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Old 12-20-2007, 11:38 AM   #101
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I was listening to some guy on Science Friday - he was talking about all this 'stuff', beginning of the universe, contemplated time travel, etc.

Then he started talking about how there are an INFINITE number of 'pasts' that lead up to our 'present'. And they all 'exist' in parallel? So, if you talk about time travel, you need to talk about which 'past' you choose to follow. Or something like that - I can't even begin to get my head around any of that.

It makes me wonder whether I am the idiot, or that guy.
Probably neither. Making science - especially physics - intelligible to nonscientists who mightn't have had all that much science education in school is a fairly difficult process, and unfortunately it isn't valued as much as it should be by scientists in general. Carl Sagan caught a lot of flak for "wasting" his time on the Cosmos series and other public-outreach work, and I think Stephen Jay Gould also started to get a reputation for spending too much time writing popular-science books.

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Like samclem, I kind of wonder about the value of intelligent people investing their time this way. But then I think about some scientists spending time with a loop of wire connected to some energy source they didn't understand, and noticing a compass needle jumping. It didn't seem like a very useful thing to do. Not too many generations later, we were sending communications at near the speed of light, and lighting people's homes without fire.
Looking at a history of scientific discoveries, it seems as though a lot of the really basic ones were made by people doing what you were describing rather than people who were given a task of "find a way to send communications at nearly the speed of light." Unfortunately a lot of the basic stuff doesn't find this sort of application, but a lot of the time you can't tell in advance.

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Down deep though, I still think it's just a scam to get another research grant Just like those guys studying particle physics. Every time they find what they were looking for, they say it indicates an even smaller particle exists, and they need more money to study that!

-ERD50
Yep - scientists, those well-known scammers. Makes you wonder how come scientists who aren't dependent on research grants ever do anything, doesn't it?
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Old 12-20-2007, 11:47 AM   #102
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The NY Times article I referenced in this thread touched on the "infinite number of pasts" a bit, but here's a book and a short synopsis that might give you more:

Reading List: The Cosmic Landscape (Fourmilog: None Dare Call It Reason)

String Landscape. The laws of physics and initial conditions of the universe are chosen at random from among 10500 possibilities, only a vanishingly small fraction of which (probably no more than one in 10120) can support life. The universe we observe, which is infinite in extent and may contain regions where the laws of physics differ, is one of an infinite number of causally disconnected “pocket universes“ which spontaneously form from quantum fluctuations in the vacuum of parent universes, a process which has been occurring for an infinite time in the past and will continue in the future, time without end. Each of these pocket universes which, together, make up the “megaverse”, has its own randomly selected laws of physics, and hence the overwhelming majority are sterile. We find ourselves in one of the tiny fraction of hospitable universes because if we weren't in such an exceptionally rare universe, we wouldn't exist to make the observation. Since there are an infinite number of universes, however, every possibility not only occurs, but occurs an infinite number of times, so not only are there an infinite number of inhabited universes, there are an infinite number identical to ours, including an infinity of identical copies of yourself wondering if this paragraph will ever end. Not only does the megaverse spawn an infinity of universes, each universe itself splits into two copies every time a quantum measurement occurs. Our own universe will eventually spawn a bubble which will destroy all life within it, probably not for a long, long time, but you never know. Evidence for all of the other universes is hidden behind a cosmic horizon and may remain forever inaccessible to observation.
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Old 12-20-2007, 11:56 AM   #103
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String Landscape. The laws of physics and initial conditions of the universe are chosen at random from among 10500 possibilities, only a vanishingly small fraction of which (probably no more than one in 10120) can support life.
This idea (without the following sentences) is often seized on by creationists to indicate that the earth and our surrounding environment "must" have been created, since even slightly different conditions would make life impossible. Of course, all we're actually seeing is survivorship bias . . . there are a LOT of inhospitable places out there, and earth could easily be one again. The cosmos won't be disturbed a bit by it.
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:02 PM   #104
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PS - I was going to follow up on that C. S. Lewis reference you provided, but then I thought - I've never been struck with the impression that the truly religious people I know (not the phony kind) are overall leading any better lives than the agnostic/atheists I know, so I probably just won't bother. I just personally don't see any value in it. But for any one who does, and feels it helps them to live a better life, I think it's great. We each find our own paths.

I am not religious, but I do recommend reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.

I too have problems getting my head around quantum physics and the concept of universes. I recently also read something about energy at the atomic level creating universes, some of which are "successful" but most of which flop.
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:11 PM   #105
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I too have problems getting my head around quantum physics and the concept of universes.
Most of us do, which is kind of interesting.

The idea that spawned religions is that man is special. Religions are really just an expression of man's vanity.

Wave / particle duality is observable, but how many of us incorporate it as part of our "intuitive" framework?

Quantum effects are exploitable, but how many humans understand quantum physics?

I love man, but the universe is bigger than we are.
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:23 PM   #106
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Human? No. Living? No. Smart? Yes
what if that brain was constructed organically rather than mechanically? still not alive? not human? does it take something more to be human than just the mechanics? where is the science in that?

what determines life, what determines humanity? when does stardust develop consciousness? are animals conscious but not plants, rocks?

if a completely chemically & biologically correct human can be manufactured would that being be less than human? where is the religion in that?

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We find ourselves in one of the tiny fraction of hospitable universes because if we weren't in such an exceptionally rare universe, we wouldn't exist to make the observation.
sounds at the same time objectively (scientifically) qualified in that a fraction of infinity is still infinity yet also rather subjectively egocentric, bordering on the religious, the rare observing exception. aren't we special?

it is not always so easy to separate science & religion, especially when they both attempt to describe, in their own language, the same event.
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:40 PM   #107
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what if that brain was constructed organically rather than mechanically? still not alive? not human? does it take something more to be human than just the mechanics? where is the science in that?

what determines life, what determines humanity? when does stardust develop consciousness? are animals conscious but not plants, rocks?

if a completely chemically & biologically correct human can be manufactured would that being be less than human? where is the religion in that?
I consider this stuff to be semantics. We already have people walking around with artificial hearts. Humans or cyborgs? Carver Mead implemented an artificial cochlea that interfaces with live nerves. Part of the brain or separate?

Humans are pattern matchers. We consider each other to be "different." We consider skin color differences to be really significant. We consider downs syndrome to be a strong differentiator. Aliens would probably consider all these things to be "the same."

So, I guarantee you that anything comprised of mostly man-made components will be considered "different" no matter how similar to us it might be.

Does that mean that what makes us "human" is something outside the laws of physics? No.

Edit: here's one for you. Humans vs chimps. Both living biological creatures. Both smart. Probably 98% genetically similar. I'm sure you consider chimps to be non-human. Why? Do they lack consciousness? Free will?
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:54 PM   #108
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It would be so cool to be smart enough to have even an inkling of what these guys are talking about.

To me it might as well be a nursery rhyme.

Ha
Try the National Geographic show Naked Science - they give you nice small bits of this stuff w/ visuals... Naked Science

i think if this thread answers the questions that are being posed, we might all evaporate or get blasted into a parallel dimension...
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Old 12-20-2007, 01:02 PM   #109
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Try the National Geographic show Naked Science - they give you nice small bits of this stuff w/ visuals... Naked Science

i think if this thread answers the questions that are being posed, we might all evaporate or get blasted into a parallel dimension...
Parallel dimensions? There is always this take on it:

magical trevor (everyone loves magical trevor) - flash

It even includes a cowhide whip!

As far as I can tell, these guys are smoking the same stuff as the 'infinite past' people. But what do I know - not much?

-ERD50
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Old 12-20-2007, 02:48 PM   #110
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but then I thought - I've never been struck with the impression that the truly religious people I know (not the phony kind) are overall leading any better lives than the agnostic/atheists I know, so I probably just won't bother. I just personally don't see any value in it. But for any one who does, and feels it helps them to live a better life, I think it's great. We each find our own paths.
So, now I wonder, which do you call yourself----agnostic--atheist--or religious?
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Old 12-20-2007, 03:03 PM   #111
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So, now I wonder, which do you call yourself----agnostic--atheist--or religious?
Well, I have had people ask me if I live a 'spiritual life'. I say that I try, but my definition of 'spiritual' is probably different than yours.

Since I think any of those three labels can 'work' for people, I don't really care much which is used. In that regard, I guess I'm pretty agonistic about the subject

If you really had to pin me down, I'd be most comfortable with agnostic. But my Magic-8 ball says 'all signs point to atheist'.

-ERD50
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Old 12-20-2007, 03:23 PM   #112
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........any of those three labels can 'work' for people, I don't really care much which is used. In that regard, I guess I'm pretty agonistic about the subject

If you really had to pin me down, I'd be most comfortable with agnostic. But my Magic-8 ball says 'all signs point to atheist'.

-ERD50
For someone who "doesn't really care much", you have sure put a lot of thought and effort into this thread!

As to C.S. Lewis, you might find his biography and life of interest. Some reading on him may fascinate you (even if you pass on his Mere Christianity). I say this based on your description of yourself. I don't know any particular biographies about him to recommend, but I am sure a Google search will reveal much.
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Old 12-20-2007, 03:55 PM   #113
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For someone who "doesn't really care much", you have sure put a lot of thought and effort into this thread!

As to C.S. Lewis, you might find his biography and life of interest. Some reading on him may fascinate you (even if you pass on his Mere Christianity). I say this based on your description of yourself. I don't know any particular biographies about him to recommend, but I am sure a Google search will reveal much.
Oh, I find the topic fascinating, I just don't care much about which of those labels is tagged on me.

Well, maybe I will look the fellow up. Gotta get through the 'Omnivore's Dilemma' first - I'm enjoying that more than I'd thought.

-ERD50
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Old 12-20-2007, 04:01 PM   #114
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Gotta get through the 'Omnivore's Dilemma' first - I'm enjoying that more than I'd thought.
That's one thing I liked about religions. They make it acceptable to eat "god's creatures" by putting man on a higher plane.

As an atheist, I see these complex organisms and I ask myself "How can I eat this? It's a thing of beauty. The product of millions of years of evolution!"

And then I justify it by saying "Eh, there's a bunch of them, and I'm hungry!"
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Old 12-20-2007, 04:22 PM   #115
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I consider this stuff to be semantics.
always easier to ignore meaning when labeling semantics.

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So, I guarantee you that anything comprised of mostly man-made components will be considered "different" no matter how similar to us it might be.
i've never been in the habit of checking the label in someone else's shirt. if i came across someone who seemed to fit human pattern but the label read "made in china" (and i'm not referring to the chinese), i do not imagine that i would consider the so-called droid any less human than i. human, android: it's just semantics after all.

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Edit: here's one for you. Humans vs chimps. Both living biological creatures. Both smart. Probably 98% genetically similar. I'm sure you consider chimps to be non-human. Why? Do they lack consciousness? Free will?
is that the measure of man? does such line of questioning presume that, say, even trees lack consciousness? is this information available? you might as well try to prove god. silly of course to argue whether or not a thing is a thing. more fun to argue the basis of humanity.

while guarding against anthropomorphism, god forbid, humans might consider which side of the mirror we're on. ascribing attributes of humanity to chimpanzee? seems awfully egocentric, almost religious. maybe we learned about us from watching them. maybe cavemen learned what is safe to eat by watching monkeys. maybe humanity is best found throughout nature and that it is we who are only monkey see and monkey do.

for you there is only physics. for someone else god is physics. for someone else there is only god. but all these arguments have failed to show me any significant difference.
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Old 12-20-2007, 04:33 PM   #116
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more fun to argue the basis of humanity.
I suspect it'll always boil down to the ol' "I'll know it when I see it." We're better at classifying things than we are at describing our heuristics.

Whether or not we believe in god, we all get the same kick out of beauty. And it's not clear to me what the evolutionary driver for that might be. Is it a side-effect of how we choose "fit" mates? Is it what drives our urge to explore and create?

In any case, thank god we can entertain ourselves this way.
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Old 12-20-2007, 05:25 PM   #117
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That's one thing I liked about religions. They make it acceptable to eat "god's creatures" by putting man on a higher plane.

As an atheist, I see these complex organisms and I ask myself "How can I eat this? It's a thing of beauty. The product of millions of years of evolution!"

And then I justify it by saying "Eh, there's a bunch of them, and I'm hungry!"
Funniest thing I have ever read on this board! Sums it all up for me.
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Old 12-20-2007, 07:15 PM   #118
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This idea (without the following sentences) is often seized on by creationists to indicate that the earth and our surrounding environment "must" have been created, since even slightly different conditions would make life impossible.
Yep, and five minutes later the same creationist will be telling you that it's perfectly reasonable for the universe to be a few thousand years old because the speed of light and a few other fundamental constants were orders of magnitude different back then. It's quite an education, watching them argue two mutually exclusive positions almost simultaneously.
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:12 AM   #119
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Yep, and five minutes later the same creationist will be telling you that it's perfectly reasonable for the universe to be a few thousand years old because the speed of light and a few other fundamental constants were orders of magnitude different back then. It's quite an education, watching them argue two mutually exclusive positions almost simultaneously.
So Cantuar, what would YOU be telling folks about the universe? Not about what the creationists or Jews or Christians or Muslims or whoever say, but what you say?
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Old 12-21-2007, 12:22 AM   #120
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Oh, I find the topic fascinating, I just don't care much about which of those labels is tagged on me.

Well, maybe I will look the fellow up. Gotta get through the 'Omnivore's Dilemma' first - I'm enjoying that more than I'd thought.

-ERD50
Kind of an ego centric position there ERD50. What makes you think anyone would bother putting a label on you? Rather, why not realize you're free to do/believe as you please, unfrettered by the judgements of anyone, other than those imaginary characters you might imagine to be judging you?

Any label you have is self-placed. So, enjoy doing it "your way."
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