The topics were broad and varied: From artificial intelligence to the dark side of the universe, from the latest thinking on dreaming to an exploration of genius. I had only one night open during the 4th Annual World Science Festival (WSF) held June 1-5 in New York City. So which leading-edge-of-thought program would I choose? As I scrolled through the event listing, I found a most captivating title: “A Thin Sheet of Reality: The Universe as a Hologram” along with this description: “What if life as we know it reflects only one side of the full story? Some of the world’s leading physicists think that this may be the case. They believe that our reality is a projection—sort of like a hologram—of laws and processes that exist on a thin surface surrounding us at the edge of the universe. Although the notion seems outlandish, it’s a long-standing theory that initially emerged years ago from scientists studying black holes; recently, a breakthrough in string theory propelled the idea into the mainstream of physics. Join us for an intriguing discussion on the cutting-edge results that may just change the way we view reality.” I was all in when I read the who’s who of theoretical physicists on the panel: Gerardus ’t Hooft was born on July 5, 1946, Den Helder, the Netherlands. He received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1972 at Utrecht University His work there would later earn him, together with his advisor Martinus Veltman, the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics. Leonard Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University, and one of the discoverers of string theory, a candidate for a theory that unifies all laws of physics. An award-winning author, he is a proponent of the idea that our universe is one of an infinite number. Raphael Bousso is recognized for discovering the general relation between the curved geometry of space-time and its information content, known as the “holographic principle.” Herman Verlinde is renowned for his influential contributions to string theory and its application in mathematics, particle physics, cosmology, and black hole physics, His research has been recognized through several awards and fellowships from the Packard Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Science. Much of the discussion that night was beyond anything I’d heard before. I find the holographic principle sublimely fascinating. And according to Leonard Susskind, it’s clearly the wildest idea since quantum physics. And that puts us on the cusp of a major paradigm of how we view the world. I continue to ponder a few other provocative ideas presented by these scientists who embrace and challenge the mysteries and “laws” of nature. I think often about two ideas in particular. The first was from Raphael Bousso who explained that information encoded in light rays that have traveled for millions of years can carry bits of information from the past. “Information is not lost,” he said. And the idea I think about the most was Gerard ‘t Hooft’s: “There must be something under quantum mechanics…Perhaps a pre-quantum world of information.” He said there are mysteries in the standard model theories of what happens in the world. And the only way to understand nature is to “ask nasty, confusing questions.” He thought that statement would be good copy for a holographic principle t-shirt. Professional energizer that I am, I know I’d wear it! For related reading, please check out Scientific American magazine editor George Musser’s WSF blog for his pre-Festival interview with Leonard Susskind.
We’re in a continual state of becoming. It’s through learning, reflection and continual self-improvement that we become expanded versions of ourselves. Our energy powers us, our desire to achieve drives us forward, and confidence gives us momentum. Shared knowledge this week comes courtesy of interviews with three innovative and highly quotable business leaders. There’s something to be learned from each of them. “Start a company. If it fails, start another one. Keep trying, and always remember that your perception shapes the world around you, so don’t settle for a low expectation of yourself.” Josh Greenberg, co-founder of Grooveshark, in an interview with Erin Bury of sprouter.com “Confidence is the underlying foundation of everything: generosity, the willingness to take risks, clarity of thought, being persuasive and charismatic to others – it all comes down to confidence.” Tim Sanders, bestselling author and former Yahoo! executive, in an interview with Inc. magazine’s Dave Smith “ If you want (people in your organization) to value your agenda as a company, they have to know you value their agenda as individuals in a very tangible and real way…High trust leads to high performance.” Doug Conant, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Co., in an interview with Mike Myatt, chief strategy officer of N2growth
The energy of your creative process is what’s going to move you from the vision of what you want to the actionable ideas that will bring the results you seek. So how can you expand your abilities to create? What processes can you use to trigger your best ideas? In her book, “Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity and Innovation in Your Life” (2010), Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson outlines seven different “brainsets,” or mental frameworks, that facilitate original thinking along with tips on how to cultivate these states of mind. Her “brainsets,” or as I think of them – mindsets, for boosting your creativity are: 1. Absorb – become more aware and see things in a new way. 2. Connect – expand your focus to generate more ideas without judgment. 3. Reason – manipulate differently the knowledge you possess already. 4. Envision – think “what if?” 5. Transform – allow yourself to examine and express your emotions. 6. Stream – become completely absorbed and allow ideas to flow effortlessly. 7. Evaluate – decide which ideas best meet the goal you set. Here’s a slideshow from Scientific American magazine’s online publication that takes you through her techniques, along with some exercises that will help you start to think in these mind-expanding ways. Give them a try on your next plan, project or event and see what new ideas you can think up.
Some profound and exciting ideas were published this week in “Living in a Quantum World,” the cover story of Scientific American magazine’s June issue. “According to standard physics textbooks, quantum mechanics is the theory of the microscopic world,” writes Vlatko Vedral, a professor and quantum physicist at the universities of Oxford and Singapore. And classical physics, in the same textbook view, “which comprises any theory that is not quantum, including Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, handles the largest scales.” But Vedral declares that scientific division of the world to be “a myth.” He presents these fascinating discoveries and profound ideas, among others: · Until the past decade, experimentalists had not confirmed that quantum behavior persists on a macroscopic scale. Today, however, they routinely do. These effects are more pervasive than anyone ever suspected. They may operate in the cells of our body. · Quantum entanglement – which is particle behavior so strange that Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance” – may operate in the biological process of photosynthesis, the process whereby plants convert sunlight into chemical energy. While classical physics fails to explain the near-perfect efficiency of that process, experiments by groups at the universities of California-Berkeley and Toronto suggest that quantum mechanics does account for it. · While scientists don’t know if any instances of larger and more persistent entanglement exist in nature, the question is exciting enough to stimulate an emerging discipline: quantum biology. · Few physicists now think that classical physics will ever really make a comeback at any scale. If anything, the general belief is that if a deeper theory ever supersedes quantum physics, it will show the world to be even more counterintuitive than anything we have seen so far. · The fact that quantum mechanics applies on all scales forces us to confront the theory’s deepest mysteries. For instance, space and time are two of the most fundamental classical concepts, but according to quantum mechanics they are secondary. The entanglements are primary; they interconnect quantum systems without reference to space and time. Many physicists such as Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, think that Einstein’s general theory of relativity must give way to a deeper theory in which space and time do not exist. Mind-blowing stuff, right?! Well, Vedral agrees. In closing he says: The implications of macroscopic objects such as us being in quantum limbo is mind-blowing enough that we physicists are still in an entangled state of confusion and wonderment. While many of these ideas are being explored for the purposes of developing quantum computers, I can’t help but think – especially within the emerging field of quantum biology – that there are implications here for future understanding of human consciousness and our own quantum effects on physical reality. I await further discoveries eagerly, sitting on the edge of my seemingly solid chair, as merely one quantum observer. Related posts: Energy: The mystery with lots of clues.( 8/6/10); Reality check. (10/29/10)