Thursday, December 23, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Wandering in the woods near Schwann Lakes in Santa Cruz on the first sunny December day after a week of rain, we discovered with pleasure that the entire forest had mushroomed. And that one of the most prominent upstarts were colonies of the bright red Amanita Muscaria. Amanitas were everywhere!
Red Amanitas are a common theme in fairy-tale illustrations where they form the background and sometime homes of supernatural creatures such as elves, fairies, sprites and the occasional hookah-puffing caterpillar. They have been associated with the Santa Claus legend, Viking berzerkers and used for psychedelic trances by Siberian shamans and modern-day mind explorers. Scientific and cultural information concerning this strikingly beautiful fungus may be found on Wikipedia while trust-worthy information about its mind-altering properties may be found at the Erowid site.
The oldest known religious scriptures, the Hindu Vedas, contain more than 90 hymns of praise honoring a mysterious potion called "soma" which seemed to act as a gateway to profound religious experiences.
Almost a hundred hymns in praise of a mind-altering brew? One can only speculate how different our lives would be if the Judeo-Christian Old Testament had contained half a dozen books commending some holy psychedelic substance as a reliable pathway into Jehovah's presence.

In Soma, Divine Mushroom of Immortality, J. P. Morgan vice-president and amateur ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson has argued that the Vedic soma was a brew prepared from the Amanita muscaria mushroom. Paraphrasing the Vedas I offer this little hymn to the power inside these beautiful Amanitas.

I have become immortal
Have I not drunk soma?
I have attained the Light
Have I not drunk soma?
I discover God and Her angels
Have I not drunk soma?
Have I not drunk soma?
I am high as a kite.
Am I just fooling myself again?
Or is this the first time ever
I've been right?

Photos by August O'Connor

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 Holiday Books

Wondering what to give the book lovers on your holiday list? Why not ignore the blockbuster bestsellers and go for the unique and unusual this year? Here's a selection of some of Nick Herbert's favorite things in print.

1. Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics by Nick Herbert. Not only one of the best popular books on quantum physics but also the best book about the quantum reality question--a problem so simple to state (what is a measurement?) but so difficult to solve that it continues to baffle every physicist who has ever encountered it. QR is your royal road to this deep quantum mystery.

2. The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Mechanics Was Reborn by Louisa Gilder. "Entanglement" is an intimate connection between things only possible in quantum physics. Through lively imagined conversations between physicists, Gilder describes the birth and development of this new quantum intimacy and its present exploitation in the growing fields of quantum computing and quantum cryptography.

3. The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse by Dale Pendell. A kind of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the entire human species. Pendell is best known for his three-volume history of mind-altering drugs from coffee beans to ecstasy. Pendell's Great Bay has been aptly described as "wise, cunning, ecological fiction."

4. The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker (introduction by William Gibson). Rucker's science fiction is truly twisted, bizarre and wildly funny. Although described as a "cyberpunk", Rudy disdains the cyberpunk label in favor of his own one-man genre of "beatnik science fiction". Here in one volume are four of Rucker's most imaginative (and my favorite) novels: Software, Wetware, Freeware and Realware.

5. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey Kripal. The official history of the flagship growth center in Big Sur that continues to foster innovative movements in psychology, bodywork, international relations and other facets of "the human potential". Full of stories of people and ideas. Kripal covers in full Esalen's almost-50-year-old history. Another good book about Esalen's early years is Walter Truett Anderson's Upstart Spring.

6. My all-time favorite book of erotic fiction is Raold Dahl's My Uncle Oswald which describes a conspiracy to gather the sperm of famous men, including Einstein, Bernard Shaw and the King of Sweden, to sell to wealthy women. Hilarity ensues. A promising first novel Delphian Blue by "Gregor Severine" imagines a planet inhabited by a powerful shape-shifting Male Presence. Not surprisingly (for a "spiritual-erotic novel") the crew of the first Federation ship sent to explore Delphia 3 consists of six Earth females with very different abilities and temperaments. A holodeck fantasy run amok.

7. Everybody loves Dr Suess books but "That famous Cat in the Hat? Nick does not like that Cat!" Nick's favorite Suess book is I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. My son Khola liked it too, but his all-time favorite children's book was Kick, Pass and Run--a book about animals learning to play football. Betsy and I must have read him KPR a thousand times.

8. Santa Cruz, CA boasts a vibrant poetry scene, partly due to the efforts of Len Anderson and Dennis Morton who host the Poetry Santa Cruz website and associated readings. Len Anderson, a Berkeley physics PhD, recently published Affection for the Unknowable, a collection of his poems. Other fine Santa Cruz poetry collections include Robert Sward's 4 Incarnations, Patti Sirens' Antarctica and a recent anthology Harvest from the Emerald Orchard featuring 18 Santa Cruz poets. Behave like a Medici. Become a patron of the arts. Purchase a few books of poetry.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How the Hippies Saved Physics

In June 2011, W. W. Norton is scheduled to publish a book by MIT historian of science David Kaiser entitled How the Hippies Saved Physics that describes some of the colorful events and characters who researched the foundations of quantum physics in the 60s, 70s and 80s. These out-of-the-mainstream scientists focused their attention mostly on Bell's Theorem (published the same year that the Grateful Dead emerged on the scene) and quantum entanglement--topics which today form the basis for the emerging fields of quantum computing and cryptography.

Frankly speaking, How the Hippies Saved Physics is a book about me and my friends who were not interested in quantum experiments, who were not interested in quantum theory, but instead passionately involved ourselves in the quest to connect with QUANTUM REALITY itself. And we hoped that Bell's Theorem--which is a THEOREM ABOUT REALITY ITSELF--would help us reach our goal to conjugate with Mother Nature at a far deeper level than mere theory or mere experiment can provide. In short, my companions and I fell in love with Bell's Theorem and wholeheartedly took Her Lure. And with loving detail Professor Kaiser tells our tale.

Kaiser's account of our psychedelic drug use, however, is greatly exaggerated. For the most part we "hippies who saved physics" (including the shy, reclusive Jack Sarfatti) used drugs only when necessary to accomplish the task at hand (as well as in primitive courtship rituals).

Kaiser's video may be viewed here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

77 Arguments

John Duns Scotus (not Giovanni Riccioli)

In a recent paper published in the Physics ArXiv, Christopher Graney presents a translation from the Latin of a section of Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli's Almagestum Novum (1651) in which Riccioli presents 77 arguments against the motions of the Earth that the new Copernican (1473-1543) system required. Riccioli (1598-1691) was a Jesuit priest who is still remembered for mapping and naming the main features on the Moon's surface (including ironically the giant Copernicus crater) and for being the first to measure the Earth's gravitational acceleration.

In Riccioli's day, questions about the true motions of the Earth and planetary system were as topical and exciting as today's speculations about the results from the Large Hadron Collider with the additional spice (not present in today's frontier physics) that certain answers could get you locked up or burned at the stake as was the case with Galileo (1564-1642) and Bruno (1548-1600).

Graney presents Riccioli's arguments plus the Copernican counter argument which in many cases was non-existent. In particular Riccioli cites many physical effects (the Coriolis force, for instance) which should be observable if the Earth is really rotating. None of Riccioli's effects had been observed in his day so the experimental facts did indeed seem to support a stationary Earth just as the Catholic Church's doctrines required.

One amusing use of Riccioli's arguments is to test your own knowledge of physics. Of course "everybody knows" that the Earth is rotating but can you defend today's common knowledge against the arguments of an educated seventeenth-century Jesuit? Why, for instance, do we not witness powerful winds blowing from East to West as the Earth rotates (at a supersonic equatorial velocity of 1000 miles/hour)? When NASA launches its rockets eastward it utilizes the Earth's eastward rotation as an additional boost. Why does this work in space but not on Earth? Why--if the Earth is really rotating so rapidly--doesn't a ball thrown to the East travel further than a ball thrown to the West? asks Father Riccioli in Argument #20. A very instructive physics course could be designed using Riccioli's arguments as a basis for teaching Newtonian mechanics.

Reading Riccioli is also a excellent exercise in the realization that Today's Obvious Truth is forever in danger of suddenly being demoted to Tomorrow's Naked Absurdity. Pay special attention to areas where acquiring and publishing knowledge has been declared illegal or is being actively suppressed.

Graney points out that the Copernican System was accepted not because its supporters refuted all of Riccioli's arguments--some of his predicted rotational effects remained unobserved well into the 19th century--but because of the persuasive power of Newton's new laws of motion which provided a firm theoretical foundation for the Copernican moving-Earth model against the fixed-Earth picture of Tycho Brahe.

In preparing this post I accidentally discovered that riccioli is a type of pasta. But it was not named after the Italian Jesuit who published these 77 arguments against the Copernican motion of the Earth.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Sward reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz
Met prolific Santa Cruz poet Robert Sward at Alan Lundell's beach house birthday party a few weeks ago. We exchanged words, books of verse. Sward began as a poet in a North-side Chicago gang of ruffians, published lots of books including a stint as a small-press publisher (Soft Press). He's got a website where you can read his poetry and buy his books which all got fascinating titles: God is in the Cracks, A Much-Married Man, Rosicrucian in the Basement, Thousand-Year-Old Fiancee, Kissing the Dancer and The Jurassic Shales, for example.

What can I say? Carl Sandberg on laughing gas. William Blake on the back of a cereal box. Better to let Sward speak for himself. Here's Robert Sward on 1. How to Market Poetry and 2. an imagined Socratic dialog that Plato failed to write down.

I was impressed by the Beats--their camaraderie and the fun they seemed to be having. Ginsberg came to Iowa City in 1968, I believe, and gave a terrific reading. He drew hundreds of people. The Iowa poets seemed unnerved by him, mocked his work and the "look" and gave parties where one was expected to dress up in blue jeans, etc., and pretend to be "Beat".

I met him briefly when he visited Iowa--was teaching there at the time--toked on a joint with him. Ginsberg always seemed to me to be Beat Mother Hen, the Nurturer in Chief, and also an astute and effective publicist. Did you know that he worked for an ad agency in San Francisco, doing Ipana toothpaste commercials? The experience wasn't wasted on him. In a sense he was the brains behind the Beat movement, ambitious for himself and for his friends. Nothing wrong with that--without Ginsberg's PR skills, I don't think we'd be reading the Beats as we do. It makes you think. If you're gonna write and want attention, some kind of readership, you're probably gonna want a group of like-minded friends, allies working in a similar vein, plus someone who can act for you as Ginsberg did for the Beats.


(Sonnet for Two Voices)

Of Love, my friends (after such sophistry
and praise as yours), may one presume? Well, then,
let me begin by begging Agathon:
Good sir, is not your love a love for me?
And not a love for those who disagree?
Yes, true! And what is it that Love, again,
is the love of? Speak! It is the love again
of "Socrates." Love then, and the Good, are me.

Explain! Is Love the love of something, or
the love of nothing? Something! Very true.
And Love desires the thing it loves. Right.
Is it, then, really me whom you adore?
Or is it nothing? O Socrates, it's you!
Then I am Good, and I am yours. Agreed!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

He Did Not Die

Atomic Reality: Do Bosons hate Fermions?
(requested by Jack Sarfatti)

"Who is closer to you, Sir, " a monk asked Buddha,
"He who loves you or he who hates you?"
"He who hates me," replied the Buddha,
"Because he thinks of me more often."

Mighty King Lucifer
Who was brought low
Who died by his own hand
In a Berlin bunker
Who rose again.

By the power of hate
Is Our Satan kept alive
His Deeds in state museums immortalized.
In our hearts we hold Him closer
Than any Christian holds his Lord.

By the power of our hatred
There are places on Earth
Where Satan's so sacred
That no man dares display His Mark
Except in secret.

So long as there remains
One member of Our Tribe
He will live on.
He is immortal.
Der Führer did not die.

(Nick Herbert)
All Souls Day 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back To The Soil

Doonesbury Oct 26, 2010
America was founded largely by farmers who lived independent of central government because they could grow their own food plus cash crops to buy tools and luxuries. The notion of liberty is firmly rooted in the self-sufficiency of family farmers who mind their own business and don't much care for a distant bureaucracy telling them how they should behave.

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled
Here once the embattled farmer stood
And fired the shot heard round the world."

Is this revolutionary spirit still alive in the land or have we become a nation of craven sheep obedient to the will of the Great Big Shepherd in Washington, DC? Do you believe that some Mighty Master far away enjoys the right to tell you what you can or cannot grow on your own property?

There are many good arguments in favor of Proposition 19 (which would legalize the growing and use of marijuana for recreational--and scientific--use in the state of California). The Economists claim it would benefit the state by eliminating wasteful police and prison expenses as well as offering the state a new source of taxation. Others argue that making marijuana legal would put drug dealers out of business much as the ending of alcohol prohibition took away the profit motive from wannabe Al Capones.

But for me the best argument for the legalization of marijuana is that it should never have been made illegal in the first place.

Growing and consuming whatever I want in my own home is one of those inalienable rights set forth by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. Are we free Americans or are we a nation of obedient sheep?

Back to the soil, I say. Put our many unemployed citizens back to work growing a crop that's so desirable that millions of ordinary Americans have risked imprisonment to use it.

If President Obama were a smart man he would welcome this new experiment in grass-roots democracy (similar to the long-term experiment in Holland that permits responsible adults to use cannabis). If Proposition 19 passes, Obama should proclaim: "The people have spoken. Let them have their way. If it's successful, we have learned that Californians are able to run their own lives in this regard without input from central authority. If negative results ensue, the Central Government does not lack the tanks, guns and soldiers to enforce the Old Way Of Doing Things."

Vote November 2 for a right that should never have been taken from us. Please vote YES on California Proposition 19.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Zen Education

Sheldon Glashow (recent pix)

In 1979 Sheldon Glashow shared the Nobel Prize in physics for his part in the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces, but in 1962, he was just another faculty member at Stanford with a taste for big cigars and small red sports cars.

In the crowded quarters of the Inner Quad, because I was a teaching assistant in a second-floor lab, I was given an office on that floor while less-fortunate grad students were relegated to "the Zoo" on the third floor--a large open area full of desks directly under the roof which was also home to pigeons, squirrels and (some claimed) owls. My second-floor office happened to be located right across the hall from Shelly Glashow's lair.

Lasers had just been invented then and were a topic of hot discussion. I had heard that red lasers were easy to make but that green lasers were harder, and blue lasers almost impossible. (Few are aware that the Blue-Ray laser in your DVD player represents a remarkable technological breakthrough.) I wondered what physics principle mades high-frequency lasers so difficult to build so I decided to ask Shelly Glashow.

I knocked on his door, posed my question and he asked: "Who are you?"

I told Shelly I had an office across the hall, was a second-year graduate student and he replied: "Get out of here. You can answer that question by yourself."

Shelly was right. In a few hours I was able to derive the answer from basic physics principles.

Not only did I discover the answer but I never forgot it. If Glashow had explained it to me I would almost certainly have forgotten it along with thousands of other physics facts that entered my mind in those days and quickly exited the other side.

Thanks, Shelly, for encouraging me to think for myself, and for embodying (no doubt unknowingly) the subtle art of teaching without teaching.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Defining the Magic

Vote YES on California's Proposition 19


a good poem is like a cold beer
when you need it,
a good poem is a hot turkey
sandwich when you're
a good poem is a gun when
the mob corners you,
a good poem is something that
allows you to walk through the streets of
a good poem can make death melt like
hot butter,
a good poem can frame agony and
hang it on a wall,
a good poem can let your feet touch
a good poem can make a broken mind
a good poem can let you shake hands
with Mozart,
a good poem can let you shoot craps
with the devil
and win,
a good poem can do almost anything
and most important
a good poem knows when to

--Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Managing Marijuana

Will you VOTE YES on Proposition 19 ?

In a few weeks (Nov 2) California voters will have the opportunity to vote to restore our God-given right (see Genesis 1) to grow and enjoy the fruits of every tree and plant that the Earth provides--in this case restoring our right to grow and utilize the plant called "marijuana". Supporters of Proposition 19 claim that its passage will ease California's budget woes by providing a brand new source of tax revenue, by reducing the police, legal and prison cost of enforcing marijuana prohibition and by generating new jobs for Californians otherwise unemployed. There is also the hope that taking the huge prohibition-generated profits out of pot by making it legal will deal a serious blow to outlaw drug cartels without firing a single shot. As a small side benefit, if Prop 19 passes, even scientists might be allowed to study this fearfully prohibited plant just as freely as we study radioactive plutonium, brain poisons and lung cancer.

Growing and using marijuana is a natural right. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition has caused more serious problems than the plant itself without significantly reducing its use. Proposition 19 makes a lot of sense. Only drug dealers, moralists and spineless politicians (afraid of being perceived as "soft on drugs") are against it.

But what about the kids? Under our present system marijuana is easily available to children who buy it from criminals in an unsupervised way. Under Prop 19, it will still be illegal to sell pot to minors. Since 1976, Amsterdam has effectively decriminalized the use of marijuana by adults. I am not aware (are you?) of an epidemic of irresponsible Dutch adults selling lots of pot to Dutch teens.  Prop 19 means a return to privatization of California's marijuana use. It lets parents not the police  assume responsibility for their own and their children's attitudes towards pot.

Nick Herbert supports Proposition 19 and dedicates this parody of Joyce Kilmer's Trees to its passage:


I think that I shall never see
(a-sittin' in my sauna)
A poem as lovely as, let's see,
A grove of marijuana.

Her leaves reflect a lovely green
Her blossoms give off spice
Her perfume draws the honeybee
Methinks I dwell in paradise.

Writers, poets, music crews,
Use ganga as a door to Muse
And ardent lovers spread her fame
As aid in Aphrodite's game.

Three thousand years her jagged leaves
Have helped good doctors treat disease
And holy men from every sod
Have praised her as a way to God.

Wise men from the Middle East
Considered fine hashish divine
They taught that pot restrained the beast
Beheaded fools who misused wine.

If I can sell baby-killing aspirin
Alcohol, rat poison, gasoline
Tobacco, dynamite 
and all the guns you need
Why can't I trade 
a single ounce of weed?

While stuffing pockets with our wealth
The politician schemes to stay in power
Screams: only I 
can save you from yourself
By ordering cops with guns 
to bust a flower.

Is pot really so bad for you and for me
That we have to call out 
the bloody marines
Our back yards to assault, 
our assets to seize
In prisons to lock us 
for "growin' o' the green"?

I sing the spirit inside the seed
I praise the gorgeous Goddess weed
Poems are made by fools like me--
and Dylan Thomas
But only God's the force that 
thru the green fuse drives cannabis.

Young Barack Obama enjoying a God-given right.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon: Siebzig Jahre

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Today the 70th anniversity of John Lennon's birth was celebrated around the world in a variety of Imaginative ways: Google invented an interactive Lennon logo, thousands gathered in NYC Central Park's Strawberry Field and Yoko Ono produced a concert in Iceland. Here's Doctor Jabir's contribution to the memory of a most remarkable man:


What a miracle
If imagination could end war
and feed every human being lunch.
But dreamers make easy prey in worlds
Where a few bad apples
Can spoil the bunch.

Love Is All You Need
Is not enough.
One needs get tough.

I love the Beatles and "Imagine"
Admire men who can't be bought
But also heed the words of Rabbi Yeshua
(Promptly crucified for what he taught)
Who told his listeners this about love:
Be wise like serpents first
Then simple like the dove.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Santa Cruz Scottish Games

Saturday, Oct 2, August O'Connor and I attended the second annual Scottish Games at San Lorenzo Park in Santa Cruz, CA. Here we watched grown men and woman toss heavy stones and large poles (cabers) record distances, witnessed the gathering of the clans in which the McPhersons, the Bells, the Crawfords and a score of other Scottish tribes proudly displayed their lineages to the public and marched before the queen and her retinue--everybody dressed in costumes covering several historical periods from medieval to modern. We observed an old-fashioned forge and a weapon shop, booths that sold haggis, pot pies, Guinness, musical instruments and plenty of Celtic clothes and adornment where August purchased a brown-and-yellow tartan scarf from county Down. Traditional Celtic music was present in abundance, headlined by the Wicked Tinkers and 1916, plus a plentitude of pipers, Scottish dancers and musicians from the Community Music School of Santa Cruz.

August and I worked the fair as wandering minstrels, she playing the bodhran (Irish frame drum) and I the penny whistle (which a friend recently described as "the gateway instrument to the bagpipes"). The attached clip by videographer Allan Lundell from Awake Media, captured us playing "Father Kelly's Reel" near the gaming field at the close of an boisterous Scottish day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dinner at Deetjen's

Helmuth Deetjen (from Smithsonianmag)
Esalen Institute co-founder Mike Murphy celebrates his 80th birthday this month which will no doubt inspire many stories about the man. Here's one more anecdote for the mix.

In the aftermath of some gathering at Esalen, Mike Murphy suggested that we all go out for supper at Helmuth Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, a rustic, gemütlich restaurant a few miles north of Esalen on Big Sur's Highway 1.

Reviewing Big Sur Inn for Sunset Magazine, Peter Fish remarked: "In a region renowned for its rugged eccentrics, Helmuth, late of Bergen, Norway, more than held his own. Big Sur Inn sits midway down the Big Sur coast, an hour south of Monterey. It's a grouping of board-and-batten shacks that from many angles resembles a shipwreck. Through the years, Deetjen's drew both Big Sur locals and imported literary types like Henry Miller, and acquired a character that verged on the cranky, much like that of its pipe-smoking, Nietzsche-quoting owner."

For the dinner party at Deetjen's Mike selected a few bottles of wine from his private collection and brought them along. When the waitress came to our table, Mike asked if he could speak to the proprietor. From a back room emerged old Helmuth Deetjen, wondering what these kids from Esalen had up their sleeves this time. Mike puts his bottles on the table and asks Deetjen's permission to uncork his wine.

"Fine with me," replied old man Deetjen. "Just so long as I don't have to drink it."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just Ask


if you forget My Name
just ask
if you forget how many neutrino families I created
just ask
if you've forgotten again just how lucky this is--
how many million holocausts you've survived
if you've forgetten the birth pangs 
at the beginning of the universe
just ask
if you forget how much I like to play
just ask
if you forget how much I love you
just ask

Friday, September 3, 2010

Opening Night


I'd yearned to be the first
To part Her Hidden Doors
The first to glimpse that Part of Her
No man had glimpsed before.

And this was the night that it happened:
Miss Universe joyfully opened to view
The right place, the right timing, 
                    the right drugs and foreplay
The right physics, right chemistry, 
                              the right Me and You.

It's bigger than both of us--you and I cried
As our bodies and souls got connected
Sure, quantum entanglement provided a clue
But not in the ways we'd expected.

The Cosmological Sweetness
Came out to greet us
From the opposite side of the scenery
She opened our hearts
Kissed our dear private parts
As She gathered us into Her Greenery.

Come inside--She telepathically whispered
I'm fully open at last!
You could have enjoyed Me ages ago
If you'd only just known how to ask.

I was a Hidden Treasure
And I yearned to be uncovered.
I craved to be seen, known, played with
To be worshiped like a Lover.

You've finally learned to ask the right question
In your touchingly awkward and blundering way
Come take your fill of My long-hidden pleasures
I so love to give them, to give them away.

We were taken in as a twosome
And Lover Nature made us three
But what we found inside Her Nest
Was monogamous polygamy.

Where spread-out wave and tiny particle
Were jokes for the physicist
Where "here" and "there" and "you" and "me"
Playfully non-exist.

Where beings all over the galaxy
Meet in sensuous rendezvous
Where the Ultimate Meaning of Everything
Seemed as easy as two plus two.

Where we joined with billions of entities
In profound and luxurious play
Where we deep surrendered to Cosmos
And yet gave nothing away.
What a night!
What a night!
What a night!

Now back with you on terra firma
Waltzing with the next disaster
Our minds obsessed with but one thought:
What was that question that we asked Her?

Happy Birthday, Michael Murphy!

What is it about the Irish and altered states? From William Butler Yeats's fascination with the mystical Order of the Golden Dawn, to Tim Leary's public love affair with LSD, to silver-tongued Terence McKenna's devotion to Magic Mushrooms, to Michael Murphy's co-founding of Esalen Institute (which some have called the Large Hadron Collider of the human spirit), a lot of Irishmen in our time have participated in the Great Work--the project to expand human awareness and explore our unrealized potentials.

Through his many books, which include Golf in the Kingdom, Jacob Atabet, The Future of the Body, In the Zone (with Rhea White) and (with George Leonard) The Life We Are Given, Murphy has expressed his visionary insights and has been working to bring them to fruition both through his own practices and through the efforts of Esalen.

Since 1963, Esalen Institute has been the leader in numerous areas of consciousness research including imaginative citizen connections with Russia and China, innovative psychological techniques such as gestalt, encounter and psychedelic therapies, new ways of incorporating the body itself into the academic body of knowledge--all this in context of the legendary beauty of Esalen's grounds and its fabulous baths.

