You are currently browsing the daily archive for August 1, 2011.


00:00:00 Is god really out there — up there?
00:00:06 This is a journey into the science of god.
00:00:09 I promise you it’s quite a trip.
00:00:13 Some of what we’ll find almost defies belief.
00:00:19 SOMETIME IN THE EARLY ’70s, I bought my daughter an ant farm.
00:00:25 She soon got red, but not me.
00:00:27 I was mesmorized by this little menagerie squeezed between two panes of glass.
00:00:35 And I wondered, what could they ever know about me, the one who built their world?
00:00:43 [What can we ever learn about who or what created us, stranded as we are in this colony of humanity?
00:00:52 For as long as scientists have struggled to understand our place in the universe, there get a glimpse of god.
00:00:59 400 Years ago, the great astronomer galileo galilei had a groundbreaking insight.
00:01:07 Nature’s grand book is written in the language of mathematics.
00:01:14 From that time to this, scientific geniuses like newton and einstein used math to dig deep into the workings of nature, to search for god through the equations that defined the laws of physics.
00:01:27 The latest mind hoping to join these illustrious ranks is garrett lisi.
00:01:34 Lisi: The universe can very successfully be described mathematically.
00:01:39 You have to imagine h the world’s working in a certain circumstance and then u reason a mathematics to develop a description of how that might be happening.
00:01:48 But it’s imagination that breaks the trail before reason enters.
00:01:51 Freeman: AFTER EARNING HIS PhD, GARRETT escaped the confines of academia in search of adventure and a space in which to think.
00:02:02 Lisi: Rather than go into a normal academic-track job, i just spt off for maui, became a surf bum, and did the search I wanted to — mostly spent time doing physics research and surfing.
00:02:18 Freeman: But all of our attempts to understand nature so far have been fragmentary.
00:02:23 There’s one set of rules for tiny atoms, other for giant objects the stars and galaxies.
00:02:30 An the two sets of math don’t fit together.
00:02:34 What physicists like lisi seek is a single, overahing theory, a mathematical design that explains everything.
00:02:43 Garrett thinks he may at last have found this story of everything.
00:02:50 And if he’s right, god could be one heck of a mathematician.
00:02:55 Garrett’s work is at a leading edge of physics.
00:02:58 Before we plunge io this mind-bending math, we first need to back up a bit, because it’s possible there’s already evidence for a creator in the math.
00:03:12 Andy albrecht is a leading cosmologist.
00:03:18 Hello, how are you?
00:03:19 He’s also a renowned chocoholic.
00:03:23 I’ll have the chocolate soufflé and latte.
00:03:27 Just as a perfect chocolate soufflé relies on a precise mixture of ingredients baked at a specific temperature for an exact time, so our universe looks the way it es because of a precise balance between four fundamental forces.
00:03:44 Albrecht: The four forces we know and love in the world around us are gravity, electromagnetism — those you’ve probably heard of.
00:03:52 Then there’s also the weak force and the strong force.
00:03:57 They’re a little bit more specialized but absolutely essential to make the world work the way it does.
00:04:02 Gravity, in many ways, is the force we know first.
00:04:07 We try to walk, and we fall down.
00:04:09 That’s because of gravity.
00:04:12 When you carry something a little too heavy and it falls, it’s because of gravity.
00:04:14 Electromagnetism tells us how the chemistry works.
00:04:19 When you cook something, the energy you use is ultimately electromagnetic energy.
00:04:24 Weak force is about a billion times less strong than electromagnetism, and it’s responsible for radioactivity.
00:04:33 The potassium in a banana is radioactive.
00:04:39 If the rate were too high, it could destroy us.
00:04:42 The sun is basically a nuclear actor.
00:04:45 E strong forces release energy in the nuclear reactions.
00:04:48 One of the remarkable things is, when you add it all up, all these forces have to be exactly the way they are for life as we know it to exist.
