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FQXi BLOGS
April 20, 2014

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Why Does the World Exist? [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 19:59 GMT


For those looking for some late-summer reading of a Foundational sort, I want to recommend Jim Holt's *Why Does the World Exist?*

It's a simplified romp through several approaches toward what might (with a tip of the pen to David Chalmers) be called "the hard question of ontology": Why is there something rather than nothing?

This is a notoriously tricky issue, in the first place because it isn't immediately apparent whether there's a coherent question being posed at all. It may be nothing more than a trick of language that makes us think there's something to be explained . . . in something. Even to get past the second word ("Why is . . .") may be, in a sense, to beg the question. After all, something, of some sort, must *be*, in order for this--or any!--question to be posed . . . right?

Actually, some philosophers are in the habit of denying that last point--saying that if nothing existed, the question could then "in principle" be asked: Why is there *nothing* instead of *something*? Robert Nozick, no intellectual slouch, felt this a credible position. But is it? After all, nothingness is not a state of being that can be pondered over "from within," so to speak. Only from an existing cosmos can one imagine what might be asked, by no one, about a non-existing one. Non-existence may be little more than a semantic fantasy.

And so the terminology whirls us 'round, before we even get started. To his credit, Holt avoids the pitfall of throwing a Hegelian wall of language at the problem; his book is quite readable. (You can almost hear the editorial team: "Come on Jim--simplify, simplify!") On the down side, things are simplified to the point where it may not stir much reaction in people who are already familiar with these discussions--the very people, one would assume, who constitute his primary readership.

One example: Holt shyly poses the question "Why is there something instead of nothing?" to an unnamed theoretical cosmologist whose response--"Okay, what you're really asking about is a violation of matter/antimatter parity . . ."--frightens him off, and is meant to stand in for the inaccessible complexity of modern physics. But baryon asymmetry isn't such unfamiliar territory, I should think; and the leap from pure ontology to the better-understood cosmological issue of why there is a residue of matter would have been an intriguing one to follow up on.



It's fun when Max Tegmark, Andrei Linde and Alex Vilenkin make appearances, as well as some other names familiar to FQX-ers. Less apposite--and in some ways more interesting--are occasional diversions into art, such as a recurrent commentary on Sartre (and a surprisingly trenchant interview with John Updike). Sartre's discussion of nothingness-haunted being remains fascinating over a half century after he wrote it, but it is surely based on an individual, largely aesthetic sensibility--not the kind of thing that can be profitably set next to scientific debate.

Of course, some thinkers blur the line. "Speculative cosmologist" John Leslie argues for "extreme axiarchism," a modern form of Platonism, whereby goodness brings the universe into existence by way of "ethical requiredness." It's better, in some sense, that things are than that they aren't, which fact (?) causes, or at least underwrites, existence itself. Leslie is fun to listen to, but shows little concern for what constitutes evidence:

"I'm always a little astonished when people say, 'Look, there's no evidence for your view.' Well, I say, there's one rather striking piece of evidence: the fact that there is a world rather than just a blank. Why do they discount this? The sheer existence of something rather than nothing simply cries out for explanation. And where are the competitors to my Platonic theory?"

Here I would say that Prof. Leslie need only serve as science editor at a newspaper for a year or two to learn how often "Look! The world exists!" is cited as 'evidence' for someone's grand theory. (I used to get about one a month.)

Which gets us back to the Gordian knot of the question. The simple fact of Being can't, in itself, be used as evidence for a Theory of Being--anyone's theory of being. ("Where are the competitors to my theory?" is also logically invalid, come to think of it: a theory stands or falls on evidential weight, not on someone else's ability to supply a counter-theory.) Supporting evidence would have to come from somewhere other than what is being explained; unfortunately, the question is so posed as to eliminate any other "somewhere else" from the outset.

But perhaps this is my own paucity of thought. The realm of mathematical truths has been argued to supply exactly such a "somewhere else," the (in)famous World Three hypothesis. I wonder . . . is our understanding of mathematics approaching the time when it can tackle this ultimate Foundational riddle in a credible way?

Dear God, I just hope it's not complete mathematical reductionism. With all deference to Max, that idea gives me the creeps.



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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 20:19 GMT
"Dear God, I just hope it's not complete mathematical reductionism. With all deference to Max, that idea gives me the creeps."

You are not alone in that feeling.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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danhawkley replied on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 07:09 GMT
I think your assessment of mathematics is fairly common. It can be demonstrated mathematically, however, that your fear is unfounded. For example: none can be excluded. More specifically, only one of these equations is accurate:

everything + nothing = nothing.

everything + nothing = everything.

The primary fact is that everything (including us) hasn't been annihilated. Otherwise we wouldn't exist (mathematically or otherwise). Check out my pdf and feel free to contact me.

danhawkley@gmail.com

attachments: 1_Big_Science.pdf

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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 23, 2012 @ 01:26 GMT
Hi William,

what became clear to me from reading Max Tegmark's description of the Mathematical Universe is that mathematics is basically describing relations. That may sound obvious but I hadn't really thought about it in that way and had, until then, concentrated instead upon the communication aspect of it and how that has to be something separate from the material universe.

It seems to me, the function of representing relations is what it is most importantly about, more than any mathematical convention or form of notation. Rather like poetry can be about expressing relationships of observed things or the relationship of the poet to those things, who may convey his emotional responses through his writing. The structure of the poem on paper, the language type such as German or Latin, Russian, Chinese or English and whether it is type written in a simple font or written in calligraphic style is of relatively little, if any, importance to the 'essence' being communicated.

When we get right down to what the material(object) Universe is, rather than the observed (Image) Universe, it is a constantly changing animated system of 'somethings' in which there are relations between those abstract entities we chose to use in our descriptions of it. The relations allow it to 'become what it will be' rather than it being 'dead' and unchanging. Then there is also the description of the Image universe which could be likened to the poet's description of his relationship to the things experienced.

That reduction (to foundational relations), thought about in the way I have just described, is not creepy or cold to me. Perhaps you would prefer a Universe that is fundamentally magic. Magic is deception. lies or incomplete knowledge giving misunderstanding. Or a universe that is fundamentally constructed from Love. What is Love? Supportive or creative relations between entities? If so it certainly has a part to play.

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Robert H McEachern wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 20:50 GMT
"Why does the world exist?"

Why do you hypothesize that it does?

The Anthropic Principle provides an answer to the latter question; we would not be here, to ask the question, if it does not.

There is no way to obtain the answer to the first question, except to be told the answer by an entity that already knows it. It is no different than the answer to the question "How do you decipher a message that was enciphered with a one-time-pad? The answers cannot be deduced from any observables. But that is not the same thing as saying that no answer exists.

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John Merryman wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 03:24 GMT
Stuff happens.

The problem with the assumption of meaning, a reason, ie. "why," is that meaning is reductionistic and static. That which is left over when all that is meaningless is distilled away. Meanwhile reality is dynamic and wholistic. Anything which lacks some motivating energy content soon does cease to exist.

Possibly to consider the question further, we might ask what is "nothing?" It is a lack of both form and action. The only concept we can conceive of, with those qualities, is empty space. Lacking action it is atemporal and neutral. No singularities to provide initial form and action. Lacking form it cannot be bound or bent, so it is unbounded and thus infinite. Being neutral, it is inertial, ie. the nothing of absolute zero.

Yet if we add up all action and form, would it all cancel out? Everything adding up to nothing? No cycle of expanding energy and contracting mass, just empty space?

Possibly this inertial state is necessarily unstable and has to fluctuate.

