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Sergey Fedosin: on 10/4/12 at 5:46am UTC, wrote If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings...

Anonymous: on 10/4/12 at 4:14am UTC, wrote Dear Bill, I enjoyed your essay! I have been surprised to see so few...

Hou Ying Yau: on 10/3/12 at 3:45am UTC, wrote Dear Bill, A very interesting essay. You outlined the problems with...

Sergey Fedosin: on 10/2/12 at 8:35am UTC, wrote After studying about 250 essays in this contest, I realize now, how can I...

Bill Parsons: on 9/25/12 at 11:20am UTC, wrote Hi Hector-- My apologies for mischaracterizing your position. My mistake....

Hector Zenil: on 9/25/12 at 1:12am UTC, wrote Dear William, As you rightly point out the idea that laws change over...

Hoang Hai: on 9/22/12 at 19:17pm UTC, wrote Dear William T. Parsons If in "the single universe" contains "multiple...

Bill Parsons: on 9/11/12 at 17:48pm UTC, wrote Hi Dr. Klingman-- Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and to...

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FQXi FORUM
January 24, 2020

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Patterns in the Noise: Physics as the Ultimate Environmental Science by William T. Parsons [refresh]

Author William T. Parsons wrote on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 12:41 GMT
Essay Abstract

Physics is engaged in the tricky business of driving theoretical pilings into ontological mud. Nowhere is this predicament more apparent than in cosmology. The question naturally arises: Will we ever reach bedrock? Arguably, most physicists believe the answer must be, Yes! We assume that there are fundamental laws of Nature out there and that we'll eventually drill down to them or, at least, approach them asymptotically. I submit that this basic assumption is, regrettably, mistaken. I am forced to this view by one of the more bizarre developments in modern physics, namely, the multiverse concept. If there is any merit to the multiverse, then the price to be paid for a much bigger environment is the loss of any notion of fundamental physical law governing the Universe.

Author Bio

Bill Parsons is former Director of Physics Labs, Department of Physics, at American University, Washington, DC USA.

John Merryman wrote on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 19:22 GMT
Professor Parsons,

It is nice to see someone reasonably far up the ladder question the construction of the ladder and not just focus on where it might be headed. I would argue though, that the primary issue is much further down than you might suspect. In my essay, I raise the point that by treating time as a measure between events, as space is treated as a measure between points, it only...

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Bill Parsons replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 14:32 GMT
Hi John--

Thank you for your comments. I admire your courage in taking on time. I confess that I have thought about this subject for years--and, sadly, have reached no conclusions. I agree with you and others that our conception of time in physics is somehow fundamentally flawed. My favotite observation in time is from John A. Wheeler, who said (only partly in jest, I suspect) something to the effect that "Time is Nature's way of making sure everyhting doesn't happen at once!".

Best regards,

Bill.

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John Merryman replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 16:19 GMT
Bill,

It does seem a little too simplistic to argue the issues surrounding time would much more clear, if we thought of it as the future coming to the present and not the present moving toward the future, but it does result in a very different view of reality. Sometimes the answer really is hiding in plain sight.

As for gravity, what if it is not so much a property of mass, but an effect of energy condensing into mass and becoming progressively more dense? In simple terms, when mass releases energy, it creates pressure, so if mass is absorbing energy, wouldn't it then create a vacuum? They haven't been able to discover dark energy, but there is an un-explained halo of cosmic rays surrounding the galaxy.

Possibly this would explain why gravity waves haven't been discovered, because they are radiation shed by fusion.

Happened to take my daughter by AmU last fall, but she is angling for Hopkins. It's closer to home, here in Baltimore County.

Regards,

JM

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 20:02 GMT
Thanks, William, a great "thinking piece".

One epiphany for me. Some might say, "It doesn't take much":

"Applying patterns of behavior in our Observable universe, such as the Law of Conservation of Energy, to that which came before is an act of faith."

I would be interested in your views regarding gravity -- my essay.

Jim

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Bill Parsons replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 15:27 GMT
Hi Jim--

Thank you for your kind compliment! I enjoyed reading your paper. However, I am not an expert on gravity (GR), so I fear to offer any specific substantive comments. In general, though, I agree with you that GR cannot be the last word on gravity. I hold that view for three reasons. First, gravity is not quantized, a point which you cover nicely in your paper. Second, there is the problem of galaxy rotation curves, etc. Some argue for Dark Matter--but we can't seem to find it! Others argue for fixing gravity, i.e., MOND and TeVeS. I once did a study of TeVeS vs. Dark Matter. In the end, I felt like Mercutio in "Romeo & Juliet", when he said: "A plague on both of your Houses!". Third, I think GR has an uneasy relationship with energy conservation. There is a long history to this issue. Some, like Phil Gibbs, think GR handles the problem. Others, like Sean Carroll, are not so sure. Yet others, like Roger Penrose, think it's a problem, but not so important. I think I'm in the Carroll camp. I don't think you covered this issue in your paper. You might want to take a look at it sometime.

Best regards,

Bill.

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Avtar Singh wrote on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 23:22 GMT
Dear William:

In your paper you point to the prevailing CRISIS in Physics/Cosmology today that renders the whole pursuit of science a purposeless and meaningless pursuit of an “Absurd Universe” or lawless “Multiverse”. This crisis is reiterated in my paper - -“ From Absurd to Elegant Universe”:

“The mission of science to achieve a unified theory is founded on the basic...

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Bill Parsons replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 15:56 GMT
Hi Avtar--

Thank you for your comments. I don't know whether there is a multiverse or not! You are certainly right to question it. Let me add that I did not read your paper prior to posting mine. In fact, I did not read any of them, for lack of time. As I mentioned in the first paragraph of my paper, I had actually written a different paper to be posted, but then got "hijacked" by an assumption that I saw others making. So, the fact we both agree that a multiverse presents problems is a good thing. As the old saying goes, "'Great' minds think alike".

However, I would, gently, suggest that you and I differ on the mission of science. You say that the mission is to achieve a unified theory. I argue that our job is to make measurements, detect patterns, and propose predictive algorithms. I guess that makes me what the philosophers call an "instrumentalist". For the record, when I was younger I held your view. Now, not so much.

I love physics because we value intellectual diversity. Sometimes arguments rage for decades but then eventually get pretty much resolved (e.g., EPR). I suspect that it will take decades to resolve the multiverse controversy. I can honestly say I don't care how it turns out. The fun is in the process. In the end, if you're right and there is no multiverse, that's just fine with me. It would be nice to shrink the Universe back down to a more manageable size.

Best regards,

Bill.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 15:35 GMT
Hello to both of you,

It is so evident that these multiverses are not foundamental considering the uniqueness.In fact these multivers are just an extrapolation of the mind.

that is all. Now about the virtualities, it is relevant when we change our laws. But not for our pure physical reality, this universal 3D sphere in spherization.

In fact, the multiverses imply a real probelm about our spiritual uniqueness. It is even anti rational considering our principle of equivalence and the pure link between the kintetic energy and the potential energy! The evolution proves these words. The Universe is unique, very big. The real interest is to go towards our limits, in the two senses, quant. and cosm. ! The Universe has so many secrets still .This physical sphere evolves like all in fact. I don't see why this infinite light will create several universes , that has no real meaning considering the pure universality !

Best Regards

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Anton Lorenz Vrba wrote on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 06:03 GMT
Hi William,

My personal opinion is that a multiverse is a fad of the times; it sells books, it's sexy and catches the imagination of the folk.  Human nature is such that progress is always measured from simple to complex. To step back, look at something complex and simplify (back to basics) is a method I have only observed in industry - a method that is not embraced by theoretical physics community; it's boring, it's confrontational and most importantly it does not generate funding.

A back to basic approach I used in my contribution to question fundamental physical assumptions - I would really appreciate your critique.

Regards

Anton @  (  /topic/1458  )

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Bill Parsons replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 16:58 GMT
Hi Anton--

Thank you for your comments. There is definitely a fad-like quality to the multiverse industry. You are right to suggest that it's a money maker in certain circles. However, inside physics, it's a slightly different deal. Most of us, who have come to at least entertain the notion of a multiverse, have done so reluctantly. For me, "kicking and screaming", as it were.

I agree with your point about the importance of simplification (especially vice obfuscation!). In the human world (e.g., industry, politics, etc.), I think one's best bet is, always, to simplify, simplify, simplify. When tackling Nature, of course, it's hard to make progress without simplifying matters. That's what we're supposed to do! Nonetheless, my point is this: Nature is what it is. We should never assume anything, and, in particular, never confuse our (simplified) algorithmic maps for the real terrain.

I enjoyed your paper. It is very well written and nicely organized. And I mean that. Congratulations. I have only one (small) critique: Your Einstein quote is from 1922. It pre-dates Godel's two incompleteness theorems, which were published in 1931. As it turned out, Einstein and Godel were friends and colleagues at Princeton in their later years. I think it was during this latter period that Einstein said, "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality". This is perhaps the best sketch of Godel's theorems that I have ever read. Both men embodied absolute genius.

Best regards,

Bill.

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Anonymous wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 05:00 GMT
Your essay was fun to read, and it contained a lot of good information on the subject. Very nice.

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 13:22 GMT
Dear William,

What do you think about Infinite Hierarchical Nesting of Matter which is the main idea in my essay? With the help of Scale dimension we can understand that any main level of matter is a Universe at the Scale axis. Such Universes form Multivers. And according to SPF symmetry , laws of physics are the same at all levels of matter. More about it see and evaluate my essay.

Sergey Fedosin Essay

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 20:36 GMT
Dear Bill Parsons,

An excellent essay. I believe that it's highly appropriate to focus on "laws of physics" and where they come from. I agree with you that "Wheeler's take on the laws of physics is spot on" -- "they are not 'prior' to the creation of the universe." They must, therefore have evolved with the universe. You note that a possible argument against this involves "some sorts of...

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Bill Parsons replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 17:48 GMT
Hi Dr. Klingman--

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and to provide comments.

I am glad we can agree that cosmological creation implies a Universe arising out of "nothingness". Right there, I believe that we are in a distinct minority (Wheeler notwithstanding)!

As to whether One or Many or Infinite arose, I am not sure. You say one. Parfit says "maybe infinite"....

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 19:17 GMT
Dear William T. Parsons

If in "the single universe" contains "multiple space",and "multiverse" is located inside "the single space",Where there are different ? we argue about what to do instead, while only unified regulations about calling it sure will be fine.

Kind Regards ! Hải.Caohoàng of THE INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS AND A CORRECT THEORY

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

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Member Hector Zenil wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 01:12 GMT
Dear William,

As you rightly point out the idea that laws change over time, and has been popularised by Paul Davies. I would like to comment on your quotation to a passage in my last's year Third Prize-winning FQXi winning essay: "Computer programs are like laws; they produce order by filtering out a portion of what feeds them. … Physical laws, like computer programs, make things happen." In the same essay I explain that Turing showed us through his concept of universal computation that there is no fundamental distinction between data and program, as you can always write a program as data for a universal machine, or write data as a program with empty input for a specific-purpose machine. In fact my entire essay (and most of my research activity) is about explaining how patterns emerge by using the theory of algorithmic probability, my mention of laws is an acknowledgement that we have identified some of these patterns in the world with such a status but, from my algorithmic view perspective, I don't think there is anything particularly fundamental about them (versus for example other patterns in empirical data), so the quotation is a bit misleading of my position. I'm happy to make this precision. Interesting essay.

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Bill Parsons replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 11:20 GMT
Hi Hector--

My apologies for mischaracterizing your position. My mistake. I loved your essay, by the way; your award was well-deserved.

Best regards,

Bill.

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 08:35 GMT
After studying about 250 essays in this contest, I realize now, how can I assess the level of each submitted work. Accordingly, I rated some essays, including yours.

Cood luck.

Sergey Fedosin

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Hou Ying Yau wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 03:45 GMT
Dear Bill,

A very interesting essay. You outlined the problems with multiverse in such a clear manner.

Best of wishes.

Hou Yau

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 04:14 GMT
Dear Bill,

I enjoyed your essay! I have been surprised to see so few submissions that even approach this topic, considering that string/M-theory has made the multiverse central to modern cosmology. A few thoughts come to mind.

1. I am not quite sure where a quantum theory defined a la Feynman by sums over histories, or geometries, or causal sets, or a configuration space of some...

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 05:46 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
$R_1$
and
$N_1$
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
$S_1=R_1 N_1$
of points. After it anyone give you
$dS$
of points so you have
$S_2=S_1+ dS$
of points and
$N_2=N_1+1$
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
$S_2=R_2 N_2$
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
$S_2/ N_2>S_1/ N_1$
or
$(S_1+ dS) / (N_1+1) >S_1/ N_1$
or
$dS >S_1/ N_1 =R_1$
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
$dS$
then the participant`s rating
$R_1$
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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