Is your inner Einstein looking for some brain candy?

paradox

This deliciously meaty and heavily researched book should be on everyone’s shelf. Of course, I’m prejudiced as a scientist myself. I thrive on nonfiction books like this, because they clear the dust from those remote corners of my brain, many of which haven’t been used in a long, long time.  In many ways, the content reminds me of the popular physics books Isaac Azimov wrote years ago, which I thrived upon, prior to actually obtaining a physics degree myself.

Probably what I liked most is its focus on the numerous paradoxes that exist in just about every field of study. The author includes sections on medicine, neurology, and psychology; astronomy, cosmology, and physics; and geosciences and math. He points out through a host of examples that there is still so much we don’t understand and thus so much to learn and explore. On the other hand, research is often subjective and highly biased, conducted to prove a point that financially benefits someone or, more likely, a corporation or industry.

So can you trust research results? Maybe, maybe not, making scientific findings paradoxes in and of themselves.  Science should represent facts, but does it? If someone you don’t trust tells you one thing, scientific data notwithstanding, do you automatically assume the opposite to be true? Do you trust everything the pharmaceutical industry tells you? The tobacco industry? Monsanto? The government? How many times has USDA’s official “food pyramid” changed? How many drugs or food additives have been declared “safe” by the FDA only to be proven otherwise at a later date? is it a paradox we can’t believe so much of what we’re told in the name of science?

You’ve probably heard the quote “Lies, damn lies, and statistics”. The section on mathematical manipulation was particularly fascinating, especially pointing out a statistical flaw (or method, depending on whom you ask) known as HARKing, “hypothesizing after the results are known.” Sometimes, remarkable discoveries are found that way; but, on the other hand, it can be used deceptively.

Weimann notes how correlations are often implicated as causes, when there’s no solid evidence to substantiate it. Along similar lines, in some cases, I would have liked to have seen a specific source as opposed to the massive bibliography at the end. While I understand that footnoting every fact would have been a Herculean task, I definitely raised a eyebrow from time to time wondering, and would have appreciated more substantiation. Ironically, the author himself points out how so much of published scientific findings are suspect, yet other times presents them as gospel. I find this somewhat ironic, perhaps a subtle play on the title, perceivable only at the subconscious level, or maybe it’s the author’s way of messing with us.

What can we believe these days? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. In some ways, the entire book is a paradox, where facts are provided on one hand, yet the overall theme is that contradictions lie all around us. It’s as if it the book’s underlying message is something like, “This is all the cool stuff science is discovering these days, but don’t believe everything you hear.”

Maybe you need to be a scientist to see the humor in that. We nerds do tend to have a weird sense of humor, a trait that’s occasionally, but not always, captured on the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s a matter of laughing with versus at someone and, more often than not, the humor in that show is directed at mocking those who are different. Personally, as a physics major myself, I find it marginally offensive, and if I were of certain political persuasions, I’d be out there protesting and demanding it be removed from the airwaves. Not that scientists can’t laugh at themselves. They just do it at a level the average person doesn’t grok.

Digression aside, Paradox contains a wealth of science, much of it unknown or cutting edge; the beauty of it lies in pointing out–sometimes clearly, sometimes, not–the various contradictions afoot. A favorite saying among physicists and mathematicians is that something is “intuitively obvious.” That tends to show our arrogant side, since so much isn’t, such as his expose of the number one in the math section.

One human behavior paradox I particularly enjoyed in Weimann’s book was in the section that addresses psychology. As humans, we want choices, even demand them, but too many options are overwhelming and tend to result in a person not selecting any of them. I know I’ve experienced this in the grocery store, where there is so much to choose from (especially in the ice cream cooler) that walking away and thus doing without is a far simpler decision, and probably healthier. Another example would be the plethora of political ideologies (some of which are idiotologies) where people scream for freedom to express their own views, then want the entire world to conform to their beliefs, a primary reason why democracies fail.

Some sections are more controversial than others, including the age of the Earth, as well as whether global warming is attributable to a natural climate cycle, which the Earth has endured for millennia, or being contributed to by fossil fuels. I must say, that section tended to convince me of the latter, though I previously leaned toward natural cycles. I found the section fascinating that addresses how our brains have evolved and actually become smaller. The author states that scientific evidence indicates that once daily environmental threats are removed by a “civilized” society, brains shrink, while disease increases. Apparently, “Survival of the fittest” conditions refine a species to top efficiency, whereas survival for everyone, including the drones, downgrades the species, generally. Who woulda thunk it?

The contradictions paradoxes represent keep us honest and humble. They remind us that all may not be as it seems, that our sense of reason may be flawed, implying we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are. What we believe is impossible is limited only by our knowledge of natural law. Perhaps the only individuals from centuries past who wouldn’t be surprised by what we’ve achieved would be Nostradamus and other visionaries who were considered crazy in their own time.

While this book serves as brain candy if you’re a scientist, you don’t have to have a physics degree to appreciate or understand this information. Rest assured, it’s presented for a lay audience, but won’t be palatable for everyone. For those who find science boring, it’ll serve best as bedtime reading for insomniacs.

On the other hand, this is a must read if you’re a science aficionado or entirely immersed in it by degree or profession. Stretch your synapses to fields outside your own! If you love science, yet aren’t formally educated in its tenets, Paradox is a wonderful primer that will keep you informed of some of the most interesting subjects under investigation today. If you’re surrounded by scientists or engineers, but aren’t one yourself, yet want to participate in conversations at work or social gatherings and show you’re smarter than they think you are, this handy volume will provide a wealth of the latest information on what’s going on out there in the world of research, both in the cosmos and on planet Earth.

Those heading for college to obtain a technical degree can benefit greatly as well. If you’re not sure which field you want to go into, you may find something that grabs you. Furthermore, this material will help grease the skids, so to speak, introducing concepts that will make them easier to understand later. Our brains require synaptic connections to work properly, and if a concept is entirely new, it’s harder to grasp than one with some level of familiarity where a niche has already been prepared in your grey matter, if you will. Anyone home schooling their kids will also find this an excellent resource. If you’re a science fiction author, you definitely need this book, not only to keep your writing credible, but to likewise trigger a wealth of new ideas.

As you can tell, if nothing else, this book made me think and possibly stimulated my neurons a bit too much. All that aside, even if you’re not interested yourself, pick up a copy of this five-star book and give it to your favorite nerd. They’ll be forever grateful.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Advertisements

Don’t miss “The Great American Eclipse” 21 August 2017

eclipse08212017

Path of Totality for August 21, 2017 Eclipse

A special event is coming up August 21, the scope of which hasn’t occurred for 99 years! If you had grandparents at that time in Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; or Orlando, Florida, to name a few, they would have most likely seen it, or at least heard about it.

As you’ve probably figured out, I’m talking about the Great American Eclipse, so called because it crosses the entire USA from Oregon to South Carolina, and is only visible in the Continental USA. Last time we had one that stretched from “sea to shining sea” was June 8, 1918. That one started in Washington State and struck a diagonal path across the US, clear down to Florida and slightly beyond.  When I gave this talk at my Toastmasters meeting recently, one of the members recalled her mother, who lived in Oklahoma, seeing it, and being amused when the chickens were confused and went to roost when it got dark.

Eclipse 101

Total solar eclipses are relatively rare. First of all, they only occur with a New Moon. Why? Because that’s when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun, allowing its shadow under the right conditions to reach the ground. But we have a New Moon every month! Why don’t we have a solar eclipse every month?

Easy–it’s a matter of alignment. Remember, both the Sun and Moon are moving! More correctly, the Earth is rotating, making the Sun appear to move across the sky in a path called the ecliptic, which changes as far as its elevation above the horizon is concerned, based on the seasons, which are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt. The ecliptic is highest for the summer solstice. This maximizes the Sun’s path and explains why the days are longer. The opposite is true in winter. So, the Sun is not only “moving” across the sky, but changing it’s elevation above the horizon. I knew someone once who loved to describe unpredictable people by saying that for them “The Sun always comes up in a different place.” Ironically, this is true. If you’ve never noticed, it’s never too late to start.

The Moon orbits the Earth, but where its orbit crosses the ecliptic is not static, but moves a few degrees each month. Thus, the Moon’s location is also constantly changing, though it does so in a predictable manner. For an eclipse to happen, both the Sun and Moon need to be in the location where their paths cross, placing the Moon exactly between Earth and the Sun, casting its shadow on the ground directly below. You can see how predicting when and where eclipses will occur is not a simple matter. Nonetheless, the antikythera device was able to predict eclipses and so were the Mayans, because as their precise calendar indicates, they understood solar and lunar cycles.

You may be surprised to find out that there are two solar eclipses every year, but they’ll be visible in different locations. With two-thirds of the Earth’s surface oceans, many occur there and go unnoticed, save for physicists dedicated to solar research, especially those trying to determine why the Sun’s corona is several millions of degrees, while its surface, known as the photosphere, is a mere 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A total eclipse is the only time when the magnificent corona is visible. Researchers suspect the corona’s temperature is related to the Sun’s magnetic field, but they’re still trying to figure out why.

Types of Eclipses

Not all eclipses are total. There are also partial and annular. Partial is when the Sun and Moon don’t line up exactly, so only a portion of the Sun is obscured. In this case, a total eclipse is not seen anywhere. However, note that a partial eclipse is also what those located outside the narrow band of totality will see on August 21, again because the alignment is not perfect.

annulareclipse

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is farther away from the Earth and therefore smaller, such that it doesn’t entirely cover the Sun. Then, instead of the magnificent corona visible during a Total Eclipse, you see a ring. In some of these less than ideal cases, the Moon’s shadow doesn’t even reach the Earth.

Eclipse Path of Totality

To see the upcoming event as a total eclipse, you’ll have to be somewhere along the red stripe shown on the map. The location where totality will be longest (2 minutes 41.6 seconds) is in the vicinity of Carbondale, Illinois. Oddly enough, another total eclipse in 2024 also crosses that location.  It’s very unusual for this to happen; often centuries pass before a total eclipse is visible again from the same place.

2US-eclipses2017-2024

Paths of 2017 and 2024 Eclipses. “X marks the spot” over Carbondale, Illinois.

Unfortunately, the eclipse will not be total where I live, here in Texas. Rather, it will be a partial eclipse that covers 65-70% of the Sun. It will start here around 11:35 am, be at its maximum around 1:10 pm, and end around 2:40 pm. However, space cadet that I am, I’ll be traveling somewhere that it’s total.

Safe Viewing Tips

To safely view the eclipse, you need to protect your eyes with special glasses or some other sort of filter. Ordinarily sunglasses are insufficient, so don’t even think about using them alone if you value your eyes. A pinhole camera will show it, too, or look at the shadows of leaves beneath a tree to see thousands of tiny Sun crescents.

You can get special ISO Certified glasses, but hurry since they’re selling out fast. Sources are listed below. Note that glasses suitable for you to watch the eclipse are NOT sufficient if you’re using a camera or telescope! In that case you need a solar filter for the lens!  Solar filters are available for most regular cameras. If you value your cell phone, don’t plan on taking pictures of the eclipse with it because it’ll burn it up. Remember starting a fire with a magnifying glass when you were a kid? Same idea. Another option to special eclipse glasses is #14 welder’s glass, which could also work to protect your cell phone.

The only time it’s safe to look at a solar eclipse without eye protection (for you or your camera) is during totality, i.e. when the Sun is entirely covered by the Moon. That is preceded by a final glint from the Sun they call the “Diamond Ring”, which also occurs as the eclipse ends, but that flare could be enough to zap your camera or cell phone, so bear that in mind. Totality doesn’t last long, usually between 1 – 2 minutes. Nonetheless, you should enjoy it with your natural eyes while it lasts to enjoy it’s full impact and beauty.

Many people go throughout their lives without ever witnessing a total eclipse. I’ve seen partials, but never a total, so I’m flying to Utah to visit my daughter and her family, then we’ll drive into Idaho to the band of totality. I’m sure it will be a get-together we’ll never forget. It’ll be worth watching, even from here in Texas. If nothing else, you can see firsthand why the ancients were frightened when it appeared something was consuming their life-giving Sun.

Another Eclipse is coming!

If you live somewhere outside the band of totality and can’t travel to see the total eclipse this time, then you can look forward to the one in 2024, when there will be another one.  (You can see the path as the second band that forms the “X” in the map above.) For me, here in Central Texas, it will be right on our doorstep! In fact, the center of the path of totality goes right over Lake Buchanan, northwest of Austin, meaning I’ll be able to watch it from my front yard! Come April 2024, there will be a lot of people around here praying for clear weather.

eclipse2024Texas

RESOURCES

Eclipse Information

www.greatamericaneclipse.com

www.earthsky.org

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

http://www.valkyrieastrology.com/Makeover/Planets/Eclipses.htm (my astrology website)

Eye Protection

www.rainbowsymphonystore.com (bulk orders)

https://www.teachersource.com/product/1892/nyeglasses

https://www.space.com/36941-solar-eclipse-eye-protection-guide.html

https://www.eclipseglasses.com/products/

https://weldingsupply.com/

Photo Tips

http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/photographing.HTM

http://www.whas11.com/news/experts-warn-not-to-use-cell-phone-camera-for-2017-solar-eclipse/457560482

 

“Lenses of Perception” by Doug Marman: An Interesting Summer Read for Science Aficionados

lensesofperceptioncover

Let me start out by saying that this book has 359 references that comprise eleven pages of endnotes. If you’re not impressed by that, then this is probably not the book for you. However, if you love science and appreciate revolutionary ideas supported by considerable research that relate to an enigma no one, including Einstein, Feynman or Hawking, has been able to solve, then you would probably enjoy this book.

As a physicist and science fiction writer myself, I was fascinated by the book’s precepts. When I really get into such a tome, I become a librarian’s worst nightmare: highlighting key passages, scribbling notes in the margin and, heaven forbid, dog-earing pages. For what it’s worth, my copy sports 46 pages in that condition as well as more marginal notes and highlights than I care to count.

The premise of this fascinating book has been touched on ever since the double-slit experiment suggested some mysterious interaction existed between consciousness and physical matter. Rather than argue this, the author makes an a priori assumption that such a relationship exists. That in and of itself is not particularly remarkable, since it has been the stance of various other authors for decades. Marman, however, does not stop there. It’s not simply a matter of human consciousness influencing subatomic particles. He systematically builds a credible case for the tiniest subatomic particles possessing consciousness as well.

The author is an engineer and inventor who holds various patents and is thus experienced on the technical side, but is not a PhD physicist. This is a good thing. Stepping beyond the bounds of conventional science tends to be a career-limiting experience. Some have referred to scientific progression as occurring only via funerals, e.g., German physicist, Max Planck, who stated, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Marman’s theory is imaginative to the point of resembling one of Einstein’s thought experiments. While he doesn’t do the math, it goes beyond philosophizing, conjecture or excursions of fantasy. As indicated in the first sentence of this review, this book is well documented. The author states his theory then backs it up with existing scientific research.

The concept that there’s a link between quantum mechanics and consciousness has been argued by many. “The Tao of Physics”, published in 1976 by Fritjof Capra, took on this challenge, opening with Werner Heisenberg’s statement, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.  These lines may have their roots in quite different parts of human culture, in different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

In this case, Marman has synthesized his theory using particle physics, biology, evolution, psychology and various other disciplines. Typically, research in any of these areas is conducted strictly within the bounds of that discipline’s accepted facts, limiting the conclusions. Allowing these areas to overlap brings new possibilities as they’re viewed with, as the title suggests, new “lenses of perception.”

This typically creates an uproar from those violated by the unwelcome intrusion into their supposed domain. I’m reminded of the Alvarez Theory from back in the 80s, when it was first proposed that an asteroid collision caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The paleontologists protested, claiming they’d died off from diseases incident to migration. Then NASA found the crater in the Gulf of Mexico, forcing paleontologists to accept it, like it or not. Professional jealousy is especially fierce when someone outside a specific field of study figures something out the oldtimers have been battling for years. Is this the case with Marman’s work? Time, as always, will tell.

