Written in the Sand Podcast – I See That I Am Blind

Written in the Sand

Dune, Book One, Chapter Three part 1
I see That I Am Blind


Prediction, prophecy, psychic knowledge…These form a central theme to the Dune series. This is the first chapter to bring it up, and it does so through Paul’s dreams and in Mohaim’s predictions regarding the fate of The Atreides Family and humanity itself.

By what mechanism are these powers explained and is it possible for such a thing to happen? I believe that the explanation is possible, but the precision displayed relies on an idea that is unproven, possibly unprovable, but has some foundations in reality. In this episode we will discuss that premise, but also give a bit of a nod to a more reachable form of prediction.

First off, we need to discuss what we mean by prophecy. Prophecy is not, for instance, saying that you have the docs appointment next Tuesday at 2 o’clock. That’s merely the knowledge that you have an appointment. Prophecy is saying that not only will you definitely make that appointment, you will arrive in the office at 1:42:37 and the receptionist will be wearing a green shirt, the doctor will arrive and not have died in a horrible accident at some time within the next week, as will you.

Now, some of those predictions may seem a little obvious. Which ones, do you think, are obvious?

Personally, I think none of them are. The number of factors that go into that prediction are astronomical. The receptionist’s green shirt would require you to know the receptionist, know that she has a green shirt, and how she decides what to wear. Your arrival, and the time of it, is the only thing with which you would be able to have any type of control, but that is only if you manage to avoid accidental interference in your schedule.

For this prediction to come true all three people involved would have to avoid the chance of a serious accident. Again, you could lock yourself in a very safe room with pre-screened and analyzed water and food to help ensure your arrival, but chances are you won’t go through all that trouble and neither will the other two people.

The ability to say that an event is definitely going to happen is not dependent as much on a set of events that occurs, rather it is also dependent on a set of events that does not occur. The best you can come up with in predicting that you will be at your doctor appointment is “probably”.

Let’s make a thought experiment that is simpler, or at least has less movement. Two planets are in orbit around a star, and each is exactly 100 miles in diameter. The star is stable and does not have any indications that it will explode at any time in the near future, and for simplicity sake, entropy is not operating at all in this thought experiment. The orbits of the two planets are, at this moment, positioned so that one is directly in between the other planet and the star and orbit in opposite directions. Do you have that scenario? Good. Because we are going to add a complication.

At one point in their orbits the paths of the planets coincide, meaning that both planets are located in the same place at that point. Both planets have an orbit of one of our Earth years, with one exception. One planet revolves to the same point every 365 days exactly, and I mean 24 hour days exactly. The other planet revolves to the same point every 365 days minus one second.

I’ll explain the points at which these paths cross. Imagine the face of a clock and both planets are currently at 12 o’clock. The point at which the paths intersect is at 3 o’clock. Planet one, which is the planet that travels at 365 days exactly is traveling counterclockwise. Planet two, which is the slightly slower planet, travels in a clockwise direction. From this moment, when the planets are perfectly aligned, how long until the planets run into each other and blow the whole thing to hell?

I’m not going to give you the answer. If you really want to know, you can do the math yourself, and at some point you will realize I still left too much out to be precise. My point is that with this perfect scenario where you know all of the factors involved and you know that there will be no deviation, you can come close to predicting one specific event many, many years in the future.

Remember what I said in one episode about gravity in a vacuum? Yeah, there is a great deal more going on in real life than two planets orbiting a star in a predictable pattern for thousands and thousands of years.

continued in podcast…

The relevant book for the episode will always be in resources. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you should.

Jingo by Terry Pratchett. This is here for a few reasons. You’ll have to read it to appreciate why.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov This is a Classic, if you haven’t read it, you should.

Sherlock season 4  It’s a good show, and it’s also fun to see a character and a story like that. It makes me think Dune (done right) might have a chance.

Back to the Future  Interestingly, it’s actually a good lesson in cause and effect.

Brain’s 15 second delay shields us from halucinogenic experience

Brain’s Visual Circuits do Error Correction on the Fly

The Brain “Sees” Objects That You Don’t Perceive

The Neuroscience of Déjà Vu

Mystery of déjà vu explained – it’s how we check our memories

Iowa Gambling Task

The Eye Can`t Track A Fastball

Busting Baseball Myths: Scientist Throws Big Curveballs

How Jennie Finch Struck Out Albert Pujols

Castaway’s sea savvy could have helped him survive year adrift.   This article also links to the stories of other castaways and how they survive.

How do Inuit cope without fresh vegetables and vitamin C?

Experience Alters Gene Expression. There are other videos here. They are all short and make simple statements about DNA and Memory.

DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room

Trauma of life is passed down in SPERM, affecting mental health of future generations

How an 1836 Famine Altered the Genes of Children Born Decades Later

Feast-and-famine diet could extend life
Memory transfer in Flatworms: Memory in the Flesh

So called memory Transfer of Flatworms is about Slime.  Refutation of flatworm maze memory. Fails to explain above link showing that untrained worms did not react the same as trained worms.

Article outlining the ancestor paradox and the idea of recently shared ancestry

People with Extraordinary Autobiographical Memory

Total recall: the people who never forget

In this video, Temple Grandin talks about different types of memory.

Rain Man  The fictional account of an autistic man with extraordinary, but limited abilities.

Wikipedia entry on Savants

Article about Bananas The headline of the article is strangely misleading.

Wine Blight I must admit, I might have misremembered some of the details, but the basic story is still there.

An Introduction to Population Growth

Music Credits:

Tower of Ignorance  by Wayne Kinos from The Free Music Archive

“Finding Movement” and “Exotic Battle” by Kevin McCleod (Incompetech.com)

Music licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.