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Increasing/decreasing complexity (just a weird theory)

  1. Feb 1, 2007 #1
    It seems to be a law of nature that all things consist of smaller, less complex things: fundamental particles are (comparatively) simple. They react to form atoms, atoms form molecules, molecules form different chemicals, these chemicals also reach with each other to form cells, minerals, etc. Millions of cells form plants and animals (creatures much more complex than these cells, and definitely more complex than a quark)... all of these things form planets and stars, these form solar systems, galaxies, groups of galaxies, etc. and finally the known universe.

    but would it make sense to assume the it doesn't get any bigger than a universe or any smaller than a quark?

    wouldn't it logically follow that many universes, and universe-like "particles" form something much greater, and so on... the same being true backwards (that fundamental particles are also made up of infinitely simpler particles themselves)?

    I don't know, ever since I was a kid this is the way I saw it... that, while this universe might be finite and might eventually "die", all of our observable laws so far seem to point towards a different kind of infinity (infinity in the form of increasing/decreasing complexity).

    I only have a superficial knowledge of physics, so I would like to know if there is any law that would prevent this from being true. If not, I'm also interested in knowing if there are any other people or scientists who share this view.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2007 #2
    I'm not an expert in physics too, but I find the base of your argument wrong.

    We are nothing other than a sum of simplest particle of existence say quark...
    I mean the terms atom, molecule, cells, ... ,solar system, galaxy etc. are just the names given to a specific number of quarks arranged in a specific order.

    In other words the compexity that you are talking about is just a preception...
    because there exists nothing other than those quarks (if the simplest).

    I was surprised when I first read that human is 99.9999999...% empty space and the remaining volume as matter.

    I'll be glad for furthur comments of yours if I've had a misunderstanding in what you wanted to say. :)
  4. Feb 1, 2007 #3
    What you are speaking of is called reductionism.

    Saying that 99.99999....% of a human is made of nothing or vacuum is just about pointless. Atoms is matter and mostly interacts as point-like particles in the realm of biochemistry and that is really the only thing that we need to be concerned with. Also note that according to HUP, there is no place that can be considered as a perfect vacuum.

    What makes you think that there is a larger or smaller limit to reductionism in the manner you describe? How would one show that there is something bigger than the Universe if it can never be observed, never make any predictions or even form a scientific model of it? As a result, it is quite pointless to consider for science.
  5. Feb 1, 2007 #4
    What I mean by empty space was not the vacume, The area in between the simplest particles (say quark) which make up the atom.

    Considering atom as a point is not correct since point has no physical existence and is just used for indicating location in space & time, While atom has the physical existence. If you meant the point as a sphere with approximatly zero diameter, thats a different issue.
  6. Feb 1, 2007 #5
    how is that? a human being can perform tasks and behave in ways beyond anything that even an infinite number of quarks or atoms could achieve by themselves*.
    a photon cannot ask itself "why am I a photon?" it cannot affect the world around it to it's own will, etc.
    just like the sum of all the parts of a car give it a function beyond anything only a wheel or a motor could have.

    in other words: suppose you count the exact number of quarks, electrons, etc. that exist in your body at this point. your functions are much greater than the sum of the functions of those particles (suppose the number was X, then your functions are much greater than the functions that X number of fundamental particles could achieve by themselves).

    also, a large rock may have a trillion more quarks and electrons than a human, yet its functions are less complex because of the way those fundamental particles are organized. if your idea was true, then simply having more quarks would make you more complex. but it all comes down to the interaction between those particles creating something of a complexity that is beyond the realm of those particles themselves.**

    Well obviously I am not saying this is an indisputable truth, I am just saying that (through the observation of patters. and patterns are a form of evidence, are they not?), this is a possibility.

    And just because this is not observable now, this does not mean that it would be impossible to prove (right or wrong). after all, electrons, photons, and quarks are all things we cannot see, not even using the most powerful microscopes. they are assumed to exist trough various experiments and the observation of patterns... and let's not even get into antimatter and all those other weird things.

    also, even supposing that this is unobservable, and that we'll never know what lies beyond our universe (if anything at all): just because we can't observe it, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. who says that humans have the power to understand EVERYTHING?
    maybe things exist beyond the realm of our universe*** that we could never observe simply because of the laws of our universe (dimensions beyond the 4 dimensions, etc. -- altho some experiments are being done in the search of "extra" dimensions are they not? ... and this would be something that would have been laughable not too many years ago).

    all in all, there's a reason why I posted this in the philosophy section. ... sometimes philosophies become sciences, and sometimes they stay interesting philosophies.

    * and also take on different properties: a gold atom, a hydrogen atom, and a carbon atom are all made up of the same fundamental particles, yet their behaviors and properties are substantially different... this difference increases exponentially with the increase of interactions (groups of molecules, etc.)
    ** the same way, a city performs tasks that are beyond anything a single human could conceive, etc.
    *** or understanding
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2007
  7. Feb 1, 2007 #6
    very good point 'moedarklight', there are being developed way of science, ie, wholistic science. We have to start understanding the wholes (not as sum of parts). Just another way of looking at things.
  8. Feb 2, 2007 #7
    I don't remember saying that the sum is the ONLY important factor, the arrangemant of these particles and the combination of their effects is what gives rise to a complexity. This is what the co-evolution suggests. Theories like Big Bang are the supporters of what I've been saying.

    Now What do you exactly mean by this?
    Are you saying that there exists a supernatural ability which gives us the ability to bring about our everyday activities? A clarification of this statment of yours will be appreciated.

    I have had an idea similar to this but a little different which was discued in the thread 'Existence of God' somedays ago. It was based on conciousness, which is the basic property of the simplest particle (say Quark), in other words; life, conciousness, movement, physical states etc. must be the properties of the simplest particles which make them up, because for something to have a specific property as a whole, The property must be contained in the particles making up the object. You might like to look at it.

    As a solution to what you pointed out about the rocks which may have a lot more quarks than us, the number of co-working particles is to be considered, not the total sum. What I mean by co-working is that if I break up a huge rock to millions of parts where each divison is larger than an atom of the rock, There will be no difference to the abilities the former huge rock had & that the break up had no impact on the acts of the rock. BUT if the break up contineud and that each divison got smaller than any individual atom of the rock (the atom breaks up and disintigrates), The physical state and the abilities will change, Hence the sum of co-working particles were no more than one atom.
    When it comes to human the number of co-working particles are much much more. more than quatrilions of atoms. As a result, Human has a lot more abilities than a rock.

    There is nothing beyond the realm of the Universe... The definition of the Universe is Whatever that exists. Thats the universal set of existence. In other words Universe is not the boundry of existence.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2007
  9. Feb 2, 2007 #8
    Before I start, I have some sort of cold/sinus infection building pressure in my nasal cavity and giving me a horrible headache right now, making it hard to think clearly... so I hope I make sense.

    1) lol, I hate the term "supernatural"; anything that exists is, by default, natural -- if anything supernatural existed, it would automatically be natural by the act of existing! ... therefore, to be supernatural, something would have to not exist. making the whole term irrelevant.

    rain was seen as "supernatural" once. now we know why and how rain happens. so, instead of the word "supernatural," I use the term "inexplainable," which applies too a lot of things... without the need of childish, magical thinking.

    2) we seem to be arguing almost the same thing! lol. only I arrive at a slightly different conclusion:
    the difference between the rock and the human ends at the atom. The complexity that you describe as a result of the amount of different kinds of interactions (a rock may have only two or three different kinds of atoms... sometimes only one), ends at the atomic level because, once you go that step further, both the rock and the human end up being made up of exactly the same kind of particles (all of which react in exactly the same way)...

    for example:
    - suppose you had some sort of magical machine that could freeze any object and the laws that govern it at any point in time. now suppose you used that machine on me.
    - also, suppose you could rearrange each and every fundamental particle that is a part of me (and that you had waaay too much free time on your hands lol).

    you could take all of the fundamental particles in my body (all of the quarks, and electrons, and so on) and rearrange them to form gold atoms and "I" would then be a huge bar of gold (you'd probably have some left-overs, but that's beside the point).
    with the same fundamental particles that make breathing, thinking, feeling me, you could make a piece of coal, a cloud of hydrogen gas, a bike, a salami sandwich, etc... simply by rearranging them and how they interact with each other. hence, a complexity that does not exist on those lower levels is created (not magically, this is simply the way nature seems to work). with each step up in level of complexity, something of a completely different realm of function is created.

