Posts Tagged Philosophy of Science
Which is better for fundamental physics: beautiful mathematics based on pure concepts, or qualitative insights based on natural phenomena?
According to Lee Smolin in a 2015 arxiv paper , it’s the latter.
Mathematical symmetries: More or fewer?
How to find a better physics?
26 February 2016, Christchurch, New Zealand
This is an expansion of a post at Physics Forum https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/smolin-lessons-from-einsteins-discovery.849464/#post-5390859
 1. Smolin, L.: Lessons from Einstein’s 1915 discovery of general relativity. arxiv 1512.07551, 1-14 (2015). doi: http://arxiv.org/abs/1512.07551
In this introductory note we identify some of the problems with *time*.
Though intuitively familiar, time is a mystery. Time is a variable throughout physics: classical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics (QM), and general relativity (GR) all include it. Yet the constructs in each are very different. Time is a topic that flow through many discourses and fields of study other than pure physics. It has implications in philosophy for how life exists in the framework of finite time, theological questions about what existence there might be beyond time and this universe, and psychological questions about how we perceive time in a cognitive sense. There are also unsolved integrative problems, like how the time that emerges at the level of atomic clocks transfers to the world at large, whether there is an absolute time, how time started, how time dilation works, and how the arrow of time arises.
All these approaches, physics, psychology, philosophy, have models for time. Yet they are poorly integrated, indeed sometimes in conflict. Nor are those constructs always coherent with humans’ personal cognitive perception of time. For example, the idea that time runs differently depending on gravitation or velocity, or that time may have had a beginning (and therefore not existed before the universe), is deeply puzzling to the mental model of most people.
We are currently working on the problems that arise at the intersection of physics and philosophy. Questions we are asking include, ‘What is time?’, ‘Does locality exist?’, ‘Is there free-will?’, ‘Why does QM coherence seem to apply, but not to macroscopic objects?’ Applying the cordus idea gives some interestingly novel perspectives to these problems.
We have addressed the time issue, and published a paper on that topic. Likewise for coherence, and again locality.
The results are interesting for the new insights they bring. They are also radical, and challenge the orthodox interpretations. That radical attribute can be problematic: We submitted the time paper to a journal, and received a cutting rejection from the reviewers, so that hasn’t got much further! Well, we keep trying.
Next we are looking at FREE-WILL. We have done some preliminary work, and I think we can add novel insights there too.
- Limits of Coherence (cordus.wordpress.com)
- What really is time? (cordus.wordpress.com)
- The Historical Bifurcation Between Science and Philosophy (sdcojai.wordpress.com)
Surprisingly, quantum mechanics (QM) does not apply to reality at our macroscopic level of existence, nor to the universe at large. Strangely, it does apply so well to the particle level.
More specifically, quantum behaviour such as superposition of location, is only evident in particles and some microscopic objects of pure composition, cooled to close to absolute zero temperature. Or in warmer objects (e.g. pure diamonds) but only for a tiny fraction of a second. QM suggests should it should be attainable in larger and warmer objects, but this has proved difficult to achieve. It is not clear where the boundary is between the quantum world of particles and the macroscopic world, and quantum mechanics itself cannot identify why there should be a boundary, nor where it would be. Hence one of the great mysteries of physics: why a theory that works so well at the tiny scale does not scale up to the large.
What causes quantum discoherence? Where are the limits of coherence? What is coherence?
Clearly there is a discontinuity in the physics between the small and large scales of nature. Enter the cordus conjecture, which we have been using to determine where in the scale of things the transition occurs between coherence and discoherence, and why the limits are where they are.
The results of our thinking are shown in the paper we’ve published here http://vixra.org/abs/1201.0043
Briefly, the reasons for discoherence are proposed to be internal shear velocity of the body, temperature phonons, and complexity of assembly (particularly purity of composition). The upper limit for coherence is expected to be at currently achieved levels of material complexity, or slightly beyond. However cordus rules out coherence for warm macroscopic objects and living creatures.
If this is correct, and of course the cordus conjecture is only a conjecture, then there are some implications for physics. And also for philosophy.
For physics: The theory of QM has created an expectation that coherence is the norm and therefore should be found in macroscopic bodies. Cordus suggests that we should instead view discoherence as the normal state, and coherence as a special state of extended application of the strong force into bonding.
For philosophy: There has been much philosophical speculation about the role of measurement, including human observation, on the future of behaviour of particles and coherent bodies. See ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’. Cordus refutes those ideas, and instead suggests that in those rare cases where coherence of macroscopic objects is attainable, this does not mean that the object has two futures, only that it can have two locations. So cordus refutes the Many-Worlds interpretation and Parallel Universe theory.
It seems we only have one universe and only one of each of us in existence. No doppelgangers. Make the most of the time you have been given!
- Releasing Schrodinger’s Cat from its box (cordus.wordpress.com)
- Top 100 Stories of 2011: #17: Quantum Weirdness Enters the Larger World (discovermagazine.com)
- Quantum entanglement demonstrated in macroscopic objects (boingboing.net)
- Thinnest silicon-chip wires refuse to go quantum (newscientist.com)
Why is the neutron stable inside the atom, but decays when it is free? Our next paper explores what’s happening in the neutron to cause these effects.
It turns out that the answer, at least when viewed through the cordus lens, is to do with the electric field structures of the neutron. Basically, the neutron does not have a full set of these. This is not a problem when it is inside the atom, because the proton has enough to cover for it. The way the proton and neutron bond together sorts this out.
But when the neutron is free of the atom, then its inadequacies start to show. It has a marginal stability, and eventually something comes along that tips it over the edge and it decays.
We also anticipate what it is that causes that instability. We can also explain why the lifetime of the neutron is an exponential distribution. This part of the paper is really basic, perhaps even pedantic, but it’s important to be clear about what an exponential decay means.
That’s all the paper was originally intended to cover. It was supposed to be the simple closing paper in a bracket of three. But, this being a thought-experiment, we always like to push the ideas to the limit.
Doing so suggests that the neutron decay rates are likely to be variable rather than constant. That is an unorthodox outcome, because these rates are generally believed to be strictly constant. Strangely enough, there is a body of empirical testing that has been done over the years that suggests variable rates, though it is a controversial area of physics (see related articles below). So it is a pleasant surprise to see that the thought-experiment has something to contribute to the debate in another indistinct area of physics. So there is a twist at the end of this paper.
Full paper is here at the physics archive vixra: Stability and decay: Mechanisms for stability and initiators of decay in the neutron
- A Brief Review of Nuclear Physics by Michael Fowler, University of Virginia
- Beta decay, Wikipedia
- Live Chart of Nuclides – Table of Nuclides [Shows whole periodic table, with all nuclides. Interactive]
- Three Types of Radioactive Decay
- Half-life heresy: Accelerating radioactive decay, New Scientist
- Solar ghosts may haunt Earth’s radioactive atoms, New Scientist
Terry is author of the ‘Discworld‘ series of humorous fiction books. In one of these, ‘Thief of Time‘, he describes chaos theory, which is personified in a character called Kaos. We modified this a bit to adapt it to Cordus:
Quantum mechanics is ‘apparently complicated, apparently patternless behaviour that nevertheless has a simple, deterministic explanation via the cordus conjecture that is a key to new levels of understanding of fundamental physics’
Terry’s proper quote is shown below:
‘Apparently complicated, apparently patternless behaviour that nevertheless has a simple, deterministic explanation and is a key to new levels of understanding of the multidimensional universe?’ (p358)
Dirk 17 Sept 2011