Can Physics Explain Physics?

  • #1
quantumcarl
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This question might better be worded as such:

Can physics explain the existence of physics?

Please feel free to have a go at this one!
 

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  • #2
quantumcarl
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For clarification, since it is a bit of a snake biting its butt question, let me try to confuse you further.

Can we use physics to explain the existence of physics or must we step outside of the confines of that study and observe physics as the result of some other phenomenon (or massive study we don't know anything about)?
 
  • #3
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I'm sure people will cite godels theorem here and and use this to say something about the limits of physics. However, I think such an argument would be misguided. Of course we can't use any tool to prove anyting about the real world. For all we know, every event has been random, and it is just an unbelievably amazing coincidence that regularity is observed. That being said, it is still possible that the final laws of physics will be so compelling that we will look at them and decide they couldn't have been any other way. But the question of why there are laws or a universe at all will always remain unanswerable.
 
  • #4
Locrian
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I didn't find your question confusing.

I don't use physics to explain anything. Therefore, you can bet I don't use it to explain itself.
 
  • #5
Integral
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Physics is the study of the observed universe, it is not the study of why the universe exists, or why there is something to observe. Why questions are outside of the realm of Physics. So the answer to your question is trivail, No.
 
  • #6
ahrkron
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I basically agree with Integral, but maybe you can elaborate on the meaning of your question. For instance, "the existence of physics" may mean the existence of the formal discipline that we call 'physics', or you may have had in mind the existence of the *laws* of phyics (or the basic symmetries, if you wish). It can also refer to the actual objects that physics studies.

Which one is it?
 
  • #7
Kerrie
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Integral said:
Why questions are outside of the realm of Physics.

At least for now they are
:smile:
 
  • #8
Janitor
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Integral said:
... Why questions are outside of the realm of Physics...

Would it be more precise to say that 'why' questions, to this point in the advancement of physics, always bottom out with some 'why' question that cannot (yet) be answered? For instance, one could ask the question "Why does this particular nuclear decay not occur?" and somebody might be able to answer it by showing that it would be a strong nuclear interaction that would violate parity conservation. But then the questioner asks, "Why do strong interactions conserve parity?" and so on, and at some point the other person is going to run out of answers.
 
  • #9
quantumcarl
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ahrkron said:
I basically agree with Integral, but maybe you can elaborate on the meaning of your question. For instance, "the existence of physics" may mean the existence of the formal discipline that we call 'physics', or you may have had in mind the existence of the *laws* of phyics (or the basic symmetries, if you wish). It can also refer to the actual objects that physics studies.

Which one is it?

After posting this question I did think about revising it to ask

"why do the laws of physics exist, can physics answer that question"

Physics answers billions of "why" questions. Why is the sky blue? (the answer being one of many physical laws to do with optics and light refraction etc...)

I'd say the laws exist so that we can observe them. The laws of physics make it possible, in more ways than one, to observe the laws of physics. But that is an esoteric answer... there may be less "whoo whoo" answers.
 
  • #10
Kerrie
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quantumcarl said:
I'd say the laws exist so that we can observe them. The laws of physics make it possible, in more ways than one, to observe the laws of physics. But that is an esoteric answer... there may be less "whoo whoo" answers.

I don't agree that the laws of physics exist so we can observe them. That is almost saying that a creative intelligence designed these laws just for us. Perhaps there is no reason that the laws of physics can be observed, but as humanity has taken advantage of learning about the description of our environment, we have been able to see the laws much more clearly.
 
  • #11
Mentat
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quantumcarl said:
After posting this question I did think about revising it to ask

"why do the laws of physics exist, can physics answer that question"

Physics answers billions of "why" questions. Why is the sky blue? (the answer being one of many physical laws to do with optics and light refraction etc...)

What I think Integral meant is what I clarified in a long-since-forgotten thread: Physics doesn't answer "what purpose" questions, but it can answer "what cause", and both "what purpose" and "what cause" are translatable as "why" questions. IOW, Physics does answer "why" questions, but not of the "what purpose" brand (or, AFAIK, of any other brand...other than "what cause").

So, to ask "why do the laws of physics exist" is to as "for what purpose do the laws of physics exist", and it is thus outside of physics. "Why is the sky blue" (which is actually "why does the sky appear blue to me" or "why can it be said, without fear of debate, that the sky is blue"), OTOH, is the same as "what causes the sky to be blue" (or "what causes me to perceive the sky as blue").
 
