Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breaking Water - Tsunami of Possibility Waves

After so many years of haphazard looking, I finally find a guy who understands and can explain Bayesian Statistics, and he won't even give me the time of day! Well, I'm used to that, so no hurt feelings. I thought I gave a pretty cogent explanation about how the basic principles work, but I think my writeup is in the realm of dangerous for the masses, who might make all sorts of wrong conclusions from it.

The same guy also wrote up a great explanation about why quantum physical understandings of the world say utterly nothing about how the person doing various kinds of experiments is implicated in their results. I've been looking for that one since just about forever too, and thank goodness I've finally found it. I've been getting a little bit tired myself with all sorts of pretty smart people getting all excited about how our state of knowing is implicated in what it is we know.

Well, maybe it is, but only at the very fringes of reality, as in you might be the guy who set up the experiment, and maybe there had to be a reason for you to want to do that, but the results of the experiment don't implicate you. That's what science means.

Except that now here I am writing all these posts, pretty much the way John Cage used to compose music, just letting in random things which are happening all around me. Now since I'm a fan of Julian Jaynes' psychology, you'll have to expect that for me this kind of random is akin to hearing the voice of God. And, well, it is, kind of sort of, for so long as you don't think I mean that literally, the way Jaynes kind of sort of did.

Julian Jaynes, you may recall, is among a small cadre of smart people who actually understand that consciousness, as in the sense of "I", could not have pre-existed language and culture, no matter how ready the brain might have been, and specifically that the sides of the brain didn't get "broken down" until the written word took hold. He actually provides a read of historical evidence which is not too disimilar to what I'm trying to do with scientific evidence from physics, which allows lots of otherwise sketchy detail to fall right into place.

He pins the great event right at about time of Christ, which makes a nice pun if you consider the meaning of the cross and crossroads and even the Chinese number for ten, which is just a cross and has absolutely no meaning here except for random digits. We don't have to be too precise, since you could sweep up all those great seminal philosophies and philosophers from about the same rough period. Within a probability cloud around two thousand years ago, say.

Jaynes supposes, again with some evidence, that people would actually hear a voice inside their heads, rendering for them the collective imperatives which would keep them in line with one another. A kind of pre-conscious conscience, which Jaynes supposed might have been construed as the voice of the gods, or eventually the voice of God. It explains a lot of the cruel practices marked down in the Old Testament. Things we'd never do, like shun people or sleep with relatives, or murder our children. Really nasty stuff that we have laws for, and more humane reactions.

And I know Neal Stephenson riffs on this a lot, although his books start to read for me like too much time on computer adventure games, but his earlier stuff practically drips with Jaynesian thinking. So I can't be the only one out there who groks this idea, although the mainstream scientific community doesn't seem to find it very useful. Jaynes gets a kind of drive-by mention in Richard Dawkin's book, though.

So my buddy and I are trying to spin up pikk.com, against all sorts of improbability, since we don't have the multiple millions it takes for most Internet startups to even fail. But just like writing this, it seems worth the risk. OK, I'm not risking very much, and neither is pikk, but the upside is pretty huge. So, like they say over there at the oh-so-evil New York Lottery, "hey, you never know".

Except you do with the lottery, and only stupid people would play it. In fact, it's pretty much a stupid tax, which is the only justification I can think of for the government stooping that low. But then that makes our friendly gov. pretty much like my beloved credit card companies, which find my unemployment good reason to raise my rates.

Yeah, sure I know all the reasons, since I'm that much more a risk now. Except, in a Bayesian sense, I'm really not, and they're just gaming my damned system, and, well, there really oughta be a law!

Oh, I guess there is a law, and they're just getting their diggs in (sic) before it clicks into place. My timing always sucks. I'm selling my house just when the buyer can get all my value, part from the government stimulus, and part from the fact that the stimulus isn't going to anyone who doesn't already have a down-payment, so there are no first-time buyers, which is like a Catch-22 against me all over again. So the price is way below what it should be, and I get hit once as taxpayer and again as seller. And we never even had a bubble around here, from which the price might have fallen! No damned fair!

Don't get me wrong, I like the guy who's buying my house, and don't begrudge him a nickel, but I'm just saying.

The reason the credit card company is acting badly is because they already know all about me. I have a long long history, and I've never defaulted on any debts. But they're treating me as though I'm just another person without a down-payment who can be preyed on. It seems we've had a run on that kind of predatory behavior lately!

In essence, that's what Bayesian statistics is all about. It's even behind the medical community finally waking up that massive testing for breast cancer has almost no impact on survivability rates below a certain age. We'll be getting a lot more wake-up calls like that one, as we continue to try to disentangle greed from want and need. Come to think of it, my friendly non-reader also helped me to understand that right before the medical establishment figured it out. Some coincidence if you ask me!

