TED Conversations

Brian Cox
  • Brian Cox
  • Cardiff By The Sea, CA
  • United States


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What unanswerable paradoxes, patterns, and puzzles blow you away?

For instance:

Why do the neuronal dendrites look like the branches of a tree?
Why do those branches imitate the structure of the Universe?
Is life governed by unified mathematical principles?
Are these concepts beyond our recognition?
Is our recognition and intelligence limited by our genetics?
Do our genetics dictate our personality and intelligence?
Will we ever understand/imitate the complexity of the brain?
Will technological advances evolve beyond our intelligence?

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    Jun 8 2012: Brian,
    I have read several books that raise similar questions.

    "Edgar Cayce on the Akashic Records" by Kevin Todeschi implies that we are on a journey of discovery of who we are. The lifestyles that we find ourselves in is part of the answers that we seek.

    "The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness" by Carl Johan Calleman implies that evolution is following a schedule. It sill blows my mind as I correlate the calendar stages with the geological record. Based on this book, I believe that we have reached a milestone in evolution. What happens next may open doors that we never knew existed.

    Our brains are made up from the quantum world. Do we already possess the cosmic blueprint in our minds? Is that what is driving our scientific inquiry?

    I don't believe that technological advances will evolve beyond our intelligence because I believe that technological advances are the outward manifestation of our own intelligence realizing itself. We created a telescope that expanded the limits of the eye. It didn't supersede the eye, only added to it. When we look through a telescope, it becomes part of us in the process.
    Our technology is necessary to take us beyond where we ourselves cannot go without it. We need to see it as a part of us and not as something separate from us.
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      Jun 8 2012: "It didn't supersede the eye, only added to it"

      But you can build a machine with an artificial eye that's a lot better than the human eye.
      You mention the telescope, but you should've mentioned the walking cane, a piece of technology that still requires human legs.

      What's a cosmic blueprint? And how does that blueprint drive (very few) people into scientific inquiry?

      "Based on this book, I believe that we have reached a milestone in evolution"
      Don't believe anything based on a book.
      What's a milestone in evolution? A contradiction in terms, perhaps?
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        Jun 8 2012: I think Mr. Bourque's take on technology was that a computer's processing power will never supersede our own. Although it will (and does) work faster than our brain, it will never possess the capability to "think" better than we do.
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          Jun 8 2012: "it will never possess the capability to "think" better than we do."

          Any reason for you to presuppose this?
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        Jun 8 2012: Gerald,
        The cosmic blueprint is what particle accelerators are trying to figure out. The entire universe can be narrowed down to a single set of values out of which everything has come to be. We are connected to that blueprint in ways that few understand. Through spiritual experience, we rise to higher levels of consciousness that leads us back to what we came from.

        Books are ways to learn. It is not what we believe, but what we understand that is important. Books can lead us to understanding some awesome things of you care to learn.

        According to Carl Johan Calleman's book, the Mayan calendar is laid out in phases of ascending states of consciousness, and the geological record is following those phases. The fact that these phases were figured out two thousand years ago, long before anything was known about evolution, certainly got my attention. See the following links;

        http://www.mayanmajix.com/art024p.pdf - gives an overview.
        http://www.mayanmajix.com - brings you to a website that goes into great detail as well as having links to Calleman's website.

        The end of the Mayan calendar is not the end of the world, but it is an end to something, which leads into something else. It is a point of transition that is not all that clear at the moment.
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          Jun 8 2012: "Through spiritual experience, we rise to higher levels of consciousness that leads us back to what we came from."

          You're talking about science and then you slip into belief. One could reply that spiritual experiences lead back to anything you want : to a purring dishwasher, to the quiet library next door to which your consciousness is connected, to Jesus or Muhammad. You have no explanations about the crucial bits of your arguments.
          Neither does Calleman, from what I've read.

          " these phases were figured out two thousand years ago "
          Figured out? Thought out? We're expected to believe without any evidence or remote explanation that the Mayans considered time lapses between certain events in the history of the cosmos, and decided to build their temples accordingly? By the way, were they the same Mayans who blamed insufficient human sacrifice for bad harvests?
          This is beyond silly. Anyone could write a book about supposed prophetic artwork of past civilizations. But it's not close of being science until it does explain at least the heart of the matter.
          'The end of the Mayan calendar is not the end of the world, but it is an end to something, which leads into something else. It is a point of transition that is not all that clear at the moment."
          Don't you realize that you can say that about any moment in history?
          And were it not "the end", how much more centuries of calendar do you think the Mayans were going to write? We have no reasons to believe the following :
          - that the calendar stopped at 2012 for a specific reason.
          - that the priests knew what the hell they were doing.
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        Jun 8 2012: When I was nine, I saw the principles of quantum mechanics in a spiritual experience. Eleven years later, I would learn of quantum mechanics in a nuclear physics class. Why the two are related I can't explain. I only know that it happened. I have had many similar experiences in my life. that is the only reason that I believe in spiritual experience. I can't ignore what I have seen.

        In 1912, Alfred Wegener proposed the idea of continental drift. He was laughed out of the audience. No one is laughing now. I don't expect you to believe that evolution is following a schedule, I presented an idea that I feel is worth looking into.

        The Mayans believed a lot of things. So did the Egyptians. Do their faults undermine any truth to anything they might have come up with? The great pyramid has over two million stones weighing between 2 to 5 tons each. Egyptologists claim the data shows that they were built in 20 years. Try doing the math; there are only 10.5 million minutes in 20 years. We couldn't build one today with all the sophisticated machinery at our disposal, and there it stands. Because of this, people have theorized that ancient aliens built the pyramids. It is amazing what people will come up with. But the truth remains hidden in the shadows of a pyramid that was built by someone or something.

        Autistic children can be very brilliant in some field, and yet incapable of living a normal life. Just because the Mayans believed in human sacrifice doesn't make them stupid on all fields. If you don't want to believe what I have proposed, you don't have to. Compare the data yourself, or just leave it alone. I've chosen to compare the data, and I am intrigued by what I am finding.
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          Jun 9 2012: " the idea of continental drift. He was laughed out of the audience "

          ??? The theory of continental drift is very powerful at explaining countless phenomena. The audience should've known better. Problem is, people's mind are very often blurred by their belief systems and it takes a lot of open-mindedness to lose one's expectations and see what is being explained.
          Evolution is still laughed at by creationist audiences worldwide, you know. Yet it's probably the best theory man has ever come up with. Not just an idea such as "Mayan probably knew about Wall Street and financial crisis", but a genuine theory. You don't seem to be able to distinguish between claim and explaination, for some reason.

          "We couldn't build one today with all the sophisticated machinery at our disposal"
          We can do a lot more in twenty years that stack up 6 million tons or rocks. In three years, the Kansai Airport of Osaka was built, on the sea. How did built it is a puzzle to me. It's 4 km long, and 1 km wide. 15m off sea level. That's just the artificial island. But in these three years, they also built a metal bridge 3 km long to connect it to mainland, and they build the buildings in that airport, the plumbing, the wiring, you name it. In 1995, it was only 20 km away from the center of the Kobe earthquake, not a scratch.
          So what can the sophisticated machinery at our disposal achieve? A hell of a lot more is an understatement.

          " Mayans believed in human sacrifice doesn't make them stupid on all fields "
          It's not about stupidity, and your reference to autism is very, very strange. It's about knowledge. Either you know something or you don't. If I told you that a 14th Century book mentioned that the 20th century would be plaged by the HIV virus, you would know better than to believe me. Bacteria, viruses, were completely unknow at the time. And the common cure for anything was to bleed people.
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          Jun 9 2012: " If you don't want to believe what I have proposed, you don't have to "
          Exactly, I don't have to : that's the problem with your ideas. They make no point, and they explain nothing. So one is asked to either believe it or leave it.
          You couldn't say that about the continental drift theory : I would HAVE to adopt it because no other theory would make more sense, would explain as much.

          "I've chosen to compare the data, and I am intrigued by what I am finding."
          No, you're reading a book where the data is already compared to fit what the author claims.

          " When I was nine, I saw the principles of quantum mechanics in a spiritual experience"
          I'm intrigued : what are the principles of quantum mechanics? And what part of it did you see?
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        Jun 22 2012: I have been busy with a theater project which is why I haven't commented for so long.

        The Mayans saw where we are today two thousand years ago. Their records were written in stone. You may think that the book was all conjured up from modern data and worked to make it look that way. You haven't read the book and are making assumptions. I have read two books, observed two DVD's on the subject, read several books on evolution, and compiled data from "The Smithsonian Timelines of the Ancient World to the Present" and compared it to the claims made in the book. I am still baffled by the so called coincidences.

        The concept of continental drift was rejected for fifty years before finally being accepted. You only accept it on what we know now. It was rejected on what they knew then. If you were living fifty years ago, you would be among the non-believers.

        The concepts of quantum mechanics is that everything in nature is reducible to a common denominator. And that everything in nature is built up from that same common denominator. Quantum fields are the same for everything that exists. All matter is made of the same substance. And the only thing that differs is the manner in which the substance is assembled. That is what I came to understand at the age of nine while in meditation. I couldn't put a name to it until eleven years later while studying nuclear physics.
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          Jun 22 2012: You're not making a point about the Mayans. You're just being religious about it.
          You're trying to convince me that you know what you're talking about because you've read about it.
          Then you're using a parable which has nothing to do with what we're discussing, that of the continental drift.

          Never mind all that. I won't read everything you've read, I won't buy DVDs. There just is too much out there to choose from. In a discussion like this one, you ought to provide a few facts that I could easily check, explain a few things in a way that makes sense.
          This is being scientific.
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      Jun 8 2012: I may be misinterpreting you, but not having read Kevin Todeschi's "Edgar Cayce on the Akashic Records," I take it his life philosophy is similar to a cosmic caste system, where life is personally deterministic and therefore personally fulfilling, regardless of circumstance.

      If that is the case, I certainly wouldn't agree with his take.

      However, if he considered the "life journey" to be essentially spiritual - similar to end point in Maslow's hierarchy of needs - I would see how he feels life is a source of ultimate enlightenment.

      Despite this sympathy, I would argue that introspection, communication, and experience are the sources of "the answers we seek." Our life path is governed by our pursuit of the answers in ourselves and in others. It is not (and cannot) be dictated by something as simple as our birthright/culture/country of origin.
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        Jun 8 2012: Brian,
        According to the book, the life we live is leading us in the direction that we need to be heading in. When we are born, we have certain latent abilities that cause us to pay attention to certain things, and what we pay attention to is what we become conscious of. What answers we choose to seek is not purely coincidental. We have a reason to want to know, and that is part of our original makeup. The cosmos itself had a say in who you are and in what you are seeking to accomplish. We are connected to it in ways that we don't yet understand.

        That same teaching is mirrored in Eastern philosophy. When I look back on my past life, I realize that I only played the cards that I was dealt, but I was not the dealer.
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          Jun 8 2012: " in ways that we don't yet understand."

          That doesn't stop you from believing it, does it?
  • Jun 8 2012: although the more we grow up, the more we know.. why is it harder to change when we grow?

    also, why is their selfish violence in the world, and what made it ok just to sit and anticipate the solutions from governments..

    when did human race become so heartless!
  • Jun 8 2012: What would a super human intelligence thing of the human species?
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      Jun 8 2012: Even bigger questions include: Do they think? Are their thoughts like our thoughts?

      I can't imagine what it would be like to meet a new species. It will probably be similar to the day we find out where viruses come from...