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understanding the universe

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libertygrl
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Posted 03/13/09 - 3:26 PM:
Subject: understanding the universe
do you think we will ever reach a point in which the universe is completely understood?

if so, how so?

if not, why not?

thanks for sharing your thoughts.

smiling facelib
happycynic
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Posted 03/13/09 - 4:33 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
do you think we will ever reach a point in which the universe is completely understood?


i doubt as humans we'll ever even agree on what that means. douglas adams tackled this in his question of life, the universe, and everything, and even posited through his characters that you can't have both the answer and the question. i don't take that as gospel, rather if we have the answer "42," we still don't have the question-

the interesting thing is that i wasn't thinking of the hitchhiker's trilogy when it was mentioned. i simply set out to say "i don't think we'll ever even agree on the question..."

and then the moment i was about to type it, i thought "oh right, deep thought..."

following that theme, it's also possible we already understand the answer, (our version of "42,") but we don't realize it because it's meaningless without the question we don't have. in all seriousness though, the question reminds me of the following conversation: "can god do anything?" "yes, he's omnipotent." "so can he make a square circle?" "okay, let's rephrase that, he can do anything within the confines of reason. a square circle is nonsensical." i'm not saying i think the question is nonsensical, but i find it suspect. it's the kind of question i would ask myself, but perhaps it's another question where you can have the question, or have the answer. i really don't know, and that is perhaps an answer in and of itself, or some of one.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/13/09 - 4:47 PM:

a cylinder whose length equals its diameter is a square circle. (depends on your perspective of course, but isn't it so with everything...)

HC wrote:
it's also possible we already understand the answer, (our version of "42,") but we don't realize it because it's meaningless without the question we don't have

i think this is along the lines of my train of thought. what does it mean to realize things we already understand? is it a physiological process, do you suppose?

(these questions i'm asking myself too)
happycynic
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Posted 03/13/09 - 6:49 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
a cylinder whose length equals its diameter is a square circle. (depends on your perspective of course, but isn't it so with everything...)


very clever. if that's not enough, a fellow named "yahweh" just joined the forums.

libertygrl wrote:
what does it mean to realize things we already understand? is it a physiological process, do you suppose?


no, i think it's still part of the intellectual process, like the shift from theoretical to practical thinking, or the shift from potential to "actual" thinking. or you could be right, it could be the shift from subconscious to conscious thinking, and perhaps that is physiological.
smokinpristiformis
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Posted 03/14/09 - 3:37 AM:

There's a theoretical law saying that if the universe is deterministic (which it isn't, according to quantum physics), it can only be predicted/modeled by something even more complex than the universe itself.
So even if we happen to reach (assuming that this is possible) the point where there are a number of people whose level of understanding, when put together, can explain the entirety of the mechanisms and laws of the universe. Even then, we will not be able to explain everything that happens because we simply don't have the capacity to take every factor into account.
Nihil Loc
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Posted 03/14/09 - 8:33 PM:

lib wrote:
do you think we will ever reach a point in which the universe is completely understood?

if so, how so?

if not, why not?

thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Ahhhhh!

My brain can't handle this.

Perhaps the knowable world is limited by the utility of knowing it.
happycynic
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Posted 03/15/09 - 12:17 AM:

smokinpristiformis wrote:
even if we happen to reach (assuming that this is possible) the point where there are a number of people whose level of understanding, when put together, can explain the entirety of the mechanisms and laws of the universe. Even then, we will not be able to explain everything that happens because we simply don't have the capacity to take every factor into account.


i like to believe this, but i couldn't begin to prove it. there are about 5 iterations of this here: http://www.thecouchforum.com/comments.php?id=1238 and in fact, you just perfectly summarized the idea i was trying to convey. actually i shouldn't even use the word summarize- i wasn't trying to say more than you did in this quote.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/18/09 - 10:56 AM:

Nihil Loc wrote:


Ahhhhh!

My brain can't handle this.

Perhaps the knowable world is limited by the utility of knowing it.

perhaps so... perhaps not? maybe there isn't any "extra" piece to the equation that we're missing somehow, maybe beyondness is a red herring.

it's a little heavy on my brain too.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/18/09 - 10:56 AM:

HC wrote:
i like to believe this, but i couldn't begin to prove it.

but this theory can only be true in a deterministic universe(?):

smoki wrote:
There's a theoretical law saying that if the universe is deterministic (which it isn't, according to quantum physics), it can only be predicted/modeled by something even more complex than the universe itself.

determinism anyone?
Monk2400
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Posted 03/18/09 - 11:45 AM:

smokinpristiformis wrote:
There's a theoretical law saying that if the universe is deterministic (which it isn't, according to quantum physics), it can only be predicted/modeled by something even more complex than the universe itself.
So even if we happen to reach (assuming that this is possible) the point where there are a number of people whose level of understanding, when put together, can explain the entirety of the mechanisms and laws of the universe. Even then, we will not be able to explain everything that happens because we simply don't have the capacity to take every factor into account.


OTOH, why shouldn't we think that a full explanation of the universe will be perfectly simple? This is always the trend. Complex phenomena are resolved into simple formulae. Its more likely that there is a finite and knowable number of laws that govern all activities processes in the manifest universe.

Of course, being able to explain phenomena and being able to accurately model and predict, say, whether life will form on X planet in the super-far-away galaxy, are two different things.

But, if there were only a finite number of laws, then the universe could be simulated. The omega point theory, for instance, suggests that intelligence will ultimately fill the universe and thence reproduce itself in virtual reality. Which means that while 'we' might not be able to ever know/model/predict the full universe, the universe itself will, in time.

And then we come back to philosophy, and ask the question of being and essence, consciousness and object. So really, the question of whether the universe can be known is really a question of whether consciousness can know itself.

8)
happycynic
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Posted 03/18/09 - 1:56 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

but this theory can only be true in a deterministic universe(?):


i think it would be even more true in a universe where there are events that cannot be traced to a cause... nevermind that, in a deterministic universe we have no control and no free will, in a non-deterministic universe, we have less control, right? i don't care. if you think beyondness could be a red herring, (i agree it could be, but i don't know) then i think determinism could be a giant pile of doo.
libertygrl
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Posted 03/18/09 - 3:40 PM:

M2 wrote:
Which means that while 'we' might not be able to ever know/model/predict the full universe, the universe itself will, in time.

for what it's worth, i think it will, and does

HC wrote:
if you think beyondness could be a red herring, (i agree it could be, but i don't know) then i think determinism could be a giant pile of doo.

ha, could be
libertygrl
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Posted 03/18/09 - 4:22 PM:

in order for a universe to not be deterministic, does something have to be unknowable?

does knowing = control?

does knowing everything = absolute control?

or none at all?

food for thought.
happycynic
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Posted 03/18/09 - 4:35 PM:

knowing and control are related, but i don't think they are interchangeable.

it depends how you frame the question. if your cylinder really is a "square circle" then knowing and control are interchangeable.

if it's not a square circle because a it's 3d and a circle is 2d, then they're not interchangeable (is a sphere a 3d circle? oh maybe...)

you could say that even if you know "everything," you could know there's something you can't do. thus knowing and control are different. or you could say that if you really know "everything" you'd know how to control everything. thus knowing and control are interchangeable.

i think it's impossible to know if we can control everything or not, therefore you could be right, but not necessarily. i don't think things have to be unknowable for a universe not to be deterministic, but i think it helps. the best evidence we have right now that the universe is not deterministic is quantum mechanics, but is it the only evidence?
praxis
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Posted 03/19/09 - 12:16 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

maybe there isn't any "extra" piece to the equation that we're missing somehow, maybe beyondness is a red herring.

In the absence of utility there are no extra pieces or red herrings.
Nihil Loc
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Posted 03/19/09 - 11:05 PM:

I'll admit that when the question is asked the thought of an omniscient and omnipresent being is evoked -- also infinity.

I'd like to think that knowledge requires storage capacity and that because storage capacity, or memory, isn't free and is limited by the desirability of knowing , that knowing everything would overload the system or the subject that knows. Knowing one thing rather than another would necessarily be constrained by the value of it (knowing what is true rather than what is false). A scientific type of knowing supported by empirical evidence is merely a kind of knowing but one we hold worthy because of its utility.

Is it sometimes the case that knowing and understanding need not be part of a conscious state? We may all agree that a baby in the womb knows nothing about the world. That process of being born however is a necessary prerequisite to knowing. All of the physiological baggage of our being serves as an obvious foundation for knowing, just as computer hardware is necessary to run an operating system. This just settles the idea that whatever houses the information for complete understanding can only ever hope for a theory (or function) which promises complete knowledge when it chooses to focus upon an unknown. In other words-- I want to know and understand because I don't know and understand, or I intuit a truth which needs to validated by facts yet to be known.

Some objects of knowing, ex. knowing how to ride a bike, to weave a basket, to divide and multiply, can in theory be preformed by machines.
Let us imagine an android that is indistinguishable from an average human being in appearance and conduct. Do we concede the machine is capable of knowing, and if so does that in any way redefine or challenge the status and value of human understanding or relativity of knowledge in general.

Lib's question intersects with other philosophical problems of free will, consciousness and artificial intelligence.

Edited by Nihil Loc on 03/20/09 - 6:00 PM
happycynic
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Posted 03/20/09 - 12:28 AM:

there is one possibility that i can imagine for the world to know everything and you could from that point decide if it could also control everything.

as the mystic, imagine that instead of a mind-body you transformed the mind-body into a mind-mind. nevermind if this is possible to do for a moment, let's just say hypothetically that the fate of every particle in the universe... if there is a particle so tiny that there is not a subcomponent... everytime we look at one we find inside, but let's hypothesize a universal particle called a matecogon, that these comprise not only quarks and leptons, but all forms of energy are made of matecogons.

arranged in certain ways, matecogons are unconscious of any dimensions and flipped 180 degrees they're conscious of multiple dimensions. but the cool thing is that flipped unconscious, they form the stuff of spacetime, of matter-energy, and flipped conscious they form the fabric of all the dimensions, of the probability of all quantum states. our scientists think that it's the "act" of observing that causes quantum wave functions to become particles, but after they find these metacogons, they learn it's actually the fact that only some of our matecogons are flipped that we're "incompatible" with quantum wave functions. if we could become pure ideas (sort of like batman) we would be flipped into beings of pure conciousness, or beings made purely or more purely (we mistake them for gods and angels) of conscious-flipped matecogons- they are more purely mind-mind, we are mind body. we see mind-body states (a singler particle state) and they see multiple wave states- hence, shrodinger was always (but only) half right!

but we cannot be 100% conscious of mind-body because we are mind-body, and the body is not conscious, "only" the mind. the brain interfaces between the matter-flipped body matecogons and the conscious-flipped mind matecogons... rendering us unentirely conscious of ourself, mind-body. if it was the "fate" (loosely used term) of the human race, of life, of the universe to flip the rest of our matecogons conscious, we'd become mind-mind beings of pure consciousness, like the angels or gods.

but since the fabric of spacetime is made of matter-flipped matecogons, eventually as the mind-body nature of the universe flipped to mind-mind nature, the "stuff" of separation, of space itself would dissolve into a universe of pure consciousness. if everything was made of idea, there would never be a "body" of universe outside, observed by the "brain" of universe. you'd have a consciousness as infinate as what it was conscious off, the universe would be one thing of nothing but mind, and it would know everything about itself. then it would be possible to know everything, and everything would be connected by consciousness instead of matter. the universe would be purely (classically) idealist, and the word "practical" would have no more meaning than the word "ideal" has now.
Nihil Loc
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Posted 03/23/09 - 8:18 PM:

kooky

Perhaps some particle can be likened to a orchestra conductor that turns on one wave pattern over another and so projects or enforces a subtle order. The local universe jumps to tune. Whenever we observe we are subsumed within a wave itself of some temporary axiomatic ordering particle. In this way we could be shifting in and out of parallel universes all the time. The ensemble of knowing could be a musical beat.

Maybe in a not too distant but absolute sense, being one thing and not another is the same as observing one thing and not another.

But nothing is so very static or simple it seems.
vijay077
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Posted 04/01/09 - 7:33 AM:

The human is yet to understood fully, the animals, the plants etc all still have something mystic left in them, not understood by men.

whenever the infinite becomes finite, surely it willbe underrstood and sooner completely.

If understanding earth means it consists of living and non living beings along with minerals, water , gases and thats about it, then we have understood universe also long back.

Well we don't even know what happens in our own mind, many times.

Many times i feel that a complete understanding will be the end of everything and not a beginning of anything.






Xanthos
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Posted 04/03/09 - 9:08 AM:

do you think we will ever reach a point in which the universe is completely understood?


The most comprehensive 'explanations' seem to come via the direct existence of the thing istelf, not the verbal labels we assign to those things. If we want to know what eating one's breakfast is, then the best way to understand it is to eat breakfast; not listen to someone explain it (and even if that 'person' is our internal dialogue remembering the event).

So what about the universe? How are we to know it? - This thing we place in our petri dish to examine appears to be separate from ourselves, but of course it is not.

We are the universe in the sense that we have within us the dynamic 'resonance' of frequencies left over from the big bang, as much as every other thing composed of matter does - we have the same energetic 'signature' as all other physical objects; and I mean that in the most non-mystical sense. If we manage to witness that common signature, then we witness the homogeneity of the universe.

Unfortunately, it seems the witnessed homogeneity of the universe is not something which can be explained through words - it is too complex - it is everything after all! - and yet it can be felt. The old cliche of trying to describe colours to a blind man comes to mind - we can only use verbal analogy most effectively, and yet this method is only a hint at the grandeur and awe of the experience.

I have not felt the complete 'oneness' of the universe within me; but I do believe that it is possible, and that many humans have managed to experience that in the past.

This idea of cause and effect - that there can be a sequence of discrete events or spaces which begin at some abrupt starting point - appears to be an anthroporphism of sorts. It seems humans are painting their divisive cognitive intellectual process that deals with finite quantities - digital units - on to something infinite and seamlessly interconnected - the 'Tao'. Such efforts appear futile. I don't think the Taoists represented the Tao as a circle because they liked pretty shapes wink.

The universe has no finite objective qualities it seems - it is just a vast seamless infinite nothingness when human cognition is taken out of the equation.

The Taoists knew what was required to come in to contact with the Tao within them - bypassing the intellectual process and feeling the unfolding and changing which has gone on since infinite time eternal; it's nature is present inside our own bodies. Here is a beautiful example of exclusively Taoist dynamic meditation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejQd0xS5Blk

If we find the courage to embrace and champion our 'mind which seeks the way', we will always find what we are looking for! Don't settle for words and pictures; witness the thing itself! hug nod whee
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