Sunday, April 04, 2010
What is Quality, How is it Quality and Why?
So not being a scientist or a philospher by way of vocation I can only offer opinion from the perspective I’m most familiar and that being resultantly involved in the manufacturing industry. Here I would make note that both in industry itself and more so in the public’s general perception that quality control and quality assurance are often confused as being one in the same. That being quality control is something that can be given metrics (ways of measuring), as in the end be able to only know what the instance of failure should be, relative to the degree of inspection and the technical method(s) of assembly used.
However, quality assurance in the end can only be accomplished by all those involved in the process, as relating to how much they care about the quality of what they produce, as to having it only to be assured by them; rather than by anything before or after applied to measure success or failure. Now it’s true caring can be at times be encouraged by means of positive or negative motivation, yet unless one considers people being the same as donkeys, as only responding to the carrot and stick, who other then the individuals themselves can have quality assured. So my more general thoughts rest in how to increase the quality of individuals being more fundamental then considering how to measure the quality of what it is we would like them to do or produce.
In understanding this I’m brought to consider how religion or more generally philosophy is considered in such respect, with this being the day that many of a particular one is observing perhaps its most important. That is to question whether it be considered as a methodology of quality control or rather that of quality assurance? One could say for example that the Ten Commandments are metrics of quality control within the philosophy and yet only with the understanding and practice of the golden rule (central to this and many philosophies) can quality be assurred. Then we can look around as to discover who are those that find it simply enough to be able to measure and be measured by the metrics applied to what’s considered as being good as opposed to who and how many understand what’s truly required to have recognized when quality resides and why; not just in others, yet more importantly in themselves. So what I’m suggesting is there is a link between motivators of passion and those of compassion and that it is only when they can coexist that quality can be assured or even have it recognized.
So to conclude I would argue that whether it be science or philosophy, that the quality of each can only be realized as to be assured by in first finding reason to care, which begins in understanding as to find true two things first given attention by Socrates having one as “to know thyself” and the other to understand “the unexamined life is not worth living”, which if reasonably considered inescapably leads one to the golden rule. The question of course that stiil stands to be answered being, are we by our very nature creatures of reason or not.
“The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality. He has to care! This is an ability about which normal traditional scientific method has nothing to say. It's long pasttime to take a closer look at this qualitative preselection of facts which has seemed so scrupulously ignored by those who make so much of these facts after they are "observed." I think that it will be found that a formal acknowledgment of the role of Quality in the scientific process doesn't destroy the empirical vision at all. It expands it, strengthens it and brings it far closer to actual scientific practice.”
-Robert M. Pirsig- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - page 253
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Phenomenology Has us know just How, Why or both?
So with this other blog addresing phenomenology and its role in scientific discovery, it had me to become mindful of a paper I read of J.S. Bell some time ago, entitled ‘How to teach special relativity’, where he reviews the route taken by Lorentz, Poincare and Fitzgerald in their efforts to explain the phenomenology presented in the Michelson–Morley experiments as they relate to what Maxwell’s theory of Electromagnet dynamics left as unanswered. What I find this paper so apply does is to show that while such examination may not lead one to the realization that Einstein came to, in having such things encompassed by a principle synopsised as two characters of nature, it does show however by simply attempting to explain the phenomena in terms of its actions, can have one arrive at a place that predicatively accounts for such never the less.
After reading this paper the thing that most stood out for me was it forced one to ask which of the two routes stands as being the better in terms as representing what science is. With the Lorentz, Poincare and Fitzgerald approach all the actions of nature are described as a series of recipes, if you will, where a fixed reference frame is still considered as real although undetectable, while for Einstein this nondelectability has it become so irrelevant that it was to be denied. However, from the practical standpoint in terms of being able to make predictions about nature in its demonstrated action the two are indistinguishable. So this further has one come to ask if to think strictly as Einstein’s precursors thought, is it more legitimate as to have explained a set of phenomena with simply mathematically consistent rules, or to have them be considered as explained in the terms of nature having qualities, which in this instance is to say it having no preferred reverence frame, where for which anyone arbitrarily chosen all the laws of nature will remain and present as the same.
Now for me in order to decide this question comes down to asking oneself, is nature and by virtue reality itself a collection of arbitrarily chosen yet set actions, explainable only as a series of interlinked and interdependent recipes, or rather a structure that is a consequence of reason leaving no choice at all as to how and why it must be. For me it comes to ask, is there is only one or many ways what is known as reality can come to be real; which I answer to myself in the affirmative, as to have all the other choices simply as what cannot be, by reason of them physically unable to be demonstrated as such.
So with all this considered I continue by way of support in asking what is phenomenology’s true role in physics as part of its method of discovery? That is restrict it as simply able to make predictions in regards to the actions of our world or further be able to find the reason(s) behind what mandates such actions. When I consider my first insistence as those things can only be real in one way, as reason present to dictate to me as to demand , I would say physics is to have answered, with the aid of phenomenology the latter question, rather than the first. Of course having such an opinion finds me to be in the minority these days; as such things are concerned, with subsequently demoting reason to being anything that can be imagined, which I would argue has no reason assignable to it at all.
So for me it comes down to have one finally ask oneself, are the importance of demonstrated things like symmetry, conservation, least action, invariance and covariance, all able to be explained away by the seeming purposeless randomness of uncertainty, as most now believe, or is it also just another necessity for nature to have reality present itself only as it is, rather than one of just many ways. I would say in conclusion today that with those like Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Descartes, Newton and Einstein , which I’ve here before mentioned, that the world is a structure whose form and action being those only demonstrated and demonstratable as explainable as resultant reason. So I would then say who am I to deny this as being true only of course if science can demonstrate convincingly by way of its own method(s) this no longer be so.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Historical Meme:Things about Stephen Gray
Stefan Scherer of Backreation has tagged me with one of those blog memes - in this case, a variant of the Historical Meme. The idea is to:
- link to the person who tagged you,
- list seven random or weird things about your favourite historical figure,
- tag five more people at the end of your blog and link to theirs,
- let the tagged people know by leaving a note on their site.
