In Search of Ultimate Reality: Inside the Cosmologist’s Abyss
 3838213297, 9783838213293

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
1—A Question of Ultimate Origins
2—Don't Bend Reality
3—Which Ultimate Reality?
In a Finite Universe
Other Contenders
Other views
4—How Our Reality Got Its Start
5—Mind Over Matter: Glimpses of Different Realities
6—In the Abyss
7—Experimental Objections
8—New Questions
Epilogue: Aligning with Reality
Index of Cited Names
Further Reading

Citation preview

I found [this] to be a tightly reasoned, very readable and insightful discussion of Ultimate Reality. Books like this— that draw upon mathematics, physics, philosophy, and theology—offer some hope that our civilization might rise to the challenge and perhaps overcome some of the issues that confront us.

H Chris Ransford

Dr. Greg Matloff, Astronomy and Physics Professor CUNY

Dr Oleg Y. Latyshev-Maysky, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA

In Search of Ultimate Reality

Is there such a thing as a fundamental reality, something which was around before our universe came into existence and which will still remain when all matter, time, and space itself ultimately disappear? Something fundamental which, in turn, can make space and time and matter arise from seemingly nothing? Under most cosmological and physical models, the last known remnants of reality are the disembodied laws of mathematics—beyond which it is extremely difficult to probe further. Using contemporary physics, narrated at popular science level, Chris Ransford shows why full nothingness—a nothingness within which even the disembodied laws of mathematics would not exist—cannot possibly exist, and what most likely underpins and enables reality. This leads the author to a few thoughts as to how such knowledge may be verified, and then deployed to achieve a better alignment with reality. 

H Chris Ransford

This book contributes to advancing one of the important debates in society today and to resolving issues that have historically divided mankind so much.


ULTIMATE REALITY Inside the Cosmologist's Abyss

ISBN: 978-3-8382-1329-3



H Chris Ransford

In Search of Ultimate Reality Inside the Cosmologist's Abyss

H Chris Ransford

IN SEARCH OF ULTIMATE REALITY Inside the Cosmologist's Abyss

Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. Cover picture: ID 54379033 © Evgeny Illarionov | p

 Printed on acid-free paper Gedruckt auf alterungsbeständigem, säurefreien Papier

ISBN-13: 978-3-8382-7329-7 © ibidem-Verlag / ibidem-Press, Stuttgart 2019 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Das Werk einschließlich aller seiner Teile ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwertung außerhalb der engen Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist ohne Zustimmung des Verlages unzulässig und strafbar. Dies gilt insbesondere für Vervielfältigungen, Übersetzungen, Mikroverfilmungen und elektronische Speicherformen sowie die Einspeicherung und Verarbeitung in elektronischen Systemen.

Table of Contents

Introduction _____________________________________ 7  1—A Question of Ultimate Origins __________________ 11  2—Don't Bend Reality ____________________________ 19  The Interpretation Issue _______________________ 32 3—Which Ultimate Reality? _______________________ 37  Mathematics? _______________________________ 40 In a Finite Universe ___________________________ 44 Other Contenders ____________________________ 49 Space? __________________________________ 50  Time? ___________________________________ 50  Relativity? _______________________________ 51  Life? ____________________________________ 53  Mindstuff? _______________________________ 59  Other views ______________________________ 68  4—How Our Reality Got Its Start ___________________ 71  Whence the Big Bang? ________________________ 73 5—Mind Over Matter: Glimpses of Different Realities __ 77  6—In the Abyss _________________________________ 89  7—Experimental Objections ______________________ 103  8—New Questions ______________________________ 111    5

Epilogue: Aligning with Reality ____________________ 123  Index of Cited Names____________________________ 129  Further Reading ________________________________ 153 



This book is about the nature of reality. It draws on contemporary leading-edge research, primarily in physics, to reach a somewhat surprising but compelling answer as to what ultimate reality must be. Two books I had published earlier looked at aspects of reality seen from other, more narrowly specific angles, and any relevant results from these earlier books are briefly recapped here when needed, so that this last volume can stand on its own. Knowledge always builds on the earlier work and collaborative efforts over time of many. The thesis put forward in this book is no different, and it could not have been formulated without the prior work of so many. I have endeavored to always give credit where credit is due, however mentioning all those whose contributions have been important is impossible, and I apologize for any names that should have appeared but somehow were overlooked. Measured against how long our forebears have walked the Earth, we have only recently known for sure how, say, bolts of lightning, earthquakes, diseases, and much more besides originate. Our modern objective science is still, give or take a few years, only about 300 years old, and there are still many areas where not all the answers are known, our occasional hubris to the contrary notwithstanding. Yet, thanks to groundbreaking physics, we can now catch educated glimpses of some of the answers to the old key questions, and they are nothing short of astounding. One of these is that, if we apply both sound mathematical reasoning and the rule of simplicity—Ockham's razor—to the competing interpretations of physical theories that purport to explain reality, consciousness


is then proven to be neither physically reducible nor an emergent property of the brain, but an independent, fundamental feature of reality. But I'm running ahead of the story here. Every child, at some point in early childhood, has paused and wondered, just what is this newfangled existence that has so recently been thrust upon me? What is it all about, who I am, what am I, how do I fit in the wider scheme of things if there is such a thing, what am I doing here? In other words, what is reality? During the writing of this book I asked around for memories of such questions, and from the many consistent comments I received I believe this experience of childhood puzzlement is universal. For many, wondering just what this life is, turned out to be one of their very first vivid memories. Then we grow up, get caught up in the race for good grades and staying on the good side of teachers and parents, soon enough career and all manner of other grown-up demands kick in, and idle questions that do not serve an immediate utilitarian purpose are apt to become relegated to the back of our busy minds. But the questions never fully go away. Sometimes we blindly contract the answers out to those whose business it is to say they know. But seldom can we be fully convinced that indeed, they hold all the answers, and until recently, we could hardly blame them: our collective science was simply not advanced enough to even hint at the answers, and come what may—the show of life must go on. In our probing of reality, we will have no choice but to use some concepts and results from the current leading edges of science. If some of the terms used may on occasion seem overly specialized or arcane, don't let it discourage you. Einstein, Nicolas Boileau, David Hilbert and many others have made the point that reality is so consistent and ultimately straightforward that it is fully understandable by all, irrespective of individual education backgrounds. You may have to become acquainted or 8

re-acquainted with some of the concepts and occasional vocabulary used in these pages, but should you lose the thread the fault would not be yours, but entirely mine. The first three chapters examine some of the thorniest scientific issues we have to face when we try to tease out what fundamental reality may be, and also looks at the tools we have at our disposal to do so. Inevitably, some passages will be a bit technical, because it is essential that a comprehensive, well-buttressed case be made towards the definite and rather surprising conclusion that we'll reach in Chapter 6. Don't let it faze you: on the few occasions when some passage may wax overly intricate, feel free to simply become acquainted with its conclusions in the first instance, as this will not impair your ability to follow the thrust of the overall argument and conclusions. Chapter 4 looks back at how our reality began billions of years ago, and Chapter 5 looks at the way some reported instances of reality, deemed by some to be scientifically impossible, nevertheless keep insistently intruding into our world reality. As president Obama once put it, reality has a way of imposing itself, and any theory that would simply ignore some of its aspects repeatedly observed by many, would be necessarily incomplete, and hence not credible. By the end of this Chapter, the stage has been sufficiently set and we are at last ready to delve into what the cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin dubbed the ‘Abyss’—the ultimate mystery of why there is existence at all, and finally explore, and indeed discover in Chapter 5 what this ultimately extraordinary reality we are a part of, is. The rest of the book looks first at possible objections, and analyses how such can be understood and, in some as-yet unsettled cases, tested in the framework of the thesis put forward in Chapter 6. Some of the new questions that inevitably arise are then raised, and hopefully, workable answers are found. A few ideas, or perhaps better said wishes, as to how we could use and weave this new view of reality into the fabric of society to build a better world, more aligned with its deeper reality, are then broached. 9

1—A Question of Ultimate Origins

The question of why there is something rather than nothing, of who we are and what are we doing here, has preoccupied humankind since time immemorial. Thanks to scientific progress, we have been able to steadily push back ever more the question's envelope, but consensus on what the science ultimately means remains elusive, and for all the sound and fury of debates in different scientific disciplines, and beyond them in other walks of life, the bottom line is that we have been unable to answer the question of ultimate origin, let alone meaning, with any degree of certainty or consensus. Physics has become, in our modern era of attempted objective knowledge, the go-to science of what makes nature tick, of what is (perhaps) possible and what is not, and thence of ultimate origins. Many physicists hailing from different areas of specialization, particle physicists, cosmologists, and others, have attempted to come to grips with ultimate origins—to begin with, by starting from what is rock-bottom definitely there, plain to see and incontrovertible, to wit, the fact that our universe exists—never mind, for the time being at least, that there might be other universes out there, or that our own universe may in fact be far more complex and astonishingly odd than first meets the eye. One inescapable and, truth be told, slightly irksome conclusion they all reached (1) was that, whereas there exist many different theoretical ways whereby a universe such as ours could come into being, and whereas there are also many fundamentally different scenarios capable of giving rise to a Big Bang event, which, billions of years later, would look all the same to any then-existing sentient beings, a key shared fact, common to all the possible foundation scenarios that have been thought up, is that these scenarios require the existence of something existing prior. Physics—or at least our understanding of it—mandates that our universe 11

came from something that existed beforehand. Invoking some version of ‘Godhood’ does not explain anything at all, but merely re-labels our lack of knowledge or understanding of what it was that gave rise to this universe, and thence to reality: it shifts the question sideways, without answering it. The whole history of science has shown that the mere fact of asking questions is always salutary and unstintingly productive: the process of asking often generates new unforeseen questions and sub-questions, some of which may be easier to deal with and which typically, on the way, lead to new, wholly unforeseen insights. In the course of that process, some of the questions that were once thought to be meaningful may become moot or meaningless, replaced with new ones or by insights which provide a wider, overarching context within which the answers may become self-evident, or the earlier questions no longer relevant. We'll discover a few astonishing instances of this process at work. The question we are facing is, of course, is that of what was that ‘prior something’ and how did it originate? Irrespective of any particular scenario, reality seems to keep generating itself from another, already existing (form of) reality. Does this endless regress end somewhere? Yes it does. At an interesting price. This very question kept nagging Alex Vilenkin, a Ukrainian-born cosmologist at Tufts University. After much thinking and discussions, he envisioned the possible universe-generating scenario that would be free of the requirement of prior reality, and what he came up with is unexpected, and captivating. To understand where he ended up, we need to first take a brief look at what vacuum is—aka nothingness, total emptiness, move along, there is absolutely nothing there to see here. 12

There are two kinds of vacuums, so-called false and true. In essence, false vacuums are vacuums that contain a bit of faint residual energy, in the form of fields (2) and/or elusive, ghostlike matter, such as (pretty exotic) particles. There is an infinity of possible renditions of the false vacuum, ranging through an infinite range of possible vacuum energies. All false vacuums are potentially unstable and can theoretically decay into any lower-energy vacuum, much like a football stuck somewhere on a house roof can potentially roll down from its location and fall to lowerlying ground. Because any false vacuum can always decay to yet another, lower-energy new false vacuum, it follows that any false vacuum cannot be a fundamental feature of reality. Furthermore, whereas any existing false vacuum can decay to energetically lower ranking vacuums, it can never reach the status of true vacuum—for the simple reason that it's too late for that: since something, somewhere in the universe already exists in some form (matter, energy,….), that something may and can morph and transform into something else, including something extremely different from what it was, as long as the laws of physics allow it (3), but it can never wholly disappear into full nothingness without some trace, some echo of what has been—unless, as we shall see, if reality itself were not fundamental. True vacuum, the true vacuum, is a totally different animal. It does not currently exist anywhere in the universe, but in our quest for ultimate origins and first causes, it is where the buck stops: true vacuum does not require something prior, or something there, the way any false vacuum does. We cannot even assume that it ever existed—but the question, as it will turn out, becomes irrelevant: if it ever exists, the true vacuum turns out to be unstable. The question then becomes that of just what it is that can make pure nothingness unstable in principle. We'll find a surprising answer to this question, which will then in passing answer the age-old question of why there is something rather than nothing, a question that has been addressed by many scientists and philosophers, such as Jim Holt, 13

Lawrence Krauss, John A. Leslie, but for which a definite answer has remained elusive. The recognition that all of the existing scenarios purporting to explain how a universe could be born required the existence of something prior—a parent universe, a false vacuum, time, anything—was to Vilenkin's mind, nothing short of exasperating. Just what was it that started it all? If an ever-first appearance of reality into the realm of hitherto pure nothingness ever happened, he reasoned, then a mechanism must be found whereby reality can surge forth from pure nothingness, rather than from something prior, whatever that something may turn out to be. One possible way this conundrum could be addressed would be if there were ultimately no such thing as time, in which case there could never be anything ‘prior’, and presto! the question of prior origins would magically vanish. Unfortunately, it does not quite work: irrespective of what may become of time under certain circumstances and environments (which we will have to look at briefly later on), attempting to solve the conundrum of ultimate origins that way would be the logical equivalent to saying that reality exists because it exists, which is little more than circular reasoning, and does not add much value. Long story short, the only such mechanism that proved to work turned out to be (a form of) reality somehow spontaneously appearing out of pure nothingness, in other words some false vacuum tunnelling (Vilenkin's word) out of the true vacuum (4). Then the emerging reality would take it from there, and the rest, as they say, would become history. This ‘tunnelling’ scenario, whereby there is pure unadulterated complete nothingness before some reality begins, is workable … on one condition. Tunneling can occur if and only if mathematical laws already exist prior, in some weird disembodied state. The condition is that mathematical laws must pre-exist within pure

nothingness. 14

As Vilenkin put it: “The tunnelling process is governed by the same fundamental laws that describe the subsequent evolution of the universe. It follows that the laws should be ‘there’ even prior to the universe itself. Does this mean that the laws are not mere descriptions of reality and can have an independent existence of their own? In the absence of space, time, and matter, what tablets could they be written upon? The laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations. If the medium of mathematics is the mind, does this mean that mind should predate the universe? This takes us far into the unknown, all the way to the abyss of the great mystery. It is hard to imagine how we can ever get past this point. But as before, that may just reflect the limits of our imagination.” Therein lies the question dealt with in this book: is mindless mathematics sufficient on its own, or is there something else at the back of it, something that underlies and uses mathematics as the vehicle through which it manifests itself into some reality? We'll discover a surprisingly compelling answer—on the incontrovertible basis of pure science. But isn't incontrovertible science, accepted by all, rarer than the white elephant? In an age of advanced, complex science, of difficult experiments that can be interpreted in different ways, the quality of incontrovertibility or otherwise remains firmly in the eye of the beholder. Reading through the various conference papers of virtually any leading-edge scientific conference today can prove a sobering, oftentimes slightly bizarre experience: there will invariably be one or several papers enthusiastically espousing some given theory or view of reality (within the context of the conference), and then other paper(s) forcefully supporting the exact contradictory views (5). Those scientific disagreements prove to be both a serious boon, and a serious bane. On the one hand, they ensure that the hard results of science, no matter how unacceptable or unpleasant they may appear to people who would prefer their reality to be different, 15

eventually impose themselves: it is the very mechanism that enables overall progress. On the other hand, when truth first appears, no matter how compelling, math-compliant, and obvious it may be, many people would still not recognize it if, as the colourful phrase goes, it hit them in the face. All we ever have to go on is the impartiality of impeccable and applicable math, buttressed by experimentation. Modern physics rests on two fundamental mainstays, quantum physics on the one hand and relativity on the other hand. It is often said that quantum physics is the science that applies at very small scales and relativity at very large scales, but it's not quite right: both theories fully apply at all scales—otherwise they would not qualify for the status of fundamental theories of nature. However, 

At macroscopic scales, statistical effects become overwhelming and quantum physical effects are replaced by much coarser, yet far more predictable statistical averages. The phenomenon of radioactivity provides a case in point: in the case of, say, uranium, a mere gram of it contains a staggering two and a half thousand billion billon atoms (that's 2.5 followed by 21 zeroes), so that its half-life becomes easily and accurately predictable, because the uncertainty in principle of when a particular atom will decay is replaced at such large scales by the average number of atoms that decay within a given period of time (the number of atoms that decay every second within one gram of uranium is about 20,000 atoms (6).)

At everyday distances, relativistic effects become negligible, and a corresponding loss of relevance applies to relativity at ordinary scales. A case in point here would be gravitational time dilation. The farther away you are from a main source of gravity, the faster time elapses. Which means that if you live on the second floor of your house, you'll age faster than someone who lives


on its ground floor, by a calculable but thoroughly negligible amount, of the order of a billionth of a second per year (on the pure basis of elevation, since further relativistic effects would also occur, such as the slightly higher tangential speed on the second floor due to the earth's rotation, with the overall resultant effect depending on the precise geometry of the house.) For our purposes, the part of physics that holds first explanatory power for the very essence of what things are, rather than how they may behave, is quantum physics, which we'll turn to examining now.


2—Don't Bend Reality

As any neuroscientist will easily and compellingly confirm, all we ever have access to is an interpretation of reality, of facts—we have no direct access to reality, our body-intermediated interface to raw external reality forever stands in the way, filtered through limited senses and, more importantly, by a brain that has its own agenda, most of which we are never consciously aware of. (A simple but telling illustration of this agenda at work is provided by the reason why we tend to feel nauseous when we're in a moving car, or on a rolling and pitching boat (7): the brain collects sensory input data from a number of different, simultaneous sensory channels and compares and maps these inputs to produce a real-time image of reality. When we're walking, consistent signals from our legs, body, inner ear, eyes, etc. confirm that we are actually moving: everything's fine. In a car, however, the brain receives strong signals of ever-shifting body balance and of movement, our eyes may or may not confirm the movement, but our legs definitely signal that we're neither running nor walking, and the brain therefore suspects that we might in fact not be moving at all. At sea, too, there is a strong sense of movement—pitch and roll—but our legs are signalling that we are not walking at all, i.e., that we are most likely not moving. Moreover, the sea out there is largely featureless and uniform—no trees nor buildings are filing past, which could visually confirm that we are actually somehow moving. So—fully unbeknownst to ourselves, aka to the small ‘conscious’ part of the brain—the brain thinks: why do I have the feeling that the world is spinning around me, moving, stomping and rolling, even though I'm not moving at all? Ha ha, thinks your brain, I have been poisoned and become dizzy, that's why! Let me empty all stomach contents at once, and save the day. That's why 19

we throw up when we're car- or seasick, and also why seasickness is more prevalent and more severe than car sickness, because of the absence, at sea, from external reference points such as passing trees which can at least partially confirm motion.) This is but one among so many examples of the brain's hidden agenda at work, which reminds us that the brain's foremost mandate is to keep us alive—long enough to pass on our genes and ensure with as high a level of likelihood as possible that our offspring will, in turn, also make it. There is no other evolutionary purpose to the brain: life emphatically does not do priggish. Lives must be led and mouths fed, and whatever works, works, and will be used. If something helps with survival—anything, a habit, a belief, a way of doing things—but that something happens to be factually wrong, the brain does not care: it will lie and make it up into a truth, because that's how survival works. Any gut feelings we may have for what is ‘true’ or not do not take their source in what is factual, but exclusively in the imperatives of evolution. Nature selects for and uses whatever ideas, feelings or techniques happen to work to keep living organisms alive, and it does not matter a whit if such are made out of false beliefs, misapprehensions or outright lies (be they passive lies such as, say, a predator's coat camouflage, or active lies, such as the builtin prey decoys in some species of deep-sea fish), or even, devastatingly enough, of curbs on freewill or intelligence itself and/or, as the case may be, limits on character—as long as such properties enable their owners to stay alive just a little longer, a moment at a time. The very first order of business when attempting to probe the mysteries of the universe is therefore to let go of our instincts, and sideline in the first instance ‘conventional wisdom’ or common-sense notions that our minds insist on proffering. In this bid to free ourselves from what our hopelessly skewed brains would attempt to make us believe, we have, 20

however, a strong ally: neutral, objective, prejudice-free mathematics. Or rather, more narrowly, numbers. An argument is sometimes made that mathematics is a figment of the human mind based on prior foundational assumptions—aka axioms— and that it hence cannot be relied on to properly and objectively reflect or grasp outside reality. We can in the first instance safely gainsay this argument here, first because the only part of mathematics that we need for our purpose is numbers, and numbers are robust. Looking for the very irreducible core of mathematics, for some objective, affect-independent way of mapping reality, what we find is that numbers are made of pure vocabulary definitions, not in any way presupposing any feature of possible external reality. Most of mathematics, and all of number theory, ultimately spring from the simple definition that 1+1=2. When we somehow put 1 and 1 together, we thereby create a new object, a whole new animal, different from what we started from, which we are now free to label and define as something called 2 (8). This definition is robust, since it does not make any assumption, and is also language-independent, since any other label can be seamlessly used instead of ‘two’. Yet, from this simple, unimpeachable definition seamlessly flows a whole, increasingly exotic zoo of numbers—natural, rational, irrational, complex, quaternion, transfinite, aleph, beth, prime, Graham's number, etc. … upon which ultimately the whole edifice of physics, and hence our understanding of reality, rests. As we shall see, modern science says that it is not only our understanding of reality that flows from this definition— but reality itself, independently of our comprehension of it. Incidentally, contrary to a common view, mathematics is demonstrably not a human invention nor a human mental construct, but is independently embedded in nature. Consequently, many animal species avail themselves of it and are quite able to count, in other words to use arith-


metics (9). Some even make use of simple mathematical modelling: Howard Bloom (2000) describes how bees have been known to seamlessly use simple predictive mathematics to find sources of food. Unfortunately, as we shall see, even mathematics will often prove insufficient. When we try to make objective sense of reality, it will turn out that what most often remains is the way we (choose to) interpret reality. And, for reasons that we'll be able to elucidate, this limitation is nowhere as glaring as in the key theory of physics whose predictive power—its power to accurately predict observations—has never been faulted: quan-

tum physics, no matter how bizarre and even abhorrent these observations may on occasion appear to our instincts and common sense. This is hardly news nor intrinsic to physics, of course. Whole cultural genres have been built on the comically different interpretations that can be made of bare, hard facts—classic British comedies, French vaudevilles, and similar spring to mind. It also so happens that try as we may, some facts will be forever hidden from us. We will explore the question of whether ultimate origins belongs in this category, and we will discover, perhaps somewhat astonishingly, that it does not. In ordinary life however, aspects of reality routinely remain hidden to us, unless we proactively seek explanations. For instance, a new twenty-something panhandler has recently appeared on the streets in the neighbourhood. From this bare fact, a range of starkly differing explanations as to why this person appeared exists. At one end point, this person has fallen victim to inextricably difficult circumstances or to some form of abuse and has become homeless; at the other end, she is a sociology student, field-investigating people's responses to begging across a range of neighborhoods of various degrees of affluence and wealth. Unless we go and talk to her, we will not discover which is which. Sometimes, we just cannot or can no longer know, as the underlying causes of some aspect of reality may have become forever lost to our knowledge, even when the discovery of such cause would not be trivial and could lead to 22

new understandings and/or political or policy decisions. There are many such cases in history. A recent news item made for an intriguing example: it involved a Mr. Jean-Marie Loret, purported to be the French son of a historical German dictator. The balance of much circumstantial evidence seemed to point to Mr. Loret being indeed the dictator's son (it included the fact, for instance, that the German government financially supported Loret's adoptive parents even at a time when it was caught up in a timeconsuming and costly war effort.) In 2018, relatives of the erstwhile German dictator (on his father's side) were traced to a village in Austria, and under an understandable proviso of strict confidentiality, their DNA was sampled and compared with that of Mr. Loret's son. The results came back unequivocally: the DNAs were definitely not related. Those are the bare hard facts, but as all hard facts, they are open to extremely different yet equally plausible interpretations. One is to say that Mr. Loret clearly never was the dictator's son, end of story—never mind the abiding rumors to the contrary and the many coincidences. The other way is to say that the dictator's mother committed an indiscretion which resulted in the future dictator's birth. A factoid of history that makes the question relevant is that the father ceaselessly physically abused both the son and the mother during the future dictator's formative years. Could it be that an indiscretion led to the beatings which ultimately deranged the man and took the world down the path to devastation? Science, despite its reputation as the one haven of math-based objective knowledge unmarred by subjective interpretations, fares little better. Quantum physics, enabled and constrained by the faultless logic of its underlying mathematics, takes center stage when it comes to trying to understand and explain reality at its deepest level. Nevertheless, there are currently no fewer than about 30-odd different interpretations—theories— purporting to make sense of the undisputed experimental results of quantum physics, thereby bringing down any attempt to incontrovertibly and consensually understand ultimate reality (but don't despair quite yet). 23

These theories can be regrouped into 5 major kinds of interpretation, or, somewhat more coarsely but adequately for our purposes, three main categories of interpretation. Those three main kinds are the so-called Bohmian theories, the objective collapse theories (collapse theories for short), and the Many-Worlds interpretations, which we'll revisit shortly, in terms of what they say about how reality operates (10). The mere existence of competing interpretations ensures that, should anyone come up with an impeccably math-buttressed argument as to some aspect of reality, this argument nevertheless could not and would not be universally accepted as smoking gun truth, and in any event would not acquire the status of established consensual truth at the very least for a few decades. Thus, inevitably, at the leading edges of contemporary science, truth must remain firmly in the eye of the beholder, at least provisionally. No one in Academe or in any other walk of life or pursuit, no matter how impeccable their science and reasoning, can ever lay claim to full ‘smoking gun’ status for their ideas (11). Beyond any interpretations, all affirmations, assertions, theories, and, inescapably, religions, are at their core, just like physics and science, affirmations and views about reality, about how reality works and what makes it tick. And they are, inescapably, either correct or false, irrespective of our ability or otherwise to know and recognize it. Right or wrong: down to a slight note of caution we'll examine below, there is just no middle way: either theories—physical theories, theories of life, philosophies, religions—factually match reality as it is, and faithfully describe it, or they are just plain false. Period. There is no going around: if you say, like some neuroscientists do, that the physical brain creates the mind, or, along with some others, that it does not, then you're either right or wrong. There are no two ways about it. If you believe that there is such a thing as one true religion, then you are either right or wrong. As in the case of Mr. Loret, the truth is out there, and when it counts, it is incumbent on us to try and discover it whenever possible (12). 24

