Philosophy

[M]ystics understand the roots of the Tao but not its branches; scientists understand its branches but not its roots.

Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science; but men and women need both.

—Fritjof Capra

glynn_blue

Glynn fractal by Flickr user subblue, cc by-nc-sa


You are not an encapsulated bag of skin dragging around a dreary little ego. You are an evolutionary wonder, a trillion cells singing together in a vast chorale, an organism – environment, a symbiosis of cell and soul.

R. D. Laing, Knots (1970)

Transcript: 

There is something I don’t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don’t know what it is that I don’t know,
and yet am supposed to know,
and I feel I look stupid
if I seem both not to know it
and not to know what it is I don’t know.
Therefore I pretend I know it.
This is nerve-racking
since I don’t know what I must pretend to know.
Therefore I pretend to know everything.

I feel you know what I am supposed to know
but you can’t tell me what it is
because you don’t know that I don’t know what it is.

You may know what I don’t know, but not
that I don’t know it,
and I can’t tell you. So you will have to tell me everything.

R.D. Laing: Wikipedia, Knots, another excerpt of Knots

See also Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory (Wikipedia; article)

The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out — there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.

Quote in context:

“For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean? It means that the phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat — and also in mine, and yours — is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away. So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago — a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out — there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.”

Richard Feynman, “The Value of Science” (speech at NAS meeting, 1955)
reprinted in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short
Works of Richard P. Feynman
 (Jeffrey Robbins, ed., 1999)

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Quote in context: 

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,”  Leaves of Grass (1891)

http://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/poems/27

Did you know that the phrase “and sing myself” didn’t appear in the 1855 version?

Diagram by Edward Ott, Scholarpedia:
http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Basin_of_attraction

Figure 1: (a) Double well potential V(x) , and (b) the resulting basins of attraction.

I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.

Quote in context:

“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.

Buckminster Fuller, I Seem to Be a Verb (1970)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

“Birth of a Photon,” a (notional?) art installation by Marco Casagrande:
http://casagrandetext.blogspot.com/2011/01/birth-of-photon.html

“The Birth of a Photon is connected to Albert Einstein’s initial discovery of the lichtquant, or photon – the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. […] 

The public artwork Birth of a Photon is a three dimensional artistic rendering describing the birth of the lichtquant, homage Albert Einstein. The sculpture is 14, 5 meters long and 2,2 meters high and wide and made out of shiny chrome steel.”

(See also my previous post on photons and boostrapping!)

image

An electromagnetic wave bootstraps itself through the void

Image 1: Source: Wikipedia article on “Electromagnetic radiation” (image source; cc-by-sa)

Caption: “Electromagnetic waves can be imagined as a self-propagating transverse oscillating wave of electric and magnetic fields. This 3D diagram shows a plane linearly polarized wave propagating from left to right.”

image

Image 2: Source: Wikipedia article on “Electromagnetic radiation” (image source; cc-by-sa)

Caption: “This 3D diagram shows a plane linearly polarized wave propagating from left to right. Note that the electric and magnetic fields in such a wave are in-phase with each other, reaching minima and maxima together.”

 image

Image 3: Source: Wikipedia article on “Electromagnetic radiation” (image source; cc-by-sa)

Caption: “The electromagnetic waves that compose electromagnetic radiation can be imagined as a self-propagating transverse oscillating wave of electric and magnetic fields. This diagram shows a plane linearly polarized EMR wave propagating from left to right. The electric field is in a vertical plane and the magnetic field in a horizontal plane. The two types of fields in EMR waves are always in phase with each other with a fixed ratio of electric to magnetic field intensity.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If compression waves, like sound, need to travel through a carrier medium, then how can electromagnetic waves propagate themselves through empty space?


A photon acts a little like the Glider in Conway’s Game of Life: at each step, it creates the conditions for the next step. Now, this is just one way of viewing an electromagnetic wave, and far from complete. But it’s interesting to think about!

More quotes from Wikipedia:

“Similar to the way that a changing magnetic field generates an electric field, a changing electric field generates a magnetic field. This fact is known as Maxwell’s correction to Ampère’s law. Maxwell’s correction to Ampère’s Law bootstrap together with Faraday’s law of induction to form electromagnetic waves, such as light. Thus, a changing electric field generates a changing magnetic field, which generates a changing electric field again.”

(Source: Wikipedia article on “Magnetic field”)

“A common misconception is that the E and B fields in electromagnetic radiation are out of phase because a change in one produces the other, and this would produce a phase difference between them as sinusoidal functions (as indeed happens in electromagnetic induction, and in the near-field close to antennas). However, in the far-field EM radiation which is described by the two source-free Maxwell curl operator equations, a more correct description is that a time-change in one type of field is proportional to a space-change in the other. These derivatives require that the E and B fields in EMR are in-phase (see math section below).”

(Source: Wikipedia article on “Electromagnetic radiation”)

And it gets weirder: 

According to the special theory of relativity, the partition of the electromagnetic force into separate electric and magnetic components is not fundamental, but varies with the observational frame of reference: An electric force perceived by one observer may be perceived by another (in a different frame of reference) as a magnetic force, or a mixture of electric and magnetic forces.

Formally, special relativity combines the electric and magnetic fields into a rank-2 tensor, called the electromagnetic tensor. Changing reference frames mixes these components. This is analogous to the way that special relativity mixes space and time into spacetime, and mass, momentum and energy into four-momentum.”

(Source: Wikipedia article on “Magnetic field”)

http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2833

I think *you’re* one of the good wobbles.

fuckyeahfluiddynamics:

In the image above we see two spheres of the same size, shape, and material being dropped into water. The left sphere has almost no splash, whereas the one on the right has a spectacular curtain-like splash. Why the big difference? It all comes down to the surface treatments. The glass sphere on the left is hydrophilic, but the right one has been treated to be hydrophobic. As a result, the water-fearing molecules of that sphere push the water away, allowing air to be entrained below the water’s surface instead. This creates a big splash that’s absent when the water moves smoothly around the hydrophilic sphere. (Photo credit: L. Bocquet et al.)

In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that are little miracles of self-reference.

an infinite multitude of things doing an infinite multitude of actions in infinite time and space; and yet they are not many things, but one thing

Quote in context:

“We can no longer separate things as we once could: everything tends towards unity; one thing, one action, in one place, at one time. On the other hand, we can no longer unify things as we once could; we are driven to ultimate atoms, each one of which is an individuality. 

So that we have an infinite multitude of things doing an infinite multitude of actions in infinite time and space; and yet they are not many things, but one thing.” 

—Samuel Butler, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912), Part IV: Mind and Matter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Butler_(novelist)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Samuel_Butler_(novelist)

 

Joanna Macy, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Living Systems (SUNY Press, 1991)
http://books.google.com/books/about/Mutual_Causality_in_Buddhism_and_General.html?id=APvFjc1VmW4C

Joanna Macy on systems theory/Buddhist philosophy/deep ecology (from her website, not this particular book):

“The greatest revolution of our time is in the way we see the world. The mechanistic paradigm underlying the Industrial Growth Society gives way to the realization that we belong to a living, self-organizing cosmos. General systems theory, emerging from the life sciences, brings fresh evidence to confirm ancient, indigenous teachings: the Earth is alive, mind is pervasive, all beings are our relations. This realization changes everything. It changes our perceptions of who we are and what we need, and how we can trustfully act together for a decent, noble future.”

http://www.joannamacy.net/livingsystems.html