The realization that an innate optimism frequently overpowers my rationality has triggered a re-evaluation of certain conclusions. I have often wondered how much modern disease is a result of our vastly modified life styles, could it be that bodies evolved walking on soft ground living in trees or caves and spending nearly all their time securing meals perhaps struggle in a world filled will hard surfaces, beds and supermarkets? Could depression be so common because we're breathing different air, walking on different surfaces, eating different organisms, and spending our time differently than we did 50,000 years ago? 500,000 years ago? 5,000,000? There are a lot of zeros there... But now I'm realizing, we have toppled natural selection (thank goodness!), and while that is an important accomplishment (most of us would not be here otherwise), it also means we may carry many detrimental traits (this is actually true of any organism). Furthermore, is there a reason to expect evolution to select for happy creatures in general? Happiness certainly is a useful trait to have, but steady and unwavering happiness? Probably not, since unhappiness becomes a motivator often times. Actually, could the issue be that we live in a world where when unhappy, there is no clear direction for improvement? That is, if I am depressed, there is no clear cause (like say losing someone important, which would naturally depress anyone), and without a clear cause, the mechanism "motivate -> do something -> achieve happiness" can't work, since there is no clear middle step "do something" to re-obtain happiness. Maybe this is why people think drugs are such a great solution; they are such an easy path home, especially if some fancy drug company or fancy doctor tell you it'll solve the problem. Or maybe I'm totally wrong again, please, no one should take my thoughts too seriously. Maybe I should put that disclaimer at the top.
"I'm being told there's no one talking to me right now."
Someone out there is awesome.
We are all related.
Sarah Silverman figured out how to feed the world!
What makes this feel good is that I don't know where it goes.
"I'm not the enemy." — "Then who are you?"
So you're calling god a liar.
We've made a mess of it.
On the floor, listening to Beethoven.
per bit: ∆S ≥ k_b ln(2)
Did Mary commit adultery with god? Or was it nonconsensual? In which case, did god rape Mary? I guess adultery makes less sense than rape, since there is a commandment forbidding the former, but none pertaining to the latter. Jesus was a bastard! And god was a deadbeat dad!
Because you stood still.
"Don't act so innocent—I've seen you pound your fist into the earth."
The Dose Makes the Poison.
I was thinking about any adult who stands out as an expert, has practiced their field more than most non-experts can imagine. I was first thinking about how this applies to mathematics and science, but then it became clear that this really does apply to any area of expertise.
It's always your friends that hate you the most.
I've mentioned before that I don't believe egalitarianism nor meritocracy to be the ultimate solution, but that rather a mix of the two is required. I should have listed the benefits and drawbacks to the two viewpoints also. Egalitarianism satisfies one's sense of compassion for their fellow humankind (or even animal, or life-kind), but it makes one susceptible to fraud; egalitarianism on the other hand resolves the fraud issue (assuming an infallible testing procedure), but leaves the least-qualified, the most unfortunate with nothing to hope for. In fact, the very idea of inherited fortune, or more broadly, the idea that one can be born into certain advantages or disadvantages (which vary wildly: money, fame, resources, societal pressures/expectations/leniencies, cultural bias, etc.), generates much discomfort with the idea that one will be judged by merits alone—it may even be direct inspiration for many egalitarian feelings.
Deluded in each other's favor.
Q: can we think of a method to add up the world lines of a gluon in such a way as to explain why gluons are always bound to one another or to quarks? Then that would be very analogous to the proposal that the Higgs is interfering with it's creation. The difficulty we have is it is too easy to think about it being some future event that is "traveling backwards in time" to cause trouble. But what we should be thinking is that the creation of such a particle (a free Higgs that is), generates world lines with the property that when added up, they destructively interfere in such a way as to destroy the world lines that lead to the creation of the free Higgs. Is the idea that the phenomena spans time any more counter-intuitive than the idea that a phenomena can span space? After all, entanglement was impossibly counter-intuitive when it was first hypothesized, but it has become a well-established phenomena. The challenge we face with proposing a "temporally-non-local" mechanism is that it is by it's very nature, exceedingly difficult to verify. (Also, intuitively, it offends our sense of causality even more than entanglement did, though ultimately we can now see how entanglement does not violate causality, as it first appeared to—it may be that this temporal mechanism is resolved similarly, through deeper understanding.)
What is the link between one-way functions and the halting problem? and entropy? and Laplace's Demon? and NP? (11·21·09 update: Seth mentioned that if P=NP you can commit wholesale macroscopic violations of the Second Law, therefore we can interpret the lack of a bacterium that does this to be further evidence of P \neq NP.)
How could he send her away?
"It's... inhuman, to be so cold."
"Today you don't mean it."
She can tell.
There is more than one part to each of us.
A mind divided.
"We should start from the top, and look at what we've got."
"Some, are mothers. And some people, dance."
Everybody feels that way.
I want to teach useful things, whereby we adopt the definition of useful to be something which increases total joy, rather than something which has practical application.
Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas.
(Destroy the author of things in order to understand the infinite universe.)
"Suck on my sweet tooth til I'm sore."
"People do things right now all the time."
