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Old 12-09-2011, 07:28 AM
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Default The basis for reproducability (determinism/uncertainty)

I am not sure if I should have put it in this forum as it might spark a debate, but it fits the topic, I think.

What I'd like to know is, What do you think is the basis for the requirement of reproducability of scientific experiments?

One of the key elements of present day science is reproducability. The scientist performs an experiment with given conditions and reports the results. They are considered valid only when under the same conditions someone else can repeat them. If that is impossible, it is considered to be either bad science or an incomplete report of the conditions.

What do you think is the result of this requirement when it comes to observing the world/universe/Nature? And what does it say on how we view the world?

The way I see it, the axiom involved here, the basis of that requirement is determinism - that the cosmos is a newtonian world machine in which all parts are defined and behave predictably under the same conditions. If that is not the case and there are true uncertainties (that do not just depend on missing out some parameter in the conditions), this means that such an assumption is not complete, which in turn means that a science based on this assumption and that demands these features can explain only those parts of the world that follow these rules but by definition misses out on the parts that do not without giving a conclusive reason of the nonexistence of its part. Thus science working on this basis to me seems inherently incomplete unless this is a deterministic "machine" cosmos.

For that reason, the discovery of quantum mechanics poses such a big change in science that its implications are still ignored - for most practical research that can be done, but the uncertainty and nondeterminism that is happening at that level (and with "Schrödingers cat" can also translate to the macro-universe) questions the validity of the fundamental assumption behind the requirements of "good science".

What are your thoughts on this?
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Old 12-09-2011, 08:16 AM
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To me it's about the applicability of knowledge. As much as I hate that Quantum Mechanics messes with my sense of traditional rationality, it doesn't matter in the relatively large scale in which we exist, where Newtonian assumptions are good enough to work as accurately as we need for the most part.

It sort of goes against my idealism that motivations behind actions matter almost as much as the actions themselves. For example, if you do "good" things for the "wrong" reasons, then you aren't really doing anything "good", even if it could be objectively measured as "good", but now I'm starting to get too philosophical.
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Old 12-09-2011, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
The way I see it, the axiom involved here, the basis of that requirement is determinism - that the cosmos is a newtonian world machine in which all parts are defined and behave predictably under the same conditions.
Probability distributions are acceptable. Just because your result is a probability wave instead of a deterministic figure doesn't mean I can't reproduce it.
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Old 12-09-2011, 06:08 PM
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So that is the example my physics teacher used, that of course the ball could stay in midair and not drop down, but the probability that it does is just large enough. Still, this means that from a world view point, the cosmos is not deterministic, but just a bunch of fulfilled probabilities. But at a certain point in the microcosm, the uncertainties are there. Do you think they can propagate in the macrocosm, like in "Schrödingers cat"? In that case of course a hypothetical machine is used to magnify the quantum effects, but is it possible that such effects can by some other means be significant for the macroscale world? For example with microprocessors on a nanoscale or with some natural occurences?
So reproducability is basically only statistics, yes? It works again the same way because it has a high probability of doing so. What about events that have not such a sharp probability distribution - do you think they can still be described by science? They would then have to be described as a probability curve instead of a "law", I would say. And actually even the "laws" are basically just probability distributions with a very sharp distribution.
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Old 12-09-2011, 06:45 PM
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Quantum mechanical laws are already probability distributions.

(And QM effects are irrelevant when you're measuring macroscopic objects that aren't specifically designed to take advantage of them. The effects of QM will be lost in the uncertainty of your measurement.)
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Old 12-10-2011, 01:23 AM
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So you think that according to probability, everything we can observe is repeatable? Or can there be things that are not - if there are things that are not, how can science then describe them?
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Old 12-10-2011, 01:41 AM
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You'll have to name something that's not repeatable in principle for this conversation to make much sense. There's no reason to think such a thing exists ATM.
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Old 12-10-2011, 03:18 AM
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The observation itself has to be repeatable with results that fall in a consistent pattern. Nobody expects to get an end variable to within whatever the smallest precision of the measuring device is every single time, but a distribution shows the law - indeed, having only two data points would be completely useless, since you couldn't even tell the rate of a correlation, or even if it was one, random, or something like a bathtub curve.

The repeatability must also be in the test itself - that is, you can't say "I used magic yesterday but I can never do it again" and expect that to be taken seriously without some method to verify/disprove it.
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Old 01-21-2012, 01:59 PM
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Well the whole point was to ask what if something like this would exist. Lets say "I used magic yesterday but I can never do it again". This claim is refuted by science because of the restriction that things have to be reproducible. Everything else is ridiculed. I did my share of that myself, but I am not like that anymore because I question, as a scientist, not only things I observe but also question the basis for the science. The assumption here is, that the world is sort of a "world machine" as in Newtons ideas. That we can look at the cogs and understand how they move, that if we turn them the right way, we always get the same result. Quantum mechanics basically said this is nonsense introducing wheels that turn sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other for god-knows-what reason. But they still behave sort of statistical, so we can say something is 90% likely to happen.
But I think that this is limiting the scope of observation - if we require something to be reproducable, there would be no way to accept something like "I used magic yesterday but I can never do it again" even if it was true. I am not saying that it is, but if it would be so, we'd have no way to accept it because of the assumptions that are at the basis of scientific method. We simply dismiss such claims angrily not on grounds of reality, but because they do not comply to our methodology. Again, I do not say that magic is working, but that the argument we use to dismiss it is not very "reasonable". It is "scientific" though because science makes this assumption of reproducability.
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"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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Old 01-21-2012, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
Well the whole point was to ask what if something like this would exist. Lets say "I used magic yesterday but I can never do it again". This claim is refuted by science because of the restriction that things have to be reproducible. Everything else is ridiculed. I did my share of that myself, but I am not like that anymore because I question, as a scientist, not only things I observe but also question the basis for the science. The assumption here is, that the world is sort of a "world machine" as in Newtons ideas. That we can look at the cogs and understand how they move, that if we turn them the right way, we always get the same result. Quantum mechanics basically said this is nonsense introducing wheels that turn sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other for god-knows-what reason. But they still behave sort of statistical, so we can say something is 90% likely to happen.
But I think that this is limiting the scope of observation - if we require something to be reproducable, there would be no way to accept something like "I used magic yesterday but I can never do it again" even if it was true. I am not saying that it is, but if it would be so, we'd have no way to accept it because of the assumptions that are at the basis of scientific method. We simply dismiss such claims angrily not on grounds of reality, but because they do not comply to our methodology. Again, I do not say that magic is working, but that the argument we use to dismiss it is not very "reasonable". It is "scientific" though because science makes this assumption of reproducability.
You misunderstand, I think; "I used magic yesterday but I can never do it again" is rejected not because it is impossible to reproduce, but because it is unlikely, given the evidence available. (i.e. none.) If the statement was, "I used magic yesterday to conjure this apple pie from scratch, but I can never do it again," it would be more believable. If it were, "I used magic yesterday to conjure this infinite energy generator, but I can never do it again," then it almost certainly be accepted as truth, despite its non-reproducibility.
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Old 06-01-2012, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Clarke View Post
If the statement was, "I used magic yesterday to conjure this apple pie from scratch, but I can never do it again," it would be more believable. If it were, "I used magic yesterday to conjure this infinite energy generator, but I can never do it again," then it almost certainly be accepted as truth, despite its non-reproducibility.
This sounds very doubtful. People claim quite often to have predicted the future correctly (and have proof of it because it was written down) or they used some other "magic" to provide information - the information is then there but since there are also other ways to get the information, they are not believed. For example that apple pie could also be baked by someone. Hence people will ask for reproducability, and actually they ask for it in laboratory conditions. What if something does not work in laboratory conditions?

For example, 99% of the bacteria in the world are not cultivated and most of them are not cultivateable in the lab. What we know about microbiology, we know of these 1% minority and extrapolate it on a majority that refuses to be brought into a lab and experimented upon in a reproducable way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clarke
Probability distributions are acceptable. Just because your result is a probability wave instead of a deterministic figure doesn't mean I can't reproduce it.
Regarding Quantum mechanics I have a question.
These are the assumptions that are made in respect of quantum particles:
* They are inanimate, thus cannot make a decision by themselves
* Yet they do "choose" for example to fly through one slit or to another
* We assume that that "choice" is not really a choice but the result of probability because in the end a pattern emerges that can be predicted

What about this analogy:
Take a path on a hillside that splits in two. Now observe people coming along the path. We assume that they will consciously decide which way to go based on their intelligence, so they make a choice to go one way or the other. Yet if we observe that crossing long enough, a pattern will emerge that lets us predict the decisions of people coming later. There will be a distribution pattern.

Comparing these two things - what is the reason for the similarity? Are humans acting without much "real" intelligence/consciousness, or are particles actually choosing their path?

The reasons for each individual to go one way or another is determined by many factors and maybe even things that happened in the past. That may be energy (particle wavelength or blood sugar level), past experiences (quantum entanglement or a mental image of a map). The probability to make one choice or another is determined by the environmental conditions like potential energy conditions or the steepness of the path ahead. The individual will then make a choice based on that (e.g. if the energy available is enough to get over that incline).

I find it fascinating that there are these similarities and it seems to me a mystery - especially the part on humans that do behave as a large mass in a rather predictable way if they are subjected to the same conditions, yet each individual would certainly say that his behaviour was conscious and not comparable to that of things we consider inanimate.
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"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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