<<  Varkala, 5-Feb-2015  >>

Deep tropical coma in Varkala

Nothing happened in Varkala, but let me speak of joys of reading (pop)scientific literature: dreaming of annihilation, Universe as quantum fluctuation, and lagged consciousness

In Varkala we did NOTHING.

This beautiful beach resort is made for doing nothing.
We ate some seafood and pizzas, I sweated like hell, I killed few more tarantulas, Irene almost got killed by waves and I skipped surfing (remembering how horrible and dangerous it was 2 years ago and confirming it with other unfortunate fellow who tried it just few days ago with exactly the same result),

Oh, and we decided that finally we would go to North India, instead of touring just South India, as was the original plan. So we bought tickets from Chennai to Varanasi and that’s why we need to get to Chennai quickly.

On a different note now.
I had decided that I would use all those long hours in Indian trains, buses and lazy afternoons to read, to make at least some use of that time. And I decided to crunch my favorite series of scientific (pop-scientific, to be more precise) books from Oxford Press Very Short Introduction to XYZ. I have started with Very Short Introduction to Mathematics (back then in Hampi). It sounds bit humiliating to read Very Short Introduction to Mathematics for someone who graduated from specialized math class, but first of all, all my knowledge is long gone, and second it was very interesting reading anyway, because it focused on something I might called “meta-mathematics”. Like, “what can be considered a valid proof?”, “concept of infinity and zero”, “how to deal with unimaginable stuff like high-dimension geometry, complex numbers”, “must 1,99999periodic equal to 2?” (the answer claimed was “not necessarily, but your life will get complicated”), etc. Very refreshing indeed.
Then I continued with re-reading 2 books I had read before (yes, those 2 years ago when I had been in India) and which I loved very much, and which sort of changed my life, or at least perspective on my life: “Quantum Mechanics” and “Particle Physics”. As I couldn’t get enough of physics I continued with “Theory of Relativity” and particularly interesting book called “Very Short Introduction to Nothing”. I was curious what would be “Very Short Introduction to Nothing” about, and well, it was about vacuum. It gave some interesting insights into emptiness of everything (Buddha would be pleased). If you can, try to imagine that the solid matter, as you know it, is in reality in its core 100 times emptier than the visible outer space. When you zoom into an atom, the size of the nucleus and electrons, as compared to the size of the atom, is much smaller than the sun and Earth as compared to our solar system. We all know that protons, neutron, electrons and quarks (which form neutrons and protons) are small, but once you see the scale of that smallness in real numbers and relations, it is beyond any imagination. Even more shocking was the explanation how SOMETHING can (and regularly does) appear from NOTHING in the universe, as long as that SOMETHING goes back to NOTHING in sufficiently quick time. It even gave a possible explanation of Big Bang and creation itself. It claimed that because gravity is a negative energy (ehm, I have to get more grasp on this), the total energy of the universe might be zero, and therefore the whole universe can be just a very weird quantum fluctuation, which due its zero total energy can endure billions of years, as it does. Bit on that is here: Wikipedia: Zero-energy universe.
As a result of overload of all the quarks, fermions and baryons, 4 to 11 dimensions, matter and anti-matter, bent time-space and sequence of events changing depending on an observer, my dreams became pretty fascinating and monstrous. I dreamt about gigantic matter annihilations, higher dimensions and oscillations in quatum fields, as if I would actually know how to imagine those things :-) Who needs LSD when there is physics? The most bothering dream was during one night bus travel, when the lethal combination of high dose of physics, shallow half-sleep on the bus and fear of Indian traffic and driving skills of the driver resulted in never-ending visions of the bus running into its anti-matter counterpart and thus annihilating all of us in a spectacular burst of energy. Believe it or not, after you wake up 8 times being sure that the bus is about to annihilate, you finally surrender and accept with such fate. This psychedelic state of mind of surrender was probably closest I will ever get to reconciliation with one’s mortality.
After physics I went on with “Ancient Philosophy”, “Consciousness’” and “Free Will”. From these three I found by far the most fascinating the one about Consciousness, which sort of suggested, that consciousness and the feeling of experience is a time-lagged illusion produced by our brain. Of course there’s no surprise that consciousness and experience are products of our brains, but the rather shocking thing was that some research suggests, that our consciousness is about 1,5 second delayed after the real action is performed by the brain (no space left for free will, bothers and sisters), but the brain makes you think that you were experiencing it those 1,5 seconds before. What I mean is that when you touch a hot pan, you obviously quickly retract you hand, but that FEELING of “ouch, it’s hot” only comes 1,5 seconds after, although you think you were experiencing it right in that moment of touching it. Good luck with accepting this :-)

Well, there’s still a lot of these books (typically 120 – 180 pages long) ahead of me: Globalization, Marx, Cosmology, Intelligence, Anarchism, Capitalism, Game Theory… I love them for bringing a fresh perspective on things we often come in contact with, but we just lost the drive and will to think about them and look for deeper truths (or lies) in them. This scientific literature (and fresh air of skepticism) helped me to stay sane here in India, where Gurus are the ultimate authorities and beliefs are not to be challenged.
Long live the science!

Click for photo gallery

     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak