What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

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ForCruxSake
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What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by ForCruxSake » Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:24 pm

Here's a little piece from Alan Lightman, discussing the implications for physics if our universe is one of many cosmic accidents:

http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/is-the ... 1487826124

He concludes "This conclusion makes theoretical physicists extremely unhappy because it means that a lot of our mission is an illusion."

Does this place physicists in the same position as religious priests, whose practise is to promote belief in a God that is seen to be an illusion? Is their work, with regard to "why we are here", as redundant? Make believe?
Last edited by ForCruxSake on Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Arising_uk
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Arising_uk » Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:30 pm

Don't see how it does, as if we are an 'accident' then we are the accident that follows law-like laws and as such Physic's job is still on albeit reduced in scope somewhat but even there I'm not sure how as if there are all these 'Universes'(although I'm confused how they don't all become 'The Universe'?) then I presume there'll be a logic to them and I assume Physics can keep on trying to model them.

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Greta
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Greta » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:21 am

The universe is a living system like its constituents. In any living system, there's much chaos involved in its inception, along with ordering principles.

Whatever, there should be plenty to keep physicists gainfully employed because "it's an accident" is not the end of the road but the opening to a set of related inquiries: How did the accident happen? How can we access information about other "accidents"? And so on.

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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by wtf » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:08 am

I'm generally disturbed by this multiverse talk.

Why does stuff fall down?

Aristotle: Everything moves toward its natural place.

Newton: A force, whose nature remains unknown to us, causes every massive body to attract every other by a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distance from one another.

Einstein: Matter curves space around it, and massive bodies are simply following geodesics in spacetime.

Higgs: There are little gadgets that get in the way, like people clumping as you move through a crowded room. (Ok so you can see I'm not up on this!)

Multiverse theory: Stuff falls down because we happen to live in a universe where stuff falls down. In some other universe, stuff falls up.

I confess I find multiverse theory rather nihilistic.

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Arising_uk
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Arising_uk » Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:26 am

Greta wrote:The universe is a living system like its constituents. ...
What do you mean by 'living' here? As a large chunk of the constituents of the Universe appear very unlike living things.

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Greta
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Greta » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:33 am

Arising_uk wrote:
Greta wrote:The universe is a living system like its constituents. ...
What do you mean by 'living' here? As a large chunk of the constituents of the Universe appear very unlike living things.
Note that I did not say the universe "was alive", I said it's a living system. I won't quibble about the definition of life being restricted to just biology here just yet.

I do not think the universe is full of "dead stuff". Living systems are made up of stuff that, separately, would not be considered to be alive. Take your heart in isolation, is it alive? No, but it can be part of a living system. If you were shrunk down to atomic level and wandered around inside of an animal, you would not see anything alive around you, just atomic structures and processes, yet you would be within a living system.

Planets, stars and galaxies are all living systems in that they are born, develop, mature and die. As with biological life, the processes follow fairly predictable lines, barring accident. Once an aggregation of dust, ice, rock and metals reaches a certain mass, under certain conditions, there is an emergence as gravity rounds out the body and then maintains a molten core that sets off a range of subsidiary systems - structuring of layers, a magnetosphere, an atmosphere with variable weather conditions driven by geological activity, etc.

Planets without biological life have geological cycles. Consider the Earth before abiogenesis, the changes over time as material on the surface slowly morphed from nonliving molten rock to the emergence of biology and, now, technology. It seems unfair to me not to consider the geological processes leading to biology not to be a form of "evolution" - the transformation from a protoplanetary disc to post-apes chatting about it all from opposite sides of the globe.

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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by attofishpi » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:19 pm

ForCruxSake wrote:What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?
An accident can only exist where there is an individual entity likely anthropomorphic than should know better judgment, but failed in some ..often mediocre way.

