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Is the tetrahedron the building block of the universe?

  1. Dec 13, 2014 #1
    I am new to physics, and my studies have taken me to this question. Mathetmatically, the tetrahedron is essentially the building block of geometries, does this make it then the building block of our universe? Though I understand this hasn't been proven and we haven't seen this, if mathematics is the lanuage of nature, it would seem that this would be true.

    Thanks in advance for help from some of you more experienced people in answering this question.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Axioms are the building block of geometries, not tetrahedrons.
  4. Dec 13, 2014 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF!

    This is a mistaken concept. There is no evidence that supports selecting the simplest geometric shape and saying it must be the building block of nature. Math is a language we use to understand nature. There is no reason to say that nature uses math to do what it does.

    Latching onto preconceived ideas can lead one astray as you attempt to fit nature to your idea. What scientists do is to fit the math to nature. In other words, math is good at describing patterns, nature exhibits patterns and so in our describing these patterns with math we discover new things. Some discoveries pop out of the math and some disagree with the math so we find a new way to describe it using math.

    Historically Kepler had a similar view of the planetary orbits matching nested geometric solids but it just didn't work. He was smart enough to realize that and discovered the elliptical nature of the orbits. Although he still tried to hold his geometrical view as God's plan.


    Lastly, here's an article describing various views of the universe and some associated math concepts being applied:

    Last edited: Dec 13, 2014
  5. Dec 13, 2014 #4
    If tetrahedrons were the 'building block' (whatever that means) of reality, what would that imply? What would we be able to predict using that statement?

    In contrast, Newton's law of universal gravitation, as a statement, allows us to predict the trajectories of planets to a reasonable accuracy. General relativity allows us to predict macroscopic phenomena to a extremely precise degree, and for all reckoning seems to be our best model.

    What you are saying is essentially not science; it has the flavor of popular science e.g. "Hey man... what if the universe was made of little vibrating strings?" or "Hey man... what if the universe was made of a grid with a unit size of planck's constant?" or yet "Hey man... what if the universe was made of little vibrating tetrahedrons?" All right, now what would that imply?

    I think you meant 'tetrahedrons are the building blocks of geometrical shapes'. Electrons and other particles essentially don't have 'shapes' with any real bearing on their function. They have charge, spin, and mass. Position and velocity.

    Why do articles still say the universe may be infinite? Isn't it obvious there is a finite amount of mass in the universe, if Big Bang cosmology is true? Even if it isn't, the observable universe (the part of the universe where we get light from) is a finite volume.
  6. Dec 13, 2014 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    No, the big bang theory places no such constraints on the total mass of the universe.
  7. Dec 13, 2014 #6
    Ha! This question reminds me of ancient greek philosophy about nature.
  8. Dec 13, 2014 #7
    All is fire!
  9. Dec 13, 2014 #8

    Doug Huffman

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    I think OPie may have stumbled on a criticism of the Cartesian background conception of space. I have seen a diagram of tetrahedra analogues of space. I'll have to think about which book argues so, likely one of Smolin's, for the topic and timing in the sequence of my reading.
  10. Dec 14, 2014 #9
    Einstein described, and this is off the top of my head so let me know if I am mis quoting him, essentially that math is natures language. No I'm not saying math in any way should describe patterns or things we visulize in our surroundings as its been proven, for example, by wolfram that extremely simple algorithms, or programs as he says, can show extremely complex phenomena, essentially becoming unpredictable in some cases.

    What I am saying however is if Einstein is essentially talking about the building blocks, those same building blocks we are still unearthing the details of, is it theoretically possible that math can be the "language" as he says that describes them, a language that we still don't have the equipment to view in detail enough to understand. Thanks in advance.
  11. Dec 14, 2014 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    Einstein never said anything about tetrahedrons being the building blocks of nature. While math is certainly the language of physics, that fact seems completely unrelated to the whole tetrahedrons thing.
  12. Dec 14, 2014 #11


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    I recognize this too, I think it's part of what is called "Causal dynamical triangulation"; e.g.
    I don't know much about it, but I have heard about it. I've also seen an animation of this somewhere on the net, but I can't remember where. But this CDT stuff really belongs in the subforum "Beyond the Standard Model", IMO.
  13. Dec 14, 2014 #12


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    Rather than making assumptions about what that means, I'd very much like to hear some examples about where you see the tetrahedron being employed as a building block in the universe.
  14. Dec 14, 2014 #13


    Staff: Mentor

    I would encourage the OP to read the scientific references that are cited in the above articles (not just the above articles) and ask any specific resulting questions. The BSM forum is indeed more appropriate.
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