# The Naked Scientists Forum

### Author Topic: Can we lay nothing to rest?  (Read 25875 times)

#### Bill S

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #50 on: 26/11/2014 18:26:23 »
Quote from: John
I'd like to hear about that one too Bill.

Sorry John, I'm not sure what you want to hear more about.  Could be I'm having a "senior moment".

#### Bill S

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #51 on: 27/11/2014 19:42:55 »
Perhaps it is time to look at some of the things I might be able to take from this thread so far.

I am aware of the fact that scientific veracity does not depend on democratic vote, but “hitch-hikers” like me do well to seek and heed the opinions of the more knowledgeable.

I have often been asked why I think there can be no change, or meaningful division in infinity.  Answers like “Because it makes sense to me”, or “because infinity has a lot in common with Barbour’s Platonia”, are obviously not of the best, so I try appealing to such reasoning as “time and eternity are entirely different concepts”, and my answers always seem to be countered by Cantor-type responses which do little more than muddy the waters.

Let’s see if the responses to these questions help the situation.  The majority view seems to be:
Is infinity a number?      No.
Is eternity a length of time?     No.
Could there be change without time?     No.

A sequence is a number of things/concepts/etc.
Infinity is not a number; therefore it cannot be a sequence.
An “infinite sequence”, such as the natural numbers, is not truly infinite.  Boundless – yes; infinite – no.

Eternity is not a length of time. It is not time at all.  Without time there can be no change, therefore there can be no change in eternity/infinity.

Now I need to square that with the idea that the cosmos is infinite, and our Universe is “part” of the cosmos.

There are many scientists who believe the Universe is finite.  Many of those who opt for an infinite Universe see it as being infinite in the way that they see the sequence of numbers as being infinite.  It really makes little difference which one believes.

We exist in an infinite cosmos in which there is no change or differentiation.  Every “part” is the whole.  Nothing happens, everything just “is”.

We are conscious of time as being linear, and experience our Universe as passing through time; but that is because we are restricted to 3+1 dimensions, we cannot see or experience infinity, and in order to survive in this “illusion” must be able to make sense of our world.

I this science? Yes.

If there had ever been nothing, there could be nothing now.  There must always have been something.  That something must be eternal/infinite, and therefore changeless.

Will we, as individuals ever experience/understand the infinite cosmos?  The answer to that is not science, it may be philosophy, theology or plain old guesswork, but not science.

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #52 on: 27/11/2014 21:58:04 »
Quote from: Bill S
An “infinite sequence”, such as the natural numbers, is not truly infinite.  Boundless – yes; infinite – no.
This is incorrect. There is such things as infinite sequences. Being an infinite sequence means that the value of the partial sequence has no bound. For example: the sequence

1, 2, 3, .... , etc.

1, 22, 32, .... etc.

are both infinite sequences. Each has no bound. The sequence

1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, ..., etc.

is an infinite sequence as well but this one is bounded.

Bill - Have you ever considered picking up a book on calculus and read the first couple of chapters? You can do it in a day or two and after that you'll have answers to all the questions you've asked over the last month or so. You'll do much much less work reading too.

#### dlorde

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #53 on: 27/11/2014 22:10:54 »
A sequence is a number of things/concepts/etc.
Infinity is not a number; therefore it cannot be a sequence.
That needs some explanation - it makes no sense to me as it stands. A sequence is an ordered list; there's no requirement I'm aware of that it must be finite. (it can also have zero elements)

Quote
An “infinite sequence”, such as the natural numbers, is not truly infinite.  Boundless – yes; infinite – no.
What is the justification for this? What is the difference between 'infinite' and 'truly infinite' ?

Quote
Eternity is not a length of time. It is not time at all.  Without time there can be no change, therefore there can be no change in eternity/infinity.
Eternity is defined as endless time, time without end, infinite time, time of indefinite or infinite extent, etc. So whatever it isn't, it is some sort of time; that's what the word means.

