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Meaninglessness: A Scientific Discourse

Meaninglessness: A Scientific Discourse

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A discourse on physics, cosmology, evolution, mathematics and the end of the universe.

Matthew Lee Knowles
July 2012 - May 2013

A discourse on physics, cosmology, evolution, mathematics and the end of the universe.

Matthew Lee Knowles
July 2012 - May 2013

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Published by: Matthew Lee Knowles on Jun 19, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A discourse on physics, cosmology,evolution, mathematicsand the end of the universe.Matthew Lee KnowlesJuly 2012 - May 2013
René Magritte believed that the world is a mystery and that it cannot be spoken of in words. Idisagree. This talk is intended to be read aloud, but if you are reading this, it is probably in your
head. I don’t like being told how to read things, but I’m going to ma
ke a suggestion regardless -
don’t rush. When I mention in passing that sunlight is simply a by
-product of the sun, dwell onhow vast a statement that really is. I am an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to the matters Iintroduce, my book library is mostly science based and I attend lectures whenever I am able, but Iapologise if I have got anything incorrect, perhaps my enthusiasm might have carried me away. If you notice an error, please let me know. I would also encourage you to start up conversationswith friends and acquaintances about the details contained within these pages and to balanceyour wonder with scepticism -
 just because it’s written down, it doesn’t make it true, so questioneverything and don’t settle until you are convinced. Even t
hings which are accepted fact canchange; this is the beauty and thrill of science! Read about the Higgs boson (which David Britton
compared the search to looking for a bit of hay in a haystack) and you’ll find that scientists’ minds
are equally divided between wanting it to be true and wanting nature to throw something totallyunexpected their way. (At the time of writing, the discovery is a strong 5-sigma.) The completionor the overthrowing of the Standard Model are both heavily pregnant with possibility.
Incidentally, it’s the Higgs
we should really be talking about. I don’t explain everything I
mention, if I did this talk would be several times longer, but with the internet you can find outabout any of these things in seconds - I may not explain in detail about neutron stars or StringTheory, but you can search for yourself, and I really think you should - neutron stars are so densethat a handful of the stuff would weigh as much as an expansive mountain range and if dropped
on earth (and let’s
face it, you‘d be hard pressed to stop this happening) it would cut straight
through the ground like a bullet through a cloud, through to the other side of the world and backagain before friction slowed it down after many repetitions leaving the Earth looking like a piece of Swiss cheese! Even though they are the size of small city they can still rotate several hundred
times a second and if you fell onto the surface from a height of just one metre, you’d hit the
ground at two-thousand kilometres a second! In String Theory, all particles can be explained bytiny vibrating strings, a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimetre, about aquadrillion times smaller than can be currently probed by physicists. To actually see a string wewould need an accelerator the size of the Milky Way galaxy. If an atom were magnified to the sizeof the solar system, a string would be the size of a tree! I hope, at some point in these pages,
you’ll be motivated to find out more. It’s incredible
how strands of information can link together;start reading about Alan Turing, who potentially saved up to twenty-one million lives when he
shortened the Second World War by breaking Hitler’s codes
- where could this person take you?Code breaking, cryptanalysis, Colossus, Tunny, Enigma and the bombes, Bletchley Park, Hitler andChurchill, the NPL, British law and anti-homosexuality, morphogenesis, mathematics, computers,artificial intelligence, robotics, philosophy, logic, inventors, suicide, atheism, long distance running,eccentrics - meeting along the way; Flowers, Tutte, von Neumann, Newman, Gödel, Lovelace,
Babbage, Shannon, Hilbert, Russell, Pascal and Cantor, to name just a dozen. It’s so easy to stay
connected with the science world nowadays, the web abounds with countless videos and lectures,articles and diagrams -
all you need to add is a little patience and you’ll be rewarded withphenomenal knowledge. In retaliation to cries of ‘what’s the point
’ scientists usually bring up
computers, advanced communication, GPS, longer healthier lives, you know, the little things, butmy response is simple - we have these minds, why not push them? Sean Carroll ends his book
“The Particle at the End of the Universe” with this sentence: “if it weren’t a challenge, it wouldn’tbe so much fun.”
Many thanks to Josh, Kate, Harrie, Elo and Alex for hearing me read the draft.Extra thanks to Daniel Cooper for his specific technical comments and conversation.This talk is for Laonikos Psimikakis-Chalkokondylis who suggested it in the first place.Matthew Lee Knowles,Clapton Pond,London,24
May 2013, 4:33am

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