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Contradictions Accepted As Valid?

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In the physical sciences, besides the physics-related acceptance of light as a contradiction - as both a particle and a wave (and its associated contradictions) - are there any other concepts which are blatant or close to blatant contradictions which are also accepted (either mainstream or even somewhat fringe)?

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It should be pointed out that the wave/particle contradiction you mention is not the same as the equally pervasive Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle in quantum mechanics. Although the Heisenburg principle is the simplest to state (essentially putting limits on one's ability to know the position and motion [momentum] of an object simultaneously), it is the development of this principle into the much more complicated Schrodinger Wave Equation that brings this fundamental contradiction to fruition.

The wave equation describes the probability distribution of an object's position at a point in time. There are various interpretations of the "meaning" of this expression; however I recall learning two dominant interpretations. In one interpretation, the object is said to exist in no position prior to its being observed, at which point the probability wave "collapses" into a discrete result, with the statistical probability described by the wave itself. At the time of my education (1984-6) this was the most accepted interpretation.

Another alternative is the Many Worlds interpretation. In this case, the object exists in ALL possible locations, each occuring in a separate universe. Which universe we are in is only revealed at the point of the observation of the object in a particular location, which is where it belongs in that universe.

At any rate, I dimly recall the existence of other interpretations, but these currently elude me. Stephen, of course, will be able to fill in the blanks here.

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I'll add a third physics-based, accepted, contradiction: the so-called "Twin Paradox" resulting from special relativity. I am a bit concerned that this is not a logical contradiction, but I'll await commentary from others in this forum on that issue.

We have twins A & B. B is an astronaut, who leaves Earth at a high fraction of the speed of light (lets say 99% of that speed). Due to the relativity effect of time dilation (slowing of the rate of time seen by a "stationary" observer watching a moving clock), B ages at a much slower rate than A, according to A. Hence, after 1 year in A's life, B appears to have aged only 51 days.

The paradox (and potential contradiction) enters when we consider what B observes of A. A key principle of relativity is the non-existence of an absolute, or preferred frame of reference. Hence, B observes that A has aged only 51 days after 1 year of B's life. (In A's frame of reference, A will have aged about 7 years when B appears to age 1 year).

Because we conventionally accept an "absolute frame of reference", this example appears contradictory, though if the conditions of the relativity theory are accepted, there is no basis for the contradiction, because that absolute clock is discarded as non-existent.

To further consider the validity of the "paradox", one should consider that the entire basis of the special relativity theory is the *axiomatic* statement that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant in all frames of reference. To my knowledge, there has never been a direct experimental observation of this accepted "fact".

-A

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I was hoping for examples (if they exist) that are outside the realm of quantum mechanics, special relativity, and all the other related physics 'weirdness'.

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Shhh! ;)

Seriously, plot is already there. Just wanted to see if anyone knew of any blatant contradictions. Would be nice to progress from small ones up to the big one. ;)

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I'll add a third physics-based, accepted, contradiction: the so-called "Twin Paradox" resulting from special relativity.  I am a bit concerned that this is not a logical contradiction

Indeed there is no contradiction, but not for the reason you later gave. Time dilation is a relationship between the tick rate of a clock and the measurement of such by an observer in relative motion to the clock. Time dilation does not lead to any physical changes, but the notion of proper time -- the time a clock accumulates along its worldline -- can lead to physical differences of elapsed time between two clocks which were initially synchronized, made to separate, and reunited. There is no contradiction because there is no reason to conflate two different phenomena.

To further consider the validity of the "paradox", one should consider that the entire basis of the special relativity theory is the *axiomatic* statement that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant in all frames of reference.  To my knowledge, there has never been a direct experimental observation of this accepted "fact".

There are hundreds of experiments that have measured the speed of light in different reference frames, tested the one-way and two-way isotropy of the speed of light, and determined that light speed is independent of the source. Perhaps you had something else in mind, but I could provide literally hundreds of references for these types of experiments.

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I was hoping for examples (if they exist) that are outside the realm of quantum mechanics, special relativity, and all the other related physics 'weirdness'.

Well, sure, you need look no further than classical dynamics, Newton's universal law of gravitation for example. Newton philosophically abhorred the notion of instantaneous action-at-a-distance, but nevertheless his gravitation requires this nonlocal action in order to work. If Newtonian gravitation were not instantaneous -- if there was any retardation in the propagation speed of gravity -- then solar system orbital dynamics would predict a rapid orbital decay which is not, of course, observed.

Recent experiment has validated the general relativistic prediction that finite changes in the gravitational field propagate at the speed of light. Naught but those who were out of touch with reality really believed the nonlocal nature of Newtonian gravitation, but regardless, instantaneous gravitational propagation is required in Newtonian gravitation. Such a notion contradicts both identity and causality, and can therefore be rejected philosophically, not just scientifically.

