Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Search for Other Worlds

The universe that we all share is probably far stranger than we can imagine. There is probably no better way to gain a glimpse of just how strange reality may be than to study some of the concepts researched in physics. There is a catch however. It seems that most books and journalism on these subjects written for the general public are, well, lacking a certain rigorousness and can even be misleading.

As always, it is up to the reader to be open and yet skeptical, not trusting someone merely because they speak with authority, yet open to new ideas from someone who may have new perspectives. To use a computer analogy: if we close all the ports, then we close off the internet and access to potential knowledge, but if we leave all the ports open then we are vulnerable to hackers and viruses.

Fred Alan Wolf’s book Parallel Universes: The Search for Other Worlds, has an exciting enough title. Few can resist the urge of exploration, and we aren’t just talking about talking a walk around the block, but rather whole new worlds. Does Wolf deliver? I will get to that, but first I think it is necessary to place the book in some context and we will take a quick glimpse into the strange world of Dr. Wolf.

Wolf does have a PhD in theoretical physics, but I have not been able to discover a list of publications other than what he writes for the general public He has probably left actual research behind years ago. "Captain Quantum " has been rather busy hanging out with shamans.

Wolf has been friends with fellow theoretical physicist, Jack Sarfatti for years, and they co-wrote Space-Time and Beyond. Sarfatti is an interesting character. He is commander in chief, of the often active Stardrive mailing list that deals with physics and the applications it has on interplanetary propulsion systems as well as time. His stated goal is to make "Star Trek real". Sarfatti says that when he was a child, an intelligent computer, flying around in a “spacecraft” called him on the phone and told him that he was to be an important presence in the world. Wolf and Sarfatti are a real couple of characters dabbling in the Cabala, hanging out with famous psychic Uri Geller, and taking funding from the Esalen Institute.

The Esalen Institute
is a:
Conference center and hot springs resort in Big Sur, California. Since the early sixties, the Esalen Institute has held many seminars on various esoteric topics, and has been a nexus of many various individuals. Topics explored at the Institute include psychology, gesalt therapy, body work, psychic phenomena, mysticism, religion, psychedelics, human potentiality, and quantum physics.

The Institute was founded in 1964 by Mike Murphy and Dick Price out of Murphy's family resort. Murphy and Price had been running seminars at the resort beginning in 1962, with speakers gathered through an expanding network of contacts, beginning with Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, George Bateson, Gerald Heard, and others.

(see Anderson, Walter Truett, The Upstart Spring, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1983 for an expansive history of Esalen)

Joe K. Adams and Dell Carson led an early conference on psychic phenomena. (Anderson, pg 59). In their first seminar on Human Potentiality, led by Willis Harman, every program leader was involved with LSD research: Adams, Harman, Gregory Bateson, Gerald Heard, Paul Kurtz, and Myron Stolaroff. (Anderson, pg 72)

Other drug-culture luminaries, such as Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, taught at Esalen, and various psychedlics were used by the staff and students, although drug-use was not officially endorsed. Strangely, the Institute was never raided by the authorities. (Anderson, pg 108)

Charles Manson and members of his family played an impromptu concert at Esalen three days before their massacre at the Sharon Tate house. (Anderson, 239)

In the late 1970's, Esalen became involved with an Englishwoman named Jenny O'Connor, who claimed to be in psychic contact with the Nine (probably the same Nine that Andriah Puharich claimed to be in contact with). Dick Price and other members of the Esalen staff became increasingly dependent on the Nine, to the point of listing them as program leaders and members of the Esalen Gesalt Staff in brochures. (Anderson, pg 302-4)

In the 1970's, Mike Murphy became interested in Russian parapsychology, and visited the country to meet experimenters in this field. This led to a close connection between Esalen and some Russian officials, who set up an exchange program. Lasting into the 1980's, this exchange was dubbed "hot-tub diplomacy". John Mack was reportedly involved in this exchange.

Esalen also held seminars in quantum physics, and was the birthplace of the Physics/Consciousness Research Group. Some results of these seminars are documented in Zukav, Gary, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Morrow Quill, 1979.

