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concepts of infinity and string theory(21 posts)

concepts of infinity and string theoryDougSloan
Mar 10, 2003 11:09 AM
"String theory" is fairly difficult to get a handle on, but in this layman's terms theorizes that all matter is at the lowest level composed of strings of energy being "plucked" or stroked like a guitar string, and the different vibrations create different particle characteristics. In other words, matter is not "real," but merely a form of energy. (Forgive the lay interpretation -- not intended to be perfectly correct.)

I never could get a grasp on concepts of infinitiy, both time and space. For every quantity, there must be a "what's beyond that?" question, it seems. Maybe our little brains just can't deal with the concept.

After watching the Matrix a dozen times, and also thinking about the Sim computer games, it seems perfectly possible that all reality is a form of "computer" generated experience, doesn't it? It's a program a gazillion times more complex than we can imagine, but at some point it could be simply a matter of scale, compared to what we can generate or even conceive. As such, the concept of infinity is fairly meaningless, at least not any more meaningful than it is for a Sim game. There may well be limits, but those limits might not be knowable by the game participants, with internal rules depriving them of the ability to see the limits (like speed of light, etc.).

Whaddya think? Are we "real?" ("Created in His image" might have a different meaning...)

No, I haven't been smoking dope. I did do 7 hours of LSD on Saturday, though. :-)
Please repost this in the Infinity and String Theory Forum...;-)Me Dot Org
Mar 10, 2003 12:07 PM
I think that human existance, stuck as it is in temporal time and space, is a poor vehicle for understanding an infinite universe. However it's difficult to conceive an alternative, and then go there.

I've not really heard a lot about string theory, but the difference between matter and energy, especially at a sub-atomic level, seems to be a little fuzzy.

Quantuum mechanics who don't work on Volkswagons may be involved in the creations of simultaneous 'metaverses'.

The concept of a "dream within a dream" whether computer-generated or not, has been a part of religion and philosophy for a long time...

Personally, if we are living in a computer simulation, I hope it's more reliable than Windows...
If you read deeply enough in quantum physics,OldEdScott
Mar 10, 2003 2:15 PM
you will come away awed by the mystery and majesty of the universe, realize we are pitifully inadequate in our efforts to comprehend it, and probably a nutty religious mystic to boot.

As I understand quantum theory -- and admittedly, my understanding is certainly flawed -- we are here, not here, real, not real, depending on how you choose to look at things.

Eistein said "God does not play dice with the universe." Even he felt called upon to resort to the concept of 'God' to discuss some things.
love that stuffDougSloan
Mar 10, 2003 3:02 PM
I'm sort of stuck at the understanding level that stops when I start seeing a lot of those funny looking integral signs, but still love to read all I can about cosmology, quantum physics, etc. Fascinating. I sometimes wish I had taken more math than beginning calc and stats in college; at some point, you really need the higher math to make sense out of this stuff.

Descartes could have been wrong. Thinking and existence might not be tied together.

Yeah, without the math you can onlyOldEdScott
Mar 10, 2003 3:31 PM
hint at it. Ultimately, it almost seems like MATH is the ultimate reality. It's certainly the only language that describes the universe.

As far as Decartes, it's also possible to say he was right. Since the time, place and manner of perception are key to describing quantum events, the fact that you're thinking about it is part of the process of 'creating' whatever quantum description of 'reality' you come up with.

Familar with the concept of 'instantaneous action over a distance'? Zow.
Is math itself a limiting language?Me Dot Org
Mar 10, 2003 4:51 PM
Again, math is an expression of our understanding of the universe, understanding that is based the limitations of our being stuck in space and time.

It helps me balance my checkbook (sometimes), and gives me a peek at the edges of chaos and infinity, but understanding? I agree the math is a language of description, but it is a description that makes sense to where we sit in space and time, which may not be the ultimate reality.

To put it another way, I just don't think human beings are terribly evolved, and I don't think we understand the universe very well.

God, mathematics, spirituality, religion and metaphysics may ultimately say more about our perception of the universe than the reality of the universe.

To think I started posting here because I wanted advice on clipless pedals...
Mathmatics seems to exist outside ofOldEdScott
Mar 10, 2003 5:01 PM
human understanding. It's not really subjective. Prime numbers are prime numbers everywhere in the universe, I think.

But I agree we're not terribly evolved. We're pretty much sunk here in the murk of our own circumscribed subjectivity, so who knows?
I see your point but I've always felt otherwise.carnageasada
Mar 11, 2003 8:43 AM
Math, in my opinion, is the most subjective language of all because numbers are seemingly meaningless unless you posit subjective information onto the numbers. One number plus one number equals two numbers. But one tree plus one tree does not neccesarily equal two trees because how you can prove a metaphysical 'treeness' How can you prove that one tree might not be more of a tree than another tree? To replace the flowering cherry in my yard it'd take several trees if you ask me. One little pine tree does not equal my cherry tree. No two trees are identical. Maybe I'm a little crazy but I believe numbers relate only to themselves, not to trees and not to reality.
"God doesn't play dice."Sintesi
Mar 10, 2003 7:08 PM
From what i remember from my college days was that most physicists today think this is where Einstein went wrong because God does in fact play dice and outcomes on a quantuum level can only be predicted by probability matrices. My prof said Einstein was the last classical physicist who helped usher in the end of his own era.
re: concepts of infinity and string theorySkip
Mar 10, 2003 4:55 PM

If you haven't read it yet, I'd recommend Stephen Hawking's book, "The Universe in a Nutshell".

BTW, did you happen to see Timothy Leary on Sat.?
re: concepts of infinity and string theoryJohn Ryder
Mar 10, 2003 6:10 PM
Forty Two
Holy crap! What book is that from!! nmempacher6seat
Mar 10, 2003 11:19 PM
A fluff piece. . .js5280
Mar 11, 2003 8:15 AM
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams
Anyone remember playing this?js5280
Mar 11, 2003 8:25 AM
You can play it again online at

js5280 (long time computer geek)
(Grumpy old man rant) You kids today, you have it easy...Me Dot Org
Mar 11, 2003 11:28 AM
...when I was a boy, you had to walk 10 miles uphill throught the snow to buy Infocom games on 5 1/4" floppies. Games like Witness and Deadline. There were no fancy 3-D graphics cards. Hell, we had monochrome monitors! We had ASCII graphics! And we were HAPPY to have them!

Internet? You ever tried downloading a game at 300 baud? Ah you kids...

Then, after we bought the Infocom game, they turned the hill around and we had to walk 10 miles through the snow home again! And use COPY II PC or some hexadecimal crack to make another copy of the disk! And we were HAPPY to do it!

(Seriously, the infocom games were some of my first computer games, and I had a lot of fun with them...)
Yeah, but did you have to watch out for the Wumpus?js5280
Mar 11, 2003 11:45 AM
Monochrome monitor, yep.
300 baud modem, yep.
Copy II PC, yep.
Thanks for the memories. . . :-)

Remember Elephant Drives? The only time I see them now is when WarGames is on the TV

The geeks shall inherit the earth ;-)
Right! There's a blast from the past. nmempacher6seat
Mar 11, 2003 12:28 PM
The fact that we can even start to try...OutWest
Mar 10, 2003 6:23 PM understand these things amazes me. While we don't possess alot of answers we are capable of recognizing and posing questions. "Recognizing a problem is the first step in solving it". I don't know if I would consider us to be at the bottom of the primordial ooze as much as newborn infants struggling with our first few seconds of blurred vision. Call me an optimist but I believe that the human race is capable of wonderful things (despite our other, destructive capabilities). While a large part of our population aren't exactly striving for an intelligent understanding of our Universe we need the population base to produce those thinkers.
I believe that math is a wonderful tool and very impressive but without language (with all its inadequacies) its results can't be shared or discussed. Our ability to express concepts through verbal and written language, to debate and share is astounding.
Are we real? Depends upon the philosophical flavour of the day. I believe we are and that we are at the start of a long journey. Certainly a small part of the Universe and God but very much a part!
from ooze to truly intelligentDougSloan
Mar 11, 2003 11:39 AM
I have no doubt that our intelligence will make great leaps when we merge with computers, and each other.

Within 100 years, I think we'll have computers with "modems" implanted in our brains. We'll not be taught how to count and read in school, all of that will be programmed. Instead, we'll be taught how to interface with the computer.

All our computers will be connected to vast databases (the internet) as well as each other. Imagine having the entire wealth of human knowledge and data immediately available to you, to be accessed as easily as thinking about it. Engineers will create space rockets in their heads. You'll write a book by thinking about it. A ten year old will know the complete history of mankind. Memorization will cease to be an issue.

With those tools available, our technology will progress geometrically, faster years than it did in centuries before. Heck, we might even really create warp drive! Things we can barely imagine now will be simple. We'll be new beings.

I have no doubt about it. It's just a matter of time and willingness to do it.

Either that or we'll have "Machine Wars" like in Terminator.OldEdScott
Mar 11, 2003 11:53 AM
I dunno about that vision. I agree we're heading in that direction. Whether it's a good thing or not, I have doubts. Surely we can harness technology without BECOMING technology. I kind of like being human, faults and shortcomings and all. Don't really want no modem in my head (like the landmark techno-novel Necromancer). And I think I'd get more from memorizing Shakespeare than just calling it up from an internal database.
could be wonderful or horribleDougSloan
Mar 11, 2003 2:10 PM
I can imagine some nasty scenarios, too. If we are "connected," what's to keep some dictator from taking control of us and meting out only the information he (or some computer) wants? What if the technology is expensive? Will we have the best "private" technology available at extra cost, and then an inferior "race" of public technology available no charge? Boy, if you think Bill Gates has a monopoly now, just imagine "Mind Windows 2100"...

As with nearly all technology, it can be used for good or bad. Guns can kill a deer and feed a family (well, a hundred years ago), or for murder. I think that one of the greatest ironies of all times will be when nuclear weapons are used to deflect or destroy an asteroid that would otherwise wipe out the human race -- not so far fetched -- the "weapon of mass destruction" becomes the "weapon of mass preservation". Oppenheimer will be a hero.