Saturday, June 25, 2005

Seeing is easy with eyes closed...

This is what I see when I close my eyes, or in a dark room at night, I used to think the dots were little ufo's when I was a kid :)

I spent a while getting it right, and it's spot on, exactly what I see :)

Click it to see it proper size, and imagine it's all you see in your field of view pulsing and moving gently about

Here are some pictures that Andy Coulter used on a blog post as an analogy of what he see's with his eyes closed, definite similarities, please send me pics of what you see!!

I'd love to hear if you see the same, please click comment and let me know. You dont need an account with blogger.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hello, my name's Rob and I'm a sudokuholic

Yes, it's online su-doku a simple yet addictive logic puzzle,
and there's a different one every day!!

ahhh, that's better

Monday, June 13, 2005

Trees and things

I've been asked to discuss a particularly interesting question.

If a tree falls in a forest, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound.

I suppose I'll start by saying that there are many ways to look at this question, and it leads on to many others. The question, in it's simplest form, seems easy to answer, yes you may think, if a tree falls it makes a sound, regardless of whether there is anyone there or not.

But there are complications, what do we mean by sound, and how can we prove that the tree makes a sound. We can define sound in many ways, the oxford english dictionary defines sound as:

• noun 1 vibrations which travel through the air or another medium and are sensed by the ear. 2 a thing that can be heard. 3 music, speech, and sound effects accompanying a film or broadcast. 4 an idea or impression conveyed by words.

All of a sudden we see that the tree, by this definition does not make any sound, as there are no ears to sense it. The tree, we assume, does make vibrations in the air, but these are not sensed.

So the question brings complications based on our use of common words like "sound", and the more you think about it, the weirder it gets, imagine the tree falling now, and making that loud cracking sound, but that sound is made by the vibration of your eardrums and your brains interpretation of that vibration, and here there are no eardrums to vibrate, no ears to hear it, and because there are no ears, the tree falls in complete silence, hitting the ground without making a sound. It is only once we introduce a pair of ears that there is sound, but before, just silent soundless vibrations in the air!

However there is an even more thought provoking side to the question.

How can we be certain that an event occurs, if we do not observe it.

This question was summed up by a physicist called Schroedinger who put forward the idea for a rather interesting experiment.

Put a cat in a box, with a vial of poison, and a radioactive isotope... the isotope has an exactly 50% chance of giving of a certain particle which will be detected inside the box, and the poison will be released. The box is soundproof and there is no way to see the cat, so you have no idea if the cat is alive or dead, until you open the box.

Schroedinger postulated that the cat was neither alive or dead... but that it remained in a bizzare state called quantum uncertainty, and it wasn't until you opened the box that you brought a resolution to this state and the cat became alive or dead...

It sounds pretty far fetched, and I'm not going to go into the details (google: Schroedingers cat) but what's even more bizzare is that this so-called "quantum uncertainty" and the "collapsing of quantum waveforms" has actually, on much smaller scales than that of a cat (try individual particles) been proved correct!!!

experiments have shown that particles, in certain situations hang in a sort of limbo untill observed, and once observed snap into their observed state.

This doesn't happen on larger scales like cats and trees, but it's worth remembering that while the cat in the box does either die or live, and the tree in the forest does make vibrations in the air... things are not always what they seem, and our observing them can have implications and, on a quantum level, we cant say that something happens, even if it should theoretically have done so, unless we observe it.

To finish then, the question challenges us on many levels, it challenges our perception of reality, it's very hard to imagine that tree falling in colmplete silence, yet it does, because noone is there to hear it, and it's harder still to imagine that the very act of observing something can change it. that by us looking at the world, we alter it.

The ultimate extension of the question is this.

If there were no observers in the universe, noone to see anything happening, would the universe exist.


Sunday, June 05, 2005


A clip from a conversation

> Imagine a detective. His job is to find the truth, who dunnit. Then one day
> he becomes a philosopher and now he asks "what is truth?". The discussion
> lasts for decades and does not get resolved. How does philosophy help
> him to do his job?

Philosophy is the means by which we understand how to think. And to make sense of the world around us.

> What is your purpose in doing philosophy? Do you have a purpose for
> doing philosophy?

To understand the world around us and to learn how to think better. To find meaning to my existence.

> If a question in philosophy did get resolved, what would you do? Would
> you keep on arguing? Would you find a practical application? Or what?

I've always considered myself a 'commercial philosopher,' in which I want answers to solve my own pressing issues and the issues around me. I'm not interested in 'ivory tower' or 'intellectual' philosophy, I want things that work here and now, not discussions of what 'here' and 'now' are and whether or not they exist.

If a particular software package gets developed, it doesn't stop someone from developing something else. There are lots more questions.

What happens when we die?
Is there life after death?
What happens before we die?
Is there life before death?
Why does it feel like I am the only person in the universe?
Is there more than one universe?
Is there intelligent life outside of earth? (Is there intelligent life ON earth?)
What is my purpose in life?
What is the purpose of life in general?