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My Relativity Journey: A Series Of Unlikely Events

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The name Einstein is synonymous with “someone who is really smart.” His name crops up frequently in pop culture and perhaps even more in scientific discussions about the nature of matter, energy, space and time. As someone with a science background (evolutionary biology and ecology) and a deep curiosity about how our universe works, I began to dive into the world of Einstein about six years ago. I’ve been pretty surprised by what I discovered and this little essay is about my own personal journey and some thoughts on modern physics and the nature of time specifically.

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I’m scientifically literate but my physics math isn’t well developed so after seeing Einstein’s popular book, Relativity: The Special and the General Theories at the bookstore in the SFO airport I snapped this little tome up and was pleasantly surprised to find it quite accessible and interesting to read. It was also a nice introduction to his technical papers on his theories.

I learned in his little book about Einstein’s two relativity theories. The first, special relativity, was proposed by Einstein in 1905; the second, general relativity, in 1915. I’m going to focus on Special Relativity in this essay.

Special Relativity was Einstein’s first foray into upending our long-standing notions on the nature of space and time. Counter-intuitively, Special Relativity holds that both space and time are malleable and the speed of light is absolute (i.e., constant for all observers, no matter what their speed). In our normal life, of course, space and time seem pretty absolute in a physical sense. Yes, time can seem to pass more quickly or more slowly based on our mental state but generally we realize that this feeling is psychological and not indicative of an actual change in the passage of time in the world around us.

Einstein’s “time dilation” was not, however, merely psychological. He suggested that time dilation was real and is a function of the speed of the observer. The faster you go the more time slows down. “Moving clocks run slow” is the shorthand for this phenomenon. If a person in a spaceship were able somehow to get to the speed of light, time would literally stop. This isn’t actually possible in Special Relativity because the mass of the spaceship increases the closer it is to the speed of light, requiring more and more energy to go even faster. So massive things can never reach the speed of light. Only massless particles, like photons and neutrinos, can travel at the speed of light.

tambookSimilarly, “length contraction” is a function of the speed of an object. This means that what you would measure as a one-meter stick when the stick is at rest would be measured as shorter than one meter when it is in motion. And if that stick were accelerated to almost the speed of light it would be very short indeed when measured by you as a stationary observer.

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Why do these things happen? Well, Einstein describes it very clearly in his little book: it all comes down to his choices in defining simultaneity. As described also in Peter Galison’s excellent book, Einstein’s Clocks; Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time, clock synchronization was a big issue when Einstein was writing on relativity. Railroads, map-making, colonization and other economic activities all depended in various ways on the ability to synchronize clocks. This is what is meant by simultaneity: how do we know when two events occur at the same time? Einstein chose to define simultaneity operationally, that is, by how we can measure it, rather than as a more abstract notion about when events are “really” simultaneous. Einstein’s approach was part of a tendency toward “positivism,” the scientific choice of focusing only on what can be measured, and downplaying or eliminating entirely those concepts that can’t be measured directly.

Einstein suggested that simultaneity should be defined operationally as the perception of simultaneous events, and this perception would include an assumption that the information being perceived traveled at the same speed no matter where it came from. The example he gives relies on a passenger on a moving train. If the passenger sees two lightning strikes at the same time, one in front and one in the rear of the train (using mirrors if necessary in order to see both ways), they will be considered simultaneous.

But for a person on the embankment next to the moving train these same two lightning flashes would not be simultaneous because of the time it takes for those flashes of light to reach each observer. This is because the train is moving toward one flash and away from the other. But that’s not the case, of course, for the person on the embankment. In this way, simultaneity becomes relative and depends on the motion of the observer. This is a key point and is literally the origin of the entire structure of Einstein’s relativity theories and the strange relativistic effects of time dilation and length contraction.

