Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Black Holes & The Human Multi-Lens Perceptions Of Reality

An interesting paper from Cambridge physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton featured on BBC2's Newnsight last night, in which she hypothesised that, contrary to scientific consensus, black holes may not exist after all. If she turns out to be right, it wouldn't surprise me much – my multi-lens of reality theory predicts that difficult counterintuitive things like black holes, infinities and singularities are examples of us being locked into limited physical perceptions by virtue of our being physical agents.

We cannot know how the science of the future will change our thinking, but we must also consider our differing perceptions of how things like black holes confound our intuition. Consider this strange peculiarity about nature: if I'm observing a black hole and a cat falls into the black hole I will see it approach the black hole's event horizon where it gets incinerated by the Hawking radiation (particles emitted as a result of the effects of quantum mechanics). But if at the same time you fall into the black hole along with the cat, you would observe the cat cross the horizon safely before encountering the singularity at the core of the black hole. 

Interestingly both your story and mine would be true respectively, but depending on the perception, we appear to have a condition under which the cat is both incinerated outside of the horizon and unincinerated inside the black hole. There would not be two simultaneous cats because as far as we know the laws of physics do not allow for information to be duplicated in that way. 

This must be an issue for the mind in that it is under the illusion that we can describe events both inside and outside the horizon simultaneously - but in actual fact, no mind can observe both at once. This means that the physical regime can only be apprehended if descriptions are restricted to the view of one single observer. Given that it is possible that there are extra dimensions (as in String Theory) that we may never interface with, and a general queerness to quantum physics that will likely always leave one aspect of a wave/particle duality 'uncertain', it may well be true that these things are mere shadows of a reality we will never fully apprehend.

The black hole has thus far been one of several phenomena in nature that indicates this. The black hole example shows the difference in perspectives; for a man entering the black hole there will be a contraction of length and an expansion of time. But while this will be noticed by an outside observer, it will not be noticed from his own local perspective because the standards with which he would ordinarily do the measuring would have altered too; that is, the standards of measuring contractions have contracted as well, and the standard of measuring time has expanded to make the expansion of time indecipherable. The logical corollary is that crossing the horizon will seem like normal time to him, unless he can register outside of his local perspective, in which case he would decipher the changes. 

Understanding that humans perceive reality through many different lenses gives us a better insight into just how much we can refine our understanding of reality. In considering, say, the transition from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian physics, or Euclidian geometry to Riemannian geometry, we make a useful inference about reality and the relationship humans have with it. What we realise is that reality isn't singularly Newtonian, Einsteinian, Euclidian or Riemannian, because the physics or geometry under examination is contingent upon the perceptual lens of the beholder. In other words, how reality is at any one time depends on the particular lens of reality of the person doing the perceiving.

In a similar sense, if you imagine something like a rock; once you zoom in on its deeper constituent parts, you will not find anything like what imagination has always supposed it to be. A hard rock, when probed further would reveal the deep mysteries of matter and sub-atomic energy - a whirling mass of particles and waves, consisting of a vast nexus of space, in which very small particles (electrons) move around the nucleus, and are bound to it by electric forces. That is to say, despite the rock’s appearance in front of our own naked eyes, everything appearing solid consists almost entirely of empty space. It is the exceptionally small particles dashing at stupendous speeds around the nucleus of the atom that gives atoms their solid appearance. 

My multi-lens of reality theory holds that just about every part of our reality that we interface with through perception or conception is made up of analogies, metaphors and symbolic expressions, and that the physical perceptions of reality are only one facet of reality – inextricable to minds like ours due to our being physical beings. Once we begin to trim away at the things that appear to warrant claims for having a necessary existence, I find we can even trim away the physical reality around which we employ our empirical considerations.  My gut feeling is that after all the trimming is done, the only things we’re going to find left in our qualification for necessary existence are God and mathematics. I will submit that all the rest is, in a certain sense, fiction – but not just any old fiction – it is a fictional interpretation that is for now a precursory disquisition to a dénouement that we are at present only tapping into.  As has been said before – it is an echo of a reality we have not yet heard in full. 

This can bring about a new perspective to our empirical endeavours – it is a new perspective where fiction and fact intersect in an embrace.  So, science is a fictional reality in the same qualitative sense that poetry, literature, theology and art are fictional realities.  But, as indicated, by ‘fictional’ I do not mean ‘non-factual’, I mean fictional in the sense that science is only one branch on a huge tree of human conceptions that involve objects that are real to the human mind in ways that they are not real in the reality ‘out there’ beyond the mind.  In other words, all the objects we convey in reductionist science (rocks, sand, water, atoms, protons, etc) are as they are because they are projected onto our minds.  If our mental conceptions are a tool box full of tools, science is one kind of creative tool for understanding reality, and mathematics is another, poetry another, and theology another, and so forth (often with overlap between them). 

This is what I mean when I say that our reality is largely made up of analogies, metaphors and symbolic expressions. Just as physical objects like trees, rocks and buildings are made up of smaller component parts - once we get down to the full reality of those smaller component parts, we find they are made up of, or only describable with, numbers (or more accurately, what those numbers represent).  This is evidenced by the fact that if we don't describe them with numbers and concomitant equations, we are forced to revert back to the macroscopic world of metaphor and analogy to describe them - particles, waves, forces, position, momentum, etc. Physical reality is in the eye of the beholder, it's just that humans are one kind of beholder. Any sense of the physical is bound up in the fact that we evolved in the realm of the physical mechanism of natural selection, so our neural network is implicitly physical, which makes our engagement with reality implicitly and explicitly physical.  It is due to this human-centred limitation that external reality to us is almost entirely expressed in terms of the metaphorical, analogical and symbolical.

Given the foregoing, we can see why Laura Mersini-Houghton’s hypothesis that black holes don’t exist after all is possibly more than an example of changing perceptions. If we accept, say, quantum physics as a synthesis of propositions that align themselves to a central conception, we find, as indicated above, that even that leaves us with an epistemological hiatus, and we then have to resort to macroscopic metaphors (particles, waves, position, momentum, states of possibility) to explain what our quantum concepts mean. That’s the best clue we have that we are locked in a macroscopic lens of reality in which physical interpretations are the only game in town when it comes to empirical investigations, but not the only game in town in realities outside of human physical conceptions.

* Photo courtesy of greenpacks.org

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