The Crystallization of Thought-o-Biographies

Section 1 from The Pressure of Light by Malcolm

Also available on YouTube

“It is certainly true that Maxwell’s equations for empty space, taken by themselves, do not say anything, that they only represent an intermediary construct; but, as is well known, exactly the same could be said about Newton’s equations of motion, as well as about any theory that needs to be supplemented by other theories in order to yield a picture for a complex of phenomena.” 

– Albert Einstein, from his 1909 paper The Radiation Problem, describing how a set of remembered-thinking-events, when remembered as contextually connected, can approximate the nature of the universe-external in a useful way, even if that internal-approximation is nevertheless the product of human imagination.

“If the magnet is moved, there exists in space a magnetic field variable with time, which, according to Maxwell, forms closed lines of an electric force…However, no electric field arises if the magnet is at rest and the circuit is moved; instead, the current in the conductor is created because the electricities moving with it due to the (mechanically forced) movement relative to the magnetic field suffer an electromotive force, which Lorentz introduced hypothetically. The idea that these two cases should essentially be different was unbearable to me.”

– Albert Einstein, 1920 paper Ideas and Methods, relaying his memory of experiencing unbearableness that he connects with his memories of visualizing himself moving with electric and magnetic fields in Maxwell’s empty space.

“The special theory of relativity has crystallised out from the Maxwell-Lorentz theory of electromagnetic phenomena.” 

– Albert Einstein, 1916 book Special and General Relativity, describing how the remembered-thinking-events relayed by Maxwell, Lorentz, and then himself have crystalized into a conceptual framework for understanding the universe.

“All problems in the optics of moving bodies can be solved by the method employed here. The essential point is that the electric and magnetic forces of light, which is influenced by a moving body, are transformed to a coordinate system that is at rest relative to that body. This reduces every problem in the optics of moving bodies to a series of problems in the optics of bodies at rest.”

– Albert Einstein remembering, in his 1905 paper that introduced Special Relativity, the theory’s crucial thinking-event – imagining himself moving with a magnetic field in such a way that he sees it simply as an electric field in motion – which subsequently led to the resolution of all conceptual problems related to magnetically and electrically charged bodies in motion.

“The more electromagnetic theory advanced, the more the question of whether electromagnetic processes can be reduced to mechanical ones retreated into the background; one became used to considering the concepts of electric and magnetic field strength, electric space density, etc., as elementary concepts that are not in need of mechanistic interpretation…The pressure of light, which has only recently been established experimentally, and which plays such an important role in the theory of radiation, proved to be a consequence of the theory.”

– Albert Einstein, on James Clark Maxwell’s equations, and the crystallization of knowledge they seeded (1909 presentation, On the Constitution of Radiation)

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What happens in my mind happens in the universe. I am, after all, just another physical body spinning through the galaxy, riding the expanding wave of the big-bang, comfortably seated on the arrow-of-time. The imagination has a place, and every imagination moves at least a few thousand kilometers a second in this fast spinning Galaxy. My imagination, where I’ve time-warped across the universe, flown kilometers above the earth, and played carelessly with my past and future, is much easier to see as something quite separate from the body that spins around the galaxy for real. It’s as if what I imagine appears in a bubble that pops off my head, a piece of consciousness attached, and drifts away guided by nothing but its own laws of physics. This is perfectly fine to believe, it won’t threaten the true nature of time and space in the universe, because those time and space distorted bubbles are nothing but the very expected outcomes of human-imaginations. What’s far more interesting to the universe about conscious-minds is the evolved structure that patterns the development of knowledge in the brain, the part that’s spinning through the galaxy for real, carrying forth that knowledge-accumulation, crossing paths with other bodies, sometimes colliding and bursting into pieces that form their own little worlds.

In 2020, I thought a lot about thinking. For the first half of the year I ran through a forested trail for an hour every morning, intending the run to be a meditation where, against the backdrop of repetition, I would explore more deeply the act of reflecting on my memories-of-thinking, feeling, and experiences-of-awareness. The typically calming effect of my run instead started fueling a hyperspeed looping through memories-of-remembered-thinking and memories-of-remembered-feelings as they all jumped, erratically, as I flashed, randomly, people and events from life to entice reactions in my mind to analyze. As my cardio-strength increased and allowed for faster charges up and down steep dirt trails, mercifully beneath the shade of old-growth hard-woods, it started to feel like I was turning my internal world into a particle accelerator for neurological activity. 

During this exercise I let up a bit on my life-long-pursuit to create stillness in my verbal thinking and associated physical habits. Instead, I allowed the verbage to run, and in the wake of these events I investigated more closely the hypothesis that a verbal thought inevitably has a non-verbal predecessor. I expanded the practice beyond verbal thinking, smashing my memories of all types of thought against each other so that I could attempt a hard, deep look at that wall of nothing just one notch in time past my thoughts. Unlike in CERN, the raw, objective-as-possible images I returned with always came out black and featureless.

I would frequently follow up these runs with some fast typing into my info-diary, my name for a living document where I brainstorm ideas, experiment with creative writing, write about what I’m reading, and write actual diary entries. On one such occasion I surprised myself with the realization that I couldn’t answer a fairly simple question: how do I really know that I experienced the thinking event that I remember having? Might the brain simply write in the memory of the thinking event without bothering with the thinking in the first place? In a system that is forever concerned with efficiency, sometimes decommissioning evolved abilities for efficiency’s sake, why not? What would be lost? Even if this seems unlikely, what about my memory of how long the thought occurred for, when it happened, and in what order compared to other internal-information-processing-events I can remember? Most importantly, if I can’t confirm the timing or even existence of the thinking-events I remember, who can? 

These questions are what led me to write this essay. They’re all questions I could ask about my memory of real life events as well, but my memories of life-external would not lead me to question the nature of my mind’s place in time. Human minds have the benefit of knowing, through collective agreement, that real life events do happen somewhere on the measurable and unidirectional arrow-of-time. In the external world, we believe in the arrow-of-time, that march along the path. Sometimes that path does muddy the mind’s perception of the steady walk forward with events that contextually connect to other events, or events that repeat in a series scattered over normal-time’s continuous journey, but in all moments the mind can still feel anchored to the arrow-of-time because in all moments normal-time retains some recognizable level of unpredictability. 

No matter how much is learned about life in this universe, the path forward through time is still recognizably heterogeneous. If anyone has ever felt the universe has imprisoned them in a time loop, or distorted their normally steady walk forward, if they ever felt that time is not what they thought but more like a house of mirrors, all they had to do was discuss event distribution along the arrow-of-time with others, and so far the strength of truth that comes from mutual agreement has been enough to set the arrow-of-time straight. But while mutual agreement is epistemologically important to knowledge, the knowledge-sets that accumulate in human minds do not come solely from multi-mind-development. Understanding knowledge in the human mind means understanding how the mind in part develops knowledge in the brain all on its own.

Section 2: As I Walk the Straight and Measurable Arrow-of-Time

As I Walk the Straight and Measurable Arrow-of-Time

Section 2 from The Pressure of Light by Malcolm

Also available on YouTube

“An historian may, perhaps, for the more convenient carrying on of his narration, relate an event before another, to which it was in fact posterior; but then he takes notice of this disorder, if he be exact; and by that means replaces the idea in its due position. It is the same case in our recollection of those places and persons, with which we were formerly acquainted. The chief exercise of memory is not to preserve the simple ideas, but their order and position.”

– David Hume, The Treatise of Human Nature (1739), whom Einstein acknowledged as the most significant philosophical shoulders on which was built the Theory of Special Relativity.

“But what about the psychological origin of the concept of time? This concept is undoubtedly associated with the fact of ‘calling to mind,’ as well as with the differentiation between sense experiences and the recollection of these. Of itself it is doubtful whether the differentiation between sense experience and recollection (or simple re-presentation) is something psychologically directly given to us. Everyone has experienced that he has been in doubt whether he has actually experienced something with his senses or has simply dreamt about it. Probably the ability to discriminate between these alternatives first comes about as the result of activity of the mind creating order.

“An experience is associated with a ‘recollection,’ and it is considered as being ‘earlier’ in comparison with ‘present experiences’. This is a conceptual ordering principle for recollected experiences, and the possibility of its accomplishment gives rise to the subjective concept of time, i.e. that concept of time which refers to the arrangement of the experiences of the individual.”

– Albert Einstein, from his 1916 book on Special and General Relativity, in which he agrees with David Hume, but expands on the individuality of the experience of time.

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The Pressure of Light argues that knowledge accumulates in the human mind sometimes on the straight and measurable arrow-of-time, and sometimes in a time-state distorted by uncertainty and projection. In the case of both remembered-thinking-events and remembered-external-events, the mind carves out a segment of time from what it understands is a much larger time-line of events, so that we end up with memories that have a beginning and an end. On the real arrow-of-time, segmentation is a clumsy measuring tool that is understood to have blurring at the boundaries. The mind could presume an event observed in the universe outside the self stands alone on the arrow-of-time, complete just as it’s seen, but in life on the arrow-of-time the mind quickly learns to presume instead that any event is connected, either causally or contextually, to a whole cluster of unseen events on either side of those memory-carved boundaries.

When I talk about events in the universe, I can concretely know and mutually agree with others that events do happen, that they all exist somewhere on the arrow-of-time, that they often seem to repeat with varying degrees of similarity, and that each of us has very legitimate reason to hypothesize about the possibility of any particular event happening again, having already happened, and what we should all do about that. This conversation, this part of knowledge development, sits firmly on the arrow-of-time, where the unpredictable, but dependably heterogeneous path keeps a reality check on every hypothesized connection discussed. No such check exists in the mind. 

Events repeat along the arrow-of-time, but not precisely. Even the sun rising is an event that happens at a relatively different spot in the galaxy everytime it happens. Nevertheless, the perceived repetition of events is what gives my mind the capacity to understand events, to design a reaction to them for next time, to deduce knowledge based on the relatability of one event to other events, which helps even when the relatability is only sort-of there. While the connections help me develop knowledge about the world, real-time heterogeneity keeps my hypothesizing in check by constantly reminding me that while such and such has worked every time so far, every so often I’ll have to contend with a black-swan. 

In the universe, on the arrow-of-time, even if I can’t see what happened earlier on the arrow, I can at least feel certain something happened before and after any particular event I observe, likely something relatable, and possibly something I could, to some degree, deduce from my observations. Deduce as I may, I also know there are rules in this universe which can both confirm and disprove my deductions, and all the other minds in this time-dimension know the same thing, and will think about that when they hear the results of my deductions. Knowledge that accumulates in my mind through life lived fully on the arrow-of-time is knowledge that understands the true nature of time. I argue that half of knowledge does not.

Section 3: Thinking, Remembering Thinking, Thinking about a Memory of Thinking, and how that Messes with Time

The Principle of Infinite-Heterogeneity-in-Time

Section 5 from The Pressure of Light by Malcolm

Also available on YouTube

“…It is a wonderful thing that the explanation for the Mercury anomaly emerges so convincingly from such an abstract idea. 

As you see, the war is kindly disposed toward me, allowing me, despite fierce gunfire at a decidedly terrestrial distance, to take this walk into this your land of ideas.”

– Letter from Karl Schwarzchild, who, through correspondence sent from the Russian front, 1916,  provided Einstein with an elegant and unique solution to a difficult problem in his General Relativity work, the point-mass problem.

“Ultimately, according to my theory, inertia is simply an interaction between masses, not an effect in which ‘space’ of itself were involved, separate from the observed mass. The essence of my theory is precisely that no independent properties are attributed to space on its own. 

“It can be put jokingly this way. If I allow all things to vanish from the world, then following Newton, the Galilean inertial space remains; following my interpretation, however, nothing remains.”

– Letter from Albert Einstein to Karl Schwarzchild on the Russian Front, 1916

Also available on YouTube

The Pressure of Light has now crystalized in my mind for two years, and while the experience has been a bit scary in a consciousness-changing-way, I maintain faith that it’s all positive. What it means for you, I think (isn’t it humorously-relevant how ‘I think’ is a phrase that’s meant to indicate uncertainty in a statement made?) is that everything in your mind is a memory. All you have to do to make use of that knowledge is really learn to understand that. Your reaction to your thinking, recognized feeling, or experienced awareness, is a reaction to a memory. Your ambition to think about something, is nothing more than an ambition to remember thinking about something, and it’s exactly the same with a desire to feel a feeling or experience an awareness of something: all a desire to experience a memory, nothing more. 

You also have memories of life-external, which you sometimes remember without remembering-remembering. That might have happened in a conversation, or in an application of the memory to work that has you very much in the zone; this is you as the philosopher-scientist, experiencing life without any need for internal confirmation of the experience. But you also sometimes remember-remembering events-external, and probably the most important way to make use of this information is by sorting out memories of the external from memories of the internal. Physical movements have long connected with my own mental patterns, in ways that are sometimes impossible to control, sometimes embarrassingly so. Slowly, I’m starting to see it all, where the separation is, how little of the sometimes violently disruptive thinking I’ve experienced is actually internal, and therefore, how beautifully subtle the internal actually is.

