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FQXi FORUM
October 17, 2019

CATEGORY: What's Ultimately Possible in Physics? Essay Contest (2009) [back]
TOPIC: What is ultimately possible in physics? by Jeffrey Nicholls [refresh]
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Author Jeffrey Nicholls wrote on Sep. 28, 2009 @ 12:33 GMT
Essay Abstract

Available written records suggest many human cultures hold or have held that there is more to reality than the observable physical Universe. Modern physics conforms to this pattern, postulating an invisible ‘wave function’ to explain observable phenomena. Many modern cosmologists appear to believe that the initial state of the universe was constrained in a way that dictated its evolution to its present state, which includes us. The Western Judaeo-Christian tradition attributes this constraint to an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being called God. God is believed to have eternally pre-existed the Universe and to be in essence completely distinct from and unlike the Universe. The standard Western theological model proposes that the only constraint on God is self consistency (1) . Here we explore the hypothesis that God and the Universe are the same reality, leading to the conclusion that ultimately physics and theology have the same subject and that the Universe is subject to no externally imposed constraint. The world of our experience is constrained only by self consistency as traditionally attributed to God. We explore this constraint in terms of a logical model based on the extension of practical finite computer networks into the transfinite domain first explored by Cantor and applied by to the foundations of quantum mechanics by von Neumann using the function theory developed by Hilbert (2). ---- 1 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province), Tabor Publishing, Allen, Texas, 1981. 2 von Neumann, J, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1983.

Author Bio

Born 12 January 1945. BA(hons). Have worked as a builder all my life, but maintained a lively interest in science in general, particularly physics and theology. Thrice married, four children.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Sep. 29, 2009 @ 02:42 GMT
I am not sure this essay really addresses the main theme of the competition which is what is ultimately possible in physics. It appears to be about what is ultimately possible in the development of theology. Perhaps ideas from the development of physics will be incorporated into theological explanations but whether that is the ultimate achievement for physics is debatable.

Religion serves a social function that science does not. Church members live longer, as do those that keep pets. Religious certainty can give hope and peace. Belonging actively to a congregation maintains supportive social networks, can give purpose and meaning to a persons life, and may maintain a healthy level of activity. All beneficial to reducing the stress of life and thus benefiting the health of body and mind. Science does not fulfil this social role.

If the hypothesis that physics and theology have the same subject is correct then physics will ultimately have to be recognised as modern theology. I do not agree with the hypothesis. Physics studies the manifestation and functions of the physical Creator and the Creation (not God) whereas, it seems to me that, theology seeks to explain the essence and will of the personified Creator (God) and foster a personal relationship. They are not necessarily incompatible but are very different.

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Helmut Hansen wrote on Sep. 29, 2009 @ 04:23 GMT
Dear Mr. Nicholls

I have read your essay. I agree with you that theology is related to an entity that is by its very nature the ultimate foundation of our universe. The Greek philosopher Platon called it the One. But until today we have not found a way to deal with this entity in a scientifically convincing manner. All knowledge about this entity is, as you have mentioned in your essay, largely based on texts which are much older than the development of modern science. We still do not have any objective information about it.

I am therefore surprised every time when well-trained and highly educated people seriously believe that a systematic scientific research of the One will not lead to any change of our traditional image of God.

If the One is really the ultimate foundation of our universe then it can naturally be expected that the changes are very far-reaching not only with respect to physics but to theology as well.

In order to start such a systematic scientific investigation I have asked myself: Do we have not to assume a highly specific conception of the Universe if its ultimate foundation is really characterized by such divine attributes like OMNIPRESENCE and INVISIBILITY?

I discovered that the universe with an invisible foundation had have in fact a certain kind of radical non-dual conception. Surprisingly there were even some experimental data which confirmed the existence of this non-dual conception.

It is clear, if you can explain the divine attribute of invisibility as the natural result of a specific conception of our universe then the ancient concept of a DEUS ABSCONDITUS becomes completely superfluous. The existence of a supreme being like a GOD who is invisible, because he is actively hiding from us, appears suddenly meaningless.

Further details see my essay TAMING OF THE ONE.

Kind regards

H. Hansen

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Georgina Parry wrote on Sep. 29, 2009 @ 23:31 GMT
Actually on reflection what I said in my previous post is not correct. Theology seeks to understand God and studies the ideas and opinions involved in this understanding. In the Judeo- Christian traditions God is a personified deity with whom an individual can communicate and have a personal relationship. This concept is different from a physical structure that Creates and is everything within the universe. Whether a structure giving rise to the universe can be thought of as God will depend on how an individual wishes to relate to it. Some may see such a model as scientific validation of their religious beliefs and others as proof that there is no God and only an impersonal physical structure operating within physical laws.

The attributes of omnipotence, omnipresence and Creation of the universe does not make the structure synonymous with all aspects of God. It would be highly selective to choose those aspects that fit with the physical description but to ignore various others that do not.

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Jen C wrote on Oct. 3, 2009 @ 02:21 GMT
Fantastic. Have followed this author some years through INTERNET. Better and better. THis should be published in "Nature"

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Author Jeffrey Nicholls wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 06:39 GMT
Hi,

Some comment on comments.

First, thankyou.

Second, as I see it, what is seen is relative to the seer. A chess master, looking at a board, sees a large space of possibilities. I see very little. From a quantum mechanical point of view, when we observe a system, we see eigenvalues of our measurement operator. If we change the operator, we will, in general, see different eigenvalues. The photons observed by an astronomer and the reader of a sacred text are generically the same. What differs is the way they are decoded.

The network picture I propose suggests that decoding is a layered process, running from the embodiment of information in physical particles to to the meaning of the embodie message to the user of the network. When a dog bites me, there are physical interactions at the tooth and flesh level which move through my physiological and neurological system being transformed into the perception that I have been bitten by a dog, and may move beyond that to my ideas about why the dog bit me, the cost of rabies injections, and ultimately I may see the event as a revelation from the One about the nature of the Universe and of dogs.

On my hypothesis, every physical event may be seen simply as a physical event, or, since the Universe is one, as a window into the whole.

Jeffrey

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Narendra nath wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 17:29 GMT
i have two points to support & encourage the author of this essay, one is he is unbiased, being a non-physicist and second that he has done the job with faith. The latter gets strength through the correct practice of any religion of this world. One keeps enough distance, a correct distance between science and religion to which one may belong. Without good and strong faith ( to the objective in hand ) one can not do even good science. Human qualities govern the human mind and it is the mind where everything of science is first synthesized. Without humanity of high level it is well nigh impossible to do good science either.

We know what physics is being followed in the evolution of the universe only in bits and pieces. We certainly do not know what existed prior to Big bang and why it all happened. Thus, an open and wide mind must be allowed to have a say as we have not reached the end of the jouney for this universe yet and know very little about it.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 13:26 GMT
Hi Dear Mr Nicholls ,

Nice to kow you .

It was a pleasure to read your essay and your poetry furthermore.

I like these ones too .so beautiful about the whole .

You say

"The photons observed by an astronomer and the reader of a sacred text are generically the same. What differs is the way they are decoded."

Best Regards

Steve

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Author Jeffrey Nicholls wrote on Oct. 10, 2009 @ 05:59 GMT
Hi Mr Steve,

I am very pleased to see that you like my stuff. You have hit my nail right on the head.

All the best,

Jeffrey

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 21, 2009 @ 09:34 GMT
Hi Jeffrey ,

hhihihi

All the best too

Steve

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Author Jeffrey Nicholls wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 03:17 GMT
It is heartening to see the varierty of theological and metaphysical approaches to physics apparent in this competition. Presumably physics does not contain its own upper bound. If there is any limit on physics, it comes from outside. By putting physics in a broader theological perspective, we can see how far it can take us.

Ordinary human discourse is not conducted in physical space-time except incidentally by way of the actual physical signals used to carry information, like photons, phonons and significant molecules.

Human discourse is conducted in logical space, the space occupied by computer networks. Given that the whole universe is a logical space of vast complexity, we see in physics the study of a degenerate subset of that space, the space in which symbols are treated simply as meaningless units that can be integrated. This is rather like studying the Bible by counting the letters in it rather than decoding it as a meaningful text in a certain language.

This degenerate view fits nicely into the network model, which is layered, beginning with the simplest software possible, logical calculus, and generating itself from there as Turing showed us how to do. The Turing machine begins as something mechanical like a typewriter and gradually, by recursively complexifying software, becomes powerful enough to execute any deterministic process. By constructing this abstract machine, Turing showed us that beyond the formally determined is the formally undetermined.

I presume that the promoters of this competition are looking for a real paradigm change in physics, a break from the past at least as great as the classical / quantum rift. The search for the bounds to physics in theology suggests such a break, in the form that I call the transition from geometric continuity to logical continuity. This is equivalent to saying human intelligence is nothing special. It is just a local manifestation of the overall intelligence of the universe. We can understand this by considering the nature of communication. The essay above describes this paradigm change as completely as I can manage in ten pages.

Any theory of everything must, after all, explain physicists as well as physics.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 13:03 GMT
It's interesting ,here is my point of vue .

I don't know the turing Machine .I am going to learn more .

But one thing important is this one ,never a human creation will be like an universal encoded creation .

The progression is always deterministic if we insert the good series in the good referential with its physical limits which are diffrent than mathematical infinities .A little if the primes were finites and the complexification appears in time with the naturals ,reals .

About the intelligence it seems to me it's more than a local interpretation .It's a result of polarisations in Time and Space evolution .The inetlligence appeared with the increase of mass and complexification by weak polarisations in Time in specific systems with a gravity in evolution .It's totally different and important to make the difference between them.

The communication is a more complex like that ,a simple machine will rest always a human invention .

The intelligence and the conscious increase with the increase of mass and the increase of interactions ,the informations are correlated thus too .We are youngs still ,so youngs at the universal scale ,all evolves in fact .

Just a thought

Steve

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Elia Herzberg wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 06:31 GMT
Hi Jeffrey,

I read your essay with great pleasure. Like the barrier that was formed by the Newton physics which after many years of conservative stagnant perception was modified and altered into modern quantum physics, the religion (all religions), I believe, will have to change from it's present state being mostly used as a power tool in the hands of religious priests and politicians will change into modern, general and more liberal type of religion. It calls for a break through that seems to be quite difficult, but in view of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of Berlin Wall, the transition of the the leading powers from western culture to far east countries, such change in the religion may be possible even in our days.

Regards,

Elia

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 13:21 GMT
Hello dear Jefrey ,dear Elia,

I beleive the same about sciences ,the universality is a beautiful road towards harmony .Our human systems have just bad evolved in fact ,just that we add our bad habits .Where is the problem thus in a whole point of vue ?

It's simple ,our fundations ,on Erath are falses and must be adapted with the reals aiùms of the harmony .How could we live in a system which is chaotic and implies chaos .Is it just a question of good governance ,perhaps ,a governance in a total universality .Perhapts .If we resume the actual systems ,check ,power ,monney ,individualsm,corruption ,borders ,guns and weapons ,...Is it a solution ,evidently no .

Why thus is the main cause ,perhaps only a system ,it's not the false of some people or others but a system which is chaotic simply .Can we change this global system ,yes of course .

The humanity must considered its young age ,we are babies in fact and we make errors ,the time and the consciousness are going to optimize this system .

It's this moment which is important about the responsability in an universal point of vue .We must act harmoniously with the best adapted solutions .

The physic ,the sciences are all ,........the religion have a message of peace ,tolerance ,love .The problem comes from a minority in all places of this earth .If some unconscious people continue to do like that ,why he others ,the goods accept .The sciences have the solutions .

Only a minority and a majority which waits the harmony .Why for example never we speak about guns and weapons ,is it normal to accept that no of course ,but why thus? We know what the future will harmonize ,thus why wait ?

Sometimes I have difficulties to encircle the global system ,it's a big joke in fact ,we are in a film ,a cartoon .

This monney really and this human instinct more the unconscious to have a gun ,....really sad .Where is in fact the global universal commission,comity.Where are our univesal bases and rights .The fear perhaps ,the habits ,the past ,the history ,....where is the universality and its laws .

Best Regards

Steve

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Andre Jones wrote on Apr. 10, 2017 @ 06:03 GMT
I used to go to church when I was a kid and teenager and heard a lot of stories and theories about the origin of life. I'm not here to discuss about religion, but it makes no sense to believe in something people from thousands of years ago wrote without any real proof.

That's why I love physics because you can prove with data or at least have a more structure way of thinking rather than "it's God's will".

Andre Jones (Website)

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Fernanda Guimaraes Munhoz wrote on Oct. 18, 2017 @ 16:01 GMT
Hi André,

I respect your point of view. But if religion were such a liar, don't you think that many researchers, historians, and so many others who tried, would find evidence to disprove everything?

The Bible is current. Although it was written thousands of years ago, his words and teachings apply perfectly to the present day.

God bless your life!

Fernanda (Website)

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Adeilson C Silva wrote on Oct. 30, 2017 @ 15:54 GMT
Science is looking for physical evidence, something that is totally wrong in my conception, great discoveries of humanity, came in forms of ideas, created in the minds of its inventors, perhaps the answer of everything is closer than we imagine, within our subconscious.

Adeilson (website)

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Adeilson C Silva wrote on Oct. 30, 2017 @ 15:54 GMT
https://segredodosgames.com.br/

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Adeilson C Silva wrote on Oct. 30, 2017 @ 15:56 GMT
Science is looking for physical evidence, something that is totally wrong in my conception, great discoveries of humanity, came in forms of ideas, created in the minds of its inventors, perhaps the answer of everything is closer than we imagine, within our subconscious.

Adeilson

My Blog/link]

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Glaucia Chaves Souza wrote on Apr. 26, 2018 @ 19:12 GMT
I used to go to church when I was a kid and teenager and heard a lot of stories and theories about the origin of life. I'm not here to discuss about religion, but it makes no sense to believe in something people from thousands of years ago wrote without any real proof. That's why I love physics because you can prove with data or at least have a more structure way of thinking rather than "it's God's will".Glaucia (Website)

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Glaucia Chaves Souza wrote on Apr. 26, 2018 @ 19:16 GMT
I used to go to church when I was a kid and teenager and heard a lot of stories and theories about the origin of life. I'm not here to discuss about religion, but it makes no sense to believe in something people from thousands of years ago wrote without any real proof. That's why I love physics because you can prove with data or at least have a more structure way of thinking rather than "it's God's will".

Glaucia (Website)

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Glaucia Chaves Souza replied on Apr. 26, 2018 @ 19:19 GMT
Web site

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Glaucia Chaves Souza wrote on Apr. 26, 2018 @ 19:22 GMT
I used to go to church when I was a kid and teenager and heard a lot of stories and theories about the origin of life. I'm not here to discuss about religion, but it makes no sense to believe in something people from thousands of years ago wrote without any real proof. That's why I love physics because you can prove with data or at least have a more structure way of thinking rather than "it's God's will".

Glaucia

Web Site

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Tiago Zanon wrote on Nov. 16, 2018 @ 00:29 GMT
This is something that'll just keep growing and we'll never now the trully final Ultimately Possible in Physics

Personal blog:

https://guiadomelhorpneu.com/

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