Richard Dawkins and Carlo Rovelli on science and culture – books podcast

This week we’re talking science and culture, and how to bridge the divide between the two, with Richard Dawkins and Carlo Rovelli.

As well as being the high priest of atheism, Dawkins is also a pioneering scientist. His books have sold more than 8m copies and he’s the only evolutionary biologist to have 1.3 million followers on Twitter. He joins us to discuss his latest collection of essays, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

Rovelli is a professor of theoretical physics who became an unexpected publishing success in 2014 with his short introduction to the science of the very big and the very small, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. It was published in more than 41 languages and sold more than 1m copies. Rovelli’s latest book, Reality Is Not What It Seems, grounds the cutting edge of contemporary physics in an intellectual tradition stretching back to the ancient Greeks.

 

Listen to the full interview here.

112 COMMENTS

  1. Carlo Rovelli says that time is not an intuitive concept, that even what seems “comon sense” (intuitive) came from science acquired knowledge from past and we take it naturally as if it was intuitive, interesting to listen to him.
    Prof Dawkins´s voice seems completely recovered and I missed to listen to some interview or conversation. This one was really a nice one.
    Recentely my heart beat was out of control and I had to take medication to control it and I felt that time was incredibly slower with a controled heart beat, that it was as if I was living in another planet, everything was so slow down.

  2. Rovelli sounds like a nice guy.

    “In order to understand time we have to understand ourselves.” Not too bad; I think he’s right; he is emphasizing the subjective aspect of time; then he adds that time has no reality, is not a variable at all, in his work with quantum gravity, whatever that is. He may not have put it quite that way; but that would seem to support the view, which I have always held, that as one moves further and further away from the subject the more the (objective) reality of time diminishes.

    Dawkins does sound like his old self, I’m happy to say. A slight lisp, I think.

  3. This really is good. Richard D sounds great. Confident, steady, right! Carlo R engaging, trustworthy.

    Richard Lea is a cracking, informed, interviewer. Lots of pace, clear, engaging…

  4. Question/comment

    Rogelli says that Democritus was right and that matter is not infinitely divisible.

    The word atom itself, the smallest particle of matter, means indivisible. It should be clear to anyone that thinks about it, that neither material indivisibity nor infinite divisibility can be conceived of. They can be spoken of and formulated as hypotheses, but that is all. The ancient paradox remains. Democritus invented the term atom and concluded that it must be indivisible, or “eternal”, to use his language. That word “eternal” is justified, is, I believe, an implicit admission that that the non-existence of matter in the concrete, empirical sense of the word (whether it is an atom or a unit or anything else), cannot be annihilated by any observable process.

    Infinite divisibilty and indivisibity are both equally inconceivable. How can something not be capable of being divided into a smaller particle ad infinitum? How can matter not be infinitely divisible in a mathematical sense?

    How can something not be divided? What does the (relative) size (quantity) of an atom (by any definition: ancient or modern) have to do with the quality of the existence of an atom or a “unit”?

    Matter is infinitely divisible. It has to be. This is one of the great paradoxes or mysteries. I’d like to hear Rogelli explain what the permanence of matter means if it is something other than infinite divisibility. I think he’d agree, if pressed, that to reject the idea of infinite divisibilty and to replace that idea with the indivisibility of a “unit” as he says in the interview, is to replace something concrete with something theoretical, and perhaps perfectly valid as a theory. – But if a unit is a really existing thing, yet is something more essential or primary or something essentially different than matter, then it could actually be that the inescapable reality of infinite material divisibility would not apply. But in that case we would have shifted from knowledge in the concrete to knowledge in the abstract but with no observation to support the latter form. When matter becomes something other than matter it is immaterial and therefore not matter. This immaterial substance reminds me of the word “substance” itself – an ancient, dogmatic term.

    The real world or the universe, the one that you and I move through and relate to, and the brain, along with consciousness itself, is comprised of and reducible to matter, and is, finally, a concrete realm.

  5. Dan #4
    Jul 14, 2017 at 4:14 am
    Question/comment

    Rogelli says that Democritus was right and that matter is not infinitely divisible.

    The word atom itself, the smallest particle of matter, means indivisible. It should be clear to anyone that thinks about it, that neither material indivisibity nor infinite divisibility can be conceived of.

    It is relatively simple! An atom is the smallest particle which can be produced by dividing matter using chemical or mechanical processes.

    They can be spoken of and formulated as hypotheses, but that is all.

    To divide atoms into subatomic particles and energy, nuclear fusion or fission is required. – Technological processes which the ancients did not have, and did not understand.
    Nuclear power-stations and bombs do break atoms apart.
    These are proven physics and technologies – not just “hypotheses”.

  6. Dan,

    Wot Alan said…

    Physicists wait until ordinary folk are out of the room before they switch from talking about atoms, hadrons, quarks and talk rather about fields. A particle only exists insofar as it affects other particle. It was Faraday in the mid nineteenth century in an unpublished letter speculated that everything in fact consisted of interacting fields.

    Hadrons (hard particles) aren’t infinitely hard. They are squashable, in a sense like elastic. Fields are best understood as some sort of elastic coupling. Magnetic fields behave like nested elastic bands with springs that keep them forever just a little apart from each other, no matter how tight the elastic bands are pulled.

    The further astonishing thing is that with enough squashing the hadrons collapse in on themselves losing their identity though not their mass which exists in the way that the fabric of space (itself analogous to elastic) is bent by it.

    Quantisation, the defined/fixed quantity of energy contained in each elemental bit of field, though is a thing, as we discovered in 1905, thanks to some distant relative of yours…

    Read Rovelli.

  7. Phil

    Havent been able to pick the book again since I mentioned it last and my answer is probably further into the book but…

    Rovelli wrote that time doesn’t exist for very short distances (quantum). As soon as I read it my mind put all these quantum distances together and came up with the connection to quantum entanglement. Time not existing over vast distance in quantum packets. Wrong connection?

  8. My post following Alan’s is canned for the moment, it seems.

    Ollie, I think that is a wrong connection. In fact, I have seen accounts of entanglement that invoked time reversal as seems to be possible in quantum scale interactions.

  9. Thanks Phil. Must read on then.

    I am now thinking about the claim I read that quantum computers already have the answers before the question is even asked. Can this be the time reversal? Hope I’m not boring you with silly questions?

  10. I don’t think this is a thing (answers before questions) either. Time reversals aren’t a macro scale thing.

    It does though remind me of the spoof scientific paper from Isaac Asimov, “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline” He demonstrated in the lab how increased numbers of hydroxyl groups aided its speed of solution. With sufficient hydroxyl groups he showed that it could dissolve 1.12 seconds before it hit the water…..

  11. Alan, Phil

    I won’t go on about this. I just want to make sure that my naive question was absorbed.

    (I read that spoof article in one of Amisov’s anthology of early writings and short stories. He also described the whole situation. That was when he was studying for his degree in biochemistry. At the end of his oral exam, they told him he got through, and had a pHd. Then as he was leaving the panel asked him to explain this business of “endochronic properties.” He started laughing. Nice story. Great sense of humor. True too. I was almost fooled until I looked at his notes; that was what gave it away; he used the term Marxian, for example. I knew then it was a joke. Asimov died too young, although 400+ books, including some of the best, most delightful and entertaining sci-fi ever written – although the fiction is a small percentage of the whole – isn’t a bad legacy.)

    The divisibility of matter. I was simply (the right word, perhaps) trying to understand how something I also thought was a paradox, and one that everyone comprehends in the concrete, is no longer considered a paradox. I don’t know what these words (energy, subatomic) really mean in a physical sense or how they relate to my question if they do not belong within the realm of solid matter (or fluid or elastic matter).

    Phil, of course non-physicists can’t be expected to understand what physicists are doing; but isn’t it still reasonable to ask how something that exists is not capable of being divided? I am not saying that an existing substance must always be capable of further division; but I am asking a logical question when I ask what kind of existing thing can exist if it is not some form of matter. I am speaking not only of solid matter, would include elastic and fluid matter. As long as it is some form of matter (and what matter is, or can possibly exclude, and why, is not clear to me) we are talking about – which is what the speaker was discussing when he brought up Anaximander’s theory – and not something other than matter (which I understand as any existing particle or element occupying space), there is a mental inability to conceive of a point where that particle of matter is divided and as a result of that final division (a contradiction in terms) it ceases to be matter and we are confronted then with an entirely different order of existence, one that that allows the impossibility of further divisibility at that point to become possible.

    So what would be an example of a thing, whether it interacts on not, whether it is energy or atomic or subatomic, that cannot be capable of division, even in theory.

    I will definitely read Rovelli. I have been meaning to find a book of this kind, something about physics for non-physicists; In fact someone suggested that recently; I think it was on this site: Reality IS Not What IT Seems

  12. PhD. Sorry. Not pHd.

    To divide atoms into subatomic particles and energy, nuclear fusion or fission is required. – Technological processes which the ancients did not have, and did not understand.
    Nuclear power-stations and bombs do break atoms apart.
    These are proven physics and technologies – not just “hypotheses”.

    Alan, I would never doubt that. I was not precise. I am still clinging, however, to this notion that if something is subatomic or is energy it is either still matter and therefore still capable of being divided or not. If not it would be known but known in a different way. My word theoretical does not imply non-existence; I couldn’t think of another word for something that really and truly is but cannot be divided. My apologies.

  13. The divisibility of matter. I was simply (the right word, perhaps) trying to understand how something I also thought was a paradox, and one that everyone comprehends in the concrete, is no longer considered a paradox.

    Corrected sentence:

    The infinite divisibility of matter. I was simply trying to understand how something I ALWAYS thought was a paradox, and one that everyone comprehends in the concrete, is no longer considered a paradox.

    I think I give up, at least for the time being. Physics! I know nothing of physics. My belief that matter is and must be infinitely divisible is limited by what I understand matter to be, and I always find myself visualizing something or thinking of something that is capable of being visualized through a microscope or apprehended in some other way, etc. – a speck or a dot. That is how I, a student of epistemology, approach problems of this kind – like the ancients did, perhaps. My perceptual or potentially perceptual reality is the only reality, the only thing I can discuss or work with.

  14. The infinite divisibility of matter. A permanent law of the human mind (?) I am not talking directly about the noumenon right now.

    You see this: ____

    You divide that in two and get this: __ __

    Divide those by two again: – – – –

    This comes to an end? That’s all I was questioning. I am approaching this with the freshness and naive wonder and natural inquisitiveness of a child, and all children are geniuses (he said modestly).

    I have to go now. I must put my laptop away.

    Bye, for now.

  15. Dan #15

    The example you give at #15 of the question you are posing suggests to me that you mean a practical division, not a mathematical division. Practical division is something one does with something empirical, as when dividing or cutting an apple or a cake in two with a knife and then cutting those two parts each in two, and so on until it ceases, for whatever practical reason, to be possible to divide the resultant parts into yet smaller parts. Mathematical division, however, is something that is done not with something empirical but with concepts of quantities, which, being pure abstractions, are indeed infinitely divisible by mathematical analysis. You seem to be having difficulty with this distinction, yet I cannot see why. Are you failing to distinguish clearly between practical empiricism and mathematical logic?

    Your difficulty may stem from a failure to distinguish between concepts and images. Understanding something is not imagining something, though very often we perform both mental acts simultaneously. It is, for example, impossible to imagine three million apples, but we readily understand the phrase ‘three million apples’. While I think of three million apples and use that complex concept in some calculation, I may have images of a great heap of Red Delicious flitting through my mind, but the calculation depends only on my use of concepts, not of images (the old distinction between intellect and senses).

    In mathematical division the information of the senses (including images) about the real world is irrelevant. But in practical (or physical) division the act of dividing is limited by any number of physical factors, in some cases of which only a physicist is in a position to know or suspect what those limits may be. On this point Alan4discussion gave this helpful example at #5:

    It is relatively simple! An atom is the smallest particle which can be produced by dividing matter using chemical or mechanical processes. . . . To divide atoms into subatomic particles and energy, nuclear fusion or fission is required.

