Philosophical Context of Design: The Fabric of the Cosmos


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A look into the space, time, and the texture of reality.

Designed for the Philosophical Context of Design class at IIT's Institute of Design, Fall 2011.

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Philosophical Context of Design: The Fabric of the Cosmos

  1. 1. THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOSSPACE, TIME, AND THE TEXTURE OF REALITYBrian GreenePhilosophical Context of Design, Fall 2011Alison W. Tisza
  2. 2. WHAT IS REALITY?Surely, reality is what we think itis; reality is revealed to us by ourexperiences. 2
  3. 3. WHAT IS REALITY?Surely, reality is what we think itis; reality is revealed to us by ourexperiences.This is the view that many of us hold, ifonly implicitly. 3
  4. 4. WHAT IS REALITY?Surely, reality is what we think itis; reality is revealed to us by ourexperiences.This is the view that many of us hold, ifonly implicitly.However, science will tell us that thehuman experience is often a misleadingguide to the true nature of reality. 4
  5. 5. CAN WE KNOW REALITY? Democritus knew that the knowledge of truth would be difficult. Perception through the senses is subjective and the derived interpretations are different for each person. 5
  6. 6. CAN WE KNOW REALITY? Plato stated that knowledge is justified true belief. However, he argues that knowledge is proportionate to the realm from which it is attained. Only if an account is derived through a stable and unchanging lens can it be knowledge; otherwise it is opinion. 6
  7. 7. AN “ABSURD” REALITY? Albert Camus postulated that the absurd arises when the human need to understand meets the unreasonableness of the world. “Appetite for the absolute and for unity” meets “the impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle.” 7
  8. 8. THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS Sisyphus is condemned to eternal repetition of the same meaningless task - rolling a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. Only by acknowledging the truth of the situation is he freed. He is no longer bound by a need to pursue life’s purpose or create meaning. 8
  9. 9. CAN THERE BE MEANING IN EXISTENCE? Kierkegaard and NietzscheExistence stems from saw the human experiencethe Latin existere, as subjective, therefore the individual is responsible formeaning to stand out giving his or her life meaningor to come into being. and for living that life passionately and sincerely. Existential heroes, such as the Knight of Faith and the Übermensch, define the nature of their own existence. 9
  10. 10. THE ULTIMATE QUESTIONWhat is life’s value?Physical reality both sets the arena andprovides the illumination for grapplingwith this question. By deepening ourunderstanding of the true nature ofphysical reality we both reconfigure oursense of ourselves and our experience ofthe universe. 10
  11. 11. REALITY & THE SPINNING BUCKET 1. The surface of 2. The surface 3. The water starts 4. Remains the water starts remains flat as to spin and the concave while out flat. the bucket surface becomes the water spins, starts to spin. concave. even as the bucket slows and stops. 11
  12. 12. REALITY & THE SPINNING BUCKET Why does the water take this shape? What does it mean that the water is spinning? Spinning with respect to what? 12
  13. 13. WHAT IS SPACE? Relative LEIBNIZ - Relationist position. EINSTEIN (SPECIAL RELATIVITY) Space is not an entity. All aspects of motion are Space and time are individually relative. Spacetime is relative. an absolute entity. Space has no meaning beyond providing the natural The combined speed of any object’s motion through language for discussing the relationship between space and its motion through time is always precisely one object’s location and another. equal to the speed of light. For example, as motion through space increases, motion through time decreases to keep the combined total unchanged. MACH - Relationist position. Space is not an entity. Accelerated motion is relative to average mass distribution in the universe.Nonentity Entity NEWTON - Absolutist position. Space is an entity. Accelerated motion is not relative. Not relative 13
  14. 14. RELATIVITY REALITYSpacetime is like a flipbook with an expanded binding:It gives us the time that an event occurred - the page of thebook. The location of the region within space is depicted onthe page. 14
  15. 15. RELATIVITY OF SIMULTANEITYSpacetime can be divided into different, equally valid slices.Observers moving relative to each other will cut spacetimedifferently. As a result, the observers will not agree on whatthings happen simultaneously. 15
  16. 16. SPACETIME SLICESSpacetime is sliced at different angles by observers in relativemotion. The greater the relative speed, the greater theangle, with a maximum angle of 45º (corresponding to themaximum speed set by light). 16
  17. 17. WARPED SPACETIME SLICES Since gravity and acceleration are equivalent, an accelerated observer carves spacial slices that are warped and curved. 17
  18. 18. THE RELATIVITY CONSENSUS IS...?Space and time are in the eye of thebeholder.There is no single, preferred universal clock or universalyardstick. No consensus on what constitutes a here and now.The clock is your clock. The story is your story. 18
  19. 19. QUANTUM REALITY Two spheres resting and separated by a vast distance in space.The spheres exist in a reality in which things hover in a hazeof being partly one way and partly another. In this case, thespheres hover between blinking either purple or orange.In quantum mechanics, we can never be completely certain.The best that we can ever do is predict the probability of anoutcome. 19
  20. 20. QUANTUM POSSIBILITIES Instantaneous, matching change in the color of both spheres.Things become definite only when a suitable observationforces them to relinquish quantum possibilities and settle onan outcome. Reality is ambiguous until perceived.And for the spheres changing instantaneously, there canbe an instantaneous bond between what happens at twowidely separate locations. 20
  21. 21. QUANTUM PARADOXTime Before measurement the 50% sphere does not have a definite location. Rather, the act of 50% measurement creates the very reality that it is measuring. SpaceTime As the sphere moves, it is impossible to know both the exact velocity and exact position. Space 21
  22. 22. COSMOLOGY & TIME’S ARROW The asymmetry of time - theEggs break, they distinction between goingdon’t unbreak; forward and backward -memories are of the is a prevailing element of experiential reality.past, never of thefuture. If time exhibited the same symmetry with which we experience left and right or back and forth, the world would be unrecognizable. 22
  23. 23. DIFFERENT TAKES ON REALITY Einstein Newton’s and Einstein’s laws But diverge at do a good job describing the extremes of speed and gravity. universe as we perceive it. NewtonNothing describes both large and small in a coherent way.When relativity and quantum mechanics are used togetherthe result is nonsensical probabilities. RELATIVITY Quantum Mechanics for small things. for big things. 23
  24. 24. UNIFIED THEORY Superstring theory is a pretty good contender for unified theory. It postulates that all matter is merely energy filaments that vibrate at different patterns. It reconciles relativist theory and quantum mechanics if we accept that there are nine spatial and one time dimension (versus our three spatial and one time dimension). 24
  25. 25. M-THEORY The more robust M-Theory postulates ten spatial dimensions and one time dimension, for a total of eleven. The conclusion, we glimpse but a meager slice of reality.The extra dimensions of spacetime are conjecturedto take the form of a six dimensional Calabi-Yaumanifold. 25
  26. 26. REALITY & MEANINGSo who’s right?Camus: By relinquishing everything beyond immediateexperience and ceasing to search for a deeper meaning, wewill triumph.Kierkegaard and Nietzsche: We create our own reality.Feynman: To assess life and experience the universe on alllevels, not just those immediately accessible to our senses,provides a more magnificent and enriched experience. 26
  27. 27. REALITY & MEANING Time Perhaps if we are unobtrusively provided with information that helps us better understand our position in space and the probabilities of events in our past and future, we can focus on the immediate experience0.00000009% while making decisions to createchance of chicken and optimize our own reality.for dinner in Paris FUTURE (Probabilities) 0.005% chance of finding a penny on the way to work Space OBSERVER Space PAST 27