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Blogger Ian Durham wrote on Oct. 5, 2016 @ 20:03 GMT
The main theme of August's FQXi conference was centered around the physics of the observer and so, in wrapping up our discussion of the conference, it remains to be asked if any progress was made toward a better understanding of the concept. As with just about any conference or meeting of researchers from such diverse backgrounds, it is natural to expect that each of us came in to the conference with out own opinions, ideas, and, yes, biases. It's difficult to say if anyone actually changed their mind about anything or was swayed by a reasonable but opposing argument, as a result of this conference.

Of course, science is not based on opinion. The final arbiter of science must always be carefully constructed experiment. Certainly there are some, including a few attendees of this conference, who have suggested that science, and most notably physics, has moved into the post-experiment era in which an elegant mathematical description is all that is required to prove a physical "truth." As someone who wrote his doctoral thesis on one failed attempt to reduce physics to a purely deductive exercise, I can say that this argument is actually nothing new. Physicists have occasionally entertained this idea at one time or another throughout the past four centuries. In some sense, Hilbert formally challenged physicists to do exactly this---axiomatize physics---in his famous Sixth Problem (though, it should be noted, that his actual statement of the problem can be interpreted as having a narrower focus). Experiment, however, persists as the final arbiter of physical "truth" precisely because it has the most direct connection to our senses which remains the only way in which we directly interact with the world. In other words, we expect science to interpret the world of our experience.

That being said, modern physicists know well that direct experience can often be deceiving. Both relativity and quantum mechanics---the two foundational pillars of modern physics---raise direct issues concerning the role of the observer in our understanding of the world. Indeed, some of these issues have been at the forefront of physics for four centuries. After all, it was Galileo (and not Einstein as many incorrectly believe) who developed the principle of relativity which states that the laws of physics should be the same in all inertial reference frames. Galileo's thought experiment involved someone in a windowless cabin on a ship in calm waters---would that person be able to determine with absolute certainty if they were moving or not? The answer, of course, is no.

The key here is that this says something profound about the nature of the observer---all inertial observers must agree on the laws of physics, though not necessarily on the specific outcomes of individual experiments. In other words, the universe must be self-consistent, i.e. it must operate in the same manner for all inertial observers.

In the quantum realm, however, we learn that the observer can affect the outcome of experiments. Is this a violation of the principle of relativity, then? Not necessarily. The principle simply says that the same rules must apply to all inertial observers. Variation in the outcomes of individual experiments is allowed as long as the rules that led to those results are the same in each case.

And that, right there, is the real key to this entire discussion. Science has very carefully built a structure and methodology for addressing these issues over the course of those same four centuries that has been a consistently reliable predictor of future outcomes. Arguable this methodology---which defines modern science---is the greatest achievement in the history of humanity. One of its hallmarks, particularly in physics, is its emphasis on rigor and clarity (perhaps due to the close ties between physics and mathematics). We need to know what it is that we're talking about otherwise we end up just talking past one another, sometimes without realizing. John Wheeler's argument that we need to move beyond defining things sounds almost Aristotelean in contrast. Indeed, one way in which this grand enterprise we call science has progressed has been by agreeing on definitions and then testing those definitions. In theory, this should lead to further refinement of those definitions. Unfortunately, science, including physics itself, has become fractured enough that universal consensus on some definitions---including "the observer"---is lacking.

A classic example of this that recalls several conversations and exchanges made at the last few FQXi conferences, is the concept of entropy. Despite the fact that Boltzmann and Gibbs clarified the definition of entropy in the 19th century (which Jaynes so elegantly further clarified in the mid-20th century), there are those that persist in defining entropy via a Clausius relation. While such a relation is certainly a valid manner in which to describe certain types of entropy, it is abundantly clear from even a cursory reading of Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Jaynes that such a relation does not work as a universal definition. It is simply a way in which entropy behaves under certain, limiting conditions and tells us nothing about its actual nature.

At any rate, this brings us back to the question at hand. What is an observer? For that matter, what is an event? Does the latter require the former? These were both questions that ostensibly were to be addressed at the conference. In fact an entire session was dedicated solely to the observer. During the Q&A session of the associated panel, Jeremy Butterfield pointed out that modern philosophy, via Frege, Russell, et. al., had established set definitions for many of these "truths," relations, etc. that are generally free from the types of disciplinary bias you get in science. For example, those who prefer to define entropy via a Clausius relation are typically those who work in areas reliant on classical thermodynamics. This comment by Butterfield raises a few interesting points. Notably, it sets a definitive role for philosophy in the advancement of science. Scientists are often dismissive of the role of philosophy, but, just like science, philosophy is not monolithic. While it certainly contains its share of post-modernist rubbish, it also includes some very important and rigorous work including, as Butterfield pointed out, in defining certain important terms used by science. Having these independent, broadly developed ideas and definitions can help to relieve some of the tensions surrounding some of these definitions.

