A Completely New Physics?

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
Hi,

Sounds crazy right? Not according to researchers at Columbia University.

Recently i read that researchers at Columbia University used artificial intelligence (AI) to find new solution variables for old classical mechanics problems like a dual pendulum. Normally these would be modeled using a set of state variables that anyone that does this kind of analysis would recognize in a second and understand what each and every state variable represented in the physical system.
Using AI they claim that by letting the system look for it's own ways of doing the analysis, it came up with a set of variables that has nothing to do with what we normally think of when we do this kind of thing. They say that the variables they came up with they cant understand because it makes no sense physically, yet the new system comes up with the right results.

This they claim shows that they found a completely new physics.
Check it out yourself and see what you think.

https://www.engineering.columbia.edu/news/lipson-chen-ai-alternative-physics
 

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
30,122
It would seem to point out that there is apparently more than one (unknown) way to describe physics, other than the mathematical approach we have used.
It's said that mathematics is the language of science, but perhaps there's more than one dialect.
Or perhaps something other than mathematics?
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
It would seem to point out that there is apparently more than one (unknown) way to describe physics, other than the mathematical approach we have used.
It's said that mathematics is the language of science, but perhaps there's more than one dialect.
Or perhaps something other than mathematics?
Hi,

Yeah i guess so i am going to have to wait to find out i guess.
My first guess was that maybe they were mixed state variables but then again these people arent dummies they would have most likely spotted something like that already.

Cant wait to find out more about this though.


Here's something i think is interesting to think about...
When we think about new things like this i always think about the history of physics and Newton and this guy was definitely no dummy by any standard. No dummy, no dummy by any standard.

Now imagine if we had two magnets, maybe one smaller with less attractive strength than the other or something.
When we brought them together we found that they stuck together and the closer they got to each other the stronger they attracted each other. Then we exclaim, "Oh ok so they are sticking together because of the acceleration of magnetism!".
That's sort of the equivalent of what Newton did but it seemed very plausible and of course worked out mathematically to a certain degree for ALMOST everything, and he was no idiot.
I always like to think about Newton and the way things changed when Einstein came onto the scene. It wasnt just a new formula, it was an entirely new way of looking at gravity (as well as other things).
So who or what group is going to be the next Einstein and what is to come.
Did AI really stumble onto something new? It will be cool to find out it did.
 

xox

Joined Sep 8, 2017
697
Hi,

Sounds crazy right? Not according to researchers at Columbia University.

Recently i read that researchers at Columbia University used artificial intelligence (AI) to find new solution variables for old classical mechanics problems like a dual pendulum. Normally these would be modeled using a set of state variables that anyone that does this kind of analysis would recognize in a second and understand what each and every state variable represented in the physical system.
Using AI they claim that by letting the system look for it's own ways of doing the analysis, it came up with a set of variables that has nothing to do with what we normally think of when we do this kind of thing. They say that the variables they came up with they cant understand because it makes no sense physically, yet the new system comes up with the right results.

This they claim shows that they found a completely new physics.
Check it out yourself and see what you think.

https://www.engineering.columbia.edu/news/lipson-chen-ai-alternative-physics
It isn't really so surprising that this AI was able to came up with some alternative formulation of physics. Just about every structure in mathematics is "embedded in" some other structure. That is why it is possible to calculate things in such different ways.

You can for example manipulate the points on an elliptic curve using basic algebra OR you can reduce the problem to finite field arithmetic ie. modulo some prime. There are many other examples as well. Quaternion maths vs. matrices. The list goes on and on.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
9,991
Because the AI will only look for patterns with no understanding it's likely derived a system of geometric epicycles to minimize the information needed to predict patterns. Using only celestial observations with little or no understanding of the physics involved, accurate descriptions of future movements could be made with the "circle moving on another circle". Modern Newtonian classical physics with the usage on calculus is far more accurate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferent_and_epicycle
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
5,251
I remember hearing about epicycles early in my physics studies and thinking how silly it was. I wasn’t until I was long out if school that it dawned on me that they are equivalent to Fourier series, and thus can describe any repetitive function as accurately as you want by having enough of them.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
I remember hearing about epicycles early in my physics studies and thinking how silly it was. I wasn’t until I was long out if school that it dawned on me that they are equivalent to Fourier series, and thus can describe any repetitive function as accurately as you want by having enough of them.
Hi,

Oh that's interesting that you brought that alternate view up because i remember hearing about "existence functions" and that was equivalent to the Fourier math.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
It isn't really so surprising that this AI was able to came up with some alternative formulation of physics. Just about every structure in mathematics is "embedded in" some other structure. That is why it is possible to calculate things in such different ways.

