Thoughts on Reality

I ran into the following article today and just have to share it:

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like…

Continue reading at The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality

It doesn’t seem like many people in neuroscience or philosophy of mind are thinking about fundamental physics. Do you think that’s been a stumbling block for those trying to understand consciousness?

Synchronicity

Let us look at synchronicity, and do so without using the faith that there is something outside of me (or you, as it is you, reading this.)
 
In order to try to break the faith-based thinking, that there must be something outside of us, I will, from now on, speak with your (dear reader’s) voice: If I don’t make any faith-based assumptions, then the only fact I can be sure about is I, the reader of these lines. The writer might or might not exist as a separate entity. But the only thing I do know is that I perceive these lines and thoughts. I can not discard the possibility that these are my own creations just as images in dreams look external to me but are in fact created by me.
 
Now back to synchronicities – if they are my creations, then I created the two events, that are connected by meaning, myself in this fashion and any surprise about the connection of these events is very illogical – how could I be surprised by something that I designed and created in exactly this fashion and with these characteristics?
The cast of LOST
I contemplated this today when watching an episode of the old TV show ‘Lost.’ This is a show that just lives on synchronicities. One character, Hurley, is fighting to distinguish what is real and what is his imagination. No solution is offered to the viewer and when, in the last scene of the episode, his friend, a psychiatrist who tries to show him what is real, is shown as an inmate of a psychiatric ward, I had to admit I admired the writers for their skill to mess with my mind.
 
Running into  these shows of Lost, and this messing with my mind right after just writing my last post, I first considered this to be a “wow-synchronicity.” But on deeper contemplation there was no synchronicity, just causality – if I just wrote an article questioning the so-called reality and calling it faith-based, then – obviously – I would create incidents occurring thereafter being in alignment with these thoughts.
 
If I create my world all by myself, I can at least construct it in a fashion that entertains me and gives me a few surprises. I have to admit, though, that it is a neat trick to surprise oneself – it requires a good deal of forgetting.
 
Now I just have to figure out how I create coming events in a fashion so that it contains some challenges, but none too difficult ones that would give me suffering.

Exploring the Senses with Your Senses

In one form or another, we all have heard the old philosophical wisdom “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), proposed by René Descartes.
 
Meditating over this statement, we eventually realize that this is pretty much all we actually will ever know with certainty.
 
To illustrate this, let’s look at a very lucid dream we might have experienced once. I, for example, remember one where I had gained many riches in the form of money or gold. Not sure what exactly it was, but I remember that I could really feel this valuable possession in my hand. If you right now take your mouse into your hand and feel its surface, its weight, its temperature – this is very similar to how I experienced these riches.
 
Then, to my great dismay, the thought crept into my mind that I will be waking up. It became more and more certain that these riches would be gone when I woke up, so I fought waking up. If you ever tried to not wake up, you know how hopeless this undertaking is. As I slid more into my waking state, the thought became more real that there was nothing in my hand, yet I could still feel it.
 
I ended up having to consciously open my hand to convince myself that nothing would fall out of it – and, obviously, nothing fell.
 
Looking back at that incident I could not help comparing it with my immediate certainty that I sit here in front of the computer screen, typing along on my keyboard and definitely feel the keys moving under my fingers. I feel my feet touching the carpet, I sense its structure and temperature – all very comparable to my sensations of the riches in my hand while I was dreaming (as I know now.)
 
Why am I so sure that my perceptions of the environment I experience now are different than my perceptions while dreaming? Looking at it philosophically, I have to admit that this certainty is completely unfounded.
 
We perceive our environment through our senses and that dream-experience showed me clearly that I can not trust my senses. There is no proof possible that this table I am sitting at is something that exists outside of me. Any means to prove its existence depends on my senses:
 
  • I can touch it – my sense of touch
  • I can see it – my sense of vision
  • Somebody describes it to me – my sense of hearing

et cetera.

There are perceptions, we would all agree, that are not quite as solid as these perceptions of elements of the physical world. Let’s take a religious perception for example, where somebody is certain that she experienced god. For this person it might be as real as the pain I feel when the hammer hits my finger instead of the nail. But most people will agree that this is a more subjective reality.
 
In principle, though, there is no difference between these perceptions.
 
Therefore you will have to accept as you read this, that the existence of a person who wrote these lines is purely a matter of faith – you believe, that there is, or was, a person who sat at his computer at one time and wrote these words – but you certainly have no proof.

