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Posts tagged ‘science’

Time Travel vs. Parallel Universes

Note: this is another older piece of writing (I’m transfering some stuff across from an old blog), but interesting thinking nonetheless. Be warned! It’s quite long.

I actually got thinking about this concept after re-watching the Stargate SG1 episode 1969, when I got rather annoyed about the obvious problem in a discussion between the team about the so-called “grandfather paradox.”

So, it’s a widely accepted theory that there is a paradoxical clause in the theory of travelling backwards in time, in order to change an event or occasion. This is because, theoretically, if the person attempting to change something was successful, then in their future the event would be changed, and thus the person would never have intended to go back in time and change it.

One major flaw in the grandfather paradox; sure, if you only apply it specifically to the act of going back in time to kill one of your own direct ancestors, than yes, you would not be born, so you would not go back in time to change it, so that person would not be killed by you, etc. However, if you apply the concept more broadly, then there arises the issue of whether direct intended action/intervention in a particular activity (eg. World War II) would only affect that, or would affect numerous other things; history would be changed completely. Again, there arises the argument that if, for example, WWII were effectively prevented, in the future the person would not travel back in time to prevent it.

What about if you went back in time to try and change occurrence X, and didn’t manage to change that, but instead inadvertantly changed some other major aspect of history, occurrence Y. If that hadn’t been your intent, then the changed future resulting from the change to occurrence Y would not affect your desire to go back in time to change occurrence X. By the same token, changing occurrence Y could have such major ramifications that you never exist. The grandfather paradox is a rather simplistic view of the complications of time travel.

Also, does this paradox only apply to backwards? What if someone were to travel forwards in time and change something? Again, if the intention to change something was not the driving force behind this change, theoretically it is possibly to inadvertently change history. The bad thing there being that you cannot go back in time to deliberately change a particular thing that you want changed. I guess as far as forwards time travel (assuming you subscribe to the linear model of time/space relations, which I don’t), it’s all a matter of how much you believe in pre-destined fate. Or perhaps not.

Let’s say that Person A lives in England in the year 3000AD. And Person B lives in the year 3000BC. If Person B could somehow transport to the year 1066, and prevent the William the Conqueror from taking control and introducing the feudal system, how would that apply to Person A? If time travel were to be possible, then time would have to be non-linear (even with the possibility of light speed travel, that covers distance, not time, and wormholes would not likely allow for time travel), which means that that change (preventing the introduction of the feudal system) would have to occur across every instance of time, instantaneously, rather than the change gradually evolving to create a new “true” history across the linear span of time. This leaves us with a problem; if all instances of time occur at once, there arises a new paradox, whereby Person B could not change the occurrence, because at the exact instance they do, it’s already done, so there is nothing to change. Alternately, this could be seen as the formation of a parallel universe.

My theory is that all time and all space exist at once and in the exact same place, because neither really exists in the first place. So arguing what’s at the end of the universe, or what occurs outside that exact instant in which all time occurs is immaterial, because they are all encompassing and at the same time to not exist. They are everything in their nothingness. In relation to parallel universes, I believe that they are formed at each possible choice in the entire universe. So for every possibility, there are a million others, creating an infinite number of parallel universes.

So, going back to the grandfather paradox, if one went back in time and killed their own grandfather, then they would simply create more parallel universes based on that action. They aren’t really changing history, per se, more like creating multiple alternate possibilities, which would all manifest as parallel universes. Of course, this brings up this issue of whether the aspects of Person X which exist simultaneously in Parallel Universe A, Parallel Universe B, Parallel Universe C, etc, are all individually consciously aware, or are in fact all just aspects of one consciousness, which is segmented. Or perhaps there are several, and it depends on how large the divergence between the universes is. This is a possible explanation of deja vu. So, if it is only a single individual sentient consciousness per universe, then yes, that person has changed history, as far as they are aware.

However, if one is going to rely on the theory of the creation of parallel universes as a result of changes made to the human construct of linear time, then you have to take into consideration, you also have to consider the possiblity that that means it is impossible to change the past linear history within any given parallel universe. If a new universe is created for the possibility of every divergence, then that means the instant you make that change, you enter into the parallel universe of that particular divergence. The history in the universe you left remains exactly the same. In which case, do dopplegangers become an issue? Intruiging.

If the theory of the above paragraph holds true though, one would have to consider all occurrences, people and events as unmeasured entities, or abstract concepts, or else the entire thing is in defiance of quantum theory, which states that when an unmeasured entity singularises, it has only one probably outcome. Unless each parallel universe is created not as an alternative to a possibility, but as a creation resulting from the different process by which any given entity has become singularised. After all, quantum theory does state that everything exists as an infinite composition of possibilities. Which makes sense, because the measure of an entity results in singularising its number of probable states to achieve a single outcome; so there are infinite possibilities, and thus the possibility of the creation of infinite parallel universes.

And just now, having browsed some sites discussing the grandfather paradox, it seems I’m not the only one who thinks that it’s a misconception regarding the nature of causality. Except that, being something like 15 at the time I originally wrote this, I didn’t express it quite so eloquently. 😛

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The Problem With Science as a ‘kind-of’ Meta-Narrative

In a lot of ways, the ‘enlightening’ force of the post-modernist philosophical movement has a great deal to answer for. In the wake of the realisation that all values – including morals – are entirely subjective and mercurial, people then sought for a new meta-narrative (an overarching value that is applied to all of existence in order to create meaning), one that they could assert is definitive and concrete.

Our society adamantly maintains that science is that meta-narrative; and thus it is that we run into problems when faced with the reality that we still haven’t actually abandoned the moralistic (and, predominantly, religious) meta-narratives of the earlier part of the century. That is to say, due to being suspended between the ideals of a purely moral society and a purely ‘rational’ one, there is (obviously) blurring between the two when put into daily practice; the problem with this is that sometimes this overlap creates larger problems than one might consider.

Although something might be scientifically/logically desirable, the latent ‘moral’ codes we inherited from antecedent society tell us that it is repugnant. Now, the problem here is that, because we maintain that our society is purely ‘scientific’, we refuse to acknowledge that this repugnance comes from the moral meta-narrative, rather than the scientific. Therefore, in order to reconcile the two (apparently dichotomous) values, people erroneously try to change the science or logic in order to meet what is believed to be an appropriate moral response. On the surface, although this is irritating from a scientific perspective (any real proponent of science recoils in horror at the mere thought of trying to implement arbitrary changes to rules, purely in order to achieve the desired results), it could be worse, right? But consider, for a moment, the long term ramifications of this.

If logic becomes an arbitrary concept, determined by the ‘moral’ whims of society, it then becomes child’s play to manipulate scientific ‘fact’ and logic in order to meet the desires of any individual. The warping of the evidence of the fossil record to meet the beliefs of creationists is a classic example of this. Eventually, science will become as subjective and malleable (read: changeable to suit the desires and wants of any interested party) as ‘morals’.

Despite what everyone I present this theory to says, I’m not against using morals as a guiding principle in our society; they are necessary to prevent true chaos and anarchy. However, I wish people would acknowledge that we are neither solely logical, nor solely moral. Realistically, we vacillate between the two according to what is convenient, and what will achieve our ends at any particular moment. And once we mutate science into a malleable, subjective concept, it then becomes yet another tool for those in power; and if it is so changeable, how can you construct a valid argument for/against it? It becomes nothing more than another value that is entirely dependent on opinion.

If we want to convincingly argue that our society does use science as a consistent meta-narrative, then we have to stick by it, and not disregard it whenever it’s inconvenient. If that seems too amoral, then we need to stop claiming to be a solely ‘logical’ and ‘scientific’ society, because, the reality is, we aren’t. Even better, perhaps we could stop looking for this one, ‘defining’ meta-narrative, and accept that there is no one system/value/principle/idea that can be consistently applied in a way that is acceptable to all. Because this weird ‘kind-of’ veneration of science (when it’s convenient, at least), is just merging into the old meta-narratives, and is thus dooming itself to the same perceived obsolescence as it’s predecessors.

Note: this post was actually inspired by a discussion about the moral ideology represented in Nolan’s The Dark Knight with one of my few delightfully intelligent acquaintances. The conversation will be re-posted here at some point.

The Psychoactive Properties of Incense

It’s well known, throughout the history of religion, that burning incense acts as a “psychopomp” – i.e. if you do it every time you practice any kind of religious rite/ritual, your subconscious then associates it with that special purpose, and then when you burn the incense your subconscious automatically takes over and you achieve an altered state of consciousness much more easily.

But according to this news article, studies are being done (incidentally, on mice, which is abbhorent – there is no reason this study can’t be done on people) that indicate that incense made from frankincense resin – a scent long associated with religious practice, and still widely used in Catholic and Orthodox rituals today – actually physically affects channels in the brain:

“…burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression… They found that the compound significantly affected areas in brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs…”

Of course, this effect has largely been well documented in numerous ancient texts, as reflected in contemporary NeoPagan knowledge. Scott Cunningham, for example, who is well known for his extensive writing on herbalism and aromatherapy, describes the properties of the scent of frankincense thus:

“The aroma of frankincense also reduces stress and tension… (by pointing out that our lives are bound up with more than one “reality”.) This knowledge is soothing in the face of adversity and hardship.” (Magical Aromatherapy, 1989.)

(A brief note on part of that extract – the idea of multiple realities is in accordance with contemporary psychological views that disorders such as depression and anxiety often represent the individual being trapped within their own (bleak) perspective.)

So, it’s nice to see that modern medicine has once again made a catch up with ancient religious knowledge! But sarcasm aside, it’s interesting.

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