Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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 ›

human head chakra powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn
human head powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn

Sabine Hossenfelder, Taking on Consciousness, Tackles Panpsychism

She wants to apologize to all carrots who are watching her video — but carrots are not watching and that’s the point

Recently, I’ve been looking ( here and here) at theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder’s argument that quantum mechanics does not show that consciousness is essential for understanding the universe. The topic has become very interesting because of the growth of panpsychism in science — which Hossenfelder references in the video. Panpsychism is the belief that all of nature participates in some way in consciousness but that it is most highly developed in humans. Many prefer it to materialism because the panpsychist does not need to show that human consciousness is some kind of illusion that we evolved to believe in (?). It is part of the normal functioning of the universe even if we don’t understand how it works. To see Read More ›


Quantum Physics Axed Materialism. Many Hope the World Won’t Know

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles to explain how quantum mechanics is consistent with materialism

Quantum mechanics, which developed in the early twentieth century, has been a serious blow to materialism. There is no way to make sense of it if immaterial entities like information, observation, or the mind are not real. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles against the effects of this fact. In a recent video, she asks, “Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Effects?” (November 19, 2022) She asks, why did some physicists like von Neumann and Wigner think that consciousness is necessary to make sense of quantum mechanics, and can consciousness influence the outcome of a quantum experiment? (0:33) Well, they had good reason. Any effort to exclude consciousness from reality fails. Hossenfelder, a hostile witness, kindly offers an example from the work of Read More ›

Quantum Nuclear Fusion Entanglement, 3d Representation

As Conscious Observers, Do We Help Create Our World?

That’s the big question in quantum mechanics, as science communicator Elizabeth Fernandez explains

Elizabeth Fernandez asks whether there is “something unique” about the fact that we are conscious observers of our world. Interesting question. Inanimate objects don’t “observe” anything. If the inanimate objects are equipment that we have designed and produced, they may record observations for us that our senses could not make on their own. But they are still our observations because we can understand and interpret them. What about a dog’s observations? Along the lines of what he understands, they may be pretty good. He can pick up the scent of a hare with considerable precision and he is likely quite conscious of what that means and what to do abut it. But dog consciousness has its limits. He not only Read More ›

The Ingenuity drone-helicopter has separated from the Perseverance rover on Mars and prepares for its first flight. 3d render. Element of this image are furnished by NASA

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 12

Some stars seem to be defying the known laws of physics; others are found to produce specific rare elements when they collide

In our universe: Researchers are finding more evidence that colliding neutron stars forge not only gold but strontium, lanthanum, and cerium. They expect to discover more rare elements in the debris as well. (Universe Today, October 29, 2022) At this rate, we won’t run out. 😉 The paper is open access. When neutron stars collide: Speaking of stars, some seem to be defying the known laws of physics: “An international team of astrophysicists has made a puzzling discovery while analyzing certain star clusters. The finding challenges Newton’s laws of gravity, the researchers write in their publication. Instead, the observations are consistent with the predictions of an alternative theory of gravity. However, this is controversial among experts. The results have now Read More ›

newton cradle

AI, It Turns Out, Is Not Currently a Very Good Physicist

A physicist takes issue with a research paper’s claims which inspired an IFL headline, “An AI May Have Just Invented ‘Alternative’ Physics”

Physicist Tom Hartsfield, commenting on a new paper, takes issue with its claim that “Without any prior knowledge of the underlying physics, our algorithm discovers the intrinsic dimension of the observed dynamics and identifies candidate sets of state variables.” That doesn’t seem to have happened. The problem set for the computer was a classical mechanics one: For a pendulum hanging on another pendulum, compute the number of variables needed for a solution: This problem requires two variables — the angle of each pendulum to the vertical — or four variables if a Cartesian (xy) coordinate system is used. If both pendulum bobs are hung from springs instead of rigid rods, the two variable spring lengths are added to get six Read More ›

sphere is affecting space / time around it

Can Physics Account for Our Whole Reality?

Mathematician turned philosopher Nancy Cartwright says no; reality is ultimately too complex for that

If only we could reduce the world to an equation, many think — preferably one that is solvable (unlike what happened in what happened in Restaurant at the End of the Universe), we would understand life better. University of Durham philosopher Nancy Cartwright takes issue with that, arguing that the universe is “beautifully dappled, and requires a dappled science to explain it.” She is the author, most recently, of A Philosopher Looks at Science (Cambridge University Press, 2022). And she says, If physics is to have total dominion, she must not only help out with chemical bonding, signal transmission in neurons, the flow of petrol in a carburettor, and the like. She must be able in principle to entirely take Read More ›

exoplanet viewed from the rocky surface of its moon, elements of this image furnished by NASA.

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 10

In our universe, it seems, we don’t get down to the Really Simple Stuff. We just get down to smaller but still very complex stuff

Around our universe: Here are the Pillars of Creation, a star workshop 6500 light years away in the Eagle Nebula, as seen recently by the James Webb Space Telescope: The millions of stars seen by Hubble in globular cluster Terzan 4 are also worth a look: While we are here: The humble proton, one of the building blocks of our universe, is “the most complicated thing” imaginable, according to Quanta: The proton is a quantum mechanical object that exists as a haze of probabilities until an experiment forces it to take a concrete form. And its forms differ drastically depending on how researchers set up their experiment. Connecting the particle’s many faces has been the work of generations. “We’re kind Read More ›