The bulk of his ideas are expressed using analogies. Analogies are effective teaching tools employed by the world’s greatest teachers and philosophers. Using something a student understands as a basis, the concept can be expanded to facilitate comprehension of something new. The author leverages this approach by employing grammatical principles of first, second and third person viewpoints. For example, first person is “I”; second person brings in a relationship with another person, “you”; and third person adds others at a slightly less personal level, “they.” There are concepts individuals grasp which are expanded upon when shared with another, then ultimately coalesce when a group shares a link that binds several beings together.

A subatomic particle is assumed to have a level of consciousness which is defined as first person. It’s aware of itself and its existence. Stepping it up to the second person involves quantum entanglement, a phenomenon that’s been demonstrated, but not fully understood. In a nutshell:

  • Two subatomic particles interact and become linked through an unknown process.
  • When you measure one particle it instantaneously determines what behavior to expect in the other particle.
  • Quantum state of partner particle will be identical.
  • Whatever you impose on one partner particle the other will do the opposite.
  • Theoretically, they can be separated by billions of light years but when you dictate spin of one it will instantaneously affect the other.

If you’ve ever had a psychic connection with someone, you should understand this concept. Research by various scientists, including Dean Radin, PhD, who specializes in psychic phenomena, has indicated that these connections are instantaneous, defying the speed of light as the supposed limit of information transfer.

Getting into the third person, he discusses the relationships between groups that can be related to molecular bonding and steps into the life sciences speaking of “all for one” bonds, where certain entities will self-sacrifice for the good or even the life of the system. A plethora of explanations, examples and extrapolations build from these concepts, backed up by various references.

Marman concludes the book with an addendum that tackles the five unsolved problems of physics as they relate to his theory. I must admit that at this point I got a little lost. I only have a bachelor’s degree in physics, which was insufficient to fully grasp all the implications of some of his conclusions. By this point my brain was fried, anyway, due to the vast array of information provided on so many different levels. There was so much to absorb that it took me far longer than usual to finish reading. At times it was laborious, even painful. Perhaps if you have a PhD in physics you could blow through this book in a few days, but that was definitely not the case for me. With so many topics under discussion to establish their relationship, brevity is difficult to achieve.

This book provides interesting fodder to those with an open mind who are seeking new ideas and insights to the mystery presented by quantum mechanics. It’s unconventional, potentially groundbreaking, and defies many existing speculations. It proposes a paradigm shift to discover answers, which have so far been elusive. Just because a theory is popular doesn’t mean it’s correct. Many fade quietly into the past, unannounced. Even Einstein wasn’t correct all the time. What’s popular one year could be debunked the next. If it’s wrong, it will simply fade away, save any tidbits hanging on in old, out-dated textbooks.

Conversely, as German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer suggested, “All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed.  Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self evident.”

The author explores history, philosophy, physics (of course), biology and various other subjects. If you’re into metaphysics, there are connections there as well. Expect to see a few things differently than you did before. If you’re a science aficionado like myself, it would make an interesting summer read. Take your time. Digest each new idea on its own merits. The title says it all. Be prepared to see the world through an entirely different lens than you did before.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

[I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.]

* * *

For those of you who love this topic as much as I do, here are some of my favorite quotes related to physics, consciousness and the unknown:

“One is unlikely to discover what one is certain cannot possibly exist…. Whatever the field of inquiry, attempting to access a phenomenon with a methodology that is based on the firm underlying assumption that the phenomenon does not exist has proved itself to be a singularly inadequate strategy, at once self-fulfilling and self-limiting.”

–Richard Tarnas in “Cosmos & Psyche” (p. 108)

“Probing inside the atom and investigating its structure, science transcended the limits of our sensory imagination.  From this point on, it could no longer rely with absolute certainty of logic and common sense…Like the mystics, physicists were now dealing with a non-sensory experience of reality…”

–Fritjof Capra in “The Tao of Physics”

“Physics tends to be dictated by fad and fashion. There are the gurus who dictate the direction in which new ideas grow.”

–Michael Duff, Physicist (University of Michigan)

Some scientists (Stephen Hawking and the late Carl Sagan come to mind) insist that a “theory of everything” is just around the corner, and then we’ll essentially know it all—any day now.  It hasn’t happened and it won’t happen.  The reason is not for lack of effort or intelligence.  It’s that the very underlying worldview is flawed…We have ignored a critical component of the cosmos, shunted it out of the way because we didn’t know what to do with it.  This component is consciousness.

Robert Lanza, M.D. in “Biocentricism” (pp 8 – 9)

“You ask whether parapsychology lies within the bounds of physical law.  My feeling is that to some extent it does, but physical law itself may have to be redefined.  It may be that some effects in parapsychology are ordered-state effects of a kind not yet encompassed by physical theory.”

–Brian Josephson, Physicist, Nobel Laureate

“Space and time exist only as constructs of the mind, as tools of perception.  Experiments in which the observer influences the outcome are easily explainable by the inter-relatedness of consciousness and the physical universe.”

–Robert Lanza, M.D. in “Biocentrism” (p. 159)

“…psi may require an explicit bridge between the physical and the psychological worlds. This is why an adequate theory of psi will be … cross-disciplinary…”

–Dean Radin, PhD

“In psychology, physiology, and medicine, wherever a debate between the mystics and the scientifics has been once for all decided, it is the mystics who have usually proved to be right about the facts, while the scientifics had the better of it in respect to the theories.”

— William James in “The Roots of Consciousness: Science, Evaluating Psi Research”

The Astrolabe: Ancient Analog Computer with 1K Apps

1280px-Planispherical_astrolabe_mg_7100

Figure 1. Planispherical astrolabe. Marocco, 16th century. Engraved brass. On display at Paris naval Museum.

Whether you’re an astronomer, astrologer or steampunk fan, you’re bound to fall in love with this ancient analog computer.  Even better, you can make one for yourself by downloading the directions from the Resources section below.

The astrolabe is an ingenius device used for nearly two thousands years, from the time of Hipparchus (c. 190 – 120 BCE) until the turn of the 17th century.  It’s typically a disc constructed from wood or brass, about 10 – 20 centimeters in diameter, and a few millimeters thick.  In 1391, medieval writer and poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote a treatise on the subject for his son, describing how to build one as well as its use.  Astrolabes had over a thousand uses, including timekeeping, navigation, surveying, solving equations, and so forth.  Mastering them all required an entire university level course.

While at first appearance an astrolabe is intimidating, breaking it down into its components, combined with the information contained on each one, brings a strong sense of familiarity if you’re an astronomer.  Appreciation for the knowledge ancient civilizations acquired of the stars and their relationship to the Earth quickly follows at the thought of designing, much less crafting, such a clever precision instrument.

The main components of a planetspheric astrolabe are the mater, climate plate or tympan, and rete, which all function together, demonstrating how Earth’s place in the cosmos provides the ultimate reference frame.

Astrolabe (Front)

scan-astrolabe-front copy

Figure 2. Astrolabe Front: The Mater

The front of the astrolabe, called the mater, (which means mother and is sometimes referred to as such) looks mind-boggling, until you break it down into its components.

Starting from the outside, you see most of the letters of the alphabet around the circumference.  These represent the twenty-four hours of the day, more specifically, the equal hours system, which is what we use now, i.e. each hour is 60 minutes long.  However, at one time, there were twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness.  Needless to say, unless you live on the equator, the days and nights are NOT of equal length except at the equinoxes.  Thus, the unequal hours system meant that the duration of hours were adjusted, according to the time of year.  The astrolabe thus accounted for them as well, as shown by the designated lines in Figure 1.

The numbers just inside the letters represent degrees from the horizon, where’s it’s zero, to a maximum of 90 degrees at the zenith (Noon) or nadir (Midnight).

The horizon is represented by an oblique line. Unlike most of the maps we see these days, East is on the left, West on the right, North at the top, South at the bottom. ( If you’re familiar with astrology, you should not be surprised that these are the same as a horoscope with the ascendant on the left, Midheaven (Noon) on the top, descendant on the right and Imum Coeli (Midnight) on the bottom.) Just below the horizon is a dotted one, which is somewhat difficult to see at this scale, but represents the period known as Civil Twilight, or the time in the morning or evening when the Sun isn’t above the horzon, yet there’s a certain level of light.

