The higher energies we use the deeper we look into the mysteries of the universe. We started to find molecules, atoms, protons, quarks, ... All at different energy scales. Each new stage forced and forces scientists, to come up with new theories and models to describe the newly found phenomena.

What would it mean if we come to the stage, when the whole energy of the entire universe is not enough the reveal the next stage?

By "revealing the next stage", I mean that we find new results at higher energies that give rise to new models for the underlying physics.

Doesn't this constrain the amount of information we can get out of the universe and put a final end to the depth we can investigate reality?

What is the epistemological consequence when we can show the our knowledge is constrained by the universe, physics, you name it?

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    If you consider how much were achieved by knowing the "upper levels" of reality, we will be kept busy for the next 500,000 years. – John Am Nov 4 '15 at 22:10
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    If the universe contains a finite amount of matter (and there are some reasons to think it does) then there can only be a finite amount of information, so the investigation must terminate at some point. – Bumble Nov 4 '15 at 23:13
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    I don't get why the finiteness of matter should imply finiteness of information. – Mauro Vanetti Nov 5 '15 at 10:03
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    Yeah, draks, I got the point of your question and it's very interesting. I was only questioning what @Bumble wrote in her/his comment. – Mauro Vanetti Nov 5 '15 at 11:32
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    Also, information needs matter to be stored and energy to process it, so if these are finite, the information is finite. And again, if the universe has a finite amount of matter, then there are only a finite amount of things to say about it. – Bumble Nov 5 '15 at 16:41

I don't believe that this is a proper answer but it's too long a thought to be expressed in a comment.

This problem poses some questions about what we mean by "law of nature". We are assuming that some phenomena are observable only at very high levels of energy, levels that are, for some reason, intrinsically unattainable. If they are unattainable, in which sense a model of what "would happen" but cannot ever happen is a model of reality? What kind of knowledge are we missing if we miss that?

Imagine there's something more fundamental than a quark in the structure of matter, call it a veryverytinystuff, but you cannot observe it until you reach a level of energy that simply cannot be reached. Isn't this exactly like saying (for all practical purposes, but I would also say for all theoretical purposes as well) that veryverytinystuffs are unobservable and have no influence on the way the universe works, and therefore don't exist?

Laws of nature from a materialistic point of view are just a description of the way matter evolves, they are not laws in the human sense. Other philosophical points of view imagine that somehow matter obeys laws of nature like humans obey (...or violate) laws. Still, if matter never reaches those unimaginably high levels of energy, the existence of those laws involving the behaviour of the veryverytinystuff that no quark will ever be obliged to follow is a matter of faith and not science.

  • Don't agree. First, the components of quarks (your veryverytinystuff) could be apart in the first femtoseconds after big bang, could indeed exist and determine the behavior of quarks, or the relation between Quantum and Relativistic theories, etc. Isn't because we can't see something that this something doesn't exist and doesn't have measurable effects (even if we're never able to detect them individually). – Rodrigo Nov 6 '15 at 20:44

A few things can happen at that point:

First, we can realize that science have never once proven any one of its theories to be mathematically true, is has just bounded the uncertainty to smaller and smaller amounts until we've become convinced that it's close enough to "true" to simply call it that. So once we "prove" that there's no more depth to explore, we may simply have to go back and try to test our theories about the universe at a shallower depth. We've never proven energy is conserved, we've just never found any reason to question it to date (other than the pesky big bang, where we continue to refine our hypotheses to better fit our understood conservation laws).

Beyond that, we should be questioning concept like "what are we?" What am "I?" Books like Douglas Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop explore this question. What does it mean to "know something?" It turns out that, for mathematical reasons, the concept of "I" is really challenging for science to approach and try to define, partially because the typical meaning of "I know something" involves "I," making it hard to objectively define "know."

From there, pick your branch of philosophy, and the answers will vary. We might become Nietzche's "Last Man," battling for immortality. We may decide to give up our knowledge and truth, and just seek release from suffering, as appears in some religions. The concept of "I" may vanish all together, under the onslaught of its own knowledge, or we may become "one with the Dao."

