# In praise of mechanism

## 14 posts in this topic

The age of mechanism reached its height during the middle and late 19th century. The idea that the cosmos is a Gigantic Machine had its start with Descartes and was brought to a high state by Newton.

Subsequent discoveries have shown that the mechanistic view of the universe is not suffient or accurate, however the mechanical approach as brought about some of the greatest inventions that the human race has produced.

The high water mark for the mechanical was reached in the 19-th century. The iconic 19 th century invention is the steam engine. Stationary steam engines powered mills and factories. Locomotives disolved distance. Marine steam engines reduced the circumference of the earth to a matter of weeks (in terms of duration of voyage).

I will tell you what I think is so wonderful about machines: No matter how complicated they are, they are reducible to just a few basic mechanism types:

the lever, the wedge or inclined plane the wheel.

Gears are just concentric clusters of levers. Cams are continously curved inclined planes. Worm gears are helical inclined planes (spiral staircases on their side) which translate rotary motion into linear motion as do rack and pinion gears (a combination of lever and wheel). Pulleys are wheels, which translate rotary motion to linear motion. Cranks are levers which onnvert linear motion to rotary motion. All machines are combinations and elaborations of these simple machines. Even Babbages numerical engines (very complicated) were combinations of gears, cogs, cams and cranks.

It is not surprising that the folks in the 18th and 19th century elevated machines to a universal principle of existence. The principles of operation are clear. they are deterministic and even the unschooled can grasp the principles of operation. Alas, Nature is no so simple. We know from quantum physics that there are non-mechanical non-determinstic processes. Even in the non-quantum domain, non-linear and chaotic but otherwise deterministic processes defy prediction when boundary conditions are not completely specified.

Even so, there is something about a well oiled machine doing its dance that catches the eye and the heart. One would have to be near death not to be enchanted and impressed by a well oiled and cared for steam locomotive roaring and huffing by. Call me a stuck in the mud, but a Diesel will never have the beauty and life of a steam locomotive.

Nowadays are devices are quntum devices. Transistors, spintronic gates and such like. We can no longer see the operating principles manifest with our naked eye. The modern devices do more, cost lass and run on much less energy but they simply cannot capture the heart like a steam engine or even a foot cranked machine (like the bicyhcle). We have indeed made progress, but a little something was lost in the process. And so it goes.

ruveyn

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----------------

We have indeed made progress, but a little something was lost in the process. And so it goes.

ruveyn

I've always been fascinated by mechanical devices. A little something may have been lost with modern devices, but a whole lot has been gained, also.

In the latest twist on electronics, Japanese scientists said on Thursday they have developed a rubbery material that conducts electricity, a finding that could be used to make devices that bend and stretch.

The material, described by Tsuyoshi Sekitani of the University of Tokyo in the journal Science, could be used on curved surfaces or even in moving parts, they said.

Sekitani's team developed their material using carbon nanotubes, a long stretch of carbon molecules that can conduct electricity.

They mixed these into rubbery polymer to form the basic material. Next, they attached a grid of tiny transistors to the material and then put it to the test.

They stretched the sheet of material to nearly double its original size and it snapped back into place, without disrupting the transistors or ruining the material's conductive properties.

The elastic conductor would allow electronic circuits to be mounted in places that would have been impossible up to now, including "arbitrary curved surfaces and movable parts, such as the joints of a robot's arm," Sekitani and colleagues wrote.

Material bends, stretches and conducts electricity?

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We know from quantum physics that there are non-mechanical non-deterministic processes.

Dr. Lewis Little and my late husband held that that quantum processes are deterministic and offered causal explanations of the experimental results. See this.

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We know from quantum physics that there are non-mechanical non-deterministic processes.

Dr. Lewis Little and my late husband held that that quantum processes are deterministic and offered causal explanations of the experimental results. See this.

http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/es...cliffe/tew.html

Thank you.

ruveyn

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Dr. Lewis Little and my late husband held that that quantum processes are deterministic and offered causal explanations of the experimental results. See this.

Have a look at this too.

www.capmag.com/objective-science/articles/ed1_quantum_dissidents.htm

Eric Dennis who wrote the piece is no friend of the Copenhagen Interpretation.

ruveyn

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I will tell you what I think is so wonderful about machines: No matter how complicated they are, they are reducible to just a few basic mechanism types:

the lever, the wedge or inclined plane the wheel.

That is a cool observation! But, what about springs? How are they reducible to those three basic types?

Gears are just concentric clusters of levers. Cams are continously curved inclined planes. Worm gears are helical inclined planes (spiral staircases on their side) which translate rotary motion into linear motion as do rack and pinion gears (a combination of lever and wheel). Pulleys are wheels, which translate rotary motion to linear motion. Cranks are levers which onnvert linear motion to rotary motion. All machines are combinations and elaborations of these simple machines. Even Babbages numerical engines (very complicated) were combinations of gears, cogs, cams and cranks.

Nice break down. Food for thought.

Transistors, spintronic gates and such like. We can no longer see the operating principles manifest with our naked eye. The modern devices do more, cost lass and run on much less energy but they simply cannot capture the heart like a steam engine or even a foot cranked machine (like the bicyhcle). We have indeed made progress, but a little something was lost in the process. And so it goes.

If you look at the nano-scale, things are very mechanistic.

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That is a cool observation! But, what about springs? How are they reducible to those three basic types?

Springs work on electromagnetic principles. Internal Coulomb forces between the atoms in a crystal lattice. Classical. mechanics cannot really explain springs. For that one needs an electromagnetic theory. Ditto for the twisted ropes that operated the old trebuchets and ballistae. The Romans and Greeks were using electromagnetic properties of certain materials, though they did not know it.

Once you grant the rigidity of certain bodies many of the actions can be explained mechanically.

Newton (for example) was aware that there are other forces at work besides gravitation and conact forces and he said further work would reveal the nature of these forces. What he had in mind was magnetic forces and electrical forces. Both magnetism and static electricity were known since ancient times, but there nature and laws were not really understood until the 19th century.

ruveyn

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We know from quantum physics that there are non-mechanical non-deterministic processes.

Dr. Lewis Little and my late husband held that that quantum processes are deterministic and offered causal explanations of the experimental results. See this.

http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/es...cliffe/tew.html

My husband was the physicist in the family and he thought Radcliffe's essay was -- and I quote -- "so clueless it isn't even wrong." I'm the philosopher in the family and I object to it because Radcliffe

• Is opposed to any theory that says it describes reality as the TEW does. Radcliffe is a rationalist who prefers purely mathematical explanations and declares "From my perspective, if it obeys a wave equation, it's a wave." Since the TEW's elementary waves obey a wave equation, Radcliffe says it is a contradiction for them not to be like all other waves in all respects but that doesn't follow. Mathematics should describe reality, not create reality.
• Discounts the TEW on dubious Popperian "falsifiability" grounds.
• Claims the TEW is "hypothesizing entities that cannot be detected by any means whatsoever" and it is not. That is what experiments are for.
• claims the TEW contradicts itself and experiments but doesn't show where or how.
• claims the TEW's backward waves are the same as Feynman and Wheeler's discarded "backwards in time" theory and it isn't at all.

Radcliffe also claims that the TEW does not account for gravitational lensing, but since I am not a physicist I don't know if gravitational lensing actually exists nor if it applies in any way to the TEW. I also cannot comment on what he wrote about neutrinos.

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My husband was the physicist in the family and he thought Radcliffe's essays was -- and I quote -- "so clueless it isn't even wrong." I'm the philosopher in the family and I object to it because Radcliffe
• Is opposed to any theory that says it describes reality as the TEW does. Radcliffe is a rationalist who prefers purely mathematical explanations and declares "From my perspective, if it obeys a wave equation, it's a wave." Since the TEW's elementary waves obey a wave equation, Radcliffe says it is a contradiction for them not to be like all other waves in all respects but that doesn't follow. Mathematics should describe reality, not create reality.
• Discounts the TEW on dubious Popperian "falsifiability" grounds.
• Claims the TEW is "hypothesizing entities that cannot be detected by any means whatsoever" and it is not. That is what experiments are for.
• claims the TEW contradicts itself and experiments but doesn't show where or how.
• claims the TEW's backward waves are the same as Feynman and Wheeler's discarded "backwards in time" theory and it isn't at all.

Radcliffe also claims that the TEW does not account for gravitational lensing, but since I am not a physicist I don't know if gravitational lensing actually exists nor if it applies in any way to the TEW. I also cannot comment on what he wrote about neutrinos.

I'm not a physicist, and I have just a rather layman-ish knowledge of any of this, but I did correspond with Stephen a bit about TEW a few years ago and got the impression that I understood it well enough for someone who doesn't know the mathematics.

With that disclaimer, I'll offer this: Radcliffe doesn't mention a part of the TEW paper that describes how particles can "jump" from the wave they are following to another (the details are, IIRC, in the paper). If that's the case, then it's perfectly understandable that, for example, the photons in the gravitational lens example don't "know" about their eventual destination millions of years after they are emitted - the waves don't have to extend all the way from the destination to the source of the particle. They are simply following waves originating from somewhere else, and when they get near enough to Earth to encounter the waves originating at the telescope, they "jump" to those waves and follow them to their source.

_____

Actually, I think by implication it has to be the case that particles never have a final destination until at some point they interact with something that converts or destroys them - they just continue to follow wave after wave forever. It would also be the case that they have no origin, except perhaps an event that combines, splits, or reorganizes other particles into a "new" one. Also, waves are neither created nor destroyed, merely "reorganized" as they interact with particles and other waves. "Origin" and "destination" in this case, then, merely mean "locations we are interested in," and "emitted" means "began following the wave we care about at that point."

BTW, I also noted the rationalistic reversal of reality and the laws of physics. I've argued for years that the idea that reality obeys equations is wrong, that the equations just describe reality. Many, many people, though, think that abstract "laws" that underlie and govern the universe actually exist. My impression is that it's just too subtle a point for most people to grasp - they've (most likely unconsciously) accepted Platonism, rationalism, and the primacy of consciousness so deeply that they don't even know they're there.

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I recall reading/having arguments with Radcliffe a long time ago on Usenet where he insisted that the "bent stick in the water" effect (caused of course by refraction due to bending of the light at the interface between the different materials with different speeds of light) showed that our senses deceive us; he is generally anti-Objectivist/Ayn Rand. Given his mental processing, he isn't the first one I would read in arguments against TEW.

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Radcliffe also claims that the TEW does not account for gravitational lensing, but since I am not a physicist I don't know if gravitational lensing actually exists nor if it applies in any way to the TEW. I also cannot comment on what he wrote about neutrinos.

My husband wrote about gravitational lensing and the TEW here, here, here, and here.

There have been several 'refutations' of the TEW during the past

few years, on several different forums. The more intelligent and

honest ones have led to better understanding on everyone's part;

the more ignorant and dishonest ones led nowhere.

'refutation' of the TEW posted by the physicist Tom Radcliffe,

and asking if I was going to respond. The 'essay' can be found at

URL:

http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/es...cliffe/tew.html

My answer to everyone who asked was the same: I would not dignify

such tripe with a direct response in defense. The 'essay' reveals

an incredible ignorance of the very theory which is being

critiqued, so much so that, as the saying goes, it is so bad it

is not even wrong.

For an actual physicist to miss so much -- to distort so much --

leads one to question the honesty of the approach. Having known

Tom Radcliffe for many years, and having seen much of his

previous handiwork, I am not at all surprised. I suspect that

many of the non-technical people on this forum would be able to

identify many of the errors which this physicist makes; I leave

that as a morbid exercise for anyone interested. For myself, this

statement is my only acknowledgment.

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Dr. Lewis Little and my late husband held that that quantum processes are deterministic and offered causal explanations of the experimental results. See this.

Have a look at this too.

www.capmag.com/objective-science/articles/ed1_quantum_dissidents.htm

Eric Dennis who wrote the piece is no friend of the Copenhagen Interpretation.

Stephen and Eric Dennis had an exchange about the issues which Dennis raised here and Stephen replied to here.

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The age of mechanism reached its height during the middle and late 19th century. The idea that the cosmos is a Gigantic Machine had its start with Descartes and was brought to a high state by Newton.

Subsequent discoveries have shown that the mechanistic view of the universe is not suffient or accurate, however the mechanical approach as brought about some of the greatest inventions that the human race has produced.

What do you mean by "mechanistic approach"? A recognition of causality? An attemt to reduce everything to machine elements? Even Maxwell tried to explain electromagntic fields in terms of mechanical elements like springs (but later abandoned it). In the 19th century there were many attempts to explain elastic solids and continua as literal connections of tiny, invisible springs. Such an approach was philosophically rationalistic, but it is still correct to think of the universe in terms of a "machine" in which everything follows the law of identity, and causality in particular.

The high water mark for the mechanical was reached in the 19-th century. The iconic 19 th century invention is the steam engine. Stationary steam engines powered mills and factories. Locomotives disolved distance. Marine steam engines reduced the circumference of the earth to a matter of weeks (in terms of duration of voyage).

Have you ever seen the display of original stationary steam engines in the London Science Museum? One tends to think of them as large, primitive mechanical devices, but it is amazing to see the fine machining and polished surfaces despite their enormous size.

I will tell you what I think is so wonderful about machines: No matter how complicated they are, they are reducible to just a few basic mechanism types:

Can't you say the same thing about an electronic circuit of transistors, resistors and capacitors, the atomic theory of matter, and axiomatic mathematics? All conceptual thought is based on mental unit economy. The difference is that machines are less abstract, which much of it observable perceptually.

the lever, the wedge or inclined plane the wheel.

Gears are just concentric clusters of levers. Cams are continously curved inclined planes. Worm gears are helical inclined planes (spiral staircases on their side) which translate rotary motion into linear motion as do rack and pinion gears (a combination of lever and wheel). Pulleys are wheels, which translate rotary motion to linear motion. Cranks are levers which onnvert linear motion to rotary motion. All machines are combinations and elaborations of these simple machines. Even Babbages numerical engines (very complicated) were combinations of gears, cogs, cams and cranks.

These are hybrids: gears for example are based on levers and the wheel.

It is not surprising that the folks in the 18th and 19th century elevated machines to a universal principle of existence. The principles of operation are clear. they are deterministic and even the unschooled can grasp the principles of operation. Alas, Nature is no so simple. We know from quantum physics that there are non-mechanical non-determinstic processes. Even in the non-quantum domain, non-linear and chaotic but otherwise deterministic processes defy prediction when boundary conditions are not completely specified.

The boundary conditions are not the issue. Mechanical waves, as in a taught rope, are not "determined" without the required boundary and initial conditions either. But everything obeys the law of causality. Mathematical stability and determinism are not the same thing. You can't predict the details of turbulent flow either, but everything it does is determined by what it is.

Even so, there is something about a well oiled machine doing its dance that catches the eye and the heart. One would have to be near death not to be enchanted and impressed by a well oiled and cared for steam locomotive roaring and huffing by. Call me a stuck in the mud, but a Diesel will never have the beauty and life of a steam locomotive.

The aesthetics of a steam vs. diesel locomotive are different even on a model railroad where the principles of operation are identical (an electric motor inside operating through gears). There are whole books of photographs of old steam engines that you can appreciate without seeing them in motion, let alone understand the mechanisms. On the other hand, if you understand how a diesel engine works you can appreciate it just as much as a steam engine, but the understanding and appreciation are more conceptually advanced.

Nowadays are devices are quntum devices. Transistors, spintronic gates and such like. We can no longer see the operating principles manifest with our naked eye. The modern devices do more, cost lass and run on much less energy but they simply cannot capture the heart like a steam engine or even a foot cranked machine (like the bicyhcle). We have indeed made progress, but a little something was lost in the process. And so it goes.

ruveyn

What was lost besides the ability to "see the operating principles manifest with our naked eye"? Mechanical machines are only the beginning of what a scientist or engineeer can experience and appreciate through abstract thought!

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That is a cool observation! But, what about springs? How are they reducible to those three basic types?

Springs work on electromagnetic principles. Internal Coulomb forces between the atoms in a crystal lattice. Classical. mechanics cannot really explain springs. For that one needs an electromagnetic theory.

I disagree with this. Classical mechanics did explain all of that and Coulomb forces and Maxwell's equations -- which includes Coulomb forces -- are Newtonian in character. Hook's law has been known for a long time. It is a measure of force with distance (compression and stretching of a spring). It can also be explained in terms of energy, as springs oscillate the energy of the spring is converted from potential to kinetic and back again, just in the way a pendulum oscillates.

Newton (for example) was aware that there are other forces at work besides gravitation and conact forces and he said further work would reveal the nature of these forces. What he had in mind was magnetic forces and electrical forces. Both magnetism and static electricity were known since ancient times, but there nature and laws were not really understood until the 19th century.

Deeper understanding was acquired, but Newtonian mechanics explained it all. Where Newtonian breaks down (and only partly) is in the quantum realm and when velocities approach the speed of light. Black body radiation was not explainable by straight Newtonian mechanics.