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BarkellWH

Posts: 2849
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Estevan

quote:

Aha - Bill is God! I'm glad we've finally got that one sorted - thanks (for 'coming out')!


I was getting no respect masquerading as Bill. So I thought I would drop that pretense and things might improve.

Cheers,

God

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 31 2015 21:21:05
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 2849
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Kevin

quote:

It seems that some very erudite older gentlemen, whom I otherwise respect, are holding on to philosophies of twenty years ago, oblivious to recent trends that argue counter to their beliefs.


As much as I appreciate your description of some of us as "erudite older gentlemen," Kevin, I must take issue with your assumption that we are "holding on to philosophies of twenty years ago, oblivious to recent trends that argue counter to their beliefs." Speaking only for myself, I am not holding on to any particular philosophy or belief. What I am not ready to do, however, is abandon the entire 2,500 years of the Western philosophical canon as being rendered obsolete by much of the New Age thinking and other trendy streams of thought that suggest Eastern mysticism holds answers unavailable to Western minds.

I am not suggesting that Eastern mysticism is of a lesser order than Western philosophy. I just do not think it holds the key to ultimate understanding and reality that many of its adherents (particularly Western adherents) seem to believe. It is nothing new, by the way. Such thinking was running rampant during the '60s, and it has a much longer pedigree than even that. In 1933 James Hilton wrote "Lost Horizon," a novel whose theme is the ultimate wisdom of the East, and the source of the fictional "Shangri La."

I would also add that I have spent many years living and working in the East, in places with a long history of Buddhism and Eastern philosophy, such as Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia (which had a long tradition of Hindu-Buddhist cultures on Java before the establishment of Islam, and which even today has a Hindu variant on Bali). In none of these societies have I observed a population noticeably more conversant with "ultimate reality" as a result of the "Wisdom of the East." While they are all culturally different from the West, and from each other, they appear to suffer the same ills and frustrations as do we in the West.

Returning to physics, authors such as Fritjof Capra, attempting to draw New Age parallels between physics and Eastern Mysticism, and Deepak Chopra, whose claim to fame is something he calls "Quantum Healing," are simply riding a wave of popular culture that seems to value "Quantum Woo" over well-established scientific research principles. You will remember that "Quantum Woo" has been described as the justification of irrational beliefs by an obfuscatory reference to quantum physics. And regarding Embodied Cognition, as runner suggests, let's see how it holds up as additional research undergoes peer review and challenges before concluding it has upended and overturned the Western philosophical canon.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 31 2015 22:28:57
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to BarkellWH

quote:

As much as I appreciate your description of some of us as "erudite older gentlemen," Kevin, I must take issue with your assumption that we are "holding on to philosophies of twenty years ago, oblivious to recent trends that argue counter to their beliefs." Speaking only for myself, I am not holding on to any particular philosophy or belief. What I am not ready to do, however, is abandon the entire 2,500 years of the Western philosophical canon as being rendered obsolete by much of the New Age thinking and other trendy streams of thought that suggest Eastern mysticism holds answers unavailable to Western minds.

Bill, not abandoning 2,500 years of Western philosophy and not recognizing a paradigm shift in the philosophy of mind are two very different claims. You continue to make sweeping statements (and admittedly we all sometimes do this) that seem absolutist. For example, continental (European) and analytic (North American, more or less) philosophy are at odds with one another, so much so that phenomenology, a continental development, has been neglected in the North American University context. The conversation between the two in order to find common ground and or reconcile their claims is just getting underway. Yet, you categorize them under the neat heading of Western. Varela combines philosophers in phenomenology with the Buddha's and Nagarjuna's Middle way in order to explain perception from a biological perspective. The result is not a nihilism like Runner has in mind, one in which a tree disappears because one is not perceiving it. Instead, he simply recognizes that perception is always perception of something and perception is determined by natural and cultural factors.
Western thought does have some answers Eastern though does not, and vice versa.
quote:

I would also add that I have spent many years living and working in the East, in places with a long history of Buddhism and Eastern philosophy, such as Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia (which had a long tradition of Hindu-Buddhist cultures on Java before the establishment of Islam, and which even today has a Hindu variant on Bali). In none of these societies have I observed a population noticeably more conversant with "ultimate reality" as a result of the "Wisdom of the East." While they are all culturally different from the West, and from each other, they appear to suffer the same ills and frustrations as do we in the West.

Of course. Much of the scientific analysis of Buddhist mind has been done on monks with a few studies on laypeople. Those studies reveal a great amount about our consciousness, our immune system, and other areas. For example, Buddhist meditation is superior to other forms of meditation in regard to triggering our parasympathetic system, boosting our immune system, and thus warding off the effects of stress. No doubt, in a hundred years some caucasians will claim they discovered this first but that is neither here nor there.
quote:

