Saturday, 17 January 2015

Black Holes: Event Horizons and The World As A Hologram - Part I


Luke Kristopher Davis

Newtonian Gravity

     We all know about gravity: the fact that two objects attract each other with a force proportional to the product of their masses and which gets weaker the further apart they are. This is what Newton essentially discovered. In the classical sense you can picture a tight-rope contest between the two masses and as they exert equal and opposite forces on each other, the lighter mass gets pulled in. If they are of the same mass they normally spin around the middle of the rope. If a mass comes from a long way away at a high speed the heavier mass at rest 'slingshots' the lighter mass, the lighter mass is moving so fast that the tight-rope slips from 'his hands' and continues to move on a new altered path. These little tight rope contests occur between all masses, from apples to stars. Mathematically instead of tight ropes we think of gravitational fields but the basic principle remains the same.

       The Einstein Fabric

      One of Einsteins greatest triumphs is the mass-equivalence principle, famously embodied as E=mc^2. This means you can think of a piece of mass as having an intrinsic energy in space and time. So if I completely destroy a piece of mass, say a kitkat chunky, I will get an energy equal to the mass of the kitkat multiplied by the speed of light squared. 
       In relation to our tight rope analogy, because mass can be thought of as some energy we can think of energy as some mass. Photons which are massless move at the speed of light so they actually have kinetic energy (energy due to motion) so Einstein says that this kinetic energy can be thought of as some mass. So if this energy can be thought of some mass it will be affected by gravity. So a photon actually takes part in tight rope contests with other masses, but they move so fast that in fact we hardly notice these contests. We only notice them when the heavy mass is really heavy which means the photons path through space is noticeably altered. This is called gravitational lensing. 

      Another step we must take is to ditch the tight-rope analogy. It can only go so far and as you may be familiar with gravitational forces now we can take the next step from Newtonian gravity, which is to introduce the notion of space-time. Time and space are normally thought as separate quantities, my time on my watch doesn't depend on where I am in space or my motion through space..surely?. Einstein showed the exact opposite,  that any time you read depends on how you are moving through space and as movement can only be recognized relatively to some other object, time is essentially relative. Every observer has a unique reading of time.

      This means that time and space are intrinsically linked, like two different threads being woven to form a fabric, and they form what is known as Minkowski space-time. This space-time has 4 dimensions which are time and the 3 dimensions of space. Instead of masses contesting with 'gravi-tight ropes' they curve this fabric (as in the picture above) and this curvature affects the motion of other objects. So think of an actual piece of fabric and an apple in the middle, the apple curves the fabric. If I place a grape on the fabric the grape falls inwards to the apple. This is gravity in the Einstein sense and it is the most accurate way to date in picturing what gravity is. Here is a really good video to show it.

Black Holes As Singularities

      So as mass curves space-time, you can start asking how much curvature occurs when a huge huge huge mass exists in the Einstein fabric. Well actually the curvature is so much that it forms a singularity. A point which is so dense that light spirals inwards and cannot escape due to the immense curvature of space-time. So as light cannot reflect off it we cannot see it hence the name black hole. 

      Black holes are formed when there is an object with a sufficient amount of mass, normally a heavy star, such that the object begins to collapse on itself due to the extremely strong gravitational pull. This can be anything, from a star to zillions of kitkats. The collapsing forms an infinitely dense black hole but with finite mass. 

       Let's imagine Marty and Doc doing a little experiment with a black hole. Crazy Doc wants to go in a spaceship so that he gets sucked into the black hole, merely following the curvature of space-time, and Marty is at a safe distance in another spaceship. Doc will send a photon to Marty to tell him he is alright every second or so. As Doc goes closer and closer to the black hole he will accelerate, he will get faster and faster. Doc still sends the photons and Marty picks them up knowing that Doc will be okay. But there comes a point where the curvature is so steep (gravity is so strong) that a photon cannot escape, this means that when Doc sends a photon he thinks Marty has got it but in fact Marty cannot receive it. So Marty does not know how Doc is or where he is. This point is known as the event horizon, a point of no return.

       So does Doc become completely obliterated ? Marty cannot know either way becomes he cannot retrieve any information about Doc beyond the event horizon. So the information Marty has about Doc seems to have completely gone. Is this a problem ? Yes. In part II we see why. 


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo: Frontlines on An Ideological War

Luke Kristopher Davis

Act of Terrorism

Terrorism is a psychological warfare. Terrorists try to manipulate us and change our behavior by creating fear, uncertainty and division in our society.
- Patrick J. Kennedy 

  On January 7th 10:30 GMT two gunmen, believed to be Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, killed at least 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo HQ in Paris. Many of those killed and in current critical condition were cartoonists and workers for the satirical newspaper. The gunmen forced the cartoonist Corienne Rey to open the coded doors leading into the Charlie Hebdo HQ building, once inside they killed a police officer on guard and one staff member. After this, they moved to the meeting room on the second floor killing 8 journalists and 1 guest. Witnesses, one of whom took a video which was uploaded to youtube, heard the terrorists shouting 'God is Great' in Arabic providing even more evidence that this was indeed an act of Islamic terrorism.

Victims from left to right: Bernard Maris, Wolinski, Cabu, Stephane Charbonnier and Bernard Verlhac

   Police rushed to the scene and engaged in gunfire, more police officers died and many more injured. The gunmen, with an accomplice, escaped the scene and a current manhunt of the utmost urgency is being carried out. Paris and indeed France is in a state of extreme emergency.

The Kouachi brothers are the current suspects

What is Charlie Hebdo?

     Charlie Hebdo, meaning Weekly Charlie, is a left-wing, controversial and anti-religious piece of satirical newspaper which was founded in 1970. It was dropping in the 80's but re-founded in 1992 which has grown a circulation of around 45,000. As you can see by the example 'The Father, The Son.. The Holy Spirit' cover, it is by no means subtle or politically correct in its critique of Christianity. It doesn't just explicitly poke fun at Christianity, the form of Religion dominant in the west, but it also blatantly ridicules all religions, the extremism of right-wing dogma and notable topics in culture which they see fit to comment on in their irreverent tone. 

     In November 2011 the previous offices of Charlie Hebdo were fire bombed in response to a piece named Charia Hebdo meaning 'Weekly Sharia' which quoted the prophet Mohammed as the editor in chief. The paper moved offices into Paris and did not cave in to self-censorship, which many citizens demanded, but instead continued its goal in producing news reports which deliberately mocked fundamentalism, Religion and extreme right wing ideas. This choice to not undergo self-censorship was given the thumbs up by the French government itself and many intellectuals agreed, as caving in implies the fulfilling of the terrorist goals, which is to install fear and demand respect for Islamic religion and all that it derives. 

The reason for this attack

     You may suspect that this attack was simply another November 11' and  you wouldn't be wrong. The mocking of the prophet is one of the most offensive things you can do to a Muslim, scratch that... it IS the most offensive act you can do. A large minority of Muslims are blindly intolerant, living as extreme fundamentalists in which they believe the Muslim faith to be true without doubt and anyone who mocks their beloved figure head deserves death. The thing is they not only think that those who mock their faith should suffer intolerable pain and death but some are extreme enough to actually bring this about. 

     January 7th is an event which saw the actualization of this hatred towards a group publicly mocking their faith in such a freely and careless way. This was an attempt to silence that mocking, to point the finger at this massacre and say "you disrespect my faith, which me, my family and my community base our entire lives on... we will kill you... we will take away your lives... your lives worth less than our faith...".

     I must stress that only a minority of Muslims are extreme enough and indoctrinated enough who would actually cause the death of innocent people who were merely exercising their freedom to express themselves. Many Muslims, who are in no question offended by the cartoons, agree that this does not give anyone the right to take lives and that such matters should be addressed in a peaceful voice. An Islamic man justifies my point: 

 In my Islamic upbringing I was taught that the pen is man's strongest weapon. These extremists must know that they can never silence freedom of speech, for it is a stronger weapon than any they'd dare to carry. Why couldn't they answer peacefully through the pen as our prophet likely would have? True Islam condemns such attacks, more so when they are ignorantly and violently carried out in its name. Long live freedom of expression, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. - Hamed Saeedi

A casualty of war

      This massacre is a physical expression of memetic alleles colliding and trying to drive the other out as they are both detrimental to each others survival in the whole meme pool. It is a casualty in the war waged between the central idea holding some military authority in the East and the idea which founded the modern Western world as we know it.

   Basically fundamentalism and religion on the one hand, largely represented by Islamic fundamentalism, is in a state of ideological warfare with Freedom of thought and expression. Fundamentalism which is the belief that an idea or theory or any number of statements is 100% true is in direct competition with freedom of thought and expression: the idea that no claims about the world are 100% true due to empirical and scientific doubt and that no idea should be physically impressed on anyone because it might in fact be wrong. In a world dominated by a belief in freedom of thought would lead to its inhabitants being free to express ideas as this stimulates debates, discussions and questions which could lead to an improved living and empirical understanding of the universe. In a world dominated by a fundamentalist belief, due to historical reasons it happens to be an immovable belief in a supernatural being and the validity of ancient texts, we would witness its inhabitants not being able to think outside the confines of their belief due to indoctrination of such belief. Even if some do indeed think beyond the fundamentalism any expression of it would result in death, for this denies the supposed absolute truth.

      So we can see that these two ideas are on an extremely basic level contradictory and any humans believing in them would form two groups with a conflict of interests. Now those who are on the freedom of thought side also assign fallibility to their own belief so in light of this, they will not be intolerant towards the fundamentalists solely because there is a possibility (however small the probability) that they are indeed right. The fundamentalists however believe that anyone who does not believe the absolute truth are committing the highest crime to all humanity, for they are denying what is 100% true... supposedly. So this will result in them doing all they can to either convert or exterminate the other group.

     In reality we have witnessed the fundamentalist side do this very thing, but only really when the other side really mocks the fundamentalists beliefs. Why haven't the fundamentalist side, which not only includes Islamic extremists, tried to wage outright war on the other 'freedom of thought side' ? Well because the sides are not equally matched and are not the same size. The Western world with its huge accumulated economy, population and military power has actually stopped the Eastern world (which most fundamentalist communities at large exist) from going to outright war solely on the difference in culture because the East would surely lose. So going to war would in essence destroy fundamentalist believers, their homes and possibly the survival of the fundamentalist idea itself.

      However the fundamentalism urges believers to still do something in order to convert or destroy those who explicitly contradict their ideas. They do this through acts of terrorism and acts of death (many which include the death of a terrorist) to install respect of their belief through fear of more death and violence and this reduces the power of freedom of expression. I say reduces but it is simply an attempt to reduce the power of freedom of expression. In no way has this mission really been accomplished.

Which side will win ? 

     Looking at this as two memes (ideas) which are competing for their future survival, where such survival depends on their abilities to adapt to selection criteria imposed by human nature. By this I mean that the idea that survives or becomes more  believed in will be more conducive to human life in which it enables humans to live a more long lived, healthier, more knowledgeable and happier life. Showing how these ideas could do that seems hard and almost impossible, but it can be done and I  will outline some reasons as to why I think fundamentalism, be it; Islamic, Catholic, Judaic.... Creationist or any belief system believed in without doubt or consulting the evidence will gradually fade away into the history of mankind.

     First of all what is conducive to human life is most definitely likely to be true. Never has a false principle ever helped humans in manipulating a physical environment or improving their biologically characteristics. This is because if a principle does not abide by how nature works the principle cannot take into affect. For example if I believe that curing a disease took a number of people putting their hands together praying to a supernatural being then of course this wouldn't work...  we would in fact witness those with no natural way of improving their condition simply dying. This is because the principle of praying assumes the existence of an all controlling being and that praying to him about curing someone will cure them. These assumptions have no scientific evidence for them so they are deemed false. This logic can be applied to any principle of this nature and it can be shown (has been shown in many cases) that these principles are in fact completely useless. Principles based on scientific inquiry, repeated experiments and peer-reviewed theories will work much better instead. 

     So the dogmas of fundamentalism which are majorly based on religious ones are principles which assume supernatural entities, beyond the observable world, they assume odd claims about the world which nearly all are either physically impossible, cannot be demonstrated or have no evidence for them. This means that actually they really won't lead to useful advances in human life. Some may argue that what happens if science is believed fundamentally? Well they will face an immediate contradiction in terms as science is based on empirical approximations and no scientific theory by the very nature of science itself can ever be claimed to be 100% right, as there is a possibility of a future experiment which could falsify its claims. So in fact fundamentalism is doomed. 

    Of course the human race cannot know innately the principles which are most conducive to human life but the most logical way is to try different ideas and see whether they are indeed useful. This implies that humans should have the freedom to think of different ideas and they should be put out into the open so that all these ideas can be discussed, some being more favored than others due to their accordance with established ideas or because they can be tested in science or politics with ease and minimal cost. Those least favored would be those which failed theoretically or testing them is extremely costly or those of a fundamentalist nature. Of course those least favored would not be outright exterminated as in a fundamentalist world, but they lay on the top shelf in which they would be sought for if they are the next best thing or other ideas failed to be useful. 

   This is how Western democracy should in theory be run and in fact it runs in a pretty similar fashion to this. Also note how well the West has actually done in economical terms, scientific terms and in the quality of lives that people live. Of course we can do better! But I personally think we are doing better than those in the East which are countries in political turmoil, stricken with poverty in some areas and not boasting the best life expectancy. Political revolutions which have occurred in Egypt, Syria and Libya are actually adopting democratic means to appoint leaders. I think once doubt creeps in and gradually enters the minds of more far Islamic and religious people they will start to question their faith and the ideas which their lives revolve around on. With these questions demand answers and I think the humans in these areas are capable of as much reasoning as I and you are, and once they question their indoctrination they will demand sensible answers with justification. The internet is slowly allowing this doubt to creep in.

