In a previous post I described three approaches to describing reality. Each of them represented a different paradigm, or way of looking at the same things. They do not contradict each other and might be equally true. In the same way, there is more than one way to look at classifying paradigms. Somebody else might instead have classified theories of everything into reductionist and wholist models. Since elements of reductionism and wholism exist in the matter-energy, space-time, and mind-spirit approaches, these two ways of looking at classification have nothing to do with each other and thus represent different paradigms of classification. The question of whether the matter-energy approach is more reductionist or wholist is meaningless.
When people disagree, they often disagree on more than the answers; they disagree on the questions, too. My experience in life has been that most people are only ever aware of one way of looking at things, whereas I enjoy learning the basics of every school of thought. When it comes to politics, sociology, economics, religion, and morality, this lack of understanding can lead to unnecessary strife. Take the three approaches to sociology for example:
Structural-Functional: This approach begins with asking what role an institution or individual plays in the community and what good is derived from it. For example, slavery and hierarchy provide a more efficient division of labor and coherence of leadership than if everybody did their own thing. It is assumed that all societal arrangements are good for the community as a whole, though some practices may be better than others.
Social-Conflict: This approach begins by asking who benefits at whose expense by having a particular institution in play. For example, respect for property rights benefits those with property at the expense of those without the means to join them. It is assumed that all societal arrangements hurt somebody.
Symbolic-Interactive: This approach begins by questioning how it happens that the members of society even agree on what is good and bad. While a social-conflict theorist would see the Amish as somehow oppressed and a structural-functional theorist would see their existence as important to defining cultural standards, a symbolic-interactive theorist recognizes that the Amish live the way they do because they want to and asks why we don’t all live the same way.
Another source of conflict is the way that liberals and conservatives understand government. “Liberal” and “conservative” are words with no agreed upon meaning, but to the extent that an agreement exists I have noticed a correlation in their approach to politics.
Perfect Government: Ask a conservative to describe his perfect government and he will likely begin by listing the different ways in which power will be divided and restricted in order to prevent corruption and dictatorship. No minimum guaranteed level of government provision will be mentioned because it will be assumed that the people through their representatives will pass laws and spending to take care of that. Ask a liberal to describe his perfect government and he will likely begin listing all the different projects and programs that he wants fully funded. No suggestion of where the funds and resources might come from will be mentioned because it will be assumed that anything that can be done through the government will be. The conservative sees government as just one of many competing societal interests while the liberal sees it as the all-encompassing expression of all people in society.
Nature Of Politics: Ask a conservative his political views and he will likely begin listing all ways he agrees and disagrees with current government policy. He may also have opinions on medicine, technology, education, religion, hiring practices, and how to raise a family, but none of these are considered political opinions or even proper things for a government to be involved in. Ask a liberal his political views and he will likely begin listing all the groups in society being oppressed by other groups. To them, the relative prestige, education, finances, and other forms of power between people is just as much politics as government policy. Workplace politics is still politics.
Do you have a different way of looking at things?
Is it PC to say that computers byte?
If someone eats his words, do they become an inside joke?
Does anyone ever win the human race?
If laughter is good medicine, does bad medicine bring sighed effects?
If someone is tongue-tied, does that mean they can knot spell?
Why aren't brand-new cars called wreckless?
What happens if you break wind while shooting the breeze?
If one who creates art is an artist, is one who competes in races a racist?
Why aren't tube socks considered unseemly?
Are pilots plane-spoken?
Does a priest have an altar-ego?
Can a bearded man tell a bald-faced lie?
Why is it that "out of it" and "out to lunch" have much the same meaning, yet the combination of the two, "out of lunch" means something else entirely?
Is a monogram just twenty percent of a pentagram?
Which is worse? To eat something off the floor, or to eat something on the floor?
Which is worse? To have the crap beaten out of you, or to have the crap beaten into you?
One time, I was thinking of all the different attempts to explain all of reality in terms of a small set of principles and I realized there were three different categories of them. I call them the matter-energy approach, the space-time approach, and the mind-spirit approach. Because they approach reality from completely different perspectives, they do not contradict each other and so might be equally true.
