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The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-25, 09:21 AM
Analog : of, relating to, or being a mechanism in which data is represented by continuously variable physical quantities
i.e. There can always be a value in between two different values

Digital: of, relating to, or using calculation by numerical methods or by discrete units
i.e. There cannot always be a value in between two different values.

The variable in the universe such as time, temperature, size, luminosity, position, mass, etc are they analog or are they digital?

I'm not too familiar with the quantum theory, but what is the significance of the quanta on this question?

Jens
2007-Oct-25, 09:43 AM
It used to be analog, but now it's digital! :)

But seriously, it's a good question and I find it interesting as well. There is a whole stream of thought called "digital cosmology" that claims that the universe is digital, i.e. information based. I suspect it would be considered "against the mainstream," but I'm not really sure.

Ronald Brak
2007-Oct-25, 09:43 AM
I used to think the universe was analog until I was hit with a planck.

neilzero
2007-Oct-25, 11:51 AM
If quark is the smallest unit of mass, then everything including the universe is digital. While of theoretical interest, why would a few quarks one way or the other matter except in the sub microscopic world? Will assuming analog cause engineering errors of significance in the macro world? Neil

Argos
2007-Oct-25, 12:13 PM
Since the nature of fundamental particles is discrete, we could say the universe is digital [by analogy ;)]

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-25, 12:29 PM
Thanks for the input. Now what about the "position" of particles in space? Are they analog or digital?

Also, what about time itself?

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-25, 01:49 PM
If quark is the smallest unit of mass...
It is not! The "rest mass" of a quark is much greater than the "rest mass" of a proton.

Ken G
2007-Oct-25, 02:25 PM
The variable in the universe such as time, temperature, size, luminosity, position, mass, etc are they anolog or are they digital?Unknown. But I would say that both digital and analog are simplifying concepts we use to slice and simplify a reality that is far more profound than either.


I'm not too familiar with the quantum theory, but what is the significance of the quanta on this question?
The quanta are the excitations-- time and position are not quanta in standard quantum mechanics (gravity might change that).

IsaacKuo
2007-Oct-25, 03:04 PM
It is not! The "rest mass" of a quark is much greater than the "rest mass" of a proton.

Did you mean electron?

Cougar
2007-Oct-25, 03:45 PM
Thanks for the input. Now what about the "position" of particles in space? Are they analog or digital?
When an electron jumps from one energy state to another within an atom, it is discontinuous; the electron jumps from one energy level to another instantaneously.

Now, just figure out at what point the digital quantum world transforms into the apparently analog, continuous world of everyday human experience, and you'll be getting somewhere.

EvilEye
2007-Oct-25, 03:54 PM
If any mass/energy in the universe could disappear completely from existence leaving NO trace, then we could know it was analogue, so I assume it is digital, because so far, mass/energy cannot be created or destroyed, then there is no room for the "in-between" value.

Just a guess.

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-25, 04:35 PM
Did you mean electron?
No! But after doing some research (Google is your friend) I discovered that I was wrong about the relative mass of a proton and a quark. The rest mass of an up or down quark is 360 Mev, about 1/6 of that of a proton, but that is still much higher than that of an electron.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-25, 04:36 PM
It's "digalog", just as photons are "wavicles". Aspects of both.

CodeSlinger
2007-Oct-25, 04:42 PM
I prefer "particaves" myself :)

Noclevername
2007-Oct-25, 04:58 PM
I prefer "particaves" myself :)

Holy uncertain locations, Quarkman!

To the particave, old chum!

EvilEye
2007-Oct-25, 06:07 PM
Holy uncertain locations, Quarkman!

To the particave, old chum!


I have to get a t-shirt with that on it!


wait... and have it also printed upside-down on the back.

Lord Jubjub
2007-Oct-25, 11:10 PM
So does current theory favor digital time or analog time?

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-26, 12:29 AM
As I understand it, it is meaningless to refer to intervals shorter than the Planck time, or to lengths smaller than the Planck length.

Therefore, the world is digital.

Therefore, all models based on continuous mathematics (e.g., general relativity) must be false. . . .

:D

Ken G
2007-Oct-26, 02:45 PM
As I understand it, it is meaningless to refer to intervals shorter than the Planck time, or to lengths smaller than the Planck length.
Meaningless just means we have no way to give the question meaning. It doesn't tell us how the universe handles the problem.

Therefore, the world is digital. A digital model leads to Zeno's paradoxes. So the world is not digital either. It isn't "either/or".


Therefore, all models based on continuous mathematics (e.g., general relativity) must be false. . . .

Define false.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-26, 03:32 PM
Meaningless just means we have no way to give the question meaning. It doesn't tell us how the universe handles the problem.Hidden variables, Ken?

A digital model leads to Zeno's paradoxes. So the world is not digital either. It isn't "either/or".I would say just the opposite: the arrow finally gets to a length that can't be cut in half anymore, and so it has to cross to its target.
Define false. A type of truth-value, the opposite of 'true' in bivalent systems of logic.

Cougar
2007-Oct-26, 08:42 PM
Warren Platts: Therefore, all models based on continuous mathematics (e.g., general relativity) must be false. . . . :D , he said as the structure around him suddenly disappeared, and he found himself out in a scraggly field, picking berries.

:doh:

Tucson_Tim
2007-Oct-26, 08:48 PM
I have to get a t-shirt with that on it!


wait... and have it also printed upside-down on the back.

I think Noclevername could make a good living coming up with scientific (play-on-words) slogans for T-Shirts.

Ken G
2007-Oct-27, 03:39 AM
Hidden variables, Ken? Hidden variables also have to do with our ability to predict the universe, and don't appear to work. But the concept has nothing at all to say about how the universe manages to do it itself.

I would say just the opposite: the arrow finally gets to a length that can't be cut in half anymore, and so it has to cross to its target.You're right that incorrect aspects of his paradoxes relied on infinite subdivision of space, but those are easily resolved by the concept of infinite series. I don't know if Zeno really didn't understand infinite series or not (it surprises me if he didn't, it's a mathematically simple idea), but where I see value in his thinking is in asking how an object that is at one point can "know" the amount of time it needs to show up at the next point. He seemed to be criticising empirical approaches where you can only measure to some precision, rather than idealized approaches that are abstract and mathematical. In a continuous model, motion presents less of a problem because dt = dx / v, where both dx and dt are infinitesmal (Zeno didn't have calculus so I don't know how much of this would be the way he would think about it, it's my argument.) In a discrete model, you'd have to say dt = dx/v where dx cannot be smaller than a finite value. Thus the object is at one point and then suddenly a time dx/v later appears at the next point. How does it know how long to "wait", and is it instantaneously at both places, or neither, as it moves? Of course, the resolution appears in the wave mechanics of quantum mechanics, which introduces the concept of uncertainty onto a continuous description of both x and t. Hence quantum mechanics is neither digital nor analog, it treats analog variables with a quasi-discrete concept of uncertainty in those variables. Even the Planck length should not be interpreted as a discrete step, merely a minimum uncertainty in position.
A type of truth-value, the opposite of 'true' in bivalent systems of logic.
Not good enough, that is a formal definition that will get you nowhere in the "real world". This is my point, which was echoed by Cougar above-- false is what fails for us in some particular application, and continuous concepts of space and time do not fail, even in quantum mechanics, but force us to have a concept of uncertainty as well.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-27, 05:56 AM
Hidden variables also have to do with our ability to predict the universe, and don't appear to work. But the concept has nothing at all to say about how the universe manages to do it itself.Except that however it does it is hidden!


In a continuous model, motion presents less of a problem because dt = dx / v, where both dx and dt are infinitesmal (Zeno didn't have calculus so I don't know how much of this would be the way he would think about it, it's my argument.) In a discrete model, you'd have to say dt = dx/v where dx cannot be smaller than a finite value. Something's wrong here: in a discrete model, if dt = dx/v, then v = dx/dt. Now, of course dt can't be zero--we've been through that before--but a stationary object would have v = 0, therefore dx can equal zero as well, and that's less than some finite value.


