Saturday, April 10, 2010

The limits of our perception

The last century can be seen as the golden age of modern civilization. There has been exponential scientific growth and expansion of human knowledge about self and our surroundings. We can now predict the behavior of almost everything with a high degree of precision. Despite the extent of our knowledge there is still uncertainty prevalent in our science. Our understanding of the quantum realms and the obscure phenomena in the vastness of space is still hazy. Theoretically our equations give us a fair picture. Or at least that is what we think. The major part of the 20th century was spent in unifying the most successful theories we have - The general theory of relativity and the quantum mechanical theory. Even now our physicists are in pursuit of the grand unification theory, a theory that if formulated will govern the behavior of particles in both infinitesimal and the infinitely large realms.

Now here surfaces the major flaw. What exactly is the infinitesimal small and the infinitely large? Our mathematics focuses on the real number system as the superset. ( complex numbers are ignored here for the sake of practicality). The real number line is defined such that there are infinitely many real numbers between any two given real numbers. In other words the set of infinity is a subset of itself. ( You might argue saying that every set is a subset of itself but remember that here we talk about a bounded subset). This gives rise to a major anomaly. How can infinity be contained between two well defined finite real numbers, when the distance between them is also a finite real number?

Consider a line of finite length say 10cm. Lets call this line "line A". Consider another line, "line B" of length 5 cm. Based on inequality one can definitely say that line A is larger than line B.

Now, let me start my argument. I argue that both the lines are of the same length. My argument is backed by the fact that every point on the line A can be paired with a point on line B. This one-one correspondence is possible because both line A and line B contain infinite number of points. Due to this one-one correspondence we can also say that both the lines have the same number of points and hence they are of the same length.

You may call me insane, but before you do let me explain why and how this ambiguity prevails. Every object in this universe has an upper and lower limit of perception. All observations that can be made by that object lie within its own limits of perception or what I call the region of perception. These limits equally apply to all the dimensions perceivable by that object. We humans can only observe objects that are larger and more massive than photons. This is because only such objects can reflect photons back to our eye. Similarly we can extend this argument to the larger scales. after a certain point any object bigger than the limiting boundary value of perception seems equally big. Hence we cannot differentiate them. It is just not humanly possible. But you may say that we can build apparatus that can make these measurements for us but again remember that any apparatus that we may build wcertainly lie in our boundary of perception and hence cannot make observations beyond our scale.

So in order to completely understand our universe we require the ability to perceive in any scale. Un-defining infinity and eliminating it from our system of mathematics is the necessary condition to advance our knowledge. But the limits imposed on our region of perception prevent us from doing so. There may be ways to achieve this indirectly. The Vedas hold countless accounts about how our ancient sages freed their minds and opened the doors to the limitless knowledge. But the true essence of the Vedas is scarce in today's world. The translations to the original version are adulterated with the personal interpretations of the translators. The Vedas must be relished as they are, untouched. It is one of my goals to read them in their true form.

I do not assert that the Vedas hold the key to our advancement. But I certainly believe they can direct us in a right path and accelerate us towards achieving it. The top scientists and great thinkers of today might just rediscover this knowledge for us.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kick to start!

It has been a few days since my "so called" review, during which I let myself take a few days off before and after. I am conveniently extending my break until the end of this week. Call me lazy, YES call me LAZY! All that I want to do now is slouch around on my bed and brood over each and every thought that comes by in my head.

Very ironically most of my crazy thoughts occur to me in an effortless fleeting moment when I am close to sleep and when my mind is blank ( I am positively sure my mind is blank ). I guess in this state I tend to shut down the logical part of my brain and substitute it with a magic 8 ball ! With no criteria for selection and with the slightest hint of external stimuli, I rapidly argue with myself, conclude the subject and wait for the next crazy thought. Much like a powerful vacuum cleaner that swallows everything that is in its way.

On a hot day in Vellore ( the town from where the devil leaves with sunburns ), while waiting for my friend Abhiram at the canteen table with food laid out in front, I felt myself falling in this crazy trance again. When I am in it I know I am in it but I am so comfortable that I want to be in it! I don't remember what I was looking at but the first thing I noticed was a house fly. It was sitting on the rim on my friends juice mug ready to take a sip! In an instinctive motion I unleashed the "human fly swat attack" which the fly dodged easily. A couple of more failed attempts aaaaand...
first thought: The fly must be really good at computing trajectories and judging collisions. Assertion: The fly's brain must be quite adept at calculations and recognition, much more powerful in this respect than our first microprocessors.

second thought: But the fly must be dumb enough to miss the logic behind all the "fried" flies in the pest-o-flash tray because it zooms straight toward it!
Assertion: Its brain is fast but cannot process logical information.

Third thought: Maybe the fly thinks it is not one of the hundreds of others that lay burnt in the tray!
Assertion: The fly doesnt know its a fly!!

Then comes Abhiram to save my brain some effort. The guy is as crazy as I am! I just casually mention my new observations and he quips : " Flies have hundreds of eyes and their brains have to be powerful and quick enough to process all that information" - True! We then continue to compare a fly's brain to our early microprocessors, the details of which I should avoid for sanity's sake!