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Stephen

Thanks for the reply. But I was really hoping for some example that wasn't too bound to the field of physics. Something pertaining to geology, or meteorology, or chemistry, etc. Something less abstract and more concrete. Something which lends itself to physical depiction or grasp - and which might affect or be involved in every day life.

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Stephen - thanks for the corrections on the topic of relativity. I admit I used this opportunity to draw out your general opinion on the solidity of that theory. And I would welcome a (short) list of references to experimental verifications of the premise of special relativity.

As for experimental verification of the general theory, I am awaiting the results of the Gravity-B experiment, as well as those from the various gravity wave detectors currently under construction (I have some familiarity with the LIGO project as a supplier of test masses, and of Gravity-B as the supplier of some detector windows).

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If Newtonian gravitation were not instantaneous -- if there was any retardation in the propagation speed of gravity -- then solar system orbital dynamics would predict a rapid orbital decay which is not, of course, observed.

Recent experiment has validated the general relativistic prediction that finite changes in the gravitational field propagate at the speed of light.

Stephen,

I am confused by these two statements. In the first you say we don't observe the radical decay that one would expect from non-instantaneous gravitational propagation, but then you say that the gravitational field propagates at the speed of light (that is, non-instantaneously). Is this because the "solar system orbital dynamics" that you mention are Newtonian and one of the premises behind them is wrong?

If you could point out what I am missing, I'd appreciate it.

Doug

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Stephen - thanks for the corrections on the topic of relativity.  I admit I used this opportunity to draw out your general opinion on the solidity of that theory.  And I would welcome a (short) list of references to experimental verifications of the premise of special relativity.

Light speed measurement goes back to Ole Roemer in 1676, and the historical record of experimental values shows an ever increasing accuracy as understanding and technology has increased. Direct measurements essentially ceased a little more than two decades ago when light speed became so accurate a measurement that its value was defined and used as a standard for definition of the meter.

The test for Einstein's postulate of the constancy of the velocity of light must also include frequency-independence, one-way and two-way isotropy, and source independence. Here is a sampling of experiments doing just that.

(Optical technique)

R.J. Kennedy, Proc. natl. Acad. Sci., V. 12, p. 621, 1926.

K.K. Illingworth,Phys. Rev., V. 30, p. 692, 1927

(Microwaves)

L. Essen. Nature, V. 175, p. 793, 1955.

(He-Ne Masers)

T.S. Jaseja, et al., Phys. Rev. A, V. 133, p. 1221, 1964.

(Laser Inferometer)

E.W. Silvertooth, J. Opt. Soc. Amer.,, V. 62, p. 1330, 1972.

(Two Lasers)

R. Cialdea, Lett. Nuovo. Cimento, V. 4, p. 821, 1972.

(Laser Resonator)

A. Brillet, et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., V. 42, p. 549, 1979.

A couple of the more famous source-independence experiments are:

(Terrestrial Source)

T.A. Fillippas, et al., Phys. Rev. B, V. 135, p. 1071, 1964.

T. Alvaeger, et al., Phys. Lett., V. 12, p. 260, 1964.

(Cosmological Source)

K. Brecher, Phys. Rev. Lett., V. 39, p. 1051, 1977.

As for experimental verification of the general theory, I am awaiting the results of the Gravity-B experiment, as well as those from the various gravity wave detectors currently under construction (I have some familiarity with the LIGO project as a supplier of test masses, and of Gravity-B as the supplier of some detector windows).

Almost no one in the field of gravitational physics expects Gravity Probe B to provide results that are not consistent with general relativity. Researchers in the field would love differing results (since that would indicate new physics), but few expect that. General relativity has withstood predictive verifications of light deflection, gravitational redshift, Shapiro time-delay, de Sitter precession of the Earth-Moon system, etc. to ever-increasing accuracy.

As far as LIGO is concerned, I am quite familiar with the system. No one expects any significant results out of LIGO, at least not until LIGO II comes online in a couple of years. I have been through the LIGO II test bed and it is truly a technological marvel, incorporating quantum effects hardly dreamed of before. I fully expect LIGO II to provide positive results within one year of full operation.

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Stephen,

I am confused by these two statements. In the first you say we don't observe the radical decay that one would expect from non-instantaneous gravitational propagation, but then you say that the gravitational field propagates at the speed of light (that is, non-instantaneously). Is this because the "solar system orbital dynamics" that you mention are Newtonian and one of the premises behind them is wrong?

If you could point out what I am missing, I'd appreciate it.

The main point is that Newtonian gravitation is a mathematical prescription that requires un-physical assumptions in order for the formula to work. The formula does not describe real-world physical processes but gives results which vary from poor, to fair, to quite accurate, depending on the physical circumstances to which the formula is applied. Without the un-physical assumption of instantaneous action-at-a-distance its "quite accurate" results would no longer be "quite accurate."

