Is infinity an illusion?

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #250 on: 07/10/2013 22:43:18 »
Two naïve questions:

1. Would I be right in thinking that science maintains that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed?
2. If so, on what is this claim based?   
There never was nothing.

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Offline jeffreyH

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #251 on: 07/10/2013 22:49:40 »
Two naïve questions:

1. Would I be right in thinking that science maintains that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed?
2. If so, on what is this claim based?

The law of conservation of mass
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_mass
Fixation on the Einstein papers is a good definition of OCD.

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Offline Pmb

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #252 on: 08/10/2013 02:33:55 »
Two naïve questions:

1. Would I be right in thinking that science maintains that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed?
2. If so, on what is this claim based?   
Scientists don't often use the term "matter" in a precise way so what you said is too vauge to comment on. I would say that mass cannot be created or destroyed. Energy is not a thing that can be created or destroyed like a golf cart. What can be said about it is that its constant, i.e. conserved.

So mass being conserved is taken as an axiom which means that it's assumed to be true but it cannot be proven to be so. All laws of physics are axioms. That's why they call them laws.

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lean bean

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #253 on: 08/10/2013 16:57:39 »
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.
That reminds me of the faster than light inflation period in the early universe. :)

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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #254 on: 08/10/2013 20:20:30 »
Two naïve questions:

1. Would I be right in thinking that science maintains that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed?
2. If so, on what is this claim based?   
Scientists don't often use the term "matter" in a precise way so what you said is too vauge to comment on. I would say that mass cannot be created or destroyed. Energy is not a thing that can be created or destroyed like a golf cart. What can be said about it is that its constant, i.e. conserved.

So mass being conserved is taken as an axiom which means that it's assumed to be true but it cannot be proven to be so. All laws of physics are axioms. That's why they call them laws.

To add to what Pete is saying here and to head off attempts to use this to justify that the universe can't be infinite...  :p

All these laws are assumed to be true only within our universe, since that's the only place where we can look to see if they're true.  We have no idea what happens outside of our universe--if there is an outside.  If our universe was created from "nothing" it's possible this law doesn't hold. 

Similarly, causality can't be violated within our universe, but outside our universe it might be---in particular, the concept of causality probably wouldn't have meaning, since it describes how things interact within the space-time of our universe, which presumably doesn't extend outside of it.

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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #255 on: 08/10/2013 20:22:40 »
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.
That reminds me of the faster than light inflation period in the early universe. :)

That's a good point!  One thing that puzzles people until they learn a bit about how causality works is that distant stars can recede from each other at apparently faster-than-light speeds.  In other word, the distance between them can increase faster than the speed of light. 

But this isn't a violation of light speed travel since the light speed limit only applies to things moving within space-time, but if space-time itself grows, two points can separate at apparent faster than light speeds. 

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #256 on: 09/10/2013 09:26:59 »
dlorde, it has been shown that certain aspects of human thinking is of a non-computable nature, as was mentioned in an earlier post, so once again, we have the problem of trying to understand how this occurs which, as far as I am aware, has eluded cognitive science. The problem with a Turing machine is that it is bound by its axiomatic nature so it does not have the ability to make sudden jumps of insight. In effect, it's like someone having a chain of thought but is prevented to reflect and modify the implications of it because it is written in stone. In other words, human beings are able to play about with ideas and explore novel relations that cannot be predicted so it would not be possible to incorporate this into a Turing machine. How can an algorithm be designed that predicts the unpredictable? For example, how would it have been possible to design an algorithm that eventually produced the theory of relativity? In short, people possess imaginations, computers do not.

Another aspect to this is that while people can discuss and debate about ideas with other people (which might lead to new a insight) a Turing machine, as far as I am aware, is stuck with its own internal processes not being able to benefit from interactions in the form of natural language. Mathematics only goes so far in trying to describe the world. This is crucial, of course, because language has the ability to generate ideas out of the blue due to the flexibility of words which allows new relations to be formed. Can computers understand jokes? This is important because through jokes we can see how human beings make ridiculous relationships, which are not found in the real world, yet may have some value in forming new ideas about reality. An artificial intelligent system is just that - artificial - and can never represent the real world unless and until it becomes a conscious entity which has experienced real-world interactions.

Today's most powerful computers are very good within narrow parameters of application but every time they are required to be used in others fields require new algorithms to be created. Never forget that they are basically number crunching but you can only achieve so much using this method. Human beings are not designed this way so there must exist more effective methods to deal with reality that have been evolved over millions of years.
« Last Edit: 09/10/2013 09:58:23 by webplodder »

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #257 on: 09/10/2013 11:45:08 »
it has been shown that certain aspects of human thinking is of a non-computable nature, as was mentioned in an earlier post
I'm sorry, I can't find that post (searching for 'computable' or 'non-computable'); can you post a link to it, or explain what was shown to be non-computable, or link to a reference?

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The problem with a Turing machine is that it is bound by its axiomatic nature so it does not have the ability to make sudden jumps of insight. In effect, it's like someone having a chain of thought but is prevented to reflect and modify the implications of it because it is written in stone. In other words, human beings are able to play about with ideas and explore novel relations that cannot be predicted so it would not be possible to incorporate this into a Turing machine.
No. You're confusing the hardware with the algorithms. From the time the first computers were built people have been writing self-modifying code, learning algorithms, evolutionary algorithms, etc. One advantage of evolutionary algorithms is they can come up with novel and unexpected results. There are also systems explicitly designed to generate creative solutions. Have a read of VS Ramachandran's work (or watch his videos) where he describes how creativity an insight is generated in the brain; it's basically a form of pattern matching and metacognition - applying principles & ideas from one area to a unrelated area (this is also how simile and metaphor work). In the brain, this is done subconsciously; in a computer, it's usually an emergent product of explicit algorithms (e.g. iterative feedback, recursion, etc).

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How can an algorithm be designed that predicts the unpredictable? For example, how would it have been possible to design an algorithm that eventually produced the theory of relativity? In short, people possess imaginations, computers do not.
It is, by definition, impossible to predict the unpredictable, so you'll need to clarify that thought. The theory of relativity didn't come out of the blue, it was based on the work of Michelson, Lorentz, Poincare and others, dropping certain assumptions. A great piece of work, but a mix of derivation and synthesis. Algorithms have already been written that can generate novel mathematical theorems and proofs, and novel artwork and music, so be careful not to confuse what has not yet been done with what is impossible.

But this is all off-topic. I suggest if you want to discuss this stuff further, you create a new thread for it.

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Offline webplodder

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #259 on: 09/10/2013 16:11:32 »
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Algorithms have already been written that can generate novel mathematical theorems and proofs, and novel artwork and music, so be careful not to confuse what has not yet been done with what is impossible.
dlorde, ultimately this is not an independent consciousness acting by itself but simply a set of instructions that has anticipated certain conditions, in which case it is all the result of human intelligence, not machine intelligence. A machine cannot learn, only blindly follow its algorithm. A truly intelligent machine would be able to actually understand the subject matter it is analysing but so far, this is not the case. A calculator has the ability to add 8 and 12, for example, but has no clue what numbers are aside from a series of electronics signals generated within its circuits so cannot draw generalisations from mathematical operations. Computer artwork is more in the eye of the human beholder rather than in the eye of the "artistic" algorithm. Are you seriously suggesting a computer knows what art is? Even the most powerful chess computer relies on huge number crunching algorithms with which to analyse variations and this is because the external world can only be represented by binary representations due to the architecture of its internal workings.

There have been many things in science that were once not thought to be possible yet have materialised, so we cannot always predict what will happen in the future and the reason for this is because human thinking itself is often unpredictable, something that is non-computable and creative. This is what I meant when I said it is impossible to produce an algorithm that anticipates original and novel ideas since such ideas have first to be thought of. Otherwise, you might as well say it's possible to produce an algorithm to cure cancer or predict the weather for years to come. Even if a computer algorithm had been fed with all the knowledge and data available at the time connected with physics I am very doubtful it would have come up with the theory of relativity. It required a leap of insight not at all suggested by the then current data.
« Last Edit: 09/10/2013 16:48:25 by webplodder »

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #260 on: 09/10/2013 19:10:22 »
Quote from: JP
All these laws are assumed to be true only within our universe, since that's the only place where we can look to see if they're true.  We have no idea what happens outside of our universe--if there is an outside.  If our universe was created from "nothing" it's possible this law doesn't hold.

One of the objections to God and creationism raised by scientists is that such beliefs constitute a barrier beyond which we cannot speculate or reason. 

Surely you are not saying that because we have no proof of what might be beyond our Universe (if anything), it is meaningless to consider possibilities that might be relevant to the origin of the Universe.

If it is reasonable to speculate, wouldn’t Ockham’s  razor  lead us to start our speculations with a minimum of wild assumptions?
There never was nothing.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #261 on: 09/10/2013 19:43:42 »
Quote from: JP
Similarly, causality can't be violated within our universe, but outside our universe it might be---in particular, the concept of causality probably wouldn't have meaning, since it describes how things interact within the space-time of our universe, which presumably doesn't extend outside of it.

You seem to be assuming that I am saying that the principles of causality must be the same within, and outside the Universe.  This is not so; in fact I would be quite surprised if that were the case. 

What I am saying is that science is able to lead us to such a deep understanding of the Universe, and to interpret so many of the underlying laws, that it seems reasonable to speculate that even the origin of the Universe might be understandable using the same rational tools.

Causality may well be different outside the Universe, but without making assumptions like "God created everything", or "everything suddenly appeared from nothing without cause", we have only those guidelines which are known to us on which to base our thoughts.
 
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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #262 on: 09/10/2013 20:16:51 »
This is a hard topic to discuss because we're burdened with ideas like "cause" which imply time.  However, there's no reason to believe time exists outside our universe.  If it does, then it probably isn't a simple extension of the timeline within our universe or it would be a part of our universe.

So let me put it this way: why, scientifically speaking, couldn't our universe be infinite and have always been infinite?

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #263 on: 09/10/2013 20:35:49 »
http://www.technologyreview.com/view/511421/the-brain-is-not-computable/
Nicolelis is using a restricted sense of computable, i.e. direct algorithmic simulation:
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... human consciousness (and if you believe in it, the soul) simply can’t be replicated in silicon. That’s because its most important features are the result of unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cells, Nicolelis says..
However, you can (as the Human Brain Project is partially attempting) emulate the brain by modelling neurons and their connections (Neuromorphic Computing Systems), so that you can have unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cells emulated neurons. It's coming.

p.s. wrong thread.
« Last Edit: 09/10/2013 20:50:20 by dlorde »

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #264 on: 09/10/2013 21:35:37 »
Quote from: JP
  So let me put it this way: why, scientifically speaking, couldn't our universe be infinite and have always been infinite?

The Universe could be infinite – even I haven’t been around long enough to know that. :) – but there do seem to be some reasons for thinking otherwise; like the Big Bang, entropy etc.  Perhaps you were thinking more along the lines of eternal inflation, and an infinity of bubble universes; or bouncing universes?  These are things I would be happy to discuss, with a view to learning more about them.
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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #265 on: 09/10/2013 21:40:43 »
Quote from: JP
  So let me put it this way: why, scientifically speaking, couldn't our universe be infinite and have always been infinite?

The Universe could be infinite – even I haven’t been around long enough to know that. :) – but there do seem to be some reasons for thinking otherwise; like the Big Bang, entropy etc. 

Why are those reasons for thinking otherwise?

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Offline yor_on

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #266 on: 10/10/2013 00:11:48 »
The point, to me dlorde, with a quantum computer is that if you find a way to formulate your question it will give you a answer. The assumption behind it being that this answer will be the most probable. In effect, as in using it for cracking 2056 bits pgp. the possibilities inherent for finding one right solution there are more than we imaginatively can go through.

"AES supports a 256-bit key. How many keys does AES-256 have? See if you can find some number in physics, chemistry, or astronomy of about the same size. Use the Internet to help search for big numbers. Draw a conclusion from your research.

Answer:
The equation we need to solve is 2256 = 10n . Taking common logarithms, we get n = 256log 2, so n = 77. The number of keys is thus 1077 . The number of stars in our galaxy is about 1012 and the number of galaxies is about 108 ,so there are about 1020 stars in the universe. The mass of the sun, a typical star, is 2*1033 grams. The sun is made mostly of hydrogen and the number of atoms in 1 gram of hydrogen is about 6*1023 (Avogadro’s number). So the number of atoms in the sun is about 1.2 *1057 . With 1020 stars, the number of atoms in all the stars in the universe is about 1077 . Thus, the number of 256-bit AES keys is equal to the number of atoms in the whole universe (ignoring the dark matter). Conclusion: breaking AES-256 by brute force is not likely to happen any time soon."

From http://210.43.188.28/jpkc10/wangluo/Course/skja/ywxt/enCh-8.html

So, the 'attack' by a quantum computer would have to work outside a linear time line, and assuming the principles are correct it is presumed to do the calculation 'instantly'.

(and if we could stretch the time allowed for a edit somewhat, I would be much obliged. Got a slow connection invariably ending up it that ugly 'edit comment' as soon as I correct my spelling etc)
« Last Edit: 10/10/2013 00:23:33 by yor_on »
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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #267 on: 11/10/2013 10:11:36 »
If the universe has always existed then where does that leave causality? If there is no initial cause then it seems to me there cannot exist a chain of cause-and-effect leading to the situation today. Possibly, an alternative interpretation might be that instead of one thing causing another, events exist as a set of pre-existing ensembles so that causality is an illusion and we exist in a kind of computer program where things are already pre-determined. Admittedly, this sounds far fetched but how else can we avoid the problem of a causeless universe giving rise to an apparent chain of events?

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #268 on: 11/10/2013 10:37:36 »
http://www.technologyreview.com/view/511421/the-brain-is-not-computable/ [nofollow]
Nicolelis is using a restricted sense of computable, i.e. direct algorithmic simulation:
Quote
... human consciousness (and if you believe in it, the soul) simply can’t be replicated in silicon. That’s because its most important features are the result of unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cells, Nicolelis says..
However, you can (as the Human Brain Project [nofollow] is partially attempting) emulate the brain by modelling neurons and their connections (Neuromorphic Computing Systems), so that you can have unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cells emulated neurons. It's coming.

p.s. wrong thread.

One important aspect that should be addressed here is that very often we learn by our mistakes. In the history of science there have been many instances of experiments that have yielded important information that was unexpected so by "playing about" with ideas human beings have learnt new things that could never have been predicted by any algorithm.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #269 on: 11/10/2013 10:40:48 »
The point, to me dlorde, with a quantum computer is that if you find a way to formulate your question it will give you a answer.
...
Sorry yor_on; as usual, I don't have the foggiest idea what you're on about. I haven't mentioned quantum computing on these forums since April.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #270 on: 11/10/2013 10:53:06 »
... there have been many instances of experiments that have yielded important information that was unexpected so by "playing about" with ideas human beings have learnt new things that could never have been predicted by any algorithm.
Computing can't yet match the human brain in this respect, but computing systems can be creative using similar principles, and evolutionary algorithms regularly come up with unexpected, unpredictable ideas (e.g. Evolving Soft Robots - not the best example around, but I just happened to be watching it). Neuromorphic systems have even greater potential.
« Last Edit: 11/10/2013 10:54:46 by dlorde »

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #271 on: 11/10/2013 11:03:47 »
... there have been many instances of experiments that have yielded important information that was unexpected so by "playing about" with ideas human beings have learnt new things that could never have been predicted by any algorithm.
Computing can't yet match the human brain in this respect, but computing systems can be creative using similar principles, and evolutionary algorithms regularly come up with unexpected, unpredictable ideas (e.g. Evolving Soft Robots [nofollow] - not the best example around, but I just happened to be watching it). Neuromorphic systems have even greater potential.

dlorde, as fascinating as this discussion is, I think we should stop now because we are way off topic and must be trying the patience of the mods.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #272 on: 11/10/2013 14:52:14 »
Quote from: JP
Why are those reasons for thinking otherwise?

My thinking there was that if the Universe started at the BB, and progressed towards a predictable end, it would most likely be finite.  One would have to think outside this Universe to find infinity.  Similarly, the one-way progression of entropy might point towards the same conclusion.

These thoughts are probably naïve, but it is the nature of this naivety that I am trying to understand.
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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #273 on: 11/10/2013 15:48:19 »
Quote from: JP
Why are those reasons for thinking otherwise?

My thinking there was that if the Universe started at the BB, and progressed towards a predictable end, it would most likely be finite.  One would have to think outside this Universe to find infinity.  Similarly, the one-way progression of entropy might point towards the same conclusion.

These thoughts are probably naïve, but it is the nature of this naivety that I am trying to understand.


That is one possible answer, but there isn't a reason to assume the universe didn't start off infinite (aside from intuition, which isn't scientifically credible).  To be scientific, you'd have to tie it into observation or measurement somehow.  I think nearly every human has the intuition that if the universe "started" it must have been tiny and that since then it has grown at a finite rate so that now it can't be infinite.  But our intuition is a dangerous guide to dealing with modern physics, especially with such fundamental questions as the nature of the universe's creation, so it can't be relied upon alone to give us answers.

If we stuck to intuition, we wouldn't have quantum mechanics, black holes, inflation of the universe, relativity, etc.

I think the best way to approach the answer to give it some scientific credibility is to note that mathematics is extremely useful in physics, and to ask what kind of mathematically allowed states the universe might be in currently and eliminate states which are disallowed by observation.  For example, we know that space-time has certain properties, which eliminates many possibilities.  We know that the universe's expansion appears to be accelerating, so that eliminates more.  What we have no evidence for either way is the size of the universe, since we're limited to only seeing a patch of the whole and we don't see any sign of finiteness as we look out.  Of course, we don't see a sign of infiniteness either--what we see could be compatible with finite or infinite universes.  To rule out infinite universes, we'd presumably need to know how the universe was created and that would tell us, but we haven't figured that out yet.  Intuition just isn't a good reason to rule something out, though it's fair to say that you prefer finite models because your intuition finds them more comfortable--just realize that's an argument people used to oppose quantum mechanics, relativity, etc.
« Last Edit: 11/10/2013 15:55:48 by JP »

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Offline webplodder

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #274 on: 11/10/2013 16:39:32 »
Quote from: JP
Why are those reasons for thinking otherwise?

