Origami Space Travel

If you’ve just read Chaos Kindness & Satchmo, you’ll know why you’re here.

If not, take a look back. Context is everything… Jump Back

In keeping with our lyrical back-referencing, take ‘Fly me to the Moon’.

So if we were going to take up this challenge, how far is the Moon? Well for a start it’s not a constant distance. The average is 384,400 kilometers but it ranges from 363,104 km to 405,696 km and is actually drifting away from us at a rate 3.8 cm a year. [Now here’s a curious fact. In order to find this out, the drifting that is, we’ve known how far away the moon is since 200 BC, they fitted some tiny reflectors on the Moon’s surface and bounce laser-light off them. Guess how big the reflectors are? 3.8 cm. Coincidence? I think not…]

Anyway, lunar drifting aside, why are we looking at this? Well, you know that flimsy cheap and nasty printer paper you sometimes buy? The one that’s about 75 gsm and only just thick enough to use without ripping? It’s flimsy because it’s only a tenth of a millimeter thick.

Imagine a sheet of this paper so long that you could just keep folding it in half and then over in half again, for as many times as you wanted to. How many times would you need to fold it in half for it to become as thick as the distance from the earth to the Moon? A million? A billion? No.


Honestly. Check it. (See below *)

It turns out that not only is 42 the answer to the ultimate question and all that Hitchhikers Guide malarkey, it’s how close the Moon is. The Moon is only 42 folds of thin paper away. That’s the power of doubling. Double it. Double it again.

Doubling 42 times turns a tenth of a millimeter into space travel.

Origami Space Travel:

  • 75 gsm paper is a tenth of a millimeter thick.
  • A tenth of a millimeter is 0.1mm = 0.01 cm = 0.0001 m = 0.0000001 km
  • The Moon is 409,696km from earth at it’s furthest away.

Folding Instructions:

  • Fold the paper in half. It is now 0.0000002 km thick
  • …and again = 0.0000004 km; …again = 0.0000008 km and so on
  • Try it on your calculator. It’s easier than real paper.
  • Type in 0.0000001 x 2 and press equals. Then press x 2 and equals again. Each time it calculates the thickness after one more fold. Do this 42 times.
  • You end up at 439,804.65 kilometers.
  • Further than the Moon.

Origami Space Travel.


At the end of your tether
© Tony Burkinshaw 2014


Got a Huge LQG? You could impregnate Pluto

The discovery of the largest structure in the universe is challenging one of the most fundamental assumptions in cosmological thinking so it might just turn out that young Albert, (Einstein not Prince and no I don’t mean the ex-symbol formerly-known-as), didn’t get everything right after all.

It seems that those happy chaps who spend their twilight, (good films apparently according those of the female persuasion, eh Chloe?), hours gazing at stars or as is more usually the case these days, poring over detailed computer generated reports on multi-exposure extra-visual-wavelength observation analyses, have stumbled across yet another LQG, (as you are obviously familiar with, they’ve known about Large Quasar Groups since 1982 and quasar groups of course are powered at their centre by super-massive black holes, thus fulfilling the music reference requirement), but this particular one is more of an XXLQG. So XXL in fact that it’s 4 billion light years across at its longest point. That’s quite big. Too big.

To put this in perspective, sperm cells ‘swim’ at about 5 mm per minute, so in the same time it would take that well-endowed lady the Star Ship Enterprise to travel at warp factor one across the XXLQG, which those self-same sciency boys have named the Huge-LQG, your, your partner’s or indeed donor of choice’s sperm would have been able travel ten and a half billion kilometres. In other words, this magical sperm endowed with particularly massive longevity and oceans of internal reserves would have had the time to swim all the way to the edge of the solar system, impregnate Pluto, (well we are talking about a super sperm here), and then swim all the way back again. Impressive.

I guess that sort of boils down to saying that this largest-structure-in-the-universe thingy is pretty darn big, (I thought I’d go all American for that adjectivisationalism seeing as how I’ve had multiple views from over the pond of late). So big in fact that’s it’s putting pressure on the Cosmological Principle of large-scale universal sameness which Einstein had to come up with in order to allow his other theories to be usable. And as his theories are indeed usable, we don’t really want to just up sticks and walk away from the principle that allows them to work because, as Subir Sakar apparently said, it will make cosmology too bloody complicated if we do. I think I’d agree with him if I actually knew what he was talking about.

