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Deep Thoughts Regarding the Universe and Reality
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Ham Sandwich
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Oct 20, 2009, 12:28 PM
 
I hold nary a shred of scientific knowledge but have been heavily pondering the thoughts listed below.

1) It is held that to have life, there needs to be water. But, isn't that short-sighted? Though, life as we know it requires water, it doesn't mean that life somewhere far away requires the same. I would think with the universe as large as it is, there are substances, particles, etc. that we have no concept of existing that could, in fact, create life.

2) Scientists say that humans only typically use about 10% of their brain. Are there things around us that we cannot see/hear/feel/understand just because they are so far removed from our consciousness?

3) Is our own reality learned? Are we basically a blank slate upon arrival into this world until we interact with the reality that everyone else has created? If there was a way to birth a child into a holodeck-type device and create for them a reality that is so far removed from our own, they would indeed have a different reality. What if in their holodeck reality it was "normal" that humans had telekinesis - would the child also have the same because it is their reality?

Is there any credence to my thoughts or am I a tad crackers?
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 12:29 PM
 
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Oct 20, 2009, 12:43 PM
 
Wow, all very intriguing thoughts. I'm not in the right frame of mind (at work) to dive into those subjects, but I'd be curious to hear what others think.
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olePigeon
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Oct 20, 2009, 01:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
1) It is held that to have life, there needs to be water. But, isn't that short-sighted? Though, life as we know it requires water, it doesn't mean that life somewhere far away requires the same. I would think with the universe as large as it is, there are substances, particles, etc. that we have no concept of existing that could, in fact, create life.
Sort of. There are a few extreme organisms, called extremophiles, that live and thrive in environments previously thought incapable of harboring life. Water simply represents the most likely chance for life, so when looking on other planets, our best chance at finding life is where there's water. That doesn't mean there couldn't be organisms living elsewhere, it's just not as likely. As we're learning about new organisms and how they survive and adapt, it is broadening our search to locations we wouldn't 've considered before; looking at planets we wouldn't 've considered before.

Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
2) Scientists say that humans only typically use about 10% of their brain. Are there things around us that we cannot see/hear/feel/understand just because they are so far removed from our consciousness?
Scientists actually don't say that, it's just a myth. Humans pretty much use their whole brain. Humans can only see, hear, and feel a certain range of light, sounds, and textures. This is a limitation of our physiology. Different organisms can see, hear, and feel different things than humans because those traits are beneficial for that specific species to survive. Understanding and reason are subjective, and vary from species to species.

Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
3) Is our own reality learned? Are we basically a blank slate upon arrival into this world until we interact with the reality that everyone else has created? If there was a way to birth a child into a holodeck-type device and create for them a reality that is so far removed from our own, they would indeed have a different reality. What if in their holodeck reality it was "normal" that humans had telekinesis - would the child also have the same because it is their reality?
Part of our reality (experiences) is instinct, it's encoded genetically. The need to eat, reproduce, recognize danger, etc. These are traits passed down through evolution. Other parts we learn (language, music, art, math, etc.), and influenced by society. Just look at the various cultures and what people find "normal" or "abnormal."

If you're interested in exploring "alternate realities," a good read is The Giver by Lois Lowry. This book explores exactly the premise you're talking about.

Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
Is there any credence to my thoughts or am I a tad crackers?
No, they're good questions.
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Oct 20, 2009, 02:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by olePigeon View Post
Sort of. There are a few extreme organisms, called extremophiles, that live and thrive in environments previously thought incapable of harboring life. Water simply represents the most likely chance for life, so when looking on other planets, our best chance at finding life is where there's water. That doesn't mean there couldn't be organisms living elsewhere, it's just not as likely. As we're learning about new organisms and how they survive and adapt, it is broadening our search to locations we wouldn't 've considered before; looking at planets we wouldn't 've considered before.
Our definition of life and the building blocks for it are based on our understanding of how life is created. It's entirely feasible that within the universe life is created by different means. Means we have no understanding of. That's where my head starts to spin. Take the example of extremophiles to the nth degree.

Scientists actually don't say that, it's just a myth. Humans pretty much use their whole brain. Humans can only see, hear, and feel a certain range of light, sounds, and textures. This is a limitation of our physiology. Different organisms can see, hear, and feel different things than humans because those traits are beneficial for that specific species to survive. Understanding and reason are subjective, and vary from species to species.
So, you're saying that we are wired at conception to handle the reality we will be born into? While this makes sense to me, physiologically, I can't help but think of examples of children being in tune with a so called "spiritual plane" (seeing things no one else sees, etc.). While I'm sure there's no scientific study to back up these episodes, it does show that the human brain has potential to alter their reality - it just gets turned off the more in this reality we become.

Part of our reality (experiences) is instinct, it's encoded genetically. The need to eat, reproduce, recognize danger, etc. These are traits passed down through evolution. Other parts we learn (language, music, art, math, etc.), and influenced by society. Just look at the various cultures and what people find "normal" or "abnormal."
While I agree that we're encoded with instincts through genetics, at what point does a person's understanding of reality shape these built in instincts? If you were born in the holodeck and one of your traits was weightlessness/flight, that is your reality. You wouldn't know any different.

If you're interested in exploring "alternate realities," a good read is The Giver by Lois Lowry. This book explores exactly the premise you're talking about.
Saved to my Amazon wish list. Thanks!

No, they're good questions.
But in further analyzing, sounds like I've done too many drugs while watching The Matrix
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 02:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by starman View Post
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Oct 20, 2009, 02:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
"Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a bricklayer!"
I thought you were a meat popsicle?
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Oct 20, 2009, 02:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by olePigeon View Post
I thought you were a meat popsicle?
Aren't you supposed to be a trek/sci-fi fan?

(and no, I'm not a meat popsicle, I'm human. Unfortunately, 99+% of people aren't.)
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Oct 20, 2009, 03:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
3) Is our own reality learned? Are we basically a blank slate upon arrival into this world until we interact with the reality that everyone else has created? If there was a way to birth a child into a holodeck-type device and create for them a reality that is so far removed from our own, they would indeed have a different reality. What if in their holodeck reality it was "normal" that humans had telekinesis - would the child also have the same because it is their reality??
No, but our response to our own physical reality is learned. For example, when you look at a TV screen, you see a moving image that you can easily decode and interpret. When animals watch a tv screen they don't even "see" the image as such since they cannot interpret the image in any meaningful way. "Seeing" done at least as much in the brain as in the eyes, just like hearing.

Tale (maybe made up but I think factual), British army office Lawrence of Arabia (he of Peter O'Toole played fame) once presented an Arab colleague with a photograph of his favourite horse. The arab sheik could not even recognise the image of the horse because he lacked the reference to decode the image.

People claim that their dog is able to recognise them in video images, however, to a dog "you" are an indevisable mix of shape, movement and smell, an image of you cannot be interpreted as you.

In order to fulfil your holodeck query the brain of the subject would have to physically alter concrete reality in order to acquire telepathic powers, which can't happen.
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Oct 20, 2009, 03:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
Aren't you supposed to be a trek/sci-fi fan?]
Yes, but you also have the 5th Element in your signature.
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Oct 20, 2009, 04:11 PM
 
Many birds actually have 4 photoreceptors (compared to our 3), so they can see what we see, plus ultraviolet (shorter wavelength than us). A minority of women (tetrachromats) also have a 4th photoreceptor, but it's a duplication of the red photoreceptor (the longer wavelength end of the spectrum, so not related to the birds), and they can differentiate more shades of red than everyone else. But it has nothing to do with how much of the brain is used. On that topic, people/animals who lose fingers or limbs find themselves suddenly with extra regions of cerebral cortex that now serve no function (they used to be hooked up to the sensory and motor nerves from the missing limb). Over time, the neighboring areas adopt the orphaned cortex, which becomes connected and integrated to the peripheral organs of those neighboring areas. So even when parts of our brains are artificially force to go "un-used," they adapt to be "used" again.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 04:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
Over time, the neighboring areas adopt the orphaned cortex, which becomes connected and integrated to the peripheral organs of those neighboring areas. So even when parts of our brains are artificially force to go "un-used," they adapt to be "used" again.
Is there a benefit to that?
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 04:20 PM
 
yes? I think it's pretty uncontested that one of the major limiting aspects of brain function is skull size. The cortex specifically (it's believed) is so wrinkly in humans because it is advantageous to have as much of it as possible (on the brain's surface, which happens to be where the cortex is located), even though skull size is limited by the birth canal. So it stands to reason that when you have the opportunity to reclaim un-used real estate in the cortex, it's beneficial to do so. Because if we could have had more of it to start with (and not kill our mothers on the way into this world), we would have.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 04:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
yes? I think it's pretty uncontested that one of the major limiting aspects of brain function is skull size. The cortex specifically (it's believed) is so wrinkly in humans because it is advantageous to have as much of it as possible (on the brain's surface, which happens to be where the cortex is located), even though skull size is limited by the birth canal. So it stands to reason that when you have the opportunity to reclaim un-used real estate in the cortex, it's beneficial to do so. Because if we could have had more of it to start with (and not kill our mothers on the way into this world), we would have.
Yes, is a little vague. I'm asking if these benefits have been measured. Are there examples of people who were capable of doing more because their brain 'adapted' ?
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 04:44 PM
 
