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Messages - sciborg2

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General Misc. / Re: Quotes
« on: October 18, 2019, 03:49:07 pm »
"my son is no bigger than a grub...where does he live? at the moment, between the leaves of a book. this is where he runs the least risk of being lost. inversely, he risks being squashed, if someone puts something on the book. otherwise he rests between the leaves without much difficulty.

what is the future for such a grub?

not much hope. he'll vegetate. if he stays this size.

but then slowly he takes on substance. this is doubtless the result of my efforts: sometimes i take him out, i place him in a bed, or outside, for after all he has a right to the world, and he seems to lean toward life. the danger that someone unaware will crush him remains. little by little he even gains in intelligence. he begins to think, to be happy, to become a real living being.

obviously, he is very far behind, since he has existed in this form for months. but now he has really decided to catch up. now i spy him running, having gone downstairs, and climbing...

i feel happiness, love for my grub leaving his twilight state. seeing life "crystallize" is such a blessing...."
-Helene Cixous, 'The School of Dreams'

General Misc. / Re: Quotes
« on: October 07, 2019, 07:37:59 pm »
"It wouldn't hurt to light a candle for Jona - We are, all of us, feeling for the worlds that move between the cracks in our senses.

Light a candle for your friend. Good hearts push through many boundaries.

Have faith, Christoff.

Have faith in something."
-JM McDermott, Never Knew Another

Philosophy & Science / Could fecal transplants help treat mental illness?
« on: September 16, 2019, 04:23:01 am »
Could fecal transplants help treat mental illness?

Liz Tung

One startling new study even found that transferring gut microbes from people with schizophrenia into germ-free mice can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms. (Microbes from healthy controls had no such effect in the mice.) The same study found what could be the mechanism for that change: dysfunction of the affected mice’s glutamate system, which is thought to be implicated in schizophrenia.

“So it shows that it could be a cause, but at the very least a strong contributing factor, that’s coming from the microbes that the person carries with them,” Julio Licinio, the study’s co-author, said.

Licinio added that the significance to this finding is that changing the microbes could have a therapeutic effect on subjects’ behavior, offering a new avenue for treatment.

The study also offers one more piece of evidence that microbiomes don’t just reflect mental illness, but could actually be causing mental illness.

“There is a possibility that there are some microbes that are very specific to mental illness,” Licinio said. “It would be a huge finding if that’s confirmed.”

Licinio added that this hasn’t been proven yet, but evidence so far points to the idea that there are at least some microbes that are specific to people with mental illness.

“So we are still being a little cautious because we don’t want to, you know, say, ‘Oh, this is the biggest breakthrough,’ and it’s not proven yet. But it seems to be the case that there are at least some microbes that are very specific to people with mental illness.”

General Misc. / Re: D&D module "inspired" by PON?
« on: September 14, 2019, 06:38:51 pm »
It might be inspired by PoN, though there have been a few "issues with the soul cycle" that preceded PoN's publication.

For example there was one where the PCs are expected to go to the Positive Energy Plane and protect the new born souls b/c some entity (an evil dragon IIRC) was doing some scheme.

Philosophy & Science / A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked
« on: September 11, 2019, 04:18:19 am »
A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked

From a bird’s-eye view, all these cases of noisy data look like any other noise, devoid of pattern. But it occurred to Schurger that if someone lined them up by their peaks (thunderstorms, market records) and reverse-averaged them in the manner of Kornhuber and Deecke’s innovative approach, the results’ visual representations would look like climbing trends (intensifying weather, rising stocks). There would be no purpose behind these apparent trends—no prior plan to cause a storm or bolster the market. Really, the pattern would simply reflect how various factors had happened to coincide.

“I thought, Wait a minute,” Schurger says. If he applied the same method to the spontaneous brain noise he studied, what shape would he get?  “I looked at my screen, and I saw something that looked like the Bereitschaftspotential.” Perhaps, Schurger realized, the Bereitschaftspotential’s rising pattern wasn’t a mark of a brain’s brewing intention at all, but something much more circumstantial.

Two years later, Schurger and his colleagues Jacobo Sitt and Stanislas Dehaene proposed an explanation. Neuroscientists know that for people to make any type of decision, our neurons need to gather evidence for each option. The decision is reached when one group of neurons accumulates evidence past a certain threshold. Sometimes, this evidence comes from sensory information from the outside world: If you’re watching snow fall, your brain will weigh the number of falling snowflakes against the few caught in the wind, and quickly settle on the fact that the snow is moving downward.

But Libet’s experiment, Schurger pointed out, provided its subjects with no such external cues. To decide when to tap their fingers, the participants simply acted whenever the moment struck them. Those spontaneous moments, Schurger reasoned, must have coincided with the haphazard ebb and flow of the participants’ brain activity. They would have been more likely to tap their fingers when their motor system happened to be closer to a threshold for movement initiation.

