Sleep and Creativity and Hard Science

Mathematics was like that, amenable to the unconscious brain, the better brain. Amazing that you could go to bed with a problem, the hardest problem in the world, something you’ve been banging your head against all the previous day. But you might wake up in the morning with the answer all laid out. You might even remember a point in your dream when you worked it out, when you even said in your coma, Eureka! and after waking, you wonder for a moment if it’s make-believe, if you’ve concocted the fiction of having solved it only for the somnial satisfaction, but you know it’s real because when you race through this newfound solution, now raised to your conscious mind, you see that it works.

— Zia Haider Raman, In the Light of What we Know

Dreams about math

Hey, there’s a new sapling in the neighborhood!

Let’s send some roots over, check him out. See if he’s friendly, invite him out for some sugar water, get to know him a bit.

Just a few years ago, it would have been preposterous to imagine that trees have social relations, but Suzanne Simard, Peter Wohlleben and Monica Gagliano have pioneered an unlikely field of research,  plant  sociology.

We can’t know what they experience or if they experience, but we know now that they form alliances, care for one another across species lines (but especially close kin) and that they thrive in some combinations and wilt in others.

Animal ESP

On the morning of December 26, 2004, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, triggering a massive tsunami, killing more than 150,000 people in 12 countries.
But as terrible as this loss of life on an apocalyptic scale was, something very strange emerged as the flood waters receded.

Relatively few animals were reported dead.

In fact, according to eyewitness accounts, in the hours leading up to the tsunami, flamingos abruptly left their low-lying nests… elephants screamed, taking off for higher ground… and zoo animals took shelter, refusing to come out to eat.

They knew it was coming. But how were they able to sense this disaster hours before striking?

Instinct… intuition? Internal bio-electro magnetic fields within these animals picking up vibrations from an earthquake thousands of miles away?

The truth is we don’t know. Like deja vu, science has yet to reveal how these things really work.

If this were ancient times, would our primal counterparts have been able to sense this disaster like these animals? I suspect the answer is yes. But I can’t prove that.

— Al Sears

Life Immitates Art

When J.S. Bach was challenged by King Frederick to compose on a subject of the King’s devising, he rose to the occasion with a spectacular Offering, applying his inventiveness in 2 fugues, 10 canons, and a four-movement sonata for flute and violin.

One of the pieces he offered is a single line of music  (beginning with a variation on the King’s theme) that is to be played both forward and backward simultaneously, engineered so cleverly that it harmonizes with itself along the way and both begins and ends convincingly.

As we marvel at the mathematical/musical mind that could have created such an invention, consider a virus, whose complete DNA is a perfect palindrome, so that it can be read either forward or backward. “Reading” DNA means translating each triplet of letters (A,T,G,C) into an amino acid and linking them together to make a big, complicated protein molecule that does a particular job. In this virus, the three-letter codes are reversed, and their order is reversed , and the protein is the same, and the protein is not only functional, but adaptive and competitive enough to create a niche for the virus.  Article in Quanta Magazine

Illustration of an RNA sequence, with an arrow pointing from one end to the other, and a sequence of complementary nucleotides, with an arrow pointing the other way.

Meditation under Stars

So may we read, and little find them cold:
Not frosty lamps illumining dead space,
Not distant aliens, not senseless Powers.
The fire is in them whereof we are born;
The music of their motion may be ours.
Spirit shall deem them beckoning Earth and voiced
Sisterly to her, in her beams rejoiced.
Of love, the grand impulsion, we behold
The love that lends her grace
Among the starry fold.
Then at new flood of customary morn,
Look at her through her showers,
Her mists, her streaming gold,
A wonder edges the familiar face:
She wears no more that robe of printed hours;
Half strange seems Earth, and sweeter than her flowers.

— George Meredith, born this day in 1828

Image result for winter night sky


When values fail, where lies your certainty?
The lights you’ve trusted have led you astray
You’ve asked for guidance, back toward The Way.
You need a sign to know veracity.

You’ve sought your lights in dark places within,
The doors to crass, external guidance shut.
Your heart indeed is to be trusted, but
Its quiet voice is drowned beneath the din.

So reconsider, look again outside.
Come out and listen, meet the angels whom
You’ve disregarded, cloistered in your room,
Your self-reliance now unmasked as pride.

From sense or soul, the message is the same;
Fret not concerning whence the wisdom came.

— JJM, #44 in the I Ching Sonnet Project