Arquivo da categoria: Estética

The Unforbidden Beauty of Islamic Aesthetics

In Islam, you are not allowed to do a lot of things. Showing your hair, drinking alcohol, kissing in public. Most of those will turn a western mind into a reasonant megaphone, expressing the western distress with the general idea of forbidding personal freedom. It is hard to beleive that islamic girls who claim to freely cover their bodies under a 45º, and indeed, there is little reason to suppose that the few who claim that represent the majority view, and a lot of reason to suppose that they fear social reprehension and being unable to marry. Even though I do agree with the general secular point of view regarding random anacronic prohibitions that have persisted through time, there is this one I’d like to defend. The prohibition of depicting creatures.

Muslims don’t draw people. Not only people, but other animals too. Recently back from Syria, Jordan, and Lebannon, my recollection is that the closest relative of ours I’ve seen depicted were flowers. That is a long distance. Take a look.

Só what happens when you create a society that is not allowed to draw that which we are cognitively most likely to want to depict? Patterns emerge, literally, patterns emerge.

I suppose many would agree, as I have shown in another writing, that contemporaneous western society has too much visual information, and that is one of the reasons for the spreading of modernism. It is not pleasant to be in a roccoco scenery like this, because we are already daily overwhelmed by visual and auditory information far surpassing our tailored-to-the-savannah levels of information processing. Even when I stay home all day, I usually see around 30 faces which my brain has to recognize, and some 100 that it just recognizes as a human face, that is what web-based social networks are all about anyway. I suppose americans see Brad Pitt on average once a day, brazilians see Gisele Bündchen almost as frequently. It is tiresome, stressing. Why do we have to be in the company of só many creatures all the time?

Thing is, we are. Yet, the vast majority of our paintings (and of our neocortices) are depictions of people, faces, bodies, gestures, social acts, gatherings, revolutions, reformations, saints, angels, clubs, …….Stop! Too much.

Enters Islam.

Reader: This is way more visual information than anything, how could this be relaxing?

I suggest that there are two main differences between this sort of decoration, and, say, Guernica, by Picasso.

The first one is that, even though there is lots of information within the patterns, it is all based on simple rules, so it probably takes much less effort for the brain to debug what it is. “It is a surface of such and such kind, no partners, no friends, no enemies, no predators, no prey”, no need to throw adrenalin into the system, no need for fight or flight, just a pattern.

The second one has something to do with something eles I wrote about before. The Snickers issue. We like Snikers because it works as superstimulus, it is salty, sweet, fatty, solid, creamy, crunchy, all at the same time, Snikers is like interenet porn to an extent. Like newborn babies who spent more time looking at six-eyed fake moms than at two-eyed fake moms, we like Snikers and intenet porn because we get high, it activates the neurosystem as a whole a lot. Most of the time our conscious processing of information takes place in Broca (language area) the Temporal Gyrus(face-recognition, place-recognition, and Frontal Lobe, which pretty much takes care of thinking about who is who, and checks if some of them want to abuse, some of them want to get used by you.

The patterns depicted in islamic buildings and islamic art, on the other hand, are mostly processed and debugged (made sense of) around the V2 area, one of the earliest parts of visual processing.

Those who apreciatte this kind of art are probably doing so both because it doesn’t overwhelm the social/hunting/mating stressed parts of our minds, and because is grasps and allows the feeling of understanding from a much older and more primitive system, which doesn’t have that much work to do usually.

Sometimes, prohibitions may lead to beauty, let us understand why is the beauty there so it doesn’t get destroyed once the prohibitions are suspended, as they surely will.

Utopia The Hidden Design Part 2

What are we allowed to change?    Here and throughout this book, I shall keep the mesoscopic alone. Things of medium size are way too visible in our cognition for us to be able to change them in an interesting way without loosing track completely, going completely bonkers. From the size of teeth to the size of stars, I’d better not touch what is visible about physics.

How It Should Be in Utopia: The changes we should consider here are of two kinds, those that would make the world more practical, and those that would make it more beautiful. These notions start to pull in opposite directions after a point. As a study by (XXXX) shows that our aesthetic preference dodges from both too much complexity, and from too much simplicity. Subjects were given three classes of paintings, with different degrees of shape complexity in them. They spent most of the time looking at the most complex one, but rated the middle one as more beautiful. This makes sense, compare the sight of a savannah with the sight of a deep forest, there is more to look in the deep forest, so you focus longer on it. One of the reasons you do it is because there may be snakes somewhere around, or fellows of an opponent tribe hiding there. The savannah has widespread visibility, so you can check out for lions long before they arrive nearby.

Trees are a perfect example of the reason why evolution has given us a desire for mid-level visual complexity. If there are none, you are bound to fry, freeze, or in the best case, be found by those you’d better keep away. If there are some, you have shadow, perhaps some fruit, shelter and a hiding place. Now if there are too many, you are lost and anxious, for anything faster than a slug will take very little time between being seen by you, and getting to you. Not by coincidence, some architects found a lasting school of design a while ago called ¨modernism¨ which tries to simplify a lot the designs that surround us. Long, very, very long before this school of thought there was a style called baroque, and it was characterized exactly in the opposite way, having intricate designs, twists, edges, curves, forms, sculptures, shapes, eye lines, shadows, wings, stories, kings, gods, priests, angels, girls, animals, wheels, hair, clothes, expressions, positions…. among other things….and a few more….. you get the hang of it….. emotionally at least…. when you read this final part….. and feel that you can’t stand anymore…. those little dots….

One of the things that separates this two schools, and one I think is highly responsible for the difference between their designs, is the average visual complexity of the surrounding environment. Life was way more simple, with fewer objects and less propaganda in the baroque times. In that time, the more, the merrier, when it came to visual processing. Those brains were craving for more, for most of their visual life was an experience of more of the same. But in the time of the modern school of art, it was all different, life was rushing through our eyes, the experience of the impact of thousands of daily images, like a movie that changes it’s scenes every twenty seconds. Cars, business, industry, art everywhere, cinema, buildings, trains, and lots, lots and lots of people. When the baroque school was in vogue, we were still living in a visual Savannah, but then came the jungle, deep, intricate and metallic, and that  was just too much. We needed less. We needed something that reminds one of either a plains or the ocean, the skyline not the skyscraper… and as such, the memes of modernism achieved power within the human society… but I digress…

So, we have two kinds of changes to apply to our non mesoscopic physics, those that would make it more beautiful, and those that would make it more practical. Let us start with the latter. There is no reason why a high-school graduate should not be able to describe the fundamental physical laws in a conversation in a party, in the same vein as there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to talk about a beautiful TV series he just watched. So we must provide some simplicity to our microscopic and macroscopic physics, this is not very hard. Before Einstein, space was thought to be very simple, three dimensions, four if you count time, things from the past go to the future, things from the future go to an even further future, and things in the present become past before you know it. Light (photons) traveled in a straight line (thus not according to probabilistic waves). If the physical macroscopic world worked like the predecessors of Einstein thought it did, high school would be a much deeper experience, we’d actually be learning almost all there is to know about the mechanics of the world in those few years! Physicists would definitely feel a warmth inside, once they settled    the fear that they themselves wouldn’t be personally able to find out the most important physical laws, since they had already been discovered. Some, readers of Feynman perhaps, would protest against a simplification of physics, since the pleasure of discovery is the the pleasure of doing physics. This is partially true, and it is interesting to imagine ourselves in a territory in which it is always possible to create anew and make innovative discoveries. But we must not assume that the pleasure of discovery must be possible in each and every domain of knowledge. Something as fundamental as physics should not take eight years to be learned, and discoveries can always be made in other realms, such as applied physics, botany, or computer science, if that is the case.

