Saturday, February 24, 2024

Geometrodynamics


"The universe does not exist “out there,” independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators. In some strange sense, this is a participatory universe. Physics is no longer satisfied with insights only into particles, fields of force, into geometry, or even into time and space. Today we demand of physics some understanding of existence itself."

John Archibald Wheeler (1911 - 2008)

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Woods are Alive


"Woods are not like other spaces. To begin with, they are cubic. Their trees surround you, loom over you, press in from all sides. Woods choke off views & leave you muddled & without bearings. They make you feel small & confused & vulnerable, like a small child lost in a crowd of strange legs. Stand in a desert or prairie & you know you are in a big space. Stand in the woods and you only sense it. They are vast, featureless nowhere. And they are alive.
...
There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere. However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods. It’s where you were yesterday, where you will be tomorrow. The woods is one boundless singularity. Every bend in the path presents a prospect indistinguishable from every other, every glimpse into the trees the same tangled mass. For all you know, your route could describe a very large, pointless circle. In a way, it would hardly matter.
...
At times, you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already. But most of the time you don’t think. No point. Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below. Walking for hours and miles becomes as automatic, as unremarkable, as breathing."

- Bill Bryson (1951 - )
A Walk in the Woods

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Secret Order


"In all chaos there is a cosmos,
in all disorder a secret order."

C. G. Jung (1875-1961)

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Silence Within


"The longest journey is the journey inward.
...
To have humility is to experience reality, not in relation to ourselves, but in its sacred independence. It is to see, judge, and act from the point of rest in ourselves. Then, how much disappears, and all that remains falls into place.
...
In the point of rest at the center of our being, we encounter a world where all things are at rest in the same way. Then a tree becomes a mystery, a cloud a revelation, each man a cosmos of whose riches we can only catch glimpses. The life of simplicity is simple, but it opens to us a book in which we never get beyond the first syllable.
...
To preserve the silence within - amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness where the rain falls and the grain ripens - no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky."

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905 - 1961)

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

A Pattern or Dance


"Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read music. For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean?

It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat—and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.

So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday."

Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988)

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Imagination Itself


"The tree which moves some
to tears of joy is in the eyes
of others only a green thing
that stands in the way. Some see
nature all ridicule and deformity...
and some scarce see nature at all. But
to the eyes of the man of imagination,
nature is imagination itself."

William Blake (1757 - 1827)

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Terra Mobilis


"Through the spectacles of geology, terra firms becomes terra mobilis, and we are forced to reconsider our beliefs of what is solid and what is not. Although we attribute to stone great power to hold back time, to refuse its claims (cairns, stone tablets, monuments, statuary), this is true only in relation to our own mutability. Looked at in the context of the bigger geological picture, rock is as vulnerable to change as any other substance.

Above all, geology makes explicit challenges to our understanding of time. It giddies the sense of here-and-now. The imaginative experience of what the writer John McPhee memorably called 'deep time' - the sense of time whose units are not days, hours, minutes or seconds but millions of years or tens of millions of years - crushes the human instant; flattens it to a wafer. Contemplating the immensities of deep time, you face, in a way that is both exquisite and horrifying, the total collapse of your present, compacted to nothingness by the pressures of pasts and futures too extensive to envisage. And it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body."

Robert Macfarlane (1976 - )

Friday, February 09, 2024

Light is a Thick Yellow Vitamin


"In the rain forest, no niche lies unused. No emptiness goes unfilled. No gasp of sunlight goes untrapped. In a million vest pockets, a million life-forms quietly tick. No other place on earth feels so lush. Sometimes we picture it as an echo of the original Garden of Eden—a realm ancient, serene, and fertile, where pythons slither and jaguars lope. But it is mainly a world of cunning and savage trees. Truant plants will not survive. The meek inherit nothing. Light is a thick yellow vitamin they would kill for, and they do. One of the first truths one learns in the rain forest is that there is nothing fainthearted or wimpy about plants."

