Using predictions made by the French Urbain Le Verrier, Johann Galle at the Berlin Observatory discovered Neptune in 1846. The amateur astronomer William Lassell spotted one of its Moon, Triton, 17 days after Neptune’s discovery. Which pitch would have Boethius assigned to Neptune, had he known about the blue planet? Today Neptune is said to have 14 moons, all captured objects. Would the existence of Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto have transformed Kepler’s musical composition? Has anyone tried since to build on his original work? Beyond what is possible to be reasonably thought, beyond consciousness, Neptune already existed in the background, waiting to be spotted to join the symphony.
Neptune and Triton (NASA/JPL/USGS)
Johannes Kepler lived at a time when astronomy and astrology collided. He was a proponent of a “theory of astrology freed from superstition”. He lived coincidently through another great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. I wonder how astrology relates to astronomy. Can the Sun and other celestial objects revolving around it have an impact on humans’ behavior? The late integration of Uranus, followed by Neptune and Pluto to the astrological discourse and the reverse status of Pluto —which is no longer recognized as a main planet but rather as a Kuiper belt object— makes it all the more doubtful that astrology could be a reliable system of knowledge.
If, for example, Pluto’s influence is based on its size, it is actually less massive than Jupiterian moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, Neptune's Triton, and Saturn's Titan. If it is because it revolves around the Sun, it begs the question of whether the addition of all the Trans-Neptunian Objects and comets would make astrological data more accurate. To keep up with the flow of astronomical discoveries, Ceres, Chiron, Pallas, and Juno were later added to the astrological discourse.
Maybe the difference between astronomy and astrology stems from the difference between the physical world and the experiential world. Because of its lack of operational efficiency, we have assumed that astrology doesn’t work. As a scientific study, astronomy explains the cosmos’ physical characteristics, while astrology intends to frame how we experience it. In her 2018 book entitled Error and Loss, Ashley Curtis outlined her intuitive approach to reality and claimed that “reason has become our chief instinct”, but “not because it leads to knowledge of an objective reality, but simply because it works”. This “idea of reason as so transparently truth-delivering that it needs no justification” is an evolutionary advantage that we have embraced. The problem with reason is that it reflects our assumptions about what we consider reasonable more than reality itself. She concludes that “our real search for truth and meaning cannot but be experiential.”
I usually shy away from words like truth, for I am unsure that there is an ultimate truth, and I believe in myriads of bits of experience and feeling in the Universe, each with their own subjective view. Truth isn’t on the list of words, like avoidance, nothingness, and beyond, that cast a spell on me, for my truth is beyond. Beyond distance, beyond the horizon. Beyond the reach of imagination, beyond the heliosphere. Beyond appearance, beyond physical reach. Beyond the known world, beyond our earthly life. Beyond ourselves, beyond the grave. Beyond reality, beyond possibility. Beyond hope, beyond illusions. Beyond limits, beyond understanding. Beyond individual needs, concerns, bubbles, and beyond the visible.
But I agree with Ashley Curtis’ conclusion that to satisfy our search for answers, “rather than reasoning towards ultimate propositions” with a mathematical or philosophical language, “we need to experience as deeply, richly, fully as we can.” And that’s where I sense Thomas’ experience with consciousness comes in if we are to believe that within ourselves lies a blueprint of the solar system, if not the Universe. If there is such a thing that resonates inside us and lies within the dynamic interaction with the physical Universe, the individual consciousness may feel isolated because reasoning has drifted apart from feeling. That resonance might help explain the nature of astrological influence.
We are left with a licence to enchantment.
Ashley Curtis, Error and Loss
Still soaked in a Keplerian atmosphere, I wonder about the Universe's sense of harmony. In astrological terms, I am Neptunian for my love of the unknown and my exploration of the foreign. Neptune is the eighth and most distant planet of the solar system. It may have been formedby core accretion much closer to the Sun,in a colder part of the solar nebula than Jupiter and Saturn. It may even have switched position with its companion Uranus. Now located at around 930 million miles away from Uranus, 30 times as far from the Sun as Earth, it takes 165 Earth years to orbit the Sun.
Mercury, Venus, Earth and Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune (NASA/JPL)
Neptune, whose apparent size in our sky isroughly a factor of 10 smaller than Jupiter and Saturn, has at least five main rings and four more ring arcs, which areclumps of dust and debris likely formed by the gravity of a nearby moon. It experiences seasons just like Earth does. Are they seasons of feeling such as those painted by Frank Weston Benson (in the circular panels on the South wall of the Library of Congress building)? Does Neptune feel the joy of anticipation during spring and the urge to possess in summer? Is its joy waning in the fall? And does it learn to embrace acceptance in winter? Each of the four seasons lasts for over 40 years.
Overall, many questions remain notably about the nature of the interaction between Neptune's very shallow ionosphere, its thermosphere, and magnetosphere and about the processresponsible for the elevated temperatures observed in the upper atmosphere. We may have to wait until the 2030s or beyond for ESA or NASA to send a spacecraft with anatmospheric probeto orbit the sub-giant. Until then, next-generation telescopes like the James Webb will provide more clues. So far, we have remotely observed that its envelope possesses highly supersolar metallicities. It is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium with smaller fractions of heavy elements such as carbon in the form of methane. In1991, it was determined that Neptune emits around 2.6 times the energy it receives from the Sun, which is the highest of any planet in the solar system. That is what gives it that overluminous appearance. Methane, in particular, gives Neptune its blue color. After all, I may be Neptunian, for blue is the color of my heart.
The three rings of Love and Light. Each for a maiden so pure and bright. Winter, Spring, and Fall.
Happy is the Lady of Flowers to have the man of her dreams, her hair like black silk, her skin like golden sun flowers, her words that flow like crystal clear rivers, her smell is lilacs and honey. Sweet to taste. Luscious is she.
Precious is the Lady of Snow. So fragile and clean. Pure in heart and clearly serene, her pale white skin twinkles in the night, her hair is curly. Love at first sight of the Stellar star night. Her words are cold but her heart is warm enough to kindle a fire. Her lips enticing to love. To welcome new life and Spring.
How great is the Lady of Colors to hold all three rings. Of Love and Light. To give them out and not think twice. Her voice is Music to Ones ears to make a Man fall head over heels. She knows the time to love and she knows the time of fear. She paints the leaves and the sky. She moves like a beautiful dance. She knows the time to be cold; she knows the time to be lukewarm. Her hair is of burning fire. Lovely is she and always in my heart is tied with three rings. Platinum, diamond, and gold.
I give to One of them. Never to part. The One I love across the hall left her clothes in my heart. The One that walks in the nights hall hides to Ones dismay. I look for the One I love just to find there all from Heaven above. I can smell the One in my dreams. At first sight is everything. How can I love another so beautiful and stellar? Free me from these earthly desires with a halo above my head. I pick the One in Heaven instead even though he hides in the dark, dying from a broken heart...
Three rings of Love by Hunter Anderson
Melancholy, or the Spirit of Man in Search of the Secret of the Universe. This Dürer’s etching, dating from 1514 according to the numbers in the square in the top right corner, depicts man contemplating the nature of the world in the state of melancholy, which in medieval times was associated with black bile and the planet Saturn. The winged man prefigures Johannes Kepler’s interrogations as he calculates how to express the underlying harmony of the cosmos using spheres and polyhedra. The bright light in the sky is the great comet that was observed in the winter of 1513-1514 (Jean-Pierre Luminet, Science, Art and Geometrical Imagination)
I do prefer poetry, for poets are drawn to sensible harmonies. Poetry senses bits of feeling, describes what the eyes of the mind see, turns ideas on their heads, and whispers sounds of freedom. To the caterpillars unaware of butterflyhood who believe that all experiences can be explained rationally, the irreverence of poetry leads the way. In the midst of fragmented reality where everything we encounter becomes one thing or another, with each thing outside the other, and all things separate from one another, authentic wholeness flows into the whole through the parts and back again.
This two-year blog has been an interstice of unreason and will be briefly felt, then passing in the timeless Universe. It has undertaken a long work of understanding and incorporating an infinite number of points of view on the nature of the bond between the Universe and Consciousness. It is meant to initiate a dialogue with sensitive beings and creative souls and will continue to unfold like an imaginal puzzle that makes sense on one level, nonsense on another. I let readers decide where reality hides and fiction lies and I thank those who have joined this dialogue. Your perspective on the subject is inspiring.
