The Infinite Wall

I - only I - the Nothing and the Infinite in one. Climbing the infinite wall.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Big Bounce

Interesting new findings in physics suggest that the universe did not start in a Big Bang, but rather is cyclical with at least one Big Bounce. Read more to find out. For my own part, I find that model more aesthetically pleasing than the plain Big Bang theories. And aesthetics matters. The ramifications may be interesting; not the least, they may unsettle the seeming current consensus which has the universe exploding at increasing speed by the help of "dark energy". For the Bouncing Universe theory suggests that the Big Bounce we know the Bang side of wasn't singular, again implying that our universe will ultimately have to go through a Big Crunch before it bounces off into a new Big Bang. Getting all sci-fi here ... The result I linked to above was calculated using a special version of quantum mechanics which I honestly don't know too well. Well, not at all, really. It seems to involve space being woven by some kind og one-dimensional quantum threads. We tend to understand by building models from what we already know, and so I immediately thought of information flowing around on a graph. What are the chances of preserving structured information (there's some redundancy for you) on that graph as it writhes through the Big Bounce? More precisely: What are the chances of preserving the kind of information structure that makes up consciousness through such a Big Bounce? And when will we see the first sci-fi / cyberspace novel depicting such an event?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mathematical meanderings

The corridors of the math building at Blindern - the University of Oslo, where I did my studies - had acquired a new layer of that subtle shade of grey that is the look of wear. They looked tired, and the doors more so than the walls. This despite attempts at freshing up these seventies constructions with funky glass walls (and doors), or rather in part because, since the contrast did not serve to envigorate the old. Not a place where you would expect anyone to smile. Yet, there I arrived, knocking on my old thesis advisor Tom Lindstrøm's door; he greeted me the way his friendly old self always had. Nothing changed. Well ... he too had been tinged by grey, but unlike with the corridors, this affected his hairstyle only and not his character. It had been quite some time since last we talked, and we had an enjoyable update chat. Then, work: I was there with the business purpose of being the external examiner for a Master thesis within what I consider my area of mathematics. I won't delve into details, but the candidate first held a well prepared 45-minute presentation of his work, and after a little recess we examined him about his thesis. It was interesting to see the exam situation from "the other side of the table". Students know it instinctively, and it really is true: The harder the questions, the higher the grade they are considering you for. In short: Easy questions probe down, hard questions probe up. After the examination, the candidate went to celebrate his newly acquired title of Master of Science with his fellow students, and Tom and I were joined by my academic sister Klara Hveberg for lunch. Well, a very extended lunch and academic talk. Klara was the same sprightly person she was at the Abel prize ceremonies. After lunch, Klara gave me a brief walk-through of her thesis. A well-written one, btw. Yours truly has lately had to face that while his own thesis may have contained good ideas, the notation is in places quite "mannevond" (vicious); such are the perils of converting a thesis into papers. News from the math community ... Keith Stroyan has received an award for outstanding teaching. Keith is worth half a volume of anectdotes all to himself; his dog breeding, his very special sense of humor and not the least how his thin Scottish ancestry (Strauan) made him more scottish than any Scot at an Edinburgh conference on Non-standard analysis. Which brings me to ... Tom may arrange a conference on NSA in Norway next year, following up this year's conference in Pisa which I unfortunately couldn't attend. I'll make sure to attend next year, though, and have already planned a talk on diffusion on the Walsh fractal for it. Now I just need to do the math.