Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Simplelarity Principle

Here is an Article from Scientific American so full of beautiful concepts to tackle for the Archetyper. I will first list down the phrases from that article which ring a bell, and then tell you what I think:

  • core tool of skepticism: how to see through information obfuscation

  • what Tufte teaches about analytical design: Good displays of data help to reveal knowledge relevant to understanding mechanism, process and dynamics, cause and effect. We see the unthinkable and think the unseeable

  • Clear and precise seeing becomes as one with clear and precise thinking.
    - the Feynman-Tufte Principle: a visual display of data should be simple enough to fit on the side of a van

  • Simple design, intense content

What stands out for me is our tendency to simplify complexity in order to understand. Using Diagrams, Web Interfaces, Lists, Theories (Grand Unified Theory or TOE, String Theory), Math and Symbolisms, Metaphors, Analogies and Parables - it is proven time and time again that the most effective method to understand our universe is simplification. Why is this so?

Why is it that we dont "complexify" things in order to make them more understandable? To me, this is a pattern worth noticing, so relevant to our era that I must give it a name: The Simplelarity Principle.

The word - Simplelarity (simple-larity) stems from my observation that the tendency of Intelligence towards "Simplification" runs counter to the Singularity. In Vinge's and Kurzweil's terms, the Singularity is defined as the point where machines surpasses human intelligence and everything becomes unpredictable (think post-event horizon). Well, unpredictability means chaos and complexity. On the other hand, Simplelarity simply means that when machines, and/or humans become super-smart, everything about the universe would have been simplified via Mental Models or Tools to make everything understandable and predictable. Higher Intelligences must be able to simplify things better, not make a mess, right?

Brains and Minds use tools and mental models to simplify and make sense of the world. If we all become more intelligent and better at simplifying things, just as the Feynman-Tufte Principle example shows, then the world will 'become' a much simpler and better place, more understandable and easier to manage.
Hence we would never cross the 'Event Horizon', rather, we will just stay on the 'Prevent Horizon'. Simplelarity is Bliss.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Escher, the Droste Effect, and Video Feedback

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was reading Am I A Strange Loop? by Hofstadter. I was contemplating on writing about Video Feedback loops and my own childhood experience with two mirrors facing each other when I came across this fascinating website that I cant help but share it.
These are attempts to answer some questions about Escher's picture, such as: "what's in the blurry white hole in the middle? Using a bit of math, and some computer algorithm, Escher's methods are unraveled in fascinating detail. Its a feast for those inclined in Arts and Mathematics.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blunders in our Modern Age?

Conceptual metaphors and analogies are wonderful tools for understanding the world. And same as with visual pattern detection, we are able to predict or draw conclusions by mapping statistical data and discovering a resulting pattern.
But because there is such a thing as optical illusion, could there be also such a thing as conceptual illusion? Could it be possible that a wrong analogies and metaphors applied to certain cases could produce wrong conclusions? Indeed! This has happened and been happening throughout the centuries. We used to think that the earth is the center of the universe because we "see" that the sun revolves around the earth. Now even in our modern age, the mistake in applying our mental models of analogies or similarities to observations can still occur. Today, even with the most sophisticated telescopes that see light-years in the past, or even when armed with the best compilation of statistical data ever, and even with highly advanced theories we could still commit conceptual blunders.
Only in the past 2 weeks I have come across two possible blunders that seem all too similar to declaring that the "earth is the center of the universe". The first could be about the possible error in the seed theory (see previous post) and the other is the alleged hastening of the universe's demise because of astronomers and cosmologists having observed dark matter. The error I can see in the latter is that perhaps, a theory that holds true in the realm of the very small, such as Quantum Mechanics (Schroedinger's Cat), may not hold true for the large scale macrocosm.
Lets hope the conceptual errors in history doesn't repeat itself in our time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Smudges on the Glass for Clouds in the Sky

One of the most important theories in Astronomy developed in the past 15 years -- one that won a Nobel Prize -- could be toppled by just a simple analogy: Like Smudges on the Glass.
A recent article on Wired tells about how a lone Astronomer named Gerrit Verschuur, challenges a theory of how galaxies grew from packets or "seeds" of hydrogen in the very early universe. NASA scientists led by George Smoot announced in 1992 that their CoBE satellite had imaged the ultimate baby pictures of the universe, revealing the seeds. Like acorns growing into oak trees, they theorized, those seeds grew into galaxies like the Milky Way.
However, Verschuur's research asserts that the seeds are not located on the edge of the universe at all. Rather, he says, the so-called seeds are just previously unmapped clouds of "neutral hydrogen" gas located inside the Milky Way. In other words, astronomers who mistook the "seeds" for objects on the edge of the universe are like someone who looks outdoors through a window and mistakes smudges on the glass for clouds in the sky.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Am I A Strange Loop?

I ran to my local library to borrow "I Am A Strange Loop" by one of my favorite thinkers, Douglas Hofstadter. Its been a while since I read his last book "Godel, Escher, Bach" many years ago, and this new book will be a great feast. I've gone through the first hundred pages and this looks to be a very relevant book to be featured on by way of Hofstadter's constant reference to metaphors, analogies, symbols and patterns, revolving around the central idea that consciousness is a self-referential system, a Strange Loop.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Symmetry and Archetypes: Its a Small Universe !

Carl Sagan said that "there's something terribly beautiful, austere, glorious, majestic about the fact that the same laws apply everywhere". This is called Symmetry - a property of our universe where the laws of nature are the same in all parts of the cosmos (except inside the singularity, perhaps).
This post mainly shows the connection between the laws of nature and universal concepts. The Laws of Nature include the laws of physics, atomic laws, chemical laws, and so on. And the universal concepts are the archetypes.
Cosmic Laws and Universal Concepts are linked via Emergence. Let us follow the chain of emergence: The laws that govern the most basic elementary 'particles' give way to the behavior of atoms which follow atomic laws, producing molecules that follow chemical laws, which made possible the emergence of biological life, animals and ecosystems, which supported the evolution of conscious beings - able to perceive and ponder itself via concepts and paradigms. These concepts and archetypes are very similar to Plato's Forms, and they will be perceived by any intelligent and sentient being in another part of the universe, by way of symmetry.
There will be a difference in language, of course, but nevertheless, these Archetypes or Platonic "Forms" will be understood, in one way or another. Like Mathematics, there will be a common ground between us and sentient beings that live thousands of light-years away in another galaxy. If its just distance that separates us from extra-terrestrials, but they are only a "thought" away, then it means that Symmetry makes the universe seem smaller. Its a small world universe after all. :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

2-Minute String Theory Introduction loaded with Archetypes

I've often mentioned String Theory as one theory that hinges upon a simple string to understand the inner fabric of the universe. Amazing what the power of archetypes can do! Check out this 2-minute introduction of what String Theory is and notice the process of archetyping involved to make an otherwise abstract idea into a simple concept, easy to understand and even seeds more ideas.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Song, Self, Soul and Spirit

I remember a transposer software that automatically generates the chords in a different key for a song. Transposing is useful as it helps us sing a song at a more comfortable pitch if the song is either too high or too low for the range of our voice.
Why is it that even if one raises or lowers the key, one can still recognize the song? Regardless of which octave it is on, the distinct character of the song is retained. This property brings one thing to my mind - each one of us is a song.
We all have our unique character, personality and identity. Its what we call the self in philosophical terms or the soul in spiritual jargon. Is it possible to preserve or extend the "self" even when the material substrate from whence the mental life arises is destroyed? It cannot be denied that the brain supports much of our consciousness. Marked changes to the brain from injuries, drugs, strokes, senelity, surgery or illnesses such as Alzheimer's literally changes the mind. How can one's sentient life and consciousness can be regenerated, extended or even resurrected if it depends on a fragile piece of crumpled meat? Let us explore a premise : There is some sort of a "metadata" repository of an individual's moment by moment slice of consciousness through time. Our very existence leaves behind trails of information regarding our "self". A history. Consider this scenario : If all of my very self, my soul, and everything that makes me who I am - past, present and future - were laid out flat and static as one long page of musical piece frozen in time (think of Julian Barbour's Time). Now if a Superbeing that transcends all dimensions were to change bits of the past chords of my life and rearrange notes here and there, then my soul's "DNA" loses the unique essence of who I am - it would be the utter destruction to my soul. Every single bit of past experiences has molded the "me" in it's entirety. The choices I made in the past shaped my identity. Had I chosen different decisions, I might have been a different "me" - another song with a different tune.
Throughout life, an individual's soul is being written out on this current octave- the physical world. Each day is like a musical bar, and every minute we are leaving 'notes' as the universe records the 'musical piece' of our soul. Whether we like it or not, our very existence leaves behind trails of information regarding our "self" as time goes by. Could it be really true that each one of us will eventually give an account of one's life? For if there's a record, then it can definitely be played back by the superintellect who owns such a "database" (Heb. 4:13, Ecc 12:14).
Time goes by, i.e, it "moves forward" because there might be another octave that everything is destined to move into - a higher key, a higher dimension (such concepts of higher dimensions already have a mathematical description used in the field of String Theory that they call the Calabi-Yau Space). In that higher plane, it may be possible to completely regain our personality, memories, consciousness, and mental life. Somewhat like 'porting' or transposing the 'self' into a higher platform. Could resurrection really be possible? Only if Someone 'ports' our soul, a Cosmic Musician who must transpose everything for us to ever get a shot at a future life.
Is there something beyond for us? Or is there nothing at all? Something or Nothing, Eternal or Ephemeral. Its our choice what to believe now, but whichever is our choice, that is our faith.
But if one is still challenged by the question of life beyond death or the even existence of a personal self to begin with, then perhaps the Song metaphor will give an insight. Each individual is a song.
It is amazing how a glimpse of some understanding about the human soul can be gleaned from the field of music. As Ludwig von Beethoven said, "Music is a higher revelation than philosophy." Indeed, music has been providing insights throughout the ages over mysteries of nature. We hear phrases such as "harmonies of nature", "music of the spheres", and "Cosmic Symphony". Its no wonder why String Theory, which probes the very fabric of the universe is hinging upon the metaphors provided by music. Our universe simply screams of such archetype patterns for us not to notice.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Transcending Causality: You Have A Choice

Negativity is contagious. Having a difficult person to deal with at work or at school can bring you down. The oozing negativities from mean people can sometimes spill into others, transferring the negative energy and perpetuating an ugly workplace or a stressful environment. It may seem natural that a person saturated in a nasty environment may become rude too, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Humans can break free from cause and effect. You can set yourself free from being influenced by irate people. Say to yourself, "I am because I am, and not because of you", its a mantra I am willing to share in order to stop the spread of the "mean-ness disease". If you know yourself to be a naturally lively person and you're starting to become unfriendly too because of constant contact with rude people, then tell yourself that you have a choice on how to be. To be is exactly how you are apart from the ugly influence of nasty people. You can still be nice. Its not easy though, and a lot of hard work and patience is required to break free from the patterns of this world. Life is what we make it, and not what others do.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What Makes Life Beautiful?

In this world, beauty can often be found on a system whose state is somewhere between being ordered and random. The sunrise is a magnificent scene because it is on the threshold between night and day. The sunset is a splendor because it is midway between day and night. The amazing variety of species is partly due to minute errors in the genetic transfer of traits in the offsprings, thereby allowing a tantalizing animal and plant diversity. Music itself lies between a monotone and white noise, and the best of it is at its peak of complexity. Poems look like a jumble of words and yet it still makes a pretty sense. The best things hangs in the balance between order and chaos. Indeed, Complexity Theory specifies that any system functions at its best when in the borderline between order and disorder. Its almost saying that a little bit of chaos is a good thing. A little bit of 'defect' makes things pretty.
Is this the reason why some artists allow or induce some 'disorder' or drama in their life to make it more colorful? Is this why a husband and wife sometimes get into a bit of argument to learn more about their marriage and each other? Is this why we sometimes need a li'l bit of pain to 'feel' life? Could this be the reason why we do crazy stuff in order to escape boredom? Is this the reason why we laugh? Is this why we humans engage in extremely dangerous 'sports' activities so we can 'live on the edge'?
At the heart of the matter, we know that we are alive, but we know too that we are here only for a moment, and then gone...not knowing what will happen next. This makes life beautiful. Because "Living" is a tip-toe in the fine line between life, and death. Knowing the fragility of life, as well as its transcendence is what makes the glimpse of life worth an eternity.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Computation: A Tool to Decipher Nature's Patterns

If you've ever wondered about the shape of seashells and how the patterns on their outer shell came to be, then its worth to revisit "A New Kind of Science" (NKS) from Stephen Wolfram. Using the sheer power of computation to model the inner details behind nature's shape-making processes, Wolfram has provided a breakthrough insight to learn how shapes and patterns arise in nature. NKS, together with its software Mathematica gives a toyful learning environment to play with the inner workings of nature. With Cellular Automata, we discover that nature follows some pretty simple basic rules to come up with interesting patterns, such as those of the seashell.Computational Tools of Deciphering Patterns
Complex as our world may seem, it runs on basic discreet laws that can be deciphered. This idea is in unison with the focus of - to recognize patterns, basic laws and simple rules within different emergent levels of the natural world. This task ignites the sense of wonder and awe that comes with living in a universe as mysterious as ours, and provides a continuous stream of insight to understand our world better.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Sleep of Death and the Life of a New Day

The Sleep of Death and the Life of a New DayGood Morning, in my previous post, I have introduced the question of the afterlife that all sentient beings ask of whether one's "self" or consciousness will be able to extend indefinitely after death. And I have outlined the conundrum of not being able to know what the real answer is. I note that knowing and believing is different from each other. Many believe in the afterlife, but no person truly knows the answer to the question.
As an Archetyper - one who looks into fundamental patterns and principles to understand confounding issues,
I will attempt to provide only some insights (not answers) regarding the afterlife.
The key, to begin our investigation, is sleep. Sleep is our mini-death experience. Although the brain continues to churn in deep sleep, many hours are lost from our stream of consciousness. Often on a good dreamless sleep, the last thing we remember was the night's lullaby as we wake up to the new day. Being able to sleep and then waking, is an experience worth celebrating, especially if and every time we wake up. For it is a mini-taste of rebirth or resurrection, a new day of life. Indeed throughout the ages, man have noticed that sleep is the closest thing to death in terms of subjective experience and its symbolism or abstraction. No wonder Shakespeare have written "To Die: To Sleep" and the famous rub, "For in that sleep of death.." The Bible also considers sleep as an analog of death. In Daniel 12:2 "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake.."
I wish I could say, "Congratulations! You are immortal!" based on these, but I am not here to declare, but rather to share the patterns I see, and stir the intellect.
With sleep as the starting point, the trail leading to an archetype concept is easy to follow. We sleep because we are biurnal creatures that evolved the circadian rhythm due to the light and dark experience. And this is because of the night and day cycle caused by the earth's spin around the sun. And our sun, the earth, and us are borne of star-stuff, made from remnants of a previous star that died as a supernova.
Note the patterns on different levels that are also chained together: Light and Dark. Night and Day. Sleep and Awakening. Life and Death. Death and Rebirth.
The patterns reveal that it is possible for Consciousness to be re-created, rebooted or re-instantiated. A person may live again, but whether the Personality can be kept fully intact on the next instance of Conscious life is a deeper mystery.
The important thing is that we are here and now, ready to face a new day. Congratulations, you are alive. Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Different Spin on The Afterlife

