TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Albert Einstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albert Einstein. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2018

Can Energy Be Moral?


Scientists have begun to prove that quantum entanglement can be demonstrated at macro levels. Could the same be said for the observer effect? Image Source: Develop Good Habits.

To my readers, I have a new post up at Vocal Media, concerning 2018 scientific research which has proven that quantum entanglement can be taken to the macro level:


In that post, I argue that the endgame of the current Tech Revolution is to reach a Kardashev Civilization Level I, in which a tech-harmonized global society would be able to consume and harness the energy of the entire planet.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Awaken the Amnesiacs 10: The World of Machines and the Retired Engineer


Image from 2017's Cicada3301 rabbit hole, an online/real world code-breaking scavenger hunt. Some people believe that the Cicada online games are recruitment puzzles for an unknown organization. Image Source: Youtube.

This blog is named for a phrase written by Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) in his secret journals. In Yahuda MS 1.1, folio 16 recto, Newton wrote: "the holy Prophecies" of the Scripture are nothing else than "histories of things to come." He was using magic and religion to predict the future and the end of the world. The exact passage in his Untitled Treatise on Revelation (held at the National Library of Israel in the Yahuda manuscripts collection, as cited above; you can see the actual document here) reads:
Rules for interpreting the Apocalyps.

"12. The Construction of the Apocalyps after it is once deter {16r} mined must be made the rule of interpretations; And all interpretations rejected which agree not with it. That must not be strained to fit history but such things chosen out of history as are most suitable to that.

13. To interpret sacred Prophecies of the most considerable things & actions of those times to which they are applied. For if it would be weakness in an Historian whilst he writes of obscurer actions to let slip the greater, much less ought this to be supposed in the holy Prophesies which are no other then histories of things to come.

14. To proportion the most notable parts of Prophesy to the most notable parts of history, & the breaches made in a continued series of Prophesy to the changes made in history And to reject those interpretations where the parts and breaches of Prophesy do not thus bear a due proportion to the parts & changes in History. For if Historians divide their histories into Sections Chapters & Books at such periods of time where the less, greater & greatest revolutions begin or end; & to do otherwise would be improper: much more ought we to suppose that the holy Ghost observes this rule accurately in his prophetick dictates, since they are no other then histories of things to come. Thus by the great breaches made between the sixt & seventh seal by interposing the vision of the sealed saints, & between the sixt & seventh Trumpet by interposing the vision of the little book, that prophesy is divided into three cardinal parts, & the middle part subdivided by the little breach between the fourth & fift Trumpet made by interposition of the Angel crying Wo, & all the other seals & trumpets are as it were less sections. And therefore to these breaches & sections, according to the rule, must be adapted periods of time which intercede & disterminate proportional revolutions of history. Again if a Historian should use no proportion in his descriptions but magnify a less thing above a greater or attribute the more courage to the softer of two persons &c.: we {17r} should count it an argument of his unskilfulness. And therefore since the dictates of the Holy-Ghost are histories of things to come, such disproportions are not to be allowed in them. Thus in Daniel's vision of the four Beasts, it would be grosly absurd to interpret, as some Polititians of late have done, the fourth Beast of Antiochus Epiphanes & his successors; since that is described to be the most terrible, dreadfull, strong, & warlike Beast of all the four, & the Prophet dwels far longer upon the description of that then of all the others put together: whereas the kingdom of Antiochus Epiphanes & his successors was both less & weaker & less warlike then any of the three before him.

15. To chose those interpretations which without straining do most respect the church & argue the greatest wisdom & providence of God for preserving her in the truth. As he that would interpret the letters or actions of a very wise states man, so as thence to know the council wherewith they are guided & the designes he is driving on, must consider the main end to which they are directed & suppose they are such as most conduce to that end & argue the greatest wisdom & providence of the States-man in ordering them: so it is in these Prophesies. They are the counsels of God & so the most wise, & fittest for the end to which they are designed: And that end is the benefit of the Church to guide her & preserve her in the truth. For to this end are all the sacred prophesies in both the old and new Testament directed, as they that will consider them may easily perceive. Hence may appear the oversight of some interpreters whose interpretations if they were true would make the Apocalyps of little or no concernment to the Church. Perhaps what follows may be better inserted in the preface.

Yet I meane not that these Prophesies were intended to convert the whole world to the truth. For God is just as well as merciful, & punishes wickednes by hardening the wicked & {18r} visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children. But the designe of them is to try men & convert the best, so that the church may be purer & less mixed with Hypocrites & luke-warm persons. And for this end it is that they are wrapt up in obscurity, & so framed by the wisdom of God that the inconsiderate, the proud, the self-conceited, the presumptuous, the scholist, the sceptic, they whose judgments are ruled by their lusts, their interest, the fashions of the world, their esteem of men, the outward shew of thing or other prejudices, & all they who, of how pregnant natural parts soever they be, yet cannot discern the wisdom of God in the contrivance of the creation: that these men whose hearts are thus hardned in seeing should see & not perceive & in hearing should heare & not understand. For God has declared his intention in these prophesies to be as well that none of the wicked should understand as that the wise should understand, Dan: 12.

And hence I cannot but on this occasion reprove the blindness of a sort of men who although they have neither better nor other grounds for their faith then the Scribes & Pharisees had for their Traditions, yet are so pervers as to call upon other men for such a demonstration of the certainty of faith in the scriptures that a meer naturall man, how wicked soever, who will but read it, may judg of it & perceive the strength of it with as much perspicuity & certainty as he can a demonstration in Euclide. Are not these men like the Scribes & Pharisees who would not attend to the law & the Prophets but required a signe of Christ? Wherefore if Christ thought it just to deny a signe to that wicked & adulterate generation notwithstanding that they were God's own people, & the Catholique Church; much more may God think it just that this generation {19r} should be permitted to dy in their sins, who do not onely like the Scribes neglect but trample upon the law and the Prophets, & endeavour by all possible means to destroy the faith which men have in them, & to make them disregarded. I could wish they would consider how contrary it is to God's purpose that the truth of his religion should be as obvious & perspicuous to all men as a mathematical demonstration. Tis enough that it is able to move the assent of those which he hath chosen; & for the rest who are so incredulous, it is just that they should be permitted to dy in their sins. Here then is the wisdom of God, that he hath so framed the Scriptures as to discern between the good and the bad, that they should be demonstration to the one & foolishness to the other.

