Dynamical Qualities and the Informational Paradigm

  1. The purpose of this post is to question whether dynamical qualities (i.e. “fundamental charges”) can survive as primitive concepts in physics as contemporary theory moves from a mechanical model of the universe to a (potentially unified) informational paradigm.

    In the book “Concepts of Mass in Contemporary Physics and Philosophy,” Max Jammer presents physics as resting upon three primitive concepts: space, time and mass. (Jammer focuses specifically on the notion of mass, but the following discussion is just as valid for the notion of “charge” in general.) Of particular note, he writes: “[If] if is the concept of mass that is required for the transition from kinematics to dynamics, it must contain a dynamical ingredient. A theory of mass can therefore not operate solely with kinematical conceptions. Rather, it must itself be a dynamical theory and as such somehow involve a notion of force that is defined in mechanics as the product of mass and acceleration, thus leading to a logical circle. … In order to avoid this impasse a dynamical theory of mass has to defy the commonly accepted idea that mechanics – with its notions of mass and force, whether considered as a theory of physical reality or only as a metatheory or purely mathematical formalism – is the fundament of physics.” [my italics]

    Now, this may be viewed as an arbitrary philosophical discussion amongst practical minded theorists. But it seems to me that developing areas of study that are steering physics towards an informational paradigm – i.e. black hole thermodynamics, the holographic principle – are leading to a very real confrontation.

    These theories ultimately take us to the conclusion that information is proportional to area. Assuming this is correct, the traditional idea of point particles must be banished since the information “embodied” by a single particle cannot be embodied by a singular event. However, per Jammer’s points above, this seems to lead to a serious conceptual problem.

    Since “fundamental particles” must, by definition, possess dynamical qualities, they must be embodied by extended regions of spacetime. Further, if we are to assume that particles are an objective feature of the universe, then the events which make up a single particle must be uniquely associated with one another in a way that differs from their relation to other events in general. (Otherwise, we could not make objective statements like "events x and y are a part of particle z.") But this association cannot be accomplished through any intrinsic dynamical qualities, since those qualities must also embody information, and therefore cannot be embodied by the events in question. Conversely, if the events are not uniquely associated, then neither particles, nor their properties, can be considered fundamental.

    This contradiction may seem very philosophical in nature. But given that the assumption of primitive dynamical qualities is the featured component of virtually every existing paradox and problem in contemporary theory – singularities, nonlocality, flatness problem, horizon problem, etc., etc. – that seems like a dangerous assumption to preserve.

    My approach to the issue is to approach it in the same way as one would approach an architectural problem in software design. If a basic element of a program is both highly specialized and a prominent feature of every major problem in the system – then that element should be broken down and further generalized to abstract away the conflict.

    Specifically, my proposition is this: If dynamical properties cannot be embodied by a singular event; and if multiple events must therefore be associated with one another in a way that cannot be classified using spatiotemporal relationships alone. (And if we assume that particles are objective features of the universe, then we must… particularly if we assume that any eventual unified theory will be accompanied by a unified ontology.) Then both particles and their dynamical qualities must be treated as emergent. Of course, it is impossible to conjure dynamical qualities from space and time alone. But since we are already making associations between events which cannot be classified using those concepts, a natural solution is to define a third primitive relation to formally classify these associations and then place it on equal footing with space and time. These three primitives could then be used to define the dynamical qualities that were previously considered to be primitive aspects of reality.

    (I’ve submitted a paper to the Independent Research forum here on PF that presents this idea in more detail. But since that forum is moderated, and since the reviewers are volunteers and are extremely busy, I get the impression that it could be a very long time before the submission is approved… assuming it gets approved at all. In the meantime, I thought I’d initiate some targeted discussion here in the philosophy forum.)

    So, in keeping with the new rules of this forum, I ask the following questions:

    Has anyone ever seen any publications that propose a similar approach? Or even address the issue at hand? If not, is there any reason why my approach should not be taken seriously? Or is the issue somehow a non-issue?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,622
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    Just to confirm, is this (the first paragraph) what you mean by dynamics? The second paragraph talks about the history of the word and how it may lead to ambiguities today.


