Category Archives: Belief or Not

Faith and doubt, plus whatever’s in the middle

Black Holes older than Time?

Two recent arXiv preprints combined make for an interesting idea. Here’s the most recent Science headline maker…

Some black holes may be older than time

…which handily has the arXiv link…

Persistence of black holes through a cosmological bounce

…Carr & Coley pose the idea that some black holes get through a cosmological Bounce (a Crunchy Big Bounce) relatively unscathed. George Zebrowski used something like that idea in his “Macrolife” novel (1979), in which Intelligent life from previous Big Crunchy Bounces survived in the Cosmic Ergosphere. Poul Anderson did it earlier in “Tau Zero” (1970), but the problem with both is that the mass of the Universe, even if it has a net spin, probably won’t form a black-hole style ergosphere when it contracts inside its own event horizon. The topology is all wrong for regular cosmology and it’s doubtful whether a white-hole style cosmos expanding in a precosmic void would ever go Big Crunch. However they might’ve been partly right, thanks to this intriguing preprint…

Is There Life Inside Black Holes?

…in which Vyacheslav I. Dokuchaev speculates that Life might orbit within supermassive black hole event horizons because it can and it might use the emissions of the Cauchy Horizon and massive time dilation for technological purposes. If Life can live inside a Black Hole, and Black Holes can survive the Crunchy Big Bounce, then might not Life survive too? Or am I speculating over a data-void on too many planks of inference? Perhaps only a dive into a Black Hole will ever tell us for sure, though whether we can ever send the news home is debatable. According to Igor Novikov we might be able to access the regions inside via a wormhole specifically dropped in…

Developments in General Relativity: Black Hole Singularity and Beyond

…which might provide a means to reach the aliens inside from past Cosmic Cycles. Perhaps that’s exactly what they want or are hoping for. Of course such vastly old entities – if they’ve survived – might be so utterly foreign to us cosmic youths that we might be unwittingly unleashing “Elder Gods” of Lovecraftian style moral indifference. Or perhaps we’d find them to be akin because of the daring that sent them across the Event Horizon in the first place? Cosmic Extreme Sports, anyone?

[found Under a Gibbous Moon]

Fermions & the Fermi Paradox

R.J.Spivey writes a provocative essay for the arXiv…

From Fermions to the Fermi Paradox: A Fertile Cosmos Fit for Life?

…basically Spivey suggests we’re jumping to conclusions too soon about Life in the Cosmos, that the real party is after our current Stelliferous Era, when Life exists in a multitude of planets formed from supernova remnants, powered by neutrino annihilation in pressurized iron. Spivey is also disinclined to include us as that “Life” – we might yet attain that level of advancement, but for now our Future fate is for us to create. We might fail to advance to the level of Galactic Colonists, able to adapt to Ocean planets under ice, living off the thin trickle of energy from neutrinos (via the reverse photo-neutrino effect) for 100 billion trillion years. He suggests that the efforts to make artificial life will fail and that we’ll need to hone our bioengineering skills to remodel an ecosystem fit for the Ocean planets of the distant future.

News from Zarmina!

It’s all over the news! Earth-like Planet Found (for real)!

Of course we don’t know much about Zarmina (Gliese 581 g) other than some very bare basics, but her discoverer, Steve Vogt, has expressed his near 100% certainty there’ll be Life on Zarmina of some kind. While I agree with his sentiment I think we should stay skeptical of all claims of inhabitants on that distant world. But that hasn’t stopped some from going further. For example, this “Daily Mail” piece…

Does ET live on Goldilocks planet? How scientists spotted ‘mysterious pulse of light’ from direction of newly-discovered ‘2nd Earth’ two years ago

…covering the 2008 claim of signal detection by Dr Ragbir Bhathal (University of Western Sydney) who is an active member of SETI, particularly OSETI – the Optical Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life. At the time he didn’t let out a lot of information, but now it seems his positive signal came from Gliese 581, the star, or close to it. Or did it? I’m not entirely impressed by the article because it’s both vague and inaccurate. At the time of Dr. Bhathal’s initial claim the constellation of Tucanae was quoted as the region in question. Now the story has changed. Until Dr. Bhathal releases more information or someone else makes another positive detection the claim can only be “under investigation”.