Is there life after death? The Archetyper muses on the AfterlifeAhh. We come to the ultimate question that a sentient being ever asks in this darn world. Is there life after death? Am "I" going to live on after my heart stops beating and my brain dries up like a prune? Questions of the afterlife conjures up answers that we have been taught, taught ourselves, or 'been exposed to. People that subscribe to a major religion such as Christianity or Islam will definitely say yes without hesitation and then describe heaven or hell. Staunch atheists will smile and be content (or proud) of a temporary life which ceases completely upon death. Agnostics will simply shrug that we don't know - none of these answers can be proven. And even if, in our modern times a person who has been clinically brain-dead beyond all doubt - rises from the dead after three days in the morgue, it's still not a good basis to prove the after-life. Why? Because for a person to prove it for himself, he must experience it first-hand - to die and then live again. The 'self' that asks the question must go through it personally in order to truly answer it beyond all doubt. In other words, it must first happen to you before you can truly know whether the afterlife is real or not. I guess we will never truly find out until it happens to us, right?
But now here's the rub: What do the patterns tell us? Are we provided any glimpses at all?
The answer might surprise you. And it has been staring us in the face - everytime we wake up.

{ See next post for conclusion }

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So what if our universe is fractal?

Ferns: A Clue To A Fractal UniverseDo a search on 'fractal universe' and numerous resources will come up speculating that the universe is fractal in nature.
It must be too obvious. Even children would notice the visible spirals apparent in tiny objects as well as in large ones. Notice the patterns in sunflowers and seashells, or take a look at satellite photos of typhoons and pictures of galaxies.
The spiral pattern appears in both small and gargantuan objects which signify that the universe has an inherent fractal property. The spiral, the sphere, are just a few basic clues that denote that our world has the property of "self-similarity". Take a closer look at a fern's leaf, it is an exact replica of the whole fern including it's leaves! The patterns are just too overwhelming to ignore that it spawned a whole new science of Fractal Cosmology to investigate such a conjecture.
So what if the universe is a fractal? What are the implications if the cosmos is self-similar? What would it mean for us anyways?
Everyone would probably have a different answer but in context with this site, having a fractal universe would mean that 'archetyping' (a term I coined for pattern-seeking) is a wonderfully fruitful activity. It means that there is so much to be discovered out there. It means that there is an awesome landscape of adventure for the mind, such that a pattern - or an archetypal concept, discovered in one observational level can be used to unravel new knowledge in another.
And because fractals are the result of an 'algorithm' that dictates how the pattern appears (as exemplified by Mandelbrot Sets), it means that there is an ultimate cosmic algorithm, or 'archetypal functions' waiting to be tapped into.
And so, the answer to the question "So what if our universe is fractal?" is a resounding, "It is Fun!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Metaphors from the Fig Wasp and Sycamore Fig

Metaphor from the Fig Wasp and Sycamore FigI just can't help but write about how inspired I was by this documentary so rich with metaphors and analogies to learn from, the greatest of which has something to do with living life according to your purpose. The energy I mustered to launch was partly inspired by this DVD, hence it is only proper that I post about this wonderful story of the Sycamore Tree and the Fig wasp.
Every single fig tree supports an entire ecosystem of thousands - even millions - of organisms, one species of which is the fig wasp.
The fig wasp lives only for a few days but it does so remarkably because the next generation of sycamore trees depends on them. Only the fig wasps can pollinate the figs. And only the fig tree can support the survival of the fig wasps. Each cannot exist without the other.
On a mass-ive scale, we are like fig wasps on this "sycamore" planet. For millions of years, earth has been nurturing our species. It is now our turn to do our part in nurturing the planet and its ecology to propagate life for future generations.
On an individual scale, a single fig wasp busting it's gut to accomplish it's unique mission is the way to go. There is nothing more fulfilling than to breathe your last knowing that you are what you were meant to be, and done what you were meant to do.

The Pattern in Longevity and how to break free

The Pattern in Longevity and how to break freeIt has been recently announced that plants' lifespan follow the same rules as the animal kingdom - that bigger animals live longer, and smaller ones die quicker - in a predictable proportion between size and longevity. Think fruit flies and whales, duckweed and Sequoia. I know that this fact have been known long since long ago, and its no news at all but its a good time to reflect why this is so. Humans only have about a hundred years to savor life on this planet. Our natural lifespan follow the same ratio described above.
Is there a way to live forever? Proponents of longevity struggle to break the barrier, and I do believe that in the future, the lifespan of humanity will be extended a hundredfold. But still mortality will remain forever. As stated by the second law of thermodynamics, our bodies continue to decay into entropy.
The only way I see to transcend mortality is to live life to the fullest by living according to your purpose, here and now.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Prime Numbers and Quantum Physics

Prime Numbers and Quantum PhysicsHere's a great story that illustrates why it is good to look into patterns from other fields of study and apply it to another field to gain novel new insights. The pattern discovered from one discipline can then be used to solve problems in another field that may have been unsolvable (or would have taken decades to solve) from within that field alone. In this case, the connection is between Prime Numbers and Physics. This is what I call Archetyping.
The gist is that when prime numbers were plotted as points in some sort of graph (zeta landscape) using Riemann's equation, a pattern emerged that the zeros seemed to be "running in a straight line through the landscape". Hence, Riemann He proposed that all the zeros, infinitely many of them, would be sitting on this critical line — a conjecture that has become known as the Riemann Hypothesis. The connection to Quantum Physics is that "if you compare a strip of zeros from Riemann's critical line to the experimentally recorded energy levels in the nucleus of a large atom like erbium, the 68th atom in the periodic table of elements, the two are uncannily similar". And so, "If one could understand the mathematics describing the structure of the atomic nucleus in quantum physics, maybe the same math could solve the Riemann Hypothesis".
And so, insights from Quantum Physics resulted in great new many discoveries in Mathematics. A formula to predict all the numbers in the sequence, as well as solutions to other math-specific puzzles were gleaned from Quantum Physics largely inspired by the connection and the pattern.
I believe that a great many new things can solved in other fields using this "extra-disciplinary cooperation". Great questions in Science, Spirituality, Theology and Philosophy can be given a new light, specially in questions about the meaning of life and maybe even the afterlife, if we all learned a bit more to correlate and cooperate.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Galaxies Pointing Where?

Galaxies Pointing Where?A multitude of galaxies have been found to be pointing in the same direction. The scientific paper and a blog commentary about it says that about 200,000 galaxies are aligned in the same direction. Kudos to Mr Longo for finding this pattern of galactic proportions.
But wait(!), considering the fact that the estimated total number of galaxies in our known universe is around 500 Billion, does 200,000 matter that much? Is this a galactic pattern worth pondering? Someone asked what is it that these polarized galaxies are pointing at. (I imagined iron-fillings being aligned and stiffened into spikes by a magnet).
Then I kinda thought in the other direction - what caused them to point the other way?
The imagery that comes to my mind is the mysterious Tunguska explosion in Siberia. All the trees fell down aligned as if finely-combed radiating outwards from the center of the explosion.
Could the galactic alignment be the result of a great "Cosmic Tunguska explosion"? Or is there some kind of colossal "magnetic" field aligning the galaxies like iron-fillings?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pattern-Seeking Sets Me Free

Pattern-Seeking Sets Me FreeI just noticed and realized something that is overwhelming : seeking patterns actually sets me free from the biases of world-view camps. I could completely appreciate an awesome metaphor from a Creationist article, and yet also be completely mesmerized by wonderful insights from an Atheist’s publication. I can be enlightened by Scripture, but also nod in approval of an Agnostic essay.
An open mind, with a burning desire to discover the truth is the key to be free from being captive to a single narrow idea. Indeed, if the mere exercise of finding patterns of truth provides immunity from biases, then Truth itself will set you free.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Memory One

Whether this thought outlives me or not, this heralds the beginning of an adventure in discovering the patterns in the world we live in.