Counting till the end… Numbers… Infinite… Water and fire…

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Gisin, of the University of Geneva, debates the physical reality of real numbers.

His main problem lies with real numbers that consist of a never-ending string of digits with no discernable pattern and that can’t be calculated by a computer. Such numbers (like π for example) contain an infinite amount of information: You could imagine encoding in those digits the answers to every fathomable question in the English language — and more.

But to represent the world, real numbers shouldn’t contain unlimited information, Gisin says, because, “in a finite volume of space you will never have an infinite amount of information”. Instead, Gisin argues that only a certain number of digits of real numbers have physical meaning. After some number of digits, for example, the thousandth digit, or maybe even the billionth digit, their values are essentially random.

This has big implications for the seemingly unrelated concept of free will. Standard classical physics leaves no room for free will. But if the world is described by numbers that have randomness baked into them, as Gisin suggests, that would knock classical physics from its deterministic perch. That would mean that the behavior of the universe — and everything in it — can’t be predetermined, Gisin says. “There really is room for creativity”. (1)

The nature of the world is hidden in shadows.

Behind the coldness of empty space.

Concealed by the massive planets dancing between the stars.

Hidden at the outer rim of the universe.

There lies the source of all numbers.

The source of all existence.

Infinite.

Don’t be afraid of it.

Because even the smallest drop of water.

Came out of the primordial abyss…

You are the son of water. The daughter of fire.

Sibling and mother and father of chaos.

You can only count because you know the end.

1, 2, 3, …

Engraved symbols. Long gone. Deep into our heart…

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Engraved stone artifacts are important clues to the history of human culture and cognition. Incisions on the cortex (soft outer layer) of flint or chert flakes are known from Middle and Lower Paleolithic sites across Europe and the Middle East. However, it can be difficult to determine the action that created an incision: was it an accidental scrape or purposeful engraving? To address this issue, Majkic and colleagues created an interpretive framework that allows researchers to classify the structure and patterns of engraved cortexes and cross-check these attributes with a list of possible causal actions.

They tested this methodology with an engraved flake from the cave site of Kiik-Koba in Crimea. The many stone artifacts at the site are associated with Neanderthal remains and date to around 35,000 years ago. Following microscopic examination of the grooved lines on the flint cortex, the researchers concluded that the incisions represent deliberate engravings that would have required fine motor skills and attention to detail. These engravings appear to have been made with symbolic or communicative intent.

If this interpretation is correct, this engraved flake would join a growing list of signs that Neanderthals engaged in symbolic activities, along with evidence of intentional burial, personal ornaments, and other decorated objects. This has implications for the question of when and how many times this sort of cultural expression has evolved among hominin populations. The researchers hope to hone their framework further for use with artifacts of varying ages and cultural contexts. (1)

Old symbols.

But not dead ones.

Lingering still inside us.

Engraved into our very souls.

No need for any analysis or interpretation. Just look within yourself. Every part of you is governed by primate instincts. Every thought you have stems from an otherworldly need of belonging. Belonging to something bigger than you. Something shared with all other humans and with the universe itself.

Long before you were born…

You used to be alive.

Part of everything.

Enclosing everything…

Try to remember.

You were primitive back then.

Not yet cursed with knowledge…

A raw untamed river. Carving its way through the stone…

Brain waves. A calm lake…

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Our brains hum with electrical activity. Brain waves created by the coordinated firing of huge collections of nerve cells pinball around the brain. The waves can ricochet from the front of the brain to the back, or from deep structures all the way to the scalp and then back again.

Called neuronal oscillations, these signals are known to accompany certain mental states. Quiet alpha waves ripple soothingly across the brains of meditating monks. Beta waves rise and fall during intense conversational turns. Fast gamma waves accompany sharp insights. Sluggish delta rhythms lull deep sleepers, while dreamers shift into slightly quicker theta rhythms.

Researchers have long argued over whether these waves have purpose. MIT’s Earl Miller is among the neuro­scientists amassing evidence that waves are an essential part of how the brain operates. Brain oscillations deftly route information in a way that allows the brain to choose which signals in the world to pay attention to and which to ignore, his recent studies suggest. Other research supports this view, too. Studies on people with electrodes implanted in their brains suggest brain waves, and their interactions, help enable emotion, language, vision and more. When these waves are abnormal, brainpower suffers, studies find. (1)

Surely the waves in the brain seem important. But these waves are not the only waves in the ocean of existence. There are waves everywhere. And they are all interconnected. How could they not be anyway?

