Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics & Consciousness Message Board › What has maths got to do with science? (Arf!)

What has maths got to do with science? (Arf!)

A former member
Post #: 68
Hello Robert, good of you to join us (although as Andrew intimated, you may have boarded a sinking ship). I agree with what you say. I think the point about science working is that the universe works; I can’t imagine a set of conditions which had no patterns at all and I really can’t imagine such a shambles supporting life, or even scientists. Well maybe scientists. Anyway maths in my view is looking for patterns in numbers and then seeing what, if anything fits reality. Or vice versa, I don’t think there is any pattern to scientific or mathematical discovery.
I think the idea that “All is one” follows from a particular reading of the big bang theory. If the universe just popped into existence out of nothing, it could well have been a single entity, an ‘inflaton’ perhaps, as Alan Guth says. The universe as we see it today would then be that one thing gone bonkers. John Wheeler, for a bit of a laugh really, played with the idea that the entire universe was created by a single particle moving at dizzying speed, but he said the idea gave him a headache. Personally I like the idea of the single expanding field; I think Occam’s Razor suggests we start there.
Camilla, it’s interesting that should wish to welcome Robert bringing it up. I’m very sorry if we have given the impression that you are not welcome; if you would like to chair such a meeting, I’ll do what I gotta do to make it happen.
Camilla M.
user 7151822
London, GB
Post #: 47
Robert: P.S. Couldn't we have a meeting/discussion on this subject with one of you or both leading it? Robert Mules

Andrew: And of course you should be in the chair (Will/Robert?), not Ian or me.

- Notice that the referent Camilla would not appear to exist here; yet only the 4 of us had written in to the thread!
Is mentioning just the 3 males out of 4 people normal behaviour?

Andrew: Hey Camilla, take it easy. I don't think anyone is being sexist around here, not in these latest postings.
Sure, men can be sexist at times, especially over a few pints in the pub.
Women too, as my wife has just conceded.
This is all human nature, is it not?

I don't see how anyone could not see the conclusions as sexist.

In the last paragraph, both the claims "no sexism here!" and that this is all human nature (i.e. yes, it might indeed be happening) were made. What to make of that?
Also, why was Andrew's wife made to accept that women can be sexist too? Isn't that like saying, if someone's revealed stereotypical attitudes, not to worry, it is sometimes the case that others can be thoughtlessly divisive too? Would you apply that to racism, for example? How does it help the fact that an erroneous belief was pointed out in the first place?
A simpler view would be to accept that one had let slip a sexist attitude but maybe to examine it.

I do have 'flu and am feeling a bit ropey but I would not respond to this had both people not made such a blatant attempt to show that I should be excluded from holding the floor, with the possible implication that they would already downgrade any future contributions from me. If you genuinely think that I am making no valuable points, rather than that their disagreement sometimes make you feel uncomfortable, then do say so. The former would be part of the argument, the latter is simply ad hominem to be bypassed in the formal advance of the discussion.
You don't find me suggesting we ignore any of you, so I did not expect it.

Leadership is not my goal; I'm happy with anyone chairing the meeting, being the opener, not proprietor in my book.
A former member
Post #: 184
Then I will have to correct you on this matter, Camilla. Robert is new to the site and it is obvious that he had the preceding couple of messages in mind when he referred to 'one or both of us' leading a meeting. Your accusation of sexism seems to be aimed at me but all I was doing was picking up on Robert's comment and then being very clear that Will should be in the chair, my reasons being that the topic was his idea and he has previously led a successful MeetUp. That was the thinking behind my comments and, as i have already assured you, no inadvertent sexist attitude was involved. In actual fact the only comments of a sexist nature have come from you! Frankly I find your comments to be surprising and odd, especially after Will's thoughtful offer to you. It does seem completely out of character relative to any of your preceding postings and if you have the flu that probably explains it. So get well soon!
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 291

Incidentally it's meet that Andrew has recently mentioned Max Tegmark (who for the past 12 years ago I regarded as utterly mad; I may now need to revise a prematurely formed opinion!)

He appears to be a pretty strong opponent of the somewhat half-baked notion of wave-function collapse and espouses this view in a satisfyingly quantitaive way in the following pdf:

Tegmark M., Apparent Wave Function Collapse Caused by Scattering, Found. Phys. Lett.
6, 571-590 (1993).


lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 292

This one is at least equally interesting. (Matters arising from a Stanford Enc Phil article):


Notes to The Role of Decoherence in Quantum Mechanics

1. The first version of this entry was based on a talk given at the Exploratory Workshop on Quantum Mechanics on the Large Scale, The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, The University of British Columbia, 17–27 April 2003, on whose website are linked electronic versions of this and several of the other talks (see the Other Internet Resources).

2. Note that these probabilities are well-defined in quantum mechanics, but in the context of a separate experiment (with detection at the slits). Heisenberg (in the uncertainty paper) notes that for this reason he does not like the phrase ‘interference of probabilities’.

3. Realistically, in each single scattering the electron will couple to non-orthogonal states of the environment, thus experiencing only a partial suppression of interference. However, repeated scatterings will suppress interference very effectively.

4. Unfortunately, the distinction between ‘true’ collapse (whether or not it is a process that in fact happens in nature) and ‘as if’ collapse is sometimes overlooked, muddling conceptual discussions: further on this point, see e.g. Pearle (1997) and Zeh (1995, pp. 28–29).

5. As long as decoherence yields only effective superselection rules, one does not leave the framework of standard non-relativistic quantum mechanics. The discussion of charge in Section 4 below, however, suggests that decoherence might yield strict superselection rules, which in general require the framework of so-called algebraic quantum mechanics. More systematic discussion is needed to fully assess the interpretational implications of the latter. (My thanks to Hans Primas for discussion of this point.)

6. These values are calculated based on the classic model by Joos and Zeh (1985). Length and time scales for more massive objects are further reduced. For a not too technical partial summary of Joos and Zeh's results, see also Bacciagaluppi (2000).

7. For a review of more rigorous arguments see e.g. Zurek (2003, pp. 28–30). In particular they can be obtained from the Wigner function formalism, see e.g. Zurek (1991) and in more detail Zurek and Paz (1994), who then apply these results to derive chaotic trajectories in quantum mechanics (see below Section 4).

.. There's much more, but it needs to be read and digested, and the comments pasted in above are in any case difficult to understand without reference to the original text.

Happy New Year y'all. (Haven't I done that one already?)

A former member
Post #: 187
I guess it falls to me, if no-one else will do the job, to point out the logical failings of your two latest posts here, Ian. 

1. You seem to be hopelessly confused about the topic, which is the relationship between maths and science. The mere mention of the name Tegmark seems to have triggered a response from you which veers off onto the totally different topic of another thread, namely wave collapse. 

2. Oh dear, yet another straw man argument is apparent in your latest remarks on wave collapse. As if a 1993 paper on GRW type interpretations of QM has any bearing on the bigger picture. Are you not aware that there are  several different quantum interpretations which posit wave collapse as an actual manifestation - some of which were devised after 1993?

3. And where is the integrity of debate in disregarding the points which I did make on the wave collapse thread and then quoting this spurious and highly technical material here, which probably none of us are remotely competent to understand in detail, as if I had not made a single point in discussion?

We have had a lot of irrelevance and false straw man logic recently. Will this improve in 2013? If not I will soon be jumping from this sinking ship.
A former member
Post #: 3
Dear all, Is this a sinking ship? I sincerely hope not partly since I've only just joined and secondly because many of you seem to be talking the right kind of intelligent talk. As to the universe, or reality, starting as a shambles without a pattern : this is actually a venerable and fairly respectable theory going back at lerast to the early Greeks. There is 'kaos' a maelstrom of randomness and decoherence which somehow coalesces or freezes into the (relatively) coherent something we experience today and think we live in. Nietzsche took up this idea and recently Sheldrake. It is indeed an appealing approach, rather more so perhaps than the 'Platonic' approach which assumes a pre-eisting and unchanging/unchangeable Order -- our science and culture has followed the Platonic paradigm hence the very idea of 'laws of nature'. However, a logical problem with the 'chaos/order' paradigm is that the resultant order must in some sense have pre-existed in the original Chaos, otherwise it could never have arisen, thus there already was order. I do not see how to get round this. Robert
Camilla M.
user 7151822
London, GB
Post #: 48
a logical problem with the 'chaos/order' paradigm is that the resultant order must in some sense have pre-existed in the original Chaos, otherwise it could never have arisen,

This is exactly the reverse of the randomness/chaos claims, surely? As I understand it anyway, the idea can be approached probabilistically wherein each possible combination of a change in pattern arrangement does happen but only one happens to apply per universe, or, the possibilities just are random in themselves and like *Krause's classical example, representing an original symmetrical position for a single universe, of a pencil standing on end - the initial situation although balanced is high entropy & must succumb to gravity or other 'forces' randomly towards one of a lower entropy permutation. Hence, in his example, the pencil might be buffeted in several directions so to speak but one movement has sufficient momentum to break the symmetry and it slips over suddenly but crucially unpredictably in one particular direction.

Also, as you'll have seen elsewhere on here, Roger Penrose does not consider that conditions taken to indicate maximal and minimal entropy are fixed over putative recurring universes - actually he shows that the one can be shown to equal its inverse at the start and end of any cycle. This suggests to me that a second order take of order itself would alter at least - I have no idea how to work this through but it might mean that order being contingent cannot be so easily compared across beginnings and endings or pre and post (each) universe's random conditions. I don't think logic obviates that account of the chaos version.

*Sorry, forgot to add Laurence Krause.

A former member
Post #: 73
Wotcher everybody

I think the original idea of Chaos was more like what we would call void or vacuum than a shambles; it was probably influenced by the Ogdoad of Egyptian (specifically Hermopolis) mythology which included gods for darkness and infinity. But as you say, those crazy ancients were not unanimous about the issue, the atomists in particular believed that the cosmos was a swirling maelstrom of eternal, unbreakable ‘atoms’ and that this world was bound to come along sooner or later in an infinity of possible arrangements. In our time we might wonder whether mathematicians are discovering 'laws' of the universe, rather than Platonic forms, or whether maths is just a way of describing the behaviour of matter. For all that Stephen Hawking may have been mucking about when he closed A brief history of time with that bit about understanding the mind of god, there are those, I gather, who believe this is what we are trying to do. I am as adamant on this issue as I am on anything (ie not very), mathematics is essentially pattern recognition, a tiny fraction of which look like reality.
As Camilla points out though, the idea that there are ‘many worlds’ is perfectly respectable; as is contemplating ‘extra dimensions’. Personally, I think the idea of any dimension ‘existing’ is nonsense and I’m adamant about that too. I don’t believe any mathematical object exists, what distinguishes our actual world and any mathematical representation is that it is not perfect. Plato believed perfection must exist, hence the forms. Descartes (perhaps under duress) claimed that existence is a perfection, despite the fact that nothing that exists is perfect. With that in mind it really isn’t surprising that Krauss’ pencil fell over; why should the initial conditions of the universe be any different from all that has followed?
Anyway, the original purpose of this thread was to set up a meeting. Frances has agreed and I’m thinking about it. In the meantime, I’m going to the Plough, 200 yards south of Northfields station on the Piccadilly line on Saturday 26th Jan, about 3pm, with the aim of drinking beer and talking about space, time and whatnot, quite possibly to myself, but if anyone wants to come along, you’re very welcome.
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 293


I see that I have quite a lot of catch-up to execute on > 1 theme, but for now this little tip from Iain Stewart -- ex-Dept of Computing as an adjunct to the Physics Dept at Imperial -- might titillate some of you. (Andrew?):

David Deutsch talk (incl. text transcript) on constructor theory!


As a card-carrying D.D. groupie I feel duty-bound to spread this far and wide!


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