## Simplest - The minimum possible building blocks of a universe

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Electrons

In Quantum Mechanics (QM), an electron is a fundamental particle. (the name 'particle' is a bit of a misnomer, particles in QM are wave functions).

An electron is not composed of other particles. Protons and Neutrons are composed of Quarks. Quarks are also fundamental particles.

Electrons have position, momentum, spin, charge and mass.

If an electron is 'composed' of position, momentum, spin, charge and mass; aren't these properties more fundamental than the electron?

Simplest

If we were to create a universe, what are the simplest possible building blocks that we could use?

Graph Theory: This is a fully connected directed graph with 225 nodes and two edges per node. If you look closely you can see a little arrow on the ends of the edges indicating that they are directed edges.

The fundamental element here is "node and edge". A node has no innate properties. A node is just the point at which edges meet. A node without edges is just a mathematical point (see below).

An edge is just a connection. In this unlabelled graph the edge doesn't have a length (or - arguably - all unlabelled edges have unit length).

Change

A universe that doesn't change is hardly worthy of the name.

For a graph, the only mechanism of change is to shuffle edges. That is, we have some function that examines the current state of the graph and changes which nodes edges connect to.

This is the same fully connected 225 node directed graph as above after many iterations of the simplest possible change to such a graph.

The node/edge in a directed graph is certainly reasonably simple, but is it the simplest?

A mathematical point and a Set Theory set are both candidates for extremely simple building blocks.

We can dispense with a mathematical point fairly quickly.

A mathematical point is a definition of nothing. We can't use 'nothing' as a building block.

Place an infinite number of mathematical points immediately adjacent to each other and you have... a mathematical point.

A mathematical point has no length, breadth of height. If we are generous we could grant a point a position within, say, a Euclidean plane. This is fine and reasonable except that to do anything with our point we have had to invent the entirety of Euclidean geometry. This negates the original simplicity of a single point.

Set Theory

Set Theory is another attempt at specifying an extremely simple element that can be built into arbitrarily large and complex structures.

Any sort of in depth analysis of Set Theory and its contention as a candidate for simplest possible building block is way too much for a single post.

We shall skip over Set Theory noting only that mathematicians have made multiple attempts to find a simplest possible building blocks.

It is possible to label nodes and edges in a Graph but labels are an extra (unneeded) complication.

Without labels, the only distinguishing feature of a node or edge is its position within the Graph.

In preparing these graphs I used a program that jiggled the position of nodes in the graph such that edges appear to have the same length. Nodes that are closely connected to each other tend to be positioned physically closer on the page. However, this positioning is not inherent to the graph itself.

Nodes do not have x,y coordinates. The graph is just the nodes and edges.

If you examine the 2nd graph above you can see that there are long chains of nodes with one little loop indicating one of the edges loops back to the same node. If we count the minimum number of edges to get from one node to another node; the first graph is much more closely connected than the second graph.

Expansion

If we take a large sample of graphs with the same characteristics (fully connected, directed, two edges per node) and iteratively apply Change A and count the average number of edges between every node in the system at each step...

We find that such a graph exhibits a fast initial inflation followed by a slower but accelerating expansion up to a final maximum entropy where the graph cycles through a series of equal entropy states without expanding (or contracting) further.

This behaviour seems common with graphs up to a few million nodes but does depend somewhat on the initial generation of the graph. Randomly generating edges between nodes tends to generate a relatively tightly packed graph (the mean edges between nodes is low).

This vague correspondence between early inflation and currently observed accelerating expansion of the universe is of note.

Complexity/Chaos

As a newly minted god creating our own little universes, we want to create interesting universes.

Conway's Game of Life illustrates that simple rules can lead to complex behaviours. Stephen Wolfram has built a career and reputation on the emergence of complex behaviours in simple systems.

Yet another simple system that exhibits complex behaviours is barely worth remarking.

However, a directed graph with two edges per node and Change A is a candidate for the simplest conceivable system that exhibits complex behaviour.

CPT Symmetry

Charge, Space, Time Symmetry is an observed physical Symmetry with interesting characteristics.

Charge Symmetry, Space Symmetry and Time Symmetry are each partial symmetries under which some particle interactions are perfectly symmetrical - but not all.

If you have positrons (the anti-particle of the electron) instead of electrons, almost all interactions are the same as for an electron - but some aren't.

If you reverse time, some interactions are invariant. But not all.

If you switch the handedness of space (switch left and right), some interactions remain the same. but not all.

If you switch Charge, Space and Time all at the same time - all interactions are symmetric with their unflipped comparisons.

There is exactly one way to achieve something that looks like CPT Symmetry.

The observation of CPT Symmetry, by itself, specifies the physics of the universe.

Our universe has to be the simplest possible universe that can exhibit complex behaviour.

Simplest

One way to understand the physics of the universe is to start with observation and develop theories to explain those observations.

An alternative that has the potential to bear fruit is to try and create a universe from first principles.

What is the simplest possible building block? What is the simplest possible component of change we could apply to that building block?

I'm not particularly trying to persuade you that this particular expression is our universe (that will come in time - "because CPT" is far more obvious as a compelling argument after you've invested significant effort trying to create a physics that exhibits CPT Symmetry)(Emergency Breath. Insert as required in previous sentence).

It is, as much, an exploration of the idea of 'simplest' and how it has been and can be applied in mathematics and physics.

In particular, even apparently foundational qualities like time and space can be emergent qualities and shouldn't necessarily be assumed to be fundamental in and of themselves.
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If we were to create a universe, what are the simplest possible building blocks that we could use?

Ideas.
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In Quantum Mechanics (QM), an electron is a fundamental particle. (the name 'particle' is a bit of a misnomer, particles in QM are wave functions).

An electron is directly a quantum of the quantum electron field, which field appears to be fundamental.
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If we were to create a universe, what are the simplest possible building blocks that we could use?

The simplest fundamental would have no parts, which is fine, for elementary 'particles' would be rather stable arrangements of it, such as in QFT (Quantum Field Theory).
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What is the simplest possible building block?
Guess #1: A vacuum fluctuation.

What is the simplest possible component of change we could apply to that building block?
Guess #2: To make measurements with – interacting via – (massless) quanta.
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"A mathematical point is a definition of nothing. We can't use 'nothing' as a building block."

The second sentence is granted, but the first sentence is not immediately intelligible. Suggest review Robinson's "h" and reconsider.
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Ideas.

It is possible to consider the entire history of philosophy as an examination of ideas.

I struggle to imagine any scenario in which that history can be boiled down to "the simplest conceivable building block".

I can see ideas being a building block - just not a simplest building block.

Furthermore, there appears to be a wide variety of different ideas. Are you stating all ideas are trivial? or do you have a specific idea in mind as being a foundational starting point?

What do you think makes ideas simple? The lack of a physical component?

An electron is directly a quantum of the quantum electron field, which field appears to be fundamental.

There is some ambiguity in your statement. Are you saying an electron is fundamental, or the quantum electron field?

In either case... Okay. And?

I don't know how to engage with your comment. I don't know if you are just expanding on the idea of fundamental properties in Quantum Mechanics or you are correcting a misapprehension you think I have.

My expectation from philosophy forums is a discussion of ideas. A dialogue.

Your expectation doesn't have to match mine. It just means I'm likely to bug you to expand on your point until I can see something I can engage with.

The simplest fundamental would have no parts, which is fine, for elementary 'particles' would be rather stable arrangements of it, such as in QFT (Quantum Field Theory).

'Nothing' is certainly simple... but it isn't really a building block.

A field is hardly simple. You have an n-dimensional continuous field which can be infinitely sub-divided.

It took Russell hundreds of pages of dense mathematics just to get to 1+1=2. I'd have to look to see if there is any construction for real numbers.

It is true that Euclidean Geometry (and many non-Euclidean counterparts) take a field of some kind as a given.

In this sense, fields are certainly foundational/fundamental to large parts of mathematics and physics.

However, it isn't clear to me that Fundamental == Simple.

I'm not saying you are wrong - I'm saying you will have to do much more than mentioning the idea of fields to persuade me that fields constitute simple, let alone simplest.

Guess #1: A vacuum fluctuation.

What is the simplest possible component of change we could apply to that building block?

Guess #2: To make measurements with – interacting via – (massless) quanta.

This is a good answer. I see where you are coming from. A vacuum fluctuation is among the smallest discrete measurements we can make in physics.

Furthermore, going to direct observations in physics potentially bypasses hidden assumptions in the way we think about things that may lead us to regarding complex concepts as simple.

On the downside, it isn't clear how to use a single interaction as a building block.

To get as far as a single observable interaction, Quantum Mechanics tells us we need a space/field within which that interaction can occur and the interacting components need a mechanism of interaction.

I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm wide open to the idea that an interaction is, itself, a fundamental building block. And that an interaction is potentially very simple.

Under what circumstances could an interaction (Quantum Fluctuation) be simple and constructible?

The second sentence is granted, but the first sentence is not immediately intelligible. Suggest review Robinson's "h" and reconsider.

Sorry, sticking "Robinson's "h"" into google isn't showing results I immediately recognise as relevant.

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What do you think makes ideas simple? The lack of a physical component?

Yes. Why assert there is any mind independent physical stuff? You can't prove it, it's unnecessary to explain reality, and you run into the mind-body problem, which seems insolvable at this point.
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Under what circumstances could an interaction (Quantum Fluctuation) be simple and constructible?
Guess #3: "The Big Bang" (i.e. planck-radius universe).

So you think every entity, including mind, is mind-dependent? (Btw, Spinoza dissolved the MBP with property dualism in the 17th century (Hume did so again with bundle theory a century or so later) and yet Kantian denial (Cartesian dogma) persists in philosophy despite cogent physicalist paradigms and developments in cognitive neurosciences).
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The idea of connections making up everything (like some sort of code that determines what particles are where) is attractive to me because every particle with mass must be made up of others unless mass is a trait like location and could be coded for by these connections. Otherwise you just infinitely divide particles. It’s not a flawless idea, but seems close to the truth to me.
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Do you think the Hard Problem has been solved?
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An electron is directly a quantum of the quantum electron field, which field appears to be fundamental.
— PoeticUniverse

There is some ambiguity in your statement. Are you saying an electron is fundamental, or the quantum electron field?

In either case... Okay. And?

I don't know how to engage with your comment. I don't know if you are just expanding on the idea of fundamental properties in Quantum Mechanics or you are correcting a misapprehension you think I have.

My expectation from philosophy forums is a discussion of ideas. A dialogue.

Your expectation doesn't have to match mine. It just means I'm likely to bug you to expand on your point until I can see something I can engage with.

An electron is temporary, as is all else but the permanent quantum fields. An electron can be annihilated by a positron, but electrons can persist awhile in the right emvironment.
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The simplest fundamental would have no parts, which is fine, for elementary 'particles' would be rather stable arrangements of it, such as in QFT (Quantum Field Theory).
— PoeticUniverse

'Nothing' is certainly simple... but it isn't really a building block.

A field is hardly simple. You have an n-dimensional continuous field which can be infinitely sub-divided.

It took Russell hundreds of pages of dense mathematics just to get to 1+1=2. I'd have to look to see if there is any construction for real numbers.

It is true that Euclidean Geometry (and many non-Euclidean counterparts) take a field of some kind as a given.

In this sense, fields are certainly foundational/fundamental to large parts of mathematics and physics.

However, it isn't clear to me that Fundamental == Simple.

I'm not saying you are wrong - I'm saying you will have to do much more than mentioning the idea of fields to persuade me that fields constitute simple, let alone simplest.

Having no parts is not 'Nothing'. The Fundamental can't have parts because those parts world be more fundamental; thus, the fundamental consists of only itself; it does not get made and it cannot break, so there is no sub-dividing it. For example, a wave would be continuous and have no parts. Waves are also ubiquitous in physical nature. The Fundamental has to be the simplest, by the necessity shown above. We can also see this trend as we look more and more 'downward'
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Do you think the Hard Problem has been solved?
It's a pseudo-problem ...

https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/611954
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Guess #1: A vacuum fluctuation.

Yes, and a 'particle' could pop out, along with virtuals coming and going that didn't make it to a stable quantum energy rung.

A wild guess for why fluctuations happens is that is if 'they try' to be zero/nothing they cannot do it. The so-called zero-point energy is not zero, although it is not a useable energy.
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If we were to create a universe, what are the simplest possible building blocks that we could use?
Just for funsies. Are you thinking of a human building a physical universe from raw materials, or a god creating a dynamic world from scratch? For the human, no single element would ever be sufficient to produce something that is more complex than the original element. A pile of sand is just grains of rock particles, with nothing to hold them together, into a structural system. But concrete is loose sand bound together by a mineral matrix, the binder.

Regarding simplicity, hypothetical Quarks were once postulated as the fundamental particle. But years later, Quarks*1 are now differentiated by a multitude of imaginary "flavors" & "colors". Which would require some even more fundamental element to distinguish them. Technically though, the quark itself, like all other basic particles, is supposed to be an "excitation" (mathematical wave peak) in an energy field. Can you build anything from massless math or a matterless field?

suggested using an "idea". Which in this case could be construed as a Platonic Ideal or an Aristotelian Potential*2. Neither of which has any matter or mass until Actualized into something Real. So, if I was going to "create" a universe, I'd begin with the origin of all creations : the Idea or Design or Concept of the thing. After that, you could search for appropriate materials. :joke:

*1. Quarks: What are they?
Quarks are elementary particles. Like the electron, they are not made up of any other particles. You could say that they are on the ground floor of the Standard Model of particle physics.
https://www.space.com/quarks-explained
The colours red, green, and blue are ascribed to quarks, and their opposites, antired, antigreen, and antiblue, are ascribed to antiquarks. According to QCD, all combinations of quarks must contain mixtures of these imaginary colours that cancel out one another, with the resulting particle having no net colour.
https://www.britannica.com/science/quark

*2. What is pure potentiality Aristotle?
So everything we encounter is composite. In Aristotle's hierarchy of being, pure potentiality (“prime matter”) is at the bottom, pure actuality (Aristotle's God) is at the top. Formed matter (everything else, including our world) is in between.
https://lafavephilosophy.x10host.com/Aristotle_de_anima.html
Note --- Aristotle's "Prime Matter" is more like our modern notion of an invisible Energy Field than tangible Matter.
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Do you think the Hard Problem has been solved?
— RogueAI
It's a pseudo-problem .Scientifically, I think, embodied cognition explains much better the phenomenal subject (e.g. T. Metzinger, R.S. Bakker, A. Damasio, D. Dennett) than phenomenology itself does.

The only problem with that is you have the wrong theorists in mind. 4ea ( embodied, enactive, extended , embedded and affective cognition) is a melding of phenomenology, hermeneutics and cognitive science. I’d hardly call Metzinger and Dennett embodied cognitivists. Try Shaun Gallagher , Francisco Varela , Evan Thompson, Matthew Ratcliffe, Thomas Fuchs, Dan Zahavi , Hanne De Jaegher and Jan Slaby instead.
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Probably the bit (or qbit), right? 1 or 0, nothing more complex. Presumably, you can say everything about any of the other candidates (except perhaps ideas) with bits.
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I had an idea when I was younger. I've found the general ideas of attraction and rejection between objects to be rather mystical. When I've asked, "What is causing the attraction?" the answer has always been, "Something smaller inbetween" like energy.

The only logical smallest object I could imagine could have have attraction or repulsion. Its just an existent mess. No rhyme, no reason, just a mess of whatever it is. Reality is full of them, and they constantly bounce around. But every so often, they bounce in such a way that the 'hook' into each other. Because it has to be a very specific angle, its also incredibly difficult to bounce out. If you get a few things going this way, you generate more appreciable mass.

What was interesting about this was that this would mimic heat. You see, everything vibrates. The higher the vibration, the higher the heat. Higher vibrations would accelerate the loosening of those very small particles, which would fly off. Higher vibrations also mean more chances per second for these small things to hook into other small things next to them, allowing chemical bonds, etc.

Just a fun thought experiment of course.
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:ok: If you say so ...
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Okay. Are all ideas equally simple? Is the idea of an elephant the same as the idea of a line from the perspective of complexity?

The graph presented in the OP consists of nodes and edges. These are mathematical ideas. Do you agree that a network of nodes and edges is a simple idea?

Guess #3: "The Big Bang" (i.e. planck-radius universe).

Your are proposing a self propagating construction in the Big Bang? Some process that caused reality to come into existence from a formless void?

I had in mind something like an existing pile of bricks that is constructed into a shape. You appear to be taking one step further back and proposing the construction of the bricks themselves from nothingness.

That is, I have taken the universe as a given and considered the simplest possible mechanism for the continuation of an already existing system.

You have prompted me to reconsider whether the question of genesis is amenable to some equivalent approach.

Infinite regression

A naive approach to first cause leads to infinite regression with each cause needing some prior cause.

Taking the universe as a given sidesteps the problem of genesis but doesn't really solve it. An eternal (has always existed, will always exist) universe has its own conceptual problems, not least of which is the emergence of entropy.

Anthropic Principles

I am tempted by the Strong Anthropic Principle in which the universe exists in order for us to observe it.

What is the point of a universe that isn't aware of its own existence?

However, I can't immediately see a way to make a testable hypothesis out of this.

Testable

With Simplest possible universes I can build teeny tiny complex systems (universes) and compare their characteristics with our observed universe.

The proposition that our universe can be described by iteration of a direct graph is testable.

The limitation is that I have to exist in order to make those teeny tiny universes and compare them to our observed universe.

I have to take my existence (and the existence of the universe) as a given.

I'm pretty sure this is a hard limitation. But your comments have prompted me to have another consider - and there is a little tickle in my mind that is suggesting such consideration is worth some effort.

The idea of connections making up everything (like some sort of code that determines what particles are where) is attractive to me because every particle with mass must be made up of others unless mass is a trait like location and could be coded for by these connections.

I'm glad I could tickle your brain bone a little. I'm not disagreeing with you - more refining a point I think is relevant:

As noted in the OP, I think that this is the mechanism of our observed universe.

Relevance

We have a direct graph with nodes and edges and Change A.

The closest thing to a dimension in this directed graph is an edge.

Space, time, mass, charge and consciousness are all emergent features of changing nodes and edges (according to me).

Edge as the fundamental unit of the universe

Instead of particles being the fundamental unit, we have the space between as the fundamental unit.

If an interaction is "one rearrangement of edges between nodes" we suddenly find that we don't have to think about what happens between interactions.

There is no space in which particles move. Like frames of a film, a series of interactions can give the impression of continuous movement in space.

Note: In real, genuine, actual physics we observe interactions. We never observe anything between interactions. The notion of particles travelling through space between interactions is entirely theoretical.

Our conception of space is based on trying to understand the sequence of interactions that we observe.

There are explanations of sequences of interactions that exhibit complex behaviour without the need for dimensions, mass, charge, spin or momentum as a priori assumptions.

We don't need to assume space time in order to observe the sequence of interactions that we see.

Having no parts is not 'Nothing'. The Fundamental can't have parts because those parts world be more fundamental; thus, the fundamental consists of only itself;

It looks like we are in agreement here. Yes - a distinctive property of the very simplest thing is that it is indivisible. If it were divisible into component parts it would clearly not be 'simplest'.

I'm a little nervous about conflating 'fundamental' with 'simplest' insofar as an electron is described as a fundamental particle in Quantum Mechanics but is not simplest in regards to being composed of multiple, distinct properties.

It looks like your point regarding the persistence of fields vs electrons is making the same point?

Further discussion of simplest/fundamental

An ocean wave is emergent behaviour of large numbers of 'particles'.

If we cut a human up into smaller and smaller pieces looking for the fundamental unit of humanness we find ourselves with a mess of giblets and rather less essential humanity. Likewise for the fundamental waveness of a wave.

As such I can sort of, vaguely, see an argument that a wave is indivisible.

But, as a matter of practicality, we can divide a wave into component parts. A wave is divisible and hence not fundamental/simplest.

A mathematical point is, I would argue, indivisible. It is not composed of subunits. However, I think that a mathematical point is a complicated way of saying 'nothing'. Having a pile of mathematical points is functionally equivalent to having a pile of nothing.

A set is a container. The only inherent property of a set is that it contains. In principle, a set is independent of physics and not subject to reduction to physical fundamentals. A set is a candidate for simplest/indivisible.

An edge within a directed graph is a link. As with sets, the edges within a graph are supposed to be independent of specific physics.

Agree/Disagree

Having no parts is not 'Nothing'. The Fundamental can't have parts because those parts world be more fundamental; thus, the fundamental consists of only itself; it does not get made and it cannot break, so there is no sub-dividing it. For example, a wave would be continuous and have no parts. Waves are also ubiquitous in physical nature. The Fundamental has to be the simplest, by the necessity shown above. We can also see this trend as we look more and more 'downward'

I agree wholeheartedly.

An electron is temporary, as is all else but the permanent quantum fields. An electron can be annihilated by a positron, but electrons can persist awhile in the right emvironment.