How should we then react to this event? 

   We must not give in to terrorism and we must not condone acts of intolerance. Freedom of expression is an extremely valuable principle in our modern world and we all reap the benefits of its success, it is a principle worth protecting with our hearts and minds, together as a unified culture of free spirited human beings. I am out, I am Charlie, you are Charlie, we are Charlie. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Evolution Will Always End With Intelligence

By Luke Kristopher Davis

Life on other planets

    There is little doubt that there is a finite chance of biological life existing anywhere else in the universe be it in our own solar system or galaxy. A more interesting question to think about is whether the life that does exist elsewhere, arising independently from ours, follows natural selection via the differential selection of genetic material. Basically will it evolve in a similar manner to how life on planet earth has?

    We do not yet know precisely the mechanism or all the ingredients for life to emerge from pools of basic chemistry and physics. However we are pretty confident, we meaning the scientific community, that life arises through the thermodynamic building of complex molecules which then have the special property of replicating themselves. This could arise from special symmetries of the molecular lattice such that when this special molecule is bombarded with other basic ones or after some chemical reaction it splits in two, each being copies of each other and of its parent. Though this is mere speculation on my behalf. Life that could arise on other planets will probably originate through this same process, the building of replicators, and as soon as replicators are built Darwinian natural selection starts to exert itself on these extremely basic forms of life. I only say that life will 'probably' start this way because we do not know any other way that it could arise from basic matter within the confines of our established science. 

    So we are assuming with good reason that life can and probably does exist independently and that it would have emerged from the molecular building of replicators.

How does evolution work again? 

Charles Darwin - Proposed natural selection and evolution

     Let's continue the story on from our basic replicator molecule which copies itself due to some physical mechanism. This copying process is not perfect, there is a probability that some part of the molecular structure will change slightly after replication therefore a daughter molecule will differ from its parent. These molecules will probably exist in a pool of other molecular compounds and elements and the different daughter replicator will change how it reacts with other molecules or how it bonds with other compounds. If the new daughter molecule speeds up the replication process somehow or can breakdown a new source of energy to fuel reactions its type will no doubt out replicate its mother. So then we already see how a slight change in structure can offer advantages for out replicating the parent or other 'mutated' siblings. Over a great expanse of time  molecules would be able to build, through chemical means and interacting with other  replicators, bodies which are capable of moving and sensing the environment (a basic example is plankton). The replicator molecules would chemically instruct their bodies to carry out certain physical actions. In certain environments there are selection criteria which select those replicators which build more advantageous bodies, these bodies are called phenotypes and the selection criteria of the environment impresses itself on the phenotypes which increases or decreases the chance of future replication. The replicator body which is more 'adapted' to the selection criteria will increase its chances compared to other replicator bodies.

      Replicators are known as genes and replicator bodies are known as organisms. Over time and with the statistical spreading of organisms into different environments (or the statistical emergence of separate life on the same planet) they will branch out into species and evolve complexity. The evolution of all the organisms follow from the differential selection of genes which produce more advantageous phenotypes.

Nature has universal tricks for varying environments

      What sort of environment can we expect on other planets ?  Well I will not go to the expense of describing them because the range of possible environments that could foster life is great, and it is not key to the point of this article. All I can say is that in general there will be environments which contain molecules for phenotypic structure and metabolism, a solvent and a replicating molecule which does not necessarily have to look like DNA but may well be very similar to. 

      Even if different planets have different atmospheric pressures, different concoctions of gaseous elements or different amounts of solar radiation and light coming through the sky etc. there will be strong selection criteria which will form similar phenotypic solutions which occured on our planet. For example: the need to move the body through a medium or along it will require limbs or jet propulsion, assuming a wing is a limb. On earth the independent evolution of the wing occurred in birds, insects and bats which resulted in varying wings but similar in function (creating lift). The independent evolution of a particular phenotype tool is called homoplasy in cladistics, in general we call it convergent evolution i.e. similar selection criteria causes a convergence to the same structure. So nature seems to re-use solutions for similar problems. 
     On other planets the need to fly, even if it is through more dense air, will lead to something like the wing. There may even be other ingenious ways for organisms to move through air which us humans cannot imagine but in the unique environment natural selection will carve it out. 

     One thing which I would bet a large amount of money on is the evolution of social behavior and sexual reproduction on life on other planets. Scientists do not completely know how sexual reproduction evolved but because nearly all organisms take part in it sexual reproduction must somehow ultimately bring survival advantages for the genes that instruct them. If this is true, which I assume is, mating dynamics will play out which  will cause the evolution of social behavior. Altruism in some species will most likely evolve, either by hunting in a group or living in close proximity to offer protection, warmth, help with rearing young etc. the point is it will offer some sort of advantage to survival or reproductive power. With the existence of social organisms there are advantages to manipulation either of individuals belonging to their own species or organisms from a different species. This manipulation exists as language: the organism exerts some force on the environment which another organism registers and carries out an interpretation or action.  As we see in bees, dolphins and us use a fairly complex language which arises from manipulation. This evolution in language must first start with the evolution of a complex brain.

Convergent evolution of intelligence

    Simulation of the world is a process which many animals do, it is more cost-effective in terms of time, energy and risk to simulate an event in the world than to try it out for yourself. Young animals with little experience of the world and 'no data' in their memory can have instincts programmed by their genes to get them to make the right choices in early life, and they can have their parents to teach them certain things which they have learnt in their lives. Brains capable of guessing what would happen if an action is taken and choosing the optimal choice based on simulation will be favored by natural selection and an organism which simulates more accurately or records more accurate data will be more favored. 

     Going back to manipulation of other organisms and social behavior it seems simulating brains of other organisms is a much more complicated matter than simulating the seemingly deterministic physical world. So with the evolution of language and simulation mechanism would lead to a very sophisticated control center of an organism. With phenotypic tools which can adequately alter the environment (would have been advantageous in many environments: see Beavers, our ancestors and even ants) and an ability to somehow infer the causal nature of things, which amounts to an innate genetic proficiency of physics, then organisms could somehow manipulate the environment to reduce the exertion of selection criteria. They could build weapons or defenses to fight off predators, herd prey into groups and cultivate them all this arising from rules and language passed down from generations. 

     Using the environment to increase an individuals survival or even group survival (dependent on genes shared) is obviously beneficial to the genes which reside in them. However using rules and tricks passed down by the generations through linguistic means or means other than genetic change, results in a reduction of the power of selection criteria without further genetic selection. Normally a reduction in the power of selection criteria comes with better adapted phenotypes from selecting better genes. If an intelligent organism can even restrict the power of future selection criteria be it disease, food shortages or a new predator by using sufficient intelligence as to remove it or constrain it then this organism will not evolve anymore. Evolution needs selection criteria. 

     I say 'will not evolve anymore'  but of course some evolution will gradually take place. Sexual selection will place selection criteria on the organisms but of course in principle this criteria can be reduced through more manipulation of the environment and even the phenotypes themselves without genetic changes. Also a moderately intelligent organism like ourselves has not completely outdone natural selection as poverty in some parts, disease and smaller environmental effects which we have not yet seen could be still placing selection criteria on gene pools.

    The point is this, with sufficient intelligence and sufficient ability in manipulating the environment, natural selection will have dwindled. This is because the intelligent organism solves the problem before natural selection will. Natural selection occurs in much greater spells of time then say the time between future generations. 

     With a great intelligent organism which reduces all selection criteria by manipulation of the environment then evolution, in the sense of differential selection of genetic material, will have ended. It could happen that such an intelligent organism will modify its genes as to increase its manipulative power over the environment, selecting pre-existing genes from other organisms or cutting some genes out or even inventing new ones. However would we still call this evolution? 

Would such an organism become victim of another evolution?

       Such an organism whose body of accumulated information from generation to generation may become a vehicle for another selfish molecule which is not the gene but a unit of the body of information. So another form of evolution could take place.

       In the collected body of information which we call culture in human terms, has selection criteria for certain types of information in certain types of departments. Say the department of finding another energy resource will have the selection criteria of ideas which seem feasible, then there is selection criteria for those which can be implemented sooner or with less energy. This environment provides selection mechanisms for units of information, surely this resembles the differential selection of genetic material? Surely genes are fundamentally just bits of information however complex. 

       If this scheme were to actually happen the selection criteria would come from the organism itself so it could be argued that the units of this evolution would always be products of the organism and hence the organism is not the one being played in this case it is the player. However it does not seem impossible that the units of evolution in this new scheme could manipulate the organisms for their own survival in the body of accumulated information.

      This of course is not established science so I cannot assign any validity to it as an empirically or mathematically sound idea. However with what we witness within our culture, the control of humans by hostile ideas to kill others and themselves seems to not benefit them but the continuation of the idea itself and its future copies. I think there is some value in this proposed idea and something which needs further study.