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Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:17 PM

 

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral.



You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him/her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let him/her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her/his eyes, that those photons created within her/him constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever. from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4675953

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly.

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Arrow 62 replies Author Time Post
Reply You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. (Original post)
Whovian Dec 2012 OP
patrice Dec 2012 #1
Science Geek Dec 2012 #4
patrice Dec 2012 #6
Science Geek Dec 2012 #13
roguevalley Dec 2012 #34
patrice Dec 2012 #48
roguevalley Dec 2012 #49
gateley Dec 2012 #53
Brickbat Dec 2012 #2
Whovian Dec 2012 #5
Flaxbee Dec 2012 #3
Kolesar Dec 2012 #7
patrice Dec 2012 #8
Nye Bevan Dec 2012 #9
Hydra Dec 2012 #12
roguevalley Dec 2012 #36
Hydra Dec 2012 #44
FarCenter Dec 2012 #25
roguevalley Dec 2012 #37
Shankapotomus Dec 2012 #47
Bake Dec 2012 #10
renate Dec 2012 #11
Whovian Dec 2012 #15
roguevalley Dec 2012 #38
Whovian Dec 2012 #42
FarCenter Dec 2012 #14
Science Geek Dec 2012 #19
FarCenter Dec 2012 #24
Science Geek Dec 2012 #31
roguevalley Dec 2012 #39
FarCenter Dec 2012 #46
roguevalley Dec 2012 #50
gateley Dec 2012 #54
FarCenter Dec 2012 #55
gateley Dec 2012 #59
FarCenter Dec 2012 #60
CrawlingChaos Dec 2012 #16
hifiguy Dec 2012 #17
lucca18 Dec 2012 #21
patrice Dec 2012 #27
Javaman Dec 2012 #18
roguevalley Dec 2012 #40
tclambert Dec 2012 #20
Marta Steele PR Dec 2012 #22
patrice Dec 2012 #28
Marta Steele PR Dec 2012 #62
vlyons Dec 2012 #23
RagAss Dec 2012 #29
Roland99 Dec 2012 #26
RagAss Dec 2012 #30
joeybee12 Dec 2012 #32
knitter4democracy Dec 2012 #33
catzies Dec 2012 #35
roguevalley Dec 2012 #41
Fantastic Anarchist Dec 2012 #43
NightWatcher Dec 2012 #45
Speck Tater Dec 2012 #51
fadedrose Dec 2012 #52
Fix The Stupid Dec 2012 #57
fadedrose Dec 2012 #58
liberal_at_heart Dec 2012 #56
AverageJoe90 Dec 2012 #61

Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:33 PM

1. And if that's too speculative for you, how about the fact that the world is a different place from

having had your presence in it, physically different from how it would be had you, personally, never been. Your presence has, thus, been encoded in physical reality.

Now, whether you are coding that produced "one leaf" that has now dropped and rots now amongst the rest of the detritus (trash DNA?), or whether your coding is in the OS that moves nutrients along the back-bone/trunk, or whether your coding is part of the machine-language that runs whatever it is that produces "acorns" is another question, but the fact is that all of that stuff is real and so are you . . . more or less, it's hard to know precisely "how much", all you have to guide yourself is your desire for reality.

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Response to patrice (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:41 PM

4. The past, the present, and the future.

None is any more or less real than the other.

These are really just human concepts that fulfill a need imposed by our limitations.

As far as the Universe is concerned, these terms are meaningless.

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Response to Science Geek (Reply #4)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:53 PM

6. Right on! Very like so much else, these are the products of pushing the phenomenal

universe through our own "filters" so that we can function in certain ways.

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Response to patrice (Reply #6)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:32 PM

13. Ah, the Universe...

...infinitely more interesting than the sum of all of mankind's imaginings that ever were or will be.

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Response to patrice (Reply #6)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:28 PM

34. may I say so far that I am in love with this thread?

RV who had a near death experience.

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Response to roguevalley (Reply #34)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 11:29 PM

48. Me too! because it suggests that love isn't a fairy-tale, it's a property of the physical world that

I think of as the affinity between "parts" of a functioning whole. It's the joy of a thing in itself, of itself, for itself, it's happiness in doing what it does for the doing of it.

Doesn't need anything else, because it just is and we participate in it in ways that are much more intimate than only what we know/say/understand and, to me, that intimacy is so intrinsic to the thing itself that its deeper than conventional ideas about the individual personhood that are called life-after-death. It's more real than me -ness, or you -ness, although that's our configuration at this point.

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Response to patrice (Reply #48)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 12:05 AM

49. what you said, patrice. I can't concur more. :D

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Response to Science Geek (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:05 AM

53. Time is an illusion. Even though I can't wrap my brain around it, I know it's all

the Eternal Now.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:37 PM

2. Aaron Freeman wrote that piece and read it on NPR in 2005.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:46 PM

5. Thanks. Will edit for attribution.

 

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:41 PM

3. I like this.

Thanks for posting, Whovian.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 03:54 PM

7. We had a physicist speak at my brother's funeral and James Randi phoned in

The physicist was his boss at the university and James Randi and he were buddies from various skeptical organizations.

The believers in my family could not relate.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:04 PM

8. As my son said for his father's eulogy, "Life and death are words that we made up."

That's just about the sum-total of what he said and then he sat back down. Everybody just sat there for about a minute, kind of stunned.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:06 PM

9. I would be interested in the physicist's theory as to what (or who) caused the Big Bang

in the first place. All physicists are not atheists.

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #9)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:25 PM

12. New theory suggests the cause of the "big bang" is a continuous function

If things happen infinitely, the ball simply rolls...forever. No first place to mark.

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Response to Hydra (Reply #12)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:36 PM

36. Hydra, that is very comforting to think of isn't it. that things carry on.

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Response to roguevalley (Reply #36)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:57 PM

44. Actually, in a way it freaks me out if it's true

It means we all exist forever in one form or another. The concept is too big for my mind to swallow all at once :p

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #9)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:15 PM

25. The Big Bang is irrelevant to human destiny

Even if you assume that there was a "god" that "caused" the Big Bang, that does not imply that "god" messes around with humans.

The existance of a cosmological "god" does not imply life after death.

A belief in life after death is the most pernicious of religious beliefs because it leads to theologies that absolve people of responsibility for their actions in the present.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #25)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:36 PM

37. actually, it doesn't absolve you. It lets you know that if you don't get yours

here, you will there. Almost all of them have a reckoning. Thank whomever.

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Response to Nye Bevan (Reply #9)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 11:12 PM

47. If we're not here to theorize the Big Bang,

did it happen?

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:08 PM

10. Energy may not be destroyed, but it can sure as hell dissipate in the vastness of the universe.

So that's not terribly consoling for a eulogy ...

Bake

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:15 PM

11. ... your mother...?

Is this something that you read at her funeral? I remember that her passing was imminent not long ago.

I hope these thoughts are a comfort to you. I think they're beautiful.

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Response to renate (Reply #11)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:33 PM

15. She's still with me.

 

But it's something I thought about.

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Response to Whovian (Reply #15)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:43 PM

38. and it is beautiful, Whovian. I have a poem that got me through two deaths ten

months apart. It goes like this:

What is Death?

Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.

Author: Harry Scott Holland, Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral
1847-1918

I remember leaving my mother when she had just passed on and walking with my sibs to the sitting room to sort of sit and be FUCKING SHOCKED OUT OF OUR SKULLS!!!!!!!

And a tiny nun followed us, one who had been at the death of everyone in the hospital since the Flood I think. she sat down next to me and leaned over. She whispered, "Did you see or hear anything yet?"

I hadn't then. I have since. I remember thinking, "This gal has seen and heard it all."

It is the greatest comfort of all to me. I wish it for everyone.

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Response to roguevalley (Reply #38)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:50 PM

42. Beautiful. Thank you.

 

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:32 PM

14. Physicists also know about the Second Law of Thermodynamics

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #14)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 05:06 PM

19. Laws are made to be broken...

All of the laws of thermodynamics and spacetime were broken in what we consider to be the early stages of the Universe.

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Response to Science Geek (Reply #19)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:11 PM

24. That was 13+ billion years ago and no longer applies.

When the neural circuits disintegrate you no longer exist.

When you unplug your computer, remove the battery, and smash the disk, the programs no longer run.

Same for the brain.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #24)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 07:01 PM

31. You are correct,

These things no longer exist in the present or in the future, but they still exist in the past.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #24)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:45 PM

39. I would love to know how that is true. People say things are gone when the lights

go out but they never demonstrate how that is so. I have learned to wait for some facts or whatever but they never come. If there are links that prove this is so I would go and look. Until then, there is only one experiment that will prove or disprove a side. We will all do it one at a time.

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Response to roguevalley (Reply #39)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:57 PM

46. Why would you assume that there is something that continues after death?

Functional MRI expiriments show the activity in various parts of the brain as people think. It even shows that decisions are made by lower level neural circuits before the person becomes aware consciously of making the decision. So consciousness is a result of electrochemical processes in the brain. Once the processes stop, all of the workings of the mind have nothing more to support them.

It is clear from neurobiology that there is nothing else.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #46)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 12:09 AM

50. I would love links. I am willing to learn and as for my assumption, I had

a near death experience.

I didn't see a light. I was in no tunnel. I saw my mom as eighteen and she said I had to come back. It is odd to me that if this is a function of the body as the brain comes apart as some say, then how come the experiences aren't uniform? If it is a biological function, why the differences? Flu is a biological function. it has a set of circumstances that say flu. This experience is so diverse as to be beyond categorizing.

I don't argue with people about what they think. I believe there are NDE people and those who haven't had one. I am just curious because what happens at death is now very relevant to me. It is far from clear as you may think. I am however open to information. I presume no blanket statements about what is clear.

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Response to gateley (Reply #54)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 10:33 AM

55. Near death experiences are the result of the brain being stressed

It causes hallucinations in a dream-like state. Some patients recall the hallucinations upon being revived.

The descriptions of heaven are suspiciously religious-like. Too high a percentage report a temporary visit to heaven, rather than hell.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #55)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:58 PM

59. That's what this neurosurgeon thought, too, but he's changed his mind after experiencing

somethng himself.

I'm personally not worried one way or the other -- whatever happens (or doesn't) after death won't change because of my belief. I'll see when I get there (or not).

If these experiences, no matter what they are, give some people hope and happiness for the rest of their lives, what harm does that do?

I would never try to take that away from them, nor would I presume I know for a fact what occurs after death.

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Response to gateley (Reply #59)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:45 PM

60. A belief in after life, more than a belief in god, is what propels the nastyness in religion

Without the delusion that their reward is in heaven, there would be fewer suicide bombers / martyrs.

You can believe in a cosmological god without believing in an after life or believing that god intervenes in human affairs. That is a fairly innocuous belief.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:36 PM

16. I've seen variations of this so many times, and it's just silly, IMO

The OP is all about physical remains, and seriously, who cares? I could make the same statements about the turds my cat off-loaded this morning - their warmth and particles will live on! It has zero to do with our consciousness, that which makes each of us who we are in any sort of meaningful way. Otherwise you might as well take your nail clippings and hold a ceremony to celebrate the fact that their atoms are eternal. (although if you find that comforting, more power to you I suppose)

Now if you wanted to have a physicist at your funeral talking about the illusory nature of time (as I believe Einstein did for one of his friends) that would be a different story. I could go for that.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:43 PM

17. I've always deeply admired Carl Sagan's take:

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

"In the Valley of the Shadow", Parade, 10 March 1996

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #17)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 05:59 PM

21. I feel the same way...Thanks for posting that. nt

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #17)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:17 PM

27. Yes! to the world & which can be the source of all the passion one could possibly want.

This idea that you have to have a God to have motive is narrow-minded crap.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 04:53 PM

18. This is what I pretty much use as a response when people ask me

why I am an atheist.

And how (they projecting on me) I deal with the idea of there not being a heaven.

I tell them simply, "Energy can neither be created or destroyed. And since there is an electrical impulse in all of us, when we die, it just goes some place else and I'm not so egotistical to assume to know where that is."

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Response to Javaman (Reply #18)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:47 PM

40. and that is a very acceptable idea and view, javaman.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 05:26 PM

20. The Hubble Space Telescope has seen galaxies 13.9 billion light years distant.

That means in 13.9 billion years, the light from the twinkle in your loved one's eye will just be reaching any residents of those galaxies.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:00 PM

22. Too complicated

I just told my mother the truth: according to the equations, she would spend eternity next to my father and neither would ever suffer again.

T'was enough and she passed away peacefully.

Don't try to explain physics: Just use it.

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Response to Marta Steele PR (Reply #22)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:19 PM

28. Some of us find a great deal of pleasure in the effort to explain.

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Response to patrice (Reply #28)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:39 PM

62. So would I, but we had little time left

She asked me what would happen after death, being so close ... but people are always seeking insight, rather than explanation.

I was there for her, but you're right - give me an audience and a deadline (pun intended) and I will find material to fill the time.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:10 PM

23. I would love for a physicist to lecture on the conservation of energy

at my funeral. Even more, I would like for a physicist to describe the eventual fate of the universe, when it reaches absolute zero everywhere, and all energy and heat have evaporated, and space-time ceases to exist. Then I'd like the physicist to ask everyone present to sit quietly and contemplate shunyata, true emptiness.

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Response to vlyons (Reply #23)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:39 PM

29. Yes. The void that is the plenum.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:15 PM

26. Nice. Very nice.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:43 PM

30. There are 2 levels of awakening......

The first is understanding that the dead live on as images in mind.
The second(also known as enlightenment) is that when they lived, they were images in mind.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 07:03 PM

32. Good idea...I'd like Dr. Sheldon Cooper to speak at mine...nt

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 07:05 PM

33. One did speak at my dad's funeral.

My dad helped build and maintain a particle accelerator for 37 years, so the head of the lab gave one of the eulogies. He didn't say any of that, just talked about Dad and how much he helped the lab and all. Dad wouldn't have liked all that stuff--he would have appreciated it, but he would have said it was too high-fallutin' and long.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:35 PM

35. As someone who lost their only sibling a year ago this week, this speaks to me right now. Thanks for

posting it here.

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Response to catzies (Reply #35)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:48 PM

41. Hugs, catzies. I wish you well and I agree. This was a beautiful thread

and I thank the OP greatlly. I wish you well with your loss, honey.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 09:55 PM

43. Conservation of energy is not verifiable or consistent across space and time.

For instance at a singularity inside a black hole, no scientist can tell you what happens to energy, electrons, wave functions, etc. At this time, it's unknowable. The laws of physics literally break down in a singularity.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:05 PM

45. hate to be mean, but why cant we just be dead when we're dead?

like anesthesia?

I've been under a few times and it always just seems like what I imagine death to be, flicked off like a light switch, with no concept of time, no dreams, nothing, just pfft.

After being diagnosed with some stuff, I've come to be at peace with just being dead (although I'm not terminal or anything, I've got lots of time left)

For my funeral, I just want people to remember the good times we all had together.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 01:20 AM

51. Two more things about that energy that lasts forever...

 

1. Every second it gets 186,000 miles further away.
2. It will remain forever beyond your reach, so it's as good as gone forever.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 01:26 AM

52. It's not dying, it's the suffering before the end comes...

A nice quick death is a gift that I don't fear.

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Response to fadedrose (Reply #52)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 10:58 AM

57. I have a theory...


And this will be hard to explain, but here goes.

I agree with your statement that suffering is worse than the end...but, and try to follow this, I don't think there is any pain when you 'die'...

Prick yourself on the arm...it hurts right? But WHY? because we "remember" the pain...in cycles of the smallest amount of time, the nerves send the info to the brain to produce pain. Now...examine the "pain" 5 minutes later....it doesn't hurt...right?

So, if you have no memory of the pain, there was no pain...

We only feel pain because we remember the sensations that just happened. No memory, no pain...

When you die and everything goes black, your memory is gone too...therefore, no pain.

Awfully confusing way to explain, but hope you get my drift.

Thanks

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Response to Fix The Stupid (Reply #57)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 11:50 AM

58. Nirvana

after one has suffered so much physical or mental suffering that life can no longer inflict pain is not an easy trip, so when death comes, there is no pain.

I'd like to do something I enjoy all day, or go shopping, call the kids, make a good supper, enjoy the news, tv, go to bed, snuggle with the dog, and never wake up. None of this "forgetting" the pain stuff. It hardly happens my preferred way, but sometimes it does with an aneurysm or a fatal stroke like sometimes happens with people in sports who overdue....

Death itself is something I am curious about. Can't help thinking there is "something after" and look forward to the passage. The "something after" has nothing to do with religious teachings, it's sort of an instinct most are born with akin to sensing things - like hunger, cold, heat, joy, sadness, and especially need or loss that caused religion to be invented.

I've seen a few people die and saw no sign of pain on their faces at that time. So it was either medication or you are basically right.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 10:44 AM

56. it wouldn't help

The only thing people know when you die is that they won't see you again. That's depressing. My mom died when I was 3. I have spent the past 34 years without my mother. You miss being around the people you love. You miss hearing their voice, their warm embrace. Some people try to use religion or as you are illustrating the use of transfer of energy to comfort themselves and others, but the fact is when someone dies you just miss them and no religion or knowledge of transfer of energy can lessen that loss.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:00 PM

61. Very cool, thanks.

Carl Sagan would have loved this, were he still living.....

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