The Real Number line is a typical representation of the mathematical concept of field. This field can be divided into the individual real numbers. This does not seem to fit our definition of simplest.

Just for funsies. Are you thinking of a human building a physical universe from raw materials, or a god creating a dynamic world from scratch?

As noted earlier, somewhere, I find myself constrained such that I require my own existence as a pre-requisite for... pretty much everything. At the moment I have no conception of how I would create myself and a universe out of sheer void. I have to take the existence of a universe as a given and work from there.

But concrete is loose sand bound together by a mineral matrix, the binder.

Well... funnily enough. Given the binder, it is sufficient by itself.

The little revolution I'm trying to foster is regarding the necessity of the bits between structure.

A network of relationships doesn't require us to define what the relationships are binding. The structure of the relationships is enough by itself.

Pursuit of knowledge: scenario 1

We wish to understand, say, consciousness. We want to drill down to the very core of what consciousness is to arrive at the heart of the conception.

As with when I was chopping up people earlier in this thread, we find that chopping up concepts into their component pieces tends to leave us with a messy pile and no sign of the original concept.

The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Going all Sweeney Todd on concepts to find their essence is just murder. Philosophy finds itself chasing its own tail because a reductive approach to knowledge just lead to corpses.

Scenario 2

Concepts are defined by what they are not.

The significance of the Integer 1 is its distinction from the Integer 2 (and 3, 4, apple, infinity,...)

To fully understand consciousness, we need to fully understand everything that is not consciousness.

Everything is a single connected whole and each piece is an aspect of the whole.

Yes - hippy dippy "everything is one" except seriously.

Your experiences are part of your existence. If you try to consider your existence in isolation from your experiences you are liable to find you don't exist anymore.

In order to argue, you first need to exist. Every argument you engage in requires your existence. If you try to divorce the process of argument from your existence your argument ceases to exist.

That is circular

"If each idea is defined by every other idea, then reasoning is circular; there is no starting point."

Yes.

We are living inside a closed system. When you point to something it is one piece of universe pointing at another piece of universe.

When you describe something you are using one piece of universe to relay information about another piece of universe. Your concepts of the universe all derive from the universe.

Physics is literally describing the behaviour of the universe in terms of the behaviour of the universe.

Not Nihilism

Understanding the relationships between things is knowledge.

The relationship between the integers 1 and 2 is our understanding of those integers.

Context matters

Everyone knows that context matters.

Dial that up to 11 and keep going.

Context is everything. Without context there is nothing.

This isn't new territory.

Probably the bit (or qbit), right? 1 or 0, nothing more complex. Presumably, you can say everything about any of the other candidates (except perhaps ideas) with bits.

Reasonable answer - but I'm going to disagree.

In order to build a computer, the bits have to have specific relationships. There has to be structure between individual bits.

So while bits are notionally simple, by the time you can build anything with them you have stealth included some assumed structure. The bits+structure is less than trivial (simplest).

There is still the potential for a very simple system - but without an explicit statement of the structure, I'm inclined to think you are hiding more complexity than you realise within your implicit assumptions.

If I may impart my own spin to your thoughts...

I think your scepticism is/was well placed.

Physics faces the same problem as philosophers:

What caused the first cause.

Physics as a statement of observations is fine: "If we do x we observe y".

Physics as an explanation is less founded than Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. At least Tolkien understood what an allegory was.

Saying the Higgs boson did it isn't an explanation when you don't understand why the Higgs boson does it. As explanations go it is no different to saying God did it. It doesn't explain. It is a null statement.

It isn't clear to me that individual physicists understand that physics cannot explain observation - only describe it. I fear the myth of physics as explanation is near universal.

"This is what we observe" is in no way equivalent to "this is why we observe...."
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If an electron is 'composed' of position, momentum, spin, charge and mass; aren't these properties more fundamental than the electron?
Can properties (e.g. position, momentum, spin, charge, mass...) exist independently of objects that have them (i.e. is a property a particular, or is a property necessarily an attribute of a particular?)

Regarding a simple universe: a single particular. Depending on one's preferred ontology, could be:
- a property (existing independently)
- an object with zero properties
- an object with exactly one property (if particulars necessarily have at least one property).
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But concrete is loose sand bound together by a mineral matrix, the binder. — Gnomon
Well... funnily enough. Given the binder, it is sufficient by itself.
The little revolution I'm trying to foster is regarding the necessity of the bits between structure.
A network of relationships doesn't require us to define what the relationships are binding. The structure of the relationships is enough by itself.
I Googled the phrase "network of relationships" and found it most often applied to social relations between humans. But, on a universal or sub-atomic scale, the term might also refer to Positive & Negative interactions, or Attractive & Repellent behaviors, or Back & Forth exchanges of Energy. In every instance I could think of, relationships are not physical things, but as-if mental images, where the invisible bonds are imagined, not seen. Causal Energy/Force is invisible & intangible, so only its after-effects are detectable by human senses.

Since relationships are attributed to systems, not observed, they seem to be meta-physical (mental) instead of physical (material). Attributes are imaginary qualities, not physical objects. Attributes are attempts to explain Causal relationships between things. So, the answer to "what the relationships are binding" could be just about anything. And "the bits between structure" are Ideal, not Real. For example, a structural engineer analyzes the "structure" of a building by omitting all the steel & concrete, in order to "see" the invisible lines of force that bind the building together, or tear it apart. The binding "bits" are causes, such as Energy & Force, that offset (neutralize) each other to make the system stable. The forces are "given" but the binding beams & columns must be artificially assembled to produce a "sufficient" structure.

The building blocks of the natural universe are Matter & Energy. But we understand that structure by imagining and attributing a mathematical/logical Matrix of interrelationships that is invisible to the naked eye. For humans, Mind & Matter are an interrelated indivisible system such that we humans can't have one without the other. :smile:

STRUCTURAL DIAGRAM :
Blue arrows represent invisible lines of natural force, such as gravity. The red arrows represent artificial beams & columns to resist the forces that would otherwise destroy the building. And the black lines represent the man-made parts that are constructed to resist those forces. Together, the forces & frames bind into an interrelated system that we call a Structure.
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"This is what we observe" is in no way equivalent to "this is why we observe...."

The ‘why’ is bound up with the qualitative structure of the theory which explains and organizes the observation. As one theoretical explanation is overthrown for another, the ‘why’ changes along with it.
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Reasonable answer - but I'm going to disagree.

In order to build a computer, the bits have to have specific relationships. There has to be structure between individual bits.

So while bits are notionally simple, by the time you can build anything with them you have stealth included some assumed structure. The bits+structure is less than trivial (simplest).

There is still the potential for a very simple system - but without an explicit statement of the structure, I'm inclined to think you are hiding more complexity than you realise within your implicit assumptions.

I'm sympathetic to your objection. Information is inherently relational, and so of course, for bits to be the building block of even the simplest "toy universe," they must exist in some sort of relationship to one another. A 1 can only be distinguished from a 0 against some background that lies outside that individual bit itself. I think that, properly understood, information theoretic understandings of physics and metaphysics are anti-reductive, since context defines what a thing is, rather than vice versa.

So I guess it comes down to what you mean by "building block." If you take a substance metaphysics-based approach where the properties of building blocks must inhere in their constituent makeup, then the bit isn't going to work. But in a process/relational view, where a thing "is what it does," the bit seems to work fine as a "building block" in that there does seem to be some fundemental level of ontological difference (reducible to 1 or 0 if it is quantifiable at all) underlying any and all more complex structures. Perhaps "building block" is the wrong way to look at it here though. In a certain sense, I think the "entire context" matters for fully defining constituent "parts" role in any universe, and this might preclude things' being "building blocks" at all in the normal sense.
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Regarding a simple universe: a single particular. Depending on one's preferred ontology, could be:
- a property (existing independently)
- an object with zero properties
- an object with exactly one property (if particulars necessarily have at least one property).

If I were writing a computer program to create my universe; each property would be assigned to an independent variable.

This suggests to me that a particle with multiple properties is not indivisibly simple.

As to individual properties - I think we can create a further hierarchy of simplicity among properties corresponding to information content.

A property that can only have two states seems simpler to me than one which has an infinite number of continuous states (binary is simpler than the set of real numbers).

As to your table of possibilities you are implying that a property is distinguishable from an object.

I'm inclined to re-write your table as:

- a property (existing independently)
- a property with zero properties
- a property with exactly one property (if particulars necessarily have at least one property).

which in turn seems to simplify to:

- a property (existing independently)

Which then just leaves the question of whether a property, by itself, is sufficient to construct complexity.

My solution to this is an edge within a directed graph.

In every instance I could think of, relationships are not physical things, but as-if mental images, where the invisible bonds are imagined, not seen. Causal Energy/Force is invisible & intangible, so only its after-effects are detectable by human senses.

This is interesting. In contrast, I think the only things we ever experience are relationships (or possibly interactions which are the same thing with a different label).

From a physics perspective, the only things we ever measure are interactions. We don't see particles moving through space. We don't see particles at all.

An electron is a hypothetical particle intended to explain the specific sequence of interactions that we observe. No-one has ever seen an electron. No-one has ever seen a particle move.

What we measure are sequences of individual interactions.

Mass, momentum, charge, spin, colour are all hypothetical constructs used to describe the sequences of interactions we observe.

The idea that particles travel through space is just an idea.

A theory that had no space-time, no particles; but explained the sequence of interactions as well as Quantum Mechanics does would be exactly as real as QM.

From a mathematics perspective, there are infinitely many formulations that are equivalent to Quantum Mechanics.

A physics theory needs to explain our observations. We don't observe anything between interactions.

I'd like to get into what we can and can't describe. In the meantime I'm hoping the above diatribe gives you some insight into why I don't immediately accept your distinction between ideal, real, structure and substance.

The ‘why’ is bound up with the qualitative structure of the theory which explains and organizes the observation. As one theoretical explanation is overthrown for another, the ‘why’ changes along with it.

Except that can't be correct.

"Because I said so." "Because God decreed it." "Because it does."

Physics runs into the same infinite recursion as asking what caused the universe. At each stage there is still the question "what caused that cause?".

If we propose that God caused the universe, we haven't moved the territory. What caused God/universe? Is God/universe eternal?

"The Higgs boson does it." What causes the Higgs boson to do it? "The quantum Field." What causes the Quantum Field?

Physics (and any other discipline) is incapable of addressing the fundamental why. Any suggestion to the contrary is smoke and mirrors.

Your perception that a physics theory addresses the why is a mistake. A very common, widely believed mistake, but a mistake nevertheless.

Quantum Mechanics (QM) works because it works. There is no reason behind QM. Given enough observations you will arrive at a statistically accurate summation of those observations.

The entire field of Quantum Mechanics is nothing more than a Large Language Model fed with a data set of observations.

Don't get me (entirely) wrong. It has taken heroic efforts to make better and better observations. We have some phenomenally precise and accurate statements of observation (albeit massively overcomplicated by needless assumptions).

I think that, properly understood, information theoretic understandings of physics and metaphysics are anti-reductive, since context defines what a thing is, rather than vice versa.

Music to my ears.

We seem to be on the same page here.

In a certain sense, I think the "entire context" matters for fully defining constituent "parts" role in any universe, and this might preclude things' being "building blocks" at all in the normal sense.

I could kiss you on the lips (or some other hyperbolic expression of affection for your ideas).

Your comment indicates to me that you have a significant understanding of what it means for the universe to be a single, connected (indivisible) entity with each part being an aspect of the whole.

I find myself mildly discombobulated. Like the dog who caught the car - I'm not sure what to do with such significant agreement. (not entirely true - but I do want to put some thought into it and I'd like to get this post out).

I'll be back.
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The ‘why’ is bound up with the qualitative structure of the theory which explains and organizes the observation. As one theoretical explanation is overthrown for another, the ‘why’ changes along with it.
— Joshs

Except that can't be correct.

"Because I said so." "Because God decreed it." "Because it does."

Physics runs into the same infinite recursion as asking what caused the universe. At each stage there is still the question "what caused that cause?".

The model of mechanical causation may not be the best way to understand the historical development of scientific theories. Efficient cause is itself a theoretical perspective, one which only emerged at a particular point in the history of science and has undergone numerous modifications. It was developed for , and is most useful for dealing with the behavior of non-living phenomena, but runs into trouble when we try to explain living systems this way. Over the course of your life you have likely formed and changed overarching perspectives or worldviews a number of times. Do you want to understand each new perspective as caused by the previous in the way the behavior of billiards balls are caused by each other, or is there a more useful way of understanding the development of ideas in persons and cultures? Complex dynamical systems theory is one alternative to linear causation that can be applied to ‘why’ questions without the risk of infinite regress. Since they function via the principles of non-linearity, they dont run into the problems of linear causation models. Put simply, in a dynamical system, the effect is not the mere product of a pre-assigned cause, but modifies the cause. Cause and effect are reciprocally affected by each other.

As chatgpt says

Complex dynamical systems exhibit nonlinear effects and a type of causality called causal spread, which is different from efficient causality. The interactions and connectivity required for complex systems to self-organize are best understood through context-sensitive constraints
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If an electron is 'composed' of position, momentum, spin, charge and mass; aren't these properties more fundamental than the electron?

They're properties of the electron. Position, momentum, etc. are how we talk about the electron. A property isn't a constituent part or component of an electron or anything else.

What is more fundamental than electrons are quantum fields. I am very far from being knowledgeable in physics, but I do watch YouTube videos. That counts for some kind of knowledge these days.

A particle: be it an electron, a quark, a gluon, whatever; is nothing more than an excitation in a quantum field. Imagine space filled with the fluctuations of the quantum field. If there's a region where the fluctuations are highly concentrated, that's where we see a particle. And out of all that, all the rest of the stuff that the particles make.

So we're all just fluctuating vibrations in the quantum field.

This is my understanding of fundamental physics these days. Particles are excitations in the quantum field.

From Wiki:

QFT treats particles as excited states (also called quantum levels) of their underlying quantum fields, which are more fundamental than the particles. — Wiki

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_field_theory
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What is the simplest possible building block? What is the simplest possible component of change we could apply to that building block?

An electron is not composed of other particles. ... If an electron is 'composed' of position, momentum, spin, charge and mass; aren't these properties more fundamental than the electron?

Well an electron is an emergent composite and not fundamentally simple in some reductionist/atomistic sense. It exists as the result of a chain of symmetry-breaking events that leave it as a particle that has indeed hit its lowest possible mass state, so exists"fundamentally" as it can't decay further, while also representing the specific world-building property of "a negative charge". It has a property that is cosmically meaningful because it can stand in relation with its partner-in-crime, the proton.

So to think about it in a holistic, structural, emergent, evolutionary, thermodynamic and systems sense, the Big Bang is a cosmic dissipative structure that organises itself to dispose of its entropy by expanding and cooling. It undergoes a whole series of phase changes – like steam to water to ice – as it globally restructures in ways that minimise its entropy. Like a cooling iron bar, it can suddenly lock in a global field that creates an emergent state which then has its own second-order excitations or "particles" doing their own second-order entropic thing.

An electron is what you get left with at this stage of the Universe when it has cooled and expanded to almost zero in energy density and almost unbound in effective distance scale. A baked-in defect like you find topologically trapped in a crystal.

To exist as the distinct and fundamental thing it is, an electron had to be produced by the Higgs symmetry breaking. Before the temperature of the Universe fell to the 160 GeV range, electrons were chirally broken, left and right, Weyl particles. Gaining mass from the Higgs field glued the two halves together to make a whole electron – turn it into a Dirac particle, along with creating electromagnetism with its photons as part of the whole reorganisation of the cosmic topological order.