Thus the object is at one point and then suddenly a time dx/v later appears at the next point. If the particle adhered to the principle of the conservation of momentum, it would "know" how long to wait.


How does it know how long to "wait", and is it instantaneously at both places, or neither, as it moves?I'd guess it would have to be instantaneously; yes this entails faster-than-light travel, but we know this can happen because of entanglement.


Even the Planck length should not be interpreted as a discrete step, merely a minimum uncertainty in position.Only from an analog perspective. Indeed, continuous models entail uncertainty. The discrete model at least holds out the theoretical hope for a complete description. If the universe really were analog, there could never be a complete description even for a small part of it. The problem with an analog model is that there could be an infinite world between any two closely spaced points. It's turtles all the way down and Horton hears a Who, who hears another Who, who hears another Who. . . . A complete description would have to be infinite, even for finite volumes.


Not good enough, that is a formal definition that will get you nowhere in the "real world". This is my point, which was echoed by Cougar above-- false is what fails for us in some particular application, and continuous concepts of space and time do not fail, even in quantum mechanics, but force us to have a concept of uncertainty as well.Ordinarily, we describe the night sky as if Earth were the center of the universe. The Earth-centered coordinate system works well for us, yet it is obviously false. If it's not the case that the universe is continous, then models that say the universe is continuous are false; no matter how well they otherwise work pragmatically, they are mere useful fictions at best.

Besides, isn't it the case that the latest thinking is that space has a foam-like structure? If everything that exists consists of vibrating strings and branes, then infinitesimal points can't exist, because points can't vibrate.

Ken G
2007-Oct-27, 03:56 PM
Except that however it does it is hidden!
Yes, the "hidden" part I agree with, it's the "variables" part that doesn't seem to work. There is much that is hidden, O Tim, but accessing it in terms of quantitative values of "variables" may be of limited use.
Something's wrong here: in a discrete model, if dt = dx/v, then v = dx/dt. Now, of course dt can't be zero--we've been through that before--but a stationary object would have v = 0, therefore dx can equal zero as well, and that's less than some finite value. That's another way to say why the universe is not strictly digital-- digital results have to allow zero to be a possible value. But nothing less than a Planck length, including zero, can be observable, even in principle, given our current understanding. The universe must handle its "zeroes" in a way that is not so far accessible by science, and may never be (though we use an approximate concept of zero very effectively).


If the particle adhered to the principle of the conservation of momentum, it would "know" how long to wait. That merely passes along the mystery from velocity to momentum. If a particle can only be at one place or another, and not in between (as in a digital universe), how does one distinguish a truly stationary one for one that has momentum? How long must you wait for it to move to the next spot before you know if it is moving or not? These kinds of questions seem more natural for the science of measurement than for some intrinsic property of reality. The former is what we do in science, not the latter.


Only from an analog perspective. Indeed, continuous models entail uncertainty. The discrete model at least holds out the theoretical hope for a complete description.There's no such thing as a complete description, we always have to throw out part of reality to get anywhere. Science is making judicious choices about what to throw out and what to keep track of. There is as yet no value in keeping track of digital values of the variables, it is a theory with no justification and no results to favor it. It's fine if it has some philosophical advantage, but it seems to introduce more questions than it answers.


If the universe really were analog, there could never be a complete description even for a small part of it.That is to be expected. A description is by definition not the same as the thing being described, therefore is never "complete". The phrase "complete description" is an oxymoron (I realize it gets used).


The problem with an analog model is that there could be an infinite world between any two closely spaced points. It's turtles all the way down and Horton hears a Who, who hears another Who, who hears another Who. . . . A complete description would have to be infinite, even for finite volumes.
Again, that should not necessarily bother us, we choose to impose simplicity, and for good reason, but we must not limit the universe based on our own preferences.


Ordinarily, we describe the night sky as if Earth were the center of the universe. The Earth-centered coordinate system works well for us, yet it is obviously false. If it's not the case that the universe is continous, then models that say the universe is continuous are false; no matter how well they otherwise work pragmatically, they are mere useful fictions at best.
But all models are obviously false if one uses that definition. A more useful definition has to do with usefulness. Thus models where the Earth is the center are no more false than models where it isn't-- they are simply useful for different things. The truth is in the application, it is not intrinsic. We can't even define an objective concept of intrinsic truth, it is beyond the capability of science-- but we come as close as we need to, for the application.

EvilEye
2007-Oct-27, 08:45 PM
Everywhere is the center of the universe. When looking into space you are looking across time...not a place. (at least beyond locally)

I was Michael when I was a born. And to this day I am still Michael.

I am much larger and still expanding (and contracting), but to say where the beginning(or center) of me is, is moot. I am ALL me.... regardless of size.

I am the the center of me.

My toe began at the same time my forehead started, and so did my belly. They are all the beginning of me.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-27, 09:45 PM
I was Michael when I was a born. And to this day I am still Michael.Time to be born again then, Michael!!! :D


[T]o say where the . . . center . . . of me is, is moot. . . . I am the the center of me.That, however, is a contradiction.


My toe began at the same time my forehead started, and so did my belly. They are all the beginning of me.
Actually, don't foreheads and bellies begin developing before toes?

EvilEye
2007-Oct-27, 09:56 PM
Time to be born again then, Michael!!! :D

That, however, is a contradiction.


Actually, don't foreheads and bellies begin developing before toes?

Saying that I am the beginning of me is no condradiction.

I came from nowhere, and here I am. All of me is the same me that became.

Yes...developmentally, parts of me became after I began, but the whole of me are part of one. There is no center.

If you could find a geographical center to my body, it would be no older or younger than the rest of me.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-27, 10:12 PM
That's another way to say why the universe is not strictly digital-- digital results have to allow zero to be a possible value. But nothing less than a Planck length, including zero, can be observable, even in principle, given our current understanding. The universe must handle its "zeroes" in a way that is not so far accessible by science, and may never be (though we use an approximate concept of zero very effectively).
Zeroes are better than infinities aren't they?


That merely passes along the mystery from velocity to momentum. If a particle can only be at one place or another, and not in between (as in a digital universe), how does one distinguish a truly stationary one for one that has momentum? How long must you wait for it to move to the next spot before you know if it is moving or not? That's an interesting question! So, I suppose you'd say that under a continuous regime, one could always tell--in theory--whether something was moving, because anything other than absolute zero velocity would result in translation of coordinates, however infinitesimally small! But under the digital regime, you'd have to wait until the end of the universe to be sure that something was not moving. So digital universes have their own inherent uncertainties. . . . I've got to hand it to you--you've got me there, Dr. G! :D


There's no such thing as a complete description, we always have to throw out part of reality to get anywhere. Science is making judicious choices about what to throw out and what to keep track of. There is as yet no value in keeping track of digital values of the variables, it is a theory with no justification and no results to favor it. It's fine if it has some philosophical advantage, but it seems to introduce more questions than it answers.Well, this is more of a philosophical question. But in practice, note that whenever one does a numerical simulation of partial differential equations, it's all digital--how fine we slice things depends on the latest computer.

You know me, I always look at things teleologically; so I ask not how Newton did things, but rather "If I were God, would I make the universe digital or continous?" Now, mathematicians hate discontinuities for some reason (hence we write "1/0 = 'undefined'" rather than "1/0 = 0"). But would God share the same esthetics? Who knows. . . .

But from an engineering perspective, what is the best design for a universe? Digital or analog? Well, an analog system would require a separate state description for every infinitesimal point--and there are infinities upon infinities of those. But if the universe were composed of "pixels", then only each pixel would have a separate state description.