So, to recap, so far we have 24 hours around the outer edge, perpendicular lines representing the cardinal directions, and an arc indicating the horizon.

Due North, represented so conveniently by Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, is located dead-center.  Its position in the sky varies with latitude, indicated numerically on the vertical line extending upward from the climate’s center.

The climate, sometimes referred to as the tympan, comprises the section that looks like a spider web with a center just North of Polaris, which represents the zenith, or portion of sky directly overhead. The curved lines mark azimuth readings, while the concentric rings are lines of constant altitude or almucantars. These vary with latitude, like the view of the night sky, so astrolabes used in multiple locations required suitable climate plates, which fit into this area. Note the degree markings along the edge of the azimuth lines, which you’ll use later.

A rotating ruler with degree markings which represent declination, the altitude above the celestial equator, is attached to the center of the mater. It’s also used as a convenient pointer in the process of telling time, as explained further below. [NOTE:–The concentric rings, which are unlabeled in Figure 1, are duplicated on the rete and therefore explained in that section as well as defined in Figure 3.]

Astrolabe (Back)

Astrolabe-Back-Labels copy

Figure 3. Astrolabe Back: Calendars and Shadow Scale.

The back of the astrolabe is equally daunting at first sight, until you break it down. However, it’s this complexity that allowed this ancient instrument to provide so many functions. For example, the box labeled “Shadow Scale for surveyors” gives a hint of one of its many uses.

The top, called the throne, was used to hang the instrument or hold it in the proper position.

The outer ring has degrees from the horizon, like the front, with zero on the horizontal axis and 90 degrees on the vertical. Just inside the degrees are another ring of numbers, this time corresponding to the degrees of the tropical zodiac signs named in the next ring.

There are two calendars represented, one from Geoffrey Chaucer’s time (1394), which is included since Chaucer wrote a popular treatise on the astrolabe for his son, a copy of which you can find online. The modern calendar, closer in toward the center, is based on 1974, but this is close enough since it takes centuries for precession to change enough to worry about.

Near the center, several Saints’ Days are noted.

Thus, there’s a lot of information, but most of it’s familiar. Another pointing device called the alidade is placed on the back, which is similar to the ruler on the front except it has either pinholes or notches used to sight in the altitude of the chosen star or landmark, if being used for surveying.

The Rete

scan-astrolabe-rete-Labels copy

Figure 4. The Rete

The rete comprises the main component of a planisphere, i.e., a stereographic projection of the celestial sphere on a flat surface. Polaris is at the center with several constellations included with the brighter stars emphasized.

The outer ring represents the Tropic of Capricorn, the one in the center, the Equator, and the innermost ring, the Tropic of Cancer. The hours of Right Ascension are shown along the circumference as well.

A diagram of the annual path of the Sun, a.k.a. ecliptic, is offset from the center and includes markings for the signs and degrees of the tropical zodiac.

For a homemade astrolabe, the rete is printed on a sheet of clear transparency which allows the stars to be superimposed on the mater. Obviously, in ancient times, that wasn’t available, their solution not only innovative but artistic as well. The rete, like most of the other components, would be constructed of brass, but numerous areas cut away so you could see the mater underneath.

Most astrolabes were carefully crafted precision instruments which were much larger than the homemade version, allowing for a more accurate position determination, but nonetheless, a relatively accurate reading is possible with a homemade version, a source of which is included in the resource listing.  The ancient Turkish astrolabe in Figure 5 shows the mater and rete on the front and calendar and alidade on the back.  Note the incredible artistry and workmanship of this 17th Century device.

Planetary Position

To determine the position of a planet, use its relationship to the Fixed Stars on the rete.  By rotating the rete so that the position of the planet is on the horizontal axis, i.e., zero degrees, then following that line to the tropical zodiac on the ecliptic circle, to determine its position. The ruler provides its declination.

Telling Time

This process is relatively simple and shows the genius of using Earth’s position combined with celestial alignments to determine the time of day.

  1. First, using the back of the astrolabe, find the current date and note the corresponding zodiacal degree of the Sun.
  2. Next, select a specific star visible in the night sky that’s represented on the rete.
  3. Using the back of the astrolabe, align the device’s horizon line with the visible horizon and use the alidade to measure its altitude. (Warning: This could be the most
    120px-Astrolabe_(PSF)

    Figure 6. Sighting in the altitude with the alidade.

    difficult part of the process. Furthermore, in many cases the visible horizon is not the actual horizon due to elevation, buildings, trees, mountains, and so forth. If nothing else, consider that the Moon appears to be, on average, a half-degree across, or approximately the width of your thumb, which you can use to approximate the altitude.)

  4. Identify the star on the front of the astrolabe (rete).
  5. Move the rete so the altitude you measured of the star matches the azimuth scale behind it.
  6. Align the rule on the rete with the zodiacal position for the Sun for that day.
  7. The rule will point to the time represented on the outer rim of the mater, indicated by a letter. (Don’t forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time.)

If you know any two of the variables (date, time, rete star position), you can always solve for the third.

Conclusion

The innovative talents of the ancients who invented this device provide a new appreciation for their knowledge of the heavens, Earth, and their celestial relationships.

Even more astounding, and perhaps even a progenitor or technological cousin of the astrolabe, is the antikythera mechanism, an invention attributed by researchers to Aristotle.  It included the positions of the Moon and planets using a complex system of gears and pins that compensated for their elliptical orbits, plus had the ability to predict when eclipses would occur.  Researchers believe it was lost when General Marcellus sacked Syracuse, then surfaced later via the Byzantine Empire (500 A.D.) where it was most likely the inspiration for Persian astrologers to reinvent the astrolabe, then bring it to Spain in the 13th century via the Moors.

During the 14th century Renaissance, sophisticated gear trains came back to drive astronomical clocks found in various European cities such as Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czech Republic.  The sophistication of these devices demonstrates the knowledge of celestial mechanics and engineering possessed by past civilizations, tangible testimonials to man’s ingenuity, long before such calculations became the domain of application programmers creating smartphone apps.

Resources

Directions for Making an Astrolabe

https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

Some Places to Buy Astrolabes

http://leelehman.com/wp/index.php/2015/11/02/brass-astronomical-and-astrological-instruments/

http://www.chronos-manufaktur.de/

Video on How to Use an Astrolabe

http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_demos_the_13th_century_astrolabe

Additional Information

http://www.chronos-manufaktur.de/en/astrolabes_principle.htm (Includes the TED video plus additional resource information)

References

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

“Building a Model Astrolabe” by Dominic Ford, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 122, 1, 2012, https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

“Western Astrolabes” by Roderick and Marjorie Webster, Copyright 1998, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, 1300 South lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605

Picture Credits

Figure 1: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7294462

Figures 2 – 4:  (c) Dominic Ford, 2013, https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

Figures 5a & b: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, By Pom² – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4039477. Description: Astrolabe planisférique Mère et tympan : Turquie ottomane, 1098 H / 1686-1687 Araignée: maghreb, vers 1850 Laiton à décor gravé et incisé D. 10,2cm Paris, musée de l’Institut du monde arabe, AI 86-45 Legs Destombes

Figure 6: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

Copyright (c) 2016 by Marcha Fox, All Rights Reserved

 

Teleportation: Science Fiction or Science Fact (Take Two)

startrekbeam2

My first blog on this subject focused primarily on the similarities between Lawrence Krauss’ description of teleportation found in his book, The Physics of Star Trek, to that contained in the Teleportation Physics Study done for the Air Force Research Laboratory by Eric W. Davis at Warp Drive Metrics.  I found that particularly amusing since the steps involved in the latter were nearly verbatim to Krauss’ speculations.  The show stoppers to this method, however, were, if nothing else, the computing requirements to track every subatomic particle, convert it to energy, transport it at the speed of light and then get everything put back together again.  Formidable, indeed.

