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

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Well then, Leonard Peikoff also stole the concept of number. Or , more exactly the concept of "total" which includes the concept of "number."  He wrote "The universe is the total of that which exists. . ." Quoted from the Ayn Rand Lexicon, which cites his "Philosophy of Objectivism" lecture series.

****Notice that it does NOT say that the universe merely contains the total of that which exists. He said it IS the total of that which exists.  I don't see how it could be any clearer.  The universe IS me, my cells, my laptop, its molecules and atoms.

All of those things are things BASED ON THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE MASS. Refer to any periodic table of the elements, it will also tell you the atomic masses for any element.

I don't think Dr. Peikoff meant a mathematical interpretation of "total" there. You have to take the whole context, he just meant that the universe is everything that exists.

Also I don't think anyone here disagrees that the universe is the collection of existents and nothing more. A is A, therefore existence is the many, not the one. But since existence actually is the many and the varied, you can't attribute a particular attribute to all that exists without scientifically cataloguing it all first (as the quote from AR stated).

All you can say about the universe as a whole is the basic stuff, such as it exists and it is what is it. Maybe if we ever did catalog all the existents (somehow) we would find there is another similarity, but that is certainly not currently feasible, and may even be philosophically impossible, I'm not sure.

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I don't think Dr. Peikoff meant a mathematical interpretation of "total" there. You have to take the whole context, he just meant that the universe is everything that exists.

Also I don't think anyone here disagrees that the universe is the collection of existents and nothing more. A is A, therefore existence is the many, not the one. But since existence actually is the many and the varied, you can't attribute a particular attribute to all that exists without scientifically cataloguing it all first (as the quote from AR stated).

All you can say about the universe as a whole is the basic stuff, such as it exists and it is what is it. Maybe if we ever did catalog all the existents (somehow) we would find there is another similarity, but that is certainly not currently feasible, and may even be philosophically impossible, I'm not sure.

What we can catalogue is irrelevant to knowing that things, and very large groups of things(like the universe) have mass. We cant catalogue everything in the earth either - it's too hot at the center, but we know it has mass. I don't subscribe to the primacy of consciousness, and neither should you. Meaning: even if human beings weren't here to catalogue things, they would still have their attributes. Large goups of things are no different. Out.

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I am not slurring any Objectivists.  I am slurring "Objectivists."  Notice that I put it in quotes, which means - sarcastically - that I am actually referring to non-Objectivists - who happen to be posting on an Objectivist message board.

I am "slurring" anynone who willfully is engaging in nonsense.  To any whom to the shoe fits . . .

P.S.  And please don't take it to mean that I mean you, Stephen.  You seem to be even further versed and grounded in Objectivism than I am.  But perhaps I am much less tolerant than you.  The things I am certain of I am certain of.  The word "size" has a meaning.  So does "mass."  I don't change that meaning just because I am talking about something very big.

Well, then you are talking about Ed From OC (it was in response to his post that you made that smear) or me (apparently I am not a sane adult). Were you implying that Ed from OC is not an Objectivist? That is the direct implication of your post.

Who made you the designator of Objectivists or "Objectivists"? I am also sorry to say that physics is not a part of Objectivism nor is physics a branch of philosophy.

You are arguing from intimidation.

And a cowardly form of ad hominem.

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The proper Objectivist standpoint is that the universe (the sum total of everything which exists) has mass.  The universe is NOT a "diferent kind of thing."  The universe IS everything. Everthing has mass.

Was this covered in OPAR? I missed the physics section of the book...

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I see that in my absence today from this thread that Alex has stepped in and, as per usual, has added great clarity to what is a confusing subject to many. I think that the most fundamental way to understand this issue of ascribing size, shape, etc. to the universe is from the perspective presented in Alex's essay. But it appears as if The Durande has either not read or not understood Alex's essay, and the more that The Durande's view is questioned and argued against, the more he responds with hostility and ridicule. Referring to his adversaries as "wackos" and questioning their sanity does little to advance the subject, much less to advance his own understanding.

I would like to ask The Durande to step back from things for a moment and let's see if a different approach is of any help.

Characteristics such as size, shape, etc. may not be primary aspects of metaphysical reality, but rather effects of the ultimate constituents of the universe as perceived by our senses. Since we do not know their nature, philosophically we cannot attribute size, shape, mass, etc. to the ultimate constituents. But the universe is the sum total of its ultimate constituents, so therefore we cannot attribute size, shape, mass, etc. to the universe. How does The Durande respond to that argument?

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Does this mean that the concept "universe" is more of an epistemological concept rather than a metaphysical concept.

Yes, in the sense that the universe does not have an independent metaphysical exisitence. Just like my book collection does not exist metaphysically apart from the actual physical books in the collection.

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This was discussed previously in this thread:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=192

In particular, post #68. I made similar objections which were never commented on. Added below for ease of reference...

I've been busy with career concerns and have not been able to post for a while. I will recap to save others the time of digging through this thread...

Assumptions about all that exists as it pertains to the concept 'universe' (not assumptions about 'existence')...

All of x possess spacial boundaries (the sum of all that exists)

When you state: "All of x possess spacial boundaries" do you mean that each and every x possesses a "spacial" boundary? Or are you trying to say that the SUM of all that exists possesses a spatial boundary? (I assume it is the former, because the latter would be assuming what you are trying to prove, thus making the argument circular. However, I wanted to know for certain which it was you meant.)
Each and every x possesses a spacial boundary, a spacial boundary in this context defined as limits for the existent in categories such as mass, volume, etc...

x is a physical existent

I include the above because we are discussing the concept 'universe' (I.e.- What is 'out-there') and to distinquish a thing from its attributes and/or actions, which exist as relationships between existents, but they themselves have no physical extension. Whatever the primary constituents of physical existents are, we can be sure of two things. They exist, therefore possessing identity, and they exist finitely. When I speak of 'all that exists' in the context of this discussion, I mean all physical existents. At present I am not concerned with entities (mental or otherwise) or attributes of existents (even though they exist). I am concerned with whatever that fundamental building block(s) is(are) and its nature. This fundamental building block exists, has identity, exists finitely (even if we cannot measure it accurately), and it possesses spacial bounds (since it is a physical existent). This is all I am concerned with in this discussion, establishing this. The relationships between existents will be resolved accordingly.

relationships between existents include the temporal

All that exists, exist finitely (I.e.- Is limited in quantity)

All that exists possesses spacial properties, and relationships between these existents include the temporal.

The word is not the thing. The term 'universe' has two tenses.

First, it is a collective noun of quantity. I agree when spoken of in this sense that time, space, etc. do not apply. How could they apply to a collective noun...

But, when the concept 'universe' is taken in its literal sense, 'the sum of all that exists' it becomes limited. The concept 'sum' by its nature is limiting.

If every existent is spacially bound, then all existents are spacially bound, and all that exists has a spacial boundary (I'm visualizing an imaginary sphere that includes all existents in its volume). The same goes for the temporal. If every existent is spacially bound, then existents have temporal relationships with other existents.

The fact that you cannot compare the movement of everything to nothing, etc. does not matter. This speaks of the concept 'universe' in the collective noun sense, and stops there.

The parts cannot contradict the whole (when a new entity is not involved, we have established the 'universe' is not an entity). If time and size are properties and relationships of all existents, and all that exists (all existents) have spacial and temporal properties. Then size and time apply to the whole (the whole being all existents).

Our inability to measure this *quantity* of 'that which exists', does not negate the possiblity of a finite quantity 'that which exists', it just means we can't measure it at present.

Now, I'll answer specifics if your post...

Furthermore, what is your definition of spatial boundary? Your referent for it is "physical existent". As such, conceptual boundaries would not be included. For instance, "solar system", while an existent, is not a *physical* existent. It is a *relationship* between physical existents. As such, it would be excluded from your "assumptions".

