Cosmology Intelligent Design Mathematics Physics

Physicist: It’s not the answers we lack, it’s the question

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Calabi-Yao manifold

A number of different models can explain the universe, says Armani-Hamed, but how to choose:

It seems inconceivable that this intricate web of perfect mathematical descriptions is random or happenstance. This mystery must have an explanation. But what might such an explanation look like? One common conception of physics is that its laws are like a machine that humans are building in order to predict what will happen in the future. The “theory of everything” is like the ultimate prediction machine—a single equation from which everything follows. But this outlook ignores the existence of the many different machines, built in all manner of ingenious ways, that give us equivalent predictions. …

To Arkani-Hamed, the multifariousness of the laws suggests a different conception of what physics is all about. We’re not building a machine that calculates answers, he says; instead, we’re discovering questions. Nature’s shape-shifting laws seem to be the answer to an unknown mathematical question. This is why Arkani-Hamed and his colleagues find their studies of the amplituhedron so promising. Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron is a question in geometry—one that mathematicians might have pondered, had they discovered the object first. Somehow, the answer to the question of the amplituhedron’s volume describes the behavior of particles—and that answer, in turn, can be rewritten in terms of space and time. Natalie Wolchover, “A different kind of theory of everything” at The New Yorker

The amplituhedron? “a jewel-shaped geometric object that challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental constituents of nature.” More from the American Mathematical Society. Peter Woit’s take at Not Even Wrong is worth noting. He sees it as more hopeful than much string theory stuff. But Arkani-Hamed, it seems, says all kinds of things.

Rightly or otherwise, this all reminds some of us of Eugene Wigner’s The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

See also: The ongoing failure of supersymmetry


String theory defeated but never wrong

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3 Replies to “Physicist: It’s not the answers we lack, it’s the question

  1. 1
    EDTA says:

    How many errors are propped up by statements that start with “It seems inconceivable that…” ?

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    “It seems inconceivable that this intricate web of perfect mathematical descriptions is random or happenstance. This mystery must have an explanation. But what might such an explanation look like?”

    He is in very good company asking that particular question. Both Einstein and Wigner are on record as to regarding the correct explanation for the applicability of mathematics to the universe as a ‘miracle’:

    On the Rational Order of the World: a Letter to Maurice Solovine – Albert Einstein – March 30, 1952
    Excerpt: “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way .. the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if a man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles.”
    -Albert Einstein – Letter to Solovine

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.

    As to Arkani-Hamed’s reference to “perfect mathematical descriptions”, science has a long history of looking for ‘platonic perfection’ in the physical world and assuming the Mind of God to be behind that ‘platonic perfection’.

    “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”
    Galileo Galilei

    “Geometry is unique and eternal, a reflection from the mind of God. That mankind shares in it is because man is an image of God.”
    – Johannes Kepler

    Copernicus, (who was heavily influenced by Platonic thinking), imagined (incorrectly) that the planets move in perfect circles (rather than ellipses). Later, Newton, for allowing God could adjust the orbits of the planets, was chastised by Leibniz, (and Laplace) for having a “very narrow ideas about the wisdom and the power of God.”.. i.e. For having a narrow view of the perfection of God.

    It is important note that normally mathematical concepts do not have a precise instantiation in nature,,

    Naturalism and Self-Refutation – Michael Egnor – January 31, 2018
    Excerpt: Mathematics is certainly something we do. Is mathematics “included in the space-time continuum [with] basic elements … described by physics”? It seems a stretch. What is the physics behind the Pythagorean theorem? After all, no actual triangle is perfect, and thus no actual triangle in nature has sides such that the Pythagorean theorem holds. There is no real triangle in which the sum of the squares of the sides exactly equals the square of the hypotenuse. That holds true for all of geometry. Geometry is about concepts, not about anything in the natural world or about anything that can be described by physics. What is the “physics” of the fact that the area of a circle is pi multiplied by the square of the radius? And of course what is natural and physical about imaginary numbers, infinite series, irrational numbers, and the mathematics of more than three spatial dimensions? Mathematics is entirely about concepts, which have no precise instantiation in nature,,

    And indeed for most of the history of modern science in the Christian west, finding ‘platonic perfection’ for the mathematical descriptions of the universe has been an elusive goal. This changed with the discoveries of Special Relativity, General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. As far as experimental testing will allow, there is no discrepancy to be found between what the mathematical descriptions of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics predict and what our most advanced scientific testing of those predictions are able to measure.

    “Recent experiments have confirmed, to within one part in one hundred million billion (10^17), that the speed of light does not change when an observer is in motion.”
    Douglas Ell – “Counting To God” – pg. 41 – 2014

    “When this paper was published (referring to the circa 1970 Hawking, Penrose paper) we could only prove General Relativity’s reliability to 1% precision, today we can prove it to 15 places of decimal.”
    Hugh Ross PhD. Astrophysics – quote taken from 8:40 mark of the following video debate
    Hugh Ross vs Lewis Wolpert – Is there evidence for a Cosmic Creator

    Introduction to The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics
    Excerpt: quantum mechanics is the most successful theory that humanity has ever developed; the brightest jewel in our intellectual crown. Quantum mechanics underlies our understanding of atoms, molecules, solids, and nuclei. It is vital for explaining aspects of stellar evolution, chemical reactions, and the interaction of light with matter. It underlies the operation of lasers, transistors, magnets, and superconductors. I could cite reams of evidence backing up these assertions, but I will content myself by describing a single measurement. One electron will be stripped away from a helium atom that is exposed to ultraviolet light below a certain wavelength. This threshold wavelength can be determined experimentally to very high accuracy: it is
    50.425 929 9 ± 0.000 000 4 nanometers.
    The threshold wavelength can also be calculated from quantum mechanics: this prediction is
    50.425 931 0 ± 0.000 002 0 nanometers.
    The agreement between observation and quantum mechanics is extraordinary. If you were to predict the distance from New York to Los Angeles with this accuracy, your prediction would be correct to within the width of your hand. In contrast, classical mechanics predicts that any wavelength of light will strip away an electron, that is, that there will be no threshold at all.

    Experimental non-classicality of an indivisible quantum system – Zeilinger 2011
    Excerpt: Page 491: “This represents a violation of (Leggett’s) inequality (3) by more than 120 standard deviations, demonstrating that no joint probability distribution is capable of describing our results.” The violation also excludes any non-contextual hidden-variable model. The result does, however, agree well with quantum mechanical predictions, as we will show now.,,,

    Another very important place where ‘platonic perfection’ is now shown to be ‘perfectly reached’ in the universe, is for the ‘flatness’ of the universe.

    “When a geometry is described by a set of axioms, the notion of a line is usually left undefined (a so-called primitive object).”
    per wikipedia

    How do we know the universe is flat? Discovering the topology of the universe – by Fraser Cain – June 7, 2017
    Excerpt: With the most sensitive space-based telescopes they have available, astronomers are able to detect tiny variations in the temperature of this background radiation.
    And here’s the part that blows my mind every time I think about it. These tiny temperature variations correspond to the largest scale structures of the observable universe. A region that was a fraction of a degree warmer become a vast galaxy cluster, hundreds of millions of light-years across.
    The cosmic microwave background radiation just gives and gives, and when it comes to figuring out the topology of the universe, it has the answer we need. If the universe was curved in any way, these temperature variations would appear distorted compared to the actual size that we see these structures today.
    But they’re not. To best of its ability, ESA’s Planck space telescope, can’t detect any distortion at all. The universe is flat.,,,
    We say that the universe is flat, and this means that parallel lines will always remain parallel. 90-degree turns behave as true 90-degree turns, and everything makes sense.,,,
    Since the universe is flat now, it must have been flat in the past, when the universe was an incredibly dense singularity. And for it to maintain this level of flatness over 13.8 billion years of expansion, in kind of amazing.
    In fact, astronomers estimate that the universe must have been flat to 1 part within 1×10^57 parts.
    Which seems like an insane coincidence.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, this ‘insane coincidence’ of ‘plantonic perfection’ being reached for the axiomatic ‘primitive object’ of the line just so happens to be necessary for us to even be able to practice math and science, (and apply technology in our world), in the first place:

    How do we know the universe is flat? Discovering the topology of the universe – by Fraser Cain – June 7, 2017
    Excerpt: We say that the universe is flat, and this means that parallel lines will always remain parallel. 90-degree turns behave as true 90-degree turns, and everything makes sense.,,,

    Why We Need Cosmic Inflation
    By Paul Sutter, Astrophysicist | October 22, 2018
    Excerpt: As best as we can measure, the geometry of our universe appears to be perfectly, totally, ever-so-boringly flat. On large, cosmic scales, parallel lines stay parallel forever, interior angles of triangles add up to 180 degrees, and so on. All the rules of Euclidean geometry that you learned in high school apply.
    But there’s no reason for our universe to be flat. At large scales it could’ve had any old curvature it wanted. Our cosmos could’ve been shaped like a giant, multidimensional beach ball, or a horse-riding saddle. But, no, it picked flat.

    Simply put, if the universe were not ‘ever-so-boringly’ flat (and if the universal constants were not also ‘ever-so-boringly’ constant), but the universe were instead governed by randomness, as atheists presuppose, or governed by some other of the infinitude of ‘platonic topologies’ that were possible, modern science and technology would have never gotten off the ground here on earth.

    Scientists Question Nature’s Fundamental Laws – Michael Schirber – 2006
    Excerpt: “There is absolutely no reason these constants should be constant,” says astronomer Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. “These are famous numbers in physics, but we have no real reason for why they are what they are.”,,,
    The observed differences are small-roughly a few parts in a million-but the implications are huge (if they hold up): The laws of physics would have to be rewritten, not to mention we might need to make room for six more spatial dimensions than the three that we are used to.”,,,
    The speed of light, for instance, might be measured one day with a ruler and a clock. If the next day the same measurement gave a different answer, no one could tell if the speed of light changed, the ruler length changed, or the clock ticking changed.

    Nor, if platonic perfection were not present for the flatness of the universe would we have eventually been able to deduce the ‘platonic perfection’ that is revealed in the ‘higher dimensional’ mathematics that lay behind Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. In other words, if the universe were not ‘ever so boringly flat’, Arkani-Hamed himself would never have been able to discover the higher dimensional ‘platonic perfection’ that lay behind the amplituhedron for describing Quantum actions:

    A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics – September 17, 2013
    Excerpt: The amplituhedron itself does not describe gravity. But Arkani-Hamed and his collaborators think there might be a related geometric object that does.,,,
    But the new amplituhedron research suggests space-time, and therefore dimensions, may be illusory anyway.,,, Even without unitarity and locality, the amplituhedron formulation of quantum field theory does not yet incorporate gravity. But researchers are working on it.,,,
    Beyond making (quantum field theory) calculations easier or possibly leading the way to quantum gravity, the discovery of the amplituhedron could cause an even more profound shift, Arkani-Hamed said. That is, giving up space and time as fundamental constituents of nature and figuring out how the Big Bang and cosmological evolution of the universe arose out of pure geometry.

    Bohemian Gravity – Rob Sheldon – September 19, 2013
    Excerpt: Quanta magazine carried an article about a hypergeometric object that is as much better than Feynman diagrams as Feynman was better than Heisenberg’s S-matrices.,,,
    – per UD

    More interesting still, these findings of ‘platonic perfection’ for the higher dimensional mathematics that lay behind Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are VERY friendly to overriding Christian presuppositions of life after death as well as the presupposition of God upholding this universe in its continual existence:

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity – video

    Of related note from a recent previous post:

    Moreover, allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned, and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands, provides a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides an empirically backed reconciliation, via the Shroud of Turin, between quantum mechanics and general relativity into that quote unquote ‘Theory of Everything”

    (February 19, 2019) To support Isabel Piczek’s claim that the Shroud of Turin does indeed reveal a true ‘event horizon’, the following study states that ‘The bottom part of the cloth (containing the dorsal image) would have born all the weight of the man’s supine body, yet the dorsal image is not encoded with a greater amount of intensity than the frontal image.’,,,
    Moreover, besides gravity being dealt with, the shroud also gives us evidence that Quantum Mechanics was dealt with. In the following paper, it was found that it was not possible to describe the image formation on the Shroud in classical terms but they found it necessary to describe the formation of the image on the Shroud in discrete quantum terms.

    Thus, the answer to Armani-Hamed’s question of “what might such an explanation (for perfect mathematical descriptions of the universe) look like?”, is an answer that finds its resolution in Christianity. Specifically, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Job 38:4-5
    Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched a measuring line across it?

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