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General Board / Re: String theory illustrated
« on: October 26, 2008, 06:58:30 PM »

String theory is quite interesting; it makes the string one of the main objects of study. A string is an object with a one-dimensional spatial extent, unlike an elementary particle which is zero-dimensional, or point-like. By postulating this one-dimensional structure, many desirable features of a more fundamental theory of physics automatically emerge. Most notably, almost any theory of strings consistent with quantum mechanics must also contain quantum gravity, which had not been described consistently prior to string theory.

Strings can be either open or closed. A closed string is a string that has no end-points, and therefore is topologically equivalent to a circle. An open string, on the other hand, has two end-points and is topologically equivalent to a line interval. Not all string theories contain open strings, but every theory must contain closed strings, as interactions between open strings can always result in closed strings. The oldest superstring theory containing open strings was type I string theory.

Since its birth as the dual resonance model which described the strongly interacting hadrons as strings, the term string theory has changed to include any of a group of related superstring theories and larger frameworks such as M-theory, which unite them. A shared property of all these theories is the holographic principle. String theorists have not yet completely described these theories, nor have they determined if or how these theories relate to the physical universe. The elegance and flexibility of the approach, however, and a number of qualitative similarities with more traditional physical models, have led many physicists to suspect that such a connection is possible. In particular, string theory may be a way to "unify" the known natural forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear and strong nuclear) by describing them with the same set of equations, as described in the theory of everything. (BTW, Theory of everything (TOE) is a hypothetical theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena. Initially, the term was used with an ironic connotation to refer to various overgeneralized theories. For example, a great-grandfather of Ijon Tichy — a character from a cycle of Stanisław Lem's science fiction stories of 1960s — was known to work on the "General Theory of Everything". Over time, the term stuck in popularizations of quantum physics to describe a theory that would unify or explain through a single model the theories of all fundamental interactions of nature. There have been many theories of everything proposed by theoretical physicists over the last century, but none have been confirmed experimentally. The primary problem in producing a TOE is that the accepted theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity are hard to combine.)

String Theory predicts the existence of more than the 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension we are all familiar with. According to string theory, there are additional dimensions that we are unfamiliar with because they are curled up into tiny complicated shapes that can only be seen on tiny scales. If we could shrink to this tiny, Planck-sized scale we could see that at every 3D point in space, we can also explore 6 additional dimensions. This animation shows a Calabi-Yau surface which is a projection of these higher dimensions into the more familiar dimensions we are aware of.
Parallel Universes

Time Is A Human Construct

"You've started believing in the future eternal life?"
"No, not future eternal, but here eternal. There are moments, you reach moments, and time suddenly stops, and will be eternal."
"You hope to reach such a moment?"
"It's hardly possible in our time," Nikolai Vsevolodovich responded, also without any irony, slowly and as if thoughtfully. "In the Apocalypse the angel swears that time will be no more."
"I know. It's quite correct there; clear and precise. When all mankind attains happiness, time will be no more, because there's no need. A very correct thought."
"And where are they going to hide it?"
"Nowhere. Time isn't an object, it's an idea. It will die out in the mind."

- Kirillov to Stavrogin

Fyodor Dostoevsky

General Board / Re: Living Life From A Third Person Perspective
« on: October 26, 2008, 06:45:47 PM »
Study of consciousness mostly from a third-person perspective is the case with the neurological perspective. Phenomenology studies conscience from a first-person perspective. It is the attempt to reflect on pre-reflexive experience to determine certain properties of, or structures in, consciousness.

Socratic Method / Re: The Puritan Mind
« on: October 26, 2008, 06:34:27 PM »

Puritans don't work things out with enemies like these because there is no negotiating with the irrational. The Puritan mind reasons: "Well of course the witch doesn't want to be saved from her own evil. That's why we must save her from herself by burning her at the stake."  Sounds absurd, but that American major said after the destruction of the village of Ben Tre in Vietnam: "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it." A true Puritan there. And now look what we're doing in Iraq. Think Fallujah. We're burning the country at the stake. It's a form of mental illness, but it's a sickness we all accept as normal.

Terrorism is the latest encounter of the Puritan mind with the irrational, and the traditional Islamic culture that promotes it will just have to be destroyed to save it. World politics will be so much more hygienic once we exterminate the vermin. I wasn't all that surprized to learn that Tom Delay had been an exterminator before he entered politics. He's the poster child for this tragic illness. Would that Jerry Lewis have a telethon to raise money for its cure.

A key element in understanding the Calvinist mentality is its need for control and its willingness to use whatever level of violence necessary to repress the "irrational" elements in human experience, and the premodern in the Puritan demonology is full of irrational images triggering fears in need of suppression—magic, witches, Catholic ritual, shifty Jews, hot-tempered Italians, voodoo practicing Africans, the savage Indian. J.K. Rowling's "muggles" and  their fear of magic is a kind of sendup of this mentality. Theirs is a tight, priggish, white-bread, control-obsessed world, sterilized of anything that suggests mystery, transcendence, or the non-rational in general. The Puritans and their Calvinist cousins the Scotch Irish, of course, didn't  invent priggishness, nor are they, obviously, the only ones in the history of humanity who have justified the violent repression of their enemies for religious reasons. But theirs is the peculiarly modern form for the religious persecution of the enemy, and it lingers in Anglo-American culture, and is so much in the cultural air we breathe that we cannot see it clearly. At the very heart of modern "religiosity," whether in its Calvinist or its more secular versions, is fear of the uncontrollable non-rational.

The American right's fear of communism/socialism is more akin to the Islamic fear of modernity, which is the fear of an uncontrollable future. If fascism derives its mystique from a mythological past, communism derives it from a mytholgized future. Progressives look to the future.  Conservatives look to the past. Progressives distrust the past and its premodern irrationality; Conservatives distrust those who look to the future with an irrational utopianism. Progressivism is experiencing hard times these days because during a culturally decadent period like the one we're currently suffering through, we don't know what to hope for.  We have only the weakest sense of plausible future possibility.  We are capable of seeing the future only as a variation on 'more of the same', and that is not a vision that inspires concerted action. That will change someday, but for now it's the conservatives' time because when our imagination of the future is weak, we fall back on the past for want of something better. And we find ourselves voting for mediocrities like George Bush rather than mediocrities like John Kerry for the same reason.  The first represents the solidity of the past; the second a fuzzy future for which we can muster little hope.

The idea that the universe has a rational structure that the mind can apprehend characterizes an older trend in European philosophy called "rationalism." Rationalism traces its roots to Rene Descartes and to the birth of modern philosophy. Most of 20th century European philosophy was a direct reaction to this older tradition, a reactionary attempt to explore the possibility that the universe has no rational structure for the mind to apprehend. Phenomenology, for example, as advocated by Edmund Husserl confines itself to observing and describing our own consciousness without drawing any conclusions regarding causes or connections.

Human beings seem to have a need for transcendence. The present is examined in light of the past to build our biographical identity, the essence of the continuity of our person in time. Renunciation, being fundamental to the achievement of psychic maturity, is related to leaving something behind and accepting the passing of time and the impossibility of controlling the future. But is it enough? No; renunciation is not enough; we need something more. In psychoanalysis, this can be defined as facilitating a space to play or a space of illusion in our own lives. In therapy, analysands perform a core task basically related to time. They remember the past to then abandon and renounce it. In addition, they forfeit control over the future.

Phenomenology and psychoanalysis have in common that they consider the investigator and the subject as equals as evidenced by the application of their basic principles and of their findings to both investigators and investigatees whom they consider human beings cooperating in a joint search for knowledge. In psychology, phenomenology is used to refer to subjective experiences or their study. The experiencing subject can be considered to be the person or self. Subjective experiences are those that are in principle not directly observable by any external observer. One aspect of this of great philosophical interest is qualia, whose archetypical exemplar is "redness". "Is my experience of redness the same as yours?" "How would we know?" Subjective experiences are not merely perceptual. They can include any emotional, cognitive, or conative experience reaching the consciousness of the subject.

Phenomenology, as a philosophical method, has been successfully utilised by a number of 20th century existential philosophers, including Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Jaspers. The method of phenomenology seems to be a tool peculiarly suited to the investigation of human existence. Husserl's phenomenology is important for existential philosophers because it appeals to experience supposedly without theoretical bias. One of the important differences between Husserl's phenomenology and those of existential philosophers is that for Husserl there is stronger emphasis on essence, and that for him philosophy should be treated as a science. Existential phenomenology gives a detailed description of phenomena in our everyday experiences, but the emphasis is on human existence. Sometimes Husserl's phenomenology is criticised for neglecting individual human existence and Being itself. The place of Jaspers'  phenomenology in his philosophy is a complex issue. Although he uses the method of phenomenology he does not consider himself as a phenomenologist. It should be noted that Jaspers was a medical doctor, a psychologist and a psychiatrist before he finally turned to philosophy. He was undoubtedly influenced by Husserl's phenomenology, particularly in his early works.

General Board / Re: Divorce. Res judicata?
« on: October 26, 2008, 06:09:20 PM »
In replying I wanted to complement Ego's post by adding that if the parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the court can require the parties to attend mediation. The mediation process is used to assess what is in the best interests of the children as far as custody and visitation arrangements are concerned. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps the parties reach their own agreement.

If the parties cannot agree on custody (and mediation is unsuccessful), the court will order a custody evaluation. First, the Court will appoint a custody evaluator. A custody evaluator is a psychiatrist or psychologist with special training and expertise in custody issues. The evaluator will meet with each of the parents separately, conduct psychological testing of each parent (and possibly the children), observe each parent interacting with the children, interview the children and others familiar with the family (i.e. teachers, therapists, doctors, family members).

Once the interview portion is concluded, the custody evaluator will write a detailed report to the Court, making specific recommendations about who should receive custody and what visitation arrangements are in the children's best interests. The custody evaluator is the Court's witness, thus, the Judge will give great weight to the evaluator's recommendations in making the ruling. The cost of the custody evaluation is usually borne by the parties, in proportion to their respective incomes. If either mother or father does not agree to the custody evaluator's recommendations, a second custody evaluation, with a new evaluator, may possibly occur. The cost of the second evaluation is always borne by the party requesting same.

General Board / Re: Divorce. Res judicata?
« on: October 26, 2008, 06:06:30 PM »

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