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Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 11:59pmSanction this postReply
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Orion, you said: "Quantum mechanics is the most fundamental and important theory known to man."
 
It 's true that Quantum theory is among the most intellectually challenging (and intellectually challenged) theories devised by man - but I strongly disagree with your assessment that it is either fundamental or important. In my judgement it is neither.
 
I certainly don't decry the importance of the subject (and by all means do suggest readings on the subject) but I do disagree that Quantum theory explains anything other than  the phenomenological enthusaisms of its founding physicists. Might I refer you to my own article on the subject [The Quantum Aristotle www.solohq.com/Articles/ Cresswell/The_Quantum_Aristotle.shtml ] and also to David Harriman's excellent taped lecture course "The Philosophic Corruption of Physics." www.aynrandbookstore2.com/store/products.asp?dept=55 .
 
I understand that Harriman is currently turning his lectures into a book, in association with his work on Peikoff's tome on induction.
 
Two places on the web at which you might read up on 'rational physics' would be:

1) www.objectivescience.com , which has a discussion list; and

2) www.physicsform.org and the TEWLIP list (found at the website), both of which discuss Lewis Little' Theory of Elementary Waves, a theory very similar to that of Louis de Broglie, but different in crucial aspects.

Cheers,

Peter




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Monday, July 19, 2004 - 4:25pmSanction this postReply
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I agree.

Dr. Harriman's lecture is great and really seems to make physics students angry.  Which I think is funny.  Anyway, I suggest also checking out The Theory of Everything (TOE) by Max Tegmark-- makes some interesting points. 

Download the PDF
http://www.hep.upenn.edu/~max/toe.html

(Edited by Marnee Dearman on 7/19, 4:29pm)




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Monday, July 19, 2004 - 5:05pmSanction this postReply
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I am really sick of objectivists thinking they can simply dismiss or badmouth away modern science as "kantian" or "irrational". i'm not going to say QM is perfect: the founders of it clearly made some misinterpretations here, but it deserves a lot more than to be disparaged as "mentally challenged". and the harriman lecture does a lot more than simply attack some of the whackier ideas of QM. to copy paste from aynrandbookstore's entry on the lecture:

"Einstein's subjectivism and rationalism. The rejection of induction. The constant speed of light and two possible approaches toward an objective theory. Einstein's "length contraction," "time dilation" and "relativistic mass." "The curvature of space.""

the scare quotes obviously reflecting that they consider these concepts invalid. which would be bad enough, but even in this sentence there is worse

"rejection of induction"????? someone please cite me any text where einstein explicitly declares induction invalid? and if he didnt use induction much in his own thought process on this matter but focused more on math and thought experiments, this is not a rejection of induction as such but reflective of  how hard it would have been to empirically verify these ideas at the time

and these ideas, mocked with scare quotes meant to imply that they are floating abstractions, are not so unverified anymore. time and mass dilation have been empirically measured.

we should also note that the objectivist disdain for modern science has very little to do with any sort  of formal rejection of the law of identity, but seems much more to be tied to eccentricities within rand herself. she was so in love with the classical enlightenment view of the world, and so suspicious of anything emanating from our own kantian age, that any wierd or odd sounding idea in physics was to be rejected out of hand, whether or not there was rational cause to do so.

QM: out

relativity: out

even evolution: somewhat out, although very much less emphasized out. one gets the distinct impression that the only reason she did not repudiate this one as fully as the two above was because the only alternative explanation was even worse.

talking to some people, one gets the distinct impression that they won't tolerate anything less than an affadavit vindicating newtonian physics. what's even scarier are people who explicitly say philosophy has veto power over science. as soon as someone says this, they have no business claiming that they base their ideas on facts of reality. while the theories arent perfect, for the most part, these ARE the facts of physics, and any attempt to explain them away is nothing less than the perversion of objectivist axioms toward the cause of evasion. you don't get to argue with physics.




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Monday, July 19, 2004 - 5:32pmSanction this postReply
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From what I remember of Harriman's lecture he does not try to dispute that Relativity and QM are working theories.  He does not discuss math or the physics at all.  Not as such.

Mostly, he is very critical of the supposed implications that many physicists claimed as a result of those theories.  Mostly he discusses the idea that the observer effects the outcome through the act of observation (Shrodinger's Cat) and that many physicists explicitly used Kant to backup the idea that reality is an illusion, accordingly.  He provides evidence that some physicists were in fact rejecting the law of identity.  He is right in being extremely critical of what so many physicists were claiming about QM's implications on reality, namely that it proves that there isn't one, not at least an objective one!

Please check out his lecture before you go damning him to hell.  You might actually learn something.  Like I said, Harriman tends to make physics students mad, which I think is really funny.  I suspect this is case in point.  Accepting existence as absolute is apparently difficult for some....

I think the most important thing to take away from Harriman's lecture is as follows:

1.)  That math (mathematical models) does not equal reality.
2.)  That even brilliant mathematicians and physicists can have really messed up philosophies which can in turn gravely effect the progress of science.  Case in point, de Broglie's theories which I believe were rejected because they did not depend on the notion of the duality of particles, or something like this.  Anyone help me out here?  I'm just a geophysicist.... :)
3.)  String theory is silly (Okay that one is just mine).

Marnee





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Post 4

Monday, July 19, 2004 - 9:29pmSanction this postReply
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"3.)  String theory is silly "

please substantiate this




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Monday, July 19, 2004 - 9:33pmSanction this postReply
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"Accepting existence as absolute is apparently difficult for some...."

I do accept existence as an absolute. which is why I hold such high regard for physics: these are the observed facts which are absolute.




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Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 12:01amSanction this postReply
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Are you guys saying that the results from laboratory experiments with quantum particles are being falsely reported or misinterpreted?



Post 7

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 6:08amSanction this postReply
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Robert, Orion, Marnee,

Robert, you said, "I do accept existence as an absolute. which is why I hold such high regard for physics: these are the observed facts which are absolute."
 
I don't think anyone as any objection to observed facts. The "observed facts" are almost never presented. What is presented are interpretations of the actually observed facts, which frequently have nothing to do with science at all. It is those interpretations, which are mostly reifications from valid mathematical interpretations to the macro world that is flatly and correctly rejected.

For example it is perfectly legitimate to say, given the workable interpretation of particle physics in terms of wave functions, (fourier tranforms), a particle's precise position and momentum cannot both be certain (or a particle's precise energy at any precise time cannot be determined) is fine. But how many people here even know what that means.

They think it means, if you know a particle's momentum, you cannot know exactly where it is. But Heisenberg uncertainty doesn't even pretend to know either. (As if we could actually know a particle's momentum without knowing where it is. In fact, it is not possible to know either about any actual particle, all we know is a lot of data that is interpreted as "being a particles, somplace.")

The math says, if wave functions are the correct way to describe particles, no particle's exact position and momentum are determined at all. A particle cannot be described with both an exact position and exact momentum. Now the real problem is, we keep using the word particle all along in physics, which people cannot help picturing as little hard balls of something, but that picture doesn't even fit atoms, much less anything more fundamental. It is unlikely that any picture is correct, and there is nothing wrong with the little round ball picture either, as long as it is remembered there are no such things and that all of the math treats "particles" as though they are actually "waves" of ....(fields, ether, cosmic stuff--take your pick).

In terms of wave functions it is impossible to describe a particle with both an exact position and momentum. Since "particles" are only "quantized" wave functions, and both concepts, "position" and "momentum" themselves are only mathematical concepts (not physical enitites), to conclude that anything in the macro world is "undetermined" because of heisenberg uncertainty is simply absurd. The uncertainty is a function of the math. Almost everything can be described in terms of fourier transforms, and the same kind of uncertainty would show up in any such description, even when the thing being described is absolutely certain.

Regi








 




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Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 9:27amSanction this postReply
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All I need to know is this:

How do these other links that everyone's posting, explain quantum phenomena like the two-slit experiment?

So far, I gather that they can not be understood... and that their behavior can only be described mathematically. 

What do these other links that you all are posting, have to offer in terms of explanations, that is superior to the mathematical explanation?  Please do not attempt to impress our dodge these questions with wheelbarrows full of complicated verbage, just please attempt to as clearly and concisely communicate the answer as is possible.  If you truly do not know, simply say something like "I do not know".

Thank you.




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Post 9

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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I support all Regi says here.

It’s not so much a question of philosophy vetoing or trumping physics (as the Objectivist cited perhaps unwisely put it), as that contradictions do not exist between the sciences, if their discoveries are true. Physics and philosophy are both sciences, differing in their subject matter. Physics studies matter and energy, and philosophy the fundamentals of existence and knowledge as such.

So if two sciences contradict each other, which wins? Well, you need some standards of truth. You need some standards of valid knowledge acquisition. You need also to be sure that contradictions cannot exist. All these needs are addressed by philosophy. They are not addressed by physics.

