Category Archives: Science

Natural philosophy based on evidence.

Bill Gates: “We Need an Energy Miracle”

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Killing the fallacy that Capitalism and Markets are effective and efficient. And it is especially true when viewing the slow unfolding climate disaster.

Bill Gates on the surprising wisdom of government R&D: “When I first got into this I thought, How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget? And I was worried: Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that? But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these “Centers of Excellence.” They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

Read more on the Atlantic.

The Illusion of Separateness

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Looking at the odd history in the making in Europe with UK voting to leave the EU, it becomes apparent that we generally look and understand parts better than the whole. This is certainly true on the political stage, where we often do not know, what we have lost abandoning the bargaining table. When Prince Escalus says “all are punish’d” in the final scene of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he might as well have referred to all European nations and especially Britain in place of the Montagues and Capulets. They lost their most precious children in exchange for nothing. In the UK, it is the young who will lose the most being partially blocked from a larger world, which is struggling to become whole despite our common lack of vision.

I am starting to think that it is a peculiarity of our vision that makes us so fond of finding differences, of loving the parts more than the whole. Vision shapes our way of defining models. Delineating lines of shadow and dark, seeing colors instead of the continuity of the full spectrum is a trick our mind & vision use to make sense of the complexity of the world with limited capability. We simplify, reduce, decide under the illusion that seeing the parts we understand the whole. This is true even in science, where reductionism has given us progress especially since the Enlightenment. We are delving ever deeper taking the world to bits to find the Higgs. But even finding this God particle, our search is not at end. I sense, we are going about it wrong.

Perhaps we are about to enter the next age, where we look at the world with new eyes and try to understand it as one system – from the way we look at nature, our bodies, our societies, our ecosystem, and the world. Systems theory clearly shows that the most interesting emergent behavior is on the larger level of simple elements working together to shape much more complex behavior. This is where all of our answers lie, maybe even to our quest for purpose and the meaning of the universe.

The separateness of anything in the world is an illusion. The world is one system. As we look at the apparent boundaries in detail, they disappear to the point that we cannot truly tell one quantum particle from another. Our bodies are in continuous interaction with the micro-biome in us and surrounding us. We are seeing that our old disease models are simplistic. We are truly and deeply connected with our environment. In cyberspace, our minds and thoughts are exchanging thoughts and concepts at increasing speed. It might be a struggle, but I believe in seeing and making things whole, we truly find the solution to all of our issues. Being in and with this world and each other will give us incredible progress and peace and prosperity past anything we can image. It is the key to our humanity!

All we need to do is look at the world differently.

“What we think, we become.” — Buddha

We need to become one with each other and the world.

Anthropocene

We are in the Anthropocene

There is a growing voice among scientists that would like to label the current epoch as the Anthropocene distinctly following the Holocene.

The Anthropocene is defined to begin when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Our growth is accompanied by an exploding reduction in biodiversity. We large scale destruction of habitats followed by species extinction only paralleled by the major past extinction events like the Permian extinction.

We see the dramatic changes an extinction of wild life species on land, but the catastrophic impact of over fishing in the oceans tends to go unnoticed. First you might see a reduction in the size of the fish being caught, then you stop finding particular species altogether. If you take a look at peak catches over the last decades, you can see a dramatic reduction averaging 58% – and this was from 1964 to 1992 (I could not find more recent data.) We know that the impact of the last 25 years has been even more dramatic leading to complete collapse of certain species. This is solely due to unrestrained fishing not just catching the fish we want to eat, but also destroying numerous other species of “junk fish.” And BTW, many junk fish have been promoted to primary catch to replace species now gone.

Our techniques of industrialized over fishing and brutal drag net techniques not only decimate species, but also completely destroy supporting habitats. We unbalance ecological chains further destroying local ecosytems.

But this happens under the water surface, so the vast emptiness we are creating goes unnoticed.

Now we add to this the dramatic impact of climate change, which some of still debate fumbling at the edge.

If you look at the previous extinction events, you will likely note that it always ended in the destruction of the apex species, usually in the early phases. We pride ourselves as being the apex species. Good luck to us!

Earlier today I ran across a link on one of my favorite sites. Justin Hickey write about a fascinating book Open Letters Monthly In What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins Jonathan Balcombe writes about the research of the conscious existence of our vertebrate cousins in the water. Justing Hinkley provides a thoughtful review, which I could not do justice here paraphrasing. Just read it.

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I was left with my ever increasing wonder about this world we inhabit.

I firmly believe that not only our model of human consciousness is “not even wrong,” but we seem incapable of appreciating the mental existence of all the beings that share our world. There is a tremendous agree of shared awareness and emotion – the experience that drives action. And the ability to suffer is universal.

We pride ourselves the apex of creation. But we are not only blind to the suffering of our fellow humans, but we are completely insensitive to the suffering we cause in our farms, in our forrests, in our oceans.

How will our epoch be remembered? I can only think that future species able to express it will call the Anthropocene blessedly short in duration and dominated by a species that was given much promise, the ability for sensitivity and greatness, but turned out to be a brutal aberration of butchers.

I am not proud.

The Spaces In Between…

“Music is the space between the notes.” – Claude Debussy

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The most interesting discoveries often come from the “spaces in between.” Our minds create a lot off illusionary models that do not really reflect reality. What we see is reflected light – energy moving in space. When we touch matter, we do not get close to the nuclei. Matter is mainly – space. Solidity is an illusion only experienced in our scale and time.

And it is in between that the most interesting characteristics are born. Nuclear shells really determine the bonding characteristics of atoms, how they will combine with other atoms to form molecules. These are building blocks of the world – not the most basic building blocks, we probably still do not quite know those despite super colliders. As Feynman said, “There is a lot of room a the bottom.”

Systems become more interesting as they become more complex. Molecules building more complex structures all the way to life. And life forming symbiotic nets and structures, then social structures, eco systems, planets.

People are interesting and can be very creative, but they are not independent from their environment and social context, the influence of family, friends, teachers, mentors, their current culture. It is these multi faceted, changing relationships and influences that shape us and our work.

The space in between…

Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity

I read about wishful thinking to overcome the end of individual existence – death – by transcending and being encoded into a powerful silicon artifact. Actually, this entry was triggered by an interesting speculation in Nautili.us – “Why Alien Life Will Be Robotic” by Martin Rees, a British cosmologist and astrophysicist, and also the Astronomer Royal. As Sting once sang in a song, I do not subscribe to this point of view.

I am not convinced of materialism, but neither do I believe that dualism is a proven thing. We simply know way to little to be certain either way. One thing I do know is that the world and everything in it is vastly more complex on both the smallest scale (as Feynman once lectured, “There is a plenty of room at the bottom”) and the largest. It is also important to move away from reductionism despite its usefulness over the last centuries and start looking at systems thinking. Everything in the world is vastly more connected than our simple models can perceive. Just today I saw news of a study that “Bacteria actually communicate like neurons in the brain.”

Is life special just because it’s rare?

Alan Lightman has published a really enlightening article on Nautil.us. It gave me a brand new and wonderful perspective I really had not thought in the same way before.
Is Life Special Just Because It’s Rare?” really highlights the premise of how small the actual fraction of living matter represents in comparison to the rest of the universe, yet how much of a miracle our ability to reflect on it truly is.
Worth a read – and there is much more on this site. I voted with my wallet some time back.
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