Sentient beings are without number;

I vow to awaken with them.

Causes of suffering are without end;

I vow to extinguish them.

Paths to enlightenment are innumerable;

I vow to walk them.

Enlightenment is not a goal;

I vow to realize it.

The Bodhisattva Vow (one of many translations)

For as long as space remains

And as long as sentient beings remain

Until then may I too remain

To dispel the suffering of all beings.

—Attributed to Shantideva


An ensō, or circle drawn as a Zen Buddhist meditation on the universe and the void. This image’s source has unfortunately been lost to the internet attribution void.



“Birth of a Photon,” a (notional?) art installation by Marco Casagrande:

“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!)


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 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 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”)


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.)

Joanna Macy, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Living Systems (SUNY Press, 1991)

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.”


trying to make the world safe for a fully materialist view of mind

Quote in context: ““[I have] spent most of my life, not just my career, thinking about the nature of mind, the mind-body problem, how mind, morals, and the meaning of life connect, trying to make the world safe for a fully materialist view of mind […]” 

— Owen Flanagan. 2011. The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized. (Google Books link)