Is infinity an illusion?

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #200 on: 04/10/2013 16:51:29 »
Infinity may be an illusion caused by our experience of passing through the material world. We do not really understand the fundamental nature of time and it may be the case that a dimension or dimensions underlie the classical world that are non-local in the sense of existing without separation in space or time, therefore, time as we normally define it would not be necessary. It has already been proven mathematically that nature at the quantum level is non-local so time could be simply an emergent property of the macro-world. Actually, this is a more logical approach than to assert infinity exists because how would you ever prove it? It is only because time is a common sense experience that we assume it has to go on forever but common sense is not a good guide to the true nature of reality. People used to think the earth was flat based on common sense or that it was impossible to float about but now we understand how gravity works we are much wiser about things.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2013 17:08:10 by webplodder »

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #201 on: 04/10/2013 17:00:44 »
You might argue that you would have eternity in which to perform the manoeuver, but in eternity you would already have done this an infinite number of times, and since there seems to be a distinct possibility that you cannot add to infinity, how can you perform the manoeuver again?
It depends what assumptions you make. If you assume that the lobby can tannoy every room at once to tell them to move to room 2n (or whatever), then the whole move can be done in the time it takes to move one room. Of course, if you insist on the tannoy message travelling at the speed of light or less, it will take an infinite time to complete the whole move (but to each occupant, it will seem as if everyone is moving at the same time). If it takes half an hour to move rooms, you can repeat the whole move every half hour - although the guests might complain - best give them a half-hour rest before moving again if another infinite coachload turns up ;)
« Last Edit: 04/10/2013 17:02:46 by dlorde »

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #202 on: 04/10/2013 17:06:14 »
Quote from: alancalverd
The "endless digits" business is irrelevant to infinity.

Would you also apply this to the “endless digits” of number lines?  I look for clarification here because it is so rare to find someone who doesn’t insist that these are examples of infinite series.



I don't think it is very meaningful to say something is infinite, even mathematically speaking, because the mathematics we use today only exists within the context of the material universe we find ourselves a part of with its particular laws. Apparently, there may exist other universes within a multiverse that have no or little resemblance to ours and where our mathematics would simply not apply. In the case of pi this is also true such that even if the value of pi never terminated during the life of our universe it would probably not apply in another future possible one.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2013 17:10:19 by webplodder »

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #203 on: 04/10/2013 17:06:49 »
Infinity may be an illusion caused by our experience of passing through the material world. We do not really understand the fundamental nature of time and it may be the case that a dimension or dimensions underlie the classical world that are non-local in the sense of existing without separation in space or time, therefore, time as we normally define it would not be necessary. It has already been proven mathematically that nature at the quantum level is non-local so time could be simply an emergent property of the macro-world. Actually, this is a more logical approach than to assert infinity exists because how would you ever prove it? It is only because time is a common sense experience that we assume it has to go on forever but common sense is not a good guide to the true nature of really. People used to think the earth was flat based on common sense or that it was impossible to float about but now we understand how gravity works we are much wiser about things.
Infinity doesn't necessarily have anything to do with time - were you thinking of eternity?

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #204 on: 04/10/2013 17:16:32 »
Apparently, there may exist other universe within a multiverse that have no or little resemblance to ours and where our mathematics would simply not apply.
Says whom? I can see the laws of physics being different, but mathematics is an axiomatic system; how could it be different in another universe ?

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In the case of pi this is also true such that even if the value of pi never terminated during the life of our universe it would probably not apply in another future possible one.
Can you explain how or why?
Pi is a ratio whose exact value depends on the chosen geometry, but on the Euclidean plane it's irrational, so it seems to me that its decimal representation in any universe will be the same, given a Euclidean plane.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #205 on: 04/10/2013 17:42:59 »

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Infinity doesn't necessarily have anything to do with time - were you thinking of eternity?

This is not a meaningful question. For a start, how do you define infinity and eternity and what is the difference, if any?

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #206 on: 04/10/2013 17:49:49 »
Apparently, there may exist other universe within a multiverse that have no or little resemblance to ours and where our mathematics would simply not apply.
Says whom? I can see the laws of physics being different, but mathematics is an axiomatic system; how could it be different in another universe ?

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In the case of pi this is also true such that even if the value of pi never terminated during the life of our universe it would probably not apply in another future possible one.
Can you explain how or why?
Pi is a ratio whose exact value depends on the chosen geometry, but on the Euclidean plane it's irrational, so it seems to me that its decimal representation in any universe will be the same, given a Euclidean plane.


Mathematics inevitably reflects the way the laws of our spacetime universe work but not necessarily other kinds of universes where there exist very different laws, if any. What if there existed universes that were like the way the quantum world is, i.e. completely random? Pi only works based on the axioms of maths but such axioms originate from consistent features of nature which may be peculiar to the universe we happen to find ourselves in.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #207 on: 04/10/2013 21:45:39 »
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Infinity doesn't necessarily have anything to do with time - were you thinking of eternity?
This is not a meaningful question. For a start, how do you define infinity and eternity and what is the difference, if any?
I'll defer to Merriam-Webster:
Infinity
: the quality of having no limits or end : the quality of being infinite.
: a space, amount, or period of time that has no limits or end.
: a very great number or amount.

Eternity
: time without an end.
: a state that comes after death and never ends.
: time that seems to be without an end.