Returning to physics, authors such as Fritjof Capra, attempting to draw New Age parallels between physics and Eastern Mysticism, and Deepak Chopra, whose claim to fame is something he calls "Quantum Healing," are simply riding a wave of popular culture that seems to value "Quantum Woo" over well-established scientific research principles. You will remember that "Quantum Woo" has been described as the justification of irrational beliefs by an obfuscatory reference to quantum physics. And regarding Embodied Cognition, as runner suggests, let's see how it holds up as additional research undergoes peer review and challenges before concluding it has upended and overturned the Western philosophical canon.
quote:

concluding it has upended and overturned the Western philosophical canon
I had to peruse my posts to look for anything that might suggest that the study of embodied cognition, which is varied with many different approaches of which I only feel somewhat comfortable about enaction, has upended the Western philosophical canon. NOWHERE did I ever make that claim. At most I claimed that enaction is a new paradigm, not even a paradigm shift a la Kuhn, within the study of embodied cognition.
Also, I agree about quantum woo but you set up some strawmen. No one in academia would defend the example you gave of the appropriation of physics in popular culture. The mind and Life discussions are near thirty years and these are serious discussion that have a serious impact on both Buddhism and Western academia. For example, the Dalai Lama has gone on record noting that when science reveals something that contradicts Buddhist texts, the default should be to accept scientific conclusions. This is very different than Judeo-Christianity and its clinging to their texts. This serves to bolster Capra's argument; everything is relational. Heisenberg was the first physicist to get credit for this when he noted that merely by setting up an experiment and observing some phenomena, one had an influence upon it.
Additionally, Capra IS a physicist and he is still writing.

_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 31 2015 23:27:31
 
Ricardo

Posts: 11220
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Kevin

quote:

Heisenberg was the first physicist to get credit for this when he noted that merely by setting up an experiment and observing some phenomena, one had an influence upon it.


But this is not really true...it only SEEMS like it is because we are very big observers. That is what the whole schrodinger cat thing is about. Feynmen also explains this with wave particle duality lecture from the same series. It's not like WE collpase the wave function by observing...there is no appropriate large scale analogy to relate it (superposition) to us, you can't philosophize about it...nature is "just the way she is", as he put it, and real life power of the math of quantum mechanics simply works.

What I see is physics + philosophy or mysticism= pseudoscience. physics+math or logic=reality. The only problem occurs when abstract high maths lead to non testable physics predictions. Like strings. It can almost be considered more like philosophy at this point. Basically, a worthless model...as interesting as it is.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 1:27:47
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to runner

quote:

ORIGINAL: runner
<snip>
Lakoff, for instance, has written a book arguing that certain branches of higher mathematics originated from the metaphor-driven cognition of the mathematicians, rather than from the intrinsic inner logic of the math itself. But as mathematician G.H. Hardy wrote in A Mathematician's Apology, "317 is a prime not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way or another, but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way." Another mathematician, Alain Connes, wrote, " There exists, independently of the human mind, a raw and immutable mathematical reality."

<snip>



I haven't read Lakoff's work you mention, but I don't find the position attributed to him incompatible with the quotes from Hardy and Connes.

For example, consider the development of differential and integral calculus. One of the chief motivations for its development was Newtonian physics. The conundrum was, how to quantitatively represent motion with numbers. Numbers don't move. Newtonian bodies do. The Newtonian force acting on a body is always proportional to its acceleration.

We can easily calculate the average speed of a body by dividing the the time elapsed into the distance traveled. But Newton's laws demand not only instantaneous velocities, but instantaneous rates of change of velocity (i.e. acceleration) as well. Both Newton and Leibniz stumbled by positing the existence of "infinitesimals": quantities smaller than any other numbers, but which could be divided to obtain the desired rates. This led to logical paradoxes, seized upon by Bishop Berkeley in his critique of Newton.

I will spare you further details of the struggle to rationalize calculus, which continued into the middle of the 19th century. One of the final stones in the foundation was Cauchy's definition of limit, published in his "Course D'Analyse" of 1821. We obtain instantaneous values by taking limits. There is a good discussion which I have just run across here

http://preview.tinyurl.com/o33dxrg

in the preface to the annotated translation of Cauchy published by Springer Verlag.

The final touches were Dedekind's axiomatization of the real numbers in "Stetigkeit und irrationale Zahlen" published in 1872; and axioms for arithmetic, published by Pierce (1881), Dedekind (1888), and the form most commonly used, Peano (1889).

It is debatable whether we are born objectivists, but I believe normally developing humans have at least become objectivists around the age of three years. It is only later that we begin to entertain other philosophies. Newtonian physics is thoroughly objectivist.

Did the concepts of the rationalized calculus exist in some Platonic form, awaiting their discovery by toiling mathematical explorers, or were they invented, guided by the objectivist metaphors of Newtonian physics and other variable quantities? My sense is that the majority of working mathematicians today would say "invented." Dedekind in "Stetigkeit..." said explicitly, "From such a cut we create a new irrational number."

But I would add that under the guidance of R.L. Moore, the greatest trainer of research mathematicians of the 20th century, I experienced the profound sense of discovery that so often accompanies the solution of a problem that may take a year or more to solve, and whose solution forces the worker to construct a new conceptual framework.

(Like some of my fellow Moore students, I didn't follow a career in pure mathematics, but I feel the most significant part of my scientific education was due to him.)

Nor was the rationalization of calculus that culminated in Cauchy and Dedekind the only possible one. In one of those ironic twists, Abraham Robinson in the 1960s developed an alternative "Nonstandard Analysis" which defines infinitesimals and their manipulations, rescuing Leibniz's intuitions from the scrap heap of history. Of course, Robinson's infinitesimals aren't numbers, rather they are a new mathematical species, and their construction is rather laborious, but they work like Leibniz thought they should.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 2:01:42
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ricardo

quote:

Heisenberg was the first physicist to get credit for this when he noted that merely by setting up an experiment and observing some phenomena, one had an influence upon it.