Allen Ginsberg entered a state of reverie while reading William Blake’s poem ‘Ah Sunflower’ in his New York apartment. The atmosphere changed and he heard the voice of Blake read out the verse. He spent his life trying to recapture that feeling through poetry, altered states and spiritual practices, recognizing that Blake was his guru.
Lately, I wonder whether the Universe communicates with sounds of music, sounds that cannot be uttered in words. As with Boethius who assigned a specific pitch to each planet, could the Earth be a soundscape made of ringing rocks responding to echoes of singing stars and faraway planets? There is a buzzing in our ears of multiple flows into one flow, strings of the Universe. Our inner infinity, endless depth within, reflects the endless depth of the Universe. Human Consciousness meets that of the Earth and the Sun and the Universe in the imaginal realm where imagination takes on genuinely transcendental capacities that allow making contact with what appears to be an entirely different order of mind or consciousness.
The Earth is one whole, living system: aspects of its cosmic environment impinge upon it, and effects in the terrestrial geology create further effects in its meteorology. Changes in its magnetic envelope can funnel further influences back to its geology. The whole system, as it resonates. All those forces and reactions play back and forth, creating responses, changes and echoes in all terrestrial structures and processes, from the most dense to the most subtle.
To Eduard Heyning, the idea of ‘star music’ is a gateway to a different understanding of the Universe and a vehicle for a shift to another level of consciousness. In our search for the heart of the Universe, the depository of its soul, one fundamental principle of Pythagorean thought is the music of the spheres connecting music, mathematics, and celestial phenomena. Do stars, galaxies, and other bodies and aggregates like filaments make noise by friction as those emanations of light and sound rub on particles moving through the medium of spacetime?
Ptolemy’s Harmonicssynthesized musical learning on a scale comparable to his astronomical work. Boethius bespoke a philosophy of number that seeks to describe the order of the Universe as it was known at the time in its most basic terms. When we talk about fundamentals of reality, it seems that we have been looking for them all along. Today, what we call theory of everything was yesterday a theory of harmony whose goal was to combine mathematics, geometry, music, astronomy, and philosophy. The growing knowledge of our ever-expanding spatiotemporal surroundings has, continually, shifted the focus of our attention, but our intent remains the same. Poets and musicians alike rather have the expression of this order rendered into musical terminology while mathematicians, and scientists in general, wish to transcribe it into mathematical terms. The ultimate question is whether we all are fools trying to find order in the workings of a clueless Universe that reveals itself by expressing itself. Idealists look for harmony; realists just want to make sense of it all. I wish to go back to that sort of authentic wholeness in our search for answers.
Figure of Lady Philosophy crowned and seated on a throne with seven maidens who represent the disciplines of dialectic, rhetoric, grammar, music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy (Herrad of Landsberg Hortus Deliciarium, f.32)
Boethius distinguished three forms of harmony. The first kind, musica mundana, derives from the heavenly bodies’ harmonious movements, the balance of the four elements, and the seasons’ cyclical succession. Later on, in the footsteps of his predecessors, Kepler intended to reveal the harmonies in nature and in the motions of what was known at the time of the Universe. He proposed elaborate theories, beyond counting numbers, that connect geometry to music. He defined a string (chord) to be “not the line subtended by an arc of a circle, as in geometry, but any length which is capable of emitting a sound.” As a sound is elicited by motion, he added, a string is “to be understood in the abstract in reference to the length of any motion whatever, or to any other length whatever, even if it is conceived in the mind.” He asserted the necessity of the soul in order to establish the essence of harmony. Therefore, Kepler instilled a metaphysical ingredient in the relationship between numbers, geometry, and music.
For it is indeed difficult to abstract mentally the distinctions, types, and modes of the harmonic proportions from musical notes and sounds, since the only vocabulary which comes to our aid, as is necessary to expound matters, is the musical one.
Johannes Kepler, The Harmony of the World
During the Romantic era, absolute music was defined as something that “cannot be heard with the ears, because it is pure form.” It is an abstract construct, “an idea that can be imposed on any object.” Eduard Hanslick writes that in the psyche of the one who listens, the beautiful in music unites “with all other grand and beautiful ideas.” Music affects the psyche as a “sounding reflection of the great motions of the cosmos.” And as Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out, we may regard the phenomenal Universe and music "as two different expressions of the same thing, which is therefore itself the only medium of their analogy, so that a knowledge of it is demanded in order to understand that analogy.” If regarded as an expression of the Universe, music “is in the highest degree a universal language, which is related indeed to the universality of concepts, much as they are related to the particular things.” Schopenhauer went on to say that music is the direct copy of the will itself. We might just as well call the Universe “embodied music as embodied will.”
…the sound of ‘star music’ will always elude rules, notation, recording, or reflection, because its truly magical, extratemporal quality is only present in the moment of its performance, and in the awareness of those who are really present.
Cosmic consciousness is a shadow inside the Universe. It defines the vibratory nature of all the bits of experience that compose its music. Musicians like Eduard Heyning bent an ear to hear sounds of harmony externally and echoes within. How to make music in tune with the cosmos is their neverending quest. While, for some, the Universe displays a geometric structure, shaped like a dodecahedron with flat mirrors reflecting endlessly, for poets who are tamers of imagination, the Universe is a poem and humankind, a forest of walking brains.
Nice complementary article by EarthSky posted on January 25th, 2021 with an artist's animation posted on YouTube from the Southern European Observatory.
If I was to say what you seek is already here. What you have longed for is written in every star and planet. Every mountain and valley. Your self-conscious thought bound to the light that it has seen when in your mind was manifested in a very majestic scene the image of every single thing. Everything has its place and its time like clockwork in thought that preexisted time. Consciousness is only after the sub-thought that you exist and I am existing, for I am implicit. “I don’t remember how I got here. I don’t remember where I came from. But when I get to where I am going, I will remember to hold my head up high. I may remember my birth, my life and death... but you will recall all the rest. Has this dream stopped?”
Mircea Eliade, Two Tales of the Occult
Kripal, Authors of the Impossible on Frederick W. H. Myers
Johannes Kepler, The Harmony of the World, translated by Alistair Matheson Duncan, E. J. Aiton, Judith Veronica Field
Boethius, Boethian Number Theory, A Translation of the De Institutione Arithmetica by Michael Masi
Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea
Eduard Hanslick's On the Musically Beautiful, A New Translation by Lee Rothfarb
The overview presented in the previous post has set the stage for our next inquiry into our part of the Solar system. As we wait for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope to be operational, the vast majority of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are presently discovered by a small number of dedicated surveys such as NEOWISE, the Catalina Sky Survey, and Pan-STARRS. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that is now permanently closing played a big part in the planetary defence since it contributed to monitoring the close approach of asteroids, along with Goldstone DSS-14 and DARPA’s Space Surveillance Telescope. Coincidently, the Spitzer Telescope, whose mission included the study of asteroids, was also decommissioned earlier this year in anticipation of the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021.
Approximately 50 % of the objects are discovered before the closest approach and 50 % afterwards, primarily as the objects are approaching from the direction of the Sun and are not observable in the day-lit hemisphere using telescopic surveys.
The current rate of discovery is far exceeding progress in physical characterization that is essential to help inform hazard assessment. The Solar system’s small bodies are often regarded as more primitive relics dating back to the early stages of the Solar system. The Near-Earth Objects, whose number is -- I recall -- at around 24 000, are predominantly replenished by leakage from the main asteroid belt. The threat posed by asteroid families is mitigated by the fact that the large icy-body reservoir of the Kuiper belt is bounded on the inside by Neptune’s ability to keep asteroids at bay, while objects in the main asteroid belt may be subject to minor dynamical erosion and potentially destructive collisional activity.
Dedicated algorithms are in charge of orbit determination and risk assessment for any detected NEO, but their efficiency is limited in cases in which the object has been observed for a short period of time, as is the case with newly discovered asteroids and imminent impactors.
Beyond the mere possibility of an asteroid falling on our heads, there seems to be a legitimate concern regarding the instability of the asteroid families. A disruption within one of them could have repercussions on the future of humankind. The problem is that each time an asteroid experiences a close encounter with another object, it impacts its path and evolution. Although a cataclysmic event on a global scale is unlikely, it is anticipated that small impactors rushing through the atmosphere in the form of fireballs will continue to occur.
Given the current data, it is estimated that a space object sized between 1.5 and 2 km represents a threshold for a global catastrophe, which could result in the death of even a quarter of the world’s population.
A paper by Radosław Bielawski, published this year in Security & Defence Quarterly, observes that asteroids less than 50 to 100 meters across rarely impact the Earth as a single body. They instead explode in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, their detonation can still cause substantial damage. During the entry phase, the atmospheric friction causes objects to decelerate and pick up temperature. Owing to their insufficient size, they enter the atmosphere as fireballs whose fragments may occasionally be found on the ground.
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are asteroids at a distance equal or less than 0.05 au, which is about twice the distance to the Moon. Apophis appears to hold a special status among potentially hazardous asteroids. On April 13th, 2029, it will pass at about 0.0002561 au, which is 1/10of the distance to the Moon, less than 24 000 miles from the Earth, according to NEODyS-2 and JPL Small body database. For sure, it will be an amazing opportunity to watch and study a passing asteroid since it will be visible to the naked eye in Europe, Africa, and West Asia.
In a white paper published this year, Richard Binzel of MIT and over 40 scientists urge NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office to plan for the appropriate investigations of Apophis during its flyby of the Earth. An asteroid as large as Apophis coming that close to the Earth is, on average, a once-per-thousand-year event. It is estimated to be 5000 times more massive than the Chelyabinsk meteor that caused damage to nearly 7 500 buildings in 2013.
Apophis with a diameter of about 370 meters will be closer to us than orbiting geosynchronous satellites. While it is expected to pass by the Earth and the Moon safely, weather satellites and NASA observatories will be in the front row. Not only launcher stages and inactive spacecraft that are often left into orbits could pose the risk of impacting and contaminating celestial bodies such as Apophis, but the asteroid could potentially bump into space debris, setting off a chain of reaction.
The blue dots are the many man-made satellites that orbit the Earth (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Furthermore, the crumbling asteroid designated P/2013 R3 -- whose picture I published in my previous post -- got me wondering whether Apophis could break up and throw a few meteorites in our way. P/2013 R3 disintegration may have been caused by the effect of sunlight and internal fractures that were the result of past collisions. A paper suggested that a fireball observed over Kyoto on April 28th, 2018 was indeed produced by the nearby binary near-Earth asteroid (164121) 2003 YT.
P/2013 R3 (NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA))
Measuring seismic vibrations inside Apophis might warn us of any threat in that regard. We are -- as it was clearly stressed by the authors of the white paper -- still ill-informed of what impact, if any, Earth’s physical interactions could have on Apophis. Could they trigger a change in its orbit? The greatest uncertainty lies in our lack of knowledge of the internal structure of potentially hazardous asteroids. In order to measure seismic activity, plans should be made to place a seismometer on Apophis.
Beyond Apophis, among worldwide efforts to address space threats in the future, a 2019 paper reports the design, construction, and training of a relatively simple neural network aimed at classifying asteroids with the potential to impact the Earth over the coming 20 000 years. Another study evaluates the observability of Near-Earth Objects with the EISCAT 3D radar currently under construction in Northern Scandinavia, in particular for the detection and observation of mini-moons.
The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission (NEOSM) is another NASA mission concept in the formulation phase designed to find and characterize the majority of NEOs that could cause severe regional damage. ESA is also developing the infrastructure for the NEOSTEL Fly-eye telescope that will provide by 2030 early warning for hazardous asteroids. Finally, a paper last month outlined a mission concept aiming to perform close flybys of a series of NEOs with a camera and a LIDAR on board of spacecrafts. Could such a concept be implemented by 2029?
Although the sky falling on our heads is not of immediate concern, fragments of comets and asteroids continuously bombard our planet. As of today, there are over 24 000 Near-Earth asteroids. Of those, less than 10 000 are larger than 140 meters in size and 891 are larger than 1 kilometer in diameter. On its Earth Impact Monitoring page, NASA lists the impact probability for some known objects that may pose a threat. In the near future, 2009 JF1’s trajectory is predicted to be the closest to Earth in May 2022. It is a small asteroid about 13 meters in diameter whose odds to hit Earth are calculated at 0.026%. While Bennu poses a threat 150 years from now, its diameter is half a kilometer, and its chance of Earth impact is higher at 0.037%. In the goal to demonstrate asteroid deflection for the first time, the binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos is the target of the DART spacecraft. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will be launched in the summer of 2021 and will deliberately crash into the binary’s moonlet Dimorphos a year later to alter its speed. As a result, it is expected to change the binary’s trajectory.
NEODyS is an ESA-sponsored site with a risk list of 1128 Near-Earth asteroids. Just in the next 30 days, 20 known asteroids will move closer to the Earth. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a national research center managed for NASA by Caltech, provides orbit diagrams for their trajectory. Most objects today burn up in our atmosphere. Some, however, particularly those larger than a few meters, could pose a threat not only to the Earth but to other planets of the solar system. Every two years, asteroid experts from across the globe come together to simulate a fictional but plausible imminent asteroid impact on Earth.
2014 AA (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSS-Univ. of Arizona)
While some disintegrate before our eyes, there are still objects unaccounted for that may be outside the range of observation, the limit of detection or the capabilities for identification, such as 2014 AA that hit the Earth’s atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean about 20 hours after its discovery. While four, including 2014 AA, have reached the Earth’s surface over the past ten years, the asteroid named 2020 HS7 came close to the geostationary ring. Since the 14th of November 2020, another small asteroid, about 10-meter long, now designated 2020 VT4, holds the record of the closest non-impacting asteroid. Its closest approach happened about 370 km above the Pacific Ocean to the East of French Polynesia.
Hubble Witnesses an Asteroid Mysteriously Disintegrating ( NASA Goddard)
An asteroid’s brightness results from the scattering of sunlight by its surface. How bright the asteroid truly is depends on its size, shape, orientation, and surface scattering properties.
I have previously mentioned that asteroids are an incredible source of information in regard to any elemental and molecular signatures of life. Terrestrial impacts are believed to occur before the onset of significant environmental and biological changes. Most asteroids have irregular shapes. Scientists evaluate their brightness, geometric form, diameter and rotation period. The Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) conducts an all-sky infrared survey to gather data for the past seven years. Some objects, though, have dynamical properties that fall outside the window detectable to NEOWISE. A manual search through over five years of NEOWISE survey data has resulted in the discovery of 299 more Near-Earth objects.
… our new finding suggests that the flux of extra-terrestrial bioavailable elements might also have influenced marine biogeochemical cycles, marine redox states, severe perturbations to Earth’s climate system, and the emergence of animals.
Evidence of cataclysmic events on the Earth fades away because of weathering and erosion. A massive global-scale erosion event coincident with major episodes of globally extensive “Snowball Earth” glaciation resulted in the almost complete absence of terrestrial craters older than 650 million years. Since the Earth-Moon system has been co-evolving over 4.5 billion years, asteroid showers have occurred not only on the Earth but also on the Moon. Traces of meteorites and lunar craters are evidence of those past events. Asteroid evolution models suggest that the contribution of kilometer-sized impactors from a large parent-body disruption would have reached their new level within a few tens of millions of years of the breakup events, with the wave of bodies perhaps receding after hundreds of millions of years. Disrupted asteroids within families provide opportunities to study disruption processes for which real-time observations are relatively lacking.
Locations of the 102 validated flashes observed by the NELIOTA project (ESA, NELIOTA)
Since March 2017, ESA’s Near-Earth object Lunar Impacts and Optical TrAnsients (NELIOTA) has detected over one hundred flashes of light produced when asteroids collide with the lunar surface, where they are easiest to observe -- on the dark side of the Moon not illuminated by the Sun. A 2020 report studied 59 lunar craters whose production stretches over 3 billion years based on two models. The Eulalia family, considered to be the parent body of asteroids Bennu and Ryugu27, could have produced an impact spike between 830 and 800 million years ago, resulting in the formation of small lunar craters as well as on other terrestrial planets and satellites inside the asteroid belt. The paper concludes that an object 30 to 60 times greater in mass than the Chicxulub asteroid impactor -- that changed the course of our planet history 66 million years ago -- must have collided on the Earth around 800 million years ago. However, the report raises the possibility that some lunar craters, including Copernicus named after the famous astronomer, were actually formed around 660 million years ago when sporadic meteorite bombardment occurred across the whole Moon, possibly due to the disruption of asteroids.
