## Assumptions and Reality

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ilyaa
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### Assumptions and Reality

Since Heisenberg, many have been brought to think of the question of uncertainty.
Not necessarily in terms of electrons, entanglement, spin, etc. But mostly in Logic (well, at least it would be what i'd like to discuss in this thread)

Here's an example of what is now considered to be "normal" logic :
you have a box with a ball inside. The box is closed. You open the box and the ball is there. You open it again and it's still there. You open the box a third time and the ball is there again. So you assume that the ball will be there every time.

Now "normal" dosen't mean anything anymore. There shouldn't be a normal. So i beg to differ. What is that ball isn't in the box when i close it. I know it dosen't make much sense but bare with me... You're probably thinking : "hey! but that dosen't make sense! theres laws of physics that have been proved through experiments." yes, but those experiments and calculations haven't been made in consideration of these ideas brought up recently in theoretical physics and quantum physics.

if 5-3=2, we would think : "well... then 3+2=5" but that is an assumption made through our logic we invented ourselves. And if were applying our inventions to reality, the aren't we creating our own reality?

Maybe there shouldn't be any assumptions because they only show our perceptions of reality. But not what is actually happenning. Because our senses, our perceptions, are not only imperfect, but also altered. Your brain plays tricks on you often. Since we are only conscious of approx. 10% of our brain activity, then are we, in a way, only conscious of 10% of reality?

so is it okay to assume things? take the universe for granted? to second guess god/mother nature/watever floats your boat?
basically : is the ball always in the box?

"A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts."
Dr. Manhattan
--WATCHMEN

VorpalSword
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

Is it okay to assume things?

yes.

The uncertainty principle means we can't ever fully predict everything. The fact that our senses are faulty, and our brains imperfect means the data we work with isn't always right. If we listen to Descartes we can prove that we exist, but not anyone or anything else. But we often know enough to work with anyway. The question we need to ask reality isn't ever, do we know enough to perfectly prove this; but instead, does it seem true enough that we can depend on this information/perception of reality until we find a better one. You are correct that just because the ball is there the first 19000 times we open it doesn't mean it will be their the 19001st, especially if we don't fully understand the box. But sometimes assumption have to be made in order to deal with life.

Except in math. 5-3=2 can prove 5=3+2 because math doesn't need to have a connection to the real world. If the rules are set up that way then it works that way.

TheStranger
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

ilyaa wrote:Since Heisenberg, many have been brought to think of the question of uncertainty.
Not necessarily in terms of electrons, entanglement, spin, etc. But mostly in Logic (well, at least it would be what i'd like to discuss in this thread)

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal governs interactions at the quantum level, not the macroscopic level.

Here's an example of what is now considered to be "normal" logic :
you have a box with a ball inside. The box is closed. You open the box and the ball is there. You open it again and it's still there. You open the box a third time and the ball is there again. So you assume that the ball will be there every time.

A perfectly valid assumption. If no external force acts on the box then why would the status of the ball inside the box change?

Now "normal" dosen't mean anything anymore. There shouldn't be a normal. So i beg to differ. What is that ball isn't in the box when i close it. I know it dosen't make much sense but bare with me... You're probably thinking : "hey! but that dosen't make sense! theres laws of physics that have been proved through experiments." yes, but those experiments and calculations haven't been made in consideration of these ideas brought up recently in theoretical physics and quantum physics.

So far all those experiments have still held true, even in the light of current developments in quantum mechanics. Any new theory has to explain the results of the old experiments. Take your ball... if you say that it is no longer in the box then you also have to say how it was moved from the box and where it is now.

if 5-3=2, we would think : "well... then 3+2=5" but that is an assumption made through our logic we invented ourselves. And if were applying our inventions to reality, the aren't we creating our own reality?

5 - 3 = 2 and 3 + 2 = 5 are based on the definitions we decided on for arithmetic. If we take the symbol 5 to stand for five items, and the symbol 3 to stand for three items... and then designate - as indicating that you remove the second number from the first one then when you perform that operation you are left with two, which we can designate with the symbol 2.

Maybe there shouldn't be any assumptions because they only show our perceptions of reality. But not what is actually happenning.

Then what is actually happening? If we cannot observe it, cannot test it then what is it?

Because our senses, our perceptions, are not only imperfect, but also altered. Your brain plays tricks on you often. Since we are only conscious of approx. 10% of our brain activity, then are we, in a way, only conscious of 10% of reality?

