Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

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sevenperforce
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Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:45 pm UTC

Here's an interesting hypothetical.

Suppose that archaeologists working in South America or Egypt or India or China or some other region which contained ancient civilizations stumble upon a previously-undiscovered chamber deep in some remote area. Inside, they find no markings, no inscriptions, no bones, nothing of any kind other than five large hand-hewn spherical stones laying on the floor.

The stones are all cut from the same type of rock and are all about as spherical as would be possible in the ancient world. There's nothing particularly odd about the way they are carved or arranged or composed. The rock appears typical of the region.

However, when the stones are weighed, it is found that their weights describe the ratios 1:4.5:9.4:1836:1838, which is within a single percent of the relative rest masses of the electron, the up quark, the down quark, the proton, and the neutron.

Assuming, for the sake of the hypothetical, that this is not a hoax or anything like that...what explanations are possible, based solely on this evidence? What explanations are reasonable? What tentative conclusions could reasonably be drawn from such a discovery?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby quintopia » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:45 pm UTC

Well, you've ruled out my first guess, which would have been hoax. Ergo, we must move to my second guess: dumb luck. Sure, 1% is really damn close, but even so, I find it more improbable that an ancient civilization which was somehow capable of discovering the existence of and calculating the mass of all those things (itself nigh impossible) would not have any better means to record that information than carving some stone spheres.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Aiwendil » Sun Jul 12, 2015 6:49 pm UTC

I would say that a hoax would be the most likely explanation by orders of magnitude; if that is ruled out, then dumb luck is still orders of magnitude more likely than ancient peoples knowing the mass ratios of electrons, quarks, and nucleons.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jul 12, 2015 7:03 pm UTC

Aliens. Next question.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:14 am UTC

How does one rule out a hoax?

Okay, if we discount the possibility of a hoax, we're left with coincidence or X. A coincidence is stretching it, and to say "well, however unlikely, it's still more likely than X," seems to me to be a false assertion, since we have no idea what X was or how probable X was. If aliens exist and are in the habit of leaving such objects around, then aliens are far more likely than a coincidence.

X could be one of two things - aliens or an unknown correlation between particle mass and another, macro phenomena. The latter seems highly unlikely, which only leaves aliens. That raises the question of why they would do such a thing, and the simplest interpretation would be that they wished to leave an indication that they'd been here, but one that could only be appreciated by a species with an understanding of particle physics. Whether that was a future us or other aliens, it's impossible to say. If I had to give it a SF explanation, I'd say that those masses, spherical and close together, could act as a signal, a beacon, if a ship or civilisation came along with a sufficiently sensitive mass-detector, and would be a way of saying "we were here."

I'd still go with a hoax though...
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Tub » Mon Jul 13, 2015 10:57 am UTC

After you've verified that the rocks were actually ancient and have not been tampered with, I see three remaining possibilities:

a) they accurately determined the weights on their own. Considering their inability to produce rocks that are a) accurately spherical and b) properly weighted suggest that we're dealing with a low-tech civilization after all. A civilization capable of building particle accelerators would've placed spheres made of metal - more durable, easier to produce with the required accuracy etc.
b) they got the numbers somewhere else. It's quite unlikely that aliens have visited this planet, but maybe the equivalent of a Voyager probe crash-landed on earth and the ancient civilization assigned divine properties to the numbers on it. Still improbable, but more likely than a). A pranking time traveler cannot be ruled out entirely, either.
c) dumb concidence. The rocks were about some other numbers with similar ratios, or they were just random rocks. Now the probability of five random rocks matching the five listed weights within 1% is quite low. The probability of five random rocks matching some physical quantities within 1% is a lot higher.


The thing is, we have but a single piece of evidence, and all the possibilities except the third would leave more artifacts than a single room with spheres in it. If there was an advanced civilization with remarkable scientific knowledge, there had to be traces of that technology or their knowledge. If there was an alien space probe, there should still be parts lying around. If time travel was possible and accessible to future humans, there would have been more than one time traveler, inevitably leaving traces behind.

In any case, I'd keep digging around that area.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jul 13, 2015 11:54 am UTC

@ the OP: what aspect of this hypothetical do you find most interesting?

In particular, why do you posit this scenario instead of a more clear-cut scenario? Say, people find a particle accelerator from 8,000 BC.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:38 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:@ the OP: what aspect of this hypothetical do you find most interesting?

In particular, why do you posit this scenario instead of a more clear-cut scenario? Say, people find a particle accelerator from 8,000 BC.


I'm not the OP, but I'd posit the ambiguity. A particle accelerator is a particle accelerator, but five rocks that happen to obliquely demonstrate a meaningful relationship is a much more ambiguous event.

Also, shouldn't this be in SF?
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Mon Jul 13, 2015 8:02 pm UTC

So scenarios under consideration are:
  1. Hoax
  2. Coincidence
  3. Aliens
  4. Time travelers
  5. Atlantis
  6. Civilization had particle accelerators
  7. Civilization got numbers from macro phenomenon.
The OP wanted A and B ruled out, so we'll assume arbitrarily high evidence against A (radio dating, undisturbed sediment, ect.).
The OP provided specific evidence against B, but their intention seems to be to have ruled B out, so I'll also consider arbitrarily strong evidence against B.

C and D are the same in that they're extraordinary influences outside of the civilization (as opposed to ordinary influences like hoaxes). For these a significant related question is: what evidence is there for the aliens/ time travelers messing around elsewhere/elsewhen.

E goes with C and D. Here I'm positing some Terrestrial civilization was was ancient and inordinately advanced, but for some special reason the vast majority of evidence was destroyed. This civilization would likely be separate from the well know civilization with it's rock hewn artifacts.

Were the quarks absent, I'd suggest G, because those numbers can be found without discovering the atom, let alone splitting it. The inaccuracy of 1% could even cover the differences of the particle's masses in situ versus independently. We could also consider if the masses more closely match the in situ of independent masses. This would still be a pretty big deal, because it would imply they knew about electricity and the periodic table; but a much smaller deal than particle accelerators or aliens.

With the quarks, somebody clearly had a particle accelerator. I guess it would be possible to come to the information from another direction, but we were specifically looking for that kind of thing with accelerators, so comming at it from anywhere else really implies more total sophistication.

So with the quarks and the 1% figures against coincidence, I'd say coincidence.
With arbitrary evidence against coincidence, I'd say Atlantis.