Yet what if it was true? Zarmina is being called a “ribbon world” – a planet tidally locked to face its star forever with the same face, thus endless day on one side and endless night on the other. The ribbon refers to the border between night and day, the Terminator, which is in a state of never-ending twilight. Duncan Lunan’s discussion of the Green Children of Wolfpit, who were mentioned by Francis Bacon [erratum: Robert Burton, in his “Anatomy of Melancholy” (1651)] as possible extraterrestrials, suggests such a world. Their story comes from the 12th Century and Lunan did a write-up for “Analog” some years ago. The children were found disoriented and speaking a foreign language in the town of Wolfpitt/Wolpitt. The strangest thing about them, aside from their curious story, was their bright green skin, which eventually returned to normal. They claimed to have come from “St Martin’s Land”, but gave a description of their homeland as always being in twilight. This fits the concept of a ribbon world, but their undeniable humanity caused Lunan to make the SF leap that they were from a human colony on a ribbon world accidentally time-space transported to Medieval Earth. Of course there’s an alternative mundane explanation, but their twilit homeland is terribly evocative and hard to explain as an earthly locale.

We’ll only ever know the truth if we go looking for it… Part II.

Complexity, Creativity & Randomness

Random Reality § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM.

Marcus Chown discusses the information content of the Universe – what has pumped “information” into what began as a very simple world? Chown points out that ‘random’ sequences require more information to describe than ‘ordered’ & ‘repetitive’ sequences – think of vortices in swirling smoke versus the cubic perfection of salt-crystals. Thus ‘randomness’, at the quantum level, is the ultimate ‘source’ of information.

Doesn’t seem quite right does it? Perhaps the problem is that ‘random’ itself isn’t very well defined when we use the world. Often it’s synonymous with ‘unordered’, ‘capricious’ and ‘surprising’ – my son says “How random was that?” when struck by some surprising behaviour or event amongst his friends and in the news media.

‘Ordered’ & ‘perfect’ are also ‘repetitive’ and ‘predictable’ – in today’s world such things have a negative valuation amongst the young. Boredom – or the struggle against it – looms largest for them, whereas in previous ages ‘predictability’ – like a regular meal, bed, job and clothing – was something keenly desired and sought for.

‘Lawful’ & ‘predictable’ can co-exist in the quantum world with ‘random’ and ‘surprising’ – just because a certain quantum event is probabilistic, and thus intrinsically ‘surprising’, doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. The evolution of the wave-equation of quantum systems is utterly deterministic, but absolutely precise pin-point prediction isn’t what it gives us.

Of course none of that explains where the ‘randomness’ comes from. I suggest we can replace it with ‘novelty’ or ‘creativity’ and get a more meaningful sense of what is meant. There is ‘novelty’ inherent in the World’s events, an irreducible ‘creativity’ that can’t be shaken out of the system of things, as much as some physicists would like it to. But I agree with Stuart Kaufmann – the world’s evolution is ‘open’ to novelty and creativity, and that’s a good thing, even a divine thing.

I Dream of the City

I dream of a City, but not like any we know in our Time. This City is more like a forest – of crystal columns, thinking inscrutable thoughts. But the City is powerful – it reaches across all Times, drawing people to It. It exists, as a Boundary or Guardian, at the Side-ways limit of Time. It’s the most extreme version of Planet Earth – an entire world that has formed, against extreme improbability, a singular Intelligence, the City. All of the Earth is the City, from the organised crystalline iron of its core, to the whispering computing gas that doubles for an atmosphere. While It is an Intelligence, it is made of trillions of trillions of minds, thus why it draws sentients from across all the Earths. And its electromagnetic thoughts are linked across the Mindful Galaxy and Meta-Galaxy. It lives in a cosmic Ocean of dreaming, collected from all the Universes, which (via hyperspace? Plato’s Intelligible World?) come from all the possible Universes that the City encompasses as the Limit, collecting them and preserving them as the Guardian of all Worlds.

I dream of visiting that Earth, the City, walking through its warm Thinking sands, listening to the quiet whispers of thought in the atmosphere, looking at a trillion Dreams turned into scintillating sparkles in the Forest of Crystal as the Sun showers it in sensations of a trillion trillion minds.

What strange constellations grace its skies? What stories do the Stars tell when all are Alive and talking, discussing, discoursing and even arguing?

What strange Beings walk the streets of a World made of thoughts?

In my dream, the City speaks to me with one Voice, though surely it is but a infintesimal fragment of its Intelligence that addresses me, but I sense something of its multiplicity. The Voice is clear, beautiful and alien yet somehow familiar – perhaps this is how Reason would sound if given a Voice.

The City tells me I have a question of it, that it can only answer when I know what it is…

What’s the question?

The Night Land (II)

Part (I)

William Hope Hodgson’s “The Night Land” is a perfect example of fin de cicle, end of the World, style writing from the end of the old naive belief in progress and bellicose sabre-rattling that had marked progressive thought in Europe’s 19th-early 20th Centuries. The Dark Clouds of War were gathering, but many responded with what is seen today a grotesque blood-lust and romantic view of war. Their disillusionment during the events of 1914-1918, and their continuance in 1939-1945, reshaped the way we view the world utterly. Communism and Fascism, the Death of Empires, and the Atomic Age all sprang out of that Dual Hecatomb of Nations.

