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Lucid Living

[#41]  Science, Cognition, and Contemplation: A Book Project

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[#41]  Science, Cognition, and Contemplation: A Book Project

After more than forty weekly blog posts, my "Lucid Living" blog will take a break, to allow me to write a book manuscript, tentatively titled "Science, Cognition and Contemplation". It has been a real pleasure, to write several dozen vignettes on topics ranging from science to philosophy to aspects of contemplative traditions.

By Piet Hut

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[#40] So Far and yet So Near

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[#40] So Far and yet So Near

As an astronomer, I am often asked how we can possibly understand such mysterious objects as black holes, distant in space, and the Big Bang, so very distant in time.  The answer is simple: in the Universe, distant objects are often easier to understand than nearby ones.

By Piet Hut

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[#39] Naming Your Ancestors

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[#39] Naming Your Ancestors

In a very real way, you are much older than any of the rocks in any of the mountains you will ever encounter.  Each living cell in your body is directly connected in an unbroken chain from LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, that lived about four billion years ago.

By Piet Hut

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[#38] Talking about Time in Science and Contemplation

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[#38] Talking about Time in Science and Contemplation

A few weeks ago I engaged in a fascinating conversation with Loch Kelly, a Buddhist meditation teacher, at the Rubin Museum in a program co-sponsored with YHouse.  We were asked to shed some light on the topic of time, Loch from a Buddhist angle, and me from a physics angle.  Interestingly, . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#37] Play as Being: From What You Have to What You Are

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[#37] Play as Being: From What You Have to What You Are

Last week I wrote about my astrophysics activities in the virtual world of Second Life.  This week I'm looking back on another initiative that I started there, called Play as Being -- an exploration of what you are, by learning to turn your gaze away from what you have.

By Piet Hut

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[#36] MICA: the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics

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[#36] MICA: the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics

It is hard to predict the future.  Twelve years ago, Second Life (SL) began to make headlines.  There were predictions that soon business cards would not only list email addresses, but also avatar names, uniquely pointing to the animated characters in SL that represented the owners of the cards . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#35] Playing as if Dropping Stories

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[#35] Playing as if Dropping Stories

The most important lesson that I learned from scientific research has little to do with any of the fascinating results that I witnessed and contributed to in astrophysics and other fields.  Nor is it related to the amazing tools and techniques that have been developed in the last few hundred years. Rather, it has been the training in dropping stories.

By Piet Hut

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[#34] Clarity and Conviction

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[#34] Clarity and Conviction

Having a strong conviction can be very helpful in creating great clarity.  But at some point, the initial conviction can get in the way, cramping our style, and closing the door to even greater clarity.  In science, initial conviction is necessary . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#32]  There is no Beyond, since there is Nothing but Beyond

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[#32]  There is no Beyond, since there is Nothing but Beyond

Five hundred years ago, we lived in a world where the stars were thought and felt to be "beyond" the world of us mortals.  And two hundred years ago, at least in Europe, humans were considered to be "beyond" animals, a species separately created.  These distinctions dropped away . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#31] Partners in Mischief: Meeting Josh Tenenbaum

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[#31] Partners in Mischief: Meeting Josh Tenenbaum

Last week I met Josh Tenenbaum again, a brilliant AI researcher at MIT.  We've only met four times, but at each encounter there was a mutual recognition of a deep resonance in our outlook on world and mind.  Josh straddles many fields . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#29] The Stories we Tell, we who are Told by Stories

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[#29] The Stories we Tell, we who are Told by Stories

We never see the world 'as it is'.  We always see the world through the lens of the stories we tell ourselves about the world, and about ourselves.  And the self we think we are is part of the stories that emerge from the same source that our experienced world emerges.

By Piet Hut

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[#28] What Would It Be Like?

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[#28] What Would It Be Like?

What would it be like, if all forms of human knowledge would be given a chance to be heard, in a respectful and serious way?  And what would it take, to allow the full diversity of ways of knowing to come to the fore, letting a thousand flowers bloom . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#27] World and Mind: What Contains What?

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[#27] World and Mind: What Contains What?

The world appears in our mind, and it makes sense to assume that our mind is inherently connected to our body which is part of the world.  When we ask "what contains what?" a sensible answer is: "our mind is contained in the world, but we use our mind to access the world, so the experienced world . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#26] A Challenge for Humanity: Time Scale Crossing

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[#26] A Challenge for Humanity: Time Scale Crossing

In physics, whenever we confront a new problem, we ask ourselves the question of time scales.  Typically, different processes operate at quite different time scales, but  occasionally time scales cross.  That's when things get really interesting, as in "may you live in interesting times."

By Piet Hut

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[#25] Toward a Science of Computer Architecture

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[#25] Toward a Science of Computer Architecture

Steam engines use energy to power motion, and computers use energy to power calculations.  The invention of steam engines gave rise to the theory of thermodynamics, where entropy growth describes loss of information.  What will the invention of computers give rise to?  Whatever it will be . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#24]  The Presence of the Present

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[#24]  The Presence of the Present

Last week, I pointed out how we are born in the present, live in the present and will die in the present.  Even though we experience our own virtual reality creation, in the form of our mental constructs of a past and a future, those are current constructs based on current memories and anticipations.  This does not necessarily mean . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#23]  Time and Reality

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[#23]  Time and Reality

Last week I wrote about language weaving a virtual reality from us, through the use of concepts that tend to dress up all that  we experience.  Naked reality remains largely hidden for us, except perhaps for a split second after waking up, while we are putting on our conceptual clothes, or in moments of great surprise.  Time is the greatest concept of all, hiding . . . .

By Piet Hut

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[#22]  Language, Concepts and Reality

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[#22]  Language, Concepts and Reality

The origin of language, a few hundred thousand years ago, was also the origin of virtual reality: the ability to communicate about the not-here, not-now, not-you.  And in the process we learned to talk to ourselves, entertaining fantasies, spelling out hope and fear.  Since then we've rarely stopped doing so.

By Piet Hut

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