On timelessness and death

I have found this quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein intriguing:

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.

Kill your presentations with Powerpoint

In the mid 90s, I decided to drop slides in my presentations. With few exceptions I have managed to stay away from that crutch while inspiring small or large crowds. In 2000, I was asked by IBM to hold a presentation to 35 important customers. And they demanded slides. I gave them one. It was a white slide with big, black letters, “This is a boring slide, look at the man who’s talking”.

The particle physics magazine, Symmetry reports that six months ago, organizers of a biweekly forum on Large Hadron Collider physics at Fermilab banned PowerPoint presentations in favor of old-fashioned, chalkboard-style talks. Quoting the article:

Without slides, the participants go further off-script, with more interaction and curiosity,” says Andrew Askew, an assistant professor of physics at Florida State University and a co-organizer of the forum. “We wanted to draw out the importance of the audience.”
In one recent meeting, physics professor John Paul Chou of Rutgers University presented to a full room holding a single page of handwritten notes and a marker. The talk became more dialogue than monologue as members of the audience, freed from their usual need to follow a series of information-stuffed slides flying by at top speed, managed to interrupt with questions and comments.
“We all feel inundated by PowerPoint,” Askew says. “With only a whiteboard, you have your ideas and a pen in your hand.

Yup. Less constraints, more freedom. The opposite can turn really ugly.


In 2010, when General McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown the above slide, he dryly remarked “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”

Is our universe really a giant computer simulation?

I thought this quite pertinent for a discussion on this blog; copied from Slashdot:

Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the NYT that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world.

According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used. This may strike you as very unlikely writes Frenkel but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years — on a tiny scale, the size of an atomic nucleus. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens.

“Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not,” writes Frenkel. “If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones.

Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.” The question now becomes is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis and the answer surprisingly is yes. In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,” the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF).

Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints. The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies — certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries. If so, this would indicate that we might — just might — ourselves be in someone else”s computer simulation.

Time and the incomplete universe

It seems the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was ahead of Kurt Gödel by a few centuries with his hunch:

There is no law governing all things.

Statue of Giordano Bruno, Campo de’ Fiori, Rome

He also made an interesting statement regarding time:

Time is the father of truth, its mother is our mind.

Which brings me to a notion that I share with the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov:

I confess, I do not believe in time.

More on Gödel’s

As the discussion on my previous blog post got rolling, Vinaire posted an excellent comment that I thought warranted a blog post on its own.

Reference links:

Vinaire’s comment:

Godel’s incompleteness theorem applies only to axiomatic systems capable of doing arithmetic. I do not know if Godel’s argument can be extended to as complex a system as the universe.


de•ter•min•ism (noun)
1. the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.
2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.

axiomatic system
In mathematics, an axiomatic system is any set of axioms from which some or all axioms can be used in conjunction to logically derive theorems.

A set of axioms is complete if, for any statement in the axioms’ language, either that statement or its negation is provable from the axioms.

A set of axioms is (simply) consistent if there is no statement such that both the statement and its negation are provable from the axioms.

e·nu·mer·ate verb (used with object)
1. to mention separately as if in counting; name one by one; specify, as in a list: Let me enumerate the many flaws in your hypothesis.
2. to ascertain the number of; count.

effectively generated
A formal theory is said to be effectively generated if there is a computer program that, in principle, could enumerate all the axioms of the theory without listing any statements that are not axioms. This is equivalent to the existence of a program that enumerates all the theorems of the theory without enumerating any statements that are not theorems.

Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem states that:

Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory…

Gödel’s theorem shows that, in theories that include a small portion of number theory, a complete and consistent finite list of axioms can never be created, nor even an infinite list that can be enumerated by a computer program. Each time a new statement is added as an axiom, there are other true statements that still cannot be proved, even with the new axiom. If an axiom is ever added that makes the system complete, it does so at the cost of making the system inconsistent.

There are complete and consistent lists of axioms for arithmetic that cannot be enumerated by a computer program. For example, one might take all true statements about the natural numbers to be axioms (and no false statements), which gives the theory known as “true arithmetic”. The difficulty is that there is no mechanical way to decide, given a statement about the natural numbers, whether it is an axiom of this theory, and thus there is no effective way to verify a formal proof in this theory.

This may mean that if this universe (with both its physical and spiritual aspects) can be expressed through a consistent set of principles, then there is a truth about this universe that cannot be demonstrated using those set of principles. That truth may look at this universe (as a whole) exactly for what it is. Such a truth may not be derivable from the set of principles that supposedly describe the universe.

Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem states that:

For any formal effectively generated theory T including basic arithmetical truths and also certain truths about formal provability, if T includes a statement of its own consistency then T is inconsistent.

The second incompleteness theorem does not rule out consistency proofs altogether, only consistency proofs that could be formalized in the theory that is proved consistent. The second incompleteness theorem is similar to the Liar’s paradox, “This sentence is false,” which contains an inherent contradiction about its truth value.

This may mean that this universe cannot contain the ultimate truth about itself. The ultimate truth is unknowable from the reference point of this universe.

If we go by the definition of determinism that all facts and events exemplify natural laws, we cannot say for certain if that is true or not. In other words, not everything may be predictable ahead of its occurrence.

Manifestations may be related to each other in strict logical sequence meaning that any manifestation may be shown to follow from another manifestation. However, it may be impossible to determine how a manifestation may come to be on its own. This is another version of saying, “Absolutes are unattainable.”

So a system may be deterministic only in a relative sense. It can neither be absolutely deterministic, nor can it be absolutely non-deterministic.

Link to article on Vinaire’s blog: Gödel and Determinism

Breaking the law

A few days ago:

Jonatan (9): “Daddy, if one of the physical laws of the universe is broken, does it mean that all the laws get broken?

Me: “What do you think?

Jonatan: “I think they all get broken.

A most intriguing question.

Of all the philosophers I know of, Jonatan is one of the most thought provoking. When he was 5 he asked me “Daddy, do you believe in reality?”

The perfect match: HP-41 and your telescope

Got a neat little program for you: SCOPE.

The abstract from the page:

This program calculates values for telescopes and oculars. You start the program, add a telescope and then as many oculars as you want. You can then view several values for the telescope as well as the details for each ocular when used with this telescope. You can also save the data set (telescope and oculars) to an XM file or retrieve a file saved earlier. You may add new oculars as needed to a retrieved file and save it anew.

Before you start jumping with joy, take it for a ride and tell me what you think. Miss anything in there? Want it to do some other things? Like make a cup of coffee for you? Just slip me a note and will see what I can do.

Feel free to ask


When the traffic gets high, when posts get more than 500 or even a 1000 comments, I am bound to miss questions from my readers.

I want to answer your questions, and to ensure you are not left without an answer, I propose you ask any questions you may have to me as comments to this blog post.

Just add your question as a comment here and I will get back to you with an answer. Ask anything – from my views on life, IT, Scientology, my favorite HP calculator, music, art, preferences in any part of life or whatever else you may have on your mind. Do not hold back. I am not shy.

This post is not an arena for long discussions – or I may again miss some questions buried in long threads. Interesting topics may instead earn separate blog posts.

5000 reads on Scribd

I swung by Scribd.com and found that my articles now have a total of more than 5000 reads. That would account for around half the number of total reads of those articles (the rest being read on isene.com and elsewhere). If you haven’t yet looked at the articles, now is the time to nudge you to swing by the same place 😉

Writing articles: Collaboration

Writing articles in collaboration with great people

The hunch and the key

I have a hunch. That the ultimate truth, the secrets of existence, the answers to Life, Universe and Everything is in fact in front of us. Right there, or here, hidden in plain view. For everyone to see and for everyone to understand. That there is perhaps no secret and that the understanding of it all is up for grabs for any and all.

My hunch is further that it would only require a certain attitude, a willingness or idea of what to look for or how to really see what is here, there and all around – the ultimate understanding of it all. I believe the X-factor, the key, the “it” is right there on the table in front of you and me – a metaphor for within our grasp at every moment. My quest is to find that key.