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Thoughts on an article on the concept "universe"? by Alex S.

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I am curious as to what the Objectivist opinion is with regard to the uncertainty principle of QM, and the expanding universe of astrophysics (the same one which Einstein evaded - denied outright in favor of eternality - and later regretted doing so). Do these phenomena and laws exist and apply to reality, or are physicists' philosophic principles simply flawed?

Some here need reminding that the ancient Greeks used logic to derive the structure of the universe; as we know, they were dead wrong in nearly every respect.

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I don't think the Uncertainty Principle is a problem for Objectivism... all it states is we cannot know both the location and direction of a sub-atomic event. For exaple if you could 'see' a sub-atomic event and shine a light on it. The light particles when interacting with what you were trying to measure (e.g.- an electron) would cause that electron to change position. You may get its speed, but would no longer know where it was going... I like to think of a billiard table, with the electron being the 8-ball and the light photon being the cue ball, they collide, and positions are changed.

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So then the question is:  Is it a valid analogy; and can we say the same regarding size and the universe as well?

I can see the connection between a mental entity v. physical entity and saying that properties of the physical do not apply. I have trouble with the physcial v. physical saying the same thing...

EDIT: Or are you claiming the 'universe' is a mental entity...

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The following is from http://www.geocities.com/rationalphysics/e...aluniverse.html

<quote> Moreover, this “existence of a nothing” may also be seen in the claim that the universe is expanding. According to Hawking, “The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century.” [7] The obvious answer to this is: Expanding – into what?

If the universe is the sum total of that which exists (which it is), how can one claim that it is “expanding”? Doesn’t expansion require a place to expand to? To this question, the physicist emphatically answers “Yes”; there is space outside the universe which it is expanding into. <end quote>

I would like to see a reference to support the claim that physicists claim that "there is space outside the universe which it is expanding into." I have read quite a bit about cosmology and have never seen such a claim. Also, why does expansion necessarily require something to expand into?

also from http://www.geocities.com/rationalphysics/e...aluniverse.html

<quote> When one hears a physicist claim that “the universe must have had a beginning” as suggested above by Hawking, they are not positing any form of consciousness before it. They are not claiming divine intervention, nor supernatural acts as the origin of the universe. What do they claim, you ask? Writes Stephen Hawking:

“…if there were events before the big bang, one could not use them to determine what would happen afterward, because predictability [i.e., causality - AS] would break down at the big bang. Correspondingly, if, as is the case, we know only what happened since the big bang, we could not determine what happened beforehand [i.e., what caused it – AS]. As far as we are concerned, events before the big bang have no consequences, so they should not form part of a scientific model of the universe. We should therefore cut them out of the model and say that time had a beginning at the big bang.” [6] <end quote>

Hawking is not saying that time actually began at the big bang. He is saying that we cannot know what happened before the big bang. Because there is no evidence available from before the big bang, we can only scientifically study what happened after it. Objectivism should agree with that.

His claim that "predictability [i.e., causality - AS] would break down at the big bang" is a different issue. If that claim is wrong, then perhaps we can know what happened before the big bang.

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DAC, that's just it: even with the perfect experiment, a particle's characteristics can never be precisely determined. Even if nothing bumps into anything, etc etc. In fact, what it means is precise position coupled with precise momentum do not exist at once. "A is A" purists should be passing out here.

GC, you are right to question AS's claim against physicists re universal expansion. However, whenever you've got a lot of mass-energy in a singularity, whether it is a black hole or the big bang precursor, causality breaks down. Ie, it happens today and it is observable.

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Just because "a particle's characteristics can never be precisely determined" that does not mean that "precise position coupled with precise momentum do not exist at once" It just means that we cannot measure the precise position and the precise momentum at the same time. Just because we cannot measure something does not mean that it does not exist.

What is the supposed proof that causality breaks down in the big bang?

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DAC

Though it might prove fruitless, since he has ignored such suggestions in the past, you might direct y_ to read things from Little and Speicher if he ACTUALLY wants to know the views on these things. Until then he is just acting as a gadfly and spreading his propaganda.

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As you are all aware, a few topics have been closed that have drifted into discussions of abstract theoretical physics. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, discussion of abstract theoretical physics is not the purpose of this board. Most of the members do not have a lot of knowledge about the topic, and given that context, many of the posts being made are simply assertions that ignore the proper hierarchy of the concepts involved. Thus, no actual communication is taking place, and what is being said is only serving to confuse the issue.

Secondly, particular individual members are causing this problem (mostly y_feldblum). I'm not particularly satisfied with the solution of closing the topic, because that seems like punishing everyone who wants to discuss this topic on their own level for the behavior of one person. I encourage people to discuss topics related to the philosophy of physics on this board, but those who wish to shift those topics toward or start topics devoted to abstract theoretical physics should do so on another board. Otherwise, disciplinary action may be taken against them on this forum, up to and including being banned. I hope that I don't need to do that, but I certainly will if the behavior persists.

Of course, the main problem here is that y_feldblum thinks that philosophy has to conform to physics, rather than physics having a proper philosophical base. But of course, without that base, there are no guidelines by which to interpret the data collected by physics, and thus no way to ensure that the conclusions one draws from such data are valid, i.e., conform to reality. (Which lack of objective methodology allows modern physicists to draw basically whatever conclusions they want, even if they are blatantly self-contradictory, as y_feldblum does and attempts to pass off as "reality.")

RadCap quite nicely summed up all of the above thusly:

y_feldblum on the other hand, is anti-philosophical to begin with. He proceeds from a floating abstraction physics and seeks alternately to blank out or redefine philosophy on that basis. He has no appearance of seeking to understand objectivism. His intent seems just to attack it - and to do so using levels of scientific study (and quackery in some instances) which are beyond the specific knowledge of most here to respond. Since this is not a site devoted TO physics - and there is no way to TEACH physics here - the topics must at LEAST be redirected. As it stands, continued posting only supports the notion that philosophy is not THE primary science - as well as the notion that philosophy can answer specifically scientific questions. BOTH are wrong.

I personally have not participated much in these discussions precisely because I am not a physicist. But I know enough about it and enough about the necessary philosophical base from which it must proceed to see that some of y_feldblum's posts are philosophically very wrong. Regarding the "ether"/"empty space" debate, I think that the issue starts as one of terminology but then proceeds to serious conceptual errors. It is self-evident, based on perception, that something exists between two non-adjacent objects. By calling it "empty space," y_feldblum misconceptualizes the issue in the same way that the ancient Greek atomists did and reaches the bizarre conclusion that non-existence exists. That is clearly false, and alarms should be going off in y_feldblum's head telling him to check his premises. Then, he attacks the concept of "ether" on the grounds that physics has not been able to detect anything there. But that only makes sense if one is starting with the mistaken premise that non-existence exists. Otherwise, it is obvious that there is something there, it just does not have many positive properties that are currently discernible by our scientific means. But even if physics, on a proper philosophical basis, eventually determined that the ether is a unique "substance" (in the classical sense of the term) the only discernible positive property of which is extension, then it would still be something with a specific identity. RadCap has correctly not specified the identity of the ether, not even going so far as to say that it must be a physical substance (i.e., what we currently mean by "matter"). He has simply pointed out the self-evident facts that it exists and that it has identity. It is up to physics to determine from there what its exact nature is, but any conclusions reached that contradict either of those two basic facts are completely invalid.

My take on that issue may contain a few errors, but my main point is that y_feldblum's assertions must be rejected because they represent a denial of the law of identity--without the basis of which, no such science as physics (or anything else) would even be possible. Thus, any member who continues to explicitly reject the law of identity will be banned. So I suggest to y_feldblum that he stay out of physics-related topics, if those are the conclusions he draws in that field. On this board, they will be treated as irrational and will not continue to be tolerated.

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  • 1 year later...

I read Silverman's essay, The Unbounded, Finite Universe. If the Universe is asizal and eternal, that is, without time and size, then what is it? If the Law of Identity applies then the universe as an existent, has to have an attribute i.e, something that makes it specific--to have identity. Can someone identify the attribute(s) of the universe which has no time, no bounds, and no size?

I think this is an important metaphysical question.

Michael

Edited by softwareNerd
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I read Silverman's essay, The Unbounded, Finite Universe. If the Universe is asizal and eternal, that is, without time and size, then what is it? If the Law of Identity applies then the universe as an existent, has to have an attribute i.e, something that makes it specific--to have identity. Can someone identify the attribute(s) of the universe which has no time, no bounds, and no size?

I think this is an important metaphysical question.

Michael

It simply must have size (mass) (total atomic mass). There is no way around that.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Why must it? And what shape would it have, and from what angle? If I looked at it from due west, would it be more oval shaped as opposed to traveling a couple billion light-years east and from that perspective it looks rectangular?

And since we are going to say that it has shape, we have to say there is something out there ("beyond" the universe) from which it is going to have shape in. Unless we are going to say that the universe is in a container, then I want to know the shape of the container. And if we are going to postulate all of this then we can legitimately appliy time to the universe since now we have something that is greater than it. Namely, that greater thing from which it has shape. If it is merely a part of something bigger, then we can apply time as well.

Shape is not applicable to the universe for the same reason that time is not.

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I read Alex S.'s essay, The Unbounded, Finite Universe. If the Universe is asizal and eternal, that is, without time and size, then what is it?

The universe is not a "thing," it is a collection of things -- all that exists. Time exists within the universe, not outside of it. The essay argues similarly for size.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I read Alex S.'s essay, The Unbounded, Finite Universe. If the Universe is asizal and eternal, that is, without time and size, then what is it? If the Law of Identity applies then the universe as an existent, has to have an attribute i.e, something that makes it specific--to have identity. Can someone identify the attribute(s) of the universe which has no time, no bounds, and no size?

I think this is an important metaphysical question.

Michael

Why was the same post placed in two different forums? I just responded in the "Basic Questions" forum, under the subject "The Unbounded, Finite Universe." Would some moderator please combine these threads. Thanks.

Edited by softwareNerd
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It simply must have size (mass) (total atomic mass).  There is no way around that.

On the contrary, I'd argue the universe, taken as a whole, has no mass.

Consider the classical understanding of intertial mass as the ratio of an applied force to the resulting acceleration. Push two objects with the same amount of force and one moves faster than the other. Other aspects, like friction and air resistance, being equal, the faster object has less mass.

There's no way to step outside the universe and apply an external force. It's not as if you could push the universe two feet to the right, because there's no meaning to that "location".

I'd also argue that there's no angular momentum, because there's no external location to serve as a reference or axis. By this kind of reasoning, you can further rule out location, velocity, acceleration, orientation, and so on of the universe as a whole.

Now if you mean "the sum total of masses in the universe," then that's a different issue.

We certainly have an ordindary, everyday sense of mass around us, and nothing that we conclude about larger contexts will change that. We observe the consequences of mass on a larger scale when we look through telescopes at celestial bodies. At this point, it would be valid to add up the masses of everything we see and call that the total mass of some region of the universe. (There may be epistemological problems with that, but that's another issue.)

But the universe is bigger than that. Is it so big that we can't specify our location within it? We can certainly give a local location (e.g., near galaxy X), but what about specifying a global location -- one relative to the universe as a whole? I'm not convinced such is possible.

I bring this up because I speculate that there may not be a net gravitational attraction between everything in the universe, and therefore there would (again) be zero mass to the universe.

How is that possible? If an object is attracted equally in opposite directions, then there is no net attraction; the forces cancel. If a large astronomical object is located midway between other large astronomical objects, then it would not be attracted in any preferred direction. But each of these other objects would themselves be in the same state, unless one was at the edge of the universe. And there is no edge of the universe! That means there would be no net attraction between objects in the universe, when the universe is taken as a whole.

(This speculation is admittedly rationalistic, but as far as I know, it hasn't been made elsewhere, and I'm curious if it's true. Maybe there's something known in astrophysics or general relativity that answers this, but I'm not familiar enough with either to say.)

A whole other issue develops when the time required for gravity to propogate large distances is considered.

But suffice it to say, it can't be taken for granted that the universe as a whole has mass.

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On the contrary, I'd argue the universe, taken as a whole, has no mass.

I have mass, you have mass, my laptop has mass, if I keep adding these things up until I have included everything in the universe, then the universe has mass. Please, don't be ridiculous. Ayn Rand herself said that the universe is the total of everything that exists, but it doesn't take her to strengthen this argument - any honest observer would conclude that since atoms have mass, and in the universe there are a lot of atoms, then the universe has mass. (I never said anythng about specific shape.) It is discussions like this on Objectivist boards that lead me to believe that "Objectivists" are morphing into a conglomerate of some reasonable people and some wackos.

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Why must it? And what shape would it have, and from what angle? . . .

Shape is not applicable to the universe for the same reason that time is not.

I never said that it must have a constant and specific shape.

Fluids dont have constatnt and specific shape, but they sure as hell have mass.

How can the question of whether the universe has mass even be discussed by sane adults???

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I bring this up because I speculate that there may not be a net gravitational attraction between everything in the universe, and therefore there would (again) be zero mass to the universe.

Gravitational attraction has nothing to do with mass. (in the sense we are using here)

It has to do with WEIGHT.

I never said anything about WEIGHT.

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The universe is not a "thing," it is a collection of things -- all that exists. Time exists within the  universe, not outside of it. The essay argues similarly for size.

I have difficulty with the universe as just a collection of things. Isn't it more than that? Rather, it has to have some attribute that enables it to be the "container" of all things. To say the univerese is a collection presupposes that is has to be something specific apart and distinct from its identity as a collection of things I would think. Having trouble conceptualizing this.

Michael

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This speculation is admittedly rationalistic, but as far as I know, it hasn't been made elsewhere ...

Actually, similar arguments have been made, and you are in good company. More than three-hundred years ago Isaac Newton argued that if all particles in the universe had gravity, and if they were equally distributed throughout the universe, and if the universe was finite, the outside matter would inevitably fall towards the inside matter and eventually everything would be just one single great big mass. Newton used this argument to conclude that the universe must be infinite, because if all matter was evenly distributed throughout an infinite space there would be an infinite number of these great masses scattered at distances far from each other throughout all of infinite space. But Newton then realized there were difficulties in accounting for why some of the matter formed our large shining Sun, yet the rest coalesced not into one great body but into many opaque smaller bodies.

At this point Newton's religiosity took over and he concluded that he could not explain this phenomena by "meer natural Causes" and he ascribed it instead "to the Counsel and Contrivance of a voluntary Agent."

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