Tuesday, May 27, 2008


No idea is my own, I only pick and choose ideas from the world around and shuffle them around in my head as I see fit. Here's one such idea:

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."

-Albert Einstein

"What is Awareness?" is a sort of koan I've taken upon myself. I like this question because it gives rise to so many other questions, and because in trying to answer it, I also answer many other questions. It is a path which leads me in many directions and to many places. I hope to find an understanding of myself among those places.

So, for kicks, I've decided to compile a number of anecdotes in order to paint a picture of some of the places I've been to so far. Some famous guy said a while back something along the lines of, what good are ideas if you cannot communicate them... So this is an exercise; more of a rough sketch than a painted picture. I hope to paint shiny pictures some day.

In consideration of the notions of:

Many worlds, many universes, or many parts: As far as I can reason, no part (world-system) can exist independently of another. I figure that there is (1) either some level of isolation (but not complete) between each part or that (2) each part effects everything within each other part so uniformly that changes in one part do not significantly change the relationships between things in other parts. I believe that the above ideas 1 and 2 may be fundamentally the same.

For two things to exist independently, they must exist independently within something, or else to each the other does not exist. To exist together in something means that they have a medium for interaction. Consider a glass of water. Does a bubble on the surface of the water exist separately from that rest of the water or from another bubble somewhere else on the surface of the water? Neither bubble exists separately from the water because it is the water. The bubbles do not exist separately from each other either; they exist relatively to one another within that medium. For example, if a chemical like alcohol is added to the water and the surface tension is reduced so that one bubble must pop, so will the other. The same conditions that make one bubble possible also make the other possible, and to take those conditions away from one bubble is to take them away from every bubble.

Causality: One's understanding of causality has enormous bearing on one's approach to the problem of free will and fate. Classic western philosophy teaches of a causal chain in which each part of the chain is affected by the part before it, and affects the part after it.

I don't think I can approach this without an understanding of dualism and monism. Are the two bubbles above two separate things because they are two, or are they one thing because they are the same water? The causal chain idea seems to depend ont a dualistic view, in that each part exists independently of the other parts despite their having an effect on each other. How can each part be causally connected, a part of the same causal chain, but exist separately?

Suppose each part exists as relationship between other parts, and those other parts exist as relationship between even more distant parts. To affect one part is to affect the relationship between (all) the other parts. That (the last two sentences) sounds like an oxymoron to me because I am using the idea of parts to argue against the existence of parts. What I'm getting at is that there exists only relationship.

Fate and Free Will: The answer to the question of free will is Mu. The problem of free will is contingent upon our existing separately from our environment, a mind-body separateness, and perhaps dualism. I need to get into this more later, but the above glass of water metaphor still applies. The mind and body arise from the same glass of water.

From another point of view, there is no one thing which captures or defines the human experience. It is everything in the world around us which makes us what we are. A body floating through the vastness of an empty universe is a meat popsicle. And, it is our experience of the world around us which gives it the meaning we ascribe to it. We are completely intertwined with this world, so why must we be able to act independently of it to have free will? We affect the world as it affects us. We move together and we are both free.

On second thought, I could stand by a mind body separation and look for further separation between my body and the world. If the world is my extended body, must I act independently from it to poses free will?

But seriously though, I wouldn't know free will if it were a brick knocking me in the head. What basis do I have for making decisions but in response to my desires? My desires are always changing. It is not as though I have some ultimate goal that I, in everything I do, am working toward, or do I...

Big and Small: Simply, those things which adapt and repeat themselves continue to exist. Nothing stays the same, but patterns which are flexible and can repeat themselves in varying environments persist in time. Size and complexity are only a matter of our perspective, and patterns repeat themselves everywhere in and around us, without regard to apparent division by scale.

Change and Awareness: Awareness and change go hand in hand. Without awareness, nothing could exist. Without change, awareness couldn't exist. If nothing changed, then there would be no interaction and therefore nothing to be aware of.

Randomness: Perhaps the universe is akin to a random number generator; always changing in order to perpetuate it's own existence. If the same thing happened, exactly, over and over, then nothing is changing and there is no awareness. But, is anything truly random? Is that even possible? Perhaps things appear random because we do not understand them or the environment we share.

Time and Space: It does not seem logical to me for spacial dimensions or time to exist as we perceive them. For there to be such a thing as distance, that distance must exist in something, but what does that something exist in? Time is much the same. Lengths of distance and time are only such relative to other lengths of distance and time. They have a relationship to each other, but they do not exist independently or absolutely. I expect that this idea can be extended to information in general.

Information and Relationship: When I say information, I mean literally everything. Information is a very abstract idea. For example, every atom contains much information. It has an associated spin, mass, charge, etc. Except, it's not so much that it contains those, but rather that it is those. It is the information made up of the patterns of energy which we describe as spin, mass, charge, etc. Perhaps Information and Relationship are analogous.

Imagine a cup sitting in the center of a table. If I push the cup to the edge of the table, It is not so much that I have moved the cup but that I have changed the relationship between the cup and it's environment. I have also changed my relationship with my environment. Well, it's not really my environment any more than it is the cup's environment.

Thought: Becoming more familiar with my own thoughts, I have recognized a couple things about them. A thought perpetuates itself only for a short while in my awareness; it has an inherent instability. It also describes itself, however abstractly. Each thought is also akin to a key which makes available related information, but that is probably just a nifty feature of it's self descriptive nature. I would argue that all thoughts are abstract. That alone, they have absolutely no meaning. It is only in context that they are given meaning.

Consider the idea of a cup. Without the idea of thirst or the idea of grasping things with one's hands, the cup is only shape or a container. Without those ideas, the cup is even more abstract. How about the idea of math? Although many mathematical forms are beautiful, they are meaningless without describing the world or describing other mathematical ideas which describe the world.

The Worlds Inside and Outside: I look in to see out and I look out to see in. Thought is not so different from things we experience in the physical world.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spacetime and Spin

Here's a really cool article up at stanford.edu's spacetime collection.
Many of nature's deepest mysteries come in threes. Why does space have three spatial dimensions (ones that we can see, anyway)? Why are there three fundamental dimensions in physics (mass M, length L and time T)? Why three fundamental constants in nature (Newton's gravitational constant G, the speed of light c and Planck's constant h)? Why three generations of fundamental particles in the standard model (e.g. the up/down, charm/strange and top/bottom quarks)? Why do black holes have only three properties—mass, charge and spin? Nobody knows the answers to these questions, nor how or whether they may be connected. But some have sought for clues in the last-named of these properties: spin.
It's pretty heavy reading after the first paragraph but covers some amazing territory, relating gravity and electromagnetism, and explaining frame dragging. Here's something interesting to consider: If you look up at the sky and spin around, you'll see the stars trace circles around your field of vision, and your arms will swing out away from your sides. Are you spinning around in the universe or is it spinning around you? According to relativity, it doesn't make any difference. Either way, there's still a frame-dragging effect between your frame of reference and that of the universe, warping space between your body and the cosmos, so that your arms fall away from your body.