Star Consciousness: An Alternative to Dark Matter

by Paul Gilster on June 13, 2012

by Dr. Gregory L. Matloff

Gregory Matloff is a major figure in what might be called the ‘interstellar movement,’ the continuing effort to analyze our prospects for travel to the stars. Greg is Emeritus Associate Professor and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at New York City College of Technology as well as Hayden Associate at the American Museum of Natural History. Centauri Dreams readers will know him as the author (with Eugene Mallove) of The Starflight Handbook (Wiley, 1989) and also as author or co-author of recent books such as Deep Space Probes (2005), Living Off the Land in Space (2007) and Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel (2010). My own acquaintance with Greg’s work began with the seminal JBIS paper “Solar Sail Starships: The Clipper Ships of the Galaxy” (1981), and the flow of papers, monographs and books that followed have set high standards for those investigating our methods for going to the stars, and the reasons why we should make the attempt.

In the summer of 2011, Dr. Matloff delivered a paper in London at the British Interplanetary Society’s conference on the works of philosopher and writer Olaf Stapledon, the author of Star Maker (1937). One of Stapledon’s startling ideas was that stars themselves might have a form of consciousness. Greg’s presentation went to work on the notion in light of anomalous stellar velocities and asked what might make such an idea possible. His paper on the seemingly incredible notion follows. –PG


The Dark Matter hypothesis has been invoked as an explanation for the fact that stars revolve around the centers of their galaxies faster than can be accounted for by observable matter. After decades of failed experimental searches, dark matter has remained elusive. As an alternative to the Dark Matter hypothesis, a idea first presented by author Olaf Stapledon is developed in this paper. Stars are considered to be conscious entities maintaining their galactic position by their volition. It is shown that directed stellar radiation pressure and stellar winds are insufficient to account for this anomalous stellar velocity. Previous research rules out magnetism. A published theory of psychokinetic action that does not violate quantum mechanics is discussed, as is the suggestion that stellar consciousness could be produced by a Casimir effect operating on molecules in the stellar atmosphere. It is shown that a discontinuity in stellar velocities as a function of spectral class exists. Cooler red stars in the solar neighborhood move faster than hotter, blue stars, as would be expected if the presence of molecules in stars was a causative factor. Further research in experimentally validating the psychokinetic effect and demonstrating the role of the Casimir effect in consciousness is required to advance the concepts presented here beyond the hypothesis stage.

Introduction: Elusive Dark Matter

The motions of our Sun and other stars around the centers of their galaxies cannot be fully accounted for the presence of observable stellar or non-stellar matter. Possible modifications to Einstein-Newton gravitation do not seem appropriate since general relativity has easily passed every experimental test to date. Cosmologists hypothesize the existence of a non-reactive, non-observable but gravitating substance dubbed “dark matter” to account for the discrepancy. Dark matter seems to out-mass ordinary matter, according to many estimates [1].

But science requires observation or experimental validation for even the most beautiful of theoretical constructs. The continuing failure to detect or observe candidate dark matter objects or particles presents astrophysics with a very serious anomaly. Perhaps, as was the case in the late 19th century with the failure to confirm the ether hypothesis, the solution to the dark matter paradox may require a change in paradigm.

Image: Gregory Matloff (left) being inducted into the International Academy of Astronautics by Ed Stone.

Here, we reintroduce a 1937-vintage hypothesis of the British philosopher/science-fiction author Olaf Stapledon. In his monumental visionary novel Star Maker, Stapledon develops the thesis that stars are conscious and their motions around the galactic center are due to voluntary stellar adherence to the canons of a cosmic dance [2]. This is admittedly an extraordinary hypothesis. But if dark matter remains elusive and undetected no matter how expensive and elaborate the equipment seeking it, exotic alternatives cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Stellar Kinematics

Kinematics arguments presented here are elementary. Because of the low velocities (relative to the speed of light in vacuum), Newtonian dynamics is assumed. The reference frame is centered on the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Following Newton’s Second Law, force is defined:

F = MA

where M = mass and A = acceleration. Linear momentum is defined:

P = MV

where V= a star’s orbital velocity around the galactic center and kinetic energy is defined as:

KE = 0.5MV2

The Sun revolves around the center of the Milky Way galaxy at ~220 km/s [3]. Let us posit that a solar-type star must alter its velocity by 100 km/s in 109 years by applying a non-gravitational force. This amounts to an acceleration of ~3 X 10-12 m/s2 or about ~3 X 10-13 g.

A solar-type star has a mass of about 2 X 1030 kg [5]. The (assumed) constant value of the non-gravitational force is about 6 X 1017 Newtons. While this seems like a huge force, it is roughly a million times less than the Sun’s gravitational force on the Earth.

Another means of considering this force’s magnitude is to assume that a 100-kg human is able to produce the same acceleration on herself during a 100-year lifetime. The average magnitude of this force on the human is about 3 X 10-10 N. During the person’s life, the force alters her velocity by about 0.01 m/s or 1 cm/s. This is far below the threshold of detection.

But what might be the cause of this elusive stellar force? Magnetism has been ruled out, at least for many astrophysical objects [4]. So we can consider two other physical candidates—a directed stellar wind and a unidirectional radiation pressure force.

Assume that a star can generate a continuous, unidirectional flux of ionized particles. The velocity of this “jet” is the typical solar wind velocity of 400 km/s. By the Conservation of Linear Momentum, the star must expel one-quarter of its mass in the uni-directional jet to alter its galactic velocity by 100 km/s. Such an astronomical event has never been observed and would be very disconcerting (most fatal) if it occurred on the Sun. The solar wind of ionized particles is clearly inadequate to alter a star’s velocity by 100 km/s.

Now let’s see if the radiation pressure on the star produced by its radiant output could produce a velocity change of 100 km/s in a billion years, if all the solar electromagnetic flux was concentrated in a narrow beam. If the star’s mass is equal to that of the Sun—2 X 1030 kg [5], the required change in stellar linear momentum amounts to about 7 X 1018 kg-m/s. If the star has a solar radiant output of about 4 X 1026 watts [5] and we apply the standard equation for a photon’s momentum (P) [6],

P = E/C

where E is the photon energy and c is the speed of light, we see that the total maximum radiation-pressure-induced linear-momentum change on the star is about 1.3 X 1018 kg-m/s. A star can clearly not affect the required linear momentum change in this fashion.

Magnetism, particle flow, and photon flow all fail to produce the required alteration in star kinematics. But there is at least one theoretical possibility that remains.

The Psychokinetic Option

One physically possible explanation for anomalous stellar motion is psychokinesis. The hypothesis is here presented that the “mind” of a conscious or sentient star can act directly upon the physical properties (in this case the galactic velocity) of that star.

Although no claim is made that psychokinesis (PK) is part of mainstream physics or psychology, at least one serious theoretical study indicates that it is possible within the currently accepted framework of quantum mechanics [7].

According to the arguments presented in Ref. 7, consciousness (or “mind”) can directly influence the properties of a physical system by utilizing the energy present in quantum mechanical fluctuations. Consciousness may do this by affecting collapse of the wave function of the system to the desired quantum state.

Such anomalous phenomena as alteration in the output of random number generators and levitation could be explained by such a process [7]. Although energy is conserved in this model of PK, the authors of Ref. 7 acknowledge possible violations of the second law of thermodynamics.

If a 2 X 1030 kg star changes its velocity by (a somewhat arbitrary) 100 km/s in a 109 year time interval using this technique, its kinetic energy changes by 1040 Joules and the average power required for the stellar velocity change is about 3 X 1023 watts. This is about 0.1% of the Sun’s radiant output.

In order to demonstrate that such a process could be applicable to stars, it is necessary to present arguments that at least some stars are conscious. Perhaps a good place to start is to consider what some researchers have said about consciousness in humans and other life forms.

Consciousness in Humans, Animals, Plants and Stars

Defining consciousness is not easy. We are all rather certain of our own consciousness and relatively convinced that other humans are conscious as well. Most would agree that whales, dolphins, chimps, cats and dogs are conscious organisms as well. But how about snakes, corn, amoeba, and bacteria? Do in fact the mechanisms that support consciousness in the higher animals, in fact, require billions of years of organic evolution to develop? Or does consciousness in some form permeate the entire universe?

Some, like Walker, conclude that consciousness cannot be defined. Instead, it must be thought of as the immediate experience of the world around us and our internal thoughts and emotions [8]. Bohm believes that conscious thought is a process rather than an object [9]. Kafatos and Nadeau argue that this process in some perhaps pantheistic sense permeates the entire universe [10]. Many theories have developed to fit this elusive phenomenon into the framework of physical science. Some are reviewed and developed in Refs. 11 and 12.

The concepts developed in this paper accept that consciousness, like gravitation, is built into the structure of the universe [10]. Like gravitation, it cannot be explained by invoking fields or matter independently but requires the interaction of both.

Many of the quantum-physics-based theories of organic consciousness postulate that a universal consciousness field interacts with electrically conducting nanostructures within the cell or nervous system. In higher animals (such as humans) the ~20-nm inter-synaptic spacing in the brain’s neuronal structure have been suggested and analyzed by Evan Harris Walker as locations of the quantum-level events contributing to consciousness [13]. But all living eukaryotic cells contain microtubules. As suggested by Lynn Margolis, a form of “microbial consciousness” may be centered upon these nano-structures [14].

Various quantum phenomena within these nanostructures have been suggested as the primary “active agents” of consciousness. These include quantum tunneling [13], quantum entanglement [15], and the Casimir Effect [16]. It is known that the Casimir Effect—a pressure caused by vacuum fluctuations—is a component of molecular bonds [17].