Oh that's right--descriptions aren't the same as reality you say. OK, then every infinitesimal point in an analog system would exist potentially in a different state-of-affairs than its infinity of neighbors. That's just not a good design.


Again, that should not necessarily bother us, we choose to impose simplicity, and for good reason, but we must not limit the universe based on our own preferences.

There's been some talk here lately we might not exist in a physical universe, but rather exist is some kind of weird virtual matrix. Well, clearly, when humans design virtual worlds on computers, they are of necessity forced to use digital media. So we humans design our worlds digitally--therefore, why should we expect God to do it differently?


But all models are obviously false if one uses that definition. A more useful definition has to do with usefulness. Thus models where the Earth is the center are no more false than models where it isn't-- they are simply useful for different things. The truth is in the application, it is not intrinsic. We can't even define an objective concept of intrinsic truth, it is beyond the capability of science-- but we come as close as we need to, for the application.I don't go in for Truth with a capital 'T'. Still, I don't want to reduce truth to that which works well. That's too self serving. The word 'truth' is a predicate that's properly applied to sentences, and nothing else. The sentence 'Some snow is white' is true if and only if there is some snow that is actually white. It's as simple as that. If some artists are overly liberal in their admixture of blues into their winter landscapes, that doesn't change the facts on the ground.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-27, 10:20 PM
I came from nowhere, and here I am. All of me is the same me that became. That's a bit unfair to the long line of distinguished ancestors that preceeded you, don't you think?


Yes...developmentally, parts of me became after I began, but the whole of me are part of one. There is no center.Ah, so you existed before your toes began developing. Is this because of reincarnation, or because human life begins at conception? (DON'T ANSWER! WE CAN'T GO THERE!)

Ken G
2007-Oct-28, 02:35 AM
Zeroes are better than infinities aren't they?I think you mean infinitesmals, but either way, this is a good question with no clear answer. I'd say the answers lie more in your meaning for "better" than they do in any of the distinctions between zero and an infinitesmal quantity.


But in practice, note that whenever one does a numerical simulation of partial differential equations, it's all digital--how fine we slice things depends on the latest computer.
True, we do science both digitally, on computers, and by analog mathematics (theorems and whatnot). So we need both-- does the universe need either? I doubt it, I think both types of quantities are projections we make onto the universe. That they work at all, let alone so well, is what is really amazing.


You know me, I always look at things teleologically; so I ask not how Newton did things, but rather "If I were God, would I make the universe digital or continous?" Now, mathematicians hate discontinuities for some reason (hence we write "1/0 = 'undefined'" rather than "1/0 = 0"). But would God share the same esthetics? Who knows. . . .
No one, certainly.


But from an engineering perspective, what is the best design for a universe? Digital or analog? Well, an analog system would require a separate state description for every infinitesimal point--and there are infinities upon infinities of those. But if the universe were composed of "pixels", then only each pixel would have a separate state description.
This presumes the universe invokes a notion of information. I would say information is a product of an intelligence, and the universe must function without any obvious connection to an intelligence contemplating it. Again we must distinguish the projections of our intelligence from the universe we apply it to.


Oh that's right--descriptions aren't the same as reality you say. OK, then every infinitesimal point in an analog system would exist potentially in a different state-of-affairs than its infinity of neighbors. That's just not a good design.
That's true if the universe is "composed" of points. I doubt that too. Points, and digitized pixels, are both inventions of our mind, tutored to us by a universe that is not giving up all its secrets, perhaps like a cosmologist doing research on general relativity standing up in front of an introductory physics class teaching Newton's law of gravity.



There's been some talk here lately we might not exist in a physical universe, but rather exist is some kind of weird virtual matrix. Well, clearly, when humans design virtual worlds on computers, they are of necessity forced to use digital media. So we humans design our worlds digitally--therefore, why should we expect God to do it differently? A more natural question is, why should we expect otherwise? The idea that humans can create universes is absurd, perhaps a form of insanity, despite what a few fringe physicists with no concrete results are saying. It's modern day Dr. Frankenstein-- remember, all that was taken just as seriously when the breakthroughs in anatomy and surgery were occuring.


I don't go in for Truth with a capital 'T'. Still, I don't want to reduce truth to that which works well. That's too self serving. The word 'truth' is a predicate that's properly applied to sentences, and nothing else. The sentence 'Some snow is white' is true if and only if there is some snow that is actually white. But there's no such thing as "white", there is only what we decide to agree on is white, accepting the grey areas as part of the cost of doing business. It's all about what works, start to finish. Even logic itself-- there is nothing "intrinsically correct" about logic, it is a reasoning process whose complete arbitrariness is broken only by how well it works.


It's as simple as that. If some artists are overly liberal in their admixture of blues into their winter landscapes, that doesn't change the facts on the ground.Perhaps those artists are seeing that ground with different eyes than you are.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-28, 12:19 PM
That's [that every infinitesimal point in an analog system would exist potentially in a different state-of-affairs than its infinity of neighbors and thus not a good design] true if the universe is "composed" of points. I doubt that too. Points, and digitized pixels, are both inventions of our mind, tutored to us by a universe that is not giving up all its secrets, perhaps like a cosmologist doing research on general relativity standing up in front of an introductory physics class teaching Newton's law of gravity.So you admit that it is implausible that the universe is truly analog in nature--yet you're skeptical that the universe is digital.

Perhaps 'digital' is too anthropomorphic a word; really the question in the OP should be 'Is the universe analog or atomic?', in the old, ancient Greek, Democretean sense; that is, can the fundamental constituents of the universe be split up ad infinitum, or do you finally, after enough slicing and dicing, wind up with little nuggets that can no longer be split?

Edit: If things can't be split forever, and if the universe is not atomic or digital in nature, then what's the third alternative?

Let's be clear. We're only arguing over whether space and time are analog or not. I think we can all agree that matter in any case cannot be sliced up ad infinitum--you can keep slicing a lump of gold until you have one atom of gold, but slice that, and it's not gold anymore. Slice up a lump of metallic hydrogen, and you're left with a single proton, but slice that, you get quarks.

So, really the OP question becomes: Is the structure of space foam-like? Can you slice up space ad infinitum, or do you finally wind up with a nugget-like bubble that cannot be further sliced up? And isn't this the fundamental premise of string theory??? If everything that exists consists of vibrating strings and branes, then infinitesimal points couldn't possibly exist, because points can't vibrate. And if time is an artifact of movement, and if space consists of discrete bubbles, then the shortest possible duration would be the diameter of such a bubble divided by c.


But there's no such thing as "white", there is only what we decide to agree on is white, accepting the grey areas as part of the cost of doing business. Perhaps those artists are seeing that ground with different eyes than you are.Assuming they're not color-blind, we should have the same physiology, and therefore should perceive the world similarly. The problem is most artists--even those that try for realism--don't paint the world as it is.

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I could try to paint the above figure with little dust bunnies in between the corners, or paint it as it is and let the dust bunnies arise naturally. Same with the apparent blueness of snow. Same with science.

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-28, 04:19 PM
If not, and if the universe is not analog, then what's the third alternative?
Omnivalent!

Why should the universe mold itself to fit in our neat little cubby-holes?

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-28, 08:51 PM
Omnivalent! :lol:

But then that puts you in the analog camp. In an analog system, each infinitesimal point will have a capacity to combine with or otherwise interact with or have some sort of a relation to all of the infinity of infinitesmal points that immediately surround it. I call that omnivalence.

EvilEye
2007-Oct-29, 01:35 AM
That would lead to a convalenscense of multiple universes no?

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-29, 02:06 AM
You, of course, are free to define terms any way you choose to make the universe conform to your preconceptions.

EvilEye
2007-Oct-29, 03:38 AM
Preconception?

Interesting.

All I know is what I see or what I learn.

That is why I made the statement.

