FQXi grant awardee abstracts (novel time ideas)

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  • #1
marcus
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FQXi was set up to support research gambits with a chance of success but unconventional enough they wouldn't be funded thru normal channels. It has private money.

We may be able to learn something by looking at the abstracts (brief summaries) of the grant winners' proposals. Here is the list. To see the abstract, you click on the name, and then click on "technical"---this gives a somewhat more detailed account than what you first see when you click on the name.

This year the topic set was "the nature of time". Grants totaled approximately $1.8 million:

http://www.fqxi.org/grants/large/awardees/list?year=2010&sort=valueDESC
 

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  • #2
marcus
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For example, if you go to the above list, near the top you see Julian Barbour's name.
Click on the name and you get:
http://www.fqxi.org/grants/large/awardees/view/__details/2010/barbour

Then click on "technical abstract" and you get slightly more detail, including:

===excerpts===
The Nature of Time and the Structure of Space
...
...
My application is for two mutually reinforcing projects. The first is to show that the structure of space essentially determines the dynamics of space, which in turn determines the physcial properties of time. This will be done by completing my program for the relational derivation of classical dynamics from the fewest possible axioms. ...
... My second project is to write a monograph presenting a unifying vision of the relational foundations of physics. ... A monograph that presents this picture will have value in itself and be a resource for researchers wishing to apply the insights of relational dynamics in quantum gravity.
==endquote==
 
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marcus
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I may say that from a personal perspective I liked Julian Barbour's and several others, but I did not find a great many abstracts that really interested me. Of course I didn't look at them all, plus you may come to it with a different perspective and find some intriguing research ideas that I missed.
===================
Here is one more sample, David Rideout's abstract. I think his work which applies massive parallel computing to various QG models, primarily Causal Sets but including Causal Triangulations, is of obvious value and should by rights be supported by conventional funding. Why would he have to turn to FQXi, which is nominally aimed at the more offbeat?

Anyway here is his abstract including the available technical detail, my bolding to give a quick idea of the content:

==quote==

Time in Quantum Causal Set Histories

Project Summary

Einstein's theory of gravity, General Relativity, and our theory which governs the sub-atomic world, Quantum Theory, give seemingly inconsistent accounts of the nature of time. According to General Relativity, each observer will have a separate notion of time, based upon his or her 'trajectory' within the spacetime history of the universe. According to Quantum Theory, there is only one notion of time which governs the evolution of physical systems. The inconsistency leads to considerable problems when attempting to write down a theory which incorporates both gravity and the quantum. The 'histories formulation' of Quantum Theory, as pioneered by Feynman, provides a potential resolution to this conundrum, by allowing a formulation of quantum theory in which time plays the same role as in General Relativity. Historically Feynman's formulation has been regarded more as a calculational tool than a genuine interpretive framework for Quantum Theory. Additionally it brings a multitude of mathematical complications, which makes progress in this direction difficult. We propose to sidestep the mathematical complications by assuming that the universe is composed of an enormous number of tiny discrete elements, and asking whether the resulting quantum theory of cosmology can produce universes which resemble our own.

Technical Abstract

The attempt to reconcile the role played by time in quantum theory, with the principle of general covariance of General Relativity, leads many to consider a radical departure from our every day intuitive understanding of the concept, such as regarding it as an illusory phenomenon, or that the histories which enter the gravitational path integral are of Euclidean signature rather than Lorentzian. The histories formulation of quantum theory provides an alternate possibility, that the time we seem to experience is a fundamental aspect of spacetime histories. Can one pose a theory of quantum cosmology in terms of histories, and arrive at something resembling the universe we inhabit?

We propose to address this question in the relatively concrete context of fundamentally discrete histories, which greatly simplifies many mathematical issues of the gravitational path integral. Taking advantage of several recent developments in causal set quantum gravity, we propose to address this question via Metropolis Monte Carlo simulation of an analytically continued path sum for quantum cosmology, measuring observables such as spacetime dimension. Does the resulting quantum dynamics lead to four dimensional discrete universes, whose causal structure resembles that of continuum spacetime?
==endquote==
http://www.fqxi.org/grants/large/awardees/view/__details/2010/rideout


Renate Loll's group did the sort of thing he is talking about in around 2005-2007 in the Causal Triangulations context. They used the Metropolis Monte Carlo simulation method. And they measured "observables such as spacetime dimension". And they observed roughly 4D at largescale (less at smaller scale). And the overall spacetime path integral gave them essentially a conventional 4D DeSitter universe. So what Rideout proposes looks very solid in a conventional light. Try to reproduce Loll's CDT results and extend them, on a much more massive computational scale, and in context of a different model: Causal Sets instead of CDT. See what, if anything, goes wrong. See if you can refine the CDT results, or get different ones.

Anyway, my two cents. Maybe someone else will spot something interesting.
 
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  • #4
Careful
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I may say that from a personal perspective I liked Julian Barbour's and several others, but I did not find a great many abstracts that really interested me. Of course I didn't look at them all, plus you may come to it with a different perspective and find some intriguing research ideas that I missed.
===================
Here is one more sample, David Rideout's abstract. I think his work which applies massive parallel computing to various QG models, primarily Causal Sets but including Causal Triangulations, is of obvious value and should by rights be supported by conventional funding. Why would he have to turn to FQXi, which is nominally aimed at the more offbeat?

Anyway here is his abstract including the available technical detail, my bolding to give a quick idea of the content:

==quote==

Time in Quantum Causal Set Histories

Project Summary

Einstein's theory of gravity, General Relativity, and our theory which governs the sub-atomic world, Quantum Theory, give seemingly inconsistent accounts of the nature of time. According to General Relativity, each observer will have a separate notion of time, based upon his or her 'trajectory' within the spacetime history of the universe. According to Quantum Theory, there is only one notion of time which governs the evolution of physical systems. The inconsistency leads to considerable problems when attempting to write down a theory which incorporates both gravity and the quantum. The 'histories formulation' of Quantum Theory, as pioneered by Feynman, provides a potential resolution to this conundrum, by allowing a formulation of quantum theory in which time plays the same role as in General Relativity. Historically Feynman's formulation has been regarded more as a calculational tool than a genuine interpretive framework for Quantum Theory. Additionally it brings a multitude of mathematical complications, which makes progress in this direction difficult. We propose to sidestep the mathematical complications by assuming that the universe is composed of an enormous number of tiny discrete elements, and asking whether the resulting quantum theory of cosmology can produce universes which resemble our own.

Technical Abstract

The attempt to reconcile the role played by time in quantum theory, with the principle of general covariance of General Relativity, leads many to consider a radical departure from our every day intuitive understanding of the concept, such as regarding it as an illusory phenomenon, or that the histories which enter the gravitational path integral are of Euclidean signature rather than Lorentzian. The histories formulation of quantum theory provides an alternate possibility, that the time we seem to experience is a fundamental aspect of spacetime histories. Can one pose a theory of quantum cosmology in terms of histories, and arrive at something resembling the universe we inhabit?

We propose to address this question in the relatively concrete context of fundamentally discrete histories, which greatly simplifies many mathematical issues of the gravitational path integral. Taking advantage of several recent developments in causal set quantum gravity, we propose to address this question via Metropolis Monte Carlo simulation of an analytically continued path sum for quantum cosmology, measuring observables such as spacetime dimension. Does the resulting quantum dynamics lead to four dimensional discrete universes, whose causal structure resembles that of continuum spacetime?
==endquote==
http://www.fqxi.org/grants/large/awardees/view/__details/2010/rideout


Renate Loll's group did the sort of thing he is talking about in around 2005-2007 in the Causal Triangulations context. They used the Metropolis Monte Carlo simulation method. And they measured "observables such as spacetime dimension". And they observed roughly 4D at largescale (less at smaller scale). And the overall spacetime path integral gave them essentially a conventional 4D DeSitter universe. So what Rideout proposes looks very solid in a conventional light. Try to reproduce Loll's CDT results and extend them, on a much more massive computational scale, and in context of a different model: Causal Sets instead of CDT. See what, if anything, goes wrong. See if you can refine the CDT results, or get different ones.

Anyway, my two cents. Maybe someone else will spot something interesting.
Renate didn't do anything of this kind, there is no ''relativization'' of time in CDT at all, the methodologies however do coincide. Isn't it clear why such proposal isn't funded by mainstream institutions?

Moreover, do not expect FQXi to fund really valuable things either; people just don't know gold when it is in front of them. It is well known that Max Planck told Einstein that nobody would be interested in generally covariant theories. Also, Newton was a bad student and wrote his principia at home far away from Cambridge.

Careful
 
  • #5
qsa
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Moreover, do not expect FQXi to fund really valuable things either; people just don't know gold when it is in front of them. It is well known that Max Planck told Einstein that nobody would be interested in generally covariant theories. Also, Newton was a bad student and wrote his principia at home far away from Cambridge.

Careful

What is your criteria for recognizing "gold". Would computing the Fine-Structure-Constant to an arbitrary high precision, be one of them.
 
  • #6
Careful
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What is your criteria for recognizing "gold". Would computing the Fine-Structure-Constant to an arbitrary high precision, be one of them.
The point is there are no criteria for it; only a deep understanding and extreme willingness to listen to the unexpected can contribute to avoiding historical errors as I indicated before. The point was that Planck was supportive of Einstein twice because he was a decent guy; he did not really believe in what Albert was doing but he recognized it as sensible and potentially deep. And he decided that this was enough for him to support this young, bold, unconventional guy. Unfortunately, we are deluding ourselves that we can avoid such things: the system has actually become worse than it were in 1905. People are too ''busy'' with obligations which do not involve research; referees get so many meaningless papers to read that they do not take sufficient time anymore to be really critical and contemplative.

Concerning your example: suppose someone would come up with a theory in which the initial value of the fine structure constant is completely irrelevant. Now, how many people would take that seriously ? And this guy may very well be completely right !

You once told me that you were a manager. Then you know how much time you put in a candidate for a high level position. The process goes in several steps: handing in CV is just the beginning, then comes a personal interview with line management, if that is ok, you have to undergo some screening at HR (psychological tests, IQ tests and so on), if that is ok, you have again a meeting with management and finally if this is finished you have to get again to HR to sign your contract. In academia, there is no screening of this kind, there is no or very little investment in people, somehow universities are silly enough to go just by reference letters and contracts based upon a proposal.

