Nov 14, 2011
A Quantum Conversation
The beginning of a long Conversation
I met this free-thinking guy while staying at Harolds Mansion in early August 2011. Our initial acquaintance got us immediately engaged in deep and prolonged conversation which continues to this day. He is now back home but that hasn't stopped us from continuing the conversation.
A Horribly Nice Man
He is one of a kind - eccentric to most, learned, articulate, poetic and intelligent (he unapologetically boasts that his IQ finds its mark within the 160 range). He loves to talk, and will challenge your ideas for the sheer delight of engaging you in a debate. He spans a broad range from signing off with "tiny moaning sounds" to a friend's girlfriend, to describing in excruciating detail, the personally intimate act of crapping - "thick, deadly smells squeezing through the gaps around the door". As one common acquaintance once remarked, he is a "horribly nice man".
Blame it on String Theory
How did this conversation start? It started with my fascination about the string theory - a highly excitable branch of quantum physics. The brilliant quantum theorists of our time have developed a mathematical equation that explains the theory of everything known in our universe - the unified theory that seamlessly weaves the once-mutually exclusive domains of the galactically-huge theory of relativity against the infinitesimally small world of quantum mechanics.
The problem is this:
The mathematical equation cannot be proven. To traditional scientists, anything that cannot be proven is not science but philosophy. Neither can the equation be proven false. But mathematically, it's sound and viable (with mind-blowing ramifications - parallel universes, 11 dimensions, etc.) I got curious now. Was there ever any widely-accepted and sound mathematical equation that has been debunked or proven wrong in reality (by an actual experience)?
(although this did not happen) Let's say that during the age when everybody thought the world was flat, someone actually developed a flawless mathematical equation that supported the idea that the world was indeed flat. The math was impeccable with no anomaly - it supported the flat-world theory and everybody took it as gospel.
But later on, we sent man to space and saw that the world was round - not flat. So, a real actual experience (not another math) proved the equation to be wrong. Has this ever happened before? I've already asked a lot of people this question, and so far, I haven't received an acceptable positive answer.
Here's the play-by-play:
Sep 8, 2011 (posted on Yahoo Answers)
TheLoneRider: Is there a scientific theory that is mathematically supported but already known to be false in reality?
Nov 8 (email)
Free-Thinking Guy: ...pretty much most of them. Take Pythagoras' theorem: Einstein proved that a2 x b2 = c2 + Lambda
TheLoneRider: What you offered is a mathematical dispute on a mathematical equation. It doesn't matter to me so much which is right. My question is, how does your math stack up to reality? What does reality support? Pythgora? Einstein? neither? As far as I'm concerned, if I get a triangle and apply Pythagora's, it works. I guess what I'm looking for is a sound and viable mathematical equation that is debunked by reality. Your insight is most appreciated.
Free-Thinking Guy: All scientific theories in history, even where based on mathematics, have been proven 'wrong' by now, except the very latest! This is because ALL theory (and all supporting math) is only the latest approximation...
If your triangle is small enough, Pythagoras works. But on larger scales, where space is bent, Pythagoras proves wrong or simply too narrow in scope. This is why I'm not that interested in the 'latest scientific evidence for this and that... My path to truth is not interested in approximation. I need to see the truth beyond the viewing-glasses of my time, my culture, and Einstein's limited math... Where God does not play dice!
TheLoneRider: Thank you for your prompt reply. I appreciate that. But your reply begs more questions.
>>If your triangle is small enough, Pythagoras works. But on larger scales, where space is bent, Pythagoras proves wrong or simply too narrow in scope.(Free-thinking Guy)<<
I will then assume that a triangle with a hypotenuse of say, 12 inches is small enough for Pythagorean theory to work. But using your own perspective-based viewpoint as an observer (according to you), what if you are reduced to a quantum size and you observe that same triangle, would that same triangle be big enough to be bent? If so, then the triangle bends or not, not based on its intrinsic property, but based on the size of the observer. In this case, reality debunks both theories.>>My path to truth is not interested in approximation. I need to see the truth beyond the viewing-glasses of my time. (Free-thinking Guy)<<
A noble statement indeed. But what is your basis for that truth, if not for the accumulated works of brilliant minds who collectively laboured nearly all their lives, generations upon generations (from Newton to our modern-day quantum physicists) in pursuit of their concluded truth? And how can you also qualify the infallibility of your truth? What benchmark are you using to validate your truth?He-he, I could imagine we can indefinitely be doing this exchange. I know at some point it will be tiresome, but for now, I'm engaged.
Free-Thinking Guy: yeah man, I'm a bit busy right now, but quickly:
1. You are absolutely correct! Whether space is vast enough to be bent IS a matter of size of the observer! Its all purpose-driven - if u fly to the moon, Pythagoras does not work for flight calculations. At a buiding-site he does. But to a micro-being that same size triangle would appear bent. So yeah, none of that is absolute and that's true.
2. How could OTHER people's minds be the source of MY recognition of truth?? Recognition of Truth is not mental! It is
in fully accepting a smile...
in the depth of children's eyes...
carved into an old face...
in the wonders of moving water...
in the facing of death...
in the Oneness beyond all binaries...
those are my sources, friend
Nov 14 (email)
TheLoneRider: Your poetic truth is both elegant and graceful. I am reminded of what Maurice Healy, a most-famous wine writer, said about a magnificent Volnay Burgundy:
"I took one sip; I closed my eyes, and every beautiful thing that I had ever known crowded into my memory. In the old fairy tales the prince drinks a magic potion, or looks into a magic crystal, and all the secrets of the earth are revealed to him. I have experienced that miracle. The song of armies sweeping into battle, the roar of the waves upon a rocky shore, the glint of sunshine after rain on the leaves of a forest, the depths of the church organ, the voices of children singing hymns, all these and a hundred other things seemed to be blended into one magnificence....Yes, I, a devotee of Bordeaux, solemnly declare that the three greatest bottles I have ever tasted were all from Burgundy."But lyrical as it is, I once again frame it against my original question. What mathematical equation does that truth debunk?
>>How could OTHER people's minds be the source of MY recognition of truth?? (Free-thinking Guy)<<
Of course not. Our perception of truth, one that is unique to the individual, one that I fondly call our relative truth, is a function of our life experience, our cognitive reasoning, sensitivity, genetic predisposition, etc. But we all share an evolving truth - and we must factor-in the leaps and bounds collectively hurdled by the genius of those who came before us. From a flat world, we have now pierced the innermost sanctum of the atom and approximated the size of our known universe. Surely, you must agree with me that there is validity in all that.
Nov 15 (email)
Free-Thinking Guy: Is there validity in 'piercing the inner sanctum' of the atom or in approximating the size of the universe? It must be to the 'relative truth' of some idiot scientist... I personally think there is NO validity in splitting the atom!! And to measure the universe in km or light-years does not AT ALL reveal its nature! It only tells us how stuck we are with quantitative measurements!!
To ask questions like 'what IS the universe', we must discard all those 'geniuses' who keep asking only quantitative questions based on materialist world view and idle numbers. As long as we keep asking questions as we did yesterday - we can never approach the answers. Science presumes that answers are inventions of man and always relative.
In Truth the answers are possible and out there objectively. Like - Is there a God? - No amount of measuring and looking to old 'geniuses' will help there... The answer is that there either IS a god or NOT. Either of those alternatives is an objective and final Truth, whether science knows it or not.
No, only trying out your bottle of Bordeau yourself works and you best forget what anybody else told yo else reckons...
I do much appreciate you asking such questions at your age and understanding the significance of nature on the search for Truth.
TheLoneRider: Thank you for your insight.
In closing, let me just say that yes, I agree with you that there is no validity in splitting the atom - only a madman will do that.