This is true, solar system as you describe it would not be included. But, the individual existents that we, for convienience, collectively call 'solar system' are included. I am going broader that the concept planet, star, etc. I am speaking of that fundamental building block(s) of the physical existent, what ever that happens to be. 'Spacial boundary' in this context means those spacial properties possessed by that fundamental building block.

So it appears, then, that your x refers *specifically* to entities and not to any other form of existent. Since we have already established that "universe" is NOT an entity, and since the above statement refers specifically TO entities, then whatever is said above does NOT apply to the concept

"universe".

I am not following you here... An 'existent' is something that exists, be it a thing, an attribute or an action. I use physical existent above to differentiate a thing from its attributes or actions. An 'Entity' is something that exists, be it a thing, an attribute or an action as percieved and integrated by a human consciousness (eventually, entities become regarded as units). I include these definitions to make sure we are discussing the same thing. My goal is to distinguish something that exists independent of human consciousness (existent), and something that exists independently and is perceived and integrated by a human consciousness (entity).

You are correct, the 'universe' is not an entity. But I am also not speaking of entities, but existents. Existents, not entities, are ultimately the fundamental building block of 'all that exists' in the context of the 'universe'. To say that entities make up this fundamental building block is like saying somehow the 'universe' is predicated on human consciousness, or at the very least tied to it somehow. I am certain that the universe would still exist even if there were no consciousness to percieve it.

As I noted above, the concept 'universe' is a collective noun of quantity and in this sense is an integration of our consciousness. As you noted in a previous post:

"Universe is not an entity unto itself, possessing anything of itself, including any unique attributes, characteristics, etc.. There are ONLY the characteristics, attributes and relationships of those things included in the concept OF "universe" which is "all that exists".

What are those things included in the concept 'universe'? All physical existents and all their properties, attributes, and relationships amongst themselves independent of the recognition of human consciousness.

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.

I would like to ask The Durande to step back from things for a moment and let's see if a different approach is of any help.

My god, Stephen, I expected better from you.

Why don't YOU try to step back and answer these questions one by one?

1. Do atoms have an atomic mass? (Or is the periodic table just one big hoax?)

2. Do I and my lapstop and the Atlantic Ocean and the moon and the sun have atoms? And just to be sure - do they have mass?

3. Does a golf ball have mass? Does a pile of them have mass?

4. Are all of these things a part of the universe?

5. Can you really answer yes to all of these things and then say that the universe - which is a group of all existing things - does not have mass?

I really don't want to argue this any more, because now, more than ever, I am truly losing my sense that Objectivism has a chance in my lifetime. I cannot believe what I am seeing on this board. And, yes, Stephen, I have read every word on this post. Have you?

Reading some noteable scientist's ideas about the subject and then summarizing them here does not make an argument. Citing some "well established" fallacy does not make an argument. (christianity is "well-established" (to christians)).

All I really want for Christmas is for someone to address those questions - and then maybe we can discover that perhaps there is some semantic issue here. I know that I am not entitled to an answer to them, but, being a person who ties all my abstractions down to concretes, I don't really know how t respond to any argument that does not deal with concretes. Even the concept "universe" for me is not a floating abstraction. I am not bragging. The universe is not something fundamentally different than all the things we have solid knowledge about. It is merely the SUM of all things that we know about AND the things we don't know much about.

P.S. I really cannot add any more to this thread. What I have said is clear, and notably, consistent with Objectivism. Anything else will have to come from you guys. I hear that Leonard Peikoff and David Harriman are are collaborating on a book that may or may not touch on this subject. Perhaps their opinions would be interesting.

P.S.S.

Stephen, from the other thread, I still have yet to have someone present me with one article, lecture, or book - ever - that gives a good and honest argument against Objectivism by someone who understands and does not misrepresent Objectivism in that work of his or hers. Any luck?

