By now I should be flying in to Paris to meetup with some old friends. Tomorrow I’ll be giving a talk at the Universite Pierre & Marie Curie entitled: The Signal Sequence Coding Region: promoting nuclear export of mRNA, and ER targeting of translated protein. Here is a post from a year ago. At the time I was visiting Edgar who was then living in New York …
After the death of my computer I decided to take the Chinatown express (15$ buys you a ticket from Boston to Chinatown NYC) and visit some old friends. Last night, what we call the Portuguese Mafia (aka the Federation of Portuguese Scientists living in New York) came over for drinks (and it’s was Claudia’s 30th).
With my veins acquiring the right level of Alcohol I asked several individuals the question. “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”
Here is what Edgar told me:
Reproducibility. “When I wake tomorrow morning and jump, I will fall back towards the ground.” We take the laws of Nature for granted and yet we cannot prove that they will not change. We assume that the mechanisms that dictate events are static, as far as we can tell they have always been and we assume that they always will be. But you can’t really know for sure.
And I think I have come up my answer too:
I believe that there are certain principles that are fundamental truths. These principles transcend any possible universe and are thus independent of any material or energy. One of these principles is the rules of logic. No matter how you construct a universe, the rules of logic will always hold. A second principle, or universal truth, is the Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLOTD). This principle is trickier. At the basic quantum level it is true that many features of the SLOTD do not hold, but as one scales up to macromolecular level the SLOTD becomes inevitable. SLOTD informs the directionality of time and in a certain sense is the default setting for events in the absence of an organizing force.
To reverse the direction of time (or operate in reverse SLOTD mode), order would have to be injected into the universe at every point in time. But who or what would decide what the structure or design of this new order? Are all the molecules in the universe to come together in a perfect line, a giant intergalactic gnat, or an orchestra with each member having seven arms? And what would they play? Would the order generating entity be subjected to the SLOTD, if not then the orderer would have to be the subject of an even greater ordering force and then this higher ordering force, is it subject to the SLOTD?
Another problem with reversing SLOTD is that the universe then becomes unpredictable and not in the sense of Heisenberg, but as a whole (will the universe converge into a line, gnat or orchestra? or perhaps all three? – no way to objectively tell). This in fact would nullify Edgar’s belief.
Nullifying Edgar’s belief would compromise our ability to believe in anything. To reverse the SLOTD would create the ultimate uncertainty – a progressive increase in order would obliterate our ability to predict the future. And with this paradox I’ll end the post.