    But both the splitting of an atom and the cutting of a cake are instances of practical division, as distinct from mathematical division. In the case of the four short lines you end up with in your example at #15, you are prevented by the keyboard from subdividing them into shorter lines. Even if you could continue to subdivide those lines many more times, you would come to a point where it would be practically impossible to divide whatever remained after division, either because the pixels would be too coarse to represent it on the screen or a microscope would be needed to find the cluster of ink molecules scattered on the high points of the surface of the paper, and so on. Yet, regardless of such practical limitations, the quantified length or area of each of those four lines remains infinitely divisible mathematically.

  16. Garrick

    Mathematically, space, a space, or anything occupying space, can be divided infinitely just as you can divide any number infinitely. It is theoretically impossible for “practical division” to be finite. Moreover, it is impossible to conceive of practical division as finite unless one is thinking in crude, practical terms. — The practical difficulties involved in, say, cutting an apple an infinite number of times is non-essential in a philosophical sense. Saying that there is no blade small enough, etc. is missing the point. One can imagine beings that can see what we cannot see and do what we cannot do. One being’s speck is another being’s glacier. Depends on who is looking at it. (See Berkeley, Three Dialogues)

    I appreciate the comment and will give you a better and more considered reply when I have more time.

  17. Dan #17
    The practical difficulties involved in, say, cutting an apple an infinite number of times is non-essential in a philosophical sense.

    Do you not see that you are still conflating practical division with mathematical division? There is no other philosophical sense in which to understand division.

    Imagining beings that can see what we cannot etc. sheds no light on the present question about the divisibility of things. It is more to the point to ask yourself whether you can imagine dividing one of the four short lines of yours at #15 twenty times. You would have to answer no, but the idea of doing so is understandable and we can actually do it mathematically by measuring the length or the area and dividing it twenty times mathematically.

  18. Garrick

    I understand the distinction you are making.

    What I am really driving at is this: the human mind cannot conceive of any material object as NOT infinitely divisible: this applies to mathematical division and practical division. If the latter is contemplated in thought it is impossible to conceive of an end to the continual process of division.

    In practical terms, division must come to an end, but that is, as I said, not my point, not the issue I was trying to make; and that point is about what we are capable of conceiving of and not capable of conceiving of.

    A finite number of divisions of a number or a material object is as inconceivable as an end of space. (As far as I know physics has not resolved the paradox of the inconceivability of space as finite and infinite.) And the same objection you made applies; no one can ever travel through endless space. No, but the nature and limits of the human mind is what I am concerned with, as opposed to the difficulties of space travel, in a crude, practical sense.

    As for my “other being” though-experiment, it is perfectly applicable and relevant. Where does the practical division end? Take an apple. You divide it as many times as you can, right? Well there is always one person who can see just a little better than the next person or use a blade with more skill, etc. than someone else. And if there isn’t, one will emerge eventually. No, there is no way of establishing a permanent limit to the continuous process of practical division either!

    Have a good week-end. I will think about what you’ve written. Bye for now.

  19. Dan #19

    “… the human mind cannot conceive of any material object as NOT infinitely divisible: this applies to mathematical division and practical division.”

    Conceiving of something is thinking of it by way of concept (conceptually, intellectually, abstractly, mathematically), which is not to be confused with imagining something. Infinite divisibility is attributable only to the former.

    Your thought-experiment of another being capable of greater powers than ours is an imaginative use of ideas. But, with regard to the division of the apple, there still comes a point in practice where there ceases to be any apple at all and it makes no sense to speak of dividing it, no matter how sharpsighted and skilful be the entity doing the dividing or how precise the cutting implement. Yet the apple as concept remains intelligible to us as infinitely divisible.

  20. Hi, Garrick,

    The distinction between the actual physical act of dividing and thinking about that act is an interesting but erroneous one, in my opinion.

    What we cannot imagine or conceive of is what concerns me.

    What the mind is capable of conceiving of and not conceiving of in the context of this discussion relates to the physical, practical idea of a finite number of times that some particle of matter can be divided. And there is no finite number of times. One more division is always possible.

    Conceiving is, in this context, thinking by way of imagining. What I cannot imagine is no different than what I imagine I cannot physically do and vice-versa! What I cannot do is no different than what I cannot imagine doing. I am imagining the real, actual experience of what we are capable or not capable of perceiving during the actual process of dividing. Although we run into practical difficulties when attempting to cut apples, ad infinitum, on our kitchen table, that does not prove or indicate that matter itself can be annihilated as a result of dividing a particle into smaller and smaller units. I don’t know what a botanist would say or when he would say that the piece of apple is no longer a piece of apple; who knows. But botanists are not epistemologists per se. Listen, I understand what you’re saying, but the argument doesn’t hold up: you might as well say that microorganisms don’t exist. Sure they do – even if that botanist cutting the apple can’t see them with the naked eye and erroneously declares that the apple has vanished.

    To say that something can only get so small is tantamount to saying that growth is finite and that objects can only get so big!

    Perhaps matter can, in some cases, be completely annihilated in the act of division or come to a point where it can no longer be divided. This is an area of physics which is, I think, unrelated to the argument I am making about what the brain is capable of imagining. Finally, the mathematical division of space is no different than the physical division of that which occupies space. That’s my point. And I see the difficulty, Garrick, which arises when you try to actually divide things (like apples and images on a screen) in real life. But as I said above, there is, I believe, no way of establishing a permanent limit to the continuous process of practical division either.

    Just how likely is it for something be done in practice what cannot be conceived of?

    (I just posted a pretty good, short article about the two parties, the media, and the corporation, on the open thread, if you’re interested.)

  21. Just how likely is it for something be done in practice what cannot be conceived of?

    Corrected sentence: Just how likely is it for something TO be done in practice what cannot be conceived of?

    One more thing, Garrick. Is there a difference between theory and practice? Yes. Is practical division to infinity possible? No. It remains theoretically possible, and theoretically impossible to think, imagine, experience, or conceptualize anything to the contrary.

    Is it possible to DISPROVE the theory of the infinite divisibility of a number, which is essentially the same as the divisibility of physical space (or any object in space, including the apple), by demonstrating this in practice? I don’t think one can. No matter how small the divided parts become, they are still parts of the original whole. Nothing is increased or diminished, and as long as matter continues to be matter there must always be room for one more division, ad infinitum.

    Much debated topic. I gave you my opinion. I understand that quantum mechanics now distinguishes between cutting (an atom) and dividing it. The latter cannot be done, I hear. But this, as I said, is not something I know enough about to comment on in the context of this discussion. Nor is it relevant, necessarily. Nor was it the objection that you raised.

    The infinite expansion of space and number is also limited by what we can achieve with objects in practice; but at the same time it is impossible for me to imagine that, say, the expanding universe will someday hit a wall.

  22. Sorry about these wearisome corrections, but I have a horror of letting a misstatement go uncorrected. (The typos I should forget about.)

    “I understand that quantum mechanics now distinguishes between cutting (an atom) and dividing it. The latter cannot be done, I hear.”

    Correction: the former (cutting an atom) cannot be done (I hear).

  23. Dan #21
    Conceiving is, in this context, thinking by way of imagining.

    Thank you for making so clear your use of the word ‘conceive’. It explains why you conflate concepts with images and have difficulty with such ideas as the divisibility of things. As long as you hold to this use of the word, your difficulty will remain.

    I trust your weekend has nonetheless been enjoyable.

  24. Dan,

    Can you conceive of what is happening when bar magnets rotated just so push away from each other? Is that reality conceivable? You know it for a fact but does it make sense as a fact and sit happily with the rest of your understanding of the world?

    I’d also like to re-introduce the two modes of knowing, understanding and mastery.

    Understanding is merely a comfortable familiarity that stops you asking the next “but why” (always a valid question). It is leveraged on the back of metaphors back to everyday experience, like billiard balls bumping into each other, water in pipes etc. It runs out when the metaphors are stacked too high and a sense of familiarity fades…..But why we ask….

  25. Conceiving is, in this context, thinking by way of imagining.

    Garrick, Phil—

    Thinking by way of imagining.

    I might have said that conceiving is thinking as the end-result of perceiving or imagining, followed by judging. It is a bit difficult to compartmentalize these faculties. Sorry. A concept that is not borrowed from either direct observation or imagination or reflection is an empty husk. The word “imagining” is polysemous, right Phil? It must not be conflated, automatically, with fantasizing and creating things that only exist in the imagination, i.e, combining concepts to produce magical or mythical creatures. (Wing+horse=Pegasus.) But I can “imagine” a real horse eating grass and cannot “imagine” it flying. You see the difference?

    My inability to conceive of an end to space or a beginning is derived from my inability to imagine those things. Imagining is not conceiving. But the latter is informed, produced, by the former process. My conception is based on either direct observation and/or what I can or cannot imagine: the judgment and final conception is determined and limited by the human mind itself, where certain propositions (such as infinite divisibility and the proposition that two parallel lines will never intersect, etc.) are indissolubly linked and inextricably bound up with that mind and with certain laws that govern our thinking. And the mind is in fact limited in some ways.

    There are thing I cannot imagine that can be imagined by others, things I cannot conceive of that are conceivable. I know that many things in the past were thought to be unimaginable or inconceivable and are now commonplaces. I would never insist that what I do not understand is inconceivable or unimaginable. But it would not be intellectually honest or constructive to say that something that I cannot conceive of at the present time must at the same time be conceivable. That would be unfair to myself, premature and illogical.

    Were I to be presented with evidence and was able to understand the evidence that matter is not infinitely divisible or were I able to imagine such a thing as possible then my conception of infinite divisibility would have to be revised.

  26. P.S. Garrick, if you sat down with a particle of matter and had found a way of dividing it and you kept cutting in an attempt to convince me that practical division is not mathematical division (which you correctly said was indeed infinite) couldn’t someone just hand you a different and better dividing tool and/or a better microscope every time you thought you had come to the end of the process of dividing? It’s possible, isn’t it? More reasonable to think that way then to simply say that practical division is finite and to let it go at that, I think

    Obviously we couldn’t spend eternity doing this, so in that sense you are quite right to distinguish between practical and mathematical division. But is that distinction really so crucial?

  27. Hi, Phil

    “Understanding is merely a comfortable familiarity that stops you asking the next “but why” (always a valid question). It is leveraged on the back of metaphors back to everyday experience, like billiard balls bumping into each other, water in pipes etc. It runs out when the metaphors are stacked too high and a sense of familiarity fades…..But why we ask….”

    To ask “and why” is not always a valid question; it depends on who is asking it and why. It can be an act of insolence and provocativeness; many children do this and they are to be forgiven. Within academia I have encountered, among former professors of philosophy, an inability to tolerate sensible explanations – often a sign of belligerent and excessive skepticism; and the eternal “but why or but why not” perpetuates the Eternal Discussion (their bread and butter) at the expense of Knowledge. Nietzsche said of those who must always reject even that which rings true (and in so doing do psychic violence to themselves) that they are “not preordained for knowledge”.

    There is a stupid humility that is quite common and when a person is afflicted with it, he is once and for all disqualified for being a disciple of knowledge. As soon as a person of this kind perceives anything striking, he turns as it were on his heel and says to himself: “You have deceived yourself – where have your wits been! This cannot be the truth!” The Gay Science, Book IV, Sanctus Januarius

    The rest of your comment – all that stuff about metaphors – was not comprehensible to me. Sorry. My fault, I am sure.

  28. There are two ways of knowing, understanding and mastery. The latter has a clear and demonstrable terminus but may remain forever aloof, alien. Understanding so involves the human experience it can have no such terminus. It will evolve with our changing selves.

    Metaphor is how we achieve a sense of familiarity.

    Professors can be idiots.

  29. I agree with you about professors and other so-called authorities. In general, I prefer the question to the answer; but there is a decent limit to inquiry. Understanding and comprehending is not knowledge per se; one must be able to understand in order to know. But this works for you; it is not my wish or my place to discourage you or anyone from forming conceptions of knowledge that are useful to them.

    Knowledge is, unfortunately (or fortunately), a most elusive concept, and an exceedingly complicated subject. So is consciousness. Almost impossible to pin certain things down.

  30. Dan,

    This is the solution to your problem. We can master how the world is without having that warm feeling of understanding. Your lack of understanding doesn’t stop the corroborated model of reality being true and consistently predictive. Not that long after your sense of unfamiliarity kicks in, the physicist’s does too. Familiarity with the model and the maths drags it on a bit, but Schopenhauer is right in a sense and Kant wrong in a sense. The noumen is inaccessible to human experience, though we slowly approach. Mirrors are no longer magic, nor so magnets now. We can have familiarity sometimes without personal mastery.

  31. Some professors, that is. I haven’t mentioned the thing-in-itself on this thread, but it’s never far away whenever you hear me or anyone talk about paradoxes, and laws and limits, in relation to human knowledge.

    The “noumenon” can only be known as that which can never be (directly) known. Whether such a realm exists would depend on one’s definition of existence and more importantly on what one’s understanding of the nature of existence is. My hunch is that physicists are, like all scientists, empirically oriented; they are dealing with phenomena and lose sight of, or have no real interest in, the issue of the reciprocal dependence between matter and the knowing subject (which one can argue is also comprised of matter); but I could be wrong.

    I was hoping you’d comment on my comment 22; but don’t feel in the least bit constrained. Seriously.

  32. “Can you conceive of what is happening when bar magnets rotated just so push away from each other? Is that reality conceivable? You know it for a fact but does it make sense as a fact and sit happily with the rest of your understanding of the world?” Phil

    I do not know how exactly how that works, or how gravity works or how tape recorders work. If an explanation is offered to me I would then be able to understand as much as I was able to understand. Then I would be able to form a conception of what is happening. But I would never doubt that such things are conceivable as that would be a denial of the evidence of my senses and of reason.

    But I cannot conceive of matter as anything other than infinitely divisible. Nor has this been shown to me (like the magnets or gravity at work) or explained to me. If it could be, as I already stated above, I would be compelled by reason and the evidence of my senses to acknowledge that it was conceivable; and I would be able to form a conception of how that worked – depending on the degree to which I was capable of understanding the explanation, and assuming that the explanation was correct.

  33. Phil 33

    Maybe they are not reciprocally dependent. An old habit. My apologies. Let’s assume they aren’t. Matter is real, period. That’s fine with me as a point of departure.

    Funny you should use the word sensible. When something, any material object, is stripped of its sensible qualities it changes completely. Into what, I don’t know.

    But I don’t want to rehash this old dispute. Please say what you’d like to say from the perspective of Realism (a perspective I respect but do not fully understand) and I will be happy to listen.

  34. But I cannot conceive of matter as anything other than infinitely divisible. Nor has this been shown to me (like the magnets or gravity at work) or explained to me,

    Corrected: But I cannot conceive of matter as anything other than infinitely divisible. Nor has this (the indivisibility of matter) been shown to me (like the magnets or gravity at work) or explained to me.

  35. This guy Matt Strassler seems to make sense. Confirmation bias? How dare you… Yep.— What else?

    In reality, matter and energy don’t even belong to the same categories; it is like referring to apples and orangutans, or to heaven and earthworms, or to birds and beach balls. […]

    The term “pure energy” is a mix of poetry, shorthand and garbage. Since photons have no mass, they have no mass-energy, and that means their energy is “purely motion-energy”. But that does not mean the same thing, either in physics or intuitively to the non-expert, as saying photons are “pure energy”. Photons are particles just as electrons are particles; they both are ripples in a corresponding field, and they both have energy. […]

    But for the moment, suffice it to say that energy is not itself an object. An atom is an object; energy is not. Energy is something which objects can have, and groups of objects can have — a property of objects that characterizes their behavior and their relationships to one another. […]

    Photons are “stuff”, but they are not matter — for almost every definition of “matter”. Matter is a subset of stuff, though which subset depends on context. I do know of one or two contexts where photons would be called “matter” too — but these settings are ones that you won’t come across often, and usually different terminology is used anyway. […]

    Modern physicists and their relatives have not been very inventive, creative, or careful with language. Apparently it’s not our collective strong suit. Big Bang? Black Hole? The world’s poets will never forgive us for choosing such dull names for such fantastic things….

    https://profmattstrassler.com/about/about-me/

  36. Phil,

    John Wheeler. Your opinion of him as a physicist?

    “The thing that causes people to argue about when and how the photon learns that the experimental apparatus is in a certain configuration and then changes from wave to particle to fit the demands of the experiment’s configuration is the assumption that a photon had some physical form before the astronomers observed it. Either it was a wave or a particle; either it went both ways around the galaxy or only one way. Actually, quantum phenomena are neither waves nor particles but are intrinsically undefined until the moment they are measured.” –Wheeler [Emphasis added.]

    In a sense, the British philosopher Bishop Berkeley was right when he asserted two centuries ago “to be is to be perceived.” [Not in citation given] [Scientific American, July 1992, p. 75]

  37. John Wheeler was tremendously important in modern physics. He taught the best and gave them some of their best ideas. He did important work and catalysed far more in others and propagated interesting ideas from still others. He taught one of my three hero Richard’s (Feynman) and gave him the key idea (positrons are electron’s going backwards in time) that allowed him to create his all-important Feynman Diagrams, accommodating reversed time flows.

    I asked you right at the beginning of our exchanges on subjective involvement in the observed, if you intended the “Quantum Observer” Wheeler is invoking here. You sort of ignored this but dismissed it also.

    The Quantum Observer, the one lifting the lid to see if Schroedinger’s Cat is still alive need have no conscious intelligence.

    According to standard quantum mechanics, it is a matter of complete indifference whether the experimenters stay around to watch their experiment, or leave the room and delegate observing to an inanimate apparatus, instead, which amplifies the microscopic events to macroscopic measurements and records them by a time-irreversible process (Bell, John (2004). Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics: Collected Papers on Quantum Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. p. 170. ISBN 9780521523387.). The measured state is not interfering with the states excluded by the measurement. As Richard Feynman put it: “Nature does not know what you are looking at, and she behaves the way she is going to behave whether you bother to take down the data or not.” (Feynman, Richard (2015). The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. III.

    and

    the observer-effect can be understood as an instrument effect which results from the combination of the following two aspects: (a) an invasiveness of the measurement process, intrinsically incorporated in its experimental protocol (which therefore cannot be eliminated); (b) the presence of a random mechanism (due to fluctuations in the experimental context) through which a specific measurement-interaction is each time actualized, in a non-predictable (non-controllable) way.

    This is not the effect you are looking for.

  38. I think Matt Strassler underwhelming (as quoted here). His descriptions exclude important other phenomena. Like the quantisation of energy and energy mass equivalence, (mass is a very very concentrated form of energy and operates by some very intense fields that have no absolute untransgressable boundaries) like all the less concrete but more important phenomena of momentum or Psi in Schroedingers wave function description, quite as unimaginable as potentials like energy. Everything is fields.

    Big Bang was an insult that stuck. But Black Hole is poetic, fearful. Coleridge and Whewell kept terminology on track at the Royal Society and did a grand job. We need more active involvement of artists today to help frame our stories. But poet scientists have always existed. Erasmus Darwin, Humphry Davy, Carl Sagan. Richard Dawkins.

    Previous post on Wheeler gone for the moment.

  39. Hi,

    That guy Strassler has a website, and a whole bunch of articles that go into considerable detail about stuff. He’s trying to make physics accessible to the non-expert (and has a difficult time by his own admission). Those were just a few quotes that I copied. Here’s an article (below).

    I did not intend the quantum observer and never heard of Wheeler until last night. I was googling “physics and epistemology.”

    https://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/why-do-particles-decay/most-particles-decay-yet-some-dont/

  40. Hi,

    Forgot to delete first draft. Annoying.

    That guy Strassler has a website, and a whole bunch of articles that go into considerable detail about stuff. He’s trying to make physics accessible to the non-expert (and has a difficult time by his own admission). Those were just a few quotes that I copied. Here’s an article (below).

    I did not intend the Quantum Observer and never heard of Wheeler until last night. I was googling “physics and epistemology.”

    Nature does not know what you’re looking at? Is that what Feynman says? And everything is the same whether you take part in the experiment or not, take down the data or not? Well I don’t doubt that but that’s not exactly what I’ve been talking to you about these past few years. Whether Schopenhauer is right or Feynman is right or or whether the truth lies somewhere in between I can’t say – not when it comes to quantum particles and radioactive atoms or Schroedinger’s cat, which I haven’t studied; but critical idealism, which concerns itself with the nature of what we call reality, is something different than what most people think it is and the problem is far more subtle; I can assure you of that.

    https://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/why-do-particles-decay/most-particles-decay-yet-some-dont/

  41. Inanimate observers or recorders of data are recording and observing.

    Schroedinger’s cat or anyone’s cat is alive regardless of the observer – quantum or otherwise.

    And Paris exists whether I am in Paris or not.

  42. URGENT MOD MESSAGE

    WE HAVE JUST BEEN INFORMED THAT THE SITE WILL BE CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE ETC. STARTING VERY SOON AND LASTING UNTIL FRIDAY 21st AT THE EARLIEST, POSSIBLY STRETCHING TO MONDAY 24th. SORRY FOR ANY DISAPPOINTMENT THIS MAY CAUSE, BUT IT SOUNDS AS IF EVERYTHING WILL BE UP AND RUNNING AGAIN BY NEXT WEEK AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AGAIN THEN.

    Like

  43. Whether Schopenhauer is right or Feynman is right….

    on what? The Quantum observer is discounted, but

    Nature does not know what you’re looking at

    is discounted also as not being about Schopenhauer’s point on a priori knowledge of space say. So these two have no overlap surely?

    I would love to go back in time and give S this book

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XC78RYY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    I know….terrible title, but understanding how and why we understand, how semantic knowledge is got and its salience derived, might have stopped a world of needless and baseless speculation…. Evolutionary AI entities have no a priori knowledge about what space is and how to navigate it. They are presented with pixels of data, proximity pulses with no clues as to what these are and various motors they can turn on and off. Given evolution of their neural wiring and the external selective pressure to find power charging areas and blocking objects (this is just a landscape, an ecosystem that exists and no hint or model given to the entity, just strings of data streams from different sources) … given this the entity learns through evolution of its brain to navigate as if it understood all about space … It understands as much abut space as any child.

  44. Thanks, mods.

    Phil,

    On being “right”. That was just my way of referring to the general problem of the antithesis between the “Real and the Ideal” (perceived), the issue of the difference (if any) between things as they are without sentient life in the universe and things as they are in themselves, existing completely by themselves. I wasn’t saying that Feynman was “wrong”. It’s not really about right or wrong; we may be discussing something from two entirely different angles.

    I think there is still a problem to consider. I have defined space in this context as externality. That implies internality…. So much of what we regard as real is dependent on our presence and participation, our understanding, our senses, our judgment, our internality in relation to an external reality. I can’t really deny that what is measured and recorded by physicists is absolute; but it doesn’t end there, and I can’t really affirm even that either. I wouldn’t really know how.

    How in the hell does time go backwards? No need to reply.

    Talk to you soon, and thanks.

  45. I don’t know if you’ll be getting this message today.

    That book looks interesting.

    I’d like to remind you that the self (or subject) according to S is a knowing self.

    The body is like any other object. We can know it and other bodies.

    But that which knows can never know itself. A subject of knowing, a knowing self, cannot become its own object.

    I better get going.

  46. Let me just clarify one more thing, Phil.

    …the reciprocal dependence between matter and the knowing subject…

    What I meant to say – and I left out part of the statement – was this: the dependence of the production of what humans regard as reality upon the reciprocal dependence between matter and the knowing subject.

    Whatever is measured and recorded continues to exist independently of an observer, as you say; but at what point does something cease to be regarded as physically real? Or, more to the point, what constitutes a physical reality and what is its nature? Consider size, which is bound up with the experience of distance: no one can easily say what size is, as one contemporary physicist admitted. An inch to you and me is nothing for a being a 10 billion times larger than us. An inch measured and recorded is, it seems to me, something different than an inch as a real distance between two points that one encounters, judges, thinks about, perceives.

    No one can escape Locke’s distinction between secondary and primary qualities.

    And Berkeley’s cogent arguments concerning relativism still hold up – like the truth herself.

  47. Dan #47: “How in the hell does time go backwards?”
    It doesn’t.
    Some equations of Relativity or Quantum Physics may be noncommittal as to time running forwards or backwards, allowing both. But they are all crushed by Entropy. Things gett less and less organized. They can get more organized with the input of energy (like me finally getting the chaos of papers on my desk organized into the appropriate binders). But there is always less energy in the result than the energy put into the effort. Most of what is missing in the end product is heat loss. But you and I immediately know that a film has been run backwards when we see shards of glass or whatever suddenly raise themselves from the ground, fly upwards and reassemble themselves into a whole glass object (Hoyle’s 747 assembled by a hurricane) on a table. Not utterly impossible. But so unlikely as to need more than the “lifetime” of one universe (or even multiverse, and if, then of which order?) to happen. Entropy mercilessly give you the direction of the time vector, and it only goes in one direction, into the future.

  48. GrumpyKraut #50 “It doesn’t.”

    I thought not. It sounded farfetched to me – which doesn’t mean I must be right; but I am pleased to hear someone corroborate what sounded farfetched to me.

    Time itself can’t even be perceived! Isn’t that interesting? (One of Schopenhauer’s insights.)

    Interesting to compare these two propositions:

    Nothing exists until it is measured. -Niels Bohr (Danish physicist)

    The world is my representation. -Arthur Schopenhauer

  49. Dan

    I thought not. It sounded farfetched to me – which doesn’t mean I must be right; but I am pleased to hear someone corroborate what sounded farfetched to me.

    But I never said time goes backwards in spacetimes. That was the whole point over our many discussions on this. I fully agree with Grumpykraut, though I think he understates how much of QM understanding is based on it being time symmetric and pre-thermodynamic.

    The thermodynamic increase of of entropy IS the clock that makes time unidirectional in spacetimes. Quantum mechanics and thermodynamics are quite independent theories. Quantum thermodynamics is a work in progress trying to show how thermodynamics can emerge from QM in increasingly simple systems. Latterly John Wheeler was promoting the idea that entropy and therefore unidirectional time is the causal product of spacetime expansion.

  50. Dan

    Nothing exists until it is measured. -Niels Bohr (Danish physicist)

    and

    The world is my representation. -Arthur Schopenhauer

    Solipsism gets everywhere.

    Bohr begs the question of what a measurement is, and neglects that tides, which are noted down in the reshaping of the planet, measure the ripple in the curvature of space caused by the moon.

    Schopenhauer simply misspoke. “My world is my representation of the world.” Fixed.

    Phil’s is different.

  51. phil rimmer #53
    Jul 22, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Latterly John Wheeler was promoting the idea that entropy and therefore unidirectional time is the causal product of spacetime expansion.

    The was a passing “Alan notion” years ago, that perhaps space-time was not expanding, but that we, – along with our local space-time and reference points, were shrinking under gravitational forces of our star-systems and galactic centres of mass!

    It gives a new twist to thinking “relatively”!

  52. Phil #53
    “I fully agree with Grumpykraut, though I think he understates how much of QM understanding is based on it being time symmetric and pre-thermodynamic.”

    I would never dare state anything about QM, as the last part of your post might as well have been in the Papua language as far as my ability to understand it goes.

    Alan4discussion #55
    “… that perhaps space-time was not expanding, but that we, – along with our local space-time and reference points, were shrinking under gravitational forces of our star-systems and galactic centers of mass!”

    To my current discomfort, I am very definitely NOT shrinking!

  53. Phil

    Idealism in NOT NOT solipsism. S’s criticism of solipsism is quite definitive and thorough. So let’s not listen to each other, shall we?

    (By the way, I wasn’t alluding to you when I brought up time going backwards.)

    I do not understand the absolute physical nature of the really existing things that you as a physicist insist are real, and you do not understand some of the fine points of idealism. The reality of the external world is not denied. Nor is matter eliminated with the mind. But the nature of what is real, the precise mode and manner in which these essential elements of existence – no longer objects in any sense – continue on, persist, as it were, in being real by themselves, in themselves, and as non-objects, is unclear; it is not reality so much as what we can know about this reality , and how it compares with perceived reality. These and other problems are what the critical idealists have addressed.

    Many discoveries have been made since the 1900s. But idealism is not the solipsism of Berkeley.

    Clearly a rose does nor smell sweet and clearly a sound is not loud without a nose and an ear. If you can’t agree with that we will never agree that any antithesis between absolute Reality and Idealism exists or that this subjective aspect of the sensible qualities that we naturally assume are attributes of the objects themselves warrants an investigation from a philosophical (and scientific) standpoint.

  54. Dan #57
    Jul 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Clearly a rose does nor smell sweet and clearly a sound is not loud without a nose and an ear.

    Your perceptions of the smell of a rose and the loudness of a sound are personal to you. (A person who is hard of hearing will have a different mental image or perception of “loudness”!
    That is why objectively legislators specify measured decibels, (using standardised instruments), for specifying acceptible loudness, and why doctors identify high decibel environments as damaging too hearing.

    The aromatic oils and other chemicals in the scent of roses, can also be analysed by instruments independently of human noses or human individual perceptions!

    Clearly the Ultrasonic Electric Polishing Tools work without and need for human ears to hear the sound, SONAR systems can track submarines or map the seabed, purely using instrument detection systems.

    We have however several times in the past, been over this difference between a personal mental image of reality, and the actual underlying physical reality itself.

  55. Phil,

    (My point of view continued, if you don’t mind?)

    I still maintain that Time itself, no matter how you choose to define it or what context you put it in, cannot be perceived in itself, as time-in-itself; it has to refer to a change of a state of matter or energy (?), or refer to a measurement or calculation as to distance, degree, or velocity or force (all changes), or be offered in contradistinction to something not in time but inert; but what is inert can only be judged as such in relation to that which is not inert, to what is in time; nothing is changeless (i.e. permanent) except pure (formless) matter itself, the non-existence of which cannot be annihilated in thought or in any practical sense. Pure matter, however, is also incapable of being perceived and also impossible to imagine.

    Time without space does not exist.

    I conceive as time as successive states that are in some way judged to be before and after or simultaneous, at rest, or in motion. That is perceived time, the only time I know of or can form any conception of.

    “The thermodynamic increase of of entropy IS the clock that makes time unidirectional in spacetimes.”

    This reminds me of Garrick’s distinction between practical division and mathematical division, which he said I might not understand (#24). (I do; it’s a simple yet important distinction.) Isn’t the proposition above making use of an abstract theory of time or does it imply that time itself (as opposed to the changes IN time), can be perceived, is empirically “real”?

  56. Dan #57
    Why do you, apparently, and by inference Schopenhauer, insist on what we can perceive with our unaided senses as being is the gold standard for “reality”? Being extremely charitable, the best of our unaided senses is mediocre compared to the comparable senses of other beings (who, or whose ancestors, have occupied earth hundreds of millions of years before anything hinting at us ever appeared). Being realistic, our senses are far worse than just mediocre. Where our capabilities probably exceed other beings is in the function of that about three-pound lump of protoplasm between our ears. And from what I’ve read (not a little), the brain is not constantly and totally occupied with sensory input (and filtering such input massively at that), but comparing input with stored, expected information, only “paying attention” when something unexpected arises. And it is very busy with itself. Thank goodness “reality” does not rely on our perception of it, because as distracted and inattentive as our brain usually is, such a “reality” would disintegrate quickly.

  57. Alan

    We have however several times in the past, been over this difference between a personal mental image of reality, and the actual underlying physical reality itself.

    Yes, and this question, the central question of modern philosophy, has not been completely resolved – on this site or elsewhere. It has been largely overlooked, or dismissed, by some, as hair-splitting, indulgent nonsense – but I wouldn’t say resolved.

    There is a physical reality of sound and of the smell or taste. Granted. But that “physical reality” is of a different order than its subjective reality. When the subjective aspect is removed completely it is, in my view, a grammatical and logical error to continue to refer to sounds as sounds, in so far as one defines a sound as that which is heard. A vibration per se cannot be heard. Not without an ear or a recording or measuring device.

    And a person born color blind cannot see colors that for him are nonetheless still (physically) real to him?

    “According to this teaching, light is [a] mechanical vibration or undulation […] This if it reaches the eye, beats rapidly upon the retina, and gives us the knowledge of colour. Thus, for example, four hundred and eighty-three billion beats in a second give red, and seven hundred and twenty-seven billion beats in a second
    give violet. Upon this theory, persons who are colour-blind must be those who are unable to count the beats,
    must they not?”

    You may reply but I will drop this for the time-being. (Pun intended, I guess.)

  58. Dan,

    And I’m not going to pursue this until you read some books….different ones. Modern philosophy, the sort we now have that incorporates neuro-psychology, that addresses qualia and “the hard problem”, which is the very essence of your problem here with these concerns but you seem so quick to dismiss that I just know you haven’t seen behind and relate to the very feeling and qualities of experience.

    I rated Schopenhauer correct. The noumen could well be Quantum reality, that even solid things are just (un solid!) fields with properties like springs with only probabalistic existences in any particular location. The Will could well be the second law of thermodynamics at play in an energy flux with a fractal like appearance up the scale of physics, biochemistry, and biology, taking in that first purpose of all living things homeotasis and proceeding to intentionality

    Finally if you could scramble up the idea of the two types of knowing you would find; Understanding (the sweet rose) is essentially solipsism, partially, culturally shared; Mastery is Universal where saccharides and aromatic amines are keys for locks and perfect reliable copies are made and shared

    (Mastery has those AI robots evolving to move and survive using strings of data from sensors and switching current to motors without the least clue that space exists. The problem of space is a maths problem that coincidence detection and Hebbian learning can solve without consciousness, A nemotode worm with seven neurons can navigate.)

    Those books, those modern philosophers are attempting to Master Understanding.

  59. Dan #61
    Jul 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    There is a physical reality of sound and of the smell or taste. Granted. But that “physical reality” is of a different order than its subjective reality.

    The subjective image of reality is vastly more limited than the physical! It is a mere individuals mental image, which is dependent on the level of understanding of the individual.

    When the subjective aspect is removed completely it is, in my view, a grammatical and logical error to continue to refer to sounds as sounds, in so far as one defines a sound as that which is heard.

    This is question begging with a purely a circular semantic argument based on your restricted definition of “sound” as “what is heard”, rather than the scientific definition of forces of vibration, transmitting energy in the form of waves moving molecules! (This scientific definition includes the transmissions of vibration energy in the ear and to the ear.)

    A vibration per se cannot be heard. Not without an ear or a recording or measuring device.

    This again begs the question by using your own definition of sound as “being heard”.

    Any atoms or molecules can be transmitting devices, and many can be recording devices.

    A blind deaf mute, can still feel the vibrations of an engine or an earthquake, and any building, mechanism, structure, or organism can record the damage from an earthquake!

    We can even record sound waves and sound vibrations on the Sun! – and I don’t think you will find any human (or other) ears there!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helioseismology
    Helioseismology is the process of inferring the internal structure and kinematics of the Sun from the propagation of seismic waves, particularly acoustic waves (p waves) and surface gravity waves (f waves).

  60. Hello, GrumpyKraut and Phil

    Thank goodness “reality” does not rely on our perception of it, because as distracted and inattentive as our brain usually is, such a “reality” would disintegrate quickly.

    Again, I am distinguishing between reality perceived and reality unperceived. It cannot be denied (and only a crude solipsist would deny this) that reality, as we call it, is not dependent upon our paltry senses. I couldn’t agree more; I would go further and say that the senses alone can never give us knowledge of anything objective or objectively real at all; for beings with senses but no ability to distinguish between the very organisms that they are and anything real outside of those organisms, stimuli appears, as it were, to originate from within the organism – as a process with no object. In order to apprehend an object of knowledge, a subject and object relationship (intellect) is required along with the faculty of understanding (the ability to trace an effect back to a cause apart from and outside of the organism).

    The vast universe, filled as it is, with stuff, does exist. My question has to do with the problem, as I understand it, of the difference between reality as determined by perception and reality as it is independently of perception. We all can agree that one being’s reality will differ considerably from another being’s reality. But what is the difference between which we and other sentient beings (real or imagined) perceive via the multifarious forms of perception and data-gathering, and reality which we know must have been and continues to remain in existence and completely independently of not only our senses (aided or not) and our understanding?

    This is not a trick question, for surely the mind did not create the universe. But what is left over after the sensible qualities and even externality itself (something outside of the perceiving subject’s body or the organism)is removed from the equation?

    Phil,

    That sounds like a good idea. I will be happy to read some books. I need resistance. But just read this last one, if you could. Thanks.

  61. Time is experienced only as salient events. Being pushed off a building backwards whilst tied to a chair dilates time experience by a factor of two. The tumbling ground, the sickening feeling, the anticipated bone crack and splatter These are novel and very salient experiences.

  62. Alan

    …purely a circular semantic argument

    Not really. And my definition is not restricted unduly. I define sounds as sounds that are heard and fully understand and accept that sounds are vibrations. Those are the two separate and equally indispensable component parts of the whole. Is it so unreasonable to assert that the former are not sounds at all until they are heard? (Moreover, feelings of a vibration along with other feelings are not heard. And sounds and smells do not produce images per se.)

    Your own words: This scientific definition includes the transmissions of vibration energy in the ear and to the ear.

    I will read and think more as I could conceivably be wrong. Thanks.

  63. Dan #66
    Jul 22, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Your own words: This scientific definition includes the transmissions of vibration energy in the ear and to the ear.

    The point you are missing, is that it also includes all the other forms of vibration I listed!

    …purely a circular semantic argument

    Not really.

    Yes Really!

    And my definition is not restricted unduly. I define sounds as sounds that are heard and fully understand and accept that sounds are vibrations.

    But it seems that you miss the point that “hearing” is only a small restricted part of the features of those vibrations.

    Those are the two separate and equally indispensable component parts of the whole.

    No they are not! Hearing is simply a small subsection included in the spectrum, range, and mechanisms, of physical vibrations and the detection systems which identify them. They are neither equal nor separate!

    Have another look at my example of the sounds generated on the SUN, which are detected on Earth using analysis of light waves!

  64. Lousy sentence with typos and mistakes (as usual):

    But what is the difference between which we and other sentient beings (real or imagined) perceive via the multifarious forms of perception and data-gathering, and reality which we know must have been and continues to remain in existence and completely independently of not only our senses (aided or not) and our understanding?

    Corrected sentence:

    But what is the difference (if any) between that which we and other sentient beings (real or imagined) perceive and know via the multifarious forms of perception and data-gathering, and reality which we know must have been and must continue to remain completely independently of our senses (aided or not), our understanding, and knowledge acquired indirectly by way of recording and measuring? Suck knowledge, presumably, must also pass through the filter of human cognition in order to be known.

    Enjoy the rest of the week-end.

    Alan, again I may be missing something. As I also said I will think more and read more. But I always thought that sounds were heard and if they are not heard they are not heard and are therefore not sounds. (Sounds imbecilic and tautological, I admit.) What is a vibration to do without a receiving end to process it? Can it hear itself!?

  65. From encyclopedia: In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as a typically audible mechanical wave of pressure and displacement, through a transmission medium such as air or water. In physiology and psychology, sound is the reception of such waves and their perception by the brain.

    Typical definition: tautological. And it presupposes perception or what I referred to as a receiving end (cognition).

  66. Dan #68
    Jul 22, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Such knowledge, presumably, must also pass through the filter of human cognition in order to be known.

    It can however pass in a multitude of forms rather than the single tracks which are in your perceptions.
    A profoundly deaf person can still know when a stringed instrument (such as a guitar) is making sounds, by observing the vibration in the movement of the strings! A clip-on tuner can numerically tell you the frequency (letter) of the note of a string, from the vibrations in the wood of the headstock! – even on a near silent unplugged solid electric guitar!

    But I always thought that sounds were heard and if they are not heard they are not heard and are therefore not sounds.

    You will never directly hear the sounds on the SUN, because sound waves do not travel through the vacuum of space where there are no molecules to vibrate , but optical instruments, display screens, and print-outs, can tell us precisely the wavelengths, frequencies and distribution of those sounds by visually recording and analysing the observable vibrations on the surface of the Sun. (see link @#63)

    Much of the physical universe in missing from the imaged perceptions of most humans, but the whole of humans and their mechanisms of perception, is included (as a small part) in the workings of the physical universe under the same laws of physics.

  67. Dan #69
    Jul 22, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Typical definition: tautological. And it presupposes perception or what I referred to as a receiving end (cognition).

    This is a simplified definition, which only covers limited aspects.

    As I have explained perceptions can take a diversity of forms, so no single form of perception is necessary for the sound to exist. Nor is there any necessary requirement for the sound and the perceptions to be concurrent.

    In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as a typically audible mechanical wave of pressure and displacement, through a transmission medium such as air or water.

    Typically but not necessarily – there are many other detection and recognition systems.

    Furthermore, let’s take the example of a bird watcher who leaves a remote recorder, and listens to the recorded birdsong or falling rocks, later. – Clearly the sound existed BEFORE the person listened to it later , AFTER retrieving the recorder and the copy of the sound!

    That’s how science works – Independent investigations to produce confirmations using different methods so as to eliminate copying any errors from any single methodology, measurements, calculations, or personal biases!

  68. Alan, I don’t want to come across like a stubborn ass, so let me just say thanks. Thanks for all the info. Your presentation of the nature and meaning of sound is scientifically correct, I am sure

    I just had an interesting thought, however: the word “sound” came into existence as a concept based on perception of the phenomenon of sound. No one ever imagined it to mean a physical vibration without perception. Not originally. But meaning shifts along with context and new discoveries and conceptions. It remains hard for me personally to get my head around the notion of a sound that isn’t heard, that’s all.

    A clip-on tuner can numerically tell you the frequency (letter) of the note of a string.

    I have a tuner. It hears nothing.

    by observing the vibration

    Are you conflating sight with sound?

    (Quick Q: My mother has an aquarium. I was adjusting the light and in the process stared at a very bright light for several seconds by mistake. Now I am worried that I suffered permanent retinal damage. Is that possible? I believe it’s a UV lamp. My left eye feels weird.)

  69. Alan #70

    “You will never directly hear the sounds on the SUN, because sound waves do not travel through the vacuum of space where there are no molecules to vibrate , but optical instruments, display screens, and print-outs, can tell us precisely the wavelengths, frequencies and distribution of those sounds by visually recording and analysing the observable vibrations on the surface of the Sun.”

    This is true.

  70. Clearly the sound existed BEFORE the person listened to it later , AFTER retrieving the recorder and the copy of the sound!

    I need to be honest. I will not admit what I do not think is admissible.

    This is not true. A tape recorder proves that sounds are indeed vibrations (which I never doubted); but the vibrations recorded do not exist as sound until they are heard. A tape recorder records and a being with ears and a brain hears what is recorded. A machine may prove that the sound has a physical component but that physical component does not exist as a sound for the machine. (Now we get into AI; one can argue that a machine hears, but I wouldn’t. Not yet!)

    As for different perceptions, no: sound, strictly speaking, is neither felt, nor seen, nor touched. It is heard only. What is observed by the other senses is the manifestation of what produces sound, i.e. vibrations. But, again, a vibration is an entirely different concept; it is not a sound. Your example of the vibrating string expresses this. A deaf person, to use your own example, can see the vibrating string yet he (and the tape recorder and the tuning device) hear absolutely nothing.

  71. Now we get into AI; one can argue that a machine hears, but I wouldn’t. Not yet!

    At what level of neuronal sophistication does the sensed acoustic vibration of the skin surface of a creature constitute hearing a sound? AI listens to what you say and answers your questions. It has detected all the information or the implications the acoustic vibrations encode processed it and responded in kind….

    We may be trained Pavlov style by subliminal sound cues, ones not selected as significant enough to go in the immediate parade of the highest salience, consciousness. Were these “sounds” as opposed to un-sensed acoustic energy? Were these “sounds” as opposed to un-sensed or affective but not consciously sensed acoustic energy?

    The difference is crucial to diagnose your problem.

  72. Dan,

    UV. The tube may be a UVA tube like those used in sun tanning. (The more dangerous UVB UVC sources would not be permitted.) It will not hurt your retinas as the cornea has a sharp UV filtering action, though you may suntan your eyeball. I’ve done this several times for different idiotic reasons. It feels painful and gritty because the surface is shedding dead cells just like sunburnt skin. It will go away in a day or two.

    No, UV steriliser lamps are UVB and UVC also, a bare mercury discharge.

    Still no risk to retinas, but definitely keratitis risk.

    Exactly what I suffered as a kid from unsafe “health” lamps.

    Same advice, wait and it’ll go.

    Don’t do it again!

  73. Dan #74
    Jul 23, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Clearly the sound existed BEFORE the person listened to it later , AFTER retrieving the recorder and the copy of the sound!

    I need to be honest. I will not admit what I do not think is admissible.

    I don’t see why! Your ear sends mechanical vibrations converted to electrical signals through nerves to your brain, and the microphone sends mechanical vibrations converted to electrical signals to the recorder – which converts them back to sound vibrations through the speakers or headphones later.

    This is not true. A tape recorder proves that sounds are indeed vibrations (which I never doubted); but the vibrations recorded do not exist as sound until they are heard.

    They clearly existed as sound vibrations, or they could not have been recorded.

    A tape recorder records and a being with ears and a brain hears what is recorded. A machine may prove that the sound has a physical component but that physical component does not exist as a sound for the machine. (Now we get into AI; one can argue that a machine hears, but I wouldn’t. Not yet!)

    The machine clearly does “hear” – If you take away its microphone it does not make a record of the sound!

    As for different perceptions, no: sound, strictly speaking, is neither felt, nor seen, nor touched. It is heard only.

    Dan! You are a guitarist!
    Have you never felt the vibrations through the wood of the guitar sound box, or felt yourself, the floor, and the room shake, when an amplified base guitar is playing heavy rock?

    What is observed by the other senses is the manifestation of what produces sound, i.e. vibrations.
    But, again, a vibration is an entirely different concept; it is not a sound.

    That is your misconception! Apart from in your circular semantic definition, there is no difference between “vibrations” and “sound”.
    Vibrations are “sound” and “heard sound is a particular range of frequencies or vibrations which the ears of an individual can detect! (Dogs and children can hear very high notes (frequencies) to which most adult humans are deaf!)

    Your example of the vibrating string expresses this.
    A deaf person, to use your own example, can see the vibrating string yet he (and the tape recorder and the tuning device) hear absolutely nothing.

    You are too narrowly defining hearing as human listening! Microphones, sonar sensors etc. are widely referred to as “listening devices”. Your argument is pure semantics!

    A deaf person can however, feel the vibrations of a loud base guitar for a limited range of frequencies, using bodily sense organs other than the disabled parts of his/her ears!
    You are back to your circular semantic definition involving the limited concept of human hearing with ears!

    Your comprehension problem, stems from a need to learn the physics of sound and technological, mechanical, and sensory means by which it’s vibrations are transmitted and detected.
    There is no rational evidenced basis for separation the range of vibrations which an individual hears, from the wider range of vibrations which can be detected by other individuals of technological sensors. – (even if ancient philosophers were unaware of these issues in their writings!)
    You need to look at modern sources of information.

    There is NO difference between the transmission of “sound” and the transmission of “vibrations”.
    The term “sound” is simply a non-technical name for energy transmitted as “molecular vibrations”.
    These can be transmitted in gasses (air), liquids (water) or solids (such as rocks or metal pipes).

    but the vibrations recorded do not exist as sound until they are heard.

    The speed of sound varies according to the material involved in the transmission, so as with sonic booms from jet aircraft, or thunder claps, an observer, at a distance, does not hear the sound vibrations until several seconds after they are generated.
    This makes nonsense of claims that “the sound does not exist until it is heard by ears” – and exposes its purely semantic nature!

  74. Dan #74
    Jul 23, 2017 at 3:28 am

    A machine may prove that the sound has a physical component but that physical component does not exist as a sound for the machine. (Now we get into AI; one can argue that a machine hears, but I wouldn’t. Not yet!)

    I think you need to look here:-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Speech_Recognition

    Windows Speech Recognition is a speech recognition component developed by Microsoft and introduced in the Windows Vista operating system that enables the use of voice commands to perform operations, such as the dictation of text, within applications and the operating system itself.[1]

    Speech recognition relies on the Speech API developed by Microsoft,[2] and is also present in Windows 7,[3] Windows 8,[4] Windows 8.1,[4] and Windows 10

    Not yet!)

    ???? – This software has been around for quite some time!

  75. Alan,

    I think it worth noting what Dan is struggling towards, which is not about problems of physics. For Dan (and psychologist philosophers)

    Acoustic = capable of being heard.