Is it impossible to make a computer curious?
"Just say what you're thinking."
"Information wants to be free"
Don't be the only one left without a chair when the music stops.
Do you think as cameras become more and more common, the difficulty in looking at the camera, rather than at the person holding the camera, will lessen? Will people who look at the camera be naturally selected? (More likely sexually selected.)
A Moment of Stillness
Thought & imagination into gift giving.
Brace for impact.
"I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard."
"Discovering the object of the game, is, the object of the game."
"Crystals of appetite."
"And it was perfect. Until the phone started ringing ringing ringing ringing ringing off."
I just realized suddenly, that the opposition to nuclear remains steadfast, and although I (and many others) consider it an extremely viable alternative to coal, (perhaps even the most viable), the resistance may simply be too great for it to ever come back.
Fight for it.
"Because you like to remember her."
How does layering change information content? For instance alphabet => words => sentences => paragraphs => chapters. Or DNA => amino acids => proteins (is that right? or is it DNA => genes => proteins? or am I even more wrong?)
a-z = 26
so 26 1 letter words
26^2 2 letter words
and so on.
Let's assume we don't often see words more than 8 letters long.
I looked up the average number of words per sentence, found this interesting article, and will take the number 18 as as an average for words per sentence. Assuming a uniform distribution for the length of words (we could improve by researching the actual distribution of word lengths), how many different sentences does that give us?
"Move beyond your need for unmoldy dishes."
Time hates art.
"Something remarkable happens."
"It doesn't confirm your goosebumps."
I think I need to construct positive reinforcement in my life to alter my behavior. That would be clever.
"There is no pattern to find."
A parallax measurement of the galactic black hole puts it at about 7800 light years from here.
We're definitely all screwed.
"Shoot first, and then check to see if it's was one of your friends or a bird."
Look no further.
So I was thinking: CMB = black body. Black holes -> Hawking radiation = black body. Olber's paradox = in an infinite universe, all lines of sight end on the surface of a star, thus no night sky thus universe is not infinite. But with black holes… some lines of sight could end on a black body radiator… which would look like the CMB! To go further, wouldn't gravitational effects redshift the light?
It seems to me that somewhere between redshift, dark matter, dark energy, inflation, quantum vacuum fluctuations, black holes & Hawking radiation, the CMB, Olber's paradox, galaxy rotation curves and the large scale structure of the universe, there is a better answer than big bang. But it seems that I need to know way more physics and mathematics to convince anyone.
"We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are."
Hubba hubba hubba.
"The slightest lapse of judgement."
eleven ten nine, it's like a countdown!
Well, which is it? Are you the typical American? Or the oppressed minority? You can't have it both ways.
"Science is interesting, and if you disagree you can fuck off."
NPR story about you have no right not to be framed?
How awesome, right?
Wait, what is the moral?
Arguments that morality owes it's existence to religion are easily dismissed by simply empathizing with Abraham during that time in which he believed god had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac—if upon considering such a situation one realizes that no plan, no king, no supreme being can give a good reason to murder one's own child (indeed because no such reason exists), then one is moral; if, on the other hand, one agrees to blindly follow the voices in their head, one is certifiably insane, and would best avoid harming society or themselves by seeking external, REAL people who want to help.
Wilson want's a foundation for relative morality. So I will provide it to him. I will describe it in the narrative of how I resolved it for myself. You already understand that the view holds that there is no supreme power in the universe that "cares" about humans (or any other creature). I asked myself at some point, several years ago, what does morals mean to the moon? (The question was sort of a natural extension to environmentalist statements about what was good and bad for the earth.) The question can further be extended to even less important objects, as the moon does play a role in life as we know it (though it may be that life was and is possible without it.) What if Andromeda didn't exist? It would likely have no influence on humans (at least not for a few billion more years.) Okay, off track, sorry. So, I began thinking that a more correct statement would be to talk about what is good and bad for the earth (or moon, or andromeda) in terms of Me, or Us, or My Family, or My Neighbors, or My Country, or My Species, or the Animal Kingdom, or Life in general. Of course, depending on which one of these we choose we get different answers, radically different answers in some cases. Especially in the case of countries, where the impression of limited resources generates a kind of anxiety that frequently interferes with clear thinking. Now we might ask, why should I choose one basis of concern rather than another? Why choose to care about anyone other than me, or maybe family or country? (Sadly, many people, religious or not, seem to extend it no further than country.) Let's first establish natural reasons why you might choose to care about your extended society (that is, everyone to which you directly depend on; allow for an protectionism view of society for the time being.) It's related to your question: "why would an atheist care" about the genocide of the Amalekites? Because humans are one of many species that have developed social structures, and have evolved to become entirely reliant upon them. Individuals that lack the traits required to maintain a stable social structure would either destroy the society, or be ejected from it (the latter occurring if the society has developed the tools to find and expel those individuals.) So we need our society to exist, and even more to prosper. Obviously this can be extended through global trade to include all of the developed world—can we extend it to include the countries without goods or resources we want? Yes. First note that our prosperity is not a zero-sum game. No one need lose for others to win—you can build me a house while I grow your food, we don't need one of us to end up on the streets. Second, note that teamwork has a beneficial effect, as do technological advancement and