Physics is based on observations and investigations of one aspect of reality, but philosophy is based on a survey of all reality and on deep thinking about the nature of existence and knowledge as it applies to every science in every field. It has made science (in the narrower sense) possible, and continues to clear the way for it to move forward.

(Edited by Rodney Rawlings on 7/20, 1:32pm)




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Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:26pmSanction this postReply
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Nice point, Rodney, about philosophy versus physics.



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Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 3:30pmSanction this postReply
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String throry is silly because it relies on the existence of more than 3 + 1 dimensions.  Its a giant leap of faith (in math) masquerading as science. 

So if two sciences contradict each other, which wins? Well, you need some standards of truth. You need some standards of valid knowledge acquisition. You need also to be sure that contradictions cannot exist. All these needs are addressed by philosophy. They are not addressed by physics.

Right!  What I was trying to say.  The maths behind physics were showing contradictions.  Rather than examining the math, the conceptual and mathematical models, many physicists instead tried to explain them away by making grandiose philosophical claims about reality.  They explained reality away.  They had no other choice because their thinking (philosophy) was faulty (due in no small part to the influence of Kant and others). 

This is why String Theory is being popularized instead of  The Theory of Elementary Waves (whose beginnings are as old as General Relativity, I beleive).  At any rate, this is not a good way to go if theoretical physics is to be at all useful.

 

YIKES.

 

 




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Post 12

Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 9:48pmSanction this postReply
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"String throry is silly because it relies on the existence of more than 3 + 1 dimensions.  Its a giant leap of faith (in math) masquerading as science."

a "leap of faith" in mathematics is a contradiction in terms. math, in its structure, is essentially similar to that of deductive logic. would you say that there is such a thing as a "leap of faith" in deductive logic??

and what is wrong with postulating more than 4 dimensions if there exist reasons for doing so? and don't tell me "we experience the world as 4 dimensions" as your answer: we also experience the world as being flat, when it is in fact round. i'm not going to claim that string theory is anything more than a hypothesis at this juncture, but its a good, mathematically sound, working hypothesis, and the fact that it is counter-intuitive is not in and of itself a reason to reject the theory




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Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 9:48pmSanction this postReply
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"String throry is silly because it relies on the existence of more than 3 + 1 dimensions.  Its a giant leap of faith (in math) masquerading as science."

a "leap of faith" in mathematics is a contradiction in terms. math, in its structure, is essentially similar to that of deductive logic. would you say that there is such a thing as a "leap of faith" in deductive logic??

and what is wrong with postulating more than 4 dimensions if there exist reasons for doing so? and don't tell me "we experience the world as 4 dimensions" as your answer: we also experience the world as being flat, when it is in fact round. i'm not going to claim that string theory is anything more than a hypothesis at this juncture, but its a good, mathematically sound, working hypothesis, and the fact that it is counter-intuitive is not in and of itself a reason to reject the theory




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Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 8:47pmSanction this postReply
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Marnee writes:
> Rather than examining the math...many physicists....explained reality away.  They had no other choice because their thinking (philosophy) was faulty (due in no small part to the influence of Kant and others)....This is why String Theory is being popularized instead of  The Theory of Elementary Waves (whose beginnings are as old as General Relativity, I beleive). 

Folks, this seems to be a good time to mention the fact that even David Harriman has given up TEW . It seems the reason this theory has not been "popularised" is less to do with the alleged irrationalism of modern physicists than with the fact it is simply *false*!

David Harriman:
"A few years ago, I gave a course entitled "The Philosophic Corruption of Physics," which is still available to tape. Near the end of that course, I described Lewis Little's theory (TEW, the theory of elementary waves) as "a very promising" approach. My evaluation has changed, and I now wish to retract my support for TEW...."

..."Some supporters of TEW are unwilling to accept the scientific evidence because they regard locality as a philosophic issue.....Our efforts will result only in self-destruction if we transform Ayn Rand's philosophy into rationalist dogma—and then find ourselves opposing the observed facts. "

http://objectivescience.com/articles/dh_tew.htm

 
- Daniel



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Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 4:25amSanction this postReply
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I think you can have more than four dimensions for the following reason:

There are qualities which are not captured by the existing four dimensions, but which vary in intensity... for example, mass.  I would say that mass is a dimension not captured by the existing x,y,z, and then time dimensions, yet must be included in physics calculations. 

Then you have charge and so on... and the extent of these things is the magnitude of that dimension.

