Monday, November 03, 2008

Hambone Videos

Hambone Productions recorded a video of my recent irreverant talk at MSU, along with that of PZ Myers who spoke after me. You can find this (in eighteen parts) on their dedicated YouTube Page. My talk spans the first six parts (less than an hour altogether). The rest of Myers' talk (currently up to part fourteen) and the subsequent Q&A weren't up yet when I posted this (but they are almost all up now). The video is a bit jumpy as the cameraman tries to capture me and my slides, and zips back and forth between them. There is also one point where things wig out briefly like a Max Headroom video. But apart from all that this is a really good video, and Rob put a lot of work into it for little return.

I've been recorded by Hambone before. They came to my home to interview me for a documentary they're shooting called Give a Damn? about whether we should give a damn about starving people in Africa. It's hosted by two friends, one a Christian, the other an atheist, who have a strong youth angle and a daring approach.

They want to complete their project in Africa, actually interviewing real Africans while themselves trying to get by on a dollar a day. They've already begun shooting stateside, traveling the country and talking to all sorts of people. But to complete their project they need funding, and I definitely recommend this to those who have the cash to support independent media. See
giveadamndoc.com for more about the film and different ways to support it. I like what they are doing and how they are doing it, and as I told them, I really want to see what they find out. It's a film I hope gets made.

Incidentally, I was also interviewed on camera some years ago for a student film by anarchists, which as somene joked to me probably won't ever appear anywhere--I mean, they're anarchists. When will they find the time? But I was also filmed more recently for a new documentary by a more prominent filmmaker, which I'm not at liberty to discuss, but that should definitely hit theatres (or video stores) in a few years, when I'll be able to say more.


Update: My original Skepticon slideshow is now available for download (as a large PDF).

26 comments:

BriansAWildDowner said...

You say in the first video something along the lines of "Jesus rejected violence in all forms". Whenever someone says this I'm instantly reminded of him scourging the money changers. That sure seemed violent to me.

Jacob Aliet said...

And it contradicts Christopher Hitchen's argument who says Christianity sanctions and encourages violence in dealing with perceived enemies.
Jesus' role as a sacrificial lamb is a thumbs up to the violent philosophy as he (Jesus) fits neatly in the cogwheel of violence as a means of salvation. Ransom soteriology is based on violence.

Steven Carr said...

What is this about the gravitational constant being 1 when we use units such that c=1?

How does that solve any fine-tuning problem?

Any physical constant with dimensions can be set to 1, by choosing suitable dimensions.

It is just like saying any given person in the world has 1 unit of currency, by choosing the unit of currency to be how much that person has.

Easy to do, but trivial.

It doesn't change any problem in physics to set G and c equal to 1. It just makes a few equations look nicer.

It certainly doesn't by itself magically make any fine-tuning problem go away.

It is a bit like saying that creationist claims of changing light speed cannot be true, because light is defined as travelling at 2,997,924,58 metres per second in a vacuum.

It is true. Lightspeed cannot change, by definition. But that does not really answer the creationist point.

As it happens, G is the least well known physical constant, so claiming it can only vary a tiny bit is self-defeating, when we don't know what it is to that precision.


As for claims that life cannot exist if physical constants are varied, who can say that?

I haven't seen any experiments where people changed the mass of a proton and saw what happened.

I doubt if you would even get funding for an experiment to change the electric charge on an electron.

And with not the slighest idea what would happen if you changed the fine-structure constant, who can say that life would not exist?

In any case, the universe seems to be a machine designed to kill off life forms almost as soon as they appear...

Pikemann Urge said...

Not only was your talk informative but it was entertaining, too.

I think Steven has a point but I know so little about the way maths is applied to physics that I am unable to tell what is going on.

I do understand that, for instance speed = distance/time. But because distance and time are arbitrary (metres and seconds; kilometres and hours; miles and hours etc.), so too is speed. What is not arbitrary is the relationship which cannot be quantified. Am I getting somewhere?

BTW I did not appreciate your point about medicine. Okay you just used it as a point to be made (and it was a good point in fact). But you know quite well that medicine is not a magical fairy land, free of dogma and politics, where medicines are formulated to be simple, affordable, safe and effective.

I would like to drive the point home (to other readers) that although there is such a thing as medical science, doctors are not scientists any more than mechanics are.

Oh, and why is it that there must be only a choice between religion (e.g. Christianity) and atheism? Am I wrong in thinking that there are other primary worldviews?

Never mind all that, though. The whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. I look forward to more of your talks in future!

James said...

Incidentally, I was also interviewed on camera some years ago for a student film by anarchists, which as somene joked to me probably won't ever appear anywhere--I mean, they're anarchists.

Oi! Although American anarchists don’t have a great reputation for being organized (and taking for granted that it’s related to competence), that shouldn’t be taken as being the standard for anarchists the world over, who are very much in favour of solid, directly democratic organizations.

While I’m here, atheism has been a core pillar of anarchism its foundation with Bakunin’s “God and the State” remaining an excellent read while pictures of Spanish anarchists shooting at religious statues during the civil war encapsulate the hatred working class anarchists felt for the hypocritical and rather fascist inclined church.

“God and the State”: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/works/godstate/ch01.htm

Here’s a short article I did for popular consumption on the redundancy of religion: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/86338

AIGBusted said...

Hi Richard, I just wanted to let you know that I wrote a review of 'Sense and Goodness':

http://www.godriddance.com/sense_and_goodness.php

Congratulations on writing such an excellent book!

Loren said...