And from this consideration may also appear the vanity of those men who regard the splendor of churches & measure them by the external form & constitution. Whereas it is more agreable to God's designe that his church appear contemptible & scandalous to the world to try men. For this end doubtles he suffered the many revoltings of the Iewish Church under the Law, & for the same end was the grand Apostacy to happen under the gospel. Rev . If thou relyest upon the externall form of churches, the Learning of Scholars, the wisdom of statemen or of other men of Education; consider with thy self whither thou wouldest not have adhered to the scribes & Pharisees hadst thou lived in their days, & if this be thy case, then is it no better then theirs, & God may judg thee accordingly, unless thou chance to be on the right side, which as tis great odds may prove otherwise so if it should happen yet it would scarce excuse thy folly although it might something mitigate it.{/19r}{/18r}{/17r}{/16r}"
Newton's occult papers, some of which are now published online, were kept hidden for centuries. When these mysterious diaries resurfaced, about half of them were purchased in 1936 by the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946); another large portion was collected by Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877-1951). You can read details about the 1936 Sotheby's auction of Newton's 'Portsmouth Papers' here and here.

Isaac Newton, Untitled Treatise on Revelation, Yahuda MS 1.1, folio 16 recto (National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel). Published online June 2004. Click to enlarge.

It was Keynes who said that Newton “was not the first of the age of reason ... . He was the last of the magicians.” Keynes lectured on Newton in 1942 and 1943, waiting until the very end of his life to reveal this secret dimension of Newton's work. Prior to that, it was not public knowledge at all. The full text of Keynes's 1946 essay on 'Newton, the Man,' is here.

"much more ought we to suppose that the holy Ghost observes this rule accurately in his prophetick dictates, since they are no other then histories of things to come": Isaac Newton, Untitled Treatise on RevelationYahuda MS 1.1, folio 16 recto (National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel). Published online June 2004. Click to enlarge.

Thus, the title suits this blog, which considers present trends in terms of their potential historical significance and imagines their future consequences. However, this blog also has that name to ask its readers to reconsider ideas they take for granted.

The reason we are discussing Newton now is because his papers were kept hidden and not brought to public light at all until the 1990s. They weren't disseminated online until the 2000s. That is a long time for a central piece of information about the Scientific Revolution to be missing. Newton's private papers tell us how he arrived at his scientific breakthroughs, his methods, and his intentions.

Newton's occult works mean, plain as day, that the Scientific Revolution is not, and never was, what we were told it was. On the surface, Enlightenment principles of secularism and rationalism rejected God and mystical and religious ideas as fairy tales. Religion offered an infantile grasp of the world, beyond which we have matured and evolved.

This would be convincing if secularism and rationalism did not bear all the operational marks of a heretical cult, complete with a hard little esoteric nut at the centre, available only to the initiated. The supreme irony that the cult declares itself the ultimate-anti-cult does not make it any less cultish.

In the cult-like anti-cult atmosphere, anomalies sit out in the open and provoke occasional confusion before the rationalist mantras seal everything back up.

Why was the father of modern science also an alchemist and magician? The occult writings are explained away: Newton was an extremely intelligent, curious individual and he lived in times when religion and superstition had not been completely extracted from scientific thought.

Was Newton really the last of the magicians? The post-2008 economic recovery from the Great Recession was managed according to Keynesian principles. Why was Keynes, a famous thinker in modern economics, so fascinated by Newton's esoteric writings? Keynes's Newtonian occult collection is explained away: it was the economist's personal interest. Magic had and has nothing to do with Keynesian economics.

Well, look at the bottom of this post, and read the transcript from the lecture by German philosopher Jürgen Mittelstraß. He describes the occult distinction between macrocosm and microcosm, with its famous magical spell 'as above so below.' Ask yourself if that sounds anything like the distinction between macroeconomics and microeconomics.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Time and Politics 21: Visits from the Dark-Haired Girl


The Dark Haired Girl by Philip K. Dick (published posthumously in 1989). In his Exegesis (published posthumously 2011), Dick admitted that the dark-haired girl who showed him the larger frame of spacetime and predicted totalitarian America was his dead twin sister. Image Source: Wiki.

This post follows on my post on Wuthering Heights, The Brontë Effect (16 September 2016), to explore the implications of inhabiting time as it really as, not as we perceive it. The 'Brontë Effect,' as I coined the term with reference to Dia Sobin's words, describes the 'reverberating Gestalt' one experiences after reading a work of powerful fiction such as Wuthering Heights, which makes one aware of compressed or overlapping time, temporal identities, and spacetime continua in different perceived realities.

To cross the boundaries, first of immediate, everyday perception, then of whole dimensions, then of multiverses, sounds far-fetched, but I have discussed what it means to live in reality while perceiving time in its whole dimensionality, and not as an arrow, here. From the 19th to the 20th centuries, the fourth dimension has been portrayed by writers elsewhere - by Fyodor DostoyevskyOscar WildeH. G. WellsJoseph ConradMarcel ProustRobert Heinlein, among many others - and notably by Philip K. Dick in "A World of Talent" (1954), which I have described hereIn that story, a precognitive boy is terrified by appearances of 'others.' At first, the reader assumes the boy is schizoid and hallucinating, but these are in fact other versions of himself at different ages. He can see all versions of himself, past, present and future.

