Friday, February 05, 2016

Time Reborn: From The Crisis In Physics to the Future of the Universe

Perhaps one of the best cases I'll ever see of someone passionately trying to escape from shadow of God and going to ANY lengths in an attempt to create a "completely new way of thought" in order to imagine that he is free from any transcendent concepts.

I had to go back and review my blog on "Reason And Analysis", because in many ways this book was more "attempted philosophy" than physics.

Smolin tells us what is bothering him on page 11:
There is a cheapness at the core of any claim that our universe is ultimately explained by another more perfect world standing apart from everything we perceive. If we succumb to that claim, we render the boundary between science and mysticism porous.  
Our desire for transcendence is at root a religious aspiration. The yearning to be liberated from death and from the pain and limitations of our lives is the fuel of religions and mysticism. Does the seeking of mathematical knowledge make one a kind of a priest with special access to an extraordinary form of knowledge? Should we simply recognize mathematics for the religious activity it is? 
He wants to explain the universe ONLY in terms of itself, and does a good job of pointing out how the incredible correlation of mathematics to the observable world in Newtonian Physics, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and the fact that all those "models" are timeless -- in that the formulas work in any place and time and are even reversible in time, is a "cop out". WHY!!! Why do they work? Why THESE particular formulas and initial values? He must know WHY!

The standard model just assumes "it is" -- and this obviously smacks WAY too much of "god" to Smolin. So, he goes for the "other great idea" -- Darwin. "Natural" Selection -- we MUST have had a LOT of universes, so therefore, each black hole is creating yet another universe, and the fact that we see a lot of black holes in our universe "must mean" that there is "natural selection" of universes and the fact that we have a "large number" of black holes "must mean" that we are in an "adaptive universe".

Evolution (of universes) requires time ... "real time", not "relative time", so he especially hates the ideas of relative space-time, "the block universe" and the multiverse. I go into those here a bit if you have not been suitably exposed

A lot of his thinking is based Leibniz's "Principle of Sufficient Reason" ... Everything must have a reason (cause).  Smolin wants to go farther, and make the "cause" be randomness -- as in Darwin, "lots and lots of random tries" and EVENTUALLY you get ANYTHING, including in this case, the laws of physics and the initial conditions of the universe. Although Smolin no longer finds the "laws" to be "laws", but rather "precedents" that may well be "evolving" from our "current approximations".

My nasty brain wonders if the Principle of Sufficient Reason would be required to have a reason? Smolin apparently chooses to be nicer to himself than that.

He is not however so kind to non-believers in Global Warming, religious people, etc. He finds that:
"If our civilization is to thrive, it would be helpful to base our decision making on a coherent view of the world, in which to, to begin with, there is consilience between the natural and social sciences. The  reality of time can be the foundation of this new consilience, in which the future is open and novelty is possible on every scale from the fundamental laws of physics to the organization of economics and ecologies. " 
Oh, "consilience" ... all the knowledge of the universe fitting together and us understanding the implications for "ultimate meaning" ... whole book on it covered here. "Coherence" is a great idea, but while you are in the process of throwing out the standard model of physics for a new evolutionary "precedence model", it seems possible that there may be a "slight delay" in achieving such a "coherent / consilient" view!

I looked up Smolin on the web ... he is 60, so I'm thinking he is having a midlife crisis. In the epilog you get insightful quotes like "The problem of consciousness is an aspect of what the world really is. We don't know what a rock really is, or an atom, or an electron ..." ... so therefore, understanding MUST be "about relationships" ... oh, and "Consciousness, whatever it is, is an aspect of the intrinsic essence of brains". Hmmmm

He sums it up with "the only certainty is that we will know more in the future".

Well, assuming that we survive the scourge of Global Warming, there aren't any monster natural disasters, rogue gravity waves, epidemics, etc, we will LIKELY have "more data", but is that really "knowledge"? I'd argue that prior to Einstein and certainly prior to Quantum Mechanics, many people at least THOUGHT they "knew more".  Is consciousness being an intrinsic essence of brains somehow supposed to guide us to "a better world"? Oh, and what would "better" be? (hint ... science has no ideas)

I enjoyed his descriptions of the standard model of Physics. I think they were in some ways better because he was trying to be critical of  rather than just explaining. Ultimately though, it comes down to one of two basic beliefs as covered in the "Reason and Analysis" link:

1). "Something" (God) created what we see with order, timeless and laws DISCOVERABLE BY US -- and that "something" is the "root" ... the causeless cause.

2). OR, the "root" is chaos -- there "just was" a lot of "chaotic stuff", for "no reason". The "wind of time" kept blowing over that junkyard of "stuff" and EVENTUALLY, it just "happened" to arrive at  the 747 universe where I'm typing this.

What Smolin (and some others) add to #2 is that EVERYTHING is RANDOM -- including the laws of physics, the relation of matter / energy, the speed of light, "the wind of time", EVERYTHING!!!

On top of that entirely random EVERYTHING -- including "pre-universe", he adds the faith statement that (due to randomness we assume) that "everything MUST have a REASON" (oh, and randomly developed consciousnesses of unknown character is able to discern those reasons! Tidy!)

But, hey, people that believe in God, math, laws of physics, etc are "cheap mystical priests".

Some guys handle their midlife crisis by buying a convertible and chasing a younger women I'm told ... in a completely random universe, perhaps ????

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