May 19, 2004

Ye Shall Be As Gods

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at May 19, 2004 11:05 AM

Slate investigates the possibility that the universe was created by a physicist.

"What my theoretical argument shows—and Alan Guth and others who have looked at this matter have come to the same conclusion—is that we can't rule out the possibility that our own universe was created in a lab by someone in another universe who just felt like doing it."

This illustrates a valuable lesson: just because someone can create a universe does not mean he is worthy of being worshipped. I also found this line amusing:
More orthodox believers, on the other hand, will seek refuge in the question, "But who created the physicist hacker?"

I'm not sure they'll find much refuge there -- not when a similar question can be posed for the more orthodox beliefs...


In trying to come up with a witty comment I ran across this, which you will enjoy reading:

The spirit of Laplace lives on.

Posted by: Dad | May 20, 2004 2:03 PM

If by "enjoy" you mean "grind my teeth".

By demonstrating that these entities are not needed to explain anything, science has proven that they do not exist.

This is just plain wrong both as a general principle and in terms of his specific examples. Counterexample: In 1860 neutrinos weren't needed to explain anything, but that didn't prove they didn't exist.

As for phlogiston and Vulcan, the proof that they don't exist is that the phenomena they were supposed to produce are actually due to other causes. In Vulcan's case, once GR is taken into account we should expect additional perturbations in Mercury's orbit if Vulcan exists - but there are none, so there is no Vulcan. That is what a scientific non-existence proof looks like.

And the ether is a poorly chosen example, because I have it on good authority that the concept is not at all dead in theoretical circles. Even if it doesn't add any explanatory power, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist; there's no evidence against it either.

In the end Laplace's formulation is both more elegant and more accurate.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | May 20, 2004 3:12 PM

Given the incumbent administration, you already have enough teeth grinding material. I found it more amusing than annoying but then again I am a layman in all these matters.

Posted by: Dad | May 21, 2004 7:35 AM
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