But this is not really true...it only SEEMS like it is because we are very big observers. That is what the whole schrodinger cat thing is about. Feynmen also explains this with wave particle duality lecture from the same series. It's not like WE collpase the wave function by observing...there is no appropriate large scale analogy to relate it (superposition) to us, you can't philosophize about it...nature is "just the way she is", as he put it, and real life power of the math of quantum mechanics simply works.

What I see is physics + philosophy or mysticism= pseudoscience. physics+math or logic=reality. The only problem occurs when abstract high maths lead to non testable physics predictions. Like strings. It can almost be considered more like philosophy at this point. Basically, a worthless model...as interesting as it is.


Physicists, including Feynman, habitually mix physical theories with philosophy, analogy and metaphor. In fact, in the mathematics, what "collapses" the wavefunction to one of its eigenvectors is the application of a linear operator to it, an operation typically carried out in an infinite dimensional Hilbert space, or the tensor product of a number of such Hilbert spaces. Physicists habitually confuse the onlookers by calling this mathematical operation an observation or a measurement, and apply the same words to building an apparatus to produce a physical measurement.

How big is a linear operator? Why should it accurately model the results of an experiment that presents results of nanoscopic experiments to macroscopic humans? This is a mystery that has prompted philosophical speculation since the 1920s. But I don't think there is general agreement among either philosophers or physicists as to the answer.

As the second speaker in Kevin's re-posted video observes, "reality" as it is ordinarily understood, is no longer a necessary constituent of a physical theory. In fact, the first successful formulation of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg's matrix mechanics, dealt only with measurements. Nothing was said about what happened to anything between measurements. The same year that Heisenberg"s paper was published, Schrodinger published the seminal paper on wave mechanics, the most popular formulation down to the present day. Although wave mechanics doesn't explicitly exhibit the state of the system, but merely the probability of future measurements, it at least gives us something to think about between measurements. Schrodinger promptly proved, within the next few months, that wave mechanics and matrix mechanics are mathematically equivalent: each implies the other.

The terminology is a little different. Wave mechanickers often refer to "preparing the state" while matrix mechanickers tend to speak of "initial measurements" but they mean exactly the same thing.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 3:25:15
 
runner

 

Posts: 350
Joined: Dec. 5 2008
From: New Jersey USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

I Richard, you have the better of me in the area of mathematics, as time and the lack of use have eroded whatever gifts I had in that area. Mathematics as discovered truths? As invented truths? We can ascribe the great discoveries/inventions of mathematics to this person or that, but it does present a challenge to tease out whether we are dealing with necessary, fundamental relationships between numbers (take the primes for example; their sequence, their distribution, their density, etc. Or pi, i, e, 0,1 and their fascinating relationship in Euler's signature equation), or whether these are human constructs engineered to mimic phenomena in some sort of physical world, the internally consistent ones kept, and the inconsistent discarded. Beyond my pay grade, but I tend to favor discovery over invention.

Kevin, I see that you will continue with your enthusiasm for Embodied Cognition and I wish you well in pursuing your interest in it. I only caution you to stick very closely to whatever actual evidence is adduced from tightly-controlled experiments or from unbiased records of large numbers of observations of whatever sort. Also to closely monitor the logic used in presenting EC as a finished theory of cognition. As an example of another area of relatively recent behavioral study that has yielded rich insights into real-world phenomena, but that uses large masses of testable, verifiable data, and handles the data cleanly and skillfully, I recommend you look at the work of Gerald Wilde and the remarkable hypothesis he has accurately named Risk Homeostasis. Perhaps Wilde's work will trigger speculation on your part as to whether the insights you believe EC offers are useful in looking at Risk Homeostasis. Or it is possible that Wilde will offer an example, a counter-example if you like, of a more rooted, cogent way of evolving and presenting a new viewpoint. Wilde's website is excellent, and his latest, fullest expression of his hypothesis, called Target Risk 3, is available as an easy download from his site. It's riskhomeostasis.org.

Otherwise, I'm finished with this topic herewith.

_____________________________

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 3:26:45
 
Ricardo

Posts: 11220
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

"mathematical species"...maybe new but mathematics none the less. symbols that form equations is the thing.

Found this cool debate about collapsing wave function:
http://youtu.be/GdqC2bVLesQ

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 3:32:09
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to runner

Dedekind's axiomatization of the real numbers imbues them with a property know as "completeness." It insures that when we take a limit according to Cauchy's criterion, we arrive at an answer, not sail into some void among the numbers. Dedekind"s formulation is deceptively simple.

For centuries it had been said a number is rational if it is the quotient of two integers. It was known to the ancient Pythagoreans that the square root of two is not such a number. Reportedly, the penalty for revealing this to a non-Pythagorean was death, but somehow the word leaked out. At any rate the proof is elementary, relying only on fundamental ideas.

