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Our tax dollars now tell us that Star Trek's "transporters" are not possible.

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jack Briggs, Feb 10, 2005.

  1. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    Actually I found it interesting also, however, since Brian was having some fun with my post I felt the measured response was to return the favor humorously [​IMG] perhaps I need to use bigger smilies so people don't misconstrue my symbolism [​IMG]

    Brian's post was very interesting on changing the past and I understood that argument. However, I dislike the idea of unchanging future. The Calvinist approach to the philosophy of Predestination is a silly idea, in my opionion. I am no less enamored to the concept when it is offered by scientists and science. I subscribe to the theory that the future is a series of constantly changing threads (based on the choices we make).

    I understand the trick that for us to travel into our past that means that the future we are traveling from is also fixed (or we couldn't have traveled into the past). However that means that for any given trip we are staying on a given thread and only viewing the events that proceeded us on our thread. In my theory that also means that a trip from the future to the past could end up in any number of pasts (since we in the future are constantly changing threads). Also, trips to the future from the past would be impossible because the threads are constantly changing and it would be impossible to lock onto one thread.

    I know this is more complex, but the only other alternative I would willingly accept is that time travel is not possible. You will drag me kicking and screaming to the Arkham Insane Asylum before you get me to buy into every event, every choice, everything being predefined from birth of the universe to its end. I just do not support scientific predestination anymore than the philosophical version.

    Cheers,

    Kenneth
     
  2. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    The last time I checked it was 54. Or am I missing part of the reference?

    Brad
     
  3. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    I left the key point in a spoiler in case some people are hung up on a major plot point being revealed. Hope that helps a little.

    Kenneth
     
  4. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    I grasped that part of the reference fully. The problem is that I'm only familiar with the first book (and the subsequent BBC series), so I was unaware that the replacement Earth had ever been able to produce "the question". It's my own fault. I've got the books sitting right here waiting to be read... what book was the question produced in?

    Brad
     
  5. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    The end of the second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has the question. It is also at the end of the BBC television miniseries which included the first two books.

    Kenneth
     
  6. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I'm sorry, I made a chart and I realize now that I got that backwards. (Yes, I'm pathetically quoting myself again.) Since the wormhole opening that zoomed around on the ship is a week younger, it has effectively moved a week into our future, not a week into our past.

    I apologize for the error and any inconvenience it may have caused.
     
  7. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    I've just got ten ships to recall... no biggie. [​IMG]

    Brad
     
  8. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    :now just as you would go back and use a different phrase other than "mature" I think I would change "laws of the universe" as it definitely suggests that I think we are going to find those 15 new elements, breed Babel Fish, attain "ludicrous speed", or perfect the oscillation overthruster John Ya Ya....probably not, however I can't totally throw out the possibility with a set-in-stone statement pro or con.
    I do however think we have a lot more ground ahead of us than behind based on the steady advances we have made so far in a relatively short period of time.....is it the wording you don't like? Do you still think I am being disrespectful of our achievements so far?

    How about this, "I think we have learned a lot but I think we can do even better".
     
  9. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    You want quotes? Here are some quotes:

    “If one believes in science, one must accept the possibility – even the probability – that the great era of scientific discovery is over. Further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions, but only incremental, diminishing returns.” -- John Hogan, The End of Science

    “The 'Great Ideas' of science, for the most part, have probably been found. . . . Reductionism has been spectacularly successful in the twentieth century, unlocking the secrets of the atom, the DNA molecule, and the logic circuits of the computer. But reductionism has probably, in the main, run its course.” -- Michio Kaku, Visions

    Also, you definitely need to quit lumping science and technology together. Having a mature understanding of one does not necessarily make us master of the other. And a lack of advancement in technology doesn't reflect a poor understanding of nature. As with the game of chess, nature may well have a finite number of rules to govern itself. Science is merely the process of learning and understanding those rules. But even if we have deciphered the rules to a mature extent, that does not yet make us grand masters of the game to any conceivable extent. So technology, the application of those rules, has no foreseeable end to its advancement.

    I think the fact that our technology has advanced at the dizzying pace it has is evidence that our science is more mature than you think. For 10,000 years of recorded history, over 99.999% of our technological advancements have occurred after we began applying the scientific method just a few centuries ago. How could we have accomplished this in such a short time if our science is so undependable, our understanding of nature is so immature? And yet technology still lags far behind our science, and it necessarily always will. To be clear, our level of technology will always be a severely lagging indicator of our science.

    We are as a beginning chess player who has just learned the rules (science) of the game. Though our understanding of the rules of the game may be mature, even complete, our ability to play the game (technology) is still at the beginner level. For example, understanding how DNA works has not yet made us choreographers of life. But we have all the understanding (i.e., science) we need to get there. All we need now is more practice.

    Just because we can't win any tournaments yet doesn't mean we don't know the rules of the game.

    [Edit: I must correct myself yet again. It was not Richard Feynman who said he should have become a botanist to avoid memorizing the names of all the newly discovered particles. It was Enrico Fermi. Once again, I'm sorry for the error and for any inconvenience it may have caused.]
     
