The Ancient Tension Between the Discrete and Continuous

Naval Ravikant, Brett Hall

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3 Clips

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Apr 9, 2021

Episode Summary

Episode Transcript

You said that we went from atoms in the time of Democritus down two nuclei and from there two protons and neutrons and then two quarks is particles all the way down to paraphrase Fineman we can keep going forever but it's not quite forever. Right some point you run into the Planck

length as the Planck time. There's the Planck length this even the Planck Mass which is actually quite a large mass. These things don't have any physical significance. It's not like the Planck time is the shortest possible time and it's not like the plank

Length is the shortest possible length. The reason for that is because these plank things are part of quantum theory but length is not described by quantum theory. It's described by the general theory of relativity. And in that theory spaces infinitely divisible. There is no smallest possible length or time this illuminates an ancient tension between the discrete and the continuous because quantum theory seems to suggest that things are discreet.

For example, there's a smallest possible particle of gold the gold Adam. There's a smallest possible particle of electricity the electron as a small as possible particle of light the photon in quantum theory, we have this idea of discreteness that there is a smallest possible thing from which everything else is built. But in general relativity, the idea is the opposite it says things can continuously vary and it's a mathematics requires. The things be continuously variable so they can be differentiated.

Dated and so on the idea there is that you can keep on dividing up space and you keep on dividing up time Toph is this understand that there is this contradiction at the deepest level of our most foundational explanations in physics and it's one of the reasons why there are these attempts to try and unify quantum theory and general relativity because what is the fundamental nature of reality is it that things can be infinitely divisible or is it that we must stop somewhere or other?

Because he puts infinitely divisible then quantum theory might have to be subservient to general relativity, but we just don't know.

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