There are shortcomings in choosing to live in a Newtonian world… The first one is that Quantum computation would be indeed impossible, since the behavior of micro objects would be mostly a tiny mimic of their bigger counterparts. Our current (2010) computers would not suffer, but our computational prospects would suffer a little bit. Take for instance these predictions of the possible computing power available per cubic inch    (SANDERSXXXX)   (KURZWEIL XXXX) (BOSTROM 2001)

According to the Many-World interpretation of Quantum Physics, when we do quantum computing, what we are doing is basically computing in many, many worlds at once, using their computational resources, and then recovering somehow this information into our world as a final result of the computation (DEUTCH 1997). If the universe was Newtonian, we’d have to abandon this dream, and accept a limited amount of computer power per parts of matter, energy and space available. This can be made unproblematic in one of three ways. First, accept, as some are starting to, that the level of isolation of a quantum computer necessary to do quantum computation is such that the dream would not only be unachievable in Utopia, it would also be unachievable here, in good old Earth. This may seem sober, but is quite insane, it depends on the belief that one can decide how reality behaves, and this is one of the distinctive properties of Utopia, not of reality. Second alternative: Start thinking about taking the dream of getting to know how the world works to an extreme, what is the dream of a physicists, or of an analytic philosopher? ¨To find out how the world is.¨ – Well, yes, but what do you mean exactly? – ¨ To find a set of equations that, given all the information of the behavior of all particles at a given time, it shall give you the physical behavior, future and past, of the whole of existence, everything, from the tiny speck of dust, to the grand mammoths, passing by that day in which your mum told you not to forget to bring a  coat.”  – Okay, suppose I gave you this set, would you be happy with it? – Why, of course! I hold in my own hand the whole of Man’s knowledge, right before my eyes are the eyes of tiger, the bright blue sky is at my command, I have found out the power through which number holds sway above the flux, as Russell remarked. – ¨What is is about the equations that you find so enlightening, so marvelously soft and warm and fulfilling? – ¨The whole truth is subsumed on it, once I know it, I know everything that matters!” – Do you know when is your girlfriends birthday? – ¨Well, no¨ – Do you know the feeling that inspired the poet when he composed his love poem? Do you know the courage it took for the conqueror to forget about his religious upraising and start killing in the name of vengeance? Have you any grasp of what is a family, or a master piece of art? – “No, you see, the level of description you are talking about it too high, I will only know the position of atoms, planets and similar things, for the things you are talking about, I’d have to have an idiom of translation in-between levels, so that I could find those objects among the numbers and vectors” – Then you struggle for a bunch of numbers that will give you more numbers, sometimes greek letters. It is an enormous pleasure to understand the rules that govern that which is tiny, and that which is enormous, and I do not wish to affirm that there isn’t value in knowing these things, but what worries me is that, since this particular task is so difficult, many of the world’s most intelligent people spend a live dedicated to it, as if once they had found and held strongly to the final theory, the very doors of paradise would open to them – ¨Our dream is, partly, to know everything there ever will be. We seek for more and more knowledge because it feels good to know, and it feels better to know more, why would we not want to know it all?” – Richard Rorty once said that the dream of the analytic is that there would be a moment where a part of the universe, in a finite time, would compute every single property the whole universe will ever have, once this is done, the traveling will have been complete, our journey is finished. But what about after that? Let us suppose the computational dream actually is the purpose of the universe, as knowledge seekers many times suppose. We develop a brain/mind/computer that is so enormously powerful that for a moment, it has a glimpse of all there is. In a tiny set of moments, all the computations that calculate everything, before and beneath, above and behind, around and within will be executed, the feeling that everything is what it is will be felt. Aristotle said that to say the truth is to say of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not, after the completion of the dream of Understanding, the complete truth will have been known. I see some beauty in that, but it is beauty the size of a marvelous, uniquely inspired movie, it is not beauty worthy of worship as being the one path. Douglas Adams has put a machine, in his own Utopia, that gives one the ability of contemplating the universe (probably the observable universe) in all its vastnes, way and well beyond what we can imagine. The only survivor to entering the machine, and contemplating one’s relative size to the whole universe was Ford Beeblebrox, and the reason he survives is that he enters the machine in a simulated universe made for him, and discovers he is, indeed, the most important creature there ever was in the universe. To me, sometimes, depending on my mood and level of existential anxiety, it seems like the dream of physicists, and of analytic philosophers is that they would feel like Beeblebrox, that once all the equations are there, right in front of them, they will all magically unite into a picture of an egocentric universe, that cares about you as much as the God of believers cares about them.  ¨What you bring is shocking on the one hand, but part of what I believe remains intact despite of it, there is something about those equations that will not be taken away from them, it belongs to them alone, and it allows them to hold sway above the flux, to be that which we always dreamt of. It is the property that them, and themselves alone have: Permanence. All of our lives, we struggle, in one way or the other, to persist, all we know about the world, we know because genes that were trying to persist created brains, and minds wanted to persist. We search for persistence in our children, in our jobs, in our emotional lives… we want the world to bear our craved marks in the most solid rock, we want to live on through our work, our ideas, and our beloved ones. Our hearts, most of all, wish to remain beating, to experience deep and profound happiness, peace. All this may be, partly, a distortion of our true wish, that few times escapes peoples minds, but did once, from Woody Allen’s:  ´I do not want to be immortal through my work, I want to be immortal for not dying!´ The dream of immortality may not be possible for our minds, since personal identity isn’t what it looks like[1], and also, unfortunately, we know that mesoscopic objects do not last long enough. No matter how deep our encravings (??word exist??) in the monolith, air and water shall erase our markings upon this world. No matter how many read our books, or saw our movies, memory will fade away. But the equations! Oh, they are not as fleeting! You can trust them as you can no other thing. They are valid here, as are there, they are now as will be when our galaxy hits Andromeda, they hold no matter who is on power, they stand beyond the reach of kings, queens, supercomputers and tsunamis… If our dream is a dream of persistence, and it is, there is nothing that will persist for longer, for all else changes. It changes, in fact according to them, and they describe all possible routes of change. But they themselves stay. When offered the dream of power, instead of the dream of persistence, Einstein said (????): “Politics may be for a decade, but an equation, is for eternity¨ this is what your shattering argument can’t take from us. I agree though, that all the rest it has swept, and I see, finally, the reason why would anyone not dedicate his life to figuring out the underlying physics of the cosmos.¨ – The message of persistence is a beautiful one. Persistence though, is, like Computation, Truth, and God, still a messiah. Surely, as a messiah, persistence far surpasses in muchness the dream of Power, so much the worse for Nietzsche, Ghengis Khan, and Eric Cartman.

The second alternative, when we are considering good reasons to accept the trade-off of having no quantum computing, versus having no one understanding physics seems to lead us to having no quantum computing, and abandoning the dream of the Complete Computation. It is a high price to pay, having to give up on the ultimate grasp into microscopic physical reality, but we can rest assured that the dream of Persistence, and many others, will still be strong, steady and with a soft fur in the world of utopia. Physicists do not learn the equations only if they think there is a change they will be able to one day perform the one computation, their eyes will still glare to be in the presence of those symbols that describe that, which, uniquely, and, in a sense, above all things, persists…

The third alternative consists of establishing within Utopia something very akin to what a very old philosopher thought. Leibniz conceived of a notion of Universal Harmony. He had strong within the dream of the total computation, but for reasons somewhat different of those that our physicists will offer. Leibniz was concerned with the problem of how does one thing influence another, and he concocted a worldview in which all things actually are separate, monads, he would call them. All the matter is made of monads, sort of like little balls that don’t have contact. Each and every of those would contain in itself all the determinations of movement and happenings of the whole world (that is the dream is taken for granted as a premise) and in such a way it would know when it was time to move or be moved, without actually having to touch or be touched. Things were not allowed to have relational properties, only instrinsic ones. Suppose you push something with your hand, how can it know that you are pushing it? If there is movement, we must account for it, but if two adjacent particles move one another, either one moves first (therefore occupying a space where the other one isn’t, which would give the other one no reason to move) or both move at the same time, in which case there would be some sort of precognized move on the part of the second one. This is the sort of issue that Leibniz was dealing with when he conceived of universal harmony. He decided (as old philosophers used to do) that the world was made of this simple entities, monads, each and every one of them was simple, not decomposable, and therefore it had to contain within itself all the relations it beared to other monads, present, past, and future. Basically all things inside the cosmos were simple substance achieving the Understanding Dream. His reasons for his decisions are far outside the scope of our scrutiny, but the general sense is that since he thought all true propositions are of the form (Subject)*(Predicate) and that all truths were analytical (true in virtue of their meanings alone) then it meant that all predicates were contained in their subjects, and therefore relations had to be containted in monads, not have a separate reality as relations. Once he settled for himself this interesting project of creating a world of separated stuff that contains it all, he had a very rough problem to deal with. For one, under his doctrine all sex was masturbation. How could he make sure that all the monads were acting as their inner relations would describe if there are no real relations between them? How could he make sure of the truth of what each of them contained, if those pseudo-relations did not imply the existence of any real relations such as touching, pushing, demanding from, having an orgasm in the presence of etc…? For this he provided the notion that we will be needing here, in the third alternative, the notion of Universal Harmony. As its name implies to a great extend, within this doctrine, there is a harmonic tonus to our world, the monads behave as they should, even though nothing relates to nothing. A deus ex-machina, the notion of Universal Harmony comes simply as a holy savior, that will once again bring consistence to a very interesting doctrine of substances. It is unfortunate that since the times of Leibniz much has changed, philosophers don’t get to decide many doctrines anymore, deus ex-machini are strictly forbidden, and worst of all, one cannot invoke the three letter word as the explanation of why is it that something in particular takes place, ’God’ has stopped being an explanation that guarantees that, deep within simple substance, non pecaminous masturbation is sex after all.

