"The mind is a compact, multiply connected thought mass with internal connections of the most intimate kind. It grows continuously as new thought masses enter it, and this is the means by which it continues to develop."

Bernhard Riemann On Psychology and Metaphysics ca. 1860

Today's Elites


Monday, May 30, 2011

What Cusa Could Teach Us

In the End Is the Beginning
A daring theory of how the universe, instead of expanding indefinitely, could start again in another Big Bang.

 By PETER WOIT

In recent years, Roger Penrose has attracted a popular audience with thought-provoking books on physics, consciousness and the theory of computation, beginning with "The Emperor's New Mind" in 1989. But the work that established his status as one of the most remarkable mathematical physicists of our era was done in the 1960s and '70s. Along with Stephen Hawking, he developed mathematical techniques for studying the structure of the geometries that describe black holes and the Big Bang. These techniques allowed a precise characterization of the infinitely dense singularities found at the center of a black hole or at the moment when the expansion of the universe began.
With "Cycles of Time," Mr. Penrose has turned his attention back to the Big Bang and some of the seemingly imponderable questions it provokes: What came "before" the Big Bang, 14 billion years ago, and how might the universe it brought into being come to an end?
The currently accepted Big Bang model looks at what we can see of the past and projects this behavior into the future. Our best observations come from looking at patterns in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the thermal radiation that was produced 380,000 years after the Big Bang, at the time atoms formed and light could propagate freely. The manner in which the universe has continued to expand since suggests that, in the future, the universe will just keep expanding, with matter and radiation dispersing, entropy increasing and our fate a rather boring and lonely one to contemplate.
Many find unsatisfying this picture of the universe's distant past and future. First, it does nothing to answer the question of "what came before." Second, a universe that does something better than peter out would provide a more inspiring vision of our future. Mr. Penrose thinks he might have a better answer, which he calls "Conformal Cyclic Cosmology." The key words are "conformal" and "cyclic," and to explain Mr. Penrose's theory, it is best to take them in reverse order.
"Cyclic" indicates that the universe somehow circles back to a condition at which it could start all over again, in another Big Bang, an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Such cyclicity is a feature of several other recent speculative cosmological models, including some in which the Big Bang is just one of a sequence of collisions among multidimensional membranes or "branes."
"Conformal" refers to a particular type of geometry, which Mr. Penrose is a master of and which he thinks might explain why the universe won't merely keep expanding forever. (A geometry is said to be "conformal" if its properties don't change when it is transformed in a way that preserves angles but not distances.) Mr. Penrose's crucial point is that, in physics based on a conformal geometry, there is no way to characterize either distances or energy levels as "small" or "large."
Mr. Penrose points out that, as one goes back toward the infinite energy density of the Big Bang, the geometry of the early universe could in some sense be called conformal. Likewise, as one goes far enough into our distant, boring future, if everything turns into massless radiation, there's no usable energy scale—and the geometry is also conformal.
Mr. Penrose's radical suggestion is that, somehow, this distant past and distant future can be matched together, since they share the same geometry. A universe at either extreme of its existence is one that has no fixed ideas about what is big and what is small. Perhaps this curious coincidence indicates that one can pass continuously from one extreme to the other, and this transformation is what happened at the moment of the Big Bang.
Mr. Penrose does not write books that are, by any measure, easy to read. His 2004 book, "The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe," lived up to its title, with more than a thousand pages explaining how physics and geometry are interrelated at a fundamental level. To grasp everything in that book one needed doctoral-level training in mathematics or physics, but with a lesser background much of it was accessible.
That's also the case with "Cycles of Time." If his audience were merely specialists, Mr. Penrose could have outlined his speculative hypothesis in a few dense pages. Instead, he has included large amounts of background material designed to help anyone interested in the subject. The early chapters just about anyone should be able to follow, and much of the explanatory content is visual, embedded in wonderful drawings drafted in Mr. Penrose's own hand. But by the end, even experts will have trouble keeping up.
As Mr. Penrose acknowledges, there are various problems with his hypothesis. There is no real evidence that the universe will ever stop expanding, and it is unclear whether Mr. Penrose's use of conformal geometry can really solve that. As far as we know, electrons are stable, with unchanging non-zero mass. That means they will always be around to provide an energy scale, no matter how far out into the future one goes, ruining the conformal symmetry needed to ultimately match up with the Big Bang.
Another important question is whether Conformal Cyclic Cosmology could ever be tested experimentally. Mr. Penrose suggests only that we might observe some remnant structures in the Cosmic Microwave Background that have survived from the previous cycle. Readers should be forewarned that what they have in their hands is un-refereed research of a sort that may very well not pan out and convince other scientists. A surprising and unorthodox work disguised in the jacket of a popular science book, "Cycles of Time" should prove both deeply enlightening and just as deeply mystifying for anyone who dares to follow along.

The crux of the issue here truly lies within the province of metaphysics. As such, there has been no material improvement in the line of metaphysical dialog since Nicholas of Cusa essentially resolved Plato's Parmenides paradox with his work "The Non-other." The common reading of Cusa as a "Christian mystic" is a crass nominalist misreading of his influence that leads through DaVinci, Toscanelli (Christopher Columbus' mapmaker,) Leibniz, Gauss, and Bernhardt Riemann. The same Riemann whose formulation of n dimensional non-Euclidian geometry made possible Einstein's theory of relativity. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of today's apparently educated and degreed scientists and mathematicians have almost no familiarity with this...

Krugman Misses the Boat Again

This from Krugman in the NY Times:


"The core of our economic problem is, instead, the debt — mainly mortgage debt — that households ran up during the bubble years of the last decade. Now that the bubble has burst, that debt is acting as a persistent drag on the economy, preventing any real recovery in employment. And once you realize that the overhang of private debt is the problem, you realize that there are a number of things that could be done about it.
"For example, we could have W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads — which would also, by raising incomes, make it easier for households to pay down debt. We could have a serious program of mortgage modification, reducing the debts of troubled homeowners. We could try to get inflation back up to the 4 percent rate that prevailed during Ronald Reagan’s second term, which would help to reduce the real burden of debt.
"So there are policies we could be pursuing to bring unemployment down. These policies would be unorthodox — but so are the economic problems we face. And those who warn about the risks of action must explain why these risks should worry us more than the certainty of continued mass suffering if we do nothing."
All this earnest seeming palaver of Professor Krugman misses the only real means to tackle the speculative debt that is dragging all the globe's economies into the cesspool. What is required is an end of "too big to fail." And contrary to the blackout by the media there is legislation already introduced in the House of Representatives that would do just that. It is Marcy Kaptur's HR 1489. This would return our nation to the Glass-Staegall principle of separation of commercial banking, which is necessary to sustain the actually productive economy, from investment banking, which is what lead to the lunacy of the speculative bubble of derivative securities like mortgage indexed derivatives. This would mean a return to FDR's virtuous fight against the city of London and Wall Street investment banking houses, instead of the lick-spittle fawning of President Obama's favorite Treasury Secretary Geithner...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Angels of Retrodictive Functional Time

Fechner would have it that our substance does not die with our mortal quietus, but rather is transformed, either willfully or not,  into a higher state of being presaged by our wakeful consciousness. This, along with Fechner's positing of a world soul, at first glance, might appear as merely some sort of attempt at a Christian/Avestic syncretic religion. However, it would do well to keep in mind that his acolyte in this said weltanshaung was none other than the arguably most important thinker in the the last 200 years: Bernhardt Riemann.

This brings up the question of the metaphor of the angelic soul. Take Schiller's designation of Joan of Arc as typifying that rather angelic sublime soul in her sacrificial overcoming the hellish ignominy of the Inquisition. Like Beatrice leading Dante to imagine the relativity of our transit through the firmament from the emperial perspectiva of the moon, we are visited by such angels. As Fechner posits, there is forever a dialog of  past generations within our psyche, which we have the power to compose in a fugue or failing this the discordance of insanity.

May we not convincingly assert that the real Plato has acted with what his follower Liebniz determined sufficient causality over these millenia to transform society away from the clutches of its own would be Erinyes? With what sort of outre poetic sentiment may we not then agree with LaRouche that time is not mere sequential happenstance but a function by which we enrich retrodictively the contributions of humanity's better angels? Like some higher power that thus operates among us...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wherein a Spectator Mentality is Roundly Vituperated


Seeing the planets for the treesMay 20, 2011 By Anuradha K. Herath
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Two photographs of a black spruce forest in Canada - the left one taken with the Sun behind the observer (back-scattering), and the right one with the Sun opposite the observer (forward-scattering). Credit: Don Deering


A recent study says that a particular mathematical technique could be used to detect forests on extrasolar planets.






In the search for life on other planets, scientists are looking beyond single-celled organisms and are developing techniques that would help them detect multicellular life. In a recent study published in the journal Astrobiology, researchers are proposing a particular mathematical technique to detect tree-like multicellular structures on extrasolar planets.


“This technique allows us to identify planets that potentially have complex life and distinguish them from planets with simple life,” said lead author Christopher Doughty, a junior research fellow in tropical forest science at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford in England.