Let's congratulate Richard Carrier for having given such a great talk. It makes me look forward even more to getting his upcoming book on Greco-Roman proto-scientists.

I like RC's identification of values associated with the practice of science:

* Curiosity
* Empiricism
* Progress

and he's likely correct about how early Christian theologians had little taste for those values. That's likely to be a rather controversial thesis, especially among the "Christianity the super scientific religion" set. But a religion that teaches once-and-for-all revelation of Truth fails at least two and probably all three of those criteria.

Pikemann Urge said...

Loren, I think you're correct. At best, Christianity is neither here nor there when it comes to encouraging the study of nature. If the latter is beneficial then why is it not encouraged?

But for the sake of rhetoric and devil's advocacy, I will take on Richard's three premises and show that Christianity is indeed in synch with same:

- Curiosity (about God's word)

- Empiricism (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:21 (test all things) and Rom. 10:2 (accurate knowledge)

-Progress (of social morals and your soul towards purity)

:-)

Loren said...

That's cute. It reminds me of some attempts to derive evolution and natural selection from the Bible that I had once thought up.

The Bible is full of genealogies, those lists of begots. Evolution is also about that, even if usually under another name.

Hyracotherium begot Miohippus, which begot Merychippus, which begot Pliohippus, which begot Equus.

And one can get natural selection from Matthew 7:19, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

One gets a hint of physicalist mind from the parts of the Bible that imply that one's consciousness dies with the body (Eccl. 9:5, 9:10, etc.).

And one might even be able to derive metaphysical naturalism from the Bible if one tries hard enough, like a derivation of Richard Carrier's Sense and Goodness without God from the Bible.

Richard Carrier said...

AIGBusted: Thanks!

Pikemann Urge said... Why is it that there must be only a choice between religion (e.g. Christianity) and atheism? Am I wrong in thinking that there are other primary worldviews?

There are. But my point was not between religion and atheism, but actually between scientific religion and unscientific religion. In conjunction with present facts, any scientific religion ends up as naturalism. Thus, that other worldviews are logically possible is moot. Only if they were unscientific could they maintain anything other than some form of naturalism (or so I argued, and of course so I more thoroughly argue in my book Sense and Goodness without God).

Richard Carrier said...

Loren said... I like RC's identification of values associated with the practice of science: * Curiosity * Empiricism * Progress ... and he's likely correct about how early Christian theologians had little taste for those values.

The first part is actually a super-condensed statement of my doctoral thesis, and the latter an extension of it. In The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire I demonstrate quite conclusively that ancient science embraced these values and (ancient) Christians did not. But you'll have to wait for that. Though it is almost entirely finished, I have to finish the historicity book first.

Pikemann Urge said... At best, Christianity is neither here nor there when it comes to encouraging the study of nature. If the latter is beneficial then why is it not encouraged?

To be fair, it came to be endorsed and supported, among certain Christian sects and schools of thought in the late middle ages and early modern era. It's only ancient and perhaps early medieval Christianity (apart from a completely marginalized heretical exception) that scoffed at the idea. In short, Christianity had to change, and change fundamentally, before it could find room for scientific values and thus truly promote science. And history shows those changes had to come from pagan inspiration.

But for the sake of rhetoric and devil's advocacy, I will take on Richard's three premises and show that Christianity is indeed in synch with same

Actually, didn't I actually mention Christian endorsement of curiosity about God's word (as the only acceptable curiosity)? It's in the paper that I read from. Did I cut that for the video?

As for alleged passages supporting empiricism, kidding aside, I refute that here. They actually are referring to the exact opposite of empiricism: authority does not come from the evidence, but from church authorities and dogmatically established scriptures and rules (which external evidence could never trump). Romans 10:2 is a case in point: Paul is there talking about gnosis acquired through special communications from God (whether directly or through established authoritative scriptures, as he goes on there to make quite clear), and regarding the basis of moral authority, not the nature of things.

And all joking aside again, it's actually telling that none argued (as some pagan philosophers had) that progress in social morality was possible apart from the supernatural power of the Gospel--to the contrary, they argued society was otherwise inherently degenerative and therefore had soon to end. The only progress they imagined and endorsed was progress in spreading the Gospel and in God's reform of individuals (through their increased learning of his established word and his grace sent in return). That's not progress in knowledge, though, much less natural knowledge, in the sense I mean (the whole society progressing in knowledge, not individuals progressing within an already-established base of knowledge--i.e. the difference between going to college and studying physics, and actually making progress in the field of physics).

In the prevailing early Christian view, knowledge in anything outside scripture was doomed to fail in making progress or else such progress would have no use, while knowledge of scripture could only progress for individuals within the existing accepted authoritative body of scripture. That is, society couldn't make progress in this, i.e. there was nothing new anyone could ever learn that hadn't already been revealed to the founders or wasn't already in the existing scriptures, e.g. there could be no new scriptures, and theology could only be ostensibly conservative, not revolutionary or progressive (though it could in practice at times be progressive by pretending to be conservative, that's a practice that can only impede actual scientific progress, exactly as happened in the middle ages).

Even the exceptions proved the rule: any appearance of claiming to have discovered something "new" in God's Word was regarded with deep suspicion as a potential seed of heresy. Such discoveries were certainly not encouraged.

Richard Carrier said...

BriansAWildDowner said... You say in the first video something along the lines of "Jesus rejected violence in all forms." Whenever someone says this I'm instantly reminded of him scourging the money changers. That sure seemed violent to me.

True. And I've made that point myself at times (e.g. Musonius Rufus: A Brief Essay).

Of course, every Christian I know doesn't defend that but tries to explain it away, attempting to maintain that Jesus preached nonviolence, as in fact he does: in the video, for instance, I'm alluding to the fact that if Jesus taught anything, he taught what's in Matthew 5:38-42 (cf. related note, i.e. if that's made up, then we have no reason to believe anything else credited to him is true). His deeds may have contradicted his teachings, but that's a different matter. And some of his teachings might not have been conducive to his (otherwise clear) message of nonviolence, but again that's another question, of the coherence of the Christian tradition or the effectiveness of Jesus' methods of teaching.

Jacob Aliet said... And it contradicts Christopher Hitchen's argument who says Christianity sanctions and encourages violence in dealing with perceived enemies.

Christianity is not Jesus, though. That was my point. Christians ignore everything Jesus actually (supposedly) taught. In fact, they behave almost exactly the opposite (defending wealth, war, self-defense, capital punishment, and public prayer in direct contravention of his explicit prohibitions of them). Which by Jesus' own teachings would entail that Christians actually worship the Antichrist.

Jesus' role as a sacrificial lamb is a thumbs up to the violent philosophy as he (Jesus) fits neatly in the cogwheel of violence as a means of salvation. Ransom soteriology is based on violence.

Well, let's be fair: it only had legitimacy because it was voluntary. Blood sacrifice typically involved animals, so was no more based on violence than our modern food industry. Substituting a man only reversed the substitution leading to the first covenant (an animal exchanged for Isaac), and only made sense (in the internal logic of this barbaric philosophy) if Jesus chose to die for that greater good. That's not exactly a warrant for war, torture, executions, or shooting trespassers or doctors (at least not in and of itself).

Richard Carrier said...

Steven Carr said... What is this about the gravitational constant being 1 when we use units such that c=1? How does that solve any fine-tuning problem? Any physical constant with dimensions can be set to 1, by choosing suitable dimensions.

That would only be so if they all didn't become 1. But they all do. That means the constants don't exist. They are just artificial unit converters. Their sole function is to convert natural units into human units.

In other words, the constants disappear from the physical laws (E=m, rather than E=mc^2, for instance, just as E = hf becomes just E = frequency, and the law of gravitation becomes F = (m1.m2)/r^2, rather than F = G(m1.m2)/r^2). Indeed, had mankind for some reason started with natural units, we would never have ever imagined such a thing as a gravitational constant--or Planck's constant, or even a speed of light (beyond the mere fact that all velocities terminate at 1).

It could be argued that the speed of light must always be the fastest possible speed given natural units and the assumption of quantum indivisibility, as long as velocity is defined as relocation in space (rather than relocation in time, i.e. sitting still is not moving--though one is technically moving through time, that's not what c measures), because you can't split a unit of time, so you can't move several units of space in one unit of time (that would entail moving each unit of space in a fraction of time, violating indivisibility). You can't split a unit of space, either, but you can "move" several units of time in one unit of space because that's not motion (it's the increasing absence of it, relative to any other body), which is another way of saying you are moving one unit (or zero units) of space after several units of time pass (and therefore no fractions of space are traversed), which is not the case the other way around: the only way to move several units of space in one of time is to move each unit of space in a fraction of a unit of time. You can't wait a unit of time and then "jump" several units through space--at least, if you could, that would be an FTL teleport, and Relativity Theory would no longer describe this universe.

Various physicists have other conjectures as to the why in such matters as speed having a limit of 1. For instance, you might derive it from the fact that E = m and E = f and the smallest non-zero frequency is 1, i.e. 1 tick per indivisible time unit, which sets a limit on the rate at which energy can transfer, which limits velocity to 1. Or you can derive it from the fact that in Lorentz geometry (which describes our universe's geometry in Relativity Theory), delta{t,s,m} = 1 / (1-v^2)^1/2, which entails the faster you go the slower time flows and the shorter space gets, until both reach zero at v=1 in natural units--and once time and space zero out, you can't keep going, thus creating an inevitable geometric ceiling at c = 1 in natural units.

But whatever the why (and these all reduce to heeding the same basic facts), the observation is that you can never go faster than one unit of space in one unit of time. And the necessary consequence of that simple fact is c (see links below). Likewise, Planck's Constant (h) simply represents the fact that you can't split natural units and the consequences of this for measuring energy (which is a unit measured in units of space and time). And G likewise simply reflects the fact that, given the prior two facts (about h and c), the gravitational force is simply the product of masses divided by the square of the distance, and nothing more, which is inherently obvious once you define gravity and the number of dimensions.

All this doesn't "solve" the fine-tuning problem, but it greatly deflates it. The only things that can be claimed to be finely tuned once we use natural units are the number (and extension) of dimensions and the fine structure constant (and the particle garden, if Superstring Theory is rejected, although ST predicts and thus explains the entire particle garden from the other two parameters: number-and-extension of dimensions and the fine structure constant, plus the assumption of natural indivisible units of space-time--which is why so many scientists think ST is on the right track).

Otherwise, any change in the three constants that go to 1, will change the other constants by an exact amount, such that it is not possible to talk about fine tuning one of them against the others--they can't be tuned. It's as if turning the volume dial on your radio also turned the frequency dial: it would be impossible to have any particular volume without having it on exactly one frequency, the same one every time. You can't "finely tune" the two dials together. So, too, the physical constants (with the exception of the fine structure constant, which has no units, and determines various things including the strength of the electric charge).

