If someone, like me, sets out to face the currently unsolved questions of physics, it is good to prepare in advance that the struggle will not be easy. The greatest scientists have wrestled with these problems for many centuries, mostly with little success. Still, the thing is, we can’t help but keep trying, more and more persistently and more and more creatively.
Many people may say that without an experimental basis, we have little chance to reach any conclusions about the most important problems, and nowadays, when billions (in dollars and euros) are spent on the LHC and other similar projects without achieving any serious success, it may seem foolish the cultivation of domestic physics.
The truth is, however, that the philosophical approach can work very well in the case of fundamental questions without any experiment, and the Greek philosophers have provided the most surprising and best examples of this. Zeno’s paradoxes are alive and well to this day, although there are proposals for solutions on the stage, but we cannot rest completely on this front. The Greek philosophers used their common sense alone to create a picture of the world consisting of atoms, realized that the Earth is spherical, and made incredible statements about, for example, infinite time. They constructed the beautiful science of geometry and also achieved fundamental results about numbers. All this without having built anything for it. And although Greek science obviously could not be successful in everything, they formulated the basic problems, the ones we still struggle with today.
In order to ask questions and outline problems, mere reason is sufficient, and of course the perceptions that can be called everyday. The best ideas come from observations that are so simple that you’re surprised no one else thought of it much earlier. The best example of this is the case of Olbers, who looked up at the stars as a doctor and realized that the assumption of a static universe infinite in time and space conflicts with our everyday experience that the night sky is dark.
In order to formulate the final questions, we do not need anything other than observation and thinking. The situation is different with drawing conclusions and theorizing. Since these are not simple problems – that’s why we called them final questions – so that the research work for answers does not feel unnecessary, even if we do not get anywhere in the world, we are forced to outline a pessimistic scenario as a first step. This is not an escape, but rather a kind of protection against failure. Perhaps the problem with today’s physics is that it is not prepared for failure. If the theory does not find experimental confirmation, then the theory is modified in such a way that the ability to prove or disprove it exceeds the technical possibilities. Thus, there is always the excuse that the theory was not verified only because of the limited experimental possibilities. For this, it is usually sufficient to set a few freely selectable constants, or even to use some mathematical trick in order to save the faulty theory.
It would be very, very important that the creators of unsuccessful theories do not have to fear the collapse of their professional careers, because in order to protect their jobs, they are thus forced to endlessly divulge even otherwise indefensible ideas. If physics is full of physicists who consider their university position and professional prestige more important than honesty, not many breakthroughs can be expected in the future either.
We have to face the possibility that we have limitations. The limit can be mathematics itself, it can be the human thinking itself, and it can also be a complexity limit to our understanding. Experiments can also have absolute physical limits, for example we cannot conduct experiments at the absolute zero degree temperature, because it is impossible to reach it. We cannot perform experiments outside the Universe either, so for example we cannot measure from the outside whether the Universe is rotating or not. Of course, these are obvious limitations, but there are also less obvious ones. For example, we cannot have knowledge of the “true” reality, we have to accept that reality is what we believe it to be. We cannot know about the subjective experiences of other people, only indirectly, never directly. In addition to these, there can be many limitations, the formulation of which can be a limitation, for example, it is very difficult to understand and explain self-referencing systems, and the final questions are actually about self-referencing systems.
So, without thinking about anything for now, let’s formulate the pessimistic principle: the ultimate questions can never be answered, due to our physical, mathematical, logical and thinking limitations. No matter how much we try, no matter how long and no matter what, the final theory will never be complete and without contradictions (as Gödel already proved about mathematics). There will always be an inexplicable and incomprehensible phenomenon, a perception that will escape even the most cunning theory.
So our first step should be this, let’s accept that we are doomed from the start. This is not so difficult, although at first it may seem extremely strange to many, I would prefer to say that it is just an honest acceptance of the fact that we are human. Omnipotence and perfect wisdom are not in our possession, nor will it be. So we must stand on this ground, and looking the world from here, we must construct it in our own consciousness.
Could even the dear Reader say this, “Why don’t we stop here and be satisfied with this much?”. The suggestion is completely justified. The truth is that human life can actually be lived risk-free, relaxed, and even completely happy without dealing with any of these problems, even for a minute. A musician, a painter, a farmer, even a writer, but even a soldier or a steel caster can live a full, balanced, perfectly happy life without even the tangential proximity of philosophy or physics. This is very important, and I would like my statement to be really emphasized, that only those who feel that this is an indispensable part of their life should deal with this type of problem. For example, when I was in the seventh grade of primary school, I had thoughts like that maybe evolution could also work during the struggle of the Universes, or that time actually originates from the fact that we all move at the speed of light in a spatial dimension, and even then I felt incredible excitement thinking about such things during. Today I know that for me scientific thinking and philosophy cause more pleasure than alcohol or the use of mind-altering drugs for others. Maybe that’s why I don’t drink alcohol, and I’m not addicted to any other passion either, for me, chewing on the things of the world ensures a perfect full life.
Thus, I declare that those who find joy in it, should boldly open the book of Nature and research it, even if, as we know, we may be doomed from the start. Just as a mole cannot deal with the colorful world above the surface (I also wrote a short story about this), our fate may be the same, and time, for example, will forever remain indecipherable and incomprehensible to us. But the fact that we are thinking people – and may even be the only conscious species in the Universe – obligates us to try the impossible and face the difficult questions. In case we have a helper (another short story was written about this: during the destruction of a planet, chance writes the much-sought-after secret of existence, which of course no one reads). After this, I think we are ready to formulate the four biggest questions of humanity:
1. What is the time? This question is different from the next three, which have in common that all three are examples of a consequence without antecedent. Time, on the other hand, is the framework of all things, and at the same time, it is the most cunning, most elusive concept that only humans can encounter.
2. How did the Universe originate?
3. How did life originate?
4. How did we gain consciousness?
So the program was put together. What can we do with it? Well, according to the pessimistic principle, maybe nothing. But during the search, we can still feel good about it, and we can even find treasures…
October 22, 2012.
English translation: August 23, 2023.