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Steve Dufourny Jedi: on 10/6/12 at 12:21pm UTC, wrote Hello to all, It is an intresting article. I beleive that the strings...

James Putnam: on 8/26/12 at 15:50pm UTC, wrote Dear Eckard, I read their works in depth probably 30 years ago. I think I...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/26/12 at 15:11pm UTC, wrote It was Andronikos of Rhodos who put the so called first philosophy of the...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/26/12 at 9:30am UTC, wrote James, "[After-Physics] logically preceded physics". Doesn't this depend...

James Putnam: on 8/26/12 at 4:43am UTC, wrote Eckard, I had some typos and more. I am reproducing the beginning of the...

James Putnam: on 8/26/12 at 3:49am UTC, wrote Eckard Blumschein, Dear Eckard, You are a very good source for reverence...

John Merryman: on 8/26/12 at 2:38am UTC, wrote Three thousand years ago, monotheism was pretty cutting edge logic, in a...

William Orem: on 8/25/12 at 14:32pm UTC, wrote James, Thanks for the note. By “metaphysical system” I simply mean a...


Georgina Woodward: "On obtaining the singular, relative, measurement product it replaces the..." in The Present State of...

Steve Dufourny: "The paper of Wilczek of course is very relevant considering the idea about..." in The Noise of Gravitons

Georgina Woodward: "Material neuronal structure in which memory is encoded, physical records..." in Quantum Physics and the...

Steve Dufourny: "It is really how we consider the structure of the spacetime, and also how..." in The Noise of Gravitons

Aleksandr Maltsev: "Hi Georgina, Write a letter to" in Quantum Physics and the...

Georgina Woodward: "In quantum experiments using particles, there won't be swapping with a..." in The Present State of...

Aleksandr Maltsev: "I shortened the phrase Zeeya Merali  «Why does time flow….?    How..." in Time's Arrow, Black Holes...

Deserdi Chapas: "As reported on another forum, this first part of February 2023 has served..." in Alternative Models of...

click titles to read articles

The Entropic Price of Building the Perfect Clock: Q&A with Natalia Ares
Experiments investigating the thermodynamics of clocks can teach us about the origin of time's arrow.

Schrödinger’s A.I. Could Test the Foundations of Reality
Physicists lay out blueprints for running a 'Wigner's Friend' experiment using an artificial intelligence, built on a quantum computer, as an 'observer.'

Expanding the Mind (Literally): Q&A with Karim Jerbi and Jordan O'Byrne
Using a brain-computer interface to create a consciousness 'add-on' to help test Integrated Information Theory.

Quanthoven's Fifth
A quantum computer composes chart-topping music, programmed by physicists striving to understand consciousness.

The Math of Consciousness: Q&A with Kobi Kremnitzer
A meditating mathematician is developing a theory of conscious experience to help understand the boundary between the quantum and classical world.

February 5, 2023

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Critical Revolutions [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 20:49 GMT

I'm posting this month from Italy, home-base of one of the most influential metaphysical systems in history--Roman Catholicism--and home to one of the most important names in physics: Galileo Galilei.

The light in Florence is of a clarity I have never experienced; I can see why this is a haven for painters. But leave that aside. If you have ever been here, you know.

After saturating myself with the products of unparalleled artistic and religious expression, I visited the rather modest museum to Galileo, tucked in beside the bubbling Arno. These are some images from inside.

These are Galileo's fingers, kept under glass very much in the manner of reliquaries. Odd to see a person who so troubled the Church preserved in a style set aside for saints. One wonders whether enough traces of DNA remain in those desiccated bone cells to one day resurrect the great man; he would certainly be surprised to find himself, say, in the year 2115, and to discover how completely vindicated he was. (I know, I know: cloning doesn't "bring back" the same person. Just play along, huh?) How ironic would it be if his Inquisition-banned books contributed to the formation of a scientific culture that, centuries later, gave him that very thing to which the Church had laid claim--life after death?

Ah well. At least his discoveries live on . . .

Here is the actual telescope that caused all the trouble, or one just like it. It is astonishingly small; about the length of a pool cue, perhaps twice as thick. That's it.

Is there a moral in this unprepossessing object? Granted, it was high-tech for its day. But perhaps the moral is that revolutions in knowledge come not from advanced instrumentation alone, but from ability to think outside the dogma--to turn that ship-spying device toward the sky, as it were. (And to admit what you are seeing--no mean feat in itself. Galileo famously complained to Kepler that some of his opponents in the heliocentric debate refused even to look.)

Perhaps this is a moral for our day, as well. We may not be able to get any closer to confirming or disconfirming String Theory, for example--which, despite its general popularity in the press, is still entirely hypothetical; it bears repeating that the whole construction may be nothing more than a complex exercise in mathematics--without colliders that can reach unheard-of energies. If the kind of energy required turns out to be permanently inaccessible, we may be at an end on our quest. In that case, even if String Theory is true, we'll never know it.

Or . . . there may be a conceptual shift somewhere down the road that allows new understanding. To be sure, it won't happen without empirical data. History is replete with grand claims about the universe that cannot be tested, and so aren't worth terribly much; with no telescope at all, Copernicus' system itself might have remained "a complex exercise in mathematics," as Osiander wanted it to be. But perhaps Galileo's modest little device is whispering that the critical revolutions are the ones that happen inside the mind.

Last thought before we leave the museum: I signed the guest book with the FQX(i) logo. I'd like to think the great revolutionary would have approved.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Aug. 20, 2012 @ 23:00 GMT
Nice blog post -horrible fingers, with gruesome history.

I was at a museum not so long ago. They had on display the clay heads of three murderers, formed from moulds taken at their execution. Together with an accompanying internal memo from the museum around the time of their donation. It said "put these with the other grotesques not for public display."

Not sure if that means we are considered less sensitive today and so should be allowed see such things. Or is it to let us marvel at the insensitivity of earlier times when they were produced? I wonder.

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Georgina Parry replied on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 21:18 GMT
Amusing to me that it is 'two fingers' on display.

I wonder where the third one cut from his hand is. Is he 'giving the finger' somewhere else as well?

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster replied on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 16:37 GMT
The CNN article linked-to says the museum has the third finger, too.

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Georgina Parry replied on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 21:53 GMT

Excellent! I didn't read to the end of the article. They have 3 fingers and a single tooth (why just one?). Have to wonder if there are any other stray body parts knocking around. Its a very strange, morally ambiguous, practice displaying human body parts.I don't know if it is highly respectful to Galileo or disrespectful. The difference is probably in the mind of the beholder..... Which makes the fingers simultaneously a grotesque and inappropriate treatment of any human remains while also being wonderful and appropriately fitting for the Great man. A superposition of states that is resolved by the choice of the observer.

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Aug. 21, 2012 @ 07:55 GMT
William Orem wrote: "But perhaps the moral is that revolutions in knowledge come not from advanced instrumentation alone, but from ability to think outside the dogma..."

Let me give an example of thinking INSIDE the dogma. The observer starts moving towards the light source with speed v, and the frequency he measures shifts from f=c/L to f'=(c+v)/L, where L is the wavelength. Clearly the...

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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 22, 2012 @ 07:46 GMT
"Thinking outside the dogma" usually implies moving forward, towards a new, less false, theory. If Einstein's 1905 light postulate is the dogma, the "less false" theory is in the past, in the 18th century:

Jean Eisenstaedt: "At the end of the 18th century, a natural extension of Newton's dynamics to light...

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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 07:07 GMT
Thinking outside the dogma (and automatically becoming an unperson):

Bryan Wallace 1994: "At the very top of the pile of medieval theories will be Einstein's relativity theory that starts with the postulate that for some undefined abstract mystic reason, the speed of light is the same for all observers, no...

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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 24, 2012 @ 04:03 GMT
Seeing what the dogma tells us to see (Ignatius of Loyola principle):

Fermilab physicist, Dr. Ricardo Eusebi, demonstrates how the speed (velocity) of light relative to the observer varies with the speed of the observer (shifts from c to c+v) but does not see the variation - Divine Albert's Divine Theory tells him the speed of light should be "the same in all the reference frames":

Dr Ricardo Eusebi: "f'=f(1+v/c). Light frequency is relative to the observer. The velocity is not though. The velocity is the same in all the reference frames."

Ignatius of Loyola: "That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which appears to our eyes to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black."

Pentcho Valev

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 08:57 GMT
"revolutions in knowledge come not from advanced instrumentation alone, but from ability to think outside the dogma".

Galileo Galilei already compellingly anticipated the dogma of Cantor's infinite cardinalities.

Maybe, Galilean transformation will prove still valid. At least "Galilean Electrodynamics", Apeiron, Proc. NPA, Physics Essays, and FQXi essays may question the dogma of special non-Galilean relativity.


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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 13:08 GMT
"Special non-Galilean relativity" is an advanced malignant disease, Eckard. Even Einsteinians know it is wrong but... nothing can be done. It will die together with the death of our Civilization:

Lee Smolin, The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, p....

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 15:01 GMT

Poincaré reportedly called Cantor's set theory a disease from which mankind will recover. Perhaps he did not enough for that cure. If you feel obliged to cure us from SR, you should not even shy back from the seemingly impossible up to questioning some putatively compelling experiments. How do you interpret Fig. 5 of my essay? I know, it does not fit into your paternoster-like repeated blend of quotes.


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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 17:20 GMT

I often have neither the time nor the energy to consider contradictory authors and experiments you refer me to. I hope you understand that. On the other hand, I defend a thesis that you, as an etherist, should welcome:

The speed of light relative to the observer varies with the speed of the observer.

Do you accept that? See this:

The Mystery of the Einstein-Poincaré Connection, Olivier Darrigol: "It is clear from the context that Poincaré meant here to apply the postulate [of constancy of the speed of light] only in an ether-bound frame, in which case he could indeed state that it had been "accepted by everybody." In 1900 and in later writings he defined the apparent time of a moving observer in such a way that the velocity of light measured by this observer would be the same as if he were at rest (with respect to the ether). This does not mean, however, that he meant the postulate to apply in any inertial frame. From his point of view, the true velocity of light in a moving frame was not a constant but was given by the Galilean law of addition of velocities."

Pentcho Valev

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James A Putnam wrote on Aug. 25, 2012 @ 00:06 GMT
Dear William Orem,

"I'm posting this month from Italy, home-base of one of the most influential metaphysical systems in history--Roman Catholicism..."

Could you please explain more about the meaning of "...home-base of one of the most influential metaphysical systems in history--Roman Catholicism...". Its the word 'metaphysical' that prompts me to ask. I see it used rather loosely in meaning and I am wondering what your use of it communicates to us. I don't presume to know your use of it. I am not Catholic. Just wondering what you intended to communicate. Thank you.


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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 25, 2012 @ 04:24 GMT
Thank you James for putting a question that William Orem will hopefully answer more proficient than I. Let me already just add some details that should be known to everybody.

Metaphysics refers to what Aristotle appended as a supplement on physics to his ideas on philosophy. A PhD is a doctor of philosophy. Meanwhile, metaphysical means something speculative, something supernatural.

This negative judgment relates to the rejection of medieval scholastics which combined the Aristotelian dogmas with interpretations of the bible. Galileo Galilei was among those who questioned this rigid and infertile system. He provoked the pope and inquisition by successfully challenging Aristotle's arguments by means of reasoning and experiment.

At the time of Galileo, the dogmas of medieval scholastics were about as unquestionable as nowadays are Cantor's set theory and Einstein's theory of relativity.

It took centuries until the Catholic church was ready to at least in part accept Galileo's views.

An otherwise good Catholic textbook on the history of mathematics still denies any contribution of Galileo to mathematics.

Georg Cantor whose mother was Catholic, intended to be a good Catholic too. He asked cardinal Franzelin for confirmation of his infinitum creatum sive transfinitum - with no avail.


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Blogger William Orem replied on Aug. 25, 2012 @ 14:32 GMT

Thanks for the note. By “metaphysical system” I simply mean a body of beliefs pertaining to things thought to be beyond the physical world: spirits, angels, and the like. Plenty of individuals, and groups, have put forth metaphysical systems across the centuries, but few have been as influential as Roman Catholicism, which boasts over a billion adherents.


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James A Putnam replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 03:49 GMT
Eckard Blumschein,

Dear Eckard,

You are a very good source for reverence material. William's response made his use of the word metaphysical clear. That is what I askd for. Your own contrbution prompts me to ask this: What about the official standard for the Catholic Church as represented by the metaphysics of St. Thomas. My readings about from years ago was that it was quite logical. That may be anathema to sugges with what appears to be the modern meaning of Metapysics.

As I recall it, it is the rigorous study of first principles before physics. I know that it was appended to physics as After-Physics, but, my understanding, upon reading it, was that logically proceeded physics. It was not about angels and such. It didn't even appear to me to be dogmatic. I think back about it and I see two very different meanings ascribed to the word meta-physics.

For readers just picking up on this, I am not Catholic. I don't have a religion. However, I do not subscribe to the view that works by religious leaders are to be scientifically discounted, perhaps even held up as anti-scientific. I point any reader to the book by St. Augustine titled 'Concerning The Teacher'.

Choose to not accept his final conclusion about the role of Jesus, but, learn from his analysis. He presented a solution to one of the most important problems to be answered scientifically. The problem was: How do we learn?

In an honest effort to head off anti-religous reactions. My point is made for scientific reasons. I would argue that Augustine's solution is supported by physics empirical evidence. I read his works after coming to the same conclusion from considering empirical physics evidence. Be that as it may, my question to Eckard has to do with the historical development, especially with regard to the Catholic Church, of Metaphysics.


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John Merryman wrote on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 02:38 GMT
Three thousand years ago, monotheism was pretty cutting edge logic, in a world of tribal deities and anthropomorphic superstitions. Now it's dogma. Like string theory, it can't be proved, or disproved.

Logic is inductive and deductive. First we extract principles from experience and evidence, then apply these insights to explaining other phenomena. Dogma is a function of ignorance; That of having forgotten the process by which principles are arrived at in the first place and assigning them metaphysical qualities. The Platonic realm is as metaphysical as the Gates of Heaven.

Obviously early humans wrestled with the experience of being aware and trying to explain and define it. That groups of individuals could function as a larger unit was a given. If any of us were working with such basic information, we would have arrived at conclusions similar to the ancients. It is a conceit of the greatest magnitude to look down on our forebearers for embellishing their insights and then think our speculations are free of frivolity.

What is more obvious to life on this planet, than the sun moving across the sky. Flowers turn to follow it. It is not theory, it is observation. Epicycles were extremely accurate models of the motions of celestial objects. When anomalies were detected, it didn't mean the theory was wrong, only that there was an as yet undetected epicycle and the search would be on for where it was needed. What Galileo did, in proposing a heliocentric model, wasn't really to overthrow the system. Actually he simply made the motion of the earth itself another cycle in the model and it simplified everything else.

As with the current contest, we all are not so much looking to overthrow the model, as to figure out what has been overlooked that would make all the rest fit together better and not need as much complexity.

The final arbiter is not math, but Ockham's Razor.

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Steve Dufourny Jedi wrote on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 12:21 GMT
Hello to all,

It is an intresting article.

I beleive that the strings were a beautiful idea.But it is time to converge in 3D with a pure deterministic way.

I can understand that it is difficult for the string theorists. The strings must be sorted with determinism and after the good correlations can be inserted.

If my spheres take the place of strings, it is logic. The phase of replacement can be harmonious. The jobs can be respected. It is there that the convergences can be interesting for the replacement of strings. But a good Occham Razzor is essential like says John. The uncompleteness is rational. We are just fdar of our walls.

The strings were a good idea, my spheres are a better ideas !!! Like it or not my friends, it is the pure rational reality.


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