Not all end up passing by or burning up in the atmosphere. A tiny fraction of asteroids sticks around as they become temporarily captured by the gravity of Earth-Moon system. The capture is always temporary due to interactions with the gravity of the Sun and other massive solar system bodies. An asteroid --known as Minimoon 2020 CD3 -- was captured by the gravitational field for two years until it appeared to have left the Earth-Moon system in mid-2020. It had a longer duration than the 9-month capture duration averaged over the minimoon population. Determining its origin remains unclear. 2020 CD3 may have been the product of the fragmentation of a larger parent asteroid from the inner Main Belt.
For an octopus, its arms are partly self - they can be directed and used to manipulate things. But from the central brain’s perspective, they are partly non-self too, partly agents of their own.
Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, 2016, p.103
Travelling Snake Dreaming in the Sandhills with Dancing, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
To me, agency is, with entropy, one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. There is that which acts and that which is acted upon. The invisible flow of magnetic fields appears never to act, yet it acts upon everything in the Universe, influencing the paths of charged particles around us, the Earth, the solar system, and the galaxies. The many kinds of agency encompass a range of possibilities within the Universe’s causal design. Borrowing the concept from the field of anthropology, agency entails more broadly the setting of physical associations, more or less durable connections, and crossroads where not only choices are made but “provisional repositories” are formed.
In the end, the debate over agency, sentience, and consciousness comes down to how individual organisms could have intrinsic goals, act on their own behalf, and choose their own course of action without some form of consciousness. A theory of agency would challenge the basis for panpsychism since it intends to explain the behavior of things such as a particle, a cell, or an insect. Researchers have been studying whether insects have sentience or simply agency. While some may point to the functional similarities between the insect brain and vertebrate midbrain, Johannes Hans van Hateren, for his part, argues that primordial forms of agency and goal-directedness have little to do with consciousness. On the one hand, it may be that our tendency to analyze, differentiate, and arrange things in a hierarchy forbids us to accept that consciousness is universal. On the other hand, when Hateren observes in insects a lack of shared agency and social bonding, he rightly recognizes, I believe, consciousness as a relational concept.
According to a bodily conception, the sense of agency is related to the performance of specific bodily movements, whereas according to an external conception, the sense of agency is associated with the planned environmental consequences of one’s action.
we feel ourselves reduced to nothing, feel ourselves as individuals, as living bodies, a transient appearance of the will, like drops in the ocean, fading away, melting away into nothing… that we are, in some sense, one with the world, and thus not brought down, but rather elevated, by its immensity.
We, humans, do not submit to being alone in the Universe. We wish to save our vital or passional subjectivity by attributing life, personality, spirit, to the whole Universe. If consciousness is only the product of my imagination, should I agree that the Universe is simply a mechanical structure without a soul? Within spacetime, energy and gravity have coalesced to give form to the sentient Universe. Under the spell of gravity, the magnetic field around my heart and mind is woven into the fabric of spacetime. As I reflect on Merlan’s paper, I would take it one step further and argue that even the exchange between the Universe and human consciousness revolves around aspects such as the continuity between life and death, the fundamental ambiguity of human and nonhuman difference; and communicative relationships between humans and other entities such as when we are genuinely moved by birds, their movements and their songs. There is no solitude, only invisible chains of human and nonhuman kindred spirits.
The Moon hung naked in a firmament Of azure without cloud, and at my feet Rested a silent sea of hoary mist. A hundred hills their dusky backs upheaved All over this still ocean; and beyond, Far, far beyond, the solid vapours stretched, In headlands, tongues, and promontory shapes, Into the main Atlantic, that appeared To dwindle, and give up his majesty, Usurped upon far as the sight could reach. Not so the ethereal vault; encroachment none Was there, nor loss; only the inferior stars Had disappeared, or shed a fainter light In the clear presence of the full-orbed Moon, Who, from her sovereign elevation, gazed Upon the billowy ocean, as it lay All meek and silent, save that through a rift-- Not distant from the shore whereon we stood, A fixed, abysmal, gloomy, breathing-place-- Mounted the roar of waters, torrents, streams Innumerable, roaring with one voice! Heard over earth and sea, and, in that hour, For so it seemed, felt by the starry heavens. When into air had partially dissolved That vision, given to spirits of the night And three chance human wanderers, in calm thought Reflected, it appeared to me the type Of a majestic intellect, its acts And its possessions, what it has and craves, What in itself it is, and would become. There I beheld the emblem of a mind That feeds upon infinity, that broods Over the dark abyss, intent to hear Its voices issuing forth to silent light In one continuous stream; a mind sustained By recognitions of transcendent power, In sense conducting to ideal form, In soul of more than mortal privilege. One function, above all, of such a mind Had Nature shadowed there, by putting forth, 'Mid circumstances awful and sublime, That mutual domination which she loves To exert upon the face of outward things,
As I stumble upon Ascent of Snowdon from The Prelude by William Wordsworth, I remember climbing Mount Tai and Mount Emei and wonder whether the experience of the sublime defines the highest degree of symbiosis with the Universe, the same feeling that overwhelms us when we stare with amazement at space images. The inhomogeneity of space alluded to in my previous post brings us to an even more unsettling prospect that we may be residing inside a void. It is not enough to imagine ourselves on a floating planet; we may ponder with even more fright on the possibility that Laniakae is lost in a void, the so-called Keenan–Barger–Cowie Void. At the same time, such a scenario may put into question our current understanding of the standard cosmological model.
Not only should we realize that what exists outside the correlation to our subjective experience is nothing but indeterminacy, but the very nature of that correlation between mind and matter, between Consciousness and the Universe is also unknown. Sentience may be a shared quality of autopoietic entities and aggregates that have the ability to sense and adapt to their environment. Is it that shared quality inside me that answers to the call of the white-throated sparrow? It may be that every speck of metaphysical dust interacts with us because, indeed, we feel more than we know.
Wild Potato Dreaming, Bill Stockman Tjapaltjarri
people will differ in their guessed inferences: some might stop sentience at the lobster limit, others might stop at the beetle border – but why stop at all? If one demands a stop, the determining criterion must be established.
Do all organisms have a minimum of subjective experience? Consciousness involves the emotion of time. From feelings to rational abstraction, it has evolved. Sentient beings are bodily forms of sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness. Earth is a body above which lies a thinking layer. If sentience came before consciousness - as long as we differentiate one from the other – it has resulted from the fusion of passive and active dispositions, feeling and acting as entities respond to stimuli. Cosmic consciousness and the human consciousness rooted in the chatter between body, heart, and mind are consubstantial.
Papunya: A place made after the Story, Geoffrey Bardon, The Megunyaeh Press
Some concepts are magnets. Aesthesis, explains Alexander Wilson, is the “process by which seemingly necessary truths emerge from the compossibility of contingent events”. It is cognition’s interface with the unintelligible. Is there a reality beyond ourselves? For the sole purpose of this post, I will determine reality to be what we think we know. The transcendental correlationist, adds Wilson, “is forced to say that what exists outside the correlation is nothing but indeterminacy.” Ourblurred vision, when faced with the absence of reality, fails to distinguish not just what is unknown but what is unimaginable. Aesthesis is the “genesis of the conditions of intelligibility, from which all of knowledge derives”. It is a translation process that entails a gradual transition from indistinct to distinct “corresponding to the progressive integration of otherwise free-floating elements that must be organized for the intelligibility to hold,” a conversion of the unthought into thought.
If thought is consciousness, thought can only be happening within a philosophy of ‘presence.’ Can we ever grasp what is on the other side of it in the non-phenomenal realm of non-being? Sixty-three posts later, I still run the risk of falling into the trap of reductionism. Indeterminism is on my mind. Each post has added a brick to the house of evolving possibilities, a window to its exterior walls. It is a knot I have tied on a rope I am holding on to as I climb my way up through thick clouds. Ifall models are necessarily partial representations of reality, then no matter how hard we try, no model of the Universe will ever completely reflect reality. There cannot be either a theory of everything.
In the puzzling relationship between Consciousness and the Universe, how to shed light on those indistinct pieces? Aesthesis “corresponds to the concrescence of differences.” It creates in my mind the image of a step-by-step guide into the ontology of a middle way, a meeting ground between non-being and being, a plunge into the abyss where existence and non-existence intersect, a passage where mirror-image opposites encounter. The ontology of the middle way is part of a threefold integrated reality in which Consciousness on one side of a boundary struggles to gain information on the other side each time that a narrow window has opened from one level to the next.
It is consolatory in not being categorical about ultimate realities while focusing on them as desirable. In other words, consolationism domesticates in the existential sphere the mathematical concept of probability.
In cognition’s interface with the unintelligible, the act of measurement is the point of interconnection between Consciousness and the unknown. The mind, when confronted with a lack of reality, relies on compensatory means to fill the holes. Probabilities are operational concepts, pieces of information necessary for a conceptual origination to happen, similar to other operational concepts such as time and energy that create reality out of the absence of reality. The fractal nature of knowledge reveals itself within a philosophy of ‘presence.’ A point of origin is the conceptual origination of a ‘stand-alone’ reality. A broken line represents a conceptual transition.
Aesthesis can now productively be construed as an integrated weave of constraints between acts of codetermination, measurement, observation, or entanglement, various encounters between aspects of the real in the construction of a web of compossiblities. Indeed, it has become clear that aesthesis is somehow inseparable from this division between the possible and the compossible, the contingent catastrophe that quasi-causes the divergence of our world from the ones it retroactively originates in.
Aesthesis and Perceptronium, Alexander Wilson, p.207
Cosmology is a ‘historical’ science that allows for the observation of rare events such as the merging of black holes. A missing component whose effects are observed on the rate at which the Universe expands was named “dark energy” by cosmologist Michael Turner. Can it be explained by the presence of phantom fields, a theory of modified gravity, or the effect of quark confinement on the self-gravitational energy of quantum fluctuations? The inhomogeneity of space has hampered our ability to know, leading us to privilege what we perceive as reality: light and matter. A 2020 study has added results from void-galaxy cross-correlation to avoid bias in measurements and allow for the best measurement of dark energy.
Metaphysical nomological pluralism, writes Nancy Cartwright, is the doctrine that nature is governed in different domains by different systems of laws not necessarily related to each other in any systematic or uniform way. If this view applied to the whole Universe, no law, no organizational level could ever be predominant, and freedom precedes reality. On the edge of knowing, aesthesis is “neither intelligence, nor reason, nor agency, though it inevitably conditions their provisional axiomatizations.” A conversion of the unthought into thought leads to the invention of new concepts and a new vocabulary.
It is not self-organization itself, but rather something in self-organization that bootstraps variation in a seeking out of new potential intercessions and supersessions. Though aesthesis may terminate in territories and judgements, it does so only once the gap it instantiates is closed in its wake.
Aesthesis and Perceptronium, Alexander Wilson, p.105
Upon each emergent level of complexity, the curtains open, revealing yet another stage. Each level “depends on the reticulation of the parts,” writes Alexander Wilson, “which are synergistically bootstrapped into properties on the level of the exteriorized whole.” From Cartwright’s pluralism, we are led to Quentin Meillassoux’s hyperchaos, defined as “the effective ability for every determined entity, whether it is an event, a thing, or a law, to appear and disappear with no reason for its being and non-being,” And so doing, reality becomes discrete.
In multi-scale networks of interactions, any parts of a network at any level may affect every other part simultaneously. The Principle of Biological Relativity means that there is no privileged level of causality. Forms of causality contribute upward and downward in asymmetric ways. Although the higher levels may reflect the situational and functional logic of the whole system, the behavior of each part is influenced by its arrangement within the system. No directionality of causation can be assumed, providing the basis for using a more neutral term like a-mergence instead of e-mergence. A 2019 paper on biological relativity concludes that the various levels communicate both randomness and order between each other. Bio-resonance, as described by Andrea Buiatti and Daniel Longo, is the interference between levels of organization. It corresponds to the interaction of different levels of organization, each possessing its own form of determination.
Aesthesis is thus the process of producing this togetherness in the disparate; it is the counterpart of discretization. It may be generalized as the first moment in the mechanism of emergence. It is the intercession that links together the preindividual aspects of parallel individuations, preparing their eventual supersession (the emergent phenomenon). It is a productive neutralization that prepares the terrain for the subsequent emergent resolution. The parts need to come together, to integrate, in order for the whole to lift off from them and retroactively constrain them. Like a kind of gravity that pulls the disparate together toward coalescence, aesthesis behaves as a transductive countertendency to discretization.
Aesthesis and Perceptronium, Alexander Wilson, p.114
History contributes to the form current and future dynamics of life systems manifest their intrinsic unpredictability. Unpredictability can also emerge from the simplest rule-based algorithm. I have mentioned the possibility, in the future, of free will in artificial intelligence. Already, there appears to be no way to predict what specific actions an AI might take to achieve its objectives, even if we know what those objectives are. Unpredictability, claims a 2019 paper on Unpredictability of AI, is an intuitively familiar concept. We can usually predict the outcome of standard physical processes without knowing the specific behavior of particular atoms, just like we can typically predict the overall behavior of the intelligent system without knowing specific intermediate steps. It is similar to the way emotions in primary and secondary layers are sometimes thought of as ‘unconscious’. We don’t have “clear introspective conscious access to their functioning,” write Stephen Asma and Rami Gabriel in an Aeon article last year, since primary and secondary emotions “lack access consciousness.”
Along the Potomac on the Virginia side, the crescent moon is still high. Blue sky merges on the horizon. Ripples and circles rise and fall unpredictably on the water surface. They reflect sun rays piercing through the silvery mist, reminding me of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of fluid dynamics. Transfers of energy through waves and resonance occur from one event to the next. If time stops at the death of my physical body, will my soul be released in some form of energy the way red supergiants release upon their death vast amounts of energy heating interstellar dust and gas? Time and energy are a complementary pair within the flow of things. On the edge of knowing, poetry relies on feelings. The emotion of time is ubiquitous. It is the energy passed on when gluons bind quarks together and during the transfer of electrons from one molecule to the next. The Universe reveals itself by expressing itself and knows itself through every bit of feeling.
…those feelings, sculpted in the encounter between neuroplasticity and ecological setting, provide the true semantic contours of mind.
Based on the knowledge of the present, could we predict the future outlook of the US presidency? Today live among us the future presidents of generations to come. If any child born this year could potentially be one of them, in reality, the choice is neither predictable nor random. Unpredictability and determinism occur in combination with each other. We only have the potential to shape the present that will determine the leaders of tomorrow.
A-Mergence of Biological Systems, The Routledge Handbook of Emergence, Noble R., Noble D. (2019)
Lee Smolin might agree with Alexander Wilson, the author of the book entitled Aesthesis and Perceptronium on the entanglement of sensation, cognition, and matter, that “realism implies a rigor of thought that accepts both its finitude and its incompletion and embraces the indistinction that swarms around the intelligible.” The word perceptronium is borrowed from Max Tegmark’s 2014 paper entitled Consciousness as a state of matter. Tegmark lists six states of matter. In addition to gas, liquid, and solid, the fourth is memory that allows for the retention of “a large repertoire of long-lived states or attractors”. The fifth is computronium or programmable matter, “the most general substance that can process information as a computer”. And the sixth is perceptronium, “the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware”, that is the state of consciousness. Wilson and Tegmark fall under Smolin’s category of realists. Tegmark explores how to distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems. To that end, he defines four basic principles: information, integration, independence, and dynamics. The latter refers to time dependence. Independence means that something within dominates rather than something on the outside. There is a paradox, writes Max Tegmark, called the Quantum Zeno Paradox, in that if we decompose the Universe into maximally independent objects, then all change grinds to a halt.
We understand how memory plays a role in the way consciousness operates. As Giuseppe Longo and Maël Montévil wrote, it essentially refers to a “conscious reconstruction” of something that was experienced. What is even more fascinating is how memory is an essential aspect of the life of matter. While timelessness creates in my mind the image of an infinite state “brought to a halt”, memory arises from the spatiotemporal locality. Non-locality and the absence of memory appear to be what differentiates time from timelessness. Is there intentionality on the part of matter in the way it displays memory? In a 2018 paper on memory formation in matter, memory is defined as follows:
Memory connotes the ability to encode, access, and erase signatures of past history in the state of a system. Once the system has completely relaxed to thermal equilibrium, it is no longer able to recall aspects of its evolution. The memory of initial conditions or previous training protocols will be lost. Thus many forms of memory are intrinsically tied to far-from-equilibrium behavior and to transient response to a perturbation.
Memory and time are intertwined because the concept of memory implies a time of retention, whether it be short or long. The experience of one second on Earth is somewhere in the Universe the memory of a million years. There is a countless number of ways that matter displays memories. The paper quoted above lists, among others, the memory of largest input and the memory of duration. Our behavior and that of matter may also show the memory that only knows one direction, a time running forwards. There are also the ‘return-point” memory and the memory from cyclic driving, both evocative of loops of temporalities, biological and cosmological cyclicities.
In addition, there are ‘multiple transient memories’ when memories of multiple values are retained, “but only before the transient self-organization has finished.” After that, memory loss occurs. The “very process of reaching equilibrium erases the memory of previous training”. Multiple transient memories, I feel, play a role in scale transformations, in the fractality of the Universe and Consciousness. Other ways that matter experiences memory include shape memory, memory through path reversal such as echoes and associative memory.
Time remembers seasons. The Earth remembers its orbital path around the Sun. The weather remembers clouds. Plants open and close, remembering the time of day and year. Can consciousness exist outside memory? An electron, writes Natesh Ganesh in a paper on a non-equilibrium thermodynamic framework of consciousness, cannot be conscious since it is not capable of memory. However, in his paper on dissipative adaptation, Jeremy England refers to the memory of a collection of assembling particles that appears to have self-organized into a state that is ‘well adapted’ to the environmental conditions. He explains that the most durable and irreversible shifts in configuration occur when the system happens to be momentarily better at absorbing and dissipating work. With the passage of time, the ‘memory’ of these less erasable changes accumulates preferentially. As for the brain, the system stores experiences and learns from them so long as its memory updates itself with new events shedding light on previous ones. Consciousness, I feel, is a by-product of evolution that absorbs the lessons of time with the input of memory.
Which comes first? Images or ideas? They are part of a shared pool of memories. As I looked at Wheeler’s Universe, the first image that came to mind was that of the snake eating its tail. Coincidentally, the same picture was found four months later at the end of Kerri Welch’s book and was described by Alexander Wilson at the beginning of his book. It made me wonder whether the ancient symbol of ouroboros was at the root of Wheeler’s Universe in the first place. As I reflected on Kerri Welch’s book, I realized I had been too focused lately on the concept of time in disregard for a more balanced approach towards time and space. I thought I had to put the Humpty Dumpty of spacetime back together. Ironically, Alexander Wilson uses the same image from that popular nursery rhyme at the beginning of his book. To some of you, those two anecdotes may be insignificant. To me, they are drawn from the well of our collective memory.
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
As a poet, I can only repeat that images trigger stories and connections that open the gate to a more intuitive approach. A patchwork of concepts spells out in a series of images. Drawn to invisible flows rather than to physical entities, I respond to them by writing. I can only convey the mental path that takes me to this post today. I know that it echoes others’ intuition and sensibility. Tim Palmer alluded to the possibility that ideas may mostly already exist, but in a completely separate setting. We ought to take those pre-existing images from their usual setting and transplant them into new territories. Words have memories too. They echo a past usage, a historical context.
Why would consciousness be a state of matter? Whether it be the material body of a cell, a plant, a star, or a galaxy, matter bears the mark of memory in whatever way it may be. Cosmic consciousness may be a memory sometimes muffled and other times uttered of past, present, and future. Wheeler is quoted to have said that not until you start asking a question, do you get something. To that, Augustine could have added that if no one asks me, I know. If I wish to explain it, I cannot because that ‘something’ may not be what we expect, thereby inviting more questions.
Even for a poet who sees connections between almost everything, connecting dots is a hard thing to do. I ought to step back, look with a broader perspective, and collect my thoughts. The short compilation of Dao De Jing 道德经 has always been a source of inspiration. There is a tradition of commentaries that allows for ‘degrees of freedom’ in the way original texts are interpreted. Philosophers and theorists are not different from writers of commentaries. Superdeterminism, Scale Relativity theory, and Agentive Cosmopsychism are among the most recent attempts to explain ‘everything’. The more theories are thought out, the more complex mathematically and linguistically they become, which gives the sense that differences matter more than similarities. Human knowledge is a series of fractals fed by our natural tendency to differentiate.
I cannot seem to get my mind off the simultaneity of time flows. I heard the familiar call of an old friend Sunday. The white-throated sparrow has returned. Witch hazels seem to go counterclockwise, flowering in the Fall instead of Spring. Over 335 million kilometers away, Osiris Rex got a sampling of Bennu’s soil. NASA is confident that the spacecraft has collected more than 60 grams of material. If optimization and functionalism are fundamental properties of the Universe, transitions are not between order and disorder or vice versa. They occur between diversely organized states. Whether it be time or life, processes aim at an unforeseen outcome in the infinite future. What is then the place of humankind in the Universe? Being can provide a condition under which usefulness is found, might say the Dao De Jing today, but the empty space is theusefulness itself.
…the future of humanism becomes a question of the future of the humanities, particularly in the contemporary university
There may be three levels of consciousness in the opinion of Kerri Welch: the basic experience of ‘feelings’, the awareness of those bits of experience, and the self-awareness of one’s own consciousness, which includes the awareness of past, present, and future. Serendipity was at play when I was made self-aware of an interesting book series under the title of posthumanities,an emergent field of enquiry based on the convergence of posthumanism and post-anthropocentrism. As I was writing the post onthe emergence of Consciousness, the first book that caught my eye was Alexander Wilson’s on the entanglement of sensation, cognition, and matter. With the larger goal of reinforcing our sense of usefulness and in the framework of posthumanism, priority must be given to feelings ofempathy, sensitivity, and intuition.
What the concept of ‘timelessness’ entails is that we are the ones who touch eternity. In the words of Thomas Carlyle, we arein the center of Immensities, in the conflux of Eternities. Kerri Welch points out that the present is as much contained in the past as the past is contained in the present since “when we look out into space we are actually looking back in time”. But, correct me if I am wrong, it seems to me that the present is as much part of the past as it is part of the future for the observer who would look out into space from the other side of the Universe. Roger Penrose, who won the 2020’s Nobel Prize in physics, wrote a seminal paper in 1965, in which ‘closed trapped surface’ was introduced. He invented the notion that captures thepossibility of getting away from a gravity field. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, also co-winners, were rewarded for their contribution in the observations of stellar motions near the Galactic Centre that gave strong evidence for a central dark mass, suggesting that it is most probably a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. What does the concept of ‘present time’ mean from the perspective of a black hole? Moreover, if one would zoom out of the Universe, one would only see the simultaneity of time flowing backwards and forwards, between past and future. Where would then be the Universe’s Now?
Just as time emerged from timelessness at the Big Bang, so is time born from timelessness again every time a particle/antiparticle pair is created, or a new life begins.
Kerri Welch, A fractal topology of time: Deepening into Timelessness, p.103
Timelessnessnever does, yet through timelessness everything is done. In the familiar image of a carriage and a horse, time is all at once theinvisible carriage, the wheels, and the horse. There are material carriages in the Universe, too, like the glistening Milky Way led through the empty space by the horse named time. Whether they are in motion or exposed to oscillating energy waves, all objects may have wave properties because “they are composed of atoms that contain particles having wave properties,” writes Anna Ursyn. Although we do not understand the nature of thought waves and how they might propagate, insight, reason, memory, perception -- in other words, consciousness as a whole -- may all be “vibratory and have wave properties.” Waves and their associated frequencies are evidence of a universal language of sounds from which we may feel at times excluded.
Insight zooms out rather than in, bringing an idea into being rather than making a memory
Kerri Welch, A fractal topology of time: Deepening into Timelessness, p.83
The fact that posthumanism offersa new epistemology that is not anthropocentric and therefore not centered in Cartesian dualism appeals to me. Donna J. Haraway and other posthumanists are also concerned with blurring the boundary between human and nonhuman animals. The posthuman philosophy echoes, in my mind, what it would mean to transcend ourselves and evolve to a higher level of consciousness. Ibn Hassan coined the word ‘posthumanism’ in an article written in 1977 in which he explains the context of this new philosophy. In the modern era where telescopes, spacecraft, and other instruments significantly increase ourinsignificant extension in space, “the figure of Vitruvian Man,” writes Ibn Hassan, “arms and legs defining the measure of things, has broken through its enclosing circle and square, and spread across the cosmos.” Thecosmological extension of human consciousness -- in other words, cosmic consciousness – is the force that pushes us towards posthumanism.
Anna Ursyn, Biologically-inspired Computing for the Arts
Inner Space (human capillary endothelial cells HMEC-1), Ivana Barravecchia, Debora Angeloni, Institute of Life Sciences, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy
From where do new ideas come? Do they pop out of the aether as some random ashes of inspiration with no obvious precedent? Or do these ideas mostly already exist, but in a completely separate setting. As such, does the creative spark really consists of taking some pre-existing idea from its usual setting and transplanting it into an unfamiliar setting where it may provide new insights into old unsolved problems?
In the midst of over one hundred plant species, the last brown-eyed susans grow at the foot of the dying cherry tree near the pond. Time is all about our own perceptions. Although we can’t hold on to it, the past stays with us in the form of a conversation, a wrinkle, a memory that does not cease to exist as the next instant appears. Multiple flows into the flow of time are turbulent waters, sounds of strings. Time is an invisible luggage that gets heavier with memories and footprints. Perceptions and feelings merge in my head. Whether we are conscious of them, those “little perceptions” are traces of time.
The elusive quality of timelessness creates in my mind the image of a time void in which countless subjective experiences of time arise. If time is a process, is there an outcome? A process is a function that maps the state of a system at a given time to the state at a future time. We can think of the state in the past as a 'preparation' and the one in the future as the outcome of a 'measurement'. If there is an outcome, could we determine what it will be if we grasp all the nuts and bolts involved in the process? The gaps in our mind mirror the gaps in time between present and future, between what is unseen and what is visible.
...what exactly do we mean when we say spacetime `emerges' from some non-spatiotemporal reality? Before anything else, it should be emphasized that quantum gravity is very much a work in progress, and hence we cannot hope to command a conclusive understanding of the situation just yet. In that sense, the term `emergence' serves as placeholder for a relation the investigation of which is part of the very project of quantum gravity: it is, as it were, a working title for that relation.
In a chapter on the Cinematographical Mechanism of Thought and the Mechanistic Illusion, Henri Bergson wrote that "what is real is the continual change of form: form is only a snapshot view of a transition". The mystery lies in-between, in how an interconnected web of microscopic quantum systems leads to the emergence of macroscopic quantum processes and how collective macroscopic quantum forces play a role in the emergence of biological structure. While we study the various growth patterns exhibited by nature, we become familiar with quantum effects. Those quantum processes may be observed in biological systems such as with thelaboratory-based growth of plant-like structures from inorganic materials or in the case of quantum entanglement amongchlorophyll molecules. Researchers have been working on highly macroscopic quantum states, using for example the Long-Baseline Universal Matter-Wave Interferometer.The debate on whether quantum mechanics plays a role in biological organisms has led to the finding oflong-lived quantum coherence in noisy environments, such as proteins.
One of the key objectives of the theory of scale relativity is to develop a new, first principles, geometric approach to understanding the foundations of quantum theory that may ultimately lead to a unified theory of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Although a completely unified approach remains an outstanding challenge, development of the theoretical framework has led to progress in addressing a number of important fundamental questions relating to standard quantum mechanics, in addition to a new (analogous) theoretical framework of macroscopic quantum systems that can lead to a better understanding of biological systems.
Fractals are considered to be "a model of time" that could potentially relate consciousness and cosmology. They are defined by the range and level as well as the upper and lower limit of self-similarity. Whether they show infinite depth within a finite area or whether they are uncomputable fractal attractors in the infinite future, they appear to be a fundamental feature of spacetime.
Every puzzle solved leads to more unsolved mysteries. Our mind dives into open cracks and breaches and scrambles to climb back out. Those mental cracks and breaches are our inner infinity. If the Universe did design itself, were fractals intentionally factored into the preparation stage of the process or did it happen along the way as an outcome of the design itself? I would agree with Philip Goff that the universe, although physical, acts, and only acts, through a basic capacity to recognise and respond to reasons. Causality and fractal geometry appear to account for fine-tuning. I still feel though that fractal geometry does not exclude the concept of a Universe of “wholes as ‘built up’ from parts”. Having said that it also appears to respect continuity of action, one fundamental aspect of the theory of Superdeterministism.
If, during the Plank epoch, the early universe fine-tuned the laws to bring about life billions of years in the future, then it must have in some sense known, or been aware, of the future consequences of its actions.
My mind enjoys counting games. In the exchange between two sets of quadruple elements, I wonder whether the six spatial and temporal scales in the Human Physiome Project -- atom, protein, cell, tissue, organ and organ system & organism -- mirror the six spatiotemporal scales in the Universe that are star, star system, galaxy, cluster, supercluster, and filament.
The thing is that in order to invent a theory of everything, we ought to go deeper and the further we travel in time and space, the deeper we need to go as if we were extending our arms hoping to catch something that still remains beyond our reach. A theory of everything may in a sense be in constant evolution.
In some tucked away part of my memory, there is for now a closed chapter of Buddhist studies. What if the entire socio-cultural system, including fields of religion and philosophy, was designed like a series of fractals? Even cosmic consciousness would end up being a fractal infinitely enriched by individual consciousnesses. My autobiographical self recalls that the Buddha is "at least partly a function of and dependent on his being embodied in others". The word 'embodiment ', used to describe the numerous ways to communicate the Buddhist scriptures and the Buddha's countless manifestations, reflects the fractality of Buddhist teachings. Gene Reeves writes that in the Dharma Sutra, "reality and togetherness of being both one and many are affirmed". We all are in our own way the embodiment of a collective consciousness.
Kerri Welch, A Fractal Topology of Time: Deepening into Timelessness
Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, New Essays Concerning Human Understanding
Gene Reeves, The Stories of the Lotus Sutra & The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic
Each new work is destined, in the mind of its author, to correct the preceding one, to complete a thought -- which will not be completed. He does his work over and over again, wherever his sensation or thought was rendered imperfectly in the preceding work. When man interrogates and exerts himself, he does not really change. He only rids his nature of what is foreign to it, and deepens that portion that is his own. Those who burn their work before it is known, because it no longer satisfies them, are credited with great courage. I ask myself whether there is not still greater courage in admitting that one has not always been what one has become, in becoming what one is not yet, and in permitting to remain alive the material and irrefutable witnesses of the variations of one’s mind.
Ellie Faure, History of Art
Leaves have started to fall off the elm tree. Autumn is settling in. Yellow and red colors are slowly taking over the green canopy and understory of the native garden. Being is only briefly real for becoming isn’t an illusion, but forever real. Time is a process. It’s like catching the wind and trying to contain it in a bird’s cage. Kerri Welch suggests that time is a subset of temporal symmetry, which in turn is a subset of timelessness, a “fundamental aspect of the Universe” . “Timelessness and temporal symmetry,” she writes, “ are distinct from time in that they do not obey the unidirectional causality of time”. They are “distinct from one another in that temporal symmetry requires that the transition between points in time proceed linearly through connected moments in time, whereas timelessness suggests a simultaneity and unification of temporal moments”.
In another of the stories in Calvino’s Cosmicomics, the protagonist, whose name is Qfwfq, spends a long time as lowly mollusc condemned to a moment-by-moment existence, a prisoner of the eternal present. Days and nights crash over him ‘like waves, all interchangeable, identical or marked by totally fortuitous differences’. In an attempt to separate his present from all other presents, Qfwfq starts to build a shell, hoping to lay down markers in spiral accretions as if he were making his own clock. He tries to create an extremely long, unbroken shell-time, but an infinite spiral proves impossible: the shell grows and grows and at a certain point stops -- and that’s it, finished. Thousands of other molluscs try too but the effort is wasted: time refuses to last, the shells are friable, destined to crumble into pieces. Theirs are only illusions of time that last as long as the length of a tiny shell spiral, splinters of time that were detached and different from each other. Eventually, Qfwfq realizes, someone else has to try to ensure that everything that was left or buried [becomes] a sign of something else… (Caspar Henderson, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary)
Timelessness hosts the passage of time. Some may describe it as the eternal present or Nowness, a continuum of present moments at which “time touches eternity”, as C.S. Lewis said. It is the unknowable eternal Now that encompasses all the fragmented, monadological nows. It alludes to Julian Barbour’s “nows that make up all the points” on the Universe’s path where we all stand. In opposition to timelessness in which past, present, and future aren’t closed compartments, those ephemeral nows underscore the subjective aspect of time. I felt as if I caught a glimpse of the “moving present” with the three circles of dance, and that my body could instinctively position itself in relation to it. Our understanding occurs on three levels: the mind, the heart, and the body. When we say that we have learned to spatialize time, it means that our body -- that which moves through space -- senses its place within the passage of time.
...‘thinking with imagery’ and even ‘thinking with the body’ must have preceded language by hundreds of thousands of years
The experience of the Now is the only way for us to know that we’re alive. Paradoxically, the present is an illusion that is gone as soon as it passes. It appears as a line of demarcation on the edge of which we are ready to plunge into the unknowns of the future. Time moves nonstop from one instant to the next, and the future is already here insofar as the present has passed. In a post about process, I pointed out that the present is a vanishing entity that we are helplessly chasing. As soon as we stand in the now, it has already gone in the past. What is now anyway? I asked. A brief second? A day? A year? We are uncertain of its limit and scope, for we are in a state of becoming. In reality, every second that passes is already part of the past and the next is part of the future. We might as well say that time does not exist because the present time is, all things considered, an illusion.
What I see is four temporal dimensions: that which is, that which has passed, that which will be, and that which is always in the state of becoming. The first three are subjective. The latter is timelessness. The eternal Nowness is what we are removed from at the time of death. It is indeed true that the Universe talks to us in so many ways, and every time we find a new way of listening, we find something else, as Ellie Zwebel is quoted to have said. Those many ways could overshadow the objective reality of physics. Time is a complex and multi-layered web of geometry intertwined with that of space. Precisely because we understand the Universe through our body, we have learned to spatialize time and can’t separate it from space. The internal eternity of spacetime is reminiscent of Blaise Pascal’s two spatial infinities to which time-domain astrophysicists could relate.
Let man then contemplate the whole of nature in her full and grand majesty, and turn his vision from the low objects which surround him. Let him gaze on that brilliant light, set like an eternal lamp to illumine the universe; let the earth appear to him a point in comparison with the vast circle described by the sun; and let him wonder at the fact that this vast circle is itself but a very fine point in comparison with that described by the stars in their revolution round the firmament. But if our view be arrested there, let our imagination pass beyond; it will sooner exhaust the power of conception than nature that of supplying material for conception. The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in that thought.
Returning to himself, let man consider what he is in comparison with all existence; let him regard himself as lost in this remote corner of nature; and from the little cell in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe, let him estimate at their true value the earth, kingdoms, cities, and himself. What is a man in the Infinite?
But to show him another prodigy equally astonishing, let him examine the most delicate things he knows. Let a mite be given him, with its minute body and parts incomparably more minute, limbs with their joints, veins in the limbs, blood in the veins, humours in the blood, drops in the humours, vapours in the drops. Dividing these last things again, let him exhaust his powers of conception, and let the last object at which he can arrive be now that of our discourse. Perhaps he will think that here is the smallest point in nature. I will let him see therein a new abyss. I will paint for him not only the visible universe, but all that he can conceive of nature's immensity in the womb of this abridged atom. Let him see therein an infinity of universes, each of which has its firmament, its planets, its earth, in the same proportion as in the visible world; in each earth animals, and in the last mites, in which he will find again all that the first had, finding still in these others the same thing without end and without cessation. Let him lose himself in wonders as amazing in their littleness as the others in their vastness. For who will not be astounded at the fact that our body, which a little while ago was imperceptible in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect of the nothingness which we cannot reach? He who regards himself in this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and I think that, as his curiosity changes into admiration, he will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to examine them with presumption.
For in fact what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret, he is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which he was made, and the Infinite in which he is swallowed up.
Time may be found on the edge of the quantum Universe. “Could the parallels between the flow of our subjective, felt experience and the flow of energetic quantum reality indicate something of the nature of their deeper interconnection?” asks Kerri Welch. In the evolution of the wave function, a physical thought -- a speck of metaphysical dust -- acts as a proto-will and interacts with us. In so doing, it triggers in ourselves the awareness of information passed on to us. We might still debate whether consciousness “causes this” or is caused by what occurs during intervals of quantum superposition before collapse.
In Orch OR, quantum information is ‘pre-conscious’ or ‘sub-conscious’, becoming conscious at the ‘Now’ moment of objective reduction. Thus each conscious moment incorporates quantum information from the past and the future, as well as classical information from the past (‘working memory’).
Whether we perceive time as “flowing in one direction because it does flow in one direction” or “because our brains perceive it that way” is at the core of the intrinsic circularity spoken about by Paavo Pylkkänen. As consciousness emerges, it appears to cause in ourselves the impression of time asymmetry. The collapse may be independent of how we experience it. “In the same way that entropy may be a subset of a larger temporal reality, our subjective experience may too describe only a portion of a larger reality” adds Kerri Welch.
Entropy has many faces. It has been interpreted as a measure of disorder, the unavailability of work, the degree of energy spreading, and the number of accessible microstates in macroscopic physical systems. While each of these interpretations has a logical basis, it is unclear why any of them should have the dimensions of energy per unit temperature.
I have talked in the past about the possibility that our future influences the way the present unfolds, that the increasingly complex reality of the future is somehow compactified in the simpler reality of the past and that in the future lies an attractor that pulls the essence of reality within the expanding Universe. Kerri Welch suggests that the quantum information incorporated from the future could be the “hidden variable”. Such a view would support a deterministic theory of everything. She points out that backwards time may be hiding in plain sight. One particle could oscillate “between backwards and forwards time” appearing as particle and antiparticle at the same time. They may therefore occur “simultaneously” rather than being mutually exclusive. The Universe may allow “overlapping”.
Having said that, I have brought up other scenarios involving time-reversal. I have pictured in my mind the negative-energy particles of the dark sector traveling backwards from the future somehow meeting at the intersection of past and future those positive-energy particles traveling forward in time as if they both were traveling the same distance in their determination to meet. That is how I see a cosmic coincidence unfolding. It was also suggested that antimatter goes backwards in time. In his latest paper, Salvador José Robles-Pérez proposes that the most natural way in which universes can be created is in pairs of universes whose time flow is reversely related. Internal inhabitants of a universe-antiuniverse pair could identify matter with the particles that move in their spacetimes and antimatter with the particles that move in the time reversely symmetric universe.
The mind circulates in a space-time continuum while the body remains anchored here and now. Timelessness rules over the “interior dimensions” of memory and imagination which involve all of the possibles “outside of space but inside of time” -- as Stuart Kauffman formulates it. While imagination builds new connections, memories rise to the surface before sinking once more into the mnemonic chaos of the Unconscious. We could argue that we need both perspectives from past and future to face the present. In those extra dimensions outside space but inside of time, they play an active role in the way time goes backwards and forwards right under our noses. Although memory travels backwards, vivid moments are fading away because aspects of past information are somehow “inaccessible in the present”.
The pre-conscious superposition phase may also be equated with the Freudian sub-conscious including dreams and perhaps altered states. This suggests that consciousness is a ‘stream’ of discrete events, rather than a continuous state.
Imagination is the mind’s way to travel forwards. What if dreams were a resonance structure in which information from future were passed to present? Dreams unfold like a dialogue and maintain a precarious balance between the deep waters of the Unconscious unaffected by the passage of time and our consciousness, between infinite possibilities stored away in parallel worlds and the reality in which we live. Could our ability to experience time-reversal be trapped in our Unconscious? Are premonitions “an effect of reverse causality or of tapping into a timeless knowledge”? As we evolve and become increasingly aware, we may “detect the subtleties of reverse causality, similar to the way we have evolved into our current understanding of time”.
Either we’ll transcend to a higher level of consciousness, or the day will come when our species will evolve. We would then understand the Universe in the most subtle way.
Consciousness walks the roads of the future and the trails of the past. Our brain is a time machine. We do not have full access to past and future because of the “symbolic language” of our Unconscious. Faded images and buried feelings may be all what is left of a time 50,000 years ago when the first humans migrated to the Eurasian continent as far as Australia and dispersed along the coast or when the first plants, before the time of hominids, integrated the capacity for photosynthesis more than 2.6 billion years ago.
In the pitch-dark early morning, I heard the call and screech of an owl for the first time in a long time. She sounds like a barred owl. Her call tearing the silence of the night is said to herald a time of spiritual balance and to be a sign that the cosmos is moving towards equilibrium. In the end, our free will and ability to express ourselves may be limited. Although there is ‘order’ in how the Universe appears before our eyes, I still see it as aclueless thing that reveals itself by expressing itself. The nature of that order, though, may be deterministic. No doubt I’ll return to the subject of time when Julian Barbour’s new book The Janus Point is out next month.