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The Art Of Wondering

  1. Sep 9, 2010 #1


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    Hi GeorgeCantor;
    I read and re-read your post #30 in the other thread and wondered a lot about it. It seems the main issue is realism.

    Realism; (Wordweb)
    - The attribute of accepting the facts of life and favouring practicality and literal truth
    - The state of being actual or real
    - (philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that physical objects continue to exist when not perceived
    - (philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that abstract concepts exist independent of their names

    You said;
    I meant to say that it was a ridiculous(absurd) way to construct a classical(classically-looking) universe. Then i added, that perhaps with more knowledge of the workings of the universe, this attitude of mine might change.

    I don't understand this. Who ridiculously (absurdly) constructed a classical universe ?

    As you say, a universe of measurements does not suffer from Zeno-like paradoxes.

    I didn't say that - I didn't say the opposite, either. I simply responded to your earlier comment where you said that it was not at all obvious to you, that physical motion should be possible in a world of solid stuff. I replied to that, by saying that Zeno with his flying arrow paradox, made a similar point.

    But Zeno's world had measurement - and solid stuff, as does ours. Do you really think that Zeno was asserting that motion was impossible ? Surely not. No matter his paradoxes, the arrow WILL fly through the air, and Achilles WILL beat the tortoise in the stadium race. Do you really think Zeno felt the result would be otherwise ? Or was he rubbing the limits of language and knowledge in our faces ? Again, I'm missing your point. I feel sure there is a deeper point you are trying to make here, but I keep missing it.

    We are already a kind of mini-gods to those from whom we descended.

    I'm not sure about that. You yourself also said;

    It's great that there lived people like Zeno, to whose thoughts scientists of our age are surely returning.

    I hardly see us being mini gods to the likes of Zeno, Plato, not to mention any number of other great thinkers over the last 2 - 3 millennia.

    But my point was different, we shouldn't have been dealing with the knowledge of the observer, uncertainty relations that reflect what WE can know, and relative structures depending on where you measure, if this were a local, realistic and mechanistic world.

    Am I starting to get a glimpse of what you're saying here ? In a world of realism, we shouldn't rely on our observations and measurements ? Then whose should we rely on ? What should we rely on ?

    Probably my strong disagreement that you are merely a group of cells.

    I didn't say we are merely a group of cells. I was trying to make the analogy that us comprehending the entirety of the universe, might be akin to an 'enlightened' cell or group of cells in my body, comprehending the entirely of me.

    In response to my "Do you really think that at some point, some human, 'en-Nobel-ed' as he might be, will ever answer "what is everything" ?" you replied;

    We did(almost). But that was in 1897. Since then, the world picture we'd been building has collapsed. We were ALMOST there, but then along came Einstein and said - wait a minute, this is not an absolute universe. "What is everything?" is a contemprary conundrum of the 20th century, people of the past centuries had an intuitive "understanding" of the universe that simply isn't there today.

    So Einstein threw a spanner in the works, as did Galileo with his telescope, as did others to the prevailing cosmology of their time. Isn't that usually the case ? And do you really think that the "What is everything" conundrum, is one exclusive to the 20th (and 21st) century ?

    I don't have a strong opinion on this, we could be or not becoming gods(on many levels we could be viewed as mini gods, esp. to those from whom we are descended).

    Would not a full answer to the big "WHAT IS EVERYTHING" question, be the same as knowing everything, i.e., being omniscient, and by extension of that, also becoming omnipotent ? I aked this before, and you answered with the 'mini god' thing. My dog thinks I'm a mini god, but it's hardly the same thing as a 'maxi' God !

    My single, most worrysome gripe with the supposedly outside universe is the question - What the hell are measurements for? If we assume that any interaction is a measurement, we are back at a non-local universe and how many of the top physicists would accept a universe of nonlocal effects? 3%, 6% or 13%?

    Your question of 'what are measurements for', which you have made several times, completely misses me - very likely due to my ignorance again. Please elaborate ?

    It's likely that realism is the stumbling block, the idea that there are objects with properties even when they are not measured. In some way, it's all looking like it will soon 'click' about what everything is, it's only that it's just so riduculous.

    I am completely lost here again. My table is real. I measured it - it is 4'6" by 6'. It was here overnight when no one was looking at it, and I bet it will be here tomorrow morning, too. What's ridiculous about this ?

    I really wish i could say something in defence of realism, but other than hope that all of physics is wrong, there isn't much to be done.

    It seems then, that everything I'VE said above, is in defence of realism, though not deliberately so. I didn't set out to achieve that. I just went with it to see how the cards would fall.

    No doubt, at the extreme end of each scale (QM and relativity) we cease to understand - our knowledge and comprehension hits a brick wall, and we have to admit that we simply don't know. Some of the most eminent scientists admit as much. Even some of the highly respected mentors on these forums say as much. Quantum physicists, cosmologists et al, of the highest order, on occasions, simply say - "we just don't know" Just like this guy ..

    from ..

    Finally, it seems clear that we will never be able to explain our most fundamental scientific principles. (Maybe this is why some people say that science does not provide explanations, but by this reasoning nothing else does either). I think that in the end we will come to a set of simple universal laws of nature, laws that we cannot explain. The only kind of explanation I can imagine (if we are not just going to find a deeper set of laws, which would then just push the question farther back) would be to show that mathematical consistency requires these laws. But this is clearly impossible, because we can already imagine sets of laws of nature that, as far as we can tell, are completely consistent mathematically but that do not describe nature as we observe it.

    (apologies I don't have a link - it can probably be found under the given title)

    I guess my final comment here, is that just because we don't understand things at the limits of our perception (nor are we ever likely to, IMO) is that good enough reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater ? And to deny the reality of the world around us, which in 99.999999999999999% of the time, works quite well ?

    Just wondering :-)


    Seeing as this is a 'wondering' thread, there is another issue I've been wondering about lately, and I ask the forum, not just GC.

    In the last few days, S Hawking’s new book has received much and exited coverage over the Tee Vee, particularly in news bulletins. From recollection of what I heard, according to Hawking, the laws of physics as opposed to God, are the explanation as to how the universe came into being, and the big bang was a consequence of gravity, or at least, the laws of gravity.

    OK - well, firstly, I'm not asking for a debate on God here. But I thought gravity is either due to attraction between massive objects (Newton) or due to the curvature of space by massive objects (Einstein) - I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

    Anyhow, my two questions are;

    1) How can gravity be the initiator, or the precursor, given that it requires massive objects to exist. Can gravity exist in a non existent state, pre big bang, in order to cause it ? Does that even make any sense ? Please don't ask me to read Hawkings book - I could probably work through it as well as I could plan a mission to Mars. Is there a simple explanation ? You know, like Einstein said there should be ?

    2) Just because there is a law of gravity, and even if it existed as a precondition, who or what made the decision to follow that law ? There are laws on a motorway, but those laws on their own, don't compel people to travel upon it.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2010 #2


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    Thanks George !

    On another note, can anyone help me with the latter - the one about S Hawking's book ? To repeat;

    1) How can gravity be the initiator, or the precursor, given that it requires massive objects to exist. Can gravity exist in a non existent state, pre big bang, in order to cause it ? Does that even make any sense ?

    2) Just because there is a law of gravity, and even if it existed as a precondition, who or what made the decision to follow that law ? There are laws on a motorway, but those laws on their own, don't compel people to travel upon it.

    I would really appreciate some help on this one. It seems contradictory to say the big bang happened because of the laws of gravity, when there would have been nothing prior to the big bang - no gravity, no laws ..

    Thanks !
  4. Sep 11, 2010 #3
    I don't know enough about it, perhaps he was saying "the laws of gravity" as a simplification for the audience. Possibly he meant something more inertially related, but not quite in the conventional sense of Newtonian Gravity, but more in the way of space-time, the matter connection and modern black hole thermodynamics....the second question requires an explanation in terms of some type of causal structure which will push the layers deeper down, but is it "tortoises all the way down?"...
  5. Sep 11, 2010 #4


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    "tortoises all the way down ..?

    Seems so. With a healthy book sales quota on th way !
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