Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Star called Casimir

As you may know, i am not that successful.

I guess, it’s a just a “bug by birth” – born in the wrong place in the wrong time with the wrong parents...

and the wrong head.

To have no rich parents, to grow in a wonderful landscape without possibilities to make money was not my fault, alas, what happens inside my head, definitely is. So i can tell you many stories how to avoid success.

And Casimir is one of them.

It was an important examination counting for my diploma, which required careful preparation: Theoretical Physics. Eagerly i worked and worked to learn the needful things, but the different energy levels of electrons were simply boring. Don’t understand me wrong! The reason why they differ is quite amazing, however, the exact numbers are not.

So i tried to study, but couldn’t convince me to stay “at the right place”. Instead of that i browsed through my books. Clearly aware of the relevance of the examination, i obeyed my curiosity. But considering the fact, that humankind might not survive the next fifty years (Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth) the simple question of the “meaning of life” comes to mind - and to fulfill your own dreams is much more satisfying than bowing to other peoples rules. Yes, yes, you’re right, at the time of my degree, i didn’t really believe in the Club of Rome, i did just follow my own way to the stars, leaving the money to the poor minds withouth dreams.

And i found the stars, one by one...

while browsing through my books i stumbled across a fantastic story:

The Void can create energy.

I was astonished.

Didn’t all my teachers tell me that energy can’t be destroyed and created? That energy obeys a law of conservation?

So how could that be?

With dry words and the old fashioned typewriter-style of some teaching books of that time i was told that a measurable force can be created out of Nothing because of the vacuum fluctuations which exist even in the pure Nothing, in the empty Void, in the perfect Vacuum where nix, null, nada, zilch can be measured and found.

Nothing, Void, Vacuum – but the quantum noise is still there.

And the quantum noise is action, pure and perfect and permanent action, driving ongoing fluctuations, movings of Nothing on and on and on...

( remember the cosmological constant?)

Now imagine walls inside the Nothing. They will catch the lively Nothing, will restrain its free movements...

forcing it to accept limits by destroying the almighty infinity of the quantum noise. And because action means change of states, it needs more than a single point in universe to exist, it needs a “before” and an “after”, it needs time and space, contexts and interdependencies – it has to behave like...


But borders, limits, surfaces don’t allow each and every range of time and space. And so the Vacuum has to decide which kind of waves it chooses to move on: the wavelength has to correspond to the cavity resonance of the room built by the walls.

Interestingly this “choice” means a new regularity of the fluctuations, means creating energy depending on the geometrical quantities (!), means the birth of an attractive force: Casimir effect.

You know, my memory isn’t that good, but some things i remember well – like Chaperone or Casimir, knitting the web of the spider.

Lively finiteness, born from boundaries inside the infinity, creating a universe out of Nothing, giving birth to measurability, identifiability, positions, the Here and There, the Now and Then, the Me and You.

That’s my information, guys.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Plants and Animals

Each of us knows plants and animals.

And each of us knows that there is an important difference between both.


Some say, that plants can feel, too and some say, they have souls, too.

I don’t say so.

Sure, plants can “sense” events, but not in that way, we understand “feelings”. They sense events like a machine does, like our eyes do – they can retrieve physical action of a special kind.

Once retrieved, that physical action induces some chain of also physical action through the body of the plant, so leading to a reaction. A mimosa is touched, it folds its leaves. Our eyes are hit by an electromagnetic wave and send the signal “green” to our brain.

Physical actions, sensors capable of accepting that special kind of physical action, therefore “selecting” that action to be important for the body, to be received and to be used – thats what plants and animals have in common.

But sensors are only part of feelings, the first part.

The second part of feelings is decision.

“Green, what’s green?” That’s what feelings do – and that’s what plants can’t do:


The journey of a retrieved signal is different between plants and animals.

In plants – and the physical part of animals – the journey is determined by the knowledge of the race, the structure of the body like water flows in a system of channels. When a watergate is opened is decided by the signal itself. If it is strong, watergate 1 opens, if it is smooth, watergate 2 opens – no questions, no decisions beyond the “knowledge” of the channel. Plants react “analog”, because the signals they are able to retrieve are “complete” related to the capability of the reactions. Do you know the childrens toy, the colorful box with different shaped holes? The child has to put the right shaped block through the correct hole, because only that works.

Feelings can’t be that sure. The signals fed to feelings are much more basic. Therefore feelings have to “reconstruct” the complete information which had hit the different sensors eyes, ears, skin, nose. The knowledge of the body of animals regarding feelings is just how to detect light, sound or odors, but what it “means”, the interpretation, isn’t fixed anymore.

So asking, questions, incertitude is introduced in the information processing. While plants knows exactly, what signals mean – or have to ignore them and to suffer the consequences (passive information processing) – animals have to decide about meanings.

While plants react passively regarding the true nature of the signalled event, animals have to react actively because they have to detect that true nature first. They have to connect the dots to “create the big picture” – and what that picture “means” they only know if and when they can find it in their memory. If there are green things stored in their memory they can compare it to the newly arrived green signals and then they may “know” what the signals announce.

If they fail to remember, they have to “learn” – have to store the colors and the odors and the sounds together with what happens. And if the result is useful, the feeling created by that memory is cushy, if the result is painful, the feeling stored with that memory is displeasant.

Sure, a race can learn “feelings”, too, can program its brains to know typical events of their world by birth, but even those typical events have to have started some times and at that time experience had to teach the individuals of the race. Therefore feelings may become part of the knowledge of the race, however, their origin based on individual learning can be seen by the characteristic uncertainty around the “meanings”. Even the reconstruction of light – pictures - can be misleading: optical illusions.

So what’s the advantage of feelings against the certainty of the body?

What’s the advantage of active information processing against passive?

It’s the ability for individual learning by individual experience.

And that’s the precondition for real-time-processing and real-time-processing is the precondition for survival in changing environments – and environments change rapidly in the world of animals which can...


So flexibility is the success of individual learning – and uncertainty is its price.

That’s the reason for souls.

But that’s another story and shall be told another time.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Sometimes things happen that impact your life. The ones which impact mine i remember really well – which is odd, because my memory works very “efficiently”, keeping me young with not too much stuff in mind, shortening the time behind me.

You know Chaperones?

Chaperon: “Traditionally, a chaperon was an older married woman accompanying a woman when men would be present. Her presence was a guarantee of the virtue of the young woman in question”.

Simple presence as guarantee of virtue...

some years ago i read a short article about HSP90, a proteine of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Only some words telling me, that these heat-shock proteins assist other proteins in achieving proper folding... The reason for this behaviour is that protein folding is severely affected by heat, for example, and therefore chaperones act to counteract the potential damage. By doing so they protect the phenotype of the fruitfly by buffering genetic variation in morphogenetic pathways.

I couldn’t understand that.

A single protein could control the phenotype?

Phenotype: “what an organism looks like as a consequence of its genotype” or Phenotype: “The phenotype of an individual organism is either its total physical appearance and constitution, or a specific manifestation of a trait, such as size or eye color, that varies between individuals.”

How could that be? How could the HSP90 know how the organism of its cell looks like?

Oh yes, sure, it’s simple: The HSP90 controls just the proper folding of important proteins of the fruitfly and when those important proteins are not properly folded, the cell can’t work and the fly would die – or change. In Drosophila, challenging HSP90 function by ... environmental stress can produce a profusion of morphological changes affecting virtually every structure of the fly.

I knew, HSP90 “controls just a starting point” of a chain of reactions...

however, how could the knowledge of the “physical appearance” be stored in a single conglomeration of molecules?

In the mid of the night i got my heureka moment. Suddenly i woke up, finding me sitting up in bed, saying something like “that’s it”.

Knowledge is more than “knowing something”.

The HSP90 “knows” about the phenotype of its organism because of its own “body” – its own body based on electromagnetic fields and the physical interaction of nucleons and electrons creates a dynamical system able to communicate with the “important proteins” to “convince” them of the proper folding just by simple physics, therefore prohibiting...

a chain of events, leading to an unwanted result. Because Drosophila wants to survive, its cells used the little HSP90 because HSP90 knows how to protect what Drosophila preferred to look like - and so Drosophila uses that information.




Wants and wishes. Preferences...

at the level of some molecules and atoms dancing together.

Knowledge can be stored in bodies, information can be used by simple physical interaction, preferences can be fulfilled by possessing the proper structure.

In that night i understood that the memory of the cell first worked “analog”, that HSP90 might be something like the first step of gathering the information about the own body, long before DNA.

At that time i didn’t know what information is – but i bet, without HSP90 i wouldn’t have understood information and information processing systems, because you have to accept, that information can flow at the level of molecules and atoms, that information, knowledge, can be stored in bodies, in material systems.

You have to accept that you didn’t have to know the result if you know the rules – and the initial state.

Information is not something esoteric far beyond physics, is not something complex only manageable by difficult mathematics.

It is basic.

And it is dynamic.