Dedekind's formulation began with the rationals, known not to be all the numbers. He observed that the rationals could be divided into "cuts". A cut consisted of segregating the rationals into two sets, S1 and S2, so that every rational was in only one of them, and every member of S1 was less than every member of S2. Sometimes the dividing line would be at some known irrational like pi or the square root of two. Dedekind's contribution was the "creation" of an irrational that corresponded to every cut without a rational dividing point.

In response to Dedekind's "creation" Kronecker said "The integers are the work of God, all else is the work of man."

Dedekind quipped, "Kronecker would say that. Before he was a mathematician, he was a banker."

But this humorous exchange prompts a question. God is less popular in scientific discourse than He was even in the late 19th century. If He didn't create the integers, who or what did? When did they come into existence? Where?

It is at least logically consistent to assert that the integers were created by humans/hominids as they began to count things. According to this they began to exist as concepts in human/hominid brains. Well, not necessarily just hominids. Ethologists have staged experiments that are interpreted to show that crows can count to ten. Even ethologists don't award crows the same rank as human conceptualizers, so they might say that among crows the integers from one to ten evolved.

But we see numerous human cultures that command only a few integers, enough for their needs.

The Greeks regarded infinity as the property of being extendable without a definite limit, but they were reluctant to consider infinite sets or infinite magnitudes as "completed entities." One of Euclid's axioms stated that a line could be extended indefinitely, but nowadays we are largely successful in persuading fifth graders to manipulate lines that are infinite in extent.

Western mathematicians retained the Greek reluctance to deal explicitly with infinite sets well into the 19th century. Cantor set out to deal with Fourier series, but found himself diverted into the study not only of infinite sets, but of different magnitudes of infinity, the set of all the integers belonging to the lowest order of infinity. Most mathematicians have found this to be a comfortable milieu, but the Intuitionists, led by Brouwer, rebelled.

Brouwer and his followers have sunk into relative obscurity, because their prescriptions would have invalidated the proofs of a wide swath of useful mathematical analysis, a price the majority were unwilling to pay.

So, when did the integers come into existence? Were they created by some agency, or are they some sort of natural phenomenon? If a natural phenomenon, where do they reside? Have they existed since the Big Bang? Or did they condense out of the plasma before the coalescence of hydrogen atoms liberated the cosmic background radiation-- or did they originate only with the seeding of the first galaxies by the aggregation of dark matter? And so on...

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 4:37:19
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

But this is not really true...it only SEEMS like it is because we are very big observers.

It is true. A great example is the study of bacteria. One needs light in order to observe the bacteria but the bacteria, unfortunately, are affected by the light. In other words, our perceptual make-up doesn't allow for us to observe it in its natural state so we create an "objective" experiment in order to study it.

Another example is in the study of animal behavior. Animals behave much differently in captivity than they do in their natural habitat. So much so that many biologists are trying to study them in their natural environments now. This is also problematic.
quote:

What I see is physics + philosophy or mysticism= pseudoscience. physics+math or logic=reality. The only problem occurs when abstract high maths lead to non testable physics predictions. Like strings. It can almost be considered more like philosophy at this point. Basically, a worthless model...as interesting as it is.

Wow. Physics + philosophy = pseudoscience? The physics and math of gravity is not reality. It is a model that attempts to explain the reality of gravity. But none of this is what I am talking about. https://books.google.com/books?id=41-oo70ohokC&printsec=frontcover&dq=buddhism+and+science&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JDsbVeaBCIW-ggT-_4OQCA&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=buddhism%20and%20science&f=false
This book has some interesting things to say about the topic. The chapter that begins on page 285 is what I have in mind but the other chapters are great too. Capra's book might be outdated but the conversations are not.
Thanks for the video. I love Brian Green's charisma and his desire to communicate to the layperson.

Runner: Thank you. Unfortunately there comes a point when you have to quit reading and write. I was at that point long ago. My dissertation is on music theory but I had to defend my position concerning the validity and ethics of cross cultural appropriation/acculturation. Anthropologists have tended to argue that to "go native" or to "seek the aesthetic experience for oneself" is both unobjective and ethically suspect.

_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 5:41:35
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 2849
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Kevin

quote:

Anthropologists have tended to argue that to "go native" or to "seek the aesthetic experience for oneself" is both unobjective and ethically suspect.


That still holds among mainstream anthropologists. My wife is a Medical Anthropologist, and the necessity of maintaining an appropriate "distance" between subject and object was, and still is, paramount in conducting studies. I think there are some (what one might call "post-modern") anthropologists today who are trying to break that divide down. I'm not sure how their studies will be affected, but it seems to me there is a danger of losing objectivity.

I share your enthusiasm for Brian Greene, Kevin. I have both his books, "The Elegant Universe," and "The Fabric of the Cosmos," and refer to them often, particularly in discussions along the lines of this thread. He presents concepts in understandable language for the layman.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 13:54:52
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Ricardo

Thanks for the video, Ricardo. It was very interesting. Each of the panel members had some telling points to make.

Three of the panelists had in common an insistence on the physical reality of the wavefunction. As I said earlier, I believe we are all pretty much objectivists by the age of three. In western culture objectivism isn't challenged very much. Ask an electronics engineer whether electrons exist in the objectivist sense, and he or she is likely to start talking about how transistors or vacuum tubes work, with objective electrons playing the leading role.

