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Does Randomness Really Exist?

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I’ve always been fascinated by games of “chance,” which may explain why I moved to Las Vegas; and maybe that is also why I should not be living there.

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But great writers have also been consumed with the idea of luck, from Dostoevsky and Jorge Luis Borges, author of the Lottery of Babylon, to Hermann Hesse, author of The Bead Game.

Besides the obvious motivation of greed there is the seductive aspect of getting a glimpse of a higher reality, where what seems like chance is actually decided by a greater mind. (And if we could just “understand”… everything would be known).

Or alternatively, what if chance is really just that, and there is NO order out of which things come and everything is chaotic — or “random?”

In the nondual teaching, for example, there is the notion that there is ONLY consciousness and things happen but there is no direct prior cause to any effect. This has been gristle for philosophical debate probably since early human history. The ultimate variable (in computer terms) that has always been used to describe such “causes” was God. Now we try to rely on science.

So it was that with my life in Vegas I began to think about how the electronic versions of gaming function; without a human dealer who shuffles the cards or rolls the ball or tosses the dice. Unless it is rigged, “the universe decides.” So I began to wonder how we use computers to accurately simulate (or actually encounter) “chance.”

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Here is what I gleaned from an online site dedicated to Videopoker.com:

“There is no ‘pattern’ and no strategy for how it works—it just constantly cycles random card combinations around until you hit ‘draw’ and ‘deal.’ It is one of the keys to legalized gambling: It assures the regulatory bodies that casinos are offering fair games and assures you that you are playing a ‘legit’ game.”

How Randomness Works

So how is this done?

“The key to understanding how legitimate, traditional Class III* video poker games work is understanding the role and function of an RNG. This refers to games like IGT’s Game King (www.igt.com) and Triple-Play Poker (www.actiongaming.com).

The RNG is the hardest working device known, and it ensures a fair game every time. Its sole responsibility is to constantly shuffle the deck of 52 cards (or 53 in Joker Poker). This manic activity goes on and on UNTIL you hit the ‘deal’ button.”

Okay so somehow programmers have devised an “algorithm” (buzzword for program) to simulate randomness.  But clearly this needed to be “programmed” (designed intelligently), which would suggest that somewhere among the zeroes and ones of the program there is a way this happens (order) that can be discerned.

And then presumably if one understood the program completely, the results could be predicted — no longer random.

Of course they would appear random to the person pulling the lever who is far removed from the program, and for her the results would actually be, for better or worse, random.

But this is sort of a cheat in terms of the reality of randomness. Let me explain….

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas R. Hofstadter is a wonderful book, a follow-up to a Pulitzer prize winning best-seller called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid that seeks to demonstrate the unique qualities of a mind that expresses itself in language, along with the inevitable gaps and paradoxes that result in believing too much in the logic of our spoken and written descriptions of “what is real.”

As a mathematician, neuroscientist, and philosopher, Hofstadter begins with the primacy of number because regardless of whatever symbols you use to represent “number,” certain truths persist.

If I understand Hofstadter’s key point, it is that the idea of such a sequence of numbers is primary and causal, and can be described in a different set of symbols, namely the English language, as a sequence of numbers, such that each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two — the well-known Fibonacci sequence.

What Hofstadter points out, however, is the discovery of mathematician Kurt Gödel, that when one goes from the primary set of symbols (numbers) to our “understanding” of them represented by language, very weird anomalies of logic come up that result in “strange loops” — infinite progressions without resolutions or perhaps paradoxes.

Here is a “prime” example of another such a paradox or anomaly:

The sentence “This sentence has ten words” has ten words (I am a Strange Loop, p. 140).

What this illustrates dramatically is that our idealistic or linguistic ability to describe things does not adequately define or explain reality.

In the blog post I originally wrote about this I also pointed out that verbally we can always posit something like, there must always be a greater prime number.  Earlier this year, the largest known prime number was “discovered” (BBC) through the use of a supercomputer.prime

Rationally we know numbers are “infinite,” but just as the word infinite is merely a description of something we cannot comprehend, so too is the notion of “random.”

But returning to the RNG, random number generator, perhaps that will give us a clue as to whether randomness can “really” exist.

A web search reveals that there are innumerable examples: This one generates a random number between any two numbers.

random

But how does it do this?  I remember from my bit of programming that there is a random function in programming but that sort of begs the question, how does something programmed in any way actually generate chance? And if in fact Consciousness is All, is there such a thing as randomness?

In Microsoft Excel such a function is built in:

“Rand

The RAND function generates a random decimal number between 0 and 1.

  1. Select cell A1.
  2. Type RAND() and press Enter. The RAND function takes no arguments.”

So by typing that “function” and pressing Enter, the program generates a random number within a cell. But how is it random? It was generated by a program.

excel

It is hilarious to consider that the “RAND function takes no arguments” in programming “arguments” means parameters that influence the outcome of the function. Funny word to use here.

And keep in mind that within this example the result is still mathematically programmed. But the question remains: can chance exist within mathematics?

It would seem that even irrational numbers (22/7 or Pi) can be calculated mathematically and rationally via the mind.

For most of human history, so much that was unknown appeared to be random and was attributed to “God.”  But the question is, with all that we have discovered in science, as we “explain” more and more phenomena, will randomness ultimately be eliminated because we know EVERYTHING, or is there an aspect of chaos inherent within reality?

Of course this entire paradox points us to quantum physics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, which places randomness squarely into reality because of the presence of an observer, and results in the determination that nothing can be known for sure in space/time but only predicted in terms of probability.

And this brings us back to gaming. If you consider craps it is easy to understand with two dice that are thrown that there are more combinations that result in 7 than in, let’s say, 4, so the casino pays more if a 4 comes up than if 7 appears.

Similarly it seems more likely for any given roll that there will be a 7, but is that true or counterintuitive?

Just as Heisenberg’s theory does not predict possible outcomes but only is determinative in an actual event (with a conscious observer), doesn’t the same apply when you roll the dice one time?

Don’t you have as good a ‘chance’ as any of winning the lottery?  Of course that is the psychology that leads to gambling addiction — rooted in narcissism and delusion. Or is it?

I love the idea that “geometry was not invented — it was discovered,” because the primacy of number becomes more and more obvious as one examines experience and reality.

Indeed more and more physicists and other scientists are coming to the conclusion that “everything is (ultimately) information.”

But our only real access to the more extreme truths regarding number comes through an abstraction — our language — which is forced to use terms that are woefully inadequate, like infinite or random.

Or indeed where all of science is heading through this maddening paradox —the word Consciousness — without which none of this can really be discussed sincerely.

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Consciousness

The Study of Fundamental Consciousness Entering the Mainstream

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Consciousness is appearing to be a fundamental property, just like liquids, solids and gas, consciousness and its connection to the physical material world is now gaining big time credibility.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do we have yet to discover? Are we ready to abandon what we thought we knew in light of new discoveries and evidence?

The world-renowned neuroscientist Christof Koch, spent nearly two decades working alongside the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, Francis Crick. Their mission was to find the neurobiological basis of consciousness. They discovered many insights into cognition and the functioning of perception, yet the central enigma, the nature of consciousness itself, remained mysteriously elusive.

In 2009, Koch shocked the scientific community by publishing his conviction that consciousness probably isn’t just in brains, but is a fundamental feature of reality. This is a view known to philosophers as ‘panpsychism.’ The theory Koch is now dedicating his research to is called ‘Integrated Information Theory’ or ‘IIT.’ It is the brainchild of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In explaining his theory, Tononi asks us to consider a simple light sensitive photo diode like those found in a digital camera. A simple diode might respond to just two states: light or dark. We could present our diode with any number of images, yet regardless of the picture, the diode conforms to one of only two possible states. Is it light, or is it dark?

Now consider yourself looking at the same picture, lets say, of the Eiffel Tower on a beautiful spring day in Paris. For us, looking at this image results in a reduction from a near infinity of possible states. Not an image of the Andromeda galaxy, not a childhood picture of your mother, not cells dividing in a Petri dish and so on.  Because of the vast number of images we are capable of recognizing, each one is highly informative. For Tononi, the vast amount of information capable of being integrated in the brain means that we have a comparatively huge capacity for consciousness.

Tononi’s theory, that consciousness is born out of networks with high integrated information, has novel ways of being tested in the laboratory.

In studies with sleeping participants, Tononi and his colleagues used transcranial magnetic stimulation to send a ripple of activity through the cortex of sleeping participants. The researchers found that when dreaming, this ripple reverberated through the cortex longer than when participants were in stages of dreamless sleep. This demonstrated that during dreaming, when the brain is conscious, the cortex has a higher degree of integration.

In another experiment, the researchers built tiny robots known as ‘animats’ that were placed into mazes. The animats used simple integrated networks capable of evolving over sequential generations. To their surprise, the greater the degree of integration that the animats evolved, the quicker they were able to escape the mazes. For Tononi this finding suggested that consciousness may play a more central role in evolution than had previously been thought.