Merrily for us, Utopias are allowed their share of deus ex-machina solutions, the third alternative is to postulate a different kind of Universal Harmony to our world, that is a complete mapping of the better part of it into a smaller part of it, we allow the property of the Monads, and of the dream of the Understanding to exist, once, in a mind/brain/computer vast and highly accessible for mere humans to see. This computer will be able to do it not because it bears enough causal relations with the world around it that it can actually compute, through sheer empirical fact plus equations, the ultimate fate of the universe, but by equations plus chance… It is a given that the shape of the universe is such that it will compute right, and we do not have to worry about the causal details that would render the operation impossible. Not only this computation will be accurate to the finest level of detail about what is outside the computer (after all, if it computed itself there would be some trouble lurking within the math) but it also will be accompanied by the corresponding ¨Ahá!¨ feeling, which, being computationally much more simple, will be transmitted to all those scientists gathered around the machine, in proportion to how much their cognition is able to feel it. This way we can remain Newtonian, achieve, at least once, the Computational Dream, remain able to see and understand those few things of the world that actually do persist, and watch the show of all there is.


By picking the third alternative, and letting quantum mechanics fade into the abyss of all that never was, we loose something that to some could be very valuable, and to many others, terrible, almost unbearable. These are the many-worlds of quantum mechanics. If we abandon Quantum Mechanics, we must abandon many-worlds, there is nothing else we can do. Either it is a probabilistic universe in which split experimenters at time2 only get to be in one place each, or it is a deterministic universe, in which no splitting occurs, and, among other fascinating things, light travels in a straight line! There are many reasons we would like to keep the many worlds, I will now try to argue that they are insufficient or false. The first reason is because we want to have more choices, in the sense of more possible futures, and it feels nice and warm inside when we think there actually is an open future out there for us. There are some mistakes already in this reasoning. When quantum worlds split, there is no fact of matter about yourself1, that is, yourself before the splitting time, that decides that yourself1 will become yourself2a and not yourself2b, that is, there is no fact of matter as to which of the two actually is you, they both are, in all possible senses. All your descendant selves, lets call them, are equally you. All your ancestor selves, in the same vein, are you. But that does not mean that all your parallel selves are you. Yourself2a is distinct from yourself 2b even though both are the same as yourself1, only living a few moments later. Sameness is not a transitive property when it comes to your-quantum-selfity, one might want to say. If A is the same as B, and B is the same as C, it does not follow that A will be the same as C, just like if Brazil won most games against South Africa, and South Africa won most games against China, it does not follow that Brazil won most games against China. What this all implies is that when you thought quantum physics was allowing you to believe correctly that there are open futures for you, you were wrong, unless your definition of ’open’  ranges over cases in which everything is determined, but more than one thing happens at the same time. In my personal target for the operations of the expression ’open future’, it includes very near the middle of the target the idea that there is one single future which is contingent, that is, is not necessarily going to happen, but is probabilistically going to be determined as time moves along. Even closer to the middle of what I understand by ’open future’ is the idea that I get to decide, above and beyond the scope of all physics, out of my pure biblical will, what I will do and how my future will be. This picture sounds as open as possible. So in almost all cases where I say ’open future’, this could be what I’m meaning. In most of the cases, but not almost all, I could be talking about probabilistic futurology, in just a few of them I would be referring to the kind of branching that many-world purports.

A yellow self lookin back into itself through time

In even fewer, I’d be referring to the idea of an epistemically open future, one in which all is determined, but since we do not know the determination (because aren’t currently achieving the computational dream) we count our subjective probabilities as open-ness regarding the future of the world. Here I suggest we stick to the definition of ’open futures’ that ranges over biblical will and probabilistic futures, but not over determined branches or subjective probabilities of a determined future. So, if we do, then you didn’t have options in the first place while you were living in quantum world, you have no reason to miss options in the all renewed Newtonian Utopia. This gets ¨What the Bleep do We Know¨ and similar quantum mysticism out of our way.

There is still work to be done, since in the Many-Worlds there is still the sheer amazing, interesting fact that we are actually living in Many-Worlds! I mean, how awesome is that? Isn’t it way more interesting to be living in a gazillion places at once? To be able to dream of the version of you (that is not you, because it is parallel) that won the lottery, wrote a bestseller, played with Yo-Yo Ma in a concert watched by billions and debunked the record holder for the 100mts? Yes, any utopian must account for that. There is no way you can say you’ve just made the ideal world and you took all those worlds away from us. There is a dream that dies when you kill parallel worlds, this is the Dream of What Never Was.

Wait a minute, there is a paradox here! If this is Utopia, you don’t give a damn about what there isn’t, after all, of all configurations of what there is, you are sitting atop the best of them…

As the Architect remarks in Matrix: Although your question is the most pertinent, it is also, the most irrelevant. It is patently false that dreaming of worse worlds cannot be a property of the best world. For one, the best world, being the best for (pick your choice between) everyone/most people/everyone that matters/me and my friends    is a world in which there are beings that do not live in their best world. It probably does not coincide with anyone’s personal best world (except if there are those whose true emotional standard for a best world is that it is the best for the chosen set). It is generally taken for granted that it is good for people to dream about their lives as better ones, and I do not see reason to fight this intuition. If it is correct, than we know that the best world differs from the best world in which no one dreams of world worse than this one in exactly the fact that people are not able to dream of their personal best world. Not only the very best, but all in which things are better for them. Not only those, but those in which the things they are currently concerned with are best for them, regardless of how those would have turned out in the long run.     With that behind us, we must now find space in a Newtonian world for parallel worlds, so that the Dream of What Never Was can be fulfilled, and surround the impounding fantasies of the Utopian peoples. Sometimes, solutions are so easy you don’t get to see them, for they are right before your eyes. We need to find space. Space, isn’t that something we have an infinite supply of already? We do not need quantum truthfulness to have an infinite universe, we do not need to protect our bubbles from much. There is no conceptual contradiction in having an infinite space with bubbles like ours inside. There would of course be some changes. Even though we have destroyed probability in the level of where is a particle going to be tomorrow, we must keep a little probability happening. We need for it to be finitely probable that a cube of 10x meters will give rise to a bubble, otherwise, there would be no bubbles and only empty space. We might want to add a proviso that no bubble shall appear within another bubble, and therefore we maintain all the Newtoneity our Computer/Mind/Brain/Dream-achiever might wish for, since he is only calculating what happens in our bubble (or a bit less, our observable universe). Also, there would not be 10^500 different possible bubbles, because all those bubbles were inter-differentiated by facts pertaining to either string theory (Wooo!) or quantum theory, and both of those were abandoned due to average high school stupidity, as you may remember. There would still be many possible worlds out there, far, far away, farther away than Far, Far Away itself, where Shrek and Fiona are wondering if their world is or not Newtonianly possible. These are the Newtonianly possible worlds. I do not know how many are them, but they are sure enough to, literally, make our dreams come true.

By now you may have noticed that in contemporaneous cosmology, and in contemporaneous speculative philosophy of physics, the meanings of a few words started to blend. Universe means three different things. Observable-universe, Universe containing bubbles (also called ’Multiverse’), and bubble. That is because usually people mean bubble when they say ‘universe’, since they are not aware that there are other bubbles out there. ‘World’ has the same problems. To make things easier, I shall establish what, from now on (but not until here) I mean by those words

Universe: By universe, I mean our bubble. If two bubbles fuse, then I mean by universe the sum of them.

Multiverse: By multiverse, I mean the all the things there are in the same level of physical reality as we are, all the bubbles. All the space in-between, if there is, all properties instantiated In this space.

Bubble: A bubble is something that looks like our observable universe, having objects, time, matter, etc… it does not have the constraint of having to be visible by a particular civilization at time, so it is not contained within a light cone, it may or not have been generated by a big bang, and contains at least energy, if not more sophisticated stuff like Helium, Cadmium, Gold and those nice people who sell ice-cream at the beach just when you need it.

World: By World I’ll mean the physical multiverse, all quantum branches that may come from it, and in general everything that can be causally related to something within this branching object, physical or otherwise. Since there are parts of the object (such as separate bubbles) that bear no causal relations to each other, we provide that will be included all the non causal stuff there may be in-between the bubbles (if such a notion makes sense. In Utopia, it does) like void, empty space, gunk, points etc…

So in utopia we have a multiverse with many bubbles, one of them being our universe, just like here. We currently do not know if the level of quantum splitting spans across the whole multiverse, just the bubble within which that particular quantum thingy is, or only the future light cone of that thingy. We do not know the size of the structure that divides when a division occurs. In any case, we have lost the many-worlds, but subtracting an infinite quantity from another does not leave us with zero. Just think of the analogous case of subtracting a line (infinite points) from a plane (infinite points). We remain with infinite points, or, in our case, infinite possible dreams being actualized elsewhere in our very own cozy multiverse. Martin Luther King can rest in peace.