In Bali and rural Java, it seems to me, objectivism is challenged from an early age. Supernatural creatures frequently enter the realm of human action and perception, to an extent unheard of even in Texas.

Mathematicians are generally more accustomed to conceptual structures with no assumed physical reality. Plato knew very well the difference between a ball and a mathematical sphere. I'm not up on Q-bism (but I mean to find out more about it). As one (no doubt small) part of Q-bism, I find it much easier than the other three panelists did to accept the idea of the wavefunction as just a mathematical tool, rather than something with objective physical existence.

I have a quibble with Schack in what I heard as his description of Bayesian probabilities as quantified personal belief. Bayesian probability calculation figure strongly in radar detection theory, decision theory in automated battle management, many other fields I have worked in, and a very large number of fields with which I have only a nodding acquaintance. In every case where I have employed them, the objective has been to minimize the expected number of mistaken actions ( = maximize the expected number of correct actions) where the decision is based on partial or ambiguous information, in a very concrete sense. There is experimental proof that the strategies worked.

But people have been arguing over the meaning of "probability" for at least the last century.

Viewing the wave function as simply a mathematical tool is second nature to someone with a background like mine.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 18:29:19
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 2849
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

In Bali and rural Java, it seems to me, objectivism is challenged from an early age. Supernatural creatures frequently enter the realm of human action and perception


Very true, and probably the reason there have been no cutting edge discoveries in physics made by Javanese and Balinese physicists. (If there are any Balinese physicists. I have met Javanese physicists, but I've never met one who was Balinese.) The Western development and employment of the scientific method requires a more objective approach than that found in Javanese and Balinese cultures, both of which are heavily laden with the supernatural.

And yet, growing up in an Eastern culture such as that found in Java and Bali need not inhibit one from developing and employing Western science and producing top-notch work. An example is India. There are few religions as subjectively supernatural as Hinduism. Just think of the various gods that inhabit the Hindu World--Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, and the truly frightening Kali--and the various means employed to propitiate them. Nevertheless, India punches above its weight in producing top-of-the-line physicists. Indian physicists teach at top U.S. universities, and they receive appointments all over the world. In fact, there is a strata of Indian physicists (and other scientists) who seem to exist solely on post-doc fellowships at leading universities from UCLA to Gottingen and Stockholm.

In my opinion, culture is the determining factor in how one views the world. Nevertheless, one can compartmentalize culture, given the desire and will to do so, and adopt a completely different approach than one inherited from one's culture. There are Indians who go to their Hindu temple to propitiate their gods in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, and then they go to the lab and conduct their experiments with every bit of the objectivity required, as if they were born to it.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 1 2015 20:23:43
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to BarkellWH

quote:

In my opinion, culture is the determining factor in how one views the world. Nevertheless, one can compartmentalize culture, given the desire and will to do so, and adopt a completely different approach than one inherited from one's culture.

Varela calls that enaction. There is no ready made world ready to be received; individual (organism) and environment (society, culture [material and ideational]) coevolve and coadapt. Although Varela was working within biology and he was particularly focused on human cognition, he notes that an understanding of knowledge, epistemology, out to be looked for not in the individual mind, nor in society, nor in culture, but at their locus.

Bill, I am not accusing you but it seems to still be trendy for members of the "West" to continue to disparage the "East" by relying on a grand narrative. The scientific revolution and the enlightenment, however, would most likely never have occurred had it not been for the Muslim "House of knowledge" that first translated, then expounded upon Greek knowledge. Arabs were the first in algebra and even anatomy of the human body but the West likes to paint the East in broad strokes and pretend that it created modern science. We all know that we all stand on the shoulders of giants and it seems to me that the Muslim house of knowledge is kind of like the first Renaissance, without which the European Renaissance would not have occurred. Although we cannot mistake life under Muslim rule in Spain as democracy, it was quite accepting of dhimmi ("the people of the book").

I am not sure who tried to hustle the East but my vote goes to the people to the east of The East.

quote:

That still holds among mainstream anthropologists. My wife is a Medical Anthropologist, and the necessity of maintaining an appropriate "distance" between subject and object was, and still is, paramount in conducting studies. I think there are some (what one might call "post-modern") anthropologists today who are trying to break that divide down. I'm not sure how their studies will be affected, but it seems to me there is a danger of losing objectivity.

I know all too well. It is problematic in ethnomusicology because ethnomusicologists are invested in becoming what Kaemmer calls ethnomusicians. I would just call us musicians (maybe qualified by 'cross-cultural"). Can we be objective? Are we privileging one type of knowledge over another if we pretend to objectivity? These are not postmodernist questions to me. They resonate with postmodern but I see them as enactive/enaction questions.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 2 2015 0:06:20
 
Estevan

Posts: 1846
Joined: Dec. 20 2006
From: Torontolucía

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

It is debatable whether we are born objectivists, but I believe normally developing humans have at least become objectivists around the age of three years. It is only later that we begin to entertain other philosophies.

