In an earlier post, I wondered about what in physics explains the existence of data. Modern science has great success in explaining the physical reality in a way that we can repeatedly verify predictions from theory. Our certainty of these predictions drives our technological progress. I do not question the basic physics discovered. I am just wondering how it was possible for us to figure it out.
This question goes beyond the question of how the human mind works. The fascinating question of how it is possible that the human mind being a product of physical processes can reach a sophistication to figure out how the physical processes work, and even begin to contemplate how the mind itself works. For my question, I presume this ability of the human mind. Even with our minds being capable of figuring out the entire universe, what in physics makes the data possible to feed the intellect.
In another post, I imagined a separate reality for data. I suggested that physical reality is timeless but it emits observations that carry time stamps. The earliest point that has a recognizable time stamp is when the physical reality vanishes and all we are left with is an observation with a time stamp. The observation may have a tremendous amount of information in countless data-dimensions, but the observations are strictly one dimensional. An observation is defined by its time stamp.
In the previous paragraph, the phrase “physical reality vanishes and all we are left with” captures a thought I had expressed earlier where our mental thinking occurs in historic time not in the instant of physical reality. Physical structures may make thought possible, but the thought lags behind the physical reality by a certain distance. In the referenced post, I argued that intelligence and thus data exists exclusively in the one dimensional historic reality (everything is just data) that is distinct from the physical reality. The realization of intelligence and the comprehension of data lags a certain interval from physical reality.
Thinking of reality from the perspective of data science instead of physical science, the observable universe is one dimensional. The one dimension of the observable universe is the one dimension of an observation. An observation has a time stamp.
In usual scientific discussions, we presume some physical reality of an universe that is only partially observable. There are facts about the universe we have not yet discovered or may never be able to discover, but we are confident of the existence of a universe that has secrets.
In contrast, a data science project (building a database, data warehouse, or some other application of data models) works strictly with observations. The focus is only on observations that we can obtain. A data science project is constrained but what can be observed. I once heard this described in a quote from an unknown source “if something can not be measured, it does not exist” (or some variation). The phrase observable universe should be a single word as the two concepts are inseparable. From a data perspective, the universe is identical of the totality of what we have observed.
In several earlier posts, I made a distinction between two types of human activities that I described as present-tense sciences (focused on influencing the events of the physical world), and past-tense science (interpreting the available evidence to make some conclusion about what happened in the past). As an aside, there is a third type of human activity involving persuasion for future decisions (such activities include practice of rhetoric) but I have postponed talking much about that. In the two sciences view, the present-tense efforts seek well documented and well controlled observations while the past-tense efforts seek to interpret these observations with great care because we appreciate the exact observations with the same time-stamps can never be repeated.
If we lose some historic data, we have only two choices: report the data as missing, or create some fake data to take its place. I described the latter practice as dark data using my definition of dark that refers to model-generated data just like cosmology’s dark stuff (proposed unobserved matter and energy). The connotations of the word dark is consistent with my distrust of model generated data. I would rather data remain missing than to insert what I think the observation should have been.
The vast majority of our effort in science is in the historical science, interpreting observations of what had already happened. There is only a very brief interval of time when we can influence the world but we have infinite time to contemplate what had already happened.
I equated historical-science to data science where my definition of data science is the study of data and that is the same as the study of evidence. Evidence is data, and data is evidence. My definition of data science conflicts with more popular use of the term as a discipline of computer science (writing code). I prefer to think of data science as the study of evidence. To clarify this distinction, I invented the term dedomenology to describe this focus on studying data rather than writing code to process it.
We do not live in a physical world. Instead we live in a world of observations. Take for example our technological successes that allow us to embark on multi-decade engineering efforts to send spacecraft on multi-year journeys that successfully obtain observations impossible to obtain from earth. Our mastery of manipulating the physical world is intuitively obvious. I suggest the counter-intuitive view that at no point did our intellect actually directly touch the physical world.
We accomplish all of our technological feats through observations alone. The reason is that our minds are forever stuck in history. By the time our minds can comprehend any observation, the actual event that caused that observation is ancient history. At best, or mental capacities are a few milliseconds removed from physical reality. We do have instruments that can resolve time to finer levels (according to Wikipedia, 10-17 seconds) and we can devise machines that can react faster than we can think. However, our conscious thinking is forever stuck in history. We must interpret evidence of observations that our technologies worked as we intended.
In recent years there has been a lot of fictional and even scientific speculation about whether we live inside some type of simulation that gives us an illusion of reality. For example, reality may exists in two dimensions that projects a holographic illusion of three dimensions. I also suggest that our experience in the world is an illusion. The difference is the explanation for the illusion. For me, the illusion is the fact that we can only comprehend observations of past events where that evidence consists entirely of a sequence of observations with time-stamps. The intelligible reality is a one dimensional sequence of data records.
I am rethinking physical reality from a perspective of a data scientist, historian, or a dedomenologist. This perspective is that all we have to work with is data. A physical reality provides observations and this physical reality produces consistent observations over time. However, we do not have direct access to that physical reality. We can only interpret the observations that reach our consciousness long after the reality existed.
Looking at the world from a perspective of observation, the universe has only one independent variable consisting of an absolute time stamp. Now that we have convinced ourselves that the age of the universe is 13.8 billion years, we can begin to measure everything in absolute terms from that point of creation. If the universe is one dimensional, the dimension is absolute: a precise number of time ticks from the big bang.
The physical science view is that there was some catastrophic event long in the past that set off a chain of events that resulted in our present day existence. I take the view that although time is the only absolute dimension, the big-bang approach to measuring time is backwards. The origin should the instant where reality exists before it emits the next time-stamped observation. Our intelligence lags so many time ticks behind that reality that by the time we comprehend something it is already ancient history.
There is a practical consequence of my concept of measuring time from the instant where reality exists instead of the instant of some distant supposed explosion. Assuming that our instruments for measuring the age of the universe are reliable and accurate, what would those instruments tell use the age of the universe will be 13.8 billion years from now? The scientific answer would be that 13.8 billion years from now, the universe will be 27.4 billion years old. I suggest that the actual experiment would show that 13.8 billion years from now, the universe will still be 13.8 billion years old. The absolute age of the universe is constant because our concept of the universe is what we observe and our comprehension of observations is stuck lagging a set number (a very large number) of time ticks from the physical reality that exists before the next observation is emitted.
I propose different view of the universe. My view proposes a big bang involving some unimaginable inflation of a zero-dimensional point, but in my view this big bang has not yet occurred. Instead of interpreting the universe as the trajectory of ejected material from an ancient explosion, I visualize the observed universe as the plume trailing behind a rocket. As a rocket propels itself forward it leaves behind a rocket plume that expand sideways as the the distance increases but at some point the plume becomes indistinguishable from from the atmosphere. The plume has an appearance of a solid body that moves with the rocket but from some fixed point behind the rocket, the plume is everywhere rapidly receding away from that point but the edge of the plume remains the same distance (assume that the thrust, velocity, and air density remains the same). The plume has a constant appearance.
Another analog is the water skier tethered to the boat at a fixed length. The skier is surrounded by waves that are moving away at good speed and yet the lateral distance to the edge of the first wave remains the same distance. Alternatively, the skier could look backwards and see the waves and foam dissipate until eventually being indistinguishable from the undisturbed water. There will appear to be a point that appears to be where the trip began even though the trip actually started much further back. All of these waves are rapidly moving away from the skier and yet as time passes the observed edges remain the same distance away.
To the water skier, the waves are tangible the evidence of the previous location of the boat. In the immediate vicinity of the skier, there are only waves. The waves are the evidence of the speeding boat being present earlier. The water skier is intelligent enough to understand the cause of his situation comes from the boat the other end of the line, and not some historical cannon shot that started where the waves disappear behind him.
I suggest a similar explanation for the physical world. It can be tested if we can wait a few billion years to measure the universe again with our modern techniques. I suggest the age of the universe will still by exactly what we think it is today. The big bang is not some distant explosion, but instead is the rocket ahead of us providing observations for our intelligence to contemplate.
It is not practical to wait a hundred or so million years to see if the observations suggest a universe an equal number of years older. Perhaps we’ll get lucky someday and receive from a distant galaxy a billion years away and intelligent message that announces their precise measurement of the age of the universe. They will report the same age we observe today even though the universe should be a billion years older.
This is looking at the world from the point of view of a student of data. All we have to work with is data or evidence. Our best data is the freshest data, and even the freshest data is historic data. As soon as we can assign a time-stamp, the physical reality has moved on. We are left only with historic data. What matters to data is not how far back did time begin, but instead how far ahead the real world is from our contemplation.
In several earlier posts, I described my experience working with data where I conceived of a multiple step process that progressively prepares data for eventual analysis. I described this approach as a supply chain for data preparation starting with the operationally relevant data involved in real time processes and ending with analytic relevant data. In particular, my approach involved multiple intermediate stages where I would store the intermediate data and intelligently process it for the objectives of that particular stage. My processes did not use a single leap of processing algorithms on operational data to produce an analytic result. Instead each stage strictly depended on the intermediate stage before it and prepared a product to meet the needs for the intermediate stage after it. An important consequence of this supply chain is that each stage operates a fixed time interval remote from the real-time relevant data. In particular, each successive stage operates a more distant time away from the operational data.
My project had a goal of reporting today what happened yesterday. I could have done the same thing with an objective of some other time interval such as reporting what happened an hour ago. The process would remain the same: earlier stages operated on younger information than the later stages. Although this multiple step supply chain approach impedes the objective of real time analysis, it offers a number of advantages for validation and rapid recovery from errors through checkpoints and rollbacks.
As I discussed in my science of data post linked earlier, if we had today’s data technologies at the start of human civilization we may never have bothered to come up with mathematical models for sciences. We could instead predict reality by sophisticated analytics of observed data. These predictions may lack the elegance of mathematics, but the predictions would be very effective and more widely available. If this were our historic perspective, I imagine we would not have proposed an origin of the universe based on a big bang in the distant past. We would instead have imagined a big-rocket engine just ahead of us providing the observations to fill our data databases for us to figure out what is going on. The big bang has not happened yet, but it is right in front of everyone and just an instant away. We’ll never see it because our conscious intelligence is stuck in a fixed point back in its ancient history.