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Tag Archives: Letter to Peter Balling

Reverse Causation, Changes from the Future

Why the CERN accelerator won’t work

I’m unsure just why this made the New York Times just now (the original article is almost 2 years old, but perhaps the idea is picking up steam/heat), but Complete Lies brought this to my attention. It is the sci-fi idea that the CERN particle accelerator that has been plagued by curious difficulties, as well as other pursuits to produce the Higgs particles, are being interfered with from the Future, supposedly to ward off a potentially universal catastrophe that would be triggered by a successful uncloaking of Higgs particles.

New York Times article “The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate”, a bloggist ridiculing the original thought “Respectable physicists gone crackpotty” and the original article “Search for Effect of Influence from Future in Large Hadron Collider”.

What is now getting attention seems to be the idea that CERN should avoid future unexpected costs and delays through an experiment involving a very large deck of cards. Only a very small percentage of cards would tell CERN to affect the operations of the huge device, and only one to be marked “close the LCH”. From the original article:

The experiment proposed in the present article is to give “foresight”, a chance of avoiding forced closure of LHC due to lack of funding or other form of bad luck, as happened to SSC.

We imagine a big stack of cards on which are written various restrictions concerning the operation of LHC, for example “allow the production of only 10 Higgs particles”. On most of the cards there should just be written “use LHC freely” so that they cause no restrictions. However, on a very small fraction of cards, there should be restrictions on luminosity or beam energy or some combination of them. One card may even have “close (shut down) LHC”. The crucial idea of this proposal is that if our model were true, then the most likely development sol with the P(sol) ≃ e−2SI (sol) factor included would be a development involving one of the cards which strongly restricts on the Higgs particle production at LHC.

The image is brilliant, a huge multi-billion dollar effort forestalled, yet again, but this time with everyone gathered around an enormous deck of cards, waiting to see if the future would reach back and influence the picking of a card in a kind of “anti-miracle”. One commenter on the blog cited suggested that the card need only read “close the LCH for 24 hours” with the proviso that another card is picked ever 24 hours thereafter. There is something just suitable about this image of science trying to avoid destroying the entire universe, or some other bit of “bad luck”, through such seemingly unscientific means.

Backwards Prone Causation

But I would like to consider some of the concepts involved here, apart from the science or even the science fiction. The ridiculing blog spent even more time criticizing the grammar of the article (which I do not believe was published), than its ideas, clearly with the sense that something more normative than even the direction of causation was at stake.

The general sense of repressed ideas, thoughts, desires, is that something occurrant now, if it was allowed to take effect would have disastrous consequences on the whole of coherence. Freud was of course big on this, and much of the critique of a philosophy of Presence comes out of the notion that the present coherence comes out of repressing something that lies in the margins. And, as we are told, the “repressed” always returns.

But what if we were allowed to think fantastically, that it is not an active, present day stranglehold that coherence exerts upon the margin (tarrying with its own genetic history), but that, in fine Philip K. Dick fashion, something from the future can exert itself back upon the past (our present), such as to avoid catastrophe. Now, surely the psychosis of such a regular interpretation of events is not to be recommended – the theory of the Higgs particle backwards causation is one in which boundary conditions themselves might be effected (if I understand the thinking here), and no average event can figure backwardsly – but the logic of the fantasy engages me.

At the psychological or even ideological level of our organizations of ourselves are there deck of card tests that we perform which are meant to allow the trace of a future, backwards activation (whether they be true tests or not)? Are there not small ways in which our future selves (if only in real fantasy projections) act backwards upon our current states? Spinoza theorized, or at least strongly mused, that events of the future can reach us if we share an essence with those conditions (as wild as that sounds for such a sobering philosopher). If we can think in terms of a “field” of organic relations that organize the meaning of events (not the universe, but here, socially, locally), and that this field is grounded in real participatory closure wherein actions at different times in the sequence actually work to bolster each other, recursively, could it not be that a real (possible) event late in the sequence if it thoroughly enough casts a shadow over the whole field can echo back and determine present conditions, if it is of a nature profound enough to effect the very fabric of our interactions? This is not to say that this is what is happening, but rather to imagine out the possibilities of this retaining some theoretical coherence.

The advantage to the thought is that the war over change is not just occurring presently, as if there were some vast system of effects that is ever pressing against a tide of eruptive multiplicities, but it is occurring retroactively, the way that we overcode our pasts, sewing them back up to the present (and future). This is not to evoke final causes, which are specific ends, but rather to suggest that the coherence of the field our behaviors and interactions with the world may be so anchored unto a ballasted field of being that the very fabric holds together aspects of our present moment due to the atemporal nature of world continuity, a kind of effect sub specie aeternitatis.  When we say to ourselves intuitionally, “We better not do that or we risk disaster” how does this differ logically from an effect from the future, or from the very domain of our possilities? Can deep, structural catastrophe tend to echo backwards and avoid itself? Or is it worth thinking/imagining how it can? Is there something to social organization that promotes this kind of thinking or effect?

I would like to think more on this, as absurd as it rings, but that would likely take a novel. No doubt a science fiction novel of a kind. Perhaps.