But to gain an understanding of the building blocks of our universe, down to the smallest particle that could ever exist in nature, transcending mass until you're only left with a band of energy, benignly referred to as 'string'...I find that a validation of our collective struggle to understanding ourselves and the world around us. An idiotic folly, perhaps, but it's in compliance to our inquisitive nature - same instinctive zeal that makes people climb mountains and explore the sea depths.
I bid you adieu, my friend as I continue my search for the answer to this question - is there a scientific theory that is mathematically supported but already known to be false in reality?
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Reader Comments:Michael Fazackerley
(Nov 15, 2011) I can empathize with Mr. Free-Thinker's dismissiveness. It one form or another ALL mathematical equations fall down in reality. Nevertheless, I can also understand what you are getting at. Indeed for most applications dear Pythagorus' equation WILL get you an accurate calculation of the mysterious side of your right-angled triangle.
Although I cannot be truly explicit I shall offer up my favourite quandary. I was always disatisfied with how the theory of flight and lift was described to me in grade school. The common Ontario school board approach is to say that due to the different times of travel of air over an airfoil a pressure is generated upward as indicated by Bernoulli's equation regarding fluid dynamics. All well and good. There is nothing wrong with Bernoulli's equation. It works.
What immediately occurred to me, however, as I sat there sporting my Keds and a matching shorts and t-shirt combo on my grade 6 chair was this: Why does a paper airplane work then? It is a flat piece of paper. There is no difference in the air going over its wings. No different travel time, but there is still lift. Hmmm...
Now, what this points out is that the simplified explanation of different travel time is wrong. Not explicitly that the math is wrong. However, if you care to take a look at a more prolonged discussion of lift (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lift_%28force%29) what you find is an attempt to continue to refine mathematical equatoins to accurately describe the observed phenomenon correctly. If fact, attempts to do so continue to this day. No doubt though that a certain subset of those equations are accurate enough to build everything from 747s to The Twin Otter, to helicopters that reliably stay aloft.
The thrust (no pun intended) of my intended point is this though. We have forever been using math to apply it to observable phenomena and accordingly adjusting our theories when they do not fit what is observed. Some things indeed were reasoned out ahead of time and later supported by experiments that showed them to be true. The thing is our ultimate proxy for truth has always been the ability to see the equation churn out reliable result in the real world.
String Theory may very well be true, but we may be some way away from being able to use it in any way that will account with our experience of the world. Indeed it may throw that very account into peril.
This points back to Mr. Blackburn's point. If we are using mathematics to prove what we believe to be true, and then show that it does indeed accurately predict what we observe, then what are we proving? The true test of the theorem is still our own impressions of reality.
You will no doubt be familiar with the Vedantic concept of Maya, or the cosmic illusion. If string theory accurately pierces the illusion than it is not a clever experiment that is required to support the equation's validity. Rather, it is a shift in the nature of the observer that will be required in order to see that the fruits of the equation are indeed just a real as apples and pomegranites.
It may be an eclipse (http://www.firstscience.com/site/articles/coles.asp) of an altogether different nature that may eventually prove string theory to be true.
(Nov 15, 2011) You gave me the answer on a silver platter, Faz. By reading "Eclipse that Changed the Universe", all the ingredients were there:
- the Newtonian theory that space was rigid
- the mathematical equation supporting the theory - outlined in his book "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica"
- the universal acceptance of the math (as it stood unquestioned for over 200 years)
- and notably, the reality check that rendered Newton's math wrong - the 1919 total eclipse that bent space (as evidenced by displacing the positions of the neighboring stars), supporting instead, Einstein's relativity theory that space is curved by gravity.
With this, I can see the fallibility of String Theory even with its anomaly-free math. I just don't know how reality will support or debunk it when experiential proof becomes accessible. But honestly, I"m biased. I love the elegance of the string theory. And if Eastern mysticism is to be given credit, I would say that String Theory has already been validated - experience in altered states during deep meditation, when you start dissolving flesh until you become a spec of consciousness...a vibrating band of energy oscillating a billion times a second.
I somehow found closure. Thank you for putting this issue to rest, Faz.
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