The current issue of the New York Times Book Review has a damning review of Lawrence Krauss’s book “A Universe from Nothing,” The book, which I have reviewed earlier, is a perfect example of the flight from reality that has characterized all of modern physics since before Einstein formalized it with his “beautiful, elegant, magnificent” equations in the early part of the last century. Einstein spent the rest of his life embracing “realism” in physics, even to refusing to accept the contradictory claims of the quantum theorists, but never acknowledged that his own early work led the way away from reality.
My reading of ongoing discussions in internet physics forums is enough to make me despair that anyone is willing to admit or accept that there is real world out there, even though if a real world does not exist outside of us, then it follows that neither do we. It is nonsense to believe that the universe came from “nothing” or a “vacuum” which is another word for nothing, or that things don’t exist until we see them, yet these have become the accepted dogma of the “modern” physicist. I’ve heard it described as an Alice in Wonderland idea, but that gives it too much credence, even though “Alice” was itself an invention of a human mind. It should be hammered into our heads that mathematics is also just a human invention and is not a real entity in the world. Maybe then we could get back to the real work of physics which ought to be a description of the real world.
I am reminded of the legend of the Tower of Babel in Genesis, where, as the King James Bible tells it, after the flood God sees that all of the people are of one race and all speak the same language, and they undertake to build a tower to heaven and that there is a danger of them learning everything, (which might turn them into atheists all) so he orders that their languages become confused and that they be scattered across the earth. Now we aren’t sure of his motives in this regard or what the exact mechanism was that he used to induce this state of affairs, but maybe it was a genetic experiment gone wrong. Maybe that gene has come down through the generations of man and still infects us today. This is just a guess, as Einstein himself suggested more than a few times, but it may be the reason that science, physics, mathematics went off track in the early 20th century and left us in the Babel of relativity and quantum theories that curses us today.
Amateur scientists are, of course, babblers all, but we can take comfort in the fact that we get our speculations and factoids, for the most part, from people who got their Ph.D’s in physics from other babblers, and because, for some reason, they are fascinated with the complexity of those languages, and think it gives them some status in the academic community, books of babble flow unabated from the publishing houses across the land.
So, to help us cut through the babble, let’s agree on just a few things.
1. There is a real world outside of our heads.
2. The work of physics is to study, explain, and describe that real world.
3. Mathematics is a tool to help us carry out 2.
4. But, the results of 2 must be explainable in words, sentences, paragraphs, not just in formulae.
Then there might be hope of once again having one language so that all can understand, and if God is still worried that we might all understand everything, perhaps he’ll let us know in a more direct way. Lightning bolts, anyone?
This, of course, is a digression from the serious work of this weblog, but forgive me for my own need to vent, on occasion.