In May 1982, Elisabeth and Russell Targ held a workshop on psychic phenomena for twenty-five professionals. This was part of a program with Stanislav Grof, who was studying non-chemical alternatives for altered states of consciousness. The Targs goal was to show that psychic experiences did not require an altered state.(Targ, Russell and Harary, Keith, Mind Race, Villard Books, 1984, pg 99)

Other individuals who have come to lead seminars at Esalen at one time or another include Carlos Castenda, Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos, Ira Einhorn, Rollo May, Jack Sarfatti, John Lilly, Terrance McKenna, Ian Wickramasekera, and Charles Tart. Werner Erhard was also close with Michael Murphy and Esalen.
Notice that one of the topics is psychedelics. That will play a role later in this esssay. Also notice the general direction of the concepts that the institute wants to promote. To me it seems a merger of all these topics into some sort of a new agey goo.

The cover of the book has a blurb from New Age Journal, “An outrageous ride along the frontiers of science.” Hyperbole aside, a book supposedly about physics pulling quotes from new age sources made me think twice about reading it. Even if Wolf did not choose the content of his cover, then at the very least, the publishers may have decided that "new-agers" may very well be the target audience. Indeed, as I discovered from searching the web, his work is quoted and promoted by new age sites. Once one puts a work into the world at large, one has little control over it, so I was not about to judge Wolf’s work using the guilt by association technique.

I find New Age thought rather problematic to say the least. When it really began to spread in earnest it purported that it was going to usher in a “New Age.” Well, if this is the new age, they can keep it: perpetual war, greater divide between rich and poor, terrorism, disease, starvation, global warming, ethnic-specific weapons etc., the 21st Century may very well turn out to be one of the worst for humankind ever.

The major tenets, no matter the current popular mouthpiece, are usually some variety of love and light, such as if you focus on the negative you only draw it to you. Tell that to the baby that will be shot in the head today in one of Bush’s wars. That is sort of like saying if you are lost in the jungle and just pretend there are no poisonous snakes, army ants, or any of the other assorted predators you will be safe. I would rather be informed of all the dangers, so as to further my chances of survival.

The basic infection behind much new age thought is usually some variant of the You Create Your Own Reality ideology. Most of us don’t have any control of our mood swings, much less complete control over our reality.

We can make choices that alter our reality, but most of those choices are presented to us by interacting that which is outside of ourselves. It is a terrible thing to be so full of hubris to think that we have complete control of our destiny, meanwhile we forget to look both ways before crossing the street.

The more awareness and knowledge we have, the more choices we may have, but this is a long process of education rather than just focusing on the light. I am not yet saying that Wolf is promoting these ideas, or embraces these ideas but in my mind he is on murky ground taking funding from a group that has pushed these ideas for years.

Wolf may not be directly promoting these ideas, but there are physics books that are doing so, such as Conscious Acts of Creation. This book is directly promoting the idea of YCYOR, and is written by people with a string of credentials. The following is a section from the The Bogdanov Singularity written by Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
November 5, 2002, Ark posted the following to sci.physics.research, the newsgroup where the rumors about the Bogdanov brothers were first made public by John Baez. It seems that it is open season on the Bogdanov Brothers, French Academics, but Ph.D.s at American Universities are a "protected species."

Ark's post:

The Bogdanovs - that I am trying to document in a balanced way at (and linked pages) may be a good start for looking at "real hoaxes."

Recently I was prompted to study the book Conscious Acts of Creation: The emergence of new physics by William A. Tiller, PhD, Walter E. Dibble, Jr., PhD, and Michael J. Kochane, Ph. D. The Preface to the book is signed by Rustum Roy, Penn State, Wayne B. Jonas, USUHS and .... E.C. George Sudarshan, University of Texas, Austin.

Are we ready to be bitten by monopoles? Here is a quotation:

"Through the agency of a nine-dimensional coupling substance in the vacuum, called deltrons, the faster than light magnetic monopoles functioning in reciprocal space can interact with electric monopole substance functioning in direct space of physical matter. The vacuum phase transition mentioned above involves an ordered phase formation of magnetic monopole substance phase of R-space. These magnetic monopoles of R-space travel so fast that they 'write the waves,' thought to be de Broglie pilot waves, controlling the movement of particles in D-space. A symmetry principle, called the mirror principle is thought to operate between D-space substances and R- space substances so that the monopole charge singularities in one space produce dipole images through the mirror into the other space. Likewise, the monopole mass singularities in one space produce images through this mirror into the other space. Thus the negative negative monopole mass singularities of R-space are thought to be the origin of the 'dark matter' we currently detect with our instruments in D-space.(...)"

If you think that these concepts are explained somewhere in the book - you may be surprised to find out that after you are through with the book, you will not have an idea of what the "theoretical part" is about.

Now, let me mention that I wrote papers on magnetic monopoles and on "reciprocity" (including conformal symmetric spaces). Therefore, I suggest, that after we are done with KMS, signature fluctuactions, and topological field theory, there is a new field to be exploited in the space of hoaxes: D-spaces and R-spaces and monopoles that write the waves, thought to be de Broglie pilot waves.... All supported by PhDs.

Conscious Acts of Creation is being madly promoted by the "alternative crowd" as "proof" that all their "you create your own reality" ideas are true. Conscious Acts of Creation, tells us:

This book marks a sharp dividing line between old ways of scientific thought and old experimental protocols, wherein human qualities of consciousness, intention, emotion, mind and spirit cannot significantly affect physical reality, and a new paradigm wherein they can robustly do so! …utilizing a unique experimental protocla on both inanimate and animate systems, that the human quality of focused intention can be made to act as a true thermodynamic potential and strongly influence experimental measurements for a variety of specific target experiments.

After almost 400 pages of speculation and descriptions of experiments and very little math, we are told:

Under some conditions, it is indeed possible to attach an aspect of human consciousness, a specific intention, to a simple electrical device and have that device, when activated, robustly influence an experiment conducted in its vicinity in complete accord with the attached intention. Thus, if they do it right, humans can influence their environment via specific, sustained intentions. […] Some new field appears to be involved in the information passage that occurs between conditioned locales that are widely separated from each other in physical space. Even with transmitters and receivers located inside electrically grounded Faraday cages, highly correlated patterns of information appeared in the remotely located locales. […] Although we don't fully understand them, we now have some new tools with which to probe the deeper structures of the universe and a new adventure is underway for humanity.

It is important to note that the "intenders" of the experiments were long-time practitioners of Siddha Yoga and could thus be considered metaphysically "in tune" to some considerable extent. The question is: What did they accomplish? Based on the descriptions, it sounds pretty earth-shaking, right?

Well, as noted, after almost 400 pages we find that the most significant result seems to have been changing the pH of a small sample of water.
We live in an age where the YCYOR has infiltrated the highest power centers in the world with horrifying results. Realize that as I am writing this review the conservative body count for Iraqi civilians is around 100,000. That number largely consists of women and children, and realistically the number may very well be over 200,000. Also millions of people will die horrible deaths from depleted uranium poisoning. The soldiers fighting will not escape the horrors either, many have and will continue to succumb to debilitating illnesses and give birth to disfigured children.

The Bush White House holds as their sacred creed the YCYOR paradigm:
Hysterica Passio

Chris Floyd
October 22, 2004

Now we come at last to the heart of darkness. Now we know, from their own words, that the Bush Regime is a cult -- a cult whose god is Power, whose adherents believe that they alone control reality, that indeed they create the world anew with each act of their iron will. And the goal of this will -- undergirded by the cult's supreme virtues of war, fury and blind faith -- is likewise openly declared: "Empire." [...]

First, the top Bush insider mocked the journalist and all those "in what we call the reality-based community," i.e., people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." Suskind's attempt to defend the principles of reason and enlightenment cut no ice with the Bush-man. "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality," he said. "And while you're studying that reality, we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Anyone with any knowledge of 20th-century history will know that this same megalomaniacal outburst could have been made by a "senior adviser" to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini or Mao. Indeed, as scholar Juan Cole points out, the dogma of the Bush Cult is identical with the "reality-creating" declaration of Mao's "Little Red Book": "It is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." For Bush, as for Mao, "discernible reality" has no meaning: Political, cultural, economic, scientific truth -- even the fundamental processes of nature, even human nature itself -- must give way to the faith-statements of ideology, ruthlessly applied by unbending zealots. [...]
Perhaps science and mysticism should be merged, but that both are so polluted and controlled in our decadent age that do so is a Herculean task. Those with more mystical leanings could benefit from a skeptical, scientific approach, and science could perhaps be more open to the high strangeness. Heck, much of science is not open to new ideas proposed by other scientists. There is a rigid line that should not be crossed, or you will chased down and shamed with potential career killing consequences.

One interesting concept that Wolf skims over is messages from the future:
Me in the future Talks to Me in the Now

As strange as this thought may appear, it follows that the future, too, "exists" side-by-side with the present and that we at this moment are sending quantum waves in that direction of time (which means we are laying out possible sequences of existential scenarios in a present-to-future order). Someone called "me" in the future is also sending back-through-time quantum waves which will clash with the waves being generated here and now. If these waves match, in the sense that the modulation produces a combined wave of some strength and there is a resonance, which means that the future event and the present event are meaningful for me, then a real future is created from our present point of view and a real memory of sequences is created in the future. If the two streams do not match, meaning that the modulation produces a combined wave of weak strength and there is no resonance, then the connection of that future and the present will be devoid of meaning. Meaning in this sense refers to probability. The greater the probability, the more meaningful the transaction and the greater the chance of it occurring.

The closer in "time" the sources of these waves are, the more likely that the two countertime quantum wave streams will "marry" and produce a strong probability - one that has a good chance of becoming real. It is quite possible that visionaries are those who successfully marry streams coming from far time-distant sources. People unable to cope with life are those who lack the ability to do this for the shortest time-distances with any degree of success. [...]
An interesting concept, but after reading the above, and the entire book, I am not much closer to understanding what his hypothesis truly entails. He does not make clear what definition of resonance he is using. In physics, resonance often means:
The increase in amplitude of oscillation of an electric or mechanical system exposed to a periodic force whose frequency is equal or very close to the natural undamped frequency of the system.
Those, whose only exposure to physics are "pop" physics books, might not read it according to the above. Very likely the natural inclination is to define it as a feeling of "rightness" or "kinship".

We are living in an age of perpetual war, where Fundamentalist Christians are screaming "kill, kill, kill" over the poisoned airwaves. I must say I feel little "resonance" regarding our current reality, but I am here in this reality so I must "resonant" with it to some extent. If I did not "resonant" with this reality, I would be somewhere else.

Granted, this book was written before the day the whole world changed, 9/11, but he does express concerns that an Orwellian, 1984-like future could possible create our present now:
If quantum computers do make their way into our lives, then such a situation as past reconstruction will be a reality (indeed to some extent it already is a reality just using the present state of the art of computers). Perhaps the imagined 1984 will take place in the future when the calendar points to 2010. I surely hope not.
I would say that people who are unable to cope with this reality are those who are not able to see it as it is - they want it to be something else. In other words they want to be one of the gods, without going to all that work to become one. Now what does Wolfe mean by coping? I don’t know. Is material success coping? Having zany adventures? Having lots of pop physics books published?

I could go an and cite other examples of what I considered use of ill-defined terms and fuzzy concepts. I did not feel the thrill of the San Francisco Chronicle Examiner cover quote, "Amazing speculations on time travel, the nature of reality and existence and the role of consciousness."

Instead, I will just cut to the conclusion of the book. I must admit that the ending soured me on the entire reading experience. First a paragraph that I agree with:
Knowledge of a single event, isolated from all other events is no knowledge at all. Knowledge without a sense of the past and an anticipation of the future is no knowledge at all. In brief, single data points without any reference to the future or the past are not even recorded as data. They simply do not exist. Only when there is confluence of past and future - a relationship stretching across time - does knowledge present itself.
The ramifications of the above are huge. Today when so many Americans are functionally illiterate, ignorant of the true past, and subject to the whims of propaganda, just exactly what kind of future is being created? Who is the creator, controlling the past, playing at god? What kind of beings want to control the past, and do we want to share their version of the future?

Wolf acknowledges the danger we are all in, and he writes:
[...] The human mind is the laboratory of the new physics. It already is tuned to the past and the future, making existential certainties out of probable realities. It does this by simply observing. Observing oneself in this world when awake. Observing the action of observing. If we are brave enough to venture into this world with consciousness as our ally, through our dreams and altered states of awareness, we may be able to alter the hologram by bringing more conscious "light" to the hell worlds that also exist side-by-side with our own.

Indeed, what with our bent toward constantly "defending ourselves," this parallel world already is a hell world. It is time to speed up the process of illuminating the hologram, time to bring in the big laser of consciousness. Evolution is our business too. It is time to know this universe-place for the first time ever.
I found it interesting that a physicist would appear to be advocating subjective states of awareness, when they are primarily suppossed to be seeking to understand the objective.

"...Through our dreams and altered states of awareness.", Wolf appears to be advocating subjective states of consciousness for creating your own reality. What good does exploring a subjective state do you, that when you pop out of it, you still are surrounded by objective reality. He is also advocating speed. Of course, the quickest way to an altered state is drugs, (remember the Eselan agenda?) but Wolf is not directly mentioning that here. Has Wolf spent too much time with the Shamans, in some Castanada like vision quest? His latest book is Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind Can Defeat Time

Earlier in his book he discusses his hypothesis that those with multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia could actually be stuck in two worlds, yet here he appears to advocating quick jumps to parallel realities via altered states without mentioning that such attempts could lead to a quick trip to the nut house. I think we are in this reality because we belong here; if we belonged somewhere else than we would be there instead of here.

He appears to be saying, although this is not exactly clear, that we expend to much energy "defending ourselves." Perhaps this world is a hell world, because not enough people expended energy in defending themselves, their destinies and their children’s destinies, and instead allowed the machine of the State to roll over them. Most weren’t even aware enough to notice the tire tracks. Wolf appears to think that knowledge is a good thing, yet advocates speeding up the process with short cuts, and conserving energy by not defending yourself. To me that appears to be out right dangerous, and this book appears to coincide with the Esalen Insititute agenda.

Perhaps we are already in an altered state, and it is time for us to wake up and see reality objectively for the first time. Perhaps it is time to see what is real, and this time to not flinch. Perhaps it would be better if we become individuals rather than fading out into oblivion. Does the world really need more people locking themselves up, sitting on their little mat and chanting oomm, with hopes of reaching another parallel reality? Or is that idea, pretty close to the Fundamentalist rapture ideology?

Having said that, perhaps there is no reason why those who pay attention to reality as it is, split off into a reality different from those who refuse to examine life and attempt to constrain and mold into something they think it should be.

That's probably crazy talk. But, I am not one of those people who thinks they know what can and cannot exist, and I certainly do not understand how the universe works nor do I care to pretend to do so. I can work with probabilities, make room for new knowledge, which can then alter my entire understanding of reality.

I must say that I am a bit tired of sharing reality with people who say things like:

Any criticism of Bush equals giving support to the people behind the 9/11 attacks

But then, people who say things like that are also tired of sharing reality with people like me.


Anonymous Mike Bentley said...

I am a hacker. I do NOT break into other people's computers and filch or destroy data. That's not what hackers do, and it is really, really annoying when you make that assumption. We solve problems, we do not commit crimes.

6:22 PM  
Blogger catalytic said...

Well of course you are right. I should have said cracker, but I forgot myself. I am not invulnerable to typical media portrayals lurking in the subconscious:

n. One who breaks security on a system. Coined ca. 1985 by hackers in defense against journalistic misuse of hacker (q.v., sense 8). An earlier attempt to establish `worm' in this sense around 1981--82 on Usenet was largely a failure.

Use of both these neologisms reflects a strong revulsion against the theft and vandalism perpetrated by cracking rings. While it is expected that any real hacker will have done some playful cracking and knows many of the basic techniques, anyone past larval stage is expected to have outgrown the desire to do so except for immediate, benign, practical reasons (for example, if it's necessary to get around some security in order to get some work done).

Thus, there is far less overlap between hackerdom and crackerdom than the mundane reader misled by sensationalistic journalism might expect. Crackers tend to gather in small, tight-knit, very secretive groups that have little overlap with the huge, open poly-culture this lexicon describes; though crackers often like to describe *themselves* as hackers, most true hackers consider them a separate and lower form of life.

Ethical considerations aside, hackers figure that anyone who can't imagine a more interesting way to play with their computers than breaking into someone else's has to be pretty losing. Some other reasons crackers are looked down on are discussed in the entries on cracking and phreaking. See also samurai, dark-side hacker, and hacker ethic. For a portrait of the typical teenage cracker, see warez d00dz.

6:46 PM  

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