Are Tangled Webs Counter Entropic?

I am often amazed that people who have allegedly studied thermodynamics and in fact profess it to others, when they can be arsed, do not transfer said “knowledge” into their own lives.

Anyone with even a mediocre understanding of thermodynamics knows that the universe seeks to increase entropy. It does not want to micromanage and artificially reduce access to the number of available microstates. That is unnatural.

But those prone to manipulation and intrigue seek to expend their available energy in a counter entropic way. They want to control, restrict.

Imagine a polymer curled up into a tight ball. Place it into a solvent. Would it stay tight and curled and tangled? It depends upon the balance of energetics. Entropy says unfurl. Enthalpy may say stay bound. But hey the solvent may start to swing the equation.  If the polymer unfurls there may be energetic benefits from polymer-solvent interactions.

If something wants to unfurl because of the need for entropy, irrespective of the energy expended to prevent it, it will unfurl, unravel.

The arrow of time is, irreversible.

Ultrafast Lasers: Trends in femtosecond amplifiers—Ti:sapphire vs. ytterbium

This from Laser Focus World as a Juxtaposition.

Feb. 18, 2020

Ti:sapphire and ytterbium femtosecond amplifier technologies—one mature, the other quite dynamic—currently provide complementary performance, so the optimum choice is really application-specific.

Joseph Henrich , Steve Butcher , Marco Arrigoni

Amplified femtosecond laser pulses enable many diverse applications because their high peak power (electric field) and very short pulses produce highly nonlinear processes and exquisite temporal resolution. For many years, titanium sapphire (Ti:sapphire) was the unanimous gain material of choice for ultrafast oscillator/amplifier systems. Recently, ytterbium (Yb) doped crystals, and particularly fibers, have been used in a growing range of femtosecond amplifiers with quite different (that is, complementary) performance characteristics in terms of pulse energy and average power. This article gives an overview of the current state of both technologies and their applications, showing how the scaling flexibility of Yb is now beginning to close the performance gap between the two technologies and impact the traditional domains of Ti:sapphire technology.

Ti:sapphire amplifiers

The high gain of Ti:sapphire crystals results in amplifiers that are unrivaled at delivering the highest pulse energies and shortest pulse durations at the lowest price per millijoule. By using two stages of amplification—typically a regenerative amplifier followed by a single-pass amplifier—it is possible to reach >13 mJ at 1 kHz with a commercial amplifier such as the Legend Elite HE+ series from Coherent, without resorting to cryogenic cooling. Indeed, the limiting design factor in kilohertz Ti:sapphire amplifiers is heat extraction from the gain crystal and the relatively short lifetime of the upper laser level. This means that these millijoule/pulse amplifiers need to be thermoelectrically (TE) or water-cooled and operate best at average power levels in the 7–15 W range and 1–10 kHz repetition rates. Combining these high pulse energies with pulse durations as short as 25 fs results in a peak power of hundreds of gigawatts.

Ti:sapphire is now a mature amplifier technology, so new models are usually characterized by incremental improvements in output specifications like power or carrier envelope phase (CEP) stability, with continuing effort to increase reliability, environmental stability, and maintenance intervals, especially in the case of so-called one-box versions. Although Ti:sapphire is tunable in the 700–1080 nm range, amplifiers are typically designed for optimized operation near the 800 nm peak of the tuning curve and broad tunability is achieved by pumping one or more tunable optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs).

Applications using Ti:sapphire amplifiers

The unique combination of high pulse energy, short pulse width, and high peak power from Ti:sapphire amplifiers has enabled diverse applications in physics, chemistry, biology, and material sciences. One of the most sophisticated applications is attosecond physics, where high harmonic generation (HHG) is used to create ultrabroadband pulses at extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) wavelengths that can be compressed to produce isolated attosecond-scale pulses when the optical carrier is locked to the pulse envelope (CEP stabilization).

At the other end of the electromagnetic spectrum, Ti:sapphire amplifiers are well suited to generating terahertz pulses. These can be used, for example, to interrogate semiconductor materials. In integrated circuits, transient electric fields can reach tens of megavolts per centimeter. Solid-state physicists want to know how fundamental charge transport mechanisms vary at fields of this magnitude and higher. Typical breakdown fields for many semiconductor materials are around 1 MV/cm—therefore, failure (burning) will rapidly occur if higher static fields are applied to test these materials. One solution that enables even higher fields to be safely applied is to use subpicosecond terahertz pulses.

In the laboratory of professor Rupert Huber at the University of Regensburg (Regensburg, Germany), a high-stability Ti:sapphire amplifier has been used to pump two tunable OPAs with a terahertz wavenumber difference in their outputs to create terahertz pulses with inherent CEP stability. These are used to probe the behavior (including Bloch oscillations) of electrons in gallium selenide samples under the influence of resultant transient fields approaching 100 MV/cm. By electro-optical “stroboscopic” gating of the signal from the sample with an 8 fs probe pulse at the terahertz detector, the data yields important information about Bloch oscillations as well as coherent and interfering conductive mechanisms only revealed at these high fields and short time intervals.

Another area where Ti:sapphire amplifiers are increasingly used is 2D spectroscopy, where the optical signal (emission, harmonic conversion, etc.) from a sample is recorded as a function of the wavenumber of an ultrabroadband pulse from an OPA, providing a unique combination of structural and dynamic data (see Fig. 1). Most 2D spectroscopy measurements are made in the time domain and converted to the frequency domain using Fourier-transform (FT) algorithms. Instead of using light at one frequency, ultrafast pulses of broadband light are used so that all frequencies are recorded simultaneously.

The operational simplicity and stability of one-box Ti:sapphire amplifiers such as the Coherent Astrella are proving ideal for these type of experiments that are relatively complex and require data acquisition times measured in hours and days. For example, in the laboratory of Graham Fleming (University of California, Berkeley), scientists are using 2D spectroscopy to probe the fundamental physics in perovskite films that might be used in next-generation solar cells. In the laboratory of Wei Xiong (University of California, San Diego), researchers are using a unique type of 2D spectroscopy to study a CO2 reduction catalyst expected to be important for artificial photosynthesis.

Ytterbium amplifiers and applications

While Ti:sapphire amplifiers are a mature technology, Yb is more than 15 years younger and therefore more dynamic in terms of performance improvements. Unlike Ti:sapphire, Yb can also be used as a dopant in gain fibers that enable the thermal load from the optical pumping to be spread over a longer path with much larger surface area/volume. Even when used as a dopant in bulk material, this reduced thermal sensitivity for the lasing properties of Yb enables higher pumping average power compared to Ti:sapphire, and does not require cryogenic cooling.

In addition, the much better quantum defect (980 nm pumping/1040 nm lasing for Yb vs. 532 nm pumping/800 nm lasing for Ti:sapphire) means that less energy is wasted as heat. Finally, pump power from diodes at 980 nm is less expensive than from a diode-pumped laser at 532 nm. Consequently, Yb can be scaled to much higher average powers with a lower cost per watt, compared to Ti:sapphire amplifiers. In fact, Yb amplifiers can deliver tens of watts from the footprint the size of a desktop computer.

Despite advances in average power, typical Yb amplifiers are limited to pulse outputs of a few millijoules in the femtosecond regime and cannot reach the 10 mJ-class pulse outputs offered by Ti:sapphire amplifiers. Yb fiber systems face a limitation due to peak power inside very small fiber cores, while Yb bulk systems typically face a tradeoff between achievable energy and pulse duration.

The gain bandwidth in Yb is not as broad as in Ti:sapphire, so its pulses are naturally longer. Therefore, recompression after chirped-pulse amplification (CPA) in bulk (or natural dispersion in fibers) results in pulse widths around 250 to 300 fs. While this is short enough for many applications, it does not match the temporal resolution (and spectral bandwidth) of Ti:sapphire amplifiers used for pump-probe, 2D spectroscopy, and similar time-resolved experiments. There are, however, several ways to overcome this limitation.

Like Ti:sapphire amplifiers, Yb systems require an OPA to enable wavelength tuning. By using a hybrid design, the OPA greatly reduces the resulting pulse width while maintaining a useful tuning range. Such an OPA includes a noncollinear stage to generate pulse widths as short as 40 to 50 fs, followed by a high-power collinear stage which delivers very broad wavelength tuning.

The compact architecture of Yb amplifiers lends itself to additional improvements in the overall amplified tunable system. For example, the White Dwarf optical parametric chirped-pulse amplifier (OPCPA) from Class 5 Photonics (Hamburg, Germany) incorporates a Coherent Monaco Yb-fiber amplifier and the OPCPA together in a single, compact box. With this approach, the OPCPA extends the performance of Yb-based systems into the ultrashort (less than 9 fs) pulse regime as well as the broadly tunable regime with approximately 50 fs pulse duration, providing highly customizable performance in a single box.


Science of Religion at The Royal Institution 1870

Blavatsky mentions that Max Mueller, a key figure in bringing Eastern thought to the West, lectured at The Royal Institution and at Westminster Abbey!!! He did so not long after Faraday {below}. I walked past his statue to get my morning coffee on a daily basis.

Why was I unaware of this, I have a lot of Max Mueller translations?

Has it been “redacted” or simply not emphasised? It is something to brag about, excuse the pun. Mueller is a legend.

These lectures were perhaps in the days of John Tyndall….

Ray V. Concrete Knowledge or Science

These excerpted from Esoteric Psychology 1 and 2 by Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul


{ My note: take a look at the following how many of them fit you ?}

The Fifth Ray of Lower Mind

  • Special Virtues:
    Strictly accurate statements, justice (without mercy), perseverance, common sense, uprightness, independence, keen intellect.
  • Vices of Ray:
    Harsh criticism, narrowness, arrogance, unforgiving temper, lack of sympathy and reverence, prejudice.
  • Virtues to be acquired:
    Reverence, devotion, sympathy, love, wide-mindedness.

This is the ray of science and of research. The man on this ray will possess keen intellect, great accuracy in detail, and will make unwearied efforts to trace the smallest fact to its source, and to verify every theory. He will generally be extremely truthful, full of lucid explanation of facts, though sometimes pedantic and wearisome from his insistence on trivial and unnecessary verbal minutiae. He will be orderly, punctual, businesslike, disliking to receive favors or flattery.

It is the ray of the great chemist, the practical electrician, the first-rate engineer, the great operating surgeon. As a statesman, the fifth ray man would be narrow in his views, but he would be an excellent head of some special technical department, though a disagreeable person under whom to work. As a soldier, he would turn most readily to artillery and engineering. The artist on this ray is very rare, unless the fourth or seventh be the influencing secondary ray; even then his coloring will be dull, his sculptures lifeless, and his music (if he composes) will be uninteresting, though technically correct in form. His style in writing or speaking will be clearness itself, but it will lack fire and point, and he will often be long-winded, from his desire to say all that can possibly be said on his subject.

In healing, he is the perfect surgeon, and his best cures will be through surgery and electricity.

For the fifth ray, the method of approaching the Path is by scientific research, pushed to ultimate conclusions, and by the acceptance of the inferences which follow these.

{My note: remember that a being is monad, soul and personality. The personality vehicle comprises the physical, vital/etheric, astral/emotional and mental vehicles. The vast majority of people are not fully soul infused and are “centred” in their personality vehicle. So, a fifth ray personality should recognise some of the above. My mental vehicle is fifth ray, my personality as a whole is seventh ray, and my causal vehicle or soul is 2nd ray.}


The Fifth Purpose of Deity
Ray V. Concrete Knowledge or Science

The thunders crash around the mountain top; dark clouds conceal the form. The mists, arising from the watery sphere, serve to distort the wondrous… found within the secret place. The form is there. Its note is sounding forth.

A beam of light illuminates the form; the hidden now appears. Knowledge of God and how He veils Himself finds consummation in the thoughts of man. The energies and forces receive their secret names, reveal their inner purpose, and all is seen as rhythm, a returning on itself. The great scroll can now be read. God’s purpose and His plans are fixed, and man can read the form.

The plan takes form. The plan is form. Its purpose is the revelation of the mind of God. The past reveals the form, but the present indicates the flowing in of energy.

That which is on its way comes as a cloud which veils the sun. But hid behind this cloud of immanence is love, and on the earth is love and in the heaven is love, and this, – the love which maketh all things new – must stand revealed. This is the purpose back of all the acts of this great Lord of Knowledge.

Before enumerating the names of this great Life, I should like to point out that the fifth ray is one of unique and peculiar potency in relation to the human kingdom. The reason is that the fifth plane of mind is the sphere of His major activity and it is on this plane that we find the triple aspects of mind:

  1. Abstract or higher mind, the embodiment of a higher triad.
  2. The concrete or lower mind, the highest aspect of the lower self.
  3. The ego or solar Angel, the pure Son of Mind, Who expresses intelligence, both abstractly and concretely, and is the point of unification.

This Life has also much power today in connection with the fifth root-race and with the transference of the consciousness of humanity into the fifth or spiritual kingdom. Students would learn much if they contrasted the building power of the higher mind with the destroying power of the lower. Just as the personality has no other function in the divine plan than to be a channel for, and the medium of expression of, the soul, so the lower mind is intended to be the channel for the pure inflow of higher mind energy.

This fifth ray is a Being of the intensest spiritual light and in His manifestation on this fifth plane, which is peculiarly His, He symbolizes the three aspects in a way achieved by no other ray. Through His quality of higher mind, this ray is a pure channel for the divine will. Through the septenary grouping of the solar lives on the mental levels whereon they appear, He brought into functioning activity seven corresponding reflections of the seven centers of Deity, as far as our planet is concerned, a thing which none of His six brother rays have done. This statement means little to you, but the tremendous sacrifice and effort thus involved are paralleled only by the life of the Buddha, and this is one of the reasons why,  in this fifth race, love and mind must eventually and mutually reveal each other.

