Sunday, January 01, 2006

More Crack for Your Brain

OK, I dissed poor Arnold Trehub for saying the science was limited. It turns out to be a popular theme this year:

Lawrence Krauss:

The world may fundamentally be inexplicable

Steven Strogatz has an example:
The End of Insight

I worry that insight is becoming impossible, at least at the frontiers of mathematics. Even when we're able to figure out what's true or false, we're less and less able to understand why.

An argument along these lines was recently given by Brian Davies in the "Notices of the American Mathematical Society". He mentions, for example, that the four-color map theorem in topology was proven in 1976 with the help of computers, which exhaustively checked a huge but finite number of possibilities. No human mathematician could ever verify all the intermediate steps in this brutal proof, and even if someone claimed to, should we trust them? To this day, no one has come up with a more elegant, insightful proof. So we're left in the unsettling position of knowing that the four-color theorem is true but still not knowing why.

Karl Saggagh says it right out loud:
The human brain and its products are incapable of understanding the truths about the universe

Our brains may never be well-enough equipped to understand the universe and we are fooling ourselves if we think they will.

Why should we expect to be able eventually to understand how the universe originated, evolved, and operates? While human brains are complex and capable of many amazing things, there is not necessarily any match between the complexity of the universe and the complexity of our brains, any more than a dog's brain is capable of understanding every detail of the world of cats and bones, or the dynamics of stick trajectories when thrown.

OK guys, I believe you. I've pretty much given up hope that I will ever understand String Theory at any deep level anyway.

I'll just put on some Pink Floyd and say the hell with it. Damn, I can't even remember where I put my Pink Floyd!