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Current Essay Contest


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Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - April 24, 2020
Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation
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What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation
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Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.
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Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American

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How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
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It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
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Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American
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Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American
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What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
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The Nature of Time
August - December 2008
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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Joe Fisher: on 4/8/15 at 15:56pm UTC, wrote Dear James, I think Newton was wrong about abstract gravity; Einstein was...

James Baldwin: on 3/24/15 at 2:31am UTC, wrote Mr Klingman: Thanks for the comments. I returned the favor by reading your...

Edwin Klingman: on 3/23/15 at 0:30am UTC, wrote Dear James Baldwin, I greatly enjoyed your essay, with its unique...

Joe Fisher: on 3/22/15 at 16:03pm UTC, wrote Please remember, you have a complete skin surface, but all of that skin...

Joe Fisher: on 3/21/15 at 20:41pm UTC, wrote Dear J Baldwin, The cars are not traveling at different speeds. The...

James Baldwin: on 3/21/15 at 12:05pm UTC, wrote Hi Joe: I'm glad you looked at my paper. With over 200 (204 by my count)...

Joe Fisher: on 3/18/15 at 16:28pm UTC, wrote Dear Dr. Baldwin, You wrote: “There is even reality beyond math that...

James Baldwin: on 3/12/15 at 2:45am UTC, wrote Mr. Kadin: I glad you liked my essay. I thought I was going to be the...


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FQXi FORUM
June 3, 2020

CATEGORY: Trick or Truth Essay Contest (2015) [back]
TOPIC: Trick or Truth: the Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics by James W Baldwin [refresh]
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Author James W Baldwin wrote on Mar. 10, 2015 @ 16:14 GMT
Essay Abstract

It seems that math & physics go hand in hand. But, as this this paper will show, that Mathematics is the Finger Pointing at the Moon. It can describe reality, and can even predict events in reality, but it is a convenient illusion. It is not reality and should not be mistaken for it.

Author Bio

Career spans 30+ years doing stress analysis for aircraft companies, including Boeing, Lockheed and Spirit Aerosystems. Two of my duties in that timespan included writing or being responsible for 15 Boeing stress manuals and creating all of the 26 Spirit stress manuals. Experience spans both static, fatigue and damage tolerance stress analysis and working with material allowables. Was MMPDS representative for Spirit for 7 years.

Download Essay PDF File

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Alan M. Kadin wrote on Mar. 11, 2015 @ 14:27 GMT
Dear Mr. Baldwin,

I enjoyed reading your essay on how math provides nothing more than models of reality. Much of this is obvious, but it is amazing how often people can refuse to see the obvious.

I agree, and my own essay, "Remove the Blinders: How Mathematics Distorted the Development of Quantum Theory", focuses on a particularly egregious example of how an incorrect mathematical model became accepted as reality, despite obvious "paradoxes". I argue that contrary to universal belief, a simple realistic picture of the microworld is possible, completely avoiding the paradoxes that plague orthodox quantum mechanics (including entanglement). QM is not a universal theory of matter; it is rather a mechanism for distributed vector fields to self-organize into spin-quantized coherent domains similar to solitons. This requires nonlinear mathematics that is not present in the standard Hilbert-space formalism. This also makes directly testable experimental predictions, based on little more than Stern-Gerlach measurements. Remarkably, these simple experiments have never been done.

So while mathematics can provide important insights into physics, an incorrect mathematical model that becomes established may be seen as virtually religious dogma which is not to be questioned. That prevents further progress.

Alan Kadin

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Author James W Baldwin replied on Mar. 12, 2015 @ 02:45 GMT
Mr. Kadin:

I glad you liked my essay. I thought I was going to be the renegade of the group in describing how disconnected math and physics are, but in glancing thru these essays I see that at least half of the papers here seem to support this view.

I look forward to reading your paper.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 18, 2015 @ 16:28 GMT
Dear Dr. Baldwin,

You wrote: “There is even reality beyond math that math can’t account for (as yet).”

Do let me know what you think about this: This is my single unified theorem of how the real Universe is occurring: Newton was wrong about abstract gravity; Einstein was wrong about abstract space/time, and Hawking was wrong about the explosive capability of abstract NOTHING....

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Author James W Baldwin replied on Mar. 21, 2015 @ 12:05 GMT
Hi Joe:

I'm glad you looked at my paper. With over 200 (204 by my count) essays submitted it's a real step just to get noticed.

But you really didn't comment on my paper here - you extracted one line, that seemed in sympathy with you own views, and then summarized the paper you had also submitted. But I'll do you one better and give my comments on your comments.

You say that everything has a real surface and material sub-surface, and that real surfaces are all traveling at the same speeds. I don't see or understand this at all. Is everything like an onion, with different layers ? Are all these surfaces traveling (rotating ?) at the same speeds but still remaining in place ? And you say that this must be so, since if they were traveling at different speeds we wouldn't be able to see them ? Well, I can look out my window and see a bunch of cars going by, all at different speeds, and it's quite easy to see each one. And that real light doesn't travel far but reflected light does ? So where does the real light go ? Does it travel a few feet or miles and then just disappear ? And planets orbit because of atmospheric accumulation ? Whose atmosphere - the planets ? the Earths ? the space between the stars ?

My essay was that math is so flexible that it can describe many different realities, and do this very well, but only one of those realities fits the Universe we live in. The other realities are merely abstractions and should be ignored. I'm afraid that your view only adds another layer of abstraction onto the real world that isn't there and does not help explain the world we live in.

J. Baldwin

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Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 21, 2015 @ 20:41 GMT
Dear J Baldwin,

The cars are not traveling at different speeds. The surface of each car travels at the same constant speed that all surface travels a including the surface of the road the cars are traveling on. At the point where the surface of the tires touch the road, a sub-surface is formed and each sub-surface travels at a unique speed that is always less that the speed of surface. I wish you had commented on my essay at my commentary box.

Joe Fisher

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Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 22, 2015 @ 16:03 GMT
Please remember, you have a complete skin surface, but all of that skin surface is in contact with other gaseous, liquid and solid surfaces.The real Universe is physically connected.

Joe Fisher

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 23, 2015 @ 00:30 GMT
Dear James Baldwin,

I greatly enjoyed your essay, with its unique engineering flavor and take on math and physics. You begin with very key statements, such as

"If it can be measured, it's physics. If it can't, it's metaphysics…"

and

"Math does not explain the physics; the physicist does."

and

"We must be careful in explaining the universe to keep it simple, but not too simple."

and

"Math can predict any reality desired, so the physicist must determine which set of math formulas models the reality that we live in."

I hope you will find time to read my essay, which focuses on one of these realities in the context of (what I consider) a fifty-year mistake in physics. You note that physicists use math to understand how the universe works while engineering is more utilitarian. Your drawings are excellent, and your reminder that (for finite element models) "the judgment of the modeler is needed in modeling the actual structure to the mathematical model."

In half a page you go from Zen 'math as finger-pointing at the moon' to the power of analogies applicable to significantly different systems modeled by the same differential equations. From "math may predict things that don't exist" to the example of the deHavilland Comet, your essay is chock full of interesting and relevant examples to back up generalities. In short an excellent contribution to this essay contest.

My best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author James W Baldwin replied on Mar. 24, 2015 @ 02:31 GMT
Mr Klingman:

Thanks for the comments. I returned the favor by reading your essay and gave you a good rating. I posted a few questions on it that you can ponder on and reply to in your spare time.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 8, 2015 @ 15:56 GMT
Dear James,

I think Newton was wrong about abstract gravity; Einstein was wrong about abstract space/time, and Hawking was wrong about the explosive capability of NOTHING.

All I ask is that you give my essay WHY THE REAL UNIVERSE IS NOT MATHEMATICAL a fair reading and that you allow me to answer any objections you may leave in my comment box about it.

Joe Fisher

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