Horizon: What is Reality?

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  • Fab4 18 Jan 2011 08:55:46 6,163 posts
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    Did anyone see this last night? Nice to see the double slit experiment shown...always a favourite of mine.

    I enjoyed it but it doesn't half do my head in thinking about it...especially that hologram theory :-D

    If the universe is Physics, and reality is Mathematics, then my brain is Home Economics.
  • HoraceGoesSquiffy 18 Jan 2011 08:57:25 1,563 posts
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    Sounds good, I'll give it a look on iPlayer. Anything will be better than the one about intelligence I watched last night which was just a lazy comp of old episodes from years gone by. I thought only sitcoms did that when they ran out of ideas.
  • smoothpete 18 Jan 2011 09:13:52 31,712 posts
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    How dumbed down was it? Bearing in mind I did a philosophy degree
  • Zerobob 18 Jan 2011 09:15:19 1,610 posts
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    Cheers for posting. Some light viewing for lunchtime methinks.
  • Razz 18 Jan 2011 09:15:43 61,610 posts
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    Reality is a bacon sarnie, coffee and a rolly at 6am.

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  • shamblemonkee 18 Jan 2011 09:18:03 14,601 posts
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    smoothpete wrote:
    How dumbed down was it? Bearing in mind I did a philosophy degree

    You should be able to understand it ;p
  • Load_2.0 18 Jan 2011 09:53:41 19,521 posts
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    Fab4 wrote:
    Did anyone see this last night? Nice to see the double slit experiment shown...always a favourite of mine.

    I enjoyed it but it doesn't half do my head in thinking about it...especially that hologram theory :-D

    If the universe is Physics, and reality is Mathematics, then my brain is Home Economics.

    I liked it when the "nobody understands quantum mechanics" quote gets pulled out, makes me feel less stupid.

    Interesting theories well presented, the challenge was going to be making any of it accessible to the public, which it did to an extent. It is always an fascinating but difficult subject to get your head around without a background in the sciences.

    When people talk about mathematic being the key to understanding the universe, I feel that it is true but that modern mathmatics is based and shaped around what we know rather than being some pure untainted process, and there will always be the possibility that some anomaly comes about which completely undo mathematical theories.

  • thegamesthething 18 Jan 2011 09:59:12 1,079 posts
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    Razz wrote:
    Reality is a bacon sarnie, coffee and a rolly at 6am.

    I've had a coffee and a rolly and feel about two thirds real, you could be on to something :)
  • JohnnyWashnGo 18 Jan 2011 10:08:49 1,544 posts
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    The show was good but ultimately so watered down for mainstream TV that it became boring very quickly. I am no scientist but I do read a lot about that particular subject and found a lot of the show to be treading old ground.

    Still, worth watching if you are new to the topic.
  • heyyo 18 Jan 2011 10:31:40 14,371 posts
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    Load "$" wrote:
    When people talk about mathematic being the key to understanding the universe, I feel that it is true but that modern mathmatics is based and shaped around what we know rather than being some pure untainted process, and there will always be the possibility that some anomaly comes about which completely undo mathematical theories.

    Human knowledge is socially constructed, science, mathematics you name it - it's theories humans have formulated to make sense of the world, forming theories and getting empricial evidence, science isn't something that exists for humans to discover, eg. the moon.

    Google "socially construct science" or something for more...

  • Load_2.0 18 Jan 2011 10:36:01 19,521 posts
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    heyyo! wrote:
    science isn't something that exists for humans to discover, eg. the moon.

    Google "socially construct science" or something for more...


    I agree, I don't think I worded it well. There was a segment on the show last night with a chap drawing equations over a window and a theme to the show which suggested to me that mathematics was inherent to the design of the Universe. Which may be true at the moment but not ultimately so.
  • Deleted user 18 January 2011 10:37:13
    What is love?
  • mcmonkeyplc 18 Jan 2011 10:44:39 39,515 posts
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    Baby dont hurt me...

    Come and get it cumslingers!

  • heyyo 18 Jan 2011 10:49:53 14,371 posts
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    Load "$" wrote:
    heyyo! wrote:
    science isn't something that exists for humans to discover, eg. the moon.

    Google "socially construct science" or something for more...


    I agree, I don't think I worded it well. There was a segment on the show last night with a chap drawing equations over a window and a theme to the show which suggested to me that mathematics was inherent to the design of the Universe. Which may be true at the moment but not ultimately so.

    I forgot to put "Yeah, Human.." at the start of my post ;)
  • mal 18 Jan 2011 23:09:57 22,793 posts
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    Wheee, saw this tonight. That's the best episode of Horizon I've seen for a few series' (not that I watch it religiously any more). There was a surprising amount of this stuff I didn't know.

    I wonder if I don't enjoy Horizon much any more because I've already heard a lot of the stuff they talk about (the other week's repeats being a particularly acute example). Maybe they're not getting worse - maybe I'm just getting 'better'. Tonight's episode doesn't disprove this theory.

    Cubby didn't know how to turn off sigs!

  • mal 18 Jan 2011 23:27:43 22,793 posts
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    Yeah, but maybe the pure act of living inside reality has clouded out collective imagination so much that an apparently purely virtual language, unconnected with the world, only describes reality.

    /invokes the spirit of Douglas Adams.

    Cubby didn't know how to turn off sigs!

  • dsmx 18 Jan 2011 23:41:31 7,691 posts
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    Reality is different for everyone as what we think is real is merely what your brain says is real, what we perceive only exists within your own mind.

    That said we do seem to obey certain physical laws that mathematics has built formulas on but since reality entirely depends on how you perceive it the rules we have come up with may only exist because we all accept that those laws govern our reality.

    But further than that your getting into some very philosophical arguments about the nature of everything which I can't be arsed doing..

    "If we hit that bullseye the rest of the dominoes will fall like a a house of cards, checkmate." Zapp Brannigan

  • Cappy 19 Jan 2011 01:10:30 12,096 posts
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    A very interesting programme, glad I watched it.

    I really wish they'd stop trying to 'sex up' this sort of content though, really I promise I won't lose interest if you just have some guys talking without exciting music dubbed in and fancy CG graphics and professors using lighthouse windows instead of logical practical things like notepads or white boards.

    The BBC clearly has a very low opinion of the British public.
  • Deleted user 19 January 2011 01:12:11
    I find the production on Horizon a bit too dramatic nowadays. It's just as well that the show is still pretty good.
  • ecu 19 Jan 2011 01:22:21 77,234 posts
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    JohnnyWashnGo wrote:
    The show was good but ultimately so watered down for mainstream TV that it became boring very quickly. I am no scientist but I do read a lot about that particular subject and found a lot of the show to be treading old ground.

    Still, worth watching if you are new to the topic.

    It's the same with everything BBC do, I guess it has to be.
  • Lukus 19 Jan 2011 01:36:46 19,363 posts
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    smoothpete wrote:
    How dumbed down was it? Bearing in mind I did a philosophy degree

    Ahhh, but did you really? Ahhhhh...

    Paintings & Photographs

  • Deleted user 19 January 2011 01:41:52
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  • Fab4 19 Jan 2011 06:54:40 6,163 posts
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    I wish the BBC would reshow the 'Fun to Imagine' series with Richard Feynman.

    Edit: Although I guess you guys in the UK can watch them here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/feynman/
  • spindizzy 19 Jan 2011 08:45:15 6,588 posts
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    I think you guys really missed the point about the stuff with mathematics. It really does seem as if maths is in some very deep and fundamental way the 'language' of the universe. There have been countless times where some apparently useless mathematical plaything (like complex numbers) turns out to be exactly what is needed to explain a hitherto unknown physical effect. IMO it's one of the great mysteries (and I get shivers when I think about it too deeply)

    There a bit on it here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unreasonable_Effectiveness_of_Mathematics_in_the_Natural_Sciences
  • Zerobob 19 Jan 2011 09:58:07 1,610 posts
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    I caught up with this on iPlayer yesterday.

    The show had very good production values but it really left me wanting in the details and I thought some things were glossed over which could have been conveyed quite easily.

    I didn't think the double slit experiment was very well explained, for example, as it didn't mention where exactly these single photons were aimed at during the experiment. The left slit, right slit? The middle? I don't like to be left asking questions. I also don't think it even mentioned that light acts like a wave and interference occurs between waves which is how the lines occur.

    They also said that the behaviour doesn't occur when the experiment is observed by 2 sensors, but offered no further information on this and just left you wondering! Unbelievable.

    It was interesting how they explained that each photon of light could create it's own dimension though, effectively splitting into two and going through both slits at the same time. That got across the main idea of the program well I thought. Does light = reality in a way?

    The holographic theory was also very interesting, but far fetched. I like to think things are fundamentally simple, not complicated, and a lot of the theories in the program I thought were too complex and unsubstantiated, almost like scientific "clutching at straws" if you will.
  • phAge 19 Jan 2011 10:22:54 24,412 posts
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    People in this thread should read "Quarantine" by Greg Egan. Awesome book with quantum mechanics as a key part of the plot.
  • heyyo 19 Jan 2011 10:24:29 14,371 posts
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    hiddenranbir wrote:
    Mathematics aren't a bunch of theories about the world. Everything in it is consistent because they all abide by rules we've prescribed to them; it is a world in itself we have constructed. It is only coincidentally convenient that it can be applied to the observable world(to describe physical laws), because a lot of the concepts were born out of individual's imagination with no real connection to anything.

    Spot the mathematics student :) What i'm getting at is things exist in the world first, and then mathematical models are used to explain them - mathematics doesn't exist first (I think anyway). Take river flow for example it's happily flowing away around rocks and what not, then we come along and apply our (domain-general) differential equations to the flow and hey, we can explain it.

    ...hold on, did I just agree with you there? Wait, but the theories eg. differential equations are socially constructed, ie. humans either working alone or collaboratively so the theories came second to the phenomenon - the theories are not key to the workings of the phenomenon (the river flow).

    Let me put it another way, the river doesn't have mathematical knowledge of differential equations represented inside it, and it's behaviour determined by it. The moon doesn't think, it doesn't know the rules for angular velocity or orbital periods so how can it act in accordance with them?

    edit: the terms i'm looking for are 'rule-following' -vs- 'rule-governed' the observable world (moon, rivers) are rule-governed but not rule following as science and mathematics would predict
  • Zerobob 19 Jan 2011 10:54:15 1,610 posts
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    spindizzy wrote:
    I think you guys really missed the point about the stuff with mathematics. It really does seem as if maths is in some very deep and fundamental way the 'language' of the universe. There have been countless times where some apparently useless mathematical plaything (like complex numbers) turns out to be exactly what is needed to explain a hitherto unknown physical effect. IMO it's one of the great mysteries (and I get shivers when I think about it too deeply)

    There a bit on it here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unreasonable_Effectiveness_of_Mathematics_in_the_Natural_Sciences

    On the maths thing. It's a very romantic idea that we think we've stumbled on the "language of the universe", but really isn't maths just an alternate way of quantifying something without using inaccurate words? Maths isn't a magical entity we have invented. All you are doing is interpreting logic as most of the observable Universe is logical. Observing something, turning that something into a symbol, and making it equal to something. Logic, not magic.

    But what if the Universe isn't logical as we see it? I agree maths, rather than words, has been extremely useful in making predictions and describing things, but there's nothing to suggest that it's even substantial enough to describe the Universe as a whole. I wish it did, but I'm not convinced.
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