    Sound = that which is heard

    The physicist will talk of acoustic energy which is capable of doing all sorts of work quite apart from sentience. The psychologist will talk of sounds as sensation or at least affective (and here is the problem area).

    This is just a rerun of the vision issue. As a physicist/psychologist I try very hard not to talk in the physics realm about colour which is an internal experience. Pink is a sensation that can be formed by a wide variety of spectral profiles. Neural maths delivers indistinguishable experiences for entirely different mixes of photon wavelength. Colour sensation of single wavelength photons is far less ambiguous. Like all other physicists in monochromes I rather lapse and use colour, especially in talking to others.

  76. Dan #72
    Jul 22, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    It remains hard for me personally to get my head around the notion of a sound that isn’t heard, that’s all.

    You need to read some books (or comments) on physics.

    A clip-on tuner can numerically tell you the frequency (letter) of the note of a string.

    I have a tuner. It hears nothing.

    I had one like that! I replaced it with one which works!
    You could try putting in a new battery first! 🙂

    by observing the vibration

    Are you conflating sight with sound?

    No! I am explaining an alternative method(s) of detecting sound vibrations, without using ears!

  77. phil rimmer #79
    Jul 23, 2017 at 6:35 am

    Alan,

    I think it worth noting what Dan is struggling towards, which is not about problems of physics. For Dan (and psychologist philosophers)

    Acoustic = capable of being heard.

    Sound = that which is heard

    Antiquated definitions and perceptions, are certainly at the root of the communication problem.

    However, I would like Dan to be able to see human perceptions of sound, colour, light, etc., in the context of the inclusive big picture.

    The transmissions of sensory signals in the brain are complex, but I make the point that perceptions of reality are not totally dependent on any one sensory system, or the sensory system(s) of any single individual.
    (ie. It is possible to recognise sound by using vision, touch, time delays, or technical artificial aids.)

    Neural maths delivers indistinguishable experiences for entirely different mixes of photon wavelength. Colour sensation of single wavelength photons is far less ambiguous.

    The same could be said of the mix of chord harmonies in music v single oscilloscope frequencies.

  78. Phil. Yes probably a dispute over language to some extent. If you define sound as anything other than that which is actually heard (and machines do not hear, as far as I know; but they do respond) then I’m willing to concede the point.

    Alan, a sound can cause an avalanche or break glass; but conflating the words we use to identify the different perceptions seems questionable to me. If a blind person sitting in a car feels the motor upon ignition she is experiencing sound and perceiving the effect of sound, yes. But is she hearing it? That is all I am saying. Nothing more.

    That said, here’s something for what it’s worth. And my assumption is that it is not worth very much and that this “new discovery” is not what it claims to be. The Daily Mail is not exactly geared to advanced physicists or even serious students of philosophy. And the word “illusion” is an imprecise word and informs me that the title is designed to get your attention. Not the sign of a serious article. But who knows. Maybe there’s something new here. You can find a rare gem on a crowded beach.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3107996/Our-entire-lives-ILLUSION-New-test-backs-theory-reality-doesn-t-exist-look-it.html

    New test backs up theory that the world doesn’t exist until we look at it

    Quantum mechanics states reality doesn’t exist until it’s measured

    This means a particle’s past behaviour changes based on what we see

    Experiment using an atom and laser beams has proven this to be true

    How the atom behaved depended on how it was measured at end of test

  79. Dan, 82

    We’ve already covered this. Wheeler’s or was it Feynman’s account of this predicted behaviour actually suggested the solution at the Quantum scale of singular particles (before thermodynamics took a hold) would be that particles travelling forward in time are the identical to the antiparticle going backwards in time. At this scale and utter simplicity the antiparticle informs/causes the start of the experiment dependent on its outcome…er…start.

    Quantum events and behaviours (like non-locality) simply cannot be extrapolated into the complicated thermodynamic habitation of a spacetime where we live and time flies like an arrow, assuredly striking all dead.

  80. Dan #82
    Jul 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    The Daily Mail is not exactly geared to advanced physicists or even serious students of philosophy.

    The writings of the Daily Mail’s science illiterates, would not even pass muster as a primary school child’s attempt at researching information, or understanding the meanings of basic words, like “test”, “theory”, “photon”, and “atom”! The article is a garbled nonsense perception of a science duffer journalist’s misconceptions about some article on quantum physics, where they don’t even understand the meanings of the words!

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Daily_Mail

    The Daily Mail is a reactionary, neo-fascist tabloid rag masquerading as a “traditional values,” middle-class newspaper that is, in many ways, the second-worst of the British gutter press (only Rupert Murdoch’s Sun is worse).

  81. Dan #82
    Jul 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Phil. Yes probably a dispute over language to some extent. If you define sound as anything other than that which is actually heard (and machines do not hear, as far as I know; but they do respond) then I’m willing to concede the point.

    You are correct apart from the claim that “machines can’t hear”. (hearing is the detection of sound) – Such claims are merely an unevidenced and unjustified assertion of a monopoly of detection and recognition by (human?) ears.

    The sound from a DVD on a sound system of amplifiers and loudspeakers is the same, regardless of if humans are listening to it or not.

    Alan, a sound can cause an avalanche or break glass; but conflating the words we use to identify the different perceptions seems questionable to me.

    WE should not conflate the physical properties of sound, with Human (or other animal) perceptions of it.
    Human perceptions are specific to the senses and brain circuitry of the individual person. The physics of sound is universal.
    The physics also includes the mechanical vibrations in the inner ear, and the electrical signals generated there, before they are carried to the brain along an assortment of nerves. (see diagrams on the link)

    Vibrations ARE sound, and sound is composed of vibrations of molecules of matter. This includes ultrasonic sound which humans can’t hear.
    In the absence of mechanically vibrating molecules or atoms, there is no sound!

    http://www.yamahaproaudio.com/global/en/training_support/selftraining/audio_quality/chapter4/01_ear_anatomy/

    A row of approximately 3,500 inner hair cells (IHC’s) are situated along the basilar membrane, picking up the resonances generated by the incoming waves. The inner hair cells are spread out exponentially over the 3.4 centimetre length of the tube – with many more hair cells at the beginning (high frequencies) than at the end (low frequencies). Each inner hair cell picks up the vibrations of the membrane at a particular point – thus tuned to a particular frequency. The ‘highest’ hair cell is at 20 kHz, the ‘lowest’ at 20 Hz – with a very steep tuning curve at high frequencies, rejecting any frequency above 20 kHz. (more on hair cells on the next page)

    Roughly in parallel with the row of 3,500 inner hair cells, three rows of outer hair cells (OHC’s) are situated along the same membrane. The main function of the inner hair cells is to pick up the membrane’s vibrations (like a microphone). The main function of the outer hair cells is to feed back mechanical energy to the membrane in order to amplify the resonance peaks, actively increasing the system’s sensitivity by up to 60dB(*4C).

    Hair cells are connected to the brain’s central connection point – the brain stem – with a nerve string containing approximately 30,000 neurons (axons)(*4D). Neurons that transport information from a hair cell to the brain stem are called afferent neurons (or sensory neurons). Neurons that transport information from the brain stem back to (outer) hair cells are called efferent neurons (or motor neurons). Afferent and efferent connections to outer hair cells use a one-to-many topology, connecting many hair cells to the brain stem with one neuron. Afferent connections to inner hair cells (the ‘microphones’) use a many-to-one topology for hair cells tuned to high frequencies, connecting one hair cell to the brain stem with many neurons.

  82. To the eyes that see this comment:

    So a deaf person can hear the physically real sounds?

    The sound from a DVD on a sound system of amplifiers and loudspeakers is the same, regardless of if humans are listening to it or not.

    Yes. Mine is playing in the other room. I can’t hear it but I still hear it because the sound is real.

    And I am not talking only about humans. As long as the sound is perceived it has an empirical existence. Sound or noise as absolute is not sound or noise as I, a rational person with a prodigious aptitude for philosophy, who has acquired the rare capacity of seeing the extraordinary difficulty and complexity of philosophical problems, can comprehend or conceive of.

    Sorry, I grow weary of the inability of very intelligent people such as yourself to even appreciate the argument. Disagree, but appreciate first. I’ll try to do the same. Phil, I read your art

    The regularities that physicists observe, and the high pragmatic value of the theories they construct using the idea of an electron, are consistent with the suggestion that what we observe when we measure the properties of an electron is just how it behaves phenomenally.

    Indeed, wave-particle duality, under which electrons and other subatomic particles behave as waves or as particles depending on what experimental mode is used, does not increase our confidence that we know there is something material there. [Author unknown]

    Phil, I read the discussion:

    …Our results show whether the qubit behaves as a wave or as a particle depends not only on the configuration of the measuring device, which can be chosen even after the qubit has been detected, but also on whether one a posteriori erases or marks the which-path information, unambiguously demonstrating that the wave- or particle-like behavior of a quantum system is not a reality.

    I, being a man of great humility, am obliged to say that I cannot understand this or how it relates to this issue, which, as you correctly observed, I approach from a psychological (as well as a philosophical) angle. I wish I could. I have no rebuttal or reply. My lopsided education must be frustrating to you, my friend. You as an educator by nature must get frustrated at times. That goes for you too, Alan. But I too get frustrated, as I noted above.

    Cheers

  83. P.S. A machine can hear? Maybe so. But if there is no machine (Artificial Intelligence) to “hear” the sound, the sound is not heard. This argument applies to machines that “hear”, to anything that hears.

  84. “Phil, I read your art[icle]”

    That was an error. I meant to write: “I read the discussion” and did, but forgot to delete that (above).

    “…problems, can comprehend or conceive of it.” Forgot the word “it”.

    What do you think of the remarks I posted about electrons and wave-particles?

    As for your article which included this: “…unambiguously demonstrating that the wave- or particle-like behavior of a quantum system is not a reality…” I couldn’t, as I said, comprehend it or decide if this statement supports my thesis or not. I also wonder if the author understands the difference between empirical and absolute reality. I would say that the quantum system is very much a reality.

    Alan,

    Ultrasound. No comment.

    In the absence of mechanically vibrating molecules or atoms, there is no sound!

    In the absence of perception there IS sound as you define it but nothing heard. You think this is semantics?

    … thunder claps, an observer, at a distance, does not hear the sound vibrations until several seconds after they are generated.

    This supports the known fact that sounds are indeed “vibrations” that are transmitted, that travel; and it supports my general argument that our judgment will fail us if we rely upon the senses as we seek to understand the phenomenal world. The earth appears flat, the sun appears to revolve around the earth. (Kant’s critical idealism has been referred to as the Copernican revolution in philosophy.) The sound of thunder appears to come after the “sound” is generated. (Yes, the quotes are needed.) All of that reinforces one of the basic tenets of Schopenhauer’s philosophy: sensations are subjective.

    OCD is acting up a bit. (This is no doubt Trump’s fault.) I will take a day or two off from the site and the news. I will read your article in its entirety, Phil, and with the help of a good encyclopedia, try to “master” it.

    Sorry I used the Daily Mail as a source; I stumbled upon that article, and it was the message, not the messenger, that got my attention. So the article was rubbish?

  85. The regularities that physicists observe, and the high pragmatic value of the theories they construct using the idea of an electron, are consistent with the suggestion that what we observe when we measure the properties of an electron is just how it behaves phenomenally.

    Indeed, wave-particle duality, under which electrons and other subatomic particles behave as waves or as particles depending on what experimental mode is used, does not increase our confidence that we know there is something material there. (Author unknown)

    Found two more that I liked. How much merit these statements have I cannot say for sure:

    Surely physics shows that real objects back our perceptions. Yet this is just what it does not do. We are told in excellent and useful detail what an electron will do under various circumstances; this does not address what it is. Physicists indeed do not attempt this: they do not address the question of what it is beyond what it does. They would regard any attempt to do so as mysticism.

    […]

    There is even the possibility posited by physicists as serious as Richard Feynman in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that there is only one electron; this underlying unity would surely appeal to Schopenhauer and is suggestive of the unity of the will. (Author unknown)

  86. Dan,

    We are told in excellent and useful detail what an electron will do under various circumstances; this does not address what it is.

    This, right here, I want you to notice. This is the gulf between Mastery (copyright Phil Rimmer) and Understanding (ditto).

