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The Physics of Paradox

  1. Apr 8, 2003 #1
    Precisely because of its all-inclusive character the paradox of existence can hypothetically be used to produce the holy grail of physics, a Theory of Everything (TOE). All of the widely respected physical theories and leading TOE candidates today possess a property known as Supersymmetry that correlates quite nicely with synergistic ideas concerning the paradox of existence. The theory of Relativity itself is a strikingly holistic paradoxical theory with its self-referential Strong Equivalency Principle which defies everyday observation by stating that mass equals energy and space equals time. In addition, the non-local effects of Quantum Mechanics are compatible with the concept of Oneness as is also the space-time continuum of Relativity. The paradoxical similarities of these leading theories suggest that physics may very well be approaching the extreme limits of experimental observation where the paradox of existence becomes pronounced. Therefore further progress in reconciling these theories could require a yet again more paradoxical theory that incorporates the paradox of existence more directly and profoundly than the current Standard theory.

    This position is further supported by the long-standing and growing consensus among theoretical physicists that their understanding of space-time needs to become more “fuzzy” if further progress is to be made in reconciling Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Two steps forward, one step backwards, is a fitting metaphor for this mounting consensus. Usually in order to further our fundamental understand of something, it has proven necessary to first relinquish cherished beliefs about the subject. Because our current understanding of space-time is already extremely paradoxical this state of affairs strongly suggests that to develop a “fuzzier” position on the subject may require we also address the paradox of existence itself, one of the few things our current ideas of mass-energy, space-time, and the laws of physics do not agree upon. Essentially Quantum Mechanics implies everything is random while Relativity hints at a fatalistic universe.

    Unfortunately for those who might prefer quick solutions to the sometimes-slow process of research, holistic theories can be extremely difficult to develop. Just as the future is hard to predict, the properties of synergy in any given situation or context are difficult to forecast and appear likely to be impossible to accurately calculate beyond a certain extent. We know the predictability as well as the properties of specific things is different when together than when apart, but exactly how they differ can turn out to be as surprising as a good joke.

    From a materialistic perspective, ours is recognizably a universe of force(s) and unceasing change. One of the few exceptions to this is the paradox of existence, which has never been proven to change or exert physical force yet by definition is inseparable from all force(s) and change. Thus it may represent an unconditionally receptive and supportive framework upon which all change occurs as the forces of nature exert themselves. A theory of everything incorporating a holistic paradoxical view of existence seems likely then to poetically take into account four rudimentary interpretations each of which becomes evident according to the particular context in which we consider the theory.

    The simplest metaphysical version would be that the paradox of existence is merely a shadowy or ethereal backdrop against which nature is manifest and exactly what is the origin of existence is unobservable and unverifiable but can be modeled with precision. A second simplistic synergistic perspective is that the paradox of existence itself somehow creates nature. The third possible interpretation is that of Oneness and infers that nature and the paradox of existence constitute one and the same thing (again, whatever that might happen to be.) And the last significant account, if you care to call it that, would be that the paradox of existence is utterly ineffable and somehow all of these explanations and none of them at the same time.

    Each distinctive interpretation of a paradoxical theory of existence is likely to possess unique strengths and weaknesses depending upon the particular application and context. For example, from the basic interpretation of Oneness I mentioned, such a theory might provide invaluable insight into the degree of influence of the observer on measurements, but with little or no direct physical application other than determining how best to go about pragmatically verifying the influence of the observer on experiments and vice versa. The opposite might be true for the metaphysical interpretation, which could conceivably provide numerous physical applications with little or no indication of how much an observer affects experimental results. Interpreted as a synergistic paradox (i.e. a self-perpetuating hermaphroditic Mother Nature if you will) such a TOE might offer unique and sweeping insights into the organizational hierarchy of the forces and laws of nature but with limited obvious use in distinctive contexts or situations. And, last but not least, viewed from the most paradoxical perspective of all a TOE could afford some individuals spiritual enlightenment, or, at least humor or artistic appreciation, while defying attempts at physical analysis.

    These multiple contexts and interpretations, interacting with each other and creating yet again new contexts and interpretations based on qualitative assumptions, circular logic, and allegories necessitate the development of extremely paradoxical theories be as much of a personal artistic endeavor as it is a deductive science. In comparison to using linear logical metaphysical methods with their a priori assumptions about physical reality and our role in it, holistic theories tend to be much more intuitive and artistic or, failing those approaches, arrived at by default as much as deduction as was the case with Quantum Mechanics. Paradox involves not only more allegorical and convoluted logic, but also a pointedly personal emotional and cognitive framework.

