According to Emmanuel Swedenborg, the form of a spiral lies at the heart of the created world. While this idea faded into obscurity as the mechanistic worldview of Newtonian physics came to dominate our sensibilities, it is finding resurgence in the science and mathematics of complexity.
For more than a century, physics has been confronting the demon of indeterminacy in the quantum structure of the universe in the search for a Theory of Everything (TOE). Theoretical physicists have struggled for a century to close the gap – unsuccessfully. The esteemed Sir Roger Penrose (age 84) has a different idea that may move us closer to a TOE, but in an unexpected way: his theory also explains the mechanism of consciousness and free will. By implication, it forces each of us (and every quantum state) to make a choice. (more…)
Thomas Pynchon, in his sprawling novel Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), exhibited a fascination for the peculiar mathematics of the Poisson Distribution, a pattern exhibited in certain random sequences (including the location of German rocket strikes in London during WWII). Sometimes referred to as a “law of rare events”, the Poisson distribution has proven to apply to such disparate phenomena as: the volume of Internet traffic; deaths per year in a given age group; DNA mutations resulting from radiation; goals scored in sports with two competing teams; etc. (more…)
There is a remarkable similarity in the cosmological arguments about the nature of time that have arisen in both the theological and scientific community. The religious concept of Divine Omniscience is structurally identical to the physics of causal determinism in space-time – and both have raised debates about the nature of human free will. (more…)
I have hesitated to delve deeply into quantum physics (QP) in the ISAS Forum before because it is complex and paradoxical, and because the field is quite confused. Two recent articles, one in Nautilus magazine and one posted in BQO have changed this – new ideas being offered to explain the paradox of QP will change our understanding of the very nature of time and causation. The metaphysical implications are staggering – physicists are talking about the possible necessity of universal consciousness and universal purpose – and beginning to mention God.
The common scientific explanation of causation follows the reductionist view that states that the interactions of the smallest structures cause the macro effects we actually see: Causation is a “bottom-up” process. But there are significant flaws in this model of causation that scientists (and theologians) have been struggling to address. A new model sees causation working top-down in multiple generative levels. This model may seem more complex, but it does a far better job at explaining the way the world works. And, however difficult it may seem, it is a model that is intuitively understood by children. (more…)
Entropy, the measurement of disorder in a physical system, is one of the most profound puzzles in physics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, formulated in the 19th century, states that entropy always increases as physical systems naturally progress from order to disorder. However, modern physics has never been able to explain why the universe has this directionality. While we intuitively understand the “arrow of time,” it is absent in the formulations of classical and quantum physics. In recent decades, the concept of entropy and its related mathematics has also found applications in information theory. A recent study has linked entropy with the emergence of intelligence. Why is there such an unusual connection? (more…)
Explaining the Puzzles of Physics – a response to Michael Shermer (Scientific American, May 2012, p.86)
The field of Physics has been confounded for nearly a century with intractable puzzles. It is also rife with contention between religious and atheist points of view, with both sides claiming proofs, or more precisely, un-proofs, for their points of view. A recent example is Michael Shermer’s “Skeptic” column in the May 2012 Scientific American, titled “Much Ado about Nothing”. Mr. Shermer borrows his title from Shakespeare’s romantic farce, a remarkably apt context for his article, but he is apparently oblivious to the irony. (more…)