Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, June 3, 2021


Because the universe has a peculiar sense of humor sometimes, my comment to a friend yesterday that it'd been a good long while since I'd run into a purely insane claim was followed up nearly instantaneously by a different friend sending me a link to an article called "The Dimensionality of Cthulhu."

Yes, Cthulhu, as in the octopoid monster-god in the mythos of H. P. Lovecraft.  The link led to a blog entitled "Lovecraftian Science: Scientific Investigations Into the Cthulhu Mythos."  When saw the title, I thought at first that this was just an example of a scientist having a little bit of fun, rather in the same vein as the hysterically funny fake scientific papers in The Journal of Irreproducible Resultsor the way legitimate historians will play around with (and argue over) analysis of the timeline and backstory of The Lord of the Rings.  But upon reading the entire entry, and several other posts besides, at the cost of countless brain cells in my prefrontal cortex which cried out piteously as they dissolved into the amorphous, bubbling nether-slime of the darkest eldritch reaches of time and space, I have come to the conclusion that this dude is actually serious.

[Image is courtesy of the artist, Dominique Signoret, and is licensed under the Creative Commons BenduKiwi, Cthulhu and R'lyeh, CC BY-SA 3.0]

Consider, for example, the following passage:
Based on... references made by HPL, Cthulhu and its spawn are not from our space-time continuum.  This explains how these entities can function beyond the confines of our physical laws, such as its fluid movement and apparent plasma-like structure.  Indeed, further study of Cthulhu and its spawn may provide the evidence needed to support the M-theory.
Yes, M-theory, that impossibly abstruse mathematical construct that attempts to unify all consistent string theoretical models of quantum gravity.  The introduction to the Wikipedia article on the topic, which despite my bachelor's degree in physics represents the limit of my understanding of the subject, says the following:
Investigations of the mathematical structure of M-theory have spawned a number of important theoretical results in physics and mathematics.  More speculatively, M-theory may provide a framework for developing a unified theory of all of the fundamental forces of nature.
"Spawned."  Sounds like a Cthulhu reference already.  So there you are, then.  Seems like q.e.d. to me.

The author of the article apparently agrees.  He goes on to say:
M-theory describes a reality of vibrating strings, point particles, two-dimensional membranes, three-dimensional blobs and other multi-dimensional objects we can not perceive (Hawking and Mlodinow; 2010).  In fact, M-theory allows for many different internal spaces – as many as 10500 different universes, each one with their own particular set of laws of nature.  Is Cthulhu and its spawn from one of these universes?  Did this entity find a means of exuding itself into our universe, bringing with it R’lyeh, with some of its native laws of nature seeping into our universe?
Yes.  He actually cited Stephen Hawking in order to explain why R'lyeh is such a crazy-ass place.

He concludes with a teaser:
From a theoretical standpoint such inter-dimensional travel to other universes may be feasible but the limitation to this is the amount of energy needed to accomplish this.  While this is a huge obstacle to us, maybe Cthulhu and its spawn can harvest the energy from antimatter and travel to other universes – and one of those universes may be ours.  But such travel to other universes with different physical laws of nature may pose some limitations onto these inter-universal travelers.  It is these potential limitations on entities from outside of our space-time continuum we will be discussing in the next article.
So there may be a way to stop these monsters!  Hallelujah!  Alert Henry Armitage!  Wilbur Whateley is going down!

Ahem.  Yeah.  What's funniest about all of this is that Lovecraft himself was a staunch rationalist.  He used to reply to the fans who wrote to him, asking for directions to Dunwich or Innsmouth, "Those places do not exist.  I know that for certain.  You see, I made them up."  This didn't stop people from looking, of course, and it spawned (there's that word again) theories that he was covering up his knowledge to protect himself from retribution by the Abominable Mi-Go, or whatever.  (In fact, I riffed on that very idea in my short story "She Sells Seashells," which, should you choose to read it, I feel duty-bound to point out is fiction as well.)

And apparently there are people who are sold enough on his worldview that they'd like to use it to prove string theory.  Or vice-versa, I'm not sure.  Which is also kind of peculiar, because besides Lovecraft's fictional universe being a pretty bleak place, he was also a raving racist, a feature that pops out with cringeworthy regularity in his stories.  (So while I count him amongst the inspirations for my own writing, I can't really in good conscience read about half of what he wrote.)

Anyhow.  That's our excursion into the Deep Places for today, and I'm off to get some coffee and then to fight my way through the Insanely Gibbering Hordes that populate the Loathsome Monolith-Crowned Citadel where I shall Reside in Nuclear Chaos Until The End Of Time.

Respectively, "my dogs," "my office," and "fucking around on social media."


Astronomer Michio Kaku has a new book out, and he's tackled a doozy of a topic.

One of the thorniest problems in physics over the last hundred years, one which has stymied some of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced, is the quest for finding a Grand Unified Theory.  There are four fundamental forces in nature that we know about; the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity.  The first three can now be modeled by a single set of equations -- called the electroweak theory -- but gravity has staunchly resisted incorporation.

The problem is, the other three forces can be explained by quantum effects, while gravity seems to have little to no effect on the realm of the very small -- and likewise, quantum effects have virtually no impact on the large scales where gravity rules.  Trying to combine the two results in self-contradictions and impossibilities, and even models that seem to eliminate some of the problems -- such as the highly-publicized string theory -- face their own sent of deep issues, such as generating so many possible solutions that an experimental test is practically impossible.

Kaku's new book, The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything describes the history and current status of this seemingly intractable problem, and does so with his characteristic flair and humor.  If you're interesting in finding out about the cutting edge of physic lies, in terms that an intelligent layperson can understand, you'll really enjoy Kaku's book -- and come away with a deeper appreciation for how weird the universe actually is.

[Note: if you purchase this book using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to support Skeptophilia!]

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