Some of the names given to the Lord of this ray are as follows:

  • The Revealer of Truth
  • The great Connector
  • The Divine Intermediary
  • The Crystallizer of Forms
  • The Threefold Thinker
  • The Cloud upon the Mountain-top
  • The Precipitator of the Cross
  • The Dividing Sword
  • The Winnower of the Chaff
  • The Fifth great Judge
  • The Rose of God
  • The Heavenly One
  • The Door into the Mind of God
  • The Initiating Energy
  • The Ruler of the Third Heaven
  • The Guardian of the Door
  • The Dispenser of Knowledge
  • The Angel with the Flaming Sword
  • The Keeper of the Secret
  • The Beloved of the Logos
  • The Brother from Sirius
  • The Master of the Hierophants

This fifth ray has so many names, owing to His close connection with man (since man was originally created), that it has not been easy to choose those which are of the most use in enabling the student to form an idea of the fifth ray characteristics and mission; but the study of the six aphorisms, and the qualities which they indicate, will show how potent and important is this ray Lord. These six aphorisms were chanted by His six Brothers at that momentous crisis wherein the human family came into existence and the solar Angels sacrificed themselves. Esoterically speaking, they “went down into hell, and found their place in prison.” On that day souls were born. A new kingdom of expression came into being, and the three highest planes and the three lower were brought into a scintillating interchange.

  1. God and His Angels now arise and see. Let the mountain-tops emerge from out the dense wet mist. Let the sun touch their summits and let them stand in light. Shine forth.
    Quality – emergence into form and out of form.
  2. God and His Angels now arise and hear. Let a deep murmur rise and let the cry of seeking man enter into their ears. Let man listen. Let man call. Speak loud.
    Quality – power to make the Voice of the Silence heard.
  3. God and His Angels now arise and touch. Bring forth the rod of power. Extend it outward toward the sons of men; touch them with fire, then bring them near. Bring forth.
    Quality – initiating activity.
  4. God and His Angels now arise and taste. Let all experience come. Let all the ways appear. Discern and choose; dissect and analyze. All ways are one.
    Quality – revelation of the way.
  5. God and His Angels now arise and sense the odor rising from the burning-ground of man. Let the fire do its work. Draw man within the furnace and let him drop within the rose-red center the nature that retards. Let the fire burn.
    Quality – purification with fire.
  6. God and His Angels now arise and fuse the many in the One. Let the blending work proceed. Let that which causes all to be produce the cause of their cessation. Let one temple now emerge. Produce the crowning glory. So let it be.
    Quality – the manifestation of the great white light. (The Shekinah. A.A.B.)

There is much of practical usefulness to the reader in a study of these qualities. When he believes himself to be upon a particular ray, they will indicate to him some of the characteristics for which he may look, and perhaps demonstrate  to him what he has to do, what he has to express, and what he has to overcome. These qualities should be studied from two angles: their divine aspect and their reverse aspect or the form side. This ray, for instance, is shown to be the revealer of the way, and it should be remembered therefore that this fifth ray reveals the way down into death or into incarnation (which is the death-like prison of the soul), or it reveals the way up and out of darkness into the pure light of God’s day. I mention this as I am exceedingly anxious that all who read this treatise should make application of this teaching to their daily lives. I am not interested in imparting weird or unusual items of information anent these matters for the delectation of an unhealthy mental appetite. The stocking of the memory with occult detail which serves no useful purpose only strains the brain cells and feeds the pride.

Ray V

The servers on this ray are coming rapidly into prominence. They are those who investigate the form in order to find its hidden idea, its motivating power, and to this end they work with ideas, proving them either true or false. They gather into their ranks those whose personalities are on this ray and train them in the art of scientific investigation. From the sensed spiritual ideas, lying behind the form side of manifestation, from the many discoveries in the ways of God with man and nature, from the inventions (which are but materialized ideas) and from the witness to the Plan which law portrays, they are preparing that new world in which men will work and live a more deeply conscious, spiritual life. Disciples working along these lines in every country today are more active than at any other time in human history. They are, knowingly and unknowingly, leading men into the world of meaning, and their discoveries will eventually end the present era of unemployment, and their inventions and improvements, added to the steadily growing idea of group interdependence (which is the major message of the New Group of World Servers) will eventually ameliorate human conditions so that an era of peace and leisure can supervene. You will note that I do not say “will supervene”, for not even the Christ Himself can predict exactly the time limit within which changes can eventuate, nor the reaction of humanity to any given point of revelation.