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P.S.S.

Stephen, from the other thread, I still have yet to have someone present me with one article, lecture, or book  - ever - that gives a good and honest argument against Objectivism by someone who understands and does not misrepresent Objectivism in that work of his or hers.  Any luck?

You have presented this question several times. Each time, I have been puzzled by it. It is somewhat ambiguous as presented. In fact, I have wondered if the question is inadvertently a conundrum -- a riddle or puzzle that can be answered only by reinterpreting the terms/ideas.

At one level, it seems -- but I am not sure -- that you are asking for a mutually exclusive set of criteria: in other words, an impossible standard.

Specifically how could anyone present a good and honest argument unless he understands (good) the subject and represents it while focusing only on the facts (honest).

If this interpretation is correct, and if you are asking for the impossible, is it any wonder no one has responded with an answer that fits your seemingly conflicting criteria?

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Specifically how could anyone present a good and honest argument unless he understands (good) the subject and represents it while focusing only on the facts (honest).

How 'bout just an hosest one then??

(It can't misrepresent Objectivism)

Just one citation of something written - EVER - will suffice.

I don't see any ambiguity there.

I was simply answering the thread starter's request.

If it seems impossible, then it is he who was asking the impossible.

I can see many places to look for articles that meet my requirements: What about the TOC? There are no doubt that there are people there who understand Objectivism there, they just generally don't believe in it or want to adhere to its principles. What about theologians? Most of them are honest (in an everyday kind of way). Has anything been written by any of them (who understand Objectivism)?

Note that I said there are places to look, I won't say any more of the liklihood of finding.

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"Total" means something like, "whatever exists is included in the universe." Really this is just another perspective on the axiom of existence.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that not every existent has mass, even excluding the case of the universe. My consciousness, my mortality, my longitude and lattitude, my age, etc. do not have mass. All these things are part of the universe, even though the universe qua collective noun does not have any of these attributes. These are attributes that exist within the universe, not qualities attributed to the universe. Or even take a physical attribute: location. Everything (that has mass) has location. Does the universe have location? Where is it?

The point is that one needs to look at the context of how concepts like "mass" and "size" and "time" are formed and used, and then see if they can be applied meaningfully to existence as such. They can't. When one takes concepts literally, these sorts of cosmological paradoxes (i.e. "how big is the universe?") dissolve. This is what Alex's article is demonstrating.

EDIT: For reference: Fallacies of Composition

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The proper Objectivist standpoint is that the universe (the sum total of everything which exists) has mass.  The universe is NOT a "diferent kind of thing."  The universe IS everything. Everthing has mass.

Applied measurement-omission: "Existence" (or "Universe") is what you retain when you omit all the measurements of consciousness. Such measurements certainly include space, time, size and mass.

Thus, the proper Objectivist standpoint is not the one you claim it to be.

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Thanks, Michael.  I'm glad.

p. 273).

Entities must have characteristics, but the universe is not an entity.  But this does not mean that the universe lacks identity.  On the contrary, existence is identity, and the universe obviously exists.  And what exists are a multitude of entities with specific identities.  This is all that is needed to give the universe as such identity: its identity is such that it subsumes entity A, natural law B, relationship C, etc.

The universe is everything that exists.  As such -- and far from lacking identity -- it contains all the identity (i.e., existence) one could or should every want.

Let me know if I failed to answer your questions; if so, feel free to re-ask them.

-- Alex

Alex thanks for the reply.

It seems then that, epistemoligically speaking, the identity of the universe is known to us by deduction not induction--much the same way a "black hole" is known by deducing its existence from the motion of existents surrounding it. In the case of the universe we deduce its existence from the very existence of the multitude of entites with identities. So as the identity of a black hole is determined by the motion of entities casued by it, the identity of the universe is ascertained by the very existence of entities themselves--things which we can percieve and conceptualize.

