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Will we ever truely know?

  1. Jul 31, 2008 #1
    Will we ever truely know??

    This is a general question about the nature of science as a whole.

    I ask certain questions and get certain answers, but then i get other answers that suggest the first answer was incomplete or plain wrong. Now this appears to be the domain of physics at present, trying to iron out creases of dozens of shirts at once to make the wardrobe tidy, so to speak, and discarding any shirt it cannot iron 100% as it cannot fit in a 'tidy' wardrobe.

    I hear there are ever increasingly accurate models being theorised, and was wondering if we'll ever have a 100% tidy wardrobe of theories, that fit tidy side by side, individually and altogether.

    Or if the fact that as technology improves, future creases in our understanding of the universe will appear, so always prevent it from being tidy.

    i could of said do you think we'll one day be able to explain everything and that a given model / theory will be unquestionable?? but i dont think it would get the same response.
     
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  3. Jul 31, 2008 #2

    mathman

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Trying to forecast the future is pretty hazardous. In the past anytime some great scientist predicted that the theories were almost complete and just needed a little tidying up, he turned out to be completely wrong. I would be leery of trying to predict what we will know in the future.
     
  4. Jul 31, 2008 #3
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    No one theory or model will work in this universe...After all why solve for the flow rate of a river on mars if all you need to know is the weight distribution curve for the foundation of a mega structure in toronto!

    That is the underlying problem with trying to find a theory of everything. The equation would just be too big...

    However the more we can fit into any given set of equations the more accurate they can become.. The real question is How accurate is accurate enough?

    Hertyque
     
  5. Jul 31, 2008 #4

    marcus

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    You aren't asking a scientic question, I think, you are asking us to give our gut feeling about something---what our hunch is.

    Of course what you are talking about is not the GOAL of science, at least mathematical sciences like physics, astonomy, cosmlogy. the goal is to get increasingly better predictions.

    the explanations are not in packages of words, they are in math models, equations.

    No math model is assumed to be TRUE, you only use it to predict until it predicts wrong and then you modify it or find a better set of equations.

    It is mainly in the popularization literature that the models are translated more or less inaccurately into words and then presented (with inadequate reservations) as true.

    There is a market for that, so people feed the market---media journalism, hawking worship, mass books.

    But who cares?

    The main thing is that somebody comes up with a mathematical curve that relates the redshift of a kind of supernova with its brightness----the curve isn't straight. but less brightness corresponds with more redshift. And it seems to work.

    then some people start finding supernovas of the given type which dont fit on the curve!
    Say the brightness, for a given amount redshift, is 5 percent off! Predictions are already so fantastically good that some piddling 5 percent error gets everybody excited. So there is a revolution.

    There is no thought of a final neat story (in words no less :biggrin:) that explains nature. What does explain mean anyway? That the average child will be quiet for 20 minutes and think about it before asking another question. Explain is worthless. Even stories in the end are worthless. What matters is can you predict accurately

    And, to answer your question, there is always room for more precision and reliability. So it never stops. It goes to infinity. As long as the friggin sun shines and the rivers flow you can keep refining the model.

    you never have to contemplate the horror of your metaphor, a drawer full of ironed shirts.

    there are two kinds of adrenalin here. One is just making a successful prediction of a new phenomenon. Like in 1948 Gamow and Alpher and somebody predicted a radio noise in the sky left over from like 400,000 years after the start of expansion. And finally in 1965 or so, the noise was heard and it had just about the right mix of frequencies! that must have been a kick

    the other adrenalin is the revolution that happens when something is 5 percent off. Like in 1998 they began finding supernovas that didn't match expectations and whooooops, we have to consider the possibility that 75 percent of the universe is made of something we didn't know about. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. There is all this new stuff to decide, and if it is then we have to determine things about the strange stuff and be able to make predictions about it. so we can test the predictions. revolutions are exciting, create uncertainty, openings for new ideas

    no correct answers, only hunches about the future. no never never will there be finality in science. trust in this and pray for it to be the case. pray that your little brother comes in and musses up the shirts, that there will always be more creases, and that the drawer if never neat.

    at the same time one must, I suppose, filter out the delusional oddball (socalled psychoceramic) idea which creates a mere illusion of controversy and disorder in some area where none exists---because for one thing that makes it more difficult to see and focus on real disorder, gaps, inconsistencies.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  6. Jul 31, 2008 #5
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    I disagree. I think there are mathematical considerations that will eventually force all the proposed theories to converge on the ultimate theory of everything. We are now examining theories based on it being mathematically consistent and consistent with observation. The more we are able to observe and the more math we are able to use to examine its internal consistency, the more false theories will be rejected, and the more likely we are to converge on the truth. I don't see this as an endless endevour. I suspect that one day we will wake up to realize that if we start with consistency itself, the ultimate theory may fall out of that principle easier than we could have imagined.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  7. Jul 31, 2008 #6

    marcus

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    convergence is different from actually finally getting there
    the mathematical sequence 1/N converges to zero, but never reaches zero.

    you say physical theories are converging on the correct theory of nature, of course I agree!
    I never said they were not converging.

    what I said is that the process of improvement, like the sequence 1/N, can be expected to go on indefinitely.

    If you want to disagree with me, don't you have to claim more than mere convergence, don't you have to assert the belief that human science will reach final perfection within a finite time? Or?

    It is fine to disagree, obviously, we are just revealing hunches, gut feelings. but I think if you say converges you have not yet actually disagreed yet. Take another shot :biggrin:
     
  8. Jul 31, 2008 #7

    arivero

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Hmm the same is true for the real number Pi: it converges to a geometric concept but it never reaches it.

    Getting there in a sense better than convergence, is only possible for rational numbers.
     
  9. Jul 31, 2008 #8
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    The universe is comprehensible. Human beings have the capabilites and drive to comprehend it. It's a matter of time. It's a matter of becoming a civilization, instead of a bunch of tribes.

    We are a Type 0 civilization. This in itself speaks volumes for how much we have in front of us.

    As for a TOE, of course there exist an eternally simple universal guideline. We can find and describe it. It's, again, a matter of time and the choices we make.
     
  10. Jul 31, 2008 #9

    fluidistic

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Knowing "the" theory of everything doesn't imply to be able to predict the future (nearest or farthest one). There exists a true hazard (well known in quantum mechanic I believe, but since I didn't study it yet, I can't argue that much on it. It has to see with the state of electrons or any other elementary particle I think) which obey to probabilistic laws... Of course we still can guess how our Universe will evolve at a great scale and more further in time (I know there is an ambiguity saying "more further in time", but I don't know how to get rid of it. Hope you can understand what I mean). But it's clear to me we will never be able to know exactly how will evolve a small part (for example one meter cubed or whatever) of our Universe even a single second later. There are things that will remains unknown, not because they are impossible to predict, but because there are too many possibilities to chose between. That's my thought for now at least.
     
  11. Jul 31, 2008 #10
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Actually, we cannot say a series converges unless we know by some math the final value that it converges to, which is the end of the process. So I think that the word converges adequately express the idea of completeness. You are saying that it may converge, as a hope on your part, I assume. But you avoid committing to us ever finding that final convergent value. So you are not really saying that it will converge.
     
  12. Jul 31, 2008 #11

    fluidistic

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Unless I'm misunderstanding you, I'd say this sentence is false. Just make an integral test on an infinite series. If the test works, you can know whether it converges but if it does so, you won't know the value to what it converges.
     
  13. Jul 31, 2008 #12

    marcus

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    You picked a good example. Except that in the case of Pi there are geometric ways of saying what it is. In most cases, with convergent sequences of rationals, one has no way to specify the limit except by reference to the sequences themselves. I remember as far back as undergraduate point set topology we were introduced to Cauchy sequences of rational numbers. These satisfied a convergence criterion but typically had no describable or known limit.

    In the absence of any other way to specify it, we define the limit as an equivalence class of Cauchy sequences which were co-convergent. The limit was nothing else than the set of sequences which co-converged, to what?, to the set of sequences which co-converged. In math one has plenty of examples of convergence where the limit is unknown.

    So one can have sequences which are convergent and where one can say nothing about the limit, and may in some cases never be able to.

    Now when this is applied to human history, and speculation about the future of science, there is still another unknown.

    One can not say that a sequence is convergent unless one can examine infinitely many terms of the sequence----because you may have one that LOOKS Cauchy, for example, out to one million and then the 1,000,001th term goes completely wild and the sequence starts converging in some completely other direction. If we look at the first 1,000,000,000 terms and it looks perfectly convergent we still cannot say what the limit is or whether the sequence will converge at all. this is true in mathematics and it has a good lesson for understanding scientific progress:

    When I say that I think human scientific models are convergent, I am expressing not a fact but a FAITH. It certainly does not mean that after a finite number of terms one can extrapolate some trends and project to what a final unique fundamental theory should look like. The endpoint of convergence is especially unknown in this case
    ===============
    EDIT now I see fluidistic's post. I didn't need to write all that, I think fluidistic already said it sufficiently well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  14. Jul 31, 2008 #13

    Chronos

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Pi is easy. It's merely the sum of the base lengths of an infinite series of right triangles inscribed within a circle. Start by drawing a hex inscribed within a circle and use the intersections and center of circle to form 6 triangles. Bisect the base of each triangle forming 12 triangles . . . rinse and wash unitil base length of triangle falls to a planck length.
     
  15. Aug 1, 2008 #14

    marcus

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    that was by far the best, and most concise, answer. If I hadn't been in a hurry and if I'd seen and thought about that, I might have erased my post. It's all that needed saying.

    So yes, in modeling nature at a fundamental level we may in fact be in a convergent process, but nevertheless we may never know this for certain, and we may never attain a final limit.
    Faith in convergence does not imply one believes the process will ever terminate.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  16. Aug 1, 2008 #15
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Do you discuss if theory of everything will ever appear. I belive that it will be. I am prepare to bet for this. And this will not be string theory.
    But the problems are here, for instance ban for new alternative theories. This should be more fleksible.
     
  17. Aug 1, 2008 #16
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    As for pi, it does ascribe the curve of a circle or something traveling in a circle. But if pi never truely terminates on a final number then wouldn't the circle never quite be perfect.

    If so then in trying to understand the way energy flows and why it flows the way it does at the quantum level, would it not be just to say that any given bit of energy within a gravitic field ,which would cause the energy to complete a circle, would in fact by a minute quantity create a slightly open cricle or one which is spiralling inward ever so slightly?

    Do current theories take this into account?
     
  18. Aug 1, 2008 #17

    jal

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    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    Too bad nobody noticed ...
    You have just noticed the last significant digit of Pi.... 10−35
    Infinity has just been proven not to exist ... if ... Planck length exists ....:rofl:
    You have noticed that the circle does not exist ... there is just a many sided figure made up of Planck lengths that have a distance to the center (cannot say radius) of one Planck length.
    WOW!! Try to visualize if for a while.
    What is even more frightening is that CERN may prove that the last significant digit is closer than Planck length (1.6 × 10−35 metres), it might be 10−18 metres
     
  19. Aug 3, 2008 #18
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    even this has generated differing opinions. I understand about infinity preventing complete convergence, but does every theory have an infinite amount of variables to it, by which convergence becomes unattainable??
     
  20. Aug 13, 2008 #19
    Re: Will we ever truely know??

    i asked this as the more i read about physics and cosmology, the overall understanding of things seem to become less certain rather than more. i've read so many posts that disagree with each other it's like religions... they cant all be right, if any. and it seems the closer we get to fully understanding our perceptions and knowledge of the universe, the further away we are to explain it in a universally accepted way, due to the disagreements. i wish i could be around in a few hundred thousand years, providing humans are still here and technology has evolved at it's present or faster rate. maybe then there will be a proven and accepted model. at the moment it is very frustrating as it's just theories, some of which seem to be impossible to my way of thinking, but they are neither proven or disproven. just theories based on the limited evidence we have available.
     
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