“Is no one inspired by our present picture of the Universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers, you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.” -Richard Feynman

Back in 2008, Time Magazine interviewed Neil de Grasse Tyson, and asked him, “ What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?His answer was indeed a very good, true, and astounding fact about the Universe: that all the complex atoms that make up everything we know owe their origins to ancient, exploded stars, dating back billions of years.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

It’s a great fact, and it’s definitely on the short list of the most remarkable things we’ve learned about the Universe. But if I were to choose the most astounding fact about the Universe, I’d want you to consider something else.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Not just the trees, the mountains, the skies and the oceans. Not merely everything on this Earth, mind you. Not even everything in the entire Universe.

Image credit: R. Jay Gabany.

The way it all turned out, no doubt, is absolutely wondrous. Just here, in our own little corner of the Universe, we find ourselves in a forgotten, non-descript little group of galaxies no more or less special than any of the billions out there.

Image credit: Wikimedia user Azcolvin429.

But when we look out at the Universe, whether we look at the internal structure of matter, probing things down to the tiniest subatomic scales…

Image credit: CERN / Lucas Taylor, via simulation.

…or out into the expansive abyss of deep space, billions of light years away, at the largest scales visible to an observer within our Universe, there is one fact that stands out as the most astounding.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, the ACS Science Team and N. Benitez et al.

The entire Universe,

on all scales,

in all places,

and at all times,

obeys the same fundamental laws of nature.

Image credit: M. Csele/Niagara College, retrieved from prlo.aps.org.

From the weakest photon of light to the largest galaxy ever assembled, from the unstable atoms of Uranium decaying in the Earth’s core to the neutral hydrogen atoms forming for the first time 46 billion light years away, the laws that everything in this Universe obey are the same.

Image credit: Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack.

This is the most remarkable thing of all.

Imagine an existence where nature behaves randomly and unpredictably, where gravity turns on-and-off on a whimsy, where the Sun could simply stop burning its fuel for no apparent reason, where the atoms that form you could spontaneously cease to hold together.

Image credit: Karim Fakoury.

A Universe like this would truly be frightening, because it could never be understood. The things you learn here and now might not be true later, or even five feet away.

But the Universe isn’t like this at all.

Image credit: U.S. DOE, NSF, CPEP and LBNL, retrieved from physics.gla.ac.uk.

The Universe is a place where the matter and energy in it can change, the spacetime itself that we all occupy can change, but the fundamental laws — that everything is subject to — are constant.

Because what that means is that we can observe the Universe, experiment with the Universe, assemble and disassemble the things we find in it, and learn.

Image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA).

Only if the fundamental laws of the Universe are the same everywhere and at all times can we learn what they are today, and use that knowledge to figure out what the Universe — and everything in it — was doing in the past, and what it will be doing in the future.

In other words, it is this one fact, this most astounding fact, that allows us to do science, and to learn something meaningful, at all.

Image credit: xkcd.

In short, the most astounding fact about the Universe is that it can be understood at all.

But Neil’s answer was pretty good, too.

Comments

  1. #1 Childermass
    March 9, 2012

    A Universe like this would truly be frightening, because it could never be understood. The things you learn here and now might not be true later, or even five feet away.

    Well I don’t think you would live long enough to ever get frightened in such a universe.

  2. #2 FRANK^ >>>>
    March 9, 2012

    GREAT stuff thanks for sharing it and opinions + facts as we know them > truth of understanding God’s works are on going and changing (time + space ) ?;-)+< ^>>>>

  3. #3 AJ
    March 9, 2012

    Yes or No? Is there something or is there nothing? I think therefore I am. It all started with the Big Bamb!

    My ancestor, Fred, must have wondered the same.

  4. #4 Sascha Vongehr
    March 10, 2012

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding about what “laws of nature” are. It is not an astounding empirical fact that laws are everywhere the same, it is simply that we distil out those general relations that are fundamental in a consistent description of phenomena. If we tomorrow find a law being different again in some region (like we did many times before, say constant velocity not needing force in outer space, …), then we will simply revise and call the more general description the “law”. That such is possible is also not a fact about the universe but the apriori consistency of phenomena as such (observer selection in a realist description: there would not be an evolved observer under too much randomness). Atoms from exploding stars are astounding discoveries, but what you are writing here is a confusion.

  5. #5 Iqbal latif
    March 10, 2012

     The epics poem of  ‘The Big Bang’ awaits it’s  Dante and Milton!

    @‎”Is no one inspired by our present picture of the Universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers, you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.” -Richard Feynman quoted by 
    The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe : Starts With A Bang 
    Science.com

    Science shall remain unsung until reason, logic and rationalism destroy the myths and convoluted incoherent scriptural inaccuracies.

    It is our greatest artists and poets of great stature who ignited the fire of renaissance like Michelangelo, Dante and Milton regrettably also gave corporeal existence and body to the myths of the Testaments. The Sistine Chapel paintings brought the myths to live; so did Dante’s ‘The Divine Conedy’ reinforced Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise) on susceptible minds of man. 

    This is age of man made Gods and Allah! Nearly 4 billion faithful in one form or the other are preoccupied with the irrationality of a 6 day creation; from Bible to Koran myths and tales of creation preoccupy the mind of man. From pulpits every Friday to Sunday priests warn and admonishes the susceptible minds of unsure humans the punishments that await them in deepest depths of hell. 

    Until these epics and classics are treated the way we treat Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; we shall remain slave of these man made myths, fresh out of cave we are and shall be known  1m years from now, the civilisations of future will see us as no different from cave age, little separates us from those who believed like Egyptians perpetuity of physical pleasures.

    Don’t go too far, take the words of the galaxy of stars from exceedingly ‘enlightened’ primary race of ‘Grand Old Party.’ Their reasoning on creation is akin to what a Ayatollah in Tehran and Talebinised cave mind of Kabul believes in. 

    When it comes to fool talks all perverts speak from the same side of their mind. Recently conservative Rush Limbaugh (who was once caught trying to bring 29 100 mg Viagra pills with him to the Dominican Republic) spent three days ripping into Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before Congress about birth control, and suggesting that he’d like her to send him a sex tape. These double standards are extraordinarily reproving and thoughtless. http://www.iranian.com/main/blog/iqbal-latif/earthquakes-are-boobquakes-hojjat-ol-eslam-sediqi-or-gods-revenge-people-who-act-ki. 

    When it comes to retribution and punishments Pat Robertson and Ayatollahs sing their choirs from the same scriptWhy Hojjat ol-eslam Sediqi says Earthquakes are ‘Boobquakes’and Reverend Pat Robertson talk the same language like God’s revenge on people “who act kind of gay.” Or Televangelist Says Prayer Could Have Stopped Midwest Tornadoes “Jesus stilled the storm,” Robertson said. “You can still the storm.”

     The epics poem of  ‘The Big Bang’ awaits it’s  Dante and Milton!

  6. #6 Markk
    March 10, 2012

    Sascha – I disagree, it is the basis of science, and all the conservation laws at the heart of all our natural models. There would be no science without it – there would be no natural models with predictive power. Of course anthropically there would be no humans either so it is moot in that aspect.

    By the way, Jack Vance wrote a short story about this in the 50’s or 60’s. The Men Return. Great story. It is right to your point

  7. #7 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 10, 2012

    I don’t think it is astounding at all.

    Besides the anthropic and symmetry/symmetry breaking perspective there is the perspective of efficiency of empirical investigation raised here. Here the observation of uniformity and constancy of laws is no different from the observation of uniformity and constancy of their parameters.

    That is, if parameters varied over time and space we could still do science (up to a point), but if would be harder. Instead we have predictions of uniformity (the Copernican principle, say) that are tested by observation. Based on parsimony certainly, but also resulting in efficiency.

    In the same manner, if laws varied over time and space we could still do science (up to a point), but if would be harder. Instead we have predictions of local conservation (the energy principle for closed systems, say) and global obeisance (maybe we should call that “the physicalist principle”) that are tested by observation.

    If energy conservation didn’t hold up, say once a year and/or one meter every 400 meter, it would mean there is a contribution from some dualism that may or may not conserve its own brand of “energy”. (If it would be chaotic instead of lawful, there wouldn’t be a separate conservation at all I take it, energy is a measure of if a system configuration can replace another before or after.) It could be, but it isn’t.

    I have to agree with Markk, the complete absence of dualism is not predicted by some astounding form of anthropic/environmental selection. It is just simpler that way, and who ordered magic anyway?

  8. #8 Sweetwater Tom
    March 10, 2012

    I am most astounded by how freeking BIG and how freeking COMPLEX the universe is. If a god had created the universe just for us it could be a lot smaller and a lot simpler. The stardust of which we are made is but a small part of the stuff in the universe. It is all amazing!

  9. #9 Greg234
    March 10, 2012

    Ethan 1

    Neil 0

    That takes nothing away from Neil’s fabulaous talks though.

  10. #10 Jack Kolinski
    March 10, 2012

    Thank you. Just focusing attention on what makes the Universe so fascinating is worthwhile. Not sure there needs to be one best “most amazing thing” but yours is pretty good. The fact that it probably came from nothing is pretty amazing too.

  11. #11 Kelly P Barnes
    March 10, 2012

    Both those facts are amazing when we look at them in their cosmological contexts, but what amazes (read that “confounds”) me is that the rest of us puny humans depend on the Universe and what it inspires for everything, but seldom give Science, let alone the Universe a second thought.

    I found your blog while I was getting the skinny on MidsouthCon XXX. I hope we get a chance to visit.

  12. #12 Pam Dixon
    March 10, 2012

    Astounding,..Does not say God was not involved.

  13. #13 Marshall
    March 10, 2012

    “The Laws of Physics” is an amazing machine for telling us what we will see when we go look… when we check the observation, it’s all about doing things with particles. There really is something there and what we can say about them is wonderful and true, but a picture of rice is not a bowl of rice … what we can say is not the particles, whatever they are … vibrations in the higgs field? ripples in the multiversal moonlight?

    Besides that, although we see only what we expect, when we look, we are astonished …

  14. #14 CB
    March 10, 2012

    Sascha Vongehr, the whole process you’re describing depends upon there being a more ‘general’ relationship that applies everywhere, otherwise we never would have been able to discover it by observing both distant and nearby things. It could have been that the celestial objects did move in fundamentally different ways than things we find on earth. How then could we have reconciled them? You’re making an assumption of consistency to criticize Ethan’s observation that this assumption appears to hold.

    The Anthropic Principle is a weak appeal here for why the assumption must hold. If the changing and whimsical laws of nature had lead to earth being here and yielded a bubble of sufficient — but not necessarily complete — stability and consistency for life to evolve, we could still be here. It is not a given that the rest of the universe be compatible with the same rules we see here.

  15. #15 JohnJay
    March 10, 2012

    “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible” – Einstein

  16. #16 JM Hanes
    March 10, 2012

    “The entire Universe, on all scales, in all places, and at all times, obeys the same fundamental laws of nature… It didn’t have to be this way.”

    It’s striking how quickly science, itself, leads us to the fundamentals of philosophy, not least of which is the abiding question that even a presumably inevitable Theory of Everything cannot really hope to answer. Why did it turn out this way, and not some other way? Each of us is ultimately left to answer this question his own way.

    “Imagine an existence where nature behaves randomly and unpredictably…. A Universe like this would truly be frightening, because it could never be understood.”

    Perhaps it’s not so surprising that rational human intelligence is adept at sorting out a rationally ordered universe, when we were cut from the same cosmic cloth. The universe has laws, and limits which cannot be exceeded and which make it comprehensible, so perhaps what is amazing is that the human mind can exceed its rational limitations. We can, in fact, imagine an existence which does not…exist! The unpredictable universe you describe certainly sounds frightening (I love your Fakoury illustration!), but would it not also be a universe of limitless possibilities? Indeed, we could be just one of them in a larger Chaos.

    Is there really anything which deifies imagination? Is there anything else which so informs and enriches our lives, including our observations, scientific and otherwise? Or so distinguishes us from our fellow creatures? We can think of, and do, terrible, frightening things, but conceiving of what we have not, or cannot, actually observe is also what gives us hope in extremis, gives us science fiction, and Shakespeare, and God, and Columbus, and NGOs working toward a “better” world, and the multiverse to assemble and disassemble too.

    Folks often say that the odds suggest our world is not sui generis, but it’s not hard to imagine it going either way. In a rule of law universe, could we not also extrapolate a different set of odds, when we observe that on this planet every fingerprint, and DNA combo, and snowflake, appears to be unique? If the idea of being alone in the universe, and thus highly vulnerable to extinction, is disturbing, perhaps deep down, we all take comfort in an imagined afterlife, be it religious or scientific. But I digress!

    Cognitive dissonance (quantum mechanics vs relativity! politics!) bothers some of us more than others, but while we relentlessly seek certainty (any confirmation bias there?), we can also tolerate substantial ambiguity (which we routinely embrace artistically). We admire sensible treatises and enjoy nonsensical stories too. Perhaps the ultimate Theory of Everything will end up positing a paradoxical “law” of limitless possibilities in which our rational universe is an even smaller speck than we now know, in an unruly infinite iteration of anomalies. A universe of universes which makes both sense and nonsense and can’t be seen or understood at all — wouldn’t that be astounding? On the other hand, some of that is where we already seem to be headed!

    With apologies for length, however, I come here (usually lurking) every day to marvel with you because no one marvels better. It’s a joy ride of learning something new every time, and when the physics and the math elude me (which is also almost daily), the sheer spectacle is astonishing enough. Many thanks!

  17. #17 Timo
    March 10, 2012

    “It didn’t have to be this way”

    But it is, so there’s no point.

    “The entire Universe, on all scales, in all places, and at all times obeys the same fundamental laws of nature.”

    Why would it be any other way? These so called “laws” are artificial constructions we make resulting from studying how the universe behaves. In other words, laws don’t come first, they come after universe behaviour. This all smells like the fine tuning argument.

    Neil 1
    Ethan 0

  18. #18 Alfred Centauri
    March 10, 2012

    Ethan, I don’t think it’s astounding that “A is A”, that a thing is what it is and not something else, that entities have identity and that entities act according to their identity, i.e., that “laws of nature” apply everywhere and everywhen.

    To be astounded that every entity is what it is and acts according to its nature is to be astounded at the very foundation of knowledge; it is to be astounded at the self-evident. The universe is orderly because it really couldn’t be any other way, could it?

    You ask us to imagine an existence where nature behaves randomly and unpredictably but this is asking us to imagine the existence of non-existence, a contradiction. To exist is to exist as something, as something specific, to have identity and to act according to that identity.

    There are, no doubt, astounding facts but you seem to be, in effect, astounded that there are facts! If there could be an existence where knowledge was impossible, as you ask us to imagine, what facts could exist?

  19. #19 Radar
    March 10, 2012

    This post simply seems to give those who believe in a Creator God a bit more evidence. For instance, no way to form stars or planets has ever been presented that stands up to scrutiny. So if stars only come from dead stars, where did the first stars come from? If planets cannot form from cosmic dust, how are they formed?

    Let’s discuss existence. People who resort to quantum mechanics only fool the uninformed. Time and existence and physical laws all require a start. Even nothing (as a concept and a reality) need to get a start. Existence is not like zero, so if you subtract two you also get a minus two on the other side of the = but it is simply NOT. You cannot get something from less than nothing.

    The Big Bang is presumed because of what we have observed of the Universe and it is a finite Universe with a start and eventually an end. But without God there is no first cause. Multiverses are a mythical concept but if there were all possible Universes then one would have been created by the Almighty God and the others would then be gone, poof! It is bad enough that current Big Bang scenarios are composed of about 96% of unobserved matter and energy that are fudge factors rather than evidence.

    A responsible scientist who just thinks about the evidence will say, yes, God created, the only question is when. In my opinion of course. Thanks!

  20. #20 qp
    March 10, 2012

    It’s about as astounding as painting a wall in red paint and then be astounded it’s not green, yellow or blue in some places.

  21. #21 anon
    March 11, 2012

    @‎”Is no one inspired by our present picture of the Universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers, you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.” -Richard Feynman quoted by The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe : Starts With A BangScience.com

    >Complains that this is not a scientific age because no one presents scientific theory in a grossly unscientific way.

    Music will ALWAYS be littered with mythology. Myths and gods and devils and angels and magic and all manner of bogus bullshit is FUN. Music is primarily about enjoyment, not work. Get a life.

  22. #22 Kelly P Barnes
    March 11, 2012

    @anon of course you’re right about about bogus bullshit. Everybody knows that Science should have nothing to do with cosmological allegory, faith, fear, council, and things we don’t understand.

    Science is about knowing that some day those things will be ground to dust, and humanity will at last stand as one and build a future that is as cold as it is functional.

    I can’t wait!

    …I wonder if we’ll have music there…

  23. #23 Benjamin Raucher
    March 11, 2012

    I wonder if the universe is comprehensible

    Benjamin Raucher

  24. #24 Jon Runge
    March 12, 2012

    Ethan does a first rate job of presenting the current scientific worldview, but here he is inadvertently presenting an argument for what might be called “intelligent design”. E.g., see the post by Radar above. The universe at all levels is not intellectually chaotic and meaningless because it was created (and is continuously being created) by an eternal infinitely intelligent and absolutely logical set of minds. That would be the Father, the Son, and the Spirit of (eternal infinite) truth in Christianity. Referring to an intellectually chaotic, irrational universe without cause and effect or consequences (including moral/spiritual ones), Ethan says, “A Universe like this would truly be frightening, because it could never be understood. The things you learn here and now might not be true later, or even five feet away.” This represents the lunatic state of mind in hell, where it is impossible to think rationally about anything because there is no lasting truth or intelligence, where nothing makes sense because man’s finite anti Trinitarian mathematical logic and paradoxical understanding of truth does not work in the infinite and eternal state, where there are lasting terrifying consequences for rejecting cause and effect or rationality, and where God is nowhere present in the eternal solitary confinement and torment of the lost. In this post Ethan is reflecting the awe and wonder that many Christians experience in doing science and in thinking about the physics of the universe. By the way, for readers who never post to this site, Ethan has made this very easy and user friendly.

  25. #25 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 12, 2012

    Sascha Vongehr: thank you! I read this misplaced sentimentality with the exact same frustration. I will choose the optimistic view – that starts with a bang intends a bridge between spiritual minds and science. I am not so optimistic about the likelihood of this kind of wholesale philosophical flip. Anyway, your observation that his is a circular argument, that laws are defined as those attributes that ARE universal, would also apply to a flippy-floppy universe (instead defined as the exact ways that flippy-floppy works). In fact, a universe that couldn’t be known is a universe that can never exist. Causality can’t be avoided. The real challange would be to describe a plausible universe that couldn’t be known. Try it. As a side exercise, take a stab at defining know-ability itself. But back to your point, the costs of misrepresentations of scientific thinking are profound, and I would argue, not worth the brand of easy resonance available for those who present science as a brand of spirituality.

  26. #26 greame
    March 12, 2012

    Ethan, I have no idea what these people are complaining about. I did not read this post AT ALL to be an argument for intelligent design, or God, or what have you. I also don’t think the red paint analogy is correct either. It seems to me they are the ones trying to push the intelligent design aspect to it.

    “It’s about as astounding as painting a wall in red paint and then be astounded it’s not green”

    This stinks to be like the watchmaker argument. The problem is that you ALREADY KNOW that a watch was designed by a person. Much as you ALREADY KNOW that red paint will turn a wall red when painted. Stick a pocket watch in front of a dolphin and do you think it’s immediate thoughts will be “God must have created the universe!” No, of course not. These are preconceptions that we take for granted.

    I fully enjoyed the post and agree. To me, what is so astounding is that how much we actually know. And this is it. That we know that the blue sky and the oceans and the Cheerios I had for breakfast are made of the same stuff, and act in the same way as, the furthest galaxies that we can see so far is amazing.

  27. #27 Sinisa Lazarek
    March 12, 2012

    “The Universe will unfold as it should. Logic is the beginning of Wisdom, not the end”. -Spock in Star Trek VI

  28. #28 Anonymous
    March 12, 2012

    Surprise: the Universe had a beginning. I doubt that is news to anyone on this blog however, it was a surprise to our community 100 years ago. Even Albert Einstein had trouble believing it – at First. But as soon as he was convinced, he concluded that if it had a beginning it had to have a beginner. From that he derived that the universe has a creator that existed before the universe did. That was a surprise!!!

    The hand of that creator at every level as you have pointed out yet it astounds me that people who pride themselves on being honest scientists reject a creator’s presence.

  29. #29 OKthen
    March 13, 2012

    @4 Sascha
    Yes, quite right. Ditto.

    Ethan
    Let me simply point to recent astronomical observations.

    Spatial variation in the fine-structure constant – new results from VLT/UVES
    by Julian A. King, etc Feb 19, 2012
    –From 8. Conclusion, “We find that the combination of both data sets yields a detection of spatial variation of alpha. That is, we observe variation in alpha across the sky and with an increasing amplitude at greater distances from Earth. There are several lines of argument which suggest that the dipolar effect observed may be real”
    –From 7.2 Implications, “If the fundamental constants vary throughout space, this has the potential to resolve this possible fine-tuning problem: the universe need not be globally fine-tuned for life. Instead, Earth may simply be located in a region of space where the constants are
    amenable to life.”

    So the constancy of physical laws everywhere is not settled even in observation (e.g. the value of the fine structure constant); in theory (e.g. string theory) it is even less settled.

  30. #30 Ethan Siegel
    March 13, 2012

    For those of you keeping up with whether the fundamental constants vary, I point you to this analysis done just last November:

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/11/are_the_fundamental_constants.php

    If you think the measurements — at the very limits of observation (see the error bars there) — are solid enough that they disfavor a Universe where the fundamental constants are truly constant, that’s your call. As a scientist, I disagree with you, but you are free to form your own conclusions.

    I don’t think the constancy of the fundamental constants is proven, but it is confirmed to an extraordinarily high degree. To at least a precision of better than 0.01%, all of the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the Universe. If you want to muck around in the error bars looking for imperfections, you’re welcome to do so, but that is not what the scientific community bases our conclusions on.

  31. #31 OKThen
    March 13, 2012

    Ethan
    I defer to you on the constancy of the fundamental constants. thanks for pointing me to your excellent November post. Actually, I thought my quotes might have come from the guy you pointed too. but now I see Not.

    Still Sascha’s @4 point is well taken.

    But overall my personal problem is your swooning; poetry is fine but it is not physics.
    Are the laws of physics the same
    – inside a proton?
    – inside a black hole?
    – for antimatter?
    – in a superfluid?
    – as on the surface of the Earth?
    Well first of all we haven’t tested the laws of physics in all of these environments. We don’t know because:
    — we can’t put instruments in a black hole
    — we have measured gravity to millimeter not to the radius of a proton
    — we only have little quantities of antimatter
    — our best physics can’t even predict phase changes like will one substance or another become superfluid

    If physics were a dead finished science with nothing new to be learned then we could say; yep it is all the same everywhere. But we don’t know so much; it’s a lot but its quite puny. We use crash test dummies to test automobiles; because we don’t know the laws of physics well enough to predict the results of a 5 mph collision. In my opinion the upcoming test of gravity on large quantities of antimatter will tell us something new. i.e. a new law or interpretation of general relativity will be needed to properly discuss antimatter and gravity.

  32. #32 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 13, 2012

    OKThen: Would you please be so kind to outline in clear language a robust (sufficient) explanation of your motivations? Of what you seek? Of the most fundamental foundation of your largest hopes? What fuels your interests? What is your personal utopia? Why, for instance, are you interested in the possibility that the laws of physics are not universally general?

  33. #33 God
    March 14, 2012

    Thanks, creatures.

    For a stimulating exchange illustrating why I alone rule.

    And to prove it, I shall, at the end of 2012, revoke all natural laws. So no scientific prediction will be possible, no regularity in phenomena can be observed, and nothing can exist. Except me, of course.

    Well, maybe I’ll do it at the end of 2013. Or else the Aztecs will have been right. The point is to make sure no one is right.

    Except me.

  34. #34 OKThen
    March 14, 2012

    @32 Randall

    My motivation is to focus upon the activity of physics (i.e new physics) not the monument of physics (i.e. established physics).

    wiki defines, “Natural law, or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis), is a system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal.” Thus “the law of nature” is a tautology that is true with or without any scientific knowledge.

    Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy states, “Science includes many principles at least once thought to be laws of nature: Newton’s law of gravitation, his three laws of motion, the ideal gas laws, Mendel’s laws, the laws of supply and demand, and so on. Other regularities important to science were not thought to have this status.”

    wiki continues, “Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature — both social and personal — and deduce binding rules of moral behavior.” Thus the term “law of nature” or “natural law” carry a lot of historical and prescientific baggage. Prescientific because of so many biased historical ideas that have been attributed to “laws of nature.”

    Ethan says,
    “The entire Universe,
    on all scales,
    in all places,
    and at all times,
    obeys the same fundamental laws of nature.”

    To me, Ethan’s statement confuses the universe as it is with our models of the universe as they are.

    Our models of the universe (e.g. big bang theory, general relativity, quantum mechanics) are imperfect; they are the current state of the science. Nature does not follow our models of the universe. Rather science observes where nature (the universe) deviates from our models. These deviations suggest new hypotheses to build more correct models.

    Our physics theories will always deviate from nature and always be incomplete; or else physics will be reduced to teaching and knitting.

  35. #35 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    Okthen: You didn’t answer my question. I didnt ask you to list your interests, I asked you to expose your hubris. That is, I asked you to explain why these are your interests. I asked you to expose why it matters to you that physical law not be universally consistant. It is more than obvious that you are emotionally invested in a mom-consistant universe. I am asking how this world view serves your greater interests? What is it about the brand of future that you wish for that is best served by a mon-consistant universe?

  36. #36 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    Okthen: (without iphone typos) You didn’t answer my question. I didnt ask you to list your interests, I asked you to expose your hubris. That is, I asked you to explain why these are your interests. I asked you to expose why it matters to you that physical law not be universally consistant. It is more than obvious that you are emotionally invested in a non-consistant universe. I am asking how this world view serves your greater interests? What is it about the brand of future that you wish for that is best served by a non-consistant universe?

  37. #37 CB
    March 14, 2012

    I’m disappointed at people’s lack of imagination or awareness of their own assumptions. Even to the point of assuming consistency and causality to say consistency and causality are required.

    Not that these are *bad* assumptions — I’m pretty damn comfortable with them actually, and certainly not about to abandon them on a whim. The point is they are still assumptions that may only appear to hold in circumstances we are used to (like the assumption of the constancy of time for all reference frames and the Euclidean nature of space), and that’s what Ethan is asking you to consider:

    If the physical constants are not constant but vary over space-time according to some function then that function is the “law” that we would hope to eventually discover. But what if it *doesn’t* vary that way? What if there is no underlying function that explains why the fine structure constant is different? What if the “laws” of the universe are truly local in nature? And how fortunate is it if that turns out not to be true, and we can make sense of not just our region of space but the entire universe?

    Right now, in an alternate reality, someone is arguing that the Anthropic Principle makes it obvious that physical laws vary randomly across the universe, otherwise the set of laws that make our existence possible would never have come into being and we wouldn’t be here to wonder why the universe was so weird.

  38. #38 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    CB: You too must come clean, must expose your hubris. Like many who lurk anominously in venues like these, you speak of physics and science, but your interests are motivated by decidedly non-scientistific goals. So I entreat you here and now to come clean. To stand up honestly and declaring your position and the goals that fuel your interests. What is it about a non-causal, non-consistant universe. I notice that most of you hide behind anonymous aliases and virtual avatars. You obsess on, and exaggerate the fringe logical edges of philosophical inconsistancies. You never make publically expose your motivations, and choose instead to act as intellectual terrorists, not even brave or courageous or honest enough to fight proactively for your own truths, or to put your face to your own ideas and goals. So here is your chance to come clean. Here is your forum. We await your grand thesis. Your honest biograph explaining the world view that fuels your motivations. Your utopia explained.

  39. #39 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    CB, OKThen, others: (again, without iPhone introduced text hinting errors) You too must come clean, must expose your hubris. Like many who lurk anominously in venues like these, you speak of physics and science, but your interests are motivated by decidedly non-scientistific goals. So I entreat you here and now to come clean. To stand up honestly and declare your position and the goals that fuel your interests. What is it about a non-causal, non-consistant universe that so entrances and seduces you? I notice that many with similar half-hidden anti-science motivations hide behind anonymous aliases and virtual avatars. You seem universally obsessed with, and exaggerate the fringes of philosophical and logical rhetorical arguments that don’t actually map to empirical measurement or to empirically consistent theory. You never seem to publically expose your motivations, and choose instead to act as intellectual terrorists, trying constantly to attack the intellectual authority that measurement insures, and do are brave or courageous or honest enough to expose or fight proactively for your own truths, or to put your face to your own ideas and goals. So here is your chance to come clean. Here is your forum. We await your grand thesis. Your honest biograph explaining the world view that fuels your motivations. Your utopia explained.

  40. #40 Wow
    March 14, 2012

    “but your interests are motivated by decidedly non-scientistific goals”

    And evidence of this would be where, exactly? In your head?

    “What is it about a non-causal, non-consistant universe.”

    What is it about that?

  41. #41 Wow
    March 14, 2012

    “The hand of that creator at every level”

    Nope. No hand has ever been necessary.

    Sorry.

  42. #42 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    Anyone here care to tell me why you refuse to your real name? Why the alias? Why the hiding? Why the anonymity? Is there some secret and malevolent “them” that I too should be afraid of and hide from?

  43. #43 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    Ethan,

    May I ask why you approve and post the comments made by “people” unwilling to bind their opinions to their actual identity?

    Thanks,

    Randall Lee Reetz

  44. #44 Wow
    March 14, 2012

    Are you unable to explain why it matters?

    Or are you just desperately trying to avoid any questions you can’t answer? See post 39.

    Why, in short, are you here at all?

  45. #45 CB
    March 14, 2012

    @ Randall

    My motivation is nothing more than to get people like you to understand Ethan’s point — that while what we observe is a universe that appears to follow consistent rules, *this was not necessarily the case* and it could have been that when we looked out at the heavens we saw a universe that was mostly incomprehensible.

    Even today it’s hypothetically possible that the assumptions of consistency or causality could be wrong — like Ethan, while open to the idea I find no compelling evidence that this is so nor any particular reason to think it might be against all evidence.

    However realizing what assumptions you are making, and recognizing they may be wrong, is an indubitably scientific pursuit. Newton was smart enough to recognize the seemingly obvious assumptions he was making, and even recognize they might be wrong and only *appear* correct under conditions he was familiar with. Anyone claiming to be motivated by science must engage in this exercise.

    You’re not. Instead you’re making even *more* assumptions about what must be without even recognizing them as such. Not to mention making a bunch of assumptions about me that can only be based on a complete failure to read what I actually wrote, instead replacing it with your pre-conceived ideas amenable to your copy-posting which, surprise, turns out to be completely wrong.

    There is no need to expose your hubris. You’re already putting it on display like a randy peacock.

  46. #46 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    CB et (anonymous) al:

    Still, you refuse to expose your true identity. Your actual hubris. The fuel motivating your interests. The utopia you seek. I have a hard time believing that Ethan (who does attach his own actual face and full identity to his words) would agree with or choose to align himself with the intent or content of your posts. You continue to hide your rhetoric and hubris. But you are correct about one thing, I do expose mine. I do so because we each have our own hubris. There is no escaping it. It is imperative therefore that we expose it, all of it, for all to see. Doing so is the only way to present our ideas and opinions such that others can asses and judge them in the full context of our intent and all that our intent implies. Hide nothing! It is our responsibility should we actually care to engage in an honest and productive exchange of information. Science is the one human pursuit that demonstrably and proactively lives by this process of filtering hubris from measurement.

    Please take the time to explain to all of us how complexity sufficient to think could evolve or come to be in a universe devoid of causal consistency.

  47. #47 OKThen
    March 14, 2012

    @35 Randall

    I did answer your question.

    Perhaps you had a bad experience with a clown as a child.

  48. #48 CB
    March 14, 2012

    @ OKThen

    “To me, Ethan’s statement confuses the universe as it is with our models of the universe as they are.”

    It only seems to do that. If you understand his usage of “fundamental laws of nature” to mean the *real* rules by which the universe operates and which physics is trying to find and model (rather than taking it to mean the current models we use), then his statement should make sense.

    Of course it is possible that his statement is still incorrect and that there is no “fundamental law” — but so far this is not how the universe appears to work. It appears as though whatever the rules really are they apply everywhere. It could have been that this was obviously *not* the case, in which case even our current understanding of the universe would have eluded us.

    That’s Ethan’s point.

  49. #49 Sinisa Lazarek
    March 14, 2012

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but seems that the main topic of the comments here is an age old polarisation between the deterministic vs. probabilistic Universe. Dare I say even stochastic.

    I can understand the deterministic side being a majority because so far, everything seems to point in that direction. After all, during a course of our scientific probing as a species nothing in the “laws” ever changed. Nothing drastic anyway. Certainly not the constants.

    But on the other hand, the sub-atomic Universe is not so deterministic. It’s probabilistic. The electron exists in all possible states around the nucleus. It’s probabilistic in nature. So if take the quantum world as probabilistic then surely the Universe that arises from it is probabilistic also. Or is it? If we say that “many worlds” model is correct, then yes, we can have a deterministic Universe. But we have no proof of them, so it can’t be taken as a science fact. Also there is another way to reconcile this, and that is to say that the wave function which comes as a solution in quantum mechanics is the real representation of reality. I find that hard to swallow, but that doesn’t mean it might not be the truth in fact.

    Everyone is entitled to their own view. What I find hard to understand is why would the view of someone else “endanger” or insult your own view. Why the need to provoke other people in this blog and downplay their values. That has nothing to do with science or physics or anything else. It’s cheap, it’s dirty and it’s genuinely not polite.

  50. #50 OKThen
    March 14, 2012

    @47 CB

    You have drifted into metaphysics and poetry of physics. Which is OK.

    The laws of physics (as conceived by and known by humans) are pretty good for human purposes; but far from Platonic ideals or other ideals including your ideal of “the ‘real’ rules by which the universe operates”. Physics may be motivated by metaphysics, ideals, aesthetics, etc.

    The relationships of the real universe are overwhelmingly unknown to humans physicists and will always be so. Thus there is plenty of room for various metaphysical speculations. I mostly choose to focus upon the physics hypotheses (e.g. from big bang to eternal inflation to m-theory).

    Whether the universe is reductionist or emergent, rational or irrational(in the sense of irrational numbers) is in my mind metaphysical speculation. For sure such metaphysics motivates much science; but such metaphysics is not part of science of physics; it is part of the art of physics.

  51. #51 CB
    March 14, 2012

    @ Sinisa Lazarek

    No, I don’t think so. I might have missed the person arguing for (or against) a probabilistic universe but… It’s more uniformitarian vs non-. Probabilistic phenomenon can still follow rules — and in quantum mechanics, they do. And as far as we can tell these rules are the same everywhere.

  52. #52 CB
    March 14, 2012

    @ Randall

    “I have a hard time believing that Ethan (who does attach his own actual face and full identity to his words) would agree with or choose to align himself with the intent or content of your posts. ”

    I do not believe you understand the intent or content of my posts at all, and have replaced what I actually say with whatever you want to be a foil for your own beliefs.

    Do you really think Ethan would disagree with my statement that the consistency assumption *could* be wrong, but according to all our evidence so far it is correct and thus safe to keep assuming?

    Or my statement that the universe we are in appears to be consistent but that this wasn’t necessarily the way it had to be — even though he explicitly says exactly that at the start of his post?

    I readily admit I don’t understand half of what you just posted. “The utopia you seek” — what? What are you talking about? Are you assuming that my posts are predicated on *wanting* some particular outcome, that I’m reverse engineering my way from what I want the universe to be to arguing that this is what it is? Well if that’s the case thank you for explaining how you think but for me you’re way off the mark.

    I am a huge fan of causality and consistency. Consistency for all the reasons Ethan talks about, and causality because holy crap would a universe where causality doesn’t always hold be weird! I can’t even fathom how such a thing would work.

    Yet because I’m honest, I have to admit that it’s still just an assumption. And good, seemingly safe assumptions that were they wrong would mean the universe was a very weird place have indeed been shown to be wrong, and indeed the universe was found to be very weird to human conception.

    But, once again, I’m not in any way ready to abandon our causality assumption. I can’t make any sense out of your post unless you for some reason think I am despite explicitly saying I’m not.

    As far as how it’s conceivable that these assumptions might not hold and yet humanity still exist, that’s easy: causality and consistency appear to hold over conditions and/or regions of space-time large enough to contain the evolution of life on earth.

    I more interested in your proof that life could not exist *unless* causality held universally with no exceptions. This would be no mean feat, and a great relief to those of us who like causality and would rather not just *assume* it to be true. Sounds more like an assumption you’re making for some reason… a reason you haven’t explained. You’re demanding openness of our nefarious, unstated motivation but providing none yourself! The only only hubris you’ve exposed is that you do, indeed, have much hubris.

    On that note, I don’t know why you’re so fixated on real identities. Knowing your alleged identity hasn’t added anything to this conversation. It doesn’t explain why you make the assumptions you do. It doesn’t explain why you think anyone who acknowledges that our assumptions might not be true *wants* those assumptions to not be true (despite saying the opposite).

    Argue your point with your words. Who you are means nothing to me. That what you say is baseless assumption and fluff tells me far more than a name and a link.

  53. #53 Hannes
    March 14, 2012

    Science is only based on local assumptions.
    In astronomy this is often forgotten.

    All observable (WMAP) events about the microwave background radiation is from not previously observed events, because it is not possible to observe the same photon twice (locally). This is confirmed by quantum mechanics.

    We cannot look back into our own history. It is a law in this visible universe.

    So every object emitting that observed microwave background radiation cannot be a part of our VISIBLE universe.

    There is no way to be sure about all the “laws” in this entire universe. They are predictions based on reasonable assumptions, also based themselves on (local) abstractions, distillated from empirical knowledge as Sascha Vongehr already mentioned.

  54. #54 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    CB, OKThen, et (anonymous) al:

    Still, you refuse to expose your true identity. Your actual hubris. The fuel motivating your interests. The utopia you seek. I have a hard time believing that Ethan (who does attach his own actual face and full identity to his words) would agree with or choose to align himself with the intent or content of your posts. You continue to hide your rhetoric and hubris. But you are correct about one thing, I do expose mine. I do so because we each have our own hubris. There is no escaping it. It is imperative therefore that we expose it, all of it, for all to see. Doing so is the only way to present our ideas and opinions such that others can asses and judge them in the full context of our intent and all that our intent implies. Hide nothing! It is our responsibility should we actually care to engage in an honest and productive exchange of information. Science is the one human pursuit that demonstrably and proactively lives by this process of filtering hubris from measurement.

    Please take the time to explain to all of us how the complexity sufficient to think could evolve or come to be in a universe devoid of causal consistency.

    Then, tell us all exactly why a causally inconsistent universe is so attractive to you. When EVERY measurement ever taken points to causal consistency, the very act of denial is more than just a little bit awkward. The word “tantrum” comes to mind. Please explain how an inconsistent universe gives you the philosophical food you need to sustain your hubris. Lets say for instance, a person wakes up and thinks, my god I really hate how restrictive causality is, I could really get some great stuff done if I could travel forward or backward in time, if I could be in two or three or three thousand places at once, I would have some real fun if I could walk through lead and know everyone’s thoughts and live a thousand lives and if everyone would just know how damned smart I am and how special I am and I could think things into existence and maybe even out of existence and understand that I was Gingis Kahn and King Arthur and a great Viking warrior and my spirit was present at the moment of the Big Bang, etc. etc. etc. Obviously, all of these dreams will have to remain dreams and nothing more should the universe be causally consistent. Right?

  55. #55 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 14, 2012

    My “fixation” on real identities? A person faking or hiding identity can lie all they want – who can check? A person who fakes or hides their identity can act one way in one situation and another way in other situations, they can say one thing or assume one role here and another somewhere else. Fakers take unfair advantage by controlling the outcome of negotiations by withholding crucial information, by using one “self” against other “selfs” in false conflicts to falsely shape the experience of those not aware of the charade they are experiencing.

    And that is just a sampling why falseness of any kind is harmful, disconcerting, unfair, manipulative, causes people to have to react as competitors, causes people to act as though they were in battle, causes an erosion of the trust that is the foundation of any interaction or communication, causes a crumbling of the social expectations upon which relationships are built… need I go on?

    Why do you hide? What do you have to hide? Who are you hiding from? Is there some moral code that supports such behavior? Did I miss the memo?

    Tell me your hubris. Expose your motivations. Do so in the light of day. Pin your identity to your opinions.

    There has never been a single moment in the history of science when a previous measurement has been shown to be false as a result of a later measurement. Why? Because you can’t change the past. One might, over time, establish a more informative theoretical base. One may, over time, develop more sensitive tools of measurement. But none of these improvements will ever in any way erase or alter anything that has been measured in the past. Any new theory or rubric must always and in every situation, support and agree with every measurement ever made. You can’t revise the past. And why is this true? Because the universe is self and causally consistent. No construct could ever evolve into existence unless its universe is causally consistent. Constructs, complexity, are attributes of stability. An entity in an inconsistent universe would react to new laws in a much more violent way than matter/anti-matter meetings. Do you see these violent rips in the fabric of space or time? Do you see evidence of such rips in the past? Why am I even having this conversation with you? Words themselves would convey no communication should causality not preserve the consistency of their meaning through the time and space that separates to cyphers sharing signals. Evolution could not happen. Evolution is the steady betterment of the localization of processable abstractions of reality.

  56. #56 CB
    March 15, 2012

    @ the alleged Randal Lee Reetz

    A wonderful example of your content-less copy-pasta, but still you completely misunderstand everything that has been said. I’m not a fan of an a-causal universe. Obviously neither are you. But unlike you, I’m not blind to my own assumptions. Or try to be; it takes deliberate effort. It requires, to some extent, a LACK of hubris. Recognition that just because something is comfortable and “common sense” doesn’t make it so. Maybe you could take your own advice and explain why you make the assumptions you do and maybe the conversation could advance along with yourself.

    Anyway, thanks for showing why one should never assume someone’s claimed identity on the Internet is true, lest we slander a real person through association with drivel like your posts.

  57. #57 Wow
    March 15, 2012

    “So every object emitting that observed microwave background radiation cannot be a part of our VISIBLE universe.”

    Since that microwave is “visible”, it most definitely came from our VISIBLE universe.

    The microwave background we will receive tomorrow will have some photons from a piece of the universe that is CURRENTLY not in our visible universe but will, by then be in our visible universe.

    “They are predictions based on reasonable assumptions”

    One of the most reasonable being “why is our place so special it gets a completely unique set of physical laws?”.

    Add to that the spectral lines of stars and excited gas clouds give evidence that the fine structure constant (a measure of many different elements of our physical laws) is the same.

    Given the myriad ways in which those physical laws COULD change if they were different in different places, the chances of them all converging to the same fine structure constant anyway are, appropriately enough, astronomical.

  58. #58 Wow
    March 15, 2012

    “But on the other hand, the sub-atomic Universe is not so deterministic.”

    Neither is the N-body problem.

    Yet we still manage to determine when the sun will rise on any given day in this N-body solar system.

    A statistically random dice roll can be determined, even though each dice roll is, by definition, a priori indeterminate.

    There are many things you could NOT determine if things were NOT random.

    The dimorphism you see doesn’t exist, it’s a shibboleth of 19th Century (and earlier) thinking.

    You want to see those things you see as determinate as not being a result of the random result, but that deterministic result is the result of the confluence of an astounding number of indeterminate factors that preclude very quickly any outliers from that you see as the determined outcome.

  59. #59 OKThen
    March 15, 2012

    @54 Randall

    Ethan allows annonymous comments, because he respects individuals’ rights to privacy or not.

    Knowing your full name is not a particularly useful piece of information; it is hubris to think that it is. Known politicians may be evasive and dishonest; while anonymous tipsters may open, honest and reputable.

    You say, “Hide nothing!”
    Well then,
    — Why are you so afraid of anonymity? or
    — Do you really have no secrets?
    — What is your darkest secret?
    We don’t need to know; we all need secrets. Trust is earned; full disclosure is unwise for many reasons. Why did Darwin keep his theories secret for so long? Why did Voltaire choose a psuedonym?

  60. #60 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 15, 2012

    I have never used an alias or hidden my true identity. I believe that the anonymity the Internet currently permits has led to the sort of mean spirited exchange and dishonesty we have witnessed here. It perpetuates the myth that am evil them is to be feared when in fact the evil them is us acting behind the scrim of anonymity.

  61. #61 NJ
    March 15, 2012

    RLR@59:

    …the sort of mean spirited exchange…

    Where ‘mean spirited exchange’ = ‘challenging me to adequately support my position’.

    Ooops! Terribly mean-spirited there, chap, wot?

  62. #62 OKThen
    March 15, 2012

    @59 Randall

    Anonymity may promote mean spirited exchange; but it also may assure needed privacy.

    Who we are, mean spirited or honest, is very hard to hide face to face or anonymous. Our friends, our teenage children are not fooled by our hypocrisy.

    I suspect that anonymity amplifies integrity.
    If we are mean spirited face to face; we are more so anonymous.
    If we are honest face to face; we are more so anonymous.

    A stranger and I on an airplane had a religious discussion once. At the end of the discussion, I said, “I know atheist physicists who would be comfortable with your definition of god.” He said, “I know.” I ask, “Do your wife and family, your friend and members of your Baptist Church know what you believe about god?” He said, “No, they wouldn’t understand.” I asked, “Would you ever leave your church?” He said, “No. It’s my life, my community. I couldn’t bear to lose it.” I agreed.

    I left the Catholic Church many years ago; it was very hard. It took me years to adjust. My Catholic religion teacher, a Brother, taught me one heretical thing. He said, “I believe in Catholicism and have dedicated my whole life to it; if you don’t believe in it, find out what you believe in and live according to that.” The parents at that Catholic High School could not tolerate such heretical teaching; the Brother was sent to Catholic College. Though a know atheist in my senior year; the Brother gave me an award as the schools most outstanding theology student.

    Be well Randall.

  63. #63 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 15, 2012

    You mention Darwin and Voltaire as examples of the need for anonymity? The implication? That you live in fear of the church? Of autocratic and systematic suppression of reason? You wake up shaking in fear because your rights are so threatened? Your liberties so at risk? You must hide the power of your truths because people are unprepared for the full impact of your genius? What you know will shock civilization to its knees? What you know is a genie to fantastic and powerful to be let out of her bottle? What you know could get into the wrong hands and be used to enslave all of human kind? What you know is so valuable that many many people would steal it as their own? The trilateral commission and the catholic church and the CIA and the Masons would swoop down and erase your existance and sequester your ideas in the same room where 9/11 was planned and where the ark and chalice are stored? The petty emotions that are the impulse actually fueling the desire for anonymity can’t stand up to rational examination, so monsters are invented to justify the nessisary paranoia. None of us like the social embarasmemt that comes with speaking our authentic thoughts. Some of us do it anyway. We assume the risk anyway. We believe that it is our responcibility to others to stand up for honesty even should it come with some risk. I don’t know what motivated Darwin to wait so long. His grandfather conceived of or gave voice to most of his theory. From what I have read, Darwin’s hesitance was a matter of social insecurity and the actual difficulty of constructing a robust explanation for a general and scientific audience. Voltaire lived at a time when his individualistic ideas were very much a death sentence to anyone who would voice them. It is a wonder that he wasn’t killed a hundred times by the royalty and aristocracy and pomposity he lambasted. But today? The buggaboo you construct doesn’t exist but as invented in the service for your own fear of embarasmemt, or as justification for lopsided social advantage you practice.

  64. #64 Wow
    March 15, 2012

    “I have never used an alias or hidden my true identity.”

    Thing is, we don’t care what your true identity is.

    1) You’re actions are completely banal and vindictive

    2) Your demands assinine

    3) Your arguments nonexistent in basis

    4) You’re a nobody

    We really. Don’t. Care. You have the anonymity of the pointless troll.

  65. #65 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 15, 2012

    My “fixation” on real identities? A person faking or hiding identity can lie all they want – who can check? A person who fakes or hides their identity can act one way in one situation and another way in other situations, they can say one thing or assume one role here and another somewhere else. Fakers take unfair advantage by controlling the outcome of negotiations by withholding crucial information, by using one “self” against other “selfs” in false conflicts to falsely shape the experience of those not aware of the charade they are experiencing.

    And that is just a sampling why falseness of any kind is harmful, disconcerting, unfair, manipulative, causes people to have to react as competitors, causes people to act as though they were in battle, causes an erosion of the trust that is the foundation of any interaction or communication, causes a crumbling of the social expectations upon which relationships are built… need I go on?

    Why do you hide? What do you have to hide? Who are you hiding from? Is there some moral code that supports such behavior? Did I miss the memo?

    Tell me your hubris. Expose your motivations. Do so in the light of day. Pin your identity to your opinions.

    There has never been a single moment in the history of science when a previous measurement has been shown to be false as a result of a later measurement. Why? Because you can’t change the past. One might, over time, establish a more informative theoretical base. One may, over time, develop more sensitive tools of measurement. But none of these improvements will ever in any way erase or alter anything that has been measured in the past. Any new theory or rubric must always and in every situation, support and agree with every measurement ever made. You can’t revise the past. And why is this true? Because the universe is self and causally consistent. No construct could ever evolve into existence unless its universe is causally consistent. Constructs, complexity, are attributes of stability. An entity in an inconsistent universe would react to new laws in a much more violent way than matter/anti-matter meetings. Do you see these violent rips in the fabric of space or time? Do you see evidence of such rips in the past? Why am I even having this conversation with you? Words themselves would convey no communication should causality not preserve the consistency of their meaning through the time and space that separates to cyphers sharing signals. Evolution could not happen. Evolution is the steady betterment of the localization of processable abstractions of reality.

  66. #66 Sinisa Lazarek
    March 15, 2012

    @58 Wow

    “The dimorphism you see doesn’t exist, it’s a shibboleth of 19th Century (and earlier) thinking….”

    Sorry man, but again you put words in my mouth which I have no said or meant. I only said that it seems to me that people here are debating 2 opposing views of the Universe. And I put examples of both. I don’t understand why you believe that I’m a proponent of the probabilistic universe. I’m not. If my post seemed that way, am sorry.

    As for random dice roll and statistics… let’s not go there as a way of proving determinism. On paper yes, it works.. sort of. But go to Vegas and put some solid money on dice rolls and it won’t be so elegant ;)

  67. #67 Randall Lee Reetz
    March 15, 2012

    The postmodern critical lens is a non-starter. As has been mentioned here, it sets up a duality that never existed. The supposed deterministic/non-deterministic split in world views either never existed, least not as mapped to the duality of the science/non-science communities. Furthermore, the very word “determinism”, suggests prior knowledge, or a clockwork universe in which some sort of perfect ideal proceeded every later action or configuration.

    The real chasm in scientific thinking is born of a rift in the hubris that fuels the various motivations that drive an interest in science as a vocation or avocation. There are a few science interested individuals who’s only interest is in the establishment of an ever more accurate and processable abstraction of the salient aspects of the universe, of the causal end of its influence hierarchy. To these few, the truth matters more than any benefit that might arise from knowing the truth or from avoiding the truth or from manipulating the part of the truth that will grant them more access to resources or control. Which brings me to the other group. Those who’s interest in science is calculated to support their own self or human-centric needs and or alleviate their fears. From the looks of it, the second group is the far more populous group.

    When a survey was conducted of top-tier astro-physicists, theoretical physicists, and cosmologists, who were challenged to come up with the one question they would ask Einstein should they be granted his audience, almost to a person they reported that they would ask him how it was that he acquired the bravery, the balls as it were, to challenge convention to the degree that he, through the general theory of relativity. And why are so many people, so many top level scientists, astounded by bravery more than they are astounded by creative genius? The bravery that they honor, is the bravery to stand up to convention, which means the bravery to stand up to people, to stand up to their peers, to stand up against social review. This, it must be assumed, is an even greater fear than the fear that one wouldn’t posses the cognitive chops necessary for the creation of fundamentally superior theory.

    I veer from my point to tell this story, not to magnify the already rabid interest in genius and its causes, but to show how susceptible even the best scientists are to social appraisal.

    This all too human fear of standing-out (it can’t be defined more simply) strikes at the heart of and defines the proclivities that motivate all human behavior. Even scientists, the men an woman who toil directly under the special-built rhetorical protection of the “scientific method” act as though they are just as exposed, just as fearful of the very sensory warping the method was built to protect against.

    And because this fear is native and can be easily identified as instinctual, each of us can be sure that others are just as fearful and the less scrupulous among us can use this knowledge of the frailties of the human mind to manipulate and exert pressure on others. At the very least, we can be sure that most people will support us should we need to take refuge behind its perfect commonality.

    It is easy therefor, for people, even scientist people, to fall back on this fear of otherness, to expect unanimity of response, when we choose away from truth and towards that subset of truths that support common human-centric or self-centric agendas. And its is therefor difficult on the other hand, to go it alone, to pursue ideas (right or wrong) that go against convention or are communicated outside of communication expectations.

    Further compounding this problem is the fact that there so many ways to be dead wrong scientifically and dead correct socially. There will always be 99 people who are willing to go along with their internal need to believe in an after-life myth for every 1 person willing to go against that same internally generated need.

    The ways in which these emotionally-seeded existential needs are made manifest in otherwise science-interested people are many and varied. This is why I pound on the issue of motivation, of hubris, of the deepest and most self and human and bio and locality centric and the elaborate rhetoric that grows from this fecund bed of nutrients.

    Such hubris, the common existential hubris, the hubris born of billions of years of the survival filter, the hubris that precipitates up from a need to put self first, to say “Hell yes I matter more than you!” and “Hell yes, the cognitive structures that allow me to take advantage over you no matter how much more accurate or causal is some other argument or evidence… it is easy fodder from which to cultivate any manner of manipulation and control, and from which to build justification of almost any form of tyranny.

    Social fear is THE fear to exploit should one want to manipulate others. The second most effective fear is the fear of the unknown, the fear of death, the fear of not understanding the self, the fear of not being special, the fear of limitations and inadequacies. The most effective manipulators become masters of predicting the fears of others by paying attention to (obsessing on) their own fears.

    That scientists are so susceptible to the same fears, the same manipulation (and capacity to manipulate), the same obsession with self and limits to self, well it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Such fears and existential motivators are born of the old brain, the brain stem. They are born of a part of the brain that can’t and will never speak the language of reason. No amount of cajoling or elaborate lecturing or power-pointing will ever have any effect upon the source of our fears and our instinct to support community and our own inclusion. The best a scientist can do is accept this division of labor, accept it and seek means of minimizing its deleterious influence.

    As for me, my method is a “Give to Cesar what is Cesar’s” divide and conquer, feed the lion to keep it from eating me approach. And I have trained myself to accept the consequences of social remove. I have become used to and less morbidly fearful of the actual result of social control. I have stood in the storm of social manipulation, in the quiet of isolation, and guess what, I am still very much alive! The pain lessons. The fear subsides. And I have learned to enjoy in its stead, a sense of pride in having overcome much of what makes most people slave to (unwitting slave to) social exclusion and existential fear.

    I have replaced the “What happens when I die” fear with an equivalently strong(?), “What will my efforts mean when I am gone” fear.

    The same fear center, well fed, is hopefully less damaging to and warping of my pursuit of a more and more accurate map of reality. Not my reality, not humanity’s reality, not biology’s reality – but reality itself.

    The scientific method advocates the same remove from subjectivity. But only, it would seem, in the practice of the work of doing science. I don’t think the scientific method reaches deep enough into the machinery that is the person who is doing the science. So I advocate peer review at the reaches of self. We as scientists and science interested people must demand review of motivation, of hubris, of the ways in which fear and need warp interest and point of view.

  68. #68 Wow
    March 16, 2012

    “Sorry man, but again you put words in my mouth”

    Nope, I didn’t put any words in your mouth. I quoted you and then showed you what they mean.

    “I only said that it seems to me that people here are debating 2 opposing views of the Universe.”

    Aye, and there you go, admitting the same thing over again.

    “IT SEEMS TO ME”

    Did you read that bit?

    Now, that seeming is a shibboleth. It doesn’t exist. YOU made it up to compartmentalise and simplify the situation, but have therefore simplified it beyond the point of applicability.

    It isn’t being debated as “two views of the universe” either. Determinism and Indeterminism were dropped when Chaos theory was applied when you could PROVE that there are things deterministic about a nondeterministic system.

    And, as an extra error on your part, YOU are the only one arguing about two different views of a universe in that manner.

    This dimorphism is solely in your head, and typing it on here doesn’t make it everyone else’s fault.

  69. #69 Wow
    March 16, 2012

    “My “fixation” on real identities?”

    Yes.

    Apparently not even you can be bothered reading what you write.

    “A person faking or hiding identity can lie all they want – who can check?”

    So, since I’m anonymous, I can tell you that there are four sides to a triangle and you are COMPLETELY UNABLE to check whether my geometry lesson is correct???

  70. #70 Wow
    March 16, 2012

    “The real chasm in scientific thinking is born of a rift in the hubris”

    Hyou keep using-a dhat word. I do not think it-a mean what you think it-a mean.

  71. #71 Sinisa Lazarek
    March 16, 2012

    @68

    Ok, fair enough. Then please explain, because I guess, I got it wrong. But some here are on the side that laws of physics are constant and unchangable in all the universe from start to end, and some believe that some aspects of the above might not be so?

    No? if not, then what what’s the arugment about in the last 30 or so posts :) I don’t understand.

    .. not counting the hubris :D

  72. #72 Hannes
    March 16, 2012

    GRB 090423 is the most distant observable object in space at z=8.2 .

    There is no other object visible further away.

    The process of baryogenesis started at z~1100.
    The CMB radiation is believed to originate from this event.

    We cannot look that far although we can measure the microwave radiation at ultralow temperatures.

    All the observable (visibly with a telescope) baryonic matter is not part of this measured radiation.

    All the atoms of our own body cannot be a part of this CMB radiation.

    We can only observe the radiation from other, currently not visible baryonic matter.

    In an expanding universe we will never see ANY of the baryonic matter causing the radiation VISIBLY with a telescope.

    Hard to understand, for some.

  73. #73 CB
    March 22, 2012

    @ Sinisa Lazarek

    Yes that’s the basic idea, but that’s not determinism vs non-. Non-deterministic systems still follow rules that govern how likely any given outcome is.

  74. #74 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “But some here are on the side that laws of physics are constant and unchangable in all the universe from start to end”

    Care to point out where this happens in this thread?

  75. #75 ravi negi
    india
    October 25, 2012

    laws are evolved due to observation, everybody observe thing in differents ways and come to a conclusion which defines some law. So basically the universe is different for different- different observer

  76. #76 Alejandro Ochoa
    October 29, 2012

    i got twowords for all the skeptics here… schrodinger’s cat

  77. #77 Wow
    October 30, 2012

    ravi, nobody’s seen someone drop a rock and it falls upwards.

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