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

Plato's Cave

  1. Jan 10, 2009 #1
    A wave packet carries information such that when an observation is made, what is received is information, that reveals spin or position etc. All 'particles' at the quantum level can be described by wave packets and the states of those wave packets could be represented by information.

    The true path of a photon in travelling from A to B without decoherence is unknowable because it was not observed on the way leads one to wonder what it was that was actually travelling. Like Plato's Cave we only get a representation of our 'particle' and the underlying truth is something else (for example information flows in a mathematical model could possibly create the whole shabang)

    I know there is work being done in this direction but I cannot find it (apart from the late John Wheeler humerously suggesting we may all be in a giant computer). Is there a serious theorem or paper or is it speculation without foundation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    If this is a simulation, then who's navigating it, and is he also in a simulation of his own etc?
  4. Jan 11, 2009 #3
    Do you mean that an electron is a mathematical model posing as a particle?
  5. Mar 2, 2009 #4
    To debra:
    Perhaps drastically abandoning the discussion of this thread, I would like to answer your question, in an way. Many misunderstandings regarding QM result from macroscopic minds thinking on sub-microscopic levels. In my view, the only thing we can do is stop imagining what an electron looks like (particle, wave, cloud, etc.) and stick to rigid mathematical formalism.
  6. Mar 2, 2009 #5
    Is that the same as turning around and seeing the objects rather than their shadows to further the analogy?
  7. Mar 2, 2009 #6
    Please clarify ...
  8. Mar 2, 2009 #7
    Agreed, the popular accounts of quantum mechanics are merely shadows of the real thing.
  9. Mar 3, 2009 #8

    I think he's talking of the wave-'particle' duality. At least under one interpretation, he's right in claiming that turning around makes the shadows appear as real objects.
  10. Mar 3, 2009 #9

    This odd experience appears to be based on the infinite regress principle. Take any object, e.g. your monitor, the cause-effect principle will lead you to a near infinite series of regression. The metal in its base was formed in the core of a dying star. The star was formed by the big bang. The big bang was caused by...(branes colliding in another universe, infinite sets of big bangs-big crunches, etc. etc.)

    Somewhere down the line there is probably the real thing, a universe that's not simulated(if we are in a simulation of course). Or maybe everything is just infinite regression, and our minds will never grasp how this can be so.

    IMO, the philosophical implications of infinite regress, as required by the cause-effect principle, is worthy of discussion in a separate thread. But it's so enigmatic that it will likely touch religious beliefs and the thread might get locked.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009
  11. Mar 3, 2009 #10
    Is there any evidence that the universe is just a 'simulation'? I vaguely remember reading an article about something like that some time ago, but I have forgotten the details.
  12. Mar 3, 2009 #11

    If one looks closely at ALL the fundamental particles that make up everything one finds there is nothing there apart from behaviors and properties. see wavefunctions in QM.
    Indeed, what could be there (can you suggest something, maybe a new type of gold-like substance, its not logical for there to be ever more 'substances' is it?)? I suspect Plato realized it when he said that mathematics lives out side space time. He thought it was all about geometries - but he was edging close to the truth. Even Newton thought the Universe was made using numbers and searched for life in alchemy - watching crystals grow etc.

    Now we are beginning to think in terms of data - bits- or even propostions (for example that a particle has a spin or not, a proposition)

    A computer is a data store with an implementation area - a Von Neumann Machine.

    Relativity is a simple fact arising out of cause and effect - there is nothing else to it, its simple logic and mathematics - it must be true (if mathematics and cause and effect is true).

    The Pythagorean Monad - the idea that everything derives from one fundamental truth (mathematical in nature).

    If you look at a 3D computer simulation and ask what is the size of the city in the simulation?
    Where exactly is the city? Its in mathematical algorithms that are 'pretending' to be a city. In reality there is no city at all (unless you believe that a simulation is a sort of reality).

    DNA which makes us is a self implementing data store - created by the Universe itself. Our brains are also data stores with processing of data areas. The universe created DNA, which created computers. We are probably as clever as the Universe because thats what we are in essence - or at least on the way there.

    These Von Neumann machines nest themselves very well. In a computer you can run a Mac from inside Windows in a virtual partition. You could probably run vista from inside windows 95. We are Von Neumann type machines nested in the Universe which itslef is one.

    I think the mathematicians and philosophers of the past lacked the knowledge of the astounding capabilities of computers (namely the Von Neumann Machines). Would you analyse a pixel movements on a screen using differential equations and fourier transforms?
    No, you would start to use information - the 'it from bit' way (John Wheeler).
  13. Mar 3, 2009 #12
    Could you explain Wheeler's statement 'it from bit'? I've heard of it, but I've never been able to comprehend it.
  14. Mar 3, 2009 #13

    'It' is the universe, 'bit' is information. In a sentence, this theory says that the essence of the universe is neither matter, nor energy but information. The so-called underlying reality from which all quantum 'uncertainty' and phenomena arise.
  15. Mar 4, 2009 #14
    Yes, good explanation, or maybe the 'It' is a particle or object that is 'made from' bits of information. Its quite drastic because it follows that the entire Universe is, in a sense, made of bits rather than 'real particels'. And the 3 dimensions of real space are only mathematical parameters in a Von Neumann machine. Many people realize that 3 space is a delusion.

    I (and very few others that I have met) believe that a good enough computer could produce a reality that is just as valid as ours. For example, a 3D game like the Sims or Unreal Tourn where the bots are super clever and programmed to be similar to us. And in the future we (or our following forms) could produce a Universe almost identical to our own in a laboratory (would need a quantum computer + a bit more).

    The Universe made us so why cannot we be similar to the Universe? If its all about underlying consciousness, well, why cannot we possess that too? There are many very very clever people walking around who look like anyone else, but are in reality geniuses. They know that they know.
  16. Mar 7, 2009 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I see no one told you, but in essence all windows OS are the same, just different graphical capabilities.

    This is obvious from the simple fact that if you were to install MS office 97 on MS OS Vista, it will still work as usual.
  17. Mar 7, 2009 #16
    All OS are the same - Von Neumann machines!!!
    You just don't get the bigger point. Its actually a huge point. Its this:

    A computer needs a block of memory to store and execute programs held in its data store - the PC then simply clocks the instructions through. That's, in effect, a Von Neumann machine.

    They nest perfectly. Meaning in windows 95 we could run Vista and in that Vista we could run Mac OS and in that Mac OS we could run Linux - all nested one in the other - perfectly,
    (forget correct hardware drivers for a moment).

    These Von Neumann machines are incredibly powerful structures because they have the ability to 'think' and create representations. Einstein et al had no idea just how powerful they can be. But Von Neumann knew. So did John Wheeler. Add to that a lot of present day physicists and philosophers - (but, alas, not you loop_quantum -I don't know why I am talking to you even!)

    We ourselves are a DNA Von Neumann-like machine (that self implements) and our
    brains are a nested Von Neumann-like machine. Our brains have a data store and an implementation area. DNA is a data store and implements itself in cells. The Universe made DNA - its easy for it to do that because its working in the same way itself.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook