a reply to: delbertlarson
A while ago, I was involved in an email discussion group with several scientists. That email discussion began with one of those scientists posting
this link from wired magazine
One of the scientists made a point that nature at different scales may behave differently than what we humans readily understand from our normal day
to day experience. He also made the point that mathematical models can be very useful, as they can allow predictions for things of value. I responded
with RESPONSE A below. He then responded in support of the multiple universe model, to which I responded with RESPONSE B below. Since all of this is
relevant to the OP, I thought I would share my responses here:
RESPONSE A - A Response to anonymous on the relevance of nature at different scales to realism and to the value of mathematical models
The central point is whether or not we accept an axiom of one underlying physical reality. If so, relativity must go. That's what the results from
Bell's theorem tests tell us. If we allow for multiple underlying physical realities (multiple universe theory), we can keep relativity, but that's
quite a reach, when we can instead just adopt the simpler absolute paradigm and set relativity aside.
Certainly nature at different scales may behave differently, but that doesn't mean that one underlying physical reality no longer exists, it just
means that its laws at small and large scales differ from those of "normal" human experience. A high velocity quantum mechanics postulating an
underlying physical wave that collapses instantaneously is certainly different from "normal" experience, but it still incorporates an underlying
physical model (it incorporates that physical wave).
In an attempt to clarify, an underlying physical model is different from a purely mathematical one in that the physical model is constrained to
include the presumption of real, existing entities. As an example we can think of the moon in Feynman's video clip. It is not just a series of events
of light reaching our eyes that we can mathematically predict will occur at some time in the future. There is an entity that exists that is causing
that light (via reflection from another entity, the sun), and we can assign properties to that entity. In the case of the moon we could even land on
it and take portions of it back home. It is a PHYSICAL THING.
Back in grad school I developed a math trick that was very useful - I'm likely not the first or only one to do it, but I did so independently. I would
look at some data and think what curve fit it somewhat closely, maybe a sine wave, or an exponential, or a cubic function, or whatever. I would then
superimpose that curve on the data and play with the parameters to get a fit. Then I'd subtract that curve from all the data points and get new data
and repeat the process. After several iterations, and twiddling with all the parameters from the fitting curves, I could fit the data extremely well -
to any level of accuracy, just by repeating the process. Often only a few functions were needed and the solution hence looked "elegant". That is a
purely mathematical model. It doesn't give us any insights as to why certain parameters come about, but it does allow for predictions. Now if we
postulate objective PHYSICAL THINGS that cause those parameters, that would return us to a physical model, and that could likely give us considerably
more insight than the math alone, provided there really is a physical reality and we are getting close to physically modeling it.
And also, a paragraph about a problem. The view of PHYSICAL THINGS predates modern physics, and it is a view that common man typically has before
being educated out of it. Proponents of the Hume-Mach-Einstein view typically feel they have an advanced notion of things, and that notion leads to a
feeling of superiority. The Hume-Mach-Einstein view is not as easy to grasp as the PHYSICAL THINGS view, so one can understand how there is that
feeling of superiority. The theories of our time embrace the Hume-Mach-Einstein view, and hence to advance in theoretical physics these days one must
master that, and this then leads to a rather daunting selection bias as to which ideas even get to be considered. When one presents theories with a
view of PHYSICAL THINGS, expert reviewers, who have been selected as a result of the bias, dismiss such works as those of a novice. Media go to the
same expert reviewers, and theories with a view of PHYSICAL THINGS die without being heard. Wikipedia deletes such articles. The censorship is quite
thorough and effective.
There has been a view expressed in modern physics that nature may be too deep for human understanding and so we should free ourselves from physical
models. That view is that maybe we are just incapable of figuring things out, or maybe nature is so wonderful that PHYSICAL THINGS don't exist in a
way humans can understand them at some point. But the mathematical modeling is also done by human brains. We may be deceiving ourselves in thinking
that the freedom from physical models is allowing us to advance faster. If indeed there is an underlying, physical, objective reality of PHYSICAL
THINGS, then rather than freedom it is simply folly to pursue models that don't tie back to those PHYSICAL THINGS, since they are what we should be
seeking the knowledge of. Because once we achieve that knowledge it will be more powerful - since it would then be knowledge of how things really are,
rather than just formulaic happenstance that works for a while.
edit on 26-8-2018 by delbertlarson because: Additional clarity in title of Response A