The block universe is interesting, but not comforting

Click through for source and bonus red button caption at smbc-comics.com. This SMBC gets at something that's often bothered me about the way many people talk about the block universe concept. The block universe is the idea that if the universe is fully deterministic, then its entire history from beginning to end exists in an … Continue reading The block universe is interesting, but not comforting

The iron rule of science?

I'm always interested in new takes on the demarcation between science and non-science, so after seeing the New Yorker write up on Michael Strevens' new book, The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science, it seemed like something I needed to read. Strevens begins by examining the two leading theories of science: Karl Popper's falsifiability … Continue reading The iron rule of science?

Voting in the general election, 2020 edition

I Voted sticker

I voted. I did early voting, although I would have preferred to have voted by mail. However, my state's Republican dominated legislature did everything they could to prevent that. The state only offered mail-in voting after they lost a lawsuit, and then only for relatively narrow cases. To do it, I would have had to … Continue reading Voting in the general election, 2020 edition

Thoughts about quantum computing and the wave function

Qubit bloch sphere

The main difference between a quantum computer and a classical one is the qubit. Qubits are like classical bits, in that they hold binary values of either 1 or 0, on or off, true or false, etc. However, qubits, being quantum objects, can be in a superposition of both states at once. The physical manifestation … Continue reading Thoughts about quantum computing and the wave function

The centrality of fear in nature

Wolves eating a deer

Anyone who's ever interacted with a wild animal knows how skittish they are compared to any domestic animal. I think of the squirrels on my university's campus. In general, people leave the squirrel population alone there, so they tend not to be afraid of humans. Although there are still occasional predators, such as cats, dogs, … Continue reading The centrality of fear in nature

The consciousness of crows

Last week, Science Magazine published an interesting study on bird consciousness: A neural correlate of sensory consciousness in a corvid bird.  The study conducted an experiment where crows were trained to respond to a sensory stimulus.  The stimulus itself could be at the threshold of perceptibility, above that threshold, or missing.  After the stimulus (or … Continue reading The consciousness of crows

David Deutsch’s version of many worlds

Schrodinger's cat in many worlds

I've written about the bizarre nature of quantum physics many times, providing a lightning primer back in May on three major interpretations: Copenhagen, pilot-wave, and many worlds.  The many worlds interpretation (MWI) is often summarily dismissed by people, often along with visceral shudders or high doses of outrage.  I understand the discomfort.  When I first … Continue reading David Deutsch’s version of many worlds

The unproductive search for simple solutions to consciousness

(Warning: neuroscience weeds) Earlier this year I discussed Victor Lamme's theory of consciousness, that phenomenal experience is recurrent neural processing, that is, neural signalling that happens in loops, from lower layers to higher layers and back, or more broadly from region to region and back.  In his papers, Lamme notes that recurrent processing is an … Continue reading The unproductive search for simple solutions to consciousness