December 31st 2005

 

Where should I begin? I have been in love with science for as long as I can remember. My favourite book growing up was the family encyclopedia. All knowledge is science, and knowledge is power. In particular I was fascinated by astronomy . The mysteries of the universe, its gargantuan scale, and the prospect of finding intelligent alien lifeforms were my endless obsessions. I was convinced all our problems would be at an end the moment contact could be made with a more advanced civilisation. I would scan the night sky with my telescope each evening, hoping that I would catch sight of a UFO.

 

On February 23rd 1987, three years before the launch of the Hubble space telescope, I saw something that changed my life. It was no UFO, but in many ways it was far more dramatic and impressive... SN1987A - A supernova.

 

While I was unaware of this at the time, it was the closest supernova to Earth since the invention of the telescope - a mere 160,000 light years away in the Tarantula Nebula. To put that in perspective, there has only been one other in the last twelve years, and that was 11,000,000 light years from Earth. Even more extraoadinary, it emerged that this star had been photographed prior to its explosion. My imagination was caught like a fly in that spider’s web. I would stare at the dead star’s image and wonder... had its light ever supported life on orbiting planets? Had this sudden gravitational collapse and the resultant massive explosion of radiation destroyed active civilisations, or wiped all traces of them from existence? I had to know! But it was impossible... wasn’t it? That’s what I was told. The distance between solar systems, galaxies and clusters are so vast that the we cannot hope to detect where life may be, and even if we could... we could never reach it.

 

The more I heard this, the more my heart began to harden. I believed... I knew... nothing is impossible! I set out to prove them wrong. Even at the tender age of eight, my mind was made up. I would find a way to travel through the universe, to any point in space and time instantly, at all costs! If this is what it would take to find out if we were truly alone, then I was prepared to devote my life to achieving this single objective.

 

As I grew older, I learned to appreciate the necessity of death and destruction. Without it there can be no life. All the elements in our bodies come originally from stars, as the intense heat and pressure fuses hydrogen atoms together. SN1987A would have cast these elements out into the nebula, where they could seed new stars and planets where life could form. I see the beauty in that.

 

But it changes nothing. A billion years from now, Sol’s gradual decline will have likely rendered Earth uninhabitable. Even if I had lost my appetite for exploration, I couldn't ignore the fact that without a means of jumping across the vast cosmic wasteland, mankind is ultimately doomed.

 

I’ve invested so much time in pursuit of teleportation... I can’t give up now.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

January 1st 2006

 

Ugh, such a hangover this morning. I only recently took my position here at Cambridge, and I made the mistake last night of seeing in the New Year with some of my students. Being rather young for a professor, no doubt they find me more approachable than the venerable relics from the other departments.

 

In the sober light of day, I see we're in desperate need of capital investment. The current setup here just isn't advanced enough for my needs. I have appealed for an increase to the IT budget.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

November 29th 2006

 

Finally, some real computing power! Installation of the new high performance computing cluster 'Darwin' is complete. 2340  3.0GHz cores, 4.6 TB memory, and 28.08 Tflop/s. Infiniband interconnect with 900MB/s bandwidth and 1.9 microsecond latency - it's time to crunch some numbers!

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

April 13th 2007

 

My recent talk, ‘Considering the fundamental structure of the multiverse and hypothetical parallels with binary computer programs’ was well received at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) lecture hall last Thursday. Thank you to all who came and left feedback. For those who missed it, I’m providing a transcript below. The slides are available on request, but you don’t really need them.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

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What is ‘reality’? This is the question all of us - scientists, philosophers and laymen alike want an answer to, more than any other. Religions have sprung up to fill the void in our understanding. Whether you see your life as a curse or blessing, it is only natural to wonder how the universe came into existence. Who or what should we blame, or thank for our situation?

 

We have studied the forces at work around us for millennia, but while patterns have emerged that can be expressed as formulae, the underlying mechanism behind it all still eludes us.

 

Descartes' famous maxim 'Cogito ergo sum' - ‘I think therefore I am’, logically proves the existence of one’s own human consciousness. Can we use the same deductive reasoning to explain why there is a universe? The fact we are able to question why, implies that there is the potential for something to BE. ‘I ask, therefore there is uncertainty’. Uncertainty is perhaps all the universe needs to function. Uncertainty could be expressed as a random variance in binary form (slide CFSM001). We visualize binary as a sequence of ones and zeros like computer code, but it has no visible aspect. Vision itself would have to be a product of the code, as it is dependent on light and space, and advanced organisms capable of perceiving it. We are trying to see the unseeable, hear the unhearable, and the concept is so bizarre and unintuitive to mere three dimensional beings like us, that to comprehend it we must think the unthinkable.

 

How plausible is this? Well, it goes some way to explaining infinity. If there were a limited number of ones and zeros, there would be a definable ‘edge’ and extent (slide CFSM002), it would also imply an initial act of creation begun and subsequently halted (this would hard to explain in the absence of time). If the universe is the very definition of uncertainty, it couldn’t have such definitive values. Nor would it be likely to have a repeating pattern of ones and zeroes, which it is hard to imagine giving rise to anything. Uncertainty is by definition chaotic and system-less (slide CFSM003). In an infinity of random sequences, all possible combinations will at some point arise. Certain stretches of this code may define sets of physical laws that are relatively stable and allow for the creation of life. Maybe there is no more to it than that?

 

Is this explanation becoming easier to accept in the digital age? We are accustomed now to the idea that complex virtual worlds can be the product of binary code. Since Einstein’s publication of Special Relativity in 1905, we have had to accept that some of the most fundamental notions of time and space are not as they seem. Time slows down as you approach the speed of light. Space contracts. At the quantum level particles can act like waves, and the path they took can alter after they have theoretically arrived, depending on whether details of their journey are deleted or revealed after the fact. I’m sure you are all familiar with the double-slit experiment, and the appearance of clumping or interference patterns in either case (slide CFSM004).

 

How could observing one particle affect its entangled partner millions of miles away, instantly? (slide CFSM005) With no force acting on it the solution seems to be that time and space are illusions, products of a code. If entangled particles were like parts of an algebraic equation, that would make sense. If particle A could be equal to one or two, and particle B could also be equal to one or two, but particles A & B cannot be the same as each other, then the moment particle A loses its potential to be either, and gains the definitive value one, then particle B must immediately take the value two. Time and space, even forces have no say in the matter. Does this mean our reality is the product of a computer program?

 

If so, where is this code written? Can it be altered? If the behaviour of matter is governed by the parameters of the various fields it finds itself in, could the behaviour of fields be modified by altering the parameters of the code that defines them? Deconstructing this code could give mankind the keys to unlocking power beyond our imagining. Hacking into the matrix of the universe could allow for unhindered travel to its furthest reaches, instantly, and even the prospect of delving back through time may not be so far-fetched.

 

Let us hope that when the LHC at CERN commences operation we will find the missing pieces we need to finally become masters of the multiverse.

 

May 4th 2007

 

May the 4th be with you! Who says we lack a sense of humour? We scientists have also been known to enjoy cinema and television. I'm a fan of Star Wars and Star Trek. Have been in love with the genre since childhood. My favourite film of all time is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A space odyssey. That is my dream - to find evidence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. It is beautifully portrayed in this film and I thoroughly recommend seeing it if you haven't already. 

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

June 15th 2007

 

 

I was asked to give another talk last Friday at the lecture Hall. I chose ‘Considering the implications for our concept of the afterlife should we reclassify the phenomenon of consciousness as another dimension of the multiverse’. Thanks to all who attended. As it has yet to be published anywhere, I’m providing the full transcript below.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

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Given that dimensions of space and time are not absolute entities in themselves, but relative to each other, and at the same time logically the product of nothing more than an arbitrary code, it is a compelling thought, that consciousness as experienced by intelligent lifeforms may be an unclassified dimensional property of the multiverse. After all, neither length, breadth nor time are tangible but are nevertheless demonstrably ‘real’. The same can be said of consciousness, and yet it has not hitherto been included in the same category. I believe this stems from the same classical misapprehensions regarding the composition of the multiverse pre-Einstein’s theory of relativity. That consciousness appears to be a product of a complex neural network does not preclude it from being a dimension. When viewed objectively in the light of our more recent discoveries, consciousness must itself be described as code within a code. That is, consciousness is a program - one capable of perceiving and evaluating a simplified representation of certain other components of the dimensional matrix we find ourselves in, within another program - the code that corresponds with the brain’s structure. The brain ultimately is only a flux of electromagnetic waves, a mere fold in the fabric of space time. We are each connected by this fabric, and yet our conscious experiences are separate - why?

 

Just as every atom has its place in the universe, while being connected to every other, so may individual conscious identities have their own ‘place’ while being similarly part of a greater ocean of dimensional consciousness currently invisible to us.


We can track an atom because it has properties distinct from its neighbours, or by extrapolating its position by analysing neighbouring frames of reference and looking for transitional movement. This phenomenon gives the atom its identity. Take away a particle’s interaction with others and you introduce uncertainty which can lead to very strange, unpredictable outcomes, including cause/effect temporal reversals. Let us suppose that consciousness also goes on a similar ‘journey’. Its properties may change - the brain’s position and structure alter over time... but slowly - just as an atom will move and experience radioactive decay. Due to the gradual altering of its properties it can be tracked through multiple points of reference like a passenger plane from ground control. It can be ascribed a unique identifier, as it moves and evolves like a wave propagating itself through space-time. This would explain why you always wake up as the same person each morning, and not someone else. Once the brain ceases functioning, that identity collapses like a wave, and can no longer be tracked. Should functioning resume, the wave may be restored - this could depend on the extent of identifying characteristics available, but I digress...

 

Assuming the wave is terminated irretrievably, what next? The question is problematic, as we are accustomed to viewing events in the form of cause and effect in a thermodynamically temporal order. When looking at a single dimension however, these qualifications do not apply. Time and space exist as a single construct, just like a book exists all at once, though it only makes sense when you read one word at a time and turn through its pages. Consciousness may be the program that does just that. But what occurs when you reach the end of the book?

 

To make sense of what happens next, let us consider that each person’s life is a book, and there are a finite number of books in an infinite number of libraries. This library would be our universe, one of an infinite number in the multiverse of libraries. While each book has chapters that play out in a thermodynamically temporal order, the books themselves are not ordered in any way. There is no librarian arranging them by subject, alphabet, date of publication, or otherwise. Let us assume that there is only one ‘visitor’ in this library. He is not like you or I, he has no memories of his own, no personality traits - he is a blank slate, and his only ability - his primary program, is to read and experience the events of each ‘author’s’ life as he goes through each book, one at a time, eternally. The program is on a loop. If it were not, it wouldn’t exist at all - it would read one book and then abruptly end. So, this being (let’s call him the ‘reader’) selects a book to read, but how does he do this? The books aren’t labelled, they have no attractive covers, and if they did it would make no difference to our reader - he has no personality or preferences. It follows then that part of his code may include a random selection algorithm.

 

So, if all of us are that reader, does this mean that when we die we are instantly reincarnated as another creature in the universe, as he selects his next book at random? Could you come back as a bug? Maybe. But let us remember where we are. The reader is in a finite library. Our universe will presumably only remain stable for so long and then collapse in on itself and therefore he only has so many books to choose from. Probability now becomes a factor, affecting which book he randomly selects. Longer lives result in more chapters - larger books taking up more space on the shelf. If the reader selects a new book at random then, he is statistically more likely to pick up a larger book than a smaller one.

 

Since the extent of our lives on the physical plane are made up of time and space, size may also play a part. In your next life you may be more likely to be an elephant than a bug for example. Longevity however, is more important. Each time you take a trip around the sun, that is one more continuous strip of space-time that you are occupying. A near-immortal being, with a lifespan of billions of years, would be represented as a huge tome in our imaginary library, compared to a small scrap of paper for a short-lived bug. For a being to reach a state of near-immortality, he must first be born as a mortal. Reproduction is an attribute of mortal creatures and essential for evolution to occur. If a civilisation or species were to achieve immortality, then within a very small period of time, reproduction would come to halt. If we consider this, it follows that our reader would be statistically likely to pick a book that tells the story of a creature born into a very specific age - a world likely still suffering from many misfortunes - disease, war, poverty, but on the brink of a technological revolution that would allow for the imminent, drastic prolongation of life. Is it coincidence that I find myself born into an era that seems to fit this description? After all, in a few hundred years time, our species may have achieved immortality and ceased reproducing. I could not have been born after that point, but had I been born between 4 billion to 100 years ago, there would have been little chance of having my life prolonged. If our incarnations have nothing to do with lifespan, it seems this is a rather peculiar coincidence, especially when you consider we are vastly outnumbered by insects on this planet. Occam’s razor would tell us that if you have two explanations for a phenomenon, the one with the least assumptions (or in other words, the more likely one) is probably correct. Well, if being born in this age is like winning a lottery ticket a million times in row then an entirely non-influenced selection procedure seems highly unlikely. If however incarnation is affected by lifespan, then the probability goes up drastically.

 

I am not under any illusion that near-immortality is waiting just around the corner for me. While Occam’s razor may suggest I am right, there are the age old problems of ‘only noticing coincidences when they happen’, and ‘reading into results the things you want or are expecting to see’. You may be driving along the motorway for instance, and catch sight of a license plate that has some meaning for you (initials, date of birth) etc. You may think what an odd coincidence this is, but then did you notice all the other license plates that had no meaning for you? You didn’t, because they were unremarkable. This is why people interpret rare coincidences as ‘signs’ - they forget all the times when nothing meaningful happened. It could be that in my last trillion or so lives I was a caveman or a bug, either raging at the futility of my life, or blissfully ignorant of it, and it’s only now that I find myself at such a key point in the history of an advanced civilisation I find myself amazed, asking ‘what are the odds!’.

 

Either way, if the theory of reincarnation is correct, it has an interesting implication - we are all time travellers. My dream of meeting an intelligent life-form from another planet could be realized after my death - if I am reincarnated in another part of the universe. Unfortunately I would likely find myself in the same position there as I am here - wishing to make contact with an alien race. The quest remains to build a machine that can disengage an individual from his surroundings in order to propel him to another place and time. This would necessitate suspending his interactions with nearby particles and simultaneously cancelling out or modifying local macro and quantum fields to achieve a state of uncertainty. In an uncertain state, the traveller would be able to disassociate himself from time, and cross vast distances instantly, perhaps by temporarily adopting a lower energy state. While my work in this area is progressing well thanks to a recent increase in my department’s budget, we cannot hope to construct a working teleporter without a more complete standard model. In particular, the frequency of the Higgs Boson will be critical to the building of an early resonance-based prototype. I feel this is the only feasible approach, as other methods of traversing worm-holes require unrealistically vast amounts of power that we are not currently capable of generating.

 

A final note about the reincarnation principle - it is a compelling notion that has been around for a long time, but has strangely failed to take hold, even though it has an important moral implication... one should be mindful of how one treats his fellow beings, as in another lifetime you could find yourself in their place. Widespread adoption of this view early in our various civilisations would surely have resulted in greater consideration and co-operation, and yet instead we have been the victims of countless divisive wars, often sparked by religious intolerance. It is almost as if we have been deliberately led down a destructive path. The old adage ‘divide and conquer’ comes to mind. Unfortunately, with history being routinely written by the victors, it is hard to say who is responsible for our current predicament, and why. This is another of the many mysteries I hope will one day be solved by mastering the ability of time-travel.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

February 11th 2008

 

One of my contacts at CERN tells me the LHC is nearing completion, I am very excited!

 

P.S Did you know my prototype quantum field disruptor's design is based partly on the LHC?  It's more than an aesthetic choice - she requires a minimum of eight segments to generate the necessary resonance levels. 

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

October 4th 2008

 

The problems experienced at the LHC are being widely reported by the media, and many are joking that there is some cosmic significance to these forced shut-downs. Specifically, that there is a ‘quantum machine gun effect’ in operation.

 

Some have proposed the idea that we are all now immortal, due to the many-worlds theory. Since we are conscious, and unconsciousness would present a ‘vacuum’ of sorts, and since nature abhors a vacuum, rather than dying and ‘experiencing’ an eternity of nothingness, we simply ‘switch’ to a different track - or time-line. Essentially, you can be killed in someone else’s reality, but never in your own - something will always happen to avert that ‘vacuum’. It could be a gun jamming, or in the case of LHC, a faulty electrical connection. The joke here is that the LHC supposedly cannot operate at maximum, as it would generate a black hole that would wipe out humanity - thus we are all experiencing a ‘quantum machine gun effect’ together. We may be destroying the planet in alternate realities every time we try to get it going, but in our world something always prevents this.

 

While an amusing idea, I don’t believe this is the case. The LHC will work - it’s not surprising a project on this scale would have some teething problems.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

November 20th 2009

 

The LHC is running again - excellent news!

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

November 23rd 2009

 

Successful proton-proton collisions detected at the LHC - 450 GeV per beam. Very encouraging start!

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

March 30th 2010

 

A new world record set by the LHC. Beams colliding at 3.5 TeV - simply incredible. The results coming in are already proving helpful to my research. Eagerly awaiting the next set of data.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

February 13th 2012

 

CERN announce they will be increasing LHC to 4 TeV this year!

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

July 4th 2012

 

For all my American friends and colleagues, happy independence day! Fantastic news has just come in from CERN - they believe they may have discovered the Higgs Boson at between 125 and 127 GeV/c2. Someone is getting a Nobel Prize for this, surely. I am currently reworking my formulae with this new data. The department has increased my budget again, so I will be able to put the finishing touches to my prototype quantum-field disruptor sooner than I thought (I am still looking for a catchier name if you have any ideas?). I will circulate a small publication the moment I have the first batch of results.

 

Tristan Roger Albert Verstraeten, PhD.

 

July 25th 2012

 

Success! Everyone on my mailing list will be getting a very special announcement and early data set. Check your inbox! I don’t wish to say much here. Please only pass on to trusted individuals, thank you.

 

P.S My research team and I have had a long-standing bet going that if I ever managed to get my protoype working I'd have to sign off all future blog posts with the nickname they have for me.

 

Doc V.

 

August 2nd 2012

 

Thank you for your responses to my early data set, but it was clearly a mistake giving it out. Someone must have circulated the document in the wrong channels. I was approached yesterday by several military types trying to buy my research. They wanted to see the prototype. I was left feeling extremely uncomfortable, and am now considering relocation to another facility. This technology must not fall into their hands. Please destroy all physical copies and wipe your data drives. I am in somewhat of a quagmire, and I really don’t know what to do next. Please contact me if you have suggestions. This may be my last entry for a while, until I can sort this mess out.

 

Doc V. 

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