The Direction of Ray V

    “Deep in a pyramid, on all sides built around by stone, in the deep dark of that stupendous place, a mind and brain (embodied in a man) were working. Outside the pyramid, the world of God established itself. The sky was blue; the winds blew free; the trees and flowers opened themselves unto the sun. But in the pyramid, down in its dim laboratory, a Worker stood, toiling at work. His test tubes and his frail appliances he used with skill. In rows and rows, the retorts for fusing, and for blending, for crystallizing and for that which sought division, stood with their flaming fires. The heat was great. The toil severe…

    Dim passages, in steady progress, led upward to the summit. There a wide window stood, open unto the blue of heaven, and carrying one clear ray down to the worker in the depths… He worked and toiled. He struggled onwards toward his dream, the vision of an ultimate discovery. He sometimes found the thing he sought, and sometimes failed; but never found that which could give to him the key to all the rest… In deep despair, he cried aloud unto the God he had forgot: ‘Give me the key. I alone can do no more good. Give me the key.’ Then silence reigned…

    Through the opening on the summit of the pyramid, dropped from the blue of heaven, a key came down. It landed at the feet of the discouraged worker. The key was of pure gold; the shaft of light; upon the key a label, and writ in blue, these words: ‘Destroy that which thou has built and build anew. But only build when thou has climbed the upward way, traversed the gallery of tribulation and entered into light within the chamber of the king. Build from the heights, and thus shew forth the value of the depths.’

    The Worker then destroyed the objects of his previous toil, sparing three treasures which he knew were good, and upon which the light could shine. He struggled towards the chamber of the king. And still he struggles.”

{ My note: this below is the soul saying it wants to take over the steering wheel of the personality vehicle}



Ray Five

” ‘Towards me I draw the garment of my God. I see and know His form. I take that garment, piece by piece. I know its shape and color, its form and type, its parts component and its purposes and use. I stand amazed, I see naught else. I penetrate the mysteries of form, but not the Mystery. I see the garment of my God. I see naught else.’

Love of the form is good but only as the form is known for what it is – the veiling vase of life. Love of the form must never hide the Life which has its place behind, the One who brought the form into the light of day, and preserves it for His use, – The One Who lives, and loves and serves the form, the One Who Is.

The Word goes forth from soul to form: ‘Behind that form, I am. Know Me. Cherish and know and understand the nature of the veils of life, but know as well the One Who lives. Know Me. Let not the forms of nature, their processes and powers prevent thy searching for the Mystery which brought the mysteries to thee. Know well the form, but leave it joyously and search for Me.

‘Detach thy thought from form and find Me waiting underneath the veils, the many-sided shapes, the glamors and the thought-forms which hide my real Self. Be not deceived. Find Me. Know Me. Then use the forms which then will neither veil nor hide the Self, but will permit the nature of that Self to penetrate the veils of life, revealing all the radiance of God, His power and magnetism; revealing all there is of form, of life, of beauty and usefulness. The mind reveals the One. The mind can blend and fuse the form and life. Thou art the One. Thou art the form. Thou art the mind. Know this.’ “

This fifth ray formula is of exceeding potency at this time and should be used often, but with care, by those upon this line of divine energy. It has most powerful integrating properties, but the person who employs it must be mindful to visualize and hold in his mind’s eye the even, balanced, equilibrized distribution of the divine energy set in motion by the use of this fifth ray formula so that the three aspects of the spiritual entity concerned – the mind, the One Who uses it (the Self) and the form nature – may be equally stimulated. This statement means, for instance, that if all the emphasis of the soul energy available is poured into the lower nature, the natural man, it might result in the shattering of the form and the consequent uselessness of the man in service. If all of it, on the other hand, is poured into the receiving chalice of the astral nature, it might only serve to intensify the glamor and to produce fanaticism.

  1. The lower psychic man – physical and astral – must receive a balanced quota of force.
  2. The mind must receive its share of illuminating energy.
  3. A third part of that energy must be retained within the periphery of the soul nature to balance thus the other two.

This is a replica of the experience of the Monad when coming into manifestation, for the monad retains a measure of energy within itself, it sends energy forth which is anchored in that center of energy which we call a soul. Still more energy pours forth also, via the soul, for the production of a human being – an expression of the soul upon the physical plane, just as the soul is an expression of the monad upon the mental plane, and both are expressions also of that one monad.

The use of this formula, which produces eventually a definite relation between the soul and the various aspects of the form, brings about a needed alignment, and again (as in the other cases considered previously) produces also, and evokes, a crisis. This crisis must be regarded as producing two lesser crises in the consciousness of the personality:

  1. That in which there comes the achieving of equilibrium and what might be called a “balanced point of view.” This balanced vision causes much difficulty and leads to what might be called the “ending of the joy-life and of desire.” This is not a pleasant experience to the disciple; it leads to much aridness in the life-experience and to a sense of loss; it often takes much wise handling, and frequently time elapses before the disciple emerges on the other side of the experience.
  2. This balanced condition in which the not-Self and the Self, the life-aspect and the form-aspect, are seen as they essentially are (through the aid and the use of the discriminating faculty of the mind), leads eventually to a crisis of choice, and to the major task of the disciple’s life. This is the detaching of himself from the grip of form experience, and consciously, rapidly, definitely and with intention preparing himself for the great expansions of initiation.

