One of my favorite web sites is Astronomy Picture of the Day. I think the name is pretty much self-explanatory, but if it isn’t, take a look at the site and you’ll quickly get the picture. (Heh heh, I made a funny…)
Today’s post got me thinking in a meta-science vein. I say meta-science to place my ramblings in a field of thought that some might call pseudo-scientific, but I think of as being science that we just haven’t gotten around to yet. Rather like what Aristotle considered “metaphysics”, literally, “that which is beyond the physics” as it stood in his day. The clip in question is of what approaching the speed of light would look like in terms of its visual effects:
It occurred to me that what things looked like with all three effects (visual aberration, doppler and intensity) was remarkably similar to what people report in Near Death Experiences- seeing objects from a distorted, “floating above” perspective, shadowy indistinct figures and rushing toward a tunnel of light. This makes me wonder if those visual effects could have something to do with a speeding up of mental process that somehow approaches the speed of light.
If something like that was going on, it reminds me a little of Frank Tipler’s speculations about the Omega Point. In short, he saw consciousness eventually permeating the entire physical universe as the universe approached its “end” in a singularity, such that an infinite amount of thought processing could occur, and the subjective time experienced by this consciousness would be practically infinitely greater than the objective time of milliseconds it occupied. Could this be something like what human consciousness is doing in the instant before death, thus producing visual effects similar to what would be observed as one approaches the speed of light?
Don’t ask me precisely how, that’s for quantum physicists and neuroscientists to puzzle out, I’m just here to point the way. In all seriousness, I think (and history attests) that thought experiments and being open to flights of fancy is often the way that new perspectives emerge. It’s a noble pursuit. I just wish I had the nth dimensional math skills to take it further!
Bonus image! Also from Astronomy Picture of the Day, and having nothing to do with the above topic, but it sure is purty. A mosaic of the MESSENGER probe’s images of Mercury from its first “day” there, the Mercurian day being 176 days long: