In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

thenewenlightenmentage:

There Is No Now
What goes on when you see something, say, this book you are reading? Leaving aside the whole business of how the brain processes visual information, let’s just focus on the information travel time. To make life simple, let’s also just consider the classical propagation of light, ignoring for now how atoms absorb and reemit light. Light is bouncing around the room because either the window is open or the lamp is on, or both. This bouncing light hits the surface of the book, and some of it is absorbed, while some is reflected outwards in different directions. The page and the ink used for printing absorb and emit light in different ways, and these differences are encoded in the reflected light. A fraction of this reflected light then travels from the book to your eyes, and thanks to the brain’s wondrous ability to decode sensorial information, you see the words on the book’s page.
It all looks instantaneous to you. You say, “I’m reading this word now.” In reality, you aren’t. Since light travels at a finite speed, it takes time for it to bounce from the book to your eye. When you see a word, you are seeing it as it looked some time in the past. To be precise, if you are holding the book at one foot from your eye, the light travel time from the book to your eye is about one nanosecond, or one billionth of a second. The same with every object you see or person you talk to. Take a look around. You may think that you are seeing all these objects at once, or “now,” even if they are at different distances from you. But you really aren’t, as light bouncing from each one of them will take a different time to catch your eye. The brain integrates the different sources of visual information, and since the differences in arrival time are much smaller than what your eyes can discern and your brain process, you don’t see a difference. The “present”—the sum total of the sensorial input we say is happening “now”—is nothing but a convincing illusion.
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thenewenlightenmentage:

There Is No Now

What goes on when you see something, say, this book you are reading? Leaving aside the whole business of how the brain processes visual information, let’s just focus on the information travel time. To make life simple, let’s also just consider the classical propagation of light, ignoring for now how atoms absorb and reemit light. Light is bouncing around the room because either the window is open or the lamp is on, or both. This bouncing light hits the surface of the book, and some of it is absorbed, while some is reflected outwards in different directions. The page and the ink used for printing absorb and emit light in different ways, and these differences are encoded in the reflected light. A fraction of this reflected light then travels from the book to your eyes, and thanks to the brain’s wondrous ability to decode sensorial information, you see the words on the book’s page.

It all looks instantaneous to you. You say, “I’m reading this word now.” In reality, you aren’t. Since light travels at a finite speed, it takes time for it to bounce from the book to your eye. When you see a word, you are seeing it as it looked some time in the past. To be precise, if you are holding the book at one foot from your eye, the light travel time from the book to your eye is about one nanosecond, or one billionth of a second. The same with every object you see or person you talk to. Take a look around. You may think that you are seeing all these objects at once, or “now,” even if they are at different distances from you. But you really aren’t, as light bouncing from each one of them will take a different time to catch your eye. The brain integrates the different sources of visual information, and since the differences in arrival time are much smaller than what your eyes can discern and your brain process, you don’t see a difference. The “present”—the sum total of the sensorial input we say is happening “now”—is nothing but a convincing illusion.

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Without [mental time travel], there would be no planning, no building, no culture; without an imagined picture of the future, our civilization would not exist.

The science of mental time travel — fascinating read on memory and how our ability to imagine the future made us human

(via explore-blog)

(Source: explore-blog)

jtotheizzoe:

Richard Feynman discusses why there is a difference between the past and the future, in this clip from his legendary 1964 lecture series at Cornell: The Character of Physical Law.

It’s well worth taking 45 minutes out of your day to hear Dr. F explain why the workings of nature unfold in one direction. You see, while we innately know that the future is different from the past, and so much of our conscious experience is built around the fundamental just-so-ness of time moving forward, the equations of physics describing phenomena from gravity to friction can be run in either direction without breaking the rules. Yet irreversibility is what we observe.

That’s where entropy and probability come into play. When we take into account complex systems, like the jiggles and wiggles of the uncountable atoms that make up our bodies and this chair and my coffee and our world and even out to the scale of the universe itself, there is simply a greater chance that things will become more disordered than less. It’s not that the universe can’t run in reverse, it’s just that there are so many other ways for it not to.

