Meditations on the primes

January 7th, 2016 — 3:47pm



The first number is really all the numbers. It is the infinite one. Indivisible, or infinitely divisible. One way of conceiving of it is a bright light, streaming in all directions, with no shape and no source. It is also like pure being, pure certainty.



By introducing two, we divide the one infinitely into a great grid. We have invented even numbers. Every other even number, half of all the numbers, will be a multiple of two, divorced from the whole.

Two is like a moment of doubt, clouding the certainty that existed with one. It seems to be associated with logic and daemons.



Three is the prism. It returns towards one, but two has created the separation. Colours are invented by three, and all the possibilities of aesthetics open up through multiples of three; 9, 12, 15, 18… Three creates many beautiful numbers.



Five seems to be connected to a lot of earthly life and humanity – the fingers on the hand, echinoderms (but not mollusca which are bilateral) – and it is the first number which seems to hint at the shape of the circle, the wheel.



Seven planets (of antiquity), seven days of the week, seven whole notes in the scale. It is seen as a mystical number, I’m not sure where this comes from, perhaps it doesn’t occur in nature very often.  There are seven systems of symmetry identified in crystals, although no crystals seem to have a symmetry that is septile.



I guess here we begin the path that is laid out by the Sieve of Eratosthenes. We seem to be out of our comfort zone with these large primes. Although there is an interesting musical scale using thirteen, but it doesn’t sound very musical for ears of this century.

An here is the interesting question about what is the meaning of the pattern thus described by primes?

No more number 9

On a slightly different topic, I’ve been thinking for a while that the base 10 counting system we use is really unnatural and unsuited for the future. In times to come, I wonder if we will come to prefer binary – some extrapolation of it like octal or hexadecimal.

We are already gaining a new familiarity with numbers like 64,  256 and 512,  thanks to the digital age of computers in which it is natural to count things like megabytes (1024 bytes).

Decimal only came about because of the number of fingers we have – those fleshy growths on your hands.  If we were squids it would certainly be different.

If humanity decides to use hex or octal as our counting system instead of decimal at some point in the future, it will be a bit like how during the last century or so most countries decided to use decimal counting instead of using feet and inches, for simplicity in an increasingly empirical world.

Hex seems the most likely candidate to me because it has an added compactness that comes about from the extra characters, yet there still arent’ too many symbols to remember. But here I think we run into a little connundrum.  Hex when it is used now in computers uses the latin alphabet for numbers 11-16 like thus: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F.

It could become a little confusing to use e.g. the letter C to refer to 12 when for instance trying to sell eggs.  There may also be a problem during a transition period that that unless your hex number contains a letter it will look like it could be a decimal number.

So because of these problems, we will probably have to completely re-invent the symbols we use for counting. It might be a chance to create an entirely new set of symbols that are neat, efficient, and contain none of the ambiguities that you get from reading the numbers 6 or 9 upside down, or thinking a 1 is an ‘l’ (although it might be hard to change the symbol for ‘1’ as it’s so ubiquitous and commonsense).

The names of numbers might need to be changed too. It makes no sense to be saying ‘teen’ for numbers over 12 when we are not counting in decimal any more. Perhaps it’s another opportunity to borrow some neglected words from old cultures. For instance, here is one idea with some borrowings from Sanskrit..

one 1
two 2
three 3
four 4
five 5
six 6
seven 7
eight 8
nine —
ten — 
eleven —
twelve —
trini (13) —
catur (14)  —
puncha (15)  —
sasa (16) — 10
sasaone (17) — 11
sasatwo (18) — 12


Of course no-one likes change so the opportunity to introduce this system would probably only occur at the same time as some revolution is occurring, or new civilisation establishing itself and its identity.  Perhaps my great grand children will see to that.

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social media, pollution, bjm etc

December 18th, 2015 — 9:35am

After holding onto my old nokia for a long time I finally gave in and got a phone with a shiny screen, and noticed that my blog isn’t suited to devices. So i changed it for a while there, to make it easier to read on a tiny screen. But i’ve just changed it back cause it was too ugly like that. So, i’m sorry if you are trying to read this on a phone, this blog is for bigger screens. I notice that phones are getting bigger though, so perhaps technology will catch up with me one day.

