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Thread: Something wrong with the universe article

  1. #31
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    The very use of the term constant carries with it the idea that we can use simple rules to describe the universe. The use of constants is really useful in simplifying equations and we can soon believe that the underlying mechanism is as simple as the constants. We earnestly separate variables to be independent of each other for the same simplistic reasons but then we can spend years on the second, third, fourth order variations. We should take heart in the degree of explanation we can achieve with these simplifications and not fall into thinking the universe has got it wrong when we encounter complications.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Yes, that's probably the deepest question in physics, and there's no good answer in sight. People often talk about intelligence as a survival trait, but the kind of intelligence that is required to do quantum field theory never helped any cavepeople out of a tiger's den, as evidenced by the fact that abstract mathematicians are not known for being handy in tiger battles. More likely the ability to do advanced mathematics is purely a "spandrel" of the kind of intelligence that improves survivabiity, but the big question is, why are spectacularly successful physics theories such a short leap away from being smart enough to sharpen a stick?
    I suppose our mathematical skills (like our language skills) come for the evolutionarily useful abilities to recognise patterns and organise large amounts of information.

    There is a physicist called Cohl Furey who is interested in the relationships between pure maths (particularly octonions) and the fundamental particles and forces we observe. It is a very appealing idea, that the physics might "emerge" from the mathematics (as if the universe were actually "made of" mathematics). But is it more that we see similar patterns in both, perhaps in part because they are the sorts of patterns we are able to see? After all, if there was an exact correspondence between the mathematics and the physics, then why is she still struggling to make the idea work?

    It is a bit like the symmetries used in quantum theory. They work, up to a point, and then there is an exception and you need to use a different symmetry for that case. So are we just trying to force our symmetries onto the observations, where they work?

    Yet notice the subtle prejudice behind such a statement-- for atoms to really be made of electrons and so forth, wouldn't that require we mistake our models for the real thing? So your question basically comes down to asking, why doesn't the universe actually work the same as our models do? My answer to that would be, if our universe really did work exactly like our models of it, then the universe is very clearly a simulation, because that's essentially the definition of a simulation-- something that is really "governed by" some simple model. So we have this very interesting contradiction, that on one hand we want to imagine the universe really obeys a set of rules, and on the other hand, no one wants to think it's some kind of simulation embedded in some more complete universe. Yet those two things are just the same, you can't pick the one you want.
    Interesting point. I have always considered the simulation hypothesis untestable because whatever characteristics it is proposed that such a simulation should (or should not) have, one can always say that "*this* simulation does/doesn't work that way". But your definition is an interesting one.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean Tate View Post
    There's another aspect, emergence.

    From models of what quarks and gluons (etc) do, how does one get atomic physics? chemisty? biology? geology? ecology? economics?

    We think causation goes one way only (up), and AFAIK there is no evidence to the contrary.
    Another interesting answer to think about...

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I suppose our mathematical skills (like our language skills) come for the evolutionarily useful abilities to recognise patterns and organise large amounts of information.
    That's true, but I think what has happened is, in order to be intelligent enough to survive, much less intelligent species had to exhibit a wide range of capabilities in that area, such that a few could receive the survival advantages of the next level. That meant that once sufficient intelligence for better survival was obtained by human species, there was still a tendency to greatly overshoot the necessary intelligence in a small fraction of the group, and in a small fraction of the mental capabilities (here the issue is abstract mathematics). That small fraction would then have abstract mathematical abilities far in excess of anything that improves survivability on evolutionary timescales, yet are quite useful in doing things like developing quantum mechanics. What's odd, then, is that these extra abstract mathematical abilities find any relation to the real world, when one can no longer say that the real world nurtured those abilities by conveying survival benefits. A runner that is faster than everyone else has a clear survival edge, no matter how fast is the average, yet humans are not particularly fast among the animals. But a brain that can do quantum field theory has no survival advantage at all, yet that brain is vastly more intelligent in the specific area of abstract mathematics than any other living brain on the planet. So this doesn't seem to be a survival question at all, that's not the reason that the universe has generated minds that can (partially) understand it. It seems more like, in some sense, the universe is programmed to understand itself, even in areas (especially in areas) that convey zero survival edge (like atomic physics).

    That observation contrasts with the oft-expressed idea that a universe complicated enough to support intelligence must be too complicated for intelligence to understand it. That's true in the human realm, but not in the atomic realm, and that's quite an irony-- the realm we understand the least is the one we experience most often! Maybe we are just better at selecting the things to care about that are simple when they don't directly affect us.

    There is a physicist called Cohl Furey who is interested in the relationships between pure maths (particularly octonions) and the fundamental particles and forces we observe. It is a very appealing idea, that the physics might "emerge" from the mathematics (as if the universe were actually "made of" mathematics). But is it more that we see similar patterns in both, perhaps in part because they are the sorts of patterns we are able to see? After all, if there was an exact correspondence between the mathematics and the physics, then why is she still struggling to make the idea work?
    Yes, I can't buy that our universe is a simulation, which is what it would have to be if it exactly followed simple rules (what else is a simulation than that?). I think it's a mischaracterization of the purpose of science to figure out how the world works, it is the goal of science to hold up a series of better and better templates that mimic the behavior of the universe. Science makes models, and tests them, that's literally the definition of science. So where comes this need to pretend it is something different from its own definition? If it's just because we like to imagine that might be true, this is a classic departure from the realm of evidence into the realm of personal belief, and that's not supposed to be what science does at all.

    It is a bit like the symmetries used in quantum theory. They work, up to a point, and then there is an exception and you need to use a different symmetry for that case. So are we just trying to force our symmetries onto the observations, where they work?
    Yes, exactly. We have near symmetries, not exact symmetries, so we should see symmetries as useful templates. I agree it is a mystery why we can get anywhere close, but we have to admit that this is what we are doing because it is, in fact, just exactly what we are actually doing when we enter into the scientific process.

  5. #35
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    Is this article the same as above took advice of people here to read up more.

    https://www.livescience.com/hubble-c...ake-sense.html

    What is meant by

    The answer to the problem, she said, could be just around the corner. But more likely it's years or decades away.

    "It's either something new in the universe or it's something we don't understand about our measurements," she said.

    Also this article is confusing talking about this new particle changing fate of the universe

    https://www.livescience.com/new-part...-universe.html

    These two estimates disagree by enough to make people a little bit worried that we're missing something.

    Forgive me if I sound stupid but all this articles talk about something wrong out there. I am just trying to understand what is meant. Are they insinuating we are in trouble at a close time frame. Are they talking long term, is that even what they mean?
    Last edited by Sinbad; 2020-Jan-01 at 06:27 PM.

  6. #36
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    The first article is just talking about a known problem with two methods for measuring the expansion of the universe - they give slightly different results. There are a lot of reasons that could be the case from new physics to a weak model or just an error in how we are making these measurements. It is just how science works - we are always trying to find ways to prove that what we think we understand is wrong because that is how we get to a more accurate model or a better method to measure something.

    The second one is talking about what might happen a long time in the future. At the moment we see the universe apparently expanding and at an accelerating rate. The research they are talking about simply says that if dark energy is associated with an axion then it will behave differently to if it is a field associated with a massless or no particle. But bear in mind we are talking a very, very, very long time in the future before any effects would be seen.

  7. #37
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    So why don’t they write these articles for us to understand rather than wonder or is it my lack of knowledge

    Like this part confuses me also

    it's already altering our universe at the very largest of scales.

    As this article states

    https://www.livescience.com/65332-hu...ong-speed.html

    See I don’t know if it is my lack of understanding but to me this articles are telling us we are screwed in our lifetimes.
    Last edited by Sinbad; 2020-Jan-01 at 07:54 PM.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    https://www.livescience.com/65332-hu...ong-speed.html

    See I don’t know if it is my lack of understanding but to me this articles are telling us we are screwed in our lifetimes.
    Nothing is going to happen in our lifetimes from any of the effects in these articles. They are talking about the accelerating expansion of the universe, which has been observed for a few decades now and is the subject of a lot of study. Even the most pessimistic estimates for when something like a 'big rip' could happen put it tens of billions of years from now.

    Here are some estimates that put the timeline of these things in perspective:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeli...the_far_future

  9. #39
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    When the answer is found, people will be saying something is wrong with how we learn.
    The moment an instant lasted forever, we were destined for the leading edge of eternity.

  10. #40
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    Yes but does that timeline not change with the super faster than expected expansion

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    Yes but does that timeline not change with the super faster than expected expansion
    No, it's not "super faster", it's very very slow-- billions of years to do anything.

  12. #42
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    So 9 times faster than normal is slow? As much as I try to understand these articles I am not sure why they seem to speak of short period of time rather than way way into the future.
    Last edited by Sinbad; 2020-Jan-01 at 10:26 PM.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    So 9 times faster than normal is slow? As much as I try to understand these articles I am not sure why they seem to speak of short period of time rather than way way into the future.
    9 percent faster, not 9 times faster, and with the scale of cosmological time 9 times faster wouldn't mean anything on human timescales. The universe is far far larger and older than is easy to wrap your mind around.

    It might be helpful to give this article a read, it compresses the whole history of Earth into a year showing just how tiny a fraction of time humans have been around for
    https://ourplnt.com/earth-history-compressed-2018/

  14. #44
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    Thank you all for your responses. I apologize to anyone that thinks my post is stupid, I find it hard to grasp the concept. Reading the articles I posted with lack of understanding and the words used it seems that the parts I mentioned confuse me. Example when the article says “
    Even so, we've never detected an axion, but if these calculations are correct, then that means that the axion is out there, filling up the universe and its quantum field. Also, this hypothetical axion is already making itself noticeable by changing the amount of dark energy in the cosmos. So it could be that even though we've never seen this particle in the laboratory, it's already altering our universe at the very largest of scales..” to me that comes across as a bad thing or a warning.
    It makes it seem to me as we are in for trouble soon and no need for me to pay my credit cards bill ��. Yet the article writes that with no explanation to what it means and here I am told it’s a long time coming nothing to worry about.

    I can not grasp how a new particle that never existed appears and is changing dark energy at a drastic rate is normal rather than a problem for us.
    Last edited by Sinbad; 2020-Jan-02 at 02:42 PM.

  15. #45
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    Firstly, axions are just one hypothesis - people are speculating, looking for a better understanding.
    Secondly, if axions are involved, they have always existed, they didn't just suddenly appear.
    Thirdly, the rate of change of dark energy is not remotely drastic - it's a 9% change in something that has absolutely no measurable effect on you, the Earth or the solar system.

    This is a bit of abstruse physics, relevant to the billion-year evolution of the Universe, utterly irrelevant on the human scale.

    Grant Hutchison

  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    Thank you all for your responses. I apologize to anyone that thinks my post is stupid, I find it hard to grasp the concept.
    Anyone reading things outside their field of expertise can make mistakes, no one should think that it is stupid to do so. I would caution that, as has previously been said, it is highly unlikely that anything that would lead to imminent real world consequences that would mean paying off your credit card is pointless would be reported in an ambiguous way. If the universe were going to end in a week due to some new physics phenomenon you'd know about it, clearly and unambiguously, from every news source out there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    Reading the articles I posted with lack of understanding and the words used it seems that the parts I mentioned confuse me. Example when the article says “Even so, we've never detected an axion, but if these calculations are correct, then that means that the axion is out there, filling up the universe and its quantum field. Also, this hypothetical axion is already making itself noticeable by changing the amount of dark energy in the cosmos. So it could be that even though we've never seen this particle in the laboratory, it's already altering our universe at the very largest of scales..” to me that comes across as a bad thing or a warning.
    Honestly you are reading too much into this. All they are saying is that there could be this particle we've never seen before that is causing this acceleration of expansion. It is just proposing the axion as an explanation for something we already knew was happening (we are just hazy on what is causing it). Again, if it were going to have any effect on your life other than inspiring a sense of wonder at how we can develop models to explain some pretty amazing observational results it would be very, very clearly stated and very widely reported.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    It makes it seem to me as we are in for trouble soon and no need for me to pay my credit cards bill ��. Yet the article writes that with no explanation to what it means and here I am told it’s a long time coming nothing to worry about.
    It is hard to wrap your head around just how big the universe is and how long things take to happen in it. Here is an example. The Andromeda galaxy is likely to collide with us one day. It is moving at hundreds of kilometres a second towards us. Sounds fast and dangerous, right? But if something happened that sped it up a hundred times it would still be half a billion years before it got here. That is just under the length of time it took simple single celled life to evolve to us. Even if something sped the galaxy up so that it was moving towards us at light speed it would take 2.5 million years to get here. 2.5 million years is about as long as humans, as a species, have been around.

    The universe is ancient and vast and we have been around for a tiny blip of its history. The odds of it suddenly ending in front of us are tiny.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    I can not grasp how a new particle that never existed appears and is changing dark energy at a drastic rate is normal rather than a problem for us.
    Grant has already covered most of this, I can't really add more. Don't go looking for apocalyptic scenarios in popular science writing - you will find lots of vaguely worrying sounding things that are actually just interesting physics.

  17. #47
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    So basically if I understand correctly we have nothing to worry about and we will live our full lives and still should pay off our credit cards. Lol The odds of anything bad happening to us are not greater now than a thousand years ago or a thousand years in the future
    Last edited by Sinbad; 2020-Jan-02 at 06:34 PM.

  18. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinbad View Post
    So basically if I understand correctly we have nothing to worry about and we will live our full lives and still should pay off our credit cards. Lol The odds of anything bad happening to us are not greater now than a thousand years ago or a thousand years in the future
    Fortunately for the credit card people, yes.

    1000 years seems like a huge time span to us - but it is something like a millionth of a percent of the time the universe has been around. So don't worry, sleep easy, if the universe were at all fragile it would have already ended. It survived the last 14 million 1000 year time blocks, it is very likely to survive the next one.

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