Tag Archives: onwerklikheid

Die onwerklik Heelal — Sien lig in Wetenskap en Spiritualiteit

Ons weet dat ons heelal is 'n bietjie onwerklik. Die sterre sien ons in die nag lug, byvoorbeeld, is nie regtig daar. Hulle kan verskuif het of selfs dood teen die tyd wat ons kry om dit te sien. Hierdie vertraging is te danke aan die tyd wat dit neem vir die lig uit die verre sterre en sterrestelsels om ons te bereik. Ons weet van die vertraging.

Dieselfde vertraging in te sien het 'n minder bekende verskynsel in die manier waarop ons sien bewegende voorwerpe. Dit verwring ons persepsie so iets kom na ons sal lyk asof dit kom in 'n vinniger. Vreemd soos dit mag klink, hierdie effek is in astrofisiese studies waargeneem. Sommige van die hemelse liggame lyk asof hulle beweeg 'n paar keer die spoed van lig, terwyl hul “werklike” spoed is waarskynlik 'n baie laer.

Nou, hierdie effek 'n interessante vraag–Wat is die “werklike” spoed? As sien is glo, die spoed sien ons moet die werklike spoed. Dan weer, Ons weet van die lig reistyd effek. So moet ons die spoed voor ons sien glo dat dit korrek. Wat dan doen “sien” beteken? Wanneer ons sê dat ons iets sien, wat werklik bedoel ons?

Lig in fisika

Sien behels lig, natuurlik. Die beperkte spoed van lig invloede en verdraai die manier waarop ons dinge sien. Hierdie feit moet skaars kom as 'n verrassing, want ons weet dat dinge nie soos ons dit sien. Die son wat ons sien, is reeds agt minute oud teen die tyd dat ons dit sien. Hierdie vertraging is nie 'n groot deal; As ons wil weet wat aangaan op die son nou, Al wat ons moet doen, is om te wag vir agt minute. Ons, nietemin, moet “korrekte” vir die ondergang van ons persepsie as gevolg van die beperkte spoed van lig voordat ons kan vertrou wat ons sien.

Wat is verbasend (en selde uitgelig) is dat wanneer dit kom mosie sensing, ons kan nie terug-bereken op dieselfde wyse ons neem uit die vertraging in die sien van die son. As ons 'n hemelse liggaam beweeg teen 'n hoë spoed onwaarskynlike, ons kan nie uitvind hoe vinnig en in watter rigting dit “regtig” beweeg sonder om verdere aannames. Een manier om van die hantering van hierdie probleem is die ondergang van ons persepsie toe te skryf aan die fundamentele eienskappe van die arena van fisika — ruimte en tyd. Nog 'n plan van aksie is die skeiding tussen ons persepsie en die onderliggende te aanvaar “werklikheid” en hanteer dit op 'n manier.

Einstein het verkies om die eerste roete. In sy baanbrekerswerk papier oor 'n honderd jaar gelede, Hy het die spesiale relatiwiteitsteorie, waarin hy skryf die manifestasies van die beperkte spoed van lig aan die fundamentele eienskappe van ruimte en tyd. Een kern idee in spesiale relatiwiteit (SR) is dat die idee van gelyktydigheid moet herdefinieer word nie, want dit neem tyd vir ligte uit 'n gebeurtenis op 'n afgeleë plek om ons te bereik, en word ons bewus van die geval. Die konsep van “Nou” maak nie veel sin, soos ons gesien het, wanneer ons praat van 'n gebeurtenis gebeur in die son, byvoorbeeld. Gelyktydigheid is relatief.

Einstein gedefinieer gelyktydigheid met behulp van die oomblikke in die tyd wat ons ontdek die geval. Opsporing, as hy dit gedefinieer, behels 'n ronde-reis reis van die lig soortgelyk aan Radar opsporing. Ons stuur lig, en kyk na die besinning. As die weerkaatste lig van twee gebeurtenisse bereik ons ​​op dieselfde oomblik, hulle gelyktydige.
Nog 'n manier te definieer gelyktydigheid is met behulp van waarneming — kan ons twee gebeurtenisse gelyktydige bel as die lig van hulle bereik ons ​​op dieselfde oomblik. Met ander woorde, ons kan die lig wat deur die voorwerpe onder waarneming gebruik eerder as die stuur van die lig vir hulle en kyk na die besinning.

Hierdie verskil kan klink soos 'n muggezifterij tegniese, maar dit maak 'n groot verskil in die voorspellings wat ons kan maak. Einstein se keuse lei tot 'n wiskundige prentjie wat baie wenslik eienskappe, sodoende verdere ontwikkeling elegante.

Die ander moontlikheid is 'n voordeel wanneer dit kom by die beskrywing van voorwerpe in beweging, omdat dit ooreenstem beter met hoe ons meet hulle. Ons Radar gebruik nie die sterre in beweging te sien; ons bloot die lig voel (of ander bestraling) kom van hulle. Maar hierdie keuse van die gebruik van 'n sensoriese paradigma, eerder as Radar-agtige opsporing, die heelal resultate in 'n effens minder mooi wiskundige prentjie te beskryf.

Die wiskundige verskil toegevoeg verskillende filosofiese standpunte, wat op sy beurt deur sien tot die begrip van ons fisiese beeld van die werklikheid. As 'n illustrasie, Kom ons kyk na 'n voorbeeld van astrofisika. Gestel ons neem (deur 'n radio-teleskoop, byvoorbeeld) twee voorwerpe in die lug, ongeveer dieselfde vorm en eienskappe. Die enigste ding wat ons weet vir seker is, is dat die radio golwe van twee verskillende punte in die lug bereik die radioteleskoop op dieselfde oomblik in tyd. Ons kan raai dat die golwe het begin om hul reis 'n geruime tyd gelede.

Vir simmetriese voorwerpe, As ons aanvaar (as ons gereeld doen) dat die golwe begin die reis ongeveer op dieselfde tydstip, ons eindig met 'n foto van twee “werklike” simmetriese lobbe meer of minder die pad sien hulle.

Maar daar is 'n moontlikheid dat die verskillende golwe ontstaan ​​uit dieselfde voorwerp (wat in beweging) op twee verskillende oomblikke in tyd, die bereik van die teleskoop op dieselfde oomblik. Hierdie moontlikheid verduidelik sommige spektrale en temporale eienskappe van sodanige simmetriese radio bronne, dit is wat ek wiskundig beskryf in 'n onlangse fisika artikel. Nou, Watter van hierdie twee foto's moet neem ons as 'n ware? Twee simmetriese voorwerpe as ons sien hulle of een voorwerp beweeg in so 'n manier om ons te gee wat die indruk? Is dit regtig saak watter een is “werklike”? Doen “werklike” iets beteken in hierdie konteks?

Die filosofiese standpunt in geïmpliseer in spesiale relatiwiteit beantwoord hierdie vraag onomwonde. Daar is 'n ondubbelsinnige fisiese werklikheid van wat ons kry die twee simmetriese radio bronne, Hoewel dit 'n bietjie van 'n wiskundige werk te kry om dit te. Die wiskunde reëls uit die moontlikheid van 'n enkele voorwerp wat in so 'n manier as twee voorwerpe na te boots. Wese, wat ons sien is wat daar buite.

Aan die ander kant, As ons gelyktydigheid definieer met behulp van gelyktydige aankoms van die lig, sal ons gedwing word om die presiese teenoorgestelde te erken. Wat ons sien is redelik ver van wat is daar buite. Ons sal bely dat ons nie ondubbelsinnig kan ontkoppel die ondergang te danke aan die beperkings in persepsie (die beperkte spoed van lig om die beperking van belang is hier) van wat ons sien. Daar is verskeie fisiese realiteite wat kan lei tot dieselfde perseptuele prentjie. Die enigste filosofiese standpunt wat sin maak, is die een wat verbreek die Deteksie werklikheid en die oorsake agter dit wat waargeneem.

Dit verbreek is nie ongewoon in filosofiese denkrigtings. Phenomenalism, byvoorbeeld, is van mening dat ruimte en tyd is nie objektiewe werklikhede. Hulle is bloot die medium van ons persepsie. Al die verskynsels wat in die ruimte en tyd gebeur is bloot bundels van ons persepsie. Met ander woorde, ruimte en tyd is kognitiewe konstrukte wat voortspruit uit persepsie. So, al die fisiese eienskappe wat ons toeskryf aan die ruimte en tyd kan net van toepassing op die fenomenale werklikheid (die werklikheid soos ons voel dit). Die noumenal werklikheid (wat die besit van die fisiese oorsake van ons persepsie), teenstelling, bly buite ons kognitiewe bereik.

Die gevolge van die twee verskillende filosofiese standpunte hierbo beskryf is geweldige. Aangesien die moderne fisika lyk na 'n nie-phenomenalistic siening van ruimte en tyd om te omhels, dit bevind hom in stryd met daardie tak van die filosofie. Hierdie kloof tussen filosofie en fisika het gegroei tot so 'n mate dat die Nobelprys wen fisikus, Steven Weinberg, gewonder (in sy boek “Drome van 'n Finale teorie”) waarom die bydrae van filosofie fisika is so verrassend klein. Dit vra ook filosowe stellings soos te maak, “Of 'noumenal werklikheid veroorsaak fenomenale werklikheid’ of 'noumenal werklikheid is onafhanklik van ons sensing dit’ of "ons voel noumenal werklikheid,’ die probleem is dat die konsep van noumenal werklikheid is 'n totaal onnodige konsep vir die ontleding van die wetenskap.”

Een, byna toevallige, probleme in die herdefiniëring van die gevolge van die beperkte spoed van lig as die eienskappe van ruimte en tyd is dat enige uitwerking wat ons nie verstaan ​​kry onmiddellik verban na die wêreld van optiese illusies. Byvoorbeeld, die agt minute vertraging in die sien van die son, omdat ons geredelik verstaan ​​en skei van ons persepsie met behulp van eenvoudige rekenkundige, beskou word as 'n blote optiese illusie. Egter, die ondergang van ons persepsie van vinnig bewegende voorwerpe, Hoewel oorsprong uit dieselfde bron word beskou as 'n eiendom van ruimte en tyd, want hulle is meer kompleks.

Ons het om vrede te maak met die feit dat wanneer dit kom by die sien van die heelal, Daar is nie so iets soos 'n optiese illusie, wat is waarskynlik wat Goethe uitgewys toe hy gesê, “Optiese illusie is optiese waarheid.”

Die onderskeid (of die gebrek daaraan) tussen optiese illusie en waarheid is een van die oudste debatte in die filosofie. Na alles, dit is oor die onderskeid tussen kennis en die werklikheid. Kennis word beskou as ons siening oor iets wat, in werklikheid, is “werklik die geval is.” Met ander woorde, kennis is 'n weerspieëling, of 'n geestelike beeld van iets eksterne, soos getoon in die figuur hieronder.
Commonsense view of reality
In hierdie foto, die swart pyl stel die proses van die skep van kennis, Dit sluit persepsie, kognitiewe aktiwiteite, en die uitoefening van suiwer rede. Dit is die prentjie wat die fisika het gekom om te aanvaar.
Alternate view of reality
Hy erken dat ons persepsie onvolmaakte mag wees, fisika aanvaar dat ons kan kry deur middel van toenemend fyner eksperimentering nader en nader aan die eksterne werklikheid, en, meer belangrik, deur beter teoretisering. Die Spesiale en Algemene Teorieë van Relatiwiteit is voorbeelde van briljante aansoeke van hierdie siening van die werklikheid waar eenvoudige fisiese beginsels meedoënloos agtervolg gebruik formidabele masjien van suiwer rede om hul logies onvermydelik gevolgtrekkings.

Maar daar is nog 'n, alternatiewe siening van kennis en werklikheid wat reeds vir 'n lang tyd. Dit is die mening dat met betrekking tot vermeende werklikheid as 'n interne kognitiewe verteenwoordiging van ons sensoriese insette, soos hieronder geïllustreer.

In hierdie siening, kennis en beskou die werklikheid is beide interne kognitiewe konstrukte, Hoewel ons het gekom om te dink van hulle as afsonderlike. Wat is eksterne is nie die werklikheid soos ons dit sien, maar 'n onkenbare entiteit wat aanleiding gee tot die fisiese oorsake agter sensoriese insette. In die illustrasie, die eerste pyl stel die proses van waarneming, en die tweede pyl verteenwoordig die kognitiewe en logiese redenasie stappe. Ten einde hierdie siening van die werklikheid en kennis toe te pas, ons het die aard van die absolute werklikheid te dink, onkenbare soos dit is. Een moontlike kandidaat vir die absolute realiteit is Newton-meganika, Dit gee 'n redelike voorspelling vir ons beskou die werklikheid.

Om op te som, wanneer ons probeer om die ondergang te danke aan persepsie te hanteer, het ons twee opsies, of twee moontlike filosofiese standpunte. Een daarvan is die ondergang as deel van ons tyd en ruimte te aanvaar, as SR doen. Die ander opsie is om te aanvaar dat daar 'n “hoër” werklikheid te onderskei van ons Deteksie werklikheid, wie se eiendom kan ons net vermoede. Met ander woorde, een opsie is met die ondergang te leef, terwyl die ander is opgevoede raaiskote te stel vir die hoër werklikheid. Nie een van hierdie opsies is besonder aantreklik. Maar die raai pad is soortgelyk aan die oog in phenomenalism aanvaar. Dit lei ook natuurlik hoe die werklikheid beskou word in kognitiewe neurowetenskap, wat die studie van die biologiese meganismes agter kognisie.

In my mening, die twee opsies is nie inherent duidelike. Die filosofiese houding van SR kan beskou word as komende van 'n diep begrip dat die ruimte is bloot 'n fenomenale konstruk. As die sin modaliteit stel ondergang in die fenomenale prentjie, Ons kan argumenteer dat een sinvolle manier van hantering is dit die eienskappe van die fenomenale werklikheid te herdefinieer.

Rol van lig in ons Reality

Vanuit die perspektief van kognitiewe neurowetenskap, alles wat ons sien, sin, voel en dink is die gevolg van die neuronale interkonneksies in ons brein en die klein elektriese seine in hulle. Hierdie siening moet reg wees. Wat anders is daar? Al ons gedagtes en bekommernisse, kennis en oortuigings, ego en die werklikheid, lewe en dood — alles is net neuronale firings in die een-en-half kilogram slissend, grys materiaal wat ons noem ons brein. Daar is niks anders. Niks!

In werklikheid, hierdie siening van die werklikheid in die neuro is 'n presiese eggo van phenomenalism, wat van mening alles wat 'n bondel van persepsie of geestelike konstrukte. Ruimte en tyd is ook kognitiewe konstrukte in ons brein, soos alles. Hulle is geestelike foto's van ons brein bewerk uit die sensoriese insette wat ons sintuie ontvang. Gegenereer uit ons sintuiglike waarneming en vervaardigde deur ons kognitiewe proses, die ruimte-tyd kontinuum is die arena van fisika. Van al ons sintuie, oë is verreweg die oorheersende een. Die sensoriese insette te sien is lig. In 'n ruimte geskep deur die brein uit die lig val op ons retinas (of op die foto sensors van die Hubble-teleskoop), is dit 'n verrassing dat niks vinniger kan reis as die lig?

Hierdie filosofiese standpunt is die basis van my boek, Die onwerklik Heelal, wat ondersoek die algemene drade bindend fisika en filosofie. Sulke filosofiese musings kry gewoonlik 'n slegte rap van ons fisici. Om fisici, filosofie is 'n heeltemal ander gebied, 'n ander silo van kennis. Ons moet hierdie geloof te verander en waardeer die oorvleueling tussen die verskillende kennis silo's. Dit is in hierdie oorvleueling wat ons kan verwag deurbrake in die menslike denke te vind.

Hierdie filosofiese grand-staande mag klink arrogant en die bedekte self-vermaning van fisici verstaanbaar onwelkome; maar ek hou van 'n troefkaart. Op grond van hierdie filosofiese houding, Ek het met 'n radikaal nuwe model kom vir twee astrofisiese verskynsels, en dit in 'n artikel getiteld, “Is Radio Bronne en gammastraaluitbarstings Luminal gieken?” in die bekende International Journal van die moderne fisika D in Junie 2007. Hierdie artikel, wat gou is een van die top toeganklik artikels van die tydskrif deur Jan 2008, is 'n direkte toepassing van mening dat die beperkte spoed van lig verwring die manier waarop ons waarneem beweging. As gevolg van hierdie ondergang, die manier waarop ons dinge sien is 'n ver van die manier waarop hulle.

Ons kan in die versoeking wees om te dink dat ons so 'n perseptuele beperkings kan ontsnap deur die gebruik van tegnologiese uitbreidings aan ons sintuie soos radio-teleskope, elektronmikroskope of spektroskopiese spoed metings. Na alles, hierdie instrumente het nie “persepsie” per se en moet vry van menslike swakhede ons ly wees. Maar hierdie siellose instrumente ook ons ​​heelal te meet deur inligting draers beperk tot die spoed van lig. Ons, dus, kan nie die basiese beperkinge van ons persepsie ontsnap, selfs wanneer ons gebruik van moderne instrumente. Met ander woorde, die Hubble-teleskoop kan 'n miljard ligjare verder sien as ons blote oog, maar wat dit sien, is nog steeds 'n miljard jaar ouer as wat ons oë sien.

Ons werklikheid, of tegnologies verbeterde of gebou op direkte sensoriese insette, is die eindresultaat van ons perseptuele proses. Tot die mate dat ons 'n lang reeks persepsie is gebaseer op 'n ligte (en word dus beperk tot sy spoed), Ons kry net 'n verwronge beeld van die heelal.

