Rebirth of Reason

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Forward one pageLast Page

Sanction: 14, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 14, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 14, No Sanction: 0
Post 60

Thursday, August 24, 2006 - 2:00pmSanction this postReply
I wonder why people are claiming to know what they don't know and can't know - on both sides. Since when is infinity or finiteness built into the fundamental axioms?

"I don't know" is a valid position for some issues. Epistemologically, the Objectivist theory of concepts can handle both possibilities.

I prefer to wait and see what science comes up with on this one - or die in my blessed ignorance if this knowledge doesn't come in my lifetime.


Post 61

Friday, August 25, 2006 - 2:08pmSanction this postReply
Glenn wrote,
As usual, you have shown "infinite" patience. But as Robert sarcastically said: I just don't get it. Your arguments are clever, but so were Zeno's. I'll have to think about it some more. Nothing you have said has affected my intuition that it's possible that I can go in some direction and count the objects in the universe and keep going and keep counting and never reach the end. It's possible that for every integer there is a different object in the universe. Infinite sets can exist and the universe may be one of them.
Part of the problem may stem from a confusion between abstract numbers and concrete objects. A number set isn't finite in the same way that a set of objects is finite. A set of numbers can go on infinitely, in the sense that however far you've counted, you can always count another number. But observe that in the process of counting another abstract number, you are mentally creating that number; you aren't finding it, as you would be if you were counting actual objects that you discover in the real world. In other words, the number doesn't already exist in the way that another object that you discover already exists. So there is no limit on how many abstract numbers you can count, because you are mentally creating them as you go, whereas there is a limit on how many objects you can discover: the limit is the number that actually exists in the real world.

What you are saying, when you say that the number of objects in the universe is infinite is that for every object in the universe, there is yet another object -- which is a contradiction, because since every object exhausts all the objects, there cannot be another object. The notion of an actual infinity of existents is, therefore, self-contradictory. In fact, you can't even imagine it.

What you can imagine is to find another object in addition to the objects you've already found and to continue doing so without reaching an end. But observe that to imagine not reaching an end is to imagine doing so within a finite period of time, which leaves open the possibility that if you were to continue the process, you would reach an end. In order truly to imagine the existence of an infinite number of objects in the universe, you would have to imagine counting them for an infinite period of time, which is impossible.

- Bill

Post 62

Friday, August 25, 2006 - 2:20pmSanction this postReply
I just sent a post to this thread, but it never got posted. I see that my name is up on the general forum as having posted it, but neither my name nor my post appears anywhere in the actual thread itself.

What's going on?


P.S. Ah, I see that it just got posted. But it didn't appear until several minutes after I submitted it, which is uncharacteristic. In fact, it didn't get posted until I submitted this followup. Normally, the posts I submit appear either immediately or upon refreshing my screen. Has this lag happened to anyone else?
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 8/25, 2:29pm)

Post 63

Friday, August 25, 2006 - 5:17pmSanction this postReply
Ask Rod Serling............ ;-)

Post 64

Friday, August 25, 2006 - 5:25pmSanction this postReply
Bill asks "In fact, it didn't get posted until I submitted this followup. Normally, the posts I submit appear either immediately or upon refreshing my screen. Has this lag happened to anyone else?"

Occasionally the server is interrupted when someone is posting.  It manages to save the data, but before it can regenerate the forum page, it gets stopped for no good reason.  When someone adds a post, it suddenly shows up because it just got printed.

I've seen it a number of times.  In fact, it will often be shown on the front page, and when you click through to the forum, it's not there.  And it doesn't remove it from the front page either.  All predictable from the software, except the initial interruption which makes no sense and I blame on someone else.

Post 65

Saturday, August 26, 2006 - 3:48pmSanction this postReply
I've noticed that happening too.

"This Is Not Rod Serling Speaking."

Post 66

Thursday, September 7, 2006 - 4:16pmSanction this postReply
Hi Bill,

You wrote, “In order truly to imagine the existence of an infinite number of objects in the universe, you would have to imagine counting them for an infinite period of time, which is impossible.”

This formulation improperly imposes the limitations of consciousness on existence—improperly, because existence exists independently of consciousness.

In any case, there is no problem imagining counting entities for an infinite period of time because existence is eternal, so there is no limit to the future that can be spent counting entities and therefore no limit (in logic) to the number that can be counted.

(Edited by Jon Letendre
on 9/07, 5:00pm)

Post 67

Monday, October 6, 2008 - 7:55amSanction this postReply

Supplements to #33 are this one and these.

Post 68

Monday, October 6, 2008 - 9:11pmSanction this postReply

(Edited by Jay Abbott on 10/06, 9:12pm)

Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 11, No Sanction: 0
Post 69

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 - 6:23amSanction this postReply


How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!

