Sunday, September 25, 2011

A possible solution to the grandfather paradox?

"Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!"
The grandfather paradox in time travel refers to any issue which would make travelling back in time logically impossible. Named after the possibility of travelling back in time and killing your own grandfather, thus preventing yourself being born, it has been extended to cove other issue through which time travel breaks the rules of logic.

In Doctor Who it is often stated that you can't go back to a time earlier in your own lifetime because of the risk of meeting yourself.  If you you break this rule you mustn't meet yourself or something nasty will happen.

It seems to me that in real life this is less of a problem than it appears. By the age of 25 there are very few (if any) of the atoms in your body that were there on the day you were born. In fact, at the time you were born most of your 25 year old atoms were in the bodies of other people or objects. Hmmm. This is often misunderstood because many body cells stay with you for your whole life, but those cells do regenerate and the atoms themselves will have swapped over many times.

If I, at the age of 44, go back and meet myself as a child the two people would be made up of completely different atoms. The only problem would be that my 44 year old atoms would exist in other people and objects. Rather than the two versions of me meeting and something nasty happening the likely outcome of travelling back in time would be that my atoms would take up their locations as they were at that point in time. As has often been said:

In every glass of drinking water there is at least one atom that passed through the bladder of Oliver Cromwell.

However, even given this problem the situation does raise an important existential question. If our bodies are not the same as 25 years ago then is our consciousness dependent on the physical hardware of the body?  The only logical answer is - no. Our personality and memories are much less connected to the  physical apparatus of our brains than we might like to think. This makes it entirely possible that human consciousness could exist in other atoms not directly linked to the body and therefore exist separately from the living body.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

iPad Home Button for Safari - how to add one

Well, the short answer is that you can't make a home button directly in the Safari toolbar, but you CAN add one to the bookmarks bar. Here is my iPad showing the home "button" just bellow the back button. Clicking on the Home link takes you back to the home page without opening a new window.

Here is how to add the home button:

Go into settings, then Safari and select to always show the bookmarks bar.
Navigate to the page you want to set as the home page.
Click on the add bookmark button.

Change the name of the page to "Home".

Click where it says "Bookmarks" and make sure this is selected as "Bookmarks Bar".

Then click "Save"

You should now have a Home button (link) on your bookmarks bar.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review - Key to Life by Iddo Oberski

Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom is one of the most influential texts in modern philosophy. It has influenced educators, politicians and theologians and tens of thousands of ordinary people whose names will never be publicly declared. It is Steiner’s first major work and whilst it underpins his later development of Anthroposophy, the Philosophy of Freedom is a stand alone work in its own right. An understanding of the ideas contained in the Philosophy of Freedom can benefit anyone even if they have no interest in Steiner’s later ideas.

Unfortunately, the Philosophy of Freedom is a rather complex and impenetrable book. This is partly due to Steiner’s style - he tends to repeat and go over material to make the same point several times - and partly due to some of the older translations which are still in common circulation.

In his book “Key to Life” Iddo Oberski gives an outline of the main arguments contained in the Philosophy of Freedom and explains how Steiner came to those conclusions. The book is written in an  enthusiastic style with many practical examples from the author’s own life. Oberski also gives some advice on the best way to approach and read the Philosophy of Freedom.

Before reading this book I had two abortive attempts at reading the Philosophy of Freedom. Having now read “Key to Life” I have gained the confidence to read have another go and will be able to refer back to this book as I read. I would recommend “Key to Life” as the first step for anyone considering exploring the Philosophy of Freedom.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Similarities between Doctor Who, Rudolf Steiner and Goethian Science

For some time I have noticed that there are some quite strong similarities between elements of Doctor Who and the world of Rudolf Steiner. I have outlined some of them in this article. If you have any thoughts please leave a comment.

Names and appearance
Steiner was known to his friends as “The Doctor”. He usually dressed in the flamboyant Edwardian clothes of his student days (resembling Hartnell and McGann’s Doctor Who characterisations).

The 1st Doctor (William Hartnell)

The 8th Doctor (Paul McGann)

Rudolf Steiner

The Science of Spirituality
The science of doctor who is similar to Goethean science. Steiner edited Goethe’s scientific works and developed many of his ideas from Goethe (and his friend Friedrich Schiller). The difference between the manufactured and organic worlds is blurred. In Steiner we see this in his architecture which seems to grow rather than be constructed. In doctor who the Tardis is not simply a machine, but an organic entity with a life and a life force. In the Doctor Who story Logopolis the planet's physical structure is dependent on the continuous mathematical calculations of its inhabitants. This is an example of spiritual activity (thought) being integral to the physical world, something quite in line with Steiner's ideas.

The Doctor uses his senses to understand the physical world. Often being able to sense things rather than observing them through empirical means as a conventional scientist would.
"Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It's like when you're a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can't quite believe it 'cause everything looks like it's standing still. I can feel it... the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We're falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go..." (The Doctor,in Doctor Who episode Rose 2005).
This is rather like Goethe’s idea that we cannot divorce ourselves from nature and have to use our senses to understand phenomena in order to truly understand them. Steiner took Gothe’s idea and developed it into a spirtual science which he called “Anthroposophy”.

Intuitive Thinking
Steiner proposes intuitive thinking as a path to knowledge about the physical world and the spiritual world beyond. The Doctor relies on intuitive thinking, often sensing disturbances in the time dimension in the way that Steiner (or any initiate) senses things in the spirit world.

Steiner often refers to standing outside of time. Here in the earliest written record of his work (a letter written in 1881 when he was 19 years old):

It was the night from January 10th to the 11th. I didn’t sleep a wink. I was busy with philosophical problems until about 12:30 a.m. Then, finally, I threw myself down on my couch. All my striving during the previous year had been to research whether the following statement by Schelling was true or not: “Within everyone dwells a secret, marvelous capacity to draw back from the stream of time—out of the self clothed in all that comes to us from outside—into our innermost being and there, in the immutable form of the Eternal, to look into ourselves.” I believe, and I am still quite certain of it, that I discovered this capacity in myself.

Organic vs Designed
Tardises are said to be grown from a coral like substance.

Tardis Interior (from David Tennant era)

 Steiner’s second Goetheanum has a similar organic feel.

Steiners Second Goetheanum in Dornach

In Doctor Who inanimate objects can take on other significances like the every day objects which make up the current Tardis console. Phenomena that we consider to be paranormal are within the Doctor’s sense of reality.

The Master
At the age of fifteen, Rudolf Steiner began learning the secret occult lore of plants from Felix Korgutski who later introduced him to another man Steiner always referrs to in his writings as "the Master”. The Master spiritually initiated him. Steiner never revealed the identity of “the Master”.

In Doctor Who we never know the true identity of The Master. The relationship between the Doctor and the Master is never made clear although it was apparently intended to reveal him as the doctors brother just prior to the death of Roger Delgado, the first actor to play him. In Doctor Who spin off books it has been suggested that the Doctor and the Master were childhood friends, but the title “Master” does suggest some teacher/pupil relationship.

Hidden history and the hidden universe
The Doctor is always portrayed as being wise and having lots of knowledge of historical events. This is often special inside knowledge as if he had witnessed those events. He has access to additional hidden history about people and events from world history which he obtained from his time travel. In a similar way Rudolf Steiner got special hidden information from his spiritual investigations (e.g. The Fifth Gospel).

During his public lectures Rudolf Steiner displayed the same characteristics as the Doctor, as described here by his friend Friedrich Rittelmeyer (founder of The Christian Community):

...whether he was dealing with the burning of the Templars, or of the "Friend of God" from the Oberland, Dr. Steiner always spoke as if he needed no history books, but had himself been an actual witness of all these events. (From "Rudolf Steiner Enters my Life" by Friedrich Rittelmeyer)

In Doctor Who, Time Lords are initiated through education on Gallifrey within an enclosed, hierarchical, society. The latest series of Doctor Who have shown flashbacks of the initiation of The Doctor and The Master.

Many of the Doctor Who stores feature archetypes like messianic figures. The Doctor himself has become more messianic as the series has progressed. Often creatures of mythology are said to exist in the  real world. Vampires, angels and witches are just three recent examples. Steiner believed that magical creatures exist whom he refers to as “sylphs” within a different realm or dimension of reality which can be accessed by spiritual investigation (usually involving clairvoyance and meditation) in a similar way to The Doctor visiting a distant planet or going into another time stream where the rules of physical science are different. The Doctor experiences clairvoyance at various times, especially in relation to the Time Lords and Gallifrey. There is an assumption that the supernatural exists and Atlantis and other mythical ideas are common to the world of Steiner and Doctor Who.

Doctor Who (since its return in 2005) has contained the back story of a time war, which is not dissimilar to the "war in heaven" with The Doctor and The Master almost replacing Ahriman and Lucifer.

Is there anything to this?
Doctor Who developed over many years and has no single originator. People like Verity Lambert, Sidney Newmann and Barry Letts were pivotal figures in its early development, but there is no evidence that any of them were anthroposophists. Still, Steiner’s writings are well known and influential beyond the confines of the Anthroposophical Society and if someone was to pick a big thinker with an other worldly personality then he would be an obvious choice, especially in the world of the 60’s and 70’s where the esoteric was considerably more mainstream than it is today. Also, if you were a writer looking for a different phenomenology of science then Goethe and Steiner are obvious sources. Easier to base something on their ideas than start from scratch I don’t think the similarities between Steiner and Doctor Who are deliberate, but they do make sense in the context of the time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to create photo albums on an iPad 2

The iPad is a great device for viewing photographs. The screen is bright and realistic; the touch gestures make looking through photographs very easy, but there is no inbuilt function for creating albums directly on the iPad. Here is how to get round this.

When you set up your iPad you did this through iTunes on a computer or laptop. Plug the ipad into the same computer and launch iTunes. Click on the name of the iPad in the left column. Click on "Photos" in the central window (above where it shows remaining memory etc). Select a directory folder on your computer that you would like to synchronise the photos from. You may want to create a new folder for this purpose. Once this is set up all you need to do is put photos in this directory and every time your iPad synchs it will add new photos.

To create albums create other folders within this folder and put photos inside those. The names of these folders will be used as the name for the album on the iPad, which will automatically have those photos loaded into it. This all sounds easy but there are two catches:

1. The directory you created must have no photos in it at this top level. They must all be in directories below that one. If you have any photos inside the main directory folder then all your photos will just appear as one big album.

2. Sometimes the iPad will not copy new photos over and says to check they are the correct format even if they are all; jpegs. To fix this go to the directory on your computer and delete the iPad photo cache files from it. This will force a complete reload of all the photos, not just the ones you added. be careful to check that the synch settings for photos is still set to your specially created folder as sometimes deleting the cache files on the Windows version of iTunes forces your entire myphotos directory to be copied onto the ipad (not great). [update June 2012 - since the last iOS upgrade I have not experienced this problem so it seems to be fixed].

Once you have synchronised the iPad you should find that the photos app has the "album" button active and you can browse your albums. There will also be another album called "photo roll" which contains any  photographs you have taken using the internal camera.

Update June 2012
Since the last upgrade to iOS 5.01 and greater integration with iCloud it has been possible to copy photos between albums on the iPad itself.

  • Select an image so it displays on the screen. 
  • Touch it and the menu bar will come up. 
  • Click on the box with the arrow coming out of it on the right hand side. 
  • Select "copy" and it will be copied. (you can actually copy and paste by touching on an image in album view also).
  • Go to another album and click paste.
  • It will now appear in that album also.

However, you can't then delete the original version or it deletes it from the copied location too! For this reason I still think that iTunes is the best way to work with photo albums on the iPad.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Some ground rules for assessing reported UFO sightings

This article proposes some ground rules for getting to any truth contained in reports of UFO sightings and other paranormal activities. I would be interested to know what other people think about them.

  1. Because people tend to exaggerate about every day events we should assume that ALL UFO reports are exaggerated to the same extent. This means that the reported events should be wound back a notch with the most bizarre elements deleted or figures like times and distances reduced. An example of exaggeration from everyday life are hotel reviews, which can often be exaggerated to be far better or worse than the actual experience. To get to the truth most review web sites recommend ignoring the very good and very bad reviews. In large scale UFO sightings we should ignore the reports at either extreme.
  2. What is seen is always slightly ahead of current technology - airships in the 19th century, disc shaped craft in the 1950's and triangular craft in the 1990's. Sightings outside the current trend should be considered to be more accurate as people tend to interpret what they have actually seen to fit the current fashion for sightings. Anyone going against this is likely to be giving a more accurate, less polluted report.
  3. Where there are two witnesses who saw the event together there is a real risk of conflation, or the merging of the two reports. Of the two witnesses one may have a dominant personality and the second persons report may be altered to fit with that of the dominant party. In these cases the lowest common denominator of the two reports should be taken as closest to the actual event.
These are just some thoughts about bringing some sanity to the interpretation of reported sightings. I should say that I am a sceptic when it comes to UFO's. I have an open mind, but I do wonder why the more bizarre a claim the greater the credibility it seems to be given. If we are to get at the truth then we need to find the core of the event from within the unconscious deception.

Friday, September 2, 2011

So Napoleon was abducted by aliens - yeah right...

A story is doing the rounds on the Internet this week claiming that a Dr. Andre Dubois of France found an alien micro chip inside the skeleton of french emperor Napoleon. The source of this story is Weekly World News of 11th August 2011 under the headline "Alien chip in Napoleon's skull" complete with a picture of the removed chip:

However, this story first appeared in Weekly World News 8 Apr 1997 with the doctor named as Dr Antoin Lefebvre complete with a picture of the good doctor pointing at a laboratory skeleton:

Click here to see a scan of the 1997 article.

The image of the chip in the latest version of the story is the same image as used in this article on the BBC News web site from 2004 which is about the US company Applied Digital’s Verichip technology. This is commonly used for pet tagging, but may be extended for human use:

Its interesting that a large proportion of web pages using versions of that chip image (as found through a reverse image search) are about Christian “end times”, “rapture” or “prophecy” issues. This is another example of the close link between Christian fundamentalism and conspiracy theorists which I have written about previously.