Monday, September 19, 2016


According to Stephen Hawking, there are plausible explanations for no paradox in time travel:
“A possible way to reconcile time travel, with the fact that we don't seem to have had any visitors from the future, would be to say that it can occur only in the future. In this view, one would say space-time in our past was fixed, because we have observed it, and seen that it is not warped enough, to allow travel into the past.”
Carl Sagan made a similar argument during a NOVA interview in the 1990s: “Maybe backward time travel is possible, but only up to the moment that time travel is invented. We haven't invented it yet, so they can't come to us. They can come to as far back as whatever it would be, say A.D. 2300, but not further back in time.”

So, time travel may indeed be possible, but you can’t go back any further than the point at which the time machine was first invented in the space-time line.

This line of reasoning would mean that there would be little chance of a time traveling paradox - - - i.e. going back in time to kill Hitler before World War II. But it also stops future paradoxes since the time traveler would not not what the future holds when he arrives in the future so he cannot change it. But perhaps, his mere presence in the future would cause changes that could alter the future - - - but then, is his arrival already part of that future time line?

The Hawking-Sagan reasoning was not applied in LOST. The characters quickly time skipped to the past (1970s) and to the future-present. There was no logical or systemic way the island took only a few characters along for the time ride, while leaving others in different time periods in the same place. In LOST's time travel loops, it is more likely that there were not truly time-space jumps but hallucinations, simulations, vivid dreams or laboratory rat experiments to challenge and change the main characters behaviors.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


The Guardian (UK) reports that the old stories from ancient Egypt will get a modern translation.

Toby Wilkinson said he had decided to begin work on the anthology because there was a missing dimension in how ancient Egypt was viewed: “The life of the mind, as expressed in the written word.”

The written tradition lasted nearly 3,500 years and writing is found on almost every tomb and temple wall. Yet there had been a temptation to see it as “mere decoration”, he said, with museums often displaying papyri as artefacts rather than texts.

The public were missing out on a rich literary tradition, Wilkinson said. “What will surprise people are the insights behind the well-known facade of ancient Egypt, behind the image that everyone has of the pharaohs, Tutankhamun’s mask and the pyramids.”
Hieroglyphs were pictures but they conveyed concepts in as sophisticated a manner as Greek or Latin script, he said. Filled with metaphor and symbolism, they reveal life through the eyes of the ancient Egyptians. Tales of shipwreck and wonder, first-hand descriptions of battles and natural disasters, songs and satires make up the anthology, titled Writings from Ancient Egypt.

Penguin Classics, which is releasing the book on Wednesday, described it as a groundbreaking publication because “these writings have never before been published together in an accessible collection."

Wilkinson, a fellow of Clare College and author of other books on ancient Egypt, said some of the texts had not been translated for the best part of 100 years. “The English in which they are rendered – assuming they are in English – is very old-fashioned and impenetrable, and actually makes ancient Egypt seem an even more remote society,” he said.

There was a heavy ancient Egyptian theme in LOST. I spent many days trying to translate the set hieroglyphs to determine meaning of the show's plots and basic premise. I always thought there had to be a reason for such difficult detail of set design with the hieroglyphs to NOT mean something important in the show mythology.

The Book of the Dead was the text that stated the ancient belief system of what happened to a person when they died (their body and soul would separate and reunite after a journey through the underworld). But this new book will translate everyday life of the Egyptians: from stories, songs and writings of average farmers to give us a view of what this society was thinking and doing thousands of years ago. I suspect it will be a fascinating read.

Friday, September 2, 2016


Monday, August 29, 2016


A recent article in suggests that some researchers have found evidence for an alternative possibility: that dreams are a form of threat simulation, readying your brain in the rare event that you do find yourself confronted (pantsless or otherwise) with a dangerous situation.

According to this theory, outlined by cognitive researcher Jim Davies, dreams act as a dress rehearsal for dangerous scenarios in real life. Support for the idea comes in several forms, beginning with the fact that our most vivid and memorable dreams tend to be more like archetypal nightmares.

"They have a tendency to feature negative emotions—fearful, angry, and anxious dreams are more common than happy ones," Davies writes. "And the things we dream about tend to be biased in the direction of ancient dangers rather than more modern ones. We dream about being chased by animals and monsters more than having our credit card defrauded, even though most of us have very little real-life experience of being chased by animals (or monsters)."

Additionally, there are clues to the purpose of dreaming in the way the human subconscious responds to real-world events. In 2008, researchers at Tufts discovered a shift in the way people dreamed immediately after 9/11, as dreams about being attacked increased in intensity and frequency. But while people were having more and worse nightmares, they weren't about plane crashes or terrorism; the central imagery of their dreams remained unchanged, suggesting that their brains were reaching for an ancient script about being under threat —and rehearsing for the possibility of a future catastrophe—rather than reliving the memory of the recent tragedy. Per the researchers, the evidence pointed to dreams being an "emotionally guided construction or creation, not a replay of waking experience."

Another curious link between dreaming and disaster-preparedness: the phenomenon of prescient dreams. Though not formally researched, anecdotes abound from people who've dreamed of a frightening experience only to then live through it in real life. For instance, in 1983, 20-year-old painter James Murphy III survived a terrifying fall from his job site atop the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in upstate New York, plummeting more than 150 feet into five feet of marshy water on the coast of the Hudson River. In an interesting wrinkle, Murphy's mother reported that he had dreamed about falling the previous night, and that in the dream, he took a tuck position upon entering the water, protecting his head and neck—a move he repeated the next day when he plunged into the Hudson. Did dreaming his way through the fall beforehand contribute to Murphy's quick thinking, and subsequent survival, in that critical moment? The theory of dreams as threat simulation suggests that the answer is yes.

There's a lot to learn yet about why and how we dream, and per Davies, the most likely explanation is that dreaming is a multi-faceted and multi-functional process. But in the meantime, everything we know about the usefulness of mental "practice" supports the idea that dreams help prepare you to navigate the waking world. Studies show that visualizing yourself performing a skill makes you substantially better at it. And for the minority of people who are capable of lucid dreaming—the practice of recognizing when you're in a dream and taking control of the narrative—there's no end to the things you can learn to do while you're asleep.

"You can rehearse any skill in a lucid dream," Daniel Erlacher, a researcher at the University of Bern, Switzerland who led a study in which lucid dreaming led to improved performance in a coin toss game, told the Harvard Business Review.  "It has been well established that athletes who mentally rehearse an activity can improve their performance, and it makes sense that dreams can achieve the same effect."

And much like the reports of prescient dreaming, anecdotal evidence certainly supports the concept of rehearsing for real life in your dreams (be they lucid or not). German researcher Paul Tholey, who founded the scientific study of dreams (oneirology), for one, used himself as a guinea pig.
"He claimed that by practicing in his dreams, he’d learned to snowboard so well that he could do it without bindings, which is almost impossible," said Erlacher. "I’ve spoken with people who went snowboarding with him, and they watched him do it. So there has been some validation."

Thursday, August 25, 2016


In Dying to Wake Up, Dr. Rajiv Parti, the Chief of Anesthesiology at the Bakersfield Heart Hospital in California, writes in his new book that an experience from "the Divine" changed him forever. 

Following this experience Parti gave away his mansion, quit his career, and opened a wellness clinic.
Parti claims to provide "rare details of heaven, hell, the afterlife, and angels." According to Parti, during his near-death experience he encountered "archangels" and his deceased father who showed him "through the tortures of hell."

Parti purports that to this day he still converses with angels and "spreads their wisdom to the living."
While there have been many books published by people that have experienced something similar to Parti, the book genre isn't without its critics.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks, author of the book, Hallucinations,  wrote these "life-altering religious experiences" are "hallucinations," and that "whether revelatory or banal, are not of supernatural origin; they are part of the normal range of human consciousness and experience."

What strikes me from this summary account of Parti's experience is that mirrors the basic premise of LOST.  Jack was guided through the tortures of the island hell by his deceased father, Christian. And once Jack survived his initial island test in the underworld, he gave up everything to return to save his friends.

The title invokes another theme of the show, "waking up."  In the after life, the characters had to "wake up" to the realization that they were dead. So what was their experiences prior to that revelation? 

Could each of the characters be going through separate near death experiences that funnel into this island hell gateway? As we speculated in the past, each of the main characters had a back story element where they could have died in real life. 

The idea of Jack's deceased father shepherding him through the stages of death, preparing him for the after life, is an appealing notion. It reinforces major religious symbolism. It also reinforces the bonds of friendship can cross barriers, including death.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


A black hole is a region of space in which gravity exerts such an enormous pull that nothing—not even light—can escape. That’s the simple definition of a black hole. But if you talk to a physicist, they’ll also describe a black hole as a region of very severely curved space-time—so sharply curved, in fact, that it’s “pinched off,” so to speak, from the rest of the universe.

This idea of curved space-time goes back to the work of Einstein. It was Einstein who put forward his theory of gravity, known as the general theory of relativity. According to the theory, matter curves, or distorts, the very fabric of space. A small object like Earth causes only a small amount of distortion; a star like our Sun causes more warping. And what about a very heavy, dense object? According to Einstein’s theory, if you squeeze enough mass into a small enough space, it will undergo a collapse, forming a black hole; the amount of warping will become infinite.

The boundary of the black hole is known as the “event horizon”—the point of no return. Matter that crosses the event horizon can never return to the outside. In this sense, the inside of a black hole is not even a part of our universe: Whatever might be happening there, we can never know about, since no signal from the inside can ever reach the outside. According to general relativity, the center of a black hole will contain a “singularity”—a point of infinite density and of infinitely curved space-time.

But what is "infinite density" and "infinite curved space time?" 

A personal theory is that it death.

The human body is made up of twisted molecules that produce cells that harness and retain energy. In one respect, each of us is their own universe. It is a self-contained complex system of checks, balances, functions and movements. Science thinks it knows how the human body works - - - but cannot produce it artificially by combining chemicals and energy in a test tube.

The spark of life is unique. So should be the amber of death.

In major religions, when a person dies they are "reborn" in the afterlife, whether it be heaven with the spirits of one's ancestors and loved ones, to be reincarnated as another life form on Earth. In some ways, this is a comfort to the living that death itself has a purpose. A continuation of life is a noble goal.

But if at the end, all energy in a person's body combines and pools itself in one last gasp to breathe life in the organic host, with such density as to leave the body - - -  one could say that a person's soul has left on another journey. If the soul is an encoded energy source, it could carry a person's thoughts, memories, stories, loves, hates, emotions, and dreams to the vastness of eternity. It could replay those life stories forever, or combine them with new souls to create new memories.

The latter seems to fall into the pattern of the final season of LOST, with the souls in the sideways world recombining to make new memories.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


The Washington Post recently had a story about a question that humans have pondered forever: where are the other intelligent beings in the universe?

Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once famously exclaimed "Where is everybody!" “Scientists have been trying to answer his question with this logic: we exist, so aliens should exist too.

According to one new solution, we have not seen or heard from any galactic neighbors because we are still waiting for them to be born. And it will, according to the calculations, be a long time before we can throw other solar systems a baby shower. If you grade earthlings on a cosmic curve, as recently hashed out by Harvard and Oxford University astrophysicists, we’re at the head of the class.

And this done make some common sense. In school, we learned the basics about our universe. And we were told about the Big Bang Theory, that the center of the known universe exploded outward to form all the mineral, chemical and cosmic properties (galaxies, stars, comets, etc.) Earth sits at the outer edge of the center of the universe. When science has been trying to find other life, they direct their telescopes and listening devices towards the center. But should not they be pointing them at the sides of the Earth's outer edge - - - to systems as old as our solar system?

A new study published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics calculated the probability that life as we know it should exist at any given point in the universe. Based on their assumptions, Earthly life is quite likely premature.

By the standards of the universe, humans are some of the earliest intelligent life around. You may have heard of ancient aliens on basic cable television. But, according to cosmic probability, the ancient aliens are us.
For life as we know it to arise, organisms require three things: carbon-based chemistry, liquid water and an energy source. The most crucial source of all three requirements is a star. Stars  fuse protons and electrons into carbon and other elements; stars heat up water in the so-called habitable zone and stars provide a steady sunny stream of radiation. Scientists scan the solar systems to find the right combination of star, planet distance and likelihood of water to see if it possible for organic life.

Stars play such an important role in our understanding of life that they dominate the researchers’ equation. The scientists’ timeline begins about 30 million years after the Big Bang happened, which as far as we can tell was 13.8 billion years ago. Their timeline ends far in the future due to the long-lasting red dwarf stars, which have lengthy wicks that burn for roughly 10 trillion years. (A yellow dwarf, by comparison, has a only 10 billion years of fuel.

Crucially, what red dwarf stars also have going for them is strength in numbers. The Milky Way is filled with red dwarfs. About three-quarters of all the stars in the galaxy are red dwarfs.

Our sun is not a red dwarf. It is a rarer thing, a yellow dwarf, a star 10 times more massive but one that will flare out much sooner. That we exist around a yellow dwarf, per the scientists’ equation, makes us the true space oddities.

So if Earth humans are the only intelligent life in the universe, why did our ancient ancestors almost universally say that the planet was seeded by alien beings? Why do most religions believe in a creation story of extraworldly gods and angels creating mankind? 

It could be the natural curiosity hard wired into the human brain - - - ancient humans looking up at the stars in the sky may have asked the same question as Fermi. We cannot be alone in the vastness of space.

Human beings also have a sense and need to belong to a bigger group, a family and a community. At a planetary level, that need stills exists. Ancient ancestors were wandering nomads scraping by a subsistence existence. They were one with nature and nature was bigger than them. And when small bands of people found other people in their journeys, it solidified the notion that they were not alone in this world. Communication and trade of ideas and beliefs would reinforce the global notion that there has to be life in the magical stars.

Scientists are still searching for confirmation of that magic in the stars.