On Divine Intervention and Prideful Ignorance.
I gave up my short career in physics decades ago, after becoming seriously disenchanted with one of its most dangerous applications. Though of course general interest has led me to keep up with developments in the fields over the intervening years. With some amusement at the absurdity of it all, I might add.
Then as the millennium turned, I was prompted to get involved again by way of new theoretics about the nature of consciousness, having witnessed what became the first legally adjudicated ‘Miracle’ of human consciousness ever. Science and medicine had no explanations for what my family and a good number of other people witnessed, so I went looking for possible answers out there on the fringes. There are quite a few of those, including combo theories of cosmology and consciousness so mind-bogglingly complex that they could melt the brains of most people. Including me.
One such theory that caught my attention was developed over a quarter of a century by a Norwegian mathematical physicist named Matti Pitkaanen, who calls it Topological Geometrodynamics, or TGD. It’s definitely a mind-melter, though when I contacted Matti directly I found him pleasantly willing to review the evidence and descriptions of what we’d witnessed, and attempt to explain how this could have been accomplished within the confines of his physical theoretics and application to consciousness. It was the only fringe theory out there that could even have conceivably applied, and once I began to wrap my head around it (once your mind is sufficiently melted it becomes pliable enough to stretch and wrap…) it did begin to make a modicum of sense.
What I liked best about TGD was its reliance upon p-adic primes in its descriptive mathematics. These are infinite numbers, and get around those pesky singularities that crop up at every corner in standard physics, which have been ‘renormalized’ away so conveniently by cheats built into the math. I’ve always considered the infinite (or, if you prefer, eternity) to be all around us all the time – that which provides the counterfactual milieu of our existence inside of and bounded by time. It struck me that approaching the mysteries with a method that embraced the infinite instead of flat denied it might give us a more useful picture of the totality of the reality we inhabit. But that’s just me, of course.
I had to do quite a bit of playing catch-up on knowledge I’d once owned but dumped on purpose, so I spent a bunch of money and bought a lot of books to help my refresher course. Mae Wan Ho’s “The Rainbow and the Worm,” Einstein’s little primer on Relativity, “In Search of Shrodinger’s Cat” by John Gribbin, Feynman’s “Six Not So Easy Pieces,” and Heinz Pagels’ masterful history of physics and cosmology, “Perfect Symmetry.” Plus a couple here and there on strings and membranes, a quick review of Argonne’s hp certification textbook, and ancient (but outrageously expensive) textbooks from my long-ago courses in crystallography and genetics. Supplemented with ample perusings of university sites on the ‘net to catch me up on what’s happened since. It was a self-imposed crash course necessary just to follow the logic a little bit.
Matti’s model describes an 8-dimensional “many-sheeted” spacetime where the kind of counterfactuals that lead folks like Max Tegmark to postulate an infinite number of alternate universes (in order to avoid the one we happen to live in) don’t matter. In a TGD universe – whether physical or just in your mind – there is no essential duality of ‘is’ and ‘is not’ that arises when collapse of wavefunction is believed to occur in a single non-deterministic step. Instead, what you get is a series of collapses through those eight dimensions for the extremal (the manifesting particle) to align its vector to the surroundings. Which makes a lot more sense than a single collapse if you’re talking about an extremal with a “hedgehog” type vector, because such a thing cannot align in a single step without leaving a [Dirac] string to St. Elsewhere, which would tend to suggest that either nothing’s real, or collapse never happens!
Concurrently with that little exercise in email attempts to pick the brain of someone whose brain is at least ten steps ahead of mine, I became aware of the more mainstream – if that word has application to something like this – consciousness theory developed by anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff and mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose called Orchestrated Objective Reduction or Orch-OR. Which, as I investigated further, seemed to borrow quite a bit from Matti’s more fringe theoretics, as if Penrose were as intrigued by TGD as I was but wasn’t willing to go all the way to eight dimensions with it.
That was no doubt wise of Penrose, given that until we can at least sketch things crudely in four dimensions, eight is just unreasonable. If you’re seeking some mainstream consensus as a starting place, at any rate. So I signed up and paid my tuition for the University of Arizona’s web course on Quantum Consciousness with a stable of professors that included Hameroff, David Chalmers, Basil Hiley, Alwin Scott, Jack Tuszinski, and a regular stable of strong AI guys whose money amassed in the age of personal computing and the intertoobs has funded the scientific quest for consciousness since the beginning. I was very excited and hoped to learn a great deal.
I also cheated by giving Matti my log-in so he could follow the course and discussions. He had an actual stake in it, given how much of his theorizing was being borrowed, but he’s way too poor to have paid tuition to the class for himself. I couldn’t pay for two of us (but I would have if I could have), so I just told him if he wanted to say anything, to remember he was signed in as me and try to make it look as dumb as he knew I was. We both learned a great deal, and I suspect one of the admins must have figured out that one of the ISPs signing in as me came from Finland instead of No’ Cackalackie. At any rate, in Penrose’s later tome “The Road to Reality”, he did give Matti explicit credit for seminal ideas he’d borrowed, even though just in a footnote.