Actually, you only use 10% of your brain at a given instant (only 10% of the neurons are firing at any one time) you use the entire brain.

so is it okay to assume things? take the universe for granted? to second guess god/mother nature/watever floats your boat?

We make assumptions all the time... when we reach for a light switch, when we stand up, when we turn on the water.

basically : is the ball always in the box?

Unless some external force acts to move the ball, or otherwise change the ball then where would it go?
"To bow before the pressure of the ignorant is weakness."
Azalin Rex, Wizard-King of Darkon

ilyaa
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

yes, i agree with you a 100%

but thats the conventionnal way to look at it.... so let me play the devils advocate.

the logic we use, the arithmetic we invented based on that logic, the laws of physics that describe our universe based on that arithmetic...
lets say the tower of pisa isn't crooked (as i originally mentionned above) but it is the ground it stands on that is crooked.
the tower being math, physics etc. and the ground being our logic based on natural assumption, instinct, etc.
"A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts."
Dr. Manhattan
--WATCHMEN

Simbera
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

First off, maths is a completely abstract thing, and has no basis in the real world. So 2 + 3 = 5 because of the definitions of 2, 3, 5, plus and equals. They're completely outside of reality - sure, they're used to describe reality, but then you are assigning new definitions. This lump of wood is called a log, and so is this one, and when you add them together you have two logs. What you're essentially doing is saying "well what if a splinter falls off one of the logs, does that make three logs?" (in the sense of the old 'half a hole' argument) - which is a fair line of questioning, but highlights flaws in your new definitions, not in the overarching tenets of maths.

I would suggest that perhaps it's since Einstein that lay people started thinking in less certain terms about reality (relativity and all) not Heisenberg...most lay people don't know who Heisenberg is. Descartes or someone like him may have been the first to start the line of thought, I don't know...but The Stranger is right, it ain't Heisenberg. Your Tower of Pisa example is a classic example of relative frames of reference - if I'm standing still, I'm really moving at an incredible speed because the lump of rock I'm standing on is rotating, orbiting the sun, etc. The tower is crooked if you take the centre of the Earth as 'down' but outside of a localised gravitational field there is no up or down, so 'crooked' is only defined by what is around it.

It's important to note that I am not saying "nothing is real, nothing we know is definite" but more "things can only be described in relation to other things, there is no universal point of reference". I am standing still, relative to the Earth. I am moving, relative to the Sun. At no point can you say "X is moving" or "Xisn't moving" because you can only say "X is moving away from Y" or "X and Y are holding station".

Fair enough, our senses are fallible, and I suppose you can posit that there isn't any way we can know for sure if the ball is in the box. But based on thousands upon thousands of physics experiments, and observations of every day life, the ball has always been in the box, so it would be perverse to assume otherwise.

In short: just because you can't prove with absolute certainty that something is true doesn't mean it isn't true. It's like Stephen Jay Gould said, "fact can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms."

If you ever open the box and the ball isn't there, then we can start trying to explain it. Until then, the ball is in the box.

<^>
“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.” – Edvard Munch

Rentsy
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

Hume's Definition of Cause and Effect

Hume was the first to realize the implications, philosophically, of the shift from Aristotle's physics (Things tend to rest) to Newton's physics (Things keep doing whatever they were doing).

According to Hume, we are justified in saying that a thing (C) is the cause, and another thing (E) is the effect if three conditions hold.

1. C, the cause, preceded E, in time
2. C and E are contiguous in time and place (There is a clear, specific connection between the two)
3. There is a history of regularity in the precedence and contiguity of C and E (It repeatedly happens, and can be tested under controlled situations)

So, yes, Sir, there are limits on our knowledge. We can't KNOW that the ball turns purple or goes away when we close the box. But we hold in our heads a theoretical model, and the model predicts certain things, and for all practical purposes the model is correct.

And so unless you can come up with a situation where the model isn't good enough, there is no reason to be dissatisfied with the model, as long as its predictions are correct.