In the post-War Era we’re in now, or rather post-Ideological war. Wars we have a plenty, but they’re all nakedly exertions of power by the powerful against the not-so powerful, not death-struggles for dominance by the more-or-less evenly matched.

The appeal of “The Night Land” isn’t hard to understand in that light. Here’s a prime example of its fandom…

“The Night Land”

…with a couple of anthologies for sale and all sorts of trivia, academic studies and so forth. A typical sub-set.

Imitation is the best kind of flattery, especially when the imitation is better. Greg Bear’s “City at the End of Time” is consciously akin to “The Night Land”, evocative of many of its scenes, but in many ways a bigger, better story. Complex, even daunting, but a brilliant tale of the end of the Multiverse.

Neuro-Theology Part 1

Dr. Michael Persinger is a researcher in neuroscience at the Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada. He has made a wide-range of often controversial claims for the origins of “spiritual” experiences – for example, that magnetic stimulation of the brain can cause out-of-body and “Sensed Presence” experiences, or that natural geomagnetic disturbances, from “earth-lights” and similar geo-plasma, can cause people to see UFOs and the like. Here are some recent papers of particular interest, an annotated bibliography of neuro-theology.

On the Possible Representation of the Electromagnetic Equivalents of All Human Memory within the Earth’s Magnetic Field: Implications for Theoretical Biology …in this 2008 paper he discusses the possibility of “all human memory” being represented/stored in the Earth’s EM field. All animals with similar neurology, and maybe plants with electrically active biology, could also being stored there, I’m extrapolating. Does provide a possible explanation for ‘telepathy’, ‘race memory’, ‘past-life memories, and similar esoteric tropes.

ON THE POSSIBILITY OF DIRECTLY ACCESSING EVERY
HUMAN BRAIN BY ELECTROMAGNETIC INDUCTION OF
FUNDAMENTAL ALGORITHMS
…a 1995 paper in which he describes a possible mechanism for ‘telepathy’ and mass influence, an often remarked feature of cultural groups. He mention briefly a lot of ideas for the way consciousness and the body’s neurology interact, some of which feature in recent neuro-imaging studies that try to identify the neural correlate of consciousness.

Johnjoe MacFadden is another bioscientist with a theory of consciousness, the Conscious Electro-Magnetic Information field theory, which he discusses most recently in this paper… Conscious Electromagnetic Field Theory …from 2007. He also has an interesting theory of Quantum Evolution that’s well worth exploring. Basically, due to the quantum nature of DNA’s atomic components a sequence of DNA can exist in a superposition of all possible mutational states and, somehow, this can steer mutation towards a selectively advantageous direction. Read Johnjoe’s discussion to understand it further. Interestingly Greg Egan, a Western Australian SF writer I heartily recommend, uses a quantum-trick about a fictional “super-mutational” enzyme in his novel Teranesia, an apparently independently developed idea.

Evidence of Macroscopic Quantum Entanglement During Double Quantitative Electroencephalographic Measurements of Friends vs Strangers …in this December 2009 paper Persinger et.al. discuss apparent evidence of macroscopic quantum entanglement between the brains of different people. Apparently “telepathy” though just what information exchange in this fashion means is difficult to discern. One doesn’t know that “telepathically” received information is correct or otherwise without a regular communication to verify the content. Prior to the conventional signal arriving one has to take one’s “impressions” entirely on ‘faith’. Makes for an interesting SF scenario, perhaps.

The Neuropsychiatry of Paranormal Experiences …a 2001 paper, quite lengthy, discussing exactly what it says. I’m currently reading this one, so I’ll elaborate more in part 2 of this post. Persinger’s philosophical stance is made clear within its conclusion…

To date there has not been a single type of paranormal experience that is not understandable in terms of known brain functions. The consideration of these experiences as predictable components of brain activity will allow the differentiation between the illusions of intrinsic stimulation and the validity of information obtained through mechanisms yet to be explained.

As his other papers indicate, there’s something collective about human consciousness too. We’re not just a blob of neurones locked away in our skulls. A “geopsyche”, as he dubs it, can be produced like the sub-domains of a magnetic field can merge together to form one field. In the case of humans, for good or ill. In esotericism such a concept, without a physical cause, is known as an ‘egregore’.

The Gospel of Peter, translated by Raymond Brown

The Gospel of Peter, translated by Raymond Brown.

