On Sun, Sep 25, 2011 at 02:35:21AM -0500, Jason Resch wrote:
> On Sun, Sep 25, 2011 at 12:09 AM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:
> 
> >
> > "A theory that can explain anything, fails to explain at all."
> >
> >
> A few people on this list have repeated this sentiment, but I wonder if it
> is really so.  If there were an oracle that could provide an explanation for
> any question asked of it, should we conclude this oracle fails to explain
> anything at all? 

Yes. Actually DD's BoI has a good explanation of this.

> If not, then what is the difference between a theory that
> could explain anything and an oracle that could explain anything?
> 

Nothing (or course).

> Physicists spend their lives searching for a physical TOE that could in
> principal explain anything that happens in this universe.  Is their search
> in vain because this TOE would explain nothing at all?
> 

This is a misconception. The "TOE" that physicists re searching for is
a bit of an in-joke. Physicists are, however, always on the lookout
for unification of theories explaining disparate phenomena, such as
the unification of electriciy and magnetism via Maxwell's equations,
or relativity with gravity (General Relativity). Such connections
between theories do provide insight, and are worthwhile endeavours in
their own right, even if to use them requires much more ancilliary
knowledge than the original theories they subsumed.

Feynmann give an excellent discussion of this in relation to a
formulation of Maxwell's equations as a single equation involving a
type of derivative, and a four dimensional vector. It is very neat,
beautiful, and illustrates the connection between magnetism and
electricity in a blinding clear form. But to use it requires knowing
how the derivative is calculated, and how this 4D vector potential is
related to familiar quantities such as electric and magnetic field strengths.

Physicists would like to unify their explanations of the "4
fundamental forces" electromagnetism (which is already a unification
of electric and magnetic), weak (which has already be unified with EM
via the electroweak theory), strong and gravity. The hope is that each
such unification leads to new reach, and new phenomena that can be
explained, which seems reasonable. This endeavour has been called the
"theory of everything" as a bit of a joke. Of course it is anything
but. It doesn't explain any emergent phenomena - even quite physical
phenomena such as the wetness of water, much less phenomena such as
consciousness. 

> A final thought, are theories that propose the existence of everything,
> really theories that can explain anything?
> 

They explain, but they're not good explanations. For exactly the
reason Brent gave in his response :).

> Jason
> 
> -- 
> You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
> "Everything List" group.
> To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
> To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
> everything-list+unsubscr...@googlegroups.com.
> For more options, visit this group at 
> http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list?hl=en.
> 

-- 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics      hpco...@hpcoders.com.au
University of New South Wales          http://www.hpcoders.com.au
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

-- 
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
everything-list+unsubscr...@googlegroups.com.
For more options, visit this group at 
http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list?hl=en.

Reply via email to