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Evolving law, Smolin and others

  1. Feb 24, 2009 #1


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    Smolins Cosmological Natural Selection - that the laws, or at least some parameters of physical law, is evolving by reproducting universes and that some variation is introduced at each generation of a new black hole/new universe, contains a basic evolutionary idea that after some evolution the a randomly picked universe are likely to be somewhat selected for it's reprodctive fitness.

    This is closely related to some reasoning I have on my own, but I don't see why it is necessary to contrain the concept to blackholes. In a certain sense, a blackhole can be seen as an observer, who continoually learns and consumes information. But what about all other observers? I had come to the conclusion that the same idea Smoling argues for should be even more natural when applied to a general observer, not only blackholes.

    This way, the logic of the normal flow of time, is the same as the logic "flow of time" in the universe population. Their origin are the same principle. If we can extend the logic here to normal observer, then perhaps it's easier to try to fill in the major missing points, to understand exactly what happens during the bounce, and exactly how the variation of laws is desribed.

    The idea here is that the "DNA of the laws of physics" should be encoded in the microstructure of it's population, and thus variation among the population should in principle be thought of as variation of physical law, and then instead of arguing like Smoling does, the uniformity of physical law as we see it, could be explained by that fact that equilibration has taken place for so long. The oddball particles and system has since long dissolved.

    I honestly don't see what insisting on the bounce as the only way to introduce variation is necessary. From my point of view, a black hole is just a very special (extreme) observer, but as I see it the logic must be present at all levels. This also has the advantage that you need not worrt about hypothetic collections of "other universes", because the logic lined out may be played out in front of our eyes in the this same universe.

    Anyway, like smolin notices I think there could be plenty of ways to falsify this once it's more developed.

    Has anyone, Smolin or anyone else taken the idea into that direction? ie. extend the reasoning beyond the black houle bounce, and bring the principle to unficiation with the ordinary flow of time within a single universe?

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  3. Feb 24, 2009 #2
  4. Feb 24, 2009 #3


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    Your paraphrase omits an important point about the blackhole bounce reproduction mechanism---it's essential role in making the conjecture scientific.

    For the conjecture to be science, it must be empirically falsifiable. The conjecture that universe regions reproduce via black holes is clearly testable, and is being tested as we speak.

    To discredit the hypothesis, all one would need to do is figure out some small mutation of the standard parameters of physics and cosmology which would have made the universe more reproductively efficient---that is which would have caused more stars to form and collapse into blackholes.

    Suppose one could imagine, for example, changing particle parameters slightly in a way that makes neutron stars less stable and more subject to collapse.
    And suppose one could do that without some undesirable side effect (like eliminating an element from the periodic table that is essential for efficient star formation) then one would have shown that our region is sub-optimal. (Not at a fixed point of the evolutionary flow.)

    Smolin didn't propose the bounce-evolution hypothesis because he liked black holes, or because he liked the bounce idea---those are secondary. The point is we can observe neutron stars and black holes and estimate masses and abundances. And we understand their history and formation well enough to get a handle on what change in fundamental constants might make them more abundant.

    If you want to think up an alternate reproduction mechanism, and propose an alternative hypothesis, that's excellent as long as you can meet a basic requirement:
    You have to be able to analyze how the parameters of the standard models of physics and cosmology affect the abundance of that alternative mechanism.

    Because that's how you would test the hypothesis. By seeing whether the standard parameters are optimal for a prolific region---and thus at a fixed point of the evolution flow---or whether they are suboptimal.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2009
  5. Feb 24, 2009 #4


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    The title "was einstein wrong" sounds like something you've heard before ;) but i'll skim this and see what it is, got a tub-slot coming up!

  6. Feb 24, 2009 #5


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    Yes, you're absolutely right of course. I didn't mean to make a proper summary, because I didn't mean to attack _that logic_, rather his application of it, that he didn't take it far enough :)

    anyway I thought I capture the falsification point with

    "after some evolution the a randomly picked universe are likely to be somewhat selected for it's reproductive fitness"

    "reprodctive fitness" is in smolins idea the ability to produce alot of black holes, so by the conventional understanding of how black holes are formed, and how that process depend on the parameters one can estimate wether significant improvement in black hole formation would be possible with a slight chage of parameters - which itself would make the CNS more unlikely.

    I don't have much to say about that. My idea does not compete with this, it is not either or. I just see it as taking the idea one step further, because I think the basic logic is good. I think selection and evolution can take place even in between the bounces, but by a similar reasoning.

    As I see it, in the analogy smolin presents, one question is exactly how and where are the actual "DNA" of physical law stored, and how does it "copy"?

  7. Feb 24, 2009 #6
    I think the motivation for Smolin's natural selection cosmology is best understood when you contrast it with other multiverse scenarios, such as eternal inflation. Most multiverse scenarios conclude that universes are being created all the time with random properties. If this is true, then we would expect our universe to have random properties. This is not really a prediction. What Smolin was trying to do was modify the multiverse scenario such that some kind of universe would be preferred over some kind of other universe in the distribution of produced universes, so that our expectations if we assume a multiverse will be in some way different than our expectations if we do not.

    So given this goal, the function of the black hole "bounces" is to provide a mechanism for certain kinds of universes outnumbering the other universes. If new universes come from black hole bounces, then the new universes will have some predictable set of values (i.e. values close to those of the parent universe) and not just random values.

    In other words there is no reason to expect the new universe creation to be occuring through black holes, it is just that we hope it is because if that is true then that would be convenient for us (because it would make our scientific theories possible to test)...

    So if you look on the Arxiv, this is the most recent thing Smolin's published about the natural selection thing. If you look at the overview he offers he explains that the "DNA", if you want to call it that, of the universe would simply be its "dimensionless parameters", that is things like the 20 parameters of the standard model.

    He does not explain what mechanism causes the parameters on the other side of a black hole bounce to vary, or what constrains that variance to be "small". The above paragraph is offered as one of three "hypotheses" that the cosmological NS theory depends on; in other words, he does not include an explanation for how the "copying with errors" of the dimensionless constants occurs, he simply asserts it as an assumption of the theory which some other, external theory would have to provide an explanation for. He later discusses the question of finding that explanation:

    [48] is this paper.
  8. Feb 24, 2009 #7


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    That seems only very remotely connected to the thread, and it discusses SR and QM, and doesn't relate to evolution of law?

    I can see some remote links to the physical basis of the wavefunction and evolution, but that's not discussed in that paper. I expect that SR and GR to be emergent from not yet known deeper principle. Those ideas are "radical" enough that a parallell discussion of the problems withing the original EPR context is moderately interesting IMO.

    Did you see any connections between that paper and evolution?

  9. Feb 24, 2009 #8


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    You are right. Your paraphrase was clear on that point. I didn't read carefully enough.
    I always want to emphasize that point because empirical testing is so essential as the contrast that Coin draws illustrates.
  10. Feb 25, 2009 #9


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    Thanks for your comments Coin.

    Perhaps I'm just coming from a different reasoning. I haven't ever considered choosing a between different multiverse theories. I was attracted to the evolution idea, not the multiverse part (it's the part I don't like). The notion of multiverse often implies some kind of strange external view. I'm trying to find an intrinsic view.

    (My point/hope here was that I saw a way to implement an evolutionary idea, but toss the multiverse talk, and combined it with a more explicit idea of how the DNA itself evolved)

    To me the evolution concept has a specific purpose - it's the solution to the problem of infinite regress, appearing in the problem om induction. Or rather, the infinite regress can be thought of as an ongoing computation, and rather than seeing this as a problem of analysing a problem, I give it a physical interpretation and conjecture that it's simply evolution we also call time evolution in the short perspective.

