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Author Topic: How do we know that the "laws" of physics are really laws, i.e. true everywhere?  (Read 13731 times)

another_someone

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Lets go right back to the beginning of science!  I have usually heard it said, (I watch programmes like COSMOS by Carl Sagan and the like) that the roots of modern science go back to the ancient Greeks.

As an artist, i am well acquainted with the ancient Greeks.  They had a preoccupation with 'reality'.  It is often claimed that they took art forwards by discarding the kind of thing the Egyptians were doing .... representing people or gods as having heads of animals and so on .... and concentrating on creating images that 'looked' real.  Well, actually, what the Greeks were doing was throwing out INSIGHT in favour of surface look-a-like.  When the older cultures represented people and gods as having animal heads and so on, they were using METAPHOR to reveal insights into how those gods and people BEHAVED.  So, when we talk of someone as 'bullish', or as predatory, we are saying things about how they think and behave, and if we represent these people as having the appropriate animal parts, we are communicating our insights about their true natures.  That insight is what the Greeks threw out!  So they left us with a much shallower art, that concerns itself only with what is on the surface.  I wonder, did they do the same with science?

Not sure that one can say the Greeks started science - I suspect the roots of science go back further than that, but the Greeks were the one's to bring us ideas that were around from various sources before then.

In ancient times, the Greeks had a major empire, and so were in a position to bring ideas together from lost of different sources.  Most of the 'Greeks' we know of as being important were not living in Greece, but in the various colonies the Greeks had.

As an analogy, we regard the modern system of numbers is regarded as Arabic numerals, but in fact we know the Arabs themselves took the system from the Indians.

Many of the ideas in maths that we have from the Greeks probably came from the Babylonians, and other Mesopotamians (and maybe some influence from the Indians as well).

No doubt the ideas the Greeks took on board they combined in new ways, and extended further.

If you say something to someone often enough (and coca cola advertisers among others are very well aware of this effect) they will come to accept it.  So, has science brain-washed us into accepting things that are not at all reasonable? 

But the point you are missing is that science is not about things being reasonable or not - it is about creating a model of the universe that works, and can be proven to work by being used and tested.

Science is 'proven' not by looking pretty, but by showing that its predictions work.  If the predictions don't work, then the idea is rejected.  This is different from Coca Cola ads - the advertisers don't actually need to prove anything works.


On the other hand, I could turn round and say, do you have any reason to suppose things are the same at the other end of the universe?  And what?  You put the onus on me to justify what I am saying and say that if you do not KNOW things are different, then you have to think they are the same?  No to that.

It is easy to say that things are different at the other end of the universe, but that is in essence a negative statement - it says what you don't believe.  Would you care to be more positive, and say what you believe the laws of the universe are at the other end of the universe, in a positive way?  As I said, science is proven by predication, but negatives don't help with prediction.  If you have a more positive idea of what is at the far end of the universe, then you can start to make scientific predictions, and then the predictions can become testable.


I do hope scientists are as robust as they seem.  I am poking and proding, but then, they do actually profess to hold a defensible position, and to welcome scrutiny!

Robust?  In what way?

In very simple terms, science has made predictions, and most of those predictions have been proven to be true (if that was not the case, as I mentioned above, the theory is rejected).

Clearly, there are some cases where science does not get it right, and that is where new theories have to be proposed to make better predictions.

It is possible that someone can create a different model that can make as good predictions as present scientific theory; but if you believe you have a better model, then you have a lot of work ahead of you to demonstrate that the predictions work.

It would be foolish to believe science is perfect, but nothing ever is.  The question is whether there is anything better around.

If you mix two chemicals together, do you have a good theory that will predict the outcome?

If you place a piece of metal under stress, do you have a good theory that will demonstrate when the metal will fail, and how far it will bend before it breaks.

These are the sorts of questions which science has to answer.  If it comes up with the wrong answers, then it is bad science.  It may not be perfect, but do you really wish to throw out the baby with bath water.
 

Offline rainwildman

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I am going to make this my last post, because I can see the big guns are coming out and I am beginning to get the 'you have no right to talk about science because you are not qualified' ....well it so happens that I am.  Nothing I have said about my past is a lie ... other than by omission.  I omitted to say that before I became an artist I was a physicist, and have all the publications, patents, lettere after my name etc to prove myself.  But I do not like to stand on my qualifications (I find it intimidates people) and the question I have been raising here are precisely the things that troubled me enough to make me quit and go elsewhere to look for a life.

