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Kary Mullis

and unexpected property of things, on a scale of seconds, with which we are personally familiar, and he is doing it in a technically convincing way. I don’t know what it means, that’s why it’s intriguing.

On a related but very different note, in one of the chapters of my book, I was talking about whether a computer could be ahead of you by looking at your brain activity. Before you would know you were going to do something, it would know. I feel like that’s probably possible, but it doesn’t suggest any radical new concept.

What Radin is getting at is something more curious. If you think about yourself as something going through time, how thick are you? You’ve got to have a certain finite ‘thickness’ in time, or you wouldn’t exist. So you might be a fraction of a second, or a second wide, or five, sliding through time.

David: And your ‘thickness’ may change, depending on your neurochemistry at the time. (laughter)

Kary: Yes.

David: Perhaps our conscious experience of ‘now’ has a thinner ‘thickness’ than other unconscious aspects of our brains? I’ve wondered if this possibility might be an explanation for what people have described as precognition. What do you think?

Kary: It might be that certain parts of you are weeks, months or years wide. Or maybe some part of you is “now” all the time–from your birth (or maybe even before birth) to your death. Some part of you is in the future at any moment, and some part of you is in the past, because you couldn’t possibly be just in this infinitesimally thin thing we call “now”– because there wouldn’t be room for you in there. (laughter

That’s using a lot of concepts that come out of physics and maybe don’t belong in that context, but I’ve always thought that a little bit of me has got to be in the future.

David: Or part of your brain can be processing information about an aspect of “now” that you’re not quite conscious of.

Kary: Not yet conscious of, or maybe you won’t ever be. Maybe it sticks out in lots of directions. (laughter) I mean, there’s no need for this place to be just three-dimensional space and time. We have a subjective sense of physics that is consistent with three-dimensional Euclidian geometry. Euclid probably did too. But, a lot of modern physics says that this place has more dimensions than that. String theory says that it is all made of strings, vibrating in eleven dimensions. We are made out of things that are eleven dimensional.

David: At least.

Kary: This physics claims that eight of those dimensions have shrunk to such proportions that we can’t perceive them in our normal life. They’re just not wide enough to see. But we can infer them from the properties of tiny particles that we can see with enormous machines that we can build at great expense. And we can only understand the properties of all the particles we know about, from those machines, if the strings that compose them exist in eleven dimensions. That is to say, if these things which we are postulating to explain the things that we can see with machines are really things–meaning, they have a finite spot where they are sometimes, and they have a certain energy associated with them–then they have properties that can only exist in an eleven-dimensional space. This concept would be helpful if you could imagine an eleven dimensional space, which I can’t. I’m still having trouble with five.

In my book I try to express this. I don’t like to preach to people and tell them what I think they should be, but a lot of people need to be waked up to the fact that they follow like sheep. They think that the world has gotten too complex and that they can’t decide for themselves about complicated issues.

Let’s look at global warming. If those guys with the satellite sensors and the banks of computers running global circulation simulation programs call a press conference to say, “If you don’t stop burning fossil fuels the earth is going to get hotter and hotter until you’re dead,” most people will believe them. They don’t think about the fact that with every scientific utterance that you hear or read, somebody’s making a living.

Scientists get paid for making statements like that, and the more impact that their statements seem to make on our life, the more we’re willing to support that sort of research. I make a case in my book for the fact that we’re supporting a lot of research for very foolish things. We’re still living on the frontier. We should be worrying about practical things.

David: Like the asteroids that may come crashing down on us.

Kary: Yes, like the asteroids. We’re spending three million dollars a year on that. We’ve spent three billion dollars on trying to figure out some way to experimentally confirm the existence of something called the Higgs particle. Nobody on this whole block cares about it, and nobody’s going to care about it, unless they happen to be in the group that discovers it.

We’re putting money into things that often don’t matter. If we believe there is a hole in the ozone, and the “experts” say we must replace the former refrigerants with new ones, patentable to a company like Monsanto, there is more profit to be made. The freon patents have run out. We will spend trillions on replacing it with something, equally likely to be bad for us in some way, and creating a black market for freon. 

It’s a ridiculous waste of the world’s resources to be doing things like that, because there’s no evidence for a hole in the ozone. Some labs were probably about to go out of business and needed a reason to exist and be funded.

If you really care about the planet, you don’t have to always be torn by the latest fad, or the latest substitute for Catholicism–which I think environmentalism is in a way.

David: In other words, question authority and think for yourself.

Kary: And ignore alien orders. (laughter) Yes, absolutely question authority, because there isn’t any real authority. It’s a democratic place in a way. The whole concept of evolution says that we all have the same sort of beginnings. We don’t come from something above, telling us what’s right and what’s wrong. We have to figure it out for ourselves.

We’re here, and we each have a spirit inside of us somehow that can make those decisions–if you keep informed. Don’t read trash all the time. Every now and then read something that attempts to be factual, and try to make sense out it. But don’t accept it as being factual. Just accept the fact that if you look at enough information, for a long enough time, you will start being one of the people in the world that can make decisions about what’s really good for the planet.

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after death?

Kary: I think that consciousness decays to nothing after death. My approach is to ask myself what do I have evidence for? It seems like every living process does end at some point. It’s a fuzzy thing, but as your body dies, I think your consciousness probably dies with it. Now, that’s what I think–but what I would like to believe might be different from that. I’m not absolutely certain that that’s a question that I have enough evidence to answer. In science you’re supposed to have evidence.

It’s all right to have a hypothesis, but you still have to have some evidence. You need to have something, like an indication, to make the hypothesis more than just a wish. Of course, being a scientist doesn’t mean you don’t have wishes. But, from a scientific point of view, I would say consciousness is definitely associated with the body as we know it. There’s no reason to make up stories about things that we don’t know anything about. 

However, when I’m thinking about what’s possible, then anything is possible. I think it would be pretty neat if we didn’t dissolve after our death. It’s not a question that there is an answer for. There’s no reason to think that consciousness continues after death, besides just the fact that we would like it, and that we don’t want to dissolve–but that’s not really a reasonable kind of a scientific premise.

You couldn’t get a National Science Foundation grant to study it properly, because we don’t have any kind of indication that consciousness survives death. There are a lot of people that think that consciousness continues after we die, but I don’t think that is reason for the scientist part of me to give it any truck at all. But there

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