There is a remarkable and telling passage in Einstein’s little book where he explains his reasoning for his proposed definition of simultaneity (p. 27 of the 1952 edition, emphasis in the original):

“There is only one demand to be made of the definition of simultaneity, namely, that in every real case it must supply us with an empirical decision as to whether or not the conception that has to be defined is fulfilled. That my definition satisfies this demand is indisputable. That light requires the same time to traverse the path [from the first lightning flash in front of the train and from the second lightning flash behind the train] is in reality neither a supposition nor a hypothesis about the physical nature of light, but a stipulation which I can make of my own free will in order to arrive at a definition of simultaneity.”

Einstein is, then, stating his view that he’s simply assuming (stipulating) that the speed of light is constant for all observers, no matter their speed, and then seeing where this assumption takes us. A key consequence of the relativity of simultaneity is the idea of a “block universe” in which past, present and future all in some manner exist already. As Einstein stated in a 1952 letter: “The distinction between past, present and future is a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Einstein’s ideas became widespread after his theory of general relativity was spectacularly confirmed in 1919 by Sir Arthur Eddington’s scientific expedition to Sao Tomé and Principe during a solar eclipse. Eddington found that light did indeed appear to bend around the sun during the eclipse and by the amount Einstein predicted in his general theory. The rest is history.

But not so fast. Once I understood what Einstein had done in crafting his special theory, I objected to his logical moves. When I read and re-read the passage above, I objected to his statement that there is “only one demand” to be made of the definition of simultaneity: that the empirical demand of judging simultaneity in each case is fulfilled. There is also a need to avoid contradiction and to avoid contravening empirical facts. I’m going to focus here on the latter item: contravening empirical facts.

Here’s my beef with Einstein: Special Relativity leads to the idea that the flow of time we know intimately is actually an illusion, as suggested by the Einstein quote above. Even though in every moment of our experience time proceeds from moment to moment, with each present becoming a new present, Special Relativity says this flow is an illusion. And even though the past is, based on our common experience of time, only memory, and the future only imagined, Special Relativity says that the past and future co-exist in some manner with the present “in block.” Moreover, if the past, present and future are all in some manner already in existence then there is no room for free will. As with the flow of time, I sure feel like I have free will so there is an empirical issue when a theory suggests otherwise.

What are we to do?

What do we do when a widely accepted theory seems to clash so directly with our direct evidence of the world around us, particularly with our experience of the flow of time? Falsification is the gold standard of good science and this simply means that experiments that disprove (falsify) a prediction of a theory should lead to rejection of that theory. Now, with our experience of the passage of time there’s no experiment even required for a certain kind of falsification of Special Relativity. We can simply look around us and look to the heavens and see that there is indeed an arrow of time and a flow of time, everywhere we see. This isn’t a trivial issue for Special Relativity. Reconciling time’s arrow and the flow of time with special and general relativity remains a serious issue in physics today.

When asked by my colleague Jonathan Schooler how he reconciled the illusory nature of time in relativity theory with our experience of the flow of time, the physicist Brian Greene said that he sees a psychiatrist. This moment of humor highlights the very real problem that modern physics faces in reconciling the flow of time with our best physical theories about time. Lee Smolin’s 2013 book Time Reborn, examines these issues in detail and he asserts that perhaps relativity theory isn’t the last word about time. He suggests a number of ways in which time may be reclaimed.

We are, then, in a new era of debate about the nature of time. I’ve written a number of short essays challenging the completeness or accuracy of the interpretations of relativity theory that render time illusory and these are included in my book, Eco, Ego, Eros: Essays on Philosophy, Spirituality, and Science. My book also includes an interview with Smolin about his ideas.

Back to the present moment. I’m writing this little essay on a train to Seattle on the winter solstice. I’ve seen no lightning. Yet. Night has just fallen on this, the longest night of the year, a nice reminder of the historical importance of the passage of time and of the seasons.