We seek to order and explain that which is, but order is only part of the equation and the smaller part at that, since it is necessarily a reductionistic framing of an unframed dynamic.

Oh, well. Stuff happens.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 14:52 GMT
The sphere exists because this light, infinite creates the mass, the eternal physical sphere !

The competitions can be a catalyzer, indeed, but there are limits ! a time for all after all.

ps I beleive that a lot of thinkers and scientists, theorists,....have difficulties to differenciate the infinity and the infinities, constants....

the physicality is indeed a bounded system in evolution !

In fact we can even make a classing with the infinities.It is logic , they appear due to our adds or multi.or this or that....The infinity is a concept so complex and so simple in the same time.The most important is to understand that this infinite light above our pure physicality creates this universal physical sphere. The codes of evolution inside the main central spheres, quant. and cosmol.,become potential pure energy of becoming....

Regards

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Andy M wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 19:37 GMT
The question of "why" does the world/universe exist is unanswerable.

Science when successful can only explain "how." The so-called answers have serious problems:

1) came from nothing, for example, via quantum fluctuations (uncertainty principle that states that "nothing" is not really "nothing"). But where do the quantum fluctuations come from? From the realization of some platonic mathematical structure? Well where does that come from, and how/why does it get translated into physical reality?

2) a creator of some kind. Well, same problem. Where does the creator come from?

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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 20:56 GMT
In the absence of gravity, we are literally out of touch with reality. A very important point in this discussion. My essay, soon to appear, proves this.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 09:29 GMT
Hi William,

some why questions are very important and require answers, as they have a survival value. Such as why is that window open that I fastened shut and why is that knife missing from the chopping board? or why are there footprints of a large predator around the fence line?

When why questions are extended to inanimate objects or their arrangements, not involving actions of a higher biological organism, they do not necessarily give helpful answers. I might ask why is that rock there? (Not how did it get there?)If I use the rock as a hammer I might start to imagine the rock was placed there for that purpose. I might then start to imagine that everything has a purpose and a meaning rather than it just being as it is because of the former events that have occurred that have no personal meaning. Asking why there is a universe out there is the same kind of question on a bigger scale.

Also there is speculation that there could be nothing rather than something; but is nothing really possible? There don't seem to be any real nothings in nature. Even vacuum's have virtual particles popping in and out of existence or something there. Maybe there really is no such thing as nothing, except in the human imagination.

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Georgina Parry replied on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 23:31 GMT
It could be helpful to try to imagine where the universe can be put to obtain nothing rather than trying to imagine a universe emerging from nothing.

The visible universe could be compacted back into the data from which it was derived. Then it can be ignored because it only becomes a universe when the data is accessed and processed. With data compaction and miniaturisation of storage devices it should be possible to have the whole visible universe stored within a very small volume.If no one looks at it, or out into space any-more, it (the visible universe) isn't there, as it is an output reality from data processing. The storage device is part of the material universe.

The material from which that data was generated will have been recycled into the material existing, within the material universe (at uni-temporal-) Now (preceding the observed present), along with the potential sensory data content.

There is no way I can see, without magic or miracles or trickery, to make that material and data entirely disappear into nothing. It can be moved from place to place, rearranged disintegrated or amalgamated. Making it disappear into another universe is like asking for a magic hat. Yes I can make things disappear with a magic hat but it a trick not science.

However I have now got a more manageable universe because the material aspect is not spread over history but only exists as it is at one time (uni-temporal-Now) and the data from which a history can be fabricated is compacted into a data set rather than being spread over an unimaginably huge area of space-time.

How the idea of that residual material universe, always becoming what it is rather than what it was, is to be regarded is probably a matter for personal reflection and preference. Could describing it mathematically make -it- into something less awesome than it is? I think it's immune to inadequate descriptions of it (but maybe human minds aren't).

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mogmich wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 19:51 GMT
If absolutely NOTHING existed, there would be nothing to prevent SOMETHING from existing. But there would also be nothing to make this "something" exist, or to define what it is. It just exists as it is.

Since most things that exist, only exist because something made them ecist (energy, laws of nature etc.) all those existing things must have emerged from a basic reality that require NOTHING in order to exist!

... Maybe a little too philosophical?

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danhawkley replied on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 05:55 GMT
What requires nothing? Any concept of nothing. Synonymously, what requires non-existence? any concept of non-existence. Stated scientifically (evidence): The annihilation of everything has been predicted (as between observations) but it has never been observed (as between predictions). The proof is in the pdf.

attachments: Big_Science.pdf

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 03:46 GMT
Hey folks,

I'm pretty sure that nothing exists, but all this darn stuff keeps getting in the way - whenever I try to get a good look at it. Paradoxically; nothing also gets in the way whenever I try to look at something, but most of the time I don't notice it's there.

Regards,

Jonathan

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DorisLewis wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 06:18 GMT
I agree with thinking of the philosopher Adolf Grünbaum, "To marvel at existence is to assume that nothingness is somehow more natural, more restful. But why? The ancients started with matter, not the void; perhaps nothingness is stranger than being."

harley motorcycles for sale

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Michelle Kathryn McGee wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 02:12 GMT
I agree whole-heartedly with the last comment/quote. Nothingness is stranger than being.

I appreciate the difficulty in grasping it.

I am a scientist who like many others turned skeptical spiritual seeker. For a few laughs and maybe to permit a subtle rewiring of your hardwired thinking you can look at my most recent work Healing Generation. If you make it far enough into the text you'll find a link to a paper I wrote in 2003 that holds a really interesting perspective on the whole somethingness-nothingness conundrum. Prepare to be smitten.

Or if you prefer to keep constructing meanings in the name of science that are effective mostly just at combating your own fear of perplexity, by all means, pass the chance by for something truly original - experience itself - in order to attend to more important business.

Blessings, michelle

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Zbigniew Modrzejewski wrote on Nov. 24, 2012 @ 20:36 GMT
Leibniz asked: Why is there something rather than nothing?

More precisely: Why is there the ontological Being rather than ontological total Nothingness?

The answer is so simple and obvious: Because the ontological total non-existence, Nothingness, Non-being is not an ontological alternative for the Existence, because it does not exists in reality, but only as a concept, like Santa Claus. For something to be an alternatice, first it must exist.

"EXISTING NON-EXISTENCE" IS SELF-CONTRADICTORY, HENCE CANNOT EXIST IN REALITY, similar to the famous "squared-circle".

The Existence exists, because one of its parts -- our Universe -- exists.

Where is the Nothingness, Non-being, non-existence? Nowhere to be found!



Here is my detailed explanation: Why is there something rather than nothing?

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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 25, 2012 @ 02:47 GMT
Dear Zbigniew,

I think you have made a very good point. To be and nothing don't really go together. I think I'll save reading your detailed explanation for a dull day. The concept of existing non existence, or non existent nothing for that matter, is mind bending enough; like 'this sentence is false'.

.........................

Though, if the 'something'in question is observer fabricated experiences or manifestations (experienced as reality), i.e. the output manifestation of data processing rather than the independently existing external reality, it would be possible not to have a manifestation (so no something aka nothing) if the organism is dead, therefore not observing; or the device is switched off or broken, therefore not observing.

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Zbigniew Modrzejewski wrote on Nov. 26, 2012 @ 19:58 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Hello! :)

Thank you for noticing my post at all !! :)

However, my impression is, based on your reply, that you completely misunderstood what I tried to say.

Please, try to notice that my argument is not limited to: "the independently existing external reality".

I have a question for you:

What happens when all organisms are dead and...

view entire post


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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 26, 2012 @ 21:28 GMT
Hi Zbigniew, I don't think I misunderstood you. The first part of my reply was just indicating a similarity of existing non existence with the liar paradox. Which is a mind bending and interestingly difficult thing to pigeon hole in set theory.

You wrote "It is very important that you understand that I am not talking just about local lack (absence) of something in particular,..."Your not talking about it reminds me of an art lesson in which I had to draw a collection of chairs only by giving the outlines of the spaces between them. Which is a really fascinating exercise because there is a tendency to pay far less attention to what is not there rather than what is there. The voids can be recorded because of the material substance between them. The Kanizsa Triangle Illusion The non existent triangle 'exists' only because of the existing parts of the diagram

I still think the idea given in the the second part of my reply was an interesting observation : ) I knew when writing it that it was only dealing with one facet of reality not the Entirety but it was sort of digging at what is really meant by 'nothing'. Is absence of detection really absence?( Rhetorical question). I think that is an important consideration. Due to the way in which we build our image of the universe from received data we can not have awareness of the material universe existing at this time. By the way I agree, eternal 'stuff' makes more sense to me too. I did not make that clear in my earlier reply.

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Georgina Parry replied on Nov. 26, 2012 @ 22:05 GMT
Re. the Kanizsa triangle, I could record its perimeter, area, lengths of each side, angles, apparent colour and, if a compass or separate reference object was given with it, its relative orientation. Which is an impressive list of characteristics for something that isn't.

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Zbigniew Modrzejewski replied on Nov. 26, 2012 @ 23:19 GMT
Hi Georgina,

I hope you are not one of those people, who confuse and mix up reality with logical conclusions (made by people in their minds) or mathematical concepts, like zero?



The liar paradox belongs to formal logic, and is not present in reality outside of our minds.

There are no paradoxese existing in nature, outside of our minds that understand them....

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Zbigniew Modrzejewski wrote on Nov. 26, 2012 @ 20:22 GMT
RE: Why Does the World Exist?

I am sorry, but is the question:

What are particular reasons (causes) that our Universe came into being?



or, more general, was it just paraphrasing Leibniz:

Why is there something rather than nothing? (more precisely: Why is there the ontological Existence rather than ontological Non-Existence? )



These are two different questions (a bit overlapping, though).



Thanks,

Zbig http://www.worldsci.org/people/Zbigniew_Modrzejewski

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 02:28 GMT
Why does the universe exist? Is it even possible to answer that question scientifically? If science can't answer that question, do we have to resort to "God created the universe"?

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Jason Wolfe replied on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 04:03 GMT
If we can't answer this question, maybe we should ask a different question. Is the physical made of some ubiqitous substance (a quasi substance perhaps) that accounts for space, time, space-time, energy, GR, QM, etc...

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Peter Jackson replied on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 10:29 GMT
Jason.

Is it equally valid to look at empty space and ask, "why does nothing exist"? As there is far more empty space, perhaps that's more valid!?

So then the question should be "why does something exist HERE" (as opposed to everywhere else, and then, I agree; "what is it made of?" which of course has no answer yet as we haven't yet 'named' it! (actually untrue, I christened it 'comprathene' a few years ago, but it didn't seem to catch on, confirming my point.

I'd like to offer an answer to why our Universe exists, which is the same answer to why the Milky way exists, and the same answer applicable to ALL galaxies and universes; It is because the re-ionized matter of the previous iterations had to go 'somewhere'! When you recycle a tin can, it doesn't just get annihilated, it comes back as something else, probably parts of other tin cans, cars, suns or planets. Eternally.

Beyond there I suspect we can all only speculate about the possibility of some greater intelligence having a hand in 'starting the ball rolling', who may have died long ago and been recycled infinitely many times, or in his time it may be only ten minutes after creation. I say jolly good thing we're not part of the 'nothing majority'! My own feeling is that speculation may be fun, but perhaps we should work on improving our intellectual capacity one step at a time. God knows it needs it!

Hope you're well.

Peter

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Constantinos Ragazas replied on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 14:57 GMT
Peter,

The question for me is “when something exist?”. For Physics, this question become “when something exist physically?”. This question is fundamental, imho. While “why something exists” is metaphysical.



Sorry I couldn't resist! … after catching a gleam of your post to Jason.

Kostas

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Peter Jackson wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 16:00 GMT
Kostas,

Good to hear from you. I agree, as implicit in my suggesting there's also a lot of nothing.

I always consider matter as 'motion.' If the motion of a 'particle of mass' ceases then it ceases to 'exist'.

That then takes us back to motion 'wrt what'? (as motion can only be relative!) and where does the energy go, which takes up back to dark energy, which is made of comprathene.

I looked up 'something' and the definition did NOT include dark energy, so assume that must then be nothing, which is precisely the same specification as my 'comprathene'! All sorted then?

Best wishes

Peter

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Constantinos Ragazas replied on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 22:29 GMT
Peter my friend,

You are succeeding once again reluctantly dragging me into a deep discussion I deliberately avoided.

When something physically exist? My answer to that would be when it occupies 'physical space' and takes 'physical time'. Thus, in my view, all physical theory begins by specifying in formal mathematical laws what is 'physical space' and what is 'physical time'. On...

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Jason Wolfe replied on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 00:13 GMT
I think the physics community is going to spend a very long time avoiding the idea that the aether medium can exist and still be undetectable. Michelson-Morley were looking for a particulate medium that obeyed neither relativity nor quantum mechanics. In this article about the Casimir Effect, there is a picture of with waves on the outside of two plates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

In my opinion, those waves depict a real natural phenomena that have permitivity and permeability built into them as characteristics; in doing so, they would automatically transmit photons at the speed of light.

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 20:11 GMT
Hi Peter,

I think if we're going to speculate about where everything came from, we should borrow from the best and most satisfying religions and philosophies available. I for one like New Age philosophies mixed with some super advanced alien intelligences that can radically alter how nature manifests. They have hyper-drives and exist as pan-dimensional lifeforms. For me, this makes it fun to speculate.

I can see why "comprathene" didn't really catch on. It's sounds "aetherish" to an organic chemist, but the scientific community usually poo poos all aether explanations. And a lay person would overlook the chemical sounding name. Whatever we call it, I think science needs a name for the mysterious substance that behaves like the quantum vacuum, quantum mechanics and relativity. Then maybe someday we'll understand how to manipulate it to create time dilation fields, and hijack the mechanisms that conserve energy.

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Zbigniew Modrzejewski wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 22:07 GMT
Peter Jackson wrote:

"I'd like to offer an answer to why our Universe exists, which is the same answer to why the Milky way exists, and the same answer applicable to ALL galaxies and universes; It is because the re-ionized matter of the previous iterations had to go 'somewhere'! When you recycle a tin can, it doesn't just get annihilated, it comes back as something else, probably parts of other tin cans, cars, suns or planets. Eternally."



Peter, that is what Dr. Roger Penrose proposed in his latest book!

But other than him, the eternal-cyclical Universe/Existence idea is as old as the World itself, most notably present in philosophy of Hinduism and Buddhism. :)

So, no Big Bang, no Creator God -- two most important things in the Western civilization would be out ...

If our Universe (whatever its ultimate nature may be!) were to be limited from outside, it could not be limited by ontological non-existence, because such thing is only a concept that cannot exist in reality.

"EXISTING NON-EXISTENCE" IS SELF-CONTRADICTORY, HENCE CANNOT EXIST IN REALITY.

NON-EXISTENCE, by definition, does not exists, therefore, the ontological Existence is eternal.

The ontological Existence is eternal, because there is simply no ontological alternative. :)

Zbig http://www.worldsci.org/people/Zbigniew_Modrzejewski

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Zbigniew Modrzejewski wrote on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 23:44 GMT
Alexander Vilenkin, a theoretical physicist who is director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, made statement that "Nothing is nothing...Not just no matter. It's no space. No Time. Nothing" leads to a definition of nothingness as a "closed spacetime of zero radius, the most "complete and utter nothingness that scientific concepts can capture. It is mathematically devoid not only of stuff but also of location and duration."

and further:



"Using the principles of quantum theory, he [Vilenkin] showed that, out of such an initial state of nothingness, a tiny bit of energy-filled vacuum could spontaneously 'tunnel' into existence....Driven by the negative pressure of 'inflation,' this bit of energetic vacuum would undergo a runaway explosion. In a couple of microseconds it would attain cosmic proportions, issuing in a cascading fireball of light and matter -- the Big Bang...The whole scheme would appear to be scientifically irreproachable."

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Anonymous replied on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 01:48 GMT
"The whole scheme would appear to be scientifically irreproachable."

Yeah, sure...

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Jason Wolfe replied on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 02:08 GMT
That's the most useless definition of nothingness I've ever heard. Since the scientific community has no reasonable idea how or why the big bang occured, then it must mean there was, or is, a supernatural Creator.

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John Merryman wrote on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 02:17 GMT
The only way we know something exists is in relation to other things that exist. That raises a grey area of existence, a halo if you will, around these relationships, of what might exist, but is in some degree of equilibrium.

Also, there is a relationship between existence and non-existence that is as fundamental to reality as relations between what does exist. Past and future do not...

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Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Dec. 6, 2012 @ 01:38 GMT
In my essays (2010 & 2011) I suggest that we can get something from nothing by going around the rule of non-contradiction. Nothing and something can’t be both at the SAME TIME. The loophole is that inserting time between the two makes both possible. The result is a highly dynamic universe only made of time and variations of its rate of evolution; increasing, decreasing, changing direction etc.

This makes a universe of one single nature and therefore operational on logic; addition, substitution, etc. something you would expect to drive the observed spontaneous evolution of the universe.

Since the universe is all of the same nature it needs not, in a first instance, to be known what it is made of. Then, mathematics can take charge of all DESCRIPTIONS. But, if we want to UNDERSTAND what it is we are calculating and why it behaves the way it does... we have to identify this universal dynamic substance. And what is time? A continual explosion of existence into nothingness. A substance and a cause, all in one.

Marcel,

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Jason Wolfe replied on Dec. 6, 2012 @ 04:15 GMT
Dear Marcel-Marie,

Please forgive me if I am dismayed by your comments. You're basically saying what alchemists, mystics, astrologers and numerologists have been saying for countless centuries. But when they say it, there is this aura of awe about them. They capture our imagination. They tell us prophecies of the future, and tell us how we fit in the world. It's just that, if our conversations about physics are going to become this faded and empty of meaningfulness, then we may as well start reading books on the occult and paying psychics to read our palms. At least those people are experts at giving us warm and fuzzy feelings.

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Marcel-Marie LeBel replied on Dec. 6, 2012 @ 05:14 GMT
Jason,

You have such a long way to go! I just love physics as much as you do. But I know it promises and its limits. I just show you a bit of what lies beyond these limits, something that is a complement to our knowledge. I think that we have been down that road you and I. If you are not up to the answer, don`t bother asking the question.

Cheers,

Marcel,

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Jason Wolfe replied on Dec. 6, 2012 @ 06:15 GMT
Marcel,

Am I up to the answer? As long as it's the answer I want. If I had my way, there would be pan-dimensional alien intelligences telepathizing with humans as they travel through hyperspace. Of course, the reality of it is that physicists always look away when the ETI's are communicating. I keep asking the ETI's to land on the SETI dishes (and crush them), but they've been politely ignoring my question. There is also something about, "if you break it (Earth) you buy it", something about the extremely enormous amount of work it would be to make first contact AND leave a positive impression.

You see, I can understand the basics of hyper-drive physics (Hyper-Drives for Human Dummies), but I can't get you any scientific evidence.

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Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Dec. 6, 2012 @ 12:00 GMT
Jason,

I do read here a mix of humor & frustration. My net search gives me....

-Jason Wolfe-: ...It is May 18th, 2011, and there is very little interest in the development in the hyper-drive, or its prerequisite, the gravity field generator. I have tried, without success, to discuss the ideas necessary to build what today would be called: the Alcubierre drive.... I, Jason Mark Wolfe, (a.k.a. Mazulu), know the secret to warp field generation. I will teach you everything I know.

...

..-.Wiki Alcubierre Drive-:....The Alcubierre drive (or Alcubierre metric see: Metric tensor) is a speculative idea based on a valid solution of Einstein's field equations as proposed by Miguel Alcubierre,

(Ah! SPECULATIVE: You are out there on the fringe....just, like, me,:-)

ME: Space metric... There is no space, forget that. But a time rate metric would require that there is a dip in the rate of flow of time in front and a bump at the back. Don`t even need to mark it -front- and -back- because that is the construction of the photon and it knows which way to go. But the photon doesn`t go any faster than the local time rate of explosion c !!! *&?%%$/" Not sure what you need to change to this structure to go beyond c ... without slipping into the next dimension

Good luck (no matter what, it won`t be ready for the Dec 21 2012..)

Cheers,

Marcel,

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Fuoye wrote on Mar. 1, 2013 @ 10:34 GMT
The world exist because God wants it to.

http://www.fuoye.edu.ng

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Federal University Oye Ekiti replied on Mar. 1, 2013 @ 10:37 GMT
Welcome to Fuoye www.fuoye.edu.ng

Dignity and Character for National Transformation................http://ecampus@fuoye.edu.ng

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Sridattadev wrote on Mar. 1, 2013 @ 14:53 GMT
Dear All,

There is only the cosmological constant - conscience or singularity (i) in the universe absolutely. what we percieve of the relative reality is the duality drawn out of this constant singularity.

"Consciousness is the sphere of universal schwarzschild radius (zero to infinity) with a central cosmological constant of the conscience (i)".

Universe is the iSphere.

Zero (nothing) = i = Infinity (everytihng)

who am i?

I am human, i is god

I am one of our kind, i is everyone of all kinds

I am present, i is omnipresent

I am potent, i is omnipotent

I am scient, i is omniscient

I am something, i is nothing and everything

why does i exist(manifest in duality) or not(absolute rest in singularity)?

I loves to be or not to be.

Love,

Sridattadev.

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 1, 2013 @ 17:11 GMT
Why Does the World Exist?

Easy: Because it can. Next question please.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 8, 2013 @ 22:07 GMT
Okay, here's the next question - why do you think you can get away with nonsense like 'because it can'? That's not a reason. Nothing might have existed, but it would still have been possible for something to exist.

The article above is really just as stupid. The writer assumes, when asking the question 'why does anything exist?', that the answer to the question is affected by the conditions relating to the asking of the question. That's nonsense - the conditions relating to the asking of it do not affect the question itself, or what the answer might be. Where did he get the idea that the ability to ask the question affects the answer?

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 8, 2013 @ 22:40 GMT
Well, I'll help you with that last one. Where did he get the idea that the ability to ask the question affects the answer? Misuse of the anthropic principle, that's where.

People think the anthropic principle allows them to avoid difficult questions, but it often doesn't. It explains why we find around us conditions that allowed life to evolve, but not how or why those conditions arose. You can't say they had to come about because we're asking the question, but you can say that we wouldn't be asking it otherwise. There's a massive difference, and those who don't see it, like William Orem, are sloppy thinkers, or biased thinkers.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 9, 2013 @ 18:05 GMT
Let me put that more clearly, and ask William Orem for a response.

The point I'm making is that the anthropic principle can't be used to say that because we're here to ask questions, the conditions allowing life to evolve HAD to appear. We can say that they must HAVE appeared, or we wouldn't be here to ask questions, but that's very different from saying they were compelled to emerge in the first place. Why they emerged in the first place is still unexplained.

So we can say we're here because these conditions emerged, but we can't say they emerged because we're here! This reversal of cause and effect is a very common mistake, made by people who simply don't think it through. It's a case of confusing two ideas that look vaguely similar until you actually look at it. The cause is often laziness due to wishful thinking, people often want this kind of question to go away, and they see a way to make it appear to go away.

So I'm asking for a response William Orem, I'm saying your article includes a lot of that kind of thinking. And as I said, the particular question you ask - why does anything exist at all? - is entirely separate from the details of the asking of the question.

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 9, 2013 @ 20:13 GMT
@Hello Vera

Check this one out.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nothingness/#WhyTheSomRatThaNot

Bill Orem's question is one of the most profound philosophical questions. And by the way, my answer is correct. The next question is "how does it exists?" And this leads to physics and testable sentences away from Wittgensteinian criticism of playing with words.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 9, 2013 @ 20:57 GMT
Thanks Florin.

I know it's a serious philosophical question, but I disagree when you say it's one of the most profound. I found your long post to William Orem here

http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/74

and also went briefly to your essay, as well as looking at the page you linked to, which I'd gone to before, and am familiar with some of what's there anyway. I found nothing to answer my point, but if I missed it then I'm sorry. Perhaps you could give me an answer? The point I've made about what you said above is as follows. It's very simple, and the fact that it's simple doesn't stop it from being good philosophy - in fact, all other things being equal, quite the opposite.

You said that something exists because it can. I replied that this isn't a reason, because nothing might exist, but it would still be possible for something to exist. So the fact that something can exist wouldn't make any difference.

Please answer that point, thank you.

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Florin Moldoveanu replied on Mar. 10, 2013 @ 05:56 GMT
"I replied that this isn't a reason, because nothing might exist"

Now let's look around: I see existence so "nothing might exist" is clearly false.

You say "A because B" but since B is false, A could be either true or false, but in any case A is not necessarily true.

I don't quite follow your argument, but I am interested by it and I can guarantee I do have very solid justification for my answers.

By the way, I was at a disadvantage not knowing your real name, but by process of elimination I have a very good guess and I won't reveal it publicly. My email address is fmoldove@gmail.com By the way, I launched my own website now: http://www.florinmoldoveanu.org/

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 10, 2013 @ 07:04 GMT
Hello Vera

You are confusing logical possibility with the form of existence knowable to us. If A there is always the possibility of not-A. In other words, it is never possible to attain an extrinsic (‘absolute’) reference against which to establish what A ‘really’ is. So, it is irrelevant to science what the possible alternatives are, because we can never know them. The corollary of this is that A is a closed system, the defining factor being ‘of’, or ‘not of’, it. It is definitive and can be comprehensively explained, from within.

Physical existence is that which is potentially knowable to us (which includes proper hypothesis, ie not belief). And there is a simple and definable physical process which underpins that, this is nothing to do with the subsequent processing of physical input received. That is the determining factor of the closed system. At the most basic level, existence, for us, involves something which exists independently of the mechanism which detects it, and it alters.

Or as Florin quite rightly said,”because it can”, and “I see existence”. We can only investigate what may, or may not, be a particular form of existence, but that is irrelevant, because we can only know what it is potentially possible for us to know. We can, of course, invoke all manner of beliefs, ie statements based on no form of detectability/experienceability, but generally this is known as religion (or philosophy).

Paul

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Florin Moldoveanu replied on Mar. 10, 2013 @ 22:30 GMT
Let me try to analyze the question "Why?"

When we ask "why?" we expect one of two answers:

(1) a causal explanation: "Why it rained? It rained because so and so"

(2) a logical proof: "Why is 2+2=4? Because if you have those arithmetic and logical axioms, I can produce a chain of reasoning proving it."

Now on "Why Does the World Exist?"

The causal explanation works if there is a creator for the ontology. Now the creator can come in many shapes: could be God for our universe or could be a computer programmer writing a SimCity3000 computer simulation. If the world is self contained (there is nothing outside "the universe" acting as a first cause, the answer cannot be causal.

Is there a logical proof/answer for ""Why Does the World Exist?" It there is one, then we can write the instructions/equations on a piece of paper, command: "fly" and a new universe will be born. But by Godel theorem it would be a boring universe incapable of infinite complexity.

So a proper mathematical answer is impossible. The only thing we can do is to state: "because it can exist" which is a restatement of the obvious. A much more interesting question is "How can the universe be?" More interesting because this does have a proper mathematical answer.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 10, 2013 @ 23:57 GMT
Thanks Florin,

Let me make the argument clearer, it's very simple. It's to show that your point that "something exists because it can" is wrong.

You 'say "nothing might exist" is clearly false'. But this possibility was implied in the question we started with. That's why I said it.

The question we started with was why does anything exist at all. This implies, quite rightly, that nothing might exist. That's why there's a question to answer. I just pointed out that nothing might exist, but either way, with or without something existing, it would clearly be POSSIBLE for something to exist (because in fact something did appear, and does exist, so it's possible).

But if nothing had, then it would still have been possible for something to. Therefore either way, the fact that it CAN exist (your explanation for something existing) is irrelevant.

If you read it slowly, it should make good sense, and lead to the same conclusion.

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 02:02 GMT
Hi Hello Vera,

I don't think the question implies nothing (at all) can exist. I haven't read Jim Holt's book so I can't say what he meant but from what William has written it seems like the tricky question is used to introduce and talk about other physics ideas.

It seems to me to be really asking- Why are there things of any kind, including the World? To me it might imply the question -Why is there all of the differentiation that we can observe, across and within different scales of observation ? Which is a really interesting question. That ties in with what I was saying about complexity and pattern, and also with the next FQXi large grant round, to do with the role of information in physics.

Your answer implies that it is possible to get something from nothing at all which I don't consider possible- unless its an error of judgement, an assumption arising from use of an incomplete model of reality, or an illusion.

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 05:31 GMT
Hello Vera

As Florin has re-explained, his point about “because it can” is that the question is pointless. Because we can never know. And as he then points out, the proper question is, how can what is, exist. And the question was not “why does anything exist at all”, anyway.

There is every possibility, it might be that the ‘universe’ is ‘actually’ a shoot-em-up game played by giants. But these possibilities are irrelevant, because we cannot know them. We are trapped in an existentially closed system. So existence, for us, is what is potentially detectable (which includes properly formulated hypothesis, ie directly and indirectly detectable) and what caused that. The question is, what physical process underpins that awareness of existence (not how is it then processed), and how can that occur. Physics is addressing existence as is knowable to us, not what we might believe it to be.

And, just for the record, it must be existential sequence. That is, there is only one definitive physically existent state of whatever comprises it, at a time. The predecessor must cease for the successor to occur. That is the only way in which existence, as knowable to us, can occur. Because it involves alteration, and in order to be both existent and alter, it cannot involve any form of change or indefiniteness (which should not be confused with our inability to detect every detail of any given physically existent state). Alteration is the difference identified by comparison of different physical realities. For example, as the bush grows/changes colour/loses leaves, only one physically existent state of it is in existence at any given time.

