Because Data?

Possibly conflating two things inappropriately but they are linked at an information level.

Games evolve as their rules are evolved. I call it the John Terry effect. When Terry made the overt calculation that a non-violent “professional foul”, perpetrated on other than the last man with a scoring opportunity, wouldn’t get him sent off, and therefore he would commit the foul and take a yellow-card “for the team” …. he was sent off. Applying the rule, in prior knowledge of the rule – being a smartass – changes the rule. (Ungentlemanly conduct is about bad faith in relation to a rule, not about knowing the facts of the rule.)

That’s evolution, by definition.

Jermain Jenas is intelligent. No amount of information will make Harry Kane as intelligent (or John Terry for that matter). The more is known about the game (eg statistical data), the more how it’s played will evolve, the more its rules will evolve in response AND the less current knowledge will successfully predict its future outcomes.

That’s a game, by definition.

Short-term Jenas will probably be a better pundit than his current older peers (old dogs, new tricks is surely as old as the hills). But that’s because he’s intelligent. Don’t believe the big-data hype.

“There’s an expression: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Computers are our hammers right now.”

(And if you’re interested in football, Inverting the Pyramid is a great book on how successful footballing strategies inexorably fail. It’s all in the game. Even Eco on Italian Fascism invokes Wittgenstein on games.)


[Post Note: And who knew?

Later that same day, yesterday, we now have the Harry Kane and the VAR meme doing the rounds. All games depend on the possibility of bad decisions and actions by players and officials – they wouldn’t be a game otherwise. There’s a kind of sweet-spot between the predictable and unpredictability of outcomes that makes for a “good” game. It’s why the rules of long-running popular games (like football) need to evolve over time, to keep play in that sweet-spot and audiences interested, as technologies and tactics evolve. Three points for a win, the back-pass rule and of course the (apocryphal) offside rule. Often subtle changes are not to the rules (or laws) but to the guidance on how they are applied, handling benefits of the doubt. There are many variables for a wise FA to tweak.

Sometimes technology or extra eyeballs are introduced to reduce doubts – enter VAR. Sometimes specific doubts (goal-line technology), sometimes doubt in general (VAR linked invisibly to the ref’s wrist).

Firstly can I say, it was a dire game by the England team after an encouraging first 20 minutes, and as is normal in international football (which I rarely watch these days*), the refereeing was dire anyway. Kane gets MotM because he scores two goals (!) not because Trippier was the best England player on the pitch by a mile (Khazri was the best player on the pitch). How Young and Sterling even get selected ahead of Rose and Rashford is beyond me, but I digresss. Back to the refereeing: No discipline and control generally, tolerating too much disrespect from the players (see Terry-effect) and too many decisions given to England (eg for Tunisia offside). What was meant to be new was the VAR, but few people, least of all the refs (and possible even the VAR teams themselves) appear to know how it is meant to be used. It will take time – that’s evolution.

The problem was the lack of respect. Blatant rugby tackles on Kane at all set-pieces nonchalantly ignored by the ref as the players knew he would. Crap refereeing spoils a game, even for “winners” – see sweet-spot. The VAR never even invoked to help make any call (few of us will know how or why, there is no public “challenge a decision” concept). The talk is not about the quality of VAR decisions, but about their obvious absence, either way. Nothing marginal or sweet-spot about that. Nothing to do with any game. Apart from artistry of the likes of a Messi or a Hazard (or hopefully a Salah) all the value in any game is in its marginal decisions.

When all you have is a computer every problem is a nail in football’s coffin.]

[(*) Prefer real football in championship and football leagues. Where boys (naive) are men (respectful) and goalposts are jumpers …. well maybe not.]

[Post Note: When it comes to philosophy in football,  David Papineau

Seems I am in good company.]


Formally agreed names for recognised philosophical positions often elude me because quite often I do want to play fast and loose with definitions until something new emerges. Infuriating I know, but bear with me.

This whacky click-bait headline in Scientific American:

“Could Multiple Personality Disorder
Explain Life, the Universe and Everything?”

… introduces this paper from The Journal of Consciousness Studies:

“The Universe in Consciousness.”

by Bernardo Kastrup, whose idea is:

“There is only cosmic consciousness.” – And the abstract lists the paper dealing with: physicalism / bottom-up panpsychism / cosmopsychism / the hard problem of consciousness / the combination problem / the decombination problem.

Obviously anything like pan-psychism undermines centuries of established physical science, so as is often said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. (As Kastrup points out in later Twitter traffic, despite the undermining, much of the established structure can in fact stay intact.) But why make it this hard? Why make such an extraordinary claim?

If physics and consciousness are both emergent from the same proto-stuff and emergent through evolution to be more than the sum of their parts – both ergodic and non-ergodic parts – then job done?

I often refer to my own fundamental information position as pan-proto-psychism. It’s not that the universe comprises or depends on a cosmic consciousness, but that both the physical and mental universes are built of the same proto-conscious and proto-physical stuff – stuff called fundamental information. All the things we know and love are emergent from evolved patterns (of information) but are rarely reducible to their components. Philosophy-friendly scientists in both physics (String and QLG?) and consciousness (IIT?) both seem to be headed to this conclusion.


[Hat tip to Sabine Hossenfelder for the original link. However a great flame-war arising from his response to her tweet …

Another side to my agenda – why go looking for a fight when there are more constructive options? Funnily enough in the immediate preceeding post I had said:

“public conversations in science are often dishonest, largely political in fact, about playing to galleries and tribes”

Hear, hear.]

Is Truth Sacred?

Two things came together this morning.

Firstly, over the weekend I engaged in a Facebook thread by Sabine Hossenfelder discussing Brian Keating’s brief video: “What’s a Greater Leap of Faith, God or the Multiverse?”.

And secondly, this morning I listened to Elizabeth Oldfield in conversation with Tom Chivers in Theos’ “Sacred Podcast”.

Brian’s conclusion in the multiverse video, agreed by Sabine, is that as leaps of faith, they are at least on a par. I also agreed with Brian that the difference is that the scientific leap of faith is a dishonest one:

“It’s a brief video, and lots wrong with Keating’s choice of examples and arguments. Most scientists? … sure … I happen to be in the camp that would agree that a multiverse theory (there are many variations) that permits anything, explains nothing. Sabine and many others have pointed this out before. I agree it’s just as big a leap of faith as any theist, BUT more importantly (as Keating suggests) a dishonest one. The real problem is the dishonesty. As Rick Ryals says – this denial overlooks an alternative simple natural explanation that life – and ever more intelligent life in fact – is fundamentally inevitable. Emergent information > time > entropy laws. Entirely natural. Nothing is less surprising than life.”

“When it comes to Ockham and explanations that explain anything explaining nothing – people should look at David Deutsch’s concept of “explanatory reach”. (Particularly intriguing in his case since Deutsch IS in fact a multiverse advocate!) Sabine you should also give Erik Verlinde’s ideas another chance – aside from mathematical rigour 

In the Theos podcast, Tom says a lot of things I don’t agree with – he’s a free-will denier for example. But for me he is simply and quite typically “scientistic” – a greedy reductionist who sees objectivity of evidence as some kind of absolute standard. That’s several longer conversations.

What Tom says he holds sacred is “truth” – which sounds fine apart from this problem with defining truth as something absolute – the result of objective causal reductionism. However imperfect the state of our human empirical quest to get there, this absolute sacred object nevertheless exists on a pedestal somewhere? Truth with a capital “T” as it is often referred in philosophical circles.

There is no such thing, not even in science. And many scientists do in fact agree, though it’s not penetrated the post-Dawkins / New Atheist Horsemen memeplex in public culture yet. Enlightened science really is Post-Post-Modernist. It really has got over the slippery-slope fear of cultural relativism unleashed by relativity and quantum weirdness in public science consciousness.

My point here is more specific – Tom also agrees with Elizabeth, and myself – private conversations can be more honest. As I say, public conversations in science are often dishonest, largely political in fact, about playing to galleries and tribes. In complex situations evidence is always moot and dependent on chains of authority and trust. Faith dare I say?

What is really sacred here is Honesty. Not honesty in the sense of a narrow syllogistic truth of all evidenced premises and individual statements made, but in a wider honesty and integrity sense – character, intent and care for outcomes. Virtue anyone?

The Matrix Cometh

This is just a holding post. Already in my previous post on Carlo Rovelli, I was overdue a fuller review. Since then I’ve been reading Sean Carroll, and finding myself reading backwards, from the index of key topics and chapter headings. The reality is that every current philosophical physicist I read, I find enormous implicit overlap and reinforcement of fundamental models of physics despite explicit competitive disagreement. The critical half of thinking seems to win out in “scientists still haven’t agreed on xxx” whereas a synthetic view suggests enormous deep agreement – on things NOT recognised in accepted authoritative interpretations of the Standard Model and Core Theory of physics.

I’m musing on the idea that a simple matrix, polling who supports which concepts, might lay the points bare more clearly than more prosaic words on the topic(s). Roughly, physics effectively needs a metaphysical reboot from a different starting-point on Quantum Gravity and Emergent Time. Defence of existing bases (ie politics) is leading to supernatural denial of available rational natural explanations (ie science).

Anyway what I need to do is a summary of my recent readings of:

  • Sean Carroll (“The Big Picture“)
  • Carlo Rovelli (“The Order of Time” and “Reality is Not What it Seems“)
  • David Deutsch(“The Beginning of Infinity” and “The Fabric of Reality“)
  • Erik Verlinde (Not yet published, and existing presentations and articles)
  • Sabine Hossenfelder (“Lost in Math” not yet read, and existing articles and papers)
  • Max Tegmark, Lee Smolin and many others (previously read and blogged about on Psybertron)
  • Rick Ryals (fellow traveller physicist on social media etc.)

And no, sorry to disappoint, The Matrix reference has nothing to do with a fictional parallel reality, just a means of presentation and organisation
– aka “For the love of spreadsheets.”

Well we never! PoPoMo Physics Again.

I’m reading my way through Carlo Rovelli’s “The Order of Time” (Finished Part 1 of 3) and finding it full of items that resonate. Not least because I already loved his “Reality is Not What it Seems” but also because I have been joining up the dots with the work of David Deutsch and Erik Verlinde , physicists in competing fields but with near-total common metaphysical ground. Post-post-modernism.

Even incidental items intrigue. For example:

I think we maybe all knew that Einstein was working in the Swiss patent office at the time his space-time relativity thinking was emerging. I think it’s also pretty common knowledge that the setting of standard time in everyday life was very much driven by (rail) transport operations needing to sync up the meaning of running on time. How hadn’t I noticed that Einstein had been working on patents for synchronised timekeeping of railway clocks? Doh!

I think I already knew Leibni(t)z was spelled without a “t”. How did I not know he had dropped it deliberately in protest at Newton introducing disembodied time into his equations of motion?

We knew Gödel had been Einstein’s closest friend in the last years of his life at Princeton – there’s even a new book on exactly that – and much of it figures in Rebecca Goldstein’s work on Gödel as well as in works by others. What I hadn’t realised was that Gödel was the first to recognise the possibility of closed-loop trajectories in space-time – where effect can, in some real sense, precede cause.

But those are not the important content, these are:

Real things are not absolute things, in fact there are few if any absolute things. Not even laws of physics can be fundamentally fixed everywhere. Everything is relative and our understanding local.

If we really are to understand space-time we need to think in terms of fluid streams of events and not persistent things.

It is a Netwonian error to think of things contained in space (or time). Spacetime is an integral part of all things.

Spacetime is therefore more fundamentally quantised than either matter or energy. The Planck-scale exists in both space and time.

The most fundamental property of quantised stuff is Information or its complement (or should that be its conjugate), Entropy. [Post Note: Important to note, after Alan Rayner, that these quanta are NOT in any sense building-blocks, they are simply the smallest resolution at which we can know about fluid patterns of space-time.]

The flow of time is our local impression of histories of entropy. There is no general or absolute sense in which the flow of time is always towards increasing entropy, simply the experience of a long-term trend.

