Process

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

I enjoy creative writing, the very first ideas and original sparks that rise from a swirl of images, experiences, and thoughts. Owing to their ability to discriminate what is,  scientists can effectively express their thoughts and convey to a larger audience their gained wisdom with an intuitive choice of words that resonate with truth, as Arthur Eddington and Herman Wyel did. The two quotes below describe the human experience of the Universe :

It is in the external world that the four dimensions are united - not in the relations of the external world to the individual which constitute his direct acquaintance with space and time. Just in that process of relation to an individual, the order falls apart into the distinct manifestations of space and time. An individual is a four-dimensional object of greatly elongated form; in ordinary language we say that he has considerable extension in time and insignificant extension in space. Practically he is represented by a line - his track through the world. When the world is related to such an individual, his own asymmetry is introduced into the relation; and that order of events which is parallel with his track, that is to say with himself, appears in his experience to be differentiated from all other orders of events.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, University Press, 1921, p.57

However deep the chasm may be that separates the intuitive nature of space from that of time in our experience, nothing of this qualitative difference enters into the objective world which physics endeavours to crystallise out of direct experience. It is a four-dimensional continuum, which is neither “time” nor “space. Only the consciousness that passes on in one portion of this world experiences the detached piece which comes to meet it and passes behind it, as history, that is, as a process that is going forward in time and takes place in space.

Hermann Weyl, Dover, 1922, p.217

Why does consciousness inhabit my so-called body, the physical process I experience? I had that weird feeling the other day looking at my little finger. I broke my pinkie when I was five, a palpable memory of my autobiographical self but so alien to the adult I am today. Lost in the past is the memory of that event. “Oh, that’s right,” I recalled, “I did break my finger”. The “greatly elongated” human form that I am “with considerable extension in time and insignificant extension in space” is going through a process since birth at the physiological, mental and spiritual level. Marked with an expiration stamp, whoever we were as children or even ten years ago has moved on one brief ontological stage after another in a process whose result is forever becoming. Thomas Laycock said:

 

The most general vital energies are those by which the continued existence of the organism in time and space is maintained. They are the instincts of life common to all organisms, whether plants or animals. I shall designate them the primordial instincts; not only because they are the most universal and fundamental, but also because they are the instincts out of which all the others must be evolved.

Mind and Brain, Sutherland & Knox, 1860, vol. II, p.190

We owe our perception of time and space to our primordial instincts. They are tools for our mind to cope with reality. Amidst unstoppable processes, we know that we are not the endgame but an interlude,  an episode in a biological process, a brief event in the Universe. Life is an infinite game that started on Earth billions of years ago and neither you nor I will be here to see the future of this process whose rules evolve unceasingly. Caught amidst those processes, we might ask ourselves whether time and consciousness are two faces of one mystery (Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research| July 2010 | Vol. 1 | Issue 5 | pp. 482-639). William A. Adams answers as follows :

The short answer is “No”. Time is mysterious. Consciousness is mysterious. But that is not a sufficient basis to link them. However, there seems to be a deep connection between time and consciousness, even though they are clearly discriminable entities.

William A. Adams

Life unfolds in an endless replication process constantly guided by the repeated nudge of evolution. There is existence only in time.The stars are processes too. In their life cycle, massive stars become supernovas, some transform into black holes, others into neutron stars. From the infinitely large to the infinitely small, sound and visual patterns are universal signs of a process that is happening when moons affect tides, oceans regulate climates, planets tilt on their axis and asteroids collide with other celestial bodies.

 

Stellar occultation during lunar eclipse

Stellar occultation during lunar eclipse

Life in every form and at every level is a process of regulation and organization from cells to ecosystems. “In the elementary grammar of the world," wrote Carlo Rovelli, "there is neither space nor time  -only processes that transform physical quantities from one to another, from which it is possible to calculate probabilities and relations “(The order of time, Riverhead books, 2018, p.195). Time is not absolute. It is a conventionally designed tool. The only thing that we objectively know of time is the present because that is the only thing that we can say we are experiencing in the now. However, since we know that when we gaze at the stars, we are looking back in time, we can reasonably say as well that the past does exist.

Sometimes we want to talk about events that occurred before humans existed, and then it seems particularly absurd to assume that facts only become definite when observed.

Roderich Tumulka

Messier 89

Messier 89

At the same time, we know 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? 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 part of the past and the next is part of the future. When some say that time does not exist, that is because the present time is indeed an illusion. Still, “there is a universal conscious now which hosts the passage of time”.  Bergson talked about our ability to perceive simultaneous flows - be an instant, a lifetime or the life cycle of a star - because “we have learned to spatialize time. For the reason that we are these“greatly elongated” human forms “with considerable extension in time and insignificant extension in space”, we are all the more conscious of this being our known Universe in which we, animals, plants, humans, live side by side carrying on with our daily activities in parallel, for time runs through “multiple flows within one flow. If we dare to say that consciousness lives in each one of us simultaneously, I remain ambivalent about my own intuitive impression that those billions of flows run through a single universal Consciousness. Is consciousness “coextensive with the universe” or, compared to the duration of the Universe, just an “infinitesimal consciousness” “coextensive with our conscious life”? We can only say that those billions of flows, meticulously regulated by time and deeply felt by our consciousness, are processes occurring in the phenomenological realm.

Tail emerging from a spiral galaxy nicknamed D100

Tail emerging from a spiral galaxy nicknamed D100

 

My own consciousness, seemingly unaware, wonders whether electromagnetic fields are coextensive with the Universe and whether we have to believe that anything else is simply random manifestations in the process.

 

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Gravity

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Lunar eclipse over Lake Maggiore

Lunar eclipse over Lake Maggiore

There are concepts related to emergence, information and gravity, and properties like colors that point to a sense of universality. As the full Moon passed through the shadow of Earth it appeared orange, reminding me of fall colors when the weather turns cold. The same orange glow seems to radiate through the cosmic microwave background (CMB) that was formed about 380,000 years after the Big Bang.  As the universe cooled down, the symmetry between the different species of elementary particle broke in a phase transition analogous to the freezing of water.

