Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

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sevenperforce
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jul 21, 2015 8:47 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
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 independent 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.

Actually, this calculation was to find the odds of arriving at the stated level of precision by chance erosion/scuffing/mistake if you were already working with five (unrelated) values which simply happened to be within 10% of the specified ratio set.

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.

How would archaeologists in the distant future be able to make sense of the communication? Why would it appear to be anything more than a project undertaken by ancients for religious or political purposes?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby KittenKaboodle » Wed Jul 22, 2015 4:58 am UTC

sevenperforce wrote: Let's say you're a time traveler


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


Um, am I the only one who doesn't have a time machine around here?

"Knowing that any physical clues you leave behind could easily be lost or destroyed"
How are you going to communicate these ratios without something physical?

there are any number of small nondescript, reasonably durable but clearly anomalous for the time period, things that could be left laying around. How about some tiny glass spheres containing a bit of Pu-242? a bunch of small surface mount integrated circuits (would look a lot like random gravel to someone who had no idea what they were), they wouldn't have to survive in working condition, or even for their function to be understood, for the fabrication to still be clearly be the product of advanced technology. Laser engrave (very small) the works of Shakespeare on crude, dull, stone tools that would be of little interest to the locals, but just might be put under a microscope by an archeologist interested in how they were used. (or if you are going to change history, how about the contents of Mein Kampf? that would cause some head scratching!)

I wonder how many archeologists know the ratios of elementary particle masses from memory, and how precisely do they typically measure the masses of odd stone spheres they find?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:21 am UTC

If I was a time traveller stuck in the past, and I wanted to leave a message for the future? I would make one of those huge chalk figures that prevent grass from growing, leaving the message visible for millennia.

As for the message? I would express my annoyance at being left behind. I might consider 'fuck you, future'. But figurative, not in writing as languages might change. Perhaps I would draw myself, with a large erect penis.

Suppose we found such an ancient drawing. What are the odds that such a drawing would be created by random forces of nature? Surely even smaller then the 5 stones from the OP. It would be pretty strong evidence of time travel.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jul 22, 2015 2:47 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:As for the message? I would express my annoyance at being left behind. I might consider 'fuck you, future'. But figurative, not in writing as languages might change. Perhaps I would draw myself, with a large erect penis.

Suppose we found such an ancient drawing. What are the odds that such a drawing would be created by random forces of nature? Surely even smaller then the 5 stones from the OP. It would be pretty strong evidence of time travel.

Given the number of ancient artifacts depicting large penises in various states of erectness, I seriously doubt that archaeologists would identify it as the work of a time traveler.

KittenKaboodle wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:...knowing that any physical clues you leave behind could easily be lost or destroyed...

How are you going to communicate these ratios without something physical?

If you can communicate ideas to ancient man that they wouldn't have been able to figure out themselves, then those ideas can be immortalized. You don't know how your visit to the past might change history, so you don't know where it's safe to try and bury artifacts for preservation.

...there are any number of small nondescript, reasonably durable but clearly anomalous for the time period, things that could be left laying around. How about some tiny glass spheres containing a bit of Pu-242? a bunch of small surface mount integrated circuits (would look a lot like random gravel to someone who had no idea what they were), they wouldn't have to survive in working condition, or even for their function to be understood, for the fabrication to still be clearly be the product of advanced technology.

If they are ever discovered at all...which is the problem. You have no way of knowing what course history might take. Information typically has a longer persistence than objects, particularly if you can embed it in the belief systems of the people groups you visit.

I wonder how many archeologists know the ratios of elementary particle masses from memory, and how precisely do they typically measure the masses of odd stone spheres they find?

Oh, I doubt the archaeologists who discover the spheres would notice anything amiss, other than reporting that it's a rather odd find. Rather, it would probably be someone else browsing through odd finds in archaeology who happens to know the ratios of elementary particle masses.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jul 22, 2015 3:10 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:Actually, this calculation was to find the odds of arriving at the stated level of precision by chance erosion/scuffing/mistake if you were already working with five (unrelated) values which simply happened to be within 10% of the specified ratio set.
You can represent the numbers in a number of isomorphic ways, but the ratio set of five weights is four numbers. If you'll accept the stones in any scale, you have to accept one of the numbers as being "just so" by assumption.
[How would archaeologists in the distant future be able to make sense of the communication? Why would it appear to be anything more than a project undertaken by ancients for religious or political purposes?
You mean the distant future from our time, not the distant future relative to the ruins?

