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10-30-2012, 06:18 PM
A question given to me several times in my life has been "how could the universe form from nothing?" Of course I never viewed nothing as actually being something - which as it turns out it is which nullifies the question. Intriguing.

A fascinating and layman explanation with good old hard mathematics and how much science has proven since 1995. One hour discussion.

This is strictly for those interested in how the universe "really" began, that there is no such thing as nothing, and how science has progressed. Religious posters please ignore or it will just descend into a steel cage. I am just warning you ahead of time to not bother watching it.

'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo)

10-31-2012, 06:37 AM
Great video.

I was just thinking that about him saying that a plasma is opaque to radiation. It's a stretch, but if it's this easy to block radiation, then this solves the problem of radiation protection for human space travel.

I'm sure there's more to it...

P.S. You might want to watch this, especially about 1 hour into the video.

SOMETHING FROM NOTHING ? [OFFICIAL] Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss [HD] 02-04-12 - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUe0_4rdj0U)

10-31-2012, 06:29 PM
They're finding a lot of answers in science that doesn't seem to get a lot of press (largely because of who controls the press).

I watched the conversation in the link you provided. Starts at 1 hour 6 minutes and of course I agree but that winds up being religious debate which people on this site have already debated to death which is why I posted the physics/cosmetology case because it's a "harder science" than Biology and while he still takes shots at religion its subdued.

At 1hr 20 it unfortunately it is true that the education system is woefully lacking at hiring qualified science teachers. I wish now that I had done a science degree. I had the head for it but chose to do a degree in subjects at that time that interested me more - Literature, Philosophy, History, Psychology. I realized midway through when in the teacher Ed program where we had to take two math courses where I had an A+ going into the final exam and 70% of the class was in the C-/D range that my "lack of confidence" in Math might have been unjustified. Math scared me off because it was more absolute. If you can read and write well you WILL be able to get an English degree if you put the time in. Math is scarier because you can be going along getting A's then hit a wall and flunk. When you're paying huge sums of money you don't want to get to fourth year and hit the wall. So the arts was "safer" in that regard. Part of my fear was my own history with math in high school - I had an A in Grade 8, a C- in Grade 9, and then an A in grade 10. What gave me fits in Grade 9 was geometry and trig - but in retrospect it was likely a big case of puberty but you don;t necessarily realize that at the time.

Physics, Biology, and Chemistry are the three science but schools typically have a brutal time finding truly qualified Chemistry teachers. Biology is relatively easy to hire and physics not as bad as it was. It also doesn't help that teachers are so wildly badly paid.

It's just a reality - if you have a Chemistry degree you can make 3-4 times the salary (start at double) as a pharmacist or any other dozen tracks as career options all of which are far less stressful than worrying if a kid is going to shoot or stab you or accuse you falsely of something sleazy. So, as it happens one year in high school - the music teacher taught math - another year it was the shop teacher. A shop teachers use math all the time in their work so yes he had the math smarts but that's not the same as knowing it in depth and the best ways to teach it. Music can be argued has math elements but it's a bit of a stretch.

Krauss' argument is that you need to attract science teachers away from other more lucrative fields by paying more makes sense but the majority hardly want more money spent on REAL science. They want it spent on technologists perhaps - engineers whop can design a better eye candy app for their mind controlling iPhones.

The best points in the link I found in the question answer sessions from the audience at around 1hr 30

11-01-2012, 05:37 AM
I tend not to debate religion, except for, now and then, a word or two, because I don't believe there's anything to debate. Beyond that, the only thing to realize is that for many people, belief is strongly ingrained in the mind and no amount of debate or logic can change their way of thinking. So there's no point in discussing it. The one thing that I don't understand is why science has become the enemy of religion. Man has an innate curiosity that drives him to explain what he doesn't understand. It's human nature and it's what fuels our need to seek the truth.

What's interesting about science is that every time we discover a truth, we learn that we can dissect it to a lower level of understanding. For instance, we used to think that space was nothingness only to discover that gravity can bend it and that time changes relatively within this bent space. Then m-theory (string theory) has postulated that the mechanics for this can be explained (mathematically) through the use of strings in a multidimensional construct. All this is good and well, but it doesn't explain what strings are, so assuming that string theory survives, it opens more thought to seek the answers to explain strings. It may be that the lowest level of understanding is infinite which means that we can never know the answers to our questions or that it is circular in which case implies that what we consider our existence to be constructed from is finite. My mind cannot conceive of either idea. I cannot imagine infinity and I cannot imagine nothingness. Perhaps they are the same thing in the sense mentioned in the video you posted, i.e... The net energy in the universe is zero, hence if all the energies of the universe were to balance out then nothing would exist. While I can conceive this idea, (perhaps fact), I wonder what effect it would have on the lower levels (strings, other dimensions). It might be just a change of state and nothing is really gone.

Moving on...

It's odd that the educational system and teachers are not one of the most revered achievements of humanity. Knowledge and creativity is what has brought humanity out of the caves and created a world that is more survivable to the masses. In the past, the environment determined who was to survive and who was to be die, but today we create our own environment that has allowed many to survive who would have naturally perished. In a way, this has put Darwin's concept of natural selection on hold, at least for humanity. Getting back to Earth...