Anyway, I read with some fascination a couple of diaries over on Orange yesterday and today about some issues the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has been experiencing as it tries (and tries) to get going on its search for the ever-elusive “God Particle” – a.k.a. Higgs boson, or Wiggly Higgly. The latest is a seagull that dropped some crumbs from a baguette into a hole and caused the most powerful particle-smasher ever built to crash. Unwilling to ever admit that their design engineering is just plain stupid, some of the theorists are now suggesting that God/Higgs is traveling backwards in time to make sure these guys can’t discover him with their expensive new toy.
From the UK’s Times Online article about this silliness,
A particle God doesn’t want us to discover –
Explosions, scientists arrested for alleged terrorism, mysterious breakdowns – recently Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has begun to look like the world’s most ill-fated experiment.
The Kos diaries to this subject are:
Many Worlds, The Large Hadron Collider, and an elusive particle by Cenobyte, and
Time Travel, LSD, Quantum Mechanics and Self-Canceling God Particles by forever-fave opinionator One Pissed Off Liberal.
Now, those of us who do harbor some non-ordinary experiences of reality and beliefs about them don’t tend to have any problems with the idea that God could travel backwards in time if he/she/it/they wanted to. And those of us for whom LSD merely confirmed the validity of alternative perceptual abilities we were born with (Synesthesia), reality was never all that cut and dried to begin with. Sure, the formalizations of all things numinous as inevitably authoritarian dogma in the socio-political world can be logically considered culturally-based corruptions of what Aldous Huxley called the “Perennial Philosophy” describing certain experiences/percepts common to a majority of human beings across all cultural and time-based divides. What I have a problem with lately is the idea that Wiggly Higgly is God.
While it is likely – to my mind – that reality is quite intimately connected to life and the progressive ability of life to grok the details (the ol’ universe just keeps on expanding according to our ability to observe it), I remain entirely unconvinced that smashing atoms is a good way for us to observe anything that pertains to reality apart from ourselves. The more energy they pour into the process, the more odd critters come popping out. They observe not a single one of them directly, but only interpret tracks on film or current registered in electronic detectors. Not only do such standard-issue beasties like quarks not exist in our direct experience EVER, the whole idea that any sub-particle of any atom of matter of any variety contains more mass than the atom itself is simply absurd.
E=mc^2. Einstein, possibly the most intuitively insightful mind life has yet produced, handed us an answer. A clue to the nature of who and what we are. What did we do with the knowledge? Why, we developed ways to destroy the greatest amount of life possible (most bang for the buck), and then we boiled water with it (while also destroying life). Apparently, that’s the best we could do, and it’s not nearly respectful enough to count as anything but complete stupidity in the face of the infinite. Which, according to longstanding legend, is where God lives.
In order to develop the theoretics we call Relativistic Quantum Field Theory, the most accurately predictive scientific theory ever conceived to this point in time, we had to build the toys that make it possible to test the theory. Linear colliders, cyclotrons, and now the LHC. To the tune of billions of dollars’ worth of invested wealth of nations whose economic sleight-of-hand has created way, way more wealth than actually exists on this planet in the form of resources, labor and goods/services. All so these eggheads can play at being demigods themselves, while dissing the idea of any actual deity to whom this might seem a lot like hubris.
Years ago it was an experiment at Brookhaven that hoped to create some black holes and quark-gluon plasmas. A couple of theorists ran the equations and discovered there was a small but not vanishing probability that in the process they’d end up creating a “Strangelet,” which is a particle of matter comprised wholly of strange quarks. Something that doesn’t exist in our universe, and which might – according to them – trigger an instantaneous phase change that would make the entire universe so stable it can’t support life. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet (that we know of).
Now we’ve got time-traveling God particles trying hard to prevent us from creating them in the here and now, apparently (according to the theorists) because doing so is anathema to reality as it exists in the here and now and would lead to the instantaneous destruction of our universe. And us, by the way. Wow.
I personally don’t believe in Wiggly Higgly. I think they got something simple wrong way back on the first blackboard, and just haven’t noticed yet that their whole extrapolation is wrong because of it. I do expect them to be able to produce any old kind of exotic non-matter they’ve got enough energy to produce by smashing atoms and particles, because energy and mass share an equivalence. Which means, basically, so what? None of it exists in reality, so what’s the point? So I don’t expect they’ll destroy the universe with Higgs. But I’m not so brave I’d bet against them being able to create such a beastie just because they think they can. I’ve a more pertinent question to ask…
Why is it that this sort of expensive playtime is allowed to threaten the very existence of all life on earth and/or the universe just so they can challenge a God they don’t believe exists in the first place? I mean, if they DID believe in God, they might have an out by telling We Who Pay The Bills that God won’t ever let them actually destroy the universe, so it’s no big deal. And perhaps there’s faith enough out there in the wider world to support such a position. But they don’t believe in God – as evidenced so graphically by their pretense that the Great Unknown that imparts mass to matter must be equivalent to the Creator of All. That’s a pitiably junior league God. So who/what then are they wagering our very existence against?