Jens
2007-Oct-29, 04:08 AM
I would say just the opposite: the arrow finally gets to a length that can't be cut in half anymore, and so it has to cross to its target.

Just to clarify, because I'm not sure that Ken specifically stated this (though it's obvious from his use of the plural). But there are more than one Xeno's paradox. The one about the arrow is the best known, but not the only one. The one that's of interest here is not the one about getting from point A to B without going through an infinite number of points, but the one about how an arrow that is moving knows that it is moving at a discreet point of time.

astromark
2007-Oct-29, 06:43 AM
Its not one or both but none of the obove... Digital, analog or real. It is what we/you perceive it to be... You might not have considered this before, but this universe is yours. How any one else perceives it to be is of little matter to you. Your defining view of all that is. It is yours to get wrong if you want to. I have decided that the universe is digital. That for me is a fact I can see no other explanation. But it does not make it so....

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-29, 09:37 AM
You, of course, are free to define terms any way you choose to make the universe conform to your preconceptions.

You're the one who said the universe is "omnivalent". I can't find that word in any dictionary, so I have to go with the root meanings: "omni-" means "all", and "valent" means "combining", so "omnivalent" means "all-combining", and that seems like an analog concept to me. If you intended something different, it would be nice if you could clarify.

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-29, 01:42 PM
It is my opinion that asking if the universe is analog or digital is to set up a false dichotomy based on our own limited perceptions.
It's like asking if light is a particle or a wave. The answer is "yes".
As Bohr said to Einstein, "quit telling God what to do".

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-29, 01:51 PM
This,


It is my opinion that asking if the universe is analog or digital is to set up a false dichotomy based on our own limited perceptions.
It's like asking if light is a particle or a wave. The answer is "yes".


along with this,


Unknown. But I would say that both digital and analog are simplifying concepts we use to slice and simplify a reality that is far more profound than either.

I don't understand, could you please explain more?

So what are you suggesting is the nature of these variables?

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-29, 02:13 PM
So what are you suggesting is the nature of these variables?
I cannot speak for Ken, but I'm saying that the "true nature" of the universe is unknown and maybe unknowable. We view the universe through the filters of our perceptions and the limits of our cognitive abilities.

Ken G
2007-Oct-29, 03:09 PM
So you admit that it is implausible that the universe is truly analog in nature--yet you're skeptical that the universe is digital. Yes, my skepticism rests squarely on the idea that we acquire any value by imagining that what we are conceptualizing how the universe "really is" rather than simply making effective models about how we observe and interact with it. Instead our value comes from paying attention to what we are really doing, looking for value in models, and not getting caught up in the pitfalls of our own rhetoric (like "digital" or "analog"). I do think it is a good question to ponder the various digital vs. analog aspects of the universe, but framed as "what are the benefits of each perspective, and in what situations" rather than "which one is the real truth". The former approach is empowering, the latter is limiting. When we imagine we understand the universe, I submit it must be as amused as we are when we read the explanations by the dad in Calvin and Hobbes.


Perhaps 'digital' is too anthropomorphic a word; really the question in the OP should be 'Is the universe analog or atomic?', in the old, ancient Greek, Democretean sense; that is, can the fundamental constituents of the universe be split up ad infinitum, or do you finally, after enough slicing and dicing, wind up with little nuggets that can no longer be split? That's closer, but still the way to say it is "can we derive conceptual advantage by subdividing our conceptual constructs, or do we reach maximum utility with some minimum construction?" Note this latter formulation is an ongoing question that never gets answered definitively, only provisionally-- like science itself.


Edit: If things can't be split forever, and if the universe is not atomic or digital in nature, then what's the third alternative?
Something we have no words for, yet. Perhaps we never will.


Let's be clear. We're only arguing over whether space and time are analog or not. I think we can all agree that matter in any case cannot be sliced up ad infinitum--you can keep slicing a lump of gold until you have one atom of gold, but slice that, and it's not gold anymore. Actually, we don't know that about matter either, but at some point it becomes moot-- at some point we do not have the power to slice it, nor can we observe it being sliced. So there we stop.


So, really the OP question becomes: Is the structure of space foam-like?
But it should be, "in what situations do we need to imagine that space is foam-like to achieve the desired accuracy"? Note the difference, we are not debating angels on a pin, but something testable.

Can you slice up space ad infinitum, or do you finally wind up with a nugget-like bubble that cannot be further sliced up? And isn't this the fundamental premise of string theory??? If everything that exists consists of vibrating strings and branes, then infinitesimal points couldn't possibly exist, because points can't vibrate.Note the key word in all that: theory. The history of science is choked with people who mistook theories for reality. It's time we increased the sophistication of our relationship with our own concepts.
Assuming they're not color-blind, we should have the same physiology, and therefore should perceive the world similarly. Equating physiology with perception is rather missing the whole point of art.


The problem is most artists--even those that try for realism--don't paint the world as it is.
Perhaps they recognize the impossibility of the latter, and that was their first breakthrough as artists. There are differences between art and science, even though there is an art to science and a science to art.

Ken G
2007-Oct-29, 03:11 PM
I cannot speak for Ken, but I'm saying that the "true nature" of the universe is unknown and maybe unknowable. We view the universe through the filters of our perceptions and the limits of our cognitive abilities.
I could not have said it better.

Ken G
2007-Oct-29, 03:15 PM
I don't understand, could you please explain more?

So what are you suggesting is the nature of these variables?We're suggesting the variables are invented for a purpose, and help us make predictions to various levels of accuracy. We never know what is "real", only how close we come and with how much difficulty. Scientists always make that trade-off, rarely using the most accurate theories available, and never imagining that any theory is exact, only, in some cases, fantastically accurate.

IsaacKuo
2007-Oct-29, 03:25 PM
"Edit: If things can't be split forever, and if the universe is not atomic or digital in nature, then what's the third alternative?"
Something we have no words for, yet. Perhaps we never will.

Such a "third alternative" is by definition impossible. The definition of "atomic" is something that can't be split any further.

Either there's a limit on how far something can be split, or there isn't. If you think there's a third alternative, then you're just confusing yourself.

IsaacKuo
2007-Oct-29, 03:40 PM
Scientists always make that trade-off, rarely using the most accurate theories available, and never imagining that any theory is exact, only, in some cases, fantastically accurate.

On the contrary--scientists always try to use the most accurate theories available, and they have a VERY strong tendency to believe a theory is EXACT, if it is sufficiently elegant. For example, Newton's theory of gravitation implied that gravity dropped off as 1/r^n, where n was EXACTLY 2. Experimentally, it was possible to determine that this constant was extremely near 2, but it takes a human's sensibility of elegance to make the extra leap of faith that it must be EXACTLY 2. If you look at theoretical elegance of the way rays of "light" expand in a 3 dimensional space, the 1/r^2 relationship is compelling.

But this desire for elegance also leads to extreme scientific fascination when it turns out the elegant formula leads to slightly inaccurate predictions. According to Newton's theory of gravitation, Mercury's orbit shouldn't precess. But it did! The scientific reaction wasn't just to reject the power of 2 and replace it with something a little bit different from 2. No, the scientific reaction was that there must be something deep we don't quite understand about gravity.

It would be decades before Einstein's theory of general relativity would explain something of that deep misunderstanding. Note that Einstein's theory of general relativity came from a deep desire for an elegant theory, not just a theory with numbers rigged up to best match real world observations.

The state of physics in the last half century has been that we have some serious mysteries that we just plain don't understand. We know the solution isn't to just rig up numbers to match the observations--the solution must be some sort of elegant explanation.

Or rather, it's FAITH that scientists have that there must be some sort of elegant explanation.

You can deny that there actually is an elegant explanation. And indeed, you could very well be correct. There is no a priori reason to expect the universe is fundamentally comprehensible.