Or as Feynman says, nature is irreversible because of “the general accidents of life”.

This seven-part series, which Open Culture has assembled in its entirety, captures the physicist in his prime, one year before he won the Nobel Prize and became a household name. Feynman was seemingly born for the scientific stage. He had this uncanny ability to weave profound observations of the universe’s inner workings with off-the-cuff (and often brash) humor. James Gleick wrote of Feynman’s unique style and skill:

He had a mystique that came in part from sheer pragmatic brilliance–in any group of scientists he could create a dramatic impression by slashing his way through a difficult problem–and in part, too, from his personal style–rough-hewn, American, seemingly uncultivated.

This clip was a huge influence on my recent video Why Does Time Exist? Although my take scarcely measures up to Dr. Feynman, you can watch below:

Anonymous asked
I was just wondering how you think all the matter in the universe was put into an extremely dense mass at the beginning of time. Also, how do you measure the beginning of time when if the big band theory is true, this existence now could be the trillionth time the universe has re-expanded.

The way I understand it, which is humbly, matter and mass did not exist in that ‘pre-universe’ state. What you had was infinite potential energy to form matter, which formed some 300,000 years afterward, as the universe cooled. Also, the whole idea of a point in space for this density to occupy loses it’s meaning when there isn’t even any space. It was nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

It’s important to realize that our common conceptions of time, spatial dimensions, matter and the forces that would pertain to squishing all the matter into a tiny space; they’re all useless for understanding the singularity at the front of the Big Bang as they did not exist yet. The theory itself is about how the universe expands, not so much about how it was compacted before it expanded. Mainly because, so far, our empirical reach has only taken us back to within a fraction of a second after the expansion had already begun. The singularity really represents a point, in rewinding the expansion of the universe, where the maths break down.

Learn more:

Cosmology 101: Big Bang - http://youtu.be/xsQ1XmqEe6M

What Is The Evidence For The Big Bang? - http://youtu.be/xtrYF_hxxUM

This series will explain the key concepts and processes in the theory as well as the observational evidence and current areas of research in the theory- http://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6150D61BB71657A6


I don’t think there is a way of measuring time beyond, or prior to, the Big Bang as time is part of space and neither existed. As far as we’ll ever know or as far as it will ever apply to us, measurable time began at the moment of expansion (the Big Bang).

fromquarkstoquasars:

What is a Billion?
We live in a time of billions; billions of a galaxies, stars, people, light-years…but how do we put something like this into perspective?
Can we really understand what a “billion” means, or its significance?
Find Out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/what-is-a-billion/
You can see a larger info-graphic here; http://ow.ly/sRLu8

fromquarkstoquasars:

What is a Billion?

We live in a time of billions; billions of a galaxies, stars, people, light-years…but how do we put something like this into perspective?

Can we really understand what a “billion” means, or its significance?

Find Out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/what-is-a-billion/

You can see a larger info-graphic here; http://ow.ly/sRLu8

As a fraction of the lifespan of the universe as measured from the beginning to the evaporation of the last black hole, life as we know it is only possible for 1/10^30 of a percent. And that’s why, for me, the most astonishing wonder of the universe isn’t a star or a planet or a galaxy. It isn’t a thing at all. It’s an instant in time. And that time is now. Humans have walked the earth for just the shortest fraction of that briefest of moments in deep time. But in our 200,000 years on this planet we’ve made remarkable progress. It was only 2,500 years ago that we believed that the sun was a god and measured its orbit with stone towers built on the top of a hill. Today the language of curiosity is not sun gods, but science. And we have observatories that are almost infinitely more sophisticated than those towers, that can gaze out deep into the universe. And perhaps even more remarkably through theoretical physics and mathematics we can calculate what the universe will look like in the distant future. And we can even make concrete predictions about its end. And I believe that it’s only by continuing our exploration of the cosmos and the laws of nature that govern it that we can truly understand ourselves and our place in this universe of wonders.

Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe

(via thedragoninmygarage)

Psychologist William James, in his 1890 text Principles of Psychology, wrote that as we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. When the passage of time is measured by “firsts” (first kiss, first day of school, first family vacation), the lack of new experiences in adulthood, James morosely argues, causes “the days and weeks [to] smooth themselves out…and the years grow hollow and collapse.” In the early 1960s, Wallach and Green studied this phenomenon in groups of younger (18-20 years) and older (median age 71 years) subjects through the use of metaphors. Young people were more likely to select static metaphors to describe the passage of time (such as “time is a quiet, motionless ocean”). Older folks, on the other hand, described time with swift metaphors (“time is a speeding train”). In research by Joubert (1990), young subjects, when asked, said that they expect time to pass more rapidly when they become older. In the first study (2005) to examine the subjective passage of time across the lifespan, Marc Wittman and Sandra Lehnhoff of Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich recruited 499 participants ranging in age from 14-94. Each subject filled out a series of questionnaires. The first part included questions on a Likert-type scale (ratings from -2 to 2) with answers ranging from time passing “very slowly” to “very fast.” The second part consisted of statements and metaphors about the passage of time, and subjects were asked to rate each sentence from 0 (“strong rejection”) to 4 (strong approval”).

jtotheizzoe:

What’s a day to a mayfly? 
What’s a decade to a man?
What’s a millennium to the universe?
It’s time to put time in perspective with this awesome graphical journey from Wait But Why. <- Start there, and then we’ll continue our adventure.
Our brains have a hard time putting the immense scale of Time (as in “all of it”, which is why it’s capitalized) into perspective. We’re just not built for that kind of thing. While we’re at it, scales of size throw us for a loop too.
That scale of that time, be it seconds, years or atomic oscillations of cesium atoms, is just the construction of humans, signposts along the way so that we can mark how different now-now is from then.

But wait, is now inherently different from then? Yes. That’s where time comes from in the first place. Time only moves in one direction. There’s a reason that the universe can not be reversed, a rule that makes today different from yesterday.
The arrow of time points forward. As long as the universe is getting messier, time will continue to tick on. Entropy, man. All the things are in a more disordered place than they just were, just then.
Life itself depends on the fact that the universe is not in thermal equilibrium. There are simply many more ways that matter can be disordered than it can be organized neatly, and our biochemical reactions take advantage of that. Be thankful for entropy.

Like Brian Cox says, there are more sand dunes than sand castles. I mean, probability says sometimes you’ll get a sand castle spontaneously forming on the beach, but you’ll get a gazillion random piles of sand in the meantime. So entropy marches on, and the universe gets disordered, and new nows become different from just thens.
Then why isn’t our world just some strange exception among the mess?

If ordered piles of molecules named Joe are just some rare, low-probability fluctuation in a universe that would much rather be in all kinds of disordered non-Joe-ness, then why does so much of the universe seem to look organized? I mean, there’s you, and there’s the rest of Earth, and the rest of everything. Why isn’t this the only planet, star, galaxy, etc?
Well, maybe we’re only a chicken that’s come out of a larger egg. Maybe we’re not a closed system. Maybe, there’s more beyond this universe?
That’s Sean Carroll’s idea anyway. Well, it’s not just his, but here he is talking about it in rather entertaining form at TEDxCaltech:

If any of this time business turns out to be too stressful, there’s a way out. But there’s a catch, it involves moving close to the speed of light. And if you dilate yourself out of this time scale, you’ll leave all of us behind, and we don’t want to see you go. Unless you take us with you. It’s that pesky twin paradox:

Gotta stop now. I’m out of time.

jtotheizzoe:

What’s a day to a mayfly? 

What’s a decade to a man?

What’s a millennium to the universe?

It’s time to put time in perspective with this awesome graphical journey from Wait But Why. <- Start there, and then we’ll continue our adventure.

Our brains have a hard time putting the immense scale of Time (as in “all of it”, which is why it’s capitalized) into perspective. We’re just not built for that kind of thing. While we’re at it, scales of size throw us for a loop too.

That scale of that time, be it seconds, years or atomic oscillations of cesium atoms, is just the construction of humans, signposts along the way so that we can mark how different now-now is from then.

