Predicting Uncertainty

Predicting Uncertainty
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It’s impossible to know what might have been.  It’s just as impossible to know what lies ahead.  I just finished reading a biography of Albert Einstein (Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson, 2007).  It struck me that Einstein wanted to believe in a universe that could be predicted, if only we knew the hidden laws.  He thus believed in predestination, insisting that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”  He wanted to believe in strict cause and effect. 

 

In this regard, Einstein ran up against, and spent the latter part of his life, trying to refute the implications of his own 1905 paper on the “photoelectric effect” which won the Nobel Prize in 1922.  He relied on the work of Max Planck, who in 1900 had come up with an equation that described the curve of radiation wavelengths at each temperature.  This required the use of a constant (now called Planck’s constant) that accounted for the sudden shift in wavelengths of light emitted by metal at different temperatures.  Planck believed these “quanta” were not properties of the light itself, but of the interaction between matter and light.  It was Einstein who suggested these “quanta” were properties of the light itself.  Thus he and Planck laid the foundations for quantum mechanics, but neither was comfortable with the fact that their ideas undermined the Newtonian concepts of strict causality and certainty they cherished.

 

Based on these beginnings, the rising physicists of “quantum mechanics,” like Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, recognizing that light demonstrated the dualistic qualities of particles or waves, refuted age old ideas of an objective reality, existing apart from the observer.  They began to think in terms of probabilities.  Heisenberg developed his “uncertainty principle” in 1927.  This asserted that it is impossible to know the exact position and momentum of a particle, such as an electron, at the same time.  Knowing the precise location precludes certain knowledge of the momentum, and vice versa.

 

Quantum mechanics expanded the world of physics far beyond Isaac Newton’s absolute, objective universe, based on observable laws. But throughout his life, Albert Einstein resisted the vagueness of non-absolutes, even though he made his own contributions to quantum physics.  Einstein’s stubborn desire for predictability, which is the ostensible goal of science, for some people, could not adapt to the uncertainty of probabilities.  As another early quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, might explain, the wave function of probabilities exists until an actual event is observed, at which point the probability wave collapses and the probability of the event’s occurrence becomes 100%.  Linked with this is the idea that the observer cannot be objective but must be considered a participant in the event.

 

That the observer necessarily affects the experiment is an integral component of quantum physics, but the principle has more general implications, too.  Books like The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975), or The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Gary Zukav, 1979), describe how modern physics parallels the beliefs of Oriental mystics.  As noted in The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the Chinese term for “physics” is “wu li,” which means “patterns of organic energy.”  This relates to the pervasive quality of “qi,” sometimes described as “life force,” or “vital energy,” which is said to permeate the cosmos, including all matter and non-matter.  The idea of ‘qi” is ignored in Western thinking, as if life exists apart from science or medicine. 

 

Western science presumes to disconnect life from the mechanical universe we assume, but this is a relatively modern development.  Astronomy grew out of astrology and chemistry grew from alchemy, ancient belief systems that gave life to the heavens and to earthly minerals.  The search for cosmic laws or the language of the gods is as old as man’s awareness of the sun, moon, the planets and constellations, and their mysterious cycles.  All these have been used to make predictions.  The seer, the fortune teller, the prognosticator--these are as powerful as ever.  Modern superstition confers blessings on the predictors of weather, stock market, politics, or football games, as well as on the climate changers and the Apocalyptic soothsayers of the twenty-first century.

 

From a quantum mechanics point of view, however, it might be said that nothing can be predicted with certainty.  We only can assess probabilities and can’t know all the contingencies that affect events.  There is no objective reality, no ultimate outcome, no absolute end-point.  Time is endless.  There is only process, and no one knows where it will lead.  The possibilities are infinite.

 

 

Comments

Gerrilea Added Feb 12, 2019 - 12:19am
Katharine O--- What great synopsis and final statement:
There is no objective reality, no ultimate outcome, no absolute end-point.  Time is endless.  There is only process, and no one knows where it will lead.  The possibilities are infinite.
 
So, if I slap myself in the face, it's just an illusion?  (insert short pause)  Ouch, but it feels real. Dagnabbit!
 
Where I think we've been led astray, our math is not a perfect representation of reality.  Heck, 2 examples stick out, "the big bang" and "black holes".  We spot our esteemed astrophysics, quantum physicists et al one miracle and they said they could explain the rest. Now they want us to grant them another miracle, that of 'black holes".  Where their math cannot explain.
 
It is true that those mathematical representations have led to the discovery of many things.  But just because something is possible does not mean it will manifest into reality.
 
I found your conclusion that all we have is "the process" , interesting. No beginning or end, just endless change (time).
 
But, if you're asking for a prediction of future events, here's my stab in the dark.  I see myself, walking upstairs and going to bed very very soon.  Wait, does a "self-fulfilling" prophecy count???
 
ROFL.
 
Honestly, I believe we only have this moment.  Sooner or later our atoms will be recycled into a gas giant or sun or another conscience & self-reflective life form asking similar questions.
 
What gives me hope, we still cannot define where/what our conscience actually is. Does it transcend "space/time"? Does it exist within me and outside of me? If I perceive something in my mind, does that make it real? Would it still exist if I didn't perceive it?
 
I don't recall any mathematical models that can explain "quantum entanglement", Einstein's, "spooky action at a distance"
 
Boy have we got a long way to go.
 
:)
Spartacus Added Feb 12, 2019 - 12:48am
Good summary Katharine.
 
Time is endless.
 
Time is a weird thing.  Time is a thing we use to define causality.  
It is not endless, actually.
If you wish to explore this further, I suggest reviewing Einstein's General Relatively theory and his Special Relativity theory.  Basically, what SR says is that time is relative depending on your velocity relative to another (see time dilation).
 
What time dilation tells us is that if you are a photon traveling at the speed of light, the rest of the universe's time passes infinitely short (actually, one click of a Plank-time).  In other words, time does not exist for a photon and the universe's time is finite.  The implications of this are profound. We live in a finite universe in a finite "time" and the universe ends. 
 
I'm a proponent that believes the word "infinite" is only an artifact of the logical language we have created -- math.  "Infinite" does not exist in reality -- only in mathematics.  You would be surprised at how many scholars confuse math with reality.  They are not the same.  We can have paradoxes in math but can never have a paradox in reality because a paradox would destroy the universe.  That is why the word "infinite" must be used very carefully.
 
Sorry, long-winded.  Good article.  Thanks
 
Leroy Added Feb 12, 2019 - 5:55am
Excellent article, Katharine.  It is the source of an argument between Spartacus and me sometime back.  I take the side of Einstein.  He lost the debate in the view of other scientists.   It doesn't mean that he was wrong or even likely wrong, just that the current thinking today disagrees.  I may be wrong, but at least I am in good company.
Spartacus Added Feb 12, 2019 - 6:13am
Leroy, you could be right that the universe is 100% determinate.  There could be some logic or natural law that explains what we think is random but is completely rational without uncertainty.  We only think it is random because we do not know the underlying physics.  You could be right.  However, we have not seen any evidence of that physics.  That is it.
I do think the universe is determinate in that the definitions for the shape and properties of the universe existed before the big bang.  I am sure there is a reason for this uniformity and consistency.  There is a purpose.  I don't know what that is and  I do not think the universe appeared from a random event.  
Maybe we can compromise.
Ward Tipton Added Feb 12, 2019 - 7:24am
So the only thing we can be certain of is that we cannot be certain of anything? 
 
