Ver y Creer

Cuando abrimos los ojos y miramos alguna cosa, vemos que maldita cosa. ¿Qué podría ser más obvio que eso, derecho? Digamos que usted está buscando en su perro. Lo que se ve es realmente su perro, porque, si quieres, usted puede extender la mano y tocarlo. Ladra, y se puede oír la trama. Si apesta un poco, se puede oler. Todas estas pistas perceptuales adicionales corroboran su creencia de que lo que estamos viendo es su perro. Directamente. Sin hacer preguntas.

Por supuesto, mi trabajo en este blog es hacer preguntas, y puso en entredicho. Ante todo, ver y tocar parece ser un poco diferente de la audición y el olfato. No se oye estrictamente su perro ladrar, oyes su sonido. Del mismo modo, no huele directamente, huele el olor, el rastro químico que el perro ha dejado en el aire. Oído y el olfato son tres lugares percepciones — el perro genera sonido / olor, el sonido / olor viaja a usted, se percibe el sonido / olor.

Pero viendo (o tocar) es una cosa de dos plazas — el perro allí, y aquí percibirlo directamente. Porqué es eso? ¿Por qué nos sentimos que cuando vemos o tocamos algo, lo percibimos directamente? Esta creencia en la veracidad de percepción de lo que vemos se llama realismo ingenuo. Nosotros, por supuesto, sabemos que ver involucra luz (también lo hace tocar, pero de una manera mucho más complicado), lo que estamos viendo es la luz reflejada de un objeto y así sucesivamente. Es, De hecho, no es diferente de algo de audición. Pero este conocimiento del mecanismo de la visión no altera nuestro naturales, vista común de que lo que vemos es lo que está ahí fuera. Ver para creer.

Extrapolado de la versión ingenua es el realismo científico, que afirma que nuestros conceptos científicos también son reales, apesar de que podemos no percibir directamente. Así átomos son reales. Los electrones son reales. Los quarks son reales. La mayor parte de nuestros mejores científicos allí han sido escépticos sobre este extraploation a nuestra noción de lo que es real. Einstein, probablemente el mejor de ellos, sospechaban que incluso el espacio y el tiempo podrían no ser reales. Feynman y Gell-Mann, después de desarrollar teorías sobre los electrones y los quarks, expresado su opinión de que los electrones y los quarks podrían ser construcciones matemáticas en lugar de entidades reales.

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

Comments