P Versus NP

The ‘holy grail’ of unsolved mathematical problems is often considered to be P versus NP. The legendary equation holds the answers to many of life’s biggest problems, greatest mysteries, and the cure to the world’s most dangerous diseases. Finding the answer to the problem could mean solving cancer, unlocking ‘superhuman’ capabilities in people, beating the stock market, and cracking any form of encryption. And that’s only the start of the possibilities. The answer to P vs NP could alter our future more than any other discovery in history.


The problem was first mentioned in 1956 in a letter from Kurt Gödel to John von Neumann. In the letter, Gödel asked Neumann if it was possible for a seemingly ‘noncomputable’ answer to be answered in a shorter way. Two decades later, this question resurfaced when computer scientists in the 70’s began to program computers to solve many of the worlds problems. Usually, these scientists would come up with an incredibly slow solution to a problem, but over the years these scientists would refine the solution and make the solution much faster. However, this only seemed to happen for some problems the scientists encountered. Other problems didn’t seem to have a fast solution.

In an attempt to figure out why this happened, the scientists categorized the problems into ‘fast’, ‘slow’, and ‘no freaking idea.’

The fast problems were problems like multiplication, and list sorting. The slow problems were problems like playing a perfect game of chess, or finding other perfect strategies to board games. The ‘no freaking idea’ problems were problems like the Traveling Salesman problem (defined as: Given a list of cities what is the shortest possible route that a traveling salesman can visit each city exactly once and return to the origin city?), protein structure prediction, and primes.

P vs NP columns

These scientists were content with the fast column and slow column, but were pretty pissed that they couldn’t figure out the ‘no freaking idea’ column. So they kept trying to solve the ‘no freaking idea’ problems. That was where P and NP came in.

In a disgustingly oversimplification of the problem, P vs. NP basically means this: P is the class of problems that include every problem that can be solved in a reasonable amount of time such as multiplication, or sorting through a list. Enveloping this p class, we have another class called NP. NP is all the problems where if you are given a correct solution, you can at least check this solution in a (fairly) short amount of time. NP was super frustrating to these scientists, because it turned out that this class contained many important problems, like protein folding, vehicle routing, finding primes, circuit design, and the efficiency of the stock market.

P and NP relation

These scientists kept trying to solve many of the NP problems. Sometimes, they would get really lucky and find that a certain NP problem really belonged in the ‘P’ class and then all of a sudden it would be easy and fast to solve. For instance, the problem of prime numbers – scientists originally thought determining prime numbers were an NP problem, until it was discovered that it was in fact only a P problem. 

P and NP primes

But there is more. The scientists in the 70’s also found that some of these NP problems could actually be converted into other NP problems by using simple logic. An example of this is the Traveling Salesman Problem can actually be converted into the protein structure prediction problem. This intrigued many scientists and prompted them to explore even further. They found that other problems, like the Bandwidth problem (in computer servers) could be converted to the protein structure prediction problem, along with many other problems. These problems that could be converted into other problems were called NP-Complete problems.

This discovery was a really big deal.

It meant that if scientists managed to figure out a fast way to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem, it could be converted to solve the protein structure prediction as well. Ultimately, we could use this fast algorithm (that solved Traveling Salesman Problem) to then solve the Bandwidth Problem and all the other NP-complete problems. This means that all of the NP problems would turn into P problems. 

Np complete

completion np complete

Np to P

The important thing to remember is that if P does in fact equal NP, that would mean that there has to be a fast algorithm to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem and therefore there has to be a fast algorithm to solve all of the NP-complete problems.

Donald Trump

NP-complete is so exciting because of the way  it affects us day-to-day. For example, many NP-complete problems are embedded in popular video games, like Super Mario Brothers, Sudoku, Battleship, mastermind and Tetris. 

This means that if you found an efficient and fast way to play Battleship, you would end up solving cancer.

Battleship pic 1

Battleship pic 2

Battleship pic 3

That might have all been a little confusing / a lot to take in at once. So here’s an example that I found from user jargru on Reddit. I think this explains the problem pretty well:

Some problems are easy to solve. For example, say I want to know which movie won the Oscar for Best Picture last year. Pretty easy to answer, right? Let’s call these problems P. Other problems are hard to solve. However, if given a solution, it’s easy to verify whether or not that solution is correct. For example, say I asked you to direct a movie that will win Best Picture. Pretty hard, right? But let’s say you do it. You come to me and say “I directed this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture.” It’s easy for me to verify whether or not you did. Hard to solve. Easy to check. Let’s call these problems NP. If P=NP then it’d be just as easy to direct the next Oscar winner for Best Picture as it is to say that Spotlight won Best Picture last year. This obviously takes some liberties, but gets at the basic idea

What are the chances that P really does = NP?

Well, it depends who you ask.  If you ask a computer scientist, most of the time they are going to say that P does not equal NP. Their reasons for claiming this are as follows:

  1. If P = NP it would mean that thousands of NP-complete problems belong in P. Since these problems are different, logically computer scientists claim that it wouldn’t make sense to have one solution to all of these problems.
  2. P = NP would end modern cryptography, which has assumptions that P does not = NP.
  3. P = NP seems too good to be true. Many computer scientists claim that it would end modern creativity.
  4. P = NP would go against several known results for popular theories, such as recursion theory, set theory, finite automata, and pushdown automata.

While this sounds depressing for all those rooting for P = NP (like me), have no worry! There is another side of the research spectrum and it contains brains that are just as smart if not smarter than the computer science side.

This side of the spectrum is home to Financial Analysts.

Now, I am sure that everyone reading this is at least somewhat familiar with the stock market and has most likely seen a stock market graph, but if you haven’t seen one, here’s a comic I drew:

Stock Market Graph

Stock prices go up and down and it is represented in the peaks and troughs of the graph above. The reason the stock market is so frustrating is that it seems impossible to predict when a stock will rise or fall. For instance, if you sell right at the stocks peak and then it falls, you made money! But if you sell at its trough and bought at a higher price, you lost money. It seems impossible to determine what the price will do in the future when the only reference’s you have are in the past. But if I wanted to see how the stock did yesterday, it would be easy to do that. This is like NP – hard to solve, easy to check.

Most Financial Analysts believe that the Stock Market is at least weakly efficient, meaning that past prices do not predict future prices, but that if someone has insider information or some other kind of trading information, they can predict stock prices. 

That is where it gets super interesting. If the stock market is in fact weakly efficient, that would mean that P = NP.

The problems of market efficiency and P = NP are actually surprisingly similar. P = NP is a mathematical question in nature, thus the answer is bound to be mathematical in nature. The question of whether or not the market is efficient is empirical in nature, meaning that the answer will be empirical – you can see the answer in the stock market and we can experiment to prove that it is true. If P = NP, the stock market is efficient, and if P does not = NP, the stock market is inefficient. Computer scientists claim that P does not = NP. Financial Analysts claim that markets are weakly efficient.

Both cannot be right.

So what do you think?

The World is Changing

For the first time in history, four generations of people are all working side by side. Each generation tends to carry different ideals, values, and styles. These characteristics vary tremendously from generation to generation and when opposed they can cause numerous conflicts within society.


It’s obvious to me that my generation is vastly different from that of my grandparents generation. I have way too many personal examples to include in this article, so I will just talk about one instance that happened only a week ago.

My grandparents came over for dinner at my house, and we started having a conversation about sports. My little sisters (primarily black) basketball team got brought up and instantly, as if they had a gun held to their head or something, my grandparents just start professing their love for the African culture and black people in America. That might sound fairly normal, but trust me, this wasn’t. They were saying completely OP things like “Black people are such kind people” or “I really treasure my time when I am around a black person!” My grandparents were trying so hard to not seem like they were uncomfortable around different cultures and ethnicities that it became even more apparent that they were uncomfortable around different cultures and ethnicities.

This kind of behavior is actually something I have noticed a lot around my grandparents, and I am sure you, as a reader, have noticed the same thing around older people in your family. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that my grandparents at least try to hide their discomfort. Many of my friends grandparents don’t make an effort to sound welcoming of other ethnicities and instead they are blatantly and obnoxiously racist.

Whether or not they made an attempt to hide it, I was kind of confused why it seemed like so many older people acted like this.

After thinking about it for a long time, I eventually came to discover that my grandparents and I had such different ideologies because we were separated by many generations. The more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense that my grandparents, and other old people like them, acted much differently than my parents generation, and my generation due to the extraordinarily different environments that they were raised in. Before I go any further with this article, it is important to point out that I in no way condone or agree with this behavior, but that I do understand it. Similar to the way some German citizens had been brainwashed in the late 30’s and the early 40’s, so too had my grandparents and generations before them been brainwashed (albeit to a lesser extent) by the environment in which they grew up. 

Racial issues aside, there is actually a lot more that separates my generation from theirs. I was really curious to find out what else makes us so different, so I did some googling and I found a massive amount of information about each generation. I then decided that since I have taken the oath of chastity, sobriety, and avoidance of fun in general, I would have more than enough time to write it all out for you. So I did. And I will be damned if you don’t read it. 

*Sighs deeply*

Let’s start with the really old people – the ones that are extremely rare, and very closely resemble dried fruit.

The Lost Generation (ages 110 – 130)

These guys are like Yoda. If you find one treasure your time with them, they will not be around much longer. To be honest, they are so rare that I don’t really know if they even deserve a spot in this article. There are only a handful of them left in the world. The ones that are still alive are so over living, that I think they actually want to die. Take this video for instance, this lady is so obviously sick of life.

G.I. Generation (ages 87 –  110)

Next we have the G.I. generation. This is the generation both of my grandparents come from. This generation is also known as “The Greatest Generation” and that is mostly because it produced some of the most amazing people.

This generation survived the Great Depression, went on to fight in WWII and then came home and all had babies, giving us the Baby Boomer’s. But besides just surviving, they did a lot of cool stuff too.

The G.I. generation were children during the Progressive Movement. They experienced the first Boy/Girl scouts, vitamins, pasteurized milk, and laws to keep children out of hard labor and in school. They even experienced Prohibition. This generation was raised to be educated, healthy, and cooperative in order to build a stronger America. 

As this generation came of age, they became the heroes of Iwo Jima and D-Day, and the selfless citizens that planted trees and built dams. They were truly the respectable, hardworking generation that the American public had been hoping for. 

This generation was hands down the most impressive generation in American history. They were a generation of achievers. In their time, they experienced the largest gain in educational attainment in US history, from 10% of students receiving high school diplomas at the start of the generation to 50% of students getting diplomas at the end of the generation. Besides that, they became the first generation whose middle class was able to attend college in large numbers. Before them it was only the richest of the rich who were able to go to college. Plus they won over 100 Nobel Prizes, which, to this day, still accounts for the majority of Nobel Prizes awarded to Americans.

No wonder old people always seem to constantly complain about ‘the good old days’. 

The Silent Generation (ages 70 – 87)

This generation is kind of random. They are stuck in between the popular G.I. Generation, and the even more popular Baby Boomers. Not many cool things happened during this generation, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t produce some impressive humans.

This generation is often thought of as the ‘luckiest generation’ simply because they were born at a time in which the economy was greatly in their favor. They rose to adulthood when many companies were hiring, and they were able to ride the huge economic wave, that started with their generation, throughout their entire life.

These guys came of age just after World War II. They were much different than the generation before them. Instead of trying to change the system (like the G.I’s), these guys wanted to play by the rules. They cared deeply about their future and were determined not to do anything in their youth that may jeopardize it. They became adults during the McCarthy era (when America was extremely scared of communists) and thus they kept their heads down and their mouths shut, giving them the label ‘The Silent Generation.’

Unlike the ‘take chances’ kind of attitude that is so proudly promoted in younger generations today, the Silent Generation had a motto of ‘take no chances.’ Every action they took was cautious and calculated. They started families incredibly young and they began planning for retirement before they hit the age of 25.

For some reason whenever I picture the Silent Generation I picture thousands of Bob Saget’s just roaming around, going about their life doing regular Bob Saget stuff.

Bob Saget

Baby Boomers (ages 52 70)

The Baby Boomers are by far the most talked about generation. They are famous for as many things as they are infamous. There are a lot of people from this generation due to the fact that many soldiers returning from WWII decided to have children immediately following the war. This led to a huge influx in population, and it gave us the Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers have been the center of a lot of anger and annoyance in the last few years. They are usually blamed for the condition that America is in today, and they are often seen as being selfish for ‘eating up all the economic opportunity’ and ‘leaving the bones to the generations following.’ The Baby Boomer generation rose to adulthood during some of the strongest job growths in US history. In that time, one earner could typically support an entire family.

Now that the Baby Boomer generation is starting to get old and retire, they are receiving all the benefits of Social Security. They claim that they paid what was due and that they should be able to reap the rewards. However, this isn’t the case. Many believe that the Baby Boomers are the reason the economy is so terrible and that they should have to help clean it up, rather than leave the mess to the generations that have since followed. For instance, on average, those who are just now receiving social security benefits (baby boomers) will end up drawing $200,000 more from social security and medicare than they ever gave to either of these programs. Since social security benefits increase faster than inflation, Baby Boomers will enjoy larger checks from the program than their parents ever did.

On a more positive note, Baby Boomers were involved in some cool shenanigans. For instance, the boomers matured during the establishment of Woodstock. They erected the general ‘hippy movement’ and were rebellious to the government. They were polar opposites to the generation before them, choosing to go against the grain rather than with it.

And in a way, I suppose those type of rebellious actions should be praised, because, whether the rest of the country would like to admit it or not, America would not be nearly as innovative as it is if risk taking and rebellion were not a part of its culture — and we definitely have the Baby Boomers to thank for that.

Oh, and also, the easiest way to spot a Baby Boomer is simple – the man, or woman who will NEVER shut up about how great the 60’s were.

Real Baby boomer

Generation Jones (ages 49 – 60)

This generation is also kind of random, except for the fact that my parents, and pretty much all of my friends parents are members of it. Oh, and Obama too.

Generation Jones is awkwardly sandwiched in between the latter half of the Baby Boomer generation, and the beginning of Generation X. Although I know many wonderful people born in this generation, due to the sheer disappointment they had to endure, I am pretty glad I am not a part of this generation (though I am sure they are probably equally glad they are not part of my generation).

This generation was given huge expectations as children in the 60’s and then grew up to face a reality nothing like those expectations. As stated previously, it seems that the Baby Boomer Generation which came immediately before Generation Jones seemed to ‘eat up the economy.’ The economy took a turn for the worst after the Baby Boomers were done with it, and it left the new generation to scavenge desperately for jobs. This reality is the reason why many Generation Jones members are pretty bitter to those belonging to the generation before them.

Those born during this time came of age with technology like the Apple Macintosh. This means that unlike their predecessors, they are much more ‘in-touch’ with technology and also they are more willing to adapt to the ever-changing world of technology.

Needless to say, this generation was massively different than the one before them.

Generation X (ages 31  49 )

Generation X was born during the single most anti-child phase in US history. So, if you are alive and a part of Generation X, give yourself a pat on the back and then call up your parents and say thank you. This ‘anti-child’ phase was due to the birth control pill being introduced in the early 1960’s as well as the legalization of abortion in 1973.

Generation X’ers came of age during the introduction of video games to American households. This led to a ‘loner status’ that often accompanied many young males growing up during this time. In recent times though, these ‘loners’ have reconnected with others over Facebook, who’s user base consists of mainly Generation X’ers.

Generation X’ers have a large distrust of authority. This is due to growing up in a time where a lot of corrupted, and fraudulent events molded a crooked image of the government and other large institutions, imprinting this distrust of authority in the general publics mind. These events included the Watergate Scandal in the 70’s, the Iran Contra disaster in the 80’s, the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, and the Dot Com Boom and Bust of the 90’s.

Generation X was the first generation to be mostly open to diversity. They came of age during the Civil Rights movement and they grew up not really caring about the color of ones skin (watching Bill Cosby, attending diverse schools, etc). This was a massive difference in attitude compared to the generations before.

Also, Generation X’ers were, are, and always will be EXTREMELY heartbroken that Kurt Cobain died. If you mention his death around a Gen x’er, you are risking your health, your future, and the future of your loved ones. Proceed cautiously.

Kurt Cobain died too young

Generation Y (ages 16  31)

The people who are from this generation are also known as ‘Millennials’. It is the generation that I am from, as well as all of my friends. Now, without sounding too biased, I think my generation is pretty great –  despite the horrible economy that we are forced to deal with.

Generation Y has gotten a pretty bad rap recently. It really bothers me when I hear older generations condemn my generation, or call them lazy. Obviously there are some lazy people in my generation, but there were some lazy people in your generation too, you old geezer.

Millennial’s possess a lot of amazing qualities. For starters, we are the least racist generation in United States history. We grew up (most of us at least) entirely accepting of others, no matter what color they may be. Also, we are the least homophobic. To a millennial, it doesn’t matter if you are straight or gay, you treat the person the same – with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation. Millennials are also the most politically, environmentally, and worldly conscious in United States history.

To everyone who thinks the jobless millennial’s are just being lazy, this is for you:

Millennials are coming of age in a time that has been the worst for job hunting since the Great Depression. Worse than Generation Jones. If you are from the Baby Boomer generation and you happen to be complaining that Millennial’s are being lazy about job’s,  shut your mouth right now. Millennial’s haven’t been exposed to even half of the economic benefits that Baby Boomer’s experienced when they entered the work force. Times have changed, and Millennial’s are certainly not the one’s to blame for the state of our economy.

Tangent aside, though I’m biased towards my own generation, I realize it also has it’s faults. For instance, Millennial’s have been associated with a false sense of entitlement as well as increased narcissism. Millennial’s have been ‘babied’ by their parents and society and are not used to ‘learning things the hard way.’ Generation Y has a stereotype of ‘being soft’ and it is made more prevalent when you see things like participation medals or 9th place ribbons given out at sporting events. Millennial’s have grown up believing that everyone should be awarded for trying, regardless of whether they win or lose. This mindset contradicts greatly with how the world is actually run and it can (and often has) prove harmful in the business world.

Since I am at the end of Generation Y, I can’t really call myself a true ’90’s kid.’ Many Millennial’s do however consider themselves 90’s kids. And they are fierce and aggressive about it. Just like a gang.

90's kid or die

Generation Z (ages 15 – 0)

This is the newest generation and easily the one with the least creative name. There is Generation X, followed by Generation Y (but everyone just calls them millennial’s) and finally, as if the people who come up with these names just gave up, there is Generation Z. C’mon.

Generation Z is currently composed of kids who cannot yet drive. There is not much data to really determine how these kids are going to be when they are adults, but we can still guess.

This generation grew up hooked on technology. I’ve always been around technology, but this generation is something different,  they actually are hooked. For example, I could take away my 8 year old cousins iPad from him, or I could just save myself some time and punch myself in the throat. Either way I am getting punched in the throat.

Now that I brought my cousin up, I am going to go ahead and just base their entire generation off of him. I don’t care if that doesn’t sound fair. So first and foremost, his name is Rafferty (Ra-fur-tee), so one obvious assumption I can make about Gen Z is they all have shitty names. Second, Generation Z people forget your name for like a year or two and call you Pablo at Thanksgiving and Christmas, even though your name is not even remotely similar to Pablo. This in turn, confuses your elder family members, especially your senile Grandfather who already has a hard time remembering your name in the first place. Third, Generation Z refuses to eat apples from the ages of 4 – 7 unless they are dipped in caramel.

Good luck Generation Z.

Your Dog Doesn’t Love You

 

In my family I have two parents, two sisters, and a beloved golden retriever – Rosie. Last week, the following conversation took place at a family dinner.

 

 

Rosie convo #1

 

 

Rosie covo #2

 

 

Rosie covo #3

 

Rosie convo #4

 

This encounter got me thinking: Why do humans love their dogs so much, and is the feeling mutual?

I have always been slightly skeptical of some dog owners tactics. For instance, my mother has full on conversations with Rosie in front of me. It creeps me out. She will ask my dog detailed questions, like “What are your plans for the day, Rosie?” or “How are you feeling?” and expect an intricate response from Rosie, as if the thousand other times my dog has sat there and blankly stared at my mother as she attempted to hold a conversation hasn’t yet hinted to her that this time would possibly be any different.

Besides that, I have witnessed both of my sisters accidentally step backwards onto Rosie’s paws and immediately drop down to both knees, desperately pleading for forgiveness from my dog as if Rosie knew what an apology was. It’s hard not to blurt out “Rosie doesn’t understand a single thing you are saying and is forever going to associate you with this traumatic experience from now on. Your apology is pointless, because Rosie is a dog and doesn’t know what an apology is.” without sounding like a punk.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog. I just don’t understand why some people treat dogs as human beings, when it is obvious that they are nothing like humans.

However, I admit that sometimes dogs can do a good job of acting like they understand us, and I was pretty curious as to why this is, so I read a bit about it, and found some interesting stuff. And now I plan on sharing this interesting stuff.

Here we go!


Dogs were first kept as pets nearly 15,000 years ago. They were originally domesticated and used as the world’s first ‘alarm system’ in order to dissuade potential intruders and attackers from either harming the owner, or stealing shit. It must have worked pretty well, because here we are, 15 millennia’s later, still keeping dogs as pets.

In the last 30 years, several studies have been done on the psychology of both dogs and dog owners. These studies have proven invaluable to determining how dogs see us and how we see our dogs.

First and foremost, the studies suggest that dog owners are, on average, healthier, happier, and less lonely than those who do not own dogs. This is because owning a dog adds to both an individual’s sense of purpose (they feel they have a duty to provide for their dog) and because a dog offers companionship and excitement to an owner’s life that could otherwise not be provided by humans.

For example, a study done with HIV positive men found that those who owned a dog were much less depressed than those who did not own a dog. Similarly, a study of elderly medicare patients found that those who owned a dog had much fewer doctor visits than those who did not.

Ultimately, the health benefits come down to the companionship a dog offers, and the stress-reliever qualities a dog possesses. A dogs companionship reduces loneliness, which can eliminate depression. The calming effect a dog can have on its owner, whether it be because of the dogs ignorance to the stressful situations an owner can experience (at work, in a relationship, etc) or because of the dog’s ability to distract the owner from life’s hardships, is extremely calming and serves as a great way to relieve stress. Stress leads to bad health, which leads to disease. So owning a dog can literally keep you healthy. 

On the other side of the spectrum, however, things are a little different. In order to address all of the questions you might have, I am going to bring in Jenny. Jenny is your typical obsessed-with-her-dog owner.

Jenny - Dog Lover

Jenny will be stating what she knows and asking questions on what she doesn’t know and I will be correcting her and answering her questions with some research I have done on the subject.

Alright Jenny, you have the stage.

My dog loves me because he always licks me!

Your dog licks you for two reasons. Reason one is because canine mothers lick their puppies for social and hygienic reasons, and vice versa, puppies lick their mothers. And reason two is because he probably noticed that licking will get your attention so that you can do stuff for him, like get him food.

Okay, well my dog always stares at me, so he must care about me.

Your dog is once again most likely staring at you in hopes that you will give him food. But some dogs consider direct eye contact very threatening, so if he isn’t hoping for food, he is staring at you because he is about to attack you.