    Every relationship is perhaps unique and changes with the context, including the relationship of the physical universe with that of the paradox of existence. But the paradox of existence presents us with what appears to be the most unique of all relationships and one of the few likely to be pertinent in all contexts. It is clearly as supernatural as anything science has ever confronted and failed to dismiss and, yet, on the face of it may possess synergistic effects. Only the tiniest possible glimmer of hope is evident at the present time that the mystery of existence and its full impact on us will ever be explained by science. However, this does not appear to rule out constructing theories around the concept without signifying anything in nature itself is supernatural. Hence the simplest scientifically verifiable account of everything in the physical universe may well be, ironically or humorously depending upon your point of view, also suggestive of the supernatural and, yet, one of the most cogent and useful in physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2003 #2
    When quanta were first observed a century ago their discoverer, Max Planck, begged his colleges to disprove his observations. Likewise, Einstein later rejected and ignored the paradoxical implications of his discovery of wave-particle duality. Because of this the Uncertainty Principle and, therefore, the establishment of Quantum Mechanics, was delayed for twenty-five years until Werner Heisenburg arrived on the scene. He alone possessed a sufficiently paradoxical personal philosophy that was compatible with Quantum Mechanics and that inspired him to develop the Uncertainty Principle. Einstein himself later admitted he should have been able to deduce the Uncertainty Principle from his own discovery of the wave-particle duality, but failed to follow through.

    Despite Einstein’s undeniable tenacity and aptitude for resolving such paradoxes as the constancy of the speed of light through the application of yet again more complex paradoxes such as Relativity entails, he failed to pursue the paradox of wave-particle duality that he himself had discovered. Later he championed the position that the newly formulated theory of Quantum Mechanics was entirely irrational and paradoxical and, as such, must have a more reasonable explanation. This he asserted despite his own pervasive use of paradox in Relativity. He has been repeatedly quoted as saying, “God does not play dice” and was candidly willing to go only so far in his acceptance and use of circular logic and paradox.

    Neils Bohr, on the other hand, championed a more popular pragmatic view. In response to Einstein’s oft-repeated assertion he is said to have once merely shrugged his shoulders and gone back to his quantum mechanics calculations. These two points of view, the assertive metaphysical and the receptive paradoxical, have in concert undeniably propelled us into the twenty-first century. They have also helped produced for many of us interested in the field of physics smiles of appreciation for the potential humor and further advances the situation implies are possible, if the scientific establishment is willing to further suspend its disbelief and abhorrence of even the idea of the ineffable and anything hinting at the possible existence of the supernatural.

    One person who conspicuously did not just go back to his equations and ignore the implications was Erwin Shrondenger. He demonstrated in a thought experiment that by the rules of Quantum Mechanics a cat could somehow be kept in a paradoxical state of both alive and dead at the same time, unless, observed by someone. The introduction of Shrondenger’s Cat challenged not only the validity of Quantum Mechanics, but reality itself not to mention our personal role in the paradox of existence. Understandably considering the circumstances, it has also been the source of much wailing, wringing of hands, and gnashing of teeth among physicists as well as the inspiration for many a joke.

    The encirclement of the paradox of existence by modern science is now complete as today the observers of quanta armed with their assertive and stoic metaphysical approaches and multi-billion dollar atom smashers are, in turn, finding themselves increasingly under what one presumes is the compassionate scrutiny of philosophers, psychologists, and linguists who’s more demure and pragmatic approach to the mysteries of physics and paradox focuses on the physicists themselves as much as their work. Some physicists are outraged and charge that because of these newly emerging disciplines and ancient mysticisms the practice of physics has become a circus arena for pointless and distracting navel gazing. Taking into consideration the intensely personal nature of the paradox of existence, I think such naval gazing is inevitable in any field.

