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User Journal

Journal Journal: Mindful Universe (book review and forum for discussion)

I've been reading Mindful Universe by Henry P Stapp, I think after someone mentioned it here on /.

Here's the review I just posted on Amazon (my first ever review):

While I found the sections of the book relating the development/history of quantum theory useful and interesting, I can't really say that the conclusions that Stapp tries to draw are particularly worthwhile or justified. He admits at the start of the book that he dislikes the idea that we are "automatons" without "free" will and that the universe is on a set path which can be predicted by what we now refer to as "classical" physics equations. He then tries to show that since quantum theory involves probability, and that our brain operates on a quantum level in some cases, that perhaps our consciousness can directly affect the quantum probabilities involved in the working of our brain moving from one moment to the next. Of course that conveniently sidesteps the issue of what consciousness is, whether it itself is purely emergent from the classical physical aspects of our brain or whether as he seems to be want to believe, it is due to quantum states that can never be truly predicted and therefore have some mystical spiritual element. Personally I don't see that it makes any difference either way - because there is definitely some physical aspect to consciousness, and whether it can be predicted or not does not change the fact that we can make decisions and have to take responsibility for our actions, whether we are physically predictable creatures or not. Besides, whether quantum effects come into play in the workings of our brain matters not a jot, because we don't really even understand the working of the brain on a macro scale yet let alone a micro scale.

Basically it feels like Stapp is trying to push a personal agenda by tugging on emotions and appealing to intuition (which can be a good guide, but initially can lead to wrong conceptions such as thinking the sun revolves around the earth rather than the other way around) rather than providing any solid arguments to support his position.

Have to agree with the other review that complains about the language too. Stapp himself says that the book is intended for the lay person, but had I had no previous knowledge of quantum mechanics I would have had no idea what he meant at certain points.

I'm tempted to write more, but I wonder has anyone else read the book, and what do they think on these matter whether they have read it or not? I read a couple of other reviews and comments online and at least some people agree that Stapp is trying to push something that there is no scientific basis for.

It is strange that the book has enlightened me more on quantum theory in the first few chapters, but in doing so has let me see for myself that the rest of the book seems to be a load of bunk.. quantum theory has lost some of its mystical 'magic' to me because now I see that it doesn't actually say that "this is the way nature is". All the cool ideas I've read in the past (like the multiple universe theory) seem to have missed the point that quantum theory doesn't describe the nature of reality, it only describes what we can know about our reality. So while it is unknown to us exactly what path the universe could take at a quantum level, there is no reason to believe that there is any more than one path being followed - when you measure you find one state (and of course destroy it at the same time). There may be several probable states in our model, but only one actual state, whether you measure it or not? I think I have seen it explained otherwise in the past when reading about quantum computers, but I can't remember the details. I have enjoy the magic of all the crazy ideas that are apparently grounded in quantum theory, but some of them seem much more like religious or philosophical standpoints rather than saying anything about the actual nature of reality. Of course perhaps that is kind of the point in the end, there are some things we just can't know.


Journal Journal: OpenPandora open for pre-orders! 5

The team at OpenPandora have opened up 3000 pre-order slots - better hurry up before they're all gone!

If you've no idea what the Pandora is, it's a handheld gaming console that runs linux, and is powerful enough to handle games like Quake III comfortably. Here are the basic specs:

  • ARM® Cortex(TM)-A8 600Mhz+ CPU running Linux
  • 430-MHz TMS320C64x+(TM) DSP Core
  • PowerVR SGX OpenGL 2.0 ES compliant 3D hardware
  • 800x480 4.3" 16.7 million colours touchscreen LCD
  • Wifi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth & High Speed USB 2.0 Host
  • Dual SDHC card slots & SVideo TV output
  • Dual Analogue and Digital gaming controls
  • 43 button QWERTY and numeric keypad
  • Around 10+ Hours battery life

I've placed my pre-order already - I think it's time to dust off the old OpenGL books! :)

Operating Systems

Journal Journal: Virtualisation 2

So I finally got round to trying virtualisation :) When I looked at it before most options were rather expensive or limiting. Of course when I first looked at it I had the idea that I'd prefer to have direct disk access rather than run from a fake hard drive, but I can see the logic in keeping the hard drives in files as it will make it much easier to transfer the VMs between machines and create full backups really quickly.

I've been meaning to look into this for months, but have been busy with coding and generally keeping things running as they are while at work. I'm often stuck between "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and the knowledge that I could improve the way things are working around here if it weren't for the fact that there are workers in Houston who need to connect into our network til about midnight UK time, so any serious maintenance I want to do I've had to do at midnight on a friday night. At home I spend most of my time playing the PS3 or watching movies, though this past weekend I finally remembered to try setting up a VM.

I have been using OSX exclusively at home and decided that I may as well run OSX at work too, with an XP VM for the things that need XP (Outlook, Windows development IDEs.. and I guess Winamp :p ), while the rest of the stuff I use (Firefox, Apache, perl, and even Remote Desktop) all have native OSX versions.

After a test of this I may consider rolling VMs out onto some of our servers, but I'm not convinced that the overhead involved in running several OSes instead of one will be worth it when it comes to server performance - especially when it comes to memory. Exchange likes its memory. Hardware permitting though, it would be pretty cool to be running a Linux base OS (which wouldn't need rebooting very often, if at all) and some Windows Server stuff on top, with different services across different VMS, so that if one service screws up it can be rebooted (or otherwise sorted, but reboots are usually a good start) without affecting anything else, and it would be easier to do stuff like roll back patches. Our fastest server is a dual core Opteron with 4GB of RAM - which to me doesn't seem suitable for server virtualisation. We're also going through a bit of a cash crisis at the moment (the sales department haven't been doing their job very well!), so I'm definitely not going to ask to upgrade any servers at the moment, but I'll bear it in mind for the next round of hardware :)

I'm also interested to see if any of our engineering packages can run properly on VMs (would probably require a decent level of OpenGL support to run at anything near acceptable speeds), and then I'd be justified in buying something like an 8 (or more :D ) core beast with oodles of RAM and a massive RAID array, then have the engineers remote desktop into it when they need to do heavy calculations. At the moment we have a couple of machines for fluid dynamics or stress calculations so that a solve can be left running without slowing down other work, but they are only running XP Pro and therefore can only have one user logged in at a time obviously.

If anyone reads this I'd be interested to hear what they have been doing with Virtualisation? One of the most basic and practical ideas I've heard is that someone does all his browsing in a VM - that's a great idea from a security standpoint, but if it requires keeping a spare copy of XP going just to browse then it is perhaps a bit wasteful. Running a browser in DSL could be a good idea from a resources standpoint, but then you can't use Internet Explorer for the very few sites that may still require it (though you could always install WINE). Thankfully I haven't seen any sites recently that don't work in Firefox :)

I do ramble a bit, sorry if my sporadic thoughts smack slightly of ADHD, or if my thinking is still a bit behind the bleeding edge - I am perfectly capable when it comes to technology and especially computers, but since I moved away from home I no longer spend all my spare time in geeky pursuits, as my friends have always been more interested in stuff like music and film. I love music and films too of course, but I often forget how much of a geek I really am deep down ;) It's funny to hear my friends or people on radio/TV talk about computers, you just have to laugh (or sometimes, cry) at how clueless they are. I've spent my whole life using computers so I just know so many things that seem so obvious to me, but other people only know what's going on onscreen and often have no clue of what's happening underneath. But I digress (massively, uncontrollably, neurotically). I shall stop here and let others either tear me apart or provide useful and informative discussion.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Hehehe

I thought aitchpeevee would have added me as a foe for my religious views, but after reading his latest journal I see it's more likely to be because I like Macs.. teehee :) I don't consider myself one of those posers who only switched because of their iPods though - I first used, and enjoyed macs in the late 80s when I were a young lad in primary school *nod*
User Journal

Journal Journal: Subject

Okay, so the girlfriend had no taste in music, self evaluation, logical ability, or indeed sense of irony. Dumped. Hehe.

Journal Journal: Short update on life.

Woo, so I have a girlfriend now :p I've hardly mudded for like 2 weeks! :( She told me that she never thought she'd date a geek. I took that as a compliment. Anyway, now that she's off back home for Christmas I can indulge in some more geeky pastimes, though these days having a Wii doesn't really make you a geek.. though the fact that I had one before last Christmas probably does :D
User Journal

Journal Journal: Hello, fans 1

I have no idea who you are, or why you have chosen me as a friend, but meh, I'll add you anyway :P


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