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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Brain / Mind ... Science ...

There’s another thought-provoking article in Sci Am this month about an experiment to find out if reality is ultimately digital. I.e., does reality (and I mean reality as we and our sciences presently know it) ultimately come down to an “emergence”, a secondary effect, from the digital state of gad-zillians of tiny little “information boxes”? The experiment in question will look at light interference patterns, to see if they waver in tiny amounts. If they do, then maybe reality at the tiniest level is just a lot of digital boxes, and these tiny boxes, like anything else on that scale, are subject to random quantum fluctuation. If so, then REALITY is a bit more complicated than we thought.

This all relates to some thoughts that the physics folks have had in recent years about black holes and information. In a nutshell, black holes MIGHT prove (sort-of prove actually; this hasn’t been directly observed, although it is strongly implied from what is observed) that a set of 2-dimension sheets surrounding a cube (or alternately, the surface of a sphere) can hold enough information on it to define everything about what is within that 3-dimensional space within. I.e., what kind of particle, e.g. electron, quark, neutrino, what their positions are, what their energy levels are, etc. Sort of like a holograph.

This info would have to be stored in the tiniest boxes possible, i.e. boxes that were a Planck’s length or two in width and height. That’s really tiny, 1.6 x 10 to the minus 35th power. A quark is at least 1 with 14 zeros times bigger (i.e., 100 trillion times). But then again, each quark is going to need a lot of these digital boxes to tell everything about it, including position, momentum, spin, etc. And also, you can cram a lot of quarks and electrons and such into a 3 dimensional box, taking up more and more of the boxes on the wall surface (whatever those boxes are – this is a whole new area of physics, a whole new kind of reality being postulated).

But you could never cram enough stuff into that box or sphere to overwhelm the wall’s information storage capacity. Why not? Because, at some point, you’d cram in so much stuff that the shape would collapse into a black hole! That black hole might still eat more stuff, but it would automatically grow in size, giving just enough surface area to contain all the relevant info needed (theoretically) to reconstruct everything that got sucked into it.

Well, that got me thinking – if a 2-D surface can specify everything, absolutely everything, about what is within a 3-D space – then could a 3-D space contain enough info to specify what happens in a 4-D “spacetime” ? I.e., could a static, unmoving cube containing lots of tiny info bits (again, whatever they are – some sort of new “pure information” particle??) somehow specify, maybe even create, a moving world with a past, present and future? Or at least the “illusion” of it, a la The Matrix? If so, then the big question: which would be real, and which would be the illusion? And what would limit the time component of the space-time? In the 3D from 2D example, the black hole’s gravitational collapse process sets the limits that keeps the info space from being over-booked. What would keep the 3D world-moving-thru-time (i.e., 4-D spacetime) from overwhelming the info capacity within a 3 D space?

I haven’t figured that one out. But if there is such a limit, then . . . it’s kind of scary to think about. Limited volume, then limited space-time, and thus limited time. Time within that space-time box has a beginning and an end, an alpha and an omega. It means that there is an end-time process out there. The future doesn’t just go on merrily, forever and ever amen.

Let’s go back to the Big Bang. There was some sort of quantum event, a real doozie, that created an existence of some sort, consisting of all the energy and matter in the universe. But it didn’t have any space to it, or very little, anyway. If my 3-D information box idea were to be true (which it probably isn’t), then very little space means very little time. But – ta da! — then came inflation! Some process started pumping space into this little speck. And with it – arguably, a future!

But a future for who or what? In my own metaphysical imagination, this space-time box of Planck-length digital info cubes is a passive entity. It is like a book or a movie – it CAN tell a story, but some other form of existence needs to interact with it, to read it or watch it. Even ‘The Matrix’ assumed the existence of something that was ultimately perceiving the digital reality that the super-computers were generating (i.e., the human bodies in suspension).

Does this mean that our consciousness is, in fact, a bit more spacey and metaphysical than today’s neuroscientists are making it out to be? Are the “dualist” philosophers who argue for some sort of ontological reality to consciousness (and not just a side-effect of neurons firing in the brain) right after all?

Well, back to cosmology. So we have inflation, and thus the tiny “Big Bang” speck blows up into a huge universe. So now there are a lot of time-space info cubes, giving our universe a lot of “future”. But the cosmologists still believe that the universe is finite, limited in space and energy and matter (although they are falling in love lately with an infinite “multi-verse”). So, there will still be an “end of time”, a point at which the time-dimension of the 3-D information space is exhausted.