All of this is to say that we still have no consistent definition of an observer, per se. Even Butterfield did not offer one. The session and the subsequent panel did little to clear the fog on this issue, Butterfield's comments notwithstanding. That's not to say that the others didn't offer interesting and cogent opinions. David Wolpert, for instance, suggested that an observer, whatever one is, must be in a non-equilibrium state. While this is an intriguing idea, the other panelists showed no inclination to jump on that bandwagon. (It bears mentioning that, if observers automatically come equipped with a reference frame and since reference frames naturally break some symmetry when they are introduced to a problem, then Wolpert's idea might be the germ of something more generally valid and useful.)

At any rate, Jim Hartle offered up an amusing anecdote at one point that could be a kind of metaphor for the session. He mentioned that Murray Gell-Mann once compared something to "sticking a pin in the I Ching, but no one understood what the hell he meant." This may sound like a harsh indictment of the session, but it shouldn't be taken in that way. In fact, the session had the essence of one of those good, working sessions from legendary physics conferences of old like the Shelter Island Conference in 1947 (which Oppenheimer felt was the best conference he had ever attended). In that sense, the session lent a feeling to the proceedings that this---the FQXi conference---was, first and foremost, a working conference. And that is what makes these conferences so unique. Some of the brightest minds in physics, philosophy, neuroscience, mathematics, biology, computer science, and elsewhere communicate with one another, poking and prodding at the heart of difficult questions, nudging the scientific process along. This is where the real work gets done.

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Oct. 5, 2016 @ 23:27 GMT
"Laws the same in all frames" means to an informationalist "impossibilities are all the same"

Ian there is a measurement I think. We just need a good neuro imaging lab experienced with laboratory animals.

( An overall approach to the observer.)

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James A Putnam replied on Oct. 6, 2016 @ 05:44 GMT
Dear Ian Durham,

"A classic example of this that recalls several conversations and exchanges made at the last few FQXi conferences, is the concept of entropy. Despite the fact that Boltzmann and Gibbs clarified the definition of entropy in the 19th century (which Jaynes so elegantly further clarified in the mid-20th century), there are those that persist in defining entropy via a Clausius relation. While such a relation is certainly a valid manner in which to describe certain types of entropy, it is abundantly clear from even a cursory reading of Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Jaynes that such a relation does not work as a universal definition. It is simply a way in which entropy behaves under certain, limiting conditions and tells us nothing about its actual nature."

I see that the line is drawn. You state that Clausius' derivation of thermodynamic entropy tells us nothing about 'real?' entropy's actual nature. A cursory reading of Boltzmann's entropy showed me that it was not the same thing as Clausius' entropy. Clausius' entropy remains unexplained by physicists. Temperature remains an undefined property.

Boltzmann's entropy is explicable due to its clear physical definition except for why it carries over Boltzmann's constant. Is there an explanation for the role that Boltzmann's constant plays in Boltzmann's entropy? As the temperature drops from Carnot engine to Carnot engine in the derivation of the Kelvin temperature scale, Clausius' thermodynamic entropy doesn't change at all. Are the other entropies independent of temperature? How does Clausius' thermodynamic entropy, under any conditions, tell us how the relationship between occupied and unoccupied particle positions, Boltzmann's or micro, behaves?



Respectfully,

James A Putnam

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Blogger Ian Durham replied on Oct. 6, 2016 @ 21:47 GMT
James,

Read Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 of Dan Schroeder's book Thermal Physics, and then read E.T. Jaynes' opus on maximum entropy. (Frank Schroeck also has a nice discussion of this in his book on quantum mechanics, if I recall, though I don't have it in front of me).

Ian

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James A Putnam replied on Oct. 6, 2016 @ 22:19 GMT
Ian,

In defense of Clausius' thermodynamic entropy:

"It (Clausius' derivation of thermodynamic entropy) is simply a way in which entropy behaves under certain, limiting conditions and tells us nothing about its actual nature."

The failure for physicists to explain what it was that Clauius discovered when he wrote his mathematical expressions for thermodynamic entropy is not his or his work's deficiency. It is due to the indefinable status of temperature. Define temperature and the physical meaning of thermodynamic entropy becomes immediately clear. There is a hitch though, it is that physicists must first define mass. Once mass is defined, the definition of temperature follows quickly. This is the situation: The inability of physicists to define both mass and temperature removed the equations of physics from direct dependency upon empirical evidence. Lack of knowledge was substituted for by theoretical guesses that have become staples of physics equations. Physicists will not fix the problem. The problem, due to at least two artificially indefinable properties, is that we have not learned what empirical evidence is revealing to us about the properties of the universe and Clausius' thermodynamic entropy in particular. There is a third problem that is the circular definition of electric charge. Fix all three problems and this results: The Absoluteness of Time ; A principle of Conservation of Acceleration; and, Gibb's Paradox Solution

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Robert H McEachern wrote on Oct. 7, 2016 @ 01:23 GMT
"The key here is that this says something profound about the nature of the observer---all inertial observers must agree on the laws of physics, though not necessarily on the specific outcomes of individual experiments. In other words, the universe must be self-consistent"

A self-consistent universe does not require that all inertial observers must agree on the laws of nature. Modern observers do not agree with ancient observers, in regards to such laws. This has more to due with the state of the observer's knowledge base, than with the state of the universe. The laws must be the same for all such observers, but the observers need not know that, much less agree to it.

