Intelligent Design Philosophy Physics

Celebrity physicists are in a row over, literally, nothing

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Readers may have heard of Larry Krauss, one of the contenders:

When celebrity physicists disagree about some fundamental prediction or hypothesis, there’s often a goofy and well-publicized wager to reassure us that everything is under control. Stephen Hawking bets Kip Thorne a one-year subscription to Penthouse that Cygnus X-1 is not a black hole; Hawking and Thorne team up and bet John Preskill a baseball encyclopedia that quantum mechanics would need to be modified to be compatible with black holes. Et cetera, et cetera. And even as we roll our eyes, we’re grateful because at least some part of us does not want to see these people violently disagreeing about anything.

So when celebrity physicist Lawrence Krauss publicly called celebrity physicist David Albert a “moron” for not appreciating the significance of Krauss’s discovery of the concrete physics of nothingness, it caused quite a stir. In his book, A Universe from Nothing, Krauss argued that in the same way quantum field theory depicts the creation of particles from a region of spacetime devoid of particles (a quantum vacuum), quantum mechanics, if sufficiently generalized, could depict the creation of spacetime itself from pure nothingness. In a scathing New York Times review of Krauss’s book, Albert argued that claiming that physics could concretize “nothing” in this way was at best naïve, and at worst disingenuous. Quantum mechanics is a physical theory, operative only in a physical universe. To contort it into service as a cosmological engine that generates the physical universe from “nothing” requires that the abstract concept of “nothing” be concretized as physical so that the mechanics of quantum mechanics can function. What’s more, if quantum mechanics is functional enough to generate the universe from nothing, then it’s not really nothing; it’s nothing plus quantum mechanics.

Michael Epperson, “The creative universe” at IAI News (June 11, 2021)

It’s a good thing nothing is at stake. 😉

See also: What does “nothing” mean in physics? (Hugh Ross)

10 Replies to “Celebrity physicists are in a row over, literally, nothing

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    Lawrence Krauss apparently doesn’t understand nothing.

    Nothing is not space without time. Probability requires time. And space-time is something, not nothing.

    Nothing is non-existence. The Easter bunny is a non-existent entity with only a name. Thus, what he proposes is equivalent to asserting that the universe originated from the Easter bunny. Good luck with that.

    -Q

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Well that was an interesting article. In the first part of his article Epperson bemoans the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” Where “we identify any object, conceptual or physical, as universally fundamental”. He also chides Tegmark for holding that “our successful theories are not mathematics approximating physics, but mathematics approximating mathematics.”

    And yet in the second part of his article Epperson goes on to say, “the best solution, (to the incompatibility of general relativity and quantum theory), would be a mathematical framework that was itself impossible to concretize”.

    He envisions this new mathematical framework as “the algebraic method.” Where the universe becomes “an open totality-in-process with novel “creative” relations—that is, physical relations that beget new physical relations, not just reconfigurations of previous relations. In such a universe, the business of physics is not the concretizing of what is, but rather the historicizing of what becomes.”

    So I guess he just wants us to leave the entire question of “why does mathematics even describe the universe in the first place?”, and the entire question of “exactly how do “novel “creative” relations” happen?” on the cutting room floor? And to just accept the fact that the universe is, somehow and inexplicably, describable by mathematics, and also to just accept that the fact that, somehow and inexplicably, “novel creative relations” just so happen to happen within the new mathematical framework that he, (via Whitehead), is putting forth?

    If so, I already have a new name for his new mathematical ‘theory of everything’. It should be called the “stuff just so happens to happen ‘theory of everything’.” 🙂

    Something tells me that ignoring those two, rather large, unanswered questions, i.e. those two elephants in his living room, is not going to work for Epperson.

    Those questions are simply not going to go away for him no matter how much Epperson himself may personally take it on blind faith that the universe is, somehow and inexplicably, describable by mathematics, and that, somehow and inexplicably, “novel creative relations” just so happen to happen within the new mathematical framework he is, (via Whitehead), putting forth.

    As to the first question that Epperson would rather leave unasked in his new mathematical framework, (i.e. Why is the universe even describable by mathematics in the first place?), that the universe is even describe by mathematics in the first place is, rightly, to be considered miraculous.

    Don’t take my word for it. Both Albert Einstein and Eugene Wigner are on record as to regarding the applicability of mathematics to the universe to be miraculous.

    In fact, Wigner even went so far as to question (atheistic) Darwinian evolution in his process of calling it miraculous,,

    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.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    And Einstein even went so far as to chastise ‘professional atheists’ in his process of calling it miraculous,,,

    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
    http://inters.org/Einstein-Letter-Solovine

    As to the second question that Epperson would rather leave unasked, i.e. “exactly how do “novel “creative” relations” just so happen happen in his new mathematical framework?”, might I be too bold in suggesting that it AlWAYS takes a Mind to explain why “novel “creative” relations” just so happen to happen within any mathematical framework?”

