Poll 26: "I agree with Gevin Giorbran - our universe is not winding down from a highly ordered beginning to a meaningless heat death, it is moving from grouping order to symmetry order". Poll ended November 2, 2008.
I can always tell which polls could have used an "I Don't Know" button because fewer people are willing to commit. But hey, since we're just theorizing and philosophizing about the nature of reality, it's more important to me to hear from the people who actually have an opinion one way or the other. I have to admit, though, that I'm surprised that so many visitors to this site were willing to agree to the proposal - perhaps a year and a half of me singing Gevin's praises has had an effect on the regular readers of this blog? 70% were willing to agree, while the remainder disagreed.
Gevin Giorbran's way of visualizing our reality as a move from one kind of order to another resonates so strongly with my own project that it's like the two theories should really be thought of as being part of the same overall construct. I'm very proud to say that Gevin was my friend, and I await the day when mainstream science will catch up to notions that he introduced us to with "Everything Forever - Learning to See Timelessness". Last month I published a blog entry which includes the Foreword, Introduction, and opening three chapters of his book: please click here to read that entry. And if you haven't heard my unusual story of Gevin's death, click here to read that entry.
Poll 27 - "Feynman was right - there is really only electron in the universe, whizzing backwards and forwards within timelessness, and the trillions of identical electrons we see at any "now" are just that single electron over and over again."(Poll ended November 16 08. As you can see, the jury was so close on this one that we should probably declare it a tie.)
This poll question was connected to a number of blog entries created around the same time, some of which I will link to at the end of this entry.
When Michio Kaku's book Physics of the Impossible introduced me to Feynman's fascinating idea I felt a strong resonance, because it fits so nicely into the general thrust of this project. What I've been trying to get people to imagine is that there is a way of viewing and understanding reality which is outside of time and space, where everything happens simultaneously and all possible outcomes exist as potential. As mystical as that concept may appear to be, there are sound scientific reasons for supporting such an idea, and if ancient mysticism and modern cosmology happen to agree on something doesn't that only strengthen the argument for this being the truth?
There have also been some news stories lately that ask this question: do you believe in God, or do you believe in the multiverse? Here's a link to one of those stories:
Let's look at the opening paragraphs of the above article, which was written by Mark Vernon:
Is there a God or a multiverse? Does modern cosmology force us to choose? Is it the case that the apparent fine-tuning of constants and forces to make the universe just right for life means there is either a need for a "tuner" or else a cosmos in which every possible variation of these constants and forces exists somewhere?
This choice has provoked anxious comment in the pages of this week's New Scientist. It follows an article in Discover magazine, in which science writer Tim Folger quoted cosmologist Bernard Carr: "If you don't want God, you'd better have a multiverse."
Even strongly atheistic physicists seem to believe the choice is unavoidable. Steven Weinberg, the closest physics comes to a Richard Dawkins, told the eminent biologist: "If you discovered a really impressive fine-tuning ... I think you'd really be left with only two explanations: a benevolent designer or a multiverse."
Imagining the Tenth Dimension, of course, fondly embraces the idea of a multiverse, the Many Worlds Interpretation as first proposed by physicist Hugh Everett III, and ultimately a concept known as the "omniverse" which blends together the many varying ways that the term "multiverse" can be used. It also places this quixotic goal for itself - is it really necessary to choose between God and the multiverse? Is there not a way where both can be shown to be different ways of describing the same thing?
Here are some of my past blog entries which explore the idea of everything being connected together, in the same way that Feynman imagined there being only one electron zooming back and forth within timelessness.
Elvis and the Electrons
A direct link to the above video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=hWysfIj-ebM
A Point Within the Omniverse
A direct link to the above video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Oq-bVkyQc
You are Me and We are All Together
A direct link to the above video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=GbGAPR70tTY
Poll 28 - "Some suggest that an 'aura' might be a way of seeing a part of a person that exists outside of their body, and possibly connects to other planes or dimensions. Have you ever seen a person's aura?" Poll ended December 1st, 2008.