So other than the gratuitous reference to super sperm, what does this revelation have to do with this blog and my future career?  Although of course that should read my current career especially as I have, you should be made aware, already dealt with my very first paying clients. Something of which I am truly proud.

So. Here we go. A fundamental principle of science is that it is made up of theories, not truths. And these theories only hold as long as sufficient evidence exists which continues to support them as being a usable working model. Now, obviously as Subir’s comments indicate, you don’t need to throw out a perfectly good working model just because something comes along which challenges it. After all, we still use Newton’s laws, even though we actually know that they’re wrong. They still work and are a damn sight simpler than chucking quantum at everything. They’re just not really real. They’re one of those things that our Mr Pratchett likes to call lies-to-children, may his daughter prove to be as imaginative as he.

All this throws me down two lanes. In a broad sense western medical science, thanks to Rene’s negotiations with the Vatican, doesn’t really recognise the mind-body connection as being a legitimate route through which to pursue health and healing, despite the fact that the placebo effect is a base line for every drug trial which licences medicine as efficacious, (good old Mary Poppins for bringing that word to our attention). So if enough good is done for health in a way which western medical science needs to acknowledge (and it’d have to be too good to ignore as well unless there’s a way for the pharmaceutical lobby to profit from it), then western science will indeed acknowledge it.

Indeed it would have to. That’s what science does, always assuming that the proof can be found and that it’s strong enough to resist the inevitable counter-proofs which will come along. That’s not anti mind-body, that’s just how science works. Come up with a controversial claim and the established science will try to disprove it. Think of it as Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest-theory theory. This is what scientific evolution is all about.

The other lane I’d trundle off down leads all the way to the Quest Institute. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is based on a number of fields of study and expertise. It amalgamates these into models, practices and techniques which every Cognitive Hypnotherapist is well versed in and uses in their daily practice. A key tenet of this field of hypnotherapy is that nothing it uses is the truth. It is simply the current best theory. As soon as there is something better which updates the model, it will be incorporated. If it can’t be incorporated, the existing model would be thrown out and replaced. This stops stagnation. It keeps us all on our toes. It really helps us. It really really helps our clients. My clients.

If something crops up which challenges the Cognitive Hypnotherapy school of thought in a Huge-LQG styley, we’ll have to rethink and regroup. Personally I think that’s fantastic. If you don’t look for and welcome new information to update your view of the world, you end up in a tunnel sealed off from reality. Cognitive Hypnotherapy would become an old and fusty institution, blindly carrying on as it always did. It would simply become unthinkable to change. It’d end up as an opinionated, bogus and disproved therapy living on the edge of quackery, selling snake oil to the tourists. But because of its thirst for knowledge and improvement, it will always be driving forward, staying fresh, even if that means throwing out some cherished models of the past. It’s one of the reason why I signed up to train there.

Unfortunately, believing what you’ve always believed is a survival trait that’s so ingrained in us we’ll do our best to completely ignore anything which doesn’t fit our personal model of the world. Your early years of internal modelling influence how you relate to the rest of the world for the rest of your life.

Your unconscious has kept you safe thus far. It knows this to be true because you’re still alive. And it’ll continue to run its internal programs as long as it believes the theories it laid down as you grew up remain true. It hijacks the mind-body connection and holds onto any stresses and anxieties it thinks are vital to your safety, which is way higher up its priority list than your well-being. Delicate hormone flows get disrupted, muscles and nerves stay on alert. Enter stage left my arch protagonists, fertility difficulties and chronic pain, along with others in the same chorus.

Unless you find a way to break the cycle, then despite the best efforts of your conscious mind, you’ll find yourself living your life always doing what you always did. This keeps you safe and secure, if not healthy and at peace. Of course, as the old saying has it, that means you’ll find yourself always getting what you always got. You might want to change but once you’re in the grip of your unconscious auto-programs you simply won’t be able to see how because you can’t see outside your own private reality tunnel. And no matter how hard the outside world tries to attract your attention, you won’t see it ‘cos your unconscious won’t let you look. So once the stresses, strains, phobias and pains take hold, they can be hard to shake off.

There are many Huge-LQG’s out there in your very own version of the universe. Sometimes you need a specialist to help you see them. And once you’ve seen them, you can decide whether what you always did really did get you what you always wanted. And if it did? Keep going. Your model works for you. But then you probably wouldn’t have sought any help in the first place. Nice one. Keep it up.

But then if your personal Huge-LQG shakes you up, you have a golden opportunity to re-evaluate the most fundamental theories on which you base your life. Learn new truths about old ideas. Start living in the world you really inhabit. Climb out of your reality tunnel and into the light of your universe as it really is. Welcome. To the real world. Good old Morpheus.

If all this theorising is correct, (but obviously not true, if you get my drift), this must then mean that in reality I’ve just spent a year getting a Diploma in Psychological Cosmology.

Maybe I should put my fees up.

a delicate balance© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

a delicate balance
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

The future me is real…

I’ve been spending the last few days, apart from trying to earn a living, wondering how on earth I’m going to keep finding inspiration for additions to this blog which the people who read it would find interesting enough to want to finish and then come back for more. Always leave them wanting more. It’s a performance thing. It’s probably what feeds the storytelling instinct in me.

I’ve just come back from weekend seven at The Quest Institute in London and, whilst it’s been really interesting and full of learning, hasn’t yet grabbed me by the throat and shoved another blog topic at me though I’m pretty sure one will evolve because we covered a lot of ground over the last two days.

Then, when I got home, it hit me.

Who the hell am I? What is it about me that makes me the me that’s sitting here blogging to you and you’re the you that’s spending precious time in role of bloggee trying to work out what strange and convoluted concept the me that’s me is trying to get across to you this time?

We’re going to get messy in an existentially scientific mix of space time, emergent property and cellular biology, so if you’ve the stomach for the journey, strap in and let me know if any of this still makes sense by the end. By the way, I do realise that the last statement does presuppose that some sense is being made so far. I’ll leave that judgement up to you.

Now, obviously Quantum Determinism leads to the fundamental principle that, when combined with Reversibility, the content of any present wave function subject to changes must abide by the output of the corresponding evolution operator, I mean, who would expect anything else, right? The evolution operator always has an inverse, so the uniqueness of this opposition leads inexorably to the consequence that the information contained in any wave function has to be preserved no matter what happens.

Much as this may seem like a load of pseudo-scientific drivel, it is in fact one of the cornerstones of our universe (and probably other ones too). Every single physical entity is made up of particles. Every particle at its heart is a wave. Every wave contains unique information. You cannot destroy the wave, no matter what you do to the particle. Hadron Collider, do your worst! Smash those subatomic particles into as many sub-sub particles as you wish. Quarks beware. There is nothing you can do to the information they contain. The wave carries on, well, waving. Information cannot be destroyed. It here forever. Fact.

So what? I hear you cry in a Caddyshack style echo. This is what.

When you step up from sub-atomic wave physics to the human sized universe, these waves and particles coalesce into atoms, molecules and cells. Cells combine into organisms and depending on your point of view, humans are at the top of the Darwinian Tree of Life but that’s a whole other debate.

There are some tricky concepts to wrestle with at this level too. If I’m me, residing as I do in this multicellular collective that I understand to be my body, then how come I’m still me? Every single cell in my body has been replaced many times over the course of my not quite so long and somewhat uneventful life. That means that every single molecule and atom has been replaced, which in turn means that every single sub-atomic wave of information which was the me of a few years back is now no longer there unless by some random chance it was re-absorbed and used again.

Actually, that’s statistically quite likely. There is almost certainly a molecule from the cup of hemlock that Socrates drank in every glass of water that you drink. If you think that sounds weird, consider this. Socrates died quite a while back. Quite a few glasses of water have been drunk since then, so it’s very likely that the fresh water you’re drinking had proved its freshness and suitability for human consumption several times already.

Anyway, how the hell can I still be me if I contain nothing from the me that was around a few years ago other than a few randomly re-absorbed atoms? My brain has been entirely replaced. More than once, I might add, although this may come as no surprise to several people I know. So how can I still have the same memories I had from before?

Fortunately, that one’s easy. The cells which have been replaced, occupy the same sites as the ones that were there before and reconnect, regrow or replace the pre-existing format. This mostly preserves the memories that I hold dear. Unfortunately, it also preserves the ones I would rather not have stored but hell, that’s what therapists are for. So does this mean that I stay as me because the cells occupy the same information space, no matter how many times they or their atomic components get replaced? In essence, yes it does. But this doesn’t explain how I got to be me in the first place.

There’s another odd aspect to self. Well there would be wouldn’t there, otherwise why would I bother with this post? It is a well-known fact that organisms can recognise their own. Not just the species but the self. Human cells are not just human cells. They are cells of a single human. An individual. Cells possess identity. An identity that is different to every other human. They can recognise each other.

They’re not happy when strangers gate-crash the multicellular community gig that is you. If you’re a gate-crashing cell, the host of the party doesn’t just politely ask you to leave. They call the police and have you evicted. If you’re lucky. More often than not, they set the Rottweiler’s on you and feed you to the lions. This is the basis of transplant rejection. If something in you isn’t you, you kill it. It keeps you alive. You don’t stop to work out whether it’s beneficial or not, you just get rid. It really is a matter of life or death. Some of the most insidious diseases are caused by viruses that the body doesn’t recognise as being foreign.

So how does this take us closer to working out who I am? Simples…

Your body is made up of cells which are unique to you. The combination of these cells and how they operate throws up an emergent identity which is what we perceive as us. Consciousness is the higher level output of the combination of everything that happens in your body. It’s the Fat Controller making sure that the steam trains of your body run on time and Thomas doesn’t cock everything up again.

The cells are coded as you. Every single cell in your body carries the same code so every other cell in your body knows you’re you. The surface of each and every cell is covered with hundreds of highly specialised receptors which tell the inside of the cell what’s going on outside the cell so that the inside of the cell knows what to do. Is it under threat? Which proteins does it need to synthesise? Is there enough oxygen to respire? Is it time to reproduce? (Yes, even at cellular level, decisions are made about whether it the right time for kids). This is the scientific background to the mind body connection.

Cells know what’s going on around them. Your mind releases nerve impulses to control certain aspects of your body function but there are much older and more fundamental styles of communication. Your brains and other organs release a constant flow of peptides which keep the basic processes of your body in balance. They achieve this because every single cell has receptors which are tuned to every single one of these peptides. The peptide mix regulates cell activity throughout your body. And most of these peptides are produced by your brain. You brain controls your cells’ activity. Your mind really is connected to your body and how it functions in an extremely fundamental way. Peptide communication is present in every living multicellular organism.

According to Candace Pert, the scientist who discovered opiate receptors in human brains, (don’t ask how, it probably got mushy), we are all aware of this flow of peptides all the time. She calls them the molecules of emotion. It is this flow of peptides which our brain interprets as emotion. How you feel affects your body. At a cellular level. And what you think affects what you feel. So if you can control your emotional flow, control your thoughts, then you can affect every single cell in your body. Hey Presto! The Mind-body connection. That’s one-nil in the Eastern Philosophy / Western Medicine match.

But where next? Here’s the kicker. The receptors which tell your body that you’re you, the ones which stop you from killing your own cells, are all pointing outwards. They are even called ‘receptors’. They receive information. From outside the cell. From the environment.

So what makes you you and me me isn’t anything to do with what’s going on on the inside. It’s all about the outside.

If what makes you you and me me is determined by the particularly unique combination of receptors, then what determines me-ness and you-ness is how the multitude of information which is drifting around out there is perceived by each and every cell in your body.

The I that is me is a highly particular information recipe, extracted from the everything that is the universe. This is the part that Bruce Lipton, ex hippy biker and cell-biologist extra-ordinaire, refers to as his perception of the divine. Why? Because we are a computer that downloads our identity from the ultimate internet of the universe. We are simply an output of an interpretation of information. Information which, if you recall, cannot be destroyed. The information that I am based on cannot disappear.

Not only that, even though there are many hundreds of receptors, many millions of potential combinations, it is always possible that the particular combination that created me might just turn up again.

And when it does, in the words of a certain US Governor, I’ll be back.

Fractal Tree?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

So who is narrating my life?

The 18.26 is trundling along, taking it’s time as these trains do in a not quite all stations North kind of way. It’ll be another two and a half hours before I arrive and it’s at this point that I realise I’ve been talking to myself about time distortion and is it really just a mental representation of the time/space/speed continuum of Einstein fame.

Not actually talking out loud, I hasten to add. The voice in my head has just pointed out to me that would be way too weird and I’d have been asked to shut up or leave the train by now. What would be really interesting is finding out the split of readers who are pretty sure that voices in heads should also result in automatic train defenestration and those who nod as if it’s the most familiar thing in the world and feel relieved that someone else has taken the plunge and put it into words so they don’t need to admit it in public themselves.

