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(New Scientist)   String theory may limit threat from Boltzmann brains - conscious entities that randomly pop into existence in outer space   (newscientist.com) divider line 95
    More: Hero, string theory, Boltzmann, Boltzmann brain, speed limits, History of the Universe, modeling, mathematical analysis, entities  
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4370 clicks; posted to Geek » on 22 May 2013 at 4:44 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-05-22 07:38:24 PM  

Iluvbeer: This is the sh*t these otherwise incredibly smart people are spending their time on?  Space brains and infinity?  How about focus on this: My frozen enchiladas say to microwave them "8-9 minutes", but after I microwave them for five, the edges as burned.  What cooking time is correct?


The physics approach: "To start with, let's assume your burrito is a sphere..."
 
2013-05-22 07:40:29 PM  

czetie: Abner Doon: This article doesn't appear to make any sense at all.

That's partly because the theory itself doesn't make any sense. It's based on a horrible misunderstanding of very basic probability theory. The most remarkable thing is how widespread the fallacy is among otherwise-intelligent people.

The argument goes like this:

1) There are two possibilities: the universe is real, as we observe it; or I am a Boltzmann brain, observing (i.e.dreaming) an imaginary universe.

2) If Boltzmann brains actually exist, they and their imaginary universes must eventually hugely outnumber real universes

3) Therefore, if someone observes a universe and if observers are distributed randomly across people and Boltzmann brains, it's overwhelmingly likely that any randomly selected observer is really a Boltzmann brain,

4) In general, I should prefer the explanation that does not require my observations to be special, therefore I am (probably) a Boltzmann brain, because most observers are.

Now, you may think that reasoning is so absurd that I just made it up/cribbed it from Douglas Adams to make the advocates of Boltzmann brains look silly. But I didn't. That really is the argument.

There are so many things wrong with this reasoning that it's hard to know where to start, but what it basically boils down to is this: It makes no sense to argue for probabilities when you have a sample size of one. The logic in step 4 -- sometimes called the Copernican principle -- works pretty well for astronomers a lot of the time; but not always. For example:

-- There are lots of solar systems, until proven otherwise we should assume ours is pretty typical (probably true, although binary systems with planets are looking to be more common than once thought)

-- There are lots of stars, we should assume ours is average (true, at least for the class of stars ours belongs to)

-- There are lots of galaxies, ours should be average in size, shape, and position relative to other galaxies (largely tr ...


www.gwthomas.org

Dreaming you say?

\hotlinked and not mine
 
2013-05-22 07:41:10 PM  

LrdPhoenix: docmattic: theorellior: Mad_Radhu: But wouldn't the expansion of the universe and growing entropy eventually limit the formation of these entities and their lifespan? Yes, maybe quantum mechanics somehow makes it possible for a fully formed mind to pop out of the quantum foam, but one it appears it will probably "die" because of a lack of energy to process.

The lower the level of available energy, the slower the thinking process. Because absolute zero is never reached, the brains will simply think more and more slowly, until the twilight of the Universe is encompassed by a single thought never quite being finished.

"Now where did....I put.... my.....gla...ss...e........."

The correct answer is "Oh no, . . . . not . . . . . ag . . . a . . . i"


"What do you get.... when you multiply... six by....ni...n......."
 
2013-05-22 07:42:49 PM  
Yes, but it's approaching the same likelihood of spacetime spontaneously coalescing into chesterfield sofas or a mountain of fried eggs.
 
2013-05-22 07:45:40 PM  
This thread involves so much thinking, it makes me want to throw myself at the ground until I miss it.
 
2013-05-22 07:57:22 PM  

czetie: Abner Doon: This article doesn't appear to make any sense at all.

That's partly because the theory itself doesn't make any sense. It's based on a horrible misunderstanding of very basic probability theory. The most remarkable thing is how widespread the fallacy is among otherwise-intelligent people.

The argument goes like this:

1) There are two possibilities: the universe is real, as we observe it; or I am a Boltzmann brain, observing (i.e.dreaming) an imaginary universe.

2) If Boltzmann brains actually exist, they and their imaginary universes must eventually hugely outnumber real universes

3) Therefore, if someone observes a universe and if observers are distributed randomly across people and Boltzmann brains, it's overwhelmingly likely that any randomly selected observer is really a Boltzmann brain,

4) In general, I should prefer the explanation that does not require my observations to be special, therefore I am (probably) a Boltzmann brain, because most observers are.

Now, you may think that reasoning is so absurd that I just made it up/cribbed it from Douglas Adams to make the advocates of Boltzmann brains look silly. But I didn't. That really is the argument.

There are so many things wrong with this reasoning that it's hard to know where to start, but what it basically boils down to is this: It makes no sense to argue for probabilities when you have a sample size of one. The logic in step 4 -- sometimes called the Copernican principle -- works pretty well for astronomers a lot of the time; but not always. For example:

-- There are lots of solar systems, until proven otherwise we should assume ours is pretty typical (probably true, although binary systems with planets are looking to be more common than once thought)

-- There are lots of stars, we should assume ours is average (true, at least for the class of stars ours belongs to)

-- There are lots of galaxies, ours should be average in size, shape, and position relative to other galaxies (largely true)

BUT you can't reason like that about the whole universe, not even if you pretend that infinitely many other universes might possibly exist, because by definition you only get the one universe. And, like my son in kindergarten, "you get what you get and you don't get upset". Maybe the universe is "unlikely" in some abstract space of possible universes, but if so, that's just what it is.

If you spin a roulette wheel once and it comes up with zero, you don't conclude that the wheel is rigged; you conclude that it's impossible to draw conclusions from one spin of the wheel.


Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?
 
2013-05-22 08:07:17 PM  

Iluvbeer: This is the sh*t these otherwise incredibly smart people are spending their time on?  Space brains and infinity?  How about focus on this: My frozen enchiladas say to microwave them "8-9 minutes", but after I microwave them for five, the edges as burned.  What cooking time is correct?


Ask a lowly engineer. Scientists are concerned with more important matters, like space brains.
 
2013-05-22 08:11:09 PM  
Really?  I'm the first?

slurmed.com
 
2013-05-22 08:20:16 PM  

czetie: Abner Doon: This article doesn't appear to make any sense at all.

That's partly because the theory itself doesn't make any sense. It's based on a horrible misunderstanding of very basic probability theory. The most remarkable thing is how widespread the fallacy is among otherwise-intelligent people.

The argument goes like this:

1) There are two possibilities: the universe is real, as we observe it; or I am a Boltzmann brain, observing (i.e.dreaming) an imaginary universe.

2) If Boltzmann brains actually exist, they and their imaginary universes must eventually hugely outnumber real universes

3) Therefore, if someone observes a universe and if observers are distributed randomly across people and Boltzmann brains, it's overwhelmingly likely that any randomly selected observer is really a Boltzmann brain,

4) In general, I should prefer the explanation that does not require my observations to be special, therefore I am (probably) a Boltzmann brain, because most observers are.

Now, you may think that reasoning is so absurd that I just made it up/cribbed it from Douglas Adams to make the advocates of Boltzmann brains look silly. But I didn't. That really is the argument.

There are so many things wrong with this reasoning that it's hard to know where to start, but what it basically boils down to is this: It makes no sense to argue for probabilities when you have a sample size of one. The logic in step 4 -- sometimes called the Copernican principle -- works pretty well for astronomers a lot of the time; but not always. For example:

-- There are lots of solar systems, until proven otherwise we should assume ours is pretty typical (probably true, although binary systems with planets are looking to be more common than once thought)

-- There are lots of stars, we should assume ours is average (true, at least for the class of stars ours belongs to)

-- There are lots of galaxies, ours should be average in size, shape, and position relative to other galaxies (largely true)

BUT you can't reason like that about the whole universe, not even if you pretend that infinitely many other universes might possibly exist, because by definition you only get the one universe. And, like my son in kindergarten, "you get what you get and you don't get upset". Maybe the universe is "unlikely" in some abstract space of possible universes, but if so, that's just what it is.

If you spin a roulette wheel once and it comes up with zero, you don't conclude that the wheel is rigged; you conclude that it's impossible to draw conclusions from one spin of the wheel.


I'm that guy that pisses and moans about there only being one solar system and we're in it.
 
2013-05-22 08:20:52 PM  

PonceAlyosha: nmemkha: String Theory: The first religion spawned by science.

Absolutely not true. Animism, magic, alchemy, and standard religion are all based at a fundamental level on attempts to explain repeated observations.


Maybe, but those were all created with ignorance of the Scientific Method.

ST was made "using" it.
 
2013-05-22 08:33:45 PM  
Duh. Isn't that what the Zohar is for?
 
2013-05-22 09:01:55 PM  

gnosis301: Duh. Isn't that what the Zohar is for?


Don't mess with the Zohar.
 
2013-05-22 09:10:41 PM  
So is string theory back to not being bullshiat again?
 
2013-05-22 09:12:02 PM  

AngryDragon: Really?  I'm the first?

[slurmed.com image 600x639]


No, you're not.

Does that answer your question?
 
2013-05-22 09:16:32 PM  

Iluvbeer: This is the sh*t these otherwise incredibly smart people are spending their time on?  Space brains and infinity?  How about focus on this: My frozen enchiladas say to microwave them "8-9 minutes", but after I microwave them for five, the edges as burned.  What cooking time is correct?


In order to microwave an enchilada, first you must create the universe.
 
2013-05-22 09:22:34 PM  

NkThrasher: Makes me wonder if the Futerama space brains were inspired by this, given the nerd level of their writing staff....


It's not like they're scientists.  It's just a bunch of engineers.
 
2013-05-22 09:22:46 PM  

Iluvbeer: This is the sh*t these otherwise incredibly smart people are spending their time on?  Space brains and infinity?  How about focus on this: My frozen enchiladas say to microwave them "8-9 minutes", but after I microwave them for five, the edges as burned.  What cooking time is correct?


Wait, now we are getting into the mathematics of wanton burrito meals...you don't want to get into that, it's too complex.
 
2013-05-22 09:47:40 PM  

FuturePastNow: So is string theory back to not being bullshiat again?


No, it's still mostly bullshiat. But right now it's the most prolific theory out there and unfortunately, as much as I admire scientists, they have a serious problem with letting go once a theory they like gains traction.

Until it's actually conclusively disproven, a sadly large majority are gonna keep beating that dead horse. It's the whole "God exists because you can't prove he doesn't" argument.
 
2013-05-22 09:50:39 PM  

OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?


No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.
 
2013-05-22 09:56:56 PM  

Esroc: FuturePastNow: So is string theory back to not being bullshiat again?

No, it's still mostly bullshiat. But right now it's the most prolific theory out there and unfortunately, as much as I admire scientists, they have a serious problem with letting go once a theory they like gains traction.

Until it's actually conclusively disproven, a sadly large majority are gonna keep beating that dead horse. It's the whole "God exists because you can't prove he doesn't" argument.


The good news is that it's on the decline, if appointments in academia are any indication. A good (mostly lay-readable) source for keeping up on the topic is Peter Woit's blog, Not Even Wrong
 
2013-05-22 10:00:55 PM  
Darn Daleks!
 
2013-05-22 10:20:06 PM  

czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.


I'd chip in to that kick starter
 
2013-05-22 10:26:34 PM  
Well, it would have to.  A theory that didn't account for the lack of spontaneously-generated space brains currently observed would not fit the known data set, i.e. it would be demonstrably incorrect from the start.

Any physical theory has to at least push the frequency down low enough that it's believable that the lack of observed phenomena falls reasonably within the error range of current observations.  This does not just apply to space brains, it applies to every known phenomenon... the initial failure of early quantum theory to account for Newtonian physics holding sway at the macro-scale was the major reason other scientists thought it was probably just silliness (it was widely accepted once this was corrected, thanks Heisenburg et al.).
 
2013-05-22 10:29:32 PM  

czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.


To be fair, though, he is a pretty cool cat.
 
2013-05-22 10:30:42 PM  

czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.


There are a couple of different series on youtube that are also attempting to do this, and in other fields as well.

/dftba
 
2013-05-22 10:50:39 PM  
Has anyone referenced Futurama yet?

theinfosphere.org
 
2013-05-22 11:04:56 PM  
bios.weddingbee.com
 
2013-05-22 11:05:50 PM  
Infinity doesn't mean infinite possibilities.
There are infinite numbers between 1 and 2, but you will never find 3.
 
2013-05-23 12:06:40 AM  
doofusgumby:
I'm that guy that pisses and moans about there only being one solar system and we're in it. i.imgur.com
But Haruhi knows there are other solar systems.
 
2013-05-23 12:52:36 AM  
Good discussion on Boltmann brains among other things at:

preposterousuniverse.com
 
2013-05-23 01:11:22 AM  

praxcelis: Nicholas D. Wolfwood: Mentor of Arisia would like a word with you, to discuss his Visualization of the Cosmic All.

Now that is an old-school reference.  I applaud you.


