Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Exactly what is theory all about?

  1. Aug 15, 2004 #1
    Every theory I have ever heard is an attempt to explain something. It seems to me that the first issue is to understand the nature of an explanation. We can start with a very simple statement: all "explanations" require something which is to be explained. I don't care what it is that is to be explained, it can be categorized as information.

    It follows (as the night the day) that "explanation" is something which is done to (or for) information. It follows that the first question which must be answered is, exactly what does an explanation do to (or for) information? If you cannot answer that question, you are wasting everyone's time.

    It is my humble opinion that what an explanation does for information is that it provides expectations of subsets of that information. That is, it seems to me that if all the information is known, then any questions about the information can be answered (that could be regarded as the definition of "knowing"). On the other hand, if the information is understood (via that explanation we are all attempting to present), then questions about the information can be answered given only limited or incomplete knowledge of the underlying information: i.e., limited subsets of the information. What I am saying is that understanding implies it is possible to predict expectations for information not known. The explanation constitutes a method which provides one with those rational expectations for unknown information consistent with what is known. (If it isn't consistent with what is known, it is quite reasonable to egnored it without examination.)

    If there is anyone out there who thinks that proposition is flawed, please let me know about it.

    I am only trying to find a starting place for rational communication. If you agree with me, give me a little support :cool:.

    Have fun -- Dick
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2004 #2

    Alkatran

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Or, in short: Some things you know, some things you don't. Find patterns to know more than you know.

    Doesn't have quite the same "omph", does it?
    And now I'm thinking about compression.


    Great post.
     
  4. Aug 15, 2004 #3

    DrChinese

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Absolutely! A theory becomes useful because we don't know everything there is to know about something. If we did, a theory would not provide any utility.

    Assuming a classical scenario in which there are a large number of variables of a deterministic system and we only know few values: a theory may in some cases give answers to questions we might not otherwise be able to answer. In this case, the theory is useful. Theories that provide greater accuracy or require fewer input variables are superior to other theories.
     
  5. Aug 15, 2004 #4
  6. Aug 16, 2004 #5
    I agree; great reminder ! I think Karl Popper had similar ideas.

    Now if we could condense that down into a couple of sentences and hang it onto our theory making machine it would be even greater :smile:

    Vern
     
  7. Aug 16, 2004 #6

    Chronos

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2015 Award

    No disagreement here. I think in terms of observation and theory, where observation is the independent variable and theory is the dependent variable. Confusion creeps in when we attempt to shoe-horn observations to fit theory. We need not drop and run from our precious theories at the first hint of contradicting observation, but, should do a better job explaining the observations that do not quite fit. It is a safe bet we will not learn much from observations that perfectly fit theory. Most, if not all new knowledge resides in the observations that don't quite fit. We have probably already found most observations that fly in the face of everything we think we know.
     
  8. Aug 16, 2004 #7
    Well, surprise, surprise! I have received unbelievable agreement! Apparently, everyone who has chosen to respond to my post has no serious disagreements with what I said. That (for me) is a singular achievement; however, I do note that no "mentor" has chosen to respond. How am I supposed to judge this particular fact? Either they agree (in which case, kindness would push them to say so) or they disagree (in which case, their expertise should push them to put forward their complaints). I can only conclude that I have stepped outside their expertise and they fear to comment.

    Since I appear to be the "expert" on the issue under discussion, let me proceed and see if agreement can be obtained to the next level. Will you all allow me to define "An explanation", from the abstract perspective, to be a method of obtaining expectations from given known information?

    From that perspective, it seems to me that any explanation must possess two fundamental components: the information to be explained and the mechanism used to generate those expectations.

    Please, if any of you have disagreement with that suggestion, please let me know.

    Have fun – Dick
     
  9. Aug 17, 2004 #8
    What? Have I exceeded everyone's attention span already?
     
  10. Aug 17, 2004 #9
    yes, unless you have a point, what you are musing is already "instinctual" to the human mind.

    we're not seeing the reason you're fascinated with this topic.

    in other words, you're providing a lot of explanation for something that doesn't need that much explanation.

    not sure where that fits in your paradigm...
     
  11. Aug 17, 2004 #10

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Theory is about, subjective statements, wild speculation and unsupported assertions. Any good theeory should contain the incorrectly spelt name of a famous physicst and the less maths and the more vague philosophizing the better.
     
  12. Aug 17, 2004 #11

    Chronos

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2015 Award

  13. Aug 18, 2004 #12
    Here is a reference thread for everyone interested Dr. D:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=23266


     
  14. Aug 18, 2004 #13

    Chronos

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2015 Award

    I find no flaw in what DrD said.
     
  15. Aug 18, 2004 #14
    In that same thread Dr. D derives the fundamental equation:

    Dr. D appears to agree with special relativity yet he has said that general relativity is not necessarily true.

    There are no tensor equations, thus no coordinate independence. Then again Dr. D states that the above equation can model any explanation.

    Interesting...
     
  16. Aug 18, 2004 #15

    DrChinese

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think I agree with this, tell me if my terminology is diverging...

    a) A theory is a useful model of a subset of reality.
    b) [Input variables] + [Theory] -> [Output Variables]
    c) It is implied that there are variables on the Input side that are held constant or are unknown.
    d) It is implied that there are variables on the output side that are not explained.
    e) Theories can then be compared based on Input Variable requirements, scope of Output Variables, and in some cases on relative accuracy.

    Am I close? :)
     
  17. Aug 18, 2004 #16
    I would have to agree with that 100%.
    I would say that the "Input variables" are either known or at least presumed.
    I would say that the "->" stands for the explanation. The "Output variables" are the prediction of the theory under the assumption that the "Input variables" are what is known.
    I would say, in all cases, on their relative accuracy.
    About as close as one can get at this point.

    I am sorry but it appears that my presence on this forum is in the process of being terminated. I have already been constrained to only post on the "Theory Development sub-forum" and now the privilege of starting a thread has been rescinded. I also note that this is the only open thread started by me which has not been locked. When they lock this thread, the thing is all over. Anyone who wants to talk to me is welcome to e-mail me at "doctordick01" at yahoo.com.

    The reason for this exclusion is apparently justified by the published standards:

    1) Physicsforums.com strives to maintain high standards of academic integrity. That is, if you have any arguments with the adequacy of those standards, go away.

    2) There are many open questions in physics, and we welcome discussion on those subjects provided the discussion remains intellectually sound. That is, those discussions must acquiesce to the present interpretation of the proper way to attack those questions.

    3) Posts or threads of an overly speculative nature will be moved to the Theory Development subforum without notice, where discussion may continue in quarantine. That is, we want total control of anything that is inconsistent with the currently accepted catechism of "Physics".

    4) Forum staff may choose to lock threads in the Theory Development subform when they decide the topic has run its course. What does this mean? That the mentors no longer feel adequate to the defense of positions against what is being posted?

    5) Advertisements of personal theories and unfounded challenges of mainstream science will not be tolerated anywhere on the site, including the Theory Development subforum. Now this one is being used against my posts under the assumption that what I am posting is "theoretical" and thus an "unfounded challenge of mainstream science". That is, they know what is correct and they are not going to countenance any pressure to think!

    6) Users may not create threads in the Theory Development subforum. Now they can officially fix it as the "Nuts are us" sub-forum!!!

    With regard to the standards published, I didn't intend to be "defensive and combative". I was only trying to get a little attention to the issues from the more educated members of the forum. If you have followed very many threads on the forum, you should realize that the educational level on the "nuts are us" forum (a term used by the mentors themselves, not invented by me) is quite low. There is a strong possibility that the mentors (plus a few minority posters) are the only people with sufficient understanding of fundamental mathematics to understand what I am doing. I really have been drawn to the opinion that they are not interested in thinking but rather in getting ego boosts by pointing out the intellectual inadequacy of the people who post here.

    It would appear that my efforts to reach anyone on this forum has effectively come to an end. I guess I have just pissed too many people off. I will continue to read and post to this thread until they lock it.

    Have fun -- Dick
     
  18. Aug 18, 2004 #17

    I cannot post a new topic either. But it probably is not a matter of "ego-boosts" Dr. D. It is probably a matter of worry over the possibility of being overrun by "nutz & cranks" :wink:

    As far as not being able to post a new topic, I think it is unfair! I love to brainstorm! But of course, beggars can't be choosers :eek: :wink:

    Now back to the question of coordinate independence Dr. D...
     
  19. Aug 19, 2004 #18
    I had lost my ability to do anything the other day.

    I was Erck, now I'm using my real name.

    It is allowing me to do everything but post a new thread.

    What's that all about.

    As my old username I posted one of the most popular ones on the forum... "what is nothing?"

    What will make me worthy of starting another thread if I want to.

    What's going on here... could a moderator please explain.
     
  20. Aug 19, 2004 #19

    chroot

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    We are attempting to maintain high standards of academic quality on this site. In other words, we do not permit personal theories, attacks on established science that are not immaculently in accordance with the scientific method, and so on. We encourage you to continue your discussions elsewhere. Two suggestions are the Usenet newsgroup sci.physics and the forum www.sciforums.com.

    - Warren
     
  21. Aug 19, 2004 #20
    Doctordick appears to have derived some very abstract ideas, that would meet almost anyone's criteria for "high academic standards". Yet those who would be the most qualified here at PF remain silent and quietly attempt to
    brush Dr. D aside.

    What's up with that???

    :eek: :eek: :eek:
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?