Friday, November 25, 2016
Marina sent this article 'Our Brain is the Universe Part 1' over in relation to the idea of living in a computer simulation - I am feeling strongly about the notion of 'feedback loop' phenomenon and our current existential/political dilemmas as well as cycles of history. This also bring to mind string theory, DNA structure, spirals, fractals, finding shape in the immaterial on the material as reference of actuality. Are we in need of reference points in order to make sense of our surroundings, even if they are of interior infinite space limited only by imagination? Perhaps as quantum consciousness studies develop we will further understand the nature of beinghood.
In our previous articles, we challenged a cherished point of view, that reality is material and external. There is a world “out there” that that every baby plops into when it is born. Convincing someone that this didn’t really happen is disturbing, and among scientists, whose worldview depends on the material world being real, hackles are raised as soon as you say otherwise. But we aren’t straying outside science in the quantum era. Our basic point, that the physical world lost its reassuring status a hundred years ago when the quantum revolution began — is beyond dispute.
But the fact that every particle in the universe winks in and out of the quantum field, or that particles can transition into waves that spread in all directions doesn’t strike very close to home. Quantum physicists get into their cars every morning with no fear that the engine will vanish into a cloud of energy. But this new, nonmaterial reality actually lies much closer than anyone supposes. The human brain is where the quantum meets the road, with far-reaching implications.
What if there is physical evidence that the brain is a quantum device, and that its design reflects the cosmos in an uncanny way that cannot be by chance? In the Vedic tradition of India, it is held that “as is the smallest, so is the greatest. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.” We’re using modern terminology, but the concept is timeless: Nature is coherent from its subtlest level to its grossest. Some clues to this truth are visual — the helix that appears in DNA and in spiral nebulas, for example. Hard science isn’t moved by casual resemblances, however.
To tighten the parallels, one can turn to recent work by physicists including Dmitri Krioukov and reported in mainstream journal like Nature’s Scientific Reports. To quote: The “universe may be growing in the same way as a giant brain — with the electrical firing between brain cells ‘mirrored’ by the shape of expanding galaxies.” Looking at simulations of galaxy interconnections in the early universe and neuron interconnections makes it virtually impossible to tell them apart. The brain and the cosmos, like the Internet, are networks, and they evolve the same way. The result, the authors argue, is that the universe really does grow like a brain. In a related article in the prestigious journal Science, researchers have discovered that the connections in the brain are highly organized, the brain’s structure is like a grid of city wiring, the neurons traversing in all directions.
Several years ago the philosopher Clark Glymour at Carnegie Mellon University published an intriguing paper titled “When is a brain like the planet?” He provocatively concluded that when it thinks, the brain parallels the ecology of our planet. A phenomenon like El Nino, which is coordinated with weather events far away in Africa, is similar time series correlations observed in an fMRI brain scan. (Similarly, Greek seismologists at the University of Athens have concluded that the tremors before an earthquake are identical to the heart patterns before a heart attack.)
The similarities in physical systems can be inexplicable. We ourselves noticed that the number of neurons in a brain (about 100 billion) is on the same order of magnitude as the number of trees on the Earth (estimated by NASA to be about 400 billion). In their actual physical appearance, neurons look like trees with a main trunks (axon) and branches (dendrites, which comes from the Greek word “Dendron” or tree). Neurons connect together in a tree-to-tree fashion as their branches nearly touch. The life of a single neuron is as entangled with every other neuron as the trees in a rain forest. The number of synapses in different neurons (neurons come in many varieties) vary from around 1,000, to 200,000 for large Purkinje cells. Trees have branches that show a self-similar pattern from a few hundred to more than 100,000.
It’s hard for a neuroscientist to look up at trees and not see even more intricate parallels. Trees receive “information” in the form of carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water to produce the oxygen that sustains life on Earth. Animals in turn produce carbon dioxide, which forms a feedback loop back to trees which are fed by it. In a sense oxygen and carbon dioxide, flowing through every living system, are like neurotransmitters. The synapses where brain activity occurs from neuron to neuron are organized through feedback, with one side feeding chemicals to the other.
The fact is that all systems seem to be self-organized, from the complex way that replicant RNA organizes a new strand of DNA to the way the brain produces a single picture of reality that organizes the firing of billions of neurons. The constants that rule the evolution of the universe are so precise that stars are organized to live through definite, orderly stages, and the formation of galaxies from interstellar dust follows its own life cycle.
In recent decades it has become established that a single cell is a system, as is the brain, and the entire body — you are presiding over an entire ecology, and like planetary ecology, everything finds a delicate balance. The phenomenon of homeostasis is the body’s way of balancing hundreds of different functions (e.g., blood pressure, body temperature, the symphony of hormones coursing through the blood stream, digestion, respiration, and waking and sleeping). It strikingly mirrors planetary ecology and its living response to forces of balance and imbalance. The Gaia hypothesis, which looks upon the Earth as a single organism, may well apply to our own bodies as cells in the body of the cosmos.
“As is the smallest, so is the greatest” has come full circle from ancient wisdom to modern science once we accept that every system is driven by feedback loops, homeostasis, and continuing self-organization. At this point, it is up to dissenters to prove that we aren’t inhabiting a living universe, tied into it by the most fundamental characteristics of biological systems.
