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Cosmic Quote #86

“If it turns out that there IS a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. I think that the worst you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.”–Woody Allen in ‘Love and Death.’

And, as Woody also said: “There is no question there is an unseen world.   The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?”  Anyway, if relativity, evolution and carbon dating aren’t enough to convince you creationism is bunk, consider this.  Even god couldn’t screw humanity up this bad in just 6,000 years.  (Boy am I gonna get hate mail)

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Cosmic Quote #59

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat!”–Lily Tomlin

Per Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus, it would appear that the best strategy for combating the stated dilemma is to simply keep running the race or navigating the maze, lest one stops and realizes how absurd it all is.   I’ll keep at it, if only because I need the cheese.

 

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Conjecture #5: Quantum Solipsism (Part two)

“I’m not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

Part Two:  Quantum suicide and quantum immortality

Warning:  Professional stunt blogger.  Closed course.  Do not attempt at home.

To recap where we left off in our last episode,  the first part of Conjecture #5 suggested that, in a universe where the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics holds sway, each conscious entity represents its own distinct universe.   I called this Quantum Solipsism.  This differs somewhat from Conjecture #4, which suggested that in a universe governed, at least philosophically, by the Copenhagen interpretation,  our consciousness represents a composite of all the potential, but not real, universes.   This brings us to part two of Conjecture #5.

Quantum Immortality

Bold notions can sometimes breed extreme potential consequences.   When Hugh Everett posited the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum weirdness in 1954,  he didn’t just espouse it, he lived it.  He believed that in a world where every sub-atomic event splits off into a real alternate universe for every possible quantum outcome, that one’s own consciousness would always survive in some of them.  Quantum Immortality.  So he ate, drank and smoked himself to an early death–at least in the universe of everyone reading this post–by the age of 51.  His son expressed anger over his father’s failure to take care of himself.  His wife initially did not comply with his wishes to have his ashes disposed of in the trash, though eventually she did.   You think his views are extreme?  Or did he live on forever in a never ending series of alternate universes?  Consider this:  the quantum view of the second law of thermodynamics is purely a statistical one.  The reason all the air molecules in a room never seem to migrate to one corner is purely a matter of probability.  There are  staggering orders of magnitude more ways for them to be relatively evenly distributed.  But if every possible combination of such molecules actually exists as a real entity,  then somewhere  there is a universe where you suffocated last night because the air molecules in your bedroom did exactly that while you slept.   And somewhere, there is a universe where Hugh Everett’s ashes reassembled themselves and he woke up in a dumpster.

Quantum Suicide

This brings us to the ultimate in extreme ideas.  Quantum Suicide.  Originally conceived by Hans Morovec  in 1987 and further developed by Max Tegmark, it is a thought experiment designed to prove once and for all if the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct.    If you recall from my Quantum Weirdness 101-107 series,  the Copenhagen interpretation sees the cat as neither dead, nor alive, until an intelligent observer intervenes.  The Many Worlds interpretation, sees the the creation of two separate universes, one each for a dead cat and a live cat, and the observer only finds out which one he is in when he looks in the box.   The quantum suicide gun re-creates the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment from the point of view of the cat.  Theoretically, it could prove the many world’s interpretation, though there are a couple of hitches.  If Many Worlds holds true,  the subject would be the only one it would be proved to;  if it does not hold true, the subject would be dead, period.  See the video below for a complete explanation, and as stated in the warning above, do not attempt this at home.  I sure won’t.  On the other hand, I can think of a few people I wish would try it…

(Video Credit: AliceandBobTV)

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Conjecture #5–Quantum Solipsism (Part one)

Note:  It has been so long since I published part I of this conjecture, I feel the need to refresh my memory–let alone yours–before completing it with part II.  You can catch up on all my cockamamie speculations by clicking on the “Millenmium Conjectures” category link to the right.

“Cogito Ergo Sum”–René Descartes

“What if god is our dream, and we’re his?”–Christian Bale as Jamie Graham in Empire of the Sun

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

I'm pretty sure I do exist most of the time--with the possible exception of some Monday mornings.   Exist tee shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/tshirts

I’m pretty sure I do exist most of the time–with the possible exception of some Monday mornings. Exist Tee-shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/exist+tshirts

I once overheard a friend explaining the multitude of religious beliefs to her young daughter in following manner.

She said, “everyone believes something different, and everyone is right!”

Really?  This seems to be the ultimate illogical statement in the illogical realm of religious beliefs.  If everybody believes something different, it seems to me infinitely more likely that everyone is wrong.  I won’t get into the implications for religious beliefs in this conjecture, mainly because I don’t care.  Suffice to say that stretched to an outre extreme,  this conjecture does suggest a manner in which everyone could be right.  It’s always fascinated me how different individuals could be so certain of world views that are so diametrically opposed.  Of course, one can tie that to cultural and cognitive differences resulting in seemingly different worlds.  But then maybe we’re all just be living in our own distinct quantum  universes.

