Why do most people find science boring?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Magical Realist, Oct 19, 2014.

  1. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

    Calling General Relativity mysticism is really rather over the top.
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    IMO, this is one of the most important "worldview theories" in history.

    Aside from it's scientific usefulness, it teaches that every living thing sees the world from their own unique perspective and dictates their actions and reactions to their surroundings.

    The problem is that physics does not deal with human psychology and does not address the inherent difficulty of relative human experiences, which is essential to understanding subjective value judgements..
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  5. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    First of all, it is only an interpretation of GR which I consider as mystical, namely the spacetime interpretation.

    It has to be compared with a minimal interpretation, which would restrict itself to claims about rulers and clocks, In comparison, the additional elements - claims about such fundamental things like space and time, mingled together into a "curved spacetime" - have quite clearly mystical elements. Mysticism can be easily identified by its tendency to prefer "deep", fundamental things in comparison with things which can be easily understood. That clocks go slower if they move and are influenced by a gravitational field is something which is easy to understand and to accept, and completely unmystical. And it covers all one needs in a physical theory.

    Instead, space and time are already more fundamental, thus, more attractive to mysticism. The ability to influence not only some clocks (nothing interesting, every child can damage a clock), but time itself is something really deep, mystical.
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  7. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    If every energetic action in the universe is expressed as a wave function, then why would it be mystical for the fabric of spacetime to function in a (probability) wavelike manner? Why would a curved spacetime be mystical?

    It is easy to visualize by looking at the oceans and how things behave when carried by a wave function.
    A black hole curves spacetime to such a degree that light cannot escape. It is majestic, but not mystical.
  8. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    The question what is mystical and what not is, obviously, not a very well-defined one. One can start here with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism (using Wiki as the collection of mainstream prejudices, which is quite sufficient here). It points to some psychological part connected with personal experiences, which is irrelevant here, it is the other part which is relevant here, described by phrases like "understanding of ultimate truths" "In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute" or "supplies knowledge of the transcendental". "an extreme and intense form of the insight seeking process that goes in activities such as solving theoretical problems"
    "direct consciousness of the [...] the ground of being".

    A particular variant of mysticism which is closely related with science is the mystification of mathematical structures, with numerology as the most well-known example. There is even a particular entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerology#Numerology_in_science about its role in science in Wiki for this. The often mentioned "beauty" of the mathematics of particular theories (with GR as a leading example) is, essentially, also a harmless description of some aspects of this mathematical mysticism. In this connection, I highly recommend to download somewhere the book Fuchs, Fomenko, Gutenmacher, Homotopic topology to look at the pictures.

    So, what is the role of mysticism in science? First of all, the motivation of the mystic - to understand the Absolute, the Ultimate Truth - is clearly also part of the motivation of a scientist. Then, if one observes strange mathematical coincidences, this may be a starting point for a scientific discovery. Some mystical "eightfold way" may become a theory of quarks and chromodynamics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eightfold_Way_(physics) One may think that this buddhist naming was a joke, but it was a quite subtle one, and one should be at least aware of this part of buddhism to make such a joke. Another famous example is Kepler, who was motivated by astrological thinking. So, roughly speaking, mystical thinking is a natural element of scientific thinking during the search for new theories.

    But this is the "free flight of imagination" part of science, the part which is not restricted by any scientific methodology, a necessary intermediate step for the creation of new scientific theories. This part should be finished somewhere, giving a theory which is not obliged to give spiritual insights into the Ultimate Truth, but real predictions about things we can measure with ordinary human measurement devices.

    And this is the place where the GR spacetime interpretation has gone wild. The four-dimensional curved spacetime is a nice and fascinating metaphysical, mystical speculation, which may play an important role for mystical speculation, which can, possibly, allow some scientists to invent some theory of quantum gravity or of everything. But this is only a speculative, mystical Ultimate Truth. What we have in reality, supported by observation, is something much more prosaic. It is a quite boring theory about the distortions of our clocks and rulers by gravitational fiels and their own velocity relative to these gravitational fields. And from the point of view of search for Ultimate Truth this theory is even frustrating, because it tells us that these distortions prevent us from measuring Absolute Time and Absolute Space.
  9. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    Continuation of #185

    While I think that the worst thing which has happened in science was positivism, which has prevented the natural and important consideration of different interpretations of the leading scientific theories, I have to acknowledge that one particular interpretation of quantum theory - the minimal interpretation - has played a quite positive role. There was a large and important part of scientific research - the consideration of other, more speculative, interpretations of quantum theory - which has been prevented by positivism. But the existence of the minimal interpretation has played a positive role, because it contained all what was really necessary to "shut up and calculate", and it was, in this sense, really a minimal interpretation.

    The situation created by positivism in relativity was much worse. It has, similarly, forbidden all discussions about interpretations. Thus, one interpretation, the first available one, has become the unquestionable dogma, all discussions about different interpretations have been rejected as evil discussions about metaphysics. But, different from quantum theory, where the initial Copenhagen Interpretation has been slightly developed toward a really minimal interpretation, which then become dogmatic, the initial interpretation of GR which become dogmatic was far away from being a minimal one. It was the spacetime interpretation, which introduced some mystical four-dimensional object named "spacetime", a manifold with some four-dimensional geometry with nontrivial curvature tensor, which completely rejected the existence of some physical split of this manifold into space and time.

    So, in quantum theory the current weakening of the positivistic dogma is sufficient for future progress. All what is necessary is that to consider different interpretations is no longer forbidden - the allowed interpretations have, of course, to accept the minimal interpretation as the Dogma, but this is not problematic, because the minimal interpretation is really a minimal one, so that the Dogma contains only things which are really necessary. It decribes what we can measure, and is really silent about what is really behind this. What happens in reality? The minimal interpretation remains silent. It does not even tell us if there is something like an observer-independent reality.

    A similar minimal interpretation of GR would have to remain silent about space and time. It would tell us about what we can measure with rulers and clocks. It would not tell us anything about space, time, or spacetime. Is there some hidden subdivision of spacetime into space and time? A minimal interpretation would have to remain silent avbout this. But the Dogma does not remain silent. It contains metaphysical, speculative, mystical elements. Thus, the weaking of the Dogma, which allows additional speculations as long as the Dogma itself is not questioned, is not sufficiently liberating here. The Dogma itself contains too much metaphysics, too much mystics.
  10. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I would say that the Wiki definition of mysticism clearly spells out what is relevant. Your claim that it is not relevant only proves that the argument for mysticism is irrelevant to science.

    Mysticism deals with the unprovable subjective human experience of "transcendence".
    Science deals with the provable objective scientific experience of "knowledge".

    Imagination is sufficient for theoretical physics of how things work (ultimate truths) in reality, whereas mysticism is the wishful expression of seeking greatest satisfaction, the most fundamental aspect of human decision making.

    The most mysticism can prove is that the universe is a "wholeness" to which we all owe our existence. But of course, that is already accepted theory by theoretical physics and secular pilosophy, such as Spinoza.

    Mysticism belongs in Theism, not in Science. In science it is called meta-physics which allows for plenty of speculation on the nature of the "wholeness". Bohm's "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" speaks of extraordinary "insight" into the metaphysical aspects of the universe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bohm

    IMO, he did indeed "have one score to the symphony of life".
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  11. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Wrong on both counts.

    When a physical theory postulates axioms, it's saying that the physically observable behavior is indistinguishable from the behavior of a mathematical system that is based on those axioms. You can't prove equivalence, but you can prove non-equivalence if the evidence exists. Euclidean spaces, continua and manifolds are mathematical objects while space, time, rulers and clocks are physical phenomena that need behavior explained.

