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CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: World without World: Observer-Dependent Physics by Dean Rickles [refresh]
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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 20:16 GMT
Essay Abstract

The viewpoint expressed in this essay is that a pressing problem of physics is to recognize that our role as observers is more deeply embedded in our theories and laws than is often realised. This is developed by looking at two possible observer-inclusive approaches to physics.

Author Bio

Professor Dean Rickles is Professor of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Sydney, where he is also co-director of the Centre for Time. He has written several books, including most recently A Brief History of String Theory and Philosophy of Physics.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 00:17 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

I believe you're close to expressing Wheeler's conception when you state:

"The laws of physics… are heavily laden with material from humans devising such representation and laws.… The structure of the universe, on such views, is intimately connected with our own existence."

I would prefer to state that "the perceived structure of the universe…...

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 00:51 GMT
"a pressing problem of physics is to recognize that our role as observers is more deeply embedded in our theories and laws than is often realised."

Maybe there is a common language of possibilities. Laws say what's impossible and afford possibilities; an observer should see these possibilities and eliminate the impossibilities.

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 13:01 GMT
Hi Dean – thanks for a lively and very readable overview of the literature on the “participatory universe.” But I’m afraid I disagree with the notion that the laws of physics are “infused with features of our cognitive framework.” On the contrary, I think the reason we struggle so much to make sense of these issues is that our traditional framework is so badly suited to sorting out...

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David Brown wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 17:15 GMT
"The viewpoint expressed in this essay is that a pressing problem is to recognize that our role as observers is more deeply embedded in our theories and laws that is often realized." The Copenhagen Interpretation seems to me to be a minimalist, agnostic epistemology that works extremely well in terms of its pragmatic success but might suffer a reverse from the Fredkin-Wolfram challenge.

Where Are the Dark Matter Particles?

My guess is that the Gravity Probe B science team misinterpreted their own results — despite the fact that I might be a minority of one in making this particular guess.

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peter cameron wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 21:41 GMT

Glad to see your focus on mindful/mindless rather than aims and intention. It nicely sidesteps the problem of emergence of sentience, which appears to be the only realistic option in our present understanding.

imo you've nailed it with your take on the role of the observer. Interesting you precede that discussion with

"...mathematical laws are not mindless but are instead infused with features of our cognitive framework."

This has me wondering if such mindfulness is essential for your discussion of the observer. In any case, I think a strong argument can be made for use of the geometric Clifford algebras of 3D space and 4D spacetime in attempts to formalize the mindfulness you envision.

I much like the FQXi search engine. Searching for any of the three terms 'geometric Clifford algebra' gives what appear to me to be useful links to other essays in this year's Forum Posts section. You might find helpful ideas there in terms of "...features of our cognitive framework."

Best regards,


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Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 03:08 GMT
Dear Dean,

I fully support your firm insistence on the importance of the mind-universe problem, and I appreciate your quotations. I think, my son Lev and clearly refuted the Wheeler's closed loop in our essay awarded at the previous fqxi contest. I would be grateful for your comments to our Moira and Eileithyia for Genesis.

All the best,

Alexey Burov.

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sridattadev kancharla wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 19:39 GMT
Dear Dean,

Universe is an i-Sphere and we humans are capable of interpreting it as 4 dimensional dual torus inside a 3-Sphere, which consists of Riemann 2-sphere as Soul as depicted in S=BM^2 diagram in the attached doc. Soul is the simplest of the complex manifolds with in the 3-sphere, Mind and Body constitute the remaining complexity. Soul, Mind and Body are in a toroidal flux in human beings, exactly at the center of the 3-sphere one can experience the unity of the trinity and that is the now moment we experience. As there are 4 dimensions required for a 3-sphere, the regular 3 dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time, it is obvious that the 2-sphere (Riemann sphere) of consciousness with in us is with out the time dimension and hence the saying "eternal soul". Poincare` conjecture implies that consciousness is homeomorphic (same or similar) in all beings manifested in all dimensions of the universe, as i have shown that Riemann sphere can serve as the fundamental unit of consciousness in There are no goals as such its all play.

PS: i thinks therefore we are VR(Virtual Reality), i "am" not GOD but i "is".

zero = i = infinity = sqrt ( e power (i * pi) )



attachments: 12_zero__i__infinity.docx

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 00:14 GMT
Nice essay Rickles,

Wonderful sentences!….. “The brain is small. The universe is large. In what way, if any, is it, the observed, affected by man, the observer? Is the universe deprived of

all meaningful existence in the absence of mind?”

We get 5 different pictures of the Universe using our five senses viz, “Vision, Smell, Taste, Touch and by Hearing” ....

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Steve Agnew wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 15:15 GMT
This is an interesting address the question by arguing that physical laws are not mindless. Rather, physical laws are part of our subjective and not objective reality.

You state that the goal of the scientist is to uncover the universe's invariant features, its laws. You also state that the goal of science is to predict the future and that is the goal of rats as well. Granted.

However, physical laws are by definition objective since many people agree with them, and so what you seemed to have done is simply redefine the word subjective to include objective notions about the physical world.

It would seem that redefining the words in the question does not address the core issue...the core issue of subjective versus objective realities. The observer of a source always perturbs the source just as you note.

The core issue dividing our subjective and objective realities is whether the observer can always know the causes of those source perturbations, i.e., the physical laws, not whether the perturbations exist. You do not seem to have addressed this core issue.

If an observer cannot actually know a physical cause that does exist, this means that there is choice without the possibility of knowing a cause for that choice. This differentiates the objective nature of the world where all effects have a knowable cause from our subjective experience where there is choice without cause just like quantum uncertainty means there are effects without knowable causes.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 13:25 GMT
Professor Rickles,

Very nice essay with some provocative and interesting views. I hadn't seem QBism and found it close to previous essays of mine, equivalent to the 'wavefunction' not collapsing but being reborn' by each interaction.

However I have to suggest that from there it descends largely into utter nonsense, purely and demonstrable due to our incomplete understanding of nature. I show in my own essay how QMs predictions CAN be produced by classical mechanisms, and exactly as John Bell predicted, by identifying a momentum exchange in observer/detector interactions NOT accounted for in QM's formulation.

I didn't find your "mathematical laws are not mindless but are instead infused with features of our cognitive framework." shocking at all. If you like 'shocking' then do take a look (and try to disprove) at the simple reality exposed in my essay. (the first part predicts it'll be 'invisible' to most minds, as is most new physics, and shows why).

As one expert in the philosophy of science and QM I'd greatly value your response.

Well done and thank you for your own, confirming the limited 'front line' of our current state of understanding.



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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 15:55 GMT
Dear Professor Dean Rickles,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Richard David Stafford wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 20:56 GMT
I just finished reading your essay and found it interesting; however, I am of the opinion that you still overindulge yourself in the "beliefs" held by the scientific community (an issue I often refer to as a

religion" which upsets them to a rather unbelievable extent).

People seem to be incapable of comprehending what I say and I have hopes you might be able to understand what I am talking about. It might be beneficial for you to read part 3 of my Essay ignoring everything else.

Mindless mathematics is the supposed starting point of these essays.

Part 1 of my essay is no more than a comment that role and structure of language is the first issue to be understood.

Part 2 is no more than a comment that any communication (think language) can be transformed into collections of numbers. If you have any understanding of computers, you should be well aware of that fact.

Part 3 is no more than a definition of Understanding.

The rest of the essay is no more than a demonstration of how "mindless mathematics then yields some rather astounding facts. This is an issue I barely touch in my essay. The work can be extended a thousand fold easily.

Please take a look at part 3 and see if you are capable of comprehending my definition.

Thank you - R.D. Stafford

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Shaikh Raisuddin wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 19:20 GMT
Dean Rickles

There is no subjectivity, but only objectivity! If we shrug off anthropocentrism--the way of looking from man's perspective.

The perspective that needs to adapted is physicalism by translating each word of dictionary into their "physical correlate".

For example I define mind as the physical process by which a response is decided.

An epistemological revolution is needed to acknowledge that, "Physics is behavioral science of matter". It is not Physics that give behavior to matter instead behavior of matter give Physics.

Matter has its own mind and language. Matter expresses and matter comprehends. How matter knows that its reaction is equal and opposite to an action?

We need a paradigm shift to answer the question of the Essay Contest.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 17:26 GMT
Great essay. I am not sure I totally agree with this, but it certainly is something with which to reference developments in physics. It is sort of the ultimate bootstrap principle and it could ultimately prove to be the final principle of physics and cosmology.

When I was in high school I purchased the big "Gravitation" book of Misner, Thorne and Wheeler. As a high school senior I struggled hard to read the book. Around that time I was perusing the local university library and found this book "Quantum Gravity," pulled it off the shelf and looked in it. I read the essay by Wheeler at the end on the Participatory Universe. I was utterly thunderstruck that anyone would write in a book of hard physics something of this nature. I remember this reading experience as bordering on mystical.

If you look in my essay you will see where at the end I talk about the role of Goedel's theorem and self-reference in the open world or universe (multiverse). This is one one cornerstone that Wheeler appeals to with his participatory universe.

I am not sure I will live long enough to know whether this weltenschauung will prove to be the ultimate final theory of physics. I think or suspect we might be trying to find the penultimate theory, or maybe the pre-penultimate theory. This will be around though haunting us so long as we are doing physics.

Cheers LC

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Michael Alexeevich Popov wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 10:50 GMT
Dear Dean,

Some historical refinements & judgment :

Eddington attempted to introduce so called " E - Algebra" based on unified Kantian intuition of space - and - time " ( having Kantian analogy in Hamilton's quaternion algebra as " a science of pure time "). Eddington's a - priorism is also connected with his principle : it is possible to calculate the exact values of all pure metaconstants summarizing timeless relations between the basic constants of Nature, by a priori mathematical deduction from synthetic a priori principles of some unified physics ( in Whittaker's terms ).

In other words, following Eddington's Kantianism there are mindless observer - independent mathematical laws. Constants by Eddington are observer - independent but at the same time they have transcendental idealistic existence ( as synthetic a priori judgments )in good agreement with Kant transcendental aesthetics,but not with popular solipsism ( multiverse ).

I showed in my essay " Kantian answers " that FQXi contest question is obviously Kantian and it has a generalized form as Kantian question - How synthetic a priori judgments are possible ?

Thank you for the good essay

Michael A. Popov

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Member Rick Searle wrote on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 21:48 GMT
Hi Dean,

You wrote a fascinating essay. I've always been interested in Wheeler's idea of bootstrapping. Is it your idea that such bootstrapping requires human level consciousness and actual observation or can the interactions of entities at any level of consciousness play that role?

Please check out my own essay should you find the time:

All the best,

Rick Searle

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Branko L Zivlak wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 21:27 GMT
Dear Mr. Rickles

Perhaps the more you appreciate the importance of mathematics in science, if you have references from Njitn, Bošković, Plank …



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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 23:04 GMT

The universe is not fashioned in our own image but certainly our shadow eclipses the sun of understanding.

Good review of concepts that help us to understand what mindless laws and science are carved out of. "Subjective realism", "the tyranny of the engineer" and "tyranny of mathematiciam" are good monikers to explain and caution.

I see entropy as a major mindless law and encourage modern scientists to get out of the lab to field study the dynamics of dark matter, for example.

Hope you get a chance to check mine out.

Jim Hoover

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Jonathan Khanlian wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 23:31 GMT
Absolutely loved it, Dean Rickles!

Wheeler's "it from bit", Goedel, a self-bootstrapping universe... What more could I ask for in essay?! I feel like your essay took some thoughts that were rolling around in my head to the next level :)

I think a lot of physicists would benefit from listening to some of your "philosophical logic" (I hope that isn't an oxymoron :) Why divorce ourselves from our theories!? But do you really think it is random at the bottom, and not pseudo-random? Could statistics, probability, and QM just be tool that we use to analyze a deterministic universe? Also, what are your thoughts on Douglas Hofstadter's "Strange Loops"?

Please check out my "Digital Physics" film on iTunes, Amazon Prime, or Vimeo if you get the chance. I think it may be up your alley!


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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 02:48 GMT
Dear Sirs!

Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of Newton returned as the New Cartesian Physic and promises to be a theory of everything. To tell you this good news I use spam.

New Cartesian Physic based on the identity of space and matter. It showed that the formula of mass-energy equivalence comes from the pressure of the Universe, the flow of force which on the corpuscle is equal to the product of Planck's constant to the speed of light.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential for understanding the world. To show it, I ventured to give "materialistic explanations of the paranormal and supernatural" is the title of my essay.

Visit my essay, you will find there the New Cartesian Physic and make a short entry: "I believe that space is a matter" I will answer you in return. Can put me 1.


Dizhechko Boris

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pkkimma 12 12 wrote on Jul. 4, 2017 @ 08:56 GMT
I think a lot of physicists would benefit from listening to some of your "philosophical logic" (I hope that isn't an oxymoron :) Why divorce ourselves from our theories!? gan nhiễm mỡ có triệu chứng gì But do you really think it is random at the bottom, and not pseudo-random? Could statistics, probability, and QM just be tool that we use to analyze a deterministic universe? Also, what are your thoughts on Douglas Hofstadter's "Strange Loops"?

cách chữa viêm gan b cấp tính

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