Talk:Particle physics foundation ontology

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Please, someone add below "This entry is not required because there can be no conceivable challenge to the particle physics foundation ontology". Go ahead. I dare ya.  :-)

Some scientists openly admit there are probably infinite particles, or that political inability to do some experiments skews quantum mechanics as a science rather badly, I'll try to find some of these and add them in... the Yudkowsky quote may also be an extreme example of a PPFO absolutist - who are mostly in the AI field it seems...

This ontology is also called the "particle physics zoo", which is interesting, as a "zoo" is also a place where we try to gather what exists and look at it all at once. Not sure if the "foundation ontology" phrasing has come into common use. But it's handy as "foundation ontology" itself needs definition, and it's not obvious that the 'particle physics zoo' the same thing. Some would say that the 'zoo' represents the stuff we still are looking for, and isn't a foundation in the sense that "proton, neutron, electron" can be considered a foundation for the periodic table of the elements.

Also there is some stuff which attempts to put cognition and chemistry at the foundation level, explaining quantum mechanics as one of many types of bonds that hold up to observer-observed. Not sure if this is very easy to find... it's quite radical and the particle physics boys obviously hate it very much.


weakened the revised statement re: the challenge from cogsci of math... it isn't Lakoff and Nunez suggesting that *physics* is somehow not objective, they are claiming to *prove* that *math* is not *provably* objective, and this throws all claims to universal "true for all cognitive creatures" mathematical models into doubt. But it's a little less of a direct challenge, i.e. L&N are not out picketing to shut down particle accelerators, just questioning the degree to which humans can be sure of their own models - including very very basic ones.


Talk to some mathematicians and physicists -- you might find them to be less arrogant and more concerned with philosophical issues that you think. You may be attacking a straw man here.

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We're completely in sync here, actually. I wrote this as you wrote that:

"It separates, by definition, radically autonomous particles from the choice-making observers. It assigns all choice, in particular all ethical choices, to the observer or experimenter."

The ethical choices being that to construct the test infrastructure, hire the scientists, and spend money on this field rather than on say competing theory. I think it's fair to say that the immense expense of that is an ethical choice.

However, as a whole, this claim was probably too strong to include - not all PPFO advocates are really saying that their funding is justified, some actually say otherwise, and some say that they think that the particles are actually laughing at us.

This may just prove they are nut cases.

But anyway the paragraph is probably not true "by definition", and should be weakened. It can stay out, as it's not really essential to the definition.

It would be better to try to define 'radically autonomous process' making those points there instead.

--- "no direct ethical consequences -- and no, it does not 'radically separate', it may link them together into a larger system] "

Umm.. if it did, wouldn't that be necessarily an ethical system? That may be a theology versus philosphy issue. But the larger system being another radical autonomous process versus it being a choice made by human values... hard to avoid.


Wigner's raising of the "other species" issue in 1960 was a surprise - I just found that.

I framed the ethical debate, a bit, so that this would be two objections that lead in three directions. It's a bit radical to include in philosophy of science, or philosophy of mathematics, or epistemology, because debate is really focused on this issue around hard-to-verify physics and medical theory.

I'm guessing, but I think the average reader is going to read this, conclude that "ok this is treating particle physics' output like religion, I get it... it happens every time they fund something - but that's life."

The more philosophically inclined, say half of them, mgiht say "these objections aren't so serious - philosophy of science as it stands can resolve them" and read that next.

Maybe 15% of readers will say "this is quite serious and interesting - why do I believe in math anyway?" and go off to philosophy of mathematics - getting into a more general treatment of foundations debates (of which this is one).

Maybe 5% of readers will say "I always thought so" and head off to cognitive science of mathematics or body philosophers.


I'm not sure the Yudkowski quote is that relevant. It's from an article about building an ontology for an AI, and is not meant to imply that that's really all there is or ever will be--only that it is a reasonable foundation for building an AI that can interact with us at our present level of understanding. Besides, he's not a particle physicist, he's an AI researcher (and a friend of mine, which I why I know this). And he's certainly not in the academic mainstream. I like the kid, but let's not make it sound like this is a quote from some real university physicist or something. --Lee Daniel Crocker


I think his quote is important because it shows that more limited AIs and other simulations are going to assume that the PPFO is "real" and perhaps convince people to put them in charge of hot fusion or nuclear weapons or DNA extruders or something. That the *cultural* impact of the PPFO is very real, and it guides funding decisions, and huge amounts of human effort one way or another...

