Friday, 3 July 2020

In Praise of Kurzgesagt: String Theory


Quantum mechanics, as I'm sure you know, is the deepest and lowest level exploration of reality that science has any understanding of. It leaves beautiful space for the spiritual. Things exist and don't exist (wave particle duality and uncertainty) and can teleport (quantum teleportation), information can travel faster than the speed of light (quantum entanglement), and everything exists as probability waves (also wave particle duality and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle), and all of empty space is a seething morass of virtual particles that fleet in and out of existence in a dance choreographed by pure chaos (Kasimir effect and Hawking radiation). It seems that none of it exists at all without an observer.

Reality is weird and beautiful and improbable and science explores and affirms this.

Understanding scientific theories as different abstract models of reality is helpful, especially if you know the classic model of physics (Newton) and the relativistic model (Einstein). Similarly the particle physics model of the world and the quantum model.

There is no electron, it's a metaphor. That it is a point charge is a fiction of the particle physics model of the world which makes certain kinds of math easy. The quantum view of the same particle sees it as a fuzzy cloud with different probabilities at each point.

The quantum model is incompatible with the relativistic model so we know there are missing pieces. We can't make gravity work with quantum mechanics and we're still looking for a grand unified theory of everything which is what we hoped string theory would be.

One of the best places I know for getting reliable information about state of the art science, in an approachable way which will still leave your mind thoroughly blown, is the Kurzgesagt video series. If you're interested in particle physics, black holes, aliens or philosophy it's well worth browsing their videos. They're where I first learned about Positive Nihilism from, which is my fallback philosophy and from which I believe you can still derive a living spirituality as the rational conclusion.

This video is on string theory, which we hoped would provide a theory of everything but didn't. It starts with a quick primer on particle physics as a good background. If you're interested in aliens have a look at their videos on the Fermi paradox. Their videos on CRISP-R DNA replication are really good, but the black hole ones are the best.

Fundamental reality is chaos and uncertainty and I love her with all my heart.

We rejoice in the uncertainty for the uncertainty is what makes the best possible.
"Most authority systems are thinly veiled pecking orders. Pecking orders, and disapproval and exclusion, are how the patriarchy and social conventions are enforced socially. Authoritarianism in the micro."

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