Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality – Reviewed

Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of RealityOur Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality by Max Tegmark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first parts of this book, mainstream Astrophysics and how we know the stuff we do. Tegmark told us how the ancients deduced values like the diameter of the Earth, merely by observing the position of the sun at two different points at the same time (work out the difference in the angle of the sun at noon, then scale this up using the distance they are apart). The ancients deduced that the Earth is spheroid, given that ships on the horizon disappear bottom first, and you see their tops last (Yes, flat-earthers are stupider than people from millennia ago).

I was a staunch skeptic of the multiverse but Tegmark argues well and has convinced me that some form of multiverse likely exists. If space is infinite, then there must be planets very similar to Earth in the unobservable universe (Level 1). I didn’t fully understand Level 2 (pockets of inflation with different values for constants) but I was willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt. The so called many world’s interpretation (Level 3), I do find ridiculous and remain unconvinced (partly because I don’t fully understand it), the theory that the universe splits every time a decision is made. Tegmark does say that the Quantum Mechanics math is simplest in this interpretation and is the reason for apparent randomness in the universe. The Level 3 Universe lives in the infinite dimensional magical land of Hilbert Space, which we cannot reach, to test this. How convenient. He also unifies Level 1 and 3. I am rather ambivalent to the inclusion of his personal forays into academia and I’m not sure they add much. Though his tale about re-discovering decoherence was rather amusing. I always wondered that if the world was quantum mechanical, then why do we not observe quantum mechanical behaviour in our macroscopic world? The answer is decoherence or the breaking of “quantum secrecy” and is built on the idea of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The way I understand it is, once an object has interacted with something e.g. air, then decoherence occurs, the wavefunction appears to collapse as does the various superpositions, and we don’t get any quantum weirdness only classical physics.

The magic bullet for defeating the multiverse argument was that these hypotheses do not make any testable predictions and are therefore unscientific. Tegmark counters saying that the multiverse is a prediction of a testable theory, that of inflation. However, he later admits the theory of eternal inflation is flawed because the data doesn’t back it up (The measure problem). Later he backtracks on this, are you as confused as I am? To pacify your doubts of the multiverse he uses a bizarre theological argument borrowed from Alan Guth:”Cars are created by car factories, rabbits are created by rabbit parents and solar systems are created from gravitational collapse in giant molecular clouds. So it’s quite reasonable to assume that our Universe was created by some sort of universe-creation mechanism.” …And what created the universe-creation mechanism? Turtles all the way down!

Unfortunately, when the chapter on the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis progressed, it did devolve into philosophical gobbledegook and I struggled to follow his arguments. Helpfully, at the end of each chapter there is a summary containing the main points. A central question to the universe is why can mathematical equations describe reality and I think the author says, it is because it is a mathematical structure (Level 4, different equations of Physics). He says everything that can be expressed mathematically exists as a mathematical structure in life. Though the evidence he provides for Level 4 in a figure is rather tenuous, that of “Unreasonable effectiveness of math in physics”. His later argument is fine tuning, it is highly unlikely that numerous constants would all be finely tuned to ensure life.

The last chapter I really enjoyed where he talks about the future of physics and existential threats. Though I think the AI Singularity should be treated with skepticism. However, his idea that if an AI were to achieve sentience would effectively become a god (through omniscience), I agree with. Literally deus ex machina. He didn’t really explain what the death bubble hypothesis was in much detail. Self-referentially, he also deals with anti-intellectualism, something which is highly pertinent today. He argues we should use similar marketing techniques that opponents use without lowering ourselves to their levels of lies.

Quotes

If we’re lucky congress may solve a 20 year old problem today. When in fact they should be solving problems arising in the future.

My guess is that we’ll one day, understand consciousness as yet another phase of matter.

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Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice – Reviewed

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for JusticeRed Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a quote on the cover that says that it reads like a thriller, I can agree with that, it’s a real page-turner. Browder is a skilled writer who keeps you wanting more. There’s the classic trope, movie like, whereby the inaugural chapter is set in the future and ends on a cliff hanger, to be continued much later on.

I learned about the Katyn principle, where the Soviets committed a massacre and to cover it up, issued repeated denials and manufactured evidence. Putin has made this machinery more powerful instead of dismantling it. The Russian response to the so called “Browder deception”, is predictable. Denials, misinformation, straight out of the Soviet handbook. They even teach this to the kids in Russia. It is obvious the Russian state is at fault here. The red notice against Browder has never been enforced and Russia’s automatic right to issue red notices has been revoked. I find it highly unlikely that Browder would be able to fool the US government, the EU and Interpol. Putin of course has a history of murdering and imprisoning his opponents.

Browder is quite the badass. He moved to post-Soviet Russia, made an absolute killing on the stock market, bagged top investors, took on Putin/Oligarchs and caused a notorious Russian beauty to melt her heart for him. I was going to bust his chops for referring to women as “beautiful” or “pretty” umpteen times, but there was an occasion where he referred to a man has handsome so I don’t think he was sexualising the women. Alas, it seems as though the videos on the Russian Untouchables website are no longer available. An important lesson he learns early in his childhood is that, the only way to stop bullies is to stand up to them.

It is of course sad to read that Putin et al have stolen billions from the Russian people and plundered it’s natural resources. His minions also pocket millions to do his bidding. One can only hope that one day the web of lies and corruption will be fully exposed.

My admiration for John McCain grew, once I learned that he was a co-sponsor of the Sergei Magnitsky act. Who knows, without him the bill may have never been enshrined in law or may have taken significantly longer. The details of Sergei’s ordeal are harrowing and although the act will bring some solace to the victims, I hope there will be a global Magnitsky act one day. Where perpetrators of human rights abuse will be sanctioned irrespective of country.

Quotes

‘Time for the titty-twisters, Billy Browder! Time for the titty-twisters!’

It was all a show, a Potemkin court. This is Russia today. A stuffy room presided over by a corrupt judge, policed by unthinking guards, with lawyers who are there just to give the appearance of a real trial, and with no defendant in the cage. A place where lies reign supreme. A place where two and two is still five, white is still black, and up is still down. A place where convictions are certain, and guilt a given. Where a foreigner can be convicted in absentia of crimes he did not commit.

A place where an innocent man who was murdered by the state, a man whose only crime was loving his country too much, can be made to suffer from beyond the grave.

This is Russia today.

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