My thinking there was that if the Universe started at the BB, and progressed towards a predictable end, it would most likely be finite.  One would have to think outside this Universe to find infinity.  Similarly, the one-way progression of entropy might point towards the same conclusion.

These thoughts are probably naïve, but it is the nature of this naivety that I am trying to understand.


But what caused the BB?

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #275 on: 11/10/2013 23:11:31 »
Quote from: JP
there isn't a reason to assume the universe didn't start off infinite

I’m delighted that you mentioned that, JP, its something I have come across in discussions on other forums.  I always ask for an explanation as to how some infinite object can come into existence; especially something that is often described as infinitesimally small.

Those who don’t just ignore the question have so far failed to produce a convincing answer.  Perhaps its just that I don’t understand the answers.  However, I usually find that your explanations make sense, so perhaps I’m in luck at last.
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Offline JP

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #276 on: 12/10/2013 03:53:01 »
I don't think you'll like the answer.  ;)  There's a couple of parts to it, and I'm not an expert--someone who deals with "theories of everything" could probably tell you more, but I don't think there's someone like that on this forum. 

The first part is that you're basically asking for the answer to "how does a universe come to be?"  The problem with that is that there are very few ways to approach that question--all our scientific measurements take place within the universe and all our models deal with measurements within the universe.  One hope is that if we can come up with a theory that describes everything in the universe in simple terms (string theory being one candidate) that it would tell us about the allowed structure of the universe or universes and perhaps how they came to be.  String theory does indeed do this to an extent--predicting that an infinite number of universes exist all with different parameters.  (I don't know what it says about finite vs. infinite universes, but if I had to guess, it would allow both.)  Is this useful?  Is this even science?  I'm doubtful.  It may explain our universe very well, but can we ever test its predictions about other universes? 

The second part is to ask yourself why you prefer a finite universe or why you feel an infinite universe is impossible and check if there's a scientific reason to think so.  The usual reason is that nothing we can measure of starts off infinite, so why should the universe?  And everything that we know of that starts off finite and grows does so at a finite rate, and so can never become infinite in any of our measurements.  That's a logical reason to say that nothing can be infinite, including the universe.  That would also be an erroneous conclusion.  Why?  Everything we measure is within the universe.  In fact, everything we measure is within the observable universe, which is certainly smaller than the entire universe.  So we can apply this logic only to the class of objects "things within the (observable) universe."  Since that class does not include the universe itself, it's flawed reasoning to try to apply these limitations to the whole universe.  This doesn't help us come up with a plausible reason why the universe could be infinite, but it demonstrates that there's no plausible reason why it couldn't be and that the usual arguments are flawed.

So what is a model that might work?  One that I've heard of and that makes some sense to me is that all possible universes at all possible times exist as a set of states.  We say there is time and space because our brains and bodies work in a certain way to put ordering to these states.  We process information by moving "forward" in time (converting energy to entropy) so we see an arrow of time.  Various parameters of our particular universe define what we can interact with as we move in time, so we experience causality, etc. 

So what might we see if we could step outside our human brains and look at the set of states making up our "universe"?  It might just be that each universe is completely generated from a small set of parameters.  From those parameters, you can imagine generating an entire set of states of the universe, which when placed in order by things living within the universe, form the entire universe from start to finish.  From the outside however, you'd just have a list of parameter values for each potential universe from which you can generate an infinite set of states.  Some of these values might make observers within the universe measure it as infinite and some might make them measure it as finite.

One last comment: theories of everything are pretty far out there and I take them with a huge grain of salt--I view most of them as philosophy with a lot of math rather than physics, since they don't make testable predictions.  They also veer alarmingly close to what we see in New Theories where promoters of crackpot ideas will say "you have to free your mind for a paradigm shift" or somesuch nonsense.  But the important difference is that while you do have to be willing to consider "really out there ideas" when thinking about the origin of the universe, all ideas are going to be about as far out there, since they all deal with the creation of the universe, which is something we don't have a good way of scientifically probing.  As I mentioned at the start, you have just as much scientific evidence and justification to back up your "common sense" ideas as you do to back up the idea that the universe started off infinite or even that there's an infinite number of universes, some of which are finite and some of which are infinite.

