman

    Qubit,

    Read my post #48. Your external reality is that structured reality that seems to be squeezing the life out of you, as it falls away into the past, as your internal reality rushes blindly into the future. If you want to connect to the eternity(but only if it really is bad, otherwise..) don’t try and make sense of what you are told about the structure and order, insitutions, logic, top down rationality, but try and plug into the raw energy motivating it. It’s like winter and spring. The order and structure is the hard shell of winter and the energy is the raw burst of growth of spring that breaks through, constantly pushing at the weak spots, like grass pushing through the concrete. The source of life is the essence out of which we rise, not an Ideal Form from which we fell.

    I have this saying that I can never feel sorry for myself because I read the paper every day. Our personal realities are like bubbles of awareness. Some rise to the surface, many are jostled around in the middle and most are ground into fertilizer at the bottom. Mother Nature creates life in order to consume it, giving sustenance to the next stage, as life bootstraps itself upward. If you want to escape your bubble, short of suicide, than try plugging into other people. Living beings consciousness exists as a sort of electrostatic connection between their interior and exterior reality. Have you ever seen or felt those spots in your vision? Feel your gaze controlled by subconscious attraction and rejection? Felt someone looking at you and turn to realize someone was? We can build $20 radios that can translate electromagnetic waves into forms of communication. I think that at some point in the future, we will be able to do some of this by mental control. I think one of the main reasons we don’t do it already is because it does interfere with our ability to function autonomously. As a young child, I found that I had to consciously shut out the mental spillover from my siblings in order to develop my own ability to think. Since I ride horses for a living, I’ve spent my life plugging into primitive minds. Civilization may claim to have the answers, but it is just hard crust on a raw beingness. The price we pay for being able to feel in the first place is that a lot of it is pain. Get used to it and develop thicker skin, cause it isn’t going to change.
    As for the partying, hangovers happen.

  • John Merryman

    An interesting article on the relationship between being and thinking;

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05well.html?em&ex=1202533200&en=eed03831444e3786&ei=5087

  • Pingback: The lure of science pornography » Undress Me Robot

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »