« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#238 — How to Build a Universe

2021-02-22 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Frank Wilczek about the fundamental nature of reality. They discuss the difference between science and non-science, the role of intuition in science, the nature of time, the prospect that possibility is an illusion, the current limits of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, space-time as a substance, the “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics in science, the possibility that we might be living in a simulation, the fundamental building blocks of matter, the structure of atoms, the four fundamental forces, wave-particle duality, the electromagnetic spectrum, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the implications of infinite space-time, dark energy and dark matter, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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can't afford a subscription there's an option at San Aerostat or to request a free account and we grant a hundred per cent of those requests. Northwestern tends to damn speaking with Frank, will check Frank won the Nobel Prize in physics in two thousand, For four work he did a graduate student not one of the earliest Macarthur fellows. His one many other awards for his scientific work and writing his the author of several books, but most recently he has published a fantastic primer on the state of physics, and that is called fundamentals. Ten keys to reality he's also written for the Wall Street Journal. He is currently professor of physics at MIT and is also the chief scientists. Eighty will check com
some centre in Shanghai, China and the US was appointments at Arizona, state, University and Stockholm University, a busy man, where you will hear that Frank is a wonderful explain her of physics and I really could not ask for a better guide to this terrain. We discuss the difference between science and non science the role that intuition plays in science and then we plunging to the matter at hand. We discuss the nature of time, the prospect that possibility is an illusion and that only the actual is every, I will talk about the current limits of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle space time as a substance The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics and science. The possibility that we might be living in a simulation. We cover the fund, mental building blocks of matter. As we know it
picture of atoms, the four fundamental forces If particle duality, the electromagnetic spectrum the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics they prospect of infinite space time. We really get the full tour here and I thoroughly enjoyed it and now Further delay, I bring you frank, will check I am here with Frank will check frank thanks for joining us very great pleasure to be here. You have no a wonderfully accessible book you ve written, so about, but the new one is fundamentals, ten keys to reality, and I highly recommend people read it because it's just stay
fantastic and just amazingly digestible introduction to really the whole history of physics, but our modern picture of the universe which will talk about here, but by no means fully however, but before we jump in, how is it that you have an opinion about the nature of physical reality? What it may be summarized your run, your intellectual perch over there in Massachusetts. Well, I've. I grew up very curious about the world from many points of view. I grew up during a time when science was there
highly valued, partly because of the cold war and the memory of world war, two which was relatively fresh, although that was before my time and so were. At the same time, I was very interested in cosmic things. I'm sorry I was raised in the Catholic Church sign TAT, exposed to these ideas that they're a deeper meaning to the world and Red Bert. Russell read, I get. Einstein was a big hero, so it sort of seem like a very not. I was sort of seem like very natural to me. To deepen my knowledge of science and physical reality, and that's what I was spent, the bulk of my life doing, and it's been a great Fifth and I've learned lot had a lot of surprises allotted adventures, a lot of positive feedback kin,
and I feel I have learned a lot if I, if I, if I could transport myself back to myself ass a teenager, I would have a lot to convey and that's that's one of the and I was thinking about, as I wrote this book by the other. The spur to it was conversations with an intelligent friends who wanted to know what I was doing, what I have learned what's real going on at the frontiers of science. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and in an hour? So what does it all mean so do I will I really wanted to take the opportunity to answer my friends questions on my own? questions from way back when and at the same time, just fortuitously. At the same time, my grandson was born and I started to think about
what I'd like to tell him when he's histories, questions and also watching the process of how he constructed his world, making basic distinctions between self and not so and getting the idea that the world is organized into a three dimensional space with objects that have some kind of permanence and regularity. These very basic things. We learn about the world that get us get us by very well, and yet I reflected that the scientific view that has revealed to our most accurate experiments and critical, thinking once we use telescopes in microscopes and spectrometer and accelerometers, and while the other kinds of things that will allow us to get more accurate perceptions and also to thank and also to think critically about