The difficulties I have ... most notably in English ... is the definition of time. As a unit of measure for carbon decay, it is fixed. However, there are anywhere from 24 definitions and up of time in some more advanced or complete dictionaries. Light also comes into play as it is a complex combination of both matter and energy, and since it is subject to gravitation, cannot be a constant ... indeed we have seen where we can slow down the progress of light to the point that it is visible to and perceived by the naked eye and we have also seen experiments in Princeton conducted by Michiu Kaku where a laser was shot through a hermetically sealed vacuum tube so quickly that it exited the tube before it entered ... in short, it was shot through faster than the speed of light ... so the human perception relative to their view was that it exited before it entered ... but had it? If it had not yet entered, how could it have exited? 
 
If ever I am rich and retired, my camper trailer will be full of these books. 
 
 
George N Romey Added Feb 12, 2019 - 7:56am
The problem I see Katharine is that technology now has everything driven on "data."  It's assumed that "data" is always superior to human intuition, experience and critical thinking.  So people ignore the changing world around them.  Data can only look back, it can't look in the future and neither can it consider externalities.  In other words, it's assumed the "unknown" will never surface because my data says so.
 
As a result we have our "official leaders" clueless to the world around them.  The economy must be on fire because the job market is hot.  But go around the country and you soon see that those "hot jobs" usually pay less than $13 an hour.  Of course, politicians, lobbyists and think tank writers don't know anyone of that economic class, don't care to know and want to pretend everyone must be pulling down $100K a year because the spreadsheet said the job market is "hot."
 
You would think that our leaders think everyone now lives like George Jetson.  
Jeffry Gilbert Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:06am
The only useful applications of time to this sailor are for navigation and the payment for overtime. :)
 
And thank you for the bug in the ear about Stranger in a strange land. I'm rereading it for the first time since I was a teenager.and enjoying the experience greatly. 
Leroy Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:26am
"Maybe we can compromise."
 
Reasonable people can reach a common understanding.  As long as we both agree that the science is not settled and keep an open mind as the science advances, that is all that is required.  I will never take the position that I am right and you are wrong.
Even A Broken Clock Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:50am
All right, Katharine. From Einstein through quantum and onto the infinite lightness of being, all in one post. Very good.
 
My favorite class in college was modern physics, which provided both special relativity and quantum physics. But let me just say that the math for general relativity and quantum once you got into the details was beyond me.
 
As for the meaning of it all? It is what it is.
Ward Tipton Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:00am
"As for the meaning of it all? It is what it is."
 
Now if we could just figure out what the question was. 
Stone-Eater Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:06am
Katharine
 
Excellent article once more.
 
There is no objective reality, no ultimate outcome, no absolute end-point.  Time is endless.
 
Of course not. All is subjective. Objectivity would mean that I could see and judge things from OUTSIDE of myself, which is not possible...time is not endless on our planet. It started when our planet was born and will stop when our planet dies - OUR time.
 
But different "times" exist all over the universe where movement happens. On another planet another "time" is measured. So in fact - we are not objectively capable to tell if the universe is 13 billion years old, can we ? Because we measure in OUR time, not in another....we measure in light years for distances, in Astronomical Units etc. But we do have restricted senses, despite all the technology we developed and still do.
 
Might sound strange, but how can we say that the universe has a beginning and an end, when time depends on so many factors ? We can not. We simply assume. And why ?
 
Because we have a finite life span and can't think outside that box, means, we can't imagine that something has no beginning and no end.
 
But do we HAVE TO be able to imagine that ? No. We can simply accept it, and the fact, that an ant doesn't know how to program software ;-)
Stone-Eater Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:14am
BTW:
 
That's exactly why god was created. Because god is the beginning of time. Man needs fixed points to get through life. And an interesting psychological fact is that man accepts that he is born "out of nowhere" - gets conscious - and he doesn't want to lose that conscious existence. So he invents paradise where he keeps on "living" in a heaven....
 
....but I like the title of the article. Predicting Uncertainty. Sounds like an oxymoron to me.
Dino Manalis Added Feb 12, 2019 - 11:04am
 Uncertainty brings insecurity and volatility, while certainty creates confidence; happiness; and better economic and political conditions.
John Minehan Added Feb 12, 2019 - 11:40am
Have you read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Incerto?
 
The World is probabilistic . .  . but uncertainty is not unmanageable. 
Unrepentant Added Feb 12, 2019 - 12:01pm
There is no reality, there is only phenomena.
opher goodwin Added Feb 12, 2019 - 1:24pm
I like infinite possibility and the idea that reality doesn't exit.
Those are ideas that go into my Sci-fi novels. All grist to the mill.
George N Romey Added Feb 12, 2019 - 3:13pm
Scientists now estimate there are at least 200 billion galaxies with trillions of planets.  Chances are some much more intelligent form of life created man for their entertainment purposes.  Kinda of like reality tv for aliens. 
Doug Plumb Added Feb 12, 2019 - 5:05pm
All science can ever hope to do is make people more comfortable, it can never lead to truth in any absolute sense because it is based on observation.
  Scientific models are artistic interpretations of the equations. There is no reason to think these models couldn't completely crumble in light of a new experiment. Contradictions happen, no one looks at them or thinks about them. They make people uncomfortable.
  The two capacitor paradox is an example and it cannot be resolved, it's two hundred years old.
 
  The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle does not negate the notion that we live in a deterministic universe, only exposes our inability to understand it, but the scientific method itself shows us that science cannot lead us to truth.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 12, 2019 - 5:06pm
The uncertainty destroys situational ethics.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 12, 2019 - 5:06pm
...outcome based ethics.
Logical Man Added Feb 12, 2019 - 7:01pm
If spacetime is a 4 dimensional entity where all 4 are equivalent in effect then everything is in there and we just experience the time dimension differently than the other 3, where we have at least a little control of our position in them.
It would appear that thermodynamics has something to do with this.
 
Logical Man Added Feb 12, 2019 - 7:10pm
Doug, the paradox to which you refer has a major flaw in its proposal.
With wires of non-zero length - the most common kind - you'd have an antenna and oscillations in the circuit would transmit energy away.
 
The Owl Added Feb 12, 2019 - 7:14pm
This is from an excellent essay on Quora written by name="__w2_wvRBv8xN32_name_link">Tiberiu Tesileanu, Tiberiu Teileanu on chaos theory and the difference between chaotic and random behavior.
 