It turns out that my ongoing interest in Einstein’s theories has led me to chairing a panel on these issues at a conference next June in Helsinki, Finland. Part of the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference, our panel will look at “The physics and metaphysics of time in relation to consciousness.” More interestingly, my colleague, Jonathan Schooler, who I mentioned above, will be joining me on that panel.

Not only that, Schooler is on the same train with me now and we’ve been discussing the implications and alternatives to relativity theory for some time. There was a nice synchronicity in our discovering that we’d be on the same train. It’s the first time for both of us to take Amtrak from Santa Barbara to Seattle. My family is in Seattle and Jonathan’s girlfriend’s family is too. I only found out that he’d be on the train with me a few days ago, after we’d been discussing for a matter of months the Helsinki conference panel and our respective presentations. What’s even weirder about this particular synchronicity is that I got my days wrong with respect to when I was actually supposed to board my train. I boarded the train a day too early! I was able to avoid getting kicked off the train by calling Amtrak and changing my ticket. So the synchronicity of being on the same train with Schooler was even more striking because I wasn’t actually going to be on the same train until I made the mistake of thinking my train left on Sunday when it actually left on Monday.

Anyway, I bring up this personal anecdote because it relates directly to the nature of time and our experience of time. Synchronicities (“same-time”) are all about strange and meaningful coincidences. What do they mean? That’s for each of us to decide. But for now, I’m going to continue to take it as a cue from the universe that I’m on the right (train?) track in continuing to examine the nature of time in relation to consciousness. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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5 Real-World Examples of Time Travel That Prove It’s Real

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Time travel has been demonstrated in our world in multiple ways, but it's always been thought of as the stuff of science fiction. This article provides multiple real-world examples.

  • Reflect On:

    Humanity has made some interesting discoveries, and some of them we can't explain. As a result, we shy away from them and label unexplainable things as false as "pseudoscience." What are the implications of accepting these things as completely real?

Time travel is one of those fun topics that triggers visions of a young Michael J. Fox racing through time, literally, in the DeLorean, or Bill and Ted reliving famous moments in history thanks to their time-travelling phone booth. However, time travel isn’t just a movie plot line. It’s a real scientific phenomenon. Einstein’s theory of special relativity, after all, tells us that time slows down or speeds up depending on how fast you are moving relative to something else. So, we are all travelling through time on a daily basis. But it gets much spookier than that. Here are five real-world examples of time travel.

Astronauts

Time travellers are walking around on planet Earth right now. And they work for NASA! Astronauts who spend time on the International Space Station or long rocket trips out in our solar system age slightly slower than the rest of us down here. Not enough to notice, but enough to measure (100 years of time in space equals one-second forward in time). That means astronauts are not just space travellers, but time travellers, too. For those who believe that aliens are visiting planet Earth in speedy spaceships, the evidence for time travel could even extend to UFO videos and photos of advanced, inter-dimensional craft, because if Earth’s astronauts are able to travel through time, more advanced extraterrestrial astronauts should be able to as well.

Jack Kasher, Ph.D, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of Nebraska, points out that there is another way, whether it’s wormholes or warping space, there’s got to be a way to generate energy so that you can pull it out of the vacuum, and the fact that they’re here shows us that they found a way.” (source)

The Science Lab

Time travel was once just a math equation jotted down on a notepad, a conversation topic over coffee, or the center of a sci-fi movie plot. But today time travel is a serious scientific study. In one recent experiment, Washington State University physicists were able to slow down the movement of particles so much that “negative mass” was created, causing the particles to accelerate forward when they were pushed away. The physicists concluded that the particles went backward in time! As well, physicists at the University of Queensland in Australia were able to make a single photon, or particle of light, go through a wormhole and interact with its older self on the other side.

There is also what’s called the delayed choice experiment. the delayed choice experiment illustrates how what happens in the present can change what happens(ed) in the past. It also shows how time can go backwards, how cause and effect can be reversed, and how the future caused the past. You can read more about that here.

