Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhysics

Quantum particle, quantum mechanics

Why Philosopher Quentin Smith Saw Belief in God as Unscientific

Reader Laszlo Bencze looks at his list of reasons for thinking so and offers some thoughtful comments

In the first part of the discussion between Robert Lawrence Kuhn and Western Michigan University philosopher Quentin Persifor Smith (1952–2020) at Closer to Truth, “What Does a Fine-Tuned Universe Mean?” (Aug 31, 2022), Dr. Smith asserted that — while physicists may write about the fine-tuning of our universe in books aimed at the public — they do not discuss it in peer reviewed journals. Jonathan Bartlett supplied a number of references to such discussions in journals. In this second part of the discussion, Kuhn gave the floor to Dr. Smith to explain why he thought that belief in God is unscientific. A partial transcript follows, with some notes and comments interspersed: Quentin Persifor Smith: (7:20) But I think the real…

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field of red flowers

Philosophy: Can Red Have “Redness” If No Self Perceives It?

As Closer to Truth’s Robert Kuhn interviews philosopher Julian Baggini, they now tackle the question of “qualia” — part of the nature of conscious experiences

Yesterday, we looked at philosopher Julian Baggini’s argument that the unified self is an illusion. He spoke about this in the context of a discussion with Closer to Truth’s Robert Lawrence Kuhn. Kuhn, nearly midway through, steers the conversation toward qualia, that is, the inner experience we have of things. Red, an often-used example, is a color in the spectrum but it is also, for many, an experience. Serious and influential books have been written (2005 and 2017) about the history of the color and the experiences it evokes. Questions are interspersed between exchanges in the transcribed dialogue: Robert Lawrence Kuhn: (3:23) Let’s distinguish two factors that are flying around here. One is the concept of self — what it…

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Abstract fractal patterns and shapes. Beautiful abstract background. Сolored waves,spirals, lines and circles. Infinite universe.

Is Ours One of a Few Working Universes Among Countless Flops?

Is that probable? How would we know? Philosopher Stephen C. Meyer offers some suggestions

In this fourth and final portion of a talk at the Dallas Conference on Science and Faith (2021), philosopher Stephen C. Meyer takes on the claim that the fine-tuning of our universe for life can be explained by the multiverse, that is, “there are many other universes with different laws and concepts of physics and different initial conditions, different arrangements that matter in energy at the beginning of those universes. And there are enough such universes to make the improbable features of our universe probable on a mega cosmic scale.” Dr. Meyer is the author of The Return of the God Hypothesis (Harper One, 2021). (A sample of the book is here.) The first portion is here, the second here,…

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The Big Bang

Astrophysicist: Webb Finds May Bring “Revolutionary Changes”

It doesn’t disprove the Big Bang, says Brian Koberlein… but read the fine print. And Fermilab’s Don Lincoln gets the religious implications all wrong

Recently, the James Webb Space Telescope started sending back observations about our universe that started quite the tizzy. Did the Big Bang even happen? More focused: If it happened, did it happen when and how the conventional story runs? At Universe Today, astrophysicist Brian Koberlein tries to put the matter in perspective: Most significantly, it has found more galaxies and more distant galaxies than there should be, and that could lead to some revolutionary changes in our standard model. Our current understanding is that after the big bang the universe went through a period known as the dark ages. During this period the first light of the cosmos had faded, and the first stars and galaxies hadn’t yet formed. Webb…

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Piano tuning process. closeup of hand and tools of tuner working on grand piano. Detailed view of Upright Piano during a tuning. toned

How Fine Tuned Was Our Universe’s Debut? The Mind Boggles.

All the details that were there at the beginning and all work together… The math is amazing. Steve Meyer explains

In this third portion of a talk at the Dallas Conference on Science and Faith (2021), philosopher Stephen C. Meyer discusses the fact that our universe is fine tuned for life in smaller as well as larger ways — that’s remarkable. We could call it “finer fine-tuning,” perhaps. Dr. Meyer, author of The Return of the God Hypothesis (Harper One, 2021), reflects on the physics and the physicists. (A sample of the book is here.) This is the third of four portions of the transcript of the talk. The first is here and the second here. Tom Gilson is the moderator of the podcast: https://episodes.castos.com/id/91f5535b-1f52-41d8-ab90-d87ff21a6be1-IDTF-1632-StephenMeyer-God-Multiverse.mp3 Stephen C. Meyer: There are two basic types of fine tuning physicists talk about. One…

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Deep space travel. Part of the first image from NASA's new James Webb Space Telescope has been used in this composition. CREDITS: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScIhttps://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages

Theoretical Physicist: Can’t Avoid a Beginning for Our Universe

Recent shakeups from the James Webb Space Telescope images invite fundamental questions like, Does the universe have a beginning?

The recent flutter over whether the James Webb Space Telescope’s data stream is a plus or a minus for the Big Bang and the Standard Model of the universe touched on some interesting cosmological issues. The Big Bang and the Standard Model support the assumption that our universe is finite and had a beginning. Could it have been eternal — with an infinite past instead of a beginning? The trouble is, as we saw last Saturday, when we try to apply concepts like infinity — typically used in mathematics — to the physical world, the basis of reality can collapse into absurdity. The world science observes seems to be finite; time starts at a certain point, flows in one direction,…

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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. Steve Meyer explains.

In this second portion of a talk at the Dallas Conference on Science and Faith (2021), philosopher Steve Meyer discusses the ways in which groundbreaking astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) dealt with the fact that the universe seems fine-tuned for life. Hoyle’s widely cited comment on the subject was “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” That was an unsettling idea for Hoyle, who was a well-known atheist, and he certainly sought ways around it. How did he fare? Dr. Meyer, author of The Return of the God Hypothesis (Harper One, 2021), reflects on Hoyle’s struggle.…

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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

Physicist Eric J. Lerner comes to the point: To everyone who sees them, the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) images of the cosmos are beautifully awe-inspiring. But to most professional astronomers and cosmologists, they are also extremely surprising—not at all what was predicted by theory. In the flood of technical astronomical papers published online since July 12, the authors report again and again that the images show surprisingly many galaxies, galaxies that are surprisingly smooth, surprisingly small and surprisingly old. Lots of surprises, and not necessarily pleasant ones. One paper’s title begins with the candid exclamation: “Panic!” Why do the JWST’s images inspire panic among cosmologists? And what theory’s predictions are they contradicting? The papers don’t actually say. The…

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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…

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 is based on a theoretical ‘extra’ time dimension,” says team member Philipp Dumitrescu, who was at the Flatiron Institute in New York City when the experiments were carried out. A paper describing the work was published in Nature on July 20. Opening a portal to an extra time dimension—even just a theoretical one—sounds thrilling, but it was not the physicists’ original plan. “We were very much motivated to see what new types of phases could…

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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

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 mind can arise from non-living matter, Prentner and Hoffman will tell the HowtheLightGetsIn festival in London (September 17–18, 2022) that the author of the famous Cat paradox was hardly a materialist: In 1925, just a few months before Schrödinger discovered the most basic equation of quantum mechanics, he wrote down the first sketches of the ideas that he…

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businessman and technology

Sci-Fi Predictions for the Future That Really Happened

The 1950s was often right too. It may depend on how badly we need something to happen

Last week, we looked at a 1964 prediction of life in the 2020s that definitely did not happen: chimpanzees driving cars and doing housework. Back then, people who recognized that chimpanzees were intelligent seem to have known little about their natural characteristics. But in fairness, many predictions did come to pass, including the pocket-sized phone that could relay facial images, predicted in a 1956 magazine article: The journalist, Robert Beason, wrote about features such as touchtone dialing, video calling, voice recognition and small colour screens capable of being used as tiny televisions, built into compact devices. His interviewee, Harold Osborne, the retiring chief engineer of American Telephone & Telegraph also foresaw other common features of modern smartphones, such as quick…

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Terrariums

Dartmouth Physicist Slams Matrix Idea That Life Is an Aliens’ Sim

A number of prominent people have taken philosopher Nick Bostrom’s idea that our universe is a computer sim seriously

Matrix fans, take heed: Dartmouth College physicist Marcelo Gleiser is not a fan of the idea that we are all living in a giant simulation created by intelligent aliens. He takes issue with it for ethical reasons as well as physics ones: “It is little more than a fancy excuse for escapist fantasizing.” Well, some prominent people in our world are escapists! That would include science broadcaster Neil deGrasse Tyson, driverless car entrepreneur Elon Musk, and former Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge (2014), traces the idea that our universe is a computer simulation by advanced aliens to an influential 2003 paper by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute and…

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little bird flying out of bird cage, think outside the box

Why Free Will Is Philosophically and Scientifically Sound

As Michael Egnor points out in a recent podcast, it has been nearly a century since determinism was toppled in physics

In “Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor: Humans Have Free Will” a recent podcast at ID the Future, geoscientist Casey Luskin discussed science-based arguments against free will with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor (13:05 min). Are these arguments a serious challenge or are they just wishful thinking on the part of materialists? Here’s a partial transcript: Casey Luskin: Now I want to continue our conversation, Dr. Egnor, from the previous podcast, where we were talking about your debates on evolution news and views, responding to Dr. Jerry Coyne, the well known evolutionary biologist from the University of Chicago. Coyne is what you might call an honest atheist in that he’s willing to admit the implications that atheism and Darwinian materialism have for concepts like free…

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Twisted watch face representing the infinite time spiral

Can the Future Reach Back and Affect the Past?

