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Out of nothing...

wwwmind challenged me to be explicit about some theories of my own. Whilst my position of non-belief does not require that I hold any theories at all it would be disingenuous of me not to admit that I have some.  Many religions have developed from creation myths. Many of the conflicts between fundamentalist Christianity and science in the US seem to revolve around issues related to creation. The Creationist argument usually takes the form of: 'Science says that everything came spontaneously out of nothing, that's stupid god made everything out of nothing'. There is a conceptual problem for us in that we experience ourselves as part of a causal world and are drawn to seek causes for events. Existence itself is the most significant event, what is its cause?  Scientific method evolved by formalising the investigation of causal relationships. What non-scientists do not appreciate is that the quantum realm, where most of contemporary science leads, is not causal. The causal realm depends on conservation laws that do not allow something to come from nothing. In the quantum realm things 'appear out of nothing' all of the time; this is the nature of the quantum realm and scientists have had to live with it for nearly a hundred years.      There are different ways of thinking about nothing in the same way that there are different ways of thinking about infinity. If I have a dollar but I owe the bank a dollar my net assets are nothing and yet I have a dollar in my hand. Obviously the concept of a net 'nothing' such as this requires the existence of a bank and a financial system. The quantum realm provides a system like this. In some senses the quantum realm is a set of rules about possibility. Nothing 'exists' in the pure quantum ream there are just virtual interactions that may accumulate to impact on the causal realm. The quantum realm can generate particle and anti-particle pairs akin to having a dollar and owing a dollar - particles out of 'nothing'. It's even possible that one of these 'virtual dollars' can be invested and make a profit before it is paid back, thus making something permanent out of nothing (okay so it doesn't always work for the banks). The whole of what we experience as our causal reality can be thought of as being generated out of such interactions. Well all this is interesting but does not necessarily tell us anything about first causes, it merely gives us a model for the current causal/quantum ontology. However one can speculate that if there is (I choose my words carefully to avoid a linear conception) a point in spacetime where a universal singularity exists (usually referred to as the big bang, a mistake because it re-enforces the misconception of linear time) at this point the causal and the quantum would be indistinguishable.  Warning what follows is metaphysics! I can conceive of a concentration of 'nothing' that is in fact all possibility. In a process analogous to einselection only certain combinations of possibility are sustainable. Many combinations of physical laws are mutually incompatible and would lead to instantly unstable universes. Perhaps the set that we've got is the only set that is stable and emerged from a nothing of 'all possibility' of that singularity.    By this conception ultimate goal of science is to show that the physical laws are the way that they are because they could be no other.     

Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

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