Careful
 
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  • #7
suprised
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In academia, there is no screening of this kind, there is no or very little investment in people, somehow universities are silly enough to go just by reference letters and contracts based upon a proposal.
l

How'd you know? In the institutions I know from inside, the impression of the candidate is the most important factor. Usually the personal judgement works best. And even if sometimes decisions turn out not optimal in retrospect, the good guys will almost always make their career eventually.

It is a prejudice that the academic establishment would suppress unconventional ideas and would not be able to recognize "independent geniuses". People refuse to realize that these are practically always crackpots.
 
  • #8
Careful
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How'd you know?
Direct experience.
In the institutions I know from inside, the impression of the candidate is the most important factor. Usually the personal judgement works best. And even if sometimes decisions turn out not optimal in retrospect, the good guys will almost always make their career eventually.
You miss entirely my point, ''impression'' is a quality defined within conservative knowledge and personal expectations towards what a candidate should think about certain issues. What you define to be good and suitable is grounded in attributing yourself these qualities. The point is that when you get confronted with someone who says things which sound outrageous because you have never thought enough about these issues, you will think it is a crank. There exists a nice story of Wittgenstein and Russell: the former was following classes with the latter and at one point uttered that all existential propositions are meaningless. Russell reacted as a sportsman and asked him whether there was a hippopotamus in the classroom. Wittgenstein said he didn't know, on which Russell started to look under the desk and in all corners and said he didn't see anything. Still, Wittgenstein remained unconvinced. It is only later that Russell realized this was genius but he kept his first opinion that Ludwig may have been a crank for himself. The point is that people like Russell and Planck are able to see the difference, most people are not.

It is a prejudice that the academic establishment would suppress unconventional ideas and would not be able to recognize "independent geniuses".
Well, yes and no. Some people usually recognize them (usually some top people in the field), however, the large majority does not. Einstein's relativity theory has been vehemently opposed by most people, it has been surpressed by aryan scientists and even the great Lorentz couldn't overcome his prejudices. Albert had the luck that Eddington confirmed his theory to some extend quite quickly since otherwise it would have taken a few more decades. Between 1915 and 1919, the theory was not well received at all. Notice that after his annus mirabilis 1905 he only got fairly modest positions at small universities. So, there are a few conclusions here : (a) nobody of importance recognized him prior to his discoveries and (b) after that, it still to a while to be accepted somehow (and people still did not fully accept relativity in our days).

People refuse to realize that these are practically always crackpots.
They don't refuse that. Moreover, you again miss the point it seems. We are talking here about people with a PhD which should still be a qualification of superior intelligence (in the ideal case). So, I would ask you to define a crackpot since actually who is the crank? That person who does not understand certain valid points raised by these unconventional people(although their conclusions may be wrong) or the unconventional people themselves? It is not always easy to tell... I am not talking about laypersons here whom I would call overambitious and overtrusting in their own abilities, but if you prefer to say crank, that is fine by me. There are plenty of examples in history of people who were destroyed as crank and turned out to be right after all. What do you call it then, mass delusion of the institutional ''thinkers'' ?

Careful
 
  • #9
yoda jedi
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It is a prejudice that the academic establishment would suppress unconventional ideas and would not be able to recognize "independent geniuses". People refuse to realize that these are practically always crackpots.

Well, yes and no. Some people usually recognize them (usually some top people in the field), however, the large majority does not. Einstein's relativity theory has been vehemently opposed by most people, it has been surpressed by aryan scientists and even the great Lorentz couldn't overcome his prejudices. Albert had the luck that Eddington confirmed his theory to some extend quite quickly since otherwise it would have taken a few more decades. Between 1915 and 1919, the theory was not well received at all. Notice that after his annus mirabilis 1905 he only got fairly modest positions at small universities. So, there are a few conclusions here : (a) nobody of importance recognized him prior to his discoveries and (b) after that, it still to a while to be accepted somehow (and people still did not fully accept relativity in our days).



Careful

a prejudice ?

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1921/

"The Nobel Prize in Physics 1921 was awarded to Albert Einstein
.........especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect".

...lol.....

and relativity ? ...lol....
 
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  • #10
Careful
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What bugs me is that these discusssions are always ridiculized. Either one points to the existence of plenty of layman having their shot at it, or the opposite happens : people try to uplift their own research program by demonizing the others, say that groupthink is installed, the funding agencies don't work etcetera... But what people never do is question themselves and ask the simple question, ''Would I recognize it when someone valuable stands in front of me?''. People are all that arrogant that they assume they automatically would; sadly this is most likely never the case.

There is a difference somehow in companies: you have to undergo some standardized tests. Ok, these are also inherently limited but can and do complete the picture one has. Actually, the screening of a candidate for a post-doc position in academia takes what, 5-20minutes at most? Given that you have 150 candidates for one position in the good institutions, that would amount to 13 - 50 hours which is an overestimation by many margins. In private companies, every high profile candate is screened at least for one hour (if you don't get the job) and at least 3 hours if you do.

Careful
 
  • #11
qsa
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The point is there are no criteria for it; only a deep understanding and extreme willingness to listen to the unexpected can contribute to avoiding historical errors as I indicated before. The point was that Planck was supportive of Einstein twice because he was a decent guy; he did not really believe in what Albert was doing but he recognized it as sensible and potentially deep. And he decided that this was enough for him to support this young, bold, unconventional guy. Unfortunately, we are deluding ourselves that we can avoid such things: the system has actually become worse than it were in 1905. People are too ''busy'' with obligations which do not involve research; referees get so many meaningless papers to read that they do not take sufficient time anymore to be really critical and contemplative.

Concerning your example: suppose someone would come up with a theory in which the initial value of the fine structure constant is completely irrelevant. Now, how many people would take that seriously ? And this guy may very well be completely right !

You once told me that you were a manager. Then you know how much time you put in a candidate for a high level position. The process goes in several steps: handing in CV is just the beginning, then comes a personal interview with line management, if that is ok, you have to undergo some screening at HR (psychological tests, IQ tests and so on), if that is ok, you have again a meeting with management and finally if this is finished you have to get again to HR to sign your contract. In academia, there is no screening of this kind, there is no or very little investment in people, somehow universities are silly enough to go just by reference letters and contracts based upon a proposal.

Careful

If you look at the 80/20 rule you will see that 80% of people are either bureaucrats or forced to play as one. few percents will manage to do things their own ways. I have also worked for 12 years in a research institute , the situation is the same, majority of businesses are only better relatively. The smart ones(independent thinkers) are either forced to become bureaucrats, or there are so few of them that their resistance is futile. only few manage to do some real work because of additional attributes or other reasons.

I installed a million dollar high end business software, the human resources module had all the things you mentioned, but with reality, only 20% of it actually was used. That was why I got fed up with draining my energy to get managers to do things the right way. I have also seen that with almost all the businesses that I have dealt with across the globe.

But, do you think that if somebody comes up with a new idea it will be accepted on its own value or it will be threatening ,and resisted to the end. what advice would you give this person to weed around that kind of jungle.
 
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  • #12
atyy
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@Careful: but can't one have revolutions without revolutionaries? Like the revolution which the pc and iphone are part of?

In physics, which revolutions would you consider the particular revolutionaries to be essential? Newton? Einstein and GR (definitely not SR)? Wilson and the RG (or were Kadanoff and colleagues close enough)? Maxwell? Clausius? In this sort of discussion, almost no one in quantum mechanics shows up, even though that was the deeper revolution. I still find the derivation of classical thermodynamics from the Thomson and Clausius statements, and the statistical understanding of thermodynamics, the most astonishing feat that is nowadays textbook, but no one wants to end up like Boltzmann;)

Science is a bit different from art. If we didn't have Einstein, we'd be at most 50 years delayed in GR. But Mozart is the one and only. I suppose the aritococracy was the funding source of the first Viennese school (Haydn et al) - seems that today's scientists are much better off than them!
 
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  • #13
Careful
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But, do you think that if somebody comes up with a new idea it will be accepted on its own value or it will be threatening ,and resisted to the end. what advice would you give this person to weed around that kind of jungle.
Simple, you have to look for your own Max Planck. Usually, it helps if you know people in high places and if they have genuine respect for you; that means listen to you, argue about what you say and really try to understand it. They will help you in the necessary way by introducing you to the right kind of people (in possibly even higher places) if they see you have something really potentially valuable (even if it conflicts with their own ideas). If you do not have such connections, I think selling your ideas is almost impossible. But basically I feel this is not too unfair on average; if you are really good, you must at least have been able to impress two top scientists in your or a related field before you are 27. But luck is definetly needed, meeting such people often depends upon travel and congress money which is available to you and how willing your promotor is to invest in you. In the last respect, I was lucky, I didn't have a promotor who could help me scientifically but I got all the money and opportunities I asked for.
 
  • #14
atyy
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http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.2157
The Problem of Time in Quantum Gravity
Edward Anderson

Rovelli's is Tempus Nihil Est, and so is Barbour's, but Types 2 and 1 respectively.
 
  • #15
Fra
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If you do not have such connections, I think selling your ideas is almost impossible.

This seems reasonable, but the question is do we NEED to sell "ideas"?

If you can't sell the seeds, grow them in your own backyard and then try sell the plants.

I admit that I think this is fair. I can't possibly expect anyone else to buy my undeveloped ideas, because the situation is symmetrical - I buy other peoples ideas if then seem rational and promising relative to MY own position; not relative to the mainstream.

So this sub-discussion seems to mainly make the statement that science has an unavoidable sociological dimension. New ideas that are too far from mainstream, need to be developed much further than accepted "ideas" before beeing convincing. I think this is just how things work wether we like it or not. I think all we can do is beeing aware of this and encourage people to think on their own in order to minimize excessive herd behavior (which is the main problem if any).

/Fredrik
 
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  • #16
Careful
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@Careful: but can't one have revolutions without revolutionaries? Like the revolution which the pc and iphone are part of?
That would be like going to war without any weapons.

In physics, which revolutions would you consider the particular revolutionaries to be essential? Newton? Einstein and GR (definitely not SR)? Wilson and the RG (or were Kadanoff and colleagues close enough)? Maxwell? Clausius? In this sort of discussion, almost no one in quantum mechanics shows up, even though that was the deeper revolution. I still find the derivation of classical thermodynamics from the Thomson and Clausius statements, and the statistical understanding of thermodynamics, the most astonishing feat that is nowadays textbook, but no one wants to end up like Boltzmann;)
I think it is clear that Newton was exceptional, likewise was Boltzmann. Even in quantum mechanics, I think it is clear who the main guys were: Dirac, Von Neumann, Wigner, Pauli and Heisenberg. Einstein, Bohr, Planck, de Broglie and Schrodinger just had some heuristic ideas but not the deep kind of theoretical insight the first five displayed.

