The mathematical matrix


JD sends some light reading for Sunday morn, rather than a dedicated post and methinks the reason is so that I have to wade through it.

The abstract is, as the worthy gent puts it:

The author finds the idea ‘unsettling’ but I think it is wonderful! There are some scientists who have realised that no further ‘progress’ can be made in our understanding unless and until consciousness is included in their calculations.

Worry not, the universe is great fun once you understand the Cosmic joke 🙂

Seems more like abstraction than abstract.

Over the past century and a half, field theory has come to dominate our understanding of the universe, from the cosmic to the subatomic. General relativity is a field theory that describes how gravity choreographs the elegant motions of galaxies, stars, planets and moons, while at the other end of the scale quantum field theory describes the chaos of the subatomic world. As physicists now see it, our universe is nothing less, and nothing more, than a collection of fields invisibly filling space with their powerful, generative effects.

Into this I’ll insert Julia’s post at OoL on questioning everything. First the quote by some leftwing radical:

An education that feeds students unquestioning patriotism – or, for that matter, unquestioning anything – and squelches any initiative they may take to explore controversial issues is not likely to produce free-thinking, independent-minded citizens.

… and Julia’s comment:

Say, how do you suppose students would be treated should they decide to challenge the left-wing and ‘right on’ views of their teachers?

No, no, no need to bother to try to find out!

The opening paragraph of the linked article above read:

“Everything you’ve been told about physics is wrong.”

From his opening remarks to his punchline, Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll knows how to grab an audience’s attention. And when Carroll talks physics, people listen. The “wrong” that Carroll is referring to is the widely held view that the world is made up of particles. Not so, he says.

Of course it’s bloody particles. If you have electrons flying around a central body, it still comes to form what in real terms [meaning everyday life terms] are particles. Samuel Johnson dealt with this, as reported by Boswell:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.’ [Life of Johnson]

Sophistry it is. No one’s denying fields but it is the genius of fields producing what’s good enough, in day-to-day terms, to be called matter which is, if we understood it, which the clowns who had a cocktail party over “discovering” Higgs Boson did not understand, puts us in the role of whoever did discover it or even design it and that person has the right to be called God.

And if I were that person, Heaven forbid, the first thing I’d do is put in failsafes so that it wasn’t going to be discovered and tampered with, just as any designers place their central code behind barriers.

And it’s not too much of a stretch in imagination to find there is a malcontent who shall remain unnamed who has been trying to discover that key since the year dot – as great a bit of industrial espionage as you’d never hope to succeed and all his agents have been working feverishly on that. Did you see the statue at the entrance to CERN?


From the start both physicists and philosophers had to grapple with the paradox of Newton’s discovery. Here was a new theory of the world that was supposed to expunge supernatural thinking, yet no one had any idea how its central principle might work. In some ways it seemed as fantastic as magic. “How does the Moon know that the Earth is exerting a gravitational pull on it?” offers Carroll in sympathy with the physicists of that time.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the French physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace suggested an answer. Laplace proposed that gravity resulted from a field – later dubbed the “gravitational potential field” – that filled all of space.

This field flowed through space like waves through the ocean, whereas the old Newtonian concept of force had no known means of transmission. Gravity was not something that instantaneously leapt across millions of miles of space, but a localised phenomenon, more like vibrations on a spider web.

The Earth could pull on the moon because it affected the gravity field in its immediate vicinity; this in turn affected the region nearby and so on towards the moon. The “force” of gravity travelled, as it were, within and via this field.

One implication of Laplace’s theory was that gravity should propagate at a finite speed, which led others to hypothesise gravity waves. In 1992 an international team of physicists built themselves an observatory known as LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) to look for them.

“Supposed to expunge supernatural thinking”

Yes, that’s what this was all about and has always been about. The blog format is too constricted to go into the whole biz of the Royal Society and Pseudo-Science which has gripped the world’s thinking today.

The supposition that this “expunges” or supplants supernatural thinking is a w*** [that thing a man does as he watches porn]. Why the a priori that it has to “expunge”? Why?

The answer to that is not physical, it’s psychological – it’s a determination not to allow something which grips people thinking worldwide to have any validity. It is not based on science, it is based on desire.

In the 1860s, maths came to Faraday’s rescue in the form of Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. He backed up Faraday’s concept with what are now known as Maxwell’s Equations, which combine electric and magnetic fields into the greater whole of an electromagnetic field.

Among other things, they describe light as an electromagnetic field travelling at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Maxwell also predicted that it should be possible to artificially produce electromagnetic waves. Heinrich Hertz did just this in the late 1880s, generating radio waves and planting the seed of today’s telecommunications industry.

Thanks to Maxwell’s theory, physicists stopped seeing the universe as a vast machine, and increasingly began to understand it as an arena for the interactions of fields.

Maxwell’s laws were a triumph of mathematics, but only a small number of highly trained physicists could understand them. Poignantly Faraday himself wasn’t one of them. He died sad and frustrated, not realising that Maxwell’s equations had verified his theory.

No issue with fields.

The Higgs boson, like all the other particles, comes with a Higgs field, and it is this field that physicists are itching to understand. Because the Higgs field is unique.

All fields extend throughout space and at every point, it is possible to “quantify” a value. For each field the average value throughout space is zero.

Except for the Higgs field. This is what gives the Higgs field its special role.

“As we travel through space, we’re surrounded by the Higgs field, and moving within it,” writes Carroll. “Like the proverbial fish in water, we don’t usually notice it, but this field is what brings all the weirdness to the Standard Model.”

