Before you begin...
How Much Do We Really Know About The Universe?
Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who is the topic of a 2014 biopic, makes a surprising statement in his 1992 book, Black Holes and Baby Universes, about the extent to which physics is almost complete. He says: “Although we have not found the exact form of all [the physical laws], we already know enough to determine what happens in all but the most extreme situations.” Hawking adds that he gives it a 50-50 chance that we will find the exact laws in the next twenty years.
We know already that his second statement hasn’t come to pass: 2012 passed and we’re not very close to a complete theory of everything. I’m not trying to pick on Hawking’s predictions, armed with the benefit of hindsight. Rather, what I want to highlight is how little we really do know about the universe, even at the fundamental physical level, and how little we can predict with any certainty, despite Hawking’s statements to the contrary.
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We can obviously point to every social science, such as sociology, psychology, or economics, and recognize immediately that predicting the future is a futile task. Experts distinguish themselves by being able to talk intelligently about theory and the future but few are foolish enough to make firm predictions because these experts know that such predictions are impossible given our present state of knowledge, and perhaps impossible in principle.
But the problem of prediction—the sine qua non of science because it allows for testability of theories and thus their possible falsification—goes far beyond the “soft” social sciences. It’s also inherent to physics, the model of firmness in science.
Let me highlight a well-known problem to illustrate my point. Isaac Newton, the British physicist and mathematician who almost singlehandedly developed classical physics, included at the heart of his system the basic equation of what we now call Newtonian gravity. This simple equation shows that gravity declines between two bodies with the inverse square of their distance. So if we’re traveling in a spacecraft away from Earth the farther we go the smaller the gravitational attraction between the spacecraft and the planet, and it drops off pretty quickly but never disappears entirely. Newton’s famous equation, which showed that gravity was a universal force that applied in the realm of falling apples as equally in the realm of planets orbiting a star, only works for two bodies. In my example, it was the spacecraft and our planet.
What happens when we try to solve the equation for three bodies? Well, it gets exponentially more difficult. In fact, Henri Poincaré famously showed in a 1902 paper that the “three-body problem” couldn’t be solved at all. Huh? Why not?
Well, it turns out that even introducing one extra body to the gravitational situation trying to be analyzed introduces such sensitivity to initial conditions that it becomes impossible to make accurate predictions over the long-term. (A nerdy aside: some solutions are possible to this problem and it is now recognized that there are 16 families of solutions; however, these are very limited cases and the general problem is recognized as having no solution, in principle).
Hawking’s point about knowing the physical laws of our universe seems to ignore even this obvious example of the limits to our knowledge. Hawking surely knows about this example because he has, after all, for many decades now occupied the Lucasian chair at Cambridge that Newton himself occupied in the 17th Century.
So was Hawking referring to, rather than our ability to make firm predictions, our ability to instead deduce the relevant equations that govern the universe (even if those equations can’t be solved in many cases)? Even if we interpret his statement in this manner it seems clear that he is also more optimistic than the facts warrant. In fact, it seems far more clear that we know very little about the laws that govern our universe.
General relativity leads to similar problems as we just saw in Newtonian gravity because solving Einstein’s gravity equations, a set of eight inter-linked equations, is fiendishly difficult in real-world situations. This is why Newtonian gravity is usually used in practice rather than general relativity. Many solutions to the relativistic equations have been found but solving the equations for three or more bodies is actually even more difficult than in Newton’s equation. Again, it’s impossible, in principle, to solve the “n-body problem” for general relativity in a general sense: only certain limited solutions are possible.
The Big Problems In Physics
Lee Smolin discussed in his excellent 2006 book, The Trouble With Physics, five major problems that modern physics faces. There are, of course, far more than these problems facing modern physics, but Smolin was highlighting the big ones, which include:
- Combine general relativity and quantum theory into a single theory that can claim to be the complete theory of nature (“quantum gravity,” “grand unified theory,” or the “theory of everything”).
- Resolve the problems in the foundations of quantum mechanics, either by making sense of the theory as it stands or by inventing a new theory that does make sense.
- Determine whether or not the various particles and forces can be unified in a theory that explains them all as manifestations of a single, fundamental entity.
- Explain how the values of the free constants in the standard model of particle physics are chosen in nature.
- Explain dark matter and dark energy. Or, if they don’t exist, determine how and why gravity is modified on large scales. More generally, explain why the constants of the standard model of cosmology, including the dark energy, have the values they do.
We are, unfortunately, far from solving any of these problems. Smolin’s book discusses in depth the problems with string theory, which attempts to resolve the first question by reconciling quantum theory and general relativity under a single framework. That these very large problems remain unsolved weighs heavily against Hawking’s optimism.