I have cheated a little bit, because we need another quantum provision for all this to surely take place. Either that, or another deus ex-machina to come save us. Just like it is true that I can extract infinite points from a set of infinite points and remain with infinite points, it is also true that I can have an infinite space, with a finite probability of generating a bubble for a finite subset of it, and not get all the bubbles I might wish for. There are two ways in which this can happen. There can be too few bubbles, or too many. Let me guide you through this… Too few is quite easy. Just imagine that there are only three possible bubbles, meaning that for any finite sphere within infinite space, only the probabilities of insurgence of these three bubble kinds are finite. No matter how big you make the sphere, it is still only likely it will generate one of these three worlds. This once again depends on what can an what cannot vary, and, as I hope we agreed in earlier reflection, we have no idea how to determine that, we just make the educated guess that some constants and arbitrary values can vary, and that is that. The other way is by having too many possible bubbles. In this case, it won’t be true that a huge sphere will ascribe a finite probability for a bubble, say, ours. In this case we are actually going to delve into domains a bit beyond our knowledge of the World, sorry for this. Let’s get going: There are infinites (called cardinal numbers by mathematicians) of different sizes. Imagine all natural numbers (yeah, like someone could do it!), they are infinite, and yet, for each of them, there are infinitely many real numbers (like square of two, Pi and some others), the math concerning transfinites is a bit too complicated, but it can be found here:

Either take a look or believe me in that there are infinites of varying sizes. Also, there are no infinites that differ by a finite amount, only by infinite amounts. The total number of natural numbers is the same as the total number of natural numbers plus 7. Since those infinites can be organized into different sizes, they can be put in order, just like their finite cousins. The number of natural numbers has been called Aleph0, the number of real numbers Aleph1 and the sequence of Alephs is infinite, like the sequence 0,1,2,3,4 …  All of this is standard math (or standard set theoretical based math, for precision), but here we are about to hit a wall. No one knows if there is a number between Aleph0 and Aleph1. We know no finite additions to Aleph0 will give us Aleph1, because any addition would give us Aleph0 again, same for subtractions of Aleph1, but this does not imply that there are no such numbers, there may be more complex operations that give us a number, previously unknown, that actually fits in-between Aleph0 and Aleph1. That is, a number that is bigger than the number of points in Natural numbers line, and smallet than the number of points in a Real line. If the notion of an unknown number sounds too heretic to fit what you consider as acceptable about the world, you may want to review your acceptability standards before finding out that there are (spoiler alert!) Illegal Numbers. Yes, you heard it right. There are numbers outside the law. This are numbers it is illegal to sell, possess, or even, under some circumstances, know! Just imagine the following scene:

Class, how much is  25399 times 8883?

Linus,  214736417, mm almost

Bill, 216736382, no no Bill, try again

Larry, 216736317!, very good Larry!

Alan,    216736327?, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used…..

There are awkward things in the world, and I think illegal numbers stand right besides laws about bringing lions to the cinema in Illinois (?????). So let us accept unknown numbers as a possibility, and proceed with why it is not enough to have an infinite space to be sure there will be someone just like you somewhere else drinking the finest tea and playing with soup bubbles instead of taking care of the dog.

1/3 is aproximately 33,33%, ¼ is 25%, and there are many interesting fractions, such as 22/7 a number that people used, for a long time, to believe that was the result of dividing the circumference by the diameter. Let us focus our interest in those that are between 0% and 100% for these are the only ones you can use in probability (there cannot be something 110% likely). The question that concerns us at the moment is, what happens when I have one over infinite? More specifically, what is the result of dividing one by aleph0?  The answer is, nobody knows. There is no such math. Same for 100 over Aleph2 etc… when we intuitively say that one over infinite tends to zero, we are talking about the concept of limit, which involves finite numbers, not real infinites, these are useful for mathematical operations, they are cheaters, not the real deal. No one knows how to do the real deal, division operations with infinite cardinals as their divisor are not defined. This is not only true for numerators like 1, 100 or 10^7+56, it is also true of other infinite numbers. So Aleph0 above Aleph0 is undefined in our mathematics, same for Aleph1 over Aleph0, Aleph0 over Aleph1 and Aleph232 over Aleph27. Now you may be beginning to see our trouble! What if there are infinite possible configurations for a Newtonian bubble, and we live in an infinitely extend space? Are we to maintain that all the possible configurations of bubble will be realized? Suppose for illustration that the number of possible Newtonian Configurations is Aleph1, that is, the same amount as the amount of real numbers, and that total number of finite cubes of 10100mts size is Aleph0, now it seems ridiculously implausible that all the configurations will manifest themselves, there simply is no space for that to happen. The very definition of Aleph1 is that you cannot map Aleph0 into it in a one-to-one correspondence, so how can a space containing Aleph0 points instantiate Aleph1 universes? It seems like hell it cannot. But what are we to say of the opposite situation, what if there are Aleph1 points, Aleph1 finite regions, and only Aleph0 possible configurations for a Newtonian bubble[2]?

What if :

Aleph1 / Aleph0

…correctly describes the probability for a specific configuration of bubble to turn up actual, to be realized?

It seems like this should give us a probabilistic value of one. Yes, one, not infinite, because probabilities range in between 0% and 100% which is one. We want to say that if there are more finite spaces available then configurations, and they outnumber them by infinity, obviously all configurations will be instantiated, but behold the mathematical unproven intuition. The same reasoning might have lead us astray into the doomy lands of dividing by zero. Let us here maintain a skeptical position, accept that the question is open, and protest, with Bostrom (2006) that with so many mathematicians someone should have invented by now a non-contradictory math that allows us to think of infinitarian probabilities when we have to. Bostroms problem deals with ethics and infinite space, ours deals with probabilities and infinite space. To an extend, his approach to the issue using hyper-reals (a kind of number in between reals, a kind which, by now, you may even find perfectly ordinary) may prove helpful to our case, but there would still be many unsatisfactory results.

There is one more mathematical intuition that we have when talking about randomness that is quite dangerous. We always assume that all available outcomes have the same odds, that is, we always assume the die has sides of the same size. We are talking about real randomness here, not man-made artifacts that were specifically designed to equalize the chance of possible outcomes. It is a widespread vice to think that if something is random, truly random, then all outcomes have the same chance. This is false.

Randomness is not what you think it is

Think of a common die with two sides painted yellow, and the others with numbers one to four. Yellow is 1/3 likely, and any number is 1/6 likely, yet, it is completely random which of those possibilities will be actualized. Random means[3] you have no idea what will come up, not that you have no idea what is the likelihood distribution between possible outcomes. So even if it were established that Aleph1 / Aleph0 is a defined value corresponding to more than zero, and that the amount of configurations is Aleph0, and that the amount of finite spaces is Aleph1, this would still not guarantee that all configurations are instantiated, for they could be distributed in an evil way, with a part of them being way more likely than others, so that the operation of division among this others would not render values above zero.

One particularly implausible but nice looking scenario is that in which not only there are, say, Aleph0 configurations and Aleph0 spaces, but also there is an exact match between them, that is, no configuration ever repeats itself, and all, by infinitesimal chance, manifest. This is so absurd, in probabilistic terms, but so absurd, that it is completely compatible with one of the principles Leibniz used to build up his monadic system, the principle of the identity of indiscernibles, according to which it is impossible for two things to be exactly the same in all characteristics, and yet be numerically distinct[4].

We fortunately have no commitment to mathematics and transfinites when building our Utopia, we have a commitment with the mid-level world, the world of trees, glasses, love, sex, lust, 3D movies, fingers and music. We are allowed to create and abandon mathematics, this will be discussed in the chapter concerning the mathematics of Utopia, so, for now, let us just guarantee that there will be many bubbles around us looking a lot like us. To do that without having to interfere with the domain of math, we must quantize our Newtonian world, all objects and events that take place within it will take place in a finite amount of space, and there will be none that can be infinitely divisible. This guarantees that the total amount of possible configurations is finite. Let us do the wrong thing (counterfactually it is not wrong) and decree that the likelihood of any possibility arising is the same, and this will guarantee us a mathematical operation in which we multiply a finite number by an infinite one. The finite one is the probability of a bubble with configuration X appearing in a finite space, the infinite is the number of finite spaces. This operation is well defined in current mathematical theory, the result is the same as the infinite number. We do not even need to decide between infinite sizes to find out our needed Dreams within Utopia. Utopia may have an undefined infinite number finite spaces, as long as we don’t find any other reason to establish one, pick your choice. Mine is Aleph227.

So we can dream in peace, in Utopia, there are infinite universes, in some of them you are the prettiest girl in the prom, there is some epistemic uncertainty (which of those universes is the one I’m in?) which makes you feel like you have choices, even though deep in your heart you know you don’t. As Alexander Vilenkin puts it, “Many-Worlds in One”, this is the cosmology of Utopia. And the best of it, the equations fit a T-shirt! If that was not enough, your average high school student can grasp them, and a bunch of scientists and analytic philosophers can rest assured that the Dream of Computation will one day be achieved, thanks to Leibniz’s Universal Harmony, discrete physics, some ad-hoc principles of computation, and infinitely extent space, in our cozy and cuddling Newtonian-ish universe. Welcome to Utopia.


These were only the practical requirements, but by now, we may have realized that the borders dividing practical, useful, interesting, sweet, cozy, and beautiful are not as well defined as we might have wished for. When we postulate infinite bubbles, are we looking for the practicality of dreaming? Hardly likely… we are seeking the beauty of dreaming within reality. It is indeed practical to abandon Quantum Physics, so no trouble here. What about simplifying equations? I hope baroque and modern art were both right, and for that to be true, it must also be true that the visual and mental environments became much more populated in the centuries that separate them. Our century brings with it accelerating information, accelerating people, and accelerated lives, there is no doubt we are in an age in which beauty lies in simplicity, and it is perfectly marvelous to find out that the equations that best fit our practical requirements also will turn out to be the most beautiful.

What else do we need in our physics to have beauty?   There are at least two non-classical phenomena that are in the desires of most: Teleportation (aka non-local travel) and Time Travel (aka non instantaneous travel). A few sophisticated ones might also be wishing for a zero-energy machine, a machine that theoretically produces work and therefore useful energy forever. Let us consider all of those separately.

[1] The reason for the impossibility of immortality has nothing to do with the fact that one in every two billion people reaches 118 years old. Immortality in this sense is possible, not as in living forever, but as in living some 255466 years of healthy life. The real impossibility has to do with a question underlying philosophy of mind called personal identity, and it is not time to talk about it. Not yet.

[2] Note that all the concerns about Newtonian bubbles here also apply to Einsteinian and quantum bubbles, unless there are strictly no features of space that are not-quantizable, that is, absolutely every property of  the multiverse that can vary is perfectly discrete, not infinitely divisible, nor gunky (if you are not a philosopher of physics, do not bother about finding out what “gunky” means…).

[3] The word ’random’ usually ranges over both kinds of cases, but I pledge guilty to anyone who would accuse me of semantic dictatorship, since it is true that the case where all outcomes are equally likely is nearer to the center of the target of the word’s possible ranges. Since we do not have two words, I encourage people to use ’random’ to mean any distribution of outcomes, known or unknown, and  ’equally distributed random’ for what happens in fair dice, coins, and other casino devices. “objectively random” means that a Laplacean demon, or our physicists super computer, would not be able to know in advance, “subjectively random¨ is the kind of randomness that the die has, it is your state of knowledge that is undefined, not the outcome itself (at least in a Newtonian bubble). Since you are less powerful than a supercomputer, it follows that that which is objetively random is also subjectively random, but not otherwise. Your subjectivity cannot see deeper than objective reality, for there is nothing deeper to be seen.

[4] Too see why this is absurd, consider a spheric World with only four identical spheres exactly a hundred meters away from its center, and exactly the same distance away from one another. Since there is no up or down in the universe (no outside reference), there are no properties to distinguish the spheres, except their relational properties to one another. If this still bothers you, then imagine an infinite universe in all directions, with an infinite series of spheres occupying it in perfect density and homogeneity, any two of them are now not only intrinsically identical, but also identical in all the relations they bear to any object within the universe, yet distinct. Credits to Lewis (XXXX)

Utopia The Hidden Design Part 1

Not particularly tall, nor particularly small, João de Almeida is a man of vision… His main vision was seeing a ghost when he was eight years old in his aunt’s house, and he’s been using this story as his standard way to impress others ever since. Now 41, he is a construction worker, married, with three children he didn’t manage to properly raise or love, living a half-life without any deep emotions or culture, without anything in the world he particularly cares about, including his wife, life, and kids. João could have turned out to be a better man, but not much. He didn’t pay much attention in school, partly because his teachers were stupid morons, like most in his birthplace: the countryside of a state at the northeast of Brazil called Pernambuco, where uglyness is as widespread as it is harmful to the good development of one’s aesthetic sense. The other reason he wouldn’t pay attention is unfair in an even deeper sense, he wouldn’t pay attention because his motivational system is a bit cracked up, and a little less adapted to society than the average is nowadays. We were all born with a savannah based motivational system, his was only a bit tougher than most of ours, where our softness grows with time, he remains an edgy, truculent, beasty ape. It is no coincidence João wound up being a construction worker in a 22 million people busy city, what is a coincidence is that he in particular might be remembered in the future, or at least might have a tiny inscription in written history, and that is because, today, he woke me up at 7 AM, approximately 4 hours before I wished for.

João de Almeida is part of a large class of objects about which this tale of ours is, these are the objects that distinguish what the world is, and what the world ought to be. The world would be a better place without him, and his main traits as a person, as a thinker, or as a family man are the sort of things that make us wish against deterministic views of the physical universe, to better accommodate our desire that the whole of his effect on earth might soon be erased by quantum randomness.

Philosophers, but not ordinary people,  have the exotic habit of thinking there must be an object for each and every word they are able to come up with. Usually this is taken as a reason to disregard all their locutions as mere noise, and go on with one’s life, but there is an up-side to it, philosophers create many words, and many expressions, way more than most other specialized sectors in society, thus they render our language more complete. One of the philosophers achievements was to create names for fallacies, mistakes of reasoning. The Naturalistic Fallacy consists of thinking that something should be a particular way because it is (naturally) this way. Closely related is the is-ought problem, the problem that is had by those who are unable to distinguish what the World is like from what it ought to be like, those to whom João de Almeida, AIDS, and the disproportionate success of Astrology are invisible.

I have nothing whatsoever against poor, dirty, sad, stupid, unlucky João. If something I have unbearable pity for him and all those whose life experience must be as tough as his, and whose contributions to the world stay well behind those of Beethoven, Michael Jackson or Douglas Hofstadter.  I don’t like the fact that I’m making fun of him, but I dislike this fact less than I dislike his existence. If I could choose, he’d be a funny, intelligent happy individual, whose vision actually spans entire oceans, whose dreams are made of stuff mere mortals cannot fathom, and whose achievements abound in trophies and medals that would trigger deep anger in the greek Gods. He would be one of the worlds great athletes, video-game players, and architects, his designs would be recognized from Istanbul to the desert villages in Australia, his mind worth millions and his main emotion would be love, which he would express in a constant desire to give back to the world the luck he feels he has, both while looking at his girls eyes, and while seeing the shiny eyes of those who saw his latest mastercraft. I dislike, therefore, not his existence as a particular immortal soul trapped in a stupid body living a sad life, but his existence as a set of properties that gathered by chance in a chancy unfair universe into the same person, a person that happened to be unworthy for all including himself, whom shall suffer the burden of living hell while he lasts, only to disappear afterwards into inexistence, freeing the world from a presence that brought sorrow about four times more than it brought cheerfulness.

There are many different kinds of utopias, my definition of ’utopia’ spans across a vast realm of worlds, these are worlds that will never be, for this or that reason, and that someone, somewhere, seems to think are so deliciously better than ours to be worth going into detail. I have not read and probably won’t read Thomas Morus particular Utopia, the classic book from which the term has taken its power… I know though that his project was to describe. Other utopians delve differently into their worlds, inscribing them into stories, J.R.R. Tolkien, notably, has described an utopia as the outfit clothing a particular story, the story of how The Fellowship of The Ring has tried to take the One Ring into the fire of doom, in the land of Mordor. The world of The Lord of The Rings fits my definition of utopia in as much as it actually is the dream world of some thousands of young aspiring elves all around the world, it is irrelevant that Tolkien himself did not intent to describe it as the world as it should be, as long as someone, in a stuffy sweaty underventilated room in the south of germany, finds it attractive enough to call it his personal ideal world. Words are not necessarily the only way of putting an utopia into the world, or, more precisely, to describe some features of an utopia in such a way as to carry one’s imagination across it. James Cameron’s movie, Avatar, brings into sight a world of magic, beauty unknown of and a deep non-disgusting religiousness that takes us as far as understanding a way in which the feeling of being one with the universe could be not just experienced but justified. Avatar is not a collection of words, but of images and sounds… Pandora, the amazing planet within it is very much an utopia, like Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Morus’s Utopia itself.

My own way of describing Utopia will be not the Story one, first, I will describe a particular aspect of how the world is now, then, how it should be were we living in an ideal world.

Since our task is to imagine a possible world, it is only proper to describe the constraints on variation we are subject to, that is, the borderlines and limits of what can and cannot be done in this particular attempt to describe an ideal world. To see that this is necessary, consider the following utopia:

Absolute Utopia: This World is spatially infinite in all directions, and each and every point of  absolute utopia instantiates, or realizes, an infinite amount of pleasure.

Even though it is a World vastly better than ours, it is very much less interesting for all kinds of purposes one might put an utopia to use here. In general people will vary only the aspects that they are able to intuitively think different, or to think that it ¨makes sense¨ to vary. This of course is far from consensus, like all things that ignorant people remark as ¨common sense¨.