I was going to make a reference to Olympus/Ilium, something involving Achilles and Shakespeare and robots since the whole brane/brain thing plays a major part in those stories, but I've been out-geeked by a mile.  Well done.
 
2013-05-23 01:41:16 AM  

TheMysteriousStranger: Good discussion on Boltmann brains among other things at:

[preposterousuniverse.com image 332x500]


Great book.
 
2013-05-23 01:50:06 AM  
But maybe the Boltzmann brains can help us against the Inhibitors...
 
2013-05-23 02:14:46 AM  
OK, so say that assuming string theory is correct the observable universe points to an absurd amount of Boltzmann brains compared to evolved ones.  Naturally, you'd have to assume that you are one of them statistically speaking.  But if this is so, and the universe you're observing is an illusion or false memory, then the observable universe isn't real and you really don't know what ratio of brains is actually out there.

Personally I think we're all a a high level sim.
 
2013-05-23 02:27:18 AM  

czetie: No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.


Howard Bloom has you covered.
 
2013-05-23 02:53:50 AM  
Can we have another thread for people who are unfamiliar with Futurama?
 
2013-05-23 03:30:46 AM  

LDM90: Can we have another thread for people who are unfamiliar with Futurama?


i.qkme.me
 
2013-05-23 06:07:41 AM  

KawaiiNot: Darn Daleks!


doctorher.com
 
2013-05-23 07:16:07 AM  
Are these brains from Arous?

/Have they checked Mystery Mountain?
 
2013-05-23 09:39:50 AM  

docmattic: theorellior: Mad_Radhu: But wouldn't the expansion of the universe and growing entropy eventually limit the formation of these entities and their lifespan? Yes, maybe quantum mechanics somehow makes it possible for a fully formed mind to pop out of the quantum foam, but one it appears it will probably "die" because of a lack of energy to process.

The lower the level of available energy, the slower the thinking process. Because absolute zero is never reached, the brains will simply think more and more slowly, until the twilight of the Universe is encompassed by a single thought never quite being finished.

"Now where did....I put.... my.....gla...ss...e........."


Hey, who turned out the lights?
 
2013-05-23 09:43:38 AM  

FuturePastNow: So is string theory back to not being bullshiat again?


The deus ex machina of science.
 
2013-05-23 09:45:15 AM  

OceanVortex: czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.

I'd chip in to that kick starter


It's already been done:
mattcbr.files.wordpress.com
api.ning.com
 
2013-05-23 10:45:15 AM  

Running a-puck: czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.

There are a couple of different series on youtube that are also attempting to do this, and in other fields as well.


Yes there are, and some of them are very good indeed. I've played around with different media, e.g. animation or stop motion (Lego minifigures demonstrate how relativity works!), but I'm not going to attempt it unless I convince myself that I can really bring something new, e.g. how thermodynamics is like pointillism...
 
2013-05-23 10:47:35 AM  

StrangeQ: OceanVortex: czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.

I'd chip in to that kick starter

It's already been done:
[mattcbr.files.wordpress.com image 377x500]
[api.ning.com image 381x500]


By a funny coincidence, I am often compared to Stephen Hawking. But not favorably.
 
2013-05-23 12:48:40 PM  

czetie: OceanVortex: Once again, proving you are my favorite farker.

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, but I am seriously thinking about writing a book called "Physics for Smarties". Aimed at people with an arts/humanities background and an interest in science, it will attempt to give an understanding of modern physics without math but also without descending into "isn't schrodinger's cat AWESOME?!?" silliness.


I will admit I *have* found schrodinger's cat useful for explaining how/why quantum entanglement DOESN'T allow for FTL communication. (Two 'entangled cats: If I open my box and find my cat alive, it means the other MUST be dead. But if I *kill* my cat, it doesn't cause the other one to spontaneously return to life. We just now have two dead cats). But yeah, otherwise schroedinger's cat, I think, often just confuses people. Which, admittedly, was sort of the point, since I believe it's original creation was schroedinger attempting to explain why the probablistic version of quantum mechanics (and the necessary super-position state) HAD to be absurd and wrong. (WHOOPS, IT'S NOT)

But yeah, I too dream of being the next Bill Nye or some such. Good luck!


.

Begoggle: Infinity doesn't mean infinite possibilities.
There are infinite numbers between 1 and 2, but you will never find 3.

Ah damnit I was going to post that-I like using that exact same phrasing to explain how there can be different subsets of infinity.
 
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