Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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If Science Were Just Bookkeeping, Fine-Tuning Wouldn’t Matter

Astrophysicist Marcelo Gleiser wishes we would just quit asking questions about why the universe is fine-tuned — as if we could…

Both science and science fiction are better off in a fine-tuned universe where the laws really govern and make sense. That is, they can be discovered by minds because they are the product of a Mind, whether that Mind is understood in traditional religious terms, in panpsychist terms, or some other terms. That seems to be the universe we live in and it is deeply unsettling to many prominent minds in science, including Dartmouth College theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser. He took a run at the problem at Big Think earlier this month, making clear that he thinks that we are being forced into an unnecessary choice: It is common to hear that we live in a “Goldilocks Universe,” perfectly tuned Read More ›

AI generated view of the multiverse

The Multiverse: Better in Fiction Than in Real Life?

The multiverse may be “unscientific nonsense” or a “religious” belief, as some physicists assert but the rules of storytelling are not the laws of nature

Along with time travel, the multiverse is a frequent plot device in science fiction. TV Tropes explains how it works like this: A collection of distinct universes exists, said universes often being interconnected in a way that allows characters to travel to and from them. It might be as a tourist who just goes to look and tries not to change anything, or as a participant who goes in and interacts with the people in the other universe. The multiverse, also known as the megaverse, omniverse, or outerverse can encompass an infinite number of possible and impossible “moments”, some of these linked by tidy and coherent timelines. But there may also be an equal or even greater number of incoherent, Read More ›

Brain under water 3D render, subconscious mental life and brainstorm idea.

Why are eccentric theories of consciousness tolerated?

Even prominent theorists have held eccentric theories of consciousness. It stems from the apparent impossibility of deriving human consciousness from the material substances of the brain

A couple of days ago, we looked at Andréa Morris’s profile in Forbes of prominent physicist Roger Penrose who struggles to align a theory of consciousness with physics. In the article, she contrasts his views with those of University of California cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman. Penrose is, in the end, a committed physicalist (“Whatever consciousness is, he’s convinced it can be explained by the laws of physics”). But Hoffman is quite a different story. As the title of his 2019 book — The Case Against Reality: How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes (Penguin, August 2019) — suggests, he is a huge fan of evolution. But, surprisingly perhaps, he is not a physicalist, as prominent evolution fans typically are. Read More ›

Charting Consciousness.

Can Roger Penrose Explain Consciousness Through Physics?

The Nobel Laureate physicist makes clear that he only wants a theory of human consciousness if the explanation comes down to physics

Nobel Physics Laureate Roger Penrose was featured recently in Forbes on a topic of lifelong interest for him, consciousness. He is convinced that a solution to the famously hard problem of consciousness lies in physics, particularly in fundamental physics. The central problem in quantum mechanics — the physics of the very smallest particles of our universe — is that they exist only in a probable state until they are measured. That has led to a variety of interesting theories, including the thesis that such collapses generate alternative universes and the thesis that the measurement actually causes the collapse. Penrose, who has been working with anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff on a theory of consciousness (Orch OR) for decades, has little use for Read More ›

starry night sky. only sky, mountains and stars.

Does the Evidence for Our Universe’s Fine-Tuning Mean Anything?

Why is a divine Mind not “scientific” if the evidence points in that direction?

Fermilab senior scientist Don Lincoln offers some thoughts at Big Think on why the universe appears fine-tuned for life. He begins by offering evidence: Suppose that the mass of the electron is twice as big as it is now. If that were true, the main fusion process in most stars wouldn’t work. Because stars are the kilns in which heavy elements are formed, some of the familiar elements of the periodic table wouldn’t exist at all. -Don Lincoln, “Why does the Universe appear fine-tuned for life to exist?” Big Think, October 7, 2023, Well then, we couldn’t exist. Similar examples abound, of course. But when we get to “why?” these things are so, Lincoln can’t seem to choose. He dismisses Read More ›

View of universe with stars and amazing colorful and deep blue dark

The Universe and its Mathematical Structure

Do humans project mathematics upon nature or vice versa?

This past June, we published an article featuring a conversation between physicist Lawrence Krauss and novelist Cormac McCarthy, where they discussed whether mathematics was “discovered or invented.” Robert J. Marks went on to write his own thoughts on the question shortly thereafter. If you’re further interested in mathematics and whether there is an actual correspondence between math and the natural world, consider watching new podcast episode featuring Dr. Melissa Cain Travis. Do humans project mathematical order onto nature? Or was it there all along? On a new episode of ID the Future, I conclude a three-part conversation with Dr. Melissa Cain Travis about her recent book Thinking God’s Thoughts: Johannes Kepler and the Miracle of Cosmic Comprehensibility.  In Part 3, we look Read More ›

abstract scene of overcoming the temporary space

The Big Bang: Last Summer, Doubt Suddenly Exploded. Why?

Why did a story that cast doubt on the Big Bang quickly go viral about a year ago? An experimental physicist offers some thoughts

Earlier this month, we learned from the National Academy of Sciences that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is prompting a rethink of how galaxies form. Experimental physicist Rob Sheldon wrote to comment that “The doubts about ‘galaxy formation’ are trickling upwards into mainstream channels.” There is talk of the JWST observations as a “watershed moment,” of dark energy and dark matter failing, and … while theorists are not quite at the point yet of criticizing the Big Bang model itself, that’s certainly not as implausible now as it might have seemed a decade ago. Many People Seem to Harbor Doubts About the Big Bang Well, we do live in unsettled times. Roughly a year ago (August 13, 2022), I Read More ›

isaac newton and the apple
Law of Universal Gravitation education funny concept. Isaac Newton under an apple tree

Blinded by a Defunct Theory

The "interaction problem" is everywhere we look in physics, but the dogma of materialism remains

Materialism. What a weird word. It sounds like a ghost, materializing in front of me. And it is sort of like a ghost, one that has mysteriously taken over the minds of many intelligent people. Because they believe in materialism, these smart people don’t believe in ghosts. Especially the ghost in the machine. The problem is there is no way for the ghost to interact with the machine. This is known as the “mind-body interaction problem”.  The great thing about materialism is at least that theory doesn’t have an interaction problem. Any material thing can interact with any other material thing. Yet there is a deep irony. Let’s explore the idea of materialism to see why. Materialism is the idea that reality only consists of matter. Read More ›

Amazing Exoplanets

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 19

One current focus for exoplanet research is on the way life is known to alters its environment in order to remain in existence — the Gaian Habitable Zone

In our universe: “Billions of celestial objects revealed in gargantuan survey of the Milky Way”: “The new dataset contains a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects—arguably the largest such catalog so far”: “Most of the stars and dust in the Milky Way are located in its disk—the bright band stretching across this image—in which the spiral arms lie. While this profusion of stars and dust makes for beautiful images, it also makes the Galactic plane challenging to observe. The dark tendrils of dust seen threading through this image absorb starlight and blot out fainter stars entirely, and the light from diffuse nebulae interferes with any attempts to measure the brightness of individual objects. Another challenge arises from the sheer number of Read More ›

Butterfly on a glass ball on the beach refecting the lake and sky

Physicist: Life After Death Is Incompatible With Physics

In 2011, Sean Carroll wrote an essay for Scientific American on why — from a science perspective — our minds must be extinguished at death

Back in 2011, particle physicist Sean M. Carroll wrote a guest blog at Scientific American, dismissing the idea of life after death or the immortality of the soul. He began by responding to astrophysicist Adam Frank’s reflections at NPR: For myself I remain fully and firmly agnostic on the question. If ever there was a place where firm convictions seem misplaced this is it. There simply is no controlled, experimental verifiable information to support either the “you rot” vs. “you go on” positions. In the absence of said information we are all free to believe as we like but, I would argue, it behooves us to remember that truly “public” knowledge on the subject — the kind science exemplifies — Read More ›

3D illustration of Escher's inspired stairs

How Surreal Artist MC Escher Influenced Physicist Roger Penrose

Escher’s mathematical art was all the more remarkable because he had no formal training in mathematics

Last month, Robert Lawrence Kuhn interviewed eminent British mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose on a number of topics, including the influence of surrealist artist M. C. Escher (December 9, 2022/32:00 min). Here is a transcribed selection from the second part of the discussion in Part 1 above*, beginning around the 12-minute mark, with some notes: Robert Lawrence Kuhn: We talked about the impossible Penrose triangle which really opens up another area of your life in terms of visual representations of remarkable things. Penrose tiling really new ways of thing of seeing visual representation of fiery fundamental geometric and algebraic transformations and things. But what I wanted to ask you is, as youdeveloped that you had this interaction with the artist Read More ›

Lost and confused man walks puzzled on a penrose triangle. Perplexed person looks disoriented ahead, don't know which way to choose. Surreal and conceptual scene, mental maze, optical illusion

Nobelist Roger Penrose Talks About His Impossible Triangle

At Closer to Truth, the mathematical physicist explains to Robert Lawrence Kuhn how he understands the relationship between mathematics, the mind, and the physical world

Last month, Robert Lawrence Kuhn interviewed eminent British mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose on the relationship between mathematics, the mind, and the physical universe (December 9, 2022/32:00 min). Penrose likes to illustrate the relationship between the three with an “impossible” triangle (see below). Here are a couple of transcribed selections from the first part of the discussion in Part 1*, concerning the Penrose Triangle, with some notes: Robert Lawrence Kuhn: Let’s start with your grand metaphysical framework, your three worlds — three mysteries: the physical world, the mental world, the platonic or mathematical world — each connected to the other two in your famous diagram of an equilateral triangle. What’s the origin of this vision of yours of foundational reality? Read More ›

photorealistic smoke sim in a sci-fi/knolling case - AI Generated

A Physicist Rejects the Idea That We Live in a Sim Universe

At IAI News, Marcelo Gleiser worries that the claim that we are simulated beings with no free will reduces our ability to tackle the problems humanity faces

Dartmouth College physicist Marcelo Gleiser insists that the reality in which we live is not a simulation by advanced aliens or other intelligences — and that the fact that it isn’t is important. As the summary of his essay at IAI News explains, The idea that we are living in a simulation has become commonplace. Elon Musk, for example, thinks it is almost certain we are living in a simulation. But the simulation hypothesis comes up against insurmountable problems, and is, in the end, an excuse for us not to sort out our real moral failings… Marcelo Gleiser, “Reality is not a simulation and why it matters” at IAI News (January 4, 2023) The “simulation” idea may sound pretty far-fetched Read More ›

Lunar base illustration

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 17

Interest in moon exploration and bases is growing and it turns out there is more water there (carried by the solar wind) than thought

In our universe: We’re always learning new things now. The universe “has 2−3× more light than expected from the integrated light from galaxies” “According to new measurements by New Horizons, the light coming from stars beyond the Milky Way is two to three times brighter than the light from known populations of galaxies – meaning that there are even more out there than we thought! – Matt Williams, Universe Today, (December 24, 2022) The paper is open access. While we’re here, rogue stars may be even older than we thought: “”We don’t exactly know what made them homeless. Current theories cannot explain our results, but somehow they were produced in large quantities in the early universe,” James Jee, an astronomer Read More ›

The Big Bang

James Webb Space Telescope Shows Big Bang Didn’t Happen? Wait…

The unexpected new data coming back from the telescope are inspiring panic among astronomers

This story was #1 in 2022 at Mind Matters News in terms of reader numbers. As we approach the New Year, we are rerunning the top ten stories of 2022, based on reader interest. In “James Webb Space Telescope shows Big Bang didn’t happen? Wait…”, our News division looked at reports that the unexpected new data coming back from the telescope were inspiring panic among astronomers: Webb was expected to merely confirm the Standard Model of the universe but its images are “surprisingly smooth, surprisingly small and surprisingly old.” (August 13, 2022) Our view at the time: 1) It’s no surprise if the Webb disconfirmed some widely accepted assumptions. New vistas do that. In fact, that’s how we know for Read More ›

Glowing huge nebula with young stars. Space background

Has a Superintellect Monkeyed With Our Universe’s Physics?