Actually, as like Stefan, I’m a bit of a science history buff. This does present a problem, since in being so it is difficult to choose one out of the many people I have come to admire. However, what came to the rescue in my quandary was the recent unfortunate episode that took place resultant of comments made in a entry that was posted on Backreaction just before I was tagged. This brought to mind a scientific figure in history who defines as a hero for me not simply because he added to the book of understanding of nature, yet more importantly that he did this despite what would be for many seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The person I have thus chosen is as noted Stephen Gray.
- Stephen Gray (December, 1666 - 7 February 1736) was born (Canterbury, Kent, England) of humble beginnings whose profession was that of a cloth dyer and for his time should have never been considered capable of having made a mark on natural philosophy at all, let alone as strongly as he did. Beyond other then minimum schooling he was primarily self educated in natural philosophy with his initial focus on astronomy. He constructed his own telescopes and made minor contributions in the accurate observations and the reporting of sunspots, some of which was published by the Royal Society by way of a mutual friend.
- He became noticed and later befriended by John Flamsteed, the first and most famous Astronomer Royal. Although this would prove to be an initial advantage it would later become a major obstacle as Flamsteed became the target of Newton’s wrath. Newton wished for the hurried completion and publishing of Flamsteed’s observations so that he might utilize the data he felt needed in calculations for the second edition of his “Principia Mathematica”. As it then turned out, any friend and supporter of Flamsteed became also the foe and thereby victim of Newton’s tyranny. The result was his exclusion from mention in scientific circles and the suppression of the reporting of any of his experiments and discoveries until after Newton’s death. With Newton’s great influence and as the head of the Royal Society this was easily accomplished.
- What Gray eventually and truly became noted for was for his very early research in the field of electricity as to its nature, sources, basic properties and potentials. His initial experiments were conducted when he was briefly employed by Richard Cotes as an assistant in the construction of an observatory at Trinity College. After only a short time there he resigned and returned to his dyers business. Ironically this was an endeavor inspired and initiated by Newton in an attempt to circumvent and bring pressure to bear on Flamsteed and for the large part was a failed project that bore little fruit. Gray’s letters that reported his experiments and finding sent to the Royal Society were never published in its journal “Philosophical Transactions” and of little wonder as Newton had final say in such matters. This work although never published was occasionally plagiarized by friends of Newton’s and other members of the Royal Society and had great impact in the growth of interest in the field.
- After the death of Flamsteed in 1719 Gray for the time that extended to 1730 no longer made visit of the Royal Society as had been his prior habit. It is thought with the death of his greatest supporter and friend he for a time was no longer interested, coupled with the reality that Newton was still its head.
- As a result of bad fortune and also as the natural consequence of becoming older he became impoverished and destitute.However, after several years of petitioning on his behalf by people such as Hans Sloane, then Secretary of the Royal Society in 1719 Gray was finally accepted as a pensioner at Charterhouse a home for impoverished gentleman that had given service to their nation and thereby society.Although certainly far from being lavish it did guarantee that one would not starve to death and despite the strictness of rules it imposed Gray saw this as an opportunity to once again restart and further his study of electrical phenomena.
- During his stay at Charterhouse he was befriended by two gentlemen scientists , John Godfree and Granville Wheler. While visiting these two he was able to conduct his experiments of electrical conductance in a more spacious setting then afforded at Charterhouse. In the course of these experiments he was able to show that what was then called “electric virtue” (static electricity) could be made to propagate over some distance and further discovered that in order for it to do this, over media such as a hemp twine, it would have to be isolated from the ground by use of a insulator such as silk rather then a metal wire.
- After Newton’s death in 1727, Gray once again began to report some of his experiments and findings to the Royal Society and in 1729 upon receipt they promptly published them. The most significant of these experiments, conducted at Otternden Place by him, assisted by Wheler, were not reported and subsequently published until 1731. Despite this long over due recognition he was heavily criticized for first proposing that electricity was one in the same as lightening which Benjamin Franklin would take credit for some years after. Gray in 1735 when summarizing some of his experiments said the following:
“The electric fire which by several of these experiments seems to be of the same nature with that of thunder and lightening.”
- On January 25th, 1733 he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society and was admitted in March of the same year at the age of sixty-six. After only another three years he died and was buried in an unmarked grave in London reserved for paupers of the residence of Charterhouse.
Today it is agreed by many, that he should be regarded as the father of electrical communications and therefore not Morse, Marconi or Bell, which instead were the benefactors’ of his contributions. That is he was the first to conduct experiments that would be after understood and later refined to lead to the realization of both its methods and potential. Ironically the reason he wasn’t is not resultant of his humble beginnings or station, nor certainly of lacking of commitment or ability, yet mainly the tyranny of the most noted person in modern science. He thus stands and serves as a lesson from which all his peers after should take note of and consider.
It should not be thought that I have written this to villanize and thus lessen your respect for Newton. It was done rather to perhaps have you now come to respect and admire one who truly deserves to be.
The information in this post was primarily sourced from the book entitled “Newton’s Tyranny (The Suppressed Scientific Discoveries of Stephen Gray and John Flamsteed)” written by David H. Clark and Stephen P.H. Clark-W.H. Freeman and Company-2000. Also in relation to the quanity of things I noted you will discover I can't count:-)
Also in relation to the quanity of things I noted you will discover I can't count:-)
Oh yes my tags are as follows:Think Deviant
The Quantum Pontiff
Monday, February 18, 2008
Does Humanity relate to the Why?
As I have pointed out in my other blog, is that as of late I have come across a wonderful web site that is created and hosted by two (married to each other) physicists. What is interesting about this site is that one is not just simply exposed to the thoughts, convictions and beliefs of a few physicists, yet rather they have provided a structured forum in which to discuss science in general and how it relates to and is perceived by the world. This site not only includes like-minded people as themselves yet rather a broader spectrum of those I consider myself a part of, which I refer to as the wonderers.
What is to be found in the following, is a comment I left on this site in relation to a subject that started out as a discussion of a book called the “The Ingenuity Gap” and evolved into a discussion of what our society is, what are its problems, why they are so, and most importantly how they might be solved. Subsequently there was a lot of discussion about what the responsibility, role, and place an individual serves to be in all of this. The main point of contention and query was to question whether society and its instrument, government, primary purpose is to serve the people as individuals or are the individuals there to serve the purpose of society. My contention was that it is neither in as both viewpoints are correct and yet incorrect. What is found hereafter is exactly as it is on the site with one exception, which is the last paragraph. This I excluded because the site is dedicated first and foremost to the scientific format (philosophic viewpoint) and thus I omitted it there out of respect for the creators and their intentions.
“Though I am very sympathetic to this, and it might indeed be the way to go, it is just not true……….You can go a big step further by changing the political system itself, for neither of these examples you need a bottom-up approach, all you need is to convince the top (I am very much a bottom-up person though).”
The way I see society there is no bottom up or a top down to consider. That is because it only amounts to a whole as to the function that is common. You could equate this to an organism as opposed to a single cell. In an organism we have different cells for different functions. They all must function properly or the whole organism suffers. Yet this is a strange organism, for unlike a typical one where the parts are in service of the whole, the organism of society is one that exists in the service of its parts. So in contrast to the typical organism, where it is a common (and required) strategy to sacrifice individual cells to maintain the whole; in the case of the social organism this is not seen as the right thing to do. This of course is the dilemma. As an example, in the contemporary context wars are seen as wrong, not so much because they have no chance to benefit the organism, yet rather because they sacrifice the parts (cells). This on its own is why a society is required to be moral rather then a typical organism where such a practice would be considered not only wrong yet ultimately destructive.
It is often proclaimed by many, that the reason for our current plight is that we defy nature and if we were simply to obey her we would have no problems; and yet as I have indicated, the whole modern concept held by these same people, as I have shown, is by its very nature required to run counter to the claim. I would ask then what is it to be? Should society be perceived as an organism where the parts are necessarily sacrificed for the good of the whole or must it act for the good of each part at the sacrifice of none? If it is the former we have always had what’s required, if it’s the latter we then stand in defiance of nature. Therefore, it must be first understood that morality is not natural (as commonly perceived) and if we want to hold our ideals we must not only understand this to be true, yet further are required to stand together in this defiance.
What I didn’t say on the site is as follows:
So then, am I proposing that society’s ulitmate goal is unnatural and perhaps then wrong? No, for this is a misunderstanding resultant of restricting oneself to two dimensional and/or flawed logic. That is to consider when something that is not like the other, it then must be the opposite. When you incorporate three dimensional logic; that is when something in one sense is similar and yet exceeds in some aspect what it’s being compared to, it is not the opposite or negative, yet rather the superior or evolved state. The superior or evolved state of natural is then supernatural, not unnatural. It has been speculated by some (myself included) that all life in general is the first stage of this departure to become superior to nature. What mankind’s goal as many have envisioned would thus be the completion of this. The question of course is, do we (humanity) have both the conviction and capacity to complete the program or are we simply another step in the evolution of life to end in this completion? I don't profess to know, just merely wish to offer another avenue of thought one might explore and also to suggest reason to consider that not only the how and the what as relevant to understanding, yet also the why.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Time, is it an Essence?
As you may recall in a previous entry I discussed time and how it could and is considered in physical terms. That is where time is not simply imagined as a marker which we use to separate one state in a changing physical process from another, yet rather as an actual part of the physical process itself. That is as to be a dimension or degree of freedom which forms part of the actual substance of reality to both define the limits of the scope and potential to which such physical process can evolve. Now what is interesting and relevant in the context of this blog is this has been and still continues to be a central subject of study and concern for both of our considered two disciplines, being science and philosophy. In this way it forms a commonality within the struggle for understanding shared by both.
To continue, in order to explore this further, I wondered how I might form an analogy that could at least, in some crude way, describe what I’m talking about as to whether time is simply a marker within physical process or rather is part of the physicality of the process itself? The analogy I have come up with is to be found in the comparison of playing a record (musical phonograph) with the actual production of one. So to begin when we play a record what is involved? What’s entailed is that first we have a media (substance), on which there is inscribed a pattern (information), that when actualized by a process (the playing) we are presented with or realize its content. This physical process of course involves motion in the sense that the record turns (travels) and a needle striking (following) dimensional differences within the media presented. These differences scientifically would be described in terms of its amplitude (height), wave length (length) and frequency (depth or density or how many per given length). These could be considered as the three commonly understood dimensions (degrees of freedom) of what we understand as space and can be interpreted and imagined without the need for anything else at all. That is they can remain fixed and still be thought to be real. However to have all this actualized or realized for the listener we must have something else and that is the movement (time) which when added has the music come into being. This compares to how some physicists imagine time to be as a dimension.
First, it is important to point out that the three (space) dimensions between them can have no affect on each other or enable there actualization (to be realized as considered fixed. However. the fourth one (time) certainly can. What do I mean by this? Well let’s consider the record again. In the playing of a record to have it come out (realized) the way it was recorded it must turn at a speed that is consistent with the way it was produced and the record must turn in the correct direction (clockwise or forward as formed). To play it at a different speed, although one may still be able to comprehend it, will have it display different qualities (characteristics) as related to the perceived (not self actual) distances of all three involved. To play it in the opposite direction renders it for the most part incomprehensible. I think you can see what I’m getting at here. That is in Einstein’s view of reality all what I have said comes into consideration. The speed (time) of the universe can have us perceive and experience our reality (the universe) differently according to the speed and relative to the fixed qualities and quantities of its content (mass/energy). Also, it suggests that if this is to be meaningful at all, it can have only one direction. This is considered in science within an action or consequence of action called entropy, where the averaged actual relative positions of the matter/energy contained in the universe is perceived as becoming more disordered as related to both its previous and initial state. This in turn is connected to space to both expanding and lowering in average energy content (temperature).
So now let’s speculate further how this could relate to our world as what it serves to represent. First it should be understood that the playing of the record is not a state of being or becoming but merely the act of observing the past. This we also do every day when we look out in front of us whether it is merely at the screen of this computer I am typing on or out into the heavens at night. It is only different in terms of how far this is from our own now (present). The being of the universe takes place in the now (cutting the record) which is never truly experienced only later to be realized. The becoming is in the future and depends on what is encountered (nature of the wax). It must be understood that within this highly speculative model although the character or nature of the substance on which it will be enacted (realized) is already there and in some sense predetermined. However in the act of travelling through, although the force and initial direction may be set and consistant, would however still leave this future to remain difficult if not impossible to predict. What would make this truly to remain uncertain and unknowable is of course is if the substance itself is not simply variable because of a changing set nature but rather if it were also reactant to itself and by its own complex interactions constantly changing in terms of its total local and universal character at any given instance. This universal character although changing could still preserve its overall (averaged) value.
All this of course supplies no answers and yet at least gives us one way to frame the questions of concern which are how, what and why. This may give you further reason to understand and perhaps even to accept that we can and should address them all as to be considered in terms of our search for understanding.
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable”
T.S Elliot - Burnt Norton (1935)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
How vs. Why, the Confusion Continues
There have occurred two recent events which served for me as a reminder that the central contention of this blog is certainly relevant. Those two events being first, the publication of Richard Dawkins’ new book entitled “The God Delusion” followed with the announcement of Answers in Genesis, a Christian ministry that are launching a (contended to be) scientific journal called “Answers Research Journal” (reported in Nature)that will be accessible online. These two certainly exemplify what I see as the true problem in regards to humanity's search in the understanding of our world. Also, it serves to further demonstrate how our two central philosophies, one which are called religions and the other science have come to being even more strongly diametrically opposed.
In attempting to explain what I mean, first I’d like to expand a little on who Richard Dawkins is and what he reports to represent. Dawkins’ is an ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer out of England. He currently serves as the Charles Simonyi Chairman (Oxford’s) for the Public Understanding of Science. He first came to public attention in the writing of the book “The Selfish Gene” in 1976 (which I’ve read). This book’s central contention is that evolution is executed primarily from (and for) the single cells perspective, rather then the organisms’ as a whole. In Dawkins’ view the organism is simply the extended machinery though which all this is manifested and observed with genes being the expeditor of this process. This is one possible logical extension of Darwin’s theory and it is not my intention to contest it. What issue I have with Dawkins is his new books primary intent and focus is to take it upon himself to become the self appointed representative/champion of science to insist that his theory and connected others amount to a proof that there is no “why” to the world. His limited understanding of this is of course is that there is no God.
Now on the other side of the coin we have this Christian Ministry headed by Ken Ham which is a propagator of the creationist (Intelligent Design) view. He headed up the effort to fund and execute the building of what’s called the Creation Museum whose claimed sole purpose is to educate people of the validity of holding such a position. Now what has been just recently started by the same group is what is reported to be a Scientific journal called “The Answers Research Journal” which is to represent what they contend will be a traditional, peer reviewed scientific research publication. The peer review however will be carried out by only scientists that are supportive and sympathetic to this concept.
What I find most revealing (and disconcerting) in all this is the polarity that is clearly demonstrated when you consider the attitude of many scientists when compared with those of many religious philosophies. They both somehow misunderstand and misrepresent their indepenantly decided and defined limited roles in terms of the search for understanding. First as I have explained in the past the separation of the roles is defined as such. First for modern (homocentric) philosophy as previously defined as the following:
“Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods“.
Now I remind here the role served by science and it’s methodology as defined by Newton which is:
So then, what this time is my point? First it must be realized that those of Dawkins stripe are now stepping outside of their philosophical mandate to say that it is science’s responsibility to prove and insist that not just creationist religions,yet rather all religions are false and should be dismissed as not only just being wrong yet also being dangerous. Then we have many religious philosophies that contend that they not only know the “why” yet many of the details and can prove it and thus science must be dismissed in this regard. What this demonstrates to me is that those scientists such as Dawkins thus claim in effect that they (I paraphrase)” believe or have faith in science” while religious figures such a Ken Ham claim in effect (I paraphrase)” they have proof for the existence and intent of God”. I will thus simply point out that both statements in terms of their central methodologies are oxymorons.
In conclusion today, I would like to once again remind that this need not remain to be a problem. For it has been demonstrated by people such a Plato, Descartes, Darwin and Einstein who found it possible to find the “how” and the “what” of the world while remaining convinced and assured that we will ultimately discover the “why”.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
What truly is Einstein’s Moon?
As you recall in my last post I was speaking as to why Albert Einstein served as my inspiration in coming to realize that science should not be content to restrict itself to only answer “how” the world works but also to imagine “what” it is and “why”. In doing so I attempted to demonstrate Einstein’s thoughts on what science should explore and serve to be. I offered you the insight that Einstein’s strength in his pursuit of understanding and discovery rested on the fact that he were not just simply intelligent: but, that also he was a man of conviction as to what should be considered to represent truth in our world. More specifically I said I would attempt to explain what significance this blog’s question “What is Einstein’s Moon” is in reference to.
To begin, despite all the success and favor Einstein attained in life; he, until the end of his days found himself to be an outsider in the then forefront of scientific discovery. That forefront of course was with the dawn of quantum theory, which attempts to explain our world at the very small (non perceived) scale. Today some believe that this was due to Einstein not understanding the subject or perhaps even compounded by advancing age. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact he was one that laid the foundations for its beginnings. For instance it is widely assumed that Einstein was awarded the Noble prize for his work on special and general relativity. This is not so. What he was given the Nobel Prize for was in showing that if light was considered as a particle it could explain why only light above a certain frequency (energy density) could free electrons from specific materials. We exploit this today in many applications, most notably the solar cell. This along with Max Planck’s ideas marked the birth of what is considered modern atomic physics. In continuance with this, he inspired, communicated and consulted with all those who became known as the founders of quantum theory. So then, how did Einstein find himself outside the consensus formed about the nature of the quanta that emerged and for the most part is still accepted in the main today?
How Einstein came to find himself in this position was two fold, in that quantum theory implied two things about nature with which he had trouble with. First, the theory proposed things about the world that appeared inconsistent with his own theories, specifically special relativity. Second, the theory dismissed the objective nature of the world. That is it suggested that the world of which we are aware is somehow connected with ones perception of it and in some respect is not real in the normal sense of meaning until it is so perceived. This if taken to the extreme could suggest that every individual (not just person but rather organism) has its own private reality. As time progressed Einstein was to focus his attention primarily on this second feature as to be its central flaw. He can be seen in the act of expressing this doubt about what the new theory implies and what the responsibilities of scientists are when he writes a paper entitled “Physics and Reality” for the journal of the Franklin Institute [Volume.221, No. 3, March 3, 1936], he states in the opening paragraph the following:
“It has been often said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why, then, should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher to the philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing at a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental concepts and fundamental laws which are also well established that waves of doubt cannot reach them; but, it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself become problematic as they are now. At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of the theoretical foundations; for, he himself knows best, and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for a new foundation he must make clear in his own mind just how far such concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities.”
Now to indicate that the physicists truly thought as Einstein perceived I offer here a quote of Aage Petersen paraphrasing Niels Bohr (a founding father of quantum theory):
“There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”
So as can be seen not only can we assume that Bohr dismisses the “what” and “why” of the world, which in some ways we have come to expect of science; he, says we can no longer be permitted to ask “how” and should be content with what we can say about nature, which serves to answer essentially nothing at all. Einstein was thus considered unreasonable in not accepting this.
As part of this distaste for not looking for a objective description of the world Einstein was not content with the fact that nature’s actions were not just merely perceived to be so complex that they could only be predicted within a statistical framework, but, rather that there was no framework at all and that the statistics where due to the fact that nature at the base level acts randomly. This is even furthered in quantum mechanics to suggest that cause is not related to effect. That is to say that nature has no reason at all. Einstein can be seen here complaining about this in a letter he wrote to a friend and fellow physicist, Max Born, on September 7, 1944[Born-Einstein Letters], when he says to Born:
“We have become Antipodean in our scientific expectations. You believe in the God that plays dice, and I in complete law and order in a world which objectively exists, and which I, in a wildly speculative way, am trying to capture. I firmly believe, but I hope that someone will discover, a more realistic way, or rather a more tangible basis than it has been my lot to find. Even the great initial success of quantum theory does not make me believe in the fundamental dice-game, although I am well aware that our younger colleagues interpret this as a consequence of senility. No doubt the day will come when we will see whose instinctive attitude was the correct one.”
As indicated above then Einstein’s main objection to quantum mechanics, as it was accepted, was that it lent no reasonable explanation of the world and in some sense denied what many would perceive as what it means to truly exist. As a further testament to this once while walking with physicist and his biographer, Abraham Pais, Pais reports in frustration Einstein asked “whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it."
To conclude, I hope that you more clearly understand why I chose Einstein to represent both the inspiration and purpose of this blog. That is, with him, I am convinced that mankind should have hope that we will not only continue to explore and discover “how” and “what the world truly is, yet further to be confident that we will ultimately come to realize “why”.
As a postscript to this I'd like to leave you with what Einstein said in relation to all this in the conclusion of a paper he called “The Fundamentals of Theoretical Physics” in the journal [Science- May 24, 1940]
“Some physicists, among them myself, cannot believe that we must abandon, actually and forever, the idea of direct representation of physical reality in time and space; or that we must accept the view that events in nature are analogous to a game of chance. It is open to every man to choose the direction of his striving: and also every man may draw from Lessing’s fine saying, that the search for truth is more precious than its possession. “
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Why “Einstein’s” Moon?
To the few readers of this blog you may have been curious as to how (for me) a blog that is concerned with the “how”, “what” and “why” holds any relevance to Albert Einstein. Also, you may be interested as to why Einstein’s Moon in particular is significant in terms of this blog’s subject matter and focus. First, I must admit that if there is a person in history that has influenced me more then Plato it is Einstein. In fact I started this whole journey of the discovery and contemplation of scientific and philosophic consideration primarily due to his influence. However, to my recollection as to how the whole thing began is that in 1957, as a very young boy, I heard the eerie beeping’s of the first man made satellite over a radio. This of course was the Soviet’s “Sputnik” meaning “fellow traveler”. So you might say that it all started with the practical beginnings of the space age. This event instilled in me a curiosity about science and the nature of the world that has continued to this day. Initially I was primarily interested in modern science and the person that represented this most poignantly was of course Albert Einstein. He did then, and I would say still today, personifies the best of wisdom and science's abilities that the modern age has acheived. Realizing this I proceeded to gather and study everything I could, not only about his science, but also the man and his thoughts.
So enough about me, let’s speak of Einstein as he relates here. What I discovered about Einstein was two fold. That was that his discoveries where made not only because he was intelligent but also because he held a conviction about how the world works and what it should be. This conviction gave him the confidence and tenacity to follow up on ideas he saw as viable, even if they were not considered consistent with the main stream or popular view within his discipline and more importantly his time. This begs the question, how did he get this way? Well besides the blessings of what he was born with and what his parents nurture instilled in him, it was a consequence of what else influenced him in his development. That influence was found in part as result of his education, however I would say more importantly it is found in what he read and studied beyond the curriculum. I could go on for some time as to what this entailed but Einstein has already said this for himself when he was commenting as to what he viewed as the misguided direction of much of contemporary thought when in 1952 he said:
“Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness.”
Now as you can imagine when I discovered this I was inspired to take Einstein to heart and accept both his judgment and his challenge. I don’t think I need to explain much more beyond this. One thing I must include here is that his challenge doesn’t just extend to studying the teachings of antiquity but all the way up to the present. I have striven to do just that within my limits of time and comprehension. It is with this then why Einstein serves as the type of person to represent this contention that not only the “how” is important to the understanding of our world but the “what” and also the “why”. Einstein summed up his personal feelings about this many years ago when he said:
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
I must say I was a little hesitant to quote this as it is so often misused to portray Einstein as someone motivated by religion and so I will clear this up later with another of his quotes. What this truly portrays is that Einstein was not so interested in being able to expand our or his ability to predict as is the main focus of science today, but rather to attempt to understand “what” is the world and “how” it was so conceived which of course is the “why”. Now in regards to Einstein and religion he totally disregarded all of them, as they relate to two categories which he called “the religions of fear” and “the religions of morals”. He summed up his feelings on these when he said:
“And yet, that the primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must guard. The truth is that all religions are a varying blend of both types, with this differentiation: that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.”
So it is clear with this that what many would call religion or the will of God is not what Einstein was alluding to. So what was he talking about? This is also revealed in this essay when he says:
“But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.”
So as can be seen the God that most everyone thought that Einstein was referring to was not what it actually was. I will offer no further explanation of this due to the reasons that he cited and yet will tell you that it can be understood if you accept the challenge he offers to all.
Oh yes, I was going to relate to you what “Einstein’s Moon” refers to. Although I intended to include it here, I have decided it important enough that it serve as the discussion of a future entry.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Truth & Beauty, do they still Hold?
It has been some time since I have written in this blog. There are many reasons for this, yet I have to admit the central one was a lack of inspiration. However, recently with the start up of a new blog and topic, some things fell into place which I would like to include here. As you may know that in previous posts I have devoted some time to Plato and the explanation and promotion of his ideas. I believe that you would not be too surprised to learn I am greatly influenced by his teachings . One of the central tenants of platonian thought is that the world is the end result of two things, which I have explained here in the past as being “truth” and “beauty”. These Plato thought formed and explained both the substance and action of our world. He also referred to a second level of reality that was not part of our own world and yet connected. This place as he described was where all things found in our world and all things possible in the past or future, in terms of final form and action exist in their completion. You could describe this as the realm of all possibility. What I would like to discuss here is if such concepts still serve a useful role as to the definition and explanation our world.
When it comes to the broad strokes of the concepts of Plato, for the most part today are referenced as being Metaphysics. The particular form this metaphysics takes is said to be its ontology, or an explicit specification of a conceptualization. The central feature to Plato’s metaphysics is that as far as our world's (reality) is concerned there are two interconnected aspects to it, referred to as “truth” and “beauty”. These aspects correlate in some fashion to form what is the world. This would be considered today as a dual ontology. The other realm I spoke of is a conceptual realm where all of this interaction has played out as to the final form of which all this can take. This of course for many would amount to no more then fantasy, as to how such a conceptualization could actually be relevant to our world. In fact many involved in the physical sciences would say that all relates to quantum physics where the only feature considered as the bases of our reality is a wave or rather action of a wave, that forms what we perceive as all that is real. This could be referred to as a singular or one aspect ontology. With the adoption of this ontology they have in turn ended up with a description of the world that is in many ways both incomplete and bizarre. None the less, despite these obvious features and concerns, it is thought to be a reasonable explanation, since it has proved useful in terms of prediction of outcome which as I have explained is a primary objective within modern science.
Before we go much further, I feel I must give you a little taste of what I mean by this incomplete and bizarre description. It is most poignantly and thereby simple brought out in what is referred to as the two slit experiment. In this experiment you have a device that produces and emits one subatomic particle (quanta) as say an electron at a time. Further on and in front of the emitter is a barrier that has two slits cut into it that are close together but not joined. At some distance beyond this barrier there is a backstop which can record and show the location of every electron that strikes it after they pass through the slits. Now to understand this more fully we have to imagine what would happen if we used bullets with a similar setup instead of electrons. What would appear at the backstop after many bullets fired would be impacts that form a distribution pattern that would be greatest in the centre section of the backstop behind the two slits and diminishing in a downward bell like curve. Now what do you suppose happens in the electron case? Well as with bullets as each electron is emitted there is found a corresponding spot (strike) at the back stop. However after many strikes we observe the pattern of hits being formed is nothing like that in the case of the bullets. This pattern reveals bands of strikes starting at the centre with gaps of no strikes in between with the number of strikes in each band outward (of the middle) diminishing in number. This appears to be a pattern formed by wave interference rather then one of a particle nature. Now the question waves of what? For it is clear that what has struck the screen is single units and yet the pattern they distribute is that of a wave. How can this be? Well the way most physicists explain this is they don’t. There are all kinds of rules about how to make predictions in such situations yet no explanation is offered or no reasonable one at best. When asked the question if the electron, (quanta) are particles or waves? The answers often given is both, neither or it doesn’t apply. If you ask if the electron went through both slits or one? In reply they will say we don't know. In the end many say something to the effect of what Richard Feynman did more the forty years ago (taken from The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume 3, page 1-10):
“One might still like to ask: “How does it work?. What is the machinery behind the law?” No one has found any machinery behind the law. No one can “explain” any more than we have just “explained” . No one will give you a deeper representation of the situation. We have no ideas about a more basic mechanism from which these results can be deduced.”
So now you can understand what I mean by incomplete and bizarre. On the other hand if I were to say this to most physicists they would say, that I, not they, have a problem. Now this could be seen as all well and good if what they and Dr. Feynman said was true. However, there has been a reasonable and straight forward explanation of what is called standard non relativist Quantum Mechanics for some time. The explanation was proposed actually twice. First, in 1927 by Louis de Broglie and then again it was independently rediscovered and expanded in 1952 by David Bohm. This theory is known as the de Broglie-Bohm pilot wave theory or more simply as Bohmian Mechanics. This theory explains that the machinery of quantum mechanics is to be found in the resultant action of the influence of a wave over that of a particle. Now how did they miss that one? Everyone was asking “particle” or “wave” when the simple answer was “particle” and “wave”.
Now you might ask, why was this ignored? First you might suspect that both of the discoverers were either unknown or unqualified. Well de Broglie was one of the founders of quantum theory and received a Nobel Prize in 1929 for his contributions to the subject. Bohm on the other hand was a leading physicist of his generation and wrote a text book in 1951 on quantum mechanics that is still widely used to this day. So that doesn’t wash. So then why was it ignored? What I (and others before) contend is the reason relates to this ontology issue. As I stated earlier, standard quantum mechanics is centered on the wave phenomena as being the sole explanation, where all is simply considered as the actions of a wave. Not a normal wave that is, for this wave collapses only upon observation to present or better to be only to be perceived as a particle. Also, there are not any firm or straight forward rules as to when and where this should be considered. So when you boil it all down, it is because they prefer this singlular ontology as opposed to the dual ontology suggested by de Broglie and Bohm.
To conclude today, I would once again suggest that ancient ideas like Plato’s where both the “how” and “what “are considered, still have application today. This is in contrast to modern physics were the “how” is held so central that the “what” could be ignored or thought as unimportant. Now Plato also spoke of the “why”, which is not addressed directly by Bohm’s theory. Plato said the “why” was for the ”good”. When you examine Bohm’s theory, which realizes both the substance (truth) and the order (beauty) of the world I can’t insist this is the reason or prove it so. I can only hope it is true.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
As you are aware, one of the goals of this blog is to explain how, in the modern era, we have ended up with two separate and in many cases diametrically opposed disciplines that claim to expand human understanding. Thus far we have shown that with the ancient Greeks, the two were for the most part still considered one. In contrast to this, we have found that by Newton's time, that the two have for the most part had become separate. Therefore, we can surmise that the shift occurred between these two periods. So perhaps we should then look to what has happened in between. As we know the civilization that in effect absorbed and then for the most part adopted that of the Greeks, was the Romans and their empire. The Roman empire initially began by first conquering the Greeks and thereafter in essence took for there own both their philosophy and religion. The Romans however were more ambitious as to their acquisition of influence and thereby territory. To aid them in thier endeavor, they employed Greek science put into practice to facilitate this.
Science, put into practice in the modern definition is technology. Now the narrow view of technology, is thought by many, to be simply engineering. Which is often in turn described as applied science. I submit that in the Roman case and even more poignantly our own, this is far too narrow a view. I would contend that when science is considered to be the practical basis for ones society, it tends to effect and hence shapes all aspects of human endeavor. Now for the Romans, at the outset, they incorporated the Greek ideas in a more holistic sense, as the Greeks themselves had for the most part. Where the expansion of human understanding was taken in the spirit of the exploration of nature and its design, as to how it applied not only to man, but the world as a whole. From this perspective they could form their society on what could be perceived as natural principles. The Greeks viewed things from the perspective of introspection, where this introspection would lead to virtuous individuals that would then form themselves into a thus virtuous society or state. Socrates often was contended to have proclaimed:
"Know thyself,"To extend this in terms of society as a whole he was known to insist:
"the unexamined life is not worth living."At the beginning with the adoption of these ideas, the Romans, more or less, mirrored the aspirations of the Greeks. However, later on, when ambitions for Rome extended beyond the Greek concept of city state, to expand to empire, the view and therefore the methods changed. along with the course and thereby the destiny of their society. To accomplish this expansion, the Romans turned away from the Greek ideals that philosophy served to expand the understanding of nature, to focus more on its practical application, in the service of man. Also, what started out as the semblance of a democratic social order, in the service of its citizenry, transformed into a dictatorial system, in the service of empire building. This in turn, inevitably lead to forces of discontent from both inside and out to question the basis of the very authority of Rome. One of these primary forces were manifest in a new emerging philosophy and that was Christianity. In the spirit of the history of Rome when they found one could not destroy a thing, one then incorporates it. This was the case with Christianity. At first emperor Constantine admitted its followers freedom of practice, returned confiscated property and gave land and tax free status to the new founded church. Later emperor Theodosius made it the official religion and banned all others with the closing of what he declared the pagan temples. The last stroke was that of emperor Justinian, in 529 A.D., with his order closing the last of the Greek schools of philosophy at Athens and the banning of such studies.
So how, you might ask, did this act to serve Rome or rather its rulers? From my viewpoint, forces inside the empire started to question the authority of the emperors. For it did not appear to serve the people, as it had once with the long past democratic system. This authority was brought further into question, since the new budding philosophy professed the equality of all men in the eyes of their creator. How then were the rulers going to maintain control in the face of this? The solution, adopt the new philosophy, bane the others and thereafter claim that their authority was given to them by this new God himself. This concept which became tradition has continued to this day and has even been incorporated into the newly created democracies in one guise or another.
Now I don't want you to take me wrong, for I have no political agenda in all this. Nor am I attempting to lay blame on the Christian or any other related philosophy. My sole intent is to set up the context and background as to how and why this split occurred between science and philosophy. For what I contend is, that with the banning of Greek philosophy and methods, for political ends, is what effectively began the then slow process as to what manifested itself into the roles of science and philosophy as observed today. Essentially, this policy, at first halted the expansion of understanding, in philosophic terms, as defined by the Greeks and along with it much of the knowledge gained. Also, it created a tension that would force any new emergence of renewal of such, to avoid conflicting with the new religious philosophy, in terms of its authority. Primarily what I'm referring to, is any aspect that might serve to address the question "why", beyond what this new philosophy so dictated.
In future posts, we will expand on all this, to discover how this new face of science emerged in the early years. We will also find, that ironically the very philosophy that in effect became the instrument used (or more properly misused), as reason to banish the old philosophies became the depository and keeper of this then forbidden wisdom. We will learn of the early practitioners, as to from whence they came and what they did in terms of expansion of human understanding. We will discover the limits placed on them and how this in turn served to shape our modern concept of science. However, for now all of this must wait to be explained in upcoming entries.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Cycle and Epicycle, Orb in Orb
In the course of this blog, I have been speaking about this contention of mine, that the split between science and philosophy is focused around who addresses the “how” questions and who deals with the “why” ones. I’ve shown that for the most part, science sticks to “how” and leaves the “why” to philosophy. Lately, in particular, I have been speaking about the scientific method, as to what it contains or allows, as well as what it does not. One of the key elements of the method, is the use of mathematics. Now as we know one of the most basic tools in science, is mathematics. In fact many mathematicians would claim that it is the most fundamental of the sciences, rather then physics. There are others that would say that mathematics is not a science at all, but rather a hybrid of logic. However, the purpose of this post is not to enter this debate. What I would like to talk about is how mathematics itself, to a large extend, mirrors the rest of science in the context of how it forms our attitudes in regards to the discovery of truth in the natural world. To be fair I should say our common view. The example I will use to expand on all this is a mathematically defined shape that all of us are familiar with and that is a circle.
Now to begin, if I asked you to describe a circle, what comes to mind? This would seem to be a easy question, yet if I were to take to the street and solicit answers from a cross section of the populous, I suspect I would get a variety of replies. Some might say, it’s the shape we see when we look at a wheel. Others might say it’s the shape we see when we look at the moon or the sun. The more scientific might give a explanation that is somewhat more technical. In general though, I would suspect that most people would draw on things found in nature or constructed by man to describe it. This said , I would also wager that when you think of a circle, you see it in the abstract, as to what it is without reverence to any physical object. Now if you were to look for a formal definition, what would you find? Well I looked to many sources, including several dictionaries. For instance in all dictionaries I referred to, the one given was almost identical to the following, stated in Webster’s online dictionary as:
"a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant from a fixed point within the curve"For a more professional definition one might refer to Wolfram’s Math World (a site I highly recommend), yet in this case it states much the same:
"A circle is the set of points in a plane that are equidistant from a given point."Now what is the difference between what many of you describe or only hold in your mind and what we find here as a definition. The difference is, in your mind, you hold it as a preformed thing, in its completion or “what” it is. In the definition, what is being described is “how” it is, as to how you would go about constructing a circle. Like the task performed when you use a compass to create one. This definition also, in a indirect way,both implies and relies on another abstract concept and that is the one of infinity. For the points described must be both infinite in number and have no space between them, otherwise one ends up with something that although circle like, would still not be a true circle. So is there another way to describe a circle, which does not rely on a reference to other objects or ill defined abstract concepts?
Before I reveal this other way to describe a circle, let’s first review what I told you were the key “hunches” that science uses to find truth in the natural world. There were two. One was economy and the other was symmetry. Now let’s suppose that we are nature. In this case I will limit us to be nature of a two dimensional world. That is, one that is restricted to a plane or flat land. Now let’s suppose, we as nature, constructed this world to comply with these hunches I pointed out. So if we imposed these hunches as our rules to make real, a basic and fundamental shape for this universe, what could be one that we would end up with? Okay, let’s imagine we say we want a two dimensional form, that always is in proportion, a line of least length to enclose the greatest amount of area . For as I said, we are nature and so therefore we want our basic structures economical in both form and explanation. So what form would we have thus just demanded? Well as I think you will have guessed, if you didn’t know already, it is the circle. Now what about the symmetry part? Remember we defined symmetry as when one takes a thing and does something to it in regards and respect to the allowed levels of freedom (dimensions) and it there after remains unchanged. What can we do to the circle to see if it has symmetry? First, we could just move it around our two dimensional universe. When we do this, ( to no great surprise) no matter to what distance moved, it still remains the same in both form and function. Now what if we rotated it as allowed in this universe, will it change? No it will not. So now we have found by invoking this rule of economy, we have in turn ended up with something that also demonstrates symmetry. Now you might retort, that’s fine for this mystical flat land, but what of the real world. In response, I would remind you that the three dimensional projection or analogue of the circle is the sphere. The sphere described in the way I have just shown, would be a form that always is in proportion the surface of least area enclosing the greatest amount of volume. The economy here is also evident and the tests we imposed to confirm symmetry, would hold the same.
Now you say, so what, for the objects just described are simply abstractions. You continue by insisting they are therefore forms only created in our minds. You could thus feel this should end it all. That would be true, if the circle and its somewhat distorted cousin the ellipse were not so prominent in both the form and action of our natural world. That it is to say, it has proven to thereby have purpose. The other way to state it is, “why” is the circle (or the sphere)? The answer of course is to have a entity(s) that can act in purpose that is both economical and symmetrical in form and function. I thus find it unfortunate, that although science looks to these hunches to discover truth of the world, that it at the same time denies the “why”, that also lends insight into not only the means of it’s construction, but also of its utility.
In summation today, I would bet in the beginning, when I mentioned mathematics many of you thought, oh no, here come the formulas and equations. In contrast to this expectation, as demonstrated above, many might be surprised to find that if they explored both mathematics and science, at the more fundamental level, you may discover it to be simple, beautiful and yet excitingly mysterious. I would ask now, the next time you are given to describe a circle, what will be your reply?
As a foot note to this, let me leave you with a quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” that I find projects the spirit of what I have attempted to convey:
From man or angel the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
His secrets to be scanned by them who ought
Rather admire; or if they list to try
Conjecture, he his fabric of the heav'ns
Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move
His laughter at their quaint opinions wide
Hereafter, when they come to model heav'n
And calculate the stars, how they will wield
The mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive
To save appearances, how gird the sphere
With centric and eccentric scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb.