Gathering perspectives
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19-04-2014, 05:56 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hello DLJ, thanks once more for your interest.

Please allow me to rearrange the responses a bit, for simplicity.

(19-04-2014 10:42 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I think I'm getting a bit lost. What do you mean by 'abstract information’?
The intangible implications conveyed by the change in relative location and/or orientation of one material structure with respect to another.

If you hear a knock on the door, the message “there is someone at the other side” would be one of several implications conveyed by the vibration of the wood (or whatever material the door is made with), the oscillation of the air in the room, the vibration of different things in your hearing apparatus, and so on. The fact that all those things are moving implies that there is someone at the other side, because doors don’t usually knock on themselves. But the implications conveyed by that motion are not things that are located anywhere; they simply happen as things that are located somewhere move in relation to other things.

Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned self-complementary chains of RNA in this conversation. I just wanted to point out, in relation to your last diagram, that abstract information does not only occur at the level of our human minds; there are plenty of abstract implications conveyed by the temporary arrangement of matter that conforms our genes. Our DNA and RNA contain information too (and it can be measured in megabytes), but I am not sure how to fit it into the steps of the ladder, so seemingly focused on human communications.

(19-04-2014 10:42 AM)DLJ Wrote:  By 'extract' do you mean 'subtract' (withdraw) or 'deduce’?
If you are using “subtract” and “deduce” as synonyms of “withdraw” then yes, exactly. Energy doesn’t just spring out of nowhere. In order for a device to know some abstract notion (i.e., contain moving parts that convey such notion), it needs a structure with movable parts constrained to specific paths of motion conveying that specific implication. But it also needs the motion; those movable parts will not begin moving in their specific paths just because they want to. In order for them to go from the stationary state to the moving state, they need to absorb energy and they cannot just make it up. Energy cannot be created.

Our brains equipped with optical sensors are one example of such a device. Let us imagine that you are in a black room with no light sources except for a tiny LED, at such a distance and with such a small size that all its emitted photons that arrive to your eye are focused into a single photosensitive cell in each of your retinas. For simplicity, let us consider that you have some sort of patch covering one of your eyes, so that only one photosensitive cell in your body receives any incoming light.

The photosensitive cells in our eyes produce large amounts of one family of proteins generically called opsins, and each opsin is able to bind one molecule of another substance called retinal, but only if the electronic configuration around one specific carbon “atom” is such that it introduces a bend in a specific part of the molecule, making it look a bit like a boomerang. This form of the molecule is generally called 11-cis-retinal.

When a photon with the appropriate energy hits a specific electron around the 11th carbon using one counting convention, its energy may be just enough to cause its translocation and the rearrangement of several nearby “atoms” in the molecule, yielding the form all-trans-retinal, with a more linear geometry. This change in shape forces its separation from the protein, causing the shape of the protein to change as well, making it appropriate for its binding to a different protein nearby, in turn causing a cascade of physicochemical changes in several other proteins that ends up altering the concentration of calcium ions inside the cell’s cytoplasm. This change induces the liberation of neurotransmitters to the synaptic gap outside the cell, and those trigger a local depolarisation in the membranes of adjacent nerve cells which is propagated further into our brain.

The fact that that specific neural pathway is propagating a variation in electrochemical potential implies that there is a source of light in a specific direction in relation to the eye (that is one abstract notion conveyed by the motion and changes of all those things in the previous paragraph). But the important thing to be noted here is that the electron around the 11th carbon of the molecule of retinal never re-emits the absorbed photon; its energy helps drive the initial stage of the visual process, the transformation from 11-cis-retinal into all-trans-retinal.

As we observe things outside our skulls, we are extracting (withdrawing) motion from the things outside our skulls, amplifying it and constraining it to specific pathways inside our brains. In our every-day macroscopic observations, the amount of energy we subtract from any system is negligible compared to the amount it contains; the subsequent changes in the system’s behaviour are negligible too. However, when we observe systems with tiny amounts of energy, the amount subtracted may become considerable, yielding subsequent changes in the behaviour of the system that are considerable too. That is probably why many of the most puzzling effects of our observations happen at a sub-“atomic” scale, in which the observed objects have an amount of energy comparable to that of a photon.

(19-04-2014 10:42 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Is the detector detecting at a point of time (therefore seeing particles) or over a period of time (therefore seeing motion)?
I am not sure I understand the question; the way I view the notion of seeing, it already implies motion and particles. You wouldn’t have vision if you didn’t have all those things able to move in relation to other things, or if you had the things but they didn’t move. You need both the things and the motion to be able to see. Is “both” an acceptable answer to this question? Would you mind please rephrasing it? Thanks!

I hope this has helped, although… I’m not sure. But don’t forget that there is always the possibility that I am just talking bollocks, so please do point out any inconsistencies, unacceptable premises or any other mistakes that you may find.

I really appreciate how you are trying to understand these ideas. Have fun in a healthy dosage!
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19-04-2014, 07:02 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives



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20-04-2014, 07:36 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(19-04-2014 05:56 PM)living thing Wrote:  ...
don’t forget that there is always the possibility that I am just talking bollocks,
...

I'll see your bollocks and raise you jet lag.

Apologies... I can't do this subject justice at the moment (maybe for a few days).

So please don't think I'm ignoring the subject... just not capable of coherent thought.
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20-04-2014, 10:42 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  Particles of many levels of complexity conform the structure of reality; at any instant during their existence, each is located somewhere in relation to every other and, as you say, the relative location of any object can be described using three parameters: its distance from a reference point along three orthogonal axes.

Hmm. But location is already predicated on some sort of interaction, and thus implicitly temporal as well.

Coordinates - spacetime coordinates - are a measure of separation, and in anything other than macroscopic/intuitive terms it doesn't make much sense to drop one of those measures of separation.

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  Waves are part of the universe’s behaviour, and every behaviour involves, in one way or another, the change in relative location or orientation of some real structure with respect to some other. But no real object can move in relation to anything at an infinite speed; every kind of motion takes an interval of time for it to occur.

That is, indeed, the definition of time; the necessary interval for an observable change in configuration.

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  That is why, in order to describe a behaviour, you need a fourth parameter reflecting how time progresses. Waves really are virtual entities; they really are entities that appear over a period of time with the motion of things that occupy some volume in space.

I would say... the classical duality - well, not 'classical', but classical so far as quantum mechanics is concerned - is and has been overstated; it's an artifact of intuitive perception we're gradually overcoming.

I mean, really everything is waves, because those are the only possible manifestations of excitations in the underlying fields. Obviously, in the statistical limits we recover "classical" behaviour; it's just that there's no hard and fast point at which this occurs.

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  For example, let us consider Akira Tonomura’s implementation of Feynman’s famous electron double slit thought experiment, which provides evidence to the claim that electrons exhibit particle-like features and wave-like features. In the experiment, a hot tungsten wire was used as a controlled source of electrons, which were accelerated towards a sensitive plate by means of an electric field. Along the way, the electrons went through a double slit in a gold coated silicon membrane.

What the experimenters found is that each electron fired arrived at a discrete location on the sensitive plate, appearing as a small white dot on a black screen, and the locations of those arrivals seemed to be random. However, when the experiment was allowed to run for two hours without erasing the points on the screen, an interference pattern appeared, typical of waves. But note how this wave-like behaviour appeared when the experiment was run over an interval of time. At the instant of each electron’s arrival, only the particle-like behaviour could be observed. Why? Because virtual information is not there at any specific instant in time, it only appears over an interval of time.

Indeed. The wave packets - if unobserved - do neat things like self-interfere. Observation - usually us hitting them with something, but not necessarily - requires specification of coordinates (or state) in that measure, and so the parameter in question is tightened up (at the expense of others, governed by what uncertainty relations might exist).

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  A puzzling behaviour occurs in double slit experiments when a detector is placed in one of the slits so that the experimenter can learn through which one the fired particle goes. Funnily enough, when the detector is turned on, the interference pattern disappears and the double slit experiment behaves more like a single slit experiment; the particles behave more like particles and less like waves. Why can that be?

Yep; if position is localised at the detector, the wave packet can have previously interfered with itself (and is observed to have done so). If it is localised prior to the slit, it cannot do so (and is not observed to).

