Neuroscience and Physics?

Physics is like an entangled particle of neuroscience - one studies the nature of reality as it is, and the other strives to reveal the machinations and content of our skewed interpretations of reality. They seem inexorably linked; like the yin and yang of science.

For the last fifty years, physicists have been fruitlessly searching for the unified theory that combines general relativity, which explains the behavior of stars and planets, and quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of atoms, electrons, and quarks. String theory is the leading candidate to solve the problem, but it not only lacks evidence, it lack an experimental paradigm to prove it right or wrong. It is based on elegant formulas, and apparently, the math is beautiful, but the explanation is a bit of a mess. For it to be true, it requires an extra seven dimensions, additional to the four we have now.

String theorists are very attached to their Big Answer - and they are protective over it. How could they not be? They've spent their lives trying to prove this thing correct, so they instinctively attack any voice of dissent.

Well, not to goad, but there is a huge voice lurking - Garrett Lisi, is a ski bum physicist who dropped out of academia for ten years, and recently returned with a unique Theory of Everything. Typically, in the stodgy academic community, he's been met with a lot of resistance from the string theorists who are quick to dismantle his ideas. It should be noted that his theory only needs the four dimensions we live in now.

It's an interesting story about science - I think Lisi (who some call the next Einstein) is onto something with his theory. But I find it disturbing that the old-guard string theorists feel the need to attack it. This idea that the science community holds truth as its #1 priority is a flattering representation at best. In my experience, scientists hold their celebrity and reputation in more esteem than the explanatory power of their discoveries. It's the same in politics, art, and music. Science at least boasts a system of selecting out the bullshit - over time.

The encouraging thing is to see how the internet enables a faster mode of communication and posting theories and studies. Lisi received acclaim and criticism by posting his theory on arXiv, a non-peer-reviewed site on physics and mathematics. Maybe the internet will do to science what it has done to the music industry - remove the dinosaurs and let the highest quality product stand out.

The other interesting facet of physics that relates to neuroconsciousness is how often the most atheistic of physicists sound like they're referring to almost supernatural phenomenon when describing current theories (or like they just dropped acid). It's almost like a cognitive dissonance - sure, you don't believe in God or ghosts, but you're asking me to believe in an infinite number of universes and eleven dimensions? Maybe this is why I like Lisi's theory so much, it appreciates the elegance and reality of nature without having to write a science fiction story to explain it (don't get me wrong, I love the science fiction stories, just not sure I believe them).

I consistently go back and fourth on the idea of a multiverse, which is consonant with quantum physics. The other option is determinism, which basically states there is only one possibility for every outcome, which means fate is real, and free will is an illusion. If I had to chose which of those is true, I have no idea what I'd prefer.

[In an interesting side note, a few psychologists examined the moral implications of determinism. What happens when individuals start to believe they lack free will.]

What's interesting about physics is that discussions on the topic almost serve as a blank canvas for people's predilections and beliefs - from lay person to nobel prize winner. It's very much like religion - it often tries to explain the almost unexplainable. It would be an interesting question to give people the choice: string theory/multiverse vs. determinism - or maybe the third option is "God made it all." Then again, it seems God falls into the determinism category. Certainly, people's answers would elucidate a lot about their character - like a physics/neuroconsciousness rorchach test.

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