The Pressure of Light’s identification of mirror-time provides a means to better investigate life-internal, but it’s perhaps more important that it leads to a better understanding of normal-time. The human mind fools itself into believing there has ever existed an iteration, a connection, or a context: these are all the products of distorted-time. This basic understanding is actually what the second law of thermodynamics is saying. Sure, something might be connected to something else now, but in a universe that is forever evolving into states of increasingly complex patterns of interactions between things, that connection will inevitably change in a weakening way. Any cause and effect relationship observed will be less so next time it happens, just as any contextual connection will be less so later-on, and therefore these things don’t really exist in the universe, at least not with the permanence of character which defines them in the mind. What is remarkable about my discovery is that it delegitimizes all claims about the occurrence of repetition in the universe-external, because those claims are all based on evidence derived from mirror-time.  By removing the false-belief that repetition exists in the universe-external, The Pressure of Light redefines normal-time as absolutely heterogenous (which doesn’t really count as an absolute, unless absolute non-absoluteness can be counted as an absolute). Unpredictable, heterogenous-time will in fact be best understood in principle, thus: my principal of infinite-heterogeneity-in-time states that anything that exists in this universe must experience heterogeneity-in-time, so that it may experience direction-in-time over it’s worldline, a direction that flows forward towards infinite heterogeneity.

My principle includes a claim about direction, and to fortify this point, I will build on the last great work of young Einstein, which is his 1921 lecture and subsequent essay, Geometry and Experience. In this lecture he solidifies an epistemological philosophy about Geometry that is described best by this line: “…as far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Einstein sees the propositions of mathematics, and their axiomatic bases, as developed freely from the human mind. The axiomatics basis of mathematics is most simply understood as the fact that all mathematics are built off the statement ‘between two points there is one and only one straight line’. When Einstein states that mathematics applied to reality are not certain, he says so because he himself delegitimized the very possibility of a straight line in the universe-external, by proving there is no such thing as the requisite perfectly-rigid-line in this universe. There is a quick way to summarize why: imagine holding a metal pole that extends 10 lightyears into the universe. Would moving that pole, thus simultaneously moving the other end, not constitute the transmission of information faster than the speed of light? Yes, it would, which is exactly why no matter how rigid of a material you manufacture, that motion you began at your end will still have to travel like a wave down the pole. Straight lines do not exist in this universe. 

Einstein speaks a lot about ideas freely conceived of by the human mind, but it’s important to note that he’s never actually talking about thinking as an individual event, as I am in the Pressure of Light, but thinking as something that produces knowledge to be discussed later with a community, and perhaps to be combined with other people’s thought-developed-knowledge, to form collaborative ideas that nevertheless retain their developed-purely-from-the-human-mind quality. Einstein’s epistemological philosophies, which embody so much of David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, and which could still provide so much guidance to scientific communities, nevertheless have great value to contemplations about how knowledge accumulates in an individual’s mind alone, and, because of the parallels, his words I believe say as much as anyone needs to know about knowledge built from their remembered-thinking versus knowledge built from events-external, so I’ll print that first part again: “…as far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

You see, beliefs held with certainty are not bad, not wrong, just as mirror-time is actually a real thing; it’s just that no one internal framework describes the universe-external perfectly for each and every individual. Love really is all you need, relieving suffering really is the perfect mission to dedicate your life too, eat the rich really is the only motto needed to solve all social problems, and yes, there is a God; the perfection of these internal, axiomatic frameworks come from a real place, mirror-time, and are only imperfect when applied to reality, just like mathematics. This is where my epistemological philosophy diverges from Einstein’s, because Einstein still believed that any axiomatic framework, no matter how ancient, was still the product of human imagination (as did Hume), even though basic math is as natural to the human mind as language. I believe that a proper understanding of remembered-thinking, of mirror-time, shows these frameworks owe at least some of their structure to a time-state that is real, although non-existent in the universe-external. Where our philosophies re-converge is in the assertion that it is the responsibility of conscious minds to develop axiomatic principles and frameworks that best approximate the external as understood by direct observation. In his 1916 book on Special and General relativity, Einstein put it very well, “The attempt to become conscious of the empirical sources of these fundamental concepts should show to what extent we are actually bound to these concepts. In this way we become aware of our freedom…”.

Normal-time is different, and I think it’s time conscious minds really understand how. The principle of infinite-heterogeneity-in-time defines forward movement in time, a movement that exists not because the second law of thermodynamics inevitably leads to some end, but because time is actually infinite, infinitely heterogeneous. My principle suggest this is what the second law really implies. 
Geometry and Experience leads up to a visualization that helps the audience understand why the universe, which at the time was not known to be expanding, is both bounded and infinite, an oxymoron to any logical mind. Because it’s not always easy to understand exactly what Einstein is conveying, at least on a first, second, or even third read, I will offer my own rewrite, designed to be more gentle on the mind, and while I’m doing it, I might as well advocate this new way of thinking about thinking.

Section 6: Geometry and Experience Remembered