Thursday, November 29, 2007

Paul Davies, Science And Faith

~ Paul Davies, Science And Faith ~

Paul Davies wrote an Op-Ed column for the New York Times on the 24th that discussed Faith and Science and compared it with Faith and Religion. Here is a link. I only read the article after seeing it referenced in some of the blogs I read. I think the uproar that this article has caused is "much a do about nothing".

The reason I say this is how I understand the concept of "Faith". To me this word is just a description of a universal attribute of human consciousness. I think that one of the fundamental bits about the way the human brain operates is that it must have explanations for everything. The concept of "Faith" is just such an operation. Here is how it works: The brain must explain everything and when it hits a wall (during reductionistic thinking) it has this ultimate fall back position or organization method and that is Faith. Every brain has this, otherwise we could get stuck in an infinite recursion loop. There is an expression, "It's Turtles All the Way Down." This expression is an alternate way of saying the same thing.

We do not get stuck in infinite recursion loops, you could even say that this is a survival attribute. It would not do be out on the plain hunting food and for some reason just freeze when confronted with a lion or other predator.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cryptography: A Simple Explanation

~ 22 MAY 2007 ~
~ Cryptography ~

I found an article that is the most concise and simple explanation of cryptography that I have ever read. Here is the link to the article.

Additionally there is a carry on to this article that describes quantum key distribution. Here is a
link to that article.

Finally here is a page on the difference between quantum cryptography and classical cryptography. Here is the
link to that article.

These articles are on the same wiki site which contains this wonderful comment about a situation that troubles me constantly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

15 May 2007 - Adding Zeros

15 May 2007 - Adding Zeros

I am now one year older than I was a year ago, I am the proud owner of: two new pairs of socks (cycling) a new "le Tour de France 2003 Centenaire du Tour de France" hat (cycling), a miniature Frisbee that has a red LED built into it, a poem written by my son when we visited Scotland and England in 2003 and a small picture frame with a picture of a cyclist flying down a hill and a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years."

I had a wonderful supper with my sister her husband and her son and his wife and their daughter, Rachel, who just turned six years old.

After supper I had a discussion with Rachel (my grand niece) about what happens when you add zeros on a number, she now knows what happens when you add two zeros (one hundred) three zeros (one thousand) and 100 zeros (a googol). She also knows what happens when she adds one zero to her age (she gets her Uncle-Zach's age.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May 2007 - Another Answer To The Question

May 2007 - Another Answer To The Question

Here is a recent entry in the "On Faith" space of The Washington Post by Walter Isaascson . Then entry is about the Isaascon's book Einstein: His Life and Universe. As I was reading through the comments about the story I added this one of my own:

To ask more than what Einstein believed is to be guilty of something called the sin of hubris.

And even more, a belief in the existence of a platonic universe is a sign of hubris.

A grand article in a recent issue of New Yorker titled The Interpreter shows that even the concepts of number and recursion are not necessary for human intelligence and consciousness to exist.

To be satisfied with a profound sense of awe, and a yearning to learn and understand reality, is a sign of maturity. To demand more than this is selfish and presumptive.

I think the comment above can be said to be be answer "Number 7" to the question in the post below.

Here is a link to the New Yorker article The Interpreter. I was so impressed with this article that I wrote the author the following email.

Dear Mr. Colapinto;

I read with great interest and enjoyment your article on the language of the Piraha people and Dan Everett and Keren Everett's study of this language.

I am not a linguist nor a brain scientist, my interests are in the foundations of Mathematics and Logic.

Recently I have been reading and studying reports on how humans think from the perspective of brain science and from the perspective of the foundations of logic (and even physics). I know who Norm Chomsky is from my undergraduate studies of the foundations of computer science and formal languages.

Also, as you may know recursion and self reference play the most absolute and fundamental role in our understanding of the foundations of logic and mathematics. The concepts of number, recursion, and self reference are so fundamentally linked they can not even exists separately.

And it is certainly the case that recursion naturally arises in the study of Formal Languages because this field is really hand-in-glove with Logic and the foundations of Mathematics.

Your article does a great job of prying apart the connection between abstract formal languages and the real-world of how human brains actually work.

However, everything I have learned and heard about the current understanding of how the human brain actually works points to uncertainty. Modern science is a long way from any sort of comprehensive theory of thought and consciousness.

Your article not only fits right in, I think it goes even further.

I found particularly interesting three points that came up in the article. One was, of course, the connection between non recursive language and the concept of 'Thinking in the Now' that these people seem to totally exhibit. The other was the idea of musical speech or prosody that seems to be the foundation of this language. The third was the apparent resistance of these people to learning other languages and even thought patterns.

One thing about language that has come out recently in conjunction with brain function is that it can sometimes be expressed in different ways. Some brain injuries leave the person only able to communicate in song or swear words, or in what is apparently a tearful or crying manner.

I think your article shows that humans can and do learn to communicate using alternate brain areas. I do not think brain science is advanced enough, currently, to discriminate between these alternate ways of communication.

It seems like the Piraha have the ability to use parts of their brains for language that other people only develop after a specific injury to their speech center.

I think this shows that language and speech syntax can be expressed in more than one way and still allow the organism to think and communicate clearly. I think it goes further, I believe your article shows that this type of thought process connects not only language but the entire world view. A very interesting bit is that the Piraha's world view which Dan Everett thinks is related to their cultural heritage is persistent in the face of outside pressure. It is as if this this alternate way of thinking and speaking is somehow locked in.

I think your article helps with the understanding of not only how human language and speech work but also how human cognition and even our understanding of reality works.

That these people can function and are alert aware and intelligent with out what logicians, mathematicians, physicists consider totally fundamental informs the debate greatly.

Thank your for your grand article,


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Vote: Box, Ballot, Poll, Voter

The Voter, The Poll, The Ballot, The Box, and The Vote

In the past few years much has been written and discussed concerning how to manage voting. It is the case that technology and our trust in technology has clouded our view of things. I hope this post will help clear some of the clouds. My premis is that if agree on basic concepts then the way forward is very clear. Here are the basic concepts.

The Voter - This is a person who has qualified to vote by registering to vote. How one qualifies to register and the registration process itself are beyond the scope of this post. Registering to vote and voting are actions that the voter must take voluntrialy. In a correct Democracy voting is not a manditory thing but completely at the descression of the person.

The Poll - This is the physical location that the voter must travel to in order to a vote. This physical location is located near the residence of the voter. "Absentee" and "Early Voting" voting are beyond the scope of this post.

The Ballot - This is a physical object that can be read by a human that contains choices the voter makes while in the Poll. This object can be created out of paper. This object must be individual to each voter. This means it can not be a location on a roll of paper. The ballots are the official record of the vote, and persist after the vote has completed and are held in such a fashion that they can be audited to verify the vote totals.

The Box - This is the location that the Voter must place his Ballot. Once inside the box the ballot is said to be casts and the voting process by the voter is over.

The Vote - This is the physical act of the voter, while he is in the poll, placing his ballot into the box.

How the ballots are created, and counted can be a subject of technological innovation

Friday, February 02, 2007

February 2007 - Do you believe in God?

February 2007 - Do you believe in God?

The good way to answer to the question is to view the content of the conference "Beyond Belief 2006" and then ask it again. After having viewed this content (all of it) I think there are six answers to the question. I think answers 4, 5 and 6 are most interesting. The idea of multiple answers beyond three was reinforced strongly by my experience in viewing the conference. So here are the answers:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.
  3. I do not know.
  4. I do not understand the question.
  5. It can be show using mathematics that an extended version of answer 4 is the best response. (The extended version of 4 is "Neither I nor you understand the question.")
  6. There is good medical evidence that the urge to ask and respond to this question is a physiological artifact of the operation of the human brain.

My favorites now are 5 and 6.

When I was a teenager, and after going through the Piaget level, number two was my best response with lots of supporting evidence on my part. This response was coupled with huge shouting matches with my father that frequently ended in me storming away in tears and in long and very careful discussions with my grandparents.

As I got older number three was my choice but I was never happy with it.

Recently (before watching the conference) my best choice was five. And after watching the conference six has been added. Just after watching the conference I started reading "Shadows of the Mind" by Rodger Penrose.

I do think that Gödel's basic result can be improved on by more carefully thinking about Logic and in particular how we define the Natural Numbers and Arithmetic. This improvement could make answer five incorrect and leave only answer six.

Additionally I think a lot about a different question than the one presented here, and it has the answer "42".