How to generate text with python from within the document itself.

Today I have something different to share. In my daily work I use the python programming language mostly in data analysis but also to control and read data from devices in my lab. I recently changed from using notepad++ to sublime text 3 when editing my code. This enabled me to build code from within the editor itself and also allows for easy modification of key-binding shortcuts. It is also straight forward to add new packages that enhances your coding experience.

I am planning to use sublime and latex to write my PhD-thesis and I find some of the logic in latex over complicated and inefficient. Especially when it comes to defining variables, conditionals and other functions. I searched the web and came across the pytex package for latex. It allows for including python code within the latex document. If you are as comfortable with python as I am this can save you a lot of time. However, when installing the package I realised that its source code was over complicated and that it wasn’t usable if I wanted to include python within other programming languages. Consequently I made my own little python script that I would like to share with you that makes this possible and is in my view a lot simpler.

Here is the code: (I had to screen shot it in parts for it to work for some reason) but I can send you the file be email if you want it)


The example code for usage can be seen here (using the new syntax for python snippets added to the Latex.sublime-syntax file)code.png

The output file looks like this:


This is then compiled with pdflatex and opened with acrobat reader. The beutiful thing is that this works with any code you are writing and not just latex. Remember to compile it using the file shown in full above.

If you have comment on how to improve the code or questions on its content and its usage be free to add them in comments to this post.

Hope this can help you in some way and see you soon!

My kind of Language

We all have a notion of what language is, but since it is such an obvious part of our lives we hardly ever think of it more deeply. In this text I will try to explore the wonders and mysteries around language and try to convey my idea of what language is by means of the written English language. Since any human language is subjective in nature, I can only hope that you will obtain an idea as intriguing as mine.

To begin with, the word language is ambiguous, so a proper introduction to my kind of language is appropriate.  I like to share with you the kind of language that can be seen as any combination of distinguishable interpretation schemes of sensory inputs. If that didn’t make sense you simply don’t share the language I use to interpret that sentence. In order to let more English reading people in on my idea, I will try to explain what I mean in little more detail. My idea of language is something more general than most people think of when they come across the word language. For most people, language is something we human speak, write or listen to when communicating. My kind of language is a property that all entities have. I talk about the entity’s complete interpretation taken from all sensory inputs put together, but also any combination of separable interpretation schemes associated with isolated sensory inputs. The sensory inputs can be as simple as the wall of a box or as delicate as the eye of a person. By interpretation I simply mean the rule from which the entity bases its reaction. The reaction can simple be to do nothing, change its internal structure or respond with any detectable output, such as movements or sounds. Kicking a box means applying a force as a function of time on the wall of it, which creates vibrations that propagate through the material of the box, and the box moves. The box has a language that translates force to movement which is true for all free entities. The more complicated the entity is the more separable perception-to-action schemes will emerge, especially when it comes to life. This means that the environment speaks to you which you interpret with you visual and auditory perception language, but to keep it simple let us restrict our-self to the language used in intended communication.

The intended communication can be direct in the form of physical fields that propagate from one area in space to another place later in time. Fields are basically some property of something that changes over space and time. Talking for instance involve air pressure variations over space and time that another person, or animal for that matter, can transform to electrical signals in their ear. Our language determines what these signals mean to you. It can also be indirect in the form of visual or structural imprints on a some kind of abstract canvas. The canvas can be anything that holds information that later can be perceived. It can be a magnetic memories, a empty document, a painting or perhaps the human body as in the case for tattoos. It might be directly related to direct types of communication as in the case for recorded voice or a unique type of language that involves symbols as for the written language.

Another dimension of language is its subjectivity. The more subjective it is the more freedom we have in its interpretation, which an be used to make something more important for the recipient. For example, the goal of abstract art might be to create something that has many interpretations, thus making the recipient likely to choose a interpretation that is meaningful to him or her. This is often how horoscopes are created – Make them general so that we might interpret them to fit our lives but specific enough to carry information. On the other end we have precise languages such as math and computer code. Any error might invalidate a whole instruction or calculation. It is invaluable for conveying detailed information as in the case of instructing someone on how to build a bridge. If details are not important it is often more efficient to use a less objective language. Music, which contains detailed instruction on how to play a certain instrument might also have subjective aspects such as the timber in your voice when one sings or the feelings you get from hearing an accord.