Also, the plain room seems odd. I understand it was just put into the hypothetical for simplicity, but this isn't a video game dungeon: elaborate decorations and exhaustively symbolic arrangements were like only like 1% of the effort of building those things.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Whizbang » Mon Jul 13, 2015 8:12 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:... five large hand-hewn spherical stones laying on the floor.

The stones are all cut from the same type of rock and are all about as spherical as would be possible in the ancient world.

However, when the stones are weighed, it is found that their weights describe the ratios 1:4.5:9.4:1836:1838, which is within a single percent of the relative rest masses of the electron, the up quark, the down quark, the proton, and the neutron.


The problem lies in the seeming contradiction between being hand-hewn and also being so precise in their weight. It would not be possible to hand-hew a rock to such precision. Therefore the hand-hewn appearance is deliberately faux-hand-hewn... or the exactness of their ratios are merely coincidence.

Also, why do they even appear hand-hewn? Surely even the ancients were able to sand/polish stone? It seems to me that the easiest/best way to get the exact weight desired is to get it roughly into size/weight and then slowly rub off bits of it until it meets your needs. Just hewing off chunks won't get you anywhere near where you'd need to be.

The fact that they are hand-hewn and in some out-of-the-way room with no special ornamentation or placement, to me, indicates they were some minor project that was uncompleted. The ratio is merely a huge coincidence.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:04 am UTC

Is 'coincidence' reasonable?

AFAICT, and if we're generous and say that we want 5 random integers between 1 and 1838 (I'm generously ignoring the .5 and .4), then the odds would appear to be around 1 in 170,000,000,000,000. "Aliens" on the other hand, doesn't really have any odds associated with it - it either was or wasn't.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby peregrine_crow » Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:54 am UTC

tomandlu wrote:Is 'coincidence' reasonable?

AFAICT, and if we're generous and say that we want 5 random integers between 1 and 1838 (I'm generously ignoring the .5 and .4), then the odds would appear to be around 1 in 170,000,000,000,000. "Aliens" on the other hand, doesn't really have any odds associated with it - it either was or wasn't.


I was typing in almost exactly the same reply when I saw your post. Coincidence doesn't really work if the odds are this much against it. Though of course, this presumably isn't the only time we've discovered an unfinished ancient project like this (assuming that that is what it is) and as the number of times we've found similar things go up the odds of finding something like this by coincidence do go down a bit.

But even then, say that we have found a couple thousand similar sites over the history of archeology, the odds of finding something with similar improbability are still orders of magnitude smaller than the odds that advanced aliens found their way to us in the past and put an easter egg for future archeologists to find.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby SDK » Tue Jul 14, 2015 2:26 pm UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:But even then, say that we have found a couple thousand similar sites over the history of archeology, the odds of finding something with similar improbability are still orders of magnitude smaller than the odds that advanced aliens found their way to us in the past and put an easter egg for future archeologists to find.

Really? Given what we know of the limits of space travel, aliens specifically visiting Earth from another star is crazy unlikely already. On top of that, what's the chance that aliens make contact with primitive humans, teach them to fashion these ridiculous stones (which would have required some direct intervention), then bugger off without any apparent intention to return or other evidence that they were ever here (such as early pictograms, advances in technology, etc). They obviously don't mind having direct contact, the Prime Directive isn't really a thing... so what was the purpose of their mission here? It wasn't colonization and they didn't stick around long enough to even make it into our history. If they wanted to tip off future humans that they had been here and might someday return, they would have left a coded message, advanced materials, a piece of Moon or Mars rock... something other than random Easter Eggs with no significance to their species in particular. On top of that, these stones appear to have been made by humans, or at least by hand. What could they have used as measuring devices capable of decimal point precision on stones that are so wildly different weights? If the aliens were willing to help with that, but not with fabrication, you'd think they'd be able to do a whole lot better than 1%. They would need to do a whole lot better than 1% if they wanted to actually convey the message that they're huge trolls.

It must be coincidence, because it can't be anything else.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jul 14, 2015 2:37 pm UTC

Time traveler prank.

It occurs to me that people think the physical carving of the stones would require anachronistic technology. I'm not so sure that's true - precise masonry and carving has been around for a pretty long time. Every one of the ancient civilizations mentioned in the OP utilized various forms of metallurgy as well. I think people as far back as 4000 BCE would have been capable of following the instructions 'carve stones whose weights follow the ratio of 1:4.5:9.4:1836:1838, and be as precise as possible'.

No, what is interesting is less the accuracy of the carvings, and more what they represent. Similarly, no one would bat an eye at hieroglyphics depicting a harvest, but people would be pretty surprised at hieroglyphics depicting the process of mitosis.

Since this is a matter of information anachronism, I think it should be approached as a sort of game of telephone prank. A time traveler was at a bar, and chatting with a mason, and the time traveler said 'The Gods love this ratio'... But... I suppose that begs the question why we're only seeing this solitary example of it.

That fucking time traveler.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:40 pm UTC

Good discussion, everyone! I'm pleased to see the kinds of ideas being thrown around here.

Zamfir wrote:@ the OP: what aspect of this hypothetical do you find most interesting?

In particular, why do you posit this scenario instead of a more clear-cut scenario? Say, people find a particle accelerator from 8,000 BC.

I was interested in two things, mainly. First, how extraordinary would a single piece of evidence have to be to justify an extraordinary explanation? Obviously, a particle accelerator from 8,000 BCE would completely rewrite our view of human history, but it would do so with a great deal of accompanying and explanatory context. This hypothetical was more along the lines of "okay, without any context at all, what sort of evidence would legitimately demand an extraordinary explanation?"

The other thing was more a forward-thinking notion. I've always been fascinated by things like the Arecibo message and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site...situations where we want to unambiguously communicate an important message to an unknown recipient. It's challenging to come up with a way to communicate if you don't know your intended audience. I was asking myself, "What's one way we could unambiguously alert a recipient in the distant future to the fact that we were here and we progressed to the point we have?"

Writing something down is only useful if you're confident that your recipient will be able to decode what you've written. You can leave a video message, of course, but that's only useful if you have a persistent video storage and display system...and even then, you have no way of knowing that the ultimate recipient will be able to make sense of a video, particularly if they don't rely on eyesight to the degree that we do.

I thought that perhaps encoding the masses of elementary particles in some large persistent spheres would be an interesting way of saying "Hey, look at us, we knew this stuff." Which is why I posited the hypothetical, because I was curious how something like that would be taken.

tomandlu wrote:How does one rule out a hoax?

Okay, if we discount the possibility of a hoax, we're left with coincidence or X. A coincidence is stretching it, and to say "well, however unlikely, it's still more likely than X," seems to me to be a false assertion, since we have no idea what X was or how probable X was. If aliens exist and are in the habit of leaving such objects around, then aliens are far more likely than a coincidence.

As a few other people have suggested, a hoax can be ruled out to a high degree of certainty by dating or by certain sedimentary evidence.

I agree that "however unlikely, it's still more likely than X" is meaningless if we don't know what the domain of X might be.

Tub wrote:I see three remaining possibilities:

a) they accurately determined the weights on their own.
b) they got the numbers somewhere else. It's quite unlikely that aliens have visited this planet, but maybe the equivalent of a Voyager probe crash-landed on earth and the ancient civilization assigned divine properties to the numbers on it. Still improbable, but more likely than a).
c) dumb concidence.

The thing is, we have but a single piece of evidence, and all the possibilities except the third would leave more artifacts than a single room with spheres in it. If there was an alien space probe, there should still be parts lying around.

The idea of a probe crash-landing is actually a pretty good one, if you think about it (spoiler'd for length):
Spoiler:
An alien species desiring to make their existence known might very well scan the atmospheres of exoplanets and spam probes toward any that showed possible signs of life.

The chances of a probe landing on a planet while that planet is inhabited by technologically advanced intelligent life is vanishingly small. The aliens would want to leverage their situation for the maximum possible payoff, so that even if it landed among illiterate goatherders there'd still be a chance of their message surviving until the descendants of those goatherders could eventually make sense of it.

I'm not sure it's reasonable to assume that there "should still be parts lying around". Sure, the aforementioned goatherders could have preserved the remains of the space probe in a shrine...or they could have disassembled it and passed the pieces around in the hopes of spreading out the good luck. Or they could have destroyed it out of fear. One tribe could have worshiped it until being conquered by another tribe and having it destroyed that way.

Trying to make the probe indestructible is probably a losing game. For one thing, strong materials are heavy, and heavy stuff is expensive to launch into space, particularly if you're sending out thousands of probes. The heavier the probe, the more of a shield system you'll need, which multiplies weight even further. And no matter how indestructible you make the probe, it's not gonna help if someone throws it into a volcano or dumps it off a cliff into the ocean.

So the best chance to ensure that contact persists is probably to try and use the probe to communicate something. By engraving the probe with physically meaningful values and ratios (reference to pi or tau, reference to the fine structure constant or to c, reference to the cosmic microwave background, the periodic table, the ratios of elementary particle masses), there's a good possibility that whoever finds the probe will replicate or record these values and thus preserve the information far beyond the lifetime of the probe itself...and thus provide enough information to trace back to the most likely explanation.
Might be unlikely, but it's exponentially more likely than an actual alien visitation, and it would be a good reason why someone might have gone to the trouble of hewing those rocks.

tomandlu wrote:A particle accelerator is a particle accelerator, but five rocks that happen to obliquely demonstrate a meaningful relationship is a much more ambiguous event.

Also, shouldn't this be in SF?

Right, it's much harder to pin down than a particle accelerator.

AFAIK, Fictional Science is more about hypotheticals where the universe functions differently. Though if the mods want to move it, they can of course do so.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:{Aliens and time travelers are}...extraordinary influences outside of the civilization (as opposed to ordinary influences like hoaxes). For these a significant related question is: what evidence is there for the aliens/ time travelers messing around elsewhere/elsewhen.

I think the question is not "what other evidence is there?" but "how likely is it that this is the only surviving piece of evidence?"

Were the quarks absent, I'd suggest {civilization got numbers from macroscopic phenom}, because those numbers can be found without discovering the atom, let alone splitting it. The inaccuracy of 1% could even cover the differences of the particle's masses in situ versus independently. We could also consider if the masses more closely match the in situ on independent masses. This would still be a pretty big deal, because it would imply they knew about electricity and the periodic table; but a much smaller deal than particle accelerators or aliens.

With the quarks, somebody clearly had a particle accelerator.

Hmm, that's an interesting possibility. How can you derive the masses of the electron, proton, and neutron without splitting the atom? I remember reading about an interesting thought experiment in which a pre-industrial philosopher such as Archimedes might have been able to discover gravity. Could a pre-industrial civilization which happened to figure out gravity in such a fashion have gone on to figure out the periodic table and come up with the masses of neutrons, protons, and electrons? If so, might they have come up with a theoretical basis for determining the values of quarks and other subnuclear particles without actually ever using a particle accelerator?

Also, the plain room seems odd. I understand it was just put into the hypothetical for simplicity, but this isn't a video game dungeon: elaborate decorations and exhaustively symbolic arrangements were like only like 1% of the effort of building those things.

It doesn't need to be completely plain per se, though that's possible if the project was interrupted during construction. But the point was more that none of the context offers any significant explanatory value.

Whizbang wrote:The problem lies in the seeming contradiction between being hand-hewn and also being so precise in their weight. It would not be possible to hand-hew a rock to such precision. Therefore the hand-hewn appearance is deliberately faux-hand-hewn... or the exactness of their ratios are merely coincidence.

Also, why do they even appear hand-hewn? Surely even the ancients were able to sand/polish stone? It seems to me that the easiest/best way to get the exact weight desired is to get it roughly into size/weight and then slowly rub off bits of it until it meets your needs.

I'm including sanding and polishing within the definition of hand-hewn for these purposes.

tomandlu wrote:Is 'coincidence' reasonable?

AFAICT, and if we're generous and say that we want 5 random integers between 1 and 1838 (I'm generously ignoring the .5 and .4), then the odds would appear to be around 1 in 170,000,000,000,000.

I don't think coincidence is a reasonable explanation either. Those five values are far too significant (in an absolute sense, because they are the most basic building blocks of all readily-observable baryonic matter) and precise to be replicated by mere chance. I'm not talking about ten thousand spheres out of which five happen to be within 10% of those values; I'm talking about five spheres in the same room all as precisely matched with those ratios as would be possible for an ancient civilization to produce.

If anyone still thinks that coincidence is a reasonable explanation, then what additional level of specificity/detail would be necessary to unseat that? Adding the strange and charm quarks, the top and bottom quarks, and the massive gauge bosons?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby SDK » Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:01 pm UTC

That would help. As would precision on the order of 0.01% or something. If you want me to believe that they can weigh an electron, they'd better be able to weigh stone first.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby >-) » Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:02 pm UTC

Whoever was weighing the stones must have been hallucinating (if that doesn't fall under the hoax category).

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:17 am UTC

SDK wrote:
peregrine_crow wrote:But even then, say that we have found a couple thousand similar sites over the history of archeology, the odds of finding something with similar improbability are still orders of magnitude smaller than the odds that advanced aliens found their way to us in the past and put an easter egg for future archeologists to find.

Really? Given what we know of the limits of space travel, aliens specifically visiting Earth from another star is crazy unlikely already. On top of that, what's the chance that aliens make contact with primitive humans, teach them to fashion these ridiculous stones (which would have required some direct intervention), then bugger off without any apparent intention to return or other evidence that they were ever here (such as early pictograms, advances in technology, etc). They obviously don't mind having direct contact, the Prime Directive isn't really a thing... so what was the purpose of their mission here? It wasn't colonization and they didn't stick around long enough to even make it into our history. If they wanted to tip off future humans that they had been here and might someday return, they would have left a coded message, advanced materials, a piece of Moon or Mars rock... something other than random Easter Eggs with no significance to their species in particular. On top of that, these stones appear to have been made by humans, or at least by hand. What could they have used as measuring devices capable of decimal point precision on stones that are so wildly different weights? If the aliens were willing to help with that, but not with fabrication, you'd think they'd be able to do a whole lot better than 1%. They would need to do a whole lot better than 1% if they wanted to actually convey the message that they're huge trolls.

It must be coincidence, because it can't be anything else.


I think some of the logic here doesn't stand up.

First off, we can't really assign odds as to whether time-travel/FTL exists - they either are possible or not.

Secondly, even if they are not possible, and if aliens are the only reasonable explanation, and if we assume therefore that at least one alien ship visited at least one primitive planet, then we are as likely as any other planet.

A man who wins the lottery cannot say after the event "well, that was highly unlikely, so therefore didn't happen." The same does not apply to pure coincidence, since a man who wins the lottery 5 times over a year would be justified in looking for another explanation than 'luck'.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby >-) » Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:39 pm UTC

But you can assign odds to whether time-travel/FTL are possible and it makes sense to assign odds to whether they exist after that.

If a rich man had amnesia and forgot how he acquired his wealth, he might reason winning the lottery was highly unlikely, therefore he probably didn't win the lottery. Which is logical.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:51 pm UTC

>-) wrote:But you can assign odds to whether time-travel/FTL are possible and it makes sense to assign odds to whether they exist after that.

If a rich man had amnesia and forgot how he acquired his wealth, he might reason winning the lottery was highly unlikely, therefore he probably didn't win the lottery. Which is logical.


I don't see how you can assign odds to tt/ftl - they are either possible or they are not - but they remain irrelevant. All we have to assume is that at least one alien civilisation visited at least one planet. If we accept that, then why not us? We didn't guess in advance - we found something that indicated 'aliens'.

As to the lottery, in this case, the rich man notices that, given his wealth, he either won the lottery 5 times or he acquired his money via some other means. He reasonably concludes that 'some other means' it is.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby SDK » Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:54 pm UTC

It either is or it isn't, sure, but what's the chance that every piece of evidence we've found so far is incorrect? There is a chance that FTL travel or the ability to travel back in time are possible, yes, but it's extremely unlikely based on the fact that we currently believe it to be impossible. Also based on the fact that we haven't yet been innundated by tourists from every point in the future.

tomandlu wrote:All we have to assume is that at least one alien civilisation visited at least one planet. If we accept that, then why not us? We didn't guess in advance - we found something that indicated 'aliens'.

Okay, let's assume that. Is this within our galaxy? Let's assume it is, so we're talking between 100,000,000,000 to 400,000,000,000 stars. Just from that alone we're a good chunk of the way to the 1 in 170,000,000,000,000 that you estimated earlier. Add in their extremely bizarre behaviour completely unbecoming of any sentient species (I'd say odds are worse than one in a million that any space-faring species would choose to communicate like this) and I'm willing to accept coincidence as an alternative. It's an interesting find, and worth looking into more detail - find a few more sites like this and I'll start to believe - but these aliens just aren't acting like aliens. They're acting like coincidence.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:25 pm UTC

SDK wrote:It either is or it isn't, sure, but what's the chance that every piece of evidence we've found so far is incorrect? There is a chance that FTL travel or the ability to travel back in time are possible, yes, but it's extremely unlikely based on the fact that we currently believe it to be impossible. Also based on the fact that we haven't yet been innundated by tourists from every point in the future.

tomandlu wrote:All we have to assume is that at least one alien civilisation visited at least one planet. If we accept that, then why not us? We didn't guess in advance - we found something that indicated 'aliens'.

Okay, let's assume that. Is this within our galaxy? Let's assume it is, so we're talking between 100,000,000,000 to 400,000,000,000 stars. Just from that alone we're a good chunk of the way to the 1 in 170,000,000,000,000 that you estimated earlier. Add in their extremely bizarre behaviour completely unbecoming of any sentient species (I'd say odds are worse than one in a million that any space-faring species would choose to communicate like this) and I'm willing to accept coincidence as an alternative. It's an interesting find, and worth looking into more detail - find a few more sites like this and I'll start to believe - but these aliens just aren't acting like aliens. They're acting like coincidence.


But isn't this the difference between an event that's unlikely to ever occur, and an event that will definitely* occur, but over a very large sample? Why did this once-in-the-lifetime-of-the-universe event happen to us? Because it had to happen to someone, and the someone who's asking "why did this happen to us" is the one it happened to. In other words, the big odds against aliens only count if we try and predict before the discovery that Earth is the one planet in the universe to have been visited.

I could leave my house today, and find £5 on the doorstep. This is more likely than me winning the lottery. However, finding that £5 is less likely than someone else winning the lottery.

I'm somewhat reminded of the unsafe conviction of Sally Clark after a second of her children died from cot death. The prosecution 'expert' witness argued that it was a 1 in 73 million chance (the chance of one cot death squared), whereas in fact it was only 1 in 8,500 (the chance of a single cot death).

* as in "at least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life"
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby SDK » Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:24 pm UTC

Can I also make the statement, "at least once in the history of the universe, five stone spheres in approximately the same location will have approximately those masses"? I think I can.

Also, your statement "at least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life" doesn't actually account for these spheres. "At least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life and tell them five numbers with explicit instructions to fashion five stone spheres without the aliens' aid, then will leave with no other evidence of their presence on that planet" is a very dubious claim.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:06 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote: think the question is not "what other evidence is there?" but "how likely is it that this is the only surviving piece of evidence?
I think they're really the same question. We don't have a credible theory of alien visitation, so current evidence isn't examined with the belief that alien visitation is unlikely, it's examined with the assumption that alien visitation is impossible.

Once we have any significant evidence of aliens, we need to start thinking about what kind of theory of alien visitation makes sense. How do the stories of alien abductions collaborate? Does the spread of agriculture reflect actual population pressures and natural spread of knowledge? Are the myths of gods, faye, djinn, and gnosis attributable to these aliens?

The possibility that this was the only alien intervention is just one possibility that needs to be considered.
How can you derive the masses of the electron, proton, and neutron without splitting the atom?
Your chamber doesn't indicate the builders knew the masses of those things; it indicates it knew the ratios of their masses.

Mass change ratio of electron 1897
Discovering value of Avogadro's constant 1910

Without knowing about Brownian motion or Avogadro's number, one can know that the elements of chemistry interact in quantized ratios (always H2O or HO, never H1.43O).

If they could separate out the different isotopes of the first few elements (This can be done chemically) they could postulate the presence of protons (determining the element) and neutrons (adding mass but not determining the element), after that it's just a matter of applying linear algebra to the masses of a mole (or their mole equivalent) and finding out how much a moles of neutrons and protons weight.

This is somewhat limited as the in situ on independent masses of nucleons are different. For example a helium nucleus weights less (about 1% I think) than it's parts.

Finding the change/mass ratio of the electron is more sophisticated, and I can't see it being done without a pretty good understanding of electromagnetism.

The reason I say quarks are different is because there is no such thing as a quark. An isolated quark is a physical impossibility. We started putting quarks into our models to explain the particle zoo of hadrons we got from splitting the atom. Without splitting the atom, we have two hadrons to explain, with two quarks whose masses have little to do with the masses of the things they make up.
But the point was more that none of the context offers any significant explanatory value.
From what I understand about physical anthropology, context is everything.

There's a story about how someone brought a Native American jar they found to an archeologist. The archeologist asked a bunch of very specific questions about where it was found. Not satisfied with the answers, the archeologist threw the jar against the wall, because it was just that useless.

So when you say the context has no explanatory value, I suspect the serious archeological answer is "There is no worthwhile explanation, you implied that in your question. If your question is just about weird rocks talk to a geologist or something."
tomandlu wrote:First off, we can't really assign odds as to whether time-travel/FTL exists - they either are possible or not.
You kind of have to.

Let's say a I flip a coin 100 times, and get all heads. What's the probability the next time I'll get a heads?
If we assume a fair coin we know the probability is 50%.
There may or may not be a good way to get the probability that the coin is fair. However, evaluating the question demands we assign a probability.
We need to assume some priors to analyze the situation, and it can be beneficial to pick ones that allow us to reach either conclusion that the coin is/isn't fair.

Likewise, we are in Plato's cave, and we want to determine if FTL is possible based upon the shadows we happen to have seen. Ultimately we have to start from intuition and weigh evidence to figure out how the world actually works.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Twistar » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:06 am UTC

Science is the process of finding an explanation or model which best fits our experience.

"Reasonable reasoning" will mean using science to riddle out this puzzle. Our experience in this case is finding these rocks with these particular masses. "Our experience" can be replace with "the evidence."

Various models have been proposed that may fit our experience. The question now is how do we determine which model BEST explains the evidence. One (of a few) criteria for "best" is the amount of corroborating evidence in favor of one explanation. For example, the hoax model is corroborated by the observation that, to the best of our knowledge, ancient civilization were thousands of years of technology away from being able to determine the masses of these fundamental particles. The non-faster-than-light theories are all corroborated by the general and special theories of relativity and experimental verifications thereof. The non-alien theories are corroborated by the drake equation.

Another measure of "best" is that if model A and model B explain some phenomena but model B explains something that model A doesn't then B is "better than" A. This doesn't fit in because all of the proposed theories explain the evidence and nothing more (since it is such a specific phenomenon the theories are equally specific and don't generalize.) If there were other artifact sites maybe this criteria for best would come into play.

Another measure of best is that in light of two otherwise equal theories (same explanatory power and similar levels of corroboration) we will go with the simpler theory. Occam's razor. The main reason for this criterion is that a simpler theory will be easier to understand and manipulate so it will be easier to work with.

Note that none of these criteria are rigorous. They are just what scientists (read: people) do to determine which theory better fits their experience.

The hoax model obviously wins on all three counts so if we had to assign a "probability" to that theory it would be something like 99.99999% but we've ruled that out.

That means we're left with a bunch of other theories that all have extremely low "probabilities". We could fuss and try to figure out which one is more probable than the others but that really wouldn't be very scientific since there just simply isn't enough information.

So to answer the question: The "reasonable reasoning" would be to say that there are a few possible explanations but that there is not enough information to choosing a reigning theory amongst those differing explanations.

Also remember that ancient people didn't even know that there was such a thing as an atmosphere..

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:41 am UTC

SDK wrote:Can I also make the statement, "at least once in the history of the universe, five stone spheres in approximately the same location will have approximately those masses"? I think I can.


I guess this is the bit that I just don't know the answer to. Is a 1 in 170,000,000,000,000 event likely or not, given the entire duration of the universe? Depending on how generous we are, the answer appears to be 'yes'.

e.g. there are 3E+23 stars and the universe is 13 billion years old. If we assume that 1 in 10 stars has intelligent life that could have arisen at any time, and the formation of these stones would take a year, then there are (I think) 3.9E+32 rolls of the dice, which far exceeds the odds required. Even if I say that only 1 in a billion stars has intelligent life, we're still on 3.9E+24.

So, on that basis, 'coincidence' does seem more likely - of course, we can reasonably calculate only one set off odds (what are the chances of 5 spheres having these ratios?), which makes it all a bit meaningless.

Also, your statement "at least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life" doesn't actually account for these spheres. "At least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life and tell them five numbers with explicit instructions to fashion five stone spheres without the aliens' aid, then will leave with no other evidence of their presence on that planet" is a very dubious claim.


At this point, I'm just assuming the aliens are dicks.

Also, I like Twistar's take on this just above.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Xanthir » Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:40 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:Is a 1 in 170,000,000,000,000 event likely or not, given the entire duration of the universe?

This question is nonsense without knowing the population of events.

I just shuffled a deck of cards. The chance of me getting this particular arrangement is about 8e67, putting that puny 1.7e14 to shame.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby tomandlu » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:21 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Is a 1 in 170,000,000,000,000 event likely or not, given the entire duration of the universe?

This question is nonsense without knowing the population of events.


Well, that's why I tried to shove some (very generous) numbers in.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Xanthir » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:30 pm UTC

Your numbers still render my deck of cards ordering impossible, tho.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Jul 16, 2015 5:09 pm UTC

SDK wrote:That would help. As would precision on the order of 0.01% or something. If you want me to believe that they can weigh an electron, they'd better be able to weigh stone first.

The 1% wasn't an exact magical number or anything; it was just a ballpark to imply that the ratios of the stone masses were within the precision range that an ancient civilization would be capable of fabricating. I can construct a balance capable of measuring the mass of a grain of sand but I might have trouble getting a 2-tonne stone sphere to better precision than 1% without significant mechanized assistance. Not to mention that the spheres would likely lose a minute amount of material in transport, decreasing the accuracy of the ratios.

>-) wrote:Whoever was weighing the stones must have been hallucinating (if that doesn't fall under the hoax category).

Hallucination won't yield precise information that the hallucinator didn't already know.

Let me rephrase that. If someone with no prior knowledge of subatomic physics was "given" the ratios 1:4.5:9.4:1836:1838 in a hallucination, we'd have a lot bigger issue to deal with.

SDK wrote:It either is or it isn't, sure, but what's the chance that every piece of evidence we've found so far is incorrect? There is a chance that FTL travel or the ability to travel back in time are possible, yes, but it's extremely unlikely based on the fact that we currently believe it to be impossible.

I think "the chance...every piece of evidence we've found so far is incorrect" might be overstating it a bit. Biological alien visitation would probably require FTL travel, but a robot drone or unmanned (unalien'd?) probe wouldn't necessarily require FTL travel.

Can I also make the statement, "at least once in the history of the universe, five stone spheres in approximately the same location will have approximately those masses"? I think I can.

I can't think of any natural process that spams out stone spheres. Besides, these are specified to be anthropogenically-fabricated stone spheres, selected and kept together. The chances of five intelligently-fabricated stone spheres being stored together and just coincidentally happening to match these ratios without any knowledge of those ratios on the part of the fabricators is, I think, 0.

Now, that would be different if ancient man was in the habit of regularly constructing crypts containing single-digit collections of stone spheres of various masses. If there were a few thousand of these stone-sphere-containing crypts scattered around the ancient world, then the chances of one of the crypts containing stones with ratios matching some physically significant values jumps to the range of calculability. But that's not what we're talking about here.

Your statement "at least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life" doesn't actually account for these spheres. "At least once in the history of the universe, an alien will visit another planet with intelligent life and tell them five numbers with explicit instructions to fashion five stone spheres without the aliens' aid, then will leave with no other evidence of their presence on that planet" is a very dubious claim.

Requiring visitation by biological aliens in the scenario you've given above is over-specified. Because those ratios are simple to represent, are universal across the baryonic universe, and ostensibly require intelligence and advanced technology to identify, it's not at all far-fetched to suppose that an alien intelligence would use them as a calling card of their own existence. In fact, I can't think of a better way to say "we are here and we are really smart" then to list out those ratios (perhaps along with the fine structure constant and pi and prime numbers and so forth). Information has a much better persistence value than physical artifacts, too.

And there are quite a few possible ways in which an extraterrestrial intelligence could have communicated those values to an ancient civilization without violating any laws of physics:

  • Energy-based communication. A nearby alien civilization which discovered Earth and saw evidence of life in its reflectivity spectrum could build a large array of lasers and lenses intended to beam a message our way. While they would likely include a basic radio signal like the Arecibo message, they would have to appreciate that the chances of their message reaching an technologically advanced civilization while it happened to be listening in are miniscule. It might be possible for sufficiently advanced aliens to construct a laser array capable of producing visible excitations in our atmosphere (perhaps via an aurora mechanism) in the hopes that a pre-technological civilization would at record what they saw for their descendants to decipher.
  • Directed probe. A nearby alien civilization which discovered Earth could send a Bracewell probe our way, programmed for a landing near the equator. Such a probe would likely carry the alien equivalent of the Voyager Golden Record, but the aliens would have to know that a pre-technological civilization wouldn't necessarily be able to make sense of it or preserve it, and so the Bracewell probe would probably carry some redundant information like ratios of physical constants in the hopes that it would be preserved beyond the lifetime of the physical probe.
  • Von Neumman probes. Even if the alien civilization wasn't anywhere close to us, it could still desire to broadcast its existence and leave its mark on the galaxy, and thus could have created self-replicating space probes with programming to spread across the galaxy and function as the above-mentioned Bracewell probes whenever they discovered potentially habitable worlds.
I'm sure there are other possibilities I haven't yet considered.

SDK wrote:There is a chance that FTL travel or the ability to travel back in time are possible, yes, but it's extremely unlikely based on the fact that we currently believe it to be impossible. Also based on the fact that we haven't yet been inundated by tourists from every point in the future.

Backwards time-travel does seem highly unlikely, but there's very little justification for thinking that there could never be any way for backward communication. It's even possible that some physical limitation would allow for such communication, but only a single time.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
sevenperforce wrote: think the question is not "what other evidence is there?" but "how likely is it that this is the only surviving piece of evidence?
I think they're really the same question. Once we have any significant evidence of aliens, we need to start thinking about what kind of theory of alien visitation makes sense. How do the stories of alien abductions collaborate? Does the spread of agriculture reflect actual population pressures and natural spread of knowledge? Are the myths of gods, faye, djinn, and gnosis attributable to these aliens?

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that "if aliens communicated anything to us, they certainly would have left more evidence than just one communication" which doesn't appear justified or defended.

How can you derive the masses of the electron, proton, and neutron without splitting the atom?
Your chamber doesn't indicate the builders knew the masses of those things; it indicates it knew the ratios of their masses.

Without knowing about Brownian motion or Avogadro's number, one can know that the elements of chemistry interact in quantized ratios (always H2O or HO, never H1.43O).

If they could separate out the different isotopes of the first few elements (This can be done chemically) they could postulate the presence of protons (determining the element) and neutrons (adding mass but not determining the element), after that it's just a matter of applying linear algebra to the masses of a mole (or their mole equivalent) and finding out how much a moles of neutrons and protons weight.

Finding the change/mass ratio of the electron is more sophisticated, and I can't see it being done without a pretty good understanding of electromagnetism.

The reason I say quarks are different is because there is no such thing as a quark. An isolated quark is a physical impossibility. We started putting quarks into our models to explain the particle zoo of hadrons we got from splitting the atom. Without splitting the atom, we have two hadrons to explain, with two quarks whose masses have little to do with the masses of the things they make up.

If an ancient civilization was able to make use of chemistry to arrive at the mass ratios of electrons, protons, and neutrons, they might well be capable of discovering radioactive decay from natural sources of radiation and reasoning the existence of nuclear-level forces on that basis. Who knows -- maybe the discovery of those ratios is not outside the range of possibilities. It's trivial enough to identify the specific heat capacity of various materials, and I can imagine a pre-industrial apparatus for measuring the energy absorption from radioactive decay in different materials, thus enabling a basic understanding of the energies and potential particles. Quantization is a terrific analytical tool -- just look at the photoelectric effect.

Could an ancient civilization come up with these ratios? Maybe. At the very least, we might arrive at a calculable probability greater than the odds of pure coincidence...though probably still not as high as the odds of extraterrestrial communication.

But the point was more that none of the context offers any significant explanatory value.
From what I understand about physical anthropology, context is everything.

There's a story about how someone brought a Native American jar they found to an archeologist. The archeologist asked a bunch of very specific questions about where it was found. Not satisfied with the answers, the archeologist threw the jar against the wall, because it was just that useless.

Even if the spheres were in a crypt which was identified as Sumerian in origin, dating to the year 3800 BCE, surrounded by religious symbolism and so forth, it's still quite likely that the surrounding context would not offer any significant explanation of where they got the ratios.

tomandlu wrote:
SDK wrote:Can I also make the statement, "at least once in the history of the universe, five stone spheres in approximately the same location will have approximately those masses"? I think I can.


I guess this is the bit that I just don't know the answer to. Is a 1 in 170,000,000,000,000 event likely or not, given the entire duration of the universe? Depending on how generous we are, the answer appears to be 'yes'.

e.g. there are 3E+23 stars and the universe is 13 billion years old. If we assume that 1 in 10 stars has intelligent life that could have arisen at any time, and the formation of these stones would take a year, then there are (I think) 3.9E+32 rolls of the dice, which far exceeds the odds required. Even if I say that only 1 in a billion stars has intelligent life, we're still on 3.9E+24.

Those odds are valid if we're considering the probability of a random coincidence in a larger population. But that larger population is what we don't have.

The odds of being dealt a royal flush while playing poker in a casino are 30,939:1. There are something like 7,000 casinos in the world, and if we guess (ballpark) that each casino will have a dozen poker tables operating at any given time, each with an average of four players and one new hand every five minutes, then that's 67,200 poker hands every minute...which means a royal flush is dealt every 27.6 seconds worldwide. That's what a large population does to low probabilities.

But the chances of a royal flush occurring in the room I'm currently in? 0. Because there is no poker game in the room I'm in. There is no deck of cards in the room I'm in. No one has anything that looks like cards in this room.

The entire point of this hypothetical is that we don't find a bunch of other crypts on the planet containing carved spherical stones of various weights. So the population is not every star with intelligent life; the population we're dealing with is the population of stars with intelligent life in which the inhabitants decided to build a single crypt to store a single collection of carved spherical stones of various weights. Which, I think, is going to be much lower. If we use factors from the Drake equation, we should have:

N = sU * fp * ne * fl * fm * fi * fr * nr * fr_c

If sU is the number of stars in the universe, fp is the fraction of stars with planets, ne is the average number of habitable planets per star with planets, fl is the fraction of habitable planets which develop life, fm is the fraction of planets with life which develop macroscopic life, fi is the fraction of planets with life that develop intelligence, fr is the fraction of intelligent species which invent something like religion, nr is the average number of religions invented by such species, and fr_c is the fraction of religions/belief systems which would prompt the construction of something like a crypt containing something which could be used to represent a series of ratios, then N is the population of such crypts (or similar structures) we should expect to exist in the universe.

Using the following values:
  • sU = 3e+23
  • fp can be estimated at 0.9
  • ne is estimated at 0.1 by Lineweaver et al
  • fl can be estimated at 1/20 (ballpark)
  • fm can be estimated at 1/100 (ballpark)
  • fi can be estimated at 1/5000 using our own experience, as there are only a half-dozen vaguely intelligent species on the planet (apes, cetaceans, some bird species) out of tens of thousands of vertebrate families
  • fr can be estimated at 1/10 using our own experience (other intelligent animals don't appear to be significantly superstitious)
  • nr can be estimated using our own experience at around 30 million if we use every different deity as a different religion
  • fr_c can be estimated as 1/10,000,000 which is fairly generous given that we don't have any real examples of that in our own experience
This gives us an N of 8.1e14, which is cutting it awfully close.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby PeteP » Thu Jul 16, 2015 5:42 pm UTC

Btw about the 1%. 1836:1838 are too close to be distinguishable with an error of that size.

And maybe minus some mass loss and hand work the first three were just supposed to be 1:5:10 which would be less surprising then the question would be how likely they are to then end up near 4.5 and 9.4.

Also the proportions between their radii: (4.5)^(1/3)~=1.651 the golden ratio is 1.61 and we can't really tell how precise they are without assumptions of what they wanted to portray. So maybe the ratio is based on that. Maybe there are two other mathematical numbers you can find for 9.4 and the two almost identical heavy ones.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby quintopia » Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:52 pm UTC

I still think it's just as likely they were trying to depict in spherical form the relative magnitudes of the five brightest stars of Libra or something similar. I bet we could come up with thousands of macro-scale phenomena that obey that same ratio within a range of 10% if we tried hard enough.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:08 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Btw about the 1%. 1836:1838 are too close to be distinguishable with an error of that size.

And maybe minus some mass loss and hand work the first three were just supposed to be 1:5:10 which would be less surprising then the question would be how likely they are to then end up near 4.5 and 9.4.

Also the proportions between their radii: (4.5)^(1/3)~=1.651 the golden ratio is 1.61 and we can't really tell how precise they are without assumptions of what they wanted to portray. So maybe the ratio is based on that. Maybe there are two other mathematical numbers you can find for 9.4 and the two almost identical heavy ones.

Yeah, I knew that 1% would be indistinguishable at an 1836:1838 scale; like I said, that "1%" was just shorthand for "within the limits of what they are able to fabricate".

Interestingly enough, the mass difference between a neutron and a proton -- 1.293 MeV/c2 -- is on the order of the rest masses of their constituent quarks (1.8-3.0 MeV/c2 for the up quark and 4.5-5.3 MeV/c2 for the up quark). If you already knew that atomic nuclei were constructed of a bunch of neutrons and protons clumped together, it would be a safe assumption that neutrons and protons are constructed of smaller particles also clumped together, and you could suppose that these particles have masses on the order of the difference between a neutron and a proton. The in situ masses of protons and neutrons can differ from the rest masses by about a percent, so it's not inconceivable that the masses of the quarks would emerge somewhere in there.

Unrelated: Lattice QCD has been reasonably successful at predicting the known masses and predicts the masses of the up and down quarks to a very narrow range, but this has not yet been confirmed by experiment so the masses of the up and down quarks are still considered to be represented by a slightly wider range as indicated above. If the up quark rest mass is on the low end of the possible range and the down quark rest mass is on the high end of the possible range, then the difference in the rest masses of the nucleons comes (within experimental error) to the difference in the rest masses of the quarks. An interesting coincidence, don't you think?

quintopia wrote:I still think it's just as likely they were trying to depict in spherical form the relative magnitudes of the five brightest stars of Libra or something similar. I bet we could come up with thousands of macro-scale phenomena that obey that same ratio within a range of 10% if we tried hard enough.

Probably...but within a range of 1%? 0.1%?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby >-) » Fri Jul 17, 2015 12:56 pm UTC

While there may not be another ratio within 1% of the stones, it is relatively likely that the mass of stones were altered after creation by around 10% from erosion or some human activity, meaning any explanatory ratio off by up to 10% is good enough.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:47 pm UTC

>-) wrote:While there may not be another ratio within 1% of the stones, it is relatively likely that the mass of stones were altered after creation by around 10% from erosion or some human activity, meaning any explanatory ratio off by up to 10% is good enough.

The coincidence of erosion to those exact values is still quite anomalous.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby quintopia » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:19 pm UTC

But not as anomalous. If I was targeting some set of ratios that was similar to those, but ended up hitting those exact other ratios that I didn't know about due to error in my cutting and grinding process... Well since my target ratio is already pretty near the ratio I got, there's a reasonable (if small) chance it was going to happen, and that chance still outweighs most of the alternate theories. It's like all those correlations people find between unrelated things. They can find correlations with like r=0.95, just by the sheer number of things out there that could be correlated.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jul 21, 2015 5:43 pm UTC

quintopia wrote:But not as anomalous. If I was targeting some set of ratios that was similar to those, but ended up hitting those exact other ratios that I didn't know about due to error in my cutting and grinding process... Well since my target ratio is already pretty near the ratio I got, there's a reasonable (if small) chance it was going to happen, and that chance still outweighs most of the alternate theories. It's like all those correlations people find between unrelated things. They can find correlations with like r=0.95, just by the sheer number of things out there that could be correlated.

All very good points.

According to this page, ancient stoneworking techniques were developed enough to constrain construction to within a hundredth of an inch. If this is true, then I can posit a significantly greater level of precision for the stone spheres.

Supposing arbitrarily that our "electron" stone has a mass on the order of 10 kg and the stone is basic limestone at a density of around 2.5 g/cm3, the diameters of our stones in mm will be 197:311:415:2412:2413. A tolerance of one hundredth of an inch corresponds to a volume/mass percentage error of 1.55% for the electron, 0.98% for the up quark, 0.73% for the down quark, and 0.13% for the two nucleons.

So if you had five unrelated values which all just happened to be within 10% of these five, what are the odds of error/erosion/etc. managing to "land" your five stones on these ratios? Unless I miss my guess, it's 1 in 10/1.55 * 10/0.98 * 10/0.73 * 10/0.13 * 10/0.13 or 1/5,624,212 which is still considerable. But I suppose it's vaguely feasible?

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:How can you derive the masses of the electron, proton, and neutron without splitting the atom?
Your chamber doesn't indicate the builders knew the masses of those things; it indicates it knew the ratios of their masses.

Mass change ratio of electron 1897
Discovering value of Avogadro's constant 1910

Without knowing about Brownian motion or Avogadro's number, one can know that the elements of chemistry interact in quantized ratios (always H2O or HO, never H1.43O).

Finding the change/mass ratio of the electron is more sophisticated, and I can't see it being done without a pretty good understanding of electromagnetism.

There's no credible evidence that the ancients actually ever had batteries, but it's not too far-fetched to imagine that they could have used a really basic pile for something...electroplating or whatnot. I wonder how far down that road you'd need to go to get to the point of understanding the charge/mass business.

And I wonder what the model for the atom would have looked like without the electron being already understood...

Another question. Let's say you're a time traveler to the distant past and you want to try and leave a clue for future generations to uncover, so that they will be able to figure out that you're the one who changed history (hopefully for the better). Knowing that any physical clues you leave behind could easily be lost or destroyed, is there anything other than the ratios of elementary particle masses or other dimensionless physical constants that would be good to communicate to the ancients in the hopes of revealing your involvement?

>-)
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby >-) » Tue Jul 21, 2015 7:30 pm UTC

If you only need a few thousand years and don't mind a bit of futuristic technology, why not encode your message of choice into the genes of a bunch of organisms? You'd need some error resistant encoding, but nothing too complex

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jul 21, 2015 7:41 pm UTC

>-) wrote:If you only need a few thousand years and don't mind a bit of futuristic technology, why not encode your message of choice into the genes of a bunch of organisms? You'd need some error resistant encoding, but nothing too complex

Eh, you only have an ordinary human lifespan and nothing too terribly futuristic compared to what we have now.

Plus, even if you use error-resistant coding, you have no guarantee that the organisms you choose won't end up going extinct in the intervening period.

The idea was to try and communicate something to ancient man in a way that would be decipherable as authentic. You know, something more than "a sky god came and told us that pies are eternal".

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:37 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote: Unless I miss my guess, it's 1 in 10/1.55 * 10/0.98 * 10/0.73 * 10/0.13 * 10/0.13 or 1/5,624,212 1 in 69,370
You only have four independent variables, and one dependent one.

If we consider just the neutron stone in isolation, since it doesn't have to be proportional to anything to be an arbitrary scale up of a neutron's mass.
Considering the neutron and electron: there's an arbitrary scale and the ratio between the two. The accuracy of the ratio number is limited by the rougher member of the two.
Add in the other three and you end up with one arbitrary number and four numbers that contribute to the unlikeliness of this arrangement.
Another question.
Construct the foundation in a pattern that forms Logiban words using non-local stone. Preferably in a stone rich area.

Logiban, because that's distinctly a new language.

The foundation, because that's the part most likely to retain it's shape. Even if buried, it might cause crop marks.

Non-local stone, because any additions will be clear.

Stone rich area: because we don't want vandals stealing the stone foundation.
Last edited by Quizatzhaderac on Wed Aug 05, 2015 5:48 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
The thing about recursion problems is that they tend to contain other recursion problems.


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