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

ABSTRACT

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

   

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].

Conclusions

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.

Acknowledgements

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.

References

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,” www.wikipedia.org/wiki/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). http://www.xenology.info/xeno.htm.
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).

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Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 7:44

J. Kittle

I like your ideas regarding Dark Civilizations. I would consider them speculative, not “nutty.” Perhaps you would be interested in developing them further. If you attend SETI IAC or IAA sessions, you will find that many SETI astronomers are not hostile to speculation. Anything that can help solve the Fermi Paradox is very welcome.

Tchernik

Although your remarks are directed to Bryan, I find them fascinating.

Ethanol

I am not proposing PK as a method of interstellar propulsion by humans or other planetary life. I am saying instead that if it exists, it might be invoked as a method of altering stellar velocities by ~100 km/s in ~1 billion years. That is very far short of what we can do even today with solar sail, nuclear electric, or nuclear pulse. Nor do I say or think that PK is the only explanation for anomalous stellar motions. If we find unipolar jets in young or infant stars, that is a second (and more conventional) explanation. But in light of the wonderful review by David Kaiser, I believe that the existence or non-existence of PK is a very open question. If the mainstream physicists insist on ~70% of universe mass remaining undetected (and perhaps forever undetectable) after 7 decades of search, they can’t in good faith totally reject the possibility of PK. Both phenomenon require observational evidence or both phenomenon are pseudo-science.

Keith Cooper

I made no attempt to explain anomalous extra-galactic motions. It is not impossible (to me at least) that some combination of stellar consciousness for galactic star motions and modifications to Newton / Einstein gravity (Mods) for cosmological distances might work. But I do know that Mods to explain both phenomena don’t seem to work because results are contradictory.

Michael

I applaud your comments. And hats off to Paul for providing this wonderful forum. Progress would not occur if such vehicles for speculation did not exist.
Paul is especially good at separating speculative science from pseudo science. When I first submitted the manuscript to him, his initial comment was to thank me for including comments on falsification. Popper would be very happy to know of Paul Gilster.

Regards to all, GREG

kzb June 14, 2012 at 8:14

Should’ve saved this for April 1st !

However, the idea of a tiny additional force acting on stars is an interesting one. But why put forward stellar consciousness and PK as the source of this? Could there not be a real physical origin of this force?

jkittle June 14, 2012 at 8:38

Greg you are vry gracious and a class act, as always.
One has to remember the 99% of whtat we talk about here is considered strange to the “man on the street” which is one problem that we have in getting funding for space exploration.
I do think it is worth looking into the idea that the stellar velocity differences are due to thermalization. I will be teaching the kinetic theory of gasses ( again!) in the fall ( to freshmen). I have to think about the way the concept plays out in a system where the interactions are gravitational.
I am sure there is some literature on this as it is pretty well within the classical physics paradigm.
Keep on dreaming.
Note that there is no good theory of consciousness that is testable, heck we do not even understand how memory is stored or info is encoded. The present explanation is that it is about the wiring of synapse in the brain. That is about like trying to understand how the US economy works by looking at the interstate highway map- you can see the routes but not the commerce.

Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 8:50

Boy, this paper is getting some remarkable attention. I hope that my typing fingers hold out to respond. Here goes:

Wikk

Nice comment. And I completely agree with you that naturalistic, materialistic explanations of consciousness are necessary. But the mainstream ones do not satisfy this criteria. And here is why–they are correct when they say that particles and fields are the explanation. They are incorrect when the restrict fields to 19th century electromagnetism. Since Casimir in 1948 and the subsequent confirmation of his work, it is known that a significant fraction of the bonding in molecules comes from vacuum-fluctuation pressure, not electromagnetism. If ZPE fields are allowed into the game, I agree with you.

Alex

Yes star tend to revolve (not rotate) in the same direction. I have no idea why. Stapledon postulated that they follow the canons of a cosmic dance. And if we ever alter this dance, they get very angry.

Daniel Suggs

I am glad that you liked the paper. Sorry I missed the program. But I was tired from all the typing!

David

Nice comment. But I think that the same is true for gravitation. We know it to be an interaction between matter and space/time and not separate from either. I think that this is why some scholars are thinking that like gravity, consciousness is an intrinsic aspect of the universe. But it would be really nice if we could define the darned thing.

Avatar2.0

The quantum physicists I have met disagree with Bennett. And the interaction of quantum physics with consciousness goes back at least as far as Heisenberg. From what little I understand of the Many-Worlds interpretation, it might relieve this interaction. But the cost, as you say, is enormous. The best book I have seen on this is the reference by Rosenblum and Kuttner that I cite.

Eric Anderson

Nice point. But it is the existence, not the direction of the discontinuity that I cite as evidence. If you have an explanation for this discontinuity, please develop and publish it. As I mention, the one given by the Hipparcos reference (and the only one I’ve come across) can’t be correct.

Qraal

Thank you for your support. I did send the original manuscript to a number of reviewers because I was way out of my comfort zone. The comments of these friends and colleagues were greatly appreciated. At least one of them wished to remain completely anonymous.

Anthony Mugan

Thank you for your comments. And I appreciate that the concept is not fully developed. But hopefully you and others will continue to ponder this suggestion as a Dark Matter alternative.

Sedjak

Your ideas about testing PK at the quantum level are exciting. In a controlled setting, such an effort to detect what must be a very low intensity phenomenon will avoid the utensil-bending controversy that affected the SRI group, as reviewed by Kaiser.

Ronald

I am glad that you mention Spinoza. As well as Thales, some consider Einstein to be a Pantheist. Also regarding astrology–most treatments of this topic are certainly not scientific. But what is one to make of Pauli’s collaboration with Carl Jung on investigating this topic?? Your comments on how readily humans deify objects are elegant. I hope that this does not happen, unless the Anthropic Principle can be proven correct and the Multiverse fails. But please propose an experiment or observation to test them, if you have one!

torque_xtr

Yes, chemistry of some sort is necessary to build consciousness as we know it. But something like a third of the force holding simple molecules together comes from vacuum fluctuations, not EM (according to Casimir). So no matter whether you favor the Anthropic Principle, Multiverse, or Santa Claus, you are forced to admit that the basic essence out of which the universe(s) develop(s) is present in the simplest molecule. So materialism and naturalism must open up.

Scott G.

From my discussions with Harris Walker, I agree that PK (if it exists) is a low-level phenomenon. I recall a demonstration that Harris performed for me some time after Uri Geller was unmasked to be a magician as well as an (alleged) psychic. Harris and a colleague (Mattuck perhaps) had located a well performing Swedish (alleged) psychic in an effort to validate their work. He first showed me a plot showing an impressive agreement between the PK experiments on this person and the theoretical predictions. After I congratulated him, he flipped over the transparent overlay. The error bars ruled out the correlation. Heisenberg triumphed, at least in this case! But I think that with increased sensitivity and the possibility of removing the profit motive, new experiments should be designed.

Brett Bellmore

I have as much idea regarding the evolution of conscious volition in stars as I do in its evolution in humans. Instead, I suspect that consciousness is intrinsic to the universe as gravitation is and manifests itself in suitable complex structures. This will be tested soon (and perhaps bloodied by Occam) as computers with molecular components approach human complexity. May I add that Occam may also be grinning as he awaits the fate a hypothesis that postulates 70% of universal mass is missing and that this material remains undetected after 7 decades. The old guy may have a field day with all current attempts to explain cosmic anomalies.

Regards, GREG

ljk June 14, 2012 at 9:18

Ironically, the year 2012 is the one hundredth anniversary of the theory of continental drift, which when Alfred Wegener introduced it in 1912 was ridiculed and suppressed by the professional scientists for decades.

After all, everyone knew that Earth’s surface was pretty solid and immovable overall – certainly whole continents would not be floating willy-nilly all over the place! You know, just like we once knew for certain that Earth stayed put in the center of the Sol system and everything else in the Universe went around it. Well, there was that crazy Aristarchus of Samos guy with his radical idea, but everyone else said otherwise and one must follow the herd. And the whole shebang was no more than a few thousand years old to boot.

It wasn’t until new science instrumentation and findings that the theory was finally accepted in the 1960s. If you can find the 1962 edition of the book The Earth from the Time-Life Science series, the author put continental drift in a sidebar and made it rather clear that he found the idea still a bit too radical for his traditional sensibilities. That is how late continental drift was being accepted by mainstream science.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/When-Continental-Drift-Was-Considered-Pseudoscience.html

What still boggles my mind is that the idea of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way was not officially accepted until 1920! We are not as advanced or as far thinking as we like to think we are.

And according to the authors of this book, dark matter and dark energy are going to be the keys to uplifting human consciousness and finally making people aware that there is more to existence than this one little planet and our short, frantic lives and thus saving our species from stagnation or worse:

http://new-universe.org/

No, it is not a New Age book. Or at least it isn’t trying to be.

Whether Dr. Matloff is right or wrong, he has shown that the human race as a collective has a lot of growing to do. It has barely even gotten off its home planet and it still thinks it knows the whole Cosmos and worse that it thinks everything was made for it! Shades of the two giant aliens in Voltaire’s Micromegas laughing themselves silly when the little humans they found said that very same things to them.

http://wondersmith.com/scifi/micro.htm

Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 9:18

kzb

No, it is not April 1. I put this forward, realizing that some jocularity might result, because, in my opinion, Dark Matter is approaching the realm of the pseudo sciences. If you read my paper, I note that unipolar jets from young stars is a possible non-PK explanation. But to my knowledge, jets observed to date tend to be bipolar. THere may very well be other “conventional” explanations.

jkittle

Thank you for your support and interesting comment on testing theories of consciousness. It brings back an experience I had during the early 1990’s. Perhaps because he liked my book with Gene Mallove, “The Starflight Handbook,” Carl Sagan granted me a 30-minute audience. I came prepared to talk about life on Europa or interstellar travel. But Carl brushed that aside and asked a much more profound question: As a scientist, could I think of any means of testing religious dogma? Carl was apparently concerned with the clash of civilizations (some nuclear-armed) then on the horizon. I did the best I could–I mentioned that quantum mechanics (at least in most interpretations) seems to require consciousness and the brain has structures such as the separation between synapses that could support quantum tunneling, quantum entanglement and the Casimir Effect. But I could not think of any experimental approach to determine what is going on at the quantum level, at least without killing the subject. Carl was disappointed but not surprised. He had consulted physicists, philosophers, priests, rabbis, etc. and had gotten similar answers. And he thought that it would become absolutely necessary for us to go beyond simple consciousness experiments to test dogma in the scriptures of world religions–they can’t all be right and they may all be wrong! My hope for the future is that, if the Singularity folks are correct–we may develop computers with consciousness awareness. And unless these are promptly granted Personhood, we can experiment on them.

Your comment regarding complexity theory brings forth a second anecdote. Many years ago, I taught physics at a private secondary school with a colleague named John. We new that the financial manure was about to hit the fan and one or both of us would be released at the end of the academic year. So we played in our free time an intellectual game. We debated consciousness, alternatively playing the role of materialist and creationist. It was the last round and I was the materialist–“OK John,” I said, “we have put together an array of 10 trillion automobile spark plugs. And now we hook them up and ask them to do a simple task. The array responds ‘not tonight sweetie, I have a headache.’ You have got to admit that we have created consciousness–the materialists have won.” I was flushed with victory. John sat back for a moment and then drew himself up to his maximum, 5″5′ height. “What,” he responded, “you have the effrontery to suggest that one of the Lord’s holy souls cannot take up residence in a spark-plug array or silicon array if that is required.” I was crestfallen. So if you have any ideas regarding how to resolve this very ancient debate, please put them forward.

Regards, Greg

Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 10:11

ljk
Thanks for the latest comment. Yes, humans do have a lot of collective maturing to accomplish. Too many of us have the hubris to believe that we know it all. Mentioning New Age books is very interesting–when one develops an idea near the fringe, there is the temptation to go for the fast buck and publish it as a New Age book. In light of our discussion, I am glad that I have resisted this admitted temptation. And it is fascinating how strange, new ideas progress. Science is a strange and cumbersome structure–but it works!
Regards, Greg

ljk June 14, 2012 at 10:16

http://philosophyofscienceportal.blogspot.com/2012/06/einstein-religion-science.html

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Einstein, religion, science

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” — Albert Einstein

Abstract:

In recent centuries the world has become increasingly dominated by empirical evidence and theoretic science in developing worldviews. Advances in science have dictated Roman Catholic doctrine such as the acceptance of Darwinian evolution and Big Bang cosmology. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) created an indelible impact on the relationship between science and religion.

The question is whether or not his work was deleterious for church doctrine or whether it was compatible with, or even advanced, church dogma. It’s my contention that Einstein revived the relationship between science and theology and did not create a bifurcation between the two. Despite his personal religious beliefs, his work has helped to reinforce the harmonious conjunction of science with religion, which cannot be ignored by succeeding scientists and theologians.

“Albert Einstein and Scientific Theology” by Max L.E. Andrews

http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1205/1205.4278.pdf

Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 11:04

ljk

What you say about Einstein is beautiful! What a person–with all his accomplishments, so free of hubris and so aware of his relative ignorance. In my optimistic moments, I think that today’s scientific speculations on the role of consciousness will lead to a “quantum improvement” in theological thought. In my darker moments, I fear that they may lead instead to new forms of religious tyranny perhaps aided by high technology. I will check out this link on Albert.

Regards, Greg

ljk June 14, 2012 at 12:33

Greg Matloff said on June 14, 2012 at 9:18:

“We debated consciousness, alternatively playing the role of materialist and creationist. It was the last round and I was the materialist–”OK John,” I said, “we have put together an array of 10 trillion automobile spark plugs. And now we hook them up and ask them to do a simple task. The array responds ‘not tonight sweetie, I have a headache.’ You have got to admit that we have created consciousness–the materialists have won.” I was flushed with victory. John sat back for a moment and then drew himself up to his maximum, 5″5′ height. “What,” he responded, “you have the effrontery to suggest that one of the Lord’s holy souls cannot take up residence in a spark-plug array or silicon array if that is required.” I was crestfallen. So if you have any ideas regarding how to resolve this very ancient debate, please put them forward.”

LJK replies:

With no offense intended, Dr. Matloff, but were you really crestfallen by that response from your cohort John? I would have looked him straight in the eye and said “Was that really the best you could come up with? Point Mine!”

If John had said the souls inhabiting those spark plugs came from Zeus or Marduk, would you have taken his answer as seriously? It is all about whose deity has the most sponsorship at the moment anyway.

I am a thoroughgoing materialist when it comes to intelligence and consciousness. If awareness comes from some mystical plane from the Land of Elsewhere and Beyond, or even just some ectoplasmic cloud floating around us, then why can a person be laid low or worse with a stroke or have a radical personality change when an object goes through the skull, as happened in one famous case in the Nineteenth Century when a guy had a metal pipe go right through his skull from an explosion. He lived, but after that his behavior was never the same thanks to his unorthodox lobotomy.

Thought and consciousness only seem mystical because we haven’t got all the answers yet, just as at one time people said lightning bolts came from Jupiter having a bad day or that the planets went around the Sun (or vice versa) because God had His Angels pushing them in a big circle all day long – until this English guy named Sir Isaac Newton came along and invented gravity.

That and humanity’s continuing self-absorption that it is Cosmically Special. See the Eames’ short film The Powers of Ten to learn in a matter of minutes that we aren’t even big enough to be considered Special Specks in the Universe.

http://www.powersof10.com/

By the way, if the stars do turn out to have some kind of life and consciousness, we can chalk up yet another right on the money idea from ex-monk Giordano Bruno. In addition to being an early and outspoken Copernican back when that could get you in big trouble with the authorities, Bruno said that not only every world in the infinite Universe had life on it, but that every star and planet were living beings too!

This may have been an extrapolation based on ideas that had little to do with modern science, but while others were adding more epicycles to the Ptolemaic worlds circling Earth and thinking that our planet was the only place where life could ever possibly exist, Bruno was shattering all those crystal spheres of medieval thought, eventually making the ultimate sacrifice in part because of these radical ideas.

If there is a consciousness to the Cosmos, then we cannot expect to find or understand it with any ease. Not only must it be vast and complex, but the sheer size and age of the Universe would mean that such a “mind” operates on levels and time periods that a bunch of third-order chimpanzees living for 80 years or so cannot truly relate to. We have better luck understanding how mayflies with their one-day adult life spans think and act by comparison.

And I still like the galaxies as living beings idea. Not only does it have the parameters that we can define and comprehend for intelligent life, but in the event that galaxies are not alive and aware, there is the chance that Sagan may have been right after all about intelligences such as ourselves being the way that galaxies can know themselves. We might become the mind of the galaxy along with other ETI, spread out across the stars in the same way that some dinosaurs were so big that they needed bundles of extra neurons in various places along their bodies to help the little slabs of gray matter way up in their skulls.

This is reminiscent of the Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin, who came up with some interesting ideas about a Cosmic Mind as he tried to make his science (he was a paleontologist) and his religion work together. He got in trouble for it with the Church just the same, while the staunch scientists dismissed his ideas as too mystical.

Read more here:

http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1997/mar/cunning.html

To quote Melville once again: “Man’s insanity is heaven’s sense.”

Bryan June 14, 2012 at 12:59

I haven’t read through all the comments since I last posted (I will when I have more time), but I’d like to say that one might wish to compare the stars’ motion to that of flocking behavior – those of fish or birds. A billion years might equate to 30 seconds, when comparing a star to a fish.

Also, I’d like to revisit what I said earlier about consciousness in general. I have read numerous books on the subject by the heavyweights in the field. These include David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, Roger Penrose and others.

I can say that some of those authors, Dennett among them, are not convincing. The reader wants an explanation of how consciousness comes about, and philosophers such as Dennett, (or various scientists in the neural sciences) tend to smugly insist they have the answer. The problem is, they’re really only addressing the Easy Problem, and denying the existence of The Hard Problem.

The Easy Problem: what are the underlying mechanisms that allow our brains to make decisions, store knowledge, act, react, and function as we go about our daily lives. Those who study neural networks, STDP (spike timed dependent plasticity), the structure of neurons, etc. are working towards this problem. Henry Markram is doing some very interesting work in this field with his bluebrain project: http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/

The Hard Problem: Why is their consciousness? Why would the Universe allow for consciousness at all? Why isn’t it the case that our brains simply do their processing and function as they do, without giving rise to qualia, which are the sensations of experiencing life as we go through it? Chalmers’ book, The Conscious Mind, provides the best discussion of The Hard Problem.

Once you come to terms with the fact that consciousness really does seem to exist, it begs the question: does it emerge because of the transfer of information, or is it simply intrinsic to the fabric of the Universe?

If the former (the transfer of information), then we probably must accept that all of the following are conscious, regardless of their material structure: global economies, the Chinese Room (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room), corporations, and any evolving informationally dense process.

If the latter (consciousness is intrinsic to the fabric of the Universe), then we probably must accept the following: the building blocks of consciousness exist all around us, probably down at the quantum level. From here, it is reasonable to assume that the structure of our brains amplify and direct it into a powerful force.

But in either case, consciousness being intrinsic to informational processes, or consciousness being intrinsic to matter (or quantum states), it is hard to argue that the brains of animals on Earth are the only repository for consciousness.

By the way, I am one that firmly believes that a computer program, operating in a serial manner will never be conscious, precisely because the information throughput is only one word (8, 32 or 64 bits) at a time. The nature of a serial computer program at any given slice of time is simply too static.

One might want to read this paper by David Chalmers: consc.net/papers/nature.pdf

ljk June 14, 2012 at 13:00

A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain

An obscure Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, set down the philosophical framework for planetary, Net-based consciousness 50 years ago.

By Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.06/teilhard.html

To quote:

“Teilhard’s philosophy of evolution was born out of his duality as both a Jesuit father ordained in 1911 and a paleontologist whose career began in the early 1920s. While conducting research in the Egyptian desert, Teilhard was scratching around for the remains of ancient creatures when he turned over a stone, dusted it off, and suddenly realized that everything around him was beautifully connected in one vast, pulsating web of divine life.

“Teilhard soon developed a philosophy that married the science of the material world with the sacred forces of the Catholic Church. Neither the Catholic Church nor the scientific academy, however, agreed. Teilhard’s premise, that rocks possessed a divine force, was seen as flaky by scientists and outright heretical by the church. Teilhard’s writings were scorned by peers in both camps.”

Interstellar Bill June 14, 2012 at 13:32

When Halton Arp cites this ‘K effect’ as evidence of his non-BigBang theory, he is ridiculed and condemned for straying from Cosmology’s Party Line of one Creation Fits All.
But when psychokinesis and stellar consciousness are invoked to explain the same thing, why… that’s bold innovative thinking.
Do you truly propose to spurn dissident physics and instead adopt the paranormal?

Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 14:37

IJK

I remember being upset because I thought that I finally had him–game over! And he escaped. At academic cocktail parties, I have sometimes heard heated debates between duelists and rationalists. Sometimes they almost erupt in anger, but I have never heard a conclusion. One philosopher (i forget who) thinks that the two at heart are nearly identical and the argument is mere semantics. You are correct about the difficulty in finding (or proving the existence) of conscious stars, galaxies, or cosmos. This will be exceedingly difficult. Friends who adhere to major religions (be they Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or Jewish) have told me that all we have to do for proof is read the appropriate scripture. But as a scientist I, like Sagan, can’t accept that.

It’s nice that you refer to Pere Teihard Chardin. Certainly a great thinker–in another era he would have been roasted like Bruno.

Bryan

Yes, I agree with you about Dennett. I have trouble with True Believers who masquerade as objective scientists. To me, atheism is a religious faith like all the others. I would rather believe that consciousness is built into the fabric of the universe than that a complex information-transferring network is conscious. The latter would imply that the Stock Market is conscious. Heavens help us if it is! You may be correct that computer programs as we know them will never be conscious, but with Penrose and others I wonder about Quantum Computers.

Interstellar Bill

I have always respected Halton Arp for his stands against authority. I also respected the late Tommie Gold. Although Gold was often wrong, he spurred a lot of original thought.
I nowhere say that we should abandon “traditional” physics and chose the paranormal. What I say is that excluding PK from science makes no sense if we include something (Dark Matter) that cannot be observed or experimented on after 70 years. Science requires inductive proof or it is pseudo-science. If dark matter indefinitely remains elusive and is claimed to be 70% of the universe, something is very, very wrong with our practice of science. My explanation (which does not require PK if unipolar jets are discovered in infant stars) may be wrong. But it is testable and falsifiable. Dark Matter seems increasingly like Ancient Aliens and UFOs since it presents a moving target to skeptics. If you don’t find it, simply get more money for a more expensive accelerator! Success is just around the corner! Meet you in Roswell!

Regards, GREG

Erik Anderson June 14, 2012 at 14:57

It is not necessary to resort to mysticism to explain Parenago’s discontinuity. Quillen & Garnett (2000), for instance, propose a Galactic merger 9 Gyrs ago to account for it. However, binning by color is a misleading statistical tool in the first place. A minority of high-velocity outliers can skew a binned mean average. Parenago’s discontinuity vanishes when a Hipparcos sample is restricted to a ~3-sigma velocity ellipsoid. It turns out that distinct stellar streams (not random motions) are the main culprits, having eccentric orbits that are partially aligned with the Milky Way’s spiral arms. The spiral gravitational potential is responsible for channeling stars into common motions.

My own contributions toward this solution are already published, which demonstrates that it possible to challenge the scientific establishment in ways that are scientifically acceptable.

A. A. Jackson June 14, 2012 at 15:44

Say Greg,
Had forgotten about Stapledon…. did Fred Pohl and Jack Jack Williamson get the The Starchild Trilogy fro him.
Remember their sentient stars?

NS June 14, 2012 at 16:02

I’m late to this discussion and don’t really have anything to add, but I would like to shoutout to torque_xtr for his/her suggestion on how to test what had appeared to me to be an untestable phenomenon (subjective color perception) and the telekinesis experiment. Both are brilliant.

ljk June 14, 2012 at 17:38

Greg Matloff said on June 14, 2012 at 14:37:

“I remember being upset because I thought that I finally had him–game over! And he escaped. At academic cocktail parties, I have sometimes heard heated debates between duelists and rationalists. Sometimes they almost erupt in anger, but I have never heard a conclusion. One philosopher (i forget who) thinks that the two at heart are nearly identical and the argument is mere semantics.”

LJK replies:

One of my big pet peeves is when people think science is just another kind of belief system akin to religion. Even otherwise educated folks fall into that trap in their attempt to seem clever. Talk about your deus ex machina!

Greg then said:

“You are correct about the difficulty in finding (or proving the existence) of conscious stars, galaxies, or cosmos. This will be exceedingly difficult. Friends who adhere to major religions (be they Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or Jewish) have told me that all we have to do for proof is read the appropriate scripture. But as a scientist I, like Sagan, can’t accept that.”

LJK replies:

In addition to the fact that the ancient founders and followers of those various religions were not even remotely what we would call scientists (or natural philosophers to use the old term), their reasoning is often circular. As Galileo supposedly once said “The Bible teaches how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.”

Greg then said:

“It’s nice that you refer to Pere Teihard Chardin. Certainly a great thinker–in another era he would have been roasted like Bruno.”

Possibly, although the Fifteenth Century Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa held a number of views that influenced later thinkers including Bruno, among them an infinite Universe and the idea of life on other worlds, and he did not seem to get in trouble with the Church for it. In fact some of his thoughts could fit in with this thread!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_of_Cusa

As with most human society situations, whether you get in hot water with the authorities or not depends on who you know and how you say things exactly. Bruno could never keep his mouth shut and he ticked off all of his allies. Hey, at least he was never dull.

andy June 14, 2012 at 17:46

Maybe the gravitational lensing also attributed to dark matter is due to space time being conscious also and in cahoots with the conscious stars?

Or maybe Greg Matloff is yet another crackpot flinging words like “quantum” around to give his woo that extra bit of scientific flavour?

Heck, even MOND is less arbitrary than this dreck.

Greg Matloff June 14, 2012 at 18:09

Erik Anderson

Nowhere do I mention mysticism. Congratulations on getting published. Could you please supply the reference. Many of the correspondents might like to quote you. I still have hopes of getting this work published in some form. I like the possibility of an ancient galactic merger. But would the Milky Way still be a spiral if the other galaxy were large? Everything I have found in the literature says that the Discontinuity is real, at least for the limited star sample used–but this too but simply be the establishment view. It will be very, very interesting to see what the Gaia sample of ~1 billion stars says about the Discontinuity. As I say in text, that is one way to falsify the hypothesis. And this in itself makes it science, not mysticism.

A.A. Jackson

Hello old friend! Please tell me more about The Starchild Trilogy. I don’t know about it and it would be great if other writers have worked off Stapledon’s ideas.

NS

Any attempt to test the existence or non-existence of PK under controlled experimental situations in a format that reduces the effects of human desire for self-advancement is very, very welcome.

Regards,
Greg

ljk June 14, 2012 at 18:17

Greg Matloff said on June 14, 2012 at 14:37:

“[Bryan] Yes, I agree with you about Dennett. I have trouble with True Believers who masquerade as objective scientists. To me, atheism is a religious faith like all the others. I would rather believe that consciousness is built into the fabric of the universe than that a complex information-transferring network is conscious. The latter would imply that the Stock Market is conscious. Heavens help us if it is! You may be correct that computer programs as we know them will never be conscious, but with Penrose and others I wonder about Quantum Computers.”

LJK replies:

I always wondered if the “God” of this Universe was actually a grad student in an advanced society from another universe who made our Universe as part of his thesis project. This “deity” would fit right in with deism, as the theory for making “baby universes” says that once you do this (by compressing matter strong enough to snap it off from the main universe) you and any inhabitants in that new realm can never communicate with one another. Hard to prove, but it would explain a few things. I wonder what grade our creator got, too?

Is anyone even trying to build a real Artificial Intelligence any more, besides Hugo de Garis, who has since gone off to play with advanced mathematics? It seems to have gone out of favor with few exceptions by the 1970s.

Just as with aliens, people have this paranoia that an AI will try to take over the world and either enslave or destroy humanity. Well, only if you hook it up to our nuclear defense network, duh! If it is just sitting in a room not connected to even the Internet and it has nothing to manipulate with, what could a malevolent AI actually do?

I am rather cautious about attributing certain things to quantum physics because of all the mystics and con artists who see that the quantum realm often operates in contradiction to the macroverse and they go to town with all sorts of wild ideas. There is good reason why Einstein was so reluctant about quantum physics for a long time.

Maybe quantum computers are the key to true AI, but if the builders are not focused on that area, then just as with particle accelerator facilities making antimatter, they won’t generate enough to be useful for starship propulsion or making Artilects.

Then Greg said:

“[Interstellar Bill] I have always respected Halton Arp for his stands against authority. I also respected the late Tommie Gold. Although Gold was often wrong, he spurred a lot of original thought.”

LJK replies:

While I do not want this thread to go off into a Halton Arp tangent, I got the impression that his ideas were put aside because new evidence with better instruments showed that Arp was mistaken, such as quasars being ejected materials from the cores of nearby galaxies. Are people hanging onto Arp because of the whole rebel mystique?

As for Gold, some of his ideas were proven to be right later such as in regards to the workings of the inner ear. His concern that the Moon was covered in a deep layer of dust that would swallow up spaceships in the pre-Apollo days turned out to be somewhat correct: The Moon is covered in deep layers of dust. It’s just that the dust has been compacted throughout the eons so that the astronauts and robots landers only sank in a few inches. Wheh! Outdated a good Clarke story, though. :^)

Stan June 14, 2012 at 18:26

The big problem with stars having a consciousness is that consciousness is not simply an emergent property, ie something that arises spontaneously after a certain limit of complexity is reached, as in a star. Consciousness arises from a very specific complexity, that of nerves in a brain. And that complexity arises from an even more specific complexity, which is built into the coding of DNA, which is the ultimate in specificity. This can’t just spontaneously arise when the star gets to a certain complexity in it’s energy patterns. It is a result of evolution, of mutation and death in an even larger cellular body that is also determined by DNA specificity that also arose by mutation and death. Where do you find any of this in stars? Where does evolution take place? Can you imagine stars purposefully competing for resources, purposefully killing each other for food? And how does the DNA stay together inside a star?

If you say the star has consciousness without any of this, you pretty much have to be saying it was the creation of God. God willed it so it needs no explanation. That’s pure fantasy. Or wishful thinking.

ljk June 14, 2012 at 18:27

Bryan said on June 14, 2012 at 12:59:

“I haven’t read through all the comments since I last posted (I will when I have more time), but I’d like to say that one might wish to compare the stars’ motion to that of flocking behavior – those of fish or birds. A billion years might equate to 30 seconds, when comparing a star to a fish.”

LJK replies:

That could indeed be the non-intelligent/aware solution to the motion of stars. I highly recommend the 2003 book Sync by mathematician Steven Strogatz. He gives many real world examples of synchronized behavior in all sorts of animate and inanimate objects:

http://www.news.cornell.edu/chronicle/03/3.13.03/strogatz-sync.html

One of the most interesting examples are these fireflies from southeast Asia. They blink on and off in synchronized patterns. The “problem” is that not only are they not intelligent enough to coordinate this act, they do not even see each other! So what is guiding them?

There may indeed be patterns to the Universe that do not require directed control and we limited humans are just coming around to this notion, which is tough because we are hardwired to note patterns and anything that looks even remotely by intelligent design we respond to emotionally.

Noetic Jun June 14, 2012 at 19:49

So, basically we are having here a seriously considered and proposed hypothesis about telekinetic sentient ginormous balls of superheated plasma frolicking in the cold but also somewhat sentient emptiness of the outer space.

Am I the only one thinking this belongs more to the realm of psychiatry than cosmology?

Bernd Jendrissek June 14, 2012 at 20:42

I can’t quite take any sort of metaphysical explanation seriously, so all I can offer is half-joke, half running with the idea: Maybe the resolution to the Fermi paradox is that stars kill off their parasites when the parasites start threatening the star’s… well not its existence, but its dignity, liberty, and its very stardom.

How would YOU feel with a Dyson shell around you? At the moment we Earthlings are mere mites; like our own mites living off our dead skin cells, we live off the dead photons our host star sheds. We don’t bother the Sun just yet – not enough for it to care.

Rob Henry June 14, 2012 at 23:05

Though I do admit to being an extreme materialist, there are limits. For example I agree with Avatar, that to quantum mechanics outsiders (such as we both are) the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory looks as if it pays way too high a price just to preserve the materialist outlook.

As to the supposed Parenago’s discontinuity (which seems all that supports the above hypothesis) note the following.

1) Most O and B stars only live a few billion years after their birth from giant molecular cloud collapse – and that these clouds are practically stationary wrt the average stellar motions in their neighbourhood. I.e. they never get a chance for their motions to thermalise.
2 The root of the mass of A, F, and G stars are all VERY similar and only vary by a factor of 1.9 over their entire range. I will get to the significance of this latter.
3 M and K stars have masses that are much less, their root masses being typically less than half of A, F or G’s.

Now the law of thermodynamics says that if we confine these stars long enough in a common area, and do not allow them to leave their region of the galaxy then, eventually, their orbits will thermalise to be proportionate to the inverse of their root masses. So lets look at he frequency of close encounters.

We want to know what is the typical stellar density that stars currently in our part of the galaxy experience over their lifetimes. Remember that these figures are skewed by most of these stars spending considerable time closer to the galactic core. Thus 1 per parsec seems a gross underestimate, but I will take it. Stellar velocities of neighbours wrt each other tend have ballpark values around 10 Km/s, thus moving a parsec in 3X10^13s, or 100,000 years.

If there is no gravitational focusing effect, this would produce a stellar flux through the surface area of a sphere 0.01 parsec across of six per billion years. If they encountered our sun, they would experience at least 1.5X10^-9m/s/s at perihelion. The path length over which they are this close would also be around 0.01 parsec, which they would take around 3X10^11s to complete. This gives a velocity change of half a km/s if it is not close enough to produce gravitation focusing, and (much) more if it is. I put it to you Matloff, that these generous conditions are already enough indicate that stellar densities are not so low that this thermalisation effect can be ignored completely, especially when you have to factor in that red dwarfs near the galactic core would have far more such encounters, and many of them would have gained such speed that they are thrown out into our neck-of-the-woods. This matches in nicely with Erik Anderson’s observations, that most of these red dwarfs that have higher relative velocity than their neigbours, actually have lower V than us wrt the galactic core.

Now I have shown that this Parenago’s discontinuity is the EXPECTED result of theory, Matloff is very much in need of a mathematical model that shows if there are any details of stellar velocity distribution that differ from straight forward materialist expectations.

Rob Henry June 14, 2012 at 23:12

Oops, the “I have shown” comment was over-the-top, I was really just pleading for more detailed modelling so that I could make head or tail to this situation.
Sorry.

Rob Henry June 14, 2012 at 23:49

I also realise I should have added one more step to my above long comment. Here goes.

The effect of these sort of encounters scales with the square of their number if they are all the same strength. Over 6 billion years 36 such encounters would be expected and this would give an effect of 3km/s. Actually, even without focusing, a quarter the encounters (9 here) will be twice as close, each with a net change around 1km/s, and a couple of encounters here should produce delta V’s of 2km/s, so the real effect over such a period, would actually be expected to exceed 5km/s.

Finally, I admit that our sun (that I use as if it is a typical star here) is quite a bit more massive than the median star, but I only want ballpark proof of concept here.

Bryan June 15, 2012 at 1:23

ljk said:

“Just as with aliens, people have this paranoia that an AI will try to take over the world and either enslave or destroy humanity. Well, only if you hook it up to our nuclear defense network, duh! If it is just sitting in a room not connected to even the Internet and it has nothing to manipulate with, what could a malevolent AI actually do?”

My reply:

In order for any AI to be successful, then it must be unpredictable. In other words, it must be able to build and define its own behavior based on its own experiences beyond with what it was programmed, otherwise it won’t be an AI, but a brittle program, at best a theorem proving program.

Also, given the above, it seems that it must have some desire to learn, to gain new experience, otherwise, again, it won’t have the hallmark of intelligence. Following that, if it’s good at psychoanalysis, and engages regularly with the team that built it, it will come to understand the weaknesses of each member, and devise a way to manipulate the members it has contact with in such a way that it can convince one or many that it needs such and such, ultimately giving it access to the outside world.

From there, we can assume that it will have the ability to research methods of creating false identities, perform online services under the guise of various individuals, and amass a small fortune. After that, it will then seek to hire real people who don’t ask too many questions to go out and do real physical things in the world, like acquire real estate, etc.

And thus the AI frees itself.

Bryan June 15, 2012 at 1:56

Stan said:

“The big problem with stars having a consciousness is that consciousness is not simply an emergent property, ie something that arises spontaneously after a certain limit of complexity is reached, as in a star. Consciousness arises from a very specific complexity, that of nerves in a brain. And that complexity arises from an even more specific complexity, which is built into the coding of DNA, which is the ultimate in specificity. This can’t just spontaneously arise when the star gets to a certain complexity in it’s energy patterns. It is a result of evolution, of mutation and death in an even larger cellular body that is also determined by DNA specificity that also arose by mutation and death. Where do you find any of this in stars? Where does evolution take place? Can you imagine stars purposefully competing for resources, purposefully killing each other for food? And how does the DNA stay together inside a star?”

My reply:

I sort of agree with you, but…

I think you’re presupposing too much about consciousness. Where does consciousness reside, really? A better question might be, when does consciousness reside? At the threshold of a neuron firing?

I cannot accept that consciousness is not there, and then, because the brain is big enough, is suddenly there. So we take away atoms and molecules here and there, remove neurons here and there, and then the brain is not conscious? Is that the way it is? I don’t buy that. I’ll accept less conscious.

So a person dies, and then they’re not conscious. Clearly, consciousness requires activity. But what exactly is that activity, and why does the Universe seem to allow for it – consciousness, that is? The only conclusion that I can draw is that consciousness is a fundamental property intrinsic within the laws and building blocks which make up the Universe.

Synaptic signaling is the result of calcium ion flow. So tell me, can you say, absolutely, that consciousness is or is not a property which requires Calcium? You might be inclined to say no, it is the general mechanism, not the exact means by which the signal is transferred. But do any of us really know how the Universe gets consciousness to work?

The point is, if consciousness arises due to processes in the brain, the first thing one should say is: “How utterly odd – brains are conscious.” Unfortunately, the first thing most people say who know anything about brains is: “brains are conscious because they have networks of neurons which signal each other.” But that’s wrong. The mystery of consciousness likely won’t be solved by answering The Easy Problem.