    Algorithmic Information Theory, Free Will and the Turing Test – Douglas S. Robertson
    Excerpt: Chaitin’s Algorithmic Information Theory shows that information is conserved under formal mathematical operations and, equivalently, under computer operations. This conservation law puts a new perspective on many familiar problems related to artificial intelligence. For example, the famous “Turing test” for artificial intelligence could be defeated by simply asking for a new axiom in mathematics. Human mathematicians are able to create axioms, but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.?
    http://cires.colorado.edu/~dou...../info8.pdf?

    Verse and Quotes

    John 1:1
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”

    of note: ‘the Word’ in John1:1 is translated from ‘Logos’ in Greek. Logos also happens to be the root word from which we derive our modern word logic?http://etymonline.com/?term=logic

    What is the Logos?
    Logos is a Greek word literally translated as “word, speech, or utterance.” However, in Greek philosophy, Logos refers to divine reason or the power that puts sense into the world making order instead of chaos.,,,
    In the Gospel of John, John writes “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John appealed to his readers by saying in essence, “You’ve been thinking, talking, and writing about the Word (divine reason) for centuries and now I will tell you who He is.”
    https://www.compellingtruth.org/what-is-the-Logos.html

    “Atheists can give no reason why they should value reason, and Christians can show how anyone who believes in reason must also believe in God.”
    Cogito; Ergo Deus Est by Charles Edward White
    Philosophy Still Lives Because God Isn’t Dead

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    I’m glad to see that David Albert confirms that quantum mechanics is a physical theory and we have some agreement on the proposition that you can’t get something from nothing.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky states, “I’m glad to see that David Albert confirms that quantum mechanics is a physical theory”

    Hmm, a supposedly purely ‘physical theory’ with a irreducible subjective element built into its conceptual foundation. Exactly how is that suppose to work Seversky?

    “Quantum theory entails an irreducible subjective element in its conceptual basis. In contrast, the theory of relativity when fully exploited, is based on a totally objective view.”
    – Sachs – On The Comparison Of Quantum and Relativity Theories – 1986

    “We wish to measure a temperature.,,,
    But in any case, no matter how far we calculate — to the mercury vessel, to the scale of the thermometer, to the retina, or into the brain, at some time we must say: and this is perceived by the observer. That is, we must always divide the world into two parts, the one being the observed system, the other the observer.”
    John von Neumann – 1903-1957 – The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, pp.418-21 – 1955

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,
    http://quantum.phys.unm.edu/46.....inberg.pdf

    Cosmic Bell Test Using Random Measurement Settings from High-Redshift Quasars – Anton Zeilinger – 14 June 2018
    Abstract: This experiment pushes back to at least approx. 7.8 Gyr ago the most recent time by which any local-realist influences could have exploited the “freedom-of-choice” loophole to engineer the observed Bell violation, excluding any such mechanism from 96% of the space-time volume of the past light cone of our experiment, extending from the big bang to today.
    https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.080403

  5. 5
    EvilSnack says:

    So they’re arguing about nothing? They would certainly know a lot about that.

  6. 6
    Querius says:

    Yep. Or as William Shakespeare put it, there’s Much Ado About Nothing, which is quote something when you think about it.

    The real question is how you can get something that exists (such as the universe) from something that doesn’t exist (such as the Easter bunny). Lawrence Krauss apparently thinks that this is possible through quantum fluctuations, but it’s not clear whether the bunny or the egg comes first.

    -Q

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    It seems that David Albert hits home with:

    In a scathing New York Times review of Krauss’s book, Albert argued that claiming that physics could concretize “nothing” in this way was at best naïve, and at worst disingenuous. Quantum mechanics is a physical theory, operative only in a physical universe. To contort it into service as a cosmological engine that generates the physical universe from “nothing” requires that the abstract concept of “nothing” be concretized as physical so that the mechanics of quantum mechanics can function. What’s more, if quantum mechanics is functional enough to generate the universe from nothing, then it’s not really nothing; it’s nothing plus quantum mechanics.

    Utter nothingness, as someone above suggested, also implies no-time so no temporally distributed probabilities, energy flows, changes etc.

    Something from utter nothing, as Sev highlighted, is absurd.

    KF

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    EvS, nothing is actually a worthwhile topic to explore. KF

  9. 9
    jerry says:

    The ultimate mystery of philosophy/science.

    Existence.

    Why does anything exist?

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, hence, logic of being [yes, in the L&FP series], investigated from our participation in a going concern world. KF

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