Lig in die filosofie en Spiritualiteit

Die kinkel in hierdie storie van die lig en die werklikheid is dat dit lyk asof ons al hierdie het bekend vir 'n lang tyd. Klassieke filosofiese skole lyk gedink het langs lyne baie soortgelyk aan Einstein se gedagte-eksperiment.

Sodra ons waardeer die spesiale plek verleen aan die lig in die moderne wetenskap, Ons moet onsself afvra hoe verskillende ons heelal in die afwesigheid van lig sou gewees het. Natuurlik, lig is net 'n etiket wat ons heg aan 'n sensoriese ervaring. Daarom, meer akkuraat te wees, ons het 'n ander vraag te vra: As ons nie enige sintuie wat gereageer het op wat ons die lig noem, sou dit invloed op die vorm van die heelal?

Die onmiddellike antwoord van enige normale (dit is, nie-filosofiese) persoon is wat dit is voor die hand liggend. As almal is blind, almal is blind. Maar die bestaan ​​van die heelal is onafhanklik van die vraag of ons dit kan sien of nie. Is dit al? Wat beteken dit om te sê dat die heelal bestaan ​​as ons nie kan sin is dit? Ag… die eeue-oue raaisel van die val boom in 'n verlate woud. Onthou, die heelal is 'n kognitiewe bou of 'n denkbeeldige voorstelling van die lig insette tot ons oë. Dit is nie “daar,” maar in die neurone van die brein, as alles anders is. In die afwesigheid van lig in ons oë, daar is geen insette verteenwoordig te word, ergo geen heelal.

As ons die heelal modaliteite wat bedryf op ander spoed het gevoel (echo plek, byvoorbeeld), dit is die spoed wat gedink het in die fundamentele eienskappe van ruimte en tyd. Dit is die onafwendbare gevolgtrekking uit phenomenalism.

Die rol van die lig in die skep van ons werklikheid of heelal is in die hart van die Wes-godsdienstige denke. 'N heelal sonder lig is nie net 'n wêreld waar jy hom het die ligte af. Dit is inderdaad 'n heelal sonder self, 'n heelal wat nie bestaan ​​nie. Dit is in hierdie konteks dat ons die wysheid agter die stelling te verstaan ​​dat “die aarde was woes, en nietig” totdat God veroorsaak lig te wees, deur te sê “Laat daar lig wees.”

Die Koran sê ook, “Allah is die lig van die hemel en die aarde,” wat weerspieël word in een van die ou Hindoe geskrifte: “Lei my uit die duisternis na die lig, lei my uit die onwerklik om die werklike.” Die rol van die lig in die neem van ons van die onwerklik leemte (die niks) 'n werklikheid is inderdaad vir 'n lang verstaan, lang tyd. Is dit moontlik dat die antieke heiliges en profete geweet dinge wat ons nou eers begin te ontbloot met al ons veronderstel vooruitgang in kennis?

Ek weet ek kan gedruis in waar engele vrees om loopvlak, vir wending die Skrif is 'n gevaarlike spel. Sulke buitelandse interpretasies is selde welkom in die teologiese kringe. Maar ek soek skuiling in die feit dat ek is op soek na instemming in die metafisiese menings van geestelike filosofie, sonder benadeling van hul mistieke of teologiese waarde.

Die ooreenkomste tussen die noumenal-fenomenale onderskeid in phenomenalism en die Brahmaan-Maya onderskeid in Advaita is moeilik om te ignoreer. Hierdie tyd getoets wysheid op die aard van die werklikheid van die repertoire van spiritualiteit is nou herontdek in die moderne neuro, wat behandel werklikheid as 'n kognitiewe verteenwoordiging wat deur die brein. Die brein gebruik die sensoriese insette, geheue, bewussyn, en selfs taal as bestanddele in concocting ons sin van die werklikheid. Hierdie siening van die werklikheid, egter, is iets fisika nog te kom met. Maar tot die mate wat die arena (ruimte en tyd) is 'n deel van die werklikheid, fisika is nie immuun teen die filosofie.

As ons druk op die grense van ons kennis verder, ons is besig om tot nou toe ongekende en dikwels verrassende verbindings tussen die verskillende takke van die menslike pogings om te ontdek. In die finale analise, hoe kan die diverse domeine van ons kennis onafhanklik te wees van mekaar wanneer al ons kennis woon in ons brein? Kennis is 'n kognitiewe verteenwoordiging van ons ervarings. Maar dan, so is die werklikheid; dit is 'n kognitiewe verteenwoordiging van ons sensoriese insette. Dit is 'n dwaling om te dink dat die kennis is ons interne voorstelling van 'n eksterne werklikheid, en dus apart van dit. Kennis en realiteit is beide interne kognitiewe konstrukte, Hoewel ons het gekom om te dink van hulle as afsonderlike.

Erkenning en gebruik van die interkonneksies tussen die verskillende gebiede van die menslike strewe om dalk die katalisator vir die volgende deurbraak in ons kollektiewe wysheid wat ons wag vir wees.

Uncertainly Principle

The uncertainty principle is the second thing in physics that has captured the public imagination. (The first one is E=mc^2.) It says something seemingly straightforward — you can measure two complimentary properties of a system only to a certain precision. Byvoorbeeld, if you try to figure out where an electron is (measure its position, dit is) more and more precisely, its speed becomes progressively more uncertain (of, the momentum measurement becomes imprecise).

Where does this principle come from? Before we can ask that question, we have to examine what the principle really says. Here are a few possible interpretations:

  1. Position and momentum of a particle are intrinsically interconnected. As we measure the momentum more accurately, the particle kind of “spreads out,” as George Gamow’s character, Mnr. Tompkins, puts it. Met ander woorde, it is just one of those things; the way the world works.
  2. When we measure the position, we disturb the momentum. Our measurement probes are “too fat,” soos dit was. As we increase the position accuracy (by shining light of shorter wavelengths, byvoorbeeld), we disturb the momentum more and more (because shorter wavelength light has higher energy/momentum).
  3. Closely related to this interpretation is a view that the uncertainty principle is a perceptual limit.
  4. We can also think of the uncertainly principle as a cognitive limit if we consider that a future theory might surpass such limits.

Alle regte, the last two interpretations are my own, so we won’t discuss them in detail here.

The first view is currently popular and is related to the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. It is kind of like the closed statements of Hinduism — “Such is the nature of the Absolute,” byvoorbeeld. Accurate, mag wees. But of little practical use. Let’s ignore it for it is not too open to discussions.

The second interpretation is generally understood as an experimental difficulty. But if the notion of the experimental setup is expanded to include the inevitable human observer, we arrive at the third view of perceptual limitation. In hierdie siening, it is actually possible to “derive” the uncertainty principle.

Let’s assume that we are using a beam of light of wavelength \lambda to observe the particle. The precision in the position we can hope to achieve is of the order of \lambda. Met ander woorde, \Delta x \approx \lambda. In quantum mechanics, the momentum of each photon in the light beam is inversely proportional to the wavelength. At least one photon is reflected by the particle so that we can see it. So, by the classical conservation law, the momentum of the particle has to change by at least \Delta p \approx constant\lambda from what it was before the measurement. So, through perceptual arguments, we get something similar to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle \Delta x \Delta p = constant.

We can make this argument more rigorous, and get an estimate of the value of the constant. The resolution of a microscope is given by the empirical formula 0.61\lambda/NA, waar NA is the numerical aperture, which has a maximum value of one. So, the best spatial resolution is 0.61\lambda. Each photon in the light beam has a momentum 2\pi\hbar/\lambda, which is the uncertainty in the particle momentum. So we get \Delta x \Delta p = (0.61\lambda)(2\pi\hbar) \approx 4\hbar, approximately an order of magnitude bigger than the quantum mechanical limit. Through more rigorous statistical arguments, related to the spatial resolution and the expected momentum transferred, it may possible to derive the Heisenberg uncertainty principle through this line of reasoning.

If we consider the philosophical view that our reality is a cognitive model of our perceptual stimuli (which is the only view that makes sense to me), my fourth interpretation of the uncertainty principle being a cognitive limitation also holds a bit of water.

Reference

The latter part of this post is an excerpt from my book, Die onwerklik Heelal.

Zen en die kuns van die motor Onderhoud

Sodra, Ek het 'n paar bedenkinge oor my gesonde verstand. Na alles, As jy jouself bevraagteken die egtheid van die werklikheid, jy hoef te wonder — is dit die werklikheid wat onwerklik, of jou gesonde verstand?

Toe ek my kommer met hierdie filosofies geneig vriend van my, het sy my gerusgestel, “Gesonde verstand is oorskat.” Na die lees Zen en die kuns van die motor Onderhoud, Ek dink sy is reg. Miskien het sy nie ver genoeg gaan — mag wees waansin is weg onderskatte.

Zen en die kuns van die motor Onderhoud definieer waansin as die proses van 'n sterker buite mythos; mythos synde die somtotaal van ons gesamentlike kennis oorgedra deur die geslagte, die “gesonde verstand” wat voorafgaan logika. As die werklikheid is nie gesonde verstand, wat? En die onsekerheid oor die egtheid van die werklikheid, byna per definisie, is versterk buite die grense van mythos. So dit pas; my bekommernisse was inderdaad gegrond is.

Maar 'n goeie passing is geen waarborg van die “korrektheid” van 'n hipotese, as Zen en die kuns van die motor Onderhoud leer ons. Genoeg tyd gegee, ons kan kom altyd met 'n hipotese wat pas ons waarnemings. Die proses van hipotesestelling van waarnemings en ervarings is soos om te probeer om die aard van 'n voorwerp uit die skaduwee dit projekte te raai. En 'n projeksie is presies wat ons realiteit is — 'n projeksie van 'n onbekende vorme en prosesse in ons sensoriese en kognitiewe ruimte, in ons mythos en logos. Maar hier, I may be pushing my own agenda rather than the theme of the book. Maar dit beteken pas, dit nie doen nie? Dit is hoekom ek myself gemompel “Presies!” oor en oor tydens my drie lees van die boek, en die rede waarom ek sal dit lees baie meer kere in die toekoms. Kom ons herinner onsself weer, 'n goeie passing sê niks oor die korrektheid van 'n hipotese.

One such reasonable hypothesis of ours is about continuity We all assume the continuity of our personality or selfhood, which is a bit strange. I know that I am the same person I was twenty years ago — older certainly, wiser perhaps, but still the same person. But from science, I also know for a fact that every cell, every atom and every little fundamental particle in my body now is different from what constituted my body then. The potassium in the banana I ate two weeks ago is, for instance, what may be controlling the neuronal firing behind the thought process helping me write this essay. But it is still me, not the banana. We all assume this continuity because it fits.

Losing this continuity of personality is a scary thought. How scary it is is what Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance tells you. As usual, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

In order to write a decent review of this book, it is necessary to summarize the “story” (which is believed to be based on the author’s life). Like most great works of literature, the story flows inwards and outwards. Outwardly, it is a story of a father and son (Pirsig and Chris) across the vast open spaces of America on a motorbike. Inwardly, it is a spiritual journey of self-discovery and surprising realizations. At an even deeper level, it is a journey towards possible enlightenment rediscovered.

The story begins with Pirsig and Chris riding with John and Sylvia. Right at the first unpretentious sentence, “I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning,” it hit me that this was no ordinary book — the story is happening in the present tense. It is here and now — the underlying Zen-ness flows from the first short opening line and never stops.

The story slowly develops into the alienation between Chris and his father. The “father” comes across as a “selfish bastard,” as one of my friends observed.

The explanation for this disconnect between the father and the son soon follows. The narrator is not the father. He has the father’s body all right, but the real father had his personality erased through involuntary shock treatments. The doctor had reassured him that he had a new personality — not that he was a new personality.

The subtle difference makes ample sense once we realize that “he” and his “personality” are not two. And, to those of us how believe in the continuity of things like self-hood, it is a very scary statement. Personality is not something you have and wear, like a suit or a dress; it is what you are. If it can change, and you can get a new one, what does it say about what you think you are?

In Pirsig’s case, the annihilation of the old personality was not perfect. Besides, Chris was tagging along waiting for that personality to wake up. But awakening a personality is very different from waking a person up. It means waking up all the associated thoughts and ideas, insights and enlightenment. And wake up it does in this story — Phaedrus is back by the time we reach the last pages of the book.

What makes this book such a resounding success, (not merely in the market, but as an intellectual endeavor) are the notions and insights from Phaedrus that Pirsig manages to elicit. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is nothing short of a new way of looking at reality. It is a battle for the minds, yours and mine, and those yet to come.

Such a battle was waged and won ages ago, and the victors were not gracious and noble enough to let the defeated worldview survive. They used a deadly dialectical knife and sliced up our worldview into an unwieldy duality. The right schism, according to Phaedrus and/or Pirsig, would have been a trinity.

The trinity managed to survive, albeit feebly, as a vanquished hero, timid and self-effacing. We see it in the Bible, for instance, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We see it Hinduism, as its three main gods, and in Vedanta, a line of thought I am more at home with, as Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram — the Truth, ???, the Beauty. The reason why I don’t know what exactly Shivam means indicates how the battle for the future minds was won by the dualists.

It matters little that the experts in Vedanta and the Indian philosophical schools may know precisely what Shivam signifies. I for one, and the countless millions like me, will never know it with the clarity with which we know the other two terms — Sundaram and Satyam, beauty and truth, Maya and Brahman, aesthetics and metaphysics, mind and matter. The dualists have so completely annihilated the third entity that it does not even make sense now to ask what it is. They have won.

Phaedrus did ask the question, and found the answer to be Quality — something that sits in between mind and matter, between a romantic and a classical understanding of the world. Something that we have to and do experience before our intellect has a chance to process and analyze it. Zen.

However, in doing so, Phaedrus steps outside our mythos, and is hence insane.

If insanity is Zen, then my old friend was right. Sanity is way overrated.

Photo by MonsieurLui

Perception, Physics and the Role of Light in Philosophy

Reality, as we sense it, is not quite real. The stars we see in the night sky, for instance, are not really there. They may have moved or even died by the time we get to see them. This unreality is due to the time it takes for light from the distant stars and galaxies to reach us. We know of this delay.

Even the sun that we know so well is already eight minutes old by the time we see it. This fact does not seem to present particularly grave epistemological problems – if we want to know what is going on at the sun now, all we have to do is to wait for eight minutes. We only have to ‘correct’ for the distortions in our perception due to the finite speed of light before we can trust what we see. The same phenomenon in seeing has a lesser-known manifestation in the way we perceive moving objects. Some heavenly bodies appear as though they are moving several times the speed of light, whereas their ‘real’ speed must be a lot less than that.

What is surprising (and seldom highlighted) is that when it comes to sensing motion, we cannot back-calculate in the same kind of way as we can to correct for the delay in observation of the sun. If we see a celestial body moving at an improbably high speed, we cannot calculate how fast or even in what direction it is ‘really’ moving without first having to make certain further assumptions.

Einstein chose to resolve the problem by treating perception as distorted and inventing new fundamental properties in the arena of physics – in the description of space and time. One core idea of the Special Theory of Relativity is that the human notion of an orderly sequence of events in time needs to be abandoned. In fact, since it takes time for light from an event at a distant place to reach us, and for us to become aware of it, the concept of ‘now’ no longer makes any sense, for example, when we speak of a sunspot appearing on the surface of the sun just at the moment that the astronomer was trying to photograph it. Simultaneity is relative.

Einstein instead redefined simultaneity by using the instants in time we detect the event. Detection, as he defined it, involves a round-trip travel of light similar to radar detection. We send out a signal travelling at the speed of light, and wait for the reflection. If the reflected pulse from two events reaches us at the same instant, then they are simultaneous. But another way of looking at it is simply to call two events ‘simultaneous’ if the light from them reaches us at the same instant. In other words, we can use the light generated by the objects under observation rather than sending signals to them and looking at the reflection.

This difference may sound like a hair-splitting technicality, but it does make an enormous difference to the predictions we can make. Einstein’s choice results in a mathematical picture that has many desirable properties, including that of making further theoretical development more elegant. But then, Einstein believed, as a matter of faith it would seem, that the rules governing the universe must be ‘elegant.’ However, the other approach has an advantage when it comes to describing objects in motion. Because, of course, we don’t use radar to see the stars in motion; we merely sense the light (or other radiation) coming from them. Yet using this kind of sensory paradigm, rather than ‘radar-like detection,’ to describe the universe results in an uglier mathematical picture. Einstein would not approve!

The mathematical difference spawns different philosophical stances, which in turn percolate to the understanding of our physical picture of reality. As an illustration, suppose we observe, through a radio telescope, two objects in the sky, with roughly the same shape, size and properties. The only thing we know for sure is that the radio waves from these two different points in the sky reach us at the same instant in time. We can only guess when the waves started their journeys.

If we assume (as we routinely do) that the waves started the journey roughly at the same instant in time, we end up with a picture of two ‘real’ symmetric lobes more or less the way see them. But there is another, different possibility and that is that the waves originated from the same object (which is in motion) at two different instants in time, reaching the telescope at the same instant. This possibility would additionally explain some spectral and temporal properties of such symmetric radio sources. So which of these two pictures should we take as real? Two symmetric objects as we see them or one object moving in such a way as to give us that impression? Does it really matter which one is ‘real’? Does ‘real’ mean anything in this context?

Special Relativity gives an unambiguous answer to this question. The mathematics rules out the possibility of a single object moving in such a fashion as to mimic two objects. Essentially, what we see is what is out there. Yet, if we define events by what we perceive, the only philosophical stance that makes sense is the one that disconnects the sensed reality from the causes lying behind what is being sensed.

