Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reverse ju-jitsu Consciousness Raising

I'm way too tired to do this right now, but it's been on my mind for a few days, and I have to outer it or else it will get reabsorbed like all my other brilliant thoughts (the big one that got away). I guess the theme must be laziness, begging the question of course, since I'm only lazy about things that would put me on the line. I'm great when attacked, however . . .

So, it would seem that I should detail what I mean by "consciousness" if I'm going to posit such a thing as elemental. Coeval, as it were, with things at their reductive minimum. Some might talk about origins, but I think I'm thinking more about limits. God as a limit to total consciousness rather than, say, God at the origin (and end?). (A difference without a distinction? Surely it's a dimensional thing, regarding trajectories and directionality vs. cycles and relative expansiveness)

I talk about "particles" in my youthful diatribe, having in mind those things in physics, the exchange of which can describe elementary forces. And I worry about the collapsing of probability functions - wave functions which describe the likelihood of a particle being perceived at a certain spot, but which collapse upon the actual measurement, since the particle gets detected and the probability function is resolved to unity.

And mind is just that necessary quality which binds, predictively or historically, particles which might or have collided. Mind is what relates the particles, which are otherwise unrelatable; and so mind is inherent, as it were, in the conception (that thing apart from perception) of particles in the first place.

And I find that not much (mental!) energy has been invested in dealing with the perceiver, among the very clever deep and intelligent efforts conducted by researchers in basic physics. I believe that shortfall relates directly to lots of anxiety about the possibility that in the act of perception there is also an act of creation. The project of science, after all, is to 'true' our theoretical models of reality to what is experimentally predictable and repeatable. Reality is the stuff which is discoverable every time when the conditions are properly stated, and the procedures sufficiently mapped out. The kinds of questions I keep asking are properly the realm of religion, or perhaps philosophy. (Too lazy to learn the distinction, perhaps?) Reality is 'out there,' with the alternative, very properly, vertiginously nauseating and rather, well, insane!

And so part of what I'm saying, for sure, is that the multiplying elementary particles of physics are artifacts of the instrumentation brought to bear in "discovering" them. But this gets very tricky.

Surely, visibility through (by means of) a microscope does nothing creative about what gets discovered thereby. And the discoveries alter not reality, but our conception of reality, which enables ever greater understanding and eventually control over the previously only random impacts we suffer in contact.

The control is exercised, necessarily, by means of technology, which is just the instrumental extension of our will into realms beyond direct bodily interference. But then a funny thing happens. The instruments by means of which we can discover ever more removed bits of reality become themselves ever more removed from bodily interference. Until the detection of percepts at the limit becomes, strictly speaking, the purely metaphorical detection of purely conceptual entities, existing surely, if at all, only in the mind.

Strictly speaking (am I?), this must be provable. I guess my eyeball can detect a single photon. A notion unimaginable before that theory (Einstein again). But for the boson, we apparently require some 17 miles of circumference in the instrumentation. At this limit, can we be certain of detection, or does the measurement become more like Sagan's Contact, where you might have travelled there only in the mind. Is there a limit beyond which the thing perceived is not distinguishable from the apparatus of perception; at which point prediction becomes tautology???

I don't know, but I suspect so. I'm comforted that Stephen Hawking has put up $100 to bet against further affirmation of the Standard Theory. If we achieve instrumental tautology, would it be at this point that we reach the limits of discoverable reality? Would it be at this point that we know there are not more answers from the instruments, and that it's all about choices we must make?

I have to guess that photons are discoverable from any conceivable direction for scientific progress (on this earth, to be very precise). And I would guess that the behavior of photons requires some further theorizing, fully verifiable, about those other particles on which they depend, these photons which might be the minimal-impact particles of direct interest to our actual bodies.

But here's the thing. Doesn't the cosmos feel kind of constrained when it's our own bodily reality which sets the limits for our questions. Doesn't it rather feel like maybe we're at the point of ultimate breakthrough, not certainly to better understanding within the models already elaborated, but more toward what could properly be called a paradigm shift? (I say properly, since most usage of that term is as hackneyed as the common "in terms of" when nothing of the sort is actually meant)

I must say, I'm far less worried about a mini-black-hole-end-of-the-cosmos-as-we-know-it event descending from final power up of the LHC than I am, first, about ecological melt-down, and second, the complete disorderly collapse of the global economy. These are, as goes the Chinese curse, interesting times indeed.

It might well be that we'll never know! The economy, or energy priorities, or something up with the data grid (let's say a really big viral video) or any number of other events might simply postpone the powerup, and then postpone it again, and some very frustrated basic physicists will be pacing around or jumping up and down in their minds. It may be that the actual results are tempered by some reassessments to the design of the instrumentation. To repeat, we may be at the point where instrumental artifact becomes indistinguishable from detected object, among those who will debate the matter. Endlessly?

This all feels like trite cliche, and I'm sure it is. But just as when I recently returned from my Seattle lark, found my little hermitage nicely intact, started my fire and turned up the automatic heat to get some of the miserly 50 degree chill out of my would-be cozy domicile, and the ancient oil-burning furnace finally gave up its ghost, I never did consider God in the works. Neither did I consider the event entirely a matter for luck or simple fate. It has far too much consequence for the now immediate aftermath of my life.

I dodged a bullet and did very much enjoy the treasure quest after an ancient enough store to hold the ancient enough part for my now decidedly nichey equipment (who can afford to burn oil?, ho ho ho). I really really enjoyed the jolt of having accurately diagnosed the issue, and getting the furnace to work first time post DIY repair, and well before the anemic output of the wood stove could allow the house to chill back down.

Am I so miserly in my praise to Allah, so proud of my own cleverness, so hubristic in my refusal to make of my life a dodging among clerically accepted and less so pronouncements and behaviors? (You Betcha!) I guess so, but surely that kind of life grows tiresome, depending always on the authority of suspect others. At best they inform my little heart. At worst, I prove recalcitrant and wooden therefore. Not mine to decide for sure.

I won't put money either way on the outcome of the supercollider experiments, but I do know for sure that the cosmos I inhabit retains endless surprises beyond those which we can uncover or design and control for ourselves. I do know for sure that a planet earth fully within the range of our instrumental control becomes almost at that very instant a very barren place. I do know that the now pervasive blackish jokes about a new world order of bartering livestock for survival hit me wrong in the gut.

So, I'm not holding my breath.

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