Sien en glo

Wanneer ons ons oë oop te maak en te kyk na 'n ding, sien ons dat damn ding. Wat kan meer duidelik wees as dat, reg? Kom ons sê jy is op soek na jou hond. Wat jy sien is regtig jou hond, omdat, As jy wil, jy kan uit te reik en raak dit. Dit blaf, en jy kan die inslag hoor. As dit stink 'n bietjie, jy kan dit ruik. Al hierdie ekstra perseptuele leidrade bevestig jou geloof dat dit wat jy sien is jou hond. Direk. Geen vrae gevra.

Natuurlik, my werk op hierdie blog is om vrae te vra, en gooi twyfel. Eerste van alles, sien en raak blyk te wees 'n bietjie anders te hoor en ruik. Jy hoef nie streng hoor jou hond blaf, jy hoor sy geluid. Net, jy direk ruik dit nie, jy ruik die reuk, die chemiese roete die hond het in die lug gelaat. Ruik en hoor is drie plek persepsies — die hond genereer klank / reuk, die klank / reuk reis na jou, jy sien die klank / reuk.

Maar sien (of raak) is 'n twee plek ding — die hond is daar, en jy hier waarneem dit direk. Hoekom is dit? Hoekom voel ons dat wanneer ons sien of raak iets, ons voel dit direk? Hierdie geloof in die perseptuele waarheid van wat ons sien is naïef realisme genoem. Ons weet natuurlik dat aangesien behels lig (so ook raak, maar in 'n baie meer ingewikkeld manier), wat ons sien is die lig weerkaats 'n voorwerp en so aan. Dit is, in die feit dat, geen verskil van iets hoor. Maar hierdie kennis van die meganisme van sien nie verander ons natuurlike, gesonde verstand beskouing dat wat ons sien is wat daar buite. Sien is glo.

Geëkstrapoleer uit die naïewe weergawe is die wetenskaplike realisme, wat beweer dat ons wetenskaplike konsepte is ook real, Tog kan ons nie direk kan waarneem nie. So atome real. Elektrone is real. Kwarke is real. Die meeste van ons beter wetenskaplikes daar is skepties oor hierdie extraploation aan ons idee van wat is 'n ware. Einstein, waarskynlik die beste van hulle, vermoed dat selfs ruimte en tyd nie werklik kan wees. Feynman en Gell-Mann, na die ontwikkeling van teorieë oor elektrone en kwarke, het hul siening dat elektrone en kwarke kan wees wiskundige boustene eerder as werklike entiteite.

What I am inviting you to do here is to go beyond the skepticism of Feynman and Gell-Mann, and delve into Einstein’s words — space and time are modes by which we think, not conditions in which we live. The sense of space is so real to us that we think of everything else as interactions taking place in the arena of space (and time). But space itself is the experience corresponding to the electrical signals generated by the light hitting your retina. It is a perceptual construct, much like the tonality of the sound you hear when air pressure waves hit your ear drums. Our adoption of naive realism results in our complete trust in the three dimensional space view. And since the world is created (in our brain as perceptual constructs) based on light, its speed becomes an all important constant in our world. And since speed mixes space and time, a better description is found in a four dimensional Minkowski geometry. But all these descriptions are based on perceptual experiences and therefore unreal in some sense.

I know the description above is highly circular — I talked about space being a mental construct created by light traveling through, get this, space. And when I speak of its speed, naturally, I’m talking about distance in space divided by time, and positing as the basis for the space-time mixing. This circularity makes my description less than clear and convincing. But the difficulty goes deeper than that. You see, all we have is this cognitive construct of space and time. We can describe objects and events only in terms of these constructs even when we know that they are only cognitive representations of sensory signals. Our language doesn’t go beyond that. Well, it does, but then we will be talking the language, for instance, of Advaita, calling the constructs Maya and the causes behind them Brahman, which stays unknowable. Or, we will be using some other parallel descriptions. These descriptions may be profound, wise and accurate. But ultimately, they are also useless.

But if philosophy is your thing, the discussions of cognitive constructs and unknown causations are not at all useless. Philosophy of physics happens to be my thing, and so I ask myself — what if I assume the unknown physical causes exist in a world similar to our perceptual construct? I could then propagate the causes through the process of perception and figure out what the construct should look like. I know, it sounds a bit complex, but it is something that we do all the time. We know, for instance, that the stars that we see in the night sky are not really there — we are seeing them the way they were a few (or a few million or billion) years ago because the light from them takes a long time to reach us. Physicists also know that the perceived motion of celestial objects also need to be corrected for these light-travel-time effects.

In fact, Einstein used the light travel time effects as the basis for deriving his special theory of relativity. He then stipulated that space and time behave the way we perceive them, derived using the said light-travel-time effects. This, of course, is based on his deep understanding that space and time are “the modes by which we think,” but also based on the assumption that the the causes behind the modes also are similar to the modes themselves. This depth of thinking is lost on the lesser scientists that came after him. The distinction between the modes of thinking and their causation is also lost, so that space and time have become entities that obey strange rules. Like bent spoons.

Photo by General Press1

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