Paul

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Roger wrote on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 04:17 GMT
Hi. I've got a couple of comments on the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

1. My view is that the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is answerable. The conclusion I've come to is that "something" and "nothing" are just two different words or ways of looking at the same underlying thing: what we've traditionally thought of as the "absolute...

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 05:47 GMT
Roger,

So according to your argument an "existent" nothing needs an edge to be existent rather than "nothing at all". Like a hole then. That sounds reasonable to me. How empty is empty to qualify as an existent nothing rather than an ordinary hole or a black hole? If we get no data from the hole to know how can one decide if it's really empty rather than just seemingly empty?

Since things can fill holes, a seemingly empty nothing can become something or some things but the components of the something/s have come from elsewhere or from something that was there but not identified as present. Not creation from nothing but translocation and organisation. Which also sounds reasonable to me. The material universe is not homogeneous and could very well, it seems to me, just keep re-organizing itself. As I have said in my essay -'a universe in motion will continue in motion unless acted upon by a universe stopping force.' Its the total energy content that is eternal not any singular material configuration that is and has been the material universe.

The unwritten future, (NOT potential sensory data), is nothing at all but I don't think it can be called an existent nothing because it doesn't exist -that's why it is nothing at all. It isn't possible to interact with it or put something there. It has no place to be as well as not being.

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Roger replied on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 03:52 GMT
Georgina,

Hi. I don't think that the absolute lack-of-all needs an edge to be existent. I think it is a grouping/edge and is thus existent. That is, the absolute lack-of-all is the entirety of all that is present. That's it. There's nothing else. An entirety or whole amount is the same as a grouping defining what is contained within, and a grouping defining what is contained within is why something exists. So, I don't think of the edge as something other than the absolute lack-of-all itself; otherwise, we'd have to explain where the edge comes from.

The only type of "emptiness" that defines itself like this is the absolute lack-of-all, in which all matter, energy, space, time, laws of physics and mathematics, information, etc. is gone and all the minds to think about this are gone as well. Only then, is it true nothingness, the entirety of all that is present and, therefore, only then is it a grouping defining what is present and is thus an existent state.

But, you're right that this is similar to a hole in that, without the edge of the hole, defining what is contained inside, there would be no hole.

Thanks a lot for the feedback!

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 07:37 GMT
Roger,

thanks for trying to clarify that for me.

If an absolute lack of all is surrounded by or adjoins something that is not an absolute lack of all there is something to compare it against and absence can be identified. Without any comparison, no substance and no mind it is not possible to say with certainty that there is nothing at all, only no information from which to obtain an opinion on the matter. No information is not the same as nothing at all but it is indistinguishable.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 10:42 GMT
I haven't said what I think about these questions, I've just said why I think Florin's idea that something exists because it can is wrong. (Georgina, I didn't mean that the world necessarily appeared out of nowhere, my argument applies if it, or something, existed infinitly into the past.)

But Florin, in attempting to answer the question 'why does anything exist', implied that the question has meaning, and therefore that nothing might have existed. I've said that if you take the question as having meaning (and posting on this page suggests one might!) then you accept that in some sense it could have been either way. My argument has been that if so, then either way it could potentially exist, so the fact that it can is not a reason for the world to exist.

The question is one that Hawking asked, who disagrees with Florin in the same way that I do. He said (words similar to) 'whay does the universe go to all the bother of existing? What breathes fire into the equations?'

So he sees the equations as having the potential for existence either way, but something other than the fact that the world CAN exist makes the equations active, and actually describing something.

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 12:31 GMT
Hello Vera,

I think we are simply playing with words here.

"What is the color of the eyes of the emperor of the USA?" Each word is unambiguous but the sentence does not make sense since USA is a republic.

When we ask "why does the world exist?" we also need to specify the context ( causal or axiomatic). Without context, the question is meaningless. Reading very slowly, it is still unclear what your context is. Please pick one, or fell free to introduce a third one if appropriate. What I don't want to do is have a wrong assumption. Then we can argue.

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 12:34 GMT
On a separate sad note, yesterday I found out that Gerard Emch passed away on March 5, 2013

Here is the official announcement:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/gainesville/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=163577385

Professor Emch had fundamental contributions in the algebraic approach to quantum mechanics and here are two important books he wrote:

Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations of 20th-Century Physics

Algebraic Methods in Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory

Here is his mathematical genealogy entry:

http://genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/id.php?id=23461

His passing represents a great loss for the mathematical and physics community.

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Saibal Mitra wrote on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 17:21 GMT
Given what we do know from physics, it is reasonable to assume that the World is inherently mathematical of nature. So, what take to be a physical World, may fundamentally just be an abstract mathematical structure and nothing more than that. Then there is nothing needed to "blow life into the equations", as the equations themselves are all that really exist.

My argument for this goes as...

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Hello Vera replied on Mar. 11, 2013 @ 23:09 GMT
Florin,

because I haven't tried to answer the question, but have only criticised your answer to it, surely it is for you to specify a context. You're now saying that without a context, the question is meaningless, but you answered it, I didn't.

And where you say that we're just playing with words, I can't help remembering the old saying that a bad philosopher will blur the issue if he chooses to (and he feels he can always do that easily if he wants to), while a good philosopher will clarify the issue.

I've shown that Hawking's statement contradicts your answer to the question, your answer being 'because it can'. This point from Hawking is clear and specific, and not just playing with words. Please don't try to blur it, having made your statement. You haven't justified 'because it can' at all, or even tried to. And as it happens, for once I agree with Hawking.

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 21:00 GMT
Hello Vera,

thank you for sharing your opinion. I don't know what Stephen Hawking's intention was but it sounds to me like he is using metaphor to convey meaning and not just for effect. I have an understanding of the word bother, one meaning can be difficulty. To overcome difficulty requires effort or energy to be applied. Breathing fire into the equations does sound like a metaphore for energizing to me and "making them come alive" . It also sounds similar to God breathing life into the clay man, to me. I will admit heat of activation came to mind too but I thought that too literal.

It would be disappointing, to me, if those phrases were nothing more than a colorful turn of phrase, to fill in a space where he has nothing informative to say. What lay people, like me, need as explanation is expression of ideas in a language that can be understood. Metaphor and simile are helpful. Its not helpful to flit between scientific precision to poetic seasoning for literary effect alone.

Perhaps Babbage appreciated the poetry of Tennyson but preferred precision. That example also reminds me of the remake of Katie Mellua's song "Nine Million Bicycles"

TED: No wrong, its 13.7 billion light years

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 23:05 GMT
We've bounced out of a sub thread, I can't stay anyway. Thanks again for the discussion. It seems clear that he uses the phrase 'why does the universe go to all the bother of existing' not to suggest required energy, but to show what a difference there is between just the blueprint (the equations, and the potential for existing) and the actual thing. He makes it clear that unlike Florin, he doesn't think one automatically leads to the other - which is, if you think about it, a very strange idea.

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 23:55 GMT
Hello Vera,

I don't know how anything can be made without energy change happening or exist without being energy or containing energy? Do you?

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Hello Vera replied on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 18:39 GMT
That's irrelevant for several reasons. The main one is that this is not about anything being made! It's just about the question of whether something exists or doesn't exist, which is different. The fact that if it exists it will contain energy is irrelevant, because if it doesn't it won't. 'Go to all the bother of existing' is simply a turn of phrase, about the issue of the difference between a possibility and an actuality. So was the next thing Hawking said, about breathing fire into the equations, which backs my point up. Surely you can leave that literal interpretation - even Charles Babbage was partly joking, he knew his version was a bit dry.

