I am a bit of a science nerd. When it comes to science fact and science fiction I try to take in as much as I can. From quantum theory to robotics to time to space travel I can’t get enough. The interest is more of a hobby than the product of higher academic study and part of my science hobby is cobbling fact and fiction together to form my own theories (and I use the term loosely as they probably would not hold up to any serious scientific testing).
So the following are a few of the deep science-like thoughts that spark debate with my friends and catch my interest when explored in science mags or my favourite sci-fi novel, TV series or movie. I invite anyone with an advance understanding of the topic to explain why the theories could never stand up. The condition is that you teach me and my readers something and not simply berate me for being wrong.
As some of you may remember I wrote a blog post recently about the science of free will. Essentially, the post went over a theory by a biology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who theorizes that free will is an illusion. In essence the argument states that our unconscious minds, driven by our genes, environmental influence and our biological history, dictates how we will react to any given situation and our conscious minds provide the illusion of responsibility and the belief more than one choice existed to begin with.
Now for my theory based on no research. First, let’s assume the above theory is correct in the sense that our genetic, biological and environmental influences do in fact dictate through our subconscious how we will react in any give situation. The question is does that prove we are at the mercies of our subconscious? I don’t think so.
The crux of the argument is that the belief in free will defies the laws of cause and effect. Here is a quote from the article “As the ancient Greeks asked, by what mechanism would we be choosing? The physical world is made of causes and effects – “nothing comes from nothing” – but free will, by its very definition, has no physical cause.” I think the flaw in this theory is it works from the action backwards; asking why a person “chose” to something rather than asking how a person “chose” to do something.
Obviously all the experiences in our past such as our genetics and environment will influence how we react to a situation. And, perhaps, at the moment of action we have no control. But, what if free will isn’t applied to the actual decision-making? People learn from their mistakes (sometimes). Alcoholics stop drinking, abusers stop abusing, criminals go straight, etc. Without free will how would that be possible? If our subconscious is deciding for us maybe it is our conscious mind that is providing the criteria. Perhaps we apply free will well before a decision is ever made; when we decide which factors in our lives will most greatly influence our choices.
Time might be my favourite topic. Flow of time, time travel paradoxes, time perception, nothing can quite cause the same level of mind explosion as time theory.
When we talk about travelling through time we must first consider flow of time. I (as I believe most humans do) experience time in a linear, forward-moving fashion. We can argue that we can move backward in time through memory but physically, as it stands, we only move in one direction.
Now, if you are sci-fi geek like me you have seen or read a lot concerning time travel. Stephen Hawking (love him or hate him) wrote an in-depth column on time travel in the Daily Mail last May. I won’t even try to go into the details of his theories, it would take too long. But, basically, he theorizes that time travel might be possible but most likely only forward. However, I don’t really see the faster than light time travel theory as actually moving in time. It’s more like moving outside of time whereas you’re not jumping to a specific moment in time but instead travelling there just at a different speed than everyone else.
One of my favourite television series, Dr. Who, says time isn’t a straight line at all, but more of a big interconnected ball. I like this theory. One where the limits of time are governed only by your perception of it and travel to any point is possible but flow would be relative to the individual. Kind of like going to the mall. The mall is time, the stores are points in time and the halls are conduits of travel. Everyone experiences the same time bubble, but not necessarily the same points at the same time.
Now, my theory on time and space is similar to Dr. Who’s. But, instead of a time bubble, time is merely a point and progression dictated by our perception. Think of it this way: Take every event that occurred at every second for eternity and write it on a single piece of paper. Then, take that piece of paper and crumple it together as tightly as possible. Essentially, each of those events will occupy the same space. That is why we sometimes experience De ja vu; for a split second, for whatever reason, we see through the barrier that separates one moment from the next. It would also explain how some psychics who claim to see the future achieve their talent, they simply perceive time differently.
Ok, so this is a bit of a broad subject. I am not going to pretend to understand even 1/10 of quantum theory but I do want to write about one small and probably overused theory – Schrödinger’s cat. For those not familiar with the theory it serves to illustrate the quantum theory of superposition (or the ability of an object to exists in more than one state simultaneously. The thought experiment puts a cat in a sealed box where there is no means of observing the interior. Within the box is also a vial of deadly gas. The gas vial connects to a trigger controlled by a radioactive substance. The trigger activates if a single atom from that a radioactive material decays. While closed it is impossible to know whether the cat in the box is alive or dead and hence the feline exists in both states until the box is open and the cat observed.
What does that have to do with my theories? Well, I think the Schrödinger theory applies on a grander scale to our lives in general. If you think about it our world exists in tiny fragments of perception. While you are sitting at work reading a memo from your boss does anything outside your office really exist? Similar to if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? If a thousand people die outside your office door are they really dead before you open it and trip over them?
Like the cat in the box experiment the argument isn’t really are the people outside your office door really dead. The argument is: does anything actually happen if you haven’t experienced it either directly or indirectly (i.e. you saw, read or heard about it). Most would argue to say no would be narcissistic and arrogant. But life is all about experience and perception. That is why 10 witnesses to the same event will have different recounts of what happened. We truly manifest our own realities.
Those are a few of my personal “scientific theories.” Feel free to share your own or argue against mine.