I’m addicted to the ‘intellectual dry hump’ that is twitter. i like following Richard Dawkins, for his crisp logic and fearless online antics, Mat Johnson, one of the funniest and most insightful persons alive,  Anton Newcombe for insights into a beautiful music world which i wish i inhabited and Evelyn Enduatta who is an ANU anthropology student with a cool Yolŋu thing going on. I mention these folks to give a hint of the peculiar range of inputs that we can plug into on twitter. It is the magic of this social media phenomena which allows us to get sort of intimate with people who are global figures, or random strangers. I asked Anton the other day whether he could see any geminid meteors (such a nerd i am).  He said it was overcast in Berlin. That kind of little interaction is just pure gold to me.  But it’s not just about fandom gesticulating at their idols. It’s also about an exchange of consciousness which is not bordered like it used to be. Like the Dawkins feed – the springing back of forth of ideas is really potent. An argument is going on inside the mind of the humankind-animal and you can see it on twitter.  Reddit is also interesting, but with the forum structure it is less a stream of consciousness like twtter. I have been using it lately to post some new stuff.


I am still in love with Earth Wind Map and the new layers which keep being added. Above is the sulfate pollution map which shows how most of this in Australia comes from the Mt Isa and Olympic Dam mines.  Below is El Nino, the big yellow streak in the tropical east pacific. Indian ocean is also warm right now which i read on bom might be allowing some moisture to get to Australia despite El Nino.


what else? it is christmas and that is dreary. The days are very long. i am having a lot of trouble getting any poetry written, or music recorded.  There is a new tune i am working on – you can hear me playing it moments after i created it here. Actually, more than anything else perhaps, playing music makes me happy at the moment. the aliveness of a tune, its movement, is so seductive to the mind. when everything else is dead the music will live on..


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the blankness inside

October 5th, 2015 — 10:11pm

new poems.. like new leaves on trees soon to be felled. the darkness the darkness.. what is the simplest path now? the straightest path leads into emptiness ..


the vast gasp of new verbiage heaping onto blogs, spilling from pages into vacant minds, pictures pouring into eyes.

the heart like a tickertape machine, printing painful and bloody sermons.

the great mind.. seething.. unseeing but knowing.. everything. it is coming soon.. soon.

happy happy sitting with an empty mind.. i hold my friends close to me.. i am the author of another old salty fish hanging on a sea breeze bleached post.

miraculous mercury – come to me – errors accumulate like grime in a filter.  a pocket calculator quietly adding.

better not to write. always better not. to write.

argues “myself in my head. with myself” “in my head” into bbq sauce, the black tar of neutrinos, untrapped, free to radicalise.

Scene 1: he flings his cape about himself and dissolves into smoke. or maggots. or yellow leaches. something. the smell of warm blood, or gearbox oil. it is hard to tell.

vacant lot. vacant car park. that one piece of gravel with a white paint mark, loose, lost and unfitting.

the cat. oh the unendurable misery of the cat!



2 comments » | drunken, green

the ethical dilemma of the vegetarian

September 1st, 2015 — 2:49pm

Life is suffering, said the Buddha. This seems to me to be true much of the time, and what is also unavoidable is that our aliveness causes suffering for other living things. Even the most careful of us will unfortunately step on a few ants and swallow some gnats (unless we follow very particular ascetic orders). At the very least we generally take up space on the planet that might have been used by someone else. This seems to be an unavoidable fact, but it does seem at first glance that we can at least diminish the quota of suffering that we cause in the world by not going out of our way to kill and maim things. Famously the Buddha advocated this, in a time when animal sacrifice for religious reasons was even more common than it is today). And one of the more obvious ways we still kill a lot of animals is by eating meat, so an easy fix to that is become a vegetarian.


But it’s never as simple as you think. As this article delights in pointing out, a vegetarian diet might easily still result in the deaths of many creatures who would not have otherwise died. The most powerful example given is that of mice, as millions of mice are poisoned every year by farmers growing grain. They aren’t killed humanely in abattoirs but poisoned – a particularly nasty way to die. When you start to think about it, many agricultural practices do result in animal deaths, especially if you count insects.  Moles get ploughed, badgers trapped, birds and kangaroos shot, fish poisoned by polluted waterways, not to mention the heavy death toll on insects, if anyone cares about them.

Obviously organic and sustainable farming goes a long way to reducing these impacts on other creatures – but it seems like there will always be some death associated with farming. What can the vegetarian realistically do? If animals are going to die anyway is there any real benefit in not eating animals outright? There are certainly some cases where animals are able to subsist on land that is otherwise quite useless to agriculture, which is part of an argument that George Monbiot, once a vegan, now uses to cautiously support ethical meat eating.

I was reading a bit of decision theory, and I think that there has to be an equation to sort this question out. Nothing too complex for me though.

S = s + s + s + s …

Let S be the sum total of suffering we cause though an act of eating. Let little ‘s’ be the suffering of those life forms who suffer through the act of us eating. So if we eat an ox then then the total suffering S = s where s is suffering of the ox, or if we eat some bread which causes the death of ten mice then S = 10s, or ten times more.  Here is the dilemma – for the vegetarian seems to be causing more suffering than the meat eater with this meal.

The difficulty is in what constitutes s, suffering. I think there are two main things at play here. Firstly, there are the events that are experienced which are ‘suffered’. Some events are worse than others – there are some ways to die that involve more suffering than other ways. We tend to prefer short and sharp ‘humane’ killing to deaths that are long and drawn out. We must also consider the quality and of life lived – the suffering caused by eating pork from pigs intensively reared in factories is higher than if the pigs had nice lives in a field, regardless of how they died. Perhaps also the duration of life is important – perhaps eating lamb is ethically worse than eating mutton. And an animal might not even have to die to suffer as a result of our meal – battery chickens producing eggs are an obvious example. To experience this sort of suffering might be worse than suffering a short sharp death following a contented life.

But we also have to consider sentience when considering the suffering of the life form – for it seems to be widely and intuitively believed that there is a spectrum, with humans at the top, and barely sentient bacteria or slime moulds or plants at the bottom. Killing creatures that are closer to the top is held to be worse than killing those at the bottom, and this is based on an intuitive idea of sentience. We believe that fly does not suffer as much as an ox when he dies, or at least that it does not matter as much to us. And even vegetarians have to draw the line somewhere, about what sentience is acceptable to kill, if they want to eat. For instance, a vegetarian is clearly happy to eat plants, which are dimly sentient, and would probably be unconcerned about eating bacteria, even though some bacteria are motile and quite complex. Algae is bacteria like this after all. Pescetarians draw the line up higher, above fish. Even meat eaters draw the line somewhere – above oxen but probably below dogs and whales and humans. Some more ancient cultures seemed not to have drawn any line at all.

So ‘s’ in the equation above is really a combination of at least these two things – the suffering experienced (se) and the rank of sentience that experienced it (st).

S = (se * st) + (se * st) + (se * st) …

The only way to truly calculate the the value of the meal is if we have perfect knowledge of the suffering inflicted and can scale sentience accurately. Unfortunately, calculating this in most circumstances seems to be an impossible task, and open to lots of argument.  But it would be interesting if we could measure these things accurately to discover whether a vegetarian diet still comes out on top most of the time. I think it often would – but I don’t think that it would all of the time.


[A gratuitous picture of offal which is unrelated to the merits of the argument. Although wouldn’t this be less offensive if these were mouse carcases?]

Vegetarianism at least has this appeal: it is a very easy ethical position to practice and understand. It at least excludes some of the most obvious ethical wrongs like eating factory-reared pork. The suffering caused by a vegetarian diet seems to be less direct – perhaps the farmer gets the bad karma for poisoning all those mice.  But I tip my hat to anyone who can improve the lot of other creatures by thinking about and tracing the ethical effects of all our eating – vegetarian or otherwise.  Like most things, there is a lot more to this question than is obvious at first glance.

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latest thinkings

July 19th, 2015 — 2:29pm

Last semester I spent a lot of time enjoying Jason Grossman’s and Dayal Wickramasinghe’s brilliant course ‘philosophy of the cosmos‘ (previously ‘poetry’ of the cosmos). This course spans a lot of material that I have been privately reading about for years – but the new and really interesting stuff for me was the detail on Quantum Mechanics, and the implications that the fundamental duality at the roots of nature – the wave particle duality – have for reality itself.  It is interesting that at the roots of nature, the familiar laws of logic seem to be broken. There is a different kind of logic at work there – and quantum computers are potentially going to tap into it.


Here is a picture of a cloud chamber I constructed at work recently. It really is a great experiment, there are plenty of guides online – you need a fish tank and lots of dry ice. Here of course, we are seeing matter exhibit its particle-like qualitites. Another fun way to tap into quantum mechanics at home is to do the double-slit experiment which is easily visualised with a laser pointer.

But that’s enough physics. I have been reading about the Gamilaraay language, here is a link to John Giacon’s thesis which is a great starting point if you are interested. After lamenting about the fragmentary records of Ngarigo, I am happy that there is work ongoing to revitalise another NSW language, and there is now a summer and winter course offered by the ANU and the University of Sydney.

This article about the end of capitalism touches on similar ideas I have been having about the need for all information to be free, for the group mind to emerge through AI, and for open democracy to be the functioning of that mind. I will have to explicate all these ideas again one day, but one fundamental part of the change that is coming, I think, will be the change in what we view of as ‘me’. This wait by why article about the nature of identity gives the background (thanks Kristina). Some of the thought experiments conducted here might not that far off. It is certainly going to be possible with quantum computers to simulate a human brain, and not long behind that will be the possibility of uploading a brain – and ‘animate’ it – pronto – the question of ‘self’ will emerge. Would you delete a version of yourself running on a computer if it was pleading with you not to, using your own memories and experiences and reasoning to convince you? Maybe you would, but it would be difficult to say why without using the body as the defining characteristic of a person.

It is convention to think of ourself as singular – this is forced on us by our being embodied. As we inhabit a single body for our whole life, it makes sense.  But the idea that there could be more than one entity in our heads is not difficult to conceive, and or course for some mental conditions this is a reality.  The other possibility is that we are part of a larger collective self – and in fact this is experienced to some degree by anyone in a close relationship – something larger than yourself is created while you are together. The breaking up of a relationship is the death of the super-person that exists when you come together. But although these might have some conceptual merit, for most people the body remains the limiting factor of what we consider to be a single conscious entity in real life.

However as technology improves, it seems to me that the connections between people are getting stronger and the body boundary is becoming less important. One can now live a life on the internet without leaving the house. In fact, we can live several lives through pseudonyms online and no one would know the difference or necessarily care. The body is still housing our consciousnesses, but in our interacting closely with others, there is a meta-being coming into existence. Its conscious life is in the flow of twitter memes and comment streams and the quiet cataloguing of everything by the google bots.  New technologies will empower this meshing of human consciousnesses even more. It seems to me that the unison of minds into one will inevitably continue to grow stronger, and as it does so our sense of self will become more and more a part of the larger whole.

Some individuals will consciously resist it, but the trend is there, and for most people there is an appeal in having access to all that life and information online. All those other people – we are attracted to them on lots of levels – and the mutual attraction brings us together into unity.

In fact, it is essential that this happens. We are approaching the limits of what the planet can support and the path of the individual is as doomed as a jar of self interested bacteria, spewing pollutants and poisoning itself. Only acting on collective interests – with the future of the species being of prime concern – will ensure we all get out of here alive. If we do get to the still sci-fi seeming stage of AI and/or uploading consciousnesses for immortal life as data, then that consciousness will be us – it will be you and me, our memory will be part of it, we will be nothing less than we are now, yet we will be greater than ourselves.

In fact, the body we inhabit will probably be seen for what it is – a temporary vessel for ideas that have a life and history of their own that runs deeper than any individual. The future of the ‘species’ is really the future evolution of our information – our knowledge, our memories, our languages, our songs, our history. This is what we really are. And this is why information needs to be free.

But what about the magic? People look for the soul – that vessel of some intangible thing, that unanswered question, that final question which cannot be answered. The soul may not exist, but the question will always exist, and in a way the soul cannot be parted from that question, that uncertainty, that faith.  It is at the roots of everything. The question of whether there is a soul will live on, whatever becomes of our individuality.

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rigid structures

March 20th, 2015 — 4:18pm

I am an idealist. So for me, metaphors are not just literary phenomena, they actually have a reality of their own. They have a physicality too, and can encapsulate a truth just as well as any logical structure of language. Early Sanskrit poets understood this.

For instance, a space with negative curvature is best described as a saddle, which can be attached to a horse with a strap and it has stirrups. The feeling of standing in negative space is same as the feeling of riding a horse on a slippery icy street, which is a metaphor for being unable to grasp a thought. This should all make perfect sense.

Ordinary reasoning creates an inflexible structure which, while strong, is threatened by crises which might break it. It would be better if it had some more flexible joints as part of its fabric, flexibility being the unreasoned or inchoate type of logic, in which metaphor plays a part.

This is why dreams and hunches are so rich and I use them every day now.

Very realistic and lucid dreams stay with me all day, with crossovers into modern life and actual memories, in that enigmatic way that dreams do. They colour every moment, adding a mysterious other layer of meaning that is hard to comprehend.

When i think and make decisions, i try to act using my powers of reasoning, but also i try to act from a deeper sense of intuition that is enriched by all chance associations and sensations.

There are consequences for every small act.. we cannot possibly predict what they will be.. from the vastness of the universe there are strings yanking us in every direction and it is best sometimes to pretend you are a puppet and try not to resist too much.

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climate revolution

March 8th, 2015 — 9:32pm

I am reading a lot of depressing guardian articles about it. And i have a new t-shirt. So I am thinking about the things that have to change to tackle climate change:

1. the planet has to be seen an extension of our own body, our own wellbeing. It’s health is our health.

2. decision making needs to be as intelligent as possible and for the good of the whole of humanity.

3. there are no vested interests with enough power to threaten that decision making.

it is as simple as that. but in order for these things to come about, a total revolution needs to occur.

To change our view of 1) we need to reorganise the whole economy to value the health of the earth, and protect it as we would protect our own body from abuse.

To change 2) a new way of governing the world needs to be invented. I am not as enamoured with open democracy as I was a few years ago. Instead I wonder if intelligent decision making for the greater good might come from computer enhancement in a few years time. But that could be a dead end. Anyway such government will need to be essentially singular.

to change 3) it is necessary to strip the power from most people or corporations who currently have it, and use it as described at 2) where it can benefit of the whole race.

I suppose that such a simple idea still allows there to be a thousand arguments about ‘the best kind of government’ etc. but I will not despair just yet. And it might be possible to survive climate change with a less than perfect government, but the damage in the meantime to our civilisation will be so much more.. why can’t everything be simple alex?

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March 4th, 2015 — 1:31pm

to practice meditation
is to engage with a paradox

for at its heart to meditate
is to do nothing

this nothing-doing
is very difficult


meditation is sustained
by an absence of effort

such sustained effortlessness
is exhausting

a thousand teachings
vacillate on this conundrum

1 comment » | poem

merry new year

January 4th, 2015 — 8:41pm

twenty fifteen. factors: 1, 5, 13, 31, 65, 155, 403, 2015.

i have been lucid dreaming. i used to think that dreams were visits to other worlds but now i’m not so sure. I think actually it may be the time when the brain is running a defrag operation, and also compressing the contents of short term memory into long term. It is not necessary to be conscious of the process but sometimes consciousness happens by accident.

a swelling sensation of futility, the wastage of verbiage on empty objects. it is the conceit of youth to feel important for a while. all that is going away now, now i enjoy the stripping away to bone, the loss of fantastical baggages in future airports, the wringing out by the changing world, less and less it is my own nectar that feeds me, the drying juices of creativity which used to flow are replaced with borrowings from more verdant strangers. i read gore vidal’s photo biography.

i am doing other things. collating inchiki’s last work into a lulu edition – also on Amazon here. playing bjm songs on the Maton.

I have designed an eight bit calculator on excel using simulated logic circuits. I wonder what logic really is, when it is broken down like that, why it has any reality to anything when it seems so arbitrary. more and more it seems that the garden gnomes have taken over the building and all sensations of depth and resonance in life have become lost.

i discover that i like crystals. i have topaz here. seems to resonate with aquarius but then i read that it is not an aquarius birthstone. so what’s all that about. oh i remember, someone just made all that up. there is no real test for birthstone applicability, it’s not like specific gravity. but i do really want to live in a fantasy world so i go on holding them in my hand.

thus is some of the twisted leavings from the idle wood turners shop of my mind.. i apologise if you have come here by accident with some expectation of a lucid conversation.

merry 2015

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bayesian reasoning proves i am a poetaster

September 12th, 2014 — 10:46am

i just ran a quick test and it came up with the following:

Web Tool for Sequential Bayesian Decision Making

Here’s what we have at this time: The table below displays the probabilities of the alternatives prior to the new observation(s). It also illustrates how the prior probabilities are combined with the conditional probabilities of alternatives by multiplying the prior probabilities by their respective conditional probabilities for the new observations. The resulting joint probabilities are then normalized to form the posterior probabilities of the alternatives (i.e., after the new observations are taken into account).

Alternative Prior probability of each alternative (before making new observations)
New observations: Conditional probability of each alternative when observing 3 more successes and 20 more failures
Joint probability (determined by multipling prior by conditional probability)
Posterior probability of each alternative (after observations are made)

A. i am a poet

0.941176 X 0.0000000000 = 0.0000000000 /sum = 0.000000

B. i am a poetaster

0.058824 X 0.0000922337 = 0.0000054255 /sum = 1.000000

sum = 0.0000054255

At this time, the total number of successes is 6 and the total number of failures is 21.

Conclusion at this time: ‘i am a poetaster‘.

Given this pattern of 27 observations, the conclusion would be in error 5 percent of the time. In other words, we would be 95 percent confident that this is the correct conclusion.

This assumes that the likelihood of success when Alternative A is true is 80 percent or higher, and the likelihood of success when Alternative B is true is 20 percent or lower.
We’re finished.

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