Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did a Time-Traveling Bird Sabotage the Hadron Collider?

Did a Time-Traveling Bird Sabotage the Hadron Collider?

Sorry, but this is just too good to be true. First the New York Times, and now Time Magazine has gotten on the hot bandwagon of speculation about the Hadron Collider being sabotaged from the future. (I'm sure it's the thing most on your mind!)

I don't mean the troubles are too good to be true, since I'm pretty excited to see the thing get fired up. I just mean as grist for my blogging mill, which as you know, faithful reader, is all about making fun of end-time science. Religion too. Actually, I think I make a lot more fun of end-time religion.

I know I'm getting shrill on the topic, but somebody has to get the word out. Hello World, it's time for another paradigm shift. Strap yourselves in, because this one's quite a ride. The Bomb was just a tiny thing in comparison. I mean, this one's da bomb!

Yeah, my daughters always tell me I should never try to use their kind of talk too. It just makes me look stupid.

But there's been a dry spell in theoretical physics for quite a while now. The experimentalists can't seem to think up any new ways to guide the theorizing, which is just getting more and more way out there.

People are now willing to believe almost anything about what will be the next big thing in physics. Multiple universes, time-travel, quantum consciousness, dozens of dimensions. It just gets to the point where you might as well believe in ghosts. Rapture of the Nerds doesn't seem so very different from other kinds of rapture all of the sudden.

But just like love or death, which if you're really lucky hit you out in left field from where you least expect it, the answer is so freaking obvious that it's just about driving me crazy to have somebody, anybody, see it apart from me, myself, and narcissistic I.

No, I mean if I don't get someone else to see it, then I will literally and probably clinically go actually as crazy as I will, by definition, be. You can't be the only guy in any given cosmos. That would be, um, insane? Which is a whole lot worse than being a neckbeard with a pony tail working on artificial intelligence.

So, I'll try a different take. Some of you may understand how the speed of light is one of the fundamental constants of the cosmos. No physical thing can travel faster than the speed of light. Actually, no physical thing can travel at the speed of light and still have any measurable mass. Until it's stopped. Which turns all that lightspeed mass right into energy to be detected, or perceived. Or maybe the other way around, since at lightspeed it's pure energy, and then it gets stopped to mass.

One tiny little consequence of all this is that every single thing in motion is strangely out of sync with every other thing. This problem gets called by the name of the twin paradox among physicists, and it's been brushed aside for as long as there is and will be a distinction between the cool professors who teach to illiterate literary undergrads and the really smart ones who don't want to bother.

Or maybe it's just that the really smart ones don't want to bother worrying about something whose math has been worked out long ago. Except that it hasn't been. Just because the clock on a traveling plane comes back slower doesn't answer anything at all to within my margin or error. Because that clock is not a proper twin to one sitting still in the gravity fields of earth.

The real problem is that anything moving at any speed relative to anything else is, very technically speaking now, in a different cosmos from the thing to which it's compared. Because, you know, if time is slowed for you relative to me and vice versa, we can't be in the same space-time-geographical continuum. It gets disjointed, quantum style.

And as velocity is a function of time, and as you might be boosted to near the speed of light relative to my own near light-speed motion, our combined speeds can't be cumulative because of this fundamental-constant limit of lightspeed. Which means that something's gotta give, and that something is spelled T.I.M.E.

This is the bugaboo which started me wondering now maybe 26 or 27 years ago, and I keep finding more and more elaborate, if not exactly experimental, evidence that it's essentially right. There is no physical way to be in touch with something moving. The dimensions bend in ways to take things out of sync. Time is just another way to keep track of position in the (conceptual) ether, and things get very blurry indeed when you start moving very fast.

Things get blurry in precisely the same way that particles are only probability clouds before the exchange of force carrying perceptual particles. And then these blurry waves get collapsed. But if there were only two particular twins in the entire cosmos, neither one would be in the other's cosmos if they were just passing by. The blur of each to other would be an entire other world altogether.

Which is plenty obvious to physicists too, and so we have these force carrying sub-sub-atomic particles which do the contacting for us. They race back and forth at near the speed of light, which makes them technically massless while in motion, and they seem to define the forces which keep us all together. Those physical attractions which come in four distinct flavors, the most elusive being the gravitational one, which seems to shape the very cosmos, making it very hard to get the metrics on its force carriers.

But the thing we have left to do is to account for mind among all this matter. We are properly wary about letting subjectivity in among the wild successes of objective science. Measuring things, and accounting for them in ways to cancel editorial inputs has given us so much power over our wild surroundings. It's the only way we have to accomplish something approaching agreement among peoples of different languages, religions, geographic locations, not to mention genders and propensity to tell the truth or to lie. To fantasize or be in touch with, um, reality.

The Hadron Supercollider (my own pet name for it) renders up the earnest and truest reckonings among the best and brightest of the experimental physicists about what could be the most productive experiment left to conduct to either seal its fate or destroy the standard model. Not a one of them seems "motivated" to skew the findings leading up to this point. They even seem to have the rapacious politicians at bay this time.

But no-one's really expecting the Collider's findings to help even the slightest bit with disagreements about things political, emotional, evangelical, economical, and so forth. Since these things, almost by very definition, are banished from the realm of proper science. They are in the realm of opinion, editorializing, and such things as how physics projects get funded or not, just for example.

