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Monday, December 3
by Ron on December 3, 2007 12:14PM (PST)
Thanks to RY Deshpande for referring this article.
SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term "doubting Thomas" well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.
The problem with this neat separation into "non-overlapping magisteria," as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn't be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.
The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do? ... more »
Friday, November 9
by Ron on November 9, 2007 11:11PM (PST)
SMALLER than an atom, they arrive with the energy of a tennis ball served by a champion. When they hit the atmosphere they create showers of daughter particles that zap mountaineers and people in aeroplanes. And no one knows where they come from—nor how, in apparent defiance of the laws of physics, they get to this planet in the first place.
Actually, that last sentence is no longer true. The super-particles in question are a particular type of high-energy cosmic ray and fittingly, given their extreme properties, their origin has now been worked out by a team of 444 researchers from 17 countries, using the biggest piece of scientific apparatus on Earth—the Pierre Auger observatory, which occupies 3,000 square kilometres of western Argentina.
Ordinary cosmic rays are puny things. Indeed, they are not really “cosmic” at all. They originate from various events (supernovae and so on) within the Milky Way galaxy that is home to the Earth. A few, however, are real whoppers—the products of events far more powerful than occur in the Milky Way. These are the tennis-ball equivalents and their existence is a puzzle. ... more »
Wednesday, November 7
by Ron on November 7, 2007 03:28PM (PST)
...In physics, too, there is a Central Dogma, which I have dubbed ‘the evolutionary paradigm’. It is the notion that physics can be neatly divided into a kinematical part, which concerns the description of a physical system at an instant of time, and a dynamical part, which concerns the evolution of a physical system from earlier to later times.
The laws of physics are correlation laws. In classical physics, states are correlated deterministically, so earlier states can be used to predict later states (and later states can be used to retrodict earlier states). Quantum physics correlates measurement outcomes statistically, so earlier measurement outcomes can be used to predict the probabilities of the possible outcomes of later measurements (and later measurement outcomes can be used to retrodict the probabilities of the possible outcomes of earlier measurements). Because the quantum-mechanical correlation laws are genuinely probabilistic, they may not conform to the evolutionary paradigm.
And they don’t. For one thing, the time-symmetry of the laws of physics is at odds with the unidirectionality of the evolutionary paradigm, which has its roots in a physically unwarranted projection into the world of the way we perceive the world. (This casts doubt on the appropriateness of the evolutionary paradigm even for classical physics.) For another thing, the interpretation of a quantum state as an evolving physical state (rather than as a mere computational device) gives rise to no end of pseudo-questions (and gratuitous answers), such as the notorious questions of where and when and how (and with respect to which basis) the wave function collapses ... more »
Wednesday, October 31
by Ron on October 31, 2007 11:56PM (PDT)
I'm reading this book now and am quite impressed by it. Highly recommended!
I have often wondered about the interface of key Buddhist concepts and major scientific ideas. This book is the result of that long period of thinking and of the intellectual journey of a Buddhist monk from Tibet into the world of bubble chambers, particle accelerators, and fMRI. ... more »
Monday, October 29
by Ron on October 29, 2007 11:16PM (PDT)
"...some of the currently fashionable theories... are those involving multiple universes or multiple dimensions. ... Exceedingly popular among quantum physicists and string theorists, these "multiverse" ideas attempt to account for our universe's life-friendliness by proposing that it just happens to be one of billions of other universes that didn't turn out so well. After all, in a "multiversal" ocean of zillions of infinitely varied soap bubbles, they reason, there would have to be at least one with the precise qualities necessary to give rise to living beings like ourselves, and of course, that's the one we're in.
Still other scientists, arguing on behalf of what's known as the anthropic principle—the general idea that our universe's life-friendliness is not a random accident—find this kind of speculation absurd. "To be blunt, in my view, it's just giving up," cosmologist James N. Gardner, author of "Biocosm," told WIE. "It represents a failure to recognize that just as the appearance of a seemingly well-tuned natural world constituted a vital set of clues for Darwin to follow, so, too, does the appearance of a seemingly well-tuned cosmos constitute a vital set of clues that should be pursued." Arizona State University physicist Paul Davis agrees. In his latest book, "Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life," he argues that most theories about a multiverse simply represent a failure of the imagination. He much prefers two alternatives: 1) the idea that there is some kind of implicit life force or evolutionary impulse guiding the emergence of life and consciousness in our universe, or 2) what's been described as Davies' "self-creating universe in a teleological backward causation" theory.
He proposes that the natural laws forged so precisely fourteen billion years ago in the big bang happened to favor the eventual emergence of life because our existence as living beings, here and now, actually fine-tuned them to be that way—retroactively. "Crazy though the idea may seem at first," Davies explains, "there is in fact no fundamental impediment to a mechanism that allows later events to influence earlier events." Invoking arcane mysteries of quantum physics such as entanglement, nonlocality, and the idea that conscious observation plays an essential role in "collapsing" quantum potentials into concrete reality, Davies contends that the presence of conscious observers today is no accident. Our existence, he says, is due to the ability of conscious observations to ripple forward and backward in time, influencing even the quantum fluctuations that took place in the initial nanoseconds of the big bang itself—a time when the laws of physics were still susceptible to subtle tweaking. "If the conditions necessary for life are somehow written into the universe at the big bang," Davies told "New Scientist" last fall, "there must be some sort of two-way link." In other words, the universe may be continually pulling itself up by its own bootstraps—from the future to the past—as a self-correcting, self-contained, and very living system. ... more »
Friday, October 26
by Ron on October 26, 2007 11:59AM (PDT)
In his preface to an earlier SCIY article, RYD commented:
"There is something sweet and endearing with the human touch in these pieces. Could not that human touch become reassuring that, there is hope for us when we engage ourselves in our daily activities with a sense of commitment and conviction, the qualities that can elevate us? ..."
Imo, the following article also has some of that quality. Although it's nearly 10 years old, ongoing experiments are reopening the possibility that so-called cold fusion really does exist. I'll reference some of these recent results in a reply to this article. ~ ronjon
"It was the most notorious scientific experiment in recent memory - in 1989, the two men who claimed to have discovered the energy of the future were condemned as imposters and exiled by their peers. Can it possibly make sense to reopen the cold fusion investigation? A surprising number of researchers already have. ..."
Tuesday, September 18
by Ron on September 18, 2007 11:12AM (PDT)
A paper in the September 14, 2007 issue of Science Magazine, "Lighting the Universe with Filaments," claims that computer simulations disclose that Warm Dark Matter (WDM) would create enormous dark matter filaments that in turn would create sun-like long-life stars that could exist until now.
These simulations also show that Cold Dark Matter (CDM) would only create short-life high-mass stars, typically with a few hundred times the mass of the Sun that would have exploded billions of years ago.
Therefore, a future astronomical discovery of ancient first-generation sun-like stars would support the Warm Dark Matter theory over the Cold Dark Matter theory. This type of research represents a new approach to uncovering the nature of the dark matter of the Universe. more »
Friday, August 17
by Ron on August 17, 2007 06:23PM (PDT)
A new ultraviolet mosaic from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer shows a speeding star that is leaving an enormous trail of "seeds" for new solar systems. The star, named Mira (pronounced my-rah) after the latin word for "wonderful," is shedding material that will be recycled into new stars, planets and possibly even life as it hurls through our galaxy.
Mira appears as a small white dot in the bulb-shaped structure at right, and is moving from left to right in this view. The shed material can be seen in light blue. The dots in the picture are stars and distant galaxies. The large blue dot at left is a star that is closer to us than Mira.
The Galaxy Evolution Explorer discovered Mira's strange comet-like tail during part of its routine survey of the entire sky at ultraviolet wavelengths. When astronomers first saw the picture, they were shocked because Mira has been studied for over 400 years yet nothing like this has ever been documented before. ... more »
Tuesday, August 14
by Ron on August 14, 2007 12:21AM (PDT)
It appears that everybody is interested in cosmology. In one anthropological study, every one of the more than 60 separate cultures examined was found to have several common characteristics, including "faith healing, luck superstitions, propitiation of supernatural beings, … and a cosmology." Apparently, to be human is to care how the physical world came to be, whether it has boundaries and what is to become of it. Modern cosmology is a highly sophisticated subject funded by governments with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It is unquestionably interesting, but is it, even in its modern guise, convincing? ... more »
Thursday, July 26
by Ron on July 26, 2007 12:22PM (PDT)
In appreciation to RY Deshpande, I'm reposting here a portion of one of his recent comments with which I deeply resonated. - ron
...True, devious has been the path of man’s progress and uncertain is the outcome, true also the huge obstacles of mortal space block the hastening lane, and retrograde are the steps of hostile and menacing time; true, indeed, the sages came and the prophets came and the Avatars came, and the gods and goddesses toil for a better cosmic order with the possibility of a greater light dawning in the spiritual sky. But what is the efficacy of the divine working, if it cannot arrest the downward slide, if the divine Power cannot subdue the dreadful terrifying agents that are ever busy creating havoc? Is there a way out? Is there? Can the logjam of the curving and chaotic way be dissolved? And yet something worthwhile must happen. Futile and abortive can never be the heavenly will. Life arose out of engendering grief and pain, and even what is great Negation is only the Real’s face prohibiting the vain process of Time. All might look illusory, ephemeral, contentless, but (Savitri , pp. 600-01):
…Maya is a veil of the Absolute;more »
A Truth occult has made this mighty world:
The Eternal’s wisdom and self-knowledge act
In ignorant Mind and in the body’s steps.
The Inconscient is the Superconscient’s sleep.
An unintelligible Intelligence
Invents creation’s paradox profound;
Spiritual thought is crammed in Matter’s forms,
Unseen it throws out a dumb energy
And works a miracle by a machine. ...
Sunday, July 22
by Ron on July 22, 2007 12:00PM (PDT)
Although somewhat dated (1996-98), this series of articles from the 'New Scientist,' provides a good background for a scientific explanation [Linde and Smolin's evolutionary "multiverse" theory] of the profound mystery of how life began on Earth, given the apparently enormous statistical odds against our universe itself being life-fertile. In fact, our Universe seems to be perfectly "fine-tuned" to foster life.
...This problem of fine-tuning is generally regarded as the biggest difficulty with inflation. It is essentially an example of the Goldilocks effect: why is inflation, like so many other properties of the Universe, "just right" to allow our Universe to exist. But the fine-tuning problem can be resolved by taking on board the idea that the Universe itself is alive and has evolved. A key feature of the argument is that the birth of the Universe-an outburst from a singularity-is essentially a mirror image of the collapse of a massive object into a black hole, which is an implosion towards a singularity. ... more »
by Ron on July 22, 2007 02:00AM (PDT)
I just came across this rather remarkably blog - while doing a Google search for "Higgs Boson /Frank Tippler" (go figure). Enjoy ...
Before I leave the sphere of Language entirely for today, our first day in “History of Literary Theory,” however, I’m going to ask you to focus with me in a very simple way on something I’ve been touching on repeatedly. It’s the way that human beings, even as newborn babies, possess something that I’m going to call “a set toward systemicity.” Newborns orient themselves to the faces of their birth mothers in the first minutes after birth in extraordinarily detailed ways. This has been closely documented. As soon as babies can focus their eyes (two weeks), they try to follow the trajectories of objects passing through their visual range.
If you think about the explosion of sensory inputs the baby must be experiencing when it emerges from the womb into this external world of light and sound and color and touch…. yet in the midst of this assault of chaotic sensory impressions, the baby already has seems to have an orientation toward “concerted” or “constituted” phenomena, toward “stuff that moves in concert” as distinct from “background.” They also know a lot about language structure and distinguish familiar voices. And the baby is already attending to these things months before it has learned the boundaries of its own body and distinguished where they leave off and the rest of the world begins, a process of separation, by the way, that happens through language, because it is through language that they emerging psychologically as a human “self ” that possesses an “I” capable of “knowing.” [Boy oh boy, do I have something to say about the convergence of Douglas Hofstdler’s work and poststructuralism!]
So the human mind is not stocked from birth with Innate Ideas, nor is it a tabula rasa, a “blank slate.” Plato was closer than John Locke, though, because human consciousness does innately set itself toward certain systematicities and orients itself to relevant coherencies, as though this chaotic and changeable world of physical sensations were lit up for us by flashes of white lightning, telling us what to pay attention to. As we notice patternings and fluid or dynamical “moving in concert,” that concertedness is of course not something apparent or apprehendable at any one instant in time. Already we are selecting and comparing and combining sensory impressions across time – whatever time may be – so that “time” is woven in some fashion into all of human “knowing,” from the outset. Language is acquired by human beings only because of this innate genius for orienting our awareness to dynamic coherences and patterns that are both temporal and formal in their constitution.
Furthermore, of course, this means human consciousness has some kind of profound entanglement with time: it is a “time-consciousness.” Time is for human beings always in some sense psychological time (as Augustine knew) – and this statement has nothing to do with it being “subjective” as opposed to “objective” and “external.” (Dated categories, unless they should be redefined and renewed.) Einstein introduced the human observer into physics in a much deeper sense than that; he showed that what we know through physics is always-already what we can know according to our attempts to make measurements, and he realized that this cut the link between genuine human knowing and any claims to an all-inclusive or universal knowing. ... more »
Saturday, July 21
by Ron on July 21, 2007 01:00AM (PDT)
19 Oct 2006. Detail of the sensor from the first half tracker inner barrel (TIB).
... Particle physics stands on the brink of a new era. Research using the LHC will make the first exploration of physics in the TeV energy range. There are good reasons to hope that the LHC will find new physics beyond the standard model, but no guarantees. The most one can say for now is that the LHC has the potential to revolutionize particle physics, and that in a few years' time we should know what course this revolution will take. Will there be a Higgs boson, or not? Will space reveal new properties at small distances, such as extra dimensions or supersymmetry? Will experiments at the LHC cast light on some fundamental cosmological questions, such as the origin of matter or the nature of dark matter? Whatever the answers to these questions might be or whatever surprises the LHC might spring, it will surely set the agenda for the next steps in particle physics. more »
Friday, July 20
by Ron on July 20, 2007 12:05PM (PDT)
University of Washington physicist (and science-fiction author) John Cramer is moving forward with his experiment in backward causality, thanks in part to tens of thousands of dollars in contributions sent in by his fans. Although Cramer emphasizes that his lab is looking at “nonlocal quantum communication” rather than backward time travel per se, the gadgetry he’s assembling could settle a controversy surrounding a seemingly faster-than-light effect that Albert Einstein thought was downright spooky.
Boiled down to its basics, the experiment involves splitting laser light into two beams, so that characteristics of one beam are reflected in the other beam as well. That's an example of what physicists call quantum entanglement. Specifically, Cramer has been planning to fiddle with one of the entangled laser beams such that it takes on the property of waves or particles. If one beam behaves like particles, the entangled photons of light in the other beam should behave like particles, too.
So what happens when the beams go their separate ways, and you conduct a wave-vs.-particle measurement on one beam? When someone else checks the other beam, the same measurement should yield the same result. In fact, you could visualize using the wave-vs.-particle toggle as a means for communicating information, sort of like Morse code. Theoretically, you could check one beam to receive a message instantaneously from whoever is fiddling with the other beam - even if you're separated from the receiver by millions of light-years. ... more »
by Ron on July 20, 2007 11:43AM (PDT)
I'm a Professor of Physics at the University of Washington in Seattle. I do basic research in ultra-relativistic heavy ion physics with the STAR experiment, using the RHIC facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory, colliding gold nuclei to produce systems that look something like the first microsecond of the Big Bang. ...
The idea of synthesizing the Big Bang sound fascinated me. It ran around in my head for a day or so, and I had a growing desire to hear just what the Big Bang sounded like. So one Saturday morning, when I should have been doing something else, I sat down and wrote a 16-line Mathematica program that produced the sound and saved it as .wav files. I downloaded the frequency spectrum measured by WMAP and used it as input data for the program. My PC has a good sound card and a substantial sub-woofer, so it reproduced the .wav file well. When I ran the program for the first time and the sound started in my office, our two male Shetland Sheepdogs, Alex and Lance, came running into the room, barking with agitation. After they had looked around and determined that nothing terrible was happening, they lay down on the floor and listened attentively, giving the Sheltie Stare to my sub-woofer. ... more »
Wednesday, July 18
by Ron on July 18, 2007 09:19AM (PDT)
TOKYO, Jul 18 (IPS) - Reports of radiation leakages at a nuclear power plant, following the Niigata earthquake on Monday, have raised widespread public alarm and dealt a devastating blow to the government’s plans to boost the nuclear power industry, both domestically and abroad.
''The problems now being reported from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant are deeply alarming. They prove that Japan is not prepared for a nuclear power disaster especially during an earthquake and can never be,’’ Prof. Hiroaki Koide, nuclear safety specialist at Kyoto University, told IPS.
The quake left nine people dead, more than 1,000 injured and forced thousands out of their homes and into makeshift shelters. -- Reports trickling out in the aftermath of the 6.8 Richter temblor show that at least 50 adverse events had occurred in the area that had, till now, been considered as a site least likely to be affected by an earthquake. But the epicentre of the quake was less than 10 km away. ... more »
Tuesday, July 17
by Ron on July 17, 2007 01:00AM (PDT)
Thanks to RY Deshpande for referring this article.
Indians' contribution to the development of mathematics has largely been swept under the carpet in global history books. But a BBC crew, led by an Oxford professor, was in the country last week to film a documentary revealing Indians created some of the most fundamental mathematical theories.
The West has always believed that Sir Isaac Newton, famous for developing the laws of gravity and motion, was the brainbox behind key branches of maths such as calculus.
In The Story of Maths, Dr Marcus Du Sautoy, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, claims Indians made many of these breakthroughs before Newton was born. ... more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler