Senate What are the greatest mysteries in science?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ghost, May 8, 2009.

  1. Lowbacca_1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    String theory being called that is an abomination, and it should be throughly labeled as string hypothesis until such time as they've got evidence. Models that haven't made predictions yet should be clearly marked as such.

    And I'd point out that one can have great use out of a model or law that doesn't explain mechanics, per se, but does accurately make predictions. For example, Kepler's laws of motion accurately explain and predict the motion of the planets, but make no attempt to show why those laws exist.

    I think the first four dimensions are fairly clear, however I think it's worth noting that with the others, it's not that the models require 11 dimensions to work, it's that the output from the mathematical models indicates those dimensions. So it's going the reverse, that's a result... a prediction trying to be verified, if you will, not an assumption of the models. Vivec may be more useful here as I know he's done coursework in all this junk more recently than I did.
  2. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Science is also predictive. There are a lot of things out there that science predicted before they were verified, because the calculations and such that the models made were more accurate than ones without. This is why, for example, scientists talk about dark matter. We don't know what it is, it's never been observed directly, but the assumed existence of dark matter in the physical model makes the model more accurate than the model without. So because dark matter as a concept is predictable and accurate to observations, it's actually a more extraordinary claim at this point to say that it doesn't exist, because there's a lot that would need to be explained.

    Likewise the 11-dimensions thing. Those are there because the predictions scientists can make based on that model are more accurate than the ones they can make based on the three-dimensional model.

    Accurate, repeatable predictions made with a certain mathematical model are considered evidence for that model.

    A lot of scientists are asking this same question, I should point out. String theory is nowhere near the same level of acceptance as, say, the Big Bang. It's more a thought experiment than a theory, at least as far as I know. I'm no physicist but I listen to a lot of science podcasts and all of them treat it as a neat idea but nothing more, at this point.

    [image=http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/string_theory.png]
  3. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    So, what has the 11-dimension model of the universe repeatedly predicted?

    I get the examples with Dark Matter and the Big Bang above. But what makes the 11-dimension theory more like the Dark Matter theory and the Big Bang theory, and less like the String theory/hypothesis?

    How you two summed up String "theory" is basically how I think of this multi-dimensional "theory" right now.
  4. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    So, what has the 11-dimension model of the universe repeatedly predicted?

    Well, I think the main thing it has predicted is the interaction of gravity with other forces, as it's kind of the first step in a grand unification theory. Under the M-Theory, gravity, as a force, is not limited to any single dimension. Our universe is limited to our dimension, but through gravity, we can interact with others.

    It also seeks to explain dark matter and the graviton, which has the job of uniting gravity with other quantum level forces. Although, as you said, the theory doesn't prove any of this, but it predicts it.

  5. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Isn't M-theory the latest version of string theory?

    How has it predicted how gravity relates to the other fundamental interactions, dark matter, and possibly other universes?

    So it predicts how gravity works... have any of those predictions been accurate?

    How does all that lead to a prediction of other dimensions and possibly even other universes, and why should treat the prediction seriously?
  6. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    No, M theory is not a version of string theory. M Theory is a collection of other theories that have overlapping areas of commonality while describing different things.
  7. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Nope, M-theory is a new version of string theory.



    In theoretical physics, M-theory is an extension of string theory in which 11 dimensions are identified. Because the dimensionality exceeds that of superstring theories in 10 dimensions, proponents believe that the 11-dimensional theory unites all five string theories (and supersedes them). Though a full description of the theory is not known, the low-entropy dynamics are known to be supergravity interacting with 2- and 5-dimensional membranes.

    This idea is the unique supersymmetric theory in eleven dimensions, with its low-entropy matter content and interactions fully determined, and can be obtained as the strong coupling limit of type IIA string theory because a new dimension of space emerges as the coupling constant increases.

    Drawing on the work of a number of string theorists (including Ashoke Sen, Chris Hull, Paul Townsend, Michael Duff and John Schwarz), Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study suggested its existence at a conference at USC in 1995, and used M-theory to explain a number of previously observed dualities, initiating a flurry of new research in string theory called the second superstring revolution.

    In the early 1990s it was shown that the various superstring theories were related by dualities which allow the description of an object in one super string theory to be related to the description of a different object in another super string theory. These relationships imply that each of the super string theories is a different aspect of a single underlying theory, proposed by Witten, and named "M-theory".

    Originally the letter M in M-theory was taken from membrane, a construct designed to generalize the strings of string theory. However, as Witten was more skeptical about membranes than his colleagues, he opted for "M-theory" rather than "Membrane theory". Witten has since stated that the interpretation of the M can be a matter of taste for the user of the name.[1]

    M-theory (and string theory) has been criticized (e.g., by Lawrence Krauss) for lacking predictive power or being untestable

  8. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    False.
  9. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    First, I said that a year and a half ago, and we're on on a different subject currently. It's fine to go to a new topic, but why respond to that now?

    Second, care to elaborate? Our scientific understanding of the brain and consciousness is far behind our understand of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Things are falling into place, though very slowly, for astrophysics, quantum physics, genetics, etc. Whenever there's a rare breakthrough about neuroscience, it's usually saying that what we believed to be true is wrong, for example I read something recently that the textbook understanding of neurons and their connections is wrong.
  10. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I'm guessing my Stephen Hawking quote overrules your wikipedia one:

  11. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    And that group of theories known as M-theory seem to revolve around these strings/membranes existing and vibrating in 11 dimensions.

    But whatever, my question stands, what has the 11-dimension theory (I guess part of M-theory) accurately predicted? Even that Hawking quote says that M-theory offers a good description of physical situations in only a limited range of cases (not sure if that "range" includes the 11 dimensions or not, in Hawking's point of view).
  12. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    Because it's wrong, it's demonstrably false, it's foolish and it's ignorant.

    Also because it's more likely to prompt actual questions. See, if you just said to me 'okay, explain consciousness. Go!' there'd be no place to start. I'd prefer to have you state what you think is still mysterious about it, so I can explain the mysteries one by one.

    You're entirely wrong. The discipline has not yet reached a consensus, this is true. And the consensus understanding of astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry, physics, and so on is remarkably well-defined. A lot of ties directly into our understanding of consciousness.

    But just because you haven't put the pieces together yet doesn't mean the pieces aren't all there. And just because a consensus has not yet been reached doesn't mean there aren't people out there that have put the pieces together. Now, there's a lot of people out there that claim to understand consciousness. Most of them don't. Many are actually con-men. But you and I have the ability to think about claims, examine the evidence, and discover which theories have merit, which are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which are wholly ridiculous, and so on. And if you examine the literature on consciousness for this purpose, you can 1) figure out who's full of s--- and who knows what the h--- they're talking about and 2) start to put the pieces together yourself.

    It's a lot easier to solve a jigsaw if someone that's solved it before is sitting next to you and giving you tips.

    And if there's a dozen people giving you contradictory tips, you can examine the advice each one gives you to determine whose advice will actually save you time (though in the end you still have to piece it together yourself).

    So yeah. I think I've put the puzzle together. I had a lot of help - I stand on the shoulders of some fantastic giants. I'm reasonably good at remembering how I solved the puzzle, so if you'd like to take a crack at it I can tell you what I've learned. It's up to you to evaluate whether I actually have useful information (even if there's some noise in with the signal) or if I'm a madman ranting my favorite pet theory.

    And with the information I provide - and the information you can get all around you, thanks to this fantastic communications device we call 'the internet' - you can try to put the puzzle together.

    Or you can keep staring at it and insisting that nobody has ever solved it (effectively asserting that it's unsolvable, that consciousness itself is impossible despite obviously being reality).
  13. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Because it's wrong, it's demonstrably false, it's foolish and it's ignorant.



    To think that consciousness is the last great mystery, that we don't know nearly as much about as the other two big areas I listed? We know much more about the universe and life in general than we do about consciousness.



    Also because it's more likely to prompt actual questions. See, if you just said to me 'okay, explain consciousness. Go!' there'd be no place to start. I'd prefer to have you state what you think is still mysterious about it, so I can explain the mysteries one by one.



    See my first post, that started this thread.



    You're entirely wrong. The discipline has not yet reached a consensus, this is true. And the consensus understanding of astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry, physics, and so on is remarkably well-defined.


    So you say I'm entirely wrong, then you agree with me? If there's no consensus, if neurological experts disagree with each other still, then yes, that shows that this area of science is still the least understood.



    But just because you haven't put the pieces together yet doesn't mean the pieces aren't all there. And just because a consensus has not yet been reached doesn't mean there aren't people out there that have put the pieces together. Now, there's a lot of people out there that claim to understand consciousness. Most of them don't. Many are actually con-men.



    This doesn't make sense. So we know all about consciousness... but we have to piece it together ourselves, and there's a lot of wrong people and a lot of people who will disagree? This all shows that yeah, questions about the Mind are still mostly open to individual interpretation, there's no scientific consensus, the scientific evidence isn't yet solid... so I was right in saying this is the last big mystery we're still trying to unravel and understand the basics of. It's not science unless it's peer-reviewed and objectively confirmed by many scientists in the same field.


    But you and I have the ability to think about claims, examine the evidence, and discover which theories have merit, which are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which are wholly ridiculous, and so on. And if you examine the literature on consciousness for this purpose, you can 1) figure out who's full of s--- and who knows what the h--- they're talking about and 2) start to put the pieces together yourself.

    It's a lot easier to solve a jigsaw if someone that's solved it before is sitting next to you and giving you tips.

    And if there's a dozen people giving you contradictory tips, you can examine the advice each one gives you to determine whose advice will actually save you time (though in the end you still have to piece it together yourself).

    So yeah. I think I've put the puzzle together. I had a lot of help - I stand on the shoulders of some fantastic giants. I'm reasonably good at remembering how I solved the puzzle, so if you'd like to take a crack at it I can tell you what I've learned. It's up to you to evaluate whether I actually have useful information (even if there's some noise in with the signal) or if I'm a madman ranting my favorite pet theory.

    And with the information I provide - and the information you can get all around you, thanks to this fantastic communications device we call 'the internet' - you can try to put the puzzle together.


    If you think you've solved it, then fine, go ahead, look at my questions under "the Mind" in the original post of this thread. I'm going to take your answers with a grain of salt, though.



    Or you can keep staring at it and insisting that nobody has ever solved it (effectively asserting that it's unsolvable, that consciousness itself is impossible despite obviously being reality).



    Yeah, you completely misundertood what I was saying, I was saying that it's like the "last frontier" of scien
  14. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    First, you really don't understand the fundamentals of science. Yeah, you get the naive 'method', as taught to school children, but you seem to lack an understanding of how and why it works. Reaching a consensus isn't what makes something true. Nor is that what makes it understood. Reaching a consensus is the aim we adopt inter-subjectively because valuing that improves our ability to discover truth and understanding.

    But having a consensus doesn't mean that a particular field of study has achieved True Knowledge. There's no such THING as (capital-K) Knowledge (of things-in-themselves). We can't even directly perceive causation. And all the data we have devolves from being a first-hand observation (direct perception) to being second-hand accounts described on paper (and sometimes recorded in photographs or video). People are able to lie. Video can be fudged. There's an incredible degree of skepticism you must adopt. It is worth evaluating any data that is available to you, and assessing your own confidence that it's accurate. The reputation of the source of that data is relevant. So is the 'chain of custody' of that data. In the end, though, under ideal conditions, if a bit of data is called into question, you want to repeat the experiment. And a history of repeated experiments by independent persons that all reach the same conclusion is a pretty strong bit of data. Very useful in moving the population of scientists towards a consensus on that particular matter.

    But there's no such thing as a 'Body of Scientific Knowledge.' There's no tome that contains everything that Science has discovered. And each scientist - each human being - has their own personal 'Body of Knowledge'; and not all Bodies of Knowledge are equal. And none of them have access to things-in-themselves.

    And yes. We know all about consciousness. And yes, you have to put the pieces together yourself. If you want to understand evolution or climate change you also have to put the pieces together yourself. There are lazy people out there who don't put the pieces together, but point to the consensus and say 'no, I Know it because it is Proven.' And that's fine. It's not practical for all persons to be experts on all subjects. But they run the risk of being dogmatic. The ones doing the persuading should be the ones with the understanding. And the arguments should stand or fall on their own merits - appeal to authority is ALWAYS inappropriate.

    Your statement that consciousness is the "last great mystery which we really have no clue about." is NOT the same as your later assertion that "it's ... the "last frontier" of science. " I agree with the latter, reject the former. You changed positions, and then insisted it was I that made the error. And you fail to grasp the distinction between those two positions, in order to defend your assessment that it is I that was in error.

    The problem of consciousness gets extremely confusing because it is a strange-loop, a self-reference. It's human brains trying to understand human brains. There's a problem of data compression. It's essential that you remember this at all times.


  15. Lowbacca_1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Making a strong reminder here that plagiarism is a rule violation.
  16. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    I wrote every bit of that myself. I cut/paste my summary of philosophy of mind from an e-mail I wrote to someone else, simply to save time.

    That said, feel free to check it. See if you can find any section of text written above that was stolen from another author. I am committed to the assertion that you will not.
  17. Lowbacca_1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I did check it and find it elsewhere. Which is why we're having this conversation now.
    http://pastebin.com/jQMtzti3
    http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3406140&userid=15848
  18. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    Hi :) I'm Uglycat.

    Also known as Consensus, if you look around in the Anonymous circles.

    edit - someone submitted it as a paste-bin; how flattering :)
  19. Lowbacca_1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    That possibility is why it was a reminder, not a warning. And I'd go on to say that for anything existing online already, because it's very difficult to distinguish between self-plagiarism and plagiarism, that there should at least be notations that one is reusing work.
  20. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    That's a fair point. I will add such notation to future posts, when appropriate.
  21. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Kawphy, thanks for your time, that will take me a while to read and respond to (especially since I owe other people some responses first) so I'll get to it when I have time.
  22. Kawphy Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 4
    I'm still interested in exploring this further, whenever you have time. I know it's a lot - I've spent a decade studying the hell out of it. I applied to seminary out of high school, back in '98. Bishop felt I masturbated too frequently (hey, he asked, what was I gunna do, lie?), and told me to get my undergrad in philosophy and then re-apply.
    So I started out with the intention of proving that god exists. I thought about it, and the only 'supernatural'/'nonphysical' thing I could think of that I had direct access to was consciousness.

    So I resolved to study it in depth. Majored in philosophy, with particular interest in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Added another major in psychology, with interest in neuroscience, sensation & perception, behaviorism, and cognitive psych. Minored in history and cognitive science along the way. And the whole time, I'd argue and discuss the topics with friends and on internet forums.

    I'm not an 'authority.' Don't take anything as true just because I assert it; ask me to justify it, and work to evaluate the claims yourself. A claim stands or falls on its own merit, not on the person claiming it. Nonetheless, I feel I know this topic inside and out, and can produce a coherent narrative re: consciousness, how it works, and where it's going.

    I'm an atheist now. A naturalist. The biggest realization I've had in the last year is this:
    The 'event' where the 'ego' separated from ... everything else ... and the 'event' where language was first created ... are the same event.

    I also took my understanding of the way consciousness works and integrated myself into the first non-hierarchical meta-consciousness I could find - Anonymous. And I used my knowledge to shape and enlighten that meta-organism, and I watch it grow, evolve and mature every day. It's kind've... a proof of concept.
  23. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I still haven't gotten a chance to read Kawphy's posts on consiousness (still on my to-do list, along with a lot of other things).

    But there was a recent burst of particle physics news:



    1.) Neutrinos are STILL faster than light??

    I thought this was dismissed, but now there's a second report. I'm still leaning towards this being an observation fluke.

    The Italian physicists who announced two months ago that they had detected particles called neutrinos traveling faster than light now say they've done it again ? and using an improved experimental setup. Many more tests will be needed, however, before the physics community accepts the revolutionary result as final.

    "The experiment OPERA [Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tracking Apparatus], thanks to a specially adapted CERN beam, has made an important test of consistency of its result," said Fernando Ferroni, president of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), which runs the lab where the experiment was conducted. "The positive outcome of the test makes us more confident in the result, although a final word can only be said by analogous measurements performed elsewhere in the world."



    2.) Discovery of bits of matter that don't mirror the behavior of their antimatter counterparts... explanation for why Matter prevailed over Antimatter?


    The world's largest atom smasher, designed as a portal to a new view of physics, has produced its first peek at the unexpected: bits of matter that don't mirror the behavior of their antimatter counterparts.

    The discovery, if confirmed, could rewrite the known laws of particle physics and help explain why our universe is made mostly of matter and not antimatter.

    Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider, the 17-mile (27 km) circular particle accelerator underground near Geneva, Switzerland, have been colliding protons at high speeds to create explosions of energy. From this energy many subatomic particles are produced.

    Now researchers at the accelerator's LHCb experiment are reporting that some matter particles produced inside the machine appear to be behaving differently from their antimatter counterparts, which might provide a partial explanation to the mystery of antimatter.



    3.) Light created and retained from Vacuum


    Light Created from a Vacuum: Casimir Effect Observed in Superconducting Circuit

    Scientists at Chalmers have succeeded in creating light from vacuum -- observing an effect first predicted over 40 years ago. In an innovative experiment, the scientists have managed to capture some of the photons that are constantly appearing and disappearing in the vacuum.

    The results have been published in the journal Nature.

    The experiment is based on one of the most counterintuitive, yet, one of the most important principles in quantum mechanics: that vacuum is by no means empty nothingness. In fact, the vacuum is full of various particles that are continuously fluctuating in and out of existence. They appear, exist for a brief moment and then disappear again. Since their existence is so fleeting, they are usually referred to as virtual particles.

    Chalmers scientist, Christopher Wilson and his co-workers have succeeded in getting photons to leave their virtual state and become real photons, i.e. measurable light. The physicist Moore predicted way back in 1970 that this should happen if the virtual photons are allowed to bounce off a mirror that is moving at a speed that is almost as high as the speed of light. The phenomenon, known as the dynamical Casimir effect, has now been observed for the first time in a brilliant experiment conducted by the Chalmers scientists.

    "Since it's not possible to get a mirror to move fast enough, we've developed another metho
  24. Lowbacca_1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Yeah.... neutrinos are rushing toward my mystery list right now.
  25. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6

    The bartender says "We don't serve your kind here."

    A neutrino walks into the bar.