The difference should be obvious - eternity can be considered a type, subset, or instance of infinity, specifically relating to time.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #208 on: 04/10/2013 22:37:12 »
Mathematics inevitably reflects the way the laws of our spacetime universe work but not necessarily other kinds of universes where there exist very different laws, if any.
The laws of physics are expressed using mathematics. They don't determine mathematics.

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What if there existed universes that were like the way the quantum world is, i.e. completely random?
Ours is a quantum universe - and it has stochastic (probabilistic) randomness; that too can be expressed through mathematics, but doesn't determine mathematics.

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Pi only works based on the axioms of maths but such axioms originate from consistent features of nature which may be peculiar to the universe we happen to find ourselves in.
Which consistent features of nature determine the axioms of mathematics, and in what way could they be different - for example?


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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #209 on: 05/10/2013 00:35:16 »
Infinity:

 "the quality of having no limits or end" : the quality of being infinite.  OK.

 "a space, amount, or period of time that has no limits or end."  This definition is so tied to our 3+1D world that it is of very limited value with respect to any thoughts beyond the finite.  However, it does establish a sort of relationship between eternity and infinity, such that it is quite reasonable to use “infinite” when making reference to “eternal”, although this relationship is not necessarily reciprocal.

 "a very great number or amount."  This is simply a mathematical approximation; valuable in mathematics, but not really infinity.

Eternity
 "time without an end."  This is valid only if you accept that an unbounded sequence is really infinite.
 
 "a state that comes after death and never ends."  This is theology/philosophy, not science.

 "time that seems to be without an end."  “seems to be”:  Precisely!
There never was nothing.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #210 on: 05/10/2013 09:51:31 »
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Infinity doesn't necessarily have anything to do with time - were you thinking of eternity?
This is not a meaningful question. For a start, how do you define infinity and eternity and what is the difference, if any?
I'll defer to Merriam-Webster:
Infinity
: the quality of having no limits or end : the quality of being infinite.
: a space, amount, or period of time that has no limits or end.
: a very great number or amount.

Eternity
: time without an end.
: a state that comes after death and never ends.
: time that seems to be without an end.

The difference should be obvious - eternity can be considered a type, subset, or instance of infinity, specifically relating to time.

Time and space are inextricably linked, therefore, I cannot see how any separation between them is possible. Matter, and the laws governing the way matter behaves, operate within a space time framework so it seems false to me to attempt to give separate definitions to them.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #211 on: 05/10/2013 10:07:18 »
Time and space are inextricably linked, therefore, I cannot see how any separation between them is possible. Matter, and the laws governing the way matter behaves, operate within a space time framework so it seems false to me to attempt to give separate definitions to them.
OK, but what has time to do with an infinite amount of something or a numerical (mathematical) infinity - or were you only considering the potential for physical infinities?

Just trying to clear up why you feel time is necessarily involved.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #212 on: 05/10/2013 10:13:54 »
Mathematics inevitably reflects the way the laws of our spacetime universe work but not necessarily other kinds of universes where there exist very different laws, if any.
The laws of physics are expressed using mathematics. They don't determine mathematics.

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What if there existed universes that were like the way the quantum world is, i.e. completely random?
Ours is a quantum universe - and it has stochastic (probabilistic) randomness; that too can be expressed through mathematics, but doesn't determine mathematics.

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Pi only works based on the axioms of maths but such axioms originate from consistent features of nature which may be peculiar to the universe we happen to find ourselves in.
Which consistent features of nature determine the axioms of mathematics, and in what way could they be different - for example?



Many physicists regard nature as deeply mathematical in nature so it would indeed appear that maths is determined by the way physical reality works. It is true to say that our universe is finely tuned in a way that permits the development of life and that a slight mathematical shift in the way it works would produce a very different universe. Ask yourself why maths arose in the first place. It arose because it precisely reflects reality and another kind of arrangement would not. What would be the case in a universe with 6 dimensions, for example?


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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #213 on: 05/10/2013 14:15:45 »
Many physicists regard nature as deeply mathematical in nature so it would indeed appear that maths is determined by the way physical reality works.
So: which consistent features of nature determine the axioms of mathematics, and in what way could they be different - for example?

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Ask yourself why maths arose in the first place. It arose because it precisely reflects reality and another kind of arrangement would not.
So you keep saying. I'm asking for some plausible argument or explanation, preferably with hypothetical examples. 

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What would be the case in a universe with 6 dimensions, for example?
Our universe probably has more than 6 dimensions; but regardless, what would the case be with 6 dimensions? how would that affect mathematics?

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #214 on: 05/10/2013 15:08:51 »
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So: which consistent features of nature determine the axioms of mathematics, and in what way could they be different - for example?

Well, for example, 1+1 always equals 2, or the square of the hypotenuse in a right angled triangle is equal to the square of the sums of the other two sides. Pi is another example, although we only have an approximation of it though, for practical purposes, it is predictable enough. So, in the real world adding 2 apples together always results in 3 apples and calculating heights using trigonometry is reliable.



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Our universe probably has more than 6 dimensions; but regardless, what would the case be with 6 dimensions? how would that affect mathematics?

Indeed, but what I meant and should have made clearer is the day to day experience of 4 dimensional spacetime in our universe where classical maths works. In another kind of universe where the surface appearance might be any number of dimensions our maths would fail.


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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #215 on: 05/10/2013 15:23:01 »
It is easy to assume that because mathematics seems to be the “language of the Universe”, the Universe is “governed” by mathematics.  Perhaps it is better to reason that mathematics is the best language we have found to enable us to understand the Universe.  There may be a better language, we have just not found it yet.
There never was nothing.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #216 on: 05/10/2013 15:44:45 »
Quote from: dlorde
were you only considering the potential for physical infinities?

