[lbo-talk] New Scientist: "Medieval multiverse heralded modern cosmic conundrums"

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri Mar 14 20:42:54 PDT 2014

the New Scientist article seems a little confused about what the authors of the original paper demonstrated: there is no unwitting prediction in Grosseteste's medieval model . what the authors did cleverly achieve is to take Grossteste's hypotheses and claims about how matter and light would interact and respond to each other, convert them to modern mathematical form (simple partial differential equations) under some reasonable interpretations of the Latin text, and solve them. The solutions reveal various "types of universes" that could have be achieved by varying input parameters of the model. Their point is that Grossteste MIGHT THEN have conjectured multiverses if he could have worked his model out in this modern, quantitative way.

even more interesting about the paper is its conclusion:

"""We cannot know Grosseteste’s view, but the computer simulations have revealed a fascinating depth to his model of which he was certainly unaware. In particular, the sensitivity to initial conditions resonates with contemporary cosmological discussion and reveals a subtlety of the medieval model which historians of science could never have deduced from the text alone. The results provide a striking example of the benefits of our methodology of collaborative reading of texts by a team which contains medievalists, linguists and scientists. The approach is uniquely different from traditional models of cooperation between humanities scholars and scientists, where each group operates strictly within its own discipline to address different questions of common interest. In our project, the groups work together on a single question, approaching it from different conceptual frameworks."""

i will miss Chuck Grimes as well; we used to communicate offlist sporadically to discuss physics, mathematics, and technology. i was so impressed with his ability to read technical articles and think deeply and broadly about them. i'd like to think he would have loved this paper.


On 03/14/2014 08:00 PM, Joseph Catron wrote:
> "When physicists translated a 13th-century Latin text into modern
> equations, they discovered that the English theologian who wrote it had
> unwittingly predicted the idea of the multiverse in 1225.

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