The Law of the Land and of Nature

(This should be posted early as I will not be in a position to write a post next weekend. If I don’t make it, it may be late!)

English: Rules bye laws and orders of the Beve...
English: Rules bye laws and orders of the Beverley Westwood The new set of boards with the rules of the Beverley Westwood pastures placed at the entrance of the common. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Laws. When we think of laws we think of speeding fines, fines for drunken driving and so on, but there are a myriad of other laws that we don’t often think about. Ones about wills and probate. Laws to protect the young, the elderly, and other vulnerable people. Laws to deter people from stealing and cheating. Laws for almost everything.

Ferrari speeding at Piazza Duomo, Milan.
Ferrari speeding at Piazza Duomo, Milan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Laws are odd, when you think about it. They prevent or deter people from doing things. They basically act against personal freedom. They set limits and they are restrictive. But they are usually created on public demand or at least with public acquiescence, if not approval.

A whole section, a powerful section, of our societies has grown up to maintain and enforce our laws. The police are tasked with ensuring that laws are followed and are given the power to arrest those who appear to be breaking them, although they do not decide whether or not those persons have in fact broken the laws.

English: France in 2000 year (XXI century). Fl...
English: France in 2000 year (XXI century). Flying road police. France, paper card. : L’Agent Aviateur. Русский: Карточка серии “Франция в 2000 году” – “Воздушные полицейские”. Репродукция публиковалась в журнале “Очевидное и невероятное”, 2008 год. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The judiciary are the people who decide whether or not the laws have been broken, based on the evidence provided. Sometimes the judges or magistrates act alone, and at other times they use the judgement of a randomly selected group of citizens formed into a jury.

If the person is found guilty there are several types of punishments, fines, bans, even imprisonment and in the past, execution. A whole group of people is needed to oversee the sentence.

Dartmoor Prison in Princetown with North Hessa...
Dartmoor Prison in Princetown with North Hessary Mast and tor visible behind it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the time when the person is charged with a crime until and often after the verdict he or she will rely on the services of a specialist in laws, a lawyer or attorney. These people dedicate their lives to helping prove the innocence or guilt of persons charged with a crime.

Another huge section of society is responsible for making and amending laws. One of the functions of Government is to do this, but how do they decide how to add, change, or remove laws? I find that an interesting question. It seems to me that the representatives bring their own biasses and beliefs to the party.

A British government leaflet describing variou...
A British government leaflet describing various penalties given out to people breaching the wartime rationing legislation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They would be bringing a need hopefully communicated to them by the people who they represent, either for a change in the law or a new law or for the removal of a redundant law.

There’s a huge part of human endeavours devoted to making and administrating laws. Why do we spend such a large effort in stopping people doing things that they basically want to do?

Thai lawyer in academic attorney gownl in the ...
Thai lawyer in academic attorney gownl in the court models of the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, in most cases laws are there to prevent people doing things that cause harm to others, either intentionally (eg stealing) or inadvertently (eg drunken driving). Some laws are intended to prevent people harming themselves (eg drug laws).

Interestingly I heard about an experiment where a bunch of students were engaged to play a game, but the game had no rules. After a while the students started to make rules, even rules about how to make rules. So far as I know they didn’t make rules about enforcing rules or have penalties for breaking the rules! I’ve subsequently tried to find references on the Internet to this game, but I’ve been unable to find any, but it does seem as if human like rules or laws.

English: Quantum Cloud, Bugsby's Reach The scu...
English: Quantum Cloud, Bugsby’s Reach The sculpture by Antony Gormley stands in the River Thames by the jetty for the O2 Arena. A computer generated algorithm was used to position the tetrahedral units to create a figure inside the cloud. Now that’s what I call art. Seen better here : (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is another sort of law – one which cannot be broken, the so-called law (or laws) of nature. Mankind has been obsessed with these laws for a long time, longer even than they have known that there were laws.

It’s not difficult to spot that day follows night follows day. That is, I guess, a law in itself. The underlying causes for it are not apparent. All sorts of theories were tried, including Sun Gods and flaming chariots and things like that. It was realised fairly early on that the movement of the sun across the followed some fairly simple rules.

Ra, the egyptian god was the god of sun and kings
Ra, the egyptian god was the god of sun and kings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example the sun is higher in the sky in summer, and lower in winter, and the day is longer in summer than in winter and its height depends on how far north or south one is. One of the better explanations involved celestial sphere rotating about the earth. By this time it was becoming clear that the earth was round.

As the power of the scientific method became apparent, the likes of Newton and his contemporaries really applied its power. The idea that everything was explainable in terms of a set of known laws became really prominent. I think that what was missed was that all descriptions, even back to the Sun Gods and similar, were just that, descriptions.

Some trajectories of a particle in a box accor...
Some trajectories of a particle in a box according to Newton’s laws of classical mechanics (A), and according to the Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics (B-F). In (B-F), the horizontal axis is position, and the vertical axis is the real part (blue) or imaginary part (red) of the wavefunction. The states (B,C,D) are energy eigenstates, but (E,F) are not. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newton’s laws of gravitational attraction were descriptions of how masses appeared to move under gravitational forces. Every massive object was described as being gravitationally attracted to any other massive object and Newton provided equations to model this interaction.

When one asks what a “massive object” is, one finds oneself in a spot. A massive object is one which has mass and which is attracted to other massive objects. It is evident that this is a circular definition. OK, given the concepts of massive objects and attraction, why should they have particular a particular mathematical relationship, rather than any other?

Infra-red image of the centre of our Milky Way...
Infra-red image of the centre of our Milky Way galaxy revealing a new population of massive stars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newton’s law of gravitational attraction have been hugely successful, notably being used to calculate the orbital period of Halley’s Comet. But in the early 1900s Einstein showed that Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation are not absolutely accurate if the massive objects. Einstein’s formulations of the laws is more accurate under these extreme conditions.

The question comes to mind – is Einstein’s formulation the ultimate explanation? Firstly I’d argue that it is a description and not an explanation at all. As such, some different description may be needed under even more extreme conditions or maybe to merge the scientific description of moving objects at high speeds and the description of quantum level events.

Eddington's photograph of a solar eclipse, whi...
Eddington’s photograph of a solar eclipse, which confirmed Einstein’s theory that light “bends”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There may be no ultimate explanation or mathematical laws accessible to humans. A photon behaves as it does because that is the way that a photon behaves, if it is correct to label a particular physical phenomenon as a photon.

Diagram for quantum teleportation of a photon
Diagram for quantum teleportation of a photon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(This is the post for next Sunday/Monday, since I won’t be able to do a post then. The post after that should be back on schedule.)





Existence of things – Ontological questions

unfolding (Photo credit: ecstaticist)

“Just the two of us”. This song by Bill_Withers encapsulates the idea of a pair of people (male and female from the context) and the separation of the pair from everyone around them. The lyrics assert that “we can make it if we try”, although what “it” refers to is not made apparent. It’s a pleasant, smooth song and serves well enough to introduce my post for this week. I like it.

Eggistentialism 1.5 or Three of a Perfect Pair
Eggistentialism 1.5 or Three of a Perfect Pair (Photo credit: bitzcelt)

The idea of a couple or pair is a concept that acts to separate or compartmentalise one object and another related object from all possible instances of the class of object. Eleven and twelve. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. POTUS and FLOTUS. Mercury and Venus.

It can also relate members of one class of object with another class of object. Seven and fourteen (the seventh natural number and the seventh even natural number).  28th and January. “x” and “y”.

Complete coloring sample of Clebsch Graph with...
Complete coloring sample of Clebsch Graph with 8 colors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It can also be a generator of other objects. The number one and the operation of addition leads to two, three, four and so on for ever. (OK, I missed a huge chunk of detail there and it is nowhere near as simple as that).

Another twoism is the concept of opposites. Black and white, top and bottom, man and woman. OK, that last concept is a bit blurry these days, but everyone (with the exception of a few genetically different individuals) is genetically male or female. XY or XX.

DNA, human male chromosomes
DNA, human male chromosomes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The big twoism is the concept of existence/non-existence. Is there a river of lava flowing through my garden? No, there isn’t. Such a river does not exist. But if I lived in Iceland or in Hawaii, or in another location near a volcano, such a river might exist. My cat Madonna doesn’t exist, but my dog Ben does.

This seems such a definite concept, but looked at a bit closer, and it begins to get fuzzy. There is in fact a river of lava flowing through my garden! Eh? Well let me start up Minecraft and the world where I’ve been building a garden, with a lava river flowing through it.

Minecraft/DwarfFortress Entrance with Lava Trap
Minecraft/DwarfFortress Entrance with Lava Trap (Photo credit: colmmcsky)

Of course you might argue that the Minecraft world doesn’t really exist. But it does! It exists in Minecraft, and Minecraft exists in this world, so the Minecraft lava river exists in this world. If A exists in B, and B exists in C then A exists in C.

Actually the Minecraft world only exists in my thoughts. I haven’t built a garden in Minecraft and I haven’t got a river of lava flowing through it, but by the logic above, the river of lava exists in my mind in a Minecraft world, my mind exists in the real world, so the river of lava exists. If A exists in B, and B exists in C then A exists in C.

English: illustration for the transitive relat...
English: illustration for the transitive relation Magyar: illusztráció a tranzitivitáshoz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, some people might have issues with that logic. Does the lava river really exist? Well, I maintain that it does, but it is necessary to specify that it exists in my mind. Anything that I can think of exists in my mind and since my mind is part of the real world, “anything that I can think of” exists in the real world.

There is a difficulty here. Consider the sentence “The present King of France is bald“.  The issue is whether or not this sentence is true. It would appear not, since there is no present King of France, but the negation “It is not true that the present King of France is bald” is also (apparently) not true. The difficulty is that there is no present King of France, since France is a republic.

Portrait of Louis XIV
Portrait of Louis XIV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However “the present King of France” exists in my mind, and the mind of anyone who reads the sentence. The King of France in my mind may be bald or he may not, so the sentence may be true or false, and the difficulty does not arise. Provided we consider the sentence as applying to a mental image of the King of France.

The King of France, bald-headed or not, exists in my mind if I consider him, and my mind exists in the real world so in that sense he exists. What though, of the existence of things that exist in the real world, but differently in one’s mind?

Paradoxes, I
Paradoxes, I (Photo credit: Newtown grafitti)

The British TV Series “Call the Midwife” is set in the 1950s. It is obviously not the 50s. At the time Queen Elizabeth was about to ascend the throne, or had already done so. Does Jenny Lee live at Nonnatus House? Since neither exist in the real world, my argument above applies. However,  consider the question “Has Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne yet?” We have no difficulty in ascertaining that the question is most likely about a fictitious or historical event, since it is well known that she has been Queen for a long time.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suggest that the same is true of the bald/not bald King of France. We know that there is no present King of France so can conclude that the King of France in question must be a historical or fictional figure. If I have no preconceptions about the fictitious King of France, I might envisage him in ‘period’ costume with a huge powdered wig (is that in period? I’m not sure), so I would probably guess that he was shaven-headed if not bald. But you might disagree. Your “present King of France” could sport a full head of hair.

One Young Man in a Powdered Wig
One Young Man in a Powdered Wig (Photo credit: Emily Barney)

But what of things that don’t exist in the (loosely speaking) real world, and no one has ever thought about? Do they exist in any sense? I believe that the Universe is deterministic, so any future event or thing, is implied by the current state of the Universe, so if anyone will think of something, or if some event happens in the future, then it exists in the present, and not even simply as a potential. If the Universe is deterministic, it must happen.

I was going to talk about Schrödinger’s cat in the context of existence but he was squeezed out by the present King of France. Maybe I’ll get to the cat in another post.

English: Diagram of Schrodinger's cat theory. ...
English: Diagram of Schrodinger’s cat theory. Roughly based on Image:Schroedingerscat3.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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