    That being the case, understanding these practices from a pragmatic and skeptical yet open and accepting approach to the ineffable can be helpful in distinguishing between what likely constitutes pointless naval gazing and what can reasonably be assumed potentially fruitful avenues of exploration. In addition the obvious widespread rejection and distaste for paradox among the metaphysically biased scientific establishment has, by their own admission, retarded progress in physics. Considering that even the most prestigious and advanced branch of the sciences can be influenced in this manner, the circumstances indicate a clear need for a radically different approach to the subject that incorporates the best traditional academia has to offer while promoting research into paradox from an appreciably different slant. The physics of paradox have steadily gained ground in the field for a century now, and where it will continue to take us is predictable qualitatively if not quantitatively. Furthermore, it is just such qualitative analysis that appears to be a weak point in modern physics.

    As a matter of fact, the entire history of western science can be seen as a slow and reluctant surrender of the rational and quantitative to that of paradox and the qualitative. The Pythagorean, Platonic, and Aristotelian mathematical perfections eventually gave way to Isaac Newton’s mastery of paradoxical infinities in calculus, his mysterious action at a distance or forces, and ethereal space and time. Relativity then surpassed Newtonian physics by incorporating yet again more broadly encompassing and unified paradox only to be outdone shortly thereafter by the more useful yet wholly inconceivable paradoxes of Quantum Mechanics.

    The rapid advancement of the more rationally oriented metaphysical sciences has arguably been made possible in part due to their distancing themselves as far as reasonably possible from mysticism in order to focus more clearly on what can be measured and observed. Like conservative people everywhere, many physicists long for the comfort of a simpler world in which life is utterly predictable and makes perfectly rational sense. The more advanced the sciences become, however, the less likely such hopes for rational conceptual perfection appear to be possible and the more likely it seems paradox will become an even more integral feature of theoretical physics.

    Thus developing a formal philosophy and science of paradox that is built upon and focuses on qualitative assessments is becoming imperative the further physics delves into paradox. However, this requires serious modification in our methodology. Most notably, paradox is widely recognized among philosophers and psychologists as reflecting and reinforcing the very thoughts and emotions of even the most objective of observers. If our objectivity is compromised in this fashion as well as the qualitative character of paradox demanding a more artistic allegorical approach, special emphasis must be placed on skepticism, verification, and sweeping generalization rather than objectivity if the subject is to be addressed pragmatically.

    No one knows exactly what kinds of new and useful insights, theories, and disciplines might emerge from a more accepting scientific approach to paradox in physics, but you can rest assured many will be subtle, receptive, inclusive, nurturing, or humorous depending upon your point of view. What exactly this might mean for the field of physics in the long run, again, no one can predict with any credible authority. What is certain is that if we see it in the proper context, as Lao Tzu commented, the journey can be its own reward. Like any scientific endeavor it begins with each of us as individuals. But, if we are to do more than merely indulge ourselves, if we are to contribute to the growing body of useful physical knowledge, a clearer rational yet artistic focus on paradox is required.
  4. Apr 9, 2003 #3
    My respect and admiration, like always!

    And a question: did Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck "observe" the quanta?

    I was told another story about his declaration of energy quanta. I'll write my story here; please correct any possible mistakes:

    By the end of 19th century it seemed to Physiscists like they've solved all the problems and what remained was case studies and the need for more processing power that was expected to be achieved in the coming years.

    However, there were two problems disturbing this perfection: the radiation of black body and the photoelectric effect. These two were sprouts that turned into whole trees. Photoelectric effect was later explained by Einstein and brought him a Noble prize.

    The problem of the radiation of black body has to do with the frequency strength distribution in a heated black body. The amount (strength) of each frequency in this radiation was calculated by intergrating an infinite number of differentials of energy (which is an implication of energy being infinitely divisible). This lead to confusion because this calculations showed that there should be much of high frequency em-waves in this distribution while observation said that the distribution is bell-shaped (but not Gaussian) with one peak at a certain frequency (for the radiation from the sun this peak is at about the frequency of green light). This meant there should be much less amount of very high frequency (eg, gamma rays) and high frequency (eg, UV) than it was predicted by these calculations.

    Max Planck suggested that if we replace the infinite number of differentials with a finite (but very large) number of very small real values (no more yielding to zero) the intergration will change to a simple sum and the results will well conform to observations. Those small real values were the energy quanta.

