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

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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
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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? Since the emergence of gravity does not derive from the properties of the underlying microscopic “universe”, what precedes gravity is a quantum gravity that may be of a holographic nature. 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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