16 April 2006

In 1994, a credible physicist wrote an incredible book about the possibility of resurrection, and what it would mean to be a consciousness that expands without limit.  It is a book from which I learned a great deal of real science cosmology, particle physics, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics as well as the mathematics of computability.  The book is also sewn through with tidbits from history of religious and philosophical thought, about which I knew little.  

The yearning for eternal life has been part of the human experience at least since the dawn of history.  Is eternal life even a logically meaningful idea?  Life in this sense implies experience, and in a finite universe, it would seem that there are only a finite number of experiences that can be had?  If we ran out of experiences and started endlessly repeating them (after a phenomenally long, but not infinite time), could this still be regarded as 'eternal life'?  (The book describes this dilemma and several possible escapes from it, ultimately eliminating all but one.)  

Is it the destiny of life to expand beyond our planet and create new forms that colonize the universe?  Will the very structure of stars and galaxies be molded by our descendants to serve efficiently as a home to “life” broadly defined?  Is our experience of selfhood dependent on the particular physical form taken by our bodies and brains?  If there were a computer simulation of my brain (down to the last quantum detail) would I experience this as "me"?   

In the broadest sense, self-reflection is the essence of humanity.  For those of us to whom science is a foundation of our self-reflective musings…  

The Physics of Immortality by Frank Tipler

15 April 2006

Risk more than others think is safe. 
Care more than others think is wise. 
Dream more than others think is practical. 
Expect more than others think is possible.

~ Claude T. Bissell

14 April 2006


Of all the people we admire and remember for their conviction and strength of will, is there any other whose accomplishment was to devote his or her life successfully to the personal development of just one other person?

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose - not the one you began with perhaps, but one you'll be glad to remember.

Anne Sullivan, born this day in 1866


13 April 2006

Those who knew a little of science in the 20th century imagined that the scientific endeavor would soon be able to explain the workings of the universe as a machine, thus draining human strivings of all meaning.  To these people, godlessness became a religion, and despair a matter of faith.  Human existence is absurd, declared the Existentialists, who claimed the mantle of scientific objectivity as their heritage.

But working scientists know better.  A good scientific theory is one that resolves a mystery by replacing it with a deeper mystery.  

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.” 
~ Einstein

12 April 2006

"Let an ultra-intelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even smarter machines, which in turn would create another, smarter generation; there would then unquestionably be an 'intelligence explosion,' and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make."

~ I.J. Good

This is the premise of a group of people gathering next month at Stanford University to talk about the prospects of an imminent, dramatic shift in human history, which they call The Singularity.  They build on the belief that, given enough circuitry, computers are capable of all the subtlety and creativity and intuition that characterizes human thinking.  This is a question on which reasonable men differ; in fact, it's a question on which there is vigorous, heated debate with impressive credentials on both sides.  What do you think?

11 April 2006

“You can understand and relate to most people better if you look at them no matter how old or impressive they may be as if they are children. For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much we simply grow taller. Oh, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.”

Leo Rosten, born this day in 1908, wrote stories and screenplays under the pseudonym Leonard Q. Ross, created the character H*y*m*a*n  K*a*p*l*a*n, capturing the experience of the Jewish immigrant in New York.

10 April 2006

“Risking one's life can be strangely liberating. That's what the sea counsels me. She still talks even though she's got a mercury Superfund on her left breast and vinyl chloride and phthalates on her right breast. She's a forgiving grandmother. Not unduly angry about the mix-ups and mess ups and the confounding fact of healing taking so long. She knows it is complicated. My intent will keep her, she says.”

~ from An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas
by Diane Wilson, a stubborn, idealistic activist on behalf of The Sea.