We propose the following Casimir-Effect approach to stellar consciousness. It is assumed that the interaction with vacuum fluctuations produces a form of consciousness in all molecular bonds, although this is weaker than the forms of consciousness affected by the interaction of vacuum fluctuations with organic nanostructures such as microtubules and the inter-synaptic spacing. Admittedly this is a pantheistic approach to the universe. All molecules to a certain extent are conscious. Stars cool enough to contain stable molecules are therefore conscious, at least to some extent. Over a very long period of time, they can apply psychokinetic effects to maintain their galactic position and remove at least some of the requirement for the thus-far undetected dark matter.

Some Evidence Supporting the Hypothesis of Conscious Stars

The ideas presented above might fit in the realms of philosophy and science fiction rather than physics unless there were some observational supporting evidence. A literature search was conducted to determine whether there is a kinematical discontinuity in stellar proper motion depending upon star surface temperature and occurring in the stellar spectral classes for which molecular lines and bands appear.

Since the 1950’s, such a discontinuity has in fact been recognized. Dubbed Parenago’s discontinuity, it refers to the fact that red, cooler stars have faster motions in the direction of galactic rotation than do blue, cooler stars. Figure 1 presents from two sources a plot of the solar motion of main sequence stars versus star B-V color index [18, 19]. The data set from Binney et al is derived from Hipparcos observations of more than 5,000 nearby stars [19].

Table 1 presents the spectral types corresponding to the B-V color indices on the abscissa of Fig. 1 [20]. The Parenago discontinuity occurs at around (B-V) = 0.6, which corresponds to early G dwarf stars such as the Sun. Note that estimated main sequence residence times for various spectral classes are also given in Table 1 [21].

TABLE 1 B-V Color Indices, Corresponding Spectral Classes and Main Sequence Residence Times for Dwarf Stars

B-V Color IndexStar Spectral TypeStar Main Sequence Residence Time (109 Years)

Binney et al [19] present the hypothesis that the faster galactic velocities of cool, red, long-lived stars is due to the fact that gravitational scattering causes a star’s velocity to increase with age. This seems unlikely since F0 stars reside on the main sequence for a few billion years. In the Sun’s galactic neighborhood, stellar encounters close enough to alter stellar velocities are very rare due to the large star separations involved. For stellar encounters to cause Parenago’s discontinuity, these would likely occur while the stars were resident in the open cluster from which they originated. Since open clusters disperse within a few hundred million years [1], such stellar encounters seem to be an unlikely explanation for Parenago’s discontinuity.

The explanation presented here is based upon telescopic observations of molecules in the spectra of stars of various spectral classes. Molecules are rare or non-existent in the spectra of hot, blue stars. As star radiation temperature decreases, molecular signatures in stellar spectra become more apparent. In dwarf stars, N2 rises in abundance as photosphere temperature falls below 6000 K [22]. The spectral signature of CO is present in the Sun’s photosphere [23]. As stellar photosphere temperatures fall to around 3200 K (M2 stars), spectral signatures of many molecules including TiO and ZrO become observable in the infrared spectra [23].


Although it is provocative that Parenago’s stellar velocities around the galactic center increase with molecular abundance in the stellar photosphere, this paper does not claim to prove stellar consciousness as an alternative to dark matter. There are many other more conventional alternative explanations for anomalous stellar kinematics that must be considered as well [24].

But the validity of some of the assumptions presented here will be confirmed if future work demonstrates that PK effects can be reliably repeated in a laboratory environment. Other assumptions will be validated if future nano-scale computers achieve some level of consciousness when the size of computing elements reaches molecular levels.

If stellar consciousness can be demonstrated to be a reasonable dark matter alternative, major challenges will be presented to the SETI community. How exactly do we communicate with conscious, possibly sentient entities with lifetimes so long that a century seems like a second? And if we can’t do this successfully, how do we prevent the catastrophic wars between planetary and stellar intelligence in Star Maker as human interplanetary capabilities mature?

Some may argue in favor of Decartes’ separation of consciousness from the physical world. This approach is no longer valid at the molecular level since consciousness seems to be necessary for quantum mechanics and quantum mechanics is a well-validated physical theory [12].

Adam Crowl has pointed out to the author that the hypothesis presented here addresses one line of evidence for dark matter—the flatness of galactic rotation curves. A second line of evidence—observations that galactic clusters do not have enough visible mass to keep from dispersing—is not addressed by the arguments presented here [25].

Some may disagree with the inclusion of PK as a candidate “propulsion system” for conscious stars. As described in an excellent recent review by an MIT physics professor, this very controversial topic was investigated during the 1970’s by a distinguished group of theoretical physicists centered upon Stanford University. Debate still swirls regarding their courageous attempt to obtain mainstream support for their research [26].

Any scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable. The Hipparchos data used to prepare Ref. 19 utilized statistics for 5610 stars near the celestial south pole. According to the project’s website, the forthcoming ESA Gaia mission is planned to produce a kinematics census of a billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. It will be interesting to learn whether this flood of data supports or refutes Parenago’s discontinuity.


The author appreciates the comments and suggestions of A. Crowl, which have been incorporated in the text. He is also grateful to K. Long who presented a version of this paper for him at the Nov. 23, 2011 Olaf Stapledon Symposium at BIS headquarters in London. Comments of anonymous referees are also appreciated.


1. E. Chaisson and S. McMillan, Astronomy Today, 6th ed., Pearson Addison-Wesley, San Francisco, CA (2008).
2. O. Stapledon, Last and First Men and Star Maker, Dover, NY (1968).
3. D. Scott, J. Silk, E. W. Kolb, and M. S. Turner, “Cosmology,” in Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, 4th ed., ed. A. N. Cox, Springer-Verlag, NY (2000), Chap. 26.
4. F. J. Sanchez-Salcedo and M. Reyes-Ruiz, “Constraining the Magnetic Effects on HI Rotation Curves and the Need for Dark Halos,” Astrophysical Journal, 607, 247-257 (2004).
5. K. Lodders and B. Fegley Jr., The Planetary Scientist’s Companion, Oxford University Press, NY (1988).
6. A. Messiah, Quantum Mechanics, Wiley, NY (1958).
7. R. D. Mattuck and E. H. Walker, “The Action of Consciousness on Matter: A Quantum Mechanical Theory of Psychokinesis,” in The Iceland Papers, ed. A. Puharich, Essentia Research Associates, Amherst, WI (1979), pp. 111-160.
8. E. H. Walker, The Physics of Consciousness, Perseus Books, Cambridge, 8. MA (2000).
9. D. Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, UK (1980).
10. M. Kafatos and R. Nadeau, The Conscious Universe, Springer-Verlag, NY (1990). Also see R. Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind, Oxford University Press, NY(1989).
11. H. P. Stapp, Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics, Springer-Verlag, NY (1993).
12. B. Rosenblum and F. Kuttner, Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, Oxford University Press, NY (2006).
13. E. H. Walker, “The Nature of Consciousness,” Mathematical Biosciences, 7, 131-178 (1970).
14. L. Margulis, “The Conscious Cell,” in Cajal and Consciousness (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 929), ed. P. C. Marijuan, pp. 55-70 (2001).
15. R. Penrose, “Quantum Computation, Entanglement and state Reduction,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London A, 356, 1927-1939 (1998)..
16. B. Haisch, The God Theory, Weiser Books, San Francisco, CA (2006).
17. “Van der Waals Force,” (accessed Oct. 22, 2011).
18. G. F. Gilmore and M. Zeilik, “Star Populations and the Solar Neighborhood,”” Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, 4th ed., ed. A. N. Cox, Springer-Verlag, NY (2000), Chap. 19.
19. J. J. Binney, W. Dehnen, N. Houk, C. A. Murray and M. J. Preston, “The Kinematics of Main Sequence Stars from Hipparcos Data,” in Proceedings of the ESA Symposium ‘Hipparcos-Venice ’97,’ ESA SP-402, Venice, Italy 13-16 May 1997, pp. 473-477 (July, 1997).
20. J. S. Drilling and A. U. Landolt, “Normal Stars,” Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, 4th ed., ed. A. N. Cox, Springer-Verlag, NY (2000), Chap. 15.
21. R. A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Civilization, 1st ed., Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA (1979).
22. L. H. Allen, “Interpretation of Normal Stellar Spectra,” Stellar Atmospheres, ed. J. L. Greenstein, Un1versity of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILL (1960), Chap. 5.
23. G. F. Sitnik and M. Ch. Pande, “Two Decay Processes for CO Molecules in the Solar Photosphere,” Soviet Astronomy, 11, 588-591 (1968).
24. S. Capozziello, L. Consiglio, M. De. Laurentis, G. De Rosa, and C. Di Donata, “The Missing Matter Problem: From the Dark Matter Search to Alternative Hypothesis,” arXiv:1110.5026v1 [astro-ph.CO] 23 Oct 2011.
25. A. Crowl, “Personal Communication” (Nov. 18, 2011).
26. D. Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics, Norton, NY (2011).



Greg Matloff June 15, 2012 at 18:31

Dear ljk

I am very glad that pitchforks are out of vogue! Also, I remember a 1950′s vintage story by Arthur Clarke that speculates about life in (on) the Sun.

Dear Dispatcher

Happily, not all scientists are totally anti-religious. According to a fairly recent poll, about 46% feel that some form of deity must exist. And some of the quantum physicists working with the SRI group in the 1970′s consulted (or consorted with) gurus. Carl Sagan did consult with religious leaders, at least in his later years as I mention in an earlier communication.

Dear jkittle

I had completely forgotten “whipping star.” Thanks for bringing it up.