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  Because knowing is containing information. In order for you to learn an abstract notion, you need to extract motion from the scene your are observing, and that is applicable regardless of whether you are a relatively intelligent living being, or a relatively stupid machine built by a living being. In order for the detector to be able to detect something in a system, it needs to absorb enough motion from the system to convey whatever abstract notion the detector is able to convey. And once that energy is in the detector, it is not in the system any longer. Your pupils are black because most of the visible light that comes into your eyes does not come back out; its energy (plus the energy contained in your cells) drives the signals that are carried to your brain. Once you absorb a photon, its energy drives the notion in your brain, but the photon is gone. So I am not surprised that, if you turn on a detector that will subtract energy from the system, the entities in the system will behave less like a wave and more like a particle.

Yes, if "information" is defined as (fundamentally) being contained in distinguishable configurations. So to change configurations requires an energy input (or, a spontaneous change produces an energy output). Extracting information, then, takes energy from the observed to enact a change in the observer.

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  Regarding this new diagram, it seems to view information as the entity that may be carried by a physical structure, gathered empirically through some kind of access channel, analysed syntactically by studying its intangible structure, semantically by studying its meaning, pragmatically by studying the meaning in its context of usage, and then arriving to some sort of social cloud through its combination with many other social aspects. But in my view, such an entity is just a subset of all the possible information: it is abstract information. I find abstract notions at every level of the ladder -from the implications conveyed by the motion of a single electron in a transistor within some circuit of the physical media, to the complex social notions achieved by successive combination of simpler ideas- because it seems to give the label “information” to the same entity that I call “abstract information”.

I am not clear on just what you mean by abstract.

(19-04-2014 09:58 AM)living thing Wrote:  A self-complementary strand of RNA that is able to fold onto itself, thus protecting its sequence from the environment, is an example of virtually real information (it is a temporary arrangement of “atoms” in space with a specific set of implications). However, it already conveys the abstract notion that, by folding onto itself, its sequence is protected from the environment. In my opinion, that was probably the first abstract notion learned by any living thing. Abstract notions are the intangible implications conveyed by the motion of existing things.

It seems to me that "intangible" is really a word for "emergent", here; is that more or less what you mean?

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20-04-2014, 10:43 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(19-04-2014 07:37 AM)DLJ Wrote:  We need to get cjlr in on this one.

Oh, you guys, that's like an irresistible bat signal...

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20-04-2014, 04:32 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hello cjlr, I’m glad to read your words once again.

Judging by the number of positive sentences in your answer, I am happy to see that our views agree in many ways even if they differ in a few details and their possible implications. But some of those differences may boil down to the choice of words, so I hope that by chatting about the subject from different angles we will manage to find other common notions in our perspectives.

Let me please start with another attempt to clarify a few words as I use them. I am not saying that you or any other people should use them in the same way, but I will point out that remembering the meanings I attach to certain words is useful for understanding how I view the things around me.

(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I am not clear on just what you mean by abstract.

It seems to me that "intangible" [as in “intangible implications”] is really a word for "emergent", here; is that more or less what you mean?
Well, I think the concept of emergence goes with the concept of implications; implications may arise, or emerge, from a specific arrangement of matter or pattern of change. But when I used the adjective “intangible”, what I had in mind was the idea of them not occupying any volume in space.

Notions in our brains are conveyed by the in-flow and out-flow of electrically charged ions (mostly sodium and potassium) across the membranes of our signal-carrying cells. The ions, the membranes of our cells, the proteins inside those membranes that enable the translocation of the ions… each of those entities is a structure that occupies some volume located somewhere in relation to other structures. However, the implications conveyed by each pattern of electrochemical variation along each specific neural pathway in our brain are entities that do not occupy any volume anywhere in relation to anything; abstract implications cannot be said to be located anywhere in space.

A few pages ago in this thread, you seemed puzzled at my suggestion that concepts do not exist. What I meant then is what I’ve just said: concepts (notions, ideas, etc.) are implications conveyed by the motion of things that are located somewhere in relation to each other, but they do not occupy any volume themselves.

(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  Hmm. But location is already predicated on some sort of interaction, and thus implicitly temporal as well.
That is one of the statements that I cannot really understand.

My knowledge about an object’s location relies on some sort of direct or indirect interaction between the object and myself; I think I understand how different sensors in my body work and I don’t have any problem understanding that idea. However, what I do fail to see is how the location of an object relies on my knowledge about it for it to occur. From my point of view, things are located somewhere in relation to other things, regardless of whether I or any other entity capable of knowing knows that location or not.

I don’t think things necessarily and suddenly appear in the locations where we first observe them. In my mind, it seems more likely that things may be somewhere out there before we learn about their existence. For example, exoplanets. Specific instances of those are fairly new to our knowledge, however I don’t think planets outside the solar system have suddenly popped into existence in the last few years, it seems more likely that it is only our notions about their locations what is new; the planets themselves seem to have been orbiting distant stars for a lot longer.

And if things are located out there regardless of any knowledge about their locations, then interactions are not required for an object to occupy some volume at some distance and in some direction from other objects. I don’t need to interact with exoplanets in any way in order to be somewhere in relation to them, I only need to interact with them in order to learn about their existence. Thus, I respectfully disagree with your premise and with the conclusion drawn from it. In my view, in order for an object to exist somewhere, no length of time needs to be elapsed. In fact, as soon as any time lapses, those relative distances and orientations typically change, so the only time when an object can be said to occupy a specific volume somewhere in relation to something else is during the “length” of a zero-length instant.

(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  Coordinates - spacetime coordinates - are a measure of separation, and in anything other than macroscopic/intuitive terms it doesn't make much sense to drop one of those measures of separation.
Things that appear in space may be separated by some distance. Events that occur over time may be separated by some interval. Yes, I see how we can use the word “separation” in reference to both kinds of entities.

However, saying that two events are separated by some time interval is not the same notion, at least in my mind, as saying that two objects are separated by some distance in space. Because the implications conveyed by each situation are different. For example, two rigid and electrically neutral objects separated by a distance will tend to move towards each other. Over time, the distance between them will shrink until they collide, and then, it will begin to grow again. But that is not the behaviour displayed by events separated by time.

My father was born in 1946 and he died in 2006; there was a gap of nearly sixty years between both events. As time goes by, that gap gets comparatively shorter, and a million years from now, it will be almost like my dad’s birth and death happened simultaneously. However, both events will never collide and the gap between them will never begin to increase. Particles located in space and events happening over time do not exhibit the same behaviours.

I find enough reason to consider each context (space and time) separately, because even though both share many similarities, they also have enough differences to make it clear that they are not the same thing. In my view, spacetime is an abstract notion in our minds, not something that surrounds material structures. And I know that the common suggestion is that spacetime is somehow part of the structure of the universe (something that curves and bends around every material structure), but in my view it makes more sense to consider spacetime as part of the universe’s behaviour; not a real thing out there, but an illusion in our minds.

I realise I may be wrong, though, so please don’t be angry at my disbelief.

(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I would say... the classical duality - well, not 'classical', but classical so far as quantum mechanics is concerned - is and has been overstated; it's an artifact of intuitive perception we're gradually overcoming.
I don’t think my view is the very classical classical, nor the roughly classical non-classical; it’s probably just a failed attempt to understand the roughly classical non-classical view, adding in my own observations and drawing possibly wrong conclusions from the whole lot.

(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I mean, really everything is waves, because those are the only possible manifestations of excitations in the underlying fields. Obviously, in the statistical limits we recover "classical" behaviour; it's just that there's no hard and fast point at which this occurs.
In order to agree with that notion, I would have to accept the premise that energy fields are somehow able to materialise into physical structures, which I unfortunately don’t. Not because I think it is false, but because I will suspend my belief at least until I can understand how that materialisation process occurs, and even then I may not fully believe it, just in case. Meanwhile, I also explore other conceptual possibilities, such as matter not being some sort of condensed energy. In fact, in my view it makes more sense to think of energy as an entity related to matter’s behaviour; energy seems an abstract implication too. But my view may be up to entirely wrong, so please don’t take any of my suggestions as claims of truth.

Looking forward to your further thoughts on the subject, I thank you for coming to the signal Big Grin

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20-04-2014, 06:45 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  Let me please start with another attempt to clarify a few words as I use them. I am not saying that you or any other people should use them in the same way, but I will point out that remembering the meanings I attach to certain words is useful for understanding how I view the things around me.

Lay it on me.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  
(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I am not clear on just what you mean by abstract.

It seems to me that "intangible" [as in “intangible implications”] is really a word for "emergent", here; is that more or less what you mean?
Well, I think the concept of emergence goes with the concept of implications; implications may arise, or emerge, from a specific arrangement of matter or pattern of change. But when I used the adjective “intangible”, what I had in mind was the idea of them not occupying any volume in space.

Uhmmm... I'm not sure that's coherent. Magnetism, say, doesn't "occupy" space, but it arises from certain configurations of objects in space...

I think that goes back to the earlier discussion of interaction; "intangible", to me, implies very strongly a lack of interaction, and thus not really something which can even be considered.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  Notions in our brains are conveyed by the in-flow and out-flow of electrically charged ions (mostly sodium and potassium) across the membranes of our signal-carrying cells. The ions, the membranes of our cells, the proteins inside those membranes that enable the translocation of the ions… each of those entities is a structure that occupies some volume located somewhere in relation to other structures. However, the implications conveyed by each pattern of electrochemical variation along each specific neural pathway in our brain are entities that do not occupy any volume anywhere in relation to anything; abstract implications cannot be said to be located anywhere in space.

To what extent is that really true, though? We can (and, plenty of philosophers do) take "abstract" or "intangible" to refer to outputs of (say) human thought processes, but those are, fundamentally, contingent on certain underlying physical processes.

But there is also the consideration of information in the purer, information theoretical sense - mechanism-agnostic, it's sometimes called. Wherein we're concerned with only the "abstracted" data, and leave physical encoding/decoding/reading/writing etc to another realm of thought. So, a specific implementation/occurrence of a pattern is tangible, but insofar as the generalised pattern can be represented any number of ways it is intangible?

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  A few pages ago in this thread, you seemed puzzled at my suggestion that concepts do not exist. What I meant then is what I’ve just said: concepts (notions, ideas, etc.) are implications conveyed by the motion of things that are located somewhere in relation to each other, but they do not occupy any volume themselves.

It's just that "occupying volume" is, to me, an odd criteria - and remains a little undefined.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  
(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  Hmm. But location is already predicated on some sort of interaction, and thus implicitly temporal as well.
That is one of the statements that I cannot really understand.

My knowledge about an object’s location relies on some sort of direct or indirect interaction between the object and myself; I think I understand how different sensors in my body work and I don’t have any problem understanding that idea. However, what I do fail to see is how the location of an object relies on my knowledge about it for it to occur. From my point of view, things are located somewhere in relation to other things, regardless of whether I or any other entity capable of knowing knows that location or not.

Not your knowledge, no. But it's not really all that meaningful to specify existence with only a partial set of coordinates. For location ever to be known - directly or indirectly, by whatever means - there is necessarily also a causal (and temporal) connection to consider. Under some sort of observation, direct or indirect, information was extracted; given the presence of additional information, we can draw conclusions as to past (and future) history outside that instance of observation.

It's true that it comes back to assumed consistent external reality, as we discussed earlier. But that is itself an abstracted sense - location is a well-defined physical term but for non-statistical ensembles it is not well intuitively defined.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  I don’t think things necessarily and suddenly appear in the locations where we first observe them.

No indeed, and I didn't mean to imply so!

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  In my mind, it seems more likely that things may be somewhere out there before we learn about their existence. For example, exoplanets. Specific instances of those are fairly new to our knowledge, however I don’t think planets outside the solar system have suddenly popped into existence in the last few years, it seems more likely that it is only our notions about their locations what is new; the planets themselves seem to have been orbiting distant stars for a lot longer.

It's just that by calling up the double slit experiment you've brought to mind the delightful complications of modern physics.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  And if things are located out there regardless of any knowledge about their locations, then interactions are not required for an object to occupy some volume at some distance and in some direction from other objects.