27,000 Light Years   

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 12/10, 6:41am)

Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 70

Sunday, March 29, 2009 - 1:30pmSanction this postReply

Curious Black-Hole Constant
Science News – 3/28/09

Saul Teukolsky

Clifford Will

Donald Lynden-Bell

Post 71

Monday, April 20, 2009 - 4:10amSanction this postReply

The Planck satellite is scheduled to launch on May 6, 2009.

“Planck by Planck”
Ron Cowen
Science News – April 11, 2009

Planck – The Scientific Programme

A Cosmic-Microwave-Background Polarization Primer
Wayne Hu and Martin White

#'s 67, 69, 70, and 71 are supplements to #'s 32 and 33.
(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 4/20, 8:33pm)

Post 72

Monday, April 20, 2009 - 1:50pmSanction this postReply
Stephen, is there any chance you could summarize your point as it relates to this discussion?

Bill, I've been very impressed with the quality of your responses so far.  You have read others' arguments, discovered the point of contention, and responded accordingly in a clear manner.  I aspire for the same understanding and clarity. 

It might help to be clear what we are talking about when we talk about infinity.  What are we counting?  We have talked about physical entities and time.  For the sake of our theoretical discussion, let's talk about a unit that will remain constant.  Not atoms, as fusion and fission change the number of atoms in the universe, but a unit that is constant ("entity").  After all, it has to exist to be counted at all.

The fact that there are centillions of these entities on planet Earth at a given time does not render them any less countable.  The number would be larger, but no less finite.  The same is true if we consider all of the entities in the galaxy.  The number might be x to the billionth power larger than the number of stars in the galaxy, but the number is still finite.

Now, imagine the universe - here defined as all that exists - one instant after the big bang.  Suppose that all of the matter in the universe was contained in a square inch.  The density of matter in that inch would be incredible.  Still, it would have a number of entities (quarks, strings, or whatever our base unit is) and a measurable mass - or rather an energy.  That energy may be disbursed stored in solid molecules, but it is no less existent.

Now, to say that there are an infinite number of entities in the universe is to also say that the energy density in existence after the big bang was also infinite.  How can something have a mass of infinity?  How can it have infinite energy density, and yet still disburse?  Here comes the important part:

If the universe ever had infinite energy density, the "universe" would still have the same energy density, which it clearly does not.  We're on a rock with a degree of energy, revolving around a star with a much greater energy.  This is so because a so-called "infinite" energy density would remain infinite, no matter how far it was disbursed.  If the density changed, it would no longer, by definition, be infinite.  What I'm trying to say is that the universe proposed by an infinite number of entities is also infinite in space, energy, mass, etc.  The infinite matter/entity theory must, by extension, reject the big bang, and based on what?  In other words, the fact that we are on this planet is proof that the universe does not have an infinite number of entities.

Science has already done its part.  There's no need to wait this one out and "see what science discovers" about it. 
Does this help at all?

Post 73

Monday, April 20, 2009 - 2:51pmSanction this postReply
"The infinite matter/entity theory must, by extension, reject the big bang, and based on what? In other words, the fact that we are on this planet is proof that the universe does not have an infinite number of entities."

It would need to reject only the uniqueness of the Big Bang.

As in, 'membrane theory,' our local 'Big bang' as one instance of many possible such collisions of membranes. Manyverses, not universe.

But that just kicks the can down the road; how far is up for grabs. Maybe infinitely far...

If you could squeeze all of the 'space' out of all the matter in the universe, it would be a mixed blessing: no sane person would ever want to shake your hand, but packing your suitcase would be a breeze, and you would never need more than one piece of luggage.

You ever run across 'oscillons,' those shaken granular media experiments? The 'oscillons' exist at a longer and larger scale of length and time than the individual shaking bits of media, and have attraction, repulsion and long lived stable properties. They're just kind of odd. I've wondered sometimes if a analogous mechanism would permit events smaller than Planck length/time to evidence themselves on the 'larger than/longer than' Planck length time barrier as 'oscillons', the very tiniest particles we might ever sense on our side of that barrier, but yet, not the smallest events? The smaller than Planck length/time events have no way of being in our universe, except indirectly, as larger/longer term 'oscillons.' So, planck length time is a kind of a physical restriction, in our universe, of seeing 'below' a certain threshold, but events below that threshold are really at the foundation of all the particles that make up our universe.

So, a finite number of 'oscillons' exist at any time in our universe, but potentially formed from a universal, infinite ocean of 'foam' of much smaller events that are not limited by Planck length-time, but project into our finite universe as a finite number of 'oscllons.'

It's easy to imagine, because I don't have to prove it, and can't. Then again, maybe it really is nothing but turtles all the way down...

Post 74

Monday, April 20, 2009 - 3:27pmSanction this postReply
Then again, maybe it really is nothing but turtles all the way down...

and pity the one at the bottom...lol ;-)

Post 75

Monday, April 20, 2009 - 4:42pmSanction this postReply

I disagree that multiple universes could hold the potential for infinite energy or matter, because the same principal applies to those universes as well. In other words, no single universe could contain infinite matter, therefore no combination of universes could contain infinite matter.

You must be suggesting, then, that there might be an infinite number of universes. If so, I suggest you review Bill's posts on the contradiction of "infinite numbers" of anything.

Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 76

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 7:56amSanction this postReply
"If so, I suggest you review Bill's posts on the contradiction of "infinite numbers" of anything."

[excerpt: "In order truly to imagine the existence of an infinite number of objects in the universe, you would have to imagine counting them for an infinite period of time, which is impossible."]

Bill's argument -introduces- finite time per instance, by injecting the requirement of 'having to imagine counting them.' I think it speaks to the impossibility of 'imagining them,' as a finite observer. I don't think it speaks to the existence of infinities.

His argument introduces 'finite time' per instance, imposed by a finite observer. That is the same fallacy that once mistakenly let some of Zeno's Paradoxes be considered paradoxical, before calculus. (Folks of a certain bent still quote the 'I must cross half before all, and half of half before half, and so on, so I can never cross...' paradox as if it really was a paradox. It is just incomplete calculus, and the same introduction of finite time per interval into the event. That introduction is the only thing that makes it seem like a paradox at all.)

Infinities battle every day without the need of introducing finite time per instance of anything.

When a freshmen taking calculus evaluates the sum of an infinite series, he is not burdened with the task of observing or imagining each instance; that would artificially introduce finite time per instance into the evaluation. It would be...a waste of time.

There are infinities, and there are infinities. Not all infinities are equal. Infinities 'do battle' all the time, often resulting in finite instances of events: to wit, the crossing of an infinite number of intervals of infinitely small duration results in a finite event, the crossing of a finite interval in finite time. At the smallest 'imaginable' scale, subatomic particles are such 'events.' Finite manifestations of battling infinities.

For example, if you divide one infinite series by another, the result can easily be a finite value. Or, it can be infinitely large and purely hypotehtcial. Or, it can be infinitely small and non existing. But, one possibility is, finite.

The manifestation of 'battling infinities' can readily be finite, even as the infinities exist. Assigning analogues to 'space' and 'time' readily admit that possibility into the physical universe. That isn't a proof of anything, but neither is the existence of those examples disproof of anything.

The honest answer to, 'are there an infinite number of manyverses' is 'we don't know.' Yet?

Post 77

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 11:19pmSanction this postReply

I think you're missing the point I was making. Whether infinities "battle" or not, our universe is not composed of infinite matter, nor would any universe that followed the same laws of physics.

You greatly misrepresent Bill's argument when you say that it relies on a finite counter - I'm disappointed at the suggestion. Regardless, I think we've destroyed the notion of infinite matter in our universe, so we took a step back to multiverses, and then back further to infinite multiverses.

Perhaps you could show me an example of infinity in the natural universe. Irrational numbers are infinite on paper, but not in existence. Consider something that had a length that corresponded exactly to the natural number. Would you say that it had infinite length? If so, you're really going to have to be show me how 2/3 = infinity = the natural number.

The problem that I see with the arguments in favor of metaphysics with infinite matter is that the key to the argument has been reduced to "there could be, you don't know." You're right, I will never be able to disprove it. I can't disprove the spaghetti monster either. You can't disprove that there is a unicorn with six faces in the universe, but that doesn't make the Unicorn With Six Faces theory a valid scientific theory. On the other hand, the finite matter theory has at least one universe to back it up. Furthermore, I have many examples of finite numbers in existence, and you have no examples of anything infinite. Based on the evidence, I accept (or rather "do not reject") the theory of finite matter until there is some shred of evidence against it.

Post 78

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 8:39amSanction this postReply

Or, I was accurately distinguishing between that which we can know, and that which we can't possible know.

"I'll believe it when I see it" is and has often been a perfectly reasonable guide for acting in the world as it is. Or, another way of restating your point, of what use is an 'idea of infinity' within our universe, where we live and breath?

But, extrapolations of parochial logic have also often failed in the past. The world only looks flat. The Sun only looks like it circles the Earth. There is and always was a truth 'beyond our present horizon', and we have often been totally clueless about what that truth was. The honest answer about what lies beyond our present horizon at any time is 'we don't know,' and on the subject of 'an idea of infinity and beyond', of singular universe vs. manyverses vs. megaverse, that is certainly the case.

Mankind is very good at simultaneously doing two incongruous things: a] moving out our present horizon of understanding and b] being totally wrong about what lies beyond that horizon.

In what context is our finite matter, finite energy universe, the one that some(not all)claim is singularly unique? (That is, some who have never been exposed to any quantum theory...)

The very concept of 'uniqueness' demands gradient, and yet, that demands a context. (The uniqueness of 'A' requires an extreme gradient in the rate of change of 'A' wrt the context A is unique in.) And yet, 'A' can be unique, and still not be singular. If 'A' can exist in that context, then what conservative rule prohibits 'B' from being int he same context? Both 'A' and 'B' can be unique and not be singular. A=A does not negate B=B.

Draw a control volume around 'it.' In what context does that control volume exist, in which A is unique? State the obvious, 'the parochial rules of this universe prohibit observation outside of this universe.' Here is where we live and breath and act and obey our parochial traffic laws, from our definition of our Universe, all the way down to Planck length-time. Our horizons -- in two directions -- extends only so far. Bookend border guards, can venture no further from where we are, here at the center of our little universe...

Now, parochially, in our universe, we immerse ourselves daily in conservative laws; conservation of energy, conservation of mass, or transformation of one to the other; a strict accounting with no possible IPO inside of our own universe.

Now, point to me the conservational law, or any parochial True Believer Law, that authoritatively declares 'Within the context that we claim our universe exists in, there is Only One Thus, So Say We All." Then, two? Then, where the limit? If it is possible for 'one' to exist in the context of ... nothing, then what price two? three? four? ...

And yet, observationally, inside of the sand box so to speak, we observe things like 'oscillons.' Odd coherent events, matter and energy, with additive, attractive, repulsive properties, analagouus to particle interactions, but at much larger scales, vibrating media. (See, I told you this was in a sand box...) This isn't 'mysticism', this is purely observational and repeatable. Hell, my kid repeated this for his Jr High science fair project one year. These 'oscillons' behave like particles, in that sense. They attract, they repel, they combine, they split. They are long lived. They are matter/energy interacting 'events' that exist at a time scale and length scale far in excess of the vibrating media, shaking grains of sand that they are formed in. Picture a box of vibrating sand.

So, there is observational evidence of very small scale events manifesting themselves as larger scale events. A possibly never provable hypothesis is, events below Planck length-time can manifest themselves as events greater than Planck length-time via a similar phenomena, and if that is hypothetically possible, then it is possible that the very smallest subatomic particles 'in our traffic cop enforced universe' are manifestations of events smaller than Planck length-time 'outside of our Universe'.

And, if that is hypothetically possible, then an analogous transitional phenomena may exist without our ability to detect it at the opposite bookend scale of the universe, with our universe, itself, in the role of some other scaled universe sub 'planck length-time' event, manifesting in the larger scale universe only as out contribution to the smallest particles in it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

From what? From nothing. But, our parochial traffic laws don't allow that.

And yet, they do. Watch:

0 = 0

A + -A = 0

Let B = -A:

A + B = 0.

There you go, two (A, B) for the price of none, fully conserved.

Want to see me build four from nothing?

A + -A + B + -B = 0

Lather, rinse, repeat...

In fact, it can be argued, based on our own conservative rules, that the existence of 'two' is more likely than 'one', else

A = 0

A = 0 is a contradiction, unless A is uniquely 0, and yet, here we are.

A + -A = 0 is not, and if two, then four, and if four, then eight, and so on ...

Why? Because in a megaverse ultimately governed by quantum rules, what can happen will happen, eventually...somewhere. Out of an infinite number of possibilities, the odd finite universe exists, because it can.

In the quantum world, the 'path' that a photon takes when a beam of light bounces off a mirror we perceive as a deterministic event, but that is not the quantum reality. The quantum reality is, every possible path -- an infinite number of them, is taken simultaneously, and that which manifests itself is the most probable path in our universe.

And, from such 'ideas of infinity' , right on the frontier of that horizon of human understanding, comes the field of quantum physics and quantum mechanics, which so far, has provided the only explanation for many of the purely observational facts we see within our universe.

It only seems like magic gibberish, but so must have Kepler seemed when he was toiling at the horizon.


Post 79

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 9:44amSanction this postReply
... Seriously?

Before I step out of this discussion, I wanted to clarify that I might not be representing the same views that Bill is. It was my purpose to disprove that our universe could hold infinite matter. The same is true of any number of multiverses.

Fred, I'm not sure exactly what your point is. On the issue of an infinite number of multiverses, I don't know. Perhaps someone else knows better than I do, but that suggestion is, to me, unanswerable. But, Michael, I did want to show that we know enough about our universe to know that it holds finite matter.

Post to this threadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Forward one pageLast Page

User ID Password or create a free account.