0675: "Revolutionary"

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Amaroq
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Amaroq » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:37 pm UTC

JWalker wrote:Whatever the universe is doing is very strange indeed, and it certainly appears very much to be non-deterministic. This is a problem that goes far beyond just an incomplete knowledge of it on our part. I doubt very much you will find any determinists that believe in quantum mechanics (let alone Many Worlds), since quantum mechanics is inherently non-deterministic.

Try telling that to my roommate. He believes in determinism, quantum mechanics, and many worlds. Hardcore.

He claims he comes to his conclusions on his own, but he's a big fan of Eliezer Yudkowsky, if anyone here is familiar with the guy. (Now THAT is one man who has no business doing philosophy. A prime example of trying to use the higher level sciences to dictate philosophical conclusions.)

Another thing I've been noticing a lot is that there have been at least two posters here who haven't noticed what I had to say about egoism in regards to objective reality.

I'll say it again. If you look at your nature as a living being, you can easily come to the conclusion that egoism is necessary. That is, if your goal is to live.

I'd also like to point out a wrong way of thinking in the "Horse eats hay, therefore car eats hay" example someone gave earlier.

You wrongly accuse me of wrongly equating a requirement of animal survival with a requirement of human survival. You do so by saying that the horse eats hay (an animal is selfish), therefore a car must also run on hay (be selfish). Here's the right way to think of it.

A horse eats hay, which is a simple form of fuel. An animal is selfish. A car uses gas, which is a more advanced kind of fuel. A human must be selfish, but they must practice a more advanced form of selfishness. Rational selfishness.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby drewster1829 » Thu Dec 24, 2009 8:42 pm UTC

Amaroq wrote:I'll say it again. If you look at your nature as a living being, you can easily come to the conclusion that egoism is necessary. That is, if your goal is to live.


The only reason that we have a goal to live is that the people who were genetically pre-disposed to not live didn't pass on their genes. That's not to say that suicidal tendencies are purely genetic (obviously they're not), but the "will to live" is something that is biologically inherent to humans and animals.

Amaroq wrote:A horse eats hay, which is a simple form of fuel. An animal is selfish. A car uses gas, which is a more advanced kind of fuel. A human must be selfish, but they must practice a more advanced form of selfishness. Rational selfishness.


But a car's continued existence does not depend on its consumption of gas. A car will exist whether it has gas or not. And a car is not a living being...a car does not have any "hunger" or "desire" for gas, or anything else for that matter. A horse eats not because it needs to eat to survive, but because when it gets hungry, it has a desire for food, and it knows that eating hay satisfies that desire. It happens (due to natural selection and evolution) that this also results in the horse's continued survival (everything else being equal), but the horse certainly doesn't think "I don't want to die, so I'm going to eat." More like "My stomach hurts...I sure wish I had some hay to eat to make it feel better."

So, explain why a human must practice a "more advanced form of selfishness"? Is it a moral imperative or a physical requirement? I know lots of people who want nothing more than to just live and be entertained, never challenging themselves to think beyond a certain level necessary to acquire the means to survive. Sure, it's a little more complicated in human societies, since we usually look for a way to make (or steal) money to buy food and housing and whatnot, but I don't think it's that different from the desires of animals...we may have more complicated desires, but even that is pushing it. Many more intelligent animals need to play and have intellectual stimulation (look at the more intelligent dogs...they get bored rather easily) just as humans do. Perhaps animals aren't capable of rational thought? That I doubt, watching the behavior and tool usage of many animals, not just limited to primates. Ever seen that video of a sea bird "fishing" by picking up bread crumbs and dropping it in the water, then catching the fish when it comes to eat the bread? Maybe that doesn't require rational thought, but neither do we, for our survival.

We have the same emotional drives and desires that higher animals do. I was reading a book (Emotional Intelligence, maybe?) that mentioned a case where a successful attorney had a brain injury and lost the ability to feel emotion. He could still think rationally and logically just as before, but since the accident, he lost his wife, his job, his home, basically his whole life because he couldn't prioritize his decisions based on what was "best" for him--he didn't care. He became incredibly indecisive because he had no desire to live one way compared to another, so his life fell apart. But I guess it didn't matter to him.

As a side effect of some medication I last took a couple years ago, I have no appetite. None whatsoever. I have to eat to survive, but if I didn't make that connection, I'd probably starve to death. I never, ever feel a desire for food, but I know that if I don't eat, I get extremely dizzy and irritable, and eventually my stomach will start to hurt (but by the time my stomach hurts, I can barely think straight). I basically eat because I don't want to feel this way, but I never feel hungry at all.

Anyway, I'm not sure what the point was of everything I just said...I'm not even sure if I was disagreeing or agreeing. What was the question again?
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Jach
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Jach » Fri Dec 25, 2009 8:49 am UTC

Hello, I happen to be the roommate of Amaroq. I just wanted to post to say he fails to understand and/or remember at least 90% of what I believe, and my justifications, and so my views have been / continue to be horribly misconstrued. I have several theories for this obvious (to me) gap of understanding, one of which is my ability to argue and teach, but I've been working on that for a while since I recognized the fault a few years ago. In the spirit of Christmas (yay cop-out) I'm not going to go back and correct all the misconstructions (yay laziness), though. Besides, I already feel bad enough for helping to keep the thread in this direction when it should be more about the comic (which I found quite humorous (and I typically link friends to the comics)) and less about someone saying "my roommate says this and here's why I disagree", followed by more disagreements. Plus I'm on a pseudo-hiatus from forums in general. :(

Okay, for the benefit of my roommate (this is just a stub from wikiworld):
The many-worlds interpretation (or MWI) is an interpretation of quantum mechanics in which a universal wavefunction obeys the same deterministic, reversible laws at all times; in particular there is no indeterministic and irreversible wavefunction collapse associated with measurement. The phenomena associated with measurement are claimed to be explained by decoherence, which occurs when states interact with the environment producing entanglement, repeatedly splitting the universe into mutually unobservable, alternate histories—distinct universes within a greater multiverse.


Perhaps the problem is merely one of definition.
I love reading quotes.

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Amaroq
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Amaroq » Sat Dec 26, 2009 10:50 pm UTC

drewster1829 wrote:The only reason that we have a goal to live is that the people who were genetically pre-disposed to not live didn't pass on their genes. That's not to say that suicidal tendencies are purely genetic (obviously they're not), but the "will to live" is something that is biologically inherent to humans and animals.

I don't see how the source of our will to live is relevant to whether egoism is necessary to live. You want to live, and you want to live well, don't you? Without any concern for yourself whatsoever, how will you go about that?

drewster1829 wrote:But a car's continued existence does not depend on its consumption of gas. A car will exist whether it has gas or not. And a car is not a living being...a car does not have any "hunger" or "desire" for gas, or anything else for that matter. A horse eats not because it needs to eat to survive, but because when it gets hungry, it has a desire for food, and it knows that eating hay satisfies that desire. It happens (due to natural selection and evolution) that this also results in the horse's continued survival (everything else being equal), but the horse certainly doesn't think "I don't want to die, so I'm going to eat." More like "My stomach hurts...I sure wish I had some hay to eat to make it feel better."

So, explain why a human must practice a "more advanced form of selfishness"? Is it a moral imperative or a physical requirement? I know lots of people who want nothing more than to just live and be entertained, never challenging themselves to think beyond a certain level necessary to acquire the means to survive.


I think that, to a point, a "more advanced form of selfishness", rational selfishness, is simply a requirement of survival of man qua man. Animals and even plants survive by basic selfishness, doing whatever it is they're programmed to do. More advanced animals have instincts to guide them, but those instincts pretty much reliably tell them what they need to do.

You think that our genetically gaining a will to live ensures that everyone has a will to live, but there really are people out there who commit suicide for whatever reasons. Who knows what tragically destructive philosophic views they implicitly held. This is why we need a good philosophy to guide our lives. Because man is the only animal that can choose to torture and destroy itself.

Humans and human society are much more complex than animals and animal social structures. You could argue that there are some animal social structures that are way more advanced than human social structures, but even in those cases, the animals are equipped to sufficiently deal with those via their instincts. Humans have rational minds, and they have to use those if they want to live the best lives they can.

I was very purposeful in my wording of that last sentence. Those people who don't challenge themselves and relegate themselves to a life of mere survival aren't living the fullest lives they possibly can. Were they to challenge themselves, become more productive, etc, they could earn more for themselves as well as feel better about themselves. In many, many ways, a rationally selfish person will live better than a hedonistically "selfish" person.

There are two barometers to tell you how good of a life you are living. The pleasure-pain response is a barometer that is possessed by pretty much the entirety of the animal kingdom, including humans. There is another one that pretty much only possessed by humans, however. Happiness and suffering. Happiness being joy and love of life, etc. Someone who is merely surviving is probably not feeling physical pain, but whether they are truly happy is debatable.

I thought for a second that you were going to use evolution, genes, etc to assert that we evolved to be altruistic. (I've heard it before.) I assert that you can't make a solid case for altruism without giving it an egoistic foundation. Pure, 100% undiluted altruism is impossible. You'd have to sacrifice everything until you have nothing left. You'd sacrifice yourself to death. Even the most altruistic people have to take a breather and selfishly replenish themselves. If they didn't, how could they live?

Jach,
I accepted what you said before when you told me that Many Worlds was deterministic. Not knowing physics myself, I can't argue against it. When someone here asserted that many worlds and QA shows that the universe is random, it intrigued me. I wanted to hear more. :P

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Dec 27, 2009 5:22 am UTC

FWIW, I think you're all being imprecise about your notions of "egoism" and "altruism". You seem to be using them alternately to mean two different things each. In one sense of egoism, you're meaning "some concern for oneself", not necessarily to the exclusion of some concern for others; in another sense of Egoism (lets capitalize it for distinction), you're meaning "concern only for oneself", to the exclusion of any concern for others. Likewise, in one sense of altruism you're meaning "some concern for others", not necessarily to the exclusion of some concern for oneself; and in another sense of Altruism (again capitalized for distinction), you're meaning "concern only for others", to the exclusion of any concern for oneself.

If the argument here is between egoism and altruism, there's an obvious false dichotomy fallacy in play: one can easily be both a (lower-case) egoist and a (lower-case) altruist at the same time, having some concern for oneself as well as some concern for others. For example, if I am willing to carry an old lady's groceries to her car for no benefit and some small cost to myself, but not willing to carry them across town to her home because the cost to myself would be too great, that demonstrates that I have some intrinsic concern for the old lady (an other), since I gain nothing and lose a little something for helping her, but I'm willing to do so anyway; but also some intrinsic concern for myself, since I'm unwilling to sacrifice too much of my own time and effort for her sake without some kind of compensation.

If the argument here is between Egoism and Altruism, then I think both positions are prime facie absurd, and I suspect the vast majority of people would agree. Upper-case Egoists (people with absolutely no concern for the well-being of others) are more commonly called sociopaths, and upper-case Altruists (people with absolutely no concern for their own well-being) are more commonly called... well, dead, usually. These upper-case senses are more often used as straw-man opponents by proponents of the lower-case senses, since upper-case Altruism is the negation of lower-case egoism, and likewise upper-case Egoism is the negation of lower-case altruism.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby AlexanderRM » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:13 pm UTC

FCN wrote:Special relativity implies time dilation: moving clocks go slower than stationary clocks.

Edit:
Some people found this unclear, so let me draw a diagram in words. I am standing still. Relative to me, the train is moving left to right at .5c. Relative to the train, the racecar is moving right to left at .5c. So, relative to me the racecar is stationary, which means that the racecar clock must be going at the same rate as my clock. But the train clock is slower than my clock (by time dilation) and the racecar clock is slower than the train clock (for the same reason), so the racecar clock must be slower than my clock. Contradiction.


Ah, this sounds like a much better argument than both moving at .51C in the same direction, and is a hypothetically reachable state. I've often thought that thing in high physics like this seemed oddly inconsistent, though maybe that's because I haven't discussed it with anyone who had a very good understanding of stuff. For example, I've found that all the "relative" stuff, like relative velocity, tend to be ignored sometimes.



π=3.15 wrote:
FCN wrote:...


I don't see why your clock and the racecar's clock would be going at the same rate. If they were then the racecar would not be going at half the speed of light but would be in your stationary frame, not the trains sub-light speed frame?


Eh... wait; I think I get this... maybe. The racecar isn't actually moving at half the speed of light in one direction and half the speed of light in the opposite direction as well, it's simply standing still. Therefore, it's clock is moving at the same rate as first person's clock, and much faster than second person's clock (the clock of the person on the train).

However, I still think that the whole "relative" part of "relativity" messes this up. Relative to the observer on the train, isn't the racecar (as well as everything off the train, AKA the entire universe, I suppose) moving at half the speed of light, and the train standing still? So, if speed is relative, how can their clocks be moving faster than those on the train?
Say... say if you did have a situation where the entire universe is moving at the half the speed of light in one direction, and the train is standing still. Is that, then, not indistinguishable from the train moving at half the speed of light and the universe standing still?

TL;DR... My brain hurts. :? Not trying to overturn special relativity here (I'm sure thousands of people have come up with this before and tried to do that), but wondering if anyone can explain to me how this doesn't overturn it.




guyy wrote:Edit: I'm guessing FCN's paradox above would disappear if you actually used Lorentz transformations to find the time in each frame; with the racecar going backwards, the time may not change in the way you might expect. I don't really have time to check that, though.


Um, except there really is no "way you might expect", the whole point is that the rules seem to contradict each other. However, having honestly never heard of Lorentz transformations before this, I must admit that there might be something weird in there that would explain FCN's paradox. (which, BTW, should totally be the official paradox name. Seriously, it just sounds like the name of a paradox. :D )




aiusepsi wrote:Mostly we get new theories because we know our old theories are wrong or incomplete.

Like special relativity came about because physicists realised that there was something the matter with Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism, especially with relation to the velocity of propagation of light. This is why the Lorentz transformations were developed, for instance - they're the transformations under which the Maxwell theory is covariant. It took someone like Einstein to put together the puzzle pieces and realise that electromagnetism made a lot more sense if you threw away your old ideas of space and time, but it grew very organically from the incompleteness of the existing theory.

The real trouble with today's physics is that why our theories are broken and incomplete are a lot harder to understand.


I think the whole idea here is that there's something which might mean our old theory is wrong or incomplete. Note that the guy in the comic isn't trying to develop a new theory, just realize something wrong with the old one.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby drewster1829 » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:26 am UTC

Amaroq wrote:I think that, to a point, a "more advanced form of selfishness", rational selfishness, is simply a requirement of survival of man qua man. Animals and even plants survive by basic selfishness, doing whatever it is they're programmed to do. More advanced animals have instincts to guide them, but those instincts pretty much reliably tell them what they need to do.


How can doing what something is programmed to do be thought of as selfishness? If an animal is acting on instinct for its survival, wouldn't that make it difficult to assign moral values of selfishness or selflessness to them? Take a lioness that kills a sick antelope, for instance. That lioness could be though of as selfess, since she's killing another animal to feed herself, or as selfless because she's killing the animal to feed her pack, or as selfless because she's doing the antelope a favor by getting rid of the weak ones that might reduce the possibility of survival of the entire herd of antelope (or even future generations due to natural selection). This of course assumes the lioness doesn't actually engage in rational thought, but acts purely on instinct. If an animal is acting on instinct, in the same way a computer follows instructions, I don't think any moral value of egoism or altruism can be applied since it's purely genetic, and an animal can't pick its genes.

As for more advanced animals primarily depending on instincts to realiably tell them what to, I have to significantly disagree. Even using the lioness example above isn't really valid because lion cubs need to be taught how to hunt. Many animals, especially primates, have to teach their young how to accomplish certain tasks. Now, even if this is just stimulus-response behavior such as Pavlov's dogs (such that it might not involve rational thought, but just rote practice), it's still not instinct. It's learned behavior.

Amaroq wrote:You think that our genetically gaining a will to live ensures that everyone has a will to live, but there really are people out there who commit suicide for whatever reasons. Who knows what tragically destructive philosophic views they implicitly held. This is why we need a good philosophy to guide our lives. Because man is the only animal that can choose to torture and destroy itself.


Yes, I mentioned that suicide was an exception for a predisposition to live, but most people have an inherent fear of death and a subconscious will to survive, which I would argue is genetically based. I would say that your last two sentences are true as long as there are three things: pleasure, pain, and emotion. It's my personal opinion that without those three things (emotion including things like happiness, sadness, etc), there would be no such thing as morality, since any application of "good" or "bad" to actions or things would be completely arbitrary. For example, pleasure and pain are both just biological responses to external or internal stimuli, and are really the same sort of thing. It's just that we, like most other animals, desire pleasure and try to avoid pain (usually).

Amaroq wrote:Humans and human society are much more complex than animals and animal social structures. You could argue that there are some animal social structures that are way more advanced than human social structures, but even in those cases, the animals are equipped to sufficiently deal with those via their instincts. Humans have rational minds, and they have to use those if they want to live the best lives they can.


Yes, but that's assuming we all agree on the meaning of the "best" life one can live. Most agree that people should be happy, should be productive members of society (either through rational self-interest or however else), and should avoid hurting others. When getting down to the details, however, one person's "best" life might not be another person's, and more importantly, many people don't have the ability to even take the path that will lead them to happiness. Many, many people try to do things to make themselves happy, and then end up far more unhappy because of their actions (not that I advocate government intervention or anything...I don't think they know better than the individuals themselves in the majority of, or even all, cases). Maybe it's just an issue of education, but that's for another thread. If more people knew how to get to the life they dream of, then more people would live the "best" life, as in best for them personally, as well as good enough for the rest of society.

Amaroq wrote:I was very purposeful in my wording of that last sentence. Those people who don't challenge themselves and relegate themselves to a life of mere survival aren't living the fullest lives they possibly can. Were they to challenge themselves, become more productive, etc, they could earn more for themselves as well as feel better about themselves. In many, many ways, a rationally selfish person will live better than a hedonistically "selfish" person.


This somewhat contradicts what I said in the last paragraph, but what if there are people that are happy living that way? Maybe they don't want to earn more for themselves, and maybe challenging themselves wouldn't make them feel better about themselves. Who are we to say they should live differently? Isn't it their choice? On the other hand, like I said above, maybe it's just an issue of education. I'm certainly not advocating forcing others to live "fuller" lives...

Amaroq wrote:There are two barometers to tell you how good of a life you are living. The pleasure-pain response is a barometer that is possessed by pretty much the entirety of the animal kingdom, including humans. There is another one that pretty much only possessed by humans, however. Happiness and suffering. Happiness being joy and love of life, etc. Someone who is merely surviving is probably not feeling physical pain, but whether they are truly happy is debatable.


I completely disagree that animals don't feel happiness or sadness. Remember [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_of_despair"]Harlow's experiment[/url] with young monkeys? I'll bet they were rather unhappy. Everything else you said here I agree with, but it's my opinion higher animals certainly can feel happiness or sadness.

Amaroq wrote:I thought for a second that you were going to use evolution, genes, etc to assert that we evolved to be altruistic. (I've heard it before.) I assert that you can't make a solid case for altruism without giving it an egoistic foundation. Pure, 100% undiluted altruism is impossible. You'd have to sacrifice everything until you have nothing left. You'd sacrifice yourself to death. Even the most altruistic people have to take a breather and selfishly replenish themselves. If they didn't, how could they live?


I would agree that 100% undiluted altruism is impossible. However, the limited altruism we do have is certainly an evolutionary result, since our social structures increase the probability of survival versus trying to completely survive on one's own with no interaction with any other humans. There are huge societal advantages to being honest and trustworthy. Helping others is advantageous, too, but not at the cost of one's own needs. I would say that both rational thought and (limited) altruism are evolutionary advantageous, since the social structures of humans and other animals have increased the possibility of survival dramatically.

Pfhorrest wrote:If the argument here is between Egoism and Altruism, then I think both positions are prime facie absurd, and I suspect the vast majority of people would agree.


Given your definition for capital Egoism and Altruism, I would agree. :D

AlexanderRM wrote:However, I still think that the whole "relative" part of "relativity" messes this up. Relative to the observer on the train, isn't the racecar (as well as everything off the train, AKA the entire universe, I suppose) moving at half the speed of light, and the train standing still? So, if speed is relative, how can their clocks be moving faster than those on the train?
Say... say if you did have a situation where the entire universe is moving at the half the speed of light in one direction, and the train is standing still. Is that, then, not indistinguishable from the train moving at half the speed of light and the universe standing still?

TL;DR... My brain hurts. :? Not trying to overturn special relativity here (I'm sure thousands of people have come up with this before and tried to do that), but wondering if anyone can explain to me how this doesn't overturn it.


I had this same problem years ago, and my physics professor explained that you have to look at intertial reference frames to understand the difference...in other words, it's whichever one that accelerates from a rest state (relative to everything else). My question was about the space traveler paradox, where a spaceship leaves Earth at nearly the speed of light, travels a long way, and then comes back to Earth to find everyone older. I didn't understand why the people on Earth didn't experience time dilation relative to the spaceship, and the reason is that it's the spaceship that accelerated relative to the Earth, then stopped, accelerated again, then stopped. So yeah, I didn't explain that very well, but I'm pretty sure the answer to your question has to do with inertial reference frames.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby JediTony » Mon Dec 28, 2009 5:21 pm UTC

AlexanderRM wrote:
FCN wrote:Special relativity implies time dilation: moving clocks go slower than stationary clocks.

Edit:
Some people found this unclear, so let me draw a diagram in words. I am standing still. Relative to me, the train is moving left to right at .5c. Relative to the train, the racecar is moving right to left at .5c. So, relative to me the racecar is stationary, which means that the racecar clock must be going at the same rate as my clock. But the train clock is slower than my clock (by time dilation) and the racecar clock is slower than the train clock (for the same reason), so the racecar clock must be slower than my clock. Contradiction.


Ah, this sounds like a much better argument than both moving at .51C in the same direction, and is a hypothetically reachable state. I've often thought that thing in high physics like this seemed oddly inconsistent, though maybe that's because I haven't discussed it with anyone who had a very good understanding of stuff. For example, I've found that all the "relative" stuff, like relative velocity, tend to be ignored sometimes.


The trick to not getting confused with relativity thought experiments is to always keep in mind the frame of reference and stick to one frame of reference at a time. Further, the idea of "slower" or "faster" clocks can only be evaluated at the point when the participants are stationary in the same frame of reference. The apparent contradiction is due to comparing clocks across multiple frames of reference.

Using the frame of reference of the observer on the ground, the race car is stationary and so its clock is keeping the same pace. The train's clock is slower. However, this only becomes the "truth" when both the race car and train come to a screeching halt and so stop moving relative to the guy on the ground.

Using the train's frame of reference, both the car and the ground observer are relatively moving at .5c, so both their clocks are slower, however, this will only be the case if and when both the car and the ground observer accelerate in the opposite direction (the direction of the train) and so become relatively stationary with the train. There is no contradiction, because when this happens, the previous situation is no longer attainable and so the previous interpretation is no longer valid.

The race car's frame of reference is not even worth considering, because in this scenario, the train can never become stationary relative to the car, without the car being the one to change its velocity.

I know its weird, because we still want to believe that there is a "God's frame of reference" above these frames of reference, but special relativity teaches us that there is not. Its very analogous to wave functions in quantum mechanics, where there can arise apparent contradictions depending on when/how a particle is observed. The double slit experiment is the classic example. The key is that each competing (and possibly contradicting) interpretation excludes all the others automatically when the observation is made.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby AlexanderRM » Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:17 pm UTC

JediTony wrote:I know its weird, because we still want to believe that there is a "God's frame of reference" above these frames of reference, but special relativity teaches us that there is not.



Um, my whole question there was based on there NOT being a "God's frame of reference". I was noting that time dilation is usually based on the assumption of some such frame of reference.

Anyway... this explanation is making special relativity sound even more like an arbitrary dogma like the guy in the comic thinks, though I'm still pretty confident it's not... well, mostly confident. I can see how it seems to make sense, but the collapsing of the wave function after the train and the observer come into the same frame of reference- it doesn't really say how that would actually work.




Really, this thought experiment doesn't need the racecar or anything once you've thought of it... we just need 2 objects, Object A and Object B (chances are that one of these is a spaceship and the other is a planet or somesuch, but it doesn't really matter). One of the two objects is moving away from the other at 0.5c- note that they started out together and with their clocks in synch. I'm on Object A, and you're on Object B; from my perspective Object B is moving away from me at half the speed of light, and your clock is moving slower than mine; from your perspective the inverse appears to be true.

So anyway, after awhile the objects slow down and begin moving back towards each other (this would be something like the spacecraft moving back towards the planet)- the varying speeds and different directions don't really matter, I'm pretty sure, as a clock moving relative to you appears to move slower no matter which direction it's moving, as long as it's moving. From my perspective, Object B has slowed down and stopped before beginning to move back towards me, and your clock is running slower than mine; your perspective, again, is the inverse.

So anyway, the two objects meet, slowing down and stopping again so that their relative speed is the same (spaceship lands on planet). We compare our clocks.

How do they compare?

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:25 am UTC

AlexanderRM wrote:How do they compare?

Presuming that Object A was the one accelerating away from Object B and not vice versa (if A is a space ship and B is a planet, as you suggest), then your clock with you on Object A will show less time having passed than their clocks with them on Object B. This is due not to special-relativistic effects caused by differing measurements of time between different inertial frames (i.e. between non-comoving objects), but rather to general-relativistic effects caused by Object A passing through non-inertial reference frames (while accelerating away from object B, slowing down at its destination, accelerating back toward object B, and then slowing down again when it returned; or, equivalently, while constantly turning to travel in a big circle without ever stopping per se, since turning counts as acceleration as well).

If B moved away from A and back again instead, the reverse would be true; and if they moved away from each other on identical courses and then back to their starting point, their clocks would agree perfectly.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Faselsloth » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:11 pm UTC

Why is xkcd so mean to liberal arts majors? I could cite comics but that seems a little fanatical- still, any regular reader of xkcd is bound to notice a trend of hostility or defensiveness emphasizing the big important differences between 'scientists' and 'non-scientists'. It is obvious that there is no reason for real philosophers to dislike real scientists, and equally obvious that there is no reason for real scientists to dislike real philosophers.

That's why comics with this 'message' diminish my enjoyment of an otherwise excellent webcomic. Just by titling the comic "Revolutuionary", xkcd takes a polemical stance: the reference is to Thomas Kuhn's bestselling work, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", which challenges conventional assumptions about the history and process of science from a sociological or philosophical perspective. The book was and is extremely influential, and some of its less careful readers have construed it as an attack on the veracity of the scientific process, while other careless readers behave much like the goatee'd man in the comic. Anyone who reads Thomas Kuhn seriously gains valuable insights about the history of science and at no point believes himself to have overturned or disproved any scientific theory.

It is unfortunate that, given the two-way-street nature of foolishness, xkcd consistently pokes fun at foolish liberal arts majors and lets the foolish science majors (most of whom are NOT scientists) slip under the radar. I am reminded of a college acquaintance who was an excellent mathematician- he told me math was the "correct" way to think about logic, and proceeded to use his elite Ivy League math skills to work on my Philosophy 101 logic problem set. He did some fascinating things I don't understand, like using mathematical symbols interchangeably with symbolic-logic symbols, but after about 20 minutes without arriving at a single answer he gave up and rethought his decision to skip the textbook.

This attitude, that of "knowing" first and "reading" second, seems to have inspired this comic. Thomas Kuhn's book is a serious study of scientific revolutions, not an attempt to undermine anything. The continuing hostility between science and the humanities feels a lot like a religious war- regardless of who is right, the most important thing is that we stop fighting about it. This comic strikes me as a pointless attack on liberal arts majors, most of whom are not as dumb as xkcd makes us out to be. Please, xkcd, stop the hatin'.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby JediTony » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:56 pm UTC

AlexanderRM wrote:it doesn't really say how that would actually work.


Disclaimer: I'm not really trained in Physics beyond reading a few popular books. The best explanation I've heard for why there are these relativistic effects is that everything is moving at the speed of light through 4d (possibly more ds based on string theory) space-time. Time is treated as an equal dimension to the x, y, z spatial dimensions. The faster you move in the spatial dimensions the slower you move in the time dimension. I'd recommend reading Brian Green's book for the complete explanation.

I think Pfhorrest answered the question well. Movement away from each other is not enough to cause time dilation. Two objects in constant motion away from each other will have clocks running at the same pace. The object that changes its velocity relative to the other is the one that experiences the time dilation.

Faselsloth wrote:xkcd consistently pokes fun at foolish liberal arts majors


I was a philosophy / psychology major for my undergrad, and I can see your point, but I don't think we need to be offended by this. It's to be expected that a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language would tilt in favor of the perspective of mathematicians. Any fun poking seems very mild and lighthearted in any case. I happen to think that it's all of math that's a subset of logic, not the other way around. I also have a masters in Math education, so I've seen both sides of this. My favorite philosophy course was philosophy of science. I found Kuhn's paradigm shifts to be an interesting paradigm (heh) for understanding scientific progress. I didn't like how he made it seem like the paradigms were the be all and end all of science rather than simply approximations for understanding observable reality. Anyways, I read Lakatose on rationality in science and I wrote a paper modifying Lakatose to deal with the sticky question of evaluating the rationality of pursuing a theory in the face of contrary evidence. I argued that the continued work on a scientific theory after overwhelming evidence against it could be considered foolish, but not irrational. I considered it akin to gambling against overwhelming odds; foolish, but one can still rationally hope to win.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:46 am UTC

JediTony wrote:I think Pfhorrest answered the question well. Movement away from each other is not enough to cause time dilation. Two objects in constant motion away from each other will have clocks running at the same pace. The object that changes its velocity relative to the other is the one that experiences the time dilation.


Not exactly (the emphasized sentence). Neither will be undergoing time dilation, but their clocks won't really be moving at the same pace, either.

Say you have two object in inertial reference frames - take the Earth, and an alien spaceship cruising past us, for example. The aliens fly by, hear our broadcast and go "oh look civilization, lets say hi!", and as they continue away from us they initiate communication, but don't change course: they are still cruising under no acceleration on the way to whatever their destination is, and only talking to us over radio. We will "hear" their radio signals down-shifted to lower frequencies (much like the siren of an ambulance as it speeds away), as though their transmissions were being played back in slow-mo, and as such, the timestamps on their communications will come in to us at a rate slower than they were originally transmitted: in other words, we will measure their clocks as ticking slower than our own. (Let's presume we're using some common physical reference for time, like the osculations of a particular isotope, since aliens obviously wouldn't be using "seconds" as we define them).

However, the aliens will "hear" our responses down-shifted as well, and as such, THEY will measure OUR clocks as running slower than THEIRS. This is the origin of the apparent "paradox" in the "twin paradox"; we measure their clocks as slower than ours, yet they measure our clocks as slower than theirs, an obvious contradiction, and thus, apparently, a paradox, if we presume that both measurements are objectively correct.

The resolution of this paradox is to say that neither measurement is objectively correct: every measurement is correct only relative to a particular reference frame. That is the premise of special relativity: differences in motion produce differences in the measurement of space and time. So in order to accurately measure which if either clock is really ticking faster than the other, you have to bring the two into the same reference frame, meaning accelerating either the Earth and its clocks into the frame of the alien ship, or "decelerating" (which is just accelerating in the opposite direction) the space ship and its clocks into the Earth's reference frame. This is where general relativity comes into play. General relativity says that accelerating something causes time dilation; thus, when you get the two clocks into the same reference frame, even though by that point the special-relativistic differences in measurement will have disappeared (as there is now no difference in motion), one of them really will have been ticking slower than the other (while accelerating), so the clocks will not read the same. But both us and the aliens will agree whose clock reads faster than the other, so there is no more paradox.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby JediTony » Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:30 pm UTC

Thank you for clearing that up. I think I understand it much better now.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby AlexanderRM » Sat Jan 16, 2010 9:56 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
JediTony wrote:I think Pfhorrest answered the question well. Movement away from each other is not enough to cause time dilation. Two objects in constant motion away from each other will have clocks running at the same pace. The object that changes its velocity relative to the other is the one that experiences the time dilation.


Not exactly (the emphasized sentence). Neither will be undergoing time dilation, but their clocks won't really be moving at the same pace, either.

Say you have two object in inertial reference frames - take the Earth, and an alien spaceship cruising past us, for example. The aliens fly by, hear our broadcast and go "oh look civilization, lets say hi!", and as they continue away from us they initiate communication, but don't change course: they are still cruising under no acceleration on the way to whatever their destination is, and only talking to us over radio. We will "hear" their radio signals down-shifted to lower frequencies (much like the siren of an ambulance as it speeds away), as though their transmissions were being played back in slow-mo, and as such, the timestamps on their communications will come in to us at a rate slower than they were originally transmitted: in other words, we will measure their clocks as ticking slower than our own. (Let's presume we're using some common physical reference for time, like the osculations of a particular isotope, since aliens obviously wouldn't be using "seconds" as we define them).

However, the aliens will "hear" our responses down-shifted as well, and as such, THEY will measure OUR clocks as running slower than THEIRS. This is the origin of the apparent "paradox" in the "twin paradox"; we measure their clocks as slower than ours, yet they measure our clocks as slower than theirs, an obvious contradiction, and thus, apparently, a paradox, if we presume that both measurements are objectively correct.


Ah, this is an excellent explanation. People on both objects (or whatever) will view time on the other object as moving more slowly due to the light waves or something...
Wait, does that mean that if one object is moving TOWARD the other, observers on each object will consider time on the other to be moving faster than on theirs?
I also don't feel quite certain that this would work out correctly, but I can easily believe that it would. I just don't feel like twisting my brain to pieces to confirm it right now.

Anyway... this sounded like it would turn out that their clocks had been moving at the same speed all along, until I read the last bit...




Pfhorrest wrote:The resolution of this paradox is to say that neither measurement is objectively correct: every measurement is correct only relative to a particular reference frame. That is the premise of special relativity: differences in motion produce differences in the measurement of space and time. So in order to accurately measure which if either clock is really ticking faster than the other, you have to bring the two into the same reference frame, meaning accelerating either the Earth and its clocks into the frame of the alien ship, or "decelerating" (which is just accelerating in the opposite direction) the space ship and its clocks into the Earth's reference frame. This is where general relativity comes into play. General relativity says that accelerating something causes time dilation; thus, when you get the two clocks into the same reference frame, even though by that point the special-relativistic differences in measurement will have disappeared (as there is now no difference in motion), one of them really will have been ticking slower than the other (while accelerating), so the clocks will not read the same. But both us and the aliens will agree whose clock reads faster than the other, so there is no more paradox.


Huh, so... moving doesn't cause time dilation, accelerating does?
So, if I understand this correctly, speed is relative (it's impossible to tell from a given moment which object is moving), but acceleration is not, so that when one object changes speed, it's definite that that's the one changing speed, not the other one?

Seems sorta like the party's historical philosophy in 1984 (the book, the one famous for "big brother") only with physics instead of sociology... but I suppose there's no way of knowing for sure that you didn't have both objects moving in one direction to begin with, and then one slowing down.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby phlip » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:48 am UTC

AlexanderRM wrote:Ah, this is an excellent explanation. People on both objects (or whatever) will view time on the other object as moving more slowly due to the light waves or something...
Wait, does that mean that if one object is moving TOWARD the other, observers on each object will consider time on the other to be moving faster than on theirs?

Sorta... not really.

Say you and I are moving towards each other, at 0.5c. I send you messages (that travel at c) every second, as I measure it. Now, from my point of view, you're half a light-second closer for each message, so each one takes half a second less to arrive... so I think you should be receiving the messages at half-second intervals (as I measure it).

However, you'll actually measure (from your point of view) the messages arriving around 0.577 seconds apart (by the time dilation formula). So you're still receiving them faster than I'm sending them (Doppler effect). But if you do that calculation from the previous paragraph in reverse, that is figure out when they were sent based on when you received them, you'll find they were sent more than 1 second apart.

AlexanderRM wrote:Huh, so... moving doesn't cause time dilation, accelerating does?

Again, sorta... not really. Moving does cause time dilation... if you move further before accelerating, the time dilation effects would be greater... but accelerating sorta "locks it in" as an objective difference.
Say both of us are at the same place, and synchronise clocks, but we're moving apart at speed. We travel for a while like that until we're rather distant. Now, I think my clock will be ahead of yours, and you think your clock will be ahead of mine. By which I mean, say we send messages to each other when we think we're one lightyear apart... if we take the time we receive each others' messages, and subtract the one year travelling time (to get the time it was sent), then it will still seem to be later than the time we sent our own. Third parties looking at us might think I'm ahead of you, or vice versa, depending on their own velocity... someone travelling halfway inbetween our velocities (so they see me going one way and you going the other at the same speed) would see us as having the same time dilation.

So the time dilation is there, but it's not objective, in that different observers will see it being there in different amounts.

But say I now accelerate to be travelling at the same velocity as you (or, from your point of view, I come to a stop). Now, all observers (including both me and you) will agree that my clock has measured a shorter time than yours. By moving into the same frame as you, I've "locked in" the time dilation I experienced, and made it objective for everyone to agree on.

There's more to it than that, such as why I'll see you seem to change from behind me to ahead of me as I'm accelerating... how that looks... but that's the idea.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby santiago » Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:41 am UTC

oh god, the little beard on the guy makes me hate him even more


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