Friday, 24 June 2016

Teleportation: science fiction or science fantasy?




Science fiction novels and movies often assume teleportation as standard. I doubt whether there has been a single episode of Star Trek in which  at least one person or alien is not turned into a beam and transmitted more or less instantaneously from A to B.



I was inspired to think about this by an article in the UK journal Prospect (July 2014) entitled ‘If your brain is vaporised…’, an interesting review by Jim Holt of two recent books dealing with teleportation and related subjects.





The standard view of the SF fan is that while this technology is way beyond us at present this may not always be so. Never say never in science. However, there are difficulties with two aspects of this phenomenon, or more accurately thought experiment, which seem fundamental to me and which were not discussed in the review:



1/  encoding and decoding the material structure of a person.



2/ the nature of the agent animating this structure and holding it in place over time.



Once the body-brain system is encoded into, say, a digital stream of electromagnetic pulses, this encoded data can be transmitted as a beam to a receiver which decodes the beam and constructs a replica of the brain-body system from chemicals stored in the receiver.  To avoid having two identical persons the original one would have to be destroyed or, alternatively, the atoms themselves would have to be transmitted through some kind of ether or converted into some form of energy which could be transmitted and decoded at the receiving end.



The assumption is that the original person is defined purely by configurations of matter called atoms and molecule, with large amounts of energy filled space between them and within them.
Much of the structural information is at sub-molecular level and so subject to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and so beyond the reach of any attempt to measure and encode it

 Unfortunately for the credibility of this thought experiment, but fortunately for us as living creatures with self-consciousness and free will, a person is not, in any case,  just a pattern of atoms and molecules. Life is a dynamic, transcendent process, not a static pattern.



 The essence of a person is some agent which not only holds the constituent particles in place at any one instant but orchestrates their arrangement over time, conducts millions of repairs to damage (e.g. radiation or copying errors during translation and transcription within a cell) each day and replaces the enormous variety of atomic and molecular systems with new ones from outside the body-brain system. Over a period of ten years all the matter in your body-brain is completely replaced. We have no idea what this causal organising and controlling agent is in scientific terms but some people call it a soul and when it stops orchestrating and repairing the body-brain system there is death.



Not only does the soul have to repair and maintain the existing patterns and processes. It has to make them grow and develop in size, structure and function in response to, and in conjunction with, the environment, which includes other organisms. It is ‘in charge’ from the moment it inhabits an embryo – perhaps even before since it may actually choose, or play a part in choosing, its own embryo out of thousands of fertilised eggs.



This is a crude attempt to give the flavour of the total scheme involved in life and death. It can't be anything else.



Could the soul (or whatever you want to call it) actually be the result of the particle arrangements? Just throw the particles together and you have an embryo with a soul to manage it. No chance. Each embryo is in some way the product of billions of years of evolution, an intelligent process, preplanned from outside of space-time (i.e. prior to the Big Bang creation event), by which our biosphere and its constituent life systems have survived and developed over the aeons. Each body-brain system plays an integral part in the biosphere. Just as the body-brain system is governed by the life giving soul so is the biosphere governed by a larger soul – otherwise it could not thrive the way it has, despite five or six mass extinctions during the 3.8 billion years of life on Earth and a solar radiation input that has increased by up to 30% as the sun has become more luminous.



Teleportation may be a legitimate concept of SF. But only if ‘SF’ stands for ‘science fantasy', not 'science fiction’. There is a literary genre distinction between the two. Science fiction is based on visions of a future employing novel technology in which the laws of physics have been pushed to the limit. In science fantasy there is no attempt to remain within the domain of even the frontiers of physics – in effect one is introducing the supernatural. Teleportation requires us to suspend the laws of physics so it is really a science fantasy concept, albeit an entertaining one which enables characters to be transferred from place to place as part of an intergalactic story line.


For teleportation to be possible in any shape or form there has to be a soul. It will be this soul that decides whether to permit teleportation and governs how it is achieved, a soul guided by the Creator.


John Sears







Monday, 13 June 2016

Our precious planet. Part 3. Built for civilization

Part 1 showed how the solar system is situated in a safe haven in the cosmos. Part 2  listed the factors which make the Earth itself unique for the development of life. 





This post deals with the special terrestrial conditions which allowed civilization to evolve.

Here they are, as far as I understand them:


Atmosphere

The oxygen content of the atmosphere is just right to allow fire (any more and all combustible material would  be ablaze, much less and we would not be able to breath). Fire has been an essential requirement for keeping warm as well as ore smelting, metal processing, cooking, medicine, heat engines, rocket motors and much else.

Approximately 4/5 of the atmosphere is nitrogen and this has been a major contributor to soil fertility. (See below.)
The atmosphere is relatively clear so that we can see celestial objects and deduce our place in the larger scheme of things. (See below.)


 Water

The different phases of water depend on the pressure exerted on them by the atmosphere and on the ambient temperature. On the Earth's surface  the pressure and the range of temperatures allows all three phases of water: solid, liquid and vapour. These conditions have existed for billions of years and allowed the development of biodiversity (e.g. by transporting pollen, viruses and bacteria around the globe in oceans and cloud aerosols).

Rivers, lakes and oceans have allowed exploration and  trade in bulk up to very large distances. They have also been a valuable source of fish, a staple food for most peoples and in combination with the atmosphere have kept the climate stable enough to permit
the  building and survival of cities. 

Largely through the Earth's unique  plate tectonics and crustal formation mechanism it has the right ratio of land to sea area (29%). The topography, the relative sizes of the continental land masses and the positioning of continents and  islands are also optimal. E.g. diverse societies evolve because they are separated and yet are still able to trade and interact, which usually leads to innovation and enrichment. 

 Soil                 

The surface soil in combination with a plethora of micro organisms have been suitable for agriculture, the main facilitator of civilization through human history. Lightning has been a crucial factor in extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere - nitrogen being a critically important nutrient for crops and other plants. Lightning also starts wildfires, leaving mineral-rich charcoal which improves the soil's ability to retain water. The origin of soil is complex but associated with rivers, flooding, rainfall and glaciation as well as earth movements and volcanoes due to plate tectonics.

Animals

 Animals suitable for breeding, training and domestication (e.g. dogs, sheep, goats, oxen, horses, falcons) have been essential in allowing hunting, agriculture, transport and communication to develop. Even if animals had evolved on other planets they are unlikely to include these or even their equivalents. Dogs, e.g., have  unique DNA which permits extraordinary variability through breeding.



Location in the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG)

Our solar system, unlike most star systems, is so placed in the MWG as to afford good views of the universe. It also enables us to measure the cosmic microwave background (‘snow’ on the screens of certain TVs) from the nascent universe, providing evidence of the Big Bang theory. Had the Sun been placed in most parts of our Galaxy we would be totally oblivious to most of the universe and its history (in a sense we still are because it comprises largely dark matter and energy; but at least we are aware that there is something there waiting to be investigated). 


Order in the sky

 The ordered movements of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars in the sky, from night to night, day to day, a consequence of the Earth’s rare stable rotation, inspired the ancients to develop mathematics and mark the seasons for agriculture. The concept of an ordered universe was born. Largely unpredictable events such as exploding stars (supernovae), meteors and comets only served to emphasize the underlying order.
Also, the Moon is 400 x smaller than the Sun but 400 x nearer. This makes them appear to be the same size in the sky and results  in the extraordinary phenomenon of total eclipses which excited the curiosity of early man; and without curiosity, civilization can't develop.
 The resulting solar eclipses enabled modern man to learn about the Sun’s atmosphere and discover helium in the Sun before it was found on Earth .The identical apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon also allowed precisely timed eclipses and new moons to form the basis of a calender.


Ice cores, sediments and fossils

 Freezing of ice over millions of years has provided ice cores giving evidence for solar, supernovae, magnetic, atmospheric, volcanic and pollen phenomena over this period. Cores of lake sediments have also proved valuable records of the past, especially climate change. This evidence would not have been available without water occurring as both liquid and ice for billions of years. No other planet we know allows this. Understanding of history is important in allowing a people to advance.
Fossils of creatures preserved in sea deposits turned to rock have given us the ability to reconstruct certain aspects of the evolution of life over billions of years.


Materials courtesy of plate tectonics and the moon

Ores and minerals –e.g. copper, tin , iron, uranium and silicon - for materials technology have been made available through fine tuned plate tectonics. Hence the Bronze, Iron, Atomic and Silicon Ages (what next?). Note that plate tectonics, as far as we know unique to Earth,  are driven by the heat released during the decay of radioactive thorium and uranium produced in stars.
 A few months ago a paper in Nature showed that the formation of the Moon has played a critical role in preventing the 'iron-loving' heavy  elements (gold, silver, iron, titanium and others) needed for civilisation  from migrating  towards the Earth's core which would make them unavailable for mining. See this article by Hugh Ross



Energy

Vegetation and fauna for coal, natural gas and oil was deposited in time for use by technology-driven peoples. Even today areas once devoted to crops are being used for biofuel plants. 

The existence of hills and mountains, again the result of plate tectonics, together with water, results in fast flowing rivers and water falls which served as power sources alongside oxen etc. in pre-modern civilizations. Tidal and wave power is also used.

Nuclear fission has been a major carbon-free energy source since the 1960s and, like plate tectonics, depends on radioactive atoms made in stars. This form of nuclear power is likely to be replaced by nuclear fusion later this century. This is a much cleaner and should involve minimal environmental damage. In my novel (2077: Knights of Peace), this is the  main power source for the world at that time (although very much a background to the main theme of fighting violence without causing more violence). Certain types of nuclear fusion technology look promising as power sources for interplanetary missions.

 Conclusion

These conditions, and probably many others, were key to the development of our civilization. No other planet discovered so far appears to have life; or, if it does, it has not evolved beyond bacteria or viruses, even over billions of years. Whatever the implications there is no doubt that humankind and the world it inhabits are in a class apart from the rest of creation.

John
Author, 2077: Knights of Peace

Reach me at
cosmik.jo@gmail.com


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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Reversing dementia in honeybees

Bees, it seems, hold the promise of reversing dementia. This is not crank science but is  based on a Scientific American guest blog by Kara Rogers. It arises out of the observation of epigenetic phenomena.

 Epigenetics is the study of how nature's protein manufacturers, of which genes are a critical component, are controlled by the environment, both within and outside the cell, and the environment will depend on the mode of interaction which the bee undertakes in performing its role in the  colony.


Neurons are a special  kind of cell and it seems that in a honeybee at least they behave differently in different situations - they change their structure and the way they interact with other neurons according to the role of the bee. As this changes, the neurons and the pattern of neurological activity changes and this is in some way linked to cognitive ability. In bees cognitive ability changes not only with age but with social function. As a bee changes its role in the hive its mental ability changes as it encounters a different social environment and different mental qualities are required.

There are three kinds of occupant in a honeybee nest (all with identical genes):


  • queen

  • worker (sexually immature female) 

  • drone (male, whose sole purpose is to mate)

Focusing in on the workers, they start out in life as  'nurse bees', a stage which lasts a few weeks, looking after the queen, cleaning the nest and building it up.   They then become foragers, searching the surrounding flora for nectar and carrying it to the nest. As time passes the foragers exhibit physical and mental decline. But if the number of foragers grows too high in relation to the nurse population then by some extraordinary means they transform into nurses. Moreover, in the process they become more intelligent - their neurons and the connections between them reconstitute the structure associated with improved cognition, so that the transformed insects can adopt their new role in society.

 To quote Kara Rogers:

As (workers) transition from one role to another their brains change. The mushroom body (a center for olfactory processing) shrinks or expands, the brain proteome transforms, and even the microRNA transcriptome morphs. The complexity is astounding.

  The bee's brain changes its neurological functioning and in effect rewires itself. This could have huge implications on the way dementia is dealt with. At least in this case an organ associated with intelligence responds as its externally determined function changes. Could it be that as people are given different mental tasks they will in certain situations actually generate extra neurons of the right type?

 (My own untested, provisional model  is that the real person is located outside our space-time-energy world in an eternal spiritual dimension, and that the processes we detect in the brain are material manifestations of this greater reality. The universe emerged from this spiritual realm of the Triune God who for some reason created us and our universe, a stage for us to act upon in a battle between good and evil as  we resond to God's love. Forgive my metaphysics. This is not essential to my Chrisitanity but is a way I can rationally visualise God's cosmic scheme.)


I have no formal training in the life sciences but  believe there are other examples of brain plasticity in other organisms and in humans. It certainly looks as though  totally unexpected advances in research and in the treatment of dementia could come from the revolution in epigenetics which is currently underway, a revolution which could have profound implications for our understanding of evolution, the treatment of dementia and the nature of morality. Essentially, epigenetics means that what happens in our own lives is affected by and affects other generations, past and future, and potentially everything in the universe.

 If you don't want to think about these things at least you can look forward to progress in making dementia in you and your elders less likely or even reversing it.

John
author, 2077:Knights of Peace

reach me via
cosmik.jo@gmail.com