And surely it's obvious that a whole lot of really well-off people would prefer anything over some sort of science which might expose greed as their most basic motive. One man's greed being another person's change-the-world venture capitalist venture, we surely don't want to rock the boat with what makes the world go around.

It really is a testament to the best about us, collectively, that we will render up large budgets for moon shots and Hadron Colliders, trusting those least motivated, the scientists in search of truth, to tell us where the truths will be found that aren't editorially slanted.

But it's not so very good when you measure these efforts up against the things we just won't do for the least among us. And while I hardly think we're paying off the scientists to stay out of the important business of political decision making, sometimes it does begin to look a little bit too convenient to pretend that these omissions of ours are just the costs of being human. These little omissions about spending commensurate amounts on schools as we do on bombs.

I'd be the very first to accept a diversion of funding from bombs to supercolliders or spaceships as a compromise if you don't want to invest in schools, although historically, it's been the funds for bombs which have driven the basic science.

OK, sorry, really, to be this sidetracked into the realm of still more editorializing.

The thing I'm trying to say is simply that it's long since past too late to pretend that we can keep mind out from the object of our scientific studies.

I'm absolutely not talking about brain science, artificial intelligence, neuro-science, or any of those other exciting areas which can and should and must be pursued regardless of what physics might or might not have to say about them, or even what they might have to say about physics.

I'm just saying it's long past the point of obvious that the connections between things out there in the cosmos cannot, at their furthest reaches, be distinguished from conceptual relations, which inhere in mind alone. And mind of any meaningful sort may be an aspirational concept toward which we humans, perhaps, still tend. Science being, for certain, the truest compass to guide our efforts.

That's all I'm saying. I think the quantum consciousness stuff is intresting, but not paradigm shifting for so long as it looks for a mechanism of interaction. I think the physicists who want to say that we can change the cosmos just by thinking about it are a little bit nuts themselves.

The cosmos is indeed a grand conspiracy, and we are not apart from that. We humans actually do "feel" emotional reality, for which we are probably the most sensitive instrument around. No matter what those neckbeard (as if I'm made of teflon here) singularity folks think about robots which will think, it will be a very very long time indeed before we have any sense that they can feel a thing, emotionally.

Because we'd have to, and I mean this literally, care more about them than we do our very own children, and I don't see that happening any time soon.  I mean, unless it already has, which is pretty much how we're acting. If you look at the advertizements I mean, just as a f'rinstance. Or at how we deploy our energies.

Or if you look at the bombs, and the wars and the mega-corporate subsidies.

Oh, it does get tiring providing all these internal and external links to stuff I've worried half to death already. But let's coin another law, which I actually do think and believe and trust has the potential impact of Einstein's E=mc² equation between energy and matter. I know it's pretty darned cheeky of me. Sorry.

It goes like this. No amount of money, no matter how much, can accelerate caring to the point of a simple mother and child connection. You do the math, but I think it's all pretty obvious. At the point where there are enough resources to develop Artificial Intelligence while still exhibiting how little we care for the living creatures among us, then the Artificial Emotions will be the only kind that are left.

And you can have that world, since mine will be already gone. I think that might be a codicil to Rick's law.

So, I understand there's still a mad race on to get the technology right before we melt off the ice caps, put more mercury in our fishes, and kill off all the living species who don't want to live in logoware plastic ticky tacky boxes.

I understand the cynicism about politicians and political or economic systems, and how we still hope that there will be some new discovery just that wonderful that it can actually overcome them all. Something like cold fusion, maybe, or a smart enough grid to make us all conserve energy while wanting to, or cars that run on sunshine.

But if you do the math, it just can't happen. There are too darned many of us, riding on a spaceship whose carrying capacity is fundamentally dependent on a good mix of life forms. No matter what you think of creepy crawly slimy stuff, we actually do need it to live on.

So, another corollary to my law is that clean energy would be the worst possible thing to "discover", unless it really is the energy from the sun. And that gets captured and stored pretty darned well by leaves and other green things, though who could mind a few windmills or solar arrays.

I'll take hot water and light and warmth for my womb with a view. But let's dial it back a notch, folks. It isn't a race for eternity here. It's good living here and now which we might be able to work on if we were to let the editorializing in to science.

Which trivially means, and only at the fringes, that there is no actual distinction between mind and matter. You can't exactly think the future into existence, but nor should you deny what you know in your heart to be trued against it.

Conceptual connections among things, the proper realm of the arts, will never be measurable or mechanically understandable in ways to render our emotional feelings moot. Fine, no-one will disagree with me there. But I go just a tiny step further to say that that these emotional distinctions between what is beautiful and what is schlock are maybe just a little bit more important than whatever the Hadron Collider will find.

And that's because, at the very fringes which it is the experimental physicists' business to explore, there is no detecting the final massless particle which is no particle at all but is instead the conceptual relations among them. Which gets called out only when something is created from nothing, which even physicists don't really expect to be able to do. Except in the tiniest way, and overbalanced by almost as much electricity generation as we provided newly minted dollars to overbalance all that greed. Same law. Same results.

So while they go on trying to detect this so-called Higg's boson, I'll be putting out my usual generous quantities of overheated air. Pointing out that science is already finished if we thought it was going to get us off the hook of being human. That there is no further looking for purely objective reality, and that the really interesting stuff is what's going on inside and among us, the cosmos' most elaborate creatures out of apparent nothingness.

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Weirdmonger said...


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!