Probability

The concept of other universes has been proposed to explain why our universe seems to be fine-tuned for conscious life as we experience it. If there were a infinite number of different physical laws in as many universes, some of these would have laws that were suitable for stars, planets and life to exist.

The weak anthropic principle could then be applied to conclude that we would only consciously exist in those universes which were finely tuned for our conscious existence. Thus, while the probability might be extremely small that there is life in most of the universes, this scarcity of life-supporting universes does not imply intelligent design as the only explanation of our existence.

We must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in time as well as space is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers. The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve.

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Chamber

In Jewish mysticism, the Chamber of Guf, also called the Otzar, is the Hall of Souls located in the Seventh Heaven. Every human soul is held to emanate from the Guf. The Talmud teaches that the Messiah will not come until the Guf is emptied of all its souls.

In keeping with other Jewish legends that envision souls as bird-like, the Guf is sometimes described as a columbarium, or birdhouse. Folklore says sparrows can see the soul’s descent and this explains their joyous chirping.

The mystic significance of the Guf is that each person is important and has a unique role which only each person, with their unique soul, can fulfill. Even a newborn baby brings the Messiah closer simply by being born.

The peculiar idiom of describing the treasury of souls may be connected to the mythic tradition of Adam Kadmon, the primordial man. Adam Kadmon was a supernal being, androgynous and equal in size with the universe. According to Kabbalah, every human soul is a fragment cycling out of the great world soul of Adam Kadmon. Hence, every human soul comes from the Chamber of Guf.

Substantiality

The unmoved mover is a philosophical concept described by Aristotle as the first cause that sets the universe into motion. In his book Metaphysics, Aristotle describes the unmoved mover as being perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplating only the perfect contemplation: itself contemplating.

Aristotle begins by describing substance, of which he says there are three types: the sensible, which is subdivided into the perishable (which belongs to physics) and the eternal (which belongs to “another science”). He notes that sensible substance is changeable and that there are several types of change, including quality and quantity, generation and destruction, increase and diminution, alteration, and motion.

Change occurs when one given state becomes something contrary to it: that is to say, what exists potentially comes to exist actually. Therefore, a thing can come to be out of that which is not, and also all things come to be out of that which is, but is potentially. That by which something is changed is the mover, that which is changed is the matter, and that into which it is changed is the form.

Density

Spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge. These are surrounded by a much fainter halo of stars, many of which reside in globular clusters. Spiral galaxies make up approximately 60% of galaxies in the local Universe. They are mostly found in low-density regions and are rare in the centers of galaxy clusters.

Spiral galaxies are named for the spiral structures that extend from the center into the disk. The spiral arms are sites of ongoing star formation and are brighter than the surrounding disk because of the hot, massive stars that inhabit them. Spiral arms contain a great many young, blue stars, which make the arms so remarkable. Roughly half of all spirals are observed to have an additional component in the form of a bar-like structure, extending from the central bulge, at the ends of which the spiral arms begin.

Our own Milky Way has recently been confirmed to be a barred spiral, although the bar itself is difficult to observe from our position within the Galactic disk. The most convincing evidence for its existence comes from a recent survey, performed by the Spitzer Space Telescope, of stars in the Galactic center.

Bertil Lindblad proposed that the arms represent regions of enhanced density waves that rotate more slowly than the galaxy’s stars and gas. As gas enters a density wave, it gets squeezed and makes new stars, some of which are short-lived blue stars that light the arms.

This idea was developed into density wave theory by C. C. Lin and Frank Shu in 1964. They suggested that the spiral arms were manifestations of spiral density waves, attempting to explain the large-scale structure of spirals in terms of a small-amplitude wave propagating with fixed angular velocity, that revolves around the galaxy at a speed different from that of the galaxy’s gas and stars.

Stability

In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the collective name for several ways of asserting that physical and chemical theories, especially astrophysics and cosmology, need to take into account that there is life on Earth, and that one form of that life, Homo sapiens, has attained sapience. The only kind of universe humans can occupy is one that is similar to the current one.

Originally proposed as a rule of reasoning, the term has since been extended to cover supposed “superlaws” that in various ways require the universe to support intelligent life, usually assumed to be carbon-based and occasionally asserted to be human beings. Anthropic reasoning assesses these constraints by analyzing the properties of hypothetical universes whose fundamental parameters or laws of physics differ from those of the real universe. Anthropic reasoning typically concludes that the stability of structures essential for life, from atomic nuclei to the whole universe, depends on delicate balances between different fundamental forces.

These balances are believed to occur only in a tiny fraction of possible universes, so that this universe appears fine-tuned for life. Anthropic reasoning attempts to explain and quantify this fine tuning. Within the scientific community the usual approach is to invoke selection effects and to hypothesize an ensemble of alternate universes, in which case that which can be observed is subject to an anthropic bias.

However, the term anthropic in “anthropic principle” has been argued to be a misnomer. While singling out our kind of carbon-based life, none of the coincidences require human life or demand that carbon-based life develop intelligence.

The anthropic principle has given rise to some confusion and controversy, partly because the phrase has been applied to several distinct ideas. All versions of the principle have been accused of undermining the search for a deeper physical understanding of the universe. Those who invoke the anthropic principle often invoke multiple universes or an intelligent designer, both controversial and criticised for being untestable and therefore outside the purview of accepted science.

Variance

Benoît B. Mandelbrot is a mathematician, best known as the father of fractal geometry. He was born in Warsaw, Poland. His family moved to France when he was a child, and he was educated in France. He is a dual French and American citizen. Mandelbrot now lives and works in the United States.

From 1951 onward, Mandelbrot worked on problems and published papers not only in mathematics but in applied fields such as information theory, economics, and fluid dynamics. He became convinced that two key themes, fat tails and self similar structure, ran through a multitude of problems encountered in those fields. Mandelbrot found that price changes in financial markets did not follow a Gaussian distribution, but rather stable distributions having theoretically infinite variance. He found, for example, that cotton prices followed a Levy stable distribution with parameter equal to 1.7 rather than 2 as in a Gaussian distribution.

He also put his ideas to work in cosmology. In 1974 he offered a new explanation of Olbers’ Paradox (the “dark night sky” riddle), which states that in an infinite universe, the night sky should blaze with the light of the stars that lie in all directions, even those far away. Mandelbrot postulated that if the stars in the universe were fractally distributed, it would not be necessary to rely on the Big Bang theory to explain the paradox. His model would not rule out a Big Bang, but would allow for a dark sky even if the Big Bang had not occurred.

Although Mandelbrot coined the term fractal, some of the mathematical objects he presented had been described by other mathematicians. Before Mandelbrot, they had been regarded as isolated curiosities with unnatural and non intuitive properties. Mandelbrot brought these objects together for the first time and turned them into essential tools to extend the scope of science to non smooth objects in the real world. He highlighted their common properties, such as self similarity and scale variance.

He also emphasized the use of fractals as realistic and useful models of many rough phenomena in the real world. Natural fractals include the shapes of mountains, coastlines and river basins; the structures of plants, blood vessels and lungs; the clustering of galaxies. Fractals are found in human pursuits, such as music, painting, architecture, and stock market prices. Mandelbrot believed that fractals, far from being unnatural, were in many ways more intuitive and natural than the artificially smooth objects of traditional Euclidean geometry.

Mandelbrot has been called a visionary. His informal and passionate style of writing and his emphasis on visual and geometric intuition made his publication The Fractal Geometry of Nature accessible to non specialists. The book sparked widespread popular interest in fractals and contributed to chaos theory and other fields of science and mathematics.

Blessings

Prayer flags are colorful panels or rectangular cloths often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside or for other purposes. Unknown in other branches of Buddhism, prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bön, which predated Buddhism in Tibet. Traditionally they are woodblock printed with texts and images.

The Indian Buddhist Sutras, discourses attributed to the Buddha, written on cloth in India, were traditionally distributed to other regions of the world. These sutras, written on banners, were the origin of prayer flags. Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Shakyamuni Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. The legend may have given the Indian bhikku a reason for carrying the heavenly banner as a way of signifying his commitment to ahimsa. This knowledge was carried into Tibet by 800 CE, and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040 CE, where they were further modified.

Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five, one in each of five colors. The five colors represent the elements, and the Five Pure Lights and are arranged from left to right in a specific order. Different elements are associated with different colors for specific traditions, purposes and sadhana:

  • Blue (symbolizing sky/space)
  • White (symbolizing air/wind)
  • Red (symbolizing fire)
  • Green (symbolizing water)
  • Yellow (symbolizing earth)

The center of a prayer flag traditionally features a powerful or strong horse bearing three flaming jewels on its back. The Ta is a symbol of speed and the transformation of bad fortune to good fortune. The three flaming jewels symbolize the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, the three cornerstones of Tibetan philosophical tradition.

Surrounding the Ta are various versions of approximately 20 traditional mantras, each dedicated to a particular deity. In Tibetan, deities are not so much gods as aspects of the divine which are manifest in each part of the whole universe, including individual humans. These writings include mantras from three of the great Buddhist Bodhisattvas. In addition to mantras, prayers for the long life and good fortune of the person who mounts the flags are often included.

Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, a common misconception, rather the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

By hanging flags in high places the Wind Horse will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras.

The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.

Some believe that if the flags are hung on inauspicious astrological dates, they may bring negative results for as long as they are flying. The best times to put up new prayer flags are in the mornings on sunny, windy days.

Sets of five coloured flags should be put in the order: blue, white, red, green, yellow from left to right. The colours represent the Five Buddha Families and the five elements. The origin of Prayer flag colors may be traced to an ancient tradition of Tibet where shamans used primary colored plain flags in healing ceremonies. According to Traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements. Old prayer flags are replaced with new ones annually on the Tibetan New Year.

Because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used in clothing. Old prayer flags should be burned.

During the Cultural Revolution, prayer flags were discouraged but not entirely eliminated. Many traditional designs may have been lost. Currently, different styles of prayer flags can be seen all across the Tibetan region. Most of the traditional prayer flags today are made in Nepal and India by Tibetan refugees or by Nepali Buddhists. The flags are also manufactured in Bhutan for local use.

Decoherence

Schrodinger’s cat is the best known example of the paradox regarding the measurement problem in the interpretation of quantum mechanics. A cat is apparently evolving into a linear superposition of basis vectors that can be characterized as an alive cat and states that can be described as a dead cat. Each of these possibilities is associated with a specific nonzero probability amplitude. The cat seems to be in a mixed state. However, a single observation of the cat does not measure the probabilities. It always finds either a living cat, or a dead cat. After the measurement the cat is definitively alive or dead. The question is, how are the probabilities converted into an actual, sharply well-defined outcome?

The measurement problem is the key set of questions that every interpretation of quantum mechanics must address. The wavefunction in quantum mechanics evolves according to the Schrodinger equation into a linear superposition of different states, but the actual measurements always find the physical system in a definite state. Any future evolution is based on the state the system was discovered to be in when the measurement was made, meaning that the measurement did something to the process under examination. Whatever that something may be does not appear to be explained by the basic theory.

Different interpretations of quantum mechanics propose different solutions of the measurement problem. Quantum decoherence was proposed in the context of the many worlds interpretation, but it has also become an important part of some modern updates of the Copenhagen interpretation based on consistent histories. Quantum decoherence does not describe the actual process of the wavefunction collapse, but it explains the conversion of the quantum probabilities that are able to interfere to the ordinary physical probabilities.

Hugh Everett’s relative state interpretation, also referred to as a many worlds interpretation, attempts to avoid the problem by suggesting it is an illusion. Under this system there is only one wavefunction, the superposition of the entire universe, and it never collapses, so there is no measurement problem. Instead the act of measurement is actually an interaction between two quantum entities, which entangle to form a single larger entity, for instance living cat and happy scientist. Everett also attempted to demonstrate the way that in measurements the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics would appear. Everett’s interpretation posits a single universal wavefunction, but with the added condition that reality from the point of view of any single observer is defined as a single path in time through the superpositions. Under this system our reality is one of many similar ones.

The Bohm interpretation tries to solve the measurement problem very differently. This interpretation contains not only the wavefunction, but also the information about the position of the particles. The role of the wavefunction is to create a quantum potential that influences the motion of the real particle in such a way that the probability distribution for the particle remains consistent with the predictions of the orthodox quantum mechanics. According to the Bohm interpretation, once the particle is observed, other wave function channels remain empty and thus ineffective, but there is no true wavefunction collapse.

The present situation is slowly clarifying. Several proposals have been put forward to elucidate the meaning of probabilities and arrive at the Born rule. No decisive conclusion appears to have been reached as to the success of these derivations. Only the physical interactions between systems then determine a particular decomposition into classical states from the view of each particular system. Thus classical concepts are to be understood as locally emergent in a relative state sense and should no longer claim a fundamental role in the physical theory.

Quintessence

According to ancient and medieval science, Ether is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. It was imagined in Greek mythology to be the pure essence where the gods lived and which they breathed, analogous to the air breathed by mortals.

Aristotle included Ether in the system of the classical elements of Ionic philosophy as the quintessence, on the principle that the four terrestrial elements were subject to change and moved naturally in straight lines while no change had been observed in the celestial regions and the heavenly bodies moved in circles.

In Aristotle’s system Ether had no qualities, was neither hot, cold, wet, or dry, and was incapable of change. By its nature it moved in circles. Medieval scholastic philosophers granted Ether changes of density in which the bodies of the planets were considered to be denser than the medium which filled the rest of the universe.