    Newton's Universal Gravitation was the axiomatic statement that space was Euclidean, time was a continuum, and gravitation was a central force proportional to the product of pairs of masses and inversely proportional to the separation distance. All predictions about clocks, rulers, celestial mechanics and ballistic trajectories followed from those assumptions.

    Einstein's General Relativity is the axiomatic statement that space-time is Lorentzian and that the Einstein intrinsic curvature tensor is proportional to the local energy-momentum-stress tensor (with the cosmological constant as a quantity which can appear on either side depending if it is modeled as part of gravity or an energy field). All predictions about clocks, rulers, celestial mechanics and ballistic trajectories (and cosmology and stellar evolution) are derived from those assumptions.

    GR is a model of space-time as a Lorentzian manifold. The Einstein curvature tensor (the left side of the Einstein field equations) is defined in terms of derivatives and powers of the Lorentzian metric for the manifold. Knowing the metric and a time-like path, one may compute the elapsed proper time for a ponderable body traveling that trajectory. Knowing the metric, one may establish imaginary local free-fall coordinates which allow local physics to be described as approximately corresponding to SR.

    You can't get from actual clocks and rulers to the analytical realm of differentiable manifolds because it is impossible to make a finite number of experiments give you a theory of a differentiable continuum. GR is the falsifiable hypothesis that modeling space-time as a Lorentzian manifold with Einstein curvature tensor proportional to the energy-momentum-stress tensor is a good model of physics involving gravitation. If the clocks and rulers turn out to disagree with the predictions of GR, then you have the beginnings of the experimental foundations for some new theory of gravitation and the nature of space and time. But just as GR in the limit of small masses and low velocities closely approximates the behavior predicted by Universal Gravitation, so any successor theory of GR will approximate the already vetted predictions of GR. This is known as the correspondence principle: because each accepted physical theory describes a wide domain of observations to good approximation, and each better theory has to do at least as well, then the successor theories must approximate the former theories in at least the former realm of observations.

    Einstein reached his description of space-time from understanding that proper-time is path-dependent and that gravity is remarkably insensitive to what an object is composed of yet exactly proportional to its inertial mass. It didn't make sense for the same quantity to be present in Newton's laws of motion and the force of Universal Gravitation. It likewise didn't make sense that gravitational forces have to be conveyed across the whole universe instantaneously. So Einstein unified the laws of inertial mass and the action of gravitational mass by curving space-time which gave light different trajectories than either the assumption it moved like a Newtonian test mass or was unaffected by gravity. Likewise, gravity was now locally sourced and disturbances spread only at the speed of light. Finally, a long-standing issue with observations of Mercury's orbit was resolved -- the only observation Einstein had of gravitational phenomena that was actually better calculated by GR than UG at time of publication.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  12. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    A simple misunderstanding. It is certainly not my idea that one would have to get something from actual clocks and rulers. Of course, the theory starts from the gravitational field \(g_{mn}(x)\).

    A minimal interpretation of GR would have to tell us that \(\tau = \int_{\gamma}\sqrt{g_{mn}(x)\frac{d\gamma^m(t)}{dt}\frac{d\gamma^n(t)}{dt}}dt\) is the result of a clock time measurement for a clock moving along a trajectory \(\gamma^n(t)\). With this information, the gravitational field \(g_{mn}(x)\) becomes observable at least in principle, that means, each \(g_{mn}(x)\), for some particular values of x,m,n, is observable.

    My point was that a minimal interpretation should remain silent about the relation between this "clock time" \(\tau\) and the fundamental concept of time.

    In Newtonian theory as well as in quantum theory there is a parameter t which plays a special, preferred role, which is interpreted as time. GR does not have such a special parameter. So, once there is no such parameter distinguished as time, which plays a similar role as time in NT or QT, a minimal interpretation of GR should remain silent about time. An interpretation which makes claims about time, even if only in the negative, like "there is no absolute time", is not a minimal interpretation.
  13. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    I disagree. Almost every word of our language has different meanings as well as different aspects, and in every reasonable use of such a word some meanings of this word would be inappropriate, even nonsensical, and it depends on the context which meaning, and which aspects of the meaning, are relevant in the given context.

