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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Friday, August 5, 2016


The London Daily Mail had a recent article describing what an Australian professor claims that our entire existence could be an elaborate illusion controlled by a genius evil scientist.

The premise is that you are not where you think you are. 

Your brain has been expertly removed from your body and is being kept alive in a vat of nutrients that sits on a laboratory bench.

The nerve endings of your brain are connected to a supercomputer that feeds you all the sensations of everyday life. 

This is why you think you're living a completely normal life.

Do you still exist? Is the world as you know it a figment of your imagination or an illusion constructed by this evil supercomputer network?

Could you prove to someone that you are not actually a brain in a vat?

As the article states, the philosopher Hilary Putnam proposed this famous version of the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment in his 1981 book, Reason, Truth and History, but it is essentially an updated version of the French philosopher René Descartes' notion of the Evil Genius from his 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy.

While such thought experiments might seem glib – and perhaps a little unsettling – they serve a useful purpose. They are used by philosophers to investigate what beliefs we can hold to be true and, as a result, what kind of knowledge we can have about ourselves and the world around us.

Descartes thought the best way to do this was to start by doubting everything, and building our knowledge from there. Using this skeptical approach, he claimed that only a core of absolute certainty will serve as a reliable foundation for knowledge. 

He said: If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

It is from Descartes that we get classical skeptical queries favored by philosophers such as: how can we be sure that we are awake right now and not asleep, dreaming?

To take this challenge to our assumed knowledge further, Descartes imagines there exists an omnipotent, malicious demon that deceives us, leading us to believe we are living our lives when, in fact, reality could be very different to how it appears to us.

This premise has been discussed as a possible explanation to the LOST mythology. 

For example, who did Patchy of the Others survive being killed by the sonic fence and the island visitors to somehow come back to kill Charlie with an underwater explosive? To have nine lives, a human has to be unrealistically lucky or be reincarnated many times over. Or in this premise, he never really died because he was never really alive. He was a computer simulation, a reusable prop, to infuse the subject jar brains with conflict, reality, drama and emotional responses.

Another explanation of the evil genius controlling everything was inferred from the huge military industrial complex that was the island. Human experiments were part of the mission of the island scientists. It is not a great leap to see how an unseen overlord could have been directing the action, just like the man behind the curtain in the series nod to the Wizard of Oz. 

And this article does touch upon the embedded theme throughout the series: philosophy. Characters like Locke and Hume were named after famous philosophers. The characters had to make philosophic decisions between right and wrong, free will or capture. LOST could be viewed as an interactive thesis of philosophic questions being run through various programs in a supercomputer.

Because of the various continuity errors and story line red herrings, many LOST fans questioned the truth of the series story lines. There was doubt that the story writers and show runners actually knew what they were doing. Many have been searching for answers to explain or cover-up the show's big flaws. So, in a way, many continue to do a philosophic autopsy on the show to glean new information and explanations to make the show better in their own minds.

The mind is a powerful but not very well understood thing. It is an intangible element incorporated in the tangible brain. Our current science studies state how we "think" the mind works, but no one has shown the ability to download, in real time, the mental images of a human being onto a monitor. It is merely speculation, educated guess, theory. But what if there were a higher being who could actually tap into the conscious and subconscious mind of human beings - - -  for entertainment or research purposes? That would put the human race on par with gold fish in an cosmic aquarium.