The better educational foundation that a child receives the more that child is better prepared to enrich their own life and the lives of everyone else. No offense to any of the teachers, it's not their fault, but when 12 years of education only qualifies a person to flip burgers, there is something wrong with the system. It seems odd to me that we keep asking teachers to do more with less and expecting more.

I won't get into what happens to children who don't receive a proper education. It's enough to look around and see the poor neighborhoods ravaged by crime to understand the results. I think it's a crime to ignore this trend and instead of fixing the problem society hires more police and builds more prisons. Where is the logic in this?

Getting back to math and science teachers...

I see the world divided between people who's sole purpose is to support the human condition and society, such as doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers, garbage collectors, and so on, and those that use their creativity to build upon human knowledge and leave a legacy for future generations to build further upon. These are the scientists, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and … This second group is far more important in the greater scheme of things and should be viewed with the greatest respect. As for the first group, they exist out of necessity, but in the end, everything they do fades out of the consciousness of future generations. However the one thing all these people have in common is that they sat in a classroom with a teacher filling their minds with knowledge and teaching them how to use their minds to understand the world they live in and how to find solutions to problems they encounter. It's easy to understand the importance that teachers play in the development of all aspects of human achievement.

The most important, or should I say the most enduring accomplishments of mankind are being made in the areas of science and technology. Doesn't it make sense to invest heavily in this arena?

Anyway, If you're interested check out Sam Harris on YouTube, but I'm sure you know who he is.

11-01-2012, 08:24 PM
I think the notion that man's reach exceeds his grasp is the entire point of living - it's far more interesting that holy texts that offer very little in comparison except for a feel good wishful thinking fairy tale of reality. As Krauss noted - we are made up of thousands of dead stars which is way cooler than creationist stories. Science strives to answer questions and to really actually "know" something about our existence.

The school system is better at the primary and elementary level. High school is more about university/college preparation. The problem is that the majority of students, especially boys, do not have the maturity to focus on things that don't give them instant gratification. Elementary schools play more games - there is more P.E. more hands on stuff. Conversely, high school is generally more lecture based because the material is far more difficult and there is so much more material to cover to meet what is on government exams that the "play" aspects are gutted.

It is next to impossible for a teacher to walk into a class and teach Social Studies or English 10 (16 year olds) to a class of 30 where 20 of them can barely read at a grade 6 level (12yr olds) and 10 of those maybe at grade 3 (8yr olds). If the stuff is so beyond your level and others are breezing through you feel pretty stupid so you become a thug to cover for that fact that you're hopelessly behind.

Hong Kong has simply decided to lump students into three classes - the scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers and they put the bulk of the money into teaching them. The middle group and the 3rd group (future burger flippers, floor sweepers).

To be fair Canada and "probably" the U.S. do the same thing but in more of touchy feelgood way. They will offer 2-3 different math courses. If the kid got an A or B in grade 9 math then they will take Principles of Math 10 (which the kids call "hard" math). The kids who barely passed D or C- will likely have a parent teacher conference on which math the student should take and it will be "advised" that they take "math life skill" - I forget the actual name but it's basically math that you need for everyday life such as 20% off a sale price and how to do a basic budget.

So the parents and the student basically "decide" to choose the "dummy math" (what the kids call it) course. So they are separated but it's a decision made by parents not the school imposing the decision. It kind of works but of course parents can be stubborn and refuse to admit their kid is a lazy twit. So be it. You can only do so much. The best education you get is in the first 5 years of your life - before you ever walk into a school. If you're damaged goods by brutal parenting then it's a serious uphill battle when school begins.

But as Krauss noted people teaching the subjects are not always well trained in the field. People are teaching the wrong subjects - are hired over someone more qualified because they meet a "future need" - hiring a Biology teacher to teach English because they know in two years the current Biology teacher will retire and they have a hard time finding Bio teachers. Happens all the time.

Ultimately the problem is that society is far too politically correct. "Everyone is equal" but everyone is not equal. Yes under the law you should get one vote - you should get treated the same at the hospital, you should get treated the same at the airport or at the border but it just doesn't happen. If 70% of students do not want to go or are booksmart smart enough to go to University then they should be allowed to opt out or be kicked out of high school. IE; mandatory or compulsory education should probably end at 14 or 15 latest (not 18).

As has been pointed out - plenty of successful people never went to University and I have news for people - plenty of HS dropouts have been very successful.

This is what I would do:
Students get a diploma at the end of grade 7 (end of Elementary school) with their marks.

They get another one at grade 9. If they pass they get their diploma, if not they get a "leaving school certificate."

It solves so many of the financial burden's of tax payers. It reduces class sizes and only keeps in those that have a shot at University or at least those who want the grade 12 High School Diploma. These students will not have dumbed down material - science teachers can actually run a proper lab without worrying that Joe the dimwit will try and set fire to his partner or will clog the sinks or break beakers or smash test tubes. Schools should be for people willing to learn - want to learn - you should EARN your spot in school it should not be handed to you as a right. You break the law you lose your right to freedom so why this isn't practiced in school I never quite understand - if you don't learn that there are repercussions when you're a kid you will instead learn that anything you do won't have repercussions when you're an adult.

And I know the counter-argument to this. If you only have a grade 9 certificate how will you get a job competing with those students with a grade 12 or university degree? Well that's just the world reality. If you wish to go back to school later to finish grade 10-12 then you can return later.

British Columbia had a scheme where minimum wage was lower for people working at their first job and for the first few hundred hours they would get several dollars per hour less. A grade 9 aged kid is 14-15 and minimum wage in BC is $10.25hr then perhaps there can be a $8 minimum wage for 14-15 year old workers (since they still under parents care they're not likely paying rent). Businesses like McDonalds would have an incentive to hire them despite lower education because they save a lot in labor. Plenty of people work hard and may just not be good academically.

Your post reminds me of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. but rather than looking at it individually you have summed it up nicely on a population level. We have a segment of the population that meets the needs of safety and ensuring basic needs are met and then once this is done it allows for "our best" like Krauss and Dawkins and Hawking and in the arts like Shakespeare, Beethoven to push the boundaries of the mind, art literature science. You need the doctors and teachers to help them out to "do their thing" but your post made think of Maslow

11-02-2012, 06:01 AM
I'm going to ramble for a moment...

A few years ago I was at a concert with a venue of about one thousand seats. Everyone was mostly older and I guessed the average age to be about 50. It occurred to me that the group represented, in total, approximately 50,000 years of human endeavor. I assumed that the people came from all walks of life and were probably representative of the average. The next thought I had was... What had this group accomplished in this amount of time? Pessimistically I figured that most if not all of these people belonged to the first group that I mentioned in my last post. My next thought was... What could have been accomplished if all these people had focused their lives towards one constructive purpose? My imagination soared with all the possibilities. After that, I applied this mental exercise to the entire population of the planet and imagined what could be. I'm sure you get the idea.

The one thing I realized early on in my life is that I've never had an original thought, which I believe to be normal considering the billions of people living on this planet. Whenever I would have an epiphany derived from my own thought processes I would, thanks to the Internet, discover that others were thinking along the same lines. For instance, many years ago, it occurred to me that life was created from non-living matter and in a sense, the Universe became self aware. This was a fascinating concept even if it was rather apparent. When I would talk about it all I got was blank stares, but now I've discovered that this idea has been realized by many people and while not Earth shattering, it opens up the imagination to ask... What else can be created by the Universe?

Anyway, I realize that, I too, belong to the first group, the support group, and that nothing I do in my life will make any difference. That saddens me, but it gives me great respect for those that have come before who are truly original thinkers, the creators of new knowledge that has transformed our world. From the video that you posted... I'm amazed that the virtual particles being created inside the space of a proton account for about 90% of the mass of the proton. That is truly mind boggling and humbling. This simple concept completely changes everything I thought about matter. A couple of questions come to mind. What is this mass made of and if this mass is constantly existing and then non-existing, does the total mass of the proton fluctuate? To be honest, my mind is flooded with questions about this.

Getting back to education...

From my experience, one of the greatest omissions of the educational system is that it does not expose children to the different types of jobs or educational pursuits that exist. For instance, what kind of engineers are there and what do they do? What does it take to become one? What can I expect to be doing if I become an engineer, and so on... This can be applied to all the professions. Most children have no idea of the numerous opportunities that are available to them and because of this, they plod through the educational process with no direction. The reason that I think this is important is because purpose creates interest and drive and without being able to see where you are going you have no focus. The solution is to give a class that everyday shows snapshots of what's available. Once a student finds interest in a certain area, modify their curriculum to that purpose. This is in deference to a “general” education. Oh, students should also be shown what their life will be like if they decide to opt out of a career path.

Another idea along the same lines is to start each course with practical examples of what everyone taking the class will be able to do once they complete the course. Symbolically speaking, you show the entire forest before you begin describing the trees. It's easier to understand and remember a concept than it is to remember the parts that make up the concept. In other words teach from the top down.

I'm sure you don't want someone telling you how to do your job, so just consider what I've said as a couple of ideas, rather than anything definitive.

As for how they do it in China, I think it's a good idea. I have to give this educational subject more thought so I'll respond later. Your ideas are definitely interesting.

11-03-2012, 04:14 PM
The Lawrence Krauss item was great and I watched the whole thing.

However there is an alternatives to the "From Nothing" theory: these are the Cyclic Models; see Wikipedia, HERE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_model#The_Steinhardt.E2.80.93Turok_model). What brought this to mind for me was listening to the latest Quirks & Quarks on CBC Radio, HERE (http://www.cbc.ca/player/AudioMobile/Quirks+and+Quarks/ID/2299903670/), were the interviewee is Neil Turok. Turok and others a proponents of the M-brane theory that envisions "parallel orbifold planes" or M-brains that periodically collide causing new universe cycles.

I don't understand any of this, but I suspect it's no more comforting to the God/Intelligent Designer crowd than the "from nothing" theories.