Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My, How Time Flies

The blogosphere has been abuzz with comments on the Big Brain Theory article in the New York Times. Not surprisingly, Woit and Mottle have outdone themselves in providing entertainment.

But much criticism proffers counterarguments along equally problematic lines: universal evolution must do such and such, or we cannot assume typical observer types, or alternative anthropic biases, as if Time were God-given to Man, as if looking back in Time from the chains of Earth was a view into a concrete jungle, fixed for an objective eternity.

The entropy of our observable universe is mostly about black holes, the observables for which we can use completely apersonal mathematics. By the same token, quantum brains are states dependent on completely apersonal mathematics, at least in the context of M Theory, albeit mathematics which we may not yet understand. However, this mundane statement hints at the appearance of life in the New Physics, and it is there. I agree with the stringers about that! The first paragraph of the New York Times article provides a glimpse of the new intuition, but in the second paragraph we get a feeling for the actual spirit of the analysis, with the words
Nobody in the field believes that this is the way things really work, however.
Maybe they should ask around a bit more.

4 Comments:

Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

This Boltzman brain discussion -besides having entertainment value - makes clear that it is high time for theoretical phycisist to start seriously consider the question what consciousness and life are unless we want to enjoy this kind of prattlings also in future.

There are many questions which these cosmologists do not ask. Can one really understand life and consciousness as thermal fluctuation or might it be that Boltzman did not solve the riddle? Can we really identify contents of consciousness with the physical state of brain at time t so that these Boltzmann's brains without any cultural context and history would be accompanied by same conscious experience as the real ones? There is already now empirical evidence that this is not case (near death experiences). The identification leads to paradoxes and in materialistic framework to the belief that free will is an illusion. What distinguishes between experienced time and geometric time which are something very different? What memories really are? Similar questions can be made about biology.

Only theoreticians who have reduced everything to methodology deriving from almost forgotten philosophical assumptions made for century or two ago can end up to this kind of debate. The education of young theoretical physicists is badly in need of an overview about what we do not understand about consciousness and life and time.

January 17, 2008 4:59 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Hi Matti. This situation is bizarre. I meet mathematicians, neuroscientists, philosophers, biologists, waitresses etc, all of whom are capable of having perfectly intelligent conversations about a quantum gravitational theory of life and its connection to cosmology. What the hell are the physicists doing? Its like everybody else left them back in the 20th century along with their groupies.

January 17, 2008 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Tony Smith said...

One physicist who has interesting models about our Universe and consciousnesss is Paola Zizzi. See for example
http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0007006

Tony Smith

January 18, 2008 9:30 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Yes, Zizzi works with topos theory, I believe.

January 18, 2008 9:45 AM  

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