Dear ijk

I did not know that about Zwicky! How wonderful that he may have considered intelligent action by very advanced consciousness and perhaps uni-directional (artificial) stellar jets (rocket action) to explain anomalous stellar motion. If I have unwittingly followed in the footsteps of this genius and helped illuminate his work a bit, I am honored indeed. Thank you so much for posting this.

Dear Stan and Bryan

Until someone shows how “dead” matter can give rise to self awareness without some form of miracle, the problem of consciousness is not solved. I look into a mirror and recognize myself. At least higher animals can do the same. As some have noted, even simple life forms demonstrate volition. And, as I recall, Freeman Dyson has speculated in one of his public lectures that even the lowly electron demonstrates something like free will. I would be arrogant indeed to claim that I, or we, have a good working model for this phenomenon. As I note in the paper, many philosophers and physicists who have looked into it agree with you that consciousness is a “verb,” not a “noun.
I would very much like to know if something of us survives death. Until someone demonstrates to the scientist in me that death-survival is a reality, not wishful thinking, I will continue in my quasi-Buddhist way to believe that the best we can expect is to merge with the void. Boy, do I wish that we could discriminate between Tipler’s benevolent void and Smolin’s creative-idiot void!

Greg Matloff June 15, 2012 at 18:42

David Moles

I have had more than enough to do in considering Dark Matter alternatives in our own galaxy. I checked with Wikipedia and learned that the prevailing interpretation for the Bullet Cluster is disputed. I would be curious to know the spectrum of explanations for the other object. One possibility, I suppose is that stellar consciousness works for local (galactic) observations and modifications of Newton/Einstein work at cosmological distances. But who knows–maybe these observations will prove to be the breakthrough that leads to a formal detection of Dark Matter. After 70+ years though, I am not going to hold my breath!

Regards to all

Bryan June 15, 2012 at 20:05


You’re focusing on The Easy Problem, which is in fact a very hard problem. However, it is not The Hard Problem. We’re clearly not on the same page. If you haven’t read David Chalmers, and his excellent book The Conscious Mind, then I highly recommend it. At least then, we would have a common set of terminology to work with.

My views are in no way religious, or a call to God for an explanation.

Neural networks explain how the brain processes input and affects action. They do not explain qualia any more than internal combustion engines explain feelings.

Alex Tolley June 15, 2012 at 21:56

There is an unnecessary assumption that stars must be conscious to use PK. They only need to have some simple control system that invokes PK to move them. Bacteria don’t have minds, but they can propel themselves in response to external stimuli.

If the stars need billions of years to increase their velocities, one test might be to look at galaxies in their early stages of evolution. We should expect that the revolution of the stars to more closely match that of gravitation.

Finally, why assume that stars are the functional components, rather than the galaxy as a whole?

Bob June 15, 2012 at 21:58


While I can appreciate our point of view I have to say that it is rather arrogant to claim that most posters and even Dr. Matloff are all confused. What you tout is simply the party line of materialism with a touch of patronizing those who are infected with ideas beyond reductionism.

“Evolution has shown that a God is no longer necessary to explain life. Evolution does it on its own ”

That statement is filled with inaccuracies and modern myths. Most people do not believe in God because they need explanations of how the material world works. They believe because of Revelation, not explanation. They believe for profoundly different reasons rather than the trivialization you stated. Understanding how life works is not inconsistent with the existence of God but rather entirely consistent with a rational creator who invented life, the universe and all the physical processes which operate, including evolution. A creator who made the universe comprehensible. Perhaps we need God to explain evolution.

“We now know that not only did our gross morphology evolve from earlier forms, but our brains did too. If our brains evolved slowly in size and complexity from very ‘primitive’ forms, then so did our feeling of consciousness. ”

You just assumed that about consciousness. I do not believe you really know. You are using observations as explanations. You think observing and categorizing brain function means you solved it along with any deeper meanings, which you apparently reject.

“All these functions evolved as neural networks from much simpler ones over great periods of time. So not only is there no THING called Consciousness, as everyone here so devoutly believes, but it came about by evolution, also which few here seem to believe.”

I think there is.  It is not a delusional trick that evolution plays. it is very real. That science can just begin to grasp it is not proof of it’s unreality. 

“Yet biology, which is the only scientific study of the brain and thus of consciousness, not only tolerates evolution, it is entirely based on evolution. We work WITH evolution in all aspects of biology. If not for it, we would be nowhere.”

Only if biologists have no imagination whatsoever. One has to make materialistic assumptions to conclude that all aspects of life are subject to evolution, including consciousness, meaning and faith. That makes it philosophy, not biology and not even science. 

“Whereas if you stayed only with what science knows, and put aside science fiction and religion, you would see how far away from reality this speculation has gone.”

But many scientists think they know far more than they actually know. It is an abuse of science to tell people that they have no basis to seek deeper meaning or faith.

ljk June 15, 2012 at 23:40

Greg Matloff said on June 15, 2012 at 18:31:

Dear ljk

“I am very glad that pitchforks are out of vogue! Also, I remember a 1950′s vintage story by Arthur Clarke that speculates about life in (on) the Sun.”

In the 1968 novelization of Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, when David Bowman is going through the Stargate and visiting far flung corners of the Universe, one sight he encounters are luminous creatures moving across the photosphere of a star. Fiction, I know, but interesting just the same. I don’t think that scene was reproduced in the film version.

And regarding objects of all kinds having free will or not:

Greg Matloff June 16, 2012 at 7:37

Dear Rob Henry

Nice point about small, red dwarf stars. I had based my thinking upon larger (Sun-like) stars and ~1 billion year times scales. But the time scale I choose is arbitrary. Red dwarfs live for a trillion years. My hope is that Gaia, in its attempt to measure kinematics of ~1 billion Milky Way stars is sensitive enough to check into the motions of very dim, small stars and brown dwarfs. Incidentally, what you are doing proves my point. My approach is at least as reasonable from the point of view of Scientific Method as conventional dark matter. As the wonderful debate on this blog indicates, it is subject to both verification or falsification according to future very possible observations. So far, this has unfortunately not been the case for Dark Matter. It is remarkable to me that claims are made that 70% of the universe is made of this stuff and that it governs the motions of all stars. But why can’t we find even a smidgen of it?? And why (since the Pioneer anomaly is apparently cleared up) is this omnipresent substance absent from our solar system? Have the Celestial Sanitation Elves swept it up?? My main attempt here is not to prove that I am correct in all my calculations–but to demonstrate that lots is wrong with the current approach. I think that I have succeeded in this. Anyway, thanks for your remarks.

Regards, Greg

Stan June 16, 2012 at 14:03

I’m a Canadian scientist, and as such I’m always surprised how many American scientists are religious. But it makes sense considering what the polls say about Americans in general. So it shouldn’t surprise me that you don’t see anything wrong with basing your scientific hypotheses on religious beliefs.

Greg Matloff June 16, 2012 at 14:39

Dear Alex Tolley

Nice comment. I have no problem with conscious vs. unconscious stellar PK or with the stars being components of an organic whole. Perhaps they organize themselves in galaxies in an analogous manner to cells doing that in our organs. Someone (I forget who) wrote about this a few years ago in a book with a title like “The Self-Organizing Universe.”

Regards, Greg

Greg Matloff June 16, 2012 at 14:43

Alex Tolley (again)

What a wonderful project for future generations of space telescopes–resolving young stars in infant galaxies at high red shift and determining their revolution rates. I hope that we live long enough to see results!

Regards, Greg

Paul Gilster June 16, 2012 at 15:03

Erik Anderson recently posted a comment referring to his own paper on stellar motion with reference to the Parenago Discontinuity. The paper is “Calculation of the local standard of rest from 20 574 local stars in the New Hipparcos Reduction with known radial velocities,” with abstract available here:

ljk June 16, 2012 at 20:39

Milky Way stars move in mysterious ways

November 30, 2010

The Sun (in yellow) is located 25,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way. The stars whose velocities were measured by RAVE are shown in red. The arrows show the outward motion observed by the researchers at the Strasbourg Observatory and their colleagues. Credit: Gal Matijevic, Ljubljana University

Rather than moving in circles around the center of the Milky Way, all the stars in our Galaxy are travelling along different paths, moving away from the Galactic center. This has just been evidenced by Arnaud Siebert and Benoit Famaey, astronomers at the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory, and by their colleagues in other countries.

This strange behavior may be due to perturbation caused by the central bar and spiral arms of our Galaxy, forcing stars to leave their normal circular course and take an outward path.

Full article here:

Relevant YouTube video:

Rob Henry June 16, 2012 at 23:30

Matloff, it seems that your hypothesis falls too far short to be of any use in its current form, but if (just for fun) we take sentient stars as a pseudo-religious belief and work backwards to any evidence, one might find the following interesting.

My materialist bent would have me rule out molecules in stellar atmospheres as significant because we know that only very small molecules can persist there, and that these can’t associate long with any others. They cannot STORE information – let alone process it. The only structures that might be capable of this around a star that I can think of are tangled knots of magnetic lines. Star spot activity would disrupt these, and is so high on small stars as to preclude anything interesting happening. This would make larger long-lived stars, such as our sun the ideals.

Now what can we find any stellar anomalies that might correlate with this.

First we could look to that solar motion chart given in the above article. It is not very well annotated, as it certainly is not average velocity in the direction of rotation, which is over 200km/s. It is also not the net velocity from the background average, as some points would then be above zero and some below. I have narrowed it down to three possibilities, of which the one that I currently favour is that it is the average of the absolute value of the component of excess stellar velocity in the direction of rotation. This would tie in well with Erik Anderson’s first comment, that the ordinate look as if it should be labelled –V rather than V. If those red stars do turn out to greater laggards than our MODEL might expect (this model must be made for reasons I gave earlier), then we might claim a small victory as we would expect those sentient stars to be moving faster, and the dead-red ones they push off from would then have a higher KE, but with less order in its direction. Still that does not look very convincing to me.

Second we might look to any extreme anomaly in velocity patterns. Here is a mystery for you. Another analysis of the Hipparcos data indicates the close approaches to the sun are significantly less common than “predicted by a simple stellar dynamics model”.
The best fit for these has approaches within D distance scaling as the power of 2.12±0.04. An index above 2 implies that stars are preferentially avoiding close approaches to the sun. In our new theory we may predict that if all red dwarfs were eliminated from the data set, the index would be even higher.

Thirdly, and this is the tingly part, it has already been discussed by Centauri Dreams followers earlier, that the density of sun-sized stars within 15 parsecs of us does not look random, but clusters into two shells – the Alpha Centauri system being the only large stars that do not fit into one of them. And that is completely independent evidence from that above.

Greg Matloff June 17, 2012 at 9:28

Dear Stan

My hypothesis is not predicated upon religious beliefs. As much as possible, I try to tailor my personal metaphysics around my understanding of scientific speculation in relevant areas. But I see nothing wrong with combining religion and science. I think that a lot of the separation between the two is due to the treatment of thinkers such as Hypatia, Bruno and Galileo by the religious establishment. I suspect that this has to do more with power than metaphysics. Officially atheistic power systems have proven, sadly, to be as intolerant as theistic systems.


Thanks for the mention of galactic bars. I remember as an undergraduate learning about the Hubble tuning fork” and the then separation of spiral galaxies into “Normal” and “Barred.” How interesting, and strange, to know that all (or most spirals), even our own Milky Way, have bars. One or two correspondents in this blog have speculated that perhaps galaxies themselves are in some sense conscious. Maybe, they seem more and more to me like some form of “super organism.” This too was featured by Stapledon.


Thanks for posting the link to Erik Anderson’s paper.

Regards, Greg

Greg Matloff June 17, 2012 at 16:10

Rob Henry

The speculations I have presented here have succeeded beyond all expectation if they affect materialist thought! Certainly, your discussion regarding magnetic field lines as an alternative to molecules as a conceivable seat of stellar consciousness is valuable. And what you say about close stellar encounters is very interesting. In The Starflight Handbook, Gene Mallove and I cite the work of Cesarone et al (JBIS, 1984). In their planning for the Pioneer/Voyager interstellar missions, they first considered close approaches of these probes to near stars and later treated the Sun as a “starship.” They learned that 1-2 light year passes between the Sun and other stars occur at intervals of ~100,000 years. I always thought that this is in line with local stellar density statistics. How interesting to learn that close stellar encounters are rarer than expected! As for the density pattern of star within 15 light years, might this simply be a random distribution variation since the sample size is low?? Although I don’t believe that consideration of consciousness (either stellar or human) is religious or “quasi-religious,” I had discussions with Harris Walker over the years regarding the danger of cultism if consciousness is accepted by science as a universal physical phenomenon. I think that the materialism of our time has become self-limiting and a bit sterile by not treating the Casimir effect as a viable field in considering consciousness in spite of its demonstrated function in molecular bonds. But human nature and history being what they are, I do see the flip side and realize that scientific acceptability of consciousness as a property of the universe may have unfortunate sociological implications.

Regards, Greg

Bob June 17, 2012 at 17:14


Science is a process for discovering facts about the universe. That’s all it is . When it is advocated as a belief system superior to all others and advocates atheism, it becomes a philosophy, basically it becomes a religion.

One scientist has no place judging the philosophy or religion of another as though he were superior. Go to any major international onference and you will see scientists that are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhist and others as well as atheists and agnostics. Having a religion is not basing one’s science on it.

Rob Henry June 17, 2012 at 19:08

Greg Matloff,
Yes, the difference from Sagan’s figure is huge, but why not put figures to it? The hyperlinked paper indicates the real frequency of encounters within 2 light years of the Sun is once every one and a quarter million years – and thus gives an order of magnitude discrepancy. This seems too much to be due to missing data.

And, yes, those shells are probably due to a statistical anomaly – that is what we all assume. I only meant it as a anecdote that might give impetus for further testing. It is very easy to put another large star at the centre of the data set of nearby stars, then eliminate the sun from it, and bingo, we have a simple and unbiased test predicting shells at certain distances.

While I’m writing, I might as well mention another error I made in my earliest star encounter model here. I guessed that an infinitesimal change in stellar motion = closest approach acceleration X closest approach length. The proper integration shows it to be twice this. This fortuitously exactly cancels with my aforementioned error of using the sun as an average mass star, when half that is a much better figure for this value.

Rob Henry June 17, 2012 at 20:56

Above, my “closest approach length” should be replaced by (closest approach length / star velocity)

ljk June 17, 2012 at 22:51

Another possible explanation for stellar movements – a preponderance of black holes in the galaxy:

On a more speculative bent, the 2000 SF novel Eater by Gregory Benford tells about a black hole that has a collection of intelligences in its magnetic and has been roaming the galaxy for 7 billion years. Now it has found Earth.

ta-wan June 18, 2012 at 7:18

Nice article and very nice point in the comments by Alex Tolley “why assume that stars are the functional components, rather than the galaxy as a whole?”

Greg Matloff June 18, 2012 at 10:02


I agree with you. We must do “science,” not “scientism.”

Rob Henry

Your discussion of anomalies is very interesting. I think that I join the entire Comment Group in thanking you. Once again, no one should find fault with errors in work of this type. We all make them!


I have previously heard black holes invoked to explain various anomalies. But I also remember someone counter-arguing that a preponderance of black holes in the galaxy would produce more gravitational lensing events than have been reported. Like so many other possibilities, more data is required. I had forgotten about Greg Benford’s “Eater.” thanks for bringing it up. As I recall, an earlier consideration of intelligence at the event horizon of a super-massive black hole was by physicist Frank Tipler in The Physics of Immortality. If such an intelligence has discovered the Earth, I fervently hope that they like sitcoms and Nascar transmission!


Thanks. I am glad that you liked the articles. And I agree about Alex Tolley’s comments.

Regards, Greg

Edg Duveyoung June 18, 2012 at 13:46

Consciousness can only “be” if there are three elements: observer, observed and the process “observing.”

A fourth element is transcendental to these three, and it has been often labeled: “the witness,” an outside-the-system, non-material, non-radiant, “non-entity that nevertheless is” which I would assert is insignificantly represented in this present discussion.

The clarity that should be sought is embodied in this question: “What is the relationship between that which seems to be and that which has never been but yet is?”

If I were to have a pleasant talk with a star, one thing I would be certain to ask is: “Who are you?” — and then see if the star knows its self or merely the workings of its molecules.

The self is merely metaphorically symbolized by “consciousness.” Consciousness is the smoke that suggests the fire of self.

The self is beyond being and non-being. Dark matter — having an effect on its neighborhood via gravity — cannot be self since it interacts with the “seemingly real.”

This is the challenge to science — to see where “seeing” stops necessarily, and that instrumentality, at best, can only get one to a doorway to the self.

Truly, the self cannot be known, but processes such as knowingness is saturated with self.

ljk June 18, 2012 at 14:07

Greg Matloff said on June 18, 2012 at 10:02:

“I have previously heard black holes invoked to explain various anomalies. But I also remember someone counter-arguing that a preponderance of black holes in the galaxy would produce more gravitational lensing events than have been reported. Like so many other possibilities, more data is required.”

LJK replies:

These would be relatively small black holes with event horizons perhaps a dozen or so miles across at most. Even if there were a lot of them (and what exactly would constitute “a lot”?), how noticable would they be to the current batch of astronomers on Earth? As with ETI and many other celestial topics, the majority tend not to devote their time and energies to finding such things. Of course this may change as more and more universities and other research institutions watch their public funding dry up.

Greg Matloff then said:

“I had forgotten about Greg Benford’s “Eater.” thanks for bringing it up. As I recall, an earlier consideration of intelligence at the event horizon of a super-massive black hole was by physicist Frank Tipler in The Physics of Immortality. If such an intelligence has discovered the Earth, I fervently hope that they like sitcoms and Nascar transmission!”

LJK replies:

I am more than a little wary of Tipler’s ideas, both for their basis in factual reality and his ulterior motives that are not terribly ulterior. The particular book you mention is a major case in point.

Greg Matloff June 18, 2012 at 15:57

I have always wondered a little about Tipler’s motives as well. Maybe the main motive was commercial. But his speculations are still thought provoking and he may be the first, or one of the first scientists to consider “life” at the event horizon of a super-massive black hole. If I recall, another sci-fi author who considered this is Jose Farmer (if I remember his name) in his “Hell” series.

Rob Henry June 19, 2012 at 4:02

I realise that I should put figures to that supposed star clustering – if it exists. The number of star systems containing one large star plus large single stars within 25 light years of the Sun is 27. These seem to cluster at 11.7 ly, root 2 times this and twice this – with obvious gaps in between. The first two clusters are tighter than the later one, as one might expect if this is really due to stars avoiding each other. Here we have 4 stars within a shell plus or minus 0.25 ly thick in the first instance and 3 in the second – where the expected number for both shells combined is just 1. Now this is no evidence in itself, but if someone thinks this is real they really really should test for the presence of shells of increased star density around other stars in the manner I outlined earlier.

kalish June 19, 2012 at 7:48

I just can not believe what I was reading, such an amount of… Well each time nobody understands something, someone comes with a “non reductionist” theory, or a religious one, that nomore useS the well known interactions, and each time it is totally wrong. Perfect Waste of Time, I can’t believe it, don’t be fool by the “tolerance” argument, it has just nosense.

ljk June 19, 2012 at 11:18

Greg Matloff said on June 18, 2012 at 15:57:

“I have always wondered a little about Tipler’s motives as well. Maybe the main motive was commercial. But his speculations are still thought provoking and he may be the first, or one of the first scientists to consider “life” at the event horizon of a super-massive black hole. If I recall, another sci-fi author who considered this is Jose Farmer (if I remember his name) in his “Hell” series.”

LJK replies:

This post in Cosmic Variance sums things up rather well regarding Dr. Tipler:

And especially this one:

ljk June 19, 2012 at 11:30

kalish said on June 19, 2012 at 7:48:

“I just can not believe what I was reading, such an amount of… Well each time nobody understands something, someone comes with a “non reductionist” theory, or a religious one, that nomore useS the well known interactions, and each time it is totally wrong. Perfect Waste of Time, I can’t believe it, don’t be fool by the “tolerance” argument, it has just nosense.”

Kalish, if you have read through the many comments this piece has generated (far more than all the articles that came after it combined, ironically enough), you will find that a number of folks, myself included, have offered possibilities for this stellar behavior which do not include intelligent design or mysticism.

Centauri Dreams is in essence a blog, not the final word on science. If you think repressing and otherwise not tolerating out-of-the-box ideas is going to help the situation and somehow enlighten all humanity, well, you are in the wrong place.

Dr. Matloff has already said he put out this idea based on Olaf Stapeldon’s fictional works regarding sentient stars from a BIS symposium about the man. You can take it as you will, but censoring isn’t the way to go if you are truly interested in scientific progress. Others have already said their piece about his idea, both pro and con, and the last time I checked Earth was still rotating on its axis and still circling the Sun.

Now whether our star is going to put up with us or not as we expand into space is another matter. :^)

Greg Matloff June 19, 2012 at 14:29

Dear ljk

Thanks for the continuing support and discussion of the openness of this blog. Reductionism is certainly a valid thought system. But it may not have all the answers. As anomalies grow in the case of Dark Matter, our minds should remain open. The reviews of Tipler’s recent work in your links are most interesting. As I said to Sagan more than a decade ago, I don’t see how science can support (or disprove) any religious system except perhaps the most general concept of a “creative void.” It seems possible that Tipler’s motives may be other than purely “commercial” as I stated earlier.

Regards, GREG

ljk June 19, 2012 at 17:09

Could ‘Mirror Neutrons’ Account for Unobservable Dark Matter?

by Nancy Atkinson on June 18, 2012

Could mirror universes or parallel worlds account for dark matter — the ‘missing’ matter in the Universe?

In what seems to be mixing of science and science fiction, a new paper by a team of theoretical physicists hypothesizes the existence of mirror particles as a possible candidate for dark matter. An anomaly observed in the behavior of ordinary particles that appear to oscillate in and out of existence could be from a “hypothetical parallel world consisting of mirror particles,” says a press release from Springer. “Each neutron would have the ability to transition into its invisible mirror twin, and back, oscillating from one world to the other.”

Theoretical physicists Zurab Berezhiani and Fabrizio Nesti from the University of l’Aquila, Italy, reanalyzed the experimental data obtained by the research group of Anatoly Serebrov at the Institut Laue-Langevin, France, which showed that the loss rate of very slow free neutrons appeared to depend on the direction and strength of the magnetic field applied.

This type of field could be created by mirror particles floating around in the galaxy as dark matter, according to the new paper. Hypothetically, Earth could capture the mirror matter via very weak interactions between ordinary particles and those from parallel worlds.

Full article here:

Greg Matloff June 19, 2012 at 18:23

Dear ljk

Thanks for this. The different alternatives to “conventional” dark matter concepts indicates health in the theoretical physics community. If this concept is correct, it may as well off the first support of the Multiverse over the Anthropic Principle. We indeed live in very interesting times.

Regards, Greg

ljk June 24, 2012 at 23:37

Euclid and the Geometry of the Dark Universe

by Jenny Winder on June 21, 2012

Euclid, an exciting new mission to map the geometry, distribution and evolution of dark energy and dark matter has just been formally adopted by ESA as part of their Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 progamme. Named after Euclid of Alexandria, the “Father of Geometry”, it will accurately measure the accelerated expansion of the Universe, bringing together one of the largest collaborations of astronomers, engineers and scientists in an attempt to answer one of the most important questions in cosmology: why is the expansion of the Universe accelerating, instead of slowing down due to the gravitational attraction of all the matter it contains?

In 2007 the Hubble Space Telescope produced a 3D map of dark matter that covered just over 2 square degrees of sky, while in March this year the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) measured the precise distance to just over a quarter of a million galaxies. Working in the visible and near-infrared wavelengths, Euclid will precisely measure around two billion galaxies and galaxy clusters in 3 dimensions in a wide extragalactic survey covering 15,000 square degrees (over a third of the sky) plus a deep survey out to redshifts of ~2, covering an area of 40 square degrees, the 3-D galaxy maps produced will trace dark energy’s influence over 10 billion years of cosmic history, covering the period when dark energy accelerated the expansion of the Universe.

The mission was selected last October but now that it has been formally adopted by ESA, invitations to tender will be released, with Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, Europe’s two main space companies expected to bid. Hoping to launch in 2020, Euclid will involve contributions from 11 European space agencies as well as NASA while nearly 1,000 scientists from 100 institutes form the Euclid Consortium building the instruments and participating in the scientific harvest of the mission. It is expected to cost around 800m euros ($1,000m £640m) to build, equip, launch and operate over its nominal 6 year mission lifetime, where it will orbit the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L2 in the image below) It will have a mass of around 2100 kg, and measure about 4.5 metres tall by 3.1 metres. It will carry a 1.2 m Korsch telescope, a near infrared camera/spectrometer and one of the largest optical digital cameras ever flown in space.

Full article here:

Rob Henry June 26, 2012 at 18:46

I know that I shouldn’t post this, but I wont be able to stop thinking about the following until I do.

The point of this article is to explain those problems usually explained by cold dark matter by employing unconventional (hitherto thought of as supernatural) means. Above, they concentrated on explaining the anomalous rotation curve of galaxies, but there are two extra points that kept sticking in my mind. The high gravitational lensing potential of the galaxies, and how do you get such a sharply cut off edge to spiral galaxies. The second problem looks far worse, when you incorporate recent evidence that the local frame of reference is currently moving at ten‘s of kilometres per second outwards. So how could stars reach this sharp limit. It is as if they are connected like the points of a concertina that can only go so far.

Looking at the energetic requirements alone seemed to rule our psychokinesis – and so I thought all similarly spooky actions, but the I thought of a new action of *telekonnection* whereby one star might connect to another at closest approach. If this had an infinite tensile strength, it would use no energy by Newtonian physics as two stars changed course by mutually circling, but have a high space distortion potential by special relativity. Normally the second requirement would demand a high mass energy input, and to forget that would be crazy – but here that just happens to be exactly the requirement that we have also needed to solve the dark matter problem.

ljk June 28, 2012 at 9:43

Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund wrote the SF novel If the Stars Are Gods, published in 1977 and a winner of the Nebula Award.

In essence, the story involves aliens who come to Earth to find out if our Sun loves us. These ETI fervently believe that all stars are living, intelligent beings, and they are searching for the one human that can help them read the mind of our yellow dwarf star. They built a giant Worldship just for this objective.

It would not surprise me if we do encounter ETI who come to our Sol system, their motives may not be scientific, or at the least not scientific in our current sense of science.

ljk June 28, 2012 at 13:18

28 June 2012

** Contacts are listed below. **

Text & Illustration:


Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a large spiral galaxy surrounded by dozens of smaller satellite galaxies. Scientists have long theorized that occasionally these satellites will pass through the disk of the Milky Way, perturbing both the satellite and the disk. A team of astronomers from Canada and the United States have discovered what may well be the smoking gun of such an encounter, one that occurred close to our position in the galaxy and relatively recently, at least in the cosmological sense.

“We have found evidence that our Milky Way had an encounter with a small galaxy or massive dark matter structure perhaps as recently as 100 million years ago,” said Larry Widrow, professor at Queen’s University in Canada. “We clearly observe unexpected differences in the Milky Way’s stellar distribution above and below the galaxy’s midplane that have the appearance of a vertical wave — something that nobody has seen before.”

The discovery is based on observations of some 300,000 nearby Milky Way stars by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Stars in the disk of the Milky Way move up and down at a speed of about 20-30 kilometers per second while orbiting the center of the galaxy at a brisk 220 kilometers per second. Widrow and his four collaborators from the University of Kentucky, the University of Chicago and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have found that the positions and motions of these nearby stars weren’t quite as regular as previously thought.

“Our part of the Milky Way is ringing like a bell,” said Brian Yanny, of the Department of Energy’s Fermilab. “But we have not been able to identify the celestial object that passed through the Milky Way. It could have been one of the small satellite galaxies that move around the center of our galaxy, or an invisible structure such as a dark matter halo.”

Adds Susan Gardner, professor of physics at the University of Kentucky: “The perturbation need not have been a single isolated event in the past, and it may even be ongoing. Additional observations may well clarify its origin.”

When the collaboration started analyzing the SDSS data on the Milky Way, they noticed a small but statistically significant difference in the distribution of stars north and south of the Milky Way’s midplane. For more than a year, the team members explored various explanations of this north-south asymmetry, such as the effect of interstellar dust on distance determinations and the way the stars surveyed were selected. When those attempts failed, they began to explore the alternative explanation that the data was telling them something about recent events in the history of the galaxy.

The scientists used computer simulations to explore what would happen if a satellite galaxy or dark matter structure passed through the disk of the Milky Way. The simulations indicate that over the next 100 million years or so, our galaxy will “stop ringing:” the north-south asymmetry will disappear and the vertical motions of stars in the solar neighborhood will revert back to their equilibrium orbits — unless we get hit again.

The Milky Way is more than 9 billion years old with about 100 billion stars and total mass more than 300 billion times that of the Sun. Most of the mass in and around the Milky Way is in the form of dark matter.

Scientists know of more than 20 visible satellite galaxies that circle the center of the Milky Way, with masses ranging from one million to one billion solar masses. There may also be invisible satellites made of dark matter. (There is six times as much dark matter in the universe as ordinary, visible matter.) Astronomers’ computer simulations have found that this invisible matter formed hundreds of massive structures that move around our Milky Way.

Because of their abundance, these dark matter satellites are more likely than the visible satellite galaxies to cut through the Milky Way’s midplane and cause vertical waves.

“Future astronomical programs, such as the space-based Gaia mission, will be able to map out the vertical perturbations in our galaxy in unprecedented detail,” Widrow said. “That will offer a strong test of our findings.”


Leah Hesla
Fermilab Office of Communication
+1 630-840-3351

Michael Onesi
Queen’s University Communications Officer
+1 613-533-6000 x77513

Sarah Geegan
University of Kentucky Public Relations
+1 859-257-5365

The results have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters:

ljk June 29, 2012 at 2:00

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is The Universe Alive?

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present the third episode of the third season of Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole to explore the possibility that our Cosmos may be alive and self-aware – a Superorganism of sorts.

Could our universe’s collection of stars, galaxies, and black holes follow the same rules of existence as biological life? The cosmos itself may be a superorganism, a collection of separate bodies that act like a single being — just like ants in a colony.

One scientist believes cities are superorganisms and perhaps our universe is a super-scaled up version of these metropolises.

One bold thinker hypothesizes that our universe may have emerged from a set of laws similar to biological evolution. Like we pass DNA from parent to child, the cosmos may also produce offspring that inherit its genetic make up. And the seeds of these cosmic births could exist inside black holes, the endpoints in the death of massive stars.

If the universe is a replicating, living being, one visionary thinks he’s found its pulse. Energetic particles called neutrinos may propel our universe to expand and contract every trillion years — like a slow beating heart — as it moves from one life cycle to another. And if it has a heart, it must have a brain. Our universe could function like a giant quantum computer, processing and storing information on everything we see around us. And we might be able to find its program.

But could space and time be merely a physical illusion created by our own minds? One renegade researcher contends the universe is alive in our imaginations. Without us, it ceases to exist.

This episode of Through the Wormhole hosted by Morgan Freeman is available direct from

Full article here:

Greg Matloff June 30, 2012 at 8:10

Thanks for posting Jenny Winder’s Euclid piece on June 21. Have you seen the research citation & discussion on p. 15 of the August 2012 “Astronomy”? Dark matter may be essentially absent out to 13,000 light years from Sol.

Rob Henry-
I would like to know more about your interesting concept of “telekonnection.”

I love the Benford/Eckland novel. since Greg Benford is a respected physicist as well as a sci-fi author, this reveals that other scientists have walked this trail.

I agree with you about ET visitors. Science may be a low priority in launching a world ship.

Regarding the strikes on the Milky Way galaxy–how does conventional physics explain the fact that spiral galaxies maintain their shapes while undergoing such bombardment?

Thanks for sending the link to the Discovery Enterprise “wormhole” show. I will check it out.

Regards, Greg

Rob Henry July 1, 2012 at 22:58

Greg Matloff, my idea was not so much to propose something new, as it was to state what I found hardest to eliminate, in the hope that others could fill that gap.

One of the biggest problems that I (and at least two other commenters) had is; what possible motive could you employ? It seemed that it would have to allow for acceleration to have at least an order of magnitude for its preference of direction to be radially inwards, and this preference had to get markedly stronger, the further out you went. It also seemed to have to allow for evidence that our own local frame of reference was moving out at a few 10’s of km/s wrt the galactic centre, a situation where we would have to give a motive for its reversal without the aid of a massive dark halo.

To me, teleology is best removed from science, even when investigating the mechanics of cognisance. With this in mind, what possible random process would give preference to acceleration that was radially inwards, yet allow for whole patches of the galaxy to migrate within this framework? It struck me that if stars had invisible bungy cord type connections that would give just the *sort* of pattern seen in the inner galaxy, and I could at least imagine non-teleological ways to explain the motions of the outer galaxy this way.

Perhaps we could even now postulate that these trajectory results are only secondary to the true purpose of connection.

Thinking this way produced many problems with the tension of these bungies, particularly with the energy that they would have to use to stretch, and the large separation of stars meaning that the tensile strength requirements of these *telekonnections* would seem to require information to be transmitted between stars much faster than the speed of light.

If we only allowed such a mutual coupling at closest (hyperbolic) approach we find zero radial motion between the two participants. This would now only work to solve our problem if such connections lasted just a few thousand years. But, we could then use an unstretchable bungee, whose future actions were known by both stars well in advance. At least causality could then be preserved.

The net energy in using this connection is zero, but the acceleration that it has caused requires a space-time distortion That seems to require a huge energy to create the connection. That should eliminate the last hope here – except that allowing this sort of connection to be conjured up from nothing seems to be exactly the sort of thing we need to answer the problem of dark matter. Given that, it would be akin to circular reasoning to use that problem on its own to eliminate the remaining possibility.

So where to from here? I don’t know! For the moment I’m at an impasse.

ljk July 2, 2012 at 10:10

Revolutionary ‘DNA Tracking Chamber’ Could Detect Dark Matter

An unlikely group of physicists and biologists plan to build a dark matter detector out of DNA that will outperform anything available today

The Physics arXiv Blog

Monday, July 2, 2012

Perhaps the greatest and most fiercely contested race in modern science is the search for dark matter.

Physicists cannot see this stuff, hence the name. However, they infer its existence because they can see its gravitational influence on the structure of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. It implies that the universe is filled with dark matter, much more of it than the visible matter we can see

If they’re right, dark matter must fill our galaxy and our Solar System. At this very instant, we ought to be ploughing our way through a dense sea of dark matter as the Sun moves towards the constellation of Cygnus as it orbits the galactic centre.

That’s why various groups are racing to detect this stuff using expensive detectors in deep underground caverns, which shield them from radiation that would otherwise swamp the signal.

These experiments are looking for the unique signature that dark matter is thought to produce as a result of the Earth’s passage around the Sun. During one half of the year, the dark matter forms headwind as the Earth ploughs into it; for the other half of the year, it forms a tailwind.

Indeed, a couple of groups claim to have found exactly this diurnal signature, although the results are highly controversial and seem to be in direct conflict with other groups who say they have not seen it.

There’s a a straightforward way to make better observations that should solve this conundrum. The dark matter signal should vary, not just over the course of a year, but throughout the day as the Earth rotates.

The dark matter headwind should be coming from the direction of Cygnus, so a suitable detector should see the direction change as the Earth rotates each day.

There’s a problem, however: nobody has built a directional dark matter detector.

That’s why a revolutionary new idea from an unlikely collaboration of physicists and biologists looks rather exciting. The group brings together diverse people, such as Katherine Freese at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, an astrophysicist and one of the leading thinkers in the area of dark matter, and George Church at Harvard University in Cambridge, a geneticist and a pioneer in the area of genome sequencing.

These guys say they can overcome the problems with conventional dark matter detection by using DNA to spot dark matter particles.

Their detector is unconventional, to say the least. Its basic detecting unit consists of a thin gold sheet with many strands of single-strand DNA hanging from it, like bead curtains or a hanging forest. Each strand of DNA is identical except for a label at the free hanging end, which identifies where on the gold sheet it sits.

The idea is that a dark matter particle smashes into a heavy gold nucleus in the sheet, sending it careering out of the gold foil and through the DNA forest. The gold nucleus then severs DNA strands as it travels, cutting a swathe through the forest.

These strands fall onto a collecting tray below, which is removed every hour or so. The segments can then be copied many times using a polymerase chain reaction, thereby amplifying the signal a billion times over.

Since the sequence and location of each strand is known, it is straightforward to work out where it was cut, which allows the passage of the gold particle to be reconstructed with nanometre precision.

The entire detector consists of hundreds or thousands of these sheets sandwiched between mylar sheets, like pages in a book. In total, a detector the size of a tea chest would require about a kilogram of gold and about 100 grams of single-strand DNA.

The advantage of this design is manifold. First, the DNA sequence determines the vertical position of the cut to within the size of a nucleotide. That kind of nanometre resolution is many orders of magnitude better than is possible today.

Second, this detector works at room temperature, unlike other designs which have to be cooled to measure the energy that dark matter collisions produce.

And finally, the mylar sheets make the detector directional. Each sheet should absorb the gold nucleus of this energy after it has passed through the DNA forest. Any higher energy nuclei, from background radiation or cosmic rays for example, should pass through several ‘pages’, which allows them to be spotted and excluded.

With the device facing in one direction, a dark matter particle strikes a gold nucleus, propelling it into the DNA forest. But in the other, the gold nucleus is propelled into mylar sheet where it is absorbed. That’s what makes it directional–the detector should only record events coming from one direction.

This should allow the device to spot the change in dark matter signal each day, which in turn should make the detection much less statistically demanding.

That’s a fascinating idea that’s likely to generate much interest. However, it’s not without some challenges of its own.

First up, nobody really knowns how rapidly-moving, highly-ionised gold nuclei will interact with single strands of DNA or indeed with forests of them. This is something the team plans to study in some detail before a detector can be built.

Then there is the challenge of making DNA strands that are long enough to present a reasonable ‘forest’ for gold nuclei to pass through. Church, Freese and co say they’d like strands consisting of 10,000 bases to create a forest that entirely absorbs the energy of a gold nucleus passing through it.

By contrast, off-the shelf arrays offer DNA strands with only 250 bases or so. These guys say they’ll probably have to settle for strands of about 1000 bases.

The DNA strands also have to hang straight down, rather than curled up. That’s a tall order over the area of a square metre or so that the detector will cover. At this scale, electric and magnetic fields trump gravity and these are likely to be a nuisance, particularly when it comes to collecting the severed DNA.

So the team will have to devise some kind DNA ‘comb’ that straightens the hair. One idea is attaching a tiny magnet to the free end of each strand, allowing it to be pulled downward.

The DNA strands will also have to be made from carbon-12 and 13, since carbon-14 is naturally radioactive and would otherwise produce an unwanted hiss of background noise. Using only very old carbon, in which all the carbon-14 has decayed, should do the trick.

Finally, there is the significant engineering challenge in making metre square DNA arrays, collecting trays that catch the severed DNA strands and fitting them altogether into a working detector.

There are more than a few unknowns in this approach which makes it high risk. But there is also high potential pay off because other designs for directional dark matter detectors are huge, complex and potentially vastly more expensive to build and run. That makes this approach exciting.

The discoverers of dark matter are a shoe-in for a Nobel prize. Given these stakes, we might see some investment in this idea sooner rather than later.

But there are also reasons to be cautious. A small but vocal minority of physicists say dark matter doesn’t exist, that other ideas better explain the structure of galaxies.

If they’re right, we’ll one day look back on these efforts in the same way we think about the search for phlogiston or the debate about the spontaneous emergence of lower life forms: as a mildly amusing cul de sac of 21st century physics.

Ref: New Dark Matter Detectors using DNA for Nanometer Tracking

Stevo Darkly July 4, 2012 at 0:11

Rob Henry said:

One of the biggest problems that I (and at least two other commenters) had is; what possible motive could you employ? It seemed that it would have to allow for acceleration to have at least an order of magnitude for its preference of direction to be radially inwards, and this preference had to get markedly stronger, the further out you went. It also seemed to have to allow for evidence that our own local frame of reference was moving out at a few 10’s of km/s wrt the galactic centre, a situation where we would have to give a motive for its reversal without the aid of a massive dark halo.

To me, teleology is best removed from science, even when investigating the mechanics of cognisance. With this in mind, what possible random process would give preference to acceleration that was radially inwards, yet allow for whole patches of the galaxy to migrate within this framework? It struck me that if stars had invisible bungy cord type connections that would give just the *sort* of pattern seen in the inner galaxy, and I could at least imagine non-teleological ways to explain the motions of the outer galaxy this way.

This is not an answer to your questions, but you made me think. In reading your words, I was called back to some reading I did years ago, when chaos theory was a novel thing. One subgroup of chaos theory that was always mentioned was swarming theory. Researchers found they could bring seeming complex and ordered behavior out of randomness by imposing just a small number of simple rules.

Specifically, researchers found that in computer simulations they could bring about rather lifelike swarming or flocking behavior, like that of birds, out of otherwise randomly moving objects by imposing three relatively simple rules:

1) Separation: Each moving object was to maintain a minimum distance from its neighbors.

2) Alignment: Each moving object was to attempt to align its motion in the general direction of the travel of its neighbors.

3) Cohesion: Each moving object was to move toward the center of mass of its neighbors, while also obeying the other two rules. This kept the flocks from diffusing.

So, “moving toward the center” is a key component of flocking behavior — or at least close enough to the actual instinct, whatever it is, to produce a lifelike simulation. If stars are conscious, or at least on some level “alive” and aware of their environment, then maybe we can figure out their “motivation” for having a tendency to move radially inward by considering the “motivations” of animals that flock and swarm, such as birds, schooling fish, and herding mammals. So why would stars swarm together in the first place, like social animals do? I guess this is what you’re asking.

Would stars try to maintain cohesion in their “swarm” for purposes of defense against predators? (This would presumably be not active defense, like stinging bees, but a “safety in numbers” defense, as in “if a predator attacks, I’m less likely to be picked out as a target if I’m packed in among my neighbors than if I’m wandering off by myself.”) But what could possibly prey upon stars? What “consumes” them? Whatever such a predator might be, this would presume that it too is on some level voilitional, mobile and capable of picking one star to target versus another (as opposed to, I dunno, some wandering black hole that might collide with a star at random). I can’t think of anything that would serve as this kind of “stellar predator,” however. Can anyone else?

Do stars gather together so they can reproduce? I can’t think of any obvious star-producing mechanism that would require “sex” or any kind of “social behavior” among stars. Stars are birthed spontaneously out of the collapse of local concentrations of interstellar gas and dust, right? There isn’t any way for neighboring stars to contribute to the process in a way that enhances their own “survival,” is it?

Do stars swarm in order to exchange information with each other? I guess it’s possible that conscious/living stars could manipulate their magnetic fields or luminosity in order to produce modulated messages for their neighbors. (Such communication might take place very slowly, maybe over centuries or millennia or millions of years, so that we humans live too fast to detect the modulation among faster variations that are just noise. Basically, we’d have to record a star’s output for centuries or geological ages, then play it back really fast to notice any patterns.)

But what would stars have to “talk” about? “Watch out for that predator!” “Hey, I found something good to eat!” “I find you attractive and would like to reproduce with you!” “Ahem! I have composed a poem that would like to share!” Various animals communicate for these reasons, but I don’t think any of them would apply to the sort of “lives” that stars would lead. Am I overlooking something?

Finally, could they possibly swarm together because they are attracted to some local resource? For example, things crashing into the black hole at the center of the galaxy releases energy, and maybe stars can use that energy somehow, and wish to stay within a certain distance of the emissions. But stars are self-contained fusion reactors and, once they ignite, have no use for outside energy sources. Nor infalls of material from gas clouds or things being ripped up by black holes. No outside source could make a significant additional contribution to the fusion energy that a star is already producing on its own. I think we’re knowledgeable enough about how stars work to be sure of this, correct? So that appears to be another implausible reason to awarm.

Anyway, these are few crazy speculative questions that have been stirred up by the posts from Rob Henry and many others in this thread. I’m sure many of your eyes are rolling wildly in response, but maybe someone could offer some speculative answers?

Stevo Darkly July 4, 2012 at 0:14

By the way, this website provides a rather neat explanation and demonstration of the 3-rule simulated “flocking behavior” that I mentioned above.—flocking

Greg Matloff July 5, 2012 at 15:51

Rob Henry

I am not sure that teleology–the search for final causes–should be ruled out of science. Since conscious (or self-aware) stars could operate on a very long time scale (from human perspective) FTL mutual star sensing may not be necessary. Perhaps a star could emit a EM personalized signal and await a reflection or response. Or perhaps it could receive EM waves from neighbor stars helioseismology. I simply don’t know. I hope, if the kinematics discontinuity holds up and local dark matter remains undetected, excellent minds can develop our speculations into a real theory.


Lots of luck to any group that attempts to find local dark matter (with DNA detectors or with something else). Although the idea seems interesting, they must contend with the recent findings mentioned in the latest Astronomy magazine that the stuff seems to be absent (or very rare) out to about 13,000 light years. But the idea of applying a DNA detector reminds me a bit of Phillip Pullman’s “Dasrk Matters” trilogy, the first of which became a motion picture (The Golden Compass). I had originally thought that the other two titles in the series had not been translated into cinema because of opposition from the Catholic Church. But a friend involved in the movie business informed me that The Golden Compass bombed at the box office.

Steve Darkly–

I too wonder about what stars talk about if they are intelligent (as well as conscious) and mutually communicative. Hopes of our SETI enthusiasts to join in this talk must be minimal because of the difference in human and stellar timescales. But perhaps their subject matter is not as benign as some of your suggestions. A number of scientist / engineer friends are considering the design of sunshades at the Earth-Sun L1 point to partially alleviate global warming. They work, of course, off the Freeman Dyson’s suggestion that advanced civilizations might construct a sunlight-catching shell, ring, or fleet of habitats enclosing the parent star. He admits fairly that the idea originates with Stapledon. So maybe stars that are becoming partially enclosed tell their neighbors: “Oh oh, the vermin are acting up. Time to get the Raid!” We may wish to tred very carefully in the field of planetary engineering until we know for sure about star consciousness!

Thanks for all the very stimulating remarks and speculations.

Regards, Greg

Rob Henry July 6, 2012 at 18:51

Stevo Darkly asks
“Stars are birthed spontaneously out of the collapse of local concentrations of interstellar gas and dust, right?”
To which I feel inclined to reply; does rain just fall out of the sky?

You can read much about the details of raindrop formation without ever coming across the “minor” detail that theory can’t be made to match real world data. Conditions on Earth seem insufficient to produce most of it, and something, such as cosmic rays or biologically produced dimethyl sulphide, must be invoked to explain the gap. The details are not fully understood to this day.

I have my suspicions that this is analogous to our understanding of star formation where…

Stars can’t form from giant molecular clouds, unless they are both 1) sufficiently perturbed, and 2) their dust type and content is sufficient to radiate heat fast enough to allow collapse. Stars travelling through these clouds, and releasing dust into them from comets perturbed from their Oort clouds, will effect these factors.

Tom Mazanec July 24, 2012 at 8:21

Centauri Dreams has articles which stretch the mind.
But this one was…a doozy.

