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FQXi FORUM
December 13, 2019

CATEGORY: Is Reality Digital or Analog? Essay Contest (2010-2011) [back]
TOPIC: Is Reality Digital or Analog? by Hiro Funakoshi [refresh]
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Author Hiro Funakoshi wrote on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 15:11 GMT
Essay Abstract

To answer the question of whether reality is digital or analog, we would first like a clear idea of what exactly is meant by reality; to this end the state of fundamental physics at the turn of the twenty-first century will be briefly reviewed, and then arguments will be presented which suggest that the world is not as continuous as it may first seem. This essay will mainly concentrate on providing such arguments without reference to any particular non-standard models of reality (digital, analog or otherwise).

Author Bio

Hiro Funakoshi is a theoretical physicist working towards a PhD at the University of Cambridge.

Download Essay PDF File

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Anonymous wrote on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 00:37 GMT
Has the essay gone beyond what we would expect to comply with the evaluation criteria "Intereting" with respect to being "Accessible to a diverse, well-educated but non-specialist audience, aiming at the range between the level of Scientific American and a review article in Science or Nature"?

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Author Hiro Funakoshi replied on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 01:05 GMT
While I made sure to include technical snippets of information in various places, I don't think following the chain of reasoning in this essay requires too much specialist knowledge - provided you're willing to take some of the more technical statements on faith. In that sense, I don't think the prerequistes for reading this essay are any higher than a lot of other essays I've seen submitted for this contest (of course not that that's an excuse, if these essays do end up streching the evaluation criteria).

Best,

Hiro

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Hakan ÜÇOK (h3ok) replied on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 17:41 GMT
I think that Reality is neither Analog nor Digital; It is Singular.

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Alan Lowey wrote on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 12:14 GMT
Hello Hiro, I liked the easy readability of your essay very much. I noted that you say in the conclusion that "Currently we are seriously lacking in alternatives.." which I agree with yet have just such an alternative myself. It does away with the concept of a spacetime continuum in one go. I think Newton missed a trick in the history of science. The simplest way to explain his spooky action at a distance is to use the model of an Archimedes screw. This has both particle/wave properties and can explain a force of attraction via simple particles. If you imagine that this graviton travels around a wraparound universe, then it would emerge on the other side as an anti-graviton, i.e. DARK ENERGY. It fits like a glove, does it not? Best of luck in the competition. Alan

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Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Feb. 20, 2011 @ 14:19 GMT
A brief history is a good thing for our consciousness to form the lines and sequences of our universe. Things as fields are an explination of "things" we don't understand I think. Anyway this is my greatest objection to just name things we dont understand and by just giving them another name having thouhgt that we have solved the problems, all of this is logic because we are living in a causal deterministic universe, giving answers means that there are questions and every question is proceeded by other questions, information is constituted of data, books are constituted of charecters, once you have knowledge of these caracters the amount of books becomes infinite, but if you are aware of these caracters that does'nt mean that you have ALL the knowledge of the books that can be composed by these caracters, books are information and caracters are data, the deterministic causal lines in which the books are created by our consciousnes's gives the meaning "idea" , these ideas are non material so form a continuum that is no longer formed by characters (data), so analogue. I am not a professional scientist, more a philosopher, but what scientists have brought me untill now has opened my mind, like your essay also attributed to my knowledge, if you are interested you read also my contribution to this search of mankind for his existance (REALITIES out of TOTAL SIMULTANEITY), which is in principle the HOW, and of course not to forget the WHY ?

good luck with the contest

Wilhelmus de Wilde

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Don Limuti (digitalwavetheory.com) wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 04:03 GMT
Hiro,

Thank you for a summary of the state of physics as it is basically understood by physics professionals (without going into confusing detail). Your insight into where things can move gives a rough field of play for the models of the future.

One of my worries is that in modern physics we concentrate so much on the "physics" and assume that the "math" is obviously correct. I would be interested in how you see this.

Don Limuti

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Author Hiro Funakoshi replied on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 22:05 GMT
I'm not sure what precisely you mean by correct here - but if you mean things aren't always argued rigorously, it's probably not too much of a problem. It's very often been the case that even if physicists don't really understand the mathematical tools they're using, they've still been able to do physics to a reasonable degree. So of course in an ideal world, physicists would all have as good an understanding of the tools they use as mathematicians, but the situation we're in right now in this sense isn't really any different from what we've always had.

If you mean whether the mathematics we're using are the correct tools to do physics - the fact that we can come up with a set of predictions which work, I think justifies our choice. Of course you can argue that in future we may have to use a completely different set of mathematical tools (for example, there are people who work on trying to use things like noncommutative geometry or p-adic numbers to do physics, which differ substantially from what is typically used) but in the end you can only use what actually works.

I hope this helps - if you meant something else by "correct", please get back to me.

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 23:29 GMT
Hiro,

Good objective evaluation of various models but would have liked to see your put on analogue, digital or both.

Thanks for the read.

Jim Hoover

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Constantin Leshan wrote on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 20:02 GMT
Dear Hiro Funakoshi,

I found nothing to review here - the essay contains short stories copied from the textbooks about symmetries, dimensions, M-theory. Meanwhile, I am looking for YOUR OWN ideas and theory about if the reality is digital or analog. The speculations about the future unification of the four fundamental forces or M-theory prove nothing about the nature of Universe. If you have an idea, why the reality is digital or analog, you must be able to formulate it more shortly.

Thus, I don't found any proofs in the essay that the reality is digital, analog or digital-analog.

