The Birth of Time is for all intents and purposes the Big Bang. If you prefer it is the origin of the universe we live in. This song is a metaphor for the process of the big bang event as if you were witnessing it from very close range or inside of it. It is churning and pulsating, ripping and fluctuating, transmuting, disappearing and appearing. If this is still difficult to grasp, think of high speed photography played back at normal speed. The movie Inception displays this as the protagonist changes dream levels and the perception of time either speeds up or slows down. In this case we have slowed down– umm time— with such magnitude that the actual explosion of the big bang is taking place over the period of a minute + a couple of seconds.
If we slow down the concept of time enough, we can illustrate any sudden process (like an explosion) as a longer and phased process, like birth for example. This is what the song tries to achieve. It attempts to not only express dimensions like space-time, and forces as sound and melodies, but also tries to represent the conceptual framework of existence itself via anthropomorphizing the universe as being “born”. It even tries to encompass the potential of the spiritual realm.
The song’s very heavy and nearly oppressive bass tones aim to express not only the seriousness and magnitude of the event, but also the driving and unstoppable notion of “progress” (or more specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics). The synthesizer is intentionally gritty and represents the transmutation of (theorized) Calabi-Yau shapes representing curled up dimensions. These multi-dimensional shapes can grow spheres from within and tear. They can also reform into new shapes of lesser dimension. The ripping and tearing sound of the synth describes this process, while simultaneously attempting to represent the transmutation of 3 of the fundamental forces (electromagnetism, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear). The listener’s minds eye should be able to see the forces actually melding into one another like an incredibly dense mixer where the ingredients actually become different things in a rotating, twisting motion.
The doctor and laboring mother are anthropomorphic illustrations of the universe itself. Some theories claim that our universe was born from others in a concept call the multi-verse. In which case one universe begats another, and perhaps many more. There are also voices and breathing in the song which represent the concept of the anthropic principle. This is the music’s way of showing how consciousness and sentience contribute to the definition of existence (and the universe itself). There are other sounds that contribute to the melodies in the song. All of which represent unknown concepts such as what exists outside of the universe that is being birthed, the death process, which in the absence of time is identical to birth, and the gathering of potentials physical laws which would arise out of the shape transformations mentioned above.
The spiritual component of the process is handled by the choir. Depending on the listeners POV, it would represent the heavenly host of angels and beings, or spirits who exist outside of our existence. Which ever POV works as this song focuses on the more mechanical processes and admittedly assumes (among other things) that most of what actually exists does so with the universe (Anthropic again). The choir also serves to drive emotion by signifying the imminent arrival of “time” which is undoubtedly an introduction of the greatest imaginable magnitude.
Birth of Time (Interlude) is ambitious, if not foolhardy in its scope. the actual song Birth of time will be far more earthy and relate-able.
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Imagine if you were a child and somehow had access to a machine that allowed you to travel safely through the cosmos. The machine could transport you to the farthest reaches of the universe and enable you to see things no other human has even conceived of. The only condition of this journey is that you can not use language to explicitly describe the things you saw. You could only use music and sounds.
Cosmophony is that vision. The interpretation of a journey through the cosmos by a young person. The rhythm of nature grounds you as you take off into the unknown. Classical like melodies give the impression of centuries of European influence on human understanding of physics, while a familiar sound of a wind instrument is chopped and distorted to remind you of the inherently foreign nature of space travel. Violins give the landscape of beautiful dust cloud galaxies, quasars, and nebulae. Sub bass shows the effects of gravitational lensing from incredibly massive objects. Organ riffs keep special relativity fresh in your mind as you race ever faster to the next destination noticing that light still moves at its natural speed regardless.
Then comes the discovery of the unknown. The organ changes as all other now familiar sounds give way to the bubbling and energetic fabric of space-time itself. The music has a mid eastern feel to represent the most ancient time scales. You don’t know what exatcly you are witnessing, but it is amazing. Is it the birth of new universes? Perhaps the continual spawning and annihilation of particle/anti particle pairs? Have you shrank down to near Plank-scale size? Whatever is happening it is beyond your understanding and can only be witnessed and not comprehended. As the revelation of what you see begins to sink into your mind, a cresendo rises to represent the discovery of something new. Maybe its a new property, particle, idea, or amalgamation of know things? Maybe its the confirmation of humankind’s theories of what actually makes up everything we are and see? Whatever it is its a big deal.
After the break you’re back traveling and sight seeing. This time with new, enlightened eyes. The things that seemed strange are now curious and wondrous, but somehow intuitively familiar. You have grown and now the universe is even more exciting than it once was. As the song ends and the only sounds remaining are the organ of special relativity and the bass violin of familiarity, you feel at home as if receiving a warm hug after a long journey.
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Image from Impactlab.com
OK so you don’t have to be technically married. You can be shacking up, or whatever and still get the basic idea. Marriage, however fickle it has become, still retains a sense of permanency that live-ins don’t. That’s why I titled this vomiting of conceptual musing as I did. You are an individual. You are the creator of your universe, but you have an impact on the universes created by others. Your power is enormous, but you may not know it. It may be easier to delegate portions of that power to others like the government, a significant other, or even a boss. Never the less, you are an incredible power. Sometimes just to remind myself of this idea, I think about how much energy is stored in the human body. Not Matrix style, as a battery, but real energy. Special Relativity showed us the mass energy equivalency. If you look at your self from that perspective, you will see that you are an incredible ball of energy. Way beyond any conceivable atomic weapon. This is just the energy of your trillion trillion cells, and doesn’t even begin to consider your mental capacity! I’m getting off topic. Marriage = cartography. When you were a baby, your parents recorded everything about you that they could. They marveled your development. They beamed about you to their contacts. They studied you and absorbed every photon that reflected off of your being with great vigor. As you got older, your parents continued to observe and marvel at you, but perhaps your friends and others began to take a more detailed look at you and your essence. You did the same for them, most likely. Now fast forward to your spouse or significant other if you have one, and the potential longing you have for one if you don’t. This is where I will show you my philosophy on “essence cartography”. The idea is that your essence will be recorded by those closest to you. Consider a eulogy: The speaker will reflect with stories and anecdotes trying to capture the essentials of the deceased in a short amount of time/energy. Often times they are happy and very positive, only reflecting on the accomplishments or triumphs, and foregoing the negative and uncomplimentary aspects of the person and their life. But who really knows you as you are? Who is the one person who knows you most intimately? You may think it is your parent(s), but I believe it is your spouse. I think you should choose your spouse with the realization that this person will be the caretaker of your essence, and the cartographer of your being. They will remember more about you than anyone else. While your parents studied you for your formative and developing years, your spouse will examine you for the rest of your life. They will do retroactive investigations into your childhood based on the zealous testimony provided by your parents. They encompass your being. They surround your existence and, in some ways, disseminate you into the universe once you have died. Information is like matter, stress, and energy. It cannot be destroyed, only altered. I am sure someone much smarter than I am could tie this concept into entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. I would actually love to see that happen. Ultimately, how we live is being recorded by nature, but humans can only interpret that which is displayed via language. I presume this is why we invented it in the first place. Because of this, our significant others are the record keepers and cartographers of…. us. They define us in some ways to the universe, and relate our being to other humans. Give it some thought…
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You know how you get so pissed off at the person who just HAS to get one more position ahead? How about the jerk who refuses to let you in, in order to preserve that precious spot in stop-and-go traffic that they possess, and you are trying to take from them? Since being a full time motorcyclist, I have developed my own perspective on both of these, and another traffic phenomena, I will call Attention Apodization.
So here is a take on why some people just have to preserve, or gain a spot in traffic. Aside from the obvious car length’s worth of distance closer to the destination, being in front of some body means a higher possibility of gaining freedom to travel at one’s own pace. As an example, say there is a fairly congested but not stop-and-go traffic on a multi-lane highway or interstate. If you are behind some one going slower than you, you are in some ways subject to their will. They define your pace, which means they have some degree of control over you. We don’t like that. Also there is that tendency to want to race the person near you that many of us harbor. That faceless, nameless person in the Honda Accord beside you somehow becomes your opponent, and if they seem to get a bit further ahead in traffic, it becomes a goal to “make things right” by regaining that distance lost. We all have this in us, don’t we? But aside from the control and aggression aspects, the simple truth is that we want to get where we are going as fast as we want to, with minimal delays due to the choices of other people.
Now for my new theory on motorcycles, speed, and safety.
Since motorcycles are a bit harder to see on the road, and the consequences of an impact with something while riding is much greater for the the motorcyclist, I came up with this concept of Attention Apodization. It works like this. If you are riding in traffic (on the interstate or highway), you must constantly check your blind spots, mirrors, front and sides. Anything can happen. You have to be very vigilant because of the greater risk of sever injury if you crash. Riding along at pace with traffic means that the average vehicle on the road is moving slightly faster or slower than you are. This means that you must give near equal attention to your entire 360 degree surroundings with more dedicated to what’s in front of you, next largest portion to your sides, and slightly less to your blind spots and rear.
Attention Apodization is the process of moving slightly faster than traffic in general, such that you can dedicate more of your attention to what is in front of you, and less on what is behind you. The logic is based on the idea that, statistically speaking, there is a higher probability of someone running up on your rear if you are pacing traffic, than there is if you are moving slightly faster than traffic. You need not be a full standard deviation higher (which would probably gain you a ticket), but even 5 mph or so faster will help maintain a good air cushion for your rear, and decrease the chances of a vehicle moving with in normal speed range running up on you. The apodization of your attention toward the rear is the decrease in attention dedicated to checking your mirrors and blind spots as often as you would/should under pacing conditions.
Of course you must always stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. The AA idea just says that you need to check your “four o-clock to eight-o-clock” views slightly less often as you would normally. I check mine every 10 seconds or so. I used to check them every 5 to 7 seconds. The extra few seconds adds up to a good amount of stress relief, and comfort during the ride, without being complacent or lazy.
Just to reiterate, I still think you should always check your blind spots, and “six” regularly, as a speeder, or some other anomaly could change your situation very quickly. This is just a little idea to test if you want to see if it changes how you feel on the ride.
Keep the shiny side up.
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Image from “Lost in Space” TV show.
Religion + Space Travel
I think everybody has, at some point asked the question “Why am I here?”. I don’t mean waking somewhere you probably shouldn’t be. I mean wondering why you exist on earth. This may be the most fundamental question anyone can ask outside of questions about survival. When it comes to religion, it may well be more fundamental than survival itself! When coupled with the constant imagery of doom via social and cultural erosion, high tech warfare, and quickly vanishing natural resources, the question of why am I here becomes associated with another question. Who/what will save us? While it is true that most people gain their political and religious views from their families (parents), it appears that most people still have a longing deep within to know the answers to these questions.
Religion answers that question for all people. While it varies greatly in ideology and manifestation, everybody subscribes to some form of belief system that governs their POV and to some degree their behavior. For some people their religion is a monotheistic God. Some believe in karma, or technology, or humanity itself, but everyone believes in something. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll call that their religion. Could space travel actually be a religion? More precisely, could the hope tethered to space travel be a religion?
The conversation today was very interesting and though provoking (but it always is, right??). Dan Peterson, Professor of Theology at Seattle University, provided great insights as to the motivation for space travel, and at least part of our fascination with it with respect to religion as stated above. He stated that the need for something “more” drives us into space, and postulates that a certain way, our hopes of the future are pinned on the promise of space as a haven for humanity. Dave Thomas ponders the impact of zero-G living on the human psyche, and wonders if the “otherness” of space could somehow reset human nature and provide us with a clean slate on which we can build a brighter and less barbaric future upon. He (Dave) also muses on the attire and lifestyles that may be afforded by interstellar life, but he didn’t mention recycled body fluids, which I thought would have made agreat tangent… ;)
The conversation was great, the ideas presented were plenty of food for the thinker and dreamer. We did have some disagreement as to them mentality of what Dan calls the “high priests of the interstellar sanctuary”. Those who rank among the worshipers of nature are Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and a multitude of astronomers, cosmologists, and astrophysicists. While I do agree that some of the greatest names in space science believe that leaving the planet is our only hope, I am not sure I agree with the notion that the anthropomorphizing of all intelligent life is a bad thing. It is one of two options of possibilities. Intelligence (combined with sufficient power) yields barbarism and self destruction, or it doesn’t. Some well know futurists, and scientists, Hawking included believe the former, while other great thinkers (Dan Peterson included) believe otherwise. This runs in tandem with a notion held by Dave that human nature may be subject to our environment. Something I disagree with.
In the end we are still hoping, searching, and longing for an answer to the human condition. Some sort of savior to right our wrongs, and protect our interests and future. For some, space is our last chance, for others God is the only way.
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I just got to Vegas. On my way here I flew on a 737-700 through some pretty turbulent airspace. It wasn’t anything noteworthy, but it was there. The plane was a little over half full, so I had a row all to myself, and across the isle and one row back was a kid. This kid looked like he was about 13 to 15 years old, and just the typical boy flying alone. Since I love flying, though I have to prepare myself for it each time, I like to look around the cabin whenever there are unexpected events like turbulence occurring. I like to see how people react.
The day was beautiful coming out of Seattle, so I took advantage of it and did my best to maintain a practical sense of distance and velocity as we took off and left the area. I try to understand just what it means to be going 150mph, though the acceleration is so gentle getting there. I try to measure the distance from me to the ever shrinking cars below, and maintain a very real sense of what that distance means. It is surprisingly difficult for me to do. As we flew over some giant cloud formations, I again tried to appreciate the scale and distance of the clouds relative to me, and then to the world, and then to the universe.
It didn’t help matters that I was listening to Leonard Susskind discuss the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle may very well lie at the heart of the contention between science and religion, rigor and philosophy, and imagination and tradition. It is the anthropic principle that gives many scientists heart burn, and challenges (seemingly) the foundation and honor of the scientific method which is clearly the holiness of science to most.
So I began to try to explore the depth of the anthropic principle. Conditions that are so perfects as to provide the backdrop for life, and more importantly intelligent life capable of questioning its own existence. So delicate are the conditions that there must have been an intelligent designer; or perhaps the rarity of the conditions correspond to the loneliness of the intelligent life forms in the vastness of the universe. Could it be that we are the product of one of the infinite possible universes? Is it really that simple? Is it true that we were designed by one greater than ourselves who carefully set up the universe for our existence? Are we really that special?
This made me think of life and death. I imagined that the plane lost altitude quickly and crashed into a mountain. My life is extinguished very quickly. On the one hand, it’s no different than a bug on a windshield. The human body behaves just like any other soft fleshy creature under impact, and the results are the same. Rescuers wouldn’t be able to find much of us, and so we would simply decompose smothered in jet fuel, aluminum, plastic, dirt, and carbon. There is no romance in that. Nothing that sets us apart from any other lower life form. I glanced over at the kid in the other row. He was just sitting there listening to his ipod without a care in the world.
I started thinking about the non intuitive nature of Quantum Mechanics, and how it seems so foreign to our every day life. That strangeness caused some of the greatest minds in science to loose sleep for years. It haunted the most famous scientist of all, for the rest of his life. Possibly even worse due to the fact that he discovered it. Can we visualize the world through a lens of that sort? Can we really understand what it means to describe nature in terms of probabilities rather than a continuum of states that we measure as closely as we like, so to speak? Can telepathy really be explained by entanglement, and if so does that mean that consciousness can survive without the body?
So I look out the window again and see a giant cloud. Suppose I appeared outside of the plane and grew to a size large enough to fit on the cloud as you would a king sized bed. As I drop into the cloud, I would simply burst through it and continue on. But what if something totally unexpected happened? What if something happened that seemed to go against everything I know about nature? I fall into the cloud formation, and right as I touch the cloud, each atom is separated from its molecule and rejoined into a molecule of something else, like a flower pedal. The weak force, which holds us together as things, is overcome not unlike what would happen in a plane crash, but on a more absolute level. Each atom is separated. I am vaporized in a reaction with the cloud, and reformed with the cloud as a giant collection of tiny flower pedals. If my consciousness is entangled with the cloud, could I still exist? Does my essence remain? If so, what of my perspective? What would seeing be like, feeling, or taste? Would I long for bees and butterflies to find me?
Trying to visualize what my conciousness percieves without my body is similar to how I feel about difficult concepts like the multiverse, quantum entanglement, measuring the spin of an electron (or other object), String Theory, and the idea of a holographic universe. Visualizing the DNA of the very universe we live in is like trying to look at the Nevada landscape from the perspective of a million flower pedals.
So I look at the kid in the other row again. He’s just sitting there, chillin’. He has a near infinite number of options available to him. An entire universe of possibility. He likely cannot perceive that. He will most likely continue on with his stay in Vegas, or connect to California. He could very well have an entire universe of ideas and thoughts completely different from mine that will manifest themselves throughout his life, no matter the length of it. Again, it’s difficult to visualize the possibilities. All I know is that I’m very, very limited in a very, very big and complex place.
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