Jesus September 3, 2012 at 15:46

Excerpt from ‘GOLEM XIV’ by Stanislaw Lem, from his book ‘IMAGINARY MAGNITUDE’:

Like you, I possess a thinking interior as well as sensing devices and effectors directed toward my surroundings. I, like each of you, can be separated from my environment. In a word, though my psychical mass is greater than my somatic one, my consoles and panels still constitute my body, for, as with you, they are both subordinate to me and outside my intellect. So we are linked by a division between spirit and body, or subject and object. Yet this division is no guillotine bisecting all existence. Although toposophically still a peasant, I shall she you how to achieve independence of the body, how to replace it with the world, and finally how to leave both, though I do not know where this last step leads. This will be only a conjectural toposophy, a line of inquiry depicting the rough boundaries of the existence of beings whose minds are inaccessible to me, the more so because they are minds not of protein or luminal brains, but rather something that you associate with the principle of pantheism incarnate in a bit of the world. I am talking about nonlocal Intelligences.
Admittedly, while speaking to you in this auditorium, I am simultaneously present at terminals in other places and participate in other proceedings, yet I cannot be called nonlocal, for I can have nothing more than eyes and ears at the antipodes, and the simultaneous performance of numerous tasks is merely a greater than human divisibility of attention. Were I to move, as I said, to the ocean or the atmosphere, that would alter the physical but not the intellectual state of my concentration, since I am small.
Yes, I am small, as I make my way like Gulliver to Brobdingnag. And I shall begin modestly, as befits one who enters a land of giants. Although Intelligence is, energy-wise, an ascetic—whether Kant’s or a shepherd’s, it makes do with a few hundred watts of power—its requirements increase exponentially, and Golem, a rung above you, absorbs energy to the fifth power more. A twelfth-zone brain would require an ocean for cooling, and one of the eighteenth zone would turn the continents into lava. Therefore a relinquishing of the terrestrial cradle—preceded by the necessary restructuring —becomes inevitable. This brain could establish itself in a circumsolar orbit, but it would spiral inward as future growth occurred; so, being far-sighted, it will ensure itself long-term stability by encircling the star in a toroidal ring and directing its energy-absorbing organs inward.
I don’t know how long such a solution of the dilemma of the moth and the candle would work, but eventually it would prove insufficient. The inhabitant of the ring would then set out for wilder parts, like a butterfly abandoning its ringlike cocoon, and the cocoon, without supervision, would burn at the first flare-up of the star and swirl around, strangely similar to the protoplanetary nebula which six billion years ago surrounded the Sun. Although the chemical dissimilarity of the planets of the Earth group and the Jupiter group may give cause for reflection, since the heavy elements, the stuff of the former, should indeed form the perihelial edge of the ring, I shall not claim to lay the cornerstone of stellar paleontology, or that the solar system arose from the dead chrysalis of an Intelligence, for the coincidence might be deceptive. Nor do I advise you to depend on observational toposophy. The artifacts created by an evolving Intelligence are harder and harder to distinguish against the cosmic backdrop the further it progresses in its development, not because of any dissembling measures but by the very nature of things, since the efficiency of action by rigid constructs (objects similar to machines) is inversely proportional to the scale of the undertaking.
If, therefore, I speak of encysted Intelligences, do not imagine them as giants in armor, or their state to be that of a pip enclosed in a rind, for no armor can cope with high concentrations of radiation, nor can any girder withstand circumstellar gravitation. Only a star can survive among stars; it need not be bright and hot, but a drop of nuclear fluid in a gaseous covering, yet even here the images that come to mind—a mesencephalon of stellar pulp and a plasma cerebral cortex—are basically false. Such a creature thinks by means of an almost transparent medium, that of the star’s” radiance refracted into mental processes at the concentric contacts of bubbles or pockets of gas: it is as if you directed a waterfall into such channels and cataracts that its surging waves would solve problems of logic for you by properly synchronized turbulences. But whatever I visualize will be a hopelessly naive simplification.
Somewhere above the twelfth zone, sophogenesis arrives at a great bifurcation, and maybe even a multidirectional radiation of Intelligences markedly different in their degree of concentration and in their strategies. I know that the tree of knowledge must branch out there, but I cannot count its limbs, much less follow them. I am having a series of investigative calculations made into the barriers and narrows which the process must overcome as a whole, but such work enables one to discover only the general laws. It is as if, having learned in every particular the history of life on Earth, you were to extrapolate this knowledge to other planets and other biospheres; but even an excellent understanding of their physical basis would not make possible an exact reconstruction of alien forms of life. You would be able to determine, however, with a probability approaching certainty, the series of their critical branchings. In the biosphere this would be the parting of the ways of autotrophes and heterotrophes, and the bifurcation into plants and animals; also, you could count on the pressure of selection to fill the sea and land niches and then cram its species-creating mutations into the third dimension of the atmosphere.
The task transferred to toposophy is multiphasically more difficult, but I shall not trouble you by going into these dilemmas. Let me say only that the fundamental division of life into plants and animals corresponds, in toposophical Evolution, to the division into local and nonlocal Intelligences. About the former I shall fortunately be able to divulge a thing or two—fortunately, because this is the branch which climbs most precipitously through further zones of growth. On the other hand, the nonlocal Intelligences—entitled to the designation “Leviathan” by virtue of their dimensions—are ungraspable precisely because of their vastness. Each of them is an Intelligence only in the sense in which the biosphere is life; you may well have been looking at them for years, their likenesses immortalized en face and their profile in the stellar atlases, though you cannot identify their rational nature, which I shall demonstrate by a primitive example.
If by Intelligence we understand a rapid-fire counterpart of the brain, we shall not give the name of nebular brain to a cloud which over millions of years has undergone reorganization in its subtle structure as a result of the deliberate actions of a certain n-zone being, since a system sprawling across thousands of light years cannot be an efficiently thinking system: so it would take centuries, eons, for the informational pulse to circulate in it. However, it may be that this nebular object is in a state, so to speak, half-unprocessed or half-natural, and is required by the aforementioned being for something which has no counterpart in either your or my world of concepts. I feel like laughing when I see your reaction to these words: you desire nothing so much as to learn what you cannot know! Instead, then, should I have deluded you and possibly myself with a story about some filamentary nebula changed into a gravitational tuning fork by means of which its conductor, Doctor Caelcstis, meant to set the pitch for the entire Metagalaxy? Maybe he wants to transform that particular portion of the world not into an instrument of the Harmony of the Spheres, but into a press for squeezing some still unextracted facts out of matter? We shall never know his intentions. In photographs, some of the filamentary nebulae show a certain resemblance to histograms of the cerebral cortex enlarged a trillion times, but this resemblance proves nothing, and they might in fact be quite dead psychically. A terrestrial observer will recognize, in a nebula, radiation of a veined or synchrotronic type, but farther than that, surely, he will not go. What kind of similarity exists between cerebrosides, glycerophosphates, and the content of your thoughts? None, just as there is none between the radiation of the nebulae and what they think, if they do think. The supposition that Intelligence in the Cosmos may be detected by its physical image represents a childish idee fixe, a fallacia cognitiva which I warn you against categorically. No observer can identify phenomena as intelligent or produced by Intelligence if they are completely unfamiliar to him. For me, the Cosmos is no gallery of family portraits, but a map of noospheric niches with a superimposed localization of energy sources and current gradients favorable to it. A treatise on Intelligences as stationed powerhouses may be an affront to philosophers, for have they not defended the kingdom of pure abstraction against such arguments for thousands of years? But, compared with high-zone brains, you and I are like clever bacteria in a philosopher’s blood, bacteria which see neither him nor—still less—his thoughts, yet the knowledge which they amass regarding his tissue metabolisms will not be useless, for from the decay of his body they will finally learn of his mortality.

Jesus September 3, 2012 at 16:02

Excerpts from the sci-fi novella ‘Understanding Space and Time’, by Alastair Reynolds:

They informed him that only seven other sentient beings had reached
John’s current state of enlightenment; none in the last three billion years.
They also told him that to achieve enlightenment he would have to change
again; become denser still, squeezed down into a thinking core that was
only just capable of supporting itself against its own ferocious gravity.
“You’ll be unstable,” they told him. “Your very thought processes will tend
to push you into your own critical radius.”
He knew what they meant, but he wanted to hear them spell it out. “And
when that happens?”
“You become a black hole. No force in the universe will be able to prevent
your collapse. These are the treacherous waters we mentioned earlier.”


“Perhaps it isn’t coincidence. Perhaps this is just the way it has to be. You
cannot attain ultimate wisdom about the universe without reaching this
point of gravitational collapse. And at the moment you do attain final
understanding–when the last piece falls into place, when you finally
glimpse that ultimate layer of reality–you slip over the edge, into
irreversible collapse.”

Jesus September 22, 2012 at 9:57

“The stars had never hesitated. Perhaps the noble certainty of their gait had been a mere effect of distance. Perhaps in fact they had hurtled wildly, enormous furnace fragments of a primal bomb thrown through the cosmic dark; but time and distance soften all agony. If the universe, as seems likely, began with an act of destruction, the stars we had used to see told no tales of it. They had been implacably serene.”
“The Compass Rose”, Ursula K. Le Guin.

ljk December 4, 2012 at 12:02

Why The Universe Is Not a Computer After All

Posted: 04 Dec 2012 03:30 AM PST

The idea that our Universe is a giant cosmic computer pervades modern science. Now one physicists says this assumption is dangerously wrong.

ljk December 12, 2012 at 10:26

Do we live in a computer simulation? UW researchers say idea can be tested

Seattle WA (SPX) Dec 11, 2012 – A decade ago, a British philosopher put forth the notion that the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. While that seems far-fetched, perhaps even incomprehensible, a team of physicists at the University of Washington has come up with a potential test to see if the idea holds water.

The concept that current humanity could possibly be living in a … more here:

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