[ExI] QT and SR

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Sat Sep 6 20:23:34 UTC 2008

At 12:25 PM 9/6/2008 -0700, Lee wrote:

>>  I really wish it were easier to convey complex
>>ideas, written English is such a narrow bandwidth...
>Ah yes, that would be nice.
>>Do you know of any discussions of this [communication]
>>problem, or proposed solutions?
>Not really. Even Skype or the telephone conferences or
>even if we had perfect video conferencing, two problems
>remain.  (1) this kind of forum is great because (excuse
>me a moment while I go get something to eat) allows for
>total freedom of time and opportunity to participate, and
>(2) we simply cannot convey our ideas in any possible
>way to others I reckon, short of mind-melding.

<cough> One can attempt analogies:

Toby opened a Schwelle, took us back into clear 
daylight. The trees were gone. I heard chickens 
clucking in the dell below, children's voices, 
saw a group of huts. Not five meters away a goat 
grazed; when it saw me suddenly standing there, 
it leaped straight up with all four hooves in the 
air. I knew there was a word for that, but 
couldn't think of it, because I burst out 
laughing at the silly thing. I could have sworn 
it shook its head in disbelief before it headed 
ambling off downhill, neck bell clanging. 
Stotting, that was it. Some African beast was 
given to the practice. An adult human came out 
from one of the huts. She was naked to the waist, 
tall and scrawny, and when she opened her mouth 
to scream at us I saw that all her teeth were 
filed to points. Half a dozen little angry guys 
rushed out of the other huts and ran straight up the hill at us.
           `Let's not loiter,' Toby said, and we 
went through to a world without huts, but 
something immensely tall and pale blue stood 
kilometers away on red concrete, soaring up 
through light cirrus, bulging out like a turnip. 
Windows caught the morning sun from a dozen 
directions. The turnip, I saw, shading my eyes, 
was slowly turning on its axis. In the low 
purple-leaved bushes around us, large lacy 
butterflies came and went. The place was 
hauntingly beautiful and incredibly strange, like 
a dream of impossible architecture.
           `It's... wonderful,' I said.
           `Yes,' Lune said. She put her hand in 
mine. `These are all cognates of Toby's base 
universe, you understand. Like the cardinal 
numbers. There is a countable infinity of them.'
           `Parallel universes,' I said.
           `No,' Toby told me. `Well, if you 
like. It's a gross simplification. Each of them 
is actually in the same universe you've always 
lived inside, the same multiverse, but rather a long way as the crow flies.'
           `Ten to the 10^29 meters distant from 
each other, on average,' Lune said, seesawing her 
flat hand to show that the average varied a bit 
from place to place, as you'd probably expect if 
you had the faintest idea what she was saying. 
`That's as the light beam flies too. Luckily, we 
can get there faster by redescribing the ontology.'
           `Oh, of course. Don't know why I 
didn't see it immediately.' I shut my eyes, 
calculating. Ten to the thirteen light years, 
roughly. The radius of the whole goddamned 
universe, wasn't it? It numbed the imagination. 
No, wait. There couldn't be that many planets 
like Toby's version of Earth, not in the whole 
universe. `Actually, I still can't see it. Ten to 
the twenty-nine doesn't seem enough--'
           `No, no,' Lune said. `It's true that 
ten to the twenty-ninth power is a truly enormous 
number, there's roughly that many atoms in your 
body. A hundred thousand trillion trillion. But 
see, that's just the exponent. The whole 
multiverse is ever so much bigger, unthinkably 
large. You need to raise 10 to that power...'
           `Not just one followed by twenty-nine 
zeroes, you see, August,' Toby added. `Ten to the 
ten to the twenty nine is so big that if you 
tried to write it down you'd have to follow the 
first one with a hundred thousand trillion 
trillion zeros. I computed that once over a cup 
of hot chocolate, and it stuck in my mind for a curious reason.'
           I felt suitably crushed, and shrugged. `That's plenty of nothing.'
           `It's plenty of plenty, my boy. At ten 
numerals to the inch, the number you need to 
describe how far the distinct universes extend in 
the multiverse would itself stretch some twenty 
seven billion light years.' Toby smiled 
cheerfully and swung his arms wide. `From one 
side of the local cosmos all the way to the other, scribble scribble scribble.'
           `Yeah, and you'd use up a whole 
shitload of ink and paper, right.' I don't think 
they were fooled by my feigned nonchalance. What 
they were saying beggared the imagination 
utterly. My eyes drifted away to the right as I 
tried to picture it. A universe of universes. But 
that was just the first step. Then do it again: a 
universe of universes of universes. And again, 
and again, and again, almost endlessly... It was 
too much to take in. Okay, yeah, I'd accept it. 
You could have as many worlds like Earth as you 
liked in a place that big, each of them 
resembling the Earth we knew as closely as you 
wished­the planet Lune and Toby and I knew, even 
if our worlds were a little dissimilar. I drew in 
a staggering breath, looked back to Lune. She was nodding.
           `I know,' she said. `It hit me hard 
too. All right, my darling,' she added briskly, 
`we're shown you the faintest hint of T level 
one, where we usually live. Now let's move on toward the larger scales.'
           A Schwelle opened as she spoke a 
deixis code. We went into a place horribly bent 
and twisted into absurd directions.
           `A T-prime sample. Tegmark level two,' 
she told me, somehow, and I heard her, somehow. 
Her voice rattled like old rusted iron on a roof. 
`Don't be alarmed. Our senses and our brains are 
not designed for this. Aren't evolved to cope with it.'
           Was there air in my lungs? I felt 
myself choke and gasp. Was there heat enough to 
warm the chilled core of my belly? I clutched my 
arms around myself, then looked to Lune to make 
sure she was okay. She'd turned into an El Greco 
witch, elongated and hood-eyed. No, not like that 
at all, more a deformed stick figure by Dali, or 
Picasso around the time he started deconstructing 
the human figure into oblongs with both eyes on 
the same side of the face. My brother stalked 
beside her, an insect thing with a ruff of indigo 
hair. I glanced down at my own hands, recoiled. 
Wire and corroded, patched leather.
           `God,' I groaned. `Edward Scissorhands.'
           `Your grammar is doing its best,' Toby 
assured me. He sounded like a whale, very like a 
whale. `In this place there are...' He paused, 
cast about like a hunting hound. `...Maybe two 
spatial dimensions and I'd estimate two temporal directions.'
           `Two directions to move in time? You 
mean we can walk backwards to the past while we're here?'
           `Yes, but only while we're here,' Lune 
said. Have you ever heard a peacock's squawk? I 
was outraged at the travesty this evil domain had made of her music.
            `It's lovely to visit,' I rasped, 
`but I don't think I'd want to live here.'
           `Moving on, then,' Toby said, and we 
passed into somewhere far more disconcerting.
           `You're mixing up the sticks,' I said, 
witlessly. But what I meant was... I struggled to 
hold on to something distinct and knowable.
           `These T-prime worlds embody every 
conceivable mix of physical dimensions and 
constants comprising the multiverse,' Lune told 
me. It made me laugh, because that's what I'd just said.
           We went into places where surely 
nothing solid, regular, persistent could exist, 
sustain itself. For one terrifying endless moment 
we crossed a vast space with more directions than 
seemed possible but without the ticking of a 
clock. An odor of incense. Timeless everywhere, 
ground to a halt, seized. My Vorpal implants 
blazed with light. I felt a cramp, a convulsion. 
I was thrown out of that eternal silence, and 
Lune murmured, as if in recognition, `Elliptical 
partial differential equations.'
           Onward we went, ever onward. In a 
crushed place of echoes where nothing stood 
still, where improbable forces built up and tore 
down, Toby told me, `You see? With one dimension 
of space but more than four of time, the worlds 
are unstable.' We stepped away into places where 
time returned to normal but space spread out once 
more in directions I could not fathom with my 
poor limited brain. He said, `With only one or 
two dimensions of either space or time, universes 
are too simple to build or sustain atoms, so we must evade those.'
           In this inconceivable archipelago we 
skittered through cosmos after cosmos in disarray 
and flux. Somehow the Vorpal implants held our 
bodies and brains, or their semblance in some 
safe computational enclosure, from collapse or 
dispersal. Lune told us, `Ultrahyperbolic 
equations, no stability here.' We did all this 
again and again. I will not try to describe those 
places of dimensional confusion, it would be as 
tedious and contrived as recounting a dream next 
morning. The brain can't hold on to it, so it 
concocts a bunch of mysticism about colors beyond 
the visible spectrum, `ulfire' and `jale' in that 
old David Lindsay novel my mother admired, A 
Voyage to Arcturus, but that's not it at all. I 
got the point, though, I really did. It 
frightened me down to the bone, realizing the 
truth of it. These were worlds, probably an 
infinity of them, where the three familiar 
parameters of height, depth and width, and the 
one-way stream of time, were thrown heedlessly 
into the trash. Dimensions and constants were 
remixed and renumbered, the neat domestic floral 
display of spacetime was barbarously pruned, 
re-sorted, juggled. Roses were jammed in next to 
strawberries and stinking weeds, and it made you 
sneeze and then tore your nose off. As an 
experience it was baroque, I'll give it that. It 
was nightmarish in what you might call a bad way. 
At the end of it, we stepped through on to a 
railway platform and I sagged with relief, 
drawing in the sinus-clogging fumes of the steam 
engine smoke (so my nose hadn't been torn off 
after all, which was a comfort), the heavy tang 
of great greased steel locomotive wheels, the 
sweat and dirty clothes of early morning 
passengers in some kind of traditional Japanese 
costume, carrying briefcases and listening to 
Walkmen clamped over their high lacquered 
hairdos. The men nearby gave us sidelong 
scrutiny, but shoved forward with determination 
into the open doors. The women kept their eyes on 
the ground, shuffling sedately but with a turn of speed.
           `Third Tegmark level,' Toby said 
cheerfully. `Hold on to your hat, or not, or all three.'
           Oh. Oh. Oh.
           Was I having a seizure? An epileptic 
fit, maybe, with those auras you hear about from 
people afflicted with migraine, jittery streaks 
of light and the feeling that your eyes are 
jumping wildly between the frames of reality. 
Everything peeled apart while remaining rock 
solid. All the colorful folk on the station got 
on the train and stayed off it, changing their 
minds. They climbed hastily into the carriage in 
front of them, and raced down and up the station 
to force themselves belatedly into a different 
doorway, or in some cases through the open and 
the shut windows, and fell with a cry of dismay 
on to the empty tracks where no train stood, and 
boarded the sleek helicopter that waited on the elevated pad, and--
           --I did all that too, that sort of 
thing, my viewpoint jumping like a maddened 
kangaroo from one part of the station to another, 
with Lune's hand tightly in mine, and torn away 
from her, and Toby lost to view, and, horribly, 
Toby lying bleeding and surely dead, his abdomen 
crushed by the wheels of the departed train, and­
           Voices chattering in overlap, coming 
together into sense, skidding apart into blurred 
cacophony: `The quantum view of the multiverse, 
August. The all-at-once unfolding of the wave 
function. Every possibility realized, all the 
options accepted. Schrödinger with no collapse. Like in Sag-A star.'
           `Get us the fuck out of here!' I 
screamed, and hands tugged at mine and let mine 
go and stroked my fingers languorously and 
slashed at my skin, and my lurching legs carried me...
           ...across the Schwelle and jerked up 
against my belly in the big bed. The house was 
perfectly silent as I awoke in my darkened, 
smelly bedroom. I lay still with my eyes closed 
for several minutes, percolating upwards, 
breathing night odors through my dry, open mouth. 
My erection slowly ebbed; I knew I must have been 
dreaming of Lune again. I reached behind me 
without turning over, prodded under the covers, 
but her side of the bed was cold and empty. At 
first muzzily, then more sharply, I understood 
that it really was completely quiet downstairs. 
Odd. Where was her soft buzz of classic rock, her 
humming clatter, toaster, muesli bowl, coffee 
maker? The skin of my upper body was cool, and I 
drew the sheet and blanket more tightly about 
myself, hunkering into the pillow, eyes 
determinedly shut. She's gone, I told myself with 
gloomy dread. She's left me, the bitch. A moment 
later, I thought: the Tau Ceti wongles have come 
for her. They'll be here for me, next. I started 
to weep behind my closed lids. Slow tears soaked 
into my pillow. Pull yourself together, man, I 
thought at last. With a weary effort, I pushed 
back the covers and let my bare feet rest on the 
cold floor boards. My bladder was swollen and 
urgent. I took a step toward the door, toward the toilet down the hall...
           ...flipped open the ringing phone and 
said in my deepest chocolaty voice, `"Madame Bovary, c'est moi".'
           After the smallest hesitation, Toby said: `Gustav?'
           How could you not smile? `Monsieur 
Flaubert,' I told him, `is not available. This is the parrot.'

[biiig snip]

           A deep, sickening panic invaded me. My 
pulse jumped almost instantly to twice its 
resting state. I stared in disbelief at the 
screen, wondering if I were about to die.

           Toby, I keyed, trying to control my 
hyperventilation. Is that you hacking my bot?
           At the third Tegmark unitarity level, 
the screen told me, we've jumped up to 10^118 
universes, each maxing at temperatures of 10^8 
Kelvin. Every possible alternative quantum choice 
is realized simultaneously somewhere when

           I jumped out of my chair and kicked 
the flat monitor over. Its lightweight nanotube 
structure fell with dreamy slowness, bounced once 
without breaking, sent me a hot pink blinking 
message that I caught from the corner of my eye.

           The next and final level is the big 
one, August. Take a deep breath, bend over, and kiss your ass goodbye.

           Terrified, I ran toward the...
           I thought I heard Toby cry out, `Give 
me Room 101.' A Schwelle opened in front of me. I plunged through.
           Craziness. Disorientation, everything 
falling away into a draining, stuttering echo of 
itself. This was so much worse than the second 
level distortions, or the simultaneous superposed 
overlaps of level three. This was Cartesian doubt 
so bottomless, so corrosive, that nothing 
persisted beyond vertigo and pain. I tried to 
squeeze my eyes shut but I had no eyelids, no 
eyes. My whole visceral body, sense of awareness, 
contracted to two mangled lumps of hieroglyphic 
gold and silver linked by a thin shriek, 
fingernails on a blackboard. I tried to scream, 
and had no voice. Yet somehow I heard Toby 
speaking to us, desperate, clinging to his own 
sanity by a thread. There he was, in the chaos, 
and there was Lune: two infinitely distant, 
gruesomely intimate chains of golden hieroglyphs 
I could not read. Was it his voice, or were the 
hieroglyphs morphing, twisting into meaning? He said:
           A man in many Earths wrote a very great book.
           Some fragment of memory tore through me, gave utterance:
           `Eric Linkollew.'
           Echoing mad laughter? Yes, he is a 
great Eric as well. I was thinking of Eric Blair.
           `Never heard of the bastard.' Nothing 
stayed in place. We were plunging like soap 
bubbles in a gale through one Schwelle after 
another, like mice gnawing their way through an 
infinite stack of Stockhausen scores.
           Never never never never heard of Nineteen Eighty-Four?
           `You mean George Orwell.'
           He took that name in some worlds. Do you remember Winston Smith?
           `He hated rats. Shit, are rats waiting to claw my face?'
           Not rats, August. Dragons, perhaps, 
off the edges of all the maps you know. Winston 
was shown four fingers and told to see five, do you remember?
           I did. I held out four and saw five, 
and ten, and one, and none at all. Not fingers. I 
was watching the primal order of the cosmos.
           And he did see five. That was Blair's 
horror story. I always found it absurdly 
abstract. Until I came here, into level four. Or 
do I mean five? Hollow laughter banging and clanging at the edges of dementia.
           `You're saying there are no rules here?'
           No fixed rules, Lune told me. She was 
formed hot metal in shapes that spoke to me. This 
is the manifold. It's so beautiful. I had no idea 
what she meant. She said: I stand in the center 
of a web of mathematical functions, all in 
motion, and I'm part of them, I guess I'm 
creating them as well. They are wavelengths of 
energy, perceived directly rather than through 
eyes and brain, graphs of functions growing, 
intertwining, unfolding. Music, sharply defined 
and immediate, can't you hear it, August? And 
then, cruelly, she was dragged away from me, and 
the music and rainbow beauty with her, and once 
more I was drowning in noise and terror.
           Build it up, something told me. Play 
it again, Mr. Peano man. That seemed wrongly 
twisted, but somehow righter than wrong. I 
scrambled for sensation, sense, sensibility. I could grasp nothing.
           Nothing, said Lune's Vorpal hieroglyph display. The empty set. Zero.
           I clutching at that nothing. I could 
do that much. Emptiness at the heart of the noise 
and terror. Emptiness that was the terror, or part of it.
           Every natural number a has a successor, denoted by a + 1.
           That seemed reasonable, although 
everything in this flickering horror of fourth 
level worlds denied it, mutated that simple 
creed, added and subtracted and transformed in 
dizzying confusion. I held to the axiom by brute force.
           `All right. What next?'
           The set zero is never the successor of any natural number.
           No void hidden in the bowels of the 
rush of numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12... to 
infinity? No swallowing pit at the core of those 
things we can count? I hoped it were true. I 
assented, fearing its denial. No, wait... wait... 
I found another solution lurking in there, 
branching out into a permissible loop: 0 1 2 3 4 3 4 3 4...
           I shook my head, started again.
           0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9...
                                        B ¥Qø ñ YÐ ...
The simple numbering of the world is pitted with 
Chaitin pathologies, a voice told me, unexpected 
and random. Yes, all right, I could see that, no 
way around it. But it was the best I could do. Press on, then:
           Each distinct natural number has a 
distinct successor. If a succeeds b, then a + 1 succeeds b + 1.
           I had to think about that, but I 
grabbed with relief at the very difficulty of the 
task with all my two, four, five, billion 
handless hands, and felt reality solidify about 
me, the endless cascade closing down, the 
fecundity extinguishing itself, transfinite 
options closing away, not gone, not lost, 
merely... pinched off. Or rather: our world was 
pinching itself free of that radiant abundance.
           If a property is possessed by zero and 
also by the successor of every natural number it 
is possessed by, then it is possessed by all natural numbers.
           If a-- Well, yes, obviously. An 
instant earlier it had not been obvious. Now it 
seemed both true and self-evident. I hung in a 
blue place, and Lune sang to me. Her notes and 
chords were filaments and jewels of logic. I 
watched, dazzled, as she built an ascending Babel 
city whose towers glistened with fractal 
complexity, each chamber replete, gorged, 
enameled, each linked to others by exquisite 
cables of implication and ever higher 
abstraction. It was beautiful, an orchid that 
opened at the speed of light and made the world in its own image.
           Formal systems, she said.
           The globe of light branched, adding 
axioms in one pathway: Boolean algebra. And, 
launching an alternative road: Models.
           Links multiplied at dizzying speed:
           Lower predicate calculus leaped upward 
in a blizzard of subsets, unions, intersections, 
to Numbers and Semi-groups, commutativity 
operations which spawned Rings, while by another 
linkage came Sets, Relations, Abstract 
geometries, and Space. All of this, in its 
wonderful richness, was rudimentary, I saw, as it 
elaborated and grew a world, a cosmos, of 
mathematical order: on one side Abelian fields 
and Vector spaces, by another path Topological, 
Metrical and Banach spaces. Still the flowering 
stormed upward and outward, through infinite 
hordes of number, relation, ordering, bounds, 
completeness, into Tensor and Hilbert spaces, and 
Real and Complex manifolds. Finally, at its 
sunlit capstone, in a torrent of immense 
generativity, loomed twin rainbowed icy mountain peaks.
           Lune told me: Here linear vector 
mapping births operators that support the panoply 
of Quantum field theory, fields on R^4 act on 
Hilbert n-dimensional fields while... watch 
keenly now, August... by this different but 
intricately related pathway General relativity's 
3+1 dimensional pseudo-Riemannian is warped by tensor fields.
           Somehow I did understand what she was 
telling me. The grammar download from the 
X-caliber device unfolded, unpacked, in my mind. 
I looked in awe, ravished by crystalline 
loveliness. And as if I witnessed the collision 
of two immense glacial ice shelves in the white 
heart of Antarctica, those impossibly abstract 
glories, their vast doubled structures, merged 
into the computational unity of--
           `Too bright!' I screamed. I tasted 
lemon in my mouth, sharp and fragrant.


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