I'm not about to make any hay out of that, although I got my title today "Breaking Water" from my early morning fear that my water heater was about to burst and flood my basement which in my house would be a real pain, since the "basement" is where I sit right now. It's a split level.

And a friend of mine (see sweetie, I'm backing off here) who's much more responsible than I am is getting hers replaced prophylactically, which makes me realize what a slouch I am. And I'm really hoping that it doesn't break before the house sells, since you know, the credit card companies are already on my case and all. Maybe they know me better than I do. Hmmm.

But for me breaking water reminds me of giving birth which reminds me of breaking out of cocoons. So I had to use it; the title I mean.

But what else are we to draw our writing from? You can claim to be all organized, but in the end, if you're doing quantum physical experiments, like that huge crowd of brainiacs over there at CERN, each one of you still has a whole personal narrative of strange, random and unaccountable happenings which made you what you are.

So what, you might say, there's no meaning to all that stuff? It's just random! Or maybe not. I guess it's what you make of it that counts.

Here's where the going gets rough again, for which I apologize in advance. But at least there won't be any math, so you can thank me for that. Although it loses me my very best readers. The trouble is this dog's just plain too old to learn new tricks. I left math behind when I turned down MIT and CalTech (I know, it's disgusting, but I have to name drop or I won't get anywhere at all) in favor of a shot at the ruling class at Yale, and well, as you can see the ruling class turned me down pretty flat and for damned good reason, so there you go again and again and again. But I keep taking my shots!

So yesterday, I took a stab at explaining "possibility waves," an analog of the probability waves which define all you can know about subatomic particles' momentum or position before they get detected.

Possibility waves are something I just invented out of thin air, so to speak, but you'll see that there is actually an ironical reason to do so. Since I did make the claim yesterday that things in motion relative to one another are actually quite impossible if you think about it. It's a paradoxical consequence of various Einsteinian discoveries, which is damned inconvenient. It's the paradox part which makes it so inconvenient.

And obviously nobody can get their head around things in motion relative to one another being impossible, since we all move around, and we're hardly impossible to one another, right? But we're only talking fringe science here, and not something you really have to worry about in real life.

In fringe science - you know the avant garde, the cutting edge - they talk about "many worlds" of all things, and even give that theory high marks compared to other theories. Many worlds even solves the problem for you and me, since for sure I don't have any idea what you're thinking right now.

But I'm not saying things are literally impossible, only that there might be something which pops them right out from physical nothingness, and that that something is also perfectly analogous to detection in the realm of what collapses probability waves into actual particles.

Now some people mistakenly think that there has to be some mind-controlled instrumental detection to make probability waves collapse into actual particles, but, yep you guessed it, my good non-friend puts the lie to that one too. It's the particles themselves, kind of rubbing off on one another which keep them each from filling up the entire cosmos with their conceptual wave-forms. Sort of like those cellular automata I was talking about the other day, and which also get passing reference in the above referenced article.

This makes it incredibly unlikely to the point of vanishing infinity that you'll find a particle emitted over here way way over there where you don't expect it. Of course the point of vanishing infinity is pretty hard to distinguish from the point of impossibility.

But, as you know these particles can't be distinguished from one another anyhow. They have no actual identity, unless you're an AI guy in in which case you might think maybe someday they might have. But that seems pretty unlikely to me, its having already been proven to my satisfaction that these subatomics are all anonymous. You have no way to know if the one you detected over here started its life, so to speak, way way over there. Except for the limiting effect of the speed of light, which would make it, well, impossible.

So you pretty much take it on faith, according to the known laws of the universe that there are limits to where a particle can be found, and that these limits are expressed by the probability waves which can be calculated to a pretty tight limit of precision. Tighter than just about anything else in physics, actually, such that if you could actually hurl something without interference you could almost hit an atom in Silicon Valley from here using that kind of aiming precision.

That's better than even GPS can do, but that would be another meaningless digression into smart bombs and things like the Chinese written form of the number ten. Sorry. It's probably just that two hands together equals ten, and crossing fingers, one from each hand like they do in China to show "ten", makes a pretty neat shorthand. No coincidence at all, see, except in the evolutionary sense of how come we don't have a different number, which is a pretty meaningless question if you understand digital math. (I still count on my fingers, in my head)

Anyhow, just as with perceived or detected particles, there has to be some ongoing exchange of force-carrying or force-defining (take your pikk) particles for these other particles to remain in proximity to one another - that's what force means after all; the glue to hold it all together - so there must be something in the conceptual realm before detection to keep the impossible and the possible from jumping apart altogether.