At any rate, if Conjecture #4 was a possible ontological extension of The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum weirdness,  the current conjecture–#5–clearly emanates from The Many Worlds Theory.

Let’s be clear on one thing.   In my own head, I’m sitting on the fence between Copenhagen and Many Worlds…a kind of quantum superposition, simultaneously believing both.  But let’s get to the heart of the matter before I get too far ahead of myself.

What, exactly, is solipsism?  The brief dictionary description is simple enough: it’s the notion that only the self exists, or can be proven to exist.  Taken to the limit, it can result in a second definition: extreme self-absorption and egoism.

I don’t buy this and am not suggesting it.  While I’m not 100% certain of anything, external or internal, I still believe that you exist and our interactions do influence each other.   We may be in separate parallel universes, but these planes of existence overlap, in much the same way that these universes interfere with each each other on the quantum level.  (It’s worth noting that the conjecture wording says “distinct different” universe and not “distinctly separate.”)  But the fact remains: if The Many Worlds theory holds true the notion of quantum solipsism in some form must be taken seriously.  It’s as if our observations roll the quantum dice and influence which course through the multiverse each individual consciousness takes.  This notion will be the subject of conjecture #6, though at the rate I am going, this may take place a long, long time from now in a galaxy far, far away.  For more on solipsism including more detailed and nuanced description of it, and its various sub-categories, go here.

In the second part of this conjecture, I’ll deal with two very disturbing and controversial extensions of a “strong” quantum solipsism world view.   Quantum suicide and quantum immortality.  You’ll need to hold on to your metaphysical hats for this one.

And if you don’t get any of this, don’t worry.  I’m just impressed that I used “ontological” in a sentence.

Cheers,

Signature

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Conjecture #5–Quantum Solipsism (Part one)

“Cogito Ergo Sum”–René Descartes

“What if god is our dream, and we’re his?”–Christian Bale as Jamie Graham in Empire of the Sun

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

I'm pretty sure I do exist most of the time--with the possible exception of some Monday mornings.   Exist tee shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/tshirts

I’m pretty sure I do exist most of the time–with the possible exception of some Monday mornings. Exist Tee-shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/exist+tshirts

I once overheard a friend explaining the multitude of religious beliefs to her young daughter in following manner.

She said, “everyone believes something different, and everyone is right!”

Really?  This seems to be the ultimate illogical statement in the illogical realm of religious beliefs.  If everybody believes something different, it seems to me infinitely more likely that everyone is wrong.  I won’t get into the implications for religious beliefs in this conjecture, mainly because I don’t care.  Suffice to say that stretched to an outre extreme,  this conjecture does suggest a manner in which everyone could be right.  It’s always fascinated me how different individuals could be so certain of world views that are so diametrically opposed.  Of course, one can tie that to cultural and cognitive differences resulting in seemingly different worlds.  But then maybe we’re all just be living in our own distinct quantum  universes.

At any rate, if Conjecture #4 was a possible ontological extension of The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum weirdness,  the current conjecture–#5–clearly emanates from The Many Worlds Theory.

Let’s be clear on one thing.   In my own head, I’m sitting on the fence between Copenhagen and Many Worlds…a kind of quantum superposition, simultaneously believing both.  But let’s get to the heart of the matter before I get too far ahead of myself.

What, exactly, is solipsism?  The brief dictionary description is simple enough: it’s the notion that only the self exists, or can be proven to exist.  Taken to the limit, it can result in a second definition: extreme self-absorption and egoism.

I don’t buy this and am not suggesting it.  While I’m not 100% certain of anything, external or internal, I still believe that you exist and our interactions do influence each other.   We may be in separate parallel universes, but these planes of existence overlap, in much the same way that these universes interfere with each each other on the quantum level.  (It’s worth noting that the conjecture wording says “distinct different” universe and not “distinctly separate.”)  But the fact remains: if The Many Worlds theory holds true the notion of quantum solipsism in some form must be taken seriously.  It’s as if our observations roll the quantum dice and influence which course through the multiverse each individual consciousness takes.  This notion will be the subject of conjecture #6, though at the rate I am going, this may take place a long, long time from now in a galaxy far, far away.  For more on solipsism including more detailed and nuanced description of it, and its various sub-categories, go here.

In the second part of this conjecture, I’ll deal with two very disturbing and controversial extensions of a “strong” quantum solipsism world view.   Quantum suicide and quantum immortality.  You’ll need to hold on to your metaphysical hats for this one.

And if you don’t get any of this, don’t worry.  I’m just impressed that I used “ontological” in a sentence.

Cheers,

Signature

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Time Out: Possibilianism

“Our reality depends on what our biology is up to.”–David Eagleman

“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”–David Eagleman

Note: Regular followers of this blog will have noted that I avoid discussions of religion and faith issues herein.  There is a reason for this:  I am not interested in discussing them.  Anyway, if you have read many of my posts you will likely have figured out where I stand on this by now.  However, I am making an exception with this post for a specific reason.  Possiblianism is to faith, what these Millennium Conjectures are to physics and metaphysics.  I am speculating on what might be the answers to unknown questions, based on what we do know about physics and cosmology–all the while keeping an open mind and not drawing any absolute conclusions.

In between theism and atheism lies a vast limbo generally referred to as agnosticism.   While the dictionary definition of agnostic is someone who believes the answer to the question of god’s existence and/or the meaning of life is unknowable, the term is often used more broadly.  The agnostic may be undecided.  The agnostic may not care and consider the question irrelevant.  Some point to such individuals and say they are just too wishy-washy to make up their minds.  The common thread among all of these, though, is that the agnostic sees no firm proof either way.  Along comes Possibilianism, which might be seen as a sort of proactive form of agnosticism.

The term Possibilianism was coined and defined by neuro-scientist and author David Eagleman, in discussion of his book, Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlife.  When asked by an NPR interviewer whether he was a theist or atheist,  Eagleman replied that he considers himself Possiblian.   “I’m open to…ideas that we don’t have any way of testing right now,” he said.  That is a good way of explaining what my Millennium Conjectures are as well.

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I’ve read Sum, which is a compilation of 40 possible scenarios for what happens when we die;  none of these scenarios are typical religious views of heaven or hell,

or atheist views of eternal nothingness.   Many of the scenarios seem over-the-top bizarre.  Except when you stop to think about it.  None of them are really any more preposterous than what most religions already believe.  But all of them do have rather strong moral or philosophical points to them;  they are all excellent fodder for contemplation.   At any rate, it was a best seller that received rave reviews from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The Observer and The Los Angeles Times.  

Below is a short You Tube discussion of the concept by Eagleman.  There are much longer ones available if you have the time and inclination.  As for my ever getting to conjecture #5,  I think I’m finally done with the preliminaries, so, yes, it’s a possibility!

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1001: A Blogging Odyssey

“Blogs are whatever we make them. Defining ‘blog’ is a fool’s errand.”–Michael Conniff

“Blogging is pure vanity.”–Unknown

1001 HITSLet’s not get all misty eyed here, but yesterday The Millennium Conjectures™ passed the 1,000 subscriber threshold.  This presents an opportunity to wax poetic on the nature of blogging itself.  Oh, wait, I forgot–you don’t care, and my poetry stinks.  I’ll spare you the agony;  if you are one of my followers it is probably because of the humor, satire or metaphysics.  Thanks for being here.  Thanks for liking my posts and commenting on them.   The onus is now on me to keep delivering–with a little help from my friends, of course. 😉

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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.

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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]

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Winter rerun: This is Not a Pipe

While I’m out photographing the Spanish countryside today, here’s an apropos rerun of one of my back posts.  What else can I say–other than “this is not a blog?”  

“I am two with nature.”–Woody Allen

This is not a pipe

The Treachery of Images, by Rene Magritte, 1928-29
Ceci n’est pas une pipe. This is not a pipe.

René Magritte’s message is rather unambiguous.  An image of a “thing” is not the thing itself.  But don’t worry, I’m not headed toward a heavy ontological discussion here.  I have a simple question which, believe it or not, my overly opinionated philosophical mind has virtually no idea how to answer.   Maybe one of you out there can help.

I love nature photography.  Flowers, birds, wildlife, oceans, lakes, clouds, mountains, landscapes–you name it, I like looking at these images and they are my favorite to photograph.  Good grief, I’ve even photographed mud puddles and insects.  And yet I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what one would call a nature lover.  I hate gardening and yard work.  I won’t even mow my own lawn as I am allergic to grass pollen. I haven’t been camping in 30 years and only rarely go hiking.  I do spend a good bit of time outdoors, but this is almost entirely involved with playing or watching sports.  It seems that I prefer a well framed image of nature to the actual experience of nature itself.  And to add to the conundrum, this only applies to photographic images.  My preferences in other visual arts tends towards styles or schools–Surrealist (Miró), Social Realist (Hopper), Post-impressionist (Seurat, Rousseau, Van Gogh), Geometric Abstraction (Klee, Mondrian).  (Here is a link to my favorite contemporary artist, Yanick Lapuh.)

I have only just realized this–and really have no strong ideas about why this should be.  A preference for a well-composed image?  Remnants from a childhood anxiety of physical reality?  Or, like Woody, am I just at two with nature?   All you amateur psychologists please provide your opinions by email, snail mail, or pony express.  (Comments herein are OK, too)

Below, three of my personal favorite landscape photographs from my own travels, as well as a couple of representative pieces by Monsieur Lapuh.

(Click on images for full size)

Sideways tree

Sideways Tree. Looking out from the Great Wall of China. Copyright 2006, Mark Sackler

coastline

Costa Rica Coastline. Copyright 2008, Mark Sackler

Loch

A Scottish Loch. Copyright 2010 Mark Sackler

Objection Your Honer, Yanick Lapuh, 1993

Envisioned Solution, Yanick Lapuh, 2006

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