The 8 biggest questions ever asked


In November 2006 New Scientist magazine celebrated its 50th birtday. They did that by asking science's leading lights to explore the biggest questions of our time. You can find out what the quetions are and what these leading lights had to say by selecting the link: The biggest questions ever asked

My own impression is that this are not "The biggest questions ever asked" but more the "The most ambigious questions ever asked" I would expect more of New Scientist.
De questions can be subdivided in two cathegories: "Questions" and "Definitions". Of the first type there are three and of the second type there are five.
"Definitions" are questions about the meaning of certain words or concepts. To answer the "Questions" it should be clear what it is all about.

However for both types this is not the case. If you do not understand the question (in the sense that different opinions are possible) than it is impossible to come to an unambiguous answer.

Here are the questions:

Question 1 What is reality?
Question 2 What is life?
Question 3 Do we have free will?
Question 4 Is the universe deterministic?
Question 5 What is consciousness?
Question 6 Will we ever have a theory of everything?
Question 7 What happens after you die?
Question 8 What comes after Homo sapiens?

Here are my answers:

Answer question 1: What is reality

The reality is the total universe surrounding us, the way it is. It is the total physical world in all its smallest detail. It is not always exactly what we see, because what we see is an image of the reality in the past and that can be changing. It is not the image on a foto, because it is an image of the past. The foto itself is part of the reality. The same with paintings. The painting is part of the reality but not what is painted.

Answer question 2: What is life?

Life is a quality of human beings. To live is unbreakable connected to die.
Life constitues the most complex self sustainable organisation build out of a combination of chemical components (or elements). See also question 7.

Answer question 3: Do we have free will?

Yes. I have a free will. My free will is part of my consiousness. See also question 5.

Answer question 4: Is the universe deterministic?

No. It is impossible to describe all the changes involved in the physical world by (mathematical) laws. Only certain physical process can be described (up to a certain acceracy) by mathematical laws.
See also question 6.

Answer question 5: What is consciousness?

Consiousness is a quality of human beings.
Our consiousness means that human beings know themselves that they exist. What is more important they know themselves that also all the other human beings have a consiousness and a free will.

Answer question 6: Will we ever have a theory of everything?

No. It is impossible to describe all the changes involved in the physical world by one(mathematical) law. It is impossible to describe the evolution of the Universe, the evolution of life on earth and the behaviour of dust particles by one law.
See also question 4.

Answer question 7: What happens after you die?

To die is an human quality and unbreakable linked to human life.
If some one dies than the most self sustainable organisition slowly decomposses in its original individual elements. See also question 2.

Answer question 8: What comes after Homo sapiens?

If the Homo sapiens disappears than a lonely world remains.


The answer of Question 1 in New Scientist by the leading lights includes the following:
Some might well consider that this is not the whole of reality, however. In particular, there is the question of the reality of our minds. Should we not include a conscious experience as something real? And what about concepts, such as truth, virtue or beauty?
When you include concepts like beauty in your answer on the question "What is reality?" you never will find an unambiguous answer because what is beauty is almost some strictly personal.

The answer of Question 2 in New Scientist by the leading lights includes the following:
No human discovery could have more profound ramifications than finding what's known in the business as a "second genesis" - an origin of life independent of that on Earth. With our present sample of one known living world, the possibility remains that Earth is unique and that we are utterly alone in the universe. But if we find a second genesis in our own cosmic backyard, then we will know that life is a universal imperative. The unproven conviction that the cosmos teems with life drives many of us in the nascent discipline of astrobiology - a field that one wit described as "the only science without a subject matter".
What is the chance that other civilisations will discover that there is life in one of the planets around our Sun? when we try hard?
When you position yourself on the planet Pluto is it than possible to demonstrate that there is life on our planet? when we do nothing?

The answer of Question 3 is that humans have a free will. The importance of this answer becomes clear if you realise that in many countries the inhabitants have a free will but that they can not act correspondingly.

The answer of Question 4 could be that the world is indeterministic. However what does this means. This fact alone means nothing. Such a statement has no value.
What makes sense if you defend the claim that the world is both deterministic and part indeterministic. In that case you still have to specify exactly what you mean.
For example you can claim that the movement of the planets is deterministic and predictable because they can be described by Newton's law.

The answer of Question 4 in New Scientist by the leading lights includes the following:
Most of us in the west are certain that we have free will, though how we reach that conclusion, and even what we mean by it, is far from clear.
The issue of how we reach that conclusion is of no importance. It has to do of how do you prove that. You can not prove anything about the physical world. The only thing what you can do is describe the physical world as accurate as possible.
What we mean that humans have a free will is that humans can make decisions in solitude, when they are alone, based on what they know or what they can read in books.

The answer of Question 6 in New Scientist by the leading lights includes the following:
The stakes are high. A genuine unified field theory that can unite all the physical laws of the universe into a single theory would be the crowning achievement of 2000 years of investigation into the nature of the matter. This is the holy grail of physics, and would be a landmark in human intellectual thought. It would, in the words of Einstein, allow us to "read the mind of God"
A landmark in human intellectual thought would be that it is impossible to unite all the physical laws in one single theory.
Anyway it is better to have laws, which can be tested by experiments, than one theory which is in principle only a thought.

The answer of Question 7 in New Scientist by the leading lights includes the following:
WHAT happens after you die? I can name you 47 men who have tried to harness the rational horsepower of science to answer this most floaty question. Some were physicians, some physicists, some psychologists. Two were Nobel prizewinners. One is a sheep rancher. They have tackled it in labs, in hospital operating rooms, in barns behind their houses.
Of them, only one, to date, has landed an irrefutable proof - not a suggestive nugget or an inexplicable anomaly, but the sort of answer you could plant your flag into and say, "Victory! Now I know for certain." The man's name was Thomas Lynn Bradford.
Wikipedia Thomas Lynn Bradford committed suicide on 6 February 1921.
Thomas Lynn Bradford did not proof anything. What he did is an experiment as a result of which, he died. We did not learn anything from this experiment. The other 46 men were more clever.

The answer of Question 8 in New Scientist by the leading lights includes the following:
IN 1957, biologist Julian Huxley, brother of Aldous, coined the term "transhumanism" for the idea that we should use technology to transcend the limitations of our bodies and brains. Huxley believed that "the human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself" through "evolutionary humanism".

Almost half a century on, transhumanism has become a real possibility, pointing the way to an unbelievably transcendent future that would have been unimaginable even to Huxley. The choices we make today are deciding an answer to the question "What comes after human civilisation?"

By echoing this believe in the next half a century on, with small modifications, New Scientist has a happy future.

Created: 1 January 2014

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