Day: January 19, 2015

Is 2+2 Always Four??

Having a vague suspicion that I may find one more confirmation to my theory: that things are never that axiomatic, I googled:  “mathematics [blank] is 2+2 always 4?”

After one or two clicks I understood that 2+2=5 is also right:

“As any self-respecting engineer would agree, 2+2 can sometimes yield 5, for large values of 2. 🙂 –  Lucian Jun 25 ’14 at 17:38

Going into it a little bit more, to my amazement I find out that also 2+2 sometimes equals 1:

“In Z3 it is still true that 2+2=4, it just happens that 4=1 as well. –  Asaf Karagila Jun 25 ’14 at 17:41

Now, I cannot pretend that I understood a thing as for why are these values: I’ll just tip my hat with British elegance and give credit to specialists. I remember though learning, a number of years ago, to add up 2 apples with two other apples, and my teacher insisted that I could not add up 2 oranges and 2 apples (unless I changed their name to “fruit”).

This, among many others, was part of my life baggage of axioms – we have an existential need for absolute truths and things that are immutable. Well, reality, it so turns out, is not that axiomatic, precise and immutable, and 21st century science begins to openly acknowledge it; but this applies to our personal experience as well as it applies to sciences. It has never before been so obvious that society and individual lives are in upheaval, with old norms, institutions and taboos overturned – and it seems that this is just the beginning.

Life experience puts us in contact with things, people and experiences only to bring us to see, sometimes with pain, sometimes with relief, that clinging too hard to fixed concepts is unrealistic, and we risk to break our necks in free fall through the void of our misconceptions if we don’t give up on heavy, rigid beliefs.

With the insights of quantum physics we find out that reality doesn’t really exist, that it is just a matter of our perception, as particles shift between wave and particle under the eye of the observer. I can see that light can be only wave and vibration, but it’s hard to conceive that physical matter can, too?? The commoner like me can only wonder: how come that light and matter can be at the same time both wave and particle?

Science nowadays is discovering things that were thought impossible or unacceptable only a short while ago. We were convinced that our skies show a fundamental “emptiness”, pointed here and there by stars and galaxies. Only a couple of years ago, in 2011 became public the most recent view that all what we see, distant and near planets, stars, galaxies and all, make up just 4.9 of our universe; the rest of it, and of which scientists had no idea that existed, is dark energy and dark matter (dark, meaning non-reactant to light, invisible) that constitute 95.1% of it all. Pretty  much unknown for scientific pride, who praises itself that it can send space missions outside the solar system.

So, what is mind, after all? The picture changes here, too, so that the firm belief that human mind is just a mechanism comparable to a computer is slowly shifting, as neurologists come ever closer to the understanding of the mind as more than just brain: they start seeing soul also.

To bring just an example, Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, is as close to expressing his belief in an ensouled world as anyone could hope for: he thinks that consciousness is not dependent on brain only, but that it arises in any sufficiently complex, connected information-processing system – from cells, to worms, to animals and up to humans; this can be a scientifically refined version of ancient panpsychism – a philosophical doctrine asserting that all there is, it is part of the God-Mind, or Spirit. Of course mainstream science is not yet ready to acknowledge the existence of a Universal Field of Consciousness, but I can see that it is slowly getting there.

For this, and many other reasons too, I began doubting that the world is just the one described by the science that I have studied at school, as I learned to doubt that 2+2=4; at least I know that it doesn’t always hold.