Listening to Brian Greene and zining the multiverse


Chapbooks, next. From our experiential publishing programme, S P A C E.

First one will be about the multiverse, inspired by the intriguing words and ideas about Brian Greene, whom I’m listening to an NPR interview about parallel universes with right now as I’m writing this. It’s on the multiverse. I first heard about the multiverse from a friend of mine, MVR, about ten years ago; M had been a neighbor and sometime-collaborator when DK had Kornerhaus on 19th and John in Seattle. Great things came of those meetings: math-inspired, philosophical, wide-ranging, and high-key. Enjoyed those, quite a lot, and haven’t met anyone as colorful in some years, now, when it comes to math-and-art mixtures of personalities. (M, if you see this, hi-5 from Phnom Penh. Also, do you know about this?:–)

‘Out there’

QUICKLY, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the things I’m discovering from the lectures and interviews I’m listening to today with Greene. Not only did I really like the movie A Beautiful Mind, and also The Theory of Everything, and also, the fascinating and still-curious film, Charles and Ray Eames‘ 1977 short film ‘Powers of Ten’, not to mention the more recent viewing of something at Kuala Lumpur’s planetarium, ‘Journey to a Billion Suns‘—

–there are more things to sum and round in the conversation-spaces to come, in the hallways of our since-2014 and counting, very low-key and flat-hierarchical salons, ie S P A C E, here at DK’s innermost circles. We talk about stuff like this. Like, really talk.

Well, here’s the bit that is interesting that I found from a cursory quick search of what kinds of things might be worth zining about, when it comes to explaining (or at least, hinting at the possibility at) that which is related to the ‘multiverse’ idea.

Brian Greene

‘In any finite region of space, matter can only arrange itself in finitely different configurations. You and I are just a configuration of particles… everybody in this room is just a configuration of particles.’

‘A large number!’ interjects the interviewer, who isn’t very helpful, really.

‘A large number but a finite number,’ Greene continues. ‘Similarly if I take a deck of cards, if I shuffle the deck, the order of the cards differ, [but] the number of orders is finite. If I shuffle the deck enough times, the order of the cards… has to repeat. Similarly, the order of the particles would have to repeat too. [And] if the configuration of particles repeats someplace out there in the cosmos, it means all that we know is repeating. We are out there. And that’s a very straightforward mathematical conclusion from a simple starting point: space goes out infinitely far.’

Elsewhere, he expands to say that math opens the realm of possibility, and ‘the art of physics is to be able to sniff out which mathematics is relevant for reality, and which isn’t.’ In other words, the things that math can do for us are to help us get to ‘the border of understanding,’ and then push over the horizon, as he says, so that we can use the things we can calculate and guess at through our mathematical calculations in order to test stuff out, with observation and experiment, and decide if it’s worth keeping around in our chambers of things we hold to be ‘true.’ A debatable idea, ‘truth’, (read something about how goldfish see the world through curved bowls and isn’t their idea of what’s ‘real’ just as valid, even if it comes together to them through a concave plane?’) but that’s another story.

If, though, we find out that our experiment and observation give us good cause to believe that there are things that are different from what we think they are, then hey, we’re on to something. This is how people had found out that the Earth isn’t the center of the solar system, after all. And is the stuff, then, of paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions. Too often in our current mode of thinking in the Western thought that has dominated for so long the scope for thinking about ‘what could be’ and ‘what lies outside of our understanding’ is so limited that it is shoved into a weird box of something called ‘spirituality,’ blech, or metaphysics or philosophy or existentialism, transcendentalism, or something else. Labels don’t help. What we need to do is find a new philosophy, a philosophy of this moment, in which all the things that the scientists have shared and shown and pointed out to us can inform an illuminated thinking about our existence: the main questions of philosophy which still stand, which have been said to be, in a book that S. Hawking co-authored, these: 1. Why is there something rather than nothing? 2. Why do we exist? and 3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

Can we talk about that? Let’s.

Multiverses and strings

YOW. PRETTY NIFTY. THESE DAYS, I’ve been reading up at the libraries and listening to anything I can find on the subject of the multiverse and string theory. Following on the anecdotal stories I had gathered in real life, popping in to scientific establishments in California in 2014 and Denmark the next year, yes, all very popping-in, over here, as we do, in our meanders through S P A C E, in order to spot the people and stories that I’d like to interview for our podcasts (coming, also), and now, the new zines, and next, the chapbooks. Small, simple steps, these: moving towards discovering our concept and now, sharing out the learnings that are the most intriguing (to us).

S P A C E. The stuff of our online magazine… it’s about vastness and possibility. Yeah. Possibility, the search for the edge, the invitation to take a leap into the unknown, chance encounters, and the discoveries along the way in the very fine, very small, intimate moments of simply being, and simply observing: all of that is folded into our interactive magazie-cum-real-life-salon-series, S P A C E. where we go in the world isn’t as important as whom we find when we get to the places where we land. Sometimes it’s by invitation, other times by sheer brute force, to go and see what we could do if we simply turned up, to try. I heard that in 30 years, philosophy will be a subject that will be in-demand for jobseekers. Cool.

THE SIMPLEST CHAPBOOK. Saddle stitch. Studying up.

An art of possibility

QUANTUM PHYSICS has always been a keen interest of study for DK, not just because some of us have been trained in engineering, but because the innovation spacemaking that is so important right now if we are to continue to develop and progress as a set of collaborators in the world instead of isolated, narcissistic pockets of people who have wealth, privilege and power, well, yeah, so yeah, if we’re going to try to make things better for more of us, we have to get out of the usual treads and jump up and out into something… not-yet-known. Why? Because that’s where interesting things can be discovered. ‘Give yourself an A,’ says Benjamin Zander, in his book, Art of Possibility. We’re gonna do that, moving forward. Just gonna brute force method turn into a miniature publishing house. Starting with zines, last year, and now, moving towards chapbooks. Seriously fun stuff.

So far, it’s been about trying things with our senses and taking the time to get some feedback on the things that work well, and don’t. Showing up for real life in the salons and ateliers since 1994 (!) has been a work in the practice of how to get up and get going and see where things can lead, but that’s just our practice, here, behind the website, and we are now starting to share the learnings, the methods, and the outcomes, through the community that we are building, one small conversation at a time. Sometimes there are curious intermingling, in the protected pages of our online forums, which open the insights and give the shape to the things being co-produced, co-written, and co-

GATHERING INSPIRATION. New zines about philosophy, science and possibility that we’ll be sharing next in small circles, through print, could look something like this. I’m excited about it. Meantime we’re going to generate the content with those who choose to join in the process of writing and co-creating with us, in the 8 October start date for Philosophy of the Moment online salon.

created. Why make this happen is a giant question for so many people—whatever is the point, DK, of going around the world on your own dime getting people together in unusual, hard-to-explain ‘ateliers,’ in order to do, what exactly? Oh, philosophize? Reflect? So that they can do what, you’re saying? Um…. remarkably interconnect and connect to discover new ways of thinking, meet new people, and meet themselves anew? But. Um. Why?’ Um. I guess I could say, watch my talk, ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’

Brian Greene tells us that, according to mathematics, there are copies of ourselves, ‘out there,’ if we can accept the assumption that space goes on forever. In many of the interviews we are listening to in order to understand his idea, we’re seeing that he has to get past all these weird obstacles like how the interviewers are doubting the whole potentiality of math showing us that the way we normally think about things could be completely limited. (For ex, ‘That sounds like religion.’ Or, ‘I don’t believe space goes on forever.’) I’d like to find an interview where he’s able to just talk without those piddly questions. What is possible is what intrigues… the more we can talk together about that, the more interesting things can get, discussion wise. At least, that’s our take.

And I’ll leave you with this…

Let’s learn about the Maxwell Boltzmann distribution

When scientists hate logic

Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]IT’S NOT ABOUT VISUALS, or smart and overpromising headlines. It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]
Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]
I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING special about Niels Bohr.

Being a nerd about small units of matter, about particles, about fuzzy logic, quantum math, and the general area of work in which people are asking giant questions on scales both very large and very small, it was only a matter of time before I’d investigate what the physicist thought about things.

Them personally, I mean.

There are some amazing scientists who have fascinating things to say about existentialism, being, and if you watched The Theory of Everything about Stephen Hawking in recent months (as I have), you will be on the same page with me about the wanting to inquire about brilliant scientists’ philosophical musings, too.

So when I found it, I said it.


This quote:

‘No, no,’ said Niels Bohr, the physicist who gave us the model of the atom. ‘You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’

Dissecting purpose

ON A 2007 VISIT TO DENMARK and the splendid city of Copenhagen I found the cemetery where you can wander about and happen upon this man’s grave. It’s pretty magnificent, in fairness, for a place of final rest. You can tell someone really loved him. But he also had things to say about poetry, poetry!, what about that has anything to do with science, the PhD kids from Raleigh-Durham would want to know. Asking questions about the why and how of things, the metaphysics and existentials, what the? ‘Why would you bother about that when you can dissect the genome, cut open a rat, or brew potions designed to numb the brain?’

‘Well, I say!’ I think, cornered.

Saying nothing.

(Nearly broke up with quite a few friends over the dogma of theirs, but being in the Research Triangle Park I was outnumbered. Then I left. Then through the natural drift that happens when people move to the opposite side of the globe, relationships with scientists and logicians largely fizzled, to my great relief.)

Had I had a comeback, it would have been a direct quote. Bohr, of course, again:

We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections. —Niels Bohr, physicist

There had to have been something to give them, though, but I just didn’t know what it was. Couldn’t possibly guess, because I was still too young, too fresh, too oblique and earnest and believing of the old idea. That, okay, I’ll go ahead and say it. That people want to hear about philosophy. That they want to be challenged to go outside the boxes. See what’s there. Possibility. Potential, et al. But, as it was clear when I got to talking with my dear friend Patti Rieser in recent days, that people just can’t cope with too much of too much. Is that what we said? It was a different time, a different time zone, but that was my take-home message.

What? They don’t want to ask,

‘Who am I? Where am I going? Will this have mattered, in the end, at the big giant finish line of life?’

Protest, from me.


The same kind of resistance to the things that familiar people had said when pressing me against the wall. Of reason. Of making sense of those giant things that of course had to have a rhythm, a pattern, an orderliness. It’s the stuff of Man and Superman, Bernard Shaw, the very essence of wanting to get to the bottom of it. Except… There isn’t a bottom, and if you found it, it’d be, well, it’d be… turtles! All the way down.

This is only the top shell. I’m sharing about Bohr today at our eZine, S. P. A. C. E., which publishes for members every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. I’ve been wanting to tell you more about that, in this blog, but have gotten a little distracted with making up ‘N’.

More about S. P. A. C. E., though, just below. —DK

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It’s not about visuals, or smart and overpromising headlines. It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness. 

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Subscribe now