  • #12
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Kerrie said:
At least for now they are
:smile:

I hate to nit-pick, but I'm pretty sure that Integral was referring to the impossibility in principle of physics' ever answering a why ("what purpose") question. I wouldn't have contradicted you, it's just that I think that's the integral point (forgive the pun) of this particular thread.
 
  • #13
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Mentat said:
I hate to nit-pick, but I'm pretty sure that Integral was referring to the impossibility in principle of physics' ever answering a why ("what purpose") question. I wouldn't have contradicted you, it's just that I think that's the integral point (forgive the pun) of this particular thread.

I think physics eventually does answer those "what purpose" and "why questions", especially when we become more knowledgeable. As for Integral's reference of "why the universe exists, or why there is something to observe", our current understanding of physics cannot answer this, I agree of course. Since we do not have the absolute answers to these questions, closing the door on the possiblity that physics can answer this sort of why question could limit our range of understanding. :smile:
 
  • #14
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Kerrie said:
I think physics eventually does answer those "what purpose" and "why questions", especially when we become more knowledgeable. As for Integral's reference of "why the universe exists, or why there is something to observe", our current understanding of physics cannot answer this, I agree of course. Since we do not have the absolute answers to these questions, closing the door on the possiblity that physics can answer this sort of why question could limit our range of understanding. :smile:

Well, we (humans) could eventually find all of those answers, but (IMHO) not via physics. Physics is designed a certain way, to answer certain kinds of questions. It'd be like trying to use a screwdriver as a level: it's just not what it's made for.
 
  • #15
Enos
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we humans have worked so hard to complicate things, and now we have to work much harder to simplify things.
 
  • #16
quantumcarl
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These are great pointers and answers to this question. Thank you for all this.

"Why questions" or, "what purpose is this" questions are relative. Relativity is a part of physics. Therefore the concept of "purpose" is a part of and perhaps an integral part of physical laws. For instance there is a purpose tied to every cause. For instance the physical law/function of osmosis is initiated by an imbalance and inequity in a fluid's chemistries and osmosis acts, purposefully and effectively, to correct the imbalance.
The Why question here is cyclical and the only way to break the cycle is to ask why chemicals and fluids exist in the first place.

This is a similar dilema to the question I have asked. So, I do confer to those people claiming the question to be futile and the answer even more elusive. But, I have found that it is possible to apply a law from physics to explain the existence of the laws of physics.

We can agree that there is perhaps a state where physical laws do not apply. One that we could perhaps not fathom since we are physical beings. In the interest of the symmetry of the laws of balance this non-physical state may demand that there be laws of physics as its counter weight, if you will. Just as matter has an anti-matter counterpart and something requires (the space that) nothing (creates) to exist.
 
  • #17
Philocrat
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quantumcarl said:
This question might better be worded as such:

Can physics explain the existence of physics?

Please feel free to have a go at this one!

But supposing 'Physics' turns around and says to you:

The problem is not about me explaining myself because I am physics (already self-explained). I am eveything fully reduced to myself. The problem is in you, the outsider, trying to explain me or reduce everything to me. The problem of explanation or reductrion is yours and not mine.

What would be your response to that?
 
  • #18
Philocrat
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In predicate calculus, 'Physics' could even quantificationally declare:

'Take anything, if it as the property of being something is me'

How would you respond, knowing fully well that this also includes you?
 
  • #19
quantumcarl
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Philocrat said:
But supposing 'Physics' turns around and says to you:

The problem is not about me explaining myself because I am physics (already self-explained). I am eveything fully reduced to myself. The problem is in you, the outsider, trying to explain me or reduce everything to me. The problem of explanation or reductrion is yours and not mine.

What would be your response to that?

Personally, I'd say to "physics" (using physical laws to communicate with physics) exactly what I'd say to a performer who has no audience:

"Dear physics,

you are nothing without me because 'if there ain't no audience, there ain't no show'." (Dr. B. Henderson)

This, to a degree, explains why I first suggested that physics exists to observe itself through its own refinement of its own elements which has, thus far, resulted in the curious and inquisitive mind of the human and/or similar physical being.
 
  • #20
Alkatran
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Physics is used to explain our brains.

Our brains created physics as we know it.

Thus ...
 
  • #21
Mentat
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quantumcarl said:
These are great pointers and answers to this question. Thank you for all this.

"Why questions" or, "what purpose is this" questions are relative. Relativity is a part of physics.