I would caution, however, against acknowledging "new" dimensions which are really just composites of the primary dimensions... For example, you really haven't done anything new by acknowledging a "velocity" dimension or something like that, because velocity is really just a composite of your primary space-time dimensions.  I would say any new dimension has to be of primary, irreducible character.

Arguments?



(Edited by Orion Reasoner on 7/22, 4:29am)




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Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 6:27amSanction this postReply
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Marnee, Daniel, Robert, Rodney, Orion,

The end of the Harriman quote is: "...and then find ourselves opposing the observed facts."

I think that is the real issue. String theory, and in fact, wave theory as well, are not "observations," but, "interpretations," or hypothetical explanations for why actual observed phenomena is what it is.

Orion said, "How do these other links that everyone's posting, explain quantum phenomena like the two-slit experiment?

So far, I gather that they cannot be understood... and that their behavior can only be described mathematically."

Which is exactly right. But, the mathematical descriptions are the explanation, in the sense that they are how we understand the observed. It is really all we need to understand. There does not need to be some underlying additional explanation of "why" things behave the way they do. It is enough to understand how they actually behave. There is not some other "behind-the-scenes super-reality" that explains the one we actually observe. The one we actually observe is the "super-reality. Science only discovers and describes that.

Rodney pointed out that the physical sciences are not a study of knowledge or the principles by which we can say, "I know this." Science often gets into trouble when it does what some here have accused philosophers of doing, simply taking their (though more sophisticated) intuitive "models" and "interpretations" as facts. String theory is an example of this.

The mathematics behind string theory (which Robert correctly points out is at this point only a hypothesis) is sound enough, but the interpretation is very "unsound" and his its roots in relativity and "field" theory, which was the beginning of physics' mistakes.

In fact, it begins earlier than that, in the idea of three dimensions. The so-called, "three dimensions," are only a mathematical method of dealing with positional relationships. Objects are called three dimensional, because their volume can be described in terms of three measurements. No one notices, there are three other "assumed" measurements in these three dimensions--because spacial relationships have two different essential measurable qualities direction and distance. The "direction" component is assumed in the three dimensions, namely, that they are in planes all at 90 degree angles to one another. There are other methods for describing positional relationships (usually called spatial relationships).

When we speak of, "three dimensions," in every day speech, what we mean is the world as we actually experience it, with its perspective and "depth" and the fact that things can be behind or in front of other things, and be solid. That, of course, is the real world.

The trouble began with the first reifications from the math (methods of describing the world) to the real world. Since the world is dynamic, the three-dimension method of measuring the world works only for things static, the moment they begin to move, there is a new thing to measure. The static world only needs to measure the relationship between positions. The dynamic world needs to measure change in position (motion) and changes in those motions (acceleration) as well. The new measurements are called "time," "velocity," and "rate of acceleration."

The scientist's formulas for manipulating these measurements, since Newton, are exactly right. (The modifications required for relativistic differences are refinements of Newtons methods, not new methods.) In those formulas, the variables representing the various measurements, distance, direction, time, velocity, etc. can be interchanged. The problem comes when the scientist says, "look here, it makes no difference whether the value of the distance changes or the value of the time changes; the result is exactly the same, mathematically.

Which is true. But when the scientist goes on to say, therefore they are all "dimensions," and that there are, "four dimensions," he is making an epistemological mistake. What we mean by three dimensions is the world measured, "statically." You cannot have time without motion. The moment time is introduced, motion is implied. Time is the relationship between motions, period, and is not a "dimension" at all.

Of course, once that mistake was made, it was deuces wild, and scientists began to call just anything that could be stuck into their formulas a "dimension," until today as many 70 dimensions have supposedly been identified (with "other" worlds, as well, of course), and science is sounding more like science fiction every day.

Is string theory silly? In the sense that the math does seem to work , it is plausible enough. It seems terribly complicated to be a very useful method however, and I suspect it will ultimately fail for just that reason.

In the sense that, reified, it is actually a description of the world, it is not only silly, it is absurd. The so-called "strings" we suppose everyone understands are "dimensions." These dimensions are not just, "measurements," but actual things, with their own measurements. "Strings are very short," we are told.

What does that mean? In the famous words of Ayn Rand, "blank out."

[Orion, I intend to say something about the wave/particle duality of fundamental particles also, but this post is already too long. Stay tuned.]

[Rodney, thanks for the kind comments. I took unnecessary precautions with my beverage.]

Regi






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Post 17

Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 9:17amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Regi.

