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Superstring reality

  1. Apr 27, 2004 #1
    I posted this thread in the math forum, but no one seems to know what im talking about.... since i heard dr sylvester gates say it and he specializes in superstring theory, maybe someone here can help me out..

    im trying to understand the expression, "the more math makes sense, reality doesnt.... and the more reality makes sense, math doesnt". Can someone give an example of this expression (mathematically, or however)? What does it mean?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2004 #2


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    It means Dr Sylvester Gates is confused.

    Historically, since the 50s physics and math have somewhat parted ways, in that the physical theories that were predominantly used by physicists were not rigorous mathematically, even though they were correct (in the sense that they match experiment). That continues to be the case with String theory, though we no longer know if it is correct or not.

    There are 4 logical alternatives

    1) Mathematicians are wrong, physicists are right. This was the case for distribution theory, which was founded on the Dirac delta function (at the time it was not rigorous). Upon further review, it really could be made rigorous, but it was mathematicians who were confused

    2) Physicists are wrong, mathematicians are right. Numerous examples come to mind, like Poincare, Weyl and others who rebelled against the consensus's of the time, in order to follow mathematical prejudice. It ended up revolutionizing physics when the masses figured it out..

    3) Both Physicists and mathematicians are wrong (but perhaps both only slightly, which is what I think), upon further review things will be rigorous on all fronts.

    4) Math and Physics are different entities and can't be made to both work simultaneously (which is what Gates is trying to say). Needless to say, I think most people will... disagree.
  4. Apr 27, 2004 #3

    Might it also mean, how counter intuitive reality is, in regards to the realization these math structures present of themself?

    Hopefully that made sense and Haelfix will again respond.
  5. Apr 28, 2004 #4


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    Haelfix made several good points, but I think Gates meant something a little less fundamental.

    With something new and speculative like string theory, you need some guiding principles. A mathematician and a physicist might have a somewhat different set of concepts that they hold most dear. You can (a) try to make physically nice assumptions and "derive" the associated math, or (b) go for mathematical aesthetics while figuring out the physics later. Both of these approaches are of course related, and the line between them is blurry, but there are differences.

    So I think what was being said is that if you take the mathematicians' viewpoint, you get lousy physics out, and if you take the physicists' viewpoint you get ugly or inconsistent math.
  6. Apr 28, 2004 #5
    what i thought Gates meant was that reality is an illusion and that the more math made sense, the less reality appeared to be real..... or did i misunderstand?
  7. Apr 28, 2004 #6


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    I think that Quantum entanglement may be a good illustration of the idea behind the statement. During mathematical treatment of the state of some particle (and electronic, let's say), physicists arrived at a rather odd conclusion. Should two electrons become "entangled", the state of 1 can determine the state of the other, even though they are separated by great distance and have no known means of connection. The only reason for this conclusion was that if the state of one particle did not define the state of the other, then the numbers in the equations that described those states would not come up even.

    There was no physical reason why this phenomenon should take place, and even a few laws of physics that seemed to prohibit it, but it needed to happen in order for the equations to be "equal". As soon as a method was developed to test the theory, experimentation and observation showed that the phenomenon does indeed take place. So the math proved true, and the reality makes no sense!
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