Monday, January 4, 2010

More FQXi essay quotes

I participated in last FQXi essay contest "What is ultimately possible in physics?". I intended to participate seriously in the discussions and read a good part of the 114 essays. However, I think I made a good start, but bad ending, as I ran out of time with exams approaching for my studies. I found that working out and discussing essays that propose whole new insights on physics is extremely time consuming (imagine the time it takes for the panel judges!). I often needed to crawl through a lot of pre- and mis-conceptions before I managed to sympathize with the subject treated. Moreover, maybe because I started participating seriously, my own essay got on the forefront (it headed at the first place for community ratings for about two weeks), so I also had to manage feedback on that. That was of course very appreciable, but diminished my ability to read and discuss more of the others, which I sincerely regret, because there were so much interesting thoughts in all the essays.

On the whole, I really appreciated participating, because the spirit of the contest was positively oriented, with much more "Why's?" than "No's!" appearing in the discussions. That's sufficiently rare in online physics forums. Generally, in online forums one gets stuck into incomprehensions and orthodoxy warnings before one manages to expose the core ideas. Personally I've benefited from all your feedback. To those who have taken the time to read, to discuss or to vote on my essay, thanks! Like all other participants, I'm awaiting the thrill of the prize announcements which probably will come in the next few weeks.

Now, here's the follow-up for the essays I started to quote last time. Please feel free to suggest others which I missed.

From "Solving the mystery of wave/particle duality---the road to a unified theory of physics", by Dennis Crossley, presenting a creative model thoroughly thought over for the whole of particle physics.
"But what is the “thing” that electrons and light are made of?"

From "Uniļ¬cation and Emergence in Physics: the Problem of Articulation", by Ian Durham, advocating plain language explanation for physics.
"Physics likes to strip out all the extraneous baggage of a problem before reassembling it. Physics deals with the most fundamental aspects of the universe. Thus, in that sense, it is the science of simplication. The best physical theories are both simple and elegant and provide building blocks from which we may re-assemble nature. In contemplating the explanatory limits of physics, it makes sense to keep this in mind. But in the process we also must take special care in our use of the language within which we form our ideas."

From "On the applicability of quantum physics", by George F. R. Ellis, exposing original insight on how macroscopic behavior emerges from complex assembled systems.
"there are tantalizing hints that top-down action may play a significant role in quantum theory measurements"

From "Gravity From the Ground Up", by Don Limuti, a thought experiment about the underlying mechanisms of particles periodical motion.
"I start by saying "It seems reasonable to me"."

From "Galilei, Gold, Ren - votes for ultimate realism", by Eckard Blumschein, raising little known flaws in signal processing.
"Differential equations are not the primary relations in physics but they arose by stripping off the link to reality and hence they opened the door for ambiguity."

From "Perfect Symmetry", by Peter A. Jackson, proposing a methodology towards achieving the ultimately possible in physics.
"Complacency, and resistance to considering new insight, does itself, and perhaps even alone, create the real limit to what is ultimately possible in physics."
"The logic of claiming that all good theory will get noticed and rise to the fore is flawed in our present system. There is no proof the answer wasn't there 150 years ago and subdued."

From "Finally it is possible to understand our universe and its implications", by Gordon Kane, giving insights in how string theory has become testable.
"The physical universe is consistent. Physics does not prove its results as theorems, it tests them against the real world."

From "Ultimately, in Physics the Rational shall become Reasonable!", by Terry Padden, investigating how rationality and reasonability should articulate in an ultimate physics. This essay has the largest collection of quotable sentences I came across, so I recommend you read the whole essay.
"Experience is physically real. It actually happens to (our) bodies. We experience a dynamic universe with freedom to move in 3 spatial dimensions constrained in Time by a transient "Now". Reasonably, our Brains react to take immediate account of every experience. It is impossible to discard Naive Realism. It is the foundation of all of our communication. This includes self-communication, i.e. thought. Truth, the product of thinking, is mentally determined - when after conscious thought it is rationally acceptable to our Minds. Our conceptual models need to match our common experience. True science requires the rational becomes reasonable."

From "Towards A More Realistic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics", by Terence Nelson, inquiring thoughts on quantum entanglement.
"Obviously, there must be some problem with Bell's assumptions."

From "Two steps back, three leaps forward", by Steven Oostdijk, pleading for a return to simple mechanical explanations in order to be able to answer what's ultimately possible in physics.
"The sort of math that physics requires is a math of rigorous definitions and transparent variables, with as little abstraction as possible."


  1. I meant to post something here earlier, but just a minor correction: I wasn't actually advocating for plain language, per se, as much as I was advocating for consistent language. :-)

  2. Yes, "consistent language" fits better with what I understood from your essay. However, when physics is expressed in consistent language, our "plain" natural language should adapt to it.