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Things that didn't fit; seeing things further

Monday 26th April, a change in the weather at last, a grey soft sky; feels cool

Something that didn't fit into the Masterworks intro I was writing: I'm not a fan of the multiverse* or "many worlds" proposal, because I must be missing something: I don't see that it gets us anywhere. Supposing it's true that every possible (ie not self-contradictory/ self-destructive) variant on the State of all States exists, and ours is one version in a stunningly huge sea of the possibilities, that still leaves us with the problem that "many worlds" was supposed to solve: ie the fact that we cannot make the laws of physics add up. Quantum mechanics won't reconcile with Newtonian mechanics here, and there's that 90% of "missing mass" issue, here, which nobody can resolve, though not for want of trying. Plus, saying we live here because this is the Goldilocks Universe where everything is just right, is just crypto-Intelligent Design by stealth.

I like Joanna Russ's version, the braided possibilities of The Female Man, because it offers what seems to me a really satisfying insight. 1. There is only one other "universe" or "cosmos" we can compare, for complexity, indefiniteness (is that a word?), multiplicity, with the one we perceive "out there" & that is the human self. Every time you lay down a memory, every time you recall a memory, a new neuronal self springs into being; each of us is a multiverse. And yet, unless clinically insane, each of these multiverses can resolve, a trick we manage all the time (like the four Js at the end of the story) into a coherent single whole.

*I like strings, because strings remind me that "Electrons are not things" (I think it was David Bohm said that, but might be remembering wrong). I don't like those extra dimensions. I think they are a joke. This is because I am old enough to have been taught c17th century history of ideas as an undergraduate at Sussex University. I remember the mad cat's cradle that was the pre-Copernican system, just before it went bust. Just the loops people were jumping through, trying to explain the retrograde motion of Mars, if Mars was orbiting the Earth, was a sight to behold. So I look at the struggle to make the appearences conform to our present ideas, I think epicycles, and I'm just convinced something's going to give, there's a gestalt flip hovering in the wings, that will blow all this scrabbing away


Seeing Further ed. Bill Bryson


Why so cosmological all of a sudden. Partly Russ, and partly Peter gave me this essay collection published for the Royal Society's 350th birthday, for my birthday this year. Just finished it. Inevitably I found it patchy, liked some essays, bounced off others, but it was very nostalgic, given my distant past. I liked Neal Stephenson's piece on Monads, because I thought Leibnitz was wonderful when I first met his work. I liked the chapter on bridges by Henry Petroski, because it was so concrete, and the great beasts in the pictures so brilliant. & I really liked Oliver Morton's Art/Science piece on Land Art (eg Andy Goldsworthy) & unravelling those weaselly expressions "saving the Planet", "saving the Environment". Cogent and unexpectedly poetic. Georgina Ferry was inspiring, and about the only entry (no, I checked, it WAS the only entry) that featured women doing science. And special mention to Gregory Benford, for the "Darwin-Wallace Theory". About time somebody started a movement in that direction



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