Nicolette Sinensky


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How does virtuality translate into reality?

This week in my bioelectricity class, we spoke about electrical stimulation of nerves. One method of stimulation is to place a electrode directly on the surface of a nerve. One of the considerations of this method, however, is that the anode (positively charged side) and cathode (negatively charged side) of the electrode each cause a redistribution of charge around the electrode. Consequently, the anode induces a complementary "virtual cathode" and the cathode creates a complementary "virtual anode." These components aren't actually there, but we can observe a similar redistribution of charge that implies that something unseen is going on. Despite the fact that these components are not physically present, they have real effects on the functionality of both the electrode and the nerve. The virtual cathode and anode can cause a very real, measurable voltage change in the nerve, and can effectively block a nerve signal, which is dependent on the voltage.

In what other ways can intangible entities have physical manifestations? In this case, the unintended effect has a negative consequence, but can we find useful applications of such a circumstance?

Also, if these imaginary aspects can effect reality, what does that say about our definition of what is real and what isn't?

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    Apr 7 2012: In some way we already live in a kind of virtual reality anyway.
    The reality as we perceive it, is made up of the sensory inputs we get from our senses. Then the brain compiles "reality" for us. Take for example colors. Something appears red or blue or green because it reflects/absorbs certain wave lengths. But color is not an inherent feature of reality and as a matter of fact, many animals don't even have the same color perceptions we have, while others, such as insects, can even see UV light.
    We don't perceive our reality as "virtual", because, if for example looking at a tree, most humans agree it's a tree. Why ? Because we all use basically the same senses for information gathering.
    Other creatures might perceive reality very different from ours.
  • Apr 7 2012: Just read a little of the end of your post.
    That last question is an excellent one. Where an image says a thousand words, if virtuality emphasizes the imaginary then a very important question.

    I would rather take that to a base level, and look at those factors in your real worldview, in your belief systems, where beliefs are often fomenting from images, worldviews directed by the ephemeral. Belief might be understanding, but not necessarily factual. Our Truth, our personal "perspection" as to truth might often be more virtual than we would like to think, especially where so much of our information experience is laced with imagery and allusion..
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      Apr 9 2012: Thanks for your comment, Craig.
      You say our personal perception of the world is more virtual than we like to think. Do you think we need to find a common reality that we can all agree on? Also, if we are all experiencing the same "virtual" perspective (since we all have the same modes of interpreting the world), does that agreement define the reality, or must we look past that to find the real truth of the world?
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    Apr 11 2012: Nicolette, My personal suspicion is that the lines between science and magic are blurring as we find out more about our universe. I've seen similar effects to what you describe in electronics (specifically analog microwave transmission and reception) and in physics (string theory vs particle). While I know that these, on one level, these effects are "imaginary" (or: magical) I also believe that the limitation in our understanding them is one of lacking the tool to verify the structures causing the effect. IE: our microscope isn't strong enough to identify the structure... just it's effect. When dealing with any "science" it's always good to remember that to an Australian bushman in the 1940's a "simple" Zippo lighter IS magic, but to us it's "just" science.
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    Apr 9 2012: I think that things like "reality" are best discussed in terms of relationships between different entities, sort of like how loud a sound is. Sounds are discussed in decibels with respect to the threshold for human hearing. Similarly, I think the term "reality" is only meaningful when we use it in a context.

    To apply this perspective to the virtual electrode example, some might say that the virtual electrode is just as "real" as the "real" one, because of its physical effects. On the other hand, some might say that we have no definite way of judging if either electrodes are real in the first place. Each of these arguments has its place, but it has to be rooted in context.
    • Apr 10 2012: That's an interesting analysis, Andrew. I'm not sure that I agree with your claim that reality is only meaningful in context, however. The virtual anode and cathode both act as though they are real, but they if you were to try to verify that hypothesis by, say, putting an axon fiber on the other side of the electrode, you would see the anode and cathode switch, contradicting your original assumption. Mathematical analogies are only useful under the set of circumstances for which they were intended, and oftentimes even fall short there.

      I believe that the truth is a very well-formed entity and only requires well-formed definitions to be understood. Any definition that would allow you to call the "virtual anode/cathode" a "real anode/cathode" is of less philosophical value than one that allows you to discriminate between the two while still allowing you to retain a certain set of definitive characteristics that make them useful to work with. It's like Plato's Forms...

      ...but also like Plato's Forms, sometimes you just wanna get the job done and don't care to be pedantic with the definitions. In that case, I think your approach is the right one.
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      Apr 12 2012: I agree with Andrew. It's like the wave particle duality or the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (Schrodinger's Cat). Without context, reality may be a waveform of infinite possibilities. Its only during observation do we give our subjects substance.

      In the end we can never know what is real and what is not. We receive information through our senses and we process it with our brain, but they're limiting as well. If the entire human race was unable to sense color, does that make color non-existent? The concept of color isn't non-existent. We can measure it's wavelength, but the qualia would be completely missing.

      Just another note. Our retina is always firing; the absorption of EM waves causes the cones and rods in our eye to stop firing, so our brain only detects the lack of visual action potentials. We also don't pick up colors as individual channels, luminance, red-green, blue-yellow are paired together. Our eyes actually only sense the contrasts of the pairs. Knowing this tid-bit, would you say that the concept of color channels is "virtual"? We never sense them as separate entities, they always have to be paired together. Why not call "red-green" a singular entity, and label red and green as representations of virtual components that make up "red-green"?
  • Apr 9 2012: Nicolette:

    Go to the following link; don't look at the definition, but scan down the page, look at all the different ways the word is used, the synonyms, what do you feel, sense, perceive about it: ttp://

    Now the question, do you expect that others perceive the same?

    Look at the notion of virtual at

    A representation (aspect image) of the real.
    Where the real, is based often on perception.

    Now consider, differences at the individual level, differences in the wiring of trillions of nerves in the brain (neuro-plasticity), or from experiences in the billions of seconds in a human life (nurture versus nature, where even if nature than difference relegating the universal to the dung heap of, at least individualized, if not artificially created, belief constructs.

    If by Real(ity), we mean what is to be had at:

    Then I am afraid, any attempt at finding " a common reality that we can all agree on" is a horribly corrupt practice.
    Where social constructivist are right to explore the nature of values in the constructions of beliefs, they are wrong to create platforms at establishing a "common reality that we can all agree on".

    Where in science we hope to generalize from "fact", equating fact with extrapolated truths is much less universal than we might like to contemplate. Sure the understanding gained from science has many positive uses in society, is essential to the forward progress of man.

    But science is not truth, I am not even sure it is for the ascertainment of truth, but rather toward greater understanding, which might be based on facts, where the notion of truth ( is an altogether another beast.

    We are different individuals, perhaps, necessarily, our perception as well.
    Does there have to be a singular universal truth for reality, for all life?
    Perhaps, it would be grander were there many such.
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    Apr 8 2012: A simple visualization which might help you understand why the virtual electrode phenomenon occurs:

    I would also suggest that you should read up more on model-based realism... 'virtual electrodes' are as 'real' as 'electromagnetic waves' or any other scientific model which tries to explain the Universe.
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    Apr 8 2012: Laws and rules are intangible entities for instance. They are real all right. They do have physical manifestations as well. Some of them are law enforcement, juries, human relationships, and ownership.

    Evolution has made sure that reality is accurately presented to us with the help of our nerve system and our sensors.
    So the real trick is not to mix our personal thoughts, the nerve system and sensors input to our brains and intangible entities that are commonly accepted and they are stored to our memory.

    Games like chess is a perfect example. Two players when they are playing compare their personal performance in responding to problems and situations. That is why you have a winner. The game is a common "reality" that they agree to define as a priority to solve among other things. During the game the two players might have misconceptions about the tactical situation. But what exactly happen can perfectly defined and justify the result at the end of the game.
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      Apr 9 2012: Interesting metaphor. So do you think that only the reality that everyone can agree on is real? We all perceive the world differently, so must we adjust our own perception to agree with everyone else and settle on a common truth? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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        Apr 12 2012: You don't have to agree with anyone else. You don't have to disagree either. Your observations must be independent. People around you might be right or wrong. For your opinion you are solely responsible, period.
        The world has two interacting "realities". The first is the physical "reality". The second is the "reality" of intangibles. Both are real and both interfere-interact with each other. For instance when you are in a family, nothing physically stops you for doing anything you like. But being in a family, which is in our case an intangible entity, forces you to go back to your home and make some arrangements with other members of your family almost everyday, or at least regularly. Also forces you to carry some obligations. You must remember birthdays (intangible), help with the chores (physical) and adjust your behavior. Like no loud music, being polite with older members and demand some respect from younger ones (intangible and physical) (LOL).
        Example: Ideologies are intangible entities and as a result we have pacifists to kamikaze fighters.
        Survival and survivalism is the other edge of reality. It has no intangible entities. You must survive. You can kill your dog, you can eat a man and can do other wild things (LOL). But survival is not considered "living" and "life". It is a tactic that help us survive a difficult situation. We want intangible entities in our lives to consider that we live. We want love, success, recognition, and to give joy and happiness to others.
        Finally what I said is when we collect information for various events some times we disagree with others in what happen.That is human. Some times we totally agree which is not always good (LOL). No matter how our perception worked the facts are always there, but yet impossible to collect them all 100% most of the times. Facts are a mix of physical data and intangible entities = reality.
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      Apr 9 2012: your comment about chess got me thinking about human interaction and what 'virtual' things go on that may or may not effect the end result of an interaction. for example during a chess game, a player might try to read the intention of his opponent, like in poker, and perhaps their reading of their opponent comes from the facial expression of the opponent, which is influenced by what the opponent is thinking about. but the opponents thought is really only known by him, and of the many interpretations that can be made, only one of them will be the exact (or close to) truth of what the opponent actually was thinking. Same is true in all kinds of interactions, except with chess, it's harder to gauge how correct interpretations are. Those virtual emotions and virtual interpretations all somehow effect the end result
      • Apr 9 2012: So the truth or validity of something is contextualized. Then with greater variables or uncertainty introduced into the experiments we get less "truth" or "reality" in an absolute sense.
        Nicolette, you state that we must alter our perceptions to agree with others and settle on a common "truth". Why would we want to, rather, a simple statement of our assumptions. It is like in arguments, where too often people believe that there is a winner or loser, or the attainment of truth, or right or wrong, or a moral judgment, whatever ...... such is based upon the intentions of the arguers. Some ague to learn, review, study, understand their perspective, others perspectives, etc...Some to win. Now, with your settling on a common truth to hold, for what purpose, to what end, and what result. My favorite perspective on matters such are these are the relativity of reality, the Spinozoan, "nothing is good or bad except insofar as HOW it affects each individual mind", moral relativity, classical music good for the person who likes it, possibly bad for the person who likes rock music, neither good nor bad for the person who can not hear. At the heart of enlightenment thought, and the quest toward discovery. A pursuit toward the true, the beautiful, the right, the good, the just.....why lay down the gauntlet, and give in, for satisficing, for the sake of a peace, for the sake of a deformed equality, for the creation of a bland uniformity....I would caution against such, that would be an unfortunate descent from our given humanity, perhaps into the hell of those who shout the loudest, referring back to the earlier part of my reply, the import of intentions, in the light of moral relativity, may lead to the construction of truths unworthy of Man for the parochial betters of some, whose perceptions might be unfit for our common digestion.
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        Apr 11 2012: Hi Sophie, I posted a reply to your comment about "what the students are thinking" as revealed by their facial expressions during a live vivisection to demonstrate electrical stimulation of nerves at You might find it relevant but it will likely be deleted quickly by the moderator, whom claims to be thinking that this kind of post interferes with free expression. Thanks for your insights.
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        Apr 12 2012: Facial expressions are real facts. They belong to reality not to virtuality. The second part of the following term "virtual reality" is something that confuses most of the people. Chess on the other hand is a virtual battle. The pressure and the emotions that are developing in a chess game are real too. That is the purpose of the game after all. Virtuality is a vast area that yet hasn't been developed in its full potential and has many things to give to human race.