When this dual crisis is over and that which it has evoked has been rightly handled, then the light streams forth, leading to the revelation of the relationships of form to soul. These two are then seen as one in a sense never before realized and are then regarded as possessing a relation quite different to the theoretical relationships posited in ordinary occult and religious work. It will be apparent, therefore, how a new relationship and a new type of integration then becomes possible and how the mind quality of the fifth ray (critical, analytical, separative and over-discriminating) can become, what in the middle ages it used to be called,’ the “common sense.”

When this takes place, form and life are indeed one unity and the disciple uses the form at will as the instrument of the soul for the working out of the plans of God. These plans are at-one with the intention of the Hierarchy. We now have five words for disciples upon the five rays to study:

  • Ray One – Inclusion.
  • Ray Two – Centralization.
  • Ray Three – Stillness.
  • Ray Four – Steadfastness.
  • Ray Five – Detachment.

Nasty Pedantic Killjoy Scientist or Whacko Fruitcake TreeHugger?

This quantum superposition state of quasi-orthogonal wave functions sums up in many ways the story of my last twenty years or so. I have, on occasion, been treated with suspicion by each “species”.

If someone says, “can you feel the vibration” what does that mean to you?

If you shorten it and say good vibes instead of good vibrations, is that better? Yes, because it won’t cause a spectroscopist to inquire as to the frequency range specified.

Vibes is a good term for the experiences of mood and feeling. Moreover, each person experiences vibes differently bro’.

I have had to point out that higher-frequency light can be carcinogenic and is not a desirable thing for soft wet matter in general. Obvs. I am being mean and pedantic, or am I?

Personally, I think it unwise to try to use well defined scientific jargon to attempt to legitimise “spirituality”. To the scientifically uninitiated it might sound groovy and legitimate, but to others it just sounds silly.

Hey man we are living in a new quantum hyperdimensional paradigm at the other end of a blackhole from an alternate reality in a toroidally curved and quantised helix of evolving space time plasma.

Pray, tell me how one might survive passing through a blackhole?

Scientific fame and kudos are man-made thought forms that only have an existence in the thought stream of the beings having them. They are not real and tangible, you cannot measure them with a high resolution laser and a photomultiplier tube. At best they are artificially constructed and on a cosmic scale fleetingly short-lived.

When did you get elected FRS?

I suspect that a lot of the difficulty arises through sloppy use of language and this especially between disciplines or species.

To my view the modern physically measurable sciences, including medicine and excluding psychology and related, largely measure the interaction of matter and energy, in the context of space and time, in other words scale. That is what they have been developed to do. To try to apply quantum mechanics to the macroscopic is to not understand its basis. Yes, it will help sell dishwasher tablets. To look for an electrical signal of soul, with current instrumentation, only inside the brain, is to use the wrong tool for the job. You can measure the degree of cessation of the stimulus of the grey matter. But you won’t measure “mind”. At best you will only get a measurement of a secondary effect of mind. Mind might be the cause of a measurement, but you will not measure it directly.

I have had a look at some nice web sites today intended to foster collaboration across disciplines and they are so glossy that I am immediately put off. Nice web development query depth of substance. I have a suggestion from someone else which I may follow up on. In the past I have tried a couple of science / spirituality organisations, but they had a lot of internal positional power politics.

Humans have a big problem getting past status and hierarchical and organisational position. It is a truly massive hurdle. It is one to which I have no answer.

High “status” people get uppity if you challenge this God of theirs, status. It gets you nailed to a bit of wood or burned or shunned.

As an aside they are now hunting for someone to punish for leaking the health secretary in his ultra-vanilla sex tape. Someone will be made to pay for the temerity.

Cauliflower cheese for dinner…

Time to prep.

The Science and Buddhism Thread

For some reason I have been getting images of Richard Gere again today… I did a quick search and his birthday 31/8 is very close to mine 30/8. I was born at two minutes to midnight. So, if the clock was wrong…

I have been trying to figure out some way in which I can be useful.

There have been several high-profile discussions between leading Buddhists and scientists.

I dipped back into by Malvern-Dilgo Rinpoche dream.

I did a search for scientists who are Buddhists. I did not find many Physical Chemists. I did find a lot of psychologists, neuroscientists, medics, philosophers, and other people associated with caring for soft wet matter.

I guess many “hardcore” natural scientists are busy doing their research and have not meditated as much as me. It might be a tad controversial even to chat with some Buddhist about the philosophy of consciousness.

If I had my entrepreneur head on, I would say that there is a gap in the market, a niche.

I reckon I might be able to communicate cross species so to speak…

Hmnn, food for thought…

Who are you calling a pseudoscientist?

This is from Times Higher Education

{Better get my tinfoil hat !}

Academics need to think far more carefully about how they define and police the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate knowledge, argues Michael D. Gordin

If you try to picture a “pseudoscientist”, you might imagine an astrologer or a creationist. But that is not what practising scientists tend to mean by the term.

