X-Message-Number: 19161
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 11:44:02 -0700
From: Pat Clancy <>
Subject: Re: Why no fundamental advances in physics?
References: <>

David Stodolsky wrote:

> 2. WE'VE GOT MONKEY BRAINS! No, seriously, it's remarkable we've gotten this
>>far with brains evolved for a primative hunter-gatherer lifestyle. And that
>>fact that we HAVE gotten this far has relied on a tiny minority of
>>anomolously intelligent people, way out at the end of the probability
>>distribution. I really think we're reaching the limits of what unaided human
>>brains are capable of. Hopefully, improving those brains will prove to be
> This notion was firmly rejected at a recent physics lecture at the Univ. of
> Copenhagen, "A theory of everything." New graduate students in physics are
> not having any more problems understanding the latest theories than their
> predecessors did.

Well, big surprise. Wouldn't you say that graduate physics students 
constitute a pretty tiny minority of intelligent people no matter how 
you want to define intelligence? And what constitutes "understanding" in 
this case? - It is the understanding of a line of mathematical 
reasoning, and although such reasoning may become more complex with 
newer theories, it is still the same type of task to understand it as 
with earlier theories. Furthermore, the "latest theories" are still 
produced by humans, so it's not surprising that there are other humans 
that can understand them. And understanding a theory once it's been 
proposed is far, far less of an achievement that creating the theory in 
the first place - it's the deep understanding that leads to new theories 
that's the issue, not whether some grad students can understand theories 
that are laid out for them.

Anyway, IMO real understanding (if there is such a thing) will not be 
physics, it will be metaphysics. Purely mathematical reasoning does not 
constitute understanding of the ultimate questions. And as we have no 
precise or certain definition of what "understanding" is anyway, we have 
no way of knowing whether it is achievable by us.

Pat Clancy

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=19161