So, I recently read 'The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen' by Professors Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw.

Truthfully, I took three things from this amazing explanation of Quantum Physics:

  1. My brain hurts.
  2. A vague understanding of how Quantum Physics works. I now feel more equipped than I was before to understand our universe and the wonders it contains.
  3. THIS QUOTE, which I honestly believe is as perfect a definition for scientific theory as opposed to religion/fantasy and creationist nonsense as one could ever imagine; I think it is a piece of utterly beautiful literature:

"Any theory that is not amenable to falsification is not a scientific theory - indeed one might go so far to say it has no reliable information content at all. The reliance on falsification is why scientific theories are different from matters of opinion."

Such eloquence of language is rare to find, and a joy when it is found.

Views: 251

Comment by max stirner on April 16, 2013 at 10:09pm

** As usual, the Greeks got there first.

It does not require a quantum theoretical justification to argue for a thesis that 'all events which can happen will happen'. The doctrine follows logically from Epicureanism -- and was known as a logically necessary consequence of that materialist metaphysic in antiquity.

No only did the Epicureans hold a similar thesis about future events -- their theory also implies that 'that everything which can happen has already happened over and over again'. This is the doctrine of eternal recurrence.

All that's needed is a finite number of particles and an infinite amount of time.

Of course, quantum theory is scientific and ancient Epicurean speculation fails the Popperian falsifiability criterion.

But, you can understand why xians hated Epicureans who left no place for a transcendent reality -- there is only matter and the void and infinite time. Xians (along with ancient polytheists before xianity) slandered them as pigs for holding that only pleasure is the good -- a pleasure seeking governed by reason which xians fail to mention.

And to end on a note of speculative insight -- Epicurus was not a metaphysical determinist like Democritus -- he held that particles sometimes for no apparent cause deviated from their courses -- this indeterministic action, he called the "swerve".

It took a long time before western science achieved enough empirical information to require that the "swerve" be included as a feature of micro-reality. It was Epicurus' own Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Comment by SteveInCO on April 16, 2013 at 10:48pm

No only did the Epicureans hold a similar thesis about future events -- their theory also implies that 'that everything which can happen has already happened over and over again'. This is the doctrine of eternal recurrence.

All that's needed is a finite number of particles and an infinite amount of time.

Even without quantum mechanics this would violate the second law of thermodynamics; to return to a previous state for the entire universe would require whatever entropy came into the system since the last time it was in that state, to disappear.  This of course was unknown to the Greeks but it predates what we call "modern physics" (because of relativity and QM being distinctly unlike the Newtonian "clockwork").

More philosophically, with infinite time and a finite number of particles (and a finite amount of space) there's no requirement for every state to be revisited over and over again, but certainly some states will exist for more than one instant.  That's still true, actually: if the system maxes out on entropy it will be in one particular state (the one of maximum entropy) forever.

Comment by angela kozma on April 16, 2013 at 11:05pm

Brian cox did a show called an evening with the stars That helped me start understanding physics. I had simon pegg and stephen fry so it was an automatic win to watch. 

Comment by angela kozma on April 16, 2013 at 11:08pm

The Quark and the Jaguar was a pretty good read as well.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 17, 2013 at 8:07pm

Comment by Diane on April 17, 2013 at 9:55pm

The quote certainly is eloquent.  It seems like that should clarify what is meant by a scientific theory, but I am afraid those who need to understand it most would not get it. Oh the irony of it!

Comment by Dale Headley on April 18, 2013 at 6:13pm

It's useless to try to explain to Jesus freaks the difference between a "theory" and a "scientific theory."  They are willfully and proudly ignorant.

Comment by iain hewitt on April 20, 2013 at 10:23am

Which is part of the reason Dawkins in, "The Greatest Show On Earth" advocated the introduction of the word 'theorum', a deriviation of the mathematic concept of a theorem, to provide a distinction between the two meanings of the word theory. (With the lovely footnote of 'For the sake of decorum/Pronounce it decorum).

Comment by Simon Paynton on April 20, 2013 at 10:50am

Which two meanings?  A scientific theory always remains a working model.  A mathematical theorem is a logically proven truth.  A theorum is... um...

Comment by iain hewitt on April 20, 2013 at 11:13am

The phrase scientific theory is not provided a distinct definition from theory according to the dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary provides the multiple definitions of Theory. The two which matter in this conversation (i.e the two that are picked on by those on who fight for and against scientific reality):

Sense 1: A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account if a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is prpounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.

Sense 2: A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.

Due to the (likely originally deliberate, but now, due to a general lack of scientific understanding, accepted by the majority arguing the case) misunderstanding of which definition the scientific community refers to when using the word, Dawkins suggests using the new word 'theorum' to express in explicit terms the first definition, while keeping a separation from the mathematic concept of theorem.

His idea was to try to remove a fallicious argument from the armament of the religious, anti-scientific, lunatic right against whom we are constantly having to fight a rearguard action against by denying them what seems to us to be such an easily demolished argument.


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