## Archive for the ‘Physics’ Category

### Earth is spinning faster …. or maybe not

August 8, 2022

The simple truth is that we haven’t a clue as to why the earth spins, how it started spinning and why the speed of spin varies.

### Why does the earth rotate in 24 hours? It’s just magic

June 26, 2017

The rotational speed of a planetary body around its own axis is primarily set by the angular momentum the mass of matter making up the body had when it first coalesced into a planet. What determined that initial angular momentum is unknown. All known effects thereafter (mainly tidal and all fundamentally gravitational effects) slow this rotation. For the last 3,000 years the earth’s rotation has been slowing down to cause the day to lengthen by about 2 milliseconds per century.

Currently the solar (siderial) day has a mean value of about 2 milliseconds greater than 86,400 seconds while the stellar day (relative to the fixed stars) has a mean value of about 86, 164 seconds.

But we have no real understanding of why it is what it is. ……

We can observe that the day length on the planets are:

…….. The laws of physics (as we know them) did not apply at the Big Bang singularity. All the energy (dark, imaginary and real) in the universe and all the momentum in all the materia (dark or otherwise) making up the universe was determined in the singularity when the laws of physics did not apply. How the Big Bang caused matter to gain spin in the first place is also unknown. So the simple answer to why earth’s day is 24 hours long (and why any planet’s rotational speed is what it is) is that we haven’t a clue.

It’s just magic.

It used to be that a second was defined as 1⁄86400 of a day – this factor derived from the division of the day first into 24 hours, then to 60 minutes and finally to 60 seconds each (24 × 60 × 60 = 86400). But the day is now taken to be 86 400 seconds where a second is now defined as the time that elapses during 9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation produced by the transition between two levels of the cesium-133 atom.

“Caesium is a relatively rare element, estimated to average 3 parts per million in the Earth’s crust. Caesium (55Cs) has 40 known isotopes, making it, along with barium and mercury, one of the elements with the most isotopes. The atomic masses of these isotopes range from 112 to 151. Only one isotope, 133Cs, is stable”.

The very concept of a day derives from the spin of the earth. Of course, if a day was still defined as the period of the earth’s rotation around its own axis and and not as a multiple of the second, there would be no need to have any headlines.

I wonder sometimes whether a second now is longer than a second was then.

And how would we know?

### Physics theories are remarkably similar to God theories

February 6, 2022

I was listening to lectures by Carlo Rovelli on Loop Quantum Gravity and Sean Carroll on Quantum Wave Theory. While the maths used in modern physics is beyond my capabilities, it is very evident that the leading physicists of today when propounding their theories do not sound so very different to priests talking about their gods.

#### Mysteries of Modern Physics by Sean Carroll

I take physics to be the all-encompassing field which includes, among other scientific disciplines, astrophysics, astronomy, cosmology, particle physics and quantum mechanics. In one critical sense physics lies at the base of all the physical sciences and thus chemistry must be a sub-set of physics (though no self-respecting chemist would ever openly admit that). Mathematics, of course, is a language (actually many languages) invented to describe the world around us. The more precise and specific a branch of mathematics the more esoteric its application. It appears, at first glance, that physics gives chemistry which gives rise to organic chemistry which, in turn, leads to biochemistry. However, there is a crucial element missing when considering biochemistry as merely a sub-set of chemistry and then of physics. Neither physics nor chemistry can explain how the spark of life which animates biochemistry and biology came to be or why it should be at all. Some other unknown thing, in addition to physics, is needed to convert chemistry into biochemistry and for living things to emerge. The brute empirical fact of the existence of life and living things becomes both a fundamental assumption and a boundary condition for biology.

There are no physics theories which do not start with some fundamental assumptions which generally make up the initial and boundary conditions for the field of study. The field of study does not, cannot, thereafter, penetrate why those assumptions must be. Physics assumes causality and therefore cannot conceive of any non-causal events. (A contradiction arises whenever physics relies upon or invokes a truly random event since such an event must be – by definition – without cause). Biological and medical sciences start with the assumption of the existence of living things and do not, thereafter, concern themselves with the “trivial” question of why life came to be. The scientific process, in every branch of science, assumes that all observations are explainable, that causality prevails, and that the flow of time is regular, one-directional and irreversible. Philosophy and metaphysics sometimes address existence and causality and the nature of time but no science and no logic can address the fundamental assumptions it is itself built upon. Assumptions enable the many fields of study but they also constrain the field of study.

At the level closest to metaphysics lies the Standard Model of Cosmology which, in turn, is built upon the Standard Model of Particle Physics and the General Theory of Relativity. They all need fundamental assumptions which the models themselves cannot address. It is when justifying or explaining these basic assumptions (beliefs) that physicists and cosmologists become indistinguishable from theologists justifying the existence of the Divine.

The current Standard Model of Cosmology (SMC), also called the “Concordance Cosmological Model” or the “ΛCDM Model,” assumes that the universe was created in the “Big Bang” from pure energy, and is now composed of about 5% ordinary matter, 27% dark matter, and 68% dark energy. While the SMC is based primarily upon two theoretical models:

1. the Standard Model of Particle Physics (SMPP), which describes the physics of the very small in terms of quantum mechanics and
2. the General Theory of Relativity (GTR), which describes the physics of the very large in terms of classical mechanics;

it also depends upon several additional assumptions. The main additional assumptions of the SMC are:

1. the universe was created in the Big Bang from pure energy;
2. the mass energy content of the universe is given by 5% ordinary matter, 27% dark matter, and 68% dark energy;
3. the gravitational interactions between the above three components of the mass energy content of the universe are described by the GTR; and
4. the universe is homogeneous and isotropic on sufficiently large (cosmic) scales.

I note that the certainty of our science is based on observation of just part of the 5% of the universe which is observable. The other 95% (presumed to be and labeled dark energy and dark matter) is not observable but is imbued with just those properties needed to make our observations of part of the 5% fit into the Standard Model of the whole. They are, in fact, fudge factors to make observations fit a model. The God of Fudge Factors is brought into play but God forbid that it be considered a God. Dark energy and dark matter are just labels for unknown, magical sources of undetectable, unobservable matter and energy inferred to exist. Dark energy and dark matter are as true, and as slippery as heaven and hell are in theology.

The universe of this Standard Model starts without space, without time, and without any laws governing what causality should be. Physics and cosmology cannot address the question of existence (an assumed initial condition) and therefore resorts to trickery to create something local from a global nothing.

(Net zero)global = (+ something)local + (-something)local-elsewhere

This trick allows matter and energy (locally) to be “created” from a global nothing. We cannot detect enough anti-matter to balance all the matter we observe in our local universe, but don’t worry, it must be out there somewhere else. But that is not all. Just as our ancient ancestors invoked gods when there was no explanation, modern physicists invoke random events happening entirely by chance – as just one probability of many, that just happened to realised. Truly random must be without cause. Anything without cause is remarkably magical. To assign divinity to the magical is just a small step. Whenever it is claimed that it was pure, probabilistic chance that led to our particular universe or parts of it coming into existence, it is no more than an invocation of the Supreme God of Random Events.

Where there is no energy, pure chance allowed the use of this trick such that a

net zero = +(any amount of energy) – (the same amount of energy),

This gives some positive energy (from nothing) while at the same time (what time?) creating an equal amount of negative energy somewhere else (what somewhere else without any space?). Just preceding the Big Bang, Cosmic Inflation started (why?) and created space which allowed the laws of physics to emerge. Time emerged (why?), all entangled with the space, and this all somehow led to the Big Bang. They are all just Creation stories. Listen to cosmologists talking about Cosmic Inflation, or about the appearance of a local positive energy when the net global energy is zero and it is like listening to theology.

Whenever a physicist today claims that something is emergent, it is because that something defies explanation. In fact all the various speculative theories trying to bring quantum theory and gravitation together (string theory, loop quantum gravity, asymptotically safe gravity, causal dynamical triangulation, and emergent gravity) are all theories ultimately about the existence of our universe. When quantum mechanics brings in Everett’s universal wavefunction which collapses to give everything that existed, exists or will exist, we have just reached a God of Wavefunctions which rules them all.  Listening to the avid proponent of any particular theory is not so different to listening to an incomprehensible Sufi mystic. Hearing a string theorist arguing against a loop quantum gravity adherent is very like listening to the noises made by a Sunni arguing against a Shia.

We need to remember that all God and Physics theories ultimately originate from inexplicabilities. Every mystery allows room for an explanatory theory which can be labeled a god. The Great Mysteries, which in past times would have been couched in terms of the Divine and called theology, are today couched in the language of mathematics and called Physics.

I seem to go around in circles but I can reach no other conclusion than that Gods and Physics theories are both just attempts to explain the inexplicable.

#### Science needs its Gods and religion is just politics

This essay has grown from the notes of an after-dinner talk I gave last year. As I recall it was just a 20 minute talk but making sense of my old notes led to this somewhat expanded essay. The theme, however, is true to the talk. The surrounding world is one of magic and mystery. And no amount of Science can deny the magic.

Anybody’s true belief or non-belief is a personal peculiarity, an exercise of mind and unobjectionable. I do not believe that true beliefs can be imposed from without. Imposition requires some level of coercion and what is produced can never be true belief. My disbelief can never disprove somebody else’s belief.

Disbelieving a belief brings us to zero – a null state. Disbelieving a belief (which by definition is the acceptance of a proposition which cannot be proved or disproved) brings us back to the null state of having no belief. It does not prove the negation of a belief.

## [ (+G) – (+G) = 0, not (~G) ]

Of course Pooh puts it much better.

### Where and when we are – a dimensional conundrum

September 7, 2021

“In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a mathematical space (or object) is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it”. – Wikipedia

In the concept of spacetime one might think that (x,y,z,t) are the four dimensional coordinates which are necessary and sufficient to specify the location of any object at any time within our universe. But that would be an oversimplification. It is true only for a relative location and not for any absolute location.

In reality we have no idea – in absolute terms – of where we are or when we are.

The place where I was born on the surface of the Earth has – during my lifetime – drifted along with the continents some 2.3 m North-East across the earth’s surface. The Sun (along with the Earth) has moved 6.9 billion km around the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. Using referents outside the Milky Way Galaxy, it has, during the same time, moved some 55 billion km in space. So, I was born some 60 billion km away from wherever in space we actually are now. In the context of the Universe this is still local space, and I do not need to account for the very expansion of space. The looming collision of the Andromeda Galaxy speeding towards us is still 4.5 billion years away and irrelevant in the scale of my lifetime. Taking my present location as (0,0,0,0) and the X-axis as the straight line from where we were then to now, the coordinates of my birth location become (-60, 0, 0, -73 years) where x, y and z are measured in billions of km.

Everything is relative to here and now.

It is not even certain that time is actually a dimension of the same kind as the 3 physical dimensions we perceive. Some think it emerges together with the Universe and everything. Others think it is just a facet of existence. In any event, we only experience it as a backdrop for, but separate to, our own individual existences. On the stage of our existences, we strut and fret our hours away, but we cannot interact with or impact the relentlessly moving backdrop. Just as with nonsense rhymes using language, nonsense equations by learned physicists about the theoretical access to past times is just nonsense. As with any language, mathematics can also describe the unreal and the nonsensical. Speculative cosmologists have more in common with Edward Lear than they would like to think.

Considering time to be a dimension is no more than a convention or, at best, an analogy. It does not help either, that

1. we have no clear definition (or understanding) of what a dimension is, and
2. we can take a dimension to be anything that can be counted.

We can measure the oscillation of apparent motions and assume that such motion is regular and then infer the passage of time. But what time is other than a magical, necessary backdrop for everything is beyond our comprehension. We cannot be certain that a second now is the same, or longer, or shorter, than a second at some other time. (

The world is what our perception tells us it is. But our perception is limited, and it limits the boundaries of our reality. We perceive space and everything around us as having 3 dimensions, yet we cannot truly conceive of any real thing having other than three spatial dimensions. In our 3-dimensional world we can define one- and two-dimensional things only as concepts (lines and surfaces) but we cannot identify any real-world objects which have only one or two dimensions. Moreover, real things having more than 3 dimensions are beyond our comprehension. How a fourth spatial dimension could be manifested lies outside of human reason. We have the language to describe – but only conceptually – any number of dimensions. Scientists and mathematicians speculate about 3 or 7 or 9 or infinite dimensions and claim either that 3 is the most probable or theorise that the others are hidden in the strings that make up the world, but the human brain can only perceive 3. (I note in passing that invoking the infinite is itself an admission of incomprehensibility). It is a fruitless and inevitably circular discussion to question whether it is our perception which is limited to 3 dimensions or whether the universe has only three to be perceived. Our universe is enabled, and strictly constrained, by what our cognition allows us to perceive. Every real thing in our universe has three spatial dimensions; no less, no more. Our universe has 3 spatial dimensions because that is all, and only what, we can perceive.

I probably read “Flatland” as a teenager where a sphere in Flatland can only be perceived as a circle.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is a satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott, first published in 1884 by Seeley & Co. of London. Written pseudonymously by “A Square”, the book used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on the hierarchy of Victorian culture, but the novella’s more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions. – Wikipedia

No matter how many dimensions the universe may have, three dimensions is all human cognition can ever perceive. It is that reality which constrains all our thought. It becomes a fundamental assumption for science which the scientific method cannot penetrate. If other dimensions exist, then what we perceive in three are projections. As a shadow is perceived to be two-dimensional. But to have a projection or a shadow in our 3-dimensional world we would need some kind of cognitive light from the other, higher dimensions to create what we perceive.

But human cognition is limited. We cannot perceive what we cannot perceive. And we have no clue – earthly or divine – as to where and when we are.

### Gods and devils and something from nothing

August 8, 2020

No science and no philosophy or theology has still got its head around the something from nothing problem.

Something from nothing:

This is a very handy subterfuge often used in science and mathematics. When looking for something unknown, zero can always be converted into the sum of something and not-something. So it is always possible to imagine what the something is, evoke it from zero and claim that the not-something exists but cannot be found.

0 = X + ~X

Anything can be derived from nothing provided its negative counter-part can also be tolerated (in absentia if necessary).

We observe matter.

We haven’t a clue as to where this matter came from. So we devise the concept of matter and an equivalent amount of anti-matter at the origin of everything. But we cannot find this anti-matter in sufficient quantities to negate all the matter we observe. The global nothing is not preserved. That leads to the next subterfuge. It was all energy to begin with. Some of that energy converted itself into matter. That does not quite explain where that energy came from. Of course “nothing” might have decomposed into lumps of energy and of not-energy. The energy, it is then surmised, is that which is driving the expansion of the universe or the inflation of the universe or both. The lumps of not-energy are more elusive. Where that might be is not yet part of the next subterfuge.

nothing can be anything

This is a powerful technique but still a subterfuge. The existence of matter here in our universe can always be balanced by antimatter somewhere else such that a total nothing can be maintained. But matter and antimatter when they meet annihilate each other creating energy (according to E=mc2). Now that creates the puzzle of where energy came from. But that is easily solved by creating the concept of negative energy. Energy here can be balanced by negative energy there. Negative energy is a concept used in physics to explain the nature of certain fields, including the gravitational field and various quantum field effects.

Modern physics and cosmology are based on the fundamental premise that the Greater Universe is a Great Big Zero.

Of course some resolve the something from nothing problem by invoking a Creator. The same technique (or subterfuge) is also available to theology. But just as resolving the matter/antimatter created energy then leads to negative energy, the invoking of a Creator needs the conjuring of anti-Creators. A Creator here balanced by a Destroyer there. In Hinduism, for example, Brahma is the Creator balanced by Shiva the Destroyer. (Vishnu is the preserver and is in balance anyway). One problem for most religions and theologies is that they must create Devils subservient or inferior to their gods. Theologies collapse if devils are taken to be equally powerful, but negative, gods. Satan, for example, is a fallen angel where the angels were created by God. Thus Satan is more a balance for the Son of God rather than a balance for God. (I ignore the inconsistencies of all-powerful gods incapable of controlling subservient devils).

Heavens need Hells. Gods lead necessarily to Devils. And,

Gods + Devils = Zero.

Related:

Antimatter (CERN):

In 1928, British physicist Paul Dirac wrote down an equation that combined quantum theory and special relativity to describe the behaviour of an electron moving at a relativistic speed. The equation – which won Dirac the Nobel Prize in 1933 – posed a problem: just as the equation x2= 4 can have two possible solutions (x = 2 or x = −2), so Dirac’s equation could have two solutions, one for an electron with positive energy, and one for an electron with negative energy. But classical physics (and common sense) dictated that the energy of a particle must always be a positive number. Dirac interpreted the equation to mean that for every particle there exists a corresponding antiparticle, exactly matching the particle but with opposite charge. For example, for the electron there should be an “antielectron”, or “positron”, identical in every way but with a positive electric charge. The insight opened the possibility of entire galaxies and universes made of antimatter.But when matter and antimatter come into contact, they annihilate – disappearing in a flash of energy. The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. So why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe?

Antimatter:

… In theory, a particle and its anti-particle (for example, a proton and an antiproton) have the same mass, but opposite electric charge and other differences in quantum numbers. For example, a proton has positive charge while an antiproton has negative charge.

A collision between any particle and its anti-particle partner leads to their mutual annihilation, giving rise to various proportions of intense photons (gamma rays), neutrinos, and sometimes less-massive particle-antiparticle pairs. The majority of the total energy of annihilation emerges in the form of ionizing radiation. If surrounding matter is present, the energy content of this radiation will be absorbed and converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or light. The amount of energy released is usually proportional to the total mass of the collided matter and antimatter, in accordance with the mass–energy equivalence equation, E=mc2.

Antimatter particles bind with each other to form antimatter, just as ordinary particles bind to form normal matter. For example, a positron (the antiparticle of the electron) and an antiproton (the antiparticle of the proton) can form an antihydrogen atom. The nuclei of antihelium have been artificially produced with difficulty, and these are the most complex anti-nuclei so far observed. Physical principles indicate that complex antimatter atomic nuclei are possible, as well as anti-atoms corresponding to the known chemical elements.

There is strong evidence that the observable universe is composed almost entirely of ordinary matter, as opposed to an equal mixture of matter and antimatter. This asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics. The process by which this inequality between matter and antimatter particles developed is called baryogenesis.

On the matter of matter (or how something came from nothing)

### Without the magic of cause and effect there is no science

March 4, 2019

Causality is existential for all the natural sciences and especially for physics.

Causality is magic. It is magic because why it should be so is inexplicable.

The most fundamental, enabling assumption for all the natural sciences is that identical causes lead to identical effects. The corollary that non-identical events are proof that the causes were not identical is also unquestioned – and unquestionable – for the scientific method. (However it is permitted that different causes may produce effects which are identical). Modern physics and relativity constrain causality. Cause and effect is restricted to the past and future light cones for any event. But this, in itself, implies a region (undefinable) where causality does not apply and does not even try to address why the magic that is causality exists.

Wikipedia

Causality means that an effect cannot occur from a cause that is not in the back (past) light cone of that event. Similarly, a cause cannot have an effect outside its front (future) light cone.

In special and general relativity, a light cone is the path that a flash of light, emanating from a single event (localized to a single point in space and a single moment in time) and traveling in all directions, would take through spacetime.

Being a fundamental assumption, it is not possible for the sciences and the scientific method to address why the assumption of causality exists. The First Cause problem is declared to be uninteresting to science just because it cannot be addressed. Allowing the problem would place all of science within a paradox. If everything has to have a cause then there must be a First Cause. If some things do not need to have a cause then there can be no certainty that anything is the cause of anything else.

The First Cause problem is what actually unifies science and philosophy and theology and religions. None have – or can have – an answer. They just use different labels for the undeniable magic. It has been debated since ancient times but I like the way Bertrand Russel expresses it.

Bertrand Russel- Why I am not a Christian

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God). That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: ‘My father taught me that the question, “Who made me?” cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, “Who made God?” ’ That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’ The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.

Russel is wise not to debate it further because penetrating the wall of the unknowable is a futile exercise. It is in the realm of magic.

Leibnitz’s formulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason is only a formal description of Causality and defines the limits of empiricism and the scientific method. It cannot, however, penetrate the First Cause Problem.

Principle of Sufficient Reason

The Principle of Sufficient Reason stipulates that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground.

This is often formulated as:

• For every entity X, if X exists, then there is a sufficient explanation for why X exists.
• For every event E, if E occurs, then there is a sufficient explanation for why E occurs.
• For every proposition P, if P is true, then there is a sufficient explanation for why P is true.

This is a stipulation, a statement of an assumption. But it is no explanation.

The conclusions I draw are that:

1. Science is limited to where causality occurs.
2. Physics admits causality is constrained by past and future light cones.
3. Physics therefore admits that what lies outside the past and future light cones is unknowable.
4. Causality is magic.
5. All science depends upon magic.

### Arrogance of Ignorance: “I don’t know, but I know you’re wrong”

February 28, 2019

Physics has no clue as to where, how or why the universe began.

Yet, the only thing that all “scientific disciplines” are sure of is that the universe did not begin by any act of any god or on the back of a giant turtle.

There are only two kinds of creation myths that physics (and by that I mean all the “scientific” disciplines) eschew:

1. The universe as matter and energy has always existed, or
2. Something was created from nothing

Whether theories about the Big Bang (hot or cold) or cosmic inflation or the naturally occurring “something from nothing” events or loop quantum gravity, they are all creation myths. Just as theories of infinite parallel universes, or cyclic cosmology are also little more than wild speculation. The various mainstream theories of physics and cosmology are as diverse as the Creation Myths of the primitive (“pre-science”) world. And as far-fetched. Conservation of energy and matter have to be ditched – or allowed to vary. Time becomes a parameter emerging from the fabric of our particular universe. All events in the past, present and future exist simultaneously. What existence is becomes uncertain and physics has turned into metaphysics.

Scientific disciplines do not like to contemplate the reality of the unknowable because they would then have to admit that the “scientific method” has no tools to address the unknowable. Determinism has to allow the possibility of, if not the inevitability of, omniscience. (It could be argued that determinism starts of by denying the possibility of any divinity or divine intervention and then ends up having to admit that a god-like omniscience is real). Atheism lacks substance and is of no consequence. There is nothing wrong with speculation of course. Most of our scientific advances (albeit in the world of the knowable) have started of as speculation.

What becomes arrogant, but above all irrational, is when a state of ignorance, of not-knowing, is conflated with a state of knowing that “something is not”.

All beliefs by definition lie in the region of the unknown. Any statement and its negation ( X and not-X) must both either lie in the region of knowledge, or both in the region of the unknown. It is not possible for one to live in the realm of knowledge and its negation to live in the region of the unknown.

It is the arrogance of ignorance and pervades nearly all human activities. It is the breath of life for politicians, TV pundits and “celebrities”. It is the fall-back position for all weak leaders and managers.

“I don’t know, but I know you’re wrong”.

### Physics cannot deal with nothingness

February 19, 2019

Physics (and all science) is about describing what can be observed and elucidating the causal relationships between observations. The process of science presupposes causality.  If causality is not always a fundamental and pervasive truth, the scientific method cannot elucidate anything. No system of reasoning can prove the assumptions the system itself is built upon. Science cannot, therefore, prove the existence of what it presupposes already exists.  Causality also implies the existence and the flow of time. Effect, it is assumed, can never precede cause. The process of science is necessarily blind to whatever may lie outside its suppositions. Which is why physics cannot deal with the non-existence of time (or space-time) where all the elucidated natural laws must be suspended.