A Form of Psychokinesis

This time I’m going to look at one of the other possible means that has enjoyed positive experimental results, i.e. P-Teleportation, which is a form of psychokinesis (or PK) similar to telekinesis.  Telekinesis is the moving or bending of stationary objects without using any known physical force other than mental energy.  Often considered no more than a cheap parlor or magician’s trick, this phenomena has been investigated scientifically for years with numerous demonstrations provided for high ranking military officials and trained observers.  I swear I’m not making this up.

This teleportation method is particularly fascinating to me as an science fiction author since two of the novels in my Star Trails Tetralogy employ mentally induced teleportation augmented/ amplified by a mysterious (fictitious) crystal I named cristobalite.  Needless to say, real-life experimentation in this regard blurs the lines between science fiction and science fact.

Robert Jahn (Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering at Princeton) conducted scientifically controlled PK experiments at the Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory and reported consistent results in mentally affecting material substances.  In the 1980s, Jahn noted at a meeting on the topic at the Naval Research Laboratory that such methods could be used by foreign adversaries to compromise aircraft.  It’s certainly no surprise that the military has a keen interest in such a phenomena, regardless of what “conventional wisdom” has to say about it.  If it works, it works, regardless of whether we understand why.

To quote a conversation from my sci-fi novel, Refractions of Frozen Time:

“My first thought is that they’re either more pure or maybe a different isotope than Tank crystals,” Creena stated.  “I’ll have Aggie run some tests and see if we can figure out what makes them work.”

“Who cares how they work?” Deven commented.  “Why does it matter? Can’t you just see what they can do instead?”

Creena paused, mouth agape, dumbfounded by his simple, yet profound logic.  He’s right, she thought.  It doesn’t matter.  Just because they didn’t know how the Think Tank connected thoughts with a specific location, much less got them there, didn’t make it any less effective.”

Documented Experimental Evidence

So, meanwhile, back to the teleportation report, psychic Uri Geller “was able to cause a part of a vanadium carbide crystal to vanish.  The crystal was encapsulated so it could not be touched, and it was placed in such a way that it could not be switched with another crystal by sleight of hand.”

Similar experiments were conducted in the Peoples Republic of China, the results of which were published clear back in 1981.  Gifted children were able to cause the apparent teleportation of small objects to another location meters away.  More research was conducted by the Aerospace Medicine Engineering Institute in Beijing which was reported in the Chinese Journal of Somatic Science in 1990 and translated into English by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  All objects teleported were “completely unaltered or unchanged from their initial state, even the insects were unaffected by being teleported.”

The collective results from several Chinese experiments corroborated similar conclusions.  Different research groups, experimental protocols and psychics were used as well as a variety of test specimens ranging from insects to radio micro-transmitters sealed within sealed containers comprised of a variety of different materials.  Time required for teleportation varied, ranging from a fraction of a second to several minutes, which didn’t depend upon the item, containment barrier, protocol or psychic involved.

Recording methods included high-speed photography and videotaping, which showed that, in some cases, the specimens would physically “meld” or blend with the walls of the sealed container, while others simply disappeared and reappeared elsewhere.  There was no indication that the object disintegrated/reintegrated.  The report noted that “The average person’s sensory organs were unable to perceive the specimen’s (ambiguous) existence during the teleportation process.”

I find the implications of the insects particularly interesting since they represent a living entity.  The micro-transmitter was also notable in that it showed “large fluctuations in the intensity (in both amplitude and frequency) of the monitored signal to the effect that it would either completely disappear or become extremely weak”, indicating the object was “nonexistent” or in an altered physical state during teleportation.

There was no change to either the specimen or the container’s wall/barrier with both complete, solid objects.  Best of all, these results were repeatable, and thus not a fluke, plus any possibility for fraud or sleight of hand were eliminated by the experiment protocols with several highly credible witnesses present.

During the Cold War era, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pack allies conducted numerous experiments on parapsychology and paraphysics, a field they referred to as psychotronics research.  The U.S. Army conducted similar experiments, now unclassified, that related primarily to remote viewing.

78px-Single_and_double_slit_4Some researchers indicated a new physics, which combined human consciousness with quantum and spacetime physics, was required to fully explain PK phenomena, a concept with which I heartily agree.  After all, early quantum physics experiments such as the double slit experiment indicated the affect of an observer from the git-go, but of course “rational” scientists have made every possible effort to explain this away.

Discouraging the belief in such things continues in varying degrees, from Dr. Venkman’s bogus telepathy experiments in the movie Ghostbusters to stories found in tabloids like The National Enquirer.  Is it possible that discouraging the belief in such things via mockery is an effort to prevent individuals from uncovering abilities that could endanger the powers that be?

Evidence of a 4th Dimension?

The author of this paper suggested a hypothesis based on mathematical geometry, i.e., the existence of a 4th dimension which introduces an extra degree of freedom.  He states, “It has been proposed that our space actually possesses a slight four-dimensional hyperthickness, so that the ultimate components of our nervous system are actually higher dimensional, thus enabling the human mind/brain to imagine four-dimensional space.”

This implies we can see into a 4th dimension and have four-dimensional thoughts.  This reminds me of the “thoughts become things” belief prominent among various motivational proponents such as Mike Dooley and others plus explained in the movie “The Secret”.  My thoughts also turn to all those items that I’ve carefully deposited in the proverbial “safe place” only never to find again.  Did I perhaps inadvertently send them to a 4th dimension where they are forever safe, albeit lost?

Physical or Metaphysical Phenomena?

I’m a physicist who spent over two decades working in the very corporeal aerospace industry.  In spite of my training as a physicist, however, I turned to the “dark side” to embrace astrology, so much so that upon my retirement in 2009 I came “out of the closet” as the professional astrologer who’s behind the website, ValkyrieAstrology.com.  In case you haven’t figured it out, I walk that nebulous line between physics and metaphysics with ease.  Astrology, as you probably know, is enthusiastically debunked by scientists in spite of the fact that it’s been around for millennia and works quite nicely in spite of their disbelief.

bookofneptunecoverLooking at things from the astrological side, weird, woo-woo phenomena like P-Teleportation resides largely within the domain of the planet, Neptune.  Steven Forrest is renowned worldwide as astrologer who has recently released a book entitled, “The Book of Neptune.”  Forrest explains that currently Neptune is in the sign of its astrological dignity, i.e. Pisces, in which Neptune’s energy is not only particularly strong but has historically delivered a huge shift in spiritual paradigms.  Forrest explains:

“Aquarius is a Fixed sign of the Air family.  Fixity, expressed negatively, is simply rigid–think of rigor mortis.  And Air is mental energy; it is about ideas.  Add Neptune to the mix, and you see spiritual ideas that have lost their elasticity and their ability to excite and enliven anyone.  The scholars and the bureaucrats have eclipsed the mystics.  This morbid condition is eternally the natural prelude to Neptune’s entry into Pisces and the spiritual awakening it implies.  Before the spiritual renaissance can happen, there is a period of spiritual deadness, in which dull, unchanging ideas and interpretations of the divine have replaced genuine magic.” (The Book of Neptune, p. 297)

“I would add yet another piece to the puzzle: the convergence of physics and mysticism.  Religion and science have often had an uneasy relationship. They still do, in many ways. And of course science itself is a religion to many people…And yet, I believe that the division between science and spirituality is healing–that science, at its best, is simply human reason struggling toward the truth of things…” (Ibid, pp. 304-305)

Forrest further suggests that the time between now and 2026 will see quantum leaps in this area.  I, for one, can hardly wait.

heisenbergquoteThis brings to mind forward thinkers like Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, published initially clear back in 1976.  This book definitely served as a prelude to a melding of science and mysticism.  He begins this fascinating work with one of my all-time favorite quotes from Werner Heisenberg, which states, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.  These lines may have their roots in quite different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

deanw-bookPerhaps Neptune’s subtle influences will facilitate the removal of the stigma associated with metaphysical phenomena sufficiently to allow such collaboration.  I suspect researchers such as Dean Radin, whose specialty is psi phenomena, and popular physicist Michio Kaku, a proponent of a multi-dimensional universe, could come up with some incredibly interesting insights.

The coming decade indeed promises to be an interesting one.  My fondest hope is that I’ll figure out how to recover all those items I secured in that safe place, somewhere in the 4th dimension.

 

Teleportation: Science fiction or science fact?

startrekenterprise2

The first time I read Lawrence M. Krauss’ masterpiece, “The Physics of Star Trek”, was in January 1996, which is hard to believe. Time, among other things, definitely does fly, but doesn’t diminish my memory of how much I enjoyed that book. Being a physicist and a life-long science fiction fan, I absolutely devoured it, even though some of his conclusions were disappointing. For example, he virtually discounted the possibility of teleportation. He recounted the basic steps as defined in the Star Trek Next Generation Technical Manual as follows:startrekbeam1

  1. Transporter locks on the target.
  2. Scans the image to be transported.
  3. Dematerializes the item (or person).
  4. Retains the information in a “pattern buffer”
  5. Transmits the “matter stream” in an “annular confinement beam”.
  6. Reassembles it based on data retained in the “pattern buffer.”

Krauss then proceeded to explain in meticulous, often amusing detail, what the requirements would be to create both a matter stream of the atoms comprising the teleportee’s body coupled with an information stream of how to put it back together.

startrekbeam2To wit, considering that a person consists of approximately 10^28 atoms (ten followed by 28 zeros, for those of you who don’t recognize that notation), turning a 50 kilogram person into pure energy according to Einstein’s E=mc^2 would release more energy than that of a thousand 1-megaton hydrogen bombs. To do so would require heating him/her to a temperature a million times the temperature at the center of the Sun. Accelerating the resulting plasma soup to near the speed of light is another feat, to say nothing of also transferring around 10^28 kilobytes of data to the “pattern buffer” to reassemble it. On top of that, there’s Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and various other quantum mechanical difficulties.

heisenbergprincRemember, however, that this was written back in the 90s and science has made vast advances since then as has our computational capacity. Personally, I would bet it could be done using the principles of quantum entanglement, but Krauss’ points are nonetheless well-taken. After all, he’s a professor of physics in his own right, at Case Western University when he wrote that particular book.

However, in Stephen Hawking’s foreword to said book, this phenomenally brilliant physicist stated, “Today’s science fiction is often tomorrow’s science fact. The physics that underlies Star Trek is surely worth investigating. To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.”

And apparently someone has done exactly that. At government expense. And much to my delight, quantum entanglement was indeed mentioned.  See?  I’m not as dumb as I look.

I never know what I’ll turn up when I go on a cleaning frenzy, more often than not, a desperate search for something in that proverbial “safe place” which I suspect lies in some other dimension. This last quest didn’t produce what I was hoping for, but instead I stumbled upon something even better, a paper from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Document AFRL-PR-ED-TR-2003-0034 entitled “Teleportation Physics Study.” This report is 88 pages long and is in front of me as I write.

USAFTeleportSeriously. I swear I’m not making this up.

When I worked at NASA, I came across all sorts of similar goodies and usually kept a copy, either electronic or hardcopy, provided it wasn’t classified, of course. In truth, I never saw anything of that nature, but plenty of stuff that was borderline and certainly not publicized.

This study was conducted by an organization known as Warp Drive Metrics located in Las Vegas for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but notice that they’re both conveniently located not far from the infamous Area 51.

In the Introduction to this study the author states: “Beginning in the 1980s developments in quantum theory and general relativity physics have succeeded in pushing the envelope in exploring the reality of teleportation. . . . It has been recognized that extending the present research in quantum teleportation and developing alternative forms of teleportation physics would have a high payoff impact on communications and transportation technologies in the civilian and military sectors.”

He names five types of teleportation of which the science fiction version is one, but discounted as not included in the study, or so he says. Sad but true, you never know what jewel one of us sci-fi authors might come up with via our respective muses.

Of the five mentioned, my personal favorite is, as you would expect, the method using quantum entanglement, dubbed q-Teleportation, which he defines as the “disembodied transport of the quantum state of a system and its correlations across space to another system.”

I was particularly amused by Section 3.0, which addresses this particular category. The steps he summarized were as follows:

  1. Object placed inside the teleporter and scanned by a computer-generated and controlled beam.
  2. Scan beam encodes entire quantum information contained within the object into organized bits of information, forming a digital pattern of the object.
  3. The information is stored in a pattern buffer.
  4. The scan beam dematerializes the object into a matter stream.
  5. Teleporter transmits matter/energy stream and quantum information signal in the form of an annular confinement beam to its destination.
  6. The receiving teleporter reconstitutes the matter based on quantum information stored in the pattern buffer.

Hmmmmm. Am I the only one who thinks that sounds an awful lot like what Krauss described from the Star Trek Next Generation Technical Manual?

Section 3.0 goes on to describe many of the same calculations Krauss did.

Bah! Sci-fi discounted, indeed!

In Section 3.2.3 entitled “Recent Developments in Entanglement and q-Teleportation Physics”, he states, “Technical applications of entanglement and q-Teleportation are just becoming conceptualized for the first time, while a small number of basic physics breakthroughs and their related applications are in experimental progress at present.” (Emphasis added.)

You can’t make this stuff up.

Note that this study was conducted between January 2001 and July 2003. No telling what advancements have been made in the past 15 years.

My second favorite, p-Teleportation, is the “conveyance of persons or inanimate objects by psychic means” which he describes in Section 5.0. He goes on to mention psychics Uri Geller and Ray Stanford, who “claimed to have been teleported on several occasions. Most (emphasis added) claimed instances of human teleportation of the body from one place to another have been unwitnessed.”

Really? Ya think?

15385125_mlHe goes on to say, “There are also a small number of credible reports of individuals who reported being teleported to/from UFOs during a UFO close encounter, which were scientifically investigated….”   Plus: “There is a wealth of factual scientific research data from around the world attesting to the physical reality of p-Teleportation and related anomalous psi phenomena. The skeptical reader should not be so quick to dismiss the subject matter in this chapter, because one must remain open-minded about this subject and consider p-Teleportation as worthy of further scientific exploration.” He even mentions my favorite psi researcher, Dean Radin, PhD, of whom I’m a tremendous fan.

deanw-book

Dean Radin PhD has done highly respected research on psi phenomena such as telepathy.

e-Teleportation, defined as “exotic”, comprises “the conveyance of persons or inanimate objects by transport through extra space dimensions or parallel universes”. This involves superstring theories, electromagnetic – gravity unification theories, and brane theory.  Don’t mind me, but just because they can do the math doesn’t mean it’s possible, if you know what I mean.

Last but not least, vm-Teleportation involves wormholes and “engineering the spacetime metric” which was supported by numerous pages of mind-bending math including linear algebra, trigonometry and multi-variable calculus equations loaded with enough Greek letters to be its own fraternity.

I don’t know how much money the author received for this study, which took two and a half years, but it could probably be found in the public record using the contract number. I must say that it would be just about any physicist’s dream job. In no way do I mean to dismiss the knowledge and expertise required to put this together. This is a comprehensive, thoroughly investigated study which includes 253 references, most of which were to prestigious journals such as Physics Review Letters, Physics Today, Military Intelligence, Nature, Science, numerous books published by Cambridge and Oxford University presses and various others by esteemed physicist authors. The original document’s distribution list included 54 individuals, 36 of whom were PhDs.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with my tax dollars going for such research, even though it’s undoubtedly hidden in all those “black projects” such as those conducted at Area 51, Dulce Base, Wright-Patterson AFB and probably Dugway Proving Grounds. Better spent there than numerous others I can think of but won’t name so as to remain politically correct in today’s volatile environment.

Nonetheless, the truth is out there.  Possibly more than we could begin to imagine.  Including me, as a science fiction writer.

You can pick up a copy of Krauss’ book on Amazon here. For a copy of the “Teleportation Physics Study” contact the Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Materiel Command, Edwards Air Force Base, CA 93524-7048 and ask for Report AFRL-PR-ED-TR-2003-0034. By now it might even be available online since it was released for “unlimited distribution.”