This disconnect is not uncommon in philosophical schools of thought. Phenomenalism, for instance, holds the view that space and time are not objective realities. They are merely the medium of our perception. All the phenomena that happen in space and time are merely bundles of our perception. In other words, space and time are cognitive constructs arising from perception. Thus, all the physical properties that we ascribe to space and time can only apply to the phenomenal reality (the reality of ‘things-in-the-world’ as we sense it. The underlying reality (which holds the physical causes of our perception), by contrast, remains beyond our cognitive reach.

Yet there is a chasm between the views of philosophy and modern physics. Not for nothing did the Nobel Prize winning physicist, Steven Weinberg, wonder, in his book Dreams of a Final Theory, why the contribution from philosophy to physics had been so surprisingly small. Perhaps it is because physics has yet to come to terms with the fact that when it comes to seeing the universe, there is no such thing as an optical illusion – which is probably what Goethe meant when he said, ‘Optical illusion is optical truth.’

The distinction (or lack thereof) between optical illusion and truth is one of the oldest debates in philosophy. After all, it is about the distinction between knowledge and reality. Knowledge is considered our view about something that, in reality, is ‘actually the case.’ In other words, knowledge is a reflection, or a mental image of something external, as shown in the figure below.

ExternalToBrain

In this picture, the black arrow represents the process of creating knowledge, which includes perception, cognitive activities, and the exercise of pure reason. This is the picture that physics has come to accept. While acknowledging that our perception may be imperfect, physics assumes that we can get closer and closer to the external reality through increasingly finer experimentation, and, more importantly, through better theorization. The Special and General Theories of Relativity are examples of brilliant applications of this view of reality where simple physical principles are relentlessly pursued using formidable machine of pure reason to their logically inevitable conclusions.

But there is another, alternative view of knowledge and reality that has been around for a long time. This is the view that regards perceived reality as an internal cognitive representation of our sensory inputs, as illustrated below.

AbsolutelToBrain

In this view, knowledge and perceived reality are both internal cognitive constructs, although we have come to think of them as separate. What is external is not the reality as we perceive it, but an unknowable entity giving rise to the physical causes behind sensory inputs. In the illustration, the first arrow represents the process of sensing, and the second arrow represents the cognitive and logical reasoning steps. In order to apply this view of reality and knowledge, we have to guess the nature of the absolute reality, unknowable as it is. One possible candidate for the absolute reality is Newtonian mechanics, which gives a reasonable prediction for our perceived reality.

To summarize, when we try to handle the distortions due to perception, we have two options, or two possible philosophical stances. One is to accept the distortions as part of our space and time, as Special Relativity does. The other option is to assume that there is a ‘higher’ reality distinct from our sensed reality, whose properties we can only conjecture. In other words, one option is to live with the distortion, while the other is to propose educated guesses for the higher reality. Neither of these choices is particularly attractive. But the guessing path is similar to the view accepted in phenomenalism. It also leads naturally to how reality is viewed in cognitive neuroscience, which studies the biological mechanisms behind cognition.

The twist to this story of light and reality is that we seem to have known all this for a long time. The role of light in creating our reality or universe is at the heart of Western religious thinking. A universe devoid of light is not simply a world where you have switched off the lights. It is indeed a universe devoid of itself, a universe that doesn’t exist. It is in this context that we have to understand the wisdom behind the statement that ‘the earth was without form, and void’ until God caused light to be, by saying ‘Let there be light.’

The Koran also says, ‘Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth,’ which is mirrored in one of the ancient Hindu writings: ‘Lead me from darkness to light, lead me from the unreal to the real.’ The role of light in taking us from the unreal void (the nothingness) to a reality was indeed understood for a long, long time. Is it possible that the ancient saints and prophets knew things that we are only now beginning to uncover with all our supposed advances in knowledge?

There are parallels between the noumenal-phenomenal distinction of Kant and the phenomenalists later, and the Brahman-Maya distinction in Advaita. Wisdom on the nature of reality from the repertoire of spirituality is reinvented in modern neuroscience, which treats reality as a cognitive representation created by the brain. The brain uses the sensory inputs, memory, consciousness, and even language as ingredients in concocting our sense of reality. This view of reality, however, is something physics is still unable to come to terms with. But to the extent that its arena (space and time) is a part of reality, physics is not immune to philosophy.

In fact, as we push the boundaries of our knowledge further and further, we are discovering hitherto unsuspected and often surprising interconnections between different branches of human efforts. Yet, how can the diverse domains of our knowledge be independent of each other if all knowledge is subjective? If knowledge is merely the cognitive representation of our experiences? But then, it is the modern fallacy to think that knowledge is our internal representation of an external reality, and therefore distinct from it. Instead, recognising and making use of the interconnections among the different domains of human endeavour may be the essential prerequisite for the next stage in developing our collective wisdom.

Box: Einstein’s TrainOne of Einstein’s famous thought experiments illustrates the need to rethink what we mean by simultaneous events. It describes a high-speed train rushing along a straight track past a small station as a man stands on the station platform watching it speed by. To his amazement, as the train passes him, two lightening bolts strike the track next to either end of the train! (Conveniently, for later investigators, they leave burn marks both on the train and on the ground.)

To the man, it seems that the two lightening bolts strike at exactly the same moment. Later, the marks on the ground by the train track reveal that the spots where the lightening struck were exactly equidistant from him. Since then the lightening bolts travelled the same distance towards him, and since they appeared to the man to happen at exactly the same moment, he has no reason not to conclude that the lightening bolts struck at exactly the same moment. They were simultaneous.

However, suppose a little later, the man meets a lady passenger who happened to be sitting in the buffet car, exactly at the centre of the train, and looking out of the window at the time the lightening bolts struck. This passenger tells him that she saw the first lightening bolt hit the ground near the engine at the front of the train slightly ahead of when the second one hit the ground next to the luggage car at the rear of the train.

The effect has nothing to do with the distance the light had to travel, as both the woman and the man were equidistant between the two points that the lightening hit. Yet they observed the sequence of events quite differently.

This disagreement of the timing of the events is inevitable, Einstein says, as the woman is in effect moving towards the point where the flash of lightening hit near the engine -and away from the point where the flash of lightening hit next to the luggage car. In the tiny amount of time it takes for the light rays to reach the lady, because the train moves, the distance the first flash must travel to her shrinks, and the distance the second flash must travel grows.

This fact may not be noticed in the case of trains and aeroplanes, but when it comes to cosmological distances, simultaneity really doesn’t make any sense. For instance, the explosion of two distant supernovae, seen as simultaneous from our vantage point on the earth, will appear to occur in different time combinations from other perspectives.

In Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1920), Einstein put it this way:

‘Every reference-body (co-ordinate system) has its own particular time; unless we are told the reference-body to which the statement of time refers, there is no meaning in a statement of the time of an event.’

The Story So Far …

In the early sixties, Santa Kumari Amma decided to move to the High Ranges. She had recently started working with KSEB which was building a hydro-electric project there.The place was generically called the High Ranges, even though the ranges weren’t all that high. People told her that the rough and tough High Ranges were no place for a country girl like her, but she wanted to go anyways, prompted mainly by the fact that there was some project allowance involved and she could use any little bit that came her way. Her family was quite poor. She came from a small village called Murani (near a larger village called Mallappalli.)

Around the same time B. Thulasidas (better known as Appu) also came to the High Ranges. His familty wasn’t all that poor and he didn’t really need the extra money. But he thought, hey rowdy place anyway, what the heck? Well, to make a long story short, they fell in love and decided to get married. This was some time in September 1962. A year later Sandya was born in Nov 63. And a little over another year and I came to be! (This whole stroy, by the way, is taking place in the state of Kerala in India. Well, that sentence was added just to put the links there, just in case you are interested.) There is a gorgeous hill resort called Munnar (meaning three rivers) where my parents were employed at that time and that’s where I was born.

 [casual picture] Just before 1970, they (and me, which makes it we I guess) moved to Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. I lived in Trivandrum till I was 17. Lots of things happened in those years, but since this post is still (and always will be) work in progress, I can’t tell you all about it now.

In 1983, I moved to Madras, to do my BTech in Electronics and Communication at IIT, Madras. (They call the IITs the MIT of India, only much harder to get in. In my batch, there were about 75,000 students competing for about 2000 places. I was ranked 63 among them. I’m quite smart academically, you see.) And as you can imagine, lots of things happened in those four years as well. But despite all that, I graduated in August 1987 and got my BTech degree.

In 1987, after finishing my BTech, I did what most IITians are supposed to do. I moved to the states. Upstate New York was my destination. I joined the Physics Department of Syracuse University to do my PhD in High Energy Physics. And boy, did a lot of things happen during those 6 years! Half of those 6 years were spent at Cornell University in Ithaca.

That was in Aug. 1987. Then in 1993 Sept, the prestigious French national research organization ( CNRS – “Centre national de la recherche scientifique”) hired me. I moved to France to continue my research work at ALEPH, CERN. My destination in France was the provencal city of Marseilles. My home institute was “Centre de Physique des Particules de Marseille” or CPPM. Of course, I didn’t speak a word of French, but that didn’t bother me much. (Before going to the US in 1987, I didn’t speak much English/Americanese either.)

End of 1995, on the 29th of Dec, I got married to Kavita. In early 1996, Kavita also moved to France. Kavita wasn’t too happy in France because she felt she could do much more in Singapore. She was right. Kavita is now an accomplished entrepreneur with two boutiques in Singapore and more business ideas than is good for her. She has won many awards and is a minor celebrity with the Singapore media. [Wedding picture]

In 1998, I got a good offer from what is now the Institute for Infocomm Research and we decided to move to Singapore. Among the various personal reasons for the move, I should mention that the smell of racisim in the Marseilles air was one. Although every individual I personally met in France was great, I always had a nagging feeling that every one I did not meet wanted me out of there. This feeling was further confirmed by the immigration clerks at the Marignane airport constantly asking me to “Mettez-vous a cote, monsieur” and occassionally murmuring “les francais d’abord.”  [Anita Smiles]

A week after I moved to Singapore, on the 24rth of July 1998, Anita was born. Incredibly cute and happy, Anita rearranged our priorities and put things in perspective. Five years later, on the 2nd of May 2003, Neil was born. He proved to be even more full of smiles.  [Neil Smiles more!]

In Singapore, I worked on a lot of various body-based measurements generating several patents and papers. Towards the end of my career with A-Star, I worked on brain signals, worrying about how to make sense of them and make them talk directly to a computer. This research direction influenced my thinking tremendously, though not in a way my employer would’ve liked. I started thinking about the role of perception in our world view and, consequently, in the theories of physics. I also realized how these ideas were not isolated musings, but were atriculated in various schools of philosophy. This line of thinking eventually ended up in my book, The Unreal Universe.

Towards the second half of 2005, I decided to chuck research and get into quantitative finance, which is an ideal domain for a cash-strapped physicist. It turned out that I had some skills and aptitudes that were mutually lucrative to my employers and myself. My first job was as the head of the quantitative analyst team at OCBC, a regional bank in Singapore. This middle office job, involving risk management and curtailing ebullient traders, gave me a thorough overview of pricing models and, perhaps more importantly, perfect understanding of the conflict-driven implementation of the risk appetite of the bank.

 [Dad] Later on, in 2007, I moved to Standard Chartered Bank, as a senior quantitative professional taking care of their in-house trading platform, which further enhanced my "big picture" outlook and inspired me to write Principles of Quantitative Development. I am rather well recognized in my field, and as a regular columnist for the Wilmott Magazine, I have published several articles on a variety of topics related to quants and quantitative finance, which is probably why John Wiley & Sons Ltd. asked me to write this book.

Despite these professional successes, on the personal front, 2008 has been a year of sadness. I lost my father on the 22nd of October. The death of a parent is a rude wake-up call. It brings about feelings of loss and pain that are hard to understand, and impossible to communicate. And for those of us with little gift of easy self-expression, they linger for longer than they perhaps should.