Just trying to clear up why you feel time is necessarily involved.

Obviously I can’t answer for Webplodder here, but I would like to be clear where I stand. 

Mathematical infinities are approximations for very large numbers, so they can be used with time, space and any numerical quantity.

I have yet to be convinced that something physical can come from nothing; therefore something must always have existed. .this something must, therefore, be infinite/eternal.  To avoid infinite regression, which is infinitely pointless, it becomes necessary to consider a number of possible attributes of infinity. 

Is this science?  In so far as it appears to involve a sine qua non of the existence of everything, I think it must be.  Surely this makes a consideration of the nature of infinity as much a part of physics as, for example, extra dimensions, multiple universes or the reality that might underlie QM.
There never was nothing.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #217 on: 05/10/2013 16:31:37 »
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So: which consistent features of nature determine the axioms of mathematics, and in what way could they be different - for example?

Well, for example, 1+1 always equals 2, or the square of the hypotenuse in a right angled triangle is equal to the square of the sums of the other two sides. Pi is another example, although we only have an approximation of it though, for practical purposes, it is predictable enough. So, in the real world adding 2 apples together always results in 3 apples and calculating heights using trigonometry is reliable.
Those are examples of maths in this universe. I'm curious to know how you think it could be different elsewhere. As I mentioned previously, geometric relationships may depend on the topography in which they're used, but given a Euclidean plane, they will always be the same.

Are you suggesting that in another universe 1 + 1 may not equal 2 ? 

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In another kind of universe where the surface appearance might be any number of dimensions our maths would fail.
Why should maths fail? we might find it difficult to express the physical appearance of a strange universe through mathematics, but that doesn't affect mathematics. Also, physicists have already mathematically described a variety of multidimensional universes.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #218 on: 05/10/2013 16:35:12 »
If the universe or multiverse is non-local then time would not be a necessary property because everything would exist simultaneously, both past and future events and communication would be instantaneous. I'm no expert but aren't there experiments which show that photons can travel back in time to reflect a delayed decision on the part of the experimenter in a variation on the double-slit experiment?

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #219 on: 05/10/2013 16:49:54 »
dlorde, we can only try to conceive of other types of universes in terms of our brain physiology which has been shaped by evolutionary forces peculiar to our planet and the geometry of our spacetime universe. It may be, as far as I know, that if other intelligent forms have arisen in other kinds of universes they would possess an entirely different way of perceiving their environment than us and so their symbolic representation of such could be so bizarrely removed from the way our brains work that we simply could not relate to it. We inevitable are forced to use a three-dimensional brain to describe something outside of our ability to describe. Even our maths are fundamentally three-dimensional since they are the result of electro-chemical processes with the biological brain.

I would like to make another point, however. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it has never actually been proved that consciousness is the result of brain activity, at least, not entirely.  It has been assumed by most scientists that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain's electro-chemical activity but what if this was not correct? That would mean that we would have to introduce the idea that consciousness could exist outside of the brain and possibly beyond physical death. If so, then ideas and concepts might exist in a kind of ethereal 'Platonic' realm which interacts with physical reality.
« Last Edit: 05/10/2013 17:06:31 by webplodder »

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #220 on: 05/10/2013 18:20:44 »
dlorde, we can only try to conceive of other types of universes in terms of our brain physiology which has been shaped by evolutionary forces peculiar to our planet and the geometry of our spacetime universe. It may be, as far as I know, that if other intelligent forms have arisen in other kinds of universes they would possess an entirely different way of perceiving their environment than us and so their symbolic representation of such could be so bizarrely removed from the way our brains work that we simply could not relate to it.
Potentially, yes.

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Even our maths are fundamentally three-dimensional since they are the result of electro-chemical processes with the biological brain.
In what way is mathematics 'fundamentally three-dimensional'?

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... it has never actually been proved that consciousness is the result of brain activity, at least, not entirely.
It isn't something that can be proved, any more than the existence, or otherwise, of god. In these cases, science generally assesses the evidence for and against to generate the most plausible (provisional) explanation. In the case of consciousness, the vast majority (and the most reliable) of evidence is entirely consistent with it being generated by the brain. I'm not aware of any robust evidence to the contrary. This, and the absence of any plausible suggested mechanism (particularly one consistent with the laws of physics), suggests to me that it is beyond reasonable doubt.

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It has been assumed by most scientists that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain's electro-chemical activity but what if this was not correct? That would mean that we would have to introduce the idea that consciousness could exist outside of the brain and possibly beyond physical death. If so, then ideas and concepts might exist in a kind of ethereal 'Platonic' realm which interacts with physical reality.
Or not. If we had some ham, we could have ham & eggs, if we had some eggs...

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #221 on: 06/10/2013 09:47:48 »
dlorde, Roger Penrose has pointed out the problem with regarding the brain a kind of computer consisting of essentially an immense number of on/off switches when we look at the non-computability of mathematics. What is meant by this is that given a reasonable level of complexity, any set of mathematical rules, or axioms, can be shown to be self-contradictory at some point by anyone expert enough in maths. What this means is that we can no longer regard the brain as a kind of computer operating on strictly logical lines but something more which seems to be produced by consciousness. An ordinary computer would not have the ability to 'see' anything outside of its axioms because a computer does not possess consciousness. This is why it is questionable as to whether we can regard the brain as the seat of consciousness and that consciousness cannot simply be based on a set of simple electro-chemical processes. I'm not suggesting there is compelling scientific evidence to support this view but that things may not be as straight forward as many scientists seem to think.
« Last Edit: 06/10/2013 09:50:13 by webplodder »

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #222 on: 06/10/2013 09:59:37 »

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In what way is mathematics 'fundamentally three-dimensional?

Mathematics is produced by a brain that has a three dimensional architecture (or to be pedantic, four dimensional spacetime).


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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #223 on: 06/10/2013 10:26:32 »
... given a reasonable level of complexity, any set of mathematical rules, or axioms, can be shown to be self-contradictory at some point by anyone expert enough in maths.
It was Godel who showed that any non-trivial axiomatic mathematical systems can generate statements that are not provable within the system, and cannot include statements of their consistency without being inconsistent.

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What this means is that we can no longer regard the brain as a kind of computer operating on strictly logical lines but something more which seems to be produced by consciousness. An ordinary computer would not have the ability to 'see' anything outside of its axioms because a computer does not possess consciousness.
No one seriously considers the 'brain as computer' to be more than a clumsy and limited analogy. The brain is clearly is not based on an axiomatic mathematical system, and there's no requirement for consciousness to be mathematically complete and consistent.

Also, let's not forget that a digital computer can emulate a neural network, as can any universal Turing machine, and the brain is, basically, a linked assembly of biological neural networks.

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This is why it is questionable as to whether we can regard the brain as the seat of consciousness and that consciousness cannot simply be based on a set of simple electro-chemical processes.
No, it says nothing at all about the brain as the seat of consciousness. Consciousness is neither complete nor consistent in the mathematical sense, so is not, in that respect, different from any non-trivial axiomatic mathematical system, so that doesn't disqualify it from being based on a such a system; however, the brain itself isn't based on such a system. It's nonsense whichever way you look at it.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #224 on: 06/10/2013 11:46:14 »
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It was Godel who showed that any non-trivial axiomatic mathematical systems can generate statements that are not provable within the system, and cannot include statements of their consistency without being inconsistent.

Yes, I'm aware of that, but I simply wanted to state the case in uncomplicated terms for general understanding.

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Also, let's not forget that a digital computer can emulate a neural network, as can any universal Turing machine, and the brain is, basically, a linked assembly of biological neural networks.

I'm sorry, but a Turing machine is nothing like a biological brain since a Turing machine has no potential for creativity. A Turing machine needs a set of instructions to follow provided by a human programmer.

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No, it says nothing at all about the brain as the seat of consciousness. Consciousness is neither complete nor consistent in the mathematical sense, so is not, in that respect, different from any non-trivial axiomatic mathematical system, so that doesn't disqualify it from being based on a such a system; however, the brain itself isn't based on such a system. It's nonsense whichever way you look at it.

Documented near-death experiences tend to support the idea that consciousness can exist independently of the biological brain. I'm not claiming the case has been proved, however, anyone who cares to look into the evidence would seriously consider the possibility.

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Offline jeffreyH

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #225 on: 06/10/2013 12:03:36 »
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It was Godel who showed that any non-trivial axiomatic mathematical systems can generate statements that are not provable within the system, and cannot include statements of their consistency without being inconsistent.

Yes, I'm aware of that, but I simply wanted to state the case in uncomplicated terms for general understanding.

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Also, let's not forget that a digital computer can emulate a neural network, as can any universal Turing machine, and the brain is, basically, a linked assembly of biological neural networks.

I'm sorry, but a Turing machine is nothing like a biological brain since a Turing machine has no potential for creativity. A Turing machine needs a set of instructions to follow provided by a human programmer.

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No, it says nothing at all about the brain as the seat of consciousness. Consciousness is neither complete nor consistent in the mathematical sense, so is not, in that respect, different from any non-trivial axiomatic mathematical system, so that doesn't disqualify it from being based on a such a system; however, the brain itself isn't based on such a system. It's nonsense whichever way you look at it.

Documented near-death experiences tend to support the idea that consciousness can exist independently of the biological brain. I'm not claiming the case has been proved, however, anyone who cares to look into the evidence would seriously consider the possibility.

Consciousness arises out of a particular configuration of matter, the animal brain. This does not entirely constitute life as plants are classed differently. Do plants think? Is thought necessary for something to be termed alive? There may be many other configurations of matter with the ability to generate thoughts. Does this mean that all matter contains life but at differing levels of the definition? Now we are deeply into the philosophical. Something else that has intrigued me for years.
Fixation on the Einstein papers is a good definition of OCD.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #226 on: 06/10/2013 12:03:51 »
Back to infinity.

If we assume for a moment that the universe/multiverse is indeed infinite then what of our cherished ideas about cause and effect? It would mean the universe is acausal so that our whole scientific edifice would be brought into question because its foundation of cause and effect would be undermined. How can events which supposedly have a cause originate from something uncaused? There would be no chain of cause and effect to account for the world as we see it today and we might as well settle for the whims of gods in order to attribute an explanation. We might have to question our whole scientific methodology and look for an alternative approach in attempting to explain the way reality works.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #227 on: 06/10/2013 12:37:52 »
jeffreyH, I do know that there is some evidence that plants use aspects of quantum mechanics in some of their processes of photosynthesis. Using this method the plant manages to solve problems connected to making sensible choices in choosing favourable pathways which promote its ability to survive. The point being that living things may have developed a way of harnessing the 'quantum computing' power of particles, which can be in many places at the same time, thus enabling calculations to be made simultaneously. This, of course, means a plant can save a lot of time in its metabolic processes which imbues it with a evolutionary advantage. I have to wonder if animals and particularly higher animals, like human beings, have evolved to same ability. If this is the case then this seems to link back to the earlier discussion about the role of consciousness in making great leaps of insight in solving difficult problems as for example, the completely groundbreaking work of Einstein in producing an entirely new paradigm of nature. Was Einstein using his ability to think like a quantum computer? Many scientific insights have 'come from the blue' in the past without the apparent need to work them out step by step so does this suggest something over and above the usual idea that ideas originate from the electrochemical actions of the brain? Great artist or musicians have reported that some of their best ideas have come from an 'inspirational moment' completely unbidden, so is this further evidence that the brain has the ability to act as a kind of quantum computer?