I would say for relatively mundane predictions of the future, development and populations growth could cause the ruins to be found in modern times or the near future. If not from a construction crew stumbling on it, from a park ranger or a satellite search for crop marks. In that case, I'd expect they'd still know what Lojban is and the translation is.

Assuming some kind of chrono-nuclear war that destroys civilization? Lojban might not work, but I'd imagine English would survive in some sense (like Latin "survives" without native speakers, but with large easily traceable impacts on the world.)

But in that case the big problem becomes the discoverers seeing 21th century language on -10th century rocks and thinking "Someone in the 21st century knew how to screw with radiodating."

Or if they knew about time travel (being from our future), just saying "I'm from the future" would work.
KittenKaboodle wrote:"Knowing that any physical clues you leave behind could easily be lost or destroyed"
How are you going to communicate these ratios without something physical?
Could be destroyed. The probabilities of different physical evidence surviving and being found differ.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jul 22, 2015 4:27 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:How would archaeologists in the distant future be able to make sense of the communication? Why would it appear to be anything more than a project undertaken by ancients for religious or political purposes?
You mean the distant future from our time, not the distant future relative to the ruins?

I'd expect they'd still know what Lojban is and the translation is. Lojban might not work, but I'd imagine English would survive in some sense.

I meant our time; the distant future relative to the ruins.

But if we're doing this in a time period before the existence of English, we have no way of knowing that English will ever develop at all. If you're going to be erecting some large foundation, it's probably better to put it in the form of diagrams or images which will be recognizable as the product of technologically advanced abilities.

In that case the big problem becomes the discoverers seeing 21th century language on -10th century rocks and thinking "Someone in the 21st century knew how to screw with radiodating.

Indeed. Yet another thing to be concerned about.

...knowing that any physical clues you leave behind could easily be lost or destroyed...

Could be destroyed. The probabilities of different physical evidence surviving and being found differ.

So what's the best bet?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jul 22, 2015 5:30 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:But if we're doing this in a time period before the existence of English, we have no way of knowing that English will ever develop at all.
Ah, okay; so the time travel might prevent our present from forming. I was thinking static timelines.

For leaving a physical message from the future, I might try using an existent language from the wrong geography. Like Qin Chinese in Mesoamerica. By itself, the possibility of someone just happening to be on the wrong side of the world is much bigger, but there's still a WTF factor. More WTF means closer investigation (are these jewels plexiglass?) and marginally more support for the crazy time travel theory.

Some symbols and diagrams might be good to, but I wouldn't ignore the potential for text actually saying "I'm a time traveler and meteors will hit these places on these dates."

If we can, and are completely willing to, change the timeline: I would just go full A Connecticut Yankee in King Author's court , make myself important, change the world, and explicitly declare I'm from the future. That way the knowledge that I time traveled would not need to be recovered, it would just be a continuous part of society's knowledge.
So what's the best bet?
My answer would be my suggestion two posts ago about sending the message with a building's foundation: noticeable, durable.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Jul 23, 2015 1:35 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:But if we're doing this in a time period before the existence of English, we have no way of knowing that English will ever develop at all.
Ah, okay; so the time travel might prevent our present from forming. I was thinking static timelines.

Yeah, branching multiverse timelines or whatever.

FOr leaving a physical message from the future, I might try using an existent language from the wrong geography. Like Qin Chinese in Mesoamerica. By itself, the possibility of someone just happening to be on the wrong side of the world is much bigger, but there's still a WTF factor. More WTF means closer investigation (are these jewels plexiglass?) and marginally more support for the crazy time travel theory.

Or even a message in all existing languages in several places. It's highly unlikely to find Qin Chinese in Mesoamerica dating to ~200 BCE, but astronomically less likely to find the same message written in Qin Chinese, Phoenician, Latin, Greek, and Etruscan, placed on several different continents.

The issue you're going to run into here is that the more detail you put into the message, the physically larger it needs to be to have a chance of surviving.

Some symbols and diagrams might be good to, but I wouldn't ignore the potential for text actually saying "I'm a time traveler and meteors will hit these places on these dates."

Symbols and diagrams simply have the advantage of not requiring linguistic affiliation to retain meaning. They also have a much better chance of being reproduced accurately after you're gone.

If we can, and are completely willing to, change the timeline: I would just go full A Connecticut Yankee in King Author's court , make myself important, change the world, and explicitly declare I'm from the future. That way the knowledge that I time traveled would need to be recovered, it would just be a continuous part of society's knowledge.

You'd merely become the stuff of myth.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:16 pm UTC

Myths tend to make people bigger, not smaller.

The myth would serve to at the least to prime the belief. For example: let's say a modern atheist meets someone who calls themself Yeshua; has (stable) crucifixion, whip and spear wounds; walks on water, multiplies bread and fish, and heals untreatable ailments with a touch. This "Yeshua" then offers to explain his opinions on the afterlife to the atheist. At this point, the "atheist" would probably be quite interested to hear what he has to say. Not really because those actions themselves directly relate to the afterlife, but because there's a well know narrative all this fits into that includes knowledge of the afterlife.

In this case, when skeptics come along, they will look at this person that "discovered" Newtonian physics, germ theory, penicillin, Mendelian genetics, electronmagnetics; mapped the world; predicted comets, meteors, and volcanoes (with the most detailed predictions in the 20th century); invented the stirrup, gunpowder, tacking (in Kazakhstan?), surgery worth doing (sterilization, anesthetic, sewing things closed and decent anatomical study), and crop rotation. Also this person left a cache of knowledge which lead to relativity, quantum physics, the transistor, optics, computation, microbiology, et cetra, et cetra.

The skeptic will consider other options, especially one which match their day to day experiences. But what else actually makes sense? And the time travel idea is definitely on the table, if not the whole theoretical underpinnings.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:43 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:When skeptics come along, they will look at this person that "discovered" Newtonian physics, germ theory, penicillin, Mendelian genetics, electronmagnetics; mapped the world; predicted comets, meteors, and volcanoes (with the most detailed predictions in the 20th century); invented the stirrup, gunpowder, tacking (in Kazakhstan?), surgery worth doing (sterilization, anesthetic, sewing this closed and decent anatomical study), and crop rotation. Also this person left a cache of knowledge which lead to relativity, quantum physics, the transistor, optics, computation, microbiology, et cetra, et cetra.

But over the course of millenia, how much of that history will be recognizable? "One guy discovered all this? Pah. Obviously, this took a lot of time, and we just don't have good records; the notion of one guy discovering it all must be a superstition."

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Jul 23, 2015 4:57 pm UTC

"we just don't have good records"

Why assume that? Especially since our Connecticut Yankee wants to be remembered. That does remind me that I forgot to put the printing press on the list of inventions.

Was Qin Shi Huang only one person or did China unify gradually over generations due to the efforts of people from many Kingdoms? We have quite a lot of evidence that he was actually one person, because society was writing and recording stuff then.

Likewise, I don't think any historian doubts that Jesus, Mohammed, and Gautama Buddha were one person each. People do doubt their divinity, and the claims of literary exceptionalism each religion makes (I'm just guessing that there are Buddhists that claim this). The differences here are that the exceptionalism is much more exceptional.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:51 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
Zamfir wrote:As for the message? I would express my annoyance at being left behind. I might consider 'fuck you, future'. But figurative, not in writing as languages might change. Perhaps I would draw myself, with a large erect penis.

Suppose we found such an ancient drawing. What are the odds that such a drawing would be created by random forces of nature? Surely even smaller then the 5 stones from the OP. It would be pretty strong evidence of time travel.

Given the number of ancient artifacts depicting large penises in various states of erectness, I seriously doubt that archaeologists would identify it as the work of a time traveler.


Zamfir is no doubt alluding to an existing message that you can find with a bit of googling. The logical conclusion is either that "this is odd" isn't sufficient proof of time travel, or we really do have a pile of time travel in our history somehow. One or the other.

Mostly, I favor the former. Yeah, it's odd that messages were made that aren't really for the benefit of anyone on the ground, prior to the age of flight, but it's not impossible.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby krogoth » Fri Jul 24, 2015 2:00 am UTC

I already went into the past and left evidence I was a time traveler, People misconstrue it and now we have Christianity. :/
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby elasto » Fri Jul 24, 2015 6:16 am UTC

In this case, when skeptics come along, they will look at this person that "discovered" Newtonian physics, germ theory, penicillin, Mendelian genetics, electronmagnetics; mapped the world; predicted comets, meteors, and volcanoes (with the most detailed predictions in the 20th century); invented the stirrup, gunpowder, tacking (in Kazakhstan?), surgery worth doing (sterilization, anesthetic, sewing this closed and decent anatomical study), and crop rotation. Also this person left a cache of knowledge which lead to relativity, quantum physics, the transistor, optics, computation, microbiology, et cetra, et cetra.