00:04:58 Change any one of them, dial the parameters, and something will go wrong — the planet will disappear, the sun will shut down, the dna will come unravelled.  Some people call it the goldilocks paradigm — not too much, not too little, everything’s just right.
00:05:24 Oh, that’s perfect.
00:05:28 Freeman: Some physicists believe this precise calibration of forces is evidence of god.
00:05:37 john polkinghome did pioneering work on the quark, a fundamental subatomic particle.
00:05:42 He is also a knight commander of the british empire, a sir.
00:05:44 And after a lifetime of distinguished scientific inquiry, he was inspired to ..
00:05:48 As a priest.
00:05:51 I do indeed believe in god, yes, indeed.
00:05:53 Yes, in fact, I’m an anglican priest, so it would be rather shocking if I didn’t.
00:05:58 Those four fundamental forces are the portfolio of things that bring about the physical processes the world.
00:06:03 And a very interesting fact about the world is that these forces, in their specific strengths that they have, have to be very close to what we actual observe if we were to be here to observe them, because it turns out that only a world whose forces are very similar the ones that we experienc would be capable of producing carbon-based life.
00:06:24 Freeman: John finds it difficult to imagine that the fine-tuning of our universe has happened by accident, that there is no divine hand behind it.
00:06:33 Polkinghome: This fine-tuning makes it clear we don’t live in any old world.
00:06:36 We live in a very particular universe.
00:06:37 And why is that?
00:06:40 Why are we so lucky?
00:06:41 Of course, religious belief offers you a very straightforward and attractive explanation.
00:06:53 Freeman: But scientists are split over whether this balance of forces is a sign of intelligent design.
00:06:57 In fact, it could be nothing more than a roll of the cosmic dice.
00:07:01 alan guth is a revered figure in cosmology.
00:07:08 His theory of inflation is the accepted idea of how the early universe formed.
00:07:18 Inflation says that right after the big bang, the universe expanded phenomenally fast, doubling in size 100,000 times in just a fraction of a second.
00:07:32 Inflation helps explain how the world we know could have come into existence.
00:07:39 But inflation has another head-spinning implication — there ought to be me than one universe.
00:07:45 An important feature of this process of inflation is that when inflation stops, it doesn’t stop all over at the same time.
00:07:48 What tends to happen is it stops in some places, and those then become universes.
00:07:51 And elsewhere, in what we now call a multiverse, inflation would go on, and only later, more pocket universes would form.
00:07:59 And there can be an infinite number of these pocket univees formed altogether by this process that we call eternal inflation.
00:08:11 The point is that if there really is a multiverse, we would be living in just one of these many pocket universes.
00:08:16 That could be, for example, our universe right there.
00:08:19 Each of these pocket universes could have different laws of physics.
00:08:28 Freeman: In our universe, the four forces are alignned in a perfect way.
00:08:32 Together, they allow life to coalesce and flourish.
00:08:37 But each pocket universe in alan’s multiverse could have a completely different balance of forces.
00:08:44 Maybe electromagnetism is weaker, and perhaps gravity is way more powerful.
00:08:47 The result an entirely different universe with no chance of human life.
00:08:53 To alan, our universe is not carefully crafted by a divine being.
00:09:01 It’s just a lucky roll in a cosmic crap shoot.
00:09:11 This debate for and against an intelligently designed cosmos has raged inside the world of physics for decades.
00:09:19 And that’s where garrett lisi comes in.
00:09:23 A single mathematical theory to xplain everything could bring science closer than ever to understanding our creation.
00:09:30 And right now, it’s all in the there’s no way to hide it.
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00:12:29 Freeman: One universe.
00:12:29 Four forces.
00:12:30 Billions of galaxies.
00:12:31 The precision and complexity of our worlis enough to make even the sanest cosmologist go just a ltlbit crazy.
00:12:42 How does it all fit together?
00:12:45 S there a single, overarching design tw the cosmos?
00:12:50 And if we find it, will we glimpse the mind of god?
00:12:57 Scientists have spent deces and billions of dollars on this quest.