If it seems too much to grant that the universe is a living organism, that point isn’t necessary. What we wanted to show in this article is that the material world isn’t primary but secondary. Without homeostasis, feedback loops, and self-organization drive every level of Nature — they are invisible and intangible. Without them, the fine-tuned universe couldn’t exist, or the fine-tuned human brain.
There are further horizons to cross. Might it be that forests here on Earth are not only responsible for energy generation but also connect planetary consciousness to cosmic consciousness? This may not be just bold speculation. If indeed the universe behaves like a brain, then why wouldn’t it harbor universal consciousness? After all, if the “hardware” looks the same, then the “software” that creates coherence at every level might be the same. Even though everyone uses phrases like “I’m making up my mind” and “My mind’s not very sharp today,” the “my” is only an assumption.
When you get out of the shower, you are wet; you don’t say, “This is my wet.” General qualities aren’t individual. You can’t call the Earth’s atmosphere “my air.” In the same way, human pride in being able to think and reason may be a false assumption. The great quantum pioneer Erwin Schrödinger thought so:
“There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousness... [I]n truth there is only one mind.”
The implication is that just as our bodies are cells in the body of the universe, our consciousness is immersed in the universal mind. But how would we go about validating this scientifically? Going beyond resemblances in Nature, systems give us a toehold — studying the evolution of physical systems on Earth will tell us a lot about the evolution of the brain, and vice versa.
If the universe is encoded in the brain, then perhaps “insights” that scientists and philosophers have had in the past (breakthrough thoughts about reality) are not be so mysterious. Einstein was astonished that relativity, a theory formulated in his mind, turned out to match Nature’s workings with incredible mathematical precision. Such astonishment has evolved beyond amazement by now. The brain is now being examined in the light of quantum biology, and it is dawning that thinking involves quantum operations at the basis where ions exchange charges — thus exchanging information in a precise, even digital way — down to a finer level where “normal” interactions between particles ceases. People do unexpected, strange, weird, and spooky things — so do quanta. If their weirdness is entangled with ours, there is more than resemblance, parallels, and coincidence. The same source is at work for stars, brains, and thinking.
Perhaps, we are all tapping into cosmic knowledge (the ultimate software), acting as a portal from one piece of hardware to another, from the brain to reality “out there.” Using the same build for the hardware, Nature has allowed us to enter our mental universe, only to discover the infinitude of the conscious universe. Infinity is hard to think about, but happily, our brains keep evolving. Having evolved to the point that we can look “out there” and see incredible mathematical orderliness, we’ve reached the horizon where reality may reveal its true source.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu,
As disturbing and horrendous as this speech is, I find it relevant to understand the nature of this beast called Spencer and this movement of reincarnated Nazi's who have for years hidden in plain site. It is rather interesting that many of the people in the crowd on other video clips are blurred. This seemed rather unusual as the event took place in a public building and that it is only fair that we as a public have an opportunity to identify the men and women under the hood.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources
Below is a list of fake, false, regularly misleading, and/or otherwise questionable “news” organizations, as well as organizations that regularly use clickbait-y headlines and descriptions, that are commonly shared on facebook and other social media sites. Some of these websites rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
Other sources on this list are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but they are regularly shared as actual/literal news. I’m including them here, for now, because 1.) they have the potential to perpetuate misinformation based on different audience (mis)interpretations and 2.) to make sure anyone who reads a story by The Onion, for example, understands its purpose. If you think this is unnecessary, please see Literally Unbelievable.
Notes: Again, not all of these sources are always or inherently problematic, neither are all of them fake or false, but I’m including them here at this time because they should be considered in conjunction with other news/info sources due to their tendency to rely on clickbait headlines or facebook descriptions etc.
American News X
Private-eye.co.uk (some satire)
Associated Media Coverage
Indecision Forever (www.cc.com/indecision)
IJR (Independent Journal Review)
Blue Nation Review
Cap News (satire)
The Free Thought Project
The New Yorker’s Borowitz Report (satire column)
The Onion (satire)
The Other 98%
The Stately Harold
World Net Daily
World News Daily Report
Endingthefed.com (ETF News)
Tips for analyzing news sources:
- Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (above). These sites specialize in taking a piece of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts.”
- Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources.
- Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
- Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
- Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
- Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
- Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
- Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
- If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
- It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
Bio: I am an assistant professor of communication & media, and this list started as a resource for my students, who are learning about journalism/social media/media literacy.
If you have suggestions of sources/websites that should be added to the list, please email me at email@example.com
Update 1: I’ve received hundreds of emails with suggestions, very few of which are duplicates, so it will take me a while to sift through and verify them. I will add them as appropriate.
Update 2: Yes, I am considering coding/categorizing these sources for clarity and creating a more durable/dynamic database. This is likely just step 1.
Update 3: Some people are asking which news sources I trust, and all I can say is that I read/watch/listen very widely, from mainstream, corporate owned sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes) as well as The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and various local and alternative sources with different political perspectives, some of which are included on this list. The problem: Even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness. The best thing to do in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.
© 2016 by Melissa Zimdars.
is made available under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visithttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/