In physics, there sometimes appears that there exists a middle way, that the truthfulness or the reality of a theory might be influenced or in some cases even determined by the way we look at it. As we shall see, this actually reveals something important about the deeper nature of reality. What we may be altering when we look at reality is the way reality, for lack of a better phrase, enables itself to be perceived, not what it is deep down. The ability of facts to be perceived in different lights by different observers, or differently by the same observer at different times and under different circumstances, points to a surprising key feature of deeper reality: when it is not in the process of being actively perceived or otherwise interacted with, it is made up of a superposition of realities (which may be either potential or factual), and it is reality's different strands, in other words the elements of that superposition, that are perceived by different beholders. Whenever a perceiver of reality, such as an observer or a measuring device, apprehends reality by one of its strands, then that particular strand becomes privileged within the reality which the per-

ceiver is a part of. This will lead to issues that will take on particular importance. To set the stage for where we are going, we need to take a brief look back at the role mathematics plays in physical reality, and at how that role must inevitably spawn the existence of mathematical objects which, for lack of a better word, ‘attach’ to everything (by ‘everything’ is meant anything at all, including any possible collection of things.) How these mathematical objects are interpreted, and the different interpretations of why they behave the way they do, is what leads to the many different categories of interpretation of quantum physics, as we shall see. Physics and physical theories are underpinned by mathematics, and to explore the role mathematics plays in shaping reality, we must first define what ‘mathematics’ is. The word covers two rather different disciplines, of which mathematician David Hilbert had once said that they had nothing in common: pure on the one hand, and applied mathematics 25

on the other hand. Applied mathematics is the application of numbers to real-world problems, such as encountered in engineering. Such application often involves making ‘mathematical models’ of how some apparatus or system works. Such models often make use of simplifications or approximations: no deeper explanatory role is sought, the only requirement being that the model and the numbers used deliver a useable set of output values when some input values are entered. Pure mathematics on the other hand is what we are dealing with here. It is used to try to understand and tease out ultimate truths about the nature of reality. The word ‘math’ itself may sometimes conjure up a somewhat dull, arcane subject fit for a coterie of specialists but bearing little relevance to everyday life. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth: not only math underlies well-nigh everything, but it's no stranger to us: mathematician Keith Devlin, for one, convincingly argued that everyone (that includes you) has an innate natural aptitude for math. This aptitude is not widely recognized, in part because the language of mathematics can on occasion appear pretty forbidding (as a case in point, an almost comical phrase in Fields medallist and geometer Shing Tung Yau's wonderful 2010 book on geometry goes like this: Quote a Ricci-flat metric can be

found for compact Kähler spaces with a vanishing first Chern class Unquote. Say what? As it turns out, simply reading the book even without any prior background in geometry or even math makes the sentence immediately intelligible. Learning the rudiments of a foreign language would likely prove more challenging.) Properly taught and learnt, mathematics can become thrilling to everyone. A growing trend in modern science sees the universe as ultimately purely and only mathematical (13), and although this view is controversial, the evidence in its favor is strong. To begin with, there is indirect evidence. The perhaps strongest first hint, hardly recognized at the time, appeared in 1905 with the publication of Einstein's e=mc² equation, which demonstrated that unforeseen, 26

very-real life effects happen just so that a valid, purely mathematical equation worked out on paper, not be violated. Further clues kept popping up right and left across the physical sciences, leading in 1960 to Nobel prize-winner Eugene Wigner's celebrated paper on ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences’ (14). Whenever correct and applicable mathematics seems to be saying something about reality, it may sometimes seem too weird to be believed, and everybody—every specialist in the field—may disbelieve at first what the math is saying, attributing the results to some curio or calculation artefact. And then it typically turns out that the math was right all along: for instance, when Karl Schwarzchild worked out the existence of black holes by doing the math on a piece of paper (at a time when his day job was to be a soldier on a war front, where he was eventually slain), no one believed that black holes could actually exist—until Paul Murdin, to everybody's amazement, found the first one over fifty years later. If anything, the body of direct evidence is even more compelling. It has long been known that the seemingly material particles which make up all of matter are the outward manifestations of something deeper, immaterial and mathematical: their associated fields. Further to the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, the last ramparts of old-style matter-based, math-free, so-called Aristotelian materialism came crumbling down (science journalist Stephen Battersby, anticipating its discovery, had earlier jumped the gun and, in a somewhat rough-and-ready way, had stated in a famous 2008 NewScientist piece (15), that ‘It's Confirmed: Matter is Merely Vacuum Fluctuations’.) Separately, mathematicians from a number of narrow mathematical disciplines kept reinforcing this view. ShingTung Yau, whom we encountered above, confirmed some of Einstein's insights and showed how pure geometry can under certain circumstances give rise to gravity, and thence to mass itself. If everything is ultimately mathematical, then there must indeed exist some mathematical objects or signatures (16) somehow attaching to or 27

associated with everything in the universe—all and any items, collections of items, and so on. Any such mathematical object associated with a physical (or material) item must include, describe and encompass everything that makes up the reality, the essence and the ongoing behaviour of that item—including its past and future evolutions and lifelines. In short, if this is truly a mathematical universe, then these mathematical objects must be more fundamental, more essential and information-rich than the physical objects themselves. Since the associated mathematical object linked to any particular item includes all the information that exists about this item, it must also include information about its location, its speed, its evolution in future time, and so on (17). Let's try to imagine some of the features that such objects must have. Consider two atoms of some chemical element, embedded somewhere within, say, the material make-up of your car. First, consider a carbon atom that happens to be inside a molecule embedded within, say, the leather of the front passenger seat, and then a second atom, of iron, embedded somewhere within the car's metal frame. Now start your car and go: the trajectories of these two atoms remain inextricably linked. They cannot become wholly independent of each other, by the simple agency of belonging to a same car. For instance, their spatial separation, i.e. the distance between them at any time, remains constrained to a narrow range of values. Therefore, to be true descriptions of the properties of both atoms, any mathematical objects, otherwise independently attached to the two atoms, must necessarily have something in common, share some variable or characteristic reflecting their non-independent velocities and directions as the car proceeds, or alternatively, be part of some other higher-level mathematical object, somehow encompassing the two lower-level mathematical objects attached to these two atoms. Should the car break apart, these two atoms can then become independent again, and their associated evolving mathematical objects must from now on reflect this new ability, down to a yet 28

higher-level fact that both atoms are still part of the same Earth environment. In other words, although they would be no longer associated within a car that no longer exists, they still must remain remotely interconnected by the simple agency of belonging to the same planet and having no choice but to rest on it, be subjected to its gravity, and move with it. The links go on, ever more remote but never fully absent—the Earth is itself part of a solar system which in turn is part of a galaxy which in turn is embedded within the universe itself. This implies that such mathematical objects should all be linked in some hierarchical fashion—with strong links at the base levels (for instance, the two atoms of hydrogen and the atom of oxygen making up a given H²O water molecule should exhibit a strong mathematical bond) and ever-weaker links when the associations become ever more tenuous and remote (such as some electron, present in the computer on which this book was written, being remotely associated with any atom within, say, your copy of the book, and more distantly so with some proton in deep space, all of which are never entirely dissociated by the simple fact that they all belong to this universe and trace their common ultimate origin to its inception.) The mathematical objects we just imagined do indeed exist: if we take a chemical view of all there is—of materiality itself—we find that all of the properties of any collection of material elements, the electrons, protons, neutrons and other building blocks of materiality, can be wholly described by purely mathematical objects: their wave functions (18). Ultimately, only fields and wave functions, and their mathematical relationships, exist. In part because the mathematical expressions of all but the very simplest wave functions are fiendishly complicated and beyond our reach to work out in full, our understanding and interpretation of wave functions is still a work in progress. The bottom line is that no reality can exist, nor a simple model of reality be built, without wave functions. Without them, 29

reality does not and cannot arise. The predictions of quantum physics have always matched experimental results, no matter how unexpected and occasionally outright weird such results may have appeared to be. It has proven to be the most successful physical theory of all time, and at its very core lie wave functions and the equation that governs their evolution in space and time (the so-called ‘Schrödinger’ equation). Above and beyond the verified predictions of quantum physics as relates to the outcomes of experiments, the use of wave functions has also led to totally unforeseen and sometimes extraordinary insights into the way reality builds itself—affording unexpected explanations for physical phenomena that would otherwise remain endlessly puzzling, were it not for the existence of wave functions and physicists' ability to apprehend their behavior (19). Here's an example, given by Shan Gao, a Professor of Theoretical Physics at Shanxi University in Taiyuan, China, who received a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. If, as conventional understanding has it, an electron is made up of a smeared out wave packet, the electrical charge it carries must then take the form of a tiny local charge cloud. The inescapable question that then arises is why don't the various parts of the ‘cloud’ electrically interfere with one other? No such self-induction or other effects normally associated with the presence of electrical charges distributed in a close volume of space has ever been observed, which should lead to the conclusion that an electron's charge, and hence the electron itself, must necessarily be point-like. But if that is the case, then why does the electron appear to be a smeared out wave packet, in all of its physical manifestations and properties other than its electrical properties? The only possible conclusion is that the electron can only be both point-like and find itself at wholly different spatial locations, at different albeit very close instants in time, so that it can never interact with itself electrically, but it will still appear to be smudged out in space, and it is the point-like electron's rapid changes of location all over the place that 30

give a coarse overall impression of a ‘cloud’. The movements by which a point-like electron keeps switching from one location to another, turn out to be extremely quick, random, and discontinuous. Without understanding the role of wave functions, we would have never known. This is but one of a growing list of examples of the deeper understanding of reality that looking at it through the prism of wave functions affords: they help not only understand what we observe, but also provide insights into phenomena that were either puzzling, or in some cases that we did not even know we didn't know. And as we shall see, the mathematics of wave functions will provide the final insight that will confirm what ultimate reality is. As Keith Devlin put it, math is, at its core, the expression of relationships—between things, whatever such may be, be they material objects or even imponderables, such as numbers, waves, and even some elements of consciousness—some mindstuff (which of course will have to be further defined.) The envelopes encompassing these relationships give rise to patterns, which in turn become the subjects of the different branches of mathematics. With math playing a key part everywhere—although it's not yet clear whether that part will turn out to be the essential part, or not—if we are to make any progress towards properly analyzing and apprehending reality, we would ideally need to be able to navigate it at will. The sad reality, however, is that mathematical constructs can quickly become fiendishly complex, which may lead to inextricable difficulties of interpretation if not outright errors, and which sometimes leads eminent scientists (20) to cast withering doubt on parts of our mathematical edifice, and above all its applications in physics and in our understanding reality. Luckily, those who fear that modern physics has become unmoored from reality through its reliance on overly fanciful mathematics may be barking up the wrong tree: there is evidence that many issues in contemporary physics which can be caused by dubious interpretations of math can most likely be solved by more, not less mathematics (21). 31

Further strengthening a view that mathematics underlies all of reality in often unforeseeable ways is the fact that highly arcane and abstract mathematics, developed without any regard to any possible real-world applications (such as non-commutative algebraic geometry) routinely turn out to have totally unforeseen material applications in diverse fields (such as solid state physics).

The Interpretation Issue As we briefly touched upon earlier, there is a core issue that leads to the three broad categories of essentially different interpretations of quantum physics. It is important to understand it in broad strokes, because it will color what we'll discover when we finally step into Vilenkin's Abyss, and at the same time prevent us from giving this discovery the status of ‘smoking gun’, no matter how tempted we may be of doing so. As mentioned, reality appears to be made up of a superposition of a number of separate realities, whether potential or real. Two simple examples can illustrate both types of superpositions: a white car is precariously balanced on a bridge parapet. White is a superposition of all the colors of the rainbow, and the wavelengths of all these different colors are present within the white color, so that the car's color is actually made up of an overlaying of a range of hues. The way the car's color will be perceived, however, entirely depends on the make-up, in terms of cones and rods, of any eye looking at it, and on any filters that may be applied. Normal human eyes, color-blind eyes, non-human eyes featuring different numbers of cones (such as bird eyes), eyes wearing tinted glasses, will all perceive the color differently—yet all of them will perceive an existing component or components of the overall reality of the car's color. However, if an observer were looking at the car in a purely quantum world (i.e. in an environment where no macroscopic-scale effects would occult the quantum effects), the situation would be different: the mere fact that 32

some observer would look at the car with, say, red-tinted glasses would

turn the car red: the car is now no longer white, and redness has actualized into reality by the simple agency of having been ‘perceived’, i.e. interacted with in the real world. This happens because a key feature of quantum physics is that any object's unobserved, left-alone wave function carries with it the many potentialities which that object may ‘precipitate’ and materialize into the real world at some future point. If and whenever the corresponding wave function is interacted or interfered with in any way, for instance when the item represented by the wave function is observed, measured, becomes involved in some new chemical association, or is in any other way interacted with, it thereby becomes a participating part of real-world reality, and the other constituents of the erstwhile superposition, not having materialized, no longer exist, at the very least not within the universe where the observer stands (we will look at different interpretations below.) The second type of superposition can be illustrated as follows: some of the onlookers at the scene begin to make bets among themselves as to whether the car will fall over into the rapids below the bridge: they are betting on potential reality, not on current factual reality. Their perception of potential reality, however, will lead to real-world consequences, in terms of money eventually changing hands. With the car perched in a precarious limbo over the parapet, it is not yet obvious at the time when bets are made which way the car will go, and it can be said that there only exists a superposition of potential realities—either it will tumble down or not—and that eventually one of the potential realities will become actualized (for instance the car does not tip over), and the other one will then vanish from the realm of potential realities (the car can no longer fall.) Again, in the quantum world the situation is different than in the world at macroscopic scales: a ‘quantum’ car precariously perched on the parapet exists in two faint superpositions, one on the bridge and one crashed below it. One of these two superpositions will actualize 33

when and only when the car's wave function is interfered with in some way (such as, say, by a gust of wind), and the other one will disappear from real world reality, or at least from this world. There are those who say that the unactualized other reality continues to live, in another world that seamlessly pops into parallel existence to accommodate it, a view that we'll briefly revisit below. Let's consider some object that goes about its existence (aka evolves) through space and time, or ‘spacetime’, and is just about to be observed or measured. Before the observation or measurement event, that object carries within its wave function an array of different ulterior potentialities, a spectrum of potential ways it can continue living its life from future points in time. Then measurement occurs, and one specific strand of the wave function becomes thereby privileged, and instantly becomes the object's new reality from this moment forward. Thereafter, the object shall be free to continue evolving, to perhaps interact anew and develop new associations, its wave function taking on new parameters, along with new potentialities and possibilities for its future evolution, but it remains that at the instant of observation one specific strand of reality, embedded within the wave function, became privileged and was actualized (made real)—and that one strand will condition the subsequent life of the object from this point forward. One abiding issue with this bare simple fact is the ‘measurement problem’, which goes like this. The equation we encountered earlier (‘Schrödinger's equation’), which governs and steers the evolution in time of the wave function, is deterministic, and yet, the act of observation or measurement has introduced an unpredictable disruption in the otherwise predictable, smooth unfolding of the wave function's evolution in time. The simple agency of observation has, at least in part, reset the equation parameters in an unforeseeable way, incompatible with the otherwise deterministic way whereby the governing equation steers the wave function. 34

From these simple facts, interpretations become starkly different. Objective collapse theories accommodate an element of randomness and provide physical predictions and descriptions based on statistical behaviors, whereas so-called Bohmian theories hang on to full determinism for everything that goes on, but at the steep price of immediately having to involve the whole universe in the proceedings (and much else besides), whereas Many-Worlds theories just deny that the wave function ‘collapsed’ at all and went through a resetting event, but at the price of needing other, unseen parallel universes to instantly become real and branch out, and then go on to live separate lives, whenever any single instance of measurement or observation, no matter how small or insignificant, occurs anywhere in the universe. All the other strands of the wave function—those that did not actualize in this universe—can then go on and find their home in instantly popping-up parallel universes, where they can continue to live their now separate lives. The wave function has never collapsed, and the car now exists in two renditions, one that has tumbled down below the bridge, and another one that has safely fallen back onto the bridge road. This is not the place where all the issues (and side issues and sub issues etc.) that arise from these different interpretations can be discussed, especially in the light of the thousands upon thousands of papers, books, conference communications, polemical tempests, and so on that have been published on the subject over the last few decades, without, so far at least, ever leading to any consensus (22). Three popular science texts however have done a signal job of exposing the issues and should be briefly referenced here. The first one is David Z Albert's (1993) book, a text that has somewhat aged but which superbly lays out the contexts, experimental and theoretical, to the various issues. The second one is a compendium of papers specifically addressing the meaning and the reality of wave functions, from a variety of angles and positions (Alyssa Ney & David Albert, editors, 2013). Last, and not least, Professor Shan Gao 35

published in 2017 an extraordinary book which both systematically addresses some of the questions that had been left hanging in Alyssa Ney's 2013 anthology, but more importantly looks in-depth at all three overarching categories of interpretation of quantum physics, and concludes on well-argued grounds that the so-called ‘collapse’ theories make the most sense, in part because of their intrinsic mathematical merits, in part because of their full alignment with experience and experiments, and in part because objective collapse theories carry the least unwieldy baggage in their attempts to explain a reality which, admittedly, must in any case remain odd to human beholders (23). This will have a profound bearing on what we shall discover in Vilenkin's Abyss. In the next two Chapters, we will explore reality from two incompatible angles. We will begin in the next Chapter with the science of possible origins, which will in passing provide us with a few additional tools by means of which we'll be able to assess some of the strange by-ways of reality we'll explore in the Chapter following it. These latter aspects of reality are typically ignored by scientists, ignored, belied or spurned. As we shall see, there is a far more productive and, yes, scientific way of addressing them than the sweeping-under-the-proverbial-rug that has been the hallmark of many scientists' attitudes. Reality is bigger and wider than any person's view of it, irrespective of any label proudly worn on a sleeve. Indeed, ‘reality has a way of imposing itself’, and any theory of reality that would wilfully ignore, and fail to find a cogent explanation for vast swathes of reported human experience, would simply not be credible (24).


3—Which Ultimate Reality?

Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr once released ‘I'll Still Love You’, a wonderful ballad penned by his former bandmate George Harrison, whose lyrics went: When every song is sung When every bell's been rung When every picture's hung up I'll still love you When every wind has blown When every seed is sown When everything is known Then I'll still love you You know I'll love you, yes I will You know I'll love you, love you, love you Always will, until When every soul is free When every eye can see When people all agree Then I'll still love you You know I love you, yes I do When times get so hard, you know I'll be there loving you You know I'll love you, yes, I will Yes I'm gonna hold you, need you, love you Always will, love you still 37

When every note's been sung When every bell's been rung When every picture's hung I'll still love you I really love you The lyrics conjure up the survival and endurance of life, love, and the human spirit beyond both the end of time and the demise of the material universe, and articulate the very question we are attempting to solve—is there a fundamental, irreducible nature of reality, something that that will continue to persist and endure when everything else, everything that can possibly be stripped away, is gone, something which, perhaps, has always been there, even before our universe came into existence? Is it, as the song says, the human spirit, or could it rather be some physical feature or property of the universe, such as time, or space, or some perhaps some particle or particles, or alternatively something more exotic or abstract, like mathematics or some God, or something else entirely? Could it be that there is no fundamental feature of reality at all, and that in the end, at some end, all winks out into nothingness, and nothing remains? No consensus has ever emerged on just what reality is, and different people and communities swear by disparate and incompatible views of what makes the universe, and life itself, tick. According to some, we live in a meaningless, largely mechanistic and material universe where we put in brief, fleeting appearances before we disappear again for good, never to be seen nor exist again. For others, the universe is imbued with meaning, although there is little agreement on what this meaning might be. Full objectivity is much harder to achieve than could appear at first sight. Much of mankind's quest for understanding the nature of reality


seems to have been plagued by recurrent failures of imagination, ultimately brought about by cognitive bias. Einstein once famously opined that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’, another way of saying that the price of progress is that we must leave our comfort zone. In war, it has become a cliché that some generals tend to prepare to fight the last war, despite the unparalleled criticality of what is at stake. In science, it takes for example the vision of a Roger Penrose and a few others to propose, on the strength of pure mathematics, that ‘dark matter’ could be something fundamentally different from exotic forms of, well,

matter posited by many others. Many religions, which by their very nature ought to be the abode of the disruptively imaginative, tend to exhibit failures of imagination, whereby the Gods they describe seem to be starkly anthropomorphic, human-like in both their attributed qualities and their alleged failures of character. The examples are endless. We need to imagine more. Letting go of instinctive common sense leaves us in unchartered territory, where the wonted landmarks and frames of reference of reality have vanished. Mathematics and numbers are our sole remaining anchorage. Thus armed, our next order of business is to sift through various possible ultimate components of reality, eliminate those which cannot possibly be either fundamental or irreducible, test those that remain, and explore whether there just might exist other building blocks which we may have overlooked. Some of this process will prove quite straightforward: for instance, it is obvious that, say, human-designed architecture cannot be a fundamental component of reality—but what of geometry, which underlies most of it? Shing-Tung Yau makes a solid case that geometry is a fundamental constituent of ultimate reality. Since geometry is a part of mathematics, we will subsume ‘geometry’ into the general overarching concept of mathematics, and investigate whether mathematics itself can be a or the ultimate constituent of reality. 39

Bearing in mind that we might inadvertently overlook some candidates for the role—something we will go back to in the course of this investigation—we thus begin by looking at some possible contenders for ultimate reality.

Mathematics? Vilenkin's insight ensures that mathematics is a strong possible contender for being a or the component of ‘Ultimate Reality’. But mathematics can only properly function as a fundamental component of ultimate reality if it holds up. There are however three ways whereby mathematics fails under certain circumstances, which could invalidate any claim to its being fundamental, and which we turn to examining here. First, it might be unable to describe all of reality, although we must be careful never to confuse our possibly limited knowledge of mathematics with the full ambit of its reality. Whereas mathematics seems effective in measuring things such as, say, lengths, volumes, or electrical charges, aren't there aspects of reality that it cannot measure and which will remain forever beyond its ken and scope—such as (degrees of) joy, sadness, or love? As we shall see, it is in fact very likely that such mind states can, along with their relative intensities, be precisely described mathematically and even measured—which, may I hasten to say, will turn out to not in the slightest detract from our humanity, on the contrary. Be that as it may, it remains that immeasurability is the norm rather than the exception—it is found everywhere, including in the most ordinary nooks and crannies of everyday existence. For instance, should we attempt to measure the contents of a book, we'd find that this apparently straightforward task is simply undoable in principle (25). Unexpectedly, similar crushing and ultimately defeating difficulties apply to measuring lengths, volumes, and most ordinary items: the level of accuracy that can


be reliably reached when measuring lengths, areas or volumes is nowhere near perfect in principle. We must therefore largely content ourselves with workable, but relatively fuzzy measurements in virtually all we deal with in life (as mentioned, we will counter-intuitively discover that that does not apply to measuring the intensity, or the vividness of an experience within a brain, which can in principle be measured to a high degree of accuracy.) This first objection to mathematics however does not invalidate mathematics, because mathematics-based science also always effectively describes why something is unmeasurable. In the case of measuring the length of something material—say a rod—math-based chemistry and physics will effectively explain why there is an inevitable zone of uncertainty, a fuzz, in any measurement at the sub-microscopic level where the rod ends. Generally, logic always shows why something cannot be accurately measured: impeccable mathematics itself tells us that in many real-world cases, it can only be used properly at the cost of introducing further levels of complexity, which is, no doubt, a true reflection of reality itself. A second, potentially more serious objection is the well-known fact that some things are in principle unknowable—which means that these things are beyond the reach of mathematical analysis. Marcus du Sautoy, Noson Yanofsky, George Gamow, John Barrow, and many others have commented on such unknowables. If the universe is not only mathematical in nature but only mathematical, then a legitimate question arises whether math would or could generate areas that lie firmly beyond its grasp—beyond itself. The answer is that it can: among other such examples, unpredictable chaotic systems can readily arise from the deterministic laws of mathematics. Thus, areas of reality that lie beyond the reach of mathematics do not constitute proof that reality is not solely mathematical, and instances of such areas would have to be looked at on a caseby-case basis.


Last but not least, and most crucially, mathematics in itself, i.e. independently of its ability to be deployed and put to use to analyze something external to it, must hold up—i.e. never break down or somehow unravel. As it turns out, mathematics fully holds its own within finite environments, but in the case of infinite environments, should they exist, mathematics cannot be a or the fundamental constituent of reality—because it breaks down (the question will then turn into whether infinities exist, and if not whether there would be also cases, even within finite environments, where mathematics would break down.) Mathematics ceases to function properly at infinity: Georg Cantor demonstrated that an intractable self-contradiction arises within mathematics at infinity, the so-called Cantor antinomy. It arises from the way sets—collections of numbers and/or any other things—behave at infinity: if we define the ultimate, absolute greatest set overall—the set that encompasses and includes everything, all possible sets, every single last possible set, then it is child's play to show that this set is both strictly smaller and strictly bigger than itself—and mathematics has broken down. (By ‘strictly’ smaller (or bigger, etc.) is meant that it would be definitely smaller than itself, not ‘smaller or equal’.) As it happens—and as could be expected in a math-driven reality— this antinomy also fully shows up within the physical, material make-up of any infinite universe, should such infinity exist. To understand how, we need to invoke the wave functions we encountered earlier, whereby every bit of materiality in our universe, be it an individual particle or some collection thereof of any size, carries with it its mathematical mate—its wave function. The variables of a wave function reflect the material elements that are associated with it, its particles, atoms and molecules and collections thereof, i.e. the constituent parts of the material system which the wave function describes and governs.


There is a pivotal question however, which does not quite meet with consensus: is there such a thing as the wave function of the universe itself? At first blush, it is obvious that it must exist: a wave function builds up and grows hierarchically, as per the number and reach of the constituents it describes, reflecting the physical realities it includes (as we saw earlier, there exists for instance a strong, basic link between two hydrogen atoms within a same water molecule, a more tenuous yet non-nil link between these two particular hydrogen atoms and some atom within another water molecule in, say, the same glass of water, and a far more tenuous link between that molecule of water in the glass and some atom on some distant galaxy—yet that link is not nil by the simple agency of these two atoms belonging to a same universe and ultimately being associated with the fate of that universe.) A wave function can seamlessly pull in ever more variables whenever such become associated with it in some way (i.e., whenever new material constituents become in some fashion associated with or brought into the system which the wave function describes), and there is no reason why the take-up of ever more elements would ever stop, all the way up to and eventually encompassing the whole universe. Whenever new material constituents become subsumed into a bigger material collection or system, the original wave function evolves and ‘grows’ so as to include the newly added-in system components (26). This is where, unexpectedly, we hit a wall. To cut a long story short, one of the properties of the wave function is the so-called Born rule— which says that if we perform a simple mathematical operation on it within the confines of a particular volume of space, an operation we'll call twist, this operation yields up the odds of presence of the physical object it represents within that volume of space (27). If any object happens to actually exist somewhere in the universe, then its probability of presence in the universe is 100% (or, equivalently, 1) and therefore the


result of the above-cited twist operation, carried out on that wave function over the whole universe, no matter how complex the function may be, must yield 1.

In a Finite Universe This is where the concept of a wave function of the universe seems to break down. If our finite universe is all there is, then the very concept of the probability of its presence becomes meaningless: presence where? There is no ‘out there’ within which a probability of presence of the universe would in any way make sense or be meaningful. From these simple bare facts, it all now becomes a matter of interpretation. A few sweep the issue under the proverbial rug by asserting with no further ado that there is simply ‘no such thing’ as a wave function of the universe, period. End of discussion? A bit of analysis however throws up quite puzzling questions as to how this could be the case. First, all of the physical forerunners of everything that now exists within the universe were closely associated in some form of contact at the Big Bang onset of the universe, and therefore were bound up or entangled in some way. The mechanism whereby variables which were once bound up within some wave function become disassociated from one another is called ‘decoherence’, but decoherence is never total: there is no known mechanism whereby the extremely tenuous leftover mathematical remnants of formerly existing entanglements can somehow become fully obliterated from the scene. In technical terms, absolute decoherence never happens—there will always exist a vanishingly small, forever fading residual association with former mates. In the hierarchy of wave functions, there is still an all-encompassing wave function at the top, still loosely linking the modern-day descendants of all and everything that was closely associated once, at the inception event of the universe. Those


descendants make up the whole universe (we'll examine below the case when this statement would be in dispute.) Second, neither is there any known or even imaginable mechanism whereby the key property of the twist operation, carried out on the existing wave function up to that point (i.e., the whole universe minus one particle), could suddenly disappear in some magical poof! by the simple agency of adding in one last particle to its set of its variables. This is why many theoretical physicists take the view that the wave function of the universe is real (28). But the issue nevertheless remains that the physical meaning attached to performing the twist operation on this universal wave function seems to have vanished: whereas it remains entirely possible to mathematically twist this ultimate wave function, the twist operation's physical meaning has, along with the ‘probability of presence’ that the math thus calculates, suddenly become nonsense. What could conceivably alter this conclusion? A possibility would be that the universe is not all there is, and our known universe is actually located in some corner of a greater universe—a second universe out there which somehow encompasses ours. In that case, and only in that case, has the meaning of the phrase ‘probability of presence of the universe’ become meaningful again. But if we now consider the ensemble of our universe together with this second universe, the same reasoning leads to the necessary presence of a third universe, and then to a fourth, a fifth, and to never ending recurrence, and to an infinite number of other universes which all become necessary to provide the scope within which the wave function of the universe can still continue to exist and to make sense. We started with a finite universe and end up with some rendition of an infinite multiverse.


This wave function thus acquires an infinity of variables (29). At every step of the way towards infinity—corresponding to every new universe encompassing the previous set of universes—the resulting wave function can be safely ‘twisted’ to yield a probability of the presence of that universe of 100%. But a new issue arises when we reach infinity: we can still safely twist the ultimate wave function of the now-infinite universe (which now has an infinity of variables), and we still find 100%, a result which however has now again become nonsensical, because what it would physically mean is that the resulting infinite multiverse must both strictly contain itself aka be bigger than itself, so that the probability of presence term keep its meaning (i.e., it indicates a probability of presence somewhere) and it must also be strictly smaller than itself, for the same reason, i.e., that it be able to be strictly contained within itself, so that its ‘bigger’ rendition provides the wider environment within which its probability of presence can be calculated: by a roundabout way, we have just discovered a physical equivalent to Cantor's antinomy, which describes a similar contradiction in abstract infinite sets (in collections of numbers.) In other words, when mathematical infinity incarnates into the real universe, mathematics breaks down in the selfsame way it does within abstract infinite number sets, underscoring the inability of mathematics to fully describe or underpin either and both abstract and material infinities. We can only conclude that irrespective of whether the wider universe or multiverse is in fact finite or infinite, mathematics breaks down, because the meaning of the mathematical twist function breaks down in both cases (albeit for different reasons). Even in the very implausible case where the Big Bang would never have happened, as some still contend despite overwhelming evidence that it did, the conclusion that mathematics cannot be a key constituent of reality within an infinite universe would still hold, as follows. 46

Remember that the foundational reason why we were entitled to surmise the existence of a wave function of our universe is that, first, all of the universe's current constituents are descended from their physical Big Bang forerunners, which were associated at the onset of the universe, and second, that past such associations never fully mathematically decohere. What if there was no Big Bang, and our current cosmological model is wrong? Then, depending on which alternative mechanism for the birth of the universe would hold, separate constituents within our universe would never have been (and shall never be) bound by any form of past nor future contact or association, and there would therefore not be any such thing as a unique wave function of the universe, but instead a number of separate wave functions. The wider universe—the multiverse— would then be made up of a number of separate either finite or infinite universes that have never been in contact. Let us then consider a multiverse made up of wholly separate universes, some of which would be finite, and some infinite. In the case of the finite universes, we can avoid the above-cited breakdown of the meaning of the wavefunction of such universes only if it somehow makes sense to speak of the probability of finding a universe within the wider multiverse, and the twist operation holds up—a bit like it makes perfect sense to speak of the probability of finding a given marble by blindly grabbing just one marble in a jar full of them. Since however those universes are wholly separate and have never been in any contact whatsoever, the concept of the odds of finding one universe among many others can only exist mentally: this probability is not mathematical or physical in the usual sense. An ‘association’ between these universes can only be made within some mind to lend the concept of ‘probability of finding’ meaning. This mental association is now indispensable, much more so than, say, the presence of a mind would be needed to imbue the concept of ‘the odds of finding one given H²O molecule within the world's seas’ with meaning, in the last analysis because the world's water 47

molecules are all already associated, regardless of whether there is some mind around to recognize that fact. Indeed, in this latter case we could even argue that only the mathematics holds up better that any mind could (30). We shall revisit later on whether such apparent breakdown of mindstuff can take on any deeper significance. Therefore, seen from inside every single finite universe, part of a collection of wholly disjoint universes, the concept of mathematics as the ultimate reality breaks down individually, either for the exact same reason why it failed in our single finite universe, or for the reason that to lend the concept meaning, we are obliged to make it exist within some mind, which would then in consequence take precedence over the mathematics as the more fundamental component of reality. Moreover, any infinite universe within this collection would ultimately lead to the breakdown of mathematics, for the same reason of infinite recurrence and ultimate antinomy we saw earlier. It spells the end of the road for mathematics: it cannot be the ultimate be-all and end-all of the universe, whether finite or infinite. Irrespective however of what the ultimate component of reality will or may turn out to be, the overwhelming balance of evidence however still shows that mathematics remains the vehicle whereby any possible ultimate reality intermediates itself into the world (31). In the light of this rather surprising disappearance of mathematics from contention as the or a fundamental constituent of the reality of what nevertheless remains a mathematical universe, we must wonder whether there in fact is such a thing as a rock-bottom, irreducible, ultimate component of reality at all? Maybe all of reality is but an illusion, and there is no fundamental component or feature to it, and a quest for its ultimate essence is but a fool's errand? Looking back at the vacuums we encountered earlier will provide an answer. As we saw, there is an infinity of possible renditions of the false 48

vacuum, ranging through an infinite range of possible vacuum energies, and all these false vacuums are potentially unstable and can theoretically decay into a lower-energy vacuum. Because any false vacuum can always decay to another, lower-energy new false vacuum, it follows that any, and hence all, false vacuums cannot be a fundamental feature of reality. But what of the true vacuum (32)? If a true vacuum were possible at any point going forward—technically if false vacuums could ultimately decay into the true vacuum—reality itself would not be fundamental, let alone then possess any fundamental, irreducible components or features: there would be no such thing as ultimate reality, and all of reality would be a temporary flash of illusion. But as we mentioned earlier, for reasons we'll discover, the true vacuum is unstable: it cannot exist sustainably, and therefore our quest for the fundamental constituent(s) of reality continues.

Other Contenders There are other contenders other than mathematics to what may constitute ultimate reality—space, time, a form of mindstuff which some may want to call Godhood, even life itself all spring to mind. There might be other as-of-yet unknown or hidden elements—things we simply don't know of, nor perceive (such as perhaps some unknown particle, hidden variables, quantum links, or other), all of which could conceivably belong to fundamental, irreducible reality. Having no direct means of evaluating any possible hidden components, one way to eliminate such from consideration would be to establish that some other, known component would be necessarily more fundamental on its own—thereby eliminating the eventuality that some hidden component would play a significant part in the weaving up of the fabric of reality (which is precisely what we will discover, thereby eliminating any ‘hidden’ components from further consideration.)


Space? Although we live within it, there is much that we don't know about geometrical space: we are not even sure of its true dimensionality. Is space only really 3-D, as our ordinary senses tell us, or are there more dimensions, perhaps so small and tucked away and curled up in such a way that we do not perceive them (33)? Luckily, space can be fully modelled by, and subsumed within, mathematics. Math is fully capable of modelling ever more extensive and involved space topologies, whether or not such would reflect, and map, some existing actual reality out there, somewhere or somewhen beyond ours. Whatever space may exist anywhere in a wider multiverse (34) can be modelled through mathematics. Hence, mathematics as an expression of ultimate reality describes every single last bit of reality that could possibly be embedded within any actual space anywhere, including every possible configuration—regardless of whether such exists or has existed or will exist at some point in some future reality. It encompasses all of the information that could be embedded within any actual rendition of any possible space: therefore mathematics, embedding all of the possible realities of geometrical space, is more fundamental than space—which means that space cannot be a fundamental element of reality. This view is further buttressed by contemporary research, which sees spacetime as not at all fundamental but being born from ‘quantum links’—i.e., from the myriad associations that common wave functions create (35).

Time? The full equivalence of space and time can be demonstrated from within the two key theories of physics, relativity and quantum physics (although this identicalness and indeed, interchangeability may seem puzzling.) It follows that if space cannot be fundamental, then neither can time. Let's 50

look below at separate proofs, one from within each respective theory, of the impossibility for time to be fundamental. Roger Penrose describes the situation when, in the very far future, the universe has become inconceivably immense in its space extension, its every last Black Hole has long since evaporated through Hawking radiation, and matter itself has diluted to the extent that only massless particles (such as photons) remain. In this far-future corpse of our universe, time as we know it has ceased to exist, and yet, a form of reality still exists: therefore, time cannot be a fundamental component of irreducible reality. There are also many other, surprising reasons why time cannot possibly be fundamental. Whereas John Wheeler's so-called ‘delayed choice experiments’ seem to indicate that the difference between the future and the past is much less straightforward and clear-cut than we can be comfortable with, and Bell's inequality seems to show that time itself can simply wink out and vanish without a trace in some experimental setups, a simple dance step shows that the very concept of ‘time’ readily, irremediably breaks down, as follows.

Relativity? Simple relativistic mathematics—the Lorentz transformation—shows that time, speed, and distance cannot be considered independently of one another but are inextricably bound together. The way this interdependence works in the real world can be illustrated as follows: stay put and look towards some star light years away. You happen to be, as you contemplate deep space towards that star from your fixed position, simultaneous with some event A currently happening on the star. But now walk towards it: because of relativistic effects, the mere act of walking has now made you simultaneous with some other event B on that star, which hap-


pened (depending on your walking speed and the distance to the particular star) hours or even days later than the event A you were simultaneous with a mere seconds ago when you were standing still. Now turn on your heels and walk away from the star: you have now become simultaneous with yet another event C that took place hours or days earlier than A, and thus twice as long earlier than event B. So far so good, it's simple math. But what happens if you start spinning, dervish-like, around your body axis? Then when the right half of your brains moves towards the star, the left half recedes from it (and reversely), so that either half becomes instantly and continuously simultaneous with events on that distant star that are separated by hours or days from the events the other half is simultaneous with, although both

your brain halves are extremely closely, if not perfectly, simultaneous with each other. At every instant, any one of your brain halves is simultaneous both with its respective other half, almost perfectly in sync, and with events on a distant star separated by hours or days: the whole concept of time has just irremediably broken down. Time cannot possibly be a fundamental constituent of reality. (I analyzed the issue at some length in a previous work (2015), eventually concluding that the only possible way out of the conundrum consisted in time not being a fundamental variable of a mathematical universe, but a side effect of something more fundamental. That more essential something turned out to have to be, in some form or other, mindstuff. Note that this analysis only shows that mindstuff has to be a more fundamental property of the universe than time, not that there may not exist something else, deeper still than mindstuff.) Contemporary research also demonstrates that the entanglement which we saw happens across space, involving ‘things’ within the universe no matter how spatially distant, ultimately involving all things belonging at some level to some common wave function, also exists across 52

time. The future can be entangled with the past, and oddly enough such entanglement does not need the presence of an intermediate, continuous line of time between them to seamlessly work. This leads to the same inescapable consequence we already saw above: quantum associations and links are more fundamental than time, and spacetime arises from these links (36).

Life? The Beatle sang beautifully of a life enduring beyond both time and the end of the material universe, which bears the hallmarks of poetic licence—after all, we can in the first instance certainly surmise that nothing was discernibly alive during the Big Bang, nor will survive the death of this universe. Life seemed to first enter the picture in the form of primitive amino acids hundreds of millions of years after the beginning of the universe, its primitive forerunners first arising from the spontaneous interactions of stray molecules, billions of years after the Big Bang. Whereas such ur-biomolecules may form in space, a favorable growth habitat (such as that found on Earth) is the key to their further development, wherein they can develop into ever more complex chemical compounds, eventually forming sugars, fatty acids, nitrogen bases … to wit, the building blocks of life as we know it today. But surprisingly, on the pure basis of incontrovertible physics, there appears to be sound underpinnings to the Beatle's idea of life enduring beyond all else. What is life? If life itself could turn out to be the or constitute an element of ultimate reality, we must understand what it is. There is, somewhat surprisingly, no consensus at all as to how to define the status of being alive, and for all our powerful science, we cannot unequivocally state, for instance, whether a simple virus qualifies or not for the status of being alive. The situation is then further muddied by the difficulty of 53

defining ‘conscious’ and ‘consciousness’ unequivocally, beyond the mere fact that consciousness is an occasional property of life and of nothing else. In its most basic rendition, life could conceivably be fully automaton-like and non-conscious, and at its higher end, it is conscious—although there might exist intermediate states of consciousness in addition to those we know (37). A plethora of past and current studies aim at defining consciousness, but no clear-cut consensus has emerged, perhaps because consciousness could well be in principle impossible to define, unless a simplifying and unifying concept such as panpsychism is adopted—the notion that everything in the universe is alive, on a scale from rudimentary to fully human (38). Indeed, somewhat unsurprisingly, we are today witnessing a mild revival of panpsychism. A first telling observation is the apparent ability of consciousness to build hierarchically up from some rudimentary state all the way up to full-fledged consciousness. Nevertheless, Philosopher Philip Goff denies this ability. He writes (37, op cit): Quote The “intelligible emergence argument” (is) an ancient argument championed in modern times by Galen Strawson. The idea is that it is only by supposing that there is consciousness “all the way down” to electrons and quarks that we can render the emergence of human and animal consciousness intelligible. Experience can't possibly emerge from the utterly non-experiential, according to Strawson, so it must be there all along. One difficulty for this argument is that even if we do attribute basic consciousness to the smallest bits of the brain, it's still not clear how to intelligibly account for the consciousness of the brain as a whole. How do the interactions of trillions of tiny minds produce a big mind? This is the so-called “combination problem” for panpsychism, and until it is solved it's not obvious. Unquote.


There are however three simple ways the combination problem can be solved, and, indeed, this kind of ‘combination’ seems to work seamlessly in nature, in different guises. A first way could be dubbed the weak option: as any computer engineer will confirm, a computer network can be made disruptively more capable than any lone computer, no matter how powerful and capable the latter may be. In nature, Howard Bloom and others (39) give many examples of interspecies networks that have led to significant leaps in efficiency, evolution, various capabilities, and in all measures of overall system intelligence. This option we must dub ‘weak’ because, whereas the resulting systems prove, by any yardstick we'd care to use, disruptively more capable and intelligent than the individual components they started from, we must remain leery of labelling them ‘conscious’ under any simple or traditional definition, because all of the enhanced capabilities achieved do not necessitate the presence or emergence of any form of consciousness to work. The second way is much stronger: it happens whenever networking, within a same species in the first instance, leads to new capabilities that can not only execute tasks and carry out feats more complicated than before by orders of magnitude, but also leads to the appearance of new capabilities that were not even hinted at before. One such case is slime mold. Whenever the environment is favorable in terms of food supply, temperature range, humidity levels and so on, slime mold is made up of separate spores, i.e. a collection of distinct, individual, single-celled organisms. As soon as the environment degrades, these single-celled organisms aggregate towards one another and cluster up to form a single organism—which then starts seamlessly acting and moving like a single animal.


Because slime mold exhibits this unexpected property, it has been extensively studied by many researchers who try to understand how intelligence builds. Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki at the Creative Research Institute at the University of Hokkaido, for instance, has observed stunning data processing abilities on the part of aggregated slime mold. The theoretical underpinnings for the way whereby such so-called ‘strong’ enhancements of consciousness can take place is to be found, unsurprisingly, in the way wave functions build up hierarchically. As we shall see, a mind does exhibit different ‘quantum states’, or different components of its overall quantum state, depending upon its experiential environment: for instance, the quantum state of the mind of someone looking at a red light (do not proceed across the intersection) is slightly different from that of the same person looking at the green light a few instants later (proceed). But if quantum states exist in the brain, then wave functions associated with the mind exist too, and as such there is no reason why they would not avail themselves of the full range of their mathematical properties (we will discover and define later on what may differentiate the brain from the mind.) The question also arises as to whether this type of networking would work also when very different forms of consciousness are used. In principle, nothing could prevent such a configuration to work as well, so that aggregated networks made up of disparate species could also in principle become conscious. This represents a third way, essentially a combination of the two above ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ modes. Historically, symbioses occurring between originally separate living cells leading to a far more capable, fused novel organism have been routine: it's how mitochondria in human cells got their start. We will revisit the issue when we briefly touch upon some issues that may arise from transhumanism. Life might be a much broader category than something necessarily characterised by, and limited to, things endowed with some form of con56

sciousness. Three broad, hierarchical categories of aliveness can be discerned, for the time being without delving further into whether these categories are indeed separate, or whether they really are all but one category containing the same qualitative elements, differing between them only by degrees of intensity. At the ground level, there is the simple category of the quality of being alive, likely without consciousness or with so little consciousness as to being functionally equivalent to none—an individual cell, a spore, a leaf, a plankton organism, even a fruit fly all most likely belong there. We can state with certainty that any given cell, among the 37-odd trillions that constitute a human body, is indeed alive, and we can also legitimately surmise, although with no full certainty yet, that any particular cell is not individually conscious. The second category up includes anything alive and conscious, but devoid of any measure of free will. The quality of consciousness itself turns out to be graded: on the one hand there is the simple quality of being dimly conscious but not yet ‘open’, or bright enough, to perceive the environment. As Sy Montgomery (2016) notes, that's how life began on Earth: units of life individually and separately alive, all respectively unaware of their environment. Consciousness then evolved into ‘phenomenal consciousness’, i.e. an awareness of one's surroundings and/or environment, soon evolving into a limited (but evolving) ability to interact with it. As Sy Montgomery observes, that is how inter-species predation got its start, as simple organisms blindly glommed on to the fact that things in their environment, such as other organisms, could be put to use. At the top, the last category would be that of consciousness augmented with free will. The existence or otherwise of free will is still a hotly debated topic. Most (if not all) would agree that a mechanical robot is not alive in the conventional sense, but that a person is. Let us first assume that we do have free will. Under that assumption, we may in the first instance estimate, from a higher-level perspective, 57

that a determinant difference between the robot and humans is a measure of free will—the robot is a mindless and conscienceless automaton, whereas we have awareness, outwardly expressed by a measure of free will (although some argue that we have no more free will than the robot, which we will return to shortly.) Crucially, if we do have a measure of free will, then it means that whenever we make a decision, nothing anywhere in the universe can foretell nor foreordain, at any time prior to when the decision is made, what this decision will turn out to be. In other words, to exercise itself, free will must not have been determined by anything that has happened anywhere in the universe at any time, however short, prior to the instant when the decision is made. But unless proven otherwise, we, the decision-makers, are made up of atoms! Under this circumstance, the Free Will Theorem demonstrates that for free will to be able to exist at the macroscopic level of our human decision-making, then it must already exist, albeit in an elementary form, all the way down to the atomic, and indeed to the elementary particle level (technically of course under a set of conditions, which do not modify the broad argument.) In other words, under a liberal but inescapable definition of life embedded in materiality, if we happen to have a measure of free will then the whole universe itself must be alive. Which is just really another way of saying that some mind—some mindstuff—would be the fundamental operative element. The argument however does not hold if dualism holds—the idea that the mind is separate from, and can exist separately from, its material base (such as the brain). We will revisit this issue. Let us now assume that there is no such thing as free will, and that our perception of free will is illusory (40). Under this assumption, the three above categories of what life would have lessened to two categories only, to wit ‘alive’ but not conscious, and alive and conscious.


Mindstuff? Mindstuff, which may be either entirely or partly synonymous with either ‘consciousness’ or ‘consciousness equipped with free will’ is therefore a contender. The concept of ‘consciousness’ will therefore have to be defined precisely—that is to say, mathematically. Surprisingly, we'll find that this requirement not only can be satisfied, but that it leads to novel insights into what consciousness actually is. The first, thin-end-of-the-wedge way to start an investigation into consciousness is indeed to investigate whether a robot can be conscious. Before the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the case was pretty straightforward: a robot could not possibly be conscious, in accordance with an argument first set forth by Roger Penrose. The gist of the argument is that a robot is operated and controlled by some computer program (either remote or embedded.) Traditional, nonAI computers operate fundamentally differently from the human mind: they solve problems by algorithmic thinking, i.e., by following a scripted

algorithm, however complex (an algorithm is a series of step-by-step instructions executed one after the other.) At key steps, alternative instructions leading to different alternative program branches are available. Which program branching path will be picked and therefrom which next instruction will be performed depends on the value of various feedbacks received: if such and such happens, for instance if some monitored voltage value is zero, then do this, if it's nonzero, do that, etc. A non-AI computer cannot go ‘off-script’ (its pre-set algorithm being its script), but our human minds can. Penrose suggests that the ability for minds to be either non-conscious or conscious boils down to whether they do algorithmiconly or also non-algorithmic thinking. This insight is confirmed by the way the human body operates: automated body functions such as breathing, digesting, beating the heart,


monitoring temperature and chemicals within the bloodstream, manufacturing life-supporting fluids, and so on, are all performed by the lower and more primitive levels of the human brain, without any conscious intervention or even awareness by the brain's owner. All of these processes thus operate 1-subconsciously and 2-crucially, in a scripted way, such that all the corresponding tasks could be performed by a computer. The most recent part of the brain, from an evolutionary perspective, is the upper-level prefrontal cortex. This area is far more developed in humans than in other primates, and it is the only part of the brain capable of higher-level cognition and non-algorithmic processing and decision-making: it does not operate algorithmically at all, and cannot be simulated by any non-AI computer. As Penrose puts it: ‘no discernible algorithmic processes are at play there’. It is the seat of conscious awareness. Thus, the algorithmic part of our mind, no matter how complex its life-maintaining, automated tasks may be, cannot possibly be conscious, whereas a mind availing itself of non-algorithmic processes can be conscious. This divide is exactly what we observe within our brains. Biological examples of these processes abound in nature. Some species of moths, such as the greater wax moth or the yellow underwing moth, are preyed upon by bats, and the moths' rudimentary nervous systems have consequently evolved three main circuits, all of which fully algorithmic. There is little else besides in the way of their nervous system capabilities (although their hearing systems are unexpectedly sophisticated.) The bats seek the moths out by echolocation (ultrasonic bio-sonar). The moth's first nervous system circuit kicks in whenever the bat perceives echolocation beeps of weak intensity: the moth's response is then to fly away from the direction of the sound. If the beeps however become louder, then the moth's second nervous circuit becomes triggered and initiates chaotic flight patterns, which give the moth a fighting chance to still escape the bat. Finally, above a certain threshold of intensity, the last circuit triggers the action of falling to the ground like a stone, 60

which may still defeat the bat. It is extremely unlikely that these actions are in any way conscious, but far more plausible that they unfold much like, say, digestion does in humans, because they unspool fully algorithmically. At the other end of the animal scale, pets are routinely confronted with situations which their evolution could not possibly have readied them for, but are nevertheless routinely observed to deal with such situations with a measure of resourcefulness—which betokens at least some level of non-algorithmic consciousness and awareness on their part. With the onset of AI, the computers that control robots seems to have developed a new higher level, lifelike capability, that of adapting to life circumstances by re-writing their programming even as they learn from disruptive, unforeseeable and unprogrammed feedbacks from previous steps. Will we be ultimately facing, as in a Schwarzenegger nightmare, the rise of the machines? A first school of thought holds that what the AI computer does is, in effect, compress within a much shorter time span the adaptive responses that the moth developed over eons, and that despite the much foreshortened time frames, there is no essential difference between the moth and the AI computer, which are both ‘alive’ in a same, well, robotic sense, and the spark of conscious life still goes wanting. A second school of thought says that the ability to go off-script by reprogramming itself as a response to unpredictable events occurring outside of it amounts to the very definition of what conscious life is. These musings may be, incidentally, missing a new and potentially disquieting development: the question of what can happen if and when we combine AI with quantum computers. In simple terms, the question can be summed up as follows: whereas we do not yet understand scientifically everything about life (an issue we'll revisit later on), we have a pretty good handle on what it is we do not understand—the so-called 61

‘hard problem of consciousness’. The hard problem of consciousness, a phrase originally coined by philosopher David Chalmers, refers to the current stubborn impossibility to describe, explain, or otherwise logically apprehend how we perceive experiences—tasting something, seeing colors, experiencing longing, enjoying the sound of music…, from the vantage point of the science that otherwise powerfully describes what our material reality, including our environment, bodies, and brains, is made of. How do we cross over from the reality of the material world into the wholly different world of subjective ideas and experiences? (We'll later on demonstrate a compelling answer to the hard problem of consciousness, which basically says that we've been using the wrong tools for the job. We are trying to use tools to probe consciousness that have been developed to apprehend particles, atoms and molecules, but are they the right tools? If the task at hand were, say, to measure the length of a table and all we had at our disposal is a voltmeter, then we'd be faced with the hard problem of the table length: we could not measure it, try as we may, which of course would not justify a conclusion that said length somehow did not exist. We will revisit the issue shortly.) Because all things in this universe must ultimately somehow relate back to chemistry and physics and hence to quantum physics, life also does, and the question arises as to whether, by combining AI with quantum computing (provided we'd finally get it to function as intended), would we not be making use, in effect, of absolutely everything that makes life what life is, thus running the very real risk of creating a new form of existence whose parameters would be indistinguishable from those of full-fledged life. This new form of existence would then be qualitatively indistinguishable from human life—therefore potentially competitive to us. Running a bit ahead of myself here, we will discover in Chapter 6 that there exist in fact very precise, still little-known quantum physical features that not only help define precisely what mindstuff is, but also 62

confirm it to be independently fundamental, in a way that, for instance, mathematics is not. As will indeed turn out, the HPC (hard problem of consciousness) still exists because we're trying to measure and explain consciousness with a limited and therefore inadequate set of tools, based on our still incomplete, but evolving, use of science. Scientific exploration remains a work in progress, and it can happen that scientists miss, overlook, or simply not know items of relevant science (powerfully illustrating the issue, well over 100,000 specialized textbooks in mathematics have been published to date in the world, which no mathematician can possibly have all read.) As we shall see, tools derived from current leading-edge science will turn out to be quite sufficient to probe, ascertain, and understand consciousness—provided that we use and deploy them properly, well beyond what we may have done before. Should we not make full use of all the tools of science, be it to analyze mindstuff or any other pursuit, then we'd be in effect in the situation of the handyman with an incomplete toolbox who then wrongly asserts that the job cannot be done in principle. Once equipped with the full toolbox, we'll be able to ascertain, in an electrifying eureka! moment, that the affirmations of the materialists who reduce everything to pure physicalism are nothing but instances of circular reasoning: consciousness is decreed to emerge from physical materiality, because the tools of the hard mathematical proof that it's something else entirely are either unknown or have been overlooked, much in the same league as saying that a nail cannot exist because there's no hammer around, or that lengths don't exist because we lack a measuring tape and all we have is a voltmeter. To understand the issues we may be unwittingly stepping into when we meddle with robots and AI, a bit of further background is needed, and we need to take a brief look again at quantum physics. As we have seen, any object's unobserved, left-alone wave function carries with it many future potentialities, one of which will ‘precipitate’ and materialize into the real world at some future point (and then the 63

cycle will repeat, thus weaving the reality we know and experience out of the many different realities that might have occurred instead.) If and whenever the wave function in question is interacted or interfered with in any way, for instance when the item represented by the wave function is observed or measured, or becomes involved in some new chemical association, or is in any otherwise interacted with, it thereby becomes a participating part of a real-world reality. Famously, this is what happens in so-called double slit experiments, whereby one single electron travels through both apertures of a wall if it is unobserved, but definitely travels through one or the other aperture when observed (this bizarre result being experimentally ascertained by the existence of an interference patterns on the other side of wall whenever a single electron goes through unobserved—i.e., the electron manages to interfere with itself, because it is in a state of superimposition of its many potentialities.) This precipitating into a single real-world situation and existence, from a former status of superposed potentialities, is called the ‘collapse of the wave function’, or more simply, ‘collapse’. As we saw earlier, any quantum object—and since everything is ultimately quantum, everything—exists in a state of superposition of several potential states until it is somehow interacted with, and unless interacted with, it will remain in this limbo state of multiple potentialities. This superposition of potential states is of course seamlessly expressible mathematically (41), and leads to the intriguing phenomena that will get us nearer to gaining an insight into reality itself. Another puzzling question of how reality works turns up in quantum computing, where there is something known as the Holevo bound— which basically says that a q-bit (i.e. the basic unit of quantum information, the quantum version of the usual binary bit 0 or 1 (on or off) in use in classical computing) cannot deliver more than a bit of information into our spacetime, although it can carry more. The question is—where is that extra information kept? 64

