On the manifold ways of being

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Let us note first that there is a being of the thing perceived - as perceived

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, Introduction

 

The word ‘being’ is often used followed by another word to specify a property as if just ‘being’ was not enough. On the Art of being, I mean “to exist”, I see the Universe through the eyes of a child. It is said that true happiness is the Art of being present. As I witness the universality of being, I am conscious of the fact that the Universe is and all things, including celestial objects, are, regardless of whether they are observable to us. I stumbled upon a roadblock and found myself unsure of how to proceed. I raised the question of ‘being’, sensing the presence of the surrounding Universe. Asking the question of ‘being” raises the concept of individual entities with specified properties.  On that early evening of July, I asked myself, as in the story of the falling tree, whether the Moon still swung by Jupiter in the sky when I closed my eyes. Nevermind my own five senses, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and all the unseen heavenly bodies exist, setting off in my own mind a diffuse sense of being spreading out over all things in the Universe. 

 

There are many ways to be. Since the first detection of 51 Pegasi b in 1995, 4,016 exoplanets have been confirmed while a comparable number of candidates are yet to be defined as such. Sofar, fifty-two are deemed to be potentially habitable. Some revolve around a red dwarf star, others are in orbit around a triple star system, such as  GJ 667 C fGJ 667 C c, and  GJ 667 C e as well as  Proxima Cen b. If they could sustain life, what would it be like to stare at the sky? For Poetry senses that being is plural, it does not shy away from expressing universality with a bundle of analogies as a means to capture the ontological structure of the Universe.  What we call ‘being’ may be a transitory process through which, in 5 billion years, Titan will be the habitable one for the Sun will grow into an even more massive fireball. 

What does ‘being’ mean? philosophers ask. Information defines the act of ‘being’, Scientists answer. In search of mental clarity,  they see the Universe as a causal chain in a seamless information flow. All finite things are ‘conditioned’, we are told. In a universal balance between agents and patients, subjects and objects reality emerges and in reality, causation drives the seen and unseen physical motion of all things in the Universe. We have formed in our mind a mental picture of what we know of the Universe, and so creating an architectonic structure built on the principle of information-based causality. Information, and in particular quantum information, is the most fundamental aspect of reality, and not energy or matter (Vlatko Vedral, Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information, OUP, 2012).  As we confront the observable Universe, we may be tempted to take a reductionist approach. 

 

 

If there is an infinite number of parallel worlds all encompassed in a single quantum state of the Universe and if we apply the theory of double causality upon which the past and the future play an equal role in the determination of that single quantum state, may we ultimately say that the “final cause” of every one of them is evidently that which it was determined to be? Against this backdrop, I wish to know what ‘being’ is. To be is a state of ‘being singular’ in a multitudinous way. It is a ‘singular state’ of quantum information whose physical and biological evolution we can not say. Should we genuinely infer the existence of general patterns in the nature of ‘being’? With my eyes closed, I feel the moon and the Sun and in the July sky Jupiter and Saturn and the drifting asteroids, and I begin to think of the next chapter and what ‘teleology’ means.

I read about the protoplanetary disk of PDS 70 and the subsequent discovery of its planets PDS 70b and c as well as a the circumplanetary disk around PDS 70c showing signs of moon-forming. The observation of planets in their formation stage is a crucial, but very challenging step in understanding when, how and where planets form. From child to adult, the planetesimals undergo inside-out growth amplified by the combined effects of collisional evolution of solid bodies and interactions with a dissipating gas disk. I imagine their embryonary consciousness plagued with “clouds of inferiority”* in their mental skies. I read about a so-called ploonet when large regular exomoons escape the pull of their parent planet, becoming small planets by themselves. If some of them survive to the almost unavoidable fate of colliding with the planet or the absorption by the host star, a late-type of planetary embryos around the star, or even fully-fledged small planets on their own, may arise

 

 

It is this inside-out growth that differentiates planets from each other, like Earth from Mars and when we see Mars depleted of its magnetic field 2.6 billion years ago, we imagine what Earth may look like in a distant future. A process that seems to contradict any form of free will on the part of planets but reinforce the assumption of a cosmological natural selection. If "man’s inhumanity to man"* is a reflection of the Universe in the way that Antennae Galaxies are clashing, the Polar-ring galaxy NGC 660 shows signs of victory in its belt of gas and stars around its center ripped from a near neighbor during a clash about one billion years ago and when asteroids or other planetesimals are relentlessly bumping each other in a solar-type system like BD+20 307, what does it say about the cosmological natural selection?

Antennae Galaxies reloaded
NGC 660 9 (NASA Goddard)

NGC 660 9 (NASA Goddard)

 

I wonder whether there is in all things a tug-of-war between positive and negative forces, like when two neutron stars collide or in the case of an interacting pair of disk galaxies. "The line of progress is never straight"*. I wonder what the nature of ‘being’ is and where "we go from here"*. 

Interacting galaxies NGC 3921 (NASA Goddard)

Interacting galaxies NGC 3921 (NASA Goddard)

 

 

As we debate about the physical nature and historical origins of Consciousness in human evolution, our reason leads us to believe that life preceded consciousness.  If ‘being’ is another word for life, I imagine life with its share of inner and outer suffering and if we grant some level of consciousness to stars and other celestial bodies, I wonder whether the compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy MACS2129−1 that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang could be holding on to “physical life amid psychological death”*, and whether a dying star, like T Ursae Minoris in the midst of thermal pulses, an asteroid 6478 Gault whose self-destruction we witness or even our struggling planet could be haunted “by a nagging sense of nobodyness and constantly fighting to be saved from the poison of bitterness”*. I dig deeper into the well of imagination and feel the need to paint the astronomical objects with the same brush used 50 years ago to describe our human existence. I can’t help but wonder whether the act of ‘being’ and misery go hand in hand in the Universe.  Such a reckoning would presuppose an even higher development of Consciousness**.

 

*Martin Luther King, Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community? (1968, Beacon Press)

 

**Linda Nochlin, Misère: The Visual Representation of Misery in the 19th Century, (2018, Thames & Hudson) 

Eugène Buret, De la Misère des classes laborieuses en Angleterre et en France : de la nature de la misère, de son existence, de ses effets, de ses causes, et de l'insuffisance des remèdes qu'on lui a opposés jusqu'ici, avec les moyens propres à en affranchir les sociétés, 1840

Hubble Watches Spun-Up Asteroid Coming Apart (47435507852)

Share this post

Repost0

Stories of the Universe

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Science in Poetry. Poetry in Science... In a collision between poetry and science, I have a recurring image in my head of the monk Bodhidharma floating in space, facing the arc of the Universe and staring at the horizon. I see him stretching his arm to reach to the stars and galaxies that hang on the starry wall. Some ideas linger more than others. One is the nature of historical causation in the context of the Universe. If some of us agree, as I do, that there is no predetermined outcome to cosmic and life events, we should nevertheless agree on the importance of the concept of causation in the history of the Universe.

 

 

... there is no total opposition between a deterministic universe and free
will. In particular, it is possible to freely act in a deterministic world.

Eric Sanchis

Galaxies – with a chance of asteroids (NASA, ESA, and B. Sunnquist and J. Mack (STScI); CC BY 4.0; Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI) and the HFF Team)

Galaxies – with a chance of asteroids (NASA, ESA, and B. Sunnquist and J. Mack (STScI); CC BY 4.0; Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI) and the HFF Team)

I wish the Moon would tell us how she feels when, on her surface, spacecrafts are landing, men are walking and Chang’E 4 is stepping into her dark side. I wish a novelist would tell the story of Matter falling into the breach of a black hole into another Universe.  I wish a composer would create a melody about a mathematical cul-de-sac called singularity.  I wish a Freud-like scientist would convince us that a cosmological black hole mirrors our own demise and echoes the unknown in the genome and in our collective and individual memory. Under the dictates of my own reason, I can only see Matter's ending where existence ceases. 