In other words, the authors predict that even when observing planets outside the solar system, scientists would be able to identify a planet with forests by the characteristics of the light that it reflects, even if it looks like just a dot in the viewing lens.


Removing the Shadows


Scientists have come up with various methods to detect life on extrasolar planets. Some are working to detect the composition of gases in the atmosphere -- the presence of oxygen, which on Earth is mainly a by-product of life, could be one such biosignature. Others are focusing on a reflectance signature such as the “red edge,” which is the difference between the light that is absorbed for photosynthesis and the light reflected back in other wavelengths of the near-infrared spectrum.



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The diagrams show some of the different causes of BRDF. Credit: Wolfgang Lucht

The diagrams show some of the different causes of BRDF. Image Credit: Wolfgang Lucht


When studying climate on Earth, it is important to understand the brightness of its surface. In order to determine the brightness, scientists must first account for the effect of shadows that are cast by various structures on the surface. The mathematical technique used to estimate the effect of shadows is what is known as bidirectional reflectance distribution function, or BRDF. It is defined as the change in reflectance of an object viewed from different angles. The method is already used on satellites orbiting Earth.



“Imagine going outside on a sunny day,” Doughty explained. “When the Sun is directly overhead, you will not see your shadow. If someone took a picture of you from above, there would be no shadows present, and the picture would be bright. Now go outside a few hours later. Your shadow will be present. A picture taken from above will now be darker because the shadow is included.”


Trees on Earth developed their canopy form due to the competition for light and the need to transport water and nutrients. The authors of the study predict that if multicellular photosynthetic organisms are found on extrasolar planets, they too will be found to have a tree-like structure that casts shadows.


Doughty and his co-author Adam Wolf of Princeton University used a BRDF model to simulate vegetation and how it reflects light at different planetary angles to estimate how the brightness of the planet changed with and without trees. The authors contend that, when viewed from space, forests appear brightest when the observer is in line with the Sun. This position is known as the “hot spot” because at that location, no shadows are visible.


“Even if the entire planet were reduced to a single pixel, under certain situations, there would be a difference in the brightness of the planet as it rotates around its star that would not be there if there were no trees,” Doughty said.


There are other factors that affect a planet's brightness, such as the presence of water. Light reflecting from a planet that is covered in water or ice will make that planet look much brighter than a planet without those features.


The Hunt for Life


With the discovery of more and more planets outside the solar system, there is growing interest in devising methods to detect life on Earth-sized extrasolar planets. To do this, scientists rely on planetary biosignatures or indications that serve as evidence for both life that may have existed in the past and may exist now.


In addition to atmospheric biogenic gases such as oxygen, another biosignature scientists have already considered is the surface reflectance spectra of vegetation, or the amount of light reflected off plant matter at different wavelengths.



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If plants are found on other planets, they could look very different compared to those found on Earth. Some astrobiologists think plants on other planets will have a different dominant color than green. Credit: Tim Pyle / Caltech

“There are also in situ techniques to look for chemical signs of life in the rock surface of a planet, but this requires actually visiting the planet for direct sampling, like the Martian Rovers are doing,” said Nancy Kiang, a scientist specializing in terrestrial biometeorology and biogeochemistry at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.



"Astronomical techniques with telescopes look at the radiance spectrum of a distant planet. Up till now, the target biosignatures for telescopes have been biogenic gases and surface biological pigments."


The technique proposed in this study, however, is different.


“This technique [BRDF] can distinguish between a planet dominated by single cellular life and that of tree-like multicellular life,” Doughty said.


Kiang said the study was a “good start with an original contribution to the concept of biosignatures.” She pointed out that using the BRDF function would require knowing another biosignature – the reflectance spectrum of a plant leaf – in order to select the suitable wavelength to calculate the function.


“This could help distinguish complex life from, say, green slime,” Kiang said.


Provided by Astrobio.net (news : web)

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omatumr
19 hours ago

Rank: 2.3 / 5 (4)
Life evolved here to adsorb the spectrum of light emitted by the parent star - the Sun.

The sun emits and chlorophyl adsorbs visible light.

Forests elsewhere may adsorb other wavelengths.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
Kedas
18 hours ago

Rank: 1 / 5 (2)
So we are looking for shadows?
I'm sure I saw a tree on the edge of a crater on the moon.
spectator
18 hours ago

Rank: 4 / 5 (3)
Oliver:

You realize "Adsorb" is the wrong word, right?

"Adsorb" is when something collects material on it's surface layer.

Absorb is when something assimilates incident radiation into itself.

The wavelengths that a life form could aBsorb is detemined by it's chemistry, so a hypothetical photosynthetic alien life form could only exist for an off-colored star if there is sufficient trace element chemistry with appropriate aBsorbtion spectra to make use of the incident radiation.

I don't know what the point is anyway.

There is no reason to believe life exists on any other planet, and even if it does, there is no reason to believe it would be in any way similar to life on earth, even if it is carbon based life.

There is no reason to believe it would have DNA or RNA.

There is no reason to believe it would have genetic material.

There isn't even reason to believe it would be "cellular" life, because we can imagine totally different types of organization.
spectator
18 hours ago

Rank: not rated yet
We already know of many types of theoretical molecular machines which are already being designed and modeled in the cutting edge nano-technology research.

Once you make the assumption that life exists elsewhere, then you need to consider ever possible form of molecular machinergy that could be organized into systems of "organelles".

There could be life "somewhere" which is quite differnt from our cellular life.

The systems could be in symbiotic relationships which are not "self contained" or may be on the surface of carbon compound rods or sheets, rather than contained inside membranes.

This would have an disadvantage of being more vulnerable to the environment, but it might have an advantage in genetic diversity and materials transport mechanisms.

Additionally, the molecular machinery at the "organelle" level may be so radically different that the protection of a membrane is no longer important.
spectator
17 hours ago

Rank: not rated yet
Consider our intracellular matrix have things like bone, cartilage, tendons, etc, which the cells make to form complex multi-cellular life.

A system in which the organelles are not contained may build tissue and organs by building proteins or other structures directly on the spot, instead of by stacking cell membranes, cell walls, or intracellular matrixes to make tissues.

I'm thinking more like an assembly line, rather than our cellular bags of organelles which grow until they split...
that_guy
14 hours ago

Rank: 5 / 5 (4)
I think what the article is saying is that they have a technique to search for life, that would be more complementary than primary.

Essentially they're saying that the specific topography of plants/trees throws shadows in such a way as to alter the brightness of the landscape in distinct ways during the planet's rotation, whereas water/liquid causes distinct reflections, and a primarily rock/earth/soil landscape throws shadows in a different way.

i don't think it was explained well in the article, and it was kinda lost among the explanation of all the other techniques.

That said, i think it has potential.
spectator
11 hours ago

Rank: 1 / 5 (4)
You know how powerful and how good of resolution a telescope would need to be to detect the shadow of a "Tree" on an exoplanet?

Hubble cannot even make out anything smaller than continent sized surface features on Pluto, which is only like 4 billion miles away.

Gliese is 118 TRILLION miles away, which is 29,500 times farther away.

So you'd need something about 30,000 times better than Hubble to take images of similar resolution at Gliese as Hubble does at Pluto.

Then you'd still need to get at least 3 or 4 orders of magnitude better in order to test for shadows of "trees" or "forests".

Excluding revolutionary breakthroughs, it costs about 10 times as much in order to make a telescope or microscope 1 decimal place better. So the cost of making a telescope or array capable of detecting a "tree" line on Gliese, if one exists, would be hundreds of thousands to millions of times more than Hubble...

You could send a probe for less than the build cost of the telescope.
thingumbobesquire
2 minutes ago

Rank: not rated yet
Whoa there, Mr Spectator. Do you know what it would "cost" past, now dead, societies to communicate "effortlessly" across thousands, nay millions of miles? More than the totality of all their fortunes combined. Because "technology" is not simply a quantifiable price of some amount of money. Monetary value is a fiction, which needs to be adjusted on a relative basis in order to allow society to progress. Today, we are told by the powers that be that we must live within our means and balance the budget. The fact is that we have squandered our future to an insane ideology of "too big to fail" in order to keep these powers that be fat and happy, while they tell the rest of their "subjects" to tighten their belts. What is needed is the political will to send these speculators into a much deserved hell with their monetarist worship of money delusions. The House of Representative bill HR 1489 seeks to restore Glass Steagall. Let us stop being mere spectators on this financial Titanic.

Anthropology Wastes Time


'Time' not necessarily deeply rooted in our brains

May 20, 2011
'Time' not necessarily deeply rooted in our brains
(Medical Xpress) -- Hidden away in the Amazonian rainforest a small tribe have successfully managed what so many dream of being able to do – to ignore the pressures of time so successfully that they don’t even have a word for it.
It is the first  scientists have been able to prove 'time' is not a deeply entrenched human universal concept as previously thought.
Researchers, led by Professor Chris Sinha from the University of Portsmouth Department of Psychology, studied the way in which time was talked about and thought about by the Amondawa people of Brazil. Their research is published in the journal Language and Cognition.
Professor Sinha said: "For the Amondawa, time does not exist in the same way as it does for us. We can now say without doubt that there is at least one language and culture which does not have a concept of time as something that can be measured, counted, or talked about in the abstract. This doesn't mean that the Amondawa are 'people outside time', but they live in a world of events, rather than seeing events as being embedded in time."
Team members including linguist Wany Sampaio and anthropologist Vera da Silva Sinha, spent eight weeks with the Amondawa researching how their language conveys concepts like 'next week' or 'last year'. There were no words for such concepts, only divisions of day and night and rainy and dry seasons. They also found nobody in the community has an age. Instead, they change their names to reflect their life stage and position within their society, so that for example a little child will give up their name to a newborn sibling, and take on a new one.
Professor Sinha said: "We have so many metaphors for time and its passing – we think of time as a 'thing' – we say 'the weekend is nearly gone'; 'she's coming up to her exams'; 'I haven't got the time', and so on, and we think such statements are objective, but they aren't. We've created these metaphors and they have become the way we think. The Amondawa don't talk like this and don't think like this, unless they learn another language.
"We didn't expect to find this – we had studied the same language earlier and were going back to further our understanding of its metaphors. We were surprised to find that space metaphors for time and the abstract concept of time are simply absent from the language and culture.
"For these fortunate people time isn't money, they aren't racing against the clock to complete anything, and nobody is discussing next week or next year; they don't even have words for 'week', 'month' or 'year'. You could say they enjoy a certain freedom.
"It strikes us as strange that such 'time-free' cultures exist," says Professor Sinha, "but many Amazonian languages, including Amondawa, don't have numbers beyond four or five, and if you don't have the numbers, you don't have time as an abstract, measurable 'thing'.
"Time is more to do with experience than being inborn in us. The only real biological clock is the ageing of our bodies. All our complex concepts of time are cultural inventions, a kind of technology of the mind.
"The Babylonians invented the 24-hour day, and the convention of 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and we're so used to being ruled by the calendar and clock that we don't reflect on it. But our notion of time is a double-edged sword. We wouldn't have the benefits of our socially and technologically complex society without it. But it's also, as we know, a burden and a source of increasing stress in our modern 24/7 lifestyle."
Time catches up with us all in the end, though. First contacted by the outside world in 1986, the Amondawa continue their traditional way of life, hunting, fishing and growing crops. But along with health care, electricity and television has come the Portuguese language. Like many of the world's 7,000 or so languages, Amondawa is threatened with extinction.
"We are now aware of the great riches still to be discovered in the world's biodiversity, and we know we should preserve this for future generations," says Professor Sinha. "But linguistic and cultural diversity is also a treasure trove, not just for scientists, but for everyone's understanding of what it means to be human. We can't and shouldn't try to stop change, but we should help empower people like the Amondawa to determine their own future and keep their language and traditions alive. That's why work like that of Wany and Vera, who helped the community set up a native-language based school, is so important."
Provided by University of Portsmouth
What differentiates humans from all other biological life forms is our unique ability to self consciously improve upon nature via scientific progress. However, most "anthropologists" are trained to ignore this distinction and like Aristotle view humans as mere talking beasts...This is why they have such a mawkish, and silly sentimental reaction to keeping their conception of the "diversity" of this "human zoo" pristine and untouched. Their mentality is that their own brand of investigation despoils humanity, which ironically happens to be true. But this says nothing about the true purpose of science, because theirs is but a sorry farce...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Ironic Fate of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

If your author were given to anthropomorphisms, I would imagine that somewhere on high an angelic host must be heartily amused at the charges of sodomic rape brought against Messier Strauss-Kahn. For it is certain that the institution he heads has been engaged for lo these many years in rapine of nation after nation with their killer IMF conditionalities. Yes, Acadia, the evil Olympian gods which Socrates (who died for bringing forward the truth) exposed as manufactured frauds of the ancient oligarchy are once again afoot. Today they are in the disguise of  financial "elites" and "technocrats" scheming to stuff the pockets of their masters with filthy lucre at the expense of your children's future being swallowed up in a disgusting parody of the myths about these evil oligarchic gods. Today, we are as if shackled watching the would be soothsayers' 3-D mime show extravaganza on the cave wall, produced in Hollywood, of course, which tells us that Gaia, mother earth (that whore) must be appeased with the blood of her sinful human creatures...Their crime? Daring to grasp the Promethean fire of the intellect and drag humanity out of that putrid cave. Daring to shout from the rooftops that it is evermore our destiny to explore and to live amongst the stars. Daring to propose that the bluff of the City of London and Wall Street be called...

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