Matter-Energy: In this approach matter and energy are all that exist. Matter is convertible into energy through annihilation. Mass (resistance to change in velocity) is caused by the Higgs energy field. All energy fields come in discrete quanta and all fundamental particles come with quantum-mechanical wave functions. All fields are expressible in terms of a single, unified field that manifests itself differently in different situations. The mind and spirit are actually just manifestations of material interaction, such as a network of firing neurons. Space and time are actually just manifestations of material interaction too, creating imaginary phase-spaces. For example, suppose a set of particles existing on top of one another in a point of zero dimension were able to take on different values of some property existing along a spectrum, such as color. Suppose that particles were able to interact strongly with other particles of the same color but weakly with particles of the next color on the spectrum and very weakly with particles of a color further along the spectrum. Should any sentient citizens inhabit this zero-dimensional realm, they would interpret color as a spatial dimension. In the same way, all dimensions are illusions in this approach. Models tending to focus on matter and energy include Newtonian gravity, quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, super-symmetry, and the idea that we might be living in a holographic simulation running on a computer of fewer spatial dimensions than we observe inside our simulation. It is the most popular approach of thinkers in this age.
Space-Time: In this approach space and time are all that exist, forming a cohesive “spacetime,” the only difference between them being that objects extend along the temporal dimension forever, even when they are spatially small. Each particle experiences time in a different direction depending on its velocity. Particles themselves are merely tiny regions of highly curved space, affecting the way other particles move around them. These effects are “fictitious forces.” Matter is an illusion. The topology and geometry of all the dimensions of spacetime (including some that may be tightly curved to be very small in extent) are what give rise to everything we interpret as forces. Models tending to focus on space and time include special relativity, general relativity, and the Kaluza-Klein theory. This approach was popular in the first half of the twentieth century but has since stalled.
Mind-Spirit: In this approach only information exists. Starting with the sure knowledge that the mind exists (without which we could not know anything), students of this school of thought break the mind down into its fundamental building blocks (e.g. perceptions, sensations) to understand it. These are measured and classified. In the same way that characters in a script or dream are mere manifestations of a higher consciousness (the writer or dreamer), we and our universe are a manifestation of some higher mind. By our minds being extensions of this same supermind we are all connected. The only reason we believe that minds require brains and therefore matter to exist is because those are the current rules inside this dream. Matter, energy, space, and time are nothing but illusions created by the mind. Physics is a result of bits of information copying and destroying each other. The mind-body problem is solved by not having bodies. This approach has been hinted at in limited ways by philosophers and religious leaders throughout history. Cellular automata is a related idea. It came closest to being true science in the work of Descartes and Locke, but has since stalled.
There are many YouTube channels that describe physics and cosmology, but by far the best that I’ve discovered is PBSspacetime. Things are actually explained, including the uncertainty principle, black holes, dark energy, and dark matter. It’s very interesting.
If you like biology, you may also be interested in PBSeons, and if you like random ramblings of history, language, science, and philosophy trivia, you might like Vsauce.
Q: What do you call someone who makes a big stink and brings you to court?
A: A sewer!
Q: What type of person uses a bike trail after committing a crime?
A: A cycle-path
Q: What did one magician ask the other?
A: A trick question
Q: What do you call variables that share an apartment?
Q: What do you call a contractor that uses a hammer?
A: A hit man
Q: How do you deflate a blimp?
A: Remove the letter B.
It was in fifth grade that I first thought I wanted to be an author. We were assigned to write a short story for class. I wrote a disorganized account of a detective hiking through the jungle to watch some natives involved in a mysterious religious ritual. I never finished, but I think it was supposed to have eventually been found out to be part of a cyborg plot to invade Earth.
In sixth grade I met my friend Ryan at the bus stop. We acted out scenes from Star Trek mostly. Soon, I was at his house six days a week coming up with and playing out ideas for a television series we called Dan And Ryan’s Adventures. The characters were based loosely on us. Unlike other children who wanted to be Ghostbusters or Ninja Turtles, I always wanted to be me – except with superpowers. I knew that before we could ever worry about acting, directing, props, sets, or camera angles, I first needed to write the scripts, but writing was much more tedious than playing. Instead, I made longer and longer lists of our ideas without writing any of them out. As I grew older and learned more speculative science, the ideas became ever more sophisticated and we strived to be groundbreaking.
By the time I had graduated high school, Ryan had moved away and I had fallen in love with the written word. There is just something magically satisfying about capturing in mere words the action and images of a scene. I enjoyed repeatedly going over my rough drafts and refining them into perfection. I gave up on the television series idea and decided to write a series of novels. I had settled on calling it The Way Out Series. It had a triple meaning. It dealt with events “way out” in deep space where there was often only one “way out” from danger and my characters were “way out” of their minds. I was unaware at the time that there had already been a Way Out science fiction series in the sixties. I made my first real effort to write in 2000. The first episode was to have been called Inside Metha. It would cover how the two main characters, Dan and Ryan, first met.
Unfortunately, I could not finish. Between work and school I did not have much time. I was mentally exhausted and could not focus. I kept having writers’ block and I did not trust that I could think my characters out of situations that I put them in. I needed to put them in danger, but also have them survive in a way that didn’t seem too unrealistic. I kept trying to plan everything out ahead and outline in too much detail, becoming frustrated when things didn’t work out. As the years passed I continued having new story ideas until I had hundreds. How was I ever to finish writing the entire series in a natural lifetime? I kept changing my mind which episode I should start the series with and what should be backstory. I had numerous ideas for Dan that took place before and after his adventures with Ryan, making Ryan less important, and the character Dan was becoming less and less like me anyways. Eventually Dan became Nate.
In the meantime, I developed other interests, such as art, travel, and politics. I kept various blogs. I somehow wrote The Nutcase Across The Street (politics/current affairs) in six weeks in 2010, later publishing it in 2011. It was only in 2012 that I made a breakthrough with my science fiction. I don’t fully understand what happened myself, but part of it was that I gave up trying to run my life and trusted God to lead me wherever, including what to write. I started writing The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship (science fiction). I now had the ability to write but not enough time. Fortunately, God also arranged for me to get fired mysteriously without cause in 2013. At last I had the time. I published in 2014.
I immediately began to think of what to do with all my extra ideas to make them marketable. I had received much feedback over the years that my stories were too complex and too weird to ever be accepted by anybody. This is why I originally decided to focus on Nate’s early life (then called Nathaniel). Nate’s childhood stories were simpler. I aimed to create a style emulating both Calvin And Hobbes and Star Trek, both highly popular among adults. I thought I had a winning combination. Instead, I received much feedback that no adult would ever want to read about children that talked and acted like children, yet no child would ever understand the science references (both real and fictional) I included. If my series had taken off, I would have kept going with it. Because it did not, I reevaluated what it was I really wanted to do for myself and decided that while I enjoyed writing in that style, it was not where my heart was. I had also tried becoming an artist and selling my drawings of alien creatures. While I received many compliments, I also ran into many obstacles in promotion and securing venues. If my art had taken off, I would have continued with it. Because it did not, I reevaluated what it was I really wanted to do for myself and decided that even though I enjoyed drawing, it was not where my heart was.
Around the same time, I came up with an overall plot arc to Nate’s life that tied all the hundreds of stories together. I thought it would be nice if I could actually publish all of my ideas while I was still alive. Finally I hit upon the idea of a trilogy of books, each containing 212 microchapters. Each microchapter would be a quick summary of one story from Nate’s life. I called it The Champion Trilogy. I was doubtful that anybody else would want to read such a thing, but the more I thought about it the more I knew I had to finish it before I could do anything else. This is what I really wanted to do.
In Champion Of The Galaxy, Nate finds that evil is everywhere he visits and starts to think of himself as a hero. He protects the innocent while battling criminal masterminds, alien monsters, space storms, military robots, and dimensional paradoxes, but for most of his life he is incredibly lonely. Finally, he meets Derek and they become best friends. In Champion Of The Universe, the challenges Nate and Derek face become ever bigger and more complicated. They learn to rely on each other more and more. In Champion Of Heaven, Nate slowly rises in power to control the mathematical underpinnings of reality itself in order to banish evil completely, but just as victory seems within his grasp, everything unravels. He loses his throne, his friends, his powers, and begins to lose his mind. After many years of grasping for every last sliver of hope, he collapses from emotional exhaustion. It is then that a mysterious entity rescues him and says, “You don’t have to be champion of the universe anymore. I am champion of the universe.”
After 636 stories, who knows? I very well might keep Nate going.