In most Utopian visions, there are changes in aspects of the world that correspond to the upper areas of the tree of knowledge. The World of the Lord of The Rings, Middle Earth, has very different societies from our own, and it also varies in terms of biology, having quite a few other talking species. Pandora, Avatar’s world varies also, explicitly, in local physics, since it is a less massive planet than ours, allowing for a lesser gravitational pull. Middle earth does not vary explicitly in physics. Magic is possible but that doesn’t rule out F=MA. What it does rule out is the homogeneity of physical law everywhere, as consequence of some explicit facts, such as teleportation, magic, unnending holes etc… The definition of explicit and implicit variations should not bother us too much. Almost all the Utopias change the sociology of their world, since almost anyone can see and feel desperate with some of the sociological conditions of his own society. Inter-society differences in sociology are very much visible, since much of our cognition is dedicated to it, compare for instance you level of awareness of cultural differences between your own and that of  Japan, if you are Japanese, use South Africa instead. There is a lot that pops into mind. When it comes to physics though we have very much less awareness of the physical differences between our world and a world with 2 extra dimensions. In fact, since the stakes on how many dimensions are there are still out among physicists, it is reasonable to say we do not even know one clear difference between a universe with, say, 10 or 12 dimensions. We are much more aware of differences that belong to a particular kind of difference, those that in the Savannah world could turn out to be matters of life and death in the long run, for us or for our children. I see apples because those of my potential ancestors who didn’t did not exert their potential to become ancestors. My ancestors who do not see electrons or bacteria are pretty fine, thanks for asking. It is easier to imagine a world without elephants than to imagine a world without viruses basically because it is easier to imagine a world with elephants than with viruses. Elephants are right there, we may want to say. You get home tired after a day at work, you feel like you could bypass anything, nothing whatsoever will make you diverge from your couch, your destined path, ’nothing’ here may include bills, a friend’s request, the sudden memory that there is a test tommorrow, or a frowning look from an expecting wife, but it certainly is not ranging over elephants. If there was an elephant in your living room, you can be pretty sure you’d leave the couch for another occasion.

Just like there is a pattern of variation in the scope of our words when we speak, there is pattern of variation in our possible worlds when we vary them. Both are mostly unconcious. When I say ¨nothing will stop me from X-ing¨, it is proper for a well behaved senior language using individual to understand that I’m referring to ¨nothing within the set of requests he may have for my about his problems¨, not to enormous mammals in my living room. We can think of the scope of ¨nothing will stop me from X-ing¨ as being represented by a series of circles larger and larger, like in a target. Every point in our target is an object that could or not be counted among the things which would not stop me from X-ing in a particular situation. Those nearer to the center are those that in almost all cases and contexts would not stop me from X-ing, for instance ¨An electron with inverted spin in Jupiter’s biggest crater¨. In normal language use, we know that things that I someone may tell me are nearer to the center than elephants in our living room. This can also be illustrated as a conditional, ¨If someone says ’nothing will stop me from X-ing’ referring to possible things that may stop him, and those include an elephant, then they also include particular babble-babble locutions from a friend who needs a simple favor¨. We have this target in our mind automatically.

This is part of the magic of language, or more specifically, part of the magic of generative languages spoken by beings whose language instinct developed a principle of assuming that someone is trying to convey the maximum amount of useful information in all ambiguous cases. Of course cases are not so clear cut as electron-blablabla-elephant, sometimes we may actually not be sure what would be more or less likely. Is he saying nothing I can say will change his mind, or is he saying that nothing his wife can say will change his mind? Which of the dots are nearer to the center? We do not know, there is still imprecision lurking in his use of ’nothing’. Besides imprecision as to what is more or less distant from the center due to our lack of knowledge of what he means, there is also persistent imprecision, meaning that it is not always the case that conditionals will work to describe the relation between two possible obstacles, it is always the case that nothing ranges over electrons in Jupiter before it ranges over elephants in our room, but it is not always the case that it ranges over our requests before his wife’s request. We could transcribe this to our analogy by saying that, first, we put some blurring goggles that allow for the range of his use of ’nothing’ to have cloudy borders, second, we have each point being able to move throughout an area according to context, so that there are cases where clearly ’nothing’ includes me but not her, her, but not me, both of us, and none of us. If one is strict and demanding for even more precision, create a function from each context do a different target which precisely describes the circles at that moment and context, and let the whole series constitute the range over which ’nothing’ spans… Now, for every two dots, say, a phrase of mine and one of hers, there is a proportion in which one or the other is nearer to the center. If I’m more likely to be ignored when he is X-ing then it may be Me=70% her=30%   or something like that.  Now, from this analogy of a target with the scope of the word ’nothing’ we can define an object’s visibility in the use of a word as follows.

Visibility: An object is more visible to a word if it is more likely to be within the circle over which that word ranges in different contexts than another object.

The clear cut conditional cases, such as electron versus elephant will create conditional visibility. That is, an elephant is visible for the word ’nothing’ as said by mister Lazy only if an electron with inverted spin also is. Note here that there is no requirement that mister Lazy himself thinks of electrons or elephants, he may be considering explicitly only the bills that may have come in through the mail. In fact, this is precisely the point, visibility for language differs from the visibility for people. Our use of words is much more precise sometimes, and much less others, than we think they are. We take a lot for granted when we use language. We also take a lot for granted when we build utopias.

One of the critics main criticism to fantasy worlds, utopias and futuristic scenarios is that they extrapolate one aspect of the world (say, flying machines) without extrapolating equivalently another (say, computing machines) thus rendering a world with flying cars but without the internet, if our dreamer is living in the nineteen sixties. Avatar’s Pandora has low gravity, the Navi, its blue inhabitants, very similar psychology to ours and a vast knowledge of nature, but not the knowledge of an artifact as simple as the wheel. In Middle Earth there are wizards able to defeat a Balrog but unable to crush a door into pieces. The notion of visibility, to sum it up, is not as well defined in the case of   utopian creators as it is in the case of words. Our words come from a long and intrincate history of users, survivors, speakers etc….. but an utopia is the dream of one, maybe two people, and what was visible to them at the time depends not on long settled semantical rules of thumb, but on the goggles they were using the particular days they went through the process of writing theirs worlds.

One of the ways in which the world is is this: The world is a place where those who create utopias do not state clearly what they will allow to vary and what will not vary when they consider what is desirable. Can I make some twists in physics? Am I allowed to change how many fingers we have? Is it ok to suppose we are all females? Can I change the looks of Barack Obama, the president of the United States?  Can I fuse Brazil and Egypt into only one country? What about having Brazil be a dictatorship and not a democracy?  Can alchemy be a reality? What about astrology?  Can I make everyone look pretty? What about making everyone think that everyone looks pretty? Could there be only black people and southeast asians? Can I abolish the emotional state called ’rage’?

All this questions fall unanswered if we begin to ask ourselves about any particular world whether its conceiver did or did not allow himself to do that.

One of the ways in which the world should be is: A place where utopians state somewhat precisely what they will allow to vary, so that we can admire more how they made great stuff out of their materials, just like we do for ice sculptors.

Due to our psychology, it is only natural to dream of utopias with different political systems and similar laws of chemestry, physics. It is only natural to extrapolate on our technologies, but consider our psychological nature as unchaged. Since we do not want to commit the Naturalistic Fallacy once again, we are not going to let what is only natural guide our conception of what is good. I’d like to describe how the World is and how it should be in some of its aspects, in levels of complexity as different from one another as quantum electrodynamics is different from a mating ritual among birds of paradise.

Chapter One: The Physics of Utopia

How it is: According to current theories on the physics of our cosmos, there is a lot going on both in microscopic and in macroscopic level that is very interesting. Interesting, but not necessarily desirable. I’ll point out a few characteristics of the physical world as we know it, we know we live in an expanding universe, which means that galaxies and planets are getting more and more apart as time goes on. It is widely believed that this all began some thirteen billion years ago in a great explosion of energy (and mass, and time) and that ever since things have been, on average, getting more disorganized. We call this the second law of thermodynamics, and we realized that one of its consequences is that the conditions that make life possible on earth will span a limited amount of time. Another interesting fact about our world is that it seems to be composed not of little balls as it was once thought, but of many different kinds of subatomic particles, each of them having probabilistic conditions of coming up from one or another kind of interaction of particles and forces. We have quarks up and down, that together compose electrons, protons, we have some particles like mesons, with similar charge but different mass from more known particles. Some of those are said to carry forces, some of them are very stable and tend to persist once they are there. Others have either a short lifespan or a high probability of disappearing soon after appearing. All and all we currently (2010) hold, according to the Standard Model of particle physics, that there are twelve kinds of fundamental particles, and that it is quite likely that greater energy levels than the ones we are able to examine would produce even more kinds. We think so because those twelve are not completely independent, we can organize them in a table similar to the periodic table by their properties, and it is the case that as we go to right on this table, we notice that it took interactions with much more energy to find out the existence of those particles than it took to find out about the first ones. So, if each line is considered a class of particles, we have no reason to suppose that there is no more particles in that class if we were able to make the corresponding experiences.

This picture of the microscopic world is far more complex than the dreams of most physicists, basically because if you are a physicist, it feels very good and warm inside when you do not need to put many experimental values in your equations to calculate the future. A chaotic universe, in which every instant has no correlation with its antecedent is a physicists nighmare (or would be if it were detectable as such, and if physicists were a physical possibility under these conditions). The standard model of particle physics has some uncertainties yet, but it holds against the vast majority of other models we could think of. The world seems to behave as it does because those twelve particles behave as they do.

Back into macroscopic land, we have reason to suppose that the universe is not just expanding, but is infinite in extension. We can only observe a part of the universe, our particular world, but that is because light travels at a particular speed, so we can only gaze back so far, and can only gaze sideways so far. Let us assume that a light emitting object is midway between us, and the farthest distances that we can see, if its light has reached us, it has probably hit the last place whose light we can see, and beyond. This is not the reason we ascribe infinity to our universe though, since it would only guarantee that the universe is a little bit bigger than it looks. The reason is that we assume some things are homogeneous, that they behave the same way no matter where they are, these are things like the physics of subatomic particles, the relative probability that an atom under a particular pressure will emit radiation, the contraction of space that constitutes gravity when matter is around. One of those things that seems homogeneous is the likelihood that a bubble like the one we call observable universe will arise in a particular spot. It is tiny. We think it is tiny, very very tiny because we can imagine worlds with some very different standards, places where there are different numbers of dimensions, more or less extended, more or less energetic, more or less entangled with one another. Places where the physical constants vary a little bit, with gravity’s pull being a tiny bit stronger, or where they vary a lot, where gravity goes not with the square, but with the cube of the cube of the distance between to massive objects. Just because we can think these things can vary is of course no evidence that they do, so no evidence that it is highly unlikely to turn up in a universe like ours. What makes us think that they can and do vary, and that therefore we must be a tiny speck of dust in a vast or infinite space is that our universe seems very fine-tuned to allow for life. Just like we do not live in lava because it is too hot, and we do not live in air because we are too heavy, it seems that we live in the observable-universe we live because its conditions are those that would give rise to beings like us, that think about the meaning of life and dance in nightclubs. If there were too many dimensions, gravity would be too strong, if there were only two dimensions, your digestive tract would split you in half. This idea, the idea that the reason we live in ground level is analogous to the reason we live in this particular observable-universe is called anthropic principle. The anthropic principle has the interesting consequence that it gives us a reason for why something that could, on a first look, sound ridiculously implausible, be exactly what we find out around us. This is what happens when a ridiculous implausibility is necessary for us to exist. Ask yourself, isn’t it ridiculously implausible that your parents met where they met, lived as they lived, and did what they did before you were born? It is much more likely that they would have done any of the other infinite possibilities, if you sum them up. The one possibility that turned out to be actual is extremely unlikely, against all other. Yet, this one is the one that happened. Now, if it didn’t happen this way, it would not be you asking, in fact you may even have not existed. So it is less absurd that exactly that sequence of events took place once you account for your existence. This is as valid for your relation to your parents lives as it is true of human existence and  parent-observable-universes. It doesn’t matter if it is a chance of one in a million, or a trillion, or one in 10^500 (current string theorist’s evaluation of the likelihood of our particular kind of bubble amongst the bubbles) if it is a requirement for you to be there, and asking the question, and you actually are there asking the question, then this is the one thing that happened.

But who told physicists that those constants that they believe can vary actually can vary? I mean, we know a lot about our universe, but one of the things we do not know is if it is possible for gravity to be stronger, if it could have been the case that gravitational pull was pulling harder. We think it is, like we think the mass of a proton could have been a little bit different, but we base this reasoning solely in our intuitions about what is and what is not possible. In fact, philosophers of the analytic tradition spent lots and lots of papers discussing if it is the case that conceivability is or not a guide to possibility. Some people would even go as far as saying that the very notion of probability is just a way of modeling some epistemic uncertainties of ours, but that nothing is possible or impossible per se. There are the things that happen, and the things that don’t, and that is that. I am not convinced that things could not have been different on the one hand, and I’m also not convinced that if we thing something could have been different, then it actually could have been different. I do not profess to know how are we to measure the scope of all possible worlds, or of all possible physical constants within one universe, etc… This seems to me an enterprise similar to the one of someone who wished to establish once and for all that a particular coin will fall heads every future time it is flipped. He may even be right, but that is either enormously unlikely or because he is going to cheat and melt the coin right away after stating. Philosophers cheat when they pretend what we can conceive defines what is possible, and are playing a sheer game of luck when they say they have found out what is possible. So do physicists.

So far we went through the second law of thermodynamics, the expanding universe, the standard model of particle physics and the bubbles-universe theories, which state we are in one out of so many bubbles within a huge universe, quite likely an infinite one.

Back into the microscopic world, we think nowadays that both the dynamics of electrons and photons (called electrodynamics) and the dynamics of atomic nucleai (called nuclear physics) work according to quantum physics. So we have quantum electrodynamics on the one hand and quantum chromodynamics on the other hand as our ways of looking at microscopic behavior of particles. Quantum physics can be described in many degrees of detail, I’ll go with the simplest one, for a deeper and clear account, check out Yudkwosky’s ¨The Quantum Physics Sequence¨ in his blog called Less Wrong.

In quantum physics if a particle is at a point at a time, and you know it, it does not mean you will know where it is ten seconds later, even if you have a very well designed experimental setting in which you would think it is obvious you could calculate where it went. What you have is an equation that describes, for a particle, a position and a time, many different ways in which it may develop throughout time. It also gives you the relative likelihood that it will go to a particular area. So you will end up with answers to questions like: ¨How likely is it that this photon will end up in this area of sixteen square centimeters if I throw it from here through this hole?¨ ¨If a photon goes through this this hole from this source, is it more likely to end up in that area or in that area?¨  ¨How likely is it that the red quark up is in this particular cube? How much is it more likely than in that other cube?¨ ….       You get answers to those questions, but you do not get answers to these: ¨What will happen if I throw a photon there, exactly?¨   ¨What is the exact spot at which that fermion is right now?¨ ¨Give me an area such that you are absolutely sure that a photon will arrive there if it goes through this hole¨  ….        We cannot be sure of exact spots because these subatomic particles  do not behave like billiard balls, they will not go necessarily in a straight line, or end up in a particular hole, they behave like dice, sometimes they go to one place, sometimes to another. But differently from dice, they do not have the same likelihood of ending up in each place in which they can end up. You can think of this as either dice which have the same number in more than one face, or as dice that have faces of different size. Both analogies are adequate to describe possible places where a photon, a quark strange, or a meson pi might end up, given it is in a place of choice. Since there are different probabilities of ending up in areas (or volumes) of the same size, for any given quantum behaving particle, you could also represent the possible arrival places for a particle by painting the areas with a corresponding intensity of grey.

The darker the shade, the more likely it is that a particle will end up in a particular area. Now, if you wanted, you could stablish areas of one square centimeter, and paint each of the likelihood that a photon will end up there. But our quantum physics is precise enough that you wouldn’t actually need such big pixels as a square centimeter, the equations that work for tiny tiny particles are so precise that for any small area you can imagine, say 1/1000 centimeter, it will give you precisely how dark is that region. We end up not with many grey squares, but with a degradée of shades of grey, growing darker in some areas and lighter in others. This representation of the possible arrival places of a particle in a given experimental setting is a representation of something, this something was given the name of probability cloud (for volumes) probability wave (for lines and areas). A probabilistic wave, that thing physicists talk about when they say that ¨Beware! The wavefunction is about to collapse¨, is no more than the mathematical equivalent of a computed designed area of shades of gray corresponding to where is a particle going to end up if it was at place X at time Y with charge Z and neighbors H, J, K, and some other stuff…

Back to the macroscopic world, not only we have information about how many areas the size of our universe are there (Vilenkin 2001), but also we have good reasons to believe that every time one of those quantum dice are thrown, there is a splitting and many worlds, separated in all ways, become actual. We only observe particles arriving at one place, but that is because we could not be in both, or all universes at the same time. There is a copy of us there, a little bit different, but it is there, seeing the exact result we are not seeing in the Geiger counter. This is a flavor of the many-world interpretation of quantum mechanics. Some people say it may not be true, though we have interesting arguments (1995XXXX) in favor of it. For instance, I quote Eliezer Yudkowsky, on a moody day, complaining about many-world rivals, also called, collapse postulate theories:

“Well, first:  Does any collapse theory have any experimental support?  No.

With that out of the way…

If collapse actually worked the way its adherents say it does, it would be:

  1. The only non-linear evolution in all of quantum mechanics.
  2. The only non-unitary evolution in all of quantum mechanics.
  3. The only non-differentiable (in fact, discontinuous) phenomenon in all of quantum mechanics.
  4. The only phenomenon in all of quantum mechanics that is non-local in the configuration space.
  5. The only phenomenon in all of physics that violates CPT symmetry.
  6. The only phenomenon in all of physics that violates Liouville’s Theorem (has a many-to-one mapping from initial conditions to outcomes).
  7. The only phenomenon in all of physics that is acausal / non-deterministic / inherently random.
  8. The only phenomenon in all of physics that is non-local in spacetime and propagates an influence faster than light.


Physicists do not want to reject the postulate because they want to be in only one universe at a time, not branching all the time into many many physicists, spread all over the board, wondering how is the world such a strange place. But it seems we are splitting all the time into so many quantum branches of ourselves. Let me try to restate the case of our current physical knowledge of cosmic proportions. It seems as though we live in an infinite universe which has many bubbles, these bubbles are things somewhat like our observable universe, which is one of them (or better, part of one). Since it is possible for a bubble to be born in some parts of this space, and space is homogenous, it is possible for bubbles to appear in a finite amount of space, say, 10^1000 cubic meters (or more if needed), space being infinite, there are infinite bubbles.  Every time something happens down in quantum world (that is, always, just consider there are some 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in your body, 70% of you is water, and a water atom contains an average of 18 quarks, which behave in a quantum way) this gigantic structure (our bubble) splits into many many bubbles, in some of which you dance Futterwäcken, some of which you forget how to dance and some of which have an unnoticeable shift in the electron cloud of a particular atom in a jupiterian crater.

What about the mesoscopic world? In mesoscopic land things behave as they do when you look at them, because your visibility is greater at this level, you evolved to track objects of this size, like fruits, oceans, nails, and the sun. The formalization of the way they work was made by this Newton fella, and the main difference between his equations and the ones of the standard model is that his are deterministic, that is, a bit more billiard ball like. It turns out that those mesoscopic equations are taken to be approximations of what happens when you make the quantum dance again and again and again, a few trillion times, to get an object whose size we can see. Things our size respect:

Force=Mass times Acceleration


F = GMm/R2


F is the force of attraction between two objects in newtons (N)

G is the universal gravitational constant in N-m2/kg2

M and m are the masses of the two objects in kilograms (kg)

R is the distance in meters (m) between the objects, as measured from their centers of mass

Things of quantum size don’t respect many things… The quantum equations for instance, when applied to themselves lots and lots of times do not mimic the Newtonian or Einsteinian meso-equations, meaning there is a gap in our knowledge of how medium sized stuff is made of small sized stuff. One of the reasons for this gap could be that we are not accounting for the way we split among branches in our equations, along with all other objects around us, that split our bubble into many bubbles. It is quite unlikely that this will do the trick, but it is food for thought.

Our particular bubble is growing ever bigger, and that is why the average level of energy available to do work inside it is diminishing, that is why people talk about the heath death of the cosmos. Since every day there are less and less areas with high density of energy, we can expect the world as we know it inside our bubble to be buried in a cold debris of ruin, sooner or later, after 1040 years, black holes will dominate the universe. They will slowly evaporate via Hawking radiation. A black hole with a mass of around 1 solar mass will vanish in around 2×1066 years. However, many of these are likely to merge with supermassive black holes at the center of their galaxies through processes described above long before this happens. As the lifetime of a black hole is proportional to the cube of its mass, more massive black holes take longer to decay. A supermassive black hole with a mass of 1011 (100 billion) solar masses will evaporate in around 2×1099 years.

Of course we are not so sure of all this physics yet, also even though it is rational to distribute our credence according to evidence among many different hypothesis, not to settle for the most likely, I have described for each aspect only the particular theory more likely to be true these days, not all of them and how they would be distributed in terms of epistemic likelihood.

There is a lot of uncertainty in our physical picture of the world, and as far as it goes, it is the most precise picture we have among the sciences, I cannot affirm all that was described is true, but, as far as we are concerned, this is how it is.

In The Next Chapter………

How It Should Be In Utopia, Physics…….

Adorno, Snickers e Etologia: A informavoridade como motor do homem contemporâneo

O comportamento exploratório, nos dizem os etólogos, é uma das motivações de todos os animais. Seja um espaço vazio e um tempo dentro dele, um animal irá explorar o que quer que possa. Da revista veja até as nuances de sujeira que compõe o rodapé do canto do banheiro (sim, você não foi o único).

O abundante capital e a longevidade da história humana possibilitaram o surgimento de museus megalópole, como o louvre, ou o vaticano, no qual as obras só não são expostas umas sobre as outras por um último suspiro de alguns bons curadores. A produção artística da história humana é tremenda. Empilham-se maravilhas as centenas, não só nos museus, mas em todo lugar, o projeto moderno está completo. A arte foi bem sucedida em invadir os mundos da vida, e é difícil encontrar-se num quarto sem uma obra de arte em qualquer edifício no início do terceiro milênio.

Snickers é um chocolate com amendoim salgado e caramelo.

Os etólogos nos dizem que o ser humano, se exposto a estímulos de diferentes complexidades, irá explora-los em igual medida, entretanto, considerará mais prazeirosos os meio-termos do que ambos aqueles de total simplicidade e aqueles de complexidade demasiada. Imagine-se dentro de uma floresta tropical cheia de cipós e samambaias, com um mangue sob seus pés e carangueijos, animais e borboletas as centenas ao seu redor. Agora imagine-se num campo completamente deserto, sem nenhuma vegetação ou morro até onde a vista alcança. Por fim, imagine-se numa savana, com algumas árvores, poucas borboletas, e bastante espaço aberto e visível. Claramente isso demonstra que temos mais prazer com o meio termo, em termos de complexidade da informação visual e acústica que recebemos.

Pois bem, a constatação de Adorno sobre os museus percebe a mesma questão, o capitalismo, e a abundância, e o desejo humano de consumir informação, nos trouxeram para uma experiência de museu nauseante, um “banho de cultura” no qual imergimos imaginando sair revigorados, e que, ao contrário, nos extenuam. A vida fora dos museus já está visual e sonoramente demasiado complexa, não há mais como o comportamento exploratório ser prazeiroso, pois em virtude do mercado, do capital, dos outdoors, dos Ipods, estamos constantemente circunscritos a um sem fim de complexidade de padrões informacionais que temos de processar.

Snickers é para mim a demonstração última do problema. As empresas percebem que desejamos aquilo que mais há de complexo, ainda que nos satisfaçamos com o intermediário. A experiência estética de um David é indubitavelmente mais tranqüila do que a de um “o caminho da formiga” para quem se lembra dessa bienal…. Mas nossos desejos e nossos prazeres estão desconectados, desejamos ter o máximo de complexidade informacional para observar possível, bem como desejamos ter o máximo de escolhas possível, e no entanto, temos maior prazer com quantias médias de complexidade informacional e também quantias médias de escolha. Para a questão das escolhas, os existencialistas já apontavam a angústia que se segue há muito. É tenso escolher e estamos condenados a ser livre, sempre sem informação o suficiente para fazer uma escolha devidamente informada, já que nosso conceito de “devidamente informada” não conhece limites, nos diz a etologia. Snickers é a resposta empresarial a essa sede a qual o homem contemporâneo está sujeito. É a ativação de todos os centros cerebrais de alimentação ao mesmo tempo. Sal, açúcar, gordura, neurotransmissores ligados ao chocolate, atividade. O café também é sintomático do mesmo.

O projeto moderno na arte populou os mundos da vida com arte e beleza, e apesar das enormes bobagens que quase todos os críticos de arte dizem, vivemos num mundo muito mais belo e estetizado do que jamais foi. O problema, a meu ver, não está na decadência estética contemporânea, ou na busca de usar signos do passado que perdem seu antigo significado num novo contexto. O problema da arte, tal qual o problema do mundo, é a superpopulação.

Adorno nos propõe, ao nos aproximar-mos de uma enxurrada de arte como um grande museu, que adotemos um fetichismo esclarecido, voltando-nos à algumas obras apenas, concentrando-nos em cada uma, e assim extraindo uma experiência estética melhor da experiência como um todo. Eu digo que devemos voltar a comer chocolates simples, independente do que nós digamos, qualquer um pode observar que diversos aspectos da vida contemporânea, em particular na cidade grande, são demais, deviam ser limpos. O projeto moderno ainda não acabou, ele carece de uma política de controle populacional, assim com a onu.

Creio que Simmel, o sociólogo, nos diz que a única maneira de interagirmos com tanta informação como numa cidade grande é tornando-nos constantemente sonados, apáticos, o que evidentemente não é bom. Uma grande tacada pré-etológica da parte do sociólogo alemão. O sono nos retira a motivação da curiosidade e da exploração, e nos permite viver num ambiente super-povoado em estímulos, uma solução angustiante dos sistemas nervosos de uma espécie a uma modificação rápida de mais para ser devidamente respondida pelos genes.

O mundo precisa de menos gente e de menos estímulo, e a crise econômica se acentua nesse cenário terrível, pois nossa informavoridade, nossa sede de consumo de informação é o motor propulsor do capitalismo no terceiro milênio. Cada um de nós mantém-se diante da escolha entre experienciar tanto quanto deseje, guiado por instintos que não tem mais sentido nos dias de hoje, ou livrar-se de grande parte das obras do mundo para sempre, ignorando, desinformadamente, uma parcela aleatória da produção artística e informacional do mundo contemporâneo, nenhum animal sabe lidar com o excesso se não evoluiu para isso, e o homem não é exceção.