But he jumps up when he sees me, so he must be excited.

Your dog jumps up because he is trying to assert dominance over you.

What about when my dog does stuff like chase his tail?

Your dog is chasing his tail either because he is excited or because he has anal gland problems. Have fun figuring out which one.

What about when my dog plays with his toys

When your dog wildly thrashes his toys around, it is not because he is trying to be cute. It’s because he is manifesting one of his most primal instincts: killing.

Why does my dog bark at strangers?

Your dog is barking at strangers because he thinks they are a threat to you, the owner. But it’s probably not as deep and heart-felt as you think it is. Your dog is barking because he doesn’t want the stranger to harm his only source of food – you. Talk about selfish.

So my dog ‘loves me’ only because I feed him?

Yeah, that and you pet him, which probably feels good too.

How could you say that to me? You are heartless.

You were asking me questions. This was part of the article, stop acting like this.

You make me sick Jack. You are so cruel.

Jenny knock it off. You always act like this when you hear things that go against your intuition. Stop it.

You always just have to get your way. I am ALWAYS the one in the wrong. Whatever, do whatever you want. I hope you are happy.

Alright, well I am sorry if I offended you.

K.

Okay

The Pursuit of Immortality

clock

This clock represents a single day of your life – the day you were born.

The average person will be granted 29,200 of these clocks that will comprise a lifetime. Each tick embodies a choice, an opportunity, a path forward in our lives. 

By the time we reach our 18th birthday, 6,570 of these clocks have already been spent, and much of the remaining time will be out of our control. 7,543 clocks fade away while we sleep. 4,130 will be dedicated to our careers. 418 clocks vanish as we shower and brush our teeth. 2160 clocks will take away nearly six years of our lives as we surf the internet. 2,517 clocks will disappear while we watch TV. The time we spend 1 on 1 with our parents and children amounts to only 2,730 clocks.

When you count all of these moments, you will find that from the journey that began with 29,200 clocks, this is all that remains. How many have you already spent? Half? Even more? What would you do differently if all you had left was a single clock, a single day?

As we get closer to this inevitability, it is important to ask yourself this question: “What if you could have more time to realize your dreams, spend with your family, and undo your regrets?”


In 1971, longevity researchers boldly proclaimed that science would unravel the mystery of aging within five years. Five years later, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that “human life could be extended to 800 years.” That same year, a company called Microwave Instrument Co. said they would have immortality drugs on the market within three years. But here we are, decades later, still dying of old age.

The problem might be with our mindset. Many people would never consider aging a disease. But the cold truth is that general frailty is a disease. It just so happens that everyone gets it about the same time, in about the same way. The reason we don’t give this disease a weird name is that we are conditioned to accept that everyone gets it, so we don’t recognize it as a disease. The fact that aging isn’t seen as more of a threat in today’s society is absolutely mind-boggling, especially when you consider that aging kills 100,000 people a day, exponentially more than any other disease. To put that number into perspective, that is about 30 World Trade Center tragedies every single day.

Aside from aging being a huge killer, it is also really really expensive. If historical rates in the United States continue, US healthcare spending will be nearly 34% of GDP by 2040. Incase you are unaware, that is a boatload of money. In 2015 alone, the United States spent $3 trillion on healthcare for people 65 and older. Longevity research makes sense not only because it will help people stop dying, but also because it is an economically sound concept.

Despite the general publics ignorance to the topic, there are a few research companies leading the efforts in longevity. Among these companies are Google’s Calico, Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Research foundation, and Larry Ellison’s Ellison Medical Foundation.

This article will be focusing on Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Research foundation.

Aubrey de Grey is the chief science officer and co-founder of SENS Research foundation who’s mission is not to squeeze a few more years into ones lifespan, but to reverse the accumulation of damage in human cells that starts when humans are born. Aubrey de Grey boldly proclaimed in 2014 that the first person to live to be 1,000 years old is alive today. Plus he has a sweet beard.

So let’s dive in!

Aging as a disease

Only two hundred years ago, 40% of babies died from infectious diseases before they reached the age of 1. Since then, most of these infectious diseases have been prevented through a number of methods, including sanitation, vaccines, antibiotics, and carrier control. Today, less than .001% of babies die from from infectious diseases before they reach the age of 1.

Despite the prevention of infectious diseases, age-related diseases have not been prevented. Why is that?

In order to answer that question, one must first understand what aging is. Aging is defined as “the life-long accumulation of damage to the tissues, cells, and molecules of the body that occur as an intrinsic side-effect of the body’s normal operation.” The human body can tolerate some damage, but too much damage and it will cause disease and disability, which ultimately lead to our death. Simply put, aging is a side effect of being alive in the first place.

Similarly, age-related diseases occur, obviously, as humans age. Age-related diseases are widespread – meaning you are bound to eventually encounter one of them if you live long enough. The only thing that stops a human from getting cancer is dying of heart disease first, and vice versa. Also, the care for these age-related diseases is insanely costly, as I mentioned earlier, in 2015 alone the United States spent $3 trillion on healthcare for people aged 65 and up. Finally, age-related diseases are typically not medically curable, at least in the strict sense.

When you cure an infectious disease, you treat it once and the treatment eliminates the disease from the body so that the patient never experiences it again. Aging is not like that. Aging is a side effect of being alive in the first place, and it cannot be eliminated from the body the way an infectious disease like tuberculosis could be. However, aging can still be treated, albeit different methods.

The Approach

Traditionally, there has been three approaches used to tackle the problem of aging.

FullSizeRender-2

Geriatric Approach

The Geriatric approach has in the past been very popular among the general public. A large percentage of people think that aging is about treating the effects of old age as if they were like other diseases one would want to eliminate from the body, blindly bashing away at the symptoms and sorta just hoping for the best. These people don’t really know what is going on and they enjoy pretending that their research will have some kind of effect despite the fact that it never has had any results, and because of the nature of old age, it never will have.

So this approach is pretty much worthless and it’s advocates pretty much suck.

Gerontology Approach

This approach is more promising than the Geriatric approach, but still not too solid. Basically there were a lot of scientists who realized early on how pointless the Geriatric approach was, so they looked for another approach to the longevity problem. They observed that some animals within the same species seemed to live a lot longer than other animals within the same species. Likewise, some humans seemed to age more slowly than other humans. So these scientists thought, maybe they could study that and find out (in far greater detail) how that happens, and having done so, they could turn that knowledge into therapy that will slow down the aging of humans.

It sounds like a solid plan, right? But there is one huge problem to this approach: so far it hasn’t actually worked. The reason why is because in order for this approach to work, scientists would need to tinker with metabolism. Metabolism is the word scientists use when they want to say “being alive” – it is the normal operation of the human body, everything the body does from one moment to the next, day-to-day, year-to-year, until it dies. The reason we can’t tinker with humans metabolism is because we understand very little of it, the prospect of trying to rebuild a humans metabolism to make it run slower would most likely do more harm than good because of the fact that we don’t know what we are doing.

This lack of knowledge of metabolism and the human body itself is extremely depressing, and it is why scientists who have adopted the Gerontology approach have become very pessimistic over the years towards the possibility of ever developing machines that could substantially postpone the disease and disability that accompanies old age.

Maintenance Approach

Alas, there is a third approach that has been nearly completely overlooked in the past, until Aubrey de Grey began to promote it. It is called the maintenance approach.

The maintenance approach is essentially a combination of the Gerontology approach and the Geriatric approach. It basically says “lets not try to slow down this process where metabolism creates damage (Gerontology), and lets not try to combat this process where damage eventually leads to the diseases of old age (Geriatric). Instead, lets uncouple those two processes from each other by separating them and periodically diving in and repairing this damage when it is still sub-pathogenic.”

That last part is key.

Repairing the damage when it is still sub-pathogenic is essential. At a sub-pathogenic level, the damage is not actually yet causing a disease because it is tolerated by the way the body is naturally set up.

We already know that the earlier you treat an illness, the better the outcome is, the less treatment you need, the less invasive the treatment is, and ultimately, the less money you will spend. For example, preventing someone from ever getting diabetes is the most cost-effective way to treat it. The next best bet if you end up with diabetes is to keep your blood sugar in check. The worst-case is doing nothing and now you need to get to the ER and have your foot amputated. That procedure will be more expensive than a life-time of insulin.

ER

And the same holds true for any disease. Treat it early, treat it often, treat it cheaply. The maintenance approach is like the equivalence of car maintenance. Cars designed to last 20 years can end up lasting 100 years. The reason it still runs is because the people who own it have done a lot of car maintenance. It’s much more efficient to get the occasional oil check, tire change, and paint job than it is to duct tape your door onto a car that is falling apart. So if it works for cars, whats to say it won’t work for humans?

Categorizing Damage

Although there is many many many different kinds of damage at the molecular level and cellular level, they can all be classified into seven major categories. These seven categories have been the same since 1982, when the last type of damage had been confirmed. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that these are the only seven types of damage that a disease can inflict on the body.

Damage Type

I’ll briefly break down what each category means as well as the consequences of each:

  • Cell loss, cell atrophy
        • The process of cells dying and not being automatically replaced by the division of other cells
        • The decrease in cell number causes the heart to become weaker with age, and it also causes Parkinson’s disease and impairs the immune system.
  • Division-obsessed cells
        • Changes to the nuclear DNA, the molecule that contains our genetic information, or to proteins which bind to the nuclear DNA.
        •  Certain mutations can lead to cancer
  • Death-resistant cells
        • Phenomenon where the cells are no longer able to divide, but they also do not die and let others divide.
        • Proposed as cause or consequence of type 2 diabetes
  • Mitochondrial mutations
        • Mutations to the DNA of mitochondria affects a cell’s ability to function properly
        • These mutations may accelerate many aspects of aging
  • Intracellular junk
        • Molecules that can’t be digested by cells accumulate as junk inside our cells.
        • All kinds of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) are associated with this problem
  • Extracellular junk
        • Molecules that can’t be digested by cells also accumulate as junk outside of our cells.
        • Amyloid senile plaque that is seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is one example of this.
  • Extracellular Matrix Stiffening
        • Cells are held together by special linking proteins, when too many cross-links form between cells in a tissue, the tissue can lose its elasticity
        • This causes problems such as arteriosclerosis, and presbyopia.

The Relationship of Damage and Disease

Some of these diseases have a very simple relationship with the damage. Take, for example, cancer.

Cancer

Cancer is a division-obsessed cell. Cancer occurs when cells divide when they are not supposed to. The relationship between cancer and damage is a 1:1 relationship. Simple.

However, it’s not like that with heart disease, because a lot of things can go to shit in the heart over the course of someones life.

Heart Disease

Sometimes its loss of cells – which is when one’s heart stops because their pacemaker cells that control the heart are insufficiently numerous (cell loss, cell atrophy), sometimes it is atherosclerosis (the number one cause of death in the western world) which causes heart attacks or strokes and is the result of molecular garbage accumulating inside cells in the artery wall (intracellular junk), sometimes it’s actually junk accumulating between cells (extracellular junk), which causes a very unfortunate phenomenon called senile cardiac amyloidosis which is the number one “old people killer” in the world ( ages 100+). Finally, sometimes it is possible to get arteriosclerosis, which is the stiffening of arteries (extracellular matrix stiffening) which causes hypertension and all of the effects that comes along with that, like kidney failure, high blood pressure, etc.

Likewise, Alzheimer’s can also be caused by a plethora of damages to the cells.

Alzheimers

Alzheimer’s is a disease that was defined more than a century ago as the combination of both molecular garbage inside neurons called tangles (intracellular junk) and molecular garbage outside of neurons called plaques (extracellular junk). Only recently was it discovered that neurons also die in Alzheimer’s disease (cell loss), causing less cognitive function.

Finally, General Frailty is a combination of nearly every type of damage excluding division-obsessed.

General Frailty

Solutions

So now that we know what the maintenance approach is, how will it be implemented?

There are four fundamental paradigms for the maintenance approach. They are:

  • Replace
  • Remove
  • Repair
  • Reinforce

Cell Loss Solutions

Stem cells are a type of cell in your system that have a unique ability to “transform” into another type of cell. so, for example, if your body needed more liver cells for whatever reason, stem cells could come in and become liver cells, and everything’s all good. Through the maintenance approach, cells would be put into the body with the purpose to divide and differentiate to replace cells that the body is not replacing on its own when they die.

The best example of stem cell therapy is it’s use with Parkinson’s disease. The key to treating Parkinson’s disease is the introduction of stem cells to the appropriate parts of the brain in order to divide and differentiate into the type of neuron that produces dopamine. When it was first tried 15 years ago, it only sometimes worked – some patients were cured and others weren’t. But when it did work, it fucking WORKED. Patients who were cured never again had any symptoms of Parkinson’s disease after the initial treatment. However, because it only sometimes worked, an enormous amount of pessimism grew in the field and eventually stem cells were abandoned altogether.

In the last few years stem cell interest has been reignited and pursued with great vigor. In the past, stem cells occasionally failed because scientists simply were not good at consistently getting the stem cells into the right states, but now scientists are exponentially better. Due to the intense research and enormous progress being made, Grey believes we will have a cure to Parkinson’s disease within the decade.

Stem cell

Division-obsessed Cells Solution

Cells that are division-obsessed (that aren’t supposed to be) often turn into forms of cancer. In order to combat this, Grey proposes using a technique called ‘WILT’. The way to defeat cancer is to remove the cancer cell’s ability to reproduce indefinitely. And in order to do this, the telomerase gene (the gene that allows the cell to duplicate) must be removed. Since this cannot be targeted at only cancer cells, his ‘WILT’ idea is to delete the gene in the DNA. Obviously, this would interfere with all the cells that need to continually divide, such as the skin, immune system, and bone marrow, but his solution is to periodically replenish stem cell stores with new stem cells that have elongated telomeres.

Telomere Deletion

Death-resistant Cells Solution

There are two main approaches to the problems associated with Death-resistant cells: Develop a drug that is toxic to abnormal cells but harmless to healthy ones, or stimulate an immune response that targets and selectively kills unhealthy cells. Each type of cell has different surface molecules, and these surface molecules serve as markers, or identification for that cell. Liver cells have a different group of molecules on their surface than blood cells, for example.

Likewise, abnormal cells have abnormal surface molecules, making these cells easy to target for therapy. So if there is a group of little bastard cells that refuse to die, a drug targeting its molecular surface can be taken to kill it. Likewise, an immune system can be stimulated to kill the ‘unkillable’ intruder by being exposed to it in small amounts, similar to how a flu shot works.

cell killer

Mitochondrial Mutation Solution

It would be great if we could prevent mitochondrial deletion from happening, or fix it before it does any harm; but unfortunately, we do not know nearly enough about this stuff where that would be a realistic goal.

So instead the approach is to place a ‘backup copy’ of the mitochondrial gene in the nucleus, so that even if a deletion in the mitochondria occurs, the backup copy could still supply the proteins needed to keep normal energy production going.

It’s not ideal, but it keeps the cell from dying in a worst case scenario.

Mitochondria back up

Intracellular Junk Solution

Intracellular junk is caused when molecules can’t be digested by cells, so they accumulate as junk inside of the cell. More specifically, the problem occurs when lysosomes are unable to break down the molecules. Therefore, the most direct solution to this problem would be to supply them with new enzymes that could break down those molecules.

Lucky for us, we know that enzymes capable of breaking down these materials exist – specifically in the soil bacteria and fungi that help to decompose dead bodies. If these enzymes didn’t exist, we would be waist-deep in 600 million years of dead things. Gross.

waist-deep in dead people

So the idea is to find the enzymes these organisms use to digest lysosome wastes, modify them a little bit so that they can work in humans, and then deliver them (via needle) to where they need to go in our cells.

Extracellular Junk Solution

Extracellular junk that accumulates outside of cells can be removed from the body by specialized antibodies that target the junk specifically. These antibodies would be delivered via injection.

Simple.

Vaccine

Extracellular Matrix Stiffening Solution

Extracellular Matrix Stiffening occurs when too many cross-links form between cells in a tissue. When this happens, the tissue loses its elasticity, often leading to hypertension. Fortunately, the crosslinks that occur in our tissues have very unusual chemical structures, way different than anything the body naturally produces,  making it possible to design drugs that can react with the crosslinks and sever them, without breaking apart any of the bodies natural tissues.

Crosslink

Our Future

Okay, so the science behind all of this looks pretty sound. But what does this mean for our future?

In the future, nobody will get Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, or really any kind of age-related disease. This will eliminate many of the worlds most deadly diseases, therefore having dramatic consequences toward health.

Dammit Jack, I didn’t click on this freaking article to read about health span. I want to live forever!

Calm down please, I am getting there.

Aubrey de Grey believes that with the maintenance approach he will be able to add about 30 years on the human life.

30 years?! I thought you said 1000 years at the beginning of the article? Why wo—

You have been muted.

I have muted you.

As I was saying, because the Maintenance Approach is a rejuvenation therapy, that means that the solution will be taking people who are already 60 and fixing them well enough that they won’t be biologically or mentally 60 until they are chronologically 90.

So then what?

Well the thing is, 30 years is a really long time in technology, and especially in medical technology. So what those 30 years are doing is essentially buying you time while medical technology advances to a point where the patient could be re-rejuvenated. What this means is we are talking about the possibility that by the time those people who were rejuvenated come back as 90 year olds who are biologically 60, the therapies will have improved enough so that you could be re-rejuvenated a second time so that you won’t be biologically 60 until you are chronologically 150 and so on until you eventually get to be 1000+ years old and we all become robots that are completely incapable of dying – or something like that.

The term ‘Longevity escape velocity’ is the minimum rate at which we need to improve the comprehensiveness of the therapy in order to stay one step ahead of the problem. Essentially what it means is we are kicking the ball up the road faster than time is passing for as long as we like.

As soon as the first generation of therapies is successful (providing the patient with an additional 30 years of life) the rest is easy. This is due to the exponential growth of technology. For example, if it takes us 30 years to figure out how to add an additional 30 years of human life, it should take us 15 to add 60, 7.5 to add 120, and so on.

Our future looks bright… and long. 


I kind of stumbled upon this topic last week when I was trying to find interesting things to write about. I had heard about Calico and other longevity companies before, but I never paid any attention to it because it always just sounded like a load of bullshit to me. And then of course I dove into the topic and became strangely obsessed with it for four or five days. I literally would have dreams of playing cards or going bowling with Aubrey de Grey, and that was very weird – if anyone has ever watched one of his interviews, you will know exactly what I am talking about. He is a skinny man with a huge beard and he basically looks like Santa Claus, if Santa was a homeless meth addict.

Anyways, after the first hour of research I couldn’t believe my eyes. I fell deeper down the rabbit hole and just kept falling. It went from something that sounded like an absolute scam to something that not only seemed completely feasible, but something that was totally possible within my lifetime.

And then it became so hard for me to accept the fact that so little people were talking about the subject.

I mean this is immortality people! The thing mankind has been obsessed with since the beginning of time! The reason why kings killed children and bathed in their blood! The reason why Voldemort divided his soul into 7 objects! Are we going to let that sacrifice go to waste? Now more than ever, the prospect of living forever is right in front of us. It is mind boggling to me that this topic has not received more fame.

But, Jack’s awe aside, it is very interesting to think about what life would be like if you lived for 1000 years. Would you be more careful when performing common but dangerous tasks like driving? Would you go to school for 100 years? Would there still be wars if humans placed a much greater value on life?

I can’t help but wonder how it would affect me emotionally. Surely I would see everyone I love grow old and die. Repeatedly. Would this turn me into some kind of emotionless robot, incapable of love, or would I just get really good at loving and grieving? Would I get bored with living? And ultimately, if age is no longer a terminal factor, would suicide become moral? How else could someone end an infinitely long life that they were tired of living?

Jesus my head hurts.


Sources

Calico

Drug worm study

UNITY – Biotech

Immortality Business

SENS Research

Aubrey de Grey – Life extension interview

Ray Kurzweil

Telomere shortening

Longevity and Aging in Humans

Maria Konovalenko

Aubrey de Grey – Google Talk

Aubrey de Grey – TheGuardian

Are We Living in a Multiverse?

Article featured pic

 

What if somewhere out there, there was an exact replica of yourself reading this very sentence right now, but instead of finishing the sentence, they stop right here to go do something else? What if there was a version of you that was a rockstar, a president, a cartel leader or an astronaut? Well, according to popular theory, there is. He/she is about 101029 meters from where you are sitting right now.

Common knowledge tells us that the universe is everything there is, right? So if that is true then we can’t have two universes, because that would be everything there is, and our universe would only be half of what there is.

The problem here is terminology. Physicists speaking informally often say “universe” when they really mean ‘observable universe’ (also known as the Hubble volume) which is the part of the universe that we are able to see. If there was life on the edge of our observable universe, they would experience a different observable universe then we do, simply due to their position. So, in that sense, it is perfectly acceptable to talk about multiple observable universes.
Observable universe

That idea is relatively well understood. When physicists talk about multiple universes, they usually do not refer to such a simple concept.

So with that out of the way, lets dive right into the three leading multiverse theories.

Level 1: Regions beyond our Cosmic Horizon Theory

There are infinitely many planets, with infinitely many people who have the same exact memories, experiences, names, and looks as you do. They come from the same family, and they live in the same city. If space is infinite, it means infinite probabilities, which means anything that is slightly possible becomes a certainty. It’s like asking yourself “what are the chances ____ happens?” Well, somewhere out there, the chance is 100%. This is the level one multiverse theory.

Infinite Hi I'm Jim

Although this seems absolutely crazy, this cosmological model is the simplest and the most popular theory on the subject.

In order for this theory to work, two things must be assumed.

  1. The universe is infinite
  2. The universe is uniformed. (Meaning that every single combination of particles will take place in an infinite universe.)

But what is ‘infinite’ and how big is space?

The observational universe grows by a light year every single year, so we keep uncovering new things within our universe. In school everyone is taught about simple Euclidean space, which states that every point in three-dimensional space is determined by three coordinates. So it’s really difficult to imagine how space could not be infinite. However, in 1915, Einstein came along with his theory of general relativity, which allowed space to be finite by being differently connected than Euclidean space. Einstein’s theory stated that the shape of space resembled a four-dimensional sphere, or a doughnut shape, so that traveling in one direction would ultimately bring you back to where you started from in the opposite direction.

Image: Krzysztof Bolejko

Image: Krzysztof Bolejko

The physics description of the world is usually split into two parts: initial conditions, and laws of physics specifying how the initial conditions evolve. Our observable universe’s gravitational clustering formed galaxies, stars, planets and other structures. Because of this, it is assumed that every possible matter configuration occurs in some Hubble volume far away, and it’s also assumed that we should expect our own Hubble volume to be relatively typical – at least typical among Hubble volumes that contain life.

You aren't special.

Now for some numbers.

This theory states that about 101029 meters away, there is an exact replica of you. At about 101091 meters away, there is a sphere of radius 100 light-years that is completely identical to the one centered here, so everything we experience in the next century will be identical to those of our counterparts. At about 1010115 meters away, there is an entire Hubble volume that is exactly identical to ours.  

Level 2: Bubble Universe theory

Level two is like level one, but instead of just one universe, it is an infinite set of distinct universes, some with different dimensionality and different physical constants. This is what is predicted by cosmic inflation.

Level Two

Let’s break down cosmic inflation really quick.

In the beginning of the 20th century, astronomers started to notice that galaxies were moving away from each other, and the further apart they were, the faster they moved. They theorized that this meant that the universe was expanding and that at some point in the past, it must have been very small, dense and hot. So they called this idea the Big Bang.

In the 1960’s, two astronomers discovered something called the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) which was a faint glow and temperature that seemed to permeate the entire universe. The CMB supported the Big Bang because the only way two extremes of the universe could have the same exact temperature was if at one point in the past, the extremes were close enough together to act on each other.

The CMB theory traced the origins to 380,000 years after the Big Bang occurred, the point in time where matter began to clump together enough for light to move around freely. Today, inflation is the best theory of how the universe formed in those early moments of expansion. Inflation is the mathematical details that explain what happened before the 380,000 year horizon of the CMB.

When the universe was small, it followed the rules of quantum physics. Energy rose out of nothing, particles came in and out of existence, and their probabilities all mixed together. Inflation theorized that the universe expanded faster than the speed of light, and that this rapid acceleration created ripples in the fabric of space-time. These fluctuations from which the ripples were born expanded to form peaks and troughs in the universe which allowed matter to clump into the matter that we see today.

Matter clumping in space

Matter clumping in space

As stated, level two contains infinite distinct universes, each with different dimensionality and different physical constraints. The other domains however, are infinitely far away in the sense that you would never get there even if you traveled at the speed of light forever. This is because the space between our level one multiverse and its neighbors is still undergoing inflation, which causes space to keep stretching and creating volume faster than light can travel through it.

Kind of depressing.

 

Inflation

Besides just allowing space to expand, cosmic inflation also does other things like create “bubbles” within space that are not affected by inflation. These bubbles are where universes are made, just like ours. They form by breaking off of other bubbles in a chain reaction. This chain reaction never stops, and the number of bubbles in space is infinite.

This is actually really kind of terrifying, because it means that there is no beginning of time and there wasn’t just one Big Bang; there is and always will be an infinite number of inflating bubbles just like the one that we live in that have each experienced their very own Big Bang.

Infinite Bubbles

Besides just being characterized by the particles that make it up and the dimensions that it holds, the universe we live in is also characterized by a set of dimensionless numbers that are known as physical constants. Physical constants are physical quantities that are generally believed to be both universal in nature and constant in time. Some examples of physical constants are the speed of light (c), the gravitational constant (G), and Planck’s constant (h). There are models in the level two theory in which such continuous parameters vary from one post-inflationary bubble to the next.

All in all, the level two multiverse is way more diverse than the level one multiverse. The level two multiverse contains domains where not only can the conditions differ, but the dimension it is in, the particles that make it up, and the physics it experiences can also differ.

This means that there can literally be a universe where the planets are all made out of candy and inhabited by lava lamps.

I’m serious.

Lava lamp / candy land

Let’s take a quick little breather here before we go any further.

You know that feeling you get when you stand up from the couch after laying down for a long time? Ya know, when everything starts to go black, you get light-headed, grasp onto the nearest object and desperately fight the urge to sit back down? Well, that’s kinda what it feels like to read about the level three theory.

Alright, onwards.

Level 3: Quantum Universe Theory

The third theory is one in which the parallel universes aren’t so far away.

The fundamental equations of physics appear to be what mathematics would call ‘unitary’ meaning that the equation will always give an outcome for each possible situation. If this is true, then the Universe is constantly branching into parallel universes. Whenever a quantum event appears to have a random outcome, all outcomes occur, one in each branch.

The strange part about this is that there are quantum events that correspond to situations that seem to make no sense, such as you being in two different places at once. Take for example, schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, where a contraption kills a cat if a radioactive atom decays. Because the radioactive atom eventually enters a state of decayed and not decayed, it produces a cat which is both dead and alive. Only upon opening the box does one event play out, and thus the universes split.

Cat in Box

When talking about parallel universes, it is important to distinguish between two different ways of viewing a physical theory: the outside view of a mathematician studying its mathematical fundamental equations called the bird perspective, and the inside view of an observer living in the world described by the equations, called the frog view.

From the bird perspective, the level three multiverse is surprisingly simple: there is only one reality and it evolves smoothly over time without any sort of splitting or parallelism. The abstract quantum world described by this evolving reality has a large number of parallel story lines that are constantly merging and splitting.

From the frog perspective, however, each observer sees only a small fraction of the full reality. They only see their own Hubble volume (level 1) and this view will prevent them from perceiving level III parallel copies of themselves. When they are asked a question, they make a decision and answer the question. From a bird perspective, their single past branches into multiple futures. From the frog perspective though, each copy of them is unaware of the other copies and they perceive this quantum branching as simply a slight randomness. Afterwards, there are multiple copies of themselves that have the same memories up until the point when they answer the question.

Bill Clinton


As I bring this article to a close, I think it is important to remember just how little we know about the Universe we live in. We are a floating rock with life on it, surrounded by other floating rocks that may or may not have life on it, revolving around a floating rock that is on fire – and the rest is just a blur. 

I am going to the kitchen, now, to eat a sandwich.


Sources

Tegmark’s Classifications

Physics of the Universe; Cosmic Inflation

TheConversation – Theory of Parallel Universes

Confronting the Multiverse

Parallel Universe Theory

Is Math Real?

Does math exist or did we make it up?

It seems like a stupid question. Modern intuition tells us that it obviously exists – it’s freaking everywhere. But the more I thought about it this week, the less and less sure I was. It got to the point where I grew so unsure about this question that I questioned my own existence, had an existential meltdown, locked myself in my room for three days, and finally decided I would go ahead and read about it.

Fast forward a week and some long lectures from old German guys on Youtube, and I am here – still not really knowing what is going on, but slightly more informed. Now knowing a tiny bit about it, I figured I would try to share it with others, who I assume have never even given the topic a thought.

Let’s start from the beginning!

Origins of Math

Math originated nearly 10,000 years ago in a hunter gatherer society as a means for trade and money. Basic tasks like one item being grouped with another item forming two items were done for survival. Since then, math has grown into a tool used to model some of the universe’s most complex actions.

The question of whether math is invented by humans or discovered in the laws of the universe is one of the greatest philosophical questions to date.

Arguments for Discovery

The human brain has evolved to aid in our survival as a species in the different environments human beings have encountered throughout history. Our brain has evolved to reason about the physical world as well as the social world we live in.  The brain did not evolve to reason about abstract objects like numbers. In order for the brain to reason about numbers, the brain must have learned how to handle abstraction or it must have acquired the ability to take abstract objects and present them for thought as if they were concrete. For example, when I say “3 apples” you hopefully picture three apples in your head.

From an evolutionary perspective, the human brain originally began as a simple stimulus-response device, that “recognized” certain forms of input and generated appropriate forms of output, similar to a sunflower that grows in the direction of the sun.

Sunflower

The human brain then acquired the ability to mediate between input stimuli and output responses. [The neocortex]

Superman

Types of Mathematicians

There are two types of mathematicians, Platonists – who believe that mathematical truths are discovered because they literally exist and they literally are true, and Nominalists – who believe that math is just what we do when we account for things / the process of labeling things.

Nominalists believe that Math is a concept of the human brain for the following reasons:

  1. The Human brain does not process directly in the new domain. It pulls back to the familiar domain and utilizes existing processing procedures.
    • This means that humans don’t learn something all at once. It’s like a new leaf on a tree. You can’t just get the leaf without first having the trunk, the branch, and finally, the leaf
  2. Mathematics is abstracted from the world – mathematicians construct abstract, skeletal models of the world.
  3. Because of human beings process of ‘thinking in metaphors’ ( tree example) and the end result of the metaphor grounding in the everyday world, mathematics carries the sensation of thinking about the real world.
  4. Since we all share the same world, we all end up with the same mathematics
  5. The feeling of concreteness that comes along with the mastery of a new abstract domain is neither a precursor of mastery nor is it a consequence; instead, it is part of the process in which the brain acquires that mastery.

However, the Platonists tell a different story.

In 1612, Galileo said “The underlying rules that make the universe tick are inherently mathematical.” Fifty years later, Isaac Newton claimed that he agreed with Galileo’s assertion that the universe was inherently mathematical, and then proceeded to create the equation for the law of universal gravitation, accurate down to the thousandth percentile – all based on an assumption that planets orbited in an elliptical motion.

Do you realize how crazy that last part is?

This guy basically took a shot in the dark at a problem that had stumped scientists since the beginning of time and ended up being not only correct, but so accurate that to this day we have not changed it. Nuts.

Mathematical Platonists believe that we discover mathematical entities and mathematical truths because they literally exist and they literally are true. Ultimately, Platonism boils down to faith. To a Platonist, math is about truth. If you tell a Platonist that math isn’t real, it is like telling them that truth doesn’t exist. Which would, ya know, like break them or something.

Math isn't real

FullSizeRender-18

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The Good Stuff

Perhaps maths relationship with reality is in its ability to describe it. Just like the English word “pencil” has a relationship with reality in that it refers to things we experience as pencils. While mathematics is not able to say anything with exact truth about reality, it does give us useful approximations and so it is worth talking about in that respect. However, if this is the case, it gets a lot more complicated.

Now entering the rabbit hole. Hold on tight, because shit is about to get whack.

Rabbit hole

If math is a reality of our experience, then where is the reality of your other inner experiences, for example your love?

Well, it depends how you look at it. Are “inner experiences” really that different from “real” experiences? We are not just guests experiencing the universe, we are part of the universe experiencing itself. The mental state that a human is in is simply neuron connections bathed in hormones and endorphins. This is no more or less a ‘real’ experience than eating a salad, or punching your friend in the face.

Mike Tyson

When we talk about ‘real’ experiences as being different from ‘fantasy,’ that’s a completely different type of conversation. That would not be talking about the internal events of the mind, but rather the connection between that event and another event. When a character on a TV show dies, that human life doesn’t actually end, and that is different from when an actor who plays a character dies, because then a human life has actually ended.

The ‘inner experience’ of grief for the audience could be identical however, because in each case those people experience the loss of a constructed image of a person who existed and now no longer exists.

So the experience is a different event from the prime event, and the experienced event is real whether or not the prime event is real.

So too, math is real and it has real-world consequences, but math is not the same thing as the events that it describes. Math describes physical interactions, but it does not prescribe them. One could say “the math indicates that human brains cannot survive for more than 7 minutes without oxygen” but one could not say “the math dictates that human brains won’t survive for more than 7 minutes without oxygen.” The math describes the physical events, but it does not create them.

Where this gets even more exciting though, is back inside the brain. Humans with limited or no language cannot think like normal people. There was an interview on NPR with a man who was not educated in any language, he had grown up like a wild animal and he was never taught any words. The man referred to the time before language as “the dark time,” and he remembered very little of the experiences that he had during that time. Without words to describe his experiences, he was not able to form memories. Without memories, he could not learn or understand ideas. Language is so essential to human thinking that without language, we don’t understand the world. The same goes with math. For example, we only understand quantum mechanics as math, and we have no other way to talk about it.

The question of does math exist or did we make it up is similar to the paradox of The Ship of Theseus, which is: if you replace the parts of a ship one piece at a time and build a new ship out of the original pieces, then which ship is the original ship at the end? If the one with the original pieces ‘is’ the original ship, then when did the identity of the ship switch?

This parable gets at a very fundamental question; what defines a things essence? The Earth and the humans that are on it were made of elements that were created eons ago in the stars, but no one identifies the Earth or the people on it as those original objects. It seems pointless to do so. But then consider a car. Let’s say it needs a lot of work and 80% of it needs to be replaced and you use second-hand parts from another vehicle to do so. Most people would still say that the original car is still itself.

Ultimately, we are making decisions as to what constitutes a thing unto itself. The question of whether math exists or whether it is made up depends on what you mean by the word “exist.” Some people claim that once you fix a system of axioms, every theorem that follows from those axioms is sitting there waiting to be proven. But isn’t that the same thing as saying that once you fix the alphabet, every possible English word is sitting there waiting to be said? It’s not necessarily wrong, just completely useless.

Toddler

Eventually, I think the question of whether math exists in the universe or not ultimately boils down to whether or not the universe is logical.

And from everything that humans have observed, it seems that the universe is logical. The universe has an inherent set of logical rules that define how it works. How gravity should act, how birds fly, the shape of a leaf and the branch to which it is connected, and so on.

Math is the logic of quantity. It is our way to quantify the inherent logic that drives the universe, in the form of symbols that we call numbers. Perhaps every physical form in the universe could be emulated with the proper equation.

But while it seems that the universe is logical, what then is illogical? That is a slightly more difficult question to answer. Logically, our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone structure support the ability to jump a certain height. Taking into consideration the logic of gravity and other forces that might be acting on the body at any given moment, it would be illogical for a human being to jump and then fly away or shoot laser beams from their eyes… those things break the existing logic of the universe and therefore they are illogical.

One could say that whatever rules that define how a universe must “behave” are automatically logical to the inhabitants of said universe, and anything that would break those rules would be illogical. Whether the rules are inherently logical or not is a meaningless question. There could be dimensions in which breathing fire is completely logical, or your mom and dad both being chairs is 100% normal.

Chairs

In 1977, two voyager spacecrafts were launched to outer space with a message to any life form who could decipher it. The message had no words, just pictures. Pictures are the barebones of mathematics. While Aliens might not draw “1 + 1 = 2”, they can most likely understand that one item with another item becomes two items.

voyager gold record

If extraterrestrial life has a similar background as we do and has experienced the same phenomena as we have, then it is possible to communicate with them via mathematics. This is similar to how you can travel to a rural part of the world and not speak the same language, yet conduct trade by doing simple math together.

However, if extraterrestrial life has a different background, different sensory apparatus, or different cognitive structure, it might be impossible to communicate with them via mathematics. If extraterrestrial life does not understand our form of mathematics, it would be like trying to communicate with color to an alien life that can only see in black and white. It simply would not work.

Aliens


And now I am sitting at my desk, questioning everything I have ever known, and feeling more lost than I was when I started researching this topic.

I hate to end the post like this, but unfortunately I don’t have a satisfying conclusion for you. For that matter, I am not sure anyone has a satisfying conclusion to this problem.

I will however leave it at this – after researching the topic and thinking about it nonstop for a week, I am not sure what is more terrifying – The idea that the universe follows a set of rules in the form of mathematics, indicating that either a higher power put these in place or that the universe is a simulation, or the lonely prospect of mathematics being a construct of the human mind, applicable only to the environment in which we are accustomed, meaning that we are either alone in the universe, or that we will never be able to communicate with other life.

So which is scarier – being alone in the universe or not?

Comment what you think below.


Oh btw, I found a sweet picture of you and I

Picture of us

Sources

Most of the ideas in this post are not mine. I tried to pool together the main ideas from some distinguished philosophers and scientists to present in a ‘easier’ to understand way.

Massimo Pigluicci – “On Mathematical Platonism”

“Platonism in the Philosophy of Mathematics”

“Nominalism in the Philosophy of Mathematics”

“Philosophy of Mathematics”

Voyager – The Interstellar Mission

“On Mathematical Platonism”

Keith Devlin – SETI TALK

A summary of one of the central issues in the metaphysics of mathematics: "Is math a fundamental part of the universe, or an imaginary human invention?" from philosophy