    3) when I use the term universe I mean the observable universe, or the set of galaxies in which we live. This is because, if something exists outside of our observable universe, we can't call both the universe... I've heard the term "multiverse" used by people who believe in parallel universes, for example.

    if my theory is correct (not saying that it is, lol, this is the philosophy section again), and our visible universe is to something else what, say, an atom or a cell is to us, then that "something else" could not also carry the name "universe" because then what would we call the observable universe?

    there is also the possibility that we will never be able to observe this other realm* of complexity or understand it:: we have evolved in our realm of complexity, and have evolved to understand only the realm of complexity in which we exist (or those closest to it). the further away we get from our realm of complexity, the harder it is for us to understand it:

    - we can observe the universe and observe some of the laws that govern it... but can we really understand "The Universe?"
    our understanding of the universe is equivalent to a child's understanding of adults; a child can observe some of the functions and actions of an adult ("adults don't cry and laugh as much as I do", "adults don't like to play as much and are too interested in their jobs," "adults like to kiss and cuddle in a weird way," etc.), but they can't completely understand the inner working of an adult because their mind is not yet complex enough.
    so, the further away we move from our realm of complexity, the harder it is for us to understand it; we can only observe it (and, theoretically, if something was far enough beyond our realm of complexity, not even that... as it would be completely inaccessible).

    the same is true backwards:
    -the simpler realms also become harder and harder for us to understand. we can look at cells and understand them better than we can atoms and photons, and each level of simplicity has become harder and harder to understand and observe: to understand electrons and such, we rely on formulas and experiments that very few can comprehend... and even those great minds are in constant debate over certain aspects of these "simple" particles.

    can anyone really picture the incredible complexity and size of the visible universe or even a galaxy? no, we rely on laws and theories that help us picture some of their functions one at a time.
    can anyone picture an atom in its simplicity and miniscule size? ...

    I hope I was clearer this time, it's very hard to put into paper, especially with this splitting headache. lol.

    * when I use realm, I don't mean it in a freaky-dickie cheap sci-fi novel sort of way where people say hello instead of goodbye and dogs walk people. I mean it in the sense that each level of increasing/decreasing complexity is a different "realm:" atoms are in a different realm, molecules are in a different realm than us, galaxies are in a different realm, etc.

    p.s: this might be related or unrelated: how does the 3rd law of motion apply to the big bang if the visible universe is where it ends? shouldn't the big bang be a reaction to something that happened on a realm of higher complexity?

    p.p.s: I really like your idea of consciousness by the way, I've never thought of it that way. it makes sense in a weird way, and that's the best way to make sense! lol
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2007
  10. Feb 2, 2007 #9
    As I understand it, QM views quarks as 'waves of probability patterns' and not as particles or 'things'. So having a smaller wave of probability pattern doesn't seem to make sense. The reductionist nature of your assumption breaks down when something changes from a thing (lets say atom) to a not-thing (sub-atomic particle). I get the impression that on the sub-tomic level, things don't get smaller, they just get different.
    As for assuming something bigger than the universe...why not? As an assumption I believe there is actually a line of argument that supports it. However, there is no possible way of testing something that lies outside the universe (not yet and probably not ever). So all assumptions and supporting arguments on this issue fall strictly in the "philosophy" section.
    I must point out that in answering the quoted question above I would say it definitely makes sense to assume it doesn't get any bigger than a universe or smaller than a quark. (or does it?) :bugeye:
  11. Feb 2, 2007 #10
    i can see what you're saying (and again, my knowledge of physics is basic)... it's kind of hard to articulate my thoughts (altho they make perfect sense to me... maybe I'm psychotic? -- to the psychology forum!) ...

    I don't mean smaller necessarily in size: like in the example of rock vs. human, I mean smaller/simpler in function. in this way, the point at which something becomes a "thing" might the point at which it has accumulated enough function so that it is complex enough to be considered "something".

    if you want to use the example of quarks, it's a perfect example of one of those things that are so far from us in levels of complexity that we have a hard time really understanding them: we can only create theories and formulas about what forces affect quarks, how they interact, etc.

    I don't know. does that make any more sense? complexity meaning the accumulation of function?

    and yea, obviously this belongs purely in the philosophical discussion section hahaha, now more than ever. :biggrin:

    and yea, we probably could only observe such realms (if they exist) purely based on the effects that they might have on our universe (what is the big bang a reaction to? for example).
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2007
  12. Feb 3, 2007 #11
    Hence, why I wrote point-like, not point. Empty space is per definition vacuum.

    That is not the point. Something doesn't have to be observable in the sense that it can be seen with our eyes directly, we can just as well prove the existence of something through predictions and indirect observation. Just because we cannot see it directly or indirectly or make any predictions of it does not mean it doesn't exist, but it does not fall within the realms of science and is therefore pointless to consider from a scientific viewpoint.

    Mind you that science has indirectly observed the presence of quarks and we have a moderate understanding of it including strong/weak interaction together with Feynman diagrams.

    Be careful with how you define 'theory'. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. In science, the name theory is not expressing reservations about its truth.

    What supports this claim? You have not really made any assumptions or presented supporting theories or models for it.
  13. Feb 3, 2007 #12
    I hope your headache is over by now :smile: , I know it feels terrible...
    Ooo yes many of your words do make sense now that you have done the clarifications. But I have some problem understanding a number of your statments.

    No I understand what you mean with our understanding and the level of complexity... I will need some time to think about your idea saying we CAN'T understand any further then a certain distance from our own complexity...

    For now I'd like to know your idea on this question;

    What's the difference if an electron (say for example) really exists or not as long as the idea of this real/imaginary particle makes us define and formulate techniques for certain predictions in our own complexity, where the predictions are proved correct.

    & yes this sort of science which is based on imaginary particles (now I'm not saying that an electron is 100% imaginary but if it was) can never lead us to understanding the universe, but just an idea which may be true and maybe not... While on the other hand as we go back for centuries & just as you pointed out rain was considered as supernatural but today even a student of elemetry school can tell define rain in a scientific way. Once we never had the idea of what a cell might be while at this time it can be easily seen by a powerfull microscope just as you see a tree... You are correct its not easy when we go far away from our level of complexity but yet not impossible from my point of view since as the technology goes more advanced we get the opportunity to get more insight into the realm of the universe and that at certain stage why not understanding the universe?

    I havn't yet understood what makes you think undertanding universe is imposible... When it comes to your example of a child and an adult, its true that a child can't understand the adult but both the child and the adult can have an idea about each and other's feelings which can lead to understanding each other upto certain extend.


    About the human vs rock; I'm glad we both have the same conclusion and yes we are just talking about the same fundamental concept :biggrin:

    Thanks about your motivation on the idea of conciousness I had... I wold really like to know your thought.

    & Thanks for giving the time for writing the reply with all that headache... Thanks :smile:
  14. Feb 3, 2007 #13
    Yea, obviously I am not doubting the existence of these! lol. what I meant was that the limitations in our ability to understand these things is starting to show... for example, string theory... even after all these years, scientists can't agree if this is worth pursuing or not.

    and it realy gets on my nerves when creationists use " 'theory' of evolution" as a point of argument. :biggrin:

    lol thanks for your concern, and if by "over" you mean "worse," then I am healed! ... if this goes on for longer I guess I'll see a doctor... last thing i want to do.

    and, well, obviously, we can't see electrons -- we can only collect data and observe patters (we can only observe them indirectly, as moridin said)... but I would think that the fact that we can make accurate predictions due to these observations, and that many natural phenomena can be explained is proof enough that these particles exist.
    So I don't think there is a difference: if a theory can make enough predictions, and explain enough natural phenomena then it must be true on some level... and when it fails, it is not abandoned, but rather improved, because obviously it's on the right track.
    I wasn't implying in any way that the fact that we can't directly observe these particles somehow shows uncertainty.

    and I just think that completely understanding an infinite (if it happens to be infinite) universe would be impossible because the capacity of the human brain is... well, finite. and the further away we get from our realm of understanding, the harder things become to understand... there must be a limit.

    and lol, I'm spending a lot of time online lately... I'm sick and I got fired from the lame job I had to save money for school (telemarketing: I've never been happier to get fired. its the job from hell!) so I have some time to waste... altho reading this forum is hardly a waste of time :) .
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2007
  15. Feb 4, 2007 #14
    :smile: A persian poet says;

    Bani adam az'aye yekdigerand ke dar afarinesh az yek goharand
    ... tou ke az mehnate digeran bigami nashayad namat dahand adam'i

    My translation on this poem sure isn't a good one but you'll get the idea :biggrin:

    Human are part of each other, Since they are all of the same in creation
    You who don't care about other's sarrows, can't be given the name human

    Okey now I know what you mean but there is still a problem from my point of view;

    As you say, we can't go any further than a specific distance from our complexity. While on the other hand you do accept electron as a physical object.
    Now Don't you think that distance that we can go further than our complexity is increasing every day.
    Once we assumed the fundamental objects which make up the human are water, fire & soil... obviously at that stage of time we sure couldn't go any further than just gazing the moon instead of talking about galaxies or objects such as Black Holes etc. If we are to assume that the science we have is showing us the true nature of the universe (electron is real for instance).
    In other words I find your model correct but only when the science is left constant and when we have no discoveries.

    We can take it like a circle within another circle which have a common origion, & that both circles are expanding with a specific rate. What I'm trying to say is that the inner circle is our science and the outer one the limit that you are talking about... which means we will nver reach the limit even if it's infinite...

    Now I would be thankfull to know if there is something I'm misunderstanding.
    I'll be waiting for your reply :smile:
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2007
  16. Feb 4, 2007 #15
    who was the poet?

    so far for me, this thread has been a really fun exercise in logic: we've constructed a completely unprovable, unobservable theory that is technically completely possible! hahaha

    and I'm not sure I understand your question. so if the answer i give makes no sense I probably misunderstood the question lol.

    I'll use this analogy:
    suppose there is a man who is glued to the ground, his position in space is a constant that cannot change (such as our position in the realm of complexity) so he can't move from where his is standing, and he lives in an area of fog.
    his immediate surroundings are his realm. he can probably look around at trees that are very near by, rocks, etc. but he can't see any further.

    he might construct a pair of binoculars and see things that are more distant... but very soon it will be too foggy to distinguish anything too far away. so he will have to resort to even more indirect ways of observing things that are far away... maybe put a cone to his ears and listen, smell the wind, and he might come to a conclusion of what animals might be in the distance because of their calls and smells...

    of course, every once in a while, the idea of a new technology occurs to him: he discovers microwaves and infrared light that can help him see through that fog. but the success is only temporary, because he finds out that there is a horizon, and, no matter what methods he uses, he will never be able to see past the horizon without moving from where he is standing.
    if his position is a constant, then he will never be able to know what lies beyond the horizon, he will never know what an ocean is, what a desert is, etc... he might be able to hypothesize such things, but never be certain if they exist... and some things might not even occur to him.

    this is not a very good analogy, it has many holes, i know... but it just sort of popped into my head and i think it gets the point across.

    so things like electrons could be just far enough for us to observe, maybe just where the horizon starts. after that, he can only come to conclusions through observing what is close to him... maybe he notices that the further away he looks, the more trees there seem to be, and come up with the theory of "forests."
  17. Feb 4, 2007 #16
    I'm not sure what the name of the poet was but he lived centuries ago...

    Ooow yes, you are absolutely right when it comes to defining the thread, :rofl:

    What I have been talking about is; as the man in your analogy (which really makes sense in this example) starts discovering different things why shouldn't be able to remove the glue which keeps him in a fixed position is space?
    & thats when he can start his voyage all around and check if a forrest really exists or not...

    Don't you think so?
  18. Feb 4, 2007 #17
    lol, i guess that's true... although, seeing as "ungluing" ourselves would have to involve things like time travel or sending some sort of probes to parallel universes (assuming they exist), in other words: breaking the very laws of nature, I think we can both agree that we are far from being able to do that.

    I personally don't think that such things are possible (maybe some sort of time travel could be, but that's about it) because the laws of nature are... well, the laws of nature... but people have been proven wrong before, so never say never i guess?
  19. Feb 4, 2007 #18


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    I think you'll find an avalanche of various rocks and minerals to be as complex as as a living, breathing lunch hour crowd downtown. You'd also find the same number of chemicals except they'd be distributed differently. I don't think you can use "scale" as a measure of complexity. There are more subatomic particles than you know, or anyone knows of. When scale is reduced even further, the complexities of the Quantum state is only just beginning to be glimpsed. It is apparently not as simple as the OP of the thread has imagnined. In fact, overall, its rather complex.
  20. Feb 5, 2007 #19
    lol it's been a long thread so you probably missed some of the posts where we argued over the meaning of "complex" for the purpose of this conversation: complex as in the accumulation of function or properties (and obviously this has a lot to do with how all those particles are organized; a person is not a random mush of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen etc. it's all about how all those atoms are organized).
    In that sense, a human being is much more complex than all those minerals (or an avalanche) because it has a larger accumulation of functions and properties.

    and obviously the subatomic world is not simple lol, I mean simple as in the opposite of complex in this way of thinking.
  21. Feb 5, 2007 #20
    Exactly, sometime flying was itself a dream and always considered as imposible...But today the voyagers & the pioneer are at the edge of the solar system...

    Who knows about tomarow.......
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