        I could give many examples that prove virtuality's huge force and potential (I am not going to, LOL). The reasoning and goals behind virtuality are still very primitive in global scale and the high technology behind it doesn't make things better. Still many work has to be done around this area and research as well.
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    Tim Rue

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    Apr 7 2012: So much to write in response to the questions.

    Perhaps the beginning is the place to start? When the absence of anything at all became aware of itself a split happen into the blackboard of existence & the whiteboard of consciousness, symbiotic, forever connected. If you are all that exist, how do you know you will continue? You create, expand, experience a continual flow of new. Eventually you create life capable of consciousness to help & to experience in part. Why all life has a survival instinct built in.

    Maybe that's to far back (if back is relevant to the absence of anything at all) so how does the virtuality of a thought manifest into reality? The brain is electrical & physical where thought generates a real pattern & if transmitted from the whiteboard of consciousness to the blackboard of existence... you have manifestation via the fractal evolution of that pattern.

    Though it may seem odd, there is a physics to abstraction creation and use, I call it abstraction physics. It is made up of the action constants we all use constantly. See web link at my profile. But also know those actions constants were put into characters of a fictional movie trilogy known as The Matrix. Only you cannot kill off the ship or it crew, as that is you and me and each one of us.

    Perhaps that gets to much into the second nature boring details of abstraction physics mechanics. So Anode, Cathode, electrode... a transistor. Reminds me of Bruce Lipton & how he saw at the biological cell level a transistor of which many make up a computer called a human. Google his name for more.

    Certainly we create physical things that originate from conscious thought, typically via hands on manipulation of physical reality & this is acceptable, but to create or even just influence manifestation into physical reality from thought alone, is it really possible? From experience I can say: Yes! Conscious alignment with ones Subconscious & to ones Superconscious does influence physical manifestation.
    • Apr 7 2012: "but to create or even just influence manifestation into physical reality from thought alone, is it really possible? From experience I can say: Yes! "

      like what and how? i mean can u give me study case example
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        Apr 7 2012: Hariz, I can tell you about some of my experiences and why it is I have pursued such a direction of better understanding that I may gain control over which of my thoughts manifest or not. But this would still leave you without the answer you seek.

        I do not know of any direct case study examples. Not that there aren't any, as I don't know this either, however it is likely we have yet to establish the understanding enough to create a proper case study. What we do know is we are beginning to understand quantum physics enough to give us a foundation of doing a case study but we also need to better understand the three states of consciousness. Perhaps there are those on the leading side of this with the likes of what Bill Lipton is on about (Celluar DNA programming) and Psych-K (google it) to at least provide a functional direction to establish the consciousness states for a case study.

        How might you establish an alignment of the three states of consciousness (that you might turn this three pin transistor on) for a case study?

        Regardless of any future case study, or past case study, for me, it is a how to better control this manifestation of thought to reality transition event.
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    Apr 5 2012: Hi,
    what we see or listen or feel is not "reality" or anything like that.
    we are just be programming since we were born that "which reaction suits which action" and "suit" here means being along our desire and enjoyment.
    So I do not think reality and feeling have a relation to each other.
    I suggest you to read about "the cave Theorem" of Plato.
    and indeed thanks for starting this conversation.
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    Apr 12 2012: Virtuality.
    Virtuality never translates into reality. That is the purpose of virtuality. The real thing can never be compared with the virtual one. I am not talking from a romantic or "human" perspective "the real things are genuine... etc." and things like that. My approach is totally technical.
    It is a practical mistake to compare virtual things with physical ones. It is like comparing an architectural monument with it's folder containing pre sketches and blue prints. Both are useful for different reasons. They also serve different purposes. I can only suggest to reform your question about virtuality and its uses, among other things in education.
  • Apr 12 2012: Just Testing TED Development Process..
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    Apr 11 2012: Since your example depends on the presence of very tangible entities to simulate or trick the nerve into creating or reacting as if other entities are present when not, does not mean the virtual, intangible entities are real or are part of the equation when affecting reality.

    Take this scenario:
    I closed the front door and my bedroom door opened because of pressure changes throughout my house. So am I to assume that the tangible me in the act of closing the front door verifies the existence of an intangible me opening the bedroom door?
    I know that there is no intangible me opening the bedroom door.
    I know that there is a tangible me closing the front door which changed the tangible pressure in my tangible house, causing my tangible bedroom door to open.
    I know that I need to change my door knob to my bedroom door.

    The intangible entities you describe did not have physical manifestations, only the tangible entities produced physical manifestations due to the inherent natural laws of physics and the way electricity moves and is displaced.

    To answer the nature of your question, often negative actions can bring about positive reactions in people. And everyday people think abstractly to produce results in the environment they live in.

    In any other sense, 'virtual' is a misnomer, hijacked by the computing science world to define something a computer doesn't have built in, but nevertheless, is very real in the sense of data.
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    Apr 10 2012: As our technology, I think that the lines of reality and virtuality will continue to become blurred. It used to be that something you can see and feel was considered real. Then came the new discoveries of subatomic particles that you can't see with the naked eye nor feel for that matter. Now you can mimic the presence of body parts by manipulating electrical signals, which comes about from a greater understanding of the human body. In every case, what was considered "real" has continued to expand. So, my answer to what's considered "real" is that the definition of it is ever changing as technology continues to grow. For now, the distinction appears to be something that's "there" and something that isn't. In the given example, you can pretend that an anode or cathode is there simply by manipulating the electrical signals within the body.
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    Apr 10 2012: I am reading a Book by Chunyi Lin entitled 'Born A Healer - Spring Forest Qigong. In the beginning of the book he tells the reader to participate in a small game. I personally found that by thought inference, the size of my left hand fingers which were a wee too small, when I placed my two hands together, and after I raised both my hands, closed my eyes, raised both my hands, and for less than a minute I repeated in my mind a few times, that my left hand fingers are growing, I found that when I put my two hands together, indeed, at that period of time, the fingers that were a wee bit small had overtaken the right hand finger.
    It is just a game, but it proves that thoughts which are a virtual translate into reality.
    Just yesterday saw an interesting You Tube video video on the same subject
    • Apr 10 2012: Asgar,
      I think you bring up an excellent point with your example. Reality is not something that’s set in stone. By a simple shift in perception, the concept of reality can shift arbitrarily. The human brain is a fascinating organ. When we see/hear/sense the world around us, the brain receives a signal from the sensory systems that it must interpret. And, most interestingly, the way a person’s brain interprets sensory signals can change with time. As we grow and learn, our brain begins to digest information differently that it did before. That is, something that might have seemed real to us in the past no longer seems as real. Or, as you point out in your comment, the opposite can happen – an idea that didn’t seem real in the past suddenly becomes a reality. It seems to me that the main difficulty in clearing up the question of what’s real and what’s virtual is that we don’t have a concrete definition of reality. Perhaps this means that any virtual phenomenon (such as the virtual anode/cathode that Nicolette brought up in her original question) is in some sense real. As long as it exists as an idea that our brains are able to interpret, who’s to say it’s not real?
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    Apr 9 2012: Er, this isn't an "imaginary" or even "virtual". Its real. Its why transistors work -- the current from emitter to collector is moderated by the charge stored in the base.
    That having been said, the question is "Can things we do not know about have physical manifestations?". The answer unfortunately seems to be obviously, Yes. The question is "why don't we know about them?".
    A number of reasons come to mind. In fact, Imre Lakatos and his book Proofs and Refutations comes to mind where he lists a bunch of reasons why we do not go directly from a real observation to the real underlying cause. We ignore the physical manifestation, we deny its existence, we call it a "monster", we pronounce it too small to be relevant, we call it god (i.e. of supernatural origin), etc.
    There are so many ways of ignoring reality that one is tempted to sing "Oh, frabjous day!"
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    Apr 8 2012: Nicolette, from a purely electrical POV, though you have electrons moving in one direction (DC current) you have holes moving in the opposite direction. Perhaps this is relevant in the metaphorical sense of a double rainbow, where the second cannot exist without the first, hence a virtual rainbow mirroring (opposite) the first.
  • Apr 7 2012: Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets, p20 "... as convincing as the material world looks, to the great embarrassment of modern science, no-one has been able to prove that it is real.", "... any neurologist will assure you that the brain offers no proof that the outside world really existsand many hints that it doesn't."

    This is a new and fascinating area to me. Thank you for starting this very interesting conversation Nicolette.
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      Tim Rue

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      Apr 8 2012: Interesting in that we don't really know what gravity is. perhaps there is a connection to consciousness, or so the quantum physics double slit experiment might suggest.
      • Apr 9 2012: Hi Tim

        Thank you for your reply. I am not a physicist, and had not connected the concept of gravity with the double slit experiment which shows that light particles can display the characteristics of both waves and particles? Seems I have some reading to do on gravity specifically and quantum physics generally! :)

        And yes, I think there might be connections to consciousness in a lot of areas that we have not realised or discovered yet. Lots of paths to the one truth?
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      Apr 8 2012: Hey Carrie,

      Your comment reminds me a lot about one of the dream argument, which Descartes' addresses in his "Meditations on First Philosophy." In "reality," we have our five senses, and we use these to give ourselves an understanding of what is going on around us. In dreams, we possess the same five senses and again, use them to understand our surroundings. The upshot of this is the following: if in either case we feel like we are in reality, then it should be impossible to for us to claim with certainty that we are currently in a state of "reality" and not dream.

      The brain is powerful enough to create for us this "alternate reality" (a dream) and trick us into believing it is "reality." Who is to say its not doing so right now?

      So what is real and what is not real? It seems very subjective - we choose to make real what we are comfortable with. We make inferences and we fill in gaps. For instance, with the virtual cathode / anode, we don't know that an actual cathode / anode is created, hence the "virtual." We simply invent the idea in order to explain the phenomena. We do this even outside of science (ghosts, the supernatural, religion, etc.).

      For all of these things, we cannot prove that they are of "reality," but at the same time, we cannot prove that they are "outside of reality." Thus, the choice is ultimately ours - how we put the pieces together and form conclusions. I don't believe that there is one universal or absolute truth; rather, as many others have said, we interpret what happens in our lives how we choose to.
      • Apr 9 2012: Thank you for your reply Andrew

        Are you familiar with Deepak Chopra's book and his ideas? I have not read any of his other books so am not sure if he talks about this in any of his others.

        The idea that everything comes to us via a "firestorm of electrochemical activity" and that there is no way to prove that anything is real is a fascinating one for me. I keep finding myself stopping and touching everyday objects and trying to discern their reality!

        As for dreaming and being able to tell the difference between the dream state and the waking state, and also whether you are looking at a photo or the real thing, Chopra says that the visual cortex is the part that is being used for all, but that the locations of brain cell activity shift slightly from one to the other, which is why we can distinguish between them.

        However he does say that the brain has pulled a "remarkable sleight of hand" on us"because there is no direct connection between the bodies raw data and our subjective sense of the real world".

        Although if I think about this too hard it could be quite unsettling, it is completely fascinating, and certainly helps with humility! There was already the realisation of how tiny each of us is in the huge vastness of the Universe/ creation, but now we also know that everything is energy - and more space than solid matter and that, even more amazingly, we can't even prove that there is anything outside of the brain! I'm still confused as to the implications of all this, but in the meantime, I am open to these new (for me) ideas and will continue to read up on them, while also continuing with my studies in practical philosophy and attempting to live a "good life".

        By the way, I do believe in one absolute truth, just that we haven't discovered it yet....
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    Apr 7 2012: Observer effect state that the act of observation of a process or an event will have different outcome comparing with no observation. But in order to analyze the relation between the input and output, observation is inevitable. Base on such assumption, then nothing we observe is real. But to not to observe anything to get the "reality" is not achievable. So I think it is really difficult to distinguish real and imaginary.
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      Apr 7 2012: Just, this doesn't apply to the macro world, but to the quantum world.
      • Apr 7 2012: I don't believe you're correct. We arrive at the "macro world" through quantum decoherence. This decoherence is a direct effect of observation. It's been proven that quantum decoherence of elementary particles can even be observed at the macroscopic level given certain circumstances.

        Additionally, no matter what the experiment someone performs they must create some window of observation which has a direct effect on the outcome of the experiment. A prime example is when using an oscilloscope and observing the inter-modulation distortion caused by different windowing schemes.
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          Apr 7 2012: Rex, the problem is that in a macroscopic system, these quantum effects tend to cancel each other out.
          I'm not aware of any circumstances where quantum effects are observable in the macro world. Any more details you could provide ?

          Answering to your 2. paragraph: even if that were true, we have no possibility to prove it, because you couldn't compare an outcome that had an observer with one that had none.
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    Apr 7 2012: Maybe I do not properly understand but bear with me as I oversimplify.

    Re: anode/cathode virtual/real.

    If I run both hot and cold water taps into a basin would you say that the temperature of the collected water is virtual ?

    Also, I would not think that blocking a nerve signal is necessarily a negative in every instance. Perhaps it might be considered for study in non chemical(non-addictive or liver damaging) applications for treating epilepsy or chronic pain ??
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      Apr 9 2012: Terry,
      No, I wouldn't call the temperature virtual. But imagine I knew the amounts and temperatures of the water I was putting into the basin, and could from that information predict the total temperature of the basin. Yet when I actually measure the temperature, I get something hotter or colder than expected. I might say that there's another "virtual tap" affecting my experiment.

      In terms of your idea, you are absolutely right about blocking nerve signals to alleviate pain. I don't know if this particular virtual anode/cathode phenomenon has ever been exploited, but much research has been done on Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), which uses electrical stimulation to block pain. Here's an article about it:
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        Apr 9 2012: Ah, I understand a little more now. Thank you for bearing with me.
        It seems like an enticing mystery waiting to be solved.

        It's Interesting you say "hotter or colder than would be expected". So there is sometimes a greater and sometimes a lesser "virtual charge" measured ?
        One or the other was my assumption..

        Forgive me now if this seems to take a morbid turn.
        I suppose it is hard to stop a living nerve carrying other signals while you do your tests. So are these tests you can only carry out on living subjects ?

        I have a close friend who damaged her central nervous system in an accident. It fires off every now and then resulting, sometimes in paralyses, sometimes in severe pain. Funny thing is that it's almost an auto immune problem, her central nervous system thinks its helping. I must mention TENS to her, thank you for sharing the article but I imagine that blocking signals is what she needs, not stimulation. So I wish you the best with your experiments, maybe some day something like this could be used to help people with the same problems.
  • Apr 7 2012: I like Information Theory based approaches best for questions like these. Everything is just some data point. We explore the data in different contexts and arrive at classifications. Whatever you classify as reality is simply a choice based on the context of your hypothesis, goals, philosophy, etc. but doesn't actually carry any intrinsic value to the rest of the Universe. This is under the constraint that the differences being explored here are between what is real and what is virtual; not what is real compared to what is imaginary.
  • Apr 7 2012: i dont about know quantum physics though i would really love to know. but, as a medical student, I would rather not call them "virtuality vs. reality" because what i understand from my class is, it's all about the standard interpretation by our brain, as an organ, by x level of stimulation.

    i think a research about the mysticism would be really really cool as I'm from Southeast Asia, and i've been such a skepticist about "external world" all this while until i learnt about this stuff. there's gonna be some explaination about it. i guess, it's going to be great to understand how these mystic stuff actually works - i mean, how can it be not interesting to study mysticism scientifically? doesnt matter if it's true or not, we at least gonna learn something
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      Apr 8 2012: Oh, it matters if its true or not, Mr. Hazwan, it matters.
  • Apr 7 2012: It has long been said that Ideas are intangible which is a just statement. Just as with your "Virtual Cathode" and "Virtual Anode" Ideas have a very physical manifestations. Idea's are the root of all things man made and by default, they are the origin of many things physical. We must question our knowledge of the external world and the perception of all things physical. It is largely accepted that sense data makes up for much of our knowledge on the external world however the Noumenal world is too a part of the External world but a part of which sense data has no way of measuring. In comes the power of reason and the world of idea's - Intangible things but with a very real effect on the physical world. All this leads me to believe that our definition of what is real leaves much to be desired. Until we can look further into how what is incorporeal effects the material world or discover some method of measuring what is incorporeal, we cannot have a complete definition of the word real.
    • Apr 8 2012: I am reminded of the concept of evanescent waves which carry information even though they do not transport any energy and their direction of propagation includes one or more imaginary components. Like others have said, words like “real” tend to refer to things we can only touch or see and makes our view narrow. When considering what effects reality, intangible concepts should be kept in mind as they do influence the real world.
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        Apr 10 2012: Hi Andrew, I love that you brought up electromagnetics and evanescence. You seem to be the only one on here who discusses the notion of imaginary numbers (as in, sqrt(-1)). I agree this is a great reminder of how "real" should not just be referred to as tangible. Another example of imaginary components having a huge impact on the "real world" is the quadrature phase of a complex-valued signal. The field of communication theory heavily relies on the propagation and processing of these signals that carry information.
  • Apr 7 2012: it's all about ion play and polarization in our body, u know.
  • Apr 7 2012: I've just finished taking Central Nervous System, and u know, we learnt about senses and perception. Indeed, such a fun subject yet a little hard (to memorize all the nerve tracks). but really it's all about the electrical signal that been sensed by our senses which cause the depolarization of the sensory nerve which then transmit the many brain area. the thing is, what been sense (reality) by our sensory cell is what cause the depolarization and hyperpolarisation of the nerve. and the depolarization and hyperpolarization is what causes the sensory part of brain area to be active. and next our brain interpret those sense (reality). such a long process. meaning, if there's alteration along the process, then, that's what create either unreal or surreal experience which also makes some people to be called "delusional" because their experience is not experienced by others as the stimulation doesn't stimulate the normal standard of sensory cell. so is what they say about the colour range and hearing range. because what's outside the range couldn't stimulate normal people's perception and give the experience of what we call "reality".
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      Apr 8 2012: It sounds as if you are confident that you understand Truth, Reality and Consciousness. I have been looking all over for you. What was the name of that course you took? Is the ion play and polarization controlled or chaotic? If it is chaotic why do most of 7 billion people function according to pattern? If it is controlled what is the nature and function of the controller? Why don't I know what is True and what is Real like you do? If you share the notes from that course with me perhaps I could penetrate the shroud of mystery and be set free by the Truth about Reality.
      • Apr 8 2012: No I dont. I dont understand them all. I don't know what's real. Even, theoretically speaking, u can stimulate your taste center in your brain, and making u feel that u taste something in your tongue without even actually putting any stimulus on it, by stimulating your either facial, or glossopharyngeal or vagus nerves electrically. But again that's theoretically speaking. I dont know if theres already been an experiment or something. Meaning; if we stimulate one guy's cranial nerves that responsible for taste sensory, without even the actual stimulus (food) available, and he thinks theres some food in his mouth, is what he thinks real? NO, but from his point of view, it's real. Because that's what his brain tells him. It's science of consciousness. BUT, all I tell u is from medical point of view - from the Consciousness point of view. How brain works, how brain interpret stimulus. Biochemically and electrically. Something already proven scientifically. The name of the course? Well, it was Nervous System Physiology.

        And I think, to understand this field, we need to organize our thinking process and divide them into several big topics. As u put it,

        1- Consciousness. Medical field explains better. And that's what I did.
        2- Reality. Quantum physics will explain it better. I don't know about it, and I'd love to understand. and hoping that somebody can come up and explain. Another thing about reality is; we cant percept the whole reality just by using our senses. That, I'm sure. The science of consciousness will explain what reality u can percept, and for whatsnot, who knows?
        3- Truth. What is truth? I dont know what it is BUT, i think truth is devoid of untruth and which only can be achieved by purifying the knowledge from doubts. Meaning; what's considered to be truth probably can be not in couple of years after the flaws of what we call truth appear.

        The ion play in our body, I'm pretty sure it's control. Our body is amazing. There are many type of ion gates
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          Apr 8 2012: Can you describe the Control of the ion play via the many ion gates in our body?
          Do you really think the medical profession is the best place to get understanding about Consciousness?
          Do you really think Quantum Physics is the best area of study for gaining understanding of Reality?
          If Truth is defined (circularly) as being devoid of Untruth, then what is Untruth?
          My point in these questions, Mr. Hazwan, has to do with the fact that many scientists set aside all the imponderable, unanswerable questions and masquerade as if they know all the facts about their specialty. Don't ignore the unanswered questions. Be honest about undiscovered Truth, don't sweep it under the rug in the interest of promoting a theory.
      • Apr 8 2012: channels in our body. and they differ in respect to the ions that go through (Na+, K+, Cl- ) , the number of subunit they composed, and the way it's regulated. And u know what, it's in every cell membrane.
      • Apr 8 2012: And, as for the conciousness stuff, that's why theres some pathological condition like ageusia (loss of taste function), dysgeusia (alteration or distortion of taste), even as simple as color blindness. -These patients do have neurological pathological condition (or not - they have different sets of stuff- if they're congenitally like that). Do you think u'll be confused more than they are about what's real and what's not? I guess, no.

        But, philosophically speaking, does these dysgeusia patient (if congenital) the ones who have "wrong sets of organ"? And we (me and most people) get the "right sets"? Again, I guess not really. They just get different stuff than we are. And the different stuff give different perception and consciousness. In the end, as I've written before, from neurological point of view, consciousness is all about the standard interpretation by our brain, as an organ, by x level of stimulation.
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      Apr 10 2012: Hi Hariz,
      Your use of the word alteration made me think of sensations in a phantom limb. While the limb itself does not exist, the sensations a person feels are real and tangible. However, the pain they feel cannot possibly exist because the limb which they feel pain in is no longer there and yet it is realized in that limb nonetheless. This makes me think about whether or not there is really any difference between the virtual and reality as we are capable of effecting our physical state through mental exercises. For example, can we not consider meditation or hypnosis to be virtual exercises of the brain that lead to a both a mental and physical change?
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        Apr 12 2012: Hi Matt! I attended a talk today on Free Will and the Science of the Brain and one person mentioned how over the years he has personally seen cases in which the normal reflex arc was disrupted. In a normal scenario, if a hand is brought into contact with a hot object, a neural pathway is triggered in which the input from the sensory neuron is fed directly to the spinal cord. In this manner, reflex actions occur relatively quickly by activating spinal motor neurons without the delay of routing signals through the brain. However, is some bizarre cases, although the hand is jerked away from the hot object and is no longer near it, the person in question feels the same amount of pain as if his/her hand were still in contact with the heat. Not only this, but the hand swells, blisters, and heats up as if being burned. So maybe with your example about the phantom limb pain, a virtual experience, beyond being something that we can't yet explain prescisely, can also be thought of as an experience that is fashioned by our mind.
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        Apr 12 2012: Hi maria

        Interesting,So could it be that because the brain was bypassed for quick reaction reflex it still processed it as if it actually was happening? as if it was paused or certain functions had been sidestepped that usually come into play but since the brain did not have those functions lit up it continued to process the action.A piece of time missing? IMHO
  • Apr 7 2012: this also can mean that we dont use in all the posibles ways we can our senses. also i dont think like the coment above that our fellings have to do only or by our senses, they are separated things. also i start to think that maybe there are a natural form to change the voltage in our bioelectricity to change our consiousness.
  • Apr 7 2012: Just answered your question, not the rest of your post, but I wonder if not in the old philosophical model of the tree and tree in the mind's eye, I wonder if not in a representational fashion or manner, as if in the difference between the real and the image. That virtuality could accentuate the latter in its exhibition and its impact.
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    Apr 6 2012: This remind me a lot of what quantum mechanics say about the metaphysical nature of reality.

