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Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Domain of the Apostrophe

Ever rethink a decision? When we say would've, might've, and should've we enter what I call the Domain of the Apostrophe: the uncertain and unprovable world of what might have been, if only. With 20-20 hindsight we can often this see clearer than what actually did happen.

In Fiction

In writing, there is a specific genre for this kind of speculation: alternative history fiction. What if Nixon were still president? (This is part of the plot line of Watchmen). What if Hitler or Napoleon had thought better and sought peace before their ill-fated Russian incursions? What if the South had won the American Civil War? If you can conceive of it, probably somebody has written a piece on it.

This genre is a kind of mash-up between sci-fi and historical fiction.

Yet another genre along these lines is time-travel fiction. What if you went back in time and shot Hitler? What if you went back in time and shot your own grandfather? This kind of fiction is interesting because it deals with paradox. Lots of movies and stories feature this device: the Terminator series is the most famous example. Alternate realities are created and a common theme is a time traveler going back into the past to change something to gain an advantage or, more importantly, to prevent an adversary from becoming a problem. This sort of plot is featured in Time Cop. Traveling back in time to prevent a global calamity is the main theme of Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys. Traveling back in time and accidentally changing history with disastrous results is the theme of the Harlan Ellison-originated screenplay for the famous Star Trek episode The City On The Edge Of Forever. The Doctor Who series is loaded with time travel as well.

The world line theory says that, when you make a decision, you are actually charting a course through a series of realities. If you had made a different decision, you would be in a different reality. The theory says both realities exist, but the one you are actually in is determined by the decisions made. So the world line you are on charts a course along the decisions you make. But what if you could travel between world lines?

Some authors call each world line an alternate reality. Others call them alternities, or just alternate earths. The Sliders series, with Jerry O'Connell, featured this specific kind of travel.

In Reality

Is there any physics to these stories or is it really only the stuff of fiction?

Consider dark matter. This is matter with mass, or at least gravitational effects, but with no discernible interaction with the electromagnetic spectrum. In other words, it is matter that is not directly observable, possibly phased out of existence, but which can still be detected. It can be detected by its gravitational lensing effect, for instance.

Estimates point to a majority of the mass of our universe coming from dark matter. What if dark matter were a manifestation of mass from a parallel universe? An alternate dark reality? Knowledge of dark matter could forever change the ways we think about our universe, and the ways we interact with it.

Consider dark energy. This is the energy and inter-workings of space itself. When we talk about a photon or even gravity as a wave, there must be something in space to transport it. The notion of a Bose-Einstein Condensate, which is theorized to permeate the fabric of space itself, helps us to comprehend what is meant by dark energy: energy contained in the vacuum of space. Extracting such energy is an opportunity that we should concentrate on: imagine plentiful free energy and the effect it could have on the world.

But when we figure out how to tweak the internal workings of space itself, then something new and wonderful can happen. We can fully understand it and probe the secrets of dark matter and once and for all satisfy ourselves whether alternate realities and mirror universes can actually exist.

We can never access alternate realities without a fuller understanding of the universe.

Perhaps the most interesting and singular scientific development lies in the concept of quantum entanglement, sometimes known as quantum teleportation. In this property of physics, two particles, such as photons, can be entangled and they can share quantum states. But, once entangled, they can nonetheless be separated by arbitrary distance and they still share a quantum state. When you change one of them, the quantum state of the other also changes. This has been verified by experimenters over kilometers. And the state change propagates out at the speed of light.

Were the state change instantaneous, it might indicate that somehow the particles are really somehow next to each other in some topology of space. But, since the state change propagates outward at the speed of light, it indicates that information inherently takes time to propagate through the fabric of the universe.

It doesn't seem to make any difference what matter is in between the separated paired particles. This state change happens anyway.

The really cool thing is that this property clearly may be exploited for quantum communications. And, of course, it could be used to make messages secure and unblockable.

My point here is that there are properties of the universe that we still do not fully comprehend. And we need to know why these properties exist and exactly how they function. Once we know this, our discoveries and knowledge will lead us to greater things.

Perhaps alternate realities will never be possible. Perhaps causality, the deterministic nature of cause-and-effect, will never be successfully undone. And perhaps we will all be safer for it.


  1. My (incomplete) TOE theorizes that quantum entanglement is resonance.

    The real world is coinductive. Here is what I wrote about this for the Copute language I am designing:

    "Coinductive World

    DEFINITION The world is a coinductive type, because its generative structure isn't known (i.e. we can't construct the world), and can only be observed. Also note that the model of the world as a singleton with an observed substructure, and that in the category of sets, the singleton set is the final (greatest) object."

    My comments in 2 of your other blogs apply here.

    Entropic gravity

    quantum computing

  2. At my, I wrote more on coinductive semantics.

    "Formal Models

    DEFINITION Formal models (a/k/a formal methods) is a broad discipline of various kinds of semantic models that are usually (at least partially) verified and enforced at compile-time.
    The aforementioned generative theory enables the ranking of formal models by the level of the terms in the concepts they model. The following are sorted by highest-level first.

    ↑ Denotational Semantics

    DEFINITION Denotational semantics are mathematical models that operate on categories, i.e. domains. They are expressed in the lower-level denotational semantics of the host language, i.e. they are hierarchy of semantics where each level transforms the lower-level syntax and semantics into a higher-level language (of the models).
    ↑ Category Theory
    Typically each of these domains is a partial-order, which defines a (inductive or coinductive respectively) type based on a initial (i.e. least) fixedpoint or final (i.e. greatest) object. Inductive types are defined by an initial algebra constructor that recurses from the initial fixpoint as its first input object, e.g. the abstract type, NaturalNumber = Zero + Succeeding NaturalNumber, is the inductive initial algebra for natural numbers and Zero is the initial fixedpoint. Coinductive types are defined by a final coalgreba constructor that recurses to the final output object, e.g. see Comonad below (see also).

    + Categorical Duality
    For example, the aforementioned constructor of the natural numbers inputs an object of the natural numbers and outputs a succeeding object of the natural numbers, where Zero is the initial natural number fixpoint. The recursive algebra and coalgebra of the Monad and Comonad are the join and cojoin methods respectively. The join flattens a recursive hierarchy of Monad[Monad[T]] to a Monad[T], and the initial fixpoint is the output of constructor, T -> Monad[T] (if input is None, then the constructor is equivalent to Monoid.identity, see below), all of which is known at compile-time. Dually, the cojoin lifts the recursive hierarchy of Comonad[T] to a Comonad[Comonad[T]], and the final object (how deep the lifted hierarchy) is determined only at runtime when the object of a Comonad is destructed.

    Thus inductive types model semantics with generative structure known (i.e. that can be recursively constructed) at compile-time, and coinductive types model semantics with structure that can be observed (i.e. recursively constructed) only at run-time. In layman's lingo, inductive types are things we know how to define and build from a known starting point, and coinductive types are things we know how to observe, but we don't know their internal structure.

    Objects of types Monad[T] and Comonad[T], that belong to the partial-order for Monad and Comonad, are not objects of type T. The partial-order algebra and coalgebra are join and cojoin respectively, which both have nothing to do with objects of type T. Any additional partial-orders that may be present in a subtype of Monad or Comonad are due to multiple inheritance.

    For example, if a subtype, Sub[T], of Monad[T] is also a subtype of the inductive type Monoid[Sub], then the subtype has an orthogonal recursive algebra Sub.Monoid.append and initial fixedpoint Sub.Monoid.identity, e.g. for subtype List[T], identity is the empty list and append is concatenation of two lists. It is important to note that the very abstract Monad inductive supertype is semantically orthogonal to other inductive supertype(s) of the subtype. The multiple inheritance of supertypes enables adding more meaning to the subtype, without conflating these meanings. This is an example of increased degrees-of-freedom..."