it's a different world and Rick. I liked to say you have to be born again to come to terms with reality, after not only learn some things, but also unlearn, some rules of fun you construct for yourself his child, yeah well, I would like to try to recapitulate that journey for our audience here and really start with the the minimum set of assumptions and and and overturn some of the assumptions that that make it difficult to think scientifically it I'm truck with how an intuitive many of the tools of scientific thinking are, and there to make intuitive some may we gonna bootstrap ourselves too, new intuitions, on the basis of others that are almost defied by
where we land before we jump into the physics of things. Maybe we can start by differentiating science from nonsense. Since then. I guess one way to do that in the sectors of EU dimension. Early in the book is too describe why something like astrology isn't science, but how do you may hide demarcation science from non science in asked? Yes and sexual endeavour, GPS? Is it s actually a complex question, and the short answer is that science works can on science doesn't work, so it could have been that it could have been that you could make successful predictions for people's personalities for them,
destiny based on the positions of things in the sky when they were born, but over centuries of trying to refine that that possibility into an actual tool for making her useful predictions. It hasn't been very successful, whereas a very different interpretation of what the things we meet out in the sky mean the forces they exert and what kinds of influences they could possibly have back here on earth has been much more successful, it's kind of led to one successful prediction after another, and nowadays we can put men in space, and we really do many impressive things of gps system and look look back to the big bang and make predictions about how distant galaxies
they're gonna, look and how the microwave background is put together. Many many other things that that work. So we, On the one hand, a coherent body of explanations, that's built on patient investigation with the most accurate instruments we can hack, find and demanding very high standards of proof trying to push things as hard as possible? Make them quantitative make them precise worrying when things don't quite agree, instead of trying to explain it away and that's been so that you can compare and contrast.
And you know it when you say it, one of them is scientific. The other is not thy interpret copied by patent. That's the difference I mean. So it's not even if not even the subject matter so much as the approach and whether whether its critical, whether it takes correction and whether it works and propose a note of it, finding criteria, whether its scientific? If we can put the final nail in the coffin of astrology, it seems to me obviously disapproval in at least two. Laser or one and a half way as one waited to see that it's almost certainly not true in its basic assumptions, is to recognise that this idea that the position of the stars and planets must a faggot. The life course of eight of a person born based on at the time and place
a birth, that's belied by the fact that that a doctor or nurse walking by in the hall exerts morph of nature horses on the child than anything up in the heavens. Yes, if, if you take seriously the successful description of the world, there is no room in it for such astrological influences. That's that's. That's troops or so, and and on the other hand, we have a lot of circumstantial evidence. That its I mean, we have a lot of more than circumstantial evidence that the principles of that description are remarkably complete. The fact that there is no room for it four astrological influences beans. There are no astrological influences. I think that's fair. And even shorter that, even if, even if we didn't except physics, yet you could still run the experiment of finding too
these born at the same moment in the same hospital getting a mere right apart, and you just have to find two such babies that have an ordinary different lives while famously people talked about it. I think going back to Saint Augustine, if not earlier Saint Augustine didn't like Astrology Cuba and there he argued about identical twins. Very different fate, wrote- and you might say there well they're, not quite at the same time, but if you're predictions depend so sensitive way, the exact time they there there almost impossible to make an active, so so it becomes De I hear how can will now be pissed off the astrologers without more controversial you get you can, you can have fun with it. If you, if you have a sense of humour- and it gives some people, the youngest people, a thing to talk about and bring the ice, some
I'm sorry to hear that whatever, but no either, as as it has a serious enterprise for predicting the future or predicting someone's personality. I don't think it's Various at all. One of the fun you should have within is to give everyone Charles Manson's, astrological, charred and notice it virtually everyone finds something resident in it without going banality until they find out who's charted is so then, let's start with this issue of intuition and how we use in reason, generally ended in science specifically and many little. We need to use in. Science are mathematical, ends, they get pushed into areas where most people's intuitions rely. Billy fail. I guess I'm wondering if I think everybody's fattened up there
but the only way to build up intuition, is to sort of work with nature and think about examples and think about very simple examples and get the more complicated ones and figure out what the equations and experts sit down. So here's a very simple one which, by goes the minds of most people, I'm wondering if you as a if his assistant and mathematician, ever really gets your intuitions around as he take something like theme, the validity of exponentially asian, very simple way too to illustrate its powers at you. Yes, someone what would happen if you could take a very large sheet of newsprint and folded upon itself a hundred times, RO, ran his people. Imagine doing this and what you re right lay sensor there some trick in the offing here, but when you ask them how thick the resulting object would be, many people suggest something like the size of a brick.
Or they they get. They see how to track down and they think well, maybe it is good, could be ten feet tall if you couldn't younger fold a piece of paper that that many times but of course, it's light years across meat is galaxy size. If you could do such a thing, If you keep up right now, do you actually have an intuition for that? Or do you just know that their powers of to have those consequences? Well, I do in the sense that I can very quickly figure out what the answer is not not shocked by his sorrow about mats. I guess that all the if you, if you want to call that intuition, I guess yes- and I also- and I have no so alert to the fact that this kind of question is taking me out of the realm of familiar experience- Reddit very Rapid LISA. So that's that's what I meant by building up intuition. You build up intuition by thinking about hard examples
thanking them through and really digesting them, and then you can have intuition that's correct and useful about things that you didn't have intuition about before. When were you had incorrect, intuitions, as that's that's a small example of this process, I'd love to quote being born again met that you have to go back and really open yourself up to reality and take it as it comes, and spigots speak its language in order to, the most out of it. Ok policy. We can baptize everyone with the revision affected that science here yes, so here is the starting point for apes like ourselves with our open eyes an outstretched hand. We interrogate
the world around us. We, as you point out at a certain point, differentiate ourselves from the world and we begin to act in it and upon it and develop intuitions about space and time as the context of are events there is here- and we have a sense of events that happen in space and time, Russia things seem to happen yes and we have ay a thirst for at a certain point. We have a thirst for a causal explanation for why and how things happen, and- and we have some sense- that with an X nation, we will be able to be less surprised in the future by a future happenings we'll start with time, and I am obviously we're going to land
in space time eventually, and I have a more sophisticated description of things, but how did physicists think about time? That's a lot to be said about time. In fact, the accurate measurement of time using atomic clocks is one of the great frontiers of physics. Now we can, we can dispense the size clocks that lose or gain time relative to one another at the level of one second, over the lifetime of the universe and accurate clocks are the better, a central central feature of the gps system in all kinds of things. So we have a successful ways
measuring time and apparatus of predicting. What's going to happen in the future is based on using equations that contain a variable called t. That's time that is has it is what is the basis of our intuitive notion of time? I don't think, there's a separate thing, that's our intuitive notion of time, but our intuition is is they have, should I say in handy description of the underlying physical reality that people have captured in in in the equations, in the basic equations that describe how the world works, and it's very real,
the ball because does well the deepest facts about time or adds that it's a one dimensional manifold hands and that there's only one time, everybody, everybody and everything in the universe marches to the same beat it's an amazing thing. If you think about it, I didn't have to be that way: computers, don't necessarily work that way. You can ship things off to another module that runs at a different speed and self worth our memories and psychology certainly don't work that way. We can do back. We can leap into the future, but the physical world citizen seems to seems to have only one time that everybody agrees on and weak humans would have experienced that a new section, dance when we can keep time with ourselves and also with others and not run into inconsistency, is but the time of intuition is a measure of change Dr. We have. We are things in the world.
Chain yet with a certain frequency, and we all these things are clocks, guinea, the sun, the appoint on your book that we make a lot of this, but certain things are reliable clocks but Really everything's a clock, your age in body as a clock, everything the clock cats right I like does it. Everything is the clock. Some of them are harder to read than others, but the precise meaning of that, if you think about it, is that when you write down the equations that describe change, there's a quantity in those equations called tee and, as I said, there's only one such quantity
that seems to work and everybody and that so in principle, if you measure the change, you can infer measure what's happened, you can infer how much tea is change them and everything is a clock in the broad sense. But of course we want to have clocks that are portable and and reusable, so you can keep measuring and interval of time accurately the same time over and over again and things like that. So when we, when we think of clocks as as the instruments of time, it's it's a special case where it where they are specially adapted adapted to make the the weed out of I'm easy, but but in a larger sense, everything the changes as the clock. I think that that's correct coming human beings are clocks. They age practiced in principle, if you gotta study that
the cellular processes really accurately you might be able to read to use a human as an actual clock? But if we cannot do that roughly, we can estimate people's agents of work. Yeah every time I look in the mirror in the morning. I I know what time it is its later, but what do we make? this intuition that time itself flows more moves, because what what we're talking about is a measure of change, yeah and against. What could we say? Time is changing or moving. It seems like a contradiction time itself yeah yeah time itself, I'm I'm afraid I won't be able to give you a really satisfying answer, because in the current form,
