On the Importance of Pattern Recognition

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I observe myself staring into the void, or looking at people’s faces, movements, behaviors. I listen to their words, and I have a strange and distant feeling of “outerness". But what am I thinking about exactly?

I think about thought.

In particular, I ask myself the reason we do anything. Really, why do we do anything? Why do we wake up, grab a cup of coffee, have children, work, watch films, take hikes, why do we do anything at all, as opposed to nothing? I’ve been so caught up with the everyday TODOs that sometimes I get the feeling I'm moving in autopilot mode, but I don’t really question why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I believe this to be one of the fundamental questions of existence.

The first answer that came to mind is evolutionary, and it’s probably the most obvious one. Certain instincts, physical and behavioral traits were selected for by the process of evolution, and now we exhibit them, without necessarily having a reason, other than random chance, natural selection, and time.

But then I thought about it some more. I came to the conclusion that life is about patterns, and living beings value pattern recognition more than anything else.

Think about it. What makes a gazelle successful? It must spot lions and other threats effectively and efficiently, react in a split second without wasting energy. Based on the limited information it has available at any moment, it must act accordingly. Spotting the lion requires sophisticated vision, auditory, and potentially olfactory systems, all of which are intensely focused on recognizing patterns, and raising the alarm when a specific one is spotted. Activating the muscles and beginning the complex process of moving four coordinated limbs to propel the entire body forward while staying in balance is another case of pattern recognition and execution, coupled with a feedback loop of the body’s response, which leads to another state, which requires more pattern recognition and so forth. In algorithmic terms, it’s a recursive function (albeit simplified).

What makes a person successful?

Science Proves the Existence of God... or Not

On Dec. 26, 2014 an opinion piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled “Science Increasingly makes the case for God.” As it happens with these things, it went viral. Since then, many rebuttals have been written, including a very detailed article by Ethan Siegel and a letter to the editor by Lawrence Krauss, disputing the WSJ specious science claims. Unfortunately the editors of the WSJ failed to print their response, so I posted them here for your convenience.

I shall refrain from commenting, aside from adapting a quote of the great Douglas Adam:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says man, "[that article in the Wall Street Journal says that science] proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

A response to Scaruffi's Millennium Questions

This is an attempt to respond to the 10 Millennium Questions posed by Piero Scaruffi on his last blog post. Be advised, I shall not succeed. But I shall have fun trying.

I took the liberty of creating a title for each question, to better organise them visually. I apologise in advance if by doing so I simplified the concepts to the point of inaccurately depicting them. Please refer to the full text of the question, and use the title merely as a reference.

1. What medium can we use to perceive other universes?

A particle that has no mass, the photon (i.e. light), is the medium that allows us (objects with mass) to perceive the other objects with mass that populate this universe. What kind of medium can help us perceive other universes that are based on different physical laws? A thing that obeys no physical law?
λν = c
E = hν

I suppose the reason we used light, as of now, is due to the fact that:

  1. our eyes have evolved to perceive objects through this medium, which in turn made us create mental frameworks to make sense of such perceptions
  2. thanks to Einstein's work on the photoelectric effect and subsequently Niels Bohr's research on quantum mechanics, Richard Feynman's efforts on quantum electrodynamics and many others, we have a set of theories that allowed to overlook other potential candidates for perceiving objects

We know so little about other forces that seem to interact with us in strange and mysterious ways that any attempt to explain further with our current understanding would be mere speculation.

And so I shall.

Dark Matter and Dark Energy are just placeholder names for seemingly unexplained forms of matter and energy that (apparently) poorly interact with ordinary matter, but they could really be a family of energies or media, which could follow laws that we don't know yet, or laws that don't fit with our universe. It could be that "dark energy" exists in another bubble universe next to our own, and that all we see is the shadow effect of dark energy from that universe being close to us. It could be that such energy transfers through a currently unknown medium from universe to universe, and by moving from one bubble to another it changes its properties.

Or, I could be completely wrong (most likely).

Einstein was wrong (COMIC)

Would be interesting to see a comparison before-and-after CERN's apparent discovery of neutrinos' superluminal velocities.

Hover image for alt tag ;)

Made Easy Series

A few months ago I stumbled across a rare and pleasant event.

YouTuber potholer54 created a series of videos explaining the history of our universe, the origin of life, the Earth, the scientific method and much more, all with a clarity and intelligence that is as appreciated as rare in these days. A truly remarkable piece of work that I think everybody should see.

The material is released under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY-NC-SA) and anyone is encouraged to use it under those conditions.

The original series was uploaded at a very poor video quality, so after a brief exchange of messages with Peter (AKA potholer54), he uploaded the whole series at 720p on a dedicated YouTube channel, and I offered this space to manage the subtitling process.

You are welcome to participate, we use the Free and Open Source platform Universal Subtitles. If you wish to download the episodes, use one of the many Chrome and Firefox extensions or one of the many sites that exists with that purpose.

Guidelines for transcribers

  • Try to keep the subs under ~70 characters, so the the languages that use more characters for a sentence can keep their subs in two lines in the screen.
  • Partition the subs in semantically sensible places in the sentences (i.e.: in final periods; in commas; before an 'and'
  • Try to keep subs longer than 1.5 seconds (minimum comfortable level used in TV show's subs

Have fun! :D

1 - The History of Our Universe (Part 1)

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