Last week’s New Scientist featured a cover story on the Multiverse, a curious concept born out of the head-scratching improbability of this Universe accidentally having the exact and precise parameters needed for matter and stars to exist, let alone things like us.
This is my Letter to the Editor:
Perhaps in centuries to come we will look back on physicists’ estimates of a multiverse (26 November, p.42) containing 10^500 universes in the same light as we see early theologians arguing over angel counts per pinhead. It was those theologians who set the template for the physicists’ dilemma by sweeping away a common assumption of the ancient world and its scientists – the assumption that other aspects of this world also experienced consciousness. It was the Church that decreed only humans enjoyed this special experience, together with God, angels and the devil, replacing the notion of a living world with that of a dead unconscious place created by some imaginary external Character.
Science still clings to this unfounded religious restriction on consciousness, though it may have removed the devil, angels and God from the club. In your following article on consciousness and anaesthesia (p.49) you state that “Consciousness has long been one of the great mysteries of life, the universe and everything…yet we cannot agree on how to define it.” Most would agree, though, that it is not a physical thing but an invisible energetic phenomenon. How can we know enough about consciousness to be sure that only we are equipped to experience it?
If consciousness is energetic, then our Universe’s most common occupant has all the qualifications for being able to experience it. This appeared obvious to all pre-monotheistic cultures and their scientists, though they knew nothing of the complex activities powering the Sun and other stars. They knew nothing of stars’ invisible energetic coronas, or of the enormous electro-magnetic fields linking stars and even galaxies together.
Perhaps if we embraced what was once a universal concept, instead of remaining in thrall to religious taboo, we would be equipped to arrive at a far simpler solution to this special Universe’s fine tuning.
This whole Murdoch business is such a trivial drama. Sure, he’s an excellent candidate for the “Most Hated Magnate” prize but should we really give a flying fu*k about phone hacking by newspapers? It’s primarily prompted by OUR insatiable appetite for bullshit, whether it’s about the private lives of personalities or that of famous victims like Millie, the murdered schoolgirl. And now it will stop (in the private sector, at least) and it hasn’t exactly scarred the progress of civilization. Nice to see the Murdochs sweating though, it must be said.
Meanwhile: The baseless concocted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proceed with little public or media concern beyond reporting every death of ‘one of ours.’ The Afghans had nothing to do with the Twin Towers and Saddam Hussein was an enemy of Al-Qaeda. Recent calculation show that drone strikes in Pakistan kill over 100 civilians for every targeted
combatant. In WWI one civilian died for every ten soldiers. In WWII it was one to one. Vietnam was seven to three. In Iraq it is ten of us killed for every one soldier. This is not good. And why is it that targeted domestic homes are always called “compounds?” Depleted uranium weapons are at use in Libya, as they were in Iraq, where the consequence is a 10-15 fold increase in birth defects and a growing cancer rate from soil that will remain contaminated for over 100,000 years. Occupying an entire nation on false premises represents quite a high level of bad behaviour. European and American economies are imploding as a result of borrowing by states that stake our future productivity as collateral against the loans. US Debt is 15 trillion dollars. Amongst much else, that borrowing provides funds for fighting unnecessary wars in foreign countries.Thousand of us are dying every year as a result of continued inclusion of trans fats (hydrogenated oils) in our foodstuffs. It is acknowledged that there is no safe dose of these dangerous additives but they are still legally in use, and widely.
Three nuclear reactors are in an uncontained meltdown in Japan, continuing to release radioactive materials into the environment. They may stop the releases in ten years or so, maybe never. Much of northern Japan will remain uninhabitable for generations. Many millions throughout the world will suffer cancer for generations to come as a result of this catastrophe.
We are being denied the right to take responsibility for our own health by the suppression of our right to freely choose what route we take to healing.
Meltdown is hot news right now but what exactly is one, other than an event to be avoided at all costs? Some will remember the immense relief the world experienced when full meltdown was averted at Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island.
There has never been a full large-scale meltdown but this is the unknown situation that it describes: The overheated reactor fuel rods melt together and become as hot as the Sun’s surface – enough to boil iron into steam. The hot metal melts down through the concrete base of its containment vessel and then continues sinking into the earth below. Very little can stop the reaction at this point.
It doesn’t sink downwards forever, because when the hot molten fuel reaches the natural water table it will quickly turn the underground water to steam. We don’t know exactly what will happen then, having never experienced a meltdown or been crazy enough to test the idea out. But it is probable that the expansive steam would vent upwards with explosive force, carrying much of the radioactivity with it.
How high and far the radioactivity would disperse depends on the force of the blast from underground. It may settle in the surrounding area, or be carried by jet streams. Large amounts of radioactivity landing in the sea will eventually be carried by ocean currents throughout the world. If oceanic contamination continues through unchecked meltdown, it does not bode well for the world’s oceans, harbouring most of the life on planet Earth. On the plus side, fish may become too radioactive to harvest and find their numbers rebounding, albeit with more mutants.
The averted meltdown at Chernobyl involved one reactor. Four reactors are currently in danger at Fukushima and two more could become involved. This is a potential disaster such as we have never faced before.