Saturday, December 14, 2013

Model building, paradigm and Truth

Byron Jennings (at TRIUMF, Canada) wrote, “I do not believe that truth, in this context, is meaningful. In science, we just build models. The ultimate nature of reality is forever beyond reach. (see ). This view is not his personal opinion but is widely accepted by the mainstream physicists. Yet, there are many different models, for Bobbie doll, for airplane, for Empire State Building, etc.. Every model is modeling an *object* (the reality or the underlying Truth). For scientific model which has no underlying truth (or not sure about what it is), it could often turn out to be a model for Mickey Mouse.   How can anyone build a model while not knowing what he is modelling? Even if the truth is very elusive, the modeler must make a wild-guess for it.

Jennings (on December 6th, 2013,) wrote another excellent article “Has there ever been a paradigm shift?” (see ). He wrote, “… used the word paradigm to refer to the set of practices that define a scientific discipline at any particular period of time. A paradigm shift is when the entire structure of a field changes, not when someone simply uses a different mathematical formulation. … The archetypal example, and I would suggest the only real example in the natural and physical sciences, is the paradigm shift from Aristotelian to Newtonian physics. …  Newtonian physics was driven by observation. While Aristotelian physics is broadly consistent with observation it is driven more by abstract concepts like perfection. Their epistemology was not based on careful observation. … [Newtonian paradigm] must  make testable predictions that are confirmed by observation. … Or if you like, the demarcation criteria for a paradigm shift is that the before and after are incommensurate.”

This paradigm issue is in fact the most urgent one today in physics, more important than the Higgs, the dark mass, dark energy, baryongenesis, etc. . I did comment it at his blog (see ). The following is an expanded response to this very important issue.

Although I do agree with his view and *definition* in principle, I would like to paraphrase it with four point list definition; thus, I can go beyond his definition. *Paradigm* encompasses 4 points (or parts).
i.                     It has a preconceived *Belief* which is the foundation for the epistemology. For Aristotelians, they believed that the *new* knowledge can be judged by the *reasoning* (logic and a body of old knowledge) power alone. For Newtonians, they *Believe* that the new knowledge is accepted if and only if it is observational testable (by man with gadgets).
ii.                    It is exclusive (my way or the highway). Thus, Newtonian paradigm kills *rationale* by crowning it with a title of *Speculative*. For example, the Alpha (electron fine structure constant) is only a pure simple number. The equation below can calculate it precisely, and its correctness can be verified by any 8th grade kids who know no physics. But, it will simply be ignored by the physicists as they lack the ability to come up an observational test for it.   
 Beta = 1/alpha = 64 ( 1 + first order mixing + sum of the higher order mixing)
           = 64 (1 + 1/Cos A(2) + .00065737 + …)
           =  137.0359 …
 A(2) is the Weinberg angle, A(2) = 28.743 degree 
 The sum of the higher order mixing = 2(1/48)[(1/64) + (1/2)(1/64)^2 + ...+(1/n)(1/64)^n +...]     
                                                                  = .00065737 + … 
iii.                  It is a sociological-dependent-reality, that is, it is not absolute but is *selective*. The M-string theory and SUSY are all *speculative* but are still all viewed as the great physics, a big part of the current *Paradigm*.
iv.                 It must be accepted by the mainstream community, regardless of it being right or wrong.

In addition to being a conceptual terminology in Philosophy of Science, *paradigm* is a living organism (with birth, youth, aging and death). The preconceived belief is its DNA, distinguishing its species type.  The attributes of exclusiveness, selectiveness and must-be-consensus are the life-force during its youth for a very healthy growth and are also the force for its aging, especially by growing the malignant cancerous growths.  Then, there are external forces which give the aged paradigm a deadly blow to end its life.

For the Aristotelian paradigm, its nutrients (the body of old knowledge) were too weak and often not correct. Thus, it was easily killed by the new external force of Newtonian methodology. Yet, although the Newtonian paradigm ousted the *Aristotelian rationale* by crowning it with a title of *Speculative*, *rationale* itself remains as the key engine in the Newtonian methodology.