 

 

I wish a wandering minstrel would recite a never-ending hymn about our Universe whose expanding waist is fed by microscopic degrees of freedom. I wish a balladeer would compose a ballad involving characters such as the dark-matter dominated dwarf galaxy Antlia 2  that crashed unto the barred spiral galaxy, that is our Milky Way. Since the first symbiotic stars discovered in 1932, we realized how not so common is the solitary nature of our Sun. I wonder what chain of events forbade it to pair with a fiery companion. Nevermind the turbulent fragmentation model that might explain how binary systems are formed, I wish a fiction writer would imagine a scenario in which an Antlia 2 like galaxy would collide with our end of the Milky Way and take away from the Sun his binary friend. 

 

I wish a troubadour would perform a song about how galaxies die,  how active galactic nuclei quench star formation by consuming, heating, sweeping out and/or disrupting gas, how quasar-driven outflows from cold quasars powered by the accretion of matter onto a supermassive black hole are still affecting the host galaxies enabling them in their last breath to form stars. I wish a serenader would compose a serenade about a golden ring whose whereabouts is found in collapsars. I wish a film director would hold Voyager 2’s camera and take us away from the heliosphere on a one-way journey. I wish a filmmaker would make a movie about those animated characters, planet-hunting heroes named Kepler, TESS and Gemini.

 

I wish a poet would write a swan song about Opportunity’s passing a year ago in Mars’ Perseverance Valley. I wish a muse would tell the story of Icarus probing Earth’s atmosphere, crossing into the magnetosphere on his way to the solar flares and as he turned around one last time looking at Earth, he wondered what made a planet spherical. I wish a bard would recount the tale of invisible giants who propelled themselves,  jumped in with both feet from one exoplanet unto another making the planets shake and who juggled with asteroids throwing toward the Sun’s quarters Bennu to attract OSIRIS-Rex as if they were a family of saltimbanques. As they explore life-bearing planets like Earth, they breathe air and whisper winds as the only proof that they are here. 

A sea of galaxies (NASA, ESA & M. Mutchler (STScI), CC BY 4.0)

A sea of galaxies (NASA, ESA & M. Mutchler (STScI), CC BY 4.0)

I wish a historian would take on the task to tell us more about the epic battle between galaxies, how binary stars interact in symbiotic novae. I wish a wise man would explain what the Gaia hypothesis really means,  that we are germs in the ecosystem spreading on Earth, cells that grow abnormally on the surface of a living planet. Back to Bodhidharma, from his vantage point, I imagine him watching over the waltz of galaxies spinning with their binary stars. I wish a historian when writing about the Universe would not forget to describe with great details how star formation begins at different times at different locations within nebulae like the Carina Nebula Complex, producing a stellar population with a hierarchical, multi-clustered structure

Southern Crab Nebula (NASA, ESA, and STScI)

Southern Crab Nebula (NASA, ESA, and STScI)

Galaxy NGC 2903 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Ho et al.; CC BY 4.0)

Galaxy NGC 2903 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Ho et al.; CC BY 4.0)

Would a stargazer be able to express with words the mesmerizing beauty of the spiral galaxy NGC 2903? As Bodhidharma faced the starry wall in silence for nine years, doing nothing, totally inactive, he sat quietly, unable to truly depict the meaning behind our Universe. With his eyes spotting at the furthest object in the far end of the Universe, I see him staring at where it all begins. Would an astronomer tell me how a galaxy named SPT0615-JD fits in the cosmological history? Less than five hundred million years after the Big Bang, what did our young Universe whose relic radiation we inheritated look like? If we all come from Chaos and Chaos is an immortal, I wish he would come out and give us some answers.

 

 

Galaxy cluster SPT0615 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, I. Karachentsev et al., F. High et al.CC BY 4.0)

Galaxy cluster SPT0615 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, I. Karachentsev et al., F. High et al.CC BY 4.0)

If Chaos were an immortal, he would know how it started.  I hope he took the time to travel around the billions of galaxies giving him the knowledge to write the story of the Universe, for I imagine him to be the one through whom information is transmitted for eternity. I wish a life scientist of a Matloff type would demonstrate to us that stars are living organisms invested with the gift of free will. 

 

Be that as it may, it seems that one does not have to be a fiction writer, a poet or a film director to come up with the most interesting theories as I mentioned in earlier posts Verlinde's idea that space emerges together with gravity or Robles-Pérez’ suggestion that there may be two expanding universes from the point of view of their internal inhabitants, who identify matter with the particles that move in their spacetime and antimatter with the particles that move in the symmetric universe. I wish I could, even for a brief moment or in my dream, come face to face with the other side.

 

I wish Consciousness would gather all the stories of the Universe from past, present, and future and write the whole tale in the starry sky that all the scientists, historians, and poets would together be able to decipher.

Bertrand Russell once said that the concept of causation, ‘like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm’. Russell was probably wrong about causation. But his strictures apply perfectly to the concept of knowledge.

David Papineau

Share this post

Repost0

Why is the Universe the way it is?

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

 

If thinking is hard, how to fight my own bias. If thinking is hard, should I stop my inquiry and throw in the towel? If thinking is hard, should I be afraid to make a mistake? Our view of the Universe is shaped by our perception. Asking why the Universe is the way it is underscores the fact that what unfolds before our eyes is based on our limited window of understanding. We ought to strike a balance between what the observer’s Consciousness knows and what might still be beyond the spatiotemporal horizon of the Universe. It appears that we are all in awe of so much beauty: “Why do galaxies exist at all? Why do the basic laws of nature come together to produce a Universe filled with these ridiculously vast – and incomparably beautiful – structures?” From the blindness of our eyes to the blindness of our brain, beyond distance, time and complexity, why would we find beauty in the Universe? I believe that it is our anthropocentric feeling of empathy towards the life cycle of a galaxy, a star or a thimbleweed flower... that allows us to be filled with wonder.

NGC 7773 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Walsh)

NGC 7773 (ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Walsh)

Thimbleweed

Thimbleweed

 

 

Some of my bias include my taste for the exotic and my obsession for impenetrable walls. No matter how interesting are the countless details put into the new Deep Time exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History in D.C., I can't stop going back to the very beginning when the first life form produced a proton gradient and even before when the first abiotic processes occurred. The Universe is an existential structure. Its horizon is a line drawn in time and space. To paraphrase Karl Löwith, only as history can the Universe be related directly to man and his purposes. Causality is key to understanding life in the Universe. Out of the 13.7 billion years, the Deep Time exhibit on view in the newly renovated Hall of Fossils has chosen to narrow its focus on the 3.7 billion years that separate us from the long beginning to our present times.

We are accustomed to the idea of geology and astronomy speaking the secrets of ‘deep time,’ the immense arc of non-human history that shaped the world as we perceive it

David Farrier

 

Surprisingly this Deep Time exhibit does not simply stick to its subject displaying some 700 fossil specimens, it looks back to previous mass extinctions and highlights warning signs in the Anthropocene, even posting a quote from biology expert E.O. Wilson on a wall in the back of the exhibit – “If we were to wipe out insects alone...the rest of life and humanity with it would mostly disappear from the land. And within a few months”.  How can we tell what is looming on the horizon? Over the course of evolution, the mind developed an ability to see patterns and so we are searching for similarities in the past with the aim of reframing the story of humanity into the “logos of the kosmos”.  How far away can we see in time and space?

...our patch of the universe has only existed for fifteen billion years; consequently, the maximum distance that can be observed is about fifteen billion light-years, referred to as the “horizon distance”. Most likely, the space within our horizon is only a tiny, infinitesimal corner of a much larger universe...Is it really possible to understand the universe entire when we are constrained by causality from observing most of it?

P.J. Steinhardt,“Cosmological Challenges for the 21st Century”, Critical Problems in Physics:Proceedings of a Conference Celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, October 31, November 1, November 2, 1996, edited by V.L. Fitch and R. Marlow, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1997 , p.125-126

 

The horizon slowly moves away, for space is infinite. We’re told that the farthest we can observe is in fact 42 billion light-years, greater than 14-15 billion light-years because cosmic expansion has lengthened distances. Beyond the horizon and back, I found myself wondering about cosmic coincidences. They are numbers in the world of statistics, collected after-the-fact in the vast volumes of data, labeled as such for lack of better understanding. When it comes to the cosmological coincidence,  researchers imagine new physics beyond the standard cosmological model in order to answer the why and when. I found myself bouncing back and forth between the bio-logical possibility of unlikely events to happen within the theory of a multiverse and the alternative of a Universe upon which free will is bestowed, that would explain the ”reasons not understood” why our universe “began to expand and cool” (P.J. Steinhardt, ibid., p.124).

 

In our Universe, the Hubble constant - that is the rate at which the Universe is expanding - is somehow intrinsically connected to the division of cosmic history into three epochs. The initial state of the Universe was determined by the radiation component which dominated the total energy content. When the equality of radiation and matter densities occurs, the matter-dominated epoch begun.

... the Universe made use of this matter dominance to form structures like stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters by gravitational instability. This process would be endless if a third epoch had not arrived “recently”. This is the current dark-energy phase which started at the moment where the matter density had dropped to the same value as the dark-energy density... Since then the Universe experiences an accelerated expansion phase where gravity is no longer able to efficiently form super-galaxy clusters.

H. E. S. Velten, R. F. vom Marttens, W. Zimdah

According to a paper published in March 2019,  the Universe is expanding at present about 9% faster than inferred from the cosmic microwave background. Another paper suggests that early dark energy  that behaves like a cosmological constant at early times and then decays away like radiation or faster at later times may solve the discrepancy.

Interestingly, the time scale defined by the (effective) cosmological constant is not only of the order of the present age of the Universe but also of the same order as the scale that is relevant for heavier elements being produced. So, anthropic arguments necessarily enter the discussion.

H. E. S. Velten, R. F. vom Marttens, W. Zimdah

The anthropic arguments relate to the observer’s point of view that “Time is bio-logical - completely subjective and invariably emergent from a unitary co-relative process. All knowledge amounts to relationships of information, with the observer alone imparting spatio-temporal meaning.” (Robert Lanza, Beyond Biocentrism, p.155, BenBella Books, Inc., 2016). Why the Universe is the way it is leads to why life is the way it is. When biochemist Nick Lane asserts that “we can reasonably conclude that complex life will be rare in the universe - there is no innate tendency in natural selection to give rise to humans or any other form of complex life. It is far more likely to get stuck at the bacterial level of complexity “ (The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life, p.289. Norton & Company, 2015), is such a claim an anthropic view of the Universe or an objective conclusion?

 

Why ask why questions? I have borrowed the title of this post from Steinhardt’s 1996 talk on the cosmological challenges for the 21st Century, not realizing at the time that it became the title of a book by Hugh Ross in 2010. Among the many whys,  Hugh asked a question that never really crossed my mind before: why such a dark Universe?

 

 

Would a blind mouse wonder why there is darkness in the universe?

Share this post

Repost0

The Law of Freedom

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Finding E.T., David Curtis

Finding E.T., David Curtis

 

While attending the 105th Commencement at Reed College, Portland, Oregon, I gained a deeper appreciation for the wide range of subjects touched upon by students in their bachelor's thesis and for the extent to which they were free to choose any topic they please.

 

Subjects include, to cite a few, Labor Protest and State Response in Mainland China; Voter Suppression; French-Oriented Identity in Lebanese Arabic; Metaphysics of Personal Identarian  Facts; Behavioral Investigation of Crossmodal Correspondences between Chords and Geometric Forms; Effect of perspective-taking on implicit and explicit bias towards exotic dancers; an interdisciplinary approach to Psychedelic Therapy; Effects of Microaggressions on Predictors of Academic Success; Relationship Between Academic Social Norms and Faculty Members’Perceptions of Conducting Race Talk in College Classroom; Islam and Public Discourse in France; Human Blueprint for the Construction of Justice, Computing the Language of Life; Human Cannibalism in the works of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries; Empirics of the Draft on GDP Growth; Economic Analysis of How Los Angeles Black Beauty Firms Affect The Communities They Inhabit; Inter-relational History of the Treatment of Epilepsy and the American Eugenics Movement; Exploring the Possibility of a Moral and Epistemological Foundation for Local Democracy; Growth and Greed in the Marketplace; Economic Case for Mandate Corporate Sustainability Disclosures; Redistribution in the Wake of Crisis; Immigration Practices on the US-Mexico Border and the Violence of Liberalism; Structural Analysis of American Post-War Reconstruction Efforts in Iraq by the Coalition Provisional Authority; Black Queerness and Transness, and Surviving The Carceral State; Making Monsters: RightWing Creation of the Liberal Enemy.

The Monsters We Make, Akim Farrow, 2019 (Reed College)

The Monsters We Make, Akim Farrow, 2019 (Reed College)

Free will is the shadow of an impulse freely acted upon. It is a sparkle of light freely released. I see free will in the Universe’s self-expression. I see free will in the pairing of an asteroid and its moon. I see free will in students’ quest for answers when they ask whether Outflows from Supermassive Black Holes suppress Star Formation in Galaxies, whether there are potentially habitable exoplanets near the Center of Active, Milky Way-like Galaxies, What grounds the Direction of Time and How to detect exoplanets in Kepler data. As we reflect on our place in the Universe, we regard Copernicus’image of planets orbiting the Sun and the photograph taken of Earthrise as milestones that helped shape and redirect our understanding of the Universe in the course of humanity.  We rely on intuition and cognitive perception in the exploration of the Universe up until we encounter a new reality. In the meantime, our imagination does its best to fill the gaps from an Artist's impression of a black hole accretion disc to the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87.

 

The Law of Freedom
The Law of Freedom

 

I was struck by some of the comments that were reportedly made during a discussion last month at the Library of Congress on the legacy of the Earthrise photo by the participants Bruce Clarke, the 2019 Baruch  S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Anne Collins Goodyear of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and David McConville, a media artist, and educator.“Earthrise has been invented as much as it has been discovered and captured. When the picture was originally taken, the moon’s horizon runs from top to bottom, which is not an angle readily found on planet Earth. Rotating the photo 90 degrees put the moon’s surface as the ground and framed the Earth as rising above the horizon”.  Imagination is a floor-less well capped by a mirroring surface. She is a double-edged sword, lighting up the path to reality and distorting it at the same time. As time passes, Consciousness seems to be holding a camera, slowly zooming out from Earth beyond the bounds of our physical reach from an infinitesimal corner of the skies unveiled by NASA’s Kepler mission to more than three-quarters of the Universe yet to be revealed by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite  (TESS), launched on April 18th, 2018 for a 2-year survey, and to an ever greater definition to be achieved by the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). These giant steps are mapping the Universe and marking the spots for potential new worlds.

 

Consciousness widens and adjusts her angle of view, taking full advantage of her freedom to explore. Sartre said that there can be knowledge only to the extent that there is freedom and that the very idea of knowing, of unveiling can have meaning only for a freedom (Truth and Existence, p.16, Jean-Paul Sartre, Arlette Elkaïm-Sartre, University of Chicago Press, 1995). In the light of a deeper reflection on the question of freedom, some have wondered whether there is an order relation between freedom, existence, and essence. If events precede effects and occur in relation to each other, does freedom precede existence? Or does essence precede existence? Or, as Sartre claimed, is freedom existence, “and in it existence precedes essence”? I imagine essence to be dark energy weaved by hidden internal degrees of freedom in its physical structure. In the cosmic existential reality, being has become what is knowable to us. Upon reality depends our existence while eroding our freedom, “for a materialistic conception of the universe is radically incompatible with the idea of a free man: more precisely, that in a society ruled by materialistic principles, freedom is transmuted into its opposite”(Gabriel Marcel's Ethics of Hope: Evil, God and Virtue, Jill Graper Hernandez, A&C Black, Oct 13, 2011, p.16).  

 

Freedom varies degree by degree. “Degrees of freedom” applies to a number of parameters that may fluctuate independently. The term refers to the freedom of movement, translation, mutation... Freedom allows those not yet defined parameters to emerge into existence through a free process of self-organized criticality. When the greatest degree of freedom is achieved, the least objectified becomes any entity. Freedom is the aptitude to bring absolute indeterminacy to reality even as it is transcending existence. I understand those degrees of freedom to be unseen framing entities in the canvas of spacetime.

Spacetime consists of some microscopic degrees of freedom (“atoms of spacetime”) the dynamics of which will be governed by — as yet unknown — laws of quantum gravity.... spacetime has certain number density of microscopic degrees of freedom...Any operationally meaningful assertion about spacetime is therefore intrinsic to the degrees of freedom of the matter (i.e. nongravitational) fields…

T. Padmanabhan

 

One may wonder what role played freedom at the beginning of the Universe. In the universal dance lies the law of entropy. A research paper studied the effective degrees of freedom one quadrillionth of a second after the Big Bang until the last positrons disappeared a few minutes later. In an effort to explain what happened in the early Universe, the concept of entropies per particle is introduced, meaning the number of accessible microstates in macroscopic physical systems…

Share this post

Repost0

A phenomenological inquiry

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Shooting stars fall to Earth...

Shooting stars fall to Earth...

Essentially phenomenology is a product of the transcendental subject, whereas science in the ordinary sense is a product of the mundane subject. Yet phenomenology necessary “appears” as the product of the mundane subject.

Conversations with Husserl and Fink, p.93, Dorion Cairns, Springer Science & Business Media, Jun 29, 2013

 

Let’s say that we, Homo Sapiens, do not have the ability to see reality as it is. So can a phenomenological philosophy help us understand what lies beneath the veneer of appearances? Sartre calls phenomenology a scientific, and not critical, study of consciousness. Quoting Martin Heidegger, Ingrid Leman-Stefanovic wrote that a phenomenology of death means: “to let death, as that which shows itself, be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself” (The Event of Death: a Phenomenological Enquiry,  Ingrid Leman-Stefanovic, Springer Science & Business Media, Dec 6, 2012). As I started this post, I was waiting in Grenoble to host the funeral of my father, wondering about the meaning of life and asking myself, perplexed, whether it was real. What are we really? I wish to believe in an absolute Consciousness beyond each one of us and that my dad’s breath had evaporated into some other place I can not see.

 

To me, phenomenology means watching a loved one breath air in and out, one day, and touching the coldness of his body, another day, in a moment of sudden realization that a loss of consciousness has occurred. It’s in those moments in life that we wonder whether consciousness, too, “is a product of the transcendental subject” that only appears to be sprung from the mundane subject. If some argue that consciousness can only refer to individual consciousness, so where does it disappear when a loved one passes away? I rather believe that the very last breath of life is held by the wind and rides the cosmic waves to the Moon, planets and stars that my eyes catch a glimpse of in the early morning sky. I rather believe that I will fly with the wind and join others who preceded me in the eternal dance of the Universe.

 

As I go down the stream of consciousness, I look upstream hoping to gain a more comprehensive understanding of our universal landscape. I read that Sartre’s central concern was the relationship between Consciousness and the world. He wrote that The World did not create the me, the me did not create the World, They are two objects for the absolute, impersonal consciousness, and it is through that consciousness that they are linked together. This absolute consciousness, when it is purified of the I, is no longer in any way a subject, nor is it a collection of representations; it is quite simply a precondition and an absolute source of existence. Sartre’s poetically phrased claim that Consciousness “imprisons itself in the World in order to flee from itself” strikes me as intuitively true as if there were a standoff between empirical and transcendental consciousnesses. 

 

Many of my readings are meant to deepen my learning. Some may get me off-track, others bring me right back where I want to be and may simultaneously occur at a time of my life when I physically and emotionally experience them. In 1972, Edwin Fink wrote that “The authentic and central meaning of Edmund Husserl’s philosophy is today unknown” and that every interpretation is capable “of proving itself from his writings”. As my own subjectivity echoes that of others, I carry their words down the stream of consciousness. The “epistemic fetters” alluded by Robert Arp hinder Homo Sapiens’ awakening.

One must finally achieve the insight that no objective science, no matter how exact, explains or ever can explain anything in a serious sense. To deduce is not to explain. To predict, or to recognize the objective forms of the composition of physical or chemical bodies and to predict accordingly — all this explains nothing but is in need of explanation. The only true way to explain is to make transcendentally understandable.

The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, p.189, Edmund Husserl, Northwestern University Press, 1970

 

The main question that is raised in the quote at the start of this post is where science fits in reality. What is the essence of phenomenology? I have wondered about a phenomenological theory of sciences and noticed that the concept of phenomenology is used in regard to high energy colliders or in the framework of a phenomenological basis for Modified Newtonian Dynamics. On the one hand, claiming that a phenomenological theory might assume that the orbits of planets are circles, since they are observed to be roughly circles (But we know that with sufficiently accurate observations the orbits are actually ellipses, and the circle model is an over-simplification) would imply that phenomenology should not be taken as reality but as the unreliable appearance of the Universe. On the other hand, saying that collider phenomenology plays a pivotal role in building the bridge between theory and experiments would emphasize the importance of the world-phenomenon as a “test ride” in our understanding of the Universe.

Vesica piscis

Vesica piscis

 

At the intersection of the Transcendental and Mundane Spheres lies science, and so creating in my mind an image that mirrors the mathematical shape of vesica piscis. I once wondered what it means when scientists say “this or that agrees with intuition” as if science were entrenching on the realm of the transcendental sphere. I don’t know whether it is possible to differentiate an empirical intuition from a transcendental one.  Husserl talked about the transcendental ego and “the correlation between the world and transcendental subjectivity as objectified in mankind” (Edmund Husserl, ibid., p.187). In the Husserlian phenomenological methodology, the ego demerges from epistemological level to level until finally achieving universal consciousness.  Phenomenologists refer to our life-world as a Platonic cave that keeps us in jail. How to escape from imprisonment is a matter of debate among philosophers and scientists.

The temptation of the Victor, 1949, Ernst Fuchs

The temptation of the Victor, 1949, Ernst Fuchs

 

At that very moment, my autobiographical self jumps in to remind me of the legendary account of the Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma facing at a cave wall for nine years as if the cave is no longer a prison but, on the contrary, a ground for enlightenment. Viewed from the vantage point where East and West meet, there is an antinomy between Science’s constant wiping of our mirroring reality and the phenomenological epoche that defines the spiritual and radical act of “unchaining,”tearing oneself free,”stepping-forth.” From phenomenology to absolute being, does our consciousness would benefit to land on the South Pole of the Moon in order to leap forward, or can it achieve self-realization, still entangled in earthly fetters?

 

I wish to hold on to the movement of the air and the flow of the whispering consciousness. Just as I was finishing this post, last night I dreamt about my father...

 

Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma

Share this post

Repost0

On the future of humanity

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

On the future of humanity

Back in 2016, I read Yuval Noah Harari’s book entitled Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He wrote that it is “doubtful whether Homo Sapiens will still be around a thousand years from now, so 2 million years is really out of our league”. I wonder whether in the back of his mind he was thinking of the Fermi Paradox as regard to why we have no proof of intelligent lifeform out there besides us on planet Earth. Many have tried to explain the Fermi Paradox. Common assumptions include that intelligent life is hard to evolve (an ‘early Great Filter’) and that intelligent life tends to destroy itself before becoming spacefaring (a ‘late Great Filter). As of today, we have discovered 49 potentially habitable exoplanets, which does not give away the stage of development that life may have reached: bacteria,  living organisms,  post-humans,etc. And what about unhabitable ones? Could we imagine Artificial Intelligence (AI), supercomputers left to themselves or hybrid beings who survived the total annihilation of their planet’s biosphere and who will continue their own evolution to more complex forms? That leads to another common idea that if we ever detect signals from an extraterrestrial origin, it may very well be from machines. I imagine AI agents lost in space crisscrossing the Universe onboard of starships.

The fact that intelligent life may be hard to evolve is highlighted by what Martin J. Rees says, that “maybe some aspects of reality are intrinsically beyond us in that their comprehension would require some post-human intellect”(The smallest insect is more complex than a star or a galaxy, Grand Challenges For Science In The 21st Century, World Scientific, Sep 18, 2018). So no matter how complex the chemistry of the human brain is, we may always be clueless when it comes to the hard problem like Consciousness and the Universe.  If we are to believe that even at a relatively slow spread using subrelativistic starships, a species could colonize the galactic disk within 50 million to one billion years, a very short time compared to the age of a galaxy,  so why on Earth is it that you and I don’t know about any “first contact”? It may simply be the result of our individual or collective ignorance. The absence of proof is not proof of absence. It may be the unwillingness on the part of an extraterrestrial intelligence to reach out to us as if they were forbidden to interfere. So we could be like fish in a fishbowl with aliens watching us.

 

The fact that intelligent life tends to destroy itself refers to a threshold of complexity at which a complex and highly organized structure from a cellular level to an entire civilization or galaxy may reach critical instabilities. In 1996, Stuart Kauffman wrote about his working hypothesis that complex adaptative systems evolve to the edge of chaos or even to a position somewhere in the ordered regime near the edge of chaos. “The reason complex systems exist on, or in the ordered regime near the edge of chaos is because evolution takes them there” (Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 90). Edward O. Wilson once said that we have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, so there is a likelihood that a complex evolving system such as we, Homo Sapiens, tends to a state of great instabilities beyond which we aren’t able to see.

 

In a 2018 paper on Artificial Intelligence for Interstellar Travel,  Andreas Hein and Stephen Baxter discuss the feasibility of interstellar probes and the development of AI capabilities along four lines of missions: Explorers, Philosophers, Founders, Ambassadors. While Rosetta, the BepiColombo mission launched last year for the planet Mercury and ESA’s Hera planetary defence mission hailed as “the pioneer of autonomy in deep space” could be labeled explorers, we seem to be far from the other three agents.

 

An autonomous agent is a system situated within and a part of an environment that senses that environment and acts on it, over time, in pursuit of its own agenda and so as to effect what it senses in the future.

Stan Franklin and Art Graesser

In regard to the timeline, Andreas Hein and Stephen Baxter suggest mid-21st century for those AI probes to be capable of performing tasks such as communicating with an extraterrestrial intelligence and helping create space or surface colonies in advance to humans’arrival. If AI is indeed the future of mankind, robots and computers will be the ones exploring the Universe while we’ll be confined to Earth, at least for a while, trying to make sense of the information received.

 

The exploration of the Universe increases our awareness of a system of complex correspondences. If one can make sense of the very complex string theory, would that bring one closer to the nature of reality? On the premise that our global sense of directions is based on four, six or more parameters, I wonder how those directions relate to a Universe made of complex-dimensional structures. It is our knowledge of the Universe that seems to be complexified. In my mind, abstract algebra echoes the sound of the Universe and delivers a message to the ears of human Consciousness. Will our brains have enough conceptual grasp to hear or will that task devolve on a post-human species?

We should be open-minded about the observe(d) possibility that we may eventually hit the buffers because our brains do not have enough conceptual grasp.

Martin J. Rees

 

Theoretical physics is to a large extent about symmetries, and moonshine which refers to unexpected relations between finite group representations and modular objects is to a large extent about hidden symmetries, which (conjecturally) take place in a physical context. One of the most puzzling enigmas in mathematics is the monstrous moonshine. In my mind, mathematical riddles are complex theoretical structures composed of numerous propositions which themselves can be decomposed into constituent abstract systems that each need fewer propositions to be specified. The term “monstrous moonshine” was coined in a 1979 paper co-written by J. H. Conway and S. P. Norton. The authors in the paper proposed to call a new simple group M of order the MONSTER. It was later found that  1, 196883, 21296876, and 842609326 are dimensions of certain irreducible representations of the Monster group, the largest sporadic simple group whose sporadic nature makes its existence somewhat mysterious and one might wonder what its “natural” representation is.

 

I understand that certain representations reveal themselves within the Monster group and when I read that continuous fields have infinitely many degrees of freedom, I imagine that there can be an infinite number of dimensions in the Universe and that for every dimension compactified, there is energy waiting to be released. I see time in the same manner. In my mind, 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.  As mathematicians and physicists are identifying informational patterns, the flow of events is carrying my steps. I feel my way on a narrow path along the edge of walls and fences of my own intellectual journey.

1. If the present and the future
Depend on the past,
Then the present and the future
Woułd have existed in the past.
2. lf the present and the future
Did not exist there,
How coułd the present and the future
Be dependent upon it?
3. lf they are not dependent upon the past,
Neither of the two woułd be estabłished.
Therefore neither the present
Nor the future woułd exist.
4. By the same method,
The other two divisions-past and future,
Upper, lower, middle, etc.,
Unity, etc., shoułd be understood.
5. A nonstatic time is not grasped.
Nothing one coułd grasp as
Stationary time exists.
lf time is not grasped, how is it known?

The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Jay L.Garfield, Oxford University Press, 1995, pp.254-257

Share this post

Repost0

The language of time and space

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

 

Leaving the States for a few days reminded me how much my own perspective is tinted by the set of spatial and temporal circumstances that define my daily life. I took the opportunity to read a few science magazines in French and got interested in stories that shed a different light on the Universe. My short trip to Grenoble, France gave me a chance to change my own perspective not just on a personal level. As you travel, you will experience life the same way the locals do. You will watch the same media, take the same public transportation and care for the same issues they do. There are as many perspectives as there are individual circumstances. The change of perspective highlights the idea of relativity. With every new information, I pause and rethink my own attitude, whether I willingly or reluctantly meet the challenges to a status quo self-imposed on my mind and my way of life.  

 

It is generally considered that the Big Bang and its aftermath produced equal numbers of particles and antiparticles and that at some point in its evolution, the Universe has developed an asymmetry between the elementary matter particles and the elementary antimatter antiparticles and that such asymmetry was caused by a physical process called baryogenesis. While we know the general conditions necessary to generate a baryon asymmetry from an initially symmetric state, we are far from having a single accepted theory of baryogenesis.

 

For some, however, there is no matter-antimatter asymmetry in the present universe.  It may be that the vastness of the Universe allows the possibility of patches of matter coexisting with not yet discovered regions of antimatter, separated by large voids.

...the standard cosmological model finds itself in the unpalatable situation of explaining most observations using concepts that are little, or not at all, understood. It is therefore reasonable to investigate possible alternatives to the standard model, which may in the end turn up to be just an impressive fit to the data using a relatively limited number of parameters.

Gabriel Chardin and Giovanni Manfredi

As an alternative to the Standard Model, the Dirac-Milne Universe is equivalent to an open empty universe that is neither accelerating nor decelerating and is said to contain as much matter as antimatter provided that antimatter is a negative mass allowing repulsive gravity. New antimatter gravity experiments, such as ALPHA-g, AEgIS, and Gbar,  are underway at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

 

Another alternative is that the original antimatter created in the Big Bang is now contained within the stable composite leptons, the electrons and neutrinos, and the stable composite quarks, the weak eigenstate up and down quarks that comprise the protons and neutrons, within the hydrogen, helium and heavier atoms of the universe. Despite the lack of findings by the first mission of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) over 15 years ago, another experiment under development, the General Antiparticle Spectrometer (GAPS), is designed to detect low-energy antimatter. One may wonder whether what we observed as a matter-antimatter asymmetry can be understood within the framework of a multiverse. Salvador J. Robles-Pérez suggests in his 2019 paper the possibility of two expanding universes from the point of view of their internal inhabitants, who identify matter with the particles that move in their spacetime and antimatter with the particles that move in the symmetric universe.

 

Finding a link between the abstract world of a philosopher’s mind and the theoretical universe of a physicist is a poet’s dream. In the language of time and space, the expression “phantom divide” evokes a Buddhist image of the middle way of emptiness defined as the crossroads between existence and non-existence, as a way to transcend a false dualism between being and non-being.  At the root of reality lies the absence of dualistic entities and the entity that is the absence Of such entities - this is what characterizes emptiness...Whatever is dependent co-arisen That is explained to be emptiness. That, being a dependent designation, Is itself the middle way.

 

T31 n1601  

無二有無故,非有亦非無,非異亦非一,

是說為空相。

T30n1564

眾因緣生法,我說即是無,亦為是假名,

亦是中道義。 

 

I feel the need to wrap my head around the transitional nature of space-time. What is the ontology of the middle way? An in-between fabric of space and time, being and non-being, matter and antimatter, negative particles moving backward and positive particles moving forward. Dirac had shown that antimatter appears as the matter of negative energy going backwards in time. While the gravitational properties of antimatter are still not known, I wonder about its philosophical implications. My mind slips through the blurred lines of emptiness, deep into an abyss where existence and non-existence intersect. In the duration of our Universe runs a trail of events linked by succeeding passages where mirror-image opposites encounter. It is in the vacuity of endless middle ways that the causality of events is to be found, for every particle there exists a corresponding antiparticle. The middle way is part of a threefold integrated reality.  

 

I stumbled upon the image taken of the far side of the Moon, with Earth in the background, captured by China's LongJiang-2 satellite, and realized how great of an impact this “reversal of perspective” has on human consciousness. When consciousness, anchored down by its earthly condition, ventures out to the other side of the Moon, it is turned upside down by how insignificant our planet looks in the background of the Moon. One needs to put into perspective the evolutive aspect of temporal and spatial dimensions within the ever-expanding walls of our Universe.

 

From the dark side of the Moon (DSLWP-B/Dwingeloo Radio Observatory)

From the dark side of the Moon (DSLWP-B/Dwingeloo Radio Observatory)

 

On a more down-to-earth level,  I see the language of space and time being part of a larger discussion on space exploration. While most efforts are focused on a space race aimed at asserting one country’s strategic position beyond Earth in a rush to build the first lunar base and to plan and eventually fully carry through the exploitation of space mineral resources in partnership with private entities, I dream of another perspective that would strive to unify space and time and help find balance in our Universe. I dream of a “Center that collapses time and space into a single unified entity” (Clara Sue Kidwell, “So far and Yet So Near”, American Indian Places, p.210), a fusion of space and time.

 

The mind of a poet can be erratic. My head spins as my thoughts try to keep up with the pace at which images pop in my brain. A change of perspective has occurred in the flow of things and events.

Share this post

Repost0

Crossing the phantom divide

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Poesy is a part of learning, in measure of words for the most part restrained, but in all other points extremely licensed, and doth truly refer to the imagination, which, being not tied to the laws of matter, may at pleasure join that which nature hath severed, and sever that which nature hath joined, and so make unlawful matches and divorces of things

Philip Sidney, Sidney's 'The Defence of Poesy' and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism, Gavin Alexander, 2004

 

At the risk of misleading those who stumble upon them, words by their depth and beauty can incite a naive wonder in one’s mind. The expression “crossing the phantom divide” reminds me of how much I feel poetry and philosophy are an intrinsic part of science. Human nature in its basic expression draws from the well of imagination and relies on the traditional pillars of learning.  It is challenging to write a post on another mystery involving abstract ideas based on theoretical analysis. In general terms, it seems natural to start by defining what energy is. Energy is “the substance from which all elementary particles, all atoms and therefore all things are made, and energy is that which moves. Energy may be called the fundamental cause for all change in the world” (Werner Heisenberg, physics and philosophy, p.61). As it is for matter, energy has a dark side that appears to be hidden from us.  The expression “dark energy” has been used for other subjects as a metaphor when we talk about the brain’s dark energy or the dark energy of the Unconscious to refer to an energy whose source we are unaware of. Even Leonard Susskind concedes that dark energy has more of a claim to being called mysterious than dark matter “but the mystery has much more to do with its absence than its presence… The mystery is not why dark energy exists but why so little of it exists” (The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design, Leonard Susskind).

 

Studies of dark matter and dark energy are extremely complementary from both a technical and scientific standpoint. The difficulty in disentangling the two components of the dark sector raises the possibility that both dark phenomena can be unified into a single negative mass fluid. A unifying model has been widely discussed, most commonly describing a (flat) universe filled with a fluid obeying the Chaplygin equation of state.  A possible scenario that might explain how dark energy and dark matter interact is that dark energy may decay into cold (or even warm) dark matter. Dark matter probes highlight the interconnectedness of dark matter and dark energy research. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a major endeavor by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, was originally envisioned as a Dark Matter Telescope. In recent years, studies carried out with LSST have been more focused on dark energy.

The universe is said to be overwhelmed by a cosmic fluid with negative pressure. A great number of theories have been advanced, discussed, modified and corrected over the years. Among them, dark energy has been defined as the unvarying cosmological constant (Λ) introduced by Einstein, whose origin is still an open debate. It may also be a massive cosmological vector field filling the Universe,  a scalar field that drives the inflation at early epochs and survives to date to become quintessence, that is the fifth component of the cosmos in addition to cold dark matter, baryons, photons, and neutrinos.

 

After it was discovered in the 1920s that the Universe is expanding, it was determined in 1998  that the expansion was accelerating. But that was put into question almost 20 years later by another team of scientists who claimed that there is only marginal evidence for cosmic acceleration and that the data are still quite consistent with a constant rate of expansion.  Nevertheless, the discovery of cosmic acceleration led to the establishment of the Cosmological Constant + Cold Dark Matter (ΛCDM) model as the standard cosmological paradigm. Ongoing and planned cosmic surveys, such as the Dark Energy Survey Project, are designed to test the aforementioned model and to shed light on the mechanism behind it.

Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 (NASA)

Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 (NASA)

 

 

Researchers are applying brane cosmology to explain how dark energy plays into the current accelerated universe. Dark energy may well be a non-linear kinetic energy of the scalar field named k-essence or a tachyonic scalar field. The word “tachyon” was coined by Gerald Feinberg in 1967 to describe a particle with imaginary mass. Then again, dark energy may be a vacuum energy of holographic origin which seems to be confirmed by current observational data. It may even be composed of two parts: the cosmological constant and the holographic dark energy.

 

After its scheduled startup in late 2019, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will begin a five-year observing run next year in the goal to measure the effect of dark energy on the expansion of the universe. It will scan one-third of the sky using an array of 5,000 swiveling robotscan to measure the velocities of 5,000 galaxies at a time. Another five-year project, this one called “Exploring Dark Energy through Cosmic Structures” (EDECS), ended in 2017. Its goal was to study the influence of Dark Energy clustering on the cosmic structure formation. To that end, the project developed new numerical algorithms to perform cosmological simulations.

 

As we are awaiting the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) to be operational early 2020s, the Hydrogen Intensity and Real-time Analysis eXperiment (HIRAX) based in South Africa will map nearly all of the southern sky in radio continuum and neutral hydrogen line emission and so doing, it will measure the expansion of the Universe from 12 to 7 billion years ago.

 

At the same time, a recent study has suggested that dark energy stars may be an alternative to black holes. The term “dark energy star” was coined by George Chapline when he proposed that gravitational collapse of objects with masses greater than a few solar masses should lead to the formation of a compact object called dark energy star with a much larger vacuum energy. The study may be viewed in the context of another paper which states that the important question concerns whether dark energy is a completely new physical entity or one which we already know, namely a gravitational energy within the vacuum of a closed gravitating system that has long been known to be a negative energy. It remains to be seen whether scientists currently analyzing the data gathered by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) will provide evidence that dark energy stars exist. EHT is a virtual Earth-sized telescope aimed to measure the size of the emission regions of two supermassive black holes, Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way and M87 in the center of the Virgo A galaxy.

 

Finally, we know that dark energy is embedded in space, counteracting gravity. The way gravity and antigravity are interacting in my mind is somehow related to time. With the understanding that time’s arrow is perspectival,   I  picture 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. Lastly, I imagine a phantom energy to be something that appears to have no physical reality and still is ultimately real. Raising the concept of a divide begs the question of what lies on the other side and what circumstances enable its crossing. The modified gravity approach as an alternative to dark energy is the focus of research and may be the key to unifying both components of the dark sector, a path to solving the coincidence problem.

Share this post

Repost0

On the nature of dark matter

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

The ring of dark matter (ESA)

The ring of dark matter (ESA)

 

Dark matter is the subject of an investigation led by teams of scientists on the biggest case of the 21st century. It is a phenomenon whose observation was induced by the movement of stars further away from the galactic center, revolving faster than the ones closer in. In the cold dark matter cosmology, stars and gas are thought to be mixed with and embedded in dark matter. In the local Universe, its mass within a galactic disk increases with disk radius, becoming appreciable and then dominant in the outer, baryonic regions of the disks of star-forming galaxies.

 

Nothing seems clear cut in this old mystery. A lilliputian telescope with dragonfly eyes, invented by Pieter van Dokkum from Yale University, discovered the Dragonfly galaxy 44 with an extraordinary concentration of dark matter and identified another galaxy which has far less dark matter than expected, and perhaps no dark matter at all.  Its missing matter begs the question as to whether this “missing dark matter problem” is unique to this galaxy or applies more widely.

 

Luminous or non-luminous, matter can either be seen with the right instruments or stay in the dark.  Vera Rubin wrote that “the (dark) matter could be much like the matter we know” but somehow “it is not radiating” or it is a “kind of particle that we have not yet discovered, and which does not radiate.” (Bright Galaxies, Dark Matters, Springer Science & Business Media, 1996, p.206). As invisible as dark matter is, scientists are retracing its evolution. A pair of extremely massive star-forming galaxies at less than 800 million years after the Big Bang has been discovered, suggesting the presence of a dark-matter halo with a mass of more than 400 billion solar masses, making it among the rarest dark-matter haloes that should exist in the Universe at this epoch. ​​​​​​​​​​

The cosmic budget of ordinary matter (ESA)

The cosmic budget of ordinary matter (ESA)

 

The fundamental nature of dark matter constitutes ∼ 85% of the matter density and ∼ 26% of the energy density of the universe. After cosmic inflation in the early universe, a strong gravity has caused most of matter to coalesce into small impenetrable closed systems interacting only by gravity and constituting most of the dark matter. Some studies have raised the possibility that it is composed of primordial black holes while others have ruled them out as the dominant form of dark matter. Others have suggested that it is formed by remnants of evaporated black holes tunneling to white holes through which matter bounces back. The term “erebons” coined by Roger Penrose describes those dark matter particles crossing over from one eon to the successive one across “dark epochs” in cyclic cosmologies.

 

Scientists have gained a better understanding over the past 80 years thanks to their increasing abilities to map the distribution patterns of dark matter. From the tens of thousands of galaxies mapped out by the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky to the millions of galaxies whose images are being gathered today,  they have been able to study the multi-faceted phenomenon but remain somehow helpless at assessing its physical reality. Following the two- and three-dimensional mass maps reconstructed from the Subaru Hyper Suprime-Cam survey first-year shear catalog, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be able to produce the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of matter and the growth of cosmic structure over the past 10 billion years.


I don’t know what’s more exciting about the discussion on dark matter if it’s the fact that it is yet another mystery that the human mind is set out to decipher or that countless of scientists rely on an abundance of technological feats in their quest. Optical imaging surveys and detectors in South Korea (KIMS,COSINE-100), China (PANDAX), Canada (PICO, SuperCDMS ), Italy (Xenon 100, DAMA/LIBRA), France (Edelweiss),  Japan (XMASS), United States (LZ, LUX ) represent just one aspect of the collaborative undertaking in the search for answers. ​​​​

Searching galactic haloes for missing matter (ESA)

Searching galactic haloes for missing matter (ESA)

 

Is dark matter a fluid or a particle? A study found that dark matter is a cold, collisionless, fluid that can be kinematically ‘heated up’ and moved around. Several new types of fundamental particles have been proposed as candidates for dark matter but no definitive signal has been detected except by the DAMA collaboration which reported a statistically significant annual modulation in the rate of interaction events in their detector with a period and phase consistent with that expected for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). However, the result of the first 59 and half days of data from COSINE-100 experiment ruled out WIMP-nucleon interactions as the cause of the annual modulation observed by the DAMA collaboration. Some other studies suggest that massive pseudo-Goldstone bosons named axions, interacting with photons, are the plasma particles that are the most probable candidates for dark matter particles. Yet, others claimed that the massive gravitons, linked to the generation of massless gravitons, i.e. the gravitational waves, are a possible candidate. Furthermore, sterile neutrinos are found to be a theoretically very well-motivated dark matter candidate that can be searched for indirectly and directly.

 

While some are figuring out what dark matter is made of, others are striving to get around it and redefine the laws of gravity.  A pilot study on the basis of the individual measurements of galaxies and galaxy clusters is aimed at putting into test if gravity can indeed be modified at large scales, and what this would imply for such observables as the mass density of dark matter. Furthermore, Erik Verlinde is making the case that the observed phenomena that are currently attributed to dark matter are the consequence of the emergent nature of gravity,  an unavoidable and logical consequence of the emergent nature of space time itself.

 NASA Find Clues that May Help Identify Dark Matter (NASA Goddard)

NASA Find Clues that May Help Identify Dark Matter (NASA Goddard)

 

The debate on the luminous and non-luminous matter is reminiscent of a similar discussion about Consciousness and the Unconscious mind. The Unconscious seems to nurture our conscious thoughts and push us unaware on our life journey the same way, it appears to me, dark matter is said to influence the stellar motion. As we wonder whether the Unconscious is outside the realm of consciousness or an inaccessible part of it,  we ponder whether dark matter is made of a “kind of particles that we have not yet discovered" or “much like the matter we know”. In that context, I recall that some have imagined the possibility of a biological dark matter and conjectured that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter.

Share this post

Repost0

Waves

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

... content and process are not two separately existent things, but rather they are two aspects of views of one whole movement

David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge Classics, 1980, p.23

Waves

 

There is much to say about building upon the great insights of those who preceded us. I feel that many concepts have been defined in the past and others have been restated in countless different ways over the course of humanity. As we go down the stream of consciousness, we look upstream hoping to gain a more comprehensive understanding of our universal landscape. The discussion on content and process reminds me of two quotations from the legendary philosopher Laozi, or I should say, the book Dao De Jing 道德經. Translating is a subjective endeavor. I have a preference for the 1967 work in French done by Liou Kia-Hway.  The closest to the meaning that Liou Kia-Hway tried to convey might be even more clearly stated by Professor Gu Zhengkun from Beijing University and in a lesser extent Lin Yutang (1948) :

故有之以为利,无之以为用
Hence the substance (Being) can provide a condition
Under which usefulness is found,
But the Nothingness (space) is the usefulness itself.

Gu Zhengkun, Lao Zi: The Book of Tao and Teh,chapter 11

Waves

道常無爲而無不爲
The Tao never does,
Yet through it everything is done.

Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of Laotse,chapter 37

 

I understand the Tao (Dao 道) to be the flow “prior to that of the ‘things’ that can be seen to form and dissolve in this flow”( Bohm, p.14) and that “what we call empty space contains an immense background of energy, and that matter as we know it is a small, ‘quantized’ wavelike excitation on top of this background, rather like a tiny ripple on a vast sea…it may be said that space, which has so much energy, is full rather than empty” (Bohm, p.242). In chapter X entitled Process (Process and Reality: An essay on cosmology, 1929), Alfred North Whitehead wrote that “in the sentence 'all things flow,' there are three words - and we have started by isolating the last word of the three. We move backwards to the next word 'things' and ask, What sort of things flow? Finally, we reach the first word 'all' and ask, What is the meaning of the 'many' things engaged in this common flux, and in what sense if any, can the word 'all' refer to a definitely indicated set of these many things?”. All things are encompassed in our known Universe in a process defined as “an ordered and structured inner movement that is essential to what things are” (Bohm, p.16).

 

Particles are a quintessential part of our phenomenological realm. They carry information via disturbances of space and matter. Their specific wavelengths have left an indelible mark over 13 billion years ago on the blackbody radiation of the cosmic microwave background. At the core of the energy-content flow,  the wave-particle duality defines the inextricable links woven between time and space.  In my own tendency to fragment all the things that flow, I wonder whether everything is made of waves. One may inquire about the deepest level of movement which might “be analyzable into yet finer particles which will perhaps turn out to be the ultimate substance of the whole reality. However, the notion that all is flux… denies such a supposition. Rather, it implies that any describable event, object, entity, etc., is an abstraction from an unknown and undefinable totality of flowing movement”(Bohm, p.62). The shorter the wavelength, the more undefinable the measurement of space and time is. “Beyond this, the whole notion of space and time fades out “into something that is at present unspecifiable” (Bohm, p.241).

 

Multi-wavelength view of a supernova remnant

Multi-wavelength view of a supernova remnant

 

What is a wave traveling through spacetime? A shape that curves endlessly in the undetectable wind. Microwaves, radio waves, sound waves, gravitational waves are some of the clues used in the coordinated effort undertaken in the field of multi-messenger astronomy. Particle-like or wave-like behavior depends on the experimental apparatus they are confronted by.  In the interplay between electromagnetic wavelengths and colors, we are speaking the language of our instruments that deliver to us visual images of space events that happened thousands or millions of light-years away.

 

Waves might be matter-less but they are not information-less. In one study, the detection of far-infrared wavelengths and submillimeter emission from a supernova remnant was key to pinpoint the presence of presolar grains of silica.  In another, an international team of astronomers was able to conduct multiwavelength surveys as well as submillimeter and molecular observations of a star-forming region composed of two dusty ring-like structures located some 5,900 light years from the Earth and about 850 light years above the galactic plane. Furthermore, a study describes for the first time after it was theoretically proposed 45 years ago, how the invisible electric and magnetic forces that surround Earth are responding to impulses that are mostly originating from the solar wind. The 5 NASA THEMIS probes were able to detect the boundary's oscillations and the resulting sounds within the Earth's magnetic shield.

 

Simulation of the magnetic field in Earth’s core

Simulation of the magnetic field in Earth’s core

 

Does a gravitational wave travel like an unseeable wave in the dark ocean or a ripple on an invisible lake?  My understanding is that gravitons and gravitational waves are to be looked at through the concept of wave-particle duality. Massless or massive, gravitons might be the key to better understanding dark matter. Gravitational waves reach us from distant sources through “an imperfect fluid”, the cold dark matter whose dominant effect is “a small frequency dependent modification of the propagation speed of gravitational waves”. Since experiments started in the 1960s, the first direct detection of gravitational waves,  whose existence was predicted by Albert Einstein, occurred on September 14, 2015, at the two LIGO sites in Hanford, WA, and Livingston, LA.

The first observing run lasted through January 19th, 2016 and saw the first detections of gravitational waves from stellar-mass binary black holes ...the second observing run of the Advanced LIGO detectors commenced on November 30th, 2016, and ended on August 25th, 2017. On August 1st, 2017 the Advanced Virgo detector joined the observing run, enabling the first three-detector observations of gravitational waves.

GWTC-1: A Gravitational-Wave Transient Catalog of Compact Binary Mergers Observed by LIGO and Virgo during the First and Second Observing Runs

Within the flow that takes us down the stream of consciousness, is everything a wave or is the analogy being overused?  In my own frame of reference, a wave is the DNA imprint of the Universe, i.e. all universal things, traveling through space and time, a chain of light and sound coiling around each other.

Waves

Share this post

Repost0

<< < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 > >>