Dave Petersen
M-W 10:30 AM
Term Paper


(Follow the links to read a debate on this paper with the instructor starting with the title link above)

In this paper, I want to briefly and very generally explore the interesting relationships between the ideas of continuity, order, logic, and chaos inside our universe. While this may seem like a very abstract undertaking, I think it is very necessary (and also fun) for us to try to understand the philosophical underpinnings of these relationships within our universal energy system, and that the process of doing this is going to necessarily be very abstract. I will also try to pin the discussion down to earth somewhat by trying to show how these abstract ideas can relate to digital and analog audio technology.

To begin with, in any discussion involving the universe, the universe must first be seen as an interrelated whole. In other words, it is so unified and interwoven at a fundamental level that it cannot truly be separated into parts. In Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics, Capra shows how modern physics and eastern religion have both come to accept this concept. Modern physics has come to accept this idea because of the interconnectedness of quantum systems and also the effects of an observer on these quantum systems (one cannot observe a quantum system without changing it). Eastern religion also accepts the 'interrelated whole idea' in terms of the mystical experience of the one-ness of the universe, and in concepts like the Buddhist idea of Interdependent Arising, in which everything in our lives is inseparably connected (Capra 128-129).

However, I think that ultimately, the continuity of the things that we see around us in our universe that we try to express mathematically, like the infinity of numbers between 1 and 2, for example, really comes from movement caused by the Big Bang as well as this interconnectedness. To begin with, the conclusion that there was a big bang event in our distant past is now very well verified and accepted by physicists. It is also clear that the resulting movement generated from this event takes the form of a continuous changing flow of order, or organization, through the "envelope" of complete interconnectedness that the universe displays. In Steven Weinberg's The First Three Minutes, Weinberg outlines this flow of order, which is actually related to the cooling of the universe and is continuously resulting in new and ever more complex arrangements of forces and particles. For example, when the universe was at 3000 million million degrees, the weak and electromagnetic physical forces were one and the same force, but as the universe cooled below this temperature they split into two different forces (Weinberg 144). This is a good example that represents a shift in the whole fundamental order of the universe, and it is obvious that this is part of a smooth continuous flowing process that is the same as, and can be seen in, the flowing way that the earth orbits around the sun. Again, this characteristic of a moving universe flowing through changing organizations is contained completely inside the "envelope" of complete interconnectedness which was previously described. I personally believe that the universe is fundamentally continuous because of the beautiful mental picture that results from the combination of these two concepts, interconnectivity and the continuous flow initiated by the big bang.

I think it follows from this mental picture that, for example, The flow of numbers between 1 and 2, (1.11, 1.12, etc. or finer if you'd like, ad infinitum) represent the above explained continuity by representing something named 1 changing (flowing in our continuous universe) into something named 2. Now, shifting gears for a minute, I think that the reader would probably agree that our idea of logic corresponds to the order in the universe; in other words that it is really an attempt by humans to map the order in the universe. Logic does not, however, take time or change into account, and therefore it can only describe static arrangements. These representations of the entities 1 and 2, no matter what they are representing, can never really be static (and thus perfectly ordered) in a universe in which everything is constantly changing and moving. Consequently, the universe can never be accurately represented by just logic, which is an attempt to map order, and which can only describe static arrangements that don't truly exist in the universe (or they do for a brief instant of time). The idea of there being an infinite amount of numbers in-between 1 and 2 is therefore just an artifact caused by trying to map only logically or statically between these representations of things that exist in a universe of constant flowing movement.

Just by way of trying to illustrate these ideas in a more concrete fashion, I think that the phenomenon known as analog technology can capture a picture of this fundamental continuity of things in the universe at the level of storage of information, while digital technology can only approximate this continuity (but is of course very useful) at the level of storage of information. I think that this fact can begin to show how logic or order can't describe the whole universe. Lets take analog music technology verses digital music technology, for example. In analog music technology, the waveform of the oscillations of the sound through air are stored as actual representations of these oscillations in the actual medium. The grooves in a record, for example, correspond exactly to the actual oscillations made in the air by the musical source. In digital technology however, the continuous wave form from the same musical source is sampled very rapidly, but this process actually chops up the continuous wave form into very small discontinuous pieces, in effect superimposing a new kind of order on the original waveform. These pieces when put together, however, simulate the original continuous audio wave very well. Thus, analog ways of capturing information capture a fairly accurate picture of the continuity of the event, whereas digital technology chops up this continuity so that it can be fed into computers which are highly organized, but which fundamentally cannot capture the true continuity of the event. By the way, I'm not saying that analog technology is better than digital technology, I do like my CD's!, but hopefully this example helps start to illustrate the breakdown of logic and order to describe the universe completely.