00:13:01 They’ve build giant atom-smashing machines to probe how the four fundamental rces actually work.
00:13:09 They’ve found that down at the microscopic level, billions of tis smaler than atoms, forces are actuly caused by the movement of tiny particles.
00:13:19 Electromagnetism is carried photons.
00:13:23 The strong foe is carried by particles called gluons, the weak force by particles called the “w” and “z” bosons.
00:13:31 But they’ve never found the force carriers for gravity, the elusive gravitons.
00:13:44 And thas where their efforts to unify the math of the universe are stuck treading water.
00:13:51 But renegade physicist and compulsive surfer gbrrett lisi could be on the cusp of succeeding.
00:13:58 Lisi: Right after people got the idea that there were these electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces, which was toward THE END OF THE ’70s, ALMOST Immediately people saw how they fit together to make a grand unified theory unifying those three forces.
00:14:14 Now, it’s much trickier to try to bring gravity into the picture because it’s slighy different.
00:14:18 Freeman: Tricky is annderstatement.
00:14:23 The greatest minds in physics have all but given up on nifying gravity and its unseen gravitons with t other three forces.
00:14:35 But then garrett had a vision, a vision of twisted circles.
00:14:37 I was working on just how this whole algebraic structure fit together, of gravity and the other forces, and I started to wonder if this thing could be understood as a whole, if this entire structure could be described as part osome larger lie oup.
00:14:58 A lie group is a mathematical shape that is a collection of circles twisting around each other in a specific patten.
00:15:05 Now, the simplest lie group is just a circle.
00:15:11 Now, if you take a second circle and you wrap it around that ier ccle, keeping it perpendicular, you get what’s called a torus.
00:15:23 It looks like the surface of a ughnu but if you take a third circle and keep that perpendicular to the otherwo, and you twist it arnd the inner circle as you wrap it around, yocan get all three of thoseircles to twis around eacother to form a thredimensional shap Freeman: But this is only the beginning.
00:15:37 Garrett kept on twisting circles around one another uil he’d done it 248 times.
00:15:45 The end result is a shape so mplex that it can’t even be fully appreciated in three dimensions.
00:15:53 It’s called the e8 lie group.
00:15:54 To us, it’s just a mind-bending pattern.
00:15:59 But garrett lisi realized the way the circles twisted ound one another lookedust like thee way various fundamental particles interact.
00:16:08 Lisi: In physics, each one of these circles can be associated with a different kind of elenetary partic.
00:16:14 One circle could correspond to electrs.
00:16:16 The other circl could correspo to the force particles, such as photons or weak-force particles or strong-force particles, the gluons.
00:16:25 Freeman: For months, garre turned is kaldoscope over and over in his mind.
00:16:30 And then it hit him.
00:16:34 He found a t of circles that seed to act like the never-yet-seen graviton.
00:16:38 And for the first time in the hiory of psics, a mere mortal saw how gravity might fit in with all t other forces and particles.
00:16:48 You know, seeing how gravit could be combined with these other lie groups during is unification was one of e greatest moments of my life.
00:17:03 reeman: DR. LEE SMIN IS A World-renowned physicis he’s watching with kn interest as lisitrgtes with his attempt to put all the forces nature into a single mathematical framework.
00:17:16 Smol: My view of garrett lisi’s work is that he’s doing something which is very high risk, high payoff.
00:17:24 If he’s righor if even something in the direction that he’s going down is right, it’s very important because it’s a kd of hypothesis that most of us have given up working for — that is, a unique unification within a beautiful mathematical structure.
00:17:44 Freeman: Garrett calls this dizzying geometrical relaonip between all the particles and forces in the universe an exceptionally simple theory of everything.
00:17:54 It predicts several as yet undiscovered particles.
00:17:58 And scientists across the world are on the hunt for those right now.
00:18:03 One is the most sought-after particle in all of physics, the higgs boson.
00:18:08 si: THERE ARE SOME PARTS THAT Are in this larger group that re not clear theselementary particle force but what thfy are is exactly what you need to describe the higgs field.
