Things We Can Never Comprehend

Have you ever wondered what we don’t know?  Or, to put it another way, how many mysteries of the universe are still to be discovered?

To take this thought a step further, have you ever considered that there may be things that we CAN’T understand, no matter how hard we try?

This idea may be shocking to some, especially to those scientists who believe that we are nearing the “Grand Unified Theory”, or “Theory of Everything” that will provide a simple and elegant solution to all forces, particles, and concepts in science.  Throughout history, the brightest of minds have been predicting the end of scientific inquiry.  In 1871, James Clerk Maxwell lamented the sentiment of the day which he represented by the statement “in a few years, all great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.”

Yet, why does it always seem like the closer we get to the answers, the more monkey wrenches get thrown in the way?  In today’s world, these include strange particles that don’t fit the model.  And dark matter.  And unusual gravitational aberrations in distant galaxies.

Perhaps we need a dose of humility.  Perhaps the universe, or multiverse, or whatever term is being used these days to denote “everything that is out there” is just too far beyond our intellectual capacity.  Before you call me out on this heretical thought, consider…

The UK’s Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees points out that “a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum mechanics.”  Despite the fact that Richard Feynman claimed that nobody understands quantum mechanics, as Michael Brooks points out in his recent article “The limits of knowledge: Things we’ll never understand”, no matter how hard they might try, the comprehension of something like Quantum Mechanics is simply beyond the capacity of certain species of animals.  Faced with this realization and the fact that anthropologists estimate that the most recent common ancestor of both humans and chimps (aka CHLCA) was about 6 million years ago, we can draw a startling conclusion:

There are certainly things about our universe and reality that are completely beyond our ability to comprehend!

My reasoning is as follows. Chimps are certainly at least more intelligent than the CHLCA; otherwise evolution would be working in reverse.  As an upper bound of intelligence, let’s say that CHLCA and chimps are equivalent.  Then, CHLCA was certainly not able to comprehend QM (nor relativity, nor even Newtonian physics), but upon evolving into humans over 8 million years, our new species was able to comprehend these things.  8 million years represents 0.06% of the entire age of the universe (according to what we think we know).  That means that for 99.94% of the total time that the universe and life was evolving up to the current point in time, the most advanced creature on earth was incapable of understand the most rudimentary concepts about the workings of reality and the universe.  And yet, are we to suppose that in the last 0.06% of the time, a species has evolved that can understand everything?  I’m sure you see how unlikely that is.

What if our universe was intelligently designed?  The same argument would probably hold.  For some entity to be capable of creating a universe that continues to baffle us no matter how much we think we understand, that entity must be far beyond our intelligence, and therefore has utilized, in the design, concepts that we can’t hope to understand.

Our only chance for being supremely capable of understanding our world would lie in the programmed reality model.  If the creator of our simulation was us, or even an entity a little more advanced than us, it could lead us along a path of exploration and knowledge discovery that just always seems to be on slightly beyond our grasp.  Doesn’t that idea feel familiar?

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Just when you thought Physics couldn’t get any Stranger

Tachyons, entanglement, cold fusion, dark matter, galactic filaments.  Just when you thought physics couldn’t get any stranger…

– THE VERY COLD: Fractional Quantum Hall Effect: When electrons are magnetically confined and cooled to a third of a degree above absolute zero (See more here), they seem to break down into sub-particles that act in synchronization, but with fractional charges, like 1/3, or 3/7.

– THE VERY HIGH PRESSURE: Strange Matter: The standard model of physics includes 6 types of quarks, including the 2 (“up” and “down”) that make up ordinary matter.  Matter that consists of “strange” quarks, aka Strange Matter, would be 10 times as heavy as ordinary matter.  Does it exist?  Theoretically, at very high densities, such as the core of neutron stars, such matter may exist.  A 1998 space shuttle experiment seems to have detected some, but repeat experiments have not yielded the same results.

– THE VERY LARGE DIMENSIONAL: Multidimensional Space: String theories say that we live in a 10-dimensional space, mostly because it is the only way to make quantum mechanics and general relativity play nicely together.  That is, until physicist Garrett Lisi came along and showed how it could be done with eight dimensional space and objects called octonions.  String theorists were miffed, mostly because Lisi is not university affiliated and spends most of his time surfing in Hawaii.

– THE VERY HOT: Quark-Gloun Plasma: Heat up matter to 2 trillion degrees and neutrons and protons fall apart into a plasma of quarks called quark-gluon plasma.  In April of 2005, QGP appeared to have been created at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).

My view on all this is that it is scientific business as usual.  100 years ago, we lived in a smaller world; a world described solely by Newtonian Mechanics, our ordinary everyday view of how the world works.  Then, along came relativity and quantum mechanics.  Technological advances in laboratory equipment and optics allowed us to push the limits of speed and validate Relativity, which ultimately showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Relativity at slow speeds.  Similarly we pushed the limits of probing the very small and validated Quantum Mechanics, which showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Quantum Mechanics at large scales.  In the 1960’s, we pushed the limits of heat and energy, discovered  and found that our Quantum Mechanical / Relativistic Theory of the world was really just an approximation at low temperatures of a larger theory that had to encompass Quantum Chromodynamics.  Now, we are pushing the limits of temperature, or the slowing down of particles, and discovering that there must be an even larger theory that describes the world, that explains the appearance of fractional charges at extremely low temperatures.  Why does this keep happening and where does it end?

Programmed Reality provides an explanation.  In fact, it actually provides two.

In one case, the programmers of our reality created a complex set of physical laws that we are slowly discovering.  Imagine a set of concentric spheres, with each successive level outward representing a higher level scientific theory of the world that encompasses faster speeds, higher temperatures, larger scales, colder temperatures, higher energies, etc.  How deep inside the sphere of knowledge are we now?  Don’t know, but this is a model that puts it in perspective.  It is a technological solution to the philosophy of Deism.

The second possibility is that as we humans push the limits of each successive sphere of physical laws that were created for us, the programmers put in place a patch that opens up the next shell of discovery, not unlike a game.  I prefer this model, for a number of reasons.  First of all, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun and interesting to interact with your creations, rather than start them on their evolutionary path and then pay no further attention?  Furthermore, this theory offers the perfect explanation for all of those scientific experiments that have generated anomalous results that have never been reproducible.  The programmers simply applied the patch before anyone else could reproduce the experiment.

Interestingly, throughout the years, scientists have fooled themselves into thinking that the discovery of everything was right around the corner.  In the mid-20th century, the ultimate goal was the Unified Field Theory.  Now, it is called a TOE, or Theory of Everything.

Let’s stop thinking we’re about to reach the end of scientific inquiry and call each successive theory a TOM, or Theory of More.

Because the only true TOE is Programmed Reality.  QED.