Reality Conditions

Monday, November 27, 2006

What people search for here

Life imitates Mathematics far more than Mathematics imitates Life

An interesting variation on Wilde's dictum, which brings to mind the old joke: engineers think that their equations approximate reality, physicists think that reality approximates their equations, and mathematicians don't think about reality.

bayes in pictures

If you wanted pictures of Thomas Bayes, here is one. Google Images is more useful for this than ordinary Google, you know.

what is time but the correspondance of your mind with reality


Scientists don't agree on whether zombies exist

Philosophers, and also some philosophically minded scientists, don't agree on whether zombies could exist. But I am not aware of any scientist thinking that they do in fact exist. In fact, I would be very surprised if any one did.

forma de la tierra

Manolito: "Un esferoide"
Maestra: "Muy bien! Con un ligero achatamiento en..."
Manolito: ..................... "En el animo?"

cuanto es un centimetro

Ehhh... la centesima parte de un metro? O preguntabas en pulgadas o en codos egipcios?

What are the laws of nature and physics in Tolkien's world

An interesting question! I don't think we have enough information from canon to write them up. Probably there are fundamental laws, but they are different enough in character from those of our world (involving, for example, irreducible ethical and aesthetical concepts) that to call them laws of physics is misleading.

time for earth to go round sun
One year. (You wouldn't believe how often I get variations of this question.)


  • The Tolkien fan, if (s)he is still hanging around, may be interested in The Science of Middle-Earth; despite the bad reviews in Amazon, I seem to remember a more positive valuation in Nature (or Science?) by the time it came out. However, I think that the book only tries to explain events from Middle Earth in terms of viable physics, which makes sense, since "Tolkien's world" is supposed to be our planet, though in a mytical past. A nice geographical/planetary feature is that if you happen to find an elf and convince him to navigate west from Europe, he should follow a straight line until reaching the holy lands; if we try the same, we'll end somewhere in America, since for us Arda is now round (perdón Manolito: un esferoide).

    By Anonymous dileffante, at 10:22 PM, November 27, 2006  

  • Do you know how to pronounce Bayes' nme? I was once told it was "Byes", to rhyme with eyes.

    By Anonymous Dick, at 10:54 PM, November 27, 2006  

  • dileffante: Certainly, I agree that Arda is supposed to be our very same Earth. And I was thrilled when I first read in the Silmarillion the reason why the Earth is round (to humans), too. But (while not having read the book you link to) I don't think there is much sense in trying to explain things in Middle Earth using actual-world physics, except just for the fun of trying. It makes more literary sense to see Tolkien's history of the world as a "possible world" in which our Earth is given a different prehistory and also, to a certain extent, different laws of nature.

    Dick: sorry, no idea which was the original pronunciation.

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 11:47 PM, November 27, 2006  

  • Hmmm.... There are few these days who know how to sail the straight path, it says somewhere in the Sillmarilion, so it appears to have something to do with knowledge.

    The most simple explanaition I can think of is that the mystical world is made of a different material then the human world we know, this is also supported by the fact that the human race is the only race whoes whereabouts after death are not known to anyone within Arda.

    So the great changing of the world can be understood as a decoupling of the spiritual, or perhaps better aesthetical regime and the material degrees of freedom, gradually the aesthetical concepts loose their material embodyment and the material creatures can no longer through knowledge or some such become more aesthetical or mystical.

    However: The "straight path" implies that the aesthetical creatures don't follow a geodesic around the earth anymore after their departure but in fact "go straight"... this implies that they are not coupled to gravity therefore they are clearly not a dark matter candidate.

    By Anonymous fh, at 5:23 PM, November 28, 2006  

  • There should be a good pun about ghost fields in there somewhere but I can't put my finger on it right now....

    By Anonymous fh, at 5:25 PM, November 28, 2006  

  • fh, the idea of elves not being coupled to gravity is brilliant! It would also explain some of Legolas' skateboarding antics as seen in the movies :P

    But we must bear in mind that if we postulate a kind of matter or field too different from those of the Standard Model to describe them, we will have serious problems to explain how Beren and Luthien, Idril and Tuor, and Aragorn and Arwen could ever have children!

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 6:15 PM, November 28, 2006  

  • Zombies do exist. One of them ate my cousin. He's dead now. The zombie, I mean. My cousin didn't bathe much. Te poor thing suffered for days. We called him Snappy. I'll miss him.

    By Blogger Marco Pollock, at 1:11 AM, November 29, 2006  

  • Marco: you should post that story to this page.

    By Blogger Alejandro, at 10:35 AM, November 30, 2006  

  • should be a good pun about ghost fields in there somewhere but I can't put my finger on it right now....

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