This would not imply, as Libet had thought, that people’s brains “decide” to move their fingers before they know it. Hardly. Rather, it would mean that the noisy activity in people’s brains sometimes happens to tip the scale if there’s nothing else to base a choice on, saving us from endless indecision when faced with an arbitrary task. The Bereitschaftspotential would be the rising part of the brain fluctuations that tend to coincide with the decisions. This is a highly specific situation, not a general case for all, or even many, choices.

Other recent studies support the idea of the Bereitschaftspotential as a symmetry-breaking signal. In a study of monkeys tasked with choosing between two equal options, a separate team of researchers saw that a monkey’s upcoming choice correlated with its intrinsic brain activity before the monkey was even presented with options.

In a new study under review for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Schurger and two Princeton researchers repeated a version of Libet’s experiment. To avoid unintentionally cherry-picking brain noise, they included a control condition in which people didn’t move at all. An artificial-intelligence classifier allowed them to find at what point brain activity in the two conditions diverged. If Libet was right, that should have happened at 500 milliseconds before the movement. But the algorithm couldn’t tell any difference until about only 150 milliseconds before the movement, the time people reported making decisions in Libet’s original experiment.

In other words, people’s subjective experience of a decision—what Libet’s study seemed to suggest was just an illusion—appeared to match the actual moment their brains showed them making a decision.

When Schurger first proposed the neural-noise explanation, in 2012, the paper didn’t get much outside attention, but it did create a buzz in neuroscience. Schurger received awards for overturning a long-standing idea. “It showed the Bereitschaftspotential may not be what we thought it was. That maybe it’s in some sense artifactual, related to how we analyze our data,” says Uri Maoz, a computational neuroscientist at Chapman University.

For a paradigm shift, the work met minimal resistance. Schurger appeared to have unearthed a classic scientific mistake, so subtle that no one had noticed it and no amount of replication studies could have solved it, unless they started testing for causality. Now, researchers who questioned Libet and those who supported him are both shifting away from basing their experiments on the Bereitschaftspotential. (The few people I found still holding the traditional view confessed that they had not read Schurger’s 2012 paper.)

“It’s opened my mind,” says Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at University College London who collaborated with Libet and reproduced the original experiments.

It’s still possible that Schurger is wrong. Researchers broadly accept that he has deflated Libet’s model of Bereitschaftspotential, but the inferential nature of brain modeling leaves the door cracked for an entirely different explanation in the future. And unfortunately for popular-science conversation, Schurger’s groundbreaking work does not solve the pesky question of free will any more than Libet’s did. If anything, Schurger has only deepened the question.

Is everything we do determined by the cause-and-effect chain of genes, environment, and the cells that make up our brain, or can we freely form intentions that influence our actions in the world? The topic is immensely complicated, and Schurger’s valiant debunking underscores the need for more precise and better-informed questions.

Philosophy & Science / The Quantum of Life?
« on: September 07, 2019, 11:01:53 pm »
The Quantum of Life?

A number of recent scientific papers, some of which are listed in the “references” section below, have addressed the concept of a living universe. Let’s imagine for a moment that they are right. What would this mean for astrobiology’s perspective on the origin and nature of life, and for its exploration? 

Our ability to characterize nature relies on our capacity to question it, which depends in part on the technology available at any given period of time. It also relies on the human mind, which is notoriously poor at grasping holistic perspectives and better at dividing objects of inquiry into intellectually chewable bites. Too often, we overlook that our own limitations, not nature, generate isolating boxes, definitions and boundaries.

With time, the boxes become the entire landscape when they were simply meant to be pieces of a puzzle that connect with one another. These boxes shape and challenge our approach to scientific questioning, the development of intellectual frameworks, the boldness of our hypotheses, and our perspectives. They set artificial boundaries of where answers can be found, but also their nature and scope.

The search for the origin and nature of life epitomizes this challenge. It is the ultimate thought experiment, one in which we are fully immersed, like drops of water wondering about the ocean, struggling to define our own boundaries, when there may be none. It could be that the definition of a drop is variable, the answer possibly residing more in the changing nature of the ocean at any given time than in a true separation of the part from the whole. Maybe the drop is the ability of the ocean to infinitely shape-shift.

Is the absence of a consensus for the definition of life a reflection of methodological and technical limitations, constrained intellectual frameworks—or both? Science is without a doubt increasingly better at characterizing what life does with each passing day but brings comparatively fewer advances to the identification of what life is and how it originates. In that respect, the current exploration of the question of life could be compared to plumbing, which masters piping, cares about the interactions between the water and the pipes but does not touch on the origin and nature of water.

