No tower of turtles. (John Archibald Wheeler)

Discussions on the nature of being, existence, reality and knowledge. What is? How do we know?

No tower of turtles. (John Archibald Wheeler)

Postby hyksos on January 2nd, 2018, 8:47 pm 

No tower of turtles.

No laws.

No continuum.

No space, no time.

These four items were called the "four no's" in an essay by Wheeler, written in 1989. The same essay is where the phrase "It from Bit" was coined. The essential core of the essay deals with a research tract (that Wheeler actually attributed to Niels Bohr.) Wheeler's essay was comprehensive enough that he should rightfully be considered its spearhead. Anyways, the basic idea here is to deduce the laws of Quantum Mechanics by means of starting from an understanding of reality. This is normally the complete opposite of the traditional approach, which is uncovering the laws of QM first, and then later, sitting in the professor's lounge, wondering what they "mean".

One repeating theme in Wheeler's essay is that there is likely no such actual things called 'space' and 'time'. That these "fundamental" entities are actually emergent phenomena from a deeper reality composed completely of information.

Ed Witten has taken a renewed interest in this 1989 essay -- remarking that the paper was quote, "too far ahead of its time" to be written or understood. Witten sees suspicious parallels between what Wheeler wrote and some recent work in the Holographic Principle from physics. Witten has recently been recommending the citations in Wheeler's essay to his colleagues at IAS.

The actual essay is strangely short, and reads like undirected bloviation. But it actually contains 177 citations to other physics papers in it.

Information, Physics, Quantum : The search for links
John Archibald Wheeler
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Re: No tower of turtles. (John Archibald Wheeler)

Postby curiosity on January 3rd, 2018, 4:16 am 

By far the best reading material I've chanced upon for quite some time... Very interesting, many thanks for posting.
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