Science, I believe, is the creation of models that are "good enough".

gmalivuk
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

Logic is not assumptions about reality, it's definitions built upon themselves. Modern mathematical axioms are not assumptions about reality, they're foundations for a logical framework that happens to correspond with the sort of arithmetic people had already been doing for thousands of years. Science does not require us to believe in the regularity of the universe, it's merely such that it only says anything about a regular universe. If the universe is inconsistent or fundamentally unpredictable in any way, science does no more poorly than any other explanation you can come up with. If the universe is regular, science tells us what to expect.
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Matterwave1
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

I've thought about this quite a bit, and after much thought, the only solution is one of pragmatism. It is impossible to live and not have assumptions. Every time I get up, I'd be wondering if my getting up will destroy the universe. There just is no good way of visualizing the world unless you operate under some assumptions. Sometimes, these assumptions prove wrong but until they are we have to work with them. If we keep thinking the ball may change the billion+1 time that I look at it, then we can't progress scientifically or culturally.

hideki101
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

Matterwave1 wrote:I've thought about this quite a bit, and after much thought, the only solution is one of pragmatism. It is impossible to live and not have assumptions. Every time I get up, I'd be wondering if my getting up will destroy the universe. There just is no good way of visualizing the world unless you operate under some assumptions. Sometimes, these assumptions prove wrong but until they are we have to work with them. If we keep thinking the ball may change the billion+1 time that I look at it, then we can't progress scientifically or culturally.

This. All science says is that something is likely to happen because it has happened before. We can show through multiple experiments that something usually follows something else, then we assume the same thing will happen each time. However, we don't know that it will follow 100% of the time, so there is always room for error. For example, bringing up the ball in a box problem. every time we seal the box and are looking to open the box back up, we assume the ball is still going to be there because we have experienced the ball in the box multiple times before, and given no other exterior examples to infer from,we would assume that nothing would change. However, this process of learning through pattern recognition will always leave room for error. Sure, maybe somehow all the subatomic particles in the ball would jump 300 meters to the left, and no ball would then be there when you open it, but that is such a minuscule chance, a fraction of a fraction of a percent (I don't know Schrodinger's equations yet, so I don't know the exact value) that it would happen that we regularly neglect it from our calculations. Science cannot prove things, it just shows things to be true in one case, and repeat experiments allow us to paint a generalized picture by inferring the same thing will happen with increasing values of confidence per experiment done.
Albert Einistein wrote:"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

itaibn
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

hideki101 wrote:Sure, maybe somehow all the subatomic particles in the ball would jump 300 meters to the left, and no ball would then be there when you open it
While this is just guesswork, I suspect it's far more likely that every photon travelling towards your eyes will change its wavelength to what you would see if the ball wasn't there. Am I right?
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hideki101
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

itaibn wrote:
hideki101 wrote:Sure, maybe somehow all the subatomic particles in the ball would jump 300 meters to the left, and no ball would then be there when you open it
While this is just guesswork, I suspect it's far more likely that every photon travelling towards your eyes will change its wavelength to what you would see if the ball wasn't there. Am I right?

I guess, but in that case, the ball would still be there (you have other senses than sight: you could hear the ball rolling around in the box, you could reach down and feel the ball) whereas in this instance, the ball would cease to be in the box. But that's just semantics. The point of the argument is that even though we repeat the experiment the same way, the fact that it has been shown in one case doesn't necessarily mean the experiment will always come out to the same result every time.
Albert Einistein wrote:"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

Poiesis
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

Make the ball alive, and throw in some radioactive material and a geiger counter wired to a hammer suspended above a bottle of vaporous poison and you're on to something...

The uncertainty principle means we can't ever fully predict everything.

I thought it meant we can never fully predict anything? Keyword being "fully." We can, of course, predict things to a measure beyond any reasonable doubt, along which lines assumptions are generally pretty safe (despite their poor reputation due to an unfortunate linguistic composure). However, even with empirically verifiable guidelines, any fact or assertive assembly of mental qubits has to be considered quintessentially to be an act of trust and/or faith (even if it is a well educated one, and even if the assumption being made is that we (or anything) exist(s)). I'm pretty sure the uncertainty math backs this up, but I am far from a mathematician and take such as highly-trusted hearsay.
Last edited by Poiesis on Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:05 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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hitokiriilh
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

ilyaa wrote:Since Heisenberg, many have been brought to think of the question of uncertainty.
Not necessarily in terms of electrons, entanglement, spin, etc. But mostly in Logic (well, at least it would be what i'd like to discuss in this thread)

Here's an example of what is now considered to be "normal" logic :
you have a box with a ball inside. The box is closed. You open the box and the ball is there. You open it again and it's still there. You open the box a third time and the ball is there again. So you assume that the ball will be there every time.

Now "normal" dosen't mean anything anymore. There shouldn't be a normal. So i beg to differ. What is that ball isn't in the box when i close it. I know it dosen't make much sense but bare with me... You're probably thinking : "hey! but that dosen't make sense! theres laws of physics that have been proved through experiments." yes, but those experiments and calculations haven't been made in consideration of these ideas brought up recently in theoretical physics and quantum physics.

if 5-3=2, we would think : "well... then 3+2=5" but that is an assumption made through our logic we invented ourselves. And if were applying our inventions to reality, the aren't we creating our own reality?

Maybe there shouldn't be any assumptions because they only show our perceptions of reality. But not what is actually happenning. Because our senses, our perceptions, are not only imperfect, but also altered. Your brain plays tricks on you often. Since we are only conscious of approx. 10% of our brain activity, then are we, in a way, only conscious of 10% of reality?

so is it okay to assume things? take the universe for granted? to second guess god/mother nature/watever floats your boat?
basically : is the ball always in the box?

I don't think what you're calling logic counts as logic. Logic doesn't really depend on physical phenomena. Interpolating data classically and quantum mechanically aren't exercises in logic.

Also, 5-2=3 DOES imply 2+3=5. That doesn't depend on any physical input. Study enough math. You'll learn nothing is inherent in math. The entire field amounts to constructing various definitions and showing, using logic, how those definitions are related. The aforementioned equation follows logically from the DEFINITION of addition and additive inverses. Studying algebra (not the high school variety), in particular, will make this apparent.

The 10% of the brain thing makes no sense either. Much is dedicated to involuntary mechanisms. If we used 100% for conscious activity we would simply die because there would be nothing left to regulate the body.

Assuming things is fine as long as there's reason to assume it. Once something implies we can't assume it anymore, then we stop assuming it. The fundamental problem with what you're talking about is that assumptions have no role in logic, but only in the models we construct of reality. They're not the same thing.

Quantum tells us the ball won't always be in the box. There's no arguing that. That's not an assumption. We've seen (quantum mechanical versions of) that happen and it only takes one event to establish that something CAN happen. The next question is: was the ball there before you openned the box, or are you a Copenhagen retard?

ian
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

Quantum tells us the ball won't always be in the box. There's no arguing that. That's not an assumption. We've seen (quantum mechanical versions of) that happen and it only takes one event to establish that something CAN happen.

Just because the ball can be not in the box, doesn't mean it can't always be in the box

frezik
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

In fact, you can construct a perfectly valid mathmatical system where 2 + 3 != 5. Let's call it PuddleArithmatic. If you take 2 puddles, and add 3 more puddles, then you get 1 puddle. So all addition in PuddleArithmatic equals 1 (which we take as an axiom). Perhaps all subtraction in PuddleArithmatic equals the number of operands (so 2 - 4 - 5 = 3, and 7 - 8 - 10 - 2 = 4)

In traditional arithmatic, you'd probably stick in a certain volume for each puddle so that the operators do what we're used to. But there's nothing to say that the above isn't a perfectly valid system.
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hitokiriilh
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

ian wrote:
Quantum tells us the ball won't always be in the box. There's no arguing that. That's not an assumption. We've seen (quantum mechanical versions of) that happen and it only takes one event to establish that something CAN happen.

Just because the ball can be not in the box, doesn't mean it can't always be in the box

Fail.

Never said it can't always be in the box. But you can no longer assume it always will. That's all I said.

hitokiriilh
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

frezik wrote:In fact, you can construct a perfectly valid mathmatical system where 2 + 3 != 5. Let's call it PuddleArithmatic. If you take 2 puddles, and add 3 more puddles, then you get 1 puddle. So all addition in PuddleArithmatic equals 1 (which we take as an axiom). Perhaps all subtraction in PuddleArithmatic equals the number of operands (so 2 - 4 - 5 = 3, and 7 - 8 - 10 - 2 = 4)

In traditional arithmatic, you'd probably stick in a certain volume for each puddle so that the operators do what we're used to. But there's nothing to say that the above isn't a perfectly valid system.

It appears PuddleArithmatic is isomorphic to Z mod 2. =P
Edit: ...sort of O_o

Matterwave1
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

hitokiriilh wrote: The next question is: was the ball there before you openned the box, or are you a Copenhagen retard?

Rentsy
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### Re: Assumptions and Reality

I was told the story of a guy, a smart guy, who got scurvy occasionally, because he didn't have that subconscious "Am I getting enough citrus?" subroutine in the brain.

That's important.