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #54 on: 27/11/2014 22:37:53 »
Quote from: dlorde
That needs some explanation - it makes no sense to me as it stands.
Same here.

Bill - It's best to back up assertions like this when you make them, otherwise they're not of much use.

#### JohnDuffield

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #55 on: 28/11/2014 10:47:04 »
Quote from: John
I'd like to hear about that one too Bill.
Sorry John, I'm not sure what you want to hear more about.  Could be I'm having a "senior moment".
How you get something from nothing. By the way, I was reading your post, and I spotted this:

"Without time there can be no change, therefore there can be no change in eternity/infinity."

Thar's your problem! You got it back to front. It should be without change there can be no time. Or motion of you prefer. A clock clocks up some kind of regular cyclical motion and shows you some cumulative display that you call the time. But it doesn't literally "measure the flow of time". It isn't some kind of cosmic gas meter.

#### Bill S

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #56 on: 29/11/2014 16:11:34 »
Quote from: Pete
This is incorrect. There is such things as infinite sequences. Being an infinite sequence means that the value of the partial sequence has no bound. For example: the sequence

1, 2, 3, .... , etc.

1, 22, 32, .... etc.

“…the value of the partial sequence has no bound.”

Precisely! It is unbounded, you could never establish that it was infinite, other than in principle.

In the first half of the 1980s when I started a science based degree course with the Open University, I dabbled in calculus.  Unfortunately, a major career change, and the learning curve that accompanied that prevented any further study, and 30+ years on I have suffered from the “use it or lose it” syndrome, but I recall nothing that would influence my thoughts about non-mathematical infinity.  Mathematical infinities, as I have said before, are not a matter of contention to me.

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #57 on: 29/11/2014 17:43:21 »
Quote from: Bill S
“…the value of the partial sequence has no bound.”

Precisely! It is unbounded, you could never establish that it was infinite, other than in principle.

I was talking about the following statement
Quote
An “infinite sequence”, such as the natural numbers, is not truly infinite.  Boundless – yes; infinite – no.
and not whether someone could sit down in a lab with pen and paper and do it. Those are two entirely different things. You keep talking about boundless as being different than infinite when in actuality they are synonyms. To be exact - Something is infinite when it has no limit. When someone writes 1, 2, 3, 4, .... the "..." actually is defined to mean that it has no limit, that it keeps going and never ends. It is therefore infinite.

You really should study this again. It's not as if it'd be a waste of time for you because you'll spend less time talking about it here then actual study time. It's only a few pages long and doesn't require much math background at all because this is the foundation of math. Just a bit of friendly advice from your buddy Pete! :)
« Last Edit: 29/11/2014 19:28:10 by PmbPhy »

#### Bill S

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #58 on: 29/11/2014 21:52:49 »
Quote from: Pete
There is such things as infinite sequences. Being an infinite sequence means that the value of the partial sequence has no bound. For example: the sequence

1, 2, 3, .... , etc.

1, 22, 32, .... etc.

are both infinite sequences.

It seems that not all mathematicians agree with this.

“Number systems come in many sizes. There is the "natural number system", which is just the set of numbers used in counting: 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. Or, one can expand this number system to include additional concepts, such as negative numbers, fractions, even the so-called "imaginary" numbers (which are not really imaginary at all). Each of these concepts exists provided we look for it in the context of a large enough number system.

Now the question is, does infinity exist in the same way that these concepts (negative numbers, fractions, etc.) do?
In other words, does there exist any number system which, as well as including the familiar numbers we are used to, also includes an "infinity" concept?

#### dlorde

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #59 on: 29/11/2014 22:51:46 »
It seems that not all mathematicians agree with this.
I suspect there's no field of human knowledge where everyone agrees about everything.

#### jeffreyH

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #60 on: 29/11/2014 22:59:04 »
Take a sphere of set radial dimension. Draw two lines from the center of the sphere to its surface separated by a set angle. We can describe the arc that joins them at the surface by a mathematical formula. Now make the radius infinite and carry out the same procedure.

