BB #64: Systems Bubble

For the last two weeks I’ve written a number of posts contrasting physical systems with numeric systems.

(The latter are, of course, also physical, but see many previous posts for details on significant differences. Essentially, the latter involve largely arbitrary maps between real world magnitude values and internal numeric representations of those values.)

I’ve focused on the nature of causality in those two kinds of systems, but part of the program is about clearly distinguishing the two in response to views that conflate them.

While stocking up on groceries for the coming storm (I haven’t seen the grocery store that crowded in a while), I was thinking about indeterminate systems.

Doesn’t look that bad to me (so far)…

There is an old mechanistic view of reality that it works like a kind of clockwork, each action following precisely from a previous one.

Heisenberg ruined that view with his Uncertainty Principle, and quantum mechanics in general ruined that view with wave-function collapse, which appears to be a truly random thing.

So reality is fuzzy, and there is an element of randomness to it.

§

Gödel made it worse with his Incompleteness Theorems in showing that even something as seemingly firmly logically grounded and ramified as math isn’t as precise as we thought. It has holes!

Turing pulled the plug on computing with his Halting Problem. Even computers, modern clockworks if ever there were clockworks, have holes.

So even math and computing are fuzzy.

§

And note that the limits are fundamental. They are not due to our lacking technology or skill or knowledge.

Reality really is fuzzy at the edges, math really can’t prove all true statements, and there are no computational oracles.

§ §

The point, my brain bubble, is simply this:

Heisenberg’s Principle applies to physical systems, not information systems. (It applies to their physical instances, of course, but algorithms and mathematics are not themselves subject to Heisenberg Uncertainty.)

Gödel’s Incompleteness and Turing’s Halting apply to information systems, not physical systems. (Some do try to apply Gödel to real life, but it’s just a metaphor. His Theorems apply strictly to mathematics.)

(There is also Cantor, who provided the diagonalizing method both the above used, and who proved that something as seemingly obvious as the real numbers have holes.)

So here again is an example of the stark and (I would think) undeniable difference between physical systems and numeric systems.

The former submit to Heisenberg; the latter submit to Cantor, Gödel, and Turing. Two rather different worlds!

Stay out of da Nile, my friends!


About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

20 responses to “BB #64: Systems Bubble

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Best of luck with the storm. Hope it doesn’t cause you any grief. In any case, be safe.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thanks. The flakes are just starting to fall. Be interesting to see what I wake up to tomorrow morning. I have pans tomorrow evening, so I’m hoping it’s lighter than all the hand-waving about it indicates. (We’re apparently going to get hit again this weekend, so it’s likely the snow is finally here to stay for a few months.)

      But, meh. We’re Minnesnowtans, and we laugh at stuff like this. We just shake our heads and smile at stories how a town in Texas shut down because they got a half-inch of snow. We wouldn’t even notice that. 😀

      Just about everyone with a pickup truck has a plow blade they attach in the winter and then earn a few bucks going around plowing out people’s driveways. The condo association has an outfit that comes around and plows our driveways and shovels our sidewalks, but I usually get out there and do it myself. Recreational snow shoveling… a bit of exercise and gets me out side to “play” in the snow. 😀

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “We just shake our heads and smile at stories how a town in Texas shut down because they got a half-inch of snow.”

        That’s pretty much us in Louisiana. Anytime we get snow, everything shuts down. We’re not prepped for it, or experienced in dealing with it. Hurricanes and rainstorms we can cope with, but the once every 5-10 year snow event becomes an ad-hoc holiday.

        Hope you plans work out!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “We’re not prepped for it, or experienced in dealing with it.”

        And no infrastructure to support snow removal. It’s literally a business up here. Outfits that do lawn care in the summer do snow removal in the winter.

        Something like a mall, with all those parking lots, but even stores with theirs, require industrial earth-moving equipment to clear those lots. Some haul it off in dump trucks, some make huge (12′ or more) piles in one corner of the lot. (Those piles are one of the last things to melt in the spring.)

        “Hope you plans work out!”

        I’m going to stay in; we’ll reschedule. It wasn’t a huge snowfall, but it was a wet one, and temps are going to stay around freezing today, so there’s a lot of moisture to turn to ice. First big snow of the season, and I don’t have my winter driving legs yet, so I’m going to err on the side of caution.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “So reality is fuzzy, and there is an element of randomness to it.”

    A very concise and succinct conclusion, well done.

    “Heisenberg’s Principle applies to physical systems…”

    Agreed. Now, all one has to do is address the element of randomness within physical systems and look for a reasonable cause, one which applies to all physical systems without exception.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you. (The whole point of Brain Bubbles is me trying for short and sweet. I don’t always hit the mark.)

      “Now, all one has to do is address the element of randomness within physical systems and…”

      I’m open to suggestions. (Perhaps this offers a case study to apply?)

      FWIW, I can offer the mainstream explanation:

      When it comes to wave mechanics, certain pairs of values are mathematically mutually exclusive. In Heisenberg’s formula, the pair is momentum and position, but the Uncertainty applies to many other pairs. (Another example is spatial volume and energy.)

      An illustrative example is trying to localize a sound in both time and frequency. (When did the sound happen, and what pitch was it.) The problem is those are mutually exclusive pieces of knowledge. Knowing frequency requires knowing sound pressure levels over time, but that excludes knowing exactly when the sound happened. Knowing exactly when a sound happens excludes that “over time” integration necessary to localize frequency.

      There’s no way around it. It’s a fundamental aspect of any wave system, and per QM, physical reality has wave-like characteristics. It therefore suffers from this fuzziness around the edges.

      So sayith the established canon. 😉

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    Although I agree with the spirit of the Heisenberg Principle which postulates randomness, as well as the mainstream explanation you articulated, I challenge the notion that particles have wave-like characteristics. That conclusion is derived exclusively from the infamous double-slit experiment, there are no other experiments to corroborate the conclusions agreed upon at the Copenhagen conference. Likewise, the intellectual construct articulated as the “collapse of wave function” is a straw-man and has absolutely nothing to do with the true nature of reality. Furthermore, once it can be demonstrated that wave function is a fiction, say bye, bye to MWI.

    The Copenhagen interpretation is nearly 100 years old. There have been advancements in the science of both cosmology as well as NASA, observations which lead to a better and more tenable interpretation of the double-slit experiment and the observed randomness caused by an interference pattern. Now, having said that, this new interpretation would in no way diminishe the randomness expressed by the Heisenberg Principle.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “Although I agree with the spirit of the Heisenberg Principle which postulates randomness, as well as the mainstream explanation you articulated, I challenge the notion that particles have wave-like characteristics.”

      Challenge away, amigo, but the wave-like nature of particles is very well established. One of Einstein’s great contributions was demonstrating that light really did have, as well, a particle nature (light was believed to be a wave until then).

      You have a great deal of experimental evidence to challenge and explain. Current experiments involving molecules with as many as 2000 atoms have been shown to interfere. (The problem is that wavelength is inversely correlated with mass — these massive “particles” have a wavelength shorter than the diameter of a hydrogen atom.)

      Interference (a wave phenomenon) has become a major tool for scientists. The LIGO gravity wave detector works because light interferes.

      You are essentially challenging all of quantum physics, since it is explicitly a wave theory. What’s worse, quantum physics involves one of the two most thoroughly tested theories in all of science. That’s a lot to take on.

      I also have to quibble over the Heisenberg Principle being a source of randomness. What I tried to show with my example was the impossibility of knowing mathematically mutually exclusive pairs of information.

      FWIW Sean Carroll’s Annual Thanksgiving post touches on the topic of Hamiltonian mechanics, which explains in more detail how position and momentum are related in our view of physics. It’s a good account.

      “Likewise, the intellectual construct articulated as the ‘collapse of wave function’ is a straw-man and has absolutely nothing to do with the true nature of reality.”

      This is a whole other discussion, and one where I’m very sympathetic to questions about it.

      I agree that MWI seems to reify the wave-function into everything. It seems ultimately a Tegmarkian view in how it makes a mathematical object into literal reality. (I am not particularly sympathetic to the MWI.)