A single event in time, perceived by an observer: "Subdivision of Minkowski spacetime with respect to an event in four disjoint sets. The light cone, the absolute future, the absolute past, and elsewhere. The terminology is from Sard (1970)." Image Source: Wiki.

Multiple events in time, perceived by an observer who is moving through spacetime. In the fourth dimension, an 'event' is an intersection between space and time, following a continuum, with each event causally relative to the next: "In modern physics, space and time are unified in a four-dimensional Minkowski continuum called spacetime, whose metric treats the time dimension differently from the three spatial dimensions." The above gif shows "[t]he momentarily co-moving inertial frames along the trajectory ('world line') of a rapidly accelerating observer (center). The vertical direction indicates time, while the horizontal indicates distance, the dashed line is the spacetime of the observer. The small dots are specific events in spacetime."

Our souls know a larger experience of space and time; and stories about souls raise perceptional and ethical questions about that larger experience. In an interview, one of Dick's ex-wives, Kleo Mini, stated that all of Dick's novels concerned the "internal workings of the soul .... He wrote about people's souls, not a word I use lightly."

Dick was fascinated by self-alienation and social alienation, the blind spot when you recognized neither your own soul, nor your place in the world. To survive that moral test, he considered how characters' souls might be externalized and projected back at them as different characters - exactly as Catherine and Heathcliff are projected upon one another in Wuthering Heights. In Dick's view, if your soul was personified outside you, you might fall in love with it, but you would not necessarily accept everything about it. You might hate it and not reconcile with it, which would be heart-breaking, torturous, and tragic.

Image Source: Frith Luton.

Image Source: Carl Jung.

Dick was influenced by unsolved soul puzzles with numinous qualities, which he first encountered in the work of science fiction writer, A. E. van Vogt, and later in the writings of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, who thought that people were haunted by the shadow sides of their souls. Jung argued that for people to become psychologically and socially healthy, they must reconcile with their shadow. He further claimed that these shadows could embody an outer experience with the opposite gender in the anima or animus.

In Jung's hetero-assumed schema, when men and women went out into the world seeking love, they encountered opposite-gendered characterizations of their own souls. Jung theorized that men projected their soul's inner female back upon themselves; and women projected their inner male back upon themselves. Better love relationships depended on an ability to reconcile with one's opposite-gendered soul mirrors, such that one found increasingly sophisticated versions of one's mirror in the world. Men could progress through four anima soul shadow archetypes: Eve (the object of desire, who also reflects the security or insecurity around the man's mother); Helen (a woman who is externally able and beautiful, but internally lacking in virtue, faith, or imagination); Mary (a virtuous woman, who differentiates between lust and love); and Sophia (a woman of wisdom, who encompasses positive and negative qualities without being condemned). For women, the challenge was develop her inner masculine, so that she would externally find a man of physical power; then a capable man of action, a war hero or hunter; then a man of the mind, a professor, clergyman or orator; and finally, a man of hermetic enlightenment, one who could awaken in the woman a spiritual reconciliation between her soul's conscious and unconscious.

Image Source: Find a Grave.

In Jungian terms, the love relationship was a moral path in which a human being developed his or her own soul. Love was always self-referential, a struggle to improve and expand oneself spiritually, while other people became external reflections of, and catalysts in, the individual's internal process. All of this hinged on coping with the unseen, and interacting concretely or nebulously with elements of ourselves which exist beyond our linear experience of time. For Dick, the shadow anima was embodied not in a lover or wife, but in his twin sister, Jane Charlotte Dick, who died in infancy. Her presence haunted him all his life. She took form in characters in his work; he granted her far-seeing and Deus ex Machina roles. He further considered temporal aspects of the projected soul because Jane was dead. She was Philip's phantom agent, reporting from the other side. Because of Jane's influence on the famous author, she also inspired other writers. Perhaps this was why Dick considered the anima-animus not in terms of romance - as in Wuthering Heights - but in terms of society and politics.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 4: The New Millennium's Gothic Moment


BBC Four's show, The Art of Gothic: Britain's Midnight Hour (6 November 2014) explained how the 18th and 19th century explosion of science and industry inspired a Gothic counter-movement, a critical moral debate on the implications of unbridled rationalism. The BBC show highlighted the English painting, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), which portrayed the Gothic fear of scientists' experiments. Rationalists' destruction of spiritual concerns created horror. In the painting, the scientist is slowly pumping air out of a bell jar, in which a bird (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) is trapped. The scientist is suffocating the bird to demonstrate its dependence on oxygen. Image Source: Wiki.

The Awaken the Amnesiacs series on this blog explains why and how the human interaction with high technology is taking on spiritual dimensions. In today's post, I discuss the Gothic moment at which undue rationalism carries within itself the seeds of its own undoing. The rational, when overindulged, becomes anti-rational.

Any undertaking, done in the name of 'cutting edge change' will involve a confident, progressive agent. It is easy to criticize our forebears for their blind spots, and more difficult to see our own. In an earlier post, The Night of First Ages, I quoted an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) in the 2005 King Kong screenplay. The characters in King Kong are on a voyage to make a movie on a remote island. On the way, Jimmy, the ship's boy, reads Heart of Darkness, narrated by Conrad's protagonist, Charles Marlow. Marlow is on a journey to find an ivory trader, Kurtz, on the Congo River. Jimmy asks: "Why does Marlow keep going up the river? Why doesn't he turn back?"

The Heart of Darkness scene from King Kong (2005) © Universal Pictures depicts the wall between ego and id, or between the conscious-rational and unconscious-anti-rational parts of the human mind. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

The ship's first mate remarks that Marlow keeps searching for Kurtz, without realizing how deep he is getting into the dark side of human nature, because Marlow believes he is civilized. 'Civilized' characters like Marlow and Kurtz are amnesiacs, who think their own savagery is no longer a threat, something from a long lost, bygone era of sticks and stones. In their hubris, they unconsciously become more savage as they push forward as self-appointed bearers of 'progress': "We could not understand because we were too far ... and could not remember ... because we were traveling in the night of first ages ... of those ages that are gone ... leaving hardly a sign, and no memories. We are accustomed to look ... upon the shackled form of a conquered monster ... but there ... there you could look at a thing monstrous and free."

Jimmy realizes, "It's not an adventure story ... is it Mr. Hayes?" To which the first mate responds, "No Jimmy, it's not." The nested novel-to-movie-to-film metafiction in King Kong should be a message to its audience; as is the metahistorical fact that Heart of Darkness was based on a true story and the character Kurtz was based on a real person. The metafiction and metahistory of Heart of Darkness, embedded inside King Kong, reveal our amnesia. In blindly pursuing the singularity, why don't we turn back? Why don't we see that the history of the new Millennium is not an adventure story? It is because we expect the monster inside ourselves to be shackled. On the Internet and in research labs, the monster is not shackled.

Scientists and technologists have reached a Gothic moment because there is a gap between their practice and the way they are perceived in mass media as progressive actors. When they work with the scientific method, they live with uncertainty. They test hypotheses which, if proven, are accepted until falsified or refined. At the same time, we live in a period when a cult of secular rationalism has supplanted mass religions to furnish the prevailing story of global civilization. Scientific method and rationality are equated with humanism, enlightenment, advanced education, and hyper-progress. Scientists and technologists occupy exalted social positions as perceived experts. In this capacity, they are less cautious. They are little aware that when they become public gurus or market their findings with mythical labels, they tap into that part of secular rationalism that functions like a religion, rather than a considered quantification of reality.

Despite recent triumphs and headlines, there are signs of amnesia among today's scientists, technologists, and technophiles. They press ahead as experts and progressive actors, even when their impact on society starts to become surreal, or when their followers become cultish. They do not stop to reconsider their position, even when, as I put it in this post, "a nearly-unstoppable faith in, and optimism about, rampant technology" gives rise to "a heart-tearing soul-sickness which emerges from that intermingling of the virtual and the real."

Scientists are frank about how much they do not and cannot know. The Guardian: "It is perhaps a sign of the health of modern science that the harbingers of so much doubt have met with such acclaim." The current situation is serious: physicists have reached the analytical limits of scientific inquiry for two reasons. They discovered that they can only observe and measure the tiny part of the universe which absorbs light radiation. When they do measure that tiny portion, they have confirmed that they change it at the sub-atomic level. We can only see a tiny portion of reality, and we change that reality when we look at it. Together, these issues trap us in a self-referential bubble of perception.

When physicists determined that 96 per cent of the universe is unobservable and exists in the forms of dark matter and dark energy, scientists at CERN and other labs set out to breach those limits. Particle physicists, who deal with measurable knowns, stand at the edge of the methodological line, with a high point being their 4 July 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson or 'God particle.' In 2012, Russia Today interviewed Aleksey Filippenko, an astrophysicist and Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, who admitted that the 'God particle' raised more questions than answers:
"Let me start by saying that I am going to discuss the universe only from the perspective of a scientist, from an intellectual perspective. I am not going to be talking about whether there is spiritual God or a personal God or a purpose to the universe – these are questions that scientists can’t address. My own belief is that once you have the laws of physics the universe just keeps going on its own. And it could even be that the laws of physics are all that you need in order to get the universe to start from the very beginning – the “Big Bang”. ...

The Higgs boson helps to complete what is called the Standard Model of particle physics. There is a way we have to try to understand – electrons and quarks and neutrino and other kinds of particles. And Higgs boson was kind of a missing piece of the puzzle. Which, if it were not there, would mean that we would have to kind of start over. But the fact that it appears to have been found completes our picture of the Standard Model of particle physics. That is not to say that we understand everything. We don’t yet understand how gravity fits in with particle physics. Other than the fact that gravity pulls particles together. We also do not understand things like dark energy. The universe seems to be filled with a dark energy that is expanding the universe faster and faster – I helped to discover that. And the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics was given to the team leaders last year for that discovery.

So, we don’t understand the dark energy. There is also something called dark matter. It may or may not be some kind of fundamental particles that could be part of the Standard Model – we don’t yet understand. The Higgs boson is a very important discovery. But it does not solve all the questions that remain in physics. But it is a very important discovery. In a sense, it would have been more exciting as a scientist to me if it were not there because it would mean that we were not correct in our view of the universe. The surprises are more fun than the expected discoveries. ...

I don’t think scientists will ever truly understand creation because I don’t think we will know where the laws of physics came from. But given a universe, given a universe can arise I think some day we may well understand dark energy and dark matter and the other constituents of the universe. We only discovered dark energy 14 years ago – the accelerating expansion of the universe. So it is no surprise that we don’t yet fully understand dark energy. Dark matter was only conceived a few decades ago. So again, we don’t yet fully know what dark matter is. But we have not been investigating it for very long. I mean, in hundreds of years who knows what we will know. We might have a full inventory of what is in the universe and how everything behaves. So we will know a lot. But we won’t quite know why it all happened and why there is something other than nothing.