That does remind me that I forgot to put the printing press on the list of inventions.


Does this time traveller not care in the least about changing history? By including a printing press, I assume you are having all this knowledge be widely spread rather than in a hidden cache.

In all likelihood, this guy wouldn't be seen as a time traveller but merely a brilliant theoretician and inventor - a super-powered Edison or something. Eventually perhaps, the accurate predictions of comets, meteors and volcanoes would lead people to believe he might have been a time-traveller, but his future would be long gone.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jul 24, 2015 1:34 pm UTC

elasto wrote:In all likelihood, this guy wouldn't be seen as a time traveller but merely a brilliant theoretician and inventor - a super-powered Edison or something. Eventually perhaps, the accurate predictions of comets, meteors and volcanoes would lead people to believe he might have been a time-traveller, but his future would be long gone.

Yeah, I think the inventions and scientific advancements might overshadow the "Hey guys I'm a time traveler" part. That is, if you were able to get the inventions and scientific advancements going all on your own. The Connecticut Yankee was quite the extraordinary fellow....

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby asdfex » Sat Jul 25, 2015 12:33 pm UTC

ratios 1:4.5:9.4:1836:1838

I'd start with the two quarks - why should any ancient guy come up with exactly the ratio we currently measured for the quarks? Today we know quark masses to about +-30% precision and only ten years ago the quark masses were believed to be at least 50% higher than todays best measurements. It is very likely that the actual masses are different from todays values by at least 10%. Hence, that must be pure coincidence. If they had used the masses of a pion and kaon instead, the scales would be much more convincing.

PeteP wrote:And maybe minus some mass loss and hand work the first three were just supposed to be 1:5:10

That's also my interpretation. The stones are part of a set of weighs, including the heavier ones supposed to weigh 2000 times the smallest one. They were dumped into the pit because they became to inaccurate after some heavy use...

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby mfb » Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:38 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
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 500
You only have four independent variables, and one independent one.
Removing the quark masses, see asdfex. 1 in 500 looks quite reasonable. We can reduce this even more if we assume the two large stones started at the same mass, and one lost a bit more than the other. The difference is still in the range of the experimental resolution anyway.
The muon mass would be an interesting addition, maybe together with the tau mass. Add W, Z and top and coincidence becomes very unlikely.

Recovered numbers from an alien space probe would be my guess then if we rule out a hoax.

Getting a reasonable electron to proton and neutron mass ratio is not that hard - all you need are reliable high voltage, vacuum, and the right experiments. No way to do that with stone tools, but certainly possible earlier than it has been done. We know where to look how, of course, which they did not know in the past.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Aug 07, 2015 4:17 pm UTC

Adding in the tau, the muon, the W and Z bosons, and perhaps the Higgs Boson would definitely make coincidence a lot less likely, but then you run into some size problems. The electron is half a MeV/c2 and the proton and neutron are just under 1 GeV/c2, so stone spheres of equal density delineating their relative masses would have a diameter ratio of 1:12.6, which isn't all that bad.

The Z boson, on the other hand, weighs in at 91.2 GeV/c2, a diameter ratio with the electron of 1:60. Add the Higgs and the diameter ratio jumps to about 1:65. If your "electron stone" is any more than a kilogram, your bosons are going to be larger than elephants.

Here's a related question. Let's say we did find something (perhaps a plaque from a crashed alien probe) with the exact masses of all the elementary particles, but with a mass for the Higgs Boson that's noticeably different from the 126 GeV/c2 we're currently estimating. Would such a discovery be sufficient evidence to accept, at least provisionally, that we're almost certainly wrong about the mass of the Higgs? We're not yet capable of putting a probe on the surface of an exoplanet, so it's reasonable to assume that an alien civilization with the capacity of putting a probe on Earth would have a lower chance of being wrong about the Higgs than we are, right?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Xanthir » Fri Aug 07, 2015 5:14 pm UTC

It would definitely update us strongly toward "uncertain about the Higgs mass", yeah.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Aug 07, 2015 6:06 pm UTC

If nothing else, it's an odd-sounding admission. "We were pretty sure that the Higgs Boson was around 125 times the mass of a proton, but then we found these artifacts precisely identifying all the masses of the elementary particles and they seem to suggest that the Higgs Boson should be about 141 times the mass of the proton, so we're pretty sure we messed something up somewhere."

Moving on....

Other than the relative masses of all the elementary particles, what other information could have been recorded with stone age technology which would lead us to reasonably conclude that some contact with advanced technology or knowledge had taken place? What about a massive scale model of the solar system (using stone obelisks or some such) accurately indicating the positions of the sun and the eight planets in the epoch to which the obelisks date? Bonus if the obelisks somehow indicate the relative masses of the planets as well.

If not that, what about an engraving showing the spiral arms of the Milky Way and identifying the location of the solar system?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Cradarc » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:44 am UTC

Here's a question: Why should we care?
History is full of mysteries. As scientists, we seek to build our current knowledge and understanding. We speculate about the past to better predict the future.
Suppose the ancients did know quantum physics. How does that help us today? The rocks give us nothing valuable, no new information. Perhaps someone thousands of years into the future will look at the rock and discover even more information is contained within them. In the present, they are only rocks with particular properties that tickle our consciousness.

What's really fascinating is how various chemical compounds and randomness eventually gave rise to water-filled masses that can self-replicate and expend energy to shape rocks into spherical objects.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby elasto » Sat Aug 08, 2015 4:35 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Here's a question: Why should we care?
History is full of mysteries. As scientists, we seek to build our current knowledge and understanding.

And what's an easier or simpler way of building our knowledge and understanding than piggy-backing on the scientific advances of others? Do you think China would have advanced as rapidly this last couple of decades without piggy-backing on the West?

It's very unlikely that someone thousands of years ago reached exactly the same level of science as us; Given the exponential nature of technological growth, it's much more likely that they were either behind or ahead of us - and, if in this scenario we've ruled out fraud, then they were almost certainly ahead of us.

Assuming fraud has been ruled out, we absolutely should care about looking into this deeper. (However, a-priori, fraud is the most likely explanation here...)

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Cradarc » Sat Aug 08, 2015 4:36 pm UTC

Of course, we should build up on past knowledge. In this case, though, there appears to be nothing more we can squeeze out. Regardless if we found the spheres or not, we would continue the archaeology and try to acquire more evidence and information about that civilization. Speculating about the spheres without any further evidence is a waste of time and could lead to bias when further evidence is found.

It's like putting together a shattered picture and finding what looks like an edge piece in a place we didn't expect to see one. The best thing to do is to not form an opinion about whether or not it is indeed an edge piece and look for more pieces that are in the vicinity.
If you become biased towards this piece being an edge piece, you become more likely to say a nearby piece with an 80 degree angle is a malformed corner piece. Likewise, if you conclude this piece is not an edge piece, you become less likely to say a similar-looking piece is an edge piece.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby mfb » Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:14 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:Here's a related question. Let's say we did find something (perhaps a plaque from a crashed alien probe) with the exact masses of all the elementary particles, but with a mass for the Higgs Boson that's noticeably different from the 126 GeV/c2 we're currently estimating. Would such a discovery be sufficient evidence to accept, at least provisionally, that we're almost certainly wrong about the mass of the Higgs? We're not yet capable of putting a probe on the surface of an exoplanet, so it's reasonable to assume that an alien civilization with the capacity of putting a probe on Earth would have a lower chance of being wrong about the Higgs than we are, right?
There is no way that would make our measurements more than ~5 GeV off. There are at least four completely independent measurements of it, all in agreement and all with sub-GeV resolution. If the plaque has some particle with a completely different mass, it could be an undiscovered particle.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Meteoric » Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:15 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Here's a question: Why should we care?

It probably doesn't help physicists much, unless it proves the existence of time travel. For archaeologists and historians, it might have enormous import, and completely restructure our understanding of the ancient world.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby elasto » Sun Aug 09, 2015 12:26 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Of course, we should build up on past knowledge. In this case, though, there appears to be nothing more we can squeeze out. Regardless if we found the spheres or not, we would continue the archaeology and try to acquire more evidence and information about that civilization. Speculating about the spheres without any further evidence is a waste of time and could lead to bias when further evidence is found.

Not sure if we're just talking past each other or not.

I assume you realise that hundreds of archaeological digs happen each year, and we have to decide which of them gets prioritized with the most resources and where the elite researchers go? Many hundreds more digs will be passed on because archaeology just isn't a high priority area for government grants and charity funds compared to, I dunno, cancer research or something.

If by 'Why should we care?' you actually meant 'we should put massive resources into performing more digs in this area and find out as much as possible about what the hell happened here' then I'd agree with you. Assuming fraud has been ruled out, it's most likely aliens, time travel or a lost civilisation massively in advance of our own - each of which would literally turn our world upside down.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Cradarc » Sun Aug 09, 2015 7:54 pm UTC

Yeah, I think we are in agreement. I was responding to the OP by saying there shouldn't be any conclusions drawn from the spheres. We need more information before trying to work out an explanation.

If this discovery were real, it would be be sensationalized in the news, but wouldn't hold any scientific value. What we're doing on this thread is like what people do in the comment section of the article.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:42 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:I was responding to the OP by saying there shouldn't be any conclusions drawn from the spheres. We need more information before trying to work out an explanation.
Agreed.

I think archeologically, the next steps would entirely depend on the exact context of the spheres.

"This is our repository of natural knowledge, these stones represent the smallest possible things" with masses of the know particles, plus testable predictions of two other Higgs-like particles would be incredibly exciting; It would show our picture of the civilization was significantly wrong and give use reasons not usually associated with archeology to investigate.

A bunch of stones in an unmarked rooms is just numerology. It might be more appropriate to compare the coincidence to the sets of five stones that have significantly eroded (Huge set), or the set of sets of five-ratios (i.e. the number of times each of the backstreet boys have said "oh, girl!").
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:54 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote: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?


Like others here, I'd probably go with coincidence being the most probable explanation. In fact, I'd say coincidence is probably much more likely than it being a hoax. There's lots of perfectly plausible reasons why an ancient civilization might have wanted rocks with masses in ratios of ~1:5:10, and lots of reasons why they might have wanted two rocks with basically the same mass. People use small integer ratios for all kinds of things. The two big rocks happen to have about 6x the radius of the next largest one, so maybe that's the significance. The only reason that we see a particular pattern here is because we're being told there's a pattern and its significance. If the OP had just given the masses of the rocks in random order with no reference to the elementary particles, would anyone have ever actually thought that was being asked?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby mfb » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:22 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Like others here, I'd probably go with coincidence being the most probable explanation. In fact, I'd say coincidence is probably much more likely than it being a hoax. There's lots of perfectly plausible reasons why an ancient civilization might have wanted rocks with masses in ratios of ~1:5:10, and lots of reasons why they might have wanted two rocks with basically the same mass. People use small integer ratios for all kinds of things. The two big rocks happen to have about 6x the radius of the next largest one, so maybe that's the significance. The only reason that we see a particular pattern here is because we're being told there's a pattern and its significance. If the OP had just given the masses of the rocks in random order with no reference to the elementary particles, would anyone have ever actually thought that was being asked?
If you give me 5 numbers, one close to 1840, and ask for a pattern, elementary particles would be one of the first things I try.

Okay, I might be slightly biased as a particle physicist.

On the other hand: would someone even bother to weight the stones and calculate the ratios? Would someone try to find a pattern in the masses at all - assuming most archeologists don't recognize the proton to electron mass ratio?


Edit: Fixed weird quote bug.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:11 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Yeah, I think we are in agreement. I was responding to the OP by saying there shouldn't be any conclusions drawn from the spheres. We need more information before trying to work out an explanation.

I'm not so sure. Sure, we absolutely need more information...but I would tentatively suggest that you can reasonably draw the provisional conclusion that there's a particle (be it the Higgs or not) that we're missing in that slot. If there was once some intelligence out there (ancient civilization or alien or whatever) which was capable of precisely identifying the relative masses of the electron, the nucleons, the four quarks, and the W and Z bosons, then it seems highly unlikely that they were less advanced than we are. Thus it would seem reasonable to "trust" (at least provisionally) their apparent measurements of the Higgs or other unknown particles, at least until we've advanced to the point of being able to determine how "they" got their information.

It's a different sort of confidence, I suppose, but I don't think it's unreasonable.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:I think archeologically, the next steps would entirely depend on the exact context of the spheres.

"This is our repository of natural knowledge, these stones represent the smallest possible things" with masses of the know particles, plus testable predictions of two other Higgs-like particles would be incredibly exciting; It would show our picture of the civilization was significantly wrong and give use reasons not usually associated with archeology to investigate.

A bunch of stones in an unmarked rooms is just numerology.

Sadly, context is not always preserved. But just because we have lost the precise context (perhaps explanatory context exists, but in a language we are unable to translate) doesn't mean we should give up on learning something from them. These stones were intentionally fabricated for a purpose by a civilization capable of doing so and intentionally stored together. It's not a lot to go on, but it's something to set it apart from "the combined height of the Pyramids divided by the width of the Nile times the orbital radius of the Earth times exactly 100,000,000 is the precise distance to Alpha Centauri!!1!!" sort of numerology.

mfb wrote:Would someone even bother to weight the stones and calculate the ratios? Would someone try to find a pattern in the masses at all - assuming most archeologists don't recognize the proton to electron mass ratio?

Oh, probably not. The archaeologists who discovered it would likely take some basic measurements like diameter or circumference and then file it away in the "that's odd" category. It would probably be a while before someone like yourself, with experience in particle physics, was absent-mindedly paging through the Wikipedia list of unexplained archaeological discoveries and came across them and recognized what the ratios might represent.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Beavertails » Tue Aug 18, 2015 1:32 pm UTC

Interesting thread.

If we were to take the OP and accept that these 5 stones were almost exactly these ratios, it would truly be mindblowing and interesting if we could eliminate all other possibilities such as coincidence, or other phenomena with "similar" ratios.

However, there is one thing that I would find even MORE interesting than that:

Assuming that there was no other possibility for the stone ratios other than the relative masses of particles.... what if there was a SIXTH round stone with a ratio for something that we DIDN'T know of. THAT would be the most interesting thing to me of all.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Whizbang » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:05 pm UTC

Wouldn't that muddy the waters, though, as far as determining if the other 5 were authentic and intentional?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Aug 18, 2015 4:29 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:Wouldn't that muddy the waters, though, as far as determining if the other 5 were authentic and intentional?

Well, if the specifications of the first five were sufficiently exact that we could determine that they were authentic and intentional, then the addition of a sixth value would build on that determination, no?

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Aug 18, 2015 4:59 pm UTC

No. Extra spheres add extra degrees of freedom and increase the probability that five of the spheres just randomly were in the same ratio as the particle masses. The details vary depending on exactly what null hypothesis you're using, but five of six spheres randomly reaching the ratio is typically about six times as likely as five of five.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Xanthir » Wed Aug 19, 2015 12:33 am UTC

There's a balance - unknown spheres decrease belief in the whole set of spheres being meaningful, but with a large enough number of known spheres and a small enough number of unknowns, that can be insignificant, such that the likelihood of the whole set being meaningful remains high.
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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Aug 20, 2015 12:55 pm UTC

Exactly. We can assume that our degree of confidence in the uniqueness and intentionality of the spheres is high enough that the inclusion of an unknown sphere has a negligible effect on that confidence level.

I would argue that if we do have that requisite high degree of confidence in the identification of the known spheres, the presence of an unknown sphere within the same set constitutes reasonable prima facie evidence of an unknown subatomic particle with the corresponding mass. Not five sigma confidence or anything, but prima facie evidence nonetheless.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:40 pm UTC

So my new avatar....

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby jestingrabbit » Tue Jan 19, 2016 6:04 am UTC

More than anything else, the initial conversation here reminds me most strongly of incorrect analysis of hieroglyphics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_rCkJzqIqY

We see with our eyes but interpret with our experiences and through the lens of our world, but what did they intend? What was really in the minds of these folks? Almost certainly not what is in ours. We perceive not with absolute precision but through a glass darkly.

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Re: Puzzling artifacts and reasonable reasoning

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jan 19, 2016 4:29 pm UTC

jestingrabbit wrote: a glass darkly
That's a type of bird, right? As in a glass figure of a bird? My grandfather used to read through a glass bird; when I would ask him why, he'd just say his own gizzard wasn't as strong as it used to be. I tried it once; I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but I can definitely say I didn't have a tired gizzard afterward.
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