But what you can't deny is that scientists basically believe there must be an elegant explanation. Maybe scientists are wrong. Maybe their faith is misplaced. Maybe the universe is destined to always be mysterious and fundamentally unknowable. But scientists work under the working assumption that the universe is fundamentally knowable.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-29, 06:55 PM
Isaac, I couldn't have said that better. Positivism is a cop out. If we can't know the universe as it is, then why are we fooling around spending billions of dollars on stuff that has nothing to do with weapons research or global warming? If science is merely a subspecies of engineering whose definition of truth is mere megatons of TNT, then why bother?

Edit: well, OK, I have to admit that writing grant proposals for a living is easier on one's back than chipping on the road all day. . . .

Noclevername
2007-Oct-29, 06:58 PM
KenG has presented this point of view before. He has faith that he's right. ;)

EvilEye
2007-Oct-30, 02:43 AM
If we understood the entire universe, that would suck.

There wouldn't be anything worthwhile to talk about anymore.

Jens
2007-Oct-30, 02:52 AM
Such a "third alternative" is by definition impossible. The definition of "atomic" is something that can't be split any further.

Suppose, just for argument's sake, that we are in a universe that is actually a simulation constructed by somebody in a higher universe. And that the person who constructed it is a simulation constructed by a higher universe yet. And so on, forever, or at least as far as we can know. What would that make it, digital or analog? Because we might suspect that somewhere along the line, there is a real, analog reality, but we can't know it. As far as we can tell it just looks like digital simulations the whole way up. I don't think we can simply assume that the universe acts according to our expectations. In fact, I am pretty sure that it does not, or in fact, can not.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 03:00 AM
Suppose, just for argument's sake, that we are in a universe that is actually a simulation constructed by somebody in a higher universe. And that the person who constructed it is a simulation constructed by a higher universe yet. And so on, forever, or at least as far as we can know. What would that make it, digital or analog? Because we might suspect that somewhere along the line, there is a real, analog reality, but we can't know it. As far as we can tell it just looks like digital simulations the whole way up. I don't think we can simply assume that the universe acts according to our expectations. In fact, I am pretty sure that it does not, or in fact, can not.

Instead of turtles all the way down, it's the Matrix all the way up!?! Wow! Far out. . . . :razz::think:

IsaacKuo
2007-Oct-30, 03:26 AM
Suppose, just for argument's sake, that we are in a universe that is actually a simulation constructed by somebody in a higher universe. And that the person who constructed it is a simulation constructed by a higher universe yet. And so on, forever, or at least as far as we can know. What would that make it, digital or analog?

The question of whether or not we can prove something is true is different from whether or not it is true.

Either atomic entities exist, or they don't. Either there's a limit to how far things can be split, or there isn't.

Now, it's impossible to prove the truth one way or the other!

It's impossible to prove atomic entities exist because there's no way to prove beyond all doubt that a supposedly atomic particle can't be split further.

It's also impossible to prove atomic entities don't exist, because it's always possible that there's some limit to splitting we just haven't run into yet.

See? It's easy to prove that we can never determine for sure whether atomic entities exist. That doesn't change the fact that either they do or they don't. It just means that we can never prove beyond all doubt whether they exist.

EvilEye
2007-Oct-30, 03:36 AM
I'm having the same problem about "scientific vs true" on another board.

Dreams.

There's no way to scientifically prove they are real without using anecdotal evidence. You can use measurements to check REM and brain waves...but you can't prove that what the person says they saw, or that they even really saw anything.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 03:38 AM
At some point, you just have to put your foot down and say "I know enough to get something done." Otherwise we'd all be sitting in caves navel-gazing until we starve to death because we can't prove that food is necessary.

Ken G
2007-Oct-30, 04:22 PM
Such a "third alternative" is by definition impossible. The definition of "atomic" is something that can't be split any further.

Either there's a limit on how far something can be split, or there isn't. If you think there's a third alternative, then you're just confusing yourself.Your logic fails. It is not correct to say that anything is either infinitely divisible or has a minimum atom. The whole concept of "splitting" might well be of limited usefulness for many things. What then? We must never become the slave to our own words, they are our servants, they help us find the utility-- and that is all they do.

Ken G
2007-Oct-30, 04:43 PM
On the contrary--scientists always try to use the most accurate theories available, and they have a VERY strong tendency to believe a theory is EXACT, if it is sufficiently elegant.I'm afraid both the claims in that statement are patently false. I don't claim to speak for scientists as a whole, but it is quite easy to falsify both those claims with minimum research. For example, any astronomy journal will undoubtedly use Newtonian mechanics far more often than relativistic mechanics, just open to a few random pages to see this. Also, the history of science is quite clear on the issue of "exact" theories, unless you think we are living in a special time. I wager that most scientists do not think that, they see their art in the historical continuum.


For example, Newton's theory of gravitation implied that gravity dropped off as 1/r^n, where n was EXACTLY 2. I presume you are referring to a classical point mass here. Relativistic distributions will require modification to this statement, especially if extended or rotating. It just proves my point-- no theories, no matter how elegant, are exact. The elegance is precisely why they are not exact-- elegance always represents a choice in the tradeoff between what is real and what is ideal (just look at the very first assumption in any "elegant" theory-- you'll see the idealization right away).

Experimentally, it was possible to determine that this constant was extremely near 2, but it takes a human's sensibility of elegance to make the extra leap of faith that it must be EXACTLY 2. If you look at theoretical elegance of the way rays of "light" expand in a 3 dimensional space, the 1/r^2 relationship is compelling.That is a remarkable fact, I agree, but note you are overlooking both general relativity and (if it's true) string theory. I agree that the power is amazingly close to 2, presumably because we live in a universe that is amazingly close to having 3 spatial Euclidean dimensions. But not exactly, we already know that.


But this desire for elegance also leads to extreme scientific fascination when it turns out the elegant formula leads to slightly inaccurate predictions. According to Newton's theory of gravitation, Mercury's orbit shouldn't precess. But it did! The scientific reaction wasn't just to reject the power of 2 and replace it with something a little bit different from 2. No, the scientific reaction was that there must be something deep we don't quite understand about gravity.And you see a profound difference there? The answer couldn't have been a slightly different power? Why not?


It would be decades before Einstein's theory of general relativity would explain something of that deep misunderstanding. Note that Einstein's theory of general relativity came from a deep desire for an elegant theory, not just a theory with numbers rigged up to best match real world observations.The desire for elegance is quite central to the goals of science, primarily because our limited intelligence is only capable of creating predictive power from something elegant. As such, scientists always seek elegant solutions, and focus on situations where this is possible, often writing off the situations where it is not as "messy". We seek fundamental theories, but by "fundamental" we mean "idealized", i.e., limited. For example, we have quantum mechanics for small numbers of particles, and statistical mechanics for huge numbers, but comparatively weak science for anything in between-- there's little that is elegant in that middle domain.


The state of physics in the last half century has been that we have some serious mysteries that we just plain don't understand. We know the solution isn't to just rig up numbers to match the observations--the solution must be some sort of elegant explanation.We know no such thing. But there's nothing wrong with hoping there is an elegant explanation-- for if there isn't, we won't find it. So we are the person searching for his keys under the streetlight, not because we expect them to fall in the light, but because that's the only way we'll find them.


Or rather, it's FAITH that scientists have that there must be some sort of elegant explanation.Yes, that's more the reality-- it's faith, or hope. I agree it is quite remarkable that faith has taken us this far, I view that as the deepest mystery in all of science, but it cannot be extrapolated into a theorem about what we will discover in the future. It is close to that oft-misrepresented interpretation of Occam's razor that the "simplest theory is most likely to be the right one". That is demonstrably a false assertion about science.