    Of course, the aim of Wiki would be to provide information about all meanings, all aspects of the meaning of a given word. So, by construction it cannot spell out what is relevant in a particular context.

    So, the simple fact that Wiki lists also some other aspects of mysticism, namely the psychological one of mystical experiences, which is completely irrelevant in science and has nothing to do with my claim, in no way proves that mysticism has nothing to do with science.

    Of course, you can make exercises in Orwellian speaking, and introduce, as politically correct language, to use "imagination" for any use of mystical thinking by scientists, poor scientist, as politically good people, could feel insulted if one uses bad words like "mysticism" to describe them or so. But science differs from modern democracy, it is open to politically incorrect criticism and not afraid of it.

    No. Provable knowledge is restricted to mathematics, which is a very useful tool for science, but in itself not science, or at least not empirical science. Knowledge in empirical science is hypothetical - that means, open to critical examination.
  14. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    I disagree.

    But in quantum field theory we don't have a preferred role for t and it's vital to the success of the theory that it works with any admissible parametrization of Lorentzian space-time.

    Even Special Relativity can demonstrate that there is no absolute time in that space-like separated events, events which are separated by so much space that no signal can propagate between them, admit no ordering for all absolutely applicable Cartesian time coordinates. But within the common experience, where everyone on Earth moves within 1/10,000 the speed of light from a common velocity, everything gives the appearance of a universally applicable foliation of time within a precision of about 1/250,000 seconds (and often quite a bit better). If motion pictures can fool your brain into seeing continuous motion in still images projected at a rate of 24/second, then lack of familiarity with relativistic phenomena can fool one's intuition into seeing a universally applicable foliation of time when human behaviors are predicated on neural systems over 250 times too slow to see past the approximation.

    But General Relativity admits the Schwarzschild solution, which has a boundary beyond which the direction of increasing proper time is not towards a common universe of the unbounded future but radially inward to bounded destiny of meeting the time-like singularity. With rotating black holes, the situation is even more at odds with the concept of universal time because outside the black hole there are regions where one may not remain at rest with respect to the fixed stars.

    The universe doesn't owe humans any favors, and is not constrained to conform its phenomena and behaviors to human intuitions formed while crawling slowly along the skin of a small planet. Your bias towards Newtonian particles and absolute time is no reason to suspect the universe jumps through hoops to obey de Broglie-Bohm mechanics or respects some universally applicable foliation of past, present and future.

    Given the success of Quantum Field Theory and General Relativity, it seems quaint to try to adopt the metaphysical non-local and sometime retrocasual mechanisms proposed for the success of de Broglie-Bohm methods to explain non-relativistic quantum mechanics. Until such mechanisms are evidenced, de Broglie-Bohm metaphysics are not the most parsimonious explanation for all quantum behavior.
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  15. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

    umm, what interpretation.. are you azo ????
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yes, and mysticism is not. It is a hypothetical subjective experience and is not open to critical examination of any kind. Mysticism by definition is not science.
    And why are you dismissing "imagination" as a viable alternate to the term "mysticism"?
    IMO, the difference is that we can use our imagination without believing it is true.
    OTOH, mysticism is using your imagination and believing it IS true.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  17. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    It does not change the fact that the theory predicts the violation of Bell's inequalities, thus, in any realistic variant it needs a preferred frame.
    It does no such thing. In the Lorentz interpretation, it has a preferred absolute time. You cannot identify this preferred time using clock measurements, but Nature is not obliged to make everything observable to you.
    As if the arguments for a preferred frame would be appeals to intuition.
    Do you want to argue that an interpretation of the GR equations which contains a global time coordinate is impossible, so that one can argue that even a minimal interpretation could justify the claim that no absolute time exists?

    There are, of course, solutions of GR which do not admit a global time-like coordinate. But a non-minimal interpretation is not obliged to accept all solutions, moreover completely, as valid solutions. Some classes of solutions can, without any problem, be rejected as physically nonsensical by some interpretations.

    Formally one can, in such a case, argue that such a difference would make this interpretation a different theory. Because observation of the rejected solutions would falsify the interpretation, but not the theory itself. But who cares? If it is, in fact, a different theory, even better, and if it contains additional possibilities for falsification, it contains additional empirical content, which makes this interpretation even preferable according to Popper's criterion.

    So what? I have never claimed that some hypothetical "bias" you invent out of nothing (I do not care about particles at all) is a reason to suspect some of your phantasies of "jumps through hoops".
    There is, of course, nothing retrocausal in dBB theory. It is a causal realistic interpretation. And it works from the start not only for non-relativistic, but also for some relativistic theories, a theory of the EM field was already part of Bohm's original paper.
  18. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    Again, there are mystical experiences, as one aspect of mysticism, but there are also mystical theories. And of course, I'm not talking about mystical experiences. But about mystical theories.
    To name the spacetime interpretation mystical is, of course, a criticism of this interpretation. To name it, say imaginative or so would not be critical.
  19. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

    are you azo ?
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  20. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    That does not follow. It is sufficient for the separate measurements to be space-like separated, not simultaneous.

    Rendering your preferred frame a superfluous bit of metaphysics not needed for predicting observable physical behaviors.

    They are stupid appeals to intuition, because they are alternatives to parsimonious prediction of observable physical behaviors from the physical theory.

    As you admit in the next paragraph, there are physically plausible, consistent-with-observation solutions to GR which seem to inform our view of phenomena in our galaxy. Since our galaxy does not admit a global time coordinate, it follows that a purported interpretation which contains a global time coordinate cannot apply to our galaxy and is not consistent with GR.

    That's not an "interpretation" -- that's a new physical theory. Until you explain what is wrong with the 1916 Schwarzschild solution, you have said nothing except the GR that you preach is not actually GR.

    Only if you demonstrate your departure from parsimony is anything other than a wild-eyed-guess predicated on slovenly catering to your personal prejudices. A physics theory is a mathematical model of the behavior of a wide class of related phenomena. When you add your universal time to GR, you better have worked out how your gravity theory works differently than the 100-year-old one and the evidence for the addition. It's not enough to claim Einstein, Schwarzschild and every GR researcher for the past 100 years was wrong -- you have to do their job better or you aren't doing physics; you aren't doing science-as-an-human-endeavor, you aren't contributing to science-as-a-store-of-knowledge.

    As I said on June 28, “As for a scientific example, it's not enough (sometimes not even proper) to baldly claim "you're doing it wrong"; the best way to make your claim to better insight is to do it better.”

    de Broglie-Bohm mechanics is about particles and whimsical trajectories. Quantum Field Theory is about fields (also antimatter, how particles get mass, why gold isn't silver-colored, etc.)

    I'm sorry, I though you were talking about adaptions of dBB that actually were relevant, not some antique dinosaur.

    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
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  21. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

    Good call, Krash. I thought he sounded familiar.
  22. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

    thanks. for a couple of days, i was not sure, with the relativity of simultaneity. it was the excessive use of " interpretation " that gave it away for me.

  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    QUOTE="Schmelzer, post: 3315203, member: 282758"]Again, there are mystical experiences, as one aspect of mysticism, but there are also mystical theories. And of course, I'm not talking about mystical experiences. But about mystical theories. [/quote]
    And those theories come from where? Can you form a mystical theory without having had a mystical experience? Mysticism deals with a pure state of personal consciousness, a subjective experience.

    Are you arguing for mysticism in favor of QM and GR?

    If we want to relate to the "wholeness", Bohm has it right, IMO.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015

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