The usual answer is that the extra info lies embedded in a superposition of entangled states, and that accessing the information destroys the superposition and with it, the extra information itself. So far, so good. But a number of experiments make it appear as far too simple an explanation. For starters, the extra information can be shown to be carried by a single photon, and only a later precipitation (actualization) decision determines which part of the carried information becomes real within our universe's spacetime (so that this particular explanation would necessitate a photon superimposed with itself, which then leads to a superimposition of spacetime). That would lead to the necessity of a form of time travel taking place (the photon being then ‘told’ by its future state which part of the information it should carry and which part it should not even take on board.) Again, so far, so good—as we saw earlier, spacetime itself almost certainly arises from such quantum links. But in other experiments (by Michael Goggin et al.), the time travel possibility is not enough to explain what is going on, and the inescapable conclusion is that the photon not only carries more info than is accessible, but more information that could be stored in simple particle superimposition states. Where is that information? Is it carried in a parallel universe, as David Deutsch and others speculate, and therefore inaccessible to us in this space time? Or, since spacetime is, in effect, a by-product of quantum links, weaving itself up whenever choices are made and wave functions collapse and other latent possibilities become barred from becoming realized, then how many spacetimes are precipitated that way, and does this explanation then, in effect, meld with David Deutsch's (42)? Or could it be that, as yet unbeknownst to us, the unactualized strands of a wave function do not simply


vanish at the instant of interference with that wave function, but somehow continue to exist, not necessarily in some a-popping parallel universe, but in a manner that we have not figured out yet, perhaps, again, because we are using the wrong tools of analysis, or not properly using our available tools? This question is relevant because the way superposition and collapse work will provide, in Chapter 6, the rationale how consciousness is proven to be fundamental. The key question here is whether we are not on the way to unwittingly endowing quantum computers, when coupled up with AI, with the complete set of the recognizable properties that both characterize our independent consciousness and make it a fundamental aspect of reality. Imagine that, through the use of quantum computing, we inadvertently imbue AI-driven robots with the same quantum physical phenomena that are the unique features of mindstuff…. We would then have indeed created a new, capable and competitive life form, boom, just like that. In summary—viruses may be alive (barely so), lower life forms such as bacteria or amoebas or plankton or fruit flies are definitely alive, human cells such as muscle cells or brain neurons are alive—although of course not remotely in the same league of awareness, and potential decision-making prowess, as full-fledged humans. In a rudimentary form, life thus begins at a far more elementary level than human consciousness, and what the Free Will Theorem shows is that life may begin much farther down in the scale than we ever thought—much deeper than what we used to think was the ‘possibly-alive’ virus level, but squarely at the elementary particle level. Because the argument leading to this conclusion is predicated on the indispensable necessity of a form of free will, life at any level becomes then indistinguishable from the source, repository, and exerciser of free will: in other words, mindstuff itself. The other approach, leading to the possibility of neatly by-passing the Free Will Theorem, is to assert that life itself is not only made up of atoms 66

and matter—that there exists another, somehow immaterial operative ‘life force’ at work, not to be found within the material bits and pieces that make up material bodies. This assumption is known as mind-body dualism, and in principle there is nothing that would forbid it from the outset. We will find a definite answer to the question of dualism later on, on the pure basis of incontrovertible physics. In the above discussion, we assumed the possibility of free will. But what if, as some insist, life—any form of life—lacks any measure of free will? In that case, it is safe to say that there is, ultimately, no such thing as a mindstuff. Mechanistic mathematics would then seem to have to carry the day … which we have however already proven above cannot possibly be the case, because we have proven that under any scenario, mathematics cannot constitute ultimate reality: if ultimate reality exists, then its ultimate backstop lies beyond mathematics. In itself, this makes a strong case for the existence of free will, because the domino effect that ensues from denying the existence of free will leads to a contradiction: if free will does not exist, then mindstuff is entirely predicated on mathematics and mathematical processes hence mathematics is where the buck stops, the last bastion of ultimate reality … which is not the case, neither in a finite universe (in which the math-buttressed twist operation would break down), nor in an infinite universe (where mathematics itself breaks down and contradicts itself.) Further buttressing the case, should free will not exist, then the foregoing discussion shows that mindstuff could not then begin at the elementary particle level—the level at which the most basic manifestation of reality begins, whence all the rest of reality flows. Where would then mindstuff come into play, and how? The question can logically only be solved in either of two ways. The first way would be that there is no such thing as an ultimate component of reality: reality itself would be a temporary illusion, which in the fullness of the unraveling of time shall eventually disappear and return to full nothingness. This however looks impossible, because as we 67

saw above, the ability to reach the status of a true vacuum is essential to reality being an illusion, and this can no longer be achieved (even if somehow true vacuum could be re-established, the true vacuum, as we shall see, happens to be unstable, and false vacuums, and therefore reality itself, eventually always tunnel out of it.) The second solution is that something must give: there has to be a mistake somewhere. The mistake would be either in the assertion that mathematics cannot be the ultimate reality, or that free will does not exist. On the basis of the foregoing discussions, we can then only conclude that free will must exist. Needless to say, its rendition—the way it plays out in the real world—is a totally different story. The fact that free will must exist does not begin to mean that a moth, or some algorithmic robot, are endowed with it. Thus, on the grounds set forth above, we end up at a place where a form of mindstuff becomes the primary contender for what ultimate reality is. Should we care to look, we'd realize that hints—if no smoking gun— of this possible role of mindstuff keep popping up everywhere, even if we might sometimes miss them. As a case in point, we made earlier the mathematically unimpeachable case that “the simple fact of invoking a separate reality would create a hierarchically higher-up wave function encompassing the hitherto two separate wave functions…” But where does this act of invoking take place, if not within some sentient mind?

Other views Not only physicists and cosmologists, but many others, such as information theorists and modern philosophers, have tried to tease out ultimate origins. Information theoretician Vlatko Vedral, for one, insists that pure information is the only concept capable of explaining its own origin—and 68

thereby that of all else. He begins by analyzing reality in-depth to reach .

a conclusion that all reality is not only context-dependent, but context-

generated. By ‘context’ is meant the dynamic, ever-swirling and evolving web and weft of information exchange. The core of his approach to reality is then to say that nothing ultimately exists save for interactions— information exchanges, which give rise to existence emerging every single instant both in the form of the material artefacts of reality (such as particles and observers, such as the lab physicists in white coats who interact in some way with the particles), but also, crucially, in the laws of physics themselves which govern those interactions. For instance, for Vlatko Vedral some particle causing a particle detector to click in reality does not exist; as he puts it, “Whether the detector clicks or not is a genuinely random event that cannot be predicted by any means. Ultimately, the click has no cause at all and therefore we have no underlying particles.” He goes on to say: “We can construct the whole of reality from nothingness by looking at it in terms of two distinct and interrelated arrows of pure knowledge, which kicks off the interplay between the two arrows.” According to this view, emerging information, creating itself out of pure nothingness through a self-unfolding structuring of knowledge, first jells into a set of recognizable laws (which coalesce into becoming the laws of physics of the ever-emerging reality.) These laws in turn generate, inconceivably quickly, an emerging evernarrowing structure of reality—such as recognizable particles and then their various embodiments and associations and built-up structures, all of which are in fact ultimately non-existent as independent entities. Cutting a long story short, in this view the whole universe emerges randomly from non-existence, much like an apparent particle detected by a particle detector ultimately does not exist but jells into its apparent existence by the co-emergence of physical laws out of, ultimately, total randomness. Information creates itself spontaneously without the need for a prior cause. Information then begets the illusion of reality from an 69

evolving web of interactions—of information exchanges. Thus, reality forever creates itself from nothing—in effect, from information creating itself from non-information for no cause at all: presto! the universe creates itself out from information randomly emerging out of pure nothingness without cause, and the conundrum of ultimate origins is thereby solved. But even if we set aside for a moment any misgivings we may legitimately harbor about a chain of reasoning that leads to statements such as ‘the particle detector's click has no cause at all and therefore there are no underlying particles’, there is still an unrecognized proviso hidden in the reasoning: the laws of physics can only ever emerge and work if those

of mathematics are already there to begin with. No matter whether this entire line of reasoning works or not, it is still predicated whole on the unspoken assumption that the laws of mathematics exist prior, thereby enabling the ever-renewed instant emergence of consistent laws of physics whenever information exchange takes place: thus, even in the context of pure information theory, we are led to a rediscovery of Alexander Vilenkin's compelling conclusion that mathematics must exist before anything else can, including before even false vacuums can exist, that a condition of the existence of anything in any universe is that the disembodied laws of mathematics exist within pure nothingness—within the true vacuum. From another angle, people who come from a purely philosophical angle, such as Philip Goff (2017), have also weighed in and offered compelling arguments, which fully mesh with the above view that mindstuff is the main contender for what constitutes ultimate reality. It's time we looked at the Big Bang, the furthest back appearance we know of when ultimate reality somehow ‘intruded upon the void’.


4—How Our Reality Got Its Start

Despite the tentative glimpses of other realities and possibly universes hinted at by mathematics, all we know for certain is that this universe, our own reality, exists. If we can figure how and why it exists, and how it came into being (that is, if it did not exist forever), it would provide valuable clues as to how reality can be born. There is vanishingly little doubt that our universe did begin at some point in the remote past and has not existed forever: the evidence therefor is compelling. The controversial question is not if, but how it began. Much like an analog mechanical watch unwinds over time, if our universe is still caught in the process of unwinding, then it must have had some beginning—some status of being wound-up. And indeed, in many ways, our universe is still winding down. All material systems evolve over time towards a stable overall state, whereby every component of the system achieves the maximum stability it can within the context and constraints of its wider ecosystem, and reaches eventual equilibrium. For example, if a warm room's door is opened onto a winter blizzard and then shut again, there will exist a relatively short period of time during which the room's air near the door will be cooler than the air in the rest of the room, but equilibrium will soon re-establish itself, and the overall room temperature will quickly settle to some resulting average value throughout the room. If there hadn't been a beginning to our universe, stable equilibrium would already have been established in in the infinite past (43), marred only by occasional local random spikes and fleeting, small deviations from the false vacuum that would long since have established itself throughout. Even if such a universe could have contained stars at any point, all of them would have long since burnt out and died. Temperature would be the 71

same throughout, and all macroscopic motion would have ceased (44). The large-scale heterogeneity we observe in our universe today are by themselves sufficient to make an open-and-shut case that our universe had a beginning. Some early cosmologists, such as Fred Hoyle and Herman Bondi, so disliked the idea that the universe must have had a beginning, no matter the evidence, that they thought up all kinds of ingenious ways whereby a beginning could be avoided. In particular, they envisaged the possibility of a ‘steady state’ universe—meaning a universe where a little amount of matter is created continuously and, as it were, drip-drip feeds into the universe from random entry points throughout the universe. On the face of it, this so-called ‘steady state’ scenario is not impossible, because there is no qualitative difference between all of the matter of the universe being created from nothing in one single foundational event, the Big Bang, or being created, also from nothing, in any number of smaller events. Unfortunately for the steady state theory, there is smoking-gun evidence that the scenario does not work. For instance, the distances to the galaxies we see from Earth can be fairly accurately estimated. The farther away a galaxy is, the more we see it as it was in the past, because it takes time for light to reach Earth, and light from more distant galaxies takes more time to reach us than light from nearer objects. We also consistently observe that younger galaxies have ‘younger’ chemical make-ups than the older ones (as ascertained by their spectrographic signatures), meaning that the stars in the farther-off galaxies are consistently seen to be in earlier chemical lifecycle stages. Likewise, consistent with the fact that more distant ‘younger’ galaxies have not had as much time as the closer, ‘older’ ones to expand in size, we indeed observe that the farther away a galaxy is, the more compact it is. Anywhere we care to look, the evidence for a beginning to the universe keeps heaping up: for instance, all of the scenarios that can possibly have led to the observed existence of quasars require a Big Bang type beginning to the universe, and so on. All of which 72

points to an inception birth event of this universe, not to the continuous generation of new matter. Cutting a longer story short, our universe had a beginning, but this is where all agreements end: there is no consensus at all as to what caused the Big Bang, nor is there any as to how many Big Bangs may be happening in a possible wider universe or multiverse, or may have happened in the past, or may happen in the future. To understand the possible role of a wave function of the universe, we must briefly look at the various scenarios. As we'll see, we'll end up in a strange landscape.

Whence the Big Bang? A number of scenarios make use of certain properties of the quantum vacuum—i.e., any rendition of a false vacuum—to enable a Big Bang: for instance, some vanishingly rare event happens in that vacuum, such as a much bigger random energy fluctuation than usual, which triggers the formation of a material seed leading to a cascade of events and boom, some universe is born (how the universe then evolves from its foundational boom and goes on to either thrive or alternatively suffer an early demise is another story.) But if a false vacuum is needed to spawn a universe, by definition there was something there before, rather than the pure non-being of true vacuum. There are other possible genesis scenarios which do not use the properties of the quantum vacuum. Some scenarios surmise the effect, the

outworking of higher dimensions into the creation of a lower-dimensional Big Bang (45). For instance, the so-called ekpyrotic theory hypothesizes that our observable universe began when two higher-dimensional ‘branes’ collided—with the word “brane” originating in the word “membrane”, originally referring to a two-D, perhaps spatially infinite, surface 73

within a wider spacetime. The mem- in membrane disappeared from descriptions of dimensions other than 2-D. A dimensionless (point-like) particle would thus be viewed as a brane of dimension zero, while a string is a brane of dimension 1. Beside point particles and 1-D strings, higher-dimensional branes may exist, and any n-dimensional brane being thus called a “n-brane”. One category of Big Bangs can occur whenever, within higher-D space-time, two higher-D branes of dimensionality N (where N would be any number higher than 3) collide and result in the creation of a new brane of dimension (N-1), a bit like the collision of two 3-D soap bubbles in mid-air may result in the formation of a new, flat 2-D common partition surface at the interface of the two bubbles. That 2-D partition is a new ‘universe’, separate from its two constituent parent bubbles or universes, featuring characteristics of curvature, dimensionality etc. much different from those of both two parent universes. Imagine also that the two bubbles were formed by chemically slightly different soaps—characteristics from both soaps would then leach into and contribute to the make-up of the 2-D partition. The newly-formed flat surface, resulting from a merger of the two originally distinct bubble surfaces, may well carry over traits from either or both original bubble surfaces, and a similar scenario could apply to universes formed from colliding branes, whereby a newly formed universe could inherit metrics from either or both its parent universes. (Other scenarios leading to the passing on of characteristics to new universes from other or older universes exist. Roger Penrose proposes an intriguing scenario whereby universes would be forever reborn, each one connected to its immediately foregoing universe through time. In this case, not only would the Big Bang encompass everything within the universe, so that there would not exist a need for higher-D branes, but everything would be still loosely influenced by and bound up with the foregoing universe, and the one before that, and so on. No association would be ever fully severed between various universes, let alone within any one given 74

universe, and some characteristics would be passed down to and inherited by the child universe at every birth event.) Some other higher-D scenarios work within a string theory framework, whereas other higher-D theories do not require string theory formalism. There are a number of ways whereby exotic, higher-D entities could give rise to lower-D Big Bangs when they collide. There is also no theoretical reason why the dimensionality of branes should be limited. As Lisa Randall put it, “In principle, branes and the bulk space could have any number of dimensions” (with the brane being by definition the lower-D, and the bulk the higher-D element.) No constituent part of a brane is free of that brane, much like some pebble on the moon is not free or independent of the moon, and any Big Bang resulting from a brane collision is formed jointly by the two branes which become instantly associated at the instant of collision. Therefore, importantly for our purposes, brane scenarios cannot lead to separate strands of wave functions, since the branes must temporarily ‘associate’ in order to trigger a Big Bang. A common thread in all the known possible scenarios capable of giving rise to a Big Bang, and thence to a finite universe, is thus that they all require the existence of something prior—a parent universe in a number of different scenarios, prior time in Martin Bojowald's loop quantum cosmology, a prior false vacuum in Edward Tryon's and others' scenarios of birth through a quantum fluctuation, something, so that the new universe can be born in the first place. We can therefore safely assume that any new universe appearing on the scene will not be able to develop wholly distinct separate mathematical signatures—but will inherit an evolving wave function, already including variables representing tangible, pre-existing features of its reality, be it born from a parent universe, bouncing universes, conformal cyclic cosmology scenarios, or other.


The bottom line is that no existing theory of the inception of our universe provides a credible scenario that would dispense with some key foundational inception event, triggering the existence of this finite universe. Neither can we find a credible scenario whereby some elements involved within a same foundational event would somehow not become associated. The above does not however hold for infinite elements or components, should such exist: an infinite universe cannot fully originate in some foundational event. As was noted before (Ransford 2017), infinity just exists or it does not, and that's all there is to it: it is impossible to generate and breach into infinity from a finite base. For instance, an expanding but finite universe can immensely expand in the most mind-boggling fashion, yet it will never become spatially infinite within finite time: its only way to become infinite would be to expand, at whatever speed, for an infinite period of time, or in finite time at an infinite speed, and under both cases we're back to the status of infinity exists if it does, and does not if it does not. Correspondingly, the same holds for numbers: any mind-blowingly big number, such as, say, Graham's number, can be multiplied, or turned into a factorial, and so on at will, and yet it will never ever breach into infinity. Incidentally, we'll discover that the selfsame property applies to mindstuff: either it exists or it does not, and that's all that there is to it. Mindstuff cannot be created from anything non-mindlike prior. We are therefore firmly back into the black box of Vilenkin's Abyss: we keep encountering forms of reality that exist only either because some other reality existed prior (and as such, we have not teased out the ultimate reason why anything, and for that matter any universe, exists), or, should any reality feature some rendition of infinity, for reasons unknown. We seem to be caught in various renditions of endless regresses in the case of finite universes, and we are nowhere near any explanation of how infinity might come to exist in any reality or universe. What gives? Before we delve into the Abyss, let us make a detour by some odd byways of reality. 76

5—Mind Over Matter: Glimpses of Different Realities

But if mathematics, working through wave functions, holds sway over the way reality unfolds, either independently of the immediate agency of our minds, or, as well, whenever our minds happen to intervene, there should exist ill-explained or even puzzling phenomena out there which could be better understood if we analyzed them through the prism of wave functions. Indeed, this is precisely what we find when we dig a little. From a plethora of potential examples, here are a handful of cases gleaned from within disparate cultures. Although somewhat arbitrarily chosen, these cases are impeccably documented, and their circumstances allow for somewhat more in-depth and factual analyses than is usually possible with such cases. As you will recall, wave functions are organized hierarchically. Elements in close contact or association become the variables of a lowerlevel operating wave function. Whenever some association between variables become looser, the erstwhile lower-level wave function binding together these variables dissolves and transforms, as the variables uncouple from previously close associations. Erstwhile bonds, however, never fully terminate (decohere) but remain tenuously associated within all-encompassing higher-up wave functions (in lab conditions, when calculations are carried out on the characteristics of a mixed-state quantum system, these leftover tenuous bonds can be safely viewed as fully negligible for all practical purposes.) In Japan, kyudo traditionally describes an art sometimes translated as ‘zen archery’. Kyudo is the martial art of bows and arrows, a training of how to score a full bull's eye on every shot. The masters of the art teach practitioners to “become one” with the bow, the arrow, and the target. 77

Before releasing the arrow, the archer is supposed to have created a quote community of spirit unquote among these four elements, and only when that has been truly achieved, the assurance is that a dead center hit will be the inevitable upshot. During kyudo training there is no or little focus on aligning, on freezing one's arm and body, or any other of the techniques taught in Western archery classes. The kyudo technique is to become one with the other three participatory elements to the shot—thus creating a mind community of the archer, the bow, the arrow, and the target. As the kyudo masters put it: ‘The arrow does not move; the mind does’. Jeffrey Mann (46) writes “Perfect awareness exists within the disciplined mind of the Zen practitioner. When mushin or munen “nothought” is attained, the mind moves from one object to another, flowing like a stream of water, filling every possible corner. For this reason, the mind fulfills every function required of it.” Westerner Eugen Herrigel (1948) recounts his experience as a student of kyudo, whereby he toiled for countless hours to overcome his natural tendency to make a conscious decision of when to release the arrow from the drawn bow. As he put it, “the archer must cease to be self-aware as a person intending to hit the bull's-eye before him. This state of unconsciousness is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with his surroundings. This mind state is quite different and cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art.” Kyudo students are taught that they must remain in a state of zanshin after the arrow is released. Zan-shin literally means ‘remaining mind’. Translated into wave function parlance, it means making sure that one remains a full-fledged variable within the collective lower-level wave function that one's mind has just created, which encompasses oneself, the arrow and the target, and ensuring that these other objects are not let go, i.e. are not allowed to decohere, as long as the aimed-for result—the bull's eye—has not yet been achieved. 78

We continue our exploration with Argentina Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio's intriguing 1996 case of the host (a host is a thin wafer of bread used in the Catholic sacrament of the eucharist, performed during Mass.) Bishop Bergoglio went on to become Pope Francis, of course (the reigning pope at the time of this writing), so that this story comes close to the core of the Catholic creed, which by its numbers of adherents is one of the largest religions on Earth. For reasons that may seem arcane to non-Catholics but need not concern us here, duly consecrated hosts are affirmed by the Catholic canon to be made up of the actual body of Christ—not in symbolic terms, but in real, flesh-and blood actuality, although of course the host remains, in pure physical and chemical terms, a mere piece of bread even after it has been consecrated by a hallowing process which thus, according to liturgy, transmutes bread into the body of Christ. The story begins with Alejandro Pezet, a local priest in Bishop Bergoglio's Buenos Aires diocese. A host kept inside a tabernacle at father Pezet's church turned on its own into a piece of seemingly human flesh, that appeared to be fully alive. Far from decaying week after week, the blood-soaked piece of flesh inside the tabernacle seemed to keep growing, and even to faintly pulse. Fraud was ruled out—generally speaking, fraud in these matters on the part of the Church is unlikely, because the Catholic Church, for compelling reasons that will soon become manifest, thoroughly dislikes apparent ‘miracles’ and is quite loath to formally recognize them: it much prefers to keep any incidences of apparent ‘miracles’ safely out of the public eye. After some dragging of feet, the piece of live flesh eventually underwent, at the future pope's behest, biomedical analysis under the customary blind scientific protocol in a New York laboratory. Two outside people witnessed the proceedings, the lawyer Ron Tesoriero, who eventually wrote a detailed book about it (2007) as well as the Australian journalist Mike Willesee (who eventually, overwhelmed by what he believed he had


witnessed, converted to Catholicism. Willesee had also witnessed a handful of similar cases prior.) The case is by any yardstick as solidly documented as can possibly be, but as we shall see, Willesee need not have jumped to unwarranted conclusions. As it is, there are three separate proofs that such cases are not at all evidence of the validity of the Catholic religion, or for that matter of any other religion, but instead most likely cases of, for lack of a better phrase, human mind over matter. The first proof is afforded by the existence of so-called stigmata. Stigmata are marks believed to mirror the wounds on the crucified body of Christ, and they have been ascertained in a number of people who exhibit them (such as St. Francis of Assisi and quite a few others) and seem to appear spontaneously on the bodies of a few particularly pious individuals. In a handful of cases their spontaneous appearance was documented as solidly as can be, and they appeared to have appeared quite unexplainably—in short, miraculously. But …. Christ (47) was nailed onto a Roman cross, and the unfortunate mechanics of torture by cross, however, is that victims had to be nailed through their wrists—nailing through the palms would have led to the hands quickly ripping open and the victim falling off. In virtually all cases of unexplained stigmata though, when it could be ascertained with the maximum degree of certainty that the bearer did not self-mutilate, the stigmata appeared in the palm centers. This happens to be where virtually all the traditional representations of crucified Christ show where the spikes were nailed in—in countless statues, paintings, icons, exhibited in churches and other places throughout Christendom, where followers of the religion would routinely and repeatedly see them. Since the representation of the nails in artworks is at odds with historical accuracy, but matches the location of stigmata, could it be that the location of stigmata has everything to do with the stigmatee's personal mental representation of Christ's passion, shaped by traditional Christian art, 80

rather than any historical and/or religion-related reality? Could it also be that the few wafer hosts here and there which turned into pulsating pieces of live flesh did so through the agency of the collective, self-reinforcing mindstuff of countless numbers of Catholics worldwide who strongly believe that these hosts indeed become Christ's human body at the instant of consecration? The second proof is even more compelling. It arises from the fact that other well-documented, non-faked ‘miracles’, happen to and around people who either are devotees of other faiths entirely, including faiths totally different from and incompatible with above-cited Catholicism, and even to fully agnostic and even atheist people. In Islam, there is for instance the case of Leila Lahlou, which closely parallels some of the miraculous healings documented at Lourdes. Terminally ill with a cancer metastasized throughout her body, Leila Lahlou goes on a small pilgrimage, experiences a mystical encounter and comes back utterly free of tumors, rid of all disease, leaving her doctors suitably stunned and, typically, the competent religious authorities scrambling for cover as they don't want to go anywhere near associating her healing with the mystical experience she underwent. In the Far East and a yet much different culture, Anita Moorjani described a similar, medically corroborated healing experience, and so on: there are many such apparent ‘miracles’ across all boundaries of belief and non-belief, geography, society, and status. ‘Miracles’ come in all kinds of shadings and forms and renditions, which all take place right across the board of cultural markers. As yet another case in point, long buried bodies of ‘saints’ and other holy men have been exhumed throughout history in many cultures, and on occasion found to be in an inexplicably well-preserved condition. Francesco Forgione, a Roman Catholic stigmatee and later made a saint, was exhumed in 2008, some forty years after his death, and his body was found to be in a stunningly well-preserved state. Bodies, found upon exhuming to have not naturally decomposed despite having been buried long before 81

without any embalming or mummification procedure whatsoever, have been found everywhere. Islam also cites numerous cases, and the case of the Tibetan monk Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov is famous enough to have elicited a visit by no less than Russian president Vladimir Putin: the list is long. Last but not least, there is most likely a third proof that many socalled ‘miracles’ cannot possibly be the work of some specific Godhead but are more likely caused by the cumulative effect of human mindstuff. This third proof is probably best illustrated by a video of a documented ‘miracle’ that happened at a November 7, 1999 Mass in Lourdes, collectively celebrated by three bishops, on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Bishops of France. The Mass was being transmitted live on a French TV channel, which made the incident somewhat difficult to deny (48). The three so-called ‘celebration hosts’ used in the Mass (i.e. larger than usual hosts, which can be easily seen by all in a forgathered congregation) are positioned stacked upon each other on the altar. At the very instant when celebrant Bishop Billé formally hallows the hosts (at the 39 second mark in in the cited video), the host on top starts levitating, and hovers motionlessly an inch or so over the altar for over five minutes. The incident was subsequently exhaustively researched, and all kinds of increasingly exotic and far-fetched explanations were attempted to try and explain away the levitating host, but ultimately nothing made sense and nothing stuck. The only explanation that remained was that the host, well, somehow levitated. As is its wont, for reasons that will soon become apparent, the Catholic church downplayed and suppressed the incident as much as it could. But here is the thing: should the levitating host have been caused by some single mind, the exercise would have been utterly meaningless, pointless, and even outright childish, let alone then worthy of the ‘mind of God’. This levitating phenomenon cannot possibly have been caused 82

by the wilful volition of someone, at least not someone reasonably mentally advanced—any single mind thinking that it would somehow be supercool to do that kind of thing would be, well, quite very kindergartenish. Would not a better inference be that somehow, the wafer caught some stray thought-currents out there, some errant fragments of mindstuff, much like electrical garage doors will sometimes catch stray electromagnetic waves and, seemingly freakishly, open? It hints that

mindstuff can lead to material effects. The fact that ‘miracles’ are seen to happen everywhere, freely from any religious context or environment, also explains why all churches are typically loath to acknowledge them: as the thinking must go, if I brag about my miracle, then the other fellow will do the same, and then the whole idea that underlies organised religion may come crumbling down. ‘Miracles’, if widely recognized to happen indifferently across all faiths and non-faiths, would invalidate any claim by any one particular faith that they are the one and true faith, finding especial favor in the eyes of some God—a claim however that all churches are fond to make. Better not rock the boat. Further buttressing the point, medical authorities have counted, since 1858, about seven thousand cases of pilgrims being medically inexplicably healed at the pilgrimage site of Lourdes. To date, the Catholic Church has reluctantly recognized a grand total of sixty-seven—less than one percent. Church authorities seem to full well realize that ‘miracles’ are not the way to support the legitimacy of organized religion. Mindstuff, not materially embodied in 3-D reality, is seen in these examples to affect the mathematics that underlies 3-D physical reality. The simple way the mind can do that is by impacting the math that may intermediate it towards reality and matter—i.e., wave functions. In the case of documented ‘miracles’, the observed facts are compatible with a view that matter can be synergistically affected if and when many convergent 83

thoughts strongly envision or picture a same material outcome or situation (as in the case of father Pezet's host, materially becoming the flesh and blood that the Church canon says it does), and/or can even be impacted by loose, formless thoughts leading it to react in unforeseeable ways (as in the case of the levitating host.) As we'll see below, a quick survey of available literature will provide many logically equivalent cases. Of course, some people will insist that 100% of those cases are the doing of liars, frauds, and other con artists. But the simple fact is that this eventuality has been thoroughly investigated in quite a number of cases, and found well beyond reasonable doubt to not be consistently true, including in cases where every person involved in the verification and investigation team happened to have a strong vested interest in a simple explanation of fraud. Steve Volk, a well-grounded journalist with no past interest nor involvement whatsoever in any form of woo-meisterism, embarked upon a multi-year project to investigate and determine once and for all whether the sometimes apparently inexplicable was explainable after all. His resulting book-length 2011 report encapsulates his hard-won conclusion in its title: ‘Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable—And Couldn't’, reaching the same conclusion that his UK colleague Will Storr had reached in 2006. Jenniffer Weigel, a US journalist, made a slew of similar experiences, as so many others did. As ever, the issue is one of interpretation. Untenable and/or fanciful interpretations insisted upon by some communities are the reason why scientists have fled this area like the plague, even at the cost of often adopting a rather, well, unscientific attitude, by deliberately and wilfully ignoring facts. If an attitude of spurning facts, jumping to unexamined conclusions, and passing off preconceptions as self-evident truths, had ever been the norm in physics, quantum mechanics, for one, would never 84

have seen the light of day, because its original experimental-only evidence was both tenuous and, by the standards of the time, thoroughly and shockingly unbelievable. Miracles must be understood through physics, or equivalently mathematics: 1600 years on, Saint Augustine's pronouncement that ‘miracles are not contrary to nature, but only to what we know about nature’ holds as true as ever. There is a valid rule that states that nothing is ever lost, nothing is ever created, but everything undergoes change or transformation. Everything is a ‘thing’—not only ‘material’ objects, but also other things such as, say, a human language, or the essence of a person (the sum total of her personality, character, memories, hopes, dreams, aspirations, knowledge and experience)—are all legitimate things which operate fully within the purview of mathematical laws, and, as such, are governed by them (bearing in mind the hard issue that we do not know all of mathematics yet, nor do we know all of physics. Thankfully, we are steadily progressing—a circumstance that will become apparent when we finally step into the Abyss.) As an illustration, one could try and argue that, long after, in the distant future, the Earth has finally disappeared (say by being seared by an aging and swelling sun, a billion-odd years from now, and finally swallowed up within the radius of the expanding sun 4 billion years hence) and mankind itself has also winked out, there would be no trace left of, say, the English language. That would be wrong, inasmuch as it would remain embedded in memories, and would disappear only if somehow any mindstuff affected by the memories entirely disappeared as well, which we will be looking at below. As far as any person is concerned, there is in any event the trivial reality that all of the atoms and molecules that have temporarily made up that person's body will continue their existence in other forms, in other chemical associations to begin with, and later on in more exotic renditions. Of course, it's already happening: it's safe to say that exactly none of the atoms that were in a person's body 85

when she was a toddler are still present in her later grown-up body, although her first memories are still with her. The old-style materialist view that the essence of a person is entirely carried and bound up within the material bits that make up her body—the body's atoms and molecules, cannot be fully true, at least not in the naive sense. Most of the material making up a person turns over every few weeks, as old molecules are shed off and replaced by newly acquired ones (all of the molecules are replaced every few years, including those of the tissues with the longest retention rates, such as the brain.) Yet we still remember when we were a kid, many full replacement cycles ago, so that either a mechanism exists whereby molecules hand over information to the new ones before they shed off (such as resonance patterns, which we'll look at below), or there is something else, something disembodied which embeds your information and somehow ‘runs’ the whole mind show. Should that be the case, then hard science must be able to prove it. The way the brain encodes memories within itself is by establishing resonance patterns between groups of neurons, and memories somehow become embedded within these resonance patterns, i.e. not in the neurons or their material constituents proper, but instead in the way they fire collaboratively. Such resonance patterns are unique to every single brain. They depend on the particular unique individual structures of brains but are not embedded within any single material structure, which is a first reason why it would be difficult to perform a full hi-fi ‘brain dump’ of someone's life memories onto another person's brain, sci-fi movies and novels notwithstanding. There are nevertheless rudiments of proof that some information is retained within the body cells themselves, or in the way they keep resonating together, as shown by occasional cases of memory transference in organ transplant recipients. Some organ transplant recipients seem to undergo personality changes, whereby they adopt some of the interests and personality quirks of their deceased donors. Specialist Dr. Pearsall, 86

who looked into a number of such cases, observed that heart transplants seem to lead to the highest incidence of such personality changes among recipients (about 3,500 heart transplants are performed every year worldwide.) Some patients who had undergone organ transplants for kidney and liver also sensed changes in their sense of smell, food preference, and emotional factors, but these changes were usually transitory and could conceivably have stemmed from side effects of the medications and other factors accompanying the transplantation operation. The findings for heart transplants seem more consistent and more strongly associated with the donor's history. Since only a minority of heart transplant patients report personality changes, a key question is whether those who do exhibit distinct personality traits? Pearsall identified about eighteen distinguishing characteristics among people whom he dubbed ‘cardiosensitives’. Almost all those who reported memory transference were women, possessed a high emotional IQ, were environmentally sensitive, sensual, animal-loving, music-loving, creative, more inclined to go with the flow than to dominate. He notes that these traits are similar to the characteristics of subjects who are easily susceptible to hypnosis, and match those of people who proved to be strong ‘sensitives’ in the PEAR program (the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research, a program run by Princeton University which ran scientific studies of consciousness-related physical phenomena until 2007.) Among the cases reported by Dr. Pearsall was that of a 47 year-old white male foundry worker, who received the heart of a 17 year-old black male student, and who developed a fascination for classical music after the operation. It turned out that the donor loved classical music, and had died “hugging his violin case” on the way to his violin class (Pearsall, 1999). He also reports the case of an eight year-old girl, who had received the heart of a murdered ten year-old girl, and began experiencing recurring vivid nightmares about the murder. Her mother arranged a consultation with a psychiatrist, who after several sessions concluded 87

that she was witnessing actual physical incidents. They decided to call the police who used the detailed descriptions of the murder (the time, the weapon, the place, the clothes the murder had worn, what the little girl he killed had said to him) given by the little girl to find and convict the man in question (op cit.) At the very least, these cases show that a person's body cells can be suffused by the personality and essence of that person, and that this imbued essence can linger on after death. Of course, the sum total of the information that makes up a person in all cases vastly exceeds any faint echoes that might remain embedded in live cells. Does this information still exist, in part or in whole, after full-bore forgetfulness as can be caused by some disease such as Alzheimer occurs? Or, for that matter, by death? Or, way beyond such events, by the end of the Universe itself? If so, where is it? It is time to step into the Abyss.


6—In the Abyss

We have arrived at a place where the only credible candidate left for the status of ultimate reality is some form of mindstuff, necessarily equipped with free will, for the possibility in principle of the existence of free will is key to the possible existence of independent mindstuff, as we saw in Chapter 3 (49). All the other alternatives we looked at, including the possibility of unknown elements (or ‘hidden variables’) have, for different respective reasons, fallen by the wayside. All along, there were strong hints of this being the case. Remember for instance that the cornerstone foundational statement of mathematics is a simple, robust definition upon which most of the rest of mathematics rests: 1+1=2. We focused on the two numbers within that definition, and were awed at the sheer diversity and infinity of numbers that inevitably and ineluctably sprang from these original two. But we did overlook the one key feature embedded within this foundational statement, the elephant in the room: the plus sign. This sign is necessarily the signature of a mind at work. The operation of addition, of bringing two independent constituents together to thereby create a wholly new entity, a new animal made up by the association of two formerly independent units, can only be made and take place within some form of sentience. Only something mindful can construct new objects (mathematical or otherwise) from the mindful act of putting together independent, unrelated, separately existing other objects. As it turns out, mathematics itself demonstrates that math-based quantum physics itself is more limited than mind—that its abilities, as it were, are a subset of mind's. In an electrifying 2018 paper entitled ‘What Is It Like to Be a Quantum Observer’, which partly builds on earlier work by the likes of David Albert et al., Shan Gao demonstrates, on the pure 89

basis of quantum theory itself, that the mind, uniquely in comparison with any other known systems the universe, is wider than, and can defeat, quantum physics. He writes: ‘Which mental property, if any, makes a quantum observer have the extraordinary ability to violate quantum mechanics? It is arguable that the mental property is consciousness, or more specifically phenomenal consciousness’. The part which, for lack of a better word, ‘violates’ quantum mechanics is deceptively simple. As we have seen, after a wave function collapse event, the strands of potential reality that were embedded within the wave function before the collapse event no longer exist: they have disappeared from this world, and how and where they have disappeared is precisely what gives rise to various interpretations of quantum physics and therefrom, of the reality we live in. But these strands have left behind

traces within consciousness (!) in the form, for instance, of memories— traces that should have disappeared entirely from this world. In essence, the mind is able to retain and access and obtain anew information that would, in a material world wholly made up of particles entirely describable at its quantum levels by quantum physics, determined by mathematical rules, not only remain necessarily hidden away and inaccessible in the reigning circumstances, but indeed would no longer even exist—i.e., information no longer extant anywhere within this material world. The mind has the extraordinary ability to still perceive and access the other strands of the superposition of a wave function after this wave function has collapsed onto only one remaining strand of actual reality. The word ‘perceive’ is somewhat inadequate here to describe what is happening. Somehow, the mind is creating extra reality here, above and beyond what quantum physics and its impeccable mathematical scaffolding would narrowly let it do within an environment made up solely of matter— particles, atoms, and molecules. As Shan Gao puts it: ‘Since the laws prove different when applied at either the physical or at the mental level, the


mental state cannot be reduced to the physical state, and in particular, consciousness is not physically reducible or emergent but fundamental’. Crucially, this unique mental ability to still access, post-collapse, erstwhile strands of reality that no longer exist, takes place within the mind's reality, here and now: it does not require the ongoing generation of new universes to be able to occur, since it shows up in this world. As you will recall, the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum physics sought to avoid the issues associated with the disappearance of strands of potential reality, at the instant when a wave function is in any way interfered with, by letting these other strands continue their lives in other realities surmised to be branching out at the instant of interference. It turns out that mindstuff is uniquely capable: it is able to retain beyond a collapse event the strands of its reality present within its wave function complex (50). The denial of the existence of a mindstuff independent of the material machinery of our physical bodies, the belief that the mind is a phenomenon emergent from the biochemistry of the brain or somehow arises in some other purely matter-based way, is little else than circular reasoning: it is using the wrong set of tools from these parts of science that inherently cannot perceive mindstuff to deny the existence of mindstuff—although it so happens that the proper mathematical tools exist, and are available. As ever, reality imposes itself—in this instance, through the appearance of the ‘hard problem of consciousness’, which crops up when we use the wrong tools but instantly disappears if we adopt e.g. Shan Gao et al.'s approach. Aided by mathematics, we have found something of wider scope, bigger than mathematics itself. That something deploys mathematics in a way that exceeds the way that any matter, based on and built from elementary particles, ever can. We have found the content of the Abyss: consciousness. An Ur-mind. 91

Where did that Ur-mind come from? Reality—any reality—can usually be modelled, however sometimes imperfectly, with mathematics, or in analogy with things that happen or exist within mathematics. Let's try this approach here in the first instance. Within all the different objects, entities or concepts of mathematics, there is one of which all that can ever be said is that it exists if it exists, and does not exist if it does not: actual infinity. In infinities that relate to numbers, for instance, there is no way infinity can ever be reached if we begin from some finite base, and then keep on adding on to it ever greater numbers, no matter what numbers-boosting operations and/or gimmicks we may use (exponentials, factorials, etc.), or how huge any starting numbers may be (Graham's number, etc.) Either we start from a pre-existing infinity, or we'll never get there. If some analogy or correspondence could be established between the Ur-mind and infinity, we might then reach a logical conclusion that the Ur-mind exists if it exists, and does not if it does not. A way to explain why the Ur-mind exists would then consist in finding an intractable contradiction in the fact of its possible non-existence. Anything ‘conceptual’ only is something unactualized, non-manifest, held only within a mind. There is no experimental nor factual proof that material, actual infinity, as opposed to conceptual only, exists. For instance, it is easy to conceptualize that there is an infinity of points between any two given points on a continuous line segment: if we call the position of the first point on the line naught and that of the second point one, it is obvious that there will exist an intermediary point at any arbitrary









0.19286426892764190075, and so on infinitely.) But as it turns out, this is just a concept of the mind, immediately defeated by reality in the case of that line segment: to begin with, spacetime is discontinuous at very small scales and cannot be forever subdivided into smaller segments. Moreover, no human mind, or for that matter no computer, no matter 92

how capable, can hold within itself the whole infinite series of numbers between naught and one, because of a limitation called the ‘Bekenstein bound’, which requires that to be capable of holding an infinity of data at the same time, anything, a computer, a brain, must be of infinite size. Attempting to defeat the requirement of infinite spatial extension does not work either: to make all of these numbers sequentially appear within a computer or a brain of non-infinite size, we'd need infinite time, regardless of how fast the throughput of different numbers would be: anywhere we look, we seem to keep hitting the wall of infinity exists if it does, and doesn't if it doesn't (51). This seems to suggest that all we'll be able to say is that the Ur-mind is infinite if it is, and not so if not so. But, luckily, there is a small chink in the armor: belying somewhat what was said above, there is a mathematical way whereby infinity can be generated: from nothingness. Dividing any number by naught will beget an infinite outcome. (Try this with a computer, and you'll generate a stack overflow error.) Remember that if we start from an already-existing infinity, rather than from any finite number, then it is child's play to build from this basis ever greater infinite constructs, featuring infinitely greater infinities than the infinity we started from (mathematicians prefer the words strong(er) and strength over big(ger) and size, as the two latter words are felt to be inappropriate in a context of infinities.) For instance, the simple infinity of natural numbers and of the number of points within infinite space is smaller (‘weaker’) than the stronger infinity of real numbers, which in turn is weaker than the yet stronger infinity of all possible mathematical functions (52), technically of aleph-2 strength. Beyond that latter infinity, we can build theoretical constructs of stronger infinities still, but we do not know of anything in existence, beyond such abstract theoretical constructs, that would feature these stronger infinities, of aleph-3 strength and beyond. If we keep on building ever stronger theoretical infinities, we'll ultimately reach Cantor's antinomy and witness the 93

breakdown of mathematics itself. Literally, we pushed mathematics too far. Could it be that there are also different categories of zeroes, each of a different strength than the foregoing one in some series? At the ground floor level, there is the ordinary zero that attaches to everyday counts: there is zero yoghurt left in the fridge. There is zero apple in the hamper. A lone child has zero sibling. Divide, say, the number one by that zero and you will find the simple infinity of numbers: a simple infinity of whole apples, containing no half-apples nor any other apple bits. If we step up one tick (aka one order of magnitude), zero has now spread everywhere, across everything: there is zero yoghurt, zero apple, zero sibling, zero everything and zero anything left anywhere: zero planet, zero galaxy, zero stray gas molecules, zero time, zero everything: we have reached the state of a false vacuum. The well-known phenomenon of emergence (53) has kicked in, and rather than a mere zero, we have now something that has acquired the traits of a full-fledged zero machine, a zero operator, rather than a mere zero cipher, a reality-annihilation operator. Given enough time, this second-level zero can come into play in the real world: it would correspond to the full heat death of our universe, over 100 billion years from now. Let's now take one more leap up: we now end up in the true vacuum (as the saying goes, ‘that escalated quickly’.) But there is a really an issue with this last leap, which is qualitatively different from the first two. This leap cannot be taken, even conceptually, unless something fully disembodied and immaterial takes it, because anything material cannot exist there, but can only exist from the second-level zero down. This last, toplevel zero requires pure mindstuff to reach. If there is, or ever was, a level three zero, only mindstuff can go there. But as the above-cited paper makes clear, if consciousness goes there, that also mandates that the laws 94

of mathematics go there as well: the mere presence of mindstuff demands the presence of the set of the laws of mathematics, the fellow traveller of consciousness. The leaper between the worlds of zero did not merely carry zero in its luggage: it carried the whole complement of the laws of mathematics within itself. The mindstuff now at the true vacuum level will be able to avail itself of these laws if it ever tunnels back into the one-tick-down lower realm of zero (that of the false vacuum.) This shows how mindstuff, in the old phrase, can ‘soar upon the void’, i.e. how it can travel between different renditions of vacuum. All we have seen, however, is only that mindstuff can travel to levelthree zero, from the starting point of a lower-level zero place that is not pure nothingness. We have pushed back the boundaries, but we have not touched the last one: when there had never been (yet) anything else than true vacuum. What would then cause the presence of mindstuff to be there, and thereby also the disembodied laws of mathematics?

In other words, why is there something rather than nothing? Before we go there, let's look briefly at two other questions which arise naturally. The first one is whether this mindstuff is unique, or can several distinct mindstuffs exist in what would then be different islands of nothingness? By definition, pure nothingness has no features, no boundaries, no dimensions, nothing, and the presence of any limits or partitions dividing up nothingness would surely qualify as being something and as such would belie its status. We will therefore posit that pure nothingness can only have one rendition and that hence the Ur-mind must be unique (an immediate consequence thereof being that if a multiverse exists, of whatever shape or rendition, then there exists a wave function of the multiverse.) A second question is whether this Ur-mind has some infinite traits, or whether it may well be finite. We'll recycle use Cantor's idea here, to wit that the place at infinity where mathematics breaks down is 95

the place where the Ur-mind begins: under that concept, the Ur-mind must have at least one infinite trait or feature. We are now ready to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Imagine a fourth level of zero, of nothingness (never mind that experimental evidence compellingly shows that this level does not exist and has never existed: this imaginary level is where neither consciousness nor the disembodied laws of mathematics can exist, and from the simple hard fact that our reality exists, we know that this level does not exist and never has: if it had, reality could never have tunnelled out of it, and we would not be here.) The question now boils down to whether level 4 nothingness would be unstable if it ever could exist on its own, although our instinct would be to think that to be unstable, some additional agency, some element would be required to make it unstable, the presence of which would then immediately belie its status as a level 4 nothingness. But instinct is a bad counsellor, and all we have to go on is, as usual, math. In mathematics, infinity is not a number. Starting from a non-infinite environment, infinity can forever be approached, always seemingly nearer, but it can never be touched—it will never be reached in finite time. Let us call things that can never be reached from within some starting environment, asymptotes. Level 4 zero is then, by this definition, an asymptote. The definition of something as being an asymptote does not mean that it does not exist: it means that we cannot get there from here. As a case in point, let's assume that we could push back the limits of our known universe at will: we can expand it as much as we want yet we'll never be able to give it infinite extension within finite time. On the other hand, we might nevertheless live in a wider, infinite multiverse, in which case we'd already be there. It also means that the very real fact that nothing cannot ever get to level 4 nothingness does not mean that it cannot 96

exist. However, the question of why there is something rather than nothing cannot be answered by saying that experimental evidence (the presence of reality) proves that Level 4 does not exist: although true, it would not answer the question but be circular reasoning, i.e., reality exists because it exists. The phenomenon of emergence we briefly encountered earlier reflects the fact that rules and laws become qualitatively quite different, depending on where they are applied, whether their scope of application is within limited environments or much bigger environments. For instance, the emergent quality of animalhood suddenly appears when you aggregate together many thousands of slime mold spores. Or, the quality and essence of, say, the operation of addition in math becomes fundamentally different within an infinite environment. There are endless examples. A feature of emergence is that it is mathematically unpredictable in principle: there are no mathematical laws that can reliably foretell when the phenomenon of emergence will arise, nor, crucially, how it will manifest and express itself. How emergence will play out is beyond the realm of mathematics. This property can be simply illustrated and demonstrated as follows: let's say that you have 10 cents, and that the only thing that can be bought with ten cents is a bubble gum. Now you are given a hundred million times 10 cents—ten million dollars. If emergence did not kick in, all you could ever buy would be a hundred million bubble gums. But emergence happens, and you can now buy anything you like, up to a price tag of ten million dollars. Can mathematical laws foresee what it is that you are going to buy? To do so, the physics of your decision-making brain would have to be analysed mathematically. But your mind has been proven above to be an independent, fundamental feature of reality, not reducible to predictive mathematics, and therefore

mathematics cannot in principle foretell what you are going to buy. Level-4 zero does not contain disembodied mathematics nor anything else, but is it, in effect, an unrecognized extreme environment? It is, like 97

infinity, an asymptote when seen from any other environment than itself. It is “infinite zero”, as it were, because there is infinitely nothing left: no time, so space, no quantum links, no virtual particles, no dimensions, nothing. We are also reminded here of the connection between zero and infinity, zero being, as we saw earlier, the only cipher that under certain circumstances can give rise to infinity. This connection provides a powerful clue: in the same sense as “infinite infinity” exists (for lack of a better phrase, technically an infinity with an infinite aleph metric), the place where mathematics breaks down, where it becomes a contradiction in itself—correspondingly, the very same contradiction crops up at “infinite zero”: infinite nothingness contains nothing, i.e. not even nothingness itself nor any zero in any shape or form, and the concept breaks down, as nothingness becomes self-contradictory. This self-contradiction within level 4 nothingness degrades it immediately into a Level-3 type of nothingness, where there disembodied laws and mindstuff exist, rather than fully nothing. Reality can now tunnel out, and the rest is, as they say, history. Delving into Vilenkin's Abyss, we have pushed back the boundaries of our knowledge. We have discovered an infinite-featured Ur-mind distinct from mathematics, able to transcend its matter-bound laws. Before we leave this Chapter, a brief recap of the chain of interpretations that led us there is called for. You will recall that there are three main categories of interpretations of quantum physics, the theory that was developed to make sense of otherwise incomprehensible experimental results at the deepest layers of reality, respectively called the Bohmian, objective collapse, and ManyWorlds interpretations. The fact that the wave function of anything exists, and is in a superposed state before it is interacted with in any way is


not disputed by any of the theories, and the experimental evidence therefor is incontrovertible (54). The debates on which interpretation best aligns with reality have raged for decades and show little sign of abating, and therefore this review will be kept brief, lest I wander into the manifold intricacies of the debates. Bohmian theories are similar to objective collapse theories in the way they provide explanations for almost all experimental results, but their theoretical underpinnings and consequences lead to a suspicion that objective collapse theories may provide a better map to reality. A first reason is Bohmian theories' version of instant non-locality, which leads to direct and indirect consequences that may seem questionable. An example of such would be the ‘twist’ operation. Objective collapse theories demon-

strate from first principles why the twist operation must work, a fact that has also been consistently confirmed in the lab. Under Bohmian theories however, the twist operation, while fully accepted as well as unfailingly observed to hold in the lab, has the status of a mere postulate, i.e. little more than a mere hypothesis. This cannot be very satisfactory or convincing but it rather looks like an expedient, ad hoc way of introducing into a theory something that happens to work in the lab, for no reason that can be explained by said theory: but there has to be an underlying, compelling reason why it works. Another disquieting issue is the existence of the discrepancies that have arisen in some experiments (55). The Many-Worlds theory, despite its incongruous baggage of readymade universes geysering like popcorn all over the place every time some wave function somewhere is interacted with and then going on to live their own independent lives, has been quite popular in certain areas of academe—for the simple reason that it neatly resolves the measurement problem we encountered earlier (56). It is not impossible that universes may pop-corn—pop corning universes could be seamlessly accommodated in some of the possible renditions of the structure of spacetime— but, despite its abiding popularity in some quarters, this scenario may 99

frankly come across as a tad distasteful, as being just a little bit too weird. Many physicists have also commented on the unseemliness of resorting to fantastical scenarios to explain away some irksome mathematical reality—Dieter Zeh, Jim Baggott, Sabine Hossenfelder and other wellknown physicists have asked loudly and publicly whether a modern physics that would favor such scenarios had not taken leave of its senses. Beyond the reasons why not, there are also the reasons why. Beyond the simple fact that objective collapse theories are as little far-fetched as possible in the odd circumstances of quantum physics, and as such satisfy the guidelines of Ockham's razor, and hold up both experimentally and mathematically, there is also the fact that the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ has been generally speaking poorly tackled in physics, consistently approached with the wrong set of tools, and objective collapse type theories are the most direct route to the analysis of consciousness presented above. Many-Worlds theories seem almost designed to avoid granting pride of place, in the hierarchy of reality, to something as apparently insubstantial as ‘consciousness’, and to make sure that only the known nuts and bolts of material reality ever hold sway in the discourses of science. But this approach seems self-defeating: the price of avoiding something supposedly as insubstantial as consciousness being a separate, fundamental feature of reality is accepting the strangeness of ready-made universes geysering out of control at every instant, so that no wave function collapse ever occurs. As we saw, the idea of consciousness as a fundamental, independent property stems from the fact that consciousness

does retain some of the also-ran, unactualized wave function strands within this universe, whereas such strands are all supposed to go on living in another universe in Many-Worlds theories. Perhaps much too simplistic answers to complex problems have been sought, sometimes for reasons that had little to do with pure, objective science, but rather with other considerations, such as, occasionally, a measure of prejudice—which can be at least in part understood, because 100

when the door is opened to anything that may, rightly or wrongly, whiff of not entirely diamond-hard science, the charlatans start queueing up at the door. But the science of consciousness is hard science, and requires much more knowledge and more in-depth understanding of the sheer physics of reality than is wontedly assumed. Part of the allure of both the Bohmian and Many-Worlds categories of interpretation, of course, is that they are both seen to neatly solve the measurement problem (as you will recall, the fact that although the equation governing the wave function is deterministic, it is unable to predict the wave function's collapse events and hence its real-world evolution in time)—although in both cases at the cost of considerable baggage. But objective collapse theories do hold out the promise to solve the measurement problem beautifully (Shan Gao, 2017). Beautifully, in this case, means ‘aligned with reality’—in a way that might prove to be just a little more complex than first met the eye, but which will eventually impose itself by the force of its logic, clarity, and cogency.