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #61 on: 30/11/2014 03:05:03 »
Quote from: Bill S
It seems that not all mathematicians agree with this.

Nope. You're wrong. I believe that in your haste to attempt to prove me wrong you didn't take the time to completely absorb the material and as such you didn't understand that they said that there's no number which equals infinity. But that's not what I argued, Bill. Was it?

Quote from: Bill S
“Number systems come in many sizes. There is the "natural number system", which is just the set of numbers used in counting: 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. Or, one can expand this number system to include additional concepts, such as negative numbers, fractions, even the so-called "imaginary" numbers (which are not really imaginary at all). Each of these concepts exists provided we look for it in the context of a large enough number system.

Now the question is, does infinity exist in the same way that these concepts (negative numbers, fractions, etc.) do?
In other words, does there exist any number system which, as well as including the familiar numbers we are used to, also includes an "infinity" concept?

You misread it. They are not talking about infinity as most other mathematicians do. It's a VERY poor webpage. Look at their proof at: https://www.math.toronto.edu/mathnet/answers/infnotnumber.html

No "infinity" concept exists in the context of any number system, if by number system one means a collection of concepts that have operations like addition and multiplication the way familiar numbers do, operations which obey the usual properties of arithmetic.
Quote
One way to see this is to think, what would infinity minus 1 be? It couldn't be a finite number, since no finite number plus 1 equals infinity. So it must be infinite, and this would mean

infinity - 1 = infinity

From this one can immediately see that the rules of arithmetic must be violated, since if they held one could subtract infinity from both sides to conclude that -1 = 0, which isn't true.
Did you see what they're talking about? They mean

Quote
...in which "infinity" would mean something one can treat like a number.
which is what nobody thinks of as being infinite. That's merely ONE instance/version in which your article speaks of infinity which doesn't exist. However they also give to other examples in which it does.
In this argument they're proving that there is no such thing as a number which equals infinity which is not what everyone else means by infinity. They claim that they're talking about the "concept" of infinity but they aren't. This is a really bad argument and is written extremely poorly.

See the attachment which completely defines the concept of infinity

Do you see this, Bill? This is all that I was asking you to read all these days. Do you see how small it actually is? And it completely covers the concept and shows that "becomes infinite" is identical to "increases without bound" by definition. :)
« Last Edit: 30/11/2014 04:41:01 by PmbPhy »

#### JohnDuffield

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #62 on: 30/11/2014 14:24:45 »
It seems that not all mathematicians agree with this.
I suspect there's no field of human knowledge where everyone agrees about everything.
I beg to differ!

#### dlorde

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #63 on: 30/11/2014 18:13:56 »
I suspect there's no field of human knowledge where everyone agrees about everything.
I beg to differ!
[:o)]

#### phyti39

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #64 on: 30/11/2014 18:22:34 »
Bill S:
1.  Is infinity a number?
No.
infinite: not limited, not measurable, not countable, without a specific value
By definition, infinity is not a number, but a state of indeterminacy.

2.  Is eternity a length of time?
No.
eternity: time without a beginning and an end
Its definition implies an infinite duration, and therefore cannot be measured.

3.  Is it possible to define Cantor’s “absolute infinity”?
No.
Cantor was a self appointed spokesmen who thought he could explain infinity, i.e. things without end, despite the fact that no human experience encounters it, thus  the mind has no ability to conceptualize it. If you study something to a greater degree than the masses, they will consider you an expert. This would require a separate topic.

4.  If there had ever been (absolutely) nothing, could there be something now?
Yes.
There is something now, and something cannot come into existence without a cause/reason.

5.  Could there be change without time?
Yes.
Time does not cause changes. As far as known, energy does. Time is like an accounting system, recording events of interest to a standard (clock) event.
This was done long before philosophy was augmented with measurement to become science.
In the quantum world, particles change states, A to B, and B to A. The physicist observes both while his clock accumulates ticks. One transition is the reverse of the other, not one moving backward in time. Change of states for basic entities is  acceptable behavior, but a shattered glass reassembling itself off the floor, and moving to the top of the table would be suspicious. To maintain perspective, running the film backwards (in real time) is not equivalent to an actual reconstruction of a complex object.
Ponder this.
If time is a causal factor, why are quantum predictions expressed as probabilities?
For a 24 hr period, people enter a restaurant off the interstate, eat and leave. Their circumstances vary, so there is no causal chain of events, i.e. their visits are random. Time did not cause their visits. It's memory that allows the mind to make fictitious connections for a sequence of events.
While watching animations on the display, are there really 'moving pictures'?
While watching a plane fly toward the horizon, is it the plane or its image, getting smaller?

#### Bill S

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #65 on: 30/11/2014 19:45:25 »
Pete, please don’t think that I lack appreciation for the time and patience you and other experts expend trying to help “hitch-hikers” like me.  As the main carer for two disabled family members I have little time to spare, and I have to say that when I hind a few minutes I tend to spend it interacting with others on line rather than trying to find the specifics of calculus or complex numbers that might, or might not, help.

Thanks for your attached explanation; it is perhaps the best I’ve seen to date.  If this is what we have been discussing, and coming close to falling out about, we have certainly been at cross-purposes.  As far as I understand it, in my mathematically challenged way, I have absolutely no problem with it.

Some time ago I downloaded a calculus course which has remained unstarted somewhere on my external HD; maybe I should find it and  have a go.

#### Bill S

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #66 on: 30/11/2014 19:54:30 »
Phyti39; you raise some interesting points, some of which I would like to return to when time permits.  In the meantime, this puzzles me:

Quote
4.  If there had ever been (absolutely) nothing, could there be something now?
Yes.
There is something now, and something cannot come into existence without a cause/reason.

Shouldn't that have been "No"?

#### Ethos_

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #67 on: 30/11/2014 22:17:23 »

Ponder this.
If time is a causal factor, why are quantum predictions expressed as probabilities?
Time is an abstract mental picture we humans define as change in progress. Time does not cause change, change is the evidence that time has passed.

Quote from: phyti39
While watching animations on the display, are there really 'moving pictures'?
No, but photons are moving between the screen and your eyes. And pixels have also changed places and colors.
Quote from: phyti39
While watching a plane fly toward the horizon, is it the plane or its image, getting smaller?
This question is a bit silly. Hold your finger up very close to your eyes, observe it's apparent size then move it to arms length. If you'll notice, it now appears smaller compared to when it was very close to your eyes. Are you prepared to suggest that just because your finger now appears smaller than when very close to your eyes that is has somehow shrunken?

The divergence of light is the reason for the phenomenon of perspective, not because the object has reduced in size.
« Last Edit: 30/11/2014 22:29:16 by Ethos_ »

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #68 on: 01/12/2014 00:05:49 »
Quote from: Bill S

As the main carer for two disabled family members I have little time to spare, ..
Yes. I know that and that's why I wanted you to trust me and read what I suggested to you what I did. I.e. because you would have spent a great deal of time less in reading and discussing the point otherwise then actually reading the very small amount on the definition. And when I say that it'd be less reading I mean that'd it take less than one minute! :o

You saw and read the attachment that I created and inserted into my last post. Thus you saw now how little there actually was to read, didn't you? The reason I asked you to take my advice and my word and read it was because I would have had to do less work creating that attachment because I couldn't easily type it out since limit notation is hard to do by typing. I told you many times how little where was to read and you kept thinking that it would take too long. Do you now understand how little there was to actually read? Will you please take my word for it next time? :)

Quote from: Bill S

..when I hind a few minutes I tend to spend it interacting with others on line rather than trying to find the specifics of calculus or complex numbers that might, or might not, help.
You mean to tell me that when I (or someone else) posts a URL to something like a Wikipedia article of a webpage of mine that you've never looked at it? If you did then why would you think that reading a paragraph or two in a text would be any different or require more work? I would never repeatedly suggest reading a portion of a text it wasn't actually a mere paragraph or two.  I just wish you would have trusted me on this. :(