Is it because the answer resides at scales and resolutions technology cannot yet achieve, or is it that life is the result of exotic physicochemical processes yet to be discovered—or none of those things? Maybe the issue does not reside so much here, but rather in the way we approach the question itself, which is the result of how we are conditioned to think. It may be that life actually is what life does, that the answer has been in front of us all along, so obvious that we just don’t recognize it because our intellectual frameworks do not allow the space for us to see it.

Astrobiology expresses this challenge in its strategic vision through key questions: What is life? How will we know when we have found it? Can we draw a boundary between prebiotic chemistry and life? The first two questions speak about the fundamental nature of life, and our ability to recognize it beyond Earth when we still cannot clearly define it on our own planet. The last one inquires about the separation between living and nonliving, opening a space to discuss whether the passage from prebiotic chemistry to life is a transition or a stochastic shift.

Theories of consciousness and how consciousness relates to neural/homolog systems are being developed in the fields of physics, cognitive sciences and information theory. While their perspective is different from biocentrism, they provide pathways to explore the interaction between life, environment and the universe, and the relationship between life and consciousness. With consciousness shaping our perception of the environment and the universe, integrating information, organizing and interacting with it, and possibly transforming it, some of these theories, including biocentrism, bring the origin and nature of life to the quantum level.

Although they still need to be proven falsifiable, such theories invite us to shift our perception and consider what would happen to astrobiology’s questions when addressed from this viewpoint. If verified, a “theory of everything” takes life’s origin to the beginning of the universe. Because it involves interactions at the quantum level, it may also mean a theory of everywhere, in which the separation between living and nonliving is not a fundamental difference of nature between them, but a difference in the amount of energy and complexity of information that is being integrated, organized, stored, transformed and exchanged at any single moment. What separates living from nonliving is only the limit of our own awareness of these interactions.

In that frame of reference, Gaia is not a cybernetic feedback system operated unconsciously by the biota anymore but a conscious symbiosis at a planetary scale. Coevolution is not what happens when life comes into being. It merely defines the threshold of our awareness of life’s ability to shape the universe.

For centuries, the notion of a conscious universe has rested as an exercise in philosophy (panpsychism). These recent works based on scientific observations and experiments blur the boundaries between the humanities, biology, information technology, cognitive sciences and cosmology. Most importantly, they shift the frame of reference for exploration.

The search for life beyond Earth is not so much a search anymore if everything we are, we live on, interact with and observe is alive. Rather, it becomes an exploration of life’s expression of diversity and complexity– not in the universe but by the universe, and a search on how to connect and exchange information with it.

Philosophy & Science / Re: Dementia Made a New Man Out of My Dad
« on: September 07, 2019, 09:33:00 pm »
I think now I am rambling quite a bit, as I am sure vastly smarter people have considered this and it's likely nonsense.

I'm curious - can you elaborate on how you see Sartre's "radical freedom" as being akin to the Dunyain idea of a self-moving soul...assuming that I've read you right and that is what you're seeing...

General Misc. / Re: Quotes
« on: September 07, 2019, 05:02:39 am »
Being alone is painful, but it’s pain you can get used to, like a chronic ache in the back, the stomach, in the hands. You have your dignity to brace yourself with, although it may not go numb until you get too old. It is the pain of not quite being a walking corpse. Even the coward who cringes inside his paroxysm of fright is more alive.

People must hurt each other, as inevitably as they breathe. Nothing can stop it. It’s not enough to accept it. Accepting it is not enough, like sighing resignedly and putting on an attitude of long-suffering. Don’t get to be too good at protecting yourself. You’ve got to be ripped to pieces for the one you love, again and again. That doesn’t prove anything but love, and its entitlements are a frailty that can’t be held. But you will live even in that hell. The fire that hurts you gives off light like any other fire, that illuminates beautiful things, and that is beautiful itself. 

Far below, a new light, spreading in all directions. I see the deep sun. Sinking toward it, I begin to feel its warmth.

 -Michael Cisco, The Great Lover

I don't think Cisco is trying to advocate putting up with physical abuse, rather I think he's saying love not only can be but will be torturous emotionally...

Philosophy & Science / Dementia Made a New Man Out of My Dad
« on: September 06, 2019, 03:35:21 pm »
Dementia Made a New Man Out of My Dad

Raised in Apartheid-era South Africa, my mixed-race father had no shortage of scars. But as dementia overpowered his brain, I met a man I never knew existed.

It was a moment of pure delight. My dad got up from his recliner next to the big picture window in the sitting room of my parents’ house. The music that we always played caught his ear, and for some reason he closed his eyes and started to move to the music. “At first, I didn’t know what he was doing,” Mom said to me afterward. There he was, hands by his sides, smiling, and dancing slowly. Mom and I were thrilled. To say this was out of character for my dad would be quite an understatement. Dad had never been one to give way to his feelings or express much emotion. He always seemed to be guided by a fear that others would judge him as somehow wanting, less than others. But here he was just responding to how the music made him feel. Pure and simple.

They say you should always look for a silver lining in dark times. I would have never thought that dementia – the darkest of clouds – could even produce a glimmer of one. Turns out, I was wrong.

These experiences helped to intensify my dad’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity throughout his life. He was a perfectionist and, frustratingly, Dad always wanted to be right. The end result was someone who was emotionally distant.

But amidst the distress of dementia, in his mind, doors gently closed, locking away memories and feelings that had plagued him throughout his life. It was astounding how his longstanding feelings of failure seemed to dislodge and slip away, how he gradually emerged from his shell.

I noticed it the first time I visited after my dad had fallen ill. I remember when he greeted me at the top of the stairs, he proceeded to give me a hug. I’m not sure what I was thinking beyond shock. Hugging my dad of old was always like hugging a rock – no response.

But not this time.

Now, the idea, more broadly speaking, that mind-altering substances and/or the induction of mind-altering states (say, via meditation or a drum circle) can lead to actual, genuine "transcedental" knowledge or understanding of the universe -- of that I am basically convinced until proven otherwise, lol. 

Curious - Incommunicable initiatory knowledge, philosophical insight into varied "Hard Problems", or anomalous knowledge transfer from some Other or maybe "just" the Subconscious (say mathematical knowledge)?

I'm admittedly being a bit extra contrarian here...but I suspect this is the future when you look at demographic shifts globally and the inclusion of more religious nations into the global scientific community. Even the "nones" of the West will include the lady above...

Contrarian to your hearts content :). I can tell there's a point you're driving at but not sure I've figured it out.

Can you explain what you mean with this last post?

I'm thinking of a few years old Pew Research projection, "Why people with no religion are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population":

Parallel this with an expected rise of more non-Western nations participating in a global scientific community along with the decline of materialism as the metaphysical "brand" of science.

We'll probably see more stuff with people at the least having prayed for a solution to a scientific problem showing up in interviews, and probably every so often someone speaking publicly about experiences like those above.

I'm admittedly being a bit extra contrarian here...but I suspect this is the future when you look at demographic shifts globally and the inclusion of more religious nations into the global scientific community. Even the "nones" of the West will include the lady above...

Eh, the two seem different, but im not sure how to demarcate the difference.

People can still make objective observations... ie "do science" ... when they are passionate. But there's some line that can be crossed. Certainly, there'd be no experiments done in any field if no one cared about what they were doing.

On the other hand, if your subject is telling you truths like a God directly into your mind, and you belive that its predicting the future, you probably stepped over that line at some point and became a worshiper rather than a scientist. Right?

So, thinking your plants are gods, and thinking space is neat, seem not to be on the same level.

Tyson is an atheist evangelist, so is that enough to make him forcibly retire? He has also advocated MWI, the nonsense explanation for wave function (non) collapse.

It seems to me if someone is doing the research openly and honestly so we can evaluate & replicate their findings that person hasn't crossed any lines? (Exceptions might be made for people harming the public good, like Dawkin's downplaying child molestation...)

I dont think anyone can truly do good science when you're this close to the subject.

Why I've been waiting for Neil Degrasse Tyson to retire after he tried to get the US gov't to fun his personal hobby of space travel. ;-)

Do Plants Have Something to Say? One Scientist is Listening

Ellie Shechet

Monica Gagliano says that she has received Yoda-like advice from trees and shrubbery. She recalls being rocked like a baby by the spirit of a fern. She has ridden on the back of an invisible bear conjured by an osha root. She once accidentally bent space and time while playing the ocarina, an ancient wind instrument, in a redwood forest. “Oryngham,” she says, means “thank you” in plant language. These interactions have taken place in dreams, visions, songs and telekinetic interactions, sometimes with the help of shamans or ayahuasca.

This has all gone on around the same time as Dr. Gagliano’s scientific research, which has broken boundaries in the field of plant behavior and signaling. Currently at the University of Sydney in Australia, she has published a number of studies that support the view that plants are, to some extent, intelligent. Her experiments suggest that they can learn behaviors and remember them. Her work also suggests that plants can “hear” running water and even produce clicking noises, perhaps to communicate.

Plants have directly shaped her experiments and career path. In 2012, she says, an oak tree assured her that a risky grant application — proposing research on sound communication in plants — would be successful. “You are here to tell our stories,” the tree told her.

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