Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘science’

25 JANUARY, 2012

What It’s Like to Live in a Universe of Ten Dimensions

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What songwriting has to do with string theory.

What would happen if you crossed the physics of time with the science of something and nothing? You might get closer to understanding the multiverse. In Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking About Time and Space, Rob Bryanton — a self-described “non-scientist with an inquisitive mind,” whose dayjob as a sound designer involves composing music for TV series and films — proposes a theory of the universe based on ten dimensions, a bold and progressive lens on string theory based on the idea that countless tiny “superstrings” are vibrating in a tenth dimension. In order for us, creatures of a three-and-a-half-dimensional world, to begin to wrap our heads around this concept, we have to radically reconsider our perception of infinity, the possible and the impossible, and consciousness itself — which is precisely what Bryanton sets out to do, in what he is careful to frame as a personal expression rather than a traditional scientific theory.

For a taste, here is a mind-bending explanation of ten dimensions might mean:

The project began as a set of 26 songs, exploring the intersection of science and philosophy. Over the years, Bryanton began to see connections between his own ideas and scientific theories across quantum physics, multiple dimensions, and superstrings, including the “Many Worlds Theory” first advanced by physicist Hugh Everett III in 1957. In time, he developed a model of the universe based on the harmonics of superstring vibrations.

Before launching into the additional dimensions, Bryanton also breaks down the familiar three:

A kind of scientific expressionism and creative exploration of curiosity, Imagining the Tenth Dimension might not rewrite the theories of Stephen Hawking, but it is certain to give you pause.

HT It’s Okay To Be Smart

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18 JANUARY, 2012

The Science of Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing

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What the greatest mystery of science has to do with this moment we share, right now.

We’ve previously explored the complex scientific underpinning of concepts we’ve come to see as cultural givens, such as time, infinity, and consciousness. But perhaps our most fundamental solid ground, the kind of existential stake on which we peg our very understanding of the world and our place in it, are the concepts of “something” and “nothing,” and nothing is more mind-bending than the proposition that there is no such thing as “nothing.” That’s precisely what theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explores in A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing — a riveting cosmological story that seeks to unravel the greatest mystery of science: where the energy in the universe comes from. Krauss uses groundbreaking scientific research to subvert some of humanity’s most basic and enduring philosophical questions, based on the premise that the nature of “something” and “nothing” is a scientific inquiry rather than theological or philosophical one.

Everything we see is just one percent of cosmic pollution in universe dominated by dark matter and dark energy. You could get rid of all the things in the night sky — the stars, the galaxies, the planets, everything — and the universe would be largely the same.”

This, of course, is not to say there isn’t room for philosophical reflection in these grand questions. Just take this one, brilliant in its exquisite simplicity, from my favorite illustrator and visual philosopher, Wendy MacNaughton (remember her?), titled The Universe and Forever:

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16 JANUARY, 2012

Manuel Lima on the Power of Knowledge Networks in the Age of Infinite Connectivity

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Manuel Lima, founder of data visualization portal Visual Complexity, author of the indispensable information visualization bible of the same name, and one of the most intelligent people I know, recently gave an excellent talk on the power of networks at the RSA. Using examples that span from the Dewey Decimal System to Wikipedia, Manuel explores the evolving organization of knowledge and information, and the shift from hierarchical structures to distributed lateral networks.

Networks are really becoming a cultural meme in their own right. We could even argue, is this the birth of a new movement, is this the birth of ‘networkism’?” ~ Manuel Lima

Further reading: Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information.

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