To be fair to them though, feel is probably the wrong word. We of the internal monologue persuasion tend not to go in for feelings per se. We know they’re important but they should be saved up and used sparingly and most importantly, privately. Emotions should be stifled, squished and forced into a small box to be metamorphosed under the intense pressure of life into the diamond strength of the soul. At least that’s the theory behind the AD mind, (Audio Digital, one of the categories of NLP’s Rep system).

The reality, of course, is that the metamorphosis doesn’t quite work out, resulting in a procession of AD clients beating a path to the CogHyp door. At least it would if they had the slightest notion that such a move might be beneficial. Anything except emote.

Why do some people want to bare the soul with the least provocation and others wouldn’t know an emotion if introduced itself and gave references from previous owners and satisfied customers. Which persuation do you belong to? A trouble shared is a trouble doubled? A friend in need is bloody nuisance? Listen to that inner advice? Probably AD.

The crazy thing is that once you get an AD on your side, you have a friend for life – even if you never see them again. These guys are foul weather friends. You won’t hear from them for years but when something goes wrong, really wrong, they’ll roll their sleeves up and deal with the mess.

My problem, and I always have at least one to avoid self-therapeutic atrophy, is that my AD is closely supported with K which, as you all know, stands for Kinaesthetic of all things. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of AD, leaking feelings all over the place. This leads to my spending most of my inner monologue mopping up spilt mental milk and other metaphoric wetness.

But how does all this have anything to do with Einstein’s less well known theory of of mental time distortion? Now, the real theory pretty much says that the faster you travel relative to something else, the slower time passes. This really does happen. Most of us use it every day.

It’s an integral factor in GPS systems. The effect in percentage terms is so tiny as to be almost infinitesimal, or infantismal as Robo-Warrior would have put it. But don’t forget we’re dealing with the speed of light here and on a human scale, light covers a significant distance in an infinitesimal slice. About 10 meters a day to be precise.

If we ignored Einstein, your SatNav would drift 10 meters every day. So would every one else’s. Maps would slowly become useless. We’d all be driving down alleyways and into fields. Maybe that’s what happened with those trans-continental Euro-trucks in the Nineties. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why EasyJet think their planes are going to land somewhere close to the cities they claim to be flying to.

Meanwhile, back to time distortion. If acute awareness of your surroundings were measured by the number of snapshots of now that you take when you’re really stuck in one of those can’t get away from it moments of total boredom, anxiety, stress or anything you wish wasn’t happening and were to equate to the speed-relative-to-something else that Einstein was always banging on about, then one of those lucky sods who’s really enjoying themselves and completely missing the now in everything would equate to the slow thing you’re mentally travelling next to, so maybe that’s why time passes so slowly for you and that other bugger can’t fit enough hours in the day. Not to mention the weirdly long sentences you can construct that still nearly make sense.

When you’re bored or stressed or anxious then your mind is wringing out every single thing it can find to confirm to you that you really are as bored, stressed or anxious as you thought, if not more so. You are fitting in many more units of nowness per dragged out second than someone who is engrossed in an anything of their choice, be it work, a movie, a book or a blog.

If it’s this blog and you’re still reading, you’ve either got some serious stamina or an odd sense of the interesting. Thanks for sticking with it.

So if the mental passage of time is actually controlled by your unconscious replaying the now-based snapshots at normal speed, then concentration on nowness makes time pass slowly and focus on otherness causes time to pass more quickly, (fewer units if nowness in each second: boy doesn’t time fly?), then what is Time Distortion? Presumably it turns one into the other without the you that’s experiencing the distortion being aware of it.

If your unconscious gets prompted to take snapshots for recollection later but at a different rate than your current mental state would usually do it, then once the events have passed, whether quickly or slowly at the time, when you look back your mental instagram will have different numbers of recollections than you were aware of along the way.

It would turn a speeding life-journey into a slow one from which you recall more and would prime you to take more notice next time.

And it would turn 3 hours of a boring train journey into a momentary slice of time and a hopefully interesting Post for you to read. The last two hours only felt like 20 minutes.

It’s 21.08 and I’ve only got 20 minutes left until I arrive. With nothing left to do…

…so according to my units of nowness theory…

I hope I haven’t finished this post too soon.

Shining a light
© Tony Burkinshaw