In the eighteenth century scientists discovered that lightning was made of the same electricity as static discharges. In the nineteenth century scientists discovered that electricity and magnetism were related. They described the phenomenon as different manifestations of the same underlying force named electromagnetism, which operated through something called an electromagnetic field. They predicted the existence of ripples in this field called electromagnetic waves. Later it was found that visible light was an electromagnetic wave. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, ultraviolet light, x-rays, and gamma rays were also shown to be electromagnetic, made of the same “stuff” and differing only in wavelength. At the atomic scale, electromagnetic forces drive chemical reactions and bonding. The magnetic, electrical, optic, chemical, and physical properties of all substances are governed by the electromagnetic force. What were once thought of as separate phenomena are now described in terms of a single theory.
At the same time, gravity was used to explain both falling apples and the movement of the planets. The various behaviors of the atomic nucleus were described in terms of two forces: the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force (physicists apparently have no imagination when it comes to names). Might this trend continue? Is it possible to explain everything in terms of one force?
This is what physicists have been trying to do for a century now. Some progress seems to have been made. The Kaluza-Klein theory unified gravity and electromagnetism, and the standard model of particle physics unified the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and electromagnetism. Unfortunately, the two theories are incompatible with each other. Numerous other candidate models have been proposed to unify all four forces, such as superstrings, super-symmetry, Penrose twistors, the holographic universe, cellular automata, and quantum loop gravity. There are problems with each. For some, the math is so hard that we can’t be sure they even work at all. For others, they are so versatile in explaining everything that they can explain anything – meaning they make no testable predictions to disprove them.
In everything I read on the subject, it is simply assumed that a unified field exists to explain all fields, both for bosons and fermions. Why? I have always wondered whether a unified field theory is even possible. What if the four forces are truly separate and fundamental? Could it be that nature is infinitely complex, with baryons being made of quarks, being made of still smaller particles, being made of still smaller particles, and so on forever? Since math is the foundation of physics, doesn’t Goedel’s theorem imply that any “theory of everything” must necessarily be either incomplete or inconsistent?
The same could be said of any set of rules, including those of moral philosophy. It seems that when I try to organize a set of principles from which right and wrong can be determined, there are always situations in which they either do not apply or else yield contradictory answers. The best example is land ownership. I believe in property rights. Land claims must be first-come-first-served. What is to be done with landless nomads, then? What is to be done with the homeless? Humans are material objects that take up space. They have to be somewhere. When the whole world is taken, where do they go? Who’s yard do they camp in? Yours? It would make sense to take a tiny sliver from everyone’s land to gather together in one place for them, but this is not how space works. It would make sense to cut up the nomads and distribute their matter equally across all lands, but this is not how the human body works. Instead, the majority of landowners will be blissfully unaware of the problem, while a minority will find their properties overrun. While it is perfectly permissible to defend your livelihood by driving the intruders away, it is also perfectly permissible for the intruders to defend themselves from being constantly driven from one place to another. Conflict is unavoidable and because any conflict can contain an element of this one (imagine the intruders taking over the government, taxing the landowners, and using the money to buy places for themselves), it can no longer be said who is right and who is wrong. Morality completely breaks down.
I am not a relativist. There is still a right choice and wrong choice in any given situation. It’s just that the underlying principles are infinitely complex and cannot be described ahead of time in a way comprehendible by any finite mind. These subjects I hope to describe in greater detail in the book I’m still writing.
There are many YouTube channels featuring and explaining math, such as Mathologer and
MindYourDecisions, but by far the best that I’ve been able to find is Numberphile. They generally do a good job explaining the derivation of their theorems, but even when they don’t they are valuable for the wonder they induce and for the small tidbits of knowledge that can be combined with facts heard elsewhere to build up a more complete picture of things. It’s fascinating. Many times I have gone online just to watch one or two videos and ended up staying up all night.
Why are there infinite magic squares and only two magic hexagons? What is the longest possible game of tree? What are the spooky connections between the parts of the triangle? How can the same equation lead to such simple order and such complex chaos by only slightly changing one variable? What is a strange attractor? Can we find the digits of pi hiding in the Mandelbrot set? Can we find the Fibonacci sequence hiding in the Mandelbrot set? Why is 41 special?
Between 2013 and 2016 I drew a lot of pictures. Some I planned. Some I made up as I went. Some have tiny details hidden in them, such as the lizard hiding in the jungle. Some were sold. Some went into storage without being scanned. I may return to drawing in the future, but right now I am too busy. Here is only a fraction of them:
I finally found a roundabout way to get videos from my phone into my PC and onto the blog. Enjoy!
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.