There might be rules to the language that needs to be followed for the canvas to be interpretable. Another name for these rules are the syntax. A syntax tells the sender how to combine word or symbols in order for the instruction to carry meaning. With out syntax, any combination of symbols have meaning and thus can easily be miss understood. Computers have often a very strict syntax making it safe from accidently corrupt large parts of data. On the other hand, some languages even have many meanings of the same words based on how they are told. You can basically do this on any sentence, and it is often a quite fun exercise. Take this sentence for example: “I want you to stay at home tomorrow”. By emphasizing a word you add underlying meaning to the sentence. Imagine that you speak out the sentence with emphasis on the boldfaced word bellow. The interpretation that I make of these changes is marked to the right below:

  • I want you to stay at home tomorrow” – I and not someone else wants you to stay at home tomorrow.
  • “I want you to stay at home tomorrow” – I want you and not anyone else to stay at home tomorrow
  • “I want you to stay at home tomorrow” – I want you to stay at home tomorrow and not any other day.

I imagine that you have had fun with this exercise with someone before. It illuminates the ambiguity of natural languages and that other senses are needed to resolve these ambiguities. It comes natural to us, but try to make a computer understand irony and you will understand its difficulty.

There is obviously much more one can say about languages and in especially details about a particular language. But this might be enough to give you a sense of all the wonders that language entails.

Let me know your thoughts on the subject especially if you disagree! What aspects of a language do you find important? Have you created your own language perhaps? Do you know of any language that we never speak about but is nevertheless an essential part of our lives? Don’t hesitate to comment and tell the readers all about it.




Who should I teach?

I am sometimes thinking about becoming a teacher but I do not know who yet. I could teach kids who are young enough to not have inherited many of the negative habits or fears that there parent bring from their time. The culture or ideologies earlier in time have a tendency to be less moral in our eyes. Partly because we used to rely more on our animal instincts and feelings then many do today but also because of recent rise of technology enabling us to learn from not only your parent but from thousands of people around the world. I want to believe that we become better for each generation.

Parents, often unknowingly, force there view of the world upon their children giving them incorrect perspective of things. Incorrect because not many parent have the will to continue learning about the world after they finish school and since our knowledge of the world changes as rapidly as ever before we tend to fill our kids with miss leading information. I can’t blame them, our world is so full of “alternative facts” and “biased news companies”. Companies that rather spice up the truth for many rather then the truth for a few.

I may want to teach these kids that not everything they read on the internet or in a news paper reflects reality. Not even what they perceive with there own senses must be how things really are. If something can teach kids to be sceptic it would be to show how their own senses can trick them. I could teach them that just as reporters filter what they hear by interest and colors what they see with their opinions, our brain will filter our senses and interpret its meaning based on earlier experiences. Young kids can’t learn anything from these words alone, their brain has not matured enough to make such comparisons. This brings me to why I might want to teach young adults rather then kids.

Being there for older kids that already have formed most of there ideologies and have the skills to make complex comparisons gives me another type of challenge. The challenge now is to give them the tools in order for them to find out for them selves what is true. I will give them the experiments and tools to handle real situations hopefully to give them new perspective. It is important to know that learning new perspective always leads you closer to the truth. Perspective makes you compare and find out what is a matter of opinion and what is not. The more views of something you have the better you can narrow down its objective nature meaning the aspects of something independent of perspective. It relates to everything in life. Do not form prejudices about someone that you have met once or heard about a couple of times. Why not eat, walk and talk together before forming your view of someone. When you are corrected you grow as a person, you have hopefully learned something. By being argued out of a particular view, you are actually the winner. By winning I mean that you learn something. This relies on you being critical enough so that you can’t be argued in to nonsense.

A good advice I heard once is: Seek first to understand, then to be understood (cited from: Seven habit’s of highly successful people).

I might also want to continue teaching at university level. Having the knowledge and being able to teach something that not many other people can teach gives a feeling of belonging. The feeling of being needed is a strong feeling and if you are needed it is even better. I would if possible start a course in classical physics. I would in the course relates our intuition to our world and make it derivable from simple thought-experiments. I would give some beautiful mathematical tools and

What reality is!