I have to presume that any regular visitors to this blog have an open mind, and even a certain willingness to embrace ideas which are outside of the mainstream. Nonetheless, I have to admit I was surprised to see that 44% of the visitors responding to this poll say they have seen a person's aura, that is higher than I would have expected. Poll 30, on the other hand, asks if visitors have ever had an experience which led them to believe in ghosts, or spirits of the departed that carry on after death and somehow have contact with our world: on that poll, 43% of the respondents said "Yes", and that's a number that's lower than I expected. Why? Because I only know a few people who have seen auras, but I have lots of family and friends who at some point in their life have had some kind of a supernatural experience which led them to at least be willing to consider the possibility that some part of a person carries on after death.
Here's the logic I've worked through with this project, and some of the past blogs where I've explored these ideas, which of course are also central to the book this project is based upon.
In Information Equals Reality, we discussed how this phrase which is being used by quantum physicists also relates to the more metaphysical concepts we're talking about here: ultimately, genes, memes and spimes are all ways of thinking about our reality from outside of our limited space-time viewpoint.
In entries like Magnets and Souls and Daily Parrying we looked at projects like Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight, and the general problem projects like mine can run into: centuries of training have encouraged scientists to reject anything that acknowledges our participation within the reality we are part of. Science, they will tell you, needs to remove spirit and the soul from the discussion, otherwise you are back in the world of alchemists intoning incantations over their experiments to ensure their success: look up "magick" in wikipedia for more about this.
In entries like I Know You, You Know Me, and You are Me and We are All Together, we took these ideas even further, into a way of using concepts from quantum physics and Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation to show how we are all connected together. And most recently, in Auras, Ghosts, and Pareidolia, we made the bold suggestion that patterns each of us senses within our reality are always part of a continuum - "pareidolia" is the word used to describe patterns our minds perceive within randomness, but since the main function of our minds is to make sense of the disorientingly large amount of input coming into our senses, we should never be too quick to dismiss those perceived patterns.
To finish, here's the video for Auras, Ghosts, and Pareidolia. Enjoy the journey!
A direct link to this video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=qZkTVhzBgNk
Poll 29 - "An electron is a point-like particle. This means, just like the "point" we start the tenth dimension visualization with, an electron is 'of no size, no dimension'." Poll ended December 16 2008. 41% agreed while 58% disagreed.
This poll question relates to some blog entries that were published around the same time: "We Start With a Point", "A Point Within the Omniverse", and "Elvis and the Electrons".
Here's a link to the wikipedia article on electrons. As it says in the article: "Electrons are believed to be point particles with no apparent substructure. They are identical particles that belong to the first generation of the lepton particle family."
So: all electrons are identical, and all electrons are point particles. Here's the first couple of sentences from the wikipedia article on point particles:
"A point particle (or point-like particle, often spelled pointlike particle) is an idealized object heavily used in physics. Its defining feature is that it lacks spatial extension: being zero-dimensional, it does not take up space."
Thinking of an electron as having no size and being zero-dimensional, then, is the correct approach as far as modern physics is concerned. And yet, conceiving of an electron in those terms is not an easy thing for us to wrap our heads around, as 58% of the people responding to this poll showed us.
"We Start With a Point"
My animation, which has now been seen by millions of people around the world, starts with these five words: "we start with a point". Building one idea upon another, we end up with a way to visualize all aspects of reality as contained within the ten dimensions, a mind-blowing journey that makes people want to watch this animation over and over again. When author David Jay Brown called my book "brilliantly conceived and mind-stretching", he was celebrating the large cloud of ideas that spring from the starting point of this way of visualizing reality. Here in this blog, there are a great many tangents that we've explored, all of them stemming from the point of indeterminate size that the original animation both begins and ends with.
Envisioning that the entire universe really contains only one electron, then (a fanciful idea from celebrated physicist Richard Feynman which we discussed most recently in Poll 27) requires us to stretch our minds even further. And as we just discussed in Poll 28, stacking on top of that the idea that our perceived reality is being created through the pattern-recognition powers of our minds builds a conceptual tower which some are still not willing to climb!
To those of you who are not ready to embrace the more "out there" notions that this project sometimes gets into, I'm fine with that. At the core of these discussions, though, is what I believe to be an essential truth about the nature of reality, and as each of us come with our pre-conceived notions and our own experiences which frame our worldview, this project is about ways of showing how we are all connected together: in a very real way, we are like Feynman's single electron, existing simultaneously within a reference frame which is completely outside of time, outside of space. Think of this: the spark within each of us that some call consciousness, and some call "soul", or "spirit", is like a point-like particle when perceived within each "frame" of space-time, but it's also part of a much larger wave function which exists across timelessness. As I've said before: "you are the point".
To finish, here's my song "Connections", which ties these ideas together in its own way.
A direct link to the above video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=J25WhT8WZQ4
Poll 30 - Do You Believe in Ghosts?
A direct link to the above video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=WN6Qi9jhses
Poll 30 - "Have you ever had an experience which led you to believe in ghosts, or spirits of the departed that carry on after death and somehow have contact with our world?" Poll ended December 30 2008. 43% said yes, while the rest said no.
This poll question relates to poll 28, which asked if visitors to the blog had ever seen a person's "aura". The results for both polls were very similar in terms of percentage for yes and no, although I think it's also noteworthy that a substantially larger number of people responded to this poll question than the other - this seems to confirm that a lot of people have an opinion about what happens to us after death, while less of us have an opinion about auras.
Continuing that idea, here's a link to an article from a recent issue of Scientific American Mind, called "Never Say Die - Why We Can't Imagine Death". In a "Key Concepts" summary, the editors boiled down Jesse Bering's article to these three points:
What does this last point mean? This is quite easy to relate to if you've ever had a general anaesthetic. The surgeon asks us to count down from ten, we make it through a few numbers and then our experience of reality just "stops". Completely unlike the process of sleep, where we are still dimly aware of our surroundings, and able to roused if need be, the patient on the operating table simply has a hole in their awareness, for them the surgery did not happen until they wake up in the recovery room. In the way of thinking that this project plays with, it's like their awareness was simply folded across the fourth dimension, creating a discontinuity where they simply "jumped" from the moment in spacetime where they were being put under, to the moment in spacetime when they start to come to afterwards. Here's a paragraph from Jesse Bering's article:
- Almost everyone has a tendency to imagine the mind continuing to exist after the death of the body.
- Even people who believe the mind ceases to exist at death show this type of psychological-continuity reasoning in studies.
- Rather than being a by-product of religion or an emotional security blanket, such beliefs stem from the very nature of our consciousness.
Consider the rather startling fact that you will never know you have died. You may feel yourself slipping away, but it isn’t as though there will be a “you” around who is capable of ascertaining that, once all is said and done, it has actually happened. Just to remind you, you need a working cerebral cortex to harbor propositional knowledge of any sort, including the fact that you’ve died—and once you’ve died your brain is about as phenomenally generative as a head of lettuce. In a 2007 article published in the journal Synthese, University of Arizona philosopher Shaun Nichols puts it this way: “When I try to imagine my own non-existence I have to imagine that I perceive or know about my non-existence. No wonder there’s an obstacle!”The article also talks about the concept of "person permanence" - something that delights babies is the surprise of playing "peekaboo", and young children soon learn that the people around them continue to exist even when they can't be seen. Person permanence, then, also gives us all a deep-seated intuition that some part of a person carries on after death. In this blog I've recommended Douglas Hofstadter's "I Am a Strange Loop" many times, because it offers some clear-headed discussions of the patterns and connections that carry on after a loved one dies.
So: there are many very logical reasons for why any of us can believe that some part of a person's spirit carries on after death, and perhaps a great many more visitors would have said "yes" if my question had been as simple as that. But what I was asking for was more specific than that - it's one thing to believe some part of us carries on, and it's quite another to admit to having had a supernatural/paranormal experience which seemed to confirm that idea.
How many of us have heard stories like this one - "I remember the day Grandma died, she appeared at my window and smiled at me. The phone rang a few minutes later telling me she was gone, and all I could say was 'I know'." Anyone who has had an experience like that will tell you they know for sure that there are parts of us that continue on, and all of the above dispassionate discussions about person-permanence and consciousness will not convince them otherwise.
In blog entries like Auras, Ghosts, and Pareidolia, I've talked about how these ideas can be integrated into my way of visualizing reality. Our minds are very sensitive to patterns within the noise, and personally I have no trouble accepting the idea that parts of our consciousness exist within timelessness, connecting us all together across the spacetime of the fourth dimension, the probability space of the fifth dimension, and beyond. To close, here's my song about death and what carries on: "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep".
A direct link to the above video is at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=PeClGTuhCy4
Enjoy the journey,
Next: The Big Bang and the Big O