domingo, abril 12, 1992

Infinity is -1/12: "Dreams of a Final Theory" by Steven Weinberg



(Original Review, 1992)

I wear a giant panda suit outside a Panda Burger giving out promotional leaflets. As this job is a bit easy and I can do it without too much conscious effort .....the only thing I have to watch out for is farting as it is unpleasant trapped in that panda suit .....anyhow I digress ........this gives me a LOT of time to think about serious issues such as time and the merits of having a TOE. As infinity is -1/12 it is a rather odd notion; I have come to the conclusion that it is not space and time that is curved but numbers and mathematics. Space and time is actually straight when you take this into account (as my wife would say: "I'd say that's a pretty major step up from what you're intellectually qualified for. Well done. There is an opening going for a flipper inside the joint if you are interested.")

Quantum mechanics is a scientific theory which can and has been used successfully to explain and predict many phenomena. That doesn't mean 'Quantum Physics' exists in any objective sense, merely that, to the best of our knowledge, the theory accurately explains the behaviour of sub-atomic particles. The theory itself is a human construction, so when people say 'it doesn't matter if you believe in it' that is simply rot. Matter, and the way in which in interacts in space-time, are objective facts. Theories, such as quantum mechanics, the theory of gravity, or the special and general theories of relativity, are all human constructions meant to describe these facts. Another theory is that the world was made in 7 days, and that God has created all evidence against this merely to tempt us into sin. That is also a perfectly coherent theory (although unfalsifiable), but it doesn't really help us to explain or predict anything useful about the phenomena we encounter on a day to day basis, whilst scientific canon does. Quantum physics along with Relativity has as a central tenet that anything we can see must exist. So far so good. But it also means the corollary, anything we can't see doesn't exist. Which strikes me as a bit like a child playing peek-a-boo. "I can't see you, so you can't see me." That is a rather striking finding in a very small child's psychology by the way. But quantum physics does precisely that! Entangled particles do not collapse into one state or the other until we can see them, they say. [2018 EDIT: Proved, incidentally, by a recent experiment whereby the collapse can be delayed by minutes or even hours by simply recording the event and then not watching the movie.]

Finally, there is clearly something either wrong or incomplete about the theories of Quantum Mechanics and Special/General relativity, because they cannot yet be combined into a coherent theory that both describes the behaviour of matter on a sub-atomic and macro level. We're a long way from a TOE. The Emperor is still naked, even though I can't see him.

Bottom-line: What we know could just be the scrag ends thrown out from the begging. To know more you might have to travel billions of miles or hope that some new particles or masses catch up with us. If only we could map around the edges of it all. Millions of light years of planets seem to just keep coming and coming.