It's the thing which holds things which aren't physically connected actually together in one conceptual space. In our world, you can think of this like gravity, which keeps your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds if you use it right. And it's actually pretty darned hard to use wrong, if you've ever tried flying, for instance. Which I for one would never do without an airplane.

Of course, of course, there's no such thing as physical connection. That's just a fiction we live with in the macro world when we tie things down, or nail them together or otherwise tangle them up in one another. Down at the level of the subatomic real world, it's all just probability clouds and forces.

And the same thing happens with things in motion relative to one another. They stay in touch with an exchange of particles too. The same forces, the same way, making it necessary to expend all the force - read energy expenditure - in the entire cosmos to move something up to the actual limiting speed of light. At which point you're back to a single something filling up the entire cosmos, pretty much like back at the Big Bang.

At which, this speed of light limit, well you become pretty much impossible to me, and the exchange just stops. Which is pretty much how these force carrying particles feel about one another. They're not even possible. Or to put it another way, this being yet another distinction without any difference, any one is the same as any other, and how would they know who's who or what's what?

I'm a brrroken hearted doicher (spelling is for pronunciation purposes)
vot's filled mit greef and shame
I tell you vot der trrruuble is
I doesn't know mine name.

Mine mudder, she had two leetle boys
Dey vas me and mine brudder
Ve looked so very much alike
No one knew vich from t'udder

Vell, one of us got dead
Ya, mein herr, dat is so
But vedder Hans or Yocub (Jacob)
Mine mudder, she don't know

And so I am in trrrubbles;
I can't get dru mine head
Vedder I'm Hans vot's living
Or Yocub vot is dead.

Silly silly. I don't mean that the particles do any knowing. Just that you can't have any two of them in relative motion greater than the speed of light, but since again by definition they do actually move at the speed of light because what else could light speed be if not the speed of a photon. The trick being that the photon is massless in motion, and so no laws get broken. I'm just tossing terms around here, so give me a break if you want to get all technical about what has mass and what doesn't. The principle still holds.

So here comes my punch line, and you're really not going to like it, but what do you suppose the thing is which pulls these subatomics out from impossibility to possibility. It's perfectly analogous remember, to "detection" in the  realm of the physical. But here we're in the realm of the pre-detected conceptual. Here we're in the realm of the probability waves which can't be detected without collapsing them, just like Shroedinger's cat is neither alive nor dead until you take a look.

Guess what, hey, it's emotion. You can call it something else if you want, but emotion works just fine. There has to be a wanting for this impossibility to become quite possible. Notice the passive voice. I'm not saying who or what does the wanting. I'm just saying that it makes as nice a way to define connections among conceptual things as force does for connections among perceptual things.

There doesn't have to be any kind of knower, or thinker or feeler, any more than there has to be a detector for probability waves to get defined. I think some people once tried to define these conceptual particles as a species of quasi-particle or phonon, but they were from Italy and so no-one paid them any attention. You know those Italians, never taking no for an answer and so they just go on and do their own thing whether or not anyone's paying any attention.

Anyhow, you're allowed to carry information faster than the speed of light, which is what happens with quantum implication where you can know something over there just by detecting something over here, so long as they belong together by some kind of law, these two things. Well, calling them two in the first place is a kind of splitting hairs, but you get the idea.

So, that's about it, folks. You get pulled out of nothingness if you're wanted and otherwise you're just impossible. In physical terms, you won't be wanted unless and until some other particle goes missing, which falls right out from some principle about conservation of mass and energy. But in fact things are being created and destroyed all the livelong day, although you'd never know it, since at that scale these "things" are really neither here nor there.

So now go to pikk.com and play around. We have no idea if anybody willl like it; if it's wanted in the cloud.  But hey, you never know, it might be. And if it is then all sorts of people will get confused by what I'm writing. And maybe, just maybe, one of them will actually get what I'm talking about and tell me where to get off.

Of course, I'm not getting off, since you can't go around crying wolf all the time and expect people to believe you the next time. No, I'll keep trying until someone sees the obvious: That no more can the Church fairly rely on Science (I hate using Caps like that, but I'm a conventional guy, and it seems to fit) to pin down the point of life's conception than can Science get away with calling religionists a bunch of fools who take things on faith when they don't need to. Since as everybody knows, the scientists all take what they know on faith too, until their probability waves collapse and things get reconfigured just like good ol' doubting Thomas Kuhn said they always would.

Knowing just keeps on going and going, and just won't stop. Well, I'll stop there then. 'til next time.

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