  10. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    That's the sort of quote that we can all gather around a campfire, hold hands, and sing along together with. [​IMG]

    Brad
     
  11. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    I think this is a very well stated point from Brian and I think the separation of science and technology is a good point. We have understood that DNA was the building block of life for a while but the human genome project is only now within our grasp because that science was gated by technologies (computers) that weren't available. Ironically, I think that because our science foundation is now robust our technology is now advancing faster than our social systems can cope with the new discoveries. Just as nuclear technology was the socially challenging technology of the last century, Genetics will be the challenging technology for this one. I don't expect space technologies to challenge us until the next century (we are still too Earth centric in our thinking).

    Back on the point of natural laws I don't think it is necessary to debate whether they can change or not until a rationale is established as to WHY they should be different. So far we haven't found any phenomenon in the Universe that doesn't serve a purpose (chemically, biologically, mechanically, etc). The Universe may be filled with possibilities but to date we have only seen the probabilities. As others have noted the Universe tends to love the simplest solution, it's not always the most elegant or the one we would want to see but it is always the one that solves the problem with the fewest side effects.


    Kenneth
     
  12. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    One way to measure the maturity of understanding is by measuring the extent to which the attainment of more knowledge results in the need to answer more questions.

    In other words, if you find the answer to a question, but as a result discover five more questions that need to be asked in order to understand your answer, then your understanding is not mature.

    On the other hand, if you find the answer to a question, and the answer spills over into a field of knowledge that has already been acquired, resulting in virtually no more questions being required to understand your answer (or even the elimination of outstanding questions), then your understanding is mature.

    We are finding ourselves more and more in the latter category.

    It has been said that acquiring knowledge is like digging a series of tunnels. The more you dig, the more you know. But like ants in an ant farm, the more you dig, the more places you have to start new branches of tunnels, new fields of knowledge. As the tunnels increase in length and complexity, our knowledge certainly grows. But new branches, new opportunities to dig present themselves faster than we can dig. The surface area of the tunnels increases exponentially faster than the volume of knowledge we extract from them, and it becomes clear that no matter how fast we dig, the questions will always outpace our answers, and we will always be infinitely far away from acquiring all knowledge.

    But that analogy hasn't applied very well lately. Whenever we see a question that needs to be answered and begin to dig in the direction needed to answer that question, we find that we often break through into a series of already explored, well-understood tunnels. In science, we find ourselves more and more discovering the answer to a question in one field is the research already done in another. So instead of having five more questions to answer with each bit of knowledge acquired, scientists are increasingly often pleasantly saying, “Oh, look! We already knew that!”

    Before, when we discovered that atoms were the building blocks of nature, that prompted the question, “What are atoms made of?” The answer, “Protons, neutrons, and electrons” prompted the questions, “What are protons made of? What are neutrons made of? What are electrons made of?” The quest seemed endless. Remarkably, when we got down to quarks, the questions became far less numerous, not more numerous. Suddenly, there seemed to be an end -- or at least a trailing edge -- to this quest.

    When the tunnel-diggers exploring the nature of electromagnetism encroached on the tunnels previously dug by those exploring the nature of light, the two compared notes and eliminated the need to answer fully 80% of all the questions both groups thought remained outstanding.

    When the tunnel-diggers exploring the nature of atomic radiation stumbled into the tunnels of those trying to understand chemical and subatomic forces, they compared notes and eliminated a bunch of outstanding questions too.

    And when the tunnel-diggers trying to explain the nature of gravity broke into the tunnels of those exploring quantum mechanics... Well, okay, that hasn't happened yet, and it doesn't look like it's going to any time soon. [​IMG]

    I'm not saying that we will eventually have every question answered, or that every question is even answerable. But it is clear that we are at a point in our quest for understanding where we are actually finding answers faster than we are encountering questions. And as a consequence, our theories, which encompass more and more knowledge, are actually becoming less complex, not more complex, as our understanding grows. This, I believe, is a measurable indicator of our growing maturity of understanding.
     
  13. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Yeah, I knew someone would quote Horgan eventually & indeed in the scientific community there are quite a few critics of Hogan that I could quote from (in fact considering that he isn't actually a scientist but a journalist he doesn't exactly fit into my request does he?).....but I always find it strange that people quote from that book anyway as it also goes on to state that what our minds are capable of understanding is what is finite, that the universe may have endless secrets that our minds simply can't comprehend. A smart man but kind of waffling if you ask me.

    Michio Kaku on the other hand is a man I respect and frankly like (he reminds me of Carl Sagan in his own unique and slightly controversial way) however I still find it funny that you use a quote from that book as he also goes on to discuss different dimensions and quite a few other subjects that not only go against what many of you are saying here regarding "pop science" (I.E. time travel - multiple dimensions etc. etc.) but in fact goes on to postulate that the end of discovery is relative to our current level of development. That the end of "known" science is an eventuality but in the future we will likely combine several sciences to augment and create "new" sciences......pretty radical stuff and interesting food for thought...yet it absolutely did not suggest that we as a race are "mature" scientifically or otherwise.
    BTW, Kaku basically agrees with the whole "I think we have learned a lot but I think we can do even better" camp song so I'll bet he is bringing the smores.


    Excellent quotes Brian but you kind of danced around what I was asking.

    Regarding the separation of science & technology...I understand why you feel this way & it's an argument that has been going on since Aristotle, I'm rather tired right now so I'll leave it for another day but here is an interesting take on the subject from a chemistry POV Challenging Standard Distinctions between Science and Technology:, YMMV but interesting nonetheless.
     
  14. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Bah. I knew I'd regret playing the quotation game. Brad was right. I fell for it, and I regret even trying to give you what you claimed you wanted. Fool me once...I disagree with you on both points. I never should have quoted Horgan (thanks for correcting me on his name, BTW), and I think you still lump technology with science in your understanding of Kaku's assertion that we are nearing the end of discovery (science) and beginning the age of mastery (technology).

    But in particular, I don't believe I even remotely danced around the issue of your original question. I even provided a metric by which maturity of understanding of nature can be measured. What more could you possibly want?
     
  15. Steeve Bergeron

    Steeve Bergeron Cinematographer

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    Agreed. An eighteenth-century German philosopher (Immanuel Kant) argued that our minds impose a certain amount of structure on the raw data that we take in with our senses. As a result, we inevitably draw conclusions about nature that in fact stem only from the way our minds organize information. I cannot say I disagree with him on that point.
     
  16. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Good thing that you don't get to make those decisions, scientists do.
     
  17. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    It's not about the economy of explaining something. That suggests that the scientists are just being lazy by pursuing the least complex explanation. Nature chooses the path of least resistance. It's absurd to propose unnecessary steps in an explanation.

    You're the one making the positive assertion that things behave differently than we have experienced them to behave, so the burden of proof is on you to support this assertion. You can want things to be different elsewhere but all you've produced is speculation. You can quote all the scientists that you want, but nobody is going to change their mind until you start producing some actual evidence. All my spaceships are busy making wormhole time machines, so I'll let you know if they discover anything just past the edge of the observed universe. Give me several billion years to get back to you. [​IMG]

    Brad
     
  18. Steeve Bergeron

    Steeve Bergeron Cinematographer

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    Hey, I'm patient. [​IMG]
     
  19. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    Actually I still serve both the dark side and the light side [​IMG]

    Just as I am required to go to the scientific time out corner for believing in Ghosts, my scientific brethren who promote Predestination to solve a simple time travel problem get to make the same trip [​IMG]

    Certainly time travel is an interesting and difficult problem. However, to promote that BOTH the past and future must be unchanging to solve it is untenable, from my perspective. That is taking a challenging problem and replacing it with an even more challenging problem. I don't buy it.

    Perhaps time travel is more Dickensonian in nature and we are trying to make it more complex than it needs to be. Perhaps the past is only a shadow that is dependent on the observer. This allows for time travel but with no time interaction. This also doesn't require the future to be fixed and unchanging because the future is only the shadow of what COULD be, not what WILL be. See, I can even work Ghosts into the Time Travel equation. :p)

    Doing it this way, time travel becomes kind of like the log falling in the forest with no one to hear it. Although it generates sound waves, with nothing to interact with them it doesn't make a sound. I would view time travel the same way. The past exists in the energy signature (light, radio, etc) and memory of the observers, but where there is nothing to interact with, the past doesn't exist corporeally. Oops, you made me write my own dissertation now. Unfortunately mine isn't grounded in such deep scientific principles as Predestination [​IMG]

    Kenneth
     
  20. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    No one was saying that scientists know everything. What they do know is that your imaginary "physical laws are not universal" theory is as far flung and non-supportable as fairys, unicorns and other mythical creatures. Add not very original, i.e. previously thought of and disproven by a myriad of scientists. Scientists have offered hundreds of years of the scientific method with countless equations and data that disprove your "theory". You have offered nothing but "Interesting read" to a post that absolutely skewered your idea that "scientists take the simplest way possible." If they take the simplest way possible, why are there so many particles, so many quarks, so many predicted particles (Higg's boson) that they are looking for? Why would someone ever think up relativity, or quantum mechanics? It would be much "simpler" to say acceleration is possible infinitely past the speed of light or that the electron is a little spot that can be tracked and measured at any time, why wouldn't they accept that simple explanation? Answer - because scientists do not take the simplest way. They take the way the data leads them.

    Steeve, scientists do this for a living and they have discounted the silly "physical laws are different in different places" bunk a thousand times. When speaking of arrogance, how arrogant is it when someone who is a self described non-scientist tries to take the scientists out to the woodshed because he thinks simply "thinking" or "feeling" an idea invalidates their life's work? You think I'm arrogant? I can think of no greater insult than someone who tries to tear down the greatest minds in history (who have stood upon the work of the greatest minds in history) not by getting educated, getting into research and battling out in the field of the mind or lab; but by simply saying "I don't think so".

    Like you said, perception is everything...
     

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