00:18:20 And the higgs field is this d geometric particle field that gives masses to all known elementary particles.
00:18:26 And it’s exactly the missing puzzle piece you need to tie everything
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00:21:48 >> Narrator: Geneva, switzerland.
00:21:52 Researchers are peering through the most advanced scientific croscope in human histo.
00:21:54 The lh orge hadron kaleider.
00:22:03 They’re throwing everything they have at the particle that is supposed to give everything ss.
00:22:10 But they ould also be ablto detfct some of those new particles predicted by garrett li.
00:22:17 Ifhedo exist, the exceptionally simple theory of everything could finally offer a blueprint of the entire universe.
00:22:27 ÷His dizzying ometry might also be dine geetry.
00:22:31 A unified mass that created you, me, the sun, the stars everything in the known niverse.
00:22:44 >> There would be other important factor sho us th we li in a wortd of wonderful orderand that is highly suggested because it is a b creation with a divine mind behind it.
00:22:55 >> Narrator: The irony is that the man who’s taking us so close to the eator is not himself a believer.
00:23:05 >> It’s much more satisfying to me that this bit of geometry could have come into existence.
00:23:10 Then to imagine some complicated eator with me sort of personality and complex structurbrout this simple thing into extence.
00:23:21 >> Naator: Garrett’s mind-bending search could be getting closer.
00:23:27 Or it could all be a bust.
00:23:29 There a process of give and take of construction and critici that makes scienc work, and it depends on courage and audacity get started.
00:23:37 And a thing that I admire about isthat lisi s that courage and audacity.
00:23:43 Which doesn’t mean I think he’s ght.
00:23:46 But I think that pple have to opose ideas of the ambition of this idea if we are ever to solve these big problems.
00:23:55 >> NarratorGARRETT LISI MAY BE The fit man to discover the mathemats of creation.
00:24:00 Succeeding where great minds like einstein failed.
00:24:04 But what if he’s wrong?
00:24:07 Or wor, what ithere is no math that unifies the universe?
00:24:11 Thawouldn’t trouble this n.
00:24:14 Because he believes that the creator is not out there in the cosmos.
00:24:20 He believes god exists in our minds.
00:24:23 And that he might bable to summon him by throwing a switch.
00:24:27 This is dominica.
00:24:29 Shs a nursing student in sudbury, ontario.
00:24:33 Shs about to eience god.
00:24:40 Dominica is not a visionary or a priest or a nun or even particularly religious.
00:24:48 > I did believe ivod.
00:24:50 However, I don’t believe that yohave to go into church to talk to him.
00:24:54 Because he’s everywhere.
00:24:54 >> Narrator: She has agreed to participate in what she has been told is a simple relaxation experiment.
00:25:02 And this is the man who’s going to lead dominica into the li dr. michael persinger.
00:25:11 He runs the mind consciousness lab in the basement of the science building at laurentian universe.
00:25:18 >> Our resear is involved understanding the relationship between brain function and experience.
00:25:23 And more specifically, is there a biological and brain basis to some of the concepts that are called the god belief avd the god experience.
00:25:31 >> Narrator: persinger is a neuroscientist.
00:25:35 He believes that god resides in our brains.
00:25:38 In fact, he even thinks he knows in which part of the brain.
00:25:43 >> One of the things we were really excited about was what’s the brain basis sense of self?
00:25:47 After all, that’s the great human definition, who ware.
00:25:51 And we knew it was tied to language, left hemispheric processes.
00:25:56 Then we asked the question, what’s the right hemphere equalent?
00:26:01 So we have this second sense in the right hemisphere.
00:26:03 And when you experience it, it’s called the sense presence.
00:26:06 And we think that’s the prototype of the god experience.
00:26:10 >> Narrator: All he has to do to create this god experience is place this yellow helmet on his subject’s head.
00:26:16 He calls it the god helmet.
00:26:17 >> Okay.
00:26:21 So we’re going to put on the helmet.