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #228 on: 06/10/2013 13:20:40 »
I'm sorry, but a Turing machine is nothing like a biological brain since a Turing machine has no potential for creativity. A Turing machine needs a set of instructions to follow provided by a human programmer.
You're forgetting that you can have multiple levels of complexity with emergent behaviours. So you can program a Turing machine to behave like a neural network. The resulting neural network emulation can be trained (learn) just like a biological neural network, without explicit programming. The explicit programming is at a lower level of complexity, the learning behaviour is an emergent property of a neural network. It's somewhat similar to the way microcode can make one processor emulate another processor, or the way moving, interacting patterns emerge out of the static on-off squares in Conway's Game of Life.

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Documented near-death experiences tend to support the idea that consciousness can exist independently of the biological brain. I'm not claiming the case has been proved, however, anyone who cares to look into the evidence would seriously consider the possibility.
I've looked at the evidence, and it's nowhere near as robust as it's proponents claim - in fact it's almost entirely anecdotal.

None of the major, well-controlled studies, such as the Aware study, have found anything positive to report so far. Lab studies and other monitored environments (e.g. military centrifuge tests) show that it is relatively easy to artificially produce all the reported experiences of NDEs, from white light tunnels, to felt presences (benign or malign), encounters with deceased relatives, and apparent dislocation from the body. Recent studies suggest cause of many such experiences appears to be a burst of neural activity in severe oxygen deprivation (see Nature and The Scientist).

Anecdotal reports of experiences during 'flatlining' have been explained by the known limitations of EEG monitoring (EEG flatline doesn't mean no brain activity), and likely inaccuracies in recall of subjects and medical staff under time pressure.

When every facet of apparently anomalous reports have plausible 'mundane' explanations, and taking them literally would require entirely unknown mechanisms involving entirely novel biology, and physics contradicting known physical laws, a reasonable man will go with the mundane explanation pending definitive evidence.

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Offline yor_on

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #229 on: 06/10/2013 14:53:17 »
Well, that's where I don't know Dlorde. Consciousness as we define it is in deed a a result of linear time, but the idea of a quantum computer exists too. No matter how it reach a outcome. Assuming that those outcomes will be the a best fit to a question, I might formulate it such as whereas humans make both bad and good choices a quantum computer only will make the most probable fit to a question. And that seems ultimately to become a question of free will. In a way it becomes a sort of 'clock work' universe, building on a assumption of there being a 'ultimate answer', for each and any question asked.

Then we have free will itself, statistically we find patterns, probabilities of outcomes, that's our ordered universe and physics. Individually we find indeterminacy, and with consciousness involved also the ability of making 'wrong choices'. So whereas a 'universal quantum computer' might ignore the ability to make a wrong one, meaning that 'free will', it does not imply (to me at least) that it can't have a consciousness, as being self aware.
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Offline yor_on

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #230 on: 06/10/2013 14:57:47 »
As for pure mathematic it's only your imagination and logic webplodder :) that restricts it I think. You can create all sorts of logic, and it does not have to fit this universe, to be self consistent. To make the assumption that theoretical mathematics must be a result of the way we find our universe to work, as coming from that, will need to prove that all mathematics in existence today are subsets of the physics we find. Myself I don't think that is possible to prove.
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Offline yor_on

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #231 on: 06/10/2013 15:05:23 »
What I can agree on though, is that some mathematics fall away, other mathematical definitions and constructs taking their place as we adapt our mathematics to the universe we measure on. And that some mathematics that's purely been a certain kind of theoretical logic historically suddenly become a practical matter fitting a new way of looking at a universe.
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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #232 on: 06/10/2013 15:42:14 »
dlorde, how does an artificial intelligent system manage to integrate and synthesise information resulting in completely novel paradigms? I have yet to see this being achieved today, even with the most powerful computers which are really just huge number crunchers. It seems to me that a Turing machine lacks some vital element in processing data which I would call 'thinking.' It is safe to say that so far we have much to learn about how the brain processes information so it would seem over optimistic to assert that a Turing machine would be capable of multi-level operations when we don't even know how this is achieved with people, or indeed, animals. Are you saying a Turing machine is conscious and self-aware? Can Turing machine reflect and make critical evaluations and draw from experience? I tend to doubt it.

I accept that the evidence surrounding NDEs is anecdotal, however, those instances where NDE patients have recounted information they could not possibly have been aware of during the time of their NDE has yet to be explained. Those critics who maintain a NDE patient is just that - near death, but not actually dead so that they might still retain some awareness of their surroundings - overlook the fact that a flatlined brain would simply be unable to experience the rich imagery involved in observing incoming data like images, audio sensations and touch. These are something that require the use of the higher brain functions located in the forward lobes of the brain and other areas which, in a brain that is showing virtually zero EEG activity, would seem implausible.
« Last Edit: 06/10/2013 15:54:46 by webplodder »

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #233 on: 06/10/2013 16:08:55 »
It must have occurred to others that there is a striking similarity between QM and thread drift.

Feynman would like it because it takes a topic from A to B by every possible route,

Heisenberg would approve because there is a distinct uncertainty that the topic will ever arrive at B.

Schrödinger would be pleased because the thread, like his cat, remains neither dead nor alive until a Mod takes decisive action.
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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #234 on: 06/10/2013 16:09:56 »
As for pure mathematic it's only your imagination and logic webplodder :) that restricts it I think. You can create all sorts of logic, and it does not have to fit this universe, to be self consistent. To make the assumption that theoretical mathematics must be a result of the way we find our universe to work, as coming from that, will need to prove that all mathematics in existence today are subsets of the physics we find. Myself I don't think that is possible to prove.

Funnily enough, I would say this might lend support for the idea that our thinking procesess are not entirely the result of 'linear' thinking based upon binary switching circuits, however complex. What is imagination anyway? Isn't imagination the ability to ignore the obvious, the mundane, the logical, and take a completely new approach to how the world works? If mere plants have evolved the ability to use quantum processes in order to solve certain problems then how much more probable that higher animals have too? Nature has surely had long enough to take advantage of any edge living things can use to survive and today we know that quantum mechanics is the most fundamental and scientifically demonstrated theory we have about the way reality works.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #235 on: 06/10/2013 16:14:51 »
It must have occurred to others that there is a striking similarity between QM and thread drift.

Feynman would like it because it takes a topic from A to B by every possible route,

Heisenberg would approve because there is a distinct uncertainty that the topic will ever arrive at B.

Schrödinger would be pleased because the thread, like his cat, remains neither dead nor alive until a Mod takes decisive action.


I would call it discussing a topic in depth.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #236 on: 06/10/2013 16:16:30 »
BTW, is there a forum in TNS for posting science related verse? 

I feel the Schrödingcat  trying to escape, and I think letting it free here would be taking thread drift too far.
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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #237 on: 06/10/2013 17:39:56 »
... I might formulate it such as whereas humans make both bad and good choices a quantum computer only will make the most probable fit to a question.
Not so. A computer, quantum or otherwise computes only what it is instructed to. While quantum mechanics may be stochastic in nature, a quantum computer gives definite (non-stochastic) calculation results. What is good and bad in human terms is context and viewpoint dependent and at a much higher level of abstraction than the mechanics of the 'choice' (which is itself a convenient conceptual abstraction).

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And that seems ultimately to become a question of free will. In a way it becomes a sort of 'clock work' universe, building on a assumption of there being a 'ultimate answer', for each and any question asked.
I guess it depends on precisely what you mean by 'free will'. Without wishing to derail again, it seems to me, that the best monist definition is 'The feeling of uncoerced and unconstrained agency' (i.e. that what you do is not constrained or coerced). But this is entirely causal (if not entirely deterministic), as an individual's choice is the result of their state of mind, preferences, emotions, etc., which are a neural result of the unique interaction between their genetics & development and a lifetime of experiences. So the choice is uniquely theirs, but entirely causal. So the answer may be unpredictable, due to the number & complexity of the interacting contributions, a bit of chaos, and some randomness, but whether it is an 'ultimate answer' seems semantically empty - a sequence of events occurs; we call it a choice because we can envisage various circumstances with different outcomes, but in the real world only one set of circumstances occurs, and so one result.

One could argue that quantum mechanics suggests multiple possible outcomes, and could conceivably evade statistical averaging at molecular scales to have an effect at macro-scales; but this doesn't really help free will, as it would imply the perceived choice is either probabilistic (i.e. some randomness) or that every choice is made (in some universe) and you have a well-defined probability of having made a particular choice (i.e. finding yourself in that particular universe).

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Individually we find indeterminacy, and with consciousness involved also the ability of making 'wrong choices'. So whereas a 'universal quantum computer' might ignore the ability to make a wrong one, meaning that 'free will', it does not imply (to me at least) that it can't have a consciousness, as being self aware.
As I mentioned before, what is right or wrong is contextual. I can't make out what you're saying in the rest of that paragraph.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #238 on: 06/10/2013 19:35:10 »
dlorde, how does an artificial intelligent system manage to integrate and synthesise information resulting in completely novel paradigms? I have yet to see this being achieved today, even with the most powerful computers which are really just huge number crunchers.
You mean computational creativity? I'm not well up on it, but there are a number of ways it can be done, mostly based around selective recombination (e.g. evolutionary algorithms), pattern recognition & matching across unrelated information fields, generating novel combinations of ideas, generating new ideas through rule-driven transformations, and extending conceptual spaces. Googling 'AI creativity' turns up some information.

The difficult part is evaluating the results, i.e. how to assess what is 'good' creativity in some context.

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It seems to me that a Turing machine lacks some vital element in processing data which I would call 'thinking.' It is safe to say that so far we have much to learn about how the brain processes information so it would seem over optimistic to assert that a Turing machine would be capable of multi-level operations when we don't even know how this is achieved with people, or indeed, animals.
A universal Turing machine is really just a programmable computer that can evaluate any computable algorithm. You'll have to define precisely what you mean by 'think' before it's possible to show whether or not it's computable. Bear in mind that a simple microprocessor (UTM), given sufficient memory and appropriate instructions, can emulate (albeit very inefficiently) any other computer or a neural network of arbitrary size, and so can do anything that such systems can already do - learn by example, be creative, intelligently interpret queries & analyse large volumes of data like IBM's Watson, etc.

We know the functional components of the brain and the principles by which they are physically connected and integrated; we know some of the gross architecture and connectivity, and we know in some detail how small neuronal networks, and even cortical columns, function. To the extent that these are switching networks, and they can be used to compute arbitrary algorithms (what's 5 x 4? how many seconds in a minute?), they are Turing machines (they may also be more). We also know a good deal about the gross, high-level functioning of the brain, and we can make informed guesses about how the gross behaviours emerge from the various structures that coordinate them. We can also see echoes of the evolutionary development of the brain from creatures without specialised neural tissue through creatures with simple nerve networks, through to sophisticated central nervous systems. This provides a wealth of information about how brains developed, what they do & why, and how they work.

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Are you saying a Turing machine is conscious and self-aware? Can Turing machine reflect and make critical evaluations and draw from experience? I tend to doubt it.
We are self-aware and conscious (by definition), and our brains are, at least in part, Turing machines. If they don't seem like what you think of as a Turing machine, remember that a Turing machine is a hypothetical device, and the hardware usually described (tape, printer, scanner, etc) is only a simple example. Consider also, that if we can consciously emulate a UTM (e.g. cooking a meal from a recipe involves scanning a sequence of symbols, interpreting them, and acting on the instructions) we are not only UTMs at a neuronal level, we're UTMs at a high level of abstraction too, since any UTM implementation can, in principle, emulate any other.

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I accept that the evidence surrounding NDEs is anecdotal, however, those instances where NDE patients have recounted information they could not possibly have been aware of during the time of their NDE has yet to be explained.
It's true enough that there is probably not enough information available for these cases ever to directly demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt what happened. This means that we can't verify how accurate the reports are (e.g. we can't verify they couldn't have known the information they recounted, or that they actually recounted information they couldn't have known). What we do know is that there are a raft of potential mundane explanations; subconscious knowledge, exaggeration, confabulation, imagination, confirmation bias, misinterpretation, errors of perception, errors of recall, errors of timing, etc., etc. Subjective (e.g. eye-witness) reports are notoriously unreliable, and one of the most consistent findings of neuroscience & psychology in recent years is the fallibility of our perception & recall.

As I mentioned before, controlled studies have given no positive results, and to take the reports at face value also means abandoning tried and tested biology & physics without even a hypothetical mechanism. I don't know about you, but that makes me skeptical.

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Those critics who maintain a NDE patient is just that - near death, but not actually dead so that they might still retain some awareness of their surroundings - overlook the fact that a flatlined brain would simply be unable to experience the rich imagery involved in observing incoming data like images, audio sensations and touch. These are something that require the use of the higher brain functions located in the forward lobes of the brain and other areas which, in a brain that is showing virtually zero EEG activity, would seem implausible.
That, of course, assumes that the 'rich imagery' is actually experienced at the time of 'virtually zero EEG activity', but given that (arguable) assumption, EEG is not know for it's sensitivity in this context (e.g. New Scientist), and the generation of rich perceptual imagery is a function of the early sensory cortices for vision, hearing, somatic sensation, taste, & smell, supported by the thalamic relay and associative nuclei, not the frontal lobes (see Damasio's 'Self Comes To Mind', ch.3, 'Making Maps & Making Images').

If the subjects were actually dead, they would be unable to report their NDEs  ;)

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #239 on: 06/10/2013 19:40:56 »
It must have occurred to others that there is a striking similarity between QM and thread drift.

Feynman would like it because it takes a topic from A to B by every possible route,

Heisenberg would approve because there is a distinct uncertainty that the topic will ever arrive at B.

Schrödinger would be pleased because the thread, like his cat, remains neither dead nor alive until a Mod takes decisive action.

Excellent!

Dawkins would like it because it evolves according to the selective pressures of the participants and (to a limited extent) the forum rules.

Hawking would like it because such topics eventually collapse into a black hole of apathy, and it's not clear whether all the information supplied is actually lost to the universe or not...

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #240 on: 06/10/2013 22:02:39 »
Einstein would like it because it is a relatively simple process, and changes with your frame of reference.
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Offline Pmb

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #241 on: 07/10/2013 00:52:31 »
Bill - What exactly is it about infinity that bothers you so much?

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #242 on: 07/10/2013 16:11:18 »
Pete, infinity doesn't bother me.  There was a time when I felt I needed to take issue with the use of the term infinite for things that were obviously not infinite, but that is no longer the case.

I have tried on a few occasions to clarify my position, but either I don't do a very good job, or others are reluctant to pick up the idea.  As this thread demonstrates, discussion diverges into all kinds of other things.  There may be a link between NDEs and infinity, but I wonder about its scientific pedigree. :)

Perhaps, if I state my starting position as three simple points it might help.

1. There can never have been nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now.

2. If there has always been something, that something must be infinite/eternal.

3. If there has always been something, what is the relationship between that something and the Universe we observe?
There never was nothing.

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #243 on: 07/10/2013 17:53:19 »
It seems to me that the reason we get into difficulties surrounding this subject is that we treat the concept of time as real. If you eliminate time as a fundamental aspect of the universe then you do not have to answer questions such as what existed before our universe and what existed before that, ad infinitum. Time " appears" to exist to us in the way we navigate our way through reality but is this just really an illusion? Perhaps we inhabit a level of reality where time is really just an emergent property of a fundamentally timeless and spaceless universe. Why is it that "spooky action at a distance" seems to violate our classical ideas about time and space? Is this phenomenon telling us there is something more profound we have not yet understood?