education. The more highly educated we are, the more productive and prosperous we can be. The more people you can get to help with your work, the more you can get done. There is also the argument that compassion, a natural product of the aforementioned societal dependencies, can be extended beyond it's natural origins. This leads into the explanation of how we can expand our moral concerns beyond that of all humans, to include all animals or even all life. I'm not arguing that humans and animals have the same rights (I don't agree with that, but some people do), but I would argue that there are two obvious paths to concerning ourselves with animal well-being. The first is utility, we have the foresight to understand that taking care of our environment is of utmost importance to our long-term survival as a species, (this foresight is a uniquely human trait.) Second is again compassion—we have a strong sense of empathy, one that has probably outgrown it's natural causes. It is these principles that allow us to make moral decisions, and acknowledging that is of paramount importance to resolve new moral questions for which we have no precedent, that we now face due to the increases in our population and technology. Stem cells, global warming, genetic engineering and screening, gene therapy are some of the most recent moral questions we have been faced with, some of which may have no clear resolution yet. But what we DON'T need are allegorical stories and superstition from the desert goat herders of millennia past, who knew nothing of the world or all of it's boundless beauty. We need rational, thought-out discourse and debate. A well informed and educated public (if we want to preserve democracy), not bound to the morals of ancient ancestors but free to understand morality through their hearts and minds. And will everyone agree on what base to use? No. Of course not. There are the PETA activists who seem to think that animals deserve perfectly equal (sometimes even more) rights than humans, there are the patriots (read: nationalists) who seem to think this or that country needs to do what is in it's own best interest, and there are sociopaths who lack the notion of societal concerns all together. But with Religious claims masking all those natural feelings and developed thoughts on morality, you end up with a lot of people claiming (and believing themselves) to be morally right, correct, perfect, generating a false confidence (an arrogance) in their actions, and that has lead to untold suffering throughout history (see: catholic sexual abuse settlements, inquisition, and ongoing african AIDS epidemic.) Weinberg said it best, "with or without religion, you'd have good people doing good things and bad people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
And fine tuning is a terrible argument, because our understanding of the universe is so enormously incomplete, and the result of an arbitrary universe so entirely intractable, we simply can't claim that this universe is …wait, I'm getting off track.
For two reasons.
First we don't know what the underlying rules that make this universe the way it is. Much like the properties of numbers, the universe may simply be necessarily this way (this I believe is what Einstein meant when he asked "if god had a choice in making the world").
Second, if we assume that this universe could have been different, we don't know what effect that has on the likelihood that intelligent life (such as ourselves) would emerge. That is, we have no clue how changing the rules would affect the resulting universe. This is in part due to the unclarity of the rules (that is, we don't know if we've got the right rules yet, or how right the ones we have are, or even if there is a real set of rules. Worse still, we'll never really be sure if we've got the right rules or not.) But also because given a set of rules, computing the outcome is practically impossible (at least as far as human computing power is concerned.)
Because we can't know the rules of the universe with certainty, nor can we ever really know the likelihood or unlikelihood of them occurring in the way they did, we really can't make statements about how probable or improbable the tuning of the universe is. All we can really say is that if these rules we believe are valid, were changed, that these basic consequences would result (such as stars would not work the way we know them to.) This does not exclude them giving rise to life in a way alternative to the way we know.
My personal hunch is that we will find laws of the universe that will be very similar to the the laws of numbers—that indeed the universe did not have a choice in it's properties.
Oh no, don't tell me what comes next.
Oh no, let me make up the rest.
While in the shower, moments ago, intending to expand upon my hypothesis of consciousness, I stumbled across something else: a hypothesis of imagination. I had been thinking that the concept of consciousness should include some ability to simulate (basically hijack our audio/visual/etc. "feelings" without those senses actually being triggered), thus you can imagine what this might sound like if read by me, or someone with a british accent, or something else. (Or maybe you can't, it's unclear why/how we develop the ability to do such things, or whether or not we all develop all these abilities). You might be able to imagine what a pink elephant would look like, (maybe you can't even help thinking about it when it's mentioned here). But half way through this reasoning it started to seem as if simulation was more the domain of imagination than consciousness. Now, I don't know where the popular concepts of imagination and consciousness might overlap (or not), I'm slightly inclined to label imagination as a subset of consciousness, but it really doesn't matter. All I want to assert is that consciousness consists of the ability to observe computation as it occurs, and imagination consists of the ability to simulate something representative of reality. I suppose the interesting part of this idea might be that imagination doesn't require consciousness to exist, but the two are intimately linked—if a creature developed the neural circuitry required to simulate it's environment (which would be very useful for survival, to help predict which actions to take, based on the simulation, to produce the most favorable outcome in reality, based on which simulation produced the most favorable outcome.)
"Yes doctor, I'll get the tools from the shed."
"Scallops musta got 'em."
"Commencing intestinal flash flood."
After learning more about closed time like curves today, a new question comes to light: how would one differentiate between time travel and not?
"You should be kissed and often. And by someone who knows how."