 

>>The trouble began with the first reifications from the math (methods of describing the world) to the real world.<<

 

How true.  Physicists reified particle theory by treating elementary particles as dimensionless points.  This was a useful fiction for reducing phenomena within the Newtonian realm of observation to mathematically description.  Points certainly simplify the arithmetic.  However, the fiction failed at the extremes of physics – i.e., quantum mechanics and relativity.

 

At the larger end of the scale, our cosmological models are falling apart because things such as black holes and the so-called Big Bang cannot actually exist as dimensionless “singularities”.  They must occupy some volume of space.  Similarly, string theory posits that the most basic bits of the universe also occupy a minimum amount of space.

 

That all things in this universe, from a primordial explosion to black holes to the sub-hadronic menagerie of particles, must occupy space seems like commonsense.  Interesting how the reification of a fiction that simplified the mathematics overcame this commonsense.  Failing to account for the space that things must take up did not limit the precision of our understanding of physics at its extremes but our accuracy; a failure which has manifested itself in the present irreconcilability of quantum mechanics and relativity.

 

That is why I find string theory intriguing.  It accounts for something fundamental:  Everything takes up space.  And by accounting for this fundamental fact, string theory has opened up a way to reconcile the extremes of physics.  Whether or not the fiction of a string endures to facilitate our understanding of what occurs beyond the extremes of observation, I don’t know.  But it is an improvement over the dimensionless point.

 

Regards,
Bill



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Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 9:29amSanction this postReply
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I would like to observe here something about mathematics that I touched on in my SoloHQ article “Errors of Modern Science—A Philosophical Magic Act.” (Of course, the “article” is only a transcription of an entertainment, not an argument presented.) Namely, that although mathematics can be regarded as a science, since it can discover certain facts about the world of numbers (such as whether there is a highest prime), it is primarily a technology, a method.

The basic material of that method is the series of “natural” or counting numbers (1, 2, 3, etc. without the zero), which is based on the human ability to regard concrete things as units (members of an open-ended class). And that is the extent of math’s connection between numbers and the world of entities. Everything else in math represents ways of usefully mapping the natural numbers upon complex realities existing in the universe.

In “Errors” I mention two basic cases on the lowest level of math—the zero and negative quantities:

I say the error here is: mathematics

Does not apply directly to the real,

But only through swift mental acrobatics

That practice and accomplishment conceal.

For instance, we use zero—nothing to it!

But when you seek for naught, you misconstrue it.

For zero can’t be found—it’s zilch, it’s zip.

When it’s a temperature, you catch the grippe;

And, on the Kelvin scale, you can’t get colder.

How do we use it? As a mere place-holder.

In tennis, love’s declared to mark a space

During the match till someone scores an ace.

And minus one’s a sheer impossibility.

Apart from someone’s debt, it lacks utility:

You have to run up some kind of account

To make sense of a negative amount.

Such things as “imaginary” and “complex” numbers follow the same principle: they are ways of applying basic arithmetic to complex states of affairs using “mental acrobatics.” And the goal is always to end up with results with natural-number implications. Sometimes, through sheer logic, mathematics can adumbrate new discoveries of science, but it must always be remembered that a mathematical process is only as good as the mapping to reality of its assumptions, definitions, and procedures.

One thing that contributes to the mistaken reification of math may be the term “numbers.” When we solve an equation and find out that a barrel contains about 100 apples, we know that that number corresponds to a reality. Now suppose the  equation’s solution is 0. Right away, we have left the natural numbers and are into the class of non-negative integers—that is, the result has immediately ceased to correspond directly to reality (since “nothing” is not a thing). A negative integer solution, such as –21, carries us even further away from concrete reality into the realm of human method. Yet the integers are still referred to as “numbers.” Why? Because they have so many properties exactly like those of the counting numbers—and in fact include the counting numbers—that it is preferable to expand the meaning of the term, and make the counting numbers into a subdivision, than to invent an entirely new idea. (Here I disagree with Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Rand refers to such new number classes as a subdivision of the concept of a number; I see them as an expansion of the term, and in a special sense an expansion of the concept.)




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Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:57amSanction this postReply
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Regi,

I appreciate what you've said, perhaps more than you know...

I think that ultimately the issue here with quantum mechanics becomes:  Is there an algorithm or equation that governs the apparently random behavior and popping-into-existence of quantum particles?  In other words, is it really "pseudo-random", like what humans can generate with so-called "random number" tables that are really generated by an algorithm? 

If you ever solve that piece of the puzzle... if in fact true random does not exist, then I think you've done something that dwarfs the concept of huge, because then you will have discovered the most fundamental, creative force in the universe.




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