Remote Viewers and Psychics

Scientists have yet to find a way for the human body to safely travel through time, but they may have figured out a way for the human mind to travel through time. According to Wikipedia, remote viewing is “the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target” using extrasensory perception, or ESP. In 1984, under the top-secret cover of the Stargate Project, the CIA conducted an experiment where they asked a human subject to remote view Mars in ancient times. Ingo Swann, a famed psychic who was part of the Stargate Project, claimed to have astral projected to Jupiter.

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Here’s one of the most recent, heavily sources articles CE published on Remote Viewing.

Psychics are more well-known than remote viewers. They seem to be everywhere, and come in all varieties, from the TV show host to the fortune teller to your aunt. Some police departments even hire psychics to help locate missing bodies. Then there are revered psychics like Edgar Cayce and religious figures like Jesus Christ who have made bold and incredible predictions about the future that all came true.

Dreams That Come True

It’s possible that every time we drift off to sleep, we have the potential to drift off to a different time and space. At least in our minds. Many people relate to the experience of having a premonition in a dream, and in fact, many have gone on record about their foreshadowing dream (or nightmare). For example, Jo Jo Billingsley, a vocalist for the 1970s band Lynard Skynard, dreamed about her band mates suffering in a plane crash the night before it happened. There was also the case of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, who reportedly dreamed about his death a few nights before he was assassinated.

Here is a more detailed article we’ve written on precognitive dreaming. Here is another one on dream telepathy.

Remembering Past Lives

The belief in reincarnation is an ancient one. Along with reincarnation comes the belief in past lives. But for some, it’s much more than a belief. Some people remember their past lives, starting from a young age like Sam Taylor, who shared memories with his late grandfather, or more commonly, after a hypnotherapy session. If it’s possible for the human brain to view a past life and learn from past life experience, then maybe the human brain is the best time machine of all.

Because most of us can’t time travel, the subject matter continues to hang out in sci-fi books and movies and doesn’t factor into our day-to-day reality. However, if time travel is real, the implications for humanity are really great. Time travel could explain other mysterious phenomena, like ghosts, UFOs, and even the Mandela Effect. Time travel could also motivate mankind to open up its mind to a new universe of possibility, where the secrets of the future and past are revealed. It can be argued that it’s only a matter of time before humanity unlocks the secret powers of time travel.

The Takeaway

There is still a lot we don’t know, and a lot of our most interesting science is locked away within black budget programs.  We are capable of so much and still have so much to discover about our reality and ourselves. When the human race is ready and our intentions shift to looking at ourselves as a whole, perhaps then these ‘knowing’ will be ready to be utilized by the public.

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Scientists Receive Green Light To “Resurrect The Dead” Using Stem Cells

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Biotech company Bioquark has been given the green light to 'resurrect' the clinically dead using stem cells. They are attempting 'the reversal of death.'

  • Reflect On:

    How do you feel about this? Should we be trying to stay alive forever, in a sense? Do we, as a society, view death in a healthy manner? Should we know what happens at death? What are the implications of 'living forever?'

Death is a controversial subject in the medical field for many reasons. People rely on doctors to save them and their loved ones, but when fate has its way, the whole world can feel out of order. And while the death of a loved one may not feel final at first, we soon come to realize that, at least for the living who remain, it does mark an end.

That’s why it seems like a controversial yet incredible move for a US biotechnology company called Bioquark to have been given permission to recruit 20 clinically dead patients and attempt to bring their central nervous systems back to life. They hope to eliminate patients’ need to rely on machines by reanimating parts of the upper spinal cord, where the lower brain stem is located, to potentially energize vital body functions like breathing and heartbeats.

Trial participants will have been declared certified dead and kept alive solely through life support machines. “This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime,” said CEO of Bioquark Inc., Ira Pastor. The team, who was granted ethical permission from an Institutional Review Board at the National Institutes of Health in the US and India to begin trials on 20 subjects, is looking to recruit patients for its ReAnima Project as soon as possible.

