Cosmolosophy: On the Announcement of the Higgs Boson discovery

As a full time systems analyst (doing database and applications development for nearly 30 years now), you might wonder why I would go out of my way to take more than a passing note of this development. It's important, certainly, as it may have marked an impressive milestone in the annals of science, buy why would a non-scientist want to attempt what is, hopefully, a reasoned criticism of the effort as a whole?

Most everyone, of course, is quite excited by the announcement. And this usually breaks down into “another great leap for science”, or the “this proves there’s no God,” groups. Hardly anyone, though, appears willing to go against the tide of giddy acceptance here; to be the contrarian asking questions about whether a larger view point might be in order; a view point that would hope to raise several scientific and moral issues.

That we’ve been burned before by lack of caution ought to go without saying, but we are all subject to AADS when it comes to history these days. Add to that the fact that the principle proponents are physicists and you end up with a surge of expectations more akin to a tsunami than a big tide. More than a few of them have attained near Rock Star status after all, and they work with the heavy cords of mathematics. How can you be a contrarian in this context without sounding like some kind of flat-earth, everything revolves around us, advocate?

I’m certainly no different, having been wowed by both physicists and their power math for years. Getting into your sixties, though, does wonders for the inner curmudgeon. Getting older also seems to give one a renewed respect for how virtually anything can cut in ways other than the obvious. Especially with powerful tools do we tend to be blinded by their general reliability; granting them a very subtle perceptual bias. Which is why I can say, sadly, that there has been precious little serious debate over the years on what is the bedrock of accelerated particle research; namely the notion that intentionally smashing abstracted affect amounts together is done with so little consideration of possible negatives. And in that I would include epistemological considerations; its potential negatives to both the practical environmental around us, as well as the to the realm of the empirical environment such smashing is done in.

Sure, there was the temporary uproar, just before its initial powered testing, that the new Cern accelerator might cause mini singularities, but this was quickly lost within an argument of dueling interpretations of probabilities already stipulated; an argument it's proponents had little chance of winning. The problem was that they keep it too narrowly focused on the probabilities themselves, which was a huge mistake. Not only were they low, but that narrow focus turned it into a contest of who was the more credible; and in that kind of fight it is hard to beat established physicists who have already sold governments on a shiny new toy.

That the announcement would also bring out the “There Is No God” camp is as unsurprising as it is depressing. Having something getting the unfortunate nickname of “God Particle” certainly seems to be reason enough for simplistic reflection to come to the conclusion that anything with God in its name, that can, as well, be measured and replicated, must prove that God doesn't exist. This is also why one might start down the road of depression, but I have what I feel is a more important reason. And that is the sorry state of affairs concerning the dichotomy between reason and the need for transcendent explanation that exists in humanity today.

I have to confess that this is where the part time philosopher in me comes to the fore, as well as where I must divulge my own pet ax; an ax that, fair warning, will most definitely be ground before I am through here. I am, you see, a proponent of a particular philosophy I'm sure you have never heard of before. Not surprising as I am it's only devotee, as well as its founder. I call it Cosmolosophy (pronounced Cos-Mo-Los-Ophy). I won't weigh you down with all of what it proposes (I'm really not here to proselytize so you can investigate more if you care to here), save to say only these few primary propositions; namely that: a: we desperately need a better balance between the rational and the need for transcendent explanation, and b; that, if one can accept the notion that the entirety is made up of Love and Mind, one can have the foundation for this balance.

Depressing though the debate of this announcement has been so far, there have been moments to cause one hope. There has, for example, been much better insight into what is actually being sought out here; at least in as much as how one might label the thing. I refer to what I have always felt was a much better nickname for the Higgs Boson; one that was probably proposed incidentally, as well as some time ago; namely the Love particle (I first heard it used in the Antonio Banderas/Sienna Guillory/Sam Elliot movie “The Big Bang”). It's a better name, in my opinion, because it alludes to something that ought to be quite obvious; that what the physicists are attempting to encapsulate (or objectify) here is what constitutes the “Elemental Embrace” (another proposition from Cosmolosophy). What is missing, as far as the physicists are concerned, is that little bit of extra humility that might get them to better appreciate a couple of things; that not only are there limits to what can be measured empirically, but that there are some things one needs to be very careful about within the process of deconstructing and analyzing.

What I'm talking about here is a subset of a larger human paradox. On the one hand, we must question and understand, for that is part of our purpose, but it is only one part. There also needs to be humility and a sense of awe for we are deeply connected to what we probe; as well as what we probe with. And because we necessarily operate within the full range of human frailties, we tamper with these deep connections at great risk; if for no other reason than what we connect with, and how we connect, are pivotal to what makes us human, and socially organized.. The paradox of needing both deep connection, as well objectification, though, parallels the dilemma of creation and existence itself; to be of it and apart from it at the same time, knowing that knowing itself represents manipulation of a relationship we are only beginning to comprehend. And yet, despite this situation, these scientists presume to be ready to objectify an interactive entity so huge in its micro scale, as well as so fundamental, as to make suggestions of divinity, and the power of creation, quite acceptable as selection criteria for an alias.

Christianity, despite whatever other flaws it might have, tried to at least give some hint as to how encapsulation and creation are related; as evidenced by the fact that their scriptural translations, over the centuries, have left us with a bible that begins with “In the beginning was the word...” (see this for a few more) For them, unfortunately, there had to be an ultimate, sentient purveyor of objectification. Unfortunate as well that they seemed, at least in large part, not to see this ultimate as a divine process, but more as an actual being; a being with plans, desires, and emotions (which, paradoxically, would follow from a purely analytical view of sentience; something that would require objectification, and thus singular point of view, and thus ego. Which, one supposes, might explain this inordinate need of admirers, as opposed to individuals who simply behaved in a manner morally consistent with her teachings. One might also lay the notion that you cannot be spiritual, or a believer in faith, without her being involved in some way, as a jealous protection of turf). In my view, however, the salient point of what is being alluded to here is that differentiating at this level might require god like powers of discernment. Heady stuff to be sure but that is precisely why I have been motivated to jump in here. I don't think that nearly enough of us truly appreciates just how important all of this is. But enough of preliminaries. Let us get started.

I have, of course, already alluded to where I am coming from in this exercise. And I need to point out at the start that this is where the systems analyst in me comes out; particularly where it concerns complex systems. This is a big part of why I question the basic assumptions inherent in smashing protons together at ever higher energy levels. There are several issues that just don't make sense to me. Allow me to list them for you.

  1. How you observe or measure a thing can determine how that thing manifests itself; as in measuring light quanta.

  1. A basic tenet of complex systems is that small inputs can have very large affects.

  1. There is no such thing as zero; which is just another way of stating that empiricism can ultimately only measure the limits of instrumental precision after certain levels of energy (or scales of micro-consideration) are attained; or stated even one more way: meaningful units of information rely on the fundamentals of boundary resolution within a given vector of association (or reality if you will), and the higher we go with energy levels the more we move away from those fundamentals.

Let me now delve into each of these in greater detail so I can, hopefully, give you some perspective on how they apply to my concerns towards these “basic assumptions.”

The first one might seem self evident at first glance, but I want to be as specific in how I see it as I can be. And I have to start by separating out what is obviously implied here, and what I see as a related issue.

Most people who do even casual reading of things scientific know that, tested in one way light appears to be a wave, while tested in another a discrete quanta. This naturally suggests that physicists ought to be looking for a fundamentally different means to test these predictive equations; certainly no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. They could also counter this proposal with the assertion that they are not doing anything that nature isn't already doing; and if nature does it, how could it be all that much different than what we are doing? Their conclusions, therefore, ought to apply to nature.

The problem is the same as it has always been for humankind when confronted with systems they cannot possibly, in the beginning at least, grasp the full complexity of; the crux of which is not having anywhere near all of the questions to ask yet, let alone any of the really meaty answers. For example: if they could measure particles accelerated by natural means, can they blindly assume it would be the same as what occurs in that marvelous piece of engineering at Cern ? Don’t you have to test a notion before you can begin to accept its credibility? And wouldn’t proceeding without such tests be an act of faith?

Related to this is the proposition that the very act of observation changes a thing; more precisely described by stating that observation resolves what is normally considered a large range of possible states of energy, mass and position; where in one sense the thing is all of the possibilities simultaneously, and only has an existence as one of them upon observation. As we move down into ever smaller scales of consideration (which is to say ever more abstracted interactions in relation to the nominal units of information transfer our reality provides), with ever greater energies, our level of ignorance of what constitutes the possible range of states increases by factors that can only be guessed at (which is precisely what they must do in coming up with sigma-level numbers). And the fact that the math might be quite supportive, in one instance or another, at best only proves that they might have modeled what happens in, for lack of a better term, artificial accelerations.

It is also useful to remember what actually generates the numbers they use in their elegant models. They call them detectors and they are also marvelous pieces of engineering; with a lot of thought put into making them do what they need to do; with as much precision as materials and fabrication knowledge can muster. These are clever people after all, and I do hope you believe me when I say that I have only the greatest respect for all of them. Even with that said, however, they are still human, thankfully, and therefore only too prone to the same propensity towards hubris that we all confront. And one can see this at work in the way they conceptualize their detectors for outside consumption.

The following is a direct quote from the European Organization for Nuclear Research web site (see this):

“How a detector works:

The job of a particle detector is to record and visualize the explosions of particles that result from the collisions at accelerators. The information obtained on a particle’s speed, mass, and electron charge help physicists to work out the identity of the particle.

The work particle physicists do to identify a particle that has passed through a detector is similar to the way someone would study the tracks of footprints left by animals in mud or snow. In animal prints, factors such as the size and shape of the marks, length of stride, overall pattern, direction and depth of prints, can reveal the type of animal that came past earlier. Particles leave tell-tale signs in detectors in a similar manner for physicists to decipher…”

They go on to point out that they use 3 types of sub-detector; as in:

  1. Tracking device which detects and reveals the path of a particle.

“Tracking devices reveal the paths of electrically charged particles through the trails they leave behind. There are similar every-day effects: high-flying airplanes seem invisible, but in certain conditions you can see the trails they make. In a similar way, when particles pass through suitable substances the interaction of the passing particle with the atoms of the substance itself can be revealed…”

    1. Calorimeter which stops, absorbs and measures the energy of a particle.

“A calorimeter measures the energy lost by a particle that goes through it. It is usually designed to entirely stop or ‘absorb’ most of the particles coming from a collision, forcing them to deposit all of their energy within the detector…”

    1. Particle identification detector which identifies the type of particle using various techniques.

“Two methods of particle identification work by detecting radiation emitted by charged particles:
  • Cherenkov radiation: this light emitted when a charged particle travels faster than the speed of light through a given medium. The light is given off at specific angle according to the velocity of the particle. Combined with a measurement of the momentum of the particle the velocity can be used to determine the mass and hence to identify the particle.
  • Transition radiation: this radiation is produced by a fast charged particle as it crosses the boundary between the two electrical insulators with different resistances to electric currents. The phenomenon is related to the energy of a particle and distinguishes different particle types.”

As impressive as all of this is, do not forget that it relies on one very important starting assumption: namely that, in the unbelievably compressed space-time event represented by a collision of protons moving very close to the speed of light, boundary resolution will occur exactly as it does in nominal space-time; as well as to say that the interactive products of such events will translate up to our nominal space-time with little information lost: which is to invoke terms I am sure have already caused considerable consternation in getting your head around. Well, let’s step back a moment and try to help out in that regard.

Some of the tenets in Cosmolosophy parallel what is described in a thing physicists refer to as the Anthropic principle (see these) which, put simply, involves asking questions about how our presence in the vast scheme of things does, and/or must, influence the way it comes together. And one of the things that becomes quite prominent within these questions is consideration of a very small set of numbers (at least of few of which are key to defining the field of effect that an interaction entity possesses) that are necessary for the cosmos to allow life at all, much less sentient life. And for my part the key point here is sentience itself.

I have always been fascinated by the parallels between what a sentience organ must do to create a self, and what a cosmos must do to have process be possible in the first place. Basically they must both objectify a basis potential; which is no more than to say that there must be discrete units to provide differentiation (as well as to make information, and its transfer, possible). It is precisely this differentiation that provides the self with identity, and a point of view. And in that there naturally arises a further fascination; which is that the very nature of relativity requires a point of reference. As such Cosmolosophy posits that the singularity that begins the whole mix of what and when is really a vector of sentient association; a starting point that allows any particular reality to have the various essential differentiated units because, at that point only can their nominal field boundaries be resolved. Love, of course, as expressed by the notion of the “Elemental Embrace” is what keeps interaction going. Cosmolosophy also posits that, just as Love cannot be measured in its human expression, the elemental embrace, at whatever scale of cosmological consideration, also cannot be measured. This is definitely not to say, however, that it can’t be hinted at, or suggested. Or that questioning minds should stop doing what they were designed to do, for one of the most basic tenets of Cosmolosophy is that the entirety is essentially one unimaginably huge Question/Answer engine; some kind of recursive, self-programming totality that uses the infinite array of associative vectors in a process of accumulative reality ray tracing. Where, in every iteration, the creation of the answer simply reformulates the engine into a new question to be answered.

The essential point of Cosmolosophy is that we are as necessary to the entirety as it is to us. It needs us to consider it, view and appreciate it. Our mental and physical constructs, in as much as they represent loving structure, help keep the entirety, not to mention our little vector of it, combining and exchanging in a like manner. These are all notions that I take on faith because they not only make sense to me, they feel right. I like to think of them as faith based extensions of reasonable logic.

In any case, though, let’s get back to our detectors. Let’s consider their analogies in light of what I have described above.

At the beginning we were told to think of detection in the context of “tracks left in mud or snow…” I don’t want to suggest that this is literally how particle physicists view what they do, but I do think its fair to assert that they feel what they do is equivalent in its essence. And to keep with that equivalence you have to maintain that the trace paths of electrically charged particles have not lost anything of significance from their source analogue; even though the electrons, nuclei, atoms and molecules of what actually moves the beam of an oscilloscope, or triggers some threshold counter, or gets sliced into billionth of a second numerical representations, operate in a space-time frame of reference that may well be qualitatively, and/or quanta-tatively, different than that of the impact event itself. The simple fact of the matter is that we can’t know what increasing levels of energy might add in terms hidden complexity; precisely because those levels alter not only the very things we depend on to translate something meaningful back to us, but also alter the fabric which they are a part of, and of which, it in turn is shaped by. It’s almost as if we were depending on mud or snow to reveal the tracks of an entity that walks inverted, well beneath the surface, stepping with plasma bolts for feet. A creature that, with each step, changes not only fundamental characteristics of the intervening material, but fundamental aspects of the sphere that contains this material. Changes for which we not only lack the speed to examine, let along measure objectively, but for which we have no proper shovels. The question is not so much that the mud or snow wouldn’t reveal anything, but rather the degree to which one could rely on extrapolations of these revelations; especially as the creature moved deeper.

Let us now move on to the second of my concerns: That, in complex systems, small inputs can have large effects.

By now, I'm sure, everyone has some inkling of this notion. Movies like “The Butterfly Effect” have certainly moved the concept into popular culture. If one uses a search engine on variations of the phrase above the info-ether will come back with fascinating combinations of what complexity and feedback circuits do in the whole range of human endeavor (I have compiled a small list here). And in many of these one sees the terms chaotic and non-linear. Weather is chaotic and non-linear, and therefore predictions, based on ever improving mathematical models, running on ever bigger parallel processing machines, are still quite limited as to how far out in time they can go. Social/economic systems even more so.

The first thing you must remember about the quantum world is that everything is a tightly integrated interaction. We used to think that there was some ultimate point of granularity at which no further deconstruction of process could take place; that one or another conceptual field of affect was its own bit of irreducible amount. We have found, or at least think we have found, that having these amounts run into each other with sufficient intensity teases out even lower scale effect amounts. Affect amounts whose interaction seems to create the larger amount we once thought irreducible. And of course, the deeper an explorer might want to go, the more energy they need to apply to the collision. It is just this artificial application of energy to tightly integrated systems that we should be concerned with. Just because effect amounts interact energetically all the time (creating and destroying associated affect amounts in abundance) in the natural scheme of things doesn't allow an explorer to assume that an artificial injection would be completely benign (in its differential to the non-artificial) to this layer upon layer of tightly woven integration. Physicists own understanding of probing tells them this (it is sentient choice, after all, that decides what light is). In the natural scheme of things interaction and the expansion of what and when go hand in hand, following unimaginable matrices of cause and effect from the original singularity. The act of probing, on the other hand, might be input of another kind entirely. How can we know for sure? Has that unimaginable cascade of cause and effect been pre-programmed to make that artificial input possible? Was it expected and already factored into all of that tight integration? Are they prepared to risk pretty much anything imaginable on this assumption?

The really scary part here is that, in our ignorance, we have so little with which to make reliable calculations of probability. This is because, as already stated, the higher the energies go, the more we introduce unknowable matrices of non-linear interaction; with feed back circuits capable of who knows what kind of power. And the thing is, that power might not manifest itself in a self-evident time scales (the starting time of the effect might not have any ordinary relationship with the impact event at all). In fact, the power to time ratio might be an inverse relationship; whereas the more powerful it is, the longer it takes to become evident to us. The reverse of that might be the case instead, for all anyone knows. Perhaps it applies to the macro-view of our reality in one case, and the micro in the other. Again, who knows? Perhaps in the micro-view it acts to distort associated affect amounts; either positively or negatively. Perhaps in the macro-view it distorts as well, but in an opposite fashion. Perhaps, without realizing it, we are shaping our reality to fit the mathematical models; all in a cosmic act of self-fulfilling manipulation (violently disassociated entities in ever greater disconnection). One is limited only by one's imagination here.

Be that as it may, though, the real issue is why we would go forth so blindly in the first place. Would we experiment in a like manner on the planet's atmosphere? Blasting it with whatever kind of highly interactive input just to try and understand it better? And now that we realize that this is exactly what the industrial revolution, competitive consumption, and monied prosperity have been doing, should we be all that excited about finding new ways to continue the exercise; with even more powerful blasts?

There is another aspect of “big from small” that needs to be considered here as well and that is as it pertains to the researchers themselves. This may seem an over-reach at first glance, but I think it deserves sober reflection. And that is the effect of what so many true believers have on the results; just from the fact of their own frame of mind. There is no double-blind kind of methodology in place here after all (not that there necessarily could be), but even if there were, when you start messing around with manipulation of the very fabric of existence, with such large energies, creating what would otherwise be low probability events (at least in the context of an idealized universe expanding out and interacting without any sentient choice involved); events directed by a common mental energy, who can truly know what the relative probabilities might be

Controversial though it might be, there is a great deal of effort in place to explore this very thing (see this for a brief list). Just to take one plausible track of conjecture, one could certainly ask just how far quantum entanglement might be extended. It might be subtle, what our massed thoughts can do, but at ever smaller space-time points of reference, subtle might find just the right cascade channel sets.

In any case, I think we've done enough with “large effects from small inputs” for the time being. I want to start on my third assertion now: That there is no such thing as zero.

In one sense this is certainly not true. I either have a positive integer value of whatever common place object you might think of, or I don't. My living room might have x number of family portraits, but a count of zero famous person pictures. Quite simple. The quantum world is, as most of us have come to understand, no where near so simple. In fact, things started getting that way when relativity was first introduced. You might have a zero velocity relative to the chair you are sitting in, but it's a pretty sure bet it's non-zero relative to most of the rest of our solar system.

I bring the assertion to our main argument to reiterate two things. In a world where any interaction can only be approximated in terms of other interactive encapsulations, very little can have the various factors of its state (position, mass, energy) expressed as XX.0. Scientists may say that they have brought a volume of one or another material to absolute zero, but that's only relative to a certain level of substantive sub-structure; just as the precision of that measurement is relative to the interactive sub-structure of the thing we probe with. The real question is why should that be important.