Weirdly I am now watching a programme on BBC 2 (Horizon) investigating human consciousness. Should be available via BBC iplayer in around an hour. Very interesting.
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Oct 20, 2009, 04:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
1) It is held that to have life, there needs to be water.
Absolutely. Every turtle can attest to that. It's a turtletific fact.

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Oct 20, 2009, 05:01 PM
 
All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Yes, is a little vague. I'm asking if these benefits have been measured. Are there examples of people who were capable of doing more because their brain 'adapted' ?
In people, it would be impossible to measure a difference due to intact brain areas remapping after deafferentation from injury. You would have to have two comparable subjects to start with (very difficult), and then you would have to prevent one from healing (unethical, in addition to being difficult). I suppose you could do it in rodents, or monkeys, but I can't find anyone who has. But there is also remapping after brain damage (stroke, or surgery in cases like epilepsy), it's the reciprocal of what I described, so instead of periphery dying and leaving healthy brain, you have brain dying and leaving healthy periphery. And in those cases there are many examples where someone who has lost control and sensation in parts of their body later recovers it when new brain regions adapt to take over.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
But there is also remapping after brain damage (stroke, or surgery in cases like epilepsy), it's the reciprocal of what I described, so instead of periphery dying and leaving healthy brain, you have brain dying and leaving healthy periphery. And in those cases there are many examples where someone who has lost control and sensation in parts of their body later recovers it when new brain regions adapt to take over.
That I have heard of.

I think I misread your post to a certain degree. With the talk of extra photoreceptors and improved vision I correlated your commentary on repurposed brain regions as to meaning that those repurposed areas somehow improved that function (i.e. someone is better coordinated or something).
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.
Also, you are the chosen one, Neo.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:21 PM
 
Hmm. Yes logically you would expect the amputees to have improved performance in the remaining limbs or digits. In the same way as blind or deaf people sometimes have a heightening of their remaining senses. Actually it's exactly the same, because it's been shown that at least some blind people repurpose their visual cortex to assist with processing other sensory modalities. But even so it would be nearly impossible to demonstrate that a person is objectively better at it (whatever "it" is in any specific case) than they would have been without the remapping, since you can't have matched control patients (in humans, and if you used animals it would be much harder to asses their performance, because of how hard it is to communicate the task to them and for them to communicate the outcome back to you).

It should be possible to enhance your performance, Neo-style, as long as you are willing to give up the abilities provided by that slab of brain before the "enhancement." "I know Kung Fu. But I'm no longer potty-trained." I'm sure some would still sign up...
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
But even so it would be nearly impossible to demonstrate that a person is objectively better at it (whatever "it" is in any specific case) than they would have been without the remapping, since you can't have matched control patients (in humans, and if you used animals it would be much harder to asses their performance, because of how hard it is to communicate the task to them and for them to communicate the outcome back to you).
That's what I was thinking. Maybe there's some studies out there that i don't know about, but the "other senses get sharper" feel rather anecdotal and subjective. I don't think your eyesight or hearing gets better – I think you become better at parsing the relevant information (But perhaps the added brain matter helps with doing this).
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:30 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
That's what I was thinking. Maybe there's some studies out there that i don't know about, but the "other senses get sharper" feel rather anecdotal and subjective. I don't think your eyesight or hearing gets better – I think you become better at parsing the relevant information (But perhaps the added brain matter helps with doing this).
Why wouldn't your senses get better? They're use-it-or-lose-it just like everything else on your body. Give them more exercise and they get stronger. On the other hand, the blind probably put more effort into cleaning their ears too, so I don't know how you're going to isolate any one thing.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 05:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
Why wouldn't your senses get better? They're use-it-or-lose-it just like everything else on your body. Give them more exercise and they get stronger. On the other hand, the blind probably put more effort into cleaning their ears too, so I don't know how you're going to isolate any one thing.
Physical limits. But I guess that assumes the average person is anywhere near using their senses at peak.
     
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Oct 20, 2009, 07:29 PM
 
One other thing I remembered, they have found in violinists/guitarists/etc (where the left hand is much more dextrous than the right) that the amount of cortex used by the left hand is much more than the average person, but the right hand isn't more than average. It suggests that cortical remapping might be part of the mechanism those people use to increase their dexterity. But it's only correlative.
     
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Oct 21, 2009, 07:37 AM
 
I see p-zeds. Walking around like regular people. They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're p-zeds.
Been inclined to wander... off the beaten track.
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Ham Sandwich
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Oct 21, 2009, 07:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by Doc HM View Post
No, but our response to our own physical reality is learned. For example, when you look at a TV screen, you see a moving image that you can easily decode and interpret. When animals watch a tv screen they don't even "see" the image as such since they cannot interpret the image in any meaningful way. "Seeing" done at least as much in the brain as in the eyes, just like hearing.

Tale (maybe made up but I think factual), British army office Lawrence of Arabia (he of Peter O'Toole played fame) once presented an Arab colleague with a photograph of his favourite horse. The arab sheik could not even recognise the image of the horse because he lacked the reference to decode the image.

People claim that their dog is able to recognise them in video images, however, to a dog "you" are an indevisable mix of shape, movement and smell, an image of you cannot be interpreted as you.

In order to fulfil your holodeck query the brain of the subject would have to physically alter concrete reality in order to acquire telepathic powers, which can't happen.
I have heard mention before of the sheik not being able to see the horse image. There's also a story about natives not able to see the ships of Christopher Colombus as they had no reference to what a ship was. I know I had the same type of experience when I saw my first goat se image.

What is "concrete reality"? I think that this type of mindset - that what you know as reality - the reality we all seem to share - is limiting. How do you know that concrete reality is really concrete reality? Faith? There is no beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt proof that we actually exist in the reality we think we do.
     
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Oct 21, 2009, 08:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
It should be possible to enhance your performance, Neo-style, as long as you are willing to give up the abilities provided by that slab of brain before the "enhancement." "I know Kung Fu. But I'm no longer potty-trained." I'm sure some would still sign up...
You had me LOL at that.

And for the record, I'd gladly wear a diaper if it meant I could then kick some ass.
     
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Oct 21, 2009, 09:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by Doc HM View Post
People claim that their dog is able to recognise them in video images, however, to a dog "you" are an indevisable mix of shape, movement and smell, an image of you cannot be interpreted as you.
I can tell you that's empirically wrong. My late beloved dog "Mac" was very territorial and intelligent. He not only would get agitated by any unknown animal coming near his property, he would also bark at or even "attack" a TV screen (run up to and almost bite) if we were watching a show that featured an animal. Then he would usually get his favorite toy and ask us to play with him, as if he had been jealous of the other animal that was briefly taking up our attention. It wasn't just the sound of the animal that got his attention, either - you could see him tracking the movements on the screen.

I should also mention that he was even more aggressive toward unknown human visitors than he was toward animals, and yet he never was provoked by images/sounds of humans on TV.
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Oct 21, 2009, 09:37 AM
 
What kind of dog was he?
     
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Oct 21, 2009, 09:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
What kind of dog was he?
He was a black Royal Standard Poodle.

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Oct 22, 2009, 02:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
I have heard mention before of the sheik not being able to see the horse image. There's also a story about natives not able to see the ships of Christopher Colombus as they had no reference to what a ship was.
I'm confident that this is incorrect. I remember hearing this mentioned in that crapumentary "What the Bleep Do We Know" and snorting at its absurdity. When the pioneers pointed muskets at the Indians, did the Indians think their hands were empty?

Regarding point #1, I can't imagine life not based on water and carbon and other simple molecules. Heck, it's hard to imagine non-DNA life, and those are pretty complex.

"What the Bleep Do We Know" also mentioned the 10% brain myth too. Did you see that movie recently or something, screamingFit? The quacks who made that (and "The Secret" too) are professional bullshitters.
     
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Oct 22, 2009, 03:41 AM
 
How can someone say that something made of normal physical materials could possibly not be perceived just because of it being novel? That's humorous.

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Oct 22, 2009, 05:16 AM
 
Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
I'm confident that this is incorrect. I remember hearing this mentioned in that crapumentary "What the Bleep Do We Know" and snorting at its absurdity. When the pioneers pointed muskets at the Indians, did the Indians think their hands were empty?
I don't think its about not physically seeing, it's about processing the image. Certainly the Indians would have been aware the fact that the pioneers were holding something in their hands since they would have been well used to seeing people holding physical objects. Translating a flat image into a thought representation of a horse is a different mental skill. I don't know if the horse story is true of not but it does represent a different type of translation in the mind to seeing people holding a stick in there hand that suddenly turns out to be lethal. Knowledge is not required for that process, whereas it is to make the leap from photo of horse to real horse.
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Oct 22, 2009, 10:03 AM
 
Originally Posted by screamingFit View Post
2) Scientists say that humans only typically use about 10% of their brain. Are there things around us that we cannot see/hear/feel/understand just because they are so far removed from our consciousness?
I can give an example of this (sort of). Your eye's retina is a layer of photo receptors connected to a layer of neurons (your eyes are an extension of your brain, and process light and images). You have ~150,000,000 photo receptors that transmit the processed "data" to your brain via ~1,000,000 optical nerves. That means what you see is compressed 150:1 before reaching your brain, where the brain performs it's only function in the entire process: left and right images are merged into one stereo image.

Your ears do the same on a different scale, as I'm sure all of our senses do. This leads me to believe that hallucinogens don't actually make you see things, I think they expand the brains filter to include what evolution has otherwise deemed non-essential information to our survival...hence people claim to "taste sound" and "hear color", etc.

Your eyes are filtering out color that otherwise truly exists...we'll just never experience it.

Funny too, that all this information is in waveforms. A light wave can't pass thru a solid object, yet sound can. Sound can't pass thru a vacuum, but light can.

Thanks for prompting me to think of this stuff.
     
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Oct 22, 2009, 11:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
I'm confident that this is incorrect. I remember hearing this mentioned in that crapumentary "What the Bleep Do We Know" and snorting at its absurdity. When the pioneers pointed muskets at the Indians, did the Indians think their hands were empty?

Regarding point #1, I can't imagine life not based on water and carbon and other simple molecules. Heck, it's hard to imagine non-DNA life, and those are pretty complex.

"What the Bleep Do We Know" also mentioned the 10% brain myth too. Did you see that movie recently or something, screamingFit? The quacks who made that (and "The Secret" too) are professional bullshitters.
I saw the Bleep movie when it came out. Had some interesting thoughts but the whole channeling-of-some-dead-guy-by-some-past-psychic-who-runs-some-cult-in-California-that-these-filmmakers-belong-to really discredited anything they spoke about.

I've heard the "10% brain" theory for decades in various forms.

While you can't imagine life not being comprised of carbon and water, can you say without a doubt that it is impossible? That everything in the universe follows the same physical laws that are on our planet that we don't even fully have all the answers to?

The questions, while always been on my mind in some sort of existential quandary, were brought up again from a conversation I had with my girlfriend while under the influence of a green, mind-altering, smoked substance while looking at images from the Hubble Deep Field.

I think the point Doc HM made about them seeing the objects but of processing the image. "There's these weird things out in the ocean and we have no idea what they are" seems more plausible.

Mentholiptus, I like your explanation. I think it adds credence to the idea that things are there that we just cannot ever sense because external information isn't fully 100% available to our brain.
     
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Oct 22, 2009, 12:24 PM
 
I suspect the "invisible" objects (ships, horses, etc) can be attributed to the difference between perception and attention. There is a well-known experiment (easily reproducible) where you show two groups of people the same video of a basketball game in which a man in gorilla costume walks through it after a few minutes. You tell one group of observers to count the number of passes in the game (or some other trivial statistic), and the other group you tell nothing. Most of the second group will notice the gorilla-guy (obviously), but most of the first group won't. You ask them at the end if they noticed anything surprising, most of them will have no idea what you're talking about. Now both groups can definitely _perceive_ the guy in the gorilla costume. But the first group, whose attention is focused on something else, simply won't register that they saw it. The same could easily be true for an observer who is unfamiliar with the object they're perceiving; without knowing its significance, they might be focusing their attention on things that are already familiar, and afterward the things that don't catch your attention are forgotten, as if they were never seen in the first place.

I think the 10% myth comes from the fact that only about 10% of the cells in your brain are neurons, the rest being glia or blood cells. Glia (means "glue") were long assumed to be uninteresting "support" cells serving no purpose beyond structure for the neurons. But now it is known that most glia actually do contribute to signal processing, even though they don't fire action potentials (the main electrical signals of neurons, as opposed to chemical signals like neurotransmitters and hormones), which is why glia were ignored by investigators for so long. But rest assured, they are "used."
     
   
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