Similarly, physics cannot allow of, or deal with, the unknowable. Many physicists merely deny the unknowable with the proposition that all things that have been, that are or that can be, are knowable and can – in principle – be explained by causality. But denying the unknowable leads to a deterministic world which, in turn, leads to the certainty of omniscience. It does not have to be human omniscience, but omniscience or any omniscient being becomes indistinguishable from a god. Determinism’s omniscience is nothing but divinity through the back door.

The unknowable lies outside the realm of science in general and of physics in particular. Unknowability applies not only to the existence of causality and time but also to the non-existence of nothingness. Clearly “empty” space which has dimensions and which allows the operation of natural laws is not nothing. Space which allows the passage of radiation or gravity waves cannot be nothing. Anything which has, or is attributed, any kind of property cannot be nothing. Our universe is expanding, it is said. It is also said that it is expanding into nothingness; where space and time emerge as the universe expands. But if the surroundings of the universe allow the expansion of the universe then such surroundings have a describable property and cannot be nothing. Nothingness is – and must be – unknowable.

Physics and philosophy both find defining nothingness a slippery business – but so they should, as they must for any unknowable thing.

What Is Nothing? Physicists Debate

…… The first, most basic idea of nothing — empty space with nothing in it — was quickly agreed not to be nothing. In our universe, even a dark, empty void of space, absent of all particles, is still something. “It has a topology, it has a shape, it’s a physical object,” philosopher Jim Holt said during the museum’s annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, which this year was focused on the topic of “The Existence of Nothing.”

As moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, ….. said, “If laws of physics still apply, the laws of physics are not nothing.”  …… But there is a deeper kind of nothing, argued theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University, which consists of no space at all, and no time, no particles, no fields, no laws of nature. “That to me is as close to nothing as you can get,” Krauss said.

Holt disagreed. “Is that really nothing?” he asked.”There’s no space and there’s no time. But what about physical laws, what about mathematical entities? What about consciousness? All the things that are non-spatial and non-temporal.”

Other speakers offered different ideas for nothing, such as a mathematical concept of nothing put forward by science journalist Charles Seife, author of “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea” (Penguin Books, 2000). He proposed starting with a set of numbers that included only the number zero, and then removing zero, leaving what’s called a null set. “It’s almost a Platonic nothing,” Seife said. The theoretical physicist Eva Silverstein of Stanford University suggested a highly technical nothing based on quantum field theory that involved a quantum system lacking degrees of freedom (dimensions). “The ground state of a gapped quantum system is my best answer,” she said.

Holt suggested another idea of nothing. “The only even remotely persuasive defintition of nothing I’ve heard form a physicist came from Alex Vilenkin,” a physicist at Tufts University, Holt said.”Imagine the surface of a ball. It’s a finite space but with no boundary. Then imagine it shrinking down to a point.” That would create a closed space-time with zero radius.

Every creation myth is about something appearing from nothingness. Even articulated by a physicist every theory about how things came to be, is just another creation myth. The Big Bang singularity is unknowable. I find many of the origin theories unconvincing where nothingness at the macro-level is allowed to produce somethings at the micro level, provided that not-somethings are also produced. Matter begets anti-matter and gravity (negative energy) begets positive energy, and the sum is zero. It is all very conveniently contrived except that why a particular something (and its negation) come to be, rather than some other something remains in the unknowable.

The Creation Hymn in the Rig Veda begins:

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?

Nothingness is perhaps just where consciousness comes from – and where it goes.

Related:

First nothingness was not, then came the Big Bang and the Gods came later

If space is not empty, what is? The ultimate void?

Knowledge is not finite and some of it is unknowable

On the matter of matter (or how something came from nothing)

### Philosophy before physics

January 23, 2019

Stephen Hawking once said “Philosophy is dead”.

Speaking to Google’s Zeitgeist Conference in Hertfordshire, the author of ‘A Brief History of Time’ said that fundamental questions about the nature of the universe could not be resolved without hard data such as that currently being derived from the Large Hadron Collider and space research. “Most of us don’t worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead,” he said. “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”

But claiming that philosophy is dead is itself philosophy.

Hawking’s comment is remarkably like that of Isocrates who some 2,300 years ago followed the sophists. He taught rhetoric and oratory and did not much care for Plato’s new-fangled approach to thinking and education or his definition of philosophy. Isocrates certainly did not like Plato’s attacks on his school.

“Those who do philosophy, who determine the proofs and the arguments … and are accustomed to enquiring, but take part in none of their practical functions, … even if they happen to be capable of handling something, they automatically do it worse, whereas those who have no knowledge of the arguments [of philosophy], if they are trained [in concrete sciences] and have correct opinions, are altogether superior for all practical purposes. Hence for sciences, philosophy is entirely useless.”

Plato (428BCE – 348BCE)

But Plato prevailed even if he did make use of “fake news”.

Because of Plato’s attacks on the sophists, Isocrates’ school — having its roots, if not the entirety of its mission, in rhetoric, the domain of the sophists — came to be viewed as unethical and deceitful. Yet many of Plato’s criticisms are hard to substantiate in the actual work of Isocrates; at the end of Phaedrus, Plato even shows Socrates praising Isocrates (though some scholars have taken this to be sarcasm).

Part of the issue is semantics. Philosophical thinking by a physicist remains philosophy. (And observations and reasoning by philosophers would still be physics).

One cannot even begin to undertake the process called science without a philosophy. One can make observations and report them as perceptions but whether the perceived observations are valid or not are a matter of philosophy. Linking observations – or perceptions of observations – requires a philosophic acceptance of causality. Causality itself requires an acceptance of the flow of time which remains a philosophic question even when asked by a physicist. The languages used in describing observations (including mathematics) and in reasoning itself are underpinned by a philosophy of language. Even the simplest of observations requires the observer to have an underlying philosophy, just to be perceived as a relevant and valid observation. Communicating such observations are even more dependent upon the existence of language having a philosophy.

As Carlo Rovelli writes:

Here is a second argument due to Aristotle: Those who deny the utility of philosophy, are doing philosophy. The point is less trivial than it may sound at first. Weinberg and Hawking have obtained important scientific results. In doing this, they were doing science. In writing things like “philosophy is useless to physics,” or “philosophy is dead,” they were not doing physics. They were reflecting on the best way to develop science. The issue is the methodology of science: a central concern in the philosophy of science is to ask how science is done and how it could be done to be more effective. ….. They express a certain idea about the methodology of science. Is this the eternal truth about how science has always worked and should work? Is it the best understanding of science we have at present? It is neither. In fact, it is not difficult to trace the origins of their ideas. They arise from the background of logical positivism, corrected by Popper and Kuhn. The current dominant methodological ideology in theoretical physics relies on their notions of falsifiability and scientific revolution, which are popular among theoretical physicists; they are often referred to, and are used to orient research and evaluate scientific work.

….. They express a certain idea about the methodology of science. Is this the eternal truth about how science has always worked and should work? Is it the best understanding of science we have at present?

It is neither. In fact, it is not difficult to trace the origins of their ideas. They arise from the background of logical positivism, corrected by Popper and Kuhn. The current dominant methodological ideology in theoretical physics relies on their notions of falsifiability and scientific revolution, which are popular among theoretical physicists; they are often referred to, and are used to orient research and evaluate scientific work.

All of human thought builds on implied philosophies; on assumptions of reality and observations and on implicit philosophies embedded in the logic of our languages. There is no branch of science which does not need fundamental assumptions which are taken as being axiomatic. There is no branch of science which does not have fundamental “rules”. It is only the explicit questioning of the underlying assumptions which we label “philosophy”.  But the philosophies exist whether the assumptions are questioned or not. Physics of any kind is not possible without an underpinning philosophy of physics.

Philosophy is integral to science and to physics. There can never be a fundamental assumption made without there first being a philosophy.

And, of course, philosophy precedes physics in the dictionary.

Carlo Rovelli: Physics Needs Philosophy / Philosophy Needs Physics

### Where matter and energy came from

December 23, 2018

### How big is the universe?

December 23, 2018