 

The answer to the following question eludes me: if we experience the expansion of the Universe, what is beyond our Universe that allows it to expand? It is not the question that matters but the way you formulate it.  A scientist who would attempt to use quantum mechanics in theoretical cosmology might rephrase the unsolved problem this way:

...the nature of the accelerating expansion is seeking to answer one or the other question: “Does nothing weigh something?” or “Is nowhere somewhere?”

Eric V. Linder

According to Erik Verlinde’s paper “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton”, what defines the expansion - that is gravity and space-time geometry - is emergent. And so if gravity is emergent, when and how did it emerge? Verlinde adds that gravity could emerge from a microscopic description that doesn’t know about its existence and that the link between the universe without gravity and the universe with gravity is information  “measured in terms of entropy”. As Carlo Rovelli wrote in his book The Order of Time (Riverhead books, 2018, p.34), entropy is “nothing other than the number of microscopic states that our blurred vision of the world fails to distinguish” and depends on the peculiar coupling between us and the rest of the universe. In the context of the uncertainties that we face as observers when we attempt to measure the true value of past and future events, the increase of entropy stems from our own assessment and prediction of what matter will become in macroscopic observables. Rovelli specifies that for any time evolution, there is a split of the system into subsystems such that the initial state has zero entropy and then entropy grows.  

Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck

Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) looks like a patchwork of colors guiding us into the past and the future, a thermal map from which we aim to deduce distances in time and space. The CMB gives a unique perspective on the patterns of distribution,  how tightly matter was clustered throughout the young Universe and how fast it is fragmenting and reorganizing. Its growth evolution seems to hint at a nonexisting phenomenon whose resulting dynamics we observe. In the discussion on gravity, two discoveries help create in my head an image of a time-space geometry. My mind drives through an interconnected system of one-way streets from ideas to images and from concepts to visual representations. Those mental images foster an internal dialogue that helps me to enter a new level of consciousness as I visualize new ideas and concepts.

 

First, the discovery of a 13.5 billion-year-old low-mass star,  the most metal-poor star ever  to be observed, located about 20 000 light-years away in a binary system, would place it about at the time when the CMB was imprinted. Second, the farthest individual star ever to be seen, a blue supergiant star named Icarus would have been just a flicker if it had not been for the magnifying effect of gravitational lens. Since its light has taken 9 billion years to reach Earth, it appeared to us as it was when the universe was about 4-5 billion years old, at the time of the earliest form of life on Earth perhaps hidden inside the fissure of a rock, potentially, along with billions of other specks of life spread across the Universe escaping slowly from their rocky cradle. Icarus is long gone but its existence has reached our consciousness only today. I visualize in my mind the depth of the spatial layout and struggle to add the factor time in the equation.  I wonder what the biosignature of our young Universe was like then and imagine billions of microorganisms feeling for the first time the soft push and pull of gravity. Is life still hidden today in a lunar rock, on Mars, Venus or on an exoplanet waiting to escape?  

 

The Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to be in orbit in 2021 at more than 1 million miles from the Earth, will have the capacity to detect faraway stars like Icarus. Equipped with 18 mirrors in beryllium, it will be operational six months after its launch and will be able to look far back in time and capture light from Population III stars, like the 13.5 billion-year-old star, composed exclusively of hydrogen, helium, and a dusting of lithium.

 

Gravity shows its power of attraction when matter is able to cluster. Gravitational lensing occurs when gravity causes the light to bend. Gravitational waves ripple when gravity travels at the speed of light. Gravity is not the same everywhere and depends on one’s location. The astronauts on the moon would feel just about one-sixth of the level of gravity felt on Earth. Are spacetime and gravity intertwined? Gravity is an entropic force that emerges with the increase of entropy. Since the emergence of gravity does not derive from the properties of the underlying microscopic “universe”, what precedes gravity is a quantum gravity that is holographic. Holographic projection acts as a translation tool enabling information to be stored and passed on to another set of dimensions. Holographic models for the very early universe  may explain the data embedded in the cosmic microwave background and are competitive to the standard model of Big Bang cosmology.

As I dissect every word, I struggle to wrap my mind around the idea that space emerges together with gravity. I imagine the Universe being a multi-dimensional race track where we, observers, are at the finish line. And all the planets and stars are racing to send us a signal. Some, faster than others, reach our consciousness.

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Emergence

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Comet 46P Wirtanen seen from Dorset

Comet 46P Wirtanen seen from Dorset

If I have to take along with me on this new journey one post out of those written in French, it would be the one relating to poetic reasoning. Creativity drinks from the source of the flow that runs through one’s body, heart, and mind. It pushes the door to the unknown and draws from the abyss what is about to become. Consciousness wonders about the extent of its ignorance and dares to dive into the rift between imagination and reality. From the edge of the precipice, Poetry whispers a wind of freedom, transcending rules and conventions. Turning ideas upside down, dreams are the stuff that stars are made of.  While imagination builds new connections deep in the black holes of one’s own brain, consciousness watches their arising on the horizon. From a nebulous point across a synapse, consciousness is born.

 

 

What are those sounds coming from multiple locations in the Universe? The Fast Radio Bursts produce a wide range of frequencies. The latest series emerged as repeated signals and were detected this past summer by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. That is what the word “emergence” makes me think of:  a sound rushing through space from billions of light-years away as if it were a signal transmitted with the only purpose of being received. As Rosetta landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko over two years ago, I wonder whether it captured those sounds in its slumber. These are the images that fill my dreams.

 

 

Over centuries, the mind has reinterpreted concepts, going around in circles. “Cosmic consciousness” is a term used by the British poet Edward Carpenter as well as the Canadian psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke at the turn of the 20th century that I am revisiting today. The reserves that I have about the reference to the divine unless it “is the collective spirit of man” should not imply the denial of such a concept. It does feel weirdly familiar to read about Edward Carpenter and his definition of cosmic consciousness as “the awareness of this interconnectedness of all people and matter existing in the past, present and future”.  Looking back, what I had set for myself as a goal 8 years ago slowly became a quest for cosmic consciousness at the crossroads of science and philosophy.