You can for example manipulate the points on an elliptic curve using basic algebra OR you can reduce the problem to finite field arithmetic ie. modulo some prime. There are many other examples as well. Quaternion maths vs. matrices. The list goes on and on.
Hi,

Yes well i already gave an example with the reference to state variables
But i also included the fact that these guys are no dummies and they would have probably thought of that already. I get that idea from any other reasonable math comparison because they stated that they couldnt make sense of it. Do you really think that they are that ignorant? I guess maybe it depends on their entire combined background education and experience but again i guess we will have to wait it out :)
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,036
This is very long, and has some apparently tangential content, but for me it is all connected which is why I wrote it. To avoid requiring one to read the whole thing (please do if you'd like, I would be happy if you did) there is the TL;DR

Popular announcements of radical breakthroughs in established fields almost always get more enthusiasm than they, in the fullness of time, prove to deserve. I expect a fade to black on this, or possibly even a retraction or a trivial explanation by someone with a clue, the pattern I have grown to trust over the years.
Please read on if my sort of verbal avalanche is of interest to you. —Ya'akov

It has been my experience, which I find applicable here, that an announcement of a radical new /physics|math|chemistry/ is led off with a lot of noise with only a little signal, followed by radio silence. Sometimes, it is followed by a retraction.

I have to say, I can recall no time when it was followed by a radical change in its referent. At best, it added a useful tool or approach that made incremental change to our ability to understand and usefully manipulate the material world.

So, skepticism is the order of the day for me. And, in my younger days the possibility of something being a radical breakthrough was exciting and lead me off on all sorts of mental tangents but I find in my latter days I am not so stimulated by the idea that all of the work of some branch of science my be radically realigned by a few researchers and a speculative experiment.

I grew up expecting a "space age". It was definitely coming, with Apollo leading the way. Rocket mail for transcontinental delivery was just a few years away, and space tourism would be something I could do. It never happened. It quietly vaporized into not-talked-about.

But it is some sort of lesson that what we did get was something that very few people were talking about at all, and far more transformative than a space age could have been. The forces converged and gave us the information age and boy did that change the world.

Then another miss for most (but not all, there were lonely voices shouting into the emptiness) was the importance and emergence of the ubiquitous wireless network. The amazing folks at Xerox PARC had an inkling, even including the critical handheld device in their ubiquitous computing concept.

So, what does this tangent have to do with anything? Just this: it is my experience, which I have grown to trust, that it is not one thing but the confluence of many that make globally radical changes to our lives in such a way that we don't even notice. (see pocketable high speed network connected supercomputers with high definition displays and cameras, and satellite navigation systems accurate to a few meters that we somehow still call "phones").

The combination of technologies that were needed for the life-changing pieces of civilization we take for granted today is beyond almost anyone's prognostication. We get Elon Musk's "vision", but I think he's just looking at his bank account and social media clout, not our future.

And, we get things like this. Will AI play a role in the future aggregation of parts that will make evolutionary changes the way the parts of the mobile "phone" did? I expect so, it seems very important. Is a single test of AI's ability to so something that may well be just isomorphic and no more insightful than our own efforts in physics be the key thing? I really doubt it.

Particularly because the people that set the AI onto the physics do not, themselves, understand what the AI is doing to make predictions. There is no way to know if there is a fundamental difference or just a shifted point of view that involves new relationships—possibly quite useful analytical pathways—but not the dawn of an inflection point for our understanding of the universe.

[EDITED: typo repair]
 
Last edited:

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
5,251
Hey, @ya`akov,

I read your TL;DR. and I am pretty much in agreement.

I graduated with a B.S in physics in 1973. It is astounding how little has changed in fundamental physics since then.

When I was in school, Gell-Mann’s theory of quarks was fairly new. Gauge invariance and renormalization had recently resulted in the standard model and prediction of the Higgs boson, and string theory was the new kid on the block. A prof at my school (U. of Md) was doing the first gravitational wave experiments. It was an exciting time.

The major open questions at the time were the nature of dark matter and how QM and general relativity could be reconciled.

Your post started me thinking about what has changed since then. The only thing I could think of that really affects fundamental physics is the observation that the rate of expansion of universe is increasing.

There have been many confirmations of the known theory. String theory has gone through revolution after revolution and still is unable to model the universe and make new predictions. But no fundamental theory has changed in any significant way in these 50 years.

And what are the major questions now? Pretty much the same as they were then.

Just to make sure I was not missing anything, I found this list on Wikipedia.

