Freitag, 16. Januar 2009

Physophy: Cognition in Physics - and we humans don't understand nothing

Logitech G5 Laser Mouse Flickr Photo by Erik Charlton

This post was triggered by a question by my colleague Max:

Philosophy today without this physics base cannot meaningfully talk about nature, world, and men:
Classical thinking in physics - as, e.g., manifested in Newtonian space, time and causality - is only the trivial limiting case of modern understanding (so-called correspondence principle), e.g. for speeds which are small regarding the speed of light. But be careful - this is not always true - sometimes the post-Newton understanding even penetrates our normal life in our position right in the middle between cosmic and nuclear scales!

For us, the non-understandable comes as contradictions or paradoxes: The electron is a wave and a particle, space and time are connected, clock rates depend of velocity, the world depends on the observation, and so on!

There are two guides to construct the model of the world (i.e., the prediction of observations and experiments):

  • the pragmatic guide: experiments,

  • the magic guide: mathematics (in two flavors)
Model of the world (cognition), the accumulated set of agreed experiments, and the system of mathematics evolve and develop together (with technology as necessary co-partner!).

"Understanding" in the rigorous sense (but unsatisfactory) means: Having a system of analytic equations giving the background, resp. performing a computer simulation delivering the observed result (probably after quadrillions of computations, almost repeating the real actions).

"Understanding" for a physicist means (i.e., what does this effect "really" mean?) that the result can be predicted and understood on the base of some other observed and already accepted results.

This can be described by a multilayer model: Then "understanding" means to be able to deduce the properties of phenomen level N by accepting the phenomena of level N-1 (independent if either N-1 or N seem "paradox") . The level N is an "emergence" of level N-1.
Of course, this opens the question of a lowest level - and of the ending of the chain!

I am here using as a picture the computer mouse invented by Douglas Engelhart which everybody (still) knows: The user does not need to know the exact position of the cursor (driven by the mouse) on the screen, or even the physical principles of the mouse sensors. The user just observes the cursor movement and corrects the mouse motion to the desired position. There is no underlying "understanding" - only literally superficial understanding!
It is similar how a child "understands" the computer - but can play games.

PS: Under "Physophy", I understand the [my] naive combination of contemporary physics and thoughts.

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