    For example, I know many quantum theorist talk about how sub-atomic particles influence what we would consider to be the physical/external world and when certain experiments were done in accordance to Bell's Theorem, it only showed that there was more to the world than what meets the eye, which is why some quantum theorist asserts that the inherent makeup of the universe is non-physical/intangible (some people like Deepak Chopra and Amit Goswami asserts that its consciousness, whatever that may be)...

    now I am aware that bioelectricity is a vital component to our bodies nervous systems but I was quite flabbergasted to find out that that virtual cathode's and anode's can actually affect neuro activity, which in turn can affect our experience of the if this is true, then the implications are profound and should make us question exactly what is real.

    I do have one question:

    when you state ". The virtual cathode and anode can cause a very real, measurable voltage change in the nerve, and can effectively block a nerve signal, which is dependent on the voltage" this in regards to the action potential of the electrical membrane of cells (neurons)?
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      Apr 6 2012: Orlando,
      That is exactly what I was referring to. The virtual cathode creates a hyperpolarization that counteracts the usual polarization needed to propagate the action potential.
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        Apr 6 2012: Hi Nicolette,

        thanks for the response an that is very only question is, is this something that can occur naturally or only occurs when given the right manipulation?

        I only ask being that, if it does occur naturally and the virtual cathode does block the nerve signal that would propagate the action potential, then what we percieve and expereince isn't really the full picutre, given the fact that the proper information is not getting to the level of the brain.

        Given that I am not a scientis, I'm not sure if this is what is actually being implied so correct me if I'm taking anything out of context but nonetheless this is intriging.
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      Apr 6 2012: Wait a second, are you saying that "ghost" limbs can be photographed???
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          Apr 6 2012: I think you're referring to Kirlian photography. Its a method in which an object on a photographic plate is connected to a source of voltage, resulting in an image produced on the photographic plate. And yes, supposedly this image in indicative of the objects "aura." Kirlian took pictures of this kind of a plucked leaf at intervals of time, and the image of the leaf diminished as the leaf died.
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        Apr 6 2012: I deleted those posts as they didn't contribute to your Question Nicolette.

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    Apr 5 2012: Nominalism is a philosophy stating that only that which is detectable with the five senses is real. Then there is Noumenal philosophy which says some real things can be known by thought alone with no investigative tasting, touching, hearing, seeing or smelling. Do not confuse imaginary- which implies non-existence- with noumenal. Physical effects of intangible causes are a part of daily life, wind, energy, sound waves, non-visible light, etc.
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      Apr 5 2012: Thanks. That distinction is important to remember while discussing such a subject. But in this case, I was comparing a real electric field originating from an electrode to an "imaginary" one, even though electric fields would be something we would consider noumenal in the first place.
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        Apr 5 2012: I hear you, but I still think "imaginary" means non-existent. That must be a very interesting class project. Thanks for sharing.
      • Apr 7 2012: by the way, i guess what u called "imaginary" electrode means the relative difference of charge that been created. i mean u know, nerve is a natural biochemical electrical wire in our body. so, it just like any other wire out there, that if u cut them and put a battery to them, one gonna be cathode and another's going to be anode. same stuff. and the explaination about perception i've written in several comments below.
    • Apr 7 2012: Isn't your definition of Noumenal contradictory? Scientists don't just point a finger into the air and assume that systems operate under some arbitrary form of mechanics. They investigate through testing and this testing always comes back to exploring through the senses. When a biologist is exploring the inner workings of a cell via an electron microscope, they use their eyes to see what's going on. When Faraday began formulating equations of electro-motive force, he began by using his senses and observing the effects of current on conductive materials.
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        Apr 8 2012: noumenon (ˈnuːmɪnən, ˈnaʊ-)
        — n , pl -na
        1. Compare phenomenon See also thing-in-itself (in the philosophy of Kant) a thing as it is in itself, not perceived or interpreted, incapable of being known, but only inferred from the nature of experience
        2. the object of a purely intellectual intuition

        [C18: via German from Greek: thing being thought of, from noein to think, perceive; related to nous mind]
        Mr. Fenley, this is complex enough for it to be contradictory, as you suggest, without me noticing. Judge for yourself sir. Thanks.
    • Apr 7 2012: And well, u know what, philosophy is interesting, but as Stephen Hawking said, "Philosophy is dead". now it's the time we explain stuff by science. There's gonna be explanation for stuffs scientifically though we are not reaching there yet and i believe the science of perception is next on the line. We're going to understand a lot about brain and perception in years to come.
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        Apr 8 2012: Mr. Hawking made that pompous proclamation just before suffering a catastrophic loss of all ability to communicate. Hmmm.