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Sergey Fedosin: on 10/4/12 at 4:17am UTC, wrote If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings...

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Peter Jackson: on 9/25/12 at 14:09pm UTC, wrote Dean & Jessica I couldn't agree more about 'Relative Locality' emerging...

Steve Weinstein: on 9/23/12 at 1:32am UTC, wrote Dean & Jessica, Really nicely written essay. I like your willingness to...

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FQXi FORUM
July 18, 2019

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Things Ain’t What They Used To Be by Dean Rickles and Jessica Bloom [refresh]
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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 15:22 GMT
Essay Abstract

A world of things or a world of relations? Things have traditionally exposed scientific development to trouble. Think phlogiston. Think luminiferous ether. Things have been at the root of many problems in the foundations of physical theories. Think spacetime points. Think quantum particles. Yet things seem to be necessary for relations to make sense. How could there be a world without things; without particular objects or individuals? How could there be relations without things standing in those relations? So long as there are things, there are relations between them and, it seems, logically dependent on them so that where there are relations there must be things too. In this essay we will argue, contrary to this common line of thought, that the assumption that the world is composed of ‘things’ is wrong (or at least problematic) and that jettisoning it might plausibly lead to advances in physics. That the world is fundamentally made up of things is surely an example of a belief “so ingrained” that (with some exceptions) it has become an “unquestioned dogma” (though a perfectly understandable one). While the basic idea defended here (a fundamental ontology of brute relations) can be found elsewhere in the philosophical literature on ‘structural realism’, we have yet to see the idea used as an argument for advancing physics, nor have we seen a truly convincing argument, involving a real construction based in modern physics, that successfully evades the objection that there can be no relations without first (in logical order) having things so related. We will sketch an argument in this paper that is sufficiently general to apply to fundamental physics as a whole.

Author Bio

Dean Rickles is a senior research fellow in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney, where his primary research focus is the history and philosophy of quantum gravity. Jessica Bloom is a graduate student, working on photonic systems, in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 21:32 GMT
Dean Rickles and Jessica Bloom,

clear,comprehensible, very relevant, very well done. I agree that relations, and what kind of relations, are most important to consider. Questioning the thing-ness of things is also very valuable.

I hope you get lots of interested and appreciative readers. You have discussed some very important ideas in a lucid and engaging way.Good luck in the competition

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Author Dean Rickles replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:09 GMT
Thanks Georgina.

Best of luck with your (things/relations-focused) essay too!

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Michael Silberstein wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 04:39 GMT
Hi Dean,

Great essay and I am in complete agreement. The only bit I object to is the following:

"While the basic idea defended here (a fundamental ontology of brute relations) can be found elsewhere in the philosophical literature on ‘structural realism’ (especially [6]), we have yet to see the idea used as an argument for advancing physics."

Our work on relational blockworld has been doing exactly this for some time. See our essay http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1393 . Also see the attached pubs. Comments gratefully received!

attachments: 10701_2012_9653_OnlinePDF.pdf, 1_SHPMP557.pdf

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Author Dean Rickles replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:03 GMT
Hi Michael,

Thanks. I hadn't thought of your project as similar before, but scanning these papers I can see there's much in common (especially the things you say in 3.1 of your SHPMP paper). I also very much liked this line of Hiley's that you quote: "both geometry and material process unfold together?".

I'll have a proper read of your FQXi essay when I get a spare moment.

Best,

Dean

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 06:17 GMT
Dean and Jessica,

Congratulations on an excellent and informative essay. I have a great deal of sympathy for this point of view, and it heartens me to see accomplished expositions of it. A couple of questions/comments:

1. Since you mentioned Baez' work involving category theory, I wanted to remark that there is at least one other closely related way in which similar ideas can be applied. This involves simultaneous use of multicategories (in which the morphisms of one category are the objects of a "higher" category and so on) and categorification (in which structure is added or forgotten by promoting elements to objects and relations to morphisms, and similarly demoting). There are several important concepts that arise in this setting: first, (roughly speaking), in certain models it does not matter whether you consider an entity to be an element, object, relation, or morphism, because there is another category, containing the same information, which it is viewed as something else. Second, quantization can be understood in certain contexts as an instance of categorification, since the configuration space of binary relations inherits an induced relation which gives it the same local structure. I discuss both these points a bit more in my essay: On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics.

2. I'm interested to know your views of the principle of covariance, in light of your relational paradigm. The reason I ask about this is because I believe that emphasis on relational structure properly elevates the order-theoretic interpretation of covariance over the symmetry interpretation. This has obvious implications for representation theory, which is at the heart of modern physics, particularly quantum field theory.

Thanks for the interesting read! Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 17:27 GMT
Dean and Jessica --

You've made a very good case for the relational viewpoint, and I completely agree with you. But I think this needs to be taken to a deeper level.

Traditionally, philosophy thinks about "relations" as if we could stand outside of them -- they're an aspect of objective reality, along with the things they relate. So we think of relations like "taller than", which...

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Anonymous wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 18:41 GMT
Correlations without correlata?

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Joy Christian replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 19:10 GMT
No: Love affairs without lovers.

Just kidding, Dean.

Good luck with the essay contest.

Best,

Joy

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 14:20 GMT
Dear Jessia and Dean,

Beautiful writing, I am in total agreement. Let me try to sketch my approach to this. Let's start with the (complete) collection of true propositions about the universe. This will contain also universal statements like the physics principles. In principle, it would be possible to deduce most of the proposition from a subset of them. Ideally, this would be like a theory, based on axioms and deduction. Maybe the axioms will have to be infinite in number, maybe not. Then, build a mathematical model for this theory. In general, this can be done by using universal algebra, so we end up with a set, and a collection of relations defined on this set. It doesn't really matter what the elements of the set are, what matters are the relations. I wrote these thoughts in an essay which I planned to submit to this contest, but then, when I only wanted to polish it a bit, I decided to write a completely different one (about singularities in general relativity).

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 14:22 GMT
I apologize for misspelling your name, Jessica.

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Chris Kennedy wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 19:45 GMT
Dean and Jessica,

Nicely done!

If your next physics essay discusses an irresistible force meeting an immovable object just remember:

Something's gotta give

Something's gotta give

Something's gotta give

Good luck!

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Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 14:58 GMT
Dear Dean and Jessica

a very nice essay, but it misses out the key issue of levels of description.

"A world of things or a world of relations?" - its both! Interactions at the lower level lead to emergent higher level structures, that provide relationships amongst the lower level elements. These relations then act down to structure and even change the nature of the lower level interactions. This form of top-down causation (or whole-part constraint, if you prefer) is the key to the emergence of truly complex structures.

At least that's my view. It is largely consistent with yours: it gives a context where relations do real work.,

george

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 16:05 GMT
Dear

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.

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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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 18:34 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

In Coherently-cyclic cluster-matter paradigm of universe, I think the eigen-rotational relation between the string-matter elements of a cluster-matter holon is the primitive relations for these elements in this paradigm.

With best wishes,

Jayakar

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Karl Coryat wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 23:10 GMT
Thank you for challenging this difficult and persistent assumption. I did the same in my essay, "Toward an Informational Mechanics" -- arguing the objects and things (as well as spacetime and physical laws) are all emergent. I went from there to speculate on where an alternative relational-informational picture of the universe might lead. I think it leads to an incredibly simple and elegant conception of ultimate reality. I hope you will find a moment to check it out, and thank you for an enjoyable and enlightening essay.

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 18:49 GMT
Dean and Jessica,

We can't even agree that things are there or that they do impossible things (UFOs) because our science says it's impossible. We impute dark energy as an unseen "thing" because of what the force seems to do. My views on gravity are based on such observations and what they might mean regarding what our technology says is impossible.

Your views would be of interest to me.

Jim

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Steve Weinstein wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 01:32 GMT
Dean & Jessica,

Really nicely written essay. I like your willingness to take relationalist ideas all the way. In denying existence to the "relata", your proposal reminds me of David Mermin's "Ithaca Interpretation" of quantum theory (http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9801057). Are there indeed points of contact?

Steve

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Peter Jackson wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 14:09 GMT
Dean & Jessica

I couldn't agree more about 'Relative Locality' emerging from 'primative relations.'

I've similarly proposed the interaction of massive particles (things) and em waves as a detection 'sampling' process logically resolves paradoxes. Indeed I think I've derived the postulates of SR direct from such a quantum mechanism, using dynamic logic.

To quote from your conclusions this was achieved by; “considering the role of observation in physics.” taking the “observation of the distance moved by some object, or the time elapsed of some process.” I do hope you'll read my essay this year and give me your views (last year you didn't manage to, or respond to my post).

I hope you may also enjoy my theatre, equivalent to your musical analogies. You should find the solution unfamiliar (as Feynman predicted) and I need falsification as am quite convinced 'This is the real thing,” so do need a return to reality.

Best wishes

Peter

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 02:29 GMT
Dear Dean & Jessica

You have the same orientation to me, but two you better expressed.

Please Take the time to contribute to essay and new theory of me.

Hải.Caohoàng of THE INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS AND A CORRECT THEORY

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

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qsa wrote on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 00:29 GMT
Dear Dean & Jessica,

I have a theory that EXACTLY matches your idea and DR. Tegmark. my theory "quantum statistical automata" .

Reality exists hence we say it is true. But what is really true besides that more than anything else which we can really trust, it is mathematical facts. So, to my mind I connect both since both seem to be a statement of truth. So I...

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attachments: 1_newqsa.pdf

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 04:17 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
and
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:
or
or
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.

Sergey Fedosin

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genies alan wrote on Jun. 13, 2017 @ 07:17 GMT
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