Sincerely,

Constantin

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Russell Jurgensen wrote on Feb. 24, 2011 @ 19:19 GMT
Dear Hiro,

I appreciate your essay and find it very valid. There are several things I really like. Your suggestion that there is something else besides analog or digital is a good answer to the question. Being an engineer working mostly with programming, I like digital solutions, but I agree with you that we probably do not need to jump to digital solutions for reality yet. I still am interested in digital models and what they look like because they could be useful tools. But it seems a digital answer puts the problem one level deeper, and the same can be said for most analog theories with mechanical devices.

Your questioning of four-dimensional space-time is especially pertinent. There are actually some very good alternatives that that should be explored.

Thanks for your interesting essay that discusses conscious awareness and physical logic. Good luck in the contest.

Kind regards, Russell Jurgensen

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 04:37 GMT
Dear Hiro Funakoshi

Konnichiwa. Your essay is lucid and thought-provoking. You mentioned the stability of circular orbits in 4-D. I suppose this extends to the more physically realistic elliptical orbits of the solar system?

In my essay and also in my earlier 2005 Beautiful Universe paper on which my present fqxi paper is based I have presented some proposals about how physics might be reconstructed from new first principles. These include discarding some basic concepts like spacetime and a point photon. You obviously have the technical background that will enable you to evaluate and perhaps develop some of my largely qualitative ideas. I would appreciate it if you do so.

Vladimir Tamari

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Johan Noldus wrote on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 11:30 GMT
Hi Hiro,

Generally an enjoyable paper although at a certain point you mention geometry and matter should be unified. This however undermines the very pilars behind quantum theory (which requires a minimal space-time structure to be present). How do you see M theory tackling these issues ?

Kind regards,

Johan

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Author Hiro Funakoshi replied on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 22:33 GMT
So it seems quite a few people picked up on what was essentially a throw away remark on M-theory. The point is that string theory doesn't unify the four fundamental forces - it can be thought to automatically give rise to gravity, and hopefully/possibly give rise to the three other forces depending on the phenomenological details. But as far as I know it doesn't really provide a way of viewing all four forces as different facets of one. This was why I gave M-theory as an example of a potential theory of everything rather than string theory; it's possible that when we finally know what M-theory is, it will provide such a unification. Beyond that I can't really say anything; if I had a clear idea of what this magic theory is, I would have many papers up on the arxiv on this topic.

A quick comment about quantum theory though; all that's required is that the observables are represented using some appropriate non-commuting operators, and there aren't any requirements about an underlying spacetime. Of course, without an underlying spacetime, it wouldn't be as obvious how to formulate the dynamics, but that's (probably) not really a problem with quantum theory.

Best wishes,

Hiro

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Johan Noldus replied on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 23:32 GMT
Dear Hiro,

First of all, your comments regarding quantum theory are incorrect. We can only do QFT in a spacetime with a (or asymptotic) Killing symmetry(ies). Otherwise we could not define particles and interpret the results of scattering experiments. Second, the spacetime at hand must also be globally hyperbolic, or at least the quantum theory restricts to a globally hyperbolic piece of it. Third, canonical quantization of general relativity fails probably because quantum mechanics requires a partial gauge fixing. That is, the hypersufaces of constant t need to be spacelike. So, sure, the inherent structure of quantum mechanics breaks general covariance.

The problem does not only reside in the dynamics, but also in the commutation relations and the appropriate form of statistics. How would you define an appropriate covariant operator equation if you have no ''geometrical variables''? As soon as you use differential operators you need them. On the other hand, if you would have no matter but only quantum geometry, you would have to measure the manifold. But we never do that (and defining local observables is generically impossible due to diffeomorphism invariance) ... a manifold, causality and locality are auxilliary concepts without a direct operational meaning.

Kind regards,

Johan

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 2, 2011 @ 23:27 GMT
Hello Hiro

A nice rational piece on conventional theory but I was hoping for a little more. perhaps you may find time to give me an opinion of whether my own model "fits the bill" in the conservative terms you set out.

Many thanks if you are able. i hope you conceptualisation skills are good!

best of luck

Peter

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basudeba wrote on Mar. 4, 2011 @ 14:33 GMT
Dear Sir,

We congratulate you for your brilliant analysis. In most areas we are in agreement. Below is our comment on your essay:

You describe reality as: Space-time x Matter content. We broadly agree with this description due to the following reasons. Both space and time are related to sequence – the order of arrangement. The interval between objects is space and the interval...

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Russ Otter replied on Mar. 4, 2011 @ 22:40 GMT
Dear Basudeba,

My congratulations to you and your colleagues, by both way of your review of my essay, and to your own out of the box sense of intuitive logic, couple with your science to push the envelope of knowledge.

Your reply is both a personal edification and a challenge for me to explain, myself with the due respect you and your colleagues most certainly deserve.

First:...

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basudeba wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 08:47 GMT
Dear Sir,

Thank you for your comments. You are unnecessarily being highly differential.

We find much more commonality than differences in our thought and approach. Yet, the style of presentation and the language used might create an impression of difference.

You say: If Entanglement is true, then scalar mathematics is not appropriate, as the pragmatic fact of Locality...

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Sridattadev. wrote on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 19:36 GMT
Dear Hiro,

Wisdom is more important than imagination is more important than knowledge for all the we know is just an imagination chosen wisely.

Please read Theory of everything at your convenience posted by me in this contest.

Love,

Sridattadev.

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Henri V. De Roule wrote on Mar. 20, 2011 @ 19:56 GMT
Hiro,

It appears from your essay that you and I agree (see my essay) regarding the current status of physics and math, and that once we are able to see below the Planck limit we will have a better understanding of what the heck is going on.

I enjoyed your paper and wish you luck.

Regards,

Henri

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