The “weirdness” here is the fact that if it weren’t for their interaction with the Higgs field, particles would all be massless like the photon. The universe would be a very different place.

“the weirdness to the Standard Model”

Not weird in the least. Just as with what appears a baffling set of details to the layman, Sherlock Holmes was able to unravel with a startlingly simple explanation. Occam’s Razor. Ditto here.

I shall not give voice to this Reason as it is what split Orphans of Liberty last time round and caused one camp to take their bat and ball and go home.

Physicists are excited about the confirmation of the Higgs boson mostly because it has confirmed the existence of the Higgs field

Utter BS. It was never confirmed at all. There was a cocktail party where CERN said it had been discovered and acted as if it had, despite the protestations of scientists that they were still short of it.

Lord Kelvin recognized:

… that the power of mathematics would carry physics beyond comprehension, not only of ordinary human beings but of physicists. “I am never content until I have constructed a mechanical model of the subject I am studying. If I succeed in making one, I understand; otherwise I do not,” he wrote. Yet as a great mathematician, Kelvin recognised the mysterious power of equations and numbers, noting that “the more you understand what is wrong with a figure, the more valuable that figure becomes”.

Again, no issue with maths as the basis. The cleverness of the design is beyond comprehension. I look at the Masons who are the heirs to an earlier organization which itself were heirs to the holy land which contained things archaeologists have been searching for since archaeology began. There is much reference to Egypt and for good reason.

Occam’s Razor – there is something there. There is Hinduism, Buddhism, and to call them superstitions is limited – no one adheres to something for so long unless there is some basis underpinning it. for example, evolution would have long been exploded without the fossil record – it’s real, it exists. So those who will not think these things through on the supernatural side – religious blind faithers, are missing a wonder which is the existence of fields.

If there is a reality out there and not just a Matrix, it needs to include all these areas in the model, without exclusion just because we psychologically don’t like the idea. Who’s the scientist here? I’d say the one who is open enough to allow everything put on the table and some sort of sense made of the data.

But who is not too blinkered to do that dispassionately?


Just a note as to why this is being run at both my site and OoL. I received an email yesterday by one of the much-read bloggers about technical issues with viewing OoL. I’m well aware of tech issues at OoL and the difficulty in overcoming them. This will be the subject of a different post at OoL.

Therefore, it appears that some posts are not coming up or are coming up in a weird way and if that is so for you, then a copy of this post is at the other site.

10 comments for “The mathematical matrix

  1. okjoe59
    September 22, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Hang on a darn minute there! Just how ‘real’ is the fossil record?

    • Voice of Reason
      September 24, 2013 at 1:17 am

      Very real.

  2. September 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    It could be the Higgs Field that’s causing problems with OoL posts 😆

  3. September 22, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Is OoL space a field or are the posts particular?
    Basically I gave up trying to understand sub-atomic physics in about 1970, much of it made no sense while most of it offended my reason. I get how different ‘models’ can allow the description of the different observed real life atomic effects but none of the theories or models seemed to describe any sort of coherent reality. As far as I can work out nothing discovered since has changed that situation. It’s like describing words in minute detail while being ignorant of the existence of a book
    I suspect we would disagree in that I see no need for religion in any explanation. I see religions as simply an amalgam of philosophy, politics, mental support and social control mechanisms.

  4. Voice of Reason
    September 23, 2013 at 12:35 am

    James – we have had this argument before, and it is a favourite one for the religious. Until we can isolate a God in the laboratory (at which point (s)he is no longer supernatural), we have to do science by what is reproducible.

  5. September 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    And the nuclear models are reproducable?

  6. Voice of Reason
    September 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    James – if you are talking quantum theory, most results show agreement to at least 12 decimals. How much better could current instruments get? Every experiment appears to follow what we hypothesize.

    • September 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      What results?

      There are two distinct approaches. One is to assume that quantum theory is exact, but that the interpretive postulates need modification, to eliminate apparent contradictions. The second approach is to assume that quantum mechanics is not exact, but instead is a very accurate approximation to a deeper level theory, which reconciles the deterministic and probabilistic aspects.

      So where is this 12 decimal places business?

      Also, a person can discuss the universe without having to be “religious”. Dawkins is religious. When someone looks at all the data, not just part of it, and decides that the original thought was right, like Occam’s Razor, that is a scientific approach, not blind faith.

      Blind faith can especially be found in today’s pseudo-Science so many like to quote from.

      • Voice of Reason
        September 24, 2013 at 1:31 am

        Most of the results in QM involve predicting the existence of previously unknown particles, including their properties, and especially the rest mass and total energy of predicted interactions. These work out to be as precise as we can measure them.

        Your previous discussions with me on science topics have basically been arguments from ignorance. The sad reality is that most of science is consistent, including with the other parts. The standard arguments against science try to pick at one part (say the ‘non-existent’ transitional fossils), and then ignore all of the resulting contradictions with lots of other results.

        This is especially common with Young Earth Creationists, who are forced into the position that most of known results in physics are coincidences, which just happen to have stablized once we started measuring things. It is childish.

        • Voice of Reason
          September 24, 2013 at 1:35 am

          To piggy-back on my own post, the only predictions made by religions which have been verified are those which were both predicted and ‘verified’ in the same text. There is zero evidence in the Bible or elsewhere of any deep knowledge of the workings of reality. Nothing in either the Old or New Testaments shows any understanding beyond the Bronze Age, and much of what is there is just incorrect.

          There may or may not be gods, but if there are, they didn’t write the Bible, Koran or Upanishads.

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