There is a theory of physics called "Relativity", but it has nothing to do with this discussion.

As to "why" questions and "what purpose" questions being "relative", I don't know what you mean. "What purpose" can be answered only by seeking out the "purposer", and then asking him/her/it (since "purpose" is not an intrinsic property of anything, but an extrinsic choice of the one qualified to make that choice (the "purposer")). For example, a cardboard box can be used for any number of things (container, fuel for combustion, home...) and these "purposes" have nothing to do with anything intrinsic about the box, but are assigned to it by its purposers.
 
  • #22
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Philocrat said:
But supposing 'Physics' turns around and says to you...

Beg pardon?
 
  • #23
quantumcarl
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Mentat said:
There is a theory of physics called "Relativity", but it has nothing to do with this discussion.

As to "why" questions and "what purpose" questions being "relative", I don't know what you mean. "What purpose" can be answered only by seeking out the "purposer", and then asking him/her/it (since "purpose" is not an intrinsic property of anything, but an extrinsic choice of the one qualified to make that choice (the "purposer")). For example, a cardboard box can be used for any number of things (container, fuel for combustion, home...) and these "purposes" have nothing to do with anything intrinsic about the box, but are assigned to it by its purposers.

Hi Mentat,

So, you're saying purpose is relative only to the purposer?

or

Is the purpose relative to the outcome?

Is the purpose relative to the cause?

All of the above?

Can imbalance "assign" a "purpose" to osmosis, as in the "purpose" of reestablishing balance or is assignment something only humans are capable of?

Fundimentally we cannot drag anthropomorphic debate into this question because, ultimately humans are a result of physical laws, therefore we are physics in the flesh.

Regarding this revelation I think it is safe to say that physics is rought with purposes and purposers, and to name them they are one of the many products of physics; we call them humans.
 
  • #24
ph
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qc

Q uantumcarl

"Dear physics,

you are nothing without me because 'if there ain't no audience, there ain't no show'." (Dr. B. Henderson)

thank you so much! i loved that. stepping back out of this thread \o/


"I believe in everything" MP's
 
  • #25
Mentat
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quantumcarl said:
Hi Mentat,

So, you're saying purpose is relative only to the purposer?

Yes.

or

Is the purpose relative to the outcome?

No. If this were the case, then it would be impossible for something to do anything other than what it was originally purposed to do.

Is the purpose relative to the cause?

The one that caused it usually assigns it its purpose (IOW, the causer is usually the purposer)...however, if there is a cause that isn't also a purposer, then purpose will have to be assigned be someone else.

Can imbalance "assign" a "purpose" to osmosis, as in the "purpose" of reestablishing balance or is assignment something only humans are capable of?

Humans and any other intelligent beings there may be out there.

Fundimentally we cannot drag anthropomorphic debate into this question because, ultimately humans are a result of physical laws, therefore we are physics in the flesh.

True, but that just means that the "purposes" we've assigned to physical processes needn't be accurate.
 
  • #26
ph
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pssst QC

quantumcarl,

when you make it back,

your quote reminded me of "god needed god to experience himself so he created you"

i always loved that.

Thank You again.

dy

"may your day be filled with flowers and clouds and puppy breath...you are so beautiful to me" said the blind woman from venus.
 
  • #27
quantumcarl
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Mentat said:
Yes.



No. If this were the case, then it would be impossible for something to do anything other than what it was originally purposed to do.



The one that caused it usually assigns it its purpose (IOW, the causer is usually the purposer)...however, if there is a cause that isn't also a purposer, then purpose will have to be assigned be someone else.



Humans and any other intelligent beings there may be out there.




True, but that just means that the "purposes" we've assigned to physical processes needn't be accurate.

First, let's remember that ants form an ant-bridge to help their population cross barriers and that birds use twigs with the purpose of extracting grubs from a difficult spot. Purpose can exist with or without what is deemed a "conscious understanding" of what a purpose is.

This suggests that it is not imperitive that "intelligence" be inextricably associated with "purpose" unless, of course, "purpose" can only exist when it is a concept conceived by intelligent being and there is no law that demands intelligence and purpose go hand in hand at all times.

The way we have interpreted "means" and "ends" or "cause" and "effect" and attached our interpretations to events simply shows that we hang on to events and try to classify them as "means" "purpose" and so on and so on.

But, the very fact that we do classify events is a function of physics and, from what I can ascertain at the moment, we are physics in the working. We are the eyes, ears and middle ears of physics. Its as though all this physical splendor and enormity comes to a head and somehow, purposefully or not purposefully, creates a consciousness that can function within physical laws and, ultimately, be governed by those same laws.

Back to the question: can we use physics to explain the existence of all these physical laws in our universe?
 
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  • #28
selfAdjoint
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quantumcarl said:
Back to the question: can we use physics to explain the existence of all these physical laws in our universe?

The only explanation I can imagine physics giving is if we found a TOE that had the mathematical or logical property that it was impossible for it to be false, in that the smallest contradiction of the least of its premises would entail physical events that we could test and find false. One of the features of string theory that attracts so many to it is that it has SOMETHING of this character; it seems to show of itself as the only game in town.
 
  • #29
Ivan Seeking
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In one Many Worlds model seen along the way, it is suggested that an infinite number of universes are generated, but the laws of physics vary from one to the next, and only certain universes are viable; or maybe only one is viable. The rest ultimately fail. In a sense this would explain why we have the laws that we have. And even without this model the answer may be the same, but then one has to ask how we got so lucky.

Edit: Maybe not from the Many Worlds Theory. This was one variation on the Big Bang Theory, IIRC.
 
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  • #30
quantumcarl
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selfAdjoint said:
The only explanation I can imagine physics giving is if we found a TOE that had the mathematical or logical property that it was impossible for it to be false, in that the smallest contradiction of the least of its premises would entail physical events that we could test and find false. One of the features of string theory that attracts so many to it is that it has SOMETHING of this character; it seems to show of itself as the only game in town.

If an event happens, how can it be false? The physical laws appear to have evolved out of the school of trial and error. As an event, and the law that governs it develops, they are either assimilated/integrated with existing physical laws or eliminated. Or, perhaps the unassimilated event/law is religated to a parellel universe. That would explain why certain laws exist in parallel universes, and perhaps why they do here.

Is string theory considered one of the founding, original, fundimental group of physical laws or is it a recently evolved product of the existence of the physical laws? Thanks!
 
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  • #31
quantumcarl
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Ivan Seeking said:
In one Many Worlds model seen along the way, it is suggested that an infinite number of universes are generated, but the laws of physics vary from one to the next, and only certain universes are viable; or maybe only one is viable. The rest ultimately fail. In a sense this would explain why we have the laws that we have. And even without this model the answer may be the same, but then one has to ask how we got so lucky.

Edit: Maybe not from the Many Worlds Theory. This was one variation on the Big Bang Theory, IIRC.

How we got so lucky!? I guess we chose our reality well!

I used your premise about Many Worlds in my reply to self Adjoint. One law, and I don't know if its physical or not, but, there seems to be a need for opposites. Its a similar idea to "for every action an equal and opposite reaction" but it has less to do with action and more to do with "for every existence there is an equal and opposite existence". Maybe this is one way physics can be explained. Its here because it isn't somewhere else.
 
  • #32
Chronos
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Why is that hard to accept?. There is nothing special about this universe. Multiverse theory merely proposes this is one of many [perhaps infinite] versions of a universe that allows complex structures to form - like sentient observers. I try not to read too much into that. While there may be infinite numbers of 'me' in the 'multiverse', we do not communicate [so far as I can perceive]. I therefore conclude they have no causal connection to my observable universe.
 
  • #33
Ivan Seeking
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Chronos said:
While there may be infinite numbers of 'me' in the 'multiverse', we do not communicate [so far as I can perceive]. I therefore conclude they have no causal connection to my observable universe.

Its a good thing that you're not a photon. The wave theorists would be out of jobs. :biggrin:

Edit: Okay now let me say that in a way that someone will understand. :yuck:

The single photon, double slit experiment, is what I had in mind. IIRC, at least some versions of MWT depend heavily on the idea that alternate realities do interfere.
 
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  • #34
quantumcarl
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Ivan Seeking said:
Its a good thing that you're not a photon. The wave theorists would be out of jobs. :biggrin:

Edit: Okay now let me say that in a way that someone will understand. :yuck:

The single photon, double slit experiment, is what I had in mind. IIRC, at least some versions of MWT depend heavily on the idea that alternate realities do interfere.

Are alternate realities part of the study (and reality) of physics?
 
  • #35
selfAdjoint
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quantumcarl said:
Are alternate realities part of the study (and reality) of physics?


Not really. They may be part of some people's interpretation, but that is not diectly part of the study (or reality) of science. It's more part of the sociology of scientists.
 

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