When I used to ask them at social events to describe a pseudoscientist, they would often say: “You see, there is this person in my field who has published this crazy result. I’ve pointed it out, in print and in person, several times, and he [it was always ‘he’] refuses to correct it.” I must have received some variant of this response at least a dozen times. It was easily the most common answer and it has something important to teach us about the way science operates within universities and more generally.

We can start with two significant points. The first is that the fringe beliefs most frequently associated with the term “pseudoscience” in public discussions – alchemy, extra-sensory perception (ESP), Bigfoot or Flat Earth – do not preoccupy practising scientists at the lab bench. Those particular denizens of the fringe had already been demarcated out of bounds and tacitly dismissed by my interlocutors as beneath notice.

Even more important, however, is the fact that when prodded to explore the boundary between science and pseudoscience, the scientists invoked not epistemological first principles but the rough-and-tumble context of scientific disputation and publishing. That is, they referred to research in their own fields as normally practised, but confidently demarcated legitimate from illegitimate approaches.

That is, when scientists think about “pseudoscience”, they no doubt include the exotic phrenologists and Lysenkoists, but at the forefront of their minds are the more humdrum colleagues arguing in bad faith. To be clear, I am not claiming that there is a continuity between the content of mainstream science and the demonised fringe – rather the opposite. If you imagine a spectrum running from excellent science through good science, mediocre science (most of it, by definition) and poor science to execrable science, then “pseudoscience” isn’t even on it. It is not “bad science” by another name; instead, it is an impostor, masquerading as legitimate knowledge.

What is often presented as a purely intellectual exercise of demarcation – sifting the scholars from the cranks – is actually a way of policing a contentious border area. As with all policing actions, the fundamental criteria regarding what is acceptable deviance (or innovation) and what is beyond the pale are political.

I claim that the very process of today’s mainstream science necessarily produces a host of discarded doctrines which can take forms that, under certain conditions, could be recategorised as “pseudo”. Since demarcation is inevitable and the edges of the scientific frontier are highly dynamic, universities and others who allocate resources to research should reflect explicitly on how these transformations can happen.

The process is an unintended consequence of the adversarial organisation of scientific research, dominant for at least the past two centuries. The way a scientist makes her reputation is by building on past findings, of course, but if all she does is confirm what everyone knew before, then her career stagnates. The pressures in scientific publication are to do something new, and that usually means refuting a claim associated with the consensus. Typically, this isn’t a challenge to a core tenet – electrons don’t exist! – but rather to a small or medium-scale position.

Credit in science is allocated for priority (being first) and for being more correct than your competitors investigating the same questions. There will always be winners and losers. Eventually, many of today’s winners will become losers, as their accepted positions are in turn displaced by new scientific research. This is the ordinary yet incredible dynamism of science that has elicited so many accolades.

Yet it also produces an instability about the nature of scientific claims. Pluto was a planet, until it wasn’t (and so on). At any one point in time, there is a mainstream scientific consensus, but there are also doctrines that are being displaced from it, shunted to the fringe, often by radical theories that came from the fringe themselves, such as that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.

Some of these superannuated ideas become what we might call “vestigial” pseudosciences: doctrines that were once considered mainstream, or at least candidates for mainstream validity, but which over time are relegated to the dust heap by the consensus.

A good example is astrology. In 16th-century Europe, astrology was so far from being a pseudoscience that it was arguably the leading science. Based on an ever-expanding collection of empirical data organised through quite sophisticated mathematics, it made detailed predictions and enjoyed munificent support from wealthy patrons. Its status was always contested, but it took centuries before it faded away as a legitimate domain of elite natural philosophy. 

The pseudoscientific status ascribed to astrology, in other words, is not hardwired into its tenets, but a product of their interaction with the context of contemporary scientific knowledge (which always changes). A great many of the theories most frequently called pseudosciences – creationism, phrenology, eugenics – were at one point either mainstream or reasonable candidates for mainstream status. They were displaced by the confrontational attacks that are the mainstay of scientific debate.

Over centuries, this process is easy to observe, but it is harder to evaluate in the here and now, especially when the science is innovative and controversial. Nobody self-consciously decides to be a pseudoscientist. Those saddled with this label by orthodox scientists often see themselves as simply doing science, just on the more innovative fringe neglected by their stodgier, consensus-driven colleagues. Even in cases where the knowledge claims involved are arguably hoaxes or based on clear mistakes, there is still the potential for one of the discarded doctrines – should it garner enough adherents – to establish an existence on the fringe. 

Consider a classic example: cold fusion. Unlike astrology, the trajectory to the fringe took less than two months. On 23 March 1989, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, two electrochemists at the University of Utah, held a press conference to announce a revolutionary discovery. Using a very simple set-up of electrodes immersed in solution, they claimed that the palladium electrode – which highly concentrates hydrogen ions – had generated a huge heat spike. Their interpretation for these anomalous results was that they had succeeded in fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium. Since they produced much more energy than they had put in, the name given to this phenomenon was “cold fusion”.

If these results had been confirmed, it would have been the most important scientific result of the century, even the millennium. Cold fusion could easily satisfy all of humanity’s energy needs without carbon-dioxide emissions, without radioactive waste, thereby transforming the economy and the planet.

The University of Utah’s technology transfer office organised the press conference – something still unusual in 1989 while the peer-review process was ongoing – and then flew Pons and Fleischmann to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for funding to scale up cold fusion. It is worth underscoring that this was almost a textbook example of what contemporary universities are supposed to do: encouraging innovative science that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, especially cutting-edge work that can yield economic benefits.

And then the bottom fell out. At first, numerous labs leapt at the opportunity to replicate these amazing findings, but most efforts stalled, in part because the Utahns did not share information readily, pleading the sanctity of the refereeing process. The few confirmations that were announced were quickly retracted: a faulty neutron-detector here, a miscalibrated thermometer there.

It got worse. On 1 May, at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society, a group of physicists and chemists eviscerated the central claims of the Pons-Fleischmann experiment. For example, to generate the amount of heat they claimed, Pons and Fleischmann would have been killed by the neutron flux. The two electrochemists moved to France, and the tempest quieted down. It’s a fascinating story, and I encourage you to read the accounts in books such as Bart Simon’s Undead Science: Science Studies and the Afterlife of Cold Fusion and Frank Close’s Too Hot to Handle: The Race for Cold Fusion.

What happened next might surprise you. A small group of researchers continues to this day to explore the Pons-Fleischmann approach to energy generation. Specialised journals emerged in the mid-1990s, and there have been dedicated conferences ever since. While mainstream nuclear researchers declare the phenomenon of palladium-induced fusion to be pseudoscientific, it has not simply vanished. It was a controversial idea that tried to move from the fringe to the mainstream and failed – but then retreated to a different part of the fringe, where it lives on. Sometimes, fields like this gain a foothold at universities and survive for longer than you might expect, like the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab at my own institution, which investigated the psychic manipulation of electronics from 1979 until 2007, when it moved off campus.

So my nosy questions at academic cocktail parties raise an important concern for everyone involved in science, especially in the resource-scarce conditions of today’s universities. We are faced with a gigantic number of claims to knowledge, and nobody has the time, energy or resources to investigate them all. We all necessarily engage in acts of demarcation, deciding which are worth exploring and which should be discarded as likely nonsense. We often use the consensus as a benchmark for reasonable investigation, but this is not foolproof. The consensus is not always correct, and what was tossed aside as mistaken or even “pseudoscientific” can turn out to be important.

It would be nice if we had a bright-line demarcation standard, such as Karl Popper’s falsifiability criterion, but we don’t (creationists make many falsifiable claims, for instance). The demarcation criteria we use in practice are more ad hoc, calibrated to fluctuating standards of how much of the fringe to tolerate. These can differ strongly by discipline, by institution and even by researcher.

I call this problem the “central dilemma”. We can set our standards for what seems a plausible knowledge claim extremely high, so that we only entertain small deviations from orthodoxy, but if we do so, we will strangle exciting breakthroughs in the cradle. (Neither relativity nor quantum theory would have earned a hearing.) So most of us allow some of the fringe into our inboxes and journals, hoping that new ideas will propel the adversarial mechanisms of science to a deeper understanding of nature. The problem is that there is no way to know in advance whether a radical claim is brilliant or nonsense – you have to take each on a case-by-case basis.

Every grants review panel, every tenure committee, every dissertation adviser is confronted daily with the central dilemma. If you want to brand your institution a maverick university that attracts outside-the-box talent, you’ll have to engage in more debunking and filtering. Without a bright-line solution, you have to work by rules of thumb.

One possible first step would be to divide the domains of research according to how potentially harmful fringe theories could be, or to work out how costly it would be (in terms of money or time) to debunk a proliferation of unconventional claims. Fringe theories in the areas of environmental pollution and public health, for instance, can have severe effects on people’s welfare. But we probably need more outside-the-box thinking in the former area than in the latter (where the orthodox principles generally work pretty well). So perhaps the bar should be set differently in those two cases.

As for the costs involved in filtering out the potentially credible from the false, scientists already make calculations based on the potential fruitfulness of new ideas and their own capacities. More explicit discussion of how those implicit criteria function would help decision-makers at all levels – including students – navigate the hazards of the everyday deluge of information. Demarcation is inevitable, and there is no shortcut.

This is why my interlocutors always found their pseudoscientists within their own disciplines, and not ranting in a tinfoil hat in the village square. It’s the right place to look.