7—Experimental Objections

There are reasons why reasonable people have been historically willing to go to sometimes surprising lengths to deny anything that may smack of anything less than hard core materialism, or, in its modern version, physicalism. Even today, in the light of advances either in physics, which tend to relegate matter to the status of an illusion, or in philosophy, which makes a compelling case that physicalism cannot be the whole tale (Goff, 2017), there are those who will choose any other loops of mathematics in order to eschew those leading to the conclusion that mindstuff is fundamental, never mind Ockham's razor or the extraordinary added baggage that must be taken in stride to do so. One of the reasons why it is so has likely to do with the regrettable image that organized spirituality has often managed to give of itself. Seen from a reasonable person's standpoint, religions may often seem unreasonable, and the excesses of sundry religions over the centuries have not helped either. Science, for all its vaunted tempests in teacups, has never beheaded nor burnt anyone at the stake. But the reasons also go deeper. There are two broad categories of objective observations that can lead to a belief that this material world is all there is, and that mindstuff—or ‘spirit’—does not exist. A first one is the obvious, immediate role that purely material factors exert on personal behaviors. Medications, i.e. chemical compounds, taken to allay some ailment have been known to profoundly alter the character and personality of some of the people who take them, sometimes turning erstwhile normal and fully law-abiding people into monsters. The side-effects of medications may unpredictably give rise to such traits as culpable hypersexuality, or to many other kinds of untoward behavior. The causative role of medication side-effects in such cases is 103

routinely accepted by the courts, which typically pronounce its sufferers free of guilt in whatever chemistry-induced behavior they may have indulged in. Once medication intake is discontinued, people revert to normal behavior. This and other similar factors lead some to believe and theorize that behavior, personality, in short the whole essence of people is nothing but a phenomenon emergent from the sum total of the chemistry within the brain. Indeed, whenever its whole chemical picture is altered, such as by adding into the chemical mix extraneous molecules (such as from medications), then its whole chemical complex can become significantly different and a new personality is apt to emerge, essentially unpredictable and different from the one that resulted earlier from what was then a different chemical make-up of the brain (57). Let us investigate whether the emergence of a new personality from chemicals affecting the brain can be approached by analogy to other systems. There exist of course other types of highly complex systems which serve as the vehicles of intellectual content, and no one would pretend that their intellectual content is emergent from their admittedly extremely complex electronics: TV sets, computers, and the like. The intellectual content conveyed by these devices of course originate outside their complex electronics, although rendition can be immediately affected by the physical characteristics of a set: a colorful show will be rendered in black and white if the TV set does not have electronics enabling color, the show will be affected by whether the screen is high res or low res, and should either the electronics or speakers be damaged, or, say, the screen cracked, the retransmission of even a great show can become so severely affected that becomes unwatchable. But what any electronics or other material issues at the set or computer level will not do, however, is to turn a great show into another show: a broadcast of the Oscars, say, will not become a bad cop show because of material issues within the set or computer—which is however 104

exactly what seems to be happening in the brain of the person who becomes somebody else owing to medication side effects. Where does this difference come from, if not from the brain's chemistry generating its consciousness? Perhaps a first clue lies in the hard fact that the same medication has wholly different side effects in different people. Indeed, the same medication that can lead to drastic personality changes in a given individual can also lead to no side effects whatsoever in another individual. Remember that the proof of the irreducible quality of the mind had to do with the mind's ability to still access and read strands of reality which had otherwise fully disappeared from material reality through wave function collapse (in all cases, disappeared from the particular reality inhabited by that particular mind.) Could it be, that unbeknownst to everybody including the patient, there are pre-existing strands of reality within that patient that only come to the fore when the wave functions are interfered with by the bringing in of such chemicals? The upshot would be indistinguishable from what we observe, but the underlying causes would be quite different: in the materialists' view, a different personality altogether is born, emergent from an altogether different brain, brought about by an overall chemical make-up that has become markedly different. In the other view, a vanishingly small but nonzero component of one person's mindstuff, or in technical terms one of the unactualized strands of one's personal wave function complex (58), activates out of its earlier dormancy by the interference of extraneous wave functions brought in by the chemicals, and materializes in the real world (59). A second clue would be afforded by an ability to trace back a patient's personality changes to some prior condition. Clinical evidence is elusive, also on the obvious grounds of patient confidentiality, but this second


clue would be fully testable, in a way that would not impinge on patients' rights. Here's how. It is undisputed common knowledge that under hypnosis, some people see themselves living other lives, in different bodies and eras. What is disputed are the reasons for this, with different people attributing their experiences under hypnosis to vastly different causes. Michael Crichton, best known for having penned ‘Jurassic Park’, reported such experiences (1988) but emphatically did not buy into the New Age-tinged explanations proffered by many. Neither did journalist William Storr (2006) who reported undergoing similar experiences, and a slew of others. Quite fortunately for our purposes, it does not matter in the slightest what the ex-

planation for such experiences is—all that matters is that they do exist. The simple fact that they exist means that the information, the raw data that comes to light under hypnosis does exist somewhere—and under any scenario that somewhere must be within one of the unrealized wave function strands that a personal wave function complex carries (the fact that such data is not generated spontaneously, at random at the instant of hypnosis, is supported by the fact that repeated instances of hypnosis of the same person at different times keep unearthing the same apparent other lives—so that the data underlying these experiences is consistent and therefore must pre-exist and be held somewhere.) A simple experimental test would then be putting under hypnosis any individual with a history of undergoing drastic personality changes when under medication, and investigating whether there would exist any hint, under these conditions of hypnosis, of the unexpected personality that emerged. Should this prove to be the case, it would demonstrate that the drastic personality change arose from a mindstuff seed already present within the individual, and did not arise entirely randomly under the unpredictable effects of the confluence of different chemicals combining in the brain. It would also go a long way towards explaining why the same medications, i.e. the same chemicals, do not affect everyone, and among those 106

who are affected, do not cause the same effects, with the particular personalities and behaviors that emerge under their influence being caseby-case only. Be that as it may, more studies are needed. As a rule, such personality changes only become publicly known when they lead to untoward events and associated court cases. We may also wonder whether there would exist other, more positive medication side-effects, which could lead to the discovery, or the rediscovery, of long-buried capabilities and talents, to then vanish again into thin air when medicating ends? The second category of objections to the view that there is such a thing as matter-free spirit, arises from the mere observation of the merciless natural world we belong to. To begin with, absolute, mindless, utterly meaningless evil bereft of any conceivable upside or redeeming value routinely exists in the world. It is legitimate to ask why do such things happen, what possible purpose can they serve, and why cannot they be prevented should some fundamental spirit indeed exist out there and underlie everything. This state of affairs is compounded by the dreadful fact that mindless, raw and inordinately brutal competition for resources and food is the ordering principle of life in our world, most often in the form of predation. Once again, the question forcefully arises of how is this state of affairs possible if spirit exists. No matter how we may seek to beautify it or explain it away, predation is a horrible state of affairs and makes much better sense in a context where all is material. It looks fully compatible with a mindless and meaningless mechanistic world devoid of any spirit and/or spirituality, not with a universe imbued with meaning and spirit. As we saw, predation got its start when the early, primitive life forms that had emerged on Earth began to become dimly aware of their environment and from there started to avail themselves of anything in that environment for their own survival purposes. It's not pretty, but somehow it worked. Perhaps a kernel of truth is best expressed in Grant Morrison's colourful words: “We are the hands and eyes and 107

ears, the sensitive probing feelers through which the emergent, intelligent universe comes to know its own form and purpose. We bring the thunderbolt of meaning and significance to unconscious matter, blank paper, the night sky.” Perhaps the awful and endlessly ill-mannered circumstance of predation served to accelerate the process? In any event, the probably biggest issue here is that we may tend to confuse ‘spirit’ with the images of ‘god’ that have been thrust upon us in many renditions by millennia of Churchdom. The advent of the culture of monotheism in the world, especially in the West, was born from the coming together and conflation of two unrelated elements; the first one the usual widespread but vague sense on the part of many that there is

something behind it all, a formless feeling that there is more to this world than meets the eye. The second element was the then-urgent need to manage fear: thrust into a merciless world where personal security and safety were immediate and constant concerns, people in the more primitive societies of yore sought shelter from fear in tales of an all-powerful, disembodied protector (60). As societies evolved and complexified, Churches became called upon to also serve other interests—assist established powers, help preserve stability and the status quo, and so on. Mathematics may have discovered spirit and mindstuff below the surface of reality, but this mindstuff bears little resemblance to the ‘god’ that many religions have made up to also serve other purposes than bearing witness to the plain, bare truth. In this novel view of what spirit would be, what would be its drivers or purposes? All we have to go on is pure speculation, so let's just try unconstrained imagination. A first observation would be that, perhaps counter-intuitively, infinity and infinities can grow, even infinitely so. Let us imagine an infinite Ur-mind that would not grow, or no longer grow: although it is infinite and ranges over a hardly conceivable infinite fullness of space and time and other realms of reality we can hardly envi-


sion, the reality is that by not growing it has become, seen from its standpoint, the master of a museum multiverse: anything anywhere and anywhen within the fullness of the multiverse, it already knows—a case of cosmic been there, done that. The absence of the possibility of continued growth into new, never been-there, never done-that areas, has effectively turned the Ur-mind into a caretaker, in essence a glorified museum keeper. Irrespective of what we may think or surmise about any other aspects of Ur-Mindhood, it is safe to say that this wouldn't look like a very attractive status. Since the ever-present mathematics allows for continued growth, it seems to stand to reason that this latter option would be the most attractive and natural one for the Ur-Mind to choose. Indeed, the possibility of growth could be seen in itself as the very definition of life, of being alive. An Ur-Mind that would not avail itself of the possibility of ongoing growth would not seem ‘alive’ in quite the same sense as one that would. If we then speculate that the purpose of spirit is to grow and climb ever-new heights of self-actualization, then a modicum of adversity is necessary to serve the purpose, again as demonstrated by the simple application of relevant mathematics (61). Be that as it may, unlike the ‘god’ that is sometimes sold to us, spirit and us cannot possibly be separate. We are part of spirit, and at our respective levels, we share in challenges.


8—New Questions

How can this knowledge be useful? Although not generally known to the public, many individual scientists in various fields have enabled or saved the lives of no less than hundreds of millions of people: Fritz Haber, Louis Pasteur, Carl Bosch, Richard Lewisohn, Edward Jenner, Karl Landsteiner, Linn Enslow, Norman Borlaug, and many others spring to mind. Any one of these people has single-handedly either enabled the existence of, or outright saved, more people than the combined number of victims killed by the ten worst mass murderers of all time. But science is seldom spectacular: it relies on the accumulated collective work of a community, going back decades, and as such is hardly amenable to big headlines, to clickbait and/or to widespread long-sustained interest. But the importance of knowledge, and of its unsung heroes working away from the public eye, cannot be overstated. The lack of wide public interest in the adventures of science may also stem from a failure of imagination, both on the part of some scientists and of those who shape our societies' narratives, and perhaps of the occasionally dim view that some marketeers take of their contemporaries' interests: whenever the media blare some celebrity's latest antics or what outfit they may have happened to be wearing yesterday, I am with the majority in thinking that the headlines are just plain uninteresting. At the other end of the spectrum of interest, Physicist Joao Magueijo spoke (2003) of experiencing science as follows: “When we touch upon certain scientific realities, we physicists undergo adrenalin spikes far more intense than is achievable by any other experience on Earth. After such experiences, all other human activities—drinking, eating, socializing with friends—become miserable and dull in comparison. Therein lies


the reason why all true scientists are asocial, and tend to become veritable social suicides.” Many other scientists, such as Murray Gell-Mann and others, have echoed these words. There just has to be a middle way somewhere. Knowledge, however, is under assault in the world. Governments are all too comfortable with less public oversight, with being free, as much as possible, of accountability, if only because accountability multiplies costs and time delays whenever some policy decision must be taken and then implemented. Many governments worldwide still see and use organized religion as an effective tool to help control collective behavior, never mind whether they deem this religion to be in any way factual— whereas the job description, and avowed purpose, of any religion is to describe ultimate reality, and often presume to teach how to deal with it, but nothing else. The ‘Freedom of Thought Report’ published yearly by the London-based International Humanist and Ethical Union (62) keeps painting a sorry state of freedom both of religion and from religion across the world. Among other developments, a number of governments have stepped up hate and repression campaigns against non-observers of state-approved faiths. An overwhelming majority of countries, including Western democracies, fails to respect the rights of free-thinkers. Even in unexpected places such as Russia, public expressions of disbelieving views can be equated with blasphemy under the law and criminalized (a fate that befell the Russian blogger Viktor Krasnov, put on trial in 2016 for denying the existence of God in an argument on social media and threatened with a jail sentence. The court later relented (63). In the USA, Franklin Graham, a respectable member of the religious Establishment and the representative pastor invited to speak at the 2017 presidential inauguration, had blithely hinted darkly a few months earlier that god would let all the participants in the 2016 secular Reason Rally gathering in Washington, burn in hell for eternity—no less—for their simple thought-crime of not believing in a specific religion. 112

As recently as the sixties, freedom and tolerance and enlightenment seemed to be on an unstoppable upswing—yet, a few decades later, freedoms are starkly eroding worldwide, in large part enabled by the direct or indirect role of religions based on texts of ancient literature describing anthropomorphic gods. Obviously, if the public were immune to organized religions, they could not be used as a prod to lead people into compliance and fear of the state and, in the worst cases, into waging wars and committing heinous crimes. In other words, the many secular voices that have been raised for so long on behalf of reason have done a thoroughly terrible job of convincing the public, and therein may lie another reason why some segments of the public are uninterested in science: it turns out that the secular voices of reason have not been reasonable. To begin with, modesty instead of the occasional flashes of arrogance we see emanating from these ‘voices of reason’ should be the norm. The “scientifically incontrovertible” arguments that are sometimes flung in the face of people can easily turn out to be wrong, and any practicing scientist will cite any number of past lines of reasoning and/or arguments, once vaunted to be solid and scientific, which turned out to be plain wrong. There are 4 main categories of grounds why ‘scientific’ arguments can prove wrong: 

Relevant data is either not known or not taken into account,

An improper or inapplicable frame of reference is used

Insidious cognitive biases come into play, and,

Last but not least, the requisite knowledge needed to analyze and understand some phenomenon may just not be there, and currently available tools of analysis are used instead, although these cannot possibly do the job. Science is a work in progress, which tends to be surprisingly often forgotten, and it is sometimes blithely implicitly assumed that we know it all already. 113

Interestingly, it turns out that the branch of science with the highest incidence of materialist scientists is not physics, but biology. Biology is predicated on organic chemistry and from there on chemistry and thence on physics and quantum physics, not the other way around, and hence biological science per se is not the proper frame of reference to study issues that touch upon questions of ultimate reality: fundamental, irreducible issues cannot be properly addressed by anything less than fundamental science. A leading US biologist exhorts his readers to ‘look at the dot at the end of this sentence’, which displays the size of the original embryo that gave rise to the reader, and uses it as a demonstration that whatever was in that dot is all there is to it—as if, in physics, visible size were in any way meaningful. Perhaps the unavoidable focus on the mechanics and material nitty-gritty of biological systems leads some biologists to an exclusively materialistic view of the world from the word go. For a physicist, the original visible size of some system is irrelevant: in-

visible fields have enormous real-life effects, invisible wave functions rule the day, the slightest speck of matter contains billions upon billions upon billions of the particles that make up all of matter, and all it takes is for much less than a gram of matter to morph into enough energy to cause an atomic bomb-sized blast. Of course, leading-edge knowledge never meets with consensus, and neither should it. Controversies do not stand in the way of progress: they

enable it. All scientists bar none, in any field, who enabled leaps in understanding, Wegener, Pasteur, Einstein, and so many others, came in for withering attacks when they first aired their new understanding of the way reality works—and yet, decades later, the body of wisdom they started under harsh fire has become taken for granted. On the other hand, history is littered with the catastrophes that have befallen societies whenever a uniform mode of thinking has been enforced, be it by coercion or by overwhelming societal pressure to conform. The fights we wage today as to which model of reality is right, in any pursuit, is our 114

legacy to the next generations. By the time factual truth has finally indisputably emerged, our fights will be long forgotten, and the new generation will enjoy the fruits of the truths their elders first discovered and then wrangled over. Be that as it may, a key and immensely respectable issue is that most people need a spiritual home where to hang their hat (and which, contrarily to conventional wisdom, does not mean that they fear death. A number of studies have looked at the possible link between religiosity and the fear of death (64) and found very little or no correlation; A first reason is the widespread, although indeterminate and faint, sense that this visible, pedestrian world may not be all there is, there could be more to life than meets the eye. This vague apprehension is wontedly brought about by feelings of love, experiences of belonging, appreciation of art and beauty, and the like, which also happens to be precisely the places where usual science has stubbornly, consistently failed to come up with any explanation. Thus, conventional science has conveniently lumped the issue into the black box of the HPC, the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ which we encountered earlier, only neatly solved when mathematical proof was found that consciousness is not reducible to those very laws of physics which the materialists seek to use in apprehending it. The second reason is immensely comforting to a physicist: experimental evidence, or rather, experience. The importance of experimental corroboration in physics cannot be overstated: as Dieter Zeh once put it, nobody in their right mind would ever have thought up a theory as weird and counter-intuitive as quantum physics, had it not been for experimentation which stubbornly, repeatably, and insistently kept yielding very odd and very counter-intuitive results, which ultimately led to the development of the theory. Is contemporary science wilfully overlooking vast swathes of experimental evidence in a somewhat craven bid to conform and to not rock any boats? In this context of touching or experiencing


different glimpses of what reality may be made of, ‘experimental evidence’ is of course so-called mystical experiences, the many non-ordinary experiences reported across the world that materialists ignore, or sometimes scornfully dismiss as ‘impossible’, delusional, or outright mendacious on the part of those who report them (which of course, leads to such experiences being underreported, in the West at least.) In a context of an underlying existence of mindstuff or ‘spirit’ propping up the whole of existence, then the puzzlement wanes. If everything is ultimately spirit, and its laws are capable of superseding or ‘supervening’ those that apply narrowly only to purely material items and things, then the seemingly extraordinary is no longer so extraordinary at all. Should we look around with renewed eyes, we'd realize that there are also very many ordinary occurrences which, under a purely materialistic view of the world, are quite puzzling. They are no longer recognized because they're so ordinary that we hardly give them a second thought, but the possible explanatory power of what we found in Vilenkin's Abyss goes well beyond the mere realm of genuine mystical experiences. The fact that life is unequivocally present within such primitive organisms as fruit flies, some viruses, and congregations of spores is in itself extraordinary, although we seldom recognize it any more. Be that as it may, by not taking into account all of human experience, and indeed by shending—an apt old word meaning ‘putting to shame especially by superiority’ (Webster's)—not only the experiences themselves but the people who report them, many publicly visible and vocal materialist scientists have ended up utterly failing society, which has led to two absolutely devastating consequences. The first one is the loss of prestige of science. Ordinary people who have experienced extraordinary events (extraordinary only by the standards of reductionist Western science and a dogmatic ‘materialist’ discourse based on a science of which nevertheless 116

all agree that it is incomplete) just know what they have experienced, and any über-credentialed scientist appearing on TV to tell them otherwise is seldom going to convince them that they did not see what they saw or experienced what they experienced: instead, the TV scientists are going

to convince them that science is to be taken with a huge grain of salt, not that they are delusional, but that science is limited or worse still, flawed, and not so relevant to real life. It is a devastating consequence: true science is all we've got. It is, to paraphrase a Newt Gingrich quote (65), it is one of the few ramparts that stand between us and darkness. The second untoward consequence is that many people who want to make room for spirituality in their lives end up flocking to whoever purveyors of spiritual comfort are available. As it happens, many may turn out to be charlatans or outright frauds, cashing in on people's need for meaning, but they become shelters in the storm due to the scorn heaped upon non-materialistic views by the leading public lights of official science and alleged 21st century enlightenment. Sometimes, it's not straightforward to tell which is which, and since science has discredited itself, the normal yardsticks of logic and science will not be deemed suitable tools to winnow out the true from the false. The issue is further compounded by the extraordinary ease by which a fraudulent ‘spiritual’ operation can be mounted, even in a relatively highly educated society: some self-styled gurus of spirituality seem to have just read up on whatever particular area of alleged spiritual expertise they lay claim to, so that they can talk the talk, and they're all set. In the course of writing this book, I went and looked up a few highly visible and popular ‘spiritual masters’. It was mostly, unfortunately, a depressing exercise. At the dawn of not only the 21st century, but beyond that of our whole future—the 22nd and 23rd centuries and the rest of time—the organised spirituality we chaotically lug along with us is still firmly stuck in ancient, benighted times. In Viktor Vasnetsov's 1887 painting heralding how


mankind could end, the deadliest perils facing humankind are symbolised by the famous four horsemen, respectively representing conquest, war, famine, and plague. Today, science and history together have largely defeated these ancient evils: conquest—old-style colonialism—is no longer an option in the modern world. The old usual causes of both famine and disease have been effectively warded off by modern science, which has also proven on a number of recent occasions that it is now in a position to react quickly whenever new threats, such as region-wide medical emergencies, arise. Science as well as a measure of luck have also made large-scale war probably increasingly obsolete, as Steven Pinker (2012) and others have made the point. But new horsemen loom large. Their presence underscores anew how absolutely urgent it is that we get to understand the ultimate nature of reality. A first horseman is overpopulation. Much has been written on the subject, and this is hardly the place where to recycle debates on the mostly frightening prospects of life on an Earth where population numbers are out of control. The hard fact remains that the world's population currently grows by the equivalent of the entire population of the UK every eight months or so, and Alan Weisman (2014), Ban Ki-moon, and many others have commented on how too much life risks becoming a cruelly self-limiting proposition. We are already witnessing the unmistakable forerunner signs of what some analysts and observers had long ago foreseen would be the consequences of population numbers climbing dangerous heights (66). (The United Nations forecasts that a peak of about 11 billion will be reached at some point in this century, and bolstering the prospect of a forthcoming peak, fertility rates have begun to fall, heralding a situation where growth could eventually halt and replacement become the norm.) The question is the footprint that such


numbers impose not only on the environment, but also the resulting impact on a broad range of quality of life issues, and on every individual's personal freedoms and opportunities for self-development. The grounds for rampant overpopulation appear to be primarily religious. Until recently, the successive popes of the Catholic Church had all been calling for making as many babies as possible, something they saw as nothing short of a divinely-mandated duty. Today, that particular role seems to have been taken over by other religions. In a world whose population has trebled in less than a lifetime and is reaching breaking point, some political leaders inspired by religion publicly insist from their pulpits that it is the duty of all families to have at least five children (further adding to the current difficulty of the issue, virtually all our current economic models have adapted to and now rely on ongoing growth to work. Since inescapable limits will in any case prevent population-driven growth from going on forever, the stage is slowly being set for future convulsions, when economic growth will have to slow or even reverse.) Generally speaking, decision-making and policies implemented on the basis of unproven opinions, whether narrowly religious or otherwise, rather than verified facts, seem uniquely dangerous: evil has a habit of reaching peaks whenever we fail to align with reality as it is, as opposed to how we may imagine or wish it to be. The second horseman would be easy to stave off, should we have the political will. Schools, already at the nursery and primary levels, have taken very commendable steps to help forestall the evils that have plagued the 20th century—tribalism, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, intolerance of inborn differences. Ethics classes meant for stillyoung children teach the equality of all irrespective of background, the respectability of individual life choices, in brief, the tolerance that was so lacking in many parts of the world one hundred years or so ago, and led to so much horror. But we still need quite urgently to teach intellectual


humility, the imperative need to learn about something before we formulate opinions on it, let alone act on it, without sufficient knowledge of the matter at hand. We need to teach that it's alright not to know, because the themes of existence are generally complex, but that it is definitely not alright to groundlessly presume we know and act accordingly whenever some particular subject has a material bearing upon our life and an impact on the wider community, that it is then imperative to study it in some depth before acting. It is very largely because this principle is violated by scientists themselves that science is not today held in the respect it should command in society. We need more education, also in broad, general terms, not serving a primary purpose of formatting and enforcing a measure of conformity or else (as meant in Pink Floyd's famous 1979 hymn: “We don't need no education / We don't need no thought control / No dark sarcasm in the classroom…”), but content-rich education enabling kids to both develop independent thinking and to know how to never leave out relevant facts when needed. Only thus will the next generations have the means to judge and analyse whether what any leader or would-be leader would have us believe, in any field, has the ring of truth or not, whether it ‘computes’ or not. Only thus can we recognize if someone or some group may be pursuing a hidden agenda and attempting to manipulate others to serve their own interests, whether they may be seeking to co-opt folk's natural decency and good intentions towards their own worldly purposes. As cases in point, and leaving aside the ongoing debates about the nature or even the existence of historical Jesus Christ, or the meaning of what it was that Karl Marx was seeking to achieve in an era when even young children were shamelessly exploited, it is clear with the benefit of hindsight that their words and meanings were warped and bent out of shape and co-opted to specific purposes and ulterior worldly agendas, and that in both cases the world paid an inordinate price. Let us try, as


much as we can, and forestall this happening again in the future, and the place where to start is the schools. A deadly third horseman has been there all along, although seldom recognized: the illusion of separation. Looking back at history from the vantage point of the early 21st century, a clear picture emerges that most evils were caused by the illusion of separation. When separation expresses itself politically, the consequences are ineluctably catastrophic whenever enforced. The absence of separation does not mean the absence of diversity, which on the contrary implies the respect of minorities and the recognition of shared humanity (67). Of course, this particular and most dangerous horseman feeds off the previous one, the lack of requisite knowledge. Ethnic preference or discrimination, for example, a common rendition of the illusion of separation in the affairs of man, invariably feeds on wilful ignorance. The current challenges facing the world are many. We cannot face them armed with illusions, with the misdiagnoses that may come from ideas and dogmas not aligned with actual reality but which may variously take their roots in hubris, in ancient rationales, in prehistoric fears, or in untested or glib thinking. If that's where we are going, we'll inevitably pay the price, a price we can already foretell will be unbearably high. We must do our best, which surely includes more understanding, more knowledge, more tolerance, more actions not undertaken when such would have been based on false premises, unverified assumptions, or wrong beliefs. Are we, and if so why and to what extent, puppets of the Ur-mind? The reason why we may, for lack of a better word, be of ‘use’ to an Ur-mind has been dealt with in some detail (Ransford 2017). As we saw above, an Ur-Mind that would not avail itself of the possibility of ongoing growth would not seem ‘alive’ in quite the same sense as one that would. Now the issue with choosing growth is that there must, mathematically 121

inescapably, exist an engine to fuel that growth. Asserting, as some do, that the Ur-Mind can do whatever it pleases does not work, because if such were the case, the consequences of this ability to violate rules would lead to a host of calculable flow-on consequences, many of which would turn out to be outright evil. In effect, such ability would be the logical equivalent to asserting that the Ur-Mind is free to decide that one and one is three rather than two, which would immediately lead to some seriously evil consequences under a slew of simple scenarios. Before we'd even get there, this simple ability to violate foundational mathematics would also invalidate everything we calculated to finally tease out the contents of the Abyss in the previous Chapter, and the whole edifice of logic comes crashing down, to be replaced by nothing at all but madness and evil. We are participants and actors in the engines of growth, which obviates the possibility that we are puppets, by the simple mathematical fact that we are constituent parts of the big wave function. We can be influenced, but also influence back. Let's use that ability, best as we can.