Marcelo Gleiser, a physicist at Dartmouth University in Vermont, supports my point in his 2014 book, Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning, stating in the prologue to his book:
From our past successes we are confident that, in time, part of what is currently hidden will be incorporated into the scientific narrative, unknowns that will become knowns. But as I will argue in this book, other parts will remain hidden, unknowables that are unavoidable, even if what is unknowable in one age may not be in the next one. We strive toward knowledge, always more knowledge, but must understand that we are, and will remain, surrounded by mystery.
Taking an even deeper look at the nature of knowledge in our modern world, Nancy Cartwright examines in her 1999 book, The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science, how little we know about the universe. The dappled world she refers to is the patchwork of physical laws and theories that work pretty well in some limited situations. But her point is that there are vast gaps in our understanding that remain and our ability to predict outcomes is terrible in all but the most simple of situations.
Are There Even Bigger Problems Remaining In Physics?
A major problem that Smolin alludes to but doesn’t include in his top five list is this: there is another important integration and reconciliation of different physical theories that has yet to happen. Going one step beyond reconciling quantum mechanics and general relativity, we need to reconcile thermodynamics with these two other pillars of modern physics. The nature of time is at the heart of this reconciliation. The problem is that most modern physical theories include a reversible concept of time. This means that the equations can be used to look backwards or forwards in time and there’s no basic difference between these two temporal directions. This is a problem because when we look at the world around us, near or far, we see irreversible processes everywhere, including the stubborn fact that eggs don’t unbreak themselves spontaneously, cream doesn’t unmix itself from your coffee when you stir the spoon the other way, and stars don’t unform gradually as gas drifts away slowly. All of these processes are irreversible despite the fact that our equations are often reversible.
By recognizing that irreversible processes are common in nature we should also recognize that time itself is fundamentally asymmetrical and irreversible. This notion of time allows us to make progress with the big problem of reconciling the concept of irreversible time in thermodynamics with the concepts of time in quantum mechanics and general relativity.
The Belgian-Russian physicist Ilya Prigogine made this point in a series of books and articles over a long career that ended with his death in 2003. He won the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on non-equilibrium thermodynamics, which is all about irreversible processes. Prigogine has this to say on the nature of time in his most readable book, The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature (p. 19):
[A]ccording to the fundamental laws of physics, there should be no irreversible processes. We therefore see that we have inherited two conflicting views of nature from the nineteenth century: the time-reversible view based on the laws of dynamics and the evolutionary view based on entropy. How can these conflicting views be reconciled? After so many yeas, this problem is still with us.
Prigogine’s many decades of work is all directed at resolving this problem and his solution is to call for a comprehensive re-working of modern physical theories to incorporate an irreversible/asymmetrical concept of time. In other words, modern physics has yet to incorporate the concept of evolutionary time and an evolving universe. This is a big job, to be sure, but it has to be done if we are going to make real progress on the Theory of Everything that Hawking and many others wish to see happen.
Evolving Time, Evolving Views
Things change and maybe Hawking now agrees with me anyway. He stated in a 2004 talk: “Up to now, most people have implicitly assumed that there is an ultimate theory that we will eventually discover. Indeed, I myself have suggested we might find it quite soon. However, [new developments in quantum gravity have] made me wonder if this is true. Maybe it is not possible to formulate the theory of the universe in a finite number of statements.” Hawking is here recognizing that perhaps his dream of a simple equation or set of equations that can explain and predict the entire universe is an impossible dream.
He adds at the end of this interesting talk:
Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I’m now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery.
Hear hear, and kudos to Mr. Hawking for allowing his views to change and acknowledging that process of evolutionary change.
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Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light
- The Facts:
A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.
- Reflect On:
When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?
Before you begin...
In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.
The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.
The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.
Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.
The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.
Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.
[The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.
Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)
Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.
This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!
According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)
“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”
Why Its Matters:
Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.
Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?
It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.
When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.
In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.
Can you imagine this world?
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What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion
- The Facts:
Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.
- Reflect On:
Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?
Before you begin...
They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.
In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.
Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.
According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:
“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”
Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.
“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”
While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”
“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”
It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.
Why It Matters:
What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.
The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.
Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.
As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.
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These Anti-Solar Panels Don’t Require Daylight To Generate Power
- The Facts:
A new approach to solar panels attempts to generate energy during the night, when there is no sunlight to turn into energy. This new invention could make solar a more efficient and reliable option for energy generation.
- Reflect On:
Are we being made aware of all energy technologies that truly exist out there? Are our ideas of what energy technologies we could create and bring to market limited on the belief that they must fit inside our existing economic structures?
Before you begin...
Energy is one of the most important elements to any functioning society, and since our modern era of living uses so much power, the industry is always looking to evolve towards newer and more efficient solutions. Furthermore, given the environmental damage that often comes with many of our modern energy generation practices, people have been thinking outside the box to come up with ideas that are harmonious with mother nature.