Yudkowsky is like Lakoff, an extremist who lays out the simplest assumption... I agree he's more useful to illustrate the point about the impact of the PPFO than he is as a physicist. But this article is not actually about how physicists see the PPFO - it's more about how it affects everything else in our culture, which of course is what's funding big science itself...

The use of the term "ontology" in theology and computer science is ultimately convergent... theology is more ambitious and is more concerned with "finding" rather than "doing". Also, Yudkowsky is very careful and consistent - his glossaries are impressive - he's probably the best voice for the "particle physics is really really real" view... doesn't he intend to hand over all technology to a "Friendly AI" which would more or less become a sort of god?

That takes big-T Trust... :-)

It's fair then to put Yudkowsky and Pope John Paul II and Lakoff in the same article... and Monty Python too. Shows the extreme breadth of the debate...

Thanks also to whoever added the point about the anti-reductionist solid state physicists, it makes the link to the 'hard' scientists concerned about this, which is important, for physicists who happen to read this article...

...not that I think they're the main audience.


This is plain wrong. Anti-reductionist physicists don't object particle physics foundation ontology on experimental or epistemological grounds.


Objections to these assumptions arise mostly in the "soft" sciences, but are increasingly heard in "hard" science:
A number of physicists, particularly in solid state physics, question the notion of particle physics as the foundation for all other understanding. Their objections fit into a continuum of issues with experimental methods, with human cognitive bias, with falsifiability, and with reductionism.

This is also amazingly bad non-sense. The person who wrote this has no clue as to what the actual debate is. There was a really good article in the New York Times on the reductionist/anti-reductionist debate and it pops up as a topic on Physics Today. The debate is *NOT* about the nature of truth, the validity of mathematics, or the philosophical foundations of science.


=== it's only a model? ===
The reaction of such physicists to mathematical abstractions that fully predict physical phenomena may be characterized in the same terms as the fictional knights in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, encountering (the simulated) Camelot for the first time: "It's only a model."
Most practicing scientists would agree with that sentiment, rejecting reductionism as a philosophy, even if they must appeal to it for grant money. A common objection of scientists to "anti-reductionist" views is that scientific method itself requires constant investigation and challenge - and that it is computer science, simulation, artificial intelligence, other technology and the funding process that assume or require any kind of "foundation ontology". In other words, then: "It's only a model."



There are several debates going on.

The reductionist/anti-reductionist debate (physicists versus physicists)

The nature of truth debate (theologians, mathematical foundationists)

The validity of mathematics debate (cognitive scientists, linguists, postmodernists),

The philosophical foundations of science (all of the above minus physicists).

If you want to claim that the physicists' family squabble with each other is categorically different than the other objections, fine, but I call that differentiation a bias of yours.

That said, I have no objection to separating their specific objection, and taking it out of the "continuum"... fair enough?

The "it's only a model" section is an attempt to debunk the idea that scientists themselves believe in their models. Maybe it fails at doing that, but it was an attempt to argue that scientists themselves don't see the "zoo" as an "ontology"... any more than zookeepers see a zoo as a full unbiased representation of the ecology the animals and plants come from.

If you claim to understand the reductionist/anti-reductionist debate better than I, fair enough, likely true, but this article is about *all* currently debated issues re: the zoo as ontology.

It would be ideal to get Yudkowsky, Lakoff, the Pope, you, David Bohm, Monty Python, and a few of us in the room for a debate.

But, failing that, please do not say that several debates which exist, don't.

Instead, please fix the characterization of the anti/reductionist debate, CITING SOURCES.

If the original explanation of the debate was wrong, I'm sorry, I didn't write it, I wrote the stuff about all the other debates, and just included that anti/reductionist stuff which someone else had jammed in. So I have no conceivable objection to your fixing it or characterizing it as different from the other debates. No promises about relating it to those debates once you've fixed what it "actually is..."

Why not cite the Times article itself?

Also, if you read the objectionable passages, neither of them say that the 'hard' scientists objection is ON THE SAME GROUND AS the 'soft' ones... only that they question some of the same *assumptions*... different thing.

If this isn't clear, it can be fixed.


OK, a quick read establishes that the article reads better without those "bridging" passages you deleted - I added them so that non-scientists would understand this better, but if you claim they're not correct, fine... two different debates on reductionism on two different grounds.

I'd like to know if this section as I modified it is accurate:

anti-reductionist physicists

Some solid state physicists more deeply question the notion of particle physics as the foundation for all other understanding. They point out that large numbers of objects can undergo statistical behavior and have properties that are indepedent of the properties of the particles themselves.

Furthermore, they note, there are systems with radically different components that can undergo very similar behavior, and it has been argued that the similarities in behavior can best be understood through universal rules which are independent of the properties of the components of the systems themselves. These rules or methods or processes would then be "more real than matter" in that they would determine how observers shared an understanding of matter, and would set limits on investigative feasibility.


If so, then I'm very clued out, since a rules-based universe is exactly what the other objections also seem to point to...


All right, this is starting to make sense now... vaguely. This is a tough subject and I find it difficult to believe that I could have understood the argument well enough to extend the above, but somehow got it all wrong in relation to the other objections.

I suspect there are two objections arising from physicists - "shallow" ones to the current zoo, and "deep" ones to the existence of a zoo... the "deep" are maybe best characterized by David Bohm, and maybe this isn't different from the cognitive bias argument.

lumping in the cognitive bias guys with the anti-reductionist guys may have been more common in the older sources I read... since cognitive bias (Wigner's "other species" issue etc) established its own literature, leading up to the Lakoff stuff etc., these people have generally not been called "anti-reductionist" but rather "pro-cognitive" or "cognitive paradigm" - by their enemies. To themselves, they are just sensible people with no paradigm... questioning the establishments' trust in inertial theory...


The term "zoo" is not NPOV and needs to be removed. Furthermore, the times of a "zoo" of hundreds of bewildering particles is over; nowadays we just have a small well organized set of particles that make up everything, as explained in particle physics.

who's "we"? The anti-reductionists too?
Yes. You don't even understand the genuine reductionist/anti-reductionist debate in physics. The anti-reductionists don't claim that the standard model is wrong; they just say that finding the ultimate particle model is not as important as studying the emergent properties that arise at higher levels, and that indeed knowledge of the underlying particle model will not help much in studying the emergent properties. AxelBoldt
I agree with the anti-reductionists that particle insight isn't necessary - they still think it's ok to explore, I happen to believe I can prove that if the a-r types are right, particle physics is at best a dangerous distraction. It's the issues involved in propagating the zoo/ontology and the cult of accelerators that bother me - and they are discussed in funding circles quite a bit. If the PPFO/zoo "will not help much", just shut 'em down.
Anyway, that's nice. I don't believe in it.
Nobody cares. If you can cite well-established researchers which have evidence that the neat standard model is in fact a bewildering zoo and far from complete, add that to particle physics. AxelBoldt
do you really want particle physics all cluttered up with issues of it being a cosmology, foundation ontology, gift from god, etc.? I wanted to respect the nice clean article that was there, and keep this issue separate. Particle physics won't be "changed" or "fixed" by such criticism, it would simply go away like medieval scholastics arguing angels per heads of pins...
the term "particle zoo" or "particle physics zoo" is in common use - you claim it is now out of common use and that the zoo is accepted as a true foundation ontology. I believe that too, thus the title. So what's wrong? If you want to add "particle physics standard model" to the list of acronyms, or even make that the primary title of the article, that's not a problem, as it is the "standard" claim of the "model" that is actually under debate. In that case, as with "Ecoregional" vs. "Bioregional" Democracy, we'd just make "particle physics foundation ontology" and "particle physics zoo" two alternate names that are seemingly less NPOV than the term "standard model". Fair?
I submit you have nothing but a zoo that is an incomplete explanation of something else. If what you said were true, particle accelerators would already have been shut down. But they still run, so this is still in dispute. We will remove "zoo" when they stop searching for more. Fair?
No. Zoo is not NPOV and it goes. The accelerators are running because some predictions by the standard model have not yet been observed, since apparently we haven't tried high enough energies. AxelBoldt
Sorry. Zoo goes back the minute you take it out. Your fetish for "high enough energies" and your use of "we" is also not NPOV, quite obviously. Note that you assume that these predictions *will* be observed, and you acknowledge (implicitly and in flat contradiction of your "no zoo" claim) that there is need to test this.
consider this settled. If "zoo" is mentioned up front so that people can do their own searches to find that community of people still using it, and the contrast between zoo and standard model is clearly described, and neither is in the title, then I think we have found an NPOV here - at the expense of having to coin a term, which I believed was necessary from day one (thus inventing it). I better explained the alternate terms for search purposes and to help people better understand NPOV and why we won't take sides on things like "zoo versus standard" and etc.

Has the term "particle physics foundation ontology" been used in the literature before? We don't want original research in Wikipedia. AxelBoldt

"particle ontology" is the most common term, probably due to its brevity. However it is clearly w.r.t. particle *physics*, not dust particles, and it is clearly a "foundation ontology" in exactly the sense understood in logic, computer science,

and theology. "particle physics ontology" is the most exact term that assumes the least. However the use of this zoo as a foundation ontology, as Axel just proved it is used to claim "we just have a small well organized set of particles that make up everything," which is very obviously a claim that it is a foundation ontology. If this claim is shared by many physicists, as I believe it is, then "particle physics foundation ontology" is a correct description of the claim... and "particle physics ontology" is a correct description of the zoo. Fair?

"particle physics" "foundation ontology" throws up zero matches in Google - this seems to me to indicate that it is too original for an encyclopedia. Unless anyone else has heard of this subject, I would suggest that it would be better moved to meta. Enchanter
no, look up "particle ontology", and "particle zoo", the brief terms. For a "non-NPOV" term, "particle zoo" does seem to be the most common term in use. If we split the article into two, it has to be "ontology as foundation" (as Axel understands it) versus "ontology as guide to further searching" as particle accelerator studies seem to use it...

here's Karl Popper's view of this which uses the term "cosmology". That is an acceptable substitute for "foundation ontology" but then this needs more about astronomy, anthropics, and theology, which I was deliberately avoiding by using "foundation ontology".


The current zoo and these methods are explained under particle physics. This article is concerned with the impact of the zoo on activities other than particle physics.

Why can't you then find a clear title for your article? "Impact of standard model outside of particle physics". Everybody would understand that. Put your anti-accelerator propaganda there and be done with it. Instead, you create layers and layers of impenetrable new-age speak. AxelBoldt

my only remaining issue with the accelerator issue is that you treat it as if the issue is "accelerators versus other science and education" rather than say "accelerators versus foreign aid or investment in extreme outsider views or housing homeless people" or more succinctly "accelerators versus general expenditures"
the term "standard model" is itself less NPOV than I think we'd prefer...
accordingly, I am quite satisfied by the solution of keeping it out of the title - so that neither "zoo" nor "standard model" are claimed in the title, but both are mentioned and explained clearly in context several times in the article. This is very well balanced now. Thanks.
if it's "new-age speak" then a lot of old-age people speak it - Karl Popper, the Pope, etc. here's Karl Popper's view of this.
The clearest title for this article would be "particle physics cosmology" - but as I say that would require broader treatment of issues like the Anthropic Principle, cognitive bias beyond the particle physics zoo, etc.
as to accelerators, it's clear that while they are in use, someone is still looking for particles. So this is not yet a settled "cosmology" so certain that we abandon the search... nor is it an arbitrary foundation ontology as you suggest, not subject to question.

WHAT are you guys talking about - if you understood the subject you wouldn't be having this discussion.

This isn't some theological debate where everybodys view is just as good as any other, there isn't any disagreement between particle physicists and solid state physicists about who has the true view of the universe.

Reading this it sounds like you come from a discipline with a completely different way of thinking and you have just transferred it wholesale into the arena of physics, with results that frankly are very unimpressive. I suspect that the response to attempts to help you resolve your confusion are likely to be territorial, especially as the best suggestion would be for you to spend - a not inconsiderable amount of - time learning the physics, rather than some second-hand theory discussing the physics, at the end of which you would no longer ask those questions.

Particle physics is good for the physics of particles, statistical physics for the statistical properties of assemblies of particles, vector field theory for electricity and magnetism, General Relativity for large-scale phenomena, quantum mechanics for small-scale phenomena. The methods of these different fields do not compete, they are appropriate in their domains.

This is a common thing in the world. The methods of the car mechanic do not compete with those of the historian, indeed it would arguably be inappropriate to try to analyse a faulty exhaust from a historical perspective - you could do it, but it would probably be as foolish as trying to apply particle physics to analysing the thermal efficiency of different work cycles for gas engines.

See what I mean ?


Anyway the upshot is that the article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_ontology just looks foolish to anyone who knows some physics. It is immediately apparent that it is written by someone trained in one of the social sciences, who doesn't really understand the physics.

sorry but that's the truth :-(

I think it would be appropriate to change the article to make it clear that the debate is not amongst physicists, but some other group of people. The page will be more accurate