The team will first complete a phase 1 trial, referred to as a non-randomized, proof-of-concept study. This will determine whether or not they are capable of reversing clinical brain death through drug administration, nerve stimulation, and laser therapy. They’ll also be looking at whether or not they can affect any changes in the meninges of the brain, layers of tissue located between the skull and the surface of the brain. Specifically, the team will be investigating improvements in the patients’ pulse, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and respiration.

The team will first seek permission from the families of the clinically dead, and then will proceed to treat the 20 chosen individuals over a six-week period in Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, India. These will then be monitored for several months, where the researchers will determine if any changes have been made. “We hope to see results within the first two to three months,” Pastor said.

To attempt to bring the patients back from the dead, Bioquark has administered four different types of treatments, which include:

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  • Injecting simple protein chains called peptides into the patients’ spinal cord on a daily basis.
  • Injecting stem cells into their brains twice weekly.
  • Using the non-invasive treatment called transcranial laser therapy to activate the body’s natural recovery processes.
  • Using another non-invasive technique called nerve stimulation, which involves delivering electrical impulses to the median nerve of the upper limb.

“To undertake such a complex initiative, we are combining biologic regenerative medicine tools with other existing medical devices typically used for stimulation of the central nervous system, in patients with other severe disorders of consciousness,” Pastor noted.

The researchers are hoping that, if they can get patients’ brains to work again, and since many clinically dead can retain certain functions, like processing waste, digesting nutrients, healing wounds, and growing and maturing, people will have the chance to regain some semblance of life. But for now, the team is just trying to take it one step at a time.

“It is a long-term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility, although that is not the focus of this first study – but it is a bridge to that eventuality,” Pastor said

And Sergei Pavlian, founder and president of Bioquark Inc., added:

Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” said Sergei Paylian, the founder and chief science officer of Bioquark.

Check out the trial outline here.

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Scientists Publish A New Study Examining Humans’ Ability To Accurately Predict Future Events

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study outlines the scientific experiments under controlled conditions that have been conducted to see if precognition is actually real.

  • Reflect On:

    The implications of non-material science are huge, what would happen if mainstream academia accepted these results without any bias?

Precognition, is it real? If you examine the research that’s been published in this field, from peer-reviewed publications and controlled experiments, combined with the declassified literature from parapsychology programs from multiple governments around the world, the evidence for the ability of humans to accurately predict future events is overwhelming to the point where I am not sure why it would or could be considered ‘pseudoscience’. But given the current parameters of science, it’s understandable, and from this perspective, the evidence may not be ‘overwhelming,’ but you can decide that for yourself.

So what exactly is precognition? It’s essentially the ability to have a premonition of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known process.

The current parameters of science definitely need to be changed and adjusted, they allow for an observed phenomenon, although sometimes unexplainable, to be completely disregarded, no matter how many times it’s replicated or performed under controlled experiments. This is a result of scientific dogma, rules and laws of science that have been set in place and seem to stay there due to the fact that new concepts of reality simply disrupt belief systems. Take the concept of metaphysical realms for example, the implications and realizations of these realms, if confirmed, would result in a complete worldview paradigm shift and perhaps the disruption of multiple religious teachings. That being said, a lot of religion and ancient eastern philosophy does not argue against these realms but speak of them too.

“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.”
 Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)

When it comes to precognition, the new study recently published by scientists at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) examines multiple, scientifically controlled experiments that have yielded significant results. They examined multiple areas of research, multiple studies and meta-analysis showing how the scientific evidence for pre-cognition is measurable and continues to grow.

The authors are careful in their writing, pointing out the observed effects:

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If positive empirical evidence continues to accumulate, especially if the methodological recommendations suggested by ourselves and others are followed, then a time may come when we are forced to think the unthinkable. Indeed, the implications of retrocausation are so remote from engrained ways of thinking that the first reaction to this line of research is that it must be flawed. The second reaction may be horror that it represents a previously unaccepted fact about reality. (source)

The authors provide further studies within this one for the reader’s consideration, so be sure to check them out. But the above point is great, perhaps it is our fear of such confirmations that holds us back?

Another interesting concept discussed in the study is time, as you cannot really have a discussion about pre-cognition without the concept of time. When you think about pre-cognition, as with most parapsychological areas of study, you also have to consider quantum physics, because these two disciplines are deeply related to each other. Studies conducted over the years in quantum physics alone has shown how human intention, and other factors associated with consciousness, can and do interact with our physical material reality.

When we talk about future events, and time, if we look at matter on a quantum scale, future events are represented as a wave of possibilities, and don’t really manifest as physical matter until we, the observer, click it into existence with our own consciousness. In 2007 (Science 315, 966, 2007), scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus and showed that their actions could retroactively change something which had already happened.

“If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance, but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.” – Asher Peres, a pioneer in quantum information theory (source)(source)(source)

So, the concept of time, which is intertwined with the precognition phenomena, is very important to acknowledge, even if we can’t really understand it because it’s so puzzling. What happened in the past can change the future, and what happens in the future can change the past.

Apart from the scientific literature, I also mentioned the Department of Defence programs. Dr. Paul Smith, one of the army personnel involved in the STARGATE program writes in his book, The Essential Guide to Remote Viewing: The Secret Military Remote Perception Skill Anyone Can Learnabout an event where he was involved in successfully predicting future events for the Department of Defence. This was all part of the remote viewing program, which allows one person to perceive and describe the physical characteristics of a location when they are only given the location coordinates. It’s been used a number of times for intelligence collection, as shown by the declassified literature. In 2014, Smith also published a study in the journal of scientific exploration about stock market prediction using remote viewing. (Smith C. C., Laham D., Moddel J. (2014). Stock market prediction using associative remote viewing by inexperienced remote viewersJ. Sci. Explor28, 7–16). 

So, along with all of the scientifically controlled experiments, it’s also important to consider time, and all of the functions parapsychology has served, and mostly still do serve in the black budget world, especially when we are talking about pre-cognition. This area of government study is something that the peer-reviewed studies don’t really refer to much as a tool of evidence.

I also published an article a few years ago about a study (meta analysis) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” which examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories.

These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event, and reacts to an event that has yet to occur. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.

More than 40 experiments investigating this phenomenon in humans have been published over the past 36 years (including: Hartwell, 1978Radin et al., 19952011Bierman and Radin, 1997Radin, 19972004;Don et al., 1998Bierman, 2000Bierman and Scholte, 2002McDonough et al., 2002;Spottiswoode and May, 2003McCraty et al., 2004a,bSartori et al., 2004May et al., 2005;Tressoldi et al., 200520092011Radin and Borges, 2009Bradley et al., 2011). This is what promoted the meta-analysis.

The analysis concluded that:

“The predictive physiological anticipation of a truly randomly selected and thus unpredictable future event, has been under investigation for more than three decades, and a recent conservative meta-analysis suggests that the phenomenon is real.” 

Takeaway

Humans with ‘special abilities’ have been reported throughout history, here’s an example straight from the CIA’s electronic reading room. The point is, we can use these concepts to develop techniques to improve our lives, and the lives of all life on planet Earth. Perhaps we will one day be able to perceive future events that are not in humanities best interest and then take steps to change that potential future. I believe those who possess gifts for perceiving the future might be picking up on potential timelines, sort of like the wave of potentials in the quantum double slit experiment.

The main takeaway is that we have many more abilities that we’ve been made to believe, and still some we have yet to discover. At the end of the day, it’s the consciousness behind these discoveries that determine whether or not they will be used by humanity. It’s just like technology, do we weaponize it or use it for the overall good of humanity?

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