Sunday, May 11, 2003

Mysteries of the universe

Steven Den Beste discusses the universe and women here, and like everyone else, finds the universe more explicable.

Others have commented on various things about the post, but what I'd like to point out is that just as a rubber love doll is no substitute for a live woman (so I'm told, and I'm inclined to believe it), a theory is no substitute for reality. SDB notes that equations for relativity have singularities when the relative velocities of entities approach the value of the speed of light. What many often misunderstand is that the singularities are a property of the equation, not the universe itself - the universe does what it will, and we won't know what really happens at these singularities without experimentation.

You'll find similar singularities in equations that apply to fluid flow at high speeds - they have singularities at the speed of sound. Does that mean we can't achieve the speed of sound? - of course not, and we've known that for a long time.

Such singularities are not the only problem with using logic and mathematics in deriving scientific theories. Their value lies in the way they limit the number of possible theories that we will test - we reject out of hand the testing of theories which are not based on logic. The downside is that this is making the questionable assumption that the universe honors our rules of logic. Why should we believe that the universe "makes sense"?

Once we learn to let go of this useful but restrictive assumption, then maybe we'll have taken the first step toward understanding women.

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