This only got us as far as a hot soup of electrons and positrons though. A stew of matter and antimatter creation and annihilation which lacked any great particularity of the kind we would associate with "a particle". Location and momentum were just an averaged blur within the general thermal confusion of a charged plasma, not really anything individual.

But more symmetry breaking saw a slight excess of electrons (as the negatively charged matter particle) being left over and positrons (as the positively charged antimatter) being eliminated from the cosmic topological order (being wasted to hot photons that made up the fast-fading CMB radiation background).

So we have this fundamental kind of thing that we call "electron-ness" which only emerges as everything else gets more crisply and counterfactually suppressed. The Weyl left-right difference has to be welded together to create a Dirac particle which is now divided at the higher topological level of being a matter or antimatter particle. Then the electron must outlive the positron to create a general negative charge difference – the one that the proton on its own symmetry breaking story is heading towards to become the positively charged “fundamental particle” that is its counterpart in turning the Universe into a realm dominated by electromagnetic radiation as its most visible thermalising characteristic.

Even when we get to electrons as the negative charge stamped out as material form, we still have to have it decay through its three mass generations – taus, muons, then electrons – to arrive at the thermal bottom rung simplicity of a particle that can decay no further ... at least not until black holes eventually sweep up all mass particles and themselves evaporate to leave an empty Heat Death void.

So the holistic or structural take on this is that we have the general thing of a heat sink cosmos winding its way down its entropic gradient. That is the fundamental relation, the fundamental thermal context. Then as it cools, it also goes through major phase changes that each throw up the local topological features – the excitations that obey the symmetries – which characterise that stage of organisation.

The reason the rather mixed and complex brew of radiation, electrons and protons seems such a "fundamental" state of order is that these indeed proved to be a suitable ground for the nuclear chemistry of atoms, the atomic chemistry of materials science, the material chemistry of biological life, etc.

By comparison to the lifetimes of stars, planets, mountain ranges and haircuts, photons, electrons and protons do fit the ontological bill of "atomistic materials existing in an acausal, large and frigid, cosmic void".

But photons, electrons and protons are all topologically composite particles that happened to land in a place where they formed an electromagnetic level of entropic organisation. They are only fundamental to the degree they are Platonically inevitable mathematical structure – a place a cooling cosmos had to arrive at because thermodynamics can't avoid being self-organised by the maths of its own symmetry breaking.

A ton of other "particle stories" also condensed out of the Big Bang, but add so little further to the complexity and wonder of nature that even if they contribute much more actual entropification to the total dissipation budget, we don't think of them as being "fundamental" it the same way. They don't carve a history of individuated and counterfactual events. Stuff like the CMB, dark matter, dark energy, blackhole evaporation, are just background stuff to us, given our very human concerns when it comes to metaphysical story telling.

So in summary, our very notion of "fundamental" is rather screwed by our natural psychological prejudices. But physics does tell us about dissipative structure, topological order, gauge symmetry and all the stuff we need to be able to see through to what is really going on. The Universe is a heat sink rattling through a series of phase changes on the way to its eventual heat death. The present moment is an especially complexified mid-stage with its stars, planets and life.

But even that accounts for a few percent – a round-up error – in the matter budget of the Cosmos. And if we include all that exists, then black holes are already the dominant "particles of being" and themselves on the way to be shown the door as they are swept up and exported over the cosmic event horizon, leaving a pure void near absolute zero apart from the faintest rustle of dark energy blackbody radiation – the least interesting fluctuations possible in the most empty spacetime possible.

Given your interest in nodes and edges, or information-centric, accounts of all this, this is a way of telling the thermodynamic story using a topological mathematics. There is a reason to think this way for the practical purpose of modelling.

But then you have to dig into the logical atomism being built into the models to be able to step back to the larger metaphysics you might want to frame. Atomism succeeds by simplifying – by severing the immediate from its evolutionary history and self-organising tendencies.

Reality is a fabric of relations. But the simplicity of nodes and edges is the constructive simplicity that emerges from self-constraint. It is what you get – like photons, electrons and protons clattering about in an electromagnetic void – when a heck of a lot of other possibility has been cut away to leave only that as the material stuff you want explained.

The deeper question becomes how does causality and logical counterfactuality even arise as something so apparently simple and inevitable? That is the where systems thinking and other forms of holistic metaphysics comes in.
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I think it’s safe to say, that whatever the fundamental substratum is, it doesn’t consist of things.
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↪Gnomon
I'd like to get into what we can and can't describe. In the meantime I'm hoping the above diatribe gives you some insight into why I don't immediately accept your distinction between ideal, real, structure and substance.
My personal worldview is ultimately Holistic and Monistic. But when we begin to "describe" the world, in language or math, it is necessary to make "distinctions". Reductive Science is all about naming & knowing particular things. But Holistic Philosophy is about wisdom & understanding of All things. Structure is interrelationships between things that bind them into a knowable Whole. Substance is the indivisible essence of a thing, which makes it a knowable concept. Real is what we interact with physically, Ideal is what we imagine metaphysically. :smile:

Tao Te Ching :
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
. . . . Naming is the origin of all particular things.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laozi

"A network of relationships doesn't require us to define what the relationships are binding. The structure of the relationships is enough by itself."
___ Treatid
The world, without definitions, is a white-out fog. We understand the world scientifically by drawing distinctions between things. Philosophy attempts the put things back together --- to reassemble the analyzed relationships --- in order to grok the Whole system.
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