immortality and the multi-verse

Hello kiddies – it’s madness time!

Don’t worry – these are just idle thoughts. I’m not going over the hill into the twilight zone.

The science madness

A number of ideas in recent (last 100 years) physics revolve around the idea that there are multiple universes, or that the same universe keeps splitting into separate universes every time a quantum decision must be made.

As far as I know, these ideas are not testable, but a lot of physicists think that a multi-verse is the simplest solution to a lot of questions, and as Occam’s Razor says, the simplest solution is usually the right one.

The idea that’s bandied about most often is that the universe splits every time a choice is made, so that both choices actually happen – one in one universe, and the other in another universe.

This has the effect that every possible configuration of the universe’s contents exists at some point. In other words, “in an infinite universe, anything is possible“.

What this means, is that at any point in your life where you had to make a decision – get on the plane, talk to the girl, take the job – a version of you exists for every possible decision.

Personally, I don’t believe that the universe splits at each decision – it seems a bit silly. But, I do believe that in infinite time and space, if the “big bang” can happen once, it can happen again, and each time, it just has to be the tiniest bit different, so in effect, there is a universe somewhere for every single moment of this one’s existence, which differs in just one respect. A consequence of this is that even if the universe doesn’t physically divide at each decision, a universe exists for each decision anyway, so it’s as if it happened anyway.

What is you?

In a lot of those universes, a version of you exists. For all purposes, it is you. It has your memories, is built of exactly the same molecules, and lives in a world exactly like yours.

You can ignore all of the universes that don’t have a you in them (and there are an infinite number of those!), because if you paraphrase the anthropic principle, you realise that they really don’t matter – the only universes you could ever experience are those that you exist in (history is written by the victors. In other words, your present you is only possible because all of the failed “you”s are dead and therefore can be written out of history).

In each of these universes, you had a load of different experiences – you lived, died, were rich, poor, etc., which is interesting to think about intellectually (Remember all those times that you wish you’d done something different? Well, you did in at least one other universe.), but not very useful to dwell on, because that’s them, and you’re more interested in you.


I’m writing this post because I’ve survived some interesting things in the past – self-harming during my late teens, standing on the edge of a 5-storey building pissing off the edge while totally drunk, all the narrow misses while skateboarding, getting beaten to a pulp a number of times, breaking my skull when I was 2.

Every one of those events had an alternative where things went the other way. But I’m here right now, which means that in this universe, I’ve survived.

The fact that you’re reading this is very interesting. You have survived all of the events of your past, and have gotten to this point.

What is “you”? The grammar-nazi in me complains about that sentence, but I mean it that way.

“You” is the sum of experiences that makes up your identity – your “soul”.

Here’s an interesting question: when you go to sleep at night, and you don’t dream, there are a few hours during which you are essentially dead to the world. What if you were transported at this point to another universe during those hours which was exactly the same – when you woke up, it would be as if you simply continued living from the previous day in the previous universe and you would be none-the-wiser.

The multi-verse idea says that this happens all the time, that every moment that you experience could very possibly be in a totally different universe that has been rebuilt from scratch.

Quantum immortality

Now we get to the freaky shit.

What if an accident were to happen right now – a meteorite drops through your ceiling, or a microwave explodes, or your partner slips in the middle of knitting and impales you.

In some universes, you would die, and in some, the event would be narrowly missed (and in some, not occur at all).

The important thing to note is that the only “you” that would experience the event is the “you” that survived. You may be damaged by the event, but you would survive and live another day (otherwise, you would not, and that universe can be ignored).

Please dwell on that thought – the only possible you that is reading this article is a you that has survived all previous experiences, but as a consequence of this crazy logic, you will also survive all future events as well.

Let’s look at the logic again:

  • There are an infinite number of universes.
  • There are an infinite number of universes that have “you”s living in them.
  • Every time there is the slightest chance that you would survive an event, there are an infinite number of universes in which you do survive that event.

A very weird consequence of this is that you, the you that is reading this, will never die. Every time an event happens that might lead to your death – a choice you made, a decision someone else made, a natural accident – there are infinite universes in which that event does not happen, and so “you” survive.

No-one else, though

Unfortunately, because of the probabilistic nature of physics, everyone else will die in time. Yes, there are an infinite number of universes in which your loved ones will survive with you, which there are many “bigger” infinities in which they die, and those win out.

This is another mind-bender, because it makes everything very subjective.

From my point of view, I am immortal, and you will eventually die, but that’s because my own experience leads me through a different set of infinities where I am the immortal one.

Every other person that exists has their own set of infinities as well that leads them to immortality.


Well – that’s my moment of madness concluded for today.

In short – shit will happen, but you’ll get over it, a million million times over the next load of centuries.


List of things off the top of my head that I want to do:

  • write a book. already had a non-fiction book published, but I’d love to have an interesting an compelling original fiction idea to write about. I’m working on a second non-fiction book at the moment.
  • master a martial art. I have a green belt in Bujinkan Taijutsu (ninja stuff, to the layman), but that’s from ten years ago – found a Genbukan teacher only a few days ago so I’ll be starting that up soon (again, ninja stuff).
  • learn maths. A lot of the stuff I do involves guessing numbers or measuring. it’d be nice to be able to come up with formulas to generate optimal solutions.
  • learn electronics. what /is/ electricity? what’s the difference between voltage and amperage? who knows… I’d like to.
  • create a robot gardener. not just a remote-control lawn-mower. one that knows what to cut, what to destroy, that can prune bushes, till the earth, basically everything that a real gardener does.
  • rejuvenate, or download to a computer, whichever is possible first. science fiction, eh? you wait and see…
  • create an instrument. I’m just finishing off a clavichord at the moment. when that’s done, I think I’ll build another one, based on all the things I learned from the first. followed by a spinet, a harpsichord, a dulcimer, and who knows what else.
  • learn to play an instrument. I’m going for grades 2 and 3 in September for piano. I can play guitar pretty well, but would love to find a classical teacher.
  • write a computer game. I have an idea, based on Dungeon Keeper, for a massively multiplayer game. maybe I’ll do it through facebook…
  • write programs to:
    • take a photo of a sudoku puzzle and solve it. already wrote the solver.
    • take a photo of some sheet music and play it.
    • show some sheet music on screen, compare to what you’re playing on a MIDI keyboard, and mark your effort.
    • input all the songs you can play on guitar/keyboard. based on the lists of thousands of people, rate all these songs by difficulty, to let you know what you should be able to learn next.
    • input a job and your location. have other people near you auction themselves to do the job for you. or vice versa: input your location, and find all jobs within walking distance to you where you can do an odd job for some extra cash (nearly there:
    • takes a photo and recognises objects in it (partly done)
    • based on above, but can also be corrected and will learn from the corrections (also partly done)
  • stop being damned depressed all the time.

There’s probably a load of other stuff, but that’s all I’ve got at the moment!

what’s up!

Short run-down of what I’m doing lately: nothing.

Less short: I’m trying to get work out the door, get a good run at some personal projects, pass grade 2 piano, get organised, and generally improve my lot.

None of this is working. I think the “get organised” bit is the most important, as it will help the rest of it fall into place.

I usually only post about web-development-related topics here, as that’s the only subject where I feel I can contribute something new and interesting, so I tend to not talk about other stuff. But sometimes, rattling off the current state of the head is good for clearing it.

In work, I can’t really complain – we have a number of largish projects which are slowly creeping towards completion. The hardest thing about them is getting information from the clients, and then a week or two later being told that half the information is not required. I guess my main complaint at work is the inexorably slow completion rate.

On the personal projects side:

There are still a number of small bugs in KFM 1.4, and either I don’t have the time to get to them, or there is no enough information to recreate the bug and the submitter doesn’t give me access to their copy so I can’t see it from their side.

KFM 2 has been halted for a while – the idea is huge, but I simply don’t have the time, and no-one is clambering for it. I’ll get to it when I have time, but I might have to approach it by evolving KFM 1.x into meeting what I wanted, instead of the original goal of building KFM 2 from scratch.

I started a new project, OddJobs4Locals two weeks back, and got a good two-day run at it, then time got ahead of me again. I think this will be a good one, when I can complete it. Useful for students, people with a little spare time, or simply people that just want to make a little extra cash. Not yet working, but it will be soon, I hope… This is doubly interesting to me, as it is done purely through AJAX, so it will be easy to do a smart-phone client or a desktop client when the time comes.

I’m in the back/forth stage of working with Packt publishing to see if they want me to do a second book (the first one has no bad reviews at all). We’ve mostly agreed on a table of contents, and I’m just trying to get the time to combine a few of the smaller chapters together.

On the piano, I’ve been ready for the grade 2 exam since November, and am still waiting to see if there will be an exam near me any time soon – I hate the effort that goes into travelling (I have a family, and no car). I was hoping to do a grade every 6 months. It looks like this might not be possible, despite me being ready for it… The tunes I’m doing for it are Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major, a waltz by Bela Bartok, and Boys And Girls Come Out To Samba, by Terence Greaves – by the way, I don’t like those videos; there are no dynamics in any of them, and I can hear a number of mistakes as well. No video apparently of the Terence Greaves one.

As for organisation… well I guess I’d better start working with Mantis again.

My lot will have to wait – I’ve a load of work to get done before it can improve.

Meh. Depression taking hold again.


“Jesus is the only son of God, and if you don’t follow him, you will not be getting through the gates into Heaven”.

Anything wrong with that? Yes – it’s blasphemous, to just about every religion on Earth which is not Christian.

And so, Dermot Ahern, in his infinite wisdom, has just made the central tenet of the religion of one third of the entire planet illegal.

Well done, sir. Fucking genius idea, that.

How about this one then – “Jesus is not the son of God”. Now I’m blaspheming against Christianity.

There’s absolutely no way to win against this except to be completely silent and never discuss what you believe with anyone at all. And that means it wasn’t just Christianity that the idiot has made illegal to speak about, but all religions.

By the way, I’m an atheist. I believe in thinking about what is “true”, and in discussing it with people that are interested, and in not pushing my own beliefs on others.

I hear the door knocking – the thought police are here to take me away. Pray for me…


Okay, I succumbed to the temptation and got one.

A number of annoyance have presented themselves already, in just the few hours that I’ve owned it.

First off, when you get the thing, it’s in a fancy box with all the bits and pieces in it. I took all of the bits out, and found a nice rectangular cardboard box which when opened, held the documentation. I took out the documentation and read through it, discarding the box. Couldn’t figure out how to install the SIM card into the machine, as the documentation did not mention it anywhere. After an hour or so of puzzling over it, I finally noticed that the documentation box, which I had discarded, had a weird little diagram on it, which when deciphered, explained how to do it. Way to go Apple – in this case, I did RTFM, but TFM didn’t have the instructions I needed.

Secondly. After going through the jumpy-hoopy thing of filling in a form and waiting 24 hours to be allowed to own the machine (for some reason) and then waiting another hour for the receptionist at the shop to finally get through to O2 to activate the SIM, I was just picking up everything and the guy said “ok, now you just need to activate it through iTunes”. Excuse me?? It’s a fucking phone! I can’t get iTunes running on any of my computers at home anyway because I don’t have anything that runs Windows or Mac! I spent hours trying to get Wine to install iTunes, but finally had to give up and do it on an old WinXP machine in the office the next day.

Then, I wanted an SSH client for the thing. There is a cool store for the iPhone called appStore, and there were a number of SSH clients in there. In order to get one of them, though, you need an account and some cash.

First off, I tried to just create an account. This went okay, up until the point where iTunes asked what my credit card number was. I don’t have a credit card, and don’t want one. After a while, I figured out that the only way to get an account for free (or at least, without giving Apple credit card details), is to apply to download an app which is specified as free – for some reason, in that case, Apple adds a “none” option to the list of payment methods.

So I had an account, but still couldn’t pay for anything. Apple claim that they accept PayPal, and even supply instructions on how to do it. Unfortunately, it falls down immediately, because step two says to click Edit Credit Card or Add Credit Card in your iTunes account page, but those links don’t exist! Maybe they exist if there is already a credit card attached to the account, but that defeats the entire purpose!

But it’s a nice phone, really.

friday and drink

Just a quick reminder to those of you that like a nice relaxing drink on Fridays – this Friday, the Irish government will be making alcohol illegal to sell, by order of the roman catholic church.

And all because some dude died a few thousand years ago.

Get your drink tomorrow.

Fucking stupid law. I mean, not only can’t you drink, but it’s also a holiday, so what are you supposed to do with yourself on that day???

I’ll be heading into the office to relax for a bit, that’s what.

aw man…. 7 things

I thought I’d escaped this one. Everyone in the PHP world appears to have been “tagged” by now. Ken passed the buck to me, though, so I guess I’d better play.

Hmm… 7 things that people don’t already know about me? Hard task…

  1. I used to be into piercings, and if the piercing was common, then I wasn’t into it. Mostly, I was into surface piercings, and had a number of them down my sides and arms. I had planned on building a platform for a watch which would then be “embedded” in the arm, but never got around to it.
  2. I used to do “side-show” tricks, and have performed them on stage. This includes tricks such as “skewer through face” (horizontal – never got around to learning vertical), “human blockhead”, “face in glass”, eating glass, fire-eating, fire-blowing, and other weird stuff. Each of these is surprisingly safe when you know the trick.
  3. My first computer was a Commodore Vic 20 which I got when I was possibly 7 or 8. The highlight of that machine was writing (in BASIC) an animation of a bird which flew across the screen and “pooped” on a tank. I didn’t really consider that as “programming”, though – just playing. That machine was followed a year or two later with a Spectrum 48k+, which is where I really started – with 3d wire-frame graphics and text adventures. My first “real” computer was an Amstrad PPC640, where I learned QBASIC. My first CGI experience was writing applications (forums, etc) in C. That was followed by Perl, and finally I started writing php in about 1999 or so. Now I’m secretary of the Irish PHP User’s Group. Yay me! Oh, and Go Linux! I’ve been using Linux as my main OS since the 20th century as well.
  4. I can play a number of instruments. I played violin (rather, fiddle) for my school in a number of Feis Ceoil events and still have an electric violin that I pick up every now and then. I played Bagpipes in two separate pipe bands in Dublin – anecdote: in school, a music teacher was evaluating our playing of the tin whistle, and when he came to me, he saw immediately from the way I was holding it that I had training in a “pipe” instrument (uillean pipes and bag pipes are fingered similarly). I’ve played guitar in a few bands and like to get on stage at the Monaghan Blues Jam whenever I can (last compliment I got at one of them was “I like your playing – it’s /clean/ – very 70s”). I am looking for a classical guitar teacher at the moment. I also play keyboards, and have written music before (example).
  5. I’ve been vegetarian for more than half my life. This is not because of any hippy feelings towards animals. The two main reasons are 1) it’s disgusting to put dead animals in your mouth, and 2) it’s illogical, inefficient and cruel to kill animals for your food when you really don’t need to. I have no problem with people eating meat as long as they have no problems with me (and my family) not eating meat.
  6. I believe that the universe doesn’t really exist, but is a sort of shared illusion (look, it’s complex, ok!). Basically, it works like this – if the equation 2x-2x=0 is true, then you might consider that ‘x’ is a “real” object even though the sum of the equation is ‘0’ (ie; from nothing, comes something). This maps onto reality if you swap ‘x’ with ‘particle’, and ‘-x’ with ‘anti-particle’. I am always coming across situations where physicists discover this is true. Hawking radiation, for example, is an example of energy/matter spontaneously bursting into existence,, and is an exact analogy because you end up with ‘x’ (the radiation coming out of the black hole) and ‘-x’ (the radiation going into the black hole). Oh, and if you’re thinking it’s mad to think that ‘x’ could be real… in a computer game, all characters are “real” to each other, but not to an outsider looking in. In our case, we are those characters, and in an equation, each element is one of those characters. In the context of the equation/universe, all parts are real relative to all other parts, even if from the outside, they’re not.
  7. I used to do contact juggling. In fact, I founded the biggest contact juggling website. My son, Jareth, is named after David Bowie’s character from The Labyrinth where the goblin king (with the help of Michael Moschen) does some contact juggling (called “crystal ball manipulation” in the credits). I even wrote a book on the subject.
  8. Everyone in the world appears to have been tagged for this already, so I won’t bother tagging anyone.
    edit: suppose I’d better…

    1. Conor Mac Aoidh – local chap. Bright and enthusiastic. I feel that he’ll be producing sterling work soon and will be a credit to the Irish PHP community.
    2. St̩phane Lambert Рtireless compiler of PHP Whitebook trivia, and host of a damned good neo-classical metal radio show.

