Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I believe a lot of what cosmology serves up, even when it's bizarre and counter intuitive, but I might have reached my limit with the latest theories.

The new idea is that our reality is just a holographic projection of the true reality, and that true reality is located on the flat, two-dimensional, inner wall of a black hole somewhere. According to this theory I'm not really typing this blog on a planet called Earth, I'm just a holographic projection of something something that's happening very far away under the Event Horizon of a black hole.

Does that sound plausible to you? Not to me; I just don't believe it. Being a science fiction fan I almost hope it's true, but....naaaaaaw.... it's just too weird. Really, will anyone will believe this thirty years from now?

That's not the only idea I have trouble with. How about "M" theory, also fast becoming a mainstream idea, which says that the universe is layed out on an undulating flat sheet called a membrane? According to M theory our brane is separated from the flat brane of another universe by a thin fourth dimensional space. Some time around fourteen billion years ago our brain somehow touched the brane next to ours and The Big Bang resulted.

Nope, I don't believe that either. I'll follow the idea with interest, and I sort of want the theory to be true, but...once again...it's just too weird. If the universe is flat, how come it doesn't appear that way? Shouldn't theory conform to observation?

BTW: Roberto said that YouTube has just taken this video (above) down. Here's a more technical video on the same subject that might be of interest: http://theopenacademy.com/content/lecture-1-string-theory-and-m-theory

Apparently all these strange ideas spin off from the attempt to apply String Theory to cosmology. String Theory requires the existence of eleven dimensions and the existence of infinite numbers of universes. It's not regarded as proven but it's the operating assumption of a whole generation of cosmologists. But what if they're wrong?

The infinite universes concept is not without challenge. Skeptics like Michio Kaku claim that any equation that delivers an absurd answer like "an infinity of infinities" must be wrong. Count me with the skeptics. We don't even know the nature of dark matter and dark energy, which are held to account for most of what exists....maybe a theory of everything is premature.

I should mention another theory that's being bandied about lately...the theory that we're a simulation, a sort of video game on someone else's computer. This, I'm happy to say, isn't embraced by mainstream physicists, but it is being researched by a team in Germany. They figure that any simulation must occur on a grid of some sort, and that grid should be detectable. As a science fiction fan I love the idea, but....really.

All this reminds me of a book I just found out about called "How the Hippies Saved Physics." I could see a book about how they tried to wreck physics (computers excluded), but save it???? Did I really read "SAVE?" Astral projecting, pyramids-that-sharpen-razor-blades, California's going to physically detach from the continent in our time, gurus that levitate, past lives in Atlantis, the only good technology is the batteries in electric wheelchairs, anti-business hippies...THEY saved physics????  This I've gotta see! I'll see if the library has it.


DASH NINE said...

Insane in the M Bran! Insane in the Bran!

Joshua Marchant (Scrawnycartoons) said...

That book's about the least likely theory out of the bunch!

Adam Tavares said...

Some hippies didn't stay conventional hippies. They grew up to be scientists and mathematicians, but they still retained some beliefs and ideas from when they were young. Social identity is more porous than you imply.

Plus hippies introduced psychedelic drugs to the mainstream, which if used responsibly can allow people to look at the world and problems in unfamiliar but still useful ways.

Seeing a problem in a new way can inspire a novel idea that solves it. Physics is just a collection of known problems and solutions to them.

So why exactly is it crazy to think matured hippies or hippie culture made a meaningful contribution to physics?

Robert Schaad said...

This discussion reminds me of a TV news item from the other day, in which they were discussing the cel phones of the not too distant future that will approximate smells. Smell-o-vision indeed! Also, how we will one day be able to download an edible slice of pizza. No thanks. Real not virtual pizza for me. Does dark matter hold the secrets of teleportation and time travel??

normanquebedeau.com said...

A couple of my cartoons are on page 158 of How The Hippies...".

Also: Several Flash cartoons on my website were done for Dr. Jack Sarfatti, an old friend and a main character featured in this book. Jack paid me to teach myself Flash4.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

ADAM: I don't disagree. No doubt there's lots of ex-hippies who brought a useful perspective into the mainstream. It's just that there's a lot who didn't.

Hippies were the most gullible people that I can imagine. No idea was too outrageous for them. According to hippies indians never went to war before the Europeans came, shamans had been travelling to the Moon for centuries, babies could levitate if only they weren't aculturated (spelled right?)...it would be a long list.

Granted that a lot of hippies eventually grew out of that, but even ex-hippies are often suprisingly gullible. My ex-hippie friends believe that truly massive spending and borrowing, with no limit imposed, will cure our economic woes. But will it? It seems to me another example of the tendency of hippies to embrace the fantastic.

Getting back to physics, my hunch is that ex-hippies are more apt than most to explain the currently unexplainable with recourse to parallel worlds and other dimensions. Maybe they're right...in fact, I almost hope they are...but I'm not betting on it.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Joshua: Haw!

Robert: Phones that convey smells? What if the caller had eaten beans before calling?

Roberto Severino said...

Fascinating! As Adam said, there have been hippies that grew out of their ideology. Look up Michael Savage and how he went from being one of Allen Ginsberg's friends to being the fiery conservative talk show host he is today. He's a fascinating man that I'm pretty sure you and I would want to have lunch with when he's not trying to live up to his pseudonym of a last name or going on a tirade about leftism. He also can tell amazing stories on the radio and he's one of the few talk show hosts I actually listen to.

By the way, the video you linked to was taken down for copyright by YouTube. Ugh.

Adam Tavares said...

Additional dimensions and parallel worlds seem like flighty ideas but they make sense mathematically.

For instance...

If x is the length of a line segment.
then x^2 ( x raised to the second power ) is the area of a square.
and x^3 is the volume of a cube.
and x^4 is the hypervolume of a hypercube.

So just by raising a value to the fourth power you have a mathematical statement which in physics can imply a fourth dimension.

If you're a theoretical physicist you have to build the mathematical model that explains the relationships among all the data that has been gathered. You're sometimes going to find equations that fit the numbers but imply that nature actually works in counterintuitive ways. It's the reason physics has that mystical quality that other sciences don't.

Mystique aside, if the numbers fit, the numbers fit. Physicists have to trust the numbers more than their own perception. If they didn't I certainly wouldn't be typing this to you right now, and we wouldn't have most of the other useful tools or knowledge now at our disposal. That's a pretty good reason to trust the math. If it's done honestly.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Adam: Haw! Nice try, but I'm not buying it. Kaku might say, "But the numbers don't fit; they conjure up absurdities like 'an infinity of infinities'."

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Roberto: Thanks for letting me know that the video was taken down. Geez, I'd just watched the video before posting.

Tomorrow I'll try to put another graphic in its place.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Norman: Holy Cow! Now I have another reason to see the book! Thanks for telling me!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Adam: I accidentally deleted your last comment about strangling good ideas in their infancy just because they seem weird. Sorry about that. I get a lot of spam lately and it's to easy to push the wrong button when deleting it.

Norman Quebedeau said...

Oops! I should have said page 186. I never have been any good with numbers.

randolph said...

The holographic hypothesis has been falsified at this point, but did you know they're pretty sure they found the Higgs boson? The completion of the Standard Model (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Model) over a period of 50 years has to rank as one of the great achievements of physics and deserves more attention, even, than it has gotten.

The "hippies who saved physics" were these people: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_Fysiks_Group. They were not "reformed" or any such thing. Hippie philosophers have been right fairly often. (Embarassing, I know.) I don't think their work is quite as important as David Kasier, who wrote that book, makes it out to be, but it is a real and valid contribution.

randolph said...

By the Wikipedia account (not be trusted on such matters), the Fundamental Fisyks Group was a pretty flaky bunch of hippies, but they were hippies with good PhDs, and to gain respect--or even be published--their work had to review from their peers. We have a summary from MIT's own news office here: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/hippies-physics-kaiser-0627.html.

Quantum mechanics is a weird theory--a bit of philosophical flakiness can be helpful in apprehending it. Einstein, who in many respects was the last classical physicist, never did accept it. And yet it is not to be ignored. It has passed too many tests and proven to be of too much value.