Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm watching the convergence of cognitive neuroscience and physics. Succinctly, how do we perceive the world and what illusions do we create?

The work of Gazzaniga among split-brain patients:

In a wonderfully elegant experiment, a group of researchers led by Michael Gazzaniga at Dartmouth College showed pictures to the right and left hemispheres of a split-brain patient and then asked each hemisphere to pick another picture to accompany the one originally presented. The right side was shown (through the left half of the visual field) a house with snow and, logically enough, it picked a shovel. The left hemisphere was shown a chicken leg (through the right half of the visual field), and it picked a chicken head-also quite logically. The experimenters then verbally asked the patient to explain his choices. The left hemisphere was the only one that could articulate an answer, but remember-it did not know why his right counterpart had chosen a shovel, since the information about the house with the snow did not cross the severed corpus callosum. The patient's answer was as astounding as illuminating: "Oh, that's simple. The chicken claw goes with the chicken [which was true], and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed [which was coherent, but completely false]." In other words, the left hemisphere acted as an interpreter of the worldview of the individual and fabricated a just-so story to fit all the available data!

These sort of experiments have shown that the left hemisphere is in charge of our worldview, of the paradigms we currently hold about a variety of aspects of reality.

So theres enough evidence that volition is a carefully constructed illusion. Our higher brain may be nothing more than a deluded emperor who is kept in the dark by his cunning subordinates.

The first communications between the right brain and the left brain must have been like a spark gap being ignited. This is where Jaynes comes in who speculates that the 'unified brain' is a recent development. That our ancestors carried two brains and that they believed the authoritative whispers of the left brain were direct messages from the gods.

Autistics, like Tito, must bind together the different experiences of reality to create a larger view which we create seamlessly.

How does all this apply to physics? The deepest illusion we maintain is that of the notion of Time. We cant define it. When we sketch it out mathematically, it just behaves like Space and yet we "feel" that it is so fundamentally different. The illusion we maintain is that there is a coherent narrative of events or that there is a narrative at all. Not only the future, but also the past is being created at this very moment. These are the ideas that John Wheeler is pursuing.

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