"...
Unpredictability
It is important to not confuse randomness with unpredictability. Random behavior is not predictable in a strict sense (one can't make perfect predictions), but it can be predictable to a high degree of accuracy (like in the case of the random walk I wrote about earlier). Conversely, unpredictability can be due to randomness (like target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">the inability to predict exactly when a radioactive decay will take place), but in most cases it's simply due to our inability to measure the initial state of a system accurately enough and follow it through accurately enough (like in the case of target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">weather forecasting or trying to predict where a drop of water will fall from a wave splashing against the shore [this is an example due to Feynman that I can't find a reference to right now])....
Logical Man Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:11pm
Owl, you mention a certain Mr. Feynman.
Not only a remarkable scientist, but a remarkable human being too.
Quantum Electrodynamics, for which he got the Nobel Prize, pretty much describes the physics underlying everything we experience to an incredible level of precision.
Don Allen Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:21pm
Issacson's book was an excellent account of one of the world's greatest geniuses.  He used thought experiments, some data, but a lot of pure critique.  Like other geniuses, he made his break-though(s) and then could not further adapt to the next steps. Even Newton did this, never explaining gravity beyond the equation, and simply accepting it. "It's there." Action at a distance is most troublesome.  Only now are some models to understand this in play.  Book is very well written and the review above is great.
The Owl Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:22pm
That was the author that mentioned Feynman...
 
There was a scientist...Brilliant...Absolutely BRILLIANT !
 
He could also explain things with extraordinary ease.  I attended a lecture he gave once at MIT.  Very understandable and delightfully entertaining.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:23pm
Gerrilea,
Some people might say that subjective reality is the only reality, so if you slap yourself in the face, the sensations would be real to you but may appear as illusion to someone else.
 
As far as the math is concerned, I found myself wondering if those quantum physicists were performing some mental masturbation with all their formulas.  What does math have to do with reality, anyway?
 
As far as predicting your bedtime, that was a probable future for you, but it could have been interrupted, as by an important phone call, emergency, or an impulse to have a snack before going to bed.  It would have altered your probable future, which might have set up a chain of completely unpredictable events.
 
Yes, we have the moment, but many things can grow out of the moment.  The Dancing Wu Li Masters goes into the "Many Worlds Interpretation" (Everett-Wheeler-Graham) of quantum physics.  In this interpretation, choice points cause worlds to split off, with both probabilities continuing in their own realities.  Only one is perceived in the time-space world we know.  I happen to like this interpretation, which is substantiated by Seth in the Seth series by Jane Roberts, a metaphysical interpretation of how things possibly are.
 
I haven't finished reading The Dancing Wu Li Masters yet, but "probably" will have more to say about it at an indeterminate time.
The Owl Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:28pm
Stone Eater has it right...
 
God is a construct to explain the unexplainable.
 
But there are still the metaphysical experiences that more than just a few have that make the construct of a "construct" inoperative.
 
Therein likes God, by whatever name or theory you want to call it.
 
 
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:43pm
Spartacus,
I do want to read Einstein's Relativity:  The Special and the General Theory, which he wrote for laymen.  I understand it is easy enough to understand.  I already have a general grasp of his theories, having studied physics and metaphysics, and indulged in my own speculations about it.  I've come to believe that time is not linear but grows out of itself, as a fetus does.
 
Reading Einstein's biography showed me that although he was a genius for his time, he peaked early and was limited by his own deterministic bias.  That's why he fought the quantum physicists who expanded on his theories.
 
No one has the ultimate answers, although everyone is looking.  We can't prove that time is finite or infinite, but process is tangible.  I'm a fan of the "Many Worlds" interpretation, as I mentioned to Gerrilea above.  What is "right" in this reality may be "wrong" in another, but each has its own validity.  
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 9:52pm
Leroy,
You are in good company, but I wouldn't want too much predictability.  To me, it would seem stagnant and boring.  Einstein's primary complaint with quantum mechanics was that the theories were "not complete."  I theorize that science is never "complete."  If we ever think it is complete, we might stop asking questions.  
 
When it comes to astrophysics, especially, we can only speculate.  In our lifetimes, we are not likely to find much "proof" of our beliefs.  Now we're dealing with "dark energy" and "dark matter," so there are more and more questions, and fewer and fewer answers, even "wrong" ones.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:02pm
Clock,
What is the meaning?  What is the relevance?  As I read, I ask myself what is the practical value of all this?  Well, we have nuclear power and space travel and satellite communications.  Then there's spectroscopy, which you, as a chemist, might have used.  As I read, I thought about how much of modern science we take for granted.  Harnessing of electricity was a big deal, yet we still don't know exactly how electricity works.  
 
What happens to photons when they hit retinas?  These complex interactions and energy transfers are mind boggling.  We don't come close to understanding them.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:04pm
Ward,
Your comment reminds me of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The answer to the meaning of life is forty two.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:14pm
Stone Eater,
Once again, you "grok" my meaning.  I believe it is all subjective, too.  For an "objective reality" to exist, you would have to find a reference point "outside."  I think that's the function God satisfies for some people:  the "objective" reference point.
 
No one can know another person's perspective.  Individual perspective changes with changing focus.  That's why it's hard to establish "truth," I think.  Whose truth?  Today's truth may be tomorrow's history, yesterday's fantasy.
 
A Jupiter year is 12 earth years, so time is indeed relative.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:16pm
Dino,
Maybe that explains why so many people are addicted to predictions.  It gives them a sense of security, even if they are predicting disaster.
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:22pm
Katharine, what a pleasurable read, a nice tour.
 
I forget who, maybe Ulam , once told Einstein "I wish you would stop telling God what to do" when Einstein said
that God does not play dice.  Of course, Enstein was wrong here. Thats ok, he was right alot.
 
I especially like your
"The idea of ‘qi” is ignored in Western thinking, as if life exists apart from science or medicine. "
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:34pm
John Minehan,
No, I haven't read Incerto but just looked Taleb up.  I think we try to impose order on an uncertain world, and a lot of our stress comes from the structures we build around ourselves for protection.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:35pm
Blackface,
That's one way of looking at it.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:37pm
Opher,
Spoken (written) by someone who bubbles over with creative imagination.  Reality exists as a word, if nothing else.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:45pm
George,
David Icke writes about the extraterrestrials who he claims have seeded the earth with their master-race DNA.  Most of the current planetary "leaders" carry this bloodline.  Their mission is to create a slave race of ordinary earthlings.  If I remember Tales from the Time Loop correctly, inter-dimensional beings sap vital energy by tapping into strong emotions and siphoning it into their energy banks.  Their goal is world dominion.  
 
Sort of what you've been saying, but without the extra-terrestrial slant.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:51pm
Mogg Tsur,
The quantum physicists might say the probability density of his dying in the fall was pretty high, but he didn't die until the event was observed.  As the woman noted, there was also a probability wave favoring his survival.  
 
Someone today told of a man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived.  Low probability, but it happened.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 10:59pm
Doug,
I left strict causality behind a long time ago.  How many events can be linked to single causes?  I usually have several reasons for doing things and suspect others do, to.  
 
That's why I like the Oriental model of pattern-based rather than sequential reasoning.  Einstein's focus on cause-and-effect could not allow room for the probabilities envisioned by the quantum physicists.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 11:13pm
Logical Man,
Interesting thought.  I take that to mean that time is non-physical.  We can mark it by its effects on our physical world, such in our bodies.  But time is also psychological, in that our minds can be in the past or future or fantasy--not necessarily connected with our bodies.  
 
This doesn't sound "scientific," but the "mind" isn't scientific, either.  
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 11:24pm
Owl,
Probabilities can account for randomness and unpredictability. 
 
When I read all these theories, I keep wondering how the experimenters can know some of the results they describe, such as with quantum entanglements.  If two particles interact and go their separate ways, for instance, the quantum physicists say they can know what the second one is doing by knowing the behavior of the first.  Nothing I've read explains how they know that.  Is it based on their mathematical formulas?  
 
They seem to be constructing imaginary worlds and assigning imaginary characteristics, with no proof of any of it.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2019 - 11:38pm
Jeffry Gilbert (and Ward Tipton)
I didn't mean to skip over your comment.  As Ward Tipton notes, there are many definitions of time.  Your version shows practical use of clock time.  There is "natural time," such as sun rise and sunset, as well as the seasons.  Psychological time pertains to the experience of time passing fast, as when you're having a good "time," or concentrating.  Passing slow, as when you're bored or uncomfortable.  
 
Glad you're enjoying Stranger in a Strange Land.  
 
Then, as Ward says, there are cases in which time moves backwards.  Gravity can bend light, but does it slow it down?  Is light a measure of time, or is time a measure of light?  Is "faster than light" a reversal of time?
 
I love contemplating this stuff, but it sure is confusing.
Neil Lock Added Feb 13, 2019 - 4:26am
Katharine: Nice article.
 
I don't think that either relativity or quantum mechanics necessarily implies that there is no objective reality. They do imply that we can't predict the future perfectly, at least at the micro level. But I think that's a good thing, not a bad. In a deterministic universe, there would be no place for consciousness! ...think about that :-)
 
In contrast to you, I don't much like the many-worlds interpretation. It seems to me rather, shall we say, wasteful with matter. What happens to those universes which don't make it to "the time-space world we know"? And do we know whether the "time-space world" I perceive is the same as the one you perceive, and if so, what is special about it that makes it that way?
Spartacus Added Feb 13, 2019 - 4:30am
In a deterministic universe, there would be no place for consciousness! ...think about that :-)
 
Neil, I would appreciate you connecting the dots for me.  It is an interesting hypothesis and may deserve much more explanation.  
Spartacus Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:01am
We can't prove that time is finite or infinite, but process is tangible.
 
Here is a bit more of an explanation on why "infinite" is not logically possible.
In all cases of math, infinite is created by dividing by zero.  What math is saying by this division operation is that we can divide something by nothing and get everything.  Not possible.
 
The division operation is not logical.  More practically, we can't take a pie, slice it up into 4 divisions, and call one piece a 1/4 of a pie.  There is no pie anymore.  There are only 4 pieces of a hypothetical pie.  This is why math breaks down against reality.  The division operation is the biggest problem in math when we wish to understand the universe (reality).
Multiplication, on the other hand, the opposite function of division, is not logically inconsistent as it does require us to redefine a future state with a modified past state.
 
Most scientists today are coming around to the problem of infinity.  If infinity is derived as an answer, most scientists agree that this answer is wrong and a major indicator that they need to rework the problem.  Ten, twenty years ago, this was not the case. 
Of course, religion does not help while uses "infinity" as a core principle in its teaching.
Ward Tipton Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:05am
Gravity can bend light, but does it slow it down? 
 
Light is matter and energy, matter by its very existence has mass and will eventually face resistance ... say from gravity for instance ... and will be slowed down. It can also be slowed by prismatic effects or other influence. 
 
Is light a measure of time, or is time a measure of light? 
 
I do not believe either is a measure, though time may be used as a measure of progress of light. 
 
Is "faster than light" a reversal of time?
 
Or merely a point where time as we know it does not exist? Thus, one could theoretically, as energy, exist for eternity ... not necessarily immortality, but an eternal consciousness or awareness ... which for some would be beautiful or even heavenly ... and for others may be more akin to a hell, not being able to enjoy carnal delights. 
 
It is possible also that faster than light will create folds in space. Or perhaps it is merely just another barrier to break like the sound barrier. The experiments at Princeton which I have only heard about in interviews with Michiu Kaku indicated no reversal, else the light would not have exited the tube before it entered. 
 
Then again, there was that one politician who indicated we needed to raise funds to rebuild the sound barrier since we had broken it ... though I do not remember who it was or if it was merely urban legend but ... we can accurately predict that politics and science do not mix well ... and that the results of such a mixture would be ... unpredictable. 
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:10am
re "Doug, the paradox to which you refer has a major flaw in its proposal.
With wires of non-zero length - the most common kind - you'd have an antenna and oscillations in the circuit would transmit energy away."
 
Of course, but the point is to show a direct contradiction in Maxwell's equations, not to build the thing. A geometry could be set with no inductance.
   
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:12am
re "They seem to be constructing imaginary worlds and assigning imaginary characteristics, with no proof of any of it. "
 
No reason to believe that physics is any less political than the other sciences.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:13am
The Kantian description of reality and quanta is still better than anything you will find in modern physics.
opher goodwin Added Feb 13, 2019 - 8:27am
Cheers Katharine - I wasn't certain I was going to reply - but I did. Now I'm certain I did the right thing, although that might be a false premise.
opher goodwin Added Feb 13, 2019 - 8:28am
Ward - Light isn't matter and not subject to entropy.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 9:21am
re "In all cases of math, infinite is created by dividing by zero. "
 
That is not true. You cannot divide by zero in math. As the denominator of a fraction gets smaller and smaller the value of the fraction gets bigger and bigger without limit. We call this "infinity".
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 9:28am
re "Einstein's focus on cause-and-effect could not allow room for the probabilities envisioned by the quantum physicists."
 
Einstein was a media creation. He has the choice of being PM of Israel or a famous physicist. Many people think his wife helped him with his physics and while welcomed into America on the dock, he left alone without the respect of his students or colleagues.
He used a tensor notation, even though he couldn't quite understand tensors (which are the third term in a multi dimensional Taylor series), but he is always cited for a notation that eliminates the need for summation signs when using tensors, he is always cited for this - in every book or essay on tensors.
Stone-Eater Added Feb 13, 2019 - 11:33am
If we would remember the past we could predict the future....
Neil Lock Added Feb 13, 2019 - 12:00pm
William: What I was trying to say was that, in a purely deterministic universe (which seems to me a rather Marxist idea), free will would not be possible for any conscious being. There would be nothing a conscious being could change or affect, and so no point in consciousness existing at all.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 1:51pm
Hume did some work on causality, it was him that awoke the near retirement scientist, Kant, from his "dogmatic slumber" as he says it. I haven't read Hume, and only bits about Hume by others as necessary to understand Kant.
Kant determined that causality is necessary for humans to make sense of the world. We understand things in terms of cause and effect and cannot any other way. Kant never mentioned anything to do with pattern recognition. I can't really imagine how that could be of any benefit in an epistemological sense, Kant was an epistemologist primarily although the categories are ontological. We perceive the world through his categories, through causality, and through space and time.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 3:09pm
Ontology is finding classifications for things, ie mammals, reptiles, etc.
 