- Diane Ackerman (1948 - )

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The World as a Neural Network


"If the entire universe is a neural network, then something like natural selection might be happening on all scales from cosmological (> 10⁺¹⁵ m) and biological (10⁺² − 10−⁶ m) all the way to subatomic (< 10−¹⁵ m) scales. The main idea is that some local structures (or architectures) of neural networks are more stable against external perturbations (i.e. interactions with the rest of the network) than other local structures. As a result the more stable structures are more likely to survive and the less stable structures are more likely to be exterminated. There is no reason to expect that this process might stop at a fixed time or might be confined to a fixed scale and so the evolution must continue indefinitely and on all scales. We have already seen that on the smallest scales the learning evolution is likely to produce structures of a very low complexity (i.e. second law of learning) such as one dimensional chains of neurons, but this might just be the beginning. As the learning progresses these chains can chop off loops, form junctions and according to natural selection the more stable structures would survive. If correct, then what we now call atoms and particles might actually be the outcomes of a long evolution starting from some very low complexity structures and what we now call macroscopic observers and biological cells might be the outcome of an even longer evolution. Of course, at present the claim that natural selection may be relevant on all scales is very speculative, but it seems that neural networks do offer an interesting new perspective on the problem of observers."

- Vitaly Vanchurin
The World as a Neural Network

Monday, January 15, 2024

Time and Space

"Because of the hazy, nondefinite character of quantum physics (called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle), at the dimensions of the Planck length, space and time churn and seethe, with the distance between any two points wildly fluctuating from moment to moment, and time randomly speeding and slowing, perhaps even going backward and forward. In such a situation, time and space no longer exist in a way that has meaning to us."

 

Monday, January 08, 2024

Symbolic Communication


"Intellectual-level communication between more advanced terrestrial [non-human intelligences] NHIs and us will require direct access to our cognitive processes. They will have to directly modulate our own abstract references and modes. In other words, they will have to convey their ideas to us by prompting our own mind to articulate those ideas to itself, using its own conceptual dictionary and grammatical structures. And because their message—a product of their own cognition, incommensurable with ours—is bound to not adequately line up with our grammar and conceptual menu, this articulation will perforce have to be symbolic, metaphorical; it will have to point to the intended meaning, as opposed to embodying the intended meaning directly, or literally. 
 
There is plenty of clinical precedence for this in the literature of depth psychology. Analytical Psychology, for instance, maintains  that the deeper, evolutionarily ancient, instinctive layer of our mind, for not having the language capabilities of the executive ego, speaks to us in dreams and visions through symbols, and metaphors. It can’t tell us in English, for instance, that time is flowing while we procrastinate, prompting us to act. So it may, instead, trigger and modulate a dream in which we, say, accidentally drop our backpack in a fast-flowing river and watch helplessly as it floats away. If the deeper layer of our mind, for being phylogenetically primitive, is incapable of articulating the conceptual abstractions ‘time,’ ‘flow,’ and ‘procrastination,’ it can still point symbolically to its intended meaning; it can still confront us with imagery that evokes the same underlying feeling—a sense of urgency—that would have been evoked by the statement, “time is flowing while you procrastinate.” This is what intellectual-level communication looks like when the interlocutors do not have commensurable cognitive structures. And this is how we may expect NHIs to communicate with us, if they have the technology required to reach directly into our minds and manipulate our cognitive inner space."

- Bernardo Kastrup (1974 - )
UAPs and Non-Human Intelligence

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Cosmogenesis

"We live in a universe where the mathematical equations of the beginning are alive in us. If you altered them in any way, we wouldn’t even be here. We would never have come forth. Those conditions at the beginning of time are exactly what they had to be for us to allow the mathematics of the universe’s beginning to think inside us."
...
"Our universe had been creating itself for billions of years and suddenly, through the work of a handful of human beings, the universe found a way to reflect on itself, on how it had developed over billions of years."
...
"The greatest discovery of the last four hundred years is the time-developmental nature of our universe. Scientists have come to realize we live not in a cosmos but in a cosmogenesis, a universe developing from a primordial simple state into ever more complex states."

- Brian Thomas Swimme (1950 - )
Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Cosmic Serpent


"All the peoples in the world who talk of a cosmic serpent have been saying as much for millennia. He had not seen it because the rational gaze is forever focalized and can examine only one thing at a time. It separates things to understand them, including the truly complementary. It is the gaze of the specialist, who sees the fine grain of a necessarily restricted field of vision."

- Jeremy Narby (1959 - )
The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge