Monday, December 24, 2012

The Nopocolypse

[Johnathan Clayborn]
I had intended on posting this on the 21st, but I was actually pretty busy with school and Christmas preparations and all. Better late than never, right?

Obviously, the world didn’t end on Friday. According to the internet, social media, and news outlets 12/21/2012 was supposed to be an end-of-the-world apocalypse as foretold by the ancient Mayans. But, is that really what they believed? What do the Mayans have to say about it anyway?

I would first like to point out that the Mayans have been unfairly blamed for this most recent doomsday prophecy in the first place. Not one single archaeologist or anthropologist who is studying the Mayans has found anything to suggest that the Mayans believed the world would end. In fact, their calendars still continue counting for at least another 2,400 years.

So what did the Mayans actually predict? According the experts; nothing. This was just the end of their calendar. It’s no different than people 6,000 years from now thinking that we might believe the world would end on December 31st. The Mayan Calendar ended and restarted.

So what caused this stir of internet-fueled apocalyptic panic? It turns out that we did. And, as crazy as it may seem, this trend is not a new one. In my lifetime I have seen the great Y2K scare in 1999. Then, in May and October some people bought into the doomsday prophecies foretold by Harold Camping. Then there was the whole “Mayan Apocalypse” thing. And, of course, there are even more right around the corner.  According to some so-called experts in fields ranging from psychic powers to theology the world will either in 2018, 2020, 2129, or 2240 (see the source).

So, when will the world really end? No on knows. Scientists believe that the sun will eventually expand to the point where the heat will kill off every living thing on the planet, boil away our oceans and atmosphere, and then fully consume the Earth itself. But this isn’t supposed to happen for a few million years. For a fun read about doomsday predictions past and future, check out this list here:


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Paradox of Computer Simulated Time Travel

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Earlier today I was reading a thoroughly fascinating article on The article (link below for the curious) posited that universe very well might be an artificially manufactured construct created by an Intelligent Design, although not in the sense that most people might think of. While not proposing that God in the biblical sense is responsible for the universe, there are some scientists and philosophers who are arguing that intelligent design might indeed be why we are here reading this blog right now.

The main part of this theory, in summary, is the fact that the universe, our solar system, even our planet all essentially won the intergalactic lottery and had conditions that were just right for life to develop. They argue that if the universe were designed this way, it would certainly explain why everything is just right. Also, even more mind-boggling; if the universe were custom designed for us it would explain the Formi Paradox and answer the question of why there are no other aliens. But, if God is not responsible for this, then who? According these scientists; we are.

Our current day technology allows us to use supercomputers to model, predict, and analyze minute parts of the universe and try to understand it. As our computer technology increases, then the amount of things that we would be able to model would increase also. Theoretically, with a large enough computer, we should be able to model the entire universe.

The researchers hypothesize that our far-distant future descendants might have hypothetically reached that point and are running a simulation right now; a simulation that we are all part of. The researchers even hypothesize that humans might have created artificial intelligence, which created artificial intelligence, and so on and it is this non-living descendant that is actually running the simulation out of curiosity about how their ancient biological ancestors might have lived. While that would conveniently answers questions like the Formi Paradox and the Big Bang, it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

For one thing, as with many poorly written time-travel examples from Hollywood, this hypothesis still doesn’t account for the standard temporal paradox that always associates time travel. If, hypothetically, this theory were true, then it would certainly mean our descendants had to have lived in the real universe long enough to make progeny that would have advanced to the point where they would be technologically capable of even running the experiment. But, if this carefully modeled, carefully constructed universe is indeed a simulation and was intended to make everything just right for us to exist and the odds of that happening are a billion to one, then how, pray tell, did our real descendants come to be in the real, uncontrolled universe in the first place? Surely some place that wasn’t carefully constructed would have had even more risk factors and less favorable conditions. So, the researchers would have us believe that we originally existed in an even more tumultuous reality and having somehow, miraculously survived that one, created this just right universe to model how ancient people lived?

Also, another blaring question that is raised by this; computer simulations, even mega simulations, are governed by a specific set of rules and laws. According to the scientists, there is a test that can be performed that would determine if our version of reality really is real. Suppose they find out that it really is just a simulation, then what? What would be the purpose of having a computer simulation be self-aware that it is living in a simulation? Surely, from a scientific process this would ruin their experiment. This type of experiment is known as naturalistic observation and conclusion about the behavior of the people or animals involved are entirely dependent on the fact that they are not aware that they are being watched. As soon as an organism becomes aware that it is being watched its behavior changes and then the results become biased. So why make this super-elaborate experiment only to have it ruined by self-awareness?

While this hypothesis is certainly interesting, it doesn’t seem all that logical to me. Either way it will be interesting to see what results the scientists turn up from their experiments to prove or disprove this theory.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Grief & Loss

[Johnathan Clayborn]
My heart at aches heavily at the news of the shooting at Sandy Point Elementary School earlier this morning. As of this writing the estimates are that 27 people are dead and 18 of them are school children, most of them in Kindergarten. This really hits home for me as my own son, William, is in first grade and is almost the same age as many of these victims.

Grief is complex, powerful emotion. Zoologists have shown that even animals feel grief. Grief can be slight or it can be completely and totally debilitating. It can just appear suddenly without warning, particularly in cases where the grief is the result of a disaster or catastrophe.

What’s rather interesting is how we handle grief. For one thing, if people perish as the result of a natural disaster; a flood, a hurricane, etc, then it seems like we have a somewhat easier time dealing with that. Sure, there is still grief, particularly for those who lost loved ones, but we sort of recognize on some level that the situation was completely out of our hands. However, when the grief is the result of an act of senselessness, like this shooting, we have a much harder time processing this. Part of that seems to be due to the fact that perpetrators of these heinous acts actually have a choice. They are choosing to commit these acts and they are choosing to take the lives of others. When we cannot process what thought patterns would lead a human being to make such a senseless, irrational decision, we falter in our ability to process and handle the grief.

Another strange quirk of grief; grief is amplified by its proximity to salvation. You might be wondering what I mean by that. Suppose that you have a plane full of people and the plane crashes in the middle of the ocean and everyone perishes. It’s sad, a horrible tragedy to be sure. However, if that exact same plan crashed within a few miles of the runway they were trying to reach, it seems like a far worse tragedy. What changed? The same number of people perished either way. The biggest difference is the fact the people almost made it; they were almost safe. Being that close to being safe and falling short seems to make any disaster worse.

This certainly isn't the blog post I was intending on making today, but I felt compelled to discuss grief and its complexity. You’ll have to forgive me if this isn't one of my longer posts, I’m going to go take some time to myself and try to make sense of this tragedy.