Here’s a burning question behind the facade of math: Is math a property of the universe that we discover (a view philosophy calls realism); or is math an invention of our minds (fictionalism)? If “our” math is a property of the universe then we may get it right or wrong but we can’t change it; […]
Tag Archives: infinity
Until recently our cosmic neighborhood was growing faster than the speed of light. Now it’s run into a roadblock.
“From a physical point of view everything that is outside our neighborhood is pure extrapolation.” – Willem de Sitter (1932) Physics is coming up against two fundamental limits: It can never observe the biggest and the smallest things that it needs to study. Some seem satisfied this is the end of our search for ultimate […]
Stephen Hawking’s recipe for the universe may be good religion but it’s bad physics
Stephen Hawking says he has a deep belief. He calls it nothing. He says this is good physics. I say it it is not. He says it is real. I say it is only an idea. Explaining his own curiosity he says, ‘I wanted to understand how the universe began.’ Many physicists see this as […]
Out of this world: Are the laws of physics different in other parts of the universe?
Inflationary theories say the laws of physics should be different in other parts of the universe. Some have claimed to have observed evidence of variation. Now, in a high-precision study using a giant telescope (Arecibo; it’s the one James Bond and Natalya Simonova discover in GoldenEye), scientists observed no variation. But the universe may be […]
A mysterious new shape seems to say something fundamental about the nature of the universe. Can we understand its message?
Plato set out to explain everything with five perfect shapes. His theory died centuries ago. But in 2013 a shape called the amplituhedron burst upon the science scene. Physicists find it performs a miracle. But they don’t know how. The answer may hold a deep truth physics can sense but can’t quite find. Understanding the […]
Understanding Planck-scale physics gives us evidence that we have free will
Physics has long been said to say we have no free will. Up close and dirty this is a false argument. And the whole issue is on the brink of fundamental change. A deeper grasp of physics brings together many threads to explain free will. In a recent article in The Atlantic Steven Cave says: […]
Taking Lessons from the Universe
Arithmetic is fundamental to science; but we tend to take it for granted. Few realize its foundations are shaky. Now there are exciting ways to firm them up. We are sold a knowledge pyramid like this: Sciences rest on a foundation of physics; physics on math; math on arithmetic. And arithmetic on logic— but, actually, […]
Is Our World Analog or Digital
We need new physics; and new physics needs new math. It won’t be easy but it is a huge opportunity. More than a hundred years ago physics chose to assume the universe is analog. It is now becoming clear that this is wrong: our universe is digital. We took a wrong turn that is having […]
The Origins of Einstein’s Ideas
Albert Einstein is mostly known for physics theories. Or for E=mc2 (though he didn’t write it in that way). But his biggest contribution was the boldness, number, depth, diversity, originality and sometimes sheer courage of his ideas. Every one of these ideas was controversial at the time; now they underpin the world economy. What’s the […]