Timeline of physics discoveries
And I found nothing in it to add.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
This is very long, and has some apparently tangential content, but for me it is all connected which is why I wrote it. To avoid requiring one to read the whole thing (please do if you'd like, I would be happy if you did) there is the TL;DR



Please read on if my sort of verbal avalanche is of interest to you. —Ya'akov


It has been my experience, which I find applicable here, that an announcement of a radical new /physics|math|chemistry/ is led off with a lot of noise with only a little signal, followed by radio silence. Sometimes, it is followed by a retraction.

I have to say, I can recall no time when it was followed by a radical change in its referent. At best, it added a useful tool or approach that made incremental change to our ability to understand and usefully manipulate the material world.

So, skepticism is the order of the day for me. And, in my younger days the possibility of something being a radical breakthrough was exciting and lead me off on all sorts of mental tangents but I find in my latter days I am not so stimulated by the idea that all of the work of some branch of science my be radically realigned by a few researchers and a speculative experiment.

I grew up expecting a "space age". It was definitely coming, with Apollo leading the way. Rocket mail for transcontinental delivery was just a few years away, and space tourism would be something I could do. It never happened. It quietly vaporized into not-talked-about.

But it is some sort of lesson that what we did get was something that very few people were talking about at all, and far more transformative than a space age could have been. The forces converged and gave us the information age and boy did that change the world.

Then another miss for most (but not all, there were lonely voices shouting into the emptiness) was the importance and emergence of the ubiquitous wireless network. The amazing folks at Xerox PARC had an inkling, even including the critical handheld device in their ubiquitous computing concept.

So, what does this tangent have to do with anything? Just this: it is my experience, which I have grown to trust, that it is not one thing but the confluence of many that make globally radical changes to our lives in such a way that we don't even notice. (see pocketable high speed network connected supercomputers with high definition displays and cameras, and satellite navigation systems accurate to a few meters that we somehow still call "phones").

The combination of technologies that were needed for the life-changing pieces of civilization we take for granted today is beyond almost anyone's prognostication. We get Elon Musk's "vision", but I think he's just looking at his bank account and social media clout, not our future.

And, we get things like this. Will AI play a role in the future aggregation of parts that will make evolutionary changes the way the parts of the mobile "phone" did? I expect so, it seems very important. Is a single test of AI's ability to so something that may well be just isomorphic and no more insightful than our own efforts in physics be the key thing? I really doubt it.

Particularly because the people that set the AI onto the physics do not, themselves, understand what the AI is doing to make predictions. There is no way to know if there is a fundamental difference or just a shifted point of view that involves new relationships—possibly quite useful analytical pathways—but not the dawn of an inflection point for our understanding of the universe.

[EDITED: typo repair]
Hi Yaakov,

Very well put and i think that would put a damper on all of our enthusiasms and put life back in its usually boring place :)

Yeah i guess sometimes we forget that quick op ed's often amount to no more than a hill of under cooked beans.
So again we play the waiting game,
"Is it soup yet?" :)
"Where's the beef?" ha ha

In 1964 at the New York World's Fair one of the new inventions was predicted to be video telephones (not necessarily wireless like we have today but instead wired). It took so many years for this to be as common as they touted back then. Even now there are still problems that come up and nobody seems to know how to fix them. So although it's somewhat common now, it took many years to get here.
I also read about the Wankel engine and it took many years for that to appear in any automobile.

Some things happen other things dont. Waiting is the key for today i guess. None of us can actually predict the future and so far nobody came to Hawkings past future birthday party, at least that we know of.

Again that was very well written rather enjoyable to read.
 

xox

Joined Sep 8, 2017
697
Yes well i already gave an example with the reference to state variables

But i also included the fact that these guys are no dummies and they would have probably thought of that already. I get that idea from any other reasonable math comparison because they stated that they couldnt make sense of it. Do you really think that they are that ignorant? I guess maybe it depends on their entire combined background education and experience but again i guess we will have to wait it out :)
I find it quite interesting work actually. And who knows maybe one day those kinds of techniques will someday prove useful for discovering new mechanics. At this point however the results do seem rather inconclusive (which the authors readily admit themselves).

At the end of the day, the more we learn the better. So no harm in that...
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
I find it quite interesting work actually. And who knows maybe one day those kinds of techniques will someday prove useful for discovering new mechanics. At this point however the results do seem rather inconclusive (which the authors readily admit themselves).

At the end of the day, the more we learn the better. So no harm in that...
Hi,

Yeah, and we dont want to forget that AI holds many possibilities if we can get to the best implementation. Imagine if we had an AI machine that could hold the combined knowledge of all the scientists in the world today (including physics and all other branches including human behavior science) and could have some way of 'thinking' in a manner similar to how we think, and at the same time have super fast processing. Who knows what it would be able to come up with.
Maybe it would deduce that any civilization is really doomed to extinction by its own hands, and thus come to a halt.
Im sure before that though i bet new medicines and procedures would come out of it, and that could happen without any alternate physics.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,036
Hi Yaakov,

Very well put and i think that would put a damper on all of our enthusiasms and put life back in its usually boring place :)

Yeah i guess sometimes we forget that quick op ed's often amount to no more than a hill of under cooked beans.
So again we play the waiting game,
"Is it soup yet?" :)
"Where's the beef?" ha ha

In 1964 at the New York World's Fair one of the new inventions was predicted to be video telephones (not necessarily wireless like we have today but instead wired). It took so many years for this to be as common as they touted back then. Even now there are still problems that come up and nobody seems to know how to fix them. So although it's somewhat common now, it took many years to get here.
I also read about the Wankel engine and it took many years for that to appear in any automobile.

Some things happen other things dont. Waiting is the key for today i guess. None of us can actually predict the future and so far nobody came to Hawkings past future birthday party, at least that we know of.

Again that was very well written rather enjoyable to read.
I attended that fair, though only as a toddler. I know the exact video phones you refer to and actually got to use the prototype a the Franklin Institute in Philly, then again later at the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel.

You often say, "we don't know what's coming", and that's true. But those phones show the nature of the problem. The engineers had an idea that was very hard to implement, and they could never have imagined the incredible pervasive data network and ultra powerful computing devices which led to practical "picture phones".

I believe the singular breakthrough is misleading, it is the tip on an iceberg we can't see. Everything we adopt in sufficient numbers is an effect of global forces but then, itself, becomes a cause. Like a fish not wondering the water a thing in its environment, we swim in a sea of technological enablement and note only the bits that form on top, until they, too become background.

If I observe the chain of events that lead to "breakthroughs", and consider how often in history those sudden innovations have been independently arrived at in many places, I feel it is the collective effort to add to the technical foundation bit by bit that is so much more impressive than someone noticing there is a new possibility on account of it.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
I attended that fair, though only as a toddler. I know the exact video phones you refer to and actually got to use the prototype a the Franklin Institute in Philly, then again later at the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel.

You often say, "we don't know what's coming", and that's true. But those phones show the nature of the problem. The engineers had an idea that was very hard to implement, and they could never have imagined the incredible pervasive data network and ultra powerful computing devices which led to practical "picture phones".

I believe the singular breakthrough is misleading, it is the tip on an iceberg we can't see. Everything we adopt in sufficient numbers is an effect of global forces but then, itself, becomes a cause. Like a fish not wondering the water a thing in its environment, we swim in a sea of technological enablement and note only the bits that form on top, until they, too become background.

If I observe the chain of events that lead to "breakthroughs", and consider how often in history those sudden innovations have been independently arrived at in many places, I feel it is the collective effort to add to the technical foundation bit by bit that is so much more impressive than someone noticing there is a new possibility on account of it.

Hello again,

I like the idea of the 'fish view' where they are mainly concerned with the surface of the water and that limits their view. They must be having some idea what they expect to find, although i am not sure on what cognitive level that is.

But since you brought up dimensions, i like to think about the 4th dimension (Euclidean) where we might bring up infinite spaces which can contain so much that we can not see, but the simpler picture here is that we live in the 3rd dimension (for the most part as common experience) and what is to come can be thought of as another dimension that we just cant see yet. That means it is very hard to predict just about anything at all except maybe the simplest ideas. And yeah enthusiasm seems to be more of a social consequence than a result of careful scientific observation, but i also always like to say that we are human first and everything else comes in second place. I think no matter how smart a person is, they will one day get angry at something somewhere, some time, even though it is not logical to do so.

But hey did you ever write for any magazine or newspaper? I had some experience in that area and your writing manner and techniques seem to imply some background aside from casual writing. It's nice to see people who can agree or disagree without tying to imply that anyone is somehow lacking in the brain :)
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,036
But hey did you ever write for any magazine or newspaper? I had some experience in that area and your writing manner and techniques seem to imply some background aside from casual writing. It's nice to see people who can agree or disagree without tying to imply that anyone is somehow lacking in the brain :)
I spent several years making the large part of my living writing for consumer and more technical computer magazines as a contributing editor and for a brief stint as editor-in-chief. I also authored and coauthored a few books, and had a gig with a ham radio magazine.

One of the several "careers" in my life.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
9,179
I spent several years making the large part of my living writing for consumer and more technical computer magazines as a contributing editor and for a brief stint as editor-in-chief. I also authored and coauthored a few books, and had a gig with a ham radio magazine.

One of the several "careers" in my life.
Ah ha! This makes sense now.
I can tell a good writer when i read one :)
 
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