You can deny that there actually is an elegant explanation. And indeed, you could very well be correct. There is no a priori reason to expect the universe is fundamentally comprehensible.Why would I deny there is an elegant explanation? I have no idea, and I hope there is. But it will still be a creation of our intellect when and if we find one, the universe will go on doing what it does either way.


But what you can't deny is that scientists basically believe there must be an elegant explanation. I can certainly deny that. What a scientist believes is a personal matter, and has no bearing on the art of doing science. That art requires only that elegance be sought, with the hope that it can be found. The keys in the streetlight.


But scientists work under the working assumption that the universe is fundamentally knowable.Of course, that is a practical assumption made, just as a person searching for something adopts the working assumption they will find it. That's what motivates the search, an if they "believe it", they may search that much harder. But the belief has nothing to do with science. And it does not in any way support the contention that scientists think they are looking for an exact description of anything real.

Ken G
2007-Oct-30, 04:46 PM
If we can't know the universe as it is, then why are we fooling around spending billions of dollars on stuff that has nothing to do with weapons research or global warming? If science is merely a subspecies of engineering whose definition of truth is mere megatons of TNT, then why bother?Um, I can't follow this logic at all. What in your life do you do that follows this thinking? You go in the back yard to throw a baseball-- but hey, you'll never be Nolan Ryan, so why bother?

Ken G
2007-Oct-30, 04:50 PM
Suppose, just for argument's sake, that we are in a universe that is actually a simulation constructed by somebody in a higher universe. And that the person who constructed it is a simulation constructed by a higher universe yet.

That may be the best counter I've ever heard to the idea that our universe is intelligently designed. Any argument used on our universe could also be applied to any other universe from which it sprung.

Ken G
2007-Oct-30, 04:52 PM
At some point, you just have to put your foot down and say "I know enough to get something done." That is precisely what I am saying, I'm glad we agree that getting something done is all we can really say we are doing.
Otherwise we'd all be sitting in caves navel-gazing until we starve to death because we can't prove that food is necessary.

"Navel-gazing" is a kind of a foolish way to describe the process of actually keeping track of what we are doing and not becoming the slaves of our own words.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 06:30 PM
"Navel-gazing" is a kind of a foolish way to describe the process of actually keeping track of what we are doing and not becoming the slaves of our own words.

Navel-gazing, in this case, means precisely that-- becoming slaves to our own imprecision of words.

IsaacKuo
2007-Oct-30, 07:02 PM
But what you can't deny is that scientists basically believe there must be an elegant explanation
I can certainly deny that. What a scientist believes is a personal matter, and has no bearing on the art of doing science.

Okay, I was wrong. Technically, You can deny anything.

Len Moran
2007-Oct-30, 07:02 PM
But what you can't deny is that scientists basically believe there must be an elegant explanation. Maybe scientists are wrong. Maybe their faith is misplaced. Maybe the universe is destined to always be mysterious and fundamentally unknowable. But scientists work under the working assumption that the universe is fundamentally knowable.

You ought to read "On Physics and Philosophy" by Bernard d'Espagnat. It is a fine elucidation on the nature of reality, written by a physicist and philosopher. And what does this scientist of note say? He says the physical implications of quantum theory suggest that scientific knowledge will never truly describe mind independent reality.

Professor d'Espagnat was the director of the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics and Elementary particles in Paris from 1970 to 1987. So I would call him a "working scientist", but I wouldn't bet any money that he carried out his work under the assumption that the universe is fundamentally knowable.

I for one am more readily convinced by the arguments outlined by d'Espagnat in his book than I am by a "faith" that science can explain all.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 07:15 PM
Asking if the Universe is "digital or analog" is kind of like asking if the Universe is an album or a CD; it's nonsesne. Both terms are human inventions refering to our own information storage technology. They can only be applied to the Universe metaphorically, not literally.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 07:23 PM
You ought to read "On Physics and Philosophy" by Bernard d'Espagnat. It is a fine elucidation on the nature of reality, written by a physicist and philosopher. And what does this scientist of note say? He says the physical implications of quantum theory suggest that scientific knowledge will never truly describe mind independent reality.
Kant and Plato said the same thing.

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-30, 07:30 PM
Both terms are human inventions refering to our own information storage technology. They can only be applied to the Universe metaphorically, not literally.

Analog, in the sense then would be nonsense too. If you get to the atomic level, you can count them. In this sense there can never be any truly analog recording.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 07:36 PM
Analog, in the sense then would be nonsense too. If you get to the atomic level, you can count them. In this sense there can never be any truly analog recording.

The removal of one or two-- or a hundred --atoms won't affect the sound quality, so calling it analog is "close enough for jazz". ;)

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 07:36 PM
That may be the best counter I've ever heard to the idea that our universe is intelligently designed. Any argument used on our universe could also be applied to any other universe from which it sprung.Here you're contradicting yourself. According to your philosophy of science, science has absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about whether the idea that our universe is intelligently designed is true or false. So you're indulging in the same sort of a priori speculation that you accuse us (rightly) of who say that the universe isn't analog, or that it at least has to be either analog or digital with no third alternative available.

There are any number of metaphysical systems (M1 . . . Mn) that are consistent with human experience. But as human experience increases, n decreases, especially when the discipline of the scientific method is imposed. Even so, the number of plausible metaphysical systems can be reduced even further by basic a priori considerations--and the very idea of an analog universe is incoherent on the face of it--it creates infinities upon infinities of causal relations within any arbitrarily small volume of space.

There is no crucial scientific experiment in the offing that can decide between an analog or digital universe. Yet, experience does seem to show that classic examples of "analog" phenomena (e.g. vinyl records, water) are in fact digital on closer inspection. Indeed, even though physics makes use of continuous mathematics, it is illuminating to note that in practice we have to settle for digital approximations when doing calculations.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 07:46 PM
Asking if the Universe is "digital or analog" is kind of like asking if the Universe is an album or a CD; it's nonsense. Both terms are human inventions refering to our own information storage technology. They can only be applied to the Universe metaphorically, not literally.Not true at all. Truly analog music, in theory, could be represented by a continous sine-wave function that itself changes continously with time. In actual practice, air and vinyl plastic are made out of atoms and molecules. You get to a small enough level, and the sine-wave function no longer defines the topography of the vinyl record. If plastic were truly an analog substance, no matter how closely you looked at it, it's topography would be perfectly described by the musical sine-wave function.

There are two human descriptions--these are human constructs. There is only one reality--this reality is not a construct. Only one description corresponds to the reality: digital.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 08:25 PM
Only one description corresponds to the reality: digital.

Digital is also a human construct.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 08:26 PM
Not true at all. Truly analog music, in theory, could be represented by a continous sine-wave function that itself changes continously with time. In actual practice, air and vinyl plastic are made out of atoms and molecules. You get to a small enough level, and the sine-wave function no longer defines the topography of the vinyl record. If plastic were truly an analog substance, no matter how closely you looked at it, it's topography would be perfectly described by the musical sine-wave function.


Not relevant to what I said.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 08:53 PM
Digital is also a human construct.Right. Because we have fingers we sometimes refer to as "digits". . . . :wall:


Not relevant to what I said.

You said:


Both terms are human inventions refering to our own information storage technology. My point is that there is no such thing as analog storage technology. Therefore, only one of the "human inventions" you mention truly describes the reality of info storage tech.

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-30, 09:00 PM
On a related question, is there anything in the universe which may be considered truly analog?

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-30, 09:07 PM
Tabbed browsing...

:whistle:

Is Firefox trying to tell me something?

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 09:08 PM
On a related question, is there anything in the universe which may be considered truly analog?Yeah, space itself. Well at least that's what general relativity says. :neutral:

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-30, 09:10 PM
Tabbed browsing...

:whistle::lol:

Dr. G says he likes it both ways! :razz:

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Oct-30, 09:54 PM
Yeah, space itself. Well at least that's what general relativity says. :neutral:

But isn't space affected by gravity, which is affected by mass and that is kinda digital as it is made up of quarks?

