Discussion on the Daily Mail (UK)

3 August, 2006

Posted by: manojtd on 03/08/06 at 04:41 PM

Thanks for discussing my book in this forum. I was pleasantly surprised to chance upon it during a Web search.What you summarized as what I meant to say is partially correct. The fact that what we see is the state of the universe in the past owing to the light travel time is what I would call a first order effect. A second order effect is the way we perceive motion. This effect was, in fact, known for about forty years now; I believe the first paper on this was by the renowned astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees in 1966. In my article, I showed that an extension of this argument can explain certain strange astrophysical phenomena like GRB’s and DRAGN’s. I also touched upon the philosophical implication of the fact that we cannot always deduce what is out there from what we see.I’m sorry that the response to your attempt to discuss my work was quite dismissive.

patapreto wrote:

One does not need to ead past this sentence –

The theories of physics are a description of reality. Reality is created out of the readings from our senses. Knowing that our senses all work using light as an intermediary, is it a surprise that the speed of light is of fundamental importance in our reality?

to realisethat tis web site is complete ignorant hokum. I stopped at that point.

I would like to know why he came to that realization. Mind you, I’m not trying to challenge him or anything. I could probably use any constructive criticism he may have in improving my work.

In a later post, patapreto seemed to suggest that I lacked credibility for this kind of work, saying that I worked for a bank. It’s true that I’m only an amateur when it comes to philosophy: I don’t have any formal training or education in it. In physics, however, I have a PhD from Syracuse University. I worked with the CLEO II collaboration at Cornell and the ALEPH collaboration at CERN for over ten years before switching to studies in brain signals and interfacing them to computers (hence my interest in cognitive neuroscience). I later left scientific research for personal reasons — a quantitative analyst in a decent bank makes quite a bit more money than an average scientist.

I apologize for this intrusion, but I thought I would step in and defend myself a bit and, hopefully, learn something that may be useful. If you have any comments or suggestions or criticism about my book, please contact me. I do have some ideas about Qi, but I suspect I may not be able to bring anything worthwhile to your discussion.

Thanks again for your interest in my work.

4 August, 2006

Posted by: kekapania on 04/08/06 at 12:16 PM

Hi Manoj. Hope that your post gets a full airing – its appeared in the middle of the thread and requires a bit of hunting for.I’m taking time out from the active discussion at the moment (cheeky, I know, as I started it!) mainly because I really need to get some work done and all this is far too much of an interesting temptation 🙂 partially because I feel I should get up to scratch on the physics side of things before jumping in further.Well done for escaping to a well paid job! I keep telling myself I won’t do that but it can seem very tempting at times :).

Hopefully Pato will come back with some constructive criticism for you. In the meantime, don’t worry about intruding – join in! :)

K x

Posted by: manojtd on 04/08/06 at 03:43 PM

Thanks for the welcoming message, K x! I’m looking forward to hearing from Pato as to why he thought so poorly of my work. I can understand his skepticism though; because of the information overload from the Internet, you have to make a quick assessment about the credibility of anything that you encounter. In his shoes, I would’ve probably done exactly the same thing — a quick look at the page, a glance at the credentials before deciding whether I want to invest more of my time and effort on it.

About Qi, I’m a little scared of sharing my views here, but here goes: I think the concepts of Qi and the five-element system in the traditional Indian medicine are metaphors for some deeper understanding or knowledge that we (mankind, I mean) have lost over the centuries. These metaphors may look a little silly to us now because they are viewed without the benefit of their context. They are like the concepts of force and fields and quarks and such in physics. These physical concepts appear real to us, and we readily accept their validity only because we live in an age when these concepts are actively taught. They have their context and connotations built into our commonsense. Qi and other such metaphors, by contrast, don’t. I have a idea why some people may be able to sense Qi more easily than others (whatever Qi may be) based on some experiments done on a syndrome called blindsight. I discussed it in my book The Unreal Universe, I can cut and paste the discussion here, if there is interest.

– Best regards,
– Manoj

Posted by: patopreto on 04/08/06 at 04:03 PM

Hi Manoj and welcome.I want to reply in full but things are a bit hectic – but I will try to give a very brief summary of why I am skeptical of your writings. The quote you have just given sums it up for me:

These physical concepts appear real to us, and we readily accept their validity only because we live in an age when these concepts are actively taught.

The reality of physical fields and particles have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are taught. They have much more relevance than QI because there is evidence for them. These concepts are valid because they correspond to the real world.

Evidence is the key word.

As a particle physicist, you must surely appreciate the extraordinary predictive power of the mathematical frameworks that describe these fields and particles. When we look in nature, our predictions, based on the theory, matches to an amazing degree what we observe in nature.

Qi has no theory. It has no predictive properties. It is unfalsifiable. It is unscientific.

You appear to focus of concepts that imply that reality is created by the mind – not the other way around. That is why I have rejected what you say as solipsistic and a philosophy that can only lead to its own self-destruction.

5 August, 2006

Posted by: manojtd on 05/08/06 at 02:40 AM

Hi Manoj and welcome.

Thanks, Pato!

Whn we look in nature, our predictions, based on the theory, matches to an amazing degree what we observe in nature.

It’s not very clear if particles are real or just mathematical constructs capable of prediction. Most physicists think of particles as real, but about fields, some of them think of them as constructs. When it comes to quarks, still more of them consider them merely mathematical models. In one of his books, Richard Feynman, after having developed the most successful theory about electrons, wondered if the electron was real or just a mathematical construct. I guess it boils down to what we mean by “real.” If we naively define real (for the purpose of determining the reality of particles and fields) as something like matter, then clearly constituents of matter (having no properties of matter) are not real. But if we define real as a model with accurate predictive power, then these mathematical constructs are real.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think your definition is probably closer to the latter. In that case, one would have to accept Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe also as real because it could predict eclipses with remarkable accuracy.

This may sound like I’m putting Qi and particles and fields at the same level of scientific validity, which is not true. My point is more like the concepts in modern science and concepts like Qi are models (or metaphors) for conveying some understanding or knowledge. I don’t know much about Qi. (I tried to rectify that a couple of years ago by practicing Aikido because it talked about the harmony between the inner energy and the energy of the universe – to my mind, again a metaphor, which I wanted to understand. Unfortunately, due to time pressures, I had to drop it.)

But I can give you some anecdotal evidence for the five-element system in traditional Indian medicine (call it TIM for short). TIM has a remarkable cure for jaundice (I believe hepatitis A, I’m not sure). I know this herbal concoction works because I have seen it work on my sister long time ago. If you asked a TIM practitioner how this thing works, he would say something like, “Simple, jaundice is an excess of the fourth element. We need to maintain a balance between the five elements. We know that this herb brings down the fourth element. For some other malady, which is an elevation of the second and the fourth element together, we would give this herb plus some other herb.”

Now, we know that this explanation is wrong, because we know that hepatitis A is caused by a virus. But this explanation as a metaphor works. If you think about it, this metaphor is the only tool they had when they developed the herbal medicine system. How did they know that a particular herb would work for a particular disease? It’s not like they could do a controlled clinical study to figure out which herb worked for what disease. They had to have some other understanding or knowledge which they passed on through the metaphor. Unfortunately, the knowledge is lost, but the metaphor survived.

Qi is almost certainly some such metaphor, the relevance of which is not obvious to us. If my understanding is correct, this metaphor also works to the extent acupuncture works. To summarize, in my opinion, Qi and the concepts in physics are similar only in the sense that they are all metaphors, not in terms of the depth of their scientific basis or validity (that we are aware of).

You appear to focus of concepts that imply that reality is created by the mind – not the other way around. That is why I have rejected what you say as solipsistic and a philosphy that can only lead to its own self-distruction.

In my book (The Unreal Universe), I thought of reality (including mind) as a construction of the brain based on sensory inputs. I then pointed out that all our senses, being electromagnetic in their workings, operate using light as a long range transmitter or photon as a short range (virtual boson) intermediary. From there, I argued that the finite speed of the intermediary should have a manifestation in our reality, which I argued was the reason for the specialness of light in our reality.

I can vaguely understand why you say that the philosophical backing of this argument is unsound. Is it because the brain and the sensory inputs also are a part of the reality that the brain is creating? I mean, like a cyclic dependency? Is there some other formal reason why my solipsist philosophy is certain to fail? BTW, solipsisms is something new I learned from you :)

Thanks for taking the time to go through my Web site and to think about it,

– Best regards,
– Manoj