Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Search and the Find

Sathesh, one visitor to this blog has requested me to share more about my search and what is it that I have found. He is quoting from what I have written in 'About Me' and asks what I exactly mean by the Truth.Well. It is a long story. But yet it is also a very short story. Here I go then with the long and short of it. By nature of being born to parents who had certain ideas of upbringing, I learnt carnatic music - vocal and instrumental and shlokas and chanting in Tamil and Sanskrit.
I took to reading the books of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in the 1990s. As Sri Aurobindo has said, when the mind is travelling on a single plane of existence, force of circumstances gives a jolt in some form or another. This jolt came in the form of an auto accident on August 15, 2000, Sri Aurobindo's birthday. A woman seated just next to me suffered grievous injuries while I just scraped my elbow and knee. Getting back to work after four days of leave, for the first time, I had this thought: Why was I spared in this accident. What is the purpose of my existence? It was this question that took me on a path of what is popularly known today as Yoga, Meditation and Spirituality. But even then, I did not go in search of truth, but I was just answering some call and saw myself being taken to all the places and people who were providing me with the answers. When I dithered or just forgot, someone would come to remind me or tell me what to do.
Truth of Existence is a difficult thing to explain. But all the music, all the Sanskrit or anything that I learnt by heart, began unfolding the deeper meanings to me. I now see the same roads, same polluting MTC buses, the same people, the same poverty or prosperity, the same clean or unclean roads, the same everything. But earlier, they were all different and I was different. Now the Truth is - I and Them, I and It, I and Him, I and Her are all one. The person who asks the question is me. The person who replies is me. My answer for Who Am I? will now be - Well, Nothing. If you don't like this answer, I will say, Well, then Everything. It makes no difference. posted by Swahilya at Sunday, July 10, 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Moment of Complexity

Emerging Network Culture by Mark C. Taylor "At pivotal moments throughout history, technological innovation triggers massive social and cultural transformation..." (more)
Editorial Reviews: Book Description
"The Moment of Complexity is a profoundly original work. In remarkable and insightful ways, Mark Taylor traces an entirely new way to view the evolution of our culture, detailing how information theory and the scientific concept of complexity can be used to understand recent developments in the arts and humanities. This book will ultimately be seen as a classic."-John L. Casti, Santa Fe Institute, author of Gödel: A Life of Logic, the Mind, and Mathematics
The science of complexity accounts for that inscrutable mix of chaos and order that governs our natural world. Complexity explains how networks emerge and function, how species organize into ecosystems, how stars form into galaxies, and how just a few sequences of DNA can account for so many different life forms. Recently, the idea of complexity has taken the worlds of business and politics by storm. The concept is used to account for phenomena as varied as the behavior of the stock market, the response of voting populations, and the effects of risk management. Even Disney has used complexity theory to manage crowd control at its theme parks.Given the startling development of new information technologies, we now live in a moment of unprecedented complexity, an era in which change occurs faster than our ability to comprehend it.
With The Moment of Complexity, Mark C. Taylor offers a timely map for this unfamiliar terrain opening in our midst, unfolding an original philosophy through a remarkable synthesis of science and culture. According to Taylor, complexity is not just a breakthrough scientific concept, but the defining quality of the post-Cold War era. The flux of digital currents swirling around us, he argues, has created a new network culture with its own distinctive logic and dynamic.Drawing on resources from information theory and evolutionary biology, Taylor explains the operation of complex adaptive systems in social and cultural processes and captures a whole new zeitgeist in the making. To appreciate the significance of our emerging network culture, he claims, we need not only to understand contemporary scientific and technological transformations, but also to explore the subtle influences of art, architecture, philosophy, religion, and higher education. The Moment of Complexity, then, is a remarkable work of cultural analysis on a scale rarely seen today. To follow its trajectory is to learn how we arrived at this critical moment in our culture, and to know where we might head in the twenty-first century.
Spotlight Reviews: Write an online review and share your thoughts
Theory of Everything, May 7, 2002 Reviewer: Steev Hise
Mark C. Taylor is among those very rare writers and thinkers who are able to take many disparate disciplines of knowledge and perform a synthesis which creates wisdom. With this book it's evident that Taylor has been thinking about certain heady concepts for at least all of his adult life. Indeed, I've also read an earlier work of his, "Hiding," that touches on some of the same ideas. But with Complexity he has honed his thinking and added even more contributing topics, all zeroing in to our current turbulent moment of history. Taylor's is personal and professional, and it's been developing since the 1960s. It includes a sometimes dizzying array of topics and references to other thinkers, including artificial life, chaos theory, information theory, evolution, semiotics, cultural studies, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Lamarck, the history of the modern university, cybernetics, emergent phenomena, fashion, intellectual property... and more!
Taylor somehow manages to weave a coherent and compelling tapestry out of all these threads, with results I can only describe as profound and inspirational. By looking at recent history and its social upheavals through a lens informed by the latest ideas in these fields, he arrives at a very convincing and intriguing picture of the fundamentally different sort of world we are seeing develop around us right now. Beside the wise observation and intelligent synthesis, though, he also does something else that's very rare with these sorts of projects: he attempts to explain his theory in practice.

Leaves of a Pipal Tree

India is a civilisation of many images, a culture of many visual feasts, a tradition where the visible and the palpable are as important as the oral and the occurrent, where our highest truths are embodied in our kathas and gathas, our songs and stories, where our temples are not only places of worship but equally a gallery of beautiful forms and figures, where myth is as important as doctrine, where ancient memories are full of cherished narratives, where mythic beings are real in many different ways and we enrich our lives by festivals which celebrate events from the lives of our mythic gods and goddesses, and where knowledge is gained as much from itinerant performers as it is from learned discourses and where, when the wind blows through the Pipal tree it is as if we hear the hymns of the Vedas. MLBD Newsletter October 2005

Monday, October 24, 2005

Towards the Black Void

This is the heading of one of the cantos of Sri Aurobindo's Savitri!!!. I just opened the book, saw this heading and named this as the title. However I am really awestruck by the meaning it conveys. According to the big-bang theory, our universe sprang into existence as "singularity" around 13.7 billion years ago. Singularities are zones which defy our current understanding of physics. They are thought to exist at the core of "black holes." Black holes are areas of intense gravitational pressure. The pressure is thought to be so intense that finite matter is actually squished into infinite density (a mathematical concept which truly boggles the mind). These zones of infinite density are called "singularities." So everything comes out of black voids and finally it gets sucked up and destroyed into the black voids. posted by withluvGanesh @ 11:19 AM

Friday, October 14, 2005

Divinity in a stone

Sudheendra Kulkarni
The Indian Express
Sunday, October 09, 2005
On a morning walk along a pot-holed road which was being re-laid, I saw a group of labourers who were about to begin their day’s work. It was obvious that they belonged to a migrant clan of stonebreakers, engaged by the construction contractor. It was also obvious that they were poor, very poor. Tented huts on the roadside, open-air kitchen with the barest of utensils, a baby cradled in a cloth-sling — it’s a common sight at construction sites in India.
What struck me was that before the team began the day’s work, a woman performed a small puja on the stone, smeared it with the auspicious yellow and red powder, broke it with a ceremonial strike and then everybody went about their respective tasks. I asked the woman why she did it. In her own earthy Marathi, she replied, "This is not a mere stone for us. There is divinity in it. This stone feeds us. It also makes your cars run smoothly on the road.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Game theory

The Economic times
The Nobel Prize in economics for 2005 has been awarded to Robert J Aumann and Thomas C Schelling for their contributions to the theory of games. Game theory is the analysis of strategic choice. It concerns situations where a group of people (called players) take decisions which affect each other. Thus a player can paradoxically strengthen his position by voluntarily foreclosing some of his options. The Spanish general Cortez who colonised Mexico burnt his boats on arrival demoralising his adversaries because they knew that his army could not retreat.

While Aumann has been one of the builders of the formal structure of game theory, Schelling has been one of its inspirations as well as one of its leading exponents. His most important contribution is his 1960 book The Strategy of Conflict, a book rich in ideas anticipating many subsequent formal developments. In a sequence of models, he formulated the notions of “credible commitment” and “brinkmanship”. Schelling has applied game theory to a variety of situations ranging from arms control to environmental policy to racial segregation. Schelling also developed a formal theory of deterrence via the threat of retaliation and showed that it may be more effective if you deliberately leave your response uncertain. His ideas were influential during the Cold War and he even acted as a consultant in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 film Dr Strangelove.

(The author is professor, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

String theory

Dr Sandip Parimal Trivedi, TIFR
The Hindustan Times October 2, 2005

The new idea was to assume that the basic entity was a string, not a point particle. The string could virate in different ways, just like a sitar string does.The different resulting notes are the different kinds of particles, electrons, photons etc. There are six extra dimentions in string theory. These are believed to be curled up in small size, so that they have not been observed yet. A beatiful feature of string theory is that its differnt facets are closely tied together in tight logical consistency, so that progress in any area leads to ramifications for the whole subject.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Remote Viewers

The human body has no definite beginning or end. It is constantly creating itself, again and again, every day. This means that every minute is a kind of genesis and at the same time an ending in which we give up a bit of dust unto dust. If we are creating ourselves all the time, then it is never too late to begin creating the bodies we want instead of the ones we mistakenly assume we are stuck with.

Every breath you take is a creative act. The molecules in the air are random and chaotic. If they happen to enter into your body, they magically acquire a purpose and an identity. Could any act be more creative?

Consider what happens to a single oxygen atom as you breathe it in. within a few thousandths of a second it passes through the moist, nearly transparent membranes of the lungs. It immediately attaches itself to the haemoglobin inside one of your red blood cells. In an instant, a remarkable transformation occurs. The blood cell changes colour, from the dark blue-black of oxygen starved haemoglobin to the bright red of an oxygen rich haemoglobin, and a stray atom of air suddenly becomes YOU. It has crossed the invisible boundary dividing you from the rest of the universe.

Each of us is balanced between the infinite and the infinitesimal. The same protons found in the hearts of stars, which have lived at least 5 billion years, take up residence inside us. The neutrinos that streak through earth in a few billionths of a second are part of us for a brief instant, too…Remember that you are a flowing river of atoms and molecules collected from every corner of the cosmos. You are an outcropping of energy whose waves extend to the edges of the unified field.
Deepak Chopra
[ET-SQ; Tue-150205]

It might not be so incredible to declare that the compositions of all 6 billion human beings as well as the thousands of other species on Earth are, in fact, indistinguishably intertwined, making us soulmates in more ways than one.

Consider this: When a bacterium, weed, starfish, peacock, dog, cat or human dies, decomposition sets in. in the process, the atoms that constitute the body are released into the atmosphere, and they mingle freely, getting interspersed over wide geographical areas. Some might get reconstituted in a short period of time, becoming a part of another, or the same species. Other atoms continue to free float indefinitely, may be for years or even decades, before they submit to another composition. That makes us all parts of one indistinguishable whole, with each having at least some of the ingredients of the other.

Bill Bryson in A Short History of Everything talks about the pervasive nature of atoms:

Atoms are fantastically durable. Because they are so long-lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each atomically so numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of atoms – up to billion for each of us, it has been suggested – probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Ghenghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name… so we are all reincarnations – though short-lived ones. When we die, our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere – as part of a leaf or other human beings or drop of dew. Atoms themselves, however, go on practically for ever.
Jahanavi Shandilya
[TOI-CTC; Mon-280205]
So how are we connected, one may ask, with say, the Andromeda Galaxy, which at a distance of 2.2.million light-years, is the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye? Well, for starters, the fact is that at one time – about 13.7 billion years ago to be precise, when the Big Bang happened – all the stuff that was one day going to make up the Andromeda, along with all the other stuff that would one day make us, were exactly one and the same thing.

Not only that, they were also exactly in one and the same place – the initial singularity; the primordial atom. Nor could they have been anywhere else since there was no other time or place to be in. Then again, we’re connected in another way too. Consider the air we breathe. It’s just matter in a gaseous form consisting of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, less than one per cent carbon dioxide, some water vapour, dust and pollutants and trace amounts of various elements.
In fact, nothing could be dissimilar to ourselves. Yet once this air enters our lungs it oxygenates the blood, which nourishes the tissues, and once it leaves the lungs it carries away all the carbon dioxide wastes taken from the tissues. It’s safe to say the air around us not only becomes part of us continuously but contains a part of us in it as well all the time. That’s how connected we are.
Mukul Sharma
[ET-SQ; Mon-140305]
Although in the everyday world energy is always unalterably fixed (the law of energy conservation is a cornerstone of classical physics), in the quantum micro-world, energy can appear and disappear out of nowhere in a spontaneous and unpredictable fashion. Or as Richard Morris and Paul Davies put it:

The uncertainty principle implies that particles can come into existence for short periods of time even when there is not enough energy to create them. In fact, they are created from uncertainties in energy. One could say that they briefly borrow the energy required for their creation, and then, a short time later, they pay the debt back and disappear again. Since these particles do not have a permanent existence they are called virtual particles. And even though we can’t see them, we know that these particles are really there in empty space because they leave a detectable trace of their activities that have been very accurately measured and described.
Mukul Sharma
[ET-SQ; Fri-250205]

That Famous Equation and You

The New York Times
September 30, 2005
During the summer of 1905, while fulfilling his duties in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, Albert Einstein was fiddling with a tantalizing outcome of the special theory of relativity he'd published in June. His new insight, at once simple and startling, led him to wonder whether "the Lord might be laughing ... and leading me around by the nose."
In the century since, E = mc² has become the most recognized icon of the modern scientific era. Yet for all its symbolic worth, the equation's intimate presence in everyday life goes largely unnoticed. There is nothing you can do, not a move you can make, not a thought you can have, that doesn't tap directly into E = mc². Einstein's equation is constantly at work, providing an unseen hand that shapes the world into its familiar form. It's an equation that tells of matter, energy and a remarkable bridge between them.
Before E = mc², scientists described matter using two distinct attributes: how much the matter weighed (its mass) and how much change the matter could exert on its environment (its energy). A 19th century physicist would say that a baseball resting on the ground has the same mass as a baseball speeding along at 100 miles per hour. The key difference between the two balls, the physicist would emphasize, is that the fast-moving baseball has more energy: if sent ricocheting through a china shop, for example, it would surely break more dishes than the ball at rest. And once the moving ball has done its damage and stopped, the 19th-century physicist would say that it has exhausted its capacity for exerting change and hence contains no energy.
Before 1905, the common view of energy and matter thus resembled a man carrying around his money in a box of solid gold. After the man spends his last dollar, he thinks he's broke. But then someone alerts him to his miscalculation; a substantial part of his wealth is not what's in the box, but the box itself. Similarly, until Einstein's insight, everyone was aware that matter, by virtue of its motion or position, could possess energy. What everyone missed is the enormous energetic wealth contained in mass itself.
As you read this text, E = mc² is at work. The processes in the eye and brain, underlying perception and thought, rely on chemical reactions that interchange mass and energy, once again in accord with Einstein's formula.

Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia, is the author of "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."