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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri: on 2/25/18 at 18:54pm UTC, wrote Thank you, Dean Rickless, for the reference, you have cited as comment...

David Brown: on 2/22/18 at 9:45am UTC, wrote "Krauss argues that quantum fields and the vacuum are all one needs to...

Steven Andresen: on 2/22/18 at 6:48am UTC, wrote Dear Dean If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the...

peter cameron: on 2/19/18 at 16:25pm UTC, wrote good luck on the grant app.

Jochen Szangolies: on 2/19/18 at 11:31am UTC, wrote Dear Dean, congratulations on a well thought-out and written essay. More...

John Merryman: on 2/18/18 at 18:17pm UTC, wrote Dean, Anything physical has to be defined, which makes it finite, making...

Juan Ramón González Álvarez: on 2/18/18 at 16:21pm UTC, wrote "The history of philosophy provides many responses: atoms and void, ONE,...

Don Limuti: on 2/18/18 at 2:51am UTC, wrote Dean, I would have to disagree on one point you made. "thus, we might...


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FQXi FORUM
November 19, 2018

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: Of Lego and Layers (and Fundamentalism) by Dean Rickles [refresh]
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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Feb. 1, 2018 @ 21:36 GMT
Essay Abstract

It is a widespread assumption that scientific progress means finding more basic constituents. It is certainly the received view. This is the common scientific meaning of fundamentality. It is a metaphysical assumption, and drives other assumptions, such as the idea that physics (elementary particle physics, or something like it) should (and can) furnish a complete account of the world: any and all things should be traceable back to the fundamental layer. This paper seeks to pull apart this assumption a little. I suggest that the physicist's version of it might have something to do with the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the description of laws. Ultimately, however, we find that fundamentalism (as a stance) does not demand the elementary particle physicist's more micro-reductive approach, and there are several possible avenues one might take towards `being a fundamentalist' in physics---some of these are well known, others perhaps not so.

Author Bio

Professor Dean Rickles is Professor of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 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 (Springer, 2014) and Philosophy of Physics (Polity, 2016).

Download Essay PDF File

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 2, 2018 @ 02:46 GMT
Dean,

Looking at fundamental theories reminds you of the different mindsets of the quantum and the classical worlds and effects to bring them together: micro and macro imperialism. The ToE which unites GR and QFT, the GUT bringing 4 forces together. Their fundamentals tend to focus on areas of study or prejudice. Perhaps cosmologists prefer the single, undivided whole because that's where their heads are or GR and pure geometry and so on. As we know objectivity is required in pursuing truth and fundamentalism. My essay looks at the need for an open mind in discovery, a process that tends to evolve what is fundamental, the same kind of open mind you display.

Good job. Hope you have a chance to look at mine.

Jim Hoover

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 09:00 GMT
Should say John Post, not Heinz Post on the first page...

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Feb. 4, 2018 @ 15:20 GMT
Dear Professor Rickles

“Fundamental in physics is not necessarily fundamental in philosophy, though one hopes for some continuity and coherence” I fully can agree with this, thinking is not only a quality that is restricted to physics and/or mathematics, it is a FREE power of consciousness.

“Peeling back the layers of the cosmic onion one after another without end” You...

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Francesco D'Isa wrote on Feb. 4, 2018 @ 22:41 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

a very interesting essay, I enjoyed your philosophical point of view (I missed philosophers here, in spite of such a metaphysical question) and your itinerary through the philosophy of science is very well written and stimulating.

The concepts by Bohm have some interesting analogies with the philosophy of Nagarjuna which I used to outline the absolute relativism of my essay – I realize now that I forgot to quote Bohm somewhere!

All the best,

Francesco D'Isa

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Heinrich Luediger wrote on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 14:35 GMT
Dear Dean,

"the more complex a system is, the harder it is to describe through

mathematical laws."

Here is the reason:

A priori thinking is awfully difficult - but its laws are dead simple.

A posteriori thinking is dead simple - but its models are awfully difficult.

Heinrich

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Member Kevin H Knuth wrote on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 17:45 GMT
Dear Dean,

I *really* enjoyed your essay! It is clearly well-written and engaging, but most importantly, it made me think... think of new things and new perspectives. Thank you for that!

I especially enjoyed the discussion on the concepts of fundamentalism espoused by Wigner and Anderson. As one who at one time worked in complex systems and now works in fundamental theoretical physics, I really appreciated the comparison and contrast between the two perspectives. I was quite excited when you reached the conclusion that the fundamental concepts were the physical symmetries.

The importance of symmetries resonates with me and one can see the importance of this in my work in my earlier 2015 FQXi essay "The Deeper Roles of Mathematics in Physical Laws" (https://fqxi.org/data/essay-contest-files/Knuth_knuth---fqx
i-essay---.pdf), which had a profound influence on my most recent work (https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.09725) with John Skilling.

Your essay made me see my theoretical work on Influence Theory (https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1308/1308.3337.pdf)(http
s://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.07766.pdf) from a new perspective in which there are fundamental elements that influence one another, and it is the mathematical description of these influence events where fundamental symmetries result in constraint equations that represent the physical laws. In this theory, the nature of the objects and their influence on one another is inherently unknowable. So whether it is turtles all the way down is irrelevant because there is no experiment one can do to elucidate the nature of these objects and their influence. One has a termination without a theory (without the possibility, or necessity, of a theory), which in some ways is a satisfying aspect of influence theory. Your essay makes me feel that I am on a right track, or at least not a horribly wrong one!

Thank you again for giving us an interesting perspective and so so much to think about!

Sincerely,

Kevin Knuth

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Feb. 7, 2018 @ 08:27 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles, Your essay is a deep analysis of the fundamental, which is in tune with the New Cartesian Physics.

The physical space, which according to Descartes is matter, is the source of the real world. The principle of the identity of space and matter of Descartes' is the foundation for all fundamental theories. Each point of the physical space is irrational, since it, however small it is, has a length and a width and is given by intervals (layers) according to the Heisenberg principle. The voids in the space between its points (black holes) generate eternal changes in the world. Look at my page, FQXi Fundamental in New Cartesian Physics by Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich Where I showed how radically the physics can change if it follows the principle of identity of space and matter of Descartes. Evaluate and leave your comment there. I hope your high praise

Sincerely, Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich.

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Member Ken Wharton wrote on Feb. 8, 2018 @ 04:19 GMT
Hi Dean -- Great essay! I need to read it again (much slower this time) but even at a first pass it sparked a lot of really interesting ideas I need to think more about.

My favorite point you made was the notion that one might just treat the *symmetries* as being fundamental, full stop. Then everything else (at least laws and particles) would just be less-fundamental examples of how those symmetries happen to be implemented. But you didn't give any references for that idea -- is this a position that people have actually taken and justified? Please let me know. Maybe there are other essays here that go into this...

And I still owe you another email. Coming soon, I promise...

Cheers! -Ken

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Mozibur Rahman Ullah wrote on Feb. 8, 2018 @ 22:55 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

I enjoyed reading your wide-ranging and thoughtful essay. Excellent work.

Best Wishes

Mozibur Ullah

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peter cameron wrote on Feb. 9, 2018 @ 01:42 GMT
Hello Dean,

Great essay, the best so far imo.

Very welcome information overload, will require many reads. So far have completed the first pass of highlighting and commenting. Glad those features are available in public domain acrobat reader. After a few exchanges and edits with Michaele (my co-author) we can send it to you if there is interest.

Much appreciate the reference to Cushing's S-matrix book. Expensive, but seems essential in one's library, the long sought canonical reference.

S-matrix (the impedance representation, actually) is what emerges from geometric wavefunction interactions in the model Michaele and I are studying.

Emergence permits a straightforward delineation of the fundamental. We take emergent to mean the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and fundamental to be that which cannot be understood to be emergent in any observable sense, where observable is taken to be that which can give information in a single measurement.

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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 05:18 GMT
Thanks for the questions and comments. Not ignoring them: will respond and provide comments on others' essays next week - grant application time!

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peter cameron replied on Feb. 19, 2018 @ 16:25 GMT
good luck on the grant app.

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 17:27 GMT
Dean,

I feel every concept contributes to an understanding of “fundamental,” so I am reviewing my own sketchy evaluations to help my understanding and see if I have rated them. I find that I rated yours on 2/1 reflecting my high regard for your contribution. Hope you get a chance to check out mine.

Jim

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Michaele Suisse wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 19:11 GMT
Professor Rickles,

Bravo! So well done.

This is an essay I wish I'd have written.

Everyone in the community would do well to read it and give the many points it covers mindful consideration.

Thank you for your worldview.

- Michaele

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Avtar Singh wrote on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 18:08 GMT
Hi Dean:

Congratulations on your intriguing and well-written paper.

Your statement - "...fundamentalism (as a stance) does not demand the elementary particle physicist's more micro-reductive approach, and there are several possible avenues one might take towards `being a fundamentalist' in physics---some of these are well known, others perhaps not so." is supported by my paper -“What is Fundamental – Is C the Speed of Light”. that describes the fundamental physics of antigravity missing from the widely-accepted mainstream physics and cosmology theories resolving their current inconsistencies and paradoxes. The missing physics depicts a spontaneous relativistic mass creation/dilation photon model that explains the yet unknown dark energy, inner workings of quantum mechanics, and bridges the gaps among relativity and Maxwell’s theories. The model also provides field equations governing the spontaneous wave-particle complimentarity or mass-energy equivalence. The key significance or contribution of the proposed work is to enhance fundamental understanding of C, commonly known as the speed of light, and Cosmological Constant, commonly known as the dark energy.

The paper not only provides comparisons against existing empirical observations but also forwards testable predictions for future falsification of the proposed model.

I would like to invite you to read my paper and appreciate any feedback comments.

Best Regards

Avtar Singh

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 13, 2018 @ 20:43 GMT
Respected Prof Dean Rickles

Very nice op and ideology...."It is a widespread assumption that scientific progress means finding more basic constituents. It is certainly the received view. This is the common scientific meaning of fundamentality. It is a metaphysical assumption, and drives other assumptions, such as the idea that physics (elementary particle physics, or something like it)...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Feb. 17, 2018 @ 08:12 GMT
An en excellent essay, I liked it very much! A very well thought criticism of the prevailing idea that there are some terminal building blocks. Moreover, it contains as a remedy the Parmenidean principle, and various holistic ideas endorsed by modern physics. I also liked the Weinberg-Anderson duality, which is a synthesis that goes beyond the two limiting extremes. On a personal level, I enjoyed because it touches some of my favorite topics, including Wheeler's geometrodynamics, his "one-electron" idea, the role of mathematics in physics, and Bohm's "implicate order". A great reading!

Cristi

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Feb. 17, 2018 @ 18:41 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

Since I disliked the unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics in physical description of hearing, I arrived at something extremely simple.

My last boss refused commenting on it because it is too fundamental.

Admittedly I am not a fan of Parmenides, and I tend to suspect symmetries as redundant void information. Therefore I can only hope for your fierce resistance.

Best,

Eckard Blumschein

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Wayne R Lundberg wrote on Feb. 17, 2018 @ 23:59 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

Aside from the philosophical review of the last centuries ideas, I found it interesting that you note:

"Attempts to geometrize physics (e.g. John Wheeler’s geometrodynamics, or even Einstein’s unified field theory) are of this kind: from pure geometry one tries to extract the particulate nature of the world as we find it (with discreteness, charge, mass, and so on, all falling out of the spacetime metric, or metric and topology)."

My first paper at DPF 92 (FermiLab) was titled "Topological combinatorics of a Quantized String Gravitational Metric” physics/9712042 . btw it isn't a topology so much as curvature and area that define a finitary basis for particle theory. But topology does explain why exactly three generations are in the representative geometry and non-communitive matrix algebra.

Anyway, I have a nice physics paper if you're interested in a different mathematical insight.

Wayne L.

https://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/3092

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Don Limuti wrote on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 02:51 GMT
Dean,

I would have to disagree on one point you made.

"thus, we might say: ‘I believe that Max Tegmark is really a bunch of excitations of quantum fields’; or, if we have read Tegmark’s book, ‘I believe that Max Tegmark is really a mathematical sub-structure in a multiverse of such structures.’ It is rare these days to find people espousing this radical eliminitivism."

I would change the last sentence to read: "It is rare these days to find people espousing this radical eliminitivism except in FQXi.org essay contests."

In my own essay I went after the lesser flea of gravity. Do check it out.

I would like to surpass the other positive comments to your essay, but there were so many of them I will just say "It is that good".

Don Limuti

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Juan Ramón González Álvarez wrote on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 16:21 GMT
"The history of philosophy provides many responses: atoms and void, ONE, numbers, four elements, geometry, substrata, mind-stuff (truly the funda-mentalists!), states-of-affairs, etc. Physics often informs (and perhaps corrects) these fundamental theories, for naturalists at least; but physics in this case is not considered to provide the most fundamental description of reality: it leaves too much...

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 18:17 GMT
Dean,

Anything physical has to be defined, which makes it finite, making anything physical not fundamental.

So if you ask for "fundamental," do you mean "absolute," or "infinite?"

I would argue space is both, if we would accept geometry only maps space.

For one thing, GR implicitly assumes an equilibrium state(absolute zero) to the vacuum/space, with the observation that clocks and rulers dilate equally in a moving frame, so the frame with the fastest clocks and longest rulers would be closest to the equilibrium of the universal frame, i.e., space.

As for the idea of space emerging from a point, in BBT, when they first realized all galaxies being redshifted equal to distance made us appear as the center of the universe, it was then argued it must be an expansion of space, not simply in space, because Spacetime! Then every point would appear as the center.

What got overlooked is the central premise of GR being that the speed of light is always measured at C, in any frame. Necessarily, if the light is being redshifted, because it is taking longer to cross this intergalactic frame, obviously it is NOT Constant to the ruler of that frame. So two metrics of space are being derived from the same intergalactic light. A stable one, based on the speed and an expanding one, based on the spectrum. Given C is being used as the denominator, or it would be a "tired light" issue, even the cosmologists must subconsciously realize the idea is nonsense, but since BBT can never be falsified, only patched, it keeps them employed.

given we do appear at the center and we are at the center of our point of view, logically an optical effect might be worth considering.

Which is to say that space is infinite, as in unbounded, or limited. Since both infinity and equilibrium are non-physical qualities, they don't need cause and that is useful when one is trying to discover the fundamental.

Regards,

John B Merryman

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Jochen Szangolies wrote on Feb. 19, 2018 @ 11:31 GMT
Dear Dean,

congratulations on a well thought-out and written essay. More than any other I've seen so far, you position the question of fundamentality within the historical discourse, drawing on an impressive background knowledge to do so. There are many threads in your essay for me to chase down!

I like your picture of the Parmenidean world view as a sort of limit of the atomist one:...

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Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 06:48 GMT
Dear Dean

If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the final days of the contest, will you consider mine please? I read all essays from those who comment on my page, and if I cant rate an essay highly, then I don’t rate them at all. Infact I haven’t issued a rating lower that ten. So you have nothing to lose by having me read your essay, and everything to...

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David Brown wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 09:45 GMT
"Krauss argues that quantum fields and the vacuum are all one needs to explain the genesis and structure of every other thing." Has Krauss ignored Milgrom's MOND? According to Kroupa: (1) MOND has passed all empirical tests so far (in the realm of MOND's applicability). (2) Conventional physics cannot explain MOND's empirical successes. Is Kroupa wrong? Google "kroupa milgrom".

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Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri wrote on Feb. 25, 2018 @ 18:54 GMT
Thank you, Dean Rickless, for the reference, you have cited as comment under my essay!

I was not aware of "Mill-Ramsey-Lewis" philosophy. Actually, I have never read any serious philosophy. I am an experimental physicist. So, pardon my ignorance.

I will read your citation carefully and cite them as references in my future articles.

Re-realization of patterns in nature has been happening for thousands of years, which is a good sign that ancient people were at least as smart as we think we are!

Chandra.

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