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Hello Vera replied on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 18:53 GMT
BTW, your energy point should be used to argue against Florin's view that the blueprint automatically leads to the actuality, which I was also arguing against. So perhaps we're on the same side - with that, I wish you all the best...

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 17, 2013 @ 12:52 GMT
Hello Vera,

Sorry for the delay, I got caught in other activities. Let me read the thread activity so far and then answer you.

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Florin Moldoveanu replied on Mar. 17, 2013 @ 13:20 GMT
OK, that was quick.

Hello Vera, you are moving the goalposts. First I proved your assertion to be logically false, and then you said:

"You 'say "nothing might exist" is clearly false'. But this possibility was implied in the question we started with. That's why I said it."

Then I provided the 2 contexts: causal or axiomatic and invited you to pick one, or introduce a third one if you so desire. Here is where you are moving the goalposts: "it is for you to specify a context"

No it is not, I already put my cards on the table, and I shown an ambiguity inviting you to select the branch of discussion.

Ultimately, there are no first causes in nature and "because it can be" is the only answer to "Why Does the World Exist" which does not imply a first cause.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 17, 2013 @ 15:12 GMT
I don't agree with what you say, and have no idea how you hope to back it up with rational argument, which you haven't done at all so far. You now say 'there are no first causes in nature'.

I haven't said that there are or there aren't, but how can you say that there are no first causes? Back that up. How do you know? You say:

'Ultimately, there are no first causes in nature and "because it can be" is the only answer to "Why Does the World Exist" which does not imply a first cause.'

This is simply unsupported, unsubstantiated dogmatic statement. I have been arguing against it since you fisrt said 'because it can', (including on the subthread below Georgina, 12.3, 07.37), and have made a number of good rational points arguing that 'because it can' doesn't work as an answer.

If you can make a single point arguing that it is a good answer, then I'll bother to talk with you. But you haven't so far. And now you must also back up the idea that there are no first causes in nature, which you've said is what makes 'because it can', to you, the only possible answer. Why no fist causes? How do you know?

The causal chains go back a long way, we don't know where they go. You might argue that they're infinite, some might say there's a fist cause. It looks like one or the other. You make statements as if you're certain, but you don't say why. 'Because it can' is perhaps to you enough to remove the problem of infinite causal chain or first cause, being an answer that is neither - - - but it doesn't work, as I've shown.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 17, 2013 @ 15:21 GMT
Oh and btw, you say "I proved your assertion to be logically false" - I have no idea what your talking about - what assertion, what proof? If you make it clear then I'll answer it.

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 05:57 GMT
Hello Vera

You have not made any “good rational points”, because you continue to confuse the possibility of alternatives with what is knowable to us.

In the former, existence could be anything (including nothing), but we cannot know it, so it is not what is being investigated. Religion does that, science does not. As Florin said, a response along the lines ‘because it can’ is as good as any other, because the question in that context is pointless. There can be no answer.

In the latter, existence, as potentially knowable to us, which is what we should be investigating, has a definitive form, because it is a function of a specific and identifiable physical process. This is what we can know, either directly or via proper hypothesis. Whether it ‘really’ is what occurs is irrelevant, because we cannot know that. Then the question has meaning. Though one of the conclusions that can be drawn immediately is that it is not nothing. We, and we are part of it, definitely receive physical input, ie there is something. Or as Florin states, this is proof that your assertion is logically false.

Paul

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 10:36 GMT
Florin's points are like religion often is, not mine, and reminiscent of talking to Christians where they make dogmatic statements, and don't back them up with argument. Neither he nor you have proved anything. You've both said that the world exits 'because it can', and you say that this answer is as good as any other, because you say the quesiton is pointless. Then refrain from entering the discussion.

You think we can't get any kind of handle on these questions, so you shouldn't discuss this. Supporting Floring because you think his answer is 'as good as any other' isn't anything like enough! But In Florin's case, he thinks 'because it can' is the right answer for a very different reason - it's a dogmatic statement that is there to prop up another dogmatic statement. The other one is that he has decided there are no first causes in nature, though he doesn't say why.

He seems not to like an infinite series of causes, going back presumably though an infinite period of time, which is the only alternative to a first cause, unless one tries to jump out of causality in some other way. Saying 'because it can' is an attempt to jump out of causality, to justify what he happens to believe (like a faith), but it doesn't work because whether or not the world had existed, it can. We know that because it does.

Unless Florin makes a rational point, I won't stay in the discussion. I don't mind if I disagree with the point he makes, that would be fine. I'd just love to hear some rational argument, it's such fun.

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 19:53 GMT
Don't presume Hello Vera, there is a tyre cover on a local Ute. which reads :"If a man speaks in the forest and no woman hears him, is he still wrong? Along those lines: If there is an infinite series of causes and no immortal observer with a clock, do they still happen in an infinite period of time?

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Hello Vera replied on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 22:40 GMT
I didn't say the universe goes back infinitely, though many think it might. You don't need an external clock. Time might have no beginning, this is possible from our point of view. The word 'possible' has two meanings, I don't know if it's possible in the other way of understanding the word. I just said that the causal origin seems to be either an infinite series of causes or a first cause. Seems a rather uncontroversial type of statement.

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 23:38 GMT
Hello Vera said "......going back presumably though an infinite period of time, which is the only alternative to a first cause........" Is there time when it is not measured or just re-arrangement of matter in space? Is there temperature when it is not measured or just heat?

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 12:53 GMT
Just to clarify, Paul's argument boils down to: 'science can't look at non-existence, so Hello Vera's "either way it can" argument is disqualified'. But this also would disqualify several other things - firstly, the original question, which encompasses the possibility of non-existence, and secondly, it disqualifies Paul from the discussion, because he thinks the original question isn't valid.

Florin and I, hoewever, though we may have our differences, are doing philosophy, which has a wider remit than science in some areas, and we both feel that it is possible to ask such a question, and look at it, and so imply the possibility of either existence or non-existence.

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 06:00 GMT
Hello Vera

“Paul's argument boils down to: 'science can't look at non-existence”

No it does not. This is your interpretation based on your confusion as to what form of existence we must be investigating.

In science, the objective is to explain the physical existence we can know, not an endless stream of possibilities we can believe in. And knowing is underpinned by a definitive and identifiable independent physical process. Put another way round, the physical existence we must investigate is not an abstract concept, it is an existentially closed system.

So, we must analyse that, which is something. Within that, there is the logical possibility of ‘non-existence’. Which means spatial positions which are not ‘occupied’ by anything at a given time. Whether that can happen is, of course, a function of how physical existence occurs. And needs to be proven, which is difficult.

Paul

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John Merryman wrote on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 22:28 GMT
For man to ask, "Why?" Is like throwing a rock at the stars. Because.

We want absolute bounds, but all nature gives us are limitations and horizons.

The fact is that definition is limitation and limitation is definition.

Infinity has no limits and the absolute is zero. Quit confusing the two.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 23:24 GMT
(May contain traces of nuts)

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John Merryman replied on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 01:48 GMT
Hello Vera,

Do you think there is an answer?

Especially for a mind primarily evolved to find food(nuts, berries and small animals) and avoid becoming a meal. Our mental process is based on the linear sequence of cause and effect, but how relevant is that to a non-linear reality?

We study all these ever more complex patterns, searching for some meaning beyond their complexity, some way in which they tie into other patterns, in some grand pattern, but what tends to get overlooked is that it is a dynamic process and these patterns are not ultimately stable. Complexity goes through cycles of growth and collapse. A basic wave pattern, the deeper meaning of which seems to be that stuff happens.

So are you looking for an ideal, or an absolute, in the answer?