We already hinted at the answer when we stated that empiricism can ultimately only measure the limits of instrumental precision after certain levels of energy (or scales of micro-consideration) are attained; as well as stating that meaningful units of information rely on the fundamentals of boundary resolution within a given vector of association (or reality if you will), and the higher we go with energy levels the more we move away from those fundamentals. The physicists at Cern claim they have measured something verifiably discrete beyond the randomness of any noise that may have crept in from interactive translation to interactive translation up the layers of scale. An affect amount as equally fundamental to the nature of the fabric, and its ability to differentiate encapsulated process, as the encapsulations we use to probe with. And that they've done this with a level of distortion of their own making so low that it approximates zero at the very least.

How can the rest of science take this at face value? How can the physicists themselves prove anything objectively here when they operate at the ragged edge of what is object? How can they establish their precision with such confidence when their very ability to be precise at the outset has to be questioned? How can they assure us, with any real precision, that what they are doing is benign in any case? And make no mistake dear reader. As we have already discussed, even infinitesimally small, non-zero variations of precision here could have very large effects.

I want to step back now make sure that one thing is abundantly clear. I don't know for a fact if what they are doing is dangerous or not. Just as its possible that they are, it is also possible that they aren't. I just wish they would stop for a while and start asking a lot more questions of themselves. Have they truly exhausted all alternatives? Even if it might take a while, wouldn't it be worth that wait so that a much more viable space program could be built? A space program that might make truly imaginative alternatives possible; launching probes several orders of imaginative magnitude greater than what is possible now?

I know that a great deal in terms of reputations, money spent, and livelihoods are on the line with this. It is also no small thing to ask a person to stop doing what they have probably devoted their lives to do. I would remind them, however, that there may well be moral issues involved here that go beyond any questions of direct physical harm. In fact, I have a confession to make. It was not the possibility of physical harm that first prompted the notion of speaking out to be suggested to me, but rather one of what we risk in a spiritual nature.

As you might already have guessed, I don't put much stock in the notion of deities. They have never made much sense to me, and I don't expect that they ever will. I do believe in spirit, though, and that there are interactions that transcend ordinary objectification (how can you have faith in love, or what is truly exchanged in an embrace, otherwise). As such I worry a great deal about what we are already doing to ourselves with social and economic structures that don't foster loving structure. The fragmentation, abstraction and disassociation of everything that makes us human that competitive consumption, and specialized production have wrought, has done incalculable violence to our spirit; just as they have done to the spirit of what is natural around us. We thus live without any kind of balance (koyaanisqatsi if you will), let alone much loving structure. Violence then becomes an accepted way of life. Why then would we even think twice about what is essentially a very violent, not to mention invasive, means of probing the deepest aspects of our existence (or even why we would want to objectify something so precious and wondrous in the first place).

To objectify is, after all, to separate ones self from direct connection with the matrix of process that is existence. It is, as with creation itself, a form of violence, for it destroys what was to create what can be. It is as inevitable as it is necessary, but that is not to say that its excess is benign. Any more than not being objective at all would be benign. That's one of the points of striving for the ideal of loving structure. It is deep connection and interaction in balance with rational objectivity; living what you believe is the very nature of existence itself.

The above having been said, I would ask physicists if they have pondered very deeply at all on what they risk. It's not just what we might do to the processes around us, but what we would do to ourselves. Even if you did no physical harm, and it were possible to objectify every last essential aspect of existence, would you still be human at all? Would anything have wonder or magic?

I would hope that all of us would remember what Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurasic Park said (just before the wondrous new thing began to chomp unexpectedly): just because you can (and allowing that curiosity is a part of our nature) do a thing, doesn't necessarily mean you should. Knowledge, as well as ideas, are sharp and multidimensional. They can cut in ways you can never fully anticipate. I beg of you, please proceed with all due care and humility. Your “Lab Rat” could encompass a great deal more, or less, than you could possibly imagine.

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