We are all part of the same rough ocean…

An ocean roaring with rage in the dark night.

Throw a water drop in it. And you will see it disappear under the waves. But sometimes, just sometimes, something magical happens. And on a calm night, you can hear yourself whispering. It is then, only then, that you can feel ocean’s best hidden secret.

Sitting by the sea. No waves.

Silencing your brain. Feeling the rain.

Listening to the smallest drop falling into the water…

It is an important drop. Creating an ocean…

And out of a sudden, you are no longer afraid of the abyss…

Brain. One with the body. Falling in love.

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At a small eatery in Seville, Spain, Alan Jasanoff had his first experience with brains — wrapped in eggs and served with potatoes. At the time, he was more interested in finding a good, affordable meal than contemplating the sheer awesomeness of the organ he was eating. Years later, Jasanoff began studying the brain as part of his training as a neuroscientist, and he went on, like so many others, to revere it. It is said, after all, to be the root of our soul and consciousness. But today, Jasanoff has yet another view: He has come to see our awe of the organ as a seriously flawed way of thinking, and even a danger to society.

In The Biological Mind, Jasanoff, neuroscientist at MIT, refers to the romanticized view of the brain — its separateness and superiority to the body and its depiction as almost supernatural — as the “cerebral mystique”. Such an attitude has been fueled, in part, by images that depict the brain without any connection to the body or by analogies that compare the brain to a computer. Admittedly, the brain does have tremendous computing power. But Jasanoff’s goal is to show that the brain doesn’t work as a distinct, mystical entity, but as a ball of flesh awash with fluids and innately in tune with the rest of the body and the environment. “Self” doesn’t just come from the brain, he explains, but also from the interactions of chemicals from our bodies with everything else around us.

To make his case, Jasanoff offers an extensive yet entertaining review of the schools of thought and representations of the brain in the media that led to the rise of the cerebral mystique, especially during the last few decades. He then tears down those ideas using contrary examples from recent research, along with engaging anecdotes. For instance, his clear, lively writing reveals how our emotions, such as the fight-or-flight response and the suite of thoughts and actions associated with stress, provide strong evidence for a brain-body connection. Exercise’s effect on the brain also supports this notion. Even creativity isn’t sacred, often stemming from repeated interactions with those around us. (1)

An interesting viewpoint. But a very limited one.

It is not just the brain connected to your body.

It is your body connected with others.

It is your mind connected with everything else.

Would you be afraid without your stomach?

Could you speak without your food?

Would you dream without your heart?

Could you cry without your daughter?

Your soul is connected with the cosmos.

Yes, you are your body. And your mind. And your brain. And your heart. And your mother. And your children. And everything around you. You are these things and these things are you. Look at the stars in the vast cold space. They are there. And you are here. And yet, you wouldn’t be able to fall in love without them. Look at the stars in the sky. You are here. And they are there. And yet, they couldn’t even shine without you…

From electrons to photons. From photons to electrons…

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The quantum computer of the future will be able to carry out computations far beyond the capacity of today’s computers. Quantum superpositions and entanglement of quantum bits (qubits) make it possible to perform parallel computations.

Making useful computations requires large numbers of qubits and it is this upscaling to large numbers that is providing a challenge worldwide. “To use a lot of qubits at the same time, they need to be connected to each other; there needs to be good communication”, explains researcher Nodar Samkharadze. At present the electrons that are captured as qubits in silicon can only make direct contact with their immediate neighbors. That makes it tricky to scale up to large numbers of qubits.

Some quantum systems use photons for long-distance interactions. Delft scientists have shown that a single electron spin and a single photon can be coupled on a silicon chip. This coupling makes it possible in principle to transfer quantum information between a spin and a photon. This is important to connect distant quantum bits on a silicon chip, thereby paving the way to upscaling quantum bits on silicon chips. (1)

Once the cosmos just was. In the beginning there was darkness.

And then came light. Making things visible. Splitting the cosmos into multiple pieces. A cosmos seemingly full of antinomies. And yet still solid and consistent as that first dark night…

Now we transfer the cosmos back into the light. A light which will interfere with itself. Only to show that the zillions of possibilities exist at the same time.

Some time ago, the cosmos was born into light.

But the light will fade away.

One electron at a time…

The pieces are going to disappear.

One interaction at a time…

The universe is going to die.

And only then, will we see that it was never born…