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Will increasingly sophisticated computer simulations “end” theoretical physics as we know it?

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Leaving mathematics on a blackboard somewhere:

That we are able to write down natural laws in mathematical form at all means that the laws we deal with are simple — much simpler than those of other scientific disciplines.

Unfortunately, actually solving those equations is often not so simple. For example, we have a perfectly fine theory that describes the elementary particles called quarks and gluons, but no one can calculate how they come together to make a proton. The equations just can’t be solved by any known methods. Similarly, a merger of black holes or even the flow of a mountain stream can be described in deceptively simple terms, but it’s hideously difficult to say what’s going to happen in any particular case.

Hence the elaborate computer simulations. Lost in Math

But for me, the most interesting aspect of this development is that it ultimately changes how we do physics. With quantum simulations, the mathematical model is of secondary relevance. We currently use the math to identify a suitable system because the math tells us what properties we should look for. But that’s not, strictly speaking, necessary. Maybe, over the course of time, experimentalists will just learn which system maps to which other system, as they have learned which system maps to which math. Perhaps one day, rather than doing calculations, we will just use observations of simplified systems to make predictions. Sabine Hossenfelder, “The End of Theoretical Physics As We Know It” at Quanta

Then, of course, as with other computer sims, the question is, how much is fact and how much is fiction? Prediction: Some good research and some really surprising, unreplicated findings.

Note: Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is the author of Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray.

See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: Free will is compatible with physics

One Reply to “Will increasingly sophisticated computer simulations “end” theoretical physics as we know it?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “For example, we have a perfectly fine theory that describes the elementary particles called quarks and gluons, but no one can calculate how they come together to make a proton. The equations just can’t be solved by any known methods.”

    That reminds me of this piece of trivia that I learned. A major problem in trying to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity is that when theorists try to combine the two theories, then the resulting theory predicts that spacetime, atoms, and the universe itself should all be literally torn apart. Here are a few references that get this point across.

    Goedel’s Way : Exploits into an Undecidable World
    Excerpt: “There are serious problems with the traditional view that the world is a space-time continuum. Quantum field theory and general relativity contradict each other. The notion of space-time breaks down at very small distances, because extremely massive quantum fluctuations (virtual particle/antiparticle pairs) should provoke black holes and space-time should be torn apart, which doesn’t actually happen.”
    – Gregory J. Chaitin , Francisco A. Doria, and Newton C. a. Da Costa
    https://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~chaitin/bookgoedel_6.pdf

    Cosmic coincidence spotted – Philip Ball – 2008
    Excerpt: One interpretation of dark energy is that it results from the energy of empty space, called vacuum energy. The laws of quantum physics imply that empty space is not empty at all, but filled with particles popping in and out of existence. This particle ‘fizz’ should push objects apart, just as dark energy seems to require. But the theoretical value of this energy is immense — so huge that it should blow atoms apart, rather than just causing the Universe to accelerate.
    Physicists think that some unknown force nearly perfectly cancels out the vacuum energy, leaving only the amount seen as dark energy to push things apart. This cancellation is imperfect to an absurdly fine margin: the unknown ‘energy’ differs from the vacuum energy by just one part in 10^122. It seems incredible that any physical mechanism could be so finely poised as to reduce the vacuum energy to within a whisker of zero, but it seems to be so.
    http://www.nature.com/news/200.....8.610.html

    The 2 most dangerous numbers in the universe are threatening the end of physics – Jessica Orwig – Jan. 14, 2016
    Excerpt: Dangerous No. 2: The strength of dark energy
    ,,, you should be able to sum up all the energy of empty space to get a value representing the strength of dark energy. And although theoretical physicists have done so, there’s one gigantic problem with their answer:
    “Dark energy should be 10^120 times stronger than the value we observe from astronomy,” Cliff said. “This is a number so mind-boggling huge that it’s impossible to get your head around … this number is bigger than any number in astronomy — it’s a thousand-trillion-trillion-trillion times bigger than the number of atoms in the universe. That’s a pretty bad prediction.”
    On the bright side, we’re lucky that dark energy is smaller than theorists predict. If it followed our theoretical models, then the repulsive force of dark energy would be so huge that it would literally rip our universe apart. The fundamental forces that bind atoms together would be powerless against it and nothing could ever form — galaxies, stars, planets, and life as we know it would not exist.
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/.....57366.html

    Moreover, besides physicist having no idea how atoms, and the universe itself, are holding themselves together, physicist also have no idea how the periodic table is to be explained.

    Super-Saturated Chemistry – Marc Henry – Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Quantum Physics – Dec. 2016
    Excerpt: Physics claims to be the unique science of matter. All of the other sciences, physicists believe, are special cases of general relativity and quantum mechanics. It is this position of presumptive supremacy that drives the quest for a Theory of Everything.,,,
    Yet quantum mechanics cannot explain the periodic table of elements.,,,
    Even though Schrödinger’s equation gives a good account of simple systems, no inference is possible to more complex systems. An additional inductive step is necessary.12 With multi-electron systems, approximations must be made and validated by comparison with experiment, not through theory.13 It is a quite remarkable form of empirical mathematics.
    The quantities that interest chemists do not appear in Schrödinger’s equation,,,
    ,,,, The chemist is an artist of sorts, close in his own way to the mathematician, who is also able to create his own objects.3 Only their tools differ. Chemical activity produces about one million new molecules every year. In 1984, there were about ten million molecules; in 2015, one hundred million.4
    http://inference-review.com/ar.....-chemistry

    And all this falls in line with the following article which extended Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem to physics and stated, “even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour”.,,, The researchers further commented that their findings “challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”

    Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics – December 9, 2015
    Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable,,,
    It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,,
    “We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s,” added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. “So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”
    http://phys.org/news/2015-12-q.....godel.html

    To put Godel’s Incompleteness even more simply, “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove”.

    Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (1931), proves that there are limits to what can be ascertained by mathematics. Kurt Gödel (ref. on cite), halted the achievement of a unifying all-encompassing theory of everything in his theorem that: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove”.
    Cf., Stephen Hawking & Leonard Miodinow, The Grand Design (2010) @ 15-6

    And as Godel himself pointed out in the following quote, a soul or a mind is necessary in order to provide “context” for material particles. i.e. to be ‘outside the circle’

    “In materialism all elements behave the same. It is mysterious to think of them as spread out and automatically united. For something to be a whole, it has to have an additional object, say, a soul or a mind.”
    Kurt Gödel – Hao Wang’s supplemental biography of Gödel, A Logical Journey, MIT Press, 1996. [9.4.12]

    Max Planck himself strongly echoed Godel’s inference to a mind and/or soul:

    “As a physicist, that is, a man who had devoted his whole life to a wholly prosaic science, the exploration of matter, no one would surely suspect me of being a fantast. And so, having studied the atom, I am telling you that there is no matter as such! All matter arises and persists only due to a force that causes the atomic particles to vibrate, holding them together in the tiniest of solar systems, the atom.
    Yet in the whole of the universe there is no force that is either intelligent or eternal, and we must therefore assume that behind this force there is a conscious, intelligent Mind or Spirit. This is the very origin of all matter.”
    Max Planck – The main originator of Quantum Theory – Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944) (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)

    It is also interesting to note that the Bible ‘predicted’ this “Mind” that both Godel and Planck postulated to be necessary to explain why things ‘hold together’.

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    Moreover, if we rightly let the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into the picture of modern physics, as the Christian founders of modern science had originally envisioned, (Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, and Max Planck, to name a few), then an empirically backed reconciliation between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, i.e. the ‘Theory of Everything’, readily pops out for us in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

    Copernican Principle, Agent Causality, and Jesus Christ as the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NziDraiPiOw

    Gödel, Infinity, and Jesus Christ as the Theory of Everything – video
    https://youtu.be/x1Jw5Y686jY

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4QDy1Soolo

    Verse:

    Matthew 28:18
    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

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