Science is a bit different from art. If we didn't have Einstein, we'd be at most 50 years delayed in GR.
I don't know. Didn't Hilbert discover relativity around the same time ? What was the interaction between those two men ?

But Mozart is the one and only. I suppose the aritococracy was the funding source of the first Viennese school (Haydn et al) - seems that today's scientists are much better off than them!
I don't know, music is more a meritocracy: you have to constantly prove yourself and please the public. In science, it is sufficient you do that once or twice in your life.

Careful
 
  • #17
Careful
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This seems reasonable, but the question is do we NEED to sell "ideas"?

If you can't sell the seeds, grow them in your own backyard and then try sell the plants.
That's even more difficult ! Sounds paradoxical huh ? Because when do seeds become a plant ? When you have the mathematical rigorous foundations of your theory and some ''simple'' calculations which show very encouraging results. Or do you have to prove that the renormalization problem is solved in all detail ? In both cases, you will end up with a book with page size varying between 250 and 400 pages with all original results. Try to sell that ! Almost nobody would even read it, you underestimate the cynicism here.

I admit that I think this is fair. I can't possibly expect anyone else to buy my undeveloped ideas, because the situation is symmetrical - I buy other peoples ideas if then seem rational and promising relative to MY own position; not relative to the mainstream.
Again, all this is very personal and depends upon what you call undevelopped. Also, you must not forget that at some point you need to start talking to people, explain what you are doing, look for feedback, accept and answer constructive criticisms (you do not need to bother about the rest).


So this sub-discussion seems to mainly make the statement that science has an unavoidable sociological dimension. New ideas that are too far from mainstream, need to be developed much further than accepted "ideas" before beeing convincing. I think this is just how things work wether we like it or not. I think all we can do is beeing aware of this and encourage people to think on their own in order to minimize excessive herd behavior (which is the main problem if any).

/Fredrik
True, and that is why I claim FQXi will never reach it's intended purpose. Often (silly) people tell me: can you prove that my ideas are wrong and then I shall consider your far more radical ones. My answer to that is that they don't understand science: physics is not about proving something to be impossible, it concerns proving that your position is plausible in the sense of Ockham's razor. Usually, mainstream positions are not very plausible at all, they are just conservative.

Careful
 
  • #18
suprised
415
13
Careful,

the situation today is very different from the time of Einstein. While the ingenious lone wolf has some romantic flair, it is misleading to draw parallels to science today. The field has progressed enough that it is inconceivable that an outsider who is "out of the loop" would be able to make a noteworthy contribution; and even if so, that it would go unnoticed. The logistics of science is different today, with its tight and fast connections between thousands of people, who will scrutinize every new idea instantaneously. I wouldn't know of any example where this had happened within many decades. On the contrary, all the significant progress has been made by professional scientists, mostly by main stream people. So the scientific system appears to work very well in fact.
 
  • #19
Careful
1,670
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Careful,

the situation today is very different from the time of Einstein. While the ingenious lone wolf has some romantic flair, it is misleading to draw parallels to science today. The field has progressed enough that it is inconceivable that an outsider who is "out of the loop" would be able to make a noteworthy contribution go unnoticed. The logistics of science is different; and even if so, that it would go unnoticed.
You really do not know much about this, do you? In mathematics we have immediately two recent examples of people who were ''affiliated'' to a university at the time they made their discovery but certainly not in the regular ranks. For example Wiles and Perelman, both winning a fields medal; Wiles was out of academia for two years when he started his work and Perelman has a research only position in Russia. By the way, on what grounds do you conclude it is different now ? Don't you think people in 1900 had the same illusion ? The only thing which has changed for good is mobility and the fact that there are more positions available. But history has proven that genuine innovation is not linear and does not depend at all on mobility. You are repeating all the irrational dogma's people give in order to comfort themselves and basically have 4000 years of history against you. It might be you have another definition of outsider, but strictly speaking Einstein was not a loner too. He kept frequent contact with Minkowski and Grossman and had his own debating club with Michele Besso and his wife Milena Maric. Of course, Wiles and Perelman had proven to be very smart before they were 27 and moreover, the mathematics community has always been more open than the physics establishment.

The logistics of science is different today, with its tight and fast connections between thousands of people, who will scrutinize every new idea instantaneously. I wouldn't know of any example where this had happened within many decades. On the contrary, all the significant progress has been made by professional scientists, mostly by main stream people. So the scientific system appears to work very well in fact.
Really does it ? Compare the wealth of ideas uttered about quantum mechanics and quantum gravity between 1920-1950 on one hand and between 1950-2011 on the other. I think you may get very unpleasantly surprised. The system works well for those things which are expected, not for the unexpected. You simply do not like to hear these things. Actually, from a pure profit/investment point of view, I would say that the non mainstream contributions to science outperform the mainstream ones by many margins. You may wish to make a statistics of this. Take care: you have to include all costs !! Suppose LQG and ST would prove to be misguided, that will cost you a lot.