And let me be more specific.  Back in the 1970's, for my doctorate, I was trying to create what is known as a 'number state beam', that is a beam of light that is in a 'number state'.  What is intersting about that?  That it would have been the first time anyone had created anything that was purely a quantum state, that is, a state that is DISALLOWED by classical theory.  Do you see what I am saying.... that after half a century, no-one could justify having adopted the horrendously difficult quantum theory in preference to the much simpler classical theory ... quantum theory became orthodoxy on a vote, in the 1930's .... it was politics .... guess who was on the voting committee.... yes, you've guessed, the very people who had derived quantum theory and had a vested interest in making it the orthodoxy.

And that leads on to what I did later, which was go into the real world and work with optical communications, including optical computers.  And do you know what i found?  In the world of technology, in the real world, PHYSICS IS  NO DAMN GOOD.  It is just not up to the job of dealing whith the real world.  The real world is much to complex, and one has to derive the appropriate maths to deal with each situation.  so what are we spending so much time and money on physics for? 

Prediction... is it desirable?  Actually, no.  It is inhuman and a nightmare to know the future.  And don't give me global warming and all that .... that game, of raising up the monster and then defeating it as an age old trick use by religions to gain converts!  And, if you really think scientists can make predictions about climate change.... no, they can't.  That is MUCH MUCH too complicated.  It cannot be done.

And, as for simplicity etc and other ways of doing things .... yes, as a  matter of fact, there is .... it is called EVOLUTION.  That is how nature deals with complexity.  That is how complexity should be dealt with.  That is how you can create and deal with computers and fast cars WITHOUT RECOURSE TO OVERSIMPLIFIED AND BLINKERING theories such as current physics offers.  And it is how you can get past the inhuman practice of divining the future!

Well, i guess if I had not worn out my welcome before, I will have thoroughly done so now.  So, goodbye all. 

PS truth really does matter, not for the sake of fast cars or the future of the world, but for your individual mental health ....  but that is a whole other issue concerning the effect of good and bad behaviour on your mental health.
 

lyner

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If you wait a few years and your idea is valid, someone else will champion it and it will become accepted. Otherwise it will join the host of other theories which didn't make it.
It's a tough business and changing the World (or the World view) is not for the fragile. If you are really sure about your theory then follow it up.
Or have you ever considered that you could just be wrong?
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Rainwildman.  You are probably correct when you say that in some places (and times because that's just the same thing) the laws of physics within our universe were significantly different from the ones we observe locally and many reputable scientists will agree with this.  It is just that you have not got a good grasp on what scientists mean when they say locally.  As I have already stated  we can see clearly and measure the laws of physics out to red shifts of 1000  that is when the universe was a few hundred thousand years old and was about as dense as and as hot as the surface of the sun and can model the universe accurately back until it was denser than an atomic nucleus so all this time and space is by definition local.  However we have every reason to believe that our universe is much bigger than this by many times but unfortunately we cannot observe these regions.

If you really wish to learn about this and precisely how we know about it I can thouroughly reccommend  the book "The Universe a Biography"  by John Gribbin
ISBN  978-0-141-02147-8 a paperback costing in the UK  7.99.  I am just finishing reading it and it is the best book I have read on this subject in a long time and I learned quite a lot from it.  It takes a completely new route to describing these things and is not just a copy of what other people have written on this subject.  it state things clearly and concentrates on getting things in context and avoids a lot of the rubbish "Gee Whiz!" type pf science  
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Rainwildman I see that while I was writing my last reply you have come out of the closet and shown yourself to be a bitter and twisted troll.  I have worked successfully on technological innovation all my life and disagree totally with you about the "laws of physics". 

The problem is not with the rules of the game but some people's understanding of them.  I have many times been told that things are impossible only to prove them possible once you understand properly how things really work.  All the laws and the derived rules of thumb for working are approximations and it is vital to know where the approximations fail and new rules of thumb have to be made.
 

lyner

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That is one of the refreshing aspects of modern Science; any Scientist worth his/ her salt is only too aware of being a link in a whole matrix of knowledge and that the best we can hope for is to know a bit more than we did yesterday. Nothing is absolute.
Never throw your toys out of your pram - you may need one of them some day.
 

Offline johnbrandy

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Responding to the initial question, "do the the fundamental laws of physics relate to the 'entire' universe"? The question as to whether such laws applies to the entire and therefore unknown conditions of the universe are interesting, and fall within the domain of thought experiments. To ask if established and testable laws of physics apply to aspects or areas of the universe that are, as yet, not known or understood, is tantamount to speculating upon that which is unthinkable. No doubt, extrapolating from the known to the unknown is often the only mode to infer probable conditions of the unknown. This is a useful method, and often leads to consistent results. Notwithstanding, it is impossible to know if established laws of physics apply to the entire universe. I doubt if any reputable scientist would suggest as much. Scientific knowledge is provisional. Laws, and especially theories, (in this case of physics), are by definition, provisional, therefore, the notion that the laws of physics apply "everywhere" is not only unknowable, but impossible to conceive; with respect to the limited knowledge of the known universe, and the total lack of knowledge of the "entire" universe. Thank you for allowing me to contribute to this discussion.   
« Last Edit: 03/06/2008 05:14:02 by johnbrandy »
 

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Offline bitistoll

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Hi, I,m back!  'Bitter and Twisted Troll', alias 'bitistoll' (get it? BITer and twISTed trOLL?), alias rainwildman.   I just love that epithet and could not waste it... bitter and twisted troll, all those 't' and 'd' sounds just trip along, onomatopea, pure poetry, I love it.

So why is she back?  Because mummy is needed to bring some order to this site.

I have been round and about the internet quite extensively, and my explorations have taken me to many discussion forums, and I have found that there is a pattern, and it is exibited here as much as everywhere else.

These forums are make an ideal playground for bullies and teases.  They get into a little gang and patrole the site like guard-dogs ready to savage anyone who enters their territory ... and that is what they are about, that is where they get their kicks.  All else is just pretence and empty noises.

I know the type well.  I had an older brother who was just the same.  He only ever joined in my games so that he could spoil them, break my toys, and give me a thumping!  My first recourse, and a wise one it was, was simply to refuse to play with him.  But lord he could be persistent!  Eventually I would succumb to emotional blackmail (how can you be so mean? and the like) and the result would be the broken toys, the spoiled game and the thumping.  I once asked mother why she never interfered, never stopped him or gave him a row for such bad behaviour, and she gave me what was probably the most valuable gift she ever gave me, a 'pearl of wisdom,.  She said, 'it's your own fault.  IF YOU DID NOT REACT HE WOULD NOT DO IT.'

Now harsh that seemed, loading the onus for his good behaviour onto me.  But she was right.  The world is full of bullies and teases and once you know how, and once you can identify the type, they are very very easy to deal with.

You see, they are like little boys throwing stones at dogs: when the dog howls and runs around trying to dodge the stones and cowers with its tail between its legs, that is what they get off on.  If the dog were to completely not react to the stones, they would soon get bored and go off to cause trouble elsewhere.

So that is the nature of the hard-core that skulk around these forums arguing and bullying and spoiling it for those who actually want to discuss things.  And that is what concerns me... those of you out there who actually WANT to understand things, to learn and discuss and do all the things that these boards, on the face of it, are supposed to do... you need to know what you are dealing with and how to take care of it.

And this is how: DO NOT PLAY WITH THEM.  That is, when you have identified the ones that come on scary, the hard-core, then DO NOT REACT TO THEM.  Do not argue with them, do not respond when they try to argue with you.  Talk to other people who are trying to have a decent discussion and ignore the interjections of the teases and bullies.  Above all, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEM.  They really are not dangerous at all.

The thing is that by their bad behaviour they do themselves more damage than anyone else, and the damage they do themselves is to lose sight of reality, of truth.  They tell lies and try to trick you and play all the games beloved of arguers, and that is not about truth, it is about winning an argument by any means possible, including lying.  You have to SOUND good though, and that is what does the trick.  But if you find yourself reading down the posts these people are posting, and you find you are having difficulty grasping hold of things, difficulty understanding what they are saying, believe me, THE FAULT IS NOT YOURS.  IT IS NOT THAT YOU ARE STUPID, BUT THAT THEY ARE SAYING NOTHING.  They spout good sounding, but empty phrases that they have  learnt parrot-wise.  The WHOLE POINT IS TO INTIMIDATE, SO DO NOT SUCCUMB.

I have onserved that there are a lot of people looking at the posts I have put up, but blessed few of them open their mouths.  I only hope this goes some way to remedy that situation.
 

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