PDA

View Full Version : Are multiverse theories ATM?



clint
2008-Mar-22, 01:56 PM
I just watched this interview (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9433?in=00:41:12&out=00:54:45) about multiverse theories*,
and was surprised that both participants treated them as quite common among astrophysicists.

I thought multiverse theories were much less accepted...

*the interview is much longer, I'm only linking to the multiverse part

EvilEye
2008-Mar-22, 02:51 PM
Multiverse theories are based on math...not scientifc observation.

They could be right, but unless we have a way of indirectly "observing" them, it will only remain math.

That would be math science. (Theoretical Physics - like what Michio Kaku does) - and Michio will tell you himself, that he is not a scientist.

Spaceman Spiff
2008-Mar-22, 03:53 PM
Hmmm....physicists, such as Andre Linde or Lisa Randall, who work on these and related problems would be surprised to learn that they aren't physicists. These models are mathematically and (as far as I know) physically self-consistent, but as of yet do not have many testably observable consequences.

Cougar
2008-Mar-22, 04:17 PM
I just watched this interview (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/9433?in=00:41:12&out=00:54:45) about multiverse theories*,
and was surprised that both participants treated them as quite common among astrophysicists.

I thought multiverse theories were much less accepted...

*the interview is much longer, I'm only linking to the multiverse part
This is a good question, Clint, and an excellent and interesting interview between Sean Carroll and science writer John Horgan. Professional theoretical physicists work out at the edges of current knowledge. As Carroll admits, these various multiverse theories are speculative, and like Horgan, I am rather surprised that many of the top scientists have incorporated such things into their research programs that are unlikely to be empirically verified even in the near future.

But I think Sean Carroll gives an answer to this question of why these scientists seem to be leaving observational science behind and speculating about such things as multiverses. His answer? "We are forced to." What we do observe in our universe is forcing us to seek answers that explain our observations within a broader framework.

I happen to be reading Paul Davies The Cosmic Jackpot. I'm about in the middle of the book, and I'm not sure where he's going with this, but he is reporting on the long-standing question about the physical constants and why they seem to be so finely tuned to allow stars and galaxies and observers such as us to exist. If the relative masses of the proton and neutron were slightly different, our universe would be nothing like what we observe, and indeed, observers could not exist.

Yes, this is the Anthropic question, and Davies points out that historically scientists have considered this as tautological, unproductive, and unworthy of any scientific consideration. But in the last few years, several respected and very knowledgeable theoretical physicists and cosmologists have said, "Wait a minute. These cosmic coincidences are significant and too coincidental to ignore any longer." And the odd comparative strengths of the various constants? Why the heck is the electromagnetic force 1040 times stronger than the gravitational force? (But as it happens, that's a good thing.) And the biggest miscalculation of all time, why does the vacuum energy appear to be 10119 times weaker than quantum mechanical calculations imply it should be? (Again, a darn good thing it is, too!)

I'm not sure if the relevance of the Anthropic question was laid bare by the recent discovery of the accelerating expansion or what, but obviously several top scientists feel this is one of those questions that they are being forced to confront, as Sean Carroll explains. And of course an appeal to the supernatural is not an option in science. Scientists seek natural explanations. And so several versions of multiverse theories have been proposed by theorists such as Susskind, Smolin, Vilenkin, Linde, Steinhardt&Turok, and I'm sure others I'm not aware of. But these theories are not "accepted" as you imply. They are proposed. The authors aren't saying, "This is how it is." They are saying, "This might be how it is, and this would explain why we observe what we do."

Cougar
2008-Mar-22, 05:08 PM
Sean Carroll's article on the Anthropic Principle (http://preposterousuniverse.blogspot.com/2004/10/anthropic-principle.html) from back in 2004 is excellent and worth reading.

By the way, I meant to point out to KenG Carroll's remark in the interview linked above where he differentiated between the views of Steven Weinberg and David Deutsch (http://www.qubit.org/people/david/) regarding [paraphrasing] the fundamental reason for science. I have long sought some way to express what I have thought is wrong (or too one-sided) with what I suppose is Ken's philosophical view of science, and here Sean Carroll expresses it quite well in 5 or 10 seconds in this interview. Of course, being too "Weinbergian" is hardly a criticism that many people would be unhappy about, but I believe Carroll sided solidly with Deutsch on this point, as do I.

RalofTyr
2008-Mar-22, 06:42 PM
I don't think they are ATM. They are just theories. Like evolution....or religion...

Disinfo Agent
2008-Mar-22, 07:03 PM
By the way, I meant to point out to KenG Carroll's remark in the interview linked above where he differentiated between the views of Steven Weinberg and David Deutsch (http://www.qubit.org/people/david/) regarding [paraphrasing] the fundamental reason for science. I have long sought some way to express what I have thought is wrong (or too one-sided) with what I suppose is Ken's philosophical view of science, and here Sean Carroll expresses it quite well in 5 or 10 seconds in this interview. Of course, being too "Weinbergian" is hardly a criticism that many people would be unhappy about, but I believe Carroll sided solidly with Deutsch on this point, as do I.I suppose Ken would reply that, although speculative, such theories have the potential to one day become testable, hence scientific. I hope he sees this thread and speaks for himself, though. I thought of him too as soon as I started to read it. ;)


I don't think they are ATM. They are just theories. Like evolution....or religion...But that's the thing -- evolution is not just a theory. The TalkOrigins archive calls it "a fact and a theory". What they mean by this is that particular instances of evolution, observations that confirm evolution, have been made in persuasive amounts. The same, of course, cannot be said of multiverse theories. Unless one regards multiverses as mere heuristic "interpretations" (http://www.bautforum.com/general-science/70987-interpretation-do-you-set-camp.html) of astrophysics.

EvilEye
2008-Mar-23, 12:12 PM
Hmmm....physicists, such as Andre Linde or Lisa Randall, who work on these and related problems would be surprised to learn that they aren't physicists. These models are mathematically and (as far as I know) physically self-consistent, but as of yet do not have many testably observable consequences.

I didn't say they weren't physicists. I said that theoretical physics is not science in the way we use the term. It is indeed math science, in that you can test the math. As I stated, they do no actual physical experimentation.
Real scientists take the math and do the real science to see if the mathematical predictions hold up in the real world.

EvilEye
2008-Mar-23, 12:16 PM
A scientific theory is not the same as the general usuage of the word.

A scientific theory follows the facts, it doesn't precede them.

You know that gravity is there, and you form a hypothesis. You test the hypothesis using the facts you already know, and when you have shown your predictions to be true over and over again, you have a theory. Your theory can then be tested and proven correct, incorrect, or adjusted.

Ken G
2008-Mar-23, 02:09 PM
Sean Carroll's article on the Anthropic Principle (http://preposterousuniverse.blogspot.com/2004/10/anthropic-principle.html) from back in 2004 is excellent and worth reading.
Here is a snippet from it:

"On the other end of the spectrum are people who think the whole idea is completely non-scientific, or even anti-scientific. As far as I can tell, their objections generally come in two forms -- either that it's "giving up" to attribute the observed value of a parameter to a selection effect rather than as derivable from the laws of nature, or that all these extra universes are unobservable in principle, therefore shouldn't count as part of a truly scientific description of the world."

Actually, both of those objections seem irrelevant to me. The problem here is that apparently everybody is imagining that science is something other than what it is! Is there any question that what science is is a prescription for obtaining demonstrable knowledge about our universe (as opposed to a warm fuzzy feeling of understanding that is untestable)? So does that not mean that science is about motivating new experiments and organizing the data of existing ones? That just seems perfectly obvious to me. So the problem with speculating about variations in the vacuum energy is not that it is "giving up" on the problem (what demonstrable solution is being given up on there?), and it is not that the other values are known to be inherently unobservable (what other values can we know we can't observe?)-- it is simply that we have not observed them, nor is this approach giving us any clever ideas about how to observe them. That's sufficient, right there, to say it isn't science!

One does not invoke a contrary philosophy to argue against anthropic philosophy, one simply defines what science is and demonstrates that anthropism does not provide any of the proven benefits of science. To me, the crucial point is that the whole reason we invented science was to provide one mode of inquiry into truth that we could actually demonstrate, whose goals were testable and whose primary purpose was not simply to allow us to pretend we know more than we do. The latter is the hallmark of unscientific modes of inquiry-- including anthropic thinking. Why wouldn't Carroll count that as the main argument against it?

Carroll instead sets up the strawmen and shoots them down thusly:


"I honestly don't see why either objection makes sense. The fact is, those extra parts of the universe might really be there, whether we can observe them or not. And if they are, it's completely possible that the vacuum energy really does change from place to place, rather than obeying some fundamental formula. To me, science doesn't proceed by first deciding how the world works, and then forcing it to conform; we keep an open mind, and try our best to understand how our actual universe behaves. If our best theories predict that the universe has very different conditions outside our observable patch, and that there is no unique prediction for the vacuum energy, than we have to learn to deal with it, even if those conditions will never be directly observed. The universe doesn't really care how we would like it to behave."

I must agree that science does not first decide how reality works, and then force it to conform. But I would point out that this is precisely what anthropic thinking does, because it first posits that there has to be a reason that the variables are what they are, and then says the only we reason we can think of is anthropic. Both of those steps involve an unscientific fallacy-- the first is to state that it is part of a scientific principle to say we have to be able to understand something, and the second is to say that the only possibility we can think of is the correct one. Fortunately, real science does not rely on weak natural philosophy like that, it relies on experiment.


By the way, I meant to point out to KenG Carroll's remark in the interview linked above where he differentiated between the views of Steven Weinberg and David Deutsch (http://www.qubit.org/people/david/) regarding [paraphrasing] the fundamental reason for science. The problem here is that Weinberg is clearly wrong, and in just the way that Deutch's "black box" image suggests. But that doesn't make Deutsch right about multiverses as science! Yes, we don't just want predictions, we want understanding. I've always said that, I've said that Occam's razor is the beating heart of science, I've pointed out the inadequacy of "google science" (quite analogous to Deutsch's black box) where we just interpolate every answer from a body of stored existing data. But none of that suggests we need multiverses. The flaw in multiverse "science" has nothing to do with the idea that we only want to make predictions, it has to do with what we are going to call understanding, and how science can tell when and if we really do understand something.

This is not to suggest that scientific understanding is all that matters, it just says it is all that is science. I typically find Weinberg (like Dawkins) to be hopelessly positivist (the only truth worth having is the scientific truth, in effect). I did like Deutsch's point about the weakness of "selfish gene" approaches, and I have also asked the question, how do we know a gene wants to survive? Maybe they all crave oblivion, and the ones that don't achieve it are the failures. But I felt there were a few problems with "Deutch's Law:"

Every problem that is interesting is also soluble.
The first problem with it is that it would not seem to support his view of science as being forced to look for philosophical explanations. I would challenge him to cite even one single problem, even one, that was ever "solved" by philosophy! To me, his law states that no philosophical questions are interesting, which seems to contradict the way his view on science is being described here. Unless, that is, he will define "solved" as "convinced himself, in the absence of any actual experimental data on the subject".

The other problem with his "law" is, how do we know if a problem is soluble or not? Are there any examples of a problem that was known to be soluble before it was solved? Even one? If not, I claim that the only way we know if a problem is soluble is by solving it. But then the only problems we can know are interesting are ones that are already solved, and an already solved problem is no longer a problem at all. So the intersection of what is known to be interesting, and what is known to be a problem, is the null set using Deutch's Law. That's not a very useful law!

Ken G
2008-Mar-23, 02:21 PM
I said that theoretical physics is not science in the way we use the term. It is indeed math science, in that you can test the math. As I stated, they do no actual physical experimentation.This is the crux of the issue right here. I would argue that the huge breakthrough in modern science came about the time of Galileo, where science started to depend more on experiment and observation than on natural philosophy. From that point forward, "math science" and "experimental science" worked hand in hand, and accomplished far more than either could alone. Tycho handed data to Kepler who found ellipses in it, and handed it to Newton who explained them, who handed the means to make an observational prediction to Halley, and so forth. Faraday handed experiments to Maxwell who handed a theory to Michelson-Morely who handed the data to Einstein, and on it goes. I see the new issue as being whether or not they should turn their back on all that success and go back to the realm of natural philosophy where theory and controlled experiment were highly uncoupled and even in competition (as in the ancient debates between Greek schools of natural philosophy). What an awful step backward for science, in the name of advancing it!


Real scientists take the math and do the real science to see if the mathematical predictions hold up in the real world.
Well, they do the math with the intention of supporting those who do the experiments, it is not necessary that they carry out the observations themselves to be counted as scientists.

Cougar
2008-Mar-23, 02:42 PM
The problem here is that Weinberg is clearly wrong, and in just the way that Deutch's "black box" image suggests. But that doesn't make Deutsch right about multiverses as science! Yes, we don't just want predictions, we want understanding.
Thanks, Ken. I appreciate, and largely agree with, your responses.
http://www.xmission.com/~dcc/runningcougar.gif

Ken G
2008-Mar-23, 03:08 PM
Thanks, Ken. I appreciate, and largely agree with, your responses.
http://www.xmission.com/~dcc/runningcougar.gif
(The cougar is cool.)

EvilEye
2008-Mar-23, 03:46 PM
This is the crux of the issue right here. I would argue that the huge breakthrough in modern science came about the time of Galileo, where science started to depend more on experiment and observation than on natural philosophy. From that point forward, "math science" and "experimental science" worked hand in hand, and accomplished far more than either could alone. Tycho handed data to Kepler who found ellipses in it, and handed it to Newton who explained them, who handed the means to make an observational prediction to Halley, and so forth. Faraday handed experiments to Maxwell who handed a theory to Michelson-Morely who handed the data to Einstein, and on it goes. I see the new issue as being whether or not they should turn their back on all that success and go back to the realm of natural philosophy where theory and controlled experiment were highly uncoupled and even in competition (as in the ancient debates between Greek schools of natural philosophy). What an awful step backward for science, in the name of advancing it!

Well, they do the math with the intention of supporting those who do the experiments, it is not necessary that they carry out the observations themselves to be counted as scientists.



I have no argument here. All I was saying is that a theory is not just an idea. That would be a hypothesis. The theory comes after the experiments. A scientific theory is a falsifiable fact.

Spaceman Spiff
2008-Mar-23, 04:51 PM
...All I was saying is that a theory is not just an idea. That would be a hypothesis. The theory comes after the experiments. A scientific theory is a falsifiable fact.

And all I was saying is that some of the various theoretical models under discussion here are more that just "ideas" or simple hypotheses, in that there is a lot of (physical) theoretical "meat" in them. So I was emphasizing that these are not simply mathematical exercises, which your post seemed to imply, but maybe I just misunderstood.

I also concur with KenG, that the scientific process does not flow in such a linear fashion ("theory comes after experiments"). Theoretical models (which are often much more developed than a simple hypotheses) often guide experiment and observation (e.g., they make testable predictions or tell us where/how to look for phenomena), which when done then put the models to the test. Theoretical models often advance way ahead in the vacuum of data. When the data eventually flood in, whole branches of models whither in the bright illumination. Likewise, experiment and observation are often find themselves way ahead of the theoretical development to properly explain the "facts". As progress is made in this hand-in-hand dance-like fashion, a successful scientific theory emerges.

One might argue that General Relativity was a theory developed without any data but one - this lone exception being the unexplained part of the precession of the perihelion of Mercury. However, to the best of my knowledge, that is not the reason Einstein pursued it, but rather it was "forced on us" by what else we (thought we) knew to be true about the world. It made many testable predictions, many of which are only recently being tested.

And to quibble a bit more, "scientific theories" are not considered to be nor do they become "facts". "Facts" are the data, the observations of nature (albeit, some level of interpretation is involved in these "facts"). Theories are models of the natural world that explain these "facts" and predict phenomena, including (and especially) those yet undiscovered. (Caveat emptor - theories or models that are explicitly/specifically constructed to explain a certain "fact" cannot then use their prediction of that fact to claim validity. I'm sure there is a better way to say that.)

William
2008-Mar-23, 06:11 PM
Clint, thanks for the link to Horgan’s interviews.

Horgan made the comment in his interview with Sean Carrol that a more insightful question than the question “ Are Multiverse theories ATM?”

Is the sociological question: Why and how do people become convinced that one line of reasoning is “ATM” and should be attacked as heretical, where another is accepted?

Why would a person spend their life discussing and creating multiverse models? Assume it is a fact that multiverses do not exist. Why do we, allow significant intellectual latitude in one direction and not in another?

There is an emotional response to the label of “ATM”. A heretic is group attacked, where certain beliefs of a group are considered to be sacrosanct. Why is that so? Why do certain observations and discussions make people angry?

There is an unsolved sociological problem which is part of the scientific process. How does a person present and discuss anomalous observations and analysis, without promoting the emotional response?

Why for example do we (members of this forum) have an emotion response when the observations of Arp and Bell are discussed? Observational anomalies are not ATM. How can those observations be presented and discussed without causing conflict? Arp has obviously failed. Why?

Horgan stated that he and other scientific writers are searching for a heretic whose views lead to a breakthrough. Horgan differentiates between a heretic and a crank, supporting heretics, but not cranks.

Your thoughts concerning this problem would be welcome.

Comment:
I was particularly impressed with Bell's work and analysis.

Ken G
2008-Mar-23, 07:42 PM
One might argue that General Relativity was a theory developed without any data but one - this lone exception being the unexplained part of the precession of the perihelion of Mercury. However, to the best of my knowledge, that is not the reason he pursued it, but rather it was "forced on us" by what else we (thought we) knew to be true about the world. It made many testable predictions, many of which are only recently being tested.Yes, GR is almost without peer as being a theory that was born largely out of a philosophy of relativism, but note it could probably never have been obtained without the observations that propelled special relativity. In other words, one should ask if relatiavity was propelled by the idea that the laws of physics should be the same in all frames for some philosophical reason, or if someone just started with a "what if" and figured out the ramifications that could be tested. That's where it differs from some of the more modern stuff that the philosophical approach inspired.

Then there is also the gravity/inertia coincidence of Newtonian gravity that benefits from the unification that comes from elevating the equivalence to a principle. Unification is always a valid goal of science, as long as the price of unifying one concept is not the introduction of a more complex scaffolding of new and unconstrained concepts (the current problem with string theory). But as you point out, general relativity made all kinds of predictions that were addressible with easily imagined experiments, like the bending of starlight. The famous eclipse observation would never have been undertaken without GR, so the theory did its job by connecting previous observations (Galileo's gravity experiments, the Michelson-Morley experiment, Mercury) to new ones (bent starlight, etc.). That's really the job of good theory, to unify past and future experiments into a single descriptive framework. I'm not seeing much of that with the newer stuff, we may be running into a fundamental limit of what our technology can provide. Or we just need to ask smarter questions that we can get access to with current technology. Or, physics might be close to done, after all. Time will tell, but string theory and multiverses had better make some testable predictions soon or the effort will be largely a waste, as science anyway.

Ken G
2008-Mar-23, 07:55 PM
There is an unsolved sociological problem which is part of the scientific process. How does a person present and discuss anomalous observations and analysis, without promoting the emotional response?A very difficult problem indeed. Ask Galileo!


Why for example do we (mecmbers of this forum) have an emotion response when the observations of Arp and Bell are discussed? Observational anomalies are not ATM. How can those observations be presented and discussed without causing conflict? Arp has obviously failed. Why? I don't think it is the observations that elicit the response in regard to Arp, it's an attitude that is seen as unresponsive to new data. The way things like this normally evolve is that at some early stage, the observations are unclear, and both sides offer interpretations and make predictions. As more data emerges, one side finds their predictions are borne out, and begin honing their models to account for ever smaller discrepancies. They may encounter new big surprises, like dark matter and dark energy, but then the process just continues-- new predictions, new honing.

Meanwhile, the "other camp" seems stuck-- their predictions are not borne out so they must retreat to smaller and smaller regions of parameter space. Their "detections" mysteriously remain always at the "3-sigma" level, hiding just below our ability to discern, never finding a "smoking gun", while the other camp finds one right after another. When this continues for decade after decade, a pattern emerges: we witness the throes of a dying theory. And then the emotional reaction kicks in-- irritation over what is viewed as "clinginess" to ideas that fail.

However, I agree that this emotional response is incorrect-- a crucial part of how science functions is a certain degree of contrariness to maintain skepticism. More power to the contrarians, while the rest of us should take a "chill pill". At the same time, the "contrarians" can drop the "I know I'm right but my ideas are suppressed by closed minds" attitude you sometime see-- that gets old too. And the most annoying of all are those who criticize theories they obviously don't understand at all!

Spaceman Spiff
2008-Mar-23, 10:20 PM
As an astronomer, I'll give a hearty second to physicist KenG's assessment.

Cougar
2008-Mar-23, 11:44 PM
Very well put, Spiff and Ken. I just wanted to point out to William that his characterization:


...people become convinced that one line of reasoning is “ATM” and should be attacked as heretical.... A heretic is group attacked, where certain beliefs of a group are considered to be sacrosanct....

....contains this gratuitous violent and religious language ("Group-attack the heretic whose beliefs aren't sacrosanct!), and it's grossly untrue and misleading and frankly it seems particularly crafted to insult the basis of science itself as being no better than the most fundamentalist and irrational of the religious doctrines and interpretations. After all, the first definition of a heretic is:



noun
1. a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.

What people here are held to account for is not obeisance to anything but good sense and conformance with what is observed and what's logically consistent.... These are not religious themes.


There is an emotional response to the label of “ATM”.
I agree that being objective is probably best accomplished with a minimum of emotion. However, I am not advocating a completely Spockian lifestyle. :razz:

But your question about what the ATM label means is well taken. Should it be "against the mainstream" or "outside the mainstream," which might include "unknown to the mainstream"? Some specific antagonism "against" some existing mainstream view I would think need not be required to fit into this category.


How does a person present and discuss anomalous observations and analysis, without promoting the emotional response?
Like a lawyer before the Supreme Court. You better be prepared. :eek:


Horgan stated that he and other scientific writers are searching for a heretic whose views lead to a breakthrough. Horgan differentiates between a heretic and a crank, supporting heretics, but not cranks.
Then I chastise John for choosing such terminology when "a revolutionary" is what he means, and it has none of the religious baggage as "heretic." Sometimes writers break the speed limit of their poetic license.

William
2008-Mar-24, 02:09 AM
In reply to Cougar’s comment


...contains this gratuitous violent and religious language ("Group-attack the heretic whose beliefs aren't sacrosanct!), and it's grossly untrue and misleading and frankly it seems particularly crafted to insult the basis of science itself as being no better than the most fundamentalist and irrational of the religious doctrines and interpretations. After all, the first definition of a heretic is:

ATM
Let us look for common ground as to what is or is not ATM.

Observations that can not be explained are not ATM. Do you, do other members of the forum, support that statement?

Father/Mother of a Theory
The originator(s) of a theory have an unavoidable emotional connection/attachment to the theory, for numerous sociological reasons. When data and analysis is found that challenge the theory, it asserted that there is an emotion barrier that makes it difficult for the originator(s) to see the observations with curiosity, viewed as an opportunity to advance science.

In reply to Cougar's comment concerning process:


Like a lawyer before the Supreme Court. You better be prepared.

A better analog and one that is more effective in solving problems would be an ideal CSI team. Evidence which challenges a hypothesis, is just as valid as supporting evidence. The objective of an ideal CSI team is to find the truth. There is a process as the data is analyzed and discussed as well as the competing hypotheses.

Individual, Team, & Process Failure
As I stated Arp and Fritz Zwicky failed to get the “team” interested in the anomaly. Failure to determine that data is anomalous is failure of the “team” and its processes. There are specific reasons why Arp and Zwicky failed.

William
2008-Mar-24, 04:13 AM
http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/archives/000094.html

Anthropic principle & Multiverses

Above is a link to Peter Voit’s comment on Sean Carrol’s Essay on Landscape, which Ken G. provided a link to.

Voit starts with the comment that he does not object to unobservables and I would assume obtuse theories. He states that if the multiverse hypothesis could make predictions and was testable then he would accept it. It does not. His next comment is a more general criticism of M-theory.


But, absent such a compelling theory, people who go on about unobservable multiple universes are not behaving very differently from those theologians who supposedly took an interest in angels and pins. Science is about coming up with explanations for the way the world works, explanations that can in principle be tested by making more observations of the world. If you’ve been working on a theory for twenty years and it has totally failed to make any testable predictions, you should admit failure and move on, not engage in elaborate apologetics for why your theory can’t predict anything.


Carrol and another String theorist (Lubos Motl), response to Viot's comment is interesting and immediately follows. (See the same link.)

Cougar
2008-Mar-24, 02:10 PM
ATM
Let us look for common ground as to what is or is not ATM.

Observations that can not be explained are not ATM. Do you, do other members of the forum, support that statement?

Well, logically, if the mainstream takes no position on an issue, then there's nothing to go "against." But I am also sensitive to criticisms that the ATM section has been "destroyed" due to rule changes or whatever. I would rather be inclusive rather than restrictive. I would like to see ATM include anything that is not mainstream, whether it is in direct opposition to some existing mainstream view or not.


Father/Mother of a Theory
The originator(s) of a theory have an unavoidable emotional connection/attachment to the theory, for numerous sociological reasons. When data and analysis is found that challenge the theory, it asserted that there is an emotion barrier that makes it difficult for the originator(s) to see the observations with curiosity, viewed as an opportunity to advance science.

Unfortunately, this is indeed generally the case. If I presented an ATM proposal, I would tend to expect some error or miscalculation to be pointed out to me, and then if valid, I would accept the correction. As you say, this rarely happens.


A better analog and one that is more effective in solving problems would be an ideal CSI team.

:lol:

Ken G
2008-Mar-24, 06:39 PM
In my view, the comments after the blog entry William linked to :
http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/w...es/000094.html

speak volumes about the problem here. Of course I cannot understand what they are talking about, conformal local symmetries and so forth, but I can tell what they are talking about, and more correctly, what they are not talking about. They are talking about mathematical representations. To me, their discussion sounds no different than how a discussion between Galileo and Kepler about circular and elliptical orbits would sound to someone who doesn't know any geometry at all. But that person would ask, "what does this have to do with the planets?"

In other words, if you see where I'm going, the problem with the entire discussion is that nowhere are mentioned any observations-- neither existing or suggested. How can such smart people even think they are having a physics discussion? They are having a mathematically based natural philosophy discussion, as if "reality goes to the smartest mathematician". Didn't we get away from that after Aristotle? Apparently not.

For example, consider this semi-sensical statement by Thomas Larsson:
"I disagree about physical meaningfulness, because I believe in locality. If general covariance remains a gauge symmetry after quantization, then there is no Hamiltonian, no energy, no time evolution, and no locality. This seems utterly unphysical to me."
I call it semi-sensical from my perspective because I have at least been introduced to all the words used, though I certainly cannot comment on the accuracy of the remark. Nor do I feel I need to-- I can merely ask, at what point did what "seems utterly unphysical" start to look like someone sitting in judgement based on mathematical notions of covariance symmetries, instead of someone poring over observations that either exist or need to exist? Hello?

dhd40
2008-Mar-25, 05:10 PM
Aren´t Multiverses self-contraditory? As soon as we "know" (physically, not mathematically) something about them they are part of "OUR" Universe!?

Noclevername
2008-Mar-25, 08:44 PM
Aren´t Multiverses self-contraditory? As soon as we "know" (physically, not mathematically) something about them they are part of "OUR" Universe!?

Depends on your definition of Universe.

EvilEye
2008-Mar-25, 08:56 PM
Uni (one) verse (version) - more specifically - vertere, meaning "something rotated, rolled, changed"

(from Wikipedia)Lucretius used the word in the sense "everything rolled into one, everything combined into one".

One Version = ALL encompassing.
There cannot be 2 or more ALL encompassing versions. Because the others would be part of the natural state of the one.

Noclevername
2008-Mar-25, 11:26 PM
Uni (one) verse (version) - more specifically - vertere, meaning "something rotated, rolled, changed"

(from Wikipedia)Lucretius used the word in the sense "everything rolled into one, everything combined into one".

One Version = ALL encompassing.
There cannot be 2 or more ALL encompassing versions. Because the others would be part of the natural state of the one.

That's one definition, yes, and by that one, you'd be right. Physicists have their own versions. (Several, in fact)

Disinfo Agent
2008-Mar-25, 11:41 PM
In my view, the comments after the blog entry William linked to :
http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/w...es/000094.html

speak volumes about the problem here. Of course I cannot understand what they are talking about, conformal local symmetries and so forth, but I can tell what they are talking about, and more correctly, what they are not talking about. They are talking about mathematical representations. To me, their discussion sounds no different than how a discussion between Galileo and Kepler about circular and elliptical orbits would sound to someone who doesn't know any geometry at all. But that person would ask, "what does this have to do with the planets?"

In other words, if you see where I'm going, the problem with the entire discussion is that nowhere are mentioned any observations-- neither existing or suggested. How can such smart people even think they are having a physics discussion? So a hypothetical discussion between Galileo and Kepler about the shape of the orbits of the planets would not be a physics discussion?! I am baffled.

Ken G
2008-Mar-26, 12:33 AM
It would not be a physics discussion without the observations of the planets-- and you may be sure that said observations would appear rather prominently in any such discussion between those individuals. That's the point.

a1call
2008-Mar-26, 01:45 AM
Are multiverse theories ATM?

For what it's worth from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many_worlds)


Acceptance among physicists

...
"Many worlds"-like interpretations are now considered fairly mainstream within the quantum physics community. For example, a poll of 72 leading physicists conducted by the American researcher David Raub in 1995 and published in the French periodical Sciences et Avenir in January 1998 recorded that nearly 60% thought many worlds interpretation was "true"....also reports the result of a poll taken at a 1997 quantum mechanics workshop. According to Tegmark, "The many worlds interpretation (MWI) scored second, comfortably ahead of the consistent histories and Bohm interpretations." ... MWI sceptics (for instance Asher Peres) argue that polls regarding the acceptance of a particular interpretation within the scientific community, such as those mentioned above, cannot be used as evidence supporting a specific interpretation's validity. However, others note that science is a group activity (for instance, peer review) and that polls are a systematic way of revealing the thinking of the scientific community.

A 2005 minor poll on the Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics workshop at the Institute for Quantum Computing University of Waterloo produced contrary results, with the MWI as the least favored.[5]
....

Ken G
2008-Mar-26, 02:00 AM
And don't forget, Tegmark gave us the "quantum suicide" thought experiment (google it or see the thread in General Science). Personally I think it's pretty sad if 60% of scientists in theoretical physics think many worlds is "true", in the absence of even a single observational fact that distinguishes it. But I submit you will not find that among all practicing physicists-- only those "leading ones" who I submit have a pretty good dose of hubris to go with their brilliance. Of course we'll take the former to get the latter...

Spaceman Spiff
2008-Mar-26, 02:27 AM
But the multi-worlds model in interpreting quantum mechanics isn't the same as the multiverse model in quantum cosmology, is it?

Ken G
2008-Mar-26, 02:53 AM
You're right, many worlds is the idea that because quantum mechanics involves a particular mathematical way of evolving wave functions in time, measurements "have to" yield all possible results and therefore spawn "many worlds". The multiverse is an idea that our universe is only one part of a larger one with statistically distributed values of the fundamental parameters. So that's not the same thing. But they do share a similar flavor, in that they are both efforts to "explain" without resorting to experiment. In that sense, they both treat an "explanation" as if its job was to generate a sense of cognitive resonance, rather than as a way of organizing data in a way that could lead to predictions for new experiments. In short, they are both efforts to insert what we might call "reality" into a larger milieu that is unconstrained and untested, just to resolve certain "pesky issues" about the reality we find. To me, it makes a lot more sense to simply recognize the pesky issues, than to think of them as in need of resolution using the information we have at hand. Why change reality just to make our minds like it better? It doesn't seem very scientific at all.

EvilEye
2008-Mar-26, 03:08 AM
The discovery of a Multiverse or layered universes would still only make 1 single entity if tested and shown to be true.

The unification theory by name itself would explain EVERYTHING, which in turn would just make our universe different, but complete. Still JUST ONE.

One of something more than we had observed up to now.

George
2008-Mar-26, 03:42 AM
Wonderful thread. I just saw Universe (Multiverse stuff) on the history channel and thought of y'all. They seemed so sure of themselves. I would guess it isn't the fame factor, but that they have been this scientigous for quite some time.


"If general covariance remains a gauge symmetry after quantization, then there is no Hamiltonian, no energy, no time evolution, and no locality. This seems utterly unphysical to me."
I call it semi-sensical from my perspective because I have at least been introduced to all the words used, though I certainly cannot comment on the accuracy of the remark. I agree. Ug. Is this what becomes of corn when converted to high octane? There best fight is with recondite! :D


It would not be a physics discussion without the observations of the planets-- and you may be sure that said observations would appear rather prominently in any such discussion between those individuals. That's the point. What a great analogy! Tycho had to rely on Kepler to do the very difficult calculations of his unique and accurate data. [Kepler had refused to work under Tycho, insisting to only work with him.] Kepler loved his polygons, but he stuck with the data. The worst variance in the data from a circular orbit for Mars was 8 arcminutes, IIRC. He stuck with the data, and won the honors.

Even the Church was interested in observations to support their religious views! The Jesuits were some of Kepler's best friends, and he was Lutheran.

Ken G
2008-Mar-26, 03:42 AM
The discovery of a Multiverse or layered universes would still only make 1 single entity if tested and shown to be true.

But we know we can't observe the multiverse, our instruments could not even function in an environment with those parameters. There is no way we could ever "discover" the multiverse, its existence will always be like Shangri-La. A nice place to imagine exists if not knowing why our universe has its parameters is keeping you up at night.

SkepticJ
2008-Mar-26, 03:57 AM
I happen to be reading Paul Davies The Cosmic Jackpot. I'm about in the middle of the book, and I'm not sure where he's going with this, but he is reporting on the long-standing question about the physical constants and why they seem to be so finely tuned to allow stars and galaxies and observers such as us to exist. If the relative masses of the proton and neutron were slightly different, our universe would be nothing like what we observe, and indeed, observers could not exist.

Yes, this is the Anthropic question, and Davies points out that historically scientists have considered this as tautological, unproductive, and unworthy of any scientific consideration. But in the last few years, several respected and very knowledgeable theoretical physicists and cosmologists have said, "Wait a minute. These cosmic coincidences are significant and too coincidental to ignore any longer." And the odd comparative strengths of the various constants? Why the heck is the electromagnetic force 1040 times stronger than the gravitational force? (But as it happens, that's a good thing.) And the biggest miscalculation of all time, why does the vacuum energy appear to be 10119 times weaker than quantum mechanical calculations imply it should be? (Again, a darn good thing it is, too!)

I really don't see how anything has changed. It's good for us, since we like to exist, but this universe, as it is, is not objectively any better, any more special, than any other conceivable universe. It's only because we value the process called life that this universe is special to us at all.

If the universe had difference constants, perhaps other forms of life would exist, and they'd be thinking, "Hey, if the physical constants were just a little different, we couldn't exist. There would be no electromagnetic tendrils for us to live around and attract our magnetic monopole food. There'd be no quark-gluon plasma to swim through. Pshaw! Life couldn't exist without quark-gluon plasma!"

Ken G
2008-Mar-27, 12:34 AM
Yes, for all those reasons, I think the multiverse idea is scientifically sterile, and still await a shred of evidence to the contrary.

Spaceman Spiff
2008-Mar-27, 02:35 PM
I don't know....We'd really like to understand what becomes of the matter and energy that find themselves inside the event horizons of black holes (assuming that such horizons do actually form, but that's another question.). Such an understanding would likely (being optimistic) have profound implications on what we can actually observe on this side of the event horizon (but I forget what the status is of the bet/debate between Thorne and Hawking re. information loss in black holes). Doesn't even the mere existence of black holes have something to say about the universe we live in? Is the multiverse concept so much further removed from that of black holes in at least this sense?

George
2008-Mar-27, 03:13 PM
Yes, for all those reasons, I think the multiverse idea is scientifically sterile, and still await a shred of evidence to the contrary.

Your views on what science is, and is not, should be critical to all of science. Much is at stake in allowing pseudoscience residence in the objective realm.

Yet, there does not seem to be much of an appropriate term that identifies and puts conjecture in its place. "Theory" should be reserved term. I can see why everyone wants to use it as a tag to their ideas, but if another term were well established to qualify these incipient theories, then they should be less prone to try to abuse the "theory" term. [Added: I entered "Multiverse Theory" in Google and got 25,000 hits.]

Every dog wants in the house when it's raining, but build them a dog house and they can stay out where they belong. :)

Ken G
2008-Mar-27, 04:05 PM
Doesn't even the mere existence of black holes have something to say about the universe we live in? Is the multiverse concept so much further removed from that of black holes in at least this sense?
A fair question, but I would say that everything we know about black holes, everything, comes from extrapolating the equations of physics as found through experiments on this side of the event horizon. That is the natural logic-- we do experiments here, develop theories, the theories make predictions, and the predictions have their own consequences here. If in the process, we create an image of something on the "other side" that helps us organize the data over here, that's fine-- but we don't need to say that our picture of what is going on inside a black hole is real, beyond its impact over here.

I would use the example of "image charges" here. We know that if you put a charge near a conductor, the conductor will impose a boundary condition that lets you figure out the electric field near the charge. This you can determine without knowing what is actually happening inside the conductor, and indeed you can model it by replacing the conductor with an "image charge" that serves to create the same boundary condition. If you never do observations inside the conductor, the image charge approach is a fully successful model of the reality where you do the experiments, and your scientists would never be the wiser that conductors do anything different. If you do experiments inside the conductor, you find it is not a sufficient model. But with black holes, the latter never happens, so we need not distinguish what is "really happening" inside a black hole from the image it leaves on the outside.

The connection to multiverses is that there we have the worst of both worlds-- we never do the observations on the "other side", but they also don't establish any conditions that are relevant here. They don't help us calculate or predict anything happening here, they don't put any constraints on the physics here. They are purely a philosophical tool to give a sense that there is not a mystery where there in fact is a mystery. It's classic magical thinking-- the inclusion of an untestable mechanism to replace our discomfort and powerlessness about mystery. That's a valid approach for some things that humans do, but science was expressly designed to get us away from that-- how ironic the ways it tries to sneak back in, like a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Ken G
2008-Mar-27, 04:14 PM
Yet, there does not seem to be much of an appropriate term that identifies and puts conjecture in its place. "Theory" should be reserved term. I can see why everyone wants to use it as a tag to their ideas, but if another term were well established to qualify these incipient theories, then they should be less prone to try to abuse the "theory" term. [Added: I entered "Multiverse Theory" in Google and got 25,000 hits.]Excellent point. Say what you will about multiverses, but we should at least be able to agree it is not a "scientific theory" in the same way that evolution is, because if it is, then all the complaints about evolution would actually be correct. Concepts like that dilute the meaning of a scientific theory, and instill confusion about what scientists actually do and what their claim on the truth actually is. That's the harm in it, I agree with you.


Every dog wants in the house when it's raining, but build them a dog house and they can stay out where they belong. :)Yes, the trouble is, everyone wants to eat at the captain's table-- no one wants to be "in the doghouse"!

Spaceman Spiff
2008-Mar-27, 05:57 PM
The connection to multiverses is that there we have the worst of both worlds-- we never do the observations on the "other side", but they also don't establish any conditions that are relevant here. They don't help us calculate or predict anything happening here, they don't put any constraints on the physics here. They are purely a philosophical tool to give a sense that there is not a mystery where there in fact is a mystery. It's classic magical thinking-- the inclusion of an untestable mechanism to replace our discomfort and powerlessness about mystery. That's a valid approach for some things that humans do, but science was expressly designed to get us away from that-- how ironic the ways it tries to sneak back in, like a wolf in sheep's clothing.

To the extent that what you describe is and always will be true about "multiverses", then I'd agree. Certainly, any idea that exists solely (and so untestable for any conceivable length of time) to address the anthropic (or some other philosophical) principle is pretty useless from science's point of view. However, I am uncertain that even at the present time this is entirely the case for the multiverse "model" (but I'll leave that to Linde et al.), and if you had asked physicists in Mr. Karl Schwarzschild's day whether black holes had a snowball's chance in :evil: to exist in this reality outside of the mathematics of GR or that we could ever study them even if they did, I doubt you'd find many takers.

George
2008-Mar-27, 05:58 PM
Say what you will about multiverses, but we should at least be able to agree it is not a "scientific theory" ... I was hoping for a snappy new term for a "want-a-be" theory; an antidote for the anecdotal. :)

An incipient theory could stumble into something that would validate it as a legitimate theory, but [until then] some special term should exist to minimize the confussion or expectations.


Yes, the trouble is, everyone wants to eat at the captain's table-- no one wants to be "in the doghouse"! That's kinda snappy! But a little restrictive to the corn field, of which I'm often fond.

Here is one suggestion for an incipient theory.... Thark. It is a theory that is just bark, thus no bite. "The multiverse thark", hmmm, maybe not.

"The Mulitiverse Theific". Theific -- if it were a theory, we'd call it theory. IOW, too ify to qualify as a theory for now.

"The Multiverse Theison". Theison -- You can go ahead and do a thesis on it, just don't call it a theory.

My usual fee for this effort applies, of course. :razz:

John Mendenhall
2008-Mar-27, 07:27 PM
Yes, for all those reasons, I think the multiverse idea is scientifically sterile, and still await a shred of evidence to the contrary.



Don't sugar coat it, Ken, tell it like it is.

By the way, I agree whole heartedly with everything you've said on this thread.

Thanks, John M.

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 12:45 AM
However, I am uncertain that even at the present time this is entirely the case for the multiverse "model" (but I'll leave that to Linde et al.), and if you had asked physicists in Mr. Karl Schwarzschild's day whether black holes had a snowball's chance in :evil: to exist in this reality outside of the mathematics of GR or that we could ever study them even if they did, I doubt you'd find many takers.

But black hole models make specific predictions. It has nothing at all to do with my feeling like something is "unphysical", I would not impose my philosophy. Indeed, my whole point is that there is no need to invoke philosophy at all-- we find the truth by looking. It is clear enough to me what we are looking at when we talk about black holes-- what are we "looking at" when it comes to multiverses? My problem is not that they make predictions that I find unlikely, my problem is that they don't make predictions at all. And if they do, they are sure doing a far worse job of publicizing those predictions than they are of weaving semi-scientific parables to convince others of the absence of mystery here.

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 01:09 AM
I was hoping for a snappy new term for a "want-a-be" theory; an antidote for the anecdotal.
Maybe something along the lines of "parable" works here. I don't want to suggest there's not a value to making pictures about how we understand things, I just don't think people should think it is science or that the way to establish its validity is to consider how it alleviates anxiety.


An incipient theory could stumble into something that would validate it as a legitimate theory, but [until then] some special term should exist to minimize the confussion or expectations.I would define an incipient theory as one that makes predictions but it is unknown if the predictions are borne out. Multiverses aren't even that, they are delivered in essentially the final form that they will ever have, which is why no one is saying "I can't wait until we have the next supercollider up and running so we can test this idea".

Here is one suggestion for an incipient theory.... Thark. It is a theory that is just bark, thus no bite. "The multiverse thark", hmmm, maybe not.
It's no worse than "meme"!

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 01:12 AM
By the way, I agree whole heartedly with everything you've said on this thread.Thanks, it helps to know I'm getting some traction, because what I'm doing here is the same kind of scientific rhetoric that I wish the parable-makers would admit to. I'm only claiming to try and convince-- I, unlike them, know I'm not doing science here. I'm "convinced" that you can imagine our parameters live in a larger "landscape" of parameters, and if you imagine that, you have no issue with why the parameters are what they are-- you accomplish cognitive resonance. And, I'm "convinced" that no step in that process is science, and for support, I cite the scientific method.

EvilEye
2008-Mar-28, 01:40 AM
Black holes in the universe are part of the universe, and anything they do is part of it by proxy.

Universe means EVERYTHING. Anything we find to be true is part of the universe. Not just OUR universe. There is only one. If not...then where we are is not correctly labeled.

George
2008-Mar-28, 03:20 AM
I would define an incipient theory as one that makes predictions but it is unknown if the predictions are borne out. Multiverses aren't even that, they are delivered in essentially the final form that they will ever have, which is why no one is saying "I can't wait until we have the next supercollider up and running so we can test this idea". Perhaps the use of "incipient" does offer unjustified hope, though in evolutionary use, there is no certainity an incipient species will ever become defined as a new one, but there is that sense of direction.

Is there really no chance for some academic efficacy in the Multiverse Thark? Hasn't the String Thark developed to the point it makes testable predictions, though few (not that I know)?

This is why I suggest some labeling may be overdue in order that people will be more inclined to categorize their non-theory into a less marketable and more conjectural category. It takes a collective group to organize and vote someone off the island, and they are less likely to leave if they have to swim. [Suddenly a tiger just crossed my mind. :eek:]. Give them a boat (label) and they will be more apt to leave.

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 05:33 AM
Is there really no chance for some academic efficacy in the Multiverse Thark? The question is, where is the burden of proof before something is considered science? If someone claims that astrology is a viable avenue to explore but just hasn't yet made verifiable predictions, shall we allow them to therefore call it an "incipient scientific theory"?
Hasn't the String Thark developed to the point it makes testable predictions, though few (not that I know)? I'm no string theorist, but my impression is that string theory does not require multiverses to work-- in other words, there is no experiment that if it came out "there are no multiverses" (impossible to begin with), then it would mean "there can't be string theory". String theory has been criticized on the grounds of not making predictions, but there seems to be a lot of hope that it could. It's a fundamentally new way to think about the matter in the universe. The multiverse "landscape" is an idea that not only could have been introduced hundreds of years ago, it probably was. It's relationship to string theory might be compared to the many-worlds view's relationship to quantum mechanics-- if you were inclined to think that way, you now have a theory that supports that applet. But the applet can't be used to verify or refute the theory (if it could, it would be science).

Give them a boat (label) and they will be more apt to leave."Imaginary picture" works for me.

George
2008-Mar-28, 01:21 PM
The question is, where is the burden of proof before something is considered science? If someone claims that astrology is a viable avenue to explore but just hasn't yet made verifiable predictions, shall we allow them to therefore call it an "incipient scientific theory"? Astrology is not all that bad. :razz: It is obvious that celestial bodies do have an influence on mankind. Ask a farmer or fisherman. So, in the distant past, could we not have once argued that astrology had some merit as an incipient theory (unlike today's version that enjoys a penthouse on the outskirts of Sillyville)?

My real interest here is more of a "fix-it" point of view. I admire and agree with your view, and I feel this is a very important issue. As a near outsider to physics, I sense a need for some new and appropiate labels to constrain the acceptability of non-theories. The "theory" label is clearly being abused, though there are some surprisingly big names out there that seem to make little effort to "eschew obfuscation" about the Multiverse Thark. Bandwagons are not easy to control. Would some improved labels (counter labels, if you will) help?


String theory has been criticized on the grounds of not making predictions, but there seems to be a lot of hope that it could.On this basis, it is not a theory, but a thark (or whatever). It is called a theory, even by yourself (and everyone else, of course), though, if it had more appropriate label, maybe it would not.

I do recall a prediction did emerge a year or so ago. When it was tested, it failed terribly. I also recall an East coast physicist (Georgetown or Brown?) discuss why it should not be considered a theory. What label(s) does he risk being assigned to him? [I'm probably too negative here, but I am curious.]


It's a fundamentally new way to think about the matter in the universe. I assume that's the sizzle, and it sells, especially when adorned with the "theory" label.


The multiverse "landscape" is an idea that not only could have been introduced hundreds of years ago, it probably was. I am quite confident you are correct. [It may take a little time, but if you would like me to hunt some down, I'll be pleased to try, though, on second thought, I don't know it would help your arguments.]


"Imaginary picture" works for me. Ok, I can work with this one. :) And, it's an acronym... Thimp (Theorized Imaginary Picture)! It's the Multiverse Thimp! ;) It is too good, I'm afraid. It is suggistive of a pimping action, which it is. :)

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 02:26 PM
Astrology is not all that bad. :razz: It is obvious that celestial bodies do have an influence on mankind. Ask a farmer or fisherman. So, in the distant past, could we not have once argued that astrology had some merit as an incipient theory (unlike today's version that enjoys a penthouse on the outskirts of Sillyville)?
Astrology is actually an excellent example of the issue here. The problem with astrology as science was never that its claims were absurd or wrong, because some of them aren't-- like you say, the Sun creates daylight, the Moon the tides. The problem was that they never involved use of the scientific method-- they were magical thinking. They took a few observations that were objectively repeatable (daylight, seasons, tides) and extrapolated them to the other celestial bodies (I once heard it announced quite matter-of-factly that machines break a lot when Mars is in retrograde). This was done to avoid the discomfort of not knowing how things work, rather than by demonstrable application of observation and testing. So it's never the conclusions that are the problem, it is the mode of arriving at them. A scientific conclusion looks like "we did some observations and got this result-- you could do them too but you don't need to if you can trust our analysis", while nonscience looks like "here's what we choose to believe, and you can too if you want to be able to relate to us."


The "theory" label is clearly being abused, though there are some surprisingly big names out there that seem to make little effort to "eschew obfuscation" about the Multiverse Thark. Bandwagons are not easy to control. Would some improved labels (counter labels, if you will) help? Probably, but to get them to catch on, one would have to get the "big names" to use them too. So the first step would still be to get them to recognize why they have fallen into very much the same traps that many devoted themselves to science to avoid. The main problem is the pretense that the "scientist hat" is on the whole time, even when it comes off, and perhaps a label would help make that distinction.


On this basis, it is not a theory, but a thark (or whatever). It is called a theory, even by yourself (and everyone else, of course), though, if it had more appropriate label, maybe it would not.
One could call it a meme to use a label that is widely accepted in semi-scientific circles. If one called it "the multiverse meme", it would tend to expose it as more of an idea contagion rather than a scientific theory. (And fittingly, the concept of "meme" itself falls in that category, but I won't go there.)

I am quite confident you are correct. [It may take a little time, but if you would like me to hunt some down, I'll be pleased to try, though, on second thought, I don't know it would help your arguments.]It would help a lot-- any evidence that the multiverse concept does not arise directly from string theory would put it in perspective as a standalone application that is compatible with the string theory operating system, rather than a manifestation of it.


Ok, I can work with this one. :) And, it's an acronym... Thimp (Theorized Imaginary Picture)! It's the Multiverse Thimp! ;) It is too good, I'm afraid. It is suggistive of a pimping action, which it is. :)Maybe we'd better just stay with multiverse meme!

John Mendenhall
2008-Mar-28, 02:56 PM
If one called it "the multiverse meme", it would tend to expose it as more of an idea contagion rather than a scientific theory.



I don't think I've ever seen the phrase 'idea contagion' before, but it hits the nail on the head. Some wonderfully clever idea, unsupported by observation or experiment, perhaps even false (astrology), or untestable (strings), or not reliably observed and repeatable (UFO's), that takes people by storm.

If I try, I can probably step on everybody's toes in just this one post. Then I'll have to move to an (unobservable) multiverse.

Keep posting, Ken, I love 'em. Regards, John M.

Cougar
2008-Mar-28, 03:01 PM
I should clarify that Paul Steinhardt, the Einstein Professor at Princeton, is a vociferous opponent of the multiverse idea, and he, along with Neil Turok, have published a book (along with numerous papers, I'm sure) establishing their views on the matter. See Endless Universe, Beyond the Big Bang [2007]. I guess it was Susskind, the 'father' of string theory, who gave some momentum to the idea of multiverses when he realized that string theory, rather than converging on a single solution, seemed to have something like 10500 solutions, mainly due to the different ways various dimensions can be compactified. And he thought, "Maybe this means something." His book is The Cosmic Landscape, String theory and the illusion of intelligent design [2006]. According to Davies, other string theorists are the most vociferous critics of the multiverse idea, and they still expect string theory to yield a unique solution.

More on Paul Davies' excellent Cosmic Jackpot when I get a chance.

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 03:01 PM
I don't think I've ever seen the phrase 'idea contagion' before, but it hits the nail on the head. Some wonderfully clever idea, unsupported by observation or experiment, perhaps even false (astrology), or untestable (strings), or not reliably observed and repeatable (UFO's), that takes people by storm.
Yes, this is basically my objection to the "meme" concept the way Dawkins lays it out. He looks at parallels between the propagation of ideas and the propagation of genes, but I say that the analogy is of limited scientific usefulness unless the mechanism of propagation is also similar. In the case of ideas, it seems to me that a "contagion model", rather than a "genetic model", is at least as appropriate, and both leave out what might be the most important part of all-- the interaction of the modification and the host. So when the mechanisms for modification and reproduction of ideas, genes, and germs are all so different, where is the value in overstating the similarities?

George
2008-Mar-28, 04:33 PM
Probably, but to get them to catch on, one would have to get the "big names" to use them too. So the first step would still be to get them to recognize why they have fallen into very much the same traps that many devoted themselves to science to avoid. The main problem is the pretense that the "scientist hat" is on the whole time, even when it comes off, and perhaps a label would help make that distinction. Admittedly, any appropriate word that would classify a want-a-be-theory would have to be attractive to parties on both sides of the fence. However, if one label can be found that does have a nice respectable ring to it, and is obvious to everyone as to its definition, then, what excuse would they have not to use the term? If you put a competitor in a position where they would look silly to their peers for not taking the honest route, then these term abusers would suddenly appear disingenious. An honest term for an exciting conceptulization, but makes neither predictions nor offers observational evidence, may need to be created as the existing terms aren't working, apparently.

As I see it, the scientists that publicly denounce non-theories may, at times, be seen as tomato throwers, sour grape critics, nay-sayers, etc. These denoucners are throwing water onto the spirtual fires of the scientists who offer new and exciting ideas that may open doors into the vast walls restricting our adventerous spirit into the "last frontier". Of course, the opposite is true, since the scientific method has the proven rock foundation; the other is on shifting sand.

Since they build on sandy shores, some in de Nile (lame comic relief), where is the sand label? If one were to exist, then true science now can more easily call them on the carpet for falsely claiming they are on the rock foundation of the scientific method. Surely, most of them know they are not honoring the use of "theory", but if no restrictive term constrains them, then they are more apt to advance their "idea contagion" (nice one Ken) with the disapplicable "theory" tag.


Maybe we'd better just stay with multiverse meme! Every time I see meme, I think of Austin Power's Mini-me. A Multiverse meme has a nice ring to it, but only for our side of the fence, I suspect. There should be a label that gives them a place they know they belong, and will look out-of-place if they are not there. Their eviction from the objective realm may be deserved, but, somehow, keeping them out in the first place with a shelter of their own, would be much wiser.

I am only throwing out my views knowing I am not in the sceintific world you are in, so I hope all will take what I say with a grain or two of salt.

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 04:57 PM
An honest term for an exciting conceptulization, but makes neither predictions nor offers observational evidence, may need to be created as the existing terms aren't working, apparently. What's most odd is that there's no such term already-- given how often nonscientific areas follow this path. Basically we have the scientific method, appeal to authority, or purely [/I]"exciting conceptualizations", and little else, to go on as we construct our sense of what is true. The first tends to describe its body of constructed truths as "theories", the second "canon", and the third, ?? It would need to be something that reflects its subjective character, and our general unease with that topic may explain the lack of a good word (or we're just not thinking of it).


As I see it, the scientists that publicly denounce non-theories may, at times, be seen as tomato throwers, sour grape critics, nay-sayers, etc. These denoucners are throwing water onto the spirtual fires of the scientists who offer new and exciting ideas that may open doors into the vast walls restricting our adventerous spirit into the "last frontier". Of course, the opposite is true, since the scientific method has the proven rock foundation; the other is on shifting sand.Yes, that same complaint has been lodged by "cranks" on the fringe of science. Apparently, many scientists believe that if the "scientist" hat fits, the "crank" hat cannot also.


Every time I see meme, I think of Austin Power's Mini-me. A Multiverse meme has a nice ring to it, but only for our side of the fence, I suspect. Well, mini-me is even more appropriate! "The multiverse mini-me", that's just perfect. Or perhaps, maxi-me? That's the seminar title right there: "The Multiverse: Maxim or Maxi-me?" You heard it here first, folks.

trinitree88
2008-Mar-28, 06:31 PM
What's most odd is that there's no such term already-- given how often nonscientific areas follow this path. Basically we have the scientific method, appeal to authority, or purely [/I]"exciting conceptualizations", and little else, to go on as we construct our sense of what is true. The first tends to describe its body of constructed truths as "theories", the second "canon", and the third, ?? It would need to be something that reflects its subjective character, and our general unease with that topic may explain the lack of a good word (or we're just not thinking of it).
Yes, that same complaint has been lodged by "cranks" on the fringe of science. Apparently, many scientists believe that if the "scientist" hat fits, the "crank" hat cannot also.
Well, mini-me is even more appropriate! "The multiverse mini-me", that's just perfect. Or perhaps, maxi-me? That's the seminar title right there: "The Multiverse: Maxim or Maxi-me?" You heard it here first, folks.

Ken. :clap::D:clap:,.......pete

George
2008-Mar-28, 06:42 PM
What's most odd is that there's no such term already-- given how often nonscientific areas follow this path. Basically we have the scientific method, appeal to authority, or purely [/i]"exciting conceptualizations", and little else, to go on as we construct our sense of what is true. The first tends to describe its body of constructed truths as "theories", the second "canon", and the third, ?? That does seem odd considering all the taxonomy and philosophy since the ancient Greeks.


It would need to be something that reflects its subjective character, and our general unease with that topic may explain the lack of a good word (or we're just not thinking of it). Yes, that's logical. I wonder, too, if science has been a bit too tolerant since it emerged from the subjective realm itself.


Yes, that same complaint has been lodged by "cranks" on the fringe of science. Apparently, many scientists believe that if the "scientist" hat fits, the "crank" hat cannot also. Yes, I believe hubris is a word I learned from reading many prior threads. [Not applied to me, of course; I'm kinda proud of my humility. :)]


Well, mini-me is even more appropriate! "The multiverse mini-me", that's just perfect. You might want to get some advertising estimates first. ;)


Or perhaps, maxi-me? That's the seminar title right there: "The Multiverse: Maxim or Maxi-me?" You heard it here first, folks. Now that I've stopped laughing. That isn't all that bad. Maxim has a respectuful texture to it. It seems to be ambiguious enough that it might sell to both sides.

Here's one: "According to Immanuel Kant, a maxim is a subjective principle or rule that the will of an individual uses in making a decision."

And for the other camp..."a statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct."

If you offer the definitions for the term(s) you would like created, I'll start a new thread. There are many gifted in language here. Perhaps something useful might develop.

Thinking further, if other scientists like yourself feel it is time for the creation of a new term, maybe a more public, large scale contest might be beneficial. The contest alone would serve as an awareness program.

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 08:07 PM
Those are all good ideas, including the two basic ways of looking at a "maxim" (Kant's way seems more precise and more useful in this context, but you're right that the connotations would make it an easier sell.) I think you have a crystal clear view of the possible and appropriate meanings that we are looking for-- that which distinguishes objectively and demonstrably useful ways to organize truth-knowledge from subjectively attractive modes that have little or no predictive power but elicit a "warm fuzzy feeling" of comprehension in the practitoner.

George
2008-Mar-28, 09:11 PM
I think you have a crystal clear view of the possible and appropriate meanings that we are looking for-- that which distinguishes objectively and demonstrably useful ways to organize truth-knowledge from subjectively attractive modes that have little or no predictive power but elicit a "warm fuzzy feeling" of comprehension in the practitoner. Nice and eloquent.

Is it desireable to have separate terms created to cover both the bad and worse failings of these fuzzies? Namely, one term to qualify that which offers testable predictability but has no observational evidence in hand (eg String "Theory", perhaps?). Another term to qualify that which has no testable predicability but having some observational evidence. Another term for that which offers no predicability and also has no observational evidence in hand (eg Multiverse ?????). Should we ask for the whole enchilada?

Ken G
2008-Mar-28, 09:23 PM
I think we'd do well to come away with one new term! Besides, the category that offers predictability that is untested is still science, it's more of your "incipient theory" but still a theory. If it guides us toward making those tests, it's science (if the tests are too demanding or too costly, then more's the pity, but what can you do). The category that offers no predictability but does have observational evidence I would claim does not exist as a separate entity within science (it is just a semantic restatement of the observational evidence).

George
2008-Mar-28, 09:36 PM
I think we'd do well to come away with one new term! Yep.


The category that offers no predictability but does have observational evidence I would claim does not exist as a separate entity within science (it is just a semantic restatement of the observational evidence). I assume this is our target term, since the lack of testable predicitions alone spells doom, since predicability is a well established requirement of the scientific method, and any fuzzy that has no observational evidence,too, is D.O.A. as a "theory", once this new term becomes established.

Cougar
2008-Mar-29, 02:17 AM
So Paul Davies, who is an excellent writer, finally gets to the crux of the matter and points out that "many scientists hate the multiverse idea." They say it's "a speculation too far," "fantasy," and "intellectually bankrupt."

Then he queries, but is it science? Can it be tested? Of course he agrees that "It can be validly objected that a theory that rests on entities that are in principle unobservable cannot be described as science."

But then he reports on the other side's position: that it is conceivable that indirect evidence could be found to support the theory. But here, I must say, the positions seem pretty weak.

The first possibility seems awfully inapplicable in this case, but he points out that if a theory as a whole enjoys good experimental support -- like General Relativity -- one can have fair confidence that it can apply to regions we cannot observe even in principle -- like inside black holes. (This was the point made by Spaceman Spiff, I believe.) This may have some validity with regard to GR, but of course the multiverse idea currently "enjoys" NO experimental support, so it's got quite a ways to go just to get some indirect evidence. This argument goes nowhere to support multiverses.

The second possibility is the approach I believe Alex Vilenkin took, which is a kind of tricky statistical maneuver based on the Principle of Mediocrity. The argument goes something like this: All of the "pocket universes" have different constants, physical laws, and number of dimensions. Only certain configurations will conceivably allow for "life" or "observers". But there is a range of values within each configuration where life could emerge. If by observing our own values we find that our pocket universe is much, much more bio-friendly than it "needs to be" for life to emerge, then... something's fishy. The multiverse idea predicts that our values for the vital parameters that affect life should be fairly close to the "edge," beyond which the pocket universe would not be bio-friendly. So if we find our pocket universe is a "million miles" from that edge on the side of bio-friendliness, then the multiverse idea would be falsified. Therefore, it's (sort of) scientific.

Well, let's see how that goes over.... :)

George
2008-Mar-29, 03:58 AM
So Paul Davies, who is an excellent writer, finally gets to the crux of the matter and points out that "many scientists hate the multiverse idea." They say it's "a speculation too far," "fantasy," and "intellectually bankrupt." That seems to be the consensus here, too. :) But, those words appear glued to tomatoes. Loaded questions are bad enough, loaded answers can be taken hard, too. :)

This only elevates my sense that a real term needs to be created to serve science in a less tomato active venue.


The first possibility seems awfully inapplicable in this case, but he points out that if a theory as a whole enjoys good experimental support -- like General Relativity... Does GR support it or is the support found in the fact that it doesn't refute it? It seems to be more of an extrapolation beyond GR's bounds. Just because one corn flake looks like Illinois, doesn't mean zillions of others have to exist. How many states must exist in order for one to look like Illinois? How many flakes don't understand the difference. :sad:


...-- one can have fair confidence that it can apply to regions we cannot observe even in principle -- like inside black holes. (This was the point made by Spaceman Spiff, I believe.) I think Ken's response was quite impressive. What if there is a 5th force that is an emergent property arising only when beyond the event horizon? Could we ever know about it?


This may have some validity with regard to GR, but of course the multiverse idea currently "enjoys" NO experimental support, so it's got quite a ways to go just to get some indirect evidence. This argument goes nowhere to support multiverses. Yes.

But it does seem to be GR that has triggered the multiverse ideas. If it demonstrates fine tuning, then the leap is to assume there must be others that have different dial settings.

My limited search for historical references in the distant past have come up short of anyone expressing such views. The Greeks saw plurality in isolated worlds ([I]kosmoi). Pliny (23 - 79BC) argued that if you have more than one universe, you would need to have more than one Nature; this was ridiculus to them. It seems the thinking was either for a finite universe or an infinite universe, but not multiple universes. Bruno might have liked it, but he favored an invinite universe.


If by observing our own values we find that our pocket universe is much, much more bio-friendly than it "needs to be" for life to emerge, then... something's fishy. The multiverse idea predicts that our values for the vital parameters that affect life should be fairly close to the "edge," beyond which the pocket universe would not be bio-friendly. So if we find our pocket universe is a "million miles" from that edge on the side of bio-friendliness, then the multiverse idea would be falsified. Therefore, it's (sort of) scientific. Is that observable even in principle? If not, how could it be science?


Well, let's see how that goes over.... :) I'm just the door man. Expect some subsequent visitation. :)

Ken G
2008-Mar-29, 05:32 AM
The argument goes something like this: All of the "pocket universes" have different constants, physical laws, and number of dimensions. Only certain configurations will conceivably allow for "life" or "observers". But there is a range of values within each configuration where life could emerge. If by observing our own values we find that our pocket universe is much, much more bio-friendly than it "needs to be" for life to emerge, then... something's fishy. The multiverse idea predicts that our values for the vital parameters that affect life should be fairly close to the "edge," beyond which the pocket universe would not be bio-friendly. So if we find our pocket universe is a "million miles" from that edge on the side of bio-friendliness, then the multiverse idea would be falsified. Therefore, it's (sort of) scientific.

Well, let's see how that goes over.... :)Like a lead balloon! Thanks for summarizing that argument, but if that's all they've got, it's not gonna fly. It has as many holes as a sieve, including the fact that we know so little about (1) what ranges in parameter space can lead to intelligent life, (2) what the imaginary distribution over those ranges are (Vilenkin apparently assumes the distribution is a steep power law of some kind, so we should be bumped into one edge, but how can we know that-- if it turns out we're not, they just pick a new distribution and are back in business-- no falsifiability that way), and (3) the validity of making the usual "Carter catastrophe hypothesis" that we are somehow "generic" intelligences, even though we have just now come up with the idea of multiverses (which may make us special-- what if there are parameter regimes where civilizations who come up with the multiverse idea are near the end of their viability, whereas other parameters have civilizations that live way past this concept, would our parameters not be more likely in the former group even if the latter group is otherwise more numerous?). Those uncertainties make it a can of worms.

But here's the real kicker. The argument presented in no way distinguishes a "landscape" approach to the parameters (where all the parameters are actualized somewhere in the multiverse) from any other algorithm you could imagine for how the universe got its parameters. Say, for the sake of argument, that the universal "parameter choice algorithm" is that it makes one single universe by randomly sampling over the parameter range, but if the result is nonviable it just throws it out and tries again (remember, the parameter distribution process is outside of any physics we know, so we have no way to rule out the possibility that it can interrogate the entire future of the universe and ask if intelligent life appears).

Note this approach is very similar to the core idea of the multiverse, that there is a purely statistical algorithm of some kind for choosing the fundamental constants, but it simply has no need to assume that more than one version is ever actualized. The statistics are identical, so all the Vilenkin-like arguments apply equally well, but there's no "multi" in the "verse", it's still a "uni". How would one ever distinguish these models scientifically? It would purely come down to how you imagine the algorithm, does it need to create a universe for every parameter to get life in some of them, or can it know about the future as part of the algorithm? That's the trouble with leaving the testable realm to create your fantasies-- you cannot constrain them enough to make them anything but pure guesswork and philosophical prejudice. You end up looking in the mirror and saying, "ah yes, I see".

Ken G
2008-Mar-29, 06:02 AM
My limited search for historical references in the distant past have come up short of anyone expressing such views. The Greeks saw plurality in isolated worlds (kosmoi). Pliny (23 - 79BC) argued that if you have more than one universe, you would need to have more than one Nature; this was ridiculus to them. It seems the thinking was either for a finite universe or an infinite universe, but not multiple universes. Bruno might have liked it, but he favored an invinite universe.

The Greeks may have had more sense that we do! But I note another interesting point, which is that none of the arguments we've seen so far that the multiverse is a scientific model even mention string theory, so they could have been formulated as soon as humanity asked the question "why does the universe support life?" and did not immediately invoke gods. That kind of shoots down the idea that somehow the idea emerges naturally from string theory and so if the latter is science, the former is too. Maybe we just haven't heard their best argument yet.

a1call
2008-Mar-29, 08:44 AM
The philosophical debate as to whether we can believe in existence of unexperienced is not a new one. In fact it has been argued since the dawn of logic by the greatest philosophers our planet has had. It is a fundamental issue and also applies to issues such as existence of one god and after life (like it or not).


Aristotle's criticism of Plato

Aristotle devotes special attention to the Platonic theory, according to which ideas are the ultimate principles of Being. That theory, he contends, was introduced to explain how things are, and how things are known; in both respects, it is inadequate. To postulate the existence of ideas apart from things is merely to complicate the problem; for, unless the ideas have some definite contact with things, they cannot explain how things came to be, or how they came to be known by us. Plato does not maintain in a definite, scientific way a contact between ideas and phenomena -- he merely takes refuge in expressions, such as participation, imitation, which, if they are anything more than empty metaphors, imply a contradiction. In a word, Aristotle believes that Plato, by constituting ideas in a world separate from the world of phenomena, precluded the possibility of solving by means of ideas the problem of the ultimate nature of reality.

Source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_view_of_God)


Though it may seem obvious at a 1st glance that, what we can only imagine is not sufficient proof as to its existence there are issues that we all believe without experiencing directly.

I have never been to Antarctica. Should I completely ignore its existence?

At the moment of feeling very hungry should I stop believing that there exists such a thing as the state of satiety?


Perhaps the most important issue here is not that, if extra universes exist or not but that, why does it matter to us.

If by definition we will never experience any features of the "other universes" if any, then why do we care? (Not suggesting we should stop to care but asking why do we indeed care to know)

Another issue here is if all of what we know is purely based on logic and direct/indirect experience, or instinct/intuition/global-conciseness has something to do with our beliefs. Instinct is a real factor and is programmed into our knowledge. Without the basic instincts we would not be able to understand/learn anything (not even language).

Steve Limpus
2008-Mar-29, 11:46 AM
If by definition we will never experience any features of the "other universes" if any, then why do we care? (Not suggesting we should stop to care but asking why do we indeed care to know)

My experience is this (and of course I'm not a scientist, just an interested bystander):

I often feel frustrated by the 'unobservable', be it multiverses, God, whatever... or by the fact that I've just 'wasted' the last hour thinking about it. (There are always lawns to mow, after all.)

But, you just don't know what you don't know. So you're always sucked back in by the possiblity that next little bit of insight is just around the corner. Something to do with the instinct to explore I suppose...

George
2008-Mar-30, 01:53 AM
But I note another interesting point, which is that none of the arguments we've seen so far that the multiverse is a scientific model even mention string theory, so they could have been formulated as soon as humanity asked the question "why does the universe support life?" and did not immediately invoke gods. That kind of shoots down the idea that somehow the idea emerges naturally from string theory and so if the latter is science, the former is too. Maybe we just haven't heard their best argument yet. This sounds like a nice lick, but I don't get it.

Somehow, I received a special report from Scientific American, written by Max Tegmark. I thought it appropriate for this discussion.

“Parallel Universes: Not just a staple of science fiction, other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations”.

“The idea [of a parallel universe] is supported by astronomical observations.” Further, “the simplest and most popular cosmological model today predicts that you have a twin in a galaxy about 10 to the 10^28 meters from here.”

The very next sentence has the irony I like to see, “ This distance is so large that it is beyond astronomical,….”

It is all really quite simple, you know, “The estimate is derived from elementary probability and does not even assume speculative modern physics, merely that space is infinite (or at least sufficiently large) in size and almost uniformly filled with matter, as observations indicate.” [I hope those aren’t the cosmological observations he referred to above.]

Here’s a nit, “Yet the borderline between physics and metaphysics is defined by whether a theory is experimentally testable,…”. So, if it is untestable, then it is a metaphysics [I]theory.

Gee, I can’t get past the first page…. “The frontiers of physics have gradually expanded to incorporate ever more abstract (and once metaphysical) concepts such as a round Earth, invisible electromagnetic fields, time slowdown at high speeds, …”. I have a hunch y’all didn’t know all this was metaphysics once.

Of course, the last statement was the lead in to…” Over the past several years the concept of a multiverse has joined this list.”

One more than I must stop… “ The key question is not whether the multiverse exists but rather how many levels it has.” Just what is wrong with you people?:D

On it goes (couldn't stop)… frog view, bird view, multiple paths of wave function, quantum mechanics of ergodicity, …. And. “The scientific theories of parallel universes, therefore, form a 4-level hierarchy… In the coming decade, dramatically improved cosmological measurements of the microwave background, and the large-scale matter distribution will support or refute Level 1… Level II….”.

He also states that further evidence will come if success is achieved for quantum computers, since they exploit parallelism.

Oddly, he does admit that “multiverse theories” are vulnerable due to their postulations that we can never observe.

Finally, “A common feature of all four multiverse levels is that the simplest and arguably most elegant theory involves parallel universes by default. To deny the existence of those universes, one needs to complicate the theory by adding experimentally unsupported processes and ad hoc postulates: finite space, wave function collapse and ontological asymmetry.”

EvilEye
2008-Mar-30, 03:12 AM
None of this means it isn't possible. It just means that if it can't be observed it isn't part of us. ...and if we CAN detect another Universe, then it becomes part of our own, which negates the meaning of multiverse.

Ken G
2008-Mar-30, 07:08 AM
This sounds like a nice lick, but I don't get it.
The point is that one cannot argue the multiverse idea passes from metaphysics to physics on the backs of scientific theories about cosmology and strings if the justifications one uses that multiverses are scientific do not invoke any of the empirical connections from those other subfields. Those subfields are what I might call "image spaces" for taking observational projections of reality (assuming this can even be done in string theory, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt), but multiverses don't inhabit those image spaces if one can discuss them independently of those image spaces. And if is to be its own image space, then it needs its own empirical projections, its own body of relevant predictions and data collections. One can't say it is a theory that piggybacks on cosmology or string theory and then say that the reason it is science has nothing to do with those other theories.


The very next sentence has the irony I like to see, “ This distance is so large that it is beyond astronomical,….” [If only he would think longer how true that is, and its rather obvious implications.] Exactly, it's a classic case of "having it both ways"-- multiverses are supposed to be the most natural interpretations of cosmological observations, yet they exist at distances that are beyond those very observations. His rhetorical dance seems to borrow support from the same observations he needs not be constrained by-- that's some trick.


Finally, “A common feature of all four multiverse levels is that the simplest and arguably most elegant theory involves parallel universes by default. To deny the existence of those universes, one needs to complicate the theory by adding experimentally unsupported processes and ad hoc postulates: finite space, wave function collapse and ontological asymmetry.Yes, I'm afraid his own words serve as refutation enough. How could someone as smart as Tegmark, with as much physics acumen as he has, not see the absurdity in claiming that "finite space" is experimentally unsupported, as though infinite space had experimental support? Also, wave function collapse is what you get if you don't make experimentally unsupported philosophical claims about the meaning of quantum mechanics (as Bohr well understood). And as for "ontological asymmetry", I have no idea what he means by that, but simply labeling something an "asymmetry" does not make it ad hoc--usually it is the assumption of a symmetry that is ad hoc!

George
2008-Mar-30, 08:46 PM
One can't say it is a theory that piggybacks on cosmology or string theory and then say that the reason it is science has nothing to do with those other theories. Ah, yes. Even worse is the connection to a spherical world. How could he make such an error? A spherical world goes back to at least Aristotle, and they had hard evidence to support it, including the associated movement of the stars for north and south travelers, and the respetive solar shadow angles with hypothesized lattitudes. "Where's the beef?". Aristotle had it; Tegmark, aparently, has none. Worse, I wonder if the greatest imaginable extrapolation one could make would be to take a quantum event and conclude there are multiple unverses? Even if he is right, he is wrong to claim he must be.

I am still surprised at how some scientists seem at ease with abusing the precious term of theory. Your efforts have greatly heightened that awarness. Yet, the "why they do it" still puzzles me. Your scientist hat metaphor seems to fit, admittedly; once a scientist, always a scientist. This minimizes their ability to confront far worse woo-woos if hypocricy is in their own camp.


Yes, I'm afraid his own words serve as refutation enough. How could someone as smart as Tegmark, with as much physics acumen as he has, not see the absurdity in claiming that "finite space" is experimentally unsupported, as though infinite space had experimental support?
Yes, and your question is like mine, what gives? Getting back into my fix-it mode, this makes me question how likely any new, appropraite term would be accepted, which protected the term "theory" from abuse, but would assign some degree of credibility or merit to the wantabe theory.

A new term should, somehow, distinguish the more legitimate wantabee theories from the ones that ain't ever gonna happen. What makes the multiverse thark different than today's astrology? Does it have some mathematical elegance, if there is any? Can the quantum story assist them, after all? Some distinction between it and Sillyville would need to be part of the term's definition. Any ideas?

dhd40
2008-Mar-30, 09:07 PM
None of this means it isn't possible. It just means that if it can't be observed it isn't part of us. ...and if we CAN detect another Universe, then it becomes part of our own, which negates the meaning of multiverse.

Yes, that´s what I meant in my earlier post (#25) where I asked:

Aren´t Multiverses self-contraditory? As soon as we "know" (physically, not mathematically) something about them they are part of "OUR" Universe!?

Steve Limpus
2008-Mar-31, 12:30 AM
Worse, I wonder if the greatest imaginable extrapolation one could make would be to take a quantum event and conclude there are multiple unverses?

Nice insight George - I can't think of a bigger one.

I like Tegmark, I've found his website interesting, and I seem to recall coming across the odd paper in my forays into arXiv.org.

As a lay person I'm not sure if his is a valid line of research or not (a hundred years ago the Milky Way was thought to be the universe) but it does at least pique enquiry into less esoteric concepts. It did for me anyway, even though I'm more interested in standard cosmology these days.

EvilEye
2008-Mar-31, 01:19 AM
Mathematically I can prove that I can move half the distance (while never stopping) toward an object 1 move at a time (slowing my speed by half) and NEVER reach it.

Reality shows this to be false.

Len Moran
2008-Mar-31, 10:16 AM
I've just noticed that Max Tegmark was associated with the introductory thought experiment cited by Ken G in his magical thinking thread. How very apt!

It seems to me that sometimes scientists feel they have a licence to speculate on the back of their more sober scientific methodology - which surely they must have and use in abundance in their day to day research, I mean to say, would the academic peer community continually tolerate the kind of misuse of such methodology as pointed out by Ken G on a day to day basis? - I sincerely hope not. I am not saying of course that such speculation does not serve any purpose - coming from scientists it can have an added flavour in which to inspire interest, but the problem all the time is the proper and accepted partitioning of what is science and what isn't.

How nice it would be to have a term (accepted by all) that could be used to label the kind of science described in this thread. Even better if the media were to latch on to it - the public has a very strange attachment to physics, they see it as something quite detached and unreachable, but this doesn't invoke any reluctance at all to take at face value a picture of physics that borders on science fiction - as long as they see that the proponent of such views is cited by a TV program as being a professor. Can you imagine the professor being so keen if the TV program was categorized by an accepted term that clearly distinguished it from properly practiced science. Somehow I think not.

So George I'm all in favour of such a term, even if it was only relevant to this board. The term could be properly defined and perhaps even given the status of sticky! At the very least it could be linked to as a generic response to topics that fell under it's remit.

Ken G
2008-Mar-31, 12:26 PM
I like Tegmark, I've found his website interesting, and I seem to recall coming across the odd paper in my forays into arXiv.org.

Yes, Tegmark is no flake, he is a brilliant physicist of considerable renown who publishes a lot of good science. But I think it's clear he has a taste for the metaphysical, and he has not made his case that his brand of metaphysics has crossed over into physics (an argument that cites other theories once thought of as metaphysics yet which make testable predictions is not relevant until he can do the same). The problem is not that someone smart might want to form a personal world view, it's when they seem to suggest that any argument that can convince a smart scientist must be science. Even scientists are human beings, and we get convinced of various things for various reasons. It's not good enough to be convinced-- we have to show that the result is supported by scientific methodology or we are no better than a well-meaning shaman we often criticize.

Ken G
2008-Mar-31, 12:30 PM
Worse, I wonder if the greatest imaginable extrapolation one could make would be to take a quantum event and conclude there are multiple unverses?


I am not saying of course that such speculation does not serve any purpose - coming from scientists it can have an added flavour in which to inspire interest, but the problem all the time is the proper and accepted partitioning of what is science and what isn't.

When you're right, you're right.

idav
2008-Mar-31, 05:18 PM
Interesting discussion. To me, this is ultimately about the value we should give to one endeavor of inquiry vs the other.

I'd like to humbly suggest that m-theories while not empirically observable in any way are still based on math which I consider another language by which we describe our universe. All truths meant to be shared must take one form or the other. Inquirers (holding out the term scientist for semantic purposes) theorized about pathogens like bacteria long before they could observe them under a microscope. Obviously this analogy is full of holes, there were other ways to empirically observe the nature of bacteria and viruses but it still holds some insight I think.

When it comes down to it string theorists and m theorists are going to keep doing what they're doing and I'm happy that they are. The nature of things is best attacked from all angles. Truth is rather fleeting in certain respects, it's really about the consensus of the scientific community. As religion illustrates so eloquently, if enough people believe something others will by default.

It's also worth pointing out that we've never directly observed a black hole, the very nature of them prevents this yet I would say they are considered main stream.

Richard Dawkins 2005 TED talk "Queerer than we can suppose" explores the idea that are going to be ideas and even observations that aren't going to make sense to us because of the "middle world" our bodies are a product of. If some things are queerer than we can suppose then why couldn't some things be queerer than we can observe?

Len Moran
2008-Mar-31, 08:11 PM
Richard Dawkins 2005 TED talk "Queerer than we can suppose" explores the idea that are going to be ideas and even observations that aren't going to make sense to us because of the "middle world" our bodies are a product of. If some things are queerer than we can suppose then why couldn't some things be queerer than we can observe?

I would tend to say that everything is "queerer" than we observe, science or maths does not uncover nature as she really is, it provides a means by which we can construct models that give a representation of nature. Experiment and observation give an objective validity to those models, the "truth" is simply the matching of experiment to predictions within the remit of the model. At least string theory, in principle considers empirical validation to be a desired goal (well at least that's what I understand). Tegmark I think has gone one step beyond this, it seems empirical validation may not even be a requirement if the maths works.

To objectively access a reality that sits outside our "middle world" as Dawkins describes, is I think to try and access a mind independent reality. What that may be I consider to be outside the scope of science, the empirical method that is science does not stand detached from us as participants - a fact that clearly manifests itself at the quantum measurement level. To think that one can access mind independent reality through mathematics may be doing "something", but I do not consider it to be science, at least not as I understand science. To me this "something" is what Tegmark seems in part to be doing.

George
2008-Mar-31, 10:19 PM
Ok, a spin-off thread (http://www.bautforum.com/questions-answers/72250-help-needed-new-science-term.html) is up for everyone's help on qualifying and establishing a new term to, hopefully, reduce the abuse of the term "theory".

If the science community is tired of the abuse, this new seed may actually find fertile ground, and take root.

Ken G
2008-Mar-31, 10:29 PM
Right-- the issue isn't what is the "best avenue to truth", it is what claims should be considered as coming with the authority of science, and which ones are just the personal subjective views of someone who is also quite good at doing science.

George
2008-Apr-01, 01:12 AM
Right-- the issue isn't what is the "best avenue to truth", it is what claims should be considered as coming with the authority of science, and which ones are just the personal subjective views of someone who is also quite good at doing science.
Yes, but how do we recognize that which comes with the authority of science? I'd bet one authorative element would be found in a appropriate application of math. The initial spark for "String Theory" was the dusty Euler-beta thing. In this case, unexplained observation had a mathematical association. That beats astrology right off the bat.

[This should be in the other thread. Transfer it if you like.]

Ken G
2008-Apr-01, 01:31 AM
Yes, but how do we recognize that which comes with the authority of science?That which demonstrably follows scientific methodology.
I'd bet one authorative element would be found in a appropriate application of math.Yes, math is a key part of organizing data and making testable predictions. It's all about unification, and math is great at that. But if one is not unifying scientific results, then it isn't science. That's a big part of the issue, there's a sense that if something is logical or mathematical, it's scientific, but that's not sufficent. Just ask Aristotle.