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If you are aware of an interesting new academic paper (that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal or has appeared on the arXiv), a conference talk (at an official professional scientific meeting), an external blog post (by a professional scientist) or a news item (in the mainstream news media), which you think might make an interesting topic for an FQXi blog post, then please contact us at forums@fqxi.org with a link to the original source and a sentence about why you think that the work is worthy of discussion. Please note that we receive many such suggestions and while we endeavour to respond to them, we may not be able to reply to all suggestions.

Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

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Is Reality Digital or Analog?
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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Constantinos Ragazas: on 3/15/11 at 3:36am UTC, wrote Dear Augustus, I find agreeing with you in much of what you say. I too...

James Hoover: on 3/13/11 at 1:04am UTC, wrote Augustus, "Sequential functions and discrete bit-wise operations will...

Augustus Bacigalupi: on 3/7/11 at 18:43pm UTC, wrote Peter, Thank your for your thoughtful comments and support. I really like...

Augustus Bacigalupi: on 3/7/11 at 18:04pm UTC, wrote Thank you, Gary, for your insightful comments. Augustus

Augustus Bacigalupi: on 3/7/11 at 18:03pm UTC, wrote Hi James, Thanks for your comment and question. The concept of...

Peter Jackson: on 3/5/11 at 18:58pm UTC, wrote Augustus I've somehow only just noticed your essay, the abstract stood out...

Gary Hansen: on 2/27/11 at 2:42am UTC, wrote Hello Augustus, I am drawn to identify with you through your dual...

James Putnam: on 2/22/11 at 18:48pm UTC, wrote Augustus Bacigalupi, Hello, "Discreteness will be defined as the set of...


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FQXi FORUM
October 19, 2019

CATEGORY: Is Reality Digital or Analog? Essay Contest (2010-2011) [back]
TOPIC: When Nothing Becomes Something; A Superimposed Continuum by Augustus Bacigalupi [refresh]
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Author Augustus Bacigalupi wrote on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 11:56 GMT
Essay Abstract

Discreteness will be defined as the set of disconnected, independent, and non-overlapping events or objects. Truly discrete events in reality will have a very difficult time relating to any other event. “Events” can range from the excitation of an electron due to a photon or exchanges of energy that mark change and pervade both classical and quantum physics. If a discrete conception of reality is assumed, relationships, as humans perceive them, can and must be functionally added back into their models, because relation between events is the rule and not the exception in reality. Never the less, the contest question doesn't ask for a mathematical model of reality. It asks whether reality is analog or digital, which on its face is problematic, because these two signifiers mean different things in different contexts. Never the less, it is quite appropriate that the essay, whose subtext asks whether reality is continuous or discrete, frames the question as analog vs. digital. Throughout history, it is exactly because humans understand reality through their technical analogies that reality is not and will never be totally understood. This doesn't mean that reality can't be better understood. But refined understanding is as much a process of unlearning as it is a process of acquiring new knowledge. In showing how digital is a subset of analog, this essay will go on to challenge a two thousand year-old preconception that existence, reality, life, and the mind are functional, closed, and/or discrete-state machines. It will then place a more plausible and parsimonious conception of continuity in its place.

Author Bio

Augustus Bacigalupi studied science at UC Santa Barbara and completed upper division work in physical chemistry. In stead of continuing in academia for science, however, he went on to an architectural design masters. The two disciplines cross-fertilized to reignite a passion for system theory and mind. He started the Institute for Augmenting Minds as a research vehicle to investigate novel, yet rigorous and testable, approaches to synthetic cognition that will challenge and augment existing methodologies.

Download Essay PDF File

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James Putnam wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 18:48 GMT
Augustus Bacigalupi,

Hello,

"Discreteness will be defined as the set of disconnected, independent, and non-overlapping events or objects. Truly discrete events in reality will have a very difficult time relating to any other event."

I will be reading your essay. I almost liked the above quote. I am interested in what you mean by it. The small problem I have with it at first reading is that you say:

"Truly discrete events in reality will have a very difficult time relating to any other event."

What is meant by discrete if the is any connection between events?

James

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Author Augustus Bacigalupi replied on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 18:03 GMT
Hi James,

Thanks for your comment and question. The concept of discreteness requires independence among events by definition. Otherwise, any event in the universe is distinct like islands at sea, but not discrete. The problem with a discrete model of the universe, and the digital analogy it is born from, is that they presume discrete states by definition. This will always lead to dualism, because some god must first form the a priori ordered discrete states and then "program" them to behave and relate in a functional manner. This conception is an all too human metaphor and a hold over from creationist myths, because ordered structure from nothing, as discreteness demands, will always beg for a human-like creator. My essay argues that a continuous conception avoids this logical problem.

Let me know if that doesn't answer your question. Thanks again.

Augustus

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Gary Hansen wrote on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 02:42 GMT
Hello Augustus,

I am drawn to identify with you through your dual interests in science and architecture, a disposition that I share with you.

A career in either of these extraordinarily complex fields inevitably leads to the conclusion that we rise to our natural levels of incompetence. Far from finding this discouraging, I draw comfort from the fact that, in electing goals that are beyond our means to achieve, our progress is guided in worthy directions by high ideals. Whether such ideals are defined by digits or analogues is the subject of another endless search for truth.

Good luck in your quest for the best.

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Author Augustus Bacigalupi replied on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 18:04 GMT
Thank you, Gary, for your insightful comments.

Augustus

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 18:58 GMT
Augustus

I've somehow only just noticed your essay, the abstract stood out and the essay certainly did not disappoint in the least, indeed a breath of sweet fresh air. Your bio helped in explanation. You're languishing too far down and certainly have a top vote fro me.

I hope you may find it very worthwhile also reading my essay, paralleling most of your fundamental tenets but also getting on further and building a full working model. Only one in 5 here seem to have the conceptual ability to visualise and handle the additional dynamic variables, and perception to see the very major consequences.

So many here are condioned by reliance on old 'foundations' and maths they disqualify all else on a belief basis.. I've made the point that if Wren were given 100 year old foundations he could never have designed St Pauls. You and I know that existing foundations represent a box to limit thinking, they are for building from not designing from.

My model is real and local. I really hope it appears to you from behind the veil, and look forward to your comments. (There is a preprint with some exciting logical consequences also posted in the strings.

Very best of luck.

Peter

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Author Augustus Bacigalupi replied on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 18:43 GMT
Peter,

Thank your for your thoughtful comments and support. I really like your foundation metaphor. In other writings I have made a similar distinction whereby most day-to-day science is building off of an existing and fixed foundation. One brick piles rigorously and compliantly upon the other. But science as a whole is also punctuated by ideas that redesign the foundation, and even the building materials, of the human project collectively called science. Your metaphor captures this sentiment nicely and demonstrates that, for science to progress, all preconceptions must be challenged on down to the lowest of foundations.

I look forward to your essay.

Cheers,

Augustus

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 13, 2011 @ 01:04 GMT
Augustus,

"Sequential functions and discrete bit-wise operations will forever fall behind real-time, because reality is simultaneously re-entrant on itself both spatially and temporally."

I like the statement above and I can't agree more. We advocates of an analogue reality don't find many allies.

Jim

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Constantinos Ragazas wrote on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 03:36 GMT
Dear Augustus,

I find agreeing with you in much of what you say. I too ascribe to the view that reality is fundamentally continuous and the 'observable' emerges from the 'unobservable'. This we see and understand in many everyday occurrences. Yet in Physics, physicists ignore the obvious.

In my essay, among other things, I propose that 'before manifestation there is a continuous accumulation' of energy. That energy propagates continuously but interacts discretely. And that what is often understood and perceived as 'elementary particle' is nothing more than an 'event'. In the single “photon” emission double-slit experiment, for example, the “photon emitted” is not the same as the “photon detected”. That these are two separate but related 'events'.

These ideas in my essay, as well as a whole mathematical reformulation of physics, help to explain in simple sensible terms much of what currently are paradoxes and dilemmas. Please consider my essay, along with one interesting recent post where I mathematically prove, “If the speed of light is constant, then light is a wave”, and if you find these worthy I ask for your support in getting these results before the panel for review! As you also have mine …

best wishes,

Constantinos

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