But wait, is now inherently different from then? Yes. That’s where time comes from in the first place. Time only moves in one direction. There’s a reason that the universe can not be reversed, a rule that makes today different from yesterday.

The arrow of time points forward. As long as the universe is getting messier, time will continue to tick on. Entropy, man. All the things are in a more disordered place than they just were, just then.

Life itself depends on the fact that the universe is not in thermal equilibrium. There are simply many more ways that matter can be disordered than it can be organized neatly, and our biochemical reactions take advantage of that. Be thankful for entropy.

Like Brian Cox says, there are more sand dunes than sand castles. I mean, probability says sometimes you’ll get a sand castle spontaneously forming on the beach, but you’ll get a gazillion random piles of sand in the meantime. So entropy marches on, and the universe gets disordered, and new nows become different from just thens.

Then why isn’t our world just some strange exception among the mess?

If ordered piles of molecules named Joe are just some rare, low-probability fluctuation in a universe that would much rather be in all kinds of disordered non-Joe-ness, then why does so much of the universe seem to look organized? I mean, there’s you, and there’s the rest of Earth, and the rest of everything. Why isn’t this the only planet, star, galaxy, etc?

Well, maybe we’re only a chicken that’s come out of a larger egg. Maybe we’re not a closed system. Maybe, there’s more beyond this universe?

That’s Sean Carroll’s idea anyway. Well, it’s not just his, but here he is talking about it in rather entertaining form at TEDxCaltech:

If any of this time business turns out to be too stressful, there’s a way out. But there’s a catch, it involves moving close to the speed of light. And if you dilate yourself out of this time scale, you’ll leave all of us behind, and we don’t want to see you go. Unless you take us with you. It’s that pesky twin paradox:

Gotta stop now. I’m out of time.

Nature is evidence for God like rainbows are evidence for Leprechauns’ gold. Like the rainbow, nature is perceived as having a beggining and an end. But we know that there is no end to a rainbow; that the arc is just an illusion of perspective, and where we can’t see we fill in the gaps with pots of gold and spirits and, in the big picture, gods.

skeptv:

Distant time and the hint of a multiverse - Sean Carroll

Cosmologist Sean Carroll attacks — in an entertaining and thought-provoking tour through the nature of time and the universe — a deceptively simple question: Why does time exist at all? The potential answers point to a surprising view of the nature of the universe, and our place in it. (Filmed at TEDxCaltech.)

via TED Education.


Sean Carroll - Origin of the Universe & the Arrow of Time

What is Time?
What is Entropy?
Why does it only move in one direction?
What happened before the Big Bang?
What is the fate of the universe?

jtotheizzoe:

For those of you who enjoyed yesterday’s thought experiment/mindfreak about how our perception of now is never really “now”, check out this episode of Vsauce.

This video starts with a focus on the time lag that occurs in our visual system, and how what our brain tells us is “now” is actually 80 milliseconds in the past. He also digs into the question we talked about with simultaneous tapping of noses and toeses.

The more we talk about this, I just can’t help but think of a particular scene from Spaceballs:

Colonel Sandurz: Now. You’re looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now. 
Dark Helmet: What happened to then? 
Colonel Sandurz: We passed then. 
Dark Helmet: When? 
Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We’re at now now. 
Dark Helmet: Go back to then. 
Colonel Sandurz: When? 
Dark Helmet: Now. 
Colonel Sandurz: Now? 
Dark Helmet: Now. 
Colonel Sandurz: I can’t. 
Dark Helmet: Why? 
Colonel Sandurz: We missed it. 
Dark Helmet: When? 
Colonel Sandurz: Just now. 
Dark Helmet: When will then be now? 
Colonel Sandurz: Soon. 

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

abaldwin360:

Visualization of evolutionary time scale relative to one calendar year.
Full resolution here
Just to give an idea of how much time it took like to go from early self replicating life forms, to single cell organisms, to animals.

abaldwin360:

Visualization of evolutionary time scale relative to one calendar year.

Full resolution here

Just to give an idea of how much time it took like to go from early self replicating life forms, to single cell organisms, to animals.