Friday, November 30, 2007

Empty but for one star

Imagine the following scene:

A totally empty universe except for a single star.




Read the first comment to see why I find this exercise interesting

8 Comments:

At November 30, 2007, Blogger me said...

If you are like most people, even most scientists, you would have initially imagined a black "sky" with a single yellow dot. This is of course impossible. For such a scene to exist there MUST be eyes connected to a brain to receive the light and transform the light into a mental image.

Light therefore cannot exist without an observer. I know that sounds counter-intuitive and crazy. We can easily imagine a sun-bathed world with no people or other life forms on it. But that's imagination, not reality. Reality requires an observer.

To return to the scene - now try to imagine what the scene would look like knowing full well there is nothing in that empty universe except the star. Nothing for the light to interact with. What does that look like? I don't have a clue. No one does and no one can.

Why is this?

 
At November 30, 2007, Blogger me said...

Followup exercise:

Imagine a rainbow. There must be 3 components for the rainbow to exist: light, moisture and an observer.

Imagine we take the observer out of the scene, but the light and the moisture are in the right relationship. Is there a rainbow? Most people would say yes, there is, and we can prove it by moving an observer into the right position to see the rainbow.

Now imagine we take the moisture out of the scene but the light and the observer are there. Is there a rainbow? No, of course not. But if moisture were to appear then the rainbow would appear.

Why do we think a rainbow can exist without an observer? Isn't it obvious that the observer is as integral to creating the rainbow as the moisture is or the light is?

Thanks to Alan Watts for these examples...

 
At December 01, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

"There must be 3 components for the rainbow to exist: light, moisture and an observer."

Or we could say that must be 3 components for the perception or appearance of rainbow to exist.

 
At December 04, 2007, Blogger mike taylor said...

Reading Alan Watts has been an education. An environment invokes the organism and the organism invokes the environment. No parts. Outstanding!!!

 
At December 07, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

Or we could say that must be 3 components for the perception or appearance of rainbow to exist.

The point is, the rainbow is nothing other than an appearance. There is no such thing as a non-appearing rainbow.

All the sensory qualities: sights, sounds, smells, and so on, only exist for an observer. We think that we see the light from a star, but the light is an electromagnetic wave, no different than radio waves, which we do not see. Electromagnetic waves have no color, sights do.

An unobserved star doesn't look like anything, because sights are a phenomena of conscious beings and not physical objects.

 
At January 06, 2008, Blogger Mysterion said...

Jinzang said...
"We think that we see the light from a star, but the light is an electromagnetic wave..."

'The discussion of the wave-particle duality is resolved in quantum electrodynamics by a formalism that combines both of these aspects.' source

A particle or wave may exist even if there is no observer. Thus, I think you could remove all observers and the universe would still exist.

 
At February 14, 2008, Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Me, Thanks for the post.
I tried to see nothing in the empty universe except for the star, but I kept seeing nothing around the single star except for a vast and unnamable fathomless void...
I will try again sometime.

Mystrion said, "I think you could remove all observers and the universe would still exist."

How about if you removed the universe; could all the observers still exist?

If the wave/particle resolution of quantum physics is taken to its logical conclusion, then particles, waves, electrodynamics, stars, light, eyeballs, observers, and all the myriad things are simply various aspects of "the one." And at the exact same time, "the one" is manifest as each and every particular, or individual thing... And we are back to the Hua-yen teaching of Li and Shih...
Ain't it grand!
Thank you,
Ted

 
At April 09, 2008, Blogger Fuke said...

Worrying to much about this exercise leads you back to the problem referenced in the title of this blog. In the end, it's a "fun" thought experiment, like asking if the paper in your books would exist if you took away the clouds that rained on the trees or the food that the bookbinder ate before your book existed. However, I'm comfortable, on practical matters, to assume that the tree outside my home is still there even if I don't see it and that my bills will still come in the mail even if I don't want them to. : )

 

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