Perhaps "volume" needs defining. Since that's not a well-defined property on quantum scales...

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  I don’t need to interact with exoplanets in any way in order to be somewhere in relation to them, I only need to interact with them in order to learn about their existence. Thus, I respectfully disagree with your premise and with the conclusion drawn from it. In my view, in order for an object to exist somewhere, no length of time needs to be elapsed. In fact, as soon as any time lapses, those relative distances and orientations typically change, so the only time when an object can be said to occupy a specific volume somewhere in relation to something else is during the “length” of a zero-length instant.

That isn't really what I mean. Rather, that if existence is defined in terms of interaction (or at least the capacity for interaction), then since interaction is only well defined in spacetime coordinates, all existence must then be likewise defined in spacetime coordinates.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  Things that appear in space may be separated by some distance. Events that occur over time may be separated by some interval. Yes, I see how we can use the word “separation” in reference to both kinds of entities.

Indeed; in higher order mathematical treatments they are, broadly speaking, entirely equivalent.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  However, saying that two events are separated by some time interval is not the same notion, at least in my mind, as saying that two objects are separated by some distance in space. Because the implications conveyed by each situation are different. For example, two rigid and electrically neutral objects separated by a distance will tend to move towards each other. Over time, the distance between them will shrink until they collide, and then, it will begin to grow again. But that is not the behaviour displayed by events separated by time.

But the formulations are equivalent! One might describe the motion of such objects as distance changing with time - but one can equally describe such motion as time changing with distance. The underlying physics is invariant.
(this is because there must be some process of interaction between them, such as a gravitational interaction or a previously applied external mechanical force)

That distinction makes intuitive sense because that's how we directly experience the world. It's only applicable to physical theories under a narrow range of circumstances - that being those which approximate the same scale as our daily interactions.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  My father was born in 1946 and he died in 2006; there was a gap of nearly sixty years between both events. As time goes by, that gap gets comparatively shorter, and a million years from now, it will be almost like my dad’s birth and death happened simultaneously. However, both events will never collide and the gap between them will never begin to increase. Particles located in space and events happening over time do not exhibit the same behaviours.

But no observer is privileged! A birth and a death are causally connected - no possible observer will see the latter before the former. But any putative observer could see that interval as being any possible length. The gap between them is entirely subjective!

For causally connected events, that order is fixed for all observers, but for causally unconnected events, even that is symmetrically interchangeable.
(which is where crazy-sounding but demonstrably-real ideas like "matter is equivalent to antimatter in backwards time" come from)

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  I find enough reason to consider each context (space and time) separately, because even though both share many similarities, they also have enough differences to make it clear that they are not the same thing. In my view, spacetime is an abstract notion in our minds, not something that surrounds material structures. And I know that the common suggestion is that spacetime is somehow part of the structure of the universe (something that curves and bends around every material structure), but in my view it makes more sense to consider spacetime as part of the universe’s behaviour; not a real thing out there, but an illusion in our minds.

I realise I may be wrong, though, so please don’t be angry at my disbelief.

Well, I'd just say that that's completely backwards.
Tongue

The only coherent way to describe the universe in general terms is with recourse to spacetime. If we're treating our best, most consistent descriptions of reality as directly representing or reflecting reality, then general relativity it is. Relativistic spacetime simply is the material structure of the universe!

Our naive physical intuition, then, is the simplified abstraction - we're never going to have an instinctive feel for gravitational distortions, the way we have an instinctive feel for things like "my textbook is on the far side of the room, it will take me five seconds to go get it". But "if I move farther out of the Earth's gravity well, my clocks will run differently as compared to those who stay within it" is also indisputably true - that's how GPS works.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  
(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I would say... the classical duality - well, not 'classical', but classical so far as quantum mechanics is concerned - is and has been overstated; it's an artifact of intuitive perception we're gradually overcoming.
I don’t think my view is the very classical classical, nor the roughly classical non-classical; it’s probably just a failed attempt to understand the roughly classical non-classical view, adding in my own observations and drawing possibly wrong conclusions from the whole lot.

Well, what I meant by that was that "particle" and "wave" are limited analogies that we've worked into a greater picture.

It's like if we only had the idea of "branch" and "root" - and then we spent the next century arguing over whether trees were made of branches or made of roots.

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  
(20-04-2014 10:42 AM)cjlr Wrote:  I mean, really everything is waves, because those are the only possible manifestations of excitations in the underlying fields. Obviously, in the statistical limits we recover "classical" behaviour; it's just that there's no hard and fast point at which this occurs.
In order to agree with that notion, I would have to accept the premise that energy fields are somehow able to materialise into physical structures, which I unfortunately don’t.

Well, it is the best existing theory to account for observable reality...
(okay, so we don't have quantum field theories for all phenomena, but for everything they do explain, they certainly beat out the alternatives, if indeed there are any)

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  Not because I think it is false, but because I will suspend my belief at least until I can understand how that materialisation process occurs, and even then I may not fully believe it, just in case.

Well... You'd first have to define "physical", wouldn't you? By "field" in that context we mean something more like "that which allows for things to exhibit excitations". After all - what is a particle? There's a whole sea of particles and quasi-particles and excitations which are all more or less the same thing.

Nearly everything we experience in everyday life is a matter of electromagnetic interaction. But we know that's overly narrow. Is physical that which may be interacted with - not just by us, but in principle? Then, excitations count...

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  Meanwhile, I also explore other conceptual possibilities, such as matter not being some sort of condensed energy. In fact, in my view it makes more sense to think of energy as an entity related to matter’s behaviour; energy seems an abstract implication too. But my view may be up to entirely wrong, so please don’t take any of my suggestions as claims of truth.

Sure, but that's almost the ultimate trick question. Since things are freely reversible if they're invariant...

(20-04-2014 04:32 PM)living thing Wrote:  Looking forward to your further thoughts on the subject, I thank you for coming to the signal Big Grin

Have fun!

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21-04-2014, 07:48 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hello again, cjlr. I really appreciate your valuable contribution.

Before we go on, I’d like to know if we agree on a few details about the context, rather than the content, of this conversation. Otherwise, I fear that I might be wasting your time, and that is the last wish in my mind. Your time is for you to enjoy it while it lasts, not for wasting it arguing with some random guy connected to the same computer network as you are.

Can we agree that both you and I are human beings, each equipped with a brain capable of analysing incoming information that we gather through a variety of physicochemical sensors scattered throughout our bodies? Can we agree that both you and I have in our minds a complex mental model, consisting of ideas, that attempts to represent the structure and behaviour of the real universe outside our minds, consisting of objects? Can we agree that both you and I have our unique perspectives based not only on the location from which we observe the things around us, but also on the set of notions that each of us has learned since our brains began learning notions? In other words, can we agree that our perspectives are subjective? And last, but not least, can we agree that every notion in our minds, regardless of how convinced we may be about their truth, is susceptible of being inaccurate or even mistaken?

Please don’t get me wrong; I have a high esteem towards the body of notions that comprise science. However, simply out of caution, I try to keep in mind that every notion in it may be inaccurate if not plainly mistaken; I don’t take any scientific notion as an unquestionable truth. In fact, I don’t take any notion whatsoever as an unquestionable truth. Of course, throughout my daily life I often need to make assumptions just so that my brain will not get stuck in an endless loop of doubt. Those are operational truths that I consider based on their apparent contextual likelihood, but I try to remain aware that I may be wrong at judging probabilities, so I do not consider those operational truths to be either objective or immutable.

For example, for a long time the scientific community believed that Mr. Newton’s description of the behaviour of physical systems was an accurate and objective truth. But as years went by, inaccuracies added up to a significant divergence from theoretical expected values and, in the beginning of the last century, Mr. Einstein came up with an alternative description of the behaviour of physical systems that became hailed as the new accurate and objective truth. But if there is a lesson I can extract from the story, is not to trust accurate and objective truths even if they are believed by the whole scientific community.

I don’t have any intention to change your views in any way, and if I share my view here, it is only in case you or anyone else may find it useful, although I do not recommend anyone believing anything I may say. But I do have the desire that you will change my view; I am looking forward to understanding through your words a few scientific notions that I cannot (yet) understand.

I realise that many of the ideas we are talking about are inter-related, so it makes sense to try covering all of them within this rather general thread. However, some of the notions we are describing seem complex enough to deserve attention in their own specific threads. Do you think it might be helpful for other potential readers if I placed my questions about spacetime in the thread about space and time, my questions about energy in the thread about energy, my questions about perceptions and experiences in the thread about knowledge, and keep this thread more or less within the topic of existence and reality?

(20-04-2014 06:45 PM)cjlr Wrote:  Uhmmm... I'm not sure that's coherent. Magnetism, say, doesn't "occupy" space, but it arises from certain configurations of objects in space...
Don’t forget the motion. Magnetism arises from the motion of certain configurations of objects in space. But yes, that is a good example of an abstract implication in the way I use those words. Let’s see if I can explain what I mean by “occupy space”.

Let us presume that magnetic fields are things located around certain kinds of objects; namely magnets. One feature of those things around magnets is that they can be overlapped with fields located around other magnets. If I have two bar magnets and orient them so that one’s north pole is facing the other’s south pole, I can bring them close making the locations of their magnetic fields overlap. However, the magnets themselves cannot be overlapped in space. The volume (three-dimensional distance) that each magnet occupies is not absolutely empty space; there is matter in it.

Of course, you may mention how, at the sub-“atomic” scale, the electrons in the outer layers of each magnet repel each other due to their similar electric fields, which are other things located around objects that are electrically charged, often overlapping magnetic fields, although the electric and magnetic fields produced by one electrically charged object moving in relation to something else are perpendicular to one another. On top of that, let us not forget that these electric and magnetic fields may also overlap their location with the gravitational field that every material object produces, so if fields are things around objects, they are things whose location may be overlapped by other similar things located around objects.

In my view, fields are not descriptions of real structure, but descriptions of behaviour. A field is a set of locations around an object in which the behaviour of another object may be affected (i.e., changed). The state of motion of an electron within a negligible electric field will remain mostly unaffected. However, if it is located within a considerable electric field, it will move towards the most positive charge.

In order to distinguish behaviours from real structures, I try to imagine the universe if I could freeze time, as if it were a giant three-dimensional picture of itself. In a still picture, real structures remain but behaviours disappear. In a freeze-frame universe, magnetic fields lose their meaning because nothing moves in relation to anything else; things only exhibit the behaviour of moving towards or away from other things over a non-zero length of time.

Do you understand the distinction I am trying to make? In the universe, there are things, and over time, they move and change in more complex ways. But I think it is useful to understand the difference between things and their behaviour. Things appear in space, but behaviours appear over time. Things occupy the volumes of space where they are located. Behaviours don’t, because they are not really there. They happen with the motion of things that really are somewhere.

That is what I mean when I say that something exists, that something is real: something occupies a specific non-zero volume (distance along three dimensions) at some specific distance and in some specific direction from some specific reference point. But the implications conveyed by the change in relative location or orientation of an existing object (for example, the presence of an electric charge nearby) are not things that occupy a specific non-zero volume anywhere in relation to anything.

When I look at the universe around me, I find a huge set of information (arrangements of matter and patterns of change that convey implications) of which part is real (that which exists, namely matter) and part is not (that which does not exist, namely change). Real information consists of matter located somewhere in space. Non-real information consists of change happening over time. But change does not happen unless there are things with variable features. The notion of change, by itself, doesn’t have any meaning. The fact that things are located somewhere in relation to other things, however, remains equally meaningful if those locations do not change. I can look today at a photograph taken years ago, and even though the pigments on the piece of paper have not moved perceptibly during that time, the scene depicted contains much of the same meaning it had during the very short interval while it was taken. Existence as I view it is meaningful by itself, but change is not. Change requires something existing that is able to change.

I would not be surprised if matter were truly atomic in its structure; i.e., if it turned out that there is a smallest level of material structure directly or indirectly below the level of fermions. But I cannot say I know, I just find hints here and there that seem to suggest so.

Anyway, cljr. I will have to wait and see if I have managed to make myself understood. Meanwhile, I hope you will not mind if I make some bat signals in different threads. In any case, I wish you a great week and thank you again for your valuable contributions.

Enjoy!
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