"In the quantum realm, however, we learn that the observer can affect the outcome of experiments." This has little to do with the quantum realm. Every wildlife observer knows that merely attempting to observe the wildlife, will almost inevitably alter the wildlife's behavior. More importantly, the outcome can also be changed by the observer's mere choice regarding what ought to be measured in the first place, and may have very little to do with the entity being measured; if an observer chooses to measure the best-fit line, then the observer will get just such a measurement, even when the "best-fit" is a very poor fit.

Rob McEachern

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 7, 2016 @ 03:08 GMT
There are indeed convincing solutions to notorious paradoxes. For instance:

- Entropy is not a property of the microstate.

- While Galileo's relativity is a pillar of physics, Einstein's Relativity introduced a somewhat uncommon notion of observer. Did the conference omit this?

- Is "emphasis on rigor" in mathematics always justified? No. At least one has to be aware that Leibniz and Bernoulli introduced a pragmatic relative but not strictly infinite definition of infinity that gave rise to paradoxes.

- Are there non-locally entangled states? Rob's argument was perhaps not yet discussed by the conference.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 06:36 GMT
"all inertial observers must agree on the laws of physics"

Actually all observers, not just all inertial ones should agree. Why should non-inertial ones be excluded? Didn't this imply naive interpretations?

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jim hughes wrote on Oct. 7, 2016 @ 03:08 GMT
I wouldn't agree that an observation "affects" the outcome of an experiment at the quantum scale; I'd say that the observation IS the outcome.

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Oct. 7, 2016 @ 16:00 GMT
"...there are those that persist in defining entropy via a Clausius relation. While such a relation is certainly a valid manner in which to describe certain types of entropy, it is abundantly clear from even a cursory reading of Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Jaynes that such a relation does not work as a universal definition."

Clausius' approach was DEDUCTIVE so suggesting that a premise is false or an argument is invalid is the only legitimate criticism of his concepts. Any different criticism, including one based on "reading of Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Jaynes", is not even wrong.

Pentcho Valev

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Steve Agnew wrote on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 04:11 GMT
It does not bode well for the future of mainstream science when a bunch of very smart people get together at a conference and cannot define an observer, cannot define quantum phase, cannot agree that the future is uncertain and not determinate, and yet can agree to meet again and repeat the process of disagreement.

The only thing that the conference seems to have agreed upon was in repeating the same conference over again. Then the same conclusion will occur and so on. This is truly emblematic of the conundrum of mainstream science today in that very smart people seem to enjoy butting their heads against the brick wall of determinism.

It should not be at all surprising that a gravity observer is fundamentally different from a quantum observer...these two theories fundamentally contradict each other. Gravity of GR has the deterministic future of a block universe of matter without amplitude and phase and quantum has the uncertain future of matter with amplitude and phase.

Thus mainstream science has both a gravity observer and a quantum observer and these observers observe two different realities. Without a common force, quantum and GR gravity will always have very different observers.

Of course, there is no meaning for an observer without a source and some action to observe...more grist for disagreement that is for sure. Since a quantum source bonds to a quantum observer with the action of an exchange particle, it is likely that a gravity source also bonds to a gravity observer with an exchange particle. However, GR space and time simply distort and make it seem like gravity sources bond to gravity observers.

This seems a little zany and as long as space and time are axiomatic, there is simply no way to reconcile gravity and quantum as a single exchange force. Therefore space and time must emerge from the action of matter and it is then matter and action that are axiomatic, not space and time.

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Anonymous replied on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 05:45 GMT
Dear Steve Agnew,

Interesting message. I have been studying your paper and I think I am seeing your point. I wasn't ready yet to ask questions, but your message prompted this response of mine. In my view, I believe that the problems of theoretical physics stem from a few fundamental early erroneous decisions and a few unsolved problems left behind, one in particular of which lost fundamental unity from physics equations. I believe that this unsettled state opened the equations of physics to theorists' imaginative choices of substitutes to fill in for some lack of knowledge and for attempts to introduce speculative ways of achieving the illusive unity. That is not the point of this message. The point of this message is that choice, for whatever the reason, is a significant part of theoretical physics. Free exchange of ideas should thrive in such an environment. I don't see the physics community embracing the free exchange of ideas.

If it weren't for the Internet, I think theoretical physics would be intentionally kept narrowly focused in a protected state. Even on the Internet that protected state is attempted. Yet, the Internet resists domination. I appreciate the opportunity that it presents for reading alternative viewpoints of professionals. I wouldn't see them otherwise. I think that if FQXi.org fully embraced the wording of its mission, that alternative viewpoints, based upon credible alternative choices like yours, would be openly evaluated here by other professionals. That is the kind of discussions that should be thriving here. It hasn't happened.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 06:28 GMT
"space and time are axiomatic"

Indeed, block time is questionable. Why not accepting elapsed time instead?

Reference for phase is necessarily an arbitrary choice. The only natural point of reference is the now.

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Steve Agnew replied on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 15:13 GMT
Right now mainstream science is very confused by the contradictory observers, sources, and actions of GR gravity and quantum charge. While phase and amplitude are inherent to quantum bonds between source and observer, phase and amplitude have no meaning for GR gravity bonds between source and observer.

The fundamental confusion of observers, sources, and actions all derives from the lack of a unifying exchange force and this is unfortunate. However until science accepts a new paradigm for matter and action that follows mass-energy equivalence, this confusion will persist along with the conferences that simply restate this confusion with different words.

While it is true that the present time does represent a phase reference point, the phases of matter and action are 90 degrees out of phase with each other, which is the uncertainty principle. What is truly amazing is that the world is full of many very smart people and yet none of them can see that the simple paradigm shift from continuous space and time to discrete matter and action does unify force...

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 16:12 GMT
If science is deductive, all conclusions, including those concerning observers, are deducible from the postulates (so the topic "Defining the Observer" is somewhat redundant). For instance,

"I see your clock running slower than mine, and you see mine running slower than yours"

is a direct consequence of Einstein's 1905 constant-speed-of-light postulate. Actually all consequences of...

view entire post


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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Oct. 8, 2016 @ 21:44 GMT
The Gell-Mann methaphor could be understood (for me) in a simple way: the I Ching like quantum state (the hexagrams like a possible discrete description of the quantum state), the oracle like the quantum observer that change the value of the hexagrams with the observation; the measure change the quantum state with the observation (measure), and this is possible for a quantum I Ching: a quantum system encoding the hexagram.

What is a general observer? We have ever different measuring instruments, that can give different results because of the different quantum interactions: so that the observer is different in different time with different instruments; so that the observer definition must be separated by the measuring devices in the pure definition, using only interactions (without devices); so that the observer could be the fundamental interactions with the objects.

I have a problem: if there are two mathematical theory that give the same physical results, and so that are indistinguishable, what is the true theory?

For example, take a differential equation that describes a classical system, take the nth power of the differential equation (or any polynomial with argument the differential equation): this is the same classical law and with the same trajectories, and the same results.

So that the experiment cannot give the classical equation, there must be something more …

If there is a theory that give the same results in a more “elegant” way, with fewer parameters, fewer terms, then this theory is better and it is near to the true law.

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Peter F Coin wrote on Oct. 9, 2016 @ 04:35 GMT
Perhaps this is a good definition of an observer:

"I know it when I be it"

Love,

Peter

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jim hughes wrote on Oct. 10, 2016 @ 17:04 GMT
I get the feeling that for many of the people at this conference, the real agenda was to try, once again, to define 'observer' in a way that implies an independent 'physical' reality. And they see 'physical' as a word which doesn't require a definition.

The reason 'physical' has no non-circular definition is that it has no meaning. On the other hand, the meaning of 'observer' is obvious: it's the consciousness experiencing the event in question.

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Paul Merriam wrote on Oct. 12, 2016 @ 20:44 GMT
The sentence "The key here is that this says something profound about the nature of the observer---all inertial observers must agree on the laws of physics, though not necessarily on the specific outcomes of individual experiments. " doesn't scan right.

There is a sense in which "specific outcomes of individual experiments" must certainly be agreed on! E.g. either the photographic plate shows an interference pattern or else it shows a random pattern. There is one specific outcome and certainly all observers must agree on this...

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 13, 2016 @ 13:06 GMT
Paul M,

To me, any observer focuses his senses to features of a process, an ongoing one or at least a change expected to happen before the end of obseration.

I wouldn't speak of observing in case of just looking at a static object like a photo.

Observing persons may see an outcomes of an experiment differently for various reasons even if they are observing simultaneously. This doesn't mean that there are different outcomes.

Observation always collects data from the past of the observing subject.

I summarized some related thoughts (in German) in messages like M282:

home.arcor.de/eckard.blumschein/M282.html

++++

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Oct. 13, 2016 @ 22:02 GMT
Ian Durham,

The reality whose structure we can represent with law-of-nature mathematical equations is only part of the picture: the causal and observational aspects of reality have no such structure, and these qualities can only be represented with words. It is particles (and thereby atoms, molecules and living things) that possess these qualities: particles are not quite the numb, dumb billiard balls of traditional physics’ ideology.

Particles (and thereby atoms etc.) cause/create and observe/know about/experience the reality whose fundamental-level structure we can represent with law-of-nature mathematical equations. Particles are subjects that create and experience the category distinctions (e.g. mass) and their relationships to other category distinctions that we represent with numbers*, law-of-nature equations, initial-value equations, and quantum-reinitialized-value equations.

* derive from relationships where the category “cancels out”

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 14, 2016 @ 06:07 GMT
Lorraine,

Can "causal aspects of reality" really "only be represented with words"? Your position is teleological. Purpose is something that belongs to human perspectice. Thunder was attributed to Donar, an imagined person/god, etc.

Obviously it is more reasonable to declare the process of lightning numb and dumb while asking for its true cause.

I prefer revealing genuine deficits that are perhaps affecting basic languages and interpretations in mathematics and physics.

I agree on that the "structure we can represent with law-of-nature mathematical equations is only part of the picture".

I am ready to discuss and possibly correct my position. If you don't read German, you might read M283. I could also translate M282 on request.

++++

++++

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Lorraine Ford replied on Oct. 14, 2016 @ 21:37 GMT
Eckard,

your obsession with "purpose" clouds your judgement. I have never ever mentioned any idea related to "purpose"; I have no "teleological" "position". This "purpose" stuff is in your mind, not mine.

What is M283 and M282?

You say "I agree on that the "structure we can represent with law-of-nature mathematical equations is only part of the picture"". What do you mean? Elaborate.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 15, 2016 @ 04:16 GMT
Lorraine,

I referred to home.arcor.de/eckard.blumschein/M283.html , cf. my replies to Paul M. on Oct. 13 and to Tom on Oct 12. M282 is in German.

You ascribed "cause/create and observe/know about/experience" not only to living subjects but also to particles, i.e. to objects that are no living individuals.

An item like a stone may be used as to create a house, and it (not he) can include r.g. what remained from an insect. If we say, the stone tells us something about that insect then this is stricctly speaking incorrect.

A stone cannot create, observe, or know about anything. It may however be useful practice to imagine the stone as if it was living and had human abilities.

You may tend to not always distinguish between causality and men's purposeful action that creates something. Causality as I understand it does not require consciousness, intention, purpose and the like.

The name teleology has been attributed to telos, which means purpose. Teleological ideology relates to theology that interprets the world as if it was purposeful god(man)made and has accordingly a finite deterministically understandable structure, a "structure we can represent with law-of-nature mathematical equations".

I rather prefer Popper's open world, and I hope for revealing mistakes and imperfections in very basic assumptions. My boss admitted being unable to judge whether my arguments are correct or not: They were too fundamental, "so was von fundamental" he said.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 21, 2016 @ 10:20 GMT
Lorraine amd Max Tegmarck,

Spatial distance and distance in terms of past time, i.e. of causality, are the most basic assumptions of physics. I don't see any possible contribution of musing about an "observer issue" that could reveal something behind these two pillars, neither a solution nor an application to such irrelevant question. Science and technology don't need a god or the like.

Attributing the notion "know/observe" to items without a brain that may somehow react by using memorized experience has proven a primitive speculation that is most likely wrong.

I know what I am trying to make plausible when I am arguing that our ears cannot hear future events: causality. Causality is not the result of observation but the latter relies on the former. Strictly speaking we also cannot foresee the future. We can just anticipate and predict it to some extent.

++++

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Lorraine Ford replied on Oct. 23, 2016 @ 21:47 GMT
Re “Spatial distance and distance in terms of past time, i.e. of causality, are the most basic assumptions of physics”:

Not so. “Causality” is cause ex nihilo, not a logical progression of equations. “Causality” is what causes what we represent as information categories (e.g. what causes what we describe as mass, distance, time), what causes the relationship between these information categories (i.e. what causes what we represent with law-of-nature equations), what causes what we represent with initial-value equations. All assumptions made when producing these equations must be viewed as “cause” ex nihilo.

Space and time have no actual, absolute points: space and time are far from being “two pillars” or “the most basic assumptions of physics”!!

Max Tegmark seems to assume that consciousness is just another information category (like mass or charge) that can be measured. I, on the other hand, am saying that consciousness/the “observer” is what is doing the measuring, what is experiencing the information.

You seem to be afflicted with human hubris, the belief in human sacredness, the belief in human exceptionality, the belief that human beings have ex-nihilo characteristics that cannot be found in more primitive form in the cells, molecules, atoms and particles that comprise living things. This belief is completely illogical.

It is logically necessary that fundamental-level reality knows/ “observes” itself i.e. knows/experiences the aspect of itself that we represent with law-of-nature equations and parameter value equations. Reality is not the same as it’s mathematical representation, so it is not surprising that reality has more properties than a mathematical equation might suggest. Not all aspects of fundamental-level reality can be represented by mathematical equations, and the “observer” is one fundamental aspect of reality that cannot be represented by equations.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 23, 2016 @ 23:35 GMT
Lorraine,

" ... law-of-nature equations ..."

Did you ever give an example of such of an equation? I don't recall.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 24, 2016 @ 02:05 GMT
Lorraine,

"Causality is what causes what we describe as mass, distance, time". I see this as a circular definition that eventually seeks and speculatively suggests some extranatural god, information category, consciousness, whatever.

Cause is simply something that precedes effect. A chicken lays its egg, not the other way round. This is to me causality. In reality, elapsed time is always positive.

By the way, mass is perhaps not as basic as is the immediately measurable by comparison, i.e. elapsed, time and also is the always positive spatial distance.

Well, mass is also always positive. However, direct comparison between masses is restricted to chosen groups of elementar entities.

While the property mass is not required for measuring elapsed time or spatial distance, measurement of mass requires e.g. comparison of length on a scale.

I only agree with you on that any initial-value model is an incomplete description of reality. Everybody has at least two parents. Definition of an initial value or primary father is an arbitrary cut of the assumed as beginningless causal family tree. This fact compellingly illustrates the categorical difference between theory and reality.

++++

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Oct. 26, 2016 @ 22:05 GMT
Unlike David Wolpert, Jim Hartle, Ian Durham and others at the August FQXi conference that was “centered around the physics of the observer”, Eckard and Tom don’t take the “observer” issue seriously. Eckard and Tom make no attempt at all to address physics’ “observer” issue, and Tom will not even use the word “observer”: perhaps he considers himself more knowledgeable and sophisticated than the physicists at the conference. Tom calls me "naïve", but he himself is not even brave enough to attempt “defining the observer”, the topic of this blog and a physics conference.

Eckard,

Popper’s falsifiability criteria are seemingly restricted to the class of reality that is measurable and/or can be represented by mathematical equations. But if aspects of fundamental-level reality actually exist that do not belong to this class, then Popper’s criteria are a real hindrance to the understanding of reality.

Re “++++”:

Physics can have no hope of understanding fundamental-level reality unless it explains what numbers are. I notice that Eckard had has a bit of a go at this in past essays, but sophisticated-Tom takes numbers for granted: he has never even noticed that numbers are an issue.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 27, 2016 @ 11:25 GMT
Come up with an example of a "law of nature equation" yet, Lorraine? How about explaining "what numbers are"? -- Does that question even make sense?

I have, in fact, been very clear about what it means to observe, and it doesn't require arbitrarily defining "observer."

Popper isn't the problem. The problem is in what you think are problems, that aren't.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 27, 2016 @ 14:08 GMT
I am taking the observer issue seriously because the speed of light must not be considered with respect to any observer. I repeatedly defined it otherwise.

Popper considered the world as open. This contradicts to the denial of the distinction between past and future by Hilbert and Einstein. Popper called Einstein a Parmenides. Einstein didn't object.

++++

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 27, 2016 @ 14:26 GMT
Having experienced a reset, I am writing as concise as possible. Are numbers an issue? To mediocre mathematicians rarely.

I would nonetheless point to nearly mandatory mistakes:

Leibniz and Bernoulli introduced a pragmatic notion of relative "infinity" something that is said larger than anything. Galileo still understood being infinite an absolute property: Infinity + infinity = infinity.

Dedekind mislead mathematics back into the ancient idea of numbers as pebbles of abacus instead of distances between Euclid's ideal points.

All numbers including negative and complex ones up to more sophisticated creations are often carelessly interpreted as having one-to-one correlates in physical quantities.

++++

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Constantinos Ragazas wrote on Oct. 28, 2016 @ 19:28 GMT
Hello Ian, and thanks for reporting on this.

"Defining existence" and "defining the observer" may not be the right questions to be asking, imho. Since these quickly lead to Philosophy and Psychology and Mysticism. And not Physics.

In my view, the more relevant fundamental question is "what is observation".

In terms of "observation", we can than answer,

What physically exists is what can potentially be observed.

And, an observer is who can make the observation.

Has the question "what is observation" been considered at the Conference?

Best,

Constantinos

kostadinos@aol.com

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Oct. 29, 2016 @ 00:47 GMT
Constantinos,

Since elliptical, lenticular, and spiral galaxies were observed, there is no doubt: They certainly exist. May we conclude that similar structures don't exist in the microcosmos because they can perhaps not be observed?

I intend reminding of the eye of mathematical models. I agree with your statement, an observer is someone who can make the observation. However, in SR and also in QM the notion observer is differently used. This mighz be the reason for the lacking agreement on the conference.

There is no speed of light with respect to the observer, and an ideal observer doesn't affect the object under observation. I intend revealing belonging mistakes even if most members of fqxi may dislike braking taboos.

++++

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Constantinos Ragazas replied on Oct. 29, 2016 @ 08:27 GMT
Hello Eckard! Thank you for your comments. I intentionally made my comments simple. Wanting to explore this fundamental question: what is observation.

An observation can be made either by us or by our instruments. Further, what physically exists need not be just what has been observed. But what can be observed.

As for the "eye of mathematical models" ... in my view, "that is observed" is fundamentally different from "what is observed".

By "observation" I mean the process and not the product. For anything to physically exist it must submit to the process of being observed. But what is being observed is a different question which depend on our Metaphysics (belief system).

Constantinos

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Oct. 29, 2016 @ 14:00 GMT
It is not enough that fundamental-level reality just exists[1]. The word “exist” has no connotation of knowledge, but in an open universe it is logically necessary that an aspect of fundamental-level reality knows itself i.e. knows/ “observes”/ experiences the fundamental-level relationships that we represent with law-of-nature equations and re-initialised parameter value equations (from “random” quantum outcomes). The “observer” is an aspect of fundamental-level reality that cannot be represented by equations. “Observers” are particles, atoms, molecules and single and multi-cell living things.

But “defining the observer” is not necessary, according to Tom (Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 27, 2016 @ 11:25 GMT ). This is because he believes in a “set and forget” type of closed universe, one that is completely defined by its initial setup i.e. laws-of-nature and initial parameter values. No knowledge is required in this type of universe because nothing new ever happens in a closed universe, no new inputs ever occur.

And as I suspected, Tom takes numbers for granted. Probably Tom would say “understanding what it is about fundamental-level reality that numbers might represent is not necessary, is not important”.

Eckard,

I think that, in the past, I have tried to point out to you that I agree with you that numbers are not like pebbles. But there is still the question of what it is about fundamental-level reality that numbers do represent.

1. Exist: “have objective reality or being”, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/exist

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Lorraine Ford replied on Oct. 30, 2016 @ 22:12 GMT
With Tom’s type of belief system about the universe, there is no explanation for what moves the system forward, what moves the initial values to the next set of values that would be found if the system were sampled e.g. the values for mass, energy, charge or spin. Tom’s type of belief system never mentions the hidden assumptions: that a mysterious entity that does calculations exists behind the scenes, moving forward/changing the numeric values for mass, energy, or any other parameter you like to name. Without this assumed “computing entity” behind the scenes, there is no reason for Tom’s type of universe to ever move off the initial values starting blocks at the beginning of the universe.

With the quantum universe however, “quantum randomness” is a known non-mechanism that moves the system forward by changing or re-initialising some parameter values: this ratchets the system forward by continually injecting new information into the system.

With Tom’s “set and forget” universe, there is an assumed-but-never-mentioned entity/“observer” behind-the-scenes that knows all the parameter values, and does calculations that move the system forward.

With my view of the quantum universe however, it is the particles (and atoms etc.) that 1) “observe”/know the underlying reality that we represent mathematically as parameter value equations, 2) are the cause of changes to parameter values, and 3) are the reason that information in the universe has a subjective structure.

There you have it: completely upfront[1] observers and cause versus Tom’s mysterious/hidden/assumed-but-not-mentioned observers and cause.

1. Upfront: “bold, honest, and frank”, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/upfront

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Nov. 3, 2016 @ 10:59 GMT
Came across this, maybe some of you might find it interesting The Reality Interface Teacher:Ransom Stephens, Ph.D He isn't really presenting new facts but I like the way he is setting it out to show the filtering of information and delays, and making it clear that the experienced reality is different from the reality on the other side of the interface.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Nov. 3, 2016 @ 18:38 GMT
What is seen is the product not the source of the information. Product and source are on different sides of the Reality interface. This is important for re-considering Einstein's relativity.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Nov. 3, 2016 @ 19:26 GMT
Georgina,

"Product and source are on different sides of the Reality interface."

How many sides does a Mobius band have?

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Georgina Woodward replied on Nov. 3, 2016 @ 19:48 GMT
Tom,

One that appears to be two at a glance but I think that is a distraction from an important differentiation. I think by not using the label "Image reality" you might be able to accept that the source of information is not the same as a product fabricated from the information and therefore they can be differentiated. I accept that it all happens within the one Object reality. I accept that all the interfaces and their products are there not in a separate universe, but that doesn't mean the differentiation is not extremely useful for understanding what is going on. Tolkien's Middle Earth can be differentiated for the World outside of the story but the story has to also be in the external World as it resides in the media, that are there, from which it is extracted.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 3, 2016 @ 21:27 GMT
Energy is not the power that drives the universe-system. Just like mass or charge, energy is merely another information category that is represented as a parameter in law-of-nature equations.

“Laws-of-nature” are not the power that drives the universe-system. Laws-of-nature, which we represent with equations, merely represent fixed relationships between parameters like mass, energy, charge etc.

The power that drives the universe-system is whatever it is that causes the parameter numeric values to change.

Some people - physicists, philosophers, computer scientists, and even Tom - seem to consider that there is a mysterious computer hidden behind-the-scenes that is processing the law-of-nature equations, taking parameter values as input, and outputting the next numeric value for the parameter. But there is no actual evidence that this sort of very complex computational infrastructure is hidden underneath the relative simplicity of law-of-nature equations and parameter values.

But what there is actual evidence for is the “quantum randomness” displayed by individual particles. “Quantum randomness” is a non-mechanism whereby some parameter values of a particle outcome are re-initialised, thereby readjusting in a cascade effect the relative values of all other parameters that exist in fixed law-of-nature relationship with that parameter. The quantum re-initialisation of parameter values, which is presumably continually happening all over the universe, is the power that drives the universe-system, ratcheting the universe-system forward without any need for mysterious, hidden, behind-the-scenes computers.

Only things that actually exist – particles, and thereby atoms, molecules and living things – could observe/experience parameter information about the surrounding reality, and cause changes to parameter values.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Nov. 3, 2016 @ 21:56 GMT
Lorraine it seems that you are now putting quantum mathematics in the driving seat rather than Newton's first law. An Object universe in motion continues in motion unless an Object universe stopping force is applied, no calculations required, just conservation of energy and chaos allowing amplification of small changes into large ones. I am pretty confident the constituents of the Object universe are participants in the changes that are occurring, as relations and changes in relations between them provide forces for further change, but they are not observing change into existence.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Nov. 5, 2016 @ 20:35 GMT
The universe has no hidden, behind-the-scenes computers calculating parameter numeric values because the universe relies on the logic of relationship, not on calculations. There are no calculations, there are only relationships. I’m saying that number values derive from a special type of relationship where the parameter/information category would, in effect, “cancel out” if the relationship were represented as a mathematical equation. The quantum re-initialisation of parameter values is the creation of a new relationship, where the number value is itself a relationship.

It’s important to understand exactly what numbers are.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Nov. 5, 2016 @ 20:42 GMT
Georgina,

as I said, “laws-of-nature” are not the power that drives the universe-system. Laws-of-nature, which we represent with equations, merely represent fixed relationships between parameters like mass, energy, charge etc.

The power that drives the universe-system is whatever it is that causes the parameter numeric values to change. "Observers" both observe/experience this information, and cause the parameter numeric values to change.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 6, 2016 @ 22:26 GMT
The reason why some physicists, philosophers and computer scientists hypothesise that hidden beneath reality there is a computing entity that calculates the next batch of numeric values for reality’s fundamental-level parameters, is that they realize that law-of-nature relationships seem to have no power in themselves to change these parameter numeric values.

But computers are only good for calculating/predicting parameter numeric values that are the logical consequence of the equations that represent law-of-nature relationships and the equations that represent parameter initial numeric values and quantum-re-initialised parameter numeric values: computers cannot calculate/predict the re-initialised parameter numeric values caused by “quantum randomness”.

Logical consequence is not change. “Change” is when you introduce new information into the system: new law-of-nature relationships and/or new initial value numbers. E.g. the quantum re-initialisation of parameter numeric values is genuine change.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Nov. 9, 2016 @ 11:29 GMT
I asked me how to insert the motions of sphères in respect of lorents invariances, the unertainty principle of Heinseberg,thelagrangian for thepotential and kinetic energy.Fouriers series helping with the sphericalvolumes and the 3 motions of sphères.All this can show us the road for quantum BHs and particles of gravitation not baryonic nor relativistic.There is a bridge for this matter...

view entire post


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Joe Fisher wrote on Oct. 10, 2017 @ 14:30 GMT
Dear Foundational Questions Institute Members,

Y’all made your initial error when you stated in your brochure that the answer to the unscientifically posed fundamental question concerning “WHAT ARE WE MADE OF?’ was: “WE ARE MADE OF ATOMS, WHICH IN TURN ARE MADE OF QUARKS AND ELECTRONS.”

Had you posed the question scientifically, it should have read: WHAT ARE THE FINITE VISIBLE WE MADE OF? Then you would have realized that the finite visible we could not possibly have been made of finite invisible atoms which in turn were made of finite invisible quarks and finite invisible electrons.

It is physically impossible for any real eye to observe a finite visible we. One visible realty must be self evident. The only question you might want to ask of visible reality would be: AM VISBLE REALITY FINITE?

My Research has concluded that NATURE must have constructed the simplest visible physical Universe obtainable, because reality existed for millions of years before man appeared on earth and started guessing where earth might have came from. The real Universe must consist of only one single unified visible infinite surface occurring eternally in one single infinite dimension that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

Joe Fisher, ORCID ID 0000-0003-3988-8687. Unaffiliated

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Amrit Srecko Sorli wrote on Nov. 1, 2017 @ 17:52 GMT
see this article:

origin of the observer is CONSCIOUSNESS.

attachments: 1_Advanced_Relativity_2.pdf

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