I was taught the Catholic faith as a kid, and every now and then they would talk about the end of time, God’s plan to shut it all down and make a final judgement. That was pretty scary, I thought. It used to creep me out. But that was old-school Catholicism, which is not really taught anymore. But now I’m wondering . . . was there something to it? Is there some sort of inherent limit to time as we know it, in the universe that we know? If my theory were to be right, then the “universe that we know” is really the ILLUSION of a universe that our metaphysical consciousness derives by interacting with a grand “universe information cube” created by the Big Bang and Big Inflation . . .

Hmmm . . . but there is one more wild card from cosmology – the “dark energy” thing, which seems to be mysteriously expanding the universe, causing space to expand. The big question would be – and maybe it’s not an answerable question, for now anyway – does this process pump in more info cubes, giving the universe even more of a future? Will it go on forever, meaning that there will be no “end of time” in our universe, but instead a final infinite state will be achieved, a mostly static and dead situation (a wide scatter of particles too far from each other to interact in any interesting way)?

Oh well, time to get my head out of the clouds, back to earth. I’m getting over the flu today, and I was thinking about this yesterday while having a fever. Maybe this was all just a fever delusion of some sort. Still . . . what is ultimately real, and what is ultimately delusion? Bets are still being taken, the race has not been run yet! We shall see how Craig Hogan’s experiment turns out.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:53 am      

  1. Jim, Well, I’m not sure I can (notice that word—as in “not able” to, meaning the problem lies in my own inability) to understand what you wrote about the science “stuff” in this blog. Specifically, I “sort of” understand some of it, understand other parts of it, and other parts are just over my head. In addition I *think* you referred to a/the (?) movie “The Matrix”. Here again, didn’t see it, not sure if it’s one or two (or more?) movies, to say nothing of what the premise of the whole thing. I’m “movie impaired”.

    So that puts me in the position where all I can say is I cannot comment on this blog because I don’t really know what you are talking about. That having been said, I, of course, *do* have some what to say about this and that.

    I am sorry you were sick; seems you are getting better as you were able to write this blog. Your having this scientific insight makes me wonder if some of the really creative ideas might in various fields might have benefited from the thought processes one has in what I will call an induced meditative state or an induced alternative consciousness. (“Induced”, that is, by fever and/or illness in your case here.)

    I’ve been lately intrigued by the introduction song to the TV program “Big Bang Theory”: It subtly puts as the very last word of the song which ends with the words, “a Big Bang”, and then the word, very quietly, “theory”. As if to say, don’t wake up anybody to the fact that this is all a *theory*, which by definition is not yet proven.

    I have to admit that the little I know of the Big Bang Theory tends to make me wonder about it: Is it really true? Does it describe existence as it *really* is? OR might it be the thoughts of a person in an induced altered state of consciousness? These are all just questions, not sarcasm.

    I *do* tend to think that what we think is real basically comes from our consciousness creating our reality. If this is not the case, then it seems to me that people who some might say “tend to live in their own world” (such as people who hear voices or people who think they are married to a particular movie star, two of the less egregious “other worlds” people have been known to live in), these people who tend to live in their “own world” might be simply the cases that don’t fit with the majority of the rest of us. But maybe in the end, we all do basically the same thing—make up our own world in our own heads—and maybe that’s exactly what we are supposed to do if we live on this planet.

    Also, interesting I think, is the fact that you seem to end up coming around to where the various religions have been for quite some time. I wonder if the other scientists will come around to the same idea; but I’d hazard they would find some other word to describe the “end of times”.

    I tend to think that when we come to die it’s the “end of time” for each of us individually—emphasis on “time”. What if the “end of times” really refers to each individual’s “end of time”? But the “end of time” may be just that—the end of *time* not the end of some ontological existence. And perhaps there are uncounted, (I think scientists might say “n”) ontological existences; who is to say there are not? Perhaps when we come to die we enter another kind of ontological existence. From my little experience with coming close to the “end of my time”, there definitely *is* another ontological existence beyond this one here.

    On another point, I have wondered for quite some time how long it will take before scientists find some yet smaller “thing”, after having found yet another “smallest” thing that exists. I remember in 8th grade, I think it was, learning that the “atom was the absolutely smallest thing that could exist; scientists had proven it.” I don’t even know how many times since then (which I admit is a good 60 years and counting) they have found yet smaller thingees that make up our universe. I tend to believe they find what they are looking for. But, then again, I’m definitely not a physicist as is evident from my remarks here.

    Finally, I like very much your thinking in your feverish state; it’s creative. Furthermore, I even liked the part I didn’t understand. There’s something about it that I just like very much. And then again, I find myself thinking that we may find in the end that our world is what we *think* it is in more ways than one. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — February 15, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

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