At black hole horizons time stands still, events stop flowing, nothing happens, nothing exists. (See closest spacing of “bits” on horizons in previous post.)


I’ll be back.


I read it to completion last night. Excellent stuff: grammar and even love. We really are all post-post-modernists now, even physicists. (Will need to cosnstruct a review of key learnings.)



Watched this 2004 video many a time since I first discovered it a few years ago, and of course it got resurrected when Prince and then Petty passed away in 2016 1nd 2017. Thought I’d capture it here.

Perfection is not just the solo itself, but the whole choreography. Despite the lights catching his red outfit whilst playing along, he remains understated in the dimly lit wings. His guitar pedals are already set-up in front of Dhani, his minder is there to catch him as he leans back into the audience, with a quick visual check over his shoulder, and several glances and grins are exchanged with the band. He owns the spotlight from thereon. Finally and nonchalantly dispensing with his guitar the moment the last note has faded – to who knows where. And it is a great guitar solo.


[Post Note: How have I never seen this before?

Too easy to spend an hour hopping around YouTube.]

“The Beginning of Infinity” – an injection of optimism.

After an enforced hiatus, I’m picking up on my reading list, specifically continuing David Deutsch’s “Beginning of Infinity” to completion. It remains very good, maybe my previous “highest level of discourse available on the planet” is overstating it, (and previously here) but still very good.

The target chapter – the reason for reading – was a bit of a let-down personally. The memetic arguments for cultural evolution were recommended perhaps without realising that was already my thing. The counter-intuitive “creativity suppresses innovation” quip seems no more than the idea that you can have too much of  good thing – too much creative innovation can be counter-productive, the basic fidelity-fecundity principle of evolution, and the sense that in some phases of evolution, steady as she goes is a virtue. All change, anything goes, creativity doesn’t allow the stable speciation & growth aspects of the “innovation” cycle to happen. All covered in a previous Twitter exchange (footnote here).

The other let-down was the chapter on the multiverse interpretations of quantum physics. He really does hold it to be a high-quality explanation of reality which I’m afraid neither I, nor the other philosophical physicists I subscribe to, actually hold. In his earlier work he justified the value of Bohm & Wheeler multiverse interpretations as part of a larger explanatory whole. Here he seems to justify it in its own right, though “quality of explanation” continues to be his whole thrust on the truth of any matter at any level.

Perhaps surprisingly, given he is a quantum physicist, there is an excellent chapter on choices of electoral systems in the US and UK which turns out to be an excellent vehicle for the whole topic of decision-making as a human process, individually as well as socially. Like both positivism and logical-positivism, which get panned in his chapter critiquing philosophy, they harbour a myth that observation of pre-existing “objects” determine theories of future outcomes. Decision-making is rarely of ever simply a matter of choice between available options. That is really only ever a temporary post-rationalisation of what is primarily a creative process until hi-quality explanations – with reach – are discovered.

Anyway, back to electoral systems in particular, he makes a fascinating defence for FPTP over PR. Basically that the practical reality of changing our minds and rejecting previous error, whilst nevertheless having time-limited opportunities to risk new policies, gives FPTP the edge.  PR has it’s own change-limiting drawbacks. For me, this is really about timescales of institutions and policies and policy change processes, so as usual I see this as a matter of balance – when I say PR I always indicate “Proper-PR“. And like Deutsch, when I say proper I don’t mean perfect or idealised, I just mean best in practice, taking proper note of all intended and unintended consequences of each option. The thing we all have to let go of is the idea of any system being both 100% fair and 100% consistent – he doesn’t mention Godel in this respect, but I do. This is one reason FPTP’s ability to share-out unfairness in the long-run, over many electoral cycles gives it the edge for him. Fascinating read as I say.

I won’t dwell on his “bad philosophy” chapter. His real point is that good philosophy, like good science (and good electoral systems) must have in-built processes of challenge and change. Not too much, not too little, just right I’d say. The point being that some have hidden dogmatic inhibitors to real deep change. Hear, hear I say. (One of my long-standing agendas is that science as an enterprise has some huge flaws holding back real progress and keeping us anchored to mythic tenets in ways that few scientists actually notice, and therefore inevitably rail against in denial when pointed out.) As well as panning the positivists which I would agree with, he dismisses the seeming nihilism of the post-modernists and post-Wittgensteinian word-gamers. He dismisses any value in the issues raised – the processes of dialogue – and anyway, he clearly missed the memo that we’re all post-post-modernists now and specifically forwarded to physicists. In some ways that denial of value in alternative thinking – even if the immediate answers are wrong (bad explanations that is) – is part of that hidden inhibitor to progress.

Love the fact that the works of Bronowski feature highly in his references and reading recommendations, as well as the inevitable Popper.

His optimism, that most of history is still ahead of us, that we’ve barely started our human journey and always will be in that state is very strong. Life is only ever at the beginning of an infinite future. As universal constructors of creative solutions to ever newer unpredictable problems, only complete destruction of the species and its cultural resources would represent the end. Science has its limits – but they’re limits to domains of absolute eternal knowability and certainty – not limits to the content and scope of the body of knowledge., scientific or otherwise.

One, perhaps counter-intuitive, example is Deutsch’s take on sustainability. We need to be careful not to treat it as an aspiration or even a thing. Objectifying it can make it another inhibitor to real creativity, a hidden dogma. Our cultural wealth, including our science and technology, and our processes of creativity and change, are our key resources. Not seemingly objective aims elevated to religious importance.

“This is Earth. Not the eternal and only home of mankind, but the starting point of an infinite adventure.” – Isaac Asimov

Problems are never solved, once and for all. They’re just work-arounds until the next one, and often the next one is just a newer version of one of the old ones. Ho hum, wish I’d read it 8 years ago. Onward and upward.

Fundamentally – What do I know?

Fundamentally – What do I know?

Black holes ain’t so black, and science ain’t so different from the humanities. Singularities have horizons crammed with information. Nothing objective is more fundamental than the information available.

This is a summary of recent work ostensibly on quantum gravity and the role of humans more generally in the science of reality. It also draws on some common fluid-dynamics metaphors and as suggested in the title, a reliance on fundamental information. The update here is in the light of the 2018 How The Light Gets In festival at Hay-on-Wye.

Big-data, algorithms, AI, fake-news, post-truth, post-humanism, you name it; from the wider humanities dimension of information patterns, I’ve already summarised what I heard in that general #HTLGI18 write-up. We’re all post-post-modernists now. From the the new physics perspective I’m hanging it off the work of Erik Verlinde but let’s be clear, the scope is the whole already suggested:

We’re talking
Physics and Humanity
Information and Analogy

A key feature of Erik Verlinde’s work – in fundamental physics – is that his new theory of gravity would appear to remove the need for the existence of Dark Matter whilst providing a rational explanation for Dark Energy. That would involve unpicking a great deal of post-Einstein work subsequently tested by real observation so, as they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Despite evolving, publishing and presenting versions of his work for over a decade, Verlinde and his colleagues are still working their way through satisfying the scientific community with fleshing out the detail, backing it up with the maths and establishing testable effects that will enable empirical verification. The jury is out. It could go either way. Situation normal.

So far so good. I’m an engineer/technologist not a scientist and couldn’t handle the relevant maths anyway, so I’m adding nothing to that. I might of course be the crank – a gentleman of a certain age, obviously – with a garden shed or two, where I’ve invented my own theory of everything.

I have a theory about dinosaurs,
and this this my theory.

They are very thin at one end,
very fat in the middle,
and thin again at the other.

Firstly, I’ve invented nothing, I’m simply reporting what I see and read with my own eyes. Secondly, there can be no grand-unified scientific theory-of-everything. I come to bury that idea. All I’m am asking is that more multi-disciplinary experts, in science and the humanities, take the ideas of others seriously in collaborative dialogue rather than discipline-specific politically-motivated critical analysis.

What I see, you can see too.

What I see are parallels in content and common analogies shared between other new theories of fundamental physics, theories already competing for hearts and minds in the scientific community as well as in popular science writing. In order to be considered “true” any one of these newer theories needs to be accepted by that community as, basically, an improvement on the existing. Whichever theories “win” or even if only minor modifications to the existing emerges, it seems highly likely that some of the common explanatory aspects will also emerge as “true”.

These common features are at two levels. At the level of fundamental postulations concerning the role of information underlying physics and at the human scale. The human-scale real-word physics analogies we can see with our own eyes. Erik uses versions of this slide:

That’s a cosmic galaxy, an atmospheric cyclone and a marine whirlpool.

Three different but
visually similar
natural phenomena.

Is the
underlying physics
also similar?

Neither Erik nor I are the first to point out these phenomena share visible features. No-one can fail to notice the impression of a vortex in turbulent fluid-flow – ether be gone! Those who work with the engineering mechanics – I hesitate to say science – of actual fluid-flow have had to deal with one theoretical problem shared with fundamental physicists.


Singluarities arise in the theory but cannot be handled directly without infinities that “fuck up” the maths. We have to integrate around their virtual existence in order to account for their real effects. In steady state or laminar conditions there are no vortices. In turbulent fluid the changing patterns of flow are modelled as the superposition of many imagined vortices even when no physical vortex emerges. When a vortex does emerge we also get a strange calm at the centre, the eye of the storm, the dry column of air drawn down your drain hole – a quite different flow-regime locally. The real effects are everywhere – aircraft wing-tips, standing waves on the surface of fast flowing rivers, the hum of the wind in cables- even where no real stable vortex emerges visibly. There is a horizon – a step-change – between the original and emergent flows. Something happens here that doesn’t happen there.

At the centre of every vortex, real or imagined, is a singularity. And, between that singularity and the rest of the world is an horizon.

The same is true of physics dealing with black-holes, whether quantum-scale or super-massive, big-bang or big-crunch, real or imagined. Physics had its “shut up and calculate” moment in Copenhagen. We engineers had it with our Navier-Stokes equations. Maths that works despite the flaws at the fundamental level, provided you stay clear of the problem itself, the right side of the horizon.

As I say, all this has been pointed out by many others. Navier-Stokes in the context of fundamental physics shows up in many a Google search.

Clearly – in some way –
the underlying physics is similar.

The question is therefore – in what way?

As a string-theorist before developing his latest theory of gravitation, Erik is effectively in competition with non-string theories of gravity. He’s quoted as rejecting Quantum Loop Gravity (QLG). Yet both he and Carlo Rovelli, for example a proponent of QLG, share some maybe non-obvious features of these analogies. In QLG the “loops” involve integration around the planck-scale / quantum-level singularities. They and others also share a corollary feature of this. A singularity is a point with a horizon.

In looking at what can be known about the physical world, we notice very quickly the complementarity of information and entropy. That’s a question of how many data-points does it take to “know” or fully describe any given physical state or arrangement in space-time?

Carlo and Erik, and let’s now add David Deutsch, share a fundamental information view of physics. In fact there is a whole but quite separate metaphysical rebuild of physics going on under the Integrated Information Theory (IIT) banner. Talk about extraordinary evidence needed. Again Google is your friend. Information that needs to be integrated before you can see anything like a whole. A whole partitioned by horizons.

Warren Ellis pointed out that human culture is a work-around. Popper already said all life is problem solving. Deutsch brings the idea that this is fundamentally what humans do into his quantum information view. Human intelligence is the Universal Constructor  of evolving solutions to new problems. It’s why given a fundamental information view, human thought and intelligence really are significant to the physics of the cosmos. All three – Verlinde, Rovelli and Deutsch – allude to this.

If information is the fundamental component, then everything else – particles, forces – are emergent. Even laws of physics – recognisable / repeatable / predictable patterns in space-time are emergent objects. So is anything we can assert about the truth, properties or qualities of these. Objective epistemologically and real enough, but not fundamental or absolute physically.

Physics becomes the epistemological question of what can we know about the world.

Are there any fundamental limits to what can be known? By humans or anyone else. Take a phenomenon like entanglement – how something known here affects something (not yet) known there, without any communication between here and there – the whole “observer effect”. These are not just weird quantum anomalies yet to be explained. They are evidence that knowledge is fundamental. Information is about arrangements of / patterns in the data-points. Knowing the pattern, knowing any one bit of information does indeed immediately tell you something about any other bit in the pattern. Any pattern.

Just two more points about how much can be known.

  • How small can a data point get? How many data points, how many possible arrangements, how much information can there be in the world?
  • How far can a known pattern extend beyond our here and now in spacetime? Does the idea of knowledge of the whole make any sense?

Taking the second first, all I am going to say is that our physics is our knowledge. Even the best model(s) of physical reality may only ever be valid locally (spatially and temporally) from a human sense-making, anthropic perspective. We should not be surprised if galactic sale models and theories don’t apply at the quantum level, even if quantum information underlies them both at different places in the universe at different times. We may even find there are very real horizons between these zones and eras of applicability. Horizons across which nothing makes sense without a reboot. Apart from this meta-model of knowledge dependence, how could we hope for any unifying physical model?

As to the other point, what is a quantum of information? How many data-points could we get on the head of a pin? Is this anything other than the qubit of quantum computing?

Let’s start with giving ourselves a problem, after all they’re what we’re good at. Let’s assume data-points can be infinitely small and therefore infinitely closely packed – say in triangles, whatever that means – in the dimensions of space-time . We’ve just bought ourselves an awful lot of mathematical singularities!

As soon as anything is happening – any pattern exists in space and/or time, space-time – there must be at least one space-time dimension that is larger than zero or there is no meaningful pattern. The potential singularities involved in our model of real world behaviour must have a non-zero horizon around which we can integrate. No pattern, no information. Zero information, zero scale. Something analogous to the Planck-scale, let’s call that the quantum information scale. The smallest singularity-containing black-hole large enough to contain a single bit.

This has a very interesting corollary for any horizon, pointed out by Erik already. It could almost become the definition of a black-hole – or anything else with an event horizon. The horizon is the surface at which all the information (ie everything) falling into it or projected onto it from “our” side is crammed together at this Planck-scale. It can’t get any smaller without losing (knowledge of) information. It is the limit to knowledge, anyone’s knowledge.

None of the above is science, there is certainly no maths or proof and even the philosophical thinking proceeds by analogy without dialectic rigour. What you see is what you get.

This is primarily my take on the work Erik Verlinde, Carlo Rovelli and David Deutsch with many earlier references to others omitted. As well as these modern, living physicists, there are even pre-Mach / pre-Einstein sources of the fundamental information & infinitesimally small data-points view. Like any enlightened scientist Verlinde acknowledges that these questions of limits to knowledge and boundaries to the cosmos are all pre-Socratic of course.

There was a sense at HTLGI18, reflected in Julian Baggini’s notes as much as my own, and even made quite explicit in the introduction by Hilary Lawson, that despite the apparent post-truth doom and gloom, we really do seem to have passed an event horizon. Fresh air, where the quest for absolutes in The Truth and The Good no longer seems to be the kind of thing worth coming to blows over, not even dialectically.

We’re all post-post-modernists now. Even physicists can agree.

Singularities have horizons crammed with information.
Nothing objective is more fundamental than the information available.

Black holes ain’t so black, and
Science ain’t so different from the humanities.

Let’s collaborate on unpicking what is useful to all of us.


[Stub – still in draft – but with existing links you can follow meantime.]

[To be added: links to original sources and previously on Psybertron.]

[Post Note: OK, so I’m a pattern-seeking-human, bear with me:

What do I see? I see a laminar-flow regime bottom right, the “standard model” and a transition (horizon) to multiple turbulent flow regimes top left.]

[Post Note: Is this science beheading a philosopher, or is it a scientist sticking his neck out and peering across a horizon?

Physicists Are Philosophers, Too

It was Max Born said, whilst managing all those geniuses assembled at Copenhagen, that “theoretical physics is actual metaphysics“. (The link behind the picture is actually a bunch of more sophisticated atheist philosophers upbraiding the likes of new-atheist Larry Krauss. In fact Larry was a participant by video-conference at the HTLGI before last, where he was ploughing his dissing-philosophy furrow.) Hat tip @AnitaLeirfall.]