While the universe and everything in it can't be completely described logically in terms of just order, the universe can be seen as half organized (order) and half chaotic (chaos) around a balance point (called the edge of chaos) based on the relatively new science of Complexity. There is chaos and order observed on all size levels of our universe, from the quantum to the galaxy cluster level. In M. Mitchell Waldrop's book Complexity, Mitchell states that "all these complex systems [from our environment to stellar evolution] havethis balance point where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either" (Waldrop 12). This science does not specifically make this claim that the whole universe can be described this way (as far as I know), and I have heard criticism of this claim from others concerning it when I have stated it, because I believe it to be true. Specifically, they claim that just because this science describes what happens on our planet very well, we can't possibly extrapolate from this the idea that it should describe the whole universe. This criticism strikes me as absurd; since we can look out with very powerful telescopes and see the same types of galaxies and star structures very far in every direction, it is much harder to imagine a universe that exhibits this observed order and doesn't display the same balance of order and chaos in its systems. Of course this cannot be proved; it's just that the idea of a perfect bubble of half order and half chaos inside a larger envelope of just chaos is the more ridiculous, or unprovable, image. We would need to postulate a whole new bizarre physical mechanism to account for this arrangement.

And so I think it follows from the above argument that all of the chaos in the universe is just order in the universe being disturbed by the movement caused by the Big Bang, which of course, along with interconnectedness as previously stated, causes continuity. In other words, chaos is really caused by change, or the inertia of the big bang driving the universe through flowing sequences of organization, or orders, that exhibit chaos as they change. Continuity, then, is equally composed of order and chaos.

By the way, I think that order, and thus logic, which is our map of order, corresponds to balance in the universe. According to physicists, in a brief instant of time right after the Big Bang there were only two fields, positive and negative, that were perfectly balanced. I think the universe maintains this perfect balance no matter how much change it goes through. Order, and thus logic, are based on this fundamental balance because, very hypothetically of course, you could have two positive systems with a "weight" of 2 each balanced by one positive system with a weight of 4, for example. Thus 2 plus 2 equals 4. Because of its correspondence to this fundamental property of the universe, logic is a very powerful tool. However, it must ultimately be seen as an incomplete tool to describe the universe, which is fundamentally continuously moving.

To recap then, the universe must first be seen as an interrelated whole, and I think that ultimately the continuity of the things that we see around us in our universe comes from movement caused by the Big Bang inside this envelope of interconnectedness. Analog technology can capture a picture of this continuity, while digital technology can only ever approximate this continuity by chopping it up to store it(which is very useful) and this example begins to illustrate how the universe can't be described by just order. However, the universe and everything in it can be described by the concept of half order and half chaos based on Complexity science.This seems to be true because it makes sense that all chaos in the universe is just order in the universe being disturbed by the movement caused by the Big Bang, which of course, as previously stated, exhibits continuity along with interconnectedness. In other words, it would seem that chaos is observed because of the flowing movement through changing order or organizations, and these organizations, and thus order, really fundamentally correspond to balance in the universe. Now, this paper has of course only briefly and very generally explored the interesting relationships between the ideas of continuity, order, logic, and chaos inside our universe. Again, while this may have seemed like a very abstract undertaking, I do think it is very necessary work for us to try to understand the metaphysical underpinnings of these relationships. I did try to pin the discussion down to earth somewhat by attempting to show how these abstract ideas can relate to digital and analog audio technology.

Work Cited

Capra, Fritjof. The Tao of Physics. 2nd ed. Bantam Books. Toronto. 1983.

Waldrop, M. Mitchell. Complexity - The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order And Chaos. New York: Touchstone, 1992.

Weinburg, Steven. The First Three Minutes - A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe. BasicBooks. New York. 1988.



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The future of Man


The 21st century needs its own philosophy; here it is:



My entire body of work is archived Here forever, (http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/
http://philosophy.dmpetersen.net) except for some documents in my storage space.