Here is one for you Katharine: Do insects have the same moral agency as men? I don't believe that animals lack agency. I've seen videos taken from the wild that destroy this idea.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:34pm
Mustafa,
That Einstein quote was in the book, and I almost used it.  That was my overall impression, too, that Einstein believed he could know God's mind.  And I agree he was also right a lot.
 
I suspected you would appreciate the mention of qi.  To me, that is the missing element in all of Western science and medicine, and maybe in Einstein's futile quest for a universal field theory.  I'm not sure how to put qi into a mathematical formula, though. 
 
The pattern-based reasoning is also much more comprehensive than our cause-and-effect straight-line approach.  That's why quantum physics, with its philosophical open-endedness, appeals to me so much.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 5:55pm
Neil,
I believe you and I have discussed objective reality before.  I know you believe in it, but until you can tell me of an "objective" reference point, I will continue believing everything is subjective.
 
Einstein definitely believed in an objective reality, more so as he got older.  He believed we only needed to find the laws, in order to predict the future.
 
The idea that the experimenter influences the experiment is based on the idea that the experimenter is a participant, thus can't be outside the experiment and objective.  This is described in the Einstein biography, and the other books I cited, as evidence (if not proof) that there is no objective reality.  Physicists were split on it in Einstein's time, and they are probably still split, and it's a question that may never be answered. 
 
The many worlds interpretation could explain the expanding universe, thus not wasteful at all.  It is said nature wastes nothing, so I have to wonder what we mean by waste.
 
Referring back to my idea that everything is subjective, I would say no two people (or animals, plants, or rocks) perceive the same time-space world, but that makes things infinitely interesting.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:04pm
Don Allen,
I just saw your comment.  Thanks for the endorsement.  I found the book very readable.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:08pm
Spartacus,
I don't have the background in math to say anything erudite about infinity as a mathematical concept.  But I find infinity quite believable as an idea, meaning "no boundaries" or "no limits."
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:14pm
Ward,
Einstein's equation, e=mc2, presumes the speed of light is constant.  Since photons have no mass, they presumably would not be subject to friction.  Photons can be stopped by a solid object, where I presume their energy is transformed into heat or some chemical reaction, as in photosynthesis.  That's all I know on this subject, but I'd like to know more.  The rest is speculation.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:22pm
Doug,
I can't comment on the mathematics.  I've been hearing a lot about Hume, who was one of Einstein's favorites, as well as Benjamin Franklin's.  I've never read anything he wrote, but it's on my list, along with Kant.
 
It does seem Einstein was a media darling and peaked long before he became famous.  But he wasn't offered the Israeli presidency until very late in his life, and it was a token offer for a token position.
The Owl Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:22pm
If two particles interact and go their separate ways, for instance, the quantum physicists say they can know what the second one is doing by knowing the behavior of the first.  Nothing I've read explains how they know that.  Is it based on their mathematical formulas?  
 
They seem to be constructing imaginary worlds and assigning imaginary characteristics, with no proof of any of it."  --  Katherine Otto
 
You may be overthinking the problem.  There may be a good analogy that will give you away through the maze.
 
Think of a billiard table with a cue and an eight ball on it.  We can strike the cue ball with the cue and propel it towards the eight balls.  The eight ball, when hit, will react in accordance with Newton's law which says that there will be an equal and opposite reaction and the law of energy conservation which holds that in all interactions, energy will not be diminished. 
 
We can, by observation, note the positions of the two objects as a function of time.  And if we want to go further we can start controlling the amount of energy present in the cue and accurately measuring the angle at which the energy is presented to both the cue ball and the eightball.  We can then measure the travel of the two balls in angle and distance and speed from the points of collision.
 
By some technique of noting how the striker and the target hit the rails of the table--place on the rail and force of the impact--, we can measure of how much of the energy is transferred to the ball and the rail and/or lost to friction.  We can also observe/calculate angles of incidence and reflection and distances traveled.  With known equations, we can quantify the entire interaction and describe it mathematically.
 
Now, look at it as if there was no table underneath the balls--the rails remain, they being suspended in space and governed by the rules of gravity. We add rails above and below the suspended balls parallel to the plane of bottoms of the balls and the two-dimensional rails.
 
The spacial interactions will remain the same as will the energies imparted or transferred (friction).  Again, with known equations, we can quantify the entire interaction and describe it mathematically.
 
Now that we have set up the experiment, close your eyes, and run it again.
 
Running the experiments on particles are much like the experiments on the three-dimensional billiard table with the cue ball being a photon of known energy potential and the eight ball being a mass particle of known composition beginning with your eyes closed...
 
So what's the problem that you have to solve...And this is where it does become complicated.  Scientists needed a proxy for the eyes and needed to construct rails that could actually measure the energy levels being transferred. 
 
The cloud chambers became the eyes, and scientific ingenuity and clever engineering developed the sensors necessary emulate the rails.  They devised the particle accelerator to become the cue stick needed to turn the photon into a cue ball.  The cloud chamber tracked the pieces after collision.
 
Once they got the first test equipment got put together, they went about refining them and delving further and further into the insides of an atom using the debris from the collision to see the energy imparted to the pieces.  And, when the total amount of energy observed in the cloud chamber did not match the amount of energy put into the system, they knew that they didn't have the whole picture.
 
By controlling the parameters of mass and energy and noting their interactions they were able first to understand that there was, not only an atom but that the atom was made up of neutrons, protons, and electrons, and that neutrons and protons were made of bits of even finer stuff.  Better instruments led to better observations and more predictions.
 
When the cloud traces and sensors turned up anomalies or unaccountable traces, science needed to advance.  We have delved from the atom all the way to the Higgs boson using this basic set of principles.  
 
Yes, there is a lot of math involved as well as a lot of axiomatic equivalency.  Both are tested daily in the science of the particle and quantum physics...as it should be.
 
Today's findings will be tomorrow's basic building blocks...And remember that physics is the study of the big while quantum physics is the study of the really small.  And, the really small don't react exactly the way the laws of the really big say they should...
 
Which makes the study just all that more interesting.&nb
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:31pm
FreeEarCandy,
The idea of retrocausality has merit, but it suffers from the same straight-line reasoning as cause and effect.  Effect-and-cause presumes the events are isolated and have independent existences, but for each other.  That may work for subatomic particles, but most macro events are more complex than that, and contain numerous variables.  That's where a web of patterns seems more realistic to me.  Yes, it would be hard to determine the significance of any one factor, which may be why science doesn't try to touch it.
Neil Lock Added Feb 13, 2019 - 6:49pm
Katharine: About infinity. My mathematics teacher used to call it "as many as you please." (Or, "as large as you please"). I think that's a good way to look at it. You're thinking along the right lines.
 
But I'm afraid that William is wrong about infinity requiring a division by zero. Euclid's proof that there is an infinity of prime numbers is a (beautiful) example. In that argument, he says: "You say there are only finitely many prime numbers? OK, so give me your complete list; then I'll show you a prime number that isn't in your list." The idea of "zero" as a number wasn't put forward until about 800 years later!
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 13, 2019 - 7:07pm
Katharine, since you are enjoying quantum mechanics so much, I suggest you check out "tunneling"
 
Its a way that quantum mechanical systems can actually move from one regime to another, which was not available to it as a classical mechanical system, using the probabilistic nature of QM.
 
Re:" To me, that is the missing element in all of Western science and medicine"
 
We are in agreement.
 
re:" I'm not sure how to put qi into a mathematical formula, though. "
 
gol, I never thought of that! Mmmmmmmm.
Spartacus Added Feb 13, 2019 - 8:45pm
But I'm afraid that William is wrong about infinity requiring a division by zero.  Euclid's proof that there is an infinity of prime numbers is a (beautiful) example.
 
Geez Neil.  Prime numbers require the use of the division operation in its very definition.  Here, I'll post the definition for you as a reminder.  :P
 
A prime number is a whole number greater than 1 whose only factors are 1 and itself.  A factor is a whole numbers that can be divided evenly into another number.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 13, 2019 - 9:03pm
Harvard had a video talking about mathematical bullying. I hope we don't fall into a state of mathematical warfare.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 14, 2019 - 3:29am
I think we have to accept that the world does not exist as we see it through science and that we simply have to acknowledge the limits of observation. We are, for the most part, a very simple minded and immature people who want the world to be a certain way and we yell and scream and cry when we find out it isn't. We persecute people who upset us with their views when their views our contrary to our existing comfortable "Bambi" like beliefs. Its taken many years of programming to get us to reach this point.
Neil Lock Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:00am
Doug: I hope we don't fall into a state of mathematical warfare.
 
Well, warfare is a well tried way of settling divisions, isn't it? :-)
Neil Lock Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:14am
William: An integer p greater than one is a prime if and only if there does not exist any pair of integers q and r, both greater than one, such that p=qr. No division necessary! (And no zero, either).
Ward Tipton Added Feb 14, 2019 - 8:06am
"We persecute people who upset us with their views when their views our contrary to our existing comfortable "Bambi" like beliefs."
 
I can accurately predict that Bambi will taste great when sat on my plate! 
Doug Plumb Added Feb 14, 2019 - 11:03am
A lot of people think that, not knowing that they too are on the menu.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 14, 2019 - 11:04am
I think Katharine makes the most interesting posts on here.
Neil Lock Added Feb 14, 2019 - 3:31pm
Doug: I assume you're saying that among those who write here, Katharine is the best at writing articles which make the reader think.
 
If that's what you meant, I concur.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:01pm
I'll leave it to you mathematicians to explain the universe mathematically.  Einstein died trying, so the riddle of the universe remains unsolved and up for grabs.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:12pm
FreeEarCandy,
Events happening in sequence is not the same as straight line reasoning.  The difference between left and right brains provides an example.  The left brain usually contains the language function.  Words have to come out in sequence, even if the idea behind them is complex and many-layered.  The right brain thinks in patterns and is able to see whole concepts.  Art is not straight line reasoning, although the technical aspects, like acquiring the tools, setting them up, and learning how to use them, require some logical processes.
 
Nothing in nature follows straight-line reasoning.  Everything from plants to people grow from the inside out, and these developments occur in a coordinated but parallel fashion.  A fetus does not grow its body parts in sequence.  They all grow together.  The jury is still out on whether babies are manifestations of chaos, but some people like that kind of chaos.
 
Einstein liked doing "thought experiments," meaning he tried to visualize what might happen if . . .  The mathematical formulas came later.  Visualization is not a "logical" process.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:22pm
Owl,
Thanks for the explanation.  My understanding of scientific experimentation is that the experimenter predisposes the experiment to certain outcomes by the experiment's design.  The particle accelerator itself was designed by people with certain biases.  
 
Not to trivialize any of this, but I have to wonder in any experiment what they are forced to ignore, because of experimental design or experimenter bias.  
 
And this may sound like a stupid question, but I also wonder what practical value the discovery of these sub-atomic particles has.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:37pm
FreeEarCandy,
You ask interesting questions.  Light, from its own perspective, may be like a standing wave.  That "thingy" you refer to may be the elusive "objective reality" against which so much is measured.  
 
Energy can't be created or destroyed, but it can be transformed into mass.  If photons are packets of pure energy, as Einstein hypothesized, then they are infusing everything they hit with energy and being converted to different forms of energy or into mass.  
 
You could say the places where photons strike are random, as a star scatters its photons in all directions.  The effects of the photons on their landing places vary depending on numerous factors, both known and unknown.  Life on earth is directly attributable to photons striking randomly, hardly chaos, although we humans are trying to create chaos out of order.  We may succeed yet.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:50pm
Mustafa,
By "regime" do you mean "dimension"?  I will look into "tunnelling," but at the moment I'm more confused that enlightened by what I read.  
 
This all has relevance to my perpetually-in-progress novel, which deals with the concept of time as experienced by an immortal being.  
 
Yes, you would understand how qi is vastly underestimated in Western thinking.  But you have to believe it exists to begin to look for it and to harness its energy, as in healing.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:53pm
FreeEarCandy,
The idea of controlling the universe sounds like hell to me.  I can't imagine anyone wanting to be that un-free.  My question for the control freaks is "why"?
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 5:56pm
Owl and FreeEarCandy,
Ask my chickens.  They seem to know ahead of time where my feet are going to land and poop right in my path, especially when they are mad at me.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 6:04pm
FreeEarCandy and Doug,,
Answering comments one at a time:  Ask the Fed about creating something out of nothing.
 
Some people say we create our own realities.  If you think about it, everything in the external world is perceived on inner screens, transmitted by the five senses we acknowledge and maybe others we don't recognize.  In other words, what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste is not "out there" but "in here," and subject to the accuracy of your senses.
 
And Ward,
I feed Bambi with probably genetically mutated corn.  Although I hope it never reaches that point, there may come a day when Bambi will have to feed me.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2019 - 6:09pm
Doug and Neil,
Thanks so much for the compliments.  I like to think and to ask questions.  I don't have answers.   Rather, the answers I thought I had turned out to be misguided or incomplete.  I learn a lot from the comments on my and on other peoples' posts.  They usually lead to more questions.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 15, 2019 - 8:55pm
FreeEarCandy,
Is it "flawed" or is it "individualized?"  It could be said that every perspective as "valid" as every other.  What's the "objective" version of "right?"
 
I know most people think of time as like a river that only flows one way (although I live on a tidal creek).  Practically speaking, time is useful for scheduling.  But if you pay attention to your thoughts, you might find your mind is not fixed in time.  
Doug Plumb Added Feb 16, 2019 - 5:58am
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 16, 2019 - 6:06am
re "Some people say we create our own realities.  If you think about it, everything in the external world is perceived on inner screens, transmitted by the five senses we acknowledge and maybe others we don't recognize. "
 
  There is only one universal truth. People want to live in societies that provide safety and ease of economic loads. For this, the common law is the only truth, its precept is purely rational. Anyone that is opposed to common law is either nuts or belongs to a cult.
  This is what Christ meant when he said he was the truth. He said that to be his follower, one must elevate truth above all else, including any kind of religious dogmatism, which he railed against.
  Kant describes two philosophers looking for absolute truth, one milking a he-goat as the other holds the sieve underneath. There is no such thing as an unconditioned truth.
  All other "truths" are questionable, maybe even causality itself. I doubt that causality can be seriously questioned in science, but think it can in philosophy, which is less restrictive. Science today in the physical sense is the scientific method and the scientific method depends on causality.
Ward Tipton Added Feb 16, 2019 - 2:18pm
"Life on earth is directly attributable to photons striking randomly, hardly chaos, although we humans are trying to create chaos out of order.  We may succeed yet."
 
May succeed? 
 
Do you really get out less than I do? 
Jim Stoner Added Feb 16, 2019 - 3:09pm
In the big picture, the universe is "probably deterministic", though we haven't "determined" what that outcome is.  I guess there's some chance some creature could do something about it, but that's not going to be us--"we're not worthy"!
 
I have decided that retirement is an effort to master space (I've spent most of my first eight months making space from the combination of three households) and time (using the free time left for some good purpose).  So, retirement is just physics (Einsteinian)
 
I am a firm believer in the subjectivity of all experience, but also in the reality of "consensual hallucination" (see William Gibson).  We all see some of the same unreal stuff, because we don't know any better. 
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 16, 2019 - 4:10pm
Jim
""probably deterministic","
The word "probably" is directly related to randomness.
 
What probabilty measure are you using that generates universes at random?
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 16, 2019 - 9:39pm
Katharine,
“But you have to believe it exists to begin to look for it and to harness its energy, as in healing.”
 
This is why the practice of QiGong , Tai Chi,  Bagua Zhang or Shing Yi 
are so important. Unless you do, you do not know the jing:
the energy that moves a mountain with a feather.
 
Is it Pung, Ji, Lu or An? 
or one of the 9 secondary jings.
 
Or you can understand how to stand on  one leg and have someone try to push you over, but fail. 
 
You dont believe anything, you know it, you are it.
 
Time for an immortal being! My, you are indeed ambitious.
On one of my posts I dicuss the Tank Commander in the Russian's attempt to flank the rear of the Stalingrad seige. After the artillary barrage, he was late 3 minutes for him and his tanks to enter the fray, and Stalin gets on the horn to Yeremenko and Yeremenko gets on the horn to Navikoff and says “where are my fucking tanks?” Novikoff states “right away sir”
hangs up and waits 3 more minutes.  Tell me about time during those 6 minutes?
 
By "regime" do you mean "dimension"?  
 
In a classical dynamical system, if, as it evolves it gets arbitrarily close to all points, it is called ergodic. But most arent  and for them there are separated regions in phase space ( q.p)= (positiion, momentum)
for which if you begin in one you stay in that same one. 
 
In fact most systems have these; I you start here you will never get over there and if you start there you will never get over to here.
 
But quantum mechanics enables it.   You tunnel through from here to there.
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 16, 2019 - 9:47pm
Doug, 
"There is no such thing as an unconditioned truth."
 
IMO, there is only ONE unconditional truth: God.
 
All the rest are like theorems; if you dont satisfy the assumptions then the assertions may not be true.
The Owl Added Feb 16, 2019 - 10:26pm
"The spooky part for me is how does a particle seemingly know ahead of time when/if an observer will measure/observe or not measure/observe the wave function."  -- Free Ear Candy
 
Easy.  The particle can see the observer through the cloud chamber window just before it gets obliterated.  Observers always have some sort of light on their instruments to tell them of their operational status.
 
It's either that or the particle in front turns and tells him just before the big splat!
Katharine Otto Added Feb 16, 2019 - 11:48pm
I keep trying to correlate the little I know about subatomic physics with macro-experience, and it becomes philosophical, inexplicable, speculative, and unprovable.  
 
If matter equals energy and vice versa, where does life fit into the equation?  Is qi life, and are energy and matter conscious?  Is the matter/energy that forms our bodies an aggregated gestalt of conscious elements working in harmony to create a life?  In my novel, life is the unified field that Einstein couldn't find.
 
I've been thinking of photons, which seem to exist in a realm all by themselves, with no mass but traveling at the speed of light.  It seems particularly interesting that the dark-adapted eye can see a single photon and that visible light comprises only a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. 
 
Supposedly mass increases with velocity, so presumably photons would have infinite mass.  Are they then waves or fields with infinite mass, spread out in all the dimensions?  That would explain quantum entanglements, if anything in the subatomic world can be explained.
 
Jim Stoner Added Feb 17, 2019 - 12:31am
I believe Photons are massless. 
Ward Tipton Added Feb 17, 2019 - 3:05am
I believe rainbows exist only because we see them. Otherwise there would be no receptor to interpret the signal ... but if we do not observe something, does it still exist? 
A. Jones Added Feb 17, 2019 - 2:26pm
There is no objective reality,
 
That's your unwarranted conclusion; it's hardly what QM postulates.
 
That the observer necessarily participates in the event being observed in no way means there's no objective component to the event.
 
You deeply misunderstand QM if you've concluded there's no objectivity at all.
Ward Tipton Added Feb 17, 2019 - 4:15pm
But do you believe in magic ... in a young girl's eyes?
Doug Plumb Added Feb 17, 2019 - 5:45pm
re "IMO, there is only ONE unconditional truth: God."
 
  But is faith, not scientism. Scientism doesn't address things like agency, for which faith does.
  I think that there is no possibility of anything resembling absolute truth ever entering our imaginations. Kant states this, although not directly. It would be an incredible coincidence of our perception of reality matched reality according to him at the first part of the Critique Of pure Reason. I think Kant was right about everything, and that he was probably the second coming of Christ.
  I'm sure you would find Kant interesting Katharine, especially the first 50 or so pages of his 1st Critique.
 
Logical Man Added Feb 17, 2019 - 10:17pm
You are alone with your own heartbeat and world model, when it all comes down to basics
Logical Man Added Feb 17, 2019 - 10:31pm
I think the difference between myself and most people is that I've spent most of my adult life (about 50 years) trying to get to grips with my existence and come up with a framework in which, at least some of it, makes logical sense, a persuit that few take on. I have a background in science ( Chemistry and Astronomy at uni) but have studied many other branches of science - particle physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, geology, biology, physiology.....
History is another subject I've looked at in detail.
I may not always be right in what I say, but I think I can honestly say I've put in a lot of effort and thought about things carefully.
All of the above means I struggle with the madhouse I am forced to live in.
As for predicting uncertainty, certainty doesn't exist and prediction is rarely an option.
Enjoy the ride, responsibly.
 
Doug Plumb Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:17am
No, there are plenty of Kantians. If I stand up before an educated group 200 people and say Kant was the second coming, I will get applause from a few. I've done it. There are quite a few Kantians, but widely dispersed. To read Kant is to gain a whole new level of enlightenment.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:19am
I have known Islam and Sikh Phd's who say Kant was the greatest of philosophers.
A. Jones Added Feb 18, 2019 - 11:56am
I think the difference between myself and most people is that I've spent most of my adult life (about 50 years) trying to get to grips with my existence and come up with a framework in which, at least some of it, makes logical sense, a *persuit* that few take on.
 
We've heard that often — but only from you. We've never heard others singing your praises about your great pursuit (not "persuit").
 
To us, you appear to be a pretentious mediocrity, easily bamboozled by spurious, pseudo-scientific sophistry, full of materialist jargon.
 
We haven't seen you use logical argumentation, nor be convinced by it when others push your face in it. However, we have seen you confirm your prior ideological biases by cherry-picking data. Bravo for that.
 
Still, we all love watching you break your arm patting yourself on the back for being the most wonderfully logical person you know and telling us how you hold yourself in such high esteem. A fine performance!
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 18, 2019 - 12:01pm
The uncertainty principle is Quantum mechanical fact -given the postulates of QM you have Heisenberg uncertainty corresponding to inequalities which are provable.
 
They are certain.  As for the posulates' appropriateness ( the "conditionality") , that is a whole nother matter.
 
As for certainty in general, I am certain of many things. I am certain i have to die. 
I am certain that, in Euclidean space, that Pythagorus theorem is a true. In fact I have a whole library filled with certainties, They are called Theorems. The "if implies then" of a theorem is a certainty. Whether the if is true, again, is a whole nother matter.
 
Neil Lock Added Feb 18, 2019 - 12:03pm
Free Ear Candy: No, the uncertainty principle says that when a particle moves, the product of the uncertainty in its position and the uncertainty in its momentum is always greater than or equal to a particular threshold.
 
...unless Heisenberg was wrong, of course :-)
Neil Lock Added Feb 18, 2019 - 12:17pm
And Logical Man is basically right. Certainty doesn't exist at his (or your, or my) present stage of mental development.
 
That said, we can regard things as certain for "all practical purposes." Like Newton's laws, which were contradicted by Einstein's relativity; but that doesn't take away their usefulness in the areas ("slow" speeds, "weak" forces) in which they are a good approximation.
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 12:27pm
FEC, once is amusing.
 
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 12:30pm
No
Mustafa Kemal Added Feb 18, 2019 - 2:49pm
FEC,
"So,the uncertainty described by the principle is absolutely certain and true?"
 
No, not absolutely, only if the system satisfies the postulates of QM.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 18, 2019 - 3:10pm
re "The uncertainty principle is Quantum mechanical fact". Its also a fact in a bicycle shop when you measure how fast the wheel is turning and want to know where it is at the same instant.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 18, 2019 - 3:13pm
We can know the position and velocity of the wheel if we are driving it with an electric motor, but not when we just measure it and its driven by something we can't access or understand.
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 3:23pm
It seems few people have even a basic understanding of Quantum Mechanics.
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 4:59pm
FEC, it's the 'exactly' part that's the problem.
What exactly constitutes simultaneity?
 
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:05pm
One can invoke a principle that stands up to scrutiny, as QM has done over and over again. If you don't think QM works, you have to come up with a better alternative. I assume you own a computer ;-) if so, how it works is almost entirely based on QM being a decent model.
The universe is not only stranger than we think, it is likely stranger then we can think.
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:20pm
FEC - see my earlier comment regarding an understanding of QM.
No delay implies that time is a continuum when in reality it seems to be quantised. Ever hear of Planck time?
Don Allen Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:30pm
Little confused on quantum time.  Thought it was still speculation as to whether time is discrete or continuous.  Apparently some odd things may happen at time intervals of about 10^(-45) seconds. But who can measure that?
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:33pm
Don, humans can't even come close to measuring that.
I think the most accurate clock on earth is good for about 10^(-10)
 
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 5:34pm
FEC, being obtuse doesn't help the discussion one little bit.
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 6:25pm
FEC, Who's on first?
Don Allen Added Feb 18, 2019 - 6:45pm
Curiously, when you state, "certainty is absolutely uncertain" is or is not an assertion, I believe you have posited a most curious question in propositional or first order logic.
Don Allen Added Feb 18, 2019 - 8:46pm
FEC. It seems you have a logic with intentionality mixed in. That makes it more interesting still. Something like: Can a nonexistent object assert some object exists?  We do know when talking of T and F, these things make sense. 
Logical Man Added Feb 18, 2019 - 9:37pm
Can you explain the statement 'If reality was at its essence uncertainty, then everything would be in a state of equilibrium' please? I don't quite see why that would necessarily be the case.
 
 
A. Jones Added Feb 19, 2019 - 11:34am
Two brief lectures on this topic by Richard Feynman (Cornell University, early 1960s):
 
Richard Feynman: Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics
 
Richard Feynman: Probability & Uncertainty — The Quantum Mechanical View of Nature
John Minehan Added Feb 19, 2019 - 2:42pm
Feynman had a gift for explaining complex things such that people could grasp what he meant; something he said meant he understood the topic.
John Minehan Added Feb 19, 2019 - 2:42pm
Seems like a good operational definition of understanding a topic.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 19, 2019 - 8:54pm
Jim Stoner,
Everything I've read says photons are massless, but Einstein's theory also says that as something approaches the speed of light, its mass becomes infinite.  If photons are already at the speed of light, does that mean they defy Einstein's law?  Or is "massless" the same thing as infinite mass?
 
Ward,
That is the ultimate QM problem, like whether a tree falling in the woods makes a sound if no one hears it.  It also points out (to me) the difference between beliefs in subjective vs. objective reality.  From a subjective point of view, the rainbow exists even if you are the only person who sees it.  A QM physicist might say it's not there until someone observes it (and possibly create a mathematical formula to explain it).  Since I don't believe in "objective reality," I can't speak for those who do, but I suppose it would presume the rainbow exists whether anyone sees it or not.
 
A. Jones,
That there is no objective reality is my belief.  I don't presume to understand QM in depth, but neither do the quantum physicists agree on it.  Until someone provides a credible reference point for "objective reality," I will continue to believe in my own subjective truth.
 
Katharine Otto Added Feb 19, 2019 - 9:16pm
Doug,
Obviously Kant has found fertile soil in you.  I've promised you I'll look into it, and I will.  Just finished reading The Dancing Wu Li Masters, so I'm between books. 
 
FEC,
The uncertainty principle is uncertain.  That's why it's valid.
 
Logical Man,
I can tell you have a philosophical bent.  While I may not agree in the details, you do inspire me to think about things in new ways.  
 
A. Jones,
Who is "us?"
Katharine Otto Added Feb 19, 2019 - 9:27pm
FEC, Logical Man, Mustafa, and Don Allen,
Looking at your comments above reminded me of the arguments between Einstein and Neils Bohr, as well as the questions raised in The Dancing Wu Li Masters.  To my mind, it comes down to whether one believes in "objective reality."  Einstein wrestled with the problem of "simultaneity," and so do the quantum physicists.  Where is the reference point for the probability waves collapsing into a singularity?  Is it when the photon goes through the slit, when it hits the photographic plate, when the plate is developed, when the experimenter turns the light on or some other point in time?  Are we living in a world of super-determinism, such that there is no free will and every action is predetermined, including how and when we set up the experiment?  Or does reality split with every decision, as in the Many Worlds theory, so that every probability occurs in parallel worlds?  
 
Thanks for the Feynman links, A. Jones.  I will check them out.
 

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