Incomplete Information

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If you listen to Cosmologists, the age of the Universe is 13.8 billion years old and if you listen to Einstein, who was not necessarily a cosmologist, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. One can then fairly conclude that the oldest light that can reach us here on Earth is 13.8 billion years old. We can never know about anything that is older.

The Universe is also expanding as discovered by Edwin Hubble.  At some point there will be or has been information that has gone passed the point of observability and has been lost to us. What if this has already happened? Then we are working with incomplete information. We will never truly know everything about the Universe because data has been lost. Our understanding of the Universe and reality will forever be incomplete.

Add to this the concept of Dark Energy where what we can actually see is only about 4% of the Universe. The rest of the matter that makes up the Universe is stuff that not only can we not see, we can’t really interact with it. As far as our understanding, we are living in a 4% Universe.

How does someone represent this visually? How can this concept be represented in a photograph or a painting? That is what I am grappling with currently in my photography.

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Incomplete Information

Science, Like Art

 

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Lawrence M. Krauss the theoretical physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University waxes poetically about the value of the recent discovery of gravity waves:

Too often people ask, what’s the use of science like this, if it doesn’t produce faster cars or better toasters. But people rarely ask the same question about a Picasso painting or a Mozart symphony. Such pinnacles of human creativity change our perspective of our place in the universe. Science, like art, music and literature, has the capacity to amaze and excite, dazzle and bewilder. I would argue that it is that aspect of science — its cultural contribution, its humanity — that is perhaps its most important feature.

Science, Like Art

A Walk In The Park

In case you didn’t know, I am a photographer by profession. I photograph art and cultural heritage objects for Museums and libraries and such. I also photograph to be creative and as a way of meditating and being in the world. Currently I am setting out on a project to photograph the U.S. (or parts of it) through the lens of the Puerto Rican diaspora. When I am really feeling in a quiet contemplative mood, which is often, I walk in the woods and parks and photograph. The result is a book I just published via Blurb called, A Walk In The Park.

Lest you think it unmanly to take pictures of flowers and trees, no less than that hard boiled detective writer, Raymond Carver said:

I dressed and went for a walk – determined not to return until I took in what Nature had to offer.

Pretty hard boiled if you ask me!

A Walk In The Park

The View from Here

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Buddhist teaching shows us nothing is ever what it seems to be and that change is all there is. I tend to agree but I have a funny feeling that matter and “objective reality” are not what is changing. Rather it is our constructs of reality that are forever changing.

This minor epiphany came to me as I was reading an article in the New York Times Style section that discussed the way language is changing to accommodate transgender individuals. “They” as a pronoun and the term Mx. (Mix) as an additional honorific to accompany Mr. and Mrs. – err, I mean Ms.. Language shapes our reality to a large extent as many psychological studies can attest. I am a man in my early fifties and I try to keep up with things but I can start to see how an older individual could fall behind the times and cling to a reality most younger people do not share. I can wake up one day and be in a world where I can no longer function satisfactorily. That thought will keep me up at night (and hopefully keep my curiosity up).

I don’t think it ends there though. The more knowledge you have about everything (Cosmology anyone?) the fuller and grander your particular construct of reality will be. I also hope, as a side benefit, that your particular construct of reality might align a little more closely with objective reality. Case in point, this beautiful diagram from NASA that maps all of the natural objects in our solar system. This is new to me and just being cognizant of this view expands and alters my reality construct. It makes you think and wonder and rebuild your constuctions. Who knows where your thoughts might lead. Hopefully to the ends of the Universe.

By the way, The James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch in 2018. The Webb Space Telescope is the next generation of Space Telescope optimized for infrared. Among other things it will enable us to capture light from the very first stars 13.9 billion years ago. That would be like peering back to the “Beginning”. And whether you believe that the beginning was the work of a deity or an event governed by the laws of science and nature it is still awesome to contemplate that ray of light traveling all that time to reach us, like the hand of god (if you are inclined to such beliefs).

Here is something to contemplate as you go to bed tonight, the light that will be captured by the Webb Telescope is at the edge of the knowable. Because the Universe is only about 14 Billion years old there is nothing beyond that light that will ever be knowable by humanity. The Universe has not been around long enough for anymore information to reach us. There is a limit to knowing.

The View from Here

Reality

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Reality; ©2016 Dave Ortiz

I am in general agreement with the notion put forth by psychologists and sociologists that one of the key differences between liberal minded people and those of a more conservative bent is one of change. Conservative minds do not like change in any form. Society must remain in stasis, new voices will not be heard, “Wednesday is spaghetti night.” Liberal minded people meanwhile, seek out change, live for discovery and the new.

I’ll not debate the merits of the research that led to these findings. But if true I suppose I am very much in the liberal camp. My daughter is always talking about LGBT rights and political correctness among her social group. It seems many of her teenage friends are perfectly comfortable sharing their sexual and gender identities. I was at first perplexed when she she used the term “they” to refer to a single transgender friend. After she explained it to me I went off and did some research on my own. First off it seems that this evolution of language to accommodate the new outlook on gender is very difficult for a lot of people. But now even the New York Times and Washington Post have gotten on board. I have no problems with the term “they.” The main obstacle I had to overcome was to disassociate the term “they” with the sense of it connoting a multiple or group. That is the great thing about language, it evolves to encompass the ever changing “norms” of society.

Now I am reading in a special edition of Scientific American on “The Limits Of Physics” that a growing number of scientists believe that the notion particles and mediating force fields is not a satisfactory ontology of the world. What really matters they say, are not the fields and particles but the relations among them. This is known as “structural realism” and in general states that we may never know the real nature of things but only how they are related to one another. Reflecting how things are interrelated is the most enduring part of physics theories. So the universe is not made up of “things” but of bundles of properties such as color and shape! That is an amazing notion. A relational Universe of non – concrete phenomena.

 

Reality