Medieval bishop's theory resembles modern concept of multiple universes

Apr 24, 2014 by Tom Mcleish, Giles Gasper And Hannah Smithson, The Conversation
Image of the world. Bibliothèque de France, Fr.14964, fol. 117

A 13th century bishop's theory about the formation of the universe has intriguing parallels with the theory of multiple universes. This was uncovered by the the Ordered Universe project at Durham University, which has brought together researchers from humanities and the sciences in a radically collaborative way.

The project explores the conceptual world of Robert Grosseteste, one of the most dazzling minds of his generation (1170 to 1253): sometime bishop of Lincoln, church reformer, theologian, poet, politician, and one of the first to absorb, teach and debate new texts on natural phenomena that were becoming available to western scholars. These texts, principally the natural science of the greek scholar Aristotle, were translated from Arabic into Latin during the course of the 12th and 13th centuries, along with a wonderful array of material from Islamic and Jewish commentators. They revolutionised the intellectual resources of western scholars, posing challenges to established ways of thinking.

We now recognise that the thinking they stimulated prepared the way for the scientific advances of the 16th and 17th centuries, too. Nearly 800 years later the example of Grosseteste's works provides the basis for doing great interdisciplinary work, offering unexpected challenges to both modern scientists and humanities experts alike, especially in working closely together.

Giant of science

Grosseteste has been a prominent figure in the history of science, from the early decades of the 20th century, yet the vital 1912 edition of his works is badly in need of revision: the editor had access to fewer than half the extant manuscripts. So we are taking on this task.

While Grosseteste may not be the originator of western experimental science, his scientific works come close to advocating experiments. They are also beautifully balanced mathematical constructions, not always apparent to a literary reading, yet wondrously so to later medieval generations.

The core team of researchers for this work are drawn from medieval history and theology, vision science, physics and cosmology, medieval philosophy, with many other colleagues engaged on particular aspects of the treatises under scrutiny, from marine scientists to astronomers. Following a principle of collaborative reading, all researchers contribute to the preparation of the edition, the translation and the interpretation.

Credit: misha1969, CC BY

The light fantastic

Grosseteste's treatise on light, called De Luce (Concerning Light), is the earliest known attempt to describe the universe using a coherent set of physical laws, centuries before Isaac Newton. It proposes that the same physics of light and matter, which explain the solidity of ordinary objects, could be applied to the cosmos as a whole.

In explaining the formation of the ancient universe, geocentric and composed of a series of nested spheres, Grosseteste conceives the universe as beginning from a single point of light, the fusion of matter and form, which expands until matter can be moved no further: the first sphere. A different form of light radiates inwards compressing matter, until it will move no further, generating the second sphere, and so on.

Grosseteste's calculations are very consistent and precise. Had he had access to modern calculus and computing methods, he surely would have used them. In a recent paper, just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, our team built computer models to express Grosseteste's equations. In doing so it suggests, although this was probably not apparent to Grosseteste at the time, a series of ordered universes reminiscent of the modern "multiverse" concept.

Colour and illumination

We have been led to other startling discoveries. Correcting some serious errors in the modern edition has clarified Grosseteste's three-dimensional conception of colour: two qualities of light (copious or scarce, bright or dim) couple with a third connected to the medium embodying it (pure or impure).

We have been able to use Grosseteste's theory of the rainbow to find a new coordinate system for modern three-dimensional colour space. In his theory, the three dimensions of colour reappear as differences between rainbows and within rainbows, and under different solar illumination. As a result we have been able to describe a new "meshed spiral" co-ordinate system for the colour-space scientists use today.

Humanities and science

For those in the humanities, this work enshrines the significance of Grosseteste as a thinker, and has shown the profoundly important ways in which modern scientists have helped to shape the processes of editing, translating and commenting on his works. For the scientists, this work has given a new historical perspective on our current assumptions, and new science, such as development in calculation tools for a class of shock wave, or novel colour mapping.

As well as inspiring the surprising new science, all of these investigations sharpen our knowledge of this thinker and his texts by urging a closer, "functional" reading of the text. Each step is also deepening and widening our historical appreciation of Grosseteste and his creative, disciplined and vivid intellectual imagination.

As long as dialogue between the disciplines is maintained there are no backward steps. Every suggestion contributes to the understanding of where we stand in relation to Grosseteste's world, and in longer perspective where science comes from within human culture. Our project explores modern and medieval scientific questions, and draws on historical and contemporary interpretations in a symbiosis of science and humanities skills. As science writer Michael Brookes in a recent New Statesman piece points out, it illustrates the intellectual curiosity and creative flair released when the two cultures meet.

Explore further: 10th century Greek manuscript is brought into the digital age

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Returners
1.6 / 5 (14) Apr 24, 2014
I think it's important to realize that modern physics is not "reality". It is a framework of theories and interpretations of facts used to try to describe reality.

Description =/= reality.

However, Descarte said something like, "A model need not be what a philosopher would seek as "the Truth," in order to be useful, just so long as it gives accurate predictions."

I take this to mean that we can in fact have a model which "works" for the majority of phenomena, even though the model is ultimately wrong.

The current framework of physics works for many, many phenomena, but it does not explain some things:

The inside of black holes.
The true origin of the universe(s).
If space-time is expanding, then into "what" is it expanding?
Why is relativity continuous, except possibly in black holes and big bangs, but Quantum Theory is not continuous, yet both work for certain sub-set of phenomena?

These conflicts highlight the fact that modern physics is only a framework, not the "truth"...
thingumbobesquire
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 24, 2014
Oh boy. More prepubescent multiple universe sci-fi hype...(Sigh) Please give us a break.
Returners
2.1 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2014
I find it annoying and insulting that you have to pay to read scientific articles. It is a significant hindrance to review for both positive and negative feedback.
Uncle Ira
2.3 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2014
I find it annoying and insulting that you have to pay to read scientific articles. It is a significant hindrance to review for both positive and negative feedback.


@ Returnering-Skippy I am sure think a lot of peoples find it annoying and insulting that you so cheap and stingy, eh? What you don't like the free market enterprising any more Cher?
Returners
3.1 / 5 (16) Apr 24, 2014
@ Returnering-Skippy I am sure think a lot of peoples find it annoying and insulting that you so cheap and stingy, eh? What you don't like the free market enterprising any more Cher?


Free markets are not "free". History proves that "free markets" do not work. This is why we have monopoly laws and social programs, because the "invisible hand" concept simply does not work...yet Capitalists continue to worship the concept of a "free market" even though this false god simply does not exist..., and the concept of this false god produces slavery and hinders progress as fools follow it faithfully...
Uncle Ira
2.1 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2014
@ Returnering-Skippy I am sure think a lot of peoples find it annoying and insulting that you so cheap and stingy, eh? What you don't like the free market enterprising any more Cher?


Free markets are not "free". History proves that "free markets" do not work. This is why we have monopoly laws and social programs, because the "invisible hand" concept simply does not work...yet Capitalists continue to worship the concept of a "free market" even though this false god simply does not exist..., and the concept of this false god produces slavery and hinders progress as fools follow it faithfully...


So tell me Cher, how is the paper supposed to pay the employees and rents if they don't charge money? Who going to pay the bills so the Returnering-Skippy can read the papers for free?
Returners
2.9 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2014
So tell me Cher, how is the paper supposed to pay the employees and rents if they don't charge money? Who going to pay the bills so the Returnering-Skippy can read the papers for free?


The same way most other websites pay for themselves: Search advertisements.

You and I aren't paying to use physdotorg are we? No, at least I don't. I don't even know whether they have paid accounts or how to upgrade if they do. I never checked that, because I'm not interested in it.

I bet they make a hell of a lot of money anyway, and without most of us paying anything directly.
Uncle Ira
2.1 / 5 (8) Apr 24, 2014
So tell me Cher, how is the paper supposed to pay the employees and rents if they don't charge money? Who going to pay the bills so the Returnering-Skippy can read the papers for free?


The same way most other websites pay for themselves: Search advertisements.

