A Different Universe

by: Robert B. Laughlin read in 2007

xii "on the question of whether physics was a logical creation of the mind or a synthesis built on observation." Me: both
xii "One view identifies us as masters of the universe; the other identifies the universe as the master of us." Yes
xiii "At its core the matter is not scientific at all but concerns one's sense of self and place in the world." Yes!!
xv "the distinction between fundamental laws and the laws descending from them is a myth, as is the idea of mastery of the universe through mathematics alone."
xv "Physical law cannot generally be anticipated by pure thought, but must be discovered experimentally, because control of nature is achieved only when nature allows this through a principle of organization." I respectfully disagree. Dr. Dick has shown that it can be. The "principle of organization" needs some further explanation.
6 Isn't 'physical principle' an oxymoron? What is a principle anyway?
15 Extremely precise experiments.
40 "The laws of hydrodynamics amount to a precise mathematical codification of the things we intuitively associate with the fluid state, such as the meaningfulness of hydrostatic pressure, and the rules of viscous drag. No one has ever succeeded in deducing these laws from first principles"
44 "organizational principles can give primitive matter a mind of its own and empower it to make decisions." Ummm. Think about this. Don't principles require mind at the outset?
50 "Evidently there is something about the human concept of 'measurement' that requires an apparatus to be large."
54 "The emergent nature of the principle exploited by quantum amplifiers ..." What exactly is that principle?
55 "physics...mak[es] no distinction between unobservable things and nonexistent ones." This constrains the meaning of 'existence'.
69 Hilarious description of a card reader and printer
70 Computers as cats and dogs.
106 "the analogy between antiparticles and holes in ordinary crystalline insulators is exact, robust, and universal."
108 "The analogy between phonons and photons raises the obvious question of whether light itself might be emergent."
109 Sound waves displace atoms in 3D; Light displaces ? only in 2D. This is called the gauge effect.
114 First Theorem of Science: "It is impossible to convince a person of any true thing that will cost him money."
121 "The modern concept of the vacuum of space, confirmed every day by experiment, is a relativistic ether. But we do not call it this because it is taboo."
124 "Symmetries are caused by things, not the cause of things."
130 "Simplicity in physics is an emergent phenomenon, not a mathematically self-evident state from which any deviation is a worrisome anomaly."
133 The Christmas store
137 "...as a practical matter, all nanoscale measurements are clever exploitations of some emergent collective phenomenon, and thus all deliver artificial and highly manipulated representations of the ostensibly understood thing."
138 "To most of us, understanding a thing is synonymous with controlling it."
139 "Thus, on the matter of understanding there is total misunderstanding"
139 "...we're actually experiencing ... a scientific paradigm shift--a large-scale reorganization in how we think forced upon us by events. It is plain ... that this has not yet happened."
139 "the situation in nanoscale physics and the interface with biology at the moment resembles less a happy academic retreat than a Western in which free-range cattlemen are at war with the sodbusters and their fences, while the railroad quietly buys up all the land that counts and bribes the legislature to look the other way."
144 "one can unambiguously identify [physical laws] as spontaneous self-organizational phenomena involving no intelligence other than the principle of organization itself." How can a principle exist in the absence of mind?
144 Ordering "causes" rigidity. OK. But doesn't the very notion of "order" require mind?
145 'Renormalization' illustrated with the "Organ Pipe movie"
163 "...Oscar Wilde's observation that lack of money is the root of all evil.
166 Laughlin's explanation of why "a purely deductive microscopic understanding of gene regulation may be fundamentally impossible"
167 The amplifier's role in control systems
167 "Collective instability, in other words, is nature's amplifier."
200 "Emergence means complex organizational structure growing out of simple rules, Emergence means stable inevitability in the way certain things are. Emergence means unpredictability, in the sense of small events causing great and qualitative changes in larger ones. Emergence means the fundamental impossibility of control. Emergence is a law of nature to which humans are subservient."
208 "[E]lectrical engineering students are often no longer required to learn the laws of electricity"
237 Internet references to fractals, Game of Life, etc.

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