Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Question Log

Is it really possible to talk a person out of being irrational, or do they have to come to that conclusion on their own, first?
That is, can you inject and then remedy doubt through debate, or are things like the evolution debate a priori pointless?

It would appear that of everyone who thinks I'm a crappy philosopher, each believes I am their epistemic inferior. Naturally, I believe the same about them.
This is a symmetric relationship, but unfortunately only one of us can be right. What test or property can I assay or search for to break this symmetry?

What is contempt for?

What if there is really a second kind of time, which solves the origin problem for the universe? Since it's not physical per se, it most certainly can be infinite...what would this mean?

Does everyone think that life should mean something, even if it doesn't?

What, exactly, happens when a datum transforms from 'unexplained' to 'explained?'

What the hell is 'community' supposed to be?

People certainly write a whole lot of ideas, usually amateur history (this trend or that is ending) or amateur sociology. ("Let's stop this business of the B.A., this meaningless credential") How influential are these pieces? Do they start forming a patchwork of received wisdom? How does it relate to the fact that debate does not appear to be an effective method of spreading ideas? (I make a distinction between debating and merely watching a debate.) (I don't write first and foremost to be influential. I write because I want to.)

I was thinking about just sitting, just being, and I thought, "One of my parts is my senses - I can just sit and watch." But then I wondered, am I still me without my thoughts? What about without my identity, my personality? (Can that even make sense?)

Are record and tobacco companies actually evil, or just self-deluded?
Does the RIAA sit in their offices and think, "Now how can I fuck over the little man this time?" or do they sit there bemoaning how the public doesn't understand them?
When Nike used child labour, did the CEO think, "Man, that'll teach those jackasses at Adidas. Sweatshops! Ha! Beat that!" Or was it more like, "Hey these guys are cheap, I'll go with them." and later it was like, "Child labour? Fuck! Oh well, too late now...cover it up if you can."

We seem to have a large unused emotional range; we have emotions for things that don't usually exist, for things that don't have any noticeable survival value. Why?

What if you think you control yourself, but you don't, really?

What's the feeling of making a decision? Conversely, what would it feel like to have something happen that you didn't decide? Alien hand syndrome seems to invalidate determinism.

What is the difference that makes something 'understood?'

Actions can be evil. Can people, though?

Ethics don't exist absent a mind with values. You can't go out into the world and find anything that proves ethics, there is no ought from is, provided you don't look at the nominally subjective content of other minds. I need a word for this. The problem is that brains are made out of matter, so it's not ethics don't physically exist, and your mind exists independently from mind, which makes it objective relative to me. I can't find a word that doesn't make a sentence like, "Ironically, because ethics dont' objectively exist, ethics objectively exist." Do you know such a word?

Is there a coherent way to define what is serious?


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you. I tend to check up on this blog as I learn more about the current state of physics, as I feel it earned credibility by the fact that truth is placed at the foundation rather than fame or other unproductive motives (that's one of the reasons I tend to dislike debates; very often they don't produce value, since the debaters have already made up their minds prior to the debate and are there to "win").

I have been reading into string theory as of late, although I'm aware of its controversial status within the community, so I do it with a grain of salt. I have a question regarding your proof of the impossibility of strings, but correct me if I misunderstood you:

You said that strings cannot exist because of one or more infinitesimal physical properties. But wouldn't that mean that any entity cannot exist because of an infinitesimal property in a higher dimension? A plane cannot exist in 3-dimensional space because if you look at it from the side it disappears. Does it then follow that nothing can exist in any other space than a 3-dimensional one, since fewer than 3 seem to be logically impossible, and more than 3 would make 3 dimensional objects absurd too? Or have I completely overlooked something and ended up questioning a non-issue?

Alrenous said...

And Happy New Year to you as well. My resolution is to keep searching for truth. :)

You're completely on-base. You're right though; you overlooked something.

Assuming our particular space is three dimensional, nothing can interact with us that isn't also 3D.

However, there can (metaphysically) be other spaces, or indeed our space may have some other dimensionality.

My claim is simply that in any particular universe, all objects must have nonzero parameters across the same number of dimensions.

For instance, perhaps our universe overlaps a 4D universe. Our objects would all have zero extent across that fourth dimension, and thus wouldn't exist - to that universe. So, by Newton's Third, it would not exist to us, either.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see. I actually thought you might have meant that, but I was a bit unsure of the precise meaning of "strings do not exist." So, what it seems like string theory proposes (among other things), is that, crudely speaking, Planck length is so small that it cannot be considered spatially meaningful in our dimension, yet it IS an actual length and strings can in fact interact with our world. It seems to me like saying that an asymptote that approaches zero can at some point be "for all intents and purposes" zero, yet obviously it isn't and therefore shares the properties of the asymptote rather than zero.

At the same time, however (and hopefully I'm not biting off more than I can chew right now), assuming I interpreted that correctly, wouldn't a valid counter-argument be that the laws of physics at the macro level, and by extension math, not necessarily have to apply to the micro level? It seems that quantum mechanics allows for phenomena that are impossible at the macro level. Couldn't Planck length, or any sufficiently small enough size, be a "cutoff point" beyond which the calculus does not necessarily have to hold?

Alrenous said...

I was under the impression that strings were strictly one-dimensional, so that they could curl up on themselves.

If this isn't true then my argument won't apply to them.

Couldn't Planck length, or any sufficiently small enough size, be a "cutoff point" beyond which the calculus does not necessarily have to hold?

Well, sure, maybe. But that just means our models were wrong, not that the world has bucked the trend of being mathematical. Because of this there are certain properties we can predict in advance; all possible solutions share them.

One is that they have to have nonzero volume to interact with us, because otherwise it has the same properties as something that doesn't exist.

It seems that quantum mechanics allows for phenomena that are impossible at the macro level.

It allows for things that are physically impossible, that is, empirically impossible, not mathematically impossible.

I'm puzzled about your statement that the Planck Length is too small to be physically meaningful. I've never heard this before; could you explain it?

Anonymous said...


I thought that the Planck length is like a "quantum length" in space, the smallest building block, and anything with any dimension smaller than that would not be spatially extended in that dimension. So a string, with say, width and depth smaller than Planck length would not have width or depth in 3D space, but they'd have length, and hence be considered one-dimensional.

Extending that line of reason, if you could magnify a string enough, you would actually see that it doesn't disappear from the side, hence continuing to exist, but you wouldn't be able to actually measure that width. Maybe that's not the best analogy, since its actual size is inextricably tied in to its property of zero spatial extent, and if you magnified it you could in fact measure it. I don't know a better example, so I'll just go back to the drawing board and learn more.

Alrenous said...

I despise pleasantries. They low-key make me want to stab a bitch.