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Thread: Julian Barbour and the Now

  1. #1

    Julian Barbour and the Now

    Has anyone read his work on physics and his take on the "Big Bang" theory? I just read a Discovery Magazine article on his theory and was taken, IMHO, by it's "Buddhist taste."

    Wikipedia Article

    He holds the controversial view that time does not exist as anything other than an illusion, and that a number of physics' problems arise from assuming that it does exist. He argues that we have no evidence of the past other than our memory of it, and no evidence of the future other than our belief in it. It is all an illusion: there is no motion and no change. He argues that the illusion of time is what we interpret through what he calls "time capsules," which are "any fixed pattern that creates or encodes the appearance of motion, change or history."
    Interview with Mr. Barbour

    His official We Page

  2. #2

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    It's an interesting problem for sure. Perhaps you could apply the anthropic principle and say we see time moving forward because its an evolutionary advantage to see cause preceding effect. It's certainly entangled with our perceptions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_bias

    There are interesting implicatoins of CP violation as well, that is, if you ran time backwards things would not "unplay" exactly the same way:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cp_Violation

    This was posted in the memory thread about Dogen's time-being:

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=207

    Makes my head hurt, it does

    Skye

  3. #3

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Duuuuudes!

    Barbour's been reading the Genjo Koan. Look!

    But if we live in a timeless universe, how do we get the impression that time exists? According to Barbour, the main evidence for time comes from our direct experience of seeing motion and experiencing things changing. "You always have to see something moving to say that time has passed," says Barbour, waving his hand in front of me. "At any instant, information about several different positions of my hand could be coded in the neuronal patterns in your brain," he explains. "They're all there at once, and the brain is playing the movie for you. What we think of as the flow of time - and even seeing motion - is actually an illusion." Barbour believes that his ideas will help to understand "instants of time", without supposing that they belong to something that flows relentlessly forward.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/909

    :shock:

  4. #4

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Yep. It's all about the moment right? I agree that time is present in thought and memory. Especially the times when we are caught up in what someone or something did to us and even then our impression is clouded. Sometimes we even have the ability to be caught up in the past or future thoughts and impression so much that they seem almost tangible. So the ability to connect these past thought impressions to someone or something has the elusion of time.What happened yesterday is really an echo of sense stimulus, and thought.

    Probably something to do with the brain. We are extremely capable of creating states where it actually seems like our foot is in extreme pain but really it's just an itch. Like the tests they do on people where they do something to certain parts of their brain and they have sensations of smells, sights, and so on (I think). Moments flow together so minutely that it is difficult, or be it impossible, to decern any gap. You are looking at something for the first time, yet it is stored somewhere so we have a familiarity of it, and attach to it a past.

    So I guess future is perhaps intelligent presumption gained through experience, and the past is recollection through sense stimulus, and thought.

    But if you really want to get into it, we can say that there is no experience or recollection as well, only the present moment of experiencing recollection.

    Gassho Will

  5. #5

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Hey Guys,

    It just so happens that I am writing a book on the Anthropic Principle (and so-called 'Anthropic Bias') ... currently, in this reality, this universe and timeline. I do not consider it a book on Zen Buddhism per se (although there is overlap in some areas, such as with respect to ideas of Karma, rebirth and time), so I do not talk about it much here. But, I am writing this book that will blow your socks off someday.

    And not on an unrelated topic, my talk today on the "Sit-a-Long" is about aspects of Dogen's vision of you, the universe, being, space and time" (which is one big "being-you-niversa-space-time"). RIght this moment is "beingyouniversaspacetime" ... and that's --your-- time and place.

    Please give it a listen. I will continue talking about it for a couple of days (or, at least, some mental image of "a couple of days")

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/03 ... xxxiv.html

    I hope you enjoy, too, that we once again spare no expense on "special effects", this time making amazing use of a rubber toy fish and a soup bowl.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Due to some technical issue today (at least, for the moment and in this universe), if the talk will not play when you hit the "play" arrow, press the small half moon shaped arrow buttom right below the screen ... that works for some reason!

  6. #6

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Hi Jundo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    It just so happens that I am writing a book on the Anthropic Principle (and so-called 'Anthropic Bias') ... currently, in this reality, this universe and timeline.
    That's a fascinating topic. Are you familiar with Nick Bostrom's work? If not, you should probably have a look, e.g. http://www.nickbostrom.com and http://www.anthropic-principle.com/book

    Gassho
    Ken

  7. #7

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Hi Ken,

    Yes, and I have been in touch with Nick Bostrom from time to time.

    To make a long story short, the whole question of the "anthropic principle" (especially in its "strong" form) begins from the observation that human beings find ourselves in a universe amazingly suitable for life ... and especially well suited for intelligent life such as human beings capable of observing such a universe. This is only amazing because, according to the ideas of modern physics and biology, there is no particular reason that this universe had to be just so suitable to life and, furthermore, many of the requirements for life that did arise following the big bang did so by a thread.

    To take quickly but one of countless examples:

    "In recent years, leading cosmologists have used the strong anthropic principle to explain certain properties of the universe. According to this line of thinking, only a universe with the specific properties ours has--including the values of certain fundamental constants and initial conditions--could allow our existence. For example, the ratio of the mass of the proton to the electron, observed in the lab to be about 2,000, could not be 2 or 2,000,000 in OUR universe because such values would produce a physics and chemistry and biology incompatible with living substance. Values of 2 to 2 million might exist in other universes, perfectly satisfactory in every way except in their ability to allow our existence. Out of all these other possible universes, only a small fraction would have a proton-to- electron mass ratio suitable for life."
    And the list goes on.

    My book takes a very radical view of the Anthropic Principle, right down to the birth and life of Ken and Jundo. Here is the book blurb I have worked up for the book proposal:

    Here’s a fact: From the Big Bang to your birth on earth, this universe did not miss a beat.

    Somehow, every twist and turn of physics, chemistry, biology, earth making and life’s evolution twisted and turned your way. When and wherever events hit a crossroads over 13.7 billion years, they took the road that led to you.

    You can know it’s true … because here you are, alive to know it.

    An apparently random, wild sequence ran right along to the place you stand at this very moment. You find yourself self-aware, a result of every falling domino that fell so precisely as to give rise to your birth. One misstep, one zig in place of a zag, one essential event of nature other than it was … and there’d be no “story of you” to tell, no you to hear it.

    There are amazing coincidences, seeming accidents and chance conditions interconnected in the most startling ways, flukes, fortuities and lucky breaks, level upon irreplaceable level, stretching as far as time itself. So many events, seemingly, need not have occurred, but nonetheless did occur for our world, this galaxy, this universe, all that’s necessary for your life to be.

    The book presents a most personal-to-you twist on the Anthropic Principle:

    Never once in the history of this universe did a single atom spin or sputter, split or splice in a way to prevent your being, not one if it was crucial to your being. What is more, every required atom, without a falter if indispensable to you, spun and sputtered, split and spliced precisely when and how needed for you to be a product down-the-line … all as shown by your living at history’s current end. Thus, a method for prediction and experimentation about the nature of our universe is presented: Can the very fact of our lives serve as the basis for precise hypotheses concerning the fundamental structure of this universe, the nature of stars and galaxies, the history of our planet, the path and mechanism of evolution … hypotheses that are testable, falsifiable? Can we predict with certainty those physical properties that must have been just what is necessary for our births, and not of any nature to have foreclosed that outcome? Such a method of anthropic prediction goes against the grain of modern science and its vision of human life as a just-happened-to-happen effect. Instead, here is a method of prediction and experimentation, concerning the most fundamental properties of the universe, based on little else than the fact that the experimenter exists.