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Offline Pmb

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #277 on: 12/10/2013 07:05:03 »
Quote from: JP
there isn't a reason to assume the universe didn't start off infinite

I’m delighted that you mentioned that, JP, its something I have come across in discussions on other forums.  I always ask for an explanation as to how some infinite object can come into existence; especially something that is often described as infinitesimally small.

Those who don’t just ignore the question have so far failed to produce a convincing answer.  Perhaps its just that I don’t understand the answers.  However, I usually find that your explanations make sense, so perhaps I’m in luck at last.

This would make an excellant FAQ question. Don't you think?

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #278 on: 12/10/2013 14:03:45 »
JP, thanks for that response.  There's a lot there to think about, and I shall have to come back to it a few times to get the most out of it.

I may have missed it, but so far I have not found the much sought after answer to the question: How can something that did not previously exist come into being in an infinite state?

There are other things to come back to when time permits, but, for now, thanks again.
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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #279 on: 12/10/2013 15:57:58 »
Quote from: JP
there isn't a reason to assume the universe didn't start off infinite
I always ask for an explanation as to how some infinite object can come into existence; especially something that is often described as infinitesimally small.
Bill, I don’t know why you assume the universe was  infinitesimally small to begin with?  Just because the equations of running the observable universe backwards ends with those equations breaking down/singularity, Why do you assume that means the whole of the universe was once infinitesimally small?

I may have missed it, but so far I have not found the much sought after answer to the question: How can something that did not previously exist come into being in an infinite state?
Answering from what JP has already said, the processes of the origins of a universe or universes maybe a unique process with no comparison processes/laws within a universe. Smacks of philosophy... but I like it.
How can something that did not previously exist come into being in an infinite state?
the bb was the beginning of a determinable space and time, and as such, could be a regional happening following from the density of matter/energy within that region. In other words, our understanding of spacetime (determinable) may be a regional property not happening at the 'same' time everywhere in an infinite universe.
« Last Edit: 12/10/2013 16:24:53 by lean bean »

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #280 on: 12/10/2013 16:18:55 »
Quote from: LB
Bill, I don’t know why you assume the universe was  infinitesimally small to begin with?

That is not an assumption at which I just arrived.  As a hitch-hiker, I have to place some reliance on what scientists say when they write books for the edification of non-scientists.

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Answering from what JP has already said, the processes of the origins of a universe or universes maybe a unique process with no comparison processes/laws within a universe.

Isn't that a bit like saying "God created the Universe, so there is no point in even thinking beyond that"?
There never was nothing.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #281 on: 12/10/2013 16:35:09 »
Quote from: JP
So what is a model that might work?  One that I've heard of and that makes some sense to me is that all possible universes at all possible times exist as a set of states.  We say there is time and space because our brains and bodies work in a certain way to put ordering to these states.  We process information by moving "forward" in time (converting energy to entropy) so we see an arrow of time.  Various parameters of our particular universe define what we can interact with as we move in time, so we experience causality, etc.


Apart, perhaps, from some of Barbour’s work, this is the closest I have seen to the basic outline of what I have in mind.  However, it does seem to make one assumption that I would consider has an alternative.  It appears to assume that existence necessarily takes the form of universes.  Such an assumption robs the idea of much of its potential explanatory power.
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lean bean

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #282 on: 12/10/2013 16:47:47 »
Cor Bill, that was quick.
Quote from: LB
Bill, I don’t know why you assume the universe was  infinitesimally small to begin with?
That is not an assumption at which I just arrived.  As a hitch-hiker, I have to place some reliance on what scientists say when they write books for the edification of non-scientists.
Where does it say for sure the 'whole' universe was infinitesimally small at 'a' beginning. Remember the bb was a beginning of determinable space and time. That could be a regional state (because of mass/energy density) in an infinite universe.
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Isn't that a bit like saying "God created the Universe, so there is no point in even thinking beyond that"?
True, but if you want to go beyond, you have to remember things that can't happen within our universe can happen with 'objects' like universes, faster than light inflation for instance.

« Last Edit: 12/10/2013 16:54:58 by lean bean »

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #283 on: 13/10/2013 13:17:52 »
dlorde, as fascinating as this discussion is, I think we should stop now because we are way off topic and must be trying the patience of the mods.
As I said, if you wish to continue it, start a new thread :)

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #284 on: 13/10/2013 13:32:06 »
Quote from: LB
Bill, I don’t know why you assume the universe was  infinitesimally small to begin with?
That is not an assumption at which I just arrived.  As a hitch-hiker, I have to place some reliance on what scientists say when they write books for the edification of non-scientists.
I'd be surprised if a knowledgeable scientist would describe it in those terms. I suspect it's a misinterpretation or misunderstanding. The 'initial' (earliest we can describe) state is generally described as very hot and very dense and expanding very rapidly. Intuition would suggest that the currently observable universe would then have been infinitesimally small, but the observable universe is (almost certainly) not the whole universe, so could conceivably have started as an infinitesimally small part of an infinitely large, hot, dense, expanding universe.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #285 on: 13/10/2013 18:49:37 »
Quote from: LB
Where does it say for sure the 'whole' universe was infinitesimally small at 'a' beginning. Remember the bb was a beginning of determinable space and time.


 Once again we run into difficulties arising from the use of “universe” in various ways.  This is why I prefer to reserve “Universe” what we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations; and use “cosmos” for the bigger picture.

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That could be a regional state (because of mass/energy density) in an infinite universe.

Or a finite Universe in an infinite cosmos.  It seems very much to be a matter of terminology.
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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #286 on: 13/10/2013 19:00:44 »
Quote from: dlorde
Intuition would suggest that the currently observable universe would then have been infinitesimally small, but the observable universe is (almost certainly) not the whole universe, so could conceivably have started as an infinitesimally small part of an infinitely large, hot, dense, expanding universe.

To avoid falling into the “misinterpretation trap” I must ask for more clarification before responding to this. 

Do you mean that the “infinitely large, hot, dense, expanding universe” came into being at the BB, or was it just the “infinitesimally small part”?

If the former, what is the relationship/difference between the infinite part and the infinitesimally small bit?

If the latter, is the infinitely large part eternal?

 What are your grounds for thinking that the infinitely large part is expanding?
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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #287 on: 13/10/2013 19:30:04 »
JP, although this is a (part) response to your last post, it is very general, so I am not starting with a quote. 

I am aware that intuition is a poor guide where modern scientific concepts are concerned, but if an idea seemed to provide some insight into aspects that were poorly understood, or not really understood at all, might it not be worth investigating? 

I am certainly not saying “Look, I have the answer”.  I lack both the scientific background and the maths to make such a claim, but I have some (crackpot?) ideas in my head.  Obviously, it would be gratifying if they turned out to be well founded, but I’m not really that naïve, so having them laid to rest would be quite acceptable, and much more likely.

Basically, the idea is that a re-think of the concept of infinity could explain much of the weirdness of quantum theory.  That would include things like wave/particle duality, the ability of quons (sensu Herbert) to appear to be in more than one place at a time, entanglement and action at a distance.     
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Offline Pmb

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #288 on: 13/10/2013 22:28:32 »
Quote from: lean bean
Bill, I don't know why you assume the universe was  infinitesimally small to begin with?  Just because the equations of running the observable universe backwards ends with those equations breaking down/singularity, Why do you assume that means the whole of the universe was once infinitesimally small?
That's what modern cosmology says so its no surprise that Bill accepts that as it is. I do. Cosmologists and most physicists know that the big bang theory is an extrapolation running back wards. But it works that way. Only when we run things back to 10-34s or so do we see things working out to what we observe today.
« Last Edit: 13/10/2013 22:30:22 by Pmb »

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #289 on: 13/10/2013 22:42:02 »
Quote from: webplodder
But what caused the BB?
Nobody knows.

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #290 on: 14/10/2013 00:30:28 »
Do you mean that the “infinitely large, hot, dense, expanding universe” came into being at the BB, or was it just the “infinitesimally small part”?
As far as I'm aware, it's not known whether anything 'came into being' at the BB, just that the earliest state we can infer was a hot, dense, expanding one. This may have been finite or infinite in extent. If it was infinite, the observable universe would be a part of it.

Quote
If the former, what is the relationship/difference between the infinite part and the infinitesimally small bit?
Not sure I understand what you're asking - it would be the same as for any finite part of something infinite. 

Quote
If the latter, is the infinitely large part eternal?
I have no idea. Pace concerns about the meaning of eternity and whether time began at the BB, how could we possibly know or guess? (and what difference would it make?).

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What are your grounds for thinking that the infinitely large part is expanding?
The Cosmological Principle (homogeneity) & Ockham's Razor. The observable universe is expanding; if it is part of a larger universe, the simplest assumption is that it too is expanding. Otherwise we'd have to find some explanation for why the observable universe is not representative of the greater whole.

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #291 on: 14/10/2013 17:23:18 »
Quote from: dlorde
Intuition would suggest that the currently observable universe would then have been infinitesimally small, but the observable universe is (almost certainly) not the whole universe, so could conceivably have started as an infinitesimally small part of an infinitely large, hot, dense, expanding universe.

To avoid falling into the “misinterpretation trap” I must ask for more clarification before responding to this. 

Do you mean that the “infinitely large, hot, dense, expanding universe” came into being at the BB, or was it just the “infinitesimally small part”?

If the former, what is the relationship/difference between the infinite part and the infinitesimally small bit?

If the latter, is the infinitely large part eternal?

 What are your grounds for thinking that the infinitely large part is expanding?

Bill, You might find some of the answers to your questions here
http://superstringtheory.com/cosmo/

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lean bean

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #292 on: 14/10/2013 17:25:08 »
Quote from: LB
Where does it say for sure the 'whole' universe was infinitesimally small at 'a' beginning. Remember the bb was a beginning of determinable space and time.

 Once again we run into difficulties arising from the use of “universe” in various ways.  This is why I prefer to reserve “Universe” what we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations; and use “cosmos” for the bigger picture.

I prefer to reserve "observable universe" to that which we observe... it's in the name :)  If I have been using the term infinite universe, then I would guess that's what you call the Cosmos and for what we can 'conjecture' about ,as you say, the bigger picture...Mulitverse ideas and infinite Universe.

bill
Quote
Or a finite Universe in an infinite cosmos.  It seems very much to be a matter of terminology.
Yes, our observable universe as part of a larger infinite Universe.
Quote from: lean bean
Bill, I don't know why you assume the universe was  infinitesimally small to begin with?  Just because the equations of running the observable universe backwards ends with those equations breaking down/singularity, Why do you assume that means the whole of the universe was once infinitesimally small?

That's what modern cosmology says so its no surprise that Bill accepts that as it is. I do.
So who is it  coming up with ideas like mulitverse and eternal inflationary Universe, If not cosmologists ?  And can you rule out the idea of an infinite Universe?
 
Quote
Cosmologists and most physicists know that the big bang theory is an extrapolation running back wards. But it works that way. Only when we run things back to 10-34s or so do we see things working out to what we observe today.
Yes, that’s why I said a determinable space and time began at the bb, If you want to be precise then 10-34s after the bb a determinable space and time arose.
« Last Edit: 14/10/2013 17:29:53 by lean bean »

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #293 on: 14/10/2013 21:23:36 »
Quote from: LB
you have to remember things that can't happen within our universe can happen with 'objects' like universes

Do you mean there may be other universes in which things could happen that cannot happen in our Universe, or do you have concrete examples?
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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #294 on: 14/10/2013 21:29:00 »
Quote from: dlorde
The Cosmological Principle (homogeneity) & Ockham's Razor. The observable universe is expanding; if it is part of a larger universe, the simplest assumption is that it too is expanding. Otherwise we'd have to find some explanation for why the observable universe is not representative of the greater whole.

Delightfully put.  I hope you won't mind if I hang on to that, and quote it later.  :) 
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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #295 on: 14/10/2013 21:44:50 »
Quote from: LB
This is why I prefer to reserve “Universe” what we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations

What I said was:
"This is why I prefer to reserve “Universe” what we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations"
Obviously there should be "for" between "Universe" and what, but even allowing for any confusion that might have arisen from that omission, your addition of bold type is tantamount to miss-quoting me. 

"Universe", as I defined it, and "observable universe" are not quite synonymous.

I guess discussions would be less fun if we all used a rigidly defined terminology.  :)
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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #296 on: 14/10/2013 22:55:16 »
LB, its not going anywhere other than to note that "the Universe we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations" is not quite the same as the "observable universe". Just an observation.  :)
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Offline Bill S

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #297 on: 14/10/2013 23:00:17 »
Quote from: LB
Cor Bill, that was quick.

I'm working on getting responses in before the questions are posted, but my time machine is being difficult.
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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #298 on: 14/10/2013 23:11:54 »
LB, its not going anywhere other than to note that "the Universe we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations" is not quite the same as the "observable universe". Just an observation.  :)
Bill, my last post. I can't get the quote boxes looking right?? It seems the whole post is from you..I have given up trying to get it right..

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LB, its not going anywhere other than to note that "the Universe we can observe, or to which we can reasonably extrapolate our observations" is not quite the same as the "observable universe". Just an observation.  :)
what's not going where? I'm usually asleep by now...I have had me milk and biscuits and teddy's tucked in

Ps late add on. if you mean the galaxy is going nowhere, yes I know it's expanding spacetime taking it for a ride. did you mean something esle?

« Last Edit: 14/10/2013 23:26:32 by lean bean »

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Is infinity an illusion?
« Reply #299 on: 14/10/2013 23:46:54 »
Delightfully put.  I hope you won't mind if I hang on to that, and quote it later.  :) 
Thank you; you're welcome to quote it any time.