Why are there any mathematical laws of physics rather than just nothing at all? I don’t know whether we will ever understand that. Scientists are only well-aware of 4 per cent of the universe – that is, we understand pretty well the nature of 4 per cent of the universe. The stuff that is made of atoms. Ninety-six per cent of the universe is made out of dark matter and dark energy. And although we know they are present we don’t know what their detailed properties are or why they are there. Or what exactly is going on."
On the other side of the line stand theoretical physicists, who deal with unmeasurable unknowns using mathematics. Astrophysicists stand, somewhat unhappily, on both sides of the line. A 2011 book by Richard Panek, The 4 Per Cent Universe, emphasized that scientific measurements begin to break down at dark energy and dark matter. The conventional wisdom is that as discoveries, knowledge, and tools improve, the scientific method will expand and continue. But this underestimates the problem of scientific methodological analyses - and for researchers in all disciplines who use them. It is not just a question of having insufficient tools to measure and quantify reality. It is a question of not being able to comprehend the findings. The Smithsonian: "'We have a complete inventory of the universe,' Sean Carroll, a California Institute of Technology cosmologist, has said, 'and it makes no sense.'"

Apollo 18 (2011) faux found footage movie explained why 'we've never gone back to the moon.' The film was a huge box office hit. The real reasons for canceled Apollo missions were political, technical and funding challenges. Image Source: Movie Blogger.

Just as physicists hit a wall, big science stumbled elsewhere as well. In one generation, the space age promised and failed to produce space station cities, moon pod villages, and colonists on Mars. Lunar settlements remain technical concepts, and China's 2013 landerYutu, made the first soft landing on the moon since 1976. On the Internet, lunar exploration has become the dismal stuff of conspiracy theory and cinematic legend. Nor did the atomic age solve the energy crisis, or bring us cold fusion. Instead, it vomited up the radioactive fallout of nuclear disasters and inexplicable dark matter. Geneticists were supposed to cure cancer and the common cold, not produce human-animal hybrid chimeras which scare the public. These generalizations do not account for the realities of research and funding; but they explain why mass sympathy and confidence in big science waned over the past generation.

Another day at Boston Dynamics. Image Source: RAND Corporation.

Where big science stumbled, big tech was supposed to bail us out. In the public mind, if not in reality, the torch passed in the 1990s from big science to big technology. Over the past fifteen years, interest shifted from space exploration and cosmology - to computers, gadgets and the Internet. Technologists promised transhumanism, posthumanism, artificial intelligence, and the Singularity. This was why 'singularity' became the evangelical buzzword of technophiles between 2003 and 2012, and remains fashionable with its own cluster of personalities. Silicon Valley became one of the most powerful places on earth. High tech would launch us exponentially toward a gnostic, mind-opening, theophanic moment of transcendence.

Enter the computer programmers, designers and engineers. We would remake ourselves on the clock, rework our societies and the whole world, and finally efficiently manage resources. The Internet, conceived by the scientists at CERN, was rationalistic in its construction. Unfortunately, it is anti-rational in its execution; it exploits users' unconscious impulses and forms a giant collective mind. We did not get a robot-supported Valhalla. Instead, we got 9-million-hit Roomba cat videos, cyber-bullies, social-media-supported home invasions, remote-controlled brain-to-brain interfaces, and Boston Dynamics cheerfully preparing its Second Variety military hardware for World War III. The technological revolution began to give way to the surveillance revolution.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Science and Tech: Headlines and History in February 2016


The world's first flexible smartphone lets you hold and use your mobile phone like an old-fashioned book. Gif source: Engadget.

Recent scientific and high tech headlines struck a positive note, with some discordant undertones. Several cutting-edge experiments create synthetic or mechanical versions of what we already have in organic form, revealing the underlying meta-mentality of researchers. The European Commission's Digital Single Market announced the arrival of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' in late January, 2016. In early February, there was a discussion at Quora about converting energy into matter: E=mc2 says energy and mass are interchangeable. Are energy and matter states of a same thing? Is matter a rigid form of energy? Great discoveries, such as the possible cure for blindness this week, are beneficial; yet that same desire to overcome physical debilitation, limitations and illnesses becomes problematic in other examples, as when parents assert the right to edit their children's genes.

The flood of news in such a short amount of time reveals vast resources diverted to these spheres, with very little to no resources comparatively devoted to putting this work into human perspective. The headlines show how difficult it is to keep track of the explosion of innovations on an ongoing basis; and they reveal how necessary it is to do so (hat tips: Engadget, ErekAlert, Graham Hancock):
  • Quartz (3 February 2016): Germany is getting closer to nuclear fusion—the long-held dream of unlimited clean energy
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Why you really should get excited about gravitational waves
  • Engadget (12 February 2016): Watch DARPA's tiny drone do 45 MPH indoors, autonomously ... and then crash into countless expensive pieces
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (12 February 2016): Researchers Create ‘Mini-Brains’ in Lab To Study Neurological Diseases
  • Independent (13 February 2016): Chinese nuclear fusion scientists achieve temperatures three times hotter than the sun The temperatures were roughly equal to a 'mid-sized thermo-nuclear explosion'
  • Guardian (14 February 2016): Race is on for next breakthrough as physicists target dark matter: Scientists from South Dakota to Australia seek material believed to make up quarter of universe as researchers in China investigate another mystery particle
  • University College London / EurekAlert (15 February 2016): Virtual reality therapy could help people with depression: "Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size 'avatar' or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called 'embodiment'. While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. ... 'People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives,' explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). 'In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion.'"
  • Engadget (15 February 2016): Johns Hopkins grows tiny brains in petri dishes for lab testing: "Most new drugs tested on mice don't work on humans, because we're 'not 150-pound rats,' says Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School's Dr. Thomas Hartung. He and his team believe the 'mini-brains' they've designed and grown in the lab are better test subjects for drug development, since they're derived from human cells. These mini-brains are truly tiny at 350 micrometers in diameter, or about the size of a housefly."
  • PhysOrg (15 February 2016): No more keys or cards? Technology goes under the skin
  • Guardian (15 February 2016): Cancer researchers claim 'extraordinary results' using T-cell therapy ‘This is unprecedented’ says researcher after more than half of terminally ill blood cancer patients experienced complete remission in early clinical trials
  • Guardian (16 February 2016): WHO paves way for use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika: Consequences of Zika outbreaks could be ‘staggering’ says WHO as it advocates further trials and assessments for controversial mosquito control techniques
  • Ars Technica (16 February 2016): The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people: "Ridiculously optimistic" machine learning algorithm is "completely bullshit," says expert: "Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA's SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan's mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person's likelihood of being a terrorist."
  • Engadget (16 February 2016): Doctors reveal they can 3D print body parts and tissue
  • Sky News (16 February 2016): 'Extraordinary' Cancer Breakthrough Revealed: Terminally ill patients are left symptom free after treatment with modified cells - described as a "potential paradigm shift"
  • Discovery News (16 February 2016): Hawking: Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Astronomy
  • Engadget (17 February 2016): Flexible smartphones may be coming sooner than you think
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): DNA evidence shows that salmon hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes
  • EurekAlert (17 Feburary 2016): New predictor of cancer: When your biological age is older than your chronological age, the risk of getting and dying of cancer rises
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): Progress toward an HIV cure highlighted in special issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
  • Yahoo (17 February 2016): The Hubble Space Telescope Just Snapped Photos of the Biggest Black Hole We've Ever Observed: "So how big is it, exactly? Well, according to our best estimates, the supermassive black hole is roughly 21 billion times the size of the Sun, and its event horizon (an area so dense and powerful that light can’t escape its gravity) measures 130 billion kilometers in diameter. That’s about 15 times the diameter of Neptune’s orbit around the Sun, according to scientists at the Hubble Space Telescope."
  • PhysOrg (18 February 2016): Five-dimensional black hole could 'break' general relativity: "Ring-shaped black holes were 'discovered' by theoretical physicists in 2002, but this is the first time that their dynamics have been successfully simulated using supercomputers. Should this type of black hole form, it would lead to the appearance of a 'naked singularity', which would cause the equations behind general relativity to break down. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters."
  • Guardian (18 February 2016): Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests. Scientists have been running tests where artificial intelligences cultivate appropriate social behaviour by responding to simple narratives
  • Baltimore Sun (18 February 2016): Woman's blindness apparently reversed by stem cell treatment
  • Economist (20 February 2016): Wireless: the next generation. A new wave of mobile technology is on its way, and will bring drastic change
  • Daily Mail (20 February 2016): Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds
  • HuffPo (20 February 2016): Lost Tapes Reveal Apollo Astronauts Heard Unexplained ‘Music’ On Far Side Of The Moon. "If you’re behind the moon and hear some weird noise on your radio, and you know you’re blocked from the Earth, then what could you possibly think?"
  • Science Alert (22 February 2016): NASA researchers are working on a laser propulsion system that could get to Mars in 3 days. "There is no known reason why we cannot do this."
  • Wired (22 February 2016): Nasa's laser-powered engine could get us to Mars in 72 hours (if it works)
  • Reuters (22 February 2016): Brazil to fight Zika by sterilizing mosquitoes with gamma rays
  • Science Daily (22 February 2016): Bat 'super immunity' could help protect people
  • PhysOrg (22 February 2016): Study shows plants appear able to forget memories when they are not useful
  • Science Alert (23 February 2016): NASA has been inundated with a record number of astronaut applications. Real-life space cadets
  • Space.com (23 February 2016): Plans Being Devised for Human Outpost Near the Moon
  • Discovery News (23 February 2016): Self-Driving Flying Car to Take Off in Two Years
  • Nature (23 February 2016): Should you edit your children’s genes?
  • ErekAlert (23 February 2016): DNA 'Trojan horse' smuggles drugs into resistant cancer cells
  • ABC News (23 February 2016): Vaccinating wildlife with GM viruses could stop diseases jumping to humans, scientists suggest
  • Engadget (23 February 2016): Boston Dynamics presents the 'next generation' Atlas robot. Google's humanoid robot-builders have created a version that's smaller, lighter and more agile
The confirmed discovery of gravitational waves (11 February 2016), when two American research institutes recorded the merging of two black holes a billion years ago, has huge implications. Image Source: BBC via Twitter.

A 3D printed, human-size ear (16 February 2016). Image Source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine / Engadget.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Time and Politics 16: Death and Bitcoin's Children


A mural of Death and Children at Stift Altenberg, Lower Austria. Image Source: H. Hartmann via SAGEN.

There is an anti-statist political trend online - unconsciously mirroring the inherently anti-statist nature of the Internet - which views all government, corporate and long-standing institutions as prisons of mind and action. This is a naïve and sometimes arrogant attitude, inspired by the initial explosion of Internet power, not yet tested for its longevity. Internet pioneers break new ground, but they are wrong to think that they have found, and reside already, in the Promised Land. The best of them are challenged to embrace the very impulse they abhor: they personally need to operate under stable conditions; and they must configure structures and build communities which ensure that their efforts last. This challenge has brought Bitcoiners to a turning point at which the form of social and political behaviour simply does not mirror the innate function of their cryptocurrency. Bitcoin's administration is becoming a political problem, a philosophical challenge, and a moral and spiritual crisis.

