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What is the Question?

Posted by Nate

The most important activity in acquiring knowledge is to ask questions. Only when we are asking questions can we get answers. So my friend, don't be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. There are no stupid questions.

We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.” Niels Bohr

What is the question?

These questions will not leave me alone.

Why are we here? What is intelligence? What is life?

Are we humans really that smart? In comparison to whom? How do we know? We haven't seen any other intelligent species.

Why haven't we seen any “aliens”? Are we alone in the universe? How can we know?

When I am far away from the city  I look in awe at the night sky, bright and mysterious.

And I wonder if at the same time there any others on far away planets looking at the sky, wondering.

Are they asking the same questions? How do they look?

Or maybe we are missing each other on crossroads of time and some civilizations are already gone while others are just starting to look up at the sky.

Star barrier

Civilizations, species rise and fall. Just memories and ruins remain.

Are all civilizations destined to perish eventually, dissolved by an indifferent time?

I think there is a threshold. A star travel barrier. The energy needed to power star ships can destroy life on the planet if the species are too aggressive and lacking qualities to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner. Natural selection in a more general sense applies to civilizations too.

So hopefully some intelligent species survive and cross the star travel barrier. But not many.

So hopefully there are sparks of intelligence that will not be extinguished. Will our civilization survive the threshold? It seems less and less likely.

What is life?

I look up to the sky seeing myriads of stars and I feel lonely, lost in this vastness.

Our lives, our existence is just a fleeting moment, a spark in the universe. Is there a purpose for humanity, for our lives?

Is our universe really a final frontier?

There is just emptiness and energy interaction and flickering sparks of consciousness. Intelligence is like fireflies at night, fleeting and fragile.

What is life, consciousness, the mind? Are there other forms of life? Are they totally different?

Why do we think that only animals, carbon-based organisms can receive the gift of intelligence and self awareness?

I hope, I believe that there is a mind far greater than ours...a mind where the galaxies are neurons and all the beautiful and terrifying events and cataclysms we see are the results of the consciousness of a great mind.

Hardwired to wonder.

Why is it we humans cannot resist the quest for more knowledge? We love mystery, the unknown. We are hardwired this way. I think there is a purpose in this. It is not an accident. The consciousness, the intelligence are not an accident.

I cannot help wondering. Will we ever meet an alien civilization? I am not sure. We humans have a high opinion of ourselves but we are still too primitive in the grand scheme of cosmic play to be of interest to an advanced civilization that may be millions of years ahead of us. And considering that a million years is just a blink of an eye, a fleeting moment in the universe's time, alien contact is doubtful. But if I am right and only peaceful civilizations survive the star travel barrier, we should not be afraid to meet them...I hope.

I want it to be true, I believe that there is a reason for us being here, a purpose. We may be a part, a miniscule part of a great mind who's intelligence we will never be able to comprehend. But we humans will keep trying, we cannot help it. We are hardwired this way.

New questions are coming up in my mind. If this great consciousness, this universal intelligence exists, how did it come in to being? Might it be just a part of an even greater conscious mind? Seems like a dead end in this reasoning.

Big and small

Or maybe not. The size and scale of our reality is also a mystery. It is relative. Our planet seems big to us but it is just a speck of dust on the galactic scale and our galaxy is infinitely small in our Universe's scale. So the size is actually loosing the meaning. A beam of light crosses our universe in an instant by time measured by the light beam.

So is our universe big or small? Well it is a matter of opinion.

Each one of us contains a universe within us. A universe full of life, movement and cataclysms. We don't know how our mind works but inside there is light and explosions and violent storms just like in our universe, full of stars, galaxies and voids.

What are the questions? Will we ever know the extent of our ignorance? Will we ever know the truth of our existence?

The perpetual force of our curiosity is driving us and probably many other intelligent species.

We humans love mysteries.

Images of the neuron and the universe

Similarity is striking.


Posted by Horse

Daily wisdom

Daily wisdom

Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.

Richard Feynman


The Arrogance of Learned Men

Posted by Nate

Science is a wonderful thing.  Science led us to space travel and the human genome.  Science is the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.  Science is computers and cell phones.  Science changed our civilization, our life and our understanding of the world.  Science proved to be a very effective and efficient tool to help people to discover secrets of the universe and to improve lives.  So, it is no wonder that many take science as an indisputable and omnipotent realm. For those people science is the only way to obtain knowledge and an understanding of the world.  Are there any limitations on what we learn by using scientific research?  The short answer – we do not know.  Do we know a better approach, a better way to gain the understanding of the Universe?

Is there a better or perhaps a different approach?

Every new theory, every new physical law, every new discovery is a closer approximation to the truth.  But, in my opinion, we will never know the whole truth.  Can humanity gain the ultimate knowledge, the full understanding of the world?  The Universe is a dynamic system, it is constantly changing, developing.  We have to admit that a full understanding of the Universe by applying the Scientific Method may be impossible.

I tried to put our limitations in numbers.

Our Universe

Matter distribution in the Universe.

The universal horizon is about 13 billion light years away.  By some calculations, the size of the Universe is about 158 billion light years, which means that we can see only 0.05% of the Universe.  In addition what we are able to see are the images from the past.  The farther we look, the more distant the past is.

But even what we can see, the matter we can detect, is just a small part of what is out there.  The visible matter in the Universe, one that our instruments can detect is just 4% of what is out there.  The rest, the other 96% is what we call Dark Matter and Dark Energy; in other words, we do not have a clue what it is.  So, all together we possibly may be able to see only 0.002% of the Universe.

“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race.  It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems.  But there are tens of thousands of years in the future.  Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.” Richard P. Feynman

 Now what about Evolution?  Is it a complete theory?

Here are some excerpts:

Natural Selection

Not complete.

"Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them"  (David Kitts, paleontologist and evolutionist).

"The curious thing is that there is a consistency about the fossil gaps; the fossils are missing in all the important places" (Francis Hitching, archaeologist).

"But as by THIS THEORY innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we NOT find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?"  Charles Darwin

 Yes, scientific accomplishments are impressive.  But it is very humbling to realize how little we know.

“It is necessary, I believe, to accept this idea, not only for science, but also for other things; it is of great value to acknowledge ignorance.  It is a fact that when we make decisions in our lives, we don't necessarily know that we are making them correctly; we only think that we are doing the best we can – and that is what we should do.”  F

 There is another aspect to the scientific methods of today.

In order to discover deeper qualities of matter we smash things into each other.  We build giant machines to smash matter into smaller and smaller pieces.  Is there a possibility that the whole is more then the sum of its parts?  Take the computer for example.  What will we discover by smashing it into small pieces?  Will we know about the electricity and software that makes a computer a computer?  Do we need a different approach to understand Nature not from inside out but from the outside in?  Should we look for the software?

What irritates me a lot is the condescending, all-knowing attitude of many learned people toward any ideas and philosophy that is outside today's main stream scientific dogmas.  Mysticism, Eastern philosophy, New Age, religion - each one following a different path in the eternal quest for knowledge, for understanding the world.  I think that part of the problem is the way science is taught in schools.  Kids are given a boring set of facts or dogmas to learn and memorize.

Kids and Science

Natural curiosity.

But science, our world, is a wonderful mystery, an adventure.  Science is the quest to open new horizons, new secrets, a new understanding of the world.  Kids love mystery, secrets, adventure; and that is what science is to real scientists.

 "The scientific spirit of adventure – the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it – the humility of the intellect.” F

A question: can anything move faster than light?


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