Besides a foundation (the DNA, the backbone and its nutrients), a paradigm does fill up with fleshes (the contents, such as the General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Standard Model, etc.).  Yet, at the same time, it can have some growths which are beyond the reach by its foundation. For the Newtonian paradigm, there are at least three such malignant cancerous growths.
A.       Multiverse --- Multiverse is not yet a new paradigm but is a major *flesh* of the current physics paradigm. But, multiverse as a *reality*, it articulated or manipulated an observable universe which we are living in. But, multiverse as a *theory*, it *fails* to pin point the nature’s way of manipulation. Thus, Multiverse is either a new coming paradigm (believing untestable and unprovable) or a failed theory. Furthermore, by definition, multiverse is beyond the reach of the Newtonian methodology.
B.       SUSY ---  it was the center *flesh* of the current physics paradigm for over 40 years. After receiving many deadly blows recently, its devotees are desperately transforming it into a religious-like “the hope of SUSY parousia”, by pushing it out of the reach of this Newtonian paradigm.
C.      Model sub-paradigm --- most of physicists today do not believe in *truth* as it is too elusive, and they claims to be only the *model builders*.  As this model building is now a major part of the physics epistemology (accepted by the Review Journals without any observational proof), this Model sub-paradigm is slowly drifting away from the Newtonian paradigm.

With the three malignant cancerous growths above, the Newtonian paradigm is at its last breath and is about ready to kick the bucket.

The Aristotelian paradigm was ousted because of its weak *body of knowledge*, but its *rationale* is still the engine (not criterion) in the Newtonian paradigm. In a sense, the *rationale* is immortal, much more powerful than the Newtonian methodology which has run out of its breaths as the technology *might be* no longer able to reach the last courtyard of nature (in addition to its malignant cancerous growths). On the other hand, today, the *body of knowledge* (General Relativities, Quantum Mechanics, Standard Model, Planck data, etc.) is weak no more. This solid body of knowledge forms a set of anchors. Matching those anchors from a *rational framework* (its base MUST contain no known physics, see “CONVERSATIONS ON PHYSICS EPISTEMOLOGY, BEAUTY-CONTEST”, ) can become the criterion of a new paradigm.

In fact, there are four steps for the growth of physics.
First, collecting data --- knowing the phenomena.
Second, finding the pattern (with equations to best fit the data) --- these equations have *variables* and *parameters*.
Third, finding the underlying causes (dynamics) for the equations (especially for the variables).
Fourth, finding the underlying framework for the *parameters*, deriving parameters from an axiomatic system.

While the *human physics* goes from the first to the fourth order, the *Nature physics* must go from the fourth to the first (from axioms to phenomena). In Christian cosmology, it took seven (7) days for God to create the universe. Yet, Nature has no design committee and no steering committee. Nature created *this* universe with three steps (ready, get set, go), that is, starting with an axiom system and going without predesign or any trial-and-error (the fine-tuning) in its evolution history.  

Thus, an axiom system which can derive the known parameters (such as, Cabibbo/Weinberg angles and Alpha, ), it will form the foundation for this new paradigm. Then, from this base, it must *derive* all known physics {see “Litmus test for the final physics” ( ) and }.

Thus, today, we have two new paradigms around the corner. Either one will replace the Newtonian paradigm.
One --- the hope-of-parousia paradigm, pushing SUSY and multiverse beyond the reach of Newtonian methodology. In this paradigm, physicists believe in models, not truth.

Two --- the axiomatic physics/anchor-matching paradigm. In this new paradigm, there is *truth* in addition to models.

We have discovered a new particle (with 126 Gev.) and *named* it Higgs boson. There are many models which can account for this new particle. Can Higgs provide any insight for the step four (4) above? This will be the new paradigm question for it. This question will be the Occam’s razor.


  1. The distinction between truth and the model is similar to a distinction made by Kant between the thing in itself and observations of the object. All we have are observations, the thing itself is always hidden.

    I also find the idea of "truth" as a concept too metaphysical.

  2. Byron Jennings:

    Thanks for your comment. You are definitely inline with the current paradigm. Yet, I would like to beg a small difference. In addition to "All we have are observations", we do have rationale. Even model building takes some rationale which needs not always being based on the observations.

    The chance for me to win the SuperLotto is nil, smaller than the chance of striking by a comet. That is, in my *personal* universe, I will almost never observe the *my-winning* of a SuperLotto. Yet, it does not mean that there is no winner of SuperLotto. Even if we cannot reach the Truth in *principle* (not just in practical), there is still Truth with ontological meaning.