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David Berlinski at ENV: “The Ineffable Higgs”

David Berlinski has a new post at ENV entitled “The Ineffable Higgs”:

Surely its discovery meant something? The Standard Model (SM) of particle physics demanded its existence, after all; and the demand was met. If it took forty years and more than $16 billion to discover the thing, physicists could with satisfaction observe that the public got what it paid for, the first step, of course, in demanding that the public pay for more of what it got. Photographs of Peter Higgs staring tenderly into space, ses yeux perdus, conveyed an impression of appropriate intellectual satisfaction.

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14 Responses to David Berlinski at ENV: “The Ineffable Higgs”

  1. 1

    “No one quite knows why mathematicians have been unable to settle even the simplest of questions about quantum field theory: What are they about?”

    They are about nothing. They are data manipulated by algorithms. It’s a computed reality. Welcome to the matrix.

  2. QFT is a linearization procedure which transforms the non-linear classical fields equations (such as coupled classical Maxwell-Dirac system) into an infinite-dimensional system of linear equations (Fock space dynamics). It turns out that QFT is a special case of Carleman linearization (see also later arXiv paper by another author citing the reference at the first link) developed in mathematics in 1930s.

  3. semi OT: David Berlinski—Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions – video interview
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyxUwaq00Rc

  4. Wow, that David Berlinski has a vicious, absolutely wonderful sense of humour. I’d resented his languid, lordly mien, but his sense of irony merits every bit of it.

    How about this crack at the scientisimificists?

    ‘With respect to a particle’s position and momentum, the axis on which the old world turned, classical physics had been absolute. The physical properties of a particle were accessible to measurement and they were accessible to measurement all the way down.’

    … all the way doon…!

    And his final two sentences..?

    ‘The image appropriate to physics in the 20th century is Brueghel’s Tower of Babel. That the thing is incoherent, everyone can see. What is rarely noticed that it remains standing.

    This is its great achievement.’

    … again that hilarious sting its tail, right at the end.

    Not that calling the Higgs, ‘ineffable’, before explaining why, doesn’t give us a hint of what is to come.

    Incidentally, I’ve often heard the term, ‘deal-beaker’, but not so often, I think, ‘deal-closer’. But just as there is a deeply satisfying symmetry between David Berlinski’s witheringly ironic wit and his extravagantly languid mien, while holding the Republican Party in the US to be even worse than our Conservative Party (and Labour Party in the UK, if it comes to that), I could forgive just about anyone some pretty bad crimes, if they rejoiced under the name of either, Saxby Chambliss or Arlen Specter.

    I think it’s a kind of aesthetic thing. Very sensuous and superficial, but moral beauty, God’s own thoughts, are as high above ours, as the heavens are above the earth, aren’t they?

  5. Hard to hold a candle to Berlinski, but then us Americans may never sound as poetic as the Europeans, but nearly everybody mentioned in Berlinski’s piece was an American physicist. Europe may dominate in literature, but there is no doubt that America dominates in science. (Or at least, the previous century America…)

    You will notice that Berlinski is quite haughty about the superiority of math over physics. You would think that mathematicians with there emphasis on uniqueness/existence proofs would be ontologically superior to physicists. But just ask Berlinski if math is invented or discovered, and you will find that even mathematicians can splutter into incoherence. There really isn’t anyone out there, there isn’t any field out there that is consistent about its metaphysics, and that includes metaphysical philosophers. So picking on physicists for being incoherent is the pot calling the kettle black.

    Of course, picking on Krauss or Dawkins or Hawking is like shooting fish in a barrel, but even the more sophisticated Einstein, or Feynman, or Whitehead, or Schwinger would have floundered about. Ontology is a difficult subject, and like the Grand Unified Theory that Berlinski alludes to, there just isn’t one for ontology.

    And that is because like Berlinski himself, all these physicists are non-trinitarian non-Christians, where I deliberately add the phrase “trinitarian”. That’s because trinities _do_ solve the problem of ontology, which is why it is still considered essential to Christian orthodoxy despite its widespread vilification.

    Now that would be a topic for Berlinski to expound upon.

  6. Dr. Sheldon as to this statement of yours:

    “You will notice that Berlinski is quite haughty about the superiority of math over physics. You would think that mathematicians with there emphasis on uniqueness/existence proofs would be ontologically superior to physicists. But just ask Berlinski if math is invented or discovered, and you will find that even mathematicians can splutter into incoherence. There really isn’t anyone out there, there isn’t any field out there that is consistent about its metaphysics,”

    Although, personally, I’m partial to thinking of physics as superior to the others,,,

    “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.”
    – Ernest Rutherford

    ,,,I think Godel would have a very strong case to make for pure logic being superior to everything else since he showed mathematics to be incomplete through logic:

    Taking God Out of the Equation – Biblical Worldview – by Ron Tagliapietra – January 1, 2012
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) proved that no logical systems (if they include the counting numbers) can have all three of the following properties.
    1. Validity . . . all conclusions are reached by valid reasoning.
    2. Consistency . . . no conclusions contradict any other conclusions.
    3. Completeness . . . all statements made in the system are either true or false.
    The details filled a book, but the basic concept was simple and elegant. He summed it up this way: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.” For this reason, his proof is also called the Incompleteness Theorem.
    Kurt Gödel had dropped a bomb on the foundations of mathematics. Math could not play the role of God as infinite and autonomous. It was shocking, though, that logic could prove that mathematics could not be its own ultimate foundation.
    Christians should not have been surprised. The first two conditions are true about math: it is valid and consistent. But only God fulfills the third condition. Only He is complete and therefore self-dependent (autonomous). God alone is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). God is the ultimate authority (Hebrews 6:13), and in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
    http://www.answersingenesis.or...../equation#

    The God of the Mathematicians – Goldman
    Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.” – Kurt Gödel – (Gödel is considered one of the greatest logicians who ever existed)
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8462821

    Alan Turing and Kurt Godel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video (notes in video description)
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8516356/

  7. Interesting that you should have stressed the significance of the Holy Trinity, Robert. Could you enlarge and explain the point you were making? I think it’s the point I see, but I’m not sure.

    It really is off-the-scale mind-blowing even for an omnipotent eternal God – particularly for Him – that he should be one God yet, simultaneously, a family! Indeed, the source of our own families and family relationships. And that he wants to adopt us into his very own trinitarian life, through the Holy Spirit, as adopted sons and daughters, in the Mystical Body of Christ, his only ‘natural’ son!

    Incidentally, bornagain77, in that YouTube clip of Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon, right at the end, he did mention a family member? The natural sister he, as an adopted child, didn’t know he had, and whom he later recognised from a photo, as the beautiful young woman who sat with him on the butterfly.

    But, it’s true it was unlike most of the other Christian NDE accounts in that there were usually a number, sometimes enormous, of family members who turned up to greet them. But I don’t think, myself, that that more impersonal, (in the sense of fewer family member-persons) makes it a purer vision. Possibly the contrary. As you, I believe might have adverted to, yourself, in reference to the Hindu heaven, ‘samadhi’.

    As Eben said, and as Aldous Huxley had said in his Perennial Philosophy (and maybe Bergson before him – it wasn’t Aldous’ idea), the brain seems to be a reducing valve, for survival in time. Otherwise we’d be entranced by some glimpse of the Beatific Vision – like someone under the influence of mescalin or lysergic acid*).

    Our analytical intelligence tends to tell us that God is far too grand to be interested in persons, yet Christ taught the opposite, both in word AND deed. In fact, I think that the point Christ made in some parables, of God’s being more rather than less personal than us, is missed by the commentators I’ve read, in favour of some other more incidental point. It IS a paradox. Aquinas taught that God is impassible, and so He must be. In one way.

    And yet, Jesus, truth itself, in whom dwells the fulness of God, stressed in some of his parables this very point about heaven rejoicing over one repentant sinner, for example, the aching, heart-felt concern of the Good Shepherd for his human ‘sheep’. How haunting his lament over Jerusalem is, isn’t it? A mother hen gathering her chicks beneath her wings. NDEers are always struck by the way Jesus immediately addresses them by name – as if he’d had nothing to do with the life of every cell in their mortal body, every second of each day!

    * http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....otage-1956

  8. OT via crev.info:

    Time Asymmetry: Time’s Quantum Arrow Has a Preferred Direction, New Analysis Shows – (Nov. 19, 2012) —
    Excerpt: Time marches relentlessly forward for you and me; watch a movie in reverse, and you’ll quickly see something is amiss. But from the point of view of a single, isolated particle, the passage of time looks the same in either direction. For instance, a movie of two particles scattering off of each other would look just as sensible in reverse — a concept known as time reversal symmetry.Digging through nearly 10 years of data from billions of particle collisions, researchers found that certain particle types change into one another much more often in one way than they do in the other, a violation of time reversal symmetry and confirmation that some subatomic processes have a preferred direction of time. Now the BaBar experiment at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has made the first direct observation of a long-theorized exception to this rule.
    Reported this week in the journal Physical Review Letters, the results are impressively robust, with a 1 in 10 tredecillion (1043) or 14-sigma level of certainty — far more than needed to declare a discovery.
    “It was exciting to design an experimental analysis that enabled us to observe, directly and unambiguously, the asymmetrical nature of time,”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....094627.htm

  9. Axel you ask Dr. Sheldon to expand on:

    It really is off-the-scale mind-blowing even for an omnipotent eternal God – particularly for Him – that he should be one God yet, simultaneously, a family!

    What has partially helped me to get understand this a little bit, the trinitarian God of Christianity, is a variation of the ontological argument for God:

    As weird as it may sound, this following video refines the Ontological argument into a proof that, because of the characteristic of ‘maximally great love’, God must exist in more than one person:

    The Ontological Argument for the Triune God – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGVYXog8NUg

  10. Actually, bornagain, that quote was my ‘take’ on our monotheistic God, who also happens to be a family, and a very ‘family’ God/family! I was wondering if that was what Robert was driving at.

    I did read that it was the very nature of God to want to share, but thanks very much for the video – always fascinating gifts from your video ‘library’, which I often keep in my Favourites; and as you evidently indicate, this one sounds as if it will be very germane to this topic. Now, to watch it!

  11. One indication in favour of your thesis, to some extent, bornagain, is that a woman who had an NDE, as per the video-clip I’ve been watching, found herself in a beautiful meadow with a mountain and a hill, who was met by scores of relatives, but no divine personages. She felt easy about staying or going back – which perhaps suggests it was not as powerful as some NDEs.

    On the other hand, the authenticity of her experience, like so many others, would seem to be strongly corroborated by the way in which she has since thrown herself into major charitable activities.

    It does seem, doesn’t it, that, unsurprisingly perhaps, since we’re such a wild, personal and indiosyncratic bunch, that most NDEs show considerable variations from those of others.

  12. Axel, that is why I find it important to focus on the overriding consistencies found within NDE’s

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel – The Light – The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200

    The consistent aftereffects are mentioned here:

    Near Death Experience – The Aftereffects – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgs5CzW1bBI

  13. Couldn’t agree more, bornagain. Gonna watch your videos now.

  14. @Robert Sheldon (#5) wrote,

    There really isn’t anyone out there, there isn’t any field out there that is consistent about its metaphysics, and that includes metaphysical philosophers. So picking on physicists for being incoherent is the pot calling the kettle black.

    But one of Berlinski’s main beefs is that physicists make grandiose claims to have it all figured out, or at least to have the main outlines well settled… whereas, Berlinski says, they are far from having even that. As such, the kettle is being baldly dishonest with the public, whereas the pot arguably is not.

    Don’t you think?

    Lars (it says “Anonymous” in my preview – I don’t know why)

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