creation of physics, the facts whether I mean did the axiom. I guess the assumption that time is a one. Dimensional continuum is rock bottom. We don't know how to explain it in terms of anything simpler. At least I certainly don't, and I haven't seen anyone else do that either. So, in fact, what's truly amazing to me: is that- and I dont understand that- and I don't like it in some sense- is that the concept of continuum that was developed by the ancient Greeks and as you can euclidean geometry, for instance, that you have this infinitely d? the ball? Uniform essence is what we use for time in the base, equations of physics,
even though we know that in reality things really change. When you get to short distances and short times, you have to bring in quantum mechanics and things have irreducible Jekyll and fluctuations and way functions is completely different world in many ways, and yet there are still in the equations there's this one dimensional continuum, heads time that you could have recognised in what sense might time be an illusion as that, or just a mere construct. It is useful for modeling the change we see in the world, but by them, and what would happen to the concept of a block universe in physics, there might be dead
there. Might there might be deeper levels of description, not yet constructed so hard to talk about what they are with any precision, but I can't preclude the possibility- and I am very sympathetic to the possibility that there would be deeper levels of description in which these euclidean concepts of continuum run out of steam. We have to be replaced by something else, but so the idea that their Adams of time
at that time is fundamentally discreet, but I think if they're gonna be Adams, they probably have to be Adams of space. Time will come to that, but I guess, but that the fact that that the continuum has to be replaced by something else, I think, is a very appealing. Thought continuum is a very, very complicated concept. If you try to define precisely an axiom adequately, the ancient Greeks really struggled with it, and it's really only in the nineteenth and twentieth century that mathematicians got to a satisfactory description, but it's really complicated. Not it's not simple. When inch, it's not the sort of thing that I would like to have as rock bottom and our description of reality, I'm tempted to open that door and find out why a continuum axioms imponderable, but that list,
we'll get to that. I just I wanna linger on time. For second: what's happened to this concept of a block universe that was a maybe a hundred year old notion in physics, the idea that past and present and future might all exist simultaneously. Despite the fact that weep seem to perceive it through a keyhole of em of seemingly moving present. Yes, well at that, that's more and added to what I would say to him then a strict, strict, a distinct statement about the universe. I mean mathematically, you if you have a one dimensional continuum of time, and then you have space and events side. You can describe three dimensional space bus plus one dimensional time as a three plus one or for dimension of maize, and then it
just a space hand, but the I guess the and that's a very legitimate object of contemplation and sort of that's figure for you. If you like a gods, I view you can see everything. That's ever gonna happen. What did happen all at once if you could stand outside this for dimensional space and just look at, although in something It didn't happen in that case, right than the notion of an event. Is yet the phenomenon of just how were how limited our perception is put in some sense and also that the noise possibility that we live in this in the space of time and base in space time, where there are events which we think could have not happened or happened differently. Possibility is a thing, but in a block universe, there's no such thing as the possible theirs. The actual, and it's just it's not even is certainly not punk tape. In the same way and await an event is so to talk about this new process. There's just there's no virtue
really that's just a single noun of the actual, and it does make a mockery of yeah I've time in advance and and and and possibility yet well, that's the guides Ivy, And, yes, you can, you can imagine a consciousness. I suppose that just knows all and seas at it all at once. Although you might ask How is that entity? Thinking and what I have to say, implement logical operations, are information processing, and I dont know that that that sir, I think that leads to me
Agnes. But I thought I was going to say he is. I think the best thing that can be said about this question is that the laws of physics, as we have been now, are not directly statements about this block work, but they're not directly statements about all of space time. They are statements about if you take a slice at any particular time yoke and know the state
of the universe know what all the particles, in a jar doing and in a quantum mechanical description. What the way function of everything is. So this is far beyond what you can actually know. But if you did in principle, you could calculate what's going to happen in the future and what's going to happen in the past, but it does have this natural division in two slices and you have to take you out to start somewhere in order to reconstruct the whole thing for the laws. Don't naturally describe the whole thing they describe how things develop in time, at least at least the Lord's. We have now have that character and then, of course, the other question is that what is this description for? Who is this description
if it were for God well back, and then the blood description might be appropriate, but for us poor mortals who are moving along world behind in space time, it's very useful to have a description. That's not the block universe that gives us tells us how the different snapshots get put together and so forth let's step back from the gods, I view in and get into space time and acknowledge the the reality of events. But even in this context to see you, you have mechanics now governing our understanding of how things happen at the smaller scale. That seems to give us a a probabilistic picture of of what's going to happen,
in the future, and I'm wondering, if, even even and within that frame, if it's possible house, while sound paradoxical, but it is it- is it possible that the idea of the possible is mistaken and given that there is simply what happens, how can you justify the possible? I think that question is very much, and I think that is very much an open, open question. Be there are aspects of quantum mechanics that are deeply mysterious and, I think, subject to change in the future. If we understand things better, we may or may not needed to change the equations both for sure. I think we need a deeper understanding. A quantum mechanics is less than a hundred years old and has a profound modification of how we understand the world is going to take a while to really absorb, but
If you study, if you take a look at how the equations are actually formulated, they are determined to stick equations, but they are determinist so that so you, if you know- and they are deterministic equations for something called a wave luncheon Oh, if you know the way function at one time, then in principle you can solve the equations to figure out what the way function and therefore the universe is going to be at the next time or what it wasn't the pastime for that matter, even although always run them backwards. However- and this is this- is what's really weird- you can't know the way action completely rent the equation wants. I want you to tell it the way function, but you don't you dont, know the way thanks it. Not
not only in practice, but even in principle. You don't know the way function because you have to make incompatible process. You have to do incompatible, processing on it to extract always information, putting her roughly by precise in the mud, but there is a precise formulation so, for instance, the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle tells you that, even though you have a perfectly definite way function, if you want to answer questions about position of a part of all, you have to process it in one way and if you have to, if you want to answer questions about its momentum, you have to process it in a different way and those two ways of processing army.
The way incompatible. So you can't actually predict either one because you have incomplete knowledge so that the situation view we have equations. That are perfectly definite. That would be perfectly definite to an observer who knew the way function completely, but we're not that and we have to deal with what are that. What are the consequences we can draw from the limited information that we have, including? Well, let's assume the equations are correct, but we do I know exactly what their acting upon. So we only get probabilistic predictions, but its deeper than ay, a methodological limitation write it deeper than a methodological implication because in principle, because, even in principle, you can't
down the waiver unction sort of in trying to in trying to pin down some of the information you destroy other parts of it right. There's no way of doing it, not Basically, I guess I guess my question here in and near admittedly a tape, a philosophical one, more than a scientific one I think is given the state of affairs and disposition here is to say that there are certain things are possible and we understand a cover in all probability, be summarized this possibility. Would they were they mobility, distribution of some sort. Yes, but is it scientifically wrong to say that we don't in fact know that, and it is possible again the sounds paradoxical, but perhaps isn't it's possible that possible Letty, isn't even a thing and there really is only the actual, there is simply what happens, and then we have
story about what might have happened that were added to that picture. Is there someplace to stand with in physics to rule that out? No, I don't think so. I think way for these quantum mechanical way functions. I've been talking about a very rich objects and, in principle,. I'm contained in a quantum mechanical way function and your contained in economy. Gotta, go way functioning fact weaken pit we're contained The same kind of mechanical way function that describes the universe as a whole and different parts of that way. Function which, as I mentioned, we don't know completely and improve this. We only know very little about it compared to what's its full content allows us to make only probabilistic predictions, because there is a lot we, I know that we would need to know- and I make definite predictions silhouettes relish,
to our knowledge, which includes everything that we now and again, while the measurements that we made all the laws that we we think we know all the experience that we ve had relative to our knowledge, our predictions about the future, our probabilistic relative to some unattainable, even in print Bull knowledge. Some gods, I view of the world. Maybe then the equations are perfectly definite so that if that somehow means something to you, that's also true that if, in practice it doesn't change things very much, so it's kind of philosophical determinism but practical, not ok. So let's go back to the point of view of the mere ape trying to find
his or her way in the world? So we have this intuition there we exist in a space of three dimensions, and it's that intuition is is born of this experience that we we really can figure out any other direction. To point, then, just some combination of backward. He always left and right up and down- and it's a pretty solid empirical fact I would say There certainly only three large dimensions. If they are there other dimensions, they have a very different car right road. So and we do sense that time is distinct from space and he had now Physics has given us a a unified picture of space time witches.
You tell me how to how do we get to see? Why doesn't make an it doesn't make them the same thing now, but but but it's important in understanding the world to treat them together. So the idea that you couldn't just stack up a bunch of copies of three dimensional space and caught me: this is it. This is a time to zero. Then time d want and sulphur- that's not wrong, but it doesn't do justice to our understanding near because, for one thing, the theory of relativity tells you that, let's just take the special theory relativity, which is that the first and simpler version is that you can also slice things up in different ways. You can take an end this. This would happen. Naturally, if, if one is that one set of observers sets up things a division into space and time, and then you have other observers that are moving with respect to those at it.
Constant velocity. It would be natural for them to divide space and time in a different way to have different slice things that sort of mix up the original space and time and the remarkable thing that relativity says he's that day. They will arrive at the same equations, so a kind of destabilizing the notion of time as separate entity from space because it says they're just their other, just as good times, at least from the point of view of the fundamental equation of physic one as any one time there, there will turn it if talks that are just as good. Now that's about the fundamental equations, it's not about the world. We actually experience, of course, because there is the preferred time, namely the time that points back to me, big bang and a uniform space, but you're saying that in a different frame of reference, the real one set of observers could say that a proceeded be but another set
Observers, moving with respect to the first set could say that be proceeded ay, yes, Ryan, that's that falls out of Einstein's that falls out of their eyes- riveted. Yes, so there there is that possibility, but on the other hand, there also observers can also agree that some some events definitely precede others. So this kind of another world which is called the space like region, but there is also a time like region where you can things linearly, demi that this special rules there is a fascinating theory and that we could discuss it easily for several hours, but it did for up for present purposes. It made the traditional separation into a unique time and space unstable. Now we were other other versions of time that mix in some space and how butter.
Just as good as far as the fundamental equations are concerned, what it does the fact that there's a preferred frame, the least defined with respect to the big bang, give us a notion, of simultaneity that that is valid. Is there some place from which I and say it now in cosmology, gettin cosmology. We we commonly used that language when we we say, for instance, that I a given star was formed empty amp seconds after the big bang. We can say that about distant stars and as a unique definition, because this zone, if, if you this, is preferred frame in which the universe, the distribution of galaxies, looks uniform. If you move relative to that,
frame, then it won't look uniform some distortion in the colors won't beach bite uniform either, and so so there is the preferred frame and suggests a prefers that that is the preferred rest frame we commonly in cosmology use that has as a way of synchronizing times across distant across distant galaxies itself, but but in everyday life, as opposed to cosmology different frames, a more or less equivalent. If you, if you cancel out the astrological influence of distant galaxies, so to speak, was left, allows you, freedom in the definition of time. Their many times are equally good. Ok, so we have a space I'm continuum of some kind, which, as I say it, is a kind of medium right, a meagre it is, Oh, that's the other thing right. That's the other thing is that
when you go to the more advanced parts of physics, from special relativity to general, relativity in particular then you find that its very, very convenient and really unavoidable, unless you want, are satisfied with extremely ugly equations. It's very very convenient to treat the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time has a unified structure, because the equations display a tremendous symmetry between space and time, there's still distinctions, but there is also a tremendous symmetry between spaces, I M there. You can only separate them at the cost of making the equations very unnatural rapid. Also, we have real fur, phenomenon like gravity which seem best explained in terms of space time itself,
bein exact, the sort of thing that can bend re exactly right, that that's that's the leading idea of the general theory of relativity and, as I said, is very difficult to formulate the bending equations in an elegant way without explicitly bringing in the idea of space and time is a uniform as a coherent and integrated three plus one dimensional entity. Ok, so we have this context. Our experience. We have this condition of space time, which now disconcerting lay we ve learned is not just a mere context in which the things that exist. Can happen? Rather it is a kind of thing. It is self right it it had.
It's not avoid yeah. It's not avoid. That notion was something that your famously Aristotle rejected in in most fingers reads acted untold newtonian physics, which works very, very well, with space being just sort of an empty platform for stage three
particles move, but in modern physics we reinstated space time as a substance, I would say it: it has a life of its own. In many ways it though the primary entities were used to describe the world are caught, Alcor fields, actually quantum fields, but their space filling entities that vibrate in the things that we call particles, are ex citations within these fields, but they fill all space and all time and they elegant description of how they work, uses that description and most dramatically space time itself is like an elastic medium that can band and warp and in the journal,
theory of relativity the kinds of distortions, emotion, we call gravity our ascribe to that pending and warping of space time in very successful equations, and we also in very recent years, have learned that the so called empty space actually way something. This is called the dark energy have Albert Einstein called it the cosmic logical, constant, but basically what it is is that space time itself has ended. Princess density. So it's a substance by I. It's a very respectable substance by any reasonable definition is not is not a boy I guess I saw gonna save weaken somehow conserve. Aren't wishes, or at least notice, when we're violating them here and in building up this picture. So we have this. People are listening to us,
assume their eyes are open or they can open their eyes, and you know the way they see the space in front of them occupied by me. The objects on their desk and then there perhaps her hands. If they waved their hands in front of them, they can feel the air right, which is yet more get stuff in this. What once seemed like avoid, like condition, but what were now being told that this condition that the only path in which they experience their own being, has all kinds of structure that is not apparent the end, which is really only fully captured in the mathematical devices and discoveries. We will use to tease out this structure. I guess, but before we jump further into the constituents of things, do you have any thought two why mathematics works here on earth. I remember that you Eugene
Victor Rota. A paper advocate ninety six year, so about the whatever we called the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. It just seems a very strange accident that apes, like ourselves, have enough linguistic ability- or at least some of us do to developing a symbol system that produces not only cannily powerful description of what we can understand, but actually has predictive value at points into the darkness of night sure and suggests what we might find there and then lo and behold we find those things whether it seeing it s. The absurd energy and in the centre of an atom or more of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can't with our unaided eyes. Why does any of this work? It's a gift its rock bottom
and it doesn't have it didn't have to be that way known its it. I think I think it's been a continual, continuous revelation and surprise and gift, as science has developed. Certainly nonsense. Since the seventeenth century, a sort of modern science where we make extreme demands of accuracy and test things very hard and so forth its been the programme, is to try to understand things fully and deeply and problems with all the accuracy we can muster and yet, at the same time, try to well down what we found find into as compact description ass possible, even if the description has to be a kind of in an unusual language which we call mathematics, that's very different from what we hear a cradles,
and its work connected with it. Hand surprise after rise, more and more or less Newton, stereo gravity and then Maxwell's lecture dynamics and then Quantum mechanics and relativity and Quantum Cromer Dynamics. The equations a more structured in some ways, but I think there is a tendency that they actually gotten more beautiful and certainly more comprehensible and more comprehensive, less cup principal meeting more comprehensive, But now I think we ve gotten very close, if not to the Rock bottom Foundation of understanding how ordinary matter works, self, sufficient for biology chemistry and all forms of engineering, and we can summarize it in a few equations and it didn't have to be that way. That's what
That's why I say it's it's a gift, for instance an end, and I think that an important thought experiment you can imagine, and people have imagined and people would. We know even have gone off the depend on this, but but you can imagine that some day artificial intelligence is will be fully embodied and general intelligences within computers, and you could even imagine that these artificial intelligence is we're, not sensing the same world that we're sensing paid, they would be sensing electronic inputs. That were designed by some programmer. So this would be these are doing world in which Intel it design is actually true per hectare. But the laws wouldn't have to have this character. The laws
be whatever the designer or the programmer imposed, and they wouldn't have to have the character of deep simplicity and mathematical coherence that we find in our world. So it's a gift, and I dont know anyway to explain it other than to say that's, that's the way it is wonderful gift me following that argument. Couldn't we be in a simulation wherein were no more in touch with the base Layer of reality, like stress our simulation, is consistent in all the mathematically satisfying ways wearily seems to be thus or it could be, would be very, very wasteful programming practice to sort of hide so much complexity inside useless things that that don't directly support their presumably the interesting thoughts that are going on or the interesting games. If you
about US supermarket worlders? Only if I were programming Super Mary, oh, I wouldn't make the breaks out of Quantum Mechanical Adams, not just it's just an awful waste, material and and and also year, you don't you. U really could make out of creative use out of having more than one version of time, for instance, you could have astrology being true, you could have people moving back and forth doing time travel. You can have all kinds of things once whence you free yourself of constraints that we seem to have in our actual physical reality, but that doesn't seem to be the world We live in for better or worse, okay, so back to other world. We live in What seemed a little back, but the argument is television design as our I I'm sort of joking,
but not really that's what until I think, intelligent design is maybe the future, but I just don't see much evidence for it in the world. We actually experience near this year. Yeah, if, in other words, earthly they're gonna be intelligent designers, that's gonna, be humans or their successors yeah. Well, maybe you you ve the simulation argument that I think is originates with all yeah I've heard it. I've heard enough. I've thought about it and I think, oh no, I mean I've, but that kind of ideas, very old rapidly it, they added wrinkle here that I think I see the wrinkle he's introduced, which is there's just a cup of minimal assumptions, you need to get what seems to be the following probabilistic conclusion: if you assume that leaving aside the possibility of intelligent aliens that we know nothing about that, have computers that might be running simulated worlds
if you just imagine that our species doesnt annihilate, self and we continue to get better at building computers. The address, in point. We will build simulated worlds on our computers, complete with ready with conscious entities like ourselves yet and a seemingly by definition, simulated worlds will outnumber real worlds because they're just up just be functionally infinite number of world to create
So then, just as a matter of probability, you should assume you're in a simulated world rather than a real one right. Well, the probabilities are always relative to priors and head there. We have an alternative scientific framework in which things are what they seem more or less than the worse. The universe in the area of follows the laws of physics, as has more or less as we know them, and there was a big bang and there has just hasn't been time for those developments to take place if there ever gonna take place and if you just
the internal evidence as we discussed, are world. I dont think it. How should I say our world doesn't look like it's a programmed world, it just doesn't, and so, if it, if its programmed, if there is an intelligent design to it, it's very non, intuitive its head and and and only put it as a challenge. I guess the neck boss, tremble, whoever wants to propound that kind of idea tell me something about the world that I can understand better on the basis of this picture and on the conventional, via the now conventional framework of physical science. I don't know of any such example, and I don't think there is one other point intuition
which has served up center semi arid, our intuitions, obviously have evolved in entirely in a context that has left us blind, Both perceptually end intuitively too. The domain. We are talking about the very small the very large, the very old, the very fast right we have. We have intuitions for four how you know thrown objects can behave local to the forest that ain't, that a human body can participate while the experiments we do as babies, hacking exactly, but mostly as adults. Unless we decide to study science right, when you're talking about moving fast enough, so that you know your proteins, beat of light and time slows down. Are you becoming increasingly massive or the energy that that exists internal to the nucleus of an atom?
back, that atoms are small as they are, but I never less mostly empty space. I, like all of these facts that we understand in physics, are not facts that really should have any intuitions for so that is so at one punch line seems to fall out of out of this, and this is then there are discussed with MAX tag mark before who I must know him he's here. You they're both in a way I arrive, I've even written papers area so that a maximum Rick I M A hit. His claim is that we should absolutely expect the right answer, written at the back of the book of nature to be Deeply non intuitive given that our intuitions of AEGIS giddy. If we're gonna, take evolution and evolutionary logic seriously, we should be suspicious of any answer that is at all commonsensical to us or or that is
its comfortably within our in a Bush intuition. Well, that's the way it's worked out. Yes, I mean we. How did I say, but it's not even its out an open quest, can any more hidden. We know we know
Maybe it's not the final language, but we know the language of nature and we know what the operating system is and maybe not in all details and but but for most practical purposes. We we, we know what the operating system is and just surely it is not comprehensible or in terms in the in the terms that we use we use in everyday life to get around. That's that's really what I try to capture in this notion of being born again, you have to you, have to learn it. A new way of thinking, that's mind. Expanding requires you to revisit things that you thought you knew and the mat and using enormous imagination to come to grips with what accurate observations and critical thinking reveal. But the Good NEWS is that,
it can be understood. That's the amazing thing which I guess this unreasonable successive like is that it can be understood that send I've tried to convey this in a slim book, but they are not met with, of course, doesn't count. The equations were, but does, I think, contain the essential concepts and the kinds of philosophical questions that they settle, certainly addressing with deep illumination. So, yes, they are surprising pair, very surprising. That's it that's the claim, I fully We will not get also back to what exists european last left, our listeners with hands outstretched waving them around in what they are.
Imagined, was three dimensional space and feeling the air, and we ve establish that space I'm itself is not merely the void context of the things that happen. It is itself a kind of object as a kind of medium that dead, the bending of which explains gravity, among other things, what will somewhat less introduce into the space more into this condition- the minimal ingredients for the universe ass. We know it. What is there in front of us and Thus, what is the matter that get introduced here? so for most purposes of engineering and Mount Everest most
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-06.