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Noax
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Noax » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:56 pm

ForCruxSake wrote:Here's a little piece from Alan Lightman, discussing the implications for physics if our universe is one of many cosmic accidents
A snippet that I think misrepresents the term 'accident':
Lightman wrote:And our universe is just one lucky draw from the hat.
In which case we are accidental.
This presumes there is something (us?) that is 'drawing from a hat' and drew a very improbable number where things are special. In fact, the 'accident' can be compared to the accidental properties of Earth compared to all the other planet which happens to be tuned perfectly for us. Astronomers discovered that there were other planets, and that none of them were specially tuned like ours. What an amazing 'draw from the hat' that we got this planet instead of any other one.
Anyway, that's the sort of logic I'm hearing from Lightman.

Eternal inflation theory is why the teleological argument doesn't hold water. It has been around longer than 17 years, but perhaps that is a measure of when it gained general majority acceptance among physicists.

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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by ForCruxSake » Fri Feb 24, 2017 4:04 pm

Arising_uk wrote:
Greta wrote:The universe is a living system like its constituents. ...
What do you mean by 'living' here? As a large chunk of the constituents of the Universe appear very unlike living things.
We know we are 'the stuff of the stars', made from cosmic dust. We know we are alive because we are conscious. We know little of consciousness beyond that we have it. We don't know why it's there or where it goes. Does it transmit out into the cosmos when we die, or are we constantly transmitting it out as we live? Is there more out there? Who's to say the universe doesn't possess an amalgam of conciousness all of its own? I think Greta's statement, whilst not quite as defined as the Atlantic, holds water... but it might be that she meant it figuratively.

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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by SpheresOfBalance » Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:23 pm

ForCruxSake wrote:Here's a little piece from Alan Lightman, discussing the implications for physics if our universe is one of many cosmic accidents:

http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/is-the ... 1487826124

He concludes "This conclusion makes theoretical physicists extremely unhappy because it means that a lot of our mission is an illusion."

Does this place physicists in the same position as religious priests, whose practise is to promote belief in a God that is seen to be an illusion? Is their work, with regard to "why we are here", as redundant? Make believe?
Makes no difference! Understanding the physics of the universe, whether accidental or intended (god?) still marches on in either case. FYI, the universe is larger than most are capable of imagining. So the jury will be out for quite a long time to come. I really don't see how anyone could ask such a question, as I don't see it logically following the hypothetical answers to the other hypothetical questions. ;-)

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Greta
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Greta » Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:09 pm

ForCruxSake wrote:
Arising_uk wrote:
Greta wrote:The universe is a living system like its constituents. ...
What do you mean by 'living' here? As a large chunk of the constituents of the Universe appear very unlike living things.
We know we are 'the stuff of the stars', made from cosmic dust. We know we are alive because we are conscious. We know little of consciousness beyond that we have it. We don't know why it's there or where it goes. Does it transmit out into the cosmos when we die, or are we constantly transmitting it out as we live? Is there more out there? Who's to say the universe doesn't possess an amalgam of conciousness all of its own? I think Greta's statement, whilst not quite as defined as the Atlantic, holds water... but it might be that she meant it figuratively.
Note that consciousness is not necessary for living systems, unless we set the bar very low and refer to reactivity as consciousness. Life, on the other hand, can motor along with nary a quale.

Many dislike the word "life" being associated with geology, as it's seen as life's antithesis. I think of biology as compressed geology. Life's minimum size to form a system is measured in nanometres. Smaller than that and there are insufficient atoms to create living systems. Meanwhile geology requires enormous size to "live".

What we call "life" is basically a distilled form of geology, operating at much smaller scales, much faster and for a much shorter time, each a stage of a larger process of distillation.

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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:44 am

ForCruxSake wrote:Here's a little piece from Alan Lightman, discussing the implications for physics if our universe is one of many cosmic accidents:

http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/is-the ... 1487826124

He concludes "This conclusion makes theoretical physicists extremely unhappy because it means that a lot of our mission is an illusion."

Does this place physicists in the same position as religious priests, whose practise is to promote belief in a God that is seen to be an illusion? Is their work, with regard to "why we are here", as redundant? Make believe?
Allan Lightman is making a massive mistake about physics and science. Science woks on the question "HOW" and not "WHY". If you re-read the article and replace why with how, his question, and his "problem" disappears. We all know the answer is 42, but science at its best never asked that question. Science describes what there is, using the only means at its disposal - human metaphor.

I think he might want to define what he means by "accident".

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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by ForCruxSake » Sat Feb 25, 2017 1:22 am

SpheresOfBalance wrote:
ForCruxSake wrote:Here's a little piece from Alan Lightman, discussing the implications for physics if our universe is one of many cosmic accidents:

http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/is-the ... 1487826124

He concludes "This conclusion makes theoretical physicists extremely unhappy because it means that a lot of our mission is an illusion."

Does this place physicists in the same position as religious priests, whose practise is to promote belief in a God that is seen to be an illusion? Is their work, with regard to "why we are here", as redundant? Make believe?
Makes no difference! Understanding the physics of the universe, whether accidental or intended (god?) still marches on in either case.
That doesn't answer the question: is the physics as destined to ridicule as religious rhetoric if it' turns out to be "make believe".
SpheresOfBalance wrote:FYI, the universe is larger than most are capable of imagining.
Why is size such a "big thing" for some folk? Does size really matter? ;)
(Even Lightman touches on the subject in his essay 'The Gargahtuan Universe'... I think it's a guy thing!)
SpheresOfBalance wrote:So the jury will be out for quite a long time to come
Who needs a jury in a thoughtful discussion among friends?
SpheresOfBalance wrote:I really don't see how anyone could ask such a question...
I just did and presented my reasoning behind it. It's a simple thought. Not an argument. If you can't see, maybe you should question your sight and not my ability to reason.
SpheresOfBalance wrote:.... as I don't see it logically following the hypothetical answers to the other hypothetical questions. ;-)
<wide-eyed stare>
Last edited by ForCruxSake on Sat Feb 25, 2017 1:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

ForCruxSake
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by ForCruxSake » Sat Feb 25, 2017 1:43 am

Hobbes' Choice wrote:Allan Lightman is making a massive mistake about physics and science. Science woks on the question "HOW" and not "WHY". If you re-read the article and replace why with how, his question, and his "problem" disappears. We all know the answer is 42, but science at its best never asked that question. Science describes what there is, using the only means at its disposal - human metaphor.

I think he might want to define what he means by "accident".
Nice answer. Has me thinking.

I think he does define what he means in 'The Accidental Universe'... but I didn't put this question up to show support for Alan Lightman's musings on the subject. I just wondered that *if* it held ground, would current thinking in physics be subjected to as much ridicule as religious thought for being "make believe"? It's an interesting reversal to me. Left me pondering.

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Hobbes' Choice
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Re: What becomes of phycisists if the Universe is an accident?

Post by Hobbes' Choice » Sat Feb 25, 2017 10:44 pm

ForCruxSake wrote:
Hobbes' Choice wrote:Allan Lightman is making a massive mistake about physics and science. Science woks on the question "HOW" and not "WHY". If you re-read the article and replace why with how, his question, and his "problem" disappears. We all know the answer is 42, but science at its best never asked that question. Science describes what there is, using the only means at its disposal - human metaphor.

I think he might want to define what he means by "accident".
Nice answer. Has me thinking.

I think he does define what he means in 'The Accidental Universe'... but I didn't put this question up to show support for Alan Lightman's musings on the subject. I just wondered that *if* it held ground, would current thinking in physics be subjected to as much ridicule as religious thought for being "make believe"? It's an interesting reversal to me. Left me pondering.
I think this apparent dilemma simply rests on his misunderstanding of the aims of science as if he is conflating the its aims with those of science, ignoring the Gould's "non-overlapping Magisteria.
Science at the edge has always postulated different cosmologies, but the are united by evidence.
For religion the arguments about the nature of the cosmos is united by faith, and divided by the authority of he church. As different churches have different faiths, then the arguments are ultimately about political power; not evidence.
Whilst science is not completely free of power and influence, it fails to BE science should it refuse to accept evidence.

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