Flying into LAX all by myself

A Youtube video by Niko’s Wings of a night approach and landing at Chicago’s O’Hare reminded me that I had done a similar stunt a bit further west at LAX.

If you have no first-hand experience with the navigation of the airways you will not know that landing at one of those big airports like O’Hare is virtually impossible for a private pilot with one fan in front.

You sometimes get routed through a Bravo airspace (the highly protected space around major airports) but to enter, you have to get explicit permission in the form of a clearance like “Piper Warrior N8300L cleared to enter Bravo airspace.” But landing at the airport that this Bravo airspace protects, you don’t’ even think about it  – – –  normally.

But maybe I am not normal. So, in the 90s, I was playing in the airspace west of Burbank – my home airport,  one late night, probably after 1 am. The radio was quiet most of the time and suddenly the idea hit me – why not shoot a practice approach into LAX, just 20-30 miles to the South-East.

So I tuned into LAX approach (now SoCal approach) – “LAX approach, PA28 N8300L, request!” I might have woken up the controller but he came back shortly “N8300L, LAX approach, go ahead.”

I gathered all my courage and asked for a practice-approach into LAX. Unfortunately, the answer was that no practice approaches are permitted at LAX. But – – – you can have a full stop landing. Wow – that was even better! For all you non-flying peeps, a practice-approach is the pretense to land at an airport as if there were clouds so that you have to land only using your instruments. Then, when you are close enough to ensure a safe landing, you give full power and get out of there – often turning around, flying another approach – that’s why it’s called ‘practice’ approach.

Now, really landing at LAX with my Piper Warrior – that would be something to tell the grandchildren about, many, many years later.

So, yes, Sir – I’ll take that approach and landing at LAX!

I got my clearance into the Bravo airspace and radar vectors to the ILS Runway 24R. (ILS stands for Instrument Landing System – a radio signal coming from the beginning of the runway that guides us down to the landing zone vertically and horizontally.)

And then I flew like a young god – holding my assigned altitude within 50 feet and pegged my directional gyro exactly where the controller had told me. I intercepted the ILS and slid down towards 24R.

Then it was time to switch from approach control to tower. Just saying “Los Angeles tower, Cherokee 8300L with you for 24R” grew some serious hair on my chest.

But I did not get to complete my landing at LAX after all. Tower told me that I should finish my approach and then fly a missed approach. That was the friendly way of giving me my practice approach without violating their rule that there are no practice approaches at LAX. It might have been a bit of a loss for me but, on the other hand, I might have owed LAX a landing fee.

I was handed over the approach control again which guided me out of the Bravo airspace and shortly I landed at my home base Burbank, tied down and went home a hero.

A not quite International Airport

(This is a little story that I wrote in my blog before there were blogs.)

I loved this little air strip of Jerry and Lucy up there in the High Sierra. But I was also afraid of it. It’s one of the places that pushed me to make the decision to learn to fly. Imagining the romantic feeling of flying a bi-plane, wind in your hair, into a strip out there in the wilderness. Here is a strip like that. I call it Jerry’s paradise. Because it is! Last time I was up there, Jerry told me they had been there for thirty-seven years now with no intention to leave.

Nearly every airodrome looks small when seen from the distance. However most of them get bigger when you come closer. But Jerry’s airstrip, even when you are close enough

ng_12

to make a decision to land still looks really small.

During primary training, my instructor always complained when I did not land exactly on the center line. I never really understood it, because on a runway like Burbank’s 8 there was so much space on both sided, so who cares about the couple of feet to the left or right. On Jerry’s airstrip, you just don’t have a couple of feet to the left or right. There is only the center line.

After touchdown on Jerry’s airstrip, I always tried to get trusty 08L stopped before reaching the middle of the strip because there is a mown area to the right of the actual runway to tie down a couple of planes of visitors. Never managed to do so though. Always still had a bit to much speed and had to run all the way to the end of the strip, turn around in Jerry’s yard and taxi back to the tie down. One of these days I will manage – I promise!

Takeoff, in contrast, is rather easy for me. This one time my friend Ron, with whom I stayed for the weekend up there in his mountain hotel, dropped me off at 08L’s parking space and took a nice series of shots of my take-off. I thought I share these…

ng_to1

Going through the pre-engine-start checklist

ng_to2CLEAR PROP !!

ng_to3Increase power to start rolling – and it takes quite a bit of power to start rolling on the grass and dirt.

ng_to4Taxi Back towards Jerry’s Yard.

ng_to5I really had to figure out how to turn in Jerry’s Yard without getting out of the plane to push. It’s a bit too narrow to turn directly, so I use the technique I learned in driving school for turns in narrow streets: All the way to the right, then a sharp left turn toward the curb, followed by backing up with a right turn – –  only 08L does not have reverse! Fortunately, the yard slopes up, so my left turn goes up a slope a bit and gravity helps me to go backward – – then another left turn and the 180-degree turn is done.

ng_to6Aligned with the runway with Jerry’s yard behind me, Checklist, Ready for Take-Off! No need here to announce my departure on unicom frequency – first, there is no unicom frequency, and second, Jerry would have told me had somebody else announced his arrival.

ng_to7Gaining Speed – 30 Knots

ng_to8Rushing by Ron at 40 Knots

ng_to9Reaching Rotation Speed at 60 Knots

ng_to10Staying in Ground Effect to Gain Some More Speed

ng_to11Leaving the Earth Below!

Reaching 4500 feet, 500 above the strip, I turn around, fly over the field once more and rock the wings to say goodbye. Then it’s climbing nearly all the way to Bakersfield to get up to 9500 to get enough altitude between me and the Grapevine. Crossing Gorman VOR, I start letting down slowly until I’m at 5000 over Magic Mountain

ng_mmwhich looks so insignificant from up here. Still, I don’t think anybody would ever get me into Colossus, Ninja or Viper.

And then, just a little bit later:

“Burbank Approach, Cherokee 8308L, over the Magic Mountain, five thousand, landing Burbank with Information Alpha.”

Kokain – a Blast From the Past

This is how Youtube works…

I was reminded of of the song “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern” which I had taught myself to sing and play on the guitar many moons ago back in the old country. I wondered if I would find it on the Youtubes – sure enough, there it was.

But what then caught my eye was Kokain by Hannes Wader, another song that I could play and sing, with all the lyrics memorized. And this was a rendition of a much older Hannes Wader, so, obviously, I had to watch it and got sucked into another few Hannes Wader songs.

But Kokain was the best for me – that’s why I share it here…

Oops – sharing not enabled, so here’s just the link on the Tubes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biAC_lYURwM

And so you can all sing along, here are the lyrics:

Ich kam von Frankfurt nach Berlin
Drei Koffer voll mit Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain
Hallo Taxi, schnell zum Ku’damm, Ecke Tauentzien
Meine Frau und meine Kinder schrei’n nach Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine Frau heisst Evelyn
Ich weiss nicht, liebt sie mich oder mehr mein Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain
„Liebster“, sagt sie, „Rate mal, was kitzelt so schön
In der Nase, schmeckt nach Scheisse, wirkt wie Arsen?“
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Mein Sohn ist zwölf und ewig angetörnt
Ich verbiet’ es ihm, damit er endlich laufen lernt
Cocaine, all around my brain
Seit gestern weiss er endlich, wer ich bin
Wenn er mich sieht, dann ruft er: „Pappa, hattu Kokain?“
Cocaine, all around my brain
Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine kleine Tochter ist jetzt grad’
Auf ‘nem Trip, den sie letztes Jahr schon eingepfiffen hat
Cocaine, all around my brain
Sie sieht aus, als wär’ sie dreissig
Und sie macht auf zwanzig, dabei ist sie acht
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine Tante dealt seit einem Jahr
Seitdem geht sie über Leichen, fährt ‘nen Jaguar
Cocaine, all around my brain
Immer wenn sie kommt, bringt sie ein Stückchen Shit
In der Radkappe für die Kinder mit
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Mein Onkel kam vom Alkohol zum Kokain
Jetzt will er sich das Kokain mit Schnaps entzieh’n
Cocaine, all around my brain
Seit gestern liegt er im Delirium
Ab morgen steigt er wieder auf die Droge um
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Opa hat den Gilb, wartet auf den Tod
Freut sich auf Jimi Hendrix und den lieben Gott
Cocaine, all around my brain
Oma geht es augenblicklich auch nicht gut
Seit ihrem letzten Flash spuckt sie nur noch Blut
Cocaine, all around my brain

Ich merke schon, dass ich jetzt aufhör’n muss
Oh Mama, Mama, Mama, komm mach mir ‘nen Schuss
Mit Morphium und Heroin
Opium und Rosimon
Oder gib mir Lysergsäurediäthylamid
Mescalin und Nepalshit
La, la, la …