Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Duration and size

This graph plots Duration (how long something exists) against Volume (size). The axes are both log scales with quite a few gaps to accommodate the biggest things. 
The arrows show things which change in size during their lifetimes. I could not think of many things which decrease in size, but added the polar ice caps as an example.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Self-consciousness, movies, halls of mirrors and immortality

Self-consciousness could be defined as 'awareness that experience is happening'. A cat wakes up feeling hungry and 'decides' to hunt, catches a mouse and eats it. I wake up feeling hungry, make breakfast and eat it. 
One difference between me and the cat is the concept of self.
I can think 'I am eating breakfast' - the cat has no language and can't formulate such a thought. Essentially self-consciousness involves removing myself one step from reality so I can invent an 'I' which can be referred to. This is a uniquely human ability which can get us into all sorts of trouble:

  • We can pretend we are in a movie in which we are the main protagonist.
  • We can create endless chains of self-consciousness: "I am aware that I am thinking 'I am eating breakfast'" .... and so on to infinity.
  • We can delude ourselves into thinking that the 'I' we have invented actually exists - and is immortal.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Anthropic Observation

Lee Smolin* poses the question “Given there seems to be many sets of consistent ‘Laws of Nature’ which could reign in many possible universes, how come our universe has such finely-tuned parameters which make life possible?”
Answer 1) There are very many universes, so the chances of one with life in it is greater.
Answer 2) We can imagine a universe without life but only from our fortunate position of being alive! If a universe existed without life there would be no observer to perceive it – so would it exist? In other words, maybe a universe without life is impossible.
Answer 3) The universe passed through many phases of evolution to its present state. (this is a bit like Answer 1 – but time replaces space.
Maybe the universe is driven by a mechanism which favours consciousness.
Our role as observers or perceivers of the universe may not be a passive one. We have to ask the question about relativity – ‘Who is this observer?’ - What happens when she goes away?
Hume decided there was no way to show that the world exists when we stop perceiving it.
Bishop Berkley said ‘That proves the existence of God who is perceiving everything all the time – thus thinking it into existence.’
But who invents the idea of God? – We do of course (maybe not individually but collectively).
So perhaps the universe is brought about by our collective conciousness.

* In The Life of the Cosmos