Thursday, August 23, 2007

Constructive Interference

In chapter eleven of Imagining the Tenth Dimension I talk about three interlocking systems that spring from the tenth dimension as I have portrayed it: those three systems are the physical universe, the spiritual universe of memes and beliefs, and the "constructive interference pattern" between those two systems which we see as life. I propose that life can be thought of as any force or pattern that appears to be interested in "what happens next".

Let's talk about constructive interference. When one wave or pattern interacts with another, there are two kinds of interference. Destructive interference happens when two waves cancel each other out, while constructive interference happens when two waves reinforce each other. We can see both kinds of interference in the ripple tank many of us know from high school physics classes, and constructive interference is what creates the moving shapes we can see in a moiré pattern as one grid moves against another.

Constructive interference is an especially useful phrase in this instance, because we can bend its meaning slightly to imply that life can choose to constructively interfere with the other two systems, or it can just be a moiré pattern that we see as the interaction between the other two systems. What I am proposing is that if there is no interaction between the physical realm and the realm of memes, there is no life. That doesn’t mean that those first two systems cease to exist, but without an observer to collapse their wavefunctions from their indeterminate state, it means that they remain as potential states only… and this indeterminacy applies just as much to world of spimes (objects that can be tracked in spacetime) as it does to world of memes (ideas that can be tracked in spacetime).

One of my favorite concepts which applies to this line of thinking is “that which ceases to change ceases to exist”. Here's some of what I say in the book about that idea:

When the brain processes input from the auditory nerve, it tends to reject any continuous noises which do not change–like, for instance, the noise of the air molecules in the room banging into each other, or the sound of an air conditioner. In other words, for our consciousness, the noises (or smells, or continuous aches and pains, and so on) which cease to change, will cease to exist because the brain stops them from being considered for processing. When we listen back to the tape recording, we are hearing what’s really in the room, without the phase reversed noise cancellation the brain uses to remove those continuous noises. Now, when the internal mechanisms of the ear are damaged, usually through exposure to excessive sound levels, we end up with an imbalance, where the brain is correcting for frequencies that are no longer coming in. This manifests itself as tinnitus, or “ringing of the ears”. It turns out that the ringing we hear is not from the ears, but from the brain itself, as it attempts to cancel out particular frequencies that are no longer coming in from the auditory nerve.

Likewise, a recent article in Scientific American talks about ongoing research that has been done on human visual perception. In the past, this particular experiment was done with a display attached to a person's eyeball with a suction cup - and what the experiment showed is that people become blind when their eye motion didn't change what they were seeing. Nowadays they do the same experiment with computer tracking of eyeball movement, and a computer generated display that moves around in exact sync with the person's eyes. So why, in normal circumstances do we not become blind just from looking in one direction? Because we compensate for this problem by wiggling our eyeballs around slightly to continually change what we are are seeing, with microscopic motion called microsaccades.

If our reality is being created by a series of dots (or "quanta" one planck length apart from each other on the fourth-dimensional line that we perceive of as “time”, then we see a way to imagine that we are already looking at an interference pattern between those slices and the quantum waves of indeterminacy contained with the multiverse and the higher dimensions. But life adds an additional complexity to this image: because the process of being interested in "what happens next" can move at very many different speeds and with many different patterns. In the most extreme parts of our world – volcanic vents in the ocean floor, ice in the Antarctic, scientists are finding life. That life, with a limited eco-system and small amounts of energy to draw from, would be much more slow-moving and simple than, say, your average warm-blooded mammal. But all forms of life share one thing in common – a desire to continue. This is what separates mere chemical reactions from life.

Our eyes and our brains are conditioned to recognize life, and many people who have witnessed the death of a beloved animal or family member will tell you that they knew exactly when the spirit had left the body. It’s interesting to think of death then, as being the moment when the force that was interacting with the physical world to create that life stops interacting, and the life appears to cease to exist. This also gives us a way to understand how profound sickness or disease could cause most of the meme-system that represented a particular personality to leave the body well before the body ceases to be alive.

Why, some might ask, do I feel the need to place life in its own realm - why can't it just be an aspect of physical reality, or an aspect of the spiritual reality? This all relates back to timelessness. Physicists tell us that time is an illusion, and my way of imagining reality agrees with that conclusion. If, within the fabric that our reality is created from, everything has already happened, then this must be true for life as well as it is true for our physical reality. Which leads us to this strange conclusion: if the illusion of time is just one way of viewing the indeterminate data that exists within the underlying structure of our reality, then that must equally be true for the constructive interference pattern that we think of as life. Which means the ancient mystics have had it right all along. To paraphrase Einstein: not just time, but life itself is an illusion... albeit a persistent one.

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

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