Sunday, January 31, 2016

ON SETI...

I am a huge proponent of SETI and a great fan of Science Fiction. About ten years ago I wrote a book the HISTORY OF THE FUTURE detailing a world where contact with alien species is made and our species is forced by necessity to enter into a new geopolitical reality. Odds are that if we are to be immersed in a world where we are less sophisticated than the extra terrestrials than it will not work out well for us. However there is an unpredictability with all encounters that may prove refreshing. Lately though I have become somewhat disillusioned, not so much in the way contact will play out, but whether contact will occur at all. Based on scientific assessment the odds of another humanoid type species evolving ( or even some type of facsimile) to make contact with us appear to be close to zero. A subtle interventionist deity could rig the odds but that seems to be wishful thinking. One can take solace in the Drake Equation but there are so many unknown variables in that equation that it seems to be practically meaningless. My heart wishes that this weren't so but looking just at the probability game and the levels of fine tuning that are necessary it may just be the case that we are simply alone.

Thoughts on Deism IV - Some Quick Ones.

Einstein himself was not a fan of cultural relativism and I believe detested the way his theory was applied to other areas outside physics. Much the same way that Darwin was not in favour of the way his ideas of selection were used by those advocating Eugenics.

On Absolute Truth....The Laws of Thermodynamics viz. Conservation of Energy, Increasing Entropy of the Universe plus Absolute Zero are probably as absolute as one can get. Gravity has been reworked with General Relativity to better understand Newton's Inverse Square Law however it has some problems at the quantum level. The jury is still out with respect to the fundamental Graviton particle (although odds are that we will likely find it). Gravity Waves also await detection. Chemical Reactions are largely manifestations of the electromagnetic force so I agree that the theory here is very solid. Absorption and Emission of Light can be described by Quantum Mechanics which at present seems to be well supported empirically. I would add to this list laws regarding both linear and angular momentum as well as certain symmetries that are consistent with conservation laws.

Special Relativity....Einstein's special theory broke the notion of absolute space and time. It also showed the energy and momentum require relativistic analysis. However in many ways its most perplexing outcome was the death blow for Simultaneity. Events that are simultaneous in one frame of reference need not be simultaneous in another. What does this mean? Observer 1 concludes that event A happened before event B. Observer 2 in another frame of reference concludes that the events were simultaneous (happened at the same time). Which one is correct? The answer - Both of them. This can influence, although I would urge much caution, our perception of events at least on a theoretical level for now.

US Election Race Debates

I can barely sit through the agony of Republican debates not to mention the Hillary-Bernie roadshow. Now they want four more. Why not save your time and work on some self induced waterboarding technique?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Thoughts on Deism III

Deism should theoretically emerge as a viable middle ground between atheism and theism but it still seems as though it is lagging behind the other two systems in terms of absolute numbers. It may be that many of those who would normally fall under either of the two categories are in all actuality Deists however I am not convinced that this explains the full picture. Classical deism lost its appeal some time ago (possibly due to the imprisonment of the creator) but why have the more 'warmer' types of deism not taken hold? Intellectually it stands on no less a solid ground than any counter ideology yet in terms of clout it is analogous to the Libertarian party in a battle between the Dems and the GOP. What is it missing? Could it be a lack of adequate spokespeople?

Deistic thoughts I am working on.

1. A belief that there is a God who transcends space and time. (I call it God for want of a name although I personally prefer the Kabbalistic term Ein Sof).
2. That it is impossible to know the nature of God. It cannot be truly defined.
3. That the universe operates according to the Laws of Physics. Life evolved through a combination of natural selection, genetic drift and other selection pressures acting on a genome whose variation arose as a consequence of mutation.
4. That God can intervene but such intervention is undetectable and does not contravene the laws of physics. God is a subtle actor who presents no evidence of understandable design.
5. That there is no personal God.
6. That revealed religion are merely man made attempts at trying to understand God and although some carry the wisdom of earlier thought they are all inherently flawed.
7. That humans need to develop their own moral code based on reason, logic and the collective thinking of what has worked in the past.
8. That some religious customs may serve a purpose with respect to group cohesion but they need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
9. That God is a minimalist in action but not necessarily a disinterested party.
10. That the afterlife is unknowable.
11. That skepticism and the scientific method are the best tools we have in understanding the world.

Thoughts on Deism II

I don't believe that these differences (gender diversity with respect to God) are a function of intelligence. Nor do I see it as a consequence of education (although this probably can cause a slight shift towards one direction or another). I think that it is more a reflection of the way that the two sexes see the world in general.It may be a consequence of hunter-gatherer past. I don't know. However the difference on the broader level seems apparent. On a deeper level it's a positive development as it allows for alternative approaches to problems that impact all of us. I am a bit skeptical of the Myers-Briggs testing (which has its foundation in the work of Carl Jung) but it has some relevance along the extrovert/introvert corridor and the thinking/feeling paradigm. It is in the latter that this difference expresses itself.

Thoughts on Deism I

I am very interested in the obvious gender differences that personify the way that men and women perceive, experience and appreciate God. While these are obviously group differences and cannot be reduced to the specific individual it does seem (at least on what I have read and personally experienced) that women seem inherently more spiritual as a whole and that their spiritual belief is rooted in a stronger sense of feeling and emotion. This seems to translate into a richer connection with God (although I am sure others would beg to differ). Deism seems more of a male orientated philosophy as it places at its center reason and cold logic which many men seem to gravitate towards. I realize that this is somewhat of a generalization but I do believe that it has merit for discussion.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Welcome 2016

Its difficult to believe that I have been blogging so long but I still, despite the drop off in frequency of posts, continue to enjoy making the submissions. I figure that when I don't I will close up shop.
So why not start the year with some great questions? Here are 12 worth thinking about.


1. Why is there something as opposed to nothing?
2. What are the limits of science? Has Cartesian Reductionism neared its level of usefulness? How do we incorporate the whole into our thinking?
3. How does complexity arise? Why is the sum of the parts so often less than the whole?
4. Is Randomness an illusion?
5. How are the Laws of Physics carried?
6. What is the relationship between consciousness, free will and the Anthropic Principle?
7. To what extent are we boxed in by our definitions of scientific terms? Discrete versus Continuous understanding of nature.
8. Why and how are we bound by perceived linearity?
9. The Subjective versus the Objective….Will Objectivism disappear altogether?
10. Why do systems become stable? How is this stability rocked? Is there an overall march toward a new zone? Is stability real or imaginary?
11. Why is our Mathematics limited?
12. What is an event? What comes together to make an event?


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Responding to Science Questions I - From Facebook

The following are a list of some questions that I have responded to on various scientific issues.

Question: When a baby is within the womb, if something happens that it doesn't like (tickling of mother's stomach, etc.) it will kick to assert itself. So if a newborn being can acknowledge that it is discomforted, why can't a neuron, proton, etc; make conscious decisions?

My response: The baby is responding to a type of stimuli (tactile). This does not require conscious thought. As is the case of a plant. On a reductionist level it is merely the interplay of a number of inputs with consequences driven by the Laws of Physics. Why questions aren't really scientific. Essentially metaphysical and can always be answered by the retort 'Why not?' Science at its core is largely concerned with the 'How' which may approximate the 'Why' if the evidence is there.

Question: Plants move themselves towards light sources for nutrients. I believe that plants can think as well as any being. Matter makes up everything; we know this. So what proof has been discovered that matter needs to fully form into something BEFORE it can gain the ability to think? Look at white blood cells: They sense dangerous matter within the bloodstream, and they attack. They also just exist when there is no danger. Is there an argument that cells cannot think as well?

My response: We have no evidence that regular matter acts with conscious intent. We can't prove it but then again science does not deal with proof. It is an inductive rather than a deductive process. Yes we should open ourselves to the possibility that this is true but the lack of evidence seems to indicate that this is highly unlikely. It is also important not to confuse a response to stimuli with conscious intent. Plants growing towards the light are demonstrating a response to stimuli known as phototropism. It can be explained by chemical recourse only.

Question: Matter within the wave function, has the ability to think and make conscious decisions, as we can see from it's actions once an observer is entered into the equation (Double Slit Experiment). I am curious to know if anyone else believes that it is possible that matter can ultimately choose what the observer perceives it to be, BEFORE it is being observed, and the wave function has collapsed.

My Response: Human beings can think and make conscious decisions but this is not a property of matter itself. It is an emergent functionality that has developed within our species as a result of evolutionary selection pressure. You have reversed the Copenhagen explanation. It is the action of the observer that impacts the result, not the matter itself under observation, acting with conscious intent.

Question: Would light change form if you could slow it? And when does heat energy become light energy?

