Friday, April 29, 2005

I'm going to Boston, Ann Arbor, and Europe


The first two in June. I'll be in Boston for mere three days, let's say June 14-16. And then I'll try to be in Ann Arbor Michigan from, say, June 20-24. If you are near those two places, we should get together. And if you're one of those people letting me stay with you, let me say THANKS. And I OWE YOU a BEER or something.

Later, in August, I'm going to Europe for a conference, but will use it as a springboard for a vacation with Jessica. It will be her first time in Europe, monolithic Europe. We'll have about two weeks and we'll start and end in Frankfurt, Germany, because my conference is near there. As to where to go next, I've thought of Paris, or let's say France generally. Also Basque country in Spain to visit the ancestral home of the Lozoyas. I know people in Barcelona, so maybe we could go there. I've never been to Madrid, but that might be cool. Italy is a place I don't easily get tired of.

But then there's also eastern Europe... we should consider there, right? Or maybe Switzerland since it borders Germany? I've never been to Switzerland, but I hear they are heavily armed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

God does not know the future


Or at least that's the fashionable position among some these days. The idea being that the future does not exist to be known or God deliberately chooses not to know it. This view, suggested by, among others, John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge University physicist who turned Anglican clergyman in mid-career, supposedly brings many benefits. As a "new" view of omniscience, it makes room for free will, simplifies the defense of God's goodness in view of the existence of evil, accords with the developmental nature of the world, and makes God's knowledge truer to that which is known (as though things that happen successively must be known successively).

Well, okay, so does God know the future? What have others said? St. Augustine, on the philosophical side, pointed out that God's knowledge of future acts no more renders them unfree than our knowledge of past acts renders them unfree. We made free choices at the time (when it was the present), and the march of time has now frozen those choices into the past.

Aside from philosophical arguments, the claim about God's knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) is not based on anything science has taught us about the world, in particular, the nature of time. This is unfortunate, especially coming from a trained physicist.

One's stream of consciousness can be divided into the past, present, and future, and Newtonian physics projected this triple division of time onto the whole physical universe. Think of the one-dimensional way we treat time t in many branches of physical and social science.

But Einstein showed that spatio-temporal relationships are more subtle: there is no absolute meaning to the question of what is happening (or coming into being) "now" throughout the whole universe. And if it is a mistake to project the timeline of our mental states onto the entire universe, it is even less justified to project it onto God, who, according to the traditional view, infinitely transcends the universe.

It is equally ill-defined to speak of "the future" or "the past" in some global sense. For example, when we look out at distant galaxies, we see the light which left them long ago, thus we see them "now" as they "were" in "the past". The profusion of quotes only highlights how ill-defined such temporal terms can be.

Furthermore, to correlate God's supposed past, present, and future mental states with what is going on in the world "simultaneously" with them imposes on the world the one-dimensional temporal structure that physics tells us it does not have.

What is the solution? I don't fully know. These are heady ideas about space and time, and I am a simple man who experiences its flow one day at a time. But I am also one who is enamored with dimension and geometry, and expect that the solution may have something to do with the geometry of the space-time of the universe, whether it be four or eleven or 137 dimensions. I regularly deal with motion in six dimensions (oh yeah, baby, bring on the dimensions!). As part of my studies of motion, I treat time as another dimension, and therefore all motion is this frozen thing. Stars become luminous spaghetti, as in the novel of Kurt Vonnegut. It's very beautiful, this picture. And yet, ultimately incorrect, because I only deal with Newtonian physics, and haven't yet ventured into Einstein's territory, into his highland fog of Relativity, and other largish sounding theories of physics, seemingly too large and mysterious for most but the foolish to venture into.

'Subtle is the Lord,' Einstein said. And subtle is the answer to the question of God's knowledge of that territory into which streams of consciousness have not yet flowed.

Monday, April 11, 2005



I did a little morphing experiment with two pictures of Jessica and I as little kids. I had to set the "morphing vectors" myself as I was using some free photo software for the Mac called PhotoLine. The result is a 50-50 hybrid of Jessica and I at around 2 years of age. The "quality" of the output is limited by the quality of the photos, and mine wasn't so good. But hey, it's something. If you know of any other free morphing packages, let me know.

Isn't Shanica cute? or handsome? In any case, Shanica is far from having the average human face.