Monday, November 10, 2008

Functional Programming and the Universe

In Lee Smolin's TED talk How science is like democracy, he describes how our understanding of space and time has evolved. He describes three stages of cosmology:
  1. Aristotelian, which is hierarchical and all properties are defined with respect to that hierarchy;
  2. Newtonian, where properties are all defined with respect to an eternal absolute background of space and time;
  3. Quantum Theory or Relational Universe, where the universe is nothing but an ever evolving network of relationships, and all properties are about relations between subsystems.
Two quotes from the talk that jumped out at me:
According to Newton, space is just the way that god knows where everything is.
And this one, regarding the modern relational model of the universe:
Space is just one aspect, so there's no meaning to say absolutely where something is, there's only where it is relative to everything else that is, so we call it a relational universe.
In other words, even the physicists don't use an object-oriented model to describe objects any more.

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