Consciousness expresses a more holistic view of the Universe. If we draw a comparison between galaxy networks and neuronal networks as Franco Vazza and Francesco Izzo do and search for proof of a stellar volition as Gregory Matloff does, how does the theory of emergence fit in all of this? Emergence suggests how macroscopic properties emerge from microscopic interactions and arrangements.  While we view the universe as a whole - a unitary system -  it is in the details, in the complexity of the interactions compartmentalized in an infinity of structures and at an infinity of spatiotemporal levels that lies the difficulty of its observation. The expansion of the universe seems concomitant with the increase of its complexity. The complexity lies in the chaotic interweaving of networks and the complexification of behaviors observed in the past and in the ever-evolving form of the future. Because of a principle of universality, very different systems, be in math, physics, and biology, that share certain fundamental characteristics behave in the same way when they reach a transition stage. From these complex systems emerges a new dynamic that does not derive from the properties of their constitutive elements.  In the back of my mind, I imagine “emergence” playing a role in structures such as the Monster group.

And what does it mean that I can form the same structure in a whole bunch of different ways? There’s something much more fundamental to understand about the organization of matter, and by focusing on shape and entropy, we’re getting to the core of that.

Sharon Glotzer

Living beings are highly structured systems that are maintained and reproduced through a plethora of activities aimed at self-organization, the innate property of complex systems. Stuart Kauffman,  notably, in his 2016 book Humanity in a creative universe mentioned neurodynamics involved in the critical instability of neural networks :

The conclusion for neuroscience is that experience is supported by neurodynamics of critical instabilities on networks of neurons, a highly unusual aspect of neuron function scarcely considered at all previously in the quest to understand consciousness.

Alex Hankey

In his paper co-written in 2017 with Hans J.H. Geesink entitled “Consciousness in the Universe is Scale Invariant and Implies an Event Horizon of the Human Brain”, Dirk Meijer whose interest in the subject came in his later years talked about  a neural workspace “conceived as a nested organization of biophysical sites on the micro- to macro-levels of the brain. Within this workspace, a bicyclic flow of information was envisioned, of which the deep vertical aspect is related to a flux from sub-atomic particles up to atoms, molecules, cellular organelles, neurons, to neuronal networks. This process acts in concert with a second, lateral horizontal, flux in the brain, in which non-local quantum entanglement as well as holographic projection may play a role. This double rotational (toroidal) information flow may explain neural binding and instantaneous connections with other parts of the body. Both types of information flow provide the basis for integration of active information that returns to itself (a modality of self-consciousness), including modalities of universal consciousness”.  The concept of a workspace model of consciousness was proposed by Bernard Baars in 1982 and has been discussed notably by Stanislas Dehaene and Lionel Naccache.

 

Is there an electromagnetic field in the brain and is that consciousness? Since it is the heart that precedes the brain in the development of an embryo, must we infer that consciousness came later as a by-product of the interaction between the nervous and cardiovascular systems? Although a two-way dialogue exists between the heart and the brain, “the heart sends more neural traffic to the brain than the brain sends to the heart” .  In a 2008 paper entitled “Global workspace model of consciousness and its electromagnetic correlates” by  Ravi Prakash, Om Prakash, Shashi Prakash, Priyadarshi Abhishek, and Sachin Gandotra, it was rightly noticed that “consciousness has been viewed from different frames of references, which has resulted in the production of different theories. But a closer look at these various theories reveals the fact that there are many similarities among them. It will be more yielding if these theories are used in connection with each other for covering the wider aspects of consciousness”. That is where the contribution made by Dirk Meijer comes into play.

 

Under the spell of gravity, the magnetic fields of my heart and mind are woven into the fabric of space and time. As I let my mind wander while reading about Venus, I wonder about the evolutionary nature of consciousness at the time when Venus was the first planet of the solar system to be habitable from about 3 billion to 1 billion years ago. Did those life forms involuntarily escape their demise, blasted into space or could there still be microbial life forms in the dark streaks of Venus clouds?  As I ride the dragon of my dreams, my chaotic writing is dependent on the time and space I am embedded in, a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. The degree of disorder wrecking my mind varies with my own struggles between existential agony and exuberant desire for freedom.

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On the nature of metaphors

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

 

As we envision the possibility of a human mission to Mars in a not so distant future, we are waiting on the spacecraft InSight to send out all the data on the planet’s vital signs after its landing on November 26th of last year. Its amazing bird’s-eye view was captured by ESA’s Mars Express over the course of its fifteen-year history. Our mind allows us to identify with a spacecraft or an asteroid as if we were out there making discoveries. Over the next 20 months, data will continue to pour in from New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule, the furthest object in the Kuiper belt ever to be visited beyond the known world. Ultima Thule in the infinite darkness reminds me of a floating body whose hippocampal place cells act as a sensor in the depths of space. If the Universe is expanding through the pulling of dark energy, would its body feel it?  We find a sense of belonging in knowing that the Kuiper belt, in many ways similar to the asteroid belt, is not specific to our solar system but a feature that can be observed in other stellar systems.

Ultima Thule

Ultima Thule

Against the backdrop of rigorous mathematical equations stands the poetry of metaphors. Terms like flashes, butterfly effect,  cosmic censorship, and moonshine, are first and foremost metaphors that a larger audience is thankful to have in order to catch a glimpse of what lies beyond our earthly life. Hypotheses are meant to be proved or disproved. They continue to resonate and leave behind a trail of academic papers. The cosmic censorship was formulated by Roger Penrose to assert that “one cannot see the singularity itself from outside. In particular, it implies that there is some region that cannot send signals to external infinity.” (The Nature of Space and Time,  p.29, Princeton University Press, 2010)

 

 

“Beyond” is one of those words that just wants you to push the door to the unknown and take a mental or visual peek at what, exactly, is beyond.  Could time and consciousness really be the same? I ask. Consciousness defines a continuous flow. Even when, in the present moment, our mind stops wandering between the past and the future, our heartbeats, our lungs breathe the air in and out, and our ears hear sounds of motion that are evidence for the existence of consciousness and the passing of time. Some might say that time is an illusion. We wonder then if it is because of our deluded brain or whether we have not quite yet reached a level of understanding sufficient enough to see our Universe as it really is. As far as we can remember, humans have been wondering about a time before time. Some say that time existed before the Big Bang and that it hardly was a beginning, just a rebound. Time preceded time.

A key question in the study of cosmological singularities is whether quantum gravity mediates a bounce from a big crunch. Is a cosmological singularity a true end to spacetime or is there another semiclassical region of spacetime before a big bang or after a big crunch?

Netta Engelhardt and Gary T. Horowitz

 

In a 2015 paper on Holographic Consequences of a No Transmission Principle (NTP), Netta Engelhardt and Gary T. Horowitz stated that it is because of the NTP that holographic quantum gravity generally forbids bounces through cosmological singularities.  So how do black holes behave? For different black holes, there are different interpretations and different theories. Does singularity extend to infinity? And if the holographic principle is applied to black holes - meaning that the information is embedded onto the edge - is it compatible with the idea of a white hole?

“The No Transmission Principle implies that there is no evolution past this singularity into another asymptotic region in holographic quantum gravity”

Netta Engelhardt and Gary T. Horowitz

 

In a 2016 paper on Charge diffusion and the butterfly effect in striped holographic matter, Andrew Lucas and Julia Steinberg stated that several recent works have pointed out that the holographic interpretation of the butterfly effect is a geometric shock wave, propagating along the horizon and that black holes could be maximally extended to “double-sided” geometries, which contain two copies of the field theory, where time runs in opposite directions, along with a black hole and a white hole. Within the supersymmetric spectrum of a black hole, matter and force intertwine. Are string-like waves called branes traveling in a solitary manner through wormholes from a black hole to a white hole?  Why do black holes have entropy anyway?

Only when we can answer this question can we ever claim that we understand the nature of quantum gravity

Miranda Cheng

A supermassive black hole in action

A supermassive black hole in action

And why was entropy low in the past? In Carlo Rovelli’s description of time’s arrow as perspectival, he explains that the reason why we experience time the way we do is a so-called “coarse-graining effect” that I understand as the uncertainty that we face as observers when we attempt to measure the true value of past and future events. The question of time touches upon our role as observers.

 

Physicists have often expressed the wish for a quantum theory without observers, i.e., a formulation of quantum theory that is not fundamentally about what observers will see if they carry out certain experiments, but instead about an objective reality. In such a theory, the quantum formalism gets derived (from the laws governing the objective reality) rather than postulated. One quantum theory without observers was presented by Ghirardi, Rimini, and Weber

Roderich Tumulka

Consciousness spreading upward and downward, backward and forward in time relies on the nature of numbers and their importance to understanding the Universe through conscious and unconscious quantification of our surroundings. How many dimensions are there anyway? The classification of the finite simple groups is a unique theorem in mathematics that describes what all the finite simple groups look like. The 26 sporadic groups are finite simple groups that are unrelated to the infinite families, the Monster group being the largest. The way I understand it is that the members of the Monster group create a symmetry group of some structure that repeats itself with 196 883 dimensions. In my mind I have the image of every footstep I took, every distance traveled in the air, on the sea, underground and around the globe since birth, retracing them would form a web-like monster life structure with real-life events that I imagine could be mathematically described as spacetime points. According to the Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber theory, “the world is made of flashes (events in spacetime) and the wave function serves as the tool to generate the ‘law of evolution’ for the flashes”.

Is every step I make part of an already defined course of events or a truly random balancing act between non-locality and causality?  In our empirical inquiry into the nature of matter, there seems to be no place for the study of consciousness and time. Why is it that we can physically touch neither consciousness nor time, still we feel them both through our body and mind? “If no one asks me, I know: If I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not” (The confessions of Saint-Augustine, translated by Edward Pusey). Within the realm of perceptions stands the mystery of time and consciousness. I found it interesting that scientists rely on reason and empirical evidence but still follow their intuition to go on in their quest for answers. Netta Engelhardt and Gary T. Horowitz mentioned that the principle they employ is intuitive. What does that mean when scientists say “this or that agrees with intuition”? Theorists and artists alike pursue an ideal truth. There is indeed an intangible line between truth and reality. A truth that is proved and demonstrated through empirical experimentation becomes part of reality. In the long and complex process that leads to uncovering new realities, those who wish to harness the power of their imagination are engaged in a dialogue on an unsteady path.

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Decoding a black hole

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Andy Goldsworthy’s Roof at the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in D.C. The installation is composed of nine stacked slate domes as if they were black holes at the center of nine galaxies – tiny cells where matter is kept prisoner and light disappears in the dark, where information is trapped and knowledge is lost without a trace.

Andy Goldsworthy’s Roof at the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in D.C. The installation is composed of nine stacked slate domes as if they were black holes at the center of nine galaxies – tiny cells where matter is kept prisoner and light disappears in the dark, where information is trapped and knowledge is lost without a trace.

In a cosmological natural selection, black holes like stars follow their evolutionary path. Some are gluttonous giants absorbing their surrounding; others are small on the path to growth or waiting to disappear. And there are “prehistoric” ones called primordial whose existence we have no evidence. Some are supermassive; some are stellar. Others meet in an epic encounter. And some are born of a collapsing star, a destination that reminds us of our own demise. That is why we’re eager to know whether Singularity where all things go is a gate to something else. 

Decoding a black hole

Decoding a black hole is in a sense measuring and constantly reevaluating the spread of information around and in and out of it. The universe structures and destructures itself through the dispersal of matter and energy, the formation of galaxies and the pull of black holes. The cosmological natural selection has currently its share of impredictabilities and uncertainties. 

“If this universe is the best of all possible universes, so what are the others like?” Les aventures d’Anselme Lanturlu:Trou noir, Jean-Pierre Petit, Paris: Belin [1981]

“If this universe is the best of all possible universes, so what are the others like?” Les aventures d’Anselme Lanturlu:Trou noir, Jean-Pierre Petit, Paris: Belin [1981]

The birth of a black hole requires the right stuff. If it rises up of one or more disappearing core, as a result of two neutron stars merging in some far away region of space, scientists will explore and study them. They rely on instruments to collect data and on computers and algorithms to decipher the findings. Since the recording of a gravitational signal emitted by the merger of two black holes in September 2015 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), we learned over the past year or so of a number of discoveries - thanks to optical images and the detection of X-rays, gamma rays, radio waves and gravitational waves - such as a neutrino emission detected by the Icecube neutrino Observatory and traced back by Fermi’s Large Area Telescope to a supermassive black hole in the constellation Orion, a black hole bounty at the edge of the center of our galaxy and an outburst on its edge that ended about one hundred years ago, two giant black holes orbiting each other in Andromeda galaxy and two accretion events around the boundary of an active galactic nucleus. We learned of the growth rate of supermassive black holes and understand that their merger does not “overshadow” the evolution of their accretion disks. Will they themselves evaporate in a succession of eons or are they central in a multiverse theory? And where does the information fallen into a black hole go anyway? From our standpoint, crossing the event horizon of a black hole equals to an information loss. But a black hole sometimes active sometimes quiet swallows, digests and burps. At times a supermassive black hole may even spew out relativistic jets while integrating the infalling mass and energy. 

The laws of Nature are information about information and outside of it there is darkness. This is the gateway to understanding reality

Vlatko Vedral,Decoding reality : The Universe as Quantum Information, Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press [2010], p.218

The study of black holes raises the issue of white holes through which matter and energy might crawl out in a life-like cycle of birth and death. Our Earthbound common sense whispers in our ear: “if you dig a hole deep enough you sure can get to the other side” through space and time wherever it might be. A paper on white holes argues that a white hole is produced at the end of the evaporation of a black hole and that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes. On the concept of a “time capsule” connecting a black hole to a white hole, should an outside observer follow the ultimate judgement of the scientific community that black holes are invisible and a one-way ticket to where no one can ever return and white holes could exist but that doesn't mean they do or should we go further down the poet’s path?  

 

That there is no consensus stems from two reasons: first, despite black hole animations like those made by Andrew Hamilton using a Black Hole Flight simulator and study of what happens in the boundary around black holes like at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy ion Collider, observing cosmological events given the orders of magnitude, testing theories and modelling numerically is a monumental task. Second, every theorist begins with its own intuitive knowledge upon which intuitive structures are built into logically connected concepts.

Andy Goldsworthy's Holes at Glenstone Museum, MD

Andy Goldsworthy's Holes at Glenstone Museum, MD

The universe is an information system whose data we are bound to process and a black hole is a lack of information that our imagination fills with a tendency to speculate and theorize. It is the ultimate door that fuels human creativity in multinational and multi-institutional endeavors meant at future discoveries in the quest of the first galaxies, the study of the evolution of black holes and the ultimate pursuit of the beginning of our universe such as with the Event Horizon Telescope, the James Webb Observatory and the First Gravitational Wave Observatory in Space (LISA) as well as with NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission selected in 2017 to be launched in 2020. 

Georgia on my mind

Georgia on my mind

The beauty of a black hole is that we allow ourselves to imagine any possibilities. Tugged between “I think therefore the Universe is” and “the Universe is therefore I think”, I do not know how consciousness relates to the universe but if I dare to apply the framework of the Integrated Information Theory to mechanisms of the universe, I imagine the universe to be a conscious system and that black holes as regions of the universe exist from their own intrinsic perspective. They are an essential component of a self-organizing system within a cosmological natural selection, pulling over the edge and tunneling down matter and energy, acting as regulators of the universe. The question remains: whether the above-mentioned “perspective” is intrinsic or extrinsic? Clearly if the hypothesis is that a black hole is an endpoint, then it is the latter. If we are to believe that a black hole acts as an informational traffic hub, then there is an intrinsic dimension attached to a black hole. If time’s arrow is perspectival, the information fallen into a black hole could evolve forward from the past, and an unknown information evolving backward from the future could be coded into erebons as referred by Roger Penrose to matter crossing over from one eon to the successive one. 

 

A dream of a final theory can only include a theory of consciousness. Information is the link between the universe and consciousness. In the universe whose stardust we are made of, consciousness emerges at a quantum level and when it crosses the event horizon of countless black holes, it collapses into something that very much reminds me of a state of unconsciousness. If a particle of matter or energy can be described in mathematical terms as a wave, can I, as a poet, name it a wave of consciousness?  

 

Consciousness extends through gravitational waves. That is how stars and black holes communicate. How to test a wave of consciousness against observation? The observer effect takes here center stage. If only theories that could be put to the test were worth of value, science would dismiss the unknown beyond the reach of experimental evidence. A physicist who wonders how to evaluate the quality and quantity of consciousness falling into a black hole might reflect upon the fact that biochemist Nick Lane and geneticist David Reich are faced with a similar problem: In evolutionary biology, a black hole pertains to a missing link at the outset of life or at different stages of the evolution be millions or hundreds of thousands years ago on a deep time journey from one branch to the other of the phylogenetic tree. And if an astronomer peers through a telescope as a way to look back at the lost memory to the time when the Fermi bubbles formed a few million years ago out of the Milky Way’s galactic center, she might dream of our common ancestors staring at the sky.

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Realism

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Comet 46P Wirtanen on 12 December 2018 (cropped)
PIA22970-1041-Asteroid2003SD220-20181221

I read that Consciousness is the one who is not real and the Universe is alone, dancing with the stars... 

 

To put it into perspective, we are 93 million miles away from the Sun. A couple of close encounters have happened lately with the passing of a comet at 7.1 million miles away and an asteroid at 1.8 million miles away. On the other end of the spectrum, Voyager 2 has found itself beyond the heliosphere at more than 11 billion miles away. Distances are everything. They help us expand our horizons by adding new objects to our consciousness. Slipping out of the reach of the solar winds, Voyager 2 reminds me of the foretelling picture of the missionary lifting the sky veil in the footsteps of the greatest 15th century’s explorers sailing off the seas.

 

Universum

Instead of horizons where Earth and Sky touch each other, the heliopause is the gateway to the interstellar space. That's where we cross over the four corners of reality determined by new properties that already exist prior to our discovery. Beyond our bubble of dynamic solar winds, elements of reality are waiting to be measured and their properties to be determined.  

 

If the Universe were a macro-state, new comets and asteroids would be "hidden variables" coming into play, whose measurements are pieces of a puzzle. Consciousness is set to understand whether those encounters are the result of true randomness or the outcome of a deterministic pattern. The first interstellar object ever to be detected, Oumuamua, is a perfect example of an element of reality that seemed to come right out of the realm of infinite possibilities. Its discovery last year in the data from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope - involved with its twin telescope Pan-STARRS2 in surveying the sky in the search for near-earth asteroids - made it an actual entity, a macroscopic object whose properties have yet to be determined. It is fascinating to think that we do not know Oumuamua’s system of origin given how difficult it is to retrace its footsteps but we do know that it has an existence independent of our measurement process.  Realism is when properties of objects have a definite value even if we don’t measure them.  

A2017U1 5gsmoothWHT enhanced

Time seems so slow when it comes to launching a spacecraft to a faraway destination. It took 41 years for Voyager 2 to reach the outskirts of the heliosphere across time and space.  We’re told that time is a convenient tool used to view the Universe and that the Universe might be a “global coordination” whose underlying structure is nonlocal across both time and space. But like a House of cards made of two colors, one color being Time, the other being Space, if Space is removed, wouldn’t the entire House come tumbling down?  And if we only knew of the boundary conditions of the Universe, would the beginning and the end be superposed on each other in a chain of manifold cycles run through by a complex information system that reboots at every transition stage? Time is perceived through an infinite number of ontic states that carry information from the past to the future.  Without an end and a beginning, the process itself leaves us with the impossible task of finding meaning to a communication complexity universe in a state of limbo 

...the actual initial state of the world is chosen arbitrarily and the allowed kinematical set is then simply equal to the maximal set of states into which this state can be taken by allowed dynamical evolutions

Emily Adlam

How to conciliate macro-realism with the quantum world where “the later measurement results depend directly on earlier measurement settings and outcomes without being mediated via information carried forward in the state”? Could the Universe as a whole act as a quantum system? According to Helmut Fink and Hajo Leshcke, “Since the universe is the total domain of physical experience, it cannot be copied, not even in a thought experiment. Therefore, a quantum state of the whole universe can never be made accessible to empirical test. Hence the existence of such state is only a metaphysical idea”. Why then is quantum mechanics what it is if it has no bearing on our reality?  One wonders how spooky actions at a distance translate in a chain of macroscopic events. Can we imagine a cosmological scenario in which the Universe is made of an infinite number of microstates linked by hidden variables that are not conceivable yet? 

Such variables evolve in so called “hidden time”, which is not equivalent to physical time as well. Hidden time is mathematical notion only. Then, elementary events are “sewing” points between hidden time and physical time.

Kurakin P. V.

In theory the definition of a physical Universe as “empirically accessible in principle”  does not preclude any future observation, dependent upon the technological advance of measurement-device techniques, of interstellar objects such as Oumuamua. The information carried by Oumuamua has now become an observational evidence, a window into what lies beyond our solar system.  Given the approximated number density of interstellar objects within the Earth orbit, one wonders why Oumuamua and not any other object was the first to be spotted. Its elongated, or maybe flat oval, shape reminds me the story of the “long white cloud” named Aotearoao that was revealed to the great Maori seaferers above the location of New-Zealand shores. 

In my own narration of an action at distance, I imagine a spacetime event such as the passing of Oumuamua through our solar system to influence across time and space its sequential manifestation in another star system. Sprinkled with solar wind dust it would trigger the interest of some far away planet into the whereabouts of our own solar system. 

The dynamics which we will derive can be regarded as a process of “cosmological accretion” or “growth”. At each step of this process an element of the causal set comes into being as the “offspring” of a definite set of the existing elements – the elements that form its past. The phenomenological passage of time is taken to be a manifestation of this continuing growth of the causet. Thus, we do not think of the process as happening “in time” but rather as “constituting time”, which means in a practical sense that there is no meaningful order of birth of the elements

D. P. Rideout and R. D. Sorkin

What is the underlying reality that quantum states represent knowledge about? Maybe that the status of time, as we experience it in multifold ways through conscious or unconscious forms, “varies along with the distribution of matter”.

Realism

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Earthrise

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

December 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earthrise, a photograph taken by Astronaut Bill Anders aboard Apollo 8. Earthrise symbolizes the dramatic widening of humanity’s consciousness as if it pushes the doors of its gravitational prison to breath in cosmic air.  

 

Much emphasis has been placed on the role of the observer in the understanding of the mechanisms at play in the quantum universe and on the objective or subjective nature of that observation made individually or collectively.  If “Consciousness is fundamentally that which reveals or makes manifest because it is the crucial precondition for appearance” and that “Nothing, strictly speaking, appears unless it appears to some consciousness” (Evan Thompson, Waking, Dreaming, Being, p.14), the emphasis that we place on our role in the way we interact with our surrounding, experience time itself, evaluate every single event even those on the quantum level as if they mirror our own interaction with the world is that reflective of an anthropocentric view of the universe or a true necessity? In the imaginary space-time, Consciousness is set out to conquer the adjacent territories of countless possibilities.  One might ask whether individual consciousness is limited by time and space or whether it draws upon what I tentatively would call collective kinetic energy 

 

Consciousness reigns over the realm of infinite possibilities and that of  “actual entities”.  The realm of Possible is those infinitely many parallel worlds all encapsulated into “a single quantum state of the universe”. The realm of “actual entities” is that of the reality in which we are active players. The possible is full of shadowy objects that may catch the individual eye of consciousness and entail the imprint of a thought.  If we were to make the comparison with brain activity, the realm of infinite possibilities would be our boundless imagination, our endless back and forth over what the future holds until we are faced with the actual reality.  

 

The infinite possibilities bridge over past and future events. The past because of the endless ramifications in time and space moving backward and the dissection of past events, that sheds new light on what was and reveals a new interpretation that ripples over time. The future because of our unbridled imagination at predicting the effects of every move. The reality of the past is multifold while the “virtual” future is not set and truly resembles an abundance of possible worlds. 

according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.

The (elusive) theory of everything

In the science of space is Heliophysics, the study of the heliosphere and the objects it interacts with. The sun offers the unique opportunity to observe the behavior of a star, one of the countless stars in the universe. In regard to Gregory Matloff’s research, one might wonder about the possible clues that the Parker Solar Probe could uncover. 

 

Sixty years ago, Eugene Parker published a groundbreaking paper on the Dynamics of interplanetary gases and magnetic fields. For the first time, at the age of 93, he has witnessed last August the launch of the fastest spacecraft scheduled to arrive to its closest orbit to the Sun in 2024 in the goal to observe the magnetic fields coming out of the Sun and the gigantic coronal mass ejections. Will it explain why the temperature climbs as you move away from the surface of the Sun as if the solar winds create insurmountable burning walls to shy away from our reach? 

Earthrise

Consciousness like a rumble rolling through the universe possesses free will “because of free will choices from quantum variables upward” (Stuart Kauffman, Humanity in a creative universe,  p.100). And when the Parker Solar Probe will be the closest from the Sun, will we be observing up close what Matloff calls “stellar consciousness”? Is the Sun expressing its “stellar volition” when electromagnetic bursts are unwinding in space, blown away in the solar winds?  

 

Through the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field we gaze at 10,000 galaxies and an approximate number of 100 billions of stars. Billions and billions of planets are hidden in the landscape. Is the Universe a product of Consciousness or is Consciousness a fool to believe that the Universe is real? One might wonder whether there is a multiverse and if there is, do all the possible universes coexist with all the possible consciousnesses? Does time-space extend through layers and layers of universes or does each universe possess its own sense of time and space?  

NASA-HS201427a-HubbleUltraDeepField2014-20140603

“...we can consider the idea that the superpositions of different space-times, one per pathway, are different possible space-times! ...What if time flowing in the Possible is imaginary time?”

Stuart Kauffman, Humanity in a Creative Universe, p.214

Stuart Kauffman talks about the two concepts of res potentia and res extensa.  Werner Heisenberg pointed out that the old concept of (res) potentiaintroduced something standing in the middle between the idea of an event and the actual event, a strange kind of physical reality just in the middle between possibility and reality”. Res extensa originally would refer to what Descartes called substance corporelle (corporeal substance) which I would understand as the manifestation of the thing itself.  

If possibles are outside of space but inside of time, res potentia can have existed before the Big Bang, opening new ways to think about the origin of the universe

Stuart Kauffman, Humanity in a Creative Universe, p.125

When I read about quantum physics, I usually have a hard time to wrap my head around all the concepts. It is an amazingly interesting learning process that nourishes my own imagination.  Following up to the idea of a free-willed consciousness beyond just humans – a pampsychism described by David Chalmers and Thomas Nagel among others and that Gregory Matloff is investigating when it comes to “stellar volition” - when Kauffman proposed that ‘conscious and free-willed observation by humans and by quantum variables (such as electrons and photons exchanging photons, fermions exchanging bosons and consciously measuring one another) is necessary and sufficient for measurement.” (p.127), it reminds me what Alva Noë wrote in Out of our Heads about Consciousness being derived from our interactions with the physical environment. Carlo Rovelli also mentioned in his book The order of time (p.197-198) that time is the form in which every physical object - we included - interacts with the universe and that is the source of our identity. Isn't it what Consciousness is about? And if time is an illusion - at least on the quantum level, is Consciousness a fool rushing through the Universe and bumping its head onto clouds of dark matter? 

 

Consciousness is an infinitely resourceful kinetic energy and the Universe is its receptacle. Some are likely to believe that human beings are the raison d'être of the Universe and defend the Anthropic Cosmological Principle along the line of “I think, therefore the universe exists”. 

We're left with no choice but to accept that our presence as an observer, and how we make the observation, physically changes what we're looking at.

Robert Lanza, Beyond Biocentrism, p.52-53

But humans are just an episode in a biological process. They are not an end in itself. We may be a by-product in the myriad of universal possibilities, an accidental outcome but not an endgame, just an episode in time. After all is our own point of view really “central to the universe? 

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On the nature of physical reality

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

 

Starting to look like I can’t write both texts at the same time and I can’t translate my words in English, for there is, I am told, a Golden Rule of translation : Translators only translate into their native language. It might not be true for everybody but it sure looks like it’s true for me. In English I seem to write in a more matter-of-fact way. My words seem to lose the feel of poetry and the flow that I embrace in French. So it looks like my best bet at this point will be to write first the text in English and then to rewrite it in French for my other site. To be continued.

 

However here for a start the following article based on the French version posted on Nov.26 on resonanceouvanite.com.

Bird on a comb

Bird on a comb

The philosopher of the mind Paavo Pylkkänen explains that, when we speak of quantum ontology, it is to better indicate that at the base of quantum mechanics lies the possibility that a wave - like a physical thought, a metaphysical dust - operates mentally a particle of matter giving it shape and guiding its movement by the transmission of information. And if auto-similarity is the principle governing an unlimited number of spatio-temporal structures, is it not self-evident that a body made of this kind of aggregate is inhabited by a “mind that guides it”?  

 

Inside the cosmic prison, an infinite number of superposed states collapse  - in the framework of an integrated information theory - causing consciousness to emerge in the quantum universe of elementary dust of which the universe is made. Imagine that the universe is a brain. A black hole is a loss of memory, a white hole a source of ideas that spring up. The nebulous gas from which stars are born is the state of confusion that precedes clarity. As it is for our DNA that goes back in time and space so travels consciousness in a universe of waves and vibrations.

