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Peter Jackson: on 10/8/12 at 12:31pm UTC, wrote Dan I have a slightly sharper distinction. But first I agree with Mach;...

Dan Bruiger: on 10/6/12 at 17:48pm UTC, wrote Hi, Peter No. of course I don't disagree. My point is about two senses of...

Lorraine Ford: on 10/5/12 at 17:28pm UTC, wrote Dan, Interesting essay. I agree that "the apparent "fine-tuning" of the...

Peter Jackson: on 10/5/12 at 17:20pm UTC, wrote Dan Hmmm. I'm not convinced cause and effect need concious 'intent'. I do...

Dan Bruiger: on 10/4/12 at 18:27pm UTC, wrote Hi, Peter Yes, 'intent' does imply "intelligence", or at least a...

Dan Bruiger: on 10/4/12 at 18:07pm UTC, wrote Hi, Hector I'm not sure what it could mean for the world to "turn out to...

Dan Bruiger: on 10/4/12 at 17:58pm UTC, wrote Hi, Ben I like the image you imply of physics being a game of mutual...

David Rousseau: on 10/4/12 at 14:40pm UTC, wrote Hi Dan, super essay, very well written and very clear. Lots of ideas I...


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October 23, 2017

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Does Nature Have a Definite Information Content? by Dan J. Bruiger [refresh]
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Author Dan J. Bruiger wrote on Aug. 2, 2012 @ 15:39 GMT
Essay Abstract

Abstract In contrast to conceptual systems, the notion of information bounds for physical systems is questioned. Several related assumptions are challenged: that there is a bottom to the complexity of nature, that physical reality can be exhaustively modeled, and that physical systems contain definite entropy or information.

Author Bio

Dan Bruiger is an independent researcher living in British Columbia, currently working on a new book, 'The Made and the Found', about the scientific modeling of nature. He studied at UCLA and UC Berkeley. Previous publications include 'Second Nature: the man-made world of idealism, technology and power' (2006) and an entry in the previous fqxi contest, 'Is Reality Reducible to Thought?'

Download Essay PDF File

J. C. N. Smith wrote on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 04:25 GMT
Dear Dan,

Thank you for an extremely interesting and thought-provoking essay! I'll need to read your paper at least another time or two before thinking that I've got my head around your intended message.

A couple of thoughts kept bouncing around in my head as I read your essay. James Gleick, in his recent book, 'The Information,' wrote, "The universe computes its own destiny." A similar notion is discussed in an interesting paper, 'The Computing Spacetime,' by Fotini Markopoulou ( ), where she writes in her introduction, "That the Universe can be thought of as a giant computation is a straightforward corollary of the existence of a universal Turing machine. . . .That is, a universal quantum computer can simulate every physical entity and its behavior." Could you please comment on on how these views square with your thinking, or not?

Elsewhere, you quote Bekenstein, echoing Jaynes, as saying "There could be more levels of structure in our universe than are dreamt of in today's physics. . . ." The parallel between this construction and Shakespeare's well-known "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosopy" can hardly be coincidental. A nice touch!

Thanks again, and good luck in the competition.


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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 15:09 GMT
Dear JCNS,

Thanks for reading my paper and for your appreciation. On your advisement, I read Fotini Markopoulou's paper. I do not pretend to understand quantum graphity, but she herself does not commit to an information ontology, but simply considers it a useful theoretical approach. It seems true that 'information' can provide a "neutral" working ground between quantum and classical concepts, just as it can between such divergent categories as 'mind' and 'matter' in attempts to solve the mind-body problem or to understand the functioning of neural processes. In that instance, we know that these processes, which resemble computation in some respects, lead somehow to the perception of space and a real external world. So there is a precedent for a relation between computation (or purely logical processes) and physical reality (or at least geometry). Like her, however, I do not subscribe to the 'it-from-bit' concept. I cannot say anything about quantum graphity except that her exposition (sec 3.1) begins: "Let us assume a universe consisting of N fundamental constituents...", which is already assuming a discrete ontology that favours the quantum side more than the continuity of general relativity. That is exactly the kind of assumption that my paper questions. On the positive side, to me the most interesting conclusion of her paper (at the very end) regards self-organized criticality: "One may think that this should be the most promising direction, however, such ideas have hardly been explored. To a great extent, there is a serious technical obstacle. SOC is typically observed in non-equilibrium systems, while all of fundamental physics uses equilibrium quantum field theory. Properly introducing SOC ideas in cosmology requires a departure from the standard framework." In particular, it requires a less passive view of matter.



Robert H McEachern replied on Aug. 19, 2012 @ 21:29 GMT
James Gleick's quote, that "The universe computes its own destiny." is true. A more interesting observation is that it appears to take just as long to perform this "prediction" as it does for the events to unfold. This has a direct bearing on the question of determinism and free will. Absolute determinism states that free-will cannot exist, since, in principle, all events can be predicted before they happen. But that conclusion is based on a false assumption. In order to make such a prediction, one needs to possess more than just the equations of physics, one also needs to know all the initial conditions. But the information content, and hence the storage requirement for the latter is astronomically larger than the former. Nothing in the universe, including the universe itself, has a large enough memory capacity to store this amount of information "symbolically". But the universe can do it "non-symbolically", by merely being itself. In other words, it is an analog computer, not a digital one. And it is its own analog. It "predicts" all its future activity by simply doing it. Thus, the prediction and the event are one and the same thing. Consequently, the prediction can never occur before the event, whenever the event in question actually requires all the information content of the universe in order to make the prediction; and only the universe itself has the capacity to do even that.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 19, 2012 @ 21:40 GMT
Dear Robert McEachern,

You say, "Nothing in the universe, including the universe itself, has a large enough memory capacity to store this amount of information "symbolically". But the universe can do it "non-symbolically", by merely being itself. In other words, it is an analog computer, not a digital one. And it is its own analog. It "predicts" all its future activity by simply doing it. Thus, the prediction and the event are one and the same thing"

I have said almost exactly the same thing a number of times, so of course I agree with you completely.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Joe Fisher wrote on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 15:19 GMT
Dear Researcher Bruiger,

I found your essay to be one of the most beautifully written meticulously cogent articles about the nature of information absolutely engrossing. I was puzzled by your assertion: “Two objects are qualitatively identical if they share all their state-independent properties (that is, if they share a common definition): they are numerically identical if they share their state-dependent properties as well[2]. As I have somewhat clumsily pointed out in my essay Sequence Consequence, although there is a numbing amount of similarity in the Universe, there is no possibility of any identical states real or imagined ever existing.

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 17:04 GMT
Hi, Joe

Thanks for your appreciation. I agree with you that, strictly speaking, there should be no two identical real states. Things can be equal by definition, however—e.g. units of a measure. The statement that things can be 'numerically identical' just means that there are not really two things. I'll have a look at your article.



Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 18:06 GMT
As once told famous neurologist Warren McCulloch :Greatest puzzle in the world is what is the same?

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 20:51 GMT
"What is the same information?" is the modern version of oldest problem starting from Plato question: What makes beautiful things "beautiful". Problem of universals is an ancient problem in metaphysics. Bertrand Russel wrote that all Western philosophy is the comment to Plato.

In My Humble Opinion Plato's question is tautological question and according to Wittgenstein does havn't sense.

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 15:32 GMT
Very interesting catching text.I wish good luck to Author.

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John Merryman wrote on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 17:26 GMT

A very readable and clear exposition on many of the basic assumptions and prejudices manifesting in the discipline of physics. Unfortunately it expresses the effective reasons it won't win the contest, as belief systems naturally promote advocates and demote skeptics. While it has certainly been brave of FQXi to ask such a contest question as this one, the judging of previous contests has been fairly conservative. That said, there are a number of similar efforts to seriously upend the apple cart and not just patch the more apparent holes. It will be interesting to see whether a serious paradigm shift is considered, or if the results conform to current models.

The point I raise in my essaythat our sense of time as a progression from past to future events, which physics re-enforces by treating it as a measurement, is actually a subjective perception of the changing configuration of what is, turning future potential into past circumstance, leads to a number of observations that relate to various of your points. Such as information being the configuration of energy. Thus while energy goes from prior to succeeding configurations, the resulting information is necessarily being created and destroyed, since the amount of energy is conserved. There being no blocktime conservation of information.

Entropy only applies to a closed system and if time is an effect of action, rather than the geometric cause, than space has no dynamic properties, thus cannot be bounded, bent, etc. and therefore is an infinite equilibrium state. So there is no ultimate closed system and energy is simply traded around. What is radiated away and ejected by collapsing systems, is absorbed by expanding ones.

As for determinism, all the processes effecting a system may well be deterministic, but if the input into that system cannot be defined, it is non-deterministic. With time as emergent effect, it is the collapse of future probabilities, which yields current actualities. The cat is not both dead and alive, because we are not traveling some vector from a determined past into a probabilistic future. It is the actual, physical course of events which determines the fate of the cat. To wit, the earth doesn't travel the fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow, tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates. We cannot know all input into any situation prior to its occurrence, since that would require signaling faster than the input is traveling. It is a non-linear reality out there.

Good luck in the contest and hopefully some non-belief based science can come of all this.

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 20:24 GMT
Dear John

I am intrigued by your comparison of time to temperature—very suggestive. I think of time as what goes on outside a defined system (background changes). We measure time with the specific reference of some cyclical process, but I have always wondered about the meaning of statements about the early history of the universe, before there were bound electrons, for example. Any thoughts about this?


Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 21:33 GMT
Dear Dan,

You ask John for thoughts on 'time' in the universe before cyclical processes occurred. I address this in my last FQXi essay, along with the concept of a self-evolving universe as opposed to one "obeying laws".

The basic equation implied by such a universe, beginning with ONE field and evolving, is described on page one and the analysis follows on page two: In 1953 Eugenio Calabi essentially asked if our Master equation was valid: "Could there be gravity ... even if space is a vacuum totally devoid of matter?" He reasoned: "...being non-linear, gravity can interact with itself and in the process create mass", and he conjectured, "curvature makes gravity without matter possible". The Calabi-Yau manifold confirms our Master equation--based only on gravity--but his conjecture was based on special geometry in which "time is frozen". Meaning what? Newton's equation is time independent, but ... our Master field equation is seen to be scale invariant and Nottale has shown that the laws of scale can actually take the place of the laws of motion: that is, scale invariance implies motion invariance.

If scale invariant is motion invariant, time has no obvious meaning. But action orthogonal to a radial field vector can produce a vortex or cyclical phenomenon in a region of space, introducing duration or cycle time. So time appears when the G-field symmetry breaks and local oscillations, i.e. natural clocks, occur."

This cyclical field is of course the same C-field that my current essay analyzes as the basis of the physical wave function. There is of course more, and I draw conclusions based on the above, but I just wanted to say that I believe your question is a valid one, and share my take on it with you.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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John Merryman replied on Aug. 5, 2012 @ 03:19 GMT

The problem with the question is that unless we accept the "fabric of spacetime" as a causal agent and not just using the speed of light to correlate distance and duration, there is no theoretical foundation for the current cosmological model. Rather than go into my usual rant on this, here is an article by someone with firsthand knowledge of the situation.

That said, if we have a universe composed entirely of unbound electrons, the concept of temperature would be a more effective description of it. The concept of time really only comes into effective being when there is some degree of irregularity and complexity in those regular actions, otherwise there really is no sense of linear progression. The regular cycles are basically a method of fixing a ruler to this process of change. There would be no concept of past and future, only of spin. As you say, it's that background to the fixed cycle of a defined system, which gives the sense of the progression of time.

I think we under appreciate the concept of temperature, because as a statistical measure of non-linear processes, it is the noise out of which we try to detect the signal of the linear narrative of time(and thought). We overemphasize the nature of time, because it defines our reductionist understanding of life. We constantly try to distill everything into one descriptive narrative, then further reduce that to a bottom line result, but in trying to find that elusive quality, we loose contact with everything else and end up with nothing. Knowledge is inherently subjective, as I discussed in the essay. We are programed to focus in order to survive, not find nuggets of eternal meaning. The absolute would be the essence from which we rise, not an ideal from which we fell.

Sorry to get philosophical in a physics discussion, but the quest is for understanding and I follow where it leads.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 20:38 GMT
Dear Dan Bruiger,

I believe and certainly hope that you have a winner here! I began my comment by planning to quote certain things you said, but the comment began to be pages long! My first essay also focused on "the imagined causal power of law" as a religious hold-over and the evident self-organizing power of nature as a more 'faithful' interpretation, leading, as you suggest, even to the possibility of the self-evolution of fine-tuning. I think you might like to read that earlier essay. I certainly plan to read your earlier FQXi essay!

I could not have written your essay nearly as well as you, nevertheless you reflect my thinking on almost every point you touch, and certainly on information, entropy, holography holes, etc. Thank you. I plan to quote you in the future and hope you keep writing. I am very interested in reading more of your well-written words.

Your claim that "no aspect of nature is completely reducible to specified information or to any formalization whatsoever" exposes reductionism as a metaphysical pseudo-religious belief system based on largely simplistic cartoon-like abstractions from the natural world. I hope your essay is widely read. It seems ideally suited for a Scientific American article.

Your observation that "the idealist thread in science views matter as a mere abstraction" and "it is circular reasoning to assume that the being or behavior of a *natural* thing is exhausted in a human definition, design, or a formulation that has been abstracted from it in the first place" seem to be becoming more widely understood. It's about time.

Since you also go into some detail about quantum theory, I invite you to read my current essay, The Nature of the Wave Function, which seeks to establish the connection between the local "real" (but "non-deterministic") physical wave and the abstract (but statistically useful) probability amplitude. I think my approach is completely consistent with yours.

I am tempted to begin quoting your many wonderful observations about the nature of information, but I will stop here and simply urge all readers to study your essay.

Best of luck in the contest and in life.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 20:28 GMT
Dear Edwin,

Thanks for your accolade. It's nice to touch base with you again. As always I am awed by the expertise of your presentation, way over my head! Best of luck to you in the contest, and in all things.


Georgina Parry wrote on Aug. 3, 2012 @ 22:52 GMT
Dear Dan Bruiger,

I really enjoyed your essay. It is very clearly written and well argued. It also contains a lot of food for thought.

The overall feeling I get is that you are saying it is impossible to absolutely capture nature. I don't think I can disagree with that. I am not sure though, that there has been the intention to do that. Science developed from early attempts to understand the world by observing it. Those observations were described or recorded, such as in the many beautiful drawings of early naturalists. I am sure they never confused their drawings with the plants or animals themselves, though they strove to make their illustrations as accurate as possible.

Similarly in the other sciences, models were made as illustrations and tools for calculations but I do not know that the majority of those scientists thought their models to be what was represented, rather than -a means- to make sense of the external reality. Richard Feynman explains, in his lecture series at Auckland University (available via FQXi resources), that quantum calculations are extremely accurate in corresponding with experimental results but why that is so is not known. -There has been an attitude that why it works does not really matter. That how this relates to nature is just unnecessary esoteric "icing on the cake"; that we would like to have but can do without. So the usefulness of a model or technique can be something quite different from how realistic. Bohr's model of the atom is another great example. That doesn't mean that scientists should not strive to find the -very best representations- in terms of similarity to nature -and- useful functionality.

Yours is one of several essays in the competition arguing for self organisation of the universe. I think you might find George Ellis' essay really interesting.He is arguing for top down organisation rather than a universe built exclusively from the bottom up as reductionists would have it.

You have written a really interesting an accessible essay, which is also very relevant to the competition question. Well done. Good luck in the competition.

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 20:41 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Thanks for the praise and for the heads up to read Ellis' essay. While I appreciate the "self-organization" aspect of his thesis, many of the examples he uses for modelling "top-down causation" come from computation. To me this appears as support for my claim that models are often confused with the reality they model.

Thanks also for the analogy of naturalist's drawings. I imagine the importance placed on those drawings within early science reacted to the prior medieval practice of dealing only with manuscripts rather than direct observation. What I am saying is that there is still such a tendency, what I call the "idealist thread" within modern science.

Best wishes,


Alan Lowey wrote on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 11:37 GMT

Thank you for an excellent essay which is both absorbing and accessible. I was especially pleased to read lines like "Mass then becomes like other macroscopic

thermodynamic variables, such as temperature and pressure, which disregard microstates". I have exactly the same problem with the assumed isotropy of 'mass' and the disregard for it's structure with relation to it's gravitational effect. I have made a discovery which shows how non-isotropic matter can explain the Ice Age conundrum in a problematic-free way which is superior to the Milankovitch sunlight-only models. I'd appreciate it if you would take a look: Newtons Isotropy and Equivalence Is Simplicity That Has Led to Modern Day *Mass* Misconceptions of Reality

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nmann wrote on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 18:42 GMT
"While an organism may need to model its environment, encoding it economically in its brain or elsewhere, there is no reason to think that physical reality at large registers or processes information, or has any need to encode or represent aspects of itself. Information is encoded, registered, or processed by intentional agents."

You need to account for the presence of isomorphisms, isomorphic structuration, in inorganic nature -- near-perfect parallels for which no causal connection can be demonstrated. A dramatic example is wave mechanics, both quantum and hydraulic. You can simulate the quantum double-slit in a pond of water. It's a stretch to deny the presence of purely informational content in that situation. Or not?

The Feynman Double Slit

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Author Dan J. Bruiger wrote on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 20:11 GMT
Dear nmann,

Wave interference is the historical metaphor to explain the 2-slit behavior, so it seems odd to speak of water waves "simulating" quantum waves. Obviously there is a resemblance, but whether that is strictly isomorphic is the question. I'm not sure what this has to do with "purely informational content". In general, I would say that isomorphism is not a property of physical reality per se, but of our metaphors and models. That is, two models can be isomorphic by definition, but whether any model is isomorphic to the reality it is supposed to model is always questionable.


nmann wrote on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 21:54 GMT
A great theoretical biologist, Howard Pattee (still with us) asks the question: "How do molecules become messages in cells?" Because DNA-RNA clearly carries information while at the same time being observable only as a process of physical chemistry. So what makes life, or any autopoietic process, different from an advanced inorganic process like, say, crystal growth? Until you answer that question, and do so in convincing detail, you can rule out no possibility, even including panpsychism.

To say that something is not "a property of physical reality per se, but of our metaphors and models" is, however true, unhelpful if your goal is to do science. I say that as a sincere Bohrian. Here's a paper by a couple of neo-Copenhagenites, one of whom is on record as not liking to call the moon "the moon" because it ascribes properties to the whatever-it-is-up-there which are doubtless inaccurate and misleading; it's epistemologically and ontologically as well as scientifically sophisticated stuff:

Quantum Physics as a Science of Information

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 22:39 GMT
Dan, forgive me for jumping into your thread, but you keep generating interesting questions.

nmann asks: "How do molecules become messages in cells?" Because DNA-RNA clearly carries information while at the same time being observable only as a process of physical chemistry."

In my opinion, all information is contextual, and is not even information *unless* there is a codebook. In the case of RNA/DNA clearly the cell is the codebook and there is no meaning at all to RNA/DNA structure without the cell (or without conscious beings based on cells). The best way to understand information (again, in my opinion) is as process or event or processed structure that literally "IN-FORMs" or induces 'In'-'form'ation in some other structure, typically the brain, but, as noted, also in cells.

"Until you answer that question, and do so in convincing detail, you can rule out no possibility, even including panpsychism." Who's ruling out panpychism? Or an analogous interpretation of awareness.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Anonymous replied on Aug. 5, 2012 @ 16:52 GMT
Thanks, nmann, for the references (Pattee and Zeilinger) which I will check out. And thanks to you Edwin for "jumping in". We three seem to agree that information is contextual. Further to that, here is a quote from something else I have been working on: "However biologists may objectify the genetic “code”—even to the extent of transmitting it by email—the organism’s internal communications cannot be so objectified without losing the sense in which they form the basis of the agent’s own point of view.

A message between human beings may appear to exist objectively. It can appear as text, with an indisputable number of characters, a definite information content. This appearance depends crucially on human intersubjectivity. It may not be taken for granted when dealng with other creatures. Even the objectivity of the ‘information’ in DNA is not independent of somatic and environmental factors. The extent to which it can be manipulated reliably by human beings depends on fortuitous constancy and control of such factors, even when we don’t know what they are. Above all, it is information for the organism, which has been appropriated by the genetic scientist."

I can't agree that it is unhelpful to point to the subjective side of information. While information, like isomorphism (or structure in general), must be considered a feature of the real world, both must also be asserted by agents. It is always "information according to so-and-so", and similarly with isomorphism, which is the identification of a pattern or relationship. The agent is the aspect missing from treatment in physics so far. I hesitate to call it 'intentionality' because that term has so much baggage in philosophy. Same with the term 'panpsychism'. The concept of intentionality or agency must be broadened to include agency within organisms and nervous systems, not just the agency responsible for the molar behavior of the creature. Similarly, it must include agency within what is presently considered inert matter. I suspect this is key to further advances in cosmology, and perhaps to the resolution of conundrums such as the apparent and highly improbable fine-tuning of the universe to life.

cheers, Dan

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 5, 2012 @ 16:54 GMT
(my loggin got timed out)


nmann wrote on Aug. 4, 2012 @ 22:51 GMT

Yes. I made the point back on the Ellis thread that no one should be conned into believing they're eavesdropping on the internal communications of DNA-RNA simply because we've identified some of the process and coded it in our own code.

It's like watching some fist fight in the Ukrainian parliament without sound or subtitles or even commentary. You can identify the big blond guy who's pounding on the big dark-haired guy whom you also recognize and you call them X and Y but really have no idea what the beef's about.

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Aug. 5, 2012 @ 03:34 GMT
Dear Dan Bruiger,

I think the definite information content of a quantum that is its entropy, is relative.

With best wishes


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John Merryman wrote on Aug. 5, 2012 @ 10:27 GMT
Another point to keep in mind about information is that the dynamic creation and destruction of information is also information. The current blocktime notion that information is somehow permanently stored in the four dimensional geometry of spacetime results in a static determinism that is a big part of the problem of explaining probabilities.

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Aug. 5, 2012 @ 17:00 GMT
Thanks, John, that's an excellent point. Information should not be objectified as seems to be presently happening in physics. Not only does the world change but also observers change.



Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 25, 2012 @ 20:47 GMT

Could you please drew attention to my essay

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John Merryman wrote on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 03:05 GMT

Too true. Observation is change.

One of the sources of some of my insights come from complexity theory and its dichotomy of order and chaos, with complexity as the mediation. I have adapted it somewhat though. To me it is more order and energy. It is just that energy tends to interact with order/structure at its weak points. The crack where the water and grass come through. The splits in the bark where the tree expands. The Tunisian fruitseller setting himself on fire. The places most studied and observed are also the most rigid and formalized. It the places where there is less organization and rigid structure which are most open to change and the energies initiating it. Once a system becomes so completely formalized that it cannot accept change and the energy manifesting it, that it therefore cannot continue to grow, that it becomes a closed set and can only lose energy.

The past is inherently ordered, while the future is inherently chaotic, yet the energy moves onto future events, as the structure of the past fades away. The present is that complex intermediation of energy and order. Energy moves to the future, as information moves to the past.

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Alan Lowey wrote on Aug. 6, 2012 @ 09:29 GMT
As a tribute to Benoit B. Mandlebrot one could ask: Is it "The Fractal Geometry Of Nature" or "The Fractal Nature Of Geometry"?

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Alan Lowey replied on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 14:56 GMT
All thoughts of analysis are based on leverage due to evolution with the stick. Plato's very own postulate of 'knowing the lever..' is a truism of many worthy attributes, but now with added irony.

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Constantinos Ragazas wrote on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 18:52 GMT
Greetings Dan,

I thoroughly enjoyed your essay. We agree on many arguments you make. I too have concluded we simply cannot know the truth of 'what is' the Universe. And compared this with knowing another person truly. We can only know ourselves and our measurements of 'what is'. Any attempts to model 'what is' I characterize as 'metaphysical' and argue will ultimately fail!

And because we agree, I ask you to read my essay, “The Metaphysics of Physics”, to see for yourself! In it, I have included a reference to you. Please comment and rate!

Best wishes,


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S Halayka wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 03:59 GMT
Hi Dan,

I really liked your essay, especially how you go about drawing the distinction between data and information. Many physicists have long decried the misappropriation of the word 'quantum' by mystics, etc. Isn't today's misappropriation of the word 'information' quite ironic then? I hear you.

- Shawn

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 17:33 GMT

I just read your essay, which I found very well written. A couple of things came to mind:

1. I agree that it's optimistic to expect nature to have a bottom to its complexity. Nevertheless I, and many other people, like to speculate about what such a fundamental level might be like if there were one. I think this is OK because physics is inherently optimistic; we assume we can make some sort of sense out of the world. Once you grant yourself that, there is no limit to human ambition. However, each recent generation of scientists has made fools of themselves by assuming they were near the bottom!

2. I would hope that we as humans can modify our thinking and approaches to nature in response to what nature throws at us; in other words, I would like to think that physics is more about our ideas being modified by what we learn than about us trying to put nature into a straitjacket. Quantum theory, for instance, was mostly forced on us by observation. The human insistence that the world be commensurate with rational thought, which you view with skepticism, seems to me like a moving target, because our ideas of "rational thought" in relation to science change whenever nature hits us with something we don't expect. Of course, it's possible that humans may be incapable even of asking the important questions; we'd never expect a rabbit to be able to ask the important questions, and are we really different from a rabbit in the grand scheme of things? I think so, but my view is hardly unbiased.

Anyway, it was a great read. Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 17:58 GMT
Hi, Ben

I like the image you imply of physics being a game of mutual adaptation between humans and nature (the moving target). It's an opportunity for science to become self-reflective, by putting itself in an evolutionary context.



Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 14:26 GMT

Very interesting to see your essay.

Perhaps all of us are convinced that: the choice of yourself is right!That of course is reasonable.

So may be we should work together to let's the consider clearly defined for the basis foundations theoretical as the most challenging with intellectual of all of us.

Why we do not try to start with a real challenge is very close and are the focus of interest of the human science: it is a matter of mass and grain Higg boson of the standard model.

Knowledge and belief reasoning of you will to express an opinion on this matter:

You have think that: the Mass is the expression of the impact force to material - so no impact force, we do not feel the Higg boson - similar to the case of no weight outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Does there need to be a particle with mass for everything have volume? If so, then why the mass of everything change when moving from the Earth to the Moon? Higg boson is lighter by the Moon's gravity is weaker than of Earth?

The LHC particle accelerator used to "Smashed" until "Ejected" Higg boson, but why only when the "Smashed" can see it,and when off then not see it ?

Can be "locked" Higg particles? so when "released" if we do not force to it by any the Force, how to know that it is "out" or not?

You are should be boldly to give a definition of weight that you think is right for us to enjoy, or oppose my opinion.

Because in the process of research, the value of "failure" or "success" is the similar with science. The purpose of a correct theory be must is without any a wrong point ?

Glad to see from you comments soon,because still have too many of the same problems.

Regard !


August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 20:11 GMT

You were way too low in the rankings. I just kicked you up much higher and hope that more people will see your essay and reward it.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 21:45 GMT
The computer and the universe

John Archibald Wheeler


The reasons are briefly recalled why (1) time cannot be a primordial category in the description of nature, but secondary, approximate and derived, and (2) the laws of physics could not have been engraved for all time upon a tablet of granite, but had to come into being by a higgledy-piggledy mechanism. It is difficult to defend the view that existence is built at bottom upon particles, fields of force or space and time. Attention is called to the “elementary quantum phenomenon” as potential building element for all that is. The task of construction of physics from such elements is compared and contrasted with the problem of constructing a computer out of “yes, no” devices.

Preparation for publication assisted by the University of Texas Center for Theoretical Physics and by National Science Foundation Grant No. PHY78-26592.

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Member Hector Zenil wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 21:36 GMT
Dear Dan,

If the world turns out to be Turing-computable (that is, in principle, possible to be carried out by a Turing machine), we would know there is a computer program that actually carries out exactly the same computation if our universe and no exhaustive modelling of the natural world would further be needed, unless you mean by that that the only way to account for a specific natural phenomenon is to actually run the computer simulation in order to see what happens. This would be very challenging to do so in practice as the simulation may require the same amount of resources than the universe took in order to reach that configuration (but it may also be the case that there is faster a more optimal computation).

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Anonymous replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 22:15 GMT
Somehow I doubt that "there is faster a more optimal computation" than the universe actually employs. Of course I don't really believe that the universe does actually compute anything.

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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 18:07 GMT
Hi, Hector

I'm not sure what it could mean for the world to "turn out to be Turing-computable" or not. Is that mathematically decidable?



Peter Jackson wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 15:42 GMT

"..the definite way that the world is can be definitely known through finite procedures." Well I think I've identified a set that can tell us a lot more at least. Sorry it took so long to get to you this year. Super essay, well written and argued. One thing took me by surprise;

" determine is an act of intent." It would seem that may leave 'cause and effect' in a bit of limbo!? I just hit 'p' instead of 'o', and a 'p' appeared ('limbp'), but I did not intend to do so at all. Would 'intent' then not have to infer intelligence? But I do think you've identified an additional class or division we have missed, ignored or failed to differentiate between..

Interestingly I think I've done the same with real and apparent (c+v) observation. I do hope you get to read my essay and like it as much as last years (I need the points!) . You certainly deserves to be higher and I'm pleased to assist. I look forward to your comments on mine; It's a full kit of parts for unification underlying a theatrical metaphor. Not long to go now for scoring. I've just bought some eye drops!

Best wishes


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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 18:27 GMT
Hi, Peter

Yes, 'intent' does imply "intelligence", or at least a projection of human agency. I believe, with Hume and Piaget, that the concept of causality involves a projection of human agency into observed interactions in nature. For myself to say that one thing causes or determines another is to "determine" that a certain relation exists between those things. Ultimately that sort of notion is based on simple human experience of making things happen—pushing objects around, including the object that is one's own body. The idea that an external object exerts the same sort of influence over another one transfers this basic idea, based on human personal agency, to impersonal objects. Just to speak of one thing causing the other leaves my participation out of the equation, which is the missing "class" you mention. My basic point is Hume's, that there is no "necessary" connection involved in the patterns of interactions of external objects that we call 'causal'. The only necessity is logical necessity. We don't seem to be satisfied that some patterns do seem to be very regular (the sun rising each day), so we invent the idea that something makes that happen.



Peter Jackson replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:20 GMT

Hmmm. I'm not convinced cause and effect need concious 'intent'. I do however agree there's a missing interaction 'with an observers lens, that 'causes' the precise signal configuration passed on to the observers brain. That is rather different.

The tree falling in the forest comes to mind, I've found to be in the same class as seeing the moon (in Copenhagen). If no lens is there to interact with the light reflected from it, there is no image of the moon as we know it in existence, but we CAN still see it's shadow! This is as also derived here;

Did distant galaxies interact 2bn years ago when there was no intelligent life there to see them or make them do so. As an astronomer I can tell you they did as I can see the evidence reaching us now.

I'm pretty sure it's an unnecessary step to far to suggest they didn't! Do you disagree?

Best wishes



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Author Dan J. Bruiger replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 17:48 GMT
Hi, Peter

No. of course I don't disagree. My point is about two senses of 'determine'. Astronomers determine, on their best account, that certain events have taken place long ago, based on light arriving in the present era. This is literally an act of imagination, involving long chains of inference with which I may concur. This is no different from problems facing the historian—a matter of deduction from evidence—that requires the existence of a deducer. In the other sense, those events may be held to have been 'determined' by other events in the past. I simply mean that in this case too a deducer is implied. Whether the tree "really" falls in the forest, when no one is in a position to determine that is has, is epistemically an indeterminate matter. For obvious evolutionary reasons, the notion of an external reality independent of us is ingrained in the human psyche; similarly, notions about causality. We can look at these literally as truths and realities, or we can look at them as notions. I think we need to keep both ways in mind.



Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 07:43 GMT
If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings in the contest are calculated in the next way. Suppose your rating is
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
of points. After it anyone give you
of points so you have
of points and
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
then the participant`s rating
was at the moment you rated him. From here it is seen that in the contest are special rules for ratings. And from here there are misunderstanding of some participants what is happened with their ratings. Moreover since community ratings are hided some participants do not sure how increase ratings of others and gives them maximum 10 points. But in the case the scale from 1 to 10 of points do not work, and some essays are overestimated and some essays are drop down. In my opinion it is a bad problem with this Contest rating process. I hope the FQXI community will change the rating process.

Sergey Fedosin

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David Rousseau wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 14:40 GMT
Hi Dan, super essay, very well written and very clear. Lots of ideas I want to discuss! Not much time left here, but I have seen enough to know that you deserve a good rating, which I will certainly contribute to. Will post some comments tomorrow if I can, otherwise contact you later for more discussion. Nice job anyway. BTW, I answered the questions you posted on our thread way back when, don't know if you ever saw it, but thanks for those it was stimulating to think through them!

Best wishes,


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Lorraine Ford wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:28 GMT

Interesting essay. I agree that "the apparent "fine-tuning" of the universe might turn out to be a result of active self-organization, rather than of highly unlikely coincidence, as it is held to be in the present view of matter as passive."

Best wishes,


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