Hence my point about how fine tuning can't be claimed on present ignorance, because we don't know what determines the fine structure constant (but it must be something in the observable nature of the universe--it's not God's persistent will, at least no one has shown it to be).

On all the above, see Gibbs Commentary and Wikipedia on Planck Units and Invariant Scaling and Is The Speed of Light Constant? and Speed of Light: Why Not?.

Likewise, apologetical claims that the "Gravitational Constant" has been finely tuned are flat out false: no such constant exists. The only conceivable way to "change" it would be to change the natural units, but any such change would have no effect. Think of the analogy that if the entire universe doubled in size tomorrow, no one would ever notice, because they would double in size, too, and so would their instruments, and so on, and thus there would be no visible effect of that doubling--all laws of physics would proceed the same and we'd be none the wiser. Likewise, if you changed the smallest unit of time (but not of space) you would not notice this, because the maximum speed is still one unit of space per one unit of time, as the latter is still indivisible. It's just like slowing down time: you would never notice, because your brain and watch would be slowed down, too. (See links above, again).

The bottom line is, there is simply no Gravitational Constant to change. There is only the fact of indivisible units of space and time, and the relation defined by gravity (masses and distance). For instance, look at Newton's law of gravitation and delete G. What do you end up with? That's all there is. As for why the relative strength of the gravitational force is what it is, that reduces to a question of dimensional geometry on ST and how it explains why there are even four forces to begin with (ultimately reducing to what particles exist to transmit the force and their resulting inevitable behavior given the number of dimensions, their extension, and the value of the fine structure constant).

As for claims that life cannot exist if physical constants are varied, who can say that?... And with not the slighest idea what would happen if you changed the fine-structure constant, who can say that life would not exist?

I certainly agree. That's one of the very points I explicitly make in the video (almost verbatim in fact).

I haven't seen any experiments where people changed the mass of a proton and saw what happened. I doubt if you would even get funding for an experiment to change the electric charge on an electron.

The real question you should be asking is: how would we change the mass of the proton or the charge on an electron? Think it through. According to ST, the only way to do it would be to add or subtract dimensions or alter the fine structure constant. Which means that's all there is. But if you change those, you change all masses and charges. Even without ST that conclusion probably still follows. Given anything like ST, it becomes logically impossible to just vary the mass of the proton without simultaneously changing the mass of all other particles; ditto for the charge of the electron and all other forces.

In other words, the masses of particles are not isolated values that can be tuned with respect to each other. They are all the inevitable outcome of more fundamental factors (dimensionality and the fine structure), such that all there is to "tune" are those (dimensionality and the fine structure). And we don't know what it would take to tune those, but even if we did, we could only do it by in effect creating a separate universe to do it in (or changing this entire universe, which I'm sure is technically impossible).

In fact, some scientists suspect even this can't be done, not even in theory--one school of thought Martin Reese discusses in his book on multiverse theory holds that there will actually turn out to be no other logically possible universe. As bizarre as that sounds, and as much as I resisted the idea until recently, I am starting to see how in fact it could be the case. Although I still strongly suspect the fine structure constant (and dimension profile) can vary, and do so across space (via one or another multiverse theory).

In any case, the universe seems to be a machine designed to kill off life forms almost as soon as they appear...

As you well know, that's a drum I've been beating for a long time myself (e.g. in my debate with Wanchick).

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... I do understand that, for instance speed = distance/time. But because distance and time are arbitrary (metres and seconds; kilometres and hours; miles and hours etc.), so too is speed. What is not arbitrary is the relationship which cannot be quantified. Am I getting somewhere?

Human units of space and time are arbitrary. Natural units are not.

Logically (I assume), you can have a universe with natural units or without. If without, space and time are infinitely divisible (which some scientists suggest creates such enormous problems for physics that it might not even be possible). If with, however, then there is a smallest indivisible unit of space and of time. But it won't matter what those units are. Once you have a smallest unit, that's the only unit that matters: the single unit. You could take time units and grow them a thousand times while leaving the units of space alone, yet matter and energy can still only move one whole unit of time with each step, so all you will observe is energy moving a maximum rate of one unit of space per one unit of time, because it can't go faster without dividing a unit of time, which is by definition impossible (as the units are indivisible), at least without Relativity-defying teleportation.

[Or we can say, in a much more technical way, that given the geometry of this universe, i.e. four extended dimensions, one of which is time, it is necessarily the case that delta{t,s,m} = 1 / (1-v^2)^1/2, i.e. the relative scale of time, space, and mass in any one part of this universe must vary in direct geometric relation to how fast (in units of space per units of time) they are moving relative to another part, and when you run out the math (using natural units of space and time), you end up with the result that relative scale of time and space equals zero at v=1, and since you can't go any further once time stops and space collapses, nothing can go faster than 1, i.e. one indivisible unit of space in one indivisible unit of time, which equals c.]

So a universe with indivisible space and time units the same size will look exactly the same as a universe with indivisible space units a thousand times larger than indivisible time units. In fact, the conclusion that follows is that there is no such thing as such a variance--there are only the units. It's meaningless to talk about the units growing or shrinking relative to each other, as such would have no effect, even in principle (e.g. it's logically impossible to design a ruler that could detect the variance, since the ruler itself would be subject to the variance, as if measuring one thing, then turning it to the other, the ruler grew a thousand times, so all you see is the ruler measuring the same distance in each case: hence all you would see is the same distance, and you would never detect any variance, and since discovering such a variance is logically impossible, declaring such a variance is semantically meaningless--see links mentioned above for more on all this).

The outcome is that c is the inevitable result of the fact that you can't divide the smallest units of space or time, because that entails it is logically impossible to go faster than 1 unit of space in 1 unit of time, and when you convert 1 such unit of space to feet and 1 such unit of time to seconds, and divide, you end up with our c.

This would be the same result in every possible universe. For example, suppose we grew the natural time units a thousand times but left the space units alone. How would we notice? Our clocks still tick in quantities of indivisible time units. So growing the time units a thousand times would have no effect: it would still take the same number of seconds to tick off the same number of indivisible units of time. So, too, for space, if we tried dinking with it instead: since rulers are just accumulations of indivisible space units, there would always be the same number per inch in every possible universe. The effect is that c comes out the same in every possible universe. Therefore, c can't be tuned. All that could be tuned is whether the universe is infinitely divisible or finitely divisible--yet assuming that's even really a possible option, it's a simple binary option: 50% either way. Winning a 50% lottery is not fine tuning.

[There is a possible exception: if our universe weren't defined by Lorentz geometry (if there were, say, five fully extended dimensions), then the fastest relative speed might be different. Since the delta equation might change, in the same way that the angles of a triangle drawn on a curved surface add to more than 180, in contradiction to triangles in normal Euclidean space, so, similarly, if you change the geometry of the universe, you change the relations of objects in it, and that might make c different somehow, I don't know.]

Steven Carr said...

Constants do not disappear from physical laws if everything is measured in 'natural' units

And we have not yet discovered a natural unit for mass.

The fine-structure constant is dimensionless.

Changing units will have no effect on its measured value.

Pikemann Urge said...

Richard, while I am trying to come to terms with your explanations above, can you please comment on this by Dr. W.L. Craig:

"Carrier is mistaken when he asserts that there are only about six physical constants... The figure six may be derived from Sir Martin Rees’ book Just Six Numbers... and new constants, unknown in the 19th century, like the so-called cosmological constant, which must be fine-tuned to one part in 10120 in order for life to exist, are being discovered as physics advances."

Also, are you sure that you are not, in your core objection to the fine-tuning arguement, trying to pull the rug from under the creationists' feet for no other reason than not liking what shoes they're wearing? :-D

Richard Carrier said...

Steven Carr said... Constants do not disappear from physical laws if everything is measured in 'natural' units.

The constants c, G, and h do. Very little is left, and I spoke about those remainders (like the fine structure constant, which I did in fact mention--you seem not to have noticed).

My point was not that none of the constants could be tuned, but (a) that many of them can't be, because there is nothing to tune, and this includes constants apologists keep referring to (like c and G), and (b) that we don't really know what would happen if the others were tuned differently.

And we have not yet discovered a natural unit for mass.

Yes, we have. Since mass is energy, and energy is hf, and in natural units h is 1, in natural units energy = f, and since E=mc^2, then m = E/c^2, and since in natural units c is 1, in natural units m = E, and since E = f, m = f. Therefore, the natural unit for mass is a frequency of oscillation, i.e. the mass of a particle is its inverse Compton wavelength (hence Superstring Theory: if natural units prove mass reduces solely to a frequency of oscillation, then mass is nothing more than a frequency of oscillation, and if you work out which oscillations produce each form of matter known, including spin and charge and all other characteristics, you end up with multidimensional Superstring Theory).

I suspect what you mean is that we haven't discovered a natural unit for the kinetic interaction, i.e. how much energy it takes to move one (arbitrary) unit of mass to one (arbitrary) unit of velocity (in a vacuum). The answer will have something to do with how the Higgs boson generates mass (assuming the Higgs mechanism is confirmed), which is answered by the predictions made by different versions of Superstring Theory (the Higgs interaction will be a geometric function of the dimensionality and oscillation of the Higgs boson and how these two facts affect other particles, i.e. why the Higgs boson never collides effectively with certain bosons, like the photon, but collides effectively with everything else).

But in any case, the answer will be presentable entirely in natural units. Since mass is entirely measured in terms of meters and seconds: how many seconds it takes for one (arbitrary) unit of energy to accelerate a body to one (arbitrary) unit of velocity in meters/second, for example, is effectively its mass, and in natural units, again, energy is simply a frequency, which is a number of oscillations per second, so all you have defining mass is a complex geometric relationship among meters and seconds, which are reducible to natural units of length and time.

The fine-structure constant is dimensionless.

As I said.

But can it be tuned? And what actually happens when it is?

Revisit exactly what I said in answer to that in my talk.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... can you please comment on this by Dr. W.L. Craig: "Carrier is mistaken when he asserts that there are only about six physical constants... The figure six may be derived from Sir Martin Rees’ book Just Six Numbers... and new constants, unknown in the 19th century, like the so-called cosmological constant, which must be fine-tuned to one part in 10120 in order for life to exist, are being discovered as physics advances."

The cosmological constant is one of the six (and it may equal 0 and thus not exist). I don't recall where I said there were only about six, but note the "about." There may be four or eight or something. But it's not much more than that, because most constants are derivable from the others (in conjunction with certain geometric facts and relations).

Craig is wrong that "the cosmological constant [L]...must be fine-tuned to one part in 10120 in order for life to exist."

First, estimates for L have already varied by several orders of magnitude more than "one part in 10,120." The difference between the value Einstein assigned to it and the value scientists now allow for it is vastly greater than one part in 10,120. Observations now confirm it can't be higher than 10^-46 (km^-2) and can have any value down to zero (or very nearly, since expansion is accelerating). Thus L could be anywhere from 10^100 to 10^-50 right now, yet that's a difference of 10^50, i.e. one of those values is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times larger than the other. 1 part in 10,120 my ass.

Second, no one has any such knowledge as Craig claims. We won't know whether life can exist in worlds with other L's until we know how you would change the cosmological constant--since once we know what would have to be different for L to be different, we may learn (as we have in the case of every other constant) that you have to change something else, which has a cascade of effects that change everything there is, and until we know what that cascade will be, we can't claim to know it won't include life. And of course that all assumes (a) that L can be tuned (maybe it can't--if L is in fact zero, for example, there is nothing to tune) and (b) that L isn't tuned by a multiverse (a la Smolin or Linde) or (c) isn't in fact already different all over the universe (such as in regions not presently visible to us).

Third, everything I've read about L argues that any value for L will either produce a collapsing universe (which will thus start again with a new L) or produce a continually expanding universe (or an exactly balanced universe--Einstein assumed the latter and assigned a value for L accordingly, but we now know it's not a balanced universe but is expanding and in fact accelerating, so his L was well off the mark), but that there will be a life-bearing period in any such universe at some point in its history (all that actually changes is when). Therefore, since a collapsing universe will reset until it becomes an expanding universe, and every expanding universe will have a period in which life will be possible (all else being equal, that is, which we don't know it will be, since we don't know the cause of L or whether there even is an L), then every value of L entails a life-bearing universe (again, all else being equal).

Also, are you sure that you are not, in your core objection to the fine-tuning arguement, trying to pull the rug from under the creationists' feet for no other reason than not liking what shoes they're wearing? :-D

No, my point was that their arguments are based on ignorance (many of the constants they claim are finely tuned don't even exist in actual fact) and sophistry (we are actually ignorant of what we would need to know in order to know what changing any of the remaining constants would do to the universe, so when they claim they know, they are not playing science, but a faith-based game of "invent-a-fact"). As most should know, I'm an advocate of multiverse theory as an explanation of any cosmological "fine tuning" there may be. But first we have to get straight just what it is that's supposed to be getting tuned (and how exactly God is supposed to tune it, and what exactly would result if it were tuned differently). And they don't even have that right.

Steven Carr said...

RICHARD
Therefore, the natural unit for mass is a frequency of oscillation, i.e. the mass of a particle is its inverse Compton wavelength (hence Superstring Theory: if natural units prove mass reduces solely to a frequency of oscillation, then mass is nothing more than a frequency of oscillation, and if you work out which oscillations produce each form of matter known, including spin and charge and all other characteristics, you end up with multidimensional Superstring Theory).

CARR
OK, mass is a frequency of oscillation.

But that is not a unit.

So what is a natural unit of frequency of oscillation?

1 oscillation per Planck time?

100 oscillations per Planck time?

As you point out, we don't have a theory of mass yet, so we can't say what natural units for mass are.

The tau and electron and muon appear to be identical apart from mass.

So which of those are 'natural units' for mass, especially as the masses are not nice multiples of each other?

RICHARD
...how many seconds it takes for one (arbitrary) unit of energy to accelerate a body to one (arbitrary) unit of velocity in meters/second

CARR
Force accelerates bodies, not energy.

The kinetic energy increase involved in going from 0 mph to 60 mph is idependent of the time it takes to do that.

You are quite right about the fine-tuning constant.

I was merely pointing out that you cannot remove all constants from physical equations.

At least, not the ones we have at present.

Richard Carrier said...

Correction: by "10^100" earlier I meant 10^-100 (as the following math should make clear). My point stands, though: L can vary by far more than one part in 10^120.

Also (i.e.), I see that by 10120 you meant (quoting Craig) 10^120, which means Craig is confusing habitability with what's called the cosmological coincidence, a completely different fact that has nothing to do with habitability, but is simply an amazing coincidence observed, that QM & particle physics entail a vacuum energy 10^120 times larger than is observed, a factor that appears many other places in physics.

This is actually not a "coincidence" at all, just a fact that QM + particle physics has made a failed prediction, which means there is a discrepancy (one of them is at least somewhat wrong--just as we have detected an irreconcilable inconsistency between QM and Relativity Theory).

Whether a larger L will prevent life is actually unknown, since a larger L will only cause more accelerating inflation, which we already see. And at a critical value this acceleration would simply cause an inflationary big bang, thus exhausting the vacuum energy, thus reducing L again. Some physicists suspect L changes over time, in which case there is always a habitability zone at some point in a universe's lifetime. Etc.

Since we don't really know what would happen with an ultra-large L (or even how we would ever have such a thing--there would have to be a reason, and that reason would have to have other consequences), we can't say it's tuned or has to be tuned or even can be tuned (or what it would "have" to be tuned to).

Richard Carrier said...

Steven Carr said... OK, mass is a frequency of oscillation. But that is not a unit.

Right. In natural units, mass by itself is a unitless property.

If you mean to ask in what "units" (indivisible portions) mass comes in, that is defined by Quantum Mechanics, and is not a constant.

The smaller the frequency, the smaller a mass can be, but mass can only step down in discrete units of a single cycle in oscillation, thus there are gaps between steps, but not all of the same size (the size of each gap decreases with each step). And the smallest unit of mass itself gets smaller as frequency ticks down--the only limit is the age of the universe, e.g. the smallest possible unit of mass right now is whatever would correspond to a frequency of 1/x, where x = whatever 14 billion years works out to in natural time units; a day after the Big Bang, the smallest possible mass would have been 1/y, where y = whatever 1 day works out to in natural time units; etc.).

So what is a natural unit of frequency of oscillation? 1 oscillation per Planck time?

Yes, if you mean to ask how we measure frequency in natural units. You can't have 2 ticks per Planck time without dividing what is indivisible. Therefore the largest frequency is 1/1t where t is the Planck time (which will be the same in all possible universes, i.e. the largest frequency is always 1/1 in every possible universe, and the denominator here will always be recognized as what we call the Planck time, in natural units).

But the maximum possible frequency (1/1) equals the maximum possible mass (for a single body), and that's already forestalled by the laws of physics (long before you get anywhere near that kind of mass, a black hole results).

Hence the smallest unit of mass, in the sense of "the smallest indivisible piece of mass" will be the smallest possible frequency, which always changes with the age of the universe (per above). But this is probably moot, since the smallest mass allowed by physics does not entail there is any particle with that mass, or that any particle's mass is "made up" of these units (since there are no "units," just the oscillation rate, which entails all units are of unequal size, as noted above).

100 oscillations per Planck time?

Physically impossible. 1 oscillation per 100 Planck times is possible. But that will be a smaller mass, not a larger one.

As you point out, we don't have a theory of mass yet, so we can't say what natural units for mass are.

(a) Yes, we can (as above, mass is unitless, except in the inconstant sense established by the fact that mass must be quantized just as frequency must be) and (b) we don't need a theory of mass to measure mass (i.e. we don't need to know why mass has the properties it does in order to know what properties it has). Since mass is measured entirely in units of length and time, and length and time have known natural units, so does "mass" in that sense (i.e. if you are referring to how we measure mass, and not to the smallest possible unit of mass). There is nothing else.

The tau and electron and muon appear to be identical apart from mass.

None of which have the smallest possible unit of mass. So I'm not sure what you mean by mentioning them. As far as measurement goes, their masses are measured solely in natural units.

Most reductively, mass is measured as 1 oscillation, a unitless number, per x number of Planck times, also a unitless number (while Planck times are natural units of time), where x is a unique number for each particle. Since frequency is the inverse of wavelength, and every frequency contains a natural unit of time, it also entails a natural unit of distance. Thus, mass can also be measured as x number of Planck lengths per oscillation.

[Note that in Superstring Theory it's possible for multiple particles to have the same mass (since they can still oscillate in different directions even if they oscillate at the same frequency), and certain mass-values are impossible because they are multidimensionally unstable (thus explaining why the Standard Model is not flooded with trillions of particles).]

Less reductively, mass (of particles with a rest mass) is measured as how many units of energy (measured solely in natural units) it takes to push one particle from velocity A to velocity B (and velocity is measured solely in natural units, distance over time).

So which of those are 'natural units' for mass, especially as the masses are not nice multiples of each other?

You are confusing particles with masses. As to why certain particles exist and not others, there is no known explanation other than (currently hypothesized) Superstring Theory, which explains and predicts the entire Standard Model. According to that, the reason certain particles exist is a result of geometry (how many dimensions into which oscillation can occur, and what effects this has).

But mass is simply measured in kg (of human units), which reduces to meters and seconds (of human units). So reduce human units to natural units, and kg acquires a known natural unit (a function of natural units of space and time). But only space and time have a true natural unit (i.e. a unit that cannot be divided further). Mass can (theoretically) be divided endlessly (as long as the universe continues aging).

You may also be confusing mass with matter. Technically even photons have mass (according to E = mc^2), they just don't have a rest mass. So the smallest "mass" in the universe would be possessed by a photon with a wavelength of 14 billion years (if such a photon exists--it could). But this is not "matter" (in the sense of that which resists accelerating forces). "Matter" is believed to be caused by the Higgs boson colliding with certain particles causing them to remain sluggish unless pushed (whereas, e.g., photons are unimpeded and thus instantly achieve maximum velocity, having nothing to stop them).

Force accelerates bodies, not energy.

Oh, no. Force x time = Energy. So any force applied over any time equals a corresponding unit of energy. Thus energy accelerates bodies via force (surely you can't have imagined that bodies could be accelerated without any energy being transferred to them?).

Mass (of particles with a rest mass) is measured by how many units of energy (not force) it takes to accelerate a body from (say) 1 m/s to 2 m/s. Any force can do this. A low force will require a long time to do it, a big force will do it in a short time, but either way the energy value is the same.

[Mass of other particles is measured inversely (by how many units of energy that particle can apply to a body of matter to accelerate it, etc., i.e. E = mc^2, so m=E/c^2, which in natural units is m = E, both sides of the equation only having units of distance and time in it, plus frequency ratios).]

The kinetic energy increase involved in going from 0 mph to 60 mph is idependent of the time it takes to do that.

You're right, I meant at a fixed force.

Kinetic energy corresponds to momentum. The momentum at the start (0) is the same in any scenario, and at the end (60mph) is the same in any scenario, so the energy imparted is the same in any scenario, regardless of the time it took to impart that energy. Only the force changes if the time changes, not the energy. But the required energy changes if the mass does. It takes twice as much energy to accelerate a 2 ton car from 0 to 60mph as it does to accelerate a 1 ton car from 0 to 60mph (and hence, as I meant, twice as much time, if the force remains the same in each case).

Hence mass (of particles with a rest mass) is really just a measure of how much energy it takes to accelerate a body. In other words, if the acceleration rate is 0 to 60mph in 1 second, you need twice the force than would be required to accelerate that same amount in 2 seconds, or you need twice as much time. But since E = F x t, E remains the same for any give mass. Thus mass is really just a measure of E (mass doesn't exist in any other sense, i.e. the only way to detect mass is to measure the E it takes to move it, and if it takes no E to move it, it has no mass--i.e. no rest mass, so really that's all mass is, an amount of energy needed to move something--or that will move something a certain amount, etc.).

[Of course, we're assuming frictionless scenario (add friction, and you need to waste a lot of additional energy heating up the air, engine, and road, etc.).]

I was merely pointing out that you cannot remove all constants from physical equations.

Yes, of course. I agree. Hence I said that myself (of the fine structure constant) in the talk.

Steven Carr said...

RICHARD
Oh, no. Force x time = Energy. So any force applied over any time equals a corresponding unit of energy.

CARR
Force x time = impulse, or change of momentum, not change of energy.

The same force applied to the same body for the same length of time can produce different changes of kinetic energy.

CARRIER
Kinetic energy corresponds to momentum.


CARR
No, the two are totally different things.

Momentum is always conserved when two bodies collide, but kinetic energy may or may not be conserved, depending upon the elasticity of the collision.

CARRIER
E = F x t

CARR

No,
Impulse = Force x time

Energy = Power x Time.

If two bodies hit each other, because of Newton's laws of equal and opposite forces, impulses are equal and opposite

So an impulse can be negative, while kinetic energy is always positive.

A negative impulse can impart positive kinetic energy.

Think of a gun firing, and the recoil of the gun.

Both bullet and gun are at rest.

Afterwards both are moving and both have positive kinetic energy, although one of them got a positive impulse (Force x Time), and the other got a negative impulse.

We can also measure mass by measuring gravitational effects, rather than energy needed to move it.

This is, I believe, how masses of some stars are estimated. (Our sun in particular I believe, although I may be wrong)

We don't really have a theory of mass, which is one thing the LHC is supposed to investigate, so all talk of 'fine-tuning' can only be provisional.

Everything might be the way it is, because that is the only way it can be.

Pikemann Urge said...

THE PHYSICS! IT BURNS! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!

JK... But I have a question about Richard's point in his last post:

"A low force will require a long time to do it, a big force will do it in a short time, but either way the energy value is the same."

What about thresholds? Some forces will be so weak that after an infinite amount of time they will not have done a thing.

Richard Carrier said...

Steven Carr said... Force x time = impulse, or change of momentum, not change of energy.

Same thing at a fixed mass. That's my point: the energy of momentum is mass. Since for every momentum there is a fixed corresponding energy for any fixed unit of mass.

The same force applied to the same body for the same length of time can produce different changes of kinetic energy.

Only by varying the mass of the body moved. Remember, we were talking about units of mass. Thus the same mass is being assumed. And on that assumption, "the same force applied to the same body for the same length of time cannot produce different changes of kinetic energy" (assuming you mean the force actually applied to the object and not the force expended, some of which may be lost by being applied elsewhere, etc.).

No, [kinetic energy corresponds to momentum] are totally different things. Momentum is always conserved when two bodies collide, but kinetic energy may or may not be conserved, depending upon the elasticity of the collision.

The total energy is still the same. I'm not talking about conservation of forms of energy. I'm talking about how mass is measured. Momentum is mass x velocity, and since that's all there is in a basic case, that's directly proportional to the kinetic energy of a moving body while it's moving (so if you know the one, you know the other). None of this is relevant to my point that mass is simply a measure of energy and energy is simply a measure of units of space and time.

We can also measure mass by measuring gravitational effects, rather than energy needed to move it.

Gravitational effects are energy effects, and are in fact the same thing as the energy needed to move a body (because what gravity is is the moving of a body e.g. as if the object were being pushed by a force, we measure how much it's being pushed, and that's gravity).

In fact, on earth, the instruments for measuring "gravitational effects" and for measuring all pushing and pulling forces (all other forces that "move" things) are identical: the Force Gauge. That's what mass really is. That's all it is. Because it's all we measure when we measure it.

Star mass studies are the same thing, only using the motion of associated objects as force gauges (instead of, say, springs on hooks).

We don't really have a theory of mass, which is one thing the LHC is supposed to investigate, so all talk of 'fine-tuning' can only be provisional.

I agree. We have several hypothesized theories of mass, of course, but none confirmed. But that's again not relevant to what units we measure mass in.

Everything might be the way it is, because that is the only way it can be.

That was my point: I used to think this was unlikely, but I'm increasingly seeing its plausibility. But I'm still a multiverser since at the very least, I think there must be the potential for varying the dimensionality of a region of space-time, even if that element alone immutably determines all laws and constants. I suspect certain constants (like the fine structure constant) mathematically derive from the shape and number of local dimensions. And I see no reason why the latter couldn't vary.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... THE PHYSICS! IT BURNS! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!

Oh man you made me laugh with that one. :-)

But I have a question about Richard's point in his last post: "A low force will require a long time to do it, a big force will do it in a short time, but either way the energy value is the same." What about thresholds? Some forces will be so weak that after an infinite amount of time they will not have done a thing.

In a perfect vacuum that will never happen. No matter how small, any force will do something, however small. In fact even in real environments something is done (e.g. running a car engine below the threshold for overcoming friction to move the car any amount forward will still have an effect: heat, i.e. you'll push a bunch of molecules around instead of your car).

But there is a threshold here of sorts, set by quantum mechanics (certain forces are unachievable because they are too small even to exist), but that's not a fixed threshold.

Richard Carrier said...

Update: My original Skepticon slideshow is now available for download (as a large PDF).