    I can’t think of any other PHP developers that I know that haven’t already been tagged. Really! Now go away and read something else!


    • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
    • Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird.
    • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
    • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter

monty hall – how it works

I was lying in bed last night, wondering how the Monty Hall trick works, and finally figured it out by twisting around my perception of the problem.

What is the Monty Hall problem? Consider three doors. Behind one is a car, and behind two others are goats. You are asked to choose one door – if it’s the one with the car, you win. otherwise, you lose.

you choose one car. Then Monty (the gameshow host) opens one of the other doors to show a goat behind it. You are given the chance to change your choice of door to the other closed one – should you?

The answer is Yes. the /intuitive/ answer is that there is a 50% chance either way, but mathematically, there is actually a 66% chance.

Took me a good few minutes to figure out how to verify it. I kept thinking of it as “there is a 33% chance of me picking the right one. door opens. I now have… 50%?”. Couldn’t seem to make the leap for some reason.

That was a result of wrong perception – you need to think of it from the point of view of what is /not/ the right door.

  1. choose one door. the chance of the car being behind one of the other doors is 66%.
  2. one of the other doors opens. the chance is still 66%!.
  3. You now have two closed doors. the door you /did not originally choose/ has a higher chance than the one you did choose, so you should switch.

thought about “lopsided universe” idea

Sorry if this post is totally bonkers – I’m a layman but like to think about this stuff.

Got an email newsletter from Galaxy Zoo today. In it was a link to a recent Telegraph article pointing out the apparent lopsidedness of the universe. In short, most galaxies that we see in the universe appear to be rotating in the same direction, where the direction should be random.

I had a thought about this, and it occurred to me that this could be explained if there was some sort of “coriolis force” acting on space itself.

How can this be? Surely space is just space? Well, not according to quantum loop gravity, which describes space as a load of interlinked nodes. Where you think there is nothing, there is actually a load of interlinked points.

The “coriolis force” is hard to explain. A short explanation might be this: on a planet that is spinning, if you have a solid object which is sitting still (relative to the planet surface) on any latitude of the planet other than 0 or at the axis, then one side of the object is actually moving through space faster than the other because of the slight difference in radius of the sides’ paths through space as the planet rotates. Yeah – headrush.

Anyway – what it means is that objects sitting on the “north” hemisphere tend to turn clockwise instinctively, and vice versa.

So, what does this have to do with galaxies?

Well, if most galaxies are rotating in a specific direction, then that could indicate a coriolis effect happening on space itself. This could happen if the universe itself was rotating.

A further implication is that if you map the rotation of all galaxies and analyse them carefully, you may find that you can actually pinpoint the centre of that rotating universe. This is something that traditionally has been thought of as impossible, because the universe might not have a “centre” at all.

Anyway, please comment if you think this is stupid, but give a reason why it is.

today’s ANN goals

I’ve been doing well over the last two weeks – I started with an ANN which can balance a pole, and upped that by then creating a net which could recognise letters.

The plan for today is a bit more ambitious. I’m writing it down here in case it takes longer than a day to write it. In general, I want to write a PHP application which will allow you to upload images, which the ANN will then try to recognise. If it gets it right, all well and good. If it gets it wrong, you can correct it.

Some milestones for the project:

  • readers can upload images and have them tested and/or added to the training sequence
  • extraction of image pixels using <canvas>
  • automatic creation of new neurons as they are required
  • best net is stored on server, so new readers always start with a working net

I think this may grow into a damned cool thing – I’m already thinking of other cool features like distributed nets, or background nets which can be placed in other pages of a site so the thing can continue training even though the user is not actively viewing the thing (that might be a bit cheeky though).

Anyway – now that I’ve written what I intend to do, I suppose I’d better actually do it.