The mathematical value of integrated information in a network is known as phi. But Tononi’s theory, now the topic of serious mainstream discussion, has an extraordinary implication. Phi didn’t just occur in brains, -it is a property of any network with a total informational content greater than its individual parts. Every living cell, every electronic circuit, even a proton consisting of just three elementary particles have a value of phi greater than zero. According to Integrated Information Theory, all of these things possess something, albeit but a glimmer of ‘what it is like’ to be them. Tononi states:

“Consciousness is a fundamental property, like mass or charge. Wherever there is an entity with multiple states, there is some consciousness. You need a special structure to get a lot of it but consciousness is everywhere, it is a fundamental property.”

Integrated information theory is in its infancy and there are still many questions it must face. Did the information of brains operate at the level of the neuron, or the protein, or something deeper still? The electromagnetic field of the brain, as observed by psi researcher Dean Radin, is always re-establishing its quantum connection to the entire universe. Could a much richer informational interaction exist than has yet been imagined?

Physicists such as John Wheeler have laid the groundwork for a radical new understanding of reality, in which matter, the laws and constants of nature, and indeed the entire universe is best described, not in terms of physical objects, but through the play and display of a fundamental dynamic information.

Quantum mechanics suggests that at the deepest level of nature, the entire physical universe is interconnected. Might the total information of the universe be integrated in some deep sense? Is it in a mysterious way conscious of itself?

As spiritual traditions throughout the ages have long asserted, instead of isolated and separate experiencing beings, we may experience on behalf of the greater evolving system in which we find ourselves.

In Koch’s highly anticipated 2012 book, ‘Consciousness – Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist’, he states:

“I do believe that the laws of physics overwhelmingly favored the emergence of consciousness. The universe is a work in progress. Such a belief evokes jeremiads from many biologists and philosophers but the evidence from cosmology, biology and history is compelling.”

Regardless of the validity of Tononi’s theory, today increasing numbers of scientists and academics are convinced that the existence of consciousness simply cannot be sensibly denied. The study of fundamental consciousness is now entering the mainstream. This movement consists of thinkers in and outside of the mind sciences. Yet despite their different academic backgrounds, they are united by two common convictions: that consciousness is an intrinsic rather than incidental emergence in the universe, and that any complete account of reality must include an explanation of it.

 Sources:

 Koch, C. (2009, August 18). A complex theory of consciousness: Is complexity the secret to sentience, to a panpsychic view of consciousness? Scientific American.

 Tononi, G. (2008). Consciousness as integrated information: A provisional manifesto. Biological Bulletin, 215(3), 216-242.

 Edlund, J. A., Chaumont, N., Hintze, A., Koch C., Tononi G., & Adami, C. (2011). Integrated information increases with fitness in the evolution of animats. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(10).

 Radin, D. I. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory experiences in quantum reality. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 Koch, C. (2012). Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. MIT Press Books.

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Alternative News

If You Could Power Your Entire Home With 60 Minutes Of Cycling, Would You Do It?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Mechanical energy, converted into kinetic energy can provide the energy that we use on a regular basis to power our homes and electronic devices.

  • Reflect On:

    Rather than focusing on the current problems in our world it is great to change gears and have a look at all of the solutions that are popping up all over the world.

Imagine if your morning workout could power your home for the entire day, all the way until your next morning workout. Well, you may not have to imagine, as this technology exists now. Manoj Bhargava has invented a new exercise bike that can power some homes for 24 hours after use for only sixty minutes per day.

This invention was a part of a new initiative to bring electricity to places that undergo frequent power outages or may only have access to power for a few hours during the day. In our modern age, going without electricity can really separate a person from the rest of the world. Bhargava’s mission is to bridge the gap for those who suffer from poverty and make it easier for them to access the same information as the rest of the world, potentially giving them more opportunities in life.

The Free Electric

The above heading is also the name of this awesome and innovative bike serving as a solution to a pretty significant issue in the underdeveloped nations of the world.

According to Bhargava, the Free Electric is meant to lead to “better health, more leisure time, better access to education and opportunities for entrepreneurship.” He also feels that it could, “literally change the world.”

Power to change the world? Bold statement, but if this is able to be implemented worldwide, I would absolutely have to agree with him. This technology not only has the capacity to assist those in poverty, but can also be used by the rest of the world as well as more and more people around the world who are aiming to reduce their usee of fossil fuels. I have a feeling that Millennials (such as myself) and younger generations would be all over this if its made available! Not only is it a great way to get your cardio in, but it provides FREE electricity that produces no other pollution.

