by: Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D.
Anyone versed in modern physics knows that every symmetry yields some kind of rule on what can and cannot happen (Noether's Theorem). In a nutshell, if a variable exists in your concept of a problem and you can prove it is impossible to know the value of that variable (either by it being something impossible to measure or by "assuming" it is impossible to measure) then there exists something which can not change (a conserved quantity) in the solution of the problem. The partial with respect to that variable (the one we are ignorant of) must represent something about the problem which must be constant. If you want to understand how this relationship develops, start with the paragraph immediately prior to equation 1.8 and follow the steps through to equation 1.17.
The consequences of the shift symmetry are well known to physicists. Under normal circumstances, they generate the symmetry by "assuming" that the universe has no preferred origin. In my case, the symmetry is generated by the fact that my deductions absolutely cannot depend upon the mechanism used to convert reality into a set of numbers. There is a portion of that pipeline which provides the transformation of reality into my mental image of reality which is fundamentally unexaminable. Being unexaminable, means I am fundamentally ignorant of it's functioning. Shift symmetry is only one aspect of that ignorance.
My originality here is the source of the ignorance. My realization is that we cannot examine the mechanism by which our senses obtain information about reality as all examinations depend on our senses. The realization that our explanation of our senses is part and parcel of our explanation of the universe we find ourselves in. If we can be wrong, we can be wrong about that issue. Most people cannot even comprehend being wrong about the relationship between their senses and reality. The possibility of being wrong implies ignorance and ignorance is described in detail by a symmetries. QED, my approach requires these symmetries; I do not assume them!
The next step in my understanding of the universe is basically represented in my idea of "unknowable" data. Scientists are making things up all the time; inventing things to explain their experiences. They defend the existence of their inventions by resorting to experiments to prove that these inventions obey the rules of the universe which have been established by earlier experiments. There is a dichotomy here. The rules are deduced from what happens and what happens are things which the rules require. Rules and things are very different concepts and I will get back to the issue of their "orthogonality" later.
For an example of the relation between things and rules, there exists no experiment which can prove that a photon goes from A to B. The "fact" that a photon goes from A to B is deduced by the way which what happens at A is related to what happens at B. The existence of the photon itself is part of the explanation; i.e., if one were to remove all of the explanations of anything provided by physics, you would also remove every indication for the existence of a photon. You must ask yourself, what part of the existence of the photon is dependent on the correctness of our explanation?
Another example: the neutrino was originally hypothesized in order to preserve conservation of energy. Now, after it was hypothesized, further requirements that it obey other rules already established, led to experimental expectations which were later verified. What was really proved was that the currently accepted collection of rules required the existence of the neutrino. The conclusion that the neutrino existed thus was really no more than a pledge of belief that the rules are correct. Just as the existence of a photon vanishes when the explanations provided by physicists are removed, the existence of neutrinos also vanish.
Thus it became clear to me many years ago that there were two things being invented by the scientists: not only were they inventing the rules the things which made up the universe had to obey, but they were also inventing the things themselves. This is the fundamental position of the anti-realists: it's all just a figment of our imagination. Can you imagine anyone getting all the way to a Ph.D. in physics without hearing about that complaint? The scientists take the "pragmatic" out (that is, they refuse to consider this question); in my opinion that is exactly the position taken by both Harv and Yanniru.
I take a third position. A position which is not recognized by anyone that I am aware of . That position is that some things really do exist but a lot of things are figments. What these things are, I do not know but I can none the less attach a name to the categories. For better or worse, I attach the name "knowable data" and "unknowable data" to the figments. Harv doesn't like those names because he wants to know how I intend to "know" that data (he just isn't used to abstract thought and has great difficulty eliminating connotations from meanings). I see simply see "knowable data" as representing real things; they are the things which must still exist in the final comprehensive understanding of the universe.
So my mental image of the universe consists of three components: physical things which really exist, imaginary things which we dream up so our mental image will make sense and the rules we believe all these things must obey. The names I give to these three components are "knowable data", "unknowable data" and "rules". In essence, from an abstract perspective, all scientists make up "unknowable data" and "rules" in order to explain the "knowable data".
My mental image is extremely abstract. The mental image preferred by the physics community is not abstract at all; it is instead very specific: things exist and we examine their characteristics, learning the rules as we go. (At least that is what they want us to believe.) Suppose we examine their "pragmatic" mental image in detail. In fact, let us look at a specific detail in Einstein's proposed mental image of reality. Einstein calls the existence of something at a point in his four dimensional Minkowski space an "event". The "thing" which exists consists of the collection of events which go to make up the "space-time line" which describes the behavior of that thing.
The first issue which should bother you about that model of reality is that the space-time line consists of a continuous line. The concept continuity requires an infinite number of points and, from your perspective, that makes it a mental construct and not something real. So, in order to keep everybody happy, let's back off the continuous line idea and just say the space-time line consists of a bunch of discreet "events" (the concept of continuity being removed by Plank lengths and quantum foam ideas).
Proceeding with our pragmatic examination of Einstein's mental image, let us examine a single "event". Certainly, in his perspective, that event really exists. What is it. Well, to answer that question, we need to examine it very carefully. How do we do that? It turns out that we cannot as it exists at a specific space time point in Einstein's four dimensional manifold and we cannot go over there and look at it. It is either in the past or it is in the future. If it is in the past, we can't go back and look; if it is in the future, it hasn't happened yet so how do we know where to look?
How are we to "know" the identity of that event? It should be clear that we must depend on the existence of other events related to that event. Just for the fun of it, think of me as knowing what events are where and when but incapable of identifying any of them. We will set the origin of our Minkowski coordinate system at the event we are trying to identify. Then you ask me if there is an event at some specific space-time point in that coordinate system. Think of it as a big game of twenty questions (a game of ten billion billion questions if you want); you name the point and I answer yes or no.
As time progresses, the answers will begin to paint a picture in your mind. At some point, after you know where enough of the real events are, you may recognize what the collection of events we are talking about actually are. You might say, "hey, I recognize that, it's a point on a cheese sandwich!" Or maybe, "hey, I recognize that, it's the center of mass of the keel of the battleship Main!" The point being that the identity of a particular event is determined by the collection of events associated with it. That was the central issue of my question to Harv as to how one tells the difference between an electron and a Volkswagen Beetle. The events associated with an electron would probably contain some kind of vacuum vessel, some wires, a generator or battery somewhere plus a number of other patterns of identifiable entities (collections of events).
What is important here is that, even in the conventional mental image of reality, objective pragmatic reality is completely described by the collection of the events which exist. Attaching an identity to each event is of no real significance in and of itself. When one does attach an identity to a specific event, one is actually describing the set of events which are to be found associated with it. The only purpose labeling an event serves is that it allows us to attach the qualifier "it exists" or "it doesn't exist" to the particular event. If you draw back and look at the conventional mental image, you should be able to see that it isn't actually any different from my abstract perspective.
As an aside (that I think is worth thinking about) you should be able to comprehend that exactly the same argument goes directly over to the immaterial concepts so prevalent in emotional or philosophical thoughts. The fact that emotional or philosophical events are not thought of as located in a coordinate system is no more a factor in the conclusion than is the idea that quantum uncertainty destroys the usefulness of a coordinate system. It is also the collections of associated events which determine the existence or non existence of these ethereal concepts. And, once again, when one does attach an identity to a specific event, one is actually describing the set of events which are to be found associated with it. The only purpose labeling an event serves is that it allows us to attach the qualifier "it exists" or "it doesn't exist" to the particular event.
What it comes down to is that, in the final analysis, we have nothing to work with but the abstract labels which are assigned to "things" which exist. It is the entire collection of labels which is significant and not the mechanism of attaching those labels. Thus it is that my use of numerical labels describes anything which is describable.
Again, my mental image of reality consists of that collection of three things, "knowable data", "unknowable data" and the rules which govern what can and cannot be. The "knowable data" is constrained in no way; it can be absolutely any collection of things conceivable. When I say it is constrained in no way, I mean that "I" have placed no constraints on it at all! It is, none the less, constrained by definition in a very important way: it consists only of what actually exists. It is, by definition, that which is to be explained.
What I have discovered is that one very specific rule (expressed in equation 1.22) has some very powerful characteristics. The paragraph immediately below the one containing equation 1.24 explains how equation 1.22 uses "unknowable data" to provide exactly the same constraint on "knowable data" as does the definition of reality. The only consequence of equation 1.22 is that no two numerical labels on any thing which exists can be exactly the same. By introducing "unknowable data" for all labels not used to label reality, the only labels left are those which label what actually exists.
Of course, there is one subtle problem in the above. There is no reason to believe that the events which make up "reality" (the knowable data) are all different. It is to avoid making that constraint that I have to introduce the orthogonal label component "tau". The net result is that, with a very simple rule (equation 1.22), absolutely anything (any labeled set of things) can be explained merely by hypothesizing the proper "unknowable data". The explanation is the "unknowable data".
No one has offered any explanation of the functioning of their personal "pipeline" -- the mechanism or method of apprehending information from or about reality -- that is, other than "except for known illusions, our perceptions are direct confirmation of reality". That may be a very simple model of what is going on but it is certainly not defensible. My perspective is that, whatever our personal pipeline may be, it is certainly a personal thing and, in all probability, everyone's is different in many many ways. If everyone is free to produce their own mental image of reality without mounting any defense at all of how that pipeline functions, why does my desire to use a mental image of reality generated by an analytically designed pipeline so offend them?
With respect to my proof that invented "things" and invented "rules" are orthogonal concepts, I set forth a rule F=0 and showed that imposition of that rule on the collection of "knowable" and "unknowable" data did not constrain the knowable data in any way. It was still possible to invent a collection of things which would explain absolutely any reality (the knowable data). On the other hand, we can just as well take the opposite extreme: the existence of God (as the one and only one unknowable thing) and once again explain absolutely and reality (the knowable data) with a sufficiently large set of rules: e.g. "A" happened because "God" wanted it to happen; "B" happened because "God" wanted it to happen; … happened because "God" wanted it to happen ….
Or, we could imagine an infinite number of different ways at looking at explaining reality. My point being that the "rules" and the "things" we invent to obey the rules are very different. Different in a way quite analogous to directions in a two dimensional geometry. It's just an analogy so don't take it two seriously. If we choose to use a different set of rules (or a different set of things) every time we go to explain a different issue (a very common tack taken in science) the circumstance is very analogous to wanderers in a woods describing everything as it appeared from their personal perspective without the concept of a map. They will agree wholeheartedly so long as they have followed the same path but two people who have followed different paths may end up arguing to the death as to who is right.
My position is, maybe they are all right! Maybe we
are just misinterpreting what they are telling us.
The common scientific position is, let's make sure
everyone follows the same path. My position is, if we
take that attitude, isn't it possible we might be
missing something off the path? Over the centuries
science has worn that path into a rut which is almost
straight in a lot of places already; why not set
ourselves a fixed straight path in the same direction
everywhere and see if we cannot bring some more
information to the table.
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©2003 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.