Trust

English: Feathers and wedges are being used to...
English: Feathers and wedges are being used to split a large slab of sandstone. A three pound sledge hammer is being used to drive the wedges into holes drilled in the stone. The crack is just visible as a ragged line connecting the holes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Trust me, I know what I’m doing”. Sledge Hammer’s famous line encapsulates many things about trust in its seven words. The ironic twist is that the first iconic series ends with Hammer saying the words as he tries to dismantle an atomic bomb. He is not successful!

Trust is a belief that the person or thing that is trusted can be relied upon to do what is promised. There is trust between you and the bank. You trust them to look after the money that you hand over to them to invest and maybe pay you some interest. You also trust them to give you the money back when you request it. There may be conditions on the investment, such as minimum deposit periods or maximum withdrawals, interest rates and so on, but fundamentally you can get you money back.

California Bank & Trust Building in LA
California Bank & Trust Building in LA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similarly the bank may loan you money, under conditions, which you can use to purchase a house, or a boat, or for any other reasons. They trust you to pay back the loan sooner or later, together with interest, and have the right to pursue you through the law if you don’t repay it.

The money in your pocket requires you to trust in it. After all the value of ordinary coins and notes in terms of the metal and paper is negligible, although gold sovereigns are nowadays worth much more than their nominal one pound sterling. Every coin or note represents something much more nebulous than the distinct coins and notes. Early notes had a “promise to pay” written on them, with the signature of a financial authority to encourage people to trust in them as money.

English: .
English: . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hammer’s exhortation implies that his companions don’t trust him, which is ironic because, in a back-handed, gun-related way, he usually did. As is evidenced by the way that he encouraged a suicidal jumper to abandon his intents by shooting chunks out of the ledge that the jumper was standing on. His companions’ distrust was related to the non-standard way that he approached problems and their prior knowledge of his previous actions in such circumstances.

As in Hammer’s case, when two or more people interact, they need to trust each other in many ways. Threats are promises of harm, and there may be promises of benefits. Two people may form an alliance against a joint threat, and in such a case they need to trust each other. Each one trusts the other to back them up.

English: Toronto: TD Canada Trust Tower
English: Toronto: TD Canada Trust Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often conditions are written down in the form of a contract. All the things that are expected by both parties, that are promised by both parties, or as many of them as can be, are written down, and both parties make their mark or sign the document. The contract can be authorised by a third-party or each party may merely carry away a copy of the document.

A contract strengthens the trust between two parties. If a contract in place, goes the reasoning, then all parties know exactly what is required of them, and what the consequences are if one party or another doesn’t do what is required. If there is complete trust between two parties, then no contract would be required, of course, but there never is complete trust.


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However we trust other people all the time without contracts or other documentation. In fact we are sometimes too trusting. Sometimes nefarious characters arrive on our doorsteps and we let them in if they, for example, claim to be from the Gas Board. It is recommended that we always ask for proof of identity if someone who we don’t know knocks on the door. Of course we have to trust the proof of identification if any is proffered, and it could conceivably be faked.

This brings up and issue about trust – we can never be absolutely sure that we can trust someone. We could know someone very very well and still not be absolutely sure that we can completely trust them. The extent to which we cannot completely trust them may be very very small of course.

English: Wikibarn of Vardan Mamikonyan for con...
English: Wikibarn of Vardan Mamikonyan for contribution to clauses of Armenian hictory Русский: Викиорден Вардана Мамиконяна за вклад в статьи по истории Армении (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We cannot even completely trust someone when we have a contract with them. Unexpected occurrences may occur which are not covered by the contract, but relate the the matter that the contract covers. If one of the parties to the contract dies then what happens to the provisions of the contract? Well, there are laws, of course, that relate to contractual matters and it may be that lawyers are needed to sort such matters out.

There’s another sort of trust, other than trust between people. We trust the laws of science. If we throw something up into the air we expect it to come down again. We expect and trust that the sun will come up tomorrow, and it appears that we are justified in our trust. Through many millennia we have trusted that the whole is a sensible logical place where everything has a cause and cause and effect go hand in hand.


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There is a dissenting voice and that voice is the voice of religion. Religions espouse the concert of miracles, that is occasions when the laws of nature are violated, as for instance, water is changed to wine, or a flood covers and destroys the whole earth.

We may trust that the world is a logical place, but we cannot prove that it is. If we keep throwing stones into the air, it is conceivable that one might not come down again. While we can verify that throwing stones into the continues to work, we may for some reason experience a case where the stone does not fall to the ground again.


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If the stone doesn’t come down, our instinct is to look for a reason why it did not, rather than suspect that the law of gravity has been repealed. We trust the law of gravity. The stone may have lodged on a roof of course, or been caught by a passing bird. After we have considered all the possibilities then we might suspect that the law of gravity as we know it has failed.

So we pass it over to the physicists to look into the matter, and they would ponder and experiment, and eventually, we hope come up with a modification to the law of gravity to cover our “special case”. And we can trust the law of gravity again. For now.

Animation showing the motion of a small body (...
Animation showing the motion of a small body (green) in an elliptic orbit around a much more massive body (blue). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, the question arises, when we have found out all that there is to know about the Universe and so be able to predict anything with 100% accuracy. Well, suppose our knowledge of the laws of the Universe is 80% accurate. There’s an old adage that says that the first 80% of anything takes 80% of the time, and the remaining 20% also takes 80% of the time. In other words it is feasible that we could know all the laws of the universe and be able to apply them, but there probably isn’t enough time.

In the meantime, I’m going to trust that the sun is going to come up tomorrow, as, after all 80% is still pretty good!

English: Bình Minh biển Cửa Lò
English: Bình Minh biển Cửa Lò (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 : http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/trlout_gfx_en/TRA48231.html (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.)