Metaphyscially, however, I am stilll confused about the relationship between entities (with attributes), natual laws AND the universe. I agree that the universe is not the container of all that exists. But is the identity of the universe itself "all that exists"? Is the Universe just a collection of entities and natual laws? If so the question to ask is: What is the metaphysicall status of a "collection"? I would hold that a collection is not an entity at all--it seems the same can be said of the universe. Epistemoligically, the concept "collection" helps us grasp the relationship of common entities like a collection of books. But a collection as such is nothing more than its entities.

But the problem is that when talking about the universe, we tend to see it as metaphysical. Do collections exist? Yes. What charactistics do collections have? Their charactristics are determined by the identites of their entitiies. A collecton is large or small depending on the number of entities it sucumes. A collection can be valuable depending on the value of its entites etc. Now for the universe as a collection we can't seem to ascribe such characteristics to it in the same way as other collection. Since the universe is the collection of everything, then we can't say the universe is large or small unless there we other univserses we could compare it too which would be a contradition. All we can say therefore is that the universe IS everything and that is it.

Michael

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The Durande, I have two questions for you. I need clarification on your position.

1) Is the universe and entity unto itself?

2) Does a statement made about the universe apply equally to each and every entity/existent that is subsumed in it?

If you answer to the second question is yes, then the statement "The universe has mass" can be taken to mean "each and everything entity/existent has mass". Which would then mean that time, color, shape, etc. all have mass. And clearly this is not so.

If your answer is no, then what does "The universe has mass" mean?

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The Durande, I have two questions for you.  I need clarification on your position.

1)  Is the universe and entity unto itself?

2)  Does a statement made about the universe apply equally to each and every entity/existent that is subsumed in it? 

If you answer to the second question is yes, then the statement "The universe has mass" can be taken to mean "each and everything entity/existent has mass".  Which would then mean that time, color, shape, etc. all have mass.  And clearly this is not so.

If your answer is no, then what does "The universe has mass" mean?

ans. to question #1 - the universe is a group of entities. a very large group. it's all of them.

ans to quetion #2 - no. but i would argue that the reverse is true with regard to matter. Matter has mass. The universe includes matter. The universe has mass.

I NEVER said that every concept implies some type of mass. I said that things, like my laptop and I do. Colors,shape, etc. are attributes of matter. (color is a reaction between light rays and some various types of matter.)

A b flat musical note doesn't have mass either.

Neither does a good mood.

Neither does my patience.

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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."

I always like to provide citations for quotes, but I was in such a hurry when I posted this that I failed to do so. My apologies. The quotes, and the argument regarding an infinite universe, were taken from a December 10, 1692 letter from Isaac Newton to Richard Bentley. This letter is the first of a famous set of four letters of correspondence between these two men. Bentley was a classical scholar who read Newton's Principia and asked Newton for help in his understanding of that work. Afterwards Bentley maintained contact with Newton and he eventually asked Newton's further help in preparing several arguments for his lectures. This fascinating correspondence between Newton and Bentley was published in 1756 under the title Four Letters from Isaac Newton to Doctor Bentley Containing Some Arguments in Proof of a Deity. These letters are reproduced in Isaac Newton's Papers & Letters On Natural Philosophy, Edited by I. Bernard Cohen, Harvard University Press, 1958, and the first letter is on pp. 280-290.

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ans. to question #1  -  the universe is a group of entities.

The universe consists of more than just entities; it is all that exists.

ans to quetion #2 - no. but i would argue that the reverse is true with regard to matter.  Matter has mass. The universe includes matter.  The universe has mass.

This is a unwarrented and unsubstantiated assertion. In these philosophical discussions "matter" means that of which all things we perceive are made of, and all things we perceive are made of the some ultimate constituents. As I pointed out in my recent argument to you that you have failed to address, we cannot arbitrarily attribute properties or characteristics such as mass, size, shape, etc. to the ultimate constituents of the universe. Therefore your have no rational basis to make your above claim.

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ans. to question #1   -  the universe is a group of entities. a very large group. it's all of them.

Good, so you agree that 'universe' is a collective noun.

ans to quetion #2 - no. but i would argue that the reverse is true with regard to matter.  Matter has mass. The universe includes matter.  The universe has mass.

Stephen, in his most recent post, does identify a mistake you made in your argument about assuming all matter has mass, but assuming you were to incorporate his point into your statement and adjust it accordingly, your new statement would be:

"Obejcts with mass have mass. The universe includes objects with mass. Therefore, the universe has mass."

The reason why I can't accept this statement is precisely because 'universe' is a collective noun. You can't assert something about a collective noun without implying that it is true of ALL members of that collection. The universe consists of more than just objects with mass, and how is the recipient of your statement, "the universe has mass", know to delimit the collection down to "objects with mass"

There is nothing in the statement, "the universe has mass" that would exclude all massless things that are also part of the total. Thus, your statement can be interpreted to mean "massless objects have mass".

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Matter has mass. The universe includes matter.  The universe has mass.

The metaphysical measurements of your consciousness, which are implicit in your arguments, do NOT themselves constitute existence in the sense of "the primacy of existence". In order to reach the axiomatic concept of existence, you have to omit all the measurements of consciousness (including matter, space, time, consciousness and mass). But if you say that "the universe has mass" and equate this meaning with "existence has mass, independent of the fact whether any consciousness exists to measure mass" -- that is to introduce a stolen concept.

There is no "mass" or "space" or "time" or "consciousness" apart from consciousness. This is not to say, however, that there is no existence apart from consciousness. On the contrary, existence exists. That is why the particular measurements of consciousness is not to be equated with existence. (Philosophical positions such as Materialism and Naive Realism are both aspects of the primacy-of-consciousness metaphysics in this sense: they project measurements of consciousness onto existence -- i.e. they don't omit the measurements of their consciousness to retain existence as a starting point, rather they take these measurements or contents as the package-deal starting point.)

(For the record: The above is entirely my own reasoning. I have only read the first three chapters of OPAR besides reading Ayn Rand's novels, so naturally I am not qualified to speak for Objectivism in any sense. However, since I do take my studies of Objectivism very seriously, I would very much appreciate if anyone who is more versed in Objectivism could comment on my comments. Are my conclusions correct or do they differ from Objectivism? If so, how do they differ?)

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As a side point and response to something you said earlier...

...

And please, use a reality-based argument- not citing some invented fallacy that I am committing.  Resorting to naming fallacies rather than referring to reality is a form of rationalism.  Please try to tie everything you say to the world, not to other abstractions like "fallacies."

...

The fallacy of composition is not invented.

Are you saying that logical fallacies do not refer to reality? All of the logical fallacies are simply different flavors of a contradiction. Each is a specific way in which the law of non-contradiction can be broken.

And since logic is derived from reality, any break with logic, such as engaging in a contradiction, is proof that someone has automatically broken with reality.

The purpose of pointing out a logical fallacy is to point out that your opponent's argument is disconnected from reality, not to provide positve evidence connecting one's own argument.

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All that exists? All what?

There are many existents other than entities. My thoughts, for instance.

But, more importantly, you seem to have chosen to respond to a relatively minor issue while ignoring the really important and substantive point that I made, one which goes to the heart of all of your assertions. To repeat:

ans to quetion #2 - no. but i would argue that the reverse is true with regard to matter.  Matter has mass. The universe includes matter.  The universe has mass.

This is a unwarrented and unsubstantiated assertion. In these philosophical discussions "matter" means that of which all things we perceive are made of, and all things we perceive are made of the some ultimate constituents. As I pointed out in my recent argument to you that you have failed to address, we cannot arbitrarily attribute properties or characteristics such as mass, size, shape, etc. to the ultimate constituents of the universe. Therefore your have no rational basis to make your above claim.

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