Solar panel technology has been around for decades, but there are a few main issues with it. First off, you often need sunlight for it to produce enough on demand and stored energy for daily life. There are many areas in the world where that can be an issue in certain seasons. Secondly, during the night energy can’t be gathered so you’re always dealing with a limited time period where you can generate power for the moment or future use. This prompted inventors to imagine a new “anti-solar panel” that is designed to work both during the day and at night.
Typical solar panels work by gathering visible light from the sun and converting it to usable electricity. This energy can be used as it’s created, or it can be stored into battery cells to be used at a later time. That is to say, it might be a sunny day, you and your family are at work so little power is needed at home. When you return home and you need power, batteries hooked up to your solar panel had been storing the energy collected from the sun during the day, so it’s ready for you to use once you need it even if the sun isn’t out.
No sun for a couple days while your family is at home for the weekend? Well, you can start to see the issues with solar, you might run out of power if you aren’t connected to a standard city power grid as backup.
But now a team at UC Davis is hoping to develop a new strategy relying on having panels that can also generate electricity at night from heat emitted by a device in the infrared spectrum that is used to generate power.
Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and who leads the research team:
“In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.”
They also explain in another report:
“We were thinking, what if we took one of these (thermoradiative) devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky? A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow, (but) in these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same.”
It’s not yet known how much power this technology might produce, but at this time the UC Davis team estimates perhaps as much as 50W during the night. This is about one quarter of the amount a typical solar panel might produce during the day. While this isn’t a huge amount, one could argue it’s worth it.
But what happens if we think outside the box a little further?
At Collective Evolution we have been exploring new energy technologies for many years, and have had a few close relationships with several investors who have truly been thinking outside the box. This has provided us with an inside look at what technologies are out there beyond what most people commonly speak about in the realm of renewables.
I’m talking about technologies that would deeply disrupt our current energy economy and that could provide energy to anyone, at anytime and in a completely clean manner.
Many believe these types of “breakthrough” technologies are nothing more than unicorns – they aren’t real. They believe them to be elaborate hoaxes that only show up online and in YouTube videos. And this is fair to say. There have been may hoaxes, including inventors who didn’t quite have what they had claimed, however, some of these technologies are real and work exactly as claimed.
“I started to examine the breakthrough solutions, and much to my surprise, these concepts have been proven in hundreds of laboratories throughout the world, and yet they have not really seen the light of day. If the new energy technologies were to be set free worldwide, the change be profound, it would affect everybody, it would be applicable everywhere. These technologies are absolutely the most important thing that’s happened in the history of the world.” – Dr Brian O’Leary, Former NASA Astronaut and Princeton Physics Professor
In our research we came across a device local to us here in Toronto and had the opportunity to see it functioning first hand. We were there alongside a group of third party investors and engineers who were eager to see the technology in action and understand how it functions. Unfortunately for this piece, the NDA we had signed stops me from saying too much more about the specifics, however you can decide whether or not you believe my word that, yes, this technology was very real, worked to produce multiple kilowatts of power, and had the potential to change the way you view energy generation entirely.
We have also explored technologies our friends and colleagues have vetted as well. One of our latest ones from a man in Zimbabwe who invented a power generation system that charges itself via radio frequencies around the device. A truly remarkable idea, one you have to see to believe.
Another friend and colleague of ours, Susan Manewich, has been working to bring these technologies to market for years. Her and her team have travelled around the world vetting various technologies and working with inventors to find viable ways of making their technologies available for mass use. In her travels she has seen that only a small percentage of claims and devices are real and viable, perhaps only 5%. As low at that sounds, it still shows us that there are in fact devices that would completely revolutionize the way we produce and use energy today and yet these devices are not known about and in many cases hidden purposefully from the public.
We talk about this with Susan in great detail during an interview with we did with her as she shares her insight and experience having worked in the ‘new energy’ industry for many years. Dive into this important conversation on CETV here.
Imagine what a society would look like if we had ‘freed’ up the secrecy behind the existence of these breakthrough energy technologies. Do you see humanity thriving? Do you see energy being free of charge for people? If not, do you feel humanity’s existing worldview i.e. competition, separation, etc, might be a barrier to these technologies being used to liberate the way we live?
Finally, if it is humanity’s worldview and belief that we must all compete with one another that gets in the way, does it suggest we might need to go about re-examining our worldview’s in order to live in a more peaceful and harmonious society? It appears as though the solutions are already all here, but the way we think of ourselves and one another deeply holds back a thriving world.
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Dr Byram Bridle Speaks For 100 Colleagues Afraid To Share Science About COVID Vaccine Concerns
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