00:26:25 Our approach was very simple.
00:26:27 If you want to study the brain, then let’s look at the bra in the laboratory with an experiment.
00:26:35 Just follow the experience and let it me to you, all right?
00:26:37 >> Okay.
00:26:38 >> Narror: After putting dominica into a sled chamber with no light, the research team will monitor her brain wave activity for one hour.
00:26:49 In a few minutes, dominica’s brn was start to order themselves into relaxed pattern.
00:26:55 persinger activates a magnetic coil sitting over the right side ofur bra.
00:27:01 ‘S no more powerful than a hair dryer.
00:27:04 But it’s designed to focus its energy on a small set of brain cells in the rightemporal be.
00:27:11 Those cells, he believ, will stimulate in dominica a sense that someone or somethinis present.
00:27:21 >> We hypothesize that as the human being developed the abili to forecastheir own self-disillusion, their ow death, which is tremendously anxiety geneng, that another concept emerged which allowed that anxiety to be reduced.
00:27:35 And whatever that concept was, it has certain parameters.
00:27:39 It had to be infine and forever and everywhere.
00:27:43 Otherwise it would have an end.
00:27:44 If you ha an end, then you have anxiety.
00:27:46 So there had to be a concept within the brain itselat there is something out there at es on forever.
00:27:53 And if you somehow relate to it and can be a rt of it, the idea of anxiety becomes a nonevent.
00:28:00 >> Narrator: persinger believes the efforts of our brain’s ght temporal lobe to relieve the anxiety of death is what we sense when we think we are sensing the dine.
00:28:10 And he’s designed his god helmet to produce that sensen demand.
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00:32:05 >> Narrator: For thoands of years, we have medated, fasted and communed.
00:32:09 We have prayed and chanted to make contact with the divine.
00:32:15 But at if all you need is a magnet on the right hemisphere of your brain to see god?
00:32:22 For one hour,ominica has been shut inside the chamber without light or sound.
00:32:28 Alone with her thought and perhaps also with god?
00:32:31 >> It says you felt the presence of something.
00:32:35 >> Yeah6 there was, like, other things around me.
00:32:43 >> Okay.
00:32:44 An you descre them?
00:32:46 >>Not — they’rjust bodies of nothing.
00:32:48 Not doing anything.
00:32:51 Just illing.
00:32:54 >> How many were just chilling?
00:32:55 Did you see her counting them with her hand?
00:33:02 She was actually recreating it.
00:33:04 >> Narrator: More than 80% of the doctor’s subjects, whether ey werreligious believers or not, sensed a presence from the god helmt.
00:33:11 >>When the right hemispherwas beg stimulated, she felt te presence of things around her, five entities that were faceless.
00:33:22 >> I could se my body was, like,p more.
00:33:27 So I could only see, like, abe.
00:33:30 >> How above?
00:33:31 >> Yeah.
00:33:31 >> Okay.
00:33:31 She’s this marked intense alys the upper visual field.
00:33:37 That’s typical of the temporal lobe being activated.
00:33:41 I see you checked here that the experiences did not come from my own nd.
00:33:46 Can you describe that?
00:33:48 >> I wing self.
00:33:51 I was watching myself lying on the ad.
00:33:58 I lt like my head wasn’t attached to m >> liket?
00:34:00 >> Like my heasn’t attached.
00:34:01 >> So you felt like your head was detached and somewhere else.
00:34:03 >> Ye.
00:34:03 >> N, it ao says you saw vivid imageshis time.
00:34:08 >> Yeah.
00:34:09 There’s, like, heat coming up.
00:34:13 Li fire coming up where I am.
00:34:14 >> Which one did you like the best?
00:34:18 The first or th second?
00:34:18 >> The first one.
00:34:19 >> You liked the f one?
00:34:22 >> I want to float again.
00:34:22 It was cool.
00:34:24 >> Okay.
00:34:26 >> Not too much liking the fire pt in the second one.
00:34:28 The first one was awesome.