    The rough idea I was after is that observers "opinion" are manifestations of physical law, and that their evolution - selection for microstructure of observers in the population is a sort of evolving DNA of physical law that goes on all the time, and the selection mechanism is made by the local environment, an system with totally twisted "opinion" of physical law would not survive, it would have very short lifetime.

    So there would be a collective self-stabilisation, and one this is worked out falsificaiton should be possible in that this logic alone, should have some preferred first emergent structures. Ideally these structures and there interactions would correspond to the standard model we know. If a different structure was predicted, it would be unlikely to be true.

    As I picture the alternative the source of possible variation is simply the uncertainty. Variation is made around the expectation ("parent"), so that very large mutations are unlikely. So it would not be random. Any structure that isn't fit to maintain stability in it's interaction with the environment, will eventually be destroyed.

    I picture instead of spawning baby universes, that populating the universe with observers that share their opinion of physical law is the way to "propagate thte DNA". In a way one systems induces it's DNA of physical law to it's own environment by simply acting as per a particular logic (coded by the DNA) and this puts a selective pressure on the environment to negotiate. So the selection is a mutual pressure between two interaction systems.

    Another analogy is that, simply by interacting and talking to you right now, we are exerting a selective pressure on each other. As I see it, each communication is a kind of subtle negotiation, wether we see it or not.

    This could be combined with ideas of the origina of inertia, since as I like to see it, the information capacity of the observers are closely related to the inertia. If a "gene" if we put it like that, has a certain "count" to it's favour, that is the inertia of the gene, but since there is limited capacity, it competes with other genes, a gene that isn't reinforced will eventually be lost. New genes appear by unpredictable mutations, and once a fortunate mutation appears it's likely to preserve itselve.

    That might not be readable, but I was hoping that smoling himself or someone else inspired by the evolutionary idea (not by the multiverse thing) has developd this. This is pretty much what I am slowly trying to work on myself, and the general reasoning with evolution: variation and selection is close to what I think is the right way for other reasons, that I coulnd't help hoping for more.

    I think Smolins reasoning is interesting. But in order to take it further I think the origin of what I'd like to call the microstructure of the DNA (the parameters space itself of the standard model) should also be described by the same logic? Otherwise the variation and selection is only taking place on a fixed DNA placeholder structure/parameter space so to speak, that shouldn't be necessary if the essence of the evolutionary idea is taken all the way.

    Perhaps I'll have to keep an eye out for this in upcoming papers.

  11. Feb 25, 2009 #10


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    In this view, one might see the problem is then of course, how to make a predicition. What prevents any environment from simply preseving itself and thus beeing equally likely, as per some antrophic reasoning?

    Here I pictured the trick to consider how our current state of the universe evolved from a state with no observers (we might as well call it the big bang, but wether that state was uniqued I am not sure, but I an not even sure it matters, different initial conditions might possibly evolve into the same equilibrium state) then all the intrinsic pictures are very simple, simply because every intrisinc pictures is constrained by the complexity of the obserervers, and with no observers yet, the complexity of observed physical law is strongly constrained (this is why I talked about constructing intrinsic measures by scaling the complexity of the view in some past threads). Then I have not worked this out yet, because many problems are related, but the VISION is that trick of the SIMPLE strongly intrinsic view, that evolves to more complex views, will come with a probability measure of what emergent structures that are possible. The whole structure formation would be guided by this relational selective pressure driven by self-preservation. Maybe one can also call these resonance structures, as they would correspond to a structure that, when duplicating itlsef into the environment, produces a stable/consistent state that will not collapse. Then there would probably be an hierarchy of such structures, ordered by increasing complexity (probably corresponding to system inertia).

    This should also have builtin an idea of the origin of inertia, as a self-organising self-preserving measure of it's own environment.

    If this would work, it might very well be that smolins black hole picture is still right, this doesn't per see contradict thta, but hopefully it would be a more constructive angle. I think it must be a deeper place to attach the evolutionary reasoning, along with the bounce idea.

  12. Feb 25, 2009 #11


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    Coin, the writings you dug up anwers the questions about Smolins reasoning. It seems he is himself looking for that deeper fundamental physics. Then it makes sense. Now we just need to find it.

    But then he basically has a "microstructure of the DNA" and ponders evolution of it's microstate (parameter settings), but if you really take the evolutionary idea serious, one would expect the microstructure itself to also be explained.

    I guess a very good motivation for this is still that doing so seem very difficult, and meanwhile you at least get started. I think it's just that when you get a part, you want it all :)

    My expectation and personal hypothesis that I think is in line with the logic is that the mechanism to keep a small variance, is related to inertia. Each parameters has an inertia. But for that to even make sense, a model is needed for the physical basis of this. Variation is unavoidable, to to uncertainty, but at the same time a certain stability should be guranteed by the inertia of the entire construct.

    To understand this I expect no less prerequisite that to understand the origin of inertia.

    Even though I see this, the prime problem of string theory from the point of view of an evolutionary reasoning is that the strings themselves are a fixed microstructure that is put in as a conjecture. I think this leap in reasoning is possible why you end up with a landscape. There is no way I see how a string, can qualify as a fundamental starting point. Strings may
    still play a role as I see it, there is a decent chance that string like structure will emerge as primordal self-preserving structures way down in the complexity scale. The reason why I fail to consider strings fundamental is that they are pictured are continuum structures, relating to an external spacetime (part of the microstructure).

    If instead strings could be understood to emergey from a deeper theory, I thikn the landscape would also narrow.

  13. Feb 28, 2009 #12
    Very good article.

    In my humble opinion, one can forget about the last two proposals (Tumulka and Albert). But this is, of course, not a criticism of the article, but a personal preference. And my preference is a quite simple one: I prefer the conceptually simplest theory, which is clearly the de Broglie-Bohm pilot wave theory. That's not because I'm very much prejudiced in favour of classical determinism - if there would be good evidence, I would throw it away without bothering much. But there simply is no good evidence.

    Thank you for the link.

  14. Feb 28, 2009 #13


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    I have a similar peference. But I it seems to me that simplicity is relative. I have yet never seen a universal measure of simplicity :)

    To me simplicity means low degree of speculation. Simplest possible theory to me is the one which adds a minimum of assumptions and speculations. This relates simplicity to measures of certainty of information.

    In that setting, classical physics is fairly speculative. The whole assumptions of existence of absolute references is to me quite speculative. When the remove the speculations, you also loose definitness, but it gets simpler in the sense of less speculative. This is how probabilisitc models could be less definite, but also "simpler" in my mind.

    Edit: this is the sense where I personally think the various quantum weirdness and actions based on expectations and information at hand, rather than som realism is simple. It is somehow more natural. A systems "simplest or smallest action" seems to be the one, that adds a minimum of speculation, and is thus per construction the most proable one.

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2009
  15. Mar 1, 2009 #14


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    Fredrik –

    I think what you’re suggesting makes sense, or at least it sounds a bit like a train of thought I’ve been pursuing, in connection with Carlo Rovelli’s Relational Quantum Mechanics. (I think Lee Smolin might also have been involved in developing that approach to QM, but he doesn’t seem to have made a connection between that and his idea of an evolutionary explanation for fundamental physics.)

    I think the key issue is whether we can understand the basic functionality of “observing” or “measuring” as the kind of thing that can evolve. In biology, the basic functionality is that of organisms making multiple copies of themselves. Since we know evolution is possible on that basis, Smolin supposes that universes might also evolve by making copies of themselves. But I agree with you that we can imagine an evolutionary process that’s much closer to home, connected with “the ordinary flow of time” in this universe.

    In Relational QM, as you know, any local physical system counts as an “observer”. The fundamental physical process is the measurement of one system S by another system O, or equivalently, the communication of information between the two systems. In any case, the result is an agreement between S and O on certain information (“the state of S”) that both S and O can then potentially communicate on to other systems.

    The thing is, for something like this to happen, it’s not enough that S and O just interact. Most interaction between things remains merely “virtual”, and communicates no definite information. For O to determine something about S, O has to be “set up” in a certain way – so its interaction with S can have a definite outcome, i.e. make some specific difference to O’s subsequent interactions with the world. Likewise S has to be ”prepared” in such a way that an interaction with O can leave it in a specific state, that makes a difference to S’s subsequent interactions.

    So we can envision the world as something like a web of interactions that communicate information between “measurement situations”. In order for a system to be “set up” to measure something, or “prepared” to be measured, there has to be other background information in its environment, communicated to it from previous measurement events.

    The information communicated in each interaction would be merely random. But as you suggest, only information that turns out to be consistent with other information could help make a coherent background-context for future measurements. What we call “the flow of time” would have to do with the way information determined in one situation gets passed on as background information to “set up” other measurement situations.

    Is that the sort of thing you have in mind? If we’re thinking about a web of interactions that define information in the context of other information, it seems reasonable that certain basic structures might evolve as a kind of “DNA” – i.e. base-level information that has to be agreed on in every interaction, in order for it to constitute a measurement that contributes to the coherent body of “the real world.”

  16. Mar 1, 2009 #15


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    Hello Conrad and welcome to the forum! It looks like you connect unexpectadly well given that this seems to be your first post :)

    Emergent agreements, is exactly how I think of it to, and the very process of negotiation is the physical interaction itself. So by trying to understand in the general case, the logic of negotiation and feedback due to mutual selection pressure due to disagreement, we can hopefully also understand the deep information basis of physical interactions.

    The early parts of the reasoning in Rovelli's RQM is brilliant IMHO. However I do not like how he develops it, in particular how he explicitly avoids the physical basis of probability, but nevertheless his initial reasoning is one of the more worth-reading papers. A brilliant philosophical beginning that IMO still awaits the same brilliant completion.

    I think your reasoning is well tuned to mine given that this is your first post here. What you write goes well in line with my reasoning.

    Smoling black hole stuff seems in the light of the reasoning that you seem to share, to be a special case at best. I think time evolution itself must be seem in the same evolutionary sense. I don't doubt for a second it's a viable way forward, it's so plausible and presents the most consistent way of reasoning I'm aware of. But it still contains many complex problems.

    Are you aware of anyone who has published anything along this reasoning? I am somewhat puzzled why not more progress has been made along these lines (or why I haven't found it). Perhaps not enough people has payed attention to this in the past.

    Yes, something like that is definitely what I mean! Contexual information without universal references. The only common references existing are emergent from mutual interactions. It may seem mad but like you seem to agree with, there is a good chance that even such very background independent logic, may produce locally definite patterns of self-consistenct structures.

  17. Mar 2, 2009 #16


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    The problem used to be that in this fully contextual and relative thinking, you have nothing to start with. So where do you even start?

    I've come to the decision that in principle, any starting point would be valid, and apply the reasoning forward. But that gives me an infinite number of starting points, and it also probably makes the discovery process unnecessary complicated. So I've decided to start at the zero end of the complexity scale. Ie. how does very light observer interact? The exploit is that a simple observer, can not even encode arbitrary complex interactions. So I start like that. I use a qualifier of complexity as the number of distinguishable states. There are two such state spaces, the internal space and the communication channel state. If I can find a logic to that: how does that entire logic scale, as the observer acquires higher mass(complexity) and how does the mass acquisition process look like?

    So I have at least 3 problems.

    1. Do understand the basic logic in the simplest cases
    2. How this this "logic" scale with mass, certaintly new complex interactions and structures will emerge
    3. How is mass formed (or as I think of it, how is confidence or inertia formed; how can a light observer, grow massive)

    I have some hints of ideas on all these, but the problem is that they are related, so I am trying to make parallell progress. The exact scaling of the logic, is intimately related to the origin (growth) of mass. In fact I think the two points are almost the one an same.

    About time, I picture time as a random walk, guided by a constantly evolving internal map in the observer. Mass acuiqution corresponds to a more "massive" and thus more confident map. A light map, has poor resoltion and is more frequently wrong (less reliable).

    So far my starting poits have been combinatorical, and the selective pressure and evolution is to understand how such constructud structures are either supported or destructed in interactions, structurs that encode the wrong logic or picture, will not be stable in the environemnt. That's the logic of the selection. SO I think of the DNA as the "logic" that constructs the microstructure and it's evolution.

    Last edited: Mar 2, 2009
  18. Mar 2, 2009 #17
    I would clearly disagree. Certainty of the theory has nothing to do with simplicity. These are simply very very different things.
  19. Mar 2, 2009 #18
    My guess:
    LQG is wrong, because spin-networks is a correct idea, but the 'quantisation' into planck-scale is wrong and superficial.
    Superficial because one unexplained phaenomenon is explained over an other unexplained phaenomenon.
    Relativity doesn't work with 'nodes' of spacetime, This is due to certain angles, that shift timelike and spacelike behavior into each other. That doesn't work with nodes, because an angle in spacetime is a velocity in respect to an observer. Since we can't have 'steps in velocity' we can't have nodes of spacetime.
    And: the observed sky is cristall-clear for billions of light years, any discrete structure of spacetime would blur the images of distant stars a bit, what isn't observed.
  20. Mar 2, 2009 #19


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    I started to read up on Rovelli's LQG thinking, and even though I am very impressed by his initial analysis and reflections, when he laters moves on to formulating the new ideas, I don't think they follow the same reasoning I smelled in some of his more reflective papers.

    In my mind, the relativity transformations should be emergent along with spacetime as systems interact and evolve. The most serious objection is that while he has interesting interpretations in the RQM paper, in the end it effectively ends up still beeing the same quantum formalism. I personally felt that his view should imply and suggest a modification of the formalism itself.

    These are some very basic reasons why I think LQG as I understand it, isn't ambitious enough. I sense a higher ambition in he early parts of Rovelli's reasoning, that's what was surprising to me.

    At first I though that his spin networks was best interpreted as the same "microstructures" as I call them and is pondering, but I soon realized that while that might be a possibilitiy, it's not what rovelli is doing, thus I had no help of his formalism. I had to go back where it in my opinion went wrong.

    His reasoning that the only way to compare observations, are by Observer-Observer communication is great, and that such interactions boils down to nothing but the normal physical interactions is great, but then he concludes that "and these interactions must be treated quantum mechanically" and then he throws in the same old QM. That's the step that's a gigantic leap to me. My conclusion from that point would instead be that the quantum mechanics formalism we know, is rather also just emergent. And the emergent process is an evolutionary one.

    Somehow that's where my reasoning start off, I am expecting a different turn to the good reasoning he started.

  21. Mar 3, 2009 #20
    In my own model I use something, that you could call a spin-network. But it's build over a smooth spacetime with a very simple model. Since I think, this is possible, I would think LQG is wrong. QM is based on linear algebra, observations and real space. Now think about a kind of space with geometric relations of a multiplicative kind, based on imaginary numbers. That's called geometric algebra and related to quaternions.
    What we call matter are timelike stable structures within that. A field is the connection over a timelike hypersheet. That looks static, because that sheet is defined this way.
    An electron in this model is a full turn. Since it is anti-symmetric it requires two rounds for a return. Now left and right are different, too, a structure emerges with two types of electrons.
    This structure could be shifted, what makes electrons radiate, since they expose the aspect of rotation to a distant observer.
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