As mentioned in the video, it is also a great solution in the face of natural, or even man made disasters because this type of electricity would not rely on that generated and sold by power companies. Perhaps even one day a way to stock up and store this energy will be possible — then, the opportunities here will be much more plentiful and could be a huge factor in reducing the amount of pollution our current methods of energy production are creating.

The Future Is Friendly

As much as there is sometimes destruction all around us, there is also innovation and ingenuity. Human beings have tremendous potential. Even though there are many problems that we as a society are facing, solutions are popping up and fast, and in most cases they already exist. Finding solutions doesn’t seem to be the problem, so ask yourself, what is?  It’s so great to see ideas such as these being conceptualized and then created and put into use so efficiently, it shows how our species is capable of stopping and potentially reversing some of the destruction that we have caused over the years.

This is absolutely a double win! We are constantly bombarded with news stories and articles that are telling us to be more active, stop sitting so much, and now with the Free Electric, we will have to be active before we can relax and enjoy the use of our precious technology.

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Discover

Physicists ‘Grow’ A Man Made Diamond From Nuclear Waste That’s Able To Generate Electricity

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have developed a technology that can convert leftover radioactive materials into diamond batteries to power a wide range of electronics.

  • Reflect On:

    Could this be the solution to use op all the radioactive materials on the planet and shut down nuclear power plants worldwide?

Currently there is more than 2 billion tons of nuclear waste across the globe. This nuclear waste is a hazardous threat to the environment if not disposed of correctly. Scientists have recently begun attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that could last for thousands of years. If they are successful with this conversion project it would be a double win, less nuclear waste contaminating our environment, and a way to reuse energy that was generated to give power to whatever requires it.

Diamond batteries that use the energy from leftover radioactive materials have been developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bristol. They are now hoping to be able to recycle the waste leftover from decommissioned nuclear power plants in the UK. According to the University, “New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery….A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current.” (source)

How Does This Work?

According to The Independent,

Carbon-14 isotopes extracted from graphite blocks produced by the plant are infused with wafer-thin diamonds to create the batteries, which researchers say are capable of providing power on a “near-infinite basis”.

Potential applications range from powering hearing aids and pacemakers, to extending the range of spacecraft to distances much further than are currently possible.

“Eventually, a highly powerful version of a diamond battery could power a mobile phone,” James Barker, from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Independent.

“Primarily though, they are best for devices requiring long lifetime, low power and where it is difficult to replace energy sources.”

In order to make these diamond batteries safe for medical and consumer use they are encased in a non-radioactive diamond layer, which will absorb any radiation given off by the C14 source.

According to the University,

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, said: “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.  By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Could This Be The Solution We’ve Been Searching For?

“The ultimate aim is to have a factory based at one of the former power stations in the South West that takes Carbon-14 isotopes directly from the graphite blocks for use in diamond batteries. This would significantly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining material, making it easier and safer to manage,” said Professor Tom Scott, director of the South West Nuclear Hub.

“With the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants set to go offline in the next 10-15 years this presents a huge opportunity to recycle a large amount of material to generate power for so many great uses.”

Time will tell how effective this method that scientists have come up with will be able to be implemented worldwide, but if it is, just imagine the implications of what this technology could represent.

Is It Time To Move Away From Nuclear Energy?

You’d think since the Fukushima disaster there would be a worldwide agreement for countries to stop generating power from nuclear reactors and to safely shut down these plants. Nuclear disasters have devastating effects on our planet and all of it’s inhabitants, recovery from such accidents can take tens of thousands of years to lose their hazardous radioactivity. Take the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986 and is now contained under a metal shell, this site will likely remain radioactive for up to 20,000 years.

Instead of waiting for these disasters to occur, shouldn’t we be safely dismantling these sites before any more devastating disasters occur? Thankfully many countries are vowing to shut down their nuclear power plants and we can only hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.

The Future Is Here

There are so many amazing technologies that have the capacity to revolutionize the way we use energy on this planet. Of course many of those are hidden from us, especially if they cannot be in some way profited from, and unfortunately as it seems, if they don’t exploit the environment and our resources in some way.

As innovative ideas abound and technology continues to rapidly develop, we have to assume that safer and more innovative means of producing electricity will be uncovered. Hopefully these technologies will also have the capacity to undo some of the damage that we have done to our planet.

At the end of the day, using nuclear energy is not needed anymore, and in reality nuclear waste should not even exist at this point in our development as a collective.

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