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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Kamal Rajpal: on 2/22/18 at 12:27pm UTC, wrote Dear Erwin H. Tanin and Christopher Hendriks, I have read your Essay...

Steven Andresen: on 2/22/18 at 6:40am UTC, wrote Dear Erwin If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the...

jason Roy: on 2/20/18 at 5:05am UTC, wrote Greta place if you are don't know about how and where is the all programs...

Erwin Tanin: on 2/15/18 at 9:20am UTC, wrote Thank you for the kind words, Francesco D'Isa. All the best, Erwin and...

Erwin Tanin: on 2/15/18 at 7:59am UTC, wrote Luca, Many thanks for bringing to our attention Heisenberg's idea; we were...

Erwin Tanin: on 2/15/18 at 7:55am UTC, wrote Wayne Lundberg, In case you missed it, FQXi is looking for essays...

Erwin Tanin: on 2/15/18 at 7:53am UTC, wrote Flavio and Chiara, We have read your essay. Thanks for the interesting...

Satyavarapu Gupta: on 2/14/18 at 0:54am UTC, wrote Hi Erwin and Christopher, Nice discussion of fundamental..."Although there...


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FQXi FORUM
August 24, 2019

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: Toward A Practical Notion of Fundamentality by Erwin Handoko Tanin and Christopher Hendriks [refresh]
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Author Erwin H. Tanin wrote on Feb. 2, 2018 @ 18:46 GMT
Essay Abstract

Although there have been many robust and general definitions of the word “fundamental”, most cannot be directly applied to scientific concepts. By limiting our scope to postulates, by which we mean mathematical representations of physical laws, and defining fundamentality in terms of a postulate’s behavior under deformation, we demonstrate a tentative framework for a practical notion of fundamentality. A complete and robust realization of this idea is beyond the scope of this essay; instead we have laid down a theoretical foundation toward this ambitious goal. It is our hope that this work will promote further discussion and inspire future work on this promising and potentially rewarding subject.

Author Bio

Erwin H. Tanin is an MSc. student in physics at EPFL. His research interests lie in theoretical high energy physics and cosmology. Christopher Hendriks is a PhD student in physics at the College of William and Mary. His research is focused on computational condensed matter, specifically the question of the metal-insulator transition in VO2.

Download Essay PDF File

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 17:28 GMT
Dear Erwin and Christopher

I have read attentively your contribution to this fundamental contest. There are now already about 200 participants, so it is not easy to decide which one to read, comment and rate. I choose yours because you are two young students who have a fresh view that maybe a help for the future.

On page 6 you argue that causality doesn’t allow that the future is...

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Flavio Del Santo wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 20:48 GMT
Dear Erwin and Christopher,

thank you for this insightful and clearly expounded contribution.

I was delighted by noticing that your essay is in a way complementary to ours. I particularly impressed by your sentence: "we will tailor our notion for the purpose of helping physicists decide which postulates to keep and which to abandon when contradictions arise". In fact, in our essay, we have tried to describe exacty the process of the search for fundamentality as a empirical process of falsifications of postulates supposed to be fundamental, very similar to what you refer to when you speak of "experimental observation that brings into question previously established concepts."

We have called this, inspired by a quote of Feyerabend, "Demilishing prejudices to get to the foundations", and we deem it in close relation with your idea. Very interesting indeed the concept of stability under deformation of a postulate.

On a more general ground, it is nice to see that you are researchers in physics at a very early stage of the career, but you cultivate a genuine interest in philosophical aspects of science.

I hope you will find the time to have a look at our essay, since we look forward to discuss the affinity between our ideas.

Meanwhile you get a top rate from us! We wish you the best of luck for the contest and for your careers.

Flavio and Chiara

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Author Erwin H. Tanin replied on Feb. 15, 2018 @ 07:53 GMT
Flavio and Chiara,

We have read your essay. Thanks for the interesting read. In general, you did a nice job of putting into words ideas that are likely at the back of most people's minds but are difficult to convey. In particular, we value the point you made about the fundamental laws that we consider as most fundamental at a time being manifestations of our philosophical prejudices. These prejudices are extremely hard to recognize (let alone alter) as it is likely that by this point they have become hardwired in our brains.

As you mentioned, our ideas are indeed closely related. Where they differ is in their approaches to the problem of fundamentality: yours more closely follows the well-treaded philosophical route, while ours -- likely influenced by our scientific background -- represent a first step in attempting to address the issue from a scientifically practical point of view. We briefly touch upon this in our essay: although many excellent and interesting philosophical treatises on the problem of fundamentality in science has been produced, none of them (as far as we know) are of much practical use to a scientist. This is the main driving force behind our work, and what we believe makes it stand out from the many otherwise excellent essays featured here.

Erwin and Christopher

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Wayne R Lundberg wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 21:34 GMT
Dear Erwin and Christopher,

I certainly appreciate your essay assertion that "the objects to which we assign the adjective "fundamental," to postulates in physics, by which we mean mathematical representations (equations, inequalities, symmetry groups) of principles that define a theory."

But you didn't offer any new insight into "what" it is that is fundamental?

I invite you...

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Author Erwin H. Tanin replied on Feb. 15, 2018 @ 07:55 GMT
Wayne Lundberg,

In case you missed it, FQXi is looking for essays exploring the meaning of fundamentality, not on which and what object(s) we regard as fundamental:

https://fqxi.org/community/essay/rules

"This contest does not ask for new proposals about what some “fundamental” constituents of the universe are. Rather, it addresses what “fundamental” means, and invites interesting and compelling explorations, from detailed worked examples through thoughtful rumination, of the different levels at which nature can be described, and the relations between them."

Erwin and Christopher

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Luca Valeri wrote on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 10:23 GMT
Hi Erwin and Christopher,

your essay is very well written and I like the way you approach the topic. It reminds me of Heisenberg’s notion of ‘closed theories’, where he (in contrast to Kuhn) does not see the concepts of different closed theories as incommensurable, but that the new closed theories contain the older ones as limits. Heisenberg’s defines a closed theory similar to your claim 1. He describes a closed theory as “perfectly accurate within its domain” and “correct for all time.” (Citation from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.485
.9188&rep=rep1&type=pdf). And continues, that a closed theory exhibit such a tight interconnectedness that not a single concept can be changed without destroying the whole system.

Here some remarks I have on your essay, with wich a basically agree:

I do not understand your remark 1 on page 2 of your essay, why the building-blocks of matter should not be considered as fundamental. By the way in my essay I show that in any realistic theory there are conventional elements.

For me unitarity must hold in order I make physical concepts well defined or measurable. It that sense it is a condition, that any empirical theory must fulfil.

Causality: yes, but what causality means is a bit modified in quantum mechanics. In my essay I try to show, that measurable physical quantities are only defined within a measurement context. But because of delayed choice experiments, the context can be set relatively late in the course of a time evolution of the system. This does not change the past state of the system as physical influence but changes, what can be considered as the causal past of a particle. For example in the beam splitter experiment a photon goes through a beam splitter A and is reflected in two mirrors in B and C. And then in D depending, on the settings, one measures either 1) the path (the photon took the path B or C) or 2) the photon went both ways as a superposition. So the casual past (whether 1 or 2 happened) is only given, after the settings in D have been fixed. The weird thing in quantum mechanics is, that the settings can be fixed after the photon has past the beam splitter A.

Finally Lorenz invariance: Lorenz invariance in terms of my essay is a necessary condition my essay to make the defining concepts of the Standard Model like mass and spin definable. But Lorenz invariance only holds if the environment (or the rest of the universe) is more or less homogenous, which is more or less the case in its current state. However if the environment changes I suppose, the fundamental concepts change which might lead to a new closed theory - different than the Standard Model. I’m not sure, whether it is possible to define unified theory, where different possible environments could be subsumed in this theory. The reason for that, is that physical concepts, can only be defined within a closed subsystem, which is separated from the rest of the universe and where the time evolution can be described by a unitary evolution.

Sorry for the maybe to long comment. Hope you find the time to read and comment on my essay.

Luca

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Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 10:28 GMT
The links above does not work. Here a link to my essay: The quantum shep - In defense of positivist view on physics that works.

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Author Erwin H. Tanin replied on Feb. 15, 2018 @ 07:59 GMT
Luca,

Many thanks for bringing to our attention Heisenberg's idea; we were not aware of that.

As for our footnote, please keep in mind that we are approaching the issue of fundamentality from the point of view of a scientist mostly interested in a practical notion of "fundamental". What we were trying to say is that what we regard as the building blocks of matter are often just a convenient choice that makes it easier for us to calculate things. An example is the fact that dualities in string theory allow us to switch between different but equally good descriptions of nature; when we do that, components can turn into composites and vice versa, suggesting that fundamentality is a matter of choice of description. We don't have a very strong opinion on this. It is just an informal reason for limiting our scope to only postulates.

For your more technical remarks, we will need to explore your essay further before responding to them.

Erwin and Christopher

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Juan Ramón González Álvarez wrote on Feb. 8, 2018 @ 00:27 GMT
"Things that are regarded as fundamental are largely a matter of personal taste. This calls for an objective and reliable notion of fundamentality". Not exactly. When we are working at the same level of description, then the choice of what is fundamental and what is derived is partially arbitrary. This is the reason why we have different formulations of mechanics or of thermodynamics, with each...

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Francesco D'Isa wrote on Feb. 8, 2018 @ 11:13 GMT
Dear Erwin Handoko Tanin and Christopher Hendriks,

Thank you for your interesting essay, I appreciated the idea to propose a practical (and relative) notion of fundamentality, it's useful and leaves room for the different analysis of the idea of fundamental through different perspectives and disciplines. My definition, for example, is more philosophical.

Your proposal moreover, that

> The fundamentality of a postulate is inversely proportional to the stability of the theory under small deformations in the postulate.

Is a good one, in my opinion.

All the best!

Francesco D'Isa

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Author Erwin H. Tanin replied on Feb. 15, 2018 @ 09:20 GMT
Thank you for the kind words, Francesco D'Isa.

All the best,

Erwin and Christopher

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 14, 2018 @ 00:54 GMT
Hi Erwin and Christopher,

Nice discussion of fundamental..."Although there have been many robust and general definitions of the word “fundamental”, most cannot be directly applied to scientific concepts. By limiting our scope to postulates, by which we mean mathematical representations of physical laws, and defining fundamentality in terms of a postulate’s behavior under deformation,...

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Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 06:40 GMT
Dear Erwin

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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Kamal L Rajpal wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 12:27 GMT
Dear Erwin H. Tanin and Christopher Hendriks,

I have read your Essay wherein you briefly mention the EPR paradox. Einstein was right when he did not agree with the EPR experiment conclusions and had said, “spooky action at a distance” cannot occur and that, “God does not play dice”. Please read Linear Polarization http://vixra.org/pdf/1303.0174v5.pdf

QM claims that an electron can be both spin-up and spin-down at the same time. In my conceptual physics Essay on Electron Spin, I have proved that this is not true. Please read: https://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/3145

Kamal Rajpal

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