Researchers say that only elementary particles can really time travel but there is another way…

If the future influenced the past, that would be retrocausality. As Victor Bhaura puts it, Retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another one) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past. Victor Bhaura, “Retrocausality — Future Influences Past Information Before Occurrence Of An Event” at Medium (June 8, 2022) Bhaura reminds us of a limerick called “Relativity” from 1923: There was a young lady named BrightWhose speed was far faster than light;She set out one dayIn a relative wayAnd returned on the previous…

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Colorful background made of fallen autumn leaves.

Did Carl Sagan Think the Universe Shows No Design?

Like Fred Hoyle, he seems to have thought it showed design — until that view became politically associated with religion

It’s a complicated story. At one time, a religious skeptic like astronomer Carl Sagan (1934–1996) could write: The universe was made on purpose, the circle said. In whatever galaxy you happen to find yourself, you take the circumference of a circle, divide it by its diameter, measure closely enough, and uncover a miracle — another circle, drawn kilometers downstream of the decimal point. There would be richer messages farther in. It doesn’t matter what you look like, or what you’re made of, or where you come from. As long as you live in this universe, and have a modest talent for mathematics, sooner or later you’ll find it. It’s already here. It’s inside everything. You don’t have to leave your…

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Time concept. Hi-res digitally generated image.

A Form of Time Travel That Might Be Possible…

In world of entropy, time runs in one direction and reversing it would create impossible contradictions. physicists say

Of the four dimensions, only time is mysterious. We can play games with the other three, the spatial dimensions — imagining, for example, 2- or even 1-dimensional universes, as in Flatland (1884). But in the end, they follow the rules. Time goes in one direction only and time travel — moving time in the other direction is easy to imagine in principle but full of nearly impossible conundrums in practice. Astrophysicists struggle to figure it out. Our brains are adapted to keeping track of the present (the experience of “now”) and the past (memory). But that only tells us how we come to be aware of time. It doesn’t tell us what time is. We get a bit closer, says…

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Data.

World’s Fastest Computer Breaks Into the Exascale

How fast? “If each person on Earth completed one calculation per second, it would take more than 4 years to do what an exascale computer can do in 1 second.”

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee announced earlier this week that its Frontier Supercomputer, having broken the exascale barrier, is the world’s fastest. It can do more than a quintillion calculations per second: The Frontier supercomputer at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory earned the top ranking today as the world’s fastest on the 59th TOP500 list, with 1.1 exaflops of performance. The system is the first to achieve an unprecedented level of computing performance known as exascale, a threshold of a quintillion calculations per second. Frontier features a theoretical peak performance of 2 exaflops, or two quintillion calculations per second, making it ten times more powerful than ORNL’s Summit system. News, “Frontier supercomputer…

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Time and space travel concept abstract background

What Would Happen If We Traveled at 2x the Speed of Light?

We can’t reach the speed of light just by speeding things up, let alone exceed it. But are there other ways?

Recently, a 13-year-old in Mumbai asked philosopher of mathematics Sam Baron what would happen if someone were to move — hypothetically — at twice the speed of light. Baron replied, As far as we know, it’s not possible for a person to move at twice the speed of light. In fact, it’s not possible for any object with the kind of mass you or I have to move faster than the speed of light. Sam Baron, “Curious Kids: what would happen if someone moved at twice the speed of light?” at The Conversation (May 24, 2022) He explains why not as follows, To accelerate an object with mass, we have to add energy. The faster we want the object to…

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set of alien planet isolated on black background, nearby exoplanets (3d science illustration)

Among 5000 Known Exoplanets, There Are Some Really Strange Ones

Planets so strange that they prompt a rethink of the “planetary rulebook.”

PBS tells us that Hoth, the frozen planet in Star Wars, is not just imagination. It has a real-life counterpart among the exoplanets. Granted, astronomers call it OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb but even they think of it as “Hoth.” Here’s the video. Such strange planets are prompting a rethink of the “planetary rulebook.” Another strange one: Narrator: 51 Pegasi b is a gas giant, around half the mass of Jupiter, but so close to its star that part of its atmosphere may have been ripped away… Hannah Wakeford: These planets are baked by their stars’ radiation, the temperatures are in the thousands. David Charbonneau: Many astronomers didn’t believe it, because the planet was in the wrong place. It was enormous. It was massive,…

Independent Thinking

A British Philosopher Looks For a Way to Redefine Free Will

Julian Baggini’s proposed new approach assumes the existence of the very qualities that only a traditional view of the mind offers

British philosopher Julian Baggini, author of The Great Guide: What David Hume Can Teach Us about Being Human and Living Well (2021) argues against the idea of free will, as commonly understood (voluntarist free will). Citing the fact that the world is controlled by physics, he writes, No matter how free we feel, our understanding of nature tells us that no choice originates in us but traces its history throughout our histories and our environments. Even leaving aside physics, it seems obvious that, at the moment of any choice, the conditions for that choice have already been set, and to be able to escape them would be no more than the ability to generate random actions. And if all that…