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Thread: The Mathematical Universe

  1. #1
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    The Mathematical Universe

    Could anybody tell me why Western philosophy insists that the universe is based upon physics? The Eastern approach looks as the universe as based upon mathematics which agrees with what we observe. The base entities of matter can only be described by physics when they behave as an electron, but the electron the neutrino and the quark can only be described by mathematics. This is also true for the start of the universe, so why do we insist on trying to describe reality using physics? Chemistry, biology and every other field of science cannot be described by physics, but can be described by a combination of physics and mathematics. This explains why we find pure mathematics in all fields of science. Mathematics cannot come out of physics but physics can come out of mathematics. The problems we run into trying to describe the universe using a single consistent set of physical laws evaporate if you describe the universe with a single consistent set of mathematical laws. There is no logic that dictates the universe must be based on physics, it is just a traditional viewpoint that comes from Western philosophy. Isn't it time we looked at what is now being taught in schools in Asia? It makes much more sense.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    The reason why Western philosophy insists that the universe is based upon physics is because it is. There is no other rational viewpoint worth discussing.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    When you say rational we need logic, but the Western model is illogical, chemistry, biology, the Solar System or any other field in science cannot be described in terms of physics, so where is the logic. The Eastern perspective is consistent, so are you saying that would rather have an inconsistent description of the universe just because it is based upon tradition. Subjects in the West are taught in isolation as if they are not connected, but in the east they can be taught as a single consistent framework that runs from simple to complex. My argument is valid because the universe does not start as physics. What happens before physics in the Big Bang cannot be described in terms of anything physical, so what terms can it be described in? You see the problem. Physics cannot describe anything which becomes more ordered or complex, it only has entropy which goes in the opposite direction. The explanation physics gives for emerging complexity is that there is more disorder somewhere else, this is not acceptable because where is the disorder that is leading to life on Earth? When this is put to physicists they say the Sun, but how can anything on the Sun determine what is happening inside a cell, it does not make sense. What happens inside a cell can be described by a combination of physics and nonlinear mathematics, that makes sense. Physics cannot explain anything about human behavior, period.
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    MHF Contributor Matt Westwood's Avatar
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Quote Originally Posted by petercookintaiwan View Post
    When you say rational we need logic, but the Western model is illogical, chemistry, biology, the Solar System or any other field in science cannot be described in terms of physics, so where is the logic.
    I am afraid you are going to have a lot of difficulty trying to convince sane people of the truth of the above sentence.

    Just because you don't understand physics does not make physics illogical, it just means you don't understand physics.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Molecules assemble themselves according to the rules of group mathematics. Group mathematics does not come out of physics, if you can explain how it does, I welcome an answer. Chemistry shows the property of self organization. Physics cannot explain anything that self organizes. Physics has the Second law of Thermodynamics which states that the universe always goes towards greater disorder, but each layer of fossils becomes more complex. I give very precise examples and I pin point exactly the contradictions you get into when you try to explain reality just using physics. A chaotic pendulum is made of physical parts which are not obeying the laws of physics, that needs an exact answer. I do understand chaotic behavior is, it means it cannot be predicted, and by definition classical physics is predictable. The Solar System has parts which are predictable and parts which are chaotic. Please tell me the laws of physics which describe how we determine chaotic behavior. I teach physics and there are no books that describe how physics leads to the chemistry we observe never mind life. These topics must stay out of physics books because they contradict what is written in the books. My answers are precise, I don't just make emotional statements. If you want to describe the Solar System you need an explanation of how it goes from dust into a structure that keeps very good time. People like Brian Cox knows this problem so he chooses his words very carefully and says the laws of nature. Students are shocked when I give them the book Physics Calculus by Eugene Hecht and ask them to find the description of how the Solar System has a combination of self organization, chaos and order. It cannot and so the book does not mention it. I was shocked when I came to Asia and found a description of reality free of contradiction, no problem between quantum mechanics and relativity, no measurement problem, no trouble explaining how chemistry builds itself into ever greater complexity, no problems describing how self organization takes place in nature. If you can give an explanation of these only using physics please do so, if you do understand physics that should not be a problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by petercookintaiwan View Post
    A chaotic pendulum is made of physical parts which are not obeying the laws of physics, that needs an exact answer.
    Why do you say that? Such a pendulum does obey the laws of physics, in particular the mathematical laws governing its motion – it is just that the mathematical description sometimes does not have a “nice” solution. Thus:
    The motion of a double pendulum is governed by a set of coupled ordinary differential equations. For certain energies its motion is chaotic.
    Just because something does not have a closed-form or deterministic solution does not mean that the laws describing its behaviour are wrong. It would be like saying that the indefinite integral $\int e^{x^2}\mathrm dx$ does not obey the laws of mathematics because it can’t be expressed in a closed form using elementary functions.


    Quote Originally Posted by petercookintaiwan View Post
    I was shocked when I came to Asia and found a description of reality free of contradiction, no problem between quantum mechanics and relativity, no measurement problem, no trouble explaining how chemistry builds itself into ever greater complexity, no problems describing how self organization takes place in nature.
    Then, instead of criticizing Western physics (which is all you’ve been doing so far in this thread), can you at least give a summary of this alternative viewpoint, comparing it with the Western model and demonstrating why in your opinion the former is superior?
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Quote Originally Posted by petercookintaiwan View Post
    There is no logic that dictates the universe must be based on physics, it is just a traditional viewpoint that comes from Western philosophy. Isn't it time we looked at what is now being taught in schools in Asia? It makes much more sense.
    There is such a logic: inductive logic.

    Your notion - that physics is somehow accepted and/or justified because it's "just a traditional viewpoint" - is absolutely absurd.

    Question #1: Is it dumb luck that physics tells us about how to airplanes fly, atomic bombs explode, lasers work, computer circuit boards and CPUs transform inputs and outputs... all to the point where human beings can design these things, and they then work as designed?

    Question #2: Suppose we've automated food production & distribution, powered by solar energy alone, sufficient to feed the entire planet. Suppose all 7 billion plus human beings alive today, and all of their ancestors for a thousand generations, did nothing (no need to worry about food!) but diligently meditate in the eastern tradition for their entire lives in an attempt to design any of the above... either to get their design directly, or as a by-product of their greater enlightenment. What are their chances, using that method, of creating a design that actually works? What are their chances, using that method, for humanity to create a even a humble functioning transistor radio?

    Physics gives us knowledge about the concrete physical world - knowledge so reliable, so thorough, that we can not only predict using it, but actually design using it - design amazing things completely beyond the comprehension of previous generations.

    Religion, eastern-tradition or Jerusalem-monotheism-tradition, tells us nothing reliable about the concrete physical world that allows us to predict or design anything. Of late, religions rarely even try to do this, because the only thing reliable in their attempts is miserable failure.

    Whatever value any religious tradition might have, it is most certainly NOT about providing us reliable knowledge of the physical world.
    Last edited by johnsomeone; Aug 4th 2015 at 05:52 AM.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Hello Peterand welcome. Whilst I have some sympathy with your viewpoint, I would first like to ask you to employ shorter paragraphs.

    Reading through such dense blocks of text as yours on a computer is wearing and you will find many give up.
    I note this is a complaint common to many forums.

    Why is Western Science based on Physics?
    It isn't.
    It's just that there are some physicists who would have you believe that Chemistry and other sciences are subservient handmaidens of Physics, which is far from the truth.

    It is also true that many physicists demand that Physics can only be conducted mathematically.
    That is also far from the truth and every time I ask them to offer me a mathematical 'formula' for making concrete , they run away.

    Reality always trumps theory.
    That has been Man's experience so many times in history, from Plato's shadows, to the photelectric effect to your incorrect assertion that

    Molecules assemble themselves according to the rules of group mathematics.
    Sometimes molecules do, sometimes molecules break the rules and form compounds outside of group or any mathematical rules, except the law of constant proportions, which makes them compounds in the first place.
    It was not mathematics that led Kekule to invent the ring structure, it was a moment of scientific insight.

    Mathematics started out as a tool for other more practical disciplines and has really only broken free and blossomed into a full blown science in its own right as a result of Western development over the centuries since the Rennaisance.
    The Greek experiment into theory was, for all its successes, a blind alley in the long run.

    I apologise that there have been some rather abrupt comments on your post here, we are not all like that.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    The Western viewpoint is that mathematics provides models that are good approximations to the real world. Different models apply in different situations. Science (including, but not limited to, physics) is how we work out which mathematical models best fit the observable universe in whatever aspect we are concentrating on at the time. Science also seeks to explain why that model is the correct one.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    The Western viewpoint is that mathematics provides models that are good approximations to the real world. Different models apply in different situations. Science (including, but not limited to, physics) is how we work out which mathematical models best fit the observable universe in whatever aspect we are concentrating on at the time. Science also seeks to explain why that model is the correct one.
    Yes a good summary, but mathematics also provides Science with pointers as to where to look and how to improve the models.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Mmm... when the models have singularities, yes. And in the case of string theory. But generally the mathematics provides testable predictions. String theory is a special case in that it is basically untestable except where it provides similar results to other theories. (So I understand).
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Thank you for your well presented, well informed answer. I take your point about the writing style. I would like to point out that these are not just my opinions, as Marcus du Sautoy points out in his article 'No More Isolation', we must be causing ourselves so many problems by teaching science and mathematics in different departments.

    Many of the important breakthroughs are made when people talk at tea time. Shouldn't we see mathematics and science as two descriptions of the same reality and teach accordingly. It is the mathematicians in Asia who are being asked to step up to the mark and show how physics and the complex reality we observe fit together.

    This was first put forward by Dr Robert C Hilborn in his book 'Chaos and Nonlinear Dynamics, An introduction for scientists and engineers'. Let me quote his version of the problem. "If we look at the common features proving an explanation for nonlinear behavior, we find they are not the physical features of the system. This is disturbing to many scientists, and we have to cast off the blinders that many twentieth physicists have worn". That's quite a statement from one of the most respected scientists at Dallas UT. He also points out that the rules of complexity are universal, the proof being written by Mitchel Feigenbaum. What he tries to show is that we have the correct description for the very small, we have the correct description for the very big, and we also have the correct description of the very complex. All three pass every test every time, so we should see them working together, and not try to force them into a single description. I just agree with him.


    I work as the senior consultant to one of the most respected design companies in Asia, and I make a living by showing industry how to use pure mathematics in every field you can imagine. If it does not work I don't get paid so the stakes are high.

    This work has been peer reviewed by people at the highest level and there is no room for error. The doctors and professors at the universities cannot risk reputation in any way, but they have so far agreed that it can be taught in schools and universities. That took a few years and lots of adjustments, but it should give you confidence we are subject to strong critique.

    There are many people working on the project now and they have condensed the main ideas into a series of charts that simply show how the two parts of physics and nonlinear mathematics give us a description of reality. Physics is set and unchanging but nature is flexible so we need a description that reflects this.

    If you would like a copy of the charts and you would like to contact some of the professionals who have contributed, no problem, please e mail hydrogentohumanproject32@yahoo.com we will be happy to answer all questions in more detail.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Typically what happens (or what should happen) in the sciences and engineering is that if nature is broader than the models dictate then sooner or later the models of nature become broader to accomodate this.

    This has happened a number of times and the most famous of these is where Newtons Laws were generalized to allow for special and general relativity theories.

    Mathematics is a language and it can describe anything that is supposed to have internal consistency along with being specific enough so that any description is unique (in comparison with another) but broad enough to account for variation - and these three things make it the language of choice to describe things (including the natural and observable world) in addition to analyzing them.

    If a language is capable and useful in order to describe something - regardless of application then it will be used and mathematics is used for science, engineering, technology and other similar endeavors.
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    Thank you for the excellent challenge, I like people who know how to present argument.

    I teach university students and I get asked all the time to explain what is going on with the Three Body Problem. Students correctly point out that with two bodies we have physics, clear, deterministic, predictable behavior. The addition of one more body means there are no equations that can give a prediction of what is going on. Ian Stewart not me. My answer is that physics does not give a description of anything complex in the universe, for that we need a combination of physics and pure mathematics. I am not happy with this answer because people like Stephen Hawking are still sure that one day we will find a single predictable set of laws.

    I quote from his paper Godel and the End of Physics. Will we ever find a complete form of the laws of nature? By a complete form, I mean a set of rules that in principle at least enable us to predict the future to an arbitrary accuracy".

    Students in nonlinear mathematics have a real problem with this because as they rightly point out, if we looked at the rocks and water that made up the early Earth, how could we possibly predict all the creatures that would emerge out of the basic ingredients. it is a valid point and I welcome any answers that I could give back.

    I apologize for giving the impression I am criticizing Western physics. We know that quantum mechanics and relativity are both correct, but they cannot give us a complete description of reality at the atomic scale or the gravitational scale. I am saying maybe we need a different view point that does not try do achieve this. We have only just started to uncover the mathematics of complex behavior, but we have already found that it is both universal (Fiegenbaum) and not related to the laws of physics. This is easy to prove to yourself if you look at any good book about chaos and nonlinear dynamics, it is pure mathematics, no mention of physics.

    People in Asia have no problem dealing with this because they grow up learning to see the universe as a mathematical structure in which the physical parts emerge out of the mathematics at the beginning. This is reflected in what we observe. The physical properties of volume and substance(mass), are not intrinsic in the three entities that make up physical matter. The quark, neutrino and electron do not have volume. Volume emerges when Quarks get into relationships and produce a proton. Mass emerges as a relationship with the Higgs Boson. This is dealt with by Max Tegmark in his book The Mathematical Universe.

    You can see how difficult it is to answer students questions in a clear concise way, and I think debate with persons like yourself will help me present better argument.

    If you would like some of the charts which reflect the Asian perspective, I will happily e mail them to you.

    hydrogentohumanproject32@yahoo.com
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    Re: The Mathematical Universe

    That's an excellent answer, thank you very much. I will present it to my students.
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