     
  4. Yes. I'm using the term in a very broad sense. Basically, I use the terms kinematics and dynamics in the sense that kinematics describes the behavior of a system, without attempting to explain that behavior; while dynamics explains the behavior of a system using concepts like energy, charge and force.

    Ultimately, I follow Jammer's line of reasoning, and believe that a truly unified theory of physics would need to seamlessly integrate kinematics and dynamics - and not "merely" discover a singular force that acts on ontologically distinct particles. (This is another motivation for suggesting an approach to physics that treats particles and dynamical qualities as emergent phenomena.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2011
  5. I think it makes sense to suppose that "both particles and their dynamical qualities must be treated as emergent". So, if particles aren't fundamental, then what is? Waves? (Insofar as we can view 'particles' as bounded, standing wave structures.)

    Suppose for the moment that wave propagation is fundamental. Then what might be the fundamental kinematical property or dynamic of any wave propagation in any media at any scale?
     
  6. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    I have a problem with the whole starting premise. It appears as if this "Max Jammer" have never done a single course in advanced classical mechanics and have never heard of calculus of variation and Hamiltonian/Lagrangian mechanics. How else would one come up with a claim that

    "... Rather, it must itself be a dynamical theory and as such somehow involve a notion of force that is defined in mechanics as the product of mass and acceleration, thus leading to a logical circle. … In order to avoid this impasse a dynamical theory of mass has to defy the commonly accepted idea that mechanics – with its notions of mass and force, whether considered as a theory of physical reality or only as a metatheory or purely mathematical formalism – is the fundament of physics.. "

    It sounds as if he took Intro Physics and ended there!

    This also neglects completely Quantum Mechanics in which the concept of "force" just simply doesn't exist! Would he also be surprised that in the Standard Model of elementary particles, all such elementary particles are massless, and are only endowed with mass due to some broken symmetry?

    And you're using him and all this as the impetus for your "theory"?

    Zz.
     
  7. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,622
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    ZapperZ, I understand your complaints against the example, but I think the OP had a more general concept in mind (i.e. "Informational Paradigm"). Isn't it possible we could satisfy the OP in a less confrontational way by discussing decoherence?

    I'm actually curious what you think of these papers:

    Wojciech Hubert Zurek (2001). Sub-Planck structure in phase space and its relevance for quantum decoherence. Nature 412, 712-717
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v412/n6848/abs/412712a0.html

    Maximilian Schlosshauer (2005). Decoherence, the measurement problem, and interpretations of quantum mechanics (arxiv, ?)
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/quant-ph/pdf/0312/0312059v4.pdf

    Particularly of interest is II-B-3 in the Scholsshauer paper, a section titled "objective vs. subjective definiteness".

    And particularly relevant to this thread, I have a question based on the discussion. Is decoherence a one way street? Do we know whether quantum particles decohere to produce a macroscopic state or whether it's the other way around (the macroscopic state causes coherence which leads to quantum particles)? Or is the question meaningless empirically? Have I misunderstood something about decoherence?
     
  8. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    But this points to a weakness in interpretation, understanding, and knowledge! To cite something, and then not knowing the faults in that citation, revealed to me that the person has a severe lack of understanding of physics. Thus it throws into question on whether such a person has the authority and the expertise to develop ".... areas of study that are steering physics towards an informational paradigm". You can't pick bits and pieces of something, and then tries to reformulate the whole thing.

    And if you can actually make sense of passages like this:

    ... without even questioning (i) what area; (ii) why must it be an area (iii) where does such derivation comes from (iv) and how does point particle "cannot be embodied by a singular event, considering how well QFT/QED works, then you're waaaay smarter than I am.

    You need to be careful you're not inserting your own desire of a topic of discussion into this thread. I find it hard to believe that the sources you're citing is of the same line of reasoning that the OP has. You are turning this into what it isn't!

    Zz.
     
  9. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,622
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    To tell you the truth, I didn't understand the technical details at all, and I'm not implying that you shouldn't point them out. But the OP had a more general direction in mind that can still be addressed:

    That's because, imo, you're inspecting individual trees in his post, and I'm looking at the forest. And I'm not asking you to stop inspecting trees, but to also consider the forest.

    From the OP's first paragraph:

    "The purpose of this post is to question whether dynamical qualities (i.e. “fundamental charges”) can survive as primitive concepts in physics as contemporary theory moves from a mechanical model of the universe to a (potentially unified) informational paradigm."

    This isn't a fresh topic for naturalists (i.e. upward causation, downward causation is synonymous to asking who the primitive is). Is it really unclear how decoherence might play a role? and how section II-B-3 (which it sounds like you didn't read) would fit into the so called "informational paradigm"?
     
  10. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    But I understand the "technical details", and what the OP said is full of holes!

    And Mies van deRohe always said that "God is in the details"! You can go ahead and admire the forest. I'm looking closely and I see that all the trees are FAKE!

    And from the OP starting premise, which is what I stated earlier, the impetus for this endeavor was built on faulty understanding of basic physics. If the foundation of an argument is already wrong, the whole thing built on top of such an argument is moot! "Oh, that's OK if the foundation of that house is crumbling. The house itself looks very nice! Let's buy it!"

    There are indications that there is a severe lack of understanding of physics. It is from such an ignorance that you wanted to carry on such a discussion, AND, overlooking such ignorance of the subject matter.

    Zz.
     
  11. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,622
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    But you're misrepresenting my position. I'm not saying "ZapperZ, shame on you! You should have bought that house!" The house is terrible analogy anyway, because you're not doing business here. I thought you were here to volunteer, to help. I'm saying "ZapperZ, why don't you examine your pedagogical approach? You can inspire interest and empower your virtual students by offering them alternative methods to approach the same question, rather than telling them (in not so many words) that they're stupid and to stop thinking."

    I didn't say anything about overlooking it. I didn't say to make your post smaller or delete it; I implied that you should add something to it.
     
  12. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    This is puzzling. I AM adding to it by showing where there is fault in the original premise of this whole thing!

    When I referee a manuscript, I can't overlook the fact that the starting point is faulty. You seem to think that I should overlook it, forgive it, and help it along! I can't do that! When the starting point is wrong, the whole discussion has to stop until it is corrected! A faulty and illogical starting point will end up producing absurd answers!

    So I pointed out where the original premise is wrong. Unless the OP comes back and correct it, or show that he/she has a command of physics beyond just superficial understanding of it, then this thread is faulty. I have seen nothing from your argument to dispel that.

    Zz.
     
  13. Firstly, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Jammer

    Secondly, I am indeed trying to have the discussion at a much more conceptual level. (Thanks Pythagorean for defending that point.) I use Jammer's characterization of space, time and mass because they are an intuitive starting point. (And since they are the subjects of the fundamental Planck units, I didn't think that would be an issue.)

    And while I agree that all of this all hinges on information being proportional to area. I was under the impression that this basic aspect of black hole thermodynamics and the holographic principle was generally accepted.

    I'm not arguing the details of any particular theory - nor proposing a new one. And maybe I have misunderstood something. Perhaps if you could explain why this is a non-issue by letting me know which of these statements is false, I could gain a better understanding of the situation:

    1) Dynamical values cannot be represented using 0 bits of information
    2) [The] information necessary to perfectly describe [a] system, must be finite if the region of space and the energy is finite. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bekenstein_bound)
     
  14. I agree. And since "... neither particles, nor their properties, can be considered fundamental", then a remaining possible approach might involve identifying the singular, defining characteristic of any and all wave behavior in any and all media at any and all scales.

    When you've done that, then I would ask if you can generate anything approaching the complexity of our universe from that. My guess is that you can -- in principle anyway.
     
  15. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,622
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    For the record, I didn't say "add something to the thread" so no contest there; I said "add something to your post".

    In your first post, you:

    p1) recognized that he was "ignorant" about physics
    p2) proceeded, knowing a), to bombard him with a bunch of jargon that he obviously wouldn't understand, but didn't really explain anything.

    C) Your first post was pedantic and condescending

    Anyway... I'd still be interested to hear your answers to the questions I asked if they make sense to you; if they don't, I'd be willing to elaborate:

    I'm thinking along the lines of sub-Planck structures being indicative of an emergent theory (or equivalently a reduction of) quantum particles, which are a reduction of or "primitive to" classical particles (well, at least, that's the traditional view I thought; but I asked you about this above).

    The question is whether or not quantum particles can be said to be a bunch of smaller particles (that aren't quantum particles) or whether or not the energy/information structure of the ensemble itself causes quantum particles to emerge. Or are quantum particles "the end of the line" as far as you're concerned?
     
  16. Okay, perhaps I should clarify further. Yes, I understand that the classical idea of "force" is no longer around. Yes, I understand that the "forces" in the Standard Model are modeled using symmetry groups instead. Yes, I understand that there is a proposed theory in which "mass" is acquired through symmetry breaking (but only by leaning on the other "charges," which doesn't really get us anywhere philosophically... and this is the philosophy forum after all.)

    My point is that all of these theories are rooted in philosophical assumptions that aren't exactly consistent. Now, can physicists use the theories anyway as an extremely accurate approximation? Absolutely. Can the problems be ignored and still reach a unified theory of physics? Apparently not, because, well, here we are with 4 forces and a problem with quantum gravity.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  17. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    But a discussion in the philosophy forum of something out of physics should not be based on an incomplete or bastardization physics. That's an awful misrepresentation of a source. Shall we discuss unfounded rumors as well?

    In fact, this is a major insult to philosophical discussion, when you dismiss the important of being accurate of what you want to talk about. You left out not something that is small. You left out a high and significant portion of physics, and instead, started with something utterly naive (force and mass). This is an absurd starting point as the foundation for such a grandiose project.


    And what "philosophical assumptions" would that be? After all, what you indicated as the philosophical assumption in your first post is more of your ignorance of the subject matter. You used concepts in physics that were highly restricted. It appears that what is more accurate here is YOUR understanding of what might be the philosophical assumption.

    Your "problem" seems to be more of a matter of TASTES. Nowhere in the history of physics are new ideas and theories that came out because someone didn't like something. It has always been due to either logical inconsistencies (the non-invariant problem of classical Maxwell equation before 1900), or empirical evidence that could not be explained due by existing understanding. You offered none of these.

    Philosophical ideology has never produced significant advancement in physics.

    Zz.
     
  18. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    And this is, of course, unwarranted even when a direct insult onto the field of physics has been made. But that's OK. We should not focus on that, because we need to only look at the forest.

    Why are you trying to hijack this thread for your own pet ideas? You complain about my response that the OP might not understand, and yet, look at what you're spewing! Or do you think this has now become YOUR thread?

    Zz.
     
  19. Perhaps you missed it during your polemic. So I'll ask again. Which of these statements is false?

    1) Dynamical values cannot be represented using 0 bits of information
    2) [The] information necessary to perfectly describe [a] system, must be finite if the region of space and the energy is finite. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bekenstein_bound)
     
  20. apeiron

    apeiron 2,432
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    The ire here seems badly misdirected. Which, for me, immediately undermines the credibility of the attack in general.

    Wiki says: "he received a PhD in experimental physics in 1942"....
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Jammer

    And the citation for his Pais prize seems to suggest he is a credible source....
    http://www.aps.org/units/fhp/newsletters/upload/fall06.pdf

     
  21. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,151
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    I actually know who he is. But I wrote that it seems as if he stopped at Intro Physics and left it at that! Someone who knows physics would KNOW and be aware that sticking with the concept of just force and mass as the ONLY dynamical description is not giving someone the whole picture!

    But worse than that, someone actually looked at quoting something he wrote as used it as if it is a biblical truth! At one point do we actually try to understand the physics, rather than put all our faith into the words of another person? Physics isn't done by quotations! And strangely enough, you don't see to address MY specific reason for disputing what was cited, i.e. the concept that is clearly used in Hamiltonian/Lagrangian principles.. You are using his "greatness" to counter what I said, as if this should impress me and therefore somehow negates my point? Hello?

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
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