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Yet More Infinite Universes

So, it seems that Auntie Beeb has decided to respond to my previous article on infinite universes (where I amply argued that a new universe cannot be brought into being just because you decide not to scratch your nose), by putting up an episode of Horizon.

The episode gives three scientists the chance to amend their theories, taking out the bit about new universes being created every time you decide to chew four times instead of five, and put forward the proposal that all the infinite universes have been there all along.

This is likely to get quite long, because a lot of real learning has to be clarified, in order to properly highlight the little learning elements, so I shall get to addressing the three hastily modified theories later.

First, let's have a little chat about the word "infinite".

My Patience (like everything else) is NOT Infinite!

I swear, by the end of watching the episode, I was close to the point where, had I heard the terms "infinite" or "Mathematical certainty" again, I would have thrown a brick through the TV.  Three more times would have made it an actual Mathematical certainty.

I don't know how much Mathematics you know, but if you read the garbage I write, then you can't be at zero (who says mathematicians can't tell a joke?)

Well, if you know a little about Maths, then you will know that as soon as you add an infinity to a calculation, It Aint Bloody Mathematics, Any More!

Infinities do not, and can not, exist in reality.  Infinity is an abstract concept, which can only exist in the abstract.

(Oh, God.  I can just hear them grinding out the argument "Ah, but some of the infinite universes may be abstract universes!")  (D'you know what's wrong with society?  You're not allowed to hit people.)

But we have to wind back even further, here, to be absolutely clear what numbers are, before we can go into what infinities are(n't).

By the numbers...

Technically, numbers are "numeric determiners", which, grammatically, allow you to point at things and say how many of them there are.

Unlike adjectives and adverbs, numbers do not modify anything except themselves, i.e. the only thing that adding a number changes is the number.

For example, if you have a car, you can describe it by saying it's a blue car or a really fast car.  That's what adjectives and adverbs do: they change the item that you attach them to.  "A car" and "a blue car" are different because (the definition of) one of them has been modified by having a particular colour added, while the other could be any colour.

Add a determiner, though, and you don't modify (the definition of) anything: "that car" is still "a car", "my car" is still "a car", and indeed "a car" is still "a car" ("a" is a determiner).  Nothing about (the definition of) the car changes; determiners just determine things like which, or whose, or how many.

The "how many", of course, is given by numeric determiners, numbers.  Whether you say "a car" or "six cars", (the definitions of) the cars aren't modified, only the number is.

Numerical determiners, Huah!  What are they GOOD for?

Quite a lot, actually.

So numbers are, and have always been, abstract, because numbers themselves do not change anything about (the definition of) reality -- they are used to simply point at things and communicate how many of them there are.

Then people smarter than us invented Mathematics (any moron can use something that's already been invented, remember, so those guys thousands of years ago were much smarter than us).

One of the primary functions of Mathematics is to allow you to work out "how many" or "how much" without actually getting out of your seat.  That is, instead of going out and buying two trains, taking them to opposing stations, and making them run toward each other at different speeds, you can just sit in your chair and work out where they will pass each other.  Or crash into each other, if you're a boy.

This "working it out from your chair" method uses abstraction, where you don't have real trains, you have abstract thingies, which don't really exist, to represent the trains; and you don't have real speeds or distances, either; you have abstract thingies to represent them.  The abstract thingies for things like speed and distance are called numbers.

And they're very versatile; abstractions are incredibly powerful tools, e.g. If you have two trains that are 100 [unit of measurement] apart, travelling toward each other at 50 [unit of velocity], it's really easy to calculate when that will pass/crash -- and it doesn't matter what the units of measurement or velocity are!

Kilometers?  Miles?  Hours?  Minutes?  It doesn't make a blind bit of difference!  The way to calculate it, the formula, is the same for all units of measuement and all types of moving object!

Like, Wowzer!  Just by using abstracts, we've managed to create a furmula that is pretty much universal!  We don't need reality, any more!  We can do it all with numbers!

Er, yeah.

Dare Numeri

(It's not pronounced "dair", it's "dah-rei" -- it's Italian, look it up.)

If you've looked it up, you'll have found that it means "give numbers", which translates, in this context, to "talk bollocks".  (Aren't you annoyed that you took the time to look it up, now?)

There's probably no need for me to explain that the reason why Italians have this phrase is that so many people use numbers to talk bollocks.

Because numbers are abstract, you can do things with them that you can't really do with real things.

E.g. if you wanted to say that your two trains are a hundred parsecs apart, travelling at fifty parsecs per hour, you're quite welcome to, because the numbers don't care; they're not real.

However, if you tried to perform the calculation the old-fashioned way, from back before when people smarter than us invented Mathematics, you would have to:

  1. Get two trains, which you probably can't do, because the missus won't let you spend that much money on something that isn't shoes.

  2. Put them a hundred parsecs apart, which you certainly cannot do, because, well, because you can't.  The entirety of the resources of the whole, wide world could not do it.

  3. Set them off toward each other at 50 parsecs an hour, which you absolutely cannot do, because, er, speed of light, y'know?

Like I say, though: the numbers don't care.  They don't care whether or not the thing that you're calculating can actually happen in reality.  They're just numbers.  They don't think.  You are the one who is supposed to be able to think, and do things like reality checks.

So, Back to Infinity

It doesn't happen.  Infinities just do not happen

In Mathematics, it is possible to speculate on infinity, because Mathematics just uses numbers, which are abstract, and it's impossible to say anything other than "there is no highest number, therefore numbers go on to infinity", but -- shall I repeat the word -- they are Abstract!  Abstract means Not Real!

Let's have a look at what people who are not air-headed do

  • Hooke was not air-headed, when he came up with "Hooke's Law", which states that an expansive spring will expand relative to the force applied until its elastic limit is reached.
  • He could quite easily have followed the airhead path, and said that an expansive spring will expand relative to the force applied until infinity, because numbers would support that, but, as I said, he was not an airhead, so instead he came up with what is perhaps the most important rule ever invented that stuff happens relative to stuff that happens until something else happens, instead.

    Remember that law.  It is one of the most important laws that you will ever learn and the next time someone says "Oh yeah, Hooke.  He was the guy who did stuff with springs, wasn't he?", you give 'em a good slap (societal tenets be damned) and point out that that law is pure genius, and only a great genius could have invented it.

  • Kelvin was many things, but he was not an airhead when he came up with Absolute Zero.
  • Instead of saying that matter can get colder and colder until infinity, because numbers would support that, he said that matter can get colder and colder until it all breaks down, and the numbers don't work, any more, and he flogged a few slaves until they worked out where that point was.

    So he (or his slaves, at least) also understood the universal rule that stuff happens relative to stuff that happens until something else happens, instead

One of the first things you learn to do, in any field of science, is to look for When Something Starts Happening, and When it Stops Happening.

Why?

Because everything has a start point and an end point!

There Is No F&ˆ%$£* Infinity!

... Unless you're an airhead who believes that abstract things are real, which, by definition, they are not.

Now let's have a look at the world of the airhead

  • "If an infinite number of monkeys bashed away at an infinite number of typewriters, one of them would eventually write all of Shakespeare's plays"
  • Lovely.  Beautiful idea for a bit of a laugh.  But...

    • Long before the number of monkeys could even get anywhere near infinity, you would either run out of food, or somewhere to put all their sht1 or both.

    • Long before the number of typewriters could even get anywhere near infinity, you would run out of materials to make them with.

    So it's just pipe-dreamy, abstract stuff; a bit of fun that's completely disconnected from reality, and should in no way be used for any calculation of anything.

  • If enough matter gets together in one lump, it will collapse into a super-duper-ultra black hole, with infinite gravity!

    • Er, yeah.
    • May I just point out that if you achieve infinite gravity, the entire universe will collapse into it in zero time.

    The saving grace here is that it could not happen, because to achieve infinite gravity would probably, because of time dilation, require infinite time so Something Else would Happen!  In fact, I'm yet to be convinced that the universe has been around for long enough for even a rinky-dink "normal" black hole to have formed.

    The most painful thing about this is that no-one is looking for the point where something else will happen.  Everyone is just assuming that the numbers can be extrapolated to infinity, and that something else won't happen.

Hooke and Kelvin would be so ashamed, to see the air-headedness of scientists who claim to be their betters.

OK, I'm done, for now.

Coming Soon...

In our next, exciting episode, I will address the grand theories on infinite universes put forward by these scientists (yes, they really are scientists they are actually paid to talk bollocks do the job) (I'm going to propose that they be paid with abstract money).

I must say that I feel I will take particular delight in blowing one of the "proofs" out of the water in fact, it's not just a proof, it's more like the basis for the entire theory.

... And it's something that I figured out the bleeding-obvious reality of when I was a teenager (but I was a teenage, human male, at the time, so I didn't talk to adult humans unless I absolutely had to).

It makes me wonder, though, how many other bleeding-obvious things I or other people have taken for granted that might be puzzling everyone else (that's the trouble with the bleeding obvious: you either see it, or you don't, and you just can't see it all the time).

So what I'll do now is pull a Fermat, and pop my clogs before I get a chance to write the next page.

 


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