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Old 20th Nov 2012, 16:23   #1
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Nexxo said...

Rather than derail another thread, I thought it best to start another.
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Originally Posted by Nexxo View Post
Neal Stephenson pitched an interesting idea in his book Anathem. It goes a bit like this:

In order to survive in the world. we all have a representation/simulation of the world in our head, which allows us to understand and predict (and possibly influence) it. Nothing new there. But it also allows us to run hypothetical scenarios in our mind of what would happen if... We can anticipate different possibilities, different outcomes; different ways particular scenarios may play out. We therefore basically (can) have many parallel universes inside our head, branching off and converging as different probabilities become actualities or not. This is quite a load on the brain... or is it?

Enter quantum physics. A particle is at the same time there and not there until it is observed or acted upon, at which point its probability waveform collapses and reality settles on either one or the other. The parallel universe model goes further: the particle is both there in one universe, and not there in another, parallel universe. The probablility waveform collapsing merely separates the two universes which until then existed in a state of superposition: they branch, if you will.

The idea of parallel universes suggests that therefore our brains do not have to hold on to many parallel represented/simulated universes; it just has to be able to access those parallel simulations held in the brains of other, parallel you's living in parallel universes. Basically, through quantum physical processes in your neurons, your brain functions are inextricably linked with the brain functions of the many parallel you's living in their own corresponding universes. You're the sum of many parallel consciousnesses, living many parallel existences, all at the same time.

This has interesing implications. What if one of you dies? Without giving too much away of the plot, Neal Stephenson toys with the idea that you never do, really --from your point of view. You just kinda skip to a parallel universe/existence, where you didn't die; you got lucky, had a close shave, or made a miraculous recovery. There are of course parallel versions of your friends and loved ones there, who like you are the sum of many parallel consciousnesses, so in a way they are still with you (in the universe where you died, they are grieving; In this one they are relieved, and thinking about what it would have been like if you hadn't survived... thus accessing the consciousnesses of their parallel selves in that world).

The soul then, is this sum-total of consciousnesses, living all possible existences in all possible universes, all at the same time. It is above and beyond matter and physics in a way that waveform probabilities are.
Whilst I do think it interesting, it doesn't seem complete.

How do you account for someone with a long term illness within these parallel existences? If I die after a long drawn-out terminal illness, at which point do I skip back to in another universe? The moment before death, or an earlier point i.e. before contracting the illness? If the latter, then the existence isn't parallel.

A miraculous recovery seems like an attempt to cover that base, but has anyone ever recovered from ALS or other seriously degenerative diseases?

As your life progresses, the number of alternates would eventually whittle down to one - how would that tally with the alternative existences of your friends and family?

I don't expect you to have the answers - I'm just pouring out the thoughts as they come to mind.

I don't pretend to be well versed in Quantum Theory, so forgive my ramblings
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Old 20th Nov 2012, 17:01   #2
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The multiverse is at current only a hypothesis used to explain some of the more weird observations in quantum mechanics, the book "The Grand Design" from Stephen Hawkins dives a little into this and is a book I can recommend as a bit of light reading.

Also remember that according to the multiverse we are not talking of there existing just a few hundred thousands of universes but a potentially unlimited number of them, so there would never be just a few left.
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Old 20th Nov 2012, 17:11   #3
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We have all heard of a few rare cases where cancer patients make an unexplained and spontaneous recovery; where a person who was clinically dead was resuscitated in the nick of time, where a child survived 30 minutes in suspended animation under the ice of a lake it fell through; of people who live to a remarkably old age. I guess we are living in 'their' universes.

In Anathem it is hinted at this going further: people being able to prevent ageing by correcting the molecular decay in their genes by, well, kind of bending that bit of the universe to one where that instance of decay did not occur; by dying in this universe but carrying on living in another. In the end of course, we all appear to die to our observers, but from our own point of view we might be that lucky guy who lives to a freakishly old age.

I'm not saying that I'm buying this, by the way; it's just an interesting idea. And I suspect this sort of 'thread derail' is just what Kayin needs right now.
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Old 20th Nov 2012, 18:17   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lp1988 View Post
The multiverse is at current only a hypothesis used to explain some of the more weird observations in quantum mechanics, the book "The Grand Design" from Stephen Hawkins dives a little into this and is a book I can recommend as a bit of light reading.
I have it in the pile of books on my bedside cabinet, and hope to get to it... eventually.
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Also remember that according to the multiverse we are not talking of there existing just a few hundred thousands of universes but a potentially unlimited number of them, so there would never be just a few left.
I get that. I meant the parallel universes pertaining to you as an individual would eventually decrease to one, as possible alternatives were ruled out over the years. At least, as far as the reference made to the book goes (or my understanding of it, at least).
Quote:
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We have all heard of a few rare cases where cancer patients make an unexplained and spontaneous recovery; where a person who was clinically dead was resuscitated in the nick of time, where a child survived 30 minutes in suspended animation under the ice of a lake it fell through; of people who live to a remarkably old age. I guess we are living in 'their' universes.

In Anathem it is hinted at this going further: people being able to prevent ageing by correcting the molecular decay in their genes by, well, kind of bending that bit of the universe to one where that instance of decay did not occur; by dying in this universe but carrying on living in another. In the end of course, we all appear to die to our observers, but from our own point of view we might be that lucky guy who lives to a freakishly old age.

I'm not saying that I'm buying this, by the way; it's just an interesting idea. And I suspect this sort of 'thread derail' is just what Kayin needs right now.
I'd don't buy into it either, but it looks like an interesting book to read; or at least add to the pile at my bedside.
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Old 20th Nov 2012, 18:25   #5
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Anathem is just a cracking good scif-fi mystery. Highly recommended.
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Old 21st Nov 2012, 00:03   #6
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After I read your original post in the other thread, I logged in my library's web page to see if they had it in the digital collection. Sure enough! I have it on hold; as soon as it comes up I'll download it. I've never been a big fan of science fiction, so it should make for quite a different read than my usual selections. Thanks for the recommendation, Nexxo.
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Old 21st Nov 2012, 00:11   #7
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Nexxo's taste in fiction is excellent. He's introduced me to more than one author that has been a favorite of mine. If I'm perfectly honest, those recommendations have shaped both my short pieces and my novel, so in a way we all owe Nexxo thanks for those, as well.
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Old 21st Nov 2012, 00:49   #8
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Quote:
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I get that. I meant the parallel universes pertaining to you as an individual would eventually decrease to one, as possible alternatives were ruled out over the years. At least, as far as the reference made to the book goes (or my understanding of it, at least).
In the end the multiverse as we are talking about it here is properly mostly a mock up made by different fiction authors over the times, in reality the hypothesis does not include worlds where other versions of "you" exist but simply other worlds where the laws of physics are different, a stronger gravity, weak force or something completely different. So maybe worlds where the universe looks different, gravity is stronger so it is no longer possible for any planets to orbit stars but are bound to always crash into them.

But it is always a nice little jump of imagination, just to think that there is a universe where I have obtained my rightful place as ruler and master of the known universe. Now if I could just get my doomsday machine working properly, think it needs more bacon, that ought to solve the problem with the butter multiplier.
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Old 21st Nov 2012, 07:56   #9
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Charles Stross, in his Laundry novels ("the Laundry" being a code name for a department of the British Secret Service that deals with the threat of occult Lovecraftian horrors to national security and humankind) suggests that there are parallel universes varying from very similar to ours to ones where time, space and physics are very different indeed (guess where the monsters reside?). In order to prevent all sorts of paradoxical incursions, nature has it arranged so that the closer a parallel universe is to ours, the exponentially more energy it takes to cross the barrier, whereas creating a portal to the very different universes takes but a bit of copper wire or a laser, some circuits, a 9V battery and the right spell.

The books are great fun. The premise is that:
1. Lovecraftian horrors do exist. We are ants unwittingly scampering in the shadows of a large variety of ancient sleeping terrors. One day they will wake up.
2. These terrors are roused and attracted by information exchanges, creation, destruction. The more thinking goes on on a planet, basically, the more attracted they are. This is not good. Since the computer revolution, there is a lot of 'thinking' going on on Earth.
3. All universes submit to some basic physical laws which can be expressed in mathematical rules. Hence magic and computers have a common base in mathematics. Computers and electrinics can be used to calculate spells and create incantations. A good wizard is a good hacker.
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Old 22nd Nov 2012, 13:04   #10
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I'm a big fan of Neal Stephenson's wringing. HE started with science fiction and then it became historical fiction based around science. Anathem is roughtly science fiction but is really about philosophy!

I will reread it but would like to leave it a couple of years before I do. Rereading Cryptonomicon after nearly ten years was very rewarding.
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Old 28th Nov 2012, 14:10   #11
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Only just come across this and found myself sat going 'hmmmmm, well what if...' etc. I wont pretend to be well versed in any of it but a point jumped into my head.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spreadie View Post

How do you account for someone with a long term illness within these parallel existences? If I die after a long drawn-out terminal illness, at which point do I skip back to in another universe? The moment before death, or an earlier point i.e. before contracting the illness? If the latter, then the existence isn't parallel.
My first thought would be that the illness itself (or perhaps the contraction of it), is just one possible future of what might happen to that individual in one universe. Upon death I'd imagine you'd skip back to that point, rather than some miraculous recovery (although this also is a possible future). Terminal illness and healthy life are the two branches referred to.

Basic I know but it still gets my brain going.
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