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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Jarad]
      #5760813 - 03/27/13 05:04 PM

I have to leave now to get to a family event. I have very much appreciated the primer in elementary physics through which each of you have taken the time to walk me.

I will be digesting these matters while I drive and will, undoubtedly, have other questions later.

Thank you.

Otto


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5764612 - 03/29/13 12:58 PM

Lawrence Jacobsen continued:

He seems to have been influenced by Jacob Bronowski's Ascent-of-Man documentary.

Anyway, he cites a quote of the physicist, Max Born. I believe Schrodinger quoted Born making the statement which follows.

I would appreciate hearing from you physicists, professional and amateur, what you believe Born was saying, what he meant to communicate when he (Born) wrote,

"I am convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy."

Thank you.

Otto


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Joad
Wordsmith
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5764855 - 03/29/13 02:18 PM

I wouldn't take off-the-cuff statements by physicists (especially from the "golden age" of physics) too seriously. They were on to something really new (Quantum Mechanics especially) and realized that our thinking about reality would have to be realigned. Heisenberg went so far as to opine that reality had evaporated in the wake of QM (postmodernists have really jumped on this), but in another statement opined that QM could be related to what Aristotle had to say about the nature of dunamis, or potentiality (I jumped on that).

But in the end, while physicists have said all sorts of things that could be called philosophical, their actual practice is quite different from the practice of philosophy.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5764864 - 03/29/13 02:25 PM

Hi Joad,

My memory is a bit fuzzy...do I recall you writing here in response to my request, somewhat in depth, on the issue of potentiality as an aspect of reality , specifically; and hylomorphism in particular?

Your take on an intellectual generalist [Jacobsen], quoting Bronowski, perhaps quoting Schrodinger, quoting Born is pretty much what mine is.

Would you say that physicists today understand the basic principles of quantum physics to be as objectively true and understandable as physics' understanding of basic concepts of force and energy, say of a century ago?

Edited by Otto Piechowski (03/29/13 02:28 PM)


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Joad
Wordsmith
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5765287 - 03/29/13 05:00 PM

Newtonian physics, which was of immense interest to philosophers, does not challenge our fundamental human perception/conception/construction of reality. So in that sense one might say that philosophers of the pre-Quantum, pre-Relativity era felt pretty confident about the whole thing.

But while QM and Relativity have also been of immense interest to many current philosophers of science, both QM and Relativity are so alien to our fundamental human perception/conception/construction of reality that their philosophical explorations rest on a far less firm ground. The main problem is that neither QM nor Relativity make much sense in the context of natural language conceptuality (which is the language of a philosopher); they only make sense in the language of mathematics. Most philosophers (if not all) do not really have the mathematical training to fully grasp QM and Relativity (I know that I don't), and even physicists who do have that training can run off the rails when speculating in natural languages on what mathematics reveal. The "strong" anthropogenic argument that our observation of a photon not only causes it to collapse into a wave packet but also causes its emission in the first place is an example, IMHO, of physicists running off the rails.


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EJN
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/01/05

Loc: 53 miles west of Venus
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5765531 - 03/29/13 06:52 PM

This is from the introduction to a course on quantum mechanics:

Quote:

General relativity can be a difficult subject to master, but its mathematical
and conceptual structure involves a fairly straight-forward extension of structures
that characterize 19th century physics. The fundamental physical laws
(Einstein's equations for general relativity) are expressed as partial differential
equations, a familiar if difficult mathematical subject. The state of the system
is determined by the set of fields satisfying these equations, and observable
quantities are functionals of these fields. The mathematics is just that of the
usual calculus: differential equations and their real-valued solutions.

In quantum mechanics, the state of a system is best thought of as a different
sort of mathematical object: a vector in a complex vector space, the so-called
state space. One can sometimes interpret this vector as a function, the wavefunction,
although this comes with the non-classical feature that wave-functions are complex-valued.
What's truly completely different is the treatment of observable
quantities, which correspond to self-adjoint linear operators on the state
space. This has no parallel in classical physics, and violates our intuitions about
how physics should work.





In 1997, I attended a lecture at Fermilab by Nobel prize winner Murray
Gell-Mann, who developed the theory of quarks. He said something very memorable,
paraphrasing from memory:

"Some people find quantum mechanics weird or strange. Quantum mechanics is a
theory which makes very precise predictions which have been verified by experiment.
There's nothing weird about that. It's just quantum mechanics, being quantum
mechanics. That's all it does!"

On a PBS program, another physicist (whose name I don't remember) said (again,
paraphrasing from memory):

"Quantum mechanics is a theory whose predictions have been verified by experiment
to a precision almost unparalleled in physics. As for what it means, I leave that
to the philosophers. But personally, I think they have no idea what they are
talking about."




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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: EJN]
      #5765810 - 03/29/13 09:48 PM

Joad and EJN...you two did a spectacular job of clarifying the issues regarding the objectivity and understandability of classical physics and QM/relativity physics.

Now, I would like to do a regular philosophical thing, of putting, side by side, two spectacular quotes by two physicsts (one, Max Born, and the other from the PBS program cited), and inviting whatever comments anyone wishes to make about the dialectic of these two statements.

Born: "I am convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy."

PBS: ""As for what it [quantum mechanics] means, I leave that to the philosophers. But personally, I think they have no idea what they are
talking about."


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CounterWeight
Postmaster
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Reged: 10/05/08

Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5766010 - 03/30/13 12:47 AM

Quote:

PBS: ""As for what it [quantum mechanics] means, I leave that to the philosophers. But personally, I think they have no idea what they are
talking about."





I guess that shows PBS is seeking the same audience as the 'Jerry Springer' folks? (not the first time or subject IMO)

Some of the best set theoreticians and in ways mathmaticians /numerical analysis folks I have met have degrees in philosophy at the BS or PhD level. Study of logic can be a powerful thing. So consider that a moron can comment on anything (and for some reason the mass media seems to need that for it's 'controversy' angle...), but to argue with the moron folks might not be able to tell which is which? (just tagging onto an old saying there).. So my suggestion is to take that as PBS 'theatrics'.


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herrointment
Post Laureate
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Reged: 03/12/11

Loc: North of Hwy. 64
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5767352 - 03/30/13 06:23 PM

As an aside...I'm reading this thread and following along as well as can be expected. This thought crossed my mind....

At my job, during lunch, for 20 some odd years, the only thing my co-workers talk about are guns with a wife story tossed in here and there.

My brain needs exercise.


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Napersky
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Reged: 01/27/10

Loc: Chicagoland
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Joad]
      #5767655 - 03/30/13 09:28 PM

Quote:

..and even physicists who do have that training can run off the rails when speculating in natural languages on what mathematics reveal. The "strong" anthropogenic argument that our observation of a photon not only causes it to collapse into a wave packet but also causes its emission in the first place is an example, IMHO, of physicists running off the rails.




I am and always have been suspicious of Special Relativity and statements made by Physicists about the nature of Quantum Mechanics as I was trained in Philosophy as a major at the undergraduate level. I agree with Joad that the above statement appears illogical.

After all Physicists are not Philosophers or Logicians. They seem to think that A and Not A can exist in the same time and space without special qualifications. (hyperbole)

"

"But in the end, while physicists have said all sorts of things that could be called philosophical, their actual practice is quite different from the practice of philosophy."

I hope the problems I have with some physicists statements are not real problems of the physics at all but just bad statements of philosophy uttered by these men to popularize and explain their theories to the lay public.

Mark


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CounterWeight
Postmaster
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Reged: 10/05/08

Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Napersky]
      #5767702 - 03/30/13 09:54 PM

I like to think that each helps keep the truth 'on it's toes', whatever it is perceived to be. Hope that doesn't sound overly optimistic.

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idealistic
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 12/31/10

Loc: massachusetts
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5768984 - 03/31/13 02:55 PM

Shouldn't physics be explainable philosophically? If in fact it can't, I'd say that would be a failure of physics and not philosophy. I know little about theoretical physics, but things that philosophy deals with, such as causality, identity and what not shouldn't present a problem if we've got the physics really nailed down, right?

Edited by idealistic (03/31/13 03:02 PM)


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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
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Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769007 - 03/31/13 03:04 PM

Physics doesn't need to explain anything except how matter and energy and space and time interact with one another. It can't explain anything philosophically, because it isn't philosophy. It can explain the motion of matter through a gravitational field, but it can't give that motion "meaning" in any philosophical sense.

That's not a failure of physics, that's merely the limitations of its scope. Let the philosophers argue about what it all means.


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idealistic
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 12/31/10

Loc: massachusetts
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5769063 - 03/31/13 03:34 PM

I'm saying that our understanding of reality, which is based on physics, should be explainable using the language and fundamental concepts that philosophers use. If it isn't, maybe we need to take another look at the physics.

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gavinm
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 08/26/05

Loc: Auckland New Zealand
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769128 - 03/31/13 04:27 PM

Physics explains our understanding of reality mathematically (and it does so quite well)..

Maybe take another look at your view of reality or another look at philosophy..


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idealistic
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 12/31/10

Loc: massachusetts
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: gavinm]
      #5769141 - 03/31/13 04:37 PM

I'll get right on that. Can math not be explained using concepts that philosophers use?

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Joad
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Reged: 03/22/05

Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769170 - 03/31/13 04:48 PM

A little history might be useful. Philosophy (literally "love of wisdom") was once synonymous with what we now call "science": there was no distinction (Aristole, for example, wrote on "physics"—which derived from the Greek word for "nature"—biology, rhetoric, ethics, metaphysics, politics, poetry, and so on and so forth).

But with the advent of the empirical scientific method, all that changed. Science and philosophy are quite distinct. The Anglo-American tradition of philosophy (Analytic) considerably reduced its ambitions a century ago to focus on the logic of arguments, while Continental philosophers have focused on politics, language, and culture. There are philosophers of science, but what's the point, really. What if, for example, the LHC ends up doing in the Standard Model? What would become of any philosophical argument based on it?

I think philosophers should go back to what Socrates focused on: the definition of the "good" for human life. They gave that up a long long time ago, but it is one thing that human beings can think about without requiring scientific knowledge or support.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769191 - 03/31/13 04:56 PM

Perhaps I can provide an example of a question which would be approached by physics and philosophy in different and perhaps incompatible manners.

Once upon a time, taking a cue from the Rev. Webb, I asked here, "Why is the universe so large?"

A physicist, would address this question from the position of "how", as in, what are the physical parameters of the formation of the universe that account for its size.

A philosopher, however, would handle this question from either a theological perspective of intention/final-causality/teleology, or from an anthropological direction (a la Wheeler) of exploring why the physical parameters of the universe correspond with or are specifically suited to human nature.


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CounterWeight
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Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: idealistic]
      #5769228 - 03/31/13 05:08 PM

whoops! Let's follow this... physics is described mathematically ? Do we have agreement there? OK, now... mathematics - certainly at points cab be very philosophical - I have some great books that go into it in painful detail. It's an unfortunately often bypassed subject, and well.. we reap the rewards of that.

But as a sort of starter I'd mention Korner, "The Philosophy of Mathematics".

Now ask is mathematics a science like physics? or is it something else? Physics a science and math is not? Math becomes a science when applied to scienterrific things by equally modern scienterrific people?

Hmmm... well at the very least philosophy and mathematics are at the very core basics on very good terms.

Were Heisenberg and Pauli just 'whacko' for their beliefs that there was a philosophy component for physics as well?

.


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idealistic
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 12/31/10

Loc: massachusetts
Re: A Request to the Physicists Among Us new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5769263 - 03/31/13 05:15 PM

I agree with Joad that philosophy should focus on defining "the good" among other practical applications of the mind with the goal of bettering ourselves.

Otto, I see what you're saying. I don't think that philosophy should try to answer the "why" of a metaphysically given fact such as "why is the universe so large". It just is.

Many people think that mathematical physics (today) is irrational nonsense. That physicists are now the ones in their ivory tower, and to disagree is a sign of an inability to comprehend, or to do the math. Shouldn't it be easy enough to explain QM without resorting to neo-Platonism and contradicting what appears evident to perception? Things have certain identities and behave in certain definable ways (edit: No matter whether we're looking or not, no matter how it makes us feel), this should be true at all times and at all scales. Thats a philosophic statement that some physicists (maybe trying to be cute) might dare to disagree with isn't it?

Edited by idealistic (03/31/13 05:39 PM)


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