Brian Josephson at Nobel Lindau 2019

Just a holding post to capture this recent (2019) link to Brian Josephson’s Nobel Laureate talk to young scientists at the 2019 Lindau meeting.

Brian was one of the first physical scientists I came across (back in 2002) that gave serious consideration of the relevance to physics of living and conscious models. I’ve seen him speak and linked to other lectures of his, and it’s fair to say his written thought is better than his presentation skills, but his thinking is still worth close consideration.

Matter thinks, feels and converses” in Karan Barad’s words he was tempted not to quote.

Much about the limitations of mathematics to represent physics. Our choice of mathematics (languages) greatly influences the models we arrive at
(Reminded me of @katoi and Peter Rowlands)

Lots of good links in his entirely textual slides, pan-psychists and universal-lifeists take note. (Mentioning no names Philip Goff and Tim Bollands).

A lot of the content of the talk is in this paper “The Physics of Mind and Thought“. And consistent with my original and enduring cybernetic interest, it has a strong information processing and game theory thread. A physical scientist quoting Foucault, Wittgenstein and ABBA’s Name of the Game! Excellent.

[As recently as here, quoting the paired concepts that to start playing a game you have to know (some of) the rules, but the playing of the game evolves and creates new rules and objects between the players, even if the formal (constraining) rules are fixed. I think that “stepping stone” model is basically “your move” in Hofstadter’s “Tabletop” game.]

Oh my:

“This is what conversation is about; individuals develop tools for creating a synthetic reality on the basis of their past experience (compare this with building real objects with a construction kit, on the basis of descriptions in language) and can cooperate in their use.”

… and …

“[T]here may be no other way to advance beyond the unavoidable limitations associated with the outdated idea that the complexities of reality can be reduced to a formula.”

I’m Not Wrong, Erik.

Had one of those pet-hate Twitter-threads where someone makes a negative comment @me and dozens of others pile-on with “like” (and more) without any attempt to engage with the original point. (I used to have a pinned Tweet that said I routinely blocked such people.)

Firstly, I’m not wrong.

Secondly, it’s a statement in support of Erik Verlinde whose work as a theoretical physicist is well known to me – very close to the core of my work – with information as the complement of entropy at a fundamental level. I’ve written a lot about him in this context. I’ve travelled and paid to hear him speak and asked him direct questions at conferences.

I suspect it got the negative reaction because:

      • the “IF” wasn’t noted, what I said was conditional. Objectively it clearly wasn’t wrong.
      • the “YOU” operating as the English “ONE” in “IF YOU” was presumed aimed at Erik who felt the need to defend himself, when clearly it was aimed at experimental scientists meeting that conditional investment criterion.
      • and anyway, I already made it clear I wasn’t suggesting a direct motivation, I was agreeing with Sabine’s point (which she has gone on to further elaborate this morning). See blind-siding below.

And yes,

… in response to those suggesting I was some kind of idiot that didn’t get theoretical physics and/or that I didn’t appreciate the black-hole horizon information density was theoretical and not directly amenable to empirical test …

the point, as Sabine has elaborated, is that it’s not a surprise finding or any kind of paradox to those already interested in theoretical physics at this fundamental / metaphysical boundary. People like Erik have already “solved” it. It’s only a paradox to those already invested in the standard model behind high-energy experimental collider physics. The targets of Sabine’s comment, and mine.

Generally, no professional scientist is directly motivated not to publish significant results. But where people look for findings in their expensive experimental kit is blindsided by assumptions in that investment, and the need to retrospectively justify that in support of further future investment. Blind-sided to seeing the significance of a theoretical finding elsewhere.

What we’re doing is trying to redirect more funding to theoretical physicists exactly like Erik.

Jeez. Rant over.

(Now, how to cc all those in the individual-like pile-on?)


[Post Note: Made the general link above about many references to Verlinde in the Psybertron blog, but this 2018 conference summary is quite apposite considering @Katoi has now also joined the fray here:

Two theoretical physicists with concerns for epistemological boundaries of their art are Sabine Hossenfelder and Erik Verlinde. Both might agree that science has been “fucked-up” by humans.

You’d think that experimental physicists have little to fear from the theorists? Except of course that enormous investments in their very large kit may have been justified to look for the wrong things. They need to hope that null and surprise results from already justified experiments still add to our new models and body of knowledge.

And so it goes.]

All Lives Matter, Don’t They?

Keep coming back to this point, being missed by the more naïve in politics – mentioning no names, Lozza. But the ever thoughtful David Baddiel makes this point in the Labour / Corbyn / Anti-Semitism row:

Spot on. As natural language statements, …

    • Black lives matter / Jewish lives matter / Anti-semitism is wrong
    • All lives matter / All races matter / All racism is wrong

… are all clearly true statements. The question is why, when is it appropriate to say or use these expressions,

    1. in natural discourse.
    2. in hashtags / public memes supporting those sentiments and general positive rights / action campaigns to rectify the specific prejudiced imbalance, in our behaviours.
    3. in direct reference to specific political campaigning organisations.

In  natural discourse (1), the question of why & when appropriate is really about the objective of the discourse. Simply stating truths because you can is basic, but trivial in terms of achieving progressive outcomes. (Same applies to questions of Islamism/Free-Expression, LGBT/TERF debates, etc.)

Making such natural statements is always a matter of political choice, as well as their truth value. So the reason to state them is matter of believing specific disadvantaged groups (2) do need to be recognised in behaviours that restore balance … or not?

However (3) is quite different. It’s quite possible to sincerely support and act on (2) and to sincerely not support the political campaigning organisation that has acquired or dominated the particular (#BLM) hashtag or meme. Almost invariably the issues are complex and political campaign groups too often reduce their voice to politically correct slogans.

“Je Suis Charlie” is great as an assertion of free-expression against Islamist violence, in support of its immediate victims, but has little to do with resolving Islamism in society.

Supporting LGB and Trans rights is natural and necessary, but the polarisation of (eg) Pink and Rainbow/Pride organisations against nuanced detail objection on “TERF” female rights is unhelpful. (The whole Michael Cashman / BBC journalist guidance vs political campaign support is the next one to break? It’s about the specific political campaign affiliation, not about supporting enlightened takes on the issues – the Beeb will probably shoot itself in the foot by being too PC to explain that clearly, but they’re not wrong.)

All lives matter / Every life is sacred is totally distorting value judgements around Covid deaths. Judgements between civilised treatment of living humans – patients and everyday citizens living life – and long term expectations about populations and normal death rates and lifespans.

People asserting their right to say all & every are not being helpful to humanity. In fact they are – perversely – driving us to a kind of PC, lowest-common-denominator take on “all” issues.

Fundamental Physics in Graphics

Having got quite excited last month to reconnect with Martin Rowland’s simple presentation of the mathematical symmetries at the root of fundamental physics several neat graphic representations turned up via Twitter just this week.

Now normally I react to flashy graphics in science as giving too much mis-placed concrete credence to someone’s speculative musings – especially since flashy graphics are a free ticket-to-ride in the media. Sex sells, even metaphorically. (A real memetic problem). But two caught my eye initially, and then a thread by @katoi followed:

It started with this article in Quanta Magazine (h/t @AnitaLeirfall) which includes this wonderful dynamic 3D simulation:

(If you get lost, simply zoom back out, navigation is a little tricky, but worth exploring / interrogating.)

One of my reservations is still that for all its elegance and symmetries, the standard model is more than just missing some element that explains gravity and dark matter & energy at the cosmic scale, but must still be fundamentally flawed in some way we don’t recognise, probably to do with our default physicalist view (*) of the world. But this is indeed neat.

[Post Note: (*) “Our view” means we have to take Anthropic effects seriously, see footnote re Nima’s view.]

Shortly after that, these turned-up …


… in this tweet.

Now I didn’t, still don’t, fully understand the “actually is an equation” point, but have always been fascinated by the equivalence relation between the four circles in 2D space and the one sphere in 3D space, especially also given flat / curved space considerations?

Anyway @katoi followed that up today with a thread explaining the significance:




[Post Note:

Still digesting and watch the YouTube Video(s), (as well as investigating @katoi’s web site nounicorns – which has very little content yet?)

Oh, and wow! … the thread that keeps giving … the point of Nima Arkani-Hamed being the presenter is a non-PC / non-knee-jerk stance wrt to Anthropics … Carter, Barrow & Tipler … the inevitability … Wonder if Rick ever tied-up his ideas with Nima’s ?

(The handwritten graphic used by Katoi above is Nima’s)

It’s not about (mere) details,
but about (deep) structural issues

… I may be some time … ]

[And @Katoi continues the revelatory thread the following day, starting here ..

… more to follow?]

Pirsig, Whitehead, Sneddon & McWatt – Credit Where Credit’s Due

It’s no secret that my philosophical – metaphysical – journey was helped along early on by the writing of Robert Pirsig [(1974) “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and (1991) “Lila“], although I was late to that party, at the turn of the millennium.

I’m pretty catholic when it comes to sources of meta-physical thought and their syntheses  into a comprehensible & workable real-world-view, but I do still maintain that Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality is as good a framework as any I’ve come across. Almost all other syntheses of my own I relate to the MoQ even if, like any other philosophical theory, there is plenty of room for disagreement in interpretation and application, even amongst those that take the MoQ seriously. (I still maintain my Pirsig Pages.)

The path of getting Pirsig into the academic canon has been (and continues to be) a rocky one. Plenty of academic philosophers have written comparative papers, short-courses and even masters theses. So far as I am aware, there is still however only one full PhD dedicated to the work of Pirsig, and no full-time / tenured academic staff and/or courses that major on Pirsig.

A Critical Analysis of
Robert Pirsig’s
Metaphysics of Quality

Anthony Michael McWatt

(PhD thesis submitted in accordance with the requirements
of the University of Liverpool, November 2004.)

I don’t major on Pirsig particularly these days, although my intuitions of MoQ-as-Framework persist. This 20 year blogging project attests to the range of philosophy, metaphysics and fundamental physics I’ve researched since first reading Pirsig, and I’d not re-read McWatt’s thesis until this past week.

Anyone following my thought journey will have noticed that Whitehead figures prominently in the last year or two. Well, there are over 30 references to Whitehead in McWatt’s thesis that must have gone right over my head when I first read it. (I was prejudiced against Whitehead’s mathematical collaborations with Russell until I eventually caught up with his metaphysical thinking.) McWatt has references to “Process & Reality” (PnR) and to “Adventures of Ideas” (AoI) as well as secondary references, including

Andrew (AG) Sneddon (1995). MA Thesis
A Process Analysis of Quality:
A. N. Whitehead & R. Pirsig on Existence & Value

Having been knocked-out by PnR – I discover I already had an unread copy of AoI. Perversly, according to most evidence, I’m finding AoI harder going than PnR.

Anyway, I clearly need to do a round-up of my Pirsig<>Whitehead synthesis at some point. Credit to McWatt for  his earlier work here.

The West is Dangerously Weird

Had this piece from The Harvard Gazette bookmarked for a couple of weeks and still not fully digested:

“How the West Became WEIRD
– that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.”

It’s an interview of Joseph Henrich by Juan Siliezar.

Main thread in my own agenda that “western rational arrogance” is a disease that we suffer from and leaves us blindsided when it comes to understanding that there are alternative world-views held by those not subjected to western colonisation, mental via media if not physical via force of arms.


Follow-on beyond and unrelated to the above article, a topical example of why dominant Western reasoning is a problem for the world:

The alternate views of Covid19 “disease” on the one hand and Covid19 “response measures” on the other.

Prof. Sunetra Gupta – Oxford UK (theoretical) Epidemiologist – with alternate views on this balance of risk. (I’m pretty close to her position.) “Do the math” is the false step; easy, but false. Classic memetics.

Dr. Reiner Fuellmich – German lawyer – a bit too big-capitalism business-conspiracy focussed for my taste, but interestingly bringing in very early the idea of archetypal Germans being very disciplined in terms of rational logic representing a target for “the science” driving the Covid19 response. He goes as far as to say “there are no excess deaths anywhere”

If nothing else in a rational democratic society – popular consensus is not a great measure for scientific validity, not when the very basis is already biased to that kind of “Western” logic. The modern (post 1920’s) East is thoroughly contaminated with the same western mental virus.

The only “conspiracy” is that we are memetically trapped – complicit – in this reasoning loop.

And “economy” has nothing to do with the arithmetic of money either – that’s “autistic” to coin the phrase. It’s about living meaningful lives.

The only argument for lock-down is the delaying effect that prevents overload of health services. The delay in itself has no other value, yet has huge and profound downside “costs” in its own right.


Post Note:

Tricky part of this whole debate is what constitutes an “acceptable” level of death. Zero or minimal sounds reasonable but is in fact totally irrational.  As someone quipped on Twitter the other day, aiming for zero deaths shows a lack of ambition, we should aiming to raise people from the dead 🙂

Keeping “Excess Deaths” within normal expectations is the benchmark most settle on, but even here, the question of excess relative to what is still a political (ie policy) choice. The appearance of science and pre-school arithmetic is attractive, but nevertheless entirely political. Consider:

Expectations Alive in 2020
UK Pop 67,800,000
UK Life Expectancy 81
Average annual (all causes) 837,037
Average monthly 69,753
Average weekly 16,005
Recent 5 yr recorded average 11,000 – 12,000

Slightly scary is that formal stats of UK excess death rates being used in public stats on Covid progress are using weekly deaths relative to that 5 yearly average. Recent years have been exceptionally low death rates, life expectancy and population have been rising unusually rapidly recently in the UK. Policy is being set on keeping it rising at these rates. Peak levels of deaths during Covid 19 (22k/wk) have been barely as far in excess of the lifetime expectation (16k/wk) as the 5 yr average (11-12k/wk) is below it.

Given this is marginally significant, it is even more worrying when looking at actual Covid reported deaths (these are just England, not UK). Whatever the age group 95% of reported deaths coincide with pre-existing conditions over the whole Covid period since March.

I agree with the general “Barrington” position that Covid health risks are being greatly exaggerated in connection with Covid policy measures.

We should be living life, taking precautions and taking extra care of the elderly and those with (known) pre-existing conditions. Just as we would with any infectious potentially life-threatening disease. Basic good manners.

In terms of my own longer-term agenda, simple arithmetic is being used as a substitute for sound judgement because simple arithmetic looks like following-the-science and absolves decision-makers from the responsibility of making judgements that could be challenged by such simplistic scientism as being “unscientific”.

Simplistic scientism is killing real science and civilisation as we know it.

Wake-up folks. No conspiracies of skilled-incompetence needed, just natural laws of evolution, driving humanity to irrelevance until we recognise this fault in our modern rationality.

Critiques of Whitehead’s Metaphysics

Just another placeholder post, like the last one from Alan Rayner, this one from Leemon McHenry who, the only time I came across before, was as editor of a collection of articles including Alan Rayner.

Anyway this link to a piece reviewing contemporary Critiques of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, including Russell. (Made it pretty clear I’m a fan of Whitehead’s process / event-based worldview, even if he over-elaborates his arguments.)