Groundbreaking astronomer Fred Hoyle was a staunch atheist but then he tried showing that carbon, essential to life, could form easily…

This story was #2 in 2022 at Mind Matters News in terms of reader numbers. As we approach the New Year, we are rerunning the top ten stories of 2022, based on reader interest. In “Has a superintellect monkeyed with our universe’s physics?” (August 14, 2022), our News division looked at the remarkable way that the physics of our universe enables life: Groundbreaking astronomer Fred Hoyle was a staunch atheist but then he tried showing that carbon, essential to life, could form easily… It got worse: To form carbon at all, gravitational forces must be balanced just right with the electromagnetic forces. That’s just the start… https://episodes.castos.com/id/91f5535b-1f52-41d8-ab90-d87ff21a6be1-IDTF-1632-StephenMeyer-God-Multiverse.mp3 Stephen C. Meyer: Now, some of the most important fine tuning parameters were Read More ›

4D Hypercube Tesseract Array Matrix with Trippy Visual Neon Colors - Abstract Background Texture

Are Extra Dimensions of the Universe Real or Imaginary?

The human mind can imagine and work with a world that we cannot physically apprehend, that follows the rules of mathematics

In a classic 2018 essay, republished recently at Aeon, science writer and artist Margaret Wertheim, author of a number of books, including Physics on the Fringe (Walker Books, 2011), asks us to think about what “extra dimensions” really means: While on the local level we are trained to think of space as having three dimensions, general relativity paints a picture of a four-dimensional universe, and string theory says it has 10 dimensions – or 11 if you take an extended version known as M-Theory. There are variations of the theory in 26 dimensions, and recently pure mathematicians have been electrified by a version describing spaces of 24 dimensions. But what are these ‘dimensions’? And what does it mean to talk Read More ›

Time in space. 3d rendering illustration

Did Physicists Open a Portal to Extra Time Dimension, as Claimed?

That’s the way the story reads at Scientific American. But experimental physicist Rob Sheldon says not so fast…

This story was #8 in 2022 at Mind Matters News in terms of reader numbers. As we approach the New Year, we are rerunning the top ten Mind Matters News stories of 2022, based on reader interest. Here’s #8, from our news division, for those of us who wonder how best to interpret science news at the cutting edge: “Did physicists open a portal to an extra time dimension, as claimed?: An experimental physicist explains. (August 6, 2022) At Scientific American, we were told last month: “Physicists have devised a mind-bending error-correction technique that could dramatically boost the performance of quantum computers”: “It is very exciting to see this unusual phase of matter realized in an actual experiment, especially because the mathematical description Read More ›

Crystal Prism

Schrödinger Believed That There Was Only One Mind in the Universe

The quantum physicist and author of the famous Cat Paradox believed that our individual minds are not unique but rather like the reflected light from prisms

This story was #9 in 2022 at Mind Matters News in terms of reader numbers. As we approach the New Year, we are rerunning the top ten Mind Matters News stories of 2022, based on reader interest. Here’s #9, from our news division, for those of us who like pondering the deeper things: Schrödinger believed that there was only one Mind in the universe: Consciousness researcher Robert Prentner and cognitive psychologist will tell a prestigious music and philosophy festival in London next month that great physicist Donald Hoffman, quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) believed that “The total number of minds in the universe is one.” That is, a universal Mind accounts for everything. In a world where many scientists strive mightily to explain how the human Read More ›

Macro concept of a brain connecting to pure love and intent

Why Many Researchers Now See the Brain as a Quantum System

The hypothesis is that the brain relies on quantum physics, not classical physics, to power thinking processes

Astrophysicist and science writer Elizabeth Fernandez asks us to consider whether quantum processes might help us understand better how the brain works and shed light on consciousness: Some scientists suspect that quantum processes, including entanglement, might help us explain the brain’s enormous power, and its ability to generate consciousness. Recently, scientists at Trinity College Dublin, using a technique to test for quantum gravity, suggested that entanglement may be at work within our brains. If their results are confirmed, they could be a big step toward understanding how our brain, including consciousness, works. Elizabeth Fernandez, “Brain experiment suggests that consciousness relies on quantum entanglement” at Big Think (November 22, 2022) The paper is open access. Her thesis is that the brain Read More ›