Early modern physics proposed the existence of a medium of the Ether meaning upper air or pure, fresh air, a space filling substance or field, thought to be necessary as a transmission medium. The assorted Ether theories embody the various conceptions of this medium and substance. This early modern Ether has little in common with the Ether of classical elements from which the name was borrowed.

Although hypotheses of the Ether vary somewhat in detail they all have certain characteristics in common. Essentially it is considered to be a physical medium occupying every point in space, including material bodies. A second essential feature is that its properties gives rise to the electric, magnetic and gravitational potentials and determines the propagation velocity of their effects.

Therefore the speed of light and all other propagating effects are determined by the physical properties of the Ether at the relevant location, analogous to the way that gaseous, liquid and solid media affect the propagation of sound waves.

The Ether is considered the overall reference frame for the universe and thus velocities are all absolute relative to its rest frame. Therefore, any physical consequences of those velocities are considered as having absolute or real effects.

Recent Ether theories of velocity effects, phenomenon of gravitation and planetary motion, creation of proton, of stars and planets, etc., exist but are not generally accepted by the mainstream scientific community.

John Bell, interviewed by Paul Davies in The Ghost in the Atom has suggested that an Ether theory allows a reference frame in which signals go faster than light. Bell suggests the Ether was wrongly rejected on purely philosophical grounds, in that what is unobservable does not exist.

Einstein found the non-Ether theory simpler and more elegant, but Bell suggests that doesn’t rule it out. Besides the arguments based on his interpretation of quantum mechanics, Bell also suggests resurrecting the Ether because it is a useful pedagogical device. That is, lots of problems are solved more easily by imagining the existence of an Ether.

Interpretation

In the Latter Day Saint movement, Kolob is a star or planet mentioned in the Book of Abraham as being nearest to the throne or residence of God. The literal existence and the exact nature of Kolob is a controversial topic in Latter Day Saint movement theology, as is the Book of Abraham, which has not been canonized by the Community of Christ and several other denominations.

In an explanation of an Egyptian hypocephalus that was part of the Book of Abraham scrolls, Joseph Smith interpreted one set of hieroglyphics as representing Kolob, signifying the first creation nearest to the celestial or the residence of God. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth.

The Book of Abraham describes a hierarchy of heavenly bodies, including the earth, its moon, and the sun, each with different movements and measurements of time, where at the pinnacle, the slowest revolving body is Kolob, where one Kolob day corresponds to 1000 earth-years:

Modern Egyptologists have made an analysis of the facsimile and with fragments of the papyrus from which the Book of Abraham was translated, and disagree with Joseph Smith’s interpretation. In response to criticism that Joseph Smith’s interpretation is not consistent with Egyptologists interpretation, some Mormon apologists promote a loose, symbolic interpretation of the facsimile they say is consistent with Smith’s translation.

According to the literal interpretation, Kolob is an actual star in this universe that is near to, or perhaps the sun of, the physical throne of God. This interpretation has significant formative impact on Mormon belief and criticism, leading to conceptions such that the faithful will be made gods of planets in this universe, that God dwells within this universe rather than transcending it, and that the Biblical creation is a creation of the local earth, solar system, or galaxy, rather than the entire known physical reality.

A metaphorical interpretation relatively uncommon in Mormonism suggests that Kolob represents Jesus Christ rather than a physical object and location in this universe. Advocates of the symbolic interpretation believe it harmonizes better with other Mormon beliefs and with beliefs in the greater Christian community, as it does not require that God have a physical throne within this universe.

Kolob is similar to an Iroquoian word which expressed the power of life, healing, and rebirth, as symbolized by the rising of the Sun in the east each day. North American Tribes residing in the Eastern United States associated the rising of the sun with the direction of east, and associated Sunrise with divine power, rebirth, healing, and resurrection. The word kolob is similar to the Iroquoian word kalvg, pronounced kah-luh-g, which means east or Sunrise. The rising of the sun was associated with Asgaya Gigaei, the Red Man of the East, a pseudonym for the Apportioner or Creator Spirit, unelanvhi.

Some of the elements of the two Battlestar Galactica science-fiction television shows seem to be derived from the Mormon beliefs of its creator and chief producer, Glen A. Larson. In both the original series from 1978, and the 2003 new series, the planet Kobol is the ancient and distant mother world of the entire human race and the planet where life began, and the Lords of Kobol are sacred figures to the human race.

Kolob was also the name of a short-lived record label company founded by the Osmond Brothers in the 1970s. Released in association with MGM Records, the logo consisted of a hand holding a ball of clay resembling the planet. The Osmonds also recorded an album called The Plan which deals with themes in Mormonism related to Kolob.