You and I aren't paying to use physdotorg are we? No, at least I don't. I don't even know whether they have paid accounts or how to upgrade if they do. I never checked that, because I'm not interested in it.

I bet they make a hell of a lot of money anyway, and without most of us paying anything directly.


Then maybe the Returning-Skippy should start up his own interweb paper place and run it any way he wants to run it and give everything away for free.
Eikka
2.6 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2014
because the "invisible hand" concept simply does not work...
(...)
this false god simply does not exist


It's one thing to argue that the invisible hand doesn't work, and whole other thing to argue that it doesn't "work" because it won't benefit you in particular.

The difference between these distinctions is that the market mechanism doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's limited by physical constraints and circumstances that lead to results that are less than what people would like, but it does work quite predictably.

What the people who claim that the invisible hand doesn't "work" and the whole thing is flawed are claiming is that they could do better by planning the entire thing. The problem with this attitude is that all your plans would rely on a small number of planners with inadequate means to control and gain information about the economy, and you'd be fighting against the real market mechanism in doing so.

See every nominally communist country ever.
Returners
2.9 / 5 (12) Apr 24, 2014
See every nominally communist country ever.


The U.S. was better off, relative to the technology of the time, during the 50's and 60's, when taxation on the wealthy was actually higher.

How do you explain this phenomenon? While technology has increased productivity dramatically, the relative wealth of the median and sub-median earner when compared to the top 20% is lower than it has ever been in the nations's history, at least since the time of slavery.

Capitalism does not work, and least of all in the U.S. It is a big part of the reason we have the largest debt in the history of the world, combined with the afore-mentioned problem that the government isn't allowed to "own" anything in industry or resources. This produces a debt burden on every taxed good or service, because basic things like infrastructure are done through profiteering middle-men which increases costs, instead of reducing costs...
ludovic
4 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2014
I think it's important to realize that modern physics is not "reality". It is a framework of theories and interpretations of facts used to try to describe reality.
"truth"...

You're right. That's why we should not condemn our ancestors thinking the Earth was the center of the Universe, or that it was flat, or we lived surrounded by ether, and so on.

It was then the "best" explanation shared by some, and that's it.
ThomasQuinn
5 / 5 (5) Apr 25, 2014
Why are free market-obsessed nutjobs spamming this topic? Can't they find anything Friedman-related on the rest of the web?

Why doesn't a completely free market work? Because the most financially strong can afford fraud, corruption, intimidation and other forms of criminal behaviour.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (5) Apr 25, 2014
Multiple universes (an oxymoron), by definition causally disconnected, are not falsifiable and thus Popperian non-science nonsense.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (10) Apr 25, 2014
I find it annoying and insulting that you have to pay to read scientific articles. It is a significant hindrance to review for both positive and negative feedback.

Those who can give well versed feedback have access to scientific articles for free (reviewers and researchers via the subscriptions being paid by the institutions they work at.)

You don't pay for the content (the research) even when you buy the article. All the money you pay is to the publishers (Elsevier, Springer, etc. ). The institute - and much less the researchers doing the actual work - don't see a cent of that.

So if you have a gripe about being forced to pay then take it up with companies that print scientific journals. Not the scientists.

As to the article: It's a good example the 'centuries ago' does not equate to 'stupid'.
Diogenes Tha Dogg
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2014
Multiple universes (an oxymoron), by definition causally disconnected, are not falsifiable and thus Popperian non-science nonsense.


Maybe.
Diogenes Tha Dogg
3 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2014
Those who can give well versed feedback have access to scientific articles for free (reviewers and researchers via the subscriptions being paid by the institutions they work at.)


That's a really broad and unreasonable generalization.
Jeppe
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2014
What you don't like the free market enterprising any more Cher?
Because the science is not a subject of free market anyway: when the scientists are payed from tax payers money, the result of their work should be accessible for tax payers.
Diogenes Tha Dogg
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 25, 2014
What you don't like the free market enterprising any more Cher?
Because the science is not a subject of free market anyway: when the scientists are payed from tax payers money, the result of their work should be accessible for tax payers.


That's only true everywhere that isn't the US.
EnricM
5 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2014
@ Returnering-Skippy I am sure think a lot of peoples find it annoying and insulting that you so cheap and stingy, eh? What you don't like the free market enterprising any more Cher?


Free markets are not "free". History proves that "free markets" do not work. This is why we have monopoly laws and social programs, because the "invisible hand" concept simply does not work...yet Capitalists continue to worship the concept of a "free market" even though this false god simply does not exist..., and the concept of this false god produces slavery and hinders progress as fools follow it faithfully...


I wouldn't have expressed it in a better way.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2014
More science by divine revelation.

"Grosseteste's calculations are very consistent and precise. Had he had access to modern calculus and computing methods, he surely would have used them."

-Well sure. And if he had had an education in physics, as well as access to all the experimental data and theorems generated since he died, then would have used them too.

But he didn't. And so like kant and so many others, he was only guessing.

Let's see a list here of all similar such theories by religionists and philos which are obvious nonsense. Let's start with heideggers dasein or avicennas tabula rasa. Or platos forms for that matter.
airman000616
not rated yet Apr 27, 2014
The Royal Society is the UK national academy of science chartered in 1660 and governed by a council of fellows. I highly doubt many here have paid contribution to their services, so if you value the services they offer, then you should value your contribution.
Agomemnon
not rated yet Apr 27, 2014
More science by divine revelation.

"Grosseteste's calculations are very consistent and precise. Had he had access to modern calculus and computing methods, he surely would have used them."

-Well sure. And if he had had an education in physics, as well as access to all the experimental data and theorems generated since he died, then would have used them too.

But he didn't. And so like kant and so many others, he was only guessing.


um...what physics is used to theorize about multiple universes?
Answer - none.

http://en.wikiped...ientists

Pejico
Apr 27, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Agomemnon
3 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2014
It just points to the deep religious roots of Big Bang theory, which has been proposed with catholic priest Lamaitre. The primordial atom of Lamaitre was apparently inspired with it.


I'm so glad that you know who proposed the Big Bang Theory/Primordial Atom (Lamaitre). I get so frustraded by lack of scientific history when morons say Hoyle. Hoyle did coin the term Big Bang as a point of derision at Lamaitre. It took decades of confirmation of Lamaitre's findings before the scientists of the day (Einstein one among many) looked past his preisthood to the science behind the theory. On the other hand, taking decades or more to confirm or give credance to theories is what science really is. (unlike the belief of CO2 as a magic molecule causing catastrophic anthopogenic global warming).
Writela
1 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2014
There is apparent alternation of Christian and pagans view of reality. The Old Greeks and Hinduists had no problem with aether/prana, but the medieval christianity has replaced it with primordial atom concept and finite universe, which required a "creator". The aether model has replaced this view in 19th century and Einstein still believed in infinite eternal universe. But the observation of Hubble red shift forced the scientific community back to the finite atom concept. Currently this concept is carefully attempted to replace with wider concept of multiverse again.

My opinion simply is, that the Universe is truly infinite as such, but our scope of view isn't in similar way, like the scope of view inside of foggy landscape. So until we will not move in it, we can believe, our Universe is limited and because the mainstream science adheres strictly to observable reality which can be falsified with observations only, it just believes in limited universe.
Ulg
1 / 5 (2) Apr 29, 2014
See every nominally communist country ever.


The U.S. was better off, relative to the technology of the time, during the 50's and 60's, when taxation on the wealthy was actually higher.

How do you explain this phenomenon?


The tax rate was much higher yes, for the rich- but the majority of the ultra wealthy paid a lower effective tax because there was far more deductibles. Even with a hand full of giants paying nothing right now, the wealthy are paying more.

Yes it is very shocking the US was doing great while Europe was war torn, and the the US had less regulations, a far weaker executive branch.

When you say the invisible hand is no good- we face alternatives like the decade of economic intervention into the market which created the great depression, or the sub prime mortgage bubble which cost the US 16.3 trillion, how about the rest of the bubbles since the 90's? Monopoly used to mean a granted govt privilege. That is free enterprise ≠ free market.