Please take it easy on me. I'm just learning.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-30, 09:57 PM
My point is that there is no such thing as analog storage technology. Therefore, only one of the "human inventions" you mention truly describes the reality of info storage tech.

...Which doesn't matter, as one way, two ways, or ten ways would also fail to accurately describe the Universe. Stick to the subject, please.

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-31, 12:49 AM
But isn't space affected by gravity, which is affected by mass and that is kinda digital as it is made up of quarks?By Jove, I think he's got it! :clap:



... [Vinyl] doesn't matter, as one way, two ways, or ten ways would also fail to accurately describe the Universe. Stick to the subject, please.But I am sticking to the subject because music is a part of the universe. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that in every case where an empirical test was able to settle a given open question as to whether a given physical thing is digital or analog, digital always wins out. Music was but one example of a phenomenon that's scratchy and digital in actuality, but is elegantly, though approximately, described by nice, well-behaved, continuous mathematical functions.

And so you've got to ask yourself the question eventually: Given that science says that music, . . . , and water are analog-like digital phenomena, then, if I were a bettor, would I bet that space and time will also be reconceived of as analog-like-but-in-actuality digital phenomena, or not?

Kaptain K
2007-Oct-31, 01:32 AM
Music is analog. In the case of vinyl, sure you can look at the surface in finer and finer detail until you get to the point where you can "see" individual molecules. But for the music, that's irrelevant since music is limited to the range from 20-20Khertz. In that range, molecular "bumpiness" is not a factor!

Noclevername
2007-Oct-31, 02:45 AM
And so you've got to ask yourself the question eventually: Given that science says that music, . . . , and water are analog-like digital phenomena, then, if I were a bettor, would I bet that space and time will also be reconceived of as analog-like-but-in-actuality digital phenomena, or not?

Not. As I said, it'll do as a metaphor, but don't take it literally.

Disinfo Agent
2007-Oct-31, 02:53 AM
Asking if the Universe is "digital or analog" is kind of like asking if the Universe is an album or a CD; it's nonsesne.Of course, it's clearly a single.


There are two human descriptions--these are human constructs. There is only one reality--this reality is not a construct. Only one description corresponds to the reality: digital.

[...]

There is no crucial scientific experiment in the offing that can decide between an analog or digital universe. Yet, experience does seem to show that classic examples of "analog" phenomena (e.g. vinyl records, water) are in fact digital on closer inspection. Indeed, even though physics makes use of continuous mathematics, it is illuminating to note that in practice we have to settle for digital approximations when doing calculations.But that tells you more about your limitations as a human than about reality. Maybe your senses force you to apprehend reality in a stroboscopic way, when in fact reality is continuous.

transreality
2007-Oct-31, 07:14 AM
In a digital drum machine there is at some sub division of time a level at which all events are 'quantized'. Perhaps this means that at that point in time all events are synchronously commencing (or not commencing). That doesn't provide a model for how our universe functions at any detectable level. Some sort of synchronicity of events would be required to demonstrate a digital universe.

mugaliens
2007-Oct-31, 12:02 PM
Digital! Planck distance and Planck time, collectively called Planck units (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_units).


Yeah, space itself. Well at least that's what general relativity says. :neutral:

Actually, QM says it's pretty digital...

Warren Platts
2007-Oct-31, 03:11 PM
Digital! Planck distance and Planck time, collectively called Planck units (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_units).



Actually, QM says it's pretty digital...

Exactly, hence the quest for a quantum theory of gravity!

Noclevername
2007-Oct-31, 04:38 PM
Got to correct one misinterpretation here:

Warren Platts filled in a snip from my post thus:

... [Vinyl] doesn't matter, as one way, two ways, or ten ways would also fail to accurately describe the Universe. Stick to the subject, please.

I was referring not to Vinyl, but rather to all human-invented forms of information storage. Writing, art, music, film, tape, all of it.

Ken G
2007-Nov-01, 04:40 AM
Okay, I was wrong. Technically, You can deny anything.

I deny it because it's false. If you feel you are in a position to speak for all scientists, I suggest you include citations.

Ken G
2007-Nov-01, 04:56 AM
Here you're contradicting yourself. According to your philosophy of science, science has absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about whether the idea that our universe is intelligently designed is true or false. No, I define "true or false" scientifically, not absolutely. Thus one can ask to what scientific sense could it be "true" that our universe sprung from some other, with different rules or powers, but the scientific falsity of that claim stems from its lack of utility. If the universe that spawned ours would need similar attributes (an intelligent design) to be able to design ours, then explaining that universe or power scientifically faces the exact same conundrum, and nothing is gained, scientifically speaking, from the speculation. As for absolute truth, yes I agree that science has no definition for that phrase so little if anything to say on the matter.

There are any number of metaphysical systems (M1 . . . Mn) that are consistent with human experience. But as human experience increases, n decreases, especially when the discipline of the scientific method is imposed.I'm not sure science diminishes n-- it might turn out that it increases it, by expanding our understanding of the possibilities we never even knew existed before. I don't see science as a winnowing of the possibilities, but rather as an awakening to the possibilities.

Even so, the number of plausible metaphysical systems can be reduced even further by basic a priori considerations--and the very idea of an analog universe is incoherent on the face of it--it creates infinities upon infinities of causal relations within any arbitrarily small volume of space.
That is only if you apply what is fundamentally digital thinking to the analog universe. Another way to do it is to simply say that analog thinking has value in some situations and digital in others. I don't see that there's anything "incoherent" in analog thinking about the universe. After all, what does "analog" really mean? It means using one real process (say the continuous movement of the hand of a clock) as a simulacrum for some other real process (the passage of time). In a sense it lets reality rule processes that appear in reality, it is much truer to letting reality be than is digital thinking, which is inherently connected to our concept of integers. They both involve making associations that are not identities-- but that's always what science tries to do. We have the tempest, we don't need it in a teacup too-- we need to associate it with something that is simpler than it.

There is no crucial scientific experiment in the offing that can decide between an analog or digital universe. Yet, experience does seem to show that classic examples of "analog" phenomena (e.g. vinyl records, water) are in fact digital on closer inspection. Indeed, even though physics makes use of continuous mathematics, it is illuminating to note that in practice we have to settle for digital approximations when doing calculations.Quite true, but that is our own limitation, it does not say that the digital approach is the more useful. For example, we use analytic evaluations of integrals all the time-- whereas digital integrations yield numerical results, not elegant analytic forms.

A perfect example of why we need both digital and analog thinking is given simply by the spectrum of a hot coal, or the cosmic background radiation. Those spectra require quantized particles called photons to be understood, to avoid the "ultraviolet catastrophe" of continous radiation energies. So thinking in terms of photons is digital thinking. Yet, the lovely analytical expressions we quote as the "Planck function" involve integrations over continuous frequency space. One must think analog to get analytic expressions from integrals-- and analytic expressions are crucial in the language of physics.

Ken G
2007-Nov-01, 05:16 AM
Exactly, hence the quest for a quantum theory of gravity!

Folks, quantum mechanics is not a strictly digital theory. It uses both digital (the quanta) and analog (the probabilities) concepts. So a quantum theory of gravity would be a lovely example of appealing to both types of thinking about how the universe works. The key point, philosophically, is that any time we quantify something, we are using digital thinking, because a quantity is an explicit number and that's digital in any real application. However, quantifying anything in that way is to replace reality by an estimate, an approximation-- if I say the probability of something to happen is 50%, it's just an estimate-- the reality can never actually be exactly that probability. If reality is truly describable in terms of probabilities, as quantum mechanics requires, then reality has to have a way of knowing what those probabilities actually are-- not as digital quantities the way we do it. What would reality know to do with a number?

Warren Platts
2007-Nov-01, 10:45 AM
No, I define "true or false" scientifically, not absolutely. Thus one can ask to what scientific sense could it be "true" that our universe sprung from some other, with different rules or powers, but the scientific falsity of that claim stems from its lack of utility. If the universe that spawned ours would need similar attributes (an intelligent design) to be able to design ours, then explaining that universe or power scientifically faces the exact same conundrum, and nothing is gained, scientifically speaking, from the speculation. What about the speculation that like evolves from other, different, life? That speculation doesn't touch the question of the origin of life, but it is advantageous nevertheless because it buys time. Now we don't have wonder whether maggots spontaneously develop from rotting flesh. The one-offverse is about as intellectually satisfying and even less likely than a spontaneous maggot.


As for absolute truth, yes I agree that science has no definition for that phrase so little if anything to say on the matter.So under your logic there are at least four (and probably six) truth-values:



Ts
Fs
Ta
Fa
Tv
Fv

where s = scientific, a = absolute, and v = vernacular (since you apparently want to make a distinction between scientific truth and truth as it ordinarily functions among nonscientists in everyday life). :whistle:



I'm not sure science diminishes [the number of plausible metaphysical systems]-- it might turn out that it increases it, by expanding our understanding of the possibilities we never even knew existed before. I don't see science as a winnowing of the possibilities, but rather as an awakening to the possibilities.I was thinking in terms of Borges' Library of Babel, that contains not only all books that have ever been written, but also all books that could be written (which is a finite number for books of finite length--another implication (artifact?) of digital thinking). So, yes indeed it is the business of science to decide between rival theories. Granted, the acceptance of one theory will generate a slew of ATM theories, but then science must winnow these possibilities to make more progress.


I don't see that there's anything "incoherent" in analog thinking about the universe. After all, what does "analog" really mean? It means using one real process (say the continuous movement of the hand of a clock) as a simulacrum for some other real process (the passage of time). What if the hand does not in fact move continously? If superhighspeed photography proved that the hands of a clock do in fact move in jerks and spurts, would you be willing to revise your concept of time in light of that fact?


In a sense it lets reality rule processes that appear in realityI'm all for that that, but if reality really is digital in nature, then the processes science use to measure reality will also be digital.


it is much truer to letting reality be than is digital thinking, which is inherently connected to our concept of integers. Digital thinking is indeed connected to our concept of integers, but analog thinking is inherently connected to our concept of integrals--as you rightly point out. The question is how nature integrates: analytically, or with brute force--or does she just look them up?

IsaacKuo
2007-Nov-01, 01:47 PM
I deny it because it's false.

No, you denied it by claiming that what scientists believe is irrelevant. To what scientists believe. Which is pretty funny.

mugaliens
2007-Nov-01, 03:04 PM
Folks, quantum mechanics is not a strictly digital theory. It uses both digital (the quanta) and analog (the probabilities) concepts.

Probabilities do not imply an analog world, Ken G. The mean of the entire bits on a CD is 0. That's a probability but a CD is entirely digital.


The key point, philosophically, is that any time we quantify something, we are using digital thinking, because a quantity is an explicit number and that's digital in any real application.

Actually, an explicit number is called a "real" number. Can be anything from a single digit to any number of digits to both and left of the decimal.


However, quantifying anything in that way is to replace reality by an estimate, an approximation-- if I say the probability of something to happen is 50%, it's just an estimate-- the reality can never actually be exactly that probability.

Actually, I believe the converse to be true: the probability can never actually be exactly what the reality is. Reality simply is, and is exactly as precice as itself. The errors creep in when we try to estimate reality.

Not the other way around.


If reality is truly describable in terms of probabilities, as quantum mechanics requires, then reality has to have a way of knowing what those probabilities actually are-- not as digital quantities the way we do it.

Again, I believe you're putting the cart before the horse. Reality at the subatomic level can very easily be digital while the only way we may ever be able to approximately describe it (due to the Heisenburg uncertainty principle) is through probabilities.

Len Moran
2007-Nov-01, 06:42 PM
Again, I believe you're putting the cart before the horse. Reality at the subatomic level can very easily be digital while the only way we may ever be able to approximately describe it (due to the Heisenburg uncertainty principle) is through probabilities.

How do you approximately describe reality at the subatomic level? My understanding is that at that level, the only thing we can do is predict, and that very prediction requires the notion of an observer. So your "approximate description" is not the underlying reality, it is part and parcel of our involvement in the microscopic measurement process. I would say we can never objectively describe this underlying reality, even approximately, it is truly a mind independent reality. So to try and objectively term this reality as analogue or digital is, I think, to miss the point, such mind independent reality is not open to such an objective notion.

Hornblower
2007-Nov-01, 07:29 PM
What if the hand does not in fact move continously? If superhighspeed photography proved that the hands of a clock do in fact move in jerks and spurts, would you be willing to revise your concept of time in light of that fact?
I would not revise the concept. The intent is to use a continuously moving, constant rate hand as an analog indicator of passing time. If a real mechanical clock is running roughly at a fine enough scale, it will degrade the accuracy of the task at hand, but that does not necessarily make it a valid digital indicator. If the roughness is negligible at the scale of the actual task, it remains valid to consider the clock to be a useful analog indicator.


I'm all for that that, but if reality really is digital in nature, then the processes science use to measure reality will also be digital.

Digital thinking is indeed connected to our concept of integers, but analog thinking is inherently connected to our concept of integrals--as you rightly point out. The question is how nature integrates: analytically, or with brute force--or does she just look them up?
I think many of us are misusing the words digital and analog as stand-alone descriptions of the properties of the various constituents of the universe. My preference would be to reserve them for the two types of mathematical correspondences between objects and our transcripts of data about them. For describing the objects themselves I would prefer discrete or quantized for the former, and continuous for the latter. I think Ken G made that point very well.

Ken G
2007-Nov-02, 02:34 PM
What about the speculation that like evolves from other, different, life? That speculation doesn't touch the question of the origin of life, but it is advantageous nevertheless because it buys time. Now we don't have wonder whether maggots spontaneously develop from rotting flesh. The one-offverse is about as intellectually satisfying and even less likely than a spontaneous maggot.

So under your logic there are at least four (and probably six) truth-values:



Ts
Fs
Ta
Fa
Tv
Fv

where s = scientific, a = absolute, and v = vernacular (since you apparently want to make a distinction between scientific truth and truth as it ordinarily functions among nonscientists in everyday life). :whistle:
Only six you think? Stretch yourself.

What if the hand does not in fact move continously? Find a way to pose that question scientifically and perhaps it will have a scientific answer someday. But you have overlooked that very first step.

If superhighspeed photography proved that the hands of a clock do in fact move in jerks and spurts, would you be willing to revise your concept of time in light of that fact?Obviously that would require new models. That's all it would do, that's science.


I'm all for that that, but if reality really is digital in nature, then the processes science use to measure reality will also be digital. If wishes were fishes...


Digital thinking is indeed connected to our concept of integers, but analog thinking is inherently connected to our concept of integrals--as you rightly point out. The question is how nature integrates: analytically, or with brute force--or does she just look them up?Exactly. I think the answer must be that any of those is absurd.

tommac
2008-Apr-21, 03:22 PM
It used to be analog, but now it's digital! :)

But seriously, it's a good question and I find it interesting as well. There is a whole stream of thought called "digital cosmology" that claims that the universe is digital, i.e. information based. I suspect it would be considered "against the mainstream," but I'm not really sure.

Isnt string theory digital?

McGatney
2010-Apr-21, 07:43 AM
We should look at the recent proof by David H. Wolpert at NASA, which states that within any system of universes, quantities exist which cannot be ascertained by any inference device (including the human mind) inside the system. It just may be that whether the universe is analog or digital is one of these inherently unknowable quantities.