A Theory of Reality that Makes Sense

Just to be clear, what you are reading is an opinion. It doesn’t matter whose, but it happens to be mine.

The universe in which we live is fundamentally rational. It has been postulated that the universe is lazy. It is lazy in that it will expend the minimum work possible to cause an effect. That implies that the universe operates rationally because it would require more effort and energy to operate irrationally; for example, instead of an object following a straight line in a flat universe with nothing else near enough to affect it, it suddenly stops, jinks left or right or up or down, or disappears altogether. Something else might cause the object to do those things, but that would require an extra cause to change its course.

What about people, animals, and plants? What about bacteria, single cells, ribosomes, mitochondria, and viruses? Are they rational? They are all part of the universe.

According to a widely accepted theory, the universe contains matter, energy, and forces organized as an open system, but it contains within it both open and closed systems. Open systems disintegrate over time. Matter is attracted to other matter when it’s close enough to have an effect. When this happens with enough matter nearby, a closed system may be formed. The lipid envelope of a virus, the lipid cell walls, the chambers of our hearts and other organs, oyster shells, the skins of animals and people, the cellulose of plants, the wood bark of trees, cars, houses, airplanes, submarines, rocket ships, earth, and the sun are examples of closed systems.

In a closed system, the rules are different. As I wrote previously, living systems are examples of closed systems. Living systems depend on mitochondria and ATP from the sun (photosynthesis) or food to provide the energy required for cells to replicate, produce heat, grow, do repairs, and to keep their internal environment at levels that allow them to survive (homeostasis). Living systems integrate matter during birth and growth but, at some point, growth stops and, later begins to decay until they die. At that point, they begin to decay. Eventually, as skin, the walls of organs, and cell walls disintegrate, what was a closed system becomes an open system once again, rejoining the universe and its rational laws.

So, while we are closed systems, why don’t we behave rationally? That’s a good question, but that’s not what I want to discuss here. What I want to discuss are theories, specifically theories that attempt to explain how our universe works, at the macro level, at the micro-level, and at our level. Theories are not immutable truths. Theories are approximations and they are provisional. It has been said that the attributes of a good theory are [1] that it interprets and explains something more or better than what was previously known and [2] that it predicts what that thing will do more accurately than previous theories.

Newton’s theories about gravity were pretty good. The math equations made fairly good predictions and the explanations seemed to cover a lot of different situations.

Einstein’s theories of relativity were better than Newton’s because his equations made better predictions over longer distances (light from a distant star and time dilation from different relative speeds). Einstein’s explanations seemed counter-intuitive, but they explained more phenomena (except for the micro-level); however, Einstein’s math breaks down where black holes, traveling faster than the speed of light, and lengths or times less than a Planck constant are concerned. What that means is that the math equations come up with an answer of infinity in those situations, and there are no infinities in the physical universe.

Quantum theories were better than Einstein’s theories at the micro-level where gravitational forces don’t seem to work and discovered particles more fundamental than protons and neutrons (quarks and bosons). Schrödinger’s and others’ equations predicted the behavior of quantum particles more accurately than any previous theories. The problem with quantum theories is in the interpretation and explanation of what’s going on at the quantum level. According to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, we can’t know both the position and the momentum of a particle with absolute precision. The more accurately we know the one, the less accurately we know the other. We can only predict where a particle is or will be, statistically. The math deals with the probability waves of particles, rather than the particles themselves.

Many of the explanations of quantum theories have been so outlandish (objects can be in two places at the same time, coherence, consciousness causing collapse, entanglement, cats being both dead and alive depending on whether we saw it or not, and a new universe generated for each particle state) that many quantum physicists would prefer to just stick to the math predictions and leave the explanations to someone else.

The Holy Grail of physics would be a Theory of Everything that would tie quantum theories together with the theory of relativity. String Theory has made a valiant attempt at that but, so far, no cigar. String Theory’s explanations are far less outlandish than quantum theories, but they don’t predict anything, and they haven’t even generated any testable hypotheses.

Oh yes, another attribute of a good theory is that it is falsifiable. That means it can be reliably tested (and the test can be repeated over and over, producing the same results each time) and proven true or false.

I believe that once we understand how the universe really works, our explanations of it will be more rational than they are today.

We live in interesting times.

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(in)Dependence Day

Today is Independence Day in Israel. The date moves around on your Gregorian calendars every year because Israel’s official calendar is the Hebrew lunar calendar. As Wikipedia explains it: “Independence Day is designated to be on the 5th day of Iyar (ה’ באייר) in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the day on which Israeli independence was proclaimed, when David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The corresponding Gregorian date was 14 May 1948.” See Independence_Day_(Israel). Many countries, especially those that had been colonized, celebrate their Independence Days; for example, the 4th of July in the USA.

Independence is a wonderful feeling and most people around the world want it for themselves, although it is most often achieved and maintained only with blood, sweat, and tears. This is well-known.

There are limits to independence. Most often it starts at the country level (if it starts at all). Then there may develop strongly held differences of opinion along the way, and half the country wants to secede from the union. There was a bloody civil war in America, which almost resulted in America splitting into two countries. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Anywhere there are people with differing opinions or interests that are strongly held, let’s say stronger than the bonds that hold people together, there is a possibility that that group might want to detach itself from the larger group and become independent. Pushed to absurdity, every tribe, clan, or family might want (and be willing to fight for) its independence. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island”, and yet every man might want to be his own country. There are limits to independence, which reasonable men and women generally accept.

But I want to talk about something else: our dependence on each other. Once a people achieve independence and have their own country, they realize how dependent they are on each other, no matter where they came from, who they are, or what they believe or think. We all need an army to defend us. The army needs its countrymen to support it and to fill its ranks. We need religions to remind us of our moral and ethical responsibilities and our historical and spiritual roots, and religions need all of us to support and defend them. We need a government to lead and protect us, to provide services and infrastructure, and to deal with other countries diplomatically or militarily. The government needs its citizens to support it and to keep it honest and effective. We need the police, doctors and nurses, teachers, mechanics, farmers, fishermen, importers and exporters, pilots, cab drivers, truck drivers, trash and garbage collectors, and the list goes on and on. It’s easy for us to imagine how miserable we would be if they weren’t there; just remember the times some of them went on strike.

As a matter of fact, I propose we establish a new holiday. Yes, I know there are already more holidays than there are days in a year. So, I propose yet another holiday, which I’d call “Dependence Day”. On that day, at least once a year, we should recognize all the people on whom we depend, especially the ones we don’t generally think about, with all the speeches, dancing in the streets, fireworks, etc. that they deserve.

Think about this when you deprecate or ignore the needs or aspirations of one group or another: only when everyone does what he can, can we all exist.


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On Being Us

After reading Anil Seth’s brilliant yet surprisingly accessible book, “Being You, A New Science of Consciousness”, I gleaned the following important take-aways. This is not a book report or book review; for that, I would refer you to Anil Seth’s theory of consciousness by SelfAwarePatterns.

My take-aways are as follows:

  1. That evolution populates our genes to look after our bodies first and foremost. Our survival depends on maintaining our body’s respiration, temperature, integrity, food, hydration, reproduction, energy, material, and all the other critical parameters required by life. If we don’t respect the upper and lower bounds of the conditions of our existence, we will cease to exist.
  • Following close behind #1, evolution loads our genetic dice with awareness of our world, filled with enemies and friends. We don’t seem to be equipped with an ability to perceive reality as it really is, but we appear to be able to build more-or-less useful models of reality that we can tweak to minimize dissonances between our models and what really is or is not. Enemies are people, animals, or things that might harm or kill us. Friends are people, animals, or things that might help or save us. The rest of the world consists of people, animals, or things that might be enemies or friends. We must be wary of the rest of the world. We shouldn’t trust them because they might be enemies and we shouldn’t harm or kill them because they might be friends.
  • Those who resist or lack their genetic lessons run the risk of losing their gene pool privileges and memberships.


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The God Card

God is a wild card. He trumps all other cards. He can change the direction of the passing of turns among players. He can change any rule in the game. There is nothing God can’t do. He is not bound by any rules or any laws, neither laws of physics nor laws of logic. I would not willingly play in a game which allowed God cards. Would you?

We are the remaining cards in the deck. We are subject to all the rules in the game. We can do some things but there are many things we can’t do. We can break the laws of logic, left and right, but we cannot break any laws of physics.

There is no proof that God exists, no matter how much we’d like it to be true. Neither is there any proof that God doesn’t exist. The God theory is neither verifiable nor falsifiable.

Logic and mathematics are formal systems of thought and description. Physics and the scientific method are pragmatic systems of description and experimentation. Logic, mathematics, physics, and the scientific method are rational systems of thought; however, it should be noted and remembered that logic and mathematics are built on unproven and possibly unprovable assumptions and foundations called “axioms”. The correctness of those axioms can only be verified by the correctness and consistency of the theorems and assertions derived from them.

The belief in a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, who created the universe, who is just, who cares about each and everyone of us (or just the ones who believe in Him), who moves in mysterious ways, who is indescribable and unknowable, is an irrational system of thought.

When we love someone or something, we find it difficult (if not impossible) to quantify or set his/her/its value or to rationally compare that value to some other value. If we were asked to assign a numeric value to our love, we’d probably reply that it was infinite. “Infinite” literally means “uncountable”. We trust those we love not to harm us, not to do anything we wouldn’t do. Neither love nor trust are rational behaviors. FBI statistics in 2011 indicated almost 25% of murders were committed by family members and over 54% of murders were committed by someone the victim knew (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded/expanded-homicide-data).

Should we frisk our family members, boyfriends, and girlfriends at the door or have our food analyzed for poisons before eating? Probably not. I wouldn’t be willing to live in a world without love. Would you?

Trust, however, is a borderline issue. If I love you, I trust you. Everyone else has to earn my trust, just as I would imagine that I have to earn everyone else’s trust. Still, trust should be treated as a vulnerability, a willing blind-spot in our risk management and situational awareness strategies.

Courage is irrational, as are other forms of self-sacrifice. What kind of world would we live in today if no one acted courageously? What kind of world will we live in tomorrow if no one is courageous?

Artistic creativity is irrational. So is our response to it.

True generosity and charity are irrational.

Humans are capable of both rational and irrational thoughts and behaviors. Over countless generations both behaviors have been finely honed to maximize our chances of survival. There may be individual instances, however, in which we act irrationally when we should have acted rationally and, of course vice-versa.

Mike Stone

September 9, 2021

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The Illusion of Consciousness

What follows is a conjecture, my conjecture, not someone else’s peer-reviewed fact-checked observation or theory, although some other person may very well have come up with some or all of the ideas I am presenting.

Consciousness itself is not an illusion. Consciousness exists. It is a phenomenon. But what is this phenomenon? It is not a presentation of reality, but a presentation of an illusion of reality. The illusion seems correlated to the limited segments of reality we can perceive.

We seem to be able to “see through” the illusion if we think about it rationally, but we are unequipped to perceive the actual reality on the other side of our consciousness.

I am not just talking about the physical limitations of our senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste, although they are the root cause of our limitations. We build instruments of measurement that extend our perceptions, but they will probably never be good enough to present to us raw reality such as it really is.

We walk on the ground, thinking it is solid unless there is an earthquake, but neither the ground nor we are solid. The particles that make up the ground and our bodies are separated from each other like the stars and planets in the night sky but at much smaller scales.

The sea or lake in which we swim is also an illusion. The particles making up the water are separated from each other.

On the other hand, it could very well be that those elementary particles are not solid, but probability waves or energetic perturbations in a field extending throughout the universe or virtual particles and anti-particles popping into and out of existence in the vacuum of space.

You look at a red apple. You give it to your girlfriend, Eve. She sees it’s red too. At least she says so. But there is no such thing as red or any other color. We see certain colors because that’s how the rods in our eyes respond to certain electromagnetic radiation wavelengths in the light reflected off the things we look at. We can’t see infrared or ultraviolet, but we have built instruments that can “see” IR or UV and present it to us as some color we can see.

We go to concerts to listen to music, which is made up of tones, beats, and rests. But there are no such things as tones, beats, or rests. We hear tones and beats because that is how the tympanic membrane and the cilia in our inner ear respond to vibrations in the air, water, or solid. The rests are just the absence of auditory sensations for a certain duration of time.

You taste a juicy steak or smell something lemony. You touch another person, flesh to flesh. I have no intention of deflating these experiences for you, but you get the idea. You can see through the illusion, but we have no desire to do so.

What about space and time, or spacetime? Are there discrete chunks of it or is it continuous? Scientists currently believe the smallest thing that can be measured is a Planck Length, which is equal to the diameter of a proton divided by 10 followed by 20 zeroes. The smallest moment that can be measured is a Planck Time, which is the length of time it takes to travel a Planck Length at the speed of light. According to quantum theory, anything smaller would be impossible to measure and meaningless.

For what it’s worth, I’d put my dollar on space and time being infinitely divisible or, in other words, continuous. My reasoning is that if you posit that spacetime or space and time are discrete and chunky, then there must be something beneath spacetime, to which space and time are “pinned”. Call it whatever you want. Call it reality, unless of course, reality is pinned to some other underlying medium.

We could regress like this ad infinitum and all that we know of reality through our consciousness is an elaborate illusion.

Mike Stone

June 23, 2021


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In the Valley of Elah & More — Mike Stone

Posted on  by The BeZine Editors

Variants - Digital Work - Miroslava Panayotova
Variants – Digital Work – Miroslava Panayotova

The Irony of Plowshares

In the Middle East
If you want to prepare for peace
You must first prepare for war
Because peace must be waged
With the same seriousness of intent as war
And there are as many obstacles and pitfalls
On the path to peace as there are along the path to war.
A weak man cannot forge peace because
His weakness tempts his enemies to attack
And weak are the sabre rattlers
Hoping to frighten their enemies
With simulations of disproportionate force.
Their fears and uncertainties blind them
To the path of peace.
Only a strong man is confident and sees clearly.
He walks calmly along the path
Narrow as the razor's edge.
The path to peace meanders through Gaza
Where we've been eyeless and
Our plow shares will be made out of swords,
Neither flowers
Nor gentle breezes.

		September 28, 2016

Ode to the Common Man

This is not a tale that Homer’d tell of
Achilles, hero of the Achaean army,
Paris, jack of hearts and Troy’s downfall,
Or Odysseus, errant lord of Ithaca,
No, this is an ode to common men
On whose backs history marches
But of whom little or nothing is recorded,
Who follow heroes to untimely deaths,
Who mimic their brave gestures and rousing phrases
Until a roar rises up from countless throats
To cow those who would think more rationally,
Common men who stand against uncommon men,
Common men who march stridently in endless waves
Toward the future facing backward,
Common men who’d be their heroes
If only they were common too.

			December 30, 2019

In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah, not far from Gat
A young Philistine puts a smooth stone
In the pouch of his sling with one hand, 
Pulls the leather thongs taut with his other hand,
And swings the stone over his head,
Releasing its lethal trajectory
At a squad of helmeted shielded soldiers
Patrolling the rocky hills.
It is always the same play –
Sometimes we are David and
Sometimes we are Goliath.

			February 12, 2021

©2021 Mike Stone
All rights reserved

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It’s out!

Poetry! Read it. Write it. There’s nothing quite like it. Although it’s not provable in a court of law and it won’t get us to Mars and back on a single tank of gas, poetry has an unfair advantage over every other form of writing when it’s good. When it is inspired, it leaps high in the sky over every obstacle.

Inspiration is what we demand from the poetry we read, neither rhyme nor meter will suffice. Inspiration cannot be cranked out or forced. Like the ancient Greek Muses of the arts and sciences, she will come when she comes, if she comes at all. All a poet can do is to make himself (or herself) worthy of the Muse, and perhaps she will find him (or her).

My seventh book of poetry, “What’s a Nice Muse like You Doing in a Place like This?” is hot off the Amazonian presses today. It’s available in paperback for the more physically inclined readers. For the more spiritually inclined, it’s also available in Kindle (digital download) format.

Mike Stone

June 13, 2021

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We Are Still Ok

We are still ok. Last night was quiet for our sons’ families and us, but Gazan rockets still bombarded our southern towns and villages and continue to do so as of this writing.

You hear many voices, many narratives. Many of them are shouted or chanted, many images and many languages. How do you know which ones to believe? I tend to believe the one with the least hatred, the one least certain of itself, the one spoken with tears, but maybe that’s just me.

The reason there are no negotiations or, if there are, they don’t get anywhere, is that both sides stop the negotiation process after stating their maximum demands. Negotiation requires an iterative give and take process. A few days ago, someone pointed out that the Bible requires us not to surround the enemy on all sides or force him into a corner, but to leave the enemy a means of escape. That concerns waging a war as morally as possible. But how do we wage peace morally? I believe that there are parallels between the way we wage war and the way peace should be waged.

Unfortunately, the current set of politicians on both sides are not nearly as professional as the military commanders on both sides and whatever advantages are gained on the battlefield by military actions are likely to be wasted by the blather and posturing of politicians.


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This Round

I’m sad to have to admit that the hotheads won this round. It seemed as though we were on the cusp of change for the better, change that would have benefitted all our citizens, and would have strengthened our frail democracy and institutions of justice.

In order for the voices of reason and fairness to stand together there must be sufficient trust among those voices. We came close to trusting each other, to imagining how we could work together on common goals and objectives, some of us anyway. Maybe it was never meant to be, although I still believe that someday it will happen. It’s inevitable if we survive that long.

We need each other. The good that Israel has done for the rest of the world can also benefit all of our citizens and our neighboring countries too. And Israel needs its Israeli-Arab citizens too. Close to half of our doctors and nurses are Israeli-Arab. Bedouin and Druze serve in combat roles in our army. They are among our best and most loyal soldiers. I won’t even mention the restaurants, owners, cooks, waiters, and kitchen staff and all the other businesses and workers we depend on. A few nights ago, Amnon Abramowitz, a respected news analyst, said that Israel wouldn’t last a week if all the Israeli-Arabs were to go on strike.

Our country cannot afford to have second-class citizens. It can only afford to have one class.

As for the asymmetry between Israel and Gaza, that’s absolutely true. Thank God, America, and our ingenuity for that asymmetry. The reason we need it (and it still may not be enough to protect us) is not because of Gaza, but because we are surrounded, and way outnumbered by nations who would like nothing better than to wipe our little fly-speck of a country off the face of the earth.

So, with all this asymmetry between Gaza and us, it doesn’t make any sense to me either why they would spend all their money (and they get a lot from sympathetic Arab countries) on making and purchasing missiles and building tunnels under our border fences instead of building hospitals, schools, and hotels and making it a safe and desirable place for tourism and investment. They are not stupid. A Jordanian captain I met in Columbus Ohio years ago said the Palestinians are considered to be the Jews of the Arab world. He meant that they were known to be much smarter and successful than the average non-Palestinian Arabs. So why do they initiate battles with us? What do they expect us to do? Turn the other cheek? Pack our bags and get out of Dodge?

We are very clever in the ways of war, but we aren’t very wise in the ways of peace, and that’s unfortunate because peace requires a lot of wisdom.

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We are ok (so far)

A missile from Gaza

We are ok, so far today – and yet we are not ok. Our country is going to hell, jumping off a tall building without a parachute, or whatever other metaphor you can think of.

As of this writing, Gaza has fired over 850 missiles and shells at Southern and Central Israel since yesterday, killing several people and injuring others, destroying an oil storage tank, damaging some buildings, cars, and an empty bus. Israel’s air force has responded by killing many more Gazans, Hamas terrorists, adults and children. In Israeli cities where Jews and Muslims live together, Jerusalem, Lod, Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, and elsewhere, Muslim youth are shooting and throwing rocks at Israeli cars, pulling drivers out, burning the cars, and trying to lynch the drivers caught by the mobs. They have set three synagogues on fire. Israeli police appear to be overwhelmed and unable to restore order. Jewish citizens are organizing self-defense groups with the potential of taking the law into their own hands. This is not just another intifada. Lines have been crossed on both sides.

In my appraisal I may have unintentionally left out important events and rationalizations from the opposing narratives; however, my message to my Jewish and Muslim fellow citizens and geopolitical partners is this: we are in a No-Win situation. There are and will be only losers on both sides of the divide. The hotheads among us may dream of getting rid of the other side but they can only bring disaster upon all our heads. The hotheads on both sides may be a minority among us but they are a frightening minority and growing increasingly more frightening and radicalized as time goes by.

Although the dreams of the hotheads on each side have no common ground on which to negotiate a way out of this situation, the dreams of the rest of us on both sides, the majority of people on each side, the silent and quiet ones who desire fairness and justice for all citizens, have much in common with each other. We need each other to establish, guard, and maintain a fair and just government for all citizens. We are already on the cusp of establishing such a government with your help.

Neither of us can do it without the other.


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