These are the type of humans who mind-created and then developed the Damocles Sword that has been held by a hair over all our heads from the moment we were born. Surely if science at this level were so wondrously progressive and aimed toward making life better for all it wouldn’t have been so immediately turned into the epitome Weapon of Mass Destruction. Did scientists sell their souls to the devil, if the devil is the palpable evil humanity is forever capable of? Do they still sell their souls to evil writ large? The answer to that looks to be a resounding yes.
The weirdest part of the whole thing is that we let them do this sort of shit. As if their foolhardy wagers are okay with us (should anybody bother to ask). As if the monsters they create and set loose on the world somehow make them worthy of praise from the lesser beings whose lives they don’t mind destroying for a few moment’s intellectual pleasure in daring God. That’s plain sadistic. And we’re masochists for putting up with it.
In the end, I guess what I most want to say is that I’ve explored this world on a lot of levels, and experienced things that inform me that our insular little cocoons of sociocultural awareness don’t describe the totality of reality in any meaningful way. That there’s more going on than either science or religion can quantify and impose upon our direct experience by authoritarian means (and threats). We have a modicum of power in our own lives, and too many people believe they don’t. So they never get to exercise it in such a way that their lives are enhanced instead of destroyed.
I believe God can indeed travel through time if he wants. I also believe that from a god-like point of view, traveling through time is entirely unnecessary. We – and all the most serious eggheads among the human population – have no fucking idea what time really is. Heck, we don’t even know how many dimensions of space[time] describes the totality of the reality we get to inhabit for our short little lives in time! For conscious beings so limited in knowledge, we’re amazingly proud of our ignorance. So proud that we’ll threaten existence itself just to seize a theorized exchange particle by the horns as a way of bottling God for our own amusement (and future WMD designs).
I think that’s extremely shameful. If there is a God, I hope he/she/it/them has a means of circumvention that doesn’t include ending life and evolution and the universe itself. Only humans would threaten such a thing, if one considers the Flood to be fanciful storytelling about an entirely natural event. A Creator would have more respect for creation than that. Perhaps even have enough of a sense of humor about the absurdities to cause a random seagull to drop baguette crumbs down a hole and shut the whole damned thing down… §;o)
…that we’ve got the wherewithall to challenge gods to duels.
I have too much to do today to read this with the attention it deserves, and you knew posting this would be like dangling dope in front of a junkie and saying here you go – the first ones free.
Didn’t you? 😉
…apparently disparate lines of thought (consciousness!) together, it’s about the extremal. Matti doesn’t name his, Penrose is inordinately fond of one we can never hope to find – the graviton. As for me, the multi-staged collapse looks to work with any ‘hedgehog’ extremal(s) we haven’t yet observed but theorize might well be running the whole show.
If you’re interested, google “magnetic monopole” to get a handle on the vector weirdness and the Dirac string it leaves when attempting to align with a pre-existing reality. It is reasonable to surmise that all extremals at the extreme end of the scale are hedgehogs. What we call them is up to whoever gets to do the naming.
i am so very over my head with this. you need an “executive summary for humanities students and other imbeciles” like me.
I like that phrase. Seems to be applicable to modern physics as well as ancient religion. The Monotheistic Diety sure has tied us up in knots the last few thousand years.
I guess unravelling him/her is a way to untie ourselves.
It would be very disappointing however, if it were to become clear that our two thousand years of religious wars were completely unnecessary, because some baguette crumbs got stuck on Moses’s beard.
I enjoyed the essay, even though I understood only about half of it.
Well, if God can travel thru Sarah’s tailbone without hitting any brain cells, I’m thinking He can do anything. ;-7
Heisenberg’s Theory of Uncertainty here because I’m uncertain just what the Heisenberg you are talking about.
Are you expressing concerns that the LHC particle experiments are going to unleash a “God” that should be left alone, that, being the theory that it could produce small black holes that could end the world and reality as we know it? That mortal man is playing with something we shouldn’t as we did with splitting the atom? Please don’t be afraid to school me if I’m wrong and please do it in terms that we can understand, as I be a dumb ass and only understand a little of this.
Is it possible you could tell us of the event that sent you back down the path of seeking explanations?
In hedgehogs and other mammals with neuroses provoked by extremal conditions, the data obtained have shown that the compensatory role of hypothalamus neurohormones at the disturbances of Higher Nervous Functions is increased in the process of evolution.1
If God would just appear to me, I would slap him in the face with a glove and challenge him to a duel. Choice of weapons: kindhearted deeds commensurate with our respective abilities to accomplish them. I might lose, but maybe God would do some serious miracles before sending me to Hell in a handbasket filled with hormonal hedgehogs.
that “consciousness” is somehow something separate from the rest of us and the world and is “located” a little bit behind our eyes. Personally I don’t believe a word of it, and it’s too easy to show that everything and everyone “in” the universe could not ever have come “into” the universe (the simple definition of “universe” being everything everywhere that is, has been, and will be makes that as plain as the nose on my face at least to me, and makes time travel probably a regular occurence) so must come “out” of it, and that like leaves on a tree or waves on an ocean is a “localized” expression of the whole shooting match.
And then there is the first law of thermodynamics: no one here gets out alive, or goes anywhere when we think they do either.
But that’s just me.
So there. 😉