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Where are the Rules of the Universe Stored?

  1. Jan 24, 2007 #1
    A particle travelling through space will (at least according to Newton's first law) continue at the same velocity etc. etc.

    My question is this: how does this particle "know" that this is how it must behave and that it is behaving correctly? Either the rules of the universe are contained within the particle (unlikely) or they are imposed upon it by the fabric of the universe (more likely).

    If the latter, then how can a "straight path" or constant "speed" be discerned/defined/imposed at the quantum field level?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2007 #2


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    Welcome to PF.

    I'm moving this thread from Quantum Physics to Philosophy of Science, because it fits better there.

    The short (and unsatisfying) answer is that physics doesn't actually seek to answer questions about "why" particles do what they do -- we're content to develop mathematical models that can predict what particles will do in experiments, and that's about it. We may well never be able to answer questions about "why" particles do what they do (how would you distinguish the correct answer, after all, from all of the incorrect ones?).

    - Warren
  4. Jan 24, 2007 #3


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    I keep them in a safe in my office.
  5. Jan 24, 2007 #4


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    Ya know, most of the questions in here get on my nerves, but I really like this one. Sorry, I don't have an opinion/answer for you, but I'll be interested in hearing what others say...
  6. Jan 25, 2007 #5
    Hi Warren.

    I'm not sure this is necessarily a deeply philosophical question. I think it goes to the heart of the QF dilemma. Whilst it is an interesting mathematical exercise to calculate QF effects it seems odd to me to do so without wondering why or how ordered behaviour can occur at the particle level. Does it suggest that underlying the randomness of the QF there must be a finer, ordered structure to spacetime?

  7. Jan 25, 2007 #6
    couldn't we just say, the universe is itself these rules.
  8. Jan 25, 2007 #7
    Hi Whatta. Well that wouldn't solve the issue. If we accept that the ultimate condition of the universe is random energy fluctuations in a quantum field then it would be very difficult to understand how this could result in ordered particle behaviour/properties. Random energy fluctuations cannot, by definition, describe the rules by which, for example, a photon behaves.

  9. Jan 25, 2007 #8
    from the multiverse perspective- the implications of an ensemble of all possible structures leads to the idea of Block Time http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_time

    and so something along the lines of "Block Rules" would also obtain- if the ensemble contains all possible states it also contains all possible histories corresponding to any possible rule system-

    so all possible rules are 'stored' in the ensemble and emerge to an observer probabilistically: the 'flow' of Time- the rules are a determination of the causal structure of that history
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  10. Jan 25, 2007 #9
    There is no contradiction, if you average out "quantum zigzagging" you get something very close to classical mechanics. :smile:
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  11. Jan 26, 2007 #10
    well that's why I am suggesting to consider these two items you called "energy fluctuations" and "the rules" as one single entity. After all, it is only our (human) analysis what splits it into separate items that are no longer self-sufficient.
  12. Jan 26, 2007 #11
    The question reminded me of bohms idea of 'implicate order'. This is from wikipedia:

  13. Jan 26, 2007 #12
    OK lets get back to a very simple idea. If the fundamental state of the universe is nothing more than random energy fluctuations in a quantum field then how probable would it be that these random fluctuations would produce, for example, countless billions of photons all of which have absolutely identical properties and behaviours?

    Less probable still would be that it could produce the handful of elementary particles we know about - all of which have their own distinctive characteristics and behaviours. And every single one of these particles (produced in numbers so great that we can't even imagine it) all behave exactly the same.

    Quite apart from anything else this would seem to contradict the law of entropy. But that is the least of it. What puzzles me more is how something that is infinitely improbable occurs with almost infinite frequency.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
  14. Jan 29, 2007 #13
    Well, what if not?
  15. Jan 29, 2007 #14
    Hi Watta - well that is what I'm getting at, and why I started this thread. I can think of at least one possible explanation.

    But what I really wanted to know from physicists at the cutting edge is what is the latest thinking (apart from brane theory) about the fundamental nature of the universe. Is it still believed that nothing underlies the quantum field and that this is the ultimate and irreducible state of the universe? Any help on this one would be much appreciated.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2007
  16. Jan 29, 2007 #15
    hey grahamc are you familiar with writings of gwf hegel? they might just be another possible explanation. though I myself don't buy it :)
  17. Jan 29, 2007 #16
    OK - read that but I'm no further forward!
  18. Jan 29, 2007 #17
    in few words, he suggested that the true idea of universe is so complex that no finite human concept cannot explain it fully. which means that no physical theory will ever be sufficient to answer your question. that are bad news.

    good news are that, per hegel, the whole world IS the idea mentioned above, so your question "where rules are stored" gets a nice answer (rules are, obviously, wired into this idea).

    hegel's world is quite similar to virtual world in a matrix movie, but without any external "real" world - only matrix itself.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2007
  19. Jan 29, 2007 #18
    I would suggest that we will NEVER KNOW why particles do what they do because there is no empirical test to ulitmately determine 'why'. What, when, where, how, sure. Why? Never. If the particles do not know why they do things, how can they tell us why? We can speculate, we can postulate, we can guess, we can believe, but we will never know.

    (one caveat, please) Should we find that the particles do know 'why', perhaps, someday they may tell us-- remember, this is the philosophy department.
  20. Jan 29, 2007 #19
    OK, you may be right but I'd like to offer four propositions. If they seem sound then I'd like to suggest an experimentally testable hypothesis. I realise I may be setting myself up for a big fall - but here goes....

    Proposition 1. An elementary particle is incapable of possessing knowledge or information about the universe. An elementary particle by definition comprises no constituent parts. Therefore it cannot take on any character or characteristic other than its elementary form. Therefore it cannot contain or possess information because it has no means for encoding, storing or operating on that information. It cannot modify its behaviour or even detect its presence within the universe.

    Proposition 2: The universe is incapable of transmitting rules or information to elementary particles. The universe cannot transfer information to an elementary particle for the reasons given in Proposition 1. Information about the universe (e.g force, proximity, quantum field conditions) would require the transfer of information from the universe to the particle. Since we have already reached the most elementary state there is no mechanism by which information could be encoded to convey the notion of external forces to the elementary particle.

    Proposition 3. The universe cannot comprise objects which are independent of its medium. The concept of multi-dimensional space with objects contained within it is logically impossible. The universe is evidently governed by rules. The rules cannot be contained within particles or conveyed to particles therefore the “particles” although apparently distinct from the quantum field must in fact be nothing more than a local characteristic of it.

    Proposition 4. The quantum field cannot be the fundamental level of the universe. Random energy fluctuations of the quantum field cannot consistently, frequently and reliably produce organised and persistent behaviour. I.E. random behaviour cannot consistently produce numerous instances of stable, highly characteristic, particle behaviour. Apparently random fluctuations at the quantum level must therefore be a product of an underlying order.

    I'd appreciate any thoughts on the logic
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2007
  21. Jan 30, 2007 #20
    It's not like I like to repeat myself, but. "The part" is only our vision of things. Without us, there are no "parts" out there.

    ??? Doesn't mere fact of existance of (any) concept suggests it is logicaly possible?
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