    No one "observed" the energy quanta. They were merely a patch until later advances honored them. And Max Planck, who was indeed a great Physicist, didn't "discover" them but did "suggest" them as a solution.
  5. Apr 9, 2003 #4
    Yes and no. Planck discovered the existence of quanta by accident in much the same manner that Copernicus discovered the eliptical orbits of the planets around the sun. In both cases these people resorted to simplifying their equations and found these simplifications worked much better than the standard explanations. In Copernicus' case, he discovered the planets circle the sun instead of the earth, and Planck discovered energy was not continuous and infinitely divisible. Just as Planck never actually saw these quanta with his own eyes, no one has ever seen the planets circling the sun with their own eyes.

    Thus, both have and have not observed such phenomena. Certainly Copernicus could look up into the sky and see the sun and some of the planets, but by that same token Planck could see that a woodstove did not radiate blue light as Maxwell's equations suggested it should when hot. Instead, stoves radiate red light and the planets do little loop-de-loops in the sky.

    As for the photo-electric effect, Einstein provided a partial explanation. As has always been the case, in answering one question a host of new ones have been generated. Again, as with Copernicus and Planck, each answer brings up a host of new questions.

    The heart of the problem therefore appears to be absurdity. All of logic, philosophy, and existence appear to be ultimately based upon absurdity or paradox. Thus each new answer leads to newer and more profound absurdities and questions. The most absurd of all, perhaps, being that pursuing such has proven the most useful and personally meaningful path for humanity.
  6. Apr 9, 2003 #5
    This is faintly off-topic, but I was just reading "The Dictionary of Philosophy", and it's definition of paradox only refered to the self-contradictory, or the seemingly contradictory. There is nothing contradictory about existence (that I know of), so "paradox of existence" is not fitting.

    I kind of lost you, when trying to read your posts. What point are you trying to make?
  7. Apr 9, 2003 #6
    Oh no, that isn't off topic. But I do have to wonder if this is not in actuality a rhetorical and sarcastic question after all the time the two of us have spent discussing the issue.

    What you found is a technical definition based on western logic and philosophy. For the work of logicians its invaluable. However, if you study the basic foundations of logic and western philosophy themselves, not to mention Asian thought or the general dictionary definition, it is a bit more open to interpretation.

    I'll post it again here:

    As is commonly done, the first paragraph of any paper I write contains a summery of the entire paper and the last sentence in this first paragraph contains the conclusion. The last paragraph of the entire paper contains the conclusion in more detail:

  8. Apr 9, 2003 #7
    After all of this time, you (of all people) should be aware that I'm stingy about the use of the word paradox, as just something that we don't currently understand. Also, you forgot to mention your usual conclusion - that since we don't understand it, we can't :wink:.

    Maybe it's just that you need to use a different word. Why do you insist on using "paradox" anyway? There are plenty of other words that fit your need much better.

    What if there is no paradox of existence? In all the time you've been posting these results to the PoE, you have only barely addressed the fact that there may be no such paradox (and, in addressing it, you merely said that it didn't matter to you - which is obviously not true, seeing how much effort you make into studying the consecuences of that which you postulate to exist).
  9. Apr 9, 2003 #8
    Once again taking what I say out of context either deliberately or out of ignorance. All I have ever claimed is that because we do not understand it we may never understand it. A simple and humble admission of our human limitations.

    Paradox is a better word because it goes straight to the heart of the problem. The word "irrational" is a good alternative but in english paradox is a noun while irrational is an adjective. The english language is famous for being excellent for engineering, but poetry and discussing the paradox of existence are not engineering problems. If you can come up with a better one, please tell me.

    The only reason the paradox of existence has meaning to me is precisely because it appears to actually be a paradox. Likewise, I would never have put so much effort into studying the paradox if it didn't actually appear to be a paradox. For that matter, I don't put much effort into studying how many angels can fit on the head of a pin because I have never had any reason to suspect they exist.

    If, and its a big if, the paradox is not really a paradox but has some sort of explanation I can't fathom how it can make any difference in my life. If, and again its a big if, I ever discover it is not a paradox then I will deal with whatever impact on my life that revelation might have for me. However, even then I cannot begin to imagine how it might possibly impact my life other than to satisfy my curiosity.
  10. Apr 10, 2003 #9
    This is not what you have said before. You said that "existence is demonstrably paradoxical. All attempts to prove it have failed..."

    Paradox doesn't mean irrational, inexplicable, undefined, unexplained, or any other synonym of these - by logician's standards. That's why I don't like your use of it.

    I like your use of the word "Miracle" in the thread, "The Only Miracle I Need".
  11. Apr 10, 2003 #10
    Paradox is the very definition of the irrational by logicians' standards. If something is neither true nor false or otherwise poorly defined it is irrational or illogical. Some logicians deny genuine paradox exists, that is, the irrational does not really exist. Other logicians insist the Liar's Paradox is the definitive paradox by even the standards of conservative logicians and, thus, the irrational does exist. Hence, we cannot depend upon logicians' for a definitive answer to this question.

    Exactly, because it is demonstrably paradoxical it is a mystery. Paradox is not an explanation for anything.
  12. Apr 11, 2003 #11
    If paradox is not an explanation for anything, why are you so fond of using it as such?
  13. Apr 11, 2003 #12
    I'm just telling you how the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy defined paradox.

    Besides, even if paradox meant irrational, or inexplicable, what makes you think that this applies to existence?

    Or, because we don't have enough information/knowledge, it is a mystery. Your's is the child's approach, "I haven't been able to do it, so it can't be done" (or, in more glamorous/glorified words, "it's inexplicable, and irrational, since I can't make sense out of it"). This doesn't lead toward any kind of meaningful understanding, so why do you stick to this childish reasoning (no offense)?
  14. Apr 11, 2003 #13
    Every proposed explanation for existence is irrational, hence existence is demonstrably irrational and inexplicable.

    Please do not infer I am childish, it is childish to do so. Also, please do not make me repeat myself a hundred times on this issue. I have told you this countless times and am being to think it is YOU who are being childish:

    I am not saying existence IS irrational.

    I'm only saying it appears to be irrational. The word irrational is a perfectly good word, just because we may discover a perfectly rational explanation for something tomorrow does not mean we cannot use the word irrational to describe that thing today. In fact, it is irrational to insist we cannot.

    As Quantum Mechanics has demonstrated so well, accepting that something appears to be irrational can be at least as useful as looking for rational explanations for everything. If someone finds a rational explanation for QM, that will be great. In the meantime being able to clearly define how quanta are irrational allows us to define how they interact and explore possible rational explanations for their behavior.

    This situation has persisted for the last hundred years and has led to the development of paraconsistent logics, modern mathematics, and a host of other very useful theories that describe and predict phenomena we simply do not have any clear rational explanations for. This is not childish, au contrar, it is childish to insist everything in the universe must make rational sense.

    The mature thing to do is simply to accept life as it presents itself, its sometimes called objectivity. Once we have such acceptance, then exploring nature for more rational answers and apparent paradoxes becomes possible.
  15. Apr 11, 2003 #14
    Now, how does this fit?

    You've done this before. You say that "demonstrably true" means that it appears to be so. This is not true. "Demonstrably true" means it is true, and it can be shown to be so.
  16. Apr 11, 2003 #15
    Fliption, do you still have your "Textrium of Existence" thread? :wink:
  17. Apr 11, 2003 #16
    Seriously, Wu Li, I'm not trying to irritate you. I don't mean to mock you either (I leave that to Fliption :wink:).

    I'm just saying that you sound very defeatist, when you say that existence is demonstrably incomprehensible. Maybe it's just a disagreement about the meaning of the word "demonstrable".
  18. Apr 11, 2003 #17
    No doubt you will always find one word after another objectionable in some respect. Personally, I seriously doubt semantics is the issue that really bothers you about my philosophy. Of course, only you can know what is in your heart.

    For me the idea that existence has no inherent explanation is the opposite of defeatest..... it liberates us to give it whatever meaning we want. Many people, for example, like to talk about free will and free choice, but their ideas of what choices we have are severely restricted. Others believe free will is illusory. Both views are defeatest in my mind.

    Freedom is not a way of thinking, it is a way of living.
  19. Apr 12, 2003 #18
    It may feel like freedom to you, but it destroys science, which is determined to find actual truth.
  20. Apr 12, 2003 #19
    Science is not the search for truth imo, it is the pragmatic search for what is useful. Truth itself is a logical concept and logic in turn is based on reductio ad absurdum, that is, faith that some things are absurd. Sometimes what is false and absurd, such as the idea the earth is flat, just happen to be useful. Even today, it is still useful at times to assume the earth is flat. :0)
  21. Apr 12, 2003 #20
    Exactly, and science is what showed us that it really isn't. Science doesn't search for what is useful, we can usually see that, right off the bat. It searches for the actual truth, even if the truth contradicts what we would "like" to believe (as does Relativity and QM).
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