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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Hugh Matlock: on 8/7/13 at 0:29am UTC, wrote Hi Mark, Thanks for an excellent essay, informative and very well written!...

Paul Borrill: on 8/2/13 at 0:35am UTC, wrote Mark - what an outstanding essay. Full marks! The first page and halfway...

Don Limuti: on 7/30/13 at 3:47am UTC, wrote Mark, Probability is not real. And it has turned many physicists into...

basudeba mishra: on 7/28/13 at 12:14pm UTC, wrote Dear Sir, This is our post to Dr. Wiliam Mc Harris in his thread. We...

Than Tin: on 7/26/13 at 3:10am UTC, wrote Hi Mark Richard Feynman in his Nobel Acceptance Speech ...

JOSEPH BRENNER: on 7/25/13 at 8:32am UTC, wrote Well, the only thing I can say is that I "anticipated" your position in the...

sridattadev kancharla: on 7/23/13 at 1:17am UTC, wrote Dear All, It is with utmost joy and love that I give you all the...

Michel Planat: on 7/18/13 at 19:54pm UTC, wrote Dear Mark, I red your essay and found it interesting. However, after a...


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FQXi FORUM
September 21, 2019

CATEGORY: It From Bit or Bit From It? Essay Contest (2013) [back]
TOPIC: Without Cause by Mark Feeley [refresh]
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Author Mark Feeley wrote on Jun. 21, 2013 @ 16:01 GMT
Essay Abstract

Physicists increasingly accept that information is more fundamental than material things, but if material things are not fundamental, then neither are material causes: we will live in a world without cause. We thus examine the steps and missteps by which information came to be seen as more fundamental, examine the flaws and risks of a purely informational view, and consider a possible approach to restoring a belief in material things and material causes.

Author Bio

I received a Bachelors degree in Engineering Physics (UBC), then worked for 2 years in physics as a research associate. I subsequently changed directions to work for over 30 years an electrical engineer. In 1999, I co-founded a venture telecom company, which was sold in 2005. After a period working on other start-up ventures, I decided in 2009 to return to the independent study of physics.

Download Essay PDF File

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Author Mark Feeley wrote on Jun. 21, 2013 @ 20:13 GMT
This is my second entry to the contest, so I am getting a better sense of how things work. It seems that we often talk past each other in comments on others essays, so for those gracious enough to read and comment on my essay, I’d like to gently direct the blog:

The theme of my essay is simple: I suggest a way to understand quantum theory which can lead to physical theory, which avoids...

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JOSEPH E BRENNER wrote on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 15:00 GMT
Hello, Mark,

I liked your essay and your critique of Wheeler. I was also interested in the point about Mach: is he "responsible" for some of the problems in understanding reality by having introduced an unjustified categorial separation? If you look at my essay, you may see some thoughts about how matter/energy can be primitive on which I would welcome yours.

Best regards,

Joseph

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Author Mark Feeley replied on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 18:58 GMT
Joe, thanks for reading.

As to Mach: No, I think Mach was quite correct, and the category separation is justified. I think that the problems in understanding reality occurred later, with quantum theory: simply put, quantum theory incorrectly categorizes. Probability is an epistemological measure, and since wavefunctions are generalized probabilities, they are epistemological as well. Thus, things do not have probabilities, outcomes do. Things do not have wavefunctions, experiments do. I think this simple change allows us to understand both quantum theory and (to a lesser extent) reality better.

As to your viewpoint that matter/energy are primitive: I certainly agree that something physical is more primitive than information. I think that it should be relatively obvious that information is information about something. However, I am inclined think that geometry is more primitive than matter/energy. Further to some of the ideas that you discuss, I also generally support the view that the continuum is ontologically more primitive than the discrete. Continuous systems can easily exhibit quantized behavior (eg. frequency) with the application of boundary conditions, but it seems a little more difficult for discrete ones to exhibit continuous behavior. In the context of continuous systems, energy is either defined as something proportional to amplitude squared (classical wave mechanics) or frequency (quantum mechanics). Since amplitude and frequency can both be seen as geometric quantities, I support an ontological structure that is continuum -> discrete, geometry -> energy/matter, and actually agree with part of Wheeler's contention in that I think the reality/information interface is necessarily discrete (ie. we only get discrete information about reality).

Thanks, Mark

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JOSEPH E BRENNER replied on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 08:32 GMT
Well, the only thing I can say is that I "anticipated" your position in the first sentence of my Essay! It is a corollary of my logical system that disjunctions of the kind between us are inevitable, as consequences themselves of the fundamental oppositions in the universe. These disjunctions are mild and useful. Those between responsible and irresponsible people (e.g. about the environment) are much more serious, but they are similar in form.

Best, Joseph

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 16:38 GMT
Mr. Feeley,

This is a beautifully written essay, and in my opinion, it was the easiest one for me to understand of all the essays that have appeared so far.

As an old decrepit realist, may I please make a self-serving comment about your fine essay? I believe that only unique exists. Your theoretical coin tossing machine could toss theoretical coins so that each tossed coin would land face up 100 percent of the time. I say no real unique machine could ever do so. May I point a tremulous finger toward the atomic clocks? Although they have been built to the highest of engineering standards, each clock still only records a unique time. Perfect synchronization can never physically be achieved.

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Author Mark Feeley replied on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 18:27 GMT
Joe, thanks for reading and for your very nice comments. You wrote a very similar nice comment about my essay last time.

Since you were so gracious last time, and since you seem to read and comment on all essays as soon as they are posted, I actually read yours first as I was waiting for mine to be posted. I found it very enjoyable, and I agree with your realist perspective. I am probably at least as decrepit a realist as you. I only try to put forward some way to make some sense of physics given that realism.

Thanks again, Mark

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 19:48 GMT
Dear Mark Feeley,

In a comment to Karl Coryat on your previous essay you remarked: "It would probably take at least another complete essay to argue against an entirely "it from bit" picture, so I can't really do the discussion justice, but I'll try nevertheless."

Boy, have you delivered.

Not only should all physics students be forced to write "Probability is not real" 500...

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Author Mark Feeley wrote on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 20:05 GMT
Edwin, wow, thanks, that is very high praise.

I think you have understood my point extremely well, and I am very glad, you pointed out the line regarding the nature of an observable. I actually think that one line highlights the central problem with the interpretation of quantum theory.

I have not yet read your essay, but I'll read it next. Since you are in agreement with the ideas I have presented, I have no doubt that yours will reflect, and probably help confirm, a similar viewpoint. You are "spot on" with your consideration of spin. Just as a coin does not have a heads or tails state until the tossing experiment is done, so an electron need not have an up or down state until the Stern-Gerlach deflecting experiment is done. This is simply because heads and tails, and up and down are outcomes not properties.

I appreciate your comments very much.

Thanks, Mark

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 20:26 GMT
Dear Mark

Unfortunately, your essay is too large for automatic translation capabilities of my computer.

Nonetheless wish you success

What your core argument ?

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1802

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 23:24 GMT
Mark,

It is a pleasantly readable and understandable essay, most of which I agree with. I do think probability is real though.

One of the points I make frequently in these discussions is that physics simply models the normal view of time as a sequence of events by treating it as a measure of duration, when the underlaying fact is that it is action creating this change. To wit, it is not the earth traveling a fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow, but tomorrow becoming yesterday because the earth rotates. Consider this in terms of the infamous cat; in the future it is either dead or alive, but it is the actual occurrence of events which determines its fate.

Now your argument against probability is that all circumstances leading any particular event exist and they will interact according to laws that will result in a determined outcome. The problem here is that there is no position prior to this event that all such input could be known. In order to know all input prior to the event, information of the input would have to travel faster than the actual input. Since much does travel as light, this would have to be even faster and if it were, then potential input could be traveling superluminously and the problem still exists. So while the laws governing any process are by definition, deterministic, the input cannot be known. There is no "God's eye view."

While my own entry is decidedly perfunctory, one point I do try to make is that knowledge is inherently subjective and that since it is conveyed by energy, combining information will obscure and blur detail, losing information. So probability, ie. limited information, is fundamental to the very nature of information.

Can't have your cake and eat it too.

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Anonymous replied on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 02:26 GMT
John, thanks for reading.

I am pretty sure that probability is not real, and I think that people like Laplace, Bayes, de Finetti, and Jaynes, have made that case more convincingly than I can.

I didn't make any comment on the nature of time in my essay at all, although I do intuitively with your position that it is a measure of relative change.

As to infamous cats, I do not...

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 11:20 GMT
Mark,

I guess my argument in a nutshell is that while the laws determining an outcome are, by definition, deterministic, there is no way to know all the input, from any frame, so it is not pre-determined, ie. fated.

The point about time is that while we experience it as a series of circumstances, from past to future, that which is past has been determined, while that which is future hasn't yet been, so when we treat this vector as fundamental, we go from a determined state to an indeterminate state and end up in multiworlds. If we look at it from the other direction, the indeterminate state becoming a determined state, it makes much more sense.

Before the race, there are ten winners, but after it, only one.

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Author Mark Feeley replied on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 13:36 GMT
John, I think I can lay out a way that your understanding the vector of time as a series of circumstances is consistent with my interpretation of QM in a sensible way.

I agree with the assumptions of your first sentence, but not the conclusion. I argue that the laws determining an outcome are by definition deterministic, and there is no way to know all the input. So far we agree. Where we...

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Sreenath B N wrote on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 17:39 GMT
Dear Mark Feeley,

I have down loaded your essay and soon post my comments on it. Meanwhile, please, go through my essay and post your comments.

Regards and good luck in the contest.

Sreenath BN.

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1827

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Manuel S Morales wrote on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 19:30 GMT
Mark,

"... a great many theoretical physicists believe in magic and not physical law." WOW, what a great way to begin an essay of what I found to be a kindred sprit! I trust you will find my coin-in-cup experiment of value for it supports your position of causality.

I believe you will find my cause and effect analysis of the four forces of keen interest. The findings as presented in my essay have led me to examine how causality unifies gravity with the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces as one super-deterministc force, see:

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1809

Best wishes,

Manuel

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Antony Ryan wrote on Jun. 25, 2013 @ 03:22 GMT
Hi Mark,

Nicely written essay that flows well. Passionate too, which is nice to see here. s I especially like that you've concluded it "wrong and dangerous to assume that information is fundamental". I think that It and Bit are either likely equally fundamental or reality is more fundamental. Hopefully you will take a look at my essay too, so we may discuss any common ground (or differences for that matter).

Kind regards,

Antony

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Anton Biermans wrote on Jun. 25, 2013 @ 07:00 GMT
Hi Mark,

I agree that '' ''It from Bit'' is simply not [Wheelers] finest hour''. However, I do not agree with your statement that '' ''It'' does not derive from ''Bit''. ''Bit'' manifestly derives from ''It''.''

If there would be only a single charged particle in the entire universe, then it wouldn't be able to express its charge in interactions. Since it in that case it cannot be charged itself, charge, or any property, for that matter, must be something which is shared by particles, something which only exists, is expressed and preserved within their interactions. I think that the idea ''so simple … that when we grasp it, we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?'' is the quite obvious proposition that in a universe which creates itself out of nothing, fundamental particles (its), their properties, are as much the cause as the effect of their interactions, of the (exchange of) bits, so you obviously cannot have one without the other.

Regards, Anton

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Author Mark Feeley replied on Jun. 25, 2013 @ 15:22 GMT
Anton,

You raise some interesting and difficult points, which I will attempt to deal with.

Actually, I think that the first point so is not difficult: I think information is evidently information about something, of Bit is indeed manifestly from It.

Your other points are more subtle so much better to discuss.

First of all, I take Mach much more seriously than Wheeler....

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Anton Biermans replied on Jun. 29, 2013 @ 02:09 GMT
Hi Mark,

As to ''we cannot claim that particles (or waves or anything) exist'', that depends on what we mean with ''exist''.

If the very most fundamental law of a universe which creates itself out of nothing, without any outside interference, is the conservation law which says that what comes out of nothing must add to nothing -so everything inside of it, including space and time...

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 04:55 GMT
Send to all of you

THE ADDITIONAL ARTICLES AND A SMALL TEST FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT

To change the atmosphere "abstract" of the competition and to demonstrate for the real preeminent possibility of the Absolute theory as well as to clarify the issues I mentioned in the essay and to avoid duplicate questions after receiving the opinion of you , I will add a reply to you :

1 . THE...

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 19:39 GMT
Mark,

I enjoyed your essay and agree with most points.Your magic metaphor, I attribute to the narcissism of humans.

"Just as the ancient painters used pigments to create representations

of the reality they saw,we use mathematics to create representations of the reality we see."

I like your comparison.

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Jun. 28, 2013 @ 01:33 GMT
Dear sie

Thank you for presenting your nice essay. I saw the abstract and will post my comments soon.

I am requesting you to go through my essay also. And I take this opportunity to say, to come to reality and base your arguments on experimental results.

I failed mainly because I worked against the main stream. The main stream community people want magic from science instead...

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George Kirakosyan wrote on Jun. 28, 2013 @ 15:03 GMT
Mark,

Your essay is really excellent. I saw you have judge honestly and dared going against to majority! Now I will read your work carefully and we will continue talks. Please check my work where you will find confirmation to your position.Take care, we are colleagues!

ESSAY

Sincerely,

George

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Akinbo Ojo wrote on Jun. 29, 2013 @ 10:06 GMT
Hi Mark,

Very nice essay. Gordon Watson made mention of it so I took a look. And was I happy reading? YES. I will respond by pasting excerpts and making comments immediately below.

RE: To understand the way out of the crisis, we must first understand the way in.

Agreed. How far back do we go? The crisis started much further back than the 100 years you think.

RE: The flawed concept of physical probabilities is almost inextricably tied into the foundations of quantum theory and leads directly to most of the confusion in physics.

I am 100% in with you on this, just like many others. But when someone drew a line in his geometry book and told you it had no breadth, why didn't we complain that not only was this not probable, it was impossible? Instead, we clapped and hailed this as an accomplishment. Why complain today?

RE: “Questions about what?” and “It from Bit” suggests that we should consider information theory, not physical theory, as fundamental .

I understand your sentiment being a realist myself. Not that I agree with Wheeler, completely but I think there is a genuine puzzle to solve: If you are an omnipotent and omniscient being and a naughty boy like Wheeler, knowing fully well that a question is not a material thing, asks you, "Daddy, create things FROM a question that has two answers", what will you do? What question will you ask, whose Yes or No answer can result in a thing coming from the question? Note, that you are not restricted in the kind of question to ask, so far the question has only two answers, Yes (1) or No (0). It may even be a stupid question.

If I get a reply from you, I will suggest a possible stupid question, then let me know if this question is within the rules of the puzzle.

Best regards,

Akinbo

*I will preferably want you to attempt the puzzle before reading my essay.

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basudeba mishra wrote on Jul. 1, 2013 @ 21:25 GMT
Dear Sir,

Your highly readable essay looks like a tutorial. You have guided the reader steo by step to reach the right conclusion. Your concluding remark: “information about reality and reality itself are different things, they must be differentiated in any theory” should be the clarion call of the day. Unfortunately, because of the mad rush to ‘establish oneself’, there is no time to apply discretion and everyone is building theories upon other’s statements. As if there is no place for independent thinking. Unless you quote others, it is not science. We have received many enquiries about references on our essay:

“INFORMATION HIDES IN THE GLARE OF REALITY by basudeba mishra http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1776” published here on May 31, because we have not referred to any earlier work. It is original work.

Not only physicists believe in magic and are superstitious, but also reductionism has eroded their ability to link various aspects of the same subject. There are a large number of different approaches to the foundations of QM. Each approach is a modification of the theory that introduces some new aspect with new equations which need to be interpreted. Thus there are many interpretations of QM. Every theory has its own model of reality. There is no unanimity regarding what constitutes reality.

Information about reality may vary, but reality itself must be invariant. Something makes meaning only if the description remains invariant under multiple perceptions or measurements under similar conditions through a proper measurement system. Reality must be invariant under similar conditions at all times. The validity of a physical theory is judged by its correspondence to reality.

Most of our views are similar to your views. You are welcome to read and comment.

Regards,

basudeba

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basudeba mishra wrote on Jul. 8, 2013 @ 12:06 GMT
Dear Sir,

Your essay is highly enjoyable reading TEACHER!, but more important, you call a spade a spade brutally. We fully agree with your views. However, to be considerate to the others, a stochastic process or event is not without a natural cause. The term indicates population parameters – the band width - leaving aside its cause, but focusing only on the effect. Hence we cannot call it...

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Anonymous wrote on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 00:14 GMT
Dear Mark,

Your course, and the lessons that can be taken from it are excellent! Well-written and critical of the right fundamental elements, with a logical presentation that's laid out so lucidly--it is a truly great contribution. '"Bit" is about "it"'. Of course it is.

I agreed with everything from your assessment of Machian epistemics, to your classical construction of quantum...

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Daryl Janzen replied on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 00:15 GMT
Sorry: got logged out.

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Sreenath B N wrote on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 03:16 GMT
Dear Mark,

I have down loaded your essay and soon post my comments on it. Meanwhile, please, go through my essay and post your comments.

Regards and good luck in the contest,

Sreenath BN.

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1827

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Peter Jackson wrote on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 19:33 GMT
Mark,

I was left with one big but entirely unanswered question on reading your essay. Why is is that 'IT' is much more than a 'BIT' lower down the score sheet than it should very clearly be. I seems it's not been read by many, but I think it may also be a reflection on the state of physics. As an optimist I agree;

"...with some intellectual discipline and some retraining, we might escape this crisis."

Indeed in my essay I suggest we're overdue for a "processor upgrade". I absolutely agree all you say, and find it brilliantly expressed and argued. I smiled at much. including; "The choice facing physics is not one of information theory versus physical theory, it is information theory plus physical theory versus information theory plus magic."

"...probabilities express our own ignorance due to our failure to search for the real causes of physical phenomena -and worse, our failure even to think seriously about the problem."

"(Information theory) will provide clarity to be sure, but will not and cannot produce a physical theory... A physical theory underlying quantum theory is also needed, and it is most definitely not naïve to pursue it."

And you even end with my favourite Wheeler quote which I've found good cause to agree.

I do hope you'll find time to read my essay, where I hope I demonstrate valuable findings from doing precisely what you propose. I've tested an ontological model from the simplest idea, but which most aren't yet quite able to grasp. I hope you will and look forward to your questions and comments.

Congratulations on an essay that hits all important nails square on the head, saying those things few dare to suggest, and with a clear voice. It's a shame that this most promising forum has so far failed to hear the message. Perhaps this year?

Congratulations on an excellent job, and very best of luck in the final run in.

Peter

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Michel Planat wrote on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 19:54 GMT
Dear Mark,

I red your essay and found it interesting.

However, after a long time at thinking at the problem you(we) are talking about, I really think that Bohr was right. Quantum theory, that deals about the measurements, is very rich although paradoxal. Wheeler is also right in the sense of observer participancy. It means that some determinism exists in our access to reality as I show in my essay. Please have a look.

http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1789

Best regards,

Michel

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sridattadev kancharla wrote on Jul. 23, 2013 @ 01:17 GMT
Dear All,

It is with utmost joy and love that I give you all the cosmological iSeries which spans the entire numerical spectrum from -infinity through 0 to +infinity and the simple principle underlying it is sum of any two consecutive numbers is the next number in the series. 0 is the base seed and i can be any seed between 0 and infinity.

iSeries always yields two sub semi...

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Than Tin wrote on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 03:10 GMT
Hi Mark

Richard Feynman in his Nobel Acceptance Speech

(http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/19
65/feynman-lecture.html)

said: “It always seems odd to me that the fundamental laws of physics, when discovered, can appear in so many different forms that are not apparently identical at first, but with a little mathematical fiddling you can show the...

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basudeba mishra wrote on Jul. 28, 2013 @ 12:14 GMT
Dear Sir,

This is our post to Dr. Wiliam Mc Harris in his thread. We thought it may be of interest to you.

Mathematics is the science of accumulation and reduction of similars or partly similars. The former is linear and the later non-linear. Because of the high degree of interdependence and interconnectedness, it is no surprise that everything in the Universe is mostly non-linear....

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Don Limuti wrote on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 03:47 GMT
Mark,

Probability is not real. And it has turned many physicists into mystery mongers of a new religion. I am paraphrasing you and amplifying. Your essay is refreshing and to the point. If you do get time look at http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1823. I present the history of how we got stuck with the uncertainty principle. I think you will like.

I like your essay and it gets my vote.

Thanks,

Don L.

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Paul Borrill wrote on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 00:35 GMT
Mark - what an outstanding essay. Full marks!

The first page and halfway through the second page read like a rant from a frustrated physicist. However it got better, much better, after that. By the end of the essay, I felt like I had an education in probability I should have had 25 years ago.

You adroitly articulated what many of us are so frustrated by in Quantum Theory. Even for people like me who (shamefully) was once formally trained in the subject, and never questioned it for half his career. I think you hit the nail on the head. We really must teach people a solid foundation in probability theory before we let them loose on anything to do with quantum.

Although I often use the math in engineering problems, I don’t think it was until I took Daphne Koller’s online class in Probabilistic Graphical Models at Stanford that I finally got the message that you also so succinctly presented to me today. Thank you for that. Thank you also for the reference to Fenetti with that wonderfully insightful quote. I will order that book today. You might also read Richard Feynman’s nice essay on "The Concept of Probability in Quantum Mechanics" at Cornell.

One aspect I might wish to argue with you on is regarding causality (and the implication of the title of your essay). I believe an important distinction is missing: between something having or not having a root cause (with its conceptual hierarchy of turtles all the way down - Bertrand Russell and Huw Price's argument) and the "direction" of causality, which is influenced by the preparation of an experiment which includes time reversibility. I mentioned this in my essay, where I tried to provide a different perspective on how, even with a well defined ontology, this can still “appear” random.

Good luck in the contest.

Kind regards, Paul

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Hugh Matlock wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 00:29 GMT
Hi Mark,

Thanks for an excellent essay, informative and very well written!

I agree with you that we should search for realistic models for QM, and explain the related contextuality.

As you insist that Bit must come from It, I wonder what you think of the possibility of a computable formulation for physics: in other words, that we might find the laws of physics could be described by reference to specific computations. If we do, then would we be right to say the "It"s of the physical arise from "Bit"s below? Or should we shift our idea of the "ground of being" down to the substrate of that computation?

Developing such a computable view is the thrust of my essay, Software Cosmos which describes how the simulation paradigm explains many observational puzzles in cosmology. I hope you get a chance to take a look.

Hugh

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