Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Souls and Brains

I just stumbled on a very interesting article on Scientific American's web site.

Here is a quote:

"The operation known as hemispherectomy—where half the brain is removed—sounds too radical to ever consider, much less perform. In the last century, however, surgeons have performed it hundreds of times for disorders uncontrollable in any other way. Unbelievably, the surgery has no apparent effect on personality or memory."

Now, according to most views, memory, intelligence, and personality are three areas that either reside completely in the soul, or are affected and changed by it.
For example, a person born with a angry temperament can work on himself, and become gentle and kind. This "working on it" is a function of the soul which alters the personality of the person.
Another example would be intelligence. At least the function of expressing intelligent ideas through speech ("man became a speaking spirit").

Now of course at some level these parts of our souls connect to the physical world somewhere in the brain, otherwise expressing them would be impossible.

According to this article:

"If the left side of the brain is taken out, "most people have problems with their speech, but it used to be thought that if you took that side out after age two, you'd never talk again, and we've proven that untrue," Freeman says. "The younger a person is when they undergo hemispherectomy, the less disability you have in talking. Where on the right side of the brain speech is transferred to and what it displaces is something nobody has really worked out.""

So in effect, no matter which side of the brain one removes, the person's memory is still there, their power of speech comes back after a while, and their personality stays the same.

Now, if memory is stored all over the brain, then the information in one half would be gone with its removal. And obviously the brain does not store memory in just the half of the brain that is bound to not be removed! We could suppose that the brain could store duplicate copies of memories in different locations in the brain, but this has never been shown to be true as far as I know.

Also, the ability to express intelligent ideas through speech is a hallmark property of a soul. The fact that it is "relearned" "somehow" on the other side of the brain is not remarkable to those who believe in a soul.

Therefore, I propose that barring any other explanation or experiment, this phenomenon could easily be considered as an additional piece of evidence that the soul is real and interacts with our bodies.

(Not that Torah Jews need such evidence, but it is always nice to see.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Cosmology of an Open Universe and Isaiah 51

Just a quick Torah and Science parallel:

According to most cosmologists today, our Universe is an "open" Universe, meaning that it will never collapse back in on itself, and instead will expand forever.

This leads to what is called the "heat death" scenario for the Universe.

Basically, since everything loses energy in the form of heat, especially when two things interact, then the Universe will eventually be a huge cold blob of heat, with everything we see now either in a dissipated blob of energy or chunks of cold objects (such as black holes, rocks, and perhaps dark matter if it exists).

In the Midrash Rabbah on Megilas Ruth, it is stated:

"The heavens are destined to disintegrate, as it is said (in Isaiah 51:6):
For the Heavens will dissipate like smoke and the Earth will wear out like a garment."

Now, this cannot be talking about the spiritual Heavens, because those are eternal, therefore it seems to be talking about the physical Heavens, i.e, the Universe.

Smoke is produced by fire, a source of heat, and is dissipated in the air by spreading out indefinitely. This would be analogous to the stars energy, and light, and all hot processes in the universe slowly fading over eons until they are completely dissipated.

Earth wearing out like a garment could be analogous to the planet Earth after being cooled to the point that it becomes a super cold rock. A worn out garment still is mostly the same material, but diminished in its use to the point of uselessness. Earth without any of its internal heat, or energy from a star would be analogous to that, and be a "worn out garment".

So we see that if the Universe truly is an open Universe, as current Cosmology says, then we see a parallel to this idea in Torah.

Friday, May 18, 2007

40 days and nights equal one "moment" for Hashem

Here is an interesting idea I came across in a book called "The Bible Unauthorized" by H. Moose:

It says in Tehillim(30:5): "His anger lasts but a moment"
and in Isaiah (26:20): "Hide yourself or one moment until the anger (of Hashem) is past over".

Now one event stands out from the rest in terms of Hashem's anger, that of the flood.
The flood was started by 40 days and nights of rain.

Another important event that took 40 days and nights was the giving of the Torah to Moshe.

One explanation is that Hashem extends the time it takes Him to do an act if the world would not be able to handle it in one moment.

In the case of the flood, the destruction occurring in one moment would have been too much for the world to tolerate, and in the case of the Torah, the whole Torah being given to Moshe in one moment would have been too much for him to endure.

According to "The Bible Unauthorized" (I would very much appreciate it for someone to find a source for this), a "moment", (not a rega, but rather the shortest time for a person to do a meaningful act) is (864/90) seconds, which is about 10 seconds.

Now, in one day we have (24hours/day*60min/hour*60sec/min) = 86,000 seconds.

The number of "moments" in a day is then: 86,000/(864/90) = 9000.

Now, from tehillim, we know that one "day" for Hashem is equivalent to 1000 years for us.

Now this next part is a little fudgey. What definition of "year" do we use? The solar year would be 365 days, and the lunar year would be 354 days plus a bit, which could be said to be 355 days (this also happens to be the gematria of the Hebrew word for year, shanah). So here, we take an average of 365 and 355, so a year for our purpose is 360 days.

So now, one "day" for Hashem is (1000years*360days/year*24hours/day*60min/hour*60sec/min) = 31,104,000,000 seconds.

We note that (40days*24hours/day*60min/hour*60sec/min) = 3,456,000 seconds.

So, the number of 40 day long "moments" in Hashem's "day" is:

(31,104,000,000/3,456,000) = 9000.

So we see that IF the year can be thought of as having 360 days, and IF the (864/90) has a real source, then we see that both our day and Hashem's "day" each have 9000 parts, and one of Hashem's "moments" is 40 days and nights.