My response: The speed of light changes depending on the optical medium that it is traveling through. It only travels at c in a vacuum. When moving from one medium to another it's frequency remains constant but it's wavelength changes. Visible light is a very small part of a family of waves that define what is known as the electromagnetic spectrum. These include gamma rays, x rays, microwaves, Infra red, ultraviolet, radio waves etc. All travel at c in a vacuum but have different frequencies and wavelengths. They all have associated magnetic and electric field vectors and propagate perpendicular to the direction of each of those two vector fields. Electromagnetic waves do not need a medium to propagate. They are very different to sound waves which are essentially pressure waves, Heat is a term that is used in thermodynamics to describe a general transfer of energy. It occurs via conduction, convection and radiation with the latter facilitated by the action of Electromagnetic waves.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

15 Books on Physics that I recommend reading (if you have time of course).

1. The Elegant Universe – Brian Greene - excellent introduction into the fundamentals of Modern Physics.
2. Hyperspace – Michio Kaku - wonderful take on extra-dimensions by a strong narrator.
3. The Ideas of Physics – Ernest Hutten - an oldie but a goldie – discusses key ideas that shaped the discipline.
4. Fearful Symmetry – A. Zee - Looks at the Beauty in Physics.
5. Physics of Immortality – Frank Tipler - a bit over the top but highly entertaining nevertheless.
6. Theories of Everything – John Barrow - Low key but well written.
7. Feynman Lecture Series – Richard Feynman - A struggle for the lay person but if you can get through a third of it your effort will be rewarded.
8. The Trouble with Physics – Lee Smolin - an important critique of the group think that has encroached on the discipline.
9. Physics – Douglas Giancoli - Doesn’t matter what the edition is its treatment of classical physics is praiseworthy.
10. The Flying circus of Physics – Jearl Walker – Challenging problems that force one to really think deep.
11. Relativity Simply Explained – Martin Gardiner – Its title says it all.
12. The First Three Minutes – Steven Weinberg- Still one of the best treatments of the Big Bang.
13. The Constants of Nature – John Barrow – Delves into the details of these definitive constants that so encapsulate our universe.
14. Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory – Gamow is a great storyteller and he didn’t disappoint with this useful read.
15. 50 Physics Ideas – Joanne Baker – Lots of fun and really easy to read.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Trump Phenomenon - Whenceforth does it emerge?

Trump's lead is slipping but it still intrigues me as to where his support is coming from. Social conservatives prefer Cruz and to a lesser extent Carson (whose numbers are going down as well) and the establishment seems to be rallying around Rubio (now that Jeb Bush is sinking). Trump's business background may appeal to fiscal conservatives (FCs) but many FCs would be turned off by his rhetoric on other topics.

My sense at the moment is that Trump is essentially cutting across all strata and is drawing heavily from the Libertarian and Angry White Male base who feel rightly alienated from a system that under the Obama years has not served them well. In a way this makes his appeal very powerful as it draws support from groups that can shift between parties. It is the Ross Perot grouping plus more and that more, includes a substantial portion of the forty percent of Americans who don't normally vote in elections.

I prematurely predicted (like so many) that Trump's candidacy would fizzle out but it hasn't. He continues to press hot button topics that both party elites have refused to confront and has juxtaposed his position as a breath of fresh air against a system well on the way to decline. I would not wish to see him as President but his Jacksonian appeal will resonate with those who see themselves disenfranchised by a Hamiltonian consensus. This is not an insignificant number of souls and unless the establishment takes these voices seriously such undercurrents will threaten the integrity of the Union. Trump may be just one in a series of 'warnings' that are likely to follow in the future. However compounded over time they can erode, divide and bring down the center.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Dualism within me

Not sure for certain if others here feel the same way but I expect that many do. I have always considered myself a rational person. Logic and reasoning and a healthy dose of skepticism dominates my thinking. Many years of immersion in the sciences have definitely played a key role in my personal evolution but so has the writing of Hume, Burke, Mills, Russell and in the more modern context Hansen and Dalrymple. On the surface I should be a strong agnostic yet I find that as much as I try, I cannot free myself from a spirtualism (perhaps mysticism..I even have a fondness Kabbalah) that I should theoretically reject.

I believe, although with limited scientific evidence, in an essence that extends beyond the physicality of the matter/energy universe and even though I cannot quantify or even qualify its being, its presence seems real. Perhaps this is a function of my individuality (so defined by my genetics and environmental history) but as much as I have tried to shrug off its presence and succumb to scientific materialism and the logical consequence of atheism I simply cannot. To do so would be untrue to myself just as much as an adoption of religious orthodoxy and blind worship flies in the face of who I am. I have tried to reconcile these two pillars but such attempts seem contrived so at best I operate under the avenue of separate domains. Acknowledging that there may be fusion on an objective level somewhere but content to treat the dualism as a outgrowth of my subjective challenge.