    In a closing chapter, a range of ideas are offered for how this universe turned out so personally right: These stretch from proposals now considered by science such as aspects of String Theory, Quantum Mechanics and a diverse ‘Multiverse,’ to ideas with an Eastern or Western religious bent, to others that seem pure science fiction. Pros and cons are weighed, and new perspectives offered.
    Now, the "multiverse" argument, coupled with Bostrom's "observational selection effects" [OSE} works like this (closely related to what is known as the "weak Anthropic Principle")] On a certain occasion the firing squad aim their rifles at the prisoner to be executed [you]. There are twelve expert marksmen in the firing squad, and they fire twelve round each. However, on this occasion all 144 shots miss. The prisoner laughs and comments that the event is not something requiring any explanation because if the marksmen had not missed, he would not be here to observe them having done so. But of course the prisoner's comment is absurd; the marksmen all having missed is indeed something requiring explanation; and so too is what goes with it-?the prisoner's being alive to observe it.[14][/quote]

    and the argument used to counter it is OSE, namely that the prisoner could only find himself alive because all shots missed ... end of story. On the other hand, I believe that the fantastic event requires some special explanation (e.g., although random missing is a possibility, more likely is sabotage or a defect with the guns). In the case of human life ... and especially Ken and Jundo's lives ... not 144 phenomena, but trillions and trillions of discreet phenomena were required. I believe a special explanation is necessary too.

    Finally, I am trying to write this book while keeping well distant of all the "Intelligent Design" folks who have hijacked these ideas in the cause of their particular, usually Judeo-Christian, God. I am hinting at an understandable physical mechanism behind it, not a religious miracle.

    As I said, this book is not directly related to Zen Studies, so I do not mention it here much.

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Hi Jundo,

    Thanks for that 'sneak preview' -- and please let us know when the book is finished (no pressure :wink: ).

    Gassho
    Ken

  9. #9

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    There are amazing coincidences, seeming accidents and chance conditions interconnected in the most startling ways, flukes, fortuities and lucky breaks, level upon irreplaceable level, stretching as far as time itself. So many events, seemingly, need not have occurred, but nonetheless did occur for our world, this galaxy, this universe, all that’s necessary for your life to be.
    I would only add to that that also tragedy and sorrow and pain led to this point as well. For example, most of my family would not exist if my grandfather hadn't met my grandmother in the Netherlands in WWII. There's no getting away from the stench of Zen

    Skye

  10. #10

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Quote Originally Posted by Skye

    I would only add to that that also tragedy and sorrow and pain led to this point as well. For example, most of my family would not exist if my grandfather hadn't met my grandmother in the Netherlands in WWII. There's no getting away from the stench of Zen

    Skye
    Now here is one of the areas in which Zen teachings may (emphasis on "may") have something to contribute to this "anthorpic" idea of a universe that turned out so very "right" for us. Namely, our human judgments of "tragedy" "sorrow" and "pain" are largely our own judgments, and the universe may or may not get on with its business without the slightest heed for how we judge the various twists and turns.

    Thus, when I present the idea in my book of a universe that turned out "right" for us, and which took every necessary "correct" turn toward us ... from the big bang, to the formation of the elements and stars, this planet, evolution, etc. etc. etc. ... I mean only a universe in which physics, biology, chemistry and the like turned out in the ways we needed, with every characteristic and formation just when and how we have needed each and all (when viewed in hindsight). History, including all the wars and plagues, also turned out "right" for us in hindsight ... but I use the term "right" in a very narrow sense.

    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11

    Re: Julian Barbour and the Now

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Ken,

    Yes, and I have been in touch with Nick Bostrom from time to time.

    To make a long story short, the whole question of the "anthropic principle" (especially in its "strong" form) begins from the observation that human beings find ourselves in a universe amazingly suitable for life ... and especially well suited for intelligent life such as human beings capable of observing such a universe. This is only amazing because, according to the ideas of modern physics and biology, there is no particular reason that this universe had to be just so suitable to life and, furthermore, many of the requirements for life that did arise following the big bang did so by a thread.
    Oh. Great. I am barely wrapping my brain around Barbour's "no-time" theory and up comes another idea to read! :P :mrgreen:

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