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RE: RE: Quiet Days

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Posted by Richard Ruquist on May 22, 2000 13:30:11 UTC

First of all we scientists should be more vocal in admitting that although we know a great deal about life and forces, we do not know the first thing about reality.

That is the message of quantum mechanics driven home like a stake through the heart of physics by the Bell theorem. The Bell theorem proves, and the proof is admittedly beyond my understanding, that no hidden variables quantum theory can be correct. In other words, we can never know what fundamental reality is, or if it even exists. The most common understanmding of Bell`s theorem is that there is actually no fundamental reality like the one the Einstein searched for all his life. And Bell`s theorem has been verified by experiment, in particular the famous aspect experiments.

Besides that, if that were not enough, we also have Kurt Goedel`s Incompleteness (or Complexity) theorem in mathematics which says that any arithemetic system more complicated than something like plane geometry has solutions or theorems in it that are correct but that cannot be derived from the axioms of the theory. That essentially means that almost any useful branch of mathematics cannot be rigorous.

And besides that we now learn from astronomers that 99% of the mass of the universe is invisible and undetectable except by inference from its gravitational effects on visible stars. And also that 2/3rds of the energy in the universe is massless.

So as our understanding of life and the forces has multiplied this century, we have also uncovered seemingly hard limits on what we can ever know for sure, and have attained an appreciation that what we may never know is exponentially vaster than what we know.

So numbers and science may not ever give us the whole picture. Nonetheless I agree that we should use numbers and science to ruminate on the vastness of the unknown and make whatever small headway in its possible understanding. The search for understanding must go forth on all fronts.

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