Epilogue: Aligning with Reality

The picture that has emerged is that of immaterial mindstuff as the laststop constituent of reality, a spirit that however bears little relationship to the limited traditional picture of some supernatural being presiding over reality. The business of the universe, or multiverse as the case may be, turns out to be growth—the unitary spirit underlying all of reality has no choice but to keep growing, lest it loses its quality of aliveness. It has also no choice but to exist—because non-existence turns out to be an intractable self-contradiction. Because reality translates itself as manifestations ultimately triggered and brought about by spirit, and because the laws of physics governing the material world are a subset of the much richer set of laws of spirit, material appearances of reality may take on any number of non-ordinary forms in the right circumstances—something routinely witnessed throughout the world. The laws pertaining to spirit are not arbitrary or unduly restrictive: they seem to limit themselves to ensuring consistency, and nothing else. In other words, not anything goes, and if, say, two means one and one brought together, no one shall turn around and be able to state that it is also three. Reality evolves, and we are demonstrably fullfledged co-shapers of that reality, albeit of course at a more limited, modest level than the broader mindstuff that seems to underlie all of reality. A diffuse human desire to be a part of the greater reality has accompanied and conditioned much of humankind's history, in one form or another. Throughout much of that history, the mathematical tools were just not there to let us prise open the box of mysteries. Humankind thought up things instead, invented gods and rites, and alleged hidden motivations tucked away behind manifestations of reality which not only we did not understand properly, but which we were not at all equipped 123

to be able to understand properly. Disasters and instances of evil, for instance, were interpreted the only way they could be with the limited means then at our disposal, and hence were often seen as caused by some god's wrath. Gods or god quickly became perceived as vengeful, dangerous, rather human-like in terms of behavior and motivations, in constant childish need of appeasement and propitiation. By building such narratives, at extreme variance with what we now know is demonstrable reality, we kept getting out of whack, and disaster has often been the swift, ineluctable result. But the need for transcendence has never gone away, and, to paraphrase John Kennedy, humankind has proven to be ready to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship for the sheer thrill of connecting with a greater reality. Such access, even and especially when illusory, has come at a cost, and in the more primitive societies confined to the ordinariness of hardscrabble lives of gathering, hunting, and tilling, the price has been steepest. An example of such price is the sacrifices, and oftentimes the horrible human sacrifices, that sundry priests of old, the world over, used to insist was required by the gods. Why was sacrifice so widespread in the old religions? It turns out there is a straightforward technical reason, which sheds uncomfortable light on how early religions compensated for lack of knowledge and/or know-how, and how, in doing so, how they helped perpetuate it and made ordinary people pay the price. A traditional means by which many religions have sought to establish their claims of legitimacy was by putting their adherents in a state of exaltation during religious events—i.e., delivering non-ordinary states of mind. Today, the means to that purpose may involve rites featuring grandiose music (often played on instruments that would be uncommon anywhere else, such as organs, or choirs), solemn costumes and an imposing environment (such as heavily adorned temples and cathedrals.) In smaller, typically shamanic religions, drugs were (and still are) traditionally used to that purpose instead—whatever works towards the goal of 124

putting the audience into an exalted state of mind resulting in a peak experience, thereby conveying a whiff of the presence of non-ordinariness, and ensuring the association of religion with a perception of ‘another world’, thus ensuring the durability of its grip on its members. When the first religions appeared, there was no available way to create nor play much uplifting music, nor to present an environment sufficiently ‘out of this world’ to trigger peak experiences and the gooseflesh effect—an effect that cannot be easily improvised: later on, the building of a single cathedral could take hundreds of years, as would the building of an extensive body of sacred music—and in most areas access to drugs was limited. The priests quickly figured out how to put spectators into the electrifying, peak experience that they were unable to create otherwise: kill someone. Since those dark, hardscrabble days, progress has continued apace, and lives have been enriched in myriad ways by the ongoing progress of technology and knowledge across a variety of pursuits. Some early churches were historically quite aware that progress and generally speaking the rise of independently held knowledge was spelling a slow but inescapable waning of their grip on people's minds, and hence some chose to oppose progress for as long as they could. Thankfully, we are well past this stage today, and it sometimes looks like the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction, whereby the alleged scientific but in fact unscientific but socially acceptable narrative is that we are all but ephemeral automatons, soon to wink out again into the matter reserves of a meaningless universe. Be that as it may, history, engineering, and many other human pursuits are replete with stark reminders of what happens when we are blind to, or deny, actual reality: catastrophe ensues. We cannot have it both ways: either our thoughts and actions are aligned with reality, or we are going to generate, for lack of a better word, a measure of evil. Of course, every last one of us has the power to co-shape and change reality 125

with effort and dedication. But the power to co-create comes from action and from doing, never from just sitting back and being content with promulgating arbitrary and unverified facts. If we are going to teach our kids any version of reality—most importantly as relates to the foundation narratives of who we are, what our world is, and what our spirituality is—then we better make absolutely sure that we are telling truths that faithfully reflect actual, math-compliant realities. Should we fail to do that, we would then be, again, programming future disasters. The twofold theme of this book has been that first, reality is there for the exploring, that we have at our disposal today the requisite tools to do so, provided we let go of our prejudices, our foregone conclusions, our wishful thinking even, in what we expect or even want reality to be, that we must exert modesty, impartiality, open-mindedness and hard work in our pursuit of it, and second, that misalignment from actual reality keeps leading to catastrophe, as predictably and reliably as clockwork. Misalignment has never been the sole prerogative of any particular community, and it does not matter whence the misalignment may come from: the consequences will in all cases be catastrophic. Catastrophe does not necessarily mean war, and more narrowly where religious narratives about the nature of reality are concerned, both Karen Armstrong (2015) and the statistics quoted by Matthew White (2011) make a solid case that religions are relatively seldom the primary cause of wars. But it can mean the silent, invisible catastrophe that befalls millions whose lives are stunted by society's adherence to a false picture of reality. It can mean millions of kids whose full potential is never realized, who are somehow forced to live some other people's lives rather than their own, to live lives whose parameters have been forced upon them from without. Antoine de Saint-Exupery had famously exclaimed, upon seeing a child being mercilessly and thoughtlessly berated by his parents, it's a future Mozart they're murdering. A mindset still rife in society, that it's all right to apply a one-size fits all model of 126

enforced teaching, that children should not be free to develop their own individual potentials, is a recipe for across-the-board material and cultural impoverishment. Our societies' future is already riddled with predictable problems. We would not want to grow up, nor our children to grow up, in societies that blithely and gratuitously compound future problems by such current negligence. Catastrophe can also result from placing society's emphasis on illusory pursuits, from ill-appreciating and misplacing priorities, and adopting narratives and worldviews that will hinder societal development and individual self-realization. Sam Harris tellingly wondered, if it had not been for the stranglehold the medieval Church exerted over Europe for a few centuries before the Renaissance, whether the Internet would not have been already invented in Europe by the 14th century. Of course, the role of religion has also been often positive, first and foremost by cementing emerging societies from the inside, by fostering social contacts and a measure of cohesion, by enabling the existence of projects and undertakings involving many members of society who would not have interacted otherwise, ideally in the context of the greater good. This role has often abided to this day. Building the new Australia, for instance, which featuring during its foundation years a sparse population scattered across the vast expanses of its huge territory, was immensely helped by the fact that meeting at the nearest Church and at Church events enforced essential social interactions and a measure of cohesion that would not have happened otherwise. But, in religion or any other pursuit, nothing is ever perfect, and can come at a steep price: then Australian society had also imported from Europe the negative aspects of religiosity, such as a strong societal taboo on interfaith marriages (it is stunning today to realize that not so long ago, marriages between, say, Catholics and Protestants were very strongly discouraged across both Europe and Australia.) Today, anyone believing that some God in the sky would disapprove of two people in love wedding each other because they belong to different versions of 127

some ancient religion would certainly be seen as stuck in an indefensible past. The views of the cosmos, of reality and our place in it, currently being teased out by means of a convergence of disciplines, are the most exciting vistas into reality that mankind has ever had access to. It is important that these views become widespread knowledge, and that anyone who wants to take part in the journey of knowledge we have collectively embarked on, be able to do so. It is essential that decisions and actions, both at the collective level and individually, be aligned with reality, that actions fraught with consequences no longer be taken on the basis of false assumptions of what reality is, no matter how enticing such assumptions may be. Only thus shall we minimize the sum total of hurt in the world, and maximize progress. So where do we go from here? The answer, as science demonstrates so well, is up to every single one of us.


Index of Cited Names

Albert, David Z 35, 89, 134, 144, 149, 153 Armstrong, Karen 126, 153 Assisi, St Francis of 80 Augustine of Hippo 85 Baggott, Jim 100

Du Sautoy, Marcus 41, 153 Einstein, Albert 8, 26, 27, 39, 114 Enslow, Linn 111 Forgione, Francesco 81 Gamow, George 41

Barrow, John D. 41, 153

Gao, Shan 30, 35, 89, 90, 101, 144, 149, 154

Battersby, Stephen 27

Gell-Mann, Murray 112

Bekenstein, Jacob 93

Gingrich, Newt 117

Bell, John 51

Goff, Philip 54, 70, 103, 146, 154

Bergoglio, Jorge Mario (Pope Francis) 79

Goggin, Michael 65

Billé, Louis-Marie 82 Bloom, Howard 22, 55, 146, 153 Boileau, Nicolas 8 Bojowald, Martin 75 Bondi, Herman 72 Borlaug, Norman 111 Bosch, Carl 111 Cantor, Georg 42, 46, 93, 95 Chalmers, David 62 Christ 120 Crichton, Michael 106, 153 Deutsch, David 65 Devlin, Keith 26, 31, 134

Graham, Franklin 112 Graham, Ronald 21, 76, 92 Haber, Fritz 111 Harris, Sam 127 Harrison, George 37 Herrigel, Eugen 78, 154 Higgs, Peter 27 Hilbert, David 8, 25 Holevo, Alexander 64 Holt, Jim 13 Hossenfelder, Sabine 100, 154 Hoyle, Fred 72 Itigilov, Dashi Dorzho 82 Jenner, Edward 111


Kennedy, John 124

Randall, Lisa 75, 155

Ki-moon, Ban 118

Saint-Exupery, Antoine de 126

Krasnov, Viktor 112

Schrödinger, Erwin 30, 34, 137, 138

Krauss, Lawrence 14 Lahlou, Leila 81 Landsteiner, Karl 111 Leslie, John A 14, 154 Lewisohn, Richard 111 Loret, Jean-Marie 23, 24 Magueijo, Joao 111 Mann, Jeffrey 78, 148, 155 Marx, Karl 120 Montgomery, Sy 57, 155 Moorjani, Anita 81 Morrison, Grant 107 Murdin, Paul 27 Nakagaki, Toshiyuki 56 Ney, Alyssa 35, 36, 144, 153 Obama, Barack 9 Pasteur, Louis 111, 114 Pearsall, Paul 86, 87, 155 Penrose, Roger 39, 51, 59, 60, 74, 140, 147, 155

Schwarzenegger, Arnold 61 Shing Tung Yau 26, 27, 39 Starr, Ringo 37 Storr, William 84, 106 Strawson, Galen 54, 156 Tesoriero, Ron 79, 156 Tryon, Edward 75 Vasnetsov, Viktor 117 Vedral, Vlatko 68, 69, 156 Vilenkin, Alexander 12, 14, 15, 32, 36, 40, 70, 76, 98, 116, 133, 156 Volk, Steve 84, 156 Wegener, Alfred 114 Weigel, Jenniffer 84 Weisman, Alan 118, 156 Wheeler, John 51 White, Matthew 126 Wigner, Eugene 27, 136

Pezet, Alejandro 79, 84

Willesee, Mike 79, 80

Pink Floyd 120

Yanofsky, Noson 41

Pinker, Steven 118, 155

Zeh, Dieter 100, 115, 140

Putin, Vladimir 82


Schwarzchild, Karl 27




With the possible exception of certain views in information theory, which we will see later. A ‘field’ is anything that has a value associated with it at any point in space and time. A magnetic field is a familiar example: two magnets brought close together generate a noticeable force of attraction (or repulsion). This force is due to the magnetic field present in the space between the magnets. A field has an associated intensity at every point.


The famous equation e=mc² describing a case in point of such morphing, as it describes the transformation of matter into pure energy, and reversely.


‘Tunneling’ is usually understood in physics as follows: In a false vacuum, local so-called virtual particles ceaselessly pop in and out of the ‘quantum foam’, as the spacelike (geometrical) and timelike (in time) warp and weft and texture of the false vacuum at extremely small scales is called. These virtual particles may be made of energy or equivalently of mass, but also of geometry (the local micro-structure of space fleetingly bends and warps, of time even (a tiny local spot suddenly finds itself in the future or the past of its surroundings), and so on (we'd be forgiven for thinking that reality can be a pretty odd and mind-mending place at these scales.) The bigger a virtual particle happens to be, the less time it can remain flitting about before it must vanish back into nothingness. There is a precise rule as to how long such particles may stay in virtual existence—in essence, they may exist as long as they remain below something called the ‘Heisenberg barrier’, thus never showing up on the ‘radar screen’ of manifest reality. Although such virtual particles never become ‘real’ in the conventional sense and can never be seen, they however do have very real and measurable indirect consequences. An example of one such consequence is the phenomenon of radioactivity. In order to decay, an atom nucleus of, say, uranium, needs to borrow energy from its immediate surroundings. Only with that extra energy boost will it be able to overcome the energy barrier that hinders it from breaking apart and decaying into lower energy and


lower mass elements and rays. This energy boost is enabled, and thereby atom breakup triggered, by virtual particles popping up in the atom's immediate surroundings at or near the exact requisite level of energy it needs to absorb to break apart. Since virtual particles pop up demonstrably randomly, not only in terms of where and when, but also in terms of the different levels of virtual mass and/or energy at which they appear, it follows that the process of decay at the individual atom level is in principle unpredictable: there is no way whereby the precise instant when some specific atom—such as, say, the above-cited specific individual atom of uranium— shall decay can be pinpointed with any accuracy. The only place where a nucleus can borrow energy from passing-by virtual particles is its immediate surroundings. Boosted with the extra energy, the atom then overcomes the energy hurdle and breaks up. It all happens extremely fast—the borrowed energy is almost instantly returned to the virtual particle, now free to vanish back into nothingness. This mechanism of radioactivity is the exact same as that of the phenomenon of ‘tunneling’. When a real particle tunnels, it borrows energy from some virtual particle in its surrounding false vacuum, uses that energy to overcome some energy hurdle, then relinquishes back the energy it borrowed. The word ‘tunnel’ refers to the image of getting to the other side of an impassable wall: the wall represents a ‘height’ of energy that the particle must leap over to be able to move to the other side of that wall, but which it does not possess on its own. By borrowing the proper amount of extra energy from the vacuum foam however, it can: it is then said that the particle ‘tunneled’ (or ‘burrowed’) through the wall. Whereas there is no limit to the amount of energy that may be borrowed, it is a matter of statistical chance that a virtual particle can happen to pop into fleeting existence with just the right amount of virtual energy and at just the right spot where that energy can be borrowed for an atom to undergo radioactive decay, or for a tunneling event to occur. Crucially, highly energetic virtual particles are much rarer than lower-energy ones, and live much shorter virtual lives, so that the more energy is needed for a specific decay or tunnelling event, the most unlikely that event is: atoms that need to borrow very little energy from their surrounding quantum vacuum are extremely unstable and decay well-nigh instantly, in many cases within infinitesimal fractions of a nanosecond. At the other end of the scale, the


amount of energy needed to decay can be so great that the ‘virtual popping’ event that would provide it becomes exceedingly rare: the heavy isotope 128 of Tellurium, for instance, has a half-life of some 160 trillion times longer than the time the universe has been in existence so far (for a list of half-lives see _by_half-life.) Alex Vilenkin gives the example of a can of coke tunneling out of a vending machine—an event that would require countless googols of googols of googols of times the current age of the universe to ever happen, but whose probability of happening, however vanishingly small, is not equal to nil. (5)

Notwithstanding the fact that if all you have is a gram of uranium, you will start having less and less uranium and more and more of its decay products from the beginning, and ever fewer than 20,000 atoms will decay in the subsequent time. The cumulative effect of the dwindling number of as-yet undecayed atoms within a given mass is what makes the concept of halflife necessary.)


Notwithstanding the fact that if we start from an amount of, say, one gram of uranium, there will be less and less uranium and more and more of its decay products as time elapses, and ever fewer than 20,000 atoms will thereafter decay per second. The overall, cumulative effect of the dwindling number of as-yet undecayed atoms within a given mass is what makes the yardstick of half-life necessary.


Cited by Dean Burnett


There exists a famous and rather complicated proof that 1 and 1 is 2 (Russell & Whitehead's 300-page proof), but it is a spoof. More seriously, the Italian mathematician and linguist Guiseppe Peano formally incorporated simple arithmetic operation into a set of ‘axioms’, which was more an exercise into making the whole of our mathematical edifice structurally consistent rather than adding any meaningful value. Interestingly, if we trace the oldest words in English—words that can be traced back all the way to the Stone Age and pre-date the onset of all of English's formally structured ancestor tongues by thousands of years—the top twenty list includes five words denoting numbers (one, two, three, four, and five)—with ‘two’ being the oldest traceable number word, and overall


the second oldest word in the English language. (Mark Pagel at the University of Reading (UK) classifies our oldest words, ranked from traceably oldest to more recent, as follows: who, two, three, I, five, we, four, how, one, name, tongue, new, thou, what, where, star, (to) give, night, hand, (to) die.) (9)

Note Keith Devlin, in “The Math Instinct: Why You're a Mathematical Genius (Along with Lobsters, Birds, Cats, and Dogs)”, 2006.) See also: 

New York Times: Many Animals Can Count, Some better Than You bers.html

Scientific American: More Animals Seem to Have Some Ability to Count

BBC: Animals That Can Count 20121128-animals-that-can-count

See also Mario Livio (2010). (10) Neatly encapsulating and conveying a flavour of the kind of disagreement and even bickering that can take place among even highly trained specialists, here is one academic paper strongly in favor of Bohmian interpretations of quantum physics: ObjeResp and one strongly against: 1088/1742-6596/442/1/012060/meta). (11) Although many try to do so, in science as in religion. In religion it can be deemed acceptable to claim divine ‘revelation’, a latitude that hardly exists in science. But in practical terms, claims of divine revelation do not work well either, because in any pursuit including religion and science, people are free to choose what they want to believe. Historically, many people— the Sergey Torop, Claude Vorilhon, Marshall Summers, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Huynh Phu So, Wovoka, Guido von List, Akhenaten, Tamara Siuda, Franklin Albert Jones, Nakayama Miki, Zelio Fernandino de Moraes, Hong Xiuquan, Joseph Smith, et al. of the world—have laid claim to revelation, but respectively come up with starkly conflicting reports and ideas


as to what ultimate causes and/or reality may be. The fact that many reports from an alleged ‘higher’ source clash, does not necessarily mean that that deeper reality does not exist, or even that it was not somehow accessed. What it means is that it may be too complex—such as extra-dimensional or such, to be properly perceived and then describable in terms understandable within our environment. The simple illustration below shows how a selfsame three-dimensional reality can be described in clashing and apparently starkly incompatible reports when an attempt is made to describe it in two dimensions.

  (12) On another note, the ability of a given mindset—of mindstuff—to influence reality is routine in business and politics. Any MBA course in management will mention that, quite often, the cost of not making a decision in business is steeper than that of making the wrong decision (provided the latter is not catastrophically wrong.) Making a decision, any decision, and then just going ahead and making it work, often proves to be the road to business success. Pure mindstuff perceptions—a politician's perceived aura of winning, although it may be materially groundless, may well soon lead to success— in other words, to affecting and begetting subsequent material reality. (13) See e.g. Max Tegmark, 2014


(14) Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”, Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, No. I (February 1960). (15) NewScientist, Nov. 20, 2008 16095-its-confirmed-matter-is-merely-vacuum-fluctuations/ (16) Wikipedia defines a mathematical object as follows: In mathematical practice, an object is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may carry out deductive reasoning and mathematical proofs. Commonly encountered mathematical objects include numbers, permutations, partitions, matrices, sets, functions, and relations. (17) This statement leads to the so-called ‘measurement problem’. Resolving it is crucial to understanding the nature of reality, and it is dealt with later on in the main text. (18) A Note on Wave Functions 17.1 ‘Functions’ in general. In simple terms, a function describes the behavior in time or in space or in both, of something subjected to some constraints. These constraints are best described by an equation—which is a statement of how the measurable data attached to the something in question behave and what they equate to, resulting in their behavior under the given constraints. For instance, where a car is at any given instant in time can be worked out from the simple constraints that it must drive on some road at some speed. The equation of car's location at any instant would then be simply: instant car location equals speed multiplied by elapsed time. In the shorthand usually employed, one would not use long words such as ‘speed’ or ‘position’, but replace them with shorthand letters, say t for time, v for ‘speed’ or ‘velocity’, x for location, and ● for ‘multiplied by’, so that at any instant “location equals speed multiplied by elapsed time” would become x=v●t (so that if the car drives at 50 miles an hour and has been underway for half an hour, the equation would seamlessly yield up a car location at the 25 mile mark.)



Wave Functions in particular. Technically, wave functions are most simply described as functions that satisfy a specific equation, known as Schrödinger's equation. A wave function is associated to any particular ‘object’ and describes how that object behaves in space and time. Schrödinger's equation is the foundational equation of quantum physics, and since quantum physics has today become the key part of physics, it could be said that it is the most important equation in physics. It embodies and describes the matter/wave duality that has turned out to be a fundamental feature of physical reality, and by doing so it underscores the mathematical nature of reality: it provides a full mathematical description of what matter is and of how it behaves. It replaces the macroscopic but imprecise description of any particle or collection of particles by an associated wave function, which we may call Ψ(t, x,y,z…) in any particular case, with Ψ being shorthand for the name of the function and the letters in parentheses being its variables, i.e. the terms upon which the value of the function depend (in this example, x, y, and z would be coordinates in space and t would represent the instant in time, so that e.g. Ψ(1,1,1,1) would represent the value of Ψ at 1 unit of distance from a set origin along all three dimensions and at the one second mark, after a set origin in time). Should we study some system where there would be, say, four objects—we could call their separate, respective functions Ψ, then, say, Ψ2, Ψ3, and Ψ4, with all four functions satisfying Schrödinger's equation. From the value of Ψ the values of the properties of its corresponding object can be inferred, including its history, its interactions with its wider environment, its evolution in time, etc., i.e. everything about this particular piece of matter. (Unfortunately, most Ψ functions, attached to real-world objects, are as a rule so fiendishly complex that we cannot solve the corresponding Schrödinger equation. We can only work it out exactly in very simple cases, such as in the case of a single free electron.) As we shall see in the main text, a telling issue arises—the so-called measurement problem—when some object's wave function is interfered with by the wave function of another object.


