10 Theories That Will Make Your Brain Do Backflips
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. Science advances one funeral at a time.” ~Max Planck
1.) White Holes and the Theory of Eternal Black Holes:
“Not only does God throw dice, but he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.” ~Stephen Hawking
Black holes are the most powerful things in the universe. Their mass is so dense that gravity becomes almost infinitely powerful. Not even light can escape black holes.
White holes are the deeply theoretical hidden mirror twins of black holes. Stranger than black holes, white holes are literally the opposite of a black hole. Their mass is constantly being ejected. Light can only escape a white hole.
An eternal black hole is the simplest black hole possible according to the mathematics of Karl Schwarzschild. He came up with what is known as the Schwarzchild Metric, which describes a black hole without spin, charge, or change, and which doesn’t grow or shrink but has always existed.
Basically, the eternal black hole’s singularity exists both in the infinite future and in the infinite past. Wow! And, here’s the fascinating rub, the eternal singularity of the past matches the mathematical description of a white hole. It obeys the laws of general relativity, and the mathematics of relativity is time-reversal-symmetric. So, a white hole could be a big bang. The big bang could very well be a white hole which was the result of a super massive black hole in another space-time that reached an infinite singularity, took a dip in entropy, and then erupted into our space-time as a white hole big bang. Wrap your frontal lobe around that.
2.) Fermat’s Last Theorem:
“Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back.” ~Piet Hein
Fermat’s last theorem was the most notorious problem in the history of mathematics. Pierre De Fermat was one of the all-time great mathematical geniuses. Posthumously, mathematicians discovered many of his proofs in the margins of books. Over time, all but one of them was solved: Fermat’s Last Theorem. It was almost universally considered inaccessible to proof by contemporary mathematicians, seen as virtually impossible to prove using current knowledge.
For three centuries, mathematicians had been trying to find a proof for Fermat’s last theorem. Its fame became world renown. But where other mathematicians failed, Andrew Wiles succeeded. Wiles’ proof is a whopping 129 pages long and contains the usage of many techniques from modern algebraic geometry, number theory, Iwasawa theory, and the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture. All of which were largely unavailable in Fermat’s time.
Published in 1995, it is widely regarded as the proof of the century. Here’s an article explaining exactly why it is so impressive. It has taken years to be fully embraced. But since then, Andrew Wiles earned a knighthood and the 2016 Abel Prize for his efforts.
3.) The Many-Worlds theory (multiverse):
“Applying the uncertainty principle to the universe naturally leads to a multiverse” ~Michio Kaku
Hugh Everett came up with the idea in the 1950’s to allow cosmology to treat a wavefunction for the universe. The many-worlds interpretation resolves the mystery of the conscious observer by the sensible-seeming ploy of including consciousness as part of the physical universe described by quantum mechanics.
Governing the precepts of the many-worlds interpretation, it stands to reason that each and every electron, photon, and proton are in an infinite superposition across the multiverse of reality. The wavefunction of each infinite element collapses only when something (a conscious observer for example) attempts to measure it. In fact, if you want to take the interpretation literally, the photon itself is not even a photon until it is observed. Before observation, the photon is merely an infinite smeared-out wavefunction entangled with everything else.
The many worlds interpretation is sometimes claimed to beat all others by Occam’s razor, on the grounds that it requires no physical assumptions. Accepting it requires only the courage necessary to accept that the same rules that apply to small isolated systems, like bunches of atoms, also apply to larger isolated systems without limit, therefore including the largest possible one –our universe taken as a whole.
4.) Dunning-Kruger effect:
“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.” ~Socrates, Plato’s Apology
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of illusory superiority that arises when our unconscious insecurities develop delusions of grandeur to overcompensate and alleviate the conflicting feeling of discomfort going on inside us. Put simply: stupid people are less likely to know how stupid they really are and more likely to think they are smarter than they really are.
The opposite of this is the imposter syndrome, where smart people tend to underestimate their abilities compared to others. So, let’s get this straight. If you’re dumb, you think you’re smart; and if you’re smart, you think you’re dumb. Great!
When it comes down to it, most of us are either confident idiots or incompetent smarty-pants. It’s just that some of us are better at recognizing it than others. This short video by John Cleese sums it up hilariously.
The interesting thing is this: You are more likely to be right by admitting that you are more likely wrong than by declaring that you are more likely right. As The Bard himself surmised, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
5.) Epistemological Solipsism (simulated universe):
“I think therefore I am(?)” ~René Descartes
Also known as the brain in a jar thought experiment, epistemological solipsism is solipsism taken to the nth degree. Basic solipsism asserts that nothing exists but one’s own consciousness. But, existentially speaking, there’s no reason why solipsism can’t be taken further, where one cannot even be certain of one’s own consciousness. Despite Descartes’ cogito ergo sum. Because even our thoughts could be predetermined aspects of reality that cause us to imagine that they are our own.
It could very well be a something controlling a something else controlling a brain controlling another brain, controlling our brain, ad absurdum and ad nauseum. And then there is the idea that everything could be a simulation. Like the brain in a jar meets computation and virtual reality. Even Elon Musk thinks we could be living in a simulation.
Certainty can be a tricky thing. Especially when we are questioning things with a wide epistemological brush using solipsistic paint on an existential canvas. The best we can do is doubt. Certainty seemingly gets us nowhere but stuck in either a cognitive bias, a logical fallacy, or both.
Of course, nothing is resolved by solipsism or the brain in a jar thought experiment. It cannot be proved either way. As such, epistemological solipsists consider this an “unresolvable” question. Making it one of the most powerful as well as the most irrelevant (albeit entertaining) of philosophical issues.
“Why should we be forced to assume that there is an essential difference between ‘true’ and ‘false’ in the first place? Isn’t enough to assume that there are degrees of apparency,… lighter and darker shadows and hues of appearance.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Touched upon as far back as Plato’s rendition of Protagoras, perspectivism is a philosophical view coined and expounded upon by Friedrich Nietzsche who argued that no purely objective science can exist because no idea or thought can exist outside the influences of an individual perception. There will always be the influence of culture and context which will always lead to biased perception. And since our perceptions are flawed and we cannot experience the world ‘as it is’, but always selectively, in a way that reflects our values, “truth” will always be limited by our flawed perspectives.
The beauty of perspectivism is that although no way of perceiving the world can be taken as definitively true, some ways of perceiving the world are more valid than others. The validity of the perception is determined by the interpretation of universal laws, and “truth” is determined by integrating different vantage points together regarding the interpretation of those laws; similar to Consilience, the unity of knowledge. As such, the laws are constantly reassessed according to the circumstances and accumulation of individual perspectives through time.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle
Fallibilism is Latin for “liable to err.” It is the understanding that we can never know anything for sure and is implied within the sciences. The basic claim is that all human knowledge could, in the end, due to our fallibility as a species and our inherent hypocrisy, be completely and utterly mistaken. In the most commonly used sense of the term, fallibilism implies an openness to new evidence that may refute a previously held opinion or belief while recognizing that any claim, scientific or otherwise, validated today may need to be revised or even withdrawn in light of new evidence, new disputes, and new encounters in the future. It embraces human fallibility and is therefore a benchmark toward understanding the human condition in relation to an ever-changing reality.
People tend to think that we have only two options regarding our approach to knowledge: certainty and uncertainty. But neither one gets us anywhere and leads to cognitive complacency. Certainty without uncertainty leads to cognitive stagnation. Uncertainty without certainty leads to cognitive trepidation. Between the two, there is a third option: cognitive integrity, which is founded upon implementing the philosophical tool of fallibilism. It’s just a matter of embracing and owning up to our fallibility as a species. Plus, it can prevent us from falling for #4 on this list. As St. Augustine famously said, “I err, therefore I am.”
8.) Saṃsāra’s Punarmrityu (re-death):
“The first truth, suffering, is characteristic of existence in the realm of rebirth, called samsara (literally “wandering”). ~Donald Lope
Samsara is the wandering karmic suffering that takes place between the parenthetic unchanging absolute –Atman (the self) and Brahman (the absolute)– on either end of the phenomenal world. It has been developed into a foundational theory of the nature of existence and the transmigration of the soul, shared by all Indian religions. Shirley Firth explains it in Dying, Death, and Bereavement as, “a cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence.”
Punarmrityu, or re-death, is the birth and death process in a new existence. It follows the transmigration of the soul (Atman) through its reincarnations. Basically, Punarmrityu is both the death of the afterlife-life which reemerges into a rebirth into the next life, as well as the death of the life lived after the rebirth back into the afterlife, in which the cycle continues: Birth/life/death; afterlife/re-death; rebirth/next-life/re-death; afterlife/re-death, so on and so forth.
The entire process is known as the doctrine of Samsara (reincarnation), which is attributed to the sage Uddalaka Aruni, and is also based on the doctrine of karma (“actions”), according to which the soul achieves a happy or unhappy rebirth (and re-death) according to its works in the previous life/afterlife.
9.) The Fermi Paradox:
“Perhaps we’ve never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there’s no sign of intelligent life.” ~Neil deGrasse Tyson
Where are all the aliens? Are they hiding behind dark energy? Are they simply too far away and the expansion of the universe keeps the growing distance too far for any intelligent life to reach any other intelligent life? Are we simply too different? Are we like ants to the advanced aliens who will just crush us when we get too big for our britches? Or is our human-centric bias blinding us to such an extent that we can’t see the answers because we don’t even understand the questions? Could the answer really be 42?
There is no way to know for sure. Perhaps we are simply too young of a species to even fathom the true nature of the universe and what it contains to even begin to beg the question of where all the aliens are. After all, we haven’t even reached a type-I civilization yet. Which leads us to the last brain-flipping theory on our list…
10.) The Kardashev Scale:
Nikolai S. Kardashev was a radio astronomer and among the pioneers of SETI. He is famous for categorizing future civilizations based on their ability to harness energy. Here are the main three (there are also types IV-VII proposed, but we’ll leave it with these three).
Type I civilization: This type can harness all the sunlight that falls on its planet. It can harness energy from its planet’s core. And it can conceivably control the weather, volcanoes and even earthquakes. We would need to boost our current energy production over 100,000 times to reach this status. Carl Sagan said that the Earth is more accurately described as a Type .7 civilization.
Type II civilization: This type can harness energy directly from its planet’s star by successfully constructing a “Dyson sphere,” which captures the suns energy and stores it for planetary use. This type can also utilize its solar system’s gas giants for hydrogen and other gases, as well as mine nearby asteroids.
Type III civilization: This type has gone galactic. It can harness the energy of an entire galaxy, siphoning billions of star systems. This type could conceivably even harness dark energy and dark matter however it saw fit to use it. With billions of Dyson spheres spread throughout the galaxy there will probably also be billions more advanced robots traversing star systems. At this point the mind boggles imagining what humans will be like. Will they even be human as we know it? We’ll never know.
As Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, said, unwittingly stumbling into deep philosophy, “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns –the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
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