Enrique Zafra

Time is fundamental, it is much of what ‘being’ is about. It is central to reality. It is central to our lived experience, it is central to our hopes and dreams. But as central as it is, it is still an enigma.

Time is a knotty problem for physics, metaphysics, philosophy, religion, something fundamental to our existence and experience but for thousands of years and billions of person hours of contemplation and analysis it escapes understanding. Like others down the centuries I find that the more I think about it the harder to grasp it becomes.

Pragmatically there is only the local now, a few moments from the past and a glance into the future. Practically there is the Past and the Future, now is just a transition from one to the other.

What is time? It seems like it is about change, and times arrow is provided by entropy, the slow winding down of the universe.

Existence, the now, is only the Plank Time instant. What stitches the universe together are memory(enabled by change) and imagination (enabled by memory.)

One option of quantum physics says that it is the conscious mind that ‘collapses’ the probability function to one reality. In that view it is our mind-memory that provides a crashing rock against which universal potentiality breaks into reality. Is it us, stitching together the universe?

Why do we talk about timespace? Because time has no meaning without space and space no meaning without time. Imagine an infinite cube of arbitrary complexity. Without time nothing about it has any meaning. You cannot travel from one point to another, there is no energy, because no movement, nothing can move, because movement is about change of location and that has no meaning with no time. Equally, without space, time has no meaning, there is nothing to change, one could say something can endure or wind down but without space for that to occur it has no meaning.

So we ‘live’ in timespace that we instantiate and make objective. It is still real in that the physics of it are fixed (probably) but is it possible that it is our (or other consciousnesses) that take possibility and harden it to reality and inflate the universe around us, out to the limits of our questing minds?


CPU’s the Universe and Everything

The image from an interesting article on the ultimate in cloud computing. Hubble image of the asymptotic giant branch star U Camelopardalis. This star, nearing the end of its life, is losing mass as it coughs out shells of gas. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and H. Olofsson (Onsala Space Observatory).

Seems like there must have been a mash up of astrophysics/cosmology/cybernetics a couple of weeks ago there have been a series of articles about computers and the universe. One series pointing out that once could conceive of using the AGB stars in their ‘dusting mode’ (above) as a computing engine.

But on the other side there have been a couple of articles that touch on the metaphysical (philosophical basis of reality) concept that we and our universe, are one vast simulation.

…Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s philosophical thought experiment that the universe is a computer simulation. If that were true, then fundamental physical laws should reveal that the universe consists of individual chunks of space-time, like pixels in a video game. “If we live in a simulation, our world has to be discrete,”….

From: New machine learning theory raises questions about nature of science

….a discrete field theory, which views the universe as composed of individual bits and differs from the theories that people normally create. While scientists typically devise overarching concepts of how the physical world behaves, computers just assemble a collection of data points…..

From: New machine learning theory raises questions about nature of science

…A novel computer algorithm, or set of rules, that accurately predicts the orbits of planets in the solar system….

… devised by a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), applies machine learning, the form of artificial intelligence (AI) that learns from experience, to develop the predictions.

Qin (pronounced Chin) created a computer program into which he fed data from past observations of the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and the dwarf planet Ceres. This program, along with an additional program known as a ‘serving algorithm,’ then made accurate predictions of the orbits of other planets in the solar system without using Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation. “Essentially, I bypassed all the fundamental ingredients of physics. I go directly from data to data,” Qin said. “There is no law of physics in the middle…

…”Usually in physics, you make observations, create a theory based on those observations, and then use that theory to predict new observations,” said PPPL physicist Hong Qin, author of a paper detailing the concept in Scientific Reports. “What I’m doing is replacing this process with a type of black box that can produce accurate predictions without using a traditional theory or law.”…

From: New machine learning theory raises questions about nature of science

Ok so now I am going to go a bit sideways and you may want to just go on about your internet day. But while I laude Qin and his team I have a bit of an issue with what he claims re the basis is Philosophy. Not the claim that the discrete field theory sparked his concept exploration. But that the actual system he developed has anything to say about that metaphysical theory.

Taking nothing away from the team what I see seems like a straightforward application of machine learning. In fact a relatively simple one though I would laude the whole idea of applying it to physics in general. A very interesting though, like many interesting insights, oddly obvious is retrospect. (Sorry for the repeated Though clauses…I absolutely see this as fascinating insight…and possibly extremely important…it just seems like D’oh in retrospect.)

As physics is very much aligned with mathematics (I think because the discovery of each was feedback on the other) and mathematics and cybernetics are also deeply intwined it should come as no surprise that computer systems designed to create black box solutions, when fed the right kind of data, will create a black box model of physical phenomena.

The output of science are tools that allow us to predict finite things about the universe we live in, repeatably and accurately. These tools are often used by engineers to enable technologyy that make life better for everyone.

But in many ways this is an engineers (relatively narrow) viewpoint. To some large degree an engineer does not care why the tool works, only that it does and how accurately. Counter to that, a strength of the theory based + mathematical model approach is that it gives you a tool to link the rest of reality to the ‘discrete’ piece you are working on right now. A jumping off point or a linking point to other theories that allows us to move onto other problems and link the

And/But (you knew it was coming) i wonder if this has anything to do with discrete field theory per se. Maybe if the learning algorithm used had that in it this would show something of that nature, but otherwise I do not see this as showing anything in particular other than the ability of learning systems which are in some sense continuous not discrete systems to develop predictive models directly from the data (as Qin says) rather than through the labor intensive methods of theory extraction and proof that has been the basis for scientific exploration since it first evolved in the Middle Ages.

Again BUT, it has been getting harder to develop these ‘deep’ theories. Look at the colliders and other tools that physicists use these days to probe the depths of our reality. In this world there are many things, like Qin’s next test with Nuclear Fusion, where an engineering model might be much more valuable than a ‘theory of this’ if it can be captured and used in a fraction of the time.

It’s all good, fascinating, wonderful…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We need a Base or our dreams are fantasy shading into terror.

As limited and degraded as man undeniably is, he yet remains “the proof by contraries” of the divine Prototype and of all that this Prototype implies and determines in relation to man. Not to acknowledge what surpasses us and not to wish to surpass ourselves: … is the very definition of Lucifer. The opposite, or rather the primordial … attitude is this: to think only in reference to what surpasses us and to live for the sake of surpassing ourselves; to seek greatness where this is to be found and not on the plane of the individual and his rebellious pettiness. In order to return to true greatness, man must first of all agree to pay the debt of his pettiness and to remain small on the plane where he cannot help being small; the sense of what is objective on the one hand and of the absolute on the other does not go without a certain abnegation, and it is this abnegation precisely that allows us to be completely faithful to our human vocation.

Logic and Transcendence: A New Translation with Selected Letters
© 2009 World Wisdom, Inc. pg 14, The contradiction of Relativism

OK, so I’m addicted to philosophy right now. Directed here by One Cosmos, a autodidactic philosopher and deeply anti-psychological psychologist of the once great state of California.

While some philosophers and metaphysicians can be opaque in the extreme others are as one should expect extremely good writers with depth and clarity that is remarkable. Others are opaque but readable because what you ‘get’ seems true and sensible and the opacity is often in their use of old words, Greek or Latin words to try and de conflict their meaning from the everyday words that have been so poisoned by intentional obfuscation. The above book is of near preternatural clarity type. I have found another writer, Voeglin the type that makes you want to work at it.

Freedom vs Liberty

We talk a lot about freedom but it seems to me that this is a word that has a lost its gravitas in the current era. Maybe the older more difficult word liberty is the one we should use when we talk about fundamentals.

Freedom starts with that word Free, which may have had a noble meaning once but essentially triggers the ‘free stuff’ consumer sales instinct today. Free education, Free care, Free food, Free….whatever it is you think someone should have a right to for whatever reason.

The very word Free has been degraded to a economic term that means ‘worth less’ or worthless. One could see this as intentional neo-marxist thought war. It is certainly one of the reasons that a lot of low info types don’t realize that what they are asking for is has a great cost. Gov’t Free stuff is not free.

The word Liberty still has its gravitas. When you say you have liberty of conscience, liberty of person, liberty of property, liberty of word, liberty of action, you are saying things that seem to have weight and maybe make you and others think.

The US was set up as a nation of individual liberty, the individual sovereign over the government, the state strictly limited in its ability to interfere with the individual.

Giving up Freedom of speech to some seems almost trivial, it was free after all right? But if you are saying the government is effectively limiting your liberty of conscience, word and action, I think even those with a limited understanding of the issue might think again.

Anthropic principle and our finely-tuned Universe

Anthropic principle and our finely-tuned Universe Ethan Siegel at Starts With A Bang!

How the mis-application of the Anthropic Principle has led factions of scientists away from the search for a natural, physical explanation of our Universe, and why that’s bad for everyone.

20140105-114648.jpgImage credit: ESO / T. Preibisch, via http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1208a/

One of the first things you notice — and it’s self-evident if you think about it — is that the Universe is full of stuff. This in itself is a wondrous thing, because it didn’t need to be that way.

I’m not a “conservative,” I’m an 18th-century Enlightenment radical

From Charlie Martin at pjmedia.com/lifestyle/ : Does buddhism require you to be a liberal? The short answer is no ….

I don’t think it’s necessarily so. In fact, I think Buddhism, real Buddhism, is inherently more in tune with libertarian “conservative” politics. (This isn’t the place for this particular rant, but I scare-quote “conservative” because I think it’s a bad term. As I was telling someone last night, I’m not a “conservative,” I’m an 18th-century Enlightenment radical.)

Absolutely! So am I.

And regarding the rant….as usual the “liberal” progressives have managed to at once de content and blacken + distort the abstract philosophical meaning of the words conservative and liberal…as I have whined about in the past. Politicians do this to avoid being pinned down, progressives to control the message and short circuit dialogue. Going back to the discussion on political philosophy, progressives often called liberals are not at all about liberty in anything but the most puerile sense and conservatives are generally cautious, not reactionary, and are pro liberty in its more robust sense. Progressives are generally about changing human nature by government fiat.

Libertarians…the old liberals, are about core human rights, property rights, equality before the law, the rule of law, financially competent government, citizen dominated politics, de politicized + meritocratic bureaucracy and minimalist + open regulation. In other words an eighteenth century Enlightenment radical!

Missionary Creep in Egypt by Adam Garfinkle

The American Interest: Missionary Creep in Egypt by Adam Garfinkle
Simply stunning, a revelatory blog on the why the US struggles to make head or tails of what is going on in Egypt and the Middle East. It’s long and has a couple of longer links but it’s well worth it because it explains our bias so clearly, explains the Muslim middle eastern ‘socio-political-theological’ context and then shows the incompatibility of means and ends that have made such a mess of the last decade or more. If you are interested/frustrated by the unfolding mess read this article it’ll give you new context, though it won’t solve the frustration.

Review: Man of Steel

20130623-130611.jpgMy son and I went to see Man of Steel yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. In my opinion ‘Hollywood’ for all the damning it/they take these days is/are in fact incredibly good at making movies that the ‘public’ like me enjoy, see: Star Trek into Darkness, Iron Man III, Oblivion, etc, etc….I will agree that they are not so good at making movies that spark movements, deep introspection, change hearts, etc but the working stiffs out here in the real world can only take so much of that (near zero in my case since I suffer internet news triggered navel starring disorder class one to begin with and go to the movies to get away from the world not to get hammered from one more angle by it .)
Other reviews:
Henry Cavil …Clark Kent / Kal-El. Great choice
Amy Adams …Lois Lane. Fun to see
Michael Shannon …General Zod Great choice, great part, good man in evil cause
Diane Lane …Martha Kent Yes!
Russell Crowe …Jor-El Wow!
Harry Lennix …General Swanwick Good pick
Richard Schiff …Dr. Emil Hamilton Good pick
Christopher Meloni…Colonel Nathan Hardy Good pick
Kevin Costner …Jonathan Kent Oh Yeah!
Laurence Fishburne …Perry White Great supporting role

This is a very good movie despite what some say, though things that I think make it stand out perhaps ruin it for others. It has now been said many times, this is, at its core, a Science Fiction, not a genre Super Hero, movie and that core is very, very good. Man of Steel takes the Superman back story, fleshes it out and draws it out into a fully imagined prequel to the superhero of our childhood. This story of his birth and orphaning to Earth is striking and heart felt.

An artist without the commercial drivers of movie making and IP dollarization might have been able to stop there without much, if any, Super Hero baggage, leaving us with what might have been a timeless piece of work.

What I see as the problem is that the ‘execs’ felt they needed more than a good science fiction movie based on the Superman back story. They wanted a summer blockbuster super hero movie. So the creators gave them a summer blockbuster SciFi blow em up of the Independence Day sub genre and a Super Hero movie of the Spider-Man genre. They then proceeded to lace these pieces together with the science fiction piece, quite successfully mind you, into Man of Steel.

The three movies in one do actually make an entertaining whole with the core Science Fiction story providing gravitas. The other two parts do their thing though too often when two or three of the ‘bits’ have to overlay, things seem to get spoiled.

As said elsewhere some of the action sequences particularly around the Kent’s home town are too drawn out and there is something almost bug like about the super speed fighting that takes you out of the moment.

In the long battle scenes in ‘Smallville,’ Metropolis, even on Krypton, the humans and normal Kryptonians in the battle zone get squished/slaughtered in bushel lots with very little comment. Yet when Zod forces superman to kill him, Cal-El seems incredibly distraught, as distraught as when his adoptive father stops Clark from saving him thus revealing his super powers during late adolescence.

Related side note: My son said he was glad that the creators had not ruined the ‘reality’ of the action sequences by showing repeated miraculous saves. And though from one view it’s a bit cold from my writers perspective he is absolutely right.

There’s a lot one could say about this movie, my bottom line, if you have hesitated to go due to one review or another my suggestion is go, (see the cheap regular version like we did, it’s excellent and I’ve come to the conclusion that 3D, IMAX3D, etc are not really worth the extra price.) The theater we went to was quite well filled for mid afternoon second week with other new starts, and the folks behind us had seen the movie at least once and perhaps twice before and still seemed ready to see it again after the show.


Dr Ben Carson, conservative health system

Last Thursday’s Annual Dinner of the Center of the American Experiment. This year’s speaker fDr. Benjamin Carson, one of the most eminent physicians in the United States, whose speech at the National Prayer Breakfast made him a household name. There was a lot of excitement about Dr. Carson’s appearance, and 1,000 people, a sellout crowd, attended the dinner.

a market-based, consumer-oriented alternative that starts with expanded health savings accounts. Carson points out that 80% of an individual’s encounters with the health care system need not, and should not, involve insurance. That would be the realm of HSAs. Then, with respect to insurance, better information and the simplest forms of incentives can easily bring down costs. The truth is–this is me speaking–it wouldn’t be difficult to improve the health care system, if health care was your real concern, and you weren’t motivated mostly by a desire to increase government power.

Interesting perspective piece, this was a great statement of what I think we need for health care in the US. Just add a very basic safety net for those who are not able to save enough or unable to plan well enough for themselves, and this might not be pretty for those too lazy to do the minimal work they should to ensure coverage.