Nevertheless, if we were able to work out the mathematics, there is no end to how enhanced our description of reality would become, and for the simpler cases, we can use helpful approximation methodologies. The Schrödinger equation when applied to the wave function of any physical system, by definition made up of particles, would yield up, if we could solve it, all the information pertaining to that particular system within its environment. Here is a rather left-field example of how it can be useful. Say you write the Schrödinger equation for some electron (or other particle, as long as you can precisely work out its wave function), freely roaming through space. Now this equation can be used to find where the electron most probably finds itself at any instant of time in deep space. To do so, a mathematical integration operation on the wave function (the operation called ‘twist’ in the main text) must be performed, in which the boundaries of the space within which we are looking for the electron are entered. Here's the kicker: as long as finite boundaries are used, we will find a probability of presence of 100% for the electron: in other words, the electron is present somewhere within this finite universe. But if we set infinite boundaries to the integration operation, the twist operation can no longer be performed: the probability value is no longer calculable as it becomes, with infinite boundaries, intractable mathematical nonsense. From that simple mathematical result on paper, it can be inferred that any universe that contains any piece of matter must mathematically be a finite universe, and cannot be an infinite one. As a matter of fact, our known universe, irrespective of whether it may be a constituent part of a greater universe, is some 93 billion light years across: it is not infinite. It is easy to appreciate how wave functions are organized hierarchically as pertains to systems more complex than single particles. This will be covered in the main text, but for the sake of lending here further texture to the concept of wave functions, let us get slightly ahead of ourselves here. A wave function ultimately describes all there is to know about a given material object (by material object is meant any collection of particles from one single particle up to any macroscopic objects.) Consider a, say, car's material constituents: these otherwise separate and independent constituents' properties are inextricably


tied to the car's other material constituents through a number of imposed links, for instance the overall speed and direction of the car: an atom present in, say, the steering wheel of the car does not have a speed property independent of, or unlinked to, the speed property of another atom embedded somewhere else within the car. The whole car—the collection of particles making up the car—has an associated wave function, itself associated downwards with those of the car's constituents, and upwards with, say, the Earth's, by the simple agency of being tied to, or not free of, the Earth's movements, gravity, and so on. This simple observation also shows how the wave functions of reality are stacked up in a hierarchical manner—the wave functions of individual entangled or bound particles subsumed within the overall wave function of the set (collection) of these particles, all the way up to finally encompass the whole universe (the forerunners of all of the universe's ultimate constituents were entangled at the inception event of the Universe and they never fully decoupled—decohered—so that in the hierarchy of wave functions there are still links, however by now extremely loose and tenuous, connecting everything in the universe. We will look at the consequences at some length in the main text. Another point of note is that wave functions also describe live things: the wave function exists of, say, a virus, a germ, a fruit fly, and so on up. This throws up the question, of course, of how alive matter—life—emerges from what is seen as inanimate matter, and whether the distinction between inanimate and animate is reflected in the corresponding wave functions. A first point is that there is no chemical or material or indeed mathematical difference whatsoever between, say, an individual carbon atom embedded in a living organism and in a piece of coal or a diamond. There are differences in their respective chemical environments, and in the way those atoms are embedded within their respective environment—but irrespective of geometric structure, as is the case for instance between coal and diamond, and of the chemical bonds they may participate in, it is safe to say that all atoms and molecules within any environment are the very same whether they belong to a live or an inert environment. We will look at what differentiates alive from inert in the main text, when we examine whether life itself might be, or not, a constituent of ultimate reality.



A note on de Broglie's wave length. A confusion is sometimes made between wave functions and something called de Broglie's wavelength. De Broglie's wavelength is a length, not a function. It was thought up by Louis de Broglie, a pioneering quantum physicist, as a rough and ready way of illustrating and expressing the dual nature of reality as matter and wave. It has become a thoroughly useless concept in modern physics. Briefly illustrating the fiendishness of how complicated wave functions quickly become, even in the ultra-simple scenario of a free hydrogen atom—the simplest atom of all bar none. In the unrealistic case of it being unaffected by anything in its environment and chemically unbounded—its wave function Ψ would still be expressed by: Ψnlm(r,θ,φ)= Cnlm x Flm(θ) ○ Rnl(r) ○ Gm(φ), with F(θ) being a Legendre function, R(r) a radial equation, G(φ) exp(imφ), etc., and n, l, and m quantum numbers stemming from boundary conditions on R(r), F(θ), and G(φ), and Cnlm a constant arising out of normalization. Luckily, the precise expression of any wave function need not concern us here. All we need to know is that they exist.

(19) Although the precise full mathematical expression of almost all wave functions are forever beyond our direct knowledge, we can often handle them like ‘black boxes’ and manipulate them within mathematical equations, and useful information and insights can still be gained from such manipulations. (20) Dieter Zeh (2012), Roger Penrose (2016), also Jim Baggot (2013) et al. (21) A historical case in point—which prompted so many to become sick of some of the flights of fancy of modern mathematical physics, and led to a measure of loss of trust in modern physics, even on the part of many scientists—is the assertion, by a number of physicists, that in an infinite universe every person on Earth would have an infinity of identical duplicates of themselves leading identical lives on identical planets across the infinity of the universe, with extra infinities of near-copies of themselves living slightly different lives, and so on. Quite unfortunately, this rather sillysounding assertion is based on a simple error in mathematics. The (wrong) reasoning goes like this: since you have come into existence, then there has existed a non-zero likelihood that you would exist, let's call


this probability of your existence epsilon, denoted ɛ. Epsilon may be extremely small but, because you exist, it is non-zero. Within an infinite universe (or multiverse), the odds of your existence actually materializing then become infinity (∞) times epsilon (ɛ): the result of the multiplication of infinity by any non-zero number is well-known: it is infinity itself. Hence, there exist an infinity of you's across an infinite universe. This reasoning is wrong, because there is an infinity of infinities, some of which are infinitely greater than others. The metric used to measure the greatness, or the ‘strength’, of an infinity is something called its aleph number, and infinities in ascending order of greatness are aleph-0, aleph-1, aleph-2 etc. It so happens that any infinity of strength aleph-(N+1) is infinitely greater than an infinity of strength aleph-N by a factor of aleph(N+1). The strength of the infinity attached to a dimensionally infinite universe is known: it is aleph-1. Now, there happens to be an infinity of choices—alternatives leading to the various downstream routes that can be taken—at the nodes of the long chain of events that ultimately gave rise to you. Some of these choices can be modelled (described) by mathematical functions. There is an aleph-2 infinity of possible mathematical functions, and the infinite subsets of all possible mathematical functions are also of strength aleph2 (much like, say, the infinite subset of odd whole numbers, which is an infinite subset of the infinity of all whole numbers, are both of the exact same aleph-0 strength.) But the size (the ‘strength’) of infinite physical spacetime (of any dimension) has a measure of aleph-1. The probability of the presence of another you in the fullness of an infinite universe is therefore Epsilon times aleph1 (to express that probability across the whole infinite universe), equals aleph-1 infinity, divided by aleph-2 (to express the likelihood that a ‘you’ emerges from the infinite number of possible choices along the chain of events that ultimately gives rise to you), equals … some inconceivably small number, as close to naught as can be without actually being naught. You are therefore solidly unique, even in an infinite multiverse (another proof involving time has also been given (Ransford, 2015.) Should we think about it for a minute, does not it seem wholly natural that a physical infinity—the infinity of a number of points in some infinite multi-dimensional


volume—would be smaller than an abstract infinity—a number of possible functions (or, equivalently, mathematical curves or graphs or plots)? Incidentally, aleph-2 is the highest aleph number for which we know that there is something with that metric (in that case, the number of mathematical functions.). There are no known external instances of infinities of aleph-3 or higher strengths (by ‘external’ is meant when the higher-numbered aleph number is used as the metric of something external to itself, i.e. to the mathematical construction that proves its existence—such as Cantor's diagonalisation.) (22) Excellent papers and books have been published on the subject, including at popular science level (a selection of which are listed in the bibliography at the end.) (23) By ‘baggage’ is meant anything that either colossally violates Ockham's razor guidelines, such as staggering oddities, well-nigh impossibly farfetched explanations, or explanations that may look slick at first but then lead to contradictions in other parts of the theory (which in turn have to be dealt with at the cost of further odd constructs), as well as additional, seemingly gratuitous and mathematically unjustifiable extraneous material that must be introduced to make everything hang together, but which leave an impression of arbitrariness, of being ad hoc and artificial rather than grounded in the facts of the reality at hand. (24) Also see conference paper (2017) (25) We could attempt to measure book content by the number of pages (or location index for eBooks). It does not work, because that number depends on font type, font size, line spacing, and format. It is also affected by content-free variables such as the in-text choice of exact synonyms. We could attempt to use the number of words instead—surely a more robust, pageindependent measure, but two things will defeat it. First, word numbers do not reflect illustrations and figures—which becomes catastrophic in the case of picture books, art books, comic strips, or economic or scientific texts featuring diagrams and graphs. Second, this metric would not be not language-independent and would therefore result in different content


measures for the exact same content value of a book and its foreign language editions. (Note that some languages routinely turn multiple-word groupings into one single compound word. For instance, the four words of ‘two thousand and fifty’ turn into the single German word zweitausendfünfzig, or, appropriately, a ‘mammoth word’ becomes a ‘Mammutwort’, which is also the reason why book translators, who translate from some source language to a destination language, are paid by the word for most European source languages, but usually by number of letters if the source language is German or Dutch. The number of letters or signs is not a good yardstick either—a book and its foreign language rendition would have the exact same content value, yet a long word in the original (‘neighbor’ in English) might translate into a much shorter word in the destination language (‘nabo’ in Danish), or vice versa.) The reality is that a reliable way to measure book contents just does not exist. (26) Being, or becoming, part of a same wave function is commonly known as ‘entanglement’. Elements that are tightly associated within a common, lower-level wave function are said to be strongly entangled, whereas more tenuous associations within higher-level wavefunctions featuring many other variables describe looser entanglements. A rough-and-ready rule of thumb to determine how strong or loose the entanglement between any two elements is, is as follows: if the very first wave function in which these two elements appear together has very many variables, their mutual entanglement is tenuous. If that first wave function has only few variables, their entanglement is strong. (27) Technically, ‘twist’ is the integration of the product of the wave function with its complex conjugate over a certain volume of space. The so-called ‘Born rule’ states in its simplest form that the (density of) probability of finding an object at a given point is proportional to the square of the magnitude of the object's wave function at that point. Although experiments have unfailingly confirmed the validity of the Born rule, its precise mathematical derivation has been in dispute. Many mathematicians—GB Lesovik, David Wallace, and many others, have provided mathematical proofs, which have been sometimes disputed because they are seen to only work within the framework of a chosen physical theory, in other words from a set of assumptions on how reality works—raising the


possibility that any such mathematical proof would then be circular reasoning (i.e., a proof established from within a theory being shown to hold and then used to shore up the theory in question.) Some other physical theories (such as Bohmian theories, which we will touch upon later on), view the rule as a mere hypothesis or convenience, despite its unblemished experimental record, which is one of the reasons why doubts have arisen as to the ability of Bohmian theories to truly explain reality. Shan Gao (2017), however, provides a solid mathematical proof. He starts from the hitherto misunderstood experimental fact mentioned earlier (the absence of selfinduction within alleged electromagnetic wave packets), which in turn leads to a robust theoretical treatment underpropping this experimental observation, and from thence to a new, solid mathematical proof of Born's rule. Current theoretical physics leads to three main possible categories of interpretation of the results of the most out-there, exotic aspects of quantum physics, which will be looked at in the main text. (28) The possible meanings of the wave function are still hotly debated. Two main categories of interpretation hold that, either the wave function is real, and represents something tangible and real within the universe—including, in some interpretations, exotic, multidimensional, more complex versions of the universe than the simple universe we perceive through our limited senses (this constitutes the so-called ontic interpretation of the wave function)—or, that the wave function only represents the knowledge we happen to have of (any) physical systems at some instant in time, in other words that it embodies the sum total of the information we have about a system, which may or may not be complete and may be subject to later refinements or enhancements as more data becomes known. This latter view being the so-called epistemic interpretation of the wave function. An anthology of papers representing a broad range of views was published by Ney & Albert, 2013. There are several, rather different ontic views, which nevertheless, by definition, all attribute real-world reality to the wave function. Issues arising from some of these ontic interpretations have been effectively and convincingly addressed by Shan Gao (2017), with the balance of evidence leading to the well-nigh inescapable conclusion that the wave function, far from being a mere reflection of the knowledge we may have of any systems and of reality, is full-on materially real, if anything the most real thing in the world and the universe.


(29) Functions with an infinity of variables are routine in mathematics. Operations performed on such functions are also routine and demonstrably work well. Calculus, a branch of mathematics essential to engineering, deals with such functions. (30) The combined volume of all the world's seas is about 1.5 10 to the power 21 liters, and there are about 10 to the power 26 water molecules in each liter of water. That means that the odds of pegging one particular molecule of water from within the world's oceans is equal to about 1 in 150,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, i.e., it is a straightforward mathematical value, that held before any mind made the calculation, and which will continue to exist long after the calculation has been forgotten. As far as the mind is concerned though, water molecules are indistinguishable and cannot be differentiated by the mind, even if such were equipped with extraordinary sight and perception abilities. (31) See also Max Tegmark (2015), Mario Livio (2010), or e.g. the Nova Video episode ‘The Great Math Mystery’ (2015), etc. (32) Because strictly true vacuums do not exist in reality, some authors improperly use the term ‘true vacuum’ to describe false vacuums with extremely low residual energies. The term is used here throughout in its strict sense— i.e., a theoretical vacuum with exactly zero vacuum energy. (33) A simple way to envision tiny dimensions is to imagine being a flat 2-D character living, say, on a sheet of paper: the thickness of the sheet is its third dimension. It is very tiny, hidden to the sheet's 2-D denizen, yet present everywhere. (34) Whenever the terms ‘wider universe’ or multiverse are used throughout the text, they refer to possible universe(s) beyond our own known universe, and reference is then made collectively to everything—i.e., to the whole possible multiverse and/or all the possible universes out there. Whenever the word universe is used on its own, or in ‘our universe’ or ‘this universe’, the reference is to the universe we know and live in, born of some inception event 14-odd billion years ago.


(35) See e.g. 8797,, also and 01/quantum-links-in-time-and-space-may-form-the-universes-foundation/. (36) See for instance, also icate-through-time-curiosity/ and antum-links-in-time-and-space-may-form-the-universes-foundation/. (37) See e.g. -state-of-consciousness-could-exist-say-researchers. (38) See Philip Goff ‘Are Electrons Conscious?’ at 08/electrons-consciousness-philosophy/. See also for an exposé of the so-called ‘hard problem of consciousness’, which will be addressed later on in the main text on the basis of quantum physics. (39) Howard Bloom, (2000), Carl Zimmer (2001, 2015), Lynn Margulis (2000), et al. (40) An argument is sometimes made that experiments conducted by Benjamin Libet et al support this view, in particular because it appears that a decision may be made before the decider becomes consciously aware of the decision! However, this argument is not conclusive, see Ransford (2017), et al. (41) Technically, by the nonzero elements of a matrix that describes the wave function and its evolution. After collapse, all of the non-diagonal elements of the matrix become zero, thereby reflecting the disappearance of all the other potentialities than those embedded in the newly acquired real-world status, now mathematically represented by the matrix's remaining nonzero elements (its diagonal elements), usually called its eigenvalues. (42) The possible existence of parallel universes does not imply that the ‘ManyWorlds interpretation of quantum physics’ is necessarily correct. Parallel universes could simply exist, without new ones being ceaselessly generated by wave functions being interfered with.


(43) The technical reason why equilibrium always re-establishes itself within a system containing many parts is that there are always far more system configurations that correspond to and reflect system homogeneity than system imbalances of any kind. In the case of the room, there are immensely more ways whereby the myriad individual air molecules moving randomly about inside the room can establish thermal homogeneity, than the comparatively very small number of ways the random movements of individual air molecules would lead to sustainable macroscopic temperature differences. This imbalance in the odds for different configurations is measured by something called entropy—the lower something's entropy is, the further away that something is from stable equilibrium. Therefore, entropy always goes up in a closed system, which reflects the system's tendency to settle into one of its likeliest configurations. This rule is quite general: since there are immensely more ways that a teenager's room can be messy than orderly, entropy will naturally lead to more and more messiness. The teenager room's entropy can then be brought back down, say by the intervention by a parent (who is a ‘system’ external to the room proper) tidying it up. The resulting entropy downtick in the room must be paid for by a corresponding increase in entropy at the parent level—the parent burns up calories and converts them into energy to fuel the effort needed to properly tidy up the room. In the system encompassing both the room and the parent, entropy has not lessened at all: overall system entropy never does. (44) Our universe will most likely eventually evolve into this very scenario some 100 billion years hence. This fate is sometimes dubbed ‘heat death’, not because the universe would be hot—it would be quite cold—but because temperatures throughout would be the same (thereby precluding any significant action or motion or movement from taking place, as per the second law of thermodynamics.) In this scenario, the universe slowly dilutes away, because there is not enough matter in it to exert the requisite pull to make it collapse again into a ‘Big Crunch’: everything within the universe keeps flying apart, and it keeps expanding and thinning out ever more. In the event that some universe would end up in a ‘Big Crunch’, incidentally, Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking have proven that nothing within that universe could become separated from anything else: the crunching universe has no choice but to coalesce back into a single point, and any idea whereby parts of the universe would sail past one another, like ships pass-


ing each other in the night, soon to regrow the universe into various directions, by some putative loose oscillating scenario whereby the Big Crunch event would keep to a nonzero volume and some of its contents would never fully collapse to a point, has been shown to be impossible. Stasis does not work either: the universe simply cannot stay put. A number of cosmological models have looked at a situation whereby some other force—negative pressure, a so-called cosmological constant, and so on— would somehow exactly compensate macroscopic inward and outward pulls. It can never work, because the slightest random motion inside a static universe would then immediately kick it out of prior balance, and random motions are an inescapable feature of reality. Whatever counterbalancing force may be envisioned can never accurately counteract unpredictable, random imbalances. (45) ‘Higher’ dimensions is short for higher-numbered dimensions, i.e. extra dimensions beside the 3 visible dimensions of space and the one dimension of time. (46) Jeffrey Mann (2012). (47) Several texts and studies have appeared of late making a case that Christ as a historical figure never existed, such as ‘Decadence’ (2017) by the wellknown French philosopher Michel Onfray, or “Nailed” (2017), by David Fitzgerald. Other arguments have of course made a solid case that Christ, as a historical figure, indeed did exist. Be that as it may, this discussion, and the conclusions it leads to, are wholly independent of whether or not Christ existed as an actual historical figure. (48) A segment of the then live transmission on the TF2 channel of French television can be seen at (49) There is consensus on both sides of the debate that this is the case: as a case in point, biologist Lee Silver and philosopher and neurobiologist Owen Flanagan, hailing from opposite perspectives, agree that “a belief in free will serves as a quick and reliable diagnostic test for an implicit belief in some kind of soul”. This is where the agreement stops: Lee Silver, for instance, uses the argument to scout at a belief in the possibility of an independent soul and free will.


(50) As mentioned earlier, San Gao (2017) and others have shown that the Many-Worlds interpretation creates more intractable issues down the road than it solves, and, because it fails on a number of other criteria, we shall forsake it here. Moreover, as the main text shows, it is ultimately not needed, since the mathematical results described in the main text allow for the continued accessibility of unrealized strands of reality post-collapse— provided the unique, non-physically emergent quality of mindstuff be seen. This is also how, Gao suggests, the intensity of right-brain feelings such as love could be accurately measured: to do so, all that would be needed would be knowing the respective values of the physical characteristics (such as amplitude and phase) of the corresponding strands of the wave function. (51) The issues associated with real-world infinities has led some to not only belie the mere possibility of a material or manifest infinity existing anywhere, but to assert that mathematics itself is fundamentally flawed and incorrect, because it accommodates the theoretical possibility of conceptual infinity. Brian Rotman, for one, argues that the very concept of infinity in mathematics arose from cognitive bias born of a widespread cultural belief in an infinite God during the formative years of mathematics. (52) Including discontinuous functions. (53) Steven Johnson (2002), John Holland (1999), Ransford (2017), et al. (54) Probably best described, at a general pop science level, in the first Chapter of David Z Albert (1993). (55) See e.g. 6596/442/1/ 012060/meta. (56) Bohmian-type theories do so as well, at the cost however of a “strong” version of non-locality, whereby the speed and acceleration of any one particle in the universe depends on the instantaneous positions of all other particles. In the case of the alternative Many-Worlds theories, the measurement problem is solved at the cost of ready-made universes ceaselessly pop-corning and branching out. (57) This thesis is presented and defended by various neuroscientists, including, in various texts published in a popular science format, Michael Gazzaniga, Dick F. Swaab, et al. What tends to be less widely known is that a number


of equally credentialled neuroscientists argue the exact opposite standpoint—Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Mario Beauregard, Andrew Newberg et al. Popular science books published by the latter seem to be typically less visible and well-known than the former, in part because there may be an agenda and broad consensus within the scientific establishment towards pushing the former point of view, leading to books in the former category being more likely to be reviewed in the leading media. Not a single one of these books and arguments however, on either side of the debate, manages to present open-and-shut ‘smoking gun’ conclusions, despite their frequent claims to the contrary. This underscores again how the source of strongly held beliefs may often take their source in subconscious personal biases. (58) Because wave functions evolve and change all the time, and come to encompass others and/or shed their influence through the ongoing processes of coherence and decoherence, the term ‘wave function complex’ does more justice to the reality of the wave function when the concept is applied to a person or any higher-level life form. (59) A circumstance which, needless to say, would not in the slightest invalidate the consistently solid view by all Courts of Justice that the patient remains guiltless of any doings he or she may have committed when under the influence of the side-effects of medication. (60) An effect that may abide to this day, as a negative correlation between religiosity and prosperity has been found in many studies, see e.g. /ft_15-12-17_religioussaliencescatter/. and -nations.aspx. Whereas correlation does not mean causation, it seems from those and other studies that when people do not fear the insecurity that comes from poverty, they tend to be less prone to putting their faith in an all-powerful protector.


(61) In that case, how mathematics leads to the second law of thermodynamics which becomes causative here (Ransford, 2017). Indeed, a general observation says that a measure of adversity forges character and hones abilities in a way that ease does not, and thereby helps prepare for challenges and for the price of achievement. Too much adversity, however, achieves the opposite. (62) (63) See inst-atheist-for-saying-god-doesnt-exist-57156. (64) See e.g. “The religious correlates of death anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis” by Jonathan Jong, Robert Ross, Tristan Philip, Si-Hua Chang, Naomi Simons & Jamin Halberstadt (2017), in “Religion, Brain & Behavior”. (65) Interview with Jeanne Cummings, January 1994. (66) The well-known author Isaac Asimov had once commented in a 1988 interview with Bill Moyers Quote Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies Unquote. Edward Abbey had presciently, as it turns out, commented that: “A crowded society is a restrictive society; an overcrowded society becomes an authoritarian, repressive and murderous society”. Many other observers have made similar comments. There are precise economic reasons why life worsens when population grows too steeply: for starters, children not only do not contribute to society's creation of wealth, but consume wealth and resources during their formative years, and educating the next generation requires the presence of an economic machine robust enough to bear the burden of the years of education. This use of resources constitutes a sound investment for the future, as it ensures sustainability, as the knowledge and skills acquired during schooling across a statistically full range of future occupations will be harnessed by society to keep generating wealth into the future. If however the balance between the number of producers, and the as-yet unproductive consumers of wealth, gets out of whack at any point in time, the system breaks down and becomes unable to sustain the children's education, leading to a degradation of the whole system.


(67) This distinction becomes instantly apparent if we use the formalism of theoretical physics: separation is represented by the height of the hierarchical levels of wave functions. The hierarchy of the wave functions in the universe is thus an inverted pyramid: from any simple wave function at the base, representing some simple system such as a single particle or atom, vaster and more complex systems encompassing an ever growing part of the universe are represented when the corresponding variables are added in, up and until, at the top, the whole universe is represented by a wave function now including all possible variables, collectively encompassing the whole universe and its attendant interactions. Under that picture, separation is represented by the height of the inverted pyramid, and the greater the distance between two ‘layers’ of wave functions is, the greater their separation. Diversity, on the other hand, is represented by the length of every layer of the pyramid, determined by the number of variables contained by the wave function at that level.


Further Reading

A brief list of relevant texts at popular and semi-popular level. Texts marked with an asterisk (*) reference relevant texts and articles at specialist level. Albert, David Z (1992). Quantum Mechanics and Experience. Harvard University Press. Albert, David and Ney, Alyssa, editors (2013). The Wave Function. Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press Armstrong, Karen (2015). Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. Anchor Books. Badiou, Alain (2016). In Praise of Mathematics. Polity Press. Baggott, Jim (1992). The Meaning of Quantum Theory. Oxford University Press. Ball, Philip (2018) Beyond Weird. Random House UK. Barrett, Jeffrey (2001). The Quantum Mechanics of Minds and Worlds. Oxford University Press. Barrow, John (1998). Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. Oxford University Press. Bloom, Howard (2000). Global Brain. Wiley & sons. Bruntrup, Godehard & Jaskolla, Ludwig, editors (2016). Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives. Oxford University Press. Crichton, Michael (1988). Travels. Alfred A. Knopf. Du Sautoy, Marcus (2015). What We Cannot Know: Explorations at the Edge of Knowledge. Harper Collins. 153

Frenkel, Edward (2014). Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. Basic Books. * Gao, Shan (2017). The Meaning of the Wave Function. Cambridge University Press. Gao, Shan (2018). What is it like to be a Quantum Observer? http:// * Goff, Philip (2018). Consciousness and Fundamental Reality. Oxford University Press. Havil, Julian (2012). The Irrationals: A Story of the Numbers You Can't Count on. Princeton University Press. Healey, Richard (1989). The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics. Cambridge University Press. Herrigel, Eugen (1948). Zen and the Art of Archery. Vintage Books (reissued 1999). Hodgson, David (1991). The Mind Matters. Oxford University Press. Holland, John H (1999). Emergence: From Chaos to Order. Basic Books. Holt, Jim (2013). Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story. Liveright. Hossenfelder, Sabine (2018). Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. Basic Books. Johnson, Steven (2001). Emergence. Scribner. Joos, Erich (1999). Elements of Environmental Decoherence. https:// Leslie, John A, editor (2013). The Mystery of Existence: Why is There Anything at All? Wiley-Blackwell.


Lewis, Peter (2016). Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press. Livio, Mario (2010). Is God a Mathematician? Simon & Schuster. Lockwood, Michael (1989). Mind, Brain, and the Quantum. Basil Blackwell. Mann, Jeffrey (2012). When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts. Tuttle Publishing. Maudlin, Tim (2011). Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity. WileyBlackwell. Montgomery, Sy (2016). The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness. Atria Books. Pearsall, Paul (1999). The Heart's Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of our Heart Energy. Broadway Books. Penrose, Roger (2016) Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe. Princeton University Press. Penrose, Roger, editor (2011). Consciousness and the Universe. Cosmology Science Publishers, Cambridge MA. Penrose, Roger (2010). Cycles of Time. The Bodley Head, London. Penrose, Roger (2004). The Road to Reality. Jonathan Cape, London. Penrose, Roger (1989). The Emperor's New Mind. Oxford University Press. Pinker, Steven (2011). The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Penguin Books. Randall, Lisa (2006). Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions. Allen Lane. Ransford, H Chris (2017). God and the Mathematics of Infinity. ibidem Press. 155

Ransford, H Chris (2018). Reason Wins Nowhere: Conference Paper. Rotman, Brian (1993) Ad Infinitum... The Ghost in Turing's Machine: Taking God Out of Mathematics and Putting the Body Back In. An Essay in Corporeal Semiotics. Stanford University Press. Schommers, Wolfram, editor (1994). Quantum Theory and Pictures of Reality. Springer. Schommers, Wolfram (1995). Space and Time, Matter and Mind: The Relationship Between Reality and Space-Time. World Scientific. Schwartz, Jeffrey M (2003). The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Harper Perennial. Siegfried, Tom (2002). Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time. Joseph Henry Press. Strawson, Galen (2018). Things That Bother Me: Death, Freedom, the Self, etc. New York Review Books. Tegmark, Max (2014). Our Mathematical Universe. Alfred A. Knopf. Tesoriero, Ron (2007). Reason to Believe. Australia Publishing. Vedral, Vlatko (2010). Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information. Oxford University Press. Volk, Steve (2012). Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn't. Harper Collins. Vilenkin, Alexander (2006). Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes. Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Weisman, Alan (2014). Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Back Bay Books. White, Matthew (2011) The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities. W W Norton & Co. 156