Monday, October 27, 2008

Self, the Origin - Part 1

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3
The Self, the conscious mind (or the soul from a spiritual outlook) - How did we get this? or what are the fundamental prerequisites for the birth of 'self'? Before I get deep into that, let me share some of the questions, which bothered me since my high school days.

1.     Why is our vision tuned to the light spectrum (and not radio waves, x-rays, or infrared) of the electromagnetic wave?
2.     Why do we think in a rational way?
3.     Why do we (humans) all look different (except the identical twins)?
4.     Why do we have just 5 senses and not 3 or 7?
5.     Why do we have our own identity? Why cannot I see/know what others think?


There are many species, where their vision is tuned into a different spectrum of the electromagnetic wave. For example, Bats (dolphins, whales) cannot see the way we see our environment. It uses ultrasound signals (Echo Location) to see the objects in front of it and flies away if finds one in its path. So, think about it, if we had a vision where we got tuned into ultra-sound or x-rays. You could imagine how we can see things. Imagine seeing your friends as a skeleton (How do u differentiate them?) or a dark object (ultra-sound). Following image shows the electromagnetic wave and different wavelengths in it.

As per the above picture our vision is tuned somewhere between a wavelength of 10-6 to 10-7 (m), while remotes of TV, DVD player etc are tuned into 10-6 to 10-3 and some of the bats are tuned into ultraviolet spectrum 10-7 to 10-8 (m).  Your favorite FM station is tuned to 10 to 102 (m) in wavelength. So, the question remains, why did our vision tuned into this spectrum? Let us look at the second question (Why do we think in a rational way?) in the series and see if we can connect all these to our ultimate question the origin of ‘Self’.

Rational World – is it really rational?
The thought of rational world is connected with the fact that it is ordered. The Earth goes around the Sun, The Moon goes around Earth, there is an order to all these. Events do not happen in the random order; they are related in some way. It is this connection gives birth to the notion of cause and effect. An example. The window breaks because a cricket ball (a British game) strikes it and the ball was hit by a batsman and he hit the ball because a bowler bowled it and so on.

Closely related to causality is the idea of determinism. Determinism carries the implication that the state of the world at one moment suffices to fix its state at a later stage. Determinism was a key element in the Newtonian Laws of Mechanics proposed in the 17th century. Example. Positions and Velocities of planets can be determined at any point in our solar system using Newton’s Laws. Newton’s law doesn’t contain time as a direction. So, we can predict the eclipses in the future and also retrofit their occurrences in the past. So, if the world is strictly deterministic then all the events are built in a matrix of cause and effect. All the religion focuses on cause and effect as a fundamental principle in an effort to determine what’s good and bad. Now let us move forward into the 20th century and see what happened to the Newtonian deterministic world. On a side note its interesting think about destiny when you think about causality. In fact, destiny can be defined as the reverse causality where the cause is predated by an effect. Destiny in connection with fate can be discussed at a later stage once we get some hold on the origin of the ‘Self’.

The matrix of cause and effect (as a fundamental principle) got into trouble with the discovery of Quantum Mechanics in the 1920’s. What we found in subatomic world is the absence of deterministic world. In the atomic world, indeterminism is built into its fabric. Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is an expression of this indeterminism. Numerous tests of quantum mechanics have proved/confirmed that the uncertainty is indeed inherent in quantum systems (at subatomic level). So, does this mean that universe is irrational after all?

Not at all.

Effects of quantum mechanics are not noticeable at the macroscopic scale. Which means in the observable universe nature tends to follow deterministic laws. Now, what is the observable universe? Who decides what can be observable? Who is observing whom? That’s another set of question, we need to think about.

The observable universe

The observable universe is the 3+1 dimensional (3 spatial – length, breadth, and height) universe we live in and adding time as the 4th dimension makes our observable universe complete. However, according to String theory, there are 10+1 dimensions (10 spatial and 1 time) in the universe (that’s the mathematical prediction of string theory and not what we experience as the 3+1 dimensional universe). So, the current observable 3+1 Dimensional universe – is that only for the human species? An interesting question we may not able to find the answer soon. Think about a 2+1 dimensional world where you have 2 spatial dimensions (length and breadth and NO height) along with one-time dimension. The planet in the 2+1D world (time 3rd Dimension) will be a flatland (Flatland: A romance of many dimensions 1884 fiction by Edwin Abbot), and the species in that land will be like circle, square, rectangle etc.

Think about how these species react when they encounter someone from our world (3+1D). Let us take the example from the flatland perspective: if a put a hole in a flat paper (the 2+1 D world of the flatland people) using a pencil, the people in the flatland will see a small circle in their land becoming bigger and bigger then it stops. Now if we take someone out of that 2D land and bring him to our 3D world and show him exactly what happened, how will he go back and explain to his fellow beings about another dimension. They are going to call him crazy.  Following images shows the different spatial dimensions.

A 3D projection of a four-dimensional hypercube performing a simple rotation about a plane which bisects the figure from front-left to back-right and top to bottom. Created by Jason Hise with Maya and Macromedia Fireworks.

So, after looking at all these different dimensions – we can ask the question again – why are we in the 3+1 dimensional world. Maybe 3 spatial dimension is the minimum requirement for the consciousness to reach the level where it can see the universe and try to enjoy the beauty of nature and unravel the mysteries one by one. Imagine if the time dimension is not there. Then the concept of past, present, and future is gone and events are going to unfold in a random order. So, for rational thinking or to understand mysteries of the nature the consciousness require the time factor along with the 3 spatial dimensions. Without time the change will become constant. You can measure the change only if you can compare it (change) in two-time frames. As we start to live in ‘now’, we do not see the change as it happens.

Let us recap some of the key points.
  1.  Why is our vision (mind) tuned to the light spectrum in the electromagnetic wave? Maybe that is the best frequency to see and understand the 3+1 (3 spatial, 1 time) dimensional world.
  2. Three (spatial) dimensional space with time as the fourth dimension will be the basic fabric requirement for the brain to develop the concept of ‘self’ which will result in the ‘self’ trying to understand the universe and how the self itself got created in the first place!
  3. Time is a critical dimension (along with the 3 spatial dimensions) for the birth of ‘self’. Without the concept of past, present, and future, it is difficult to learn and compare things in this 3+1 space.
Something more is required apart from the above three points for the concept of self to be projected by our mind. A forward direction of time becomes critical for the evolution of consciousness to assemble the required events together in a logical order. Before the consciousness (human mind) started to string things together, it needs to identify itself first. Let us look at that in the next section (part 2) and address the 3rd question in the series – why do we (humans) all look different (except the identical twins)? We will see that in the next section.

Read more in Part 2 of the series.



Flower visiting bats seem to need UV-vision, as the flowers they visit in the rainforest are characterized by a strong reflection of UV-spectrum light at night.
Ultraviolet vision in mammals is a rarity, known only in a few rodents and marsupials. So the discovery of UV vision in an echolocating nectar-feeding bat is a surprise. Bats orientate primarily by echolocation but bats do have eyes and make some use of vision. The phyllostomid flower bat is colour-blind but UV-sensitive down to a wavelength of about 310 nm. 
Many fish, reptiles, birds, and insects are able to see ultraviolet light. Some even use pigments that reflect it to attract mates and communicate. But most mammals have lost the ability to see ultraviolet light and lack the cellular machinery necessary to detect it.
The use of UV vision is associated strongly with UV-dependent behaviors of organisms. When UV light is not available or is unimportant to organisms, the SWS1 gene can become nonfunctional, as exemplified by coelacanth and dolphin.

Sub Atomic world – Quantum Physics

1. Wikipedia – Quantum Physics

Internet videos

1. David Bohm on perception

2. Holographic Universe - Michael Talbot - 1 of 12

Holographic Universe - 2 of 12

Holographic Universe - 3 of 12

Holographic Universe - 4 of 12

Holographic Universe - 5 of 12

Holographic Universe - 6 of 12

Holographic Universe - 7 of 12

Holographic Universe - 8 of 12

Holographic Universe - 9 of 12

Holographic Universe - 10 of 12

Holographic Universe - 11 of 12

Holographic Universe - 12 of 12

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