In the shadows of the mind lies the problem posed by the nature of physical reality. The physicist Lev Vaidman asserts that there are infinitely many parallel worlds similar to the one we know, all incorporated into a single quantum state of the universe. These parallel worlds have no effect on ours. Although they can produce interference, we are not able to measure their effects. What he means, I think, is that if we can trace past events in our world and give them meaning, the future consists of an infinite number of multiple worlds.

A quantum state represents a set of statements about the probabilities for the outcomes of measurements that can be explained in the framework of any interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Lev Vaidman

Information, descriptive of a set of data, is embedded from a particle into a system, from an individual into a group, from stars into galaxies to the entire universe. The nature of physical reality depends on its observation and, consequently, on the ontology of consciousness, for if consciousness is to be conceptualized in the framework of an integrated information theory, is its foundation physical or non-physical?


 

 

In the most palpable way in our daily life, the nature of physical reality involves time. Yet the theorist Emily Adlam says that the temporal locality is a dogma that it is time to bring down. Although the principle of quantum entanglement, namely the principle of spatial non-locality, is accepted today, the question of temporal locality hasn't been much debated, that is to say that one agrees generally that probabilities related to the measurements observed at a given time depend exclusively on the state considered at that given moment. In fact, the temporal locality remains at a very least an essential methodological principle in our conception of science and in what we admit to being a reasoned scientific hypothesis. It is deeply rooted in the foundations of the interpretation we give to quantum mechanics. Unraveling the inextricable links woven between temporal locality and quantum theory may undermine gravely its meaning.

 

 

 

The two-state vector formalism introduced 54 years ago transcribes into the language of mathematics a vision of the world that seeks to render intelligible a set of observations. It suggests the paradox that the past and the future play an equal role in the determination of the quantum state at the intermediate points and are therefore “equally real”, according to the paper written by Yakir Aharonov, Eliahu Cohen et Tomer Landsberger . The theory of double causality is articulated like a passage in which time and the reversal of time produce the observation of an “element of reality”. The authors are inclined to think that nature is trying to clue in a fundamental truth, namely that quantum mechanics is unique in the sense that it sets the final and non-redundant boundary conditions of all systems. In other words, the final boundary conditions of transition states between microscopic and macroscopic physics play a key role in the interpretation of quantum mechanics, especially in cosmology and black hole physics.

 

At the junction between past and future lies the present as if in their determination to meet, the past had traveled the same distance as the future backwards. Can we transpose into our physical reality the principle of two quantum states, one of which evolves backwards and the other forward? Can the future as if it were written have an impact on the present? After all, if quantum theory does not describe the world as we live it, what is it for?  

 

 

 

The nature of physical reality involves the reality of the self. Consciousness walks the roads of the future and the paths of the past. In a state of unconsciousness, have I had the foreknowledge of my future that is taking me on this journey today? A translator is like an actor who identifies with the roles he plays. Have I in the past identified too much with the Buddhist works I translated? We tend to think that we are what we do and others think that they know who we are based on what we do but we are not what we do. I am not the autobiographical self. Driven by a burning desire to meet Truth, the poet pursues its exploration thousands of light-years away in search of new ways of thinking and draws from the wisdom of others' grains of madness. But beyond the scientific implications, the nature of physical reality rests upon a more basic level, our own emotions.

 

 

Alex Honnold is a solo climber. The Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, wanted to study his cerebral activity with the help of a “functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scanner”. The findings of the study showed a minimal activity of his amygdala that acts like the “center of a threat response and interpretation system”. Although it is difficult to determine how much of his ability to control his fears is from birth after 15 years of escalation, Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University, believes that Alex Honnold has probably always shown some emotional restraint, reinforced by thousands of hours taking risks as part of his daily routine. His ability to focus on the present allows him to see the reality of the moment without the veil of his apprehensions.

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Consciousness and the Universe

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

How do we perceive the link between the Universe in which we all live and Consciousness that we all share?  

 

This blog will be in English, a change from a blog that I carried thru for the past 8 years at resonanceouvanite.com but since a lot of my sources are in English, it comes as a natural decision from now on that I write on the subject in English. Based on my schedule, I’ll try to post an article every two weeks more or less.

 

I will need at first to figure out what's the best approach moving forward: should I work in French and then rewrite the text in English? Write both texts at the same time? Or should I simply use this blog as a notepad that gathers the different quotes and sources?

 

I  also will need to strike the right balance between the academic rigor needed for my articles in English and my own sense of poetry. That is the hardest part to not let the poet’s mind run wild. As the English poet John Keats wrote “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”, which I take less as an assessment of reality and more as a guiding principle that I, an individual, and humanity, as a whole, pursue.

 

I wish this blog to be limited in scope on the link between the Universe and Consciousness. I struggled to find the right fit for the domain name.  consciousnessanduniverse.com, though too long, has the benefit to be self-explanatory. I tossed around a few ideas like sharedconsciousness or shareduniverse. Neither seems to emphasize an important point for me: a focus on the relation between Consciousness and the Universe, that is turned to the future.  

 

Frankly, I am not sure whether this blog will fly given the extra work that it entails but I thought I’ll give it a shot. Give it a year. Writing in English for me is one more challenge that I want to take on and if anyone wishes to share their own thoughts in a post on the relation between Consciousness and the Universe, let me know. Based on what I started to do with resonanceouvanite.com, there is I believe a lot that can be said.  

 

The way that I write usually goes like this : I ask a lot of questions that might remain unanswered and put forward statements that might be unsettling at first. This is the way to move forward in order to find some answers and challenge a few dogmas along the way.

 

I dare to say that I believe philosophy is not dead. It is there to explain the unexplained and the mathematical riddles crafted by scientists. I prefer poetry because poets are playful and irreverent, unaware of boundaries. I also came into the realization that I do not believe in a self after writing on the subject lately, thanks to Thomas Metzinger. What I believe in is consciousness filling space and time, physically inhabiting us.

 

With time I will sort out my earlier articles in French in order to pick the most relevant materials for further study and post some excerpts in English.

 

On my ongoing quest for authenticity, I will not sign this blog with my pen name Ysia but with my real name Catherine Toulsaly.

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