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A Modern Defence of Plato (Part 2)

Platonism is the philosophy that mathematical objects exist, that they are mind independent and that their existence is abstract, not spatio-temporal. In the last post in this series, I made an important distinction between this type of platonism which is a form of "object realism" and a more watered down type of "semantic realism". Which holds simply that mathematical statements about abstract objects are true or false independently of whether or not we believe in them.

A semantic realist might say that mathematics is "discovered" rather than "invented", in the same way that Michelangelo thought that he hadn't created the David, he just picked it out of the stone where it already pre-existed. I argued last time that Godel's incompleteness theorem entailed both that semantic realism is true and that mathematical objects, if they are real must be independent of human thought or language. Here we're going to consider the main argument…
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Can Electrons Have Conscious Experiences?

First impressions are difficult to change, our basic intuition tells us that only living beings are conscious. That conscious itself belongs in the realm of biology. Hard as we might try that thesis seems irresistible, but not everyone agrees–not panpsychists–Panpsychism denies that basic assumption.

According to this view, everything even electrons have some form of conscious experience. That is to say "there is something that it’s like, to be an electron", simpler forms of matter will have simpler forms of consciousness and these aggregate parts can combine in some way, in our brains, to form the phenomenal first-person experiences that we have.

That’s the basic view of a panpychaist. It’s not completely unprovoked as to why I should mention this topic now, only a few days ago one of my favourite physics bloggers Sabine Hossenfelder wrote a blog post articulating her objection to the theory. To her, it’s either trivially true and meaningless semantics or it is empirically…

Brexit Doesn't Mean Brexit Anymore

The Prime Minister has a phrase she’s quite fond of, that "Brexit means Brexit". If it means anything it’s got to involve a repatriation of power from the European Union, the ability to hire and fire the people who make our laws, and taking back control of our money,our sovereignty and our borders.

We always knew that the negotiations were going to be tough, and any reasonable person understood that involves compromise. We’ve already climbed down from the best alternatives we had (EFTA, EEA, Canada+), and what Theresa May offered the country, her Chequers proposal was disappointing but acceptable. 
Whatever you thought of the way the negotiations were handled up until now, the Withdrawal Agreement on the table is a whole new level of submission and capitulation. The supposed ‘backstop’ agreement which is said to be temporary, in effect keeps us locked up as a vassalage inside the customs union, with a dynamic alignment on competition and state aid with the EU, and non-regre…

String Theory, Maybe Not So Right After All

Before I graduated university, my hope and expectation was to wind up on a post-graduate physics course studying, what is the most esoteric and interesting branch of physics, quantum gravity. String theory is the leading candidate and for people looking for a post-doc position, it's generally the "most interesting" areas of research that are best funded and well fortuned, if you intend to find a good job.

That didn't happen, instead I moved to Canada and took a break from university. In large part I was massively disappointed with String theory, I couldn't dedicate my life to the pursuit of something that seemed so ... disappointing, which brings me to the topic of this post.

PBS just uploaded a video, Why String Theory is Right. The title is obviously ridiculous and more sensationalised than anything else–there's no evidence of string theory–so there's no reason to assume it's right.

Not least of all to mention, there are a whole bunch of problems wi…

Why Everyone Should Be A Platonist (Part 1)

Our story here starts with with the work of Kurt Godel. An odd, introverted and lonely man, Gödel was an eccentric, mathematicians are known for being eccentric but Godel wasn’t just odd he was a genius.

He made three major contributions to his field, the first two were the incompleteness theorems and the third was a proof that predicate calculates is complete. By no means is this trivial or sort-of-already known in his day. His incompleteness theorems which he publicly announced in 1931 sent tremors across the world, a lot of people, David Hilbert, Ludwig Wittgenstein and John von Neumann's views on the foundations of mathematics were completely undermined.
The reason is that in an odd sort of way, the incompleteness theorems aren't just logical or mathematical, they have meta-mathematical implications as well. If our system of arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete, (first incompleteness theorem) then there are mathematical truths that cannot be proven in any con…

Is There Evidence Of A Multiverse?

If we live in an inflationary multiverse, other universes are moving away from us faster than the speed of light. There would be no way to send or receive a signal from one of those other universes, which puts the prospect of testing it in fairly dire straits.

Well, not every cosmologist agrees with that. Laura Mersini-Houghton and Rich Holman not only claim that the multiverse is in the realm of testable physics but that they have a model that makes a series of predictions. Some of which, at least they claim, are confirmed in the Planck and CMB data.

Their proposal uses a lot of quantum cosmology and high energy physics. I’ve tried to explain it to the best of my ability here but I’ve left some detail as endnotes, appearing with an asterisk*. I’ve written it this way to avoid breaking the general flow of the text but it will be important to read these for a complete-er understanding of the physics. 
In their approach, they use a particular model for the landscape of string theory di…

What I Learned About Tax Reform From Eastern Europe

I’ve spent most of my life growing up in a suburb of North London, born into a predominately working-class Italian family. We weren’t exactly well off but we did okay. 
My grandparents owned and ran a modest, small-scale Italian restaurant and as a kid, I helped out in what way I could. I learned the ins-and-outs of running a business and I learned first hand how damaging the overreaching hand of the state could be on the private sector.
I think most people, at least once it’s explained, grasp the concept that lower tax rates on businesses generate higher tax revenue. They encourage more investment and offer business a chance to become more competitive (affording them the ability to charge lower prices). 
But here’s something a lot of people miss, the same is true of income tax. Which for small business owners, in particular, behaves like a kind of "double taxation". Cutting income tax is how to write a story of success for the little guy. Calvin Coolidge the former US pres…