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Posted by Harvey on October 18, 2002 03:55:24 UTC


***In fact, in most cases, the maps have been proven faulty. Gravity is proportional to the product of the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. This is still a profoundly beautiful relationship that works well enough that it lets us reach the moon, or to predict where the moon will be at any moment for millennia. For two centuries Newton's gravity seemed perfect. But it was a faulty map.***

Faulty, I agree. However, my precise question is whether the 'map' is purely human-constructed, or do we discover the map. Does the inverse square law exist as an approximation to something that is true (eg, the result of some logical or mathematical requirement)? The other possibility is that we just seeing relationships (maps) that aren't really there. For example, children often look at the clouds and see faces and other commonly recognizable things, is that what our 'maps' are?

***We perceive only our perceptions directly.***

If you ever get a chance to read J.L.Austin's lectures of Sense and Sensibilia (Oxford University Press, reprint 1969), then this might open your mind to the possibility that we directly perceive the world. Some of the logic behind this argument lies in the fact that the word 'indirect' is not applicable with regard to our experiences of the world. I first came across this work from reading Hilary Putnam.

***But why does physics work? If there is a God, ask Him. I simply assume that He does not lie, and that He has made a set of laws that we approach ever more closely through trial and error and endless iterations.***

Trial and error - I agree. However, I can't ignore that as physics progresses that our theories are becoming more general and are encompassing the prior theories in a different language without being necessarily contradictory to the language of the prior theories. Kepler's gravitational theory was engulfed by Newton's theory, Newton's theory was engulfed by Einstein's special theory of relativity, Einstein's SR was engulfed by his GR theory, and it appears that GR will eventually be engulfed by some quantum theory of gravity someday. I realize it is not quite that simplistic, but it seems to me that there is inherent order to this 'chaos'.

Warm regards, Harv

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