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Everything posted by KipIngram

  1. Yes, I agree - I didn't mean to be demanding an explanation. Just saying what you said - that relativity isn't on the hook for that.
  2. But as soon as you move your limbs you are filling the space. The pieces of you count as stuff. But even without moving, you are in that universe. Even neglecting virtual particles it's now not an empty space.
  3. The explanation I read made specific mention of more photons leaving through one end than through the other end. Even though both ends were closed - I wondered if it was perhaps some kind of tunneling. But I don't really know enough about tunneling to do any kind of real evaluation. Are there more than one of these concepts around? Because another thing I read made reference to somehow changing the mass of a vibrating plate (the weird crazy part was how they managed to do that). I remember that article striking me as totally absurd.
  4. Tell me more - just to be clear, my own belief at this time is that we do have spirits and they're the seat of our minds. In fact, that may be all there really is - a guy named Donald Hoffman has a theory of "conscious agents" in which he proposes that consciousness is the fundamental essence of reality, and that what we call "the universe" is something we perceive as a result of exchanging information with other conscious agents. I'm closer to believing that than I am to believing in the "emergent property of complexity" premise. I'm trying to give the other side the best possible chance - give it a fair hearing.
  5. I'm not sure that's a valid concept - in order to perceive the space, at the very least the perceiver would have to be in the volume. Carrying on my thought from above, I think "empty space" would be what we perceive when there are no other entities for us to perceive.
  6. I've noticed at least some of this material that is referred to as "reactionless" in the popular media coverage but then when you actually read the underlying work that turns out not to be a claim made by the people involved. So it sort of depends on what you're looking at. I didn't see any physics violations in the one I read, but it was absurdly impractical. Like milli Newtons of force for thousands of watts of power invested. The only application I could ever see it having even a chance at would be satellite station-keeping. I've got a buddy online who's just convinced it's "star drive here we come," but... no.
  7. I'm going to put this here in Speculations from the get-go, because it always seem to lead into some "uncertain" areas. I've been browsing here for a couple of days now, and I feel like there are quite a few very well-informed and talented people here. This is a topic I've been thinking about for years, and I'd be ever so happy if someone can bring me something new to ponder. First of all, let me say what I am not trying to do with this post. I am in no way trying to back-door my way into a religious assertion. I'm pointing this out because I think some people do use this general topic with an eye toward doing that. I am of the opinion that our "minds" involve something more than just our brains (and I'll talk more about that below), but I see no reason whatsoever that has to imply the usual baggage that's associated with it (a Creator, etc.) . For lack of a better term I'm going to refer to this opinion as the "we have spirits" opinion. So when I refer below to spirits in any way, that's what I'm talking about - a "something extra" that works together with our brain to make our mental activity and experiences possible. Also, in case this gets long-winded, what I'm ultimately going to wind up asking for is the best possible explanation of the case for our minds being purely brain-based. Some new insight that no one's been able to give me in the past. Let me get started. In reading about artificial intelligence, you run across two concepts: The Strong AI Theorem. My understanding of this theorem is that it essentially is the claim that sentient thought arises completely from the operation of some sort of hardware and software (our brains and the pattern of neural wiring and activity, or a computer with the appropriate software, etc.) . That there's nothing more to it than that - case closed The Weak AI Theorem. This is the claim that with sufficient hardware power and software cleverness we could in principle construct a machine that mimics the behavior of sentient thought to as high a level of accuracy as we wish. First of all, I'm 100% down for the Weak Theorem. It seems obvious - any behavior can be programmed, and with a big enough database of information, clever enough software, and powerful enough hardware to run it all this looks like an obviously achievable goal. So there is absolutely no way for me to know whether or not all of the people that I encounter in life actually have spirits or not. Every one of you could be nothing more than very superb androids for all I know. But it's different when I consider myself. In a way I don't know how to express in hard scientific terms, I "feel" my own existence. I am aware of myself as a living, thinking thing. I feel physical pain and pleasure. I feel joy, sadness, anger, and so on. I am aware of the chemical / physiological basis of all of these things (though I'm not an expert, so don't ask me for precise chemical formulae and so on). But I'm talking about more than the measurable chemical changes that occur in my body based on my mental state. I'm talking about the actual perceived sensations. The crux of my difficulty here is that I haven't been able to develop any sort of a good theory of how a chemical (and that's all the materials of our bodies are) can experience sensation. I'm going to switch over to computer-based systems now, because I understand them more completely. I'm actually a digital circuitry engineer by education and experience more than I am anything else. So, if the Strong AI Theroem is true, then in theory we could build a computer and write the right software, and that entity could then experience the same sort of things I can feel myself experiencing. Pain (we'll assume there are suitable sensors wired in). Joy, anger, etc. The computer would have the same sort of innate sensation of these things that I have when I experience them. It would not only react externally in the appropriate manner, but it would literally have an internal awareness of its own "frame of mind." As I said, I've thought about this for years, and I don't see how it's possible. The hardware of a computer is essentially a vast array of transistors, each of them either "on" or "off," wired together in an arrangement that enables its function. Each of those transistors operates according to well-defined semiconductor physics. And, finally, no transistor is "aware" of the state of any other transistor, or of any global patterns of transistor activation - each transistor just has a particular voltage on each of its inputs and that's it. There are no "back channels" for global state of any kind to find its way into the operation of an individual transistor. So the hardware of a computer is a machine and nothing more. It moves through states the same way the cylinders of a car move through a particular pattern of motion. I see no basis on the hardware front for self-awareness. So that brings us to the software. The most general description of the full software state of a computer is to say that it's an evolving pattern of true and false logic bits. It's a table of information. The hardware can "time step" that table from its value set now to its value set and the next clock cycle. But I could write each one of those patterns down in a book, say one book per time step, and put those books on the shelves of library. That library would then represent the evolution of the software in a fully complete way. I think I can wrap this up now - exactly how does a pattern of information experience sensations? I certainly see how you could point to one particular bit of that information and say "There - that bit right there is the 'pain' bit." That would just be a function of how the software was written - maybe a temperature sensor exceeding a certain value causes that bit to be set, and we call that "burning pain." But what is EXPERIENCING that pain? How do we assert that the hardware / software system is having an awareness of the state of pain? I've asked this question many times over the years, but no one has ever responded in a way that feels like more than hand waving. It always reminds me of that old cartoon that I saw in one of the World Book Science Yearbooks many years ago - a bunch of math in the top left corner of a chalkboard, a simple result in the bottom right, and the words "THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS" in between. One scientist is saying to another "I think you need some more detail here in step 2." I think the formal phrase for the approach I've outlined above is "consciousness is an emergent property of complexity." What I'm looking for is "How?" How do we take that step from a finite state machine to real "self awareness"? My absolute failure to discover a satisfactory answer to this question is basically why I've come to believe we have spirits. It's an Occam's Razor thing - it solves the problem. Nothing is left unexplained. If we have spirits, then it's our spirits that feel self awareness, and that unburdens the hardware from having to do so by itself. And as far as I can see, presuming spirits doesn't foul science up in anyway. Science certainly doesn't show that we do have spirits, but it doesn't show that we don't either. Many people use Occam's Razor to argue against spirits: "Why add something new when you can explain everything without adding it?" Except that in my opinion we can't explain everything. At least not in a way that I've been able to find believable. So, please - can anyone say something new to me? Something that can put me on a new track to understanding how a finite state machine could even begin to embody this thing I'm calling self-awareness? As I said above, I'm putting this in Speculations because I think we're talking about a fundamentally non-scientific issue. There's no way to tell from the outside whether a person has self-awareness or not. It's a strictly internal thing that each of us can feel about ourselves only. Oh, one last thought. Some people will say "You don't have self awareness - it's an illusion." Ok, if that's the case, then what is it exactly that's experiencing the illusion? That seems like a dead end to me. I can almost accept the argument "free will is an illusion" as something at least to debate (I do think we have free will, but I could honor a debate). But "self awareness is an illusion" seems like a contradiction from the outset to me. Thanks for reading, Kip
  8. I'm going to go out on a limb here - this is a notion that just occurred to me in the past few days, but it has a "right feel" to it. I don't think spacetime really exists as an entity unto itself. What you have is "stuff." Lots of words for that; events, objects, particles, fields, etc. Things that do, in some way, have their own reality. Spacetime is a framework that we've invented that lets us organize our perception of the "stuff" in a useful, sensible way. Without the "stuff" there's nothing to organize and no need to invent the framework. So spacetime arises from the relationships among events. So asking if "empty space" exists anywhere is really asking if there are places in our framework with no "stuff" associated. I don't really know the answer to that, but I lean toward no - like Strange said above, we find virtual particle activity pretty much everywhere.
  9. I agree with Swansont - by definition the "interpretation" doesn't affect the execution of the theory (doesn't enter into the math). If something affects the math, it's not part of the interpretation; it's part of the theory. That means discussion of interpretations isn't science per se. Some people feel that in spite of this one interpretation could still be "right" and others "wrong," but other people say that all interpretations that conform with predicted experimental results are equally valid. I think I'm in the latter camp, subject to the caveat that in some cases we might learn new things that make it possible to differentiate via test amongst the interpretations. But then that distinction moves from interpretation to theory, so... I think learning a lot about all of the interpretations is the way to go - each one can offer its own way to "hold the theory" in your mind and can potentially make you a better scientist. It's not that the theory "works better" with one interpretation than another - it's more about using the interpretations to help keep your own imperfect skills on track. I love discussing interpretations - I like some better than others and those can be lively conversations. But it's really just not science.
  10. I ran across some really nice papers on quantum information theory that presented wave function collapse as a very natural outcome. There were several papers by the same author - I can't remember right now which one seemed the "tightest," but this one will get you started: https://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9605039v2.pdf From there look for other papers by the same authors. I really think the information theory guys are onto something.
  11. Copenhagen may be popular simply because it got a big momentum behind it from it's support by the "big guys" back in the day. I don't really know. But all of these interpretations make the same experimental predictions, so there's no way to choose amongst them with a completely scientific process. I think it really comes down to a matter of "what appeals." How do the various perspectives fit into your personal "outlook" on the world. For example, I believe there is more to consciousness than a "brain computer." Whatever you want to call them, I think we have "minds" or "spirits" or whatever that go beyond our material selves. So it's easy for me to fit Copenhagen into that - collapse occurs when a conscious mind demands an outcome. Possibilities become real in sort of a "just in time" manner when something has to be presented to a thinking mind. Some of the other interpretations just offend my sensibilities. Many worlds, for example - when "all possible outcomes" occur and we suddenly have that many more new universes, where does all that mass and energy come from? Many universes full of mass and energy? I'm not saying there's an explicit violation of any conservation law - just that it's an awfully "big outcome" to get from a single quantum event. Also (and I'm not sure how rigorous my understanding is here), the "macro" outcome of many worlds seems ridiculous - in theory you should be able to find a universe that contains any possible physical outcome. So somewhere you've got a universe that's an awful lot like "The Sopranos" or "Days of Our Lives." Um, no - can't stretch my credulity that far. Bohm gave us an interpretation where everything happening now is deterministic - all the uncertainty about the future is bundled up in an unobservable internal state at the beginning of time. But I believe we have real free will, so that doesn't fly for me either. These examples - they're just to underline how the science of quantum theory gives us results that we can count on, but the interpretation really isn't a matter of scientific investigation, because the results are the same in every test and so no test distinguishes. And in the end it really doesn't matter, as long as we do the math right. So the next time you're arguing with your buddy about which quantum interpretation is "right," just remember that you're having a philosophical debate, not a scientific one. And just to keep the argument from getting too heated, remember that you can't know that you're right. It's like arguing over Ginger vs. Mary Ann, or Mounds vs. Almond Joys.
  12. The post by studiot is excellent. A more terse way of saying the same thing is to say that when you have two coordinate systems u and v and a transformation A relating them, some quantities get converted by by transforming them, and others get converted by *inverse* transforming them. That's the essence of the two categories. The examples that studiot gave is one example of each type. Specifically, when converting from miles to km, the number expressing a length will go up because it takes more than one km to make a mile, but numbers expressing flux per unit area will go down, because a square km is less area than a square mile.
  13. You're sort of asking *why* the speed of light is constant for all observers, and I'm not sure we know that. I'm not a professional physicist, though, so I may be behind the times. But recall that "c is constant" is a *postulate* of special relativity - it's not a conclusion. You get the theory when you start with that as an assumption; therefore, relativity doesn't provide an explanation as to why.
  14. Here, let me try. This is like using c as an agreed upon "zero point." That's sloppy wording, if you want to find something that everyone will agree on the speed of, regardless of their state of motion, it has to be moving at c. Something moving at speed 0 for me isn't moving at speed 0 for you, if you and I are moving w.r.t. one another. If two events are connected by a light beam, we will all agree on their interval: zero. So we're using that "automatically agreed upon" case as the reference point in our interval measurement. I have mixed feelings about that explanation. It feels to me like there's something worthwhile in it, but also something that a little hand-wavy. So don't take it as gospel, but if it sheds any light at all for you then that's great. The only other thing I can think of to say about this is "because." Each user will have his or her own dx, dy, dz, and dt values for the two events, based on states of motion. But the math of relativity is such that they'll all agree on x^2+y^2+z^2-(c*t)^2. That's why it's useful: because every one agrees. We defined it thusly because it's useful.
  15. The arrival of each water droplet, or of each photon of light, is its own unique event. Special relativity places no restrictions whatsoever on the separation in time of independent events. Droplet / photon A arriving does not *cause* the arrival of droplet / photon B. Those two arrivals had separate causes (emission of each by the source), and the cause events and effect events conform absolutely with special relativity.
  16. I think the answer is no. Consider a universe that contains one object: a perfectly rigid sphere. What can you say about its position, or its velocity, or its angular momentum? The answer is "Nothing." Those concepts simply have no meaning without other objects in the universe to define them with respect to. This is more or less Mach's principle. When I reflected on this, I decided that "empty space" isn't even real - it's just our perception of certain relationships amongst certain objects.
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