Vinay Gupta, strategist for the cryptocurrency Ethereum and founder of the Hexayurt Project, discussed why Bitcoin is a testing ground for future political systems, and why the technical and political challenges of the cryptocurrency are not identical or symmetrical: Bitcoin Cannot Be Divorced from Pre-Existing Political Theory. (21 August 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

First, above, Vinay Gupta assesses and predicts the political problem at the heart of Bitcoin development. It is a problem of centralized authority, partly exercised by Bitcoin's miners, exercised in relation to a tool that decentralizes structures and decision-making:
"[Bitcoin] is anarchist. But to accept anarchy in a really fundamental way, you have to start challenging the meaning of property. And Bitcoin sits at this very uneasy juncture that it's a bunch of anarchists cooperating to create a libertarian micro-enclave, even though they don't agree about the fundamental meaning of the word, 'property.' And this is extremely problematic. If they can get through that political storm, they might finally succeed in producing a genuinely libertarian anarchism, and that would be an extremely powerful thing. But it's more likely that the anarchists will get suppressed by the libertarians and in the long run you'll wind up with an anarcho-capitalist enclave because the Bitcoin Foundation will wind up owning Bitcoin outright and that property right will be a monopoly, which is then used to enforce their policy decisions, including collaboration with the U.S. government. And this is the real distinction between anarchism and anarcho-capitalism ... under anarcho-capitalism, you can have a monopoly that winds up controlling everything; and then they make deals that you disagree with. In anarchism, nobody has enough wherewithal in the network to be able to make a deal for everybody, and if people disagree with you, they do something else. ... [This is] because anarchism is incompatible with monopolies. As soon as you have a monopoly, whether you like it or not, you're operating inside of a power structure. You have a 'king'; the king is the guy who owns the monopoly. You have a ruler. And anarchism is about operating without rulers."
Bitcoin idealists assumed that the open-source code and decentralized operational function of cryptocurrencies would dictate decentralized forms for its governance and applications. And they could, but the forms must be developed. One may as well ask, does the internal combustion engine of a car dictate the way traffic lights work? Or does the car motor fundamentally shape the thoughts of legislators who write traffic laws? Or does the basic mechanical nature of the automobile completely shape urban planning? For some, the answer is 'yes.' But over time, the further we get from the stunning initial invention, the less ensuing systems reflect the original form of the innovation. At that point of departure between the function of the technology to the form of its administration, we see the decentralized peer-to-peer technology, so radical and profound in its applications, confront the rigid authoritarian structures of human ages.


Therefore, I would add to Gupta's political assessment a philosophical challenge of how institutions capture and hold cultural and political ground in societies. When one considers the enduring value of any technology, no matter what its potential political 'flavour' or initial radical impact, one must factor in frail humanity: the finite span of one human life; the difficulty in grasping larger questions; the boundaries of economic and cultural imagination; and the physical limits around performance in one lifetime.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Time Moves Backwards and Other Space-Time Headlines


Image Source: New Scientist.

There are several notable, mind-bending and possibly related recent scientific headlines. Four new elements have been confirmed, completing the seventh row of the periodic table (ununtrium (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118)). The Guardian confirms that these elements are synthetic, created by "slamming lighter ­nuclei into each other and tracking the following decay of the radioactive superheavy elements. Like other superheavy elements that populate the end of the periodic table, they only exist for fractions of a second before decaying into other elements."

Then there is a report that time arises organically and moves in different directions in adjacent multiverses. The idea rests on problems with the way we define time as a function of the behaviour of matter, with the parts we can't explain disappearing into universes we cannot see. The associated notion that time flows backwards comes from Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena and Alan Guth at MIT. On 13 January 2016, The New Scientist reported:
Guth and Carroll's work is motivated by a problem vexing physicists and philosophers: why it is that time's arrow points in just one direction. It's true we can only remember the past ... but the laws of physics don't much care which way time flows: any physical process run backwards still makes sense according to those laws.

There's no such thing, at a very deep level, that causes [must] precede effects, says Carroll.

In the absence of other laws to set the direction of time, physicists have settled on entropy – basically, a measure of messiness. As entropy grows, time ticks forward. For example, you can stir milk into coffee but you can't stir it back out again – so neatly separated black coffee and milk always comes first.

“We can't talk to beings in a time-reversed cosmos: they are in our past and we in their past.” Zooming out to the entire universe, we likewise define the future as that direction of time in which entropy increases. By studying the motion of faraway galaxies, we can predict how the cosmos will evolve. Or we can rewind time back to the big bang, when the universe must have had much less entropy.

Try to rewind further and we meet a cosmological conundrum. We can't proceed if the big bang was indeed the beginning of time, but in that case, why did it have such low entropy? And if it wasn't the beginning of time – as Guth suspects – we'd still want to know how an eternal universe could have reached such a low-entropy state that would allow for the arrow of time to form.

In an as yet unpublished model, Guth and Carroll explore the latter idea. They drop a finite cloud of particles, each zipping around with its own randomly assigned velocity, into an infinite universe. After a while, arrows of time emerge spontaneously.

The random starting conditions mean that half the particles initially spread outwards, increasing entropy, while the other half converge on the centre, decreasing entropy, then pass through and head outwards. Eventually the whole cloud is expanding, and entropy is rising in tandem. Crucially, this rise happens even if you reverse time by flipping the starting velocity of every particle: ultimately, all particles will end up travelling outwards. If entropy grows either way, who's to say which way the arrow of time should point?

We call it the two-headed arrow of time, Guth says. Because the laws of physics are invariant, we see exactly the same thing in the other direction.

The model shows that an arrow of time arises spontaneously in an infinite, eternal space. Since this allows entropy to grow without limit, time zero could simply be the moment where entropy happened to be at its lowest.

That could explain why the big bang, the earliest moment we can see, has so little entropy. But it also feels a little like a cheat: if entropy can be infinite, anything can have relatively low entropy by comparison.

The point that Alan and I are trying to make is that it's very natural in those circumstances that almost everywhere in the universe you get a noticeable arrow of time, Carroll says, though he admits the model still needs work. Then of course you do the work of making it realistic, making it look like our universe. That seems to be the hard part.