    You must accept that an electron will never have the easy familiarity of a stone. You understand stones…. well actually when you look deep enough you’ll start to find you don’t. I have a little more understanding of an electron than you but it runs out fairly quickly. I have a rather better Mastery of it because I can often predict what it may do under this or that circumstance. I know that falling to earth they will spiral weakly with certain trajectories when falling in towards a magnetic pole.

    I was introduced to electrons at age seven watching Bright Emitter (very early) Radio Valves (Tubes). My dad had me imagine these tiny things (electrons), that were the essence of electricity, being boiled off the metal of the glowing hot tungsten wire. They were drawn to a plate nearby because of an applied electric field, sort of like gravity. The hot wire was in some way put higher than the plate so the electrons would fall onto the plate. The plate was too cold to make electrons and the ones that it receives won’t go back to the hot wire any more than a stone will fall upwards. Electrons will flow only one way in the diode valve. Wires carry more electrons to the hot wire and the surplus at the plate are conducted away. Swapping the wires around so now the plate is made “higher” than the hot wire will not cause any electrons to flow because the plate has not boiled any off because it is cold.

    Earlier my dad had explained how electricity flow was just like water in pipes of different thicknesses being pumped around in closed circuits going more easily through fat pipes and that voltage was identical to the pressure the pump produced and with more of it more water/electrons would flow . Later I learned of electric fields (a bit like gravity but like magnets able to push as well as pull remotely) and how fields worked like springs and elastic bands.

    From these metaphorical accounts I developed a sense of familiarity for electrons even though I had no idea what an electron really was. (Just like stones, though I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know for long enough that I didn’t really know). My Mastery of electrons was achieved by mastering all (well some) of the mathematics that model their behaviours in this and that circumstance even the maths that says how likely they are to be here rather than there. Our feeling of Understanding is essentially a feeling of familiarity posited on metaphor. Keep asking enough But Why questions about a stone and you will find familiarity leaking away. You will encounter processes that are increasingly without metaphorical counterparts in the real world (our middling sized experience of our spacetime). Scientists will forge on ahead Mastering the mathematics.

    Mathematics is the ultimate metaphor, seemingly able to describe all processes encountered so far in some identical mathematical process. This is also an ultimate chilly abstraction. For the big brains, that inhabit its utterly experience-free domain, there is a familiarity of sorts, but only a personal familiarity. None that you and I can really share.

    Re the linked paper I wanted you to notice the very, very specific (tiny scaled) scope of the enterprise. None of the nonsense speculation dragged in by the paper. You don’t need to grasp anything other than that.

  87. Dan #90
    Jul 24, 2017 at 1:46 am

    Alan,

    Ultrasound. No comment.

    Why? It totally refutes your conflated claims that sound is dependent on hearing and the circular restricted definition of “hearing = sound” and that “sound” is separate from vibrations!

    In the absence of mechanically vibrating molecules or atoms, there is no sound!

    In the absence of perception there IS sound as you define it but nothing heard.
    You think this is semantics?

    Yes!
    Defining sound as “what is heard” – IS semantics, NOT empirical observation of the physical attributes of “sound” throughout the environment!

    … thunder claps, an observer, at a distance, does not hear the sound vibrations until several seconds after they are generated.

    This supports the known fact that sounds are indeed “vibrations” that are transmitted, that travel;

    We can count the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder-clap, and accurately tell the distance at which that event happened. – because of the near instantaneous speed of light, and the known speed of sound in the atmosphere.
    {Wiki – the speed of sound is 343 metres per second (1,125 ft/s; 1,235 km/h; 767 mph; 667 kn), or a kilometre in 2.91 seconds, or a mile in 4.69 seconds.}

    and it supports my general argument that our judgement will fail us if we rely upon the senses as we seek to understand the phenomenal world.

    It does not support your argument at all!
    In this instance our senses give adequately accurate information, – relevant to our safety!

    So the article was rubbish?

    Yes as Phil explained, – conflating subatomic scale physics with the mechanical properties of molecules on a human scale, indicates a total lack of understanding!

    Dan #90
    Jul 24, 2017 at 1:46 am

    As for your article which included this: “…unambiguously demonstrating that the wave- or particle-like behavior of a quantum system is not a reality

    This article is on photons and light waves.
    It has NOTHING to do with sound waves.

    Sound waves start with an energy input (such as a hammer blow or a drum beat). This causes vibrations (rhythmical pressure waves) in the material impacted (such as an anvil or drum).
    These vibrations rhythmically hit the air molecules next to the object, and transmit the vibrations through the air.
    The speed of the vibrations (ie. how frequently the the vibrations move back and forward) is given as the “frequency” in vibrations per second.
    The wave-length is the length of the wave (As with fretted guitar strings – with longer waves having lower frequencies and lower notes).

    http://pages.mtu.edu/~suits/notefreqs.html

    The vibrations (pressure waves) move through the air to the microphone, ear, or other sensing device, where in the case of the microphone they pass the vibrations to a ribbon or a thin metal disk.
    In the case of the ear, the vibrations are passed to the ear-drum.

    In the microphone, the vibrating metal is in a magnetic field, so this generates and electrical signal.

    In the ear, the the vibrations are passed from the ear-drum, through the tiny bones of the middle ear to the inner ear where the vibrations are converted into electrical nerve signals by hair-cells in the cochlear – as explained @#87.

    A cochlear implant can also convert vibrations into electrical signals, which can stimulate the nerves and give a profoundly deaf person hearing!

    http://www.bcig.org.uk/assessed/faqs/

    the auditory nerve may still potentially function even in cases of nerve deafness; in most cases the auditory nerve is intact (or partially functional), but the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged or destroyed.
    Normally, when sound waves reach the ear they are converted into electric currents by tiny sensory hair cells.
    The auditory nerve responds to the electric current and passes it on to the brain. We experience this as “hearing”.
    If the hair cells are damaged, there is no mechanism to convert the sound waves into electric currents, and without electric current the nerve is not stimulated.

    The cochlear implant conveys weak electric stimuli to the vicinity of the auditory nerve.
    The electric stimulus activates the nerve, which then transmits a signal to the brain.
    The brain recognizes this signal and we experience this as “hearing”.
    The cochlear implant has the same function as the hair cells, in that it transforms sound into an electric current that stimulates the auditory nerve.

    Nevertheless, the result is not the same as normal hearing.

    The interpretation of electrical signals in the brain, and sensitivity of ears to particular frequencies, varies from individual to individual, giving differing subjective perceptions and emotional reactions.
    These should not be conflated with the universal features of the physical sound its self!

  88. Dan,

    Please don’t try and read the paper. You will get little from it apart from a headache. It would take me weeks to get anything much from it.

    But apart from noting its lack of implications about the world of our common experience, it shows us we haven’t mastered quantum systems if we use the ideas of waves or particles internal to those systems.

  89. Alan and Phil

    Thank you both. I read all the comments.

    I get the distinction you make between mastery and understanding (your intellectual property), Phil. Can one go too far in the process of mastering, say, sound, and lose sight of a vital element of its existence in the process, that it is a perception? (You’re right; that paper is impossible for me to understand. I think I got what you wanted me to get…I think…)

    Alan, you have clearly demonstrated that sound does have a physical existence apart from it being heard. Ultrasound proves that.

    Phil’s article was not about sound waves. True. That’s why I prefaced certain comments by addressing the two of you by name. I may have forgotten to do that here and there.

    “…our judgement will fail us if we rely upon the senses as we seek to understand the phenomenal world.”

    The above statement is correct and I stand by it. Let me rephrase that. We judge, based on our senses, that the sound of thunder or a cannonball fired from a cannon seen from a distance comes into existence some time after we see the lightning or see the cannon fired; and that indicates that sound travels at a slower speed than light. But if we know nothing of these discoveries and are situated in one spot and then assume that everyone else within hearing distance – although some are closer and others are further away – must hear the cannon the way we do, say, .5 seconds afterwords, then that would be an error in what strikes us as a reasonable judgment based on reliance of the unerring senses of one’s own person. The same with the earth and the sun. Science can (now) explain why the sun appears to revolve around us. It is correct to say that it appears to me to be the case that it does, incorrect to say that it therefore cannot be otherwise…. Our senses tell us that a rock is small or shiny and we may set about to investigate the size of the stone and its surface texture and in the process lose sight of the subjective aspect of the initial judgment: “this is small and shiny. Those must be qualities inherent in the rock.” Et cetera.

    The judgement errs; the senses per se do not. The senses are indispensable tools but are highly deceptive; what appears to be and what IS are often confused – and one can easily and erroneously assume that something is objectively real and universally true if one is not vigilant and ever skeptical when dealing with the raw, unfiltered data of one’s own subject’s senses.

    A very basic point. Banal.

    I am embarrassed by my exchange with you on this thread and have grown tired of the sound of my own voice.

  90. Dan #96
    Jul 24, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Embarrassed because I express myself so poorly and by the knowledge that I lack of so many things.

    But you bring out some very informative and valid points for other readers of the discussion, who may well learn from the links alongside you!

  91. Human language is imprecise. Otherwise, clerics, politicians and managers (who have an immense amount of overlap – and whom did I forget? Ah, journalists, bloggers, … WHOA! advertisers, other propagandists!!! …) would be in very hot water. Might never have developed as occupations in human society? We could agree that the word “sound” means molecular vibrations that can be heard (perceived), by whom- or whatsoever. Matter of agreeing on a definition.

    I have tinnitus, had it for decades. I hear (more than one) more or less high-pitched sound. Molecular vibrations? Nothing external, certainly, and nothing anyone else can hear unaided (there may by now be diagnostic equipment that picks up the neural activity that causes tinnitus, a malfunction of such neural activity – foggy memory). So I can say “sound that I hear” includes something outside of molecular vibrations. A far more serious case is one aspect of schizophrenia (massively and wrongly confused with “split personality” or “multiple personality disorder”), the hearing of voices. While tinnitus may be the auditory nerve having gone haywire and transferring information to the brain that actually does not exist externally, as far as I know schizophrenia exists entirely within the brain. That would mean that “sound that someone hears” (perceives, i.e. the brain interprets as such) suddenly has an area with no overlap with molecular vibrations. Since others cannot hear what the affected person perceives as sound-that-they-hear, this seems to lead to disagreements – you might not consider my tinnitus sound …

    On a more general level, perhaps because I have recently re-read some books by Swiss theologian Hans Küng, I think I perceive a residue of theism in Schopenhauer (and also very much so Nietzsche). Not to be overly wondered at with their having been born in the 19th century. As we are safe to assume that the vast majority of Europeans and their descendants in the New World were racists in the 19th century, how much more would they (and masses of non-Europeans too) have been speciesists. Very much that old dull fairy tale in Genesis about the Garden Eden, there being this huge divide between us and the rest of the living world. Just can’t let go of that Linus-security-blanket (and still got our thumbs in our mouths?) that we are so special, because …

  92. Dan,

    You are the person I gain most from debating. I learn more and have to think through my core ideas far more talking with you. Besides, agreeing is an utter bore.

    I would love all to use Mastery and Understanding in the way that I do. I capitalise them and mark them as mine only to acknowledge that it is a restricted meaning that I intend, especially for Understanding. Most folk use this term for both sorts of knowing and don’t notice its two components.

    Grumpy,

    I think I perceive a residue of theism in Schopenhauer (and also very much so Nietzsche).

    Me too. I often complain that Victorian era philosophers were hamstrung by a vocabulary and set of conceptual models that they inherited from theologists.

    I too am a tinnitus sufferer, much like you in symptoms. In the book Hallucinations that Sue Blue noted a few days ago in the ghost thread, Oliver Sacks points out that hallucinations like tinnitus arise in the brain when there is a deficit, a gap that needs filling. My high frequency hearing, that used to be exceptional, fell off rather after working on sound equipment of dangerous loudness. The whistles fill the space.

    My own theory for why the brain does that, is that unused neurons are pruned out of existence fairly smartly because of an ancient process of use it or lose it. Maintaining functionless brain circuits is energy expensive and we have spent most of our fishy, reptilian and mammal lives on the edge of starvation. However we can lose our senses temporarily through disease or injury. A blow to the head and internal swelling can deprive us of sight for a period. Having the antique process of apoptosis (programmed cell death) start to dismantle the rest of the visual processing channel could be very costly. Our investment in astonishing senses now makes it rational to not be too quick to pull the plug. When the channel loses its signal our brain puts up a test card to keep it healthy for a while.

  93. Phil, GrumpyK

    Thank you, Phil.

    Not a trace of theism in Schopenhauer, in my opinion. The thing-in-itself cannot possibly be god, as it is completely devoid of intellect or any other characteristic that one might associate with a god. Schopenhauer did extend his idea of the Will as a unifying principle to the realm of magic and the occult in some of his later speculative essays, but that is not to be confused with theism.

    Nietzsche contradicted himself and had no fixed system. He employed poetry and allegory from time to time, and he did refer to the spiritualizing of man, which could mean any number of things; but aside from and beyond that there is nothing there that suggests theism that I can see. His discussion of certain principles of art, as embodied by Dionysos and Apollo, should not be interpreted as religious in nature.

    Schopenhauer and Nietzsche had a great many valuable things to say. They are worth studying.

  94. Dan #101
    For what it’s worth, from the Wikipedia article on Schopenhauer under the heading “Ethics”:
    “[Schopenhauer] believed … in the unity of all with one-self.”
    That smacks of Panentheism to me, albeit reversed and possibly without the “divine”.
    And I’m not convinced that the “Will” is free of all theistic residues.
    Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” comes to mind.

  95. The will is not the unmoved mover. Schopenhauer rejected that nonsense, the idea of a knowable first cause, which is every bit as self-contradictory as it sounds.

    Schopenhauer’s will cannot be adequately appreciated or understood unless one has read his chief work (in two volumes) from beginning to end multiple times over the course of decades. The will is a comprehensive term and its meaning extends beyond conscious willing or motives.

    The unperceived will has no consciousness and no purpose other than to ceaselessly strive – without end or aim. It is a uniting principle, is in everything – “from the magnet and the crystal up to man” – but it is not pantheism

    It is remarkable this his system holds up so well across disparate fields and extended periods. I see agreement with Freud (who “stumbled upon the shores of Schopenhauer’s philosophy” in his great work Beyond the Pleasure Principle (the death instinct), with Darwin (antagonism and the perpetual competition by forms of organic life over matter as manifestations of the “inner variance of the will with itself” ), and modern physics (perhaps), whereas others see traces of religious influence.

    Schopenhauer’s essays, the ones which appear in his work Parerga and Paralipomena, are among the finest essays ever written.

  96. From Wiki: “He believed, like Swami Vivekananda in the unity of all with one-self and also believed that ego is the origin of pain and conflicts, that reduction of ego frames the moral principles.”

    Bullshit. This was not written by someone who knows what he’s writing about. The ego is not the origin of pain. Suffering, for S., is bound up with Existence itself. It is true that the cessation of willing would result in a return to Non-existence, our original state, which is preferable to existence; but the ego, which animals do not have, suffer as well, and this is not the true source of our suffering. It may play a role in its continuation along with the affirmation of the will-to-live, a powerful instinct.

    The unity of all with oneself sounds like bullshit, watered down eastern deepity a la Chopra.

  97. Dan #96
    Jul 24, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Embarrassed because I express myself so poorly and by the knowledge that I lack of so many things.

    You should not be!
    We are all ignorant (including some of the greatest minds in history) of much the potential knowledge of the universe.

    In a scientific discussion, the “winners”, are those who reduce their ignorance by considering evidenced information, correcting their mistakes and misconceptions, discarding erroneous views, and sharing supported knowledge with others, to jointly come to the correct conclusions which function in the real world.

    This is in sharp contrast to “faith”, where the proclaimed “winners of a debate”, are those whose asserted preconceptions are accepted by the greatest number of other people!
    That is why propagandists and proselytisers, LOVE faith-thinkers, and hate objective rationalist critics.

  98. Dan #104 that’s why I commented “for what it’s worth.” I’ve also found Wikipedia entries which made me shake my head.

    Dan #103
    “The unperceived will has no consciousness and no purpose other than to ceaselessly strive – without end or aim. It is a uniting principle, is in everything – “from the magnet and the crystal up to man” – but it is not pantheism.”

    There’s a difference between pantheism (god is everything or everything is god) and panentheism.
    Substitute “divine” or some analogue for will, and you have panentheism.

    That’s what I meant by residue of (some form of) theism as a broadly inclusive term. Perhaps not even consciously on Schopenhauer’s part, and you may stress that the difference between the “divine” and “will” also differentiates Schopenhauer from theism, which I’m fine with. I’m just not entirely convinced, and for my taste “will is in everything” retains a flavor of vague panentheism.

    You might be surprised how many sub-forms theologians have divided theism into (OK, some of their ancestors were arguing about the numbers of angels who would fit on the head of a pin … rrrrright).

  99. From Schopenhauer’s preface to the first edition of his chief work (Volume 1). He had a horror of dogma and of groundless assertions and tried to the best of his ability to avoid them. He deserves to be called a scientist of thought. His conception of Will is not above criticism. But I do not think it warrants the criticism of being mystical or dogmatic.

    A system of thought must always have an architectonic connection or coherence, that is, a connection in which one part always supports the other, though the latter does not support the former, in which ultimately the foundation supports all the rest without being supported by it, and the apex is supported without supporting. On the other hand, a single thought, however comprehensive it may be, must preserve the most perfect unity. If it admits of being broken up into parts to facilitate its communication, the connection of these parts must yet be organic, i.e., it must be a connection in which every part supports the whole just as much as it is supported by it, a connection in which there is no first and no last, in which the whole thought gains distinctness through every part, and even the smallest part cannot be completely understood unless the whole has already been grasped. A book, however, must always have a first and a last line, and in this respect will always remain very unlike an organism, however like one its content may be: thus form and matter are here in contradiction.

    It is self-evident that under these circumstances no other advice can be given as to how one may enter into the thought explained in this work than to read the book twice, and the first time with great patience, a patience which is only to be derived from the belief, voluntarily accorded, that the beginning presupposes the end almost as much as the end presupposes the beginning, and that all the earlier parts presuppose the later almost as much as the later presuppose the earlier. I say “almost”; for this is by no means absolutely the case, and I have honestly and conscientiously done all that was possible to give priority to that which stands least in need of explanation from what follows, as indeed generally to everything that can help to make the thought as easy to comprehend and as distinct as possible. This might indeed to a certain extent be achieved if it were not that the reader, as is very natural, thinks, as he reads, not merely of what is actually said, but also of its possible consequences, and thus besides the many contradictions actually given of the opinions of the time, and presumably of the reader, there may be added as many more which are anticipated and imaginary. That, then, which is really only misunderstanding, must take the form of active disapproval, and it is all the more difficult to recognise that it is misunderstanding, because although the laboriously-attained clearness of the explanation and distinctness of the expression never leaves the immediate sense of what is said doubtful, it cannot at the same time express its relations to all that remains to be said. Therefore, as we have said, the first perusal demands patience, founded on confidence that on a second perusal much, or all, will appear in an entirely different light. Further, the earnest endeavour to be more completely and even more easily comprehended in the case of a very difficult subject, must justify occasional repetition. Indeed the structure of the whole, which is organic, not a mere chain, makes it necessary sometimes to touch on the same point twice. […]

  100. Re Pantheism and Panentheism / “Will”

    GrumpyK, Alan, others

    That [Schopenhauer’s Will as a unifying principle] smacks of Panentheism to me, albeit reversed and possibly without the “divine”. 102

    The chief objection I have to Pantheism is that it says nothing. To call the world “God” is not to explain it; it is only to enrich our language with a superfluous synonym for the word “world.” It comes to the same thing whether you say “the world is God,” or “God is the world.” But if you start from “God” as something that is given in experience, and has to be explained, and they say, “God is the world,” you are affording what is to some extent an explanation, in so far as you are reducing what is unknown to what is partly known (ignotum per notius); but it is only a verbal explanation. If, however, you start from what is really given, that is to say, from the world, and say, “the world is God,” it is clear that you say nothing, or at least you are explaining what is unknown by what is more unknown.

    Hence, Pantheism presupposes Theism; only in so far as you start from a god, that is, in so far as you possess him as something with which you are already familiar, can you end by identifying him with the world; and your purpose in doing so is to put him out of the way in a decent fashion. In other words, you do not start clear from the world as something that requires explanation; you start from God as something that is given, and not knowing what to do with him, you make the world take over his role. This is the origin of Pantheism. Taking an unprejudiced view of the world as it is, no one would dream of regarding it as a god. It must be a very ill-advised god who knows no better way of diverting himself than by turning into such a world as ours, such a mean, shabby world, there to take the form of innumerable millions who live indeed, but are fretted and tormented, and who manage to exist a while together, only by preying on one another; to bear misery, need and death, without measure and without object, in the form, for instance, of millions of negro slaves, or of the three million weavers in Europe who, in hunger and care, lead a miserable existence in damp rooms or the cheerless halls of a factory. What a pastime this for a god, who must, as such, be used to another mode of existence! […]

    Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume 2, Ch 5

  101. Dan, please stop boring me by running on about pantheism and totally ignoring what I stated about panentheism. I consider all theisms (or deisms or whatever) as pathetic, but I would not venture to say that I have been able to excise all that I was exposed to in childhood about whatever theisms completely without leaving a residue. Our language often betrays us (our childhood), and as per “will is in everything” I remain convinced that this is a residue in Schopenhauer’s thinking.
    eom.

  102. Sorry I bored you, GK.

    Let me just wrap this up from my end.

    I thought that was an excellent refutation of pantheism, one worth reading. I presented it as an illustration of this thinker’s aversion to groundless propositions.

    I was quite aware that you said pan-en-theism. (All IN God.) I have absolutely no doubt that he would have been equally critical of that: “It comes to the same thing whether you say ‘the world is [IN] God,’ or ‘God is [IN] the world.’”

    (You did qualify your statement by saying panentheism “in reverse”. That I ignored but only because I didn’t get it. That might have been a fine point.)

    If something sounds to you like something else that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a “residue” of what it sounds like. Nor does that make it in itself wrong.

    Everything has energy, generates a gravitational field. Everything that moves has force. Everything that lives has cells. Does that make it equatable to panentheism or an unconscious expression of the residue of religious inculcation?

    Why remain convinced? Have you studied him? (I do the same thing. I regard Pinker as a a manipulative writer and I haven’t read him.)

    EOM.

  103. Addendum

    Oh I get it now.

    That smacks of Panentheism to me, albeit reversed and possibly without the “divine”.

    “In reverse” means simple God [Will] in All. Well that point I did address, without my even knowing it:

    “It comes to the same thing whether you say ‘the world is [IN] God,’ or ‘God is [IN] the world.’”

  104. I’m willing to take my lumps from those who have studied the concepts more deeply. As I understand it:

    Pantheism claims an identity of god and world. Everything is god.

    Panentheism claims that god is separate (and transcends) the world, but is somehow within everything in the world without being an actual part of it (scraping for my residue of chemistry here: a catalyst – in biology an enzyme – can massively accelerate a reaction without itself being becoming part of the end product of the reaction). Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Küng (immensely informative about – not just – the Curial Roman church, but invariably failing what I rather diffusely would call the “Dawkins test” in the 17 books of Küng’s that I own and have read – RD simply has not written enough books to compete quantitatively) often refers to his concept of “transcendence within immanence”. He would probably also protest about my grumping (what else?) that this smacks of panentheism (he’s 89 by now, which has slowed him down by his own admission). “The will is in everything.” The will as Ersatz (a word which has entered the English vocabulary, which probably would confuse some of the more moronic parts of our electorate) god, at first glance. Then the will as a blind force. Instincts, then? Not sure this concept had arisen in Schopenhauer’s time. And whatever speciesist and self-misnamed Homo “sapiens” may think, instinct isn’t blind (some species are, but there are plenty of senses where compared to other species we are all but “blind”, never mind senses we do not even have). So what now. Thinking of gasoline now. Hold a lighted match to it and you get a flame – if too much of this volatile liquid has already evaporated you could get a deadly explosion. Explosions, controlled ones, is what drives the engines of our cars … Granted, looking at how some people drive, the will as a blind force does come to mind …

    I’m not saying this applies to Schopenhauer. But there is an issue about arguing from wrong assumptions. The argument can spread itself across a veritable large encyclopedia of tight, severe logical argument – but shit in produces shit out, no matter how good the intervening mechanism is.

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