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 02:56 GMT
Hello Vera,

The purpose of choosing a context is that the arguments are different in the two cases.

Now the research program outlined in my FQXi essay http://arxiv.org/abs/1001.4586 has bear the first major fruit: reconstruction of QM from first principles:

http://arxiv.org/abs/1303.3935

This is a big deal and I am working on other very important results as well, but it is premature to disclose them at this point.

I am grateful to FQXi for the platform it provided for me to relaunch my professional physics career. I don't know how much longer I can exchange ideas at FQXi in this format because I expect to be extremely busy answering questions and challenges to "Quantum mechanics from invariance laws". I launched my own website: http://www.florinmoldoveanu.org/ and my blog http://fmoldove.blogspot.com/ in anticipation of this.

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 07:29 GMT
Florin

Shame Hello Vera has had to leave.

In respect of http://arxiv.org/abs/1001.4586, the only way you, or anybody else, is going to be able to construct a TOE is by starting with, and adhering to, the implications of the form of physical existence being investigated and how that occurs, generically.

Without repeating the argument in this post, it is existential sequence. ...

view entire post


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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 08:00 GMT
Florin

In respect of http://arxiv.org/abs/1303.3935, this may or may not impact on what you subsequently write, but you start with a mention of SR.

The problem with the underlying concept of relativity, and particularly what Einstein wrote in 1905, as opposed to SR, which he defined later as a specific (ie special) circumstance, is as follows:

Einstein stated two postulates,...

view entire post


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Anonymous wrote on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 09:05 GMT
This is your post from March 1st:

"Why Does the World Exist?

Easy: Because it can. Next question please."

Since then you haven't specified a context, but it is of course for you to do so if you think one is needed. You also haven't defended this answer since then (except to say without supporting the statement that there are no first causes in nature, and that therefore this must be the case), and you seem to have blurred the issue as best you can since then. But anyway, since then the spring has come here, and I must be moving on. My best wishes to all and thanks for the discussion.

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 09:06 GMT
Hello Vera

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 12:10 GMT
Paul,

I don't quite get why Hello Vera wants to quit, but that is his business. More important than WHY is HOW?

If we look around us what we observe is the incredible unity of nature and also its stability. The laws of nature do not change. They do not change regardless of how we mentally partition physical systems; they do not change over time. Then you can take this observation and look for "mathematical fixed points". Like the topological fixed point theorem, or eigenvalue problems, etc. The laws of nature (quantum mechanics, relativity) turned out to be precisely such a "fixed point". The details are rather complex, but this is the gist.

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 14:21 GMT
Florin

“More important than WHY is HOW?”

Correct. I picked this up in a post of yours. The original question is completely pointless, it poses a question to which there can be no answer, except in terms of a belief. Hence your somewhat ‘tongue in the cheek’ “because it can, next question”. The point is, given what we can potentially be aware of, what is that, and how does it occur, etc, etc.

Which brings us to “incredible unity of nature and also its stability”. How surprising!! The generic functioning of what, for us, is physical existence, is very easy to identify. How that manifests in practice is complex. But it has none of the nuances that it has been attributed with in order to make certain fundamental theories ‘work’. And they get worse and worse, as each time an ‘anomaly’ shows, another ‘twist’ in the explanation is invoked. Whereas, in fact, the base assumption is wrong. All I can do, because your essay gets too complicated for me, is to raise the question as to whether you are abiding by the ‘rules’ as determined by the nature of our physical existence.

Paul

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 18:32 GMT
'More important than WHY is HOW?'

The question was why. It's well known that philosophers sometimes avoid questions they find hard to answer, but it's not normally on the page that is about that question, and where they've already answered it...

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 06:19 GMT
Hello Vera

The question why, as in why is there existence, cannot be answered. We are part of it, and therefore cannot externalise ourselves from it. We are in a closed system and have to just accept that there is 'something'. Then answer the question, what is that something and how does it occur.

The answer we arrive at may 'actually' be complete rubbish. But we can only know what it is potentially possible for us to know, ie we have to assume we are determining a particular form of existence. Wheter we are or not is irrelevant, because we can never know.

Paul

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AndyM wrote on Mar. 24, 2013 @ 03:16 GMT
The question of "Why?" is inherently philosophical as should be apparent from the debates here.

Some physicists recently entered into such a debate in NY at the Asimov Memorial Debate. Physicists debate the many varieties of nothingness

Some excerpts:

"Holt certainly agrees that quantum field theory is the best available description of our known universe, but he thinks that Krauss's explanation is incomplete. It answers the question: why does the universe look the way it does? with another equally mysterious explanation: because quantum fields make it so. To Holt, the obvious next question is: so where do these quantum fields come from?

This line of inquiry exasperated Krauss. "The endless why? question is stupid-anyone with kids knows that. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? The only answer is: go to bed," he said. "The real question is: how?...."

"To Krauss, the endless cycles of why? are beside the point. "Science doesn't need a first cause, religion does," said Krauss, a vocal atheist who made his distaste for both religion and philosophy known from the get-go. Krauss's evasions didn't quite ring true to Holt. "You're still in thrall to Christian metaphysics," he charged. "You see the laws of quantum field theory as divine commands. It used to be that nothing plus God equals universe. You replaced God with the laws of nature. You are insufficiently enlightened....."

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 24, 2013 @ 06:31 GMT
AndyM

Well I am pleased to hear that there are people around who still retain common sense. This failure to differentiate between a logical possibility of what existence could be, and what it is for us, and hence what it is that is being incestigated, lies at the very heart of the problems physics is encountering. I suspect there is no other academic discipline that does not have an established, proven, and agreed understanding as to what it is investigating!

Paul

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 17:31 GMT
He hasn't understood the difference between science and philosophy. I've already said (more than once) that this is a philosophical question. Florin is a philosopher, and the discussion he backed out of was of course a philosophical one. But this man still keeps saying that science can't answer the question.

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Florin Moldoveanu replied on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 17:50 GMT
To the physicists, I am a philosopher (and I have been told my papers are too philosophical). To the philosopher, I am a physicists (and I've been told my papers are too mathematical)

Now the truth is I am more a physicists than philosopher. And I am actually looking for a collaboration with a mathematician working in algebraic geometry and operator algebras. If you know anybody out there interested in world class research in C* algebras, please point them out to me.

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Paul Reed replied on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 06:37 GMT
Hello Vera

Philosophy is a complete waste of time. By definition, there is always an alternative. It could be anything. What exactly is the point of discussing an indeterminable number of alternatives, any of which could be correct or incorrect, but we can never know, and therefore have no basis upon which to judge?

Why not expend your energy identifying what it is we can know, which has a physical basis?

Paul

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 20:06 GMT
There are things we can work out from philosophical thinking. Needless to say, thousands of years of human thought is right, and you're wrong. I can't be bothered to explain why. But when used in tandem with science, without confusing them, it's possible to work out more (as Florin and I will agree on, if on nothing else!). I must say, your view of what things we can't know is surprisingly closely correlated with what things you obviously haven't read about. I won't discuss this any more.

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Paul Reed wrote on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 06:32 GMT
Hello Vera

"I can't be bothered to explain why" Shame that. I wonder why you can never be 'bothered' to discuss properly, but just make assertions? The one time you did make some attempt, in a post to someone else, was an incorrect statement as to what I was saying. But maybe this ties in with your anonymous status, which I thought Brendan had indicated was not accepatable anymore on this forum.

Paul

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Hello Vera wrote on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:34 GMT
It's just a bit embarrasing talking to people like you. To me, the conversation never gets going, because you challenge everything I say before I say very much. So you never even find out what I think - elsewhere it's better.

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