By contrast general relativity predicts that the propagation "speed of gravity" is c, light speed, and this has been experimentally confirmed. There is no un-physical assumption of instantaneous action in general relativity, though there is in Newtonian gravitation. So Newtonian gravitation is not a causal explanation of real-world physical processes.

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Nuts - I was hoping this topic would not shift from my question to a discussion of something I didnt want to focus on at all.

Please - there are many topics already devoted to the individual topics being discussed. And it is easy to bring up further questions in new threads if one so desires. As such, could we refrain from 'hijacking' my topic and changing it to something entirely different?

--

As an aside, given the silence on examples of contradictions outside the realm of physics, should I take it that there are no blatant examples of other sciences accepting contradictions?

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Nuts - I was hoping this topic would not shift from my question to a discussion of something I didnt want to focus on at all.

Please - there are many topics already devoted to the individual topics being discussed.  And it is easy to bring up further questions in new threads if one so desires.  As such, could we refrain from 'hijacking' my topic and changing it to something entirely different?

It is my observation that many threads on this and other online forums often morph from the original subject into something that others really want to talk about. I note that your original question asked for an example in the "physical sciences" and you only excluded the notion of light as a wavicle. When you were given an answer in quantum mechanics and relativity you then stated that you really wanted an example outside of quantum mechanics and relativity. Then when you were given another answer in classical physics you said that you really wanted an example in "geology, or meteorology, or chemistry." With all due respect, I think that if you do not want your thread to be "hijacked" then instead of berating us for talking about a subject that interests us, you should be more clear and explicit in exactly what you ask for in the first place.

As an aside, given the silence on examples of contradictions outside the realm of physics, should I take it that there are no blatant examples of other sciences accepting contradictions?

Perhaps instead you should take the silence as a reluctance to spend time forming a spiral of examples that may or may not zero in on what you want in the first place.

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If you took offense at my use of the term 'hijack' instead of morph, I apologize. I was not attempting to 'berate' anyone. I was simply trying to make a polite request. To prevent my question from being lost in posts which have numerous similar threads elsewhere, I made a plea to post further such comments in those other threads or new threads.

Now I am QUITE aware that topics do "morph from their original subject into something that others really want to talk about". It was specifically because of this awareness that I made my last post - to try to prevent such "morphing" and instead steer tangential conversation to other topics.

As the person who started the thread - who sought the answer to a question which was being overwhelmed by other discussions - I do not think that is an unreasonable request.

--

I am sorry my first post was not as "clear and explicit" as it could have been. I was not remembering the other qm, etc related contradictions. You corrected this oversight on my part by answering my question with examples of other qm etc contradictions. Based on this correction, I tried to reform the question more clearly by indicating I was looking for something which excluded those and "all the other related physics 'weirdness'." In the context of my knowledge, I believed this would explicitly remove physics from the table. This was a second error on my part (though of a different form). You brought up another example, also from physics, which was outside my experience.

The point of the question is that I am mostly ignorant when it comes to contradictions accepted in the physical sciences, outside the realm of special relativity, qm and the like (otherwise I would have no need to ask the question). Due to this fact, it is difficult for me to be perfectly clear and explicit when asking questions. However I tried the best I could with my third post to be VERY clear and explicit, by providing much more exact paramaters:

"Something less abstract and more concrete. Something which lends itself to physical depiction or grasp - and which might affect or be involved in every day life."

And I even tried to provide some alternative fields of physical science besides physics, to indicate (but not limit - thus the 'etc') the types of fields which were more germane to the intent of my question.

In other words, I was TRYING to be as specific as the context of my knowledge would allow. I don't know what I could do more than that (assistance, even in that regard - in helping focus the question - would have been appreciated). Thus I am most sorry to hear that, after two errors on my part, you considered my questioning to be a spiraling rabbit hole which would waste your time.

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Something pertaining to geology, or meteorology, or chemistry, etc.  Something less abstract and more concrete.  Something which lends itself to physical depiction or grasp - and which might affect or be involved in every day life.

Something easily graspable and common to daily life is contained in a basic error or contradiction often found in introductory chemistry courses and texts. Entropy is usually characterized as an attribute expressing, or a measure of, the disorder in a given system. The notion emphasized is that chance favors disorder, so there exists some natural tendency for the entropy of any system to increase. Analogous examples used are games such as tic-tac-toe or the shuffling of a deck of cards. It is pointed out, or calculated, that the chances for disorder in a deck of cards far exceeds that for some ordered arrangement.

The error or contradiction lies in the fact that order, or disorder, is not an inherent property of the sequence of a deck of cards. Any single possible outcome of sequencing the 52 cards in the deck is just as probable as any other sequence. It is us, as thinking beings, who impose order by mentally making the sequence of ace through king of spades something special, as compared to some random mixture in a sequence. There is no natural tendancy, in the physical sense, for the entropy of a deck of cards to increase, nor does chance favor disorder in the deck. These sort of examples used in introductory chemistry courses and texts are really examples of anthropomorphizing, ascribing human mental characteristics to physical entities.

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That is definitely a good example. Thank you. Let me see if I can accurately summarize what you are saying here (and forgive me if I screw it up royally. I had THE worst chemistry teacher in existence - heh):

The idea is that order or disorder does not exist in the identity of the object. As such, the individual creates a false identity - it identifies the object inaccurately and in fact in opposition to its actually identity.

Would you say that is an accurate summary?

Two questions based on this: one - is entropy a valid concept then? If so, what is the (basic) valid concept, as contrasted with this invalid characterization? Two - what would be a chemistry specific example (as opposed to the card analogy, etc) of this error or contradiction?

--

Now - to press my luck here - do you have any other examples of similar contradictions (though now not necessarily in either physics or chemistry, since I have one for each already)? Perhaps something similar to the blatant a=nonA of "it is a wave, but it is not; it is a particle, but it is not" example of light.

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RadCap, let me try to make this clearer for you to grasp. The issue here is related to the discussions on "information" that Bowzer and I had with others in the context of the cognitive sciences. You might want to search out some of those threads.

Entropy is a valid concept when applied to physical thermodynamic systems, as long as one realizes there is no "natural tendancy for disorder" but rather that chance just favors the most probable. The real problem arises when the physical basis for entropy -- a process, say, of collisons among particles which lead to energy exchanges -- is generalized to phenomena where it does not apply. The shuffled deck of cards is not a thermodynamic system (qua deck), and any order or disorder is just information which we consciously supply.

If the wind blows your neatly stacked papers all around the room, there is no chemical change to your papers as a consequence of their new physical locations, so it is wrong to imply that the entropy of your papers has increased. The new disorder to your papers is your judgment of their relative positions -- information that you supply -- but not anything intrinsic to the physical system of papers. Thermodynamics that applies to the interactions among particles is not the same thing as physically moving macroscopic objects about.

As to another example in science: Perhaps one of the best would be how the reductionists hold consciousness in neurophysiology and neurobiology. Equating conscious processes to neural processes of the brain is the height of denial of the nature of consciousness and a direct contradiction of the laws of identity and causality. This too both Bowzer and myself have discussed in numerous threads throughout the forum, so you might want to search for more information about that.

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Entropy is a valid concept when applied to physical thermodynamic systems, as long as one realizes there is no "natural tendancy for disorder" but rather that chance just favors the most probable. The real problem arises when the physical basis for entropy -- a process, say, of collisons among particles which lead to energy exchanges -- is generalized to phenomena where it does not apply. The shuffled deck of cards is not a thermodynamic system (qua deck), and any order or disorder is just information which we consciously supply.

Ok - and I understood this. Its just I couldn't be sure that was all you were referencing by the way you said the error was in the chemistry texts. As such, I wasn't sure if you were trying to say more than just that or not. So thank you for clearing that up for me - and thanks for the examples and the patience. :dough:

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... and thanks for the examples and the patience.  :dough:

You're welcome.

By the way that things kept being worded, I got the impression that you had some very specific purpose in mind in asking these questions. Care to share?

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You're welcome.

By the way that things kept being worded, I got the impression that you had some very specific purpose in mind in asking these questions. Care to share?

Not yet. :dough:

(And I was more fishing around rather than looking for something specific)

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By contrast general relativity predicts that the propagation "speed of gravity" is c, light speed, and this has been experimentally confirmed. There is no un-physical assumption of instantaneous action in general relativity, though there is in Newtonian gravitation. So Newtonian gravitation is not a causal explanation of real-world physical processes.

But general relativity isn't either (a causal explanation), is it?

Fred Weiss

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But general relativity isn't either (a causal explanation), is it?

At worst, general relativity is a superb abstract model that mimics real-world processes with broad application and great accuracy. At best, when properly understood, the model becomes a real causal explanation of gravitational phenomena.

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In the physical sciences, besides the physics-related acceptance of light as a contradiction - as both a particle and a wave (and its associated contradictions) - are there any other concepts which are blatant or close to blatant contradictions which are also accepted (either mainstream or even somewhat fringe)?

Can you explain why you think light is accepted as a contradiction? My understanding is that the ideas that light is a particle and that it is a wave are just models that help describe light's behavior. Nobody literally believes that light is actually both a wave and a particle, rather it is something else that has some aspects of both. The apparent contradiction occurs because we don't really know what that something else is, so we are stuck using imperfect models until we know more.

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