X-Message-Number: 11329
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 11:57:03 +0100
From:  (John de Rivaz)
Subject: The basis for quantum and other theories

A lot of the discussion that goes on in Cryonet and elsewhere about 
alternative universes and "physics of immortality" is based on a number of 
branches of science that have at their core the concept of the square root, 
and the square root of minus 1 and various ratios that cannot be precisely 
determined, such as Pi and e.

I was recently asked to review an number of books by Dr Clifford Pickover on 
these subjects, and indeed have posted messages about some of them. 
Admittedly a lot of the maths passed over my head, but it does seem to me 
that there are quite a lot of circular arguments going on simply because 
full and complete (rather than specialised) understanding of maths is only 
available to very few people of sufficient intellect. [Relativity assumes 
that nothing can go faster than light in a vacuum, and later the maths 
developed from it "proves" that nothing can go faster than light. - or maybe 
I have misread it.] Newton and earlier scientists were able to contain 
almost all of science known at their time in their heads. No once could do 
that now.

The ancient Romans had no concept for zero, hence their arithmetic was very 
difficult and must have limited many people's intellectual advancement. Zero 
seems obvious to us, but no Roman ever came up with the idea, despite many 
of them having the same sized and equally capable brains as people of our 

I wonder whether all the elaborate structures of mathematics built around 
Pythagoras' theorem could have a simpler basis - like the introduction of 
zero had on arithmetic after the Romans - that would explain the universe 
without some of the wierd results theoreticians are throwing up at present. 
I am not knocking it - I love the wierd results such that time travel may be 
possible and so on, but is that *desire* for all this to be true any better 
than the *desire* for there to be life-after-death that supports irrational 
religions, based on a belief system founded on anecdotal evidence?

Pythagoras' theorem, and subsequent solutions for quadratic equations and so 
on, produces anomalous results. We all learned at school if working out a 
problem produced two solutions, eg it can take 3 men to dig the trench or -6 
men, the we must write "-6 is inadmissible, therefore the answer is 3". But 
now the scope of maths is so vast, we seem to be able to accept solutions 
that produce trajectories that take vehicles back in time, generate complete 
alternative universes every 10^-24 of a second and so on without being able 
to apply the same judgement that makes -6 men digging a trench inadmissible.

Maybe there is no new mathematical concept as profound as the use of zero to 
be discovered, but arguments in science generally that we now know 
everything have always been shot down by the march of history so far.
Sincerely, John de Rivaz
Homepage:         http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/JohndeR
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