I have found a set of arguments that lead to an idea of reality that I haven’t read about anywhere. It is for me a pleasing idea and the only plausible reality I can think of. I have not yet seen how this framework of thinking leads to anything novel that can be empirically tested. However, it yields new perspective on fundamental questions such as:

  • What role does the observer take in our cosmos?
  • Can one explain the collapse of the wave function?
  • What is time?
  • How did the universe come into being?
  • Why is the universe expanding?

I do not have detailed answers for these question in form or rigid mathematical proofs. Even though this framework might one day facilitate these proofs, if they exists, the purpose here is to embed the answers with in this framework which as you will see makes them rather intuitive. I want to say that this is not science, science are based in empirical evidence and reasoning. This is mostly philosophy and some part logic. Nevertheless, it might sometimes be important to step out of ones comfort zone to get to new insight. This is an attempt to do just this. If you disagree to what I have to say, please let me know. I want you to be sceptical while having an open mind and see where it takes you.

Let us start by understanding the concept ad hoc and how it relates to what I have to say. The expression is latin and translates to “for this” and its meaning is often used to describe a situation where one adds information without justification in order for a model to reflect the outcome of experiments. It is often an effective way to get something that works without understanding why. In science however, understanding is very important since it leads to further discoveries or more general models. An example of an ad hoc theory is the standard model of particle physics. The standard model together with the general theory relativity are the most accurate models we have today. However, it relies on adding something called the Yukawa coupling to its underlying symmetric theory in order for it to reflect nature. This together with its inability to explain gravity strongly suggests that something completely different is needed to encompass all of physics.

How does this relate to my thoughts on reality? I argue that any theory that involve ad hoc explanations must be incomplete. Every measurable constant in nature must be a direct result of its underlying theory, otherwise why did it take on that specific value and not any other. Another way of putting it is that reality is like it is because it has to be that way if it isn’t designed. If reality could exist in two possible ways but it turns out that reality is one of these cases, reality must have a creator. But if reality have a creator the model of reality must include the reality of the creator so we didn’t get anywhere. It could of course be that there are some infinite recursive designer scenario, but that too is a reality that we have to include in our models if we are to understand everything.

It all leads back to one reality that must be in the way it is. An apparent paradox is at our hands tha we might call the all and nothing paradox. If the universe has to be in the way it is, we could falsify this claim by saying that nothing is a possible reality. That nothing exists is actually a very reasonable reality it is very simple to explain and it has no information in it, clearly we are not living in this universe which falsifies the claim that reality is what it is because there is no other alternative. However, there is a remedy. Assuming that information is everything that exists – there is only 1 reality that has the same amount of information in it as nothing, namely everything.

Everything that can exist under some logical framework must exists and if information is everything, everything equates to nothing. It is hard to grasp what this really mean. An analogy to this is how we think of infinite random sequences such as the decimals of π=3.14159265358979… There is no information stored in this string of numbers, as far as we know, other than ever higher accuracy of the ratio between the circumference and the diameter of circle in flat space. The reason for this is that any possible sequence of numbers, however long, lies somewhere in the decimals of π. There is a fun webpage that uses this fact, check it out!. There is in some way no information stored in an infinite random sequences just as there is no information stored in no sequence at all. It is not completely true because a sequence will have a position within the decimals. A less similar but accurate example is the amount of information stored in a set of drawn card from a deck of 52 cards. For each new way you can do something you add one unit of information so drawing all cards from a deck will result in the same information as drawing no cards if we disregard drawing order. In the same way, nothing has no information just as everything can’t carry any information.

The conclusion we can draw from this is that everything exists. Reality is everything and nothing simultaneously. We can represent it with a mathematical object of perfect symmetry. Anything we do to this object will have no measurable effects, because if it could be changed we must use ad hoc arguments to explain why it is in one way rather than the other. The tricky part here is to explain why we do not see this perfectly symmetric universe. In our view we can store huge amount of information in very small spaces so how can this reflect reality. The reason is that we are a part of the system, leading us to the notion of an observer. Being an observer inside a system must break some symmetry that an outside observer perceives. In fact, I argue that an observer is defined by the symmetry it breaks. Let us use a thought experiment to clarify this idea.

Imagine that you and your identical twin is in a perfectly circular room, outside the room there is a person watching both of you. What ever you do, your twin will mimic. If you go right your twin goes right according to him. Now, let us add some information to the system. The outside observer names both of you, he writes down: “RIGHT” is to the right and “LEFT” is to the left in his view. The same type of information is now added by you. You name yourself as “I” and your twin as “YOU”. After this we isolate the outside observer from the participants so that he no longer can see what they are doing. In the same way we blindfold you and your twin so that you do not know where you are going or from where you came. After a while everybody can see again. For the outside observer your initial naming information is lost. However, since you are an observer in the system you will still be able to name you and your twin with the name you gave them. Obviously your twin will have the same naming but the important part is that in your case, the information is not lost. From an outside observer the system is symmetric with respect to mixing. However, from your point of view the system is not symmetric in the sense that you can separate “I” from “YOU” after mixing. It is an interesting thought experiment but it is not perfectly analogous. Another example of this phenomenon is the collision of two electrons. Two electrons are moving towards one another, at first you can separate the two particles but once they collided you do not know if they simple got moved of course or if they got repelled back to where ever they came from at the same angles as if they passed by each other. From the electrons point of view you will know the forces acting on you and you will make no mistake on where you are heading. It is impossible to determine which electron went in what direction for an outside observer but being the electron leaves no doubt.

Quantum physics experiments show that once you become a part of the system you are investigating, the symmetry of being in superposition of many possible states breaks. It is called the collapse of the wave function, I just call it becoming a part of the system. The bigger the system is, the harder it is to isolate the system from the outside world. In fact the whole universe is in superposition of being all possible universes but many symmetries have already broken giving us a world full of structure and information. What do I mean by already broken? It hints that symmetry was less broken at some earlier point in time. So what is time in this framework of everything I am trying to explain to you. I see time as being defined by how many symmetries that are broken. Time is known to be relative the observer, I will take it further and say that time of an observer is the amount of symmetries an observer breaks in order to experience what it experiences. If an observer has broken more symmetries it exists later in time. An observer moves in time by breaking symmetries, for each step in time the symmetry of undetermined possible futures breaks to the actual future you happen experience. All other possible futures are similarly experiences by other observers. You, at some time will end up in all these future states at a later time, but the notion of you or the definition of you at that point does not include those other potential futures.

Every observer have one unique history but must include all possible futures. If we go back far enough we might get to time zero or the observer from which all present observers are broken off from. This observer is reality. It is a perfect symmetric object that can’t be in any other way. It might be that big bang as we see it from the photons it produced is some aspect of this symmetric reality. Time might isolate us from the system enough in order for us to investigate its symmetries in the same way we can understand symmetries in isolated quantum systems in our labs. We can also extrapolate in the other direction. An observer that has broken all symmetries exist at the end of time. This observer can be said to be the fundamental building block of reality that when put together in different ways make up the structures of our universe.

The idea that time is symmetry-breaking is a reformulation of the second law of thermodynamics. Taken directly from Wikipedia the second law states that the total entropy can never decrease over time for an isolated system. Entropy is another word for disorder or the total number of distinguishable ways that a system can be in. It is a measure of how much information that can be stored in a system or in other words how many symmetries that are broken. You see, what I have to say does not invalidate any other laws of nature. It simply reframes them and makes them all fit to the bigger picture. The final and most powerful realisation of this framework is that many of the best techniques today to predict the future is to create a symmetric object and then break that symmetry in various ways. It is not stated in this way in the books but it is isomorphic to what researches do to calculate probabilities of future events given som initial conditions. A scientist would say that the action contains all of physics and therefor all of reality. The action is the integral of the lagrangian density over all of space-time. The action is what one would call a functional. It takes quantum fields and produce a single number, the integration symmetrizes fields to create an action and by applying different field derivatives on that action, thus breaking those symmetries, we get propagators. Propagators are one of the most useful objects particle physics and they all relates to building and breaking symmetries.

Finally, to explain why the universe expands, we simply recognize that space must be created when symmetry breaks. A circle for instance does not contain space before you introduce a coordinate which breaks the rotation symmetry of the circle since the coordinates will change by doing so. Expansion means that more space is created, so since time is defined by symmetry-breaking and space is created in that process we can conclude that space expands with time. How fast it expands might relates to what types of symmetries that are broken. If the universe only can split in to two possible future at each time we would see an exponential growth of new spaces. What ever we define as a unit of space one can easily see, depending on the structure of the symmetries that have been broken, that the rate of expansion could accelerate.

A language to describe these symmetrical systems might not be possible to obtain for observers within the system if we are to believe Gödels incompleteness theorem. We might not find all symmetries of reality but by finding an object that predicts all experiments when its symmetries are broken in the right way we do have a very useful model. The details in how this symmetries interact and produces consciousness and physical laws is still a mystery but using this framework as a guide we might be able to create better languages and techniques to achieve better experiences in and understand more of our infinitely symmetric universe.

Some words on education

Education lie close to my heart. It may not come as a surprise then that i think about it often. Education is about learning how to act in order to maximize your and others well being. It is about finding habits that improve the experiences of conscious beings. It is in other words about finding out what is and understanding how to reach what ought to be. Education should therefor be about acquiring knowledge about the world and understand what decisions lead to a world who’s conscious beings are happier.

The task is to find an educational system that regardless of available resources and teaching skill will drive pupils towards this goal. This is not to say that if you have the resources, you shouldn’t use it. It justs means that we should standardise the general principles of good education while freeing the means on how to actualize them. The means must be adaptable to environmental changes such as the creation of new technology as well as the individual needs in order for everyone to learn as well as they can.

Let me put forward some principles that might sound obvious when you think about about them but whose absence in the Swedish school system concerns me. These are not truths, just timeless ideas that I would like to see tested in an actual school if current legislations allow for it.

1. Divide and Conquer

I am borrowing the well known term from computer science which refers to the algorithmic approach of splitting a problem in to chunks and solving the problem for each part iteratively. The essence of improvement, both psychologically and in terms of efficiency, is to divide a problems in to manageable parts and learn och do each part without needing to think about the whole. Psychologically because it is easier to motivate one self to do one small task at the time rather then to embark on the whole project at once. It is also more efficient, if each step down in specificity yields insight that can be used for the next level. As an example, to understand what life is we can divide life in to 5 types, animals, plants, fungus, bacteria and other types of life. Knowing that animals have a digestive system as well as complex sensory to motion capabilities will help understand what a horse is as well as a frog. We have to include the possibility for life to be something else to ignite imagination, but also because we might be able to create new lifeforms this century that do not fall into the first four categories.

Imagine also the case of trying to learn a new sport. Having learned gymnastics earlier facilitates your learning of beachvolley because both share the common grounds of motoric control – the ability to move your body to desired configurations at will.

I suggest that we divide learning in to 5 steps:

  • Motivate
  • Observe
  • Reason
  • Practise
  • Convert to value

The motivation is the ideas that makes students willing to learn. Why is this valuable for me and if I am more altruistic, how can learning this yield value to those around me. Each person have there own idea of what value is, so examples of subjects gaining value by learning what you are about to teach should be many. We want many examples of personalities so that as many students as possible can identify themselves with someone. Students now have a goal in mind: Knowing this will make me be able to do that, or learning that would give me this value.

Then comes observation. Use your senses to perceive how things work by empirical investigations, or by osmosis by following mentors that you look up to. It is important to train your senses to be more aware of what is going on in your surroundings. Learn by osmosis because if it worked for them it can work for you. Failing is an important part of improving but learning from the mistakes of others is event better.

Next comes reason. Your feelings are not a perfect reflection of reality and even if something feels good now it doesn’t mean that it will bring you most value in the long run. Reason about who to follow, why is that person someone to look up to, are my circumstances similar enough in order for me to best learn in the same way as my mentor. Is my interpretation of my observation reasonable? Is this piece of information subjective or objective. If objective, what reasons do you have for believing in the information you obtained. If subjective, imagine your self in that persons position, what would you have thought that same?

Every skill and knowledge requires you to spend many hours practicing before it can generate value. That is, we must be patient – appreciate all steps towards expertise, not just the goal. Eventually anything you learn can be turn in to value either by teaching it to others or in the form of services or products. This is also true for remembering facts that you find important. Memories always fade away if not rehearsed, however for each time you remember something that memory grows stronger in you and will stay reachable longer. One can optimise efficiency by having student repeat knowledge just before they forget it. There are available tools that can help out tremendously in this area. But let us save that for another discussion.

Finally we must pick the fruits of our work. We must se what value learning brought me either through the appreciation from others or from our self when we realise that we are moving forward. This will boost further motivation and inspire others to learn what you learn. At some point you may become a mentor which will yield tremendous value to those who follow you.

So what do we need to learn? How should we divide our work in order to always build upon earlier knowledge. Let me give my view and if you do not agree be free to argue against it.

  • Self – Understanding your own body and mind
  • Culture – Understanding other minds and societies through out the ages
  • Science – Explaining the world around us and finding out what is true
  • Language – How to convey and store subjective or objective information

Understanding one self is one of the hardest problems in the world. How does our senses work together with the brain to produces conscious experiences. No one is close to answering this question, but in a world where meaning comes from experiences what can be more important to investigate. We should observe our thinking and feelings more often. Kids should investigate themselves early on. Investigate what it means to be a human, what is it that makes me feel angry. How do I feel at this particular moment. We should have much larger vocabulary on different emotional states. Not only the brain should be investigated, also our bodies. How does my knee work, what are muscles, why do I need them. How can a learn to control my body. Can i lie still for 2 minutes, why not? We should devote much more time on teaching students to observe themselves and by doing this it is much easier for them to move to the emotional state that they want to be in. You will also be able to communicate your feelings better and also understand how others might feel. It leads to a happier and more empathic society, I believe.

Culture on the other hand is important in the sense that if we do not know where we have been or where we are, how can we know where to go. To build trust and understanding of each other on such a diverse planet we have to understand each others cultures. What are the conditions from which you come from and how can I understand you if I do not know the history of your country or the customs of your town.

Science, the mother of improvement is a mind set that should be a part of all education. It is the means to an end, it is what works, it is used to differentiate facts from fiction and it is the tool to navigate our moral landscape. We might not think that we can get an ought from an is, but if we just agree upon that moral is about increasing the well being to conscious entities and reducing suffering, there must be scientific facts about morality.

Language is all means to convey information subjective or objective. We should teach kids to express them selves in many different ways, like body language, sign language, natural language, written language, tactile language maybe even smell. Hormons that are sent out from your body contains a large amount of information that we can pick up subconsciously and act upon. We also have many different types of canvases to transfer our thoughts and feeling on to. These are external devices that can convey information to anyone that reads the language you have used, for instance a note sheet, document, instrument, food plate or even your own body. We should learn the common grounds of language and then build upon that before we distinguish math from music or dance from say programming. In this sense nothing seems unfamiliar. Trust me, they share more then you think. Depending on the situation, what is the best means of instructing someone? Should I use music or food, body language or text messages to get my feelings or thoughts across? By getting something across I mean to sync our minds so that our experiences matches.

2. Play!

It is well known that playing is one of the most developing activities for your brain, especially at a young age.  Playing deserves to be one of the principles and it should be a part of most of education. Most of us forget about playing when we grow up. We stop imagining and lower our creativity. I do not mean that we should play video games or board games all the time, I am just suggesting that we do stuff for the joy of doing them. For humanity to solve the problems we will face in the next decades we need to boost our creativity and think more and more outside the box. We have to go outside the norms to create novel values and go out of scripture to reach new insights. Let us put more effort into strengthening the skills that computers still lacks. In this way we will complement the technology in the quest to add value in the world and thus feel as a part of the movement.

3. Adapt

We have to be able to adapt to the rapidly changing world. Kids are taught things that were important skills 100 years ago. The school is changing, but not as fast as the society changes. To solve this problem we should teach first and for most how to learn, learning is universal and what ever the world is like, learning will always be useful. Learning how to drive however will probably be unnecessary with in 20 years, due to the rise of autonomously driving cars.

4. Share and cooperate

Both schools among other schools and students among their peers have to cooperate. Ideas that show fruitful in one school should be shared and tested by others. If something worked for you, maybe it will work for your friends. Teach students to be susceptible to help. They do not need to do everything themselves, it is okay to seek help. Cooperation is what makes us human, it distinguishes us from our non-human ancestors. Cooperation can be trained through theater, games, sports, role play and other kind of team work. It is good to take on different roles in this plays so that one gain perspective. In my view, gaining perspective equates with gaining understanding.

5. Width first

Finally I would like to borrow another term from computer science. It reflects the way one can search through a tree node structure – before going too deep into one branch we should explore the other branches, that is, searching the width first. In other words to learn as efficiently as possible we should not just plow through the data like you probably read a book. An example on how NOT to learn is to be super good at multiplying numbers but not being able to divide or not being able to play fore hand in table tennis but being an expert in back hand. A better way is first get an overview of what you want to learn and then go in to ever greater detail. This yields perspective and motivation. Eventually we want to learn the details and having a broader understanding of the concept will help us to put these details in to the right slots. We can hang these facts on our earlier understanding of more general ideas or if it is about a certain technique we might see how to use this technique in other areas.

Let us apply this to principle on reading a non-fiction book. Frist of all, why do I want to read this book? Do I want to learn something or do I want to be entertained? Maybe both? Do I need to know all of it contents or do I want to get its core ideas and move on. In the analogy – is this a date, business meeting or a philosophical discussion. Always start with why as Simon Sinek argues. Once the why is established, you can work on the how. In our case our how is to look at the cover, glance through it content and see if it looks interesting. If it does you can get back to it later and read about the author and read the first and last paragraph in all the chapters. Dig in to the most interesting one and if it relates to any other chapters you might continue reading that chapter next. Don’t be afraid to read stuff more then one time. A book, like a friend needs to be entertained. Come back to it every now and then and read what you like and find out something new. It is better to have 150 books that you get back to in your life than having red 1000 books that you don’t remember much from. I pick 150 because it is the Dunbar’s number. If you are interested in reading more about that number check Wikipedia, but in short it is approximately the maximum number of friend you you gain something from having. After that your social brain wont cope they say.


As a final remark I would like to add that these ideas are what came to my mind when writing this and is not written in stone. So if you have other principles that you would like to add or some ideas that you must argue against, please do so. Next time I might put in som absurd idea just to provoke someone reading this, so be sceptic.

Until next post!






From Void To Language

It certainly is hard if not impossible to clear you mind completely, but let us imagine that you would be able to pull it of. You can’t talk nor walk and definitely not understand what’s written here. The only way for you to go on living would be to start learning, similar to the life of a new-born.

Driven by emotions and basic needs you would probably just crawl around while trying to associate actions and experiences with what emotional state they lead you to. If screaming gives you comfort from your mother you will more likely scream again whenever you feel uncomfortable. This is the workings of you brain learning how to act in order to feel better.

Initially, you will only be able to connect actions with outcomes overlapping in time. This is where language enters the scene; With it you can connect earlier experiences with later rewards by storing an idea that represents that experience. It is stored in the form of neurological pathways that when populated with electrical potential will reproduce some emotional aspects of the associated experience. The more these networks are fired up the more likely it will be for the neurons to fire again later.

Remembering in this context is the ability to steer the electrical potential in your brain into the pathways corresponding to the idea. However, if too many of these ideas are stored you will have a hard time trying to access them. The brain solves this by tagging ideas with associations where the tags themselves are ideas that can be tagged and so on.

These associations can be represented physically so that when perceived give predictable thoughts. If a set of such representations and their meaning are shared among individuals, we call it a language. By letting the language evolve by natural selection it will over time become easier to use and less ambiguous.

Imagine isolating a set of shared representations either by separating its users or by making clear distinctions between its usage in different situations. This could enable language speciation meaning that it will evolve to fit the needs of its user in each niche. We can include art as a set of languages that benefits from being subjective and pleasing for which the message is conveyed through the means of some abstract canvas, for instance a music instrument or the human body. Other languages may evolve to be more objective and precise, as in the case of mathematics; If you don’t know exactly the number of people in your family, someone sharing your genes might get left behind, which is very unbeneficial in the evolutionary sense.

Languages might also be distinguished by the sensory organ involved in the communication. Even though the meaning of spoken- and written words are similar, the way that they get transcribed in to moving electrical potentials is completely different.

This is how languages evolved from primitive and ambiguous to useful and precise. It is worth to mentioned that there is a trade of: What you gain in speed you loose in resolution. You can speak to complete strangers using mathematics and philosophy to convey a concept in detail, however with the natural language you might sync your ideas faster by giving up the objectivity in the idea.

More about language next time…

Life 2.0?

Are you fascinated by how you can translate thoughts to vibrations in your vocal cords that in turn produces pressure variations in the air? Variations that are isotropic and spread in three dimensions while losing intensity proportional to one over time squared. If someone is close enough to you the information, in the form of moving molecule density patterns, can be unconsciously transformed into charge anomalies in that person’s nervous system. When the electrical impulses reach the brain, the information can be converted in the meaning. Meaning in this sense is just a person’s additional nerve cell connections produced to alter the understanding of other packages of information processed by the brain. A different understanding of the world will make you react differently on it. A puddle of water will also react on the world depending on the information given to it. So, how are we different from a puddle of water you may ask? You can certainly say that a puddle is an entity, and it can lose some of its molecules and perhaps gain others, just like an animal. But, its reactions are not at all in line with self-conservation which in my view is what separates living from none living things.

I believe life is an accident; it doesn’t need to exist, but when it comes to existence it will by definition stay that way. Life in my opinion is an entity that stores information about it-self and will interact with the environment in order to conserve that information. Since everything decomposes, the information will soon be lost if the entity doesn’t have the ability to copy it-self and store the information about it in the new copy. For sure, it is possible for an entity to contain the information about it and only replace its parts, but soon or later an accident will wipe out the whole entity. The later is a behavior that doesn’t conserve the information about it-self very well and should maybe not be considered as life. Life probably arose when an entity and its information, which we can call an organism, was conserved to such extent so that the copy also had the ability to copy it-self. As the organisms copied them self, information was inevitably distorted in some copies. Did the change of blueprint make a new form of life or a none-living entity? Well, it did both for sure, but only the living things prevailed. The natural continuation on this is that the organism evolved towards entities that had better chances of passing on its information.

After some time, the organisms became expert at passing on information, but the resources for making copies of them-self where almost used up and had to be shared among all the new individuals. If an offspring got a blueprint that made it a little more likely to drift away from the crowded areas it would definitely be more likely to survive. You can think of countless other properties that will give a branch of life an advantage in terms of finding resources necessary for reproduction. If one branch of life differs from another to a certain degree we say that they represent two different species. An organism could either evolve to make use of new types of resources or acquire the ability to move and detect resources elsewhere. Maybe this was how plants and animals got separated in the tree of life. In the later, motion and fast reaction to the world played an important role which lead to the evolution of sensory organs. The sensory organs must be able to take in information and use that information to move in some way. At first, simple chemical relations between input and output was made. But in order to have complex reactions, which optimized the search for resources, life eventually evolved a process center. We call this a brain and it gives an organism the ability to store earlier sensory information and use it later in connection to current input to form an output best suited for finding resources. Life doesn’t have to evolve to form larger brains but it did in some branches of life, so it must have been to some advantage. We are in the branch that took the brain
advantage seriously.

Our body process sensory information and influence our behavior more than we understand; this is probably because understanding hasn’t been around long enough. Some argue that only humans understand which would make this phenomenon a few million years old. Life has existed a thousand times longer on earth, so it’s not strange that we haven’t figured out how we work yet. Nevertheless, it is astonishing that we understand so much that we do. I think most understanding is based on knowledge, and since knowledge from earlier generations is passed on to their offspring, the amount of understanding accumulates over time. Our understanding evolves and is almost like life-form using the human brain as its vessel and the more you understand the more you want to tell, so it is a good survivor. Different branches of understanding or beliefs compete against each other and evolve on their own until one branch gains enough confidence to form a paradigm. In turn it knocks out most of the other belief systems and continues to evolve now in the minds of many more and at a higher rate. Could this be a hidden form of life that when fed with truths takes good care of us and when given lies ruins us.