19 posts tagged reality
City As Superintelligence
World next door
Nine theories of the multiverse promise everything and more. But if reality is so vast and varied, where do we fit in?
Our understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is changing faster than ever before. Gigantic observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope on the Paranal Mountain in Chile are probing the furthest reaches of the cosmos. Meanwhile, with their feet firmly on the ground, leviathan atom-smashers such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) under the Franco-Swiss border are busy untangling the riddles of the tiny quantum world. Myriad discoveries are flowing from these magnificent machines. You may have seen Hubble’s extraordinary pictures. You will probably have heard of the ‘exoplanets’, worlds orbiting alien suns, and you will almost certainly have heard about the Higgs Boson, the particle that imbues all others with mass, which the LHC found this year. But you probably won’t know that (if their findings are taken to their logical conclusion) these machines have also detected hints that Elvis lives, or that out there, among the flaming stars and planets, are unicorns, actual unicorns with horns on their noses. There’s even weirder stuff, too: devils and demons; gods and nymphs; places where Hitler won the Second World War, or where there was no war at all. Places where the most outlandish fantasies come true. A weirdiverse, if you will. Most bizarre of all, scientists are now seriously discussing the possibility that our universe is a fake, a thing of smoke and mirrors. All this, and more, is the stuff of the multiverse, the great roller-coaster rewriting of reality that has overturned conventional cosmology in the last decade or two. The multiverse hypothesis is the idea that what we see in the night sky is just an infinitesimally tiny sliver of a much, much grander reality, hitherto invisible. The idea has become so mainstream that it is now quite hard to find a cosmologist who thinks there’s nothing in it. This isn’t the world of the mystics, the pointy-hat brigade who see the Age of Aquarius in every Hubble image. On the contrary, the multiverse is the creature of Astronomers Royal and tenured professors at Cambridge and Cornell. (via Michael Hanlon – On multiverses)
read of the day: Have We Been Interpreting Quantum Mechanics Wrong This Whole Time?
For nearly a century, “reality” has been a murky concept. The laws of quantum physics seem to suggest that particles spend much of their time in a ghostly state, lacking even basic properties such as a definite location and instead existing everywhere and nowhere at once. Only when a particle is measured does it suddenly materialize, appearing to pick its position as if by a roll of the dice.This idea that nature is inherently probabilistic — that particles have no hard properties, only likelihoods, until they are observed — is directly implied by the standard equations of quantum mechanics. But now a set of surprising experiments with fluids has revived old skepticism about that worldview. The bizarre results are fueling interest in an almost forgotten version of quantum mechanics, one that never gave up the idea of a single, concrete reality. The experiments involve an oil droplet that bounces along the surface of a liquid. The droplet gently sloshes the liquid with every bounce. At the same time, ripples from past bounces affect its course. The droplet’s interaction with its own ripples, which form what’s known as a pilot wave, causes it to exhibit behaviors previously thought to be peculiar to elementary particles — including behaviors seen as evidence that these particles are spread through space like waves, without any specific location, until they are measured. Particles at the quantum scale seem to do things that human-scale objects do not do. They can tunnel through barriers, spontaneously arise or annihilate, and occupy discrete energy levels. This new body of research reveals that oil droplets, when guided by pilot waves, also exhibit these quantum-like features.
go read this..
The relationship of language to the world has been central to philosophy for at least a century. But what is the role of metaphor? Is it simply an adornment to everyday description or might it be central to explaining how we conceive of and create reality?The Panel
Political theorist and labour peer Maurice Glasman, language expert and metaphor designer Michael Erard, and post-postmodern Closure theorist Hilary Lawson debate the power of metaphors.
“Yum, these grass and plants are delicious!” Mother cavy thinks as she eats her breakfast. “I will feed some to my baby cavies too!” she says. The baby cavies love to play in the grass! But they’ve gotten all dirty! “Time for your bath,” Mother cavy says. Mother cavy and her babies like to spend the afternoon sunbathing. At night, Mother cavy tucks her babies in to bed in a small cave. “Mom, I’m scared!” says the baby cavy. “Don’t be afraid,” she says. “I’ll listen for noises with my big ears and keep us safe.” Aside from the fact that few (if any) childrens’ story books feature cavies, the non-domesticated versions of guinea pigs, the basic structure of the above story should be familiar to anybody who has ever read a kids’ picture book. Or watched a Disney movie. Childrens’ literature and movies are rife with talking mice and ducks who wear clothes (even if they’re occasionally portrayed without pants) and dogs that range from, well, dogs, to dogs that might as well be people. Stories are one of the main ways that our species understands the natural world. Giving human attributes to animals is by no means a recent phenomenon; ancient gods were often hybridized human-like animals (or animal-like humans). In the classic story illustrated above by Arthur Rackham, three bears sit at a table and eat porridge, like humans. Given how ubiquitous these anthropomorphic animal-people are in our culture, University of Toronto psychologist Patricia A. Ganea wondered how those sorts of representations influence the way that young children think about real animals.
The irony.. :-)
The strange, beautiful behavior of tiny liquid droplets may be related to the seemingly nonsensical laws governing nature at the smallest scales, physicists say.
A paper published online Aug. 13 in the journal Physics of Fluids presents equations for how liquid droplets can bounce and “walk” over pools of the same fluid without falling in. Physicists say the droplets are guided by waves they themselves make in the pool—a situation reminiscent of a theory devised long ago to explain the baffling behaviors of subatomic particles.
Known as pilot-wave theory, it fell out of favor, but never went away. “This walking droplet system represents the first realization of a pilot-wave system,” said John Bush, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But unlike the case with the tiny realms that pilot-wave theory was devised to explain, the droplets are “plainly visible,” he added. “It gives us the first opportunity to view pilot-wave dynamics in action.” The new work is an outgrowth of research a few years ago by Yves Couder, a physicist at Université Paris Diderot, who first reported the behavior of the roughly millimeter-sized droplets. Couder’s findings fed into an old debate. In the early 1900s, physicists contested how to explain subatomic particles’ strange behavior, such as their tendency to behave both as particles and waves. This is perplexing because waves are not traditionally considered physical objects—they’re oscillations. And particles acting like waves defies common sense. For instance, waves interfere with each other: if you drop two stones in a pond, their outward-moving waves will alter each other’s appearance as they meet. Individual objects can’t “interfere” with each other like that, one would think. But subatomic particles, such as photons, or particles of light, do—and they don’t even have to be moving at the same time. Their mutual “interference” can be seen in the patterns they form when they strike a surface and the landing locations are marked. Pilot-wave theory, proposed by Louis de Broglie in the 1920s, reconciled these problems by proposing that moving particles are borne along on some sort of wave, like driftwood on the tide. But no one ever quite explained what that wave was. The theory ultimately gave way to the so-called Copenhagen interpretation on quantum mechanics, which prevails today. It gets rid of the carrier wave—but with it the common-sense notion that a particle travels a definite path. It holds that tiny particles have no definite location or trajectory until a measurement take place, an idea that, if not terribly satisfying, at least solves the problems at hand mathematically.