Time In: Play Ball!

“The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor.” — Cincinnati Gazette editorial, 1879

“A man once told me to walk with the Lord. I’d rather walk with the bases loaded.” — Ken Singleton

opening-dayAh, Spring!   Instead of spending my leisure hours indoors, drinking beer and watching old movies, I can spend them outdoors, drinking beer and watching baseball.

For years we had a little wooden plaque hanging on our kitchen wall that my wife found at a craft fair,  inscribed with the missive “We interrupt this marriage to bring you the baseball season.”   Today?  It’s not that the more things change the more they stay the same, it’s that some things never change.  At any rate, my wife will be out riding her horse every weekend while the weather is nice, so who’s ignoring whom?  We interrupt this blog to bring you the baseball season…

Hope springs eternal.

Hope springs eternal.


Conjecture #4: Quantum Consciousness

“You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometime, well you just might find, you get what you need.”–The Rolling Stones (Jagger/Richards)

“I’m-a get medieval on your ass.”–Marcellus Wallace (character, Pulp Fiction)

I conjecture:  In a quantum multiverse, one’s consciousness is a composite of the many worlds.


You’ve been warned folks: I’m-a get metaphysical on your asses.  What’s worse, it’s a personal, almost solipsistic metaphysics.  Hell, it’s my blog, why can’t I?  I might also add that the next couple of  conjectures will be the most controversial, and to some extent they might contradict each other.  Consider it an appropriate quantum superposition–both simultaneously half true.

Few subjects in the sciences are as controversial as the notion of quantum consciousness, as it meets at the junction of theoretical physics and cognitive psychology, and manages to merge the two phenomena that puzzle scientists the most.  Oh, we understand what quantum mechanics is in terms of what it does,  but have no freakin’ idea how and why it does it.   You can say pretty much the same for consciousness.

The concept of quantum consciousness is nothing all that new.  Without getting too technical–because hey, then I wouldn’t understand it either–the notion of a quantum mechanical basis for human consciousness was first directly proposed by Roger Penrose, in his 1989 book, The Emperor’s New Mind.  Built on his earlier work with Stuart Hammerhoff,  Penrose asserted that the human mind can perform functions that are not computable and could only arise from quantum superpositions occurring within the brain.    Max Tegmark,  an MIT cosmologist with no shortage of his own controversial ideas, became the most vocal opponent of this concept, for reasons I won’t go into here, as this is not exactly what I am advocating.     Or maybe it is.

What I am advocating, whether the mind is a quantum computer or not, is that our conscious experience represents a composite of all the universes, or potential universes suggested by quantum theory.  The distinction between potential and actual alternate universes implies the distinction between the Copenhagen and Many Worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics.  And the former seems to make more sense in concert with this conjecture, as it asserts that there simply is no objective reality on the sub-atomic level until we measure it; there are, effectively, only statistical probabilities.  From that it would be easy enough to make the philosophical assertion that our consciousness is essentially a composite of all the possibilities.

But it might not be.  As we only appear to be conscious in one reality at a time, it is certainly within the realm of feasibility to assert that consciousness is a composite in the Many Worlds scenario as well.   If the Many Worlds interpretation is willing to accept that these universes can interact with each other on the sub-atomic level to produce the wave interference pattern described in Quantum Weirdness 101,  why not accept that our consciousness does the same thing? Therefore, consciousness would be a composite across actual, physically real worlds.  David Deutsch, in his book The Fabric of Reality, makes the case that the quantum multiverse is the enabler of free will;  from this I would infer he means consciousness as well.  But the Many Worlds interpretation suggests something perhaps darker and more sinister,  even frightening.  I’m bound to get flamed to no end for even bringing it up–it will be the subject of Conjecture #5.  I call it quantum solipsism.

My bottom-line position on the composite consciousness conjecture: It’s a strong possibility.  I see evidence of it in my own life; but it would take a volume, let alone a blog post, to fully recount.  The best way to sum it up?  The Rolling Stones quote above.  It seems I rarely get exactly what I want, but often get what I need, and just in the nick of time.  What?  You say you don’t get what you need?  Well, read the next conjecture.  It seems that may not be my problem!

Below, Stuart Hammerhoff discusses the notion of quantum consciousness and related issues.


Cosmic Quote #18

“Quantum mechanics is magic.”–Daniel Greenberger.

Image credit: Matthias Giesen

Image credit: Matthias Giesen

Quantum mechanics.  Niels Bohr said if you’re not shocked by it, you don’t understand it.  Richard Feynman said nobody understands it.  Albert Einstein said god does not play dice. Stephen Hawking said god does play dice and sometimes he hides the results.  I say who the hell cares, as long as they give me fodder for my blog.  Or my wife’s horse.  Or my accountant’s newt.  It all fills  space, thus proving the vacuum is not empty.  Isn’t physics fun?  [Note: vacuum is one of the few words in the English language containing “uu.”   But it’s not as cool as muumuu, duumvir or menstruum, proving that linguistics is fun, too.]


Quantum Weirdness 106: Are dreams real?

 “Reality is wrong.  Dreams are for real.”–Tupac Shakur

It has been advocated–I can’t recall by whom–that our sleep dreams may actually be real events in an alternate universe.   I doubt it;  that’s too far over the top for my taste.  But the following unusual dream–one I’ve actually had–will serve for now as my final installment of the Quantum Weirdness Primer.   It’s a fitting intro to my next two conjectures, both of which deal with the possible nature of consciousness in relationship to quantum physics.  The dream was short and unexciting, but opened up a Pandora’s box of questions.

The Infinite Office Building

The Flatiron building as it appeared around the time of my father's birth in 1919.  It wasn't actually in the dream, but it's just too cool not to include.

The Flatiron building as it appeared around the time of my father’s birth in 1919. It wasn’t actually in the dream, but it’s just too cool not to include.

I am working in an art-deco era office building in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.  It is a beautiful, clear spring day and the New York skyline fills my panoramic view.  I get up to go to the water cooler when a realization hits me.  This is an infinite office building with an infinite number of floors.  Every floor represents an alternate universe–an infinity of them.   Every possible universe that I could, or possibly do exist in, is here.   I ponder the implications and head toward a back staircase to explore.  Which way should I go? Up or down?  Where will it bring me?  But a chilling thought hits me just as lift my hand to open the exit door leading to the stairs.  What if I can’t find my way back?  Sure, this specific universe that I currently exist in must reside somewhere within an infinity of universes.   But by definition, if I explore starting from this one, there will always be a finite number behind me and an infinite number ahead of me.  I would likely never find my way back within my lifetime, or perhaps even an infinite number of lifetimes.  I lower my hand, go back to my office,  and wake up.

The dream is reminiscent of David Hilbert’s concept of the Infinity Hotel, an explanation of which is in the entertaining short video below.  Strangely enough, I first heard of this idea two weeks after having the Infinite Office Building dream, when I read about it in detail in David Deutsch‘s The Beginning of Infinity.  In any case, the conclusion I reached from my hesitance to explore, was a realization that maybe it really doesn’t matter how many potential or actual universes there are if we are only conscious in one.  Or one at a time.  Or does it?  I’ll discuss these enigmas in my next two Millennium Conjectures, after a finite number of intervening posts.   [Video credit: The Open University]


Tales of a Veterinary Spouse, Episode 2: It swallowed what?

“On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”–Peter Steiner.

Dharma Sackler"I prefer horse poop."

Dharma Sackler
“I prefer horse poop.”

It was 8:30 AM on a Monday morning and my car’s FM radio was blaring the “oldies” station out of Hartford.  I was about to switch channels and look for some jazz, when the DJ’s voice blared out a challenge I simply could not resist.

“This morning, we are asking our listeners to call in and tell us what outrageous or funny things your dog has eaten or swallowed, and we’ll play back the best ones on the air.”

