Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sitting outside the world

All physical things follow certain rules of cause and effect. One event causes another event, which causes another. These sequences of cause and effect are called causal chains. Science can explore the causal chains by altering the cause and measuring what happens to the effect. If we can find things that don't follow those laws, then those things are not part of the physical world.
The subjective experience of color, sounds, pain, and so forth are caused by physical events. But they are outside the realm of what can be measured. (For example, there is no way, even in principle, to know whether my sensation of red is the same as your sensation of red.) This is because the experiences don't have a causal effect on the world which could be measured.
On the other side, free will choices can not be caused by anything, but they do have effects on the world. If subjective experiences are the ends of causal chains, free will choices are the beginnings.
It wouldn't be hard to build a machine that replaced subjective experiences and free will with a causal chain connecting the incoming and outcoming chain together. If the chain was complex enough or contained random elements, an outside observer couldn't know whether the system was causally connected or not. But we know from our own experience that that isn't the way it works within our own minds. The internal subjective experience would be absent in such a system.
Some people would claim that we can't be sure that such a system doesn't have a subjective experience. But I think we can be sure. There are parts of our own brains' workings that are inaccesible to consciousness. If we build a system that works in the same way as these parts, we can be certain that it won't have conscious internal experiences or free will.
Subjective experiences and the free will choices are connected. It is the presence of a conscious field of experience that makes free will choices possible. Our choices could simply be choices of which experiences to give more weight in the determination of an effect, by freely paying attention to certain aspects of the conscious field more than others. Every choice we make is a creative artwork, where we put the emphasis on what we decide is important.
It's analogous to a video game. Within the computer, everything happening in the game world is deterministic. But the causal chain ends in a display of colors on the monitor. New causal chains begin within the world of the game with the movement of the controller. But we sit outside the world. The colors on the screen don't cause the movements of the controller, but they provide the environment in which coherent choices of how to move the controller can occur.
There is another part to this connection between experiences and will. When we make a difficult choice ("exercising" the will), the choice is difficult because of the pain or discomfort it causes. When people deserve praise for having made good choices, it is because they did the right thing in spite of the pain it caused them. Without the subjective sensation of pain, there could be no working of the will.
The key to all this is that the choices are neither random nor caused. They are influenced by all kinds of things, but in the end are capable of working opposite to every influence.
The discoveries of the last century in quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and algorithmic information theory make such a world seem more possible and reasonable than in the period since Newton where science only knew of the more familiar kinds of mechanical causes. Quantum mechanics tells us that there will always be uncaused events in any system. Scientists believe uncaused quantum events to be completely random, but it is a gap in the system where subtle causes could sneak in. Chaos theory tells us that such minute causes could be amplified into macroscopic effects on the entire brain and from there, the outside world. In fact, neural networks are ideal for such amplification effects. From AIT, we know that even in mathematics, there are effects without causes.
It is reasonable to believe in such a system outside the physical world. We have internal evidence for it that is compelling. It requires the convoluted and unbelievable warping of the evidence to sustain a picture of the world that doesn't include such a supernatural world.

Notes for those with a background in philosophy: by "free will" I mean libertarian free will. By "subjective experience" I mean qualia. In this post I am assuming both as given from experience.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Creation of the Solar System

According to, remnants of the manufacturing process were left behind in shoddy, unfinished work on one of the solar system's smallest moons. I think it's called "flashing."

Another possibility not considered in the article is that we have been grossly mistaken about the nature of planets: that they are a kind of celestial fruit, with a thin peel and a juicy interior surrounding what could be called a "core." They grow over time, and eventually burst in a volcanic epiphany, releasing tiny moonlets that go one to seed other solar systems. The stars, of course, are the flowering bodies. The tree itself, larger than the size of the galaxy, is a hyper-dimensional entity known as Yggdrasil.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The hippocampus contains a region of cells in a hexagonal grid pattern that are used to make an explicit 2D map of your surroundings. Taxi drivers have an enlarged hippocampus because this area of the brain actually grows new neurons with use.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shuttle liftoff seen from the space station.

Very small and very large Lego models. From this article.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Big Dog Owners

I don't know how many times I've heard this line: "People are often afraid when the ... dog runs up to them ..., but they soon realize she's friendly" I wish these people would realize that just because a dog has been friendly with its owner in the past does not mean it's going to be friendly with a stranger in the future. And unlike, say, an unfriendly parakeet, these guys have rows of teeth designed for tearing flesh.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Negative Dimensional

Ever since I learned about fractional dimensions, I wondered what negative dimensions would be. There is an answer, and a paper by Mandelbrot is how I learned about it. The basic idea is simple:

In 3-dimensional space, the intersection between two planes is a line. You can calculate this as follows:


The planes on the left of the equation are each two-dimensional. The space is three-dimensional, leaving one dimension left over for the intersection: a line.

A plane and a line intersect in a point:


The point is zero dimensional.

What do two lines intersect in?


Solving for x, we find that two lines intersect in a negative-one-dimensional space.

You can find the intersection of this space with yet another line:


In this case, y must be -3. So the intersection of three arbitrary lines in 3-dimensional space is -3-dimensional.

What I'm trying to figure out is what corresponds to polygons and polyhedra in negative-dimensional spaces.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

15 Chuck Norris jokes

Leading hand sanitizers claim they can kill 99.9 percent of germs. Chuck Norris can kill 100 percent of whatever he wants.

Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.

Chuck Norris was originally cast as the main character in 24, but was replaced by the producers when he managed to kill every terrorist and save the day in 12 minutes and 37 seconds.

Chuck Norris can speak braille.

Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

Chuck Norris owns the greatest Poker Face of all-time. It helped him win the 1983 World Series of Poker despite him holding just a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoly card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game Uno.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

Once a cobra bit Chuck Norris' leg. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died.

Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting implies the possibility of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.

Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

Ghosts are actually caused by Chuck Norris killing people faster than Death can process them.
Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.

Chuck Norris can create a rock so heavy that even he can't lift it. And then he lifts it anyways, just to show you who Chuck Norris is.

If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

(Image borrowed from the internet somewhere)