If the model matches reality, it would have implications for more than just our own observable universe. This is intended to describe the whole of existence, which would mean the multiverse, Guth says. In his view, the arrow of time may have arisen in a parent or grandparent universe of our own.
In the next headline, supermassive black holes might be hiding whole universes inside them. The New Scientist:
Black holes may be hiding other universes. A quirk of how space-time behaved in the early universe could have led to short-lived wormholes connecting us to a vast multiverse. If borne out, the theory may help explain how supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies grew so big so fast. The idea that ours is just one of a staggering number of universes - what cosmologists call the multiverse - is a consequence of our leading theory of how the universe grows: eternal inflation.

The theory holds that during its early phase, space-time expanded exponentially, doubling in volume every fraction of a second before settling into a more sedate rate of growth. Eternal inflation was devised in the 1980s to explain some puzzling observations about our universe that standard big bang theory alone couldn't handle.

But cosmologists soon realised that the inflationary universe came with caveats. Quantum mechanical effects, which normally only influence the smallest particles, played an important role in how all of space-time evolved.

One of these effects was that a small patch of space-time within the larger universe could shift into a different quantum state, forming a bubble. Such bubbles could form at random throughout our inflating universe. [Thus:] “Our universe could even look like a black hole to physicists in some other universe”
In other news, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) which has detectors in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, USA, may have discovered the existence of gravitational waves, which are ripples in the fabric of space-time. Wired:
Gravitational waves tell the story of the universe’s mass. Every object from black hole to supernova, everything from black hole collisions (the most likely explanation for this potential LIGO discovery) to superfast expansion of the universe has its own gravitational fingerprint. From those swirls, astronomers will be able to learn about spacetime, gravity, and the objects themselves. And no one knows what they’ll find out.
Critics urge caution about this report, which might have more to do with the internal workings of the cosmology profession than the workings of space-time. If true, it could be a huge discovery, proving the "last unproven prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity." The Guardian:
According to the rumours, [LIGO] scientists on the team are in the process of writing up a paper that describes a gravitational wave signal. If such a signal exists and is verified, it would confirm one of the most dramatic predictions of Albert Einstein’s century-old theory of general relativity.

[Professor Lawrence] Krauss[, cosmologist at Arizona State University,] said he was 60% confident that the rumour was true, but said he would have to see the scientists’ data before drawing any conclusions about whether the signal was genuine or not.

Researchers on a large collaboration like Ligo will have any such paper internally vetted before sending it for publication and calling a press conference. In 2014, researchers on another US experiment, called BICEP2, called a press conference to announce the discovery of gravitational waves, but others have since pointed out that the signal could be due entirely to space dust.

Speaking about the LIGO team, Krauss said: “They will be extremely cautious. There’s no reason for them to make a claim they are not certain of.”

If gravitational waves have been discovered, astronomers could use them to observe the cosmos in a way that has been impossible to date. “We would have a new window on the universe,” Krauss said. “Gravitational waves are generated in the most exotic, strange locations in nature, such as at the edge of black holes at the beginning of time. We are pretty certain they exist, but we’ve not been able to use them to probe the universe.” Einstein predicted that the waves would be produced in extremely violent events, such as collisions between two black holes. As gravitational waves spread out, they compress and stretch spacetime.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Quantum Christmas


Jim Al-Khalili explains in a TED talk: robins may fly south in winter due to a process called 'quantum entanglement.' Image Source: Digital Photographer / Michael Williams.

Destiny and faith should be foreign concepts in the realm of science. But perhaps quantum physics will devise a formula for them. This possibility started in the 1930s, with Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962) arguing whether or how objective reality could be measured, because observing something changes its nature into what we would call a subjective reality. Of course, the distinction between objective reality - which religious people sometimes associate with God - and subjective awareness - the world limited by our individual perceptions - is a very old problem. The 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." The central question of religion asks: how are we flawed and animal humans connected to the larger order of the universe? Science asks the same question.

Image Source: Archillect.

To determine if it was possible to measure objective reality, Einstein and Bohr proposed a thought experiment to measure one particle of light, or photon, without affecting it. To do this, they proposed to measure a second particle that was related to the first one, and infer the nature of the related, but unmeasured, first particle. Then they encountered a curious problem. Their measurement of the second particle affected the nature of the first one, but they could not determine how the impact of their actions had been transferred to the first particle, especially because that information traveled instantaneously, that is, faster than the speed of light, which violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The distance between the photons did not matter either. They could be close together or on opposite sides of the universe. Einstein did not like this. Wiki:
[I]f a pair of particles is generated in such a way that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a certain axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, will be found to be counterclockwise; because of the nature of quantum measurement. However, this behavior gives rise to paradoxical effects: any measurement of a property of a particle can be seen as acting on that particle (e.g. by collapsing a number of superposed states); and in the case of entangled particles, such action must be on the entangled system as a whole. It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair "knows" what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances. ...

The counterintuitive predictions of quantum mechanics about strongly correlated systems were first discussed by Albert Einstein in 1935, in a joint paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. ... They wrote: "We are thus forced to conclude that the quantum-mechanical description of physical reality given by wave functions is not complete." ... 
Following the EPR paper, Erwin Schrödinger wrote a letter (in German) to Einstein in which he used the word Verschränkung (translated by himself as entanglement) "to describe the correlations between two particles that interact and then separate, as in the EPR experiment." He shortly thereafter published a seminal paper defining and discussing the notion, and terming it "entanglement." In the paper he recognized the importance of the concept, and stated: "I would not call [entanglement] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought."

Like Einstein, Schrödinger was dissatisfied with the concept of entanglement, because it seemed to violate the speed limit on the transmission of information implicit in the theory of relativity. Einstein later famously derided entanglement as "spukhafte Fernwirkung" or "spooky action at a distance."
In 2013, Chinese physicists clocked the speed of 'spooky action at a distance.' They proved the speed of information as it moves through quantum entangled states is more than four times the speed of light, or three trillion metres per second. Their research paper was published in Physical Review Letters, vol. 110, listed here.

Quantum entanglement. Image Source: Glitch.