I never call radio stations.  Never.  Well, hardly ever.  This had to be an exception.  I am so getting on the air, I thought, I have a professional advantage.

I did, and the DJ had a field day with it.  Below are my three favorite “I can’t believe it ate the whole thing” stories. The first two were used on the air, the third one Cheryl contributed for this post.

1. Clean insides make great doggie colonoscopy prep.  The owner was panicked.  The dog ate an entire box of Brillo pads!  No kidding.  What to do?  Believe it or not, they were not toxic in the least to the mutt, and they were simply passed within a couple of days.  A freak occurrence, you say?  Well, my wife insists she has seen this at least twice.  Keep your Brillo pads safe–they are very afraid.

2 I now pronounce you dog and wife.  It was an emergency call on a Sunday evening: “My diamond engagement ring is missing,” the dog’s owner lamented, “I laid it on the table and it disappeared a few minutes later.  DoRING you think the dog could have swallowed it?”  Maybe.  My wife instructed the owner to bring the dog in Monday morning for an X-Ray.  There it was, square in the middle of its abdomen.  The extrication solution?  Choice A: megabucks for surgery.  Choice B: follow him around with a pooper scooper for the next few days.  They chose the latter and eventually got the ring back, stinky but none the worse for wear.   My daughter, ever on the uptake with this stuff, took the x-ray to school for the one of the greatest “show-and-tell” stories of all time.  Oh, and by the way, the dog was a schipperke, just like our little imp in the first image above.  Unfortunately, with ours, the horse poop caption is quite literally true.

3. This too shall not pass. The obvious  question, then, for Dr. Sackler, would be to identify the most outrageous thing a dog swallowed that could not pass.  What has she removed surgically that was almost beyond belief?

Answer: An entire rhododendron bush. Well, all the leaves and small stems, anyway.  It seems dogs can stomach Brillo Pads and diamond rings, but rhododendron is quite toxic.  I can’t imagine what that stuff looked like coming out of the dog’s gut.  Check that, I mean I won’t imagine.

Anybody out there have any good stories along these lines?  While I wait for responses, I’ll work on my next actual Millennium Conjecture.  Like that diamond ring, it seems to be lodged in my gut and will likely stay there until I can figure out how to pass it.


Here’s another monthly guest post of mine from The Blog of Funny Names. The name is funny, but the story is not. I guess I get serious–or at least less flippant–when the baseball season approaches.

The Blog of Funny Names

What a mouthful.  Named for six uncles and nicknamed for the family St. Bernard dog that followed him around as a child,  Christian Frederick Albert John Henry David “Bruno” Betzel (1894-1965) was a dead ball era baseball player whose brief career as an infielder with the St. Louis Cardinals spanned the years 1914 through 1918.  Betzel made the majors at the tender of age of 19 and was through by 24.  Normally, a player prodigious enough to make the show as a teenager has a long, even Hall of Fame caliber career.  Robin Yount was the starting shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers at 18.  Al Kaline jumped straight from high school to the Detroit Tigers, also at the ripe age of 18.  I have been unable to find any story recounting why Betzel was washed up so young.   At any rate, his name was truly longer than his career, and…

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Cosmic Quote #17

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”– Carl Sagan

Ponder this.   If Carl Sagan had not existed, would we have to invent him?  If I didn’t exist, would I have to invent me?  If Spandex didn’t exist, would we have to invent fat people in trailer parks to wear it anyway?  [This is where you figure I either need psychiatric help or at least have to get outside more in the winter.]


If there is anything I have learned in my ten months or so of blogging, it is that there are people out there in the blogosphere who are almost as warped as I am. Case in point: Essa Alroc, who won the most recent BLAHS just reciprocated by featuring me on her blog. In keeping with my habit of shameless self-promotion, I now present you with that interview. Warning: the combination of her craziness and mine could cause your computer to explode.

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