In the news today - ("Coincidence"? I think not! ):

"Researchers have discovered that infants less than a year old become more interested in objects that do seemingly impossible things, like pass through a solid wall or become suspended in mid-air with no visible means of support."
Babies are born with a grasp of physics, researchers claim

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 2 2015 21:47:40
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to BarkellWH

quote:

ORIGINAL: BarkellWH

quote:

In Bali and rural Java, it seems to me, objectivism is challenged from an early age. Supernatural creatures frequently enter the realm of human action and perception


Very true, and probably the reason there have been no cutting edge discoveries in physics made by Javanese and Balinese physicists. (If there are any Balinese physicists. I have met Javanese physicists, but I've never met one who was Balinese.) The Western development and employment of the scientific method requires a more objective approach than that found in Javanese and Balinese cultures, both of which are heavily laden with the supernatural.

And yet, growing up in an Eastern culture such as that found in Java and Bali need not inhibit one from developing and employing Western science and producing top-notch work. An example is India. There are few religions as subjectively supernatural as Hinduism. Just think of the various gods that inhabit the Hindu World--Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, and the truly frightening Kali--and the various means employed to propitiate them. Nevertheless, India punches above its weight in producing top-of-the-line physicists. Indian physicists teach at top U.S. universities, and they receive appointments all over the world. In fact, there is a strata of Indian physicists (and other scientists) who seem to exist solely on post-doc fellowships at leading universities from UCLA to Gottingen and Stockholm.

Bill


I think we are near to using the same word in different senses, but we didn't use exactly the same word. I said "objectivist", you said "objective." What I meant by "objectivist" was that things remain intact and retain their identity from time to time, even when we aren't watching them.

When I was in Bali last July it seemed to me that the pervasive influence of the supernatural was beginning to fade a bit among the younger generation. But maybe they have just learned that western tourists are unlikely to share their views. The few times I brought up some of the old stories, they knew what I was talking about.

For my use of the word, the Balinese are still objectivists, despite their extensive pantheon of Hindu deities and the added local delegation of leyaks, calonarongs, and so on.They believe these supernatural beings not only exist from time to time, but that they exist continuously and retain their identity, even during their frequent bouts of invisibility.

This philosophical position would not trouble a physicist in the least, except possibly for Bohr and Heisenberg. What would trouble the physicist would be the proliferation of occult agents.

In physics occult agents have been replaced by force fields. They are neither as capricious nor as colorful as the supernatural residents of Bali, who display versions of human personalities, though sometimes in baroque distortion. At bottom the force fields are somewhat more inscrutable. Though they must obey strict sets of of mathematical laws, the force fields are capable of marvelously complex effects.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 2:51:09
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

I think we are near to using the same word in different senses, but we didn't use exactly the same word. I said "objectivist", you said "objective." What I meant by "objectivist" was that things remain intact and retain their identity from time to time, even when we aren't watching them.


What does "retain...from time to time" mean? Are you familiar with the problem of Theseus' ship? Or of Abe Lincoln's axe, or of Heraclitus' river.

Gravity might objectively exist (it is still relative to the mass and distance of bodies) but our understanding of it changes. Newton was a mind equipped to understand it and it took two hundred years for the next great mind, Einstein, to grasp it. They constructed ways of understanding. Physics is not universal law, it is the finger pointing at universal law, at best pointing in the right direction.


The problem of objectivity is compounded in the social sciences because there are no universal socio-cultural laws.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 3:22:26
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Kevin

quote:

ORIGINAL: Kevin

quote:

I think we are near to using the same word in different senses, but we didn't use exactly the same word. I said "objectivist", you said "objective." What I meant by "objectivist" was that things remain intact and retain their identity from time to time, even when we aren't watching them.


What does "retain...from time to time" mean? Are you familiar with the problem of Theseus' ship? Or of Abe Lincoln's axe, or of Heraclitus' river.



I mean that if I asked an old time Balinese, "Was this the same Rangda (the arch-witch) who broke into the village in your grandfather's day?" or if I had asked my three-year old daughter, "is this the same cat you played with yesterday?", both would have answered, "Yes."

And if I asked the Balinese, "Must you still guard the children against Rangda?" he would have said "Yes," though she had not attacked the village within living memory. And if I asked my daughter, "Where did the cat sleep last night?" she would have said,"In the laundry room."

"Did you see her sleeping there?"

"No. That's where she always sleeps."

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 13:55:32
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

A potential problem with the objectivist position was pointed out by R.L. Moore on the first day of his first year graduate course in topology. He would say, "The undefined terms will be 'point' and 'region'. They will be undefined, but with the understanding that the terms mean something. Now, you may not think it a very strong condition on a word that it should mean something." Placing a hand on top of the desk where he was seated, in his elegant blue suit, brilliantly polished shoes, immaculately starched and ironed white shirt and tasteful necktie, he asked, "Mr. X, what is this?" Moore always proceeded in Socratic fashion.

Mr. X replied, "It's a desk, Dr. Moore."

Moore removed the drawers and stacked them in the corner. "What is it now, Mr. X?"

"It's still a desk."

Indicating a small corner of the desk, with a sawing motion, Moore asked, "And if I were to saw off this corner, what would this be?" indicating the larger remainder.

"It would still be a desk, sir."

Moore figuratively sawed off more and more, while Mr. X stuck to the description of the larger remainder as a desk, though he could see where it was headed.

Finally when Moore pretended to saw the desk in half, Mr. X changed his answer to, "It's half a desk, sir."

Moore moved his imaginary saw a sixteenth of an inch to the left. When questioned, Mr. X paused for a while.

Before Mr. X answered, Moore said, "Do you think the word 'desk' means something, Mr. X?"

Mr. X replied, "I have my doubts."

"Thank you Mr. X. As I said, we require that 'point' and 'region' mean something."

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 14:56:37
 
Brendan

Posts: 171
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

There is a summary of Moore's life and work in chapter 8 of Reuben Hersh & Vera John-Steiner's Loving and Hating Mathematics (2011, Princeton UP). http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9283.html

If you've read it, Richard, I'd like to hear your reaction to it. Incidentally, it seems that Israel Gelfand ran his seminar in a similar style.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 16:50:48
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3751
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Dudnote

quote:

ORIGINAL: Dudnote

I'm no physicist, but I've been told by a friend who has studied quantum physics that the Dalai Lama's "The Universe In A Single Atom" is very good.


I have great sympathy for Buddha´s discovery of internal focus and the usefulness of it, but do have serious doubts on philosophical skills of buddhist monks.

What the Dalai Lama is concerned, his statement that things were only there as long as you watch them / disappearing when you turn away, shall serve as an example for my skeptisism, as well as his book for guideline to managers, where he exhibits not to be knowing about elementar economics. (Too bad his office didn´t reply to my explicite pointer. I would had been interested to see what he could be saying.)
-

In regard of neuroscience, I asked a German professor of neuronal psychology about the similarities of brain and gut cells in early February this year, and he said to have no idea.

I suppose that even the sub-categories of todays scientific subjects might have grown too extensive for single individuals to broadly overlook them in detail.
-

With respect to religious individuals in science, to my impression they can only stay believer for entering scientific matters in discrete and shallow ways (commonly having passed their exams through learning by heart / with little of cognitive processing). I suspect none of them to have come to a discovering / relevant position without making their own of accomplishments of colleagues.
Partiality just is the counter of impartiality needed for true scientific work. A religious as natural scientist or philosopher being a contradiction in itself. The more with the challenge of modern fields.

Investigative and coherent mindset needs all of its computing at hand, can´t do with superstitious and predetermining milestones around the neck.

Ruphus
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 17:00:43
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Of course the analogy of Theseus's ship applies precisely to Sugar the cat. Overnight many of her cells were replaced with new ones. But all of us still considered her to be the same cat. At age three my daughter was unaware of Sugar's gradual metamorphosis, but at least by age 13 she knew of it. Sugar lived to a somnolent and dignified old age, very different from the antic kitten whom we knew since birth. The change was gradual enough, and after she was gone we still reminisced about Sugar, though sometimes adding, "When she was a kitten" or "when she was older."

Rangda, belonging to the supernatural realm, theoretically suffered no temporal alteration. But she has no doubt been affected by the vagaries of human imagination.

Questioned closely we would have said Sugar was materially different, but to us she was the same cat.

One might consider that a deep running current in "natural philosophy" and physics, as it was later called, was the search for something to which the objectivist attitude could safely be applied. Democritus posited atoms as fundamental unchanging particles.The 19th century chemists and Lord Kelvin reported evidence that he was right, as long as you suitably modified the meaning of "atom".

Then electrons and other "elementary particles" began to be seen.

Nowadays at CERN protons, smashed together near the speed of light, result in a veritable zoo of particles, most of which "decay" within microseconds into other species. We are further from objectivity than Democritus was at the beginning of the hunt.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 18:07:30
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Brendan

quote:

ORIGINAL: Brendan

There is a summary of Moore's life and work in chapter 8 of Reuben Hersh & Vera John-Steiner's Loving and Hating Mathematics (2011, Princeton UP). http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9283.html

If you've read it, Richard, I'd like to hear your reaction to it. Incidentally, it seems that Israel Gelfand ran his seminar in a similar style.


Rather than derail this thread, I think I will reply in a new thread, after I have re-read Hersh and Steiner a couple of times.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 19:41:20
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

Rather than derail this thread, I think I will reply in a new thread, after I have re-read Hersh and Steiner a couple of times.

I don't mind. I have skimmed through several texts that have been mentioned on this thread. Unfortunately I cannot read them all right now, but some of them are now on my reading list.
Although I am interested in the "perplexity" of the subject/object dichotomy and what physics and philosophy can (and can't?) tell us about it, I also like physics and philosophy for physics' and philosophy's sake. (By the way, if one is interested Thomas Nagel's View From Nowhere is an inquiry into the limitations of the concepts of subjectivity and objectivity.)

quote:

What the Dalai Lama is concerned, his statement that things were only there as long as you watch them / disappearing when you turn away, shall serve as an example for my skeptisism

That is actually a verys simplistic summary of his position. You have to understand the concept of sunyata (emptiness) in Buddhism. That will contextualize his position. Things don't disappear, but they do disappear from your experiential perception of them (as opposed to a signative or imaginative perception as in phenomenology).

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 3 2015 20:23:17
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to BarkellWH

A different spin on subjectivity/objectivity. Are we really a hologram? Is there a 2D reality at the edge of our universe projecting our 3D reality? That would be weird. There are a few things mentioned about objectivity.

Leonard Susskind is also a very interesting physicist.

From the description:
Raphael Bousso is recognized for discovering the general relation between the curved geometry of space-time and its information content, known as the "covariant entropy bound." This allowed for a precise and general formulation of the holographic principle, which is believed to underlie the unification of quantum theory and Einstein's theory of gravity. Bousso is also one of the discoverers of the landscape of string theory, which explains the small but non-vanishing value of the cosmological constant (or "dark energy"). His work has led to a novel view of cosmology, the multiverse of string theory. Bousso is currently professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 5 2015 17:23:58
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 2849
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Kevin

quote:

A different spin on subjectivity/objectivity. Are we really a hologram? Is there a 2D reality at the edge of our universe projecting our 3D reality?


Just returned from spending several days at a friend's place in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Relaxing, reading, walks along the shore, playing a little guitar; but no cell phone, no laptop, and no internet. Felt great to be incommunicado! But always good to return to the Foro community.

To take your idea in a different direction, Kevin, consider the possibility that we are being dreamed by a being who, having dreamt us, imposes us on reality. This is the theme of one of Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges's finest short stories entitled, "The Circular Ruins." I have mentioned before that Borges is one of my favorite authors. His stories, which center on appearance vs. reality, the doppelganger, mirrors, labyrinths, infinite libraries, alephs, as well as gauchos and knifefighters, are a real treat. I re-read them about every six or seven years and enjoy them as much as I did the first time, many years ago. If I had one book to take with me alone on a desert island (to accompany my one album of Sabicas's "Flamenco Puro,") it would be the collected works of Jorge Luis Borges.

I will not provide a synopsis of "The Circular Ruins," since if you have not read it, you are in for a treat I do not want to spoil. But if you have not read Borges, once you read "The Circular Ruins" you will look forward to reading the rest of his work. This is veering away from physics, but our discussion has encompassed the world of metaphysics (both Western and Eastern) as much as it has physics.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 6 2015 12:13:18
 
runner

 

Posts: 350
Joined: Dec. 5 2008
From: New Jersey USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to BarkellWH

Robert Heinlein, 1941: www.unz.org/Pub/Unknown-1941apr-00084. They, eleven pages.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 6 2015 14:14:42
 
Ricardo

Posts: 11220
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Kevin

quote:

ORIGINAL: Kevin

A different spin on subjectivity/objectivity. Are we really a hologram? Is there a 2D reality at the edge of our universe projecting our 3D reality? That would be weird. There are a few things mentioned about objectivity.

Leonard Susskind is also a very interesting physicist.

From the description:
Raphael Bousso is recognized for discovering the general relation between the curved geometry of space-time and its information content, known as the "covariant entropy bound." This allowed for a precise and general formulation of the holographic principle, which is believed to underlie the unification of quantum theory and Einstein's theory of gravity. Bousso is also one of the discoverers of the landscape of string theory, which explains the small but non-vanishing value of the cosmological constant (or "dark energy"). His work has led to a novel view of cosmology, the multiverse of string theory. Bousso is currently professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.


yet another incomplete model...though I think we could rule it out if we could simply view an event horizon of a black hole up close. One day.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 7 2015 18:36:04
 
Kevin

 

Posts: 294
Joined: Sep. 7 2008
 

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to BarkellWH

quote:

I have mentioned before that Borges is one of my favorite authors. His stories, which center on appearance vs. reality, the doppelganger, mirrors, labyrinths, infinite libraries, alephs, as well as gauchos and knifefighters, are a real treat. I re-read them about every six or seven years and enjoy them as much as I did the first time, many years ago. If I had one book to take with me alone on a desert island (to accompany my one album of Sabicas's "Flamenco Puro,") it would be the collected works of Jorge Luis Borges.

Mine too. On the Rigors of Science is a great piece. It describes perfectly how I feel about knowledge. The objective reality might be out there but we are all observing parts of the map, however real the map might be.

Ricardo: I like that Susskind and others are challenging Hawking. Although Hawking is a brilliant mind, sometimes it is too easy to follow someone just because they are a great mind, not because their ideas are exceptional. What if this were to turn out to be true. Then the metaphysical question would be: "What is responsible for the hologram?"

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 8 2015 1:00:46
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2637
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: The Tao of Physics (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

ORIGINAL: Richard Jernigan

quote:

ORIGINAL: Brendan

There is a summary of Moore's life and work in chapter 8 of Reuben Hersh & Vera John-Steiner's Loving and Hating Mathematics (2011, Princeton UP). http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9283.html

If you've read it, Richard, I'd like to hear your reaction to it. Incidentally, it seems that Israel Gelfand ran his seminar in a similar style.


Rather than derail this thread, I think I will reply in a new thread, after I have re-read Hersh and Steiner a couple of times.

RNJ


Since your interest in Moore appears to be professional, my response is fairly long. I have sent it to your email address. In the off chance that anyone else has gone to the trouble of reading Hersh and John-Steiner, here is my last paragraph:

"A number of my friends and acquaintances were among the sources for Parker's biography of Moore, published by the Mathematical Association of America. I found the book informative, and from my perspective, balanced. My first impression of Hersh and Johnson-Steiner was that it is unduly negative."

RNJ

...but the email bounced. Brendan, send me a private message on the foro if you are interested in a 2 1/2 page response to Hersh and Johnson-Steiner.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 8 2015 20:54:25
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