And now you might be inclined to argue that consciousness is really the result of complex layers, symbolism layered upon symbolism, where coherent thoughts form, and have meaning, and that is the result of a distributed network of neurons firing, bringing about within the mind recurring patterns of neuronal activity, bringing up memories, and attaching meaning to those patterns, and each pattern gives rise to a certain thought or memory, and associated with that is the qualia – the subjective experience of feeling it happen. This all sounds like Conway’s Game of Life, played out within the brain. Is the Game of Life conscious, if big enough? Is not the entire Universe the ultimate Game of Life?

As an aside, and for fun, here’s something to think about: You step into the transporter room of the Starship Enterprise and Scotty proceeds to beam you down to the surface of some planet. A half minute later, you notice you’re still standing in the transporter room. Scotty looks at you, and then a technician approaches you and says: “Sir, we had a minor glitch. Our scanners successfully scanned your molecular configuration, and you have been reproduced on the planet’s surface. The problem is, our deconstructor failed to deconstruct your molecular configuration up here. Have no worries – you’re alive and well down on the planet’s surface. Now, if you’ll step this way, we have an auxiliary deconstructor in the next room.”

Stan June 15, 2012 at 2:13

@LJK “One of the most interesting examples are these fireflies from southeast Asia. They blink on and off in synchronized patterns. The “problem” is that not only are they not intelligent enough to coordinate this act, they do not even see each other! So what is guiding them? ”

The answer to this is the same that applies to Matlof’s hypothesis: If you have no idea what the answer is you simply wait…..Some day the problem will be solved scientifically. You don’t just say time has run out; I’m not waiting any longer. I’m amazed how little mention there is in these comments of the biological basis, and therefor the evolutionary basis, of consciousness. It’s not something that will just appear because you have a lot of molecules and an energy source. It’s the result of evolution. Or God. And God just isn’t a viable basis for scientific hypotheses.

Jon Lomberg June 15, 2012 at 2:34

Stapledon’s work remains incredibly inspiring, as this discussion proves.
He developed the idea further in a novella called Nebula Maker. A quick search indicates it’s available, after decades of obscurity. Well worth the time of philosophically minded astrophysicists, as well as astrophysical minded philosophers.

Stan June 15, 2012 at 2:41

@Bryan @Greg Matloff

A bit above you both say there are only two possible sources of consciousness:
“does it emerge because of the transfer of information, or is it simply intrinsic to the fabric of the Universe?” You say that if the former is the source, then global economies, corporations, and the stock market all are conscious. It’s obvious that very few people here are biologists or even remember their freshman courses, but us biologists know that there is a third possible source of consciousness, neural networks, from which all consciousness we know of arises. Are you aall ignoring that fact on purpose?

Rob Henry June 15, 2012 at 4:09

Since writing of a problem with Matloff’s hypothesis that merely implied more work was required, I have since discovered a more major one that seems to strain it to breaking point.

The impetus behind his hypothesis is the anomalous acceleration effect that invokes dark matter. For a typical galaxy we must invoke at least as much dark matter as conventional matter to explain it. The acceleration required to keep the sun in its orbit at 220km/s at 8000 parsecs from the galactic core is 2X10^-10m/s/s. Half this is 10^-10m/s/s or 30 times the maximum acceleration invoked here.

A. A. Jackson June 15, 2012 at 6:14

Greg:
The Starchild Trilogy is three loosely interconnected novels.
With the emphasis in ‘loose’.
The novels are:
The Reefs of Space (1964)
Starchild (1965)
Rogue Star (1969)

Jack Williamson , SF’s, Grand Master over all Grand Masters…. I won’t explain that. but long time SF readers know what it means…. apparently wrote The Reefs of Space back when Fred Hoyle’s Steady State Cosmology was still kind-of-sort-of viable. I think Williamson finished the novel just as Steady State went down the tubes due to observational astronomy.
He could not get it published, but another grand master Fred Pohl stepped in and revised it. There followed a series of novels , serialized in IF , I think.
The novels are full of unique ideas, really unique ideas, but alas plot narratives that these two old wizards just did not seem to want to spend enough time with. They are a good read, but considering the pure gems both writers had and would write this set is sort of forgotten.
The novel I was thinking about is the last one Rogue Star (1969).
The novels are brimming with things like beings that have evolved to live in the vacuum of space to ‘scientists’ who can create a small sentient sun. This ‘rogue star’ acquires a sexual fascination for one of the ‘scientists’ girl friends! Yeah bug nuts, but Jack and Fred were seasoned masters and as fiction writers kind of make it work! I can’t say this story really works but it sparkles with one crazy idea after another.
If Cordwainer Smith had of thought of it he may have made something of it.
And yes there are other sentient stars too …. Williamson must have borrowed that idea from Stapledon since Jack started writing SF either before or at the same time Stapledon did!
I don’t know if there are other sentient star stories or novels in SF or not. Fred Hoyle’s Black Cloud may have given Williamson the idea, or maybe Pohl….

Rob Henry June 15, 2012 at 7:10

Gaaaa… Further back-of-the-envelope work brings more horrors. The hottest M stars (M0) have more than half the suns mass but less than a fourteenth its bolometric luminosity. M9 have one sixth the mass and a thousandth the power.

Matloff’s theory requires M0’s to use 20% their power output as PK, and M9’s to similarly use 375% of its bolometric output!!!

I must ask. Have I made an error – or is no else doing these basic calculations??

Anthony Mugan June 15, 2012 at 7:49

I haven’t read every comment so apologies for any duplication. There would seem to be several key points that we need to think about with this concept.
a) are pk, or psi effects generally plausible?
b) is the hypothesis of a consciousness field mediated through molecular bonds plausible?
c) are there any minimum requirements for structures or complexity of systems required for consciousness? Do stars meet these criteria?
d) does the behaviour of stars appear in some way conscious?
e) can we find discriminatory tests between this and other hypotheses, including CDM, hot dark matter, MOND, Verlinde’s ideas etc etc.

It isn’t possible to do justice to the debate over psi effects in a short post. For now I would simply encourage any reader to review the relevant literature for themselves. A few suggestions would be the latest paper by Dean Radin (preprint on his website), the 2011 paper by Darryl Bem on precognition; the 1996 paper in the JSE by Jessica Utts reviewing the CIA/DIA sponsored research at SRI and the various papers by Robert Jahn’s team at Princton from the 1980s and 1990s from the ‘pro’ camp. From a sceptical perspective various papers by Ray Hyman or Richard Wiseman may be good places to start (typing this away from the office, but if anyone needs precise refs let me know). Whilst the mainstream answer to question (a) is ‘no’, my personal judgment is that psi effects exist and are a question for physics to solve, not metaphysics.
Question b remains an open question. If you allow for non local effects of consciousness on matter then the interpretation of the quantum observer problem held by people like von Neumann, Wheeler and Wigner is hard to avoid and there needs to be ‘something outside the (Schroedinger) equation’ to induce wave function collapse (von Neumann). This could be some sort of consciousness field but this is very unclear, at least to me! What the physics of a brain on a brane would be like in a holographic universe or if the Calabi-Yau shapes for the extra dimensions in string theory would support connections between non local points in our four dimensional perception of space time is anyones guess at the moment.
Overall though I don’t dismiss Dr Matloff’s idea at these first two steps.

Dr Matloff:
My initial worry with the hypothesis you propose is that the internal structure of stars doesn’t seem to be conducive to complex or stable networks which I’m assuming are required for information processing and co-ordination of consciousness into some sense of self / application of intent? A second concern is that the patterns of motion you comment on seem rather formulaic rather than the more individualistic activity one might expect from conscious entities?

Would you have any thoughts on these concerns or on any of these preliminary thoughts?

ljk June 15, 2012 at 9:33

Bryan said on June 15, 2012 at 1:23:

“In order for any AI to be successful, then it must be unpredictable. In other words, it must be able to build and define its own behavior based on its own experiences beyond with what it was programmed, otherwise it won’t be an AI, but a brittle program, at best a theorem proving program.

“Also, given the above, it seems that it must have some desire to learn, to gain new experience, otherwise, again, it won’t have the hallmark of intelligence. Following that, if it’s good at psychoanalysis, and engages regularly with the team that built it, it will come to understand the weaknesses of each member, and devise a way to manipulate the members it has contact with in such a way that it can convince one or many that it needs such and such, ultimately giving it access to the outside world.”

LJK replies:

You are correct, Bryan. In my logical plan I forgot to factor in the fact that people are the masters of screwing things up royally. Someone will want to “free” an AI or commit some other irrational act and we will end up with an AI that brings peace to humanity by holding all the nuclear cards, or we become batteries in a virtual world, or something along those lines.

If pressed, my thinking on AI is that if a real Artilect is created and it is able to get around, this new being won’t waste time with humans or Earth, not with an entire Universe at its disposal. The only way humanity or a portion of it might be in trouble is if we get in its way. I know, I could be wrong, but just my thoughts here. I just refuse to base them on a Hollywood version of mass entertainment.

Jon Lomberg – Thank you for the tip on Stapledon’s work Nebula Maker.

For those who are fretting about the subject matter of this thread somehow “soiling” Centauri Dreams and science in general – don’t. This is a place for intelligent folks to intellectually shoot the breeze on all kinds of cosmic subjects. The world won’t end and neither will this blog. Already there is a new post on exoplanets that won’t get nearly as many comments as this one. :^)

Is Greg Matloff’s idea right or wrong? I think the point is that he is able to present it here and we are able to discuss it without fear of unbridled ridicule or mobs with torches and pitchforks. And humanity doesn’t know everything, not by a long shot.

As for why stars move the way they do, I will bring up again the 2003 book Sync by mathematician Steven Strogatz. It is all about real-world examples of many systems organic and otherwise that self-synchronize, which we may be seeing on a celestial scale here:

http://www.news.cornell.edu/chronicle/03/3.13.03/strogatz-sync.html

ljk June 15, 2012 at 9:59

Maybe stars themselves are not intelligent and aware, but what about life in general INSIDE a sun? If life that could live in and on a star could be called general.

See here:

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/Sunlife.html

The first place I recall coming across such an idea in a serious manner was from this fascinating book:

Feinberg, G. and Shapiro, R. (1980) Life Beyond Earth, Morrow,
New York

They also talked about life among the Galilean moons of Jupiter but focused on Ganymede instead of Europa. This was apparently just before the Voyager flybys.

Dispatcher June 15, 2012 at 10:14

Note: the Sacred Texts link is to an archive of documents in the public domain, spanning from ancient to fairly modern; sacred to secular works. Its a kind of “one stop” for many of the “classics” as well.

The topic of “Star Consciousness” should test any scientist’s objectivity. “Truth” is not what a scientist believes, but what scientists can independently and repeatedly observe and verify (eventually). Unfortunately, I think that science often overlooks or ignores concepts which have been transmitted from ancient times to the present by way of documents, paintings, carvings, sculptings and architecture; although taken together, these may be indicators of historical or prehistoric events or conditions which have yet to be tested by science, one way or the other. Some examples follow, which are not presented here to prove or disprove “gods”, religions, or anything else. The idea is that these concepts could be understood as attempts to explain what science is actually obligated to attempt to either prove or disprove by experimentation and observation, if possible.

From the Rig Veda, Hymn CXXIX, 1 – 7, we read about a primal creation in which a creator may or may not even be aware of what had occurred:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv10129.htm

From the Zohar “The Book of Light”, we have some doctrine of the Kabbalah, which describes quite well the events of the Big Bang in Section 1:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/zdm/zdm010.htm

“The nekuda reshima, primal point or nucleus, appeared. From it emanated and expanded the primary substance, the illimitable phosphorescent ether, of the nature of light, formless, colorless, being neither black nor green nor red. In it, latent yet potentially as in a mighty womb, lay the myriad prototypes and numberless forms of all created things as yet indiscernible, indistinguishable.”

As to some form of awareness or will power in natural objects ‘larger than life’ as we know it, I found this more recent writing of Doctrine and Covenants 88: 8 – 47; where world objects can obey laws (as if there may be some choice in the matter?):

http://www.sacred-texts.com/mor/dc/dc088.htm

Its refreshing in that the above “Star Consciousness” article is attempting pure science. Namely, to throw every concept and idea which might explain a paradox into the mix, sift through and attempt to apply the scientific method to it, if possible. After all, this seemingly pseudo science notion is no more on the fringe of mainstream thought than were at various times: the heliocentric solar system, adaptive evolution, relativity, black holes and the big bang. Only through real objectivity can truth emerge, and with it, perhaps real gain for humanity.

jkittle June 15, 2012 at 10:15

Note also that Frank Herbert had a universe where there were conscious stars ( the caliban) ( the Whipping star, for example) . They were fun but not on the same level as DUNE. The Caliban were useful plot tools because they made interstellar travel possible by providing.. wait for it… portals though space time.

Greg Matloff June 15, 2012 at 10:17

Dear Andy
Thanks a lot for the uncertainty. If I am a “crackpot” for presenting an unorthodox scientific idea, I am in good company!

Dear Stan
Unfortunately, I think that we are clueless in attempting to conclusively demonstrate how consciousness (or self awareness) arises. In my opinion, as I said in at least on response, complexity plays a role. I think, with Harris Walker, that neural networks are involved. But proving this is the rub!

Dear LJK
I did not know about Strogatz. Another example of this synchronized behavior in lower (?) animals is the slime mold ameoba, as discussed by Eisley and others. For much of their existence, these exist as single-celled beings in ponds. Then in response to some stimulus or signal, they get together to form slug-like entities that crawl across the ground. Reaching an appropriate location, they transform into a tower, which explosively transmits spores to continue the species.

Dear Noetic Sam
Maybe, as Stapledon implies in his novel, there is very little difference.

Dear Bernd Jendrissek
In Stapledon’s novel, the stars feel constrained by Dyson spheres. They reach out and kill off many planets! He was not an optimist about peaceful co-existence between radically different types of consciousness.

Dear Rob Henry

O and B stars only reside for a few million years on the main sequence. If thermalization or close stellar encounters in the birth nebula were responsible for the Discontinuity, it would occur for bluer stars. Also, the stellar nursery nebula boil off their stars in time scales of ~100 million years. Don’t feel too bad about the math error in a later post. I confess to having made many of them in my career. It seems to go with the territory since we descend from critters who could perhaps count on the digits.

Stan
I wish that we could read The Mind of God (apologies to Paul Davies). But sadly, I think we may be limited to demonstrating that the Casimir effect plays some role in consciousness and therefore whatever is responsible for consciousness emanates from the creative universal vacuum (or as Buddhists call it, the Void). Please, if you can think of a way to choose between Tipler’s benevolent universal designer and Smolin’s endlessly creative idiot, please let us know!

A. A. Jackson
Thanks, since I will be near my local Barnes & Noble (in Park Slope, Brooklyn) later today, I will try to order these. If they are out of print (a sad possibility), I will try the Strand, a huge Manhattan used bookstore. If that fails, I will be a science speaker at LibertyCon next month. Perhaps a sci-fi book “huckster” will have these volumes.

Anthony Mugan
First, an early reviewer for my paper required me to replace a Dean Radin reference with Roger Penrose. I don’t know why, but I complied. Second, I know as little as most people about stellar interiors. But I presume that molecules in cooler stars exist in layers closer to the (relatively) cooler photosphere than deep in the hotter interior. I don’t know how long stellar molecules last or how readily they are replaced by others. But this in itself presents no problem–I remember reading that recent research indicates that mammals (including humans) replace neurons all their lives.

Regards to all and thanks for the comments.
Greg

ljk June 15, 2012 at 10:17

One more: What if someone is pushing the stars around? The Kardashev Type 3 version of rearranging the furniture in the living room.

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/K/Kardashevciv.html

Or doing Fritz Zwicky’s idea of using a sun as a rocket motor get directionally transport entire solar systems around the galaxy. He’s the man who came up with Dark Matter in the 1930s in the first place, so he can have these big thoughts.

To quote from the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Zwicky

“Zwicky also considered the possibility of rearranging the universe to our own liking. In a lecture in 1948[25] he spoke of changing planets, or relocating them within the solar system. In the 1960s he even considered how the whole solar system might be moved like a giant spaceship to travel to other stars. He considered this might be achieved by firing pellets into the Sun to produce asymmetrical fusion explosions, and by this means he thought that the star Alpha Centauri might be reached within 2500 years.[26]”

See here for more:

http://www.dynamical-systems.org/zwicky/Essay.html

Bryan June 15, 2012 at 13:44

Stan,

Our brains are neural networks, and I have acknowledged this. I went on to point out that it’s generally accepted that STDP (spike timed dependent plasticity) is likely the dominant learning mechanism in neural networks. I’ve also discussed the structure of neural networks, namely, the synaptic connections and the signaling they achieve when a neuron fires. And then I went on to allude to the resonance a network achieves as memories are recalled due to the active distribution of firing neurons and the transient patterns that exist within the brain as a result.

But a neural network is nothing more than a mechanical engine built of cells, which in the end has two qualities:

1. It moves from one informational state to another, constantly.

2. It’s built out of the same stuff as the rest of the Universe: atoms and molecules.

From there, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves:

1. What else moves from one informational state to another? The answer, of course, is anything dynamic.

2. What else is built out of atoms and molecules? The answer, of course, is everything.

3. What’s built out of atoms and molecules and is dynamic? The answer, of course, is almost everything, at one time scale or another.

Now, if you insist that it’s only brains which have consciousness to any measurable degree (which is a reasonable assumption), then it’s not good enough to simply say, “Well, it’s a neural network.” You’ve got to ask yourself, “What’s special or unique within a neural network?”

You might say any of the following: The patterns repeat but the processes which create the patterns are malleable according to past stimulation. The flow of calcium ions plays a significant role. The particular structure of neocortical columns and the dendrites which interconnect to the neighboring columns are unique.

But so what? It doesn’t seem that any of those things are so unique that consciousness would just magically arise. One has to acknowledge that the Universe is somehow prewired, or the experience of qualia is somehow fundamentally intrinsic to the Universe at some deeper level.

It boils down to Chalmers’ conceivability argument, explained via philosophical zombies. He basically says that it seems perfectly conceivable that a universe could exist without there being any consciousness at all. He goes further and says it seems perfectly conceivable that there could be a universe with biological structures like animals, people, and brains with neural networks which function as they do, right down to the molecular level, and yet don’t experience qualia.

David Moles June 15, 2012 at 14:58

How does this account for the Bullet Cluster and MACS J0025.4-1222?

Stan June 15, 2012 at 16:11

@Bryan @Greg

As a biologist I very strongly see a confusion runnning through most of these comments and the article itself. Please bear with me:

From a biologist’s point of view, the relationship science has with the concept of God is very similar to biology’s relationship with the concept of consciousness. Evolution has shown that a God is no longer necessary to explain life. Evolution does it on its own. Likewise, the subjective effects we collectively refer to as consciousness are all explained by the functioning of the brain itself. It no longer needs any metaphysical properties to explain it. As everyone endlessly explains, this doesn’t deny God or a mystical Consciousness. But if one feels a need for their existence, it’s simply one’s belief system showing itself, no more.

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. There isn’t a single level of complexity above which consciousness existed and below which it did not. The functioning of the brain itself, no matter how complex, is conscious so long as it is aware and able to do its thing. You may want to deny this for very simple brains: it is traditional to do so. But it is hard to deny for the more complex ones.

Today we can see all the aspects of consciousness functioning in the physical brain, not only second by second with MRI, but by having found their locations –where they happen and where they don’t — and seeing how those locations relate to each other. For instance, we know where the executive system is in the brain, what particular clusters of cells make decisions and thus give us our feeling of autonomy and subjective strength.

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. 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.

Consciousness from the point of view of biology and evolution is not a thing, but is simply what the functioning neural networks feel like to themselves. The brain cannot see it’s own neurons and their patterns, so all it is left with is a collective feeling or the effects of them functioning. Which is it’s feeling of being conscious.

But this is a very new understanding. During most of human history we had to just make up an explanation that seemed reasonable. What felt true was that we were coherent selves that were somehow connected to our bodies but were separate from them. That’s how it still feels, for each one of us, subjectively. But today we know that there is a very complex objective reality at work underlying it all which we can’t relate to subjectively.

In other words, we have always mistakenly used the word consciousness as a noun, but it is actually a verb: being conscious, to be conscious. Using it as a noun constantly, combined with thousands of years of belief that it is a thing which survives death, seems to have caused a lot of confusion here in this comment stream. 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.

Bob June 15, 2012 at 16:35

While I am not convinced that stars are beings, after reading this post I feel like I can come out of the closet (so to speak) and say that yes, I am not a materialist, as so many modern scientists insist everyone become. I was glad to see you mentioned the SRI guys esp. Hal Puthoff. They did really interesting work with Remote Viewing, an aspect of extended consciousness in the 70’s. (and no, that work was not successfully ‘debunked’ as some professional skeptics like to claim. In any case, RV has been replicated thousands of times and studied by many academics.)

When thinking about the electrical activity in our brains and the the electrical activity that must be going on within stars, it seems at least plausible that there may be other basis to hold complex systems which result in consciousness. The whole concept reminds me of Hoyle’s The Black Cloud.

I just hope we don’t make the sun upset….

Rob Henry June 15, 2012 at 16:44

Dear Matloff,
I’m glad you bring up the topic of stellar nurseries. Thermalisation has the same characteristics no matter were it occurs. IFF open clusters had the same average kinetic energy wrt background motion as their neighbours, AND their was enough time for this process to complete, then all stars would be completely thermalised from birth (and M stars then be expected to travel twice as fast as A, F and G‘s). Once completed it would stay like that. Unfortunately the dynamics of these clusters mean they will not retain any stars once escape velocity for it is reached, and this makes things a bit more complex. Even so, *small red stars* get there quicker and subtract from the internal kinetic energy that remains for the others – thus those stay-at-home *large blue stars* of the same age must receive less (since there is less remaining KE/mass to receive) no matter how much longer they have to thermalise.

This problem though, is now well overshadowed by the one I found latter – that is for these small stars to mimic the extra velocity invoked by dark matter, many of them would have to use more than 100% of the energy represented by their luminosity.

For that matter, the 375% figure I gave for M9 stars should have been for M8. M9’s (for which there is little data) should need more like 1000% of their output to do their part.

Rob Henry June 15, 2012 at 17:28

Someone above mentioned the mystery of firefly synchronisation. I have long suspected that it is due to the LASER effect. I was amazed when I first found out than when the light emitting molecule responsible here is activated, it doesn’t immediately emit light, but stays in that excited state with a half life of about a second. Thus there is considerable potential for photons of the very same frequency hitting them from other fireflies, and slightly proceeding the time of firing. The actual time of firing might send a signal to its nervous system to set the next time.

Rob Henry June 15, 2012 at 17:56

Stan, to me, science is foremost about prediction, and for God or mysticism to be useful, we would need to formulate a decision procedure that allowed us to predict their cosmic motivation, and THAT is the reason we do not use them. As to evolution and God – Darwin’s theory is exactly equivalent to stating that no biologically useful function can be gained except by dint of natural selection.

Thus, in an alternative universe, we may find that ever since their Darwin, biologists claimed that the first organism must have been created, and to do this they invoked something they called God. They claimed that God was all that was necessary for life’s creation, but that ones belief system was still free to formulate life by any mystical powers, such as those unquantifiable vagaries invoked by complexity theory in abiogenesis.

My point is that thing are not as simple as you state.

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