As provided by Peter Kirby’s indispensable “Early Christian Writings”. The key verses are…

[55] And having gone off, they found the sepulcher opened. And having come forward, they bent down there and saw there a certain young man seated in the middle of the sepulcher, comely and clothed with a splendid robe, who said to them: [56] ‘Why have you come? Whom do you seek? Not that one who was crucified? He is risen and gone away. But if you do not believe, bend down and see the place where he lay, because he is not here. For he is risen and gone away to there whence he was sent.’ [57] Then the women fled frightened.

[58] Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. [59] But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. [60] But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord …

…a persistent problem of New Testament scholarship is just how “The Gospel of Mark” finished, as the present ending – at verse 16:8 – is abrupt and inconclusive. Prof. James McGrath discusses this question in a series of blog-posts…

November 2, 2007: How Mark’s Gospel Originally Ended

July 23, 2007: More on Mark’s Missing Ending

July 18, 2007: How did Mark’s Gospel originally end?

…the conclusion being that the missing ending of “Peter” and the existing final appearance of Jesus in “John” 21 seem more likely than the rather jarringly different endings of “Matthew” and “Luke”. An older idea, which might precede that ending, is that Jesus appeared to the disciples on a hilltop in Galilee, as per the cryptic verses in “Matthew” 28…

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

…though nowhere prior does Jesus tell them to go to a mountain. However there is a rather amazing mountain encounter with the Glorified Christ in what’s called “The Transfiguration” – depicted in all three Synoptic Gospels and mentioned in “2 Peter” 1:16-18…

16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[a] 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

…but there’s no evidence that the writer of “2 Peter” is referring to the Synoptic Transfiguration. Notice the linking of the mountain encounter with Peter’s message about Jesus’s Coming in Glory as Apocalyptic Lord. In the Synoptic version Jesus predicts (Mark 9) 1And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” …which is followed by the Transfiguration. A seemingly deliberate muting of the implied imminence of Jesus’ Parousia is the effect, but what really happened on that mountain?

Curiously part of the “Gospel of Peter” was found with another fragment from the “Apocalypse of Peter”, in which there’s this curious encounter…

1 Many of them shall be false prophets, and shall teach ways and diverse doctrines of perdition. 2 And they shall become sons of perdition. 3 And then shall God come unto my faithful ones that hunger and thirst and are afflicted and prove their souls in this life, and shall judge the sons of iniquity.

4 And the Lord added and said: Let us go unto the mountain (and) pray. 5 And going with him, we the twelve disciples besought him that he would show us one of our righteous brethren that had departed out of the world, that we might see what manner of men they are in their form, and take courage, and encourage also the men that should hear us.

6 And as we prayed, suddenly there appeared two men standing before the Lord (perhaps add, to the east) upon whom we were not able to look. 7 For there issued from their countenance a ray as of the sun, and their raiment was shining so as the eye of man never saw the like: for no mouth is able to declare nor heart to conceive the glory wherewith they were clad and the beauty of their countenance. 8 Whom when we saw we were astonied, for their bodies were whiter than any snow and redder than any rose. 9 And the redness of them was mingled with the whiteness, and, in a word, I am not able to declare their beauty. 10 For their hair was curling and flourishing (flowery), and fell comely about their countenance and their shoulders like a garland woven of nard and various flowers, or like a rainbow in the air: such was their comeliness.

11 We, then, seeing the beauty of them were astonied at them, for they appeared suddenly. 12 And I drew near to the Lord and said: Who are these? 13 He saith to me: These are your (our) righteous brethren whose appearance ye did desire to see. 14 And I said unto him: And where are all the righteous? or of what sort is the world wherein they are, and possess this glory? 15 And the Lord showed me a very great region outside this world exceeding bright with light, and the air of that place illuminated with the beams of the sun, and the earth of itself flowering with blossoms that fade not, and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible, and bearing blessed fruit. 16 And so great was the blossom that the odour thereof was borne thence even unto us.

17 And the dwellers in that place were clad with the raiment of shining angels, and their raiment was like unto their land. 18 And angels ran round about them there. 19 And the glory of them that dwelt there was all equal, and with one voice they praised the Lord God, rejoicing in that place.
20 The Lord saith unto us: This is the place of your leaders (or, high priests), the righteous men.

…then followed by a segment straight out of the regular “Apocalypse of Peter”, known from elsewhere.

Makes one wonder what originally happened in the narrative before the early Church politics, as seen in the Jerusalem focus of “Luke/Acts”, dominated the Resurrection account. All the Synoptics seem to be written in the light of the Destruction of Jerusalem c.70 AD, though they also seem to retain much older material. Were the Christians preaching to their fellow Jewish survivors a new message about the successful prophecy by JC of Jerusalem’s demise? And de-emphasising the “imminent End-of-the-World” apocalyptic message that originally went with it, since JC hadn’t come back to Judge the Living and the Dead?