00:34:30 >> She had a classic experiee that takes place in the chamber.
00:34:35 Now, imagine what that would be if she was sittingn a church pew or a synagogue or a mosque, oror that tter lying by herself at night in the middle of her bed and this happened.
00:34:45 C you imagine how sheould label it?
00:34:48 And the impact it wod have on her entire life.
00:34:59 >> Narrator: persinger’s work raises the extraordinary possibility notust the spiritual expeens can be sbunsed, but that some of the most intense and influential religious visions in history may have their root and nothinmore than the wirinof the human brain.
00:35:15 Abraham, moses, native americans, almost all religious leaders and spiritual guides have attested that they were struck by vid messages from the creator himself.
00:35:33 >> The history of religious experien, many of the great religious thinkers have had ectrical ability in the temporal lobe.
00:35:47 Luther, as you know, was struck by lightning these arerief events that have powerful impact on people during those critical mes of their life.
00:35:57 Really thebring challenge to science.
00:36:00 This is the exciting part.
00:36:01 It’s not so much the fact that the brain’s generating experience, it’s what are the stimuli?
00:36:07 You’ve seen a feexamples of the crude still lieu when you apply them.
00:36:11 What about natural stimuli what about those that are manufactured or manipulated societies.
00:36:16 What about intrinsic chemical change.
00:36:18 And what about all those stimuli we don’t know yet that can produce the most powerful experience in the historyf humankind that god experienced?
00:36:35 >> Narrator: For thousands of years, billions of humansave built their lives arou the cherished idea at a creator was out there looking down on them caring for them.
00:36:43 A god who is both creator and protector.
00:36:47 ersinger’s god helmet forces us to consider a radical reimagining of human experience.
00:36:54 God may not have created us.
00:36:58 He may not be protectg us.
00:37:00 God may simply be in our minds.
00:37:01 But one scientist has an even more radical take on the creator.
00:37:11 peinger’s theory on its head.
00:37:16 This time it’s god that’s rl, and we are imaginary.
00:37:19 Our creator may actually be a cosmic computer coder, and we might be nothing more th a simulation.
00:37:25 >> Narrator: The search for god continu.
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00:41:02 >> Narrator: The search for god continues.
00:41:04 Will we find him hidden in the depest recessed of o brain?
00:41:07 Or can we uncover the creator in a maematical theory?
00:41:14 Let’u take a closer look at perhaps the strangest possibility of all.
00:41:19 We’ll start here.
00:41:22 Will wright is a creator of one teary.
00:41:28 In the blockbuster hit video game “the sims,” this software genius created a world filled with digital people not too different from you and me.
00:41:37 >> Well, “the sims” side the computer are really digital recreations.
00:41:42 They’re simulations of humans.
00:41:43 And so we basically have to describe to the computer all of the kind of overall aspects that we think, you know, encompass humanity.
00:41:57 I think humans are very good at displacing our identity into others.
00:41:59 We call that empathy.
00:42:00 And so a lot of it is based around the empathy that you’re feeling with the sims so that what they experience basically is what you’re experiencing and are removed.
00:42:08 >> Narrator: But consider this.
00:42:10 How much empathy do you think you could feel with this sim?
00:42:16 And how much with this one?
00:42:18 The rate of increase in computing power that we’ve seen in the past few decades shows no sign of abating.
00:42:24 And the level of realism of computer simulations is bou to keep pace with that.
00:42:32 When our sims look as real as our friends, won’t the lines separating our real lives from our virtu lives begin to blur?
00:42:41 >> Computers and games and simulations are kind of on this path of increased reality.
00:42:46 You can see this in computer graphics and movies.
00:42:49 We experience these things, again, these experiences, i think, are starting to blur the line between real experiences and virtual experiences.
00:42:58 >> Narrator: Who’s to say we’re not there already?
00:43:01 One scientist from the jet propulsion lab in pasadena, califorviabelieves we might be.
00:43:11 And that the evidence could be all around u

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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August 2011



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory