Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A 90% chance things are not as they appear?

I saw a Discovery Channel show recently, in which neuro-scientists were cited as saying that only 10% of what we see comes from information gathered by the retinas. The rest is derived by other parts of the brain. I haven't reviewed the studies or anything, but I'm going to run with the premise for the sake of discussion.

One implication is that we perceive what we perceive because over all of our generations, evolution has determined what is the most useful way to perceive it, from a human perspective. Evolution is not about intelligence, or knowledge, or a quest for truth. It's about survival. Is it therefore possible, that at times or even now, there is some evolutionary advantage to ignoring significant information?

Genetic memory is really a way of processing data. It's the default program of the brain. You don't have to teach a baby to eat when it's hungry or cry when it's uncomfortable. It's already in the hardware in the form of genetically encoded neural pathways.


Of course intentionally seeking out new neural pathways that have lead to genetic dead ends is probably dangerous business, from the gene pool's perspective. If we do have built in mental/perceptual blocks and filters, the only way the veils might be lifted is if something changed to give a different or more expansive perceptive ability a distinct advantage over not having it. Yes, you can use the back end of a screw driver as a hammer, but why would you when there's a hammer right there on the table in front of you? The screw driver would have to become a more productive tool for accomplishing the task than the hammer for such behavior to be replicated. In this case, the task is driving in a nail. On the other side of the analogy it's survival of the species. Mother Nature says use the hammer. It's been proven. It works. But another part of our programming is curiosity, so we try the screw driver anyway. That way, if an application comes up some day where using the back end of a screw driver actually makes more sense than using the hammer, it's an idea we're already familiar with.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Zombie insects

I have discovered, in recent years, that there are parasites such as these worms that cause crickets to commit suicide and flukes that attack ants, that can actually take control of the hosts behavior. There is also a fungi that uses the same technique.

Are humans immune to such infections? How would you know? Are you having a snack because you want it, or because an undiscovered intruder wants it? The more normal your behavior appears, the less likely such an intruder will be detected, and the more people engage in a particular behavior, the more normal it seems. Maybe "Bieber fever" really is a contagion.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is our computer code missing a digit?

I've said before that creating something from nothing in math is as simple as splitting zero into plus one and minus one. The plus one can further be split into plus two, minus one, and on and on and on. Perhaps the code of the universe is based on a similar principal. The difference between that code and the one we use in our software is that the language is based on not zeros and ones, but zeros, ones and minus ones.

So how do you translate that into something an engineer can use. Well, typically we store memory in something that can have one of two states: on or off, positive or negative, each state representing either a zero or a one. Perhaps a new language need be explored whereby the memory cell or switch has three states: positive, negative or neutral. An electron approaching a fork in the road would either be repelled by a negative charge, captured by a positive charge, or pass through a neutral charge. The negative would be the plus one, the positive the negative one and the neutral the zero.

I'm not sure what kind of capabilities one could make of such a system, but it seems a logical course of action to try to mimic the programming of the universe to the greatest extent we're able.

Monday, August 24, 2009

There's no such thing as nothing

Space, time and matter continue to amaze scientific minds. Space and time in particular. Where did space come from? Where did time come from? What existed before time began?

The mystic nature of these questions is based in a flawed perspective. The answer could be stated "It just doesn't matter" because without matter, the other two don't exist. To make this case I have to include in the term "matter" as used here, all types of particles, energy and radiation; anything that is not space or time.

Conceptually speaking, you can't have no apples until you have at least the concept of an apple. Concepts are things. You can't have no thing before you have a thing.

Time is a description of the relative motion of things. Even a single thing requires energy, which means something, no matter how small, is in motion relative to something else. No things = No time. The only place no thing can exist is in no time. We don't live there. Never have, never will.

Space is a description of a volume. To have volume it must envelope something. Otherwise, it's not space, it's just a point.

Space and time are characteristics of matter. Separating them from the physical is like pondering the meaning of inside and outside with no container as a reference. They are positions relative to nothing. Totally meaningless.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

M Theory, membrane or circuit board?

For years scientists felt they were at a dead end in figuring out the ultimate answer to "How did all this get here?". They had the math for the Big Bang working for all but the instant of the big bang, but they couldn't get past that. Meanwhile, string theory had split into 5 factions, which meant at least 4 and probably all 5 were wrong. Then came M Theory.

M Theory arose from a consensus among many scientists that using 11 dimensions rather than the previously agreed upon 10, the math works much nicer. Another thing adding that 11th dimension did was to provide an external factor to account for the equations at work at the instant of the big bang. Two theories were fixed with the addition of an additional dimension.

It's important to remember that math is an incomplete image of what's happening. It's not the cause. You don't get a tremendous amount of energy out of a bit of matter because E=mc2. The equation states the facts as we see them. It doesn't create the facts, and, since it's an expression of our perceptions given our current data base of knowledge, it could be wrong.

The image M theory fans bring to mind is one of a universe that is actually a brane, or membrane (hence M theory). The graphical representation is kind of like a jelly pillow, or waterbed mattress, quivering along the exterior. The quivering is important because, we are not the only universe in town. In the 11th dimension, there are many universes, including ours. Picture lots of floating water bed mattresses, energy rippling through them (perhaps from previous encounters) and two get close enough that their exteriors impact each other at some point. The energy patterns in each are disrupted, and apparently, Big Bang math works for this scenario.

In my non-physicist head, this does solve an issue that even occurred to a commoner like myself. For energy and matter to continue to move and change, you need relative pressure differences circulating throughout the system. For this you need some kind of outside influence on the universe to "stir things up"; add energy, remove energy, send energy in different directions. Without such, everything would simply dissipate indefinitely. Those other waterbeds fix that problem by running into us from time to time. Of course this raises the issue of what's containing the 11th dimension, but enough of that.

As I said, math is a clue to an image of what's happening. In my unrefined brain, these waterbeds can just as easily be envisioned as circuit boards. The "waterbed collisions" could simply be data transfer. Our universe is the graphical display from out perspective, of an equation playing out, given a particular set of data. Of course, we're viewing it from the inside of the circuit. In a much higher dimension, it could be viewed as a single pixel among many and the entire history of our universe, from start to finish, could be the blink of an eye. The unimaginably minute details couldn't be seen from there. They are as clueless of us as we are of them. This works in both directions. The equation that plays out as I hit a key on this keyboard could be viewed by a sentient in a much lower dimension as the life of a universe. In that universe, countless billions of years have passed since I hit that key a few seconds ago. Sentients came and went and pondered the existence and purpose of their universe. The answer to all those generation of tireless searches: To depict the letter "a" in a sentence within a post, pondering the existence and purpose of the universe. What a buzz kill.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Scientific Case for Karma

Evolutionists and biologists have long pondered how cooperation comes to be in a competitive world. Why do humans act selfishly in some moments and as willing cogs in the larger wheel in others?

Some speculate that perhaps there is a greater whole of which we are all a part; a kind of universal consciousness. Well, maybe, but there's another, at least partial explanation that's a lot easier to get your head around.

There is an entire field of study called Game Theory. Scientists develop mathematical equations to depict various strategies employed when one entity interacts with another. Beats shoveling coal for a living, but I digress. Anyway, without getting into too much detail, a computer competition was devised, as decribed in the book "Smart Mobs". In it, "players" (computer programs) could either choose to cooperate with each other in an interaction, or one or both could choose to "betray" the other. The outcome of the interaction determined each one's points. Consequences depended on not only your programs decision, but the other's as well. There's no negotiation, just decision and result. The winner was a program called "Titt for Tatt". The program chose to cooperate with programs that had cooperated with it in a previous encounter. It betrayed programs which betrayed it in a previous encounter. Here's the interesting bit: It didn't hold a grudge. If a program that had betrayed it in encountered 1 chose to cooperate in encounter 2, Titt for Tatt would cooperate in encounter 3. The response was automatic. A literal "do unto others as they most recently have done to you" and it worked.

Next, the scientists replayed the game. All of the programmers were informed of Titt for Tatt's victory and that it would be playing again, using the same parameters. Other programmers were able to tweak their programs to try to counter Titt for Tatt. Once again, Titt for Tatt emerged victorious.

Such a nugget could be a part of all of our basic genetic programming. It makes sense that over thousands of generations, the most successful programs would be pervasive throughout the population. We cooperate because we cooperate. We fight because we fight. Of course, having free will as well means that we can override the basic programming when we chose. We can alter the otherwise natural order by causing cooperation where there otherwise would be none or conflict in place of cooperation.

Karma then, becomes not a universal entity outside of ourselves, but the cumulative effect of individuals either following their basic programming or consciously choosing to override it. The accuracy with which one can predict human behavior as a whole is dependent on the level of awareness of the population and the extent to which they exercise free will over default programming.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Talisman

My wife and I were watching the news one day and heard a story about the superstitious rituals that John McCain still engages in. For example he's said to always keep 31 cents in change in his pocket among other things. These are practices that he's brought forward from his pilot days. Apparently, pilots, like baseball players, are very superstitious. I commented that anything that helps put you in the state of mind you need to be in to successful handle a situation could very well be helpful. My wife said, "yes, like a talisman".

We both realized there was something to this. Objects that have superstitious or "sentimental value" can actually be used as a sort of external memory storage device. They can be used to trigger sets of memories and emotions that are helpful in a particular situation. The beauty part of it is that anything can be used as a talisman for anything. You don't have to buy the $300 decorative opal. You can use a soda can, or even the image of a soda can or the idea of a soda can.

Here's how it can work. When you successfully navigate through a difficult situation, associate the event, the memories, the emotion of the experience with an object. It can be any object, but should be something distinct and something that is common enough to trigger the memory on demand. (even if the object is not available when needed, the idea of the object can be called upon, but an actual solid object can be a more effective trigger). For example, you just had a sales meeting. You were "in the zone". You were lucid, entertaining, informative, charming and made one of your biggest sales of the year. Focus on something from that setting. It can be the logo of the company you're at. An object on the prospects desk. The number of your parking space; anything. Now you have to train your brain. Let's say you selected a "blue pen". Get yourself a blue pen. Remember the meeting. Remember the feeling, the gestures, the success, the content and the context of what was said, and remember the blue pen. Imagine that the meeting took place inside that blue pen. Make the blue pen central to the memory of the moment. Do this several times over the course of the next few days and whenever you have another successful meeting.

The pen doesn't suddenly become a supernatural object, but it can now be used to trigger key memories and emotions. You don't need to be in the "sales zone" all the time. So storing this information in the conscious mind all the time would be inefficient. You don't have to be aware of everything you need all the time. You just have to know where to find it. A plumber doesn't bring his tool box to social events. But he knows he has the right tools in the right box and where to find it. Ideas can be put in "boxes" as well.

Don't worry if you lose the pen. The data isn't actually stored in the object. It's more of an identifier, telling the brain which combination of information and images should be called to fore. It's like a thumbnail or an icon on your computer. You can access the files without it. The icon just makes the process faster and more convenient.