Quote from: Bill S
Some time ago I downloaded a calculus course which has remained unstarted somewhere on my external HD; maybe I should find it and  have a go.
That'd be a great idea.
« Last Edit: 01/12/2014 00:14:27 by PmbPhy »

#### PmbPhy

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #69 on: 01/12/2014 00:08:35 »
I suspect there's no field of human knowledge where everyone agrees about everything.
I beg to differ!
[:o)]
My sentiments exactly, dlorde. :)
« Last Edit: 01/12/2014 16:15:52 by PmbPhy »

#### phyti39

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #70 on: 01/12/2014 15:44:50 »

Ponder this.
If time is a causal factor, why are quantum predictions expressed as probabilities?
Time is an abstract mental picture we humans define as change in progress. Time does not cause change, change is the evidence that time has passed.

Quote from: phyti39
While watching animations on the display, are there really 'moving pictures'?
No, but photons are moving between the screen and your eyes. And pixels have also changed places and colors.
Quote from: phyti39
While watching a plane fly toward the horizon, is it the plane or its image, getting smaller?
This question is a bit silly. Hold your finger up very close to your eyes, observe it's apparent size then move it to arms length. If you'll notice, it now appears smaller compared to when it was very close to your eyes. Are you prepared to suggest that just because your finger now appears smaller than when very close to your eyes that is has somehow shrunken?

The divergence of light is the reason for the phenomenon of perspective, not because the object has reduced in size.
I think you get the point. Perception is not what it appears to be. Time does not cause change is my argument against "change cannot happen without time". People still cling to this idea that there is something invisible orchestrating the sequence of events. Maybe it's some form of security blanket in a world where things are so temporary, including life.
Nevertheless, the history of time as a concept and as applied science, shows it as an alias for distance. Look at a Minkowski diagram and notice the vertical axis is ct.

#### phyti39

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #71 on: 01/12/2014 15:47:55 »
Bill S #51
Quote
We exist in an infinite cosmos in which there is no change or differentiation.  Every “part” is the whole.  Nothing happens, everything just “is”.
I hope you don't believe in fatalism.

#### phyti39

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #72 on: 01/12/2014 15:57:10 »
Phyti39; you raise some interesting points, some of which I would like to return to when time permits.  In the meantime, this puzzles me:

Quote
4.  If there had ever been (absolutely) nothing, could there be something now?
Yes.
There is something now, and something cannot come into existence without a cause/reason.

Shouldn't that have been "No"?
There was nothing (a physical universe), then one came into existence. Since the elements (energy or matter) had no prior existence, they can't be used to bootstrap themselves into exixtence.

#### dlorde

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #73 on: 01/12/2014 16:29:13 »
There was nothing (a physical universe), then one came into existence. Since the elements (energy or matter) had no prior existence, they can't be used to bootstrap themselves into exixtence.
When you say the bolded above, do you mean there was a physical universe? because it seems to me a physical universe isn't nothing.

If you mean instead that there wasn't a physical universe (i.e. there wasn't anything at all, so no causes or reasons), then you seem to be contradicting yourself - if something cannot come into existence without a cause/reason (i.e. the elements (energy or matter)... can't be used to bootstrap themselves into existence), and there is something now, then it follows that there can't have been nothing (no cause or reason).

I'm puzzled...

#### dlorde

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##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #74 on: 01/12/2014 16:39:49 »
Time does not cause change is my argument against "change cannot happen without time".
It's not really an argument - "change cannot happen without time" doesn't imply that time causes change. It just says time is a necessary condition for change.

Having said that, there are good arguments for the inverse dependency, "there's no time without change", which does have more of a causal flavour...

#### The Naked Scientists Forum

##### Re: Can we lay nothing to rest?
« Reply #74 on: 01/12/2014 16:39:49 »