Then there's some who suggest that this may never even happen. Dan Willard constructs some fascinating mathematical worlds in his research which defy conventional explanation, such a self-verifying systems of axioms where a provably countable infinity outside the system can be provably uncountable inside the system, raising all sorts of questions about the nature of the mathematics we use to underpin our science. Even mathematics, the bedrock of science, is constantly in flux, growing and shaping itself as new information arises.

So keep digging! At the moment, there is no scientific proof that there even exists a limit to human ingenuity. There's theories, no doubt, but no proof. Keep searching!

  • So it's like a parabola or a tangent, close to the end but never quite there. – Caleb Woodman Nov 7 '15 at 1:23
  • Tangents, asymptotes and limits are well respected in science, we build all of calculus on them =) – Cort Ammon Nov 7 '15 at 1:39

Some objections against the proposition entailed in your question:

  1. If there is no event that has to be explained with instances that, presumably, can only be experimentally proven in environments with energy levels unobtainable by us, why should we bother?

  2. It is not only likely, but almost certain, that the borderline of the energy levels used to experimentally prove anything is at a point where we can a) not observe anything anymore b) cannot protect ourselves from the consequences of such a high energy in a given environment (has to be defined if it should remain measurable) anymore. This should be reached a lot earlier than we have to use anything near the energy that is conserved in the matter of our own galaxy, never mind the whole universe.

  3. You are switching the epistemic direction: Most of these experiments have been made due to predictions that followed from flaws within the natural laws that seemed to be valid at lower energy levels. We had the theoretical instances that explained events on lower energy levels first and then, afterwards, thought of experimental ways to lay hold of them. They needed higher energy levels. This actually was the drive after building accelerators. In addition, some theories (like Einstein's) were not exactly based on theoretical flaws, they just popped out of his head and happened to have the potential to be experimentally proven, which we did (in some parts 60 years afterwards!).

=> Theoretical predictions first, high-energy experiments following (at least for the 20th century, I'm not sure about Rutherford and others)

  1. We cannot predict if there will not be a new Einstein that pulls a theory out of his hat that makes it possible to make higher-dimensional energy obtainable (and controllable)....or some other weird stuff exponentiating our possibilities. It is pure speculation, but not nonsense per se. Actually, looking at the history of physics, it is rather likely.

Not the facts are the drive for the theory in the first place, the theories, that are driven from incoherence within themselves regarding facts, ask for experiments to prove them. Thinking creates ways to experience facts, not the other way round. Thinking is, as far as we know up to now, limitless, so will be the facts.

To put it in Hegelian terms: Geist would be dead if it would not be able to recreate itself in new ways all the time; it would be the end of history. This strongly suggests that there are no limits, even if we cannot conceive a limitless knowledge and are trying to "perhorrescate" [perhorreszieren]*, that is limiting/determining all the time, working against the movement of the subject.

*Preface of the Phenomenology of Mind, original pagination p.19

  • I disagree with all your points. – draks ... Nov 5 '15 at 17:40
  • @draks... Philosophy is about reasons, not opinions. Especially regarding quarks, bosons etc. I take my point to be true as it simply is the way it developed. The empirical data had to be interpreted by human minds leading to the postulation of further entities, which were proven years after that by experiments designed to prove them, which coincedentally had data that needed to be interpreted and could only be interpreted (that is "made sense of") by postulation of further entities and so on. – Philip Klöcking Nov 5 '15 at 18:24
  • Some clarification which you're probably aware of: Einsteins theory of SR did resolve a theoretical flaw: a flaw on which Poincare and Lorentz had already been working on: that is to describe light mechanically; it was only realised later this was the wrong way round, and that mechanics should be described like light. – Mozibur Ullah Nov 5 '15 at 21:10
  • @MoziburUllah: Thanks for clarification. Of course it resolve flaws (this is not the only one), but as I understand it, it wasn't meant to mend theoretical flaws, but a whole new try for explaining events. That's what made him so special. – Philip Klöcking Nov 5 '15 at 21:15

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