      I’ve don’t have as much of a problem with wave-function collapse as many do. From experiments testing Bell’s Inequality, we know physics seems to have a non-local component. It doesn’t violate causality, which says something about the importance of light cones, but it does show reality has more to it than we currently understand.

      For now I just take it as axiomatic that “wave-function collapse” occurs, and all that really means is that the Schrödinger equation does make a non-linear jump when the system it describes interacts with some other system.

      I don’t have any problem with reality suddenly “shifting gears” (so to speak) — She obviously knows what She’s doing — we just don’t have the math or understanding, yet.

      If you do, by all means, Lay on, Macduff!

      “There have been advancements in the science of both cosmology as well as NASA, observations which lead to a better and more tenable interpretation of the double-slit experiment and the observed randomness caused by an interference pattern.”

      Such as? What cosmological and NASA observations?

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        Let’ keep simple, because I’m neither a mathematician nor a physicist, I’m a metaphysician. Metaphysics rocks…

        “Such as? What cosmological…”

        The discovery of so called dark energy and dark matter. This discovery has demonstrated that the complete vacuum of space is “not” no thing. It demonstrates that the complete vacuum of space is some “thing”, and that some “thing” is part of the quantum world. Whatever that some “thing” is, is the very “thing” that is causing the interference pattern, not a particle interfering with itself.

        “Such as? … NASA observations?”

        The Voyager probe is now in deep interstellar space, far away from the influence of gravity. NASA has observed that the Voyager probe is unexpectedly slowing down. NASA is at a lost to explain why this is occurring.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “This discovery has demonstrated that the complete vacuum of space is ‘not’ no thing.”

        Quantum physics has never thought space was no thing. Exactly as you say, it “is part of the quantum world.”

        In fact, it’s Heisenberg Uncertainty that fills even the most empty space (in terms of matter) with quantum foam.

        Even if it weren’t, space is filled with the quantum fields that the respective “particles” occur in.

        “Dark Matter” is a term for one of three things: [1] An as yet undiscovered matter particle that only interacts with gravity; [2] An as yet undiscovered modification to the laws of gravity; [3] Some other form of matter, perhaps a “fluid” of some kind. Lots of gravity lensing data suggests the first one, but the others are still in the running.

        “Dark Energy” is a term for the fact the expansion of the universe seems to be speeding up. Something seems to be still pushing the universe outwards. But there is a chain of assumptions here involving that expansion (is it even really happening?), and the jury is seriously out on this one.

        But I don’t see how either of them apply to wave-like interference.

        You suggest that space itself causes interference, but photons travel through billions of light-years of space without interfering. It’s only when separate paths are involved and those paths meet again (or are somehow combined) that interference occurs.

        Any time you’re out on a boat staring at the complex patterns waves make in the water, you’re seeing a form of wave interference. Exactly the same thing happens with sound and with light and, it turns out, matter in general (but the wave-lengths are too minuscule to notice).

        “NASA has observed that the Voyager probe is unexpectedly slowing down. NASA is at a lost to explain why this is occurring.”

        I think you’re referring to the Pioneer anomaly? NASA did figure that out. It was due to thermal emissions from the spacecraft’s power system. As the Wiki article puts it, “thus the cause is mundane and does not point to any new phenomenon or need for a different physical paradigm.”

        (Voyager 2 made the news recently for having left the Solar system, the second man-made object to do so. That might be why you’re thinking Voyager (not to mention a certain Star Trek movie). That exit led to science writers loud click-bait headlines about the “wall of fire” surrounding the Solar system.)

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “But I don’t see how either of them apply to wave-like interference.”

    So, what you are saying, and correct me if I misunderstand, is that even though space consists of all kinds of phenomena that we do not understand, that none of that phenomena could under any circumstances create an interference pattern that is observed in the double-slit. And if this is your position, please explain your rationale.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I don’t know that I’d go as far as “none” or “any circumstances” (there are always outside possibilities), but, yeah, that’s what I’m saying. At best, I see it as a outside possibility that would require serious evidence to even make sense of.

      The behavior of wave-like systems has been well explored, both experimentally and mathematically (that is to say, theoretically). I mentioned water waves and sound waves. We’ve been dealing with wave-like phenomena a long time.

      And, as I mentioned, the wave-like nature of light was known long before its particle nature.

      The behavior of waves passing through multiple openings — the interference pattern created — is exactly explained by the wave model and physically demonstrated in experiments with water or sound where the waves can be actually seen.

      Interference is an extremely simple model validated by experiment and observation in all wave-like systems. Arguing against it is to swim against a strong current, and will require serious evidence to justify.

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “The behavior of waves passing through multiple openings — the interference pattern created — is exactly explained by the wave model and physically demonstrated in experiments with water or sound where the waves can be actually seen.”

        Sure, but that’s just one explanation. The hypothesis I am postulating would produce identical results based upon the observations and the design of the experiment.

        “Arguing against it is to swim against a strong current, and will require serious evidence to justify.”

        I’m not arguing against wave-like phenomena, nor the interference pattern created by the double-slit. I’m just postulating another phenomena (dark matter) which would for all practical purposes produce wave-like phenomena as seen in the double-slit. To dismiss that alternate explanation as a viable alternative is dogma, not science.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Sure, but that’s just one explanation.”

        A consistent explanation based on well-understood principles with examples seen in all wave-like systems. It accounts for the behavior of antenna, the behavior of water waves, FM multi-path reception, the behavior of sound waves, and the behavior of light.

        “I’m just postulating another phenomena (dark matter) which would for all practical purposes produce wave-like phenomena as seen in the double-slit.”

        Are you suggesting a different phenomena governs quantum two-slit behavior than governs the behavior of water or sound waves? We know exactly what causes interference in those systems — it can be seen an measured.

        I also wonder, how does dark matter affect a small table-top experiment but doesn’t affect photons come from billions of light-years away? The effects we see of dark matter involve vast spans of space.

        On top of that, it’s called “dark” matter because it doesn’t interact with light.

        “To dismiss that alternate explanation as a viable alternative is dogma, not science.”

        I’m not dismissing anything, but I haven’t seen anything to support such a notion. And I know plenty that says such a notion is so far from applying that it’s, as they say, “not even wrong.”

        It’s an extraordinary suggestion, Lee, and it’s going to require extraordinary evidence supporting it. Got any?

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “Are you suggesting a different phenomena governs quantum two-slit behavior than governs the behavior of water or sound waves?”

    This statement appears to be conflating phenomena with governance, so I’m not sure what it means.

    “We know exactly what causes interference in those systems — it can be seen and measured.”

    That is because those interference patterns occur in the classical world, dark matter is not classical phenomena. And we now know that on the macro level, dark matter interacts with the classic world because our universe is expanding. Why would dark matter not interact with the classical world on the micro level?

    “I also wonder, how does dark matter affect a small table-top experiment but doesn’t affect photons come from billions of light-years away? The effects we see of dark matter involve vast spans of space.”

    The same reason an interference pattern is not detected when one fires a particle into a detector screen. It appears that the narrow space of two-slits is enough to cause interference. That “is” what the evidence suggests. Also, the reason the wave-like interference pattern collapses when an instrument is deployed to determine which slit the particle is passing through is the same reason all quantum phenomena are destroyed. It’s called the measurement problem. The measuring instrument destroys the quantum phenomena, i.e. dark matter. The instrument is “not” changing the wave-like properties of a particle back into a particle.

    “It’s an extraordinary suggestion, Lee, and it’s going to require extraordinary evidence supporting it. Got any?”

    All I’ve got is the double-slit experiment, an interpretation of the observable evidence which now has two empirically verifiable interpretations. One can stick with the prevailing interpretation of the priesthood, a postulate constructed by a vivid, creative imagination with all of the outrageously wild implications of such a construct and the nonsense that goes with it, i.e. MWI. Or, one can stick to the common knowledge of what we understand about wave-like interference patterns physically demonstrated in experiments with water or sound, where the fundamentals remain the same. The only distinction is a matter of scope.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “This statement appears to be conflating phenomena with governance, so I’m not sure what it means.”

      What I mean is that we have a unified picture of the behavior of wave-like systems. We see that picture realized in everything from water waves to light waves, so it’s a picture that already spans from the classical world to the quantum world.

      “And we now know that on the macro level, dark matter interacts with the classic world because our universe is expanding.”

      I think you’re confusing dark matter with dark energy. The former first manifested in rotation rates of galaxies — outer regions were rotating too fast given the visible mass of the galaxy. One explanation is that there is invisible (“dark”) mass. Another is that gravity works differently on the vast scale of galaxies.

      On just galaxy rotation rates, it’s possible we’ve underestimated the galaxy mass-luminance relationship, and that galaxies are simply more massive than we realize. But we’ve also now observed gravitational lensing that appears due to this invisible matter.

      Which, if it really is matter, comprises 85% of all matter. The visible stuff is just 15% of it.

      Note that dark matter is linked with gravity, a classical phenomenon. If it’s a particle, it’ll also have a quantum aspect, but there are DM theories that are strictly classical.

      “It’s called the measurement problem.”

      I’m familiar with it. 🙂

      Placing a detector at one slit localizes the wave-function, which destroys interference. Interference depends on multiple paths, and knowing which slit the “particle” passed through means there is only one path.

      BTW, interference doesn’t need slits. LIGO uses interference to detect gravity waves, and no slits are involved. It’s purely a matter of something with a wave-like nature taking two paths and recombining. It’s a very simple phenomenon that manifests in a wide variety of systems.

      There are many experiments (not involving slits) that test this. When we don’t detect the path a “particle” takes, and it can take multiple paths, then it interferes. (Feynman’s QED involves light, in all cases, always, taking all possible paths, but all those paths interfere destructively except the shortest direct path. You might find his book, QED, an eye-opener. It’s a short read — transcripts of four lectures he gave.)

      “All I’ve got is the double-slit experiment, an interpretation of the observable evidence which now has two empirically verifiable interpretations.”

      Interference goes far beyond the double-slit experiment. So far you have presented no evidential about dark matter (or dark energy) being responsible for interference. Given we don’t know what either dark matter or dark energy even is, how is a theory linking one of them to interference even possible?

      Wouldn’t that require knowing what they are?

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “Interference goes far beyond the double-slit experiment. So far you have presented no evidential about dark matter (or dark energy) being responsible for interference. Given we don’t know what either dark matter or dark energy even is, how is a theory linking one of them to interference even possible?”

        It’s called logical consistency Wyrd, a consistency which is underwritten by Occam’s razor. With over forty-five (45) years of experience as an applications engineer in the field of thermodynamics, it has been definitively demonstrated to me that the simplest explanation of phenomena is consistently the correct one, not the other way around.

        Tired of left overs yet? You have a good one, and it’s been nice chatting with you.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The field of thermodynamics?

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “You are essentially challenging all of quantum physics, since it is explicitly a wave theory. What’s worse, quantum physics involves one of the two most thoroughly tested theories in all of science.”

    Here’s my final comment the topic Wyrd. Since we do not have direct access to the quantum world anymore than we have direct access to the mental world of mind, all we are left with is wild and speculative conjecture. And to be clear; yes, I am challenging all of quantum physics because the foundation upon which it is constructed, i.e. a wave theory is bullshit.

    Referencing once more the grounding architecture of RAM: If RAM is true, (which my models definitively demonstrate), then there is only one mechanism which is responsible for motion and form within the quantum world, the classical world of physics and the mental world of mind. If homo sapiens are just too dumb to understand causation at a fundamental level, then it is what it is. Science has given us all of the creature comforts expressed through its technology. And if that is all that we, as homo sapiens want out of the deal, then we already have our reward. Party on…

    The bullshit constructs that the church of science comes up with to explain phenomena they cannot see and therefore do not understand are no different than the bullshit constructs of demons and angels, its only a matter of scope. Pick your poison, and party on…

    Peace

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