Careful
 
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  • #20
atyy
Science Advisor
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ST has proven its worth beyond any doubt.

But details aside, I do agree that FQXi is unlikely to fund a lone wolf.

I think our disagreement is that I think we don't need lone wolves, but you think we do.

Maybe Perelman is such a case. I don't understand the mathematics, but some have said he was after all preceded by Thurston and Hamilton.

Or if we do, then by definition they must be lone. Can we engineer society to create them? What really gave rise to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms? It is still disconcerting to me that the very same culture that gave us those things, also gave us Nazism. (I suppose you could argue it wasn't the "same" culture.)
 
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  • #21
Careful
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ST has proven its worth beyond any doubt.
Sure, but what part of it, how much percent is useful ? Anyway, my point was just that these issues are not treated rationally, I certainly have no serious problem with the system as I am aware how difficult it is to judge merit of things which are far away from what you ever considered.
 
  • #22
Careful
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What really gave rise to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms? It is still disconcerting to me that the very same culture that gave us those things, also gave us Nazism. (I suppose you could argue it wasn't the "same" culture.)
Well that would be a very interesting discussion which I had with other good philosophers; a bit dangerous though and politically incorrect. Hence, not suited for this forum :wink:

But i think you generally are too much under the illusion that one can social engineer genius. Usually, the best comes out of society if the worst can be ventilated too. :wink:
 
  • #23
atyy
Science Advisor
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But i think you generally are too much under the illusion that one can social engineer genius. Usually, the best comes out of society if the worst can be ventilated too. :wink:

No, that was my point - you can't. So yes, FQXi can't fund the right people - but who can? I just want to social engineer excellent mediocrity (will it help you understand my biases if I tell you I've been brainwashed in Singapore?)
 
  • #24
Careful
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(will it help you understand my biases if I tell you I've been brainwashed in Singapore?)
It might be relevant to the discussion, yes :rolleyes: Let me briefly summarize some thougts here: democracy puts great man in a golden cage and creates comfort for the mediocre people, a totalitarian regime may awaken the best in humanity but also the worst. A dynamic regime (suited to the needs of the individual) cannot exist openly since it creates confusion and jaleousy. A meritocracy would result in revolution of the mediocre since they have little or nothing to show for themselves: imagine a system which would judge academics on top publications :devil:. Unlike what surprised suggested, true greatness is not romantic but very painful ... usually these are very tormented souls like Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner clearly were (and we only glorify them when they are not dangerous anymore, meaning dead). All these geniuses somehow incarnate a symbiosis between a true animalistic nature and uncompromizing rationality. Very dangerous for society and it's leaders of course... this often reflects also in a huge sexual appetite (in which all moral rules of society are ignored) which was clearly the case for Mozart.

Careful
 
  • #25
atyy
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But it is said Mozart earned in the top 10% of his society, and Beethoven was certainly a rock star.

I think that says that laymen are capable of making sound judgments (on average).
 
  • #26
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But it is said Mozart earned in the top 10% of his society, and Beethoven was certainly a rock star.
And they both deserved that! But the point is that they made money with fairly ''bureaucratic'' work. I seem to remember that Don Giovanni was not well received at the time and it is certainly one of Mozart's true masterpieces. Beethoven's symphonies were better appreciated after his life than within. Those composers were very frustrated because what the public loved was trivial for them and what they valued was too complicated to be well appreciated. You can still see this in our times, modern Beethoven nines are dull, unspirited, empty, but perfectly pitched. The last conductor who understood Beethoven died in 1955 on the consequences of pneumonia.
I think that says that laymen are capable of making sound judgments (on average).
If you want to suggest that intelligent, educated layman might on average be able to make good judgments about whether someone is brilliant or not; then I might agree. The public recognized certainly that Mozart was much more a genius than Salieri was and supported Wolfgang fully in spite of his promiscuous behavior. His collegues were less forgiving ... so yes, this might have sometimes a positive effect. I am certainly not against highly intelligent people having a vote in affairs they are not ''specialists'' in; in the right proportions it could actually have positive effects.
 
  • #27
atyy
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Hmmm, wikipedia says 1954. Or have I guessed wrongly?

BTW, to keep this thread on track, would you say that time in music is emergent? :tongue2:
 
  • #28
Fra
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That's even more difficult ! Sounds paradoxical huh ? Because when do seeds become a plant ? When you have the mathematical rigorous foundations of your theory and some ''simple'' calculations which show very encouraging results. Or do you have to prove that the renormalization problem is solved in all detail ? In both cases, you will end up with a book with page size varying between 250 and 400 pages with all original results. Try to sell that ! Almost nobody would even read it, you underestimate the cynicism here.

You have a good point not too unlike the one I tried to make. Yes you can't expect anyone to read 400 page random paper of inference, deductions and computations just to assess if it's plausible enough to be worth further investment.

This is exactly why the answer isn't longer and more elaborated papers, the solution must be a "sample fruit" of that reasoning needs to "demonstrate it's power" in a short paper containing the results that is not a major investment for antyone to read. The demonstration needs to be explicit, speak for itself and be somewhat undeniable and thus spawn the readers interest to know more (and maybe even read a longer paper), although I realize that's easier said than done of course since this also involves a pedagogical task, but noone said it's easy.

Also the final result, can possibly be defined and operated with less complexity than what it takes to present the complete "derivation" or process whereby it was inferred. Ie. do you want to see the power of a new idea, or do you want to sell the method of inference that lead to it?

This is my point. The final result should speak for itself, and you shouldn't need to buy a certain research strategy to appreciated it. If it works it works, no matter how it was constructed.

Of course to take an idea to this level, is usually exactly why you need funding in the first place. But it seems reality is that any odd ideas need to bootstrap themselves as noone will have faith in the initial seed until it reaches a critical mass.

Again, all this is very personal and depends upon what you call undevelopped. Also, you must not forget that at some point you need to start talking to people, explain what you are doing, look for feedback, accept and answer constructive criticisms (you do not need to bother about the rest).

Undeveloped as a PHYSICAL THEORY for me, means theoretical or mathematical abstractions that not yet makes contact with physics or the real world (ie predictions or postdictions). A mathematically developed model, that yet lacks clear physical connections is a good example of something underdeveloped no matter what level of self-consistency.

String theory is a good example for me. It's extremely well researched containing a large body of papers and results, but the physical connection, and the founding constructions are IMO weak and certainly not convincing enough for me to spent decades on it. But then I choose to think for myself and keep looking. Had I listened to some of my past supervisors I should have invested probably 15 years in ST by now, but he provided no convincing arguments at all, except his own personal enthusiasm, which appeared to me as an extremely weak point. I see that it's HIS job to mature those ideas, not mine.

I think if anyone has the money to and wants to encourage and fund individual non-mainstream research that's a good thing as it increases the diversity which I think is healthy, to counterweight some herd tendencies.

/Fredrik
 
  • #29
Careful
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Hmmm, wikipedia says 1954. Or have I guessed wrongly?
No, you didn't :rolleyes:

BTW, to keep this thread on track, would you say that time in music is emergent? :tongue2:
That depends how you define time. :tongue:
 
  • #30
Careful
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Also the final result, can possibly be defined and operated with less complexity than what it takes to present the complete "derivation" or process whereby it was inferred. Ie. do you want to see the power of a new idea, or do you want to sell the method of inference that lead to it?

This is my point. The final result should speak for itself, and you shouldn't need to buy a certain research strategy to appreciated it. If it works it works, no matter how it was constructed.

Of course to take an idea to this level, is usually exactly why you need funding in the first place. But it seems reality is that any odd ideas need to bootstrap themselves as noone will have faith in the initial seed until it reaches a critical mass.
The problem is not to give the ideas in words in 10 pages, the issues are the following:
(a) highly likely any new theory of quantum gravity needs ''new'' mathematics, you would have to present that prior to getting to the point
(b) the ideas themselves might be natural to the author but to most people they could be so radical that they want to see evidence that it ''has to be like that''; in this case you need to follow the historical approach.
(c) Most people would like to see some predictions, hence you need to present the calculations, hence you need (a).
So you are kind of in a serious dilemma ... I still think your personal Max Planck may just do the trick for you.

Undeveloped as a PHYSICAL THEORY for me, means theoretical or mathematical abstractions that not yet makes contact with physics or the real world (ie predictions or postdictions). A mathematically developed model, that yet lacks clear physical connections is a good example of something underdeveloped no matter what level of self-consistency.
Obviously these criteria must be satisfied.

String theory is a good example for me. It's extremely well researched containing a large body of papers and results, but the physical connection, and the founding constructions are IMO weak and certainly not convincing enough for me to spent decades on it. But then I choose to think for myself and keep looking. Had I listened to some of my past supervisors I should have invested probably 15 years in ST by now, but he provided no convincing arguments at all, except his own personal enthusiasm, which appeared to me as an extremely weak point. I see that it's HIS job to mature those ideas, not mine.
Well, but then you have to show you can do it better than the best mainstream approach we have.

I think if anyone has the money to and wants to encourage and fund individual non-mainstream research that's a good thing as it increases the diversity which I think is healthy, to counterweight some herd tendencies.
/Fredrik
This is a delicate issue ... not easy to tell at all.

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  • #31
Fra
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The problem is not to give the ideas in words in 10 pages, the issues are the following:
(a) highly likely any new theory of quantum gravity needs ''new'' mathematics, you would have to present that prior to getting to the point
(b) the ideas themselves might be natural to the author but to most people they could be so radical that they want to see evidence that it ''has to be like that''; in this case you need to follow the historical approach.
(c) Most people would like to see some predictions, hence you need to present the calculations, hence you need (a).
So you are kind of in a serious dilemma ... I still think your personal Max Planck may just do the trick for you.

Yes, we need new mathematics, but you have to motivate anyone to read it. Typically you need words for that, but not only words of course. Thus the first point of sales I expect is IMHO not to present FIRST a new mathematics alone, ask people to spend years to get familiar with it, then apply it to physics to see if it's viable for the problems we discuss.

Some RESULTS, predictions or success story must be presented first (meaning numbers that can be checked against measurements). I'm not sure what you have in mind, but to speak for myself, I envision that these days you can really do aloth with computer models. Basically build a black box - a computer software. Then demonstrate to people what your black box can do - they do not need to have faith in how you built it, or what is inside, just watch it. Then after seeing that the black box does magic, the motivate to look inside will come.

That's at least my idea of how to do something on your own. The obstable is to be able to build such black box on your own to the point where it's sellable to anyone that initially doubts.

Edit: Certainly for the individual researcher, the new mathematics is a first step, but this is his/her headache. Not everone elses. Everyone else is not interested in new mathematics unless it proves itself to be the RIGHT framework. Thus, the way of sales must first hide the new mathematics and instead present at least SOME of it's fruits.

Well, but then you have to show you can do it better than the best mainstream approach we have.

Yes, there is no workaoround that.

/Fredrik
 
  • #32
Fra
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ST has proven its worth beyond any doubt.

Was this irony?

/Fredrik
 
  • #33
Fra
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Take care: you have to include all costs !! Suppose LQG and ST would prove to be misguided, that will cost you a lot.

I fully agree. This is exactly in line with the points I tried to make too.

Try to convince a young student why he should invest his life in a particular program? That student has alot at stake (not talking about money). I didn't want to make this investment as it seemed unwise to me 15 years ago. But that's just my personal view.

The problem I see is NOT how to make a living. To make a living is easy in comparasion to solving open problems.

So I think the goal is not to "get payed" to do research. That is a wasted TIME unless the research pays off into an intellectual reward. The risk a you student misses is not getting the intellectual reward. The risk of a reasonably gifted person been unable to make a living seems nil. The risk I feared is getting STUCK somewhere where I loose intellectual freedom and get to wear constrains of a particular research program thay may not work out.

/Fredrik
 
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  • #34
Careful
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Yes, we need new mathematics, but you have to motivate anyone to read it. Typically you need words for that, but not only words of course. Thus the first point of sales I expect is IMHO not to present FIRST a new mathematics alone, ask people to spend years to get familiar with it, then apply it to physics to see if it's viable for the problems we discuss.

Some RESULTS, predictions or success story must be presented first (meaning numbers that can be checked against measurements). I'm not sure what you have in mind, but to speak for myself, I envision that these days you can really do aloth with computer models. Basically build a black box - a computer software. Then demonstrate to people what your black box can do - they do not need to have faith in how you built it, or what is inside, just watch it. Then after seeing that the black box does magic, the motivate to look inside will come.

That's at least my idea of how to do something on your own. The obstable is to be able to build such black box on your own to the point where it's sellable to anyone that initially doubts.
/Fredrik
It is again unfortunately much more complicated than you imagine. The mathematical formulation of the theory not only cannot be given without new mathematics, the new mathematics deepens the very formulation itself. That is, you might start out with some fairly intuitive physical ideas, formulate it in the easiest mathematical language possible and then take upon yourself the work to develop this language better. While doing so, you may discover that your first intuitive formulation is too limited and needs a generalization which is only natural once you captured its full beauty. But nobody is going to see that beauty from the beginning ! So, the mathematics gives positive feedback and cannot be separated from the physical principles.

Concerning predictions, again you need to be careful here. My understanding of these issues so far is that it certainly is possible to forsee new qualitative effects. To get a precise numerical value however depends upon boundary conditions and who knows what the boundary conditions of the universe are ! Briefly, I do understand Susskind when he says we may go to a new kind of science, Prigogine thought that already 30 years ago. It is not a weakness, but the result of a probing of nature that is so deep that we stumble upon the limitations of a symbolic language.

Careful
 
  • #35
Fra
3,618
365
It is again unfortunately much more complicated than you imagine. The mathematical formulation of the theory not only cannot be given without new mathematics, the new mathematics deepens the very formulation itself. That is, you might start out with some fairly intuitive physical ideas, formulate it in the easiest mathematical language possible and then take upon yourself the work to develop this language better. While doing so, you may discover that your first intuitive formulation is too limited and needs a generalization which is only natural once you captured its full beauty. But nobody is going to see that beauty from the beginning ! So, the mathematics gives positive feedback and cannot be separated from the physical principles.

I think I must have been unclear. You are right we need new matehmatics! That doesn't contradict my point. My points is WHAT new mathematics? The specific new mathematics needed is apparently program-dependent. This is why one cna easily imagine landscapes of new mathematics.

So the new mathematics needs to prove itself. Unless you want to say publish the new mathematics and get interest of mathematicians, but that's a different thing, and not my ambition.

So for example, the new matematics, required by MY ideas, is my problem to work out. I need to work it out, and show that it is viable for producing a physical theory that makes concrete predictions as this is the ultimate confirmation of the need for this new mathematics in the first place. For the single researcher, hunches or intuition is enough, but that's insufficient to convince your opponents.

I don't underestimate this at all. I full realize that to speka for myself, there odds at succeeding with this are slim! Anyone succeeding with this would certainly earned the place in the history books. But that fact should not discourage an intrigued mind! I am not the least discouraged by that. The journey there itself is also half the fun, even if I don't make it.

To get a precise numerical value however depends upon boundary conditions and who knows what the boundary conditions of the universe are !

These are interesting questions on it's own, but I have something different in mind. A model that only makes predictions if you need something unknowable as input is not a good model. This is why I prefer evolutionary model. Knowing everything isn't possible. It's more about navigation in seas of ignorance.

A proof of concept would be convergence of navigation schemes or learning models. The old scheme of eternal laws and initial conditions and boundary conditions is exactly what I think we need to replace. Smolin also mentioned this several times, in this evolution of law and reality of time.

/Fredrik
 

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