In 1976 Michael Murphy had the brain storm to invite a group of physicists to Big Sur both to "put some spine in Esalen" and to observe how these "masters of matter" might be inspired by mixing it up with Esalen's own masters and mistresses of the mind and body arts.

Announcing the physics project in the Esalen catalog, Mike expressed his hopes this way:

Perhaps a new kind of inspired physicist, experienced in the yogic modes of perception, might arise to comprehend the further reaches of matter, space and time. A physicist (if he were still called that) trained in yogic perception would compare his discoveries with those derived from today's "normal" physics, and there would probably be a "principle of complementarity" existing between the insights derived from the various consciousness states, "normal" and "yogic". Physics would be entirely empirical (in this broadened sense), its findings with instruments ranging from the ordinary senses and their physical extensions (telescopes, radar, etc.) to the subtle yogic ways (indriyas) of apprehending the universe.

It was my good fortune to participate in Mike's Esalen physics initiative for more than a dozen years, and while we have yet to produce our first "yogic physicist", my "quantum tantric" search for a radically new way of doing science was certainly inspired by those Murphy-initiated encounters with other physicists and meetings with splendid Esalen denizens in the Big House, in the gardens, in the lodge and especially in the baths.

Michael Murphy is one of the most innovative and optimistic people I know. He brims with enthusiasm and you cannot help but be carried away by his youthful zest to climb the highest peak, descend the deepest cavern, break down stale old barriers, open up the mind and body to fresh new explorations.

A most remarkable human being--Michael Murphy. Today he celebrates his 80th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Michael.
May you continue, bold Celtic soul,
To follow the Gleam!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Books Changed Your Life?

On the Monroe Institute website, Leslie French asks the provocative question: "What books changed your life?" She cites her own life-changing books as do many others in her comments section.

I confess that as long as I've been able to read, I've been a book slut. I love books, buy books, devour books and possess several library cards. Books have been changing my life for as long as I can remember. But which are THE BOOKS, the books that made a difference? I decided to limit my selection to ten books, to include only books that purport to be non-fiction and to list these books in rough chronological order of their influence at various stages of my life. To all those dozens of books that spring to mind shouting "Choose me! Choose me!" I have to say "I love you all, and it pains me to not include you, but, as anybody connected with the book business knows, editors have to be ruthless!"

1. The Baltimore Catechism: gave me the answers at age 6 to questions that still puzzle me today.

2. St. Joseph's Missal: you can't follow the players (at the Mass) without a scorecard especially when the game's conducted in Latin.

3. Introduction to Complex Variables: imagine discovering for the first time the existence of another kind of number (complex numbers) than the kind you count with, whose properties are strange, beautiful and utterly logical.

4. Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Schiff: my first introduction to the strange world of quantum physics. At Stanford, prime breeding ground for big egos, Schiff was famed for his extraordinary modesty.

5. The Principles of Quantum Mechanics by Paul Dirac: Closest thing to The Bible in quantum physics. Dirac introduces here his ideosyncratic bra/ket notation which is now the language in which every physicist in the world expresses the quantum mysteries.

6. The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts: In the early 60s, living in San Francisco, I first read Alan Watts's description of his LSD trips and decided that someday I too would drop acid.

7. Quantum Reality by Nick Herbert: no better way to understand a subject than to write a book about it.

8. Not Man Apart by Robinson Jeffers: "Love that, not man apart from that..."

9. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: "Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son, Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding..."

10. The Penny Whistle Book by Robin Williamson: former member of Incredible String Band teaches the art of the Irish whistle. With this book and 10 years of practice you could be a star.

And to all those books left out, I repeat: "I love you dearly, but an editor's gotta edit."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quantum Immortality

Frank Tipler uses "locality" to prove the Multiverse Model
Quantum mechanics is the most successful theory of the physical world we have ever possessed. Its range is enormous and it has never made a single incorrect prediction. But this success comes with a steep price--the loss of our ability to say "what's really going on in the world". Many "quantum realities" have been proposed, none of them entirely satisfactory. Heinz Pagels in Cosmic Code describes the quantum reality marketplace and in my own Quantum Reality I present several proposed models of "what's really going on."

No model of quantum reality is more preposterous than the Quantum Multiverse proposed by Hugh Everett III in 1957. In this reality the quantum wavefunction, usually interpreted as the POSSIBILITY that something can happen, is construed as a CATALOG OF ACTUALITIES. In Hugh Everett's Multiverse EVERYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN DOES HAPPEN but most of it happens in other universes than our own. As many universes exist as things that can happen, hence the term "Multiverse".

Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp has pointed out one important consequence of such an exuberant model of "what's really going on". If the Multiverse model is true then very improbable events, as long as their probability is not zero, MUST HAPPEN IN SOME UNIVERSE. For instance, the emergence of life may be extremely unlikely, but if life can happen, then life must happen, in a few exceptional universes.

Another line of speculation concerns "quantum immortality". The role of conscious beings in the Multiverse is ill-defined because we do not as yet possess a physical model of mind. But it is plausible to suppose that when the universe splits into various realities, your conscious mind inhabits only those realities in which it is still alive. This way of thinking predicts that you will enjoy, in your own subjective universe, if not immortality then certainly a greater-than-average life span. While you perceive your friends dying all around you, you seem to "miraculously" escape death until you have exhausted (like the cat with 9 lives) all your possible lives--and then at last you DEFINITIVELY DIE.  Each of us can verify this hypothesis for ourselves but paradoxically we cannot share our conclusions with others.

Ironically all quantum realities, including the Multiverse, predict exactly the same quantum facts so there exists at present no experiment that could tell us for sure what is "really going on" beneath the quantum facts.

Recently Frank Tipler, a controversial physicist at Tulane University, has published a "proof" that the Multiverse is real. If we believe that Einstein's Theory of Relativity applies not just to the quantum facts, but also to "what's going on behind the facts", assets Tipler, then we must accept the truth of the Multiverse.

A profound theorem due to the late Irish physicist John Stewart Bell is generally thought to have proved that "reality is non-local"--which means that quantum reality, whatever it is, must operate at speeds faster than light. On the other hand the quantum facts, the things we can actually observe, seem always to obey Einstein's speed limit. This tension between quantum reality (faster-than-light) and quantum fact (light-speed-limited) has always seemed a peculiar feature of the post-Bell quantum world.

A curious loophole in Bell's Theorem, however, is that it cannot be proved in a multiverse reality.

Tipler cleverly exploits this loophole in Bell's Theorem by demonstrating that if one assumes not only the quantum facts but also quantum reality itself to be "local"--which means limited to light speed interactions--then Everett's Multiverse is the only possible candidate for a Real Quantum Reality.

If Reality obeys Relativity, then we really live in a quantum Multiverse. So sayeth Frank Tipler.

Most physicists will probably dismiss Tipler's argument as Meaningless Scholastic Metaphysics. But, on the other hand, he may be right. If we really live in a Multiverse, then everyone of us might look forward to experiencing quantum immortality--living "forever" each in our own special universe. Sounds kinda creepy to me.

The argument for quantum immortality (more properly called quantum longevity) is dubious because we are profoundly ignorant about how consciousness fits into the scheme of things, but Tipler's derivation of the truth of Multiverse if Relativity holds for Quantum Reality as well as Quantum Fact is as solid as these kinds of arguments can be.

Quantum immortality of the life-extending kind may not really exist. On the other hand, Frank Tipler may himself have achieved a small but conventional kind of quantum immortality via his clever locality-based proof in favor of the real existence of the Multiverse.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Quantum Jujitsu

We house-broke quantum reality
Taught Schrödinger's Cat to purr--
Now regular life's as uncanny
As atoms ever were.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MBARI Open House

Salinas River Near Moss Landing

California's Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) is home to some of the most unusual deep sea life forms on Earth. Life calls out to life: the submarine canyon's wild biodiversity has attracted an equally diverse gathering of marine biologists and scientific institutions including Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station, University of California's Long Marine Lab, Cal State's Moss Landing Marine Labs and more recently the Packard-Foundation-funded Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) located in Moss Landing.

Last weekend MBARI held an open house to familiarize the public with its scientific activities and to show off some of the beautiful sea creatures that live just offshore of Moss Landing--forms of life so bizarre that one can easily imagine that they developed on some other planet.

To study these creatures in their natural environment MBARI has pioneered the development of a variety of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that carry video cameras, manipulators and chemical laboratories into the depths where no man has gone before. MBARI's stable of specialized deep-sea probes is analogous to NASA's deep space probes except MBARI's inquisitive robots are designed to explore the depths of the Earth's oceans rather than the airless spaces between the stars.

MBARI's Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts
Among MBARI's many deep-sea robots is one named after Ed Ricketts, an early Monterey marine biologist immortalized by John Steinbeck in Cannery Row. In one memorable voyage, Steinbeck and Ricketts studied the marine life of the Gulf of California together--their adventures chronicled by Steinbeck in Log From the Sea of Cortez. 

While studying physics at Stanford in the 60s, I took a sidetrack thru Don Kennedy's biology lab to check out a possible career in neurophysiology. (I quickly returned to physics; biology is much too complicated and resistant to mathematization.)

The nervous systems Kennedy and his students investigated were mostly those of sea animals which we gathered at a beach near Half Moon Bay. At that time two books were our biology bibles--Ed Ricketts's Between Pacific Tides and a thick tome bearing the title Animals Without Backbones (not a history of America's Democratic Party but a catalog of marine invertebrates). I was surprised and happy to see that MBARI had honored the notorious dude that had taught me marine biology (through his book) by giving the name Doc Ricketts to one of their remotely controlled Yellow Submarines.

Besides videos of weird sea creature, submarine canyon geology demonstrations and close-up introductions to actual deep-sea robots. MBARI hosted a large interactive children's program which included making colored squid prints, constructing and operating small underwater robots in tanks and the immensely popular Giant Inflatable Squid which immediately captured the attention of the Quantum Tantra Ashram's senior scientist.

Waving goodbye to the crowds at MBARI my companion and I lunched at Phil's Snack Shop, then conducted our own informal exploration of the wild life currently making its home along the marshy shores of the Salinas River.

More Open House pictures at the MBARI site. Thanks, Kim.
Kids entangling with the Giant Inflatable Squid

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quantum Legos

In the Paleozoic era of conventional computing (45 years ago), one crucial problem was how to build a fast switchable multi-bit MEMORY ARRAY. Many schemes from vacuum tubes to transistors were devised for storing and changing the 0s and 1s inside the computer's brain. How many of you remember the checker-board arrays of tiny magnetic donuts threaded by little wires that were once the hottest thing in computer memory tech (along with magnetic disc drives the size of washing machines)?

Quantum computers have the same problem--what to use for memory? But in the quantum case you not only have to store 0s and 1s but all possible quantum superpositions of a 0 and a 1--the so-called "quantum bit" or "qubit". Several physical systems from single photons to superconducting loops have been suggested for realizing qubits including single ions.

An ion is an atom or molecule that has become electrically charged by adding or removing electrons.

Isolating a single ion has up till now involved a large and complicated array of electric and magnetic fields that form an "ion trap"--sometimes called Penning or Paul traps. But recently scientists at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) have developed a small silicon chip (pictured above) that can trap single ions, opening the possibility of assembling large arrays of ionic qubits by stacking these silicon modules like Lego blocks.

The development of "Quantum Legos" by physicists Dietrich Leibfried, Jason Amini and their colleagues at NIST may well be the crucial breakthrough that takes quantum computers out of the laboratory and into our bedrooms.

From Popular Science August 2010. Thanks brother Tom.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Les Blatt Finally Graduates

In the early 60s S. Leslie Blatt and I worked for our PhDs under Walter Meyerhof, sharing time on the same accelerator in the basement of Stanford's Varian Lab. Earning an undergraduate degree at Princeton, a PhD at Stanford, Les went on to do research at Ohio State University and chaired its physics department for many years. Then he took a post at Clark where he was Dean of their graduate school. After a long and distinguished career in physics, summarized here, Les Blatt is at last getting out of school. He's retiring this month--finally graduating from the academic community he served so well.

One well-kept secret about Professor Blatt is that when the world got Les as a physicist, it lost a talented writer of musical comedy. It was the custom at Stanford for graduate students to satirize their profession and their professors at the annual physics Christmas party. Most of these satires are best forgotten but one of the most ambitious efforts along these lines deserves to be remembered--an unabridged parody of Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady by Les Blatt and Dave Coward. I remember this production especially well because the principals rehearsed it in the living room of the house in Woodside that I shared with fellow Stanford grad student Chuck Buchanan.

Highlights follow (from my copy of Physical Revue--its title a spoof of America's major physics journal Physical Review--thanks, Les):

The play opens with Higgins (a theorist) and Pickering (an experimentalist) striding about Higgins's office, bemoaning the low quality of physics students. They sing:

...Clever grad students--two or three--
Working hard for their PhDs.
Who'd do my work for me.
Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?...

Higgs: By golly, Pickering, you've got something there. A clever student once in a while would be a real joy. But they seem so rare these days.

Pick: Rare? They don't exist. What's more there isn't one who's even average. They're all stupid!

Higgs: Now, now, You're being too harsh. Perhaps we ourselves are partly to blame...

Pick: Nonsense! Students are irrational, that's all there is to that--their heads are full of wires, nuts and brads. They're nothing but an oscillating, relaxating, congregating group of beer and coffee drinking, never-thinking, irritating grads!

Higgs: Why can't we teach our physics students how to think?
The subject matter's easy; the concepts are distinct.
If YOU learned as slowly as a lot of your students do,
Why you might end up in engineering too!

Pick: I beg your pardon!

Higgs: Why can't we teachers teach our students how to think?
We say it to them clearly; they just sit there and blink...

Psychologists ply their art on man
Which seems quite narcissistical,
While chemists learn their alchemy
With methods that are mystical!

But educating physics students is the task I preach.
Oh, why can't professors
Why can't professors
Why can't

Pick: Well, perhaps you are right. But if you feel that way, why haven't you done anything about it?

Higgs: Pickering, I have. I'm convinced that the new method I'm working on is the answer. Why I could turn ANYONE into a first-rate quantum mechanic, thermo-dynamo and general all-round good guy at coffee hour. And in just a few weeks.

Pick: Oh? There you go exaggerating again. If your method is so good, why haven't I seen any of these marvelous products of your mind?

Higgs: Simply not enough time.

Pick: Ha! I call your bluff, mister wiseguy theoretiker. The next person that walks in that door is your guinea pig, sir. You've got to turn them into a physicist. And I'll give you exactly thirty days, no more.

[A knock on the door reveals Liza Doolittle, a Stanford pom-pom girl selling Big Game tickets. Higgins goes to work, teaching Liza how to pass as a physicist and Pickering schedules a PhD oral exam for her in thirty days in front of Stanford's top professors.]

Liza: Alpha j commutes with gamma five.

Higgs: By Schiff, she's got it! By Schiff, she's got it!
Now once again, the game we play...

Liza: Alpha j, alpha j!

Higgs: Now make the sign survive...

Liza: Gamma five, gamma five!

Liza, Higgins, Pickering: The alpha j commutes with gamma five.
The alpha j commutes with gamma five.

[On the appointed day, Liza and Higgins enter the Small Seminar Room where she will be examined by a trio of eminent Stanford profs--Sid Drell, Charlie Schwartz and Wolfgang Panofsky.]

Higgs: Thank heaven for Wolfgang Panofsky!
If he hadn't been there, I'd have died of boredom.
Yes, he was there, all right, and up to his old tricks.

Armed with his perennial grin,
His form factors and pion spin,
He made it his devilish business to show
How much Miss Doolittle didn't know.

First I tried to slow him down--
Persons of such great renown should take it slow.
Finally I decided it was foolish
Not to let him carry out his plan.
So I stepped aside...That's when the fun began!

Using problems from his book
He thought he had her on the hook...
Maxwell tensors, gee-mu-nu's
But he could not get her confused.
And when at last the test was done,
He turned and said: "Okay, you've won!"

Pick: That's why I say you did it,
You did it, you did it!
You said that she would do it,
And indeed she did!

You took a pure beginner
And you made of her a winner.
There's no doubt about it.

[Higgins celebrates with Pickering but, upon returning to his office, discovers a telegram from Liza declaring that she has left Stanford for a high-paying job in industry. Higgins is dismayed and dejected by Liza's departure. But eventually Liza changes her mind, arrives back in Higgins's office and expresses her decision to stay.]

Liza: I've grown accustomed to this place;
I like its easy-going way.
I like the Navy paying bills,
The monster in the hills,
The lecture tower,
The coffee hour--
They're quite a habit with me now...

I didn't know how much I'd miss it when to industry I went.
Now that I'm back at Stanford, I'm starving but content.
I've grown accustomed to the search for fundamental facts--


Congratulations S. Leslie Blatt on your distinguished career in the service of science! I wish you many happy years of retirement and encourage you to consider writing musical comedy again. These few highlights only hint at the brilliance of your full production which bore the unforgettable title:  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Do You Know?


How do you know

that this is not
the paradise
foretold us
by Mohammed?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quantum Assimilation: Resistance is Futile

Mark & Heinz Pagels circa 1980
In Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature, his best-selling quantum theory book, physicist Heinz Pagels explains how an alien intelligence has entered the human world and is beginning to reprogram our culture according to its own inhuman logic. Here I excerpt from his Cosmic Code a segment in which Professor Pagels foresees our inevitable quantum assimilation.

"I think the universe is a message written in code, a cosmic code, and the scientist's job is to decipher that code.

If we accept the idea that the universe is a book read by scientists, then we ought to examine how reading this book influences civilization. Scientists have unleashed a new force into our social, political and economic development--perhaps the major force. What distinguishes this new knowledge is that its source lies outside of human institutions--it comes from the material universe itself. By contrast, literature, art, the law, politics, and even the methods of science have been invented by us. But we did not invent the universe.

In 1965 I was walking through the Boston Commons with friends and met an elderly woman with bright and lively eyes. She was wearing a homemade dress. A poet, she belonged to a small community which rejected the use of machines. The woman told me that her small group saw the human spirit as corrupted by modern life and by technology. She explained that a demonic spirit had come upon this earth about three hundred years ago, a spirit inimical to humanity, which it set out to destroy. The malevolence began when the best minds were captured. The conquest was all but complete, she said, only a few held firm against the final fall. I thought of William Blake, another poet, lamenting Newton's blindness.

The woman asked me what I did, and when I said I was a physicist I was greeted by a look of horror. I was one of "them", the enemy. I felt a chasm open between us.

Some years later I spoke to a mentally disturbed young man. Very agitatedly, he described to me how alien beings from outer space had invaded the earth. They were formed of mental substance, lived in human minds, and controlled human beings through the creations of science and technology. Eventually this alien being would have an autonomous existence in the form of giant computers and would no longer require humans [as hosts.] Soon he was hospitalized because he was unable to shake off this terrible vision.

The old poet and the young man are correct, in their perception that science and technology come from "outside" the realm of human experience. They were sensitive to this perception in a way that most of us suppress. What is outside of us is the universe as a material revelation, the message that I call the cosmic code and that is now programming human social and economic development. What may be perceived as threatening in this alien contact is that scientists, in reading the cosmic code, have entered into the invisible structures of the universe. By the nature of the phenomena it studies, science has become increasingly abstract. The cosmic code has become invisible. The unseen is influencing the seen."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Transcendent Sex

Jeffrey Kripal & Nick Herbert, Esalen Lodge, July 2010
Jeffrey Kripal is the chairman of the religious studies department of Rice University in Houston, author of many books including a study of sexual mysticism in the world's major religions and an official history of Esalen Institute construed as a center for the development of "Western Tantra". Because so many of our interests coincide I had been corresponding with Jeffrey but we have never met.

For almost 50 years Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA has been at the forefront of new developments in psychology, bodywork, arts and science. Founded in the early 60s by Michael Murphy and Dick Price, Esalen, on account of its many daring and pathbreaking programs, might be considered a Large Hadron Collider of the human spirit. I was first introduced to Esalen by a Stanford classmate, who invited me to visit the grounds before Esalen had begun, to hear a talk by Mike Murphy's teacher Frederic Spiegelberg about his 5 second "psychic X-ray" by the Indian mystic Shri Aurobindo. I immediately fell in love with the place and its people and have returned many times since as student, teacher and guest.

For the month of July, Jeffrey Kripal and his wife have been in residence at Esalen leading a course for work scholars called Sex of the Spirit and generously offered a day at the Institute to me and a female companion. Lots of things are happening at Esalen this year. Michael Murphy is turning 80, Anna Halprin, legendary San Francisco dancer is turning 90 and leading a workshop there this month. And the day I decided to accept Jeffrey's offer, he was also awaiting the arrival of Dr Jenny Wade, the author of Transcendent Sex, When Lovemaking Opens the Veil, a study of 91 people who were swept away into drastically altered states just by "doin' it."

Meeting in the Esalen lodge, Jeffrey and I shared our "origin stories" and inspired others at the lunch table to contribute their own experiences revolving around sex, religion and other human passions. Lots of laughter ensued. The Esalen cuisine, always a delight, was crowned by a thick soup made of curry, coconut and sweet yams.

Then I asked Jeffrey to treat us a to tour of the Esalen grounds as seen thru the eyes of its official biographer. We began at Fritz Perls's old house, walked past the newly erected stage for the Esalen International Arts Festival, walked thru the spectacular Esalen gardens where much of the food we had just consumed had been grown, visited the George Leonard Memorial Dance Pavilion. Then we passed thru an iron gate which Jeffrey had never seen before which was made in the shape of a human face and unlatched by moving a lever which removed the figure's tongue from a narrow slot. We toured the children's Gazebo, the Art Barn, the Big House (where I had participated in so many quantum physics seminars in the 70s and 80s) and the Meditation Hut spanning Hot Springs Creek. We were interrupted on the waterfall path by a woman who questioned Jeffrey about a cow-headed goddess she had encountered the night before in a dream. In the middle of the lawn my companion and I leprechaun-blessed the grounds with a medley of Irish tunes accompanied by the squawks of a dozen sea lions from a small offshore island.

After Jeffrey left to welcome the author of Transcendent Sex, my companion and I descended the cliffside path to experience the Esalen hot sulfur baths. After being destroyed by slides in 1998, Esalen's famous old concrete baths are being rebuilt with a strikingly modern aesthetic suggestive both of ancient Roman baths and Art Deco pleasure domes. Disrobing, showering in view of the Pacific, slipping into the hot tub, silent massages going on around us, we wordlessly merged with the light, the air, the water and one another's presence. Home at last!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

JAMES P. HOGAN (1941-2010)

photo by Reno De Caro

James P. Hogan was a successful science fiction writer whose plots feature hard science extrapolated into the past or future. Like Robert Heinlein, Hogan could spin a good yarn. Tho big and burly as a wrestler, Jim was a softie at heart--a true romantic: many of his stories mine the perennial theme of a smart, warm and handsome couple bravely struggling against the power of the evil establishment, in the manner of Bogart and Bacall, Mulder and Scully, Nick and Nora Charles, Romeo and Juliet. Except in Hogan's tales, one or both of his protagonists is likely to have a PhD after her name. Hogan is most famous for his "Giants" series of novels which hypothesize an extraterrestrial origin for mankind.

Jim Hogan lived on a farm in Sligo, the birthplace of another famous Irishman, William Butler Yeats. When not working at his computer, Jim kept himself in shape, he said, by hauling rocks around his farm. He'd heard all the gloom and doom scenarios, but, cheerful and optimistic, Jim was placing his bet on mankind to prevail, as it had done so often in the past, against the Ice Age, against the Viking and Mongol hordes, against the Black Death. Against the gloomers, James P. Hogan laughingly cast his vote for human freedom and for limitless human possibility.

In addition to his science fiction, Hogan was a prolific writer of essays on controversial subjects where he would invariably defend the less popular side. On his website he published articles against global warming, in favor of intelligent design, arguments in favor of an Electrical Universe rather than one purely gravitational. Hell, Jim Hogan even questioned the Big Bang! His essays on controversial topics are always well-reasoned, and free from name-calling. Jim Hogan was tough and passionate in debate but he never resorted to insult. One can read the essays of this intelligent, pugnacious Irishman on his site's Bulletin Board, check out his science fiction works or browse his favorite controversial books in the Heretics Bookshelf.

Jim was a maverick, an independent thinker and a champion of the underdog. He was continually rushing to the ramparts to defend unpopular causes and unpopular people, writing letters to the German Embassy, for instance, protesting Germany's imprisonment of writer Ernst Zündel for expressing "forbidden ideas" in print. Jim's favorite slogan, which he claimed to be a famous Irish rallying cry, was: "Now is the time for the futile gesture!"

It was my good fortune to know and share time with James P. Hogan during the last three years of his life.

Jim Hogan was a bold and courageous man holding high principles such as few possess in these fearful and cowardly times. No more fitting eulogy for the Hogan spirit than Shakespeare's:

This was the noblest Roman of them all:
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world "This was a man!"

Ave atque vale, James P. Hogan. Farewell, my friend.