Greetings! It's cold here in Blighty but it's beautiful in the sunshine.
The beginning of February is only a week away. I was planning to bring out the second issue of 'Visiting Alien' magazine. Unfortunately, there haven't been enough downloads to justify putting out another issue at the moment; but that's okay, as putting the magazine together and working on its contents has already reaped creative dividends.
While assembling chapter 2 of 'Chloë solves the Universe', I delved a little deeper into the history of the Neumann-Wigner hypothesis. This is the idea, put forward by two brilliant scientists, that our minds must be outside of the physical system and influencing it, in order for ghostly quantum superpositions to turn into real objects like photons and electrons. I discovered that this viewpoint wasn't just the view of two mavericks. It was actually fully or partly supported by a host of famous quantum physicists, astrophysicists and mathematicians. Wolfgang Pauli, John Von Neumann, Max Planck, Arthur Eddington, Erwin Schrödinger, Eugene Wigner and Werner Heisenberg were all of the view that materialism was no longer valid. Quantum physics had effectively killed that belief. Instead, they concluded that reality had to be dependent on the mind, either being a creation of the mind or a separate construction to the mind that the mind actively influenced. They debated about this matter for decades. Like any long-running debate, the views of those involved shifted but for many of them, the mind-first idea became more valid over time, rather than less.
I think it's very surprising that this important debate has never been written about in a popular science book (as far as I know). That may be because popular science books are usually written by senior scientists who are still active in science. The problem with this approach is that it may lend weight to the scientist's views but nowadays, any scientist who espouses a view that isn't materialist is endangering his or her scientific career, whether or not the evidence supports such a view. In recent decades, many senior scientists, doctors, biochemists and neurologists have produced evidence strongly indicating that the materialist view is wrong but in most instances, they've been careful not to make any statements but simply present the evidence. This is a shame, and it's not scientific, but there you go. Eugene Wigner, who won a Nobel Prize in 1963, wrote of this problem in his article 'remarks on the mind-body question':
"In the words of Neils Bohr, 'the word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation'. In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that 'life could only be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws' could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists. The reason is probably that it is an emotional necessity to exalt the problem to which one wants to devote a lifetime. If one admitted anything like the statement that the laws we study in physics and chemistry are limiting laws, similar to the laws of mechanics which exclude the consideration of electrical phenomena, or the laws of macroscopic physics which exclude the consideration of 'atoms', we could not devote ourselves to our study as wholeheartedly as we have in order to recognise any new regularity in nature. The regularity which we are trying to track down must appear the all-important regularity, if we are to pursue it with sufficient devotion to be successful."
I'm therefore rewriting 'Chloë solves the Universe' as 'Chloë's Quantum Quest'. Its central focus will be this historical debate between these Nobel Prize-winning physicists. Chloë will find out about quantum physics and then hear of the Big Argument between the physicists about the nature of reality. When she hears that the mind-first view has been abandoned by modern physicists, she is indignant and decides to do something about it.
That'll be my job for the next couple of months. Roll on Spring!
The first issue of the magazine is free, which is partly to get people interested, but also because some of its contents has already appeared on this website or in other publications. I couldn't really ask people to pay money for material they've already read! :-)
Chapter 1 of the Great Secret, an ancient mysteries graphic novel, set in the 1920's, in which a young man stumbles on an ancient enigma that turns his world upside down.
Chapter 1 of Chloë Solves the Universe, in which a young girl develops a new theory that explains how the universe works, with a bit of help from her dad and a shed (see illustration below with some decidedly unconvincing cats). This is an updated and expanded version of the material I published on this website a year-or-so ago.
The Lost Emotion, the science-fiction comedy short story that won first prize in the fifth issue of Arc Science Fiction Magazine.
An extended version of my article about the strange possibility that evolution on our planet could have been guided by tailored viruses sent to us from another star, entitled Darwin and Alien Viruses.
Issue 2 should appear in February 2015. If I don't talk to you before the 25th, have a lovely Christmas!
Next month, I'm planning to bring out a digital magazine called 'Visiting Alien'. A new issue of the magazine should come out every three months, making it a quarterly publication. The first issue of the magazine will be about eighty pages and contain two science fiction comedy short stories, the first chapter of a serialised graphic novel, the first chapter of an illustrated story about a young girl's quest to understand the Universe and a popular science article exploring some interesting new ideas. At the moment, I'm writing and drawing the entire content of the magazine but I'm happy to involve contributors that fit the magazine's ethos once it's up and running. The first issue of the magazine is free and subsequent issues will probably be 99p each (which is roughly about €1.1 euros or $1.50). The magazine will be available from its own website at <http://www.visitingalien.com>.
I'll post another blog entry when it's available for download.