Quantum Mechanics for Dummies: Review of “Quantum Enigma” by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner

quantumenigmacover

Since I have a bachelor’s degree in physics, I’m reasonably familiar with quantum theory and the mystery it presents with regard to the influence of an observer. I’ve even written a few blogs on the subject you can find here. I keep reading about quantum theory hoping for a deeper understanding but all I seem to discover is that no one really knows what’s going on, even several decades after its first discovery. However, this well-written book did explain numerous other things that helped my understanding of the various interpretations and the differences between them.

albertAnyone who’s studied quantum mechanics in the slightest has probably read about Albert Einstein’s comment that he believed the Moon was there whether he was looking at it or not. This has never made sense to me since my understanding of “collapsing the wave function” is that if any conscious entity observes a quantum event it collapses into reality for everyone. Einstein’s primary objection was that a physical reality separate from observation had to exist, yet this was never proven to be the case. Think about that for a moment.

This book does an excellent job of explaining the different interpretations, e.g. the Copenhagen interpretation, Schrodinger’s cat, Einstein’s view, Niels Bohr’s opinion and various others, in a way that anyone interested in the subject can understand. What stands out the most is that even today the experts don’t agree. In other words, they simply do not know. I loved it when the authors noted “Eight decades after the Schrodinger equation, the meaning of physics’ encounter with consciousness is increasingly in contention. When experts can’t agree, you can choose your expert. Or speculate on your own.” (page 220)

Which is exactly what I’ve done.

Since I’m not a PhD worried about tenure, funding or the future of my career, I can tread the line between physics and metaphysics and enjoy every step. The authors made it clear that the realm of physics deals only with the physical world. They are even annoyed when people introduce such things as human consciousness into their supposed realm. Yet the authors admit that the two remaining great mysteries today are quantum mechanics and what constitutes consciousness.

How ironic.

heisenbergquoteWerner Heisenberg summed it up nicely when he said “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.”

The fact they don’t is the problem.

deanw-bookSpeaking of other disciplines, scientist Dean Radin has done numerous statistical studies on psi phenomena. While proving it exists in a physical sense cannot be done (yet), statistically he’s shown experimentally that its incidence exceeds probability. Another scientist, Roger Nelson, has shown the influence that can only be explained as the Universal Consciousness with his network of random number generators.

I continue to marvel that physicists can propose the existence of parallel universes, multiverses, and thirteen or more dimensions while dismissing and even disparaging anything that relates to consciousness. Give me a break. Without consciousness they couldn’t even consider the meaning of the physical world.

Just because they purposely exclude it from the material world doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that they should dismiss it. To do so is the height of arrogance. I encounter this all the time since I’m also a professional astrologer. Of course I was indoctrinated against astrology while in college but my own study and experience taught me that it works. Those who dismiss it without personal study have been sucked into the mentality for which the only remedy is the admonition to “Question Everything.”

10101220_mlIt doesn’t matter whether or not we know how it works, only that it does. However, physicists and scientists in general dismiss astrology as myth and superstition, even though early scientists such as Kepler, Galileo and Newton were astrologers seeking knowledge about the heavens to increase the accuracy of their astrological work. My own opinion is that quantum entanglement plays a role in these cosmic influences. As stated by the authors:

“Any two objects that interact become entangled. After that, whatever happens to one instantaneously influences the other no matter how far apart they are. This has been extensively demonstrated with pairs of microscopic particles, and even with almost macroscopic devices. As entangled objects entangle with yet other objects, the entanglement becomes complex.” (p. 199-200)

Note the use of the word “instantaneously.” Supposedly no information can travel faster than the speed of light, yet this is the case with entanglement. Radin has shown psi to be instantaneous as well. My personal opinion is that when a person is born, the configuration of the cosmos is imprinted upon them in the form of entanglement which is represented in their birth horoscope or natal chart. They then respond as changes, i.e., movement of the stars and planets, affect their psyche. Truly this is a stretch, but there’s nothing in quantum theory that can prove this is not the case. Nonetheless, scientists are typically offended when someone such as myself even speculates on such possibilities. Fortunately, as a science fiction writer, I can have all sorts of fun with such things there as do various other scientists to avoid compromising their position in their highfalutin community.

78px-Single_and_double_slit_4I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that there was nothing in this book that negated my opinion. If anything, I obtained even more scientific theory to support it. I understand more thoroughly as well that physicists fear to tread outside their domain of the material world and to touch on anything that borders on parapsychology because it can result in professional suicide. How sad that science has become so specialized and compartmentalized that professional tunnel vision precludes solving some of life’s greatest mysteries while those of us who think outside the box are ostracized by their peers and even looked upon as ignorant fools.

Which side best fits that description only time will tell.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon using this link.

“I don’t understand it. Nobody does.” A Review of “QED” by Richard P. Feynman

150px-feynman3This book is the edited transcription of a lecture series given by renowned physicist, Richard P. Feynman, at UCLA in 1983. These lectures were designed for an audience of intelligent individuals who are interested in physics but only the good stuff, not the dirty work of slogging through all the math. That said, unless you are a physicist, masochist or perhaps need something to put you to sleep at night this book is not for you.

Feynman in my opinion is one of the greatest physicists of all times, mostly because of his ability to explain just about anything at a level lay people, or at least those like myself with a lowly bachelor’s degree in physics, could understand. When I was in college pursuing such I relied heavily on my three volume set of “Feynman’s Lectures on Physics” to help me understand certain theories where my college texts failed to explain them sufficiently. Thus, when I obtained this book I expected it to provide a better understanding of quantum electrodynamics than I had previously, which of course was essentially null so it could only increase. That did, indeed, happen, but not to the level I’d hoped for.

Feynman warns his readers right up front in the Introduction on page 9 when he says, “It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see, my physics students don’t understand it either. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does.”

Bohr Atom Electron & Photon Interaction

QED is way beyond this diagram of a photon increasing the quantum level of an electron or reducing it when released.

Great. It was considerate to point out right up front that I would feel either lost or stupid throughout, which certainly proved to be the case. For me even the various diagrams he uses to explain these phenomena (which ultimately became known as Feynman diagrams) were more confusing than not. He did note that it took his graduate student three years to grasp them which was somewhat comforting. Nonetheless, toward the end they reminded me more of Abbott and Costello’s famous skit we know as “Who’s on first?” than the interaction of fundamental particles. However, Feynman’s humor and witty style kept me reading for such jewels as “I have delighted in showing you that the price of gaining such an accurate theory has been the erosion of our common sense.”

Nonetheless, as I lay this book to rest on my shelf I will admit that it does contain numerous dog-eared pages and lots of highlighting. I’m fascinated by the fact that some particles at the quantum level go backward in time. I mean, seriously, how cool is that? I now understand that QED is about the mysterious interaction between photons and electrons, which of course makes sense with a title of “quantum electrodynamics.” Duh. I now also understand more fully what a Feynman diagram comprises. Thus, even though he was correct in assuming that I wouldn’t understand it, I do know more than I did when I started reading so the experience was not a total loss.

One thing to bear in mind if you should decide to take on this book is that since 1983 when these lectures were delivered (and just happens to be the year I started college) much more has been discovered in the field of particle physics. This is explained beautifully by the proofreading notes at the end of this book, the first dated November 1984 which states, “Since these lectures were given, suspicious events observed in experiments made it appear possible that some other particle or phenomenon, new and unexpected (and therefore not mentioned in these lectures), may soon be discovered.” The second proofreading note dated April 1985 stated, “At this moment the “suspicious events” mentioned above appear to be a false alarm. The situation no doubt will have changed again by the time you read this book. Things change faster in physics than in the book publishing business.”

Probably the biggest news in this field to come in the past few years was the discovery of the “God particle” or Higgs boson. This book certainly prepares you for the existence of new particles and provides some understanding of what is involved in that process and why it’s not an easy matter. It you really want to get into this stuff this book is a good primer.

In conclusion, it’s worth noting that “Q.E.D.” is a term also used in mathematics at the end of a proof as an abbreviation for the Latin saying “quod erat demonstrandum,” i.e., “which was to be demonstrated.” If nothing else, Feynman truly demonstrated that this stuff really is beyond human understanding even for those who can do the math. In other words, they may be able to determine what is going on but certainly not the why, which lies in another realm. Thus, it is my sincerest hope that since this great man now resides in that very place that he can at last fully understand it. I sure don’t.

You can pick up your copy if you’re so inclined at the link below.

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library)

What’s Behind the Science in Science Fiction Part 5: The Matter – Consciousness Interface

Now we’re getting to the good stuff and I hope you can see why I gave you all that background information leading up to it. In order to fully appreciate something, whether it’s good music or literature, you need a foundation, no matter how rudimentary it may be. And believe me, it was, even though your eyes may have glazed over. My previous posts were a whirlwind tour of physics for dummies but you are now much better informed than most people out there, assuming you read it. Congratulate yourself! I will try to reward your efforts by building on that information so that anyone who skipped it will be entirely lost and need to go back and suffer through it like the rest of you.

Quantum theory was mind-blowing because it introduced the possibility that an observer could influence how light and even matter behaved. This, of course, was only proven on a very small scale, yet the influence was there. Suddenly the world of physics and metaphysics were starting to overlap.

150px-feynman3 150px-feynman-stamp     

One of my heroes in the physics world is Richard Feinman because he demonstrated an interest in so many things besides physics. I believe he was as brilliant as he was to the point of winning a Nobel Prize was because he was so open-minded and had the courage to see things differently. That is how breakthroughs come about.  I’ll be forever grateful to him for his “Lectures on Physics” which helped tremendously when the textbooks fell short.

heisenequationheisenbergcop

Another great physicist who seemed to grok the concept that there was more to life than one’s own very specific discipline was Werner Heisenberg, also a Nobel Prize winning physicist with an actual phenomena named after him that relates to quantum theory, i.e. the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. He stated, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet. These lines may have their roots in quite different parts of human cultures, in different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

deanw-bookradinbook

Hello? Ya think that maybe quantum theory would be a good one for collaboration with other disciplines? Scientists need to talk to one another! Here we have physicists scratching their heads over whether consciousness and matter interact while we have psychologists such as Dean Radin researching psi phenomena which may well be the mechanism that causes that interaction between consciousness and matter. Rather than treating these researchers with about the same respect at Dr. Venkman (played by Bill Murray) in Ghostbusters, maybe they should get together over a pitcher of margaritas and see what they come up with.

Quantum entanglement is the term used to describe two particles which become tied up with each other enough, kind of like atomic soulmates, that even when they are separated by long distances, if something happens to change the state of one, the other reacts also. This happens instantaneously, i.e. the communication occurs faster than the speed of light, a barrier that was never supposed to be breached. Psi is also instantaneous. Does this imply that we become entangled with others at the quantum level? This is especially enticing when you think of the stories of identical twins who originated with the same genetic material and are also connected at the psychic level.

Along similar lines is the concept known as NLP or neuro-linguistic programming. It has also been called “the power of positive thinking,” and described in a movie called “The Secret” and promoted by a plethora of motivational speakers who declare that you can create your future by visualizing what you want on an consistent basis such that you will eventually draw that situation to you from the Universe at large. If psi has the power to manipulate matter and create not only matter but circumstances, doesn’t that sound as if it has something to do with quantum theory?

Weird, you bet. But it works. We can, indeed, draw circumstances to us in this manner. Which bring me to favorite quote of mine from science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke: “Technology sufficiently far advanced is indistinguishable from magic.” What would Isaac Newton think of your smartphone?

However, there was one rather large problem that comes down to one, little three-letter word: EGO.

Scientists tend to have tunnel vision when it comes to their own field of study. I remember hearing once that as a person comes closer to a PhD that their IQ actually goes down. This does not mean that they are losing brain cells from overwork and losing intelligence. The typical IQ test assesses how much a person knows about a broad spectrum of knowledge and as a person narrows their interests down to the level required to pursue a PhD they get in the realm where they know a lot about a little which actually jeopardizes their IQ. This also means that they start blocking out anything that doesn’t relate to their chosen subject. They can become arrogant as they become experts and sabotage their colleagues who are seen as competitors for needed research funding. There is also the status issue. If you’re proven wrong you are probably through. After all that work getting to that pinnacle, the last thing you want is some upstart to push you off.

headstoneraven

Breaching this obstacle is likely to require what has been described as “progress by funerals.” In other words, as the old farts die off and those new upstarts take over, things will move along much faster.

At least until the upstarts scale that pinnacle and replicate the cycle.

(c) Copyright 2014 by Marcha Fox All Rights Reserved

What’s Behind the Science in Science Fiction – Part 4: Light Behaving Badly

117px-Doubleslit3Dspectrum
Last time covered how sometimes light behaves like a particle and others like a wave along with how the double-slit experiment was used to demonstrate these properties. For example, if a steady light comprised of numerous individual photons hit a plate with one tiny slit to allow them through, rather than getting a line that matched the slit on the opposing wall it would be spread out in a pattern that was concentrated toward the center and fuzzy around the edges. (See picture below.)

78px-Single_and_double_slit_4

When they used a plate that had two slits a single photon would leave a dot, as expected, but by continuing to release them one at a time they would eventually form an interference pattern, the same as what resulted from a steady light source. It was as if each photon had a mind of its own yet collectively they would arrange themselves in a certain pattern. While exactly where each photon would arrive couldn’t be predicted, the pattern itself could be, based on the wavelength of the light. Thus there was a certain probability that a photon would arrive in a certain place, some more than others, but which exact one would go where was unknown.

120px-2slits
It was apparent they couldn’t predict exactly where a single photon would land but if it was a discrete particle of light then it followed that it would go through one slit or the other. (Remember that the interference pattern resulted because there were two slits so the waves could overlap.) Thus, scientists, the first of whom was Thomas Young (1773-1829), decided to find out which slit of the two choices each photon went through. To do so they polarized the light going through each slit in a different way with the detector on the other side capable of telling the difference. The photon could still theoretically “choose” which slit (or both) it would go through, but they would be able to tell which one by its polarization when it arrived on the detector.

Sneaky. But outsmarting Mother Nature is not an easy task.

Much to their surprise, when they sent one photon at a time toward the slits where it was polarized the interference pattern did not emerge!

Whoa!

Instead, they got random spots of light which indicated individual particles. Polarizing the light did not destroy its ability to build interference patterns so this didn’t make sense. The results implied that when they set things up so that they’d know whether the photon went through one slit or the other that the individual photons lost their right to choose and behaved like a particle. In other words, the probability wave function had collapsed when the final result would be determined.

120px-2Slits-particles_only
In other words, the photon can change from a wave to a particle when someone is trying to figure out exactly what it’s going to do. When someone is watching, it behaves like a particle that not only goes through one opening or the other but loses its wave properties as well.

Say what?

Back then the expression WTF? didn’t exist yet, but something along those lines was definitely what was going through numerous scientific minds. By all appearances, if someone was watching, i.e. measuring the outcome, then the probability wave collapsed and the photons acted like particles.

Thinking perhaps this was because they were polarizing the photons before they went through one slit or the other, even though they knew that didn’t stop the light from forming an interference pattern, they rigged things up to determine which slit it had gone through afterwards. Much to their surprise they got the same result as before, a rain of itinerant particles, as if each photon had either known in advance or perhaps even went back in time, deciding how to behave.

This introduced the concept of an observer affecting the outcome. Suddenly consciousness was part of the mix, or at least seemed to be since there was no other explanation. Of course physicists who deal exclusively with the physical world were less than enchanted by all this woo-woo stuff. Thus began the philosophical notion of whether or not a tree that fell in the forest made a sound if no one was there to hear it. May I remind you that these are very intelligent people we’re dealing with here and while some of them may not be wrapped to tight as they walk the genius-insanity interface; nonetheless, they are a whole lot smarter than the rest of us.

fallentree

Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance” and didn’t believe it, even though he was the one who theorized that energy and matter were essentially the same as expressed by his famous equation E=mc2. To this day people are still arguing about this aspect of quantum theory with different conclusions. Is it possible that an observer or some form of consciousness can influence physical matter? Do we, indeed, create our own reality?

What do you think?

(Diagrams courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)