If this is true then all "moments" exist simultaneously and there is no "now" so that the Big Bang, for example, is still happening somewhere as is your birth or the events of 9/11. If you count up to and beyond the number 15 it does not mean the number 15 suddenly stops existing. It may "appear" to be in the past but that is only relative to us.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2013 18:26:38 by webplodder »

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Offline Pmb

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #244 on: 07/10/2013 18:12:08 »
Quote from: Bill S
Pete, infinity doesn't bother me.  There was a time when I felt I needed to take issue with the use of the term infinite for things that were obviously not infinite, but that is no longer the case.
Thanks Bill. I wanted to let you know how much I admire your interest in this and your pursuit to find the truth. It's very heart warming to me to see people such as yourself blessing physics forums with your presense. Thank you. :)

Quote from: Bill S
I have tried on a few occasions to clarify my position, but either I don't do a very good job, or others are reluctant to pick up the idea.  As this thread demonstrates, discussion diverges into all kinds of other things.  There may be a link between NDEs and infinity, but I wonder about its scientific pedigree. :)

Perhaps, if I state my starting position as three simple points it might help.

1. There can never have been nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now.

2. If there has always been something, that something must be infinite/eternal.

3. If there has always been something, what is the relationship between that something and the Universe we observe?
Unfortunately I've been ill for a while and my attention span is gone, which I'd need to follow your line of reasoning. When I'm better I look foward to discussing this with you. :)

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #245 on: 07/10/2013 19:21:11 »
1. There can never have been nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now.

2. If there has always been something, that something must be infinite/eternal.

3. If there has always been something, what is the relationship between that something and the Universe we observe?
I agree with your logic here, and the question you're asking.

My only concern (I don't have any answers to this) is how one might take account of the possibility that time might have 'started' a finite period ago - what might that mean for infinity/eternity, and how one deals with the idea of there potentially being no temporal 'before' (e.g. what does it mean? would it be the nothing of point 1? etc).

p.s. apologies for the earlier derail - I can get carried away at times ;)
« Last Edit: 07/10/2013 19:22:48 by dlorde »

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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #246 on: 07/10/2013 20:07:24 »
Bill, I'll voice my objections again, but I feel like I'm a broken record at this point. ;)

Quote from: Bill S
1. There can never have been nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now.

2. If there has always been something, that something must be infinite/eternal.

3. If there has always been something, what is the relationship between that something and the Universe we observe?

These are all making way too many assumptions about how the universe would be created.  You seem to be enforcing the physics within this universe onto whatever existed that created the universe. 

For example, could the creation of the universe involve a creation of infinite amounts of space and time instantaneously?  You could argue that would violate causality, but causality is something that exists within the universe in our space and time--it isn't defined and shouldn't be expected to hold for an event that occurred outside our space and time. 

You're coming into asking these big questions with a lot of preconceptions.  You may be right and your view is certainly one way of looking at it, but it certainly isn't the only way of looking at it.

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Offline Pmb

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #247 on: 07/10/2013 20:09:47 »
Bill, I'll voice my objections again, but I feel like I'm a broken record at this point. ;)

Quote from: Bill S
1. There can never have been nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now.

2. If there has always been something, that something must be infinite/eternal.

3. If there has always been something, what is the relationship between that something and the Universe we observe?

These are all making way too many assumptions about how the universe would be created.  You seem to be enforcing the physics within this universe onto whatever existed that created the universe. 

For example, could the creation of the universe involve a creation of infinite amounts of space and time instantaneously?  You could argue that would violate causality, but causality is something that exists within the universe in our space and time--it isn't defined and shouldn't be expected to hold for an event that occurred outside our space and time. 

You're coming into asking these big questions with a lot of preconceptions.  You may be right and your view is certainly one way of looking at it, but it certainly isn't the only way of looking at it.

I agree with JP, of course. I understand where Bill is coming from but it's not a logical conclusion, just one based on everyday experience and that doens't always work.

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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #248 on: 07/10/2013 20:18:20 »
By the way, if "way of looking at it" in my above post doesn't sound scientific--it isn't!  Thinking about what might have created the universe is such a big question and so far beyond what we can measure in physics, that it's very hard to be grounded in science.  Remember, science involves advancing testable hypotheses.  If you're playing with ideas like "something can't come from nothing" without grounding them in testability that's metaphysics and doesn't necessarily have any relation to science.

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Offline jeffreyH

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #249 on: 07/10/2013 22:39:50 »
We can see by looking at black holes and the speed of light that infinities arise when considering extreme situations. The black hole has a past as well as the photon. We can draw an analogy between the collapse of the black hole and the big bang. It is only a directional difference. One is collapsing whilst the other expanding. The past of the black hole involves a system before it's collapse and in theory a future in which it evaporates. If we run this backwards we can imagine a condensation being the past of the big bang which would reflect the evaporation phase of the black hole. This could be an infinity away or it could have some finite time under a different frame of reference. This 'condensation' could be another way of expressing a prior collapsing phase.

As an additional point, what would be the Schwarzschild radius for a singularity with a mass the size of the universe. Would it be the Hubble sphere?
« Last Edit: 07/10/2013 22:45:31 by jeffreyH »
Fixation on the Einstein papers is a good definition of OCD.