Day 001 - First principles

Submitted by Sam on 21 May, 2011 - 15:13

We've got some pretty good physical rules that describe how and why apples fall from trees, and we're having a stab at finding some more that might just describe the other bits of the universe. There is a general agreement that all of the order and pattern we see strewn about the place is the product of some rather marvellous physical laws, however myriad, subtle and hopelessly opaque they may seem at the moment. Science is the business of ferreting out and describing these rules, with the ultimate aim of finding a theory for everything, unified or otherwise.

But are all domains wholly describable through rules? Are there perhaps states, processes and interactions in our universe that operate outside of any ultimately authoritative rule-set? There are certainly phenomena that are hugely resistant to both explanation and observation, and they will probably remain so for a very long time. A quick springboard for the rest of this blog presents itself: do truly anomalous phenomena exist, utterly beyond the reach of all laws? Is everything in our universe describable by rules?

Here are two possible answers:

  1. No; some phenomena exist in our universe with behaviour that cannot be modelled by universal rules.
  2. Yes; our universe is built from elementary particles that obey fundamental universal rules.

Option one is a universe that contains irreducible complexity and is ultimately beyond full comprehension. Option two is much more fun, and gives rise to some very interesting hypothetical consequences, which I'll be teasing out over the next few days.

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