Posted Jun 24, 2007 14:36 UTC (Sun) by man_ls
In reply to: One-sided debate
Parent article: More quotes of the week - scenes from a flame war
Linus is known to be a good shepherd of cats, so once he is convinced the rest of the kernel world will probably follow suit. Thanks for not summarizing the details of the debate, not interested.
About the rest: what a wonderful display of condescension! Let me repay you in kind. Yes, I am dead serious; reality is not too consistent, even in Physics. Your typical Physics 101 course shows you a bunch of answers, but it doesn't even teach you the language to start making questions of your own. Once you delve deeper you are taught the real value of those answers (which is little) and how to question them, which is the truly scientific way of proceeding.
You are right that this is not the place to show you the cracks in reality; and anyhow, why should anyone want to make you question reality, if you feel comfortable with it? Let others face the voids of infinity and feel their stomachs turn and the ground under their feet open, so you can go back to your kernel code listings and feel all smug about it.
But all those onanistic references have earned you at least a little peek. The stumbling blocks in our knowledge of the physical world are the same that Heraclitus of Ephesus faced 2500 years ago: identity and infinity, which are subsets of the general problem of being. How can the the river keep being equal to itself, and yet it is ever changing? How can the arrow travel a distance which can be infinitely subdivided? In modern physics infinity rears its stomach-turning face in long series of infinities which should cancel each other but don't, or in a Universe which should be finite but doesn't seem to be. Meanwhile identity shows up in a zoo of subatomical particles which are constantly changing state and whose duration is often a matter of femtoseconds, but all equal to each other.
It is easy to predict that 2500 years from now Physics will be much changed, but mankind will still not have the answer to the fundamental questions: is the Universe finite or infinite? What are things made of? And the best of all: why is there anything instead of nothing? The words of Hippocrates of Kos will probably be as valid as they were 24 centuries ago:
But men do not have the science to examine those things which are veiled based on those which are apparent: using arts similar to the human way of being they do not recognize it: which is that the minds of the gods taught them to imitate their godly works, knowing what they do but not knowing that which they imitate.
Which means that the deeper we delve into the natural world the less we understand it, and the less valid our human concepts become. Yes, Physics works, some of the time, but it means little outside of Physics; it is a feeble justification for reality.
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