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Will we ever understand everything?

  1. Aug 3, 2004 #1
    The idea of science is to understand as much as we possibly can, but will we ever reach the point where understand everything. The problem I see is that historically theories have been developed and then overthrown a couple of hundred years later, suggesting that if we ever did understand everything we would never be certain of it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2004 #2
    Well, I certainly hope not. (It would put a lot of scientists out of jobs.)

    However, science is growing exponentially, and pretty soon, we should know about 99.99% of everything (that .01% equals philosophical concepts including consciousness, etc.).

    Don't look for anything too soon, but since scientists' knowledge double every ten years, we should know the answer to basically every question in... I'll say 10,000 or so years (just a guess). We should also have developed into a Type 1 (maybe 2?) civilization by then, so science would be basically unnecessary since almost every scientific question would be answered.

    But because the answer is "almost every question will be answered," I'm going to have to say no. We certainly won't know the answers to philosophical questions such as the afterlife.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2004
  4. Aug 3, 2004 #3
    I was going to open a new thread on this same topic. I think some basic philosophical questions might not be ever answered, but for example, if a Theory of Everything or even a quantum gravity theory was ever discovered, it is likely that it can help to answer a very large deal of questions. Also, I wondered if anybdoy had anything to say with respect to Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem limiting our understanding of the world. In one text, Hawking claims that all theorems are both incomplete and inconsistent. If they are incosistent does that mean that they are actually invalid?

    Also I would just like to give my opinion on what AlanPartr said. I believe that old theories have not necessiraly been 'overthrown', but they have been improved or augmented. They have replaced older ones with newer ones that take into account more situations. I think I once read an article by a scientist on this. However, there is a point where there won't be newer situations (i.e. the theories will take into account all situations and points in the Universe) and then the theories which manage to successfully describe this will actually hold true without having to be improved or extended to take into account more situations. An example of this would be a quantum gravity theory; this would nicely link up both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics in our known Universe and therefore it would be hard or even impossible for it to be replaced by another theory.
  5. Aug 4, 2004 #4
    I would say probably not.

    I guess the problem is that even if we do discover a so-called "Theory of Everything", a set of 'fundamental' laws that explains everything we observe about the universe, we still have to discover WHY the universe acts according to that particular set of laws, and not some other bunch of laws instead. In other words, find out laws governing what determines what physical laws we have, and laws governing what those laws are etc, which gives an infinite quantity of stuff to be discovered.
  6. Aug 4, 2004 #5


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    That's a sobering and positive thought. It means that we'll never be short of situations to engage our minds.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2004
  7. Aug 4, 2004 #6
    I think we would eventually know 99.99% of everything but one thing we can not understand is "nothing".
  8. Aug 4, 2004 #7
    Same here! Then life would be boring with no suprises or purpose!

    I think we will never know everything or even a fraction of everything. I think as we explore the universe we will always find more questions than answers. The reason isn't that we can't learn everything, its that we never will learn it all.
  9. Aug 4, 2004 #8

    This doesn't make sense to me. If the universe is infinite, which it quite possibly might be, it wouldn't make any sense to put in any per-cent of our knowledge in it. As we have absolutely no clue as to it's infinite or not, it doesn't make any sense putting any per-cent into our knowledge definition. It might as well be 0.01%. And at least not a 'theory of everything'.

    Too many clueless physicists are involving into the affairs of philosophers.

    Our problem in our western world seems to be that because someone are especially good in one field, we trust them in so many other things. The fact is that we are becoming more and more knowledgeable in smaller and smaller areas, "We know more and more about nothing" as the saying goes.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2004
  10. Aug 5, 2004 #9
    I stated that not as fact but as an example of what was said earlier by Phreak. I just stated that to state that we can not know "nothing".

    Every new knowledge we gain about smaller areas were always there. Almost like a tree falling in the woods. does it make a sound or not? We found something new, was it there before we found it or not?
  11. Aug 5, 2004 #10
    oh btw, saying physicists I wasn't meaning you. I was reffering to such who name their theories 'a theory of everything'. And some of those are among the best physicists in the world.

    Yeah. I think the world are there whether we would live it or not. I also think there are degrees of truth. Or facts that we are more sure to be 'truther' than other facts. However how we could find that out is another problem.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2004
  12. Aug 5, 2004 #11
    Good comment. I think Science is actually about the journey of self-discovery though. Emphasis on the word 'journey' in respect of the discipline. And then emphasising 'self-discovery' as the subject. It's human habit to effect judgement, i.e. studying others. As opposed to studying ourselves and then our effect on things outside of us. I think all things are meant to be simple but it's human nature that complicates things - leading to us never being able to complete our journey.
  13. Aug 7, 2004 #12
    i know what nothing is, its the absence of anything. its nothing.
    whats the problem?

    and also, the universe isnt infinite. i doubt there are an infinite amount of particles. the universes energy is also constant, and the fact that you can say that would mean its not infinite.

    also, imagine yourself as a subatomic particle, will you ever know the meaning of love?

    thats what we are in this universe, subatomic particles.
    we're inherently locked in the system, and thus can never understand why the system exists. without how there is no why, and we're FAR away from how.
  14. Aug 7, 2004 #13
    So you grasp in the mind with clarity or certainty and completely understand what nothing is? Or are there subatomic particles hiding in your knowledge of nothing. And when you put nothing in the knowledge database does it then become something? You can't because nothing has no existance. To say you know of something that has no existance is much like telling people about your yacht when all you really own is a canoe.
  15. Aug 7, 2004 #14
    but its so irrelevant, so uninteresting.
    the word 'nothing' is human made, its used to describe that which doesnt exist.
    in nature there are two states, existence and non existence.

    if there does not exist a large blue ball on my desk, then there is nothing there.
    we may think that if there isnt a blue ball there, nothing is there.
    in reality we have air molecules 'there'. but the point is nothing is the absence of something, or anything.

    but really, i dont know why you find this so difficult or mind boggling or even interesting.. remember that its just a word, and discussing what nothing means would be purely semantics, it has no real value in the physical universe.
  16. Aug 8, 2004 #15
    I don't know how you can find nothing so uninteresting. I personally think nothing is an important part of our existance. It's really not nothing that catches my interest but nothing else.
  17. Aug 8, 2004 #16
    who is to say that sub-atomic particles are not aware of love?

    what if our understanding of feelings - senses is limited to our physical experience of love or being aware we exist?

    it is quite possible that the particle is aware and conscious within a different realm of reality.

    imho, we will never know everything within an expanding universe. also, isn't fussion able to create more energy than it consumes? wouldn't this be creating energy from 'nothing'? or is nothing, something?

    olde drunk
  18. Aug 8, 2004 #17
    explain a little deeper please.
    to rephrase, nothing is a word, a word defined as 'something which has no existence' or as i like to say 'the absence of something'.

    to put it simply, everything in the world that exists, is something, and the word nothing is a word we use to describe something that doesnt exist.
    the word itself is more of a help in language to be used in several ways, more than something that has any real value in the real world.

    so if you could explain exactly why 'nothing' so so mindboggling or exciting, please do.

    and olde drunk, i used the particle example to point out the size of things.
    a particle compared to earth is very small, in that context the particle wouldnt know what the earth was, it would only know its immediate surroungs.

    same thing with humans, in the context of the universes size, we're nothing more than particles in size, and would only know our immediate surroundings.
    as such, with the example of love, love is something which arises in a living brain, its a concequence of chemistry and biology and therefore i do not think particles have that.

    furthermore, an expanding universe doesnt mean an infinite universe, just because it expands doesnt mean it changes, so we can still, in theory, find out 'everything'.

    also maybe fusion can create more energy than it consumes, but i dont know enough about it to say.
    i do think however it doesnt create energy, it just transforms it from something else. its proven that you cant create something out of nothing, both scientifically and philosophically, and i doubt if it could that fusion would be the solution to this problem.

    also i dont believe in realms of reality or awareness in quantum mechanics.
    i believe consciousness is an unique mechanism created inside organic brains, by chemistry and the likes, just like radiowaves are transformed to music in a radio.
  19. Aug 8, 2004 #18
    I'll explain in my own thread soon, I've never really wanted to try and explain everything but my ideas seemed to fit together and I will post it and